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A Bold Summer Challenge for Our Freelance WordPress Web Designers

Last night after talking with a couple members of our team, I got amped up to issue a challenge to our iThemes customer community (and the broader WordPress web design community as a whole).

I want to give you a disclaimer first though:

I love and care about you. You enable us to do what we love every day by continuing to buy our products and services. I’m forever grateful for that and for you. But love and caring comes with responsibility too. And we’ve been seeing a negative trend for too long and I need to address it as it significantly hinders your own futures.

Here it is:

Honestly … some of you claim to be professional freelance web designers (and charge others as such) … yet have not taken the steps to BE professional, legitimate freelance web designers.

I’m not sure why that is exactly … is it fear, is it time, lack of direction, or simply not wanting to learn?

I’m sorry if that’s a hard truth to swallow … but caring for you means also telling you the truth (and also equipping you with the resources to remedy it which I’m going to point you in the right direction today).

So I hope you take this as it’s meant to be … constructive criticism and a strong, in-your-face bold and passionate challenge to be and do better. Also known as a swift kick in the pants. :)

So here is the hard truth:

If you want to be a professional (and legitimate) freelance web designer, you’re going to need to commit to two essentials things: 1. learn freakin’ web design and then 2. learn how to run a business!

So on this Friday, let’s unpack that statement and offer resources for you to DO these things so you can accept my challenge and take the next steps in your professional and personal lives.

1. Learn the basics of web design

You cannot claim to be a professional web designer without knowing some very basic, simple things like HTML and CSS.

I can say this because I was a freelance web designer before starting iThemes. At first, it was a challenging learning curve. But nothing worth having comes easy. And this is absolutely essential. It’s also extremely fun when you can hack your own sites!

So if you don’t know and the basic principles of HTML and CSS, then this is your summer challenge – DO IT.

If I can learn them … so can you!

Without these basic tools, you’re going to drown. You’re going to fail. Or your experience is going to be extremely painful. And in the process, you’re going to hurt or hinder your clients.

If you REALLY want to take the next step in your skills and actually learn web design … we’re offering a three-day FREE Introduction to WordPress Web Design workshop next week … we’ve been talking about it for several weeks now. It’s led by Benjamin Bradley, the professor at WebDesign.com, our training division, and we have almost 500 people registered for it.

Sign up for the Intro to WP Web Design workshop … and take a next step.

Can’t make the workshop?

We also have a completed a full (and free) primer of short tutorials on the fundamentals of HTML and CSS at WebDesign.com.

Additionally, check out our extensive and growing library of free WordPress web design tutorials here.

Oh, and you can also request more short tutorials here.

Enter cold hard truth again: If you don’t take the time to utilize these simple and free resources, then honestly, please stop calling yourself a web designer. But please be someone who commits the time and energy necessary to do what it takes to be one.

2. Learn how to run a business

The other imperative is if you’re going to be a freelancer and not an employee … you need to know (and start learning) some basics about running a business.

Particularly, how to be a professional, how to follow-through, how to manage projects and communicate, how to sell your work, how to manage your time, how to invoice and manage your business finances and cash-flow properly among other things.

A couple months ago, I rolled out a draft form of a Business Plan Primer for WordPress Web Designers.

You can download it today for free.

This will get you started … it’s a simple resource for you to think about all the aspects of running your freelance business.

Additionally, I’ve been sharing my experiences running a business at the Entrepreneurship Lab for several months now. Signup for a free trial here. (Yes, it’s a whopping $25 for lifetime access.)

OK, Here’s your deadline for this challenge!

Every good challenge and goal needs a deadline.

So here’s your challenges and deadlines if you’re bold enough to accept it:

  • Become proficient in HTML and CSS by Aug. 31, 2013.
  • Take this weekend and go through my Business Plan Primer and have your first draft completed of your own by June 30, 2013.

You might ask … “What do I win for doing all this?”

Well, it’s very simple — the pride and accomplishment of taking the next step in your personal and professional lives.

Of taking a next step to being able to call yourself a legitimate freelance web designer.

This is for you …

YOU have to commit to take the next steps. We can’t do it for you. You have to devote and commit the time and energy to BE a professional freelance web designer.

