How to Be a Web Developer – Part 4: Which Web Developer Path is Right For You?

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This is Part 4 of our How to Be a Web Developer Series. If you’re just joining us, here’s what you’ve missed so far:

In my last article, I discussed some of the web development job descriptions and the types of places a web developer can work. In this article, I want to get you thinking about some questions that can help you choose the best path forward.

If you don’t know the answers to these questions right now, that’s totally fine! And it isn’t like you have to answer any of them necessarily. If you do want to use these questions as a jumping off point to help you set a web development course, I have the following recommendations.

1. Be realistic, but dream big.

You might be tempted to ask, am I answering these questions for new web developer me? Or future professional web developer me? I think you can answer for both. Some of the answers will be the same no matter where you fall in your career, but other pieces may feel out of reach right now. You can use these questions to plan an immediate course of action, but also a longer term career trajectory if you choose to.

2. Consider both sides of the question.

In addition to figuring out the things you do want to do, you might also want to think about those things that you don’t want to do. Maybe you don’t know the kind of place you want to work, but you are pretty sure you don’t want to run your own business. That kind of insight is helpful even if it doesn’t give you a specific target to aim for.

I’ve organized the questions into four groups and arranged those groups from broad dreams and goals to the microlevel of the work itself. Let’s get started!

What are Your Goals and Dreams?

Why do you want to become a developer? What first caught your interest? What gets you excited about web development? What motivates you to keep learning it? What are projects you’d love to work on? What problems do you want to help solve? What accomplishments would you be particularly proud of? Who are industry experts you’d love to work with or learn from?

What are your financial goals? Are you looking to support your family or just make a little fun money? Where do you want to work and live? Do you want to be location independent? Do you want to get out of debt?

What position do you want to hold? Senior developer? UX Designer? Freelancer? Do you want to own a business? Will it be a one woman shop or do you want to hire employees and how many?

What Clients Do You Want to Work With?

How closely do you want to work with clients? (By “clients” I mean the person or organization that the final product is for) Do you want to work with them directly or would you prefer to answer to a project manager? Do you enjoy building client relationships or would you rather just focus on the code?

Who is your ideal client? Do you want to work on projects for big corporations? Non-profits? Online entrepreneurs? Bloggers? Eco-friendly businesses? Something else?

How can you connect with these clients? Where do these clients hang out? What are their web development needs? What are their web development budgets? Who are they already working with?

What About Your Work Environment?

Do you want to work closely with other people? Would you like to be a part of a small team or a large one? Do you want to work with other developers or as the developer on a team of creatives? Would you prefer to work alone?

How do you think about stability vs. flexibility? Do you want structured work time or would you like to set your own hours? Are you okay with having slow months if it means you have control over the projects you choose to work on?

Where do you want to work? Do you want to go to an office or work from home? Do you want your own workspace or do you picture yourself with a laptop in a coffee shop?

Where do you need to live to do the work you want to do? Are their web development opportunities where you are or do you need to move for better options? Do you need to live in a big city of a tech area?

What Work Do You Want to Do?

How do you work best? Do you prefer to work on one small piece of a project or do you want to build the whole thing yourself? Do you want to perfect a narrow skill set or have a broader knowledge base? Do you like to do the same kind of work all the time or do prefer variety?

What kind type of tech product to you want to work on? Do you want to build websites? Web apps? Mobile apps? Web development tools? Do you only want to write code or are you interested in doing maintenance or support?

Is there a particular technology that really interests you? Is there a programming language you want to specialize in? Are there platforms you want to work with?

Obviously, a simple list of questions isn’t going to set a career path for you, but I hope that the answers give you some insight into the options you have and what your preferences are. Even if you do feel like you have a clear idea of what you want to do, give yourself the flexibility to change your mind as your career unfolds. You don’t have to make any final decisions, so just dream and see how the opportunities you discover match up with your web development goals.

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