People will be queuing for your services…

Tell People You’re Learning Web Dev, They’ll Be Lining Up

The number of requests that I have had to create websites has shot through the roof since publishing my blog and starting to study FullStack JavaScript. It feels like everyone is after my newfound abilities.

Almost everyone has a project nowadays, and many would like to get this project online. It could be a simple information website, an e-commerce platform, or just setting up a WordPress blog. When people hear you are learning web development, they automatically think you can do everything…

There are so many development technologies out there, but mostly these first requests come in for WordPress or static HTML/CSS formats. To begin with I thought this was great, more for my Portfolio, right?

So of course I offered my new found services for free, or in exchange for a coffee or something, and in return I added to my Portfolio. Here is a list of projects I am currently supporting:

  1. Web consulting for Rammed Earth Solutions, an NGO in Kathmandu, Nepal.
  2. Web consulting for an NGO, The Branch Foundation, here in Chiang Mai.
  3. Creating a static page for Upparat Law Office, in Chiang Mai.
  4. Modifying a WordPress theme for a friend that is a wood carver and wants to sell his products online.
  5. Creating a portfolio site for an education professional in Chiang Mai.
  6. The WordPress page for Kathmandu Running Camp.

There are positives to this. I have had to start taking other courses, such as basic PHP and WordPress theme development, which is expanding my skillset for the future. This gives me a better context for JavaScript, and generally a broader knowledge surrounding the industry as a whole. I have had my first “clients” and have had to learn the art of skillful negotiation, even just for a free service. I have also been able to help friends get their businesses or projects off the ground, which is a great motivator.

There is a downside though. It’s distracting! I am learning FullStack JavaScript, not PHP! I’m having to take detours into different languages, Content Management Systems, design and plugin customisation. At some point I think you have to specialise, and I want to make FullStack single page apps for non-profits, not spend an hour fiddling with CSS in a WordPress theme…… I am also concerned that there will be a point when I am no longer a “student” wishing to enhance my Portfolio, and will need to start charging for my services. When will this time come?

Here are some tips to manage the incoming requests that you will inevitably get:

Make sure your client is the one on the left…
  1. Be realistic about your skills. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You won’t know everything so explain what you do know and can do clearly to potential clients.
  2. If you don’t want to charge, and I recommend you don’t for your first projects, DO expect something in return. My woodcarving friend is going to make me a chopping board, the NGOs I support have bought me coffees and dinners. My Thai friend in Chiang Mai has offered to help me if I ever need legal advice.
  3. Put all your experience on your CV and Portfolio site. Future employers will want to see your projects, no matter how small or how elegant they are. In fact, they will want to see professional development from your first projects to where you are now. Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect just yet.
  4. Don’t get stressed out. If you are struggling with something or a friend is putting pressure on you, explain to them clearly why it might take a little longer and be honest if you need to take time to learn more skills. They know you are a student, and they shouldn’t expect the world for a free service.
  5. If you get stuck, there are many resources that can help you. Treehouse has some fantastic courses on WordPress that explain practically all you need to know to begin with. I also consult StackOverFlow for everything. If it’s JavaScript related, go through FreeCodeCamp’s curriculum.
  6. Get feedback and testimonials from your first clients. If you know these first clients well, get feedback from them about how you managed the project and your interaction with them. Don’t forget to get a testimonial for your own website.
  7. Feel free to say no. You don’t have any obligations and if a project looks too big and will be too distracting, clearly explain the reasons why you can’t do it. Make sure you point your client in the right direction to someone who can.

It’s all about making sure everyone is happy. You can get a lot out of these beginning projects. Just make sure you don’t get too distracted…


Originally published at CHRIS PHILLIPS.

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