Must-Use WordPress Tools for Freelancers (Part 1)

Episode 45 April 14, 2022 00:22:13
Must-Use WordPress Tools for Freelancers (Part 1)
WP Review
Must-Use WordPress Tools for Freelancers (Part 1)

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Joe Casabona

Show Notes

Niching down doesn’t just need to be about the customers you serve. It can also be about the tools you use. Deeply understanding the tools you use allows you to work more quickly and efficiently because there’s not a constant learning curve. Putting together the perfect WordPress toolkit is important for any freelancer. In Part 1 of this series, we'll cover my must-have tools. 

Brought to you by GoDaddy ProGet all of the show notes, and a written to be read article over at

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Episode Transcript

In a recent episode, we talked about how you can raise your prices as a freelancer or small business owner. Basically, become an expert, solve a niche problem and write about how you solve that problem. But niching down doesn't just need to be about the customers you serve. It can also be about the tools you use. And that's what we're going to talk about over the next two episodes. This is something I've been really passionate about lately. I've been putting together this creator toolkit. And in a minute, I'm going to tell you about a newsletter I want you to join. So this is going to be a two-episode series on my WordPress Freelance Toolkit. And again, some honorable mentions. And we're going to get into a few other ones as well. So let's get on to the episode. But first, hey, real quick before we get started. I want to tell you about my new Creator Toolkits Newsletter. I want to help you find the right tools to make your personal and business life easier. Anyone can create content anytime, anywhere. But finding the right 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 be overwhelming. And that's why I've created this very free, very weekly Creator Toolkits Newsletter. Every Wednesday at 7:00 AM Eastern, you will get a tip or tool delivered directly to your inbox. Again, this is completely free to join. You can sign up over at [creator]. And as a thank you, you'll get a set of tool kits. I've already created it as well as a free private podcast. So if you want to find the right tools to make your life easier, especially when you're creating, head on over to [creator] and sign up today. Deeply understanding the tools you use allows you to work more quickly and efficiently because there's not a constant learning curve. You also know the potential of the tools and the limitations leading you to deliver more accurate quotes in timeframes. Just like a car dealer that specializes in servicing only one car manufacturer or people who are certified in a particular SAS or technology, you can hone your skills and become an expert in them to make your projects even more profitable. Hey, everybody. And welcome to another episode of WP Review. A show that provides analysis on what's happening in the WordPress space and what it means for users and business owners in the ecosystem. This podcast is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro. My name is Joe Casabona. And today, I thought it would be fun to tell you what my perfect WordPress Toolkit is. Now, this is essentially a two-part episode because it's pretty long. You can read the full one over at []. I'll link that in the show notes over at []. But I did want to divide this into two different episodes. And like it is in the beginning, this probably won't be the only toolkit I cover. So I'm really excited to share this with you today. But if you do want some spoilers, you can head over to the show notes and read the full guide there. Now, a quick disclosure before we dive in, there are a few things I need to mention. While I'm still building websites, they are by and large for myself. I'm doing virtually no client work these days. I still evaluate a bunch of tools and I still build websites. And I did freelance WordPress clients work for nearly as long as WordPress has been around 2004. I started freelancing in 2001 when I was in high school. WordPress came around in 2003 and I've been using it on client projects since 2004. So I have a lot of experience in this area. And this toolkit is for general web development. While, or when I did freelance work, my main clients were small to medium-sized businesses that needed mostly brochure sites may be accepting payment or a donation. So I do have more specialized toolkits. Like I said, that we'll probably get into in later episodes. And finally, some of the tools recommended will be from current or former podcast sponsors that has no bearing on my decision to use them. And it's usually the opposite. They sponsor because I'm such a big fan. You can find all of the tools mentioned here at []. There will be affiliate links. Okay. Now on to the toolkit, the first thing that we should do is define what we actually need. This can be pretty subjective. But here's my list, again, based on 20 years of experience. I think every WordPress website needs hosting, backups and security optimization, and performance tools. A theme, and a way to build complex content. More on that later. A form plugin, a way to create redirects, and an email service provider or ESP integration, an email service provider, or someone like MailChimp or ConvertKit. There are other helpful things like social sharing, block patterns, SEO plugins, and Block pattern builders. And I'll certainly include them probably in part two of this episode. But the spoiler alert. This kit relies on Gutenberg and the block editor. In my opinion, those eight things, hosting backups, security, performance theme, complex content forms, redirects, and ESP are musts for every site. These things I just mentioned are helpful things like social sharing, block patterns, et cetera, are not must-haves for every site. So with that, let's get into the toolkit. But first, let's hear a word from our sponsor. 