A guide to building your first plugin, presented at the WordPress Stellenbosch Meetup on 30 January 2019.
A handy guide for clients working with freelance developers so nobody gets hurt…
Working with freelancers can be, for some, the equivalent of playing with a loaded gun. It can work out, but there are times when it can really affect your business and your life. As a client, you need a handy guide to working with freelance developers to ensure that every person working on the project comes out on top.
You need to understand your product and its requirements very intricately before you move into a relationship with a freelance developer. You can’t brief something in to someone until you know it really well. This also ensures you have a very clear vision of the final product and will inform all your engagements with your freelancer.
Step 02: Have a basic understanding
You will need some basic knowledge of web and development before you embark on this adventure. Yes, you are hiring a professional to take on your project so theoretically you shouldn’t need to know a thing. The fact is, if you have a modicum of understanding then you will have more realistic ideas around time frames, deliverables and project potential (and the magic Foo of your developer).
Step 03: Budget is everything
Don’t expect your freelance developer to be happy to cut their rates to suit your budget.The work they do is complex and specialised. Instead, be prepared to cut your requirements to fit your budget. That way you are assured of quality work from a reliable developer.
Step 04: Clarify your requirements
This is an extension of Step 01. Why? Because this is the most important step of all – it will cost you money and time if your requirements are vague so spend time on clarifying them. It’s worth it.
Step 05: Develop a clear timeframe
Work closely with your freelance developer to break the project down into achievable phases,each with their own milestones and deliverables. This will ensure that both you and your freelance development team are on the same page and working towards the same goals. This way nobody can say that they didn’t know that X had to be done by Y date…And this includes you providing your development team with the information and materials they need to achieve these goals.
Step 06: Create communication channels
From Slack to Asana to Evernote to Skype – there are plenty of communication and collaboration tools available to help you streamline communication with your freelance developers. Many of these offer timeline and deadline management tools as well, making it really easy for you to track timing and status.
Step 07: Don’t hover
The headline says it all. Science has shown that for every interruption, it takes a person at least 20 minutes to get their concentration back. Every time you interrupt,you slow your project down.
Step 08: Test
Every step, every aspect, every phase – test. Test assumptions, capabilities, developer promises and results. This will ensure that the final product has had most of the kinks ironed out iteratively rather than a messy tangle to unwrap at the end.
Step 09: Feedback
There is bad feedback, there is good feedback and there is great feedback. Learn how to do the last two types of feedback really well. Good feedback is defined as giving the person the information they need to make changes, fix problems, address issues and overcome obstacles with precision. Vague and wishy-washy comments like, ‘Yeah, it doesn’t feel right’ are not helpful. Nor are nasty and antagonistic ones. Nobody puts passion into a project for someone they don’t like.
Step 10: Everything is in writing
From the onset of your project to the phases and timelines to the final deliverables ensure that your project is clearly documented and that all parties have read and signed every document. You do not want to end up at the end of a messy conversation or project with someone saying that something was never clarified.Assume the best, prepare for the worst.
Step 11: Manage expectations
Your developer won’t always be around to leap to your requests or requirements. This is very normal and you may not be their only client. Be patient and trust that they will get back to you and respect your urgency.
Codeable needs people like you!
Do you have a special relationship with the WordPress Codex, dream about coding standards and are able to build your own custom plugins from scratch?
Do you work well with clients, have amazing communication skills and can solve the most difficult of WordPress customisation problems?
Want to be part of the best WordPress outsourcing platform in the world? Then Codeable wants you!
If you’ve followed this blog over the past few years you will know how joining Codeable changed my life. Well, now is the chance for you to experience the same life changing experience, by applying as a Codeable Expert developer.
Codeable is currently looking for expert WordPress full stack developers who love building elegant plugin or theme customisation solutions for clients around the world. If this is you, and you want to join the #1 outsourcing service for WordPress, then apply today.
P.S. I don’t get anything out of this, other than the satisfaction of maybe helping someone else become part of the Codeable family.
