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How to get started as a freelance web developer

How to get started as a freelance web developer

The prospect of freelancing provides an avenue to leverage your web developer expertise, offers autonomy, and possibly more diverse project engagements. But becoming a freelance web developer also comes with challenges. This guide lists some of the essential steps, offers helpful insights and provides some useful tips to get you on the path to success in this dynamic and ever-evolving field.

What does a freelance web developer do?

A freelance web developer plays a crucial role in the digital landscape, creating functional and visually appealing web designs that offer an exceptional user experience and are search engine optimisation (SEO) friendly. Before delving into the intricacies of becoming a freelance web designer, it's essential to understand how to put some foundations in place before taking on the very first project.

How to become a freelance web developer

For the purpose of this article, we’re going to assume that you have some essential skills, knowledge and experience of building websites. The following steps are designed to get you started as a freelance web developer in shortest and least expensive way.

  1. Pick a niche: One of the fundamental steps in establishing yourself as a freelance web developer is to choose a niche. Understanding your target audience and their customers is paramount for producing web designs that not only meet but exceed expectations. By selecting a niche, you can tailor your services to address the specific needs and preferences of your clients, ensuring a more personalised and effective approach.
  2. Build your own website: Your online presence is a reflection of your skills and capabilities as a web developer. Building your website serves as a digital portfolio where potential clients can explore your work, design style, and expertise. 
  3. Build your portfolio: A strong portfolio is a powerful tool for attracting clients. Showcase websites you've created, detailing the challenges you faced and the solutions you implemented.  Even if you haven't worked on client projects yet, consider creating showcase websites that exemplify your abilities and showcase your vision for potential collaborations.
  4. Create a Set of Templates: To streamline your workflow and enhance efficiency, develop a set of templates that align with your chosen niche. Having a few ready-made templates can significantly expedite the design process, especially when clients may not have a clear vision of what they want until they see it. These templates serve as a starting point, helping clients visualise potential solutions and sparking ideas for their projects.

Create a marketing plan

  • How will you get in front of potential clients? Understanding your niche is not only essential for design purposes but also for formulating an effective marketing plan. Knowing the locations, preferences, and behaviours of your target clients allows you to deploy strategies that resonate with them. For instance, if your niche is coffee shops, you can visit their locations, explore their existing websites, or even send them a mood board to generate interest. In the initial stages, focus on securing your first clients rather than creating an elaborate marketing plan. As your freelance career progresses, invest time in developing a more detailed strategy to expand your client base.
  • Keep an eye on your niche: Regularly monitor newly established companies within your niche. Utilise resources like company registries to identify potential clients who may require your services. Engaging with new businesses can be more effective than attempting to lure existing clients away from competitors. By staying informed about emerging companies, you position yourself as a proactive and valuable resource in your niche.

Get your finances and legal matters sorted

  1. Decide on Your Rates: Setting clear and transparent rates is crucial for both you and your clients. Consider offering package deals to simplify pricing, but also include an hourly rate for additional work. This approach accommodates the creative nature of web design, where changes and scope creep are not uncommon.
  2. Payment terms and bank account: While not an immediate concern when starting out, having a plan for invoicing and payments in place is essential when securing your first client. A well-structured payment strategy ensures a smooth financial process from the beginning, fostering trust between you and your clients.
  3. Contracts: Regardless of the scale of your projects, always use a formal contract. Templates from legal libraries can be customised to suit your needs. A contract not only protects you from potential legal issues but also outlines the terms of the agreement, ensuring clarity on both sides. It becomes a crucial document in case of disputes, helping you enforce payment for your services and clarifying your responsibilities.
  4. Insurance: Investing in insurance for web designers is a prudent decision early in your freelance journey. While it may be tempting to delay this expense, insurance safeguards you against legal disputes and demands for compensation from dissatisfied clients. It provides peace of mind and protects your business from unforeseen challenges. Having insurance is not just a contractual requirement; it reflects your commitment to professionalism and client satisfaction.


Starting your journey as a freelance web developer doesn't have to be a daunting or expensive endeavour. In fact, the good news is that the initial investment is relatively modest. You can expect to spend around £200, covering essential subscription fees for web design software, domains, and possibly an SEO tool if you plan to offer such services.

Success in freelancing hinges on strategic planning, niche specialisation, and a proactive approach to marketing and legal considerations. By understanding your niche, showcasing your skills through a compelling portfolio, and implementing a well-thought-out marketing plan, you can attract your first clients and lay the foundation for a successful freelance web development career.

As you progress, continually refine your strategies, stay abreast of industry trends, and adapt to the evolving needs of your clients. By taking a systematic and client-focused approach, you can build a thriving freelance web development business that not only meets but exceeds the expectations of your clients.

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