10 Things I Wish I’d Done Earlier When I Began Web Programming

I’ve been freelancing as a web developer since February 2014. I’ve only worked on one client project since then, but it’s been all-encompassing and has taught me so much about myself, my work habits, and the world of web development.

Here are 10 things I wish I’d known in February 2014 that could have helped me take advantage of the opportunities available to me.

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Programming
Starting a new career in programming or web development can be daunting, but there are many resources available to help you get started.
It’s important to approach learning with a growth mindset and be open to making mistakes and seeking out feedback.
Setting realistic expectations and goals is key to avoiding burnout and staying motivated.
Consistent practice and working on challenging projects are essential for improving your skills.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek out a community of peers and mentors for support.

Web Developers Collaborate With Other People All The Time

Even if you’re working alone (which you will do a lot), you are constantly communicating with other people: clients, designers, and fellow developers. If you don’t enjoy communicating with others (or if your communication skills aren’t great), fix this before attempting to freelance

Becoming a successful freelance web developer requires patience, dedication, and a solid plan. Check out our step-by-step guide on how to become a freelance web developer to learn how to kickstart your career in web programming.

You Need To Be Self-Disciplined For This Work Style To Work For You

In-office jobs, there is always someone to tell you what needs to be done next or when your work is due by; but as a freelancer, it’s up to you to create deadlines and hold yourself accountable for them. This can be seen either as a huge benefit (you get paid more) or as an enormous burden (you have no one telling you what gets priority).

I Would Have Started Sooner

If you’re thinking about freelancing, you’re ready to start. The sooner you get out there, the better. The longer you wait, the more time and money are wasted that could be used to further your career. The act of starting (and keeping going) will help you learn faster than anything else can. It also helps build a reputation and network of clients that will lead to more work in the future so if you put it off because you think you need more experience or need to know more, that’s only hurting yourself in the long run.

Learning from other web developers’ experiences can help you avoid common pitfalls and build a successful career. Check out our article on things a freelance web developer wished he knew before starting to gain valuable insights from a seasoned pro.

I Wouldn’t Have Been Afraid To Ask For Help

When I was learning web development, I must have emailed or messaged some 1,000 people to learn the ins and outs of the topic. The only two times I actually got an answer were when I’d asked for help on Stack Overflow.

One day in November 2013, a guy named Martin came up with this wonderful idea to create a small startup: Make a tool that automatically converts all your JPG images into PNGs. Unfortunately, all the money-making ideas I’ve had have involved large quantities of beer and hookers (a combination that invariably makes me come up with stupid ideas). When he pitched me his project idea, it sounded interesting enough to at least give it some thought.

After weighing the pros and cons, it didn’t seem like such a bad idea. My main problem was that my computer skills at the time were still pretty basic—I knew nothing about PHP or databases, but if there were even one person who could help me get started with these objects in a basic way…I figured it was worth giving it a shot.

So we set up an email account for “Martin” and waited for someone to reply but no one did! There had been no response to our offer of collaboration from “Martin” since July 29th, 2013 (!) and more than two months had passed! This felt like quite possibly one of those cruel Internet pranks where you start getting emails from random people asking you questions only days later they’ve died in an accident…which made sense since none of my friends and family use email (they all send me text messages). So what kind of chance would I have gotten if I’d moved forward and launched my startup?

I Would Have Learned More About Money And Taxes

If you are going to be a freelancer, you should know how to invoice someone. Find an accounting software that works for you, or use a spreadsheet if it’s your thing. Another important thing is figuring out where to keep your money. A lot of banks offer business accounts, which often have different requirements than personal accounts.

You also need to set reminders for yourself to file estimated quarterly taxes (if you’re in the U.S.). If not, your bank account may be seized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). And while we’re on the topic of taxes, there are different ways to structure your business depending on what kind of work you do. 

You can form an S-corporation or an LLC for example, or operate as a sole proprietor. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks (e.g., no corporate income tax) and it’s probably best to consult with a lawyer before making any decisions here so that everything is taken care of legally and properly.

Finally, if you happen to make enough money throughout the year in some countries this means earning above $20k USD per year you’ll need to think about withholding tax as well

Starting a freelance web development business can be challenging, but with the right approach, it can be a rewarding and lucrative career path. Check out our guide on how to build a freelance web development business to learn the essential steps to success.

