Tag Archives: business

Why Growing Your WordPress Business Is Like Flossing Your Teeth (Feb 2017 Slides)

Presentation Summary

Everyone wants to know the secret to growing their business. The secret is that there is no secret. The same tried and true principles and practices are the best ways to grow almost any business. This certainly holds true for small agencies and freelance contractors.

I’ll share my experiences growing a freelance web design and development business. Everything from how I got plugged into a well connected network to why my customers pass my name around like mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving.

There will not be anything revolutionary or mind blowing in this presentation. It’s just the stuff you know you need to do but don’t – just like flossing your teeth.

About the Speaker

Shannon DunnShannon Dunn is a freelance designer / developer. He calls himself a Swiss Army knife for marketing directors. Shannon has owned and run a collection of businesses that are strangely diverse: mobile events outfit, window and housecleaning service, silkscreening company, WordPress theme shop, and utility knife to marketing folk. Shannon has imposed himself upon the local WordPress community as the lead organizer of WPSFO and if you haven’t had enough of him yet, you will by the end of this presentation.


Download the PDF file .

Sallie’s Notes

Making people feel like they had a great experience is more important than being good at your job.

Learn which weaknesses you need to improve–and which ones you’re not likely to improve.

“Find someone who’s doing what you want to do and learn from them.” –Shane Perlman

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself.” –Groucho Marx

Really Dead Simple (but Critical) Things

  • Be really good at what you do. Shannon is a good designer and developer, but he’s REALLY GOOD at treating his client well.
  • Listen. Control the urge to jump in and share your own experiences.
  • Be a trusted source.
  • Be kind and enthusiastic.

Your Best New Customer Is Your Old Customer

They already trust you. They already give you money. You’re more likely to get money from your existing customers than from people who don’t know you at all. It’s easy to neglect existing customers, but it’s stupid.

Are you doing EVERYTHING THAT YOU CAN for your existing customers? (Examples: maintenance, annual site reviews, SEO, marketing, training, documentation, content…) Find ways to say “I can do that.”

Find out what’s important to your customers, and find a way to help them with that. Always couch what you’re offering to do in the context of what’s important to the client.

Proceed with caution. Avoid things that are really not your strength. Instead, find a partner to refer that work to, and focus on adding services in your strength.

Don’t chase inefficient money at the expense of more efficient money.

Cultivate a Network

Don’t go to networking events. Everyone else in the room is selling. Instead, start with your existing customers. Join communities, such as Meetups. Speak. Contribute. Get involved with your local Chamber of Commerce and meet other local businesses.

Social media can be useful, but in-person connections are likely to be more valuable for you. Two geographically-based online networks to check out are NextDoor (no posting of promotional items, but people sometimes ask for recommendations) and Townsquared (meant for local businesses to promote themselves).

Anca says: if you don’t want to do content marketing because you don’t like to write blog posts, answering questions on public forums can serve the same purpose.

Find your network stars. Some people will send you TONS of business. These people are well-connected and you’ll see that. You’ll identify them in part because of the quality of the referrals they send. Spoil these people. Shower them with tokens of appreciation.

The opposite of a network star is a network dud. Identify the people who give you consistently bad referrals, ask for a lot without giving much, etc.

When you introduce two other people, you score a point with both. Be a connector.

Be Ready to Show Off

You don’t just want to show what you’ve done, but also what you’re like to work with. State your value. Contextualize your work. Make sure you explain how what you did helped your client.

Even if you have a portfolio site, it doesn’t hurt to create a printable one-sheet handout. Your network superstars may want to share it with others.

When to Do Free Work

Doing free work can be a useful means of marketing, especially when you are starting out. A few guidelines to keep pro-bono work from being a burden:

  • Don’t overcommit yourself. Free projects should be easy to build.
  • Make sure the client knows the value of what you’re doing.
  • Never do free work for a client that has a budget.
  • Beware of promises of future paid work. They don’t always pan out.

