Where to Start When Learning Web Development

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Got this question the Tube the other day:

can you guide me on what to do first? I’m a complete beginner at web development

Do you hear the frustration like I do?

Or maybe I’m just projecting given my own past with learning web development but I always sense this hint of frustration when I get questions like these.

Somebody just please tell me what to learn!?

That’s how I read it.

Anyway, let me tell what NOT to do.

Don’t do what I did. And, what frankly I believe so many other developers do that trips them up… causes so many to quit. I always wonder a bit about what those people who give up would have created or what kind of lives they might have had. Kinda sad really.

Anyway… when I started…

I believed there was this “master list” of skills I needed to learn in order to be consider a “real” dev. And, I didn’t spend much time thinking about what I wanted to get out of a web development career. I was focused on “being good enough”… not what I wanted.

And so, I just dove into learning random things with no real plan.

Yeah… don’t do that.

Five years later, I still hadn’t learned PHP to a point where I felt comfortable getting paid to write it. Truthfully, I felt stupid. Nothing had ever taken me so long to learn. I was always a quick learner, but PHP alluded me.

Again… don’t do that.

As Stephen Covey says in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

“Begin with the end in mind.”

I believe…

That a web development career is mostly about lifestyle. People who get into it are after meaning primarily. Importance. They want to do something of significance. They want to matter.

Yes, they want paid too… but it’s usually secondary.

They also don’t like to be told what to do.

Ironic given the initial question here.

But, let’s just say we tend to have a “slight hesitance” with authority. That’s why our field also attracts so many know-it-alls who like to troll around the web, telling everybody how stupid they are… as they slam Cheetos in mommy’s basement.
We think we’re pretty smart.

And, most of us are. But sometimes not for our own good.

Now, I saaaay all this…

Because the answer to your question won’t make you feel smart or superior to everybody else. Because it’s pretty simple.

  1. Pick an end product you enjoy building that others want
  2. Learn only the skills required to build that end product
  3. Blast the interwebs with marketing to get hired to build it

Definitely, NOT rocket surgery.

You don’t get to feel better than everybody else because you memorized some obscure PHP function that you’ll use twice in your career… or brag about “back in my day, we use to have to…”, or gloat about counting in binary…

But, you will get your career going much faster.

You will get the lifestyle you want much faster.

You will start doing things that matter much faster.

I’ll go back to the example, I used a few days ago. Simple online forms. Learning how to build one won’t win you the “smartest developer in the history of mankind” award, but it’s pretty damn lucrative.

Like I said in that email:

Wufoo Forms sold for 35M to SurveyMonkey. And SurveyMonkey itself does 113M/year and is valued at 1.35B.”

And, it’s all just simple online forms.

So, just pick something… some sort of end result you want to create for clients… forms, membership sites, Bootstrap websites… whatever. Master ONLY the skills absolutely necessary to deliver… and then start marketing like a boss.

Then, add a few other deliverables to your arsenal as you go and…


You’re a web developer.

Congrats! 🙂

Don’t overthink it… that’s the big thing.

Of course, if it’s a PHP career you’re after then I’ve got the “master list” for you already. It’s a very small but foundational set of PHP skills that will catapult you out of the gate of your career. And, as a bonus, teach how to build the aforementioned forms if you want to get your hands on some of that market.

You can discover what those skills are and learn them all here:http://johnmorrisonline.com/php

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, source code and exclusive courses on Patreon.

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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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