I’ve been working as a freelancer for the past 15 years, doing mostly Web Design, HTML and CSS. And I’ve been making some pretty good money doing it (6 figures plus).
To get there, I did have to learn how to use other advanced tools like Expression Engine which is based on a php framework. I don’t do any PHP. I just follow documentation and use quality modules. I don’t code any JS. I use plugins and modify them to my needs following instructions.
Learning these frameworks helped me raise my prices more than 100%. From building static web pages to dynamic websites… and reaching much bigger clients.
If you need a real back-end programmer, hire one for part of the project. Don’t try to do it all yourself. You’ll waste time and money. And the job might be poorly done.
Get good at a specific area (like Front-End Design if that is what you really like) and use frameworks to help you build more advanced websites for which you can charge bigger fees and for which you can offer monthly support.
One other thing you do need to be good at (especially of you are freelancing) is business negotiation and client relations.
By understanding the clients core needs and offering expert front-end UI, UX advices, you’ll be able to build a relation based on trust and be respected by your clients.
Read a few good books about selling, on how to build great proposals, how to be respected by clients (so you don’t work as a slave but as a partner in a project). These are much easier to learn than PHP, but sometimes hard to apply in the real world. You’ll need practice but once your first big proposal get’s accepted then next one after will be bigger, and bigger…
Check out Brennan Dunn’s Double Your Freelancing Blog and books. They were eye opening for me on how to approach my clients.
I’m still just a Front End Developper. But I’m also a good business man and I’ve learned how to build great client relations while offering my expertise at a higher price.
And you can do it too!