Question for Freelance Front-End (or Full Stack) Web Developers


I’m a data analysis who writes SQL and uses Excel all day, but recently I’ve started to get into web development. So far I’ve learned HTML and CSS and I’m going to be starting Java soon, but I had questions about the future of my learning. It would be nice to eventually leave my day job and make enough money doing web site design to support myself financially, but I’m not sure of the prospects of that.

My particular questions are below. NOTE: There are a lot of questions, but you don’t need to answer them all. Any responses would be appreciated.

  1. Is it okay just being a front-end developer? I haven’t started learning about the back end, but I really enjoy client-side coding.
  2. Will I potentially limit myself if I don’t learn back end development?
  3. I kind of suck at design (maybe not— I just don’t enjoy it). In the real world are developers presented with a design that they have to replicate or are they expected to take things from raw ideas to fully developed pages?
  4. Do front-end developers design everything from scratch or are templates used and updated? If templates are used, should I spend some of my time working on reverse engineering templates?
  5. How did you get started in freelance web development? I was considering volunteering my services for free to get a few live sites up and running then branching out. Is that how it works?

Thank you for your time

Actually I have the same questions as @JohnJohn

    1. and 4.
  1. Yes, but it’s particularly hard for freelancers to ignore that side because they’re more likely to be asked to deal with arbitrary problems (within an organisation it is more common to specialise, but freelance work is often more broad in scope).
  2. See above
  3. development !== design, these are completely different areas and are effectively equally complex, it is unusual for someone to be good at both. However, it is more likely a freelancer would be asked to take on that side of things (normal solution is to outsource it or use bootstrap et al, or a template, or similar). Particularly a freelancer who wants to specialise in FE.
  4. See above, and re reverse engineering, normally a waste of time.
  5. Normally works by talking to people: networking, using your connections. You are effectively asking “can I start a business”. Yes, you can start a business, but you need to be prepared for the fact that you are starting a business. The same rules apply as to every other business: knowing basic coding is not a ticket to easy freelance money, you need to be aware of that.

Background: I worked as a design freelancer for a fair while, gradually moving more and more toward development as I was asked to build sites as well as the design for them. I am a terrible businessperson and hence I made very little money. Unless you are a good businessperson, or you are very fast at a specific aspect of development and can specialise in that (which I guess amounts to the same thing), IMO it is much easier to work full time for a period then go freelance once you have contacts and experience, other way round is far, far more difficult (YMMV).

1 Like