Magdalena Paciorek—WProfessional of the Month

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We’re back with a new interview. After our chat with Jenny Beaumont last month, it’s time to talk to another WordPress enthusiast. She’s been using WordPress for over a decade and it’s helped her pave her way to becoming a professional web developer, like it has for many of us too. I had the pleasure of meeting her last year during WordCamp Europe 2019, where we both were part of the Content Team (as we are in 2020). Please welcome Magdalena Paciorek!

Thanks for the interview, Magdalena. It is a pleasure having you here! For those of our readers who don’t know you, tell us a little about yourself and your relationship with WordPress.

Hi David, thank you for inviting me to the interview.

I started using WordPress sometime around 2008, or maybe 2009. It’s been over a decade now, so I don’t remember the exact date 😉 At that time I’d found out that you can make money online through affiliate marketing. And so I needed a website, where I could publish some content with the affiliate links that were supposed to make me a lot of money 🙂

Long story short, I haven’t become a millionaire like I secretly hoped to 😉 However, it introduced me to WordPress and programming, and paved a way to my career change. Since that time I slowly moved from being a WordPress user to making money as a WordPress developer. And I’m still learning, these days mostly React and coding for Gutenberg.

You’re a WordPress freelancer that works from home. I think that working remotely, without an office, is something that you either love or hate (at least, here in Spain). Can you share with us your experience? How’s your daily routine? How do you separate work time from personal time?

I’ve been working from home for a decade now. However, I now more often find myself going to the client’s office, to work with the in-house team (in most cases it would be a marketing team) for a full working day. The communication is much better this way, and I sort of can feel as a part of a team, even though technically I am not.

There is a lot of hype around working from home these days (at least in Poland, where I’m from). I think, many people perceive it as a dream come true, as an easy way of life. But we often forget that the job has to be done, regardless of whether you’re at home or at the office. Working from home surely has a lot of advantages, like saving time and money on a commute or being able to work for companies from other parts of the world. But it also has many disadvantages, like loneliness or a time management difficulty that leads to a weak productivity.

For me, at some point, working from home felt like I was constantly at work, I haven’t been on a proper holidays for years. I also felt lonely at work and didn’t have anyone senior to learn from. Now my working environment changes from day to day, I have a better work-life balance and more human to human contact while still having a lot of freedom as a freelancer.

In WordCamp Praga, you talked about Gutenberg and the challenges WordPress developers might face when building websites with it. What do you think about Gutenberg so far? What are its three strongest and weakest aspects?

I really like the idea of blocks. I think it’s great that editors are now able to create rich layouts for their content without needing to use third party plugins.

Gutenberg is a game changer for developers as well. New skills need to be learned and a major change like this one will always at first be met with resistance. But, I believe, everyone will have to start adopting sooner or later.

In my opinion, the weakest point of Gutenberg at this moment is its documentation, which is far from being a comprehensive source of information, and generally lack of tutorials, articles, forum posts that would help with learning the new technology.

Magdalena at WordCamp Seville 2019
Magdalena at WordCamp Seville 2019, an event targeted at developers specifically.

The second thing is that the Gutenberg’s codebase keeps changing, some things are being deprecated, so our custom projects need to be adapted to that. While it’s ok for in-house projects, it’s just a part of the job, for agencies that don’t offer this level of maintenance it might be something that holds them back from building websites with Gutenberg blocks.

What I like about Gutenberg? First of all, I like using it as a user – to add and manage content. It’s so much better than the classic editor. Once I tried the block editor I have never looked back.

Secondly, I really like the idea of having a standardized way of writing modern code for WordPress. Today, when you take over a code written by other developers, you really don’t know what you’re getting into. It’s because developers want to use modern workflows and code, and the old-school-WordPress-way of writing code is not considered as such. In result, every agency have their own standard of extending WordPress. So I hope that the block API will standardize the way we extend WordPress.

Finally, I think that Gutenberg, being a platform-agnostic application that so far has also been adapted to Drupal and Laravel, can bring a lot of fresh ideas to WordPress. New people, from outside of the WordPress bubble, may be drawn to the community. On the other hand, WordPress professionals may start working with other technologies that will be adapting Gutenberg. I think it may open many new opportunities, that at the moment are difficult to imagine.

