WordCamp Kent 2019 talk – You CAN Have a WordPress Business and NOT Be a Developer or Designer

Talk Description

Most people assume that to have a profitable WordPress Business means you must be an accomplished developer, wrangling code to create custom themes or build new plugins. Or they figure that you must be an accomplished designer, making websites look outstanding in appearance and function. But for almost 20 years, I’ve been running a successful business without being either a developer or a designer.

With WordPress being the most popular Content Management System (CMS) and powering a staggering 33% of ALL websites, there are a lot of websites, and businesses using those websites, and those businesses need serious help in managing and maintaining their websites.

This is my story of how I’ve set my business up to serve those who have a WordPress website that they want to utilize but they either don’t have the knowledge or the time to maintain it and keep it safely functioning.

I’ll also cover how to maximize the connections you make at this WordCamp, and the overall WordPress community, to add even more value to your business by offering options that you could never do on your own.

Resources Mentioned

Beaver Builder (affiliate link)
Digital Ocean (affiliate link)
Server Pilot (affiliate link)
UpdraftPlus (affiliate link)
UpdraftCentral (affiliate link)
WordFence (free version)

Not a Developer OR a Designer

Most people assume that in order to have a WordPress Business means you need to be an accomplished developer who can wrangle code to create custom themes and build new plugins. Or folks think that they need to be an accomplished designer, making websites look outstanding in appearance and function.

That’s all well and good….

But I can’t do either of those things very well.


Not a Developer

I can play with code just enough to maybe alter a little snippet to change the result, but the thing I do best with code is to make “Fatal Error” show up on the screen.



Not a Designer

mugshot of  wanted dog holding a banner.With design, I can find my way around CSS and do a few things as long as it doesn’t get too complicated. But if I try to get too involved in designing a site, bad things will happen.



Still Working with WordPress

But I’ve still managed to build a small WordPress business that I’ve managed to keep running since WordPress was first a thing.

Admittedly it hasn’t been all Sugar Magnolia and Scarlet Begonias, but I’m still here, still working, and always learning. That always learning part is very important, never forget to keep learning.



Always Learning

There have been a few times over the years where for one reason or another, I wasn’t able to keep learning. Three times I was completely out of the WP loop for a year or more and trying to get back up to speed feels like starting over. There are some things that I feel like I am still trying to catch up on.

So, I am going to tell you my story and how I have carved out my small place in the WordPress eco-system. Everyone’s story is different, and your story may need to encompass a whole ‘nother path, but here is how I have done it. It’s important to note that my story is constantly evolving and changing, but hopefully, this will give you some ideas for your own business.


WordPress Rules!

I imagine that most of you know that WordPress is the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS) and that roughly 1/3 of all websites on the internet are made with WordPress. That’s probably important for you to know, but chances are that your client really doesn’t care about how many sites are made with WordPress, and they may not even care what WordPress is. And that’s OK, they don’t need to know and that’s why they are hiring you. I manage over 20 sites and I don’t think any of my clients give two hoots about what WordPress is as long as I do, and I know how to take care of it for them. So, don’t try to dazzle clients with stats and other BS that they really don’t need to know nor do they care about.


Clients NEED Help, Even If They Don’t Know It

Young man holding tablet in front of face looking amazed and shocked with news standing on gray background

What IS important is that many of those businesses using those WordPress websites need serious help managing and maintaining those sites. Quite often they don’t even realize they need help.

  • They want to have a website so they can be out there on the www.
  • But they don’t have the knowledge to strategically use it for their advantage. (Too often I’ve talked with a small business owner who only wants a website because that is what she is supposed to do.)
  • They don’t have time to maintain a website and usually don’t know that there is maintaining to do.
  • They don’t know how to keep their website safely functioning – or even that they NEED to keep it safe.

Just last week I had several sites that were attacked several hundred times over a half hour period. Because I have good security in place and up-to-date, their sites were safe and unaffected, but they didn’t even that realize that such attacks were a ‘thing’, never mind happening to them.


Start with Why

The first thing I do when I meet with a potential client is to find out why they need a website and what they need it to accomplish. Some businesses only need a small brochure site just to have a place on the Internet. That’s okay, but they probably don’t realize that there is still a lot of behind the scenes stuff involved in managing and maintaining that site to make sure that they don’t become a blacklisted site hawking male enhancement pills. I’ve seen it happen, most recently to an organization I had spoken with but they decided that they didn’t need to actually hire someone to do that.

So here is what I do for my clients.


