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Virtual Team Building: Putting the Fun in Fundamentals

Virtual Team Building: Putting the Fun in Fundamentals

This was originally posted on the Liquid Web blog.

Liquid Web’s Executive Vice President and General Manager on creating a virtual team building atmosphere where individuals feel valued, supported, and part of a community.

A company culture in which employees feel challenged, work with people they enjoy, and work for people who “have their back” creates an atmosphere of high performance, loyalty, positivity, and frankly, fun.

In my last blog, fundamentals of management, we talked about the fundamentals being more critical than ever given our current global pandemic situation. Now, as we face the reality of an extended stay-at-home work-life situation, it is also imperative that we maintain a strong community for the sake of our employees. A company culture in which a worker feels valued and supported as an individual is vital in even the best of circumstances. Given the current global situation, the importance of maintaining your culture and your “community” magnifies. 

In my experience, keeping employees motivated and with high morale take priority, and it’s essential to make sure you have these bases covered:

  • Ensure each employee knows how they fit into the bigger picture, and how their role contributes to the success of the company.  
  • Reinforce with employees that management “has their back,” that employees are empowered, can take some risks, and that you’ll be there to support them.  
  • Take the time to ensure employees feel valued and are compensated fairly for the job they are doing. Sure, everyone would like to make more money, but sometimes that’s not what it’s all about. Make sure their compensation is fair and equitable to their peers for the job they are doing.  

And then, to tie it all together, most employees want to have a sense of community – not just from the neighborhood in which they live, but in their place of work, as well. Layering on a strong sense of community in a way that matches your culture can take your team from good to great.   

People are happiest when working in an environment that is in line with their values. A company culture in which employees feel challenged and are working alongside people they enjoy creates an atmosphere of positivity and productivity. And a part of liking someone is knowing someone—like really knowing them—on a level deeper than what their role is in the company. In times like this, it is essential that people feel connected to one another. 

Here’s where the FUN in fundamentals can come in…

Now is a great time to spend time thinking about how you all stay connected. Here are some things we are doing at Liquid Web to ensure that our team doesn’t feel isolated, and that every single employee knows that we have their back while keeping morale high and infusing some fun into a virtual work setting. A little something for all interests and personality types.  

I’d love to hear what you’re doing – hit me up @cawheeler99 on Twitter and share!

Themed Meetings

If you have a recurring meeting on the calendar, consider adding a bit of fun by giving it a theme. Every Friday, wear a certain color. My team enjoys Hat Fridays. Try different themes based on a decade or destination.

Games

At the beginning of meetings, ask someone to send in a photograph. Everyone has to guess who sent it in. When the sender is identified, they get a chance to share a bit about the photo they sent and why it’s meaningful to them. 

Gift Exchanges

Draw names using a gift exchange generator, set a budget, and let the fun begin. If budget is an issue, try doing a DIY gift exchange in which gifts must be made using only items that the giver has on hand in their home. This is a really fun way to let employee creativity shine. 

Netflix Watch Parties

This is a fun way for employees to stay connected. We’ve also opened this up to families and have kid-friendly viewing options. 

Roulette Hangouts

Groups of 4-6 participants are randomly selected to have a 15-30 minute hangout session to talk shop, interests, or favorite Baby Yoda memes. Sample questions are provided as a starting point to get the ball rolling, but participants are free to talk about anything they want to get the conversation flowing.

Virtual Home Tours

Ask employees to share their favorite part of their home, whether that’s a room, a piece of furniture, or an object. Find out what’s bringing employees comfort in these times when so many of us are housebound. 

Art Exchanges

Employees fill out a questionnaire about their interests and personality. They are then matched with an employee from a different location. The two swap questionnaires and, based on the other person’s answers, they paint or draw a small 4×4 piece of art for their new friend. 

Volunteer Initiatives

Set up Slack channels based on locations that allow employees to share information about ways to help in their communities. 

