The Best Way to Get Started with Web Development

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Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

Every week, I write an article and release a podcast episode. Sign up if you want to get notified when that happens.

A lot of people want to get started with web development they just don’t have any clue where to begin.

A quick google search will leave you paralyzed with all the possible options to choose from what types of languages you should learn to how to learn them.


  • Frontend development
  • Backend development
  • Bootcamps
  • Online tutorials
  • University Programs
  • MOOC’s

How do you know what to do!?!

How to Get Started with Web Development

This week I chatted with Brad about how he should get started with web development. Brad has a background in real estate BUT he’s trying to determine if web development is a good option for him.

The problem is he’s not sure which path he should take. He’s taught himself a little bit of code from and has recently found The Odin Project.

He’s ready to keep moving forward but doesn’t want to misstep and potentially waste a lot of time going in a direction that won’t be fruitful for him long term.

Start With a Project and Work Backwards

I gave him the same advice I give everyone: pick a project to work on and learn as you go. You learn so much more from actually doing a real-world project than you do learning from some type of educational program.

Going the project route gives you actual context for what you’re learning rather than a sterile environment where if you get stuck you raise your hand and your teacher comes and bails you out.

Project-Based Learning Isn’t Easy But It’s the Most Fruitful

I’ll be honest, learning web development by starting with projects definitely isn’t an easy route. BUT, you just prolong truly understanding if you try to avoid frustration when you’re learning.

In fact, there is no real learning without frustration.

So, be prepared to get frustrated BUT realize you’ll know more once you’re finished with your project than some computer science majors know after they’re finished with their degrees.

[00:00:00] Chris: This week, I talked to a realtor who's trying to figure out how to get started with web development. Are you ready? Let's go. What is up self-maders and welcome to another episode of the Self-Made Web designer podcast, you know, there there's so many options when you're first getting started with web development.

There's so many paths to choose from so many ways to learn and can almost be a little bit overwhelming. Do you go front-end or back-end take online courses. Do you do a bootcamp? Do you go back to school and get a full fledged computer science degree? All of those. Can almost leave you paralyzed, wondering which step to take that isn't going to cost you later on.

Am I right? Well, this week I talk with Brad who is having the same types of questions. He's wondering which steps to take in order to be the most effective when it comes to learning web development and. To sit down with him and mark out a path that is realistic, doable, and guaranteed to put him on the right journey.

So it's going to be fun. It was, it was a crazy conversation. Okay. Was it, it was normal conversation. It was a lot of. Talking to another listener. Hey, before we dive in, I want to encourage you to check out the web designer starter kit course in it. I map out all the things that I did to learn how to become a web developer, how to start doing web design, how to get clients and ultimately how to double my.

As a side hustling web design freelancer, I did it. You can, to thousands of other folks have signed up for this free course and have gone on to become self-made web designers, them self. So make sure that you do it as well. Go to self-made web or click that link in the show notes, wherever you're listening or watching this episode.

All right. Are you ready to learn the best way to get started? Okay. Let's do it. I've been always

[00:02:14] Brad: wanting to get into the tech industry, but I've just never been exposed to it or been around anyone who did it. And like, so I always did tack in my high school and like a little bit in the university, but my mindset was always like, I need to find like an actual job or find something.

So I did the, the business finance route. And now that I'm like, at the end of it, I'm like, I still want to get into tack do something like that. And like working remote with COVID was just like, eye-opening how much I love that. Like, I'm in Saskatchewan, we have months where it's minus 40 and I hate leaving my house.

And I was like, oh, I can find something that's a high road or remote, or like text the best opportunity for that. Looking everywhere and there's so much information. So just having someone I could talk to about like where to begin, or like kind of, what's a path that I can potentially gain something from, or even gain a side hustle or a full-time job eventually several years now.

[00:03:20] Chris: Um, so where have you started? Have you, have you taken any online courses?

[00:03:25] Brad: I mean, I took in courses in high school and just like basic C and things like that. I've done free code camp, a little bit of theirs, but I just latched on to the Odin project. I don't want to, if you looked at that at all, but that one, I'm just doing the foundations and it's the first one I've actually been hooked on to just keep continuing, I don't know if it's how they lay it out or just break it down into small little pieces, but I've been loving that.

