With the advent of WordPress running over 22% of the Internet’s top 10 million websites (and growing), it’s no wonder the brand is becoming a job skill in itself. To be able to say “I know WordPress” is like saying you have an asset for your resume nowadays.
But what does that truly mean? “I know WordPress” has a wide variety of applications and interpretations, all in different contexts.
We can’t deny the platform is creating job opportunities, whether those be entrepreneurial (such as in freelance) or with more traditional employment. Either way, people’s careers are being affected, and oftentimes it can be by surprise.
I studied journalism and communication. I often wonder, ‘what am I doing in this industry? How did this happen?’ But looking back, it’s a great fit for what I was trained to do with my education.
And I think that’s the story with a lot of people. People are learning technical skills by way of WordPress, and that’s a good thing, though it comes with some caveats for the industry as a whole.
For example, WordPress educator Morten Rand-Hendrikson, who works at Lynda.com, explains that the word “developer” is now being used differently in the ‘WordPress bubble’ than it is in the technological industry as a whole:
The larger web industry has an established language that brings with it expectations. When someone says “front end web developer” that means a specific set of skills. These definitions need to be learned through interaction with the industry and need to be used in the right context. When people are self-taught and have never touched the world outside of the WordPress community they tend to adopt the language of the industry without also adopting its meaning. There was a conversation on Twitter last year in which a prominent WordPress developer said something along the lines of “Front end developers are just glorified designers.” This is incorrect and a profound misunderstanding of an industry term. But it also reflects a common sentiment inside the WordPress community. What is happening is the community is inventing its own definitions and understandings of established terms. In the long run this may lead to a changing of the definition of those terms, but in the short run it is vitally important for someone from the WordPress community to be aware of how the larger web community understands these terms so they don’t use the same words but mean different things. In short if you want to position yourself in the larger industry market you have to learn the language and understand how that market sees you.
So the case with WordPress is that it’s becoming a “stepping stone” as Morten describes it. It’s easy to learn, and it’s opening the way for designers to learn how to make websites, to give one example. Content creators are also learning to use HTML, and even employees in marketing departments (or otherwise) are learning how to update company websites with content management system skills.
In fact, Morten mentioned that one group of people he sees coming to Lynda.com to advance their training in WordPress are designers who once worked in graphic departments at print publications. Being able to layout content and ads on a newspaper is not as widely needed nowadays. So people go for re-training, and that’s when WordPress becomes a shiny stamp on resumes.
But would those skills transfer to new work environments if WordPress were taken away? That is the crux: can we in this industry say we know “development” and not just “WordPress development?” or “content publishing” and not just “WordPress CMS publishing?”
According to Morten,
WordPress will be a tool in your overall tool kit. It should be something you master, but it should not be your main focus:
If you are a content creator your main focus should be content creation. You should also know how to do this using WordPress as one of your tools.
…If you are a designer or developer (or both) your main focus should be on design and/or development. WordPress should be a platform you can use to publish your designs and know how to develop for, but if WordPress suddenly disappeared you should still have a strong enough foundational skill set to keep going as if nothing happened.
…WordPress is not the main tool for any of these types of jobs. …You should always be able to let WordPress go and still be able to do the job. It is what you do with and around WordPress that actually matters. The tool is just a tool.
So what can you do with WordPress in your career path?
Lot’s of things! Here are some ideas, and we strongly encourage you to leave your own in the comments below!
Web development and design freelancing
There are lots and lots of opportunities to be a freelancer developing and designing WordPress sites. The jobs in this area abound. Where can you find them? Here are a few places:
WordPress job board – posting specifically WordPress-related jobs with a myriad of specialties under that umbrella.
Craigslist – you’ll need to find your own city’s job classifieds area and search using “WordPress.” Not hard.
LinkedIn – type in “WordPress” as the keyword and your city of preference, and it will give you your options!
Also check out the article by Sarah Gooding on 12 Places to Find and Post WordPress Jobs.
Freelancing is so much more a viable career choice nowadays than it may have been pre-Internet or pre-us-knowing-how-to-use-the-Internet. One thing to keep in mind though is that if you chose this path, you will also be a business owner. That changes the dynamic of your work day and task list significantly. You’ll need a tax number, business registration papers, proper accounting systems set up, business development skills and a slew of other business savvy skills to be able to do this effectively.
