If you have attended the WordCamps in Madrid, Seville, Pontevedra, Zaragoza or Spain in the last years or have asked for help in the support forums, surely you already know Marta Torre. A WordPress entrepreneur very active in the Spanish community who today shares her experience earning a living with WordPress and being part of this fantastic community. Let’s welcome Marta Torre!
Thanks for the interview, Marta. It’s a pleasure to have you here! For those who don’t know you, tell us a little about yourself and your relationship with WordPress.
I am a full-stack developer (in other words, I have no idea of back-end or front-end), freelance and I work with different professionals collaborating on projects (designers, copys, SEO, marketing, etc)
My relationship with WordPress began in 2007. I was doing an internship and I had colleague who loved free software and taught me a lot. That’s when I installed my first WordPress site, started my own blog, and I started publishing some articles.
In 2009 I started to research/work well on WordPress and since 2012, when I signed up as a freelance, I started working as a freelance web developer.
Marta, talking about your professional experience in WordPress. You came across WordPress in 2007 but started working with it later. Tell us, what was your first WordPress project?
My first professional project in WordPress was an academy for a company in a province of Huelva. Something informative, no online courses, no memberships or anything like that. Everything was very simple. If I think about it now, it’s horrible, but we all have to start somewhere. If my way of working has not improved in 10 years, something is wrong.
You have seen how WordPress has evolved for 10 years. In all these years, what change has had the most impact for you? Why?
For me the most significant change was the introduction of Custom Post Types. I think it was a breakthrough in terms of content management and making WordPress extensible. It became a framework.
Another major change has been the block editor. I didn’t like the idea very much, and there are things that I don’t like (like editing posts with it – I’d rather use the classic editor), but the whole content creation system has changed. Let’s not forget that WordPress is a content management system, not a tool for making websites. This change means that non-technical users can create content very easily and that, I think, is good for the web in general, and more so for free software.
This year, after 13 years living in Huelva, you have moved to Portugalete (by the way, a beautiful place where you can eat wonderfully). On a personal level, it has certainly had a great impact, but on a professional level, has it had an impact? And regarding the Bilbao WordPress community, how easy has it been for you to integrate with them?
Although the Basques have a reputation for being reserved and that they do not hang out with anyone other than their gang, I have to say that from my experience it is quite the opposite. I’ve always personally felt that I myself was a bit Basque – it’s the place I really wanted to go and try, so here I am.
I decided to move in the midst of a pandemic and it’s been hard, but the impact has been brutal. Both personally and professionally it was something I needed, and I am very happy about it. On a work level it shows a lot. The Basque Country has a different way of working, it invests in technology and the type of contacts and clients move at a different pace. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that there isn’t any work in Huelva, but I feel like people don’t invest as much in technology there as they do here, so it’s complicated to improve things in that area.
Recently, in the interview that Nahuai and Ester did with you in freelandev, you commented that you prefer to work directly with the client instead of working with agencies, and I’m sure you have your reasons, but tell us a little more about the lessons learned, the advantages and disadvantages that you find when working and interacting with agencies or with clients directly.
I have a very well defined work philosophy. I have been working for many years, and I have had many experiences, some nice and others not so nice.
The main reason I don’t work with agencies is because of authorship issues. Almost no agency (in my experience) has allowed me to share I’m the author of the projects I’ve developed for them, and that’s a red flag.
Then there’s the logistics issue. In the end, if you do projects for others, you forget your own and your personal brand. You make another company grow, but you don’t grow as a freelancer. This is something I think about a lot. If you have your own clients, you will always grow better and faster.
Communication is for me the most important part of my projects. Development is very abstract, I have a hard time explaining to the clients what I do, how to do it, and why it takes x to develop any functionality, for example. Agencies usually don’t have much development experience or, if they do, it’s not in your field. If they are the ones who talk to the end customer and not you, there are always problems. This always happens: “The client asked something, the agency said yes, and you looked at it and had to raise your budget.”
Budget. Almost all agencies want to take economic value for your work, I can understand this, although I do not share it. But my experience is that 97% try to bargain for them to get more money. For me this is not transparent and I have a philosophy with my collaborators: each one works on what they know how to do and nobody takes commission from anyone. Everybody wins.
