Continuing Education

When to call in a “pro”

When to call in a “pro”

In a world where it seems like a simple Google search can bring you a video or step-by-step guide to almost anything, it can be tempting to try to DIY everything.

I’m guilty of this myself. Fix a running toilet? YouTube it. Make an impossibly complex recipe? Just follow the step-by-step and Google the techniques along the way. Out of carpet cleaner? Make your own from these four common household items.

One of the things I love about working in WordPress is it allows a lot of my clients to DIY their websites to some extent. Once I design it and build the functionality they need, I can hand it off to clients and let them change text and images, add blog posts and videos, and if I’ve done my job right, their website will continue to look and function as it should.

But without that first crucial step of setting up look and functionality, some of which inevitably takes place in the PHP, Javascript and CSS files, these clients wouldn’t be able to run their websites on their own.

WordPress has grown into a complex ecosystem of the basic platform, plugins that add functionality, themes that add styling, and API integrations with various other web services. A person with some basic knowledge of the web and WordPress can still build a basic blog site by themselves, but for more complex websites, you may want to call in a “pro” early in the process. It will save you a lot of work and a lot of headaches in the future.

Posted by Megan Jonas in Blog, Continuing Education, Self-employed, Web, Work, 0 comments
Keeping up with the cutting edge

Keeping up with the cutting edge

One of the things I’m loving about self-employment is the opportunity to continuously learn new things. From changing technologies, to new projects, it seems like every week presents a challenge that I have never conquered before.

Last week, I worked my way through some social media best practices courses that served as a refresher course for me as I launch into a social media project for a client. This one in particular from Hootsuite has a series of videos and quizzes that help you work through the changing landscape of social media.

It was great for two reasons:

  1. I refreshed my knowledge, staying up-to-date on the latest best-practices for social media
  2. And, it reminded me of the items that I needed to describe to the client to get the best elements for their profiles and posts

Now that I’m working for myself, doing these kinds of things can be hard. While I’m running through these courses, those are not “billable hours” for me. But it improves my work across many clients and lets me reset my brain for new projects.

How about you? How do you balance the need to do continuing education and research with the need to create billable work?

Posted by Megan Jonas in Blog, Continuing Education, Design, Self-employed, Work, 0 comments
Don’t Always Do The Easy Things First

Don’t Always Do The Easy Things First

Like any web developer just starting out, sometimes I have days where it seems like nothing works. Today is one of those days. I have one site where all of the out of the box solutions are failing in one way or another, forcing me to dig into code that I had no intention of changing. I have another site where, try what I may, I can’t seem to access the FTP servers. I have googled. I have changed settings. I have contacted support at the hosting company. Nothing is working.

On days like today, my inclination is to set these items aside and do the “easy” things first. Starting new projects, writing blog posts (procrastination alert!), and sending emails sounds like a better option than trying to figure out these issues.

But it’s not always a great idea to set aside the hard things. They need to get figured out at some point and that point needs to be soon for at least one of those sites. So I will continue to plug away at these issues and hopefully at least one of them will get solved.

Posted by Megan Jonas in Blog, Continuing Education, Self-employed, Work, 0 comments
Continuing Education

Continuing Education

Part of the reason that I love the work that I do is because it is always changing. Just when I think I’ve mastered a technology or a technique, something new comes out that changes everything I know.

Because of this, it is crucially important to refresh my skills from time to time and to learn about new technologies before they become the industry norm.

Now, I was one of those people who loved school. I mean loved it. I went back to school after being out in the workforce for four years because I loved it so much. I loved that so much that after only about three years out, I’m starting to think about going back for a Ph.D. so that I can teach and never leave school again.

How do I maintain this kind of schooling when I’m not formally enrolled in classes? Well, lucky for me there are a number of web-based tools that can help me refresh and expand my technical skills.

Codecademy is a great place to start. It’s also a fun place to go back to when you need a quick refresh on some coding skills. And it’s free. is a low-cost way to continue to expand my knowledge. I particularly like their “updates” series, which covers just what’s new in updates of software like Adobe Photoshop. And the “Up and Running” series that gives you just enough knowledge of a technology or application to dig in on your own. Lynda now covers everything from Adobe software to strategies and philosophies of design, marketing and more.

Google Developer Tools has a number of high-quality, free tutorials that you can use to learn about web development, Google Analytics, and other products.

And finally, the applications themselves often have extremely good support, documentation, and even interactive tutorials of their own. This is especially true for open source applications like WordPress, but is also true of MailChimp and other proprietary software/web apps.

Posted by Megan Jonas in Blog, Continuing Education, Marketing, Web, Work, 0 comments