5 Surefire Ways to Diversify Your Income as a Freelance Web Developer
Let’s face it, freelancing isn’t so great when it comes to having control over one’s income. There are “famine” situations when there’s just not enough work and times when the work just doesn’t pay enough. And then there are times when some paying clients simply disappear, often taking away a huge chunk of your estimated income.
If you’ve experienced any of these scenarios, you know the stress and worry that comes with working for yourself.
Luckily, through diversifying your income, you can work yourself out of such situations. In this post, we’ll explore five diverse income stream ideas that you can start putting in place right away as a kind of insurance to support your financial goals.
#1. Sell Themes and Plugins
For a lot of WordPress developers, creating and selling themes and plugins is their full-time job. Despite the tight competition in the WordPress niche, this entrepreneurial venture is rewarding if a product is good and solves a real user problem.
Building and selling WordPress themes and plugins is also a great side hustle if you want to support your custom development business.
The best thing about launching your own products is that unlike developers who do it full-time and sell through their online store, you don’t have to spend time growing an audience or marketing your products. There are various marketplaces you can add your products to where a lot of developers have found success.
Take Paul from IcyPixels, for example. Paul reached elite author status on Themeforest just 13 months after launching his theme. John Wu from Themevan also reached elite author status, but after facing two hard rejections on Themeforest. And Ivar Rafn from BluThemes made $97,000 in sales less than a year after he started selling on Themeforest.
Now you might think that these success stories are from earlier times when the WordPress market wasn’t so saturated.
But no matter how saturated a market gets or how many ridiculously popular multipurpose themes like Avada are released, there’s always potential for great products to succeed. In fact, as far as themes are concerned, Themeforest itself has found that buyers are always willing to buy ultra-niche themes:
While there's a great deal of debate in the community around WordPress themes that “do too much”, niche themes are quietly over-achieving. We've seen niche themes achieve massive sales by focusing on individual sectors.
If you’re interested in exploring selling your own plugins or themes (or both!), you’ll need a great product idea and a marketplace where you can sell your product.
As far as coming up with product ideas goes, dig deep into your niche and look for micro-niches you could produce themes for or look for functions that could make useful plugins. You can also use these tips on how to brainstorm new plugin ideas .
Also, it’s worth browsing through niche products on all the following marketplaces to identify any gaps your products could fill:
- Themeforest (themes)
- CodeCanyon (plugins)
- Mojo Themes (themes)
- Mojo Marketplace (plugins)
- Creative Market (themes)
- ThemeSnap (themes)
- WordPress Eden (plugins and themes)
- Etsy (themes)
When considering this option, factor in the time you’ll need to develop your product and its documentation/training material as well as the time required for offering ongoing support.
#2. Write Tutorials for WordPress Blogs
Now, this is a pretty straightforward option. Top WordPress blogs like the one you’re reading right now at WPMU DEV are often aimed at a broad cross-section of WordPress users, from beginners to advanced users. This means, there’s a lot of WordPress content that only someone with some real development experience can write about. If you’ve read articles around here by Rachel McCollin and Jenni McKinno, then you know what I’m talking about. Rachel and Jenni are WordPress developers and both are prolific writers, too.
You don’t need to make writing an integral part of your freelance services, but it doesn’t hurt to sign up as a contributor and write a post or two each month, especially if you want to grow your reputation.
Before pitching, write at least three great articles/tutorials for your own blog. Once your samples are ready, read the editorial guidelines on these blogs and write a pitch. For blog post ideas to pitch, check out these suggestions on blogger Chris Lema’s blog.
In addition to making some extra cash, writing regularly will help you position yourself as an authority in your niche. Such an audience could be full of potential leads if you ever happen to launch a high-ticket product or service, such as a premium course or even one-on-one tutoring.
Plus, your writing portfolio could make you more hireable if you plan to go with a part-time (or full-time) job in the future.
#3. Teach a WordPress Course
Many freelance WordPress developers like Carrie Dils and Brian Duffy run several successful WordPress courses, and understandably so – as WordPress continues to power more and more websites on the web, the number of people who want to pick WordPress development as a career is also on the rise.
So if you have a knack for teaching, you can use your skills to create a WordPress course in your niche. Carrie, for example, teaches WordPress developers and business owners everything about the Genesis framework for WordPress, which is the niche she specializes in.
If you look at her author profile at online learning platform Lynda, you’ll see she offers a variety of Genesis-based courses along different verticals:
- WordPress and Genesis DIY: Weddings and Special Events,
- WordPress and Genesis DIY: Showcasing Photography,
- WordPress and Genesis DIY: Small Business Website,
- and many more.
If you too have great command on your niche, even you can design several courses. Again, instead of offering these courses on your site, you could go for online course marketplaces because they already have communities of millions of learners. These are three of the top learning portals you could use to launch your course:
Having a course to your credit will boost your authority, and not only that, if you decide to launch a course for your clients, it could also be a great add-on to your services. In such a course, you could show your customers how to make the most of their WordPress websites or simply teach them how they can maintain their content.
If you do choose to teach beginner to intermediate-level developers, you might open up your chances of selling personal one-on-one training sessions. Freelance WordPress developer Keith Devon prominently offers a WordPress Tuition service on his website.
#4. Take a Part-Time Job
A great way to boost your income and add stability to your day-to-day work is to take up a part-time job. There are many WordPress job boards that are frequently updated with part-time developer gigs.
Alternatively, what I believe to be a better way of finding such work is to reach out to popular theme and plugin stores (you know, the ones with thousands of customers). Most of them are open to hiring developers on a part-time basis. So look for the popular theme/plugin providers in your niche and send them an email about your freelance services.
If you put in the time to search, you might end up with a part-time job that lets you advance your knowledge in your niche.
Working on a part-time basis also gives you the time you need to find great freelance clients because when you have work, you won’t naturally default to saying “yes” to each and every project that comes your way. You can use this extra time to brand your business and attract the right clients over time.
#5. Offer a Diverse Range of Services
If you can’t commit to any of the above ways of diversifying your income, then this last method could be worth a try.
Many WordPress developers are already offering consulting and training services to their clients. They also bundle up some routine website maintenance tasks and offer them as monthly services as part of a retainer arrangement.
In addition to consulting and offering retainers, another increasingly popular trend in WordPress freelancing is offering a productized WordPress service. This article explains in detail what a productized service is along with examples and a seven step productization framework. Read up on it to understand how this works and then decide if you can productize your services and make good money from it.
A lot of the time, developers even team up with content strategists and digital marketers to help their development clients with producing content and their marketing needs.
Some developers even learn and offer these skills themselves. So, find out if this option makes sense for you. If you clients routinely ask you to recommend someone for these services or if they request you to do them, consider investing some time in learning them. Most freelancer developers who make six-figure incomes are always business savvy and help their clients on various fronts.
It doesn’t matter whether you opt for launching your own theme, plugin or course or start out with finding a great part-time job, you will need time to make it work. Of course, none of these tactics work overnight.
If you do decide to try out any of these methods for diversifying your income and find yourself running out of patience, just remember that having more than one income stream will help fend of any potential “feast or famine” type situation and (hopefully!) give you peace of mind.