Step Up Your Game: How to Work With Successful WordPress Clients

Mario Y. PeshevThis post was contributed by Mario Peshev. Mario is the founder and WordPress Architect at DevriX building and maintaining large WordPress-driven platforms. With over 10,000 hours of consulting and training, Mario’s Yin and Yang is his Open Source advocacy and business growth strategy.

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning – Benjamin Franklin

Step up your game featured image
photo credit: Stairwell(license)

I’ve been a learnaholic for as long as I can remember and when I read the aforementioned quote, it resonates strongly with me. My prelude to WordPress years ago was one of the steps toward improvement and success and I’ve developed a special love-hate relationship with WordPress.

Utmost admiration about its influence over the world in terms of Open Source and opportunities for various people in different niches, and its plague of being diminished and depreciated by professional developers and successful businesses.

There are ways to solve these issues as long as the inner circle works towards the same goal.

Note: If you are happy building lego type websites with random ThemeForest themes and you see that as your future, this post is not for you. If you love doing the same repeatedly for mom and pop shops, this may not resonate with you. This is applicable to people who want to get better at what they do, be more professional, and make some impact by solving complex problems for larger customers.

WordPress For a Better Future

In May, I presented at a conference focused on kids and teenagers to motivate them, prepare them for the adult life, and nurture their creativity. Kids these days hardly think about their future, between their teenage emotional dramas and boring homework assignments. If you think about it, how can they be passionate about becoming someone if they have no real idea what they need to know and do on a daily basis?

I used WordPress as an example of a platform that children can use, one that provides them with the opportunity to develop a talent or passion.

Using WordPress for homework and general notes (or a diary) could indicate interest in several areas:

  • Young bloggers can potentially do creative writing or copywriting.
  • Constantly switching themes and playing with colors might open the room to design.
  • Adding plugins and trying to implement complex combinations is the first step to programming.
  • Sharing posts, looking at analytics and comparing different titles or photos is the way to marketing.

There are other potential areas of course, but as long as kids can associate with an activity, become passionate about it, and start digging into it, they can save years of slacking, not to mention tens of thousands of dollars on college degrees for specialties they couldn’t care less about.

This is one of the reasons why more and more people join the WordPress industry and switch boring jobs in order to make a living off of WordPress.

What Types Of WordPress Services Exist?

The amount of opportunities for WordPress work is incredible but the vast pool of WordPress jobs is so vague and blurry, that hiring and educating talent is out of control.

I keep an eye on dozens of job boards, portals, and freelance networks. Clients look for Virtual Assistants to get their websites built. They look for expert WordPress developers to apply content changes to their site or web designers to develop complex plugins.

On a weekly basis I see references to WordPress administrators, programmers, developers, designers, marketers, digital artists, webmasters, VAs, and plenty of other job titles used improperly. As a matter of fact, I’m now fascinated when I see a WordPress related job post or an offer looking for the right type of candidate.

The great news is that you can do anything with WordPress. The caveat here is that WordPress itself is not a skill. You don’t ask for an Internet expert nowadays and you don’t go to the same doctor when you have a headache or you’ve injured your leg.

The wide industry of innocent clients and amateur service providers have made it nearly impossible to tell a developer from a marketer, or from a general user who has installed WordPress with an auto-installer twice.

The Indecent World of WordPress Experts

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photo credit: I love ’84(license)

I’ve read a lot about impostor syndrome in several reputable WordPress blogs, and people keep identifying themselves in the comments. In my opinion, this is a problem so insignificant as compared to the ever-growing pool of people claiming to be WordPress Experts.

In the last several years, I’ve interacted with people all around the world working with WordPress. From freelancers to successful business owners at conferences, and from beginner virtual assistants to full-stack consultants in social media, blogs and job networks.

The largest group of service providers that I’ve found is the one of WordPress experts. You can easily substitute expert with specialist, guru, master, ninja and rockstar. Just open a new tab and do a few quick searches in Google, job networks, social media and view the large number of results.

Next on the list are WordPress developers. A WordPress developer is often described as people who install plugins. There are various possible scenarios, but this is rarely the definition of an actual developer proficient in WordPress.

