It's about a month since WordCamp Chicago 2013 and I'm only just getting around to write about it if that tells you how busy I've been at the new job. My first thought is how much difference a year can make. The people were the same, the atmosphere was the same, and the sessions were similar but after throwing my self head first into development this past year made the experience quite different.
Cooperation over Competition
One of the things I learned last year at WordCamp Chicago 2012 was that working with WordPress can mean a lot of different things. You can talk to 20 people at a WordCamp and realize that they are also using it in 20 different ways. One person has a multisite setup that manages 100 hotel branches, another person uses the site to build their non profit website, another person builds custom WordPress plugins & themes for their fortune 500 client, another has a website that helps users learn the WordPress admin interface, and another builds premium extensions for WordPress. It's really fascinating how many different ways you can use WordPress. This year I learned that there are some corollaries that are also true due to this phenomenon.
One of the points multiple people have brought up is that it seems that there is a lot more cooperation in WordPress than other tech industries. And this is obvious the moment you walk into a WordCamp. You'll see designers talking to other designers and developers talking to other developers. I think part of this is that there is so much room to grow in WordPress. You could specialize in any of a 100 different ways and you wouldn't necessarily have the same client base as the other developer you're talking to.
This specialization makes it easier to share knowledge because we are still masters of our own domain. I know that giving some help to a freelancer won't hurt my chances to build another premium plugin. And even if I help another plugin developer with something it's highly likely that maybe next year he'll present and I'll learn something from him. It may something I wouldn't have otherwise had a chance to learn had I not helped him the year before.
This cooperative mentality extends all the way through the WordPress community and you can even see it between competitors. You can see commits from the WooCommerce team in Easy Digital Downloads and commits from Pippin (Easy Digital Downloads) in WooCommerce. Why do we do this? Because we in this community love learning and making things better and we know that eventually more knowledge will come back to us.
Takeaway Presentations from WordCamp Chicago
There were some phenomenal presentations at WordCamp Chicago and I know that I'll have to change some of my workflows to try out some of the technologies. But this year I wasn't quite as wowed as I had been in years past about new technologies. Don't get me wrong, I attended and enjoyed learning about Vagrant, interacting with external APIs, Node JS, etc. But they just weren't as important as they were in years past. This year I was far more interested in the abstract topics like client relations, pricing, branding, etc than the technological topics. Onto my two favorite talks at WordCamp Chicago 2013.
Creating New Revenue Streams Using WordPress
Gene Hammett did a great job presenting on creating new revenue streams and making yourself more of an expert in the process. His rationale is that This is something that I think every agency or web designer should undertake. You need to make yourself appear as the expert whenever you meet a new client and you rarely do this by showing the breadth of work you do. It is far better to show a small select number of focused case studies showing how you're the expert in their particular market. To enhance this even more you can create some extra sources in revenue that also show that you're the expert in the industry.
So instead of just saying something like “I've built websites for healthcare clinics before”, write a book, publish a guest blog post, create a premium theme, release a premium plugin, that also shows that you're the expert in that field more so than someone who just shows them the breadth of their experience.
How to Avoid Overshoot & Avoid Lost Profits
Chris Lema had an awesome presentation about properly managing projects. In Chris' point of view there are two reasons the projects get mishandled:
- You're not professional enough
- You need to learn to say no. You don't need to go through 15 iterations of a logo
- You're too professional
- You get too excited about the technology and you forget the clients needs
Chris believes, and I agree with him, that “If you protect the client from their bad ideas they'll gladly pay for their good ones” and I can't think of anything better than that. Learn to tell your clients no and you'll both be better off.