It’s a question we all need to ask ourselves at some point: “How do I diversify my income?”
It’s not like you can’t make a great living from designing WordPress websites. It’s just that that kind of work takes a lot of work. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have your revenue stream strictly dependent on how many hours you work in a day or how many new clients you can sign in a year?
As you know, WordPress development doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to generating recurring revenue. It’s just the nature of the work. A client hires you to design a WordPress website. You spend a month or two building it, maybe longer. Then it’s done. One-off development projects require you to continually be on the hunt for new income streams.
Add to that the fact that freelancing isn’t always the most stable line of work. Since you work on contracts and are not a hired employee, you never know if or when a client might fire you. Or if a new client will fail to pay and force you to chase down the money owed for months. Or if the next holiday season will bring a lull in business as clients are reluctant to spend money while next year’s budget is hammered out.
Whether you’re a new WordPress developer who’s looking for a quicker way to ramp up earnings, or you’re a seasoned professional hoping to bring greater stability to your revenue, you would benefit from diversifying your income. By finding alternative revenue streams, you can give yourself more time, more peace of mind, more revenue, and a more attractive skill set to help you sell your services to clients in the first place.
24 Ways to Diversify Your Income as a WordPress Professional
There are different ways to diversify your income as a WordPress professional, and the one(s) you choose will depend on where you are in your career.
For instance, if you’re brand new to WordPress development, you won’t have any brand name recognition or a trusted client base to tap into to upsell things like ongoing services or add-ons. If you’re a seasoned professional, on the other hand, you might want to spend more time on tasks that complement the offering people are already clamoring for.
Before you go jumping into any one of these areas, really think about which of these would practically help you earn more money while also adding value for your clients.
You might also want to think about what you want your main revenue stream to be, too. Below, I’m going to include some examples of WordPress developers and designers who branched out into other areas, only for those areas to eventually become their primary focus. You never know where this diversification of income will take you…
1. Pick up a New Specialty
Have you ever found yourself interested in what the other parties involved in WordPress web development do?
For instance, your focus has always been on coding, but you’re pretty sure you’d also be really great at search engine optimization since you’ve always had a strong interest in how Google’s search algorithms work.
Or maybe you always had a talent for writing despite getting hired strictly for your programming skills. You might want to use this opportunity to create content of your own derived from your first-hand experiences using WordPress.
There’s nothing that says you have to be just one thing and stick to it–especially if it gives you a better understanding of how the entire ecosystem of a WordPress site works.
You actually see this a lot as you look around the web:
- WordPress developer/designer
- UX/UI designer
- WordPress blogger/speaker
If you have the skills, consider diversifying your income first by getting yourself a hyphenated job title.
2. Sell Your Themes
It’s inevitable that, as you spend more time within WordPress, you’re going to gravitate towards certain parts of it more than others. If WordPress themes happen to be your thing, you might want to think about building your own.
Ben Gillbanks has a pretty neat example of this.
According to his bio, he is a WordPress developer and designer who used to work as the Director of Web Development for an online games site. Nowadays, however, his full-time focus is on building and selling WordPress themes.
3. Sell Your Plugins
If themes don’t do it for you, but you’re in love with all the awesome things WordPress plugins do, you could go that route instead. This would be an especially good fit if you enjoy staying up on the latest and greatest trends. In so doing, you could craft plugins that WordPress users and implementers would need in order to implement something brand new that requires any understanding of how to code it.
Stephen Cronin is a long-time web developer (no joke, he got his start back in the ‘90s) who picked up WordPress plugin development as a trade in 2007.
4. Sell WordPress Typography
There’s so much that can be communicated to your visitors by your choice of typography. But, without the help of typography designers, you’d be stuck using long-time system defaults. Like Times New Roman. Blegh.
If you’re knowledgeable in the ways of using typefaces to convey emotion, personality, and you’re feeling inspired to design one that would address a particular need for modern web design, then consider building your own type and selling it.
5. Sell WordPress Templates and Sets
WordPress themes and plugins may be the easiest way to integrate external sources within WordPress. However, there are other ways in which web designers can streamline their processes and better adhere to best practices by using resources made by others.
If you’ve ever gotten to a certain point in your own development or design process and realized you’re doing the same thing over and over again, you may have created your own templates to simplify things. These might include:
- Style guide templates
- Icon sets
- UX wireframes
- UI kits
- Storyboarding templates
- Website templates
If you have found ways in which to improve your process, why not share your tools and resources with other WordPress designers? There are plenty of websites where you can offer these for free or for a premium, like:
Or, you could just sell them from your own website. They could be an upsell with theme purchases or a standalone resource you sell in your WordPress store.
6. Offer Branding Services
Do you have a particular interest in the branding side of websites? Designing logos? Strategizing voice and style? Choosing color templates?
If you’ve ever had a new client tell you that he or she doesn’t yet have a logo or any branding established, there’s no need to wait for a branding specialist to step in and do this for them. You also don’t have to try and make it up on the fly if you hadn’t anticipated a lack of branded materials. Instead, this can become an add-on service you offer new WordPress website clients.