I Would Have Understood When To Be Different And When To Go With The Flow

When I first started freelancing, I thought that in order to stand out from others and make a name for myself, I would have to show my clients why they should hire me instead of other web developers. Maybe I thought that if I could just come up with some really unique or original ideas, it would help me get more clients and make my web development business grow. It took me a while to realize that this was actually the wrong approach and wasn’t helpful at all. 

Instead of focusing on doing something different than everyone else, focus on providing your clients with what they need. For example, if you believe that it’s better for your client’s website users if your client uses a certain type of code for their website rather than another type of code, then tell your client about it. If you don’t think it’s worth the time or effort for your client to change their website from using one type of code to another type of code, don’t say anything about it because it won’t help them get more business anyway.

I Wouldn’t Have Put Myself Down So Much, Or Become Discouraged Based On What Other People Were Doing

If there’s one thing I wish I could have drummed into my brain earlier on, it’s that the comparison game is not worth playing. By comparing ourselves to others, we’re missing out on our own journey. There are many paths to success, and it takes time to find yours!

We’ll get better at what we do by sticking with it and continuing to learn. We can’t do everything that everyone else can do, nor should we. It would be impossible, and stressful! The trick is to be confident in our unique skills and talents and focus on those things that make us special instead of worrying about everyone else.

I Would Have Stopped Trying To Predict What People Would Like And Instead Just Done What Interested Me 

When I started freelancing, I tried to predict what people would like and then build it for them. This has two flaws: it is EXTREMELY difficult to guess what other people will like, and when you’re building anything for yourself, you’ll probably be happier and do better work.

I was trying to create a site that reviewed books long before Goodreads existed. I made a tool for submitting recipes because that’s something my friends asked me to make (more on this below). There are dozens of examples like these all sites that would not have been interesting enough for me to use, but which I thought might have been useful or interesting enough for other people.

If you’re interested in creating your own products and freelancing as a way to support yourself while doing so, I suggest putting aside whatever ideas or requests you’ve received from others and focusing on the things that interest you instead. You’ll enjoy the process more, do better work as a result, and be far more likely to succeed with them than if you try predicting what others will enjoy instead.

This was especially true when it came to client work. It wasn’t until several years later—after constantly dealing with unhappy clients after delivering results they weren’t satisfied with—that I realized how important it is to actually understand what clients are looking for before starting their projects (as opposed to just guessing).

I Would Have Studied Branding, Copywriting, And Marketing As Hard As I Studied Programming 

When I first started freelancing, I had to learn a lot about things that were not related to programming.

The truth is that if you want to get any work done as a developer, you need more than just programming skills.

You will need to be able to sell yourself, talk with people and overcome your fears. You also have to know how to market yourself, otherwise, no one will ever hire you.

It is not enough for a company just to know that you can write good code – they also need proof that if they invest in you, you will give them their money’s worth. You can show this by describing the results of work you did for someone else in the past. But even before all of this happens, you must be able to write a resume or curriculum vitae (CV), which is basically a document where you list all of your professional accomplishments and skills which would be of interest to potential employers.

Then there are interviews – both phone calls and face-to-face meetings with companies interested in hiring developers like yourself. If you’ve never done it before, it can be very stressful at first – but once again, practice makes perfect!

As a client, it’s important to recognize the signs of an underperforming web developer to prevent wasting time and money on a project that won’t meet your expectations. Check out our article on 8 signs your freelance web developer needs to be fired to help you make an informed decision.

I’d Have Taken My Time When Building My Portfolio, Focusing On Quality Over Quantity

When you’re new to freelancing, it can be easy to get carried away with the number of projects in your portfolio. You may be tempted to take on any job that comes your way, no matter how small or insignificant, just so you can add another bullet point to your resume. But this approach might end up doing more harm than good.

Since a potential client will most likely judge your abilities (and ultimately decide whether or not to hire you) based on the quality of what they see in your portfolio, I highly recommend spending time carefully crafting a polished collection of work rather than hurrying through the process and risking producing sub-par results. Simply put: don’t fill up your portfolio with low-quality projects just for the sake of having a full portfolio.

