Working in Thailand Series: How to be a Web Developer in Thailand

web-developer-thailand

The following post is a chapter from our book, Working in Thailand: How to Ditch the Desk, Board the Flight, and Land the Job, written by Patrick Taylor and Karsten Aichholz.

Each Thursday over the next few months we’ll be releasing one chapter for free. If you don’t want to wait for us to release each chapter, you can pick up the book in its entirety on Amazon.

The Web Developer

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes by Alec Peeples, web developer.

Web development is an increasingly common career pursuit for those keen to work in Thailand.

It requires skills that can be, for the most part, self-taught—all that’s required is a laptop, an internet connection, a few tutorials and dedication.

web-developer thailand

It’s work that is always available—after all, the vast majority of businesses of reasonable size require a web address, which in turn requires maintenance, which in turn requires coders.

Best of all, it’s work that doesn’t require a lot, or even any, office space, and can be done from the comfort of a hammock or a bean bag on one of Thailand’s many gorgeous tropical beaches.

So how does one go about cracking into the wide world of web development in Thailand?

Obviously the best place to start for absolute beginners is to get educated.

A number of schools have cropped up across Thailand over the last decade to accommodate this demand.

These include Web Courses Bangkok and BSD Academy, both based in Bangkok.

For those who would prefer to teach themselves the basics in a number of programming languages, ranging from the basics of HTML/CSS to Javascript and Ruby, Codeacademy is a great resource.

Of course, the best way to learn is by doing, and the quickest way to get work as a web designer/developer is to build a portfolio of your own.

CollegeInfoGeek has an excellent guide to building your homepage through WordPress.

Alec Peeples is a Graphic and web designer, working for a production studio in Bangkok.

Lacking tech qualifications, he was largely self-taught.

My bachelor’s degree is in Music Technology and Jazz Studies. So all I really have is my experience. This experience across a variety of fields plus my Thai language ability were all looked at favorably.”

It should be pointed out here that the terms “web developer/designer” cover a large number of different positions, each requiring their own individual skill-sets and career paths.

These include:

  • front-end development, essentially creating the parts of the website you can actually see, usually using HTML/CSS and a little Javascript
  • back-end development, the behind-the-scenes parts of the website, such as security and overseeing the database—usually requiring PHP/Ruby/Python
  • full-stack development, a mix of both front-end and back-end—this is what Alec is doing
  • app development and more

Once your skills are up to a certain standard, you can start honing them towards whichever you feel is your strong suit to increase your chances of landing a job.

Alec’s day-to-day work is, for the most part, fairly typical of a web developer.

I come in and catch up on any ongoing projects. Make any edits or changes to already completed websites. I do manage content for our sites as well. General housekeeping stuff. Meet with our office manager or the manager and see what new projects are coming, or anything else on the horizon. I’m the only foreigner in the office as well, so I will attend meetings we have with any non-Thai clients to facilitate the interview and provide translations for both sides.”

However, working for a production studio requires occasional tasks that are a little more unusual.

On days [when] we have shoots I will usually attend those both for my own insight, to occasionally stand in as an extra any time a shoot calls for a foreigner, and to be able to work on location if we need any last minute graphics or editing or whatever else may come up.

Few web developers will find themselves thrust into makeup and shoved in front of a camera at some point during their workday, but clearly Alec is the exception.

Another important thing to consider—particularly given the complexities of Thai employment law—is whether or not you’d prefer to take Alec’s route of working for a single company, or going freelance.

Going freelance is certainly the more tempting of the two—set your own hours, set your own fees, take the jobs you want.

Alas, as of this book’s publication date, there’s no way to do it legally.

Thai law, ever ponderous when it comes to change, has yet to adapt to the internet age, and the Ministry of Labour’s employment restrictions apply to freelancing, too.

Many foreigners have tried workarounds, ranging from setting up dummy companies to taking the time-honored route of simply ignoring the regulations and working illegally.

Whilst we don’t condone working illegally, immigration officials in Chiang Mai have stated that working on tourist visas is fine for digital nomads, and even official, registered lawyers have encouraged freelancers to keep doing what they’re doing, but to keep mum about their activities.

But—and in case any immigration officials are reading this—we are definitely not encouraging you to do anything like that.

Our friends over at Iglu are one of several companies offering a more elegant solution—namely, signing up as an employee of their company. Iglu gives you with a work permit, visa, and workspace, where you can freelance as usual.

It’s not a perfect solution—for one, you need to already have a client base set up, or a proven ability to create one.

You also need to be earning a minimum of $2,500, or around 80,000 baht, per month, so it’s only really an option for those who already have a foothold in the web development industry.

Signing up with a company like Alec has done may have its drawbacks, such as set hours, salaries, and no choice over what work you do, but on the plus side it’s a guaranteed monthly income and Thai work permit.

Jobs can be found in this way by following the more traditional routes—checking the likes of jobsDB, sending out CVs, and, of course, networking.

In my experience here, having connections and networks is crucial to working in media and tech here in Thailand. I looked for a job in this field for months with no luck before a friend finally helped put me in contact.”

Salaries for web developers are, of course, massively variable, particularly when you factor in freelancing.

I’d assume it’s mostly contingent upon credentials and the company. 60,000 baht seems to be a fairly common starting number, with an average salary being around 70,000 baht to 80,000 baht, from what I’ve seen, but the upper limit will be determined by many factors. Specifically, 50,000 baht to 200,000 baht is the range of what I’ve personally seen from colleagues and friends.”

Fees for freelance work will obviously be dependent on your experience, your negotiation skills, and the project itself.

You’ll need to do the research beforehand to get a good idea of how much to charge.

You also need to factor in how much time it’ll take to complete the job.

For example, taking on two complicated, multi-faceted projects for 30,000 baht each may seem like a good idea at the time, but if the first project ends up taking 3 weeks to complete, you’ll essentially be halving your monthly take-home pay.

While there is plenty of web developer work out there, carving our your own comfortable little niche is not necessarily something that will happen automatically.

I have lived in Thailand for roughly three-and-a-half years. It took three years for me to find a job that I was really content with. It definitely wasn’t easy, but perseverance and constantly keeping my ears and eyes open for new opportunities paid off eventually.”

Now, on to You

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