And then you like a little bit solo on my phone. Some of the greatest, but it at least just kind of as a refresher for things I might've seen or just getting exposure, but yeah.

[00:04:06] Chris: Yeah, the Odin project is great. It's they've done a good job of gamifying it. And then it, it also has like this like journey and quest.

And so, you know, it can feel a little bit like Lord of the rings or, you know, watching a Marvel movie. Can can kind of keep your interest if that's something that you're just naturally kind of drawn to. So, yeah, and I mean, that's, you know, I think the key here is you are, you're searching to find something that you kind of connect with and feel like.

Oh, man. I could really, I could do this just for fun. Like I'm not having to like pencil it in and on the calendar, it'd be like, okay, make sure you do a little bit of coding today. You know, like that's, that's, that's kind of a bad place to be when you're like, should I be doing this? If you find yourself already, like having to force yourself to do it.

Then it might be a sign that, that may be the web development or web design or whatever. And the tech field is just not for you. And that's totally okay. You know, like, I, I, because I love it so much. I think everybody should be doing it, but there are certainly people out there who, you know, like that's just not their cup of tea and so, so good on you for, for keeping at it until you find something, um, that you connect with.

So, so what do you feel like your next steps are? As far as the journey for starting a side hustle or going through.

[00:05:26] Brad: I've been kind of in the middle of kind of debating what route I should go. Like I've learned a lot, or I've read a lot about just like the coding boot camps. And then I looked at university and I've looked at just like, kind of our side college diplomas, which are a lot shorter.

And I'm like, I don't know. Doing it self-taught is the best route, or if I should get a bootcamp certificate from somewhere, or if I should just get a university degree, if that's my best bat, long-term, I'm just kinda trying to take it all in and seeing what's the best. And what's the most likely to get hired.

[00:06:05] Chris: Yeah. Okay. Well, so there's a few things to consider when you're thinking about what should I do next? Should I do bootcamp? Should I do university? Or should I just go the completely self-taught route? A lot of that is going to depend on your personality and how you have found. You work w you work best.

Um, what I encourage people to do before they go out and put a big investment into, um, you know, some type of education, you know, where we're talking about, you know, five to $10,000 worth of, you know, uh, type of investment into learning something is, is just to go and try a project on your own. So I'm a huge fan of, of project based learning and a lot of the.

Well, a lot of the programs that are out there for free, they have that to an extent. Um, but there's going to be nothing like going out and saying, you know, approaching a friend that might need a website and saying, Hey, can I build you a website? You know? And, and kind of working at it from like the, the end goal in mind.

So going backwards at it, you start with a project and then you learn along the way, because. When you learn with a project, you actually, you actually are able to contextualize the things that you're working in a, in a much more concrete way than if you were to just sit and take tutorials all day. Now, code camps and universities have cotton kind of brightened up to this idea.

Like it's better to just work on projects and to sit in a classroom and have a teacher kind of code in front of you and you take notes on what he's doing. Right. Um, but it it's, it's kind of like. You know the difference between watching an instructor, swimming on a line and then going out in the ocean and being all by yourself, like you're really quickly going to be like, wow, okay.

I actually need to learn some stuff, you know? And so, um, that would be my suggestion for. Step is, is to just go out there and tell folks, tell friends, say, Hey, I'm, I'm learning this stuff. Um, my next step is to kind of take on a project. I'd love to be able to do it for you. I can, I can do it. I can work with your budget, right?

If you have no budget, then I'll, then I'll work with you. And now when you do this, You don't want to work for free, right? You and I would never advocate that, but, um, free doesn't necessarily mean that you are getting money or not getting money right. Free, free could mean that you're doing it. And there's no obligation on the other person's end to the end of the bargain.

Right. So if you, if you do something and say, I'd love to do this for you, um, in return, can you give. Five referrals, right. Of 10, five actual people that you're going to talk to one-on-one suggest me. And then you give me their phone number to follow up with. Right. Um, so that there's, there's a little bit of skin in the game for them.

