Smashing Magazine published a very interesting article on Thursday about the current state of the WordPress economy. I hadn’t heard this term before but it makes perfect sense – it’s the thousands of people worldwide that are benefiting from WordPress’ free, open-source software, making a living doing things like designing themes, creating plugins, developing sites or consulting. Well worth a look if you’re a WordPress professional at any level.

Here’s a link to Part 2 of that post.

For me, I’d classify myself as a designer/site developer/consultant/trainer, in that order. Where do YOU fit in? Are you a freelancer? Designer? Developer or programmer? Consultant? Trainer? How much of your income is based on your WordPress-related work?

I’ve read opposing views, as a designer, about focusing on one specific industry vs. marketing to and working with companies in a variety of industries, and I’m a strong believer of the latter. The variety is what makes it so interesting!

And while it is true that if you specialize in one or a very small number of industries you’ll become a true expert in them, I find it just as valuable to bring ideas to the table for a client that may have come from a totally different type of company. While every business website is different, there’s a lot of crossover and features like blogs can serve lots of different purposes – not just ‘the company blog.’

That said, I was really happy this week to be picked for a WordPress conversion project by a print design company that specializes in an industry that’s totally new to me. It’s a good way to get exposure to a different type of thinking and I’m looking forward to getting started next week – and hopefully establish an ongoing relationship providing CMS development for their design clients.

We just returned from a great vacation last night, and I’m finally going through about 300 emails, the ones I deleted from the Blackberry while away (I answered the most pressing ones at night).

I’m still in vacation mode. That’s not easy considering it was 95 degrees when we left Florida and we arrived home in a 29 degree semi-blizzard; it took us almost two hours to drive home from Denver. I don’t understand why it’s always snowing when we get back from vacation – the last 3 years. It’s ridiculous.¬† And today the high here was 30. Brrr.

Anyway I’m reviewing lots of emails. A number of requests for new work or updating older sites from existing customers. At least three quote requests for Monday, and a few more later in the week. I have one gigantic project, a number of medium-sized ones nearing completion, and a few new ones starting up in the next three weeks.

There’s an awful lot of work to be done, and a lot of it is, well, somewhat monotonous. It’s easy stuff, especially the development side. But I was just thinking about that as I unpacked souvenirs from Disney World. I don’t deny I got some interesting design ideas by being there for a week…

So I was just thinking as I wade through these new work requests – why does that development work have to be boring? Just because I can crank it out without thinking, do I have to do that?

The answer is no, I really don’t. I think that I can enliven some of the ‘easy’ stuff by looking for new ways to do familiar things. For instance – the ubiquitous gallery slideshow script. There are a few that I use a lot, for WordPress or HTML sites¬† (Slideshow2, Plogger, Highslide, SimpleViewer, SmoothGallery, and many small CSS-only or CSS-and-jQuery offerings). But I’m always on the lookout for a new gallery appropriate to a specific project and I’ve collected several dozen, any of which might be useful at one time or another. That list is always growing – I have a new one I’ll be trying out this coming week.

I think I’ll be trying to use that kind of expansive thinking the next time I have a task come up that I normally wouldn’t think twice about. It will help me by being fun (always fun) and giving me a broader collection of tools and techniques to draw on. I don’t know why I haven’t been doing this more – maybe it took a break from work to see the opportunity.

This is a great post by Aaron Irizarry on keeping up as a professional designer.

You have to stay ahead of the curve just to stay relevant. I find that the necessity of learning new things is one of the best parts of my job – I rarely get bored. There’s always something new to try; reading blogs, using Twitter and interacting with designer friends and colleagues are all good ways to learn about what’s new in the web design/development world and what I should spend my time learning.

The frustrating thing, sometimes, is that there’s so much to learn… But I’d rather be frustrated by having to pick and choose than be bored out of my mind like I was in my last job!

I read a great article this morning from Andy Rutledge of Design View, all about the skills one needs as an aspiring web designer coming out of school and looking for a first job.

I agree with all of his points. I think it might surprise some new or aspiring web professionals how important the general business knowledge and the professional interaction skills actually are.

I’m not a good public speaker (INFP here) but I’ve gotten extremely good at selling my services during the pre-client meeting. When I started this business about 3 years ago, I would never have have thought that; but I guesstimate I win about 75% of the jobs where I meet them face to face. That’s huge for me.

Also, the value of writing well can’t be underestimated. I’ve gotten a few interviews because I was one of the few who wrote a coherent cover letter.

Finally, the project management stuff. When I’m working on 6-7 different projects in various stages of development, having a defined workflow is all that keeps me straight on what’s happening where and when. I used the workflow from Web Redesign 2.0 (Kelly Goto) as a basis for what I have in place now.

I didn’t go to school for web design, but the few curricula I’ve seen have been all about the craft and very little to do with ethics or business or marketing or dealing with people. So I think Andy is right on with his observations.