Besides working full time as a full-stack product engineer, I also do some freelancing. The reasons for that vary - sometimes I want to try out new technologies but don't have a great side-project idea, sometimes I want to make some money extra money. Throughout the years, I've been part of at least 30 projects, both smaller and bigger, on design- and development side. Some of them have been fully custom-built, some of have been built using ready-made templates.
What I've learned is that freelancing is not about being a great developer.
Reading the previous sentence again, the developer in me just screamed. WordPress templates? What I've learned is that freelancing is not about being a great developer. It's about being a great salesman, product person and a project manager. Therefore, when coming up with the requirements and solutions with the client, one shouldn't think only from a developer's perspective.
That's why, in this article, I'm sharing why sometimes it's better to just use WordPress template, even though my desire to code says otherwise.
When people ask me for a website, they usually have some kind of business goal in mind. Maybe it's because they want to get more leads, maybe they want to sell more products via e-commerce. Whatever the reason, as a freelancer, I must remind myself to think from the client's perspective.
That's where the following questions come in:
- What's the problem you're trying to solve?
- What's your budget?
- How much time do you have?
- Do you have your own vision?
Based on the answers, the solution can be a custom one that involves tons of coding, collaboration with external designers, product people etc. Usually, though, the client has a small budget with a non-established branding and a tight deadline. That's where a developer must really think.
Let's say that you've agreed to deliver a project. It pays well enough but there's a tight deadline. In such cases, I always ask myself- what's my goal with the project? Is it to earn money? Is it to test out some new technology?
In case my motivation is to learn, it's simple - I choose the desired technology and commit to delivering a working solution, no matter the cost. Such decision is made considering the risk that the fee I get may not be in correlation with my time input.
Sometimes though, I just want to make extra money. In such cases, I tend to look for lean solutions that deliver the best outcome with a minimum effort. And that's where WordPress templates come in.
As a developer, I sometimes feel that using WordPress templates is a bad thing - I mean, I could code it all myself. Then again, there are too many positive aspects to consider. One of them is the fact that it saves tons of time and energy.
By giving your client a selection of templates to choose from, you can shorten the whole design process. You kind of force the client to think inside a box because they have all the possible options in front of their eyes. And when needed, you can just adjust the selected template to their brand.
And it gets better. The design you've "created", is already coded and implemented in the CMS, meaning the time needed for coding is quite minimal. In case there's a need for customisation, you can still do that by adding your own code.
A situation I've faced multiple times - we've agreed on the design and features of a website, everything's ready but just before we're about to launch, the client has a new idea. In most cases, telling your client the extra cost for the additional features will help them decide if it's really necessary. In case it is, using templates make it easier to developer extra functionality.
The thing with ready-made templates is that they already have a code-base you can make use of. Not only, they already include the styles and widgets you can reuse. For example, in my latest project, the client needed a carousel component which we hadn't discussed before. As the template I was using already had a carousel widget coded, it was easy to address the client's wish with some customised CSS styles applied.
Another great advantage of using ready-made templates is that the creators of the template usually take care of the maintenance. So when the WordPress version is updated, you can just update the template and save the time you'd otherwise spend debugging. But remember - if you've got some custom code somewhere, you may need to double-check it.
Freelancing isn't just about coding. Your priority should be to deliver a solution to a problem. As developers, we obviously want to write new code, but using WordPress templates for freelancing can save you tons of time if it fits with the solution the client's looking for. So remember that in case there's no custom business logic nor brand visuals and new developments are needed in the future, using templates can make sense.
Also, If you're interested in topics related to developer growth and universal knowledge that helps you get to the next level as a dev, check out my Youtube channel called Developer Habits.
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