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What Your “WordPress Consultant” Isn’t Telling You (About WordPress)

So I’ve got a pet peeve! I get irritated when people who need help turn to consultants — supposed experts — for help and are misled or fed incorrect or outdated information simply because the consultant doesn’t know the answer and they don’t want to admit it.

This drives me especially CRAZY in the WordPress world. Lies, myths, untruths, and false information about WordPress is being fed to business owners left and right — and it’s perpetuating false beliefs.

Let me explain. I LOVE WordPress — all of our sites are built for WordPress and I love the fact that it allows our clients to have total control over their websites. But this ability comes at a price. Now anyone can open a hosting account, install a theme, and plop in a custom header can call themselves a WordPress web designer or WordPress consultant. There are even some calling themselves WordPress developers that can’t even read PHP!

Why? Because WordPress is a “Hot Topic” for entrepreneurs who want to start online businesses. And for some, these so-called “Hot Topics” mean easy and fast cash.

Naturally we’re seeing a boom in the number of WordPress consultants and WordPress web designers … but they all aren’t qualified, and they all don’t even understand how WordPress works at its core.

So now the internet is littered with so-called experts selling WordPress services — be it design, coding, theme customization, or maintenance — who know enough to be dangerous and sound really good. Unfortunately, most of our new clients come to us with horror stories about past “consultants” and the thousands of dollars they have lost in the process — pretty much all good designers and programmers can say the same thing, and we’re frustrated.

Here’s what your WordPress expert may be telling you about WordPress:

  • “You can’t do that with WordPress.”
  • “WordPress is only for blogs.”
  • “That’s one of the limitations of a WordPress website.”
  • “The only way to add sales pages and opt-in pages is with a separate installation of WordPress and a different theme like Optimize Press”
  • “With WordPress you’re stuck with their templates.”
  • “WordPress is only for basic sites.”
  • “I know you have a WordPress site, but its better to do your sales pages in plain HTML with Dreamweaver”

Each and every one of these statement is completely false. If your WordPress consultant has said one of these to you, Yikes! I’d think twice about moving forward with them.

Fortunately, you’re smart enough to read our blog (THANKS!) — so you can be guaranteed you do have a resource with up to date, honest, trustworthy information.

Here’s The Real Truth About WordPress:

If you can imagine it, it can be done with WordPress. Existing themes can be altered and changed in any way you want, and with a custom theme, you start from a blank slate so you have no limitations. WordPress doesn’t limit the possibilities of design and code. If anything, it adds to the possibilities.

And you’re not limited to existing themes/templates. New custom WordPress themes are created for businesses around the world every day. At Bourn Creative, the majority of all website project we do are completely one-off custom WordPress themes built on the Genesis Framework.

If someone tells you that you can’t do what you want to do with WordPress, what they’re really saying is, “I can’t do that with WordPress,” but they’re afraid to admit that, or they are afraid to lose your business. Or in some cases, they really mean, “You’re not paying me enough for that,” but they don’t know how to communicate with you effectively or are too uncomfortable to ask for more money.

The same goes for the sales page nonsense.

Sales page templates, both branded and completely blank, can be added to any WordPress site. We add them to existing themes all the time, and we include them in every custom theme we design. When you have a WordPress site, you should create all of your sales pages and opt-in pages on your site so you can use the built in content editor and easily edit the page yourself anytime you want to.

If you own a WordPress site, there is no reason to create new sales pages in static HTML — except for the fact that your consultant may only know how to use Dreamweaver (which generates the code for them). There is also no reason to have several different WordPress installations for every sales page you have. Unique sales page templates can be added to ANY existing WordPress site — and that means you only have to manage and keep updated ONE installation of WordPress.

As for the claim that WordPress is only for basic sites, give me a break! Here are just a few of the high-profile, not-so-basic sites that are based:

Clearly, we’re not the only people who love WordPress!

As the fastest growing content management system available and the most popular blogging software, there is a huge community of amazingly talented designers and developers who are pushing WordPress further and further each day. So please, do you homework before hiring a consultant, designer, or programmer — and don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.

It can … it just depends on how much you want to spend.

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Comments & Feedback:Check out what others have to say about this post!

  1. Rachel Baker

    Instead of ‘You can’t do that with WordPress’ what about ‘You shouldn’t do that with WordPress’?

