WordPress Freelancing 101 – Getting Started And Finding Success As A WordPress Professional

Posted on July 24, 2014 by in Tips & Tricks | 36 comments

WordPress Freelancing 101 – Getting Started And Finding Success As A WordPress Professional

A few years ago I decided to go freelance full-time. While I was job hunting I decided to to earn some side money by doing some project based work for some people I knew. After a while I had a handful of clients and a steady income rolling in. From there, I decided to take the plunge and start freelancing full time.

Getting into the freelancing world isn’t always the easiest of endeavors but there are many perks to freelancing if you can find your way. In the beginning freelancing can be a cumbersome experience, but with time and experience you can successfully find your way to becoming your own boss.

The next few years I made a lot of progress and many mistakes but still managed to find my way to keep freelancing ever since. The saying goes that you learn from making mistakes. That is the essence of becoming a successful freelancer. You need to be a man/woman of many hats as well as have the drive to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

This article deals with all the aspects of being a freelancer and using WordPress while doing so. I’ll provide examples from my own experiences as well places to learn more on the many aspects of freelancing.

Define Your Goals

Photo via shutterstock user  Jane Kelly

Photo via shutterstock user Jane Kelly

Before you begin any type of project it is wise to define the goals so you know exactly what it is you are working towards. The best way to define your goals is to document what you want to achieve as well as how to achieve. Create an outline of list items which can be steps you take along the way to reaching your goal. Examples could be:

  • How often do I want work?
  • How much do I need to make in order to live the way I want?
  • How many clients can I handle?
  • What tools will I use and what tools will I avoid?
  • Do I need to outsource some work?

Most progress will happen at a slow but steady pace. At this phase if you rush you will likely make more mistakes and have to either start over or spend time fixing the mistakes made in the first place.

Find a Niche

photo via Shutterstock user PureSolution

photo via Shutterstock user PureSolution

If you decide to make the switch to freelancing, chances are you are really good at only a handful of things. This is a good thing. You will never be able to learn everything. While that seems like a weakness it’s not why people get hired in today’s industry. Business owners and individuals alike who are seeking your services want a true professional, not someone who knows only a little of everything.

WordPress offers a lot of room for niches. You could be anything from a theme designer, theme developer, consultant, plugin developer, SEO technologist, writer, administrator…..get the picture?

Find what it is you are good at and become even better. I started getting into WordPress many moons ago on the design and development side. I began hacking themes and modifying them to my liking. I then began building them from scratch. Responsive web design became the norm and I then started making responsive WordPress websites for my clients. To this day I still build sites and WordPress is my go to CMS for the job.

Ready, Set, Go!

Ok, you’ve become a pro with WordPress in whatever niche you prefer or maybe a couple niches. From here you need to let others know about it. How do you go about this? There are many ways to get acknowledgement from the WordPress community but you have to be good as well as dependable. Here are some ideas

  • Write on your blog as well as guest write on others
  • Develop a custom theme for free download
  • Develop a handy plugin
  • Offer advice to those who need it on forums or comment sections of other websites
  • Do some work for family or friends
  • Seek out clients and offer then a first time freebie if they indicate there will be more work in the future.
  • The list goes on

Have a Web Presence

Photo via shutterstock user vasabii

Photo via shutterstock user vasabii

Let’s face it. In today’s world you need a presence on the web to get a web based job. If you’re a designer you’ll need a portfolio. If you’re a developer a personal site is nice as well as a link to Github or something similar where you keep whatever code you are working on. If you’re a writer you’ll need that blog full of content.

Your clients will be looking at your work and judging you based off it. While it seems a little unfair it’s the way it is. I deal with a lot of design. I used to have an older theme on my personal website. It got some attention but it wasn’t until I finally redesigned and developed my site when I started getting attention and emails out of nowhere inquiring about my services.

My goal in the long run was to obtain a handful of steady clients and I would be satisfied. Getting clients to come to you rather than you seeking them out is a rather rewarding experience I hope you can experience if you are a freelancer like myself.

