I recently came across some misconceptions about WordPress that I thought I would address here. Most of these misconceptions are half-truths, which is what makes them very appealing.
If you use WordPress, you’re stuck with the “WordPress look”
False. It is true that there are many free and premium themes that look the same — slider on top, content with right sidebar, and full band designs thrown in for good measure. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, since these designs sell very well. But the fact that they are popular contributes to the stigma that WordPress sites are only allowed to look like that. If your options are limited to these themes, then perhaps yes, you are limited to these designs.
However, a WordPress theme does not need to look like those themes. Your website’s look and feel is controlled by your CSS stylesheet, which has nothing to do with the PHP code that WordPress is written in. An experienced front-end developer is able to work some real magic with your site’s HTML structure. To see some of that potential, check out the different designs at CSS Zen Garden: nothing has changed except for the stylesheet!
So can you achieve unique-looking designs with WordPress? Absolutely, because, as we learned earlier, it really has nothing to do with WordPress! Don’t believe me? Check out these examples of sites that don’t have that “WordPress look”.
If I am a freelance WordPress developer, I am easily replaceable
True if you let it. There is no doubt that there are a ton of WordPress developers out there. Do a quick search on oDesk and Elance and you will find developers from all over the world willing to work at a fraction of your price. How does someone compete with that? One reaction to this problem may be to dive into other frameworks or languages. After all, the more custom or esoteric your code, the more secure your job/contract is, right? This might be true to a certain extent, but it also comes at a price. You run the risk of being the one of very few who know how the application works, and when it comes time to find help, you have a harder time handing off the project or even ask questions.
Now, there is nothing wrong with learning a new language or framework. I would personally recommend that WordPress developers branch out once in a while. However, with just about any framework or language you can be sure there is someone on oDesk charging less than you. No, unless you are the cream of the crop, it shouldn’t be your technical skills that set you apart. This is where you stop being a freelancer, and choose to become a consultant instead. When you’re interacting with your client, you are no longer just making a website, you are helping them to succeed. Only then can you elevate the conversation from talking about code and design commodities to the value of success. If you are interested in this subject, greater minds than I have written extensively about it. For starters, I would highly recommend signing up for Brennan Dunn’s free email course.
You can’t build a big agency using WordPress
False. There are plenty of big WordPress agencies: Human Made, 10up, and Modern Tribe, just to name a few. I believe successful agencies understand how to leverage their tools, be it WordPress, Drupal, Rails, or something else. Other more important factors to success include client relationships, business acumen, and the ability to deliver good value to clients. For some agencies, WordPress just happens to be the main tool they use. Can tech get in the way of an agency’s growth? It’s definitely possible. However, I’d wager that most of the time the root cause is mismanagement of the process (or lack thereof) rather than the tech itself.
Judging the potential of an agency by the tools it uses is somewhat akin to evaluating a designer’s work by the computer she uses, or a chef by the pans he cooks with. Yes, it matters to some degree (no pun intended), but it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. You see, Emeril Lagasse can use the same pan I use, and cook something infinitely better. Elon Musk can probably take the same product/capital as I have and build a billion-dollar company before I ever make it to $1 million (if I even make it that far). There’s more to a company’s success than its technology stack. After all, if ingredients were the sole factor for success, then McDonald’s wouldn’t be where it is today.
Don’t be afraid of using WordPress
If you are a freelancer, and you know WordPress, then by all means use it. Be good at your craft, but don’t forget to shore up your business skills. At the end of the day, there is more to success than the tools you are using.