    I am a WordPress developer, and while WordPress is my favorite tool in my toolbox – it isn’t always the best tool for a project.

    • Rachel – I do agree with you there. There are some things that may be better suited to other technology … but we don’t deal with those types of projects. We know what we’re kick ass at and we stick to it. We refer anyone who needs a different skill set to another developer or design company. I’m a big believer in doing what you’re great at, and letting others handle the stuff you’re mediocre at, because it’s probably what they’re brilliant at.

  2. This has been a recent rant of mine lately.

    I’m sick of all the “500 club” consultants that have been popping up left and right. Because there’s such a low barrier of entry to WordPress/hosting as you point out – great quality work is getting harder and harder to sell to folks.

    One might say, well sell to bigger business. I know plenty of my WP colleagues who make real good money only working in the enterprise sector. REAL good money.

    My team and I are still fighting in the trenches of small and micro business. Mom and pop to companies with less than 50 employees. So while it’s easy to say go after the bigger fish, those fish have the cash and resources to succeed. It’s the smaller guy/gal that needs this stuff done right to really shine and improve their business.

    I encounter less of the “it can’t be done” and more of the “he said it could be done for a few hundred dollars and he’s going to design a mobile app for me.”

    Folks, a mobile app is NOT WP-touch. Also, they aren’t designing anything, they are buying a .50 cent theme from elegant theme and hacking up the code to do what you want.

    So when you’re brand experience suffers from a poor theme with a useless mobile interface and your $4/mo host gets infected, and the 18year old you hired looking to make enough to buy a 30 rack left your admin password – “password” – you should have taken the time to get it done right and spend a little more up front the first time.

    • Matt – I think you just became my new best friend. That last part had me cracking up because you sound just like me!

      We encounter the same thing. And please let me set the record straight. “NO that guy on CraigsList who’s offering to build you a custom site, design your logo, run an AdWords campaign, and drive thousands of people to your website for only $500 is full of crap. So when you waste your money, and end up sending 10 times that to fix the mess he makes, and you’re frustrated because you wish you’d hired us in the first place, we’ll still be here ready to help you out… and I’ll only say ‘told you so’ to myself.”

      It baffles me that so many SMART business owners actually believe that they can “make millions” online working with someone who advertises all that on CraigsList for $500.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with you. Nothing frustrates me more than when people say something can’t be done, whether they’re talking about the Web in general, or talking about WordPress. The bottom line is, there are very few things that are impossible; it’s just a matter of helping clients understand how much time & effort it might take to accomplish the goal.

    I have to admit, I’m a bit surprised that the one educational institution in your list of WordPress websites is a school within UNC, when there are so many other higher ed institutions that are much more heavily invested in WordPress. The University of Mary Washington (my employer) is running its entire website on WordPress; Maryville University is doing the same; University of Florida is running much of its Web presence on WordPress; and so many more (with new ones popping up almost every week).

    • Curt – I love to hear of even more schools using WordPress … and the only reason I didn’t list them is because I didn’t know :) There are so many amazing sites using WordPress and really pushing what it can do. Thanks for sharing these examples too.

      And I agree with you. The key is better communication. Don’t hide behind the blanket statement that it can’t be done with WordPress … “I don’t know” is a valid answer. “I may have to bring in another developer to achieve that” or “I’m sure it can be done, but we’re not the ones to do it, you may wan to contact…” are also respected answers. Your clients don’t expect you to have every answer to every question or every skillset in the book. If you did, you wouldn’t be working for them :) What they do expect is honesty.

  4. Jennifer, great points here. This type of ‘fauxpert’ is all over the social web. Too many people pretending to be experts in areas they have very little experience in. Your post caught my attention on Triberr because this is the type of thing we’re trying to get rid of on I think you’ll like our in-house WordPress gal Rachael Butts:

    Again, thanks for the tips. There needs to be more people like you out there spreading the word so people get real help. :)

    • Thanks DJ! This is a huge pet peeve of mine. The salesman that was failing at sales and became a WordPress consultant. The customer service representative turned theme customization expert simply because she did her own site for a few hours. The CPA who is now a “web designer” because she can install a theme and tweak the colors. The coach who couldn’t get a client, so now they’re a web expert … All of these are just tips of the iceberg … Unfortunately the web is littered with “experts” who really don’t have a clue, but they see it as easy money.

