How can a WordPress consultant help your business?
If this is your first web project or you’ve only worked on a handful of web projects to date, the most important thing a consultant can bring is WordPress expertise and project management experience.
Consultants will have worked on projects ranging in scale, industry, target audience, team members involved, location, etc. That experience they’ve got will kick-start your project and help you to avoid common first-time project pitfalls.
Before you hire a WordPress consultant and commit to using WordPress, there are a few initial questions that a good consultant should guide you through during the Project Discovery Call:
- Will WordPress be a good fit for your project?
- Will you need a special type of WordPress environment set-up or custom integrations?
e.g., Headless CMS/SPA Frontend, Multisite, High-Performance/High Traffic
- What implementation options are available to you. Do you need to develop custom functionality, or is there off-the-shelf software (i.e., WordPress Plugins) that will fit your requirements?
Supporting you as your Website Tech Lead
If you are running a small business, it’s likely you are relying on freelancers and contractors for non-core business areas, like IT, marketing, SEO, etc. or you’re managing these things yourself.
When you work with a WordPress consultant on an ongoing basis, you get:
- A highly talented WordPress expert who is building and/or maintaining your website.
- Their cumulative knowledge across all of their WordPress projects, including yours.
- Access to costly software and subscriptions (e.g., premium WordPress plugins, project management tools, performance & SEO optimization tools, etc.) to help bolster your website.
- Their technical support and advice – a Technical Lead when you need it.
- Time for you to focus on your core business while leaving the website in capable hands.
- An independent professional opinion – outside of internal company bias and politics.
- Expert support for general website and WordPress specific issues, such as: addressing integration and security issues in common plugins; working with the WordPress hooks system, REST API, and 3rd-party integrations; responsive design considerations; optimising for performance, etc.
Web projects can be simple. But if you’re considering hiring a WordPress consultant, you already know the project scope has the potential to get out of hand and out of control (if it hasn’t already).
If you look back at successful projects, you’ll find planning was a key step, not just at the start of the project but on a regular, frequent basis.
Consultants will work with you to plan your project optimally from the get-go. Having tried and tested most of the project planning tools and methodologies out there and knowing what works.
However, project management tools alone won’t get you to the finish line.
A key part of planning is being able to break down your goals, decide on whether they are achievable, turn them into work units, prioritise them, assign resources, allocate budgets, and decide on how they should be completed and by whom.
All while considering your delivery dates, total budget, project scope, marketing efforts, and technical debt to support the project over the long term.
This is important to note. It is almost impossible to accurately estimate the work required to develop a complex WordPress project early on in a project.
Although consultants deal with hundreds of WordPress projects during their careers, each project is unique in its own way – with its own complexities.
Estimates are almost always guessed at the start of the project and come with heavy caveats and a second estimate of the likelihood of meeting that original estimate,i.e., We have a 65% chance of meeting our estimate (With this estimated likelihood also being a guess).
If you’d like to learn more about software estimation, read Steve McConnell’s 17 Theses on Software Estimation.
Estimates with an estimate of the likelihood of success? It sounds like a vanity metric to me.
However, consultants do understand that it is important to provide some sort of framework to assist with budgeting and timeframes. One method for doing so is to use Project Velocity, which you can read more about here.
Complex web projects need a technical lead working alongside the core business team.
WordPress projects tend to devolve into a mess of hacked together plugins, page builders, and spaghetti code – when left unchecked.
Developers inexperienced with WordPress or non-technical website managers will often reach for off-the-shelf WordPress plugins to solve their requirements. This shouldn’t be the default solution.
An experienced WordPress developer should understand how WordPress works, its architecture, hook system, the REST API, block editor, documentation, security, etc. They can leverage that knowledge to ensure your project doesn’t become a bloated mess.
Management isn’t just about project architecture, though.
You also need someone to set, action, and keep track of tasks. There are hundreds of actionable items as part of a complex WordPress project.
