Confessions of a WordPress Developer

For the last five or so years of my self-employment, a lot has changed. And I’m not talking about the technical landscape. I mean, that’s always changing, right?

But I’m talking about the way that I manage my time and the way that I get work done.

Unfortunately, the Internet has adopted this culture that allows everyone to share how they manage their time and then try to distill it into some type of step-by-step process that can be used by everyone.

That’s not the point of this post. I don’t operate that. I rarely subscribe to that advice, and I’m not going to be that guy.

Furthermore, I tend to ignore (and even reject) posts like that. We have many different personalities and so many variables that contribute to what we’re able to do, when we’re able to do it, and how we’re able to work that I don’t think it’s possible to actually distill something into a formulaic process.

Instead, I think it’s worth simply sharing ideas on what’s worked for ourselves and leaving it at that. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things we can borrow from others – because there is overlap in our personalities – but it also means that some of these posts are nothing more than informational pieces. And that’s fine.

So with that lengthy disclaimer out of the way, I thought I’d share some of the things that I currently do in order to manage by day-to-day tasks to get things done.

Anyway, here’s my first set of what’s to likely be more in posts that deal with confessions of a WordPress developer.

Confessions of a WordPress Developer

Currently, I spend 100% of my time working on contracts for Pressware. This is an LLC that I started when I was in college out of which I was building custom solutions for others (though the name has undergone a few changes since then).

It hasn’t always been this way, though.

During school I was working on some contracts, during internships, I spend evenings working on a couple of small jobs, and then after I left my 9-to-5, I began to spend a lot more time working out of it; however, I was still dividing my time between that and 8BIT (RIP).

Back in the day

Now, as I mentioned, I’m 100% focused on Pressware and I have been for quite a while now. I absolutely love it, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t come with it’s fair share of challenges.

1. Time With Your Family

Over the course of self-employment, my wife and I have added two little girls to our family. Love ’em to death.

Sure, we’ve had the usual ups and downs that most families have, as well, but welcoming two brand new people to Earth and then being responsible for their well-being is simultaneously the best thing that’s happened to us, but also the thing that has changed everything for us.


How the girls arrived on Earth
How the girls arrived on Earth

And to be clear, when I say that things have changed, there’s absolutely no negative connotation for that. I can’t imagine them not being present in our lives.

Parenthood is the greatest.

Consequently, this means that I’ve set strict boundaries as to when I work and when I don’t. Just because I have the privilege to work from home doesn’t mean that I spend portions of my day playing with my kids. On the flip side, it doesn’t mean that I’m constantly available for work, either.

When it was just my wife and me, that was a little bit different, but at this point I’m fully committed to making Pressware the most solid business that it can be all the while making sure that I’m the most present and active father than I can possibly be.

If an email or a call comes in after 5pm EST, then the odds of it being answered are slim to none. There’s a time for work to be the priority, there’s a time for my family to be priority, and I try hard to maintain that balance.

2. The Projects That You Love

One of the pieces of conventional wisdom that people often share – especially those who own their own business or who are self-employed – say that they have the ability to work on the projects that they love.

We've been sold this idea, but it doesn't always work out.
We’ve been sold this idea, but it doesn’t always work out.

But do you know how hard it is for people to actually get into a job they they love? I mean, really? In some sense, it paints a complete picture for all of us, but for others it’s a pipedream.

But I digress.

Anyway, or all intents and purposes let’s that you are working in a place that you love. If you’re in the product business, then odds that you have to deal with some type of customer service or refunds or recalls or something like that are likely high. Who honestly loves being shouted at by an unhappy customer or having to trace a bug for hours trying to figure out how to recreate it?


So though you may be working on projects that you love, there are aspects to the job that aren’t so glamorous.

And if you’re working on the contract arena, the same is true. After sometime, I hope, we’re all able to begin working on contracts that interest us, but every now and then there are things that are going to come up – be it a ceiling needing to be repaired, a car breaking down, or so – and you’ll need to pick up an extra project to get the funds.

That’s adulthood.

