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Taking care of your mental health for freelancers is as important as in any profession or field of work. If you don’t, bad things happen such as anxiety issues, depression or even burnout. This isn’t news. Mental health issues have been on the rise for a long time, especially among younger people. Today, about 1 in 5 Americans are struggling with a mental illness.

While everyone understands taking time off for physical ailments (such as the flu), mental health issues don’t always get the same treatment. Neither from those experiencing it nor other people. However, they are not any different than a broken leg, it just so happens that in this case, the problem is in your brain. For that reason, they deserve the same kind of attention you would give to other issues for which you would see a doctor or take sick days.

A group that is particularly at risk are freelancers, the self-employed, and solopreneurs. One of the reasons is because they operate under a less organized work structure. This includes irregular work hours, more responsibility, less job security, and often isolation, especially when working from home.

Since a large part of the WordPress community is made up of freelancers and I myself have struggled in this area, I thought it a good idea to share some tips on how to stay sane as a self-employed worker. In the following, you will find ways to take care of your mental health while pursuing your freelance career.

Keeping Your Mind Healthy as a Freelancer

Follow the tips below to improve your resilience against stress and stave of mental health issues.

1. Cover the Basics

The good news is that problems in this area are frequently not the result of a serious health issue but the result of your life gone out of whack. Why is that good news? Because much of this is within your control to change and the first thing to do is to check if you meet your basic needs.

maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Especially when you are stressed, it is easy to fall into a pattern where you neglect things like taking regular meals and sleeping. For example, a friend of mine used to mainly live off coffee. Not quite what people would call a balanced diet. In addition to that, if you are at the beginning of your career you might have extra stress because you struggle to make ends meet.

If that is the case for you, now it’s time to take action to reverse course. This can mean making a point to actually have breakfast, establishing a set time to go to bed or getting a part-time job to ensure you can make rent. Anything to give you a sense of stability and stop you from constantly operating in emergency mode.

Everyone and their situation is different, so it’s important that you figure out which change could make the biggest difference in your life. Establishing a basis to stand on can do wonders for your level of emotional stability. At the same time, the opposite is also true. It’s hard to build a successful freelance business if are the equivalent of a car with an empty gas tank.

2. Get Moving

Physical activity is one of the best ways to burn off stress and excess energy. It also makes you more focused and allows you to feel more comfortable in your body. Besides that, there is a whole host of other benefits of exercise including improving your sleep. For that reason, it is highly recommended that you incorporate physical activity into your everyday life.

The Rock's Ultimate Workout - YouTube

That doesn’t mean you have to develop a workout regimen like The Rock (because who wants to get up at 4:30 am to go to the gym?). For starters, it can simply mean scheduling an afternoon walk or creating a stretching routine for your morning.

Of course, it’s even better if you can make it to the gym, a yoga class or similar. This also has the added benefit of getting you out of the house, which, if you work from there, can stave off cabin fever.

3. Try Meditation

There is plenty of evidence on the benefits of meditation on mental health. It reduces stress, helps you focus better, lets you deal with negative emotions more effectively, improves sleep and simply relaxes you. More and more people are turning to it and I am also a big fan. Meditation feels like a warm shower for the mind.

For anyone who wants to give it a shot, my recommendation is the Headspace App. It was created by a guy who studied meditation for 10+ years and even became an anointed monk in the process.

Headspace was the first thing that ever really helped me understand how to properly meditate. Plus, it has many guided programs for different areas of application such as helping with stress, depression, focus and much more. While you need to pay to get full access, there’s a basic course that teaches you the foundations for free. Highly recommended!

Aside from that, you can also find plenty of guided meditation programs on YouTube and books on the topic. Just give it a quick search.

4. Find Someone to Talk to

As mentioned, many freelancers spend their time in relative isolation. They work alone from home and don’t see other people for long periods of time. This is not an ideal situation. Interacting with others helps you get out of your own head and is an important part of staying sane. For that reason, it’s crucial that you make sure that social interactions are part of your life.

This can be as easy as having a support network of close friends and family who will simply listen. Just being able to verbalize what is going on in your life can be enough to ease some of the pressure off your mind. Plus, other people are often able to add different perspectives to your situation that you hadn’t considered yet.

If that is not enough, it can also make sense to talk to a professional. Counselors and psychologists specialize in helping people get through mental health crises and can be great to have in your corner. You can find one locally but also get help online. There is even a project for WordPressers struggling with mental issues. So, this can be an avenue as well.

5. Set Boundaries

One of the hardest things for many freelancers and self-employed people is taking time for themselves. They often feel like everything is hinging on them and they need to keep the plates spinning constantly.

Frequently this results in a situation that they pretty much always work. This can take the form of checking emails while watching TV, starting the workweek on Sunday night (if it ends at all), working until late into the night, etc. I have been there. Rest assured, this is not good for your mental wellbeing.

One of the best ways to combat this problem is to set up boundaries. These can look like this:

  • Having a dedicated work space so you can actually leave the office behind when you are done
  • Keeping regular work hours and sticking to them
  • Taking weekends off (this was a biggie for me)
  • Scheduling and taking vacations
  • Not checking work email after a certain time and not at all on the weekend

Many of these things happen naturally for people who work nine to five. When they leave the office, they automatically leave work behind as well (at least, ideally, in reality not always like that). However, here’s also where you can take advantage of the fact that as a freelancer you are able to set your own hours. So, why not work only half the day for a while?

When you take time for yourself, you can recharge and think about something other than work. This will allow you to come back with a fresh mind and new ideas. Also, when you do work, make sure you work smart, not hard.

6. Make Enjoyment a Priority

Getting overwhelmed often happens when you feel like all you do is work. However, even when you have set up appropriate boundaries, this can still happen if you arrange your whole life in terms of performance and output. Doing so can make even things that you usually enjoy (including your work) seem like chores.

Let me give you an example from my own life. I love going to the gym. Lifting weights is something that I both enjoy and that makes me feel good about myself.

However, at some point that wasn’t the case anymore. While I did work out a lot, it didn’t have a such a positive effect on me anymore. Instead, I often felt more drained than refreshed afterwards.

