There are lots of web developers out there, so what does really differentiate a good web developer from a bad web developer, and most importantly, how can you help clients see the difference? To me, it all boils down to one thing: Being ready to do whatever it takes in order to become successful. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, even when it is very dark around you. If you have this attitude, you can become anything! Let me share my story with you, and I hope it will inspire you.
The Early Days
My love for computers started when I was 9 years old. My dad brought home from work a Toshiba laptop, which had windows 3.1 installed on it. That was back in 1992, and if you see that laptop today, it resembles a microwave more than today’s laptops. When my dad opened his laptop, I was always at his shoulder, trying to see what he was doing. I was eager to touch that laptop, but he wouldn’t let me. It was worth more than his monthly salary back then!!!
One day my dad went to work, and left that laptop home. I turned on that laptop as I was trembling, because if I broke anything, my dad would find out…and I would be grounded for touching a laptop I wasn’t supposed to. It turned out that operating a laptop was easier than I thought, and in a few days, I could play Hearts, Minesweeper, open and type in excel, and a few more things… A passionate love story had just started.
The Working Life
Fast-forward a few years. I’m 20 years old, wasted two years at university trying to become a civil engineer. I was bad at every topic, except for math and programming. It was then that I knew I wanted to be a programmer! I finished my BS in Computer Science, and was ready to start working.
I looked at what my friends were getting paid, and the salaries were ridiculous in my country, Lebanon. I decided that I didn’t want to work for anyone, and wanted to start my own business. Being a very anti-social guy at that time, it was very hard for me. I bought a few marketing, sales and business books, and for the next few months after graduation, I was just reading. The more I read, the more I realized that it will take me some time to take a business off the ground. I decided to start my own web hosting business as a learning experience, and this is where I stumbled upon webhostingtalk.com , a forum where all web hosting experts come together.
I did see lots of online job offers on that forum, by some reputable web hosting companies. I wrote my first CV using a text editor, and sent it to one of the companies, Lunarpages. One of my colleague laughed at how I wrote my CV using a text editor, and told me they will never get back to me with such a CV. However, he was very wrong. They got back to me, did a few interviews and tests, and they sent me an offer. I was getting paid 3 times more than my colleagues were getting paid locally. I was very happy. Fast-forward a few years, I’ve started another web hosting company, and worked with a few big names in the industry, such as Namecheap.
In 2010, I decided that web hosting was too exhausting for me. Lots of competition and very high stress. I liquidated one of my companies, sold the other one to my partner, and started looking at some other venture to start. In order to make some money in the meantime, I started doing some web development freelancing. Up until this day, I’m still freelancing, as I loved it. I built very complex web applications, worked with dozens of APIs, and used lots of frameworks, such as CodeIgniter, Zend, and WordPress.
The WordPress Effect
Unlike other platforms, WordPress is very popular, and used by lots and lots of technical and non-technical people. I read somewhere that out of every 4 new websites in the world, 1 is powered by WordPress. That’s 25% of all new websites, a huge number!
After I started freelancing in 2010, I realized that having my own website is a great way to help me differentiate myself. I needed a quick website, nothing fancy. Therefore, I decided to use WordPress. I kept improving my website day after day, and I really got good at it. Fast-forward a few years, I’m writing custom plugins for WordPress, released a few open source plugins of my own, and worked on WP projects worth tens of thousands of dollars.
WordPress really helped me by giving me the exposure I need, to the right audience. My open source WP plugins have helped me get in touch with some great clients, that I still work with until this day.
How To Use WordPress to become a very successful web developer
I’ve asked Mark Jaquith, a WordPress core developer who charges $350/hour for his code services, as well as Rick Ramos, one of the pioneers of internet marketing on what does it take to become a very successful web developer. Although they worded it differently, it boils down to the same thing:
- Increase Your Skills: If you are going to work on very big projects, you must be prepared to do so. I personally use at least one new tool in my projects every month. (e.g. MongoDB, PHP-Resque, LinkedIn API…) . I also try to do the same thing in a better way , every time. (e.g. write a custom plugin instead of embedding functionality into the user’s WP theme). A great developer is always changing and evolving. A mediocre web developer learns one tool and stays with it for life. Good web developers use whatever web technology they need to use in order to help clients succeed.
- Increase Your Reputation: Even if you are a very skilled web developer, no one will pay you if you cannot prove that you’re good enough. I open source lots of my code, because it gives me the exposure I need to keep finding new clients. Even if it means that I have to work more time to polish that code for public release, I don’t mind that at all. The clients I get and the money I make justify the time spent polishing that code. In WP terms, when you can write a plugin instead of hacking the theme, take the time to do that. Moreover, if you feel you’re using the same code again and again, write that as a plugin and distribute it.
I hope this has inspired you to find your own path. As someone who strongly believe that the more you give, the more you get back, I’m willing to mentor a few people to get to the top, free of charge. If you’re the kind of person who is determined, doesn’t easily quit, and is willing to do whatever it takes in order to become pretty successful, then I urge you to get in touch with my through my website. We might be able to work on some interesting things together.