Building Your Freelance Business Around WordPress

by Brian Casel

March 28, 2010 in Business/Freelance

WordPress has been nothing short of spectacular for freelancers and clients alike. Of course, we all know it’s the go-to system for blogging, but these days it’s much more than that.

In this post, I’d like to cover how different types of freelancers can build their businesses around this great piece of open-source software. And I’m not just focusing on programmers! There’s something for everyone here, thanks to the flexibility and versatility of WordPress.

WordPress for the Freelance Designer

Are you a designer who loves to push pixels in photoshop, obsess over typography, rate color schemes on colourlovers, and endlessly search design inspiration? Not into coding PHP and working with a MySQL database? Don’t know what a MySQL database is?

Worry not. WordPress enables you to focus on perfecting and implementing a design, while also being able to deliver a package of built-in functionality, including features that you normally wouldn’t be able to program yourself.

You can go with one of the popular theme frameworks to provide all of the functional templates you’ll need to create your custom theme design. A few of those theme frameworks are:

WordPress for the Freelance Web Developer

Maybe PHP functions, callbacks, database queries, and validated code is your thing. Your expertise is not so much in how things look, but how they function. As a web developer, you’re interested (and paid) to take basic applications and extend their capabilities without limit.

WordPress is a beautiful system in this regard. This open-source software provides the perfect balance between built-in base functionality and tools to build new features on top of it. I’m talking about programming WordPress plugins and advanced theme development. Clients and designers alike will pay for an expert developer to bring these enhancements to life.

Most developers are in need an elegant design for the front-end. That’s where the market for professionally designed WordPress themes come in. There are loads of great theme designs out there, both in the free directory and in the commercial themes market. Here are a few notable theme design companies:

WordPress for the Freelance Copywriter

Copywriters can benefit from getting to know the WordPress system. Every freelancer should have their own website. I’d argue that most if not all freelancers should have their own blog too. If you’re a copywriter, you really should have your own blog because after all, you are a writer!

By following any of the links above, you can find the perfect WordPress theme to fit your personality and your business. Once you have your site up and running, take the time learn about all of the great editing features that are built into WordPress. This familiarity with the software can come in handy when you’re hired to work on a client’s WordPress-driven website. Here are a few unique features and plugins you might be interested in:

WordPress for the Freelance Photographer

Do you frame, point, and shoot for a living? WordPress can work wonders for your online portfolio. In case you weren’t aware, a WordPress blog doesn’t have to be typed. Photo blogs and portfolios are among the most popular uses of the WordPress system.

Built right into WordPress are a host of image and gallery features. You can upload, resize, and crop your images. You can align them around text, add captions and links. You can have a page of thumbnails which link to a larger version of the shot. All of this is part of the core WordPress software.

But there are several plugins available to take your photography website to the next level:

  • NextGEN Gallery – This is one of the most popular gallery plugins, offering tons of great features.
  • Flickr RSS – Easily embed Flickr photos on your site.
  • Shadowbox – My personal favorite plugin for implementing a unique lightbox effect for enlarged images.

WordPress for the Freelance Journalist

Whether you do your own personal reporting, or you work (or own) a larger news site, WordPress can be a powerful solution for your needs.

From publishing extended articles with media features like photos and video, to managing extended archives, categories, multiple authors, RSS feeds, and more. WordPress has built-in features that handle all of these things with ease and elegance.

As we all know, the biggest way to monetize a blog or online magazine is to sell advertising space. WordPress Advertising Manager is a feature-packed plugin which helps you manage and serve up advertising on your site. Many of the themes mentioned above also include nice advertising widgets to make ad management easier.

Additional Resources

The WordPress scene is growing at an extremely rapid pace and as WordPress version 3.0 is almost here, the popularity will likely skyrocket even further. Here are a few more WordPress-related things you might find helpful:

  • WordPress.org – The official site for the WordPress platform.
  • Installing WordPress – Helpful information. Your web host may have a 1-click install for WordPress, which would be even easier.
  • WordPress Codex – The official (and exhaustive) documentation for WordPress.
  • WordCamp Central – The official hub for WordCamp events, which are held in cities all over the world.
  • WP Tavern – Some call it the “WordPress Media”. Excellent source of WordPress news, great podcast, and lively forums.
  • WP Questions – A paid service to give and receive technical support for WordPress questions.
  • WordPress Resources – A nice list of WordPress resources separated by category.

How Do You Use WordPress?

Share you thoughts in the comments about how WordPress has helped your freelance business!

About the Author:

Brian Casel is a web designer and WordPress enthusiast. He runs ThemeJam, which offers professionally designed WordPress themes, site and email templates. CasJam Media is Brian’s freelance web design business. Brian loves to talk shop about freelancing and business through his blog, briancasel.com and on Twitter.

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About Brian Casel

  • Tommy Day

    Mar 28th

    I’m a freelance web designer and developer, and I have definitely built my business around WordPress. I love the flexibility it gives me and my client. Most of my clients love the idea of being able to update their website easily without any technical knowledge, and WordPress makes that possible for them.