The reason was that I had turned working out into another task, complete with scheduling, session planning etc. It had become something to accomplish instead of something I did for myself. As a consequence, I found it less and less enjoyable.

A change I introduced at the beginning of this year, made all the difference. Instead of going to the gym with a plan, I started just showing up and then decided what I felt like doing that day on a whim. No pressure, just going with the flow. As a consequence, I started exploring more and only doing stuff that made me feel good. This made all the difference. Soon, the gym was no longer a chore but a place where I could recharge.

I recommend you look into your own life to see if there are any tasks that you used to enjoy but no longer do because you have put too much pressure on them. Then, make it a point to turn this around.

Aside from that, of course, it’s also a good idea to incorporate additional things in your life that put a smile on your face. This can be things like going to the movies, meeting friends, hiking or whatever works for you. Make a list and be sure to at least one thing every day.

Mental Health Self Care for Freelancers in a Nutshell

Mental health remains an underestimated area for wellbeing and mental health issues are often still stigmatized. However, there is no good reason for it. With the employment world being as it is, it has become a very common issue for many people.

Freelancers are especially susceptible to these problems because of how their work life is arranged. However, that doesn’t mean this is outside of your control. Above, we have given you a number of simple strategies you can use to put self-care back in focus.

While it will probably take you a while to find the right balance for yourself, don’t fret. If you keep making small changes, in the long run they will add up and make you happier, more productive and your life more enjoyable. Inside and outside of work.

What other strategies do you use to take care of your mental health as a freelancer? Let us know in the comments section below!

Nick Schäferhoff

Nick Schäferhoff is an entrepreneur, online marketer, and professional blogger from Germany. He found WordPress when he needed a website for his first business and instantly fell in love. When not building websites, creating content or helping his clients improve their online business, he can most often be found at the gym, the dojo or traveling the world with his wife. If you want to get in touch with him, you can do so via Twitter or through his website.

The post 6 Effective Tips on How to Take Care Your Mental Health As a Freelancer appeared first on Torque.

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We’re willing to bet that you probably know all about using secure passwords for your WordPress admin account. However, you can’t take for granted that other users will do the same.

To make sure your site remains safe, you’ll want to ensure all passwords are secure. While WordPress includes a function to create a secure password, it’s completely optional. As with many WordPress tasks, the answer lies in using a plugin to enforce users to use strong passwords on WordPress’ back end.

In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of password security. We’ll then show you what features WordPress offers in this area, and introduce a more secure solution. Let’s get started!

A Quick Primer on Strong, Secure Passwords

Let us start at the beginning. Of course, one of the most basic ‘laws’ of the internet is that strong passwords are essential to keeping your site protected. In fact, there’s been so much discussion of the topic that you’d be forgiven for letting it wash over your head.

However, ignoring password security is incredibly dangerous, for reasons we’ll get onto shortly. For now, let’s give you one simple rule to make sure you’re able to manually create strong passwords:

Despite previous, long-told advice about mixing letters, numbers, and characters, length is the most important aspect of a strong password. In short, the longer your password, the better.

The reason for this is due to the so-called ‘brute force’ method for cracking passwords. Because of this, you’ll simply want to make your password so long that it will take a mathematical eon to break. You can actually see how long it will take to crack a password using a site like How Secure Is My Password?:

Of course, this isn’t to say that you should kick password complexity to the curb. There does need to be a balance between simply writing “a” twenty times, and having an eight-character jumble of letters, numbers, and symbols. However, you can still use full words to create a solid, uncrackable password.

Why You Should Put So Much Stock in Secure Passwords

While you may be aware of the importance of using a secure password, the same might not be true for your users. Microsoft Regional Director Troy Hunt recently published a list of poor-quality passwords and made the assumption that 86% of those he came across had already been breached.

This is alarming for several reasons, not least that the vast majority of people are using passwords freely available for everyone to see. The passwords themselves are another aspect. Some of the most commonly used passwords were downright lazy and basic, such as “qwerty”, “123456”, and “password”.

We’d bet that you don’t want to let your users jeopardize your site by allowing your users to use such easily-crackable password. Fortunately, it’s possible to avoid if you’re using WordPress. Let’s take a look at how you can let users create much better, safer passwords.

How to Enforce Secure Passwords on Your WordPress Website

Because secure passwords are the foundation of protecting your site, it makes sense to highlight this as early as possible to the user. As such, WordPress offers a simple checker and generator, baked into core:

Users can access this tool through the Users > All Users screen within WordPress. They can then click Generate Password within the individual user profile.

However, there’s one big downside to this approach – it’s entirely optional. As such, you’ll want to implement a dedicated plugin that actually forces all users on your site to create a strong password. Enter the Password Policy Manager plugin:

This plugin was created by leading WordPress security developers WP White Security and gives you a comprehensive set of tools to enforce strong passwords. For example, you can set a maximum password age, so that users generate a fresh one at the time of your choosing. What’s more, you have a flexible approach to terminating user sessions.

As for the base functionality, you can configure the overall policy, so you’re completely in control of the base password strength users must meet. It sits in the same place as the built-in password generator, so you’ll have a familiar look and feel.

Quite frankly, this plugin is ga reat value given the functionality. For more information, including where to buy Password Policy Manager (and the price), head on over to the WP White Security website.

Conclusion

Password security and management is an ‘old hat’ topic according to some. It’s one of the perennial topics for online security, which is largely due to the fact that many users still opt to create weak, crackable passwords.

In this post, we’ve talked about how WordPress includes built-in options for assessing password strength. However, by installing a plugin to enforce users to use strong passwords on WordPress’ back end, you can ensure all passwords are robust and secure. Ultimately, you’ll take the security of your site into your own hands, which is always a good thing.

Are you hot on password security, and how do you think the Password Policy Manager for WordPress plugin could help you? Let us know in the comments section below!

Featured image: stevepb.

Tom Rankin

Tom Rankin is a key member of WordCandy, a musician, photographer, vegan, beard owner, and (very) amateur coder. When he's not doing any of these things, he's likely sleeping.

The post How to Enforce Secure Passwords on Your WordPress Website appeared first on Torque.