Some boards or blogs list specific skills that let you filter by programming language or a separate tool. My latest research with 200 contractors with WordPress developer titles led to 170 people who rate themselves with 4 or 5 out of 5 stars in PHP proficiency, and 30 with 3 stars.

Out of the 170 people in the first group, 150 were college students, Internet marketers, VAs, and people who have substituted strings in WordPress themes thanks to support forums or help from the Codex. Not a single line of code was written from scratch, let alone building anything, and 4 out of 5 or higher self-assessed their level of PHP experience.

Tom McFarlin published a post on the difference between a developer and implementer and I wrote an overview defining various technical skills in the WordPress context. Due to the lack of proper training, any official educational resource or meaningful set of skills per role, both finding talent and improving one’s skills is being challenged.

I challenge you to interview several successful clients around you who looked for skillful WordPress folks. They either happened to know the right people, were recommended someone, ended up with several freelancers who messed up big time, went AWOL and suddenly took the cash and disappeared, couldn’t deliver, or they did and the site is incredibly slow and/or got hacked soon thereafter.

That’s sending serious businesses away and I won’t touch the topic of under pricing services and products which brings the quality and support way down.

What motivates people to use a reliable resource in order to grow? The WordPress Foundation, nor any of the big players provide official training curriculum, and a definition for formal roles. There is no WordPress certification program (I won’t get into that to avoid unnecessary discussions), and there are no clear paths for requirements.

The WordPress Community is Filled with Amateurs

As a result, our community is a large group mostly composed of amateurs who started using WordPress one way or another. These people started earning money and reached a point where they don’t know where they stand, what they’re proficient in, if they’re doing fine, whether they’re experts, impostors, or somewhere in the middle, and what would be helpful to them?

We still use FTP and work with PHP 5.2-supported hosts. The most popular theme marketplaces provide products with broken and inconsistent code. The plugin repository accepts plenty of plugins with suspicious consistency and compatibility.

None of these issues are recognized publicly in the WordPress community. Some hosts prohibit SSH and allow solely FTP. PHP 5.2 will be supported by Core for a while, which doesn’t motivate hosts to upgrade. Marketplaces earn millions from their top sellers, so they’re not interested in quickly bringing up quality as long as poorly coded themes sell well. There’s also no formal constantly reviewed plugin repository for high quality plugins and no one is actively backing this idea up.

If you read the last paragraph as a rant, it’s because it is. It’s meant to be a “wake up call” to clients who don’t know better and service providers who want to become better. While the WordPress Core itself is incredibly stable and flexible, the rest of the infrastructure is mostly poorly coded due to under pricing, lack of skills, and lack of more successful clients interested in backing up WordPress teams and consultants.

There are different kinds of people and plenty of applications of WordPress. Whatever you do, it’s your professional duty to offer the right type of service instead of misleading your clients, and be aware of the other pertinent verticals. Moreover, it’s the only way forward working with reputable organizations and large profitable corporations.

What is a Successful Client?

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photo credit: seeveeaarcc

Prestige Conference happened a few weeks ago, and Shane Pearlman from Modern Tribe shared his experience in a presentation entitled, Land the Big Fish: Strategies Acquiring Larger Clients. It’s a motivational talk that outlines different strategies on negotiating and landing larger customers.

During the Q&A at the end of the session, Pearlman is asked, “What’s in it for me to go through all of that headache to procure bigger brand names?”

As I stated at the beginning, working with successful clients is not for everyone. Some people are afraid to leave their comfort zone. Others are too lazy to learn new skills or sometimes doing the same thing repeatedly may be their perfect job. For every other entrepreneur or business player, successful clients are exciting.

Each small change is magnified when working with successful clients. Usually, they have a lot of employees, a solid budget for marketing and advertising, a lot of traffic, and various complex requirements that help them attract more leads or automate their processes. T

hey are often respectable and have access to more capital. This allows them to invest more since their return of investment is worth it; while taking a risk due to saving a few bucks could very well ruin their reputation and harm their business. There are several examples of products or companies in the WordPress community that were hacked or where updates caused major issues.

Working with successful clients is extremely rewarding and exciting, but getting there requires ace skills and solid experience, as well as the right mindset.

