PHP development is hot right now, but there are also lots of people in PHP development. If you want to make it as an independent PHP developer you’ve got to know more than just PHP. Here are six other essential skills you need to succeed as a PHP developer.
It isn’t enough these days to just know how to write PHP code. If you want to start a PHP business, you’ve also got to know how to properly code websites using HTML and CSS as well. Chances are likely that in your projects you’ll have to fix mistakes that designers make, so you’ll need to know how to do that – and how to do it well. If you don’t know these other languages along with PHP, you’re going to be outbid for many jobs by contractors who are much more well-versed in web development than you are.
2. Knowing What You Don’t Know
As important as it is to make sure you can do as much as possible towards developing websites, it’s also important to know what you don’t know. This is a skill some new PHP developers seem to forget when starting out in a market where it’s hard to find entry-level PHP development jobs. You’ve got to understand how to read proposal requests and how to put in bids on jobs that you can do competently. Otherwise, you’ll end up over committing yourself and damaging your reputation in the long run.
3. Business Communication
As a freelance or contract PHP developer, you’ll be the one communicating with all your clients. Learn how to use a phone to ensure that email messages are received, and learn how to communicate like a professional. Lots of techie types have trouble with basic business communication (which is probably why they choose to work at home by themselves in the first place). If this is you, go take a class on business communication, or talk to a professional about how you can improve these skills.
4. Business Finance
Again, as a one-man (or woman) business, you’ll be managing your own business’ finances. You don’t necessarily have to learn how to do your own taxes, which can be tricky for independent contractors, but you should certainly learn how to manage the day-to-day finances of your business. This includes learning how to set a fair rate for yourself based on the market rates and the taxes that you’ll have to pay out of your business income.
5. Project Management
As an independent contractor, you won’t have anyone over your shoulder begging you to get a project done by a certain deadline. You’ll also most likely be juggling multiple projects and multiple clients at any given time, so make sure you know how to manage your own time, write proposals, and manage the scope of your projects so that you can commit and deliver and build a great reputation for yourself.
Networking with other freelance PHP designers – and web development freelancers in other niches – can help you find more jobs and get referrals. Use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to network with other developers, as well as with clients you work for or have worked for in the past. Networking skills can be invaluable in a competitive job market.
According to Elance.com – one of the leading freelance sites for web developers and freelancers in many other niches – 2011 was a record year for online freelance work. Online hiring has more than doubled since 2010, and the number of businesses who are hiring on Elance more than doubled, as well. That spells good things for PHP professionals who have the skills they need to succeed.
These six skills are essential for most freelancers, but if you’re a PHP developer, they may be even more important. Web development is an extremely competitive field, and breaking in at the lower levels is tough. Once you’ve gained these skills and gotten your career rolling, though, you can enjoy exciting jobs, flexibility, and great pay as an independent PHP developer.