I was interviewing a potential client. He needed a hybrid Rails/WordPress developer. Lamenting how difficult it is to find someone skilled in both, he said “I’ll probably end up hiring a Rails dev and outsource the WordPress work”.
I smiled and said:
“Yeah, WordPress developers are so much cheaper than Rails developers!”
Wait a second. Did that just come out of my mouth?
I’m a WordPress developer.
Shortage of WordPress Developers?
“He’s a super high level WP developer… Do you know of any open positions?” Yes, maybe a couple. Hundred.
— Brian Krogsgard (@Krogsgard) February 12, 2015
WordPress companies seem to be having a hard time finding qualified developers; at least that’s the impression I get as an outsider looking in.
I’d like to propose that the shortage of developers might actually be a pricing problem. Specifically, WordPress salaries and rates are not high enough to draw talent.
I live in the freelance world. My experience is with hourly rates and contracting work – not salaries. I don’t know what WordPress companies are paying in salaries.
However, I think it’s reasonable to assume that WordPress salaries are correlated with WordPress hourly rates. I’ll be working off that assumption for this article.
Why Should I Do WordPress?
For the past 2 years I’ve been doing both WordPress and Ruby on Rails work.
I’m at a decision point in my business:
Do I continue with both WordPress and Rails development, or do I specialize in one?
I lean towards specialization in WordPress, because I’m more experienced and more comfortable with the community. Developers I respect (like Tom McFarlin) made the leap to specialize in WordPress over Rails.
But I keep hitting a wall. WordPress developers get paid less than Rails developers. On average, significantly less.
I’ve never heard of a professional Ruby on Rails developer with rates under $100/hour.
In contrast, when I hear of a WordPress developer over $100/hour, it’s notable.
Is this just a perception problem? I don’t think so. I only have anecdotes, but I apply to enough freelance jobs to have a good sense of “market” rates.
When I apply to subcontractor positions (meaning I’d be working for an agency, rather than directly with the client) for Rails development agencies, they don’t blink at rates over $100/hour. No push back at all.
When I work directly with clients for WordPress development (which should be higher paying, since I’m not using a middleman), they often balk at paying more than $50/hour.
Even some high-end agencies in the WordPress space only offer $50-70 / hour for freelance subcontractors.
What’s the deal?
Nobody is Capping WordPress Rates
There has been a small flurry of discussion bout WordPress pricing recently. I enjoyed Brian Krogsgard’s article on how much a WordPress site should cost and this article from WPML about Drupal vs. WordPress developers.
Nothing says WordPress development has to be cheap.
There are people charging premium rates for WordPress work. Read Getting Pricing Right on CodePoet to see some big numbers in WordPress development pricing.
Nothing is inherently easier/cheaper about WordPress work. Some of it can be just as challenging as Rails development – even harder sometimes, if you consider that WordPress carries far more legacy code (for backwards-compatibility reasons) than Rails. Complex WordPress work requires an understanding of WordPress’s quirks and nuances.
Why, then, do WP developers price themselves below other developers? I’d like to explore a few possible explanations of why, with the disclaimer that I don’t have hard data to back my claims up – I’m simply working off perception.
Then, I’d like to look at a couple of ways WP developers can combat the race to the bottom, both collectively and individually.
Much of this will be a comparison of WordPress and Rails work, simply because that’s where I specialize.
WordPress is Too Easy…Isn’t It?
Writing a WordPress plugin or making a tweak to a WordPress site is easy enough for almost any developer to do. This is why you see 300 zillion WordPress “experts” on freelancing marketplaces.
So-called WordPress “experts” are not necessarily trying to deceive. For example, I recently worked with an agency who claimed they were quite comfortable in WordPress.
As the project went on, it became clear that they were expert PHP developers, and they assumed that would translate into WordPress with ease. This particular project was dealing with all sorts of WordPress-specific things, like WP-Cron, tons of filters, complicated queries and template hierarchy issues that absolutely perplexed them.
They humbly admitted they had underestimated how complex WordPress could be.
The perception of “easy” brings prices down. Projects get underestimated. Unqualified developers make low-ball bids.
WordPress Projects Can Be Tiny
WordPress projects span from “change a setting on the dashboard and it’s fixed” to “full-blown application development on top of WordPress”. They can be simple blogs or complex pieces of software.
