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8 Crucial Things to Know Before Learning Programming

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updated Sep 3, 2022

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When you start learning programming, you don’t want to waste any of your valuable time. You want to see real progress as fast as possible, right?

But when you are new to coding, you may feel overwhelmed about everything you need to learn.

Where should you start, then? How can you make the “right” decisions and make the journey as smooth, easy, and quick as possible?

Well, as it turns out, you can take advantage of a few simple tips to make things easier for yourself.

In this post, I’m sharing 8 time-saving things to know before learning programming.

All of them are practical tips you can use right away to make your learning journey less confusing and frustrating in the long run.

In fact, these are the exact tips I wish I’d known when I first started learning to code myself!

By the time you finish reading this guide, you will have a better idea about what the journey holds. You will know what to expect and how to prepare yourself for learning programming as a beginner.

Keep reading!

Here are a couple of related posts you may find helpful, too:

Please note: This post contains affiliate links to products I use and recommend. I may receive a small commission if you purchase through one of my links, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

8 things you must know before learning to code

#1: It’s not going to be easy

First of all, whatever your reason is for learning coding, it’s not going to be easy.

Just like anything else you want to learn, you’re going to start at the very bottom. It’s just how things work.

Working your way up the skill ladder is going to take months and years of hard work.

I’ll be 100% honest with you: it’s going to be difficult and challenging, and you will feel like quitting at some point. Or at several points, in fact.

But it doesn’t mean you should give up!

Trust me, no matter how difficult it may feel sometimes, learning how to code is incredibly rewarding and empowering.

You can learn valuable, in-demand skills at your own pace and start a whole new career in tech.

Yes – you can land a lucrative job as a developer even without a degree. The fact that you can teach yourself all the skills you need to get the job of your dreams is reason enough to start learning computer programming.

So yes, it’s going to be tough but fun. And I’m here to help you make the most of your learning journey.

I started this blog to share with you every lesson I learned along the way so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.

Recommended: How to Make Money Coding? 4 Ways to Earn Money As a Developer

What you should do: Find your source of motivation

First, make sure you have something on your mind that motivates you day after day after day.

You’ll be doing a lot of stuff alone, so most of the time you’ll just have to know how to push yourself through the rougher patches.

Also, find a way of learning that motivates you:

  • If you love learning alone, use books and online courses.
  • If you prefer learning with others by exchanging thoughts and feedback, find a work group near you and team up with like-minded students.
  • If you need face-to-face guidance, sign up for a coding bootcamp in your area.

Just figure out how you can feel comfortable and find an approach that helps you reach your goals.

If you’re not sure how to start, you can try different ways of learning.

You will quickly notice which learning method works for you and supports your learning. Learning by doing like this is definitely one of the most important things to know before learning programming.

Which brings me to my next point…

Learn web development skills and start a career in tech

#2: You need a goal from day 1

Answer this one question right now:

What do I want to achieve with coding?

Done? Awesome!

This going to be your goal and motivation. It’s your long-term reason for learning how to code altogether.

Now, learning programming might just seem like a cool thing to do because it’s hip and trendy, but you need a personal, long-term goal to work towards.

I know this so well because I totally bombed at setting myself a goal when I started my journey.

I thought I’d just solve one small problem at work and that would be it.

Yet, here I am, a professional, full-time web development entrepreneur and I still haven’t solved that problem.

I was totally blindsided by all these cool things I learned about tech and programming. With a dozen awesome uses for coding, my head was spinning and I was just getting lost in it all at some point.

I wasted weeks and months learning things I have never needed since then. Big mistake!

If I had known why I want to learn programming and what I want to create with my new skills, I could have followed the right path from day 1, and made progress much faster.

To make things easier for yourself, try to find the one most important thing you want to learn coding for.

Now head over to my post on how to start learning coding the RIGHT way to find your goal!

#3: Learn the basics first

When you start learning programming, there’s a lot of new jargon and terminology to learn.

I remember when I started learning coding like it was yesterday, really.

True story: I was a total mess!

I felt so confused and overwhelmed with all these new words I kept seeing, not knowing half of them. And with each word I learned, three new ones popped into sight. Heeeeelp!

I just wanted to build a few websites and that’s it! I didn’t want to learn everything at once!

I knew I had to start at the very fundamentals of how computers even work if I was ever going to become a developer.

And you know what? That was the best thing I could have done.

What you should do now: Learn computer science fundamentals

I felt overwhelmed with the terminology and tech jargon in my first weeks of learning programming.

Why?

Because I wasn’t familiar with the basic fundamentals of how programming works and what it’s all about.

To make things easier for myself, I started learning computer science basics basics even though I wasn’t sure if it would help me.

You can check out everything I learned in my Coding 101 guide for absolute beginners.

The more time I spent learning what computers are and what they can do, the easier things started to feel.

So take my advice: before you start learning your first programming language, learn the fundamentals of computer science first.

But do I really need to?

Well, not really. But if you want to save time and feel confident in your skills, understanding computer science is the smartest thing you can do right now.

