I am 17 and will hopefully be going to university in a year and a half. I know basic syntax for quite a few languages but the only languages that I would say I know (that I can build an application in) are (in order of proficiency) Java, html5-javascript and python and enough php to work with wordpress.

I have made a wordpress site for my school's maths club which allows people to post articles and made sure that it was responsive. And as for dektop programs, I have made a few things that I occasionally use for myself but most of the time I just open python idle to do something quickly and not save it. In terms of GUI I have made a few simple (as in not 3d) games for both web and desktop. I have made a basic GUI code obfuscator and code deobfuscator- it is not perfect because I made it only work to the java way of indentation. I have also made a tool that allows a user to select a colour in an image and make it transparent- a feature not available in ms paint.

I was considering becoming a freelance web developer but am reconsidering since most people can (or think they can) make do with a free custom online website builder and I think that few would need what a freelance web developer can offer- or at least what one with my experience can offer.

Is freelance web developing not in demand anymore? If I am not very convinced then I doubt potential clients would be either. I would like reasons so if someone asks why they would need one, I can tell them the truth - whether it is unsuitable for them or they need it.

What should I become, a freelance web developer or a freelance software developer? Ideally I want to take any opportunity (within reason) but what should I market myself as?

Also, is it realistic for me to be able to make an income freelancing while at uni considering my age and limited experience? How would I become either of them and is it realistic to think that I can make an income from it while at university and maybe even pay my student loans? I live in the UK where the minimum university fees are £9000 a year.

3 Answers 3


I think you should shoot high. The sky is the limit for you. You already have a lot of skills for your age. I think it is totally possible to make some money with freelance web development to pay for some of your classes, however, I think there are a few things you need to consider when making this decision.

Before choosing a route, I would consider what you like to do the most; web development or software. For choosing what you will be doing for the long haul, I would suggest to always go where your passion lies, in my opinion. The short term is a whole other story. Even if you wanted to go the software route for the long haul, software projects normally take longer to complete and thus longer to see the rewards for your work, whereas you could use the monetary rewards that come with web development to give you a jump start and get you on your feet. It will still be experience under your belt, and you could definitely use it to build up a reputation in the industry. You could also merge the two by working with wordpress, possibly building or configuring websites for people for money while writing code, a plugin perhaps that could kill two birds with one stone.

I think another thing to consider about freelance web development, is that it may be harder to find clients if you are lacking in the design arena. I think it's much easier to sell something when you can package it all pretty. Otherwise you might run the risk of not being able to find enough clients that truly understand the value of what you do. Software development can take many years, with many people working on one project to get it done, whereas with web development you can find customers that have problems with there website and need a developer to go in and get things working again. This might be a good angle to market yourself from, rather than the building of websites from scratch, (unless you know design or or a designer you can work with), as you have said earlier, your pretty confident people are doing ok with using web builders on their own. But even the most resourceful business owner will hit a snag and at some point need to seek out professional help from someone who has the technical skills they just don't. Thats where you could come in.

Either way, I think there is definitely a market for you. It's just a matter of going and getting what it is you want. If you are confident and market yourself to someones current need, I don't see you having a problem getting work at all.

It is daunting a bit when you first start off but whatever you set your mind to, you can accomplish. Just start small, and work your way up to bigger and bigger projects. Expand your services as your experience expands. Decide where your passion lies and then come up with a working plan that encompasses your short term monetary goals, and a step by step plan on how to use those short term goals as steps to your long term goals. There is no reason why you can't make a few bucks and dabble in whatever software projects you fancy that might come up along the way.

  • Thanks, I see what you mean about websites being quicker. I have one friend who is willing to help with both websites and software and another who is willing to help with just software. Both are good at design. Do you know where I would find my first client for either, being without many contacts? Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 15:14
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    "consider what you like to do the most" I echo that statement, I've also learned programming at a young age (currently 16) and have had a couple jobs. I've found that if you do work with tools and languages you like to use, you'll be more efficient, and a better worker
    – Keith M
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 5:02

Just would like to add to Jessica Termini outstanding answer:

There is a lot of hassle when you start working that is not related to development, marketing yourself, creating your own brand, defining products, price, scope, deadlines, finding clients, keeping clients, understanding clients' specifications and much more.

I'm not saying that to discourage you, on the opposite, as Jessica stated, you have much more knowledge than anyone I meet at your age, however sometimes is better for you to find an internship, trainee or even a full time job in some company, even if a smaller one (the pros and cons of smaller/big companies is out of the scope of this discussion), with that you can understand the business flow and get some contacts, show your work and learn with different people.

Moreover do not be discouraged about finding jobs, there are many websites required web developers and software developers every day.

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    Hi Alexandre, welcome to Freelancing.SE! We do not typically allow specific links to work sites in answers, as many users view them as advertising only. I've removed them from your answer so that the rest can survive and thrive for future visitors. Thanks!
    – Canadian Luke
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 17:18
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    No problem, that's why I try to be nice when I edit stuff out.
    – Canadian Luke
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 17:58
  • I'd also like to add that, while you already know quite a lot, Alexandre is right that there are many benefits to working alongside others in terms of learning from their workflow, having your code reviewed, etc. I think it is much easier to land freelance gigs with some more experience and projects under your belt.
    – Angelique
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 22:13
  • Yes, I understand what you mean. My first exposure to php, and sass was a 2 week work experience placement in a startup where I worked on the website and I picked up many things not just related to development but the other things involved in startups. I enjoy many aspects of programming and originally intended to make free games with ads and do freelance websites for income but after my work experience I am unsure. Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 20:58
  • I have thought about an internship but I think that I would prefer to have a degree to fall back on and I found a course that I think I would enjoy: whatuni.com/degrees/applied-software-engineering-bsc-hons/… Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 21:01

I have been trying (and mostly failing) to be a successful freelance software developer. The biggest stumbling block I've found is that most people would much rather buy something off-the-shelf than get something custom made when it comes to software. It's hard to show off examples of your work, because people are afraid of running unknown software. Especially when Windows Defender complains about it. But even if you manage to get them to see your previous programs, there are probably 3-5 commercially available programs that can do 95% or more of what you're offering. Webdev is much easier to market. People are much more willing to check out your example websites, and there are no off-the-shelf websites out there competing against you.

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