WordPress developer salary: Senior WordPress developers in demand

WordPress developer salary: Senior WordPress developers in demand - The White Label Agency

If you’re a digital marketing agency looking to add a senior WordPress developer, don’t expect an easy hire. While the media has reported high profile layoffs in the US tech sector during 2022 and 2023, senior WordPress developers are still much in demand. At least, that’s what we experience at White Label Agency.

As the industry leader in WordPress outsourcing services, we’re in regular contact with 600+ agencies in digital marketing. From them, the message is clear — they’ve found it harder, and more expensive, to attract senior WordPress developers during 2022 and 2023. In fact we’re renting out more white label senior WordPress developers to agencies than ever before. WordPress developer salary for senior developers has risen too.

Let’s examine why this might be the case. In a tech sector reportedly in flux, why are wages still so strong for senior WordPress developers?

Senior developer salary: The stats don’t give the full story

At first glance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for web developers appears to show a moderate rise in mean hourly wages during 2022, of 7.7%—only slightly above the 6.3% rise seen in all occupations across the US economy. This is hardly indicative of the rising senior WordPress developer salary demands we’re seeing. Our Chief Operating Office at White Label Agency, Bobby, offers his explanation:

Senior developer salary - Decoding WordPress developer salary

“What we’re seeing is a redistribution of work in WordPress development. Less experienced developers are building more websites than before. Agencies are using them to carry out a lot of work that they used to give to senior developers. These junior developers aren’t always in-house—they’re using outsourcing and freelancing too. Meanwhile, senior developers, on senior developer salaries, are getting a smaller share of the pie, so to speak, and I believe this is skewing occupational wage data.
For agencies that take on complex projects, like sites offering WooCommerce platforms or more advanced API integrations, they’re having to pay more to retain senior developers. I don’t think this is fully coming across [in the occupational wage data].”

So, according to Bobby, the BLS data doesn’t tell the full story. If you’re an agency that mostly takes on simple website builds, you might find yourself able to leverage lower developer costs through taking on freelancers, or by getting junior developers to complete projects you previously needed more experienced developers for. But if your agency takes on projects with a little more challenge, be prepared to look hard for the senior developers you need, and to pay more.

Rise of junior developers: A redistribution of work

So, what’s behind this shift to junior developers in WordPress? Bobby continues:

“…the new [WordPress] tools—front-end builders and premium themes—are making the job easier.”

Better WordPress tools: The suite of tools available on WordPress is becoming more targeted towards less experienced users. Developing a website—at least a simple one—is becoming more intuitive and quicker. And, as a large and growing share of new domain registrations are for relatively simple websites, the industry doesn’t need to employ as much experience to get the job done.

Premium WordPress themes is one such tool. Among these themes you’ll find front-end page building functionality, for multipurpose use, plus a vast range of pre-set templates tailored to specific types of websites. A search on ThemeForest, the most popular marketplace for premium WordPress themes, currently lists 297 pre-made themes especially for educational websites, 185 themes for real estate services, 84 themes for wedding websites, etc. While professional development agencies are unlikely to utilize specifically tailored premium WordPress themes, they’ll make use of a wide assortment of the front-end page builders associated with premium themes. The page building functionality native to WordPress has also developed too, with the switch from the back-end Classic Editor, to the front-end editor Gutenberg.

Another tool simplifying WordPress development is the rise in plugins and extensions. These are pre-made units of functionality which can be added to a site build in a modular fashion. While most development agencies minimize their use of plugins, opting instead for custom coding, it’s not uncommon to find development agencies which use great numbers of plugins to simplify a development process.

In addition to the increased availability of tools for web development, Bobby points to the fact that agencies are using less experienced developers to carry out more work than before. There are two aspects to this.

  • Accessible juniors: Platforms that connect employers with freelancers are becoming more accepted among agencies. Cost conscious agencies are using these to hire junior developers. The number of WordPress developers offering their services on these freelancing platforms has long been on the rise. In their survey of 90,000 developers, StackOverflow showed that 15.9% of web developers worked as freelancers, independent contractors or as self employed contractors during 2023, up from 9.5% in 2020.
  • Smaller websites: The number of small websites being built is on the rise. An online presence is fast becoming a necessity for all businesses, not just for companies with high traffic, or large and complex websites. Joast Nene, our head of Sales at WLA, notes that “we’re getting more projects where the end client is a small, local business. They just want a basic brochure website. We can put a junior developer onto a project like that and have the development portion done within a day.”
Junior developer salary - Decoding WordPress developer salary

The senior developer dilemma: High demand and scarce supply

The situation for senior developers is different than for juniors. Of the 600+ agencies we have contact with at White Label Agency, many say they struggle to find senior developers, and to meet senior WordPress developer salary demands. The short supply of senior developers is compounded on both sides of the supply—demand equation:

  • Lack of training opportunities: WordPress evolves. Functionality is added through new plugins and major updates to the WordPress core; themes and page builders cascade onto the market. Developers need to keep up to date to manage a range of work. But not all do. Most work in small teams, or on their own, and they typically lack the time, resources or motivation to keep abreast and develop. At White Label Agency, we stand out in this regard. With an internal staff of over 120 developers, we have a broad in-house skill set, plus the scale needed to offer routine training. All our developers undergo constant training and are cycled between tasks to ensure they’re able to handle a wide range of work. They also have constant support of lead developers and a quality control team.
  • Increased demand: The number of domains registered each year rises constantly. WordPress accounts for a growing share of this growth, taking market share from other content management systems. This growth creates a rising demand for WordPress websites of all types, including the large and complex websites requiring senior developers.

Don’t let a lack of senior developers slow your growth

Growing your agency in the dynamic landscape of digital marketing is a challenge, particularly where senior WordPress developer salary demands are high and where availability is low. But there are a few strategies to consider:

  • Enhance the developers you have: At White Label Agency, we cycle developers through a range of projects, exposing them to new challenges and accelerating their learning. If you’re a small agency, this will offset your limited opportunities to invest time and resources into developer training.
  • Create an Attractive Work Environment: Remember, salary is just one part of the equation. In addition to offering challenge and variation, ensure your work environment is supportive, and that your team enjoys working together. To us at White Label Agency, this means not allowing overtime and ensuring our teams include diverse personalities and experience.
  • Network Actively: Engaging with the WordPress community increases your chances of finding senior developers. Attend industry events, webinars, and forums. The best hires often come through word-of-mouth referrals!
  • Outsource: Partnering with a reputable outsourcing agency, like us at White Label Agency, provides immediate relief, ensuring your agency can maintain momentum on projects even where in-house expertise may be lacking. It also allows you to focus your agency on what you do best: targeted advertising, SEO, design, consultancy services etc.

With proactive strategies in place, your agency can continue to grow and succeed despite the present difficulties in attracting senior WordPress developers. If you’d like help along the way, feel free to contact us at White Label Agency. We provide a range of WordPress outsourcing services to digital marketing agencies, including maintenance, dedicated developer rental and design. We have delivered over 10,000 websites to over 600 agencies, and we know how to make your agency grow and maximize profitability.