What Is The Best Programming Language for Freelance Developers?

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updated Mar 27, 2021

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So you want to know what’s the best programming language for freelance developers?

You are thinking about becoming a freelance web developer, but you’re not sure which programming language to learn?

You want to make sure you learn a language that allows you to find enough work to become a full-time freelancer?

In that case, you are in the right place.

Ever since the COVID pandemic started, freelancing has become a more lucrative career option for web developers worldwide.

Freelancers can work from anywhere, anytime, so they enjoy full control over their schedules.

Also, freelancing allows you to work on projects you truly enjoy. That way, you can make sure you stay motivated and deliver top-notch results.

I’ve been a full-time freelance web developer since 2017. Ever since I made the decision to become a freelancer, I haven’t looked back.

I can choose the clients I work with, build projects I genuinely enjoy, and decide when I want to take time off from work.

But if you are new to programming and web development, what programming language should you learn to become a freelance developer?

I have written a super comprehensive guide on the best programming languages to learn in 2021 and beyond. If you haven’t already, go check it out!

However, when it comes to freelancing, things work a bit differently.

In this article, I will walk you through the most important points to consider when looking for the best programming language to learn for freelancing.

By the end of this post, you can narrow down your options to find the perfect coding language to learn to become a successful full-time freelance developer.

Let’s get started!

Please note: This post contains affiliate links to products I use and recommend. If you choose to purchase using these links, I may receive a small commission for referring you. But please, only buy products you believe will help you achieve your goals faster. Thank you for your support!

How to Find the Best Programming Language for Freelancing

First, there is one thing you should remember when trying to find the best computer language for freelancing:

There’s no such thing as the “best” programming language per se.

You will find dozens of popular programming languages that allow you to find enough freelance work to make ends meet.

Each language is simply a tool to build something useful.

They all have different purposes, and some languages simply do a better job for certain types of projects than others.

Just like you wouldn’t use a saw to do a hammer’s job, you wouldn’t use one programming language to build something it can’t do.

With that said:

You need to know what you want to build before you can choose the right programming language to learn.

You must know what types of projects you want to work on.

Otherwise, you may end up spending weeks and months learning a language you can’t use for the type of work you enjoy.

Therefore, you should start by finding a field you are interested in.

That’s why I’m covering 5 popular areas with the best programming languages for each of them in this article.

I will use data from two popular freelancing platforms to back things up: Upwork and Freelancer.com.

This way, you can compare your options more easily and find a specialization that you truly enjoy working in.

The 5 best programming languages and tools for freelancing in 2021

Here’s an overview of the 5 freelancing specializations I’ll cover in this article:

  1. WordPress web development
  2. Front-end web development
  3. Back-end web development
  4. Mobile app development
  5. Data analysis and data science

Let’s start with WordPress… But before we do, make sure to share this post with others and pin it to your Pinterest boards! Thank you!

The best programming language for freelancing developers – Make money coding

1: WordPress Web Development: HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript

I know what you’re thinking: WordPress isn’t a programming language.

And you’re absolutely right, of course.

But the reason I mention WordPress first simple:

If you learn how to build beautiful websites with WordPress, you will never be short of freelance work.

If you aren’t familiar, WordPress is the most popular Content Management System or CMS worldwide.

It’s a piece of software that powers over 40% of all websites worldwide.

With a growing market share like that, WordPress is the most in-demand website tool in the freelancing job market.

WordPress - The best CMS for blogging and web development

Why Use WordPress?

But why should you use WordPress if you could code a website from the ground up?

Because WordPress speeds up your work a LOT.

It’s a plug-and-play system that allows you to set up and customize your website projects in just a few clicks.

You can literally install the software with a single click, and start building your first page layouts right away.

And trust me, when you’re freelancing, time is money.

Hence, with WordPress, you have two major benefits:

  1. You can finish your projects faster, and take on more work.
  2. You can offer more attractive pricing to your clients.

So not only can you generate more income as a freelancer web developer, but you can also offer your services at a competitive price level.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you should offer your services at a dumping price.

But when you are new to freelancing and don’t have that much experience under your belt, you can’t target the highest-paying premium jobs out there.

Instead, you want to find small, low-risk freelance gigs in your area or within your own contact network.

But while small local businesses prefer to work with someone face-to-face, they don’t have a lot of money to spend.

