expert:  having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced

Expert button on computer

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About a year ago I joined an accountability group. I thought it would be good to challenge myself, despite the fact that I am pretty goal-oriented anyway and was fairly comfortable with the state of my freelance web design/development business.

I realized in the early stages of this process that my biggest issue was confidence in myself as a skilled professional. I set a goal to build my self-confidence by learning more, while considering the relative value I provide to my clients, who usually have no knowledge of websites, WordPress, plugins, hosting, domains and code.

As someone who pays a lot of attention to the WordPress community, it is easy to feel inadequate, especially as an evolving, self-taught WordPress website “creator.” Much has been written about people like me daring to label themselves a “developer,” so I am hesitant to use that term, although in reality I do “develop” WordPress websites from a blank install to something unique for my clients. Many in the WordPress community agree with me here.

Tara Claeys wins Arlington Chamber Best Tech Business AwardAfter much consideration, I have settled on the term “WordPress Expert.” At first, this sounded a bit ambitious; after all, I don’t know nearly EVERYTHING there is to know about WordPress. However, as I looked at the definition of the word, “Expert” seems to be a good fit. I do have a special skill and knowledge based on my experience. And, part of that means that I also know how and where to look for answers to questions I can’t answer myself and that I continue to increase my knowledge and skills over time.

How did I change the definition of myself? Here are some steps I took to gain confidence and consider myself to be an expert:

  • Committed to learning some key development systems to aid in learning CSS, PhP and HTML. I use Desktop Server, which allows me to break things without doing any real damage, and to learn in the process. I just signed up for the Pro Membership at Know The Code and am planning a 3 day retreat tomorrow to dive into the lessons there!
  • Entrenched myself in online communities, including listening to many podcasts and reading lots of blogs, checking in with Slack and Facebook groups and following Twitter. (My favorite podcasts are Carrie Dils OfficeHours.fm, WordPress Weekly, Kitchen Sink WP and WP Watercooler. My favorite blogs are Sridhar Katakam , The Whip by WPMUDev, anything by Chris Lema and GenesisWPGuide.
  • Started blogging to establish myself as a resource for information about WordPress and to force me to explain things, which deepened my knowledge of subject matter. I also wrote a couple of guest posts for the GenesisWPGuide.
  • Outsourced work to higher level developers, helping me understand better how things work by working with them as they customized plugins for me/my clients.
  • Attended a number of WordCamps (WordCamp Philly, Baltimore, US and Miami!).
  • Volunteered for the WordPress Core Training Team at WordCampUS and wrote a lesson plan (someday I hope to have time to participate more in this group!).
  • Presented at my local WordPress MeetUp about Genesis and about Membership Websites.
  • Created a join venture, Nice Work, LLC with my colleague Evelyn Powers, to focus on larger clients, collaborate on projects and establish more extensive business practices with a goal of forming an agency in the future.
  • Applied for – and won! – my local Chamber of Commerce “Best Technology Business” Award.

A year ago I would not have had the confidence to consider myself a WordPress expert. I have learned a lot over the past year, and am very proud of what I have accomplished. I am grateful for the resources and support of the WordPress community, as well as my local accountability and women’s entrepreneur group for helping me grow my business and self-confidence. I am excited to continue to expand my skills and expertise, as well as my role in the WordPress community.

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