Working on a WordPress project is good. The flexibility of the platform means you can achieve amazing things with it. However there is a WordPress curse which can mean trying to make a living from WordPress tough.
OK it’s not really a WordPress curse, it can probably apply to other open source projects but none have the scale of WordPress and I really haven’t come across another software with such a stigma and discrimination attached to it.
So who or what’s to blame?
Big business? WordPress big shots? WordPress developers? WordPress users? Well it’s all the above really. Let’s look at each individually and discuss why they all have a part to play.
Why don’t more big businesses use WordPress, yes there are a small amount of big businesses (50+ employees) using it or even medium sized businesses. Also when I say “use WordPress” I mean using it on their main website, integrating it into their other in house systems etc, I don’t just mean that eBay’s blog is using WordPress.
I think there are two main reasons for this:
1. Free software is misunderstood. Big business seem to prefer custom built stuff because they feel it can be protected better. They can own the code in other words and protect any intellectual property. I’m no expert in this area but there are ways to protect your intellectual property and code is inherently difficult to protect anyway. But the main issue is the “free software” label, it’s just not attractive to larger companies because if something’s free it has no value right? This is where I think a lot of people misunderstand free or open source software. It should be thought of in terms of freedom no free-ness. It’s a state of being not a value.
2. Developers are uneducated, wooooooooah there cowboy I hear you say. What I mean is there is no official or certified training programmes which makes it harder for bigger businesses to put their trust and money into developers. This means that there is a definite zenith for WordPress developer rates. Even though its PHP, you would get more as a non-WordPress PHP developer. This is another issue with free software, it’s easier to get into, that means more people calling themselves “developers”, which means increased competition (lower rates) but because of the potential lack of a big salary it also means a lack of talent getting into WordPress.
WordPress Big Shots
As discussed earlier there is a lack of professional certification. If Mr Cutts could get together with the high fliers in the WP scene I’m sure they could come up with some courses, exams and some shiny certificates that are industry recognised. Maybe like Microsoft do but instead of an MCP we’d be WPCP.
Perhaps the marketing of WordPress isn’t correct anymore? I mean it was all about how easy it is to set up (the famous 5 min install), how easy it is to use, how easy it is to add functionality or change the look of your website. Enough already, everyone knows it’s a piece of piss to install and use, let’s start marketing it more as a solid base to build very successful businesses and that it can be complex or used for complex projects. I think the acquisition of Woocommerce is a savvy move on Matt’s part, ecommerce projects can be a bit larger, more complex and in my experience clients are normally willing to pay more for those kinds of websites. Helping developers make more money probably wasn’t his intent when buying Woo but it might be a good by-product.
A bit of sore point and perhaps a grey area here. What makes a developer a developer, again there is no accreditation to fall back on here. Because WordPress is so easy to get into and become proficient at there are a lot of people competing for work which obviously drives developer rates down. But I think a bit of blame has to be laid at the door of companies like envato and the developers that publish themes there. Envato set the price of developers work the developers let them set it low because they hope for huge sales numbers, Envato wants the prices low to attract customers. This has now set the precedent of a theme shouldn’t be more the $55 or so.
I’m sure I saw an Automattic theme for sale once (ages ago) for like $200 and people where actually going mad about it all over the place saying it wasn’t worth it and who do they think they are and they are taking advantage of their “brand” etc etc. But maybe they were trying to set a benchmark price that could actually encourage and sustain great developers, to change peoples perceptions on how cheap a WordPress theme should be.
I definitely think developers should stand up to Envato and be able to set their own pricing.
The other big developer curse I see here is the huge amount of developers from countries like India and Eastern Europe. I get emails daily from these guys asking me to outsource dev work to them for $10 an hour. These guys can afford to do it because $10 an hour is way above the average hourly rate and they can live well on such a rate but it does put us highly taxed Brits, Americans and others under some pressure. We just cant go that low, well you can but you will burn yourself out trying to make enough to do the things you need to.
Oh come on you know the customers. The “WordPress is free so your support should be too” or “it only takes 5 minutes to install so you can make me a plugin or theme in an hour right” customers. It really annoys me that this word “free” is connected in such a negative way to open source software.
Some WordPress website owners see how easy it is to install a plugin that gives them loads of functionality and it was only $20 so they expect you to change it to do what they really need for about the same. It’s mad and I’m talking from experience here. I have a client that always starts a sentence with “this shouldn’t take YOU long” or “it seems pretty easy”. Oh yeh, well you do it then buster and I’m not falling for your “honey dicking”!
There are quite a lot of “small jobs” (it’s a big part of the business here) associated with WordPress and perhaps this mentality is carried on by users.
Let’s face it open source software does attract the cheapskates among us.
Oh dear this has been slightly cathartic and has turned out to be a much more negative post than I’d planned, so let’s end on a positive note. It can change! The WordPress community as whole is great, the fact that so many people give stuff away for free attracts a lot of users and developers to the platform and that does offer opportunities.
Developers can stand up for themselves and each other and get a fairer reward for their skill and expertise.
Not all users/customers are bad. There really are some good ones out there that value your knowledge.