P.P.S if you don’t consider yourself a full stack (hardcore coder) developer and more of a WordPress developer (website builder) then you should also apply. I just happen to know that Codeable is looking for full stack developers at the moment.
Usually, towards the end of a year, I start looking back at the year that has been, and looking forward to the year ahead, planning my new goals and resolutions.
This year, however, I have one very specific goal in my head. It’s an idea that actually birthed itself way back in July of 2016, when I wrote a post about why I got into development and blogging about development, in the first place.
2018 has been a year of personal goal achievement and so for 2019 I want to get back to sharing my (limited) knowledge and experience with others, to assist them in achieving their goals, both personally and professionally. So with that in mind I’d like to announce a few changes that will happen on this blog and my podcast, and a few other additions I’m making that will hopefully help support my efforts.
The Jonathan Bossenger Patreon
I have retooled and relaunched my Patreon page. The goal of this page is to give those of you who read my blog, listen to my podcast, or generally follow me online, the ability to help fund my work. I get a lot of folks asking questions in the comments area of my blog posts, and I’d like to be able to spend more time in helping them solve the problems they present. The Patreon is the perfect place to do this.
If you’d like to be able to get a little more out of me, from answering your questions to helping you solve your WordPress or web development problems, or you want me to write about specific experiences or topics, or even interview specific people on the podcast, the Patreon is the perfect way to have your voice heard. For a small monthly fee you can help me bring you the kind of content you are looking for.
The Jonathan Bossenger Mailing List
At the bottom of every blog post there is a ‘subscribe to my mailing list’ form. If I’m honest I’ve not really used my mailing list to it’s full effect. I intend to do so moving forward. I promise I won’t bombard you with rubbish, but I will select a few useful topics or articles, from either my blog or the web, that I think you will find useful, to send to you, no more than twice a month.
I will also use this mailing lists to announce any new exciting things I am doing.
A new focus for the blog.
You may have noticed that I have been blogging a lot more the past few months. This is because I’ve recently started working with a copywriter, who is helping me get my content out there. While I will still use this blog to share my personal experiences, it is my hope that with the assistance of the copywriter I will produce more useful and relevant content to my readers.
WP HackerCast – Season 2
If you were a regular listener to the podcast, you will have noticed things went very quiet after episode 18. This was mostly due to not really having enough time to find guests and prepare podcasts. For 2019, and with the help of my Patreon, I hope to relaunch the podcast with more interesting guests and interviews.
So, if you like the sound of all this, and you want to be more involved in what’s happening here or on my podcast, then please consider becoming a Patron, subscribe to my newsletter, or visit and subscribe to the podcast.
It’s amazing how stories mutate. What started as a simple ‘this is my setup’ post, then turned into a ‘what a day in my life looks like’. This morning I woke up and realised it might be more interesting, and less braggy, to look at how, and why, my workstation has evolved in the last two years, since I moved from office worker to freelancer.
A long, long time ago…
First, a little background. In 2011 I moved from being employed to being a combination of self employed (in the business my wife and I run together) and contract worker (at a local web development agency called Reamdigital). This meant I was working half the time from on office and half the time from home. This lead to me purchasing my first ‘developer’ laptop, a 17 inch Dell Vostro with a Core i5 processer, nVidia graphics, 16GB of RAM (manually upgraded) and a 750 GB hard drive. About a year later I upgraded the hard drive to a 500GB SSD and put the 750 GB drive into an external housing, but that laptop lasted me for a good 5 years in that configuration.
This laptop replaced my then current desktop computer, which I had custom built in 2010, while I was still employed at a company. Using my bonus that year I built a mid range gaming computer. The original specs aren’t important, but by the time I purchased the laptop it had the original AMD Phenom II 945 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD boot drive, a Radeon GPU, and a 1TB Hard drive for storage. My monitor was a 23 inch Samsung Syncmaster, which my wife had kindly purchased for me as a birthday present the previous year.
