WordPress is the most popular free and open-source content management system online. Because it’s an open source content management system, people with intermediate internet skills can learn how to build WordPress websites. In doing so, they have taken their first steps toward becoming WordPress developers.
WordPress developers are creatives and entrepreneurs. They work with their clients to achieve outcomes and solve problems. They are determined and resourceful. A WordPress developer embodies everything I wanted out of my next career. If you share my vision and entrepreneurial spirit, a career as a WordPress developer may be for you.
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Table of Contents
- 1 What Does a WordPress Developer Do?
- 2 Becoming a WordPress Developer: Getting Started
- 3 Becoming a WordPress Developer: We Can Help
- 4 The Benefits of Becoming a WordPress Developer
- 5 Best Practices for WordPress Developers
- 6 Complementary Skills for a WordPress Developer
- 7 The Intangibles that Set You Apart from Your WordPress Developer Competition
What Does a WordPress Developer Do?
A WordPress developer is typically responsible for the back-end or front-end (or both) development of WordPress sites. That often includes working within various WordPress themes and plugins. WordPress developers may be hired to rebuild a website, migrate a website from its existing platform to the WordPress platform, or redesign a website. They also have an understanding of aesthetics (understanding element arrangements on the screen, the color and font choices, and so on). WordPress developers are also often hired to optimize a website’s SEO.
Becoming a WordPress Developer: Getting Started
WordPress is incredibly popular. Recent statistics show that roughly 35% of the internet is powered by WordPress. Given its popularity, the opportunities for WordPress developers are nearly infinite. Whether you want to create useful plugins, weave gorgeous themes, or improve the core mechanics of WordPress, you can break into the field with a little time and effort. Of course, simply Googling “how to become a WordPress developer” will present a dizzying array of paths from which to choose. To simplify your journey towards becoming a WordPress developer, you’ll want to approach it methodically and utilize available resources for WordPress developers. This involves narrowing your focus, identifying your skills, finding a niche, and learning as much as you can about the platform beforehand. Fortunately, there’s a large community out there willing and ready to support you on your quest.
Become a Member of the WordPress Developer Community
While learning how to become a WordPress developer, it’s easy to fall into the habit of working on your projects in isolation. In order to advance in your chosen area of development, however, it’s critical to connect with the wider WordPress community. This gives you a forum to both hone and supplement your skills, provides access to additional development support, and gives you the opportunity to anticipate WordPress trends. Most importantly, perhaps, you will increase your chances of making lucrative connections by becoming a member of a larger WordPress community.
Whether you are setting off on your own or collaborating on an existing project, it’s wise to get into the habit of visiting WordPress forums regularly. I have made it a priority of mine and dedicate time weekly to stay engaged with the WordPress community. By posting my ideas, as well as responding to inquiries, I have been able to further establish my credibility as a competent WordPress developer.
Finally, you can also consider starting a fledgling WordPress development blog. A blog presents a perfect way to connect with the WordPress community at large, and share your journey with others. By creating SEO-rich articles, and linking out to other prominent WordPress blogs, you can also generate credibility and get your name out there.
Becoming a WordPress Developer: We Can Help
Does the thought of becoming a WordPress Developer seem unattainable? If so, we can help. WordPress training equips you with the knowledge and skills required to develop and manage your WordPress website with confidence. With training, you will be talking your first steps toward becoming a WordPress developer. We’re a team of WordPress experts ready to help you get started with your mastery of this sometimes complicated platform.
Watch the video above for details or read on to learn more about our online and in person WordPress training classes.
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The Benefits of Becoming a WordPress Developer
In addition to the fact that WordPress developers are in increasingly high demand, there are a number of reasons this career path is particularly appealing to entrepreneurs.
- It can be quite lucrative if you become an adept developer and decide upon the right niche.
- You can be a WordPress developer as a freelancer. This means it’s possible to be your own boss, work from home or anywhere in the world, and set your own schedule.
- WordPress has a broad community of users who are eager to help, meaning it’s easy to gain access to the support you need.
- The skills you acquire (especially in regards to the main languages of WordPress) will be readily applicable to a huge variety of industries and niches.
- If you have a creative streak and a willingness to immerse yourself in the mechanics of the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS), learning how to become a WordPress developer will be worth your while. It’s also worth considering if you’re looking for a job that’s ‘future-proof’.
Best Practices for WordPress Developers
I became a WordPress developer in 2012. Since then, I have been helping people and companies with their WordPress websites. Along the way, I have made a few mistakes and learned some valuable lessons. Here is my list of best practices for becoming a WordPress developer.
1. Tell the truth
If you don’t know how to do something, then say so. It’s really okay to not know everything. Honesty pays off in many ways. Customer loyalty is one of them.
2. Be transparent
If you are outsourcing some or all of your project, then talk about it in your proposal.
3. Outsource some of your work
You are just not that good at everything. The truth is that no one person, or even two people, possesses all the skills that an average client needs to make their project a success. Your client will get a better finished product when you outsource the things you’re not good at. I outsource graphic design, branding, and advertising. I even outsource some things I am good at like copywriting because I can’t deliver copywriting quickly when I’m the one doing the writing.
4. Encourage your clients to own their digital assets
Domain name. Hosting account. Social profiles. Do not assign yourself ownership of these important properties. Don’t ever be in the position of declining your client access to their own website files because you put them on your own server.
