How to Get Started As a Freelance WordPress Developer

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How to Get Started As a Freelance WordPress Developer

Do you want to jump in the Freelance Ocean as a WordPress developer? This article has everything covered for you to get started with WordPress. Let’s dig in!

WordPress rules over 37.8% of all websites on the internet. It is an incredible open-source platform that enables you to craft impressive, eye-catching, and user-friendly pages without you having to spend hours on coding Bootcamp. It’s easy to learn and user-friendly. The best thing is, you can make money by becoming a freelance WordPress developer.

Some people think they are good with technical stuff, so they should get into a WordPress freelance career, but there’s a lot more to it than just having technical abilities. 

Here is a breakdown of skills you need to adapt as a WordPress freelancer.

Be Strategic: Know about the WordPress freelance industry and where your career will stand out after a few years.

Be Practical: Setting yourself for nuts-and-bolts in terms of all types of equipment (professional laptop) you need as a WordPress freelancer. 

Be Technical: There are certain tech-related things you need to understand as a WordPress developer. Knowing primary code language and marketing yourself right is an essential part of your journey.

What Does a WordPress Developer Do?

A professional WordPress developer specializes in the infrastructure of the WordPress platform. They can focus on enhancing the platform itself or create new themes and plugins. A developer also works with clients to help them manage their WordPress site. 

WordPress developer work is not limited to creating custom themes. They work on paid projects for building wireframes or sitemaps for client sites. They redesign the site for optimization and debug the codebase for better performance.

What Does a WordPress Developer Do?

There are plenty of resources available online, which makes you overwhelmed. To help you get started with WordPress development, here are some primary steps you need to take

1. Master the Primary Skill Set: Coding

Well! WordPress is known as a content management system CMS, which doesn’t require code language. But mastering the fundamentals of coding is essential for debugging, troubleshooting, and boosting the functionality of any platform. 

Sometimes you need to set up the client’s WordPress error logs, for which you need to know a bit about PHP. You might want to set external links on WordPress, so they open automatically, and then knowing the JavaScript is essential. Learning CSS and HTML is needed to customize a unique design for your client site.

Listed down the critical language, a WordPress developer should need to learn:

  • CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is used to enact how elements look. CSS cover page layout, color, font types, click effects, and other stylistic factors. Some HTML elements include CSS for body text to determine the color of the text. For example: {background-color: dark blue;}.
  • HTML(Hypertext Markup Language) is easy to understand and one of the powerful code languages. It controls markup codes/elements to decide how different elements will be displayed on the page. Elements include headings, page titles, data tables, and paragraph text. 

Here a basic example of HTML<title>Understanding HTML</title> would set up the Understanding HTML as a title of the page.

  • Javascript is used to create web pages, add a dynamic mode to them, and add special effects. It is used for validation and to perform complicated actions on websites. It also enhances the user experience by enabling the website to visitors.

  • PHP is used for the behind the scene work of WordPress, and also called scripting language.

2. Dedicate Time to Understand all about WordPress

Once you grasp the basics knowledge of WordPress, look for other materials available online for WordPress Development. 

We have listed down some resources that can help you understand and grow as a WordPress developer. 

  • WordPress Developer Resources: a list of handbooks of application programming interfaces (APIs), plugins, and other official developer resources compiled by WordPress.
  • Know the Code: If you are a visual learner, then videos might work best for you. This e-learning site has online video resources and training to help you create plugins and themes from scratch, which is crucial for WordPress developers.
  • WordPress Codex: Your go-to manual to learn everything and anything about WordPress development, compiled by the developer of WordPress. Start with basics such as developing a website and then hop over to advance and technical stuff. You can learn the WordPress interface from an end-user aspect. 

3. Choose your Area of Expertise

Becoming a WordPress developer is easy if you focus on your potential area. WordPress developers have three paths to choose from: themes, plugins, and software. Instead of digging in all three together, focus only on becoming an expert in one area.

