The market for Web developers is a competitive one. A new generation of tech-savvy professionals and the proliferation of personal branding tools like those found through social media have made Web development one of the most competitive trades in the market today.
In the U.S. alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 20% growth in Web developer jobs in the next 10 years. This is higher than the average of 11% across all industries, but when compared to the 12.1% year-over-year average growth of registered domain names and close to 3 billion global users.
So, how do you set yourself apart? How do you build that vital reputation as a Web developer you need?
In this article, we’ll go over some of the ways professional developers are building their personal brands and making their mark in the world of Web development.
"I am always curious about doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." - Pablo Picasso
The Web is constantly changing. While it may have been enough to know HTML and PHP five years ago, today’s Web has a much more dynamic feature set.
Never stop learning. Set aside time each week to push the envelope of your experience and learn something new. Be it a new standard, expanding your experience with a CMS, or discovering better ways to do something.
We have created a blog post that highlights some useful resources and online courses for Web developers. With something new coming out every day, learning your craft as a Web developer is a never-ending process.
"There is never a surefire good career move except doing good work." - Seth Green
Do you have an easy way for people to find examples of your work? If you don’t have a website of your own highlighting what you can do, it would be difficult for someone to consider you a serious Web developer.
Even something as simple as a page with thumbnails of your previous work can make a world of difference to a prospective employer.
Your portfolio doesn’t have to be made up exclusively of paid clients. If you haven’t snagged enough paying jobs yet, consider building something for a friend or a local organization you want to support.
”It seems like the Web, particularly software as a service, provides ample opportunities for you to flourish economically, completely aligned with the broader open source community.” -Matt Mullenweg, founding developer of WordPress
One of the biggest misconceptions people have of open source projects is that you can’t make money from them. A lot of developers shy away from sharing the source code of things they have worked on, but open source projects very often lead to lucrative opportunities for people that work on them.
You benefit in multiple ways. You gain the experience from having built something, especially in a collaborative effort. You also build a reputation for yourself as people come across your work Online.
You also have the ability to produce products that enhance or otherwise work in conjunction with these open source projects that users may be willing to pay for.
If anything, you have something that works that you can point to on your portfolio as an example of your work. If the project gains a certain level of attention, the chances that you will be reached out to for a professional opportunity down the line will certainly increase as a result.
NOTE: If you are looking for a great open source project to contribute to, take a look at Grav, an open source flat-file CMS founded by members of the RocketTheme team. More information about contributing can be found here.
”If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” - Milton Berle
There are tons of groups you can join full of Web developers and other technical professionals. These groups allow you to share insight, gain new information, and make connections with other professionals in your field.
You can even find groups that are specific to a CMS or development standard that dive deeper into a specific subject in internal discussions.
If you make yourself available to help out folks in these groups, you may very well be the person they recommend for an upcoming job or collaboration.
“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” - Albert Einstein
Do you actively participate on social media? Are you promoting yourself in ways other than depending on the word of mouth of your clients, previous employers, and/or friends and family?
We live in a world where everyone with an Internet connection is essentially a media company. You have the ability to promote yourself to a large audience with little to no initial investment.
Don’t be afraid to share your latest creation (pending you’re not contractually obligated to keep it quiet) and open yourself up to answer questions about it.
There are subreddits on Reddit that encourage users to share what they’ve created. You can benefit from the critique and insight of other users, as well as get your name out there.
Don’t forget about meetups, conferences, and conventions. Being able to network online is one thing, but there is still no substitute for having coffee and swapping stories with fellow developers and executives in the industry.
Being a Web developer today means having the ability to hustle. You have to not only produce great product, but you have to be able to let people know that you’re available to do even more great things.