On WordPress and Working Smarter

Today I found two brilliant posts that I would like to share with as many people as possible. While everyone is focused on what the market says or what seems natural, occasionally there are many obvious factors that are left unnoticed and could affect our entire life and career.

The first article that I’ve read was Morten’s “WordPress is Not Easy and That’s OK“. It covers several perspectives from people outside of the WordPress community who have heard how easy it is to use the “5-minute install” and build everything with themes and plugins, and tried that on their own. In a few different variations. A jewel from the article:

“I spent the last 4 months building my website and it’s still not ready”

Quite a common thing with clients: “it’s so easy that I can do it myself” and then NOT finding out what went wrong. Whilst this is okay with students and new people just trying to poke what’s going on, it’s ridiculous when people with careers, businesses or generally wealthy and educated people try fall in that weird trap.

Other three brilliant conclusions that Morten put there:

  1. Some* people think WordPress enables them to build a professional grade website with little to no effort.
  2. Some* people believe their ability to publish content with WordPress makes them web developers.
  3. Some* people conclude that based on 1 and 2 (and because WordPress itself is free), WordPress services should be free or cheap.

There are different studies for setting prices to products and everything, and what you could observe yourself without a PhD in that area is the difference between enterprise products and open source ones. More often than not, enterprise customers who pay tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands, or Ms even) for a system are willing to invest in premium support, consultancy, paid extensions (worth thousands) and everything. People who rely on open source solutions for similar features often fall into the misconception that everything else should be free, or paid stuff should be barely noticeable (cost-wise). I wrote three related articles on that and I fully agree with these conclusions.

Call it a standard of life or “being used to pay for everything”, there are few psychological studies that reveal some of these practices, but anyway – if you expect to reach a given result with WordPress (a complete eCommerce platform with multiple gateways, custom design, scalable hardware, etc) it’s not realistic to expect that to happen professionally and as custom as you want for free or for a few hundred bucks when competitors sell similar solution for half a million. Numbers are arbitrary and features vary (sometimes the open source products are actually better), but you need to be aware of the rest of the world.

Pippin wrote another great post called “Work on working smarter, not harder“. If you have people around you who built their businesses from ground zero many years ago and feel somewhat satisfied, you’ve probably heard them telling you that same sentence.

As Pippin said:

Working hard is part of the entrepreneurial spirit and life style. Ask anyone that runs their own business successfully and they will probably always attribute a lot of their success to hard work.

Working hard is an integral aspect of success. Very, very rarely will someone ever find success without also working hard.

I can’t agree more. You can’t be a lazy 9-to-5 employee whose primary goal is stealing another hour for yet another YouTube video with monkey eating someone’s hat (or whatever they upload there as offtopic) and expect your skills to just bump up mysteriously. You can’t expect to eat chips and drink beer every day, all day and look like Dwayne Johnson. It requires thousands of hours of solid work to become good at something.

Malcolm Gladwell actually wrote about his theory on the “10,000 rule” in Outliers, where he assesses a professional’s expertise as 10 thousand hours of work. I’ve discussed that with my colleagues before and even if that’s completely random, non-verified and can’t be proven at all since we’re all different, it’s a rough number that one could use (based on approximations and observations) for what does it take to become an expert in a field. That includes a hobby or a professional switch too – and it doesn’t mean that you’re just unable to do that – it vaguely implies that reaching a solid know-how in a given field and covering most available use cases would take that much. Which is 10 years of 20h/w or 5 years full-time.

I teach a web development class in a high school on Mondays and I have a theory that I’ve shared with my students over the past two years. According to another research, the average age of marriage across the globe is 24.7 years. Again, don’t be too picky, let’s just look at stats and generalize for a bit. If you plan to live a night life during your college/university years (or just don’t care then for what you will after graduation), then you’ll likely start working at the age of 23-24.

How likely is it to get married by the age of 24-25 with a baby in a year – year and a half, and still be able to pull all-nighters, do your research on so many different fields related to your job (e.g. for web engineers – programming languages, databases, servers, security, scalability, design, seo, content management, marketing…) in order to be able to catch up quickly later and learn easily and be confident for your life and paycheck as an expert?

The interesting part comes when you’re past your 10,000 hours. You reach to the imaginary “expert” milestone BUT you keep working all the time, non-stop. Pippin’s words again:

For the last 4 of 5 years, I have worked hard, really, really hard to build a successful business. Overall I believe it has paid off. This last year, however, I started to seriously analyze how I was running my business and decided to make some changes. I chose to work smarter, not harder.

Now, trying to hit the breaks after years of hard work is very complicated. But having the expertise allows you to stop and think for a bit what would be needed for your satisfaction in the long run, and delegate time to that target instead of the 60-70 hours a week shifts. You could still do it if you want (or if you want to become an expert in another field), however you have the skills to decide, be competitive and able to work smarter.

Outsourcing part of your projects, taking breaks, managing some business hours if you’re a remote worker are among the best practices that most hard workers don’t live by. Sites such as Freelance Folder and the former Freelance Switch are focused on covering these concepts as they are part of the toolset of every freelancer, and freelancing is a different area of expertise (just as owning a business).

I had to waste tens of hours slicing two PSDs to make myself outsource that to a frontend person. I tried doing all the SEO magic myself before hiring a SEO freelancer. I found out the hard way that I’m not good at regular writing on a set of topics whenever I don’t feel it before I hired a content writer. But then again, all those steps over the years helped me specialize further in what I like and I’m good at instead of losing focus and wasting hours, and work harder instead of smarter.

Go read the two linked posts. And share them with your friends, clients and “soon-to-be” WordPress experts.

2 thoughts on “On WordPress and Working Smarter”

  1. Mike / ไมค์ (@ficklemike) says: January 10, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Excellent article, thank you for sharing your insights.

    For as long as I can remember, my father has given me this advice: “To be an effective leader does not mean that you have to be the best at doing everything; on the contrary, it means admitting that you are not the best at performing every single task that your are responsible for. Don’t be too big-headed to hire people who are more skilled than you at these things; you should never hire someone unless they can do their job better than you.”

    It’s ironic that it is often by giving up control over elements of our projects, and life, that they are truly able to flourish.

  2. Mario Peshev says: January 10, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks for commenting, Mike!

    There were several remarkable quotes on that subject, the only one I can recall exactly is:

    “Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it . . . ; Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.”
    — David Ogilvy

Your thoughts?