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 [] to get started. That's []. All right. First on the list is hosting. The hosting I recommend is Nexcess. When I first started making websites, you either got cheap shared hosting that you needed to manage yourself, or you paid hundreds of dollars per month for your own dedicated server. Then with the advent of managed WordPress hosting, you paid hundreds of dollars per month for that managed WordPress hosting. But not anymore. It almost feels like managed WordPress hosting is table stakes now. wWich means the host you go with should have managed WordPress hosting and it should be legitimately good hosting. Nexcess is exactly that. I can't say for certain that they commoditized managed WordPress hosting, but they are the first ones that I can recall who had good managed WordPress hosting for less than $20 a month. They offer great tools and services, and their support is great too. I've said many times that I host all of my important sites on Nexcess. And if I were still freelancing, I'd absolutely work this into the budget for new projects. Their multi-site plans like the designer plan or the pro plan make it really easy to resell your space in a cost-effective manner where for $109 a month, you get 10 sites, which means that you can kind of resell that hosting to your client at $10 a month or more. So that's who I recommend for hosting. Now, when it comes to backups and security, I'm cheating a little bit here because Nexcess includes both of those with their hosting. And I think most hosts should at this point. If your host doesn't offer backups, at least some rudimentary backup system, as well as again, some rudimentary security, then, I feel like that's a requirement. But if yours doesn't and you are looking for good tools, or if you just want better tools, I would recommend Backup Buddy for backups. That's by iThemes. And iTheme Security Pro by iThemes as well for security. Those two tools are tools I've used for a very long time. I used them on. I still manage some client sites and I use those tools there. And an SSL certificate is naturally a recommendation. If a hosting company isn't including at least one SSL certificate for free at this point, that is a huge red flag in my book. So backups, security, and an SSL certificate, I think are requirements for hosting. Next up are optimization and performance. Again, this is something your hosting company should help you with. Nexcess includes caching and optimization plugins with their plans. But this isn't always a given. So a few that I'll be sure to include if I need them are WP Rocket, which is a general optimization plugin suite. Autoptimize, which will again, do some automatic optimization of images and files. And Async JavaScript, which will help you smartly load a Java. Now, since WordPress performance is its own full, very deep subject, I won't go into it all here. But join my Creator Toolkits Newsletter. You can sign up at [] to get my take on performance. And I also have an interview with my friend, Brian Richards on performance as well. You'll also, that'll be the first place that I announced a new course I have in the works that I've partnered with somebody on. So, sign up over there and you can get even more resources on performance. Moving beyond the hosting stuff, next is the theme. Kadence theme, plus the pro plugin is my recommendation. Kadence has quickly become my favorite theme. So much so that nearly all of my sites use it at this point. It's versatile, fast, and well-designed. Some of my favorite features of the Kadence theme are color palettes so you can have different color schemes to easily pull from depending on the content you're creating. Elements, which allow you to dynamically add in content at certain points like after the third paragraph or before the title, or at the end of the content without having to write your own functions with hooks. And their support for WooCommerce, LearnDash and other big WordPress plugins. Adding support, theme support for these used to be a pain. But Kadence makes it a lot easier. If you're looking to build multiple sites and don't want them all to look the same, Kadence is hugely helpful with that. They even include site templates that are really good starting points. I'll usually look through the site templates library when I'm starting a new site to see if there's something I want to pursue or something that I want to add. Next up, and this goes hand in hand with the Kadence theme is a Kadence Blocks Pro for complex content. You might have noticed in this list, I didn't include a page builder. I said a way to build complex content. For most people, this very well might be a page builder. But for me, it's Kadence Blocks. This plugin includes a slew of additional blocks for Gutenberg and the block editor or, and, or the block editor I should say, which makes it as close to a page builder as I've seen. Well, there are a few kinks to work out. I've been able to create beautiful page layouts using just the Block Editor. Thanks to Kadence Blocks. Another huge benefit of using a block-based tool like this, aside from it taking advantage of what's in the core, and generally I haven't done the legwork on this, but generally being a less markup, heavy, and slightly more accessible is it makes your skills more portable. You likely will have an easier time moving from one block-based builder to another. Then moving from a one-page builder, says Elementor to another, say Beaver Builder. I've tried to do the reverse and using Elementor when I've come from Beaver Builder. And I've had a terrible time doing it. It took me a while to figure some things out. But if you're using something that at its core is