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Want to make a living from Wordpress? There are many ways to go about it: designing themes, coding plugins, managing all of the back-end details, etc. It’s not the easiest job in the world – it’s especially hard to distinguish yourself and find potential clients How To Find Your First Clients As A Wordpress Freelancer How To Find Your First Clients As A Wordpress Freelancer Freelance development is just about being an insanely hot programmer, right? Right? Wrong. Read More – but if this is the path you want to take, there are some things to keep in mind.

There are no shortcuts to becoming a WordPress professional. WordPress is simple on its surface but surprisingly complex once you start exposing the cogs in its engine. You may be overwhelmed by it. There are many facets to WordPress and it’s not necessary to master ALL of them, but the more you know, the better your chances of success.

Familiarize Yourself With The Basics

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For starters, train up on the underlying languages that power WordPress. The main engine is coded in PHP and all of the data is stored in MySQL. Stylesheets are written in CSS, templates are handled in a mixture of HTML and PHP, and front-end features are bolstered with JavaScript.

Being deficient in any of these languages will impact your mastery of WordPress. Fortunately, we have a few resources that can help with these areas:

Understand the WordPress Theme Engine

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For most developers, WordPress theme development is the first step taken when entering the world of WordPress development. The theme engine is flexible enough in design to accommodate anything from basic skins Are You Looking For The Best Free WordPress Magazine Themes? Are You Looking For The Best Free WordPress Magazine Themes? One of the great things about Wordpress is it's adaptability and ease of customization. Just download a new theme, and your entire site changes in an instant. It's powerful, yet addictive; the search for the... Read More to full-blown frameworks What Is A Theme Framework, And How Can It Improve Your WordPress Site? What Is A Theme Framework, And How Can It Improve Your WordPress Site? Read More . Want to be a WordPress professional? You should know the theme engine inside and out.

And rest assured: there’s a lot to learn.

The best starting point is the WordPress Codex section on theme development. It will guide you through everything you need to know, including: the overall layout of theme parts, the basics of template files, the role of functions, coding standards, and more. Try modifying an existing theme before coding your own from the ground up.

Learn to Write Widgets and Plugins

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Once you’re comfortable with creating and modifying themes, you can take it one step further by learning how to code widgets and plugins. Widgets are individual content and features that can be added to theme sidebars whereas plugins extend the functionality of the entire WordPress installation.

Without these, WordPress sites end up feeling bland and unoriginal, which is fine for those who just need a simple site. However, a WordPress professional who knows how to create widgets and plugins is one who will be highly sought after.

Again, the WordPress Codex is a good first place to look. In particular, you should check out their section on writing plugins. As for widgets, we have a great article on writing basic WordPress widgets How To Create Your Own Basic Wordpress Widgets How To Create Your Own Basic Wordpress Widgets Many bloggers will search for the perfect Wordpress widget that will do exactly what they want, but with a little programming experience you may find it's easier to write your custom widget. This week I'd... Read More which will get you started on the right root.

Master the Art of Search Engine Optimization

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In past years, search engine optimization (SEO) has sprouted into an enormous business of its own. There are those out there who think SEO is a joke 6 Search Engine Optimisation Jokes That Poke Fun At SEO 6 Search Engine Optimisation Jokes That Poke Fun At SEO Search engine optimisation can be such a dry job. Can you imagine always having to play catch up all the time? Read More , but as it turns out, mastery of SEO is the key to bringing in a lot of organic search traffic to any website. If you know how to maximize SEO with WordPress, you’ll really stand out from the crowd.

It’s tough. You may never fully understand it, but don’t give up. We have a number of resources to point you in the right direction regarding this huge topic:

Dig Into WordPress Monetization Techniques

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There’s a lot of overlap between “monetizing WordPress” and “monetizing a website.” In other words, there’s really nothing special about WordPress itself that gives it an edge over any other website platform when it comes to generating revenue.

However, studying up on web monetization and applying those techniques to WordPress is a great way to expand your skillset.

Start out with our ultimate monetization manual, which explains all of the different monetization techniques, their relative effectiveness, and how you can put them to use. If you’re hoping to sell goods, you’ll also want to brush up on e-commerce options by reading this fantastic post on the best e-commerce plugins for WordPress What Is The Best E-Commerce Plugin For WordPress? What Is The Best E-Commerce Plugin For WordPress? So I often hear the question: "what's the best eCommerce plugin for Wordpress?" I think it's only in the last year or so that a clear answer has emerged. Read More .

Practice, Practice, Practice

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Once you’re familiar with every aspect of developing with WordPress, you have one thing left to do: practice. Keep practicing until you can make WordPress do anything you want it to do, then practice some more.

Read blogs if you can. There are a number of great resources for news, articles, guides, and opinions related to WordPress. Smashing Magazine, WPBeginner, and WPMU Dev come to mind, but there are plenty more out there.

If you have free time, volunteer and contribute to WordPress projects for free. WordPress itself is open source and one way to deepen your knowledge of the engine is to help develop it. Even small contributions can be helpful.

For those of you who have a knack for teaching and instruction, one way to sharpen your skills is to write tutorials. If you can explain something clearly and concisely, then you know that you know it well; and the very act of explaining something can solidify the knowledge for you. Consider starting up your own blog to educate others or consider writing for one of the aforementioned WordPress blogs.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, becoming a WordPress professional is going to cost you – maybe not in a financial sense, but definitely in terms of time and energy. There’s a lot to learn and many obstacles to overcome.

Are you up for it? If you have the proper dedication and perseverance, being a WordPress professional could very well be within your grasp. Calling all current or aspiring WordPress professionals: share with us some of your best tips and advice in the comments below!

Image Credits: Basic HTML Code Via Shutterstock, WordPress Theme Via Serge Kij, WordPress Plugin Via Gosu Sell, SEO Button Via Shutterstock, Ad Monetization Via Shutterstock, WordPress Code Via Shutterstock

  1. Emily Johns
    May 9, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Don’t look too far down the road and become overwhelmed with how far you have to go. Take manageable steps and have fun with each one. Enjoy the process of learning and applying your skills in a valuable way and the rest will take care of itself.

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