WordPress has become the most popular CMS (Content Management System) around. At this point, it powers just over 40% of all the websites on the Internet. There is good money to be made if you learn how to become a WordPress developer.
There are a number of reasons why WordPress has become so popular. From its ease of use to the ability to accomplish almost anything with the right theme and selections of plugins, all of this works together to continue to drive overall popularity.
WordPress development is also very popular. If you know how to develop for WordPress, then chances are you can take that skill and turn it into a nice living.
In this article, I am going to go over some simple steps to take so that you can learn how to become a WordPress developer.
What is a WordPress Developer?
WordPress website design and WordPress development should not be confused.
While you can do both, they are actually a little different. Simply put, a WordPress developer is someone who specializes in the ecosystem and infrastructure of WordPress.
A WordPress specialist like this works not only to build, manage, and design websites but also to develop themes and plugins and get more involved within the WordPress core. Developing and building new items is their main thing.
However, so we don’t limit what WordPress developers do, they are also involved with quite a few other aspects of development. Some of these include:
- Migrating Sites
As you can see, there are a lot of different WordPress developer jobs out there and things to get involved with once you have honed your skills.
Let’s take a look at the steps you need to take to become a WordPress developer.
How to Become a WordPress Developer
The path to becoming a WordPress developer is not cut and dry. There are multiple ways to go about it and it is highly dependent on what you want to specialize on.
Here is a brief outline:
Step 1: Learn All About Coding
So, there is often confusion about code and WordPress. Most people think that it is a popular CMS because you can build and design websites without having to learn how to code. This assumption is correct.
However, in order to be a WordPress developer, you are going to have to learn the fundamentals of code and how to write it.
Why do I need to learn so many languages you ask? Let’s take a look at how each one is used:
HTML: You can build custom pages with HTML, customize your WordPress theme, or even create content using an HTML editor inside of WordPress. It’s a versatile language that is fundamental to all website development.
CSS: This language is exclusively used for design purposes. With it, you can customize its appearance, layout, fonts, colors, and more. Nearly everything in WordPress has an additional CSS box for you to add code into.
PHP: PHP is the fundamental language of WordPress, or to say it another way, WordPress was built with PHP. That means understanding PHP allows you to change anything in WordPress, making it the most important language to learn.
As you can see, each language plays an important part in building a website. The good news is that there are a lot of similarities in coding languages. That makes learning multiple languages much easier.
Step 2: Understand WordPress as a CMS
While WordPress is universally hailed as one of the easiest CMS to learn, mastering it is another story.
Even if you have a firm handle on coding, using that knowledge in WordPress requires you to actually understand all of the moving parts of WordPress, and there are a lot of them.
In fact, a lot of features won’t even need that knowledge or require code.
For example, let’s say you want to create a page. It’s a basic task for a WordPress developer, but how do you go about it?
The first way would be to use the built-in editor, Gutenberg. This is a block-based editor that is constantly being updated in every major version update, thus, you actually need to keep learning.
The second way would be to master a page-building plugin like Elementor. There are quite a few page-builders, and mastering them can be a boon for business. But each one has hundreds if not thousands of features to learn.
Another approach would be to write up a page in HTML and upload it to your WordPress site.
As you can already see, even a simple task in WordPress has a variety of approaches you can take as a developer. The good news is that there are several resources online that you can use to learn more about WordPress.
You will find all sorts of tutorials as well, as they are posted everywhere. Becoming a part of different communities will help with the process. You need to learn everything to be competitive in this field.
Some other WordPress-related resources to consider include:
WordPress Codex: This is the official online manual written by WordPress developers. It covers everything imaginable. From basic site-building to complex WordPress situations. If you want to learn everything about this CMS platform, then this is where to go.
Envato WordPress Tutorials: Yes, there are dozens of places, blogs, podcasts, and learning platforms that offer different types of WordPress tutorials. However, the Envato Marketplace offers a wide variety of them. Envato nearly covers everything, and they are fairly priced.
WordPress Developer Resources: WordPress has an entire part of its site dedicated to developers. Here, you can access code references, APIs, the Gutenberg editor, and tons of other developer-related tools that will help you on your journey.
WordPress Reddit: When it comes to being part of a community, Reddit is one of the best places to start. The WordPress community has over 166 thousand members ready to hand out advice. Ask and answer questions to learn the ins and outs of the platform.
Aside from the above resources, you should consider attending a WordPress development course. These courses teach the fundamentals of WordPress and provide you with a certificate as proof.
Even if you are quite knowledgeable, obtaining the certificate can open up opportunities for you.
