Why “WordPress Expert” is Not a Real Title?

While discussing the WordPress industry and the rest of the business world, my friend Ajay reminded me of why “WordPress Expert” is not a real title.

Experts Everywhere

His comment made me think about the misconception of “expertism” that seems to be getting popularity around the WordPress experts who offer their services:

The issue with the WordPress industry is that anyone can be an expert because more often than not, they are dealing with those who aren’t experts or regular users wanting a blog.

Let’s take a step back and think about WordPress.

What is WordPress?

WordPress started as a blogging platform more than 10 years ago, and the active community grew it to be a platform that powers about 24% of the World Web. Nowadays WordPress is being used as a CMS, and even as an application platform. In a few months the WordPress Restful API will probably get in the WordPress Core, which would make it incredibly easy to run all sorts of applications – even mobile apps and ones not written in PHP – interacting with WordPress as a separate platform.

There are plenty of use cases for WordPress, which is what makes it one of the most powerful web platforms that have ever been built.

What Can You Do With WordPress?

There are lots of WordPress driven websites serving different needs. Some examples:

  • blog
  • magazine
  • small business website
  • eCommerce store
  • membership site
  • Q&A site
  • forum
  • LMS
  • CRM
  • Real estate portal
  • Marketplace

In addition to building a website itself, it’s a great way to start any venture.

How to Make $100,000 a Month Within 1 Year

Neil Patel challenged himself with a tough goal – making $100,000 a month from an entirely new business within one year.

Neil is a recognized marketing expert with a lot of exposure, but some of his business ideas are not closely related to his popularity.

Let’s see how is WordPress applicable in the three niches that he suggested.

  • Nutrition blog – since WordPress emerged as a blogging tool, this is a logical platform to start a nutrition blog. Neil’s suggestion is running ads and affiliate services, both are totally possible with WordPress and a number of popular plugins that run out of the box.
  • Mastermind group – creating a mastermind group includes some internal resources, probably a forum or another internal system for communication, payments and a basic membership functionality. bbPress, random membership plugin and PayPal integration can be bundled in no time.
  • A software company – given the fact that WordPress is a platform that could be turned into almost anything, that’s a great way to build any type of web software on top of the framework.

These are completely different ideas that target different niches, different skill sets, types of promotion or income. Yet, all of them could be launched with WordPress.

DigitalKidZ And WordPress

wordpress-awesome-xkcd

I’m speaking at a conference in May for kids. Since kids are now born in the Internet world and start using technology from day one, there is a lot of potential for each one of them to grow and develop itself in a given area.

My talk would be focused on WordPress and the endless possibilities to develop a skill with the platform. The lack of proper education means that the children can share their experience from school or their online discoveries with the other students. They can improve their grammar and the way they write, think and formulate their opinion in a way that’s entertaining and informing.

Some of them can show potential for copywriters.

Others can spend more time promoting their content to social networks, or dig into Google Analytics, and figuring out ways to get more kiddos communicating with them.

Another group can dig into building massive platforms, installing numerous plugins to their small websites. They may be interested in moving blocks around, or changing some technical bits and get their first lessons in web programming.

Or start designing a logo, then a background for their website, or even a complete theme.

There is so much potential in WordPress and it will likely become a necessity for everyone working online – just as the basic bits of HTML are often needed even for non-technical people working on content and minor changes.

How Does One Measure an Expert?

So, as per Ajay’s suggestion:

The issue with the WordPress industry is that anyone can be an expert because more often than not, they are dealing with those who aren’t experts or regular users wanting a blog.

I tend to disagree with that statement for one specific reason.

  • If I understand cars better than you, that does not make me a mechanic expert.
  • If I can play piano and someone else can’t, I’m not necessarily an expert musician.
  • If I can draw better apples than you, I’m nowhere near Picasso or Michelangelo.

The “Expert” title is applicable within a given niche. Experts are established after the recognition of other experienced people in a given industry.

That’s why technical conferences are crowded with experienced developers or administrators, willing to find out what the big guys in Google or Amazon do with their architecture. While there may be better, more experienced people with a longer track record of successful projects than the speakers, they have been recognized as experts by the vast majority of people working in the same industry.

What is a WordPress Expert?

If WordPress is so powerful and we could do anything with it – even beyond the technical aspects – then what is a WordPress Expert?

It’s just as vague and meaningless as Internet Expert. Or Newspaper Expert. Food Expert. Real Estate Expert.

If you’re an Internet Expert, what exactly are you supposed to know and do on a daily basis? Browsing websites and YouTube videos? Knowing when the Internet was created? Build the global network of cables transferring the traffic around the Internet? Writing articles about it?

Except that small business owners have no idea what is WordPress and they have a narrow expectation about the field. Therefore, with their limited knowledge of the platform, they’re looking for someone experienced in it.

Funny thing, though, since it’s so undefined in practice, a client can look for an experienced developer, marketer, content writer, customizer or VA – anything they need and believe that it’s all that WordPress does.

