A WordPress Developer Salary Should Be…?

Earlier this week, Ryan Sullivan – a twitter-friend of mine – sent out the following note:

An interesting observation, isn’t it? Especially for those who work on WordPress full time, work with WordPress full time, and/or those who have come to WordPress from other backgrounds. Specifically those in software development backgrounds.

Straight up, I’ll say that I don’t know why a WordPress developer salary is less than any other [insert whatever type of] developer salary is here, but I have my thoughts and speculations (as I’m sure you do, as well). And as I – and many others – have been talking more and more about trying to force a shift in the WordPress economy, this seemed like a timely thing to share.

A WordPress Developer Salary

First, forget all of the semantics that come with nailing down salaries. Cost of living varies from region-to-region, level of experience influences a salary, and the success and/or size of company has a lot to do with it, as well.

For purposes of this post and those following, put those aside and normalize them or do whatever you need to do in order to try to think purely about WordPress as an application, and what all it entails when writing code for solutions that sit on top of it.

WordPress Developer Salary
The state of the industry.

Here’s the thing: there a lot to say about this particular topic. At least as far as I’m concerned. So rather than try to actually cover it all in a single post, I thought I’d break it up into smaller topics.

At this point, I’m looking to talk about:

  • What is content management, anyway?
  • The skills of a software developer
  • Software development with WordPress
  • Themes, plugins, and applications
  • Programmers and implementers
  • …and perhaps a little bit more

But rather than lead up to some type of pseudo-grand finale, why not just lay out exactly why I think WordPress salaries are set where they are and then explain my reasons for thinking so in future posts?

Ultimately, I believe that the reason WordPress developer salaries are lower are for one or all the following reasons:

  1. The industry isn’t yet aware of what can be done with WordPress. It knows it’s used for blogging and/or content management, but that’s not the same as development, so those responsible for hiring do not believe a salary should not be equal to that of a developer.
  2. Those who develop solutions using WordPress may actually be more implementers than programmers and thus lack the skills to solve problems through the use of code (rather than pre-existing solutions), so their salary should not be equal to that of a programmer.
  3. The WordPress economy has not matured enough to educate the industry or the implementer that there’s more than can be done with WordPress and that classical software development and software engineering techniques can be employed within the context of WordPress.

Until those three things change, we’re not going to see competitive salaries for, say, Rails or .NET developers and WordPress developers unless those who are doing the hiring already understand all of the above and those who are looking to fill those positions understand all of the above.

And that’s the short if it. Those are the three reasons I think that a WordPress developer salary is less than that of someone who works with another set of languages.

Just Too Simple

But that leaves out a lot of information, doesn’t it?

Rather than write a 2,000 post that few people will have the time to read (let alone want to read), I thought I’d break it up into a small series of posts that looks at each aspect of this a little bit differently.

To that end, I’ve given you my three reasons for why I think a WordPress developer salary is less than what some expect it to be, and about which I’ll elaborate more in follow-up posts.

In the meantime, I’m still curious as to why you think a WordPress developer salary is less than that of its equivalent in other languages.

39 Replies to “A WordPress Developer Salary Should Be…?”

  1. WordPress shouldn’t even be part of the salary debate – if you are a competent developer, WordPress is merely a tool that you make use of. People should pay you based on your experience, your competency, and the value you will be adding to organization. Ultimately when you market yourself, WordPress should just be 1 part of your toolset. Market yourself rather as a developer (who has expert level experience in WordPress) instead of as a WordPress specific developer.

    1. Hmmm, I think you have a point Jeffikus. I’m struggling now how to market myself after becoming a full time contractor sort of recently. Though I mainly work in WordPress (and prefer it), I have done non CMS sites, facebook canvas applications, and other types of front end work. I can see how saying I am a “WordPress” developer can mean “less” than what my skillset consists of.

      1. I’m struggling now how to market myself after becoming a full time contractor sort of recently.

        I did the same thing a few years ago. I went from a software engineer and team lead to a self-employed developer.

        I was primarily doing work in Rails and on WordPress and then opted to solely focus on WordPress. From that point, it’s been really all about focusing on explaining that I’m opting to apply the same time of work I once did in other languages but doing so within the context of WordPress.

        The demand is definitely there, but you’ve gotta make some signal among the noise.