5. Complete projects
Be prepared to provide a full refund if you can’t complete a project. Or, pay out of your own pocket to make sure somebody gets the work done. I’ve done both.
6. Part ways with dignity
Make it easy to break up with you. Why would you want to hold a client and their digital property hostage? My parting words are always, “Thank you for trusting us with your business” and “We will be here if you need us in the future.”
7. Get paid faster
Who said 50% deposit and 50% upon completion was a good idea? Not me. Instead, get a 1/3rd deposit, 1/3rd at 30 days, and the remaining 1/3rd upon project completion. This approach ensures you are paid for 2/3rds of your work fairly quickly and prevents client foot-dragging near the end of the project.
8. Be responsive to your client’s needs
Don’t force your big (expensive) ideas down your client’s throat. Your client may end up committing with reservations. They will be on high alert for all the reasons why this was a bad idea and you will be thrown under the bus.
9. Assist your clients in making informed decisions
Sometimes clients have bad ideas. Help them understand why it’s a bad idea to put a slider with 18 animated slides at the top of their homepage. They will make an informed decision; they might do it anyway, but their choice won’t be a reflection of your work.
10. Pick up after yourself
Delete the slew of unused/unneeded plugins and themes on the website.
11. Sweat the small stuff
Take the extra time to do the work correctly. Resize large images before uploading them to the website. Avoid uploading images of 1MB or larger. Details matter.
12. Have someone else test your work before delivering your finished product
You’ve been staring at the website for so many hours that you can’t see it anymore! Have someone you trust go through it while you watch. Have them click on every link.
13. Speak in ways you can be understood
Take a minute to remember what it was like to learn website development. You didn’t know all of the terminology. Slow down and simplify your language for the sake of your client. It will pay off in overall better understanding on both sides.
14. Pick up the phone
Email is not always appropriate. Especially if your client is upset or confused. Even when a client tries to have an important conversation with me via email, I will direct them to schedule a phone call with me.
15. Use instant video to explain and teach
Instant video tools such as loom are powerful time-savers and effective in helping clients understand you. I use instant videos throughout my workday to efficiently respond to questions from my staff and clients. Answers which used to require lengthy written descriptions and annotated screenshot attachments are now a snap with instant video.
16. Be responsible for your mistakes
If you messed up something, fix it on your own time. Don’t charge your clients for your mistakes.
17. Research and troubleshooting is a service
Research and troubleshooting of problems is a normal part of our work. It’s not free. Help your client understand this aspect of our work as a service.
18. Build in a time-limited support period after the project launch
Prevent the project from never ending. Make it clear how much time is available and what the cost of additional support will be.
19. Have a single point of contact at your client’s business
Invited to the team meeting to brainstorm about the website? I will show up for this meeting just once. While I’m there, I explain why it’s important for them to have these meetings without me. A single point of contact with decision making authority is more efficient and less expensive.
20. Leave your company name off of the website footer.
Your client’s website is not your billboard–even if they do love you.
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Complementary Skills for a WordPress Developer
Having a versatile skillset only makes you more marketable. As such, there are certain skills outside of the typical WordPress development skills that will come in handy to you as a developer. Here are a few of the more relevant skills that complement a WordPress developer.
- SEO expertise
- Proficient at web and graphic design
- Digital marketing: email marketing, social media marketing, content marketing
- Copywriter (requires a deep understanding of both SEO and content marketing)
Learning SEO as a profession is ideal for those who are good at both writing and problem-solving. Mastering SEO is less labor-intensive than becoming an expert WordPress developer. That said, those skills combined are impressive, enhance one’s marketability, and are highly desired.
Having design competency gives you an inherent advantage in creating the home page of a website or a post on a social media platform. You don’t have to be a professional graphic designer to be skilled enough to market your own or your client’s brand.
Being a gifted writer does make a world of difference for both marketing and SEO. Content creation is a critical component often dictating the success of one’e marketing endeavors. That said, don’t be afraid to outsource this or any of these functions. You need not be a master of every skill as long as you are able to identify your own strengths and weaknesses.
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The Intangibles that Set You Apart from Your WordPress Developer Competition
Many consumers have had nothing but bad experiences with WordPress developers. Personally, I only had negative experiences working with WordPress developers and have heard horror stories from my clients about their experiences with their WordPress developers. When I started my business, I wanted to be certain not to follow in the footsteps of those WordPress developers who earned such terrible reputations.
I asked myself the same questions you should be asking yourself. As a WordPress developer in training, how will you set yourself apart from your competition? Are you especially friendly? Particularly responsive? Are you a partner in your clients’ strategy (as opposed to someone who just builds what people say they want)? Do you have especially clear and transparent pricing? Unusually quick and reliable turnarounds?
Ideally, you’d like to be able to answer all these questions affirmatively. Whether or not that is realistic, the point is to spend some time understanding exactly why a client should be happy they hired you, as opposed to hiring someone else at the exact same price for the exact same thing. What are the intangibles about the way you do business as a WordPress freelancer that make working with you the right choice for your potential clients? I have had a simple formula that has allowed me to separate myself from my competition. First and foremost, I am honest with my clients. If a client asks a question that I can’t answer, I let them know I will need time to research the issue and get back to them. Second, if my clients want to become WordPress experts, I want to provide the training and other tools that will allow them to develop the skills so that they no longer require my services (assuming that is their ultimate goal).