How much does a freelance web developer make?

  • Remote Working & Freelancing
  • Tips for Hiring
  • Engineering, Dev & IT
Contra Tips
· 15 min read

Breaking out on your own as a freelance web developer can be an exciting gig - setting your own hours, taking on your favorite projects, working with a variety of clients... the benefits are clear. But what about the pay? Being a freelancer can be a bit stressful when it comes to ensuring a stable income. Don't worry, though; we've got your back!

Let's explore the world of freelance web development - and take a look at the factors that influence your earning potential. We'll break down the numbers and give you a realistic picture of what you can expect to make as a freelance web developer or freelance software developer.

For hiring managers, bringing on freelance talent can be a game-changer. You get access to a pool of skilled developers without the long-term commitment of a full-time employee. However, understanding market rates and compensation expectations is key to attracting top talent and building strong relationships with your freelance team.

Whether you're a developer considering the freelance path or a company looking to hire independent talent, this post will provide you with valuable insights. We'll cover the average annual income for freelance web developers, the factors that influence earnings, and strategies for maximizing your earning potential.

So, if you're ready to take control of your career as a freelance web developer or make informed decisions as a hiring manager, keep reading. We'll equip you with the knowledge you need to navigate the exciting world of freelance web development and set yourself up for financial success.

What does a freelance web developer do? 🤔

Before we dive into the earning potential of a freelance web developer, let's take a moment to understand what they actually do. A freelance web developer is a professional who creates, designs, and maintains websites for clients on a project basis. They work independently, often remotely, and collaborate with clients to bring their digital vision to life.

As a freelance web developer, you'll wear many hats. You'll be responsible for:

  • Designing and developing websites from scratch
  • Customizing and modifying existing websites
  • Optimizing websites for speed, user experience, and search engines
  • Integrating websites with other systems and platforms
  • Troubleshooting and fixing website issues
  • Providing ongoing maintenance and support

Freelance web developers often specialize in specific areas, such as front-end development (the visual and interactive parts of a website), back-end development (the server-side functionality), or full-stack development (a combination of both). Some may even focus on particular technologies or frameworks, like WordPress, Figma, React, or Ruby on Rails.

One of the key aspects of being a successful freelance software developer or web developer is understanding the value you bring to your clients. It's not just about writing code; it's about solving problems and creating solutions that help businesses achieve their goals. This is where the concept of value-based pricing comes into play.

Value-based pricing is a pricing strategy that focuses on the value you deliver to your clients rather than solely on the time and effort you put into a project. By understanding your clients' needs, goals, and the impact your work will have on their business, you can price your services based on the value you provide.

Factors that influence freelance web developer earnings 💻

Now that we have a better understanding of what freelance web developers do let's explore the factors that influence their earning potential. While the idea of setting your own rates and earning a handsome income is appealing, it's important to recognize that several variables come into play.

Experience level and skills

One of the primary factors that impact your earnings as a freelance web developer is your experience level and skill set. As you gain more experience and expand your skills, you can command higher rates. Here's a general breakdown:

  • Entry-level developers: These are developers who are just starting out and have less than 2 years of experience. They may charge lower rates as they build their portfolio and gain more experience.
  • Mid-level developers: With 2-5 years of experience, mid-level developers have a solid foundation and can handle more complex projects. They typically charge higher rates than entry-level developers.
  • Senior-level developers: These are seasoned professionals with over 5 years of experience. They have a deep understanding of web development and can tackle the most challenging projects. Senior-level developers command the highest rates.

Niche or specialization

Another factor that influences your earning potential is your niche or specialization. Developers who specialize in high-demand technologies or frameworks, such as AI, machine learning, or blockchain, can often charge premium rates. Developers who focus on specific industries, like healthcare or finance, may be able to secure higher-paying projects due to the complexity and sensitivity of the work involved.

Location and market demand

Where you're based, and the local market demand for web development services can also impact your earnings. In major tech hubs like San Francisco or New York, rates tend to be higher due to the concentration of companies and the higher cost of living. However, with the rise of remote work, location is becoming less of a factor, and freelancers can tap into a global market.

Project complexity and scope

The complexity and scope of a project play a significant role in determining your earnings. Does the project require you to be both a software developer and content writer? Will this freelance work require a bit more research and development work hours than a typical project?

Projects that require more advanced skills, have a larger scope, or involve tight deadlines often command higher rates. As a freelancer, it's essential to assess the project requirements carefully and price your services accordingly.

Value-based pricing

As mentioned earlier, value-based pricing is a strategy that focuses on the value you provide to your clients rather than just the time and effort you put in. By emphasizing the benefits and outcomes your work delivers, you can justify higher rates and earn more for your expertise.

Understanding these factors will help you make informed decisions about your pricing strategy and position yourself for success in the freelance web development market. In the next section, we'll take a closer look at the average annual income for freelance web developers at different experience levels.