Please accept this challenge in the manner I’ve shared … and take the next steps FOR YOURSELF!

In the meantime, I would love to hear what you think of this challenge, what things are stopping you or holding you back, how you’re going to kick butt and take the next vital steps here in the public comments on this post.

Now, YOU HAVE WORK TO DO … Get going on it!


  1. YES, YES, and YES!

    Love this.

    The journey to escape the $500 client and stop being the $500 undercutter is something I’m passionate about. I think what a lot of newbie WordPress entrepreneurs don’t realize is, if they can admit they are NOT something — it opens up a whole stream of business opportunity.

    Who want’s to tweak CSS, cut up PSD’s, and hack away at themes just because they say they are web designer? Not me.

    • Thank you! True … but some people might want to do that kind of work. I know I started in that ballpark, but had my own version of bigger and better and only through hard work did I pull myself up to the next level. :)

  2. Hi Cory,

    I love a good challenge. I accept. 😉

    However, I am curious about what prompted you to take this initiative. Have you seen too many bad designs / business practices and feel compelled to point us in the right direction?

    Thank you for caring.

    • James, thanks for your question … the answer is seeing 5 years of customers who never take a next step to learn and grow despite every opportunity to do so while simultaneously calling themselves “web designers.” Year after year we continue to roll out resources (free even) for them to grow and take next steps, yet they are still stuck (or just sitting) in the same spot, either asking the same basic questions, or complaining about making progress on their dreams.

  3. Too true.

    I’m a business guy but I learned HTML/CSS, not enough to make a living at it, but certainly enough to manage a team.

    As we work with our customers, primarily advertising and design agencies, we see this every day, how the lack of understanding of basic web design negatively impacts the quality and cost of the websites they design for their clients, and how it makes our developers’ tasks more difficult than they need to be.

    What you are planning can only help.

    Thank you.


    • James, great insight and perspective … very helpful for those managing clients to know these concepts as well … to, at the very least, be able to talk to the technicians. :)

  4. Wow Corey! This is just what I needed and you are echoing exactly what my wife has been saying for weeks now. I think the fear is hindering me and the time since I work a 9 to 5 and am in school. However, I really love designing sites for people using WordPress and am looking forward to the challenge. I have several great mentors In WP including James Dalman and Andrew Norcross and if I hope to get there I need to start the hard work here. Thanks again Corey!!!

    • Dion – I understand … I had a full-time job and other activities and learned web design mostly between 9 p.m. and midnight.

      Andrew and James are great mentors – glad you have them.

      • Benjamin has brought me back, BUT

        Cory, during the Wednesday -at no cost to me- Benjamin’s live class I tried to sign up for the membership, and did the same yesterday too. Here is the preverbal ‘BUT,’ as usual at the checkout I still get charged the same normal price. I had this problem a couple of months ago and needed to get my refund from Charleen, (whom I find rude at times, and very defensive.) Is not the customer always right. Not always. However in this case I was blamed for being wrong, as in this last email today.
        “I have no idea what discount code you are trying to use or for what package. Your account shows that you tried to purchase BackUp Buddy Unlimited and All Access Theme Pass. What discount code?
        We only have our support forum for you to use.”

        Will the support forum fix my BackupBuddy licence issues? Something as gone wrong on iThems end for me to keep getting problems with support and sales issues.

        Thank you for taking your time to let me vent.
        Howard Harvey

  5. “learn freakin’ web design”

    I’d argue this isn’t enough. If you claim to be a designer, you should FIRST learn to be a designer! Right? Design fundamentals. Color theory: modulation, simultaneous contrast, value, color events, dominance, etc. Design: composition, tension, negative space, contrapposto, bracketing, events, attraction, six ways to convey depth, push-pull, etc. This has nothing to do with technology. You’re not a web “designer” if you’re not first and foremost a designer. While you’re at it, study the teachings of Hans Hofmann, the most important art teacher in recent history. All your university 2D art programs today are based on this guy. Get some education, don’t just copy what other designers are doing. Learn why what’s working is actually working.

    • PJ, thanks for your comment. Although I think those are good skills to have, I wouldn’t go that far as saying it’s an essential to do all that … I’ve never taken a design class yet was a “designer” and creative director. That doesn’t mean my design work rocked.

