For the past 6-months I have been working as an affiliated ‘Woo Worker’ with the well known WordPress Theme company, WooThemes. As a Woo Worker I provide custom theme modifications and tweaks, site styling and graphical work for those who’ve purchased a theme from WooThemes. This week I was interviewed by Adii as part of an ongoing series of interviews with the other WooThemes workers. You can read a transcript of the entire interview by ‘reading more’ of this article or head on over to the WooThemes blog to read the full interview and post a comment.
1. Tell us a little about yourself, your design / development skills and how this translates to your (freelancing) business.
Maybe I’m a bit different to some of the other workers; when I’m not on a computer I’m usually at the beach or on a plane, travelling, training and competing on the international Windsurfing Pro Tour. I’ve been racing professionally for about 5 years but have had a relationship with computers ever since Commander Keen arrived in 1990. I’m currently 25, and reside in the Netherlands for half the year, and in Australia the other half. I studied a few months of ‘Communication Design’ (basically a course in using websites and digital media to communicate) but then ended up with a Psychology/Biomedical Science degree and plan to study Medicine if I ever stop going to the beach. So I’m not classically trained too well in computers but I feel this have given me a more ‘outside the square’ look at design and coding as I’ve taught myself, I don’t really conform to a certain style.
I started out work mainly building websites for friends and for companies/organisations/clubs within the windsurfing world, so I’ve always been more interested in building ‘graphically’ more beautiful sites with lots of images, graphics and working with brighter colours as that fits the tempo for ‘sporting’ websites. Since my beginnings I’ve built websites for all sorts of businesses and individuals, but I guess my underlying passion still lives with sport related projects.
I have a manager who looks after my publicity/promotion/sponsorship needs whilst I’m in Europe, but I do all my promotion/media work myself when I’m in Australia. As a result, I’ve taken a keen interest in teaching myself the ropes of marketing, promotion, media correspondence and creating sponsorship proposals for my windsurfing. Now, with my webdesign work I feel I can pass on a lot of that knowledge to clients and somewhat advise them a little about branding and marketing through their websites – especially for athletes. Just recently I’ve built sites for an Australian Olympic sailor and an American Baseball player and also worked with them on some ideas on ways to create a ‘brand’ of themselves and how to promote/live through that brand on the internet.
Having recently started working with WooThemes, I find the scope of sites I am working on is vastly different to the simply ‘sporting’ ones I started out with, but this has also been an interesting and great added challenge to my work as a freelancer.
2. What is your favourite theme by WooThemes? And why?
I think right now it is Aperture, because I’m currently using it to revamp my windsurfing campaign website (www.AUS120.com). It got some really slick features but aside from that the layout is very square and symmetrical so it’s been really easy and efficient to completely cut it apart and revamp it!
3. So you’re an Affiliated Woo Worker, right? What does this actually mean to you and what does the “job” basically entail?
The important thing it means to me is that I know what I’m getting myself in to every time I reply to a clients request for help. Originally, if a client approached me wanting to get a premium theme modified and I’d never used that theme before, I’d have to ‘guess’ what was possible within the framework of the theme and blindly get involved in to projects that sometimes were great, but other times were awful (like when you discover you basically have to re-write the entire code of a ‘premium’ theme that was written by an amateur coder!). All the Woo Themes are built on the same framework and generally speaking most of the Woo guys have similar styles of writing code, so when somebody comes to me with a request and I’ve never used that particular theme before, I know exactly what I am getting myself in to, and can give a more accurate quote in terms of price and the time it will take to complete.
The end result is basically I am probably charging the end-clients less than years previous, getting things done quicker because I am so used to the Woo coding and also able to finish more jobs in a shorter timeframe which is good for my hip-pocket
4. How has working with WooThemes influenced your business and / or earnings as a web designer / developer?
Starting working as a Woo Worker completely changed the way I’ve been working as a designer and also how I schedule my workload to fit in with my ‘other’ job; being a professional windsurfer. Previously, I’d been only building sites from scratch or doing heavy modifications of themes for clients. Each project may take 2-5 weeks and I always found myself up against deadlines and having to constantly spend time on the phone/Skype etc with the client rather than working at my own pace. Since starting as a Woo Worker I’ve noticed most people are coming to me wanting only small modifications (move this up here, or change this colour to here etc) or customising plugins they’ve downloaded (eg, forums like bbPress or Simple:Press) to fit in with their WooTheme colours. As a result, I can do 10 or so jobs a week rather than one big project for a month. So the end result is actually that I’m working with a lot more clients on smaller scale projects which is a lot less stressful but also allows me to fit in all the other millions of things I have to do each day.