You see, here’s the deal:

Learning programming without knowing any computer science is like learning how to drive and not knowing what happens when you turn the steering wheel.

I mean, you’ll learn it eventually, bit by bit. But it’s a better idea to take the time to learn it now before you sit down in that driver’s seat.

Here are my most popular computer science guides you may want to check out:

Learning tech skills online

#4: Have realistic expectations

I know, we all want to build the next big social network and become millionaires overnight.

Errrmmm, well that’s just not going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong here – I want you to be ambitious!

You should aim high and have big dreams!

Whatever motivates you, focus on that.

But what I mean is that you should set yourself realistic goals and expectations, that’s all.

Learning programming is a long journey. You can make progress fast, but becoming an expert will take years.

So how do you keep yourself motivated for that long?

The answer is: you need to avoid feeling disappointed.

Disappointment is the worst buzz-killer for anyone who’s new to programming. If you start your learning journey expecting to know how to create the new Facebook or Instagram in a few months, I can guarantee that you will feel disappointed.

Those are great goals, but they’re not realistic.

You may achieve them in a few years time, and I’ll be rooting for you throughout your entire journey.

But think about it:

How long do you want to wait until you can celebrate your first wins?

I see so may beginners with unrealistic expectations who quickly lose interest in programming altogether because they can’t achieve their goals anytime soon.

We don’t want that to happen to you.

What you should do now: Set yourself a clear, measurable goal

You need to define a clear goal for yourself and strive to achieve that, step by step.

But what’s even more important is that you goal is realistic to achieve in the first place.

Wait a minute… why am I telling you to dream small here?

Because whatever you do with coding, your motivation and drive is everything.

If you lose them, you’ll have nothing to keep you going.

And that’s when it gets rough: you’ll start thinking you’re not good enough and that maybe you should just quit altogether.

Disappointment is the best way to fail at learning programming. You want to avoid that at all costs!

Therefore, make sure your expectations are realistic starting now.

When you start programming, you’ll begin with learning the very basics first. Slowly but surely, you will improve your skills and build more challenging and complex projects.

Just make yourself a learning plan based on your goals. Then, go one step at a time and track your progress. Celebrate each small success you have and remember to look back at how far you’ve come already!

#5: Build meaningful projects

So you want to become a professional web developer or programmer? Congrats!

Along the way, you’ll be using your new coding skills for building all sorts of different projects.

Early on, they are rather small and simple, of course. But as you progress, your projects get bigger and more complex, too.

Whatever you build, always think about your future job as a developer.

That’s right. You need to know what you want to do with coding. If you’re learning coding to start a new career, figure out what your dream job would be.

Where do you want to work? What do you want to do?

If you haven’t already, read my free guide on what programming language you should learn to find the right skills that allow you to achieve your goals.

Once you’re done, start thinking about what your future employer needs from you:

  1. How can you help your employer with your programming skills?
  2. What sorts of problems can you solve for them?
  3. How can your skills bring value to your employer?

These questions will give you a better idea of which skills you need to emphasize in your portfolio.

See where I’m getting here?

That’s right – now all you need to do is build practical projects using those skills for your portfolio. Meaningful projects, that is.

Just remember that you can get any developer job out there in the future. You just need to showcase your talent so that the right employers can see how you can help them solve their problems.

Related article: How to Become a Freelance Web Developer in 12 Practical Steps

Recommended coding courses for building your first programming projects

I’ve taken a bunch of great coding courses that helped me build my portfolio and get my first big freelance jobs.

But if you’re just starting out with learning how to code, finding the best coding courses can be frustrating and overwhelming. There’s just too much to choose from!

To help you save time searching for suitable courses, I’ve gathered a handful of recommended beginner-level coding courses here I’ve taken myself.

Here are three of my favorites that you should take a look at. They’re all perfect for beginners, so even if you’ve never learned coding before, you will have your first meaningful projects up and running sooner than you think.

  1. The Complete Web Developer Course 2.0:
    My all-time favorite coding course. It helped me get my first freelance jobs in just a few weeks. If you’re not sure what you want to specialize in, this course is the perfect choice.
  2. The Web Developer Bootcamp:
    Similar to the course above, but it covers a few more tools you will need to learn at some point anyways.
  3. The Complete WordPress Website Business Course:
    This course on Udemy will take your web developer skills to the next level. If you want to make bigger bucks as a freelancer by building websites with WordPress, this is the best course you can find. In fact, that’s what I did after this course – and I’ve never been short of work!
The Complete Web Developer Course 2.0 – Udemy
The Complete Web Developer Course 2.0 teaches you all the skills you need to become a full-time or freelance web developer (with no experience).

#6: Cultivate determination and patience

Ok, so there are like 1,000 great characteristics and traits a good developer needs to possess.

If you want to start a career in tech, these are the two you can’t live without:

  1. Determination
  2. Patience

What’s determination going to help you with?

Everything. It goes hand in hand with you ambition and perseverance. It keeps you going even when you’re having a really difficult time learning.