    • while good to have, I’d argue that most of that stuff isn’t required to be a good designer if one is willing to learn and and continue getting better. After all, most people need electricians, not electrical engineers.

      • Greetings Norcross….Long before the internet, I had 20 years learning and earning both in field and college ultimately becoming a master electrician as well as a EE…I ended up filling a niche for designing and wiring main frame systems…having the background in programming even before the release of Dos…I started my own electrical design and construction company….people back then said they only needed an electrician to make it work…they didn’t need an engineer…lol…your post made my day…and I got a nice chuckle out of it too…ty…

    • I also have to argue this point. If you are first and foremost a designer, then you are not and never will be a WEB designer. Design for the web involves user interface and experience, search engine ranking considerations, user behavior prediction and monitoring and serious technical expertise. Artistic design does come into play, but if it is your main driving force behind your designs, then someday a WEB designer like me will inherit your unhappy client. You mention Hans Hofmann, and http://www.hanshofmann.org as great example of not particularly great design and really poor WEB design. It is not mobile responsive, uses flash for site navigation, forces the user to grab a tiny scroll bar and drag it to read any of the content, etc. etc. I could go on and on but, if you are a designer, you really need to have your designs filtered and created by someone who knows what they are doing… a WEB designer.

      • Mike, you couldn’t be more wrong!

        You say that because one is a designer first, then they could never be a web designer is totally false. Many print designers have gone on to be amazing web designers! Sure, it requires learning different techniques or skills, but if you are a TRUE DESIGNER you can learn to design for almost any application.

        I’ve learned to design for print, web, screen-printing, embroidery, signage, vehicle applications, and more – never have I lost clients because of my design abilities on any platform.

        • James, I think we agree more than you think.

          What I mean is that if you keep pure design as your primary focus and ability then you will not be a good web designer. Some of the best web designer that I know have come from print and graphic design, but they have learned the technical and user interface details to go along with their graphic skills and they have learned to balance their, often competing, requirements. That said, some of the absolute worst web designers that I’ve run across (by inheriting their unsatisfied clients) have not progressed to learn web design… they create really pretty but totally non-functional websites that are all fluff and no substance.

          If you put graphic design ahead of all else then your web designs will eventually fail, no matter how perfect they look. A very limited subset of print design translates directly to web design and it is important to learn new skills and techniques if you are coming from that discipline.

          The graphic design is also very important to creating a pleasing environment for a website and too much focus on functionality can create the kind of websites that PJ was complaining about. My argument is that the design is not first and foremost, usability and functionality is. Putting design ahead of usability is a big mistake that many graphic designers, who call themselves web designers, make.

      • I agree specialization is critical in this. But after doing this stuff 30 years, and beyond, there’s time to learn a ton. I have a BFA, manage servers and write code. There’s really no excuse to ignore 100s of years of design knowledge, just spend an hour in the library. Btw Hoffman is dead and I doubt he cares about his website, he painted with Matisse and Picasso.

    • The stuff listed above is great – all worth learning. But I don’t think the academics were correct when it came to order. Those aren’t pre-requisites. The challenge with learning a lot of that first is that you don’t have the context for how to apply that learning. On the other hand, once you learn some design basics and get going, all of that education becomes invaluable.

      The same can be true for WordPress developers who slowly learn some PHP. Telling them they need to learn gang of four (GoF) patterns before they code. Patterns are fantastic, as is object oriented programming, but often people learn it once they hit the same problems over and over. They’re more prepared to learn.

      All in all, this is part of the larger dynamic that I call the “invasion of the lightweights” – where people are able to get started (because of technology) without the pre-reqs we all thought were required.


    • Since Cory asked me my thoughts via Twitter, how could I not respond?

      First things first .. GREAT FRICKIN’ POST Miller! You and I have talked about quite a bit about all of this over the years and I echo what you wrote in my own post: http://jamesdalman.com/successful-freelance-web-design-business

      The truth is that in order to call yourself a professional designer/web designer/web developer, you have to have the training and business skills.

      OK, now onto the DESIGN aspect ….