What is the average annual income for freelance web developers? 🤔

One of the most common questions aspiring freelance web developers ask is, "How much can I expect to earn?" While there's no one-size-fits-all answer, let's take a look at the average annual income for freelance web developers in the United States based on experience level. Whether your looking for freelance work or hiring freelancers, let's look at some payscale ranges.

Entry-level developers

As an entry-level freelance web developer with less than 2 years of experience, you can expect to earn an average salary of around $60,000 to $70,000 per year. Keep in mind that this is just a starting point, and your actual earnings may vary depending on factors like your location, niche, and the types of projects you take on.

Mid-level developers

With 2-5 years of experience under your belt, you can expect to see a bump in your earnings. Mid-level freelance web developers typically earn an average salary of $75,000 to $90,000 per year. As you gain more experience and build a stronger portfolio, you can start to command higher rates and take on more complex projects.

Senior-level developers

As a senior-level freelance web developer with over 5 years of experience, you can expect to earn an average salary of $90,000 to $120,000 per year. At this level, you have a proven track record of delivering high-quality work and can handle the most challenging projects. Your expertise and reputation in the industry allow you to charge premium rates.

Additional pay and benefits

In addition to your base salary, you may also receive additional pay in the form of bonuses, commissions, or profit sharing. On average, freelance web developers can expect to earn an additional $4,000 to $7,000 per year in extra compensation.

It's important to note that these figures are based on data from various sources and represent averages across the industry. Your actual earnings may be higher or lower depending on your specific circumstances - and the payscale can vary for different freelancers.

Comparison to full-time employed web developers

You might be wondering how freelance web developer salaries compare to those of full-time employed web developers. According to data from Glassdoor, the average annual salary for a full-time web developer in the United States is around $76,000.

While the average freelance web developer salary is slightly higher, it's important to consider the additional costs and responsibilities that come with being a freelancer. As a freelancer, you'll need to cover your own health insurance, retirement savings, and other benefits that are often provided by employers.

Types of roles for freelance web developers 📚

As a freelance web developer, you have the opportunity to take on a variety of roles and projects. Each role comes with its own set of challenges, skills, and earning potential. Let's break down some of the most common types of roles and rank them by their potential earnings.

Full-stack developer

Full-stack developers are versatile professionals who can handle both front-end and back-end development tasks. They have a comprehensive understanding of web development technologies and can build complete web applications from start to finish.

  • Skills required: Proficiency in front-end technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript), back-end languages (e.g., Python, Ruby, PHP), databases, server management, and API integration.
  • Earning potential: Full-stack developers often command the highest rates due to their broad skill set and ability to handle complex projects. They can earn anywhere from $80 to $150 or more per hour, depending on their experience and expertise.

Back-end developer

Back-end developers focus on the server side of web applications. They build and maintain the underlying infrastructure, databases, and APIs that power websites and applications.

  • Skills required: Expertise in server-side languages (e.g., Node.js, Java, C#), databases (e.g., MySQL, MongoDB), RESTful APIs, and server management.
  • Earning potential: Back-end developers are in high demand and can earn competitive rates. Depending on their experience and the complexity of the projects they take on, they can earn between $70 and $130 per hour.

Front-end developer

Front-end developers specialize in creating the user-facing part of websites and applications. They focus on designing and implementing engaging user interfaces and ensuring a seamless user experience.

  • Skills required: Mastery of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and front-end frameworks like React, Angular, or Vue.js. Familiarity with responsive design, cross-browser compatibility, and UI/UX best practices.
  • Earning potential: Front-end developers are in high demand, and their earning potential is competitive. They can earn between $60 and $120 per hour, depending on their experience and the complexity of the projects they work on.

WordPress developer

WordPress developers specialize in building and customizing websites using the WordPress content management system (CMS). They create custom themes, plugins, and functionality to meet client requirements.

  • Skills required: Deep knowledge of WordPress, PHP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Familiarity with WordPress themes, plugins, and best practices for performance and security.
  • Earning potential: WordPress developers can earn a wide range of rates, depending on the complexity of the projects and their level of expertise. They can typically earn between $50 and $100 per hour.

Shopify developer

Shopify developers focus on creating and customizing e-commerce stores using the Shopify platform. They help businesses set up and optimize online stores for maximum conversions and user experience.

  • Skills required: Proficiency in Shopify theme development, Liquid templating language, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Knowledge of e-commerce best practices and API integration.
  • Earning potential: Shopify developers can earn competitive rates, especially as e-commerce continues to grow. They can typically earn between $60 and $120 per hour, depending on their experience and the complexity of the projects.