    2. WordPress shouldn’t even be part of the salary debate – if you are a competent developer, WordPress is merely a tool that you make use of.

      Generally speaking, I agree with you (and I’ve mentioned it more in posts after this one).

      It has much more to do with one’s ability to be able to think creatively about problems and solving them and implementing them in a given language and so on. The thing is, WordPress affords a lot of options as it relates to what people can do with it. The fact that people label themselves a developer when that probably isn’t the best job description is a problem.

      Market yourself rather as a developer (who has expert level experience in WordPress) instead of as a WordPress specific developer.

      Bingo.

      1. I’d actually disagree with both of you, and the reason is that as long as we keep hiding WordPress as our main advantage, Tom’s post will be valid (~forever).

        The majority of the expert consultants and senior developers experienced in .NET, Django or Rails market themselves as such. Not as C#, Python or Ruby developers, even though they naturally use those languages for the platforms above. But because they have excelled them and stepped further. And that’s what the companies look for.

        The two main problems imo are also mentioned by Tom above: clients don’t realize what’s possible with WordPress yet, and the majority of “WordPress experts” are actually implementers, or customizers.

        Try browsing a freelance network such as oDesk or Elance for “WordPress” – job offers by clients. You will find out that most jobs have similar descriptions:

        Looking for a WordPress Expert to change CSS of our theme
        A WordPress Guru needed for html changes in a template
        Senior WordPress Expert needed to install a few plugins on our website

        My favorite one is actually:

        Looking for a Senior Project Manager to keep our WordPress website up to date.

        We’re also marketing ourselves as a WordPress agency, even though budgets from WordPress-specific clients are lower than the ones looking for general web development with the same requirements. Still, if we are ashamed of WordPress and hide it, it won’t benefit anyone. There are more than enough large WordPress-driven projects out there and that’s what we should explain to our potential customers.

        1. I’ve gone back and forth with myself about what title to put on my services. As it sits now, I’m a “WordPress Developer” but I will sometimes say “WordPress Programmer” instead of developer or I throw out “Front End WordPress Web Developer” but start to think how awfully long that is. It’s true, I know css the best, html next, a little php (a lot more, more recently), some jquery and some javascript but not much. So yeah, I guess that somewhere in that mix you could say a person would be a web developer and so that is what I market myself as. People will identify with it. But I’ve found clients are looking for WordPress specific services more often these days. So I settle on WordPress Developer. Truth be told, I do implement/customize/consult and piece together solid solutions based on the tools that are available (plugins, frameworks, code, wordpress in general).

          But then I still think WordPress Developer doesn’t really describe all of that. Especially when I get requests from people to “make them a website”.

      2. A little late to the party, but I think I can simplify it even more (much of it being subjective). Companies that can pay better generally want web sites that can integrate within an existing CRM/ERP system. I know there are existing solutions for this, but WordPress isn’t the first enterprise solution that comes to mind.

        Also, in very high-tech spaces, we build our own environments outright. WordPress is a great tool for usability, but seriously, flexibility is just not there. Some of us need to scale past the point where we use PHP to render our views. Usability for someone updating blogs and adding checkout functionality to a small website I think it also stands to reason that a developer much rather hire a rails application developer like you, and I know many more intelligent software engineers that work with this framework than I do with WordPress. Smarter people tend to work with certain tools. And for that reason as well, I’m more confident I’m hiring a more versatile developer than the guy who likes the WordPress design pattern.

        Also, maybe I appreciate decoupled logic. I could also imagine companies not wanting to restrict themselves. A reasonable example maybe- I prefer developing with a MVC-MVVM design because it allows me to roll out a solution to desktop/mobile web and an app with minimal effort. I can reduce my development time substantially while not attempting to cram a million plug-ins.

        1. Companies that can pay better generally want web sites that can integrate within an existing CRM/ERP system. I know there are existing solutions for this, but WordPress isn’t the first enterprise solution that comes to mind.

          Agreed on both fronts. It’s not the first enterprise solution that comes to mind – not now, at least, and maybe not ever – but this week alone I’ve been made aware of jobs from places like Disney who are looking to staff Senior WordPress Developers.

          So it’s something that’s slowly penetrating the market. How far it will go is anyone’s guess.