      I agree, in theory, with PJ in that if you claim to be a designer, you should first learn design. I cannot see one proclaiming to be a web designer if you don’t truly understand solid design principles. The same goes for a developer. How can you claim to be a web developer if you cannot code?

      Now this brings up an interesting situation given my post on WP Daily: http://wpdaily.co/designers-code

      I think terminology has been confusing. To me, if you are a web designer then you design for the web. If you are a web developer, then you develop for the web. You can have cross training in both areas, but I think you are one or the other.

      It is not necessary to code if you are a web designer. I am living proof of that (then again I’ve been challenged if I can truly call myself that). HOWEVER, Cory initially taught me how to hack CSS and HTML. I am not proficient in anything code related but I do have a very elementary understanding of it. This of course is extremely beneficial for “web design.”

      From what I have seen in my time with WebDesign.com and beyond, is that there are more technical sided freelancers than there are creative. Or let me put it this way … there are plenty of people who call themselves designers who really need to invest in learning what true design is, and do this more than worrying about the coding aspect, if they want to be a web designer.

      That’s my thoughts and hope it makes sense. :)

    • PJ –

      Excellent points. I would love to learn more about design fundamentals. Do you (or anyone else) have an other specific books, websites or people, I should study? I realize this is a vast topic, so any suggestions would be appreciated!


  6. I’m in. I needed to make some big life changes to fit my health earlier this year and quite accidentally fell in love with web design (and coding, my software engineer husband has been trying to get me to learn for years).

    I started out wanting to create a website for my Virtual Assistant business, but once I started learning more about WP, the more enamoured I became. One class lead to another, and a few membership sites, countless hours and probably the fugliest sandbox sites EVER (I amuse myself by practicing my new skills in the most obnoxious manner possible) I’m getting pretty decent at HTML and CSS.

    I didn’t even hesitate and signed up for the lifetime membership of the E-Lab. I know from the quality of iThemes and WebDesign.com that this will be just as amazing.

    The biz side of this does scare me a bit; pricing, marketing (that’s the big one), workflow, management. But I know I can do it, especially with the support from people like you and your company. Thanks :-)

    • Alice, being willing and committed to learn and do the work is half the battle in my opinion … can’t wait to see you learn and grow and achieve your dreams!

  7. Cory,

    It’s a GRAND plan! I accept your challenge and look forward to it.

    Although web design was never my primary business focus, I find that is where my business is going (at least for right now). :-) So I need to amp up my skills. Not to mention I LOVE this stuff!

    Thanks for the challenge and am really looking forward to the 3-day workshop.

    Thank you for this opportunity!


    • Tami, so glad you’re attending the three day workshop and committed to “learn and grow” … it’s one of our core values here … with the added part of “then teach and share,” which will probably be my next challenge. :)

  8. Cory – Wow! Another great post and challenge! Thank you for not only running a great business but giving all of us the tools and encouragement to do the same.

    To your questions:
    1″what things are stopping you or holding you back”:
    – fear: the more I learn about WP, themes, plugins, CSS, HTML, etc, the more I realize I don’t know, so I become paralyzed in over analyzing everything from choice of theme to which plugins do I _really_ need to buy.

    – pricing: still having trouble determining how much to charge and what contracts to use.

    2 “how you’re going to kick butt and take the next vital steps”
    – finish business website by 6/15
    – finish personal website/blog by 7/1

    Thanks for those questions. I needed to hear them and respond to them and set goals for them.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Elizabeth, thank you so much for the honest and public response!

      To your one about fear …. in my opinion, you’re WILLING to learn and grow and that in itself is AWESOME.

      I also give you this quote by Teddy Roosevelt that I’ve used when I get in that place … http://corymiller.com/living-life-in-the-arena-2/

      In this post I didn’t say you should know EVERYTHING … but there are some essentials. The rest you’ll learn over time and experience.

      Re: pricing … check out Chris Lema’s work and posts on the subject here:


      Love how you’ve set tasks and deadlines for yourself to make progress. #BOOM

      • One of my favorite quotes. Great reminder, thanks!

        Will check out those links! Always looking for good advice.

        Now off to learn more about OklahomaRocks.com! Let the learning continue!