Build a Basic Website

Build a basic no frills site using Beaver Builder if they don’t yet have a web site. It’s nothing fancy, just a basic layout, but using Beaver Builder or any of the other good page builders available have made it relatively painless for a non-designer such as myself to make a decent looking website.

Usually, the clients I work with are either a new start-up business or a small-town business that wants to join the 21st century. I need to make sure they (and I) know what they want the web site to accomplish. Some just want a presence, some want new customers, some want to communicate with existing customers, and some want to keep updated information about events.

For building this basic website, I charge a lump sum for the project. I don’t use a set price, as I take into account the amount of work that will be needed to build what they want, how big or small the business is and how established they are. I also consider if it is a small struggling church or non-profit or if it is an established church or organization. One of my clients runs a business incubator for new start-ups so I have a special price for her clients who come to me.


Main Focus – Maintenance Plan for Recurring Revenue

And then, for me, my main focus is my basic service, required for all my clients. This basic plan includes the following items:

Host with Digital Ocean and Server Pilot

Website hosting on my secure private server (I use Digital Ocean with Server Pilot, which has saved me almost $250 a month). This is an unmanaged server, but using Server Pilot, I have had no issues with anything server related, and I know NOTHING about servers.


Site Backups with UpdraftPlus

Weekly or Daily website backups – UpdraftPlus, which makes it easy to set up and schedule backups. I have a few sites that are basically static and I back those up once a week. Busier sites I backup once a day. Four of my sites are very busy with thousands of pages that are being updated every day by a multi-person team. Those sites I back up twice a day.

It’s also important that I have redundant backups. I have each backup sent to Dropbox, AWS, and Backblaze. You can use whatever storage options work best for you but always have at least two backup locations. And don’t store backups on your own server. If your server goes down, you can’t access the backup. Plus, if it is stored on the server, it constantly swells the size of the backup.

I keep at least 4 weeks of backups in case an infection or hack isn’t noticed for a week or two, I have the option of going back further to get a clean backup. With good security that shouldn’t happen, but better safe than sorry.


Software Updates with UpdraftCentral

Daily or weekly website software updates using UpdraftCentral. I promise weekly updates but in actual practice, I check for updates every day. With UpdraftCentral, I get a dashboard that lists all of my sites.

On that dashboard, I can easily see which sites have plugin or theme updates available, what the updates are, and I can update them all at one time from that dashboard. There are several companies that offer similar services, such as ManageWPGoDaddy Pro, InfiniteWP, WPRemote, MainWP.

In my list of services that I present to potential clients I list “Emergency security updates as needed.” Every once in a while an emergency security patch is issued for WordPress or a plugin or theme. I want my clients to be aware that I am on top of this and I update immediately. I again use UpdraftCentral to do this from the one dashboard. I am on several email lists and in several Slack channels that let me know as soon as such a problem arises so that I am able to react quickly.


Security with Wordfence

I set up basic WordPress security using a good WP plugin that is updated frequently, my choice is Wordfence. I use the free version which has worked very well for me. They provide a good firewall and proactive malware scanning. I have also just started experimenting with using Cloudflare for additional security.

I also offer Complete hack cleanup if needed. Hopefully, with good security in place, this won’t happen, but if it does, I take care of it for them. Usually, I can do this with a new setup on Digital Ocean/Server Pilot and restoring a clean backup to a fresh WordPress install. If more is needed, I know where to turn for help. There are a couple of places that I would need to pay for cleanup but if that’s what it takes to do it right, then that is what I’ll do.


Premium Support

I include what I call Premium Support in my basic maintenance package (up to 5 hours per month) which can include WordPress training, questions or problems addressed by email, and very minor content updates. Sometimes I have seen folks Call it VIP Support. The point is that you want your client to feel important and know that you are there for them. I charge an hourly rate if their needs for a month go over 5 hours. It is important to establish boundaries, don’t let a client use and abuse you.


Provide a Two-Part Deal for Clients

Part One of my business model is building a website for a new client if they need one.

Part Two is the maintenance package. I am actively recruiting clients for this service that already have a WordPress site. Bill every month, providing recurring income.



Add-on Service – Copy Editing

I offer add-on services that clients can sign on for if they need even more help and care. The first Add-on service I offer is – Copy Editing

  • The client sends me news articles or new page content
  • I edit and correct spelling and grammar mistakes
  • The client maintains a professional web presence. (2 articles per week)
  • Additional articles as requested at $xx/article



Premium Add-on Service – Copy Writing

The next add-on service is what I call a Premium add-on, as it is very time-consuming. That service is Copy Writing.

  • Website articles and images targeted to client’s audience
  • Researched and written every week. (1 article per week)
  • Additional articles as requested