Freelance PHP Developer: 10 Surprisingly Easy Ways To Land Jobs
Being a Freelance PHP Developer can be one of the most rewarding jobs you can find. You work from home, your own hours and get paid at your own rate. Of course, when any job becomes popular, everyone wants to do it. As such, finding work as a PHP Freelancer can be tough.
This article will describe some surprisingly easy ways that you can use to land your own php jobs.
As someone who has been a freelancer for many years, these tips might just help you get some regular clients and find work in places you never even imagined looking at.
Table Of Contents
- How To Get Freelance PHP Developer Jobs
- What makes a good freelance PHP developer
- Your freelance php developer hourly rate
- What web development skills should a PHP programmer know?
How To Get Freelance PHP Developer Jobs
As a freelancer, you don't have a boss who just gives you work to do or projects to fix. Instead, you have to find your own work. When you start out as freelance php developer, you'll find getting clients can be quite difficult.
A freelancer will often either be contacted by someone who needs your help or you'll apply to jobs online that have been posted. It sounds simple enough, and it is, the only problem is you're competing with every other PHP freelancer. When you factor in that some countries living wage is a lot lower than others, being able to land a job becomes a skill of it's own because other developers will be able to do the same work as you for a lower price.
Before we look at ways to seek out jobs, what can you do to make yourself stand out from the crowd?
What makes a good freelance PHP developer?
One of the key aspects of being a freelancer is being able to communicate well with others. You'll be working with all sorts of different clients; all who have their own standards and expectations.
If you take too long to respond to emails or you fail to update your client on the progress of a job, you'll likely won't get any repeating jobs. Most of the work I've gotten has been through repeat-business rather than through new clients.
Being able to speak fluently in your client's language is also critical. There have been times when I've taken on jobs from clients who have broken English and we just haven't been able to agree on what needs doing because the language barrier proved too difficult. If you're planning on working with English speaking clients, you'll need to make sure you come across professional and understanding.
Never attack your clients, berate them or show frustration because it will do you no favours. You might get some momentary satisfaction, but you'll also likely damage your own reputation through reviews and word of mouth. I think learning to bite your tongue is a very good skill to learn.
When you take on a job, you need to plan properly with yourself and your client. There's nothing worse than both of you assuming the project will be completed at different times and ending up getting annoyed at each other.
Put together a requirements document for the work. This way you know exactly what has been documented and outlined as needing doing. If, when all the work has been completed, the client requests more work that wasn't in the requirements document, you're free to either reject it or charge them extra (with their agreement, obviously!). You can use the requirements document as evidence of the work agreed upon.
Figuring out the timeline of when work needs to be delivered will help all parties involved. You need to know when the work needs to be completed by, when to deliver a beta/alpha test and also if you'll be available for more work after. Some clients like to order some work, and then depending on how well you do, order more from you later. It can really scupper their plans if you're only going to be available for a one-time job.
Make sure pricing is agreed before work begins. I usually get paid half before the work and half after. When you build trust with your clients, they are more than happy to pay you up front right away or you might even not need to request the money until the work is done. Make sure you also point out things like bug fixing and extra changes/tweaks may cost extra or are considered free.
Email, Phone, Skype are the three main methods most clients will use to contact you. If a client gets frustrated with the lack of your response, you definitely will sour the whole project. Make sure you offer them an easy way to contact you. Don't give them some obscure method like WhatsApp (it may be popular in your country or amongst friends, but email is universal).
Give regular updates; even if the project isn't finished yet, a quick 5 minute email outlining what has been done after week one will give them confidence knowing work is progressing.
Having a well stocked portfolio of work achievements can really help make you stand out from the crowd. This is a hard area for most freelancers who are just starting out as you have nothing to really show. But even making some work samples, demos and screenshots of previous work can really help.
Also having a list of contacts/testimonials on your portfolio can help. If you're using a site which lets clients leaves reviews, you can also refer your potential clients to these as evidence of your credibility.
A good portfolio will show off all your skills; if you mention you have experience with jQuery, make sure to have an example in your portfolio of something you've built with jQuery.
Having an updated status of projects you're currently working on can also help; it shows you're an active freelancers and prospective clients will see you're constantly working. Most portfolios I visit look like they haven't been updated in years so having some live updates of your work can really help freshen things up.
Knowing your limitations
Finally, know your limitations! As a freelancer, you might get tempted by how much a client is offering you to do some work- but then you realise you can't actually do the work they're asking you to do.
You can take on projects that contain work that will need you to research and learn (such as a new API or library). But it's always good to have experience with the work you're taking on because it'll allow you to get the job done within the required timeframe and also you'll know the best methods of implementing the solution.
Your freelance php developer hourly rate
How much do you charge your clients for php work? What is your hourly php rate?
The honest answer to this question is: it's up to you.
That's the beauty of being a freelancer- you get to charge whatever you like. Whether clients will pay you that amount is up to them.
My advice is to start on a low hourly rate; something like $10-$15 an hour. Once you build up clients and have regular working hours, start to raise your prices. At this point, you may lose one or two clients, but more often than not, clients will keep with you especially if you're doing a good job.