Other peripherals I had purchased for the computer over time included a Logitech gaming mouse, a Logitech 2.1 surround sound set and a Logitech gaming headset. Some years before my wife got me (another present) a Microsoft ergonomic keyboard, after my previous one died.
As this computer was originally built as a gaming rig, when I purchased the Dell laptop I turned this into a media streaming centre, and played the odd game on it in my lounge. Much fun was had with my oldest when I re-discovered the MAME emulator, and we had hours of joy playing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game together.
The ‘dad-station’ days
So, fast forward to January 2016 and I’m 100% freelance/self employed and working from home with a 1 year old at home all day and a 4 year old at home for the afternoon. Part of the reason I left the agency was to be able to spend more time with my boys, so I had a bright idea.
Scouring the local online classifieds, I found a second hand (this will become a recurring theme in this story) computer stand and set the laptop and monitor up in what I affectionately called ‘the dad-station’. This allowed me to work in the house seated or standing. The standing option was so that I could strap the 1 year old onto my chest and work while he sleeps, or just keep him busy while my wife tries to get some work done, or just take a break for sitting down all the time.
In the picture you can also see the Microsoft keyboard, Logitech gaming headset and mouse, and the R2D2 bobble head I received from the Reamdigital for my last birthday there.
It was during this time that the first of a few incremental changes happened to my work setup.
Firstly, having never previously worked on the Microsoft keyboard for a full day, I discovered that the so called ergonomic keyboard I had was causing a repetitive strain injury. For whatever reason, the way I use my right little finger on the shift key on the keyboard was leading to the top joint of the finger being slowly bent to the right over time and causing pain. To this day that top section of the finger is not straight when compared to the other hand.
While I was at Realmdigital someone suggested I look into the Logitech Marathon mouse, which I had done, and discovered it’s not only amazing battery life, but the fact that it uses the Logitech unifying software to connect, meaning you only need one USB dongle to connect multiple devices. When the keyboard starting giving me issues I went searching for a Logitech keyboard that was similar to a laptop keyboard (as I’d never experienced the problem when working on my laptop keyboard) and found a keyboard that was very similar, and also used the unifying software, so I purchased the wireless keyboard and mouse to replace my current gaming set.
Side note, the person I sold the mouse and keyboard to, a friend I know through jiu-jitsu, recently let me know that he is still using them, so I’m glad they found a new home.
At more or less the same time I purchased a second hand 27 inch monitor to replace the 23 inch, and moved from the house into our home office space. I also purchased a Gigabyte laptop stand so that I could have the bottom of the laptop screen at roughly the same height as the bottom of the monitor.
Towards the end of 2017 the Vostro laptop was in need of an upgrade, having served me well for 5 years. I opted for another Dell laptop, this time a Core i7 Dell Inspiron gaming laptop, RAM upgraded to 16GB, and a nVidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics card. It came with a 128GB M.2 SSD and I took the 500 GB SSD from the Vostro and installed it into the Inspiron, dual booting Ubuntu on the 500 GB drive and Windows on the 128 GB. I had a 320 GB notebook drive spare, which I installed in the Vostro and sold second hand to help pay for the Inspiron.
Unfortunately, as the year progressed, and as my workload and stress levels increased, it became obvious that working at home wasn’t productive or beneficial to anyone. My sons, as much as I love them, don’t understand either what a closed door means, or ‘the headphone rule’, and the constant interruptions caused me to start looking for an office space within a few kilometres radius.
In September 2017 I moved into my current office. Here is the original Instagram post I shared when I started in the new space.
What you can see in this image is the 27 inch monitor, the Inspiron laptop on the Gigabyte stand, the wireless mouse and keyboard, and the original gaming headset. As you can see R2D2 moved with me. The desk is a 6 seat dining table that was already in the office and the chair is an AllOffice contract office chair I used at home.
This is what my work space looks like now.
As you can see, quite a bit has changed.
Making the perfect space.