That’s why you can’t enter the freelancing job market with zero experience and charge $3,000 for a simple website.

It’s a better idea to learn tools that allow you to build stunning websites at an attractive price point. WordPress will help you do that.

WordPress Freelance Jobs on Upwork

So what about the demand for WordPress freelance developers?

Right now, there are 15,000+ available projects on Upwork for “WordPress”:

WordPress developer freelance jobs on Upwork
You can find a total of 15,131 WordPress freelance projects on Upwork (March 2021).

Out of those, 10,595 jobs have a budget of $1,000+.

So, if someone’s told you that you can’t make decent money from WordPress gigs, they’re wrong.

What Programming Languages You Need to Learn for WordPress?

To build WordPress websites like a pro, you need to learn a few different programming and markup languages:

  1. HTML
  2. CSS
  3. PHP
  4. JavaScript

Four languages sounds like a lot, but don’t panic.

You can learn HTML and CSS in just a few days or weeks.

HTML creates the structure and content for your pages, and CSS adds styling rules to make those pages look beautiful.

If you are new to HTML, grab your free HTML5 cheat sheet below:

PHP is the back-end programming language WordPress is built with. You will use PHP for all server-side programming for your WordPress websites.

And even if you use a ready-made WordPress theme to build and design your website, you still need to know how the system works under the hood. That’s why PHP is absolutely essential – even if you want to focus more on front-end customizations.

JavaScript is a fun programming language you can use to add interactive and dynamic features to your WordPress website.

JavaScript is also one of the most in-demand programming languages worldwide, so there’s plenty of freelance work for skilled JavaScript developers, too.

Is WordPress the Right Tool For You?

So you may be thinking:

I want to become a web developer and build my freelance website projects from scratch. WordPress sounds like cheating!

But remember:

When it comes to freelancing, the only thing that matters is that you are able to finish the job.

As long as you deliver top-notch results and a website that works and looks great, your client will be happy.

Of course, you can use other tools if you want to.

Depending on your target clientele, WordPress may not be the right tool to use.

But for anyone who wants to get a quick start into freelancing without having to spend years learning and gathering experience, WordPress is the perfect tool.

Where to Learn WordPress Web Development?

If you want to learn how to build beautiful websites with WordPress and become a freelance WordPress developer, here are a few fantastic courses to get started:

  1. The Complete WordPress Website Business Course (Udemy):
    I took this course back in late 2016 to learn how to create a handful of different WordPress websites. And the investment paid off: just a few months later, I quit my office job and became a full-time freelance WordPress developer.
  2. WordPress Theme Development with Bootstrap (Udemy):
    If you have an eye for design and want to create a stream of passive income, creating and selling WordPress themes might be your thing. This course shows you how to build your own WordPress themes from scratch, which you can then sell globally on marketplaces such as Themeforest.
The Complete WordPress Website Business Course - Learn web development and web design for beginners online
The Complete WordPress Website Business Course helped me learn the skills I needed to start my own freelancing business back in 2016 and 2017.

2: Front-End Web Development: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

Another in-demand field for freelance developers is front-end web development.

If you aren’t familiar, front-end developers are responsible for the part of a web page you interact with directly. They create and determine the final layout and all the colors and fonts for it, for example.

Everything you see in your web browser is the front-end of a website.

The Best Languages for Front-End Web Development

Front-end freelance developers use three languages:

  1. HTML
  2. CSS
  3. JavaScript

Again, HTML and CSS are quick and easy to learn. JavaScript will take longer to learn and master, but you can start applying for your first small freelance jobs in a matter of weeks or a couple of months, depending on your learning schedule.

Once you master these three languages, you have a powerful skillset to build a successful full-time freelance career on.

Front-end Development Jobs on Upwork

Here are the figures for available freelance gigs for front-end web development languages:

  1. HTML – 11,434 jobs with 8,269 projects at $1000+
  2. CSS – 8,967 jobs with 6,548 projects at $1000+
  3. JavaScript – 13,594 jobs with 10,392 projects at $1,000+

Hence, more than 2/3 of the projects available have a minimum budget of $1,000. Again, it’s obvious that you can make decent money with these languages as a freelancer.

HTML developer freelance jobs on Upwork
You can find a total of 11,434 HTML freelance projects on Upwork (March 2021).
JavaScript freelance developer jobs on Upwork
You can find a total of 13,593 JavaScript freelance projects on Upwork (March 2021).

