I've heard PHP is very popular in the freelance world. I don't know PHP. However, I'm sure it wouldn't be difficult to learn since it has many similarities with Java (OOP). It seems to me that Laravel has similarities with Spring Boot (it's MVC and OOP). Also, people say Laravel works well with Vue.js, which is my favorite JS framework.
The projects I would like to work on are custom web applications/websites for small businesses. I have developed custom ERPs before and found that Java was a good fit, except for it taking a long time to develop. I cannot make a choice, and I am constantly switching between trying PHP and Node.js/Express. Any real-world advice would be welcome! I would love to find a stack that I enjoy while doing meaningful freelance coding.
As a developer myself, I would recommend you not to restrict yourself to JAVA, PHP or any other language. New Tools/languages keep coming every day. If you do plan to move to freelancing. PHP has a lot of options in the freelance space and a lot of competition too.
Learning PHP is as simple as learning any other language. It depends merely on your interest.
I agree with you JAVA is a lot more time consuming. But it also has its enterprise level scope.
At the same time learning a new language should not be a barrier for you to stop exploring what's out there and keeping your skills up to date. Learning new technologies should be your primary focus and getting project out of your stack helps you build a good reputation.
There are many options for you to pursue. Having an open mindset will help you move forward. If you look to learn now, you are setting yourself up for a brighter future.
Hi Eva, As you have solid experience with Spring already, you should jump into freelancing with that. It would be quite stressful to start freelancing with a tech stack you don't know well. Then in the background you can keep learning/practicing an alternative and switch over when you are confident enough (eg. 0.5-1 year later). I think you should learn Laravel as you already like it and find it easier. Express has better performance but that is not required for most of the small freelancer projects.