During your freelance career, you’ll almost certainly work with a content management system (CMS).
As you might guess from the name, a CMS is an application or a set of complementing programs that allow users to make new content or edit existing materials. Think about many of the websites you visit every day, and there’s a good chance a CMS helped make them possible.
As freelancers, you’ll likely not only see the results of what a CMS does, but you’ll work with the tool directly. As such, there are some things you should know about CMS technology that will help you stay well-equipped for your freelance career and able to meet clients’ needs.
1. WordPress Is the Most Popular CMS By Market Share
According to statistics, WordPress is the most popular CMS by market share, accounting for a segment of more than 60%.
Another thing to keep in mind is that since nearly 34% of all websites in the world run on WordPress, there’s a good chance that you’ll encounter it at some point during your career.
So, if you’re thinking about engaging in education to improve yourself as a freelancer, WordPress training is a good place to start.
If you’re a visual learner, watching YouTube videos could help you grasp new concepts.
Otherwise, there are excellent reference books that you can go through while sitting in front of the computer. If someone in your life has extensive experience in WordPress —or any other CMS — asking them to teach you could be a wise move. Then, you can ask questions while receiving instruction.
2. There Are Both License-Based and Open-Source Options
As you progress in your research to learn more about how CMS applications relate to your freelance career, you’ll find that there are open-source options as well as proprietary platforms. Some of the most popular names in the first category are WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal.
Going with a licensed CMS could be the right move if you want one company to take care of hosting as well as content management. However, it’s also worth knowing that various downsides exist for licensed CMS options.
For example, your license may not allow you to make changes to the application without purchasing a developer-specific license.
Moreover, a proprietary CMS often limits your freedom to move your website a web hosting company of your choosing. Some hosting providers explicitly state within their terms of service documentation that they don’t accept clients that are using a proprietary CMS.
It’s also crucial to realize that many proprietary CMS platforms may stop working or experience formatting changes if moved elsewhere. As such, deciding to buy a license for your CMS tool represents a significant commitment that extends to your hosting options, as well as the kind of customization you can carry out while making tweaks to the site.
If you’re at the point where you want to get more acquainted with CMS technology, turn your attention to open-source options first. After all, it could be nearly useless to invest in a license for a proprietary CMS and then discover that none of your current clients uses it and it’s not likely your future ones will either.
3. Not All CMS Platforms Are for Outward-Facing Text Content
When many people freelancers think of a CMS, it’s a web content management system (WCMS) that comes to mind. That’s the tool that allows a freelance blogger to add more content to their site, for example. But, there are other CMS choices you should know about, too. If you find one meant for digital asset management (DAM), it’s associated with managing graphics and multimedia rather than text.
Or, you may eventually deal with enterprise content management (ECM). It takes a global approach to content management within an organization by consolidating all the internal information possessed by that entity, even extending to emails and conversations occurring on instant messaging platforms.
Whereas some CMS platforms deal with types of content, such as text documents or pictures, the component content management system (CCMS) handles content according to what it contains rather than via file type. For example, you could have groups of content such as product descriptions or company procedures.
Even if you think you’ll mainly deal with WCMS platforms as a freelancer, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the other types that exist. Then, if a potential client refers to them with the acronym alone, you won’t feel clueless.
4. It’s Worthwhile to Spend Time Learning about the Pros and Cons of Popular Options
There may be times when a new client hires you because they want to set up a new website and use a WCMS for it. If they ask for your advice, it’d be ideal for you to have enough knowledge about the positive and negatives of some of the most popular options. Then, you’ll be able to weigh in and give input that helps your client make an informed choice.
The client may also mention some things about their expectations that lead you to mention that a certain CMS is not the right choice. For example, if the person says they want to change the website’s them frequently, such as with each season, Wix is not the best option. That’s because it limits a creator to one theme throughout the existence of the site.
Also, if you have an above-average understanding of CMS platforms and what makes some of them better than others, you may be able to command higher rates or find it’s easier than you imagined to win high-dollar contracts. After all, many clients want their freelancers to have a working knowledge of CMS technology and not only understand the basics.
5. Sites Made with CMS Platforms Are Common Targets for Hackers
Given the statistics above about the percentage of sites created with WordPress, it shouldn’t be surprising that many hackers target shortcomings in CMS platforms when carrying out their attacks.
According to a 2019 report from Sucuri, 90% of all CMS attacks were on WordPress sites in 2018. There was also a 7% rise in WordPress incidents between 2017 and 2018.
Moreover, the study showed that third-party extensions and themes helped introduce problems to WordPress sites because those extras had security flaws. That suggests that today’s freelancers should be especially careful when using them.
However, the report also showed that improper site maintenance played a role in helping website security breaches flourish. More specifically, if a CMS uses trustworthy but outdated plugins, it could be ripe for a future attack.
You’ll have a better chance of setting yourself apart from other freelancers if you understand some of the cybersecurity vulnerabilities associated with CMS platforms and how you can mitigate them. That doesn’t necessarily mean being a cybersecurity expert, but it’s helpful to be observant enough to know if a site made with a CMS starts behaving strangely and whether it might have easily fixed security issues.
6. CMS Knowledge Is a Prized Asset
Knowing how to market yourself as a freelancer could make the difference between getting consistent work from satisfied clients and finding yourself scrambling to find jobs as potential sources of work decide to go with other candidates.
If you’re a freelance writer, it’s especially important that you have CMS know-how since it’s increasingly common for content managers to want to publish in bulk.
If they know they’ve hired you as someone who can handle management necessities beyond writing the content, you’ll save them time and help them stay on top of workloads.
Additionally, people usually want to hire freelancers that have stayed abreast of modern needs. Many enterprises, including Fortune 500 companies, realize that a CMS platform such as WordPress allows them to better engage with customers by publishing content such as blog posts or e-books.
By showcasing yourself as a freelancer who knows their way around at least one CMS, you’ll demonstrate you’re ready to help clients meet needs.
Strengthen Your Freelancing Efforts
Working as a freelancer isn’t easy, but it has its rewards. If you’re looking for a practical way to make your offerings more appealing to clients, growing your CMS knowledge will help.
As the number of websites in the world goes up, people will keep looking for convenient ways to keep the content on them updated and visually appealing. A CMS platform takes care of those requirements and others for freelancers.