If you want your career to provide you with freedom, flexibility and sustainability, then it's hard to do much better than working as a freelance web developer. True, there's a lot of competition in the web developers' marketplace but if you specialize in a truly unique niche (particularly if you have years of experience under your belt), you'll be able to stand out from the crowd when running your own freelance web developer business.
Finding a good niche for your career in web development can be a great way to make some serious cash, as well as pursue your interests and passions at the same time. Of course, there are some important questions you'll need to consider before taking the plunge into a freelance web developer 'niche' industry. For example:
- What exactly is a niche?
- How can you identify a good web developer niche for your own business?
- What benefits could you receive from freelance web developer jobs?
Let's drill down into the answers for each question, one by one, and see if we can find you a good launching pad for the next stage of your career in web development.
What is a niche?
If you want to use the technical definition, a niche market is a "particular segment or subset of a bigger market which caters to a specific group of people having common likings and demand." In other words, a niche market is made up of clients that have very specific needs, such as those looking for freelance web developers or people skilled in programming languages. They need specialized help, perhaps even specialist technical skills, on a granular level instead of assistance from a generalist. Having this niche skillset can turn potential clients into future clients who are looking for new freelance web developers.
In the context of the web development industry, you may be able to think of several niche markets off the top of your head. For instance, there's a market for clients that need new web applications built or freelance web developers who are fluent in a particular programming language, like Swift. There's the market for newer companies, especially SMBs, who need web designers to build them a functional, professional WordPress website or people with specialist programming skills. The list could go on and on.
Here's the main takeaway: once you decide to pursue a niche in the web development sector, it will affect everything about your freelance web development moving forward. It will affect your personal brand - from how you market your services, how you promote your brand, i.e. you, where you look for clients and how much you charge; to name just a few things. With that in mind, let's discuss our next question...
How can you find your perfect web developer niche?
This is where it takes quite a bit of effort on your part. After all, all the benefits mentioned above only come after you've identified and successfully pursued the right niche for you. So, what steps can you take to find that area of specialty that aligns with your goals, interests and all the skills you possess in your own business?
Conducting data-centric research is a key starting point for your journey. For instance, you can use existing freelance platforms, like Fiverr and Upwork, to figure out where the demand is and which niche industries may be viable options for you. Fiverr's platform breaks down general categories into subcategories, and then takes those subcategories and breaks them down into even more granular categories (think web applications, front end web development, programming languages, WordPress websites, WordPress security, software engineering, front end developers, full-stack development... the list goes on!). Upwork allows you to scroll through scores of freelance career and job postings on a daily basis to see which categories are the most popular and the most profitable.
Should you build your freelancing business around platforms like Fiverr and Upwork? It's true that these and other freelancing network sites can help you get your foot in the door when starting a small business. But when it comes to creating a sustainable freelancing career, both platforms have some serious drawbacks and should not be considered as your main source for a full-time job when you are living the freelance lifestyle. For example:
- Both Fiverr and Upwork take a significant cut of your paycheck for completed remote jobs. (Fiverr takes 20% across the board and Upwork has a sliding scale for their service fee that peaks at 20%). This affects how much money you take home and has an immediate impact on managing your own personal expenses. Not extremely lucrative and not exactly what a software developer or new freelance web developer is looking for.
- There's a lot of competition on both sites — which means there's also a lot of undercutting to win the job. You are competing with other freelancers for the same job . Imagine too many developers competing for one expert web developer job. It can be taxing!
If you take those two factors together, what you come up with is less income and a lower rate for your work. Neither of these options are a get-rich-quick scheme but they can both help build your online portfolio, and earn a few bucks at the same time which is always good for your bank account. Just don't count on job guarantee from either one of them.
What are the benefits of finding a good freelance developer niche?
To answer this question, think for a moment about the medical industry. Why does a neurosurgeon make a lot more money than a general practitioner? Simply because the neurosurgeon has a highly specialized skill set. Very few people can perform brain surgery!
In the same way, finding your niche in web development can help you to make a lot more money than you would as a generalist. If you have a highly specialized skill set and some web development coursework that will interest companies, you're in a great position to attract clients and you will see how much value comes from your work. Most business leaders and prospective clients are more comfortable hiring a freelance web specialist with a proven track record in project management than a generalist freelance web developer who may or may not have the skills needed to get the job done. In the end, going the specialist route is usually worth it to the company, even if it means shelling out more money upfront.
As an additional benefit, you and your clients will experience a smoother working relationship if you have specialized knowledge and relevant experience within a certain field. For example, if you're an expert in Swift development, that's building a new application from the ground up, you'll spend less time on fixing errors and be able to deliver the final product to your client more quickly than a generalist ever could.
Ultimately, the best way to establish yourself in a niche is to seek out clients through your own freelance web work. Spend a few hours each day looking on job boards, on your own schedule. Build your own portfolio website. Post that you are looking for freelance web work and share your portfolio of completed projects on your social media accounts. Potential clients love to see visual elements of your work. You could use Google Adwords to promote your small business if you have the budget. The good news is, you don't have to go it alone as you try to build your brand. If pursuing a niche as a freelance developer is one of your professional aims, check out our helpful guide on how to set the right priorities and goals for yourself. Be sure to look at our all-in-one platform for freelancers, too. It is full of integrated, accessible tools that can boost your organization, increase your productivity and keep you going as your own boss living the freelance lifestyle.
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The bottom line? Finding a good web developer niche can make your work more profitable, help you to maintain a flexible schedule and allow you to pursue your professional interests. If you haven't looked into the world of niche web design yet, be sure to check it out as soon as possible. You'll be glad you did.