Where to Learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript?

If you are new to front-end web development, I suggest you start with HTML and CSS.

Once you feel comfortable with those, start learning JavaScript.

Here are a few of my favorite front-end web developer courses you should check out:

The Complete Web Developer Course 2 - Web development courses for beginners
The Complete Web Developer Course 2.0 teaches you a handful of valuable front-end development skills. (This is my all-time favorite all-in-one web dev course.)
  1. The Complete Web Developer Course 2.0 (Udemy):
    This was the very first web development course I ever took, and it helped me find the tools and languages I still work with today. Even if you are 100% new to coding and web development, this course can teach you everything you need to become a full-time freelance developer.
  2. freeCodeCamp.org:
    If you want to learn front-end development independently and on a budget, try freeCodeCamp’s interactive tutorials. The curriculum covers all the most important topics you need to learn for front-end development.
  3. The Complete 2021 Web Development Bootcamp (Udemy):
    Another one of my Udemy favorites – and perfect for absolute beginners. If you’re not sold on the first course on this list, check out this one and see how you like it. Can’t recommend it enough!
Best Websites to Learn Coding and Web Development for Beginners - freeCodeCamp
freeCodeCamp offers an extensive curriculum of free online lessons to learn front-end web development and more.

3: Back-End Web Development: PHP and Ruby

While front-end developers build everything you see in your web browser, back-end developers take care of server-side programming.

Hence, back-end developers create the logic behind a dynamic website that stores and processes data from its users.

For example, any website that allows you to create a profile and log in to your account requires back-end programming to store your user data.

The Best Programming Languages for Freelance Back-End Development

That said, back-end freelance developers need to learn at least one in-demand server-side programming language, such as:

  1. PHP
    Although PHP is not the sexiest programming language out there, it’s in high demand for freelance work. Alone the massive popularity of WordPress means that you will never be short of work if you choose to learn PHP.
  2. Ruby
    Ruby is another popular back-end programming language, and great for finding freelance web developer work. The Ruby on Rails web application framework is particularly popular among small businesses and start-ups. It allows for relatively quick and low-cost development of beautiful web apps.

PHP and Ruby Freelance Jobs on Upwork

Let’s look at how many freelance gigs are available on Upwork:

  1. PHP – 9,674 jobs with 6,847 projects at $1,000+
  2. Ruby – 1,185 jobs with 984 projects at $1,000+

Clearly, PHP is the clear winner here in terms of quantity. But Ruby boasts a higher share of high-budget jobs.

PHP developer freelance jobs on Upwork
You can find a total of 9,684 PHP freelance projects on Upwork (March 2021).

Where to Learn PHP and Ruby?

To get started with these popular programming languages, here are my recommended beginner-level online courses you can start right now:

  1. Learn PHP (Codecademy):
    This free beginner-level PHP course teaches you the most important, fundamental programming concepts in this language. Remember: you should know the basics of HTML before taking this course.
  2. PHP for Beginners: Become a PHP Master (Udemy):
    If you’re serious about learning PHP and becoming a freelance PHP developer, this course is the perfect choice. It will literally take you from zero to hero while you work through topics like database management, object-oriented programming, PHP security, debugging your code, and much more.
Learn PHP with Codecademy – Web development courses for beginners
Learn PHP is a free beginner-level PHP course on Codecademy.

4: Mobile App Development: Swift and Java

Are you interested in creating mobile apps for iPhones and Android smartphones?

If you want to start a profitable side hustle or a full-time freelance career, becoming a mobile app developer might just be the right path for you.

While it’s a relatively complex field for beginner freelancers, mobile app development can be a great long-term career path. Learn the most relevant skills, try your freelancing wings on a few small-scale projects, and improve your skills as you go.

The Best Programming Languages for Freelance Mobile App Development

I already mentioned iPhones and Android devices above. And for a good reason:

Both device types require you to learn a different programming language to build apps for that specific platform:

  1. Swift for iOS devices:
    The best (and only) language to build Apple apps is Apple’s own creation, Swift. While I wouldn’t always recommend putting all your eggs in one basket and relying on a single company, building iOS apps can be a fantastic way to focus on a very specific skill set.
  2. Java for Android devices:
    Java is a multi-purpose programming language you can use to build Android apps, web apps, and even desktop software. Android currently boasts a 70%+ market share globally, so your Google Play apps have a larger pool potential buyers.

iOS vs. Android: which platform to pick?