7. Take Photos or Create Illustrations
Visual content is such an important part of the online experience these days. For those of you who are particularly talented with a camera or who have kickass illustration skills, you could start creating your own custom imagery to sell through your site or made specifically for your clients (at a premium price, of course).
8. Offer WordPress Maintenance or Support Services
This is probably one of the most common and easiest ways to create recurring revenue through WordPress–especially once a client has already had the experience of working with you. Of course, WordPress maintenance and support isn’t a hands-free type of work, but there is a lot you can do to automate these tasks if you were to offer them to clients.
For instance, you can use these WPMU DEV plugins to streamline the process:
Of course, this all depends on how much maintenance or what kind of support you want to offer, but you get my point: there are plugins to help you more quickly manage clients’ updates, uptime monitoring, security checks, and more.
9. Resell Web Hosting or Run a Multisite Network
Last year, Rachel McCollin talked about how she ran a WordPress Multisite business. While she could have relied on reseller hosting she started with, she found that most of her clients weren’t doing anything with it. In other words, if they weren’t accessing their control panel or making customizations, and if they didn’t need their own IP address or unique web server, why not just put them on a Multisite network?
Either way, McCollin was managing the hosting piece of the puzzle for clients. It was simply a matter of finding the right one for them. And this is something you can think about too: would it be more beneficial for your clients to have their own web hosting plans that you then keep tabs on in addition to a WordPress management tool… or does it make more sense to do it all through Multisite?
10. Provide a Strategy Service
This is one of those things you could do strictly as your profession (i.e. “WordPress strategist”) or you could use it to get in the door with new clients.
In essence, you’d market yourself as a WordPress website expert. Maybe you even have a niche like e-commerce design strategy or WordPress SEO strategy. You offer your services as a strategist and consultant, the trusted expert who will tell clients exactly what they need. Then, once they’re sold on your plan, you can sign them up for your WordPress development services.
11. Offer an Auditing Service
Think of this like the strategist offering, except this occurs after a site has already been built (ideally, after someone else did it).
Nile Flores is a web designer and developer, as well as an SEO consultant and blogger. In addition, her website lists security audits as one of the many services she offers:
The type of auditing you perform is up to you, too. Do you want to pass yourself off as an expert on…
- Web design?
If you go this route, Google Analytics, keyword ranking tools, and WP Checkup will need to become your best friends.
12. Teach Something
You read the WPMU DEV blog regularly, right? So you know how much there is to learn about WordPress, security, performance, SEO, coding techniques, design trends, plugins, themes, and so on and so forth when you work in this field.
Let’s say the above suggestions for diversifying your income seem just okay. Maybe you’d be more interested in working towards bettering the field of WordPress for your peers instead. Or for other WordPress users who simply want to know how to DIY WordPress. In that case, identify your own area of expertise and then pick the right format in which to teach it to them.
Jason McCullough is a web developer who states that he’s currently working on building a series of courses for small business owners. While he will give his away for free, that doesn’t mean you would have to do the same–especially if you market your course on a paid platform like Udemy.
Online classes aren’t the only way you can generate revenue from teaching WordPress-related topics. You could also upsell clients on WordPress training (that is if you don’t give it away for free at the end of your projects). Or you could host a WordPress workshop at a community college if there’s enough interest in your local area for it.
13. Create Tutorials
For some of you, the more passive way to teaching might be the route you prefer. In that case, you’d need to determine if you prefer writing or recording your WordPress tutorials. Then, it’s a matter of finding the right platform on which to share them.
You could, of course, do like I do and partner with a WordPress blog that’s in need of instructional content. If you think you’d be better at communicating how to work within WordPress using video, you can do that too. But finding a way to monetize it may be trickier.
One way to do this would be to monetize YouTube tutorial content with ads. But there’s never a guarantee anyone will click on the ads. Another way to do this is to publish the tutorials to your website as gated content that members have to pay for. And yet one more way to do this is how Matt Medeiros does it:
This is actually a really unique tutorial/consultant-type of service. Basically, clients sign up for his service and ask him to review something on their website or with their plugin. He then records himself doing a walk-through of the product, giving them a detailed explanation of what he sees as being wrong and provides tips on how it can be fixed. It’s a very personalized form of tutorials.
Writing, in general, is another way in which you can diversify income as a WordPress professional. And it doesn’t always have to be in the form of a tutorial. Perhaps you want to do new plugin or theme reviews. Or you like to speculate on upcoming technologies or design trends that will affect WordPress development in the future.
Writing content for the web can be anything you want it to be, you just have to make sure you know what you’re talking about. Then, find the right platform on which to do it.
In terms of making money, you could become a contributing writer for a blog that focuses on topics you’re interested in writing about. Or, if you’ve done lengthy research on a particular topic that you know would be of great value to others, turn it into a white paper, ebook, or infographic. Then sell it through your website. It should have its own landing page and pop-up, too.
15. Get into Public Speaking
I find that WordPress freelancers who have gone into business for themselves fall into one of two categories. The first is the lone warrior who prefers working on their own and quietly building up a steady client base. The second is the entrepreneur who dreams of turning their freelance business into an agency.
