20 Lessons I've Learned As A 15 Year Old Web Developer

Web Development May 06, 2020

Being a web developer is difficult, stressful, confusing, and exhausting. But, it's also very exciting, interesting, and meaningful. I've learned many lessons during my journey of becoming a web developer at a young age. Here are 20 lessons I learned that will help you be a better web developer and more successful in life in general.

Let's get started.

Not Taking Enough Breaks Leads To Burnout

You might not be taking enough breaks. Not taking enough breaks can lead to burnout and feeling unmotivated to continue working. Simply get up every hour and stretch, get something to eat, drink water.

Giving your brain time to rest can help you figure out the solution to the problem you were trying to solve. You'll think more clearly when you take breaks every 1-2 hours.

Not Others Asking For Help

If you don't ask others for help, then you're missing out on learning and improving. Not asking others for help when you don't know the answer or just aren't sure is a great way to learn and grow.

Many web developers might think that asking for help makes them look and sound stupid, but in reality, it makes you look interested and confident.

Asking others for help (your client, manager, coworker) helps you prevent future mistakes and helps you become a better web developer. Not asking for help causes you to waste time both in learning and in the workplace.

Having other web developers around you to answer questions is even better than having a tutorial or book. They can directly answer your questions and help you actually understand the concept.

Dirty Code & Unit Testing

Write your code in a way that's visually clean, secure, and efficient. This applies to any language or framework. You might have to do extra research to figure out a way to write clean code.

clean code

Don't repeat yourself in code, it will save you time, effort, and is much easier for other web developers to work with. You should also minimize your CSS, JS and images.

Make sure to pay attention to the performance of your code. Finally, test your code. Unit testing prevents you from running into future issues in your code and application. Take the time to write code correctly to begin with.

When You Stop Being A "Student"

Always think of yourself as a student, because there aren't any developers that know EVERYTHING. If you stop learning and reading, you'll fall behind.

Even if your job doesn't require you to learn new things, you should definitely still take the time everyday to learn something new. This will increase the chance of you getting hired at another job if you ever lose your job.

Bad Work/Life Balance

Programming takes up lots of time, things are always changing and you have to learn more. Instead of thinking you're not productive enough, set a time limit to how long you will code everyday.

desk with hard workers always working

Make sure to spend quality time free from your work with your family and friends. Not only will they inspire and motivate you to work harder, but you might also solve the problem you couldn't fix before without even using your computer.

Have interesting hobbies that make you happy, and don't worry so much about the future. What's most important is to take care of your physical and mental health.

Once that's taken care of, you must allocate quality time to spend with your family and friends everyday. Finally, you should then work hard and make websites or applications that make the world a better place.

Conflicts With Other Developers

Teams can be difficult at times because some developers can be rude and angry at you. However, if you let what other people say and do affect you, your life will be much more difficult and stressful than it should be.

Quickly resolve any potential conflict in your work environment by calmly saying that you'll take care of it. By putting the responsibility on your hands, you won't have to worry about another member of your team being rude to you and not getting the task done (which can lead to more conflicts).

If someone on your team won't listen to your reasoning, you could go to your manager. However, only do this if it's a major problem and it is preventing you from getting your work done. If your work is being severely impacted, bring it up to a manager.

Not Learning From Your Mistakes

As a web developer, you're going to make MANY mistakes. There's nothing wrong with that, but, there is a problem if you keep making mistakes and you're not learning from them. To learn from your mistakes, figure out what the cause of the mistake was.

person made a mistake

Then, figure out if there can be a process put in place to prevent you from making the mistake again. If the mistake was found sooner, could you have prevented yourself from making the mistake? Learning web development is difficult, but it becomes easier when you learn from your mistakes.

Make sure that you know why you made the mistake, how to prevent it from happening next time, and then learn from it and move on.

You Can't Take Constructive Criticism

Most of the time when working with others, people are genuinely trying to help you and teach you how to solve a problem. You should learn to spot the difference between constructive and destructive criticism.

Taking other people's constructive criticism is one of the best ways to learn and improve in web development. You'll become a much better developer if you apply this advice.

Up until recently, I had a tough time taking constructive criticism. Even though the harsh criticism I received sometimes was helpful, I took it the wrong way.

However, I knew something had to change. I needed to get better, fast. So, after every piece of criticism I received (constructive or not), I put my ego aside and learned from it. When I started to take criticism positively, I significantly improved in front-end web development, how I write content, and learn new things.

Taking Risks Is Difficult But Critical To Your Success

Taking risks is...risky. You don't know what will happen once you make a risky decision. Your life could change for better or worse. Taking risks has been a big part in my web development journey. There are many times where I can't decide what I should pursue next.

However, I found that taking calculated risks is how to solve this problem. You have to know what will probably happen if you do something or plan on doing something in the future.

Once you know the best option, pick that option. So, let's say you're trying to decide what job offer to say yes to. One of them pays more but doesn't have the freedom of working from home. The other pays a less but gives you the freedom of working from home, and learning new things from your manager. Which job will you choose?

You're Giving Up Too Soon

I am guilty of making this mistake in the past myself. This happens to the best of us. Frustration is inevitable in programming, but if you give up, everything you did was for nothing. Before you quit, find all the possible ways you can solve the problem that's in front of you.

monkey giving up too soon

Of course, some projects you work on can be VERY difficult. There are projects that should be given up on. However, you should ask for help, search for all routes, try something different, use a different technology, taking a long break, and putting the project aside can significantly help you complete the project before giving up. Success is probably right around the corner.

Once, I was working on a portfolio for my 1st client, and I couldn't decide if I should use Python Flask for the backend or just hook up the static HTML website with Facebook.

