Turning Your Web Development Skills into a Full-Time Freelance Career

So, you're looking to turn your web development and design skills into a fully-fledged freelance career? You're in luck. It's never been a better (or easier) time to get your career started as a freelance WordPress web designer and developer.
Freelance and self-employment opportunities offer a wealth of benefits ranging from flexibility, and autonomy to a newfound sense of freedom in comparison to typical 9-5 jobs. Whether you're looking to define your own hours or the freedom to work from anywhere, the freelance life is no longer a fantasy, but instead it's a highly sought after and oftentimes pragmatic path for those who choose it.
Statistically speaking, the US Bureau of Labor forecasts that the number of web development careers will grow over 15% by 2026 ( Source). On top of that, many organizations actively pursue freelancers because freelancers offer flexibility and cost savings that full-time employees simply can't match.
Today, freelance web professionals can start, manage, and grow their careers from an expanding pool of tools and resources ranging from WordPress plug-ins that help with the tactical execution and logistics of development to sites that help connect freelancers to potential employers.
Whether your freelance web development career is simply a goal on the horizon or if you're wondering what to do next to grow your business, here are three steps to start, build, and manage your career as a freelance web developer.

Starting your business

It's not official if you don't have a website.
In today's digital world, a polished site does wonders to legitimize your work and develop your brand. Specifically, a site can help with the following:
  • Show prospective and existing clients your commitment to business and web development pursuits
  • Display projects to clients so they can confirm your competency
  • Add value and contribute back to the web development community by publishing relevant and informative articles
  • Improve your ranking in the search results for local businesses seeking your services with proper SEO
Make your online professional presence known by grabbing your  domain name. Let your design and development skills shine in your website and set up your online shop by using tools integrated into the site to automate certain aspects of your business such as SEO, lead forms, and maintenance.

Building your business

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Now that you're online, it's time to find some clients.
Truth be told, this is the most challenging part of freelancing for those new to the path as well as experienced freelance web developers. Here are some tips to get you started:
  • Talk to people! Sounds simple and is easier said than done but once you take the first step to reaching out to people, you'll realize how valuable your network truly is. Talk to your friends, family, colleagues about their lines of work and online website needs. Create a profile on freelancing platforms such as Upwork, Taproot and Fiverr to get your name out there. Reach out to local businesses to learn more about how you might be able to support the development and maintenance of their company websites.
  • Make it easy to get referred and offer incentives: Referrals are key to building your clients and the easiest way to be referred by current customers and other businesses is to create professional business cards and a professional email address that can be synced to your website. Creating a referral program that gives monetary compensation or gifts to people who refer business your way is also a good option. The program doesn't need to be formal. It could simply be taking the person out for coffee or dinner or sending a card depending on the size of the referral business.
  • Build a good rapport: Customers won't refer someone they don't like, so building rapport is a great way to ensure your clients are talking about you! A couple of easy ways to do that are to be communicative, give a little extra when you can, show off your personality - it's a way of branding yourself, be a true fan of their work and show them how you're helping them by regularly discussing the results of the work you're doing.
  • Market your work: Content generates business. Leverage all content channels at your disposal - social media, email marketing, blog posts, and more. Also consider attending industry events and small business events to meet prospective clients. Leave no stone unturned. 

Growing your freelancing into a full-fledged business

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With a budding, stable freelance business, you can grow your business through specialization and client-focused business building strategies.
Define your professional process and hold your clients to it for timelines and workback schedules. As business grows and your portfolio speaks volumes, it's ok to begin saying say "no" to projects if they won't align to your unique business objectives - whether that's portfolio development, timeline, or profit.
That being said, this stage becomes exciting because you can set your own objectives and use those to guide your work.
  • Find your niche: Hone your expertise in a specific area within the development cycle. The more specialized you are, the more desirable you'll become for a prospective client seeking your expertise, therefore increasing your billability and profits
  • Provide project brief questionnaires: Utilize Gravity Forms Plugins for your website to get as much upfront info from prospective clients as possible, so you can decide whether it's a project you'd like to pursue or not.
  • Refine your workflow and process: Once you start getting a steady flow of clients, you can start developing a workflow that works best for you. This will include workback plans, schedules and timelines, and you can hold your clients to these deadlines as you develop your process. An important part of good client relations is being very communicative, organized, and responsive. Refining your workflow and process will help you get into a good rhythm with your clients.
  • Let the tools do the tedious work for you: Consider using tools like Managed WordPress Pro, which will automate site maintenance work for you, so you can focus on the fun part of your business - website development and design and building your client base!
Getting a freelance web development career off the ground isn't easy, but at the same time it's never been easier. Web development skills are in high demand around the world, and one of the biggest upsides of web development is the fact that you don't necessarily need to be on location to do the work. Not only are remote freelancers needed, but oftentimes desired over full time employees.

About the author: Patrick Pulvermüller is the SVP & GM, Global Hosting at GoDaddy.