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With snow lightly falling in downtown Nashville, Matt Mullenweg took the stage for his annual State of the Word address. The speech wrapped up another successful WordCamp US 2018 full of talks, networking, and fun.

Mullenweg began by letting WordPress reintroduce itself. Reminding the community it was built on the constitution and is powered by the community.

“It is both free and priceless,” he said.

Gutenberg

After stating the reasons we are all here, Mullenweg played some user test videos of the current editor. “Suffice it to say, this editor experience is not working for us,” Mullenweg said.

The solution for these frustrations is blocks and Gutenberg. Mullenweg demonstrated building a page using Gutenberg featuring Bebo Valdés, the musician for which 5.0 is named. This portion focused on the user focus of the project.

The demonstration went on to show how to export and import reusable blocks from the developer end. There are over 100 Gutenberg themes and the Gutenberg block tag for plugin developers.

Harkening to his 2016 speech where he urged the community to learn JavaScript deeply, Mullenweg is now calling upon developers to Learn blocks deeply. Then took us on a tour of the various blocks that have already been created including a recipe block, an ecommerce block, and a ghostwriting block.

Mobile has also been a huge focus of 2018, and mobile blocks will be in Gutenberg in Feb. 2019. You’ll be able to navigate and manipulate blocks in native apps on the web. There will also be blocks allowing you to edit in iOS and Android.

What’s coming next?

What is happening in Phase 2? Phase 1 deals with everything in the content field, Phase 2 will tackle the rest of what’s on the page. The idea is to use blocks to edit every piece of your site such as widgets and elements.

Phase 2 will also experiment with editing menus either in one block or a series of blocks, with live changes.

The focus is customization and thinking outside of post_content. If you have upgraded to 5.0, you can begin to experiment with this.

Mullenweg then revealed what Phases 3 and 4 will be; collaboration, multi-user editing, and workflows.

With Phase 3, the idea is to replace Google Docs and allow people to co-edit directly in WordPress. Phase 4 will focus on an official way to support multilingual sites.

Phases 1 and 2 are not done and will continue to focus on those. Phases 3 and 4 are set for 2020+.

5.0 came out with very few issues. Support loads have been smooth, about the same as what they’ve been before. After one day, 5.0 has 2,354,502 installs.

Since the 5.0 release,  the Gutenberg plugin has 561,478 downloads, and Classic Editor has 811,679 downloads.

Mullenweg shared that the community learned some crucial things throughout the 5.0 process:

  1. Need various teams across WordPress working together better.
  2. Need to help learning JavaScript even more deeply.
  3. Importance of triage and code freezes.
  4. Always announce release dates.

Not announcing a second release date after missing the first one created a lot of fear and uncertainty, and caused some stress.

With all this, the betas were tested more than other releases, which was a huge success. There were up to 100 times more testers than with previous releases.

Open source is amazing and difficult to develop in public. Gutenberg was developed completely in the public eye. You can go back a year and see one-star reviews on the plugin. That is something to keep in mind as we move forward.

“We have to keep in mind in addition to treating each other well, things might appear worse than they actually are,” Mullenweg said. “Unlike a normal company we were doing this all in the public eye.

Now that Gutenberg is live anyone can start building on top of it finding more ways to use blocks.

As far as changes outside of Gutenberg, we will look at optional autoupdates for plugins, themes, and major WP updates. The PHP minimum will also be raised with 5.6 in April and 7 in December.

Sites using SSL crossed over sites without. 20 percent increase in one year and it’s continuing. Now 57% of WordPress sites are using SSL. WordPress led the way in this by supporting Let’s Encrypt. We are seeing that we can change something fundamental about the web.

Community updates

Of course, it wouldn’t be a State of the Word without celebrating the community. Event numbers were way up this year! There were 145 Wordcamps in 48 countries and over 45,000 tickets sold.

The huge number was there were over 1,300 organizers which up 33% year over year

Meetups also went above and beyond in 2018 with 351,818 members, 687 meetup groups, and 5,450 meetup events.

The WordPress Foundation was able to put on 12 events tripling the amount from 2017. These events support charitable organizations by making them a site for free. They were also able to put on a number of open source workshops in Ghana, India, St. Lucia, and Columbia

The Foundation donated $10,000 each to Internet Archive, Girl Develop It, and Black Girls Code.

Mullenweg mentioned that the foundation’s ability to continue to give so much might be hindered in the future. Only $3,445 has been donated to the Foundation by 85 people since last year. If you have in some way benefited from WordPress please consider donating.

The energy in the room is palpable. The community is excited for the future of WordPress and what the coming year will bring.

Here’s to 32.5 percent of the web and counting!

Emily Schiola

Emily Schiola is the Editor of Torque. She loves good beer, bad movies, and cats.

The post State of the Word 2018: Learn Blocks Deeply appeared first on Torque.

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Designing a WordPress website that appeals to your audience and effectively guides them through the user journey takes a lot of work. It’s not just the development of a user persona and sales funnel that has to be carefully thought out.

When building websites for a geographically distinct audience–be it for a smaller local audience or one dispersed across the globe–there’s another layer of consideration involved.

How to Use Geotargeting in WordPress

Geotargeting is a form of audience segmentation.

But rather than use data pertaining to visitors’ logged-in status, on-site behaviors, or general demographics, geotargeting segments users based on their geographic location. Customized content is then displayed to create a more personal and comfortable user experience. You may also use geotargeting to position your website in front of the right audience and weed out the rest.

There are a number of use cases for geotargeting in WordPress:

For Local Businesses

If you’ve designed a WordPress business website for a local audience (perhaps as a companion to a brick-and-mortar location), you know how frustrating it can be to see visitors pop in from around the world. It’s not that you don’t want them there, but if they won’t find your content useful or can’t convert, then you don’t want to waste their time or your server bandwidth.

With a plugin like Geo IP Blocker, you can reduce the likelihood of this from happening. (It also happens to be a great tool, in general, for targeting custom content to visitors based on their geographic location.)

If you can effectively target local users and keep out those who are ineligible for the services or products offered through the site, you can conserve server bandwidth and deliver your highly targeted content to local visitors–FAST.