This isn’t true in the Rails world. Every Rails project is a custom (often complex) piece of software.
The complexity sets a sort of “floor” on Rails projects. Prices will never drop below several hundred dollars, even for a tiny Rails fix.
No such floor exists for WP work. Heck, I’ve done projects for under $100.
This is great for WordPress end users, but stagnates WordPress developer rates.
WordPress Plugins and Themes Are Cheap
There has also been a bit of discussion about WordPress product pricing recently. Plugin authors are worried that we’re in a race to the bottom – and I think that race has already begun in themes.
For better or worse, people buy these cheap plugins and themes. I’m sure I’m not the only WP developer who has started a project and seen the horribly hacked-together paid plugins and themes people are using to build client sites. I didn’t think anyone bought some of the things I’ve seen running on WP sites.
Cheap plugins and themes drag down developer prices prices. If someone paid $29 for a theme, how can I begin to tell them that a stylistic tweak will cost $100?
This problem doesn’t exist in the Rails world. There are very few off-the-shelf Rails extensions, and those that do exist are expensive and built for developers (not end users).
Why Shouldn’t Developers Go Elsewhere?
WordPress developers aren’t in a silo.
The market rates for quality programmers are very high right now. I regularly see salaried remote positions for Rails and/or front-end developers with salaries over $100,000 and excellent benefits.
I’m not the best of developers, but I’m qualified to possibly land one of those jobs.
I’m faced with a tough call: do I abandon WordPress because the market is pulling me elsewhere?
I’m probably not alone in my dilemma. If WordPress developers remain below the market rate for developers in general, they will eventually start leaving and moving to more lucrative areas.
What Do We Do About It?
Is it even a good thing to try to “raise” prices for WP developers? What if the market is telling us that developers need to be cheaper? Isn’t that good for everyone?
That’s a bigger question that I can’t possibly answer. I can only speak for WP developers like me who are interested in continuing their trade and making a living.
What follows are a couple ideas for stabilizing/raising WP developer salaries & rates, none of which I’m certain will solve the problems stated above.
In the Ruby/Rails world, it’s unusual to find a project or RubyGem without tests. This is because of the Ruby community’s unrelenting obsession with testing.
In the WordPress world, it’s the exact opposite. Unit test suites are hand-built, if they exist at all.
Testing drives quality up. Quality raises value. Value drives prices. Testing can move the needle in the right direction.
If there were some sort of universal standard that WP enforced when developing plugins or themes, it might help. Admittedly, this would be a big change to the DNA of WordPress – something that might be too late to change on a large scale.
Being Selective About Your Projects
Unlike Rails, WP projects can be extremely tiny. Budgets can be tiny to match.
For example: If someone told me they have a $500 budget for a Rails project, I’d tell them it’s not possible.
If they told me they have a $500 budget for a WordPress project, I’d have to think about it.
If you’re looking to level up professionally, you might need to start saying no to small, on-the-margins projects.
A quick story:
I once thought I needed a lawyer to research a potential trademark issue. I had a budget of $250. The lawyer gently told me that she could do research for $250/hour, meaning the total cost would be somewhere between $250 and $2,000. She knew I couldn’t afford it, and she suggested that I look to other options (in this case, changing the name of my product).
I couldn’t afford her services. At the most I could afford an hour or two, which would have meant a rush job for her. I simply went elsewhere. No biggie.
Some clients don’t need custom work, or their budgets are simply too small to do a good job. It’s tempting to try to “knock out” small jobs, but I think in the long run it benefits you professionally to pass on many of these types of jobs.
Just Raise Your Prices
If you’re a WordPress developer who could potentially get a (higher-paying) job doing something else, just raise your prices to a salary or rate that makes sense. Need help figuring out how much you can charge? Here’s a start.
Starting a Discussion
I definitely don’t have all the answers. I’d really appreciate different perspectives:
- Do you run a WordPress company?
- Am I wrong about your salaries?
- Have I overlooked some other reason why WordPress developers are in shortage?
I hope you’ll share your thoughts.
This Post Has 38 Comments
Ishan17 Feb 2015
This was a great post.
As a WP freelancer as well as WP Developer at a company, I think the problem is with low entry barrier. Since it is easy to get started with both PHP and WordPress, many people just stay at beginner level.