How to Fire a Client

Sometimes, even when you’re doing your best, a client relationship goes sour–or a client wasn’t a good fit in the first place. If you need to fire a client, get straight to the point and don’t let fear of hurting someone’s feelings stop you. The client almost certainly already knows the relationship isn’t working.

Say something like: “After mm/dd/yyyy, I will no longer be able to provide services for you. I appreciate the work that we’ve done. I will help you transition to a new team.” Once you both know it’s going to end, your relationship will improve.

Feb 2014 Handout: Business Links

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.


These links point to the source material for the statistics quoted in the slides, and also provide some further insight into issues like setting rates and prices.


These videos from recent WordCamps discuss some important aspects of running a WordPress business.

Feb 2014 Slides: What Your Mother Never Taught You about WordPress as a Business

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.

Josh Visick, Anca Mosoiu, and Sonja London shared their experiences running WordPress businesses in a lively discussion that ranged across topics like contracting and scope creep to marketing and figuring out how much to charge.

Sonja talked about Scott Berkun’s book The Year Without Pants and the experience of working with distributed teams on an open-source platform. (Of course proprietary software companies–except Yahoo!–also have distributed teams who work from home, but they operate somewhat differently.) Sonja coded her own CMS in 2002 and used to work on enterprise websites; WordPress was something she picked up while recovering from a broken leg and found people offering her money for.

Josh is a graphic designer for whom WordPress is a bridge to becoming a developer. He likes the Genesis framework because he can adapt it to his designs. He also provides hosting and maintenance to small businesses.

Anca is the owner of Tech Liminal, so part of her business is running a technology salon. She used to do software engineering in the enterprise (lots of databases), and has also built her own content management systems and worked with the dreaded SharePoint. She does coaching and training and builds custom apps with WordPress.

WordPress gives those who work with it a core of common material, a store of common knowledge, and the freedom to customize. All three speakers mentioned heavily customizing the WordPress dashboard for their clients, removing things that were likely to cause confusion.

The rapid development cycle of WordPress is both a positive and negative for developers, as for users. You have to stay on top of it, and you may need to update your custom plugins and themes, so you’d better figure out what terms you offer them to clients under. Do you provide free updates for a year after the product concludes? Forever if it breaks? Or do you require a maintenance fee to provide any updates at all?

WordPress as a business is easy to get into at the low end–there are so-called developers who really just push the one-click install button on the client’s host and then add a few common plugins and a theme. Because WordPress is popular, it’s fairly easy for a client to find someone to take over if you get hit by a bus. And there’s a good chance the client may have some experience with it.

On the other hand, many people have preconceptions about WordPress. They believe that because they can sign up for a free blog at WordPress.com, any WordPress site should be very inexpensive. They’ll think their neighbor’s kid can do it for them, and won’t understand the difference between a custom e-commerce or membership site and a simple blog site. It can be difficult to explain the value you are offering–especially if the client is not already clear about the business value of a website.

Remember that you can say no to clients who don’t seem like a good fit. Disqualifying prospects is at least as important as qualifying them. If they’re not clear about what they want, can’t afford you, continually change their minds, or just don’t seem to be people you can work with, say no. Thanks to the meetup, you know lots of people you can refer them to.

Clients don’t expect you to do everything yourself. If you are looking to expand your business to offer more services, you can reach out to the Meetup community to find a designer, developer, SEO specialist, Google Analytics specialist, social media specialist, etc.

Feb 2014 Slides: Running a WordPress Business

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.

Sallie Goetsch compiled these slides with statistics about the WordPress economy as an introduction to the panel discussion about why running a WordPress business might be different running any other web design business. (One thing that the slides make clear is that even on the lowest-paid job sites, Drupal pays better than WordPress.)

Among the statistics presented: 36% of the respondents to the 2011 WordPress Foundation survey described themselves as self-employed WordPress developers. The reported hourly rates for their work were between $5 and $2000 per hour, with a mean of $58 and a median of $50. The cost of a small business site is between $2000 and $4200, according to this survey (though other sources put setup and customization cost of a WordPress site between $1500 and $15,000, while DoNanza’s average WordPress project in 2010 came to a paltry $455).