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As the web and software development fields continue to grow, aspiring freelancers have more freedom than ever to navigate the complex route to success. But making a freelancing career work out can be a daunting task. Finding out your “why” is crucial when starting off on your journey toward freelancing success and making it as a freelance web developer.

Working as a freelance software or web developer comes with plenty of perks, including an unprecedented level of autonomy. Whether you’re making a career change or its the first step, we’ve compiled the steps you should take to becoming a successful web developer freelancer and running your own business.

Get Started With a Realistic Outlook

Working as a freelance developer comes with some hard truths; you won’t have a fixed income, you’ll have to navigate health insurance, training and vacation time on your own, and you always need to hold yourself accountable while relying on your own skills. If you’re still confident after that, understand too that the freelancing business allows you creative freedom, unlimited earnings potential and a flexible schedule. 

If you plan on entering the world of freelance web development, you’ll need to hone new coding skills. There are plenty of universities that offer virtual courses to earn an online degree, but you can also get started--sometimes for free-- at places like Codecademy, Khan Academy or CodingList. Regardless of what kind of web design you’re interested in, it’s recommended that you train as well in Ruby on Rails and have learned HTML CSS as well as JavaScript.

Establish a Niche

Standing out from the crowd can be an imposing challenge, so determining a niche goes a long way in aiding your budding freelance career as a web developer. While Ruby on Rails, Swift and Node.js are the expected programming languages for the future of the profession, it’s important that you choose an industry or two you’d like to grow in, then work on specializing more coding expertise to fit the position. 

Always remember that you’re competing with the rest of the world when it comes to landing freelance web developer work, so specializing can set you ahead of the pack if you know exactly what you’d like to be doing. On the other hand, generalist full-stack programming skills will enable you to try out a larger range of products. Potential clients will likely be looking for web developers who have knowledge of HTML CSS, JavaScript and back-end languages, frameworks, and more.

Market Yourself and Build Your Portfolio 

When it comes to finding success while working as a freelance web developer, it’s important to note that you are the business. Potential clients need to know about you in order for you to thrive. Update your social media accounts like Instagram and LinkedIn and consider starting a blog or build a personal website to get the word out there that you’re open for business. Having a strong online presence due to actively marketing yourself can lead to excellent networking opportunities.

Letting your work speak for you is potentially the best marketing tool you’ve got in your arsenal. Make sure to prioritize projects you’re proud of when building a personal website and ask for referrals from other developers or clients who are happy with your work. Update your portfolio website regularly to display your ever-evolving skills and have an easy reference for potential clients while highlighting your skills.

Running a Business

Well, being a freelance web developer requires you to also be a project manager, head of customer service and a salesperson all at once. 

Create business cards to help market yourself and set up a system that helps you manage projects like Avaza or Asana. Make sure you stay on top of payments and track your accounting using software like Quickbooks, Harvest, or Indy, which help to seamlessly invoice and track your payments and work hours. Advertise your hourly rate ahead of time and choose clients whose projects are of highly quality and that you generally enjoy working with as often as you can. All of these tips will help you successfully navigate life as a freelance web developer.

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