Last week I stumbled upon a great article – 9 truths that computer programmers know that most people don’t. My most favorite quote was the third fact:

“A programmer is not a PC repair man.” – Ritesh Kumar Gupta

A programmer is one who deals with algorithms and design principles, not the one who repairs a computer. We may know how the internal workings of a computer work, how code fits together (or rather hacked together as I explained in Fact #1). But, that does not mean we know how to fix hardware. That does not mean we know how to fix that issue you’re having with chrome that makes it crash every time you open it, or why your computer is always overheating and the battery dying. Computers programmers, at the least know how to program computers, not fix them.

Just as with the WordPress experts, people outside of an industry can easily fool themselves and hire a “WordPress Expert” for something completely outside of their skill set. And while the experts often blame the clients for being ignorant, it’s their fault for representing a vague set of skills that does not define their experience in a clear and unambiguous way.

And a fair share of the blame is to be put on clients for asking the wrong people for the wrong type of services.

20 thoughts on “Why “WordPress Expert” is Not a Real Title?

  1. “WordPress expert” is a general title many people adopt to claim they understand the platform well enough to offer particular type of services to clients. If they use a title such as “WordPress front end developer” when advertising their services, their clients might just scratch their heads in frustration. Some hardly even know what WordPress is, let alone what WordPress front end developer means and what the fellow does.

    1. The problem with “Expert” is that it doesn’t imply which are the particular types of services that you mentioned.

      It’s like “Internet Expert” that I mentioned above. Are you a theme developer, backend guy, systems person, marketer, blogger, anything else? It’s totally ambiguous to say the least, and people use it to leverage the term and sell services that they don’t quite understand.

      Even if you don’t label yourself as a “WP frontend guy”, you can be a “WordPress Theme Developer”, “Plugin Developer”, “SaaS Developer”, “Marketer”, “Systems Engineer/Network Administrator” or whatever. Even if you’re zealous about “expert”, you could label yourself as “Expert WordPress Plugin Developer” or so.

      Clients are smart enough to differentiate a theme from a plugin, so that would go a long way.

      I’ve met dozens of experts with no coding skills, probably over a hundred. I would personally expect an Expert to be all-in-one guru in all things WordPress, especially if I don’t know any better. Which is why I would expect him to customize my plugins, add new features, optimize servers or whatever my business needs.

      1. I guess there are as many opinions on the subject as there are people. It seems that you expect from a WordPress expert to be a theme developer, a plugin develop, and even be capable to optimize servers. I believe that WordPress expert is a more general title people use for someone who knows how to set up a WordPress site on the web and populate it with content, and knows little about the inner working of themes and plugins.
        Not all clients are smart or knowledgeable enough to deal with. Some don’t even know what kind of site they are after. They just want a site that “looks great”, and they want it fast, because, as they usually claim, “WordPress is simple and creating a site with it is a few clicks job”.

        1. What I’m saying is that an Expert is expected to know and understand whatever the client wants. It’s simple as it is.

          And WordPress is now a term broad enough to include various professions and skill sets, which makes it impossible for almost anyone to be an expert in all things WordPress. That said, having to reject all client requests is a waste of time for both parties, and I don’t see why is that necessary.

          Other than the obvious “let’s sell development services when we haven’t done any WordPress work so far”.

  2. Hey Mario, great post and I am so with you on this. It just doesn’t mean anything.

    I remember awhile back there was this big hoopla about adding expert to your title, especially on social platforms, that Google would recognize this and you would get a better ranking. I remember people talking about it, and even writing posts on it. Ugh, that resulted in an explosion of experts. I even had an SEO person way back recommend it to me. Not!

    Replacing it with “rockstar” or “guru” is no better 🙁

    cheers!

    1. I think of using a combination of the three for SEO purposes. It could be something like “expert rockstar WordPress guru”. 🙂

    2. Thanks Bob, my point exactly 🙂

      Marketing/SEO reasons aside, simply “WordPress Expert” doesn’t say anything about your skills.

      You can attach a lot of meaningful nouns after that, and make it work alongside the “Expert” thing, similarly to “Junior” or “Senior” (which brings actual value). But people claim themselves to be experts as soon as they adjust a few theme options or install a site with Softaculous, which is a no-no.

  3. Mario!

    Firstly thank you for the mention and the reference 🙂

    I just re-read my comment and realised that I was missing the double-quotes around the word “expert” and hence it actually sounds exactly the opposite of what I meant!

    It should have read…

    The issue with the WordPress industry is that anyone can be an “expert” because more often than not, they are dealing with those who aren’t experts or regular users wanting a blog.

    The ease of installing WordPress today has made it extremely easy for just about anybody to claim to set up a website without knowing too much. Throw in a couple of off the shelf themes and plugins and you’ve got a fully working website that is ready to deploy.

    For a normal user or a simple business owner it seems like magic. Throw in a bit of jargon and suddenly you could potentially increase your fees (if they are willing to pay). And, the total setup would take you no more than an hour.

    I’ve seen a number of people offering to set up your blog for free in return for the user signing up at their host of choice. It’s a good deal because it would mean a quick $50 for an hour or less of work which can be done in the background. The blog owner… pays nothing directly.

    Well, I continue my rant, but I guess I should actually blog about it! LIke Ryan said… “Experts don’t refer to themselves as experts.”