          Anyway, all of that to say is that it can integrate with existing systems. It may take custom development (or, it will take custom development), but it can be done provided those systems are either database-driven and/or expose APIs.

          And isn’t that what you’re also hinting at when saying:

          Also, in very high-tech spaces, we build our own environments outright

          Granted, I could be missing the point here. Totally willing to own that.

          At any rate, don’t get me wrong: I’ve worked for large companies and I know the culture of building internal tooling with closed source software and all of that, so I completely get where you’re coming from :).

          WordPress is a great tool for usability, but seriously, flexibility is just not there.

          I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on usability and flexibility. Even as someone who is in WordPress day in and day out, I don’t think it’s usability is great. It’s good. But it’s not great.

          I’ll say that I think gets better all the time, but it has room to change just as much as the next piece of software.

          As far as flexibility is concerned, I think this depends on the capability and familiarity of the application’s APIs. I’ve found that WordPress is incredibly flexible and with the upcoming REST API, it’s only going to get more so.

          Sure, it provides a lot of functionality out of the box but there are some seriously impressive things you can build with it permitting you know the API, coding standards, and how to navigate everything from the database up through the application layer to the presentation later.

          Some of us need to scale past the point where we use PHP to render our views.

          Definitely! There’s no silver bullet for situations like this. I’d never advocate for such.

          Some of us on this side of the fence need to do something similar, as well. So we integrate technologies as needed in order to get our work done.

          I know many more intelligent software engineers that work with this framework than I do with WordPress. Smarter people tend to work with certain tools.

          When I read things like this, I try to believe the best rather than assume the worst. That said, the alternative to what you’re saying is that “less intelligent software engineers work with WordPress. Less intelligent people tend not to work with certain tools.”

          Maybe I’m less intelligent. I can own that, too. But I also find that misguided.

          How do you handle the case when a person who has worked in Assembly and C or C++, Java, Python, as well as Ruby on Rails and .NET opts to go into WordPress? And what about those who are fiercely passionate about:

          • package management,
          • dependencies,
          • namespacing,
          • object-oriented analysis and design (or procedural analysis and design, for that matter),
          • code sniffing,
          • code linting,
          • performance measuring,
          • code reviewing,
          • branches (other than master)
          • deployment tooling
          • unit testing
          • load balancing
          • partial page loading or partial template loading
          • proper caching of data (rather than throwing an entire set of data into the cache) and so on
          • design patterns
          • and on and on and on and turtles all the way down

          Who have opted to go into WordPress from a career with other languages? Does that make them less intelligent?

          This is a claim doesn’t apprear to be based on anything other than opinion and there are plenty of people all over the industry who have varying skill sets.

          To pigeonhole one’s intelligence based on the tools they use is a bit of an elitist mindset.

          And for that reason as well, I’m more confident I’m hiring a more versatile developer than the guy who likes the WordPress design pattern.

          WordPress isn’t a design pattern. It’s built on the event-driven design pattern (very similar to JavaScript) but you can architect any solution using whatever sets of design patterns you like on top of WordPress to solve your problem.

          Also, maybe I appreciate decoupled logic.

          I’d venture to say most good developers do. But MV* is not the silver bullet that people preaching the gospel of that design pattern (or variations thereof) claim it is.

          Now, to be clear, I’m actually a big fan of MVC. It matches my conceptual model for how the web pages work, though I’m flexible enough to adapt to the changing nature of the tools with which I’m using.

          You can make WordPress a little more MVC-like through the use of server-side helpers and then minimizing the amount of PHP logic in a template. Something I prefer to do, personally. But that doesn’t mean I’m trying to fit a round peg in a square hole.

          Instead, I’m working to de-couple the logic as much as I can given the constraints that exist within the system with which I’m working.

          Isn’t that what part of development is about?

          I can reduce my development time substantially while not attempting to cram a million plug-ins.

          If you’re opting to bring in “a million plugins” then I’d say you’re more into being an implementer than a developer and that’s an entirely different discussion.

          All of this said, I think the points you were trying to make were meant well, but you painted incredibly broad strokes about the nature in general.

          You’re probably going to read my response as an angry WordPress zealot, which I’m not. I try to be fair and open minded about WordPress, software, and myself.

          I’m willing to have my opinions changed :).