      I do believe that over time these wanna-be experts will get vetted out. But it drives me crazy to see them dilute the industry, bring down the value of what the true experts do, and often give designers and developers a bad name.

      Thanks for sharing the resource and the introduction to Rachael too – I’ll look her up :)

  5. I love it when you get fired up!

    What a great post… AND, here’s the thing, I’d think twice about ANY consultant in ANY area who comes back with “it can’t be done…”

    Oh, really?

    I like to attract and work with solution-oriented people rather than nay-sayers. Come back to me with a simple solution, or it is not interesting to me.

    Thanks for Standing Up for Solutions!

    Love, Katherine.

    • Katherine — Amen to that! Bring a solution. No one wants to hear it can’t be done. They want to hear how it can be done — even if that means bringing in outside help — and what the investment will be, so they can make an informed decision.

  6. I’m pretty hip to technology, but was honestly intimidated by WordPress based on the same bunk you speak of in this post. My designer finally called me out on not slowing down enough to simply try it out. Now I’m months behind. I wish I could have read this blog in July! Thanks for another fantastic post!

    • Thanks Amber! I know that online tech and websites can be intimidating … and there are so many options with WordPress — from themes, to plugins, to hosting, to design, to management, and blogging — I know it can be a lot to take in by a new business owner!

      That’s why we include so much education and training with every one of our projects, so our clients feel empowered and excited to become website owners and managers!

  7. Wow, nice post! So glad I found this in Triber and took the time to really read it. Great comments, too. I am a social media consultant and trainer and set up my own, simple WordPress blog when I started nearly two years ago. Sometime early this year, I realized I was ready for an upgraded website as my client base had grown and my business had matured and bought a new theme (Genesis framework) thinking I could do it. Money badly spent as I fairly quickly realized I could not do anything with it. Long story short, after one frustrating weekend playing with it, I called a web designer, told them what I wanted and my new website is fantastic. I outsource all my clients webdesign and advocate WordPress to them all. I hear your frustration with the so-called experts. I get that in social media management, too! Nice to connect. :)

    • Dorien – I feel you! Many of our new business leads come to us after buying a theme and spending HOURS AND HOURS trying to customize it themselves … then they eventually give up, realizing they’d have spent less if they’d hired someone (based on their value of their time).

      And yes, I’d say the social media market I’d say is even more saturated with “wanna be experts” and “fake-it-til-you-make-it” experts. It just means business owners need to be vigilant bout doing their homework!

  8. I love this post Jennifer and while I’m in no way a WordPress developer, I can totally relate in other areas. There are far too many supposed experts who spew a whole lot of worthless advice and then hide behind a phone or computer when things go wrong.

    I do believe the tide will turn and we will see a whole new appreciation for quality and sound advice rather than cheap, easy and fast. Until that happens, I say, RANT ON!!

  9. Jennifer,

    As always SOLID content, resources and examples. This is exactly why I am confident in sending business your way regularly. And one of my biggest pet peeves is being told something cannot be done.

    Write on!~

    Lisa Manyon

    • Lisa – Thanks! It’s so important to us that our clients, peers, and network of business owners and entrepreneurs have a trusted resource they can turn to for solid information that is fact, not “best-guess” … that is written from first-hand experience, not “regurgitation of someone else’s blog.”

  10. Ran into a website, graphic designer who I met with a few years ago.
    At that time I was asking about wordpress since that is what I wanted
    for the sites I was working on for me and a handful of clients. She said
    ‘wordpress’ is for amateurs, real sites are html. Well here we are today
    and the bulk of her business is creating ‘wordpress’ sites.

    • Mitch – I’m laughing right now because I’ve heard the same thing said! When we made the decisions several years ago to become a WordPress web design company – specializing in and building for WordPress only, some of my design peers and business friends thought we were crazy.

      I too was told that WordPress was for amateurs and hobbyists … that it couldn’t be used for anything serious. I was told were were shooting ourselves in the foot and that there would never be enough WordPress business to support an agency like ours.