On one hand, it’s not ideal. You’re going to be hours building out and implementing something that is far and away something that you’d prefer to work on. But, on the other hand, you always have the ability to take care of those projects so that you can, in turn, take care of yourself and/or your family.

This isn’t meant to distill the chores of working on less than stellar jobs into some type of poetic version of itself. It’s not. Working on projects that we hate is draining, it’s often a source of a procrastination, and it’s something that we don’t want to do.

But sometimes we have to do things we don’t like. So I think it’s worth sucking it, being grateful that we have work, and then pushing forward.

3. Learning What You Like (And What You Don’t)

Finally, throughout the course of self-employment, I’ve worked with a variety of different languages and platforms. WordPress has been one constant even when I was just using it as a blogging platform to share what I was doing in other programming languages.

Throughout my career, I’ve spent time in PHP, .NET, Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, and the usual front-end languages as well as many of the various libraries that come with each of them.

The nice thing about working with a variety of technologies early on is that you learn what you like and what you don’t. Sometimes, I think this is subjective. This is why some people love PHP, this is why some hate it. This is why some are Rubyists, this is why some aren’t.

It’s fun to talk about which language is better than the other, and it’s human nature to determine which type of programmer comes out on top, but it’s also a fool’s errand.

If you’re working with a stack of technologies that help you solve problems using tools that you love for clients that you enjoy, then you win (and you’re not competing against anyone but yourself around that).

This is something that took me years to figure out. And I think, as programmers, it’s easy to sit with a language or a set of tools and think “Yeah, this is fine – I’m comfortable working with these utilities,” and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you dig just a little bit further, then you may find that whatever it is you’re working with (or working on) creates some type of feeling of satisfaction than many of your alternatives. Don’t dismiss that as it may very well be the thing that helps direct you to where you want to head from wherever you are now.

This Isn’t Advice

Nothing that I’ve written above is intended to be advice. If anything, it’s more of an explanation as to how I spend my time and how I’ve been able to work on the projects that I work on doing the work that I do with the family that I have.

This isn’t prescriptive to your situation. This may not work with how your life is organized (but maybe it will).

I don’t know.

But blogs are our attempting at sharing information with the world. Sometimes it comes in the form of advice, sometimes it comes in the form of personal experience. In this case, it’s latter.

Maybe it’ll help, maybe not. If not, that’s cool :).

4 Replies to “Confessions of a WordPress Developer”

  1. I totally agree with what you have said. I’ve been a freelancer since 2009, blimey I didn’t realise it was that long until I just checked my online accounts. I keep weekends minus early mornings free for my wife and 2 boys. Early weekend mornings I spend catching up on my accounts, invoicing, time tracking etc. I like to do this when it’s quite.

    As far as the ongoing code war goes I’ve learn’t not to get drawn into those arguments about who’s right and who’s wrong, who cares really it’s a waste of energy. I find it Best to read between the lines and make you own decision, and I’m definitely not going to be wasting my time knocking on your door hard selling my now chosen religious coding path especially as I those paths are very organic. What’s good today could be obsolete tomorrow. I agree you find the tools you are comfortable with, that have plenty of resource and documentation and can help speed up your development. At the end of the day, not sure what time that is, the client doesn’t care what’s going on underneath or how you craft it as long as it meets their requirements.

    I’ve tried most languages, cms’s, even those that don’t make the headlines. I, ( emphasis on the comma here incase you thought I was chatting you up :) like you, settled for WP. Why? because I saw it as one platform to build on. I don’t need to have Magento (yuck, years I’ve wasted on that) or OpenCart etc for e-commerce. I can do most builds within WP which frees up my mind time to concentrate on new ways to speed up my development processes and do some serious bespoke programming that’s were I find my buzz.

    Life is complicated enough so why add to it.

    Anyhow I wasting time here, I want to get back to playing with Susy and no that’s not my wife :).

    I love your blog by the way, again that’s not a chat up line :)

    1. Hi,

      Glad I am not the only one who considers such things. As a developer going all the way back to the TRS-80, Atari 800, Mac’s, Atari ST’s I can most certainly relate to what your saying. I am probably a bit older than you.

      Its difficult to even keep up on skill sets really.