This graph comes to mind: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/75/7a/df/757adfb3ac204bba221960b190115a6d.jpg
Now I am not exactly an expert but I’ve been in the ‘hazard’ area and it is hard to get out of. There are so many things that community does not talk about enough. For example, I didn’t know about Git or any version control before my internship. It wasn’t talked about much in WP community. I’ve seen senior developers who work solely via FTP.
This may be one reason. We are not out of WordPress developer but we are definitely out of good WordPress developers. Since tools and techniques that make a developer good aren’t that emphasized, we have lot of developers who just stick with basics.
Regarding testing, you are spot on. I was learning Angular recently and they had tests right in the first tutorial. With WordPress, tests are mostly and afterthought.
Thanks for the post, it might have just pushed me into learning RoR. 😉
Andy Adams17 Feb 2015
Come to think of it, I have seen several projects where a decent developer seemed to be using the same coding constructs over and over (have hammer, see nails) because he didn’t seem to know there were alternative ways to do it. One example would be using CPTs for *everything*, even when a new table would make better sense.
Thanks for the input! I encourage you to try Rails, if for nothing else just to get the experience of Rails “magic” – the tools that make it so quick to build a functional app.
Rob Mehew17 Feb 2015
I have to agree that where I live there is this wierd grey area between being a WordPress developer and being able to install WordPress, Plugins and Themes.
A lot of the companies I have worked for in the past were reluctant to hire a developer for something that they thought they could do themselves. Usually the jobs I ended up doing was to try and integrate plugins together than were never design to work together. In the long run, most of those companies would of been better off getting it done properly in the first place.
It’s nice to see someone posting about this as it’s quite a big issue here.
Chad17 Feb 2015
I find that there are a lot of people out there that call themselves WordPress developers but once you start talking to them about how to utilize the loop and or multiple loops in the same page they quickly glaze over.
Probably because by WordPress developer they meant… I have a WordPress website that I set up with the one-click install, a prefab theme and some cool plugins that I found on some top ten round up article on some WordPress aggregation site. Oh and I can enter HTML into a WYSIWYG editor but if you ask me about how to edit the single.php file and what that would do, I am speechless.
The inherent problem to me is that WordPress is naturally easy to use so people think it is easy to build for which as you mention isn’t always true.
Great post, I know I said that already but the fact that I am commenting means that it really got my attention. Keep up the good work, make your prices for WordPress development higher, and stop taking $500 projects for your own sake.
Rob Mehew18 Feb 2015
This is exactly the same for me, quite a few people don’t know the different between a developer and someone who can configure plugins/themes.
tim17 Feb 2015
I think the start-up community (with VC money) is doing a lot to prop-up Ruby/Rails salary. I do work in corporate oil and gas, law, and construction and i still havent encountered any company using Ruby/Rails. Mostly over priced Microsoft and Java solutions.
Second, i think the themesellers, like themeforest, have played a part in forcing wordpress rates down and forging client expectations. The day i saw a $49 theme with “50 variations” and “50 demos” was the day i decided it might be time to move away from WordPress. The big names and firms in WordPress can probably demand higher rates but the rest of us just will not be able to. Especially when we have to go against that $50 “100-in-1” themes.
Jeff Madsen17 Feb 2015
“Cheap plugins and themes drag down developer prices prices. If someone paid $29 for a theme, how can I begin to tell them that a stylistic tweak will cost $100?”
That part’s easy – explain economies of scale, and why that theme “only” cost $29. But I think that’s where a lot of the issue lies.
Small clients don’t understand enough about how WP is put together to know what is different between out of the box & customized for when they later need those customizations. All we can do, I think, is give them a run through early on in the project cycle about how this all works, so they come forewarned when they ask for something custom that it won’t be priced in relation to what the basic install/cheap theme prices were.
Bill Erickson17 Feb 2015
This is probably selection bias but all the WordPress developers I know well enough to “talk shop” and discuss their business charge in the $200-400/hr range and are booked up for months. I don’t know any WordPress developers charging $100/hr or less.
I think one of the key problems people have is the perception that a certain rate is too high. I’ve had prospective clients, after I tell them my rate is $200/hr, make comments like “That’s more than my lawyer charges me!”
