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Money is always important. That goes for when you’re working as a freelance PHP developer, or even when you’re thinking of trying freelance work.
So, what could you expect to make as a PHP programmer working freelance? Hourly rates differ massively, but on average, PHP developers in Western countries earn between $65 and $85 in freelance work.
But remember: this is a simple range. Your earnings potential will depend on your knowledge of things like back-end architecture, APIs like REST, database/SQL programming, full-stack development, and cloud services like AWS – as well as your location, communication skills, and more.
So to give you a better idea of how much you can expect to charge when doing freelance PHP coding jobs, we’ll dive into three different sections, explaining:
- How your hourly rate is impacted by your skill level (are you a junior dev, a senior engineer, or somewhere in-between?)
- What your location does to your rate, and
- How PHP rates compare to those of other developers.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
How much does a beginner PHP freelance developer earn per hour?
Freelance beginner PHP coders have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of back-end development. This includes technology stacks like LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL), other databases like MS SQL Server and InnoDB, Lambda functions, RESTful APIs and CMSes (Content Management Systems) like WordPress and Magento.
Junior PHP developers with full-stack skills will find it easier to land freelance jobs, as they offer more knowledge and flexibility. As a junior PHP coder, you’ll work closely with technical leads and other team members to deliver quality code, typically in roles that offer a lot of scope for learning.
An entry-level freelance PHP programmer in Western Europe or the USA earns on average between $30 and $65 per hour.
*You may notice that this range is much lower than what we said at the beginning of this article! This is because we are quoting averages; and on average, freelancers have some experience and are not entry-level coders. That doesn’t mean that you can’t start as a freelance junior though!
How much does an intermediate freelance PHP dev earn per hour?
As PHP developers move up the food chain, they should have boost their ability to deliver solutions across the client-server relationship.
Medior PHP developers are expected to have specialised skills and experience in the back-end environment, with technologies like Amazon Web Services, MS Azure and Google Cloud. Intermediate-level PHP devs also have a solid understanding of development frameworks like Laravel, Symfony, CodeIgniter and CakePHP.
As an intermediate-level PHP coder, you can expect to find yourself working in a team maintaining and developing advanced applications. Duties can range from building and integrating new RESTful and SOAP APIs, implementing testing protocols, to mentoring junior devs and managing teams.
A mid-level freelance PHP programmer should make around $55 to $80 per hour.
How much does an experienced PHP dev (or full-stacker) earn per hour?
Although PHP’s history is as a back-end code framework, and indeed, much of a PHP dev’s work will typically be aimed at server functionality, the most valuable PHP coders will usually have full-stack expertise.
Top PHP programmers are more than simply PHP gurus; they can act as full-stack developers. They leverage a mix of front-end and back-end expertise with considerable knowledge and professional experience to deliver everything from project scope documents and problem-solving insight to complete client-server solutions and app development.
At the top level, an experienced freelance PHP developer should see hourly rates of $75 to $110.
Average freelance PHP developer hourly rate per country
Pay rates for programmers can vary widely between countries but with the rise of the internet and remote working, as well as flexible communication tools, it has become much easier for employers to find freelance PHP developers globally. It is also much easier for freelance PHP coders to find work around the world and work from anywhere remotely.
That means that, PHP developers who do freelance work over the internet can expect to earn close, if not equal, the same rates enjoyed everywhere else.
This is especially the case for freelance coders that can communicate effectively in English. Plus those who can offer the advanced skills and experience that clients are looking for, will have a lot of opportunity regardless of where they’re from.
As a result, you’ll see that the range of hourly rates paid for PHP devs will look quite similar, no matter where you go:
- UK $30-$150
- USA $30-$275
- Canada $20-$160
- Australia $20-$100
- France $20-$100
- Germany $30-$100
- The Netherlands $30-$100
- Spain $20-$80
- Portugal $20-$80
- Denmark $30-$100
- Norway $30-$100
- Sweden $30-$100
- Finland $30-$100
- Switzerland $30-$100
- India $10-$90
The actual differences though are in the medians. Yes there are PHP developers who earn $30 per hour in a country like Switzerland or the USA, but these are outliers. The median will lie much closer to about $75.
Similarly, you could earn up to $90 as a freelance PHP dev in India, if you’re good and are working for a great client. But the median will be about $20 per hour.
What about living costs?
As you can see from this list, it’s possible to enjoy attractive hourly earnings as a freelance PHP coder wherever you live. Some places might offer much higher top rates but bear in mind that living costs might also be much higher in those places.
In Europe, the ease with which people can move between countries means that hourly rates can be quite similar. Some places, like Spain and Portugal, might offer more attractive weather and more relaxed lifestyles, but with smaller economies and less developed technology industries, they might not offer as much work with local clients.
On the other hand, PHP coders might find more work in places like London, Paris, and Frankfurt, but they also have to accept higher living costs, less sun, and colder weather overall. Of course, if you work remotely, you can combine the best of both worlds.
How do PHP developers compare to other freelancers?
Maybe you’re thinking of moving sideways into related programming languages, extending your expertise in one area of PHP development, or changing career track completely and moving into a totally new development field.
So how does this earning potential compares to other freelance developers?
As you’ll see below, PHP developers earn more or less similar to web developers, while full-stackers and data scientists earn a bit more. Let’s take a look.
On average, hourly rates for freelance Web Developers range from $60 to $120 in the US and between €65 and €90 in Western-Europe.
Want to know more? Check out our article on freelance web developer rates.
Hourly rates for freelance Front-End Developers range from $40 to $150.
Though they typically have a strong understanding of front-end and back-end development, these freelancers specialise in their chosen front-end languages.
Just like there are a lot of different full stack rates, there are a lot of different full stack stacks. Consider stacks like MEAN, LAMP, MERN and Ruby. Python, in particular, is a popular and powerful language which has many applications, including in full-stack development.
Freelance Full-Stack Developer rates range from $75 to $130 hourly.
Data Scientist / Machine Learning Engineer
It’s quite possible that you’ve learned some Python while becoming a PHP developer. It’s possible to extend that knowledge or learn the R language and move into data science roles or get work as a machine learning engineer.
Roles typically expect experience with complementary technologies like SQL, C++, Azure and devops. ML engineers will need to skills like Pytorch and TensorFlow. Hirers looking to fill ML roles will usually also expect high-level academic credentials like a PhD in a related field.
Hourly rates for freelance data scientists and ML programmers range around $80 to $130 or more.
These are European developer rates though, and as we saw above, they may be quite a bit lower if you’re based elsewhere.
In this article, we discussed the typical hourly rates available to freelance PHP developers. We’ve also explored how your skill level and location can affect your expected earnings as a freelancer.
So it should be clear how your experience as a PHP developer can be leveraged to seek opportunities in related fields, whether those are directly connected to PHP development or one of the fast-growing new technology fields like data science and machine learning.
If your appetite for freelance PHP coding has been whetted, remember that you don’t have to jump feet-first into a whole new life. You can sample freelance life by looking for small projects or hourly contracts that fit into your existing work life. If you find it works for you, you can start making plans to move completely into freelance development.
And if you’re interested in that, check out our article: “Can you freelance while working full time?”