Professionals make the most money, have the most influence and generally have it good. They also fair well when faced with challenges since they are skilled and hence more confident in their capabilities. They are the creme de la creme, and everybody (read clients) want a piece of their awesomeness. Pros do it big and are as a result the envy of the millions who don’t make the cut. With all these nice things ready for the taking, why wouldn’t anyone want to become the go-to person in their area of expertise?
WordPress has opened many avenues for its ever-growing community. By democratizing web publishing, the platform offers you the chance to become a respectable professional whether you’re a writer (or blogger), consultant, support rep, designer or developer just to name a few.
Provided you’re ready to put in the effort and learn, becoming a respectable WordPress professional is achievable and will most probably not take y-e-e-e-ars of practice and repetition as many would have you believe. Well, we can’t forget the place of practice and repetition in compacting or consolidating acquired knowledge, but if you put your mind to it, becoming a respectable WordPress pro won’t take all that long.
You don’t need to be Albert Einstein either; if you can understand this guide and have a spark of passion for WordPress, you’re good to go. Forget your academic accolades and stuff like that for a minute. All this and more we will uncover in today’s post. Enjoy to the very end and let’s make a respectable WordPress professional out of you! Long introduction huh? Well, it’s permissible to deviate from the norm once in a while, something you might want to keep in mind as you work hard to become a top WordPress expert.
First, a brief history lesson…
…that reveals you don’t need years to earn your stripes and become a WordPress expert. I met and fell in love with WordPress ages ago if you could call 2008 ages ago :). The afternoon was bright and clear as sun rays tore through a clear Nairobi sky. She (WordPress) was beautiful and came with seemingly unlimited options even back then.
I tried it (because ‘her’ would sound sacrilegious in this context) on a .wordpress.com sub-domain and was immediately hooked after installing a theme and publishing my first post. Ever. I had unexplored dreams of web development and publishing and I couldn’t have found WordPress at a better time. Oh, the nostalgia.
Fast-forward six (6) years…
WordPress powers a couple of my self-hosted WordPress sites including a few living on sub-domains. Additionally, I installed WordPress locally (on my PC) so I could play with it whenever. I tinker with WordPress themes, plugins, add-ons and a few other things and share what I learn. No matter what I say or how much I protest, there are a couple of nice people who still insist on calling me a WordPress expert. I always think they are far too kind for I’m just a work in progress.
Six (6) years and still a work in progress? What are you not telling us? Well… I have involved myself with WordPress more in the last twelve (12) months than in the previous five years. Between you and me, I think my involvement with WordPress in the last one year is exactly what has people chanting “WordPress Expert” in my honor throughout the streets of Nairobi and beyond. Obviously, I’m just kidding about the chanting but you should see the grin on my face like I would love that to happen 🙂
The apparent vanity in the foregoing statement is shocking but the lesson you should learn is you can earn your stripes, and rise to the most-coveted WordPress PRO status in under two (2) years. Practice took me from complete newbie to “Hey, you tell me, you’re the WordPress Expert” in a span of about fifteen (15) months. I’m still at it.
As you journey to become a respectable WordPress professional, remember that WordPress is driven by a philosophy, or rather the spirit of collaboration and not competition. This might sound contradictory if you want to become a respectable WordPress professional to turn the tables in the job market. Well, competitiveness in every aspect of life will always be there – it’s going nowhere. What I mean is it will break exactly zero (0) bones in your body to give back to the WordPress community. Don’t just look to enrich yourself along the monetary tangent, the dough will come eventually. Become a respectable WordPress professional to help other WordPress users first. Enough chit chat, let’s see how you can become a respectable WordPress professional!
How to Become a Respectable WordPress Professional
Can’t wait to become a WordPress professional? This section is dedicated to you. I’ve put together a huge list of the best tips I could find to help you make hte jump from newbie to pro.
Become an Avid WordPress User
Didn’t see that coming, huh? How are you becoming a pro at something you’ve never used? Do you know just how much you can learn about a product trying it? Sorry to burst your bubble, but you can’t become a WordPress pro (a respectable one) by reading only; you need to be involved – you need to use the platform and explore its vast possibilities.
The easiest route to master WordPress is to dive right in. Don’t watch from the sidelines, its much more fun getting involved. Install WordPress and invest time in learning how the platform works. Test a few WordPress themes and plugins and keep going.