How to Target Successful Clients

Based on my experience with banks, telecoms, automotive, airline brands, large educational institutions and media outlets over the last 12 years as a developer and a technical lead, there are several specific areas where courageous WordPress freelancers and small business owners can focus on if they are aiming for growth and successful clients, but aren’t there yet.

I have identified some steps for moving from a freelancer to a successful company. Here is what we should focus on in the WordPress context in order to step up our game, understand our industry better, and start acting professionally if we want to be taken seriously.

WordPress is a Vague Term

Being a WordPress Expert says nothing. You may be a lead developer of WordPress or someone who can memorize the order of all submenus under Settings in the admin dashboard. Both are classified as WordPress experts and that’s what many people don’t realize.

Specialize in a given niche and polish your skills. Focus on a specific group of projects – membership websites, eCommerce stores, multisite installs. Become a know-it-all professional for an extensible plugin such as, BuddyPress, Gravity Forms, or Easy Digital Downloads.

Understand the value you are providing and what it corresponds to. Be respectful to the broad community of professionals in your area, learn from them, ask them to be your mentors. Even the best athletes and CEOs have coaches, business mentors, and boards of directors. Find out what it is that you do whether it’s design, development, marketing, or something else and learn the skill inside and out.

WordPress Installments Don’t Matter

Plenty of people offer WordPress services as an add-on to their portfolio of other services without realizing the impact it has on the business. While WordPress is used for plenty of purposes, it’s still a technical platform that comes with its own specific set of requirements.

Imagine what will happen if:

  • You set up a vulnerable plugin that is exploited and your client’s password is stolen, along with their private details.
  • You forget to protect the media uploader and the client uploads sensitive data. Scanned images of contracts and ID cards end up in the public space.
  • Your sitemap plugin indexes protected data since you used a plugin that doesn’t work.
  • You set up a site and sell it to a client, and due to the terrible choice of plugins, the site crashes miserably and kills the server during a demonstration in front of their big clients.

Its a small list of what ifs, but they happen all the time. If you don’t possess the skills or offer the wrong service, this could damage your client’s business. Upping your game and providing solutions instead of websites allows you to take care of the infrastructure, maintenance work, support, development, security, marketing of the project.

At the very least, be aware of the consequences and partner up with other agencies and consultants. Complete packages are what successful clients look for and inexperienced people often mess up what others have built.

WordPress Expert Skills Won’t Cut It

Successful clients look for professional skills. They have real problems that can’t be solved with yet another plugin, and they are smart enough to know that.

If you are in the business of configuring themes and installing a few plugins for clients, that won’t do it for successful customers. You need to specialize in code, design, user experience, marketing, or something else that brings real value to them.

Large clients are looking for state of the art designs, performant and secure code, brilliant marketing skills, and growth hacking strategy. Large clients are successful because they are outstanding at what they do, the services they offer, and they appreciate high quality.

Context-Specific WordPress Solutions

Large organizations take their marketing presence and technical stack seriously. They carefully delegate based on multiple factors. Being in a meeting with a large client typically means discussing a use case together with several people such as, a creative director, VP of marketing, network engineer, and project manager.

In addition to being skillful in your niche and ready to provide value, you have to learn the business processes of your target client. Your idea of a solution may be applicable for small sites, but it may very well be a bad fit based on the company policy or the variety of services used by the team.

As an example, a creative director may require you to prepare your theme to be ADA Section 508 compliant, which is an accessibility standard required by certain organizations. The VP of marketing may ask for a Hubspot integration with Cvent within your website for proper CRM and meeting request management.

The network engineer could outline that they need to host the solution on-site, and set up a specific set of web application firewalls and internal web server security rules restricting certain process callbacks. The project manager might share a complicated timeline based on the organization load, holiday schedule, decision maker’s availability, conferences, and various deliverables that need to be presented by different people and other third-parties.

All of the above are things that we’ve been asked for over the past few months. If you are used to working with a specific host using Apache, prepare for writing documentation and shipping to a restricted server running HHVM. If you use a framework that isn’t accessible, you will need to step back, explore the Section 508 standards, and build something compatible.

Generic solutions are often not the right fit for large clients. But if you’re determined to learn more and become a better professional, that’s the perfect challenge for you.

Solving More Complex Problems

In addition to being able to adjust to different environments, working with large clients means solving more complex problems.