Custom post types and WordPress plugins like Toolset would also come in handy for this type of business. Think about something like a travel website. You’ve already utilized the geotargeting plugin to bring in the right traffic, now you can use custom post types to create sections such as “Hotels,” “Restaurants,” and “City Tours” to help local users find the information they want. That’s what Hotel In Rome did by using Toolset.

For Global Companies or Chains

Global businesses must be prepared to localize the content of their websites. The first thing to do is to employ the use of a multilingual plugin like WPML to ensure that all users have the privilege of understanding your content in their native language. Zespoke used WPML to translate their e-commerce website from English to German.

But it can’t stop with translation widgets. If you want to connect with and impress your global audience, everything–from the color palette chosen to the photographs used–should be tailored to your audience. In some cases, this means using very neutral design choices. In others, it means creating different versions of content to deliver to visitors based on where they log in from.

To do this, we recommend using GeoTarget by WP Engine. WP Engine and WPML are completely integrated, and so you can be sure your geotargeting on your multilingual website will be seamless.

GeoTarget enables you to display custom data and content (like regional phone numbers, geo-specific imagery, and so on) all around your website. This way, you’re not relying on too many plugins to power your geotargeting efforts and keep loading speeds running fast. Instead, your trusted web hosting provider steps in to process IP addresses and serve personalized information to your visitors.

For e-Commerce Companies

You invest a lot of time and money when you build an e-commerce website for WordPress–and that’s just talking about the design and development piece. Think about the user experience and what else would enable your store to make more sales. If you have customers arriving from countries around the world, translation widgets would certainly help with comprehension. But what about things like currency, fees, and other regional specifics?

Geotargeting makes it much easier for consumers to become customers as the barrier to entry is significantly lower. If you can anticipate the ways in which your content should be altered based on geographic origin, you’ll see higher conversions as a result.

There are a few ways you might approach this. Multilingual and geotargeting plugins are part of this, of course. But also think about how the ease in using the payment gateway will affect your conversion rates.

Stripe may be one of the best choices for this. In addition to being developer-friendly, it supports a wide range of global payment methods and currencies.

For Custom Content Sites

Websites that are in the business of producing massive amounts of content–i.e. blogs, news publications, etc.–generally want to reach as many readers as possible. But if your content is only written in one language and topics only discuss those of relevance to the “global” reader, you’ll find it hard to capture as many eyes on your content as you had hoped for.

If you’d like to produce more targeted or regional-friendly content for your site, there’s no need to subject it to all your readers. That may lead to confusion about the publication’s offering or target reader (say, if an English speaker repeatedly encountered Spanish language articles).

Instead, geotargeting enables you to serve up geo-specific content to the right visitor. A geotargeting tool is the first thing you should make use of for this. But also think outside the box. Your visitors aren’t just looking at content on the page. You’re showing them pop-ups too, right?

The WordPress Popups plugin actually works hand-in-hand with the Geotargeting Lite plugin from Timersys.

Make use of these when you want to share customized offers to visitors from specific geographic regions.

For Security-plagued Websites

There is a reason security plugins give you the option to block traffic from certain parts of the world. If your WordPress site has been particularly vulnerable to attack from certain regions and there’s no other benefit in connecting your content to users in those countries, you can put a stop to it with geotargeting (or, more specifically, geoblocking) plugins.

IP Geo Block is part security plugin and part geotargeting (blocking) plugin.

With this plugin, you can block different parts of your WordPress site, its files, and the database from specific countries. Or you can whitelist it for your select few if you prefer.

If you’re having trouble with this and your traditional security plugin isn’t helping, give this a try.

For Monetization

It takes time to prepare and implement monetization strategies on a WordPress website. That’s why you want to see a solid ROI come from all that work. As in the case of targeting localized content to certain readers, you want to place relevant offers and ads in front of visitors who will find value in them and who will be compelled to click.

As such, you’ll want to use an advertising plugin that supports geotargeting. This won’t be a feature that you can get for free from a plugin, but there are premium upgrades to a trusted plugin like Advanced Ads that will enable you to geotarget your ads.

For More Useful Analytics

As you analyze the traffic of your WordPress website, you don’t want anything to prevent you from seeing the clear picture of what’s going on. This is why you typically filter out your development team’s footprint along with bot traffic. This way, your data isn’t skewed with insights about visitors who don’t matter to your business.

Geotargeting plugins will automatically help you clean up your traffic data. But also know that you can apply filters in Google Analytics to strip out any remaining data pertaining to users who your website can’t and shouldn’t be serving.

In so doing, you can develop more effective strategies for your site based on insights about what your target audience is actually doing while they’re there.

Wrap-Up

Although the idea of geotargeting might seem like one that only large, global corporations would profit from, there are some very practical applications of it for businesses of all sizes.

Just remember to look at the big picture: this is about delivering the best experience to your audience. If their physical location affects how they consume content or even just dictates which websites make sense for them to visit in the first place, then your WordPress site should make use of geotargeting.

Joe Lobo

Joe Lobo is a content creator for Toolset and WPML. He enjoys exploring WordPress when he is online and countries while offline. He can be contacted on Twitter.

The post What You Need to Know About Geotargeting in WordPress appeared first on Torque.

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In January 2017, Matt Mullenweg announced the Gutenberg project. A project that would change the way people created websites and content in WordPress. After nearly two years, Gutenberg has been merged with core in WordPress 5.0.

A long time coming

The WISIWYG editor hasn’t had a massive update in over 15 years. Gutenberg introduces a block-based editing system. Developers can make custom blocks which will save time when creating posts.

Designers can customize their sites even more than ever before. The idea is to make it easier for first-time users to get a handle on WordPress, and create beautiful sites quickly and affordably.

WordPress has changed a lot in the last 15 years and the editor has been left behind. Though it’s a big change, it’s a necessary one.

Democratizing Publishing

WordPress has always existed to “Democratize publishing.” Gutenberg will take us even closer to that goal and to conquering the remaining 30 percent of the web.

As Mullenweg said in a blog post from 2017, “WordPress has always been about websites, but it’s not just about websites. It’s about freedom, about possibility, and about carving out your own livelihood, whether it’s by making a living through your site or by working in the WordPress ecosystem itself. We’re democratizing publishing — and democratizing work — for everyone, regardless of language, ability, or economic wherewithal.”