          At any rate, I ask that you read my response as someone who enjoys talking software and also as someone who’s trying to provide a respectful response. That’s all :).

          I appreciate comments like these, but I also think that there’s far more to working with WordPress than what has been stated in this particular comment.

  2. I think all three of those things play a big role. I had someone in my twitter feed give my favorite explanation, which was essentially that great programmers are platform agnostic. So by calling yourself a “WordPress developer”, you’re actually pigeon-holing yourself to some degree. Here’s his tweet: https://twitter.com/kickme444/status/488531769822420992

    Another piece to the puzzle is that WordPress companies aren’t doing enough “big work” yet to justify hiring a team of devs at 120K each. Part of that is the inability to sell to those big clients. Part of it is a general lack of understanding of the capabilities of WordPress by people allocating dollars. And part of it is simply the inability to deliver at an enterprise level. There are exceptions (Crowd Favorite, Humanmade, 10up, etc). But they’re the exception, definitely not the norm.

    1. This.

      About a year ago I started describing myself as a LAMP developer working exclusively with WordPress. Other in the industry got it, those out of the industry heard “WordPress” and could roughly figure out what the rest meant.

      I think we as a community have largely moved beyond the “Let me explain to you why WordPress is a CMS and not just a blogging platform”, however I think we still need to explain the difference between Web Designer, Web Content Manager, Web Developer, etc…

      1. I so complete agree with you, Jon Brown, that even now there still needs to be a distinction between “designer”, “developer” and “programmer” and those other titles/skill sets such as “content manager”. As much as it may be the fault of those outside the web dev community, we inside don’t have a more definitive nomenclature that properly defines who we are. I see designer and developer used interchangeably, as well as developer and programmer. I personally don’t care what I’m called, I just want those inside and outside the web dev community to know my “title” as one thing.

      2. I think we as a community have largely moved beyond the “Let me explain to you why WordPress is a CMS and not just a blogging platform”, however I think we still need to explain the difference between Web Designer, Web Content Manager, Web Developer, etc…

        Yep. I completely agree.

    2. great programmers are platform agnostic.

      I agree – at it’s core, it’s about problem-solving. Yes, you should be able to work effectively with your toolset, but you should be able to think in abstract terms such that you can then provide a concrete solution.

      Another piece to the puzzle is that WordPress companies aren’t doing enough “big work” yet to justify hiring a team of devs at 120K each. Part of that is the inability to sell to those big clients.

      Yep. And I think that will come with time, we’re just now slowly starting to see it happen.

  3. First of all is not possible compare Rails or .NET to WordPress: it is not a programming language, it’s just a CMS. You’ll never find someone saying “I’m a Django developer”, but you can find a lot of “Python dev with Django expertise”. Also PHP developers, generally speacking, are payed less than Rails or Python devs, and main reason is bad reputation PHP has, mainly because lack of powerful, architecture and coherence in older versions (the same older versions that WordPress does not want to abandon). Moreover, everytime one says “I’m a WordPress developer” and no more, for the employers point of view, he is saying that the only thing he knows is to copy and paste some code having a vague idea how it works and why. That said, because of a strong and dogged backward-compatibility policy, WordPress has evolved very slowly in the last ten years: a lot of core code is PHP 4, and in meantime, cms older than WordPress, like Drupal, hare evolving and now are written in modern OOP oriented code. Oldness doesn’t pay: try to search a work as Cobol developer, and if you find someone that pay you for that is because of rareness, that sure is not a distinction for WP devs. So, let’s be honest, if the only thing a guy can do is to implement some WordPress code and, as example, can’t write an even simple app in one of modern PHP frameworks, being payed 30% less than a complete developer is perfectly legit.

    1. First of all is not possible compare Rails or .NET to WordPress: it is not a programming language, it’s just a CMS.

      My intent wan’t to compare .NET or Rails to WordPress, though I see how that’s come off. I’ve written other articles explaining why WordPress is a foundation – not a framework – off of which you an build other things.

      It is more than a CMS, though. If that’s all it was, then I’d make the case that it wouldn’t provide the APIs and extensibility that it does.

      You’ll never find someone saying “I’m a Django developer”, but you can find a lot of “Python dev with Django expertise”.

      Sure you’ll find people saying that – of course, as other commenters have mentioned – it’s probably not the best way to brand yourself, but people do it just like people say they are any other type of developer.