    • Elizabeth, I encourage you to discover the things you can be great at and focus on that. You can learn some of the rest, but when you operate in your zone, the more successful you will become. :)

  9. Hi Cory,

    I’m very much looking forward to improving my skills with all of the wonderful resources you and ithemes are so generous to provide.

    The link provided for “full (and free) primer of short tutorials on the fundamentals of HTML and CSS at WebDesign.com.” seems to link to premium content.

    I would love to read these before the webinars if they are available for free. Thanks!

  10. Kudos Cory,
    The biggest reason I jumped into iThemes was to have access to additional educational resources. Builder and it’s “Buddys” are slowly making their way into client and personal projects, but the “plum on the thumb” are the educational assets. They are worth every nickel of the “ToolKit”. If you want a specific book, go to the library…

    My “lab” time is about 67% development and 33% continuing education. At least once a week and on most Tuesdays, the big “monitor” (TV) on the wall behind my working monitors is watching something from the iTheme’s educational resources while I am pounding away on projects (and taking notes).

    It hasn’t been enough to ferret out and then anticipate technical and consumer trends, (including annual forays to CES to see how tech is morphing and then anticipating how to be there ahead of the curve). Add to that trying to keep up with HTML and CSS changes. If anyone can figure out how to manage 4 extra hours a day so I can sleep, I’d be happy to give up some Sales 101 training.

    Speaking of sales… What has really been a benefit to my business is my previous life in retail as well as B2B sales. Most developers that do not have a professional sales staff, have zero clue how to listen or the actual sales process. The sales process is fundamental to closing a deal, but more importantly, it gets you and your client on the same page. (if you listen).

    Case in point, I recently ran into another WP developer and we did a role-play sales. She tried to sell me and then we reversed. She was basically astounded at her lack of ability to step away from her ideas as a developer to listen to the client’s (my) ideas of what I (thought) I needed. We may do more because even thought it makes someone close to me more competitive, it tightens up my process as well.

    Selling skills are not just about “closing the deal”, it is about listening and if you don’t know how to do that, regardless of your technical expertise “theme bending’ or creating from a default theme, you will be of little use to any client.

    I am signing up for the three day workshop because in almost all cases, I learn one small thing that pushes me a few seconds ahead of the pack. If I was to make two suggestions for this challenge..

    1. Fundamental sales process training
    – a generic understanding of the sales process is mandatory!
    pick a style, get good at it.
    2. Read “212, The Extra Degree”
    – 40 minutes that will sink in, you can cheat and get a lot of it in 10min on YouTube, but the book is better.

    • John, you’ve hit a solid core issue I hear from many web designers … they might have the technical chops, but don’t know how or where to start with sales and marketing, which as a freelancer is absolutely vital. Thanks for sharing these resources.

    • John –

      Excellent points! Look forward to reading “212”.

      I have another sales book recommendation to add to your list. It is entertaining as it is educational.

      The Art of the Sale: Learning from the Masters About the Business of Life

      Thanks for sharing.

  11. Hey Cory, this is great!

    I was a print designer for almost twenty years, moving into web design after about 15. And it was a whole new ball of wax. I learned the basics of CSS and HTML, but my drive wasn’t there. I did continue to do design, but also made it clear to clients what I could do and couldn’t do.

    Education is huge and you are providing some incredible resources. I think web designers need to take these steps to stand out in the crowd. I know when I refer designers now, I am very careful of what they claim they know and what they really know.

    It’s all a matter of accepting the fact that you do need to continue to learn. I found my focus and strength and am happy with it.

    cheers my friend!

    • Bob, #BOOM … I was a former newspaper layout editor who simply wanted to post my stuff online and became infatuated with the web and what it could do for my work and life.

  12. What a GREAT challenge!! I have been an in-house designer (print) for over 12 years, and now that I am freelance (since November) most of my work is web, which is fine, but I still feel like I am riding with my training wheels.

    Cory, this is nice swift kick in the pants! Especially for freelancers who have been in the business for a while and haven’t had the time to stop and take a class or be a part of a group effort.


    • Helena, woohoo! I also came from print … and dove into the awesome world of the web. I still have a fond love for ink and pulp … but have enjoyed the challenge and adventure of the web.