Change can be scary

Though the idea of such a massive change can be scary, every user should try out Gutenberg in a staging environment. Until you feel comfortable with the project, you can enable the Classic Editor plugin to go back to the original editor.

The future of WordPress

5.0 has been a long time coming, and we are excited to see where it takes WordPress. Gutenberg is a huge step forward for the CMS. It carries us on our mission to bring WordPress to everyone.

We want to thank the hundreds of developers who spent their time making sure 5.0 was ready to go live, and the countless others who tested Gutenberg and gave feedback.

Emily Schiola

Emily Schiola is the Editor of Torque. She loves good beer, bad movies, and cats.

The post Gutenberg is Here! appeared first on Torque.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year — for blogging. Give your blog a temporary holiday theme and meet your readers’ expectations for a bright and joyful time of year.

Small changes make a significant impact on your site visitors, and WordPress makes it easy to add some seasonal cheer.

Experts predict holiday eCommerce sales will rise by 16.6 percent this year as more and more people embrace the ease of shopping online. Set the stage by adding some holiday flair to your blog using these five strategies.

1. Update Your Theme

One way to give your site instant cheer is to switch to a holiday theme until the first of the year. There are some free themes on WordPress.org, such as Christmas Bell. Do a quick search, and you’ll be surprised at home many free themes pop up. Be sure to look for one similar to what you already have, so the tweaks are minimal.

To download the theme, go to your WordPress dashboard and choose Appearance/Themes/Add New. Click on Upload and install the new theme. Select your new design as the active theme, then double check that everything works correctly.

A beautiful holiday theme needs to work seamlessly. You’ve invested a lot of time into updating for the holidays, so make sure it’s a positive experience for your customers that keeps them on the site and doesn’t drive them away.

2. Add Embellishments

Little embellishments add to the feel of the holidays without a lot of additional effort on your part. For example, you can use the plugin Christmas Ball on Branch to add an animated Christmas detail to the corner of your blog’s header. The basic version is free. If you want more control over where you place the branch, a pro version is available that adds features.

Christmas Panda does something similar, but you can add trees, Santa, snowfall, or a pop-up about Christmas. These are just two of the possible plugins available that allow you to add embellishments very easily. Do a search on WordPress.org or through the Plugins tab in your Dashboard using the word “Christmas,” and you’ll find many other options.

Installing a plugin is similar to installing a theme. Go to your Dashboard and click on “Plugins.” Click on Add New/Upload and install from the location where you’ve saved the plugin. You will then need to activate the plugin from the Plugins tab. Every plugin has different settings, so look under your tools or within the Plugins tab to find the settings for the plugin you’ve chosen.

3. Play Music

Everywhere you go throughout the holidays, music is playing. If you hit the shopping mall, Jingle Bells is playing over the loudspeakers. If you dine out, a soft rendition of Silent Night plays in the background. Radio stations go to all Christmas music all the time. Adding a little mood music to your site puts visitors in the shopping mood.

One easy way to add music is with another plugin called Christmas Music. This plugin chooses the song for you, but also allows your visitors to turn off the sound with a single click. A disable button is an important feature to add if someone is browsing your site while at work or doesn’t want music playing because their Internet connection is a bit slow. If you want to add more general music, you can use a plugin such as Soundy.

WordPress also has a native audio player you can use. Simply add .mp3 or .wav files by going to Media/Add New and uploading the file. Once the file uploads, look to the right for attachment details. Choose “Embed Media Player” and then “Insert Into Post.”

4. Make It Snow

What would the holidays be without a little snow? You can make it snow on your site with a variety of plugins. Some of the plugins that make it snow include WP Super Snow and Snow. A couple of things to keep in mind include offering an option for visitors to turn off the falling snow. While the snow will fall seamlessly for most users, if there is an issue, the user can turn off the feature.

If you don’t like the idea of using animations or JavaScript, you could also simply change the background of your header to a snowy image, then change it back after the holidays pass.

5. Decorate Your Logo

Have you ever noticed that Google swaps out their logo to tie into different holidays and special occasions? The basic font stays the same, but they might add a Santa hat on one corner or a little background behind the letters. You can do something similar for the holidays by adding a faded out snowflake behind your logo or a small graphic to one of the letters. Changing your logo is relatively simple in WordPress, so it shouldn’t take much time to adjust it.

Temporary Holiday Theme

Keep in mind that the idea is to add a temporary festive spirit to your site. You don’t need to spend endless hours creating a unique graphic.

Other programmers have laid the groundwork for you with the plugins mentioned above, as well as the many options for free themes and embellishments that give your site holiday spirit without the extra work.

Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a WordPress blogger and independent writer. She’s done freelance work for Digital Trends, The Week, Website Magazine and VICE. To read more posts from Kayla, visit her blog, Productivity Theory.

The post 5 Ways to Give Your Blog a Temporary Holiday Theme appeared first on Torque.

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Heading to WordCamp US in Nashville this weekend? Be sure to stop by the WP Engine booth to pick up a copy of our Torque Toons coloring book. Featuring some of our favorite WordPress toons of the past year.

Doc Pop

Doctor Popular is an artist and musician living in San Francisco. As a full disclaimer, he is neither a doctor nor popular.

The post Torque Toons: WCUS 2018 appeared first on Torque.

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It doesn’t matter what business you decide to start or you already have; the website is its main representation in front of the audience. You know you need it, and you know it has to be great.

This brings us to a question: how can you make the website project easier to develop, cheaper, and faster?

There’s a single answer to that question: WordPress.

It’s the absolute CMS for setting up and running a business site. You’re not convinced? We’ll give you the 10 major reasons why you should consider WordPress.

WordPress Is Free

WordPress is open-source software. You have the freedom to use it, modify it, and build upon it in any way you want. Yes; you’ll probably have to pay a designer or buy a theme to make your website look good. But you have tons of flexibility to modify the software, which awesome.

It’s Really Easy to Setup and Use

WordPress was made to be used even by people who have no idea how to code. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to develop a simple website without paying too much for it. You just need to choose a theme, play with its features, and you’ll have the site online in no time.

