I've been working with WordPress for over 10 years and I've seen the world of WordPress freelancing go through three different phases. As time moves on, the things that used to be effective and profitable have become either obsolete or wildly unprofitable. The good news is, that the new wave of WordPress freelancing is the most profitable and the most rewarding of all. Do you need to upgrade to WordPress Freelancing 3.0?
Behind The Scenes Web Developer – Version 1.0
When I first started freelancing, I positioned myself as the “behind the scenes” web department for a variety of ad agencies. This was back before WordPress and ad agencies wanted to be able to offer websites and online marketing to their clients. For example, if they were doing an off-line campaign via direct mail, they also wanted to be able to offer a website as part of their package. Hiring a full-time web developer wasn't realistic because they didn't do web development all the time so they didn't want to take on the expense of a full-time employee. So, there was an awesome opportunity to partner up with ad agencies and graphic design firms so they could start offering web development to their clients.
That business model worked really well for a long time. But, when WordPress hit the scene and started become popular, these ad agencies and designers realized that they didn't have to pay for custom web development anymore. It was not really easy to build out websites including online forms. All the stuff that previously had to be hand-coded was now really simple to do and ad agencies started training their existing staff how to do that stuff.
Getting More Advanced – Version 2.0
While ad agencies were internalizing the jobs that were previously outsourcing to folks like me, a new (and more enjoyable) market emerged. The ad agencies started to want to do more advanced stuff – stuff they couldn't do on their own and there weren't that many plugins available to add the more advanced features they wanted to offer their clients. Ecommerce was one of the biggest areas and that's when I first built and launched Cart66. So, there was a huge opportunity for advanced coding and literally inventing new features to add into the WordPress ecosystem – both through custom plugins and also through developing industry-specific WordPress themes.
It was easy to find high-paying, very rewarding jobs as a hard-core WordPress coder/developer. But then, the market shifted again with the advent of overseas development. Rather than hiring (relatively) expensive local developers, agencies started leaning on their project managers and began to outsource their need for custom plugins to job boards like Fiverr and Upwork. Back then, Upwork was actually oDesk – but the point is the price agencies were willing to pay for custom plugin work totally dropped through the floor.
The problem hit front-end developers too. Overseas companies started specializing in converting Photoshop files into WordPress themes. What used to cost over $1,000 was now something you could get for about $250. There was no way to compete with that. And there really was no reason to either. That service became almost an automated process. The PSD to HTML/WordPress conversion became a “black box” process. Designers would send in the Photoshop files and a few days later they have a pixel-perfect version of their design in HTML.
This was the collapse of WordPress feelancing 2.0. There were plenty of plugins already available. So, the need to develop new or custom plugins became less and less frequent. It was easy to get super-low-priced WordPress themes form folks who could quickly convert PSDs to HTML. So, the economy shifted again.
WordPress Freelancing 3.0
Now we're in the third iteration of WordPress freelancing. If you're still stuck in version 1.0 or 2.0 you're probably finding that you used to be able to attract high-paying clients but you aren't able to anymore. The services you used to offer were much more valuable but now they have been overtaken by:
- Companies internalizing services they used to outsource
- Companies specializing in a very specific thing like PSD to HTML conversion
- Massive numbers of plugins for virtually everything imaginable are already built
- There are thousands of “off the shelf” themes and very little need for custom themes
Trying to make a living today running the 1.0 or 2.0 version of a WordPress freelancing business is going to result in frustration and burnout. Clients are likely to ignore your calls and emails. Ad agencies don't want your services because they have found a faster, more affordable way to get what they need. It's rare that anyone needs a plugin that doesn't already exist.
So, if you're feeling like the WordPress economy is drying up, then the solution is to upgrade to WordPress freelancing 3.0.
The Amazing News
All of this may sound like WordPress freelancing has become obsolete, but the truth is it's never been in a better place. It used to be the case that you had to rely on ad agencies and graphic designers to find leads and land projects. Now the ad agencies don't need the services you were offering but you don't need their services now either. The tables have completely turned. Today, you have the ability to do almost everything an agency can do, but you can do it faster and you don't have the overhead that they have.
So, if you want to talk about how you can get up to speed with the 3.0 version of WordPress freelancing, let's talk about it.