Episode 061: Why do WordPress developers get paid less?

Aired: 09/05/2017

Today we discuss payment, or salaries. There are many job openings out there for developers, and the average web developer can make close to six figures pretty easily, but how do WordPress developers fit into that average?

WordPress Salaries Are Consistently Less

No matter how you spin it, unless you are working for an enterprise fortune 500 company, it is not going to be easy to make great money with WordPress. When I look at jobs offered anytime the title has “WordPress” in it, the offered salary range is usually less, sometimes significantly.

I’m not saying this is the case for ALL WordPress developers and opportunities, but just looking at a few different types of jobs and comparing them to similar jobs (similar requirements) that don’t have the “WordPress” in the title.

Remove “WordPress” Get Paid More

I’ve talked about this a few times in the past, either in podcasts or in talks of mine I give at WordCamps. Removing the “WordPress” from your desired job title can easily put you in the position to make more money.

I’ll take myself an example. I was working at a up and coming agency in Hollywood, loved it, the people and the perks were awesome. However there was as shift away from WordPress as new leadership took over and I being paid so well (80k) compared to the other developers, I’d have to shift with it. I immediately started to look for new positions and realized that “WordPress” was keeping me from hitting my goal at the time, 100K. I searched and applied for a month, then realized that I need to start applying for jobs without WordPress at all. I quickly found a job doing PHP in CakePHP at a small company, and while it wasn’t my goal salary, it was far closer than the 60-70K WordPress jobs I had seen and interviewed for.

WordPress in Enterprise

There is one exception to this rule, and that is enterprise. A lot of money for websites and web work comes from enterprise. Enterprise companies usually keep a few contractors (if not a contract development company) around because priorities and resources are harder to spin up when you are in enterprise. For example if a new project comes in and it doesn’t have top priority, enterprise would choose to outsource it to a team they have a working relationship with. The same goes for projects that are high priority and there aren’t enough resources, its easier to hire or pay for a couple extra hands temporarily than hire and train new developers.

The great thing about enterprise, is they are consistent and usually have larger budgets to work with, so agencies can afford to pay their employees more for the work. I have spoken to a few people who either directly contract or contract through agency, and they are making industry standard wages (if not higher) for WordPress work that outside of the enterprise wouldn’t see that high of a rate.

The Race to the Bottom

The last thing that is really affecting the price of WordPress projects is the sheer flooded market of WordPress developers who consult. WordPress is a great platform that can do so many things between building a simple brochure website to feeding custom phone applications. It is great because it can do so much, but because it starts out in the “very basic” and the barrier to entry is low for someone to learn how to use and build with WordPress, sites are getting cheaper.

When I first started building website and WordPress was just coming out as really this great thing, it was easy to find high paying website projects. Around the time Custom Post Types became a thing I remember easily charging $15k for SIMPLE websites that really only needed some minor code work to get going. The community was small still, and WordPress hadn’t taken over the Internet yet. Back then WordPress wasn’t something you said you were going to use either, clients weren’t savvy enough to know so you just kept your mouth shut and delivered a WordPress site.

As the community grew and people saw how easy it was to build websites with even NO CODE needed, it became harder to find the $15K projects, or rather those projects went from $15K to $10K and now you’d have a hard time finding that same project for around $5k since so many contractors out there charge $1K (or less) for that same build.

This dilutes the value of a WordPress developer in the open market. If someone is only valuable enough to build a $1k website, you’d have to sell over 100 of them every year to justify a 100K salary. That is averaging over 8 per month for 1 developer. I don’t know about you, but that sounds horrible. 8 websites? I know this is a slippery slope, so not all agencies will charge that low (I hope not). However, if 1 developer is willing to bill $1k for a website, and now gets a job offer for $60k to work for an agency, they’d take it. An agency will charge more, so the developer may have to work on 1-2 sites a month which at their $1k per site price would only get them to $24k, to get paid more than double that for less work, how could you pass up?

WordPress Paid Less

One thought on “Episode 061: Why do WordPress developers get paid less?

  1. Greg says:

    Interesting article. Sums it up nicely.

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