At Nashville Software School, we provide our students and graduates who are still on the search for their first job in tech with opportunities to dive deeper and continue their education while on the job hunt. These graduates are fondly referred to as Seekers.
Have you ever considered pursuing Freelance Web Development as your career? Christian Haggerty, a freelance web developer, recently shared his personal journey and insights with our Seekers group at Nashville Software School (NSS) on how to thrive as a freelance web developer. Now we’re sharing Christian’s experience, the tools he uses, and the freelance opportunities he’s found in the world of web design with you!
A graduate of NSS’s Full-time Web Development Cohort 54, Christian initially struggled to find employment despite having several interviews after graduation. “I found out about this lane [of web development jobs] and thought that I'd share it because I know a lot of people are struggling to find their place in tech right now,” he says.
IS FREELANCING RIGHT FOR YOU?
Christian’s introduction to freelance web development actually turned out to be a real turning point for his career! “I discovered this whole world of web design, digital marketing, freelance entrepreneurship and essentially problem solving and service delivery for all kinds of different businesses,” he shares. “It's a whole industry that’s super tech adjacent. It's in the world of software development, and SaaS companies, but honestly every business and every industry needs to be presented online.”
There are several avenues that web developers, including those in the early stages of their careers, may explore when it comes to freelancing. While many choose to work independently, providing design and digital marketing services on a project-by-project basis. They can also collaborate with agencies or become part of an in-house team at a company.
What Kind of Skills do Freelance Web Developers Need?
Christian emphasizes the importance of project management, client acquisition, sales, and financial management for freelance web developers. To succeed in freelancing, it's crucial to develop these skills alongside technical expertise. Project management skills enable freelancers to effectively coordinate their work, meet deadlines, and deliver high-quality results. Acquiring clients requires networking, outreach, and effective communication. Additionally, understanding how to manage finances and navigate the business side of freelancing is essential for long-term success. Christian highlights that the problem-solving skills developed at NSS provide a solid foundation for success in the freelance web development space.
“With your skills coming out of NSS, your ability to solve problems and face something you don't understand is extremely high compared to before you went through [bootcamp],” he says. “And that's a lot of what you're gonna have to do, especially in the world of freelancing.”
INTRO TO WEBFLOW
Unlike joining a team as a junior developer and working on complex tasks, freelance work allows individuals to find entry-level projects and gradually build their knowledge and expertise.
Christian shares that he started his freelance journey with React projects and then transitioned to building websites and branding projects using tools like Webflow.
Christian went on to share how Webflow has integrated CMS, e-commerce, SEO, basic email marketing automations, membership accounts, subscription services, payment systems, and custom logic flows, making it a one-stop-shop for freelance web designers and developers.
“But Sometimes it's best to just do [the client’s] website in Wix or Squarespace or whatever website builder they already use.”
Not every project requires using advanced development tools like Webflow. Small businesses, for example, especially those already using website builders like Wix or Squarespace, might be more beneficial to work within their existing platforms in order to save time, minimize client discomfort, and lead to greater client satisfaction. Christian encourages freelance web developers to leverage the strengths of website builders like Wix when appropriate. “A lot of times these smaller businesses don't have the money to pay big development teams,” he explains.
“They [may] know Wix [or] they've been using Wix already. Maybe they built it themselves [but] it doesn't look very good and they want to work with a designer. But switching them over to Webflow Is going to be uncomfortable for them and a lot of the things they get with Wix will be a hassle to set up with something like Webflow.”
Digital Marketing & Freelance Web Development Services
Digital marketing encompasses a wide range of services, including web design, email marketing, pay-per-click advertisements (PPC), search engine optimization, social media management, content creation, and lead generation. Christian emphasizes how digital marketing and web design can go hand in hand when working directly with clients. Integrating digital marketing services into web development projects enables web developers to offer additional value to their clients, ultimately boosting their return on investment.
For example, say you have a client who has hired you to build a website for their personal training business. Sure, you're gonna build them a website and set them up. But why not go ahead and also optimize the website so that search engines can find the website easily when people search for your client’s site.
But now the client needs an automation built where the customer gets added to an email list when they sign up for a training session from your client’s website, so you learn about email marketing. But wait! Now the client wants to be able to run Facebook ads and track their web traffic from the campaign to their website, that’s another valuable way to incorporate digital marketing services into your project at a higher price point than just simply, “building a website.”
“All these things are really accessible and easy to do at a low level”, Christian says. “Whenever you really know what you're doing, you can charge good money for them. So you could learn some of these skills and adding them on to a website project could increase your pay for it.”
💡5 Tips for Generating Leads as a Freelance Web Developer 💡
Christian highlights several effective methods for lead generation in freelance web development:
- Google Maps: Use Google Maps to identify local businesses that don't have websites. Save these businesses in a folder and reach out to them via email or in-person visits.
- Instagram and LinkedIn: Utilize these platforms to connect with businesses and individuals within your chosen niche. Engage with their content, post relevant content, and explore potential opportunities for collaboration.
- Upwork: Consider Upwork as a platform for finding freelance web development projects. However, be aware that the platform can be highly competitive, with many freelancers willing to work for lower rates.
- Facebook: Similar to Instagram, Facebook can be a valuable resource for finding potential clients. Connect with business owners and engage with relevant groups or communities.
- Dribbble: Dribbble's freelance job board offers opportunities for web designers and UX/UI designers. Occasionally, web development projects are posted, allowing freelancers to find relevant work.
If you're struggling to find your place in the tech industry, freelance web development might be a viable and rewarding path. With determination and the right tools at your disposal, you too can carve out a custom career in the ever-evolving landscape of web development!
Christian provides a list of valuable resources that have helped him on his freelancing journey. These include:
- The Flux Academy: Ron Seigel's online academy focuses on web design, web flow development, branding, logo design, and building a long term career as a solo-entrepreneur. The Flux Academy offers free content on YouTube as well as paid courses that provide comprehensive and in-depth knowledge.
- Mattie Bard: Christian mentions Mattie Bard as an example of someone who skillfully balances working in tech companies and freelance design projects. Her experiences showcase the possibilities of combining the two worlds.
- Webflow University: An extensive online education platform that covers a wide range of topics related to web development, design, and freelancing. Webflow University offers numerous free videos that cater to beginners and advanced learners alike. They also provide a course called "From 0 to Freelance" that guides freelancers in building their portfolios and developing their skills.