A few days ago we read some striking news: Elementor (one of Gutenberg “competitors,” if I may) raised $15 million, and Matt Mullenweg was wondering if this would be a boost for WordPress and Gutenberg, or if they’d part their ways and fork the project. What do you think about it? Where do you see WordPress in 2 to 3 years?

I think that parting ways with WordPress and going SaaS is a viable option for Elementor. With Gutenberg being developed at a current pace and a full site editing coming to core, we can expect that everything that can be done in Elementor, will at some point also be possible in just a bare WordPress. And if so, why would anyone keep using a third party plugin?

If Elementor part ways, fork WordPress, and build their own SaaS platform, it has a chance to build a name for itself, as a standalone product, not as a plugin for WordPress. Then it would put itself in a direct competition with WordPress.com and other SaaS website builders like WIX or Squarespace.

I’m not worried about WordPress though. I’ve personally heard from people who are new to WordPress that they like Gutenberg better than Elementor, that it’s more intuitive to them and they find it easier to use. I think in 2-3 years time people will finally adopt to Gutenberg and the ecosystem around it will evolve. We may even see it being used in a ways that we haven’t seen so far.

One of the things we freelancers or business owners struggle the most with is finding new customers and projects. How do you do it? What marketing strategies do you follow? How do people find you?

My freelance WordPress career really took off since I learned programming and was able to write custom themes and plugins for WordPress. And being an active member of the Polish WordPress community helped me meet a lot of people. So I would say, that having in-demand-skills and a professional network is a key to not having to worry about getting clients and projects.

Other than that, LinkedIn platform seems to be a great place to connect with other professionals. Even though I’m not very active LinkedIn user, once in a while I get messages from people looking for a WordPress developer. So I guess it would be worthwhile to invest time and effort in the LinkedIn platform.

You’re an active member of the WordPress community: you’ve talked in several WordCamps, you started a local meetup in Poznan, Poland, and you’re also part of the WCEU’s Content-Team (both in 2019 and 2020). Why? What drives you to get involved with the community? What are the main benefits of being part of this community? How would you encourage someone to take a step forward and get involved too?

The main benefit of being involved in the WordPress community is all those amazing people you get to meet! So many memories are created at every WordCamp, and it’s great to constantly have something to look forward to, as there are so many meetups and WordCamps throughout a year. My life has been more enriched since I joined the community. And also my skills and career have progressed a lot.

Magdalena Paciorek Profile Picture
Magdalena Paciorek Profile Picture.

Getting involved with the community is something I would encourage everyone to do. It will change your life for the better.

Now it’s time for our most-acclaimed question: sharing an epic fail of your past 😉 So please confess: where and how did you screw up?

Back in the early days of my freelancing I had this affiliate business that I’ve mentioned. I wasn’t making millions, but it was bringing a steady monthly income. The idea behind it was to set up a website around some topic, get it rank high in Google, and then if enough people visited the website, someone would sometimes buy something that I promoted. And this way I got payed. It was a numbers game, really.

And then in April 2012 Google launched the Penguin update… and all my websites lost their rankings in Google. And lost all the traffic as well.

This was a huge business lesson to me “to never put all eggs into one basket” – as the saying goes. To never rely on one source of income or on one source of clients. And that sometimes the game is changing, and there is nothing we can do about.

Maybe this is why I’m adapting quite well now to the new Gutenberg reality. I just know that the game has already changed and I have no influence on this. So resistance doesn’t really make much sense to me, it’s better to adapt and move on with whatever comes next.

And finally, who else should we interview? Tell us what WProfessionals you’d like to see in future interviews and why.

Ella van Durpe. I think it is noteworthy that Ella is one of the few female developers contributing to Gutenberg, and generally one of the contributors with the highest number of commits.

Maciej Swoboda. CEO of a Polish based plugin shop https://www.wpdesk.net/, for a sustainable way of building a WordPress Business with respect to the GPL licence and for contributing to Open Source together with whole of his team.

Ahmad Awais. An author of various open-source tools and libraries, one of which is create-guten-block, which helped me at the beginning when I was learning how to build custom blocks.

Thanks Magdalena for your time. I really enjoyed this interview, and I hope our readers did too. See you next month, guys!

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