Right. And, and again, you know, like they don't have budget, but you're giving your time, you're giving your effort. So you know, why not return the favor. So does all that make sense? Yeah,

[00:09:06] Brad: it's kind of like, I do a lot of home rhinos, so just reading how to do the stuff that doesn't really click, but then when you're actually doing okay of acid, that means, so I think kind of the same with it's like, you can learn all you want, but until you actually do it, you're not gonna.

[00:09:26] Chris: Absolutely. I've never known anybody that can just watch it tutorial, and then, then just know how to do stuff. You know, like you, you have to be some type of super genius to be able to do that. And I, I just started, um, doing some like, um, furniture, renovations, you know, and, and I I'm doing the same thing that everybody does.

I just looked up a whole bunch of YouTube stuff, but the moment I started sanding down a table, like the rubber hits. I was like, okay, I have no clue what I'm doing, you know? And, uh, and so it's the same kind of thing, you know, like in, in, if, if you get into it and you do that project and you find yourself going, man, I really wish I had some type of structured system where somebody was teaching me and I had like a mentor that.

Give me insights and tips. Then you might consider going the code camp route or bootcamp or, or university. Um, typically I only recommend that when there is some type of program that it's going to be paid for you, like I have a friend who works for a couple. And he was like, Hey, what should I do? And I'm like, well, tell me about your situation.

He's like, well, my company is going to pay for whatever I sign up for. I'm like, well, then do the bootcamp. You know, like that, that's a situation where like I a hundred percent know that you're going to get out of this, what you're putting into it, because you're really not putting anything into it. You know?

Like you're going to walk away with a certificate. And some projects under your belt that you can then go on and it'll take maybe three months for you to get through that. So that's, that's no time at all. So, so for, for you, I think really the best next step would be you get a project, see how it goes, learn from that.

And then. Um, from that point, decide like, do I want to keep going with projects or do I want to pursue the bootcamp or university route

[00:11:11] Brad: scared to just take on a project. So I don't know where to begin, but I think that's part of the project is you just figure that out as you

[00:11:18] Chris: go. Absolutely. Yeah. You know, and, um, there's tons of resources when it, when it comes to you, you know, what you're talking about is project manage.

And so my suggestion is, would, would be just to, to ask yourself that question, where do I begin? Right there, there needs to be a little bit of pain in the learning, and this is where a lot of people kind of shy away from because they're trying to learn without. You know, and that's, it's a natural, like we're, we're all trying to avoid pain.

We we've been, um, genetically coded to avoid it at all costs. Right. Um, but this is, this is good pain where, you know, like you're working out and your muscles are tearing down and it hurts so they can build, build back up. So, so don't be afraid of the pain. Don't be afraid of being stumped. Don't be afraid of like, just not knowing what to do, but start with you just sitting down and making a list of okay.

If I were a web developer working on this type of project, what would my first step be? And then, and then just kind of keep going through the list. And then when you get stumped or after you've finished that list, then go online and Google other people's processes and see if it lines up with what you're doing.

If there's something that you can learn from it. Um, I've got quite a few episodes on the processes that I take my clients through. Um, and so you're, you're more than welcome to borrow from my. Um, but the best thing to do is rather than having someone think for you, like Googling first is to try to do it on your own first and then Google.

And that's where people get steps backwards as they go, I don't know what to do. I'm going to Google it and then they have this thing, but they haven't really learned. Right. And so you sit down just, just brainstorm right. And have fun with it, you know? Cause that's, that's another part of learning how to do web development.

A tutorial or a university is not going to teach you, is the project management side of things troubleshooting. That's a huge part of it where something should be working. You're like, it should work. Why is this not working? And you having to figure out like, okay, here's, here's the steps to solving the problem.

I need to, you know, fine tune what the problem actually is. I need to learn how to ask Google or right question. All that stuff is invaluable tools that you're going to pick up from having a project-based system. Cool.

Go for it, man. You know what I did was I, I wrote a list of a hundred people that I knew that either needed a website or were connected to somebody that needed a website. And I just started going down the list and saying, you know, tick, tick, tick, tick, do you need. Right. Um, and I didn't make it through my a hundred people before I had somebody say, yes, you know, it didn't, it didn't take very long.