  13. I’m in. I already know CSS & HTML. I’m good with WordPress and PHP too. But I do need a business plan as I’m retiring in September after 38 years of government service. Thanks for the kick in the pants!

    By the way, my investment in the Toolkit from iThemes and WebDesigner.com are the best money I’ve spent yet on the new business.

    • Patricia, awesome! So glad to know you’re good to go on the essential skills and hoping to learn more. As well as benefiting from what we’re doing! Comments like this make our work so much more fun!

  14. Thanks for the challenge, Corey, and I apologize for the long post, but I don’t often get the energy nor time to respond and share these thoughts…

    I’m a part-time web designer, learned most everything by trial and error since 1998 (Geocities was my first platform). It’s been out of a need to communicate and share my ideas and art. Then one day, 8 years ago, I was forced into early retirement and started tinkering again. HTML and CSS. I started playing with WordPress around 2007-8 and it’s been fascinating, exponentially opening new doors. Despite the “turn-key” claims associated with many themes and theme builders, I always end up hacking the themes with HMTL/CSS/PHP. Not for functions but for site architecture mostly.

    But I have been feeling lately that I needed to learn more in terms of building sites online. There is a remarkable difference between building a “web site” and building a “web presence.” Some people have strengths in various areas, but the web presence wasn’t my forte. It started to really bother me. Most clients don’t have a lot of experience with online networking, SEO, etc. And beside offering suggestions, I wasn’t much better. I sure can’t charge for any of those services myself. And the learning curve gets too much for me, there are so many schools of thought, and so many minute details to take care of, I prefer finding someone good at it and refer my clients to them.

    I am passionate about design and creativity, but never really got into monetizing anything, as for me personally, it feels like a lower form of usage of the internet. I hate the visual heckling and grandiose claims of success and profits, and how much of the web has turned into a giant billboard for just about anything. Few are the places you can go without being assailed by flash or gif animations, suggestive images and slogans, promises of returns on investment, all this mixed up in a mosaic of other ads just as adamant with their luring keywords.

    Even with web design, if one spends any time shopping for themes or CMS, it’s not long before you realize there is a lot of promises, and it’s often too late before you realize: “Oh wait, why is it so complicated to do this simple thing?” After reading miles and miles of forum posts and Google links, you feel discouragement pushing you down and your brain starts puttering.

    Lately I stared working with frameworks and suddenly a lot of the unnecessary weight has lifted. Great tools are supposed to do that. It shouldn’t be like learning a new language every month, they should make things simpler and help your productivity. And my pricing can reflect that. I still don’t understand how tools created by developers (membership and media plugins in particular) are forcing us into becoming beta-testers and wasting so much time and energy trying to just make them work. OK, maybe HOPE is the big word. We HOPE for a true “plug and play.” (Easing Slider Lite rocks that way).

    So when I hear a challenge offered to help me become a true web developer, I know it’s going to be interesting to follow-up on that. The first question I would ask myself is: if being a professional (or successful) developer is the goal, am I able to really evaluate where I’m at as far as my present skills and performance?

    The second question would be: is this training / workshop presented by people who can also measure or help me evaluate myself properly in light of their offering? What is it that I know well? What areas do I need to further develop, what is it I need to learn?

    I believe feedback is key, that’s why I share all this. We all come with various sets of skills, and I believe we all look for tools that will allow us to do the work we do properly. But tools without knowledge are not as helpful. To find good teachers/mentors is as essential as finding good tools, sadly, too many developers of themes and plugins don’t have that solid foundation allowing them to also be able to offer support in a way that is helpful and constructive.

    You only need to roam the forest of plugins and themes on WordPress.org or ThemeForest to find many developers of tools who don’t have a lot of endurance to interact beyond “Great plugin, thanks dude!” It’s like there is an elite trying to impress the elite, and we’re just the common mortals spending the money to buy promises that don’t deliver – in the end, we feel alone and used.

    And I’m not going to go in detail regarding the new trend of “licensing for a year” products which we only will use once or twice. The risk of seeing the product expire and leave me looking for a better replacement a year from now often turns me away. It’s too much financial commitment for something so fluid and fleeting.