You can even agree on fixed prices per project. This generally involves you calculating how much time it will take you to do the work and then giving your client a fixed fee, which doesn't change even if you take longer (or quicker).
Find what works best for you.
What web development skills should a PHP programmer know?
It goes without saying that if you want to be a freelance PHP programmer, you need to have a good understanding of PHP! I recommend having at least a year or two experience programming in this language; either building your own websites/applications or working for others. Working with software such as WordPress, Joomla or Magento can really give you a better understanding of professional code.
Having an understanding of frameworks such as CodeIgniter and Laravel will help you get clients. These frameworks are very robust and are used by clients who want to make sure their code has some standards and longevity. You'll be able to find lots more work knowing these frameworks.
I also recommend having some knowledge of web servers. Knowing how to setup FTP, Databases and to some extent, web hosting, can really help improve your ability to work for clients. You'll often have to use cPanel to set everything up, which is very easy to use but can be time consuming if it's your first time using the tool.
Apart from that, keep learning the tricks of the trade. Learn better ways to debug, solve issues and make notes on common issues and how to solve them. Saving yourself time in these scenarios will help you become a better programmer for yourself and clients.
10 Surprisingly Easy methods for landing PHP Jobs
#1 Earn PHP Jobs with Fiverr
If you haven't ever heard of Fiverr, you might just have been living under a rock. Fiverr is a site which allows users to offer services starting at just $5 (hence the name). The idea is that you can find pretty much anything on Fiverr, including PHP freelancers who will be willing to fix bugs, write code and more.
Anyone can sign up to Fiverr. As a freelancer, you can create "gigs" which offer PHP services. I recommend this site to anyone who is just starting out and wants to get some experience under their belts. Because of how cheap the services usually are, the type of customer you get is likely to be very inexperienced too, which can be a good and bad thing.
You might scoff at the idea of only earning $5 for a job, but remember this is just the starting price. You can actually offer lots of extras and services for higher amounts.
As you can see, my starting Fiverr price was $5 for a single bug fix. After that, I offered a service of 10 bug fixes for $45 and so on.
Of course, the issue here is you can't really quantify how much time you'll spend on a single bug fix. One bug might take you half an hour to fix and others might take you a couple of minutes. You'll definitely want to consider this when making Gigs on Fiverr.
The downside of Fiverr is it is heavily competitive. You're likely to be priced out of work a lot because it attracts freelancers who are happy to work for very little. One of the ways of getting customers on Fiverr is to have great reviews. Each time you get a job, encourage your client to write a review on Fiverr for you because the Gigs which have the highest rated reviews will go to the top of search.
You might feel like Fiverr has been around for so long now, how can you possibly get started? Well, one good way Fiverr gets rid of inactive users is by setting Gigs to "pause" mode. This basically stops the listing of the Gig until the user returns. So the site only ever offers active Gigs, which is great for clients and freelancers.
#2 Bid for PHP Jobs on Freelancer
Freelancer is sort of the opposite of Fiverr. Instead of you listing your own services (which you can do, it's just not the main focus of the site), you bid for jobs listed by clients. A client will list the job, their budget that they are prepared to spend on work and the requirements. It's a great way to see if a job is worth your time or not.
Of course, you'll be competing against programmers who are happy to work for a lower price. When starting out, this isn't a bad thing. You want to get your reputation on the site up by getting good reviews and experience on the site. Once you get established, you can bid for jobs and raise your price and more often than not you'll find that a client will pick a more experienced programmer rather than a cheaper programmer.
When bidding for jobs, a good way of getting the attention of clients is to outline your skillset and maybe give examples of your experience. You can get the idea of how other freelancers work by seeing other recent bids on various jobs.
You can find expensive jobs- jobs which offer 3-to-4 figures for completion. Expect these to be very competitive but once you become an established freelancer, these are the types of jobs you can expect to bid for.
Freelancer does charge a 20% service charge fee on the first $500 of a job and then 10% after that amount. This might seem quite high, but you're getting access to a ton of jobs and opportunities which is great for when you're just starting out.
#3 Freelance for PHP jobs on UpWork
Similar to Freelancer, UpWork allows clients to post jobs and have freelancers bid on them. It's another way for you to bid on jobs that you feel you might be able to take on.
You can see client history to help you better find jobs. Bidding for jobs posted by new users can, in most cases, lead to no reply/no hiring, simply because the person normally doesn't see through their job offer. The client history will show how many jobs they've hired for and average amount spent.
You can also use UpWorks search bar to help filter out jobs which are posted by regularly hired people. Remember though, these jobs will be highly competitive and you're likely going to have to give lower offers in order to secure them, especially when just starting out.
#4 Developer Forums
Back in the day, before sites like Fiverr, Freelancer and Upwork came about, finding freelance opportunities was usually constrained to forum boards. They would have their own section for advertising jobs or offering services to others. Well, you can still find these sites and they're somewhat hidden gems for finding jobs.
