Real quick before we get started. I want to tell you about a free resource I have called “Creator Toolkits”. Anyone can create content anytime and anywhere. But finding the right set of tools that add more value to your content creation process is hard. From figuring out the best membership plugin to choosing an LMS, the process can become overwhelming. And what’s the guarantee you’ll make the right choice? That’s why I built Creator Toolkits.
I’ve been around this space long enough to know the projects and tools that work. And you can find all of my recommendations over at [creatorcourses.com/toolkits]. But that’s not all. If you sign up for the mailing list, you’ll get a free private podcast where I talk about these toolkits for mailing list subscribers only. You can also join the Creator Crew. And by becoming a member, you get exclusive access to updates and detailed video tutorials.
So to sum up, head over to [creatorcourses.com/toolkits]. Get the “What” for free. Get the “Why” by joining the mailing list. And get the “How” by joining Creator Crew Pro. Again, that’s over at [creatorcourses.com/toolkits].
I don’t want to be all, “back in my day,” but when I first started freelancing as a web designer, the path seemed a lot clearer. That was due in large part because it was just HTML, CSS, and a text editor. This is the part where [I pour one out for notepad++). Another major contributing factor was when I started, most people, especially small businesses didn’t have websites. So when I first started making websites, I hand-coded them, FTP’d them to the server and was done. Site launched. I didn’t need to worry about if a server supported specific technologies because every browser supported HTML and CSS.
When WordPress came out, I jumped all over it because I was still basically coding. But now my clients could update their sites. This change to my workflow improved it, without complicating it.
The same goes for when page builders were introduced. It was a big change, sure. But it was optional and it moved me in the direction of “more efficient”. But that’s just me. I started making websites over 20 years ago, and I’ve been using WordPress since 2004, nearly all of its life.
And in 2022, we’re at an inflection point for WordPress. One, even bigger than Gutenberg and 5.0. WordPress has been marching steadily on, to become a good no-code solution for people who have some technical proficiency. And full site editing is likely going to speed that along once it matures a little.
Plus, there are other solutions out there. Squarespace and Wix are reasonable alternatives for people who just need a brochure site, which is exactly the type of site I made almost exclusively, for a long time. So you might be wondering…how can you be a WordPress freelancer in 2022? That’s the question I intend to answer today.
First, let’s start here. Being a freelance web designer in general is more complex. I want to point you to an article, my friend, Eric CarrKovak wrote over on speckyboy.com called “The Modern Challenges of Starting a Freelance Web Design Business. It will be linked in the show notes over at [wpreview.io/39]. He addresses this issue more broadly, discussing starting a web design business in 2022. The article touches on three key points.
1. Clients have higher expectations.
2. The market is increasingly competitive.
3. The websites we’re building are increasingly more complex.
I highly recommend this article as I think it does a good job of setting up some of the broader strokes, whether you’re using WordPress or not.
So, if you are a WordPress freelancer, how do you combat high expectations, competition, and complexity? Well, here’s a bit of what I said when Automattic announced that they were making $5,000 in websites. And an article I wrote called “If you’re afraid of Automattic making $5,000 websites, you need to change your approach.” I lay out a few pieces of advice here.
1. You need to sell solutions to your client’s problems. They don’t care if you use WordPress, Statamic, or something else.
2. You should explore a specialization. Find some niche and become an expert in making websites for that niche. You’ll come with the domain knowledge and the authority.
3. Productize your website creation service by making a cookie-cutter website. Set your client up with hosting on a host you trust (maybe through an affiliate program), then use a blueprint to build their website. This is a way to undercut the $5,000 website without creating a ton of work for yourself.
4. Sell a white-glove version of your service with strong attention to detail and your client’s specific needs. After all, you make sites like this all the time. So you might know what your client needs before they do.
And if we take out point 3, productizing for a moment, I think we have something good here. A good framework to start from by selling specialized solutions as a white-glove service, you can tackle all three points that Eric brought up.
So how do you specialize in white-glove website services with WordPress? Well, let’s explore that after the break.
This episode is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro is an experience tailored specifically to the needs of web designers and developers and helps them more efficiently manage their work and deliver results for their clients. Combining website, client, and project management, GoDaddy Pro is an integrated solution made by and for web professionals. Whether you are new to web design or looking to grow your business, you’ll find the tools, products, guidance, and support to help you deliver results for clients.
At the heart of GoDaddy pro is the hub. From one intuitive dashboard, the hub seamlessly brings your sites, clients, and projects together. Manage and monitor all of your client’s WordPress sites from a single place. No more juggling multiple client passwords. With one click, perform bulk updates, backups, and security checks no matter where your client’s sites are hosted. You will save time and free up your day.
Integrated Project Management makes it easier to keep track of your client communications and deliver projects on time. Electronically sign, notarize, and store documents. You can create a visual timeline to break down projects into smaller tasks, to stay on track, and on time. Access all of your client accounts with a single sign-on through their tailored shopping experience by-products to help clients grow their business like powerful e-commerce stores using Woocommerce. You can always reach dedicated and knowledgeable customer support. 24/7. On top of that, you’ll find a thriving community of web designers and developers who share advice, insights, and learning opportunities. GoDaddy Pro is free to join. Head over to [go.me/wpreview] to get started. That’s [go.me/wpreview].