    You said you’ve learned coding between 9:00 pm and midnight, so you’d know how it feels to pursue a solution when half the planet is asleep and you’re on your own. You start realizing that a huge gap exists between the developers and users world. THAT for me would be an amazing concept to explore so the gap can be bridged and the web could become much more efficient, and not suffer from the look and dysfunction of a rosary of boom-towns scattered randomly over the landscape, with billboards littering the countryside advertizing peep shows, fireworks and beer stores for the next 75 miles.

    The web is a messy place, and too many of these used car salesmen (sorry for the cliche stereotype) build something for themselves, make a quick buck and leave overnight for the next rush. They know how to make this work, but they don’t have a concept of cohesion, of presence, of collectivity. They don’t have vision, globally. So we don’t have too much training or workshops going on! I wish I knew some of those tricks of the trade myself, and could help my clients benefit from that expertise.

    This being said, I appreciate all your efforts, I have great respect for your company and products, you truly seem to do your research and come up with practical products extending our performance of the work we do!


    Andre Lefebvre

    • Hey, we don’t have anything planned so far this year. Live in-person events are not easy for us. We’re better at facilitating online community but if we do we’ll let you know!

  15. I commend the notion of educating the community, particularly knowing the time and cost investment that it requires. But to go along with the idea of caring requiring greater responsibility, I’d like to bring some things to your attention.

    A quick review of the first free HTML and CSS Basics video content linked above shows it to be confusing at a couple of important points.

    Example (verbatim) at 3:26 — “Tags are composed of the elements put into multiple set of tags.”

    Elements have tags, tags are not composed of elements.

    At another point at 2:04 the narrator states “everything between the h2 element that opens and the h2 element that closes…”

    He meant tags since those are what open and close elements. He stated the next one (describing the paragraph element and tags) correctly.

    But those mistakes could easily confuse someone approaching the subject for the first time. Without the basic terminology correct, they’ll likely struggle to grasp more advanced topics or worse, make mistakes.

    Just a heads up.

  16. This has been a fascinating response to a really simple proposition that Corey put forward.

    Some like to quote, “When the student is ready, the master appears”.

    This is the perfect application here. If you think it applies to you, it does. Now do what he says and take action by putting a deadline to it. Then get started…

    If you like art, lean toward the design side. If not, hire it out. I write plugins and modify other plugins to get the job done. We still claim to be a design house because we are responsible for those who we use for the artsy stuff.

    I bet E-Myth is on his bookshelf. It should be on yours. Don’t get bogged down as a technician. This about building a profitable business.

    Good Luck!!!

  17. The workshops have been great so far. I have loved them and they have pumped me up. Now I need to plan to get these things done because now I feel overwhelmed. Thanks for this great CHALLENGE!!!

  18. Dear Cory,

    THANK YOU. I teach Web Design and in one course, WordPress. Many students come out of it not knowing about the business side of it. Sending them this link now!

  19. Cory,
    I have been receiving emails from iThemes for well over a year now – since my purchase of Backup Buddy early in 2012. I would glance at your emails, think they didn’t pertain to me since most seemed to evolve around Builder or new themes. There was something different about this particular email, however, that caught my eye. It was probably the words “Bold Summer Challenge” since I always am up for a challenge. Your words really struck a chord with me. I listened in on the three-day FREE Introduction workshop signing up as a member to webdesign after the first day. I couldn’t believe how much was right under my nose as I have struggled with finding answers to many questions about this business. AND I couldn’t believe how much I didn’t even know I didn’t know (ha,ha) As Scott quotes above , “When the student is ready, the master appears”. Thanks for appearing (even though you apparently were always there). I look forward to working through your challenge this summer and having iThemes/webdesign as being my go to resource.

    Thank you and will keep you posted.

  20. Cory this is excellent! Thank you. I am curious though do you feel that the iThemes Creative Services is taking away clients from your freelancers? Would you consider transferring that business to us like I see the other major theme dev (Woo / Studiopress…) do?

    Most of the business I’ve worked for don’t directly compete with their primary clientele. Let me know what you think and thanks. Appreciate iThemes :)




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