If a mom and pop shop is somewhat broken or down, it’s probably not a big deal if their site receives 100 visits per month. But for a project with tens of millions of views a month and thousands of concurrent users, it is unacceptable.

Working on larger and heavy platforms often means dealing with a lot of data, complex relationships, and solid traffic. This means that every single line of your code and business decision will inevitably impact the entire system in a way visible to hundreds of thousands of people.

In order to be able to cope with these, you should study your specialty in detail and understand what the impact is of every single change. These skills increase your value and let you face similar challenges and solve problems that the majority of beginners can’t even imagine.

You will learn a lot about the entire stack, and get to know hundreds of different rules. At some point you will voluntarily violate those rules, being aware of the fact that some design patterns and best practices don’t solve specific problems. It’s better to denormalize a database or minify a compression algorithm in order to solve a business problem for a large platform.

It’s just as they say at a music college – you learn the music theory for three years, and then you throw everything away and start playing jazz. You need to know the entire architecture and strategy first in order to decide how to optimize it in the best possible manner, whether it’s using a best practice or violating one for a specific purpose.

Teaming Up

If you have worked solo or in a small team, you will eventually need to partner up or grow. Either way, large projects are time consuming and require different expertise, and it’s unthinkable for one to know it all. Therefore, you will work with other professionals from more industries, team up and solve more complex problems together, and learn more about their challenges.

If you have thought about mastering a single skill, teaming up with the right people will add a few more skills as an extra perk, which will increase the potential of your main skill as well. Working with financial analysts on a project for a bank helped me to understand the entire model of loans and mortgages, as well as the internal banking policy.

This allowed me to learn how loans and interests work in different cases and get acquainted with standardized security regulations at companies in the financial field.

Security Concerns

Hello Security Featured Image
photo credit: Two Locks(license)

Data privacy and security are important topics that people often misjudge. Working with large clients means more responsibility and higher impact in case of a problem. In the process of building a solution or consulting a reputable organization, you will most likely have to comply with various security policies.

While some of them may seem unnecessary, there is a reason they exist. The more familiar you are with them, the better it is for you, your clients, and future endeavors. If you’re not using VPNs, SSH keys, two-factor authentication, or voice recognition IDS, this may be a good lesson for you. Why are they needed, what problems do they solve, and how can you apply them to your personal data and existing set of clients?

Organization and Accountability


In order to be helpful to large businesses as a consultant, or an agency, you need to be reliable. This may be a result of a number of testimonials, successful track record at previous companies or a good portfolio. It’s always challenging to start with large customers, so improving your skills and working hard in order to become valuable is important.

Being organized and process-oriented is essential to most reputable organizations. The majority of them are more conservative and operate slowly, since a minor mistake could cost them millions or more.

They rely on detailed specifications, scope of work documents, use case diagrams, UX mockups/wireframes, E/R diagrams, and a large list of documents. They include every single detail in their planning – from holidays for each member of their team, to different dependencies from other service providers and third-party members.

Successful clients have managed to build a process and scale it in a way that grows their revenue in a predictable way. In order to be able to handle large projects, you need to treat them as a small project that takes longer to complete.

Learn how to use a project management system and version control properly, define your pricing strategy, make sure to predict all of the delays for both communication and payments. Learn how large organizations operate and do your due diligence upfront in order to avoid surprises.

Don’t take anything for granted and don’t assume anything. The more confident you are, the higher the possibility of making a major mistake. There are always new automatic deployment strategies or a DevOps service you haven’t heard of, another massive CSS3 grid, or a growth hacking strategy that you haven’t explored.

The more challenges you face, the more you’ll learn, and be able to solve complex problems.


25 responses to “Step Up Your Game: How to Work With Successful WordPress Clients”

  1. I read Mario’s post with great interest. He makes some strong points. Yes, it is a bit of rant in places – but one that is well needed. It has bits and pieces of some common rants that we find ourselves making all of the time here at The White Label Agency. He did a great job of summing them up. We talk internally among our management team all of the time about how the WordPress universe is still the wild, wild west in many ways. One thing that we see firsthand are agencies and individuals taking on projects that are beyond their skill sets and experience levels. I find myself having similar conversations with potential clients over and over again. I ask questions like, “Do you know specifically who at your client is going to own the new Woocommerce site you are proposing to build and do you have confidence that they are going to roll up their sleeves and totally immerse themselves in Woocommerce?” We are trying to stop clients from taking projects that are bad for them because as the outsourced WordPress team who will be subcontracted to do the actual development work, if it goes bad for them, it is going to go bad for us as well.