Run a blog (on anything really) and get to experience WordPress from the perspective of a user. It’s so easy to use, WordPress, you will be surprised how fast you learn the ropes. Be it writing, design, development or helping others, find a way of using WordPress. Once you can help the next person to get around WordPress, it is time to focus your efforts on a specialty.
No matter what you do or who you pray to, you can never become the best at everything. It’s humanly impossible to “jack all trades.” This leaves you with one other lucrative option: specializing. If you have a knack for writing but cannot code to save your life, you will spur really well as a professional WordPress blogger. Many professional bloggers (e.g. Tom Ewer) have created careers around blogging and WordPress. Is Tom a respectable WordPress professional? You bet he is. A huge chunk of my blogging work is made up of WordPress related projects. Do I love it? You bet I do. Shout out to AJ Clarke, Kyla and all of you for all the awesome support.
If you’re a front-end developer, you can take to WordPress theming, which involves developing everything between themes and frameworks. If you are a code junkie, you can develop the back-end, dabble in themes and plugins and look under the hood of WordPress. Trying many specialties at the same time is ill-guided, and only means mastering none, which leads to frustration down the line. That does not mean you have to forget your passions to become a respectable WordPress professional. No. You can always master one specialty first and move on to the next.
- You will become a respectable WordPress professional faster through concentrating your efforts on a single specialty
- It hard wires learned skills in your brain
- Being a Jack of all trades will cause more harm than good in terms of lowered productivity and a thinner bank balance
- You can become a top WordPress developer and still blog about the things you learn
- You can become a top WordPress blogger and still help others in the support forums
- And so on and so forth
Become the best you can be in a specialty and moonlight in other specialties as you wish. I’ve had clients contact me about WordPress development via my blogging portfolio site. I could have helped but my WordPress development skills were still in infancy back then. Follow your passions when specializing because you definitely don’t want to be stuck in a career you don’t love especially with WordPress offering so many fulfilling opportunities. Specializing will also help you to save a great deal of time, which leads us to our next point.
Whether you hold down a 9 to 5 or freelance, you must have a firm grip on your time. It’s a rare resource, and the better you manage it, the more productive you will become as a professional. Top WordPress professionals (and other respectable professionals at large) are in charge of their time. Time is money, goes the everyday adage, and if you waste the seconds in your life, you must as well instruct the bank to repossess your home.
Becoming a respectable WordPress professional involves learning, and learning takes time, and it’s time you must create in your schedule. Once you earn your stripes, clients will love your new colors, meaning your plate will be full nearly all the time. If time eludes you, you will fall short of your clients’ expectations. This is bad for your reputation as well as your bank balance. Choose the right clients (the ones who respect your time) and plan your time around your life and you will be alright.
You will also need to set time aside for breaks and relaxation. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy remember? You don’t want to be a dull WordPress professional now do you? Create time for exercise, family obligations and self-reflection.
Work hard, play hard. – Wiz K.
It’s encouraging you’re reading this guide because it means you’re headed in the right direction as far as becoming a respectable WordPress professional is concerned. That aside, educating yourself is the conventional way of acquiring professional skills. Not confident in your coding, blogging or even communication skills? It’s time to learn. You don’t even need to leave your house, you can learn all you want about WordPress online. Searching in Google is a great place to start but here are a few resources to get you started:
Can you remember what we said about the philosophy guiding WordPress? Help others. Educating others is still helping. At the same time, the best way to learn something is to teach others. In other words, when you teach others what you learn, you:
- Augment your own skills
- Gain additional skills through interaction
- Get more clients
- Are essentially giving back to the WordPress community
- Build influence
- Automatically earn the title of WordPress Expert
Start a blog and share what you learn about WordPress with the world. John or Jane Doe somewhere on the globe will find your blog, and if your tips are any good, you will be on your way to becoming a WordPress star. Haha. Look at you, thinking it all comes so easy :).
Share tips, how-tos and tutorials on your blog and extend a hand in support forums. By principle, the more people you help, the more credible you become as a WordPress professional. Educate and help others. It’s called paying forward and it’s effective. By the way, you can even get jobs from support forums, so yeah, continue educating and helping other users. More power to thee!
Connect with Other WordPress Professionals
While you can build a profitable WordPress business without ever involving yourself with the WordPress community, there is so much you can gain from forming mutually satisfying relationships with other WordPress professionals. For instance, you can expand your social and knowledge circles, build a team (or a network) of like-minded and skilled professionals, learn new stuff at WordPress meetups, help expose more people in your immediate community to WordPress and so on.
