With WordPress sites running the gamut from basic blogs to massive eCommerce stores, it can be difficult to figure out when you need to hire a WordPress professional and when you can DIY it.
If you’ve followed my Easiest Ways to Customize a WordPress Theme guide, you know that making a website befitting of your wildest business dreams is within reach even for the least tech savvy among us.
However, if you’ve read that post and still feel completely lost, or you tried something and your entire site exploded, it might be time to bring in someone who can use their experience and skills to help you achieve your goals.
When you’ve been tinkering in your site and things have gone downhill, it can feel like you’ll have to scrap the entire site and start fresh because no one can get the site back to working order. But that’s not true. I’ve rescued dozens of broken, slow, or unattractive sites, and I’ve never met a site that couldn’t be salvaged.
So, when should you hire a WordPress professional?
When PHP is Involved
I’ve written extensively about the ways you can use code, particularly CSS, to customize the design of your WordPress site. However, there’s a particular type of code that’s a lot more dangerous to play around in without some experience. PHP is the programming language powering the non-design side of your WordPress site – it makes your site do everything it needs to do. If you’ve ever seen a tutorial reference your functions.php file, that’s PHP.
Many small WordPress modifications require some PHP. For example, if you want your WooCommerce shop to display categories in a different order, the United States to be the default shipping country on your checkout page, or just to have a copyright line in your footer that automatically updates with the current year, you’re going to be using PHP.
Often, you can find snippets someone else has written for you to do exactly what you need. It seems easy to just copy and paste them into your site. But unlike CSS, which can only make your site look a little silly until you fix it, making an error in your site’s PHP can take it down completely. That means you’ll need to either restore your site from a backup or go in via FTP to delete the offending code from a single file out of hundreds of files that make up your site. It’s a headache.
And it’s incredibly easy to make those kinds of mistakes. Do you want to see how?
That’s how simple it is to take down your entire website: a single misplaced carat.
Fortunately, recent changes to the built-in WordPress code editor mean that your site will usually (but not always) catch these kinds of errors and prevent you from saving. Still, adding new PHP can be dangerous for your site. Changes you make can interact with other plugins on your site in unexpected ways and cause sneaky errors that you may not notice until it’s too late.
I’m all for people DIYing their WordPress site as much as possible, and it’s certainly possible to add a few PHP snippets to your site on your own that do exactly what you need them to (and nothing else). But, with your whole site at stake, it’s really not worth the risk. I recommend that you hire a WordPress professional to help you out.
When It’s an eCommerce Site
Making major changes to your online shop or membership site on your own is something I can’t suggest my clients do. I’ve seen way too many business owners waste hours of their time trying to get shipping right, troubleshoot issues with poorly coded WooCommerce plugins, or worst of all, illegally expose their customers’ information by not knowing security standards.
Decoding WooCommerce’s help pages, especially the ones around shipping zones, rates, and classes, isn’t easy. In fact, WooCommerce setup is so tricky that many professional WordPress developers shy away from it. Just learning how to establish WooCommerce shipping correctly takes quite a bit of experience and understanding of how WooCommerce functions. Similarly, choosing plugins for your online store that will actually do what you need them to and are well-supported by their developers is difficult, partially due to the sheer volume of plugins available. I’ve rescued a number of WordPress sites that were broken by an out of date or poorly written WooCommerce plugin. In every case, there was an alternative plugin available that fulfilled the same functions without breaking the website.
On top of all that, when you hire a WordPress professional, they’re going to be familiar with PCI compliance and can help you be certain you stay on the right side of the law.
When You Just Don’t Want to Do It
Lots of business owners enjoy working on their website and feel empowered when they’re able to do what they want to without asking for help. And many, many business owners have absolutely no patience for working on their website’s back end and want to no part of it. There’s no shame in being a member of the latter group.
You own a business because you wanted to spend your time on something you’re passionate about. It’s true that being a business owner means wearing a lot of extra hats in addition to the one you need for your profession, but it’s also true that there are professionals out there who can wear those hats for you, even for just a little while.
If working on the back end of your site and learning the ins and outs of WordPress is making you want to tear your hair out, hand it off to a professional who actually enjoys the work. Someone who has devoted years of their life to this work and who genuinely enjoys it is going to go the extra mile to make sure your site is easy to use, stable, and secure. Don’t half-ass it yourself just to prove that you can do it.
Get back to the work you love and hire a WordPress professional to handle the work you don’t.
When Something Just Seems…Wrong
You added some PHP or a new plugin to your site, and it’s doing what you want it to, but something just seems off. Your site is loading slowly, or your changes don’t seem to be saving, or sometimes you get errors when to load a page (but not other times. It’s so weird. What’s going on???).
Troubleshooting WordPress errors can be really tricky. Sometimes its a matter of locating and fixing a plugin incompatibility. Sometimes it’s a problem with your host’s settings. Sometimes (the lucky times) you just need to run your updates. Working through those issues can take hours or days, especially if you’re not completely sure what you’re doing.
You could spend your entire day trying to fix your website, or you could hire a WordPress professional who might have it fixed in minutes and will definitely be able to take it off your plate.
When Google Turns Up Nothing
Whether you’re trying to find a plugin to do something very specific on your site or googling an error that came up, a lack of results isn’t a good sign. Because WordPress is so popular, you can often find tutorials, guides, and forums on anything you can imagine in WordPress.
If you’ve googled for a plugin that can add an important function for your business and found nothing at all, that’s a big sign that it’s a custom project that you’re going to want a professional developer for.
If you’ve googled an error you saw on your site and got 0 results, that means something really unique has happened on your site and you’re going to want to find someone who has the knowledge and skills to fix it for you.
If Google can’t help you, it’s time to hire a WordPress professional who can.
Have you run into one of the types of issues above and found help? Is your site misbehaving and you don’t know where to turn? Share your thoughts in the comments!