    • Thanks for the great comment, and I definitely agree about the “wild, wild west” remark. I remember when I attended a talk about unit testing a couple of years ago at a major WordCamp and everyone was stoked and speechless at the end, even though it’s practically mandatory in many communities such as the Ruby one.

      The fact that the vast majority of the service providers are amateurs – i.e. not practical education or experience in a real industry – is one of the reasons why we don’t have a solid foundation when it comes to best practices or conventions. And while marketers or hobbyists offer professional web development services instead of focusing on their own niche, we wouldn’t proactively move forward.

      P.S. I don’t mind any legal industry or profession and I have respect for people who are just starting and are passionate about learning the basics. But I wouldn’t tolerate people misleading clients by offering services beyond their understanding, endangering their businesses and harming the global reputation of WordPress as a platform and a community.

  2. Hi there,

    Of course I have read your post and enjoyed it. I confess I am by no means an expert but do know a lot more than the average Joe. I never describe myself as an expert, guru or even indeed geek. Though my wife calls me geeky.

    I took note in your opening about how getting kids involved in the development part would be far more beneficial for them than wasting thousands of $ or £ in my case on college fees. I always encourage my son to develop his skills in this area. I fear that too many kids these days are being forced into college with the false belief it will help them to a great career. I know many graduates that are working in the so called McJobs for minimum pay with a massive loan to pay back for their universite education. Good point. No I would say an excellent point to make.

    Secondly I took note of the point where you mention items of a private matter end up on the “public” side of the site. I am working on a site at the moment for a small hotel. I took over the site a couple of weeks back and sure enough I pointed out to them that their staff rota was there for the whole world to see. Not only was the staff rota there it was in a frame from Google Docs. I guess this is quite a security lapse?!? I deleted the page. Their site is a nightmare as it has not been set up correctly and rather than using “Categories” they now have 50 odd pages…. As said I am not an expert but a mere amature who is now banging his head off the desk at this hotel site…

    Lastly I would say you are a great poet?!? You might think “What are you on about you mad man!!!” Well I only say this as WordPress logo states “code is poetry” and I imagine you are great at code…

    Have a good day Jason

  3. Thank you for writing this thought so eloquently and completely. I think it’s wonderful that WordPress has a relatively low barrier to entry (and so do clients). However, I concur that it has also created a horde of “experts” who claim the title and an ability to build you an advanced site when their feature building has little more scope than installing another contrib plugin.

    Unfortunately, I get the sense that this is the main reason Drupal or Laravel are the first suggestions I hear when a customer has an actual CMS requirement while WordPress is relegated to “you mean that blogging platform?” I can only hope that changes when JSON API and Fields API slowly find their way into core.

    • Thanks for chipping in to the discussion Logan! That’s exactly where I stand. Low entry point and free for people who just start is terrific, but that keeps dragging the platform development process since established organizations try to stay away from WordPress unless they have had outstanding peers in their network for years.

      Drupal and Laravel are the closest solutions that some organizations pick instead of WordPress, and there are plenty headed to Rails, ASP.NET, a Java framework, Django or something else. The amount of reliability and actual business awareness and appreciation is on an entirely different levels. I’ve spoken to successful business owners who often refer to WordPress as a playground, community by amateurs, a sandbox for kids just starting out. Developers at PHP conferences often kid about WordPress as well. There is a lot more going on, but reality is that we don’t invest in educating our community enough on quality based on the industry standards, and we keep referring to WordPress as merely being a marketing tool, almost as if it’s simply a landing page attached to a real platform.

      I’m also very excited about the coming release and the suggestions for featured plugins, let’s hope for the best.

  4. Thanks Jason, really appreciate the great feedback and the Code Poet analogy, especially given the more conservative overview on the matter.

    The hotel example that you just shared is something that we see all the time. Just over the last month we received several code review applications by prospects who had a similar problem, and one of them had a school leaking test results which failed several examinations for medical professionals. Imagine meeting a doctor who cheated on all of their tests.

