How to Become a Freelance Web Developer in 2021: The Ultimate Guide


updated Aug 31, 2021


Do you want to learn coding to become a freelance Web Developer and achieve financial freedom in life?

Freelancing is the fastest way to make money with coding, but knowing where to start can feel scary and overwhelming for most beginners.

What if I told you it’s possible to start making money as a freelance Web Developer in just a matter of weeks or months?

The truth is: you can earn money from freelancing while you’re still learning how to code.

You don’t need to spend tons of time and money on courses or bootcamps. With the right resources, you can become a freelance Developer even on a shoestring budget.

In this post, I’ll walk you through 12 practical steps on how to become a freelance Web Developer.

I’ll share with you everything I learned when I started learning coding, quit my job and managed to become a full-time freelance Web Designer and Developer in a matter of months.

Keep reading!

Here are a few related posts you may want to read, too:

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!

Why you should start freelancing

If you’re interested in learning coding and web development, I assume you want to make money coding in the future, right?

Now, there are plenty of options to choose from to earn money as a developer. You may want to become a full-time developer or start your own business, for example.

And hey, those are awesome goals!

But the truth is: the road to a full-time job or to starting your own business is long (and sometimes rocky).

If you want to make money with coding while you’re still learning, freelancing is the best way to go. In fact, becoming a freelance Web Developer is the fastest way to make money as a beginner programmer.

Here’s the deal:

With freelancing, you could be applying for your first small jobs in just a matter of weeks. It’s the only shortcut you can take with coding and web development.

I mean, you need to build projects anyways when you’re learning new skills. Why not build them for a client and get paid in return?

Sound good?

Related: How to Start Learning Coding? 6 Simple Steps For Beginners

Let’s jump right in and see how to become a freelance Web Developer in 12 practical steps:

How to become a freelance web developer - The ultimate step-by-step guide for beginners

How to Become a Freelance Web Developer: 12 Practical Steps

Ready to get started? Awesome! If you want to start making money as a freelance developer, you need a solid plan. Now, the journey towards freelancing might feel daunting, so let’s break it down.

Here’s how to become a freelance web developer step-by-step:

  1. Define your goals and know your “why”
  2. Break down your long-term goals
  3. Focus on your strengths to find your niche
  4. Learn the skills to make money with
  5. Update your LinkedIn profile
  6. Register a domain and sign up for web hosting
  7. Set up an online portfolio website
  8. Sign up to an online freelancing platform
  9. Practice by building meaningful projects
  10. Apply to your first small freelance jobs
  11. Deliver stellar results to get your first testimonial
  12. Rinse and repeat – and keep learning!

Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Related: Web Developer Certification: Is It Worth It?

Step #1: Define your goals and know your “why”

If you’re serious about becoming a freelance Web Developer and you want to make money coding, the first thing you must do is figure out why you’re doing this.

Related: 8 Essential Things to Know Before Learning Coding

We all have different goals and desires when it comes to freelancing. You might want to learn slowly and work part-time for a little side income. Or you might want to learn web development as quickly as you can and quit your job to pursue a new career.

Whatever it is you wish to achieve with coding, make sure you define your goals right now.

Also, know your “why”. Why do you want to start freelancing as a Web Developer?

There are plenty of reasons you can think of, such as:

  • Achieving more freedom in your life
  • Being able to travel and work remotely
  • Starting your own freelancing business in the future
  • Earning a higher income
  • Breaking free from the “9 to 5 purgatory”

Your “why” will be your #1 motivator along the way. So, make sure you’re absolutely sure about what it is you want to do this for.

For example, my “why” consists of two points:

  1. Freedom (both financial and in life in general)
  2. Family and friends

I never want to wake up early in the morning, sit in an office all day, and work for a company that doesn’t appreciate my time as much as I do. I want to choose what I do with my time, when I work and travel and who I work with.

In short, I want to be my own boss.

This freedom leads to a much more important point: it allows me to spend more time with my family and friends. With people I actually care about.

So, what’s your “why”?

Related: Why Learn Coding? 12 Essential Benefits From Learning Programming

Step #2: Break down your goals

When you start learning coding and want to start freelancing, the journey may often feel daunting and overwhelming.

That’s when you can start feeling frustrated and discouraged – which is something we want to avoid at all costs.

To maintain your focus and motivation, take your goal and break it down into smaller milestones.

This helps you track your progress and see how far you’ve come already.

For example, let’s say you want to start freelancing to earn a six-figure income in the future. That’s a fine goal!

But it can be a big leap to take as a whole, right?

To make things easier for yourself, you could think of it this way:

  • Earn $120,000 / year in 2 years from now. Woah, that’s a big goal!
  • That’s $10,000 / month. Still big, but not as daunting.
  • Let’s assume you earn $0 from freelancing right now. You got to start at the bottom, right?
  • You have 24 months to increase your monthly earnings to $10,000.
  • Your monthly income needs to grow by $417 every month. Not that bad!