  • adi mobile apps

    Mar 28th

    i learning more about wordpress . its make me help to promote my project offline to online with blog [wordpress] so easy .

  • Nelspruit Web Design

    Mar 29th

    We have tried WordPress and have decided that its not really for us, but it can certainly be useful to others

  • Bahind The Web Design

    Mar 29th

    I’m a freelance web developper. I’m on my way to making wordpress my favorite CMS. It allows a lot of custom dev. It’s easy for my customers to manage their content with this great tool.
    I think I’ll try in the upcomming year to builds themes and plugins.

  • Tschai

    Mar 29th

    I’m not a freelancer, merely a hobbyist, but I’ve already built an fan-tas-tic gallery site with it and I’m busy now with two different all-in-one aggregators.
    And I have yet another ‘killer’ idea, already. And I know it’s all doable partly to ‘my own creativity’ and partly thanks to WP.

    I think the strongest part of WP is that you can ‘built on the shoulders of giants’ and don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

    Yeah, it has it limits and shortcomings also, you’ll find out when you use it a bit longer.

  • Dustin Ward

    Mar 29th

    I am a WordPress web developer that only does WordPress development. I have a large enough client base to support that business model which proves to me that WordPress is still growing and being used for more than just blogging.

  • Brian

    Mar 29th

    @Tommy Day – Indeed. The ability to manage content themselves is probably the #1 most requested feature from my freelance clients. WordPress is the perfect solution for that.

    @Tschai – So true. That’s what makes so many people, from a variety of industries, LOVE working with this platform. It sparks so many different ideas for creative uses. I can’t tell you how many ideas for apps built on WP I come up with… if only I had the time to tackle them all!

  • Adrian Trimble

    Mar 29th

    I have avoided WordPress both for myself and for my clients for years, fearing it to be just another trend. Recently I decided I finally had to accept it and try it out. I am almost done converting my own portfolio to WordPress and I have just finished a client project using WordPress.

    It is far more flexible than I imagined and is really easy to use on the administrative side, both for myself and my clients.

  • Lena Tailor

    Mar 29th

    Great tips.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Clayton Correia

    Mar 29th

    I’m a freelanced designer/developer who now exclusively uses WordPress for CMS purposes. The freedom and ease of customization is unmatched by other open source CMSs. Thanks for the article. I’m going to have to take a good look at some of those theme frameworks.

  • ebta

    Mar 30th

    I’ve used WordPress since 2007
    And still learning…
    Thanks, really useful post

  • Brian

    Mar 30th

    @Dustin – Absolutely. I’d say 75% and growing of my client business is done with WP. And now clients are requesting WP more than ever before.

    @Adrian – No doubt, WP is here to stay. It’s constantly changing, improving, and more importantly the community around it continues to grow and evolve. That includes a fast-growing market of premium WP-related products (themes, plugins, etc.)

    @ebta – I don’t think we ever stop learning! One of the things I love about this business :)

  • Archon Digital

    Mar 30th

    My work now mainly revolves around creating custom website’s using WordPress as CMS. Working with WordPress from development to training the users is a breeze.

  • nate

    Mar 30th

    I’ve been using Thesis, and it seems extremely popular. Is there a reason it isn’t mentioned? (I’m genuinely curious, not baiting anyone)

  • Bernard Teske

    Mar 31st

    You all are right, WordPress is a really great Blog-System and basic CMS. But as CMS I also like to use other systems. Use things for tasks, they were develoed for ;) But really, some jobs are well done with WP.

  • Manny

    Mar 31st

    Indeed, WP has given every sort of media enthusiast a quick and easy way to share their interest. As a freelancer, I have encouraged many to use WP for the very reasons stated on this post, mainly its simple to utilized and inexpensive to maintain. Lots of good free WP templates available out there!

    Great post!

  • Neil

    Mar 31st

    I’m a massive fan of WordPress having just started to use it for my own site and my first freelance client site, which is to be launched soon.

    I’m neither a designer or a developer (instead I’m the dreaded project manager!) but find that the flexibility and usability of WordPress allows even me to create functional and attractive sites.

  • aishaj

    Apr 1st

    I’m a freelance multimedia consultant (deal mostly with video) any tips for video? Loved this post, btw!

  • Chris Janus

    Apr 5th

    i’m a freelance designer/developer – i absolutely LOVE wordpress. it works very well with search engines, gives customers the ability to easily edit/create site content, plus it has an abundance of additional functionality that can easily be added via simple plugins or custom coding.

    not only did i switch my own portfolio site over to WP last year, but i’ve started to use it as a base for the majority of my web projects going forward. from simple informational business sites to much more complex band/record label sites, it’s really an unbelievable system!

  • Issa

    Apr 13th

    Wow! This is a comprehensive and useful list I would love to use myself. I’m a freelance writer/artist myself and I find the links here a life-saver. I believe many will share the same sentiment as well, specially those who are just starting their freelance business/ careers. I’ll definitely look forward to more of your helpful tips. Many thanks!

