Setting up as a freelance web developer

2020-01-17 18:48:00 +07:00 by Mark Smith

There are lots of reasons for doing freelance work, whether it's for what people refer to as a side hustle or whether it's more of a full time freelancing goal, but in all cases it's necessary to have a minimal infrastructure setup. You fine tune this over time and adjust according to the direction of the projects. Broadly speaking the essentials are payments, contracts and some form of marketing.

I got some of the details from this article from an audio on soundcloud called Web dev freelancing high level overview basic setup. The author makes some good points and is worth the listen.


Freelancers need a way to receive payments. There are a lot of online services that specialise in providing services for freelancers. Freshbooks seems to be a favorite for a lot of web developer freelancers. I hear it mentioned a lot on podcasts. Whichever service you choose, you will need to create an account, connect it to Paypal, and connect it to your checking account. It's a good idea to setup a seperate checking account for your freelancing work than your personal banking account. Then it's a good idea to test out the setup by sending a $1 invoice from Freshbooks, pay and ensure that the money reaches your paypal and then bank account.

Another possibility here is to use a partly self hosted solution. You will need some web development skills, but you could use the Freelancer project (One of my projects) to host a payment site that uses Stripe as the backend payment provider. You can host the code on a public Github repo, so customers can inspect the code if they want.

Joan from Toptal contacted me after reading this post to inform me that they have just released a freelance calculator tool that could be useful to easily figure out your hourly rate and yearly income. Thanks Joan!


You will need some basic freelancer contracts that will clearly set out the project goals and responsibilities, and a way to send these contracts back and forth securly. Docusign has been recommended a lot, but there are other similar services available online, easily findable via Google search.

As far as the contract google search 'standard exchange of services contract' or 'web development contract' and use one of these as the basis for your contract. Make sure that the contract contains at least the following:

Also worth checking out is this article that has lots of details about freelance contracts.


Some way to promote your services, this doesn't need to be too envolved initially.

A basic website with a logo, contact details, short description of the services offered. Something you can add to the footer of your emails, it will be useful for referals too, a way for other to point people towards you. You might want to setup a blog at some stage, but initially a basic 1 page website should be enough.

How to deliver

General advice is to deliver a working website using new accounts for hosting and give these to customer as a deliverable. Hosting your customers website is not advised.

Now you have the basic infrastructure to make proposals, draft contracts, and receive payments.

Related posts:

List of freelance web development websites and marketplaces

List of remote friendly web development job board websites

For enquiries about my consulting, development, training and writing services, aswell as sponsorship opportunities contact me directly via email. More details about me here.