The problem here is an hourly rate is a useless measure if you don’t know the hours it will take to do something. A developer that charges $400/hr is more cost effective than a $100/hr one if the former spends less than 1/4 the time the latter developer would implementing a solution.
A few years ago I made the shift to all project-based pricing instead of hourly rate. This allowed me to “get over the hump” of $200/hr. As I become more efficient, my effective hourly rate goes up.
You also better align your client’s perception of cost. They can then make a direct comparison between developers based on actual cost, whether it is a fixed bid or hourly rate * budgeted hours.
I still log my time while working on projects, and when the project is complete I input the project revenue and time spent into my CRM, which will generates reports based on my effective hourly rate (project revenue / hours spent).
Less than 20% of my projects last year came in under $300/hr effective hourly rate. 1/3 of them were > $500/hr effective hourly rate. And I’m currently booked 3 months in advance, which tells me I need to be raising my rates.
Andy Adams17 Feb 2015
Hey Bill, thanks for the frank discussion of rates. I’d think that you’re in the minority in the $200+/hour range, but I could be mistaken. Regardless, there are large swaths of us in the lower rate range that are trying to figure out how to get up there, and it’s always nice to have someone show it’s possible 🙂
Seth Miller18 Feb 2015
Bill is a core contributor to Genesis I think…, def. top tiered developer. While his hourly rate and those of his comrades is much higher than someone like myself who does not have his exposure or contacts, the project rate idea is a good thing.
Having said that, I’m considering leaving WordPress for a different reason: Greed. Wait until the IPO when they start to suck you dry with “premium” *cough Bullshit, this is supposed to be an Open Source community* plugins. And any other way the shareholder can ride on your back. It’s on the way, watch the next five years and I’ll bookmark this post. The mindset has already drastically changed in five years.
Bill does have all of his stuff available online (snippets) for free for the community, and I salute him for that. We need people like him to be trendsetters and leaders for this thing to continue to grow.
Nice post, btw. Something needs to be said, and done.
Andy Adams18 Feb 2015
Hey Seth, when you say IPO, do you mean for WP.com/Automattic? If so, I respectfully disagree. If Automattic wanted to milk WordPress for profit, it could have done so a long time ago. In fact, it’s been the opposite – everything is so free and open-source, as someone who’d like to build a business on WP, I worry sometimes *too much* is given away.
Seth Miller18 Feb 2015
If you listen to the most recent podcast with Matt Mullenweg (on my Twitter I have quoted lines) – from about a week ago, Matt describes a “plugin marketplace”. He goes on to say a few other telling things…
Once shareholders get involved (listen to the podcast, he plugs some of the VC firms behind WordPress, some of it is pretty off putting actually…) basically he only at one point in time mentions the “bully pulpit” (presumptively advocates for open source). Maybe he is saying it’s time for folks to stand up for Open Source, it’s somewhat cryptic.
Or maybe he’s positioning his company for ROI for the shareholders. Paying to enter the plugin marketplace? Oh it’s only $5/month! Unless you want to be a plugin author which is only $20/month! These are only examples of Post IPO WordPress’s way to monetize.
Sound far fetched? Remember what happened after the Facebook IPO?
Total disaster. They nerfed reach and no you must pay!
Watch for the same to happen with WordPress considering the number of sites it powers, as you mentioned.
Mollom for Drupal is free (actual Open Source software).
Akismet for WordPress is not.
(these components do the exact same thing)
The writing is on the wall…
@VivaLaSeth on Twitter
here’s the podcast:
Minutes 8-14 are particularly telling. I’ve quoted for context on my Twitter account (@VivaLaSeth – I love the discussion). Having spent 6 years on WordPress since Kubrick I can tell you the model has changed drastically. I can understand charging for themes and monetization, but for WordPress to grow we need to walk a fine line. I’m already at the point where I spend hundreds per month to use Open Source software – that threshold has been hit.
I’ve been pretty outspoken about this issue recently but I feel that I have a bit better context having been giving the opportunity to become a Drupal developer 5 years ago.
Unless I see things drastically change quickly I will be going back to Drupal (plenty of good Enterprise/Government/high paying Drupal jobs).
