Easily the most common question I get from aspiring freelance web developers is “how much can I expect to make if I go freelance?” I could tell you what I made or give you stories from other freelance developers, but I wanted to start with some hard numbers and realistic expectations.
So, that said, how much can you make as a freelance web developer? $21 – $49 per hour. Which, if you work an average of 40 hours per week, is $43,680 – $101,920 per year. Now, let me show you where those numbers come from and some things you can do to increase your freelance earnings above and beyond the averages.
If you’re just getting into freelance web development and wondering what to do to get started, you’ll be interested in this article, as well. I break down the first five things you’ll want to do after you’ve learned your tech skills and are ready to go freelance.
Where Do Those Numbers Come From?
Payoneer did a survey of 23,000 freelancers in 180 countries and found that the average freelancer works 36 hours per week and earns $21/hour. That’s $39,000 per year.
If you’re in the United States, that same study found that the average American freelancer made $31 per hour… compared to $26.30 for the average American employee. Specifically, for IT and programming, the average hourly rate was $49 per hour.
For graphic design, it’s $41 per hour.
Freelance writing, it’s $48 per hour.
Of course, those are averages. The question is how much can you make?
What Top Freelance Web Developers Make
I grabbed some screenshots from actual developers on Upwork (article on how to be successful there is here) right now and what they’re making per hour and overall. Here’s a look:
This guys is charging $290/hour per hour!
Also, here’s a look at some of the actual projects (article on finding the most popular jobs on any freelance sites is here) from one of these developers:
Look at how much he’s making per project. Another reason I snicker when people tell me “there’s no good jobs on Upwork” or the “clients are all just a bunch of low-ballers!” Not, if you know what you’re doing.
How to Raise Your Freelance Rates
Here’s a quick run-down of things you can do to charge more as a freelance web developer:
Charge a one-time fee. My hourly rate topped out at $100 per hour. But, when I did fixed price projects, I charged $5,000 per membership site. What that means is anything less than 50 hours on a project and I made more than $100 per hour.
And, my projects never took 50 hours.
About 1/2 to 1/3 that time.
Specialize. The reason why I could build these sites that fast was it’s what I specialized in. I’d built so many that I had my system down pat. And, being more efficient didn’t hurt me because I wasn’t charging an hourly rate. If you’re not sure how to specialize, take a look at this article. I show you how you’ll make more if you do and what to do to figure out your specialty.
Establish yourself as an expert. Of course, you have to get clients to hire you for that one-time fee. I was able to do that, because I’d established myself as an expert on building membership sites with WordPress.
Word of mouth.
All these things combined helped clients to see me as the expert in the technologies I used. Then, I worked very hard to make sure my delivery experience exceeded those lofty expectations. So, that momentum just kept growing.
Most clients I worked with told me I should be charging more.
Supply and demand. I talk about this a lot, but it’s such a perfect example. It’s what happened after I built Michael Hyatt’s membership site. A bunch of his followers wanted to emulate what he had built. And, they went looking for the developer behind it.
And because I was the only person (literally) in the world who had the exact code and could build it for them, I got every one of those clients who contacted me… to hire me. The demand was modest, but the supply was strictly limited.
And, I made $500-$600 per hour building those sites.
I charged a one-time fee. But, they were so easy to build it only took a few hours. And, clients didn’t care. They weren’t paying for hours or even skill. They were paying for “access”. And, I was the only person they could get it from.
I also did a good job of properly packaging and pricing those services to appeal directly to those particular customers. Which, was something I hadn’t done before. So, that whole experience taught me a lot. In any case, I wrote an article on packaging and pricing your freelancers based on that experience and what I’ve learned in the years since. This is one of the most important things you can do, so worth a read.
6 Ways to Make Money as a Freelance Developer
It’s just smart to do, anyway, but you’ll also make more. What does that look like for a web developer? Contract work isn’t the only way you can make money. Here’s several ideas to turn your coding skills into income:
- Information Products
- Affiliate Marketing
- Software Products
And, there’s plenty more. You really should be trying to maximize and diversify your income in as many ways as you can. Better yet, create an integrated set of products and services to maximize the “income value” of every client you work with.
So, let’s say you build e-commerce websites.
Blog (tutorial on creating that here) about e-commerce and the business lessons you’ve learned working with your clients. Include ads or links to affiliate products that are a good fit for your readers. Sell an online course where you teach e-commerce website owners how to run their sites.
Offer consulting to people who already have a site, but want to get more sales.
Create your own add-on for WooCommerce that adds some functionality that’s missing.
Everything I just mentioned will appeal to the exact same pool of potential clients. But, now you’re maximizing what you earn from your expertise. Your income is diversified and you have a lot less pressure on you and your freelance income.
So, there you go… how much you can make as a freelance web developer and some tips for getting there. Also, if you’re looking to freelance on Upwork, specifically, take a look at my Freelancing on Upwork.
There’s a reason it’s the #1 ranked freelancing course on all of Skillshare.
You can learn how to get free access to it here.