Table of contents
- 1. Build a Personal Website with a Portfolio of Projects
- 2. Start a Blog and Write Regularly
- 3. Cultivate an Online Presence
- 4. Show Off Your Projects on GitHub
- 5. Contribute to Open Source
- 6. Improve Your Soft Skills
- 7. Learn the Fundamentals Well
- 8. Don't Marry Yourself to A Single Technology
- 9. Talk At Conferences
- 10. Delegate
Before we get into the tips, I want to say this: You shouldn't learn to code or start a career in web development just because you "want to make a lot of money". There are a lot of other avenues for this. I say this because I worked closely with someone who only ever studied programming because he thought he'd end up like Bill Gates some day. And in the end he was miserable. For him it was just a job and keeping up with the pace of change in such a fast-paced industry very difficult for him.
But if you really love to create things, and you have a passion for the potential and power of the web to impact people's lives, you could enter one of the most amazing careers there is. "Software Developer" or related jobs often rank highly in lists of jobs with good job satisfaction. And for the right kind of person, being a developer is pretty awesome. You get to solve problems build things that help people. When you're done you can look back at what I've created or show it to people and get great feedback that you've done something great. This is awesome and I'd love doing this kind of work.
If you want to break into the wonderful world of being a career web developer and cash in on your passion, how can you kick start your career? Here are 10 steps you can follow to start moving up into the upper echelons of pro web developers.
1. Build a Personal Website with a Portfolio of Projects
If you want to be taken seriously, you need to be able to show people that you can code and that you can solve problems and create good designs. Create a public website where you showcase your work, and this shows that you have skills in HTML and CSS and implies skills in other areas depending on what your website does. Don't be shy about promoting yourself on your, especially if you're looking for work. Hiring managers might take a serious look at what you've created and make a quick judgement about your competence based on such a website (if it is mentioned in your résumé), so ensure it is very polished.
2. Start a Blog and Write Regularly
Writing is a great way to make yourself known to others and help others learn. But don't think that you have to be an expert to get started! It's great practice for you to write short posts explaining something you just learned and reflecting on your hard-won battles. This will help you learn better as you write and others who are just behind you on your journey may find your experiences very helpful. And just having a blog with a bit of great content gives you credibility in your field.
3. Cultivate an Online Presence
Building your personal brand is extremely difficult these days without a strong online brand. You can get started easily with popular social networks like Twitter and Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, etc. But don't forget to own and control your own platform as well! Building your own website on a shared hosting/serverless platform or setting up a server on DigitalOcean will give you a place from which you can drive traffic and sell yourself (or products you create if you're of the self-employed type).
Take this even further this by creating newslettters and engaging in communities that are relevant to your interests. You'll also greatly accelerate your pace of learning and growth by connecting with like-minded people. This is where a lot of the best opportunities come from.
4. Show Off Your Projects on GitHub
Ensure you have a GitHub account, and create projects on there. You'll need to know Git to be taken seriously as a web developer, so this is an important part of your learning. As you grow and learn about structuring a project, create open source projects on GitHub that allow other people to see what you are capable of.
5. Contribute to Open Source
Additionally, find other open-source projects that you are interested in and make pull-requests with small improvements. When you're getting started this can be quick bug fixes, or even something as simple as fixing typos in documentation. As long as you are polite and trying to be helpful (and following the posted rules of the repository), your efforts will usually be appreciated by the maintainers of the projects you contribute to.
6. Improve Your Soft Skills
As much as you may want to learn a pile of languages and frameworks to feel like you qualify for a job as a web developer, managers and coworkers would rather work with a junior with a pleasant personality than a brilliant coder who is a self-absorbed jerk. But beyond that, as you advance up the career ladder, you'll find that you will have to be a teacher, a mentor, and a leader. Learning skills in this area will pay dividends and allow you to advance in to higher-level positions.
7. Learn the Fundamentals Well
Yeah, I get it — ironic coming from a website called PHP Protips, but the point is that tech stacks come and go. Maybe, say, React is the hot new thing right now, but it didn't even exist ten years ago. Who is to say what will be needed when and where you end up working? I sure didn't expect to need ColdFusion when I started my journey as a web developer but it ended up being the foundation of my career.
8. Don't Marry Yourself to A Single Technology
Also, keep an open mind and learn about new things as they come along. Don't be afraid to try a new framework or a new technique. You need not master it, but you may be surprised at what sticks. At one point I thought Sass was amazing for CSS. When I saw Tailwind, I thought it was the most butt-ugly front-end code I had ever seen. But after getting into it and trying it out it's hard to go back to writing separate stylesheets. It worked for me, even though I questioned it at first. Having a positive attitude about trying new things will make you flexible and versatile and keep you ahead of the pack.
9. Talk At Conferences
This can be a challenging task for many people as public speaking is something most people are deathly afraid of. But you can get started by giving talks at small user groups, or local conferences. Start small and get some experience. Giving conference talks and getting good at it has helped many people's careers explode. It's a lot of work, and it is nerve-wracking for many people, but it pays dividends.
When you have a team you work with (particularly when you're a bit more senior) you need to learn how to help others help you. Sometimes it's tempting to tackle tasks yourself that you know you can get done with ease, but by doing so you may be able to focus on more important work. Additionally, this can be an opportunity to help your juniors learn new skills.
Good luck on the next step of your career! If you've found this information helpful, follow me on Twitter for more content like this!