    Customers, being unfamiliar with our industry, don’t realize the amount of responsibility of running a web platform – both in terms of security, online presence, branding, marketing, as a PR tool. They end up handing that to non-experienced service providers and gamble with their own business. That’s a major problem that requires a lot of education and mentoring.

  5. This is a fantastic post for many reasons.

    To add to what Mario has shared (which is hard to do because it’s so well-written and comprehensive) is that there are a lot of people who have gotten into WordPress with no form of training in computer science, software engineering, architecture, and so on.

    I’m not saying that a formal degree is required to do this – now more than ever we have the resources online to teach this kind of stuff – but simply going through pre-written files and changing out strings or installing plugins is not development.

    When it comes to other fields such as Objective-C, .NET, Rails, etc., most of the people who work in those environments are people who have the conceptual understanding of how software is put together, they are familiar with concepts like version control and why it’s useful, understand the importance of project management software, and are familiar with bug tracking and reporting software so that they can resolve issues with their products.

    WordPress, on the other hand, is more like the wild west. You’ve got people ranging from those who cowboy code on the server to those who have strong opinions about the development tools they use on their local machine (and why they use them).

    The latter will likely be the ones you want building you a solution on top of WordPress.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that we’ll ever really see an end to the competition that exists from those who are less experienced and “assembling” solutions with themes and plugins to those who have a background in engineering or programming and who have chosen WordPress as their platform of choice for solving problems.

    If you’re looking to get more and more serious about WordPress development, there are some incredibly smart people in the community and every single day I think there’s an opportunity to learn from them (especially from guys like Mario, for example) so use those opportunities to expand what you’re doing via reading blogs, talking in IRC and/or Slack channels, reading source code, working on side projects, and so on.

    • That’s a great addition Tom, thanks for joining the conversation.

      There is a concept that seems to be getting more and more popular in the WordPress community, which states that WordPress is a marketing tool or a platform. I’ve seen hundreds of marketing and advertising agencies providing a large set of marketing and branding services and always adding WordPress website building as a natural continuation of their services, next to Facebook landing pages, content marketing, managing AdWords campaign and more.

      I have never claimed that web development is the only required asset for growing a business, but I have no explanation why building web solutions is now leveled to installing WordPress. This is the part that concerns me the most, since I’m open minded and understand a lot of misconceptions that don’t make sense to me, but I see some merit there, but providing web solutions requires some web development knowledge, even if you are not proficient what I would classify as required being algorithms and data structures, computer architectures and so on.

      WordPress is the only popular web development platform that is used mainly as a blogging platform, DIY site builder or a marketing platform, unlike anything else out there that powers major web solutions.

  6. Your section about the WordPress landscape being diluted with users who are confused about where they stand in terms of development ability is spot on, and I feel is partially to blame for the major gap in salaries between a WordPress-centric position vs not. I also feel its to blame for the rates clients expect to pay to have a WordPress site developed for them.

    As you mentioned there are users who claim to be developers who purchase themes from theme marketplaces, throw up some content, swap out some images and charge an exorbitant amount for something that can be completed in a few hours. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with these users, and they certainly have a place in the community, but to label themselves as ‘developers’ is counter intuitive and a label used solely to raise rates. I’ve had my fair share of clients come to me after dealing with someone who said something couldn’t be done, just because they didn’t know how to.

    Great article and a great read.

    • Thanks Evan – and definitely with you on the salaries dilemma.

      We need standardized sets of skills for each job position. As a matter of fact, when looking for web developers for us or our partners, we no longer look for WordPress developers since the percentage of people who have seen code at all is far too close to zero. Looking for a Larevel or Zend developer or simply PHP developer generates far better results and requires much less training as compared to people with a “solid” WordPress portfolio unable to create a post type without a plugin.

      Offering development services without knowing what development is harms the industry as a whole. Imagine trying to offer medical or law services without the right background – you would have bought your one way ticket to jail.

  7. An awesome resource for beginners in WordPress and web development community!

    I’d like to address another problem which can be stated as one of the reasons why these youngsters are not doing great. While it is good to learn a new skill and it’s true that learning it can make you rich or help you get the dream job, there is a hard reality packaged with this deal. That hard reality is confusion. By learning a lot of stuff without proper workflow and guidance, you don’t really find the perfect solution which leads to a never-ending state of being confused.

