You could have a successful WordPress business in a matter of weeks, with earning potential ranging from $50,000 a year to $100,000+. With the popularity of WordPress as a CMS, there is an abundance of demand for professional WordPress services.
Because of the large ecosystem of high-quality plugins and themes, you don’t need to be a developer, designer, or marketer to have a successful freelance practice. Some consider WordPress the new “blue-collar” industry.
Getting started is easier than it sounds. You must take five core steps to start your WordPress freelance business.
- Identify What Type of Freelancer You Want to Be
- Setup your Business Entity
- Create a Marketing Website and Portfolio
- Choose Your Toolset
- Start Marketing and Sales
Let’s dive in!
1. Identify What Type of Freelancer You Want To Be
Before filing any paperwork or setting up a marketing website, you must decide what type of WordPress work you want. Because WordPress is used so diversly, the type of help people are willing to pay for is also diverse.
Here are the most common types of services I see professionals provide:
- Site Care
- Content Management
- Content Creation
- WordPress Implementation
- WordPress Consulting
- WordPress Training
- Web Design
- Custom Development
- Performance Optimization
- Security Optimization
- Search Engine Optimization
Let’s dive into each one!
WordPress websites need regular software updates to remain secure and performant. Many website owners don’t have the time or desire to update and test WordPress core and their plugins and themes every week. They’d rather have someone manage it for them, knowing that the updates are being done, the site is tested to ensure it’s still functional, and that back-ups are being created should something go wrong.
There are entire businesses built around offering site care. While the market rate for site care isn’t high ($50 – $250 / per month per site) if you can sign-up a large volume of customers, it can be very profitable.
While WordPress makes managing content easy, busy professionals don’t always have time to update their websites. They’re experts in other things, and while they could add a new blog post, update their services, page, etc., it’s more economical to hire a professional to implement the changes for them.
If you’re fast within WordPress, can figure out common themes, and are good with basic design and layout, this is an excellent service to provide. You can offer a monthly subscription or charge hourly (ranging from $35 – $50 / hr on average.)
If you’re a good writer, you can also offer content creation. Content creation is best as an add-on service as it’s unlikely website owners are specifically looking for writers who specialize in WordPress (unless they are WordPress businesses themselves.) You can offer web content, articles, positioning and messaging. I recommend productizing the offerings with a price for each type of content based on length.
With all the premium plugins and themes available, you can build beautiful, usable, and complex WordPress websites without writing a single line of code. There has been a significant rise of WordPress Implementors, jack of trades who know the best plugins and can configure them together to solve complex solutions.
For example, you could use Elementor to build a custom-looking website, then install and configure WooCommerce, LearnDash, and Visual Customizer for LearnDash to sell custom eLearning course packages. The result is a custom revenue-generating website that requires no code!
As an implementor, you could specialize in specific projects, like eCommerce, eLearning, lead generation, etc… By narrowing down your offerings, it becomes easier to productize your offerings and create specific packages at different price points, e.g. $2,500, $5,000, $10,000
You could also go broad and charge by the hour, ranging from $35 to $100 an hour.
Some businesses have the team to implement their WordPress needs in-house but need help figuring out how best to approach their projects. They’re looking for a consultant to help them identify their goals and determine how best to reach them.
Typically consulting engagements are either a combination of discovery and recommendations or a retainer with regular touchpoints to answer questions and provide guidance. Consultants will typically recommend what existing plugins to consider, how best to configure them, and where custom solutions are necessary.
Consulting is more valuable than implementation, and you can expect to charge $100 – $200 an hour.
Specific Plugins or Platforms
You could specialize in a particular plugin or theme within WordPress. Business that have decided to use a specific theme like Divi, or plugin like BuddyPress, will often hire experts to ensure they’re using the tools as best as possible.
There are several opportunities in the WordPress training space. You can provide customized training directly to website owners and businesses, create templatized training videos, or offer outsourced training for other WordPress professionals. Any agency or freelancer creating WordPress websites needs to train their client or staff; it could be more economical to hire you than deliver the training themselves.
While there is no lack of high-quality themes available for WordPress, many businesses don’t have the in-house expertise to identify the right one, configure it, or know how to customize it to meet their needs. If you have any experience in design or marketing, you can charge clients to select, install, customize, and build-out their WordPress website.
Web design projects are often fixed prices and can range anywhere from $2,500 – $25,000 depending on complexity, experience, and scale.
If you’re more experienced, you can create custom WordPress themes, plugins, and functionality.
WordPress developers charge between $50 – $150 an hour on average but often offer fixed-price projects for anything over 10 hours.
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is if you want to be a specialist or a generalist. As a generalist, you have a large pool of potential clients, but you can’t charge as much, and it’s harder to differentiate yourself. If you specialize, you can charge more and clients who need exactly what you provide are more likely to say yes.
A performance specialist is a perfect example. Website owners are willing to pay top dollar to ensure performance and stability when compromising on speed and uptime is not an option.
As a performance specialist, you’d focus on ensuring optimal server configurations, setting up content delivery networks (CDN,) auditing themes and plugins, running stress tests, and installing caching and other optimization plugins.