Develop a Process

Being and acting professional will ultimately win over your clients. You need to feel confident with yourself and the services you offer. You must value yourself as a highly valuable asset to each and every client you come in contact with. Explain what you can and cannot do but more importantly why. Also don’t be afraid to say no. If a client can’t find value in your services or insists on offering less than you think you’re worth then walk. You don’t need to work with people like that always.

In the beginning, I learned the hard way with not saying no to one of my long time clients. I needed the income at the time so it was extremely hard to let the client go. The client in particular was a repeat client which was great but they constantly shot down prices, some so low that I was practically working for free.

My way of walking was by announcing a new higher rate for my work. If they decided to stay on board with the rate then so be it but low and behold I never heard from them again after my rate adjustment. Weening out the clients that low ball you eventually needs to happen. Raising your base rate is great way to determine who does and doesn’t value your skill set. Remember, without setting boundaries clients will always try to take advantage of you.

Setting Boundaries

elements in photo via shutterstock user vasabii

elements in photo via shutterstock user vasabii

I’ll use myself as an example of setting boundaries with my services and workflow.

Project Proposals

With each new web design or development based client I deliver a proposal for the job at hand. This usually happens after a brief introduction which could be a face-to-face meeting, phone call, or email. The introduction can either spark a flame and move forward or fizzle out abruptly. The more clients you deal with the more you can read when a project is or isn’t going to become a reality. Look for signs in the pipeline like lack of communication, low balling, or the client not being able to ever decide what they want. Don’t waste your time.

My proposal contains the project scope, timeline, and budget as well as requirements from both parties. These requirements usually deal with asset delivery, what services I am agreeing to perform as well as services I will not be performing. I offer these at an additional fee if the client is interested.

Proposal Guidelines

Project Scope

This identifies what the work to be performed. I’ll typically define higher level tasks and describe each based on what the client requests.

  • e.g. “Web Design – Develop a customized user experience upholding to “client’s name” branding guidelines. The website will be build with WordPress using today’s highest standards in HTML, PHP, CSS, JavaScript, and more. The website will be responsive and be viewable in all modern browsers including Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Internet Explorer Version 8+”

Timeline

With each project I like to provide a timeline so the client can know when to expect things to take place. To make things easier and more accurate I will also set milestones for each main task. This benefits both myself and the client.

Budget

The budget can be hard if you haven’t been freelancing for long. When starting out you need to make a certain amount to keep your bank account out of the red but you also want to profit from the job itself. I could go into how to create your rate or how to price your jobs but it ultimately depends on your living expenses and necessary income. This is where everyone is different. There are some calculators online to help your evaluate what you need to make but I prefer to do the statistics on my own.

I like to provide a couple options to the client both to offer the complete proposal for the things they request and then another option to offer their requests as well as upsellable services or support. e.g. Web-Hosting, SEO Optimization, WordPress Training, Copywriting, etc…

Terms

At the end of my proposal I’ll usually include a brief contract which explains finer details of how I work. Some of these include the amount of revisions I offer per project, what happens if the client has to drop out of the project or if I do as well, a clause that permits me to show my work to other clients with the clients consent, etc…

Other terms include the payment breakdown. I will require a deposit before any work begins to both provide security that the client won’t leave me hanging as well as earn my worth in time spent on the client.

How you structure your proposal will vary depending on the work you do. Some jobs won’t even require it. Writing, for example, wouldn’t really need a complete proposal and a quote per project. Something like writing is more of an agreement based on the number of words or articles you write in a given time period. Having a contract in place to protect yourself couldn’t hurt though. This goes without saying for any contract based job.

Get Hired

Photo via shutterstock user Dooder

Photo via shutterstock user Dooder

With a web presence in place and a proposal template to follow, now comes finding real work. When I started freelancing, my first few jobs were for friends and family. Starting small almost always has to happen with freelancing as it is a learning experience. You need to establish your roots and develop both a process and workflow you can follow for future clients. Working with people you know is a great way to get started because they will be a little more understanding if something goes wrong.

