Matt Saunders
personal growth web development

You Are More Than Just a WordPress Developer

Why defining yourself by the tools you use is holding you back

Close your eyes. What do you see when you hear the term “WordPress developer”?

Chances are, you imagine some dude (because it’s always a guy, isn’t it), sitting at a laptop building a website. In many ways, this is an accurate image: WordPress developers do build websites.

BUT. Is that all they do? Is this all that they are? The answer isn’t just no, it’s far from it!

When you refer to yourself by a piece of software, you dig your own grave

In our modern Western society we have this weird obsession with defining ourselves by our job titles. We are baristas and lawyers and graphic designers and web developers. In most contexts, this is to be expected and is entirely fit for purpose. But the fundamental problem with only looking at WHAT we do is that so many of us never really become acquainted with WHY we do it. We just accept and adopt the labels that are available to us.

But it’s important to hold a deeper understanding, because our reasons for doing what we do are what give us the strength and energy to do it well, consistently and with fulfillment.

How many web developers do you know who are mostly unsatisfied in their work and often complain about it? Lots, probably. You might even be an unhappy developer yourself (I was for a long time). To change things around, developers need to look inward, to figure out why they do what they do.

You love web development, but you don’t like your job or your clients

For the longest time I saw clients as the enemy. Not in the sense that I thought they were bad people, or deserving of my scorn, but because they kept interfering with my work. MY work. I would get so close to my projects that even the vaguest feedback felt like burning criticism.

The problem was that I did web development for myself, nobody else. To relieve this constant tension I needed to reframe my reasons for being a web developer away from it being a self-centered exercise more akin to that of an artist, to one of servitude to my clients. After all - they were paying me. This meant deeply examining my own values to figure out how I could be a web developer for others and be happy about it.

It's time to drop the label

In 2018 after much soul-searching I set up a business oriented around helping non-profits make more impact with digital tools. Even though the core of what I delivered was WordPress website development, I intentionally rarely ever mentioned it.

Instead, I took the time to truly understand the problems and goals that small charities face. I was so excited to help people in this sector that I wrote articles about it, made videos and even published a book on the subject. I moved from being a selfish developer, only caring about what I wanted, to somebody who helped charities achieve more with digital. This had the magnetic quality of drawing my ideal client right to me. I didn’t need to do any business development or hustling; I automatically floated above my peers who still called themselves “WordPress developers”. When faced with two opportunities, who do you think the charity would choose to work with? The guy who’s spent ages understanding their problems, or the run-of-the-mill web developer who only talks about software?

The lesson here is to drop the label and focus on your client’s needs and desires. This can be especially tough if you’ve only ever defined yourself by your job before, but the fact is there are a tonne of awesome clients just waiting for you to say the right words. That way lies prosperity and career fulfilment the likes of which most “WordPress developers” rarely encounter.

Want to drop the label? Download my free ebook Building a Niche Creative Business to find out how you can become a sector specialist.