In the 2014 State of the Word, Matt Mullenweg revealed an interesting insight from this year’s WordPress development survey: Of the people who took part in the survey, 25 percent made their living entirely through WordPress.
Twenty-five freakin’ percent! Almost 7,700 people! And that is just a small sample of WordPress users.
Isn’t it awesome that WordPress has evolved to the point where people can feed their families with its help? That it allows them to build a career they love and work with something that they believe in? I mean, who would have thought?
Maybe you are thinking about doing the same. Maybe you would like to start your own WordPress business. After all, if those people can do it, why not you?
Trust me, I can relate. A lot of my career also circles around the WordPress platform. Not just as a writer, but as an entrepreneur, marketer, and designer.
For that reason in this article I will try to help you get a little closer to this dream. We will take a look at how you can get started with building a business with the WordPress platform. Why it is a good idea, the types of opportunities WordPress provides, what to consider before jumping in, and how to get started.
Sound good? Then let’s get going.
Starting a business around WordPress:
Before thinking about what business to start, let’s first consider why WordPress is a good choice to invest your time in.
1. WordPress is free
One big consideration when starting a business is always the initial investment. Most come with at least some overhead. There are tools to acquire, software to buy, classes to take, etc.
Not so much for WordPress. The self-hosted version of the platform is completely open source and therefore free to use. You can download and use it without paying a dime. If you have a computer and an internet connection you can get started with WordPress literally in minutes. Perfect for bootstrappers.
2. It has great community support
Arguably the best thing about WordPress is the community behind it. Thousands of people around the world are using the platform to create awesome things online. Because they get so much out of WordPress, many of them want to give back.
As a consequence the web is full of tutorials with solutions to problems other people encountered. And that isn’t even taking into account the websites entirely dedicated to WordPress (such as this one).
And of course let’s not forget the forums. I personally have never seen as many people willing and eager to help others as in the WordPress help section. Beginners are welcomed with open arms and receive a lot of support. Some people will even write code snippets for you, just because.
3. WordPress is highly extendable and quality controlled
The WordPress platform alone is already very powerful. However, that’s nothing compared to how it can be extended through themes and plugins. Need your website to look like a magazine? Done. Want a gallery plugin to show off your portfolio? How about these? The possibilities are almost endless.
Plus, did I mention that everything in the WordPress directory gets checked on to ensure it measures up to their high quality standards? No chance for malware or sub-par coding.
4. WordPress’ significance is constantly growing
Even for those who aren’t thinking about starting their own business, knowing WordPress is a valuable skill in the market place since more and more large corporations are using it to power their websites. Don’t believe it? Check the WordPress showcase. Prepare to be baffled.
What to consider before jumping in:
So working with WordPress seems like the perfect idea, right? I mean, virtually no overhead is a convincing argument. Plus, pretty much all the knowledge you will ever need is already out there, ready for the taking. Free education here we come.
However, there are still things to consider before making the leap.
Running your own business is not a vacation
Yes, we have all read the 4-Hour Workweek. And yes, working on the web for yourself sounds like an awesome lifestyle. No boss, no nine to five, being location independent, the possibility to make your own schedule — it all sounds very seductive, doesn’t it? However, that is just one part of the story.
From my own experience I can say that I regularly work six days a week, not just five as is customary in a “normal job.” I will also often continue working until late at night (the other side of not having a nine-to-five job) and my work life and personal life are much more difficult to separate.
Starting a business takes hard work and hustle. You need to educate yourself, stay on top of what is going on in your industry, and make sure that you find clients. It’s rewarding but it’s not for everyone.
Striking out on your own also involves some risk. To minimize the negative consequences, you would therefore do well not to jump in with both feet. Educate yourself and start something on the side. You can always branch out from there.
8 types of WordPress businesses you can start:
Still with me? Nice! Now that we have discussed the merits (and drawbacks) of starting a WordPress business, let’s take a look at what kind opportunities the platform offers.
1. WordPress web design
The principal purpose of WordPress is the creation of websites. If you have any kind of aesthetic sense, doing so for others is a viable opportunity. The bar is also relatively low since you mostly need to know CSS and HTML, which are easier to learn than real programming languages. Especially recommended for those who are already designers.
2. Web development for WordPress
This is an opportunity for those who prefer to write actual code. If you know PHP (or are willing to learn) and like to muck around in the background of things, this might be the position for you. Since the bar is a bit higher, there are plenty of people looking for help to customize the functionality of their WordPress site.
4. WordPress theme sales
It’s no secret that premium theme design for WordPress is a lucrative market. Everyone wants for their site to look the best but not everyone can create their own theme (let alone makie it mobile responsive). A number of companies out there make quite a good living off of doing it for them.
