A Guide To Transitioning From A Full-Time Job To A Freelance Web Developer

In this guide, I’m going to discuss all the necessary steps that are required to successfully transition from a full-time job to a freelance career as a web developer.

Before we begin, you need to ask yourself why you want to start freelancing? What is it about freelancing that appeals to you?

Maybe you’re sick of the day-to-day grind of working for someone else and want some freedom. Maybe you’re tired of commuting every day and want something closer to home. Maybe you’ve just been made redundant and don’t fancy getting back onto the job market. Or maybe it’s just the money…but that’s not really enough on its own (I’ll explain more later).

Whatever it is, make sure your reasons are clear in your head because freelancing is not for everyone.

Freelancing As A Web Developer
Freelancing requires discipline, self-motivation, and strong time-management skills.
It’s essential to establish a solid foundation and plan before transitioning to freelance web development.
Networking and creating a professional online presence are crucial for attracting clients.
Pricing and contract negotiation are essential skills to master to be successful as a freelance web developer.
Always seek to improve skills and stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and trends.

Do You Really Want This?

Before you start freelancing, it’s a good idea to discuss whether freelancing is right for you. Although any number of jobs can be viable options, there are three that should stand out above the others:

Freelancing could be an ideal option if you’re burned out from a full-time job and want to branch off into more hands-on work. Although many web developers do contract work, it’s important to remember that this is just one type of role within the industry there are plenty of other roles available as well, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.

Freelancing can also be a great way to establish your professional worth and credibility. The best time to start exploring options will vary from person to person it may be too early or too late depending on your situation but take note of how much time has passed since you last had a full-time job before you begin; chances are that if it’s been over three months since your last position at an employer, it would benefit you (and anyone who hires you) by taking some time off before jumping into freelance work.

Finally, some people want to start their own business but aren’t entirely sure what they’d like to call it yet; this is not a bad starting point either. If so, setting up your business as an LLC or corporation will get things rolling quickly while bringing in outside investors and stakeholders (if applicable).

A few examples of businesses that could fall under this category include: marketing & advertising agencies; bookkeeping & accounting services; software development firms & apps; graphic design studios & art advisors; design studios & art consulting agencies; social media management companies; virtual assistant services (in case they’re still hiring); creative services firms like illustrator studio or photography studio and more.

If you want to become a freelance web developer, check out our comprehensive step-by-step guide that covers everything from identifying your niche to finding clients and setting up your business.

What Kind Of Web Developer Do You Want To Be?

Before going full-time freelance, it’s important to first determine what kind of web developer you want to be. Do you prefer doing front-end or back-end work? What will your specialty be? Will you focus on browser compatibility, animation, accessibility, scalability, etc.? What type of client are you aiming for? Are they tech giants like Facebook and Google? Or are they small startups and entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses online?

These questions will allow you to narrow down your niche and determine which projects you’re best suited for. If a project falls outside of your capabilities, then it’s best to avoid taking it on at all costs. After all, attempting something that’s out of your league can only result in a subpar experience for both the client and yourself and one bad reference can easily spoil future opportunities.

I want to emphasize that this is not an exhaustive list; rather, these are merely some factors that I personally considered when deciding how I wanted my freelance journey to unfold. Ultimately though, how doable this transition is depends on how dedicated you are to pursue it. So if you’re up for the challenge of stepping out into the wild west of freelancing, then let’s get started!

Who Are You Going To Work With?

The next step should be to decide who you’re going to work with. There are a lot of different paths a freelancer can take and the following list is not exhaustive  but it will help you figure out where your strengths lie and what type of projects you want to take on:

Do you want to be a generalist that works on everything from HTML and CSS, JavaScript, back-end development, and project management or do you want to become an expert in one particular field?

Do you want to work on small side projects in your spare time or do you want to jump right into full-time freelance development?

Do you want to work for large organizations such as agencies or corporations or do you prefer working with small businesses, startups, and solopreneurs?

Do you prefer working in a team environment where there are other developers for asking questions and bouncing ideas off, or do you prefer the quiet of working from home?

These factors could also lead to more specific roles such as front or back-end web developer, mobile app developer, WordPress developer, UI/UX designer, etc. It’s important that if there’s something specific that interests you that has nothing to do with development (ex. graphic design) then make sure your business revolves around that because otherwise, it will be difficult for clients in the design industry to find your website when they search Google.

Starting a freelance web development business can be challenging, but our guide on how to build a freelance web development business provides you with tips and strategies to help you grow your business and thrive as a freelancer.

How Will You Find Work?

There are many ways to find work as a freelance web developer. You could use job sites and boards, join an agency, work with recruiters, or get referrals from your existing network. But if you’re just starting out, you may want to try cold emailing or cold calling companies that might need your services.

The great thing about the internet is that it has made finding potential clients easier than ever before. Researching companies on LinkedIn or using social media to connect with them can be extremely helpful at this stage.  If you’ve done some freelance work but are looking for an additional income source, one of the most popular options these days is a platform like Fiverr or UpWork (formerly known as Elance). These sites allow anyone to create a profile where they can post their services and be matched with clients in need of their skillsets.