      But I’m the one who is laughing now …

      —> WordPress powers 11% of the top 1000 websites on the web
      —> WordPress powers 17.2% of top 1 million websites
      —> Overall, the estimated usage of WordPress is around 57.5 million websites worldwide

  11. Hi Jennifer,
    Great stuff! I’m a pro WordPress developer myself (and Genesis is my fave framework), and your points are spot on.

    I can see why it happens. A big one is that designers who can’t code want to develop sites. So they hope that they can “framework” their way out of that. I see desperate questions on forums to this effect, many of them angry because their premium system won’t write CSS for them and similar beefs. Finally, they might end up hiring me to finish up what they promised the client. :-)

    Another thing is simply the bad economy. So someone who has a modicum of tech skill will read about WordPress being super hot, so they will attempt to get some work using it, because there are no jobs in their field. And they hit the wall pretty fast.

    It is true that you need the right tool for the job, and it’s not always WP. But WP’s themes can be made to have any look you want, and the system is versatile enough to cover many needs.

    Great article!

    • Thanks Dave! I think you’re right … It is a lot of designers who don’t know how to write code … It is the economy with more people grasping at straws to bring in income … and it is also a lot of virtual assistants who jump on the WordPress bandwagon to make more money, but they over promise and then can’t deliver.

      The old advice of “do your homework” before hiring is always a good one to follow!

  12. I love your passion Jennifer! I’m with you on all counts – from so called “consultants” who don’t even know what they’re doing, over-promising and under-delivering, through my absolute favorite WordPress platform (you wouldn’t believe how many SEO guys told me it’s a question of time when Google punishes all the WordPress based sites – good luck with that ;-), all the way to pricing. I’ve learned early in my business that quality is more important than price. I can much more easily make my money back than recover the lost time or fix a crappy job. Great post!

  13. Jamie Mitchell

    Hi Jennifer, i’m with you too, i have been developing WordPress sites for companies large and small for over 5 years, all custom built and all bringing success to clients, i know my way around WordPress well ( and Genesis) and always push the boundaries.

    Maybe it is the influx of cheap and nasty consultants/designers/developers around, but i am finding it harder each year to pick up quality work, and to be honest, times are getting tough, so much so, i’m seriously thinking of give it all up.

    Can you provide some advice on how, through our websites we can claim back authority, attract better clients and so on.

    Hope you can help, or maybe you can do a post on it (hint)

  14. Right on point Jennifer, couldn’t agree more.

    Yes, WordPress is not the only CMS out there, and no, it shouldn’t be used for every project just because. (Did I hear someone say “what? you didn’t scope your client’s project first?”)

    Having said that, we settle on WordPress for the majority of new web projects for our clients. Why?

    It’s easy to use, for us and clients.
    It’s easy to extend (although filtering the myriad of developers for quality can be tricky).
    It’s easy to support, with one of the most collaborative and non-flammatory (is that even a word?) communities in my experience with all things open source (15 years give or take).
    It helps us focus on our client’s business goals and help support their objectives, rather than having a “my CMS is better than CMS” debate because we have our own pet, in-house framework.

    PS First time visitor and follower thanks to Chris Lema via Twitter. So glad he did.

  15. Hi Jennifer! Great article and thank you. Jumping in a bit late here but I wanted to ask your opinion/definition of what a true WordPress Consultant does. Is it someone that has a deep knowledge of the WordPress backend and knows how to configure widgets and plugins ? Is it someone who knows css, html and php and can take a theme and really make it unique? Is it someone who can build a WordPress Child Theme from scratch? Would love to hear your thoughts on this. I agree that anyone can setup a WordPress website and throw a theme on there. The real talent comes from knowledge of code to tweak and make some serious customizations.

    • Chrissy — I don’t think there is only one definition for the term WordPress Consultant.

      A WordPress Consultant could be someone who helps you figure out the best theme to buy for your business, someone who offers maintenance services, someone who answers support questions, someone who tweaks on existing WordPress themes, someone who builds custom themes, someone who teaches WordPress, etc.

      My issue is that not all WordPress consultants are HONEST about their skill set. They try to offer services they aren’t qualified to offer to make a little extra money. Or instead of answering a questions with I don’t know, they provide an answer even if they don’t know if it is right.

      I think that services providers at all levels can be successful and make a great living — but I also believe you must be 100% HONEST about your skill set.

