Freelance Web Developer Beat: What It’s Like

What Freelancing Is Really Like

Things to think about for freelance designers and developers

Freelance Web developer workstation, laptop and desk setup.

If you are considering a freelance web developer career yourself, or you are just curious as to what a freelance web designer / developer gets up to in the course of a day, here are some details.

Keeping a Good Work Schedule as a Freelance Web Developer

The good news is that no one is watching to see if you’re at your desk at 8am sharp. And the real deal news is that in your heart, you have to actually like working and enjoy what you do, because you’ll have to be able to stick to your own production routines and get your work done.

If web design or development (or your chosen field) doesn’t really pluck your strings, you won’t find the self discipline to sit at the desk when you could be sitting on the couch or laying in bed. And that doesn’t pay the bills!

You Are the Boss, for Better And For Worse

The second bit of good news (and one of the biggest pluses to self employment) is that you get to set the hours. You must put in the hours whether you want to or not, but you get to choose. This is huge! If you like to work as long as the mood strikes you and really follow that creative vein, do it.

If you get locked “in the zone” and it’s 5pm, just keep going — you don’t have to worry about getting locked into your office overnight or the mass exodus as everyone else tromps out. As a person really prone to getting in the zone and riding that wave until it meets the shore, this is very much my cup of tea. I rarely take on projects that I can’t get excited about, so it’s a joy to be able to shift the hours to when I’m really clear headed and rejuvenated.

Learning to Be The Boss

Suddenly it’s just you on the office, and all those other tasks you aren’t used to doing are landing on your desk. Accounting – blech. What a bore. Paperwork and record keeping, ew. Suddenly you need to have a file cabinet. Permits and licenses, taxes and business checking accounts, all of these things you will need to learn about and get proficient with ON TOP OF doing the actual work.

The elephant in the room is of course sales. If you got into freelance web development (or freelance web design, or copywriting, etc) because you love turning out top quality work, be prepared for the sales process that you must master to keep the wheels on this whole endeavour.

Sales Might Not Be Fun At First (or Ever)

You’ll have to trick yourself into falling in love with sales if you aren’t a natural born people person and connector. I have good news for you though, there are plenty of ways to sell and you can pick one that doesn’t make you feel skeezy or leave you begging for scraps. You’re going to have to work at it though! There is a reason account execs and top salespeople take home such a big slice of the pie. It’s because they brought soooo much value to the process.

Some of these realizations can sting a bit. You need to get your big girl pants on though (or your big boy pull-ups) and move through these learning periods as fast as possible. Your business is now counting on your 100% and you need to handle it LIKE A BOSS. Yes!

The Freelance Web Developer Beat is Out and About

I wrote a little bit about Scottsdale coffee shops not just on account of my love for the bean (and caffeine), but also because if you freelance always at home and alone, it will take its toll if you don’t take the steps to work outside regularly. Maybe the most serious introverts can do it, but the rest of us will find ourselves burnt out and sad within a week or two. Why is that? Well, outside of the team spirit of an office environment where a manager is actively working on their team, there are not really that many high fives to go around.

That’s right, there’s very little praise and certainly no water cooler camaraderie for freelance professionals. You might interact with a few pets or family members over the course of the day, but otherwise it’s just you and the work. Think about that for a moment: how far does a little pleasant chit chat and/or recognition go in raising your sails during the day?

You don’t much think about that until it is gone. You will have to start creating those “mini brain reset” moments in your own day. I highly recommend working outside your home office – coffee shops are perfect, as are libraries – once or twice every week. A few $5 lattes will save you from screaming at your spouse and personal panic attacks, I promise.

Think About The Must-Have Infrastructure

There seems to be a romantic notion of the digital nomad freelancer, who can work literally anywhere with a plug. I can see why this idea has grown legs, and yes it is very appealing to think that you could travel the world and somehow at the same time crank out the work that pays for the lifestyle. There is some truth to this, but there is another side which is the logistical pain in the butt or pre-planning required to carry it out.

The Fantasy vs The Reality

The ubiquitous stock photo of a girl and her laptop perched somewhere exotic and working digitally is, in my opinion, a total ruse. Look, workplace injuries are completely real, and the ideal typing position is more than just a light suggestion!

I’ve gone through many desks, chairs, and peripherals to find the things that let me keep going day after day with minimal strain. Repetitive Strain Injury can bring all your progress to a halt — you can’t type one handed while sitting on the edge of a fountain, somehow processing your work while simultaneously enjoying Spain.

I call shenanigans. Work still looks like work, and for me at least I’m still going to need all of my brainpower at once to get things done.

NEVER Forget About Your Wifi Needs

Another technological consideration is internet access. How much work can you do without a wifi connection? If you can work locally and won’t need to rely on content delivery networks or online documentation for your project, then maybe you can really be off grid for a little while with your laptop. It all works out until you need to google some obscure error message.

A smartphone can fill in the gaps, but you really have to be honest with yourself on how essential a dependable and safe internet connection will be to getting through the workday. If you’re going to travel, make arrangements ahead of time for any servers who are set to only accept your home office IP address. That is one critical mistake you will only make once!

Professional Freelance Web Developer At Your Service

Lauren Grey is a web designer and developer who has a diploma in GSD. In polite company, we call this Getting Things Done. If you have website problems, consider asking for her Professional GSD Opinion (patent pending?) on how to get your ship upright again in the water and sailing smoothly. Here is the handy dandy contact form to request that free one on one consultation.

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