Today I saw a tweet from someone who had just followed me, and it made me think about how overwhelming it can seem to be to get started in WordPress.
Getting started in anything can be tough. How is it done? Why is it so easy for some people and so hard for others? This post is about getting started in WordPress, but it’s really about getting started in just about anything.
What Does It Mean?
Experience tells me that most people think the only career in WordPress is Web Development. That can often mean design, because usually includes making web sites exist.
But there’s SO MUCH MORE in “WordPress” than fiddling with technology to create web sites. Any WordPress freelancer with more than 6 months experience will tell you that it also involves Business Management, Sales, Marketing, Finance, Project Management, and a dozen other titles.
Which should make you think long and hard before deciding to become a solo freelancer.
Peek inside any WordPress agency and you’ll see all of those titles, plus Social Media Managers, Content Creators, and many more.
Saying you “work in WordPress” is like saying you’re a working professional. That could mean ANYTHING. So let’s let that simmer for a bit while we move on to the next step.
What Do You Want To Do?
Figuring this out can be trickier than you might imagine. It took me nearly 20 years to understand that I love teaching more than I love web development. Keep these things in mind as you get started in WordPress.
Don’t jump at the first thing you find. Look around. Talk to people. Watch people on twitter conduct themselves professionally in public. Think long and hard about what you want to do.
You can be doing other things at the same time. I was a web developer while figuring out I love to teach. I still make my living as a web developer. But don’t assume development or design is the only option. Cate has an excellent WordCamp talk about working in WordPress when you’re not a developer or a designer.
Try to avoid thinking about what you NEED to do. Don’t take a higher paying career path because it pays more. That does not lead to happiness.
Take your time, try things, learn about options, and then make an educated choice.
How Do You Move On From Here?
Once you’ve picked something you want to do, learn everything you can about it and start DOING it as soon as possible.
This doesn’t mean getting a job on Day Two with no experience. But it DOES mean picking up the tool and swinging it around a little to get a feel for it. It doesn’t take very long before you have “experience”.
Here are some other practical steps to get going.
Find The People
Find people who are doing what you want to do, at all levels of experience. Look for them on:
- their personal website
- Search the web
And because it’s important, I’ll say it again. Hang out with people at all skill levels!
You want the really experienced people because you want to do what they do. You want people with a fair amount of experience because they’re working hard. And you want the people with experience levels similar to yours because you can work together to learn and grow.
When it’s appropriate, engage with these people.
In the WordPress world MOST people are very approachable. People who seem “famous” and “on the cutting edge” are just normal people like you, and they’re on the same path you are, just a few steps ahead. They work to learn and grow just like everyone else and often enjoy the creativity that’s sparked working with new users.
Do Your Research
The WordPress community is GREAT about turning out training materials. With lots of paths to help you get started in WordPress, you can basically Google any career choice, add the keyword “WordPress”, and there’s a fair chance you’ll find a blog post about it.
There are also some really great collections of material, and here’s a very small selection to start with:
- WP Podcasts
- A collection of all WordPress podcast episodes, searchable by keyword and tag. Topics range across all career fields in WordPress.
- A collection of WordCamp talks going back years. Also searchable, also widely ranging in topics.
- A blog aimed squarely at helping people become more experienced with WordPress.
- WinningWP Video Channel
- A collection of videos designed to provide training to those with no experience using WordPress at all.
Engage With The Community
The global WordPress community is one of the most valuable, powerful assets related to WordPress. The more people you get to know, the wider your knowledge pool reaches. Here are some practical tips.
Join a Meetup. WordPress meetups exist all over the world. If there isn’t one near you, you can start one, and the WordPress Foundation will help you.
You can also find them by going to meetup.com and searching for WordPress. Remember, you don’t have to join only the one local to you. These days most meetups are held virtually, so you can be a part of any in the world.
Attend a WordCamp. Even during the pandemic WordCamps are happening online, which is great if you don’t live near one.
Thanks to the power of the internet you can attend any in the world, in a variety of languages. Once the pandemic is over I highly recommend you attend a WordCamp in person. WordCamps have consistently changed my career for the better.
Join a Slack group. The WordPress ecosystem leverages Slack quite heavily. Many local meetups have Slack channels, and many larger geographic areas have them. For example, there’s one for all of Africa and one for India.
As you meet more people, you will find other channels to join.
One of the best ways to get experience is hands on helping. There are dozens of ways to volunteer, either within the WordPress project directly, or with adjacent projects.
The Get Involved page on WordPress.org describes each of the main teams that work on WordPress, an open source project. Opportunities range from contributing code to writing documentation to testing, video production work, creating training, and much more.
Teams are managed on the Make WordPress Slack. Simply join the Slack group found at WordPress.org, find the team, introduce yourself, and ask how you can help.
There are other projects around the community that can use help, too.
- Jill Binder spearheads a project helping to increase diversity in speaking in the WordPress community.
- Michelle Frechette and Allie McMillan run UnderRepresentedInTech.com, and could use supporters.
- do_action is a series of events where WordPress folk gather to help non-profits with their web needs.
There’s no end to people doing interesting things to help other people in WordPress. Keep looking and you’ll find your place. Whatever your skillset, someone out there could use your help.
The more you practice, the more experience you have, and the more likely you are to get a job doing something you really love.
Like everything in life, if you want to take advantage of the opportunities getting started in WordPress has to offer, you need to be in the right place at the right time to see those opportunities.
Taking the steps I’ve outlined above won’t guarantee that you’ll get a job. No one can guarantee that. I also can’t guarantee that everything will go as you hoped. Every path is different after all. However, I can say that it’ll greatly increase your chances, and quite likely help you find some new friends and colleagues along the way.