  16. This is my first time on this site and I have to say this is great article, as part of organization that has been building websites using WordPress, we have heard many horror stories from many new clients who say that they hired so called WordPress experts only to be burned and end up spending money that they did not need to spend in the first place.

    The majority of our work now revolves around fixing errors made by these so called WordPress experts. We as an organization also keep a lot of freelancer developers on our books in the event that we come across something that we cannot solve, although thankfully this very rarely happens, we also take a strong stance on the freelancers and experts we hire by testing each and everyone by giving them tasks before they are put on our books.

    Unfortunately, these so called experts gives the rest of us in the industry a bad name.

    Once again great article keep up the good work.

  17. Jennifer,
    Just want to clarify one point. I actually started learning html/CSS in 2007 when Dreamweaver replaced Golive in the Adobe Creative Suite.

    While DW does have some wysiwyg tools, recent versions have leaned much more heavily toward code. I even started theming with it, including editing PHP and setting up MAMP, with courses.

    PHP integration was new in DW CS5, I think.



    • Mary — I originally learned using Dreamweaver too, and still use it for email templates and plain HTML sites. Now building a theme in Dreamweaver, when you know what you’re doing, is a LOT different than a virtual assistant using it to create tables etc. then cutting and pasting code into a WordPress editor :)

  18. Yes, this post rings home for me. I have a gripe with all these people branding themselves as “experts”. Social media expert Frank says this, Outsourcing expert Jill says that etc. The word expert gets thrown around a lot and is a hard one to define, especially when they just started shop.

    As for WordPress, I agree on your points. Well, I do have another take on the static sales page. I had a client who wanted a job done on a time budget. He bought a domain but had not set anything up. He had a single PSD for his sales page. I had intended to put it into WordPress but after using bootstrap to create the html; I thought again. I was running out of time and the WordPress engine was not needed in this case.

    True, content could become dynamic but I was managing the content anyway – not the client – and it hardly ever changed. The launch was to be done in a couple of days and the site was only to be up for 5 days. The sales page was also rather dated lol. One of those 90s ones.

    But if the salespage was to stay permanently and be tweaked for conversion AND i had been given more time, yes I would have definitely gone WP.

  19. The “enough to be dangerous” really is key to WordPress’ popularity IMO. Amateur WP designers tend to get a big head about their capabilities because they just “plug-in” the missing bits of functionality. Need a carousel? Done. E-commerce? Done! Instead of being a cohesive solution, it’s glued together by duct tape.

    The moment you start selling the technology instead of your experience as a company you become just another commodity provider; sell them on a cohesive solution that’s going to meet their needs.

    As someone who’s done a ton of WP work over the years, honestly I’ve since moved on to more modern systems, like Craft. (It has a simple, yet modern interface and the bones of the system fit more of the types of sites I create; if you love coding your own sites, it doesn’t stand in your way by enforcing the “loop” or other blog-based baggage.)

    From a client’s perspective, if 2 designers are simply pitching the same technology, the one with the lowest price is going to win. Clients don’t care you do everything from scratch or make your own theme. I try not to even mention the CMS unless they ask.

  20. Peter

    WordPress design attracts a lot of fly-by-nighters who are totally out of their depth when it comes to web design and development. WordPress itself is fairly simple to get up and running, meaning that manifestly unqualified people think: “Hey, I can make some money by building WordPress sites for other people. I’ll just fiddle around with a theme that someone else made, chuck in some plugins, and hand over an invoice!”

    In my spare time, I sometimes visit the WordPress support forums to provide trouble-shooting assistance. I’ve noticed that a lot of the queries are from so-called designers who, it seems, have managed to get themselves clients without understanding things like how to handle extremely basic CSS styling and HTML markup, let alone PHP.

    Just today, I saw one rather audacious appeal for help from somebody boasting that they had over a decade of experience in the web design business, knew the ropes and was specialising in mobile-first responsive design.

    His question? How to show big images on big screens and small images on small screens. And he didn’t want to have to use any code, because he didn’t know much about “the technology of PHP”.

    • Peter — It always blows my mind to see professional who do this full time, and offer professional services to clients, asking beginner level questions in public forums, especially on Facebook. With that said, there do need to be service providers willing to work at all budgets levels. It’s just up to the consumer to do their due diligence, and sometimes that can be tough because many don’t know what due diligence to do!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences!

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