Freelancing is a great way to bolster your resume and income, and all you need to start designing websites are two languages: HTML and CSS. You can pick up all of these languages and skills in our path Build a Website with HTML, CSS, and GitHub Pages.
On top of your basic programming skills, there are lots of AI tools and useful web development frameworks that can help you go from a hobbyist to a freelance professional. “With a lot of the website builders that exist today, you don’t have to be insanely good at [coding],” says Rebecca Richard, senior digital content and design strategist at Cyber Collective and freelance web and UX designer.
Still, you’ll need more than programming skills to be a successful freelancer, and ahead, Rebecca shares a few tips that can help you succeed as a freelance web designer.
Handle your business like a pro
Running your own business means you’ll need a mix of soft skills and entrepreneurial skills to find clients, build rapport and relationships, and get paid for your hard work.
Rebecca provides her clients with welcome and handoff documents that outline their projects and the resources they need to maintain their new websites. She also uses software to streamline proposals and payments and facilitates all interactions in a client portal. This helps keep everything in the same place and everyone on the same page. “It’s really easy to take on a project and just spend as much time as you need on it because you’re having fun and nobody’s tracking what you’re doing,” Rebecca says. “But you kind of lose track of how much you really need or how much you spent on things.”
(BTW, if you need a refresher on how to use Microsoft Excel to organize your freelance business, try our free course Learn Microsoft Excel for Data Analysis.)
Talk to the people around you
If you live in a metropolitan area with a lot of small businesses, you might be able to find work in your local community. Rebecca suggests pitching face-to-face when you can. “If you can go speak with somebody in person, that’s definitely the way to do it,” she says. “People feel better about hiring you when they see you’re a real person.”
Try coming up with a quick elevator pitch and keep an eye out for opportunities. Rebecca’s first clients were a yoga studio and car racing company in her hometown. She found another job for a restaurant owner while having brunch with her husband. “It’s uncomfortable and super awkward, but business owners love working with other business owners,” Rebecca says. “Especially with a skill like this; a lot of people need your help.”
And if you can’t find any clients IRL, try digital networking. Having a strong personal brand is a great way to get your name out there, and you can share content about your work to showcase what you can do. Rebecca shares peeks into the freelancing world on TikTok, and several clients have reached out to her directly from the platform.
Use subcontractors and AI
As we mentioned, freelancing requires a lot of different skills, and you might occasionally come across a task that’s outside your area of expertise. And while we’re big proponents of picking up new skills or filling your knowledge gaps, sometimes it’s easier to just let someone (or something) else handle it.
For example, if you only know HTML and CSS but your client wants you to design a website with a database, you could hire a back-end developer as a subcontractor. That way you can take some work off your plate and better focus on the work you actually enjoy. “You don’t have to be able to do everything, sometimes it’s better to just focus on what you do best,” Rebecca says. “Get really good at that, then ask for help or outsource when it’s needed.”
And in some cases, you can have AI do most of the hard work for you. “I’m not a huge copywriter; I don’t enjoy that part of web design,” Rebecca says. “But now I can compensate with all of these AI tools.” Here’s a quick writeup on how you can use AI tools to round out your skills.
Find someone to learn from
Figuring out how to get to the next level can be difficult as a freelancer because you’ll generally lack the mentorship opportunities that come with many full-time roles. And it’s especially nerve-wracking when you have to learn something on the fly and immediately test it out on a project with your name attached, Rebecca says.
That’s why she suggests connecting with other designers and developers in digital communities where you can ask for advice or feedback on your work. “You can go crazy when you’re working by yourself for a long time, so it’s good to have people that you can level and share experiences with,” she says.
If you haven’t already, try networking with other developers in the Codecademy forum, Discord, or your local chapter. And if you don’t have any freelance projects to show off your coding skills, you can pick one from our projects library to build and share with other developers (and learn something new in the process).
Adjust your title as necessary
New freelancers might be hesitant to apply to jobs that don’t perfectly align with their roles or specializations. Feelings of impostor syndrome are common, especially for people that taught themselves coding and lack a formal degree. But Rebecca says don’t let impostor syndrome hold you back — if you’re confident that you can complete the job and you’re curious about the work, you can apply. “It never gets less scary,” she says. “That’s fine. It’s normal.”