Hidden Talents

Hosting a virtual Talent Show is an excellent way to get to know your colleagues better. Everyone gets five minutes. Acts can range from serious to silly. Laughter is inevitable and you might just discover a secret opera singer in your midst. 

Happy Hour Team Meetings

This is a great way to unwind at the end of the week. Close out the week with a meeting that allows teams to check in about the week over their beverage of choice. 

Themed Photo Contests

Every week, choose a stay-at-home friendly theme (like food, pets, from my window) and host a photo contest. Feature the best submission at the start of a team meeting.

Resource-Sharing for Parents and Caregivers

Start a Slack channel for sharing resources like online learning, tips for keeping kids entertained, and how to balance working from home while managing education at home. 

For large companies with lots of employees, variety is essential. Try different approaches and see what resonates. One silver lining of these very trying times is that, if we can find ways to forge the connections that this season calls for, we will know one another more deeply—and we may even be more productive—than we ever have before.   

Be safe out there, and have some FUN!

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How to Become a Freelance WordPress Developer

How to Become a Freelance WordPress Developer

With more than 35% of all websites using WordPress, you can tell it’s absolutely massive and is very much still growing. There is still a ton of room for good people to do good work and create a thriving business with WordPress. Today, we’re going to look into becoming a freelance WordPress developer.

I’m going to talk about getting started as a WordPress developer but you can use this same advice if you are a designer or even a writer in the WordPress space. Yes, you will need to find different teaching resources, but the most important elements, like making good decisions and building your reputation, are essentially the same across different fields.

WordPress.org Homepage

Start With Why

If you want to start your own business, it needs to begin with a pretty good reason. Sure, the freedom of working where & when you want is great, but you can get that with many jobs now. You don’t need to take on all the terrible parts of running a company yourself to get freedom in where you work.

That means you need to have a separate reason to run your own business outside of having freedom. One of the reasons I work for myself is that in addition to getting to write what I want, I get to take the time to help parents run a business that lets them be an awesome father or mother. Taking a job at a company would mean that I can’t sit down in the middle of the day to write about being a dad running a business.

I accept all the downsides of running my own business because I get to help the parents I interact with be the awesome people they dreamed of being. When I’m having a down day because someone hasn’t paid me, I remember someone I’ve helped and keep pushing forward.

Ask yourself:

  • Why will I put up with the hard days of working for myself?
  • Who specifically can I help by working for myself that I can’t help otherwise?

Understanding Your Value

The next thing to tackle when you work for yourself is understanding the value you bring to the table. 

When you’re starting as a developer it’s easy to think that the most valuable thing you bring to the table is writing code for your clients. Your clients also think that this is the highest value thing you do for them but you’re both wrong!

Coin jar

The most important thing an experienced developer brings to the table is the wisdom to make good decisions. When you know which of the 10 WordPress form plugins suits this project best, you are bringing value to the table. 

Making the right decision about putting code in a plugin or in the theme is another valuable bit of knowledge that clients don’t have. The code you type out is simply the visible evidence of that knowledge.

A good way to start talking about value with your client is in your initial email with them. I’ve shared my initial client email previously. Please note, the questions center around the value that the client expects from the project. I don’t worry much about the hours that something will take when I’m starting to talk to a client. At that point of the process they don’t even care.

The only thing a client cares about is that your fees provide value to them. They want to know that if you’re going to charge $5k to build their site, they’re going to get at least $10k of value out of it in the next year. If you want to charge well for your services, then you need to show your clients that they will get value from the work you do.

If you leave the value question to chance then you’re not going to win much work.

Ask yourself:

  • How can I show my client they’ll make 3X or more from my work?
  • Where can I help a client avoid known problems?

Learning the Field

WPSessions

There are a few steps to learning any field. First, it starts with some research so that you know what the best sources of information are. One good spot to start for almost any field is LinkedIn Learning. They hire top professionals in the industry to provide training.

