How to be a successful freelance WordPress developer: Lessons from, Rahul Bansal, the founder of rtCamp
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Rahul Bansal, the founder of rtCamp; Asia’s first WordPress.com VIP partner agency, began his career as a freelance WordPress (WP) developer. The success of the company today can be traced back to ideas that were born during those days.
Being a freelance, WordPress developer in 2007-08 India is an interesting story for many reasons. Among the lot, the reason why it stands out the most is the choice of platform itself- WordPress. The platform was barely popular in the country at the time.
Asking him about the beginning of the journey and his success as a freelancer will quickly assure you that doing what you enjoy, taking up challenges and learning as you go, will take you a long way.
Right from starting a blog (after watching friend do the same), to taking up freelance projects based on WordPress for the sake of learning more on the platform; which he not only enjoyed using and but also afforded him the freedom to express himself, Rahul Bansal’s choices reflect that enjoying your work and sustaining a hunger for learning can lead to good things for WordPress freelancers.
Enjoy What You Do: Blogging, as the beginning of WordPress Development
The beginning was fairly innocuous. Bansal started a blog in his final year of undergrad. The idea itself emerged as a result of following the work of a friend; who he often copied. Regardless, he began to enjoy the blogging experience. The blog had thousands of subscribers and used to garner half a million page views at it peak. Safe to say Bansal was running a successful blog.
You might wonder- Why start off with the blog, when we are telling you the success story of a freelance WordPress developer?
The reason lies in an anecdote that Bansal recollects. Once, he bid on a project, and to his surprise the client awarded him the project before the details were finalized. Upon inquiring he learnt the client’s reasoning. If Bansal was running such a successful blog, then he must be doing something right.
Showcase Your Work
This might be a good lesson for young WordPress freelancers, or freelancers in all fields. Create a platform to display your skills and work, and the right projects may just find you. As Bansal himself says, “It’s not your academics, [but] it’s your skills [which count] on the Internet.” The blog, which made this possible was Devil’s Workshop. Although it is no longer updated, you can still find the published works posted there.
During this period he chanced upon an opportunity to monetise the blog. This opportunity came in the form of Google AdSense. Having installed it out of curiosity, Bansal realised by the last year of post-graduation that the platform was earning him enough revenue to consider taking up blogging professionally.
However, the task of convincing parents and family members that this was a viable career choice remained.
Bansal drafted an answer for the impending questions, which was simple and for that reason brilliant- His solution was to draw an analogy between his profession and news agencies. While newspapers are distributed to the public at subsidised rates, the revenue is earned through ads. Much the same way, he explained that his blog was like an online newspaper earning revenues from ads. As convincing an answer as this might seem to us, Bansal himself believes that the point which convinced his parents was that he was earning enough from his blog to not take any money from them right from the final year of his M.Tech.
Enjoying the blogging experience led him to a revenue stream through AdSense. The desire to take it up professionally and have more control over the blog and content led him to WordPress.
Learn While You Earn
He had begun to customise his blog and found the coding experience on WordPress easy and enjoyable. Finding work enjoyable was again sufficient for the professional blogger to add freelance WordPress developer to his CV.
Not happy with tinkering with the CMS and learning about it on his own time and money, Bansal came up with an unique approach to help him learn and earn at the same time. He listed all the things which he wanted to learn on WordPress and signed up on sites for freelancers; like freelancers.com.
He says that he chose projects with realistic deadlines and possibilities which required him to learn and work on the list of things he wanted to know on WordPress. This approach ensured that he continued to grow more knowledgeable about the platform which he had grown to appreciate more and more. Besides the extra money didn’t hurt.
A key thing to note here is that the love for the platform led him to the job. Bansal mentions that he was already earning money from ads on his blog. “It was due WordPress that I became a web developer, not the other way around,” he says.
Upfront About the Uptake: Why WordPress
If you ask Bansal why WordPress was his focus in 2008-2009 when the platform had not yet even reared its head in India, like always he has simple and convincing answer. He says that you should develop on a platform which you use. Since WordPress worked for him he worked on solely on this open-source CMS. He was always upfront to the clients about his reasons and motives.
The tactic seems to have paid off. This ensured that most of his clients returned to him. So much so that the workload was starting to expand beyond the capacity of an individual and shortly after his M.Tech, in few months, he would register rtCamp. He didn’t know then but the agency would go on to become Asia’s first and so far only WordPress.com VIP partner agency.
However, Rahul Bansal’s choices and practices, seem to indicate that the seeds for rtCamp’s success were already sown during his freelancing days. The success story, is a tale of being guided by one’s interests, making good; but difficult, choices, and finally making the more difficult choice of sticking by one’s decisions. Freelance WordPress developers and agencies across the country would find good clues to planning their way forward from these ideas.
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