Narrowing down your niche is important because clients mostly look for experts in a field rather than an all-rounder. Let’s take a look at the main areas of WordPress development:

  • Core Development: Some people want to contribute to the WordPress platform. If this sounds like you, you might want to take the WordPress core approach. To get started with it, look at the Core contributor Handbook, which contains essential information. 

There is a professional core team led by Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress. However, anyone can analyze and review the code, contribute bugs, and report security vulnerabilities.

  • Plugin Development: In this area, ambitious developers create custom plugins. They can create plugins for a personal client or assign them free in WordPress Theme Directory. To learn more about plugins, you can take help from the official handbook for plugins developers.

Initiating the route with a plugin is better as it allows you to select any specific feature and work it out by adding it to WordPress. If your plugin turns out good, you can even submit it to the directory.

  • Theme Development: The developer creates tailored themes for their client or releases them on WordPress Theme Directory for free. They even put it for sale on a freelance marketplace for a third party. There is even an official handbook for theme developers.

4. Create a Development Environment Testing

To speed up the process of development, creating a development environment is vital for any developer. The best way is to create a local environment to reserve all your plugins, themes, and WordPress core files. This will allow you to view changes and test instantly.

You can build the environment yourself or automate the entire process with a tool like Local by Flywheel or DaviKinsta.

5. Join the WordPress Community

Become an active member of the WordPress community and learn from like- minded people and professional peers worldwide. Compared to other content management systems, WordPress has the most significant community around the globe committed to enhancing and improving the platform.  

Meet them in person at conferences like WordCamp or reach out to them through slacks channels and other forums for WordPress development. Stay updated with the network, product release, and any announcements.

6. Build Your Portfolio

A saying goes like “to show, not tell.”  While looking for a job, no one will believe what you have to say about your skill. You need evidence to prove that. Having a portfolio compiling your skills and abilities will help you land your first job faster. This is implied for any career, but especially for freelancing or WordPress development. 

The portfolio helps not only get your first job but also be hired as a full-time employee at a compatible company. 

Above mentioned steps are sufficient for a beginner to start as a WordPress developer. Once you master the skill, join freelance sites like UpWork or Fiver to offer your services or do volunteer projects to polish your skills further.

WordPress Freelancing Might Not Be for You

One point we would like to add, WordPress is good and all, but we would not recommend it to someone who is not strong enough in one of these areas:

  • Technical Problem Solving Skill

Be cautious before diving into the deep self-learning path of WordPress if your problem-solving skills are zero. Panicking is another thing, but if you can google tricky projects like Jailbreak my phone and find the solution, you are good to go. People who make stuff work by surfing the internet and watching youtube videos tend to handle tricky problems. 

  • Customer Service

If you choose a freelance career because you think you won’t have to deal with people, let me break your bubble. Customer service, in short, providing the best service to your client and is crucial to every freelance niche, especially for WordPress developers. If you can’t deal with people or explain things better than safe to say: choose something else.


1. How long does it take to learn WordPress development?

That depends from person to person. If you are passionate about learning, then an excellent 4-hour quality course from Udemy for just 20 bucks will be the best start for you. Or you can choose to learn for free. There are tons of free resources available on the internet, still investing in a good course will help you learn faster and better. 

2. How much can you earn?

This, too, depends upon the type of project and client you are working with. The only tip I can give is never to charge less than $50. 

$50 to $70 is a modest rate for a starter developer. However, you can earn up to $45,000 (junior developer) to $74,000(Senior Developer) as you grow as a WordPress developer. 

(Source: Glassdoor) 

3. How will you find clients?

When you are just starting, finding a client is the hardest part of your job. 

Here are some tips you need to get your clients:

  1. Join all Freelance Platforms and apply with a proper portfolio.
  2. Networking works wonders. Get in touch with peers of the same field on Facebook and Linkedin. 

Wrapping Up

Learning and starting as a WordPress developer seems intimidating initially, but it is the best place to learn development, thanks to such a vast and supportive community. Plus, with time and experience, you can earn a lucrative amount as you grow. 

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