Questions about getting work programming PHP
September 15, 2007 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Questions about getting freelance php work without a CS degree.

1) I really enjoy using PHP, and feel that I just "get it." I'd like to start picking up some freelance work doing PHP programming. What's the best way to prove I have what it takes? Are there certain types of php pages I should have done (say, should I whip up a shopping cart or blogging program)?

2) Is certification worth it?
posted by dial-tone to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The proof is always in the pudding.
posted by furtive at 11:26 AM on September 15, 2007

I think a CS degree is overkill for freelance PHP work (I also think a CS degree is overkill for most programming work). I think there are lots of people who have adequate programming skills. One way to differentiate yourself is to show yourself to be responsible and hard-working... or at least someone who can produce quality results on a deadline. Those kind of people are rarer.

Also, what furtive said.
posted by mpls2 at 11:47 AM on September 15, 2007

I've heard of so many nightmare stories where the developer came in, charged a lot of money, did a bunch of work, and disappeared before things were finished. Who cares if they have a cs degree if the client isn't happy? Do a good job, manage client expectations, think about the interface, design and flow of the apps you build, and you'll be fine.
posted by kamelhoecker at 11:54 AM on September 15, 2007

1. Build a portfolio. Doesn't matter what - do whatever is fun for you. Some clients will only pick someone who has done what they're looking for but they're in the minority.
If you're stuck for ideas and want something a bit different to tackle, theres a tonne of kids wanting someone to make them a free mafia game ;)
Picking up freelance PHP work is pretty easy. Don't set your fee too low though, you get a better quality of client with a higher price. Theres less of it but the work is better. You want clients that value you and your work. The outsourcing boom is starting to backfire and theres a lot of people who've been burned by low-rate coders who fail to deliver.

2. No
posted by missmagenta at 11:56 AM on September 15, 2007

On degrees: I doubt there's a CS degree in the world that would stoop to teach PHP, so that's no great impediment. The degree just proves you can work to a minimum standard. In the absence of a degree you need experience that says the same thing.

On experience: Work your contacts for jobs you can do cheap or free to start building a portfolio.

On PHP: That's not a great thing to be freelancing in, to be honest. Small jobs don't need development skills, they need design skills. To take your examples there are dozens of blog and shopping cart applications out there; nobody's going to pay you to code up yet another one from scratch. But they will pay a designer to skin what already exists.
posted by Leon at 12:01 PM on September 15, 2007

Leon is right to some extent, in that an awful lot of PHP-based projects primarily make use of existing free software, but installing, configuring and fully customising them usually requires a fair bit of skill. Have a play with things like WordPress, or Zen Cart if you're feeling masochistic.

If you can demonstrate your talents, broaden them (basic sysadmin stuff, SEO, whatever) and work with a good designer then you should be able to find small projects. Just make sure you take on work that suits your skills, and charge according to your level of competence.
posted by malevolent at 12:23 PM on September 15, 2007

I partially agree with Leon. The 'small' stuff almost always is a 'design' gig, requiring you to be responsible for more then just PHP and HTML. And any thing bigger then a micro-application can quickly become too big for one person to handle smoothly/quickly. So small, self contained applications are rare.

On the other hand, I do find people constantly need a PHP guy to 'fix' stuff. Or create one shot solutions that are a couple hours of work. Like a Programming Plumber. I've made a modest living doing pretty much that.

Experience: Just speak confidently, and never let them see you blink. They almost always are going to take you on your word that you know this stuff - be responsible about that though: Secure methods are straight-forward, but don't make claims you can't safely backup. This could be someone else's livelyhood here.
posted by mrgreyisyelling at 12:35 PM on September 15, 2007

1) build an online portfolio. make websites, make a message board, make a shopping cart. Display this on your portfolio. Display snippets of code that you write. Make sure your designs are pretty, efficent, and easy to use. Focus on UI and think about UI's for a website. Apply for PHP jobs. Search craigslist. Keep building your portfolio filled with personal projects. Once you can show someone that you've done SOMETHING even if it's for yourself, you'll get a job. That's what I did and I don't have a CS degree. Though once you move past simple PHP applications, a CS degree can help in learning alogrithms, how to think and design large programs, etc etc. But if you're just doing small client websites, you're gonna be OK without that.

2) No.
posted by Stynxno at 12:42 PM on September 15, 2007

I have a business degree. I've been a PHP programmer for seven years. Don't bother with the degree, just start laying down code. You might pick a framework, liks Symfony-Project or PHPCake or CodeIgniter or something.
posted by SpecialK at 2:37 PM on September 15, 2007

Contribute to an open-source project, or make a mini-app for yourself if you have a good idea. It'll also be good experience for you to complete a full project of some size.
posted by lubujackson at 5:51 PM on September 15, 2007

Befriend some web designers. I've been doing freelance PHP work for a while now and almost every job has come from a designer friend. Clients hire them to design a site, but then somebody actually has to build it.
posted by subclub at 8:24 PM on September 16, 2007

As others have noted, a CS degree is overkill for coding up web pages in PHP. I'm sure most of the clients you will be perusing also won't care where or if you have a degree in computer science, they will care about the web sites you've built thus far.
posted by chunking express at 7:28 AM on September 17, 2007

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