The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Freelance Web Developer


Web development is one of the most talked about skills in the freelance world. According to one of our recent studies, 380 new websites are created every minute, meaning that HTML developers alone top the list of the most in demand freelance skills for 2020.

Working with freelance web designers and graphic designers, web developers are tasked with bringing a client’s website into a full functioning, living and breathing thing.

In an age where the importance of having an online presence as a business is more important than ever, having a readily functionable website, whether it’s for ecommerce or publication purposes, is integral for maintaining business growth. We don’t need to tell you the numbers. Take a lot at this ecommerce statistics guide and gape in awe at the figures involved in online sales in 2020.

The proper and full development of a website, along with its design, can really make or break a company’s online reputation. Ensuring all functionalities and coding is optimised for users, crawlers and search engines is central to the role of the web developer in creating a successful site that users spend time interacting with.

Web developers are ultimately responsible for building a site from a behind the scenes basis either from a back-end of front-end perspective. Web developers are very focused individuals who work alongside teams of people to bring a site to life. Once a site has gone live, the role of the web developer continues in fixing bugs and making improvements to ensure that a website runs smoothly.

In this guide, we’ll delve into what a freelance web developer does and what makes them tick in terms of their skillset, how they work, and what different types of developers you may need for any given project.

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What types of web developers are there?

Web development is of course a varied discipline. As a general rule however, web developers will all be familiar with IT technology and how computers and web servers work. Most will have a unilateral understanding of software programs and programming languages like HTML and JavaScript, and will have strong communication and project management skills.

Each web developer will of course have their specialism in terms of industries and types of sites they focus on, though in general they fall into three categories:

Front-End Developers

As you may guess from the name, front-end developers take care of most of the majority of the visible parts of the website that users interact with. Most web developers start off here, and front-end developers should at the very least have an in-depth understanding of HTML, CSS and JavaScript to make a website readable, clickable and responsive. For example, HTML allows developers to add content to a website and split into headings and paragraphs. CSS allows a developer to add styling to the content in areas such as a colours and borders, and JavaScript accounts for many interactive elements of a website.

Front-end developers are responsible for ensuring content and formatting is clear and that website buttons and links are all coded correctly and are responsive on both desktop and mobile browsers.

Back-End Developers

Back-end developers have the arguably much tougher (and possibly more thankless) role of building and maintaining the larger infrastructure that allows websites to function probably. This includes much more technical aspects of the website such as databases, APIs, scripts and any applications the site may contain.

Back-end developers are also responsible for ensuring that the code across the site is clean and efficient and SEO-friendly so that it can be quickly and easily crawled and interpreted. They’re also expected to have complicated and in-depth knowledge of popular coding languages such as PHP, Ruby, SQL and Python.

Full Stack Developers

The clue is certainly in the name here, and you’ve probably guessed it by now, but yes, full stack developers are specialists that understand both front and back-end skills. Full stack developers are probably what most people envision when they’re asked “what does a web developer do”. While many businesses may hire different teams of front-end and back-end developers that own certain roles of the development arena, full stack developers may be hired to take on full website builds on smaller projects.

Hiring a full stack developer certainly has its benefits, as you’ll end up with a specialist that has a wealth of skills and experience in the varying areas of web development. While many developers will start their journeys in front-end or back-end, more and more these days are realising the benefits of being full-stack and multi-faceted in their approach.

What’s the difference between web development and web design?

Now that we’ve delved into the three main different types of web developer, it’s time to address a frequent question that arises when people start talking about web development: what’s the difference between web development and web design?

Obviously they’re not the same thing, though there are of course some intertwining skills that both disciplines may possess such as coding knowledge and understanding of certain software. For example, web developers may be involved in some design aspects of a site as they naturally influence the code and architectural mark-up.

Here’s a look at how best to differentiate the two:

Web Designers:

  • Responsible for bringing the overall concept and creation of design to life with authority over colour, imagery and page style
  • Will also create logos, videos, infographics and design wireframes for interactive content
  • Works within software such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and Affinity Designer
  • Work with developers in terms of where the designs will sit on the page, though won’t be involved in the writing of the underlying code

Web Developers

  • Running with the web designers concepts and files, the web developer creates the code to bring these designs to life from a front-end perspective
  • Not involved in the design phase of the web build though will need to consult with web designers to confirm what is and isn’t feasible in the build

What skills and web development languages do I need to consider again?

We’ve touched on this slightly earlier on the guide, though let’s go into this into a little more detail. There are plenty of different skills and web development languages that any given web developer may possess, so here’s a breakdown of what they are and how they can help you with your project.


An essential and gateway language that any developer should know. Is the language that defines content, imagery, links and videos on any given webpage. HTML is quite easy for developers to learn and is typically the starting point for all freelance web developers.

If you’re curious as to what HTML looks like on a page when considering hiring a web developer, simply right click on any given web page and click “view page source”. This will give you an initial “under the hood” view of how a developer came to build the page.


Another essential front-end language that all web developers should be readily fluent in. CSS works alongside HTML to decipher how content is displayed, and is responsible for styling elements. CSS determines aspects of a webpage such as colour, borders, fonts, font size, positioning and more. It’s basically the front-end coding language that brings your website to life a bit more.


JavaScript takes care of inserting snippets of code into a web page to make certain elements responsive and interactive to visitors. JavaScript also allows the use of dynamic third party APIs (such as the ability to allow user comments) as well as anything interactive such as games, surveys or long-form pieces of content.


PHP is a vey popular web developer language that is relatively easy to learn, and will typically be in the arsenal of most back-end developers. PHP looks after server-side scripting and is handy at writing desktop applications with a graphical user interface.


Python is the talk of the developer town these days. Python is a general purpose, all-round programming language that allows developers to write a wide array of web development initiatives such as applications and website building. Python is popular in this day and age because it supports multiple programming paradigms, is open source and is compatible with many major platforms.

Hopefully you’ll now have a better understanding of what it is freelance web developers actually do and what their main skills are. Whether you need help on building a website from scratch, want to build an app or just need help coding a big piece of interactive content, hopefully you’ll have an good idea of what type of talent you need.

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