How To Get Your First Web Development Client


It was 2004. I was 17 years old. I had enrolled in a “Graphic Arts” class in Central California. As a part of the class, I had learned to use Photoshop and expanded on my knowledge of Dreamweaver. Near the end of the semester, shortly before my 18th birthday, I got my first web development client. The El Dorado County Democratic Party needed a website and one of their members asked if a friend and I would be interested in building the site. We jumped at the opportunity and that began my entrance into the world of web development.

That first site was $300, if I recall correctly. It was a lot of work to build, stretching my then limited knowledge of web development, and challenging me in more ways than I had imagined. It was fun, though, and I was ready for more.

My second web development client came shortly after. Our local newspaper, the El Dorado County Mountain Democrat, had published a column I wrote, teaching folks how to avoid viruses delivered by email. A gentleman contacted me after reading the column and asked if I built websites. He worked at UC Davis, a California University, and needed a website to represent a school project. We worked out the details and I began my second development project.

Since then, I have worked with over a hundred different clients (I haven’t done an exact count yet), with projects of many different shapes and sizes. I have learned a lot over the years, through a lot of pain and a lot of success.

For the first client, I was the right person in the right place at the right time. The second client was a lot more work. From those two clients and the many that have followed after, I’ve learned a lot about getting new business.

Your First Web Development Client

So you’re wanting to get started in web development, but you’re not sure where to begin. The good news is that there are three universal principles I’ve learned that, diligently applied, will lead to your first client.

The Three Principles

  1. Making Yourself Available
    People need to know that you build websites. If they don’t know, how can they ask? First, you tell the people you know. “I’ve started making websites! If you know of anyone who needs a website, let me know!” Keep it simple and get the word out. Next, when you meet someone new, let them know! If you’ve already got a job doing something else, say, “I work at so and so.. and I do web development on the side!” Get business cards with your name and contact information and share them with friends, family, and folks you meet.
  2. Give Value Like Crazy
    This has been the key to my success. I wrote my first WordPress tutorial back in 2006 and I gave it everything I had at the time, with no strings attached. I wrote articles, gave advice, and made it a habit to share what I knew with others. As people read my tutorials, some of them would contact me and ask me to do work for them. I built my first business around the value that I had given away. As you give, conclude with a call to action and invite them to contact you if you can be of service. The more you give the more opportunity you have to reach someone who will ask for your services.
  3. Answer The Question
    As you make yourself available and give value like crazy, potential clients will start asking for your help. When they ask, say yes! Make sure that you focus on a “win” for your client and yourself. This means that you start by asking for a budget or by telling them upfront what you charge. If they don’t have a budget, feel them out, “$500? $1000? $2000? $3000?” They’ll let you know how much they’re comfortable with. From there, determine if their budget and your services are a match. Once you’ve worked out a win, pour yourself into giving that first client the best experience possible.

Getting Started

Now, let’s go get that first client! You’ve got 30 days. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Make The Decision – Decide that you are a web developer and you are committed to learning and mastering the trade and providing the best service and experience that you can possibly give. Write it down where you can see it every day.
  • Build Your Website – Create a website on WordPress (learn why I recommend WordPress) using a pre-built premium theme. Offer it as an example of the types of work you can provide.
  • Spread The Word – Contact at least 10 people closest to you in the next 5 days. Keep it simple. Just let them know that you are now doing web development and that if they know of anyone (including themselves) in need of a website that you would be thrilled to be of service.
  • Give Value – In the first 10 days, figure out a way to contribute something of value. Here are a few specific ideas. If none of them are a match for you, spend some time thinking and come up with something:
    • Contact your local newspaper with an article outline and work with them to get it published.
    • Offer to build a website for a local ministry at no cost with no strings attached. When the work is done and the client is thrilled, ask for an endorsement and referrals.
    • Write a tutorial explaining how you built the site for that ministry so that others can do the same for theirs (it might seem counterintuitive, but it works).
    • Teach a free workshop at local library, community center, or church on the basics of starting a new blog on WordPress.
    • Give your time, no strings attached, sharing ideas and suggestions with business owners on how a website could help their business.
  • Report Back – Use the comments below and tell me how you’re doing. If you’ve got questions, let me know! If you get stuck, keep moving forward!
  • Stick To It – Review your decision each day. If you’re a believer, pray earnestly about this new endeavor. Do something to move towards that goal of your first client each day.

New! How I Can Help

I’ve decided to offer a free course called “Four Weeks To Your First Client“. I’m developing the course to take you in greater detail through each of the steps I’ve outlined abovewith particular attention given to the “Build Your Website” section and “Give Value”. There are no strings attached. The course is completely free and my goal is simple. If I can help you get your first client, then you will more than likely want to buy my premium course and let me help you go beyond that first client. Ready to get started? Scroll up and fill out the form just above this post or visit the course page and I’ll send the first lesson your way!