For WordPress development you can get some deeper dives once you’ve got a handle on the basics:

The biggest mistake that people make as they start learning anything is waiting for too long to get their work out there in the world. You will always be better tomorrow. Your code will be cleaner, your writing will be more concise, and your design will be tighter.

Start putting your work out there by picking a personal project, building it and then sharing it with people. Share it on social networks and ask for feedback. Most people in WordPress remember everyone that helped them and are happy to spend a few minutes helping someone that is just starting out.

Finding Your First Freelance Job

Jobs.WordPress.Net

Now, how about finding your first job as a WordPress professional? Do you know where to start?

When you don’t know anyone you’re going to need to use places like Craigslist, Upwork and Fiverr to find clients. When I started out on my own, I made a rule that I needed to make 10 new contacts a day with potential clients. Sometimes at the end of the day, that would be done just by new emails coming in via an ad on Craigslist but other days I’d search far and wide for anyone to contact about doing work for their WordPress site.

Two popular places to get started at are Fiverr and Upwork so let’s take a quick look at both options.

Fiverr

Fiverr is no longer people doing jobs for $5. You can put a range of prices on your work. On Fiverr, you put your ad out there and then customers come to you to get you to do the work. You don’t have to come up with a custom proposal for each project you want to work on.

Even 10 years into building sites on WordPress, I’ve used Fiverr to try out new services because of the built-in audience. I may reduce the prices a bit to hit the audiences that Fiverr attracts, but otherwise, it’s the same service I’ll use with clients once it’s been tested, adjusted, and validated as something people want.

Upwork

Like Fiverr, Upwork has a built-in audience of projects. Some companies will only work with contractors that use Upwork as a platform. If you’re looking for a large selection of projects, then you can log in to your Upwork account and select from a huge volume of projects.

The downside with  Upwork is that you have to create a proposal for each project you want a chance at working on. That adds a bunch of unpaid administrative work to your plate.

Both of these platforms are valuable under different circumstances. Decide which one is right for your current situation, timelines, and gaps in current project load.

Other places to find WordPress work

If you don’t have your daily quota of new contacts, start to go through these sites to make sure that you reach out enough potential clients to keep your business going. To really take your career to the next level though, you need to start building your reputation in your field.

Use Blogging to Build your Reputation as a Freelance WordPress Developer

If you’re working for yourself, your goal should be to position yourself as an expert so that customers come calling looking for your expertise. To get that happening you need to take the initiative and start showing customers that you are an expert before they work with you.

One of the easiest ways is to start publishing your own content on your site. When I began my WordPress journey every time I’d have a problem that I had to look up and solve I’d write a blog post about the problem and the solution. I’d make sure to title my content with the search terms I had used at the beginning of my journey.

This quickly got other developers to notice me, and 10 years later Hostdedi asked me to write for them. I write for Hostdedi now because someone on their team noticed my work and started to follow me.

If you can, take the time to write something and add a screencast explaining the problem. Some people will prefer the video and others will prefer to read through the text of your post, or maybe even just jump to the code. Even if you’re just starting, teach what you’re learning once you have a bit of a handle on it.

When I was writing about WordPress code issues, a single post solving a problem brought in $15k that year alone, and then $10k a year for the next five years based on a single client that found that content. My quick easy fix was something they could do themselves, but they had a bunch of other problems with their eCommerce site that they needed me to fix. Even a few weeks into your learning journey, what feels easy for you will be amazing to someone else.

Becoming Your Own Boss Takes Work

Working for yourself is not all beaches and breaks. It takes lots of work to succeed as your own boss, but you can do it. To build a successful WordPress Development business make sure you have a solid reason why you’re working for yourself. Take the time to understand the value you provide to your clients so you can charge properly. Learn to find your ideal customers, and market yourself as a professional.

If you can do these things, then you can become a freelance WordPress Developer and run a business that you love to work in.

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