A good consultant will have an optimised project methodology in place to manage the project tasks, deliverables, and timelines. Keeping project members and tasks in check reduce the likelihood of failure.
Project deployment & launch
A fully-built website isn’t a fully-launched website.
Assuming you are following best practices and not working directly on your live site – you need to deploy from your development/staging environment to your live site, ready for your visitors.
Deployment isn’t just a button press.
It’s more like a pilot’s pre-flight checklist before takeoff.
It’s not just the website going live, but also your marketing and sales engine.
A freelancer can get your site live – a consultant will do that and more – your social media integrations, newsletter subscriptions, Google Tag Manager event tracking and funnel creation, site performance optimization, SEO optimisation, etc., – while working alongside your marketing and sales teams.
Post-launch support & maintenance
Your website should be a reflection of your business – growing and evolving.
Hiring a consultant isn’t usually a one-time gig. By building a relationship together, the value you get becomes greater over time as they develop a better understanding of your business.
After the initial launch, a consultant can provide technical advice, ongoing development, support and maintenance.
Your site is a vehicle for your business. Every vehicle needs regular maintenance to keep it running optimally, fix new issues, and make improvements.
For future-proofing – deployment and testing processes should be set-up.
Deployment & testing processes will ensure that future updates can be built, integrated, tested and deployed to your site reliably, reducing the likelihood of customer complaints and issues arising from poor deployment practices.
While it’s difficult to test an entire WordPress site, as there are so many variables to consider – like 3rd party plugin code – it’s important to test your key user journeys and functionality.
A consultant can help you define the key user journeys and write the tests you need to have in place to ensure they are working as expected after an update.
When something has gone wrong
Modern websites are complex beasts. It’s quick for a project to go off course, and without expertise, it’s difficult to bring it back on track.
When your project is failing, you need someone who knows what they are doing before it’s too late to recover.
Experienced consultants have worked with hundreds of WordPress websites during their careers. We have dealt with technical issues relating to themes, plugins, 3rd-party integrations, hosting, performance, security, etc., as well as business-related issues dealing with project management, team/client communication, and budget and deadline overruns.
A consultant is ideally placed as an independent and experienced voice of reason who can both recommend the best course of action – or several – and actually act on it.
Why hire a WordPress consultant?
The initial motivation to hire a consultant usually stems from uncertainty and a fear of failure.
Although it’s scary to take on a big project with a lot of unknowns, the rewards of a successfully completed project are clear by the time you’ve committed to actually building the website.
By hiring a consultant you are mitigating the risk of failure, missed delivery dates, and budget overruns – using the knowledge and experience of the consultant to do so.
Why not do it yourself?
For smaller projects and it’s certainly possible to do everything yourself. In fact, many consultants will recommend this path for very early-stage start-ups, individuals, hobbyists, etc.
If you aren’t able to calculate your return on investment (ROI) or the ROI is negative, it’s generally inadvisable to hire a consultant, as there is no clear path to profitability once the work has been completed and invoiced for.
However, where ROI is likely to be positive – usually your company is already profitable or close to it, having found a gap in the market and paying customers. Then a consultant will become a key success driver by:
- Helping you avoid bad practices and common pitfalls during key stages of project planning, development, deployment, launches, growth, and ongoing maintenance and support.
- Bringing their cumulative experience from multiple, similar WordPress projects.
- Using their knowledge of the latest best practices for accessibility, code structure, WordPress core & plugins, third-party integrations, version control, deployment strategy, security, SEO, usability, & ongoing maintenance.
- Integrating with and helping your other core team members, including copywriters, designers, marketers, SEO, and salespeople.
Why not hire a WordPress freelance developer?
A WordPress developer can bill themselves as a freelancer or consultant, depending on their abilities. But there are key differences between the two terms:
Freelancers are usually hired as a one-off for specific tasks or short projects. They provide value, get paid, and get out.
The goal of a consultant/client relationship is to build a long-term relationship by providing value over time and a broader service offering, usually while working alongside other team members.
Why not hire a full-service creative agency?