      But inverting it, like you’ve done, is a better way of expressing it, for sure.

      Moreover, everytime one says “I’m a WordPress developer” and no more, for the employers point of view, he is saying that the only thing he knows is to copy and paste some code having a vague idea how it works and why.

      That sounds more like a developer’s perspective an opinion rather than an employer’s perspective (unless, of course, the employer is an experienced programmer). I say that because I absolutely believe that the copy/paste culture that exists because of the web has promoted this style of “development.”

      Obviously, people can separate out true developers from the copy/paste kind and so on, but I don’t think it’s fair to generalize that employers hear that when they hear someone is experienced with WordPress.

      I can speak on that as people have hired me for WordPress-specific development, and they’ve asked quite a bit about intermediate to advanced WordPress-development topics, and that have asked how i’d approach a given problem using the APIs.

      People are out there that know :).

      WordPress has evolved very slowly in the last ten years: a lot of core code is PHP 4, and in meantime, cms older than WordPress, like Drupal, hare evolving and now are written in modern OOP oriented code.

      Yes, it has – there’s lots of backwards compatibility, but there is also talk for forking WordPress into two variants such that one part maintains the backwards compatibility and the fork is more on the edge of newer practices.

      But this also isn’t to say that there aren’t some really good parts in core that are well architected. We can’t throw the baby out with the bath water on that particular front.

      Oldness doesn’t pay: try to search a work as Cobol developer, and if you find someone that pay you for that is because of rareness, that sure is not a distinction for WP devs.

      Oldness may not pay, but the type of oldness that Cobol exhibits isn’t the same as that of PHP or WordPress. At least not yet. We have a few decades to go yet :).

      So, let’s be honest, if the only thing a guy can do is to implement some WordPress code and, as example, can’t write an even simple app in one of modern PHP frameworks, being payed 30% less than a complete developer is perfectly legit.

      Sure. I don’t argue with that. But if you’re hiring someone who can write software with other languages and tools and has opted to use WordPress as his or her platform of choice, then the case for a higher salary can still stand.

  4. There’s several reasons for the low pay. Yes, there are WP devs who barely know CSS, let alone PHP or JS. I see people running WP camps in Albuquerque who don’t have any design knowledge or even a passing familiarity with plugin availability. There are end users who barely know how to use Google docs, much less post to or use the back-end of WP. Some have tried several CMS’s and don’t have the computer skills to use any of them. Therefore, they don’t place value on something they can’t use. Also, hate to say it, but a plethora of free plugins is a double-edged sword – the end product starts devaluing in time.

    1. There’s several reasons for the low pay.

      Definitely – and everything that you’ve mentioned is legitimate.

      But there are contrasts to each of those that can also make an argument for having higher pay, too.

    2. I agree with Tom that you have some legitimate points here. I only take umbrage with the suggestion that you need to be a great developer to run a WordCamp. That’s probably my bias as a WordCamp and Meetup organizer myself (Orlando, FL), but I can say that it’s a lot of work, and the skills required to be a community organizer don’t necessarily translate directly from the skills required to be a developer.

  5. I’d wager it’s because of the ubiquitous nature of WordPress. WordPress is everywhere and nearly every web-savy person has had some experience with it, and this is both a good thing and a bad thing. Why are there so many more job postings requesting WordPress experience? Because WordPress is everywhere. You do not see nearly this sort of volume with Moodle or Drupal, or any other content management systems, so, we should be thankful for the number of WordPress opportunities that we have.

    The downside to this is the content of your post: With this many opportunities it means that nearly everybody has heard of WordPress is some way, and so naturally, many people who have very little relevant web programming experience will list WordPress as a competency on their resume, CV, or LinkedIn profile. Look no further than the Google+ community for WordPress, you’re likely to find questions about hooking into a specific action right next to a question about how to change an account password. And yet, the developer providing insight about how to write a plugin and the content creator who is asking about how to tag his posts with #YOLO are both just as likely to put “WordPress” down as a core competency on a resume. This, in effect, muddies the pool of potential applicants for a position and drives the salary requirements down.

    So, it works in both ways. We have more opportunities than ever that mention “WordPress” in them: WordPress developers have not ever been in greater demand than they are now. And yet, more people claim to have WordPress experience than ever before because, well, they do.

