How much does it cost to be a freelance web developer?
A computer, broadband and knowledge. Those three items alone are all you need to set up as a freelance web developer. You already have all three so, essentially, it costs nothing to start up your own web business: or does it?
Every business, even freelancers, should fully catalogue what their expenses are: for the one big reason – taxes, but it it’s also really helpful to know how much things are really costing you so you can work out how much you need to charge, and how much work you need to do to break even.
Here is a short list of of my outgoings over the last 18 months:
|Web hosting||Fixed (bi-yearly)||£168.06|
|iMac (and printer)||Variable||£881.16 *|
|Airport Express wireless (and new mouse)||Variable||£91|
|Apple memory (8Gb total from Crucial)||Variable||£106.89 **|
|External hard drive||Variable||£46.99|
|Books and magazines subscriptions||Fixed / Variable (Quarterly)||£182.86|
|Software||Variable||Lots (see below)|
|Travel||Variable||£0.40 (per mile)|
At the time fo writing this, £1GBP is worth about $1.84USD (source: XE)
* Yes a PC/laptop would be cheaper but it would be less fun.
** Don’t buy RAM from Apple direct – always get from someone like Crucial – it is so much cheaper. I’ve made that mistake in the past.
I could go on and provide more and more costs, for heating/lighting, networking events, print cartridges, etc but I don’t want to bore you to tears. However, I will try to give you a brief insight:
Adobe Web Premium CS4 costs around £1500 – and needs to be updated every other version – meaning if you have CS3 now you can probably get away with waiting for CS5 before upgrading. Some of the software you need to be a front end web developer include:
- Design & Development
- Adobe Photoshop
- Text editor e.g. Coda ($99) which is much cheaper than DreamWeaver
- Browser testing software
- VMWare Fusion/Parallels for testing sites
- Windows XP
- Windows Vista
- Litmus app
- Communication / Project Management / Finances
Conferences can cost anywhere from £50 (PHPNW) to £125 (dconstruct) to £395.00 (Future of web apps) and then you have to pay for your accommodation and travel.
Conferences can be invaluable, you meet like-minded people and make connections, discover new ideas and can leave you feeling very motivated, but come on £395 to feel motivated is a bit much.
This article is not meant to be a ‘oh woe is me… it’s so expensive to be a web developer’ moan, I’m merely pointing out the costs that a lot of people (myself included) overlook when they set out to work on their own. It is so important that you fully comprehend what you’re spending to ensure you can still afford to buy food and pay the mortgage.
Please feel free to comment on what you’ve found to be cheap/expensive when starting out on your own. Money saving tips are very welcome… unless you’re going to tell me I should use the GIMP instead of Photoshop or Linux instead of OS X. Although I am open to some alternative free/cheap software provided it does the job well enough.
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