So if you’re a WordPress freelancer in 2022, I think you have a framework. Pick a niche or a specialization, and get really good at creating solutions in that space. Then create high-end boutique websites to meet your client’s needs.
If I were doing freelance Web Development today, I’d specialize in either podcast sites or online course sites. The big benefit in either of those cases is I’m really good at both of them. So I know:
1. What the client’s website needs.
2. The tools that will help them be the most efficient podcaster or online course creator.
3. Domain knowledge outside of just the website. So I can make recommendations to help them in their business, too.
For example, for Podcasters, I could recommend affordable gear or what call to action they should have. For Online Course Creators, I can help them with the instructional design side of the course, if they wanted. You need to decide what niche or specialization you want to work within. It could be something you know or something you’re willing to learn and understand deeply. Though, the latter will require you to ask a lot of questions and start slow.
Once you have that in place, it’s time to pick your tech stack. And this is where you need to pick the right set of tools.
Now, I’m not a fan of creating vendor lock-in. And if you prefer one host and your client uses another, I usually recommend doing what the client is comfortable with. But you are building boutique white-glove websites, so you should know your tools really well. Knowing the tools inside and out allows you to understand what features you can build with them. What might require custom development, and when do you need to add in other plugins or services. This is another form of specialization.
For example, creating online course sites, I’d use Learndash. I know the plugin really well. I’m familiar with the features and the extensions, and I’ve even written custom code for it. Learndash more than any other LMS plug-in would allow me to offer a truly premium solution to my clients. And note, I could learn Lifter LMS or Sensei. But now I’m moving outside of my depth. I have to figure things out. And if they want to feature and I’m not sure about it, I need to check and see if something is possible. That’s not really a premium service where I’m able to anticipate my client’s needs and provide a good solution for them.
There’s a reason why Toyota dealers only service Toyotas. They know Toyota really well.
So as you pick your set of tools, I recommend you line these things up:
1. Your preferred hosting company. The one you recommend when a client needs or is open to new hosting. I recommend this because when you know the hosting company really well, it’s easier to troubleshoot and set things up and anticipate problems.
2. Your favorite theme. This theme should be flexible enough or have some sort of common base theme or code. I like Kadence. But I know a lot of people who have built full businesses off of Genesis themes.
3. Your plugin set. Do you have plugins you will always recommend for forms, SEO, social sharing, spam, and backups? Do you have plugins you’ll be using for your specialized services? Pick those plugins and understand them really well. This gives you a starting point for every website. And again, having them in your back pocket allows you to anticipate the needs of your client.
Once you do that, you’re ready for the third and today’s final prong for being a WordPress freelancer in 2022. You need to show people what you know.
On my main podcast, How I Built It, I’ve had two interviews this year that really resonated with me. One was with Rochelle Moulton, who said you need to publish for people to recognize your expertise. And the other was with Jess Freeman, who is a WordPress freelancer herself. One who has used YouTube and social media to establish her authority and generate more leads.
You will need to do the same thing. Publish content for your target niche. I might publish a “5 things every online course website should have” list. Or a post called “Learndash vs. LifterLMS vs. sensei: which should you choose?”
The content should be designed to help the user and your potential client, as well as show them that you are the perfect partner for them. That you know and understand their business and what they need for their online presence.
So to sum up, in order to be a successful WordPress Freelancer in 2022, I think you need to do the following things to meet the hurdles Eric laid out for us in his article over on [speckyboy.com].
1. Choose a niche or a specialty and get really good at it. Know, not only how to build websites for people in that niche, but understand their problems beyond the website. Anticipate their needs, and be a true partner for them.
2. Pick the toolset that will allow you to offer the best solution and experience based on your specialty. Select a set of tools that allow you to become an expert in those tools so you’re not just figuring out how to do things on the fly.
3. Publish what you know. Show your target audience that you can solve their problems and that you are the perfect partner for them.
In some ways, being a WordPress freelancer is easier than ever. There are lots of tools, tutorials, and resources. You don’t need to be a PHP Developer or know any code at all really to get started as a WordPress freelancer. But there is also so much out there from tools to competition that it could be daunting to figure out where to start.
Using the framework I’ve laid out here, you should get a headstart on finding and nurturing clients. That is the key to success in being a WordPress Freelancer in 2022
As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback. You can head over to [wpreview.io/39], or continue the conversation over on Twitter I’m (@jcasabona).
Now, I have been a little bit lax in my recommendations as of late. I haven’t been doing too many of them. And I think that’s due in part because I’ve been really happy with my toolset. I haven’t been randomly trying new things. And so I’ll give a little bit of a call to action or call for feedback here. If there’s something that you’d like me to try and demo, let me know. Again, you can do that over at [wpreview.io/39] or on Twitter (@jcasabona).
But that’s it for this episode. Thanks so much for listening.
To get even more WordPress insights and to subscribe to the show, head over to [wpreview.io/39]. You can find all of the show notes over there too. If you liked this episode, share it with a friend.
Thanks to GoDaddy pro for sponsoring.
And until next time. I’m Joe Casabona, and I’ll see you out there.