I replaced the dining room table with a second hand adjustable desk that I’ve made slightly higher then a standard office desk, to suit my size. I purchased an AllOffice Accent, which is a cost effective ergonomic office chair. I have definitely noticed the difference in purchasing an ergonomic office chair.
Next to my desk I have a small bar fridge and various coffee making paraphernalia, including a pour over coffee maker for when I want good coffee and a jar of Jacobs for when I just want OK coffee.
I upgraded the custom built workstation, to be powered by an MSI x470 gaming motherboard, 6 core AMD Ryzen 5 2600x, 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a Zotac Geforce GTX 1060. OS is taken care of by two 128 GB SSD hard drives dual booting Ubuntu and Windows, with the original 1 TB hard drive and a new one purchase for storage for each OS. This handles every thing I throw at it, including some down time gaming between work sessions.
My peripherals now include a new Dell 27 inch LED, the 7 year old Samsung 23 inch Syncmaster and a Philips 24 inch monitor I picked up second hand recently. My wife is currently using the other 27 inch monitor, as I found the frame around it to be too big when I wanted to add additional monitors. The side monitor stands are a combination of phone books and Dos 6.2, Windows 3.1, and Office manuals I found in the office when I moved in.
You’ll see my R2D2 bobble head stayed, and he’s joined by the Lego Mini-Me I got from WordCamp Cape Town 2017. Next to that is the travel mug we all got as swag from WordCamp Cape Town 2018.
The wireless mouse, keyboard and headset are all the same, and I dug out my Logitech 2.1 surround sound set. I was actually pretty happy to be able to use my speaker set again, as it’s been sitting in a cupboard for almost 7 years now, since the days of the ‘dad-station’. Because I switched from a laptop to a workstation, I had to purchase a separate webcam which, if you’ve not already noticed the trend, is a Logitech one.
Finally I also purchased a Samson mic for meetings and podcast recordings.
I had previously purchased a Griffin stand to replace the Gigabyte one after I moved into the new office, mostly to allow for more space. I keep it around for when I need to use my laptop at the office (mostly to copy something I’ve forgotten to sync to the cloud). In this picture it’s on my desk, but I usually pack it away when I’m not using it.
My main OS is currently Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, and I generally stick to the LTS version unless something cool is coming out on a newer version. The Windows 10 install is mostly for gaming (those games that don’t work via Steam on Linux) or if I need to test something in a true Windows environment.
I still use the Inspiron laptop, mainly when I’m travelling, either for meetings or conferences, or working from home. I took the 128GB SSD out of the laptop for the workstation and installed Ubuntu on the 500 GB SSD as the main OS. At the moment I am considering selling this laptop and replacing it with something lighter, slightly less powerful but with better battery life, as I still do some development on it, but not as much as I before, and definitely not enough to warrant such a powerful laptop.
The office is 5 minutes drive away from home and my morning commute takes me directly past a Vida, Xpresso and Seattle, so I can mix up my morning coffee flavours.
The office has a wall size street map of the Cape Peninsula, which is a talking point whenever I have video calls with folks from outside Cape Town and provides fun conversations when my 6 year old comes to visit.
There’s also a spare chair, if I ever have physical meetings, or the 6 year old is visiting. I like to keep the rest of the office as tidy as possible, but at the time of this photo there were a few boxes of stuff left over from WordCamp.
One advantage of my office is that because it’s actually at the back of my father-in-law’s home office, I get to enjoy the pool whenever the Cape Town weather gets too hot. This is helpful as the office itself has no air conditioning.
It also means that if my children want to visit the grandparents for a swim, all I have to do is make sure I have my costume and towel, and I can join them for some water fun.
And in case you’re wondering, all that is in the bar fridge is some long-life milk for coffee, and a few bottles of water. I leave the beers at home, to be enjoyed on my couch with my family, after a long day 😉
As it stands, I probably won’t make any changes to this setup any time soon. As previously mentioned, I might replace my laptop, but there’s no real need to yet. I will probably only start looking at upgrading the computer hardware in about 5 years.