Don’t let the lack there of positions available get you down at this point. The work will come, but if you hit a dry spell just work on something that others might take notice of like I mentioned earlier. You can also develop your skill set to include say another language if your a theme developer for instance which will benefit your job search an allow you to apply for more types of positions.

Finding work can be work in itself. If you find that your local community is lacking then you might need to seek work elsewhere. Anywhere with a decent internet connection will allow most computer based jobs the capability of working remotely. There are more job listings becoming more prominent on the web which focus on remote based workers. A few of my favorites are:

Design and Development

Writing

All

There are even more jobs out there than what I have supplied but you just have to do some digging.

Rock On

Freelancing with WordPress can be a long lasting relationship. WordPress offers so many doors to open which allow you to create any type of living you desire. Whether you’re a writer, developer, designer, or business owner, WordPress gives you access to your place on the web. By attracting visitors and gain notoriety, which takes time, you can build the freelancing career of your dreams.

I’ll leave you with saying it takes a lot of work and a lot of trial and error when freelancing. More often than not you will make a wrong move but ultimately learn from it. By making mistakes you are actually bettering the outcome of your career. In the given moment it may seem like a huge upset but you can bet that you won’t make the same mistake twice.

Feature photo via shutterstock user: Max Griboedov

36 Comments

  1. Very good post, thanks, in South America freelancers build our own possibility, thanks to sites like yours can we have tools to deliver excellent quality service to our clients, although I understand English, I also love to read these magnificent post in Spanish

  2. This was an excellent read, and right on time, as I’m getting back into freelancing. Thank you Andy!

  3. Awesome post! I have gone through a whole learning experience by starting up a small business of my own.

    Still working a full time job while running the company, but it is very self rewarding. Biggest piece of advice ever. “Do not ever give up!”. Your pains now will become your gains later.

    • I agree! Even if the going gets tough you have to press forward.

  4. Another great and useful tutorial! Thanks πŸ™‚

  5. I really need this kind of guide and inspiration, I have started with web freelancing one year ago, I change from flight attendant to web developer (not just WordPress), the money is not enough but now I am getting my first costumers renovations. Thanks to ET for helping to reach my goal.

    • Great to hear of the inspiration. Keep moving forward and you’ll have enough business in no time.

  6. What a “coincidence”! After years of more and (more) less success as a one person firm I’m inmidst of a focusing process. Writing has been my passion since my high school timmes. What did I do? Right! Nothing!
    Your article was an inspiration. Thank you for encozriging me to “do it my way”

    • Glad I could inspire you Guenter πŸ™‚

  7. Thank you so much! This is very helpful. πŸ™‚

    Anyone here who also post on craigslist? Any more tips and how often do you post? Thanks! πŸ˜€

    • I can’t say that we do post on craigslist. Never really thought about it as I always viewed craigslist as somewhat a shady place. But I guess it wouldn’t hurt would it?

      Going to wait till our big re-brand before persuing any more marketing haha! Wanna look all nice and pretty for the new people. But then I’ll be all over that craigslist. Probably post once a week?

    • I typically “look” for postings as opposed to posting on craigslist. There are new listings each day. I would start there and see where it takes you. Thanks Cath!

  8. Andy,

    This was a refreshing post to read, as it reinforces almost every belief I hold about freelancing. Setting boundaries is extremely important, although some people find it difficult. For me, it became easier as I became more in demand. It seems kind of counter intuitive to say no to a client or to turn down a proposal, but unless you want to become known as a bargain-bin web designer it is important to stick to your principles. That being said, respect goes a long way with me and I may lower my price if I sense that the client respects my work but simply cannot afford it. This goes double if the project looks like something fun or unique that may make a nice addition to my portfolio and/or if the client seems easygoing.