Take for example CodeIgniter. If you have the knowledge of working with the CodeIgniter PHP Framework, sign up to the CodeIgniter Developer Forums. They have a jobs section where users are often posting jobs for developers to complete for them. It is a lot less competitive but also there is a lot less jobs to bid on.
The good news is that the CodeIgniter framework is a more technical job than most of what you'll find on Freelancer. This means that the level of skill required also increases the amount you can usually earn from those types of jobs.
You also don't have to pay any fees on the amount you earn since there's no service charge. Just get active on the forums and have some examples and you can secure yourself some work.
This isn't just limited to CodeIgniter forums; if you have the skills in other frameworks, you can usually find other forums on the internet with their own hiring boards. Search, hustle and find the places which other freelancers are ignoring.
#5 PHP Coding Forums
When starting out learning PHP, you often will come across PHP coding communities which reside on forum boards. You can use these boards to post questions, give answers and also find opportunities for work.
Take for example the sites CodingForums and SitePoint. Both are large communities full of active developers and not just for PHP. Both of these sites cater to a forum that allows you to post jobs for hiring other developers. It's a great way to find decent paying jobs and build relationships.
Even if you just found one or two jobs, remember that you often get reoccurring jobs down the line. What could be a simple $100 job, could turn into a two or three month contract worth thousands.
Before getting involved with these communities, I would recommend posting a bit on the forums and blending in. The more you can show you're a member of a community, the more someone will consider you for a job. If you just come out of nowhere, your trust factor is called into question. This can be dealt with somewhat with a great portfolio and references, but it's something to consider when getting involved.
#6 From Your Own Products
I get a lot of work via someone wanting to customise one of my existing products to their needs. Whether that be adding a certain feature or change the way something works. It's great work because I already know the product framework inside and out and so I can confidently analyse the work that need's doing and how to do it.
I recommend any freelancer to seek out this opportunity. Even if you have a low selling product, every now and then you will get someone who will want to pay you to change it to their needs. You can sell products on sites like Envato or even your own website.
#7 Seek Out Niche Communities
My first ever freelance jobs came from game design. I was part of a community that built PHP games and there was a small subsection that needed programmers. It wasn't very competitive and a lot of people needed work done, so I was able to score lots of long term jobs.
You can find all sorts of niche communities out there that need programmers, especially PHP ones since there is a huge market for custom dynamic web sites. Even sites like DigitalPoint/SEO forums which are constantly on the lookout for programmers to build custom scripts can be good little havens for finding work.
The great thing about finding Niche communities is that they're like gold mines. The problem, of course, is finding them. A lot of the time you need to have the knowledge and desire to find these communities (as with games; my love for gaming got me involved in something I never knew existed).
WordPress is a huge blogging community built on the popular WordPress software. In fact, almost half of all blogs on the internet today are run using WordPress. The great thing about WordPress is that it's build using PHP and it's fully customisable. There's whole markets dedicated to selling custom themes and plugins for WordPress, some even selling millions of dollars worth. The Avada WordPress theme is one of the most popular themes selling right now, having racked up over 350,000 sales.
WordPress caters to bloggers who don't have the technical knowledge of how to setup their own blog using code. That means that if they want something changed which can't be done from the front-end panel, they'll need someone with the coding experience to get it done. That's where you come in.
Check out the WordPress forums all over the internet. You'll find lots of clients needing custom plugins or custom themes made for their sites. WordPress themes may be about design- but they have a tremendous amount of backend code that goes with it. You could even find a partner to work with (someone who does the design and someone who does the coding). I often see designers looking for experienced WordPress programmers on Envato Forums.
#9 Word Of Mouth
Whilst you can't really control this aspect of finding work, you can leave an amazing impression on your client that they'll refer you to their friends and colleagues who also need work doing. Being as professional as possible is key to this method of finding clients. Even when a client disappoints you or you fail to reach an agreement on something, being reasonable can have a lasting effect.
When handling emails with clients, it's always good to have a neat signature at the bottom of your emails so that they can find your website or other contact information. When they go through their old emails, they'll know exactly who you are and can quickly check up on you if they need to refer/contact you again.
#10 Envato Studio
Envato Studio allows you to provide services somewhat similar to Fiverr; the main difference that the service price isn't restricted to $5 and is advertised as a more premium market. The main barrier to entry is that not anyone can sign up- there is a review process and you need to be accepted by the Envato Studio staff.
The good news is that if you do get accepted, the jobs you will be undertaking will generally be worth your time. Minimum job price is $15, but you can find ones ranging in the $2,000.00 range.
When you post your services, clients can pay for them and send you the details of what they need. Once you deliver, the funds get released to you. Envato does take a 30% service fee cut however, which is quite a lot compared to Fiverr's 20%. But you may feel that Envato can offer you a better quality of customer.
It's all about getting started
Starting out as a freelancer is the hardest part. My advice is to just get a job -any kind- and just slowly work your way through accumulating clients. If you provide a good service, your clients are likely to keep coming back and soon you'll be in a position where you have to turn down work.
If you've got any suggestions/methods of finding clients, feel free to share them in the comments!