During that time, the only hardware I might consider upgrading or replacing is my headset, to a wireless option, and possibly replacing the second hand monitors with newer Dell ones. I really like the minimalist build of the Dell monitors, but at around R3000 a piece for new 24 inch models, there’s no real desire to do so.
If I do spend money on the office space in the near future, it will probably be on air conditioning. Currently it can get quite hot in the summer and quite cold in the winter, and comfort is more of a current priority than computing power.
Either that, or a bean to cup coffee maker!
Last weekend marked the beginning of the end of my journey as lead organiser of WordCamp Cape Town. Over the course of the past two years I’ve worked with an amazing team of local volunteer organisers plan and execute our yearly WordPress conference.
The question on my mind as I wind down from the joyride that is planning a WordCamp is, what next?
So what I do know, is that I am not going to jump straight into the next big thing. Planning a WordCamp is time consuming and mentally draining, so I’m going to take a break from my contributing activities for a few weeks to recover. There are also a bunch of small WordCamp wrap up related tasks I need to complete anyway.
Once that is over however, I’m looking forward to resuming my community deputy duties, namely meetup vetting and orientations. I’ve also applied to be a WordCamp mentor, so I look forward to helping another lead plan and execute their WordCamp next year.
Besides that, the next big thing that I’d like to help with is the next Global WordPress Translation Day. I hosted a very small translation meetup during the 2016 event, but I’d really like to plan a much bigger meetup for the next one. We have 11 official languages in our country and it would be amazing to mentor local volunteers and help them get WordPress translated into their own language.
My friend Nathan over at the WP Builds podcast had the opportunity with chat with Matt Mullenweg about the pending WordPress 5.0 release and Gutenberg.
While you are there, take a listen to the chat I had with Nathan regarding the GPL. Probably not as controversial as Gutenberg but interesting nonetheless.
Is the Codeable Expert Developer certificate worth the weight of the digital paper it’s printed on?
In 2016 I certified as a Codeable Expert Developer. I’d already spent a number of years working with freelance platforms such as Upwork and Freelancer but Codeable has stepped out from this crowd to become my preferred platform of choice.
There are quite a few reasons why Codeable is the kingdom where every developer should hang their hat and here are six of them…
Reason 0ne: You don’t just sign on the line and instantly become a Codeable Expert
Entering into the Codeable world isn’t as simple as filling in a few forms, locating the perfect profile pic and waiting for the work to come to you. The application process tests you on your development knowledge, ability to handle difficult clients and skills in managing complex situations. For Codeable, technical knowledge is essential but customer service is critical.
Experts have to pass stringent tests to gain access to Codeable – tests that are improved upon daily by the Codeable expert community. You have to know the web, WordPress and development inside and out before you can even be considered. You also have to demonstrate the ability to manage expectations and a willingness to engage in open communication and collaboration.
Codeable Experts are project managers, quality testers, customer relationship managers and so much more. This assures Codeable Experts that they will be connected with genuine clients and it assures clients that they are going to get connected to incredibly talented experts. And everybody knows that this level of skill doesn’t come at cost price.
The Codeable process may be rigorous and complex, challenging your skills and your experience, but it is worth every hurdle and hoop.
Reason Two: Client focused but expert friendly
The founder of Codeable, Tomaz Zaman, jokingly refers to Codeable as the Tinder for WordPress. It’s easy to see why. It connects the best WordPress experts to the best clients and everybody walks away happy and in a new, fulfilling relationship.
This is primarily driven by Codeable’s commitment to making both the customer and the Codeable expert happy. A commitment that’s clear from the moment you apply. Codeable gives every applicant personal attention and team members take the time to explain each part of the application process. They also provide immediate feedback when sent questions or concerns. I dealt with people who cared and who understood that sometimes life got in the way of the application.
Once you’ve been accepted, you need to spend some time getting to know the Codeable process. The entire platform has been designed to provide you with a really strong support structure so you can quickly learn about how to engage with customers and how to deliver the ideal Codeable customer experience.
