How I Made My Money Back and WAY More Learning to Code
By: Scott Morris
Chi-Chi Ross is a freelance WordPress developer and a parent of three children. She left a 9-5 office schedule to take care of her kids—all under the age of four—and work from home, but the minimum wage remote jobs she qualified for were emotionally unfulfilling and paid too little. Determined to improve her income and the quality of her work life, Chi-Chi enrolled in a WordPress developer course. In less than two months—before the course was even finished—she landed her first job as a WordPress developer. She told her story to Scott Morris.
When I became a parent, I knew it made sense to leave the job I loved and find something remote so I wouldn’t have to pay for childcare. That doesn’t mean the decision was easy: I’d loved my job, and the only part time remote work I qualified for was as a telemarketer. I’d hoped this plan would be a compromise—financially and emotionally—between working outside the house and being a stay-at-home parent, but I only made minimum wage and the work was dull and repetitive.
I felt stuck. Telemarketing didn’t have opportunities to advance, or to even improve. I also started to see that my time investment—the time spent away from my kids—wasn’t worth it when I looked at my paychecks. If I have to be away from my kids (even when you work from home, you’re likely behind a closed office door), I need to be getting paid enough to justify that distance and that sacrifice. Minimum wage wasn’t cutting it.
I knew I wanted to make a change, but whenever I saw listings for better paying remote jobs they always required specific technical skills, especially WordPress. I’d dabbled in blogging, but I only had a hobbyist knowledge—hardly enough to land any roles. I spent some time Googling “how to learn to code” and I came across a class that felt right for me—but I wasn’t quite ready to dive in. I signed up for their newsletter and while I thought things over, I read about how people with similar backgrounds, experiences, and desires to mine were able to catapult themselves into better paying and more flexible careers.
I kept going back and forth about taking coding classes, but the cost gave me pause. Finally, I just said, “You know what? I keep thinking and thinking about this, and I keep seeing it only from a momentary financial perspective. Let me take a step back. If I’m able to get some sort of work from this, then wouldn’t it be worthwhile?” I went ahead and paid for the classes. What I didn’t expect was that the decision would pay off before I even finished the program.
Because I’d played around with WordPress in the past, I wanted to see what I could accomplish once I focused on the platform, so I enrolled in a WordPress developer course. I saw positive changes in my career and life fairly immediately, including landing an actual job. On a whim, I decided to try applying for a job at a national Canadian figure skating organization. I didn’t really think I would get hired, but I figured, “Hey, I’m learning WordPress, why don’t I just start applying for WordPress developer roles?” They called me back! I was able to get interview coaching, and eventually a job offer.
I started the class in September and officially started my new job in November, about three weeks before the course ended. It reinforced what I’d told myself when I finally signed up for the WordPress course. My whole frustration with remote work had been about wanting a higher return on my time investment, and now I was able to make back the money I’d spent on the course and keep earning significantly more than I’d been able to make before. Once I started working at my new job I more than doubled what I was making—in fact I saw a 108% increase in my income.
The investment paid off in my family life, too. With the new job, I was able to set the hours based on my family’s needs. That flexibility is a huge part of why I love being in an IT type of role—it’s simply part of tech’s culture.
It was a big, positive change to be getting personal enjoyment from work again, too. It’s always going to be hard to sacrifice time away from my kids, but it’s a lot easier knowing that the returns on what I’m doing are worth it in terms of financial security and the way it makes me feel. That time away from my kids doesn’t come with the same “stuck” feeling that it did before.
It’s funny, because when I started my first developer contract, I’d ask myself, “Am I supposed to be doing this job? Do I actually have the skills to make me qualified for this role?” And now that the contract has ended I feel like, “OK, I made it.” Now, I even have the confidence to negotiate my pay. (I ended up asking for $8 more per hour on my first contract job, just using the confidence I gained from having new skills!)
My overall options and outlook on my career have changed completely: I’m optimistic about the future. There are lots of federal contract jobs available where I live and my success with this first contract has given me a good job reputation as a remote developer. Recruiters now reach out to me regarding web development opportunities, and because tech work is so varied, I’m able to review and respond to offers that fit my specific work requirements. It’s liberating to have a skill set that lets me pick and choose the opportunities that fit me, my family, and the future I want.