10 Life-Changing Reasons You Should Learn to Code
Laurence Bradford had a history degree, a passion for Asian travel, and no job. Code changed everything.
Upon college graduation back in May 2012, I didn’t have a sense of relief. Instead, it finally dawned on me that as a history major, I was doomed. I had relatively few career options. Either I had to switch paths, learn new skills, or go back to school for a graduate degree.
I began teaching myself CSS because I really wanted to change the design on my blog. This led me to start learning Bootstrap (a responsive, front-end framework) — because my WordPress theme at the time was built on Bootstrap. (To this day, I still use Bootstrap frequently!)
After that, I buckled down and began to learn more intermediate and advanced concepts. This was mostly due to the fact I was able to attend in-person classes and workshops that were available in my area.
Learning how to build websites and now small web applications has changed my life for the better. It has not only impacted my professional journey, but also aspects of my personal life — all in ways I never imagined when I first began tinkering on WordPress two years ago.
Here are ten ways that coding skills and learning how to build websites (and now more advanced web applications) has changed my life (without needing a computer science degree).
1. I Have Freedom to Make My Own Schedule
This is probably the most cited benefit of those who leave the traditional 9-5 cubicle job. When you work for yourself, as a freelancer or business owner, you have the ability to create your own schedule instead of having to be at the office at specific times.
Coding allows me to work remotely and as a freelancer, which means I can make my own schedule and have some control over when, where, and what time I have meetings and deadlines.
In the past, I had to be at X place at X time – Monday thru Friday. Nowadays, I love having the option to take a day off mid-week, but then make up for it on a Saturday.
2. I Earn More, But Work Fewer Hours
I am still a relative newbie in the web development space with about two years of experience, so I am not yet charging premium rates.
Nonetheless, many developers with more real-world experience can easily charge over $100 an hour for freelance or contract work.
When it comes to hourly rates, the sky’s the limit. (I’ve seen web-related consultants charging a lot more than $100 an hour. Of course, they typically have 10+ years experience and a portfolio with high-profile testimonials to back it up.
In any case, even for me, the more tech skills and experience I acquire, the more I earn per hour.
Because of this, I am now able to work fewer hours a week, but still take home a comparable amount to what I would be at another job.
3. I Can Say “No” to Job Offers
I recall not too long ago clawing for part-time jobs, projects, and assignments as a new web developer. I took anything I could get, even if the compensation was less than ideal.
However, as I have become stronger with web development, this is no longer the case.
Nowadays I can just say, “No, thanks” to uninteresting job offers without worry or hesitation because I know there will be other opportunities that come my way.
4. People Come to ME Asking if I Can Work for THEM
Who would have thought that me, a girl from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, would have people around the world sending inquiries, asking if I’d like to join their team?
The truth is: I am far from the exception.
Having recruiters, HR people, companies, etc. reach out with work propositions all the time to developers and software engineers.
In fact, I have seen spelled out on several more established people’s online resumes or LinkedIn accounts that they are “not seeking work at this time.”
Developers, computer programmers, and software engineers are so bombarded with work requests that they end up specifying that they are not looking for any new opportunities and ask not to be contacted. Seriously — in what other industry does this happen?!
5. I Have Extra Time to Pursue Interests
Along with being able to work fewer hours a week comes the opportunity to spend more time on other things: like hobbies, passions or family time.
With this free time, I have created a blog geared towards beginner programmers learning how to code. (Fitting, right!?)
As it turns out, this site has brought me so much joy, not to mention other opportunities, like getting to meet new people and other work-related ones.
Nonetheless, if I didn’t have this spare time, I wouldn’t be able to work on the site. And if I didn’t have the site, I don’t know where I would be today. As dramatic as it sounds, I can’t imagine my life without that blog.
6. I Never Have to Deal with the Tedious Online Job Application Process
Coinciding with unasked job offers, I now get to avoid the dreaded online application process.
While I am all about networking — having a solid LinkedIn profile, and so forth — I dread the laborious online job application. You know, the ones that ask a ton of questions, involve uploading resumes and other documents, and can take a lengthy amount of time.