You’ll also want to consider joining developer communities and taking advantage of online resources such as GitHub and Stack Overflow (a website where developers share programming knowledge). There are many forums available online where developers can ask questions and receive answers from other members who may have had similar issues in the past–and many of them also come with job boards for those who might be looking for something new!

How Will You Land Work?

Now that you’ve been contacted by a lead, it’s time to show your skills in the interview process. Here are some tips for making sure you really shine during this step:

Showcase your ability to solve problems. It’s tempting to jump into solutions prematurely, but it’s much better to demonstrate an understanding of the client’s pain points and offer a solution that speaks directly to their needs. If they mention any red flags or speed bumps you might encounter along the way, explain how that won’t be a problem for you.

You can also head off potential concerns by addressing them before they have a chance to become one for example, assuring clients that you have dealt with similar issues before and going over how you would approach those types of situations (with specific details if possible).

Be confident in your abilities as a developer but never arrogant or dismissive of others’ skillsets; rather than saying “I can do this better than anyone else because I know how” which could come across as patronizing say instead “Since I’ve been working at this company for X years now doing Y projects similar enough with Z results (where Z = what they want), I think it should be pretty straightforward.

This will help reassure them while also showing off your experience level which is important when dealing with someone who may not know much about programming themselves

Freelancing as a web developer can be a steep learning curve. Learn from our experience by checking out our post on the things we wish someone had told us before we started freelancing, and avoid common mistakes and pitfalls in the industry.

How Will You Manage Your Time And Energy?

There’s no doubt that freelancing means you’ll need to be more self-reliant and attentive to your time than you might otherwise. You’ll need to plan ahead, figure out what projects are in demand, and develop a schedule that will keep you from burning out (or even realizing you have). As a web developer who prefers working on his own time, I found myself thinking about how much of an impact my work would make if it didn’t need to be backed up with the weight of clients’ needs.

Fortunately for anyone embarking on this freelance journey, there are plenty of small ways you can manage your energy. 

For example:

Keep a schedule by planning dates for large tasks or by blocking off entire days and nights in advance (or weeks) for specific activities (e.g., “Monday Morning: Read Everything That Has Been Written About Freelance Web Development”). This helps prevent any surprises or interruptions during your workdays.

To ensure that your sprints go quickly that is when focusing on one task at a time choose something small so you don’t feel overwhelmed or distracted by too many things to do at once. For example, if writing a blog post is the task, try breaking it down into smaller chunks like: “Write the introduction first”; “Write the body; add links from Twitter”; “Read through fact checkers’ comments”; “Add footnotes.”

If you’re working on a project over long periods of time where distractions may arise (e.g., asking for feedback or checking email), use what has been dubbed as the POMODORO Technique: Set an alarm for 25 minutes; get started with one task; after four POMODOROS are finished, take a 5-minute break; repeat until all POMODOROS completed &/or only 10 more minutes remaining left in your 20-minute session.

How Do You Want To Structure Your Freelance Business?

Let’s say you have your website and portfolio up, your profile is updated on all the freelance websites you like to use, and you’re ready to get some work. Now what? Here are some things you need to think about:

How many clients do you want to take on at any one time?

If your business grows, what kind of support staff will it require?  Do you want (or need) a project manager or other assistant?

How are you going to structure your work? Will it be mostly remote, in-person meetings/on sites, or a combination of both?

Are you going to set up an LLC (limited liability company), or be a sole proprietor with a DBA (doing business as)?  The differences between the two can have tax implications.  Some resources for these questions include “Choosing the Right Business Type” by www.nolo.com and “How To Choose A Business Structure“.

How are you going to bill your clients? Hourly rates vs billing based on deliverables can make a big difference in how much money is coming in each month.

You also need to decide how contracts and agreements will work for your business – see this article for more information on that topic.

As a new web developer freelancer, it’s crucial to avoid common mistakes that can cost you clients and money. Our post on the 9 mistakes new web developer freelancers make and how to avoid them provides you with valuable insights and actionable tips to help you succeed in your freelance career.

How Much Money Will You Need To Survive?

You could think of your budget as a series of numbers that represent how much money you need to live. For example, if you want to live off $1,000 per month for the next year, then that represents one number in the budgeting equation. Each month you need to bring in more than that number in income, and less than it into expenses otherwise known as mise en place.

There are three main parts of your finances: income, expenses, and savings. Income is pretty self-explanatory: it’s the amount of money coming in each month. Expenses consist of all things that you spend your money on; these include insurance premiums and bills like rent or utilities. Savings essentially takes up the rest of your money after you’ve met all other financial responsibilities; this is where most or all of your efforts go each month toward creating wealth for yourself!

If you’re a freelance web developer, it’s essential to maintain high standards of work and professionalism to retain clients. Check out our post on the 8 signs your freelance web developer needs to be fired to learn what to avoid and how to keep your clients happy

Final Thought

Remember that even though you’re working for yourself, you still need to make sure that you can bring in money. This means keeping track of your finances, invoicing your clients, and making sure that things like your website are running smoothly. It also means sticking to a schedule and setting boundaries with the people around you. If you have no discipline or drive, it will be hard for you to succeed as a freelancer.

