Welcome to the 2021 annual review! I’ve been doing this for a while now. If you’re curious, here are prior reviews:
A note on the pandemic
We’re two years and neck-deep deep into the pandemic. At this point, all of us have either had the virus or know someone who has. Many of us most likely (and sadly), know one of the nearly 5.5 million that have died.
I won’t linger on pandemic commentary, but it’s impossible to look back at 2021 and not acknowledge its impact. Be safe. Be smart. Get vaxxed.
10 Years in WordPress
I can’t believe it, but it’s been a full decade since I left Starbucks, which means it’s been just a bit more than that time that I’ve been using WordPress.
When people ask how long I’ve worked with WordPress, I usually answer 7-8 years. I guess I need to update that to 10! Where does the time go?
36 year-old me could never have predicted what 46-year-old me does for a living. I pinch myself for the ability to do work I enjoy and make a good living doing it. It’s hard to imagine my life without some of my dearest friends I’ve made through the WordPress community. I am grateful.
Pictured here: My fellow partners surprised me on my last shift by wrapping my car.
Let’s get down to business.
For many years, I’ve prioritized work that would generate a variety of income streams. In the past, those income streams (well, some of them trickles really) have included premium WordPress themes, self-published courses, podcasting, a membership site, affiliate content, client services, content-for-hire, and more.
I’ve thrown a lot of spaghetti at the wall. 😂
In 2021, my WordPress work efforts were focused on three primary areas:
- Content creation
- Client services & consulting
I’ll talk a little about each of these.
For the past three years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with WP Engine to create and produce a variety of WordPress and Genesis Framework-related content, from tutorials and white papers, to marketing videos and demos. I also get to do the occasional pull request on the StudioPress repository. 🙂
Working with WPE has been a great way to pour years of subject matter expertise into projects that benefit the larger WordPress ecosystem. The people I get to work with are top-notch at what they do, not to mention just plain ole top-notch humans. If you’re looking to work with a leading company in the WordPress space that embraces diversity, WP Engine is hiring.
Client services & consulting
I stopped focusing on direct client work a few years ago, but do occasionally take on projects that are a good fit, especially if it’s an opportunity to stretch my dev chops.
For 2021, the “good fit” was a rebuild of an older site built on the Genesis Framework. I kept Genesis as the base and used Bill Erickson‘s EA Child Theme as the basis for a custom child theme.
The “stretch” part came as I tried to incorporate the stable parts of block-based theming (Full Site Editing). I leveraged theme.json and built a custom block library plugin. (I also got really cozy with SVGs).
They Query block wasn’t quite far enough along to use as I needed with custom post types and custom post meta, so I still relied heavily on traditional PHP templates. As an aside, if you haven’t played with the Query Loop or Posts blocks yet, do it. Creating a grid of posts has never been easier…
Anyhow, you can check out the results of that project here.
As far as consulting goes, I still take calls through Clarity and enjoy helping others solve problems.
I started creating courses for LinkedIn Learning (previously Lynda.com) in March 2014. Well over seven years in, I’m still loving it. I’ve recorded 30+ unique courses in that time plus a number of updates/revisions to existing courses. I’ll never reach @mor10‘s status of Awesome, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to create educational content for such a well-respected platform and to know that those courses empower learners to do more with WordPress*.
* There’s nothing that makes me happier than getting notes from students telling me what they’ve learned and what they’re doing.
In 2021 I added four new courses to their library:
- Building a WordPress Membership Site: Getting Started
- Building a WordPress Membership Site with Ecommerce
- First Look: WordPress Full-Site Editing
- WordPress: Using a Content Delivery Network
Like last year, these courses were recorded at home, which presented special challenges (read: many dogs barking, fire trucks sirening, helicopters flying, loud neighbors talking, and gates slamming). The team of producers and editors at LinkedIN Learning are best-in-class so hopefully, learners don’t hear a peep out of my “challenges.”
On deck for 2022
I’m really hoping to record some courses onsite at some point during 2022. It’ll be great to get back on the LinkedIn campus and work in a proper sound booth.
I’ve got two major course revisions slated for Q1 and Q2 and plans for a couple of other courses. All told, hoping to record at least four courses in the new year.
One more note…
The LinkedIn Learning Library has continued to add WordPress-related courses over the years — a tremendous resource for the community! In that time, I’ve loved seeing my friends like Joe Casabona, Patrick Rauland, and Joe Dolson joining the ranks of WordPress instructors. In 2021, I was absolutely thrilled to see a fellow female, Allie Nimmons, join the party. Keep an eye on her roster for more good things in 2022.
Products for Freelancers: What I’d planned to do and what I did instead
In last year’s recap, I mentioned wanting to finish a freelancing book I’d been writing and to reboot my courses for freelancers: Real World Freelancing and The Fearless Freelancer®, respectively. I started both of those projects in 2016 when coaching freelancers was something I felt quite passionate about.
I hated seeing the marketplace fill up with “gurus” and “influencers” who were charging a ton of cash and selling what I thought was impractical BS. I’d been freelancing since the late 90’s and thought I could offer real value in this space at a price point that wasn’t taking advantage of people who wanted to transition into full-time self-employment.
Personal life intervened and the book made it to maybe ~70% completion. The courses launched in early 2017 but never generated meaningful income. (It didn’t help that I hate marketing myself).
A year ago I was thinking, I’ll just put in a little more and get that book over the finish line! I’ll refresh the courses and put some marketing elbow grease behind them! I had so much sunk cost in both of these endeavors — money, energy, time. I didn’t want to let go.
But the reality is that since starting those projects 4-5 years ago, my career has shifted, my passions have changed, my priorities are different, and it doesn’t make sense to keep investing my valuable resources toward projects that just don’t excite me anymore.
At CaboPress back in September, I was reminded of a quote I’d heard, but forgotten:
“If it’s not a HELL YES, it’s a NO.”Somebody smart
It’s okay to let some darlings die.
I plan to keep The Fearless Freelancer® around for now but am not putting additional resources into it.
A note for freelancers who need help
If you are a freelancer and would like some top-tier coaching, I can’t speak highly enough of my friend Jennifer Bourn and her Profitable Project Plan program. Enrollment closes in January 2022, so check it out sooner than later.
Far from “just another guru,” she is the real deal, with years of experience under her belt and a wealth of “real world” resources to help budding agencies succeed.
I’ll go so far as to say that if you sign up for the program and your business doesn’t benefit, I’ll write you a check for the affiliate commission I received for your referral. How’s that for confidence?
I usually like to end these posts with what I’m looking forward to in the new year. Outside of the LinkedIn Learning comments earlier, in terms of work I’m mainly looking forward to attending events in-person again, speaking, connecting, laughing, and learning.
I was having a conversation with a friend recently that I want to be an active participant in my life, not passively taking what lands in my lap, but actively pursuing the things that give me joy and bring meaning.
On that note, I’ll pass the same challenge along to you. Life is what you make of it. Take it and run with it. ❤️