There is a very delicate balance between the needs of the client and support for the experts and Codeable manages this perfectly.
Reason Three: Defining the ideal customer
There are three things that define a great customer within the Codeable universe:
- A great customer is someone who understands that a freelancer is a human being and not just a tool. Developers have lives and families. We get sick and we have to juggle the unexpected moments that life throws at us just like everyone else. Knowing that a customer can understand and accept this makes everyone’s experience so much better.
- The customer understands their product or service and can succinctly explain or describe the problem. They make suggestions, not assumptions. You may look at a web page and think that it should be easy for the expert to change the font but you likely don’t understand that perhaps the CSS rules aren’t structured properly or that a font change on the home page will knock on to other parts of the site.
- As Codeable experts we pride ourselves on our communication skills but if a client goes quiet, especially when it’s time to mark the project as complete, it can leave a bad taste. A communicative customer is wonderful to work with.
Reason Four: Codeable creates collaboration
Codeable doesn’t limit you to the Codeable workroom system. Once a project has been funded you can use any communication tool that you and the customer prefer. That said, the Codeable workroom system has some nifty tricks and treasures hidden in its depths that add enormous value to client communication.
- The Credentials Vault – you can share sensitive information, such as site logins, with relevant experts.
- The File Storage System – you can upload images, documents, video tutorials and other file objects for easy, shared access.
- The Live Chat System – this is also replicated as emails to both the customer and the expert so that communication is seamless and easy. The only thing missing is a voice option…
Reason Five: Collaboration really is key
There is one thing that Codeable doesn’t have…Expert Wars. On this platform the experts aren’t competing, they’re helping. It’s more like a distributed family that steps in to ensure that clients always get the best out of their chosen expert.
Codeable is the first platform I’ve experienced that has captured the true heart of the community-driven ethos of the open source platforms we use.
Reason Six: The value of Codeable
The fact that we, as Codeable Experts, are not in competition with one another makes this one of the best platforms in the world. The expert community is perhaps the biggest reason why I am passionate about Codeable and its potential. We help one another on projects, give each other advice when entering into pre-hire discussions, and share expertise on the forums. It is open access to the most impressive group of WordPress experts in the world. You are constantly surrounded by intelligent people who can teach you something new every day.
Last year I had the opportunity to meet up with a group of my fellow Codeable Experts at WordCamp Europe 2018 and it was like meeting up with old friends.
Codeable has also taught me that the knowledge and experience I have is invaluable. If you work with the right clients you don’t have to kill yourself to make a living. Since joining Codeable in 2016, my income potential has doubled and I have been able to do things I’ve never done before. I built the perfect development workstation, I took time off without worrying about my next project and I learned new technologies while taking on exciting new projects.
Some tasty tips for Codeable success…
If you want to enter into the world of Codeable, then here are four top tips that will help you get in, get involved and get insight from brilliant Codeable minds…
- Know WordPress inside and out. You don’t need to be a core contributor, although that would help, but you do need a good understanding of WordPress APIs, hooks and core fundamentals.
- Understand web development in general – a good grasp of this will come in handy as clients will often have requirements to connect their WordPress sites to third party applications and systems.
- Be a problem solver – the ability to install a WordPress theme and a bunch of plugins isn’t enough. You need to create custom themes or plugins and have the ability to extend those. You must have a higher than average skillset in creating custom solutions for WordPress.
- Customer collaboration skills – you need great customer service and a healthy attitude towards project management and communication. At Codeable you don’t win projects based on price – you need to be prepared to go the extra mile during new project discussions and to provide value to new customers.
The slides from my freelancing talk at WordCamp Johannesburg
I learned a valuable lesson yesterday, if your workshop prep requires a lot of involved setup, you might want to reconsider your workshop.
Anyway, for those who want to try and replicate the workshop process at home, here are my slides and the workshop notes I used. You should also be able to followed the numbered branches on each of the GitHub repositories.