WordPress Implementors are becoming increasingly common in the WordPress community. These are people who implement WordPress for small businesses. Often they will setup WordPress for their client, and then buy a theme and customise it to fit the clients requirements.
The Difference Between Implementer and Developer
There is a lot of confusion around naming WordPress roles. A lot of people call themselves WordPress developers when I think they would be more correctly called Implementers.
WordPress developers are people who create WordPress products from scratch. Whether thats themes, or plugins (or both) they are happy to work in code. They are often happy working with servers, and doing other more technical things.
Implementers, on the other hand, tend to be more client focused. They want to find quality themes and create happy customers. Implementers tend to buy a theme, and then customise them to their clients liking. As such they are less technical - although some knowledge of CSS, HTML and PHP is very helpful.
Skills Needed to be a Good Implementer
To be a good WordPress Implementer you should:
Have some solid HTML and CSS knowledge, and basic PHP skills - this makes it much easier to customise themes, and create child themes.
Know how to use WordPress inside and out - knowing the WordPress admin and how to create and edit content is especially important. You may need to teach your clients this as well.
Be a people person - dealing with customers is probably more important than your technical skills.
Be good at marketing - if you can't market your services then you won't have any work.
Tips to get started as a WordPress Implementer
Have a preferred web host - preferably one with an affiliate program. Learn how to set up WordPress on this host. Get your clients to sign up to this (through your affiliate link) and you can get up and running quickly without having to learn a new system.
Have a contract ready - create a good contract that protects you should something go wrong. Define payment terms, who owns the content, and get out clauses. It's worth asking for money up front too. 50% on start of work and 50% on completion is common.
Have a website - somewhere to promote yourself, and show off your portfolio of clients.
Have a collection of 'go to' themes that you know well - make sure you know a few flexible themes inside out that you can customise easily. This will save you time and effort in the long run. Our themes are designed to be easy to modify.
Prepare some commonly used plugins - like the themes, prepare a pack of plugins that cover commonly requested features that you can quickly install for your clients.
Get update processes in place - using a service like ManageWP can save you a lot of time and effort when managing multiple WordPress clients.
Development Tips for WordPress Implementors
Always use child themes - don't modify the themes you buy directly. This is super important. If you modify the themes then you will have a lot of trouble when theme updates are published.
Don't modify WordPress - as with the themes, if you edit WordPress, then you won't be able to update the site without making the changes again. If you want to edit WordPress behaviour then you should find (or create) a plugin.
Develop locally - then sync to your production site - often called 'Ninja Coding', working directly on a live server is asking for trouble. It is well worth learning how to use something like MAMP, or XAMPP - or even something more modern like VVV. These things sound complex, but they make development considerably easier.
Don't use the WordPress file editor - using it means that you're (probably) breaking tips 1 and 3 above. You're editing core theme files, on a live server. Not only is it slower - but it opens you up to all sorts of potential breakage.
Learn HTML, CSS, PHP, JS (in that order) - this can sound intimidating - but the more you use them, the more confident you will feel, and the more you will be able to offer your clients.
Keep WordPress, Themes, and Plugins up to date - really. Do it. Security is very important, you don't want your clients to get hacked, so make sure you keep everything up to date. The previously mentioned tool - ManageWP - is great for this. We've written more about why you should keep WordPress up to date in our support docs.
Improving WordPress Development Skills
Most WordPress Implementors have some development knowledge, but it's always a good idea to keep them up to date. Below are a few resources that will help your WordPress skills stay fresh.
The Codex - a classic, and still the best programming resource for WordPress. This has loads of information about WordPress and how to develop for it.
WordPress Developers - this is going to be a replacement for the Codex, but currently is not as complete. There are however some useful elements and it will only get better with time.
WordPress the Right Way - a guide to the best practices for developing with WordPress. Less about code, and more about the best way to do things.
WordPress Coding Styleguide - this document is part of the 'WordPress the Right Way' docs, but it collects the standards together. It's well worth following the standards since it makes transferring code between developers much simpler.
WordPress needs both Implementers and Developers for the ecosystem to thrive. There's no reason you can't cross into both worlds.
I'm sure there are developers out there, who also purchase themes for clients with smaller budgets - and there's definitely developers who reuse other peoples plugins. These things save the developer time, and give their client a quality product.
It works the other way too - Implementers are likely to pick up more and more PHP and technical knowledge as they go and may end up branching out into products.