The other cool thing with working with more people all the time is I’m constantly “meeting” new people (maybe just by email but sometimes by phone/Skype or in the “real” life version) and am having a lot more fun working – less stress mean I can get more done!
5. Would you recommend WooThemes over other, alternative free / premium WordPress themes? If yes, why?
Of course. For a number of reasons. Firstly, you guys have much more themes than any Premium Theme company out there and have more people involved with the theme/support process which is important. I’ve done some work previously with other premium themes and the end result I always find is there is usually little to no support floating around after you purchase the theme. Sure, they have a forum or such, but its usually just the one designer replying to queries and often they’ll have a 5-6 day period between responses and the nature of the internet is that everyone wants everything IMMEDIATELY. So waiting 5 days for a support request is not an option for most people!
Another thing is actually having us Woo Workers. What a great idea! It gives us freelancers a great opportunity to be part of something big, but it also gives the customers an opportunity to get custom work done by designers experienced in the Woo code. I’m not sure any other theme company has this luxury, and I know the designers of premium themes get indundated with requests for custom modifications which I’m sure they can’t attend to all of, which in turn again frustrates the customers!
The final thing is the reassurance you have if you were to purchase a subscription. Do you really know if you signed up for 6 months whether another smaller company would still “exist” 6 months down the track and whether they’ll still be having the creative output to create new themes for all that time? We at least know with WooThemes, the creative juices won’t be running out as there’s a multitude of designers and also many upcoming and current collaborations with other designers for themes. We also know how passionate they are in their online work, with all of them blogging on their own personal sites and on other social media outlets; there’s a sense of pride that you can see that none of them would allow the quality of their work to drop – out of sheer embarrassment to themselves and the public that follow them online. That’s reassuring
6. What do you think about the ease-of-use and customizability of our themes?
The major case in point is that all the themes are built on the same framework, grid system and essentially all have similar features. Often I get clients asking about modifying a theme that I haven’t worked with before, but I can answer most of their questions before even looking at the code because I know what to expect with each theme. As I mentioned earlier, this means I usually end up charging less because there’s less time I spend trying to work through the code to make changes and I can get work done much quicker and look after more clients in a shorter period of time. Basically, case in point, with WooThemes, everything comes up Millhouse!
7. Anything else that you’d like to add? Maybe a little compliment or something?
One thing I’ve always been impressed with about WooThemes is their complete transparency. Nearly all the guys (Adii especially), blog or design or tweet on their own personal sites, independent of their Woo work which means you can actually see what these guys are up too in their spare time a little bit and outside of their Woo lives. There’s always a familiarity and ‘comfortable’ association you feel with companies where they are very transparent and open about their ideas and lives – and that familiarity leads customers to better trust and usually to better end sales results.
The reason I like this way of doing business so much is because I’ve grown up in a world of Professional Sports, where EVERYBODY on the tour is the enemy and you share no secrets about gear, training, lifestyle with anyone in case they copy your ideas and beat you on the racetrack. I’ve always felt that is a poor way to play sport as I’m interested in the grass-roots part of the sport as well as the professional side, and I find the non professional guys in the sport never learn how to get any better because none of the pros share any of their secrets. That’s the same in business I feel, the customer never understands why decisions are made that effect them, so the end result is they are usually more reluctant to give you their hard earned money.
I’ve always followed Adii’s adventures on his site because he’s always been the most transparent entrepreneur that I’ve come across on the internet. Reading his blog actually inspired me a few years back to start www.CarbonSugar.com, a website I’ve started to share ALL the secrets of pro-windsurfing, much to the horror of all my competitors! Haha.