There is a lot of competition out there for Web developers looking to make their mark and achieve success within their market. In this article, we will examine some of the tips and strategies that can set you apart and assist you in finding new clients.
A lot of our community members are freelance or small business owners in the field of Web development and website management. It's a tough field to break into, but it can be done with a little patience and some general know-how.
Below, we've listed five tips that can help open a few doors and establish your professional portfolio.
Often, the best way to get your foot in the door is to offer to do the job for free. This will not be a great way to pay the bills, but it will enable you to take on some initial clients that will, in turn, become the first subjects in your professional portfolio.
You can often find companies and organizations to help out locally. Visit websites and Facebook pages of local stores, ask around at volunteer organizations that don't have an existing or modern site currently up. There is a good chance you will stumble across someone that has wanted to have a site made, but simply doesn't have it in their budget.
Bands and freelance professionals are a big area of opportunity. Every band that wants to make a name for itself should have a presence on the Web, but relying entirely on a site or service that they have no control over can be a risky play. By offering to help them out by putting together a demo for them, you will be doing both them and you a favor.
Another form of volunteering involves creating cool things and releasing them to the public. Djamil Legato, one of RocketTheme's developers, suggests, "If you make some tool that is incredibly cool and think that anyone can benefit from it, gift it to everyone."
He said, "I owe everything to MooTools. I spent two years contributing to that open source project. It was fun, and I learned a lot. Then, JS took off."
You can do this in many ways. You can release the project on GitHub, your personal blog, etc. and people that download/use it will have you to thank for it. Many developers go on to enjoy very profitable and successful careers based on the work they did on projects that were made freely available.
Brian Towles adds, "Don't assume what your doing isn't worth sharing, but be willing to accept feedback as people discover it."
The word Network has been thrown around a lot lately, and it has almost entirely been taken over by social media, but the reality is that there are a lot of local events in just about every moderately sizable area that professionals go to in order to meet each other and build their own network.
If you are in the business of helping these folks get their name out there on the Web, you should most certainly consider going to an in-person meet-up to network.
Meetup.com is a great place to start looking for these events. You can also find plenty of local groups on Facebook that have regular meetings in your area. Small business owners are always attending these events in order to meet the people that they may want to do business with in the future. So should you.
If someone is considering hiring a freelance Web developer, the first place they are going to look for information is their personal site. Your home page should not be a third-party owned social media profile if you are in the business of creating websites.
Your portfolio should be easily accessible from the front page, and a contact form should appear anywhere someone might be if they are making a decision to reach out to you. Your site is your chance to showcase your work. Take advantage of it.
Having a strong base on which to build a site for your client is a huge time saver. It can also spare you the headaches involved with creating brand new components from scratch, which will take away from the time you can spend sorting out the client's specific needs.
Not every developer is also a designer, and vise-versa. If you can find a good template that provides a visual base that meets your customer's expectations, you can focus your development efforts on making it more powerful and customized for the client.
A template is a starting point. It's really the canvas on which custom development and design can be used to create a unique masterpiece.
The same would go for extensions. It can take a long time to create a Joomla extension or WordPress plugin that does what many freely available options do out of the box. You save many hours in development and the client gets a tool that has benefited from plenty of real-world testing.
Strive to learn something new, every day. The world of Web development changes at an extreme pace, and it takes constant practice and discovery to keep up. Trends of tomorrow are built on the advances of today, and you can benefit greatly by staying ahead of the curve.
When a new method or code release comes out, spend some time in a sandbox environment seeing what you can do with it. If you can create something new or especially useful early on, share it. Your reputation and skill will benefit from the experience, and that is a win-win for any freelance Web developer.