Now keep in mind that we’re still talking about a professional website for your business. It has to be good. It has to be more than good. So if you’re not self-confident in your skills, it’s still best to pay someone to do it for you. That’s how you’ll get more from the potential that WordPress has to offer. This brings us to our next point.

The Community Is Great

Whatever solutions you need regarding the maintenance of your website, you can count on the immense WordPress developer community. You’ll find tutorials on how to use all features. You’ll get absolutely free guides on how to make your website better. You can also count on eBooks, videos, and other types of material that helps you maintain and improve your WordPress site.

These resources are nicely categorized, so you’ll easily find the guidelines you need.

It’s a Highly Popular Platform

31.9% of all websites are powered by WordPress. This makes it the most popular content management system, way ahead of Joomla that has only 3.1% of the market share.

Some of the most popular websites you’ve seen were made with WordPress. To mention only few of them, take a look at Microsoft News or TechCrunch. From the websites that are not so popular but just as great, take a look at BrillAssignment.co.uk. It proves that WordPress is versatile enough to cover the needs of news agencies, small business websites, and blogs all at once.

You’ll Use WordPress for the Website And the Blog

Should we even start talking about the importance of a content marketing campaign for your business? You absolutely need a blog, where you’ll implement SEO strategies and you’ll publish content for your audience. WordPress covers both aspects of website development. You’ll use it to manage the entire website, including a great blog.

It’s Mobile-Ready

Whoever you’re targeting, they will use mobile. More and more people are abandoning full-sized computers for the sake of comfort and mobility. So you want your website to look good on any device, and WordPress enables that for you.

WordPress Has Great Themes

With the right WordPress theme, you can achieve any goal you have for your website. The themes are perfectly arranged to produce an appealing graphic interface. With a good Premium theme, in particular, your options are unlimited. It will come with an easy-to-use page builder and it will be highly responses. In addition, you’ll get to use great plugins to customize your website in any way you want.

There’s No Need to Code

The themes take us to the next important advantage of WordPress: you don’t need to touch any code. WordPress designers are doing that for you. You only use and adjust the finished product.

You Can Use All Kinds of Plugins

Plugins are like apps for WordPress. Whenever there’s a specific feature you want to add to your website, there’s a plugin for that. It will extend the functionality of WordPress.

Some of the most popular plugins for WordPress include Yoast SEO, Google Analytics, Ninja Popups, and Wordfence Security.

WordPress Is SEO-Friendly

WordPress is not particularly SEO-friendly out of the box, but you can definitely improve that aspect with plugins. There are countless options for you to play with the settings, customize meta tags, reduce 404 errors, and take other actions that will improve the SEO aspects of your website. WordPress makes all that possible.

There’s no question about it; WordPress is the best platform for your business site. It gives you all options you could possibly need, and it’s a pretty affordable and convenient option.

Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell is a blogger and online marketing junkie. She is in the process of starting her own online business.  With her tips and tricks under your sleeve, there isn’t anything you can achieve, and faster than you could ever believe.

The post 10 Reasons WordPress is the Best Platform for Your Business Website appeared first on Torque.

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Storytelling is an important component of online content. Much like copywriting it’s a way of turning bland, forgettable blog posts and web pages into captivating content pieces. Storytelling has become a crucial component in online marketing.

The good news is that, even if you don’t know anything about storytelling, you can learn it and this article will show you how. In the following, you will learn what storytelling is and why it is effective. After that, the blog post will give you actionable tips on how you can integrate it into your own site content.

What is Storytelling and Why Use It?

Before anything else, we need to talk about the definition of storytelling and the benefit using it offers.

Storytelling is Conveying Fact Through Narrative

Most blog posts or web pages are about conveying information, whether in the form of a tutorial, sales page, About section or else. In each case, you want to bring something across to your audience.

There are several ways of doing so. You can simply give them the information in a factual way like so:

We sell glasses cheaper than other companies.

The other option is to embed it into a story or narrative:

Every idea starts with a problem. Ours was simple: glasses are too expensive. We were students when one of us lost his glasses on a backpacking trip. The cost of replacing them was so high that he spent the first semester of grad school without them, squinting and complaining. (We don’t recommend this.) The rest of us had similar experiences, and we were amazed at how hard it was to find a pair of great frames that didn’t leave our wallets bare. Where were the options? — Source: Warby Parker

While both achieve the same goal, which one of them do you find more engaging? The second one, right?

That’s how storytelling works. People crave more than just facts. They want something they can connect and relate to. It’s much more interesting, much more engaging and, therefore, much more likely to elicit a response.

An Effective Tool to Create Connection

Why is storytelling such a powerful tool? Because stories are weaved into the fabric of human history. They have been used to pass on information for thousands of years by people from all kinds of backgrounds, cultures and communities.

Just look at all the books, movies, plays and other pieces of popular culture. Hell, we have based wars and whole religions on stories. Stories are also how we make sense of the world (through our personal narrative) and can thus mold our thinking and behavior.

The reason why this works is because storytelling turns abstract ideas into something we can understand. One of my favorite examples from a business standpoint is still Apple’s original iPod.

Instead of boring technical jargon, they give you a simple-to-grasp image of how this product makes your life better.

In addition to that, storytelling creates trust. It creates intimacy, connection, and understanding. As a consequence, it brings readers closer to you, helps them get to know you better and on a deeper level. This creates a conversation and a relationship that is based on more than just trying to sell. Much more than marketing speech ever could.

Stories Prompt Action

Because of the above, storytelling is a great tool to create an emotional response in your audience. You can make them feel humor, nostalgia, anger, sadness, hope, inspiration and more. A good story is like a rollercoaster right through your brain’s emotional center.

Why is that important? Because, when you can make people feel something, you can make them take action. A surprisingly large share of daily decisions are made emotionally. Although we think we are rational creatures, this is far from true. Therefore, if you can tell a good and captivating story with your online content, you can get people to jump on your email list, buy your product or donate to your charity.

However, what makes good storytelling? Let’s talk about that next.

What Does Good Storytelling Need?

Humans have been telling each other stories for millennia. During that time, we have established a number of components that are important to make a story effective.

