By Daniela Baker

6 Extra Skills Every PHP Developer Should Have

By Daniela Baker

PHP development is hot right now, but there are also lots of people in PHP development. If you want to make it as an independent PHP developer you’ve got to know more than just PHP. Here are six other essential skills you need to succeed as a PHP developer.

1. JavaScript, HTML, and CSS

It isn’t enough these days to just know how to write PHP code. If you want to start a PHP business, you’ve also got to know how to properly code websites using HTML and CSS as well. Chances are likely that in your projects you’ll have to fix mistakes that designers make, so you’ll need to know how to do that – and how to do it well. If you don’t know these other languages along with PHP, you’re going to be outbid for many jobs by contractors who are much more well-versed in web development than you are.

2. Knowing What You Don’t Know

As important as it is to make sure you can do as much as possible towards developing websites, it’s also important to know what you don’t know. This is a skill some new PHP developers seem to forget when starting out in a market where it’s hard to find entry-level PHP development jobs. You’ve got to understand how to read proposal requests and how to put in bids on jobs that you can do competently. Otherwise, you’ll end up over committing yourself and damaging your reputation in the long run.

3. Business Communication

As a freelance or contract PHP developer, you’ll be the one communicating with all your clients. Learn how to use a phone to ensure that email messages are received, and learn how to communicate like a professional. Lots of techie types have trouble with basic business communication (which is probably why they choose to work at home by themselves in the first place). If this is you, go take a class on business communication, or talk to a professional about how you can improve these skills.


4. Business Finance

Again, as a one-man (or woman) business, you’ll be managing your own business’ finances. You don’t necessarily have to learn how to do your own taxes, which can be tricky for independent contractors, but you should certainly learn how to manage the day-to-day finances of your business. This includes learning how to set a fair rate for yourself based on the market rates and the taxes that you’ll have to pay out of your business income.

5. Project Management

As an independent contractor, you won’t have anyone over your shoulder begging you to get a project done by a certain deadline. You’ll also most likely be juggling multiple projects and multiple clients at any given time, so make sure you know how to manage your own time, write proposals, and manage the scope of your projects so that you can commit and deliver and build a great reputation for yourself.

6. Networking

Networking with other freelance PHP designers – and web development freelancers in other niches – can help you find more jobs and get referrals. Use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to network with other developers, as well as with clients you work for or have worked for in the past. Networking skills can be invaluable in a competitive job market.

According to – one of the leading freelance sites for web developers and freelancers in many other niches – 2011 was a record year for online freelance work. Online hiring has more than doubled since 2010, and the number of businesses who are hiring on Elance more than doubled, as well. That spells good things for PHP professionals who have the skills they need to succeed.

These six skills are essential for most freelancers, but if you’re a PHP developer, they may be even more important. Web development is an extremely competitive field, and breaking in at the lower levels is tough. Once you’ve gained these skills and gotten your career rolling, though, you can enjoy exciting jobs, flexibility, and great pay as an independent PHP developer.

Image via Dmitriy Shironosov /

  • You’re making valid points, but I think you’re asking a lot here. It is remarkable even to be good at two of the skills you list here (after 10 years of javascript I still won’t claim I’ve mastered it), let alone all six. I’d say focus on your strengths and manage your weaknesses. A friend of mine (who freelances as a PHP developer) is terrible at selling himself but hired a company to do the contracting for him. Another friend of mine invested his personal time in a SaaS solution for a customer and is now getting started with unrolling it for other customers as well. He apparently didn’t care about free weekends and effectively very low-hour pay, to reap uncertain benefits in the future.
    I myself gave up on trying to be good at everything and joined a company to specialize more (through certification and training), increasing your market value but reducing flexibility.

  • great post!
    i agree with all of this, but from my experience, u need to know the basics of database management too. mysql is a must, if u can manage other DBs, great. u also have to know a bit about servers.

  • I would actually say that some of these only apply to a freelance PHP developer.
    I would suggest SSH, Basic Server configuration and MySQL are way more important than Business Finance and Communication.

  • oddis

    communication is important? man, you are sure freelancer and not static php programmer..

  • Joe

    I strongly agree with the point “Knowing What You Don’t Know”, as this applies to not only for the PHP programers but in any field, learning of new curves is essential.

  • You forgot mention Database like MySQL. It’s really required and most of the programmer i know, they ignored it.

  • Kamaljit Laishram

    This is great article.
    Really Nice.I enjoy it.

  • Staef

    I like that you write articles keep it up great work, mostly. Love the effort!

    This however was useless in two ways. First of all the subjects are so fuzzy they are barely skills. Secondly saying that “every” php-developer should have these “skills” must surely be joke. because as I’m sure you’re aware of most developers are more concerned with writing good code than doing business.

    But perhaps if you set up your own business as a strict PHP-consultant, Then yes perhaps this could be of some use.

    Thanks anyway! :)

  • The keyword here is “extra”. Yes, writing good code should be your top priority, but like I said, there’s lots of competition so you need to distinguish yourself from the crowd.

  • 1. JavaScript/HTML/CSS
    I’m amazed at how many php developers i’ve worked with that don’t know a lick of css and only the basics of html. I actually had one tell me “I’m a developer, not a designer”. Odd philosophy, I guess.

Get the latest in PHP, once a week, for free.