freelance web developer tips over a map of the northwest US states

If you're a newbie to freelance web development, everything is uncharted territory.

Navigating the ins and outs can seem directionless.

And if you're an experienced freelance web developer, maybe you aren't happy with your current results. You know something needs to change.

Either way, we're excited to offer some personal insight in today's post.

This blog post is brought to you by Give your freelance web developer career a jolt with the best selling course Freelance Newbie: Become a Freelance Web Developer.

people chanting they want freelance web developer tips

TLDR: Here's a list of 6 career-saving freelance web developer tips you must have in 2020:

  1. Be selective with clients
  2. Always have a contract
  3. Have a web presence
  4. Early-career discounts are okay
  5. Network
  6. Continuously update your portfolio

Now let's look at these in a little further detail.

1️⃣ You don't have to settle for every client that comes your way.

It's validating when someone wants your services as a new freelance web developer.

But nightmare clients come in all shapes and sizes. They'll want free add-ons, or unreasonably huge discounts. Or they'll exhaust you with excessive mock-up requests. And some will treat you like their personal servant.

nightmare freelance web developer client wants to change everything on completed project

I started my freelance career entertaining every potential client who came my way. I ended up wasting a LOT of time and thus money with 'tire kickers.' I accommodated people who disrespected me and my craft. It’s OK to say no to a potential client who is not respecting you! It’s OK to say no to a client you don’t vibe with.
- RTC on her early days as a freelance web developer

Remember, you are in control of your freelance web developer career.

Hey, that's part of the reason you got into this field, right?

So you don't have to entertain potential clients who:

  • don't respect you or your time
  • have unreasonable demands
  • want bargain-basement services

The list goes on and on. If a request is unreasonable, makes you feel uncomfortable or you're just plain getting bad vibes from a potential client, don't be afraid to say no.

2️⃣ Get everything in writing.

After you accept a client, then you have to iron out the details. You should always do this on paper.

Some clients will say: "Oh, this is just a small project. We don't need to get fancy with a bunch of papers."

Beware this statement!

Assure your client that a contract is in the best interest of both you and the client. With a contract you can establish:

✅ project deadlines

✅ project requirements

✅ pricing

✅ stipulations

And much more.

It's not worth losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars by not having a contract in place.

woman yelling at cat about making changes, cat reminds her that they were under contract

3️⃣ You must have a web presence with a freelance portfolio.

That way you'll show potential clients that you produce quality results.

Creating a website is basically free advertising.

You get to set the stage by showing off your best work.

In addition to putting your projects on display, you can also plug some testimonials.

Potential clients love social proof: It encourages them to invest in your services.

Make your own website/blog to serve as a portfolio, start networking with other freelancers and use your current clients as a stepping stone to get some new clients.
- Vladimir Covic, Content Marketer

Show them what you're capable of.

show your freelance web developer portfolio to clients and all you do is win

4️⃣ It's okay to do work for a reduced rate - or for free - in the beginning.

It's hard to charge industry prices when people aren't familiar with you or your work.

Price breaks give you a chance work on real-world projects while building your portfolio. And you'll be able to practice business skills like negotiating and drafting contracts.

Plus there's less pressure to get everything absolutely perfect the first time around.

leo decaprio freelance web development offer

There are plenty of places to offer your reduced-rate services:

✅ non-profits

✅ social groups

✅ friends

And so on.

However, even if you do work for free - send an invoice stating the monetary value of the project, but ad a 100% discount. This informs the client how much monetary value they're getting for free and shows you're providing professional services at a discounted rate. The client is much more likely to have respect for you throughout the project as they'll understand the value they're getting for free. This also helps to limit scope creep, something that's common in free work.
- Femke van Schoonhoven, Marketing Designer

Want to know more about beautifying your web developer portfolio? Check out Portfolio Surgery, a new course on

5️⃣ Work your network.

Everybody these days can benefit from a website, ranging from friends who want a personal website to your Uncle Buck with the startup idea involving sea urchins and toaster ovens.

Your next client isn’t worlds away; they’re right in front of you.

And that person may be someone you see on a regular basis.

They could be a family member.

A friend of the family.

Or the bagger at the grocery store trying to launch his whirly-gig business.

Need to expand your network?

freelance web developer guy thinking you can't have a network if you don't get out and network

Try some of these:

✅ join local Meetups

✅ volunteer at a non-profit

✅ attend small business meetings

✅ check out town hall or neighborhood meetings

It takes practice and it takes time. The most important thing to remember is look for ways to help out the people you meet.
- Jeremy Chamberlain, Multi-Level Marketer

If being online is more your thing, check out Discord or other community boards. Check out the RealToughCandy Discord here.

6️⃣ Update your portfolio.

Do a self-review of your portfolio every few weeks. What you were proud of just a short time ago might seem outdated today.

As you level up, so should your portfolio.

Remove older projects and replace them with shiny new ones.

Take a look and see how you can update your portfolio.

Freelance web developer tips: Conclusion

Today we examined six career-saving freelance web developer tips:

  1. Be selective with clients - More isn't always better. It's the quality that counts.
  2. Always have a contract - Protect yourself and complete your work according to the contract. This can save you countless hours and thousands of dollars.
  3. Have a web presence - Millions of people use the web to find freelance web developers.
  4. Early-career discounts are okay - As a newbie, discounts can get you more clients. And clients will be more lenient as you work out the bugs.
  5. Network - Find people around you and see if they need your help. Let them tell their friends about you. Go to Meetups.
  6. Update your portfolio - As your work levels up, so should your portfolio. Get rid of old projects and replace them with improved ones.

What are your freelance web developer tips? Let us know in the comments below.

Ready to move beyond freelance web developer tips?

Freelance Newbie cartoon animal sitting at desk using computer

Check out the course Freelance Newbie: Become a Freelance Web Developer where RTC shows you how to navigate things:

  • contracts
  • clients (finding and keeping them)
  • establishing an online presence
  • writing a business plan
  • establishing a price structure

And much, much more.

This course delivers a massive amount of actionable information. And it has the potential to keep you busy for months to come while you make money at the same time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some freelance web developer tips for beginners?

Six of the most important freelance web developer tips for beginners include: 1. Be selective with clients. Not all clients will be beneficial. Some will try to waste your time, get extra services for free, or keep changing project requirements. 2. Always have a contract. With a contract, your client is less likely to demand time-consuming, costly changes. Everything is on record which will help protect you in legal situations. 3. Have a web presence. Have a website and include a portfolio of your best work. This will help you gain new clients. 4. It's okay to offer discounts in the beginning stages of your career. Work with family, friends, and non-profits to offer free or discounted work. You'll build your portfolio while they receive a service they may not have otherwise been able to afford. 5. Network. Your next client isn't across the globe - they're right in front of you. Get out there and network with your community and other developers. 6. Update your portfolio - As your work levels up, so should your portfolio. Get rid of old projects and replace them with improved ones.

As a freelance web developer for hire, should I offer reduced or free services?

When you're just getting started as a freelance web developer, it's okay to offer services at a reduced cost. This gives you a chance to build your portfolio while working on real-world projects. Plus, you'll be able to practice your business skills like negotiating and contracts. And with reduced rates, there's a good chance your client will be more patient with any time or coding snags you run into.

Should my freelance web developer website include my portfolio?

Yes, your freelance web developer website should include your portfolio. Potential clients want to see your skills. Pick your best projects and put them in your portfolio. If you need help making your project stand out, check out Portfolio Surgery. It's a course offered on You'll learn 5 methods to make your portfolio projects stand out from the competition.