You have recently migrated a website from Visual Composer to Gutenberg. What problems did the web have to decide to migrate it to Gutenberg? This is something we (at Nelio) are very interested in, as you’ll soon see…
First of all, it was and is a website full of videos with AutoPlay, a lot of plugins that require jQuery, and it had a lot of performance problems. It was practically impossible to optimize it properly.
It caused a lot of database problems, and I told the client it was going to take me more hours of work to optimize it than to do it from scratch with Gutenberg. So we opted for the latter. It was not the best option, because everything had to be made from scratch (custom design and development), but it was better than attempting an optimization.
What were the most important difficulties you encountered with this migration?
Well in the end I wasn’t building a custom website. I had to replicate their old website in Gutenberg and make it look as close as possible to the Visual Composer counterpart.
They had a lot of plugins and I had to clean a lot of stuff. I tried not to do a lot of custom things so that they could manage it later, since they were non-technical users.
As you say, this is a recurring problem that many professionals or website owners encounter. The website needs to be updated but there is the lock-in problem of themes or plugins installed…
And this is precisely the problem that has inspired us to create a new product at Nelio: Nelio Unlocker. The idea is that you can migrate pages from any web to Gutenberg (soon you will be able to choose other page builders) with a similar look and without losing content. So we are already looking forward to seeing a post on your blog about your experience with Nelio Unlocker ?.
Wow!! I love the idea, it’s great. Well, you know, when you launch it, let me know and I’ll review it on the blog, I think it’s a great idea. Congratulations!!
The truth is that it is something that many users need, many clients are constantly asking me how to do that step. If they have it through a plugin it’s great.
But let’s take advantage of the fact that today you can dedicate a little of your time to us. Tell us a bit, what professional projects do you have on the table for this 2021? And, within the WordPress community, in which WordCamps and meetups can we find you?
In this 2021 my project martatorre.dev is going to change a bit, I’m already talking to design, SEO, and copy departments to schedule all deadlines and things, so I’m very happy for this part.
I am also working on a very large project that I’m very excited at a professional level, connecting several websites in WordPress through REST API to a custom platform developed by me at Laravel and microservices, so I’m very excited.
Right now, I have been convinced to give a talk at WordCamp Tarragona to talk about this, the migration from Visual Composer to Gutenberg, I hope you like it!
Also let’s see if we do something in WordPress Huelva… I’d like to have some online meetups there.
Ah! And do not think that we are going to let you go without our favorite question to make us feel more human: tell us about any epic fail you’ve done in the past.
Phew, I’ve done a lot of these, so I can’t tell you. The truth is that I screw it up so many times a day, that messing it up is my daily routine, haha. It’s very difficult for me to set dates, because in the world of development, and especially in custom development, you always have little things to do, and as I always say: “In development you spend 80% reading and 20% programming.”
And finally, who else should we interview? Tell us which 3 WProfessionals you would like to see in upcoming interviews and why.
Well, I’m going to tell three professionals that I think are very cool and very little is said about them:
- Nora Ferreirós: UX / UI designer. She is my right hand, my partner and my tech soul mate. We are a design-development tandem and, thanks to her, my work is now infinitely better. Going alone to the freelance world is hard, but if you do it accompanied, it is worth it. If we fail, we fail together, we solve it, and we get back on our feet. She is my other half in my project and surely if it weren’t for her I would not be so proud of my work.
- Celi Garoe: Copywriter specialized in sustainable business. She doesn’t give talks often, but when she does, she’s magnificent. I think her profession is very beautiful and it is a pleasure to listen to her. She wrote a super good post about Gutenberg that everyone who starts with it should read.
- José Arcos: I met him in Huelva and he is the person guilty of making me a little more visible in the WordPress community, my right hand in the WordPress Huelva community, and the partner who’s always there to help when in need.
Thank you very much for your time, Marta, it has been a pleasure talking with you and I am sure that our readers loved learning more about you. And to you, dear reader, don’t miss this appointment with us next month!