Fortunately, with more skills and experience gained, the more this becomes a distant memory, which I could not be happier about.
7. I Can (and Do) Work Remotely
When you work with technology, there are more opportunities to work online, or remotely. It doesn’t matter where you are — on vacation, at home, or at Starbucks — as long as you’re doing your assignment.
There’s no need to move to Silicon Valley to do software development at a startup — there are plenty of tech jobs you can do anywhere if you have real-world experience and the right technical skills.
Without these employable skills, namely HTML, CSS, and being able to build WordPress sites, I never would have been able to work remotely.
8. It’s Easy for Me to Make Side Project Dreams into Reality
If you’re anything like me, you probably always have new amazing ideas that you’d like to act on fast.
Knowing how to build a website or prototype a web app allows me to do just that, without hiring a software developer, which also saves money.
This alone, building side projects for real-world experience, was one of the core reasons I began dedicating more time to learning how to build custom web apps, not just making WordPress or eCommerce sites.
I’d guess that 98% of the sites we use day in and out could be classified as web apps. Most blogs, or news sites, and eCommerce sites are web apps. However, content management systems (or CMS) like WordPress or Magento (which does eCommerce) make it easy for even the novice to build a site on said platforms. (FYI: there are tons of CMS’s out there.)
However, as wonderful as these CMS’s are, they do come with limitations. More than just limitations, many come with bloat — basically, a ton of features and components that you may not even need.
A simple web application that I have been trying to build recently is similar to an online quiz. Basically, anyone can visit the site and go through a quiz where at the end results would be given based on their responses.
Depending on which definition you consult, this scenario may or may not be classified as a web application.
Nonetheless, simply adding user accounts to this quiz example would definitely make it a web app because now, information and quiz results for each user will be stored on a database. In the future, a user can come back to the site, login and retrieve previous results. How’s that for problem-solving?
9. I Am Part of a Top Secret Club (a.k.a., the Tech Community)
Knowing how to build my own stuff is awesome.
But you know what else is amazing? Being able to understand technical conversations going on around me. It’s like being part of some secret society. Plus, it is very reassuring of my progress.
For example, a few months ago I was walking near MIT in Cambridge. There were two guys behind me, clearly MIT students, discussing the difference between building some sort of software application with Python versus another language, and I actually understood the gist of the conversation.
Me, comprehending a technical discussion between two MIT students. Who would have thought?
It can be so frustrating learning to code. At that moment I felt accomplished because it proved that I truly had learned something. despite all the other days where I think, “I am so lost!”
Being able to grasp technical conversations allows me to actively partake in discussions at local tech meet-ups and similar settings. Which in itself has multiple benefits — including potential new job opportunities.
10. I Have a Sense of Self-Reliance and Empowerment
Overall, leveling up my tech skills has allowed me to obtain a greater sense of self-reliance. I feel like I can tame the wilds on the web all on my own.
Furthermore, after building a website or application — even a simple one — there is always a feeling of accomplishment.
Even reaching a pivotal point on a project or overcoming a problem with my problem-solving skills that has been taking several days to solve can bring on that feeling of achievement.
It’s All Pretty Empowering
Everyone has different reasons for wanting to learn how to build websites or applications. When I first decided to dedicate time to learning HTML, CSS, and other basics, it was primarily to earn more money.
I saw all of these web development jobs in high demand. I also noticed digital skills listed across all sorts of job descriptions. It made sense to get a hold on these desired skills.
However, as I’ve evolved, it’s become much more than earning extra money.
Today, my main motivation to keep gaining skills is not to earn more. Instead, I am inspired by creating my own websites/applications, learning from new experiences, problem-solving, and helping others.
That’s exactly what I get to do every day.
And I couldn’t be happier.
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Laurence is a self-taught freelance web developer, focusing primarily on front-end technologies. In her spare time she manages learntocodewith.me, a blog geared to beginners teaching themselves how to code. Laurence is addicted to side projects and travel.