Dean Wormald: Meet a Travelling WordPress Freelancer & Entprepreneur

Today we team up with Dean Wormald from ‘You Make the Website’, a very interesting character who talks to us about working with WordPress, travelling and freelancing. He also gives us an insight into his plans for this year, including the launch of some very interesting tools for freelancers.

Thanks for joining us today Dean, let’s start with some introductions. Tell us how long you’ve been working with WordPress and why you started using this system?

I’m an Aussie, ex-agency Interactive Producer and current amateur entrepreneur. My first language is HTML (self-taught in 1997) and my second language is Japanese (I’ve been traveling Japan for about 9 months now).

During my 15 years in digital I’ve worked agency and client side as an Interactive Producer, focusing on project management and UX/IA planning, with and for brands like Microsoft, Xbox, IKEA, Lipton, Mars and more. The entire time I’ve been freelancing on the side, creating websites with WordPress for local businesses and executing local search strategies – this has always been more enjoyable than working on big budget campaign sites. I get so much more job satisfaction when helping the “little” guys get results.

WordPress has been the platform of choice for me since 2006 – I’d never even heard of it until then – our teams were always so focused on building high-end flash websites or spending weeks customising open-source CMSs. While working for an agency in Sydney, a low-budget/quick turn-around job came in and the lead developer said “why don’t we just build this on WordPress?”.

The reason why I adopted the system since then, is I wanted to focus on strategic planning, information architecture and user interface planning (wireframes and prototypes – not design) of a website in my freelance jobs. I spent far too much time doing site maintenance for clients while freelancing, which wasn’t my core business – WordPress enabled clients to easily update sites themselves.

We know that you’ve been doing some traveling, how has WordPress helped you in achieving this goal? Do you have any tips for other developers who dream of traveling and working at the same time?

WordPress and the WordPress community have actually helped me have some great experiences that the normal traveler would never get to have! I’ve been able to travel and do freelance work at the same time.

I started a travel blog about Japan and have been writing about the places I’ve visited over the last 9 or 10 months. I’m on a mission to see as many World Heritage Sites as possible… I’ve nearly seen all of the 17 in Kyoto. Not only has advertising from the site supplemented my income to help me travel more, it also caught the eye of local media and other traveler bloggers.

These bloggers and media agencies have invited me to events and places – like WordBeach 2011 in Nagoya, unique cultural festivals and private parties.

In Japan I’ve been travelling, freelancing and teaching English. The travelling and teaching will end in March this year, when I’ll be able to enjoy living anywhere I want in Australia (likely travelling there, too!) while making money through freelancing and my products showing people how to make a website.

In the year prior to my current “full-time” traveling stint, I started new work processes for all new clients and changed the way I worked with existing clients. Ultimately, the goal was to educate myself to get more information from clients with less interaction. In the beginning, one or two clients asked if we would ever have a face-to-face meeting, but through refining the work processes, they became more and more satisfied.

My advice if you want to travel and work at the same time – educate/train yourself and over time on how to get more out of your client with less communication. And if you’re keen on blogging, write a quality blog about your travels – it definitely has the potential to make money.

Can you mention some plugins that you find yourself relying on when developing new WordPress sites?

With each new WordPress site build I have a checklist of plugins to install:

  • Faster Image Insert (a recent addition to the checklist, thanks to the recent post on WPMayor)
  • Google XML Sitemaps
  • jQuery Image Lazy Load WP
  • PC Robots.txt
  • Platinum SEO Pack
  • SEO Slugs
  • W3 Total Cache
  • WP-Optimize

The reason these particular plugins are used, is that they have a good balance of functionality, low-resource usage and an easy-to-use interface (except for W3 Total Cache, which I fully configure) for clients to be able to work with them.

What new features would you like to see in upcoming versions of WordPress?

  • Batch inserting of media has long been a feature I’ve wished to see built in. I’m now using the Faster Image Insert plugin you posted about, it’s one of the best admin integrated plugins I’ve seen. It should become a standard feature.
  • Colour coding of code in the HTML view of the page/post editor would be a nice touch. It’s tough to wade through the code sometimes, especially as WordPress doesn’t keep tab indents, etc, if you want to format your code layout.
    (Editorial note: Advanced Code Editor does give you colour coding on the Plugin and Theme editing pages, although not yet in the page/post editor)
  • Enhanced customisation of the admin interface – in particular the ability to hide or re-order the left side menu items.
  • Instant preview – the ability to hook up your .css file/s to the WYSIWYG editor, so it is really a WYSIWYG editor in the truest of senses. Instead of constantly hitting the Preview button when fine-tuning a page or post, you can see it all within the editor.

Any online tools or resources you use on a daily basis?

KISSmetrics are always posting quality stuff, they are a stand-out in the digital marketing niche. At the moment I’ve been reading a lot from Social Triggers, Sparring Mind and PsyBlog.

Recently I’ve started getting into advanced CSS3. It’s great to see what others are doing on sites like CSS3.info (http://www.css3.info/) and CSS Tricks (http://css-tricks.com/) I’m in the process of a site redesign and these blogs are great resources.

Tell us a bit about your plans for 2012, we know you’re working on a new version of youmakethewebsite.com.au, tell us more about it and what value this product will be providing.

Youmakethewebsite.com.au is a test model for a product I created. The product is an instructional eBook with a package of templates/files and access to a support forum, showing novice users how to plan, make, promote and maintain a website using WordPress. It’s a test model for the Australian market and the new version (coming in the first half of 2012) is an expanded “international version” of the guide.

With the release of the international version, a new product will also be launched. It targets a different audience – I’m in the process of creating a set of tools and templates for freelancers (designers, developers, project managers and producers). These tools are all industry standard when working in agencies, however I’m always surprised to hear many freelancers working without them.

The new product will help freelancers initiate, plan, manage and close-out a project in a more professional and efficient way.

The goal with all the products I’m creating is to give the DIY site creator, freelancer or small agency the stuff they need to succeed when making websites.

Be the first to know about the upcoming international eBook as well as the new product for freelancers by following the You Make The Website blog.

I’d like to say a big thanks to you Jean for interviewing me. It’s great to see fellow WordPress enthusiasts and site owners creating such a great community. It’s one of the best things about WordPress.

Thanks to Dean for his availability and for providing us with an inside view of the way he works. It’s great to know about the freedom that tools like WordPress can help you achieve. Would you like to share your experiences with us? Get in touch and you might be the next person interviewed on WPMayor.

About Jean Galea

Jean Galea is a WordPress developer, entrepreneur and padel player. He is the founder of WP Mayor, the plugins WP RSS Aggregator and EDD Bookings, as well as the Mastermind.fm podcast. His personal blog can be found at jeangalea.com.

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