    1. And yet, the developer providing insight about how to write a plugin and the content creator who is asking about how to tag his posts with #YOLO are both just as likely to put “WordPress” down as a core competency on a resume.

      LOL. So true.

      So, it works in both ways. We have more opportunities than ever that mention “WordPress” in them: WordPress developers have not ever been in greater demand than they are now. And yet, more people claim to have WordPress experience than ever before because, well, they do.

      You’re absolutely right, and to that end I think it’s important for people who are serious about software development and who have opted to use WordPress make sure that they do what they can to separate themselves from that type of person in order to create a different tier or to better qualify themselves as the type of programmer they are.

      All good points you’ve mentioned.

  6. A WordPress developer doesn’t see his or her salary drop unless (as has been pointed out) it’s the only skill listed. WordPress is an action-oriented PHP based content management system, which is often uses a lot of advanced CSS3 and JS on the front end. If you have those talents, you’re also writing plugins, theme frameworks, and CodePen.io samples.

    The problem is that the vast majority of WordPress users have done a one-click install, bought something on Themeforest, then installed a dozen plugins. That isn’t development, it’s low literacy use.

    No skill is worth a thing if you can’t articulate it, sell it, and give it a relevant context.

  7. I think there several things going on, primarily the 3 things you mentioned above. There’s a perception problem, and part of it is that there are many “serious PHP devs” that don’t take WordPress seriously. There are variety of reasons for that, but very often it’s because they looked at WordPress back around the 2.0 era (give-or-take), and the code and APIs were as haphazard and inconsistent as much of PHP itself. They wrote it off as a toy long ago, and aren’t aware of the major improvements that WP has gone through in more recent times. (I mean, seriously, compare current code to pre-3.0 code — it’s big-time different).

    Then there’s the question of what a “developer” is. As mentioned previously, there are a lot of people who call themselves “developers”, but who we could more accurately call “implementors”. They may have a good bit of technical savvy, a good understanding of many of the internals of WP, CSS skills, and perhaps even some basic programming skills. But often, they do not have the deeper knowledge of fundamental algorithms and software architecture that most of us consider part of “real development”.

    Also, I think you’ll see many businesses that are looking for a WordPress developer came from a position of “we need a website done cheaply”, and got what they asked for. They hired somebody to get a site up and running for them, and that somebody might have been an “implementor” as we’ve been mentioning here. They may (or may not) have been perfectly competent at setting up WP, installing and configuring relevant plugins, and setting up and customizing a theme. But when it came time for actual customized development, they were out of their depth. So now the company is looking for the next iteration of “get it done cheaply”, because after all, WordPress devs are cheap, right?

    BUT, that’s not to say that there aren’t decent paying WordPress jobs out there. Without naming names, I had a job with a WP consultancy several years ago that paid a real salary. And last fall, I had an interview for a WordPress developer position at a company I was really hyped about, and was meeting my salary requirements. Unfortunately, they were in the midst of a reorganization, and after getting a verbal offer, the Web Director (who was the one who flew me out to California for an interview) was let go, and while I was initially told that a written offer was still forthcoming, it never materialized.

    There are WP jobs out there with real salaries, but I think they get lost in the noise of the folks looking for cheap.

    1. They wrote it off as a toy long ago, and aren’t aware of the major improvements that WP has gone through in more recent times. (I mean, seriously, compare current code to pre-3.0 code — it’s big-time different).

      And what’s ironic about that is that developers should know, recognize, support, and help foster iterative updates to things.

      WordPress has excelled in that regard and, like you’ve mentioned, looking at it now from where it was shows how much work is being put into it. This isn’t to say it doesn’t have it’s ugly parts (what application doesn’t?), but that over time it’s only going to continue to be refined.

      It’s the nature of projects like this.

      They may have a good bit of technical savvy, a good understanding of many of the internals of WP, CSS skills, and perhaps even some basic programming skills. But often, they do not have the deeper knowledge of fundamental algorithms and software architecture that most of us consider part of “real development”.

      Exactly.

      But when it came time for actual customized development, they were out of their depth. So now the company is looking for the next iteration of “get it done cheaply”, because after all, WordPress devs are cheap, right?

