Enterprise Software

Do you take CMS work even if it doesn't pay much?

According to a new report by DoNanza, the demand and budget for CMS projects is on the rise. Look at the average budget for WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal projects on DoNanza, and then discuss whether you're taking gigs for CMS work.

Not long ago, Content Management Systems (CMS) were a great idea that nobody used. Now, they're ubiquitous. They make sense because they separate content from presentation concerns. With the arrival of free CMS systems such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal (among others), almost every site that offers up anything but static content uses a CMS of some sort.

For my own sites, I use WordPress. I've even published several plugins and widgets for WordPress. But I have yet to make any money directly from installing, configuring, or customizing a WordPress site. I did have one offer, but the prospect didn't have any money. I guess he hoped that I would volunteer to do it gratis. It seems like there's always someone who thinks that, because the software costs nothing, working with it should cost nothing too. Fortunately, it appears that a growing number of companies may be beginning to realize that the value of what you can do with a CMS warrants an investment in those activities.

According to a new report published by DoNanza, a work-from-home job site, the demand and budget for CMS projects is on the rise. Projects listed on DoNanza's site for WordPress grew by 61% in the third quarter of 2010. Projects involving Joomla grew by 38%, and those for Drupal by 26%.

(images used by permission from DoNanza)

During the same period, the total number of projects on DoNanza grew by 30%, so the rise in demand for WordPress has been more than double that of other projects. Joomla has grown a bit faster than average, and Drupal seems to be falling a little behind.

The following graph shows the average budget for these projects:

Now I know why I'm not playing this course: there's not enough green. The average budget for a freelance project for WordPress on DoNanza is $455. That's not per hour, or even per week -- that's the whole bundle that's expected to carry you from requirements to delivery. I don't know about you, but I could hardly manage to repress my PHP gag reflex for that much, never mind getting anything else done. Joomla doesn't offer much more ($473). If you can land a Drupal project, though, you're living the high life because with a project budget of $915 you can afford to buy the expensive coffee.

WordPress jumped up a notch in the rank of most requested skills on DoNanza to #7, edging out MySQL. The only skills in more demand on DoNanza are PHP, Translation, HTML, Graphic Design, Website Design, and SEO, in that order. Both Joomla and Drupal slipped down the list a bit, but they're still #17 and #43, respectively. Obviously, a lot of people are looking for help with these CMS platforms -- even if they don't want to pay much for it.

How about you? Have you taken any gigs for work on a CMS? How well were you paid? Would you do it again?

About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

28 comments
sandocanweb
sandocanweb

The data collected by DoNanza, which rely on freelance projects proposed through the site, would show that when the WordPress content management system for which would be published most of the demands of work, clients will search the blog engine in fact, experts than twice the number of Joomla and even six times more than Drupal, a fact that reflects in large part also of the growth rates required for each CMS. Learn More: http://www.websaledomain.com/project/

cm1967
cm1967

I'm starting to build websites for clients with Wordpress. I'm not making a killing but the experience is wonderful and looks great on my freelancing website and resume. I would absolutely do it again, and again, and again.

erol.salih
erol.salih

Hi, I am in the process of deciding which CMS to learn and use for an e-commerce site. I am having difficulty finding honest independent reviews of available open source CMS software. At some stage CMS will have to interface with MS Dynamics NAV. Can anyone please help? Many Thanks. Erol

rsantuci
rsantuci

I'm curious as to why DotNetNuke was not mentioned. With over 5 million downloads, it is quite a force to be reckoned with. And, from what I've seen, there are a plenty of opportunities for anyone that has used it.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

To people in the healthcare industry, CMS stands for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Justin James
Justin James

