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So You Want to Be a WordPress Developer? Here’s How to Get Started

With new themes and plugins being released every day and a number of top brands choosing WordPress as a platform for building their blogs and other websites, offering your services as a WordPress developer is almost certain to be a great career move.

Whether you come from a background of web development and you’re just new to WordPress, or you’re starting from scratch with no coding knowledge, there is a wealth of information available online to help you achieve your goal.

The WordPress community is also large, still growing and very helpful. Functions, coding conventions and plugins are all well documented and if you run into problems, it’s easy to get help quickly from a more experienced developer.

Another important thing to note is that because the software is open source, there are no licensing restrictions or official certification required to be a developer. You don’t need to attend an expensive training program to get started as a WordPress developer – you just start!

If you’re thinking of dipping your toes into the waters of WordPress Development, here are some ideas to get you started:

Learning the Basics

If you’re starting with no coding background, you’ll need at least a basic understanding of the languages that WordPress is built on before you can start developing for it:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • PHP
  • MySQL
  • JavaScript

If you’re not already at least familiar with these languages, it’s important to learn the basics before you go any deeper into the world of WordPress development.

As it happens, these are also the most common programming languages for websites and web-based applications, so there is no shortage of tutorials to help you learn the ropes.

Start with HTML and CSS and move onto PHP/MySQL and JavaScript once you’re comfortable with building basic websites from scratch.

Getting Started with WordPress Development

Once you feel comfortable writing basic code, you can start getting to grips with the WordPress system itself. The WordPress Codex is a great place to start as it explains pretty much everything you need about how WordPress works and has many useful tutorials and links to helpful websites.

You can start experimenting by changing some of the theme code in a basic WordPress installation and seeing the effects. Learning by doing is the only effective way to learn website development so prepare yourself for a lot of practical work – reading books won’t cut it.

However you’ll need to absorb the advice and experiences of others to proceed so make sure you subscribe to a few good WordPress blogs too. WPEka is obviously an excellent place to start but there are many other blogs ranging from beginner to advanced coder. Just by reading a handful of WordPress blogs on a regular basis, you’ll have access to tips, tricks, tutorials and news.

You’ll probably have lots of questions when you’re first starting out and this is when forums can come in very handy. The official WordPress support forums and Stack Overflow are great places to turn to when you get stuck or are confused about something.

Once you start getting fully absorbed into the world of WordPress, it can be a good idea to try and attend a WordCamp. WordCamps are community-run conferences based on WordPress development. They’re a great place to meet other developers, learn new skills and share your ideas. If there’s no WordCamp near to where you live, WordPress.tv offers a way to watch recorded videos from camps all over the world online.

WordPress Courses

wordpress-polish-code

These days there’s no need to attend a college course or pay for an expensive professional training certification to acquire the skills you need. There are some excellent WordPress development courses available online, many of which offer private tutoring and class discussion forums:

    • Treehouse offers interactive video training courses for WordPress along with many other courses including HTML, JavaScript and web design. A basic account is $25 per month and includes access to all training videos.

No Risk, No Contracts! - Learn coding, Web Design and More!

  • Tuts+ is a repository of tutorials, videos and e-books, covering everything from UI design to advanced coding techniques. Individual courses cost $25 each or you can buy a “WordPress Developer Launchpad” bundle of 6 courses for $59. A subscription to all the resources costs from $180 per year.
  • Code Academy offers an interactive coding environment for learning several programming languages, all for free.

Making a Career from WordPress Development

Once you’ve honed your skills and you feel confident in WordPress, there’s no reason why you can’t start making money with your newly developed skills. There are several routes you can choose to take:

Bespoke WordPress Site Development

It is very common for clients to want to create a site with WordPress either with a completely custom theme and plugins, or they want an existing theme to be tweaked to their requirements. This can be a very lucrative business and developers with these skills are always demand.

If you’d like to go down this route, it’s probably best to get started with two or three sites for friends or do a freebie for a non-profit organisation. Working as a freelance WordPress developer is not just about having the skills, you also need to learn how to manage your time, plan out sites and meet client expectations.

Getting a few sites under your belt before you start taking on paid clients not only gives you something to put in your portfolio but also lets you practice these important business skills.

Once you’re ready to progress onto your first paid gig, there are several ways you can find a client. Job sites like Elance and Odesk often advertise jobs for WordPress developers. There are also specialist WordPress job listings on WordPress.net and WPHired, which are great once you’ve got some experience.

You could also try reaching out directly to people you’ve worked with in the past through their existing website or a social networking site like LinkedIn. Word of mouth is often the best way to get business so remember to tell everyone you meet that you’re a WordPress developer, you never know who might need a new website.

Developing Themes

As well or instead of developing bespoke themes on demand, you can also create themes for sale. Once you have a few themes this can be a nice way of building up recurring income as you’ll be paid every time someone purchases the theme, rather than the one-off payment you’d receive from a client.

You can set up your own theme studio but it’s difficult to compete with the big guys like Elegant Themes and Woo Themes. Selling through a directory like Themeforest requires that you pay a percentage for each license you sell but will also bring you a lot more customers.

Developing plugins

code

IF you’re more interested in the coding than design side of WordPress development, developing plugins is another great way to create a passive income stream. To create a successful plugin, look for problems that need solving. This may be in the form of developing an alternative for an existing plugin that doesn’t work very well or by creating useful products by reading WordPress forums for common issues.

Plugins can be sold on your own website or through directory sites like CodeCanyon. You may also consider releasing a free version of your plugin with limited functionality to encourage more downloads. If you do release a plugin, make sure you get it listed in the WordPress directory for best exposure.

Start Learning Today

WordPress development does have a fairy steep learning curve if you’re starting from scratch, but it’s worth the effort. Don’t stop learning after you’ve got your first few paying clients – WordPress is a constantly evolving environment and it’s important to stay up to date with the latest developments, keep learning and refining your skills. Set aside a few hours every week on top of your usual client work for reading, learning and experimentation.

Don’t just use your skills for your own monetary gain – contribute to the community by interacting in forums, helping other newcomers with questions, writing or recording tutorials and contributing a patch once you feel your skills are up to it. WordPress is only as strong as the community behind it so make sure you return the favor of all the free information you used when you were starting out.

Image credits: Alexander Gounding /Martino Sabia /Ronny-Andre Bedikson

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2 Comments


  1. santanu

    April 24, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    This is a good career option now a days as the number of WordPress blogs are goring very fast.

    Reply

  2. Jude

    July 2, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Nice post Rachel, I will checkout some the tutorial blogs you listed here to get myself acquainted with more WordPress development skills.

    Reply

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