    Scope, Timeline, Budget and Terms… So many of my peers contact me on a regular basis with questions related to these items. Simply put, the more you address in your contract, the less problems you will have to deal with later on. Andy, you are spot on with all of these. Now I can send them here πŸ™‚

    I too have had success with sites like craigslist, having found some of my best and longstanding clients from there. LinkedIn is another great resource which brings me several leads per month…. I only wonder how much this would magnify if I actually tried to attract new business, as most of this is effortless; a byproduct of people being satisfied with my work and spreading the good word.

    Thanks for an awesome post. Have a great day.

    Adam

    • Thanks Adam. Great to hear your side of the equation. Here’s to your continued success!

  9. Andy,

    Great post! Definitely agree about boudaries and setting out how many revisions will be done. Some clients love to change their minds more than what I would say is acceptable.

    Mistakes will happen and yes as you said you will learn them from.

    Cameron

    • Definitely a move that has made my clients respect me more as a designer/developer as opposed to being the coined “software operator“. The key thing is to remember your value. Without it, your client might just use you for your “software” so they don’t have to learn it themselves.

      Setting expectations up front will cause less headaches down the road. If your clients isn’t satisfied with your guidelines then maybe they aren’t a good fit.

      Thanks Cameron

  10. Nice article for any developer and freelancer. But there is heavy competition in freelancer.com and other websites.

    • There definitely is. It’s your job to stand out. Create something new or redesign something that needs a makeover. An unsolicited redesign project I did a while back got a lot of attention.

  11. “By making mistakes you are actually bettering the outcome of your career. In the given moment it may seem like a huge upset but you can bet that you won’t make the same mistake twice.”: –Nice Parting shot

  12. Great post. I’m happy to pay all taxes and necessary revenues but the admin overhead when you freelance is awful. And once you get behind on your taxes that can be the end of you in more ways than one . . . BEWARE.

    • Taxes are a touchy issue with freelancers. They are pretty unpredictable a lot of times as your contractors may send you 1099’s and some might not. I pay estimated taxes to avoid owing too much at once to the IRS. This is obviously different in every country but It’s a reality of freelancing.

      If you were hired on full-time somewhere taxes are still coming out of your paycheck. That just happens automatically. The process itself is different but the taxes are the same.

  13. Wow.. I am planning to start my career as a freelance wordpress developer and I have found the resource that I have been looking for long.

  14. Great stuff Andy, I agree with you whole heartedly.

    Finding your niche doesn’t necessarily mean serving a particular industry either like most people think when they first discover the idea of niching.

    You hit the nail on the head by working out what you’re good at and getting better at it.

    Specialising in A/B testing landing pages, lead capture for email marketing or eCommerce conversion optimisation are all viable things you could specialise as a WordPress consultant, designer or developer.

    It’s a great time to be a WordPress consultant.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Great points Troy, thanks for sharing!

  15. Excellent, Andy. Useful tips and insight. Glad to know I’m doing many things right! Thank you for the job resources. Useful comments, too.

  16. hi andy , It was great. I’ve translated this article into Persian. The Iranians also have to read it.

  17. Nice article. I also share your sentiments on saying no to clients. It might be difficult at first but in the long run you will better off for it. Learning when to drop clients is also crucial, most are fine to work with but one or two will often take up the majority of your time and try and to advantage of you.

  18. Hi Andy,

    Thanks for the great post! I have been working in freelance now for a few years, and it is more challenging than I ever thought it might be. If you had only 1-2 suggestions on gaining new clients, what would your suggestions be? I appreciate any help!

  19. I like to appreciate your writing,as a new comer in wordpress it is better to indicate in a simple & short ways writing,getting encouragement as new one-anjan roy

  20. Thanks so much for this article Andy! I love working with WordPress and started going down the path of becoming a developer. I knew the developer side wasn’t what I had in mind but didn’t see another way to incorporate my love for design & WP until now. πŸ™‚

  21. Great post about life as a freelancer! I couldn’t agree more!

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