    To sell their courses and earn a few bucks, internet marketers have de-stablized the young minds. The presence of so many options and the absence of a true path to follow, which could lead to a successful career, has left the beginners in the middle of nowhere.

    It makes me think if what we had i.e. next to no options, was it a better time or this learn-anything-you-want age can still be preferred. While there is an argument about everything I said, facts remain the same and confusion is ever increasing.

    I think what’s missing is the ingredient of patience and hard work. One needs to stick to a field of at least a year or two and then decide if it is not working out well. Contributing to WordPress Core and building free open source plugins or themes can be a big step in the right direction.

    • Thanks for the great comment, Ahmad. I also see a lot of similarities with the Internet Marketing community, although I think that their work is entirely transparent online. In other words, if you are looking for an Internet Marketer, their online presence and success stories are exactly what you would need as a portfolio, while WordPress development is based on several technical layers that are absolutely unclear to a regular business owner.

      Moreover, plenty of successful technical companies are white labeled, or work with a single client or two for many years, building outstanding products. They don’t spend that much time on marketing and their skills are not necessarily shiny and meaningful to a non-technical user.

      • Well, that’s a different perspective and I am in total agreement with you. Comparison between good IM’s and good WordPress developers, when it comes to it — how to find one (as a client) —it’s hard for WP developers to shine.

        That’s why I suggested, contributing to open source via core contributions or free GPL-licensed theme and plugins.

    • Hi Patty, thanks for joining the open discussion.

      Just for clarification, the title of the post refers to successful WordPress clients in the higher tear of businesses, small and medium enterprises, as well as established corporations. The tips outlined in the post are suitable for consultants and service providers who are looking forward to polishing their skills and working on challenging projects, establishing businesses processes that require a different level of skills.

      That’s why I said that this may not resonate with small business builders. And I’m more than happy with that tier of WordPress service providers – as long as they are educated enough about the web development industry which includes a certain amount of know-how in the programming, system administration, performance and security fields as seen in every single web dev industry out there.

  8. Hi Mario

    Yes you are right, everyone is a expert. Out of that 170 people I can guarantee you only 1 person might be great at php, I’m not a coder but my business was voted top 5 in my country two years in a row, so I know how to run a great business. And whether its an agency or a shoe shop the basics are always the same. So I have tried lots of devs and I can smell their bullshit before it leaves there mouth hahahah. They have no concept of reality, there lazy, self expectant, self righteous not prepared to do whatever it takes for the customer, are not prepared to do everything properly, there to busy saying how good they are and talking shit rather than actually being good. Most people talk a good game but then when no ones watching they do the opposite,

    As you pointed out any loser can get going as a wp expert, I make it a point to our customers that I am not a coder and were very careful about who we pay to do what, I also spend alot of time trying to build great relationships with the right coders, designers as there valuable to me,and ultimately to my clients for the great work they do. I generally find maybe 1 out of 100 people are actually the sort of person a great business wants to employ or partner with.
    One of the worst thing i found at the moment is the Indian/ Bangladesh people who have littered every western job board with there rubbish profiles, pretending to be westerners. They don’t even speak english properly yet there all experts with hundreds of site they built bahahaha.

    And I think the post actually applies to everyone small or large, its basically showing people that talking crap is not a great way to operate and there is no long term business in that. However the other side of that is not everyone wants to be good either, i spend 30 hrs a week learning about wp, looking at everything and generally trying to be better and my basic wp skills, the coders i employ have written over 20.000 php tutorials for all of the top wp dev firms globally and are constant wp core contributors, and i’m really grateful that they allow me to work with them.

    My standards are extremely high and the only way to do things is once and do it right the first time, as you pointed out all those shit developers in them forest who steal form the repository then lightly modify, change the stock images then sell there as there own code, theme forest love these guys, there making millions from stolen code so there actually encouraging it, they know no one will put up the 2 million needed to stop them and close them down, i am actively working with some government agency’s to get them investigated as i am aware that fraud and certain parts of there operation are illegal in Australia. I also had a fight with the marketing manager form envato recently after telling a conference no to buy from envato, as its mostly stolen code and the shoddy owner is using practices that mean they are operating illegally. he quickly shut up and left like a moron when i challenged him. He knew there a scam outfit and want to bail as fast as he could.