Crushing the number into smaller steps makes it easier to grasp how much work you need to put in every month.

Even big goals feel less scary and overwhelming this way!

How about starting with $1,000? Find out how I made my first $1,000 freelancing here.

Step #3: Focus on your experience, knowledge, and strengths

Now that you’ve figured out your goals, you need a way to get there.

If you wish to start freelancing as a Web Developer, you need to find a suitable niche to focus on.

Remember: your future clients are looking for someone to solve problems for them. To stand out from the competition, you should focus on offering specific solutions better than your competitors.

It will be easier to find work and deliver great results if you find an area where you have experience in or knowledge of already.

This is not 100% necessary, but it can be extremely valuable and helpful along the way.

Also, at the same time think about your weaknesses. What do you hate doing? This is your chance to gain absolute control over your life and only do things you really enjoy and find interesting.

Before I became a Web Developer, I worked as an analyst in finance and aviation. Some of my strengths were:

  • Analytical thinking. I had learned a lot about figuring out complex models and interdependencies. Somehow I was always able to make good decisions and achieve good outcomes, too. Ok, almost always.
  • Creativity. Also, I really loved being creative with my work. Even though it was always very quantitative and technical, I got great feedback for my creative touch.
  • Teamwork. I wasn’t the most active speaker, but more of an analytical mastermind. So, I didn’t necessarily say much right away. But after processing all the input I would usually have valuable input for everyone.

All in all, these strengths have helped me succeed in freelancing and ultimately in starting my own business.

Step #4: Learn the skills you need to make money freelancing

Now that you know the niche you want to focus on, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

First of all, you need to remember that becoming a freelancer is just like starting any other business.

You need to learn all the skills you need to get hired, do the job, and take great care of your clients.

That being said, to become a web developer and make money freelancing, you should consider at least these skill sets:

Web Development and Web Design skills

  • HTML and CSS
  • JavaScript and jQuery
  • PHP and WordPress
  • Responsive design and development
  • Popular front-end frameworks (e.g. Bootstrap)
  • User Experience (UX)
  • Server-side languages: Python, Java, Ruby
  • MySQL and database management
  • Development tools and software

Complementary skills

  • SEO keyword research, competitor analysis, SEO strategies
  • Copywriting, Content Marketing, social media strategy
  • Back-end Development: programming languages (Python, Ruby, Java), MySQL and database management, development tools and software

Make sure you check out my article on the best programming languages and tools for freelance web developers, too.

It’s perfectly OK to learn coding and web development using free resources. Check out this post with 8 Great Websites to Learn Coding For Free.

However, I recommend investing a few bucks in a quality course if you can. Paid coding courses often come with a more comprehensive and cohesive curriculum. Also, most of them include a good selection of practical projects that you can use for your portfolio.

I always recommend starting a web development course where you learn the basics of several different tools, not just one programming language.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out these 5 Web Development Courses for Beginners.

The two courses I took before I landed my first freelance jobs were:

The Complete Web Developer Course 2

I purchased both courses during a promotion on Udemy for a total of $19.98.

Needless to say, the investment paid off big time.

If you’re not familiar with them yet, check out my Udemy review!

Step #5: Update your LinkedIn profile

Alright, time to go online and become a freelancer overnight!

You see, when you know what you need to learn to achieve your goals, you can start building an online reputation step-by-step.

The first thing you want to do is to update your LinkedIn profile. And if you don’t have one already, make sure you sign up now.


Because LinkedIn is the best platform for not only finding new contacts but also for putting yourself and your work “out there”. You’ll be surprised by how quickly people find you and perhaps even get in touch with you about potential jobs, too:

How to make money coding - Building an online presence on LinkedIn as a freelance web developer

You can start by including a short info in your profile about the skills you’re learning. Whenever you feel proficient with a new tool, don’t hesitate to include it in your profile.

Later on, when you start building your first real-life projects, make sure you upload them to your portfolio website and share every project on LinkedIn, too.

Speaking of portfolios…

Step #6: Register a domain and sign up for web hosting

A solid portfolio website is a must-have for any freelance Web Developer and programmer. It is your #1 tool for promoting your skills and selling your expertise to potential clients.

When I launched my freelance portfolio website back in 2017, I only had a couple of small projects to showcase. But I created enough content to make sure my potential clients would see the value I could deliver.

And it paid off: I targeted my local area with a few key SEO techniques and landed my first big jobs faster than I expected.

Moreover, setting up your portfolio website now will save you time later. When you start learning and building your first meaningful projects, you need to have your site set up so that you a place to upload and showcase your newest projects right away.

Where to get your domain and hosting?

