WordPress and Business Intelligence with Anca Mosoiu

As WordPress becomes more and more useful as an application engine, developers will be expected to provide useful reports from systems driven by WordPress. Reports go beyond site visitor metrics – they provide domain-specific information about an individual business. 

In this workshop, we will examine the decision-making needs of organizations, and how to plan a WordPress project so it includes reporting. From this higher level, dive into the WordPress information architecture and database to look at strategies for creating reporting tables and information dashboards tailored to a specific business function.

Anca Mosoiu is the founder of Tech Liminal, where people with various skills and backgrounds come together to learn and build using technology. She is a programmer and consultant who loves complex, large-scale technology projects, where her curiosity and ability to translate between technical and non-technical helps teams get things done.

Her clients include the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Cisco Systems, Nike and Sony.

Anca works with small teams and individuals, coaching them to utilise software that helps them grow their business and complete projects. With a combination of tools like Google Apps, WordPress, a text editor and a sense of humor, she helps her clients automate their business, interact with their stakeholders, and manage their intellectual property online.

She is a graduate of MIT, where she studied Computer Science. 

This is our first meeting at Tech Liminal’s new location in the Port Workspaces in the Kaiser Center Mall. Access is by key card, but we’ll arrange to have people available to open the doors and to post signs to help you figure out where to go. There’s a large parking structure integrated into the mall, but you do have to pay for it.

March 2016: Pricing and Packaging WordPress Services

We had a jam-packed meetup in March despite the rain, which just goes to show you that everyone wants to learn more about pricing, even if they’ve been freelancing for a while.

Here are some highlights of our discussion about pricing WordPress services.

Charge for Discovery

Discovery is the process of figuring out exactly what your client needs. In many cases, clients don’t know about all the possibilities, so you have to learn about their business and their goals in order to know what kind of functionality they require (e.g. events, e-commerce). You also need to find out what kind of content they have or plan to have, and whether they need content creation services in addition to website design and development services.

Discovery is important consulting work, in addition to being necessary for the creation of an accurate scope of work/estimate/proposal. Time spent in discovery saves time in the actual development process and helps prevent the “Can you also do this?” and “Do it this way instead” moments that delay product launches.

Get Money Up Front

Make sure there is a deposit in the bank before you start work. There’s no one perfect payment schedule–different contractors charge anything from 10% to 100% in advance.

Charge for Project Management

Even if you are not working with subcontractors, every project includes a project management component. This includes client communications: emails and phone calls to keep the client updated on your progress. (If you schedule these on a regular basis, you can avoid interruptions.) Some clients need a lot of hand-holding. Set boundaries so you can get your work done.

Include Training and Documentation

Writing documentation is time-consuming. Don’t underestimate the time it will take to create custom help files. One option is to make a video recording of the site walk-through session with your clients, so they can go back and replay it instead of asking you questions.

Practice Saying “We can do that, but it will cost extra.”

Once you have defined a scope of work, stick to it. You’ll end up making $2/hr if you let clients talk you into adding on extra tasks. If a timely launch is important, save all additional work for a second phase.

Not All Work Hours Are Billable

If you’re new to freelancing, you may be shocked at how much non-billable work you have to do when you’re self-employed: marketing, invoicing, bookkeeping, etc. Plus you need to save at least a few hours a week just for keeping up with developments in your field–more if you are learning a new programming language. When you set your hourly rate, keep in mind that you will not average more than 20 billable hours in a week.

Packages Have Pros and Cons

If you create fixed-rate packages like the ones at Theme Valet, you can save a lot of time on writing proposals. But be very clear on what those packages do and don’t include, and make sure that you are making an acceptable hourly rate by tracking the time it takes you to produce one of these packaged sites. (You will get quicker as you go on as long as the tasks involved remain identical.)

Track Your Time

Even when you are not billing by the hour, track your time. That way you’ll know what you’re really making on a project, and where you need to increase what you’re charging. Many tasks will take longer to complete than you expect; some will go more quickly.

Figure Out Where Your Sweet Spot Is

It’s easier to be really good at something if you specialize, whether it’s in a particular framework or a particular vertical. Trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for failure.

Develop a Network of Fellow Professionals

Once you know which clients you want, you need a place to send the clients you don’t want. You’ll also need people to team up with if you want to offer multiple services. If you’re mainly a developer, get to know designers, SEO experts, and content strategists as well as other developers. Making a good referral can bring a client back to you later.

Conduct Site Reviews for Existing Clients

Sonja London conducts annual site reviews for existing clients, to make sure that their websites still serve their needs. This is a good source of additional business, because eventually those clients will need either add-ons or redesigns.