WordPress meetups are organized across the globe at various dates. The cost of attending is usually low, and a huge percentage of the ticket money goes to supplies and refreshments anyway. Checkout the WordCamp Central schedule to see when one might be happening near you. Attend local meetups and if none exists, feel free to join hands with other WordPress enthusiasts in your community and rock the world of WordPress from home.
If you are the shy type or would prefer watching the latest installment of Games of Thrones to attending a networking event, you can leverage the power of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn just to mention a few. The benefits of networking, whether online or offline, are rather obvious and could provide you the fuel you need to achieve your professional goals.
After all, no man is an island. We all need a support system and more so if you’re a respectable WordPress professional with needs that might force you out of your comfort zone. As a professional, you need a network (or networks) of other professionals to collaborate on projects, brainstorm ideas and generally provide professional and moral support.
Identify and Offset Your Weaknesses…
…by reinforcing your strengths. Fear and weakness hamper all kinds of development be it professional, personal or otherwise. Your weaknesses both as a person and a professional will most likely delay your transitioning to a full-blown WordPress professional. Your weakness can be anything. Perhaps you’re not an early adopter (or you just don’t adopt emerging trends just because you like keeping things traditional). Perhaps you fare badly working with teams. Perhaps this, perhaps that – just identify what might be your professional weaknesses and eliminate them.
How? By reinforcing your strengths, you deny your weaknesses the chance to take you down. For instance if you cannot work with a team because you’re more suited for managerial roles, you should consider leading your own team instead of trying to fit in. If you cannot crawl out of bed before 11 am, schedule important meetings in the afternoon. Are you a night owl? I’m not saying this is a weakness. I just want you to understand that only you can know your strengths and weaknesses. Identify the weaknesses and reinforce your strengths. Do your thing. Et cetera et cetera.
Fear. How do you overcome fear and become the respectable WordPress professional you were meant to be? You feel the fear but take action anyway. You can choose to play safe and remain mediocre or step out of your comfort zone and take what you deserve. Fear isn’t real, it is all in your head. Afraid you won’t be able to handle the increased responsibilities of a top WordPress professional? That’s fear right there. Not confident in your skills yet? That’s a weakness right there.
Practice (and Practice Some More)
Practice makes perfect, practice makes permanent. The more you practice something, the better you become at it. It’s the way our brains (and bodies) are naturally wired to work. Take for instance bodybuilders. Professional bodybuilders keep at it. They practice on a regular basis and as a result have great biceps, abs and all. Those who are not serious about bodybuilding don’t go back to the gym after a while, or might practice only when they are “in the mood”. As a result, they don’t achieve the outcome achieved by the pros. Those who were were serious about building muscle mass but later dropped practice due to one reason or another lost their muscle mass (atrophies) or grew pudgy.
Similarly, you want to keep practicing. Are you a WordPress designer? Design and design some more. Netwrok (like we mentioned before) with other designers on Dribbble. Are you a WordPress developer, practice and repetition are key to honing your skills. Checkout some free themes or Github repositories to learn from over coders. A WordPress blogger? The same applies – keep blogging and keep at it – practice will make you better.
A respectable WordPress professional has the experience, which comes through hours and hours of practice. A couple of years ago, I read somewhere that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master a trade. I don’t know whether this is true or pure baloney, but you get the point.
Dedication and Perseverance Go a Long Way
Starting from the bottom sounds easy and fun when you put it in a song, Drake, but unfortunately, that’s not usually the case. Starting from the bottom is indeed starting from the bottom, from way down there, and it’s a steep uphill task many aren’t prepared for. Jumping from earning $20 to $200 per hour takes a bit of planning, dedication and endurance.
You need to understand that there were will be challenges along the way and days that never seem to end. You might meet clients who make you question your methodologies and even your own sanity. It’s the way of the world, I’m sorry. At the same time, nothing worth having (or becoming in our case) ever comes easy. You have to sweat for it. You have to work hard (or smart, one and the same thing) and persevere. You have to dedicate yourself fully to your chosen path and never stop even when changing paths. Becoming a respectable WordPress professional takes time and effort. You may also need to invest money (in yourself) in the process. All these things mean sacrificing in one way or another and call for endurance.
