There is no doubt about it – WordPress has one of the most active and supportive community. The open-source software is helping thousands of professionals and the number is growing every day. Our today’s guest for the interview is recognized in the WordPress community for her contributions.
Without further ado; let’s talk to our hour very special guest Ms. Michelle Frechette. 🙂
Cloudways: Welcome and thank you for taking the time out for this interview. Before, I get all excited about your work; let’s hear your story. Please tell our readers how did you step into the world of the web?
Michelle: My best friend and I had started a non-profit and needed a website. Her husband built a WordPress website for us, then gave us logins to add all the content. We were both really afraid to break anything on it, but I logged in and took a look around, then started adding pages and posts.
Before long I felt a little like an expert. So I asked him to show me how to build the site. He did, and now I have a career working in WordPress. I couldn’t be happier!
Cloudways: That’s superb! As per your personal website; you did an MBA in marketing, eCommerce, and information systems; how did that bring you to web design and at what point were you introduced to WordPress?
Michelle: In one of my classes, we had to build a website using only HTML. It was the year 2000, and my first introduction to the code of any kind. I was really over my head as I’d been a religion and philosophy undergrad. Our team passed, and I was extremely proud of our accomplishments.
From there I started designing templated emails for the admissions office to send out, and even a few pages on the school’s website. But then I didn’t do anything more for several years until I was introduced to WordPress.
Cloudways: Please tell our readers about the book you authored ‘A Good Firm Handshake’. What inspired you to write a book and who can get benefit from reading this?
Michelle: I had been blogging about business for the local newspaper, and it had always been a dream of mine to write a book. My best friend (she’s a common thread in my success stories) suggested I turn the posts into chapters, so the book began. I took a year expanding those 350-500 word posts into chapters with much deeper information, more chapters, and contemplating on the name and order of the chapters.
Once it was complete I was really proud to have published something that can help small business owners and managers to think outside of their core concepts and learn more about how to market their businesses. It includes everything from how to give a proper handshake to what to put on a business card to make sure your website is up-to-date. My favorite chapters, though, are about why you need to take a vacation, and why saying “thank you” and “I’m sorry” aren’t always the right thing to say as a business. (Read the book if you’d like to see why!)
Cloudways: I am definitely going to read this one. Let’s talk about your podcast WPCoffeeTalk. You have some great personalities from the WordPress community on your podcast. How did you start it?
Michelle: I had always wondered what went into having a podcast. I thought about it for a few months. I wasn’t sure, at first, what I could have a podcast about. I mean, what could I share that people would want to hear? That’s when it occurred to me that it isn’t about what I can share, but about how I can help others tell their stories. So WPCoffeeTalk was born. I did everything wrong. I launched on a Friday night. I had no idea how to use my equipment. I talked over my first guests until I learned to pause for audio reasons. I thought, at first, that may be a few people would want to be on it with me.
I hoped it wouldn’t die a sad death, unheard. Instead, it’s been amazing. I’ve recorded over 100 guests, with 40+ episodes still to release, and more people asking all the time to be on the show. It’s been a wonderful testament to the WordPress community, and I’m honored and humbled to have such amazing guests and listeners.
Cloudways: This is amazing! Just like any content-based projects, running and growing a podcast is not easy either. What early challenges did you face while starting WPCoffeeTalk and what tips would you like to share with our readers?
Michelle: Early on (which was just last June, since we haven’t even been on a whole year yet), I left a TON of time open on my calendar for people to schedule. One week I recorded 12 episodes. I’ve since scaled that back so that I’m not recording 4-5 days a week.
I do credit much of the success of the show to the format. I ask every guest the same set of questions. So whether I’m talking to someone just starting a website, an artist who uses WordPress for their music, or the well-known head of a major WordPress business, the questions are the same…and the answers are always educational.
Cloudways: I must say, your photography skills are top-notch. Speaking of myself; I can not even take a decent selfie 🙂 Judging by your work; it seems you had professional training. What is the story behind Click Happy Designs?
Michelle: Thank you so much! A few years ago I wondered if I might be good at it, so I bought a camera. Turns out, I can compose a photo pretty well. For every nice pic I put out in the world, there are a dozen I delete, though – especially for nature photos. Those wild animals don’t like to sit still for you! But I’ve been learning how to use the light, how to frame a photo, and how to edit well.
I love having this artistic outlet. Whether I’m taking photos of a bald eagle from 300 feet away, or photographing a baby in my studio, it’s so much fun. And making other people happy with my photography makes me happy, too!
Cloudways: It definitely does. You must have worked on many projects. What is the one project you loved working on the most?
Michelle: That’s like asking me to choose a favorite child! Aside from organizing WordCamps and the WPCoffeeTalk podcast, it’s really hard to choose.
I always think my most recent project is my favorite. But this year I’ve taken on two self-challenges that are really fulfilling:
KindnessIs2020.org. I’m hoping to remind people in this world of chaos, politics, and “every-man-for-himself” that kindness truly prevails and is what makes life better. If we each practice kindness in every part of our lives, then we are better people and impact others in a much better way.
WPCareerPages.com. This site is a gift to the WordPress community. On this one-page site, I list any WordPress-related business’ jobs/career page. This is in addition to posting on Twitter any openings I find every Wednesday. I’ve seen so many people looking for jobs, and so may jobs looking for people, that we need to connect them! I’m happy with my job at impress.org, and I want others to be happy with theirs.
Cloudways: You are a busy person and involved in various projects. What tools and methods do you use to manage tasks and stay productive?
Michelle: I rely heavily on my Google calendar (and color-coding events there), Apple Notes (as they sync across all my devices), Todoist for my personal projects, and Slack, Trello, and Asana for WordCamp and work organization and communication.
Cloudways: You understand the significance of a community better than most of the people. Please tell our readers why one should attend local meetups and events like WordCamps and what are the takeaways they can expect?
Michelle: Attending meetups and WordCamps is amazing – especially for those who are freelancing and working remotely. It’s an opportunity to connect with others in the community, make friends, and network for jobs or project collaboration. (I connected with GiveWP at WordCamp Ottawa, which led to my job with impress.org – the parent company for GiveWP.com.)
Of course, in addition to the people, educational opportunities are amazing. I’ve learned so much from others in our community. From podcasting to how to deal with clients, I’ve sat in sessions at both meetups and WordCamps.
And the swag is top-notch, too!
Cloudways: What resources/tutorials/blogs/ebooks do you recommend to a freelancer or a developer in general?
Michelle: One of my primary resources for knowing what’s happening in WordPress is Twitter. Keep your eye on others in the industry and what they share, as well as the #WordPress hashtag. I also follow the PostStatus and Gutenberg Times blogs and podcasts.
And my touchstone for my own personal mental health and wellness is WPandUP.org. The information and resources shared there are amazing for anyone in WordPress. Check out their website and follow them on social media. And please consider a gift through their donation page to keep this valuable resource part of our community.
Cloudways: Finally, for our readers, please share the picture of your work station. 🙂
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Ibad Ur Rehman is a WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways. He likes to explore the latest open-source technologies and to interact with different communities. In his free time, he likes to read, watch a series or fly his favorite Cessna 172SP in X Plane 11 flight simulator.