The EXACT PHP Skills You Need to Learn to Get Paid to Code

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I chuckled a bit when I read it.

You might have seen me ask this question. And I do it because I really want to know where you’re at because that’s the only way I feel I can really help you.

So, I’d asked…

What if I told you I could teach you how to master PHP to the point you can start getting work building PHP applications… in just the next few months?

Now… getting off-subject a bit… that’s an interesting thing to ponder…

What if?

You might take a minute and ask yourself that.

WHAT IF you could master PHP in the next few months… so well you’d be supremely confident in taking on projects and getting paid for it?

Would that be life-changing for you?

In any case, like I said, his answer made me chuckle…

What exactly DOES ‘mastering PHP’ entail?

I chuckle because I remember that feeling. I can relate. And, I can always hear the frustration in people’s words when they ask me that.

Just tell me what I need to learn and I’ll do it!

Now, there’s something to be said for the HOW… and I think a lot of new developers overlook that part (I’ll get to that in a future email).

But, you can’t get anywhere if you don’t know the WHAT.

And, there IS a what.

This isn’t one of those “it depends” non-answers. I believe there’s a foundational set of skills any PHP developer needs to know in order to deliver on projects and get paid to write PHP code.

But, the problem is we tend to overthink it.

You see, I find so many new developers think the “list” of what they need to learn to start doing this full-time must be long?


I mean, it obviously must include something pretty difficult-to-learn skills… some advanced coding… stuff that’d take awhile to learn?

Doesn’t it?

Here’s the truth…

90% of what you do when building applications will revolve around a very limited set of skills. I know that doesn’t necessarily sound “sexy”… but it’s just the truth.

What’s important isn’t knowing 100 things… it’s knowing a handful really well. Because you’ll use those same skills in new and different ways to create new and different things for clients/bosses/customers/etc.

I call these skills, “The Foundation”…

So, let me tell you what they are:

  • What is PHP
  • Echo
  • Variables
  • Arrays
  • If, else and switch
  • For and foreach loops
  • While loops
  • Get
  • Post
  • Mail

And, that’s it.

Wait, really?

That’s all?

Yeah… it is.

These are the skills I actually use for 90% of what I do.

Now, understand what I’m saying here. These aren’t the only skills you should learn.. eventually. Yes, you should definitely get into more advanced stuff. But, these are what you’ll use most. And you can build working applications with just these skills.

I know, sounds crazy… but it just happens to be true.

Let me give you an example…

A simple online form. Doesn’t sound like much, right?

You may even be thinking, “Hell, I could build that right now”.

You may have heard of Wufoo Forms. It’s a online service that helps you do something pretty simple: build forms.

Well, Wufoo was acquired by SurveyMonkey in 2011 for 35 million. Even, SurveyMonkey itself is about building online forms (surveys) and does 113 million a year in revenue… and is valued at 1.35 billion.

And, the core of both… is just simple online forms.

Or, look at WordPress. There are several major plugins whose sole purpose is to help users build forms: Contact Form 7, Ninja Forms, and Gravity Forms being some of the more popular.

And Ninja Forms, for example, has 2.6 million downloads to date.

There’s a huge market for this one very simple thing. You could get freelance clients or a tech job just being really good at this one thing. And, what you need to know in order to do that… is not much.

Building an HTML form, processing POST data… maybe using the mail() function.

Heck, I could probably teach you how to build a pretty nice contact form in 20-30 minutes. And, there’s 14,800 people searching each and every month on Google for the phrase, “contact form”.

People that would hire you or buy your app.

My point with all of this is simple.

What you need to learn in order to get going is much less than you probably think. I mean look… reasonable people could quibble over a skill or two on that list… but it’s not like 100 more skills you need to learn.

And, contact forms is just one example. There are 100s of markets just like this one with people tripping over themselves to hire a developer or buy a product that does something that’s actually quite simple.

But, here’s the exciting part… now you know! You know exactly what’s in front of you. And, I can promise you… if you learn these skills and how they all work with on another, I’m convinced you WILL be able to deliver on paid projects for clients.

ZERO doubt in my mind.

I know because I’ve seen it first-hand…

My little brother came to me a few years ago… 3 years into his Computer Science degree, no job, broke and suddenly five mouths to feed (he’d married a lady with three kids and then they had two of their own).

He was desperate for his way out…

And a way to put food on the table for his family. I made him do two things:

  • Start taking clients
  • Work through the list I just showed you

Within a week, he had his first client and was getting paid to code. Within a month, his confidence had swelled because he was rapidly upping his PHP skills and he raised his prices. Within two months, he’d decided to “try” applying at IBM and got hired. Now, just a few years later… he has a 6-figure job at one of the fastest growing tech companies in the world.

In two months, that simple list gave him more than 3 years in a CS degree.

Because, he attacked it

So think about this… what if?

I mean, what if it even took you a year to learn all this? That’s a crazy amount of time… but what if absolute worse-than-worse case scenario it took you a year.

How many years will you have left?

How many years would that be NOT working a job you hate? How many years would that be NOT feeling like you’re capable of more? How many years would that be NOT dealing with annoying bosses and co-workers?

My point is… 

Even if you believe you have the worst luck, are the least capable, that forces will conspire to make things take way more time than they should… for you… it’s still 1000% worth the time and effort.

The list above is your way out.

And you can master all those skills in my new PHP 101 course. Enroll at:

P.S. If you liked the show, give it a like and share with the communities and people you think will benefit. And, you can always find all my tutorials, podcast episodes and more on, @jpmorris on Twitter and

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John Morris


I’m a 15-year veteran of freelance web development. I’ve worked with bestselling authors and average Joe’s next door. These days, I focus on helping other freelancers build their freelance business and their lifestyles.

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