How do I compete with Wix, SquareSpace, and WordPress as a freelancer?

Devon Campbell on August 23, 2019

Cover image by Flickr user Elliot Brown Web development is a dying profession. We’re being squeezed out on the low-end by cheap and easy web site ... [Read Full]
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I've always actually looked at this as a positive. Rather than mindlessly pumping out templated Wordpress sites, developers can actually focus on solving real problems for real businesses. We can focus on what really drives us as developers and push web further. The products mentioned may help small businesses gain a web presence (which is great!), but anything that requires custom work (medium+ businesses, many startups, government, etc.) there's just no possible way cookie cutter products can compete with real developers.

I've been in the business in one way or another for the past 15 or so years and I've never seen such a demand for frontend and backend web developers as we have now. I think as long as you can develop your skillset to those businesses that require custom work you will have plenty of work come your way.


I think the battle towards "universal" solutions is lost.

This doesnt mean, we as developers are obsolete now.

This universal tools are usually good for smaller projects and/or projects that dont have any custom functionalities.

So based on this we have a whole market of business specific software that we need to fill.


Yeah i think it can be seen as a way to help the dev and the client (whoever is it) as well in a point like the dev can build a landing page easily with a 'universal' solution and let the client start it marketing stuff with that since the real product is being developed buy the developer.


No offence here, i get your point, but I think your question disturb's reality a little bit.

These products (WordPress not so much) claim that you can build your own website without any technical knowledge. but all they do is make sure that people don't have to learn parts of the underlying technology. It still takes a lot of time and energy to learn how to build a quality website with these products

I know from experience that most entrepreneurs have no time at all to learn these type of product. And they are often not at all interested in learning how to build a website themselfs.

Often they are only interested in the end result, not how that result is made or what products are used, and are happy to pay someone to advise them and realize that end result for them.

I agree that prices are under pressure because of these kinds of products, but that, when it comes to buisness to buisness, there is still a lot of work for developers to do.


The question does distort reality (intentionally), and I think my answer put simply is, "You don't." I've intentionally phrased it as it's been phrased to me by others so that they will find it.

New developers see these platforms and get scared. Their reality is distorted because they don't know what the reality looks like. They think this is the kind of work they would want to do and see software gobbling up marketshare for prices they can't touch. The intent here is to shift that mindset.

Thanks for reading and taking the time to reply!


In that case we do agree! :) I merely wanted to add my experience as a former freelancer dealing with clients.

Thanks for sharing. It’s much appreciated! 😊


I so disagree with almost every single word in this article. In my experience the need for developers is only growing. They are even teaching it in schools.

As for WordPress and Wix. You have to ask yourself what audience you are targeting. People that use Wix are people like my grandmother. If you are a web developer, find some interesting clients. WordPress indeed is a decent solution but only when you host it yourself. The blogs on Wordpress.com have limited functionality. Convince potential customers by pointing out what Wix and WordPress don't have.
I am a developer myself and it is very rare that someone is satisfied with Wix. If someone is, they are not interesting as potential work.

James also makes a good point and I agree with Va that your perception of the situation is a little distorted. Have you taken a look at Wix? Sure you can do better.


Just an observation. It's wild to me that you think we're in total disagreement because I look at your reply, and, from my perspective, it looks like you're saying the same things I'm saying in the article.

You have to ask yourself what audience you are targeting.

is pretty much the same as

find the work the software can’t do


… it is very rare that someone is satisfied with Wix.

sounds to me like

Solving the specific problems businesses have will almost always require a developer’s touch.

🤷‍♂️ So, to me, it sounds like we're basically in agreement.

I don't disagree with almost anything you've said here with the possible exception of your point about WordPress.com. The gap between their hosted service and self-hosted WordPress is much smaller than it was a few years ago. You can now install your own plugins and themes on WordPress.com, so the differences are pretty minimal. It comes down to things most people considering that solution wouldn't notice until they're much further along. That's when they'll come back and hire you.

Anyway, thanks for reading and taking the time to reply. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.


I did not know Wordpress has changed in the sense that it allows plugins and themes now.

I didn't either until a client was asking about it a few months back and I had to look into it again. It turned out it still wasn't a great fit for him, but I was surprised how far the platform has come.


"Nothing inspires trust like convincing people not to hire you." THIS right here is the key to building a successful career as a freelance web developer. Jonathan Stark has some good insights in this same area as well: jonathanstark.com/daily/20160810-t...


You should know your value proposition by heart. If we were stuck in an elevator for 30 seconds together, what would you tell me to convince me that I'm gonna regret it if I don't get your contact information right then and there?

Why do they want a website? "Because it seems like everyone else is doing it." Sounds like we have a branding issue, and they need some guidance creating a consistent corporate brand that is reflected by their values. They need a website which consistently applies that branding so they have a chance to consistently apply the values they have promised when they start to get work after you help them create a marketing strategy.

Maybe they don't need that killer app written they keep talking about. Maybe they need to hear that honestly with a quick tip on where they should probably be pouring all their time and money right now. It might not lead to any work that minute, but I don't forget about people who are honest and willing to share information even if they had nothing to gain from it. If their business blows up and they do need an app, hopefully they remember what they learned from you and call you first thing.

You'll always have people arguing that things are too expensive and it's a waste of time and oxygen with some of those people. You only devalue yourself by giving in. 60% of the costs of a program are in maintenance, are they ready to pay for that when they outsource the app and it comes back full of bugs? Do they have an incredibly grandiose vision which you can help them turn into a tiny Proof of Concept at your normal rate? Maybe you will cut your rate a little, with the understanding that their project is lowest on your priority rate and you are going to need 6 months to finish it instead of the usual three. Having the ability to redirect your focus could be incredibly valuable for yourself at the moment if you are working with a demanding gig already or working hard to attract a certain new client.


I definitely feel there tends to be a gap that the WYSIWYG website creators and the client want. It's never as simple as just setting it and forgetting it. In my personal experience, non-technical people tend to aim for the moon and that always requires some additional work.


I’ve found that when competing with these platforms, it’s my experience that I use to sell. Sure, customers can drag and drop layouts, but they don’t know what the design trends are. They don’t know how to optimize things. Sure those platforms do some of it for you, but it doesn’t have UX knowledge. Plus it’s not super hard to sell a single point of contact vs a company where you don’t know who you’ll talk to.


I joined Dyson and shutdown my company. I don't regret it. Sorry that's not what you want to hear.


Actually why don't you talk about it in a post? sounds like a pretty interesting topic since some developers drop out of the big companies to start their own

would love to hear the inverse


Okay if it's interesting, I will have a think about it.

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