Front-end web developers build the user-facing side of websites. Dedicated front-end developers work in a relatively new specialization within web development. Before a few years ago, there were simply web developers. With the rise of the influence of the web, web developers have had to split into two distinct categories: front-end developers who work create user experiences, and back-end developers who build and maintain the servers responsible for serving web content and storing data.
Today, front-end developers work with web designers to create the sublime, interactive experiences that make the web the addictive playground we know and (usually!) love. As the size and influence of the web has expanded, so has the importance of ensuring a website offers users an unforgettable experience.
Like most creative fields, some front-end developers find themselves freelancing – working independently and searching for contract work – while others find themselves working at large companies. Let’s take a look at similarities and differences between them.
Freelance Front-End Developers
Freelance Front-End developers often work with small businesses and individuals who need to create new websites or update the look of existing websites. Job boards like gun.io, elance.com and even craigslist.com are fantastic resources to connect you to clients and secure new work.
With your independence as a freelancer, you’ll also have the opportunity to use whatever fun, new tool or technology you want. Try out the latest and greatest technologies and expand your front-end toolset!
The flip side of freedom is being your own manager, administrative assistant, sales team and accounting department. In addition to developing, you’ll put in time managing client relationships and bringing in new work.
As a freelance front-end developer, it is critical that you maintain a detailed portfolio of work. There’s no better way to explain to potential clients that you’re perfect for the job than by showing them what you’re capable of creating. Build a beautiful portfolio and fill it up with websites that you’re proud to share!
Front-End Developers within a Company
Front-end developers who work within companies build great websites together in teams. In order to be successful, team members need excellent communication and organizational skills. You and your team will be using version control software like Git to maintain and organize your code, which means your code will need to follow company standards to make sure other teammates can use it as well.
As part of a company, you’ll be building products that help fulfill your company’s mission. Finding a company with a mission you support will make work more gratifying and fun. You’ll gain intimate knowledge of your product as you shape its future.
Landing a front-end development job within a company requires building the same kind of portfolio as a freelancer. Build a portfolio, fill it up with your websites and show off your skills!
How to Get Hired
Whatever route you choose, getting hired means keeping up-to-date with new technologies. Experiment! Try any and all front-end technologies! Read documentation, build experiments, learn what works best for your projects and stay ahead in the rapidly evolving landscape of front-end web development!
If you want to build your front end web development skills, check out our Front-End Web Developer nanodegree, where you’ll learn HTML & CSS by doing as you build a portfolio recognized by industry employers.