WordPress is open source software, maintained by a global network of contributors. There are many examples of how WordPress has changed people’s lives for the better. In this monthly series, we share some of the amazing stories.
This month to coincide with WordCamp Europe, we feature Tijana Andrejic from Belgrade, Serbia, about her journey from fitness trainer to the WordPress world, with the freelance and corporate opportunities it introduced.
As a professional manager with a college degree in Organizational Science and a certified fitness instructor, Tijana is nothing if not driven and goal-oriented.
Following her time as a fitness trainer, Tijana moved to work in IT around 2016. She first explored content creation and design before focusing on SEO and becoming an independent specialist.
Tijana was hired as a Customer Happiness Engineer for a hosting company, where she discovered the benefits of having a team. She realized that having close working relationships with colleagues is helpful for business success and accelerates personal growth.
Tijana hopes that by sharing her story, she can help others who are either starting their career or are moving roles. She describes the opportunities she discovered in the WordPress community as ‘a huge epiphany’, especially in the world of freelancing.
She highlights 5 things that helped her to start a new freelancing career. Let’s dive into them.
What motivates me?
“Why am I doing this?” is the first question that Tijana asks herself before starting anything new. This self-review and honesty, she feels, allows her to determine her priorities. She also benchmarks options around her motivations of wanting a flexible schedule and to grow professionally.
She lists the reasons to make a particular choice, like being a freelancer, to help her choose the right job, pathway, or identify alternatives.
She recommends that others can take a similar approach. If freelancing is still the best solution after examining all their goals and motivations, Tijana believes a good next step would be to learn WordPress-related skills.
Develop WordPress related skills
The next question you may ask: “Why WordPress?”
WordPress is used by more than 40% of websites in some form and offers various roles, many of which are not developer-specific. Tijana highlights a few:
- web developer (coding websites, themes, and plugins)
- web implementor (creating websites from existing themes without coding)
- web designer (designing website mock-ups, editing images, or creating online infographics)
- client support professional (helping people with their websites)
- website maintenance (WordPress, themes, and plugins are maintained and backed up regularly)
- WordPress trainer (helping clients with how to use the platform or teaching other web professionals)
- content writer
- accessibility specialist (making sure standards are met and suggesting solutions for accessibility barriers)
- SEO consultant (improving search outcomes and understanding)
- statistics consultant, especially for web shops
- WordPress assistant (adding new content and editing existing posts)
- website migration specialist (moving websites from one server to another)
- web security specialist
Tijana emphasized: “Another reason why WordPress is great for freelancers is the strong community that exists around this content management system (CMS).” WordCamps and Meetups are a way to get useful information and meet people from a large and very diverse community and get answers to many questions straight away.
In the past year, these events have been primarily online. However, the contributors who run them continue to make an effort to provide an experience as close to in-person events as possible. The biggest advantage to online events is that we can attend events from across the world, even if sometimes during these difficult times, it is difficult to get enough time to deeply into this new experience. Since Tijana’s first Meetup, she has attended many WordPress community events and volunteered as a speaker.
Plan in advance
Becoming a freelancer takes time. For Tijana, success came with proper planning and following her plan to ‘acquire or improve relevant skills that will make you stand out in the freelance market.’ She strongly believes that learning and growing as a professional opens more business opportunities.
If you are considering a freelance career, she advises improving relevant skills or developing new skills related to your hobbies as ‘there is nothing better than doing what you love.’ In cases where no previous experience and knowledge can be used, she suggests choosing ‘a job that has a shorter learning curve and builds your knowledge around that.’
Tijana started as a content creator and learned to become an SEO expert. However, she highlights many alternative paths, including starting as a web implementer and moving to train as a developer.
She suggests to others: “It would be a good idea to analyze the market before you jump into the learning process.” She also recommends people check the latest trends and consider the future of the skills they are developing.
Visit the new Learn WordPress.org to see what topics are of interest to you. In this newly established resource, the WordPress community aggregates workshops to support those who want to start and improve their skills, provides lesson plans for professional WordPress trainers and helps you create personal learning to develop key skills. There is also material on helping you be part of and organize events for your local community.