    1. Ryan’s right about the “expertism” labeling, but that’s what customers look for. And when the majority of those work with newbies and con men, that affects the reputation of the platform, community, environment and so on.

      Just as it does when thousands of people still believe that WordPress is still just a “blogging platform” or it’s incredibly insecure as a solution (although all issues have been found in plugins, not a part of the core project).

      So the more negative experiences customers have, the worse the overview of the platform is. Both in terms of contractors’ experience, platform stability and so on.

      I’m sure that you’re often affected by the negative connotation of “Indian developers” even if you are a really capable one, and there are probably millions of rock stars in India. We also have several people there in our team at DevriX, Microsoft’s CEO is Indian but due to a lot of cheap con men out there, clients are often afraid to risk working with them. That’s what could potentially happen with WordPress itself. And if we just ignore that, we would end up playing in the sandbox with the kids since no one is interested in risking their business with that platform and the whole community.

      1. I agree. It’s quick to paint people with the same brush. The recent FBI announcement that WordPress is not secure is a perfect example of this issue. But, as I mentioned before, I don’t think it’s something we can solve. You’ll always have someone ready to take advantage of others.

        The real WordPress experts’ services will be too expensive for many to handle. And, then you’ve got a person installing your blog and offering WordPress services for $5 on a site like Fiverr.com! Suddenly things are affordable.
        There might be some truly good folks out there on Fiverr, but I doubt a really serious developer might offer his/her services for $5.

        1. I don’t like to be passive about what’s happening in my world really. As Morten says, change should happen from the inside out.

          Which is why I blog about it, educate customers and share my opinion as much as possible. The more people do that, the easier would be for innocent clients to find decent content that explains the things the right way, and find people who are experienced and don’t do thoughtless marketing pitches.

          So it’s everyone’s responsibility to participate in that and contribute with helpful business content.

  4. I find this a difficult topic, the word expert is certainly used far too frequently in the WordPress ecosystem. I do not think this is strictly a WordPress issue though, perhaps just magnified by other quirks of the WordPress community.

    For example I have frequently (although less these days) met people who promote themselves as experts in finance and/or investment, people who sometimes manage millions of pounds, who know very little and base their entire career on marketing. We have pension funds managing hundreds, or thousands, of millions which hand management of this to people with no discernible skills or experience either. The result is that in both cases they often get out-performed in the long run by modelling systems which choose investments completely at random, and sometimes get wildly out-performed.

    This is a very common aspect of life (and appears to be getting worse), we humans appear to be making decisions based on appearances rather than knowledge or ability. If a person or company looks to be professional and claims to be experienced, they must know what they are doing. You can see examples of this with elections in the USA and UK, both electing people with no proven knowledge, ability or skills in any area other than marketing themselves. By all measures a terrible way of choosing someone to lead a country, which has shown to be true in both cases.

    This is such a deep-seated issue that I don’t think it is ever going to be tackled from inside the WordPress community. If we cannot choose leaders wisely, what hope does anyone have of choosing a developer (or anything else) wisely?

    1. That’s a valid point Peter, and I’m somewhat annoyed that marketing has such an influence. If a company spends 80% on their profits on marketing, advertising and sales, it probably stands a much higher chance to get good leads and clients than a highly experienced team of professionals who don’t have the resources or just prefer to invest in internal training courses, better hardware or so.

      That game of reputation is tough. I joined the party a year and a half ago and I see the results, but I still wish it could have gone another way.

      1. Isn’t that what Apple does? I love the Macbook. It’s truly an amazing machine.

        But, I’m truly shocked on how inflexible iOS is vs. Android. Not to mention that a lot of features are being copied looking at what Android did a year ago.

        Put Android on the iPhone hardware and I’ll probably buy the iPhone.

        In the WordPress ecosystem, we’ve got a similar issue. Success helps success. You’d more likely buy from a person you know rather than a person you don’t. On the flip side you’re not a normal user. I’d like to think neither am I.
        But, if WP powers 20% of the web, you’re talking about a lot of regular people who don’t want to spend too much, or worse yet, don’t know who they need to give their money to get the right job done!

    1. Hey Otto,

      Titles are not a requirement if you’re working in a top level company already, or own a company, or simply have a very long evergoing backlog of clients. That said, marketing and sales are not needed at all if your clients happen to find you just like that.

      But there’s a very large percentage of people looking for a new job, and a large pool of clients looking for people specializing in a given niche. For their convenience these titles are needed, as they give a rough idea about the job description and the job requirements.

      Unfortunately titles are vastly overused in the WordPress industry, but my experience in the enterprise world shows that there’s a hierarchy that makes it easier to find the right talent – or at least narrow down the list. Same goes for HR agencies or companies receiving hundreds of CVs for a position – that’s just a good reference to filter out a percentage of the list.

      It’s a long story really, and it really depends on where you are in your career, what you’re looking for, what’s your main source of income, network and so on. I used to believe that certificates are overrated (and not needed) and I still believe that for diplomas, but I’d most likely not visit a doctor or a lawyer without a diploma since it’s a fair prerequisite for their field.

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