But it can pay the bills, and you won’t starve, if you do it well and learn the ropes around running a business. Check out stats from Elance on their Global Online Employment Report.
Keep in mind that being a content creator also fits into being a freelancer, if you want that lifestyle (which shall not be mistaken for an easy one!). Tom Ewer has done this successfully and shares how he accomplished his achievements on leavingworkbehind.com.
Get a job as a WordPress developer or content creator
Yes, believe it or not, developers who specialize in WordPress are now in demand. One neat story can be read on Richard Tape’s blog, where he describes his recently-accepted position at the University of British Columbia, an offer he got specifically because of his WordPress development skills.
At this level you’ll need to also need to keep in mind what Morten advises:
You can get a job as a WordPress developer in big corporations (Time Magazine, Washington Post, UBC) and development houses that specialize in WordPress (10up) as well as other places. However for all these jobs WordPress is just part of the skill set required. At this level you are really a web developer that happens to also know WordPress. Or at least that’s what will be expected of you. It all depends on how far you want to go and what you want to do. If your plan is to build a career off of using WordPress as a point-and-click solution then you are probably going to do best as a freelancer. If you want to build a career as a web developer specializing in WordPress then you can make a career in a larger organization, agency, or company.
As for being a content creator, of course your skill in effective copy writing will come first. But it’s especially useful to know how to use WordPress thoroughly if you are going to be able to write content that can work within the flow of WordPress. For example, having an idea of where you’ll write widget content, versus page content, and so on.
Bloggers are in demand nowadays, and content is king when it comes to Internet marketing, which as we know is replacing print advertising in many ways. So yes, you can actually get jobs nowadays as a content creator exclusively, and not just in the realm of journalism or book writing.
Work on WordPress itself
Yes, WordPress has a company behind it. It’s called Automattic and they look for great talent. They also offer a lot of benefits. Word of the wise here: if you want to work for Autoamattic be ready to show your altruistic contribution to the WordPress community in a significant way.
You’d be surprised how many people are eager to learn how to use WordPress. Since many companies are now using it for their websites, and new startups are finding it to be their platform of choice when creating a website, the need to ‘learn the ropes’ is a huge opportunity as a career path in itself. In fact, one guy even bartered his WordPress teaching skills for guitar strings!
Think outside the box: use WordPress to get a job in other industries
Career tips are now telling you to not only set yourself up on LinkedIn, but also to create a website promoting yourself as a person. One way to do this is with WordPress. Yes, there are other ways, but trust me, the feeling of accomplishment you’ll get out of setting up your own site with WordPress is a great one, especially if you think you fit into the camp of the non-technical. You’d be surprised how easy it can be once you overcome the learning curve, and being able to show your skill in doing this will be an asset on your resume anyway!
Display your accomplishments, your photo, your portfolio of work and other material that interested employers may want to know about you before the interview. After all, it’s better than letting them scope you out on Facebook 🙂
So whether you want to be an accountant or a teacher, working with WordPress to kick-start your career can be a great tool for getting noticed by employers.
WordPress is changing our job market
Was that a big statement to make? Maybe, but I think it’s true, and my own story is a testament of that. When I talk to others in this industry, I find that my story is not unique.
Morten explained to me that he got into web development when he hired someone to make a website for him and wouldn’t do it exactly the way he wanted. Now he teaches WordPress professionally online and in college classrooms.
Tom Ewer (mentioned above) worked in property management and now runs the show at the ManageWP blog, which is all about WordPress.
Carrie Dils was working at Starbucks, tried to sell greeting cards and eventually found her way back into web development because of the wonder of WordPress. Watch this podcast to hear more of her story.
Businessmen and women are entering the field of WordPress premium plugins and themes – not because they studied computer science, but because WordPress itself had a market for them to sell a wanted product to.
Advertising agencies are selling WordPress sites, and need employees and freelance subcontractors to make them.
What’s your story?
WordPress is changing things, and it’s for the better. But will it last? Let us know your thoughts!
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