So which one should you pursue: iOS or Android development?

If you can’t make up your mind, try learning the basics of both Swift and Java. Choose the one you enjoy learning the most.

Also, remember that you will need a Mac computer to build apps with Swift. If you don’t have one, go with Java and Android.

iOS and Android Development Freelance Jobs on Upwork

Let’s see how many available projects we can find for both of these languages:

  1. iOS development – 5,284 jobs with 4,050 projects at $1,000+
  2. Android development – 4,969 jobs with 3,960 projects at $1,000+

Again, both fields have plenty of projects you can apply for, and they make good money, too.

Android mobile development freelance jobs on Upwork
You can find a total of 4,969 Android development freelance projects on Upwork (March 2021).

Where to Learn iOS and Android app development?

To get started right now, here are my top picks for learning both iOS and Android development for freelancing:

  1. iOS & Swift – The Complete iOS App Development Bootcamp (Udemy)
  2. The Complete Android N Developer Course (Udemy)

And yes, I’m a huge fan of Udemy for these fields, too. If you want to browse more of their top-rated courses, check out these iOS development courses and these Android development resources.

Android development courses on Udemy
You can easily search and filter for the most popular, top-rated Android development courses on Udemy.

5: Data Analysis: Python

Last but certainly not least, data analysis is another popular field for finding freelance work for skilled programmers.

Data analysis entails four popular topics:

  1. Data science
  2. Machine learning
  3. Artificial intelligence
  4. Big data

If you enjoy crunching numbers and finding patterns and predictabilities in data, this may be the perfect specialization for you.

The only thing I’d be cautious about is that data analysis usually requires a lot of practice.

Compared to the other fields we’ve looked at so far, this one could take the longest to land your first freelance job in.

Why?

Because data science is a highly intricate field that requires you to understand the bigger picture in as much detail as possible.

And when it comes to data science projects, your potential freelance clients are willing to pay more to a freelancer with years of experience – even if that means paying a higher price.

But speaking of higher prices, you also have a greater potential for higher earning as a freelance data scientist in the long run.

The deeper your knowledge of a certain field or industry, the more attractive you become to potential clients.

The Best Programming Language for Freelance Data Analyst Work: Python

The most popular programming language for data analysis is Python.

Python has quickly become one of the most popular programming languages worldwide.

Currently Python is ranked the 3rd most popular language by the TIOBE Index:

The most popular programming languages worldwide – TIOBE Index March 2021

Python is fun and relatively easy to learn, and it allows you to find freelance work in other areas than just data analysis, too.

Hence, if you start learning Python for data science and notice that it’s not the right specialization for you, you can apply your Python skills to back-end web development, for example.

If you aren’t familiar, check out my article on why Python is the perfect programming language for learn for beginners.

And to find some inspiration for your first portfolio projects, check out these fun Python projects ideas for beginners.

Python Libraries for Data Science

What makes Python so lucrative are the various libraries you can use for your data-driven projects, such as:

  1. NumPy
  2. TensorFlow
  3. Scikit-Learn

With these packages, you can speed up your work enormously. Just find and install the right package or library, and include it in your project.

Python Data Analysis Freelance Jobs on Upwork

Right now, you can find 6,945 jobs for “Python” on Upwork. 5,034 of those have a budget of $1,000+.

Python developer freelance jobs on Upwork
You can find a total of 6,945 Python freelance projects on Upwork (March 2021).

But it’s a good idea to narrow down our search to include data-focused jobs only.

Searching for “Python data” returns 2,958 jobs in total. 2,101 of those have a minimum budget of $1,000.

Where to Learn Python for Data Science?

If you want to give Python a try and become a freelance data analyst, here are a few recommended learning resources you should check out:

  1. Data Scientist Career Path on Codecademy:
    This 35-week intensive curriculum will teach you everything you need to know about data analysis to get you job-ready, with a professional portfolio of projects to showcase to potential clients and employers. This career path requires a Codecademy Pro subscription, but you can try it for free for 7 days.
  2. Python for Data Science and Machine Learning (Udemy):
    The 430,000+ students who have taken this course can’t be wrong! You will learn popular Python packages and libraries such as NumPy, Pandas, Matplotlib, Plotly, Scikit-Learn, Tensorflow, and more.
Data Scientist career path on Codecademy – Learn data analysis with Python for beginners
The Data Scientist career path on Codecademy is your all-in-one learning resource to become a freelance or full-time data analyst.