To build a Web Developer portfolio, you need two things:

  1. Domain name
  2. Web hosting

If you’ve never done this before: Your domain name is what people type into the URL bar in their browsers. A web hosting account is the web space where your portfolio website files “live”.

Registering a domain name and signing up for web hosting is the only absolutely necessary investment you need to make money online as a freelance Web Developer.

And when you’re just starting out, I know you don’t want to spend more than you need to. That is why I have teamed up with Bluehost to give you access to an exclusive web hosting deal starting at just $2.95 per month – including a free domain name.

Website hosting with Bluehost
Setting up your domain name and hosting is easy with Bluehost.

And yes, I’m not shy about my cooperation with Bluehost. They are the easiest and most helpful web hosting provider I have worked with so far.

Related: Why You Should Start a Blog About Learning Coding

Step #7: Set up an online portfolio website

When you’re all set with your domain name and web hosting, it’s time to set up a basic freelancer portfolio website.

Of course, if you’ve never created a website from scratch, this might feel a bit intimidating and scary.

If you’re new to this, head over to my free portfolio tutorial to build your freelance portfolio website step-by-step.

As for the tools you’ll use, you have two options:

  1. Build your website from scratch:
    First, you can choose to build your portfolio website from scratch using HTML, CSS, JavaScript etc. That’s going to be great practice for you while you learn.
  2. Use a Content Management System:
    The second option is to use a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress. WordPress allows you to build a professional-looking portfolio in just a few hours.

Now, you might be asking: Why should I use a ready-made solution if I’m trying to learn how to code things from the ground up?

The truth is: you will learn how to build a website from scratch eventually.

But as you do, you’ll learn coding faster by building projects for your portfolio. Setting everything up for your first projects saves you tons of time, trust me.

Related: 9 Practical Reasons to Use WordPress

Also, you will learn how to build websites using WordPress as you go about tweaking around with your portfolio. And the demand for WordPress developers is skyrocketing as we speak.

In fact, that’s how I generate most of my freelance income and it sure does pay my bills (and then some!).

However, keep in mind that you MUST learn the skills I listed above (HTML, CSS, JavaScript etc.) before you start building WordPress websites for your freelance clients. You need to understand what’s going on if you run into problems with WordPress.

Now head over to my article with the 10 most essential things to include in your freelance portfolio website to get started!

Step #8: Sign up to an online freelancing platform like UpWork

The reason why you should sign up to an online freelancing platform now is simple: you want to do some research about the job market.

You want to find out what types of jobs are available in your field. This will help you focus on learning the right skills later on and know that there’s demand for them.

Freelancing is basically all about finding clients who have a problem you can solve with your skills. As long as you know you’re learning a skill that’s in demand, you don’t have to worry about finding work.

That being said, here are a few popular online freelancing platforms you can take a look at:

You can choose a platform you like the most at this point.

If you’re not sure which one to go with, Upwork is a safe choice. I used it to start freelancing and I was 100% happy with everything.

To get started the right way, follow my step-by-step tutorial on how to create an Upwork profile that stands out.

UpWork - Find freelance work online and make money with your coding and web development skills
UpWork is a great platform for finding freelance jobs worldwide.

Once your profile is set up, start browsing through job openings. Use appropriate filters to find small beginner-level jobs.

See which skills are in demand and what you need to learn and brush up to apply for your first freelance job.

Related: How to Become a Web Developer? 4 Essential Tools You Must Learn

Step #9: Practice by building meaningful projects

Getting hired on online freelancing platforms is much easier when you have a suitable portfolio to showcase your skills.

It doesn’t matter how good a programmer or Web Developer you are if you can’t show your clients how you can solve their problems.

That being said, based on your research on the online freelancing website of your choice, it’s time to start building your first portfolio projects.

Basically, you only need to focus on one thing: showing that you can deliver value to your potential clients.

Thus, if you saw tons of small freelance jobs with HTML and CSS adjustments, build a couple of portfolio projects from scratch using HTML and CSS.

In a similar way, if you found interesting gigs with beginner-level JavaScript and jQuery work, build a small portfolio project based on JS.

(See the pattern here?)

In short: build a portfolio to show your future clients how you can help them. Find out what they’re struggling with. Then present them with a solution.

Recommended: The Best Websites to Learn Coding in 2021

Step #10: Apply for your first freelance jobs

When you’re just starting out learning coding and web development, you might feel like it’s too early to look for jobs.

And I know how overwhelming it feels. You might feel like you’re not ready or good enough yet.

I was practically terrified when I sent out my first job applications on UpWork. I kept comparing myself to others, all the time. That was a big mistake.

Of course, it’s impossible for you to deliver the same results as a professional developer with years of experience. But in general, most beginners underestimate what they’re capable of.