After 2 days of stressful coding and decision making, I decided to hook up the static HTML website with Facebook. It was the easiest option for me at the time, and I'm still glad I chose that option.

The end result didn't need to have a backend with Python Flask, or even a backend at all. My client only needed a simple and static website that showcased his photos. This is one of the biggest lessons I've learned during my web development journey. Giving up too soon isn't an option. Figure out what options you have, and choose the best one.  

Being Arrogant And A Know It All

Not only does being arrogant make it very difficult for other people you're working with, it also makes it difficult for you. If you think you know everything, you won't actively listen to others to learn more. Put your ego aside, and be respectful and don't talk down to ANYONE.

The consequences of being arrogant are huge. Not only might you get fired, you'll also lose the respect of others. After years of me trying my hardest to get rid of this bad habit, I finally got past it. Ever since I stopped being arrogant, I learn much more than I did before, and retain what I learn.

people being productive and talking

Communicating properly with anyone is critical to solving complex problems and getting a lot more done. You'll also feel better if you communicate without anger and stress.

Not Focusing On The End Goal

I have a huge passion for web development, building things, and writing awesome content. Despite my passion, there are times when web development can be stressful and even a little boring.

In these moments, I focus on the end goal. My end goal is to be financially independent so I can travel the world, meet awesome people, and make cool things. What's your end goal?

You must focus on the end goal so that when you're going through difficult projects, you can get through them and feel motivated while doing so.

Having A Passion: Working On Interesting & Challenging Projects

When you work on interesting projects, you probably have fun doing it. The opposite can be true if you're working on a challenging project. This is why you should merge them together.

You should find difficult projects that interest you. For example, I enjoy building tools that help other people. However, building tools with programming is challenging, to say the least.

As Steve Jobs once said,

"You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. if you're not passionate enough from the start, you'll never stick it out."
steve jobs giving a speech

This is true for everything in life. When you work on projects that you're passionate about, the difficulties you'll face along the way will be manageable because of how much you love doing what you do.

Learn, Do, Learn

To be successful in anything in life, you must first learn. Whether it's how to debug a Javascript error message, or how to build a complex application in Python Flask. You must first learn.

Once you have a solid understanding of a concept, then you must build projects using what you learned. After you have built that project, you must learn how to improve it. Learn, do, learn.

Not Optimizing Your Websites With SEO

Up until the beginning of 2020, I didn't even know about SEO, let alone using it day-to-day to rank my websites in search engines. I've learned that your business needs SEO because of the long-term gains and traffic it will bring.

You need to focus on the long-term over the short-term to grow your business consistently and organically. Optimize your website with on-page SEO, or hire someone to do it. You should also hire someone to write in-depth content that will help your online business grow and get more traffic to your website without spending any money on ads.

my video is ranking in google

You Must Charge For Your Work, Even If You're New To This Stuff

Making amazing websites for people for free was one of the BIGGEST mistakes I've made in my web developer life. You must not make this mistake. When you get hired to build someone a website (even if it's simple), you must charge for it.

If you are offering someone your valuable skills that they don't have, you must charge them for your work. After all, you're offering them value, and when you have a valuable skillset, you charge for it. I talk about this more in detail in my guide of how to learn web development.

A collection of US Dollar bills make an interesting financial wallpaper.

It doesn't matter if you are building a 1 page website with only HTML & CSS, you still charge for your work. Now, figuring out how much you charge can be tricky. You must know how much your skills are worth. You can do this by finding the average salary of what type of services you're offering.

Not Taking A Step Back

Working hard is necessary to being successful in anything worthwhile and meaningful. But, you need to take breaks. Like many others, I take a 25 hour break from using electronics every week, once a week. This significantly helps me not get burned out, and makes me enjoy what I do much more.

Taking a step back gives me an opportunity to think about what I accomplished, and how I could have done it better. I noticed that ever since I've been taking a step back every week, my entire weeks have been much more productive.

Not only have I got better in web development, my grades in school have significantly improved. Taking a step back from work and electronics 1 day every week to think about what you've done and how could do it better will help you be more productive during the entire week.

Reward Yourself For Your Hard Work & Achievements

After finishing a project, big or small, reward yourself for your hard work by doing something fun. You can get yourself your favorite dessert, go for a bike ride, or watch an epic video of a guy beatboxing. This will help you stay motivated when working on difficult projects because of the reward you know you'll get once you finish them.

cat working very hard

Teaching Others What You've Learned

Through your experience of learning web development, building projects, and working for others, you'll learn a lot. Teaching others what you've learned is a great way to help other web developers get better.

You'll also help your brain understand what you've learned on a practical level when you teach it to other people. This is what my blog and podcast is all about. It's about everything I've learned through learning web development at a young age, overcoming challenges, and working on difficult projects.

Have Your Own Website Showcasing Your Work & Knowledge

If you don't have your own website, you're missing out. Having your own website that showcases what you've built, accomplished, and learned is critical to being a successful entrepreneur in the digital world. By showcasing your work publicly, you could get hired at your dream job.

By showcasing your accomplishments, you are building credibility in your industry; and by teaching others what you've learned, you're growing a loyal audience that will consume your valuable content whenever you produce it.

Wrapping Things Up

To conclude, you've learned that you should take breaks every 1-2 hours, ask others for help, always think of yourself as a student, have a work/life balance, learn from your mistakes, take risks, teach others what you've learned, and more.

Now I'd like to hear from you.

What piece of advice do you want to try out first?

Are you going to focus on taking breaks every 1-2 hours?

Or maybe you want to get started by taking calculated risks?

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment, or tweeting at me.

Josh Ternyak

Hi, I am Josh Ternyak. I am a front-end web developer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota who builds websites and talks about how he does it.

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