What About Money? Income Potential vs. Work-Life Balance and Happiness

Now that you have a quick overview of a few popular specializations for freelance work, let’s talk about money.

Just remember one thing:

You should never pick a programming language simply because it pays the most.

Trust me, chances are it’s not the right language for you, and you won’t enjoy working with it.

Of course, I know you want to make a nice living with your freelance work.

But the thing is:

You can earn a great freelance income with just about any programming language out there.

And hey, the whole point of becoming a freelancer is to have more control over your life.

So if you can, why not choose a language that you genuinely enjoy learning and using?

With that in mind, let’s look at some recent data on the highest paying programming languages for freelancers next.

The 10 Highest Paying Programming Languages for Freelance Developers

In 2020, the popular freelancing platform Upwork released a study on the highest paying programming languages for web, mobile, and software developers on their platform.

They compiled the data by analyzing the languages with the highest average hourly rates on Upwork.com.

Here are the top 10 most lucrative programming languages for freelance developers:

  1. Objective-C – $66
  2. Golang – $64
  3. Windows PowerShell – $62
  4. Excel VBA – $60
  5. Kotlin – $60
  6. VB.NET – $59
  7. Ruby – $59
  8. Java –$58
  9. Swift – $56
  10. C# – $56

The first thing we see is that there is plenty of high-value demand for a wide range of specializations. The list above includes languages for:

  1. Mobile app development
  2. Web app development
  3. Data analysis and visualization
  4. Desktop software programming
  5. Game development, and more..

So, despite the COVID pandemic’s impact on the economy, this study revealed the skilled developers can pursue high earnings as freelancers, too.

With an average hourly rate of $66, a skilled Objective-C developer could earn a annual pre-tax salary of $137,000.

Build a freelancer career with any programming language you enjoy working with
According to Mike Paylor, Vice President of Engineering and Product at Upwork, you can build a rewarding freelancing career with any programming language you enjoy working with.

Also, Upwork highlighted the fact that the workforce continues to shift toward remote work and more companies are turning to freelance developers for technical projects. This has lead to a growth in demand for skilled freelancers on their platform throughout 2020 and beyond.

Summing it up: The Most Popular Programming Language for Freelance Developers

So what’s the best programming language for freelancing right now?

The bottom line is: it depends on what type of work you want to do.

Here’s a quick recap of the specializations and languages we looked at in this post:

  1. WordPress development: HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript
  2. Front-end web development: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  3. Back-end web development: PHP and Ruby
  4. Mobile app development: Swift and Java
  5. Data analysis: Python

First and foremost, you want to pick a field you are genuinely interested in.

Thus, don’t choose a specialization simply based on how much money you can make.

Remember: becoming a freelancer means that you have the freedom to do whatever you want. Make sure you choose a field you will enjoy working in!

If you’re not sure what to learn, I recommend looking into WordPress and front-end web development.

Why?

Because every freelancer needs a professional portfolio website to showcase their best work samples.

With that said, you might as well learn how to build that website for yourself from scratch. To speed things up, you can build your freelance portfolio website with WordPress, too.

Once you’ve finished building your own website, you already have the skills you need to build one for another freelancer.

And that, my fellow freelancer, is how you get the ball rolling in no time.

But now it’s your turn:

  • What do you think about the programming languages above?
  • Are you thinking about pursuing freelancing this year?
  • Or did you already start learning the necessary skills?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

If you’re ready to start your freelancing journey, head over to my step-by-step guide on how to become a freelance web developer for all the details. I’ll see you there!

Here are a few related, helpful articles you should check out, too:

Happy learning!
– Mikke

P.S. If you liked this guide about the best programming language for freelance work, please share this post with others! Thanks!

Top programming languages and tools for freelance web developers - Make money programming
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About Mikke

Hi! I’m the creator of MikkeGoes.com, a platform where I help beginners learn how to code. I’m here to share my favorite tools, resources, and strategies to help you learn the right tech skills faster. When I’m not blogging, you will find me sipping strong coffee and biking around town in Berlin. Learn how I taught myself tech skills and became a web dev entrepreneur here. And come join me on Pinterest and Twitter!

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