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.