The Next Five Years of Website Freelancing

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The Next Five Years of Website Freelancing

There were about five years between the Dot-com bubble (which had officially “burst” by 2001) and the ubiquity of Web 2.0 (whose roots began earlier but really came into mainstream by 2006). During those five years, people realized true strength of the internet as they utilized standardized formats like XML and RSS, service-oriented web applications, user-controlled data, and, of course, the social aspect of the internet. We’ve seen the rise of social networks, the appearance of some pretty interactive web applications, and overall, the integration of the online world and your personal information flow. If you were freelancing during these five years, you probably had your share of work on blogs, social-based sites, Flash, or web applications. Furthermore, you could (and still can) make a pretty good living by just focusing on being a good designer or developer.

Next Five Years of Freelancing

So the question is, what about the next five years of website freelancing? And how will they affect your average freelance designer or developer? Here are five predictions…

Increased Globalization
It’s amazing how diverse the web landscape is. I’ve met great developers in eastern Europe, amazing bloggers from Australia, and awesome designers in South America. It’s not hard to see that globalization is affecting business, and in a good way. Freelancers can choose their location, businessmen can outsource work and grow quicker, and the pool of great talent is more accessible. So don’t be surprised if your best contractor is from India, your top client is from Spain, and your most loyal website visitors are from Canada.

Rise of RIAs
As noted in a recent post, web applications are becoming deeper and more interactive. More and more of your software and data is being moved online because of these technologies. For freelancers this means a couple of things. First, there will be greater demand for people who know and operate within the online culture. Second, you must stay relevant and informed if you want to keep your opportunities and career paths open. Back in the late nineties, “knowing some HTML and graphics” could still get you good work. Of course, that just doesn’t cut it nowadays — so as you look to the next several years, beware of the the same pitfall and always continue assimilating new technologies.

Strategists Win
Let’s be honest. There are probably quite a few people who can do your work either better or cheaper or both. That said, there’s a reason why more and more web workers are positioning themselves as “strategists.” A Flash or CSS coder can be outsourced quite easily (and it will get only easier in the next few years). So go beyond just being the the guy or gal who does that “one thing.” Become someone who can look at a problem and assemble a web solution. Have your own contact list of contractors and vendors. Position yourself as the first person clients go to when they have ideas. If you do this, you’ll be a lot less replaceable and much more empowered in the future of the web.

Increased Barriers Of Entry
In the early eighties, when PC games were still in their infancy, many individual developers and their small teams made names for themselves with some pretty cool games (like Richard Garriot’s Ultima series or Sid Meier’s Civilization). However, into the nineties and this decade, games are huge productions with multi-million dollar budgets and hundred-person teams. As some industries mature, so do the barriers to entry. Websites often follow this same rule. Even though many tasks such as payment processing and shopping cart technologies have become simpler, most website solutions include SEO, SEM, social marketing, CMS modules, interconnectivity with other websites, etc. What this means is that more education and experience is required to get up to speed in the online world. So although the website industry is still somewhat easy to “break into” with a little hard work and experience, be asssured that the learning curve will continue to increase.

More Opportunities
Although expanding website technologies means more information to mentally process and understand, it also means more opportunities. A decade ago, you basically had one class of web worker: “the website maker.” Nowadays, you have people earning pretty good money from WordPress themes, AJAX development, stock photography, SEO writing, online retail shops, Facebook apps, and the list goes on. So as the webscape grows even more in the coming years, don’t get discouraged in the growing complexities. Instead, try to see all the amazing opportunities being created every day and jump on in.

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