This was a question we were emailed as part of #AskMeeumAnything.
If you’ve got a tech (or non-tech) question – just email us at email@example.com and we’ll answer them here…
Is building websites something I could start as a side job? I’ve got a career at the moment (nothing to do with technology) but am interested in building websites.
I’ve played around a bit with Squarespace and have looked at some online HTML courses and like what I see. Is it the kind of thing you can ease into over a year or two before trying to switch careers or do you think I need to go at it 100%?
Absolutely. The side hustle is how most people get into web development, and is exactly how I got my start.
I learned to code from my side hustle
I used to play in bands and also ran a not-too-shabby touring agency. There’s a lot of time to kill between soundcheck and gig time when you’re on tour, so I started tinkering with code. It wasn’t long before I was hooked and had built a few sites for myself and then started making some money on the side building websites for other people too.
Even when I got good enough to get a ‘real’ job in IT, I still kept up the side hustle, as it forced me to learn more than just what I had to on the job. Keeping up with freelance work also allows you to work on jobs that you enjoy, as sometimes the day job isn’t always going to provide the stimulation you need.
Take your time
You don’t need to rush into a career change if you don’t want to. Play and practice is the way to learn.
I started mucking around with coding in the late 90’s, did some freelance stuff in the early 2000’s and didn’t get my first full-time coding job until 2006. I will say I learned more in the first week of my new job than I did in the previous decade of fooling around, but even so, there is no rush if you already have a job you like.
Use off the shelf content management systems
Working with software like Squarespace, WordPress and Shopify can be an excellent way to learn as well. Some of my best early work was working in existing WordPress themes, and then changing the code around to make it into something entirely different.
There are plenty of resources and workshops to get the hang of HTML and CSS, to then start producing creations of your own.
Please note that if you are looking at using software mentioned above, make sure that it gives you access to the code so you can edit it freely. Most do, some don’t. I generally don’t recommend Wix for this reason.
There is no barrier to entry to start coding
Most code editors are free, and excellent. VS Code is my current fave, although Atom, Sublime Text and Brackets are all excellent (and free) as well.
All the browsers you could possibly need to test in are also free.
And whether you use git or ftp to get your site on the internet, it doesn’t matter because all those tools are free as well.
Add to that that virtual playgrounds like CodePen and JSBin are also free.
If it’s something you want to pursue, there’s no reason not to.
Great question – keep ’em coming.