Similar to performance optimization, you could specialize in WordPress security, targeting business with sensitive or highly visible websites. Larger budget clients will want a retainer with regular monitoring, testing, and maintenance.
As a security specialist, you’ll audit the website identifying vulnerabilities, remedying the vulnerabilities, and monitoring software releases for security concerns. You could also offer a spam or hack clean-up service where you clean out any infected or damaged site, patch the vulnerability, and restore the site to it’s previous state.
Search Engine Optimization
Websites need traffic to be useful, and optimizing for organic search traffic has a very high return on investment. You could offer SEO services as an add-on or specialize in WordPress SEO. This typically would involve auditing existing websites for SEO issues, configuring WordPress to ensure optimal SEO, optimizing individual pages, and developing SEO-optimized content.
Once you’ve picked your service lines and specialties, you can officially set up your business.
2. Setup Your Business Entity
There are a multitude of benefits to forming an official business entity. At a minimum, you could register a DBA (doing business as) and record income under your social security number, but it exposes your personal assets to liability and is less than ideal for taxes.
Instead, you should register an LLC or “Limited Liability Company” (if you’re in the United States.) This is completed by filing a form at the state level that’s easily obtainable through the state’s secretary of state website. It typically costs less than $100 to file, and you don’t need a lawyer or accountant.
Once your organization is formed, you can register for an EIN or Tax ID. This will allow you to record income to a separate entity other than yourself and creates the separation between your company and your personal assets. You can register for an EIN online via the IRS website.
Your last step will be to secure your business finances. First, you need to open up a business bank account. I recommend using a bank you have an existing relationship with, that way you know what to expect and they’re more likely to help should you need a loan or special assistance.
Finally, I highly recommend hiring an accountant. In my experience, accountants will save you more money than they cost by better tracking your expenses and maximizing your write-offs at the end of the year.
You need to start marketing and selling with your business setup and ready to go!
3. Website and Portfolio
You’ll have a hard time selling WordPress services without a website yourself. While you could use this as an opportunity to “really showcase what you can do,” I recommend keeping it simple. What’s the minimum effort required to communicate the value you can provide and your previous experience.
Pick an existing theme that’s ready to go, or a flexible theme with pre-existing templates you can load and populate. With this approach, you can have your marketing website up in hours instead of days or weeks.
Make sure you cover the following content:
- Your unique value proposition – How does someone benefit by hiring you?
- Services – What specifically do you offer or specialize in?
- About you – How are you? Build some trust and report
- Portfolio / Case Studies – What have you done before?
- Contact and Call to Action – What action should someone take to get started?
4. Choose Your Toolset
One of the golden rules of efficiency is having a standardized, repeatable process. Every time you go through the process you get faster and more skilled. The best way to start is by choosing which tools you’ll use to run your business and deliver your services.
Pick out WordPress tools that you’ll use for client work, and the business tools that will drive your business.
WordPress tools will be the common themes, plugins, and other software you use on client websites. These could be plugins that solve everyday needs like GravityForms, WooCommerce, or PaidMembershipsPro, a collection of themes you often use, or even your local environment like LocalWP.
You’ll likely need a host of business tools as well. Specifically, some way to track projects (like a WordPress Project Management plugin,) how you’ll send invoicing, what accounting software to use, how to manage your email list, etc…
Depending on what you specialize in, you might want to purchase SEO tools, design software, or a Learning Management plugin.
With your tools dialed in, let’s dive into marketing and sales!
5. Marketing and Sales
At this point, you have everything setup and you’re just missing the paying clients! This may seam daunting, but I assure you the first paying client is right around the corner. Here are the ways I recommend finding paying clients:
Friends, Family, and colleagues
First, be vocal with the people you already know! Start checking in with your close friends, family, and past colleagues. Let them know you’re offering WordPress freelance services and if anyone needs help to pass along your information.
You’ll be surprised how effective this is. Someone knows someone who has a WordPress website and needs help with it. You’ll likely land a client or two just from these conversations.
You can target your broader network by posting a series of announcements on social media. I say “series” of announcements because it takes 3 – 5 impressions before someone really remembers what they’ve seen, and a single announcement is likely to get lost.
Keep an eye on jobs.wordpress.net, a free resource where business owners post WordPress specific jobs, often looking for freelancers.
Sign up for marketplace websites that connect service providers to those in need. These would include sites like Upwork and Freelancer.com. Every day new posts are looking for WordPress help, apply and get new clients!
It’s not glamorous, but cold outreach works! Start local and find websites within your area that clearly need help. Reach out to the business and let them know what you found and offer to help them manage their website moving forward. Cold outreach works more often than you’d expect. Make sure you have a game plan going into any calls you book, know what you’re offering, so the call becomes a question of “Yes, I want to hire you to do this” or “No, thank you.”
Take Action, Become a Freelancer
Work through these five steps, and you can start your freelance WordPress career in a matter of weeks (or days.) First, identify what type of freelancer you will be, set up your business structure and finances, pick your tools, build a portfolio website, and then market and sell yourself.
This could start as a source of side income and quickly become your full-time job earning you more money while providing more flexibility than you had before.