We talk to a great friend of the show, Jackie D’Elia who is also one of our regular WP-Tonic expert panelists. Jackie has a great personal story of how she got involved with the WordPress community. We have always been impressed with Jackie’s ability to get to the core of a problem or situation. If you’re looking to improve your WordPress development skills, you’re going to get a lot from this conversation.
Early Years in Development
Jackie first got exposed to persona computers in the early 1980s while working at a real estate company. She helped takes out some of the bugs in a real estate program they were using, and got really good at working in dBase (an early database). She eventually took over that business for several years before selling the company in 1995.
Jackie then went to work for an IT staffing firm for 4 years as a consultant, working with Fortune 500 companies and other large businesses. Then she started an e-commerce business, a home and garden store, which she ran for ten years. Her online store was ahead of the curve on being eco-friendly, and as a result was mentioned on the Rachel Ray show and other media.
Jackie’s Recent Years in Development
After selling her e-commerce business, Jackie started her current business, Jackie D’Elia Design. Jackie discovered WordPress while creating a blog for her online store. Today, she builds websites for clients full-time.
She says open source is very different than proprietary software, in that there are restrictions in proprietary that do not exist in a community like WordPress. Jackie says she got into the Genesis Framework after using Thesis. She says it is a huge time saver for her.
Among the things that have changed in Jackie’s workflow over time is using modern build tools like Gulp, Sass, and PostCSS. She also says she uses DesktopServer as a local environment before porting sites to a staging server. This was not the case when she first started. Jackie remarks that in the beginning of here development career, local environments is all there was, because the World Wide Web did not exist yet.
The Forwards Thinking Podcast
Last year, Jackie started a podcast, Rethink.FM, to explore advancements in front end / WordPress development and examine other people’s workflows.
She stresses that is important to set aside time to work on improving your process and learning new things. If you don’t keep advancing, the development world will shift around you. She calls herself a visual learning, and emphasizes that you should know how you learn best.
Since starting the podcast, she focuses more on user experience and mobile first design. We go into a discussion about desktop first design, and how that habit is hard to break for many people. We also talk about gathering content at the beginning of a project, so the design is built to enhance the content, instead of the other way around.
IS the WordPress Community Better Than Other Tech Communities?
Jonathan asks Jackie if she’s encountered any sexism as a female developer. She says she hasn’t run into sexism, but she works for herself. Both Jackie and Jonathan says ageism is a bigger problem than sexism in the WordPress community. Jackie says that having a robust set of life experiences is actually a big plus on a web or business project. When you have a lot of life experiences, you are able to bring a lot more perspective to a project. (We whole wholeheartedly agree).
E-commerce: Hosted or Self-Hosted?
Jackie says the advantage of a fully-hosted e-commerce solution is it lets business owners focus on running their business. With a self-hosted application like WooCommerce, you have to configure the different moving parts. If you are first jumping into running an e-commerce business, learning the operational aspects are something you have to do yourself, and it’s hard to learn this without going through it.
Hooking up something like WooCommerce is complicated for a mom-and-pop shop to do when they are trying to balance running a business on top of that. (Either call in a professional or start with self-hosted e-commerce until you prove there is a market for your product).
Jackie says her biggest challenge is blocking her time. Recently, she has been working more with teams, and she says her biggest challenge is blocking out distraction. When you are in a Slack channel (or your inbox) all day, you tend to focus on incoming messages. Your brain in in a receiving mode, and the creative part of your brain cannot function at it’s highest level.
Developing code demands that you focus and not be distracted. Staying in the flow state means you have to eliminate distractions. Disconnecting is a good way to do this. Knowing what time of day you are most productive is also useful.
Working With Teams
When you are working with teams, Jackie says having consistent workflows and processes makes everyone more productive. If everyone has different ways of working, it keeps everyone from being on the same page.
Collaborating on a team also allows people to focus on their strengths. When you are a solo consultant, you have to do a bit of everything.
Advice for Freelancers and Consultants Starting Out
Jackie says if you are starting a solo freelancing career, don’t give up to early. Give yourself to time to build up a client base. Be sure to save up a rainy day fund before you make the big leap. When you have some cash in the bank, you’re less inclined to take on low-paying work. Having a sustainable business model from the start is better than trying to raise rates on existing clients.
Networking is also important. Reach out to other people you know, as well as business owners and potential clients. Getting referrals from professional contacts and existing clients is a reliable way to get business in the door. You can also collaborate with other consultants, provide you are a known quantity, and they know what you do best.
Focusing on your niche will also help you get more leads, as people will be familiar with your specialty.
Join us each Friday at 9am PST to be part of our live show. You can ask us WordPress questions and be a part of the live discussion. To see a list of upcoming shows, go to https://www.wp-tonic.com/blab/.