As I mentioned in my post “Are You Cut Out to Be a Freelancer?” freelancing isn’t for everyone. We’re a select few, but our numbers are growing every day. Did you know that over 40% of the population is expected to shift towards full-time freelancing by 2020?
It’s not hard to see why the allure of freelancing has been drawing so many full-time employees to the dark side. As a WordPress freelancer, you can:
- Be your own boss
- Work your own schedule
- Choose projects you’re interested in
- Work remotely from anywhere you want
Who can say no to these perks?
Sure, you’ve probably spent hours tinkering with your own website, adjusting the colors and elements to make a site that perfectly represents you. But do you really want to turn this hobby into a business that generates a profit? Or, do you just want to quit your job and be more creative?
If you’ve been considering taking a leap into the world of freelance WordPress development and truly want to make it your sole source of employment and income, you should know what you’re getting into before you leave your 9–5 job and steady paycheck.
After today’s post, you should have an answer as to why you really want to become a freelance WordPress developer (hint: it’s not for the ‘free’ time).
Do You Even WordPress, Bro?
According to WordPress, “Over 409 million people view more than 21.2 billion pages each month” on their site.
That’s not surprising to me because I happen to believe WordPress is the best content management system (CMS) for the price of admission. WordPress’s relatively low barrier to entry means it’s easy to get up and running with very little experience and not much money.
So, before you start charging clients for work, make sure you’re incredibly familiar with WordPress as a platform. Specializing in a specific CMS sounds risky, but WordPress is the most widely used CMS platform. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why: it’s reliable, trustworthy, and super easy to use. Plus, WordPress’s versatility means you can design everything from a blog to landing pages for your clients. Extra styles of content pages means more work for you.
WordPress’s user interface makes communicating between human (you) and machine (coding) super easy. Translation: you won’t be beating your head against your keyboard trying to figure out why something isn’t working.
An added benefit of this simple interface: once you build out the site and educate your client on need to do tasks, like updating their blog on their own, you won’t be dealing with a ton of ‘emergency’ help calls in the middle of the night.
If you want to be a freelance WordPress developer because you love working with WordPress and can think of nothing you’d rather do than program in it all day, that’s a great reason to set off for freelancing.
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Are You Up for the Technical Stuff?
To become a WordPress developer worthy of charging a high rate, you need to learn as much about WordPress as possible.
This means you’ll need to:
- Stay up to date on the latest PHP and MySQL practices
- Read about how WordPress’s codebase works on Trac
- Be on top of WordPress’s nightly build and track new developmental changes
- Follow and participate in developmental discussions on make.wordpress.org
- Master the art of bug-free code by learning how to debug in WordPress
If all this sounds too complicated or time-consuming for you, you may want to stop right here.
Developing your own website, and maybe a few sites for your friends and family members, is a totally different endeavor from programming for a paying client.
If a client describes something you’ve never done before, you may be eager to take on the project and learn something new, but you’re also putting yourself on the line if you can’t deliver the goods.
Sure, challenges are fun. Just don’t make every project a challenge. Set yourself up with work you know you can deliver in your allotted time frame and save the harder stuff for once-in-awhile learning experiences.
If you don’t know how to say no to the wrong clients, or projects you know are outside of your capabilities, you’re going to struggle.
But if you’re up for the challenge, expert level WordPress developers are in high demand, and being one of the best will help you land higher paying contracts.
How Will You Deal with Coder’s Block?
When I first started programming, I quickly realized I needed to diversify my portfolio if I was ever going to attract bigger clients who wanted their websites to stand out and be different.
If you’re stuck in a design rut (or don’t know many design tricks), you’re not going to get many clients. Clients love fresh, new designs, and programmers who have the vision to see what’s on the verge of being the next big thing.
One way I like to keep my creative juices flowing is by speaking with other professional freelance programmers. No, they’re not your competition — think of them as your co-workers in this huge, virtual office space. Bounce ideas off each other, share your current designs (and dilemmas you worked through), and encourage cooperation.
That’s part of the reason I started blogging. I know I’m not the only one struggling with these situations, but if I work them out and put them online for other people to see, I not only better my work, but I’m sharing my experiences so others share theirs with me.
Building your reputation as a WordPress developer means creating interesting themes, plugins, or patches that set you apart from other programmers. This will not only help you sell your work to clients, but it will get the attention of other developers who may give you feedback or client work they cannot handle.
Check out my blog post about building your online portfolio for more info: Pitch Me! Use Your Website to Sell Your Freelance WordPress Development Services
Get Used to Wearing Lots of Hats
Working as a freelance WordPress developer means you’re going to be wearing more hats than just your programmer’s cap.
You’ll need to be:
- Customer service
- Social media promoter
Can you handle all of those roles simultaneously?
You’ll need impeccable communication skills to attract potential clients and let them know you understand what they want. Then you need to develop a schedule and stick to it with strong time management skills. You’ll also need to inform your clients about setbacks before they happen, work with your point of contact for edits or additions, and reply to emails quickly.
You are the face of your business, you can’t outsource problems to customer service. You are the customer service department.
If you’re not comfortable handling all of these roles on your own, that’s totally ok. It’s a lot to deal with, trust me.
But if you have no problem owning responsibility for your business, and you have great customer service skills, you’re going to succeed. Being a freelance developer is all about having happy customers. As Bill Erickson, a freelance developer/consultant, says, “50% of my work is projects from past clients, and another 25% is referrals from past clients.”
You won’t get repeat work, or referrals, if all you want to do is code and ignore everything else that goes into running a profitable business.
So, why do you want to become a freelance WordPress developer?
If you say you want to dive into this world because you’re fascinated with the technical aspects of WordPress and are willing to put in the time to improve your design ability and create beautiful, functional websites, then you may actually have what it takes to succeed in this awesome field. Now dedicate yourself to becoming an expert and create a killer portfolio that will attract clients you’re actually excited to work with.
Ready to learn the practical business skills you need to freelance professionally? Check out my courses at The Fearless Freelancer.