It’s this second type of freelancer that would be great at public speaking.
Sonja Leix is a WordPress designer and digital strategist who also spends a lot of time speaking at WordCamps around the U.S. and Europe.
While WordCamps are the most recognizable of speaking opportunities for WordPress professionals, there are other avenues you might consider pursuing. Look at web design or development-specific conferences if you’re trying to grow your name within the field. You might also consider public speaking that crosses over into motivational speaking if you have a particularly inspirational story you can use to get others to take action.
As always, this is about playing to your strengths and personal interests.
16. Place Ads on Your Site
There are also ways in which you can put your WordPress site to work in generating revenue for you. The first of which is by placing ads on your website.
There’s not much to say on this other than it’s up to you to decide what kinds of ads you want to run:
- Do you only want to run ads from partners who have provided you with ad creative?
- Do you want to allow a service like AdSense to choose the ads for you?
- Will you use a WordPress plugin to solicit anyone and everyone to buy ad space on your site?
This all depends on what your site is about and what kinds of ads you want to complement it.
17. Run a Referral Program
In a recent post, I talked about the benefits of launching a referral or affiliate program on a WordPress site. As a WordPress developer, a referral program would be a particularly good choice for your business model. After all, aside from your portfolio, how are prospective clients to know they can trust you?
All you need to do is lay out the terms of the referral program, so your clients know what they’ll get in exchange for sending new business your way, which will also help keep your current clients on your site for longer as they can enjoy the perks of their loyalty. Then, you need to decide how you’re going to inform clients about the program–On the site? By email? On social media?
18. Run an Affiliate Program
An affiliate program might not be a bad idea for your business either. However, this relies on others to share links from your website on their own web properties, be they a website, social media post, or newsletter. If you have share-worthy content or a service that would make sense for them to promote there, then an affiliate program is a good option.
If one of your income diversification strategies is to sell something other than a WordPress service (like a plugin, theme, or template set), an affiliate program would most definitely be in your best interests. Again, take the time to build out the program, define the terms, and then start getting the word out about it.
19. Add Affiliate Links to Your Site
If you’re in the habit of creating content for your blog, you should definitely consider becoming an affiliate and promote links to others’ content. The one affiliate program, in particular, I can think of is the ThemeForest Affiliate Program. Makes sense, right? If you’re a WordPress professional, you’re likely to spend some time writing about themes, so why not make some money off of them?
You could, of course, always just promote products from a site like Amazon too. This would make more sense if you talk about technology and other tools that would help your readers.
20. Partner with Another WordPress Professional
Networking within the WordPress community can be a great thing. You can trade client horror stories, provide support to one another when things aren’t going well, and learn from each other.
As your WordPress business grows, you might also want to look to this community of peers for partnership opportunities. After all, if you’re growing your business, that means you’re going to need to fill in gaps for services you cannot offer yourself. Rather than hire freelancers to help you, you could work in conjunction with another WordPress professional.
Even if you’re not in the position to build out your business, it would still be beneficial to have WordPress contacts you could work with on a referral system. For instance, I have a developer who occasionally sends business to me when clients ask about custom web copy. In exchange, I let my clients know that she is available if they are in need of web development work.
21. Create a Membership
Many of the services or products above can be offered to your clients at any time. However, why not create a premium membership bundle that you can sell to them? It’ll show that you’ve been able to anticipate their needs and also make you the go-to for all their WordPress needs going forward.
A membership could be something like:
- 1 website redesign + updated style guide + 12 months of maintenance every year
- 5 icons + 5 stock photos (that you took yourself) + 5 new typefaces every month
- Yearly plugin membership + free plugin updates and support for 1 year
The key is to create a package that covers a broad range of needs all at once.
22. Flip Websites
This is just like those TV shows where people buy a house, do major renovations on it, and then sell it for a profit. Web developers can do the same thing by snagging up a free domain name, building a somewhat generic website on it, and then selling it to someone who wants a website on the fly.
23. Sell Physical Merchandise
You don’t see this one too often, but it’s an idea I think would work really well if:
- You create custom artwork, illustrations, or photography that could be sold.
- You have a killer wit that clients and the WordPress community have come to know you for. In that case, you could add your witticisms to hats, shirts, mouse pads, etc.
- You’re running an agency and want to give your clients the total marketing package. This means designing things like business cards, presentation materials, stationery, and other physical goods to hand out on behalf of their brand (and that match the site you designed for them).
24. Pursue Another Passion Part-Time
I know the whole point of this is to diversify your income as a WordPress professional… but I don’t see any reason why you can’t supplement your income with something else you’re passionate about.
Take Matt Brett, for instance.
He’s been building WordPress sites since 2003. While he still works as a web designer and developer today, he also dabbles in writing about video games and plays paid music gigs.
Obviously, many of these passive income streams still require you to do some work whether it be in the initial setup or ongoing management and maintenance of them. No work in or related to WordPress will ever be 100% passive. As such, make sure you’re not taking these on if you already have too much on your plate. Diversifying income should be a way to complement your main revenue stream; not be a hindrance to it.