Determination just lights a fire under you ass time after time and gets you back on your feet.

Patience is something that balances out your ambitions and determination.

I mean, having big, ambitious dreams is awesome, yes. But without patience, they’ll never come true.

Let me confess:

I’m not a patient person, at all. But it’s something I’ve learned with programming.

I’ve made heaps of rookie mistakes, sometimes ending up cursing coding altogether and swearing I’d give the entire thing up.

Yet, somehow I’ve learned to pick myself up over and over again.

How?

Here’s my secret:

I’m so focused on my goals that I’m not going to give up. I just can’t, literally! And that’s my determination and patience speaking. I think they might even be holding hands.

Therefore, if you’re not the most patient person, now is the perfect time to learn to start practising.

If you want to become a professional developer, you have to learn how to deal with setbacks. You make mistakes along the way and feel frustrated every time. But it gets easier, I promise!

In fact, you’re unstoppable as long as you remember your goals and…

Read next: Learning to Code? This Is What I Learned in 6 Months

#7: Maintain your focus

Remember that goal I was rambling about above? Great!

It’s the single most important recipe for your success, so don’t lose sight of it, ever!

One lesson I’ve learned during the past years is that you must stay focused on that goal. Whatever it takes.

But why? Can’t I just have a new goal?

Well that’s just a bad idea. (Sorry for being blunt, but it’s just the truth.)

Coding and web development - Start a career as a web developer

When you’re thinking about learning how to code, you have something that made you interested in the first place.

And once you gather more information about how to achieve that goal, you’ve already chosen the right tools to get there.

I mean, if you want to start a career as a professional developer, you’re going to learn the relevant tools for a specific field, right?

Read also: How to Choose Your First Programming Language

Let’s say you want to become a web developer and you’re already halfway there.

Then, you meet a fellow coder who tells you about how cool it is to code video games. And you can’t stop thinking about it. You want to create cool games, too!

Not good!

As in most cases between two specializations in tech, web developers use completely different programming languages and tools than game developers.

If you switch from learning web development to building video games, you have to start from scratch again.

Needless to say, that’s a situation you don’t want to get yourself into.

Therefore, get your goals right at the beginning and make a solid learning plan to get there.

#8: You need to start NOW

Finally, if you really want to start learning programming, start NOW!

It took way too long for myself to get into learning coding a few years ago. I had all these ideas in my head about coding:

  • Coding is super difficult,
  • I need to be great at math,
  • I should get a college degree instead…

And that’s all just a bunch of bullcrap!

Don’t worry about what others are saying or what you’ve heard about coding. If it’s something you really want, just go for it!

For an extra nudge, check out these 10 common misconceptions about coding you should ignore right off the bat.

In short: if you want to learn programming, just start learning programming. Simple as that!

I know it can be difficult to find the best resources for learning when you’re a complete beginner. But don’t worry! I’ve tested heaps of courses and other resources throughout the years to help you out. So, whenever you’re ready, check out these best websites to learn coding and web development from scratch.

Here are a couple of helpful posts about awesome learning resources for beginners:

Final thoughts: Things you should know before learning programming

I think you’re ready to start learning coding now! What do you think?

All in all, learning programming is just like learning any other skill. It’s intriguing, often difficult, but most of the time very empowering and fascinating!

You’ll most likely see progress very fast, more quickly than you expect. And with each lesson you learn, you get that much closer to your final goal.

So, whether you wish to start a new career in tech, get a developer job, or do freelancing as a web developer, this post will help you get started on the right foot.

So what are you waiting for? Start right away with these recommended coding courses for beginners!

Here are a couple of related posts you may find helpful, too:

If you enjoyed this post, please drop me a line in the comments below!

P.S. If you found this post about things to know before learning programming, please share it so others can find it, too! Thanks so much!

Happy coding!
– Mikke

Things you must know before learning computer programming – Coding for beginners
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About Mikke

Hi, I’m Mikke! I’m a blogger, freelance web developer, and online business nerd. Join me here on MikkeGoes.com to learn how to code for free, build a professional portfolio website, launch a tech side hustle, and make money coding. 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 say hi on Twitter!

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Paige McLemore
8 November 2018 7:53 pm

This has really inspired me! I’ve been wanting to learn coding for quite a while now but became discouraged very quickly because I didn’t have a goal. I had no idea where to start but your guides have really helped me, so thank you!

Diana Andrade
6 January 2019 10:51 pm

Thank you so much for your blog, post, and guidance. I find it ever useful. I feel the same as Paige comment below.

Mikke
8 January 2019 10:44 am
Reply to  Diana Andrade

Hi Diana,

Thanks so much for your feedback – I’m happy to hear you found the article useful!

Happy coding, hope you’re having a great start into 2019!
– Mikke

Zer0onE
31 July 2021 1:20 pm

Hi. I’m reading most of your articles in this site, and i can’t say how much impressed i am. You’re such an honest man, and i’m glad that still there are some good people (or should i say TRUE HUMANS) left in this world. Thanks so much, For Everything.

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