Your goal should be to showcase what you’re capable of by providing examples that show off your skills and let clients know that they can trust you with their own projects even if it means leaving some blank spaces in your portfolio while you wait until you’ve got something more impressive to show off


I Would Have Worked Harder On Branding Myself As An Individual Instead Of Just A Freelancer Or Agency

I honestly think your personal brand is the most important asset you have. It’s not about the work you do, but rather the emotional connection people form with you. When they think of you, they should be thinking of someone who is trustworthy and dependable, and someone they want to work with again in the future. Branding yourself as an individual is much easier to achieve than trying to do it for a business where there are many different people involved, each with their own ideas and opinions about things.

I would Be More Strict With My Vetting Process For Clients

When you’re just starting out, you may be so desperate to get the first client that you take on anyone who shows interest. But this can backfire especially if the client is flaky, has unrealistic expectations about what web development is like, or doesn’t understand the work that goes into it. I wish I’d used a more thorough vetting process when clients started coming my way, and I encourage you to do the same. Here’s how:

Don’t Give A Quote Until You Know More About The Project

Make sure they’ve got references or examples of their work. If they don’t have them or won’t provide them, that’s a red flag. Send them on their way and find someone who will play by your rules (and make sure they know what those are).

Once you’re satisfied with these answers and feel comfortable moving forward, ask for a contract and any other details about the work that needs to be ironed out before beginning (such as when payment will be sent). Then set up your invoice system and make sure it’s all paid upfront with no exceptions (even if you decide to make exceptions later in your freelance career; this is one lesson I’ll never forget!).

Starting out as a web developer freelancer can be exciting but also challenging. Avoiding common mistakes can save you time and money in the long run. Check out our article on 9 mistakes new web developer freelancers make and how to avoid them to learn from others’ mistakes and improve your chances of success.

Final Thought

Starting freelancing sooner is better for your career so don’t wait until you feel like you know enough, because you never will.

there’s no such thing as knowing enough to start freelance web programming

If you wait until you feel like you know enough to start freelancing, then you’re never going to get started. I wish I’d known that sooner.

Learning as a beginner is easy because the list of things you don’t know is short. Learning as an expert can be incredibly difficult because the list of things you need to learn but don’t yet know is long and constantly changing. Never feel like there comes a point where the hunt for new knowledge ends and it’s time to work on something else, like starting your own business or freelancing.

Further Reading

10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Programming – A comprehensive guide that covers everything from mindset to practical tips for new programmers.

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Coding – An informative article that offers advice and tips to beginners starting out in coding.

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Web Development – An insightful article that covers the author’s experiences and offers advice to those starting out in web development.


What are some common mistakes new programmers make?

New programmers often struggle with setting unrealistic expectations, focusing too much on memorizing syntax rather than understanding concepts, and not asking for help when they need it.

How can I improve my coding skills?

To improve your coding skills, you should practice consistently, seek out feedback and guidance, and work on projects that challenge you.

How do I choose a programming language to learn?

When choosing a programming language, consider factors such as your career goals, the type of projects you want to work on, and the community and resources available for the language.

What are some essential tools for new programmers?

Some essential tools for new programmers include a code editor, a version control system, a command line interface, and a debugger.

How do I stay motivated while learning to code?

To stay motivated while learning to code, set clear goals, celebrate your successes, and find a community of supportive peers and mentors.

How Much Can I Expect To Make?

The amount you make will depend on how many clients you’re able to take on, as well as the rate you charge. Be sure to look at similar consulting rates in your area, and know that the more clients you work with, the more valuable your time becomes.

How Do You Find Clients?

Believe it or not, one of the best ways to find clients is through referrals and word-of-mouth advertising. Find a few clients that like your work, and ask them to refer you to other people they think could benefit from your services.

What Is The Hardest Part About Freelancing?

One of the biggest challenges is staying motivated without a boss around to push you forward. Make sure you’re setting goals for yourself and working towards them every day!

How Do You Deal With Clients That Don’t Pay?

It’s always important to have contracts and agreements signed before starting any work—and if possible, get a percentage of payment upfront. If a client fails to pay after all attempts at communication are exhausted, consider hiring an attorney who specializes in collection practices.

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