Greg Wallace19 Feb 2015
Great post Andy. Bill, you are a great example of how to be a successful WordPress dev. I chose to focus on WordPress exclusively 3 years ago and haven’t looked back since. Back then there were few agencies who were pushing WordPress for clients and now I’m seeing WordPress being used a lot more in this area. Working with WordPress attracts very low budget clients but there are also plenty of clients willing to pay for quality. As WordPress marketshare grows even further, this pool of clients just keeps on growing, so it’s a great space to be no matter which end of the market you want to focus on.
Dave Hilditch26 Feb 2015
This is the comment I was going to make – instead of billing hourly rates, bill for the project. If I were to bill hourly I’d be asking for £125 per hour, but I don’t bill like that – I bill for the project and then it’s up to me to be more efficient to get my hourly rate up.
Also – when I’m billing clients, I’m not billing so much for development work as for my expertise in building a site which attracts, engages and converts users. That involves learning about the client’s users, understanding what will work as a user journey and then implementing that.
Ultimately they end up with more users and more conversions so the project can be looked at as an investment with a significant ROI rather than an expense.
Joshua17 Feb 2015
I have been able to find the clients willing to pay, but can’t find the developers to help me grow.
Overall, good and experienced clients usually need more than the cheap guys can handle.
Chris8 Oct 2015
I have been trying to email you but email@example.com keeps bouncing.
Devin Price17 Feb 2015
I think your analogy with the lawyer is right on. The value proposition is generally quite different depending on the business. For some, spending above $1k on a website doesn’t actually make sense (though it would if they could have it done for $100). For others, the website is their main sales or marketing channel and the value proposition does make sense.
My guess is that companies with rails apps have already sorted themselves into the higher value category. It’s trickier with WordPress sites. You might have a potential lead that would be better served by Squarespace or a WordPress “coach” to help them select a theme and set up the right widgets- and it would benefit you both to send them in that direction. If you’re charging above $100/hr, hopefully you’re able provide that level of value to the client.
Most of the WordPress developers I know do charge above $100/hr (myself included). It might take a little more time to sort through leads, but there are some fantastic companies seeking experienced developers at that price point and a huge amount of demand.
Andy Adams17 Feb 2015
I think you’re right about Rails sorting into the higher value. I wonder how much of it is inherent to Rails, and how much is simply the mindset around Rails – after all, it was developed by DHH and fostered by 37Signals, who are very focused on capitalism, business & entrepreneurial topics. Maybe that mindset trickles down?
David Wang18 Feb 2015
Hi Andy, nice article but I’d like to suggest another issue that may relate to the low prices. One of WordPress’ goals is to democratize publishing, and thus low barriers to entry is probably by design – 5 minute install right? This is in contrast to Rails where you point out that has a higher floor so it’s exclusionary.
So because it is so easy to get into WordPress there is understandably a glut of “developers”. But like Bill Erickson points out, he and his friends are booked for months in advanced so it’s not really a shortage of work or clients willing to pay for quality developers.
Therefore maybe it’s a marketing problem for developers. If a developer can’t find clients willing to pay more than $100/hour then they’re fishing in the wrong places. It would be like a BMW salesman trying to get a sale in a discount mall.
No solutions to offer but I thought I’d float this point in the conversation. Thanks!
Seth Miller18 Feb 2015
That would suggest a swath of high paying jobs for Bill Erickson and his friends, not the everyday WordPress developer.
David Wang18 Feb 2015
Btw I love the Make theme by TTF too 😀
Mario Peshev18 Feb 2015
That’s a terrific post, thanks for the detailed review of the WordPress ecosystem here. I’ve been blogging quite a lot on that subject lately, since the situation is getting worse with every week.
WordPress is getting a larger chunk of the Internet by the year and now powers 23% of all websites out there, and at the same time everyone is entering the “website building” business and we race to the bottom as a result of that.
Quality suffers significantly, and more and more people look for Fiverr-like solutions for their businesses without considering the paradox that they undervalue their own business this way.
I come from the enterprise world as well, Java in particular, and few other bits. The rates over there are much higher than the industry average for WordPress work, despite of the fact that WordPress is now used by numerous large corporations and big online magazines and such. I can name a dozen great WordPress people – some of them used to contribute to Core as well – who left WordPress due to the low code quality, lack of unit tests for example (which you mentioned) and the ridiculous rates and team environment.