Step 3: Choose an Area to Focus On
WordPress is a huge ecosystem. In fact, it’s so big that it’s really not feasible to be a jack-of-all-trades. And to be perfectly honest, customers are not looking for one. Instead, they want a specialist.
While WordPress development is a broad term, it can be broken up into three, equally broad, categories:
- Core Development
- Theme Development
- Plugin Development
Now, just to be clear, you can do it all. For example, it’s actually pretty common for development teams to form and create a theme and then design plugins for that theme.
So with that said, what does each one entail?
Core development is the most popular of the three. This consists of the essential parts of WordPress, editing, building, security, optimizations, and just about everything you can do in WordPress.
So, I know what you are thinking, that’s a pretty broad description. And you are definitely correct.
In simple terms, a core developer is someone who manages just about every detail of WordPress installation to the content creation process. You can also break this down into smaller bits.
For instance, there are developers who specialize in quickly setting up new websites. This would entail installing WordPress in a hosting account and possibly installing and setting up a few plugins and a theme.
Another example would be someone who focuses specifically on page design. Or someone who focuses on improving the SEO of your website. Due to all of the possibilities, this is the most popular option.
WordPress has thousands of themes to choose from. However, only a few themes are actually made by the WordPress team. Instead, the vast majority of them are made by independent developers.
The main goal of working on theme development is to be able to sell your theme to core developers. Or to sell add-ons or support for that theme. It can be a very lucrative business, assuming your theme is prevalent.
The main issue is how crowded the field is, but that’s really a different conversation altogether.
That’s why the best way to approach it is to go for a niche. While there are a ton of really great all-purpose themes, beginners will struggle to transform them into something they want to use.
And that’s why building a theme for a specific niche can be extremely popular. That is also assuming enough people are looking for the layout type.
Plugins are the bread and butter of WordPress. These are the tools developers can use to add functionality to their website without writing a line of code. However, creating a plugin does.
In fact, it requires a lot of coding as a single plugin can interact with hundreds of files in your WordPress install simultaneously.
Similarly to theme development, the main goal here is to create a plugin that accomplishes a specific task that others are willing to pay for.
You might have noticed that most plugins are free. What you might not have noticed, is that a good portion of those free plugins have a premium version available.
Thus, for many tools, the free version acts as a demo for users to try.
In some cases, if the tool is popular enough, you can collect donations from users. It can be very lucrative, to say the least.
Step 4: Embrace the WordPress Community And Be Active
WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world. Naturally, it also has the biggest community. And just to be clear, it’s not even close.
The WordPress community is huge. There are all sorts of ways to access it as well. You can hit message boards, blogs, forums, and even join communities in software programs like Slack.
Before the pandemic, the WordPress community would meet up at WordCamps. These were events hosted in major cities where WordPress developers could congregate and make new contacts.
There are also courses during these events hosted by experts. The good news is that WordCamps and in-person Meetups are starting to happen again.
It is important to get out there and become involved, as the more you have access to, the more you will be able to learn in the long run.
There are millions of people using WordPress and involved in all sorts of WordPress-related things. Becoming involved in all this not only gets your name out there but also allows you to learn and see what everyone else is doing and talking about.
In fact, you can use something like Meetup.com to find WordPress events in your local area.
Step 5: Build a Portfolio
Now, even if you have the knowledge and the connections, you are still missing one piece of the puzzle – a portfolio.
Portfolios are always key for anyone who does visual work like development or graphic design. These allow you to show everyone what kind of work you do, what jobs you have done, and the types of finished products you create.
Your portfolio can include projects, skills, development service information, personal information, and anything else you might think is relevant to potential customers.
Of course, this means you actually need to have something to show or demonstrate.
This can be very difficult for beginners, as they won’t have a long work history to pull from. The best solution is to create multiple demo sites for the sole purpose of showing off your skill.
As you start to get more jobs, be sure to add the experiences to your portfolio. Having a diverse library of projects to display can open the door to multiple opportunities.
You can also display your portfolio on a site or use it for scooping up other jobs on freelance sites like Upwork.
While a portfolio is one of the most common ways to show off your work, for many jobs, you may need a more traditional resume when applying to a corporation. So, be sure to have one made and mention that you have a portfolio.
Just understanding the path you will have to take to become a WordPress developer does not answer every question. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions:
Are SEO Specialists A Type of WordPress Developer?
One thing every WordPress developer should be aware of is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It is one of the most important aspects of any website and can take years to fully master.
SEO determines how well a website ranks on a search engine. Thus, the better your SEO, the better you will rank, which has a direct impact on the traffic a website receives.
