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A freelancer's path to website design
My journey started in the winter of 2015.
With two kids, one and three at the time, I was on vacation from work through the Holiday break. I had twelve straight days with no work and cold temperatures. My wife worked, so it meant I was home with two children that still took regular naps during the day- oh I miss those days.
I have always been interested in computers, graphic design and programming. My life path didn’t lead me in that direction, but over that break I was determined to forge a new journey.
The journey continued...
Enter the online learning tools.
Codepen is, as it’s tagline states, a social development environment for front-end designers and developers. It’s an environment were developers, young and old (me), can share designs, learn and develop all in one interface. This site helped me to network and develop new skills that I had not acquired through book learning. Just another brick in the wall.
Treehouse is an online learning tool that offers a free trial and then the cost is $25/month to take their courses. If you choose to receive a “tech degree” the cost is $199/month. Treehouse was an awesome platform for code learning. They offer videos, interactive lessons, etc.. Everything you need to learn computer programming. Their “tech degrees” are respected throughout the community and their instructors are second to none.
I stayed on treehouse for about nine months and I made it through quite a but of courses. My ability to develop new skills and tricks was increasing… Skills and tricks that I took to codepen to continuing networking and practicing.. Then I hit a lull and took a break from coding and discontinued my subscription… I truly enjoyed the instructors on treehouse and learned a ton but sometimes life interrupts..
When I stumbled upon Udemy I didn’t know what to think. They were offering $200 courses from $11.99 to $19.99. I thought, well this is my lucky day, so I scooped up five courses all geared towards learning website design.
*Disclaimer – It wasn’t until months later that I realized Udemy’s sales are perpetual. Meaning, they are ongoing. They do change the values slightly but I, to this day, have never seen them reach their standard price.
It was at this point I knew I could do this.
Note: Udemy isn’t just for website design. They have various course ranging from photography to business to nutrition. If you want to learn anything on a budget, Udemy has an online learning tool for you.
Ok real world, let's go!
So, after three years of constantly (well, sans the lull) studying, practicing, studying and practicing (plus full-time job) I wanted to test my skills in the real world. Well, as luck should have it I had a friend who was in an ownership position with a local company. I reached out to him about redesigning their website.
What happened was something that I’ve never seen before. They presented me with their administrative login to their WordPress web page. I was expecting to receive their host admin login with FTP access, not this.
WordPress, what is that?
I logged into WordPress and was underwhelmed. Drag and drop web building? This is just another Weebly or Wix interface. I know programming languages, how am I to manipulate code when I don’t even see an H1 tag… All of the hours I spent coding, only to realize that a hired professional web design firm use drag and drop page builders? This was completely out of left field. But the more I navigated around the options, the more I thought to myself that I could get used to this.
Through trial, error and a lot of studying I quickly began to enjoy working with WordPress. I found that my countless hours studying helped me to understand the behind the scenes functions of WordPress. I understood all of the terminology and knowing how the back-end and front-end synced, I was able to navigate the WordPress dashboard and cPanel with ease. It turned out that my hours had not been wasted.. WordPress just eliminated the laborious chores that were associated with HTML and CSS.
But it’s not to say that my coding skills do not provide me an advantage over a WordPress only firm.
WordPress is supplemented by plugin software applications that allow you to perform certain functions easily. Functions like, inserting metadata, styling forms and even copyrighting. Think of the common saying in 2015, “There’s an app for that”. Well, the same rule applies to WordPress plugins, “There’s a plugin for that”.
But these plugins, just like apps on your phone, can slow down performance. Some more than others and I have learned this the hard way of course, but I make sure I do not pass this along to my clients. I’ve developed a strong set of necessary plugins and I have developed a sense of what tasks are best completed manually. Well, that ends this “journey” story and I don’t want to close with a sales pitch so I will leave you with this.
Go for it!!
If you are thinking about learning website design, coding, graphic design, or any other tech skill, don’t be afraid. There are multiple online learning tools available to assist your own journey. Just step in and make it happen. You will get frustrated and you will want to give up. But if is truly something you want to learn don’t quit. Reach out to me or the countless other online resources there for you. You are not alone and certainly not the first person to learn something for the first time.