5 Tips For Landing Your First Paid Web Development Job

November 27, 2016

Josh Li

Digital Marketer at Institute of Code

Want to land your first job as a web developer? Read these 5 tips on getting a great first gig! One of the most common questions we get asked from students about web development is, “but how do I make money off of it?”

There’s always a perceived chasm from pursuing an interest and earning money from it. Luckily there’s no shortage of people needing web development help, whether they know it or not.

The concept of always having to be shackled to one geographic location for work is slowly getting torn down, replaced by the notion you could work wherever you wanted. One of the most common questions we get asked from students about web development is, "but how do I make money off it?" There's always a perceived chasm from pursuing an interest and earning money from it. Luckily there's no shortage of people needing web development help, whether they know it or not.

Want to land your first job as a web developer? Read these 5 tips on getting a great first gig! One of the most common questions we get asked from students about web development is, “but how do I make money off of it?”

There’s always a perceived chasm from pursuing an interest and earning money from it. Luckily there’s no shortage of people needing web development help, whether they know it or not.

But how do you land your first paying web development job? Assuming you can build websites fairly competently, finding paying jobs is not that at all - sometimes, it can just take a little bit of time.

Here are several things you should do that will help land your first paid web developing job, how and to keep getting work after that.

1. Make sure you have a portfolio
One of the first steps is to have a portfolio of your previous work. “But I don’t have any previous work!” I hear you say. That’s no problem - to fill your portfolio up, it’s often a good idea work on your own made-up projects. For example, you could mock-redesign some of your favourite websites and put your own spin on it or improve certain elements.
Portfolios not only show off your skills, but help people understand your style, and can also serve as inspiration for their own project. You’ll find clients often only have very vague ideas about how their website should look, or what best practices are. Because you’re the expert, they’ll defer to you. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to have examples you can point them to, where they can cherry pick features.

You could also set up a playground website, where you try out your most experimental features. Doing so is not only an excellent way to practice your skills but also a good way to show potential clients what’s possible.

Great places to host your portfolio include Behance and Carbonmade. Giving back to the community by working on projects in Github is also a good way to develop your skills and get yourself noticed.

2. Approaching People With Poor Websites
Digital trends and practices are constantly evolving, so it’s not surprising that some websites become outdated in just a few years. Many businesses realise they need to update their website but keep putting it off. Just as many don’t realise they need a refresh at all. This is where you, an expert, comes in.
One of the easiest things to look out for in potential clients is mobile responsiveness. With nearly 50% of web traffic now originating from mobile devices, many businesses are missing out on huge opportunities by not optimising their websites for mobile traffic.
Not only that, but Google heavily punishes websites not optimised for mobile, so mobile optimisation is crucial to the success of a modern day business.
A great way to prospect is to compile a list of companies in an industry you’d like to work for and check their websites. Then send them information about opportunities they’re missing and try to educate and help them first. Companies are more likely to work with you if you try to provide as much value as possible proactively.

3. Apply for jobs you’re only 60% qualified for
As a fledgling developer, you’re always going to come across projects where you won’t be able to do everything straight away - this is something that’s going to continue to happen throughout your career. However, don’t let that stop you from taking on projects. If you can build most of what is required, then apply for the project regardless and learn everything else on the way. There is a plethora of amazing resources out there for developers, such as W3School and Github, where you’ll be able always to continue developing your skills.

4. Discount Your Services, but never work for free
Eagerness and a lack of experience can make it tempting to work for free. However, it’s not a good idea to devalue what you do - you’ve spent time, effort and possibly a lot of money developing your skills, so you need to make sure you are appreciated. Employers who ask you to work for free are also often not the best people to work for either!
You do need to, however, get your foot in the door. Friends and family are often the best people to work for first, so offer them heavily discounted rates to make it easier to employ you. It’s a good idea, though, to tell them what your full rates usually are, which should be close to the industry standard. This ensures people understand they’re getting a very special deal, which is something they’ll mention when they refer you to others.

5. Take Everything and Anything
Never miss opportunities to take a job! Because web dev is such an in-demand skill, word-of-mouth is incredibly powerful for junior web developers - everyone knows someone who needs a new website made. This means the more jobs you pick up, the more opportunities you will get later down the road.
If you haven’t been able to find anyone in your immediate area, you can always take to the internet. Freelancer.org, Upwork and 99designs are great ways to find freelance work quickly. The great thing about these platforms is that they look after everything for you, from providing opportunities to handling payments, so you can just focus on what you’re good at doing (which is web development).


Use these five tips to your advantage when landing your first web development job. These steps might sound daunting, but it is far easier than it looks; starting is the hardest part. So what are you waiting for? Go out and hunt down your first job!


Written by: Josh Li

Digital Marketer at Institute of Code