If you can afford it, a full-service creative agency is an excellent choice. You’ll be assigned a team from the agency, or the entire agency will pool together its resources to work on your project – depending on their headcount and specialisms.
But the big thing with an agency is the cost.
An independent consultant isn’t likely to ever reach agency rates unless they are highly specialized. Fortunately, WordPress has such a significant market share as a CMS, there aren’t many areas that require such a high level of specialization. Generally, you can find consultants with competitive rates if you know where to look.
If you don’t mind managing multiple consultants, you can likely make a saving and get the same quality of work from a few independent consultants vs. a full-service creative agency. However, there will always be a management overhead dealing with multiple processes and systems from each consultant you hire.
How much do WordPress consultants cost?
A consultant will typically bill themselves at a higher rate than a freelancer. Their hourly or day rate will reflect their experience, target customer and physical location (although location plays less of a part with the global gig economy).
You can find my rates listed on my pricing page.
Other UK-based and US-based consultants will typically bill hourly, charging between £50-90/h ($70-120/h). Or daily, charging between £250-350/d ($350-$480/d).
There isn’t a consensus between consultants about whether to charge hourly or daily. In fact, it’s a topic that comes up quite regularly. Some consultants may also offer fixed-price packages, but unless the project scope is very small or tightly defined, this can lead to a lot of issues.
Things to look for when hiring a WordPress consultant
Bringing on a consultant means assigning a lot of trust to an individual, which can be difficult to justify. There are a lot of unknowns and not a lot of options if things go wrong.
Think like a start-up. A good way to test a new market, idea, or website project is to build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
I recommend doing the same when working with a consultant for the first time. Build your relationship with them with a small project, or sub-tasks of a larger project.
Before you hire a consultant, there are a few things you can do as part of your due diligence.
Look at their existing portfolio of work and contributions
Find their website and their portfolio of existing work. Search for them and/or their company name on Companies House, Google, and social media.
Are they active in the WordPress community? Have they made any contributions to WordPress themes, plugins, or the Open Source community? I haven’t personally to date, but it’s something to look out for.
Ask them key questions during the interview
This isn’t a definitive list, but having answered these myself, I feel like they are useful to both parties, when making an assessment about working together.
- Has the consultant completed work for other clients in similar industries/markets?
- Do they have defined processes for each project milestone/phase? Can they summarise them for you?
- What are their specialisms outside of WordPress development?
e.g., marketing, SEO, analytics, social media, etc.
- Do they work on a retainer basis? Are you able to book out time in advance on a regular basis with them for development, support and/or project check-ins?
And a few miscellaneous ones:
- If you need help with other aspects of the project, e.g., design or copywriting. Do they have any trusted partners they would recommend?
- Do they outsource any of their work to subcontractors?
- How does the consultant securely store, manage, and transmit sensitive information?
- Are they registered as a sole trader or limited liability company?
- Do they assign full intellectual property rights to you upon payment/completion?
- Do they have professional indemnity/liability/cybersecurity insurance?
Reach out to their clients and partners
Consultants should have client testimonials and/or case studies available to share, but reaching out to a previous/current client or creative partner is an option if you have specific questions they might be able to answer.
Bear in mind that a lot of consultancy agreements include Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), so although the consultant may have worked in your industry previously, they may not be able to provide a reference for it.
About my WordPress consultancy services
I’ve been a freelance WordPress consultant for small organisations since I started my company in 2013. Before that, I worked as a cybersecurity consultant in Canary Wharf.
I like to be direct with my advice. My clients value my clear, concise approach.
I have my own opinions of how I think things should be done, but I will always defer to tools and strategies that have been proven to work in a real business context.
My approach isn’t to use the latest fad technologies, which may be short-lived and require specialist support. Instead, I prefer to use traditional technologies built on top of solid platforms.
My goal is to produce a long-lasting ROI for my clients that doesn’t need costly specialist maintenance and support retainers over the lifetime of the project.
Have a look at my about page if you’d like to know more.