Must-Have Parts of Storytelling

No matter what story you are telling, here are some ingredients that definitely can not miss:

  1. Main character/hero — Every story needs at least one. This can be you, another person, even someone you made up. Characters provide a focal point for the audience. It is the main canvas for their own projection and gives them someone they can identify with.
  2. Conflict/journey — The core of a good story is the central conflict. It is the obstacle in the way of the main character, the challenge to overcome. Its existence makes the experience relatable and allows you to bring across lessons you want to convey.
  3. Ending/resolution — Every story needs an end. It doesn’t have to be a happy one (after all, this is not Hollywood) but one that wraps up the storyline, makes your point and moves on to the call to action.

These are basic building blocks to every story. If you have those, you have a story to tell.

How to Make Your Story Compelling

However, even if you have the main parts, you can still end up with a bland story. For that reason, here are some ideas on how to make your story a real page-turner:

  • Turn up the entertainment factor — It’s important to keep readers engaged. If they are amused, they will continue reading if only to find out how the story will conclude. This is good for your time on site.
  • Make it relatable — Tap into experiences and emotions other people are familiar with. That way, you will create a stronger connection and make your story more effective.
  • Ensure it’s easy-to-follow — Your story needs to be organized to make it pleasant to journey along. It can be the best story in the world, however, if it’s a disorganized mess, nobody will bother finding out.
  • Make it memorable — The better your stories stick in mind, the more benefits for you and your readers.
  • Support stories with data — Proper research is important for any story (more on that below). If you can put hard facts into your stories, they will be even more effective, especially if they are of the problem-solving kind.
  • Include visuals — One of the biggest advantages of digital content is that you can underline the written word with visual data. Whether screenshots, stock photos, gifs, videos or infographics — take your pick. National Geographic does this splendidly.

Alright, now that we have settled on that, let’s see how to put it into practice.

How Do You Use Storytelling in Your Online Content?

Here’s a process you can use to craft a story for your web pages.

1. Get to Know Your Audience

Without knowing who you are writing for, you won’t be very effective at putting together a story for your readers. This is the same as for blog posts and other website copy, which is why there is market research and keyword research. For that reason, the first task in storytelling is to get familiar with your audience.

  • Who are they? Who are you writing for?
  • What are their needs, pains, hopes, and aspirations?

Knowing this is crucial to tell the right story, the right way.

2. Define What You are Trying to Say

As settled above, storytelling is more than regaling an anecdote. If you are doing it in a business setting, most of the time you have a goal in mind that you want to accomplish. However, in order to make the story work towards it, you need to know what it is.

What are you trying to say? Communicate values? Explain your product? Motivate people to buy or use a contact form?

Be crystal clear about this before even thinking about beginning to write. This also has great significance for the type of story you will write whether it’s a drama, funny or an inspirational piece.

3. Create a Call to Action

From the objective, it’s now time to come up with a call to action. This will put into words what you want readers to do after finishing your story.

It’s important to establish this beforehand because it takes a lot of work. Also, the call to action needs to align with your objective, so it makes sense to do this next.

4. Come up with a Structure

Next, it is time to outline the rough structure of your story. This will help you visualize how it all fits together.

It’s a good idea to create this beforehand to make sure you don’t waste any space in telling your story. By creating a map for yourself, you make it easier to create a coherent piece in the end. It will also help you think about what parts are central and which are optional or can be eliminated altogether.

5. Write

Alright, enough with the preparation. From here on out, it’s time to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard) and start writing. You have the basic scaffolding, now it’s time to fill in the gaps. Don’t worry about getting it right the first time. Shoot for volume first, you can always edit things down later.

6. Edit and Refine

Editing is where the real work begins. Once you have a draft, it’s time to go over it and trim the edges. Eliminate things that are not necessary, improve the language where necessary until things really pop and are crystal clear. Do this more than once to really polish up your piece.

7. Implement a Distribution Strategy

However, when it comes to online content, creating the story is only half the battle. After that, you also need to get it in front of people. Content promotion is just as important as content creation, if not more. For that reason, don’t just hit Publish and hope for the best. Have a concept in place for how you will get your story read.

How that happens also depends on the medium you have chosen. It might be written, in video form or as a podcast. For each, there are different ways to get them in front of people. WordPress plugins can help with that. Check this article for more helpful tips.

However, after that, you are done. Good stuff! You just learned to how to use storytelling in online content!

Conclusion

Storytelling is an effective tool in the content marketer’s belt. It allows you to communicate information in a way that is engaging, memorable, and touches on readers’ emotions.

Stories are a central part of human existence, a great connector and way to inspire and move others to action. Above, you have learned the basic building blocks of storytelling and how to make stories compelling. In addition, we have gone over a basic process of creating your own story.

By following the instructions, you are able to infuse your web pages, blog posts and marketing material with more life and make them more magnetic. This, in turn, will make your readers happy and help you move them along in their journey.

How do you use storytelling in your online content? Anything to add to the above? Let us know in the comments section below!

Nick Schäferhoff

Nick Schäferhoff is an entrepreneur, online marketer, and professional blogger from Germany. He found WordPress when he needed a website for his first business and instantly fell in love. When not building websites, creating content or helping his clients improve their online business, he can most often be found at the gym, the dojo or traveling the world with his wife. If you want to get in touch with him, you can do so via Twitter or through his website.

The post Storytelling – Why and How to Use It for Your Content Marketing appeared first on Torque.

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We’ve discussed burnout previously on the blog, but mental health remains an important topic due to the high-pressure nature of working within WordPress. Given that a half day was dedicated to this exact subject at the latest WordCamp Europe, it’s clearly an ongoing concern for many developers.

Fortunately, there’s a lot of information available on this topic from outside of the WordPress bubble. The advice you’ll find is often solid and actionable, both as a developer and in other areas. Classic guidance such as “work out, say your prayers, and eat your vitamins” isn’t just a lazy cliche – it’s fuel for living a mentally healthy life.

This post will go into more detail about mental health. We’ll talk about how to keep everything intact when the pressure rises, and how to achieve a strong balance in your day-to-day life. Let’s jump right in!