    I like the article and only hope more people are inspired to be better and grow

    • Thanks for the detailed comment – there are too many valid points here which is somewhat sad, but could be interpret as food for thought and a lesson for all of us.

      The difference with small businesses is that you often don’t need to push the limits of a platform, and it will likely not be cost effective to hire a top notch consultant for a platform that is to be utilized at 3% of its feature set. I believe that there is a market for service providers for small businesses that are just starting and can’t afford a fully-functional platform. That said, the caveat here is that the majority of the providers talk big game and don’t outline the pros and cons between what they provide and what would be the difference with a complete custom platform.

      I.e. you can buy an iPhone replica for $40 online that looks like iPhone, but is a poor Chinese duplicate with a custom cheap OS and limited hardware resources. But it’s easier to make a difference with a product, which isn’t the case with custom solutions.

  9. Hi Mario,
    That’s a great summation of much that’s going on in our realm.

    I, too, am amazed at some of the people willing to describe themselves as developers or designers, let alone all those other terms. While it’s handy that you don’t absolutely have to have certification to do this type of work, you do end up with more wannabes. Of course, being able to start a business with free tools and no capital investment sounds very attractive in a poor economy with high unemployment.

    I noticed recently that a potential business model seems to have sprung from this tendency – I’ve run across a handful of “white-label” shops whose purpose is to secretly write the checks that the “developer” or “designer” can’t cash, so to speak. ;) It will be interesting to see how they make out.

    Also anecdotally, it seems to me that the people who really can’t do the job well are becoming fewer, at least where I’ve been hanging out. So the problem may be self-correcting to an extent.

    Thanks, Dave

    • Dave, always good talking business with you!

      I do support the fact that certificates are not required. Or diploma for that matter. We’ve been brainwashed since forever when it comes to how important college or university is for everyone. The software engineering profession as a whole does not require a Computer Science degree, but it doesn’t mean that learning most of the curriculum is not needed.

      That said, right now everyone can provide WordPress services, but there is no sensible way for prospects to find knowledgeable service providers. No list of vetted people, no way to establish who is a good fit without relying on their personal marketing/brand self-promotion, especially for non-technical clients.

      But I totally disagree that those who can’t do the job well are becoming fewer – this may be the case in your area, but it’s getting worse globally every single week. Try posting a job on or any other job board and see what happens. I’ve been spending at least a day or two a month for several years now analyzing the market, and I keep seeing photographers, PRs, journalists, marketing people and thousands of other freelancers who start offering WordPress development services without prior background.

      • Mario,
        Fair enough! Anything this popular will eventually be overwhelmed by “The Great Unwashed”, with a side-order of “race to the bottom”. Yummy!

        I’m thinking of blogging a list of questions for clients to ask potential “providers”. Of course they couldn’t verify every answer unless they were super-geeky, but even in that case they could at least gauge how much squirming is going on. :)


  10. Love this post Mario! It was great to hear (see) someone express the frustration I feel when defining myself as a “WordPress Developer” without adding thirty seconds of explanation that I don’t just shop for themes and install plugins.

    I don’t recall you touching on this, but “those” WordPress developers are also a great source of business. While they, too, can be difficult to work with at times, they are good for repeat business once they know they have a resource for the most difficult projects.

    • Thanks a lot, Michael! There’s probably a term out there for “Tech Nazi” or something like that for geeks like us.

      Agreed on the business opportunity, although I’ve had a lot of requests by people who simply underprice big time simply because they do installments. I can recall a few examples where I’ve been contacted for various API integrations or complex plugins with 3-figure budgets simply because the service providers expected to find yet another free plugin that would solve their problem in the first place.

      But I’ve had some creative companies that focus on child themes and no code and often receive technical inquiries that end up with looking for technical WordPress development teams too.

  11. Hey Jeff, as a guy working with WP in minnesota, Thanks for great post. I have been working with WP since 2009..and I have faced with a lot of problems with my clients. It’s luckily that all things seem to be okey up to now.


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