I remember when I was about 10 years and my mom got our first ever computer. She went to the store and got a bunch of CD’s which I was hyped about because I knew some of them were games. She gave me a yellow box that had “Microsoft FrontPage” on the front and said, “Here, learn this”. She saw my confused face and said “It shows you how to build websites. The web is huge right now. If you have this skill, one day you can make a lot of money.” I did go through the course and was pretty good at HTML and CSS but never stuck with it.
Besides, no one else I knew was doing it and what do moms know anyway?
Everything. They know everything.
This was my first taste of coding. But it definitely wasn’t the last.
2016 was a bad year. I was still living in my hometown Philly, constantly working overtime at my low paying job, constantly stressed, trying to prove myself to a company that only viewed me as a number. That combined with the two hour commute both ways daily and I eventually burned myself out severely. I was so depressed that I would go to sleep crying and then wake back up crying again willing myself to get out of bed so that I could go to work. Eventually, I saw a therapist who diagnosed me with depression and she recommended that I take a break from work to recover. I was out of work for three months still recovering when my job called not to check on me, but to see when I was coming back. I ended up quitting over the phone, and never looked back.
But I knew I needed to find out what I wanted to do career-wise. I decided to start teaching myself HTML and CSS again to see what I could do with that skill. I took the CodeAcademy courses and was surprised at how much I remembered.
I eventually found someone who wanted me to do maintenance on their site for really cheap. I was excited because in just a couple of months I landed a client! But it was also a HUGE mistake.
He was constantly nagging me daily on fixing his site, and every time I would fix it he would find something else wrong. Worse part is that went on for months without me collecting any extra money from him. I didn’t have him sign a contract (BIG Mistake) and he would contact me at various hours which I always responded right away because I felt I had to (Another mistake). Eventually, it got to be too much and I had to cut him off completely. I learned quite a bit about the business of web development and knew I needed to do more research before jumping head first into this again.
A Leap Of Faith
Fast forward to December 2017, I got offered an IT Management job in DC and moved within a couple of weeks with only $50 in my pocket which no place to live. But I made it work. I stayed in a hostel for two weeks while I found an apartment. My mom helped with getting the funds for my apartment and without her support, I don’t know think I would be here now. I stopped my web stuff for a while so I can focus on my transition. I’m not gonna lie, as much as I was happy to move here, I was also very lonely. The folks at my job were older and they were all family people, and I knew no one out here. But the biggest challenge was trying to run a whole IT department by myself and the upper-management C-Suite folks not having a clue about tech or why it costs so much. It also didn’t help that there were folks that had a huge dislike of IT and therefore transferred that dislike to me. I knew about a month into this job that this wasn’t going to be the path that I was going an needed to do something else.
I searched online for a web course that would help me learn front-end development and eventually I came across Skillcrush. They were offering a course to teach WordPress development and all you needed to know was HTML and CSS. They offered the course for $150 a month for 3 months. After researching and seeing how many companies were using WordPress and the value in it I decided to take the plunge and take the course. I started in May and completed it in August.
While taking the course I joined their Slack and met a group of amazing women, some who were alumni and found success from freelancing building websites with WordPress. They shared advice and tips on how to find clients and freelance and how they made the transition.
I took all the knowledge I saw and absorbed it like a sponge. Then in September, I took the plunge and quit my job.
Now, this was reckless of me. While I did have some savings to keep me afloat for a minute I never planned this out. If you’re going to freelance I highly recommend you don’t go this route. I started looking everywhere I could to get gigs. Upwork was the most successful platform especially for finding WordPress gigs. I was able to find a few successful gigs and luckily got to work with a web agency which gave me a steady stream of income for a while. I learned how to do contracts, set rates and expectations and through these methods and more was able to secure quality clients that I still work with today. One client referred me to others who needed work, which brought in even more income. While I was doing this I also decided to join Twitter and found a community of other black folks who were also starting their tech journey. I was able to help others and well as ask for advice when I needed it. Finally, I no longer felt alone.
But then in February, the agency jobs started to slow down. I could have gone a little longer without a proper job but I decided to go back into the workforce because I wanted to build back up my savings faster and also invest in other parts of my business. So I decided to get back into the job world and got a contract job with the federal government. The job was good and I did so well that after 2 months they offered me a full-time position. I still work at this job to this day.
As for my WordPress websites, I still do work for existing clients if they really need it. In addition, I run a blog called #WordPressWednesday (now named #WordPressWisdom) where I share tips and tricks on all things WordPress. But my journey isn’t over. I recently got accepted into Flatiron Software Development Bootcamp where I will be diving into more backend development. I also have a lot of other things coming which I can’t share just yet. It took a lot of work to get to this point.
I don’t think I would have ever gotten to this point without the support of the tech community on Twitter and most notably the Digital Empire community that I’m a part of.
Having a place to share resources, tips and jokes daily have kept me motivated and going for the past year.
WordPress for me has been a life skill that has brought wealth. It has given me the ability to generate a whole other means of income as well and give resources to other people who are looking for a place to start in the coding world. But it wasn’t an easy journey to get this point. And if you feel stuck like I was, know that there are people here for you. Start your journey today. Get on Twitter and introduce yourself to the community. Ask for help. And most importantly, know that you are not alone.