5. Plugin development
In comparison to WordPress themes, the plugin market is relatively small and therefore potentially offers plenty of opportunity. The freemium model is a favorite way to go here. Companies like WPML and Yoast seem to be doing ok for themselves.
6. Web hosting
While many hosting companies offer one-click WordPress installations these days, the number of webhosts specifically dedicated to WordPress a lot smaller.
7. WordPress support
With more and more people using WordPress, the number of those needing help with their websites is also steadily growing. WP Curve and WP Site Care are just two examples of companies offering their clients premium support. Why not do the same?
8. WordPress writer
Who says you have to build websites to earn money with WordPress? Writing on topics related to the popular platform is also a viable way to go. As you can imagine, I am slightly biased towards this road. However, you still need to know WordPress inside and out in order to provide value to your readers.
What you need to get a world-class WordPress education:
At this point let’s assume you have made the decision on which direction you are going to take. The next step is then to get good enough at your craft so that you can offer your skills to clients. In order to improve, you will at least need the following:
1. A server/webspace
First of all you need a playground: Somewhere you can install WordPress, make first steps, try out things, and learn the platform inside out. See it as a laboratory where you can conduct your own experiments.
A domain and webspace should not set you back too much. If you really want to bootstrap it, opt for a local installation. However, in order to practice for the future, it is probably a good idea to go through the whole process of setting up WordPress on a real host at least once.
2. The latest version of WordPress
Ok, this one is very obvious. You will of course need WordPress. You can always get the latest version from WordPress.org.
3. A project
Like any other skill, the best way to get better at WordPress is by using it. In fact, many people who have a career based on the CMS started out just wanting a website for themselves (me included). However, over time they improved their skills to the point that they could start charging money for it.
For that reason I highly recommend that you come up with a project you want to realize. Reading tutorials all day long is fine and dandy but it cannot replace doing the actual work. Plus, if what you are doing has actual practical value to it, you will be more inclined to proceed.
So, build a homepage for your family, your pet, or whatever you can come up with. Just start building. Of course it is a good idea to use WordPress for your own website. This is also important in order so start building a portfolio for yourself. It’s easier to find clients if you can direct them to your earlier work.
4. Study material
Naturally, trying to figure everything out by trial and error would take way too long. Therefore it’s important that you get educated. Hone the skills that you need for your WordPress business. Treat it like college: design your own curriculum and set aside regular study time.
Good starting points include:
- The WordPress Codex
- Getting started with WordPress
- WordPress Semantics
- Books about WordPress
- These 10 WordPress Blogs
The more you read and learn, the more you can try out on your own website. You will also develop more ideas on what to implement on your site and you can then set out to learn how to do it.
How to get clients:
As I said in an earlier article on how to get clients for your WordPress services: if you don’t have clients, you don’t have a business, you are just really good at one of your hobbies.
Therefore, once you have elevated your skills to the point that you are comfortable charging people money for it (or at least to a point where you have a basic grasp and think you can figure everything else out on the way), it is time to find clients. The aforementioned article covers this point in greater detail, however, here is a basic overview.
Tell your immediate environment
If you are going into business for yourself, inform your friends, family, extended family, extended friends, the milkman, the baker, your hairdresser, the person you are talking to at that party, and everyone else you encounter. The more people know what you do, the higher the chance somebody will remember your name when they here about a fitting opportunity.
Scour online job boards
There’s a number of job boards online where people are actively looking for website development, design, and other related services. You can find a detailed list of job boards for WordPress here on Torque. Load them into an RSS aggregator and make it a habit to check them regularly and send out applications. Don’t forget to include your portfolio.
Contact potential clients directly
After putting your name out there and answering job ads, it’s time to go on a more targeted client hunt. For that you need to define your ideal customers, figure out where to find them and then pitch your services directly. While it takes a while to overcome your inhibitions in this matter, it is usually what works best in the long run.
Running a business is all about giving value to your clients. Even if you don’t have any clients yet, you can still give value. Helping others has a way of coming back to you. A few ideas on how to do it:
- Write an article for a local newspaper
- Offer free work to an organization
- Write tutorials and share them with the community
- Teach a workshop at your local community center
- Contact business owners and offer to help them with their website
It is amazing to see what WordPress has grown into. More and more people all over the world use the platform to build a career they enjoy. No wonder: WordPress offers a wide range of opportunities for employment, usually with little to no initial investment. For those willing to work hard, who take responsibility for their own education and are able to thrive in a quickly-changing environment, starting their own businesses related to WordPress is a viable option.
Nick Schäferhoff is an entrepreneur and writer/blogger from Germany. He learned WordPress when he needed a website for his first business venture and instantly fell in love. He is passionate about health, productivity, and continuous learning, which he writes about on his lifestyle blog. When not building websites, he likes to travel the world, experience other cultures, and learn new languages.