Thus, as soon as you are confident in your skills, apply for your first job on UpWork. Here are a few helpful tips to get started:

  1. Start with small jobs like fixing website layouts or updating HTML content like contact information on a client’s website.
  2. Keep your bid low, explain that you’re just beginning and you’re willing to work for less for your first review.
  3. Make sure you understand what the client wants and don’t take on jobs that are too big.

Trust me, as long as you can solve their problem and your communication is prompt and professional, you will get your first job sooner than you think.

Step #11: Deliver stellar results for your first testimonial

Getting your first freelance job is a huge milestone – congrats!

Now it’s time to take a deep breath in and keep your eyes on the prize. After all, this is what will earn you your first testimonial for your freelance portfolio website.

To help you get going, here are three points you should keep in mind:

  1. Communicate promptly – Whatever happens, stay in touch with your client and be honest about the outcomes.
  2. Be reliable – Avoid taking on jobs that are too demanding. You’re still learning, so the best way to guarantee solid quality is to focus on jobs that seem a tad too easy. It’s better to finish two easy jobs than to mess up a difficult one and back down from the project.
  3. Respect deadlines – If someone is buying a solution from you, they’re expecting you to deliver on time. Your work could be part of a bigger project, so your deadline affects others working on the same project, too.

When you’re finished with the project, consider going the extra mile for your client and surprise them positively with something of value they weren’t expecting.

Remember, you’re still learning, so you can do a bit more than what the client asked for without worrying about the extra time spent.

For example, add some custom CSS to improve the look and feel of the project. Or if you built a WordPress website, add a helpful WordPress plugin for your client.

Step #12: Rinse and repeat – and keep learning!

Now that you’ve finished your first project and earned your first freelancer paycheck, it’s time to look for the next one.

When you receive your first testimonial or review, it’s much easier to find your next job. In the early stages, keep your bids relatively low, go the extra mile, and add new projects to your portfolio.

At the same time, make sure you keep learning and improving your skills.

Related: 10 Practical Tips For Learning Coding Faster

By working with various different clients and building multiple small projects, you will quickly learn how to manage your projects and clients efficiently. Remember to take any feedback you get and learn from it.

You’ll be surprised by the rapid pace of finding and finishing new projects. And if everything goes well, you should be able to earn a nice side income from your freelance work soon.

General FAQ: Freelance web developer career

What is freelance work exactly?

Working as a freelance web developer means you are self-employed, working for multiple clients and on several different projects at once. Freelancers can work for clients online or offline, locally or globally, from home or remotely.

How do I become a freelance web developer?

To become a freelance web developer, you must start by defining your goals. Then, break them down on a monthly and weekly level.
Find your niche based on your skills and set up an online portfolio website. Sign up to an online freelancing platform to find your first small jobs, earn your first positive reviews, and practice on side projects on your own. Step-by-step, find bigger, higher-paid jobs to build a full-time income as a freelancer.

How much do freelance web developers make?

According to ZipRecruiter, the average freelance web developer makes $71,741 per year in the U.S. (2019), meaning the average rate is approximately $34 per hour.

What are the best freelance sites for beginners?

The easiest freelance websites with the largest pools of beginner-level jobs in 2021 are,, and

What is the best programming language for freelance work?

According to, the markup and programming languages with the highest demand for beginner-level jobs are HMTL, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP. For advanced-level jobs: PHP, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and Python.

How to find freelance web developer jobs?

The easiest way to find freelance web developer jobs is to look both offline and online. Approach local businesses and your personal contacts, but also sign up for an online freelancing platform like

How much can I charge per hour as a freelance web developer?

Your hourly rate depends on your (1) location, (2) skills and experience, and (3) your clients and niche. Beginning freelancers charge between $20 – $50 per hour, senior web developers anything between $120 – $450 per hour.

Final thoughts: How to become a freelance Web Developer

Even if you’ve never worked for yourself before.

Even if you’re just getting started with learning how to code.

You can start making money from coding in a matter of weeks or months.

In this post, you’ve learned how to become a freelance Web Developer. You have all the tools you need to start building a freelance business starting today.

It will take a lot of hard work to achieve a steady income as a freelance Web Developer. But trust me, your effort will pay off.

The most important thing is to maintain your focus. When you have a long-term goal to strive for, small setbacks won’t feel as tough, trust me. As long as you follow the best way to learn web development from scratch, you will see progress.

Ready to start learning the skills you need? Head over to my article on the best websites to learn coding and web development to get started! I’ll see you there!

Here are a few helpful articles you may want to read, too:

If you liked this post on how to become a freelance Web Developer, just drop me a line in the comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback!

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with others so that they can find it, too! Thanks!

I’ll see you in the next post! Happy coding!
– Mikke

How to Become a Freelance Web Developer in 2021: The Ultimate Guide

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About Mikke

Hi! I’m the creator of, 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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