      Back in the early days “in code” and “life” there was basically Assembler, Basic and the hardware. Software fit into 8-32K bytes of code.

      Now-a-days if one’s a web developer they choose their food. PHP, Java, ASP.NET or the pluther of other languages, Ruby, Go etc. not to mention needing to be a database admin which well…. I cannot begin to tell you how many mySQL DB’s I see as a complete MESS because web apps are trying to bridge gaps between efficiency and good practices. Aka: “If I serialize all this and slap it into common records then I am extensible, my codebase is consistent in dealing with it and I save resources”…. Not at all. The additional processing .vs. best “oop” practices results in slower code, normalization out the window, disasterous spaghetti goo for other developers on and on.

      With popular PHP stuff many app’s go “oop” and PHP is really crappy at it. One of the base concepts of OOP is really strong typing. Atop that its VERY memory hungry at it.

      I am PHP aware, C# / ASP.NET aware and Java aware. I gave up on trying to keep up on PHP and instead decided to focus my up to date skill set into C# and what MS is doing. I think in 5-10 years PHP will be on the wane. Microsofts as well as others (Adobe, Google, Amazon etc) goals of smart device unification is going to kill anything inbetween. But that aside, C# / ASP.NET is now running rings around PHP.

      All that and time management aside… As I said, I am probably older than you.

      You forgot one thing in your post and I truly wished I’d learned earlier in life.

      Spirituality. Purpose.

      People all over the westernized societies scramble with their devices, daily do, family, education on and on. Yet when it comes to purpose behind ALL of it they are lost. They may think they are not. “Why are you here…. Alive?”

      “I am here to raise my family, provide, contribute.” To what? Why? What is their purpose? Existing for others is certainly part of the purpose but only a part.

      The purpose in life is found through the spirit, the soul. They view things such as science and providing answers and to an extent it does. More often it does until its circumvented by whats deemed the “new truth” over and over…

      Now science that cares to admit it resulting in entities taking sides is finding that the patterns around us, everywhere could never have occurred randomly and design in all forms does not just “spring up”.

      Finding constants (over 20 thus far) that are imperative for us, the universe and all things within to exist and some to such precision that if they were even off by a very small percentile, what we know as our lives and universe could not be.

      Point all being… There is more to life than what we care to consider (many) in their daily grinds. Being in touch with one’s purpose of living all other things aside is what balance is about.

      1. This is a fantastic comment. I really appreciate everything you’ve said. There is one part that I especially like that I’d like to clarify just because it should’ve been in the initial post:

        All that and time management aside… As I said, I am probably older than you.

        Maybe so – and I always dig hearing other peoples take on all of this.

        People all over the westernized societies scramble with their devices, daily do, family, education on and on. Yet when it comes to purpose behind ALL of it they are lost. They may think they are not. “Why are you here…. Alive?”

        This is something that could get into a very, very long discussion which usually would be suited better for sharing a drink rather than a blog comment but here we are :).

        Every day at 5pm, I sign off of my computer. The time from 5pm onward is explicitly reserved for time with my daughters and my wife. There’s nothing shy of an emergency that is going to interrupt that time. I want to be with them, invest with them, and be an involved father and husband.

        The same thing is true for the weekends, as well.

        Point all being… There is more to life than what we care to consider (many) in their daily grinds. Being in touch with one’s purpose of living all other things aside is what balance is about.

        Well stated.

  2. Hi Tom,

    I went through this for years and years (and even more years!). When I finally met Miss Right it was magic. Literally. We both knew it. It was beyond normal deal, we both knew that our connection was established in a place beyond this world. Literally. She has paranormal gifts, never much believed in that stuff until I saw it over and over in the years we were together. 15 of them to be exact.

    Many of the years were good. She was by far the smartest person I’d ever met and I am no slouch. Marketing genius, social genius and then some. Not a day of higher education, just a natural. Before I met her she was involved in politics. She jumped back into that and in hindsight that was the beginning of our end.

    I was amazed at these events we’d attend, campaigns we’d work on and all that. I even had the Governor call asking if we’d done these web’s for some candidates and expressing how wondrous they were and we could expect alot of business come our way (two months later his infidelity hit the media and Pffft).

