It’s no secret that WordPress is in a transitional period. Changes to both the editing and site-building processes are making their presence felt. Many of us are now building and working with the software in new ways.
Change can also be felt around the WordPress ecosystem and community. Independent themes and plugins continue to be gobbled up by larger firms. That, along with the occasional episodes of #WPDrama, has created some unease among community members.
It’s a lot for freelancers to navigate. And no one would blame you for wondering what the future has in store.
As such, let’s try to predict what will impact WordPress freelancers in 2023. No, we’re not clairvoyant. But we do see some important items that are just over the horizon. Here are a few places where we’ll be focusing our energy.
Migrating WordPress Websites to PHP 8
The switch to PHP 8 has been long talked about but has also been slow to happen. As it stands, a relatively small number of websites are running versions 8.0 or 8.1.
It has taken aggressive action by web hosts and the end of support for PHP 7.4 to create movement. Some hosts are rolling out upgrades regardless of whether their customer’s websites are compatible.
This is a big deal for anyone who maintains one or more WordPress installs. Without prior testing, you might wake up one morning to find errors popping up all over the place on your production site.
WordPress core should function just fine – though it’s still not 100% compatible as of this writing. The real worry comes from older themes and plugins.
Some sites rely on custom code or third-party products that haven’t seen an update in a while. If there’s an incompatibility, this could mean fixing it yourself or finding an alternative.
Thus, the start of 2023 may mean a lot of testing and bug-fixing for freelancers.
Finding Out Where Block Template Parts Fit In
Those of us who have stuck with Classic Themes recently got a new toy to play with. WordPress 6.1 introduced block template part compatibility.
Previously, this feature was exclusive to block themes. But now every WordPress theme can include elements that are editable within the dashboard.
This is a great way for those who prefer PHP-based themes to also leverage the Block Editor. It allows theme developers to open specific areas for clients while keeping more sensitive spots locked down. Plus, it’s a chance to finally ditch the clunky Customizer API.
There’s a lot of room for freelancers to get creative here. A block part template can be implemented virtually anywhere. It’s something worth exploring and potentially adding to your workflow.
Navigating Economic Uncertainty in Tech and Beyond
Freelancing tends to offer a lot of flexibility. You can work where and how you want. This allows entrepreneurs to more easily adapt to change. But that doesn’t mean we’re immune from disruption.
2022 has seen a significant number of layoffs in the tech industry. There’s still concern about COVID-19 and an ongoing war in Ukraine. Inflation is putting a dent in our ability to spend.
Each of these areas could have an impact on how freelancers do business in the coming year. Directly, it may mean that clients spend less money. We’ll feel it in those long overdue redesigns that are put on hold, or a tighter market for new clients.
There are some potential indirect impacts as well. For example, what if a WordPress plugin developer can no longer support their product? What if that product languishes while waiting for a new owner to come along?
Beyond that, tech disruptions might compel us to change how we work and connect. The desire of some in our community to move away from Twitter is just one example. If this trend continues, we could see similar shakeups with SaaS providers and web hosts.
Keeping Up with an Evolving CMS
WordPress changes every year. New features are added and the user experience evolves. At the same time, we don’t always change along with it.
There are still many of us doing things the “old way”. And WordPress has made it fairly easy to continue with both Classic Themes and the Classic Editor. Backward compatibility means that we can keep older plugins around.
However, it does feel like we’re reaching a tipping point in some areas. Take the Classic Editor. It has over 5 million active installs. But it’s fair to wonder what kind of future it has.
At some point, developers will stop supporting it. The more the ecosystem embraces blocks, the harder it will be to harness everything WordPress is capable of while using a legacy tool.
In addition, the move to PHP 8 will also leave some themes and plugins in the dust. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it does put more on the shoulders of freelancers.
2023 could be the year where implementing some tried-and-true tools no longer makes sense. At least, not for newly-built websites.
Is Your Freelance WordPress Business Ready for 2023?
When it comes to shifts in WordPress and the world around us, freelancers may be in the best position to take advantage of a changing landscape. With flexibility comes the power to act quickly.
Despite the uncertainty, there are still growth opportunities. By studying where things are headed, you can better position yourself to take advantage. There’s always a chance to discover a new niche or strengthen your current one.
Sure, 2023 will present some unique challenges. But if we survived the past few chaotic years, there’s no doubt that we can meet them head-on.