Interview with WordPress developer Mauricio Gelves [Video]

11 min read
Will Stevens

Trying to get started as a freelance WordPress developer but don't know where to start? Wouldn't it be nice to get some advice from someone who has already made that journey?

In June, GoDaddy was at WordCamp Europe 2018, and during the event we caught up with freelance web consultant Mauricio Gelves.

Mauricio talked to us about how he got started with WordPress, and how he organizes his life so he can work while travelling the world. So if you're dreaming of becoming a digital nomad, check out Mauricio's interview and get inspired.

So I want to hear your origin story with WordPress.

MG: Oh really.


MG: Okay.

I want to, like how did you get started doing it?

MG: Short story, long story?

Give me the medium size.

MG: Medium size story. Okay. It wasn't directly I made a really crazy thing in 2007 I made a trip with my bicycle from Argentina to Ecuador. It's really long trip and I needed to document it in some way so at that moment the only blog I. The only blog software I knew was WordPress. So I just downloaded I installed it and then doing some kind of maintenance I discovered how good it was.  So I was working at that moment with other technologies and in 2012 after all the research I've made for that website I took the decision to change my career, my entire career to working with WordPress completely, a WordPress developer.

Whoa. That's a big change.

MG: Yeah it was

What made you choose WordPress you could have chosen any other CMS why did you choose WordPress?sa

MG: It's quite simple the answer. It saved me a lot of time doing my usual activities as a programmer. For example to create simple entities or I don't know maybe some really small modifications in any other technology it would take me like a lot of hours.


MG: But with WordPress it was so simple and it was really well documented so it was it was like the right decision to make, there was no other option.

Right that you just sounded like a commercial for WordPress you're like it's so fast it's so easy it's gonna be.

MG: I'm not [LAUGHTER] I'm a developer I'm not a commercial!

Okay so but you left something out there because you said you said that you started with WordPress it was it was a great CMS you saved you a bunch of time.

MG: Yeah.

And then you skipped right from that building website for this ride that you were doing yeah immediately to doing work and yes business and so how did that come about have you always been a freelancer?

MG: No. It was a thing about what you really think on software. For example it was like a brand that I was working for and every single year it was like an update but you could see that it was a commercial update that actually there was no improvement in the code. So I knew that and I don't want to stick with that kind of technology for the rest of my life and on the other hand I saw the code on all the apps they update on WordPress and they were really, really updates. They were like improving their code, or the way to develop. So it was a really clear decision I took it was really hard because I was working for a bank or financial companies I was earning really good money and then when I made the decision when I took this decision my salary just really went down. WordPress it wasn't that popular at that time but I really believed in the CMS and now I really am so happy for taking that decision at that moment yeah.

So did that scare you, when your when your salary went down?

MG: I wasn't scared because I could survive with that money and save a little bit. But I was really happier, that was that's priceless.

Okay so tell me tell me about what made you happier about it, I'm curious. Like did you go on more bike rides did you get to enjoy life more?

MG: Not at that moment because I changed from one company to work for another company so, I was like with the regular holidays. But then I became freelancer in 2016, and then I was the owner of my time so I can I can work the times that I really want, I can work on Saturday or Sunday in order to have free Monday, Tuesday all the days I really want and enjoy more holidays travelling around. And fortunately I declare myself a digital nomad so I'm traveling all the time. For example right now I'm in Belgrade and that really makes me happy. And at the same time gives me the energy to keep continuing with this kind of work.

Yeah so you enjoy you enjoy the freedom that you get and because of that freedom you get more excited about doing more of the same work?

MG: Exactly. It makes me more responsible for the project and I learned how to manage my time in order to do both things to enjoy and to work.

So you live this nomadic lifestyle and right now you're in Belgrade you travel all over the world, I'm guessing. Something that you're well known for. Being a digital nomad how do you… How do clients feel about that? How do your customers feel about it? How do you manage that relationship, you know, being in one timezone being, in another?

MG: It's your responsibility to be like online, I'm going to quote that, to be online on their time zone. It's like you can have this kind of life but you also need to have the responsibility or to make the extra effort to be always accessible by email or whatever and respect their time zone. And what do they think about traveling all the time? Well they shouldn't know that.

Yeah so you keep your personal life away from the client relationships?

MG: Yes I'm always trying to be responsible to deliver what I'm asked in time and that's. It it's the same if I'm working in Madrid or in Istanbul.

Right so what kind of customers do you have? Not names of the customers, what types of industries and sizes?

MG: Let's talk about size. I prefer to work with medium or big companies because they already know the process of web development. I don't have maybe the patience to explain to small clients all the processes. I don't have that time, I don't have that patience. So I prefer to work with medium and big sized companies. And also I'm hoping with other agencies or maybe other freelancers around the world to compete the team of an entire web development team.

If you have to hire a graphic designer, you have your own specialty, when you have a project that requires more resources, okay, how do you then plan for those resources?

MG: Okay. I'm always searching for people that it seems are in some way involved in the community. It's lucky I am traveling around it makes it so I know a lot of people around the world and I know what they are doing and I know if they are good or not because of what they speak or what they write on their blogs. And it's just a slack message difference to hire them or not. It's so simple. Be involved in the community that's the way I complete my team.  And it's also the same for me, they contact me through… They listen to my talks or they read my articles on my blog, that is in Spanish unfortunately, but thanks to this kind of content that we are creating we are showing to the world what that we really know what to do and that's our best marketing I guess. To search and to be found.

Cool so let's talk about tools and just tools of the trade other things that you use besides WordPress to get the job done. And I want to know specifics so I want to know what kind of laptop to use what type of software do you use?

MG: Okay. Before I made the change I was a Windows user, but then in 2012 when I got in this new company working in charge of a WordPress site I decided to move to Mac. Mac computers and that was a really decision great because those are not only the best computers but also mobiles. They are tools that really work, that you don't have to worry about them if they are loaded in the memory or whatever. If you have an idea or you have to do something that kind of tool will respond. I'm not a commercial. [LAUGHTER]

First WordPress now this.

MG: No, no, no. I truly believe in those tools because they are always giving good answer and respond at the time you really need them.

Then I use ToDoIst and Asana to manage my time. And on the projects some Evernote too.  And of course ManageWP to manage all the websites I'm currently maintaining. And PHPStorm for coding. It's a really big tool, it's a private tool, but it's amazing what you can do with it.  And those are the tools that come to my memory right now. But mostly with those tools I can do everything.

All right so you've told in some of your talks that you have failed twice as a freelancer and my question to you is what made you want to start a third time and what made you successful that third time?

MG: It's something that it's in your head, when you truly believe in something that that would make you happier, you just can't avoid it. You're following that line. It's not a matter of effort it's just following something that you truly believe. And those two attempts I failed, it was not because I failed, it was the technology. It was the technology, that it was not for freelancers. It was like the very top of the enterprise. It's not something where being a freelancer can work with. But then my third time fortunately it was with WordPress and it just took off.

So WordPress is the answer. You really a are commercial for it, but I like it. Okay one last one last question for you and I love to ask this whenever I talk with somebody about how they've become a freelancer what is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody that's trying to make their way in the freelance world or in the WordPress world?

MG: I think that success is to create content, any kind of content, to let the world know what you really know. What you really know how to do it, how you are professional on that. And the second is: Get involved in the community. Put some of your time to the community, in the meet up, during the WordCamp. Helping in the WordCamp, talking in the WordCamp. Any kind of job you can do inside the WordPress community it will help you a lot as a freelancer because you will be known inside and they will know who you are, what you know how to do. And that will help you a lot. So create content and help in some way in the community. That was what really helped me.