Since it is integral to WordPress and hard to learn, this raises the question, «is an SEO Specialist a type of WordPress developer?»
In many ways, yes, you could definitely call an SEO specialist a WordPress developer that focuses on search engine optimization.
However, many of these improvements apply to any CMS platform. As a result, an SEO specialist won’t exclusively work on WordPress.
That said, many SEO specialists will focus specifically on WordPress.
WordPress has a variety of unique optimizations when it comes to search engine performance. And to be clear, this is also true for other platforms.
Thus, in most cases, an SEO specialist is not considered a WordPress developer. It’s a separate entity altogether.
What About Marketing Specialists?
Marketing is another essential part of any website and there are literally hundreds of ways to go about it.
Primarily, a marketing specialist will work on platforms outside of the actual website they are trying to promote. For instance, they will work on creating a social media presence on Facebook or Twitter.
However, it’s worth noting that they may very well be marketing other things on a WordPress website. For example, perhaps your website is marketing products with affiliate links by reviewing them.
While that work is definitely done on WordPress, it can be done on almost any other CMS.
Thus, a marketing specialist is not a WordPress developer.
How Much Does A WordPress Developer Make Annually?
While you should always do something you are passionate about, bills still need to be paid. Thus, it’s only natural to worry about income.
When it comes to being a WordPress developer, the average salary varies wildly.
According to Indeed.com, the average hourly wage for a WordPress developer is $32.55. However, hourly wages only apply to positions offered by corporations or small businesses.
The vast majority of WordPress developers are freelancers.
This means they are their own bosses and have to find customers themselves. Generally speaking, most projects are not on an hourly basis. While it can be very lucrative, sometimes it is not.
While the rate varies, the average range is between $110,000 and $220,000 per year.
It’s also worth noting that what you specialize in will have a very big impact on your earning potential. Experience is also very important as customers do not want to pay top dollar for an amateur’s work.
Do I Need a Degree to Be a WordPress Developer?
No, in fact, 70% of all developers are self-taught, with less than 50% having a degree.
Instead of getting a college degree, many WordPress developers sign up for WordPress development courses. These courses will help you build a strong foundation and learn the fundamentals at your own pace.
With that said, the demand for WordPress developers is rising exponentially. And as competition increases, getting a degree may become a deciding factor for some customers.
Never underestimate the value of quality and verifiable education.
Should I Create A Development Environment?
Before answering this, let’s take a moment and define what a development environment actually is.
A development environment is a workspace for developers to work. The contents of a development environment depend entirely on what is being developed.
In the case of WordPress, this could include customized core, theme, and plugin files.
There are multiple ways to create one. The first is to take a more direct approach using WAMP or XAMP. These are local WordPress websites that you can customize and design from your computer without a web host.
There are also easier local WordPress install tools you can try like Bitnami. But is all this necessary?
Absolutely. In fact, it would be a stretch to call yourself a WordPress developer without having one of these.
Using one will not only save you a huge amount of time but can dramatically improve the quality of the work. And the more familiar you are with your environment, the easier it becomes to design content, layouts, and functions.
So yes, you should create one to ensure you work efficiently.
Where Do WordPress Developers Work?
Where a WordPress developer works largely depends on where you are hired.
For instance, Freelancers are the most common form of WordPress developers, and they mostly work remotely. In fact, they can have customers from around the world.
Of course, if you are hired by a corporation, you will most likely be working in an office setting. Yet, like most things in today’s post-covid world, the options for remote work exist.
In both cases, sometimes traveling is required to meet up with clients. That said, sometimes just using a phone or Zoom will suffice. It really depends on the client as many like to have a real interaction with the WordPress developer.
Should I Consider Other CMS Platforms?
While WordPress is certainly the largest CMS platform, it is not the only one.
There are literally hundreds of other platforms you can use to build a website. Each one requires specialized knowledge to master, but there is a lot of overlap. You can definitely branch out to other platforms.
In reality, there may be times when WordPress is not the best platform to use. Being able to point customers in the right direction can help build loyalty.
Start Your Journey Today
Learning how to become a WordPress developer may seem out of reach at first. That being said, if you have a path and know the steps to take, then the journey is not as difficult as originally thought.
There are a lot of different things to learn on your journey to becoming a WordPress developer. Take your time, immerse yourself in everything, and learn as much as you can from people who are already developers.
Before you know it, you will be developing WordPress themes and plugins for others to use and enjoy.
Good luck on your journey.
Are there any other steps you took to become successful as a WordPress developer? Is it a rewarding career