27 thoughts on “How To Get Your First Web Development Client

  1. Matt

    Great post Jonathan!

    I remember getting my first client, the initial intimidation and subsequent delight once the project was completed and I got paid!

    Looking forward to more posts like this. Keep them coming! :)

    1. Jonathan Wold

      Thank you, Matt! Intimidation is a good way to describe some of those initial experiences, especially when you know you’re about to get in over your head! Those are some of the experiences that taught us the most, though!

  2. Joshua

    Hey Jonathan. I think this is a great idea. I remember when I first started web development the feeling of finding my first client was rather overwhelming. This will be a lot of hard work, but I look forward to seeing how it develops. Keep it up!

  3. Ahnaf

    Thanks Jonathan, you are really good writer. I like your strait forward writing.
    This article is really helpful for people who trying to get their first client.

  4. Jessica

    Hi Jonathan! :)

    I was thrilled to find out you’re in Idaho – I am too! :) Are you near Coeur d’Alene? I’m trying to figure out how to get my web “devsigning” business going, and stumbled across this article. This is going in my bookmarks! Thank you so much for writing this.

    1. Jonathan Wold

      Howdy, Jessica! My family and I are in Idaho and thoroughly loving it (it helps that we like snow). We do most of our shopping in Coeur d’Alene and are planning to move closer this Spring – We’ll have to meet up! I’ve been thinking about starting a local development focused group.

  5. Phil

    A good read. I am at this stage at the moment, I built a website for a friend and with two weeks had 2 job offers, all new ground to me so I found this very helpful.

  6. Blanca

    I want to get into building websites, I’ve always loved computers and toyed with the idea of going to coding school, but I’m wondering if that’s necessary, if not, what can I do to learn how to build websites and to improve mine, I use as I have not figured our or have enough knowledge to use without trouble. any help you have would be awesome!!! Thank you!

    1. Jonathan Wold

      Hi Blanca! Thank you for stopping by! Going to a traditional (offline) coding school, while it can be helpful, isn’t necessary. You can learn what you need through the Internet and through experience.

      That said, there are some great online coding schools that you might find helpful. has some great resources on learning WordPress, as do several other sites (I’ll work on a list sometime).

      The best experience, though, comes from getting that first client and putting your best into serving them – You’ll learn the most that way!

  7. Nidhi

    Hi Jonathan

    Hope you are well. Great article. Inspiring and motivational.

    As I read it today, I already have a client and it is the beginning stage of discussions with her. I am trying to understand what she needs from the website and other similar things.

    While I am at it, I am confused on what to charge her for the same. The website is going to be a gallery for my client’s and her team-mates’ artistic work. They will be able to upload and document their 300 slides each projects through this website.

    I do not want to scare her by asking a high price and on the same time, I want to get paid for the effort I put in.

    I have already done personal work on WordPress site development. Any pointers shall be of help.

    Thank you in advance.


    1. Jonathan Wold

      Hi, Nidhi! Thank you for stopping by! That’s a great question. I’m going to go ahead and send you an email with some thoughts on pricing specific to your situation. Look for it in your inbox.

  8. sam

    Hi Jonathan,

    This is a very good article.

    I don’t know how to start pricing for my clients. if you could help me with a draft on how to price websites, I will be very grateful.


  9. Alistair

    I’m currently looking to re-design an ‘ageing’ website for a local church free of charge to hopefully spread the word.

    Another tip for guys is I recommend looking for local “Bed & Breakfasts” or “Guest Houses”. A lot of them have rather old or poorly designed ‘free’ website templates which look horrible.

    I send about 5 emails per day, and usually get one response. Try and get on the same level as them. They have something in common with you. You both provide a service!

  10. Sam Fitz

    A month seems a bit long to get a first client. Can we be a little more ambitious than that?

    I have been learning WordPress, HTML, CSS, PHP and Javascript and Photoshop using TeamTreehouse, Lynda, and various YouTube videos. The only trick now really is to market my talent effectively.

    I’d like to earn $3,000 my first month, and I believe this is realistic. Do you have any special hints or advice for someone more ambitious like myself? I really like the idea of offering a free site to a charity or religious organization and then asking for referrals.

  11. Anthony

    Hi Jonathan,

    I am a believer and I started building website about 3 years ago. I have never done it before, but the Lord led me to build one for the church and it came out great. Like you I have a wife and kids but I am working part time and wife takes on most of the bills so it is hard for us at this time. I really love the info that I recieved and hope that I will make money soon. Thanks and God bless.


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