Getting started in web?

What’s some advice you’d give someone starting in web? What was your journey / the start of your career like? How do you progress?

I’ve been studying web stuff since I was 15 (I’m not too far off 21 now). I did IT and Computer Science at GCSE (high school), I skipped the second year of my web dev college course because I’d already taught myself (and taught one of my tutors a couple of things) and then did design and FED at the college’s university centre.

I never managed to get a job in web. I was applying for junior and graduate level marketing, design and front end development roles for 8 months after leaving uni. I was (and still am) volunteering my design skills with my local civic society. In December, I was offered a job in digital skills, teaching others how to use certain software.

This might belong in Questions, but I wanted to start a larger discussion for other people like me who haven’t yet gotten in to the industry. So, how did you start your career?

I started by doing websites for small, local businesses and my entire career of freelancing has been from word-of-mouth and no advertising. Gradually built up a great portfolio, and at the time I had a good business going on which kept me above water for over 16 years. Small businesses led to larger businesses which led to larger clients which led to larger projects until I quit(burnout) in 2017.

Good luck on your journey.

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This is my second career. I started as a Visual Merchandiser and did that up until the last recession because it destroyed retail. I started in web as an out-and-out designer and got into coding because of Flash. I built a lot of flash websites before moving into real sites and I only started writing HTML and CSS because I was sick of handing off designs to crap developers :joy:

The rest is history really.


@colabottles so you went freelance from the get-go with the fallback / financial security of the other business?

@hankchizljaw did you start freelance? How did you build yourself up with designing after changing from retail?

I was a chef, worked in retail, in security (doorman/bouncer), construction, all while doing web during those years. So I always had something going on while being a single dad of 2.

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That’s impressive. It can’t have been easy.

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I started building websites for family and friends that required simple HTML websites during high school which then led through word-of-mouth to freelancing during high school and my (failed) university career. I was mostly building websites for small businesses and orgs in my local area. Got fairly lucky in that I was the only person in the local area that would work on existing sites that weren’t WordPress, and got some jobs early for people that are still some of my best references.
4 years ago I started looking for a full-time position and found it extremely difficult without a degree or agency history, after about 18 months of applying though found an agency with a similarly self-taught developer who offered me a position. I’ve been there for a couple of years now whilst continuing to do a bit of freelance stuff.

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18 months sounds rough, especially since you had a bunch of projects in your portfolio too. It’s a good job you could do those projects by the sounds of it!

Yeah, was consistently told they wouldn’t take me despite the fact the work I had done was great and better than other candidates. Taking someone on without either a Computer Science degree or a previous full-time role in development was apparently too much of a risk.

I’m not sure if that’s of any help to you but it’s a lot easier after you get your first role.

It wasn’t easy, but I had to do it to survive. That’s for sure. :slightly_smiling_face:

Yep! It was a disaster though because I had no idea what I was doing. I went back freelance after about 8 years of working in agencies and product teams.

I started by building projects for myself in the late '90s, kind of pushing on the edges of what the web was for and could do. After undergrad, this allowed me a good run of doing projects really outside of my comfort zone and expertise not because I was the most qualified person in the state, but because I was the most techie person the folks hiring knew. :grin:

I had a whole series of careers outside of the web and tech – museums, fundraising, nonprofits – but always found a way to involve my tech skills and eventually started freelancing on the side…and then full time. Which meant the first time I had an in-house dev job (2014), I started with a senior developer title :crown:

I’ve always found ways to help others out along the way – providing guidance to others starting up with freelance gigs, co-founding a Girl Develop It chapter in my city, and now as an adjunct professor teaching intro and advanced front-end web dev. My husband laughs and says I’m invested in training up my competition, but I got into the web originally because of a kind of utopian dream that it was for everyone – and, not only do I want to see that dream because more real, but I also have personally benefited from having such a well-paying career and want to see more underrepresented folks have similar opportunities.


@accudio Had something a little similar happen to me - I applied for a WordPress thing with a company directly working with the college/university centre I was at. I never got a response and a month later I checked their website to see they’d bought a god awful theme instead. The stuff I showed them was much better :sweat_smile:

@hankchizljaw That sums up what it’d be like for me I think :joy: The way I work probably suits freelance (bursts of good work at certain times in the day) but I’m not experienced/financially safe enough to attempt it.

@angelique Honestly, I’d love to be in a museum or doing heritage stuff. You seem to have had a really busy and fulfilling journey! I love how you’re doing so much to help others along the way.