Should we ignore that “tribe” that takes care of the environment that everyone uses – Core, tools, themes and plugins, we’ll end up with no people being able to survive (or keep their sanity) with that pool of $50 gigs and $200 websites and another, more professional platform will emerge that combines the technical benefits of other frameworks/CMS and the easiness of WordPress. We’ve seen that better – platforms combining the best of both words and establishing themselves in a market.
Seth Miller18 Feb 2015
The Drupal Association is currently in the process of paying core contributors (1200 folks worked on Drupal 8 at current) to finalize Drupal 8 Beta to move to market. I know that because I know some guys who are working on it.
So maybe it’s a top-down structural thing from Automattic’s end.
Maybe it’s time for Automattic to lead by example, again.
Gary Jones19 Feb 2015
I think you need to go look again at the differences between the WordPress Foundation, Automattic, wordpress.com and the WordPress software.
Seth Miller19 Feb 2015
I’m referring to the idea in the Drupal community that all of the developers contribute to core modules (“plugins”, if you will) – none of these core modules are “freemium” (I’ve re-branded these types of plugin packages as “semi-pro”).
If half of your plugin is free, and half is pro, it’s “semi-pro”. If you’re comfortable being a “semi-pro” developer, so be it! I’m going to release everything I have, that I can, for free. A good portion of my code I am contractually obligated not to release to the community.
With the “top-down” approach – I’m saying that there is a community to support the modules (in Drupal) and keep them free. The community is setting the standards that way because it is a mantra, and I don’t think that Automattic is supporting this model for WordPress going forward, even though they built the software on GPL. Matt said that he could see a “plugin marketplace” – which is a closed source code medium.
In Drupal, there are virtually no paid add-ons, think Authorize.net payment gateway – that’s free! There are no “pro” features for the most support calendar module (think The Events Calendar).
I do thank you for your thoughts, and have read your comments, but I think you are drastically underestimating my knowledge, and I’ll leave it there. Been using the Internet for over 20 years and I was writing Basic at 10 years old, went to school for Computer Science and what not.
My point is that Automattic is the gatekeeper, and if they want to push the community towards Open Source they can, that’s the “top down” leadership
Bjørn Johansen18 Feb 2015
When I did freelance WordPress work, I charged ~250 USD/hour.
If you are going to have higher rates than others, you have to prove what value you are bringing to the table. Often a good idea is to not sell hours, but a fixed deliverable for a fixed price.
It usually doesn’t matter to the client whether it takes one or five hours to develop something, as long as the price is the same. It does however, matter if you are able to deliver it within a month or five.
Justin Carroll18 Feb 2015
I certainly empathize with you having been in your place at one time myself. You asked, “What’s the deal?” The deal is you sell time.
Right now your only leverage is to compete on price which in-turn makes you a commodity. Inflating your hourly rate will only cause more of the same problem because as you become more efficient you’ll undercut yourself. When you sell time the only way to make more money is to hire people or work slow.
If that lawyer could solve your problem for a fixed price of $250 would you have cared how long it took them? So, what’s really valuable to your customer, what they’re really paying for, is results and not time.
A couple years ago I dropped the hourly rate for Monastery. What happened was I worked a lot less for exponentially more profit. I highly recommend Googling value resources like Implementing Value Pricing, The Win Without Pitching Manifesto, Ron Baker, Blair Enns, Tim Williams and Peter Drucker. They’re all fantastic resources on value.
Never hesitate to reach out. Hope that helps!
Andy Adams18 Feb 2015
Thanks, Justin! You’re right. I actually don’t charge hourly anymore, but the point I was trying to get across was that hypothetically, if I wanted to sell an hour of my time, I could get paid much more if I just went with Rails.
I’m pretty sure this translates to salaried positions (where the real talent shortage is) – if I wanted a full-time job, I’d make significantly less money doing WordPress vs. Rails.
Justin Carroll19 Feb 2015
Why would you ever talk about selling time, even hypothetically? 🙂
“I could get paid much more if I just went with Rails. … if I wanted a full-time job, I’d make significantly less money doing WordPress vs. Rails.”
The problem is the same. Potential employees aren’t exempt from value pricing salary offers. Bjorn hits the nail on the head – it’s every developer’s responsibility to propose their true value regardless of any perceived value (or price).