  • Bruce Bird

    Apr 13th

    As a marketer I love WordPress because I don’t want to be a designer and I don’t want to be a coder – I just want to publish content and get noticed – and WordPress enables me to do that – in spades.

  • Diya Khan

    Jul 4th

    All freelancers must visit this site.

    MADLance.com is the biggest freelance jobs search engine ever and it is growing. It provides the opportunity to people to market their professional and technical skills in different categories. Its database contains thousands of freelance jobs from all over the world and update it continuously.Now its not difficult to find a job at home and earn much more money.

  • Marcipa

    Jul 19th

    Easy to use wordpress az a CMS if your client need a dynamic website. U can customize it for them.

    really cool

    M

  • Mag Elliott

    Aug 6th

    Rock This Love! Rock Meets Rap Meets R&B=The New Tina Turner!

  • Erick Guerrero

    Aug 12th

    I use wordpress for my personal folio and blog. I think wordpress is an amazing platform where u can do anything.

  • leaflette

    Aug 15th

    i used to create a static website (portfolio) and i did think tht wordpress would be pain in the ass if i used it, then now, i starting to explore things and a few of my interest is wordpress, drupal and a simple tumblr.
    thanks for sharing and yes wordpress rock!

  • Roberto

    Aug 15th

    I started using WordPress a couple of years ago and never looked back! WordPress is a really amazing piece of software and the community around it is awesome. With WP you can do literally everything thanks also to the endless number of plugins most of them freely available.

    I am converting all my portfolio sites to WP and planning another website that will be offering WordPress services like backup, plugins setup and so on.

    So I truly believe that it is possible to build a freelance business around WordPress.

    Roberto

  • AJ Morris

    Aug 24th

    I’m kind of surprised that under the ‘WordPress for Freelance Designer’ frameworks list you did not include Thesis, or even better Headway. Both are great frameworks and have recently went with a split GPL license.

  • web design hubli

    Sep 3rd

    Thanks, Now i know how to install wordpress…

  • Brett Widmann

    Dec 16th

    This has been a big help! Thanks for sharing.

  • Young Busbee

    Dec 30th

    I was studying something else about this on another blog. Interesting. Your perspective on it is diametrically contradicted to what I have read earlier. I am still reflecting over the various points of view, but I’m tipped heavily toward your point of view. And no matter, that’s what is so great about modern-day democracy and the marketplace of ideas on-line.

  • TheKoolDots

    Mar 26th

    Using WordPress is a ‘slick’ way to obtain work from potential clients that don’t what to spent much on a full blown Website design and the cost for maintaining it. Also, the fact that it is ideal for promoting interaction with their targeted audience is a great marketing (for the freelancer) approach to obtain clients for a WordPress site design!

  • Kevin Leary

    Apr 24th

    Thanks for the great article Brian!

    I thought I would share a few thoughts on my personal experience as a WordPress freelance specialist. For over 3 years I’ve been a web design and development freelancer specializing in customized WordPress CMS design and development. I highly recommend building a business around WordPress, provided that you understand the benefits and drawbacks of doing so. There is definitely a benefit to experimenting with other systems like Drupal and Silverstripe as it helps keep an open mind.

    It’s important to understand the technology behind WordPress to build a skill-set that is bulletproof for the future. If WordPress goes belly up I’m confident that I’ll be able to find other work BECAUSE of what I’ve learned from using WordPress.

    During my experience developing plugins and custom themes I’ve become incredibly skilled with Photoshop, CSS, HTML5, JavaScript, jQuery and OOP PHP programming. All of these skills will translate into other areas in the future if things change. For that reason, I’m not worried about specializing in a single platform.

  • Richard

    May 13th

    I have been aware of WordPress for about 2 years now (my own authored WP theme -anIMass- in WP theme directory). There is quite a difference between a blogging and corporate/business WP theme and there is a lack (imho) of decent articles/tutorials on using WP as a business CMS. Static front pages/custom page templates/css styles etc etc- a lot to be given in depth consideration. Historically of course WP was originally developed as a blogging CMS and has expanded considerably.

    Goodluck to all WordPress users and I shall continue to keep learning WP across all capabilities (inc.. business themes).
    Best wishes

  • Toma

    May 27th

    I couldn’t agree more. I too have taken on WordPress as the foundation of my design business. It allows me to quickly and affordably build beautiful websites. This is great for clients because it’s cost effective and the upkeep is transferrable, but it’s also great for the web because it really does beautify it. It’s damn near impossible to build an ugly website from a beautiful premium template.

  • Emily

    Jul 13th

    Brian, great overview of the many uses of WordPress!!

    I have been using WordPress for a little over 3 years now for work & personal use, but lately have been thinking about the idea of doing freelance work for personal WordPress sites. For those of you who have done this in the past, can anyone offer advice for pricing as well as how you handle registering domains and hosting? Do you host sites yourself, have the client sign-up and then send you the hosting information, etc??

    Any advice for setting up your own freelance business would be helpful! Thanks!

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