Can you still make money as a web developer?

Aspiring web developers must take a great initiative to differentiate themselves from their growing number of capable, international colleagues.

It’s a widely debated topic amongst web developers worldwide. Is web development still as lucrative a career choice as it was in years gone by? ...or has it seen its peak?

Let’s get right into it.

Web development remains a lucrative career choice, as one of the industries with the healthiest profit margins in the western world over the last 20 years. As an industry, it’s huge.

Essentially all businesses today, no matter how established, require an online presence. Not least in the form a website, I might add. Official websites remain the number one most trusted source of information for consumers, beating any social network.

There have been changes in the web development world, however, over the last several years, which have undoubtedly affected how lucrative a career choice it can be for many job seekers and business owners.

The industry has become a lot less ‘specialist’ over time. Many small businesses and individuals opt to build their websites without enlisting the expertise of web developers, especially in the West. The number of websites built with do-it-yourself webpage builders and packaged software has steadily increased.

This is particularly due to the vast increase in vendors who offer such services, promoting them as complete solutions to many small businesses. Of course, this has a subsequent impact on the feeling of stability for those working within the industry.

Let’s take a deeper look at these trends.

For many small businesses, where perhaps a simple set of basic pages is all that is required, these solutions can be a great way to cut back costs, and get a site built and online a very short space of time. The perception of ease is the key selling point here, right?

These easy, cheap website building tools also allow business owners the illusion of complete control. Or so it seems.

In fairness, they can decide how their business is viewed by the website’s visitors. Their website, to them, looks and says exactly what they want it to. Add to that the fact that they don’t have to communicate their desires to a third-party (queue the web developer), and there is no room for misinterpretation.

There are, of course, just as many (actually, probably more) drawbacks to using these cheap site building methods, i.e. skipping the expertise of a professional web developer. But, honestly, in some instances, a simple site builder may be all a business demands at the time.

The rise of these tools definitely creates a shift in mindset for a lot of individuals and business owners who probably do require the services of a web developer. Conflict is then created with the notion that they can ‘do it themselves’, which subsequently leads them to question why exactly they need a web developer at all.

There is an inherent bias in this line of thought, though. The business, of course, wants to keep as much money as close to home as possible. Understandably, they don’t want to over-spend in areas that they believe costs can be cut.

The problem this creates is that it bypasses an immediate ‘need’ for a web developer, especially if their short-term goal is simply to spin up a website in order to muster up some form of official online presence. It’s possible for anybody to create at least some semblance of a functioning website, reachable by their audience, and even somewhat optimized for mobile browsing.

This means that those (albeit probably misinformed) who hold this view, however incorrect or biased it may be, don’t necessarily see an immediate need to enlist the services of a web developer... or perhaps any kind of branding professional.

The potential problem created for aspiring web developers (and even seasoned pros) is that it cuts out this rather large chunk of their target audience.

In other words, the target audience for web developers shrinks to clients who already recognize that their website is an area they should seriously invest in.

Anybody else is instantly cut out.

In essence, this may not actually be a bad thing. Think about it. An audience who are willing to invest are much likelier to know what they want, remain receptive throughout the web development process, and have some kind of prior experience working with web development and branding professionals.

They are also the kind of clients who possess a globally better understanding of the purpose, function, and importance of a website. These clients know what they want.

A client who’s willing to invest in their website is much more likely to understand the importance of their presence online, and the amount of difference it makes to their custom.

Subsequently, as a web developer, you are more likely to enjoy working with clients. They’re confident, which will make the entire process a lot smoother.

The communication between both parties is more likely to be effective, and you’ll both be better understood, taking each other's views seriously.

But that’s not the only factor in the changes within the industry. There are other reasons that web development can feel less lucrative today.

From an alternative angle, it’s worth noting the explosion in people who are eager to enter the web development industry. An increasing number of young people are being encouraged into the web and software development industries.

Government funding in many countries in the West has increased in the area of web development (and other kinds of software development as a whole), with a huge emphasis being put on young people learning to code.

Online vendors who offer education for people looking to build careers in web development has also increased, and it’s likely that this trend will only continue.

In many ways, this is a great step for the industry, and it’s pretty amazing how serious the world is beginning to take web development. It’s certainly taken a lot more seriously than some 5 to 10 years ago.

The exposure and attention the industry is receiving means that there will continue to be a greater number of competing colleagues within the web development space than ever before.

In fact, finding web developers has never been easier. Projects can now be posted online, and employers can sift through a variety of applicants in a matter of minutes.

Recruiters and employers have an ever-growing number of candidates to choose from, and the larger the industry grows, the greater the number of prospective web developers will find themselves in a position fighting to establish themselves in the market.

The best way to work with the shifts and changes the industry is undergoing is to constantly deliver work that exceeds whatever is already out there. Aspiring web developers must take a great initiative to differentiate themselves from their growing number of capable, international colleagues.

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