Make money fast?
June 2, 2007 9:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm a web developer, not a designer. How can I leverage my skills to make some cash outside of my day job?

I get the impression that the web design skillset lends itself well to doing small jobs on the side for other clients, and I'm at a point where turning some of my spare time into cash looks really attractive.

My problem is that I'm a web developer - I build applications that happen to run over HTTP - and individuals/small companies usually want web sites, rather than web applications. Any comments, no matter how off-the-wall, are welcome.
posted by Leon to Work & Money (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Find a designer who doesn't like to build applications. Work together.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 9:22 PM on June 2, 2007

Yeah. I'm less of a developer than you, but I'm definitely a coder, and design is not my forté. I have a couple designer friends and sometimes we work together. But frankly their strong suit is not web design, so I myself have been planning on posting to or or even something like craigslist (and beforehand, researching where is the *best* place to post) just to see if I can build a small arsenal of designer contacts.

Unfortunately, in my experience I've found that freelance/self-employed web designers do better than their web developer counterparts, because the designers can use Dreamweaver or whatever to execute their design. That is, when we're talking about the small business type clients that I have. (They don't care about good code or have demanding needs, so wysiwyg is fine for them.)

*Finding* work can be the hard part for many. If you can *get* the work, then do this. Build your designer arsenal and bring the work to them. My experience is that a designer might charge you a couple/few hundred bucks for the page layout, and you can develop the site from there.
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:37 PM on June 2, 2007

Just jump in and don't worry. Create a few demo web sites using some book, then start looking for some small businesses that are new to the web and want a small site and aren't too demanding about the style or time frame. Then work with them. Iterate, and you will learn. Just don't kid your customers about being a pro before you really are.
posted by DarkForest at 9:42 PM on June 2, 2007

I'm the opposite - my focus is on web design, usability, and site architecture - and although I have a pretty high competency in coding to a certain level, I'm always looking for developers outside of my skill set to work with on some projects. Especially developers who can work in a multilingual environment and have a solid grasp of encoding issues.

Maybe start promoting yourself around with what you can do and get involved with some projects already in progress? Seems a much faster way than climbing the big curve of learning to become a much better designer straight off.
posted by gomichild at 11:09 PM on June 2, 2007

There a tons of places you can get freelance dev work, since you're in the UK a good palce to sart would be, another place you could try is Stay away from the big bidding places, they're mostly frequented by indians and east europeans who can afford to do the same job for a lot less than you.
posted by missmagenta at 12:47 AM on June 3, 2007

Find a designer or 2 you trust and can work with long-term with.

Tell them you'll be selling their services and can they give you a fixed price for the standard 2 versions of home page and internal page + 2 rounds of revisions.

Promote your self as a web design studio (your customers will not make the distinction between designing and developing, so use their terms).

Add designer's cost + 25% for overhead into the design slot of your overall estimate.


posted by Mick at 7:54 AM on June 3, 2007

I'm in the same boat, and I do three things. I work inside of a framework that's easy for designers to 'skin' -- and I only give designers access to the template files.

I'm also a systems administrator, so I spend a lot of my "coding" time administering and setting up new systems, including things like load balancing and virtualization, for clients who are running webapps.

I also manage other programmers for clients. I'm not the best project manager, but I write a mean functional spec and can wield a whip pretty well via instant messenger.

By far, the last of the three is the least boring and most profitable. Projects that require a project manager generally take a while and can provide some significant income.

Admittedly, I live in a rural area, but I generally double my monthly takehome with consulting work.
posted by SpecialK at 9:45 AM on June 3, 2007

Avoid doing generic websites for small businesses -- small businesses don't have a lot of money to pay, and their owners generally don't perceive the value of the web. Instead, become an expert in a well-known or high demand tool, such as an open-source software package. It shouldn't be something too generic, like Ruby-on-Rails, because there is a lot of competition and is easy to outsource. Choose something more specific, like the Asterisk voip system, Drupal CMS, or something else that has high demand, that you enjoy, and is used by larger customers rather than small-businesses. Once you've achieved a level of expertise, you can market yourself via your blog, homepage, and network as one of the leading consultants for that software. You can also go a more entrepreneurial route and build and market something useful yourself. Study some marketing books to learn more about how to market yourself as one of the best at whatever it is you end up choosing.
posted by lsemel at 10:38 AM on June 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

Many thanks to all who replied.

The particular standouts are missmagenta who suggested a couple of rentacoder-a-likes I hadn't heard of, and lsemel whose thoughts loosely mirror my own.
posted by Leon at 5:28 AM on June 4, 2007

Or you could work on existing modules. Changing them, maintaining them etc
posted by at 9:30 AM on June 5, 2007

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