    She loves the “game”. The glory, the fight all that. She’s damned good at it, I mean “top 100” in the nation IMHO. But WE suffered due to it. We lost the magic or perhaps it was taken from us.

    I do agree that discussion of purpose is best suited towards face to face conversations. Usually I have found in that as well however thinking is often lost. That is to say again in Western culture time is seldom spent in talking to pause and think. Dig deeper. Shallow being the term of the day. How many sail through day after day only thinking on surface or just below it levels occasionally straying a bit deeper? I’d bet the numbers are astonishing across most folks.

    I see it manifested on the net continually. “Rick, my goodness look how long your posting or email is! You cant expect me read all that?” I try and explain, “Ummm…. Deep thoughts or even COMPLETE thoughts cannot be expressed often in four sentences or less”. The fact people wont even take the time to read is manifest of them being run ragged.

    I remember going on camping trips with brother and dad, conversations when I was a younger man with friends about such fascinations as life elsewhere in the universe on and on. Good times to be sure. Often influenced by suds and/or weed. Some of my friends never got out of that either, 30 years later still suds and weed.

    Mind you… My generation and I had the opportunity to be the “Bill Gates” folks. I dealt with MS when it was in New Mexico all of a handful of people in New Mexico writing code with MASM.

    So whats all this pointing to you might ask Tom? Posts 1 & 2 I have made.

    I no longer think random is as random as people randomly think random is. In a PC really no such thing as a real random number as you are aware. Generators are seeded but with ALLLLLL this fancy-hoo coding and technology we cant get a random value, the real thing. Why?

    Random is NOT the norm, not in life, not on earth, not in the universe. It is in fact the exception if it is at all.

    For most of my life “God” was an abstracted idea. Surprisingly alot of folks I speak to do not get that concept. You write code, you deal with the 1’s and 0’s boxes. You will understand that statement.

    I dont know what levels of code you have dealt with, complete applications, whatall. But coding is either top down or bottom up. It requires finding common denominators and understanding the task, the problems of said task, implementing code to model the task, input in, output out. Object by object, function by function. Patterns based logic is the buzz in coding these days as well.

    But hears what I found Tom. For “life reasons” I started examining what was in my head, this abstracted idea called God and I really dig science. I started using my programmers noodle to try and reverse engineer things, anything in the natural world / universe and even conceptual items.

    What I found were patterns. EVERYWHERE. Just take transformation. Everything transforms. Rocks, grass, air, stars, everything. But they are bound in said transformations by a variety of constants. Remarkably the same ones science is now going, “Oh my” at.

    Whether living or not, all things change along time. Why would anyone think that when death comes along there is no transformation of the “spirit” for lack of a better term?

    I started studying mans knowledge. One day while peering at my fiance’s backyard I was struck with a “pop in” thought. All the computers in the world working just to record and understand the interactions happening in her 30×40 foot yard and how those events impact other interactions in the real world is not possible. That would be completely beyond doable.

    I talked to someone about these “pop in” thoughts. Had em’ since I was a kid. I am focused on this and “wham” something just pops into my head completely unassociated with my focus of thought I am on. Where does THAT come from? I always ignored it. Ooops. Turns out, its not real normal. I thought it happened to everyone, never gave it a second thought.

    Again, Mr. Logic dude I am. So I start trying reverse engineer that. I find that many in history have had this occur most notably those who achieved far more than one would think possible.

    What is the source of good and evil? What are their purpose? They are undeniable. They are around us all the time. So thats real. But why? Are they energy? Living energy? Food for superior entities? Clearly they cant be dismissed.

    Free will. Hmmm. Do we have free will? Yes. Really? Maybe? Really? No.

    In this microsecond there may be a million or billions of choices you can make Tom. But the number is finite. Those choices influence or perhaps instantiate other choices “trees”. Uh oh. Think about it. In depth. What you will find is ALOT of answers when you reverse engineer and stay on focus. Using your coders noodle. What you will see over and over are patterns. You will hit brick walls over and over because the scope, the MAGNITUDE is just UNBELIEVABLE in its complexity…. BUT! You will also come to the conclusion that, intelligent design is clearly there. That there is just no possible way that pretty much everything you apply that logic to results in patterns.