And you know, at the least I would say, cool, no worries. If, if you know anybody that is looking for something, please just keep me in mind and let me know. And that's how I got my first project. So it wasn't for me talking directly to people. It was from a friend of mine who I had talked to about building a website for them who talked to another person who needed a website.

Right. So it's, that's just how it goes. It's, it's all about. Relationships and connections and all that kind of stuff.

[00:14:22] Brad: Networking. Yeah. So is it realistic in 2022 to get a job as a web developer? Or is that. 'cause I've seen, like you see all the ads for all the, just like clicking posts that everyone's doing.

And I don't know if that's still a realistic career to have in mind, or if there's other front end that should be looked at, or even back in, that's kind of how there's so many options that I'm just

[00:14:47] Chris: like, yeah, it's a common concern. There, there is no way that AI is anywhere near the ability to replace a human when it comes to web development.

And even then who's going to be developing the AI, right. It's going to be, it's going to be humans. Um, and so there's always going to be a new. For a human on a project now, um, you, you might have to pivot with, with the market a little bit, you know, like what I say is, is don't put your head in the sand and say, I'm going to be a web designer at all costs.

And I don't care what anybody else says. No, you need to be, you know, it's just like real estate, which, you know, you have to be in tune with where the market is. You know, so that you can make good decisions on, on what you're doing, but there there's more need for web developers now than there ever has been.

And there are always folks who will say, sure, I could go on to Squarespace or there's even some drag and drop apps that, you know, you can make your own, uh, mobile app for, but you know, those folks are not. They're low cost drivers, right? So they're either looking for $0 to pay or they're looking to do it themselves.

They're DOI, DIY folks. Those that's not your audience, right? Your audience is the folks who they don't have time for that. Like they don't want to learn. They're really good at the thing that they're trying to build with their business and they will gladly pay somebody else to do this stuff for them and guaranteed when you step into Squarespace or web flow and you start doing it yourself.

You'll realize it's not nearly as drag and drop as the marketing gurus are saying that it is right. Like there's no way it's kind of funny. It's like drag and drop. Yeah. No, that's not even true. Like absolutely. Yeah. Or if you get anywhere outside of the realm of what their tools enable you to do, then you're going to have to know some code.

Um, And so oddly enough, that's where a lot of web developers start is they try to DIY their own websites and then they learn so much along the way. They're like, Hey, I could do this for a business. You know? And so that's, that's where they start going. I've, I've met tons of people who that's, what they did.

They had their own business, they had to build their website. And now, instead of doing that old business, they're building websites for people, you know, something that is kind of a recurring theme with a lot of people that I talk to is that project based learning is always the best route when it comes to.

To web development, but, but why are we always so hesitant to go that route? Well, plain and simple, it's really hard. You get really frustrated. You, you get stuck sometimes for days trying to figure things out. But, but here's the thing that I want you to know. Number one. You're not alone in your frustration, every single web developer that has come to before you, that has tried to teach themselves how to code or how to be a web designer or freelance or whatever they have faced those same frustrations.

Okay. The point is, is that when you're frustrated, when you struggle, that is like a Petri dish. That's like, like the garden of Eden for actually learning this stuff. It's right. Soil for getting how to become a proper. Web developer. And so there's like that old nursery rhyme song, you know, can't go over it.

Can't go under it must go through it. And I'm sorry. Thank you for enduring. All of the nursery rhymes that are being reprogrammed into my brain because of my toddler who forces me to sing and play guitar. Too old nursery rhymes. You're just going to get those as well. Okay. The point is you've got to go through it.

That's the only way that you're going to build those web development muscles and learn how to become successful in a tech career. So don't get discouraged. Keep going. You're gonna. It out, well, next week we've got another awesome episode coming at you. It's going to be a lot of fun, just like it always is.

So make sure to subscribe to the self-made web designer podcast. So you don't miss any episode that happens or drops or whatever it is. The cool kids are saying when something new comes out, what is that? I don't know. All right, until then keep working hard and don't forget if you don't quit, you win.

Hands on a laptop to symbolize how to get started with web development


Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

Every week, I write an article and release a podcast episode. Sign up if you want to get notified when that happens.



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