      This is a great point that really does come down to perception. It’s kind of a bummer that it happens like that, but I also know that our industry isn’t the only one in which this happens.

      I don’t know if that’s any real consolation, but at least it helps by having our work cut out for us as it relates to marketing ourselves and talking about what it truly costs to build a custom solution.

      . Unfortunately, they were in the midst of a reorganization, and after getting a verbal offer, the Web Director (who was the one who flew me out to California for an interview) was let go, and while I was initially told that a written offer was still forthcoming, it never materialized.

      That really sucks Dougal. Hate hearing that :(.

  8. Can’t wait to see the other posts. It is a shame that because of the low barrier to entry on WP development, that a Jr Dev can claim the same thing as a Sr Dev by simply saying “WordPress Developer”. I agree that WP has a lot more potential than the general audience understands – yet dev’s scoff at it and business owners think “cheap and easy”.

    Good to bring this topic to light.

    @Dougal Campbell – where are these “real” WP dev jobs you mention? I’ve only ever seen the “cheap” listings. ;)

    1. It is a shame that because of the low barrier to entry on WP development, that a Jr Dev can claim the same thing as a Sr Dev by simply saying “WordPress Developer”.

      Which, in my opinion, should be able to be easily broken down through a short set of interview questions or even just asking for samples of the work that people have done.

  9. Whatever a WordPress developers salary is this year, I would be willing to bet that it will be less next year and less the year after that and so on …

    It’s all become a race to the bottom. As a poster above stated, there’s a lot of people out there who have some experience of WordPress many of whom are now passing themselves off as developers.

    Factor in the cheap foreign labour that can, through the magic of the internet and globalisation, now build you out your application or website for a fraction of what it costs to hire even a freelance of New York and you soon realise that long term, WordPress anything isn’t a game you want to be in.

    1. Speaking from someone who has increased their rates – and quality of work and clients – in the past few years, I would respectfully disagree at least in saying that the “race to the bottom” and “cheap foreign labour” will replace or drive down salaries of legit WordPress developers.

      “Foreign labour” has existed for years and was one thought to be a major threat to freelancers “in the West”. In my experience (and i have been a project manager and worked on development teams for projects with overseas developers) the quality of work overall isn’t there. Many people approach me with projects from developers who simply didn’t know what they were doing. In the end, you get what you pay for. This goes for anyone claiming to have experience in WordPress development, regardless of their geographical location.

      Maybe there’s a race to the bottom for simple WordPress work (simple designs and blogs). I don’t do that type of work, but for a simple blog there are plenty of quality free and paid WordPress themes available anyway. In fact, consider generally sites are getting more complex and there’s always demand for WordPress developers who have advanced skills.

      I won’t claim you’ll be rich in WordPress development. And in the technology industry, you should be ever branching out to learn other languages and fields (for both your own personal knowledge and for “job security”). WordPress might not be around forever, I don’t think foreign labour or any vague “magic of the internet” will collapse the WordPress development ecosystem in the near future. Whatever dangers there are, they are elsewhere.

    2. Alicia,

      I respectfully completely disagree. I don’t know if I could disagree more, in fact. :)

      If you’re in a race to the bottom and having to compromise your rate to compete with offshore developers, I think you are having the wrong conversation with your clients, or you need new clients.

      I’m speaking generally as I don’t know you or your work or your clients. But I can say that I’ve have only had a few clients every bring up off shore devs. Each time, I’ve kindly but firmly stated that my rate is my rate. I don’t discuss it beyond that, because it isn’t a bargaining chip on the table.

      The majority of the time, I get the job anyway. People greatly value dependable, talented developers. More than they value their money.

      And if your clients don’t value that, it’s time to find some new ones :)

      As in all things freelance, your clients can only value your work as much as you do. If they sense that you don’t believe your own value, they’ll try to renegotiate.

      Just my four cents.

  10. There are a lot of factors at play, of course, as to why a “WordPress” developer’s salary is lower. In my opinion however, the biggest reason is that due to the frequently-mentioned low barrier to entry you get a lot of new freelancers in the space. And new freelancers are notorious for underpricing themselves. That brings down the average, as well as the perception of clients as to what WP work costs, which to them is accordingly low. Way too many $500 WP website developers out there.

