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On Being a Self-Taught Web Developer

I get a lot of emails from people who are trying to teach themselves how to be web developers.

Sometimes, they’re designers who want to have the ability to build their own designs instead of relying on a developer to do it for them. More often, someone is changing careers entirely.

We’re amazingly fortunate to work in a profession where you can do this. There’s not a lot of self-taught lawyers or doctors out there. Most front-end developers I meet are self-taught, including me.

It’s still a bit terrifying

When you’re teaching yourself, and you see all the amazing things people around you are building, it can feel a bit intimidating.

I remember feeling like I didn’t deserve to “be here” because I don’t have a Computer Science degree. Then I learned most of the people I look up to don’t either.

I’m 100% self-taught as well. I was an HR guy before this and learned web development by modifying my WordPress theme (and then later building one from scratch).

But… my code sucks!

Here’s the thing: your code will always be terrible. Always!

The code I wrote in my first two years is complete garbage. The code I wrote last year is a lot better, but still embarrasses current me. I’ll feel the same way about today’s code a year from now.

The best way to get better at code is to write more it.

Code a lot. Make mistakes. Fix them. Repeat. I think I had about half a dozen JavaScript projects done before I felt mildly skilled, and then got some feedback on all of these things I’d done wrong and went and made updates. Even today, I get bug reports for stupid things I wasn’t aware of.

You can absolutely do this.

You will feel like a fraud and a failure for a while. And then you won’t.