Tess at WordCamp US, 2016
Talks, WordPress

How to embrace your WordPress mediocrity

All my life, I’ve felt somewhat mediocre. So I decided to embrace that feeling and get up on the WordCamp US stage to talk about it.

I’d applied to speak at the 2016 WordCamp US in Philadelphia on a whim, because I know that speaking at a conference makes you much more engaged with it than you otherwise would be. But I never in a million years thought that my little proposal, to talk about how it’s OK to be just good enough at WordPress, would actually get selected.

But yet there I was. In a room in front of about 200 people. Giving a 10-minute lightning talk. Eep!

In the talk, I reclaimed the term “mediocrity” as something to be proud of, rather than to try to overcome. I reminisced on times in my life when “good enough” has been perfect. And I gave people three strategies to embrace their WordPress mediocrity, namely: Be authentic, work together, and help others:

1. Be authentic

Finding your authenticity is easier said than done. It can be hard to find your true voice, and even harder to express it proudly.

For a long time, I was struggling to find my voice in my freelance business. I felt so new and inexperienced, that every job I landed was a struggle with my own lack of knowledge. Everything took a long time to complete, as I had to do a lot of research and backtracking for each step of the process.

Once I eventually found my voice, and figured out how to express it in my business, everything fell into place. It was easier to write about myself, I got better processes in place, and everything just felt more natural.

The thing is, there will always be someone more knowledgeable than you are. That’s just the way the world works. But rather than being crippled by this knowledge, you can see it as an opportunity to see what offerings you have that augment your technical knowledge.

There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

 

Being authentic in business is important, as your personality can and should supplement your knowledge. Most people won’t mind if you have some cracks in your technical expertise, as long as they can relate to you as a real person.

Once I released my inner geek and launched WP SuperGeek, my business personality felt more complete. I no longer felt like I was holding anything back anymore, and the nerdy side of my personality could shine through.

People will want to work with you for you, not just for what you know. So it’s worth spending the time to figure out what your point of view is, and not being afraid to express it.

Don’t forget: if you bring your personality to the table, it’s great to be good enough.

2. Work together

While preparing my WordCamp US talk, I started thinking about the ways that I’ve worked together with other people in the WordPress community.

As a freelancer, I worked in solitary confinement in my home office, and I didn’t often get to collaborate with other people. When I worked in previous jobs, I used to love participating in brainstorming sessions with other people in a conference room, and one of the only downsides to freelancing was missing the energy and creativity that happens when sparking off other people.

For solo freelancers, it can be helpful to seek out other ways of working together with other people whose knowledge complements their own.

I worked on some projects that required connection and collaboration with other freelancers, and I honestly believe that these have helped me to embrace my WordPress mediocrity. And furthermore, these projects were always more fun to work on, and the end result is always way better than I could have achieved on my own.

Why is this so?

Well, effective communication and brainstorming always yield better results than going it alone. Generally, creativity does not happen in a vacuum, and the cracks in your knowledge can be complemented by someone else’s knowledge.

However, it’s not always easy to find others to work with, especially if you’re in the aforementioned home office situation.

Here’s a short list of ways to meet potential collaborators:

  • Put yourself out there – Do you have a blog? Some Twitter followers? A Facebook page? Are you a member of a business group, whether in real life or on Facebook? Make it known that you want to work with others, and what you have to bring to the table. You never know who might be looking for someone just like you.
  • Start small – If you already have a project that you need extra help on, outsource the work to someone who looks promising. If it works out well on that job, try another. And so on.
  • Contribute – Do you work with WordPress? There are many ways that you can contribute to the WordPress project. Check out make.wordpress.org and see where your skills fit in. This is large-scale collaboration, but a great place to get your toes wet.

3. Help others

I know what you may be thinking: How is it possible to help others at WordPress when you don’t know everything? Don’t you need to know everything to be able to teach it?

Well, the short answer is no. You can help people, even if you only know one more thing than they do.

Those of us who work with WordPress every day might find it hard to believe that people struggle with it. But there are many people out there who feel totally overwhelmed with technology in general, including with WordPress. These people have often been made to feel stupid or inadequate because they can’t do things that many of us take for granted.

I have seen people literally in tears because they didn’t understand how to install a website. But there’s no reason why they need to know that, and furthermore they probably know a lot of stuff that I don’t! So there is really no reason to feel stupid for not knowing.

I worked with a lot of small business owners in nontechnical businesses. People like therapists, yoga teachers, and builders spend their days working away from the computer. And they can use our help to be freed up from tech overwhelm, so they can focus on doing quality work.

There are lots of ways that you can help others with WordPress. Here are a few suggestions:

  • The WordPress.org forums – People are always asking questions about WordPress on the support forums. And anyone can make an account and start answering them! A good place to start is messages that haven’t had replies yet.
  • Facebook small business groups – I was a member of several Facebook groups consisting of other small business people. Since most of these people are using WordPress to power their websites, inevitably questions arise. If you answer them, make sure you’re coming from a place of being helpful, rather than simply promoting your business!
  • Look around – do you have an elderly neighbour running a small business? Maybe some of your friends need help getting their WordPress websites off the ground? Projects like these can be amazing learning experiences, and no doubt your friends will be in awe of your good enough tech skills!
  • Work for free – Working for free can be tricky, as it can devalue your work and cause people to expect that you’ll continue to work for nothing forever. However, there are many cases where pro bono work is a great idea. For example, non-profits are usually always in need of in-kind support. If you find a non-profit whose cause you’re aligned with, then you can make a significant contribution to their work by volunteering your time and skills to help them with WordPress.

Don’t wait until you know everything to share your knowledge with people who could truly benefit from it. There are many ways that you can share your WordPress knowledge to benefit others.

You are valuable right now, with all your imperfections, just as you are.

Go out and get ’em!

Slides

Video

Would you like to watch the talk? The great folks as WordPress.tv make videos from WordCamps all around the world available online, so you can watch me in all my mediocre glory, right here.

Buttons

At the end of the talk, I handed out 1.25″ GOOD ENOUGH buttons to 50 lucky audience members. If you didn’t get one, feel free to download the image and print your own.

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