I hated my job.
For over a decade I’d worked as either an independent web developer or part of an engineering team, depending on the year. My final stop in Corporate America was a cubicle where my skills went largely unused. I needed a change of pace and I quit.
Following a dream of opening a coffee shop, I took an entry-level position with Starbucks so that I could learn the business (and get paid to do it). As a single adult with minimal living expenses, I had the opportunity to work for a low wage in exchange for an absolute wealth of education. One of the things I learned during that time is that I never wanted to own a coffee shop. :)
Burnout eventually set in and I started thinking about the “what’s next.” Outside of retail management, my primary skill set was web development. Even though I wasn’t making great money, taking the leap back into web development was a scary prospect, both financially and mentally.
Could I re-enter the world of freelance web consulting after nearly a decade out of the field? It turns out I could, thanks in large part to WordPress.
My Exit Strategy
I first learned about WordPress when discussing my plans of returning to web development with a friend and mentor. I was amazed at this out-of-the-box content management system (I’d always previously built my own) and the possibilities it offered.
In March of 2010, my dad bought me a subscription to Lynda.com for my birthday and I set about learning as much as I could about WordPress. Within a few months, I put the word out to my network that I was available for WordPress work and slowly some referrals trickled in.
That first check was sweet. I took a picture of it.
I continued my job at Starbucks alongside my freelancing work and by the end of the year, I had enough business that my hours at Starbucks were cutting into hours I had available for projects. The math wasn’t hard – now that I had the business to support it, it didn’t make sense to turn down $40/hr work in order to work a shift at $12/hr.
I made the leap in December 2010.
Building a WordPress Business
By January 2011, I’d officially hung out my shingle as an independent web consultant. It was a rough year and I wasn’t able to completely replace my Starbucks salary. Thanks to a bit of austerity and a very supportive husband, I continued down the path of small business ownership. That year I soaked up as much information I could about developing with WordPress. I also joined a local business network to meet clients and looked for work under every rock.
By the end of 2012 I exceeded my Starbucks salary by 2x. That was the year I started discovering the massive community around WordPress. I also started blogging regularly about what I was learning while doing full-time client work.
By the end of 2013 I’d 3xed my Starbucks salary. This was a year I began to fully understand the value of participating in the WordPress community, both online and in person at WordCamps and local meet-ups. Producing educational content became a priority both in order to help others learn (as I’d been helped) and increase my authority as a WordPress developer. Full-time client work continued.
By the end of 2014 I’d…. can you guess? I 4xed my Starbucks salary. Thanks to the encouragement of my mastermind group, I set some very specific goals for the year and evaluated every opportunity against those greater goals. The year turned out some wonderful unplanned opportunities, most notably the opportunity to teach WordPress courses at Lynda.com.
Year over year business has grown as I’ve learned how to better manage projects, clients, work-load, on-going education, and time spent contributing to the community.
Opportunity Awaits Both Me and You
The story I’ve shared here isn’t meant to toot my own horn – what I hope I’ve shared is that it’s possible to start from scratch and create something cool.
I know that hard work alone doesn’t equal success for everyone, but I believe WordPress has opened doors of opportunity to me that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. That opportunity exists for you, too.
Maybe it means taking the next step in your education. Maybe it means taking a leap and getting out of your comfort zone. Maybe it means outlining your goals for the coming year and creating a path to reach them.
I don’t know what that opportunity looks like for you, but I do know that WordPress empowers people and changes lives.