  11. I am a WordPress developer employed by a regional sports network who’s site will generate about $1.5 to $2 million in 2014.

    WordPress developer salaries are lower—mine is low, too, and I am 1 or 2 developers on staff—because WordPress is only used for content-driven sites, which, rarely generate a sizable profit margin.

    The profitable content-driven sites generate revenue through ad serving platforms, which is a different skillset. If you’re a Google Analytics and DFP whiz, you’ll make more money than a WordPress developer. Why? because your skill is directly tied to revenue and hence, more valuable to your employer.

    Lastly, just take a look at the WordPress source code (https://github.com/WordPress/WordPress/tree/master); it’s a mess with a lot of hardcoded values. This makes WordPress unsuitable for ecommerce businesses. Contrast that with Drupal, which is used for both content-driven and ecommerce websites.

    tldr; The closer you are to the money, the more you will make.

  12. It would be silly to develop a complex web application in wordpress, because wordpress is preexisting software. You will have to write your own framework in the context of wordpress, which would actually slow down development. That’s why Ruby on Rails offers faster development cycles for large enterprise applications, heavy on load balancing, multi-threading, database design, algorithms and behavior-driven test development. WordPress is very good as a CMS, but lets face it, anyone from a kid to your grandmother can build a wordpress site. Why should their rates compete with a full-stack software engineer?

    1. It would be silly to develop a complex web application in wordpress, because wordpress is preexisting software.

      In some cases, sure, bug not in all cases. It’s API provides a mature way of handling a number of different features all of which are pretty common to many web applications. And with the upcoming REST API, it’s going to be a bit easier to even begin to implement these features.

      That said, I don’t totally disagree with you – WordPress isn’t a universal hammer. But this is while I call it a foundation rather than a framework. It’s a pre-existing, extensible application.

      It’s very different from something like Rails or Laravel.

      WordPress is very good as a CMS, but lets face it, anyone from a kid to your grandmother can build a wordpress site. Why should their rates compete with a full-stack software engineer?

      Many people can build sites with WordPress, but not everyone can engineer complex solutions, applications, etc. using WordPress and there are people who are doing that. They are working in the same problem sets that many other people are working on in different frameworks – scaling, load balancing, caching, algorithms, database performance, etc., etc., etc.

      Though I agree WordPress makes it easy to manage content, I don’t think you can equate some of the more complex work people are doing with it with building sites. There’s a hard line differentiating the two.

      Having conversations like this are key, in my opinion, to furthering the capabilities of WordPress so I always welcome comments like this – thanks for what you’re shared :).

  13. Tom and the thread,

    Perhaps the question cannot be answered quite so simply, because what we design and develop will always be a moving target of purpose, quality and value. A person’s value to a project or organization is based on need.

    Can WordPress do a lot, sure. Will it ever do everything perfectly well, of course not. Project A might be a perfect fit for WordPress, Project B, not so much. Does that devalue WordPress? It shouldn’t. Would it be easy to build a WordPress-like site from scratch with Ruby? Of course not. Does that devalue Ruby, or any other method by which a website could be made? No, because each site is built based on it’s needs.

    The need dictates the solution.

    To echo a bit of what you’re saying in your last comment, I understand the idea that ‘anyone’ can build a WordPress site. Can ‘anyone’ build it well? Whoever really believes that is an idiot or needs to re-evaluate their stated position. One example will never qualify someone to do all levels of sites that can be built with WordPress or any other technology/language that comes along. It’s like saying someone who puts up their first Ruby web-app is instantly qualified to team-lead all Ruby development at Twitter. It’s a ridiculous proposition in all cases.

    Regarding wage… A ‘WordPress Developer’ is merely a developer who has stated expertise in WordPress and perhaps only WordPress. What they believe their value is to a project or organization is up to them to determine and see if the market agrees. If they never get hired, their valuation is incorrect or their target market is wrong.

    Whoever said WordPress is only for content driven sites or that content driven sites don’t make enough money to justify higher wages for WordPress developers… I suggest you get your head out of the sand. ‘Content’ is all the web is, just in different formats. All of which WordPress has examples of handling just fine, eCommerce included.

    It’s up to the developer to prove their value. If you’re not getting paid what you think you’re worth, go somewhere that values what you do or quit whining about it – it’s your own fault for sticking around.

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