Become an Awesome Person
Adopt a pleasant personality if you don’t already have one. Having a pleasant demeanor goes a long way if you’re looking to become a respectable WordPress professional. Can you possibly think why? Ultimately, you will want clients to hire you for all the effort and time you take building your professional skills.
While your professional skills might speak volumes about your capabilities, a client will drop you immediately if your personality sucks. People want to work with people they enjoy being around. You will never become the respectable WordPress professional you desire if your negativity can be felt two planets away. So, how do you become awesome?
- Become a great communicator – Develop your communication skills with strong emphasis on listening skills
- Respond to email on time
- Infuse honesty in your transactions – don’t be a cheat
- Be friendly but assertive
- Be helpful
- Show the propensity to provide solutions as opposed to causing problems
- Develop a positive attitude through positive thought and surrounding yourself with positive influence
Know Your Client’s Needs
Becoming a respectable WordPress professional is not a destination but a journey that will never end as long as WordPress keeps growing (WordPress 4.0 “Benny” just dropped earlier this month by the way, giving you plenty of new WordPress features to learn about).
While your improved skills and involvement in the community will earn you clients, it’s important to learn how to keep the clients. How do you keep your clients? You understand their needs. then you cater to these needs beyond the client’s expectations. Then you do it for another sixty (60) days. The client will be happy and go to bed knowing they have a professional on their team.
Don’t look at what you’re getting from the relationship (easier said than done). Just concentrate on providing value beyond your client’s expectations. Want people to believe you’re worth your salt as a WordPress professional? Don’t make claims, prove your mettle. Meeting needs and exceeding expectations is the secret.
Charge Higher Rates
You won’t believe this but did you know an individual’s perception can actually affect their decision making? Respectable WordPress professionals charge big bucks for their services. The kind of rates that a majority of freelancers would consider exorbitant. They keep getting the big clients even after increasing their rates. A client who didn’t have “enough” to pay you might shell out ten times more for the top WordPress professional next door. What is going on here? Why do clients run away when you quote your “amazingly competitive” rates? Perception.
Thanks to perception, that which is highly priced is considered of higher value than its cheaper alternatives. As you build your skills, you will without a doubt want to charge rates commensurate with your abilities. Never undercharge and don’t overcharge. Be confident in your abilities, know your worth and ask your fee. Just remember, highly discounted rates might actually make the client flee in the other direction. Professional don’t play cheap.
It’s All about Being Happy
If you’re happy about what you do, rising to professional status will just be a matter of time.
Blessed is the man who doeth his duty diligently in gratitude, for from his sweat shall come forth the rewards of labor to be enjoyed by his children’s children. – Old Maxim
If you’re happy in your chosen specialty, it will show through your work. That thing called passion plays a huge role in this. Not a word more.
Keep the Fire Burning
We all were created (or evolved) differently. Each of us is bestowed with different abilities. Perhaps you are a faster learner than John Doe. It might take you an year to start seeing results, but John Doe might need two, or even three years to realize the same results. We are all different. Point is, don’t ever stop learning no matter how “professional” you feel “in your gut”. Learning never stops. Period.
Ok, so let’s recap. Here are our tips to become a respectable WordPress professional:
- Become an avid WordPress user
- Educate yourself
- Educate and help others
- Connect with other professionals
- Identify and offset your weaknesses
- Practice and practice some more
- Dedication and endurance go a long way
- Become awesome
- Know your client’s needs & exceed expectations
- Charge higher rates
- Keep the fire burning
More Resources on Becoming a Respectable WordPress Professional
We really want you to become the WordPress expert you want to be, because we have this notion the world would be a better place with more professionals. To aid in that, we gathered the following extra resources for your pleasure:
- WordPress Freelancing 101 – Getting Started and Finding Success as a WordPress Professional [Elegant Themes]
- Become a WordPress Ninja in 1400 Days [Chris Lema, top WordPress professional]
- Amber Weinberg: Conquer Your Freelance Career; Become a Professional Developer (Video Interview)
- How to Become a Top WordPress Professional [Smashing Magazine]
- Going For It: How to Become a Respected WordPress Developer [SlideShare]
- Mastering WordPress: How Long Should It Take? [Tom McFarlin]
- 35+ Resources to Become a Kick Ass WordPress Developer [WPMU Dev]
Over to You…
“The road is long, the path is steep and thorns are all around…”, but becoming a respectable WordPress professional is an achievable feat. Do you feel we left out something crucial? Please feel free to share in the comment box below!
PS: We wish you success in all your endeavors 🙂