Also, remember that just because something has worked for me doesn’t mean it will work for everyone else. I’m only trying to offer advice based on my own experiences and what I’ve learned from others. Hopefully, some of these tips will help someone who’s struggling!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to help you with your transition to freelance web development:

How to Transition to Freelancing: A Guide for Full-Time Employees: Upwork’s guide provides a comprehensive overview of what you need to know to make the transition to freelancing, including practical tips for managing your finances and finding clients.

How to Transition to Freelancing: A Complete Guide: This guide from Rock Content covers the steps you need to take to make a successful transition to freelancing, including how to build your portfolio and find clients.

How to Transition to Full-Time Freelancing: A Step-by-Step Guide: Half Half Travel’s guide provides a detailed, step-by-step plan for transitioning from full-time employment to freelance work, including how to prepare financially and build a client base.


How can I prepare financially for a transition to freelancing?

Before transitioning to freelancing, it’s important to have a solid financial plan in place. This includes building up your emergency fund, paying off debt, and establishing a budget that accounts for fluctuations in income. It’s also a good idea to have several months’ worth of expenses saved up to provide a cushion as you build your client base.

How do I find clients as a freelance web developer?

There are several ways to find clients as a freelance web developer, including networking with other professionals in your industry, reaching out to potential clients directly, and creating a strong online presence through social media and a professional website. You can also consider using online job boards and freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Freelancer to find work.

How do I set my rates as a freelance web developer?

Setting your rates as a freelance web developer can be challenging, but it’s important to find a balance between charging enough to make a living and remaining competitive in your industry. Consider factors like your level of experience, the complexity of the project, and the going rate for web development services in your area when setting your rates.

How can I manage my time effectively as a freelance web developer?

Time management is a crucial skill for any freelance web developer. To manage your time effectively, consider using time-tracking tools, breaking down projects into manageable tasks, and creating a schedule that allows you to balance work with personal and professional obligations. It’s also important to set realistic deadlines and communicate clearly with clients about project timelines.

How can I ensure a successful transition to freelance web development?

To ensure a successful transition to freelance web development, it’s important to have a solid plan in place that includes financial preparation, building a strong client base, and honing your skills as a web developer. It’s also important to be adaptable and flexible, as the freelance industry can be unpredictable and constantly changing. Finally, don’t be afraid to seek out advice and support from other professionals in your industry.

There are a few questions that come up time and time again when people think about starting out as a freelancer. Below are some answers to those questions.

How Do I Find Work?

I’ve talked to other freelance web developers who say they get most of their work from friends, family, or acquaintances in the industry but for me, it’s been mostly random strangers. In fact, I’ve been lucky enough to never have to go looking for new clients since I started working as a freelancer because word-of-mouth has always landed me enough client leads so far. That said, you should definitely have a plan ready in case you need to go looking for work; here are a few ideas:

Your Network: Some people say that you should comb through your contacts on social media and LinkedIn, but my personal opinion is that if you’re not already familiar with someone beyond their profile picture, then they’re not worth reaching out to yet. Instead, focus on your current network of friends and family if any of them need help with something related (or unrelated!) to web development, offer your services! You could also reach out via email or Facebook Messenger if you really want to make sure everyone knows what you do now.

Upwork: Freelancers often look at places like Upwork or Fiverr as useful resources for finding new clients. While these sites can be good for beginners looking for low-cost projects or quick cash influxes, keep in mind that the competition will be fierce there (especially on Fiverr), and some people may ask for lower rates than what you’re comfortable with doing. If this is the route you want to take though, be sure to check out our article on how best to use these sites!

Cold Emailing / Calling: While effective networking is important no matter what career path you decide upon taking after graduating from Holberton School (even just within your own company!),

How Do I Find My First Clients?

The best way is through word-of-mouth referrals. If you already have friends or acquaintances in the tech industry, ask them if they know anyone who may be looking for freelance developers. If they don’t know anyone, follow up by asking if they would be willing to connect you with their network on LinkedIn.

If you don’t already have connections in the tech industry, think about who your ideal client would be: what company would you want to work for? Who would you want to help? Then Google that client type and see what companies come up and then start Googling those companies’ employees until you find someone who might be able to give you a referral or an introduction.

How Do I Price My Work?

It’s a fair question. You know you need to get paid for your work, but how do you figure out what to charge? One approach is to find out what other freelancers are charging at your area and price yourself accordingly. Another is to look up the average salary for full-time web developers and use that as a baseline. Either way, you should have a number in mind before you start talking to clients.

What Do I Need To Know About Writing Contracts?

Your first freelance contract doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should cover all the basic details of your relationship with a client. It should clearly state the scope of your project, how much money you expect to be paid, and what rights you will retain over your work. If you have questions about any of these things, try asking other freelancers or looking online for examples of contracts they’ve used successfully.

Do I Need To Incorporate It?

If you decide that freelancing is right for you, then yes, incorporating is probably a good idea. There are several benefits to incorporation: it protects your personal assets from being seized by creditors if something goes wrong with one of your clients; it makes it easier for others.

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