I don’t believe a shortage exists, but if it does maybe it’s because potential employees are allowing perceived value to dictate reality.
Miriam Schwab18 Feb 2015
I think there are two problems here. First the easy one:
1) Not attracting the right clients – there are clients out there looking for reliable, professional suppliers and willing to pay more for them. The trick is attracting them.
2) Everyone can do WordPress. If I had a dollar for everytime I told someone that my company builds WP sites and they said “I built a WP site,” I’d be making more than the average WP developer 🙂 Since pretty much everyone CAN build a WP site, they don’t think it should take any special skills to do so. But most non-developers in search of a RoR dev have never built anything with it, so it’s more “magical,” and therefore worth more. It’s very difficult to explain to people that there are WP sites, and there are WP SITES. Those who get it, get it and will be more willing to pay. Those who don’t, won’t and I’m not sure there’s much we can do about that.
Rich18 Feb 2015
I would like to suggest people interested in getting paid a fair wage for their work, consider reading Pricing on Purpose by Ronald Baker.
You might not look at your work the same way again.
Andy Adams19 Feb 2015
I’d also recommend Double Your Freelancing Rate by Brennan Dunn, which completely changed my business.
Tatyanna21 Feb 2015
Great post and interesting conversation. I have never wanted to work for an agency, so I can’t speak to that.
My *niche* of actors, artists and holistic health pros will most likely not seek a high end developer because they just want a working gorgeous website that meets their biz needs.
As a wordpress designer who dabbles in development, I would NEVER do a website project for $500. But, even here in Los Angeles there are click and publish folks competing with me whose price is $300. Their basic sites show their lack of skill to a more informed designer, but consumers do not know what they are missing. Part of getting paid what you are worth is educating the client as to what the various evels of skill really mean to them and their business.
On the other hand I see sites that people have paid upwards of $8000-$10,000 to ‘develop’ wordpress sites for small companies and they are completely lacking any customization and design. I am floored when I see that some person was paid that much to do something basic that would take me 10 hours of work max, including content. Feels so unethical. But maybe that is why I don’t have a shiny new car? 🙂
David Skarjune26 Feb 2015
Great post and discussion, on a topic I’d be wary of bringing up with peeps outside the WP community, since my opinion is that Ruby/Rails and Drupal work are often simply overpriced. There’s still a perception that WP is easy and lame; while Rails and Drupal are complex, powerful, and require greater expertise. I’ve noticed that it’s not hard for anyone to be lame and expensive with the argument that it’s so complex…(I better stop there)
I was active in my regional Drupal community and I know the local Rails crowd, and I’m very active in my regional WordPress community. Yes Drupal and Rails tend to operate on a high buck per hour plan, while WordPress tends to go with more value per buck. Unfortunately, while more work gets done delivering more value in WordPress, IMHO, the hourly wage can drop.
The tide is shifting, and the WP community is getting savvy to this game, as I read here. And, in my region, WP shops are ramping up their strategies to both deliver competitive value while profiting from the work. Events like PressNomics and Prestige Conference should help to address the issues and raise the bar.
Jamaluddin Rahmat6 Dec 2015
I just can say “Wow!!!” Average rate is $100/hour.
Glad to hear that.
In my region, if you tell more than $300 for whole website (design, domain, hosting, etc), the client will close job for you and will give for another freelancer.
Greg28 Jan 2016
So, Andy, almost a year later…
1) Did you pick Rails or WordPress?
2) What happened to your rates?
Andy Adams23 Jan 2019
How about 4 years later?!
1. Both, strangely. I use the right tool for the job. Often that’s WordPress, but not always!
2. They’ve gone up!
Marie3 Jun 2016
Really eye opening… Compared to others in the comment section. I’m a rookie 🙂
But 1. In my case there is so much to learn that is so hard to specialize (I’m still Junior).
But 2. Is hard to find developers helping me to get better (no WP developers in my area).
But 3. Normally I can only follow others online but it also feels intimidating and very exclusive.
Sometimes they make you feel like you are too old to start learning WP. Or it will take you forever and is better to quit and leave it to the professionals.
But 4. I would love to be someone’s “Padawan” 😛 but is very difficult.
But 5. Things I enjoy about WP is not what normally clients look for or if they do, is a VIP service. Like AKA WP Security.