Tijana highlights that there are many places for freelancers to find clients. For example, the WordPress Community has a place where companies and individual site owners publish their job advertisements – Jobs.WordPress.net.
Hurray, it’s time to get a first freelancing job
As a pragmatic person, Tijana recommends: “Save money before quitting your job to become a full-time freelancer. Alternatively, try freelancing for a few hours per week to see if you like it. Although some people do benefit when taking a risk, think twice before you take any irreversible actions.”
She shared some possible next steps:
- use a freelancing platform
- triple-check your resume
- professionally present yourself
- fill up your portfolio with examples
- use video material
“By using video material, your clients will not see you like a list of skills and previous experiences, but as a real person that has these skills and experiences and that provides a certain service for them.”
She adds: “Have a detailed strategy when choosing your first employer. Choose your first employer wisely, very wisely. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is”.
When Tijana took her first freelancing job, she considered the following:
- how was the employer rated by other freelancers who worked for him previously
- how does the employer rate other freelancers
- how much money had they already spent on the platform
- the number of open positions for a specific job and the number of freelancers that have already applied
“The first job is not all about the money. Don’t get greedy on your first job. If you get good recommendations, your second job can pay two to three times more. And your third job can go up to five times more. That was my experience.”
Take responsibility as a freelancer
Tijana reminds us: “Freedom often comes with responsibility; individual responsibility is key when it comes to freelancing.”
She advises others not to take a job if you can not make a deadline and have someone reliable who can help you.
Missing deadlines will cost your client money and affect the review the client will be willing to leave about your job, and this can have a big impact on your future opportunities or freelance jobs.
She adds: “This can start a downward spiral for your career. However, we are all humans, and unpredictable things can happen. If for some reason you are not able to complete your work in a timely manner, let your client know immediately so they can have enough time to hire someone else”.
Tijana emphasizes the importance of making expectations clear before accepting a job, both what the client is expecting and what you can expect from the client.
Lastly, she points out that if you are working from home, your friends and family should treat you the way they would if you were in an office. She advises: “Let them know about your working schedule.”
She hopes that these basic guidelines will be useful in launching freelance careers, as they did her, even though there is no universal recipe for all.
Tijana highlights: “It’s just important to stay focused on your goals and to be open to new opportunities.” Freelancing wasn’t the only way she could have fulfilled her goals, but it was an important part of her path, and it helped her be confident in her abilities to make the next big step in her life.
As a freelancer, she was missing close relationships with colleagues and teamwork, which she has now found in her current firm. Her colleagues describe her as a: “walking-talking bundle of superpowers: sports medicine and fitness professional, SEO expert, blogger, designer and a kitty foster mum”.
If you are considering starting your career as a freelancer, take the courses offered at learn.wordpress.org, reach out to companies that you would be interested in working with, and remember that there are a whole host of opportunities in the WordPress project.
The WordPress.org Teams – what they do, when and where they meet
Learn WordPress resource – free to use to expand your knowledge and skills of using the platform and learning about the community around it.
Share the stories
Help share these stories of open source contributors and continue to grow the community. Meet more WordPressers in the People of WordPress series.
To help you discover more about how to use the WordPress software, there is a free resource from the community, Learn.WordPress.org
Help share these stories of open source contributors and continue to grow the community. Meet more WordPressers in the People of WordPress series. #ContributorStory.
Thanks to Olga Gleckler (@oglekler), Abha Thakor (@webcommsat), Chloé Bringmann (@cbringmann), Surendra Thakor (@sthakor), and Meher Bala (@meher) for working on this story. Thank you to Tijana Andrejic (@andtijana) for sharing her Contributor Story, and to Josepha Haden (@chanthaboune) and Topher DeRosia (@topher1kenobe) for their support of the series.
This People of WordPress feature is inspired by an essay originally published on HeroPress.com, a community initiative created by Topher DeRosia. It highlights people in the WordPress community who have overcome barriers and whose stories might otherwise go unheard. #HeroPress