block-based, then, you should have an easier time. On top of Kadence Blocks, Kadence Conversions is a plugin that gets installed on all of my sites. Kadence Conversions is a powerful block-based pop-up manager with lots of different triggers and options. I often find myself wanting to add a pop-up in some way, shape, or form. And Kadence Conversions works better than any other WordPress plugin I've used. And it's much more affordable than something like Optin Monster, which Optin Monster is worth the price for enterprises and people who are taking advantage of all of its features. But I just want to pop up that triggers when somebody scrolls halfway down the page. So Optin Monster is a little pricey for me. Kadence Conversions is perfect for that. All right. On to the form plugin, and that's going to be Gravity Forms. One of the main features missing from WordPress core is forms, but for good reason. And the WordPress forms landscape is vast, competition is stiff. While I've waffled over the years and moved away from Gravity Forms in search of something different, I always find myself going back to one form plugin than any other as I said, Gravity Forms. In my opinion, there's nothing more stable, more flexible, or more versatile. Need a contact form? Perfect. Need an order form? They have that too. Nita complex user registration form, Gravity Forms can do that, and more. This one form of a plugin can basically do anything you need a form to do at an affordable price. That's why I keep going back to it. You pay one price and while you pay one of three prices and you basically get everything. There's no ala cart pricing. It doesn't spiral out of control quickly. Heck, I even created a full course about Gravity Forms for LinkedIn learning. I'm such a big fan. So this is the foreign plugin. I have the developer license, the highest level. I am solid on all of my sites and I use it for any form, basically that I need to build. Okay. Next is creating redirects, and that's going to be the Redirection plugin. I know what you might be thinking. Why is a redirect plugin a must-have? And for me, there are two reasons: Fixing 404 errors, which you will inevitably have on any site that exists for any amount of time. So you fix those 404 errors, and you improve your site's health, your SEO and your performance 404 errors are bad for your site. I don't know if you know that. To make pretty easier to remember URLs. Even if you include, or even if you do nifty things with WordPress permalinks, there's nothing better than creating a pretty URL to remember. So redirection is great. And that's really important for me, especially as a podcaster. I say, I verbalize URLs on my shows all the time. The fact that I don't have to say go to [ is helpful. I just say, go to []. And while I've tried a whole bunch of redirect plugins, if anybody wants to round up, let me know. There's honestly, no better option than Redirection. It's free. It's well-made. It automatically tracks 404, it allows grouping and it exposes its functions via an API for customization. I use Redirections functions to automatically generate a redirect when a new podcast episode publishes. So I'm not setting the permalink as the episode number. I'm creating a new redirect with that episode number. And I do that automatically. Thanks to Redirection. All right. Finally, for this episode is ESP integration. You need to build your mailing list. And there's no better way to do it than by plugging it at the end of, or in the middle of your content. I use Convertkit. That's the ESP that I recommend. They happen to have plugins for both WordPress and Gravity Forms. Using their plugin, I can automatically insert an optin on posts and pages. Their integration with Gravity Forms allows me to create a custom form that connects to their service. And using Kadence themes elements, I can even insert a ConvertKit shortcode to have them add the optin anywhere on my site, not just at the bottom of pages or posts. So those are my must-have tools for every WordPress website. Now, there are a few that I generally install everywhere. But again, I don't think those are must-haves. And I'll cover them in part two of this. So to wrap up, again, you can find all of these links over at []. Here is the full must-have toolkit: Hosting: Nexcess Backups: Backup Buddy Security: iThemes Security Pro Performance: WP Rocket Theme: Kadence. Plus the Kadence Pro Plugin. Builder: Kadence Blocks Pro with Kadence Conversions Forms: Gravity Forms Redirects: Redirection ESP: ConvertKit This is what I would use in my freelancer WordPress Toolkit in the 2020 tool. These tools are meant to help standardize the website creation process without handcuffing you. They also give an idea of what kind of tools every WordPress website should have. Right? So even if you wanna use a different theme besides Kadence, you know, you need a theme, even if you want to use a different form plugin besides Gravity Forms, you know, you need a Forms plugin. But then, you know, redirects. I don't think everybody thinks of that until they need it. Right. So I like to have that out of the box, especially since it does, since redirection does 404 tracking. But that's it for this episode. Thanks so much for listening. To get even more WordPress insights and to subscribe to this show, head on over to []. You can also find all of the show notes, including all of the tools I've mentioned and the longer form article over there. If you liked this episode, share it with a friend. Maybe, you know, somebody who's doing WordPress freelancing in 2022. And they're like, you know, the process is so annoying and I have to learn a bunch of new tools, not with this toolkit. Thanks to GoDaddy Pro for sponsoring this and every episode of WP Review. Until next time. I'm Joe Casabona, and I'll see you out there.

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