So, you want to be a web developer. But not just any web developer – you want to make a name for yourself. Work as a freelancer for the biggest and best companies, developing the coolest products, or landing a job at the most renowned companies in the world.
If that sounds like what’s on your vision board, you’re most likely not looking for yet another article with generic advice on becoming a web developer – you want to learn how to become a great one.
We can’t promise you it will be an easy road, nor will it be a short one, but in this article, we provide you with a map that leads you along the essential milestones you need to pass. We’re not here to just scratch the surface, we’re going to dive deep.
Foundations first: it’s not just about the code
You will need to be or become a great problem solver, understand algorithms, be comfortable chiming in on User Experience necessities or UI design and have a knack for system design principles.
So when you embark on this journey, don’t just limit yourself to programming courses – keep it fun for yourself by branching out into relevant fields. The more you understand the bigger picture, the better you’ll get at working on the details.
Specialize, but diversify
We know that sounds as vague as a direction as ‘take a sharp left to the right’, but it’s where you make a difference. But there are 24.3 million active developers in the world and that number is expected to grow to more than double in the next decade to about 45 million, in 2030.
You can choose to dive deep into React, become the best at Node.js or turn into the go-to guru for GraphQL, based on your interests and talents. Yet as you root down in your specialization, it’s important to branch out into more diverse fields.
We don’t mean knowing a little bit of everything but learning about adjacent technologies or emerging trends that are tightly knit with your specialization, like cybersecurity from a web development perspective. This makes your knowledge much more practical and easily applicable in projects and new roles, and you’ll easily blend into bigger teams.
Passion, meeting demand
When determining what your root specialization will be, keep an eye on what the demand for that is like. That doesn’t mean that you should necessarily follow the route to whatever is most in demand. You can still choose something that is less sought after, as long as you have a clear idea of where you want to end up and what you bring to the table. Be ambitious and be realistic in equal measures.
Don’t just check what the current or projected demand for a specific type of web developer is, but also look at past data to understand what is happening. If possible, talk to industry experts to find out the reason behind it all – this will help you gauge what is risky and what is worth pursuing.
Hands-on projects: create your own ticket to real-world experience
It’s a paradox as old as time: you need experience to get started, but you need to get started to gain experience. Don’t sit back and mope about this: start with beginner projects to get hands-on experience that you can show off.
Create a simple ecommerce website or a website for a business. Experiment with these. Try to recreate more difficult web projects to hone your skills and learn to see how the experts come to certain conclusions and setups. You don’t need to contact them to turn them into your mentors.
Start up side projects for yourself, even if it’s just a website, on which you try to record your progress as a web developer. Over time, these side projects, even if they’re just fictional, will fill up your portfolio. Showing off an unpaid passion project or unofficial work is always better than having to say you don’t have anything yet.
You can even seek out collaborations with other soon-to-be professionals in related fields to really polish up your projects. Think designers, copywriters, photographers or anyone else who works in fields that web developers will eventually have to work with.
Networking: it’s about how you work together
Like many industries, web development is one of those where it does matter who you know. You don’t have to sign up for every in-person event (although, if that’s your jam, go for it!), but you can start online. Start leveraging the communities that have formed on social media platforms.
Get familiar with GitHub and dive into the world of Dev.to. Find Reddit threads and communities where you can connect with like-minded people or people you can learn from. X and LinkedIn are also great places to connect with people and stay on top of trends.
In those groups, you’ll likely see events that are organized, like coding boot camps, hackathons, or even local coding groups. It might feel awkward at first, or strange (or it doesn’t, if you’re an extrovert), but try to ease yourself into these events. Not just for the connections you’ll build: you will also learn how to collaborate and put your skills to work in new ways.
Digital presence: your portfolio is part of your portfolio
As a web developer, you can hardly expect that you can get away with just a resume. You are building products, and those just don’t come to life as a simple link in a PDF.
It’s time to start building your personal portfolio website – which, in a sense, is part of your portfolio. On this website, you can share projects you’ve worked on. You can build more authority in your field by writing (technical) blogs. If you’ve contributed to any open-source projects, this is also the place to show that off.
Leveraging AI in web development journey: job searching made easier
You can’t ignore AI in web development nor in the journey to becoming a web developer or landing a job in the field. AI-powered tools like the best AI resume builders will be your personal assistant, laying the groundwork for you.
A common misconception is that these AI resume builders will only help you create all-size-fits-one, generic resumes. That’s only when they’re used wrong. If you let AI create the foundation you need for your resume, you can then perfect it even further with personal touches and creativity. If you start from scratch, by the time you get to this stage, you’re probably too tired or frustrated to really make your resume pop.
Continuous learning: plan on how you’ll stay relevant
Web developers all face the same challenge: their profession and industry are quickly evolving. New frameworks, tools and trends change the landscape daily, and you’re going to have to create a structure for yourself that helps you keep up with it all.
Set learning goals for yourself: attend one webinar a week, write one blog a month on a new trend, or go to industry conferences with like-minded friends. The key here is to have a plan in place for how you plan to educate yourself – don’t just let it be something you do when you’ve got some time to spare.
You can also squeeze in some learning on the go with online courses or podcasts, or by following big names in web development on social media. We’ve got a great knowledge base ready for you to dive into.
So, what’s your next step?
It’s important to understand that there is no surefire framework to follow that guarantees success. It’s a continuous process that might feel like you’re going back and forth, doing various things at once.
But to avoid it becoming so chaotic that you’d rather just give up, start by writing out a plan for the next twelve months. This doesn’t have to be a strict timetable but a flexible guideline that will help you stay on track.
Your first month could be dedicated to intensive learning and bruising up on your foundational skills. Plan on your first project for a few weeks from now. Make sure you create a system that helps you document your progress, learnings, and challenges – as tangible proof of your progress.
Start networking early. You can already dive into groups on LinkedIn and find threads for newbies or like-minded people on Reddit.
Plan the things that excite you most as well, like building your own website, to keep you excited.
Your roadmap isn’t set in stone, but a living document. Keep it somewhere you can access it easily and check in often. Good luck!