Charge for Support

All WordPress websites require regular support and maintenance, and all websites of any kind require backups and security. You can generate predictable recurring revenue by providing monthly support packages. If you don’t want to do support yourself, set your clients up with a service like WP Site Care.  And do your best to set them up with a good hosting company that provides backups and security scans.

Charge a Reactivation Fee

Ever have a client fall off the planet and leave you hanging with a half-finished job? Make it clear to clients that you will charge them to maintain development sites and to reactivate their projects if they go months without communicating. It’s going to take you extra hours to get back into the groove of that project, and there’s no reason to bear that cost yourself.

Be Prepared to Launch without Content

Projects often get hung up waiting for clients to produce content. If content creation is not one of the services you offer (and therefore your responsibility), you need to protect yourself from delays. Some options include launching a site with filler text if clients can’t meet their deadlines, or refusing to start a project if the content required for launch is not complete.

Pricing and Packaging Your WordPress Services

All freelancers (and agencies) face the question of how to charge and how much to charge. 

When is an hourly rate appropriate–and what’s a reasonable hourly rate (for you; the clients will decide for themselves what they think is reasonable)? 

What is value-based pricing and how do you implement it? Do you charge for discovery? 

How detailed should cost breakdowns in your quotes be? 

What kind of payment schedule do you use? 

Have you created packages (e.g. a maintenance package, a basic install package), and if so, how has that worked for you?

I’m looking for volunteers to contribute their experience on this subject, so email me if you want to participate in a pricing panel.

Feb 2016 Handout: Managing Multiple WordPress Sites

Recent Reviews

Envato Tuts+ Series: Exploring WordPress Managers

Part 1 covers Jetpack and InfiniteWP. Part 2 covers ManageWP, CMS Commander, and MainWP. Part 3 (not yet published) covers iThemes Sync and WP Remote. The author uses InfiniteWP.

WPMU: Managing Multiple WordPress Sites: The Ultimate Guide

Covers ManageWP, InfiniteWP, CMS Commander, WPRemote, iControlWP, Jetpack Manage, and iThemes Sync. Comes down in favor of ManageWP, but gives pretty good ratings to everything.

WordPress Management Plugins & Services Featured at the Meetup

Mill: WordPress site management and deployment

Mill (sponsor)

French startup Mill provides deployment, updates, backup and restore, migration, and cloning for both WordPress and Drupal. Starts at $29/month for 10 sites and one user.

InfiniteWP

Infinite WP is a tool you set up on your own web server, rather than a hosted service. With it you get a dashboard that lets you update, backup, & restore your site, as well as installing themes and plugins. Free for those basic services; paid add-ons for things like cloud backups, 2-factor authentication, Sucuri scanning, and site cloning start at $50/year apiece, or $400/year for the whole suite.

MainWP

Another self-hosted site management tool: includes MainWP dashboard and MainWP child plugins. Free version includes site management, user management, bulk posting, upgrades, and backups. The Sucuri site-check and Advanced Uptime extensions are free. Paid extensions include cloning, code snippets, and broken link checking.

iThemes Sync

Sync does site management, updates, and plugin & theme installation (iThemes or WordPress.org). Integrates nicely with any iThemes plugins you have installed and with iThemes Stash. Free plan includes 10 sites. Pro version includes uptime monitoring and reports;  starts at $50/year for 25 sites.

ManageWP 

ManageWP was the first of these services and still rates highly in reviews (see above). It handles updates, theme & plugin installation, site optimization, pageview statistics, security scans, and performance reports. Additional features like backup & migration are available in paid plans. Free plan includes 5 sites. Basic plan is $0.80/month/website; Pro plan is $2.40/website/month; Business plan is $4.80/website/month.

More WordPress Site Management Tools

  • Jetpack Manage (free, but limited)
  • CMS Commander (5 sites free with basic features; premium plans start at $8/month for 5 sites with all features)
  • WP Remote (updates & snapshots; unlimited sites free)
  • iControlWP (updates, backup/restore, security; plans start at $15/month for 10 sites)

Managing Multiple WordPress sites

Things change rapidly in the WordPress world. The content in this post is more than a year old and may no longer represent best practices.

I have more than 20 sites of my own to manage (production sites and dev/test sites for my own research, and a couple of sites for family and friends), plus a bunch of client sites. Most WordPress developers and consultants are in the same position. What do you do if you don’t want to spend all your time logging into sites and updating them?

The good news is, there are many tools and services out there for this. With the Mill team visiting from France, now seemed like a good time to talk about them. (Mill is a new tool for managing and deploying WordPress and Drupal sites.)

We’ll start with a demo & Q&A from Mill, and then move on to some of the tools that our meetup members have used. Please feel free to join in and share your own experience with these or other site management tools.

Sonja London will talk about how she uses InfiniteWP and MainWP to manage client websites and why they chose these two solutions.

Sallie Goetsch will talk about iThemes Sync and ManageWP.