Remember, these are general ranges, and your actual earning potential may vary based on factors such as your location, niche, portfolio, and marketing skills. As you gain more experience and specialize in high-demand areas, you can increase your earning potential and take on more lucrative projects.

Hourly rate vs project-based pricing 💰

As a freelance web developer, you have the flexibility to choose how you price your services. The two most common pricing models are hourly rates and project-based pricing. Let's explore each option and discuss the pros and cons to help you determine which approach works best for you.

Determining your hourly rate

When setting your hourly rate, consider factors such as your experience level, skill set, location, and market demand. A good starting point is to research the average hourly rates for web developers in your area and niche.

To calculate your hourly rate, you can use this simple formula:

(Desired Annual Salary + Business Expenses + Profit Margin) ÷ Billable Hours = Hourly Rate

For example, if your desired annual salary is $80,000, your business expenses are $20,000, your profit margin is 20%, and you plan to work 1,500 billable hours per year, your hourly rate would be:

($80,000 + $20,000 + $20,000) ÷ 1,500 = $80 per hour

Pros and cons of hourly vs. project-based pricing

Hourly pricing:

  • Pros:
    • Straightforward and easy to understand for clients
    • Ensures you're compensated for all the time you put into a project
    • Allows for flexibility if project scope changes
  • Cons:
    • Can be limiting if you work efficiently and complete tasks quickly
    • May disincentivize clients from communicating frequently
    • Can lead to scope creep if not managed properly

Project-based pricing:

  • Pros:
    • Rewards efficiency and expertise
    • Provides clients with a clear, upfront cost for the entire project
    • Allows you to earn more if you complete the project quickly
  • Cons:
    • Requires accurate project scoping and estimation
    • Can be risky if the project takes longer than anticipated
    • May involve more upfront work to define project deliverables and milestones

Tips for setting competitive prices 🚀

Research market rates: Stay informed about the going rates for freelance web developers in your niche and location.

  1. Consider value-based pricing: Focus on the value you provide to clients rather than just the time you spend.
  2. Be transparent: Clearly communicate your pricing structure and what's included in your rates.
  3. Don't undervalue yourself: Remember that you're providing a valuable service and should be compensated fairly.
  4. Be flexible: Be open to negotiating with clients and finding a pricing model that works for both parties.

Ultimately, the pricing model you choose will depend on your personal preferences, the types of projects you take on, and what works best for your clients. Experiment with different approaches and find the one that allows you to maintain a healthy work-life balance while earning a competitive income.

Maximizing Your Earning Potential as a Freelancer

As a freelance web developer, there are several strategies you can employ to maximize your earning potential and attract high-paying clients. Let's dive into some of the most effective ways to boost your freelance income.

Building a strong portfolio

Your portfolio is your most powerful marketing tool as a freelancer. It showcases your skills, experience, and the value you bring to your clients. To build a strong portfolio:

  • Include your best work and highlight the results you achieved for your clients
  • Use case studies to demonstrate your problem-solving skills and the impact of your work
  • Keep your portfolio updated with your latest projects and technologies
  • Jump on platforms such as Contra, UpWork, and Fiverr to find web designer and web developer jobs to build your portfolio.

Networking and marketing strategies

Networking and marketing are essential for attracting new clients and growing your freelance business. Some effective strategies include:

  • Attending industry events and conferences to meet potential clients and collaborators
  • Leveraging social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to showcase your expertise and engage with your target audience
  • Creating valuable content, such as blog posts or tutorials, to demonstrate your knowledge and attract organic traffic to your website
  • Asking for referrals from satisfied clients and offering incentives for successful referrals

Continuously updating skills

To stay competitive in the freelance market, it's crucial to continuously update your skills and stay current with the latest technologies and trends. Invest in your professional development by:

  • Taking online courses and workshops to learn new skills and technologies
  • Attending webinars and conferences to stay informed about industry best practices
  • Experimenting with new tools and frameworks to expand your service offerings

Providing exceptional client service

Providing exceptional client service is key to building long-term relationships and earning repeat business. To wow your clients:

  • Communicate clearly and regularly throughout the project
  • Be responsive to client inquiries and feedback
  • Deliver high-quality work that meets or exceeds client expectations
  • Go above and beyond to provide value and solve problems for your clients

Find your next freelance web developer role on Contra 

If you're a freelance web developer looking to maximize your earning potential and work with top-tier clients, Contra is the premier online freelance platform for you. Contra is designed to connect highly skilled freelancers with vetted clients, ensuring a seamless and rewarding experience for both parties.

One of the standout features of Contra is its focus on matching freelancers with the best paying jobs in their field. By carefully curating client projects and ensuring that only the most reputable and well-funded companies are on the platform, Contra provides freelance web developers with access to high-quality, lucrative opportunities.

Get Started With Contra Now

Contra is the global network for skills based work, where companies and independent professionals connect and work together, 100% commission free.

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