The Causes of Poor Mental Health for WordPress Professionals

Before we begin, it’s worth clarifying that WordPress itself does not cause mental health issues (not that we know of, anyway). In fact, the issues you’ll encounter while working within the field are no different than what you’ll find in similar niches. We’d bet that if you searched long enough, you’d find the same patterns of behavior throughout most high-pressure industries.

In some ways, this is good news. Knowing that others experience the same stresses and strains that you do can be reassuring. Plus, it means there’s already a lot of solid advice out there that you can rely on.

Ultimately, poor mental health is usually caused by any one (or a mixture of) the following elements:

  • Overworking
  • Poor fortunes affecting your outlook
  • A preexisting mental health condition (whether you’re aware of it or not)

You may look at these causes and think that they’re pretty vague, or that the list is incomplete. You’d be right on both counts. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to ascertain exactly why mental health can dip. Otherwise, we’d be able to easily fix these issues as soon as they arise. Each case will be unique, even if there are some common factors.

However, we’d also argue that any community that invests so much of itself into a project (as in the WordPress community) is ripe for messing with your mental health. Feeling so strongly about aspects of the platform, and having to deal with that intensity day-to-day, can take its toll over time. What’s more, if things don’t go the way you’re hoping, a poor mood can turn into something more malicious.

The (Non-Obvious) Benefits of Good Mental Health

We can talk until the cows come home about how good mental health makes you happier, improves your relationships with others, and so on. However, there are plenty of other benefits that aren’t so clear.

For example:

  • Strong mental heath promotes (and can result in) calmness, something we’ll talk more about later.
  • A calm outlook can have a positive effect on the quality of both your decision-making and general thought processes.
  • Your physical health will likely improve, for all manner of reasons.

To go a little deeper into that last point, imagine that you’re currently receiving treatment for a mental health issue. Many such conditions also create phantom illnesses that can debilitate you further. By removing the underlying mental health problem, you’re also helping to rid yourself of those ‘satellite’ issues.

How Success Can Bring Negatives Along With the Positives

It’s a worn-out fallacy that success is a completely positive thing. In fact, you’ll often find that the trappings of success can grind you down if you’re not ready for them, or you don’t have a handle on how to cope with them effectively. This can manifest itself in a number of ways.

For example, you may have grand designs about making a certain amount of plugin sales, and work incredibly hard to get there. The resulting stress can cause problems in itself, as we touched on earlier. However, what you may not have considered are all the associated tasks that go along with it.

For example, consider the additional marketing, accountancy, and support requests that arise from doing more business. Not only that, a greater workload will eventually require additional team members in order to support it. If you’re not equipped to deal with managing employees (and not everyone is), this can cause untold stressors, which will eventually take their toll.

In a nutshell, we’re not suggesting that you should set your standards low, or forgo pursuing your goals. What we’re saying is that the grass isn’t 100% greener on the successful side – in fact, there’s arguably more in the way of highs and lows there. You’ll often find that maintaining success is more difficult than obtaining it in the first place.

How to Balance Your Mental Health and Success in WordPress

At this point, let’s take a deeper dive into mental balance, and talk about what you can do to maintain it. Earlier, we talked about how mental health begets calmness. To illustrate this, we need to talk about a process called the ‘amygdala hijack’.

This is a process where the brain becomes so overwhelmed with stimuli that it essentially can’t cope. Much like a piece of complex machinery that falters, the results are usually catastrophic. In other words, if your brain can’t process everything it’s being presented with, that can cause you to become emotionally unstable and impact your mental health.

In contrast, if you can keep from becoming emotionally overwhelmed, you can remain calmer and less stressed. As we explained earlier, a stable and balanced mindset also increases the ability to perform rational decision-making.

Therefore, the overall goal is to maintain a solid and balanced mind, which doesn’t go off the rails when hit with an overstimulating decision or workload. The question is: How can you achieve this? Fortunately, the answer is pretty simple to understand and implement.

Keep Your Body Well Rested, Fed, and Fit

First, you need to make sure your basic physiological functions are taken care of. This essentially means that you’re eating well, such as by prioritizing lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and staying away from processed and poor-quality foods. Also, restricting your alcohol intake, cigarette consumption, and of course drug use should be a high priority.

What’s more, getting out into the fresh air on a daily basis offers proven health benefits, both physical and mental. Exercise is generally a mood-booster, so you should aim to get out of breath for 30 minutes three times a week at a minimum. Many also turn to practices such as yoga or mindfulness in order to balance their moods. For those looking for a strenuous workout as well as the benefits of yoga, a program such as DDPYoga may be of some benefit.

Reconnect With the ‘Real World’

Sometimes, success can take you away from reality, which is understandable. You may be so consumed with results that you get ‘tunnel vision’. That can lead you to isolate yourself from the real world. In this scenario, having a solid support network that has nothing to do with WordPress is going to help you out immensely.

Having a group of friends who don’t care about hooks and coding standards, or any of the other minutiae of the platform, gives you an outlet to escape for as long as you need. Speaking of outlets, having a hobby or pastime that isn’t related to WordPress also serves as a needed break during mentally tough times, for the same reasons.

All in all, the classic advice of exercising, eating your greens, and getting away from the grind once in a while is what helps keep your mind in a good place. There’s a reason these are oft-quoted solutions – it’s because they work!

Conclusion

It’s very tempting to ignore the warning signs of poor mental health. However, if your brain isn’t functioning at top capacity, you’ll have trouble making good decisions. Poor choices often lead to sub-optimal outcomes, which can have negative effects on your work prospects, your colleague relationships, and ultimately your income.

In this post, we’ve looked at why mental health can deteriorate. It’s also important to realize that increasing success can bring along its own mental health problems, which underlies the need to keep yourself grounded at all times. Taking the time to eat and sleep well, exercise regularly, and get away from it all is fundamental to living a happy and rewarding life – and to being an effective and successful WordPress developer.

Have you ever suffered from mental health issues as a developer, and if so, how did you cope? Share your experiences in the comments section below!

Featured image: karelinlestrange.

Tom Rankin

Tom Rankin is a key member of WordCandy, a musician, photographer, vegan, beard owner, and (very) amateur coder. When he's not doing any of these things, he's likely sleeping.

The post How to Balance Your Mental Health and Success in WordPress appeared first on Torque.

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