    Once you reach that pinnacle you will rapidly find it no pinnacle at all. More like a pitchers mound. That revelation seeming like a big mental/purpose breakthrough was not a mountainous one. But a pitchers mound. LOL.

    Continue the pursuit. “I want find that mountain!”. What you will find as you continue (and oh by the way, as coders would say, document your findings as its so complex you will need look back upon them) is that source of intelligent design. You will find all of a sudden those that thousands of years ago whom we deemed in modern day to be “backwards” that their spirituality was something they HAD to rely on as they didnt have grocery stores or electric or iPads etc is NOT at ALL what we think of today. They in fact were more in tune with purpose than most of us today.

    Today we think they bound more into the family unit due to their times. Uh uh. They bound more into the family unit because their souls, their spirits were not directed by the world around them. Many of their NEEDS were, but not their SOULS. They saw purpose and value in family more so than much else except one thing. God.

    The same perplexing questions existed then as exist today. The same answer as well. But today folks try avoid it, in fact in our nation are being encouraged to avoid it even in school. Why? Ok I will tell you. Because control of the soul/spirit is control over people. When you and yours are free in soul and spirit and place their mastery under their creator, God, and follow his path and plans for your life and that of your family, NONE can control you. NONE can block you. NONE can be victorious over you even in death.

    I am not an evangelist programmer LOL. Its taken me 3 years of this path and I still am not asailing the mountain. But, I am off the pitchers mound.

    I made no leaps of faith my friend. I just started trying to use my programmers logic noodle to reverse engineer oh so many things. Applying the same formula and algorithmic conditionals to everything and anything and WHAM. Patterns over and over and over.

    Who made your daughters soul? You and your wife have child. Who made the soul? Do you think that precious girls soul is random? I doubt it. I know she’s not.

    Once you truly truly realize that intelligent design is everywhere and in the spiritual sense that brings up matters such as purposes, evil, good, the booleans of diametric oppositions you will also find all over the place with patterns. Then start looking at the WHY am I here, purpose. Why is my wife in my life? WHY is she here. WHY is our daughter here. WHO is responsible?

    You will find that the answers for the most part are all there already. Were there for thousands of years. Your backwoods ancestors cherished them as ties that bind. You will see the LOSS of that in todays society is WHY its more robotic, less feeling, more intense with less personal yields.

    You are not your daughters father. God is. He is your father, your wifes father. When you OPEN THAT DOOR my friend and EMBRACE IT ALL THINGS ARE NOW POSSIBLE TO YOU. I am not being evangelical. I made no leaps. Atop that, no more fears and not only understanding the blessings but also knowing more will come!

    If your daughter at 17 decided she isnt dealing with you anymore. Your love for her will not dissipate. But your interactions with her do. If she wants nothing to do with you or visa versa there sits the wall. But, going the other way the more you all embrace one another what happens? The more love, the more opportunity, the bounty of life you eat and enjoy. Also true of God my friend. If you have no relationship with him, his love does not end, in fact he may try steer you… Might even be why I say this to you friend stranger. He cries as you cry, he shares joy in your joy, he shares love in your love. Just as a parent does their children.

    The term “We are made in Gods image” is NOT “He looks like us”. Its about the SOUL and SPIRIT. The same emotions, the same wishes for the children, the same dreams for all life. And at the end of our days your mom’s, your dad’s, the not belief, not hoping, but the ASSURANCE that in what comes after this life brings those bonds back together again.

    Once you “Get that” then all of a sudden whats important changes. This life is short. You may not feel that now. I do. Other day I was 20, 30 seemed a ways off. 30-50 scooted by like the wind. When God is put FIRST he puts YOU first.

    As those myriads of microsecond choices are finite. They are paths. They are not random. They lead to branches, more choices. Not a binary tree. Ever ever so much more complex than that. But finite nonetheless.

    “His Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven” I was ASTONISHED by thats true meaning. Thats the tree of choices my friend.

    I digress…

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