I will never do another CMS project for anyone other than myself... EVER AGAIN! Why not? So many reasons: 1. The pay sucks. 2. The customers suck. They are almost invariably small businesses who have zero tech savvy, allow their "really smart" 16 year old kid (or nephew/niece/grandkid) to have more say in the project than you have, and they treat every dollar spent as if it was their personal money (because it is). 3. The customers suck. They've never been involved with a project like this before, so they don't understand what their end of the bargain will entail. Stuff like demanding to know why the site isn't done, when it's been done for 3 months other than the content they haven't given you yet (which will invariably arrive as a Word document, PowerPoint spreadsheet, or worse... a MS Publisher file or PDFs from their vendors that they expect you to post verbatim). 4. The customers suck. Even though the CMS will be easy to use, they still won't get it. 5. The customers suck. You'll find out halfway through implementation that they "need" some sort of bizarre modification to the CMS which would have made you choose a different system if you had known about it up front, and will usually involve "upgrade proofing" the install because you have to change core functionality. 6. Technology sucks. Nearly every CMS on the market is written in PHP. Personally, I do not enjoy PHP, but that is neither here nor there. Much more importantly, is that there are certain, fundamental architectural mistakes which have become quite popular as "features" in CMS design. Things like the never ending cascade of directories to act as a method of "overriding" things on a server, site, or language basis. It's what happens when you put dynamic languages in the hands of someone who has a neat idea but hasn't been around long enough to know what it's like to be on the business side of that stick. 7. The technology sucks. Most CMS systems seem to be totally overengineered in an attempt to be "one size fits all". By the time you wade through the complexity, you were better off just writing it yourself, or using a static HTML system that can use templates, especially for sites with 50 or less pages. 8. The work sucks. There is really nothing interesting or intriguing about CMS work. The design can be fun, but honestly, for the pay rates you aren't going to be spending any time on it... you need to get in, get done, and get out, which means a basic (or rehashed) template. 9. The long term sucks. Some bad or poor paying projects are worth taking, because they have long term benefits. Maybe they'll lead you to some high end work with that customer once you have proven yourself. Perhaps they are a standout reference client. It could be a great learning experience where you need to work for cheap because you don't have it on your "previous projects" list, but once you get one under your belt you can charge a mint. But a CMS project doesn't meet any of these good reasons to take a boring, painful, or low paying project. CMS projects are "one and done" for the customer, and at best lead to... more poorly paying CMS projects. 10. The opportunity cost sucks. The biggest reason to not take a CMS project? While you are slaving away making sure than Jimmy's BBQ Shanty has a great looking CMS with Facebook integration, RSS, and a Twitter tie-in, and getting paid $500 to do it, that time could have been invested in drumming up better paying customers, developing a product in-house that could generate real revenue, etc. There is only ONE reason to EVER take on a CMS project that I've found: because you are desperately hungry and don't have anything else going on, with no prospects in site, and need something NOW. J.Ja

ian
ian

About 40% of my work comes from freelance sites, 50% comes from repeat work (originally from freelance sites) and the rest from referrals. My biggest challenge is competing with Asia for cost.I spend about 4 hours researching the prospect and writing a good proposal (maybe longer, depending on the job) with a strong argument why my bid is on the high end of the budget.I get about 17% of the jobs I apply for. What I do like about freelancing, is I can pick and choose my jobs. The trick is to weed out those sites that are looking for cheap work, and dismiss them.There are those prospects who say "this is an easy job, should only take a few hours". I delete those immediately. No sense in arguing with that mentality. I look for jobs that are interesting (although its not always the case) have a good idea of what they want and are open to discussion. My biggest problem with many people who post on these sites, they think it is for "work at home moms". Now, I have no problem with anyone who works at home or works from home ( ido it myself) My problem is the verbiage "work at home" being suggestive of someone with some spare time on their hands who want to make a little money on the side. This assumes there are no overheads to be considered or that it will go under the tax radar. If we could get rid of "work at home" and instead "go to the office", maybe we would be treated as legitimate businesses. I work at home but prefer to say that I go to the office, which in essence, I do. I don't believe in flip flops and shorts at work. I get dressed, albeit casual, and go to work in my office. In the evening, I lock up and go home to the living area. Getting back to the original question "Do you take CMS work even if it doesn't pay much?" sometimes you have to. I did when I first started out, I needed a porttfolio and I needed to market myself. Now that I have a good set of testimonials and referrers, I am able to command a higher price. It is surprising the number of clients who will pay top dollar when they see your testimonials.

versatileds
versatileds

I just finished a Wordpress website for a client of mine and I thought it went fairly well being my first Wordpress site. However, don't think that because it is a Wordpress site it will take less time. That may be the opposite if you've never coded in Wordpress as I spent much time trouble shooting code as Wordpress can be a little tricky in certain instances.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

If business is truly being carried on at those prices, then there must be enough people willing to do it. Are you one of them?

Justin James
Justin James

I have never found a CMS that I am 100% happy with. I've looked at them all, each one has major problems. The one that I like best is ModX, because it is the simplest with smooth upgrades, but it lacks a lot of the functionality because it isn't as popular. I also like WebGUI by Plainblack, but its install is a nightmare and it too lacks functionality. Drupal has a ton of modules, but it is miserable to live with (go look at the upgrade instructions to get an example of what I mean). I found Joomla, Typo3, and Mambo to all be lacking in various way. All of the PHPNuke variants are awful. The fundamental problem is that these systems tend to copy to same ideas from each other, and all too often, the ideas that they copy are very bad ones. J.Ja

jkiernan
jkiernan

...invariably arrive as a Word document, PowerPoint spreadsheet, or worse... a MS Publisher file or PDFs from their vendors that they expect you to post verbatim) This is so true it's painful. Also, item 2 resonates like a bell, but let's not restrict the age to 16. It could be anyone with zero real world experience foisting cloud computing and Facebook in entirely inappropriate scenarios.

www.indigotea.com
www.indigotea.com

Wow. What a really poor attitude! If this posting is an example of your customer approach, it's no wonder you've had such issues with small business clients. Proper client management, setting of expectations, and scoping of the project is as applicable for a SME as it is for a multi-national. It's usually far easier to get the point across to a small business owner who understands time & money, than through the noggin of an entrenched middle-manager or CXO who's forgotten the value of actually delivering a quality product, which is why I do prefer to work with small businesses. I use MojoPortal for my small business clients; it's an open-source, .Net/C# based CMS that's easy to build custom modules for, and provides a great way for them to manage their own content, which lets me provide a great business service, at a reasonable rate, and focus on helping them with their overall business needs.

tbmay
tbmay

I was just thinking about how much of that applies to every aspect of IT in the consulting world.

kerry
kerry

If everything sucks so badly, maybe you should find yourself a different business. There are plenty of us willing to work for small businesses that need help.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... are happy to pay well if they feel that they're getting the best for their money. The trick is to make them feel that way. Testimonials can certainly help with that.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Maybe you ought to review the practice of monks laboring over their illuminated manuscripts -- much easier on the eye. Yours is a latter-day chore.

guyaumebp
guyaumebp

Anyway selling a CMS platform "as is" is not something you should do. Every hosting service include one-click installation so how come you make money out of this ?

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

They're really good at dumping the prices of the people doing the work. One such site, a translation work site, that I'm lurking on, has a really preposterous model: They charge nothing for connecting a client with the experts, but they charge the experts 12$ a month to be able to bid in on these "work" projects. Similarly, while fair prices for my language sets are rated around 16c/unit, offered prices are never that high, usually 8c, I've seen as low as 3c. So, I'm not paying the subscription that would allow me to bid at prices that wouldn't do me any good, I just keep the "free guest" subscription to ... well, I don't know why I keep it. I guess it's good for when I feel too mellowed out and need to get my gall boiling quick ;) But seriously, those sites aren't catering to professionals, they're catering to people who can maybe just barely handle the task, albeit poorly. In the translation field it means native speakers living abroad, with no actual translation or linguistic or interlingual training.

Justin James
Justin James

... working for the big enterprise customers sucks too, but in different ways. I tried time and time again to work with small businesses on a freelance basis. Sometimes I handled the relationship, sometimes someone else did. It was almost always a bad deal. Note, I'm not talking about a 50 person company. I'm talking about the local pizza shop or furniture store (or whatever) that wants a Web site. They don't want to pay more than $500 - $1,000 because they know someone willing to take on the job for that money, even if they are totally unqualified. They don't do "projects" because their businesses are 100% operations, and they simply lack the experience to do projects. You can scope all you want, they have zero clue how to help you get the spec right. The sweet spot is the 50 - 500 person company. They are big enough to have an understanding of how projects work without being so large that they forgot how to accomplish stuff. But the mom 'n pop sites with a $500 CMS? Never again. And I know it's not just me, everyone I know who has chased that market has nearly starved. Think about it... even at $1,000 a pop (which is "pricey" by the current market standards), I'm need to churn out nearly 2 a week to bring in an income equal to a decent pay rate for an experienced developer. I'd need to do 3 a week if I wanted to have health care. If I wanted to have a pay rate equal to a specialty consultant like, say, a Cisco or Oracle consultant (who easily command $100 - $250 and hour), I'd have to be doing 4 a week. Think about that... if you spend 5 hours just doing the initial proposal and spec process for each client (which isn't much at all), and have a 25% rate of closing deals (which is very good, I think), that means you spend 20 hours a week to get 1 deal at $1,000. To keep your pipeline full (remember, we're shooting for 3 a week to pay us equivalent to a corporate salary + health care), you'd need to spend 60 hours a week JUST SELLING. That's a sucker's bet. If you have a way to make more than $1,000 on a basic CMS, very cool. The trick to the CMS game is (obvious) to have a few basic site "recipes" and not deviate from them. Have two or three basic layouts, a system you can deploy in a few clicks, and know the system well enough to be able to reject any requests that can't be done in an hour or two. If you can do that so that you can go from "signed deal" to "deployed site" in 5 hours, then yeah, you can spend the other half of a 10 hour work day selling CMS sites for $500 - $1,000. But if you don't have it down, you've got to find a way to charge more than $1,000. Good luck with that when the market is flooded with cheap offshore labor and college kids who can do it just as well and who more willing to work cheap that me. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

... but I'd rather not, thanks. Yes, I've found myself a different line of work, after getting burned time and time and time again on these dinky small projects. Funny enough, I no longer find myself putting in 100 hours to bring in $500, I now put in a few hours to get that same sized check... I look at the amount of time needed just to do a proposal for one of those projects (a few hours) vs. the pay, you should get paid $500 just to submit a bid for work. J.Ja

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

He's telling us why, too. I found it very interesting. By all means, let the "very clever" young relatives of the client do the work. It'll save the small businesses 300-500$ and give the whippersnappers an incentive to learn to do better, more interesting things.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

It's amazing how much time you can spend chasing down some little odd behavior that's triggered by a customization in WordPress. Part of that is due to poor code organization in WordPress, part of it is limitations of PHP in general, and part of it is that third-party plugins can be careless about naming functions, css selectors, etc.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

At least, that's what I like to tell myself. The truth may be somewhat different: people in India or Russia who would be glad to get an hourly rate that would barely buy a cup of coffee in the US are sometimes very skillful. Mostly not, but sometimes yes.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I'd extend the sweet spot down to 2 people, if they're both developers. On the high side, even more than 150 and you start getting into mucho red tape.

tbmay
tbmay

...to learn how to say no. What you talked about is a risk dealing with any Mom and Pop, regardless of whether you're setting up their site, or teaching them how to use technology they have, setting up a small network for them, or just putting a computer in for them. There's a tendency for the non-technical folks to vastly undervalue the technical folks time because they don't know the difference between IT pro's and their nephew who plays video games and fancies himself a technical wizard. Honestly, there are some in bigger organizations who feel the same way. There's just usually enough decision makers to offset them. It's as much art as it is science to knowing whether to head for the high ground or get involved in a project. I know most of the times I've been burned, that little voice in the back of my head was saying "RUN!!!." I didn't listen. I'll bet you guys could say the same. You can occasionally find very small businesses that don't mind paying for quality. It's rare though.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

There's nothing wrong with taking those jobs if they're the only prospects you have -- but I'd be willing to bet that 90% of the time it's a matter of settling for what's readily available versus doing a little more work to find something much better.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

they can also make their first big flop working for someone who hopefully won't make it their mission to ruin their future career.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

but it sounds like those aren't going to stick with being php scriptmonkeys. They can, between a not meagre skill and a low wage expectancy, get better jobs than that. Would it be possible to do a lot of those projects by reusing the same rotes over and over again? Because some people might be doing that. Others might get bonuses from criminal organizations to introduce weaknesses on request.

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