6 Ways Web Developers Can Damage Their Career


The web development industry is one that is always growing because of how we use the web. No longer do we expect the Internet to simply host a digital pamphlet for a business.

The expectations nowadays are for a site to be rich with content, provide the means for visitors to interact and be dynamic in every interaction.

With the demand at an all time high, freelance web developers may think that there is little they could do to harm their career. Unfortunately, there are many ways that people in this industry sabotage themselves when it comes to their career.

1. Clinging to technologies

Like any industry, web developers usually work with their favorite languages, databases or platforms. However when it comes to technology, we sometimes tend to be a bit hardheaded.

Whether you prefer to work with Micro$oft, Open Sores or you are a die hard Apple fanboy, painting yourself into a corner when it comes to any particular technology is never a good thing. Be open to learning new ways to do things and you will find more doors open to you professionally.

2. Fail to network

Attending conferences and trade shows are a great way to learn about what is new in the industry, but it is also a great way to network with other developers.

Maintaining relationships within the industry is extremely important. You could find it a valuable source of referrals for clients and a support system to help you solve problems in your own work.

3. Taking on projects for family and friends

So your aunt wants to sell her fruit jellies that made her a local legend. Of course, you are the first person that is called on to help her launch the online portion of her business.

Now you are stuck with a client that can be extremely hard to please and they may be expecting you to work free of charge. Family and friends often have trouble distinguishing between personal and professional boundaries as well.

Of course if you say no, you might not be welcome when the holidays come around.

The best bet when taking on these projects is to set the parameters right from the beginning and charge a small fee. This reinforces the fact that you are actually paid to do this type of work. It also helps let them know that they are not your only client.

4. Underbidding on a project

I am sure we can all remember a time early in our careers when we underbid on a project, but it happens even to more experienced developers as well.

Whether we blame the economy, the scope of the project or the slick talking of the project manager underbidding never works out for the best. Even if we need the work.

First of all, paying you less only undervalues your importance to the client. If they see you as the cheap alternative, they won’t view you as a professional.

Secondly, underbidding seriously waters down the market. Colleagues who are fighting for every client quickly lose respect for those who undercut them every chance they get.

5. Failing to market

I have actually met web developers who don’t have their own portfolio site. That’s kind of like the doctor who smokes and eats fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Marketing your skills is a must if you want to grow your freelance business. But an online portfolio isn’t the only way you should be doing this.

Contribute guest posts to web development blogs and web sites, answer questions and solve problems for others and spend some time (and money) advertising.

6. Forgetting why you were hired

The bottom line is a developer is hired to provide a service for a client that lacks the technical knowledge and/or skills to do the job themselves.

So when they don’t understand that AJAX won’t be used to clean their web site it is up to you to educate them.

Yes, working with clients who don’t make any effort to understand the technology that powers their web presence can be extremely frustrating, it is imperative that you don’t come across as pompous or intolerant.

Of course, we would like to hear from our readers any thoughts they may have on things they feel can “damage” their careers.

By Jeff
Jeff is a freelance writer and the editor of Developer Drive. He writes on web development topics with a focus on web application security. In his spare time he coaches youth football and works as a technology coordinator for the Palm Beach County school district. More articles by Jeff
  • Nice points here. Not sure I agree completely with the first one. I think marketing a dedicated skill set has some advantages too.

    I can definitely relate to the underbidding pitfall when starting out.

    • jeff_DD

      Good point, marketing a skill set is definitely helpful. I was leaning more towards those who refuse to move on to learn new things.

      • Agreed, there’s nothing more frustrating than working alongside people who are stuck in the past, using out-dated technologies as they are too scared/lazy to try something new.

        • I recently went into a discussion I should have avoided on linked in… there was a man trying to convince us to use table-based layouts and let the new technologies for what they were… I thought it was a joke at first… until he got mad about my replies… stopped commenting, of course, but, it did hit me there and then that indeed, there are different continents out there and some do still use very old tech/browsers and to make a design work in those instances we HAVE to adept to the goal audience… that said though, can still be done without table-based layout… ah well, opinions are like @##h0l3s I guess… we all have one 😉

  • Please do a spell check on this article.

    • jeff_DD

      Are you to “Micro$oft, Open Sores”?

  • I had high expectations for this article until I read “Micro$oft”. Wondering if I should go on reading…

    • jeff_DD

      Meant as sarcasm, as was the Open Sores and Apple fanboy comment

  • Edgar Alves

    Nice article, family can be a real pain when they think you work for free and as fast as a bullet.

    • Its nice if you have family members who know how to do specialized trades such as fixing cars. IE, I’ll build your 2 page website if you fix my engine.

  • DJ

    You mean besides misspelling an obvious and simple word in the title, not doing spell check and not following up on the page comments?

  • interesting and useful article!

  • “First of all, paying you less only undervalues your importance to the client. If they see you as the cheap alternative, they won’t view you as a professional.”– Well, I don’t see anything wrong for web developers if their charges are cheap, not all ‘cheap’ works are low-quality. And just because some web developers’ fee is cheaper than the others, does already mean they cannot be viewed as a professional, I think it depends on the bearing of web developers.

  • Working with less friends the better!

  • I understand that we web developers are the ones that sometimes need to educate our employers but that doesn’t always work. Sometimes the employer is simply an uneducated ass that somehow believes he knows everything.

    Not that long ago I was hired to work on a short-term project for a small company. Even though it was a small company most of the employees were developers of one sort or another. However when I came on there was only one other web developer. Well, 2 1/2 months into what was supposed to be a 4 month long project the other web developer created a small javascript function. He tested it out in all browsers that we were supporting except one (IE 7). Well, the javascript function went live and suddenly the very few users of the site that used IE 7 were reporting problems. The boss complains and the other web developer said he was sorry and he would look in to it.

    A couple of days later the other web developer still couldn’t figure out what the problem was with IE 7 so he asked me for help. Together it still took us another 2 days to figure it out and it had to do with the javascript engine between IE 7 and IE 8 and how a certain function was just slightly changed. I found the fix for the problem first so I went ahead and fixed it and shoved out to production because it was considered high priority. The problem was solved.

    However it wasn’t solved for our boss. I got yelled at the next day because supposedly it was something that I should have seen from the beginning and obviously I didn’t know anything about web development. Both the other web developer and I explained to our boss that this was something that could easily have been missed by even more experienced web developers. It just the nature of development. That wasn’t good enough for our boss. He still blamed me for missing it and yelled at me some more and then proceeded to fire me, right in front of everyone during a meeting we were having.

    So some employers, no matter how calmly you explain something, just still do not really understand.

    • Gabriel

      It will the best for you, that fellow surely is not a good boss. Better earlier than later.
      Wish you the best luck with next job and boss. 🙂

  • Angel

    I would love to read a designer’s version for this article. “6 Ways Web Designers Can Damage Their Career” 🙂

    • jeff_DD

      It would be an interesting followup to write but I think many of the same pitfalls can apply.

  • parvez

    nice point mentioned, i will remembered those point.

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