If you’re planning to build your future career as a developer on the WordPress platform, you’re making a smart choice.
WordPress powers almost 26% of the entire web, and enjoys a 50-60% market share among all CMS platforms. And those numbers aren’t likely to go south any time soon, so it’s safe to say WordPress is only going to increase in popularity from here on out.
That’s a lot of potential clients and gigs for developers with the right combination of skills, traits, and tools. And that’s exactly what this article is about: the eleven tools, essential skills, and specific characteristics you’ll need to ace your new career as a WordPress professional.
So without further ado, let’s start by examining the traits or qualities you’ll need to succeed as a WordPress developer.
1. Attention To Details
First and foremost, you should have an eye for details.
Some creative professionals do better focusing on the big picture, the new idea — others need the ability to drill down until every ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ is crossed.
WordPress developers probably need a little bit of both, but at a minimum, you should be able to flesh out the exact needs of any new site project and to keep at it until the finishing touches are in place.
You also need to possess a natural inclination to learn more.
A successful WordPress developer wants to know how things work, and why they don’t. Innate curiosity will help you keep digging until you find what’s behind your client’s site glitch or plugin conflict.
Do you need someone standing over you, cracking a metaphorical whip, to finish long and arduous projects?
If so, you may find WordPress development work a challenge. Successful WP developers should be able to set and meet deadlines on complex projects and figure out on their own what needs to be addressed next.
4. Knowledge Of The Underlying Code
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: You need the technical skills to do the job.
Of course, a WordPress professional doesn’t necessarily have to be a theme designer, but even if you’re only planning to work with/on plugins, you should be comfortable with the process of creating an original theme for a WordPress site. It’s the best way to get deeply familiar with the way WordPress works.
Translating that practical goal into specific coding languages is relatively easy. The essential coding languages you’ll need to have at least some proficiency in include PHP and jQuery, as well as HTML5 and CSS3.
5. Site Security Skills
If there’s a way to break into a website, hackers will find it. No website is 100% secure, and WordPress is no different.
In fact, WordPress’s popularity makes it an attractive target to hackers. Moreover, its ease of use means lots of site owners build on a WordPress platform without really understanding what it takes to batten down the hatches and protect a WP site.
When they get hacked through brute force or known vulnerabilities in outdated plugins, themes, or core files, the first person many site owners turn to for help is the person who set up the site initially.
Adding hardened security features into your new installation and design jobs is a great way to add value to your services, protect your hard work, and win the undying loyalty of your grateful clients. Knowing what to do if a WP site gets hacked can add a valuable income stream to your business.
6. Basic SEO Skills
Search engine optimization or SEO is another area you should have at least a working familiarity with, both for your clients and for your own business.
Many WordPress developers find that SEO provides a natural extension of what they do for clients, providing a broader revenue base by creating new and repeating streams of income. After all, you’ll have an easier time selling additional services to a client who’s already satisfied with your work.
Basic SEO skills are also helpful for your own business, to attract more targeted search traffic from major search engines.
7. Basic Wireframing Or Hand-Sketching
Can you sketch out a rough draft of a planned page layout?
If not, you might want to work on your drawing skills. Being able to quickly represent ideas on paper is a valuable skill when you’re working with clients on new sites or redesign projects.
There are several wireframe apps available, of course, but some of those can be rather pricey and they still don’t replace the ability to whip out a quick sketch of major elements on a page.
8. Business Management Skills
If you’re planning a brilliant freelancing or self-employed WordPress career, you’ll definitely need to know how to create, operate, and grow a business.
For instance, basic accounting skills will help you keep accurate financial records and make your life much easier come tax time.
And understanding how to create business systems and workflows will help you get more done and scale your business as your list of clients grows.
9. Marketing Skills
Along with those basic entrepreneurial skills, you’ll need to understand the basics of digital marketing if you want to get more clients and grow your business.
While traditional outbound marketing (such as print/radio ads, direct mail, and PPC ads) still have their place, most WordPress developers focus their marketing attention on inbound strategies such as blogging, social media, and email marketing.
10. A Great Coder’s Text Editor
If you want to produce excellent work — and who doesn’t? — then Notepad won’t do. You need a text editor that was built for coding.
You have a wide variety of options in this department. Some popular choices include Notepad++ for Windows; Atom for OS X (10.8 or later), Windows 7 & 8, and Linux; and Vim for OS X, Windows & Linux. Vim also has apps for both Android and iOS devices; it packs a steeper learning curve but it’s free, with professional features.
11. A Local Server Environment
In order to play around with WordPress and experiment safely, it’s crucial to create a local server environment on your own computer to mimic the “field conditions” of a website’s hosting server.
WordPress development is a growing field that can help you create a successful business and a relatively balanced life — if you have the necessary skills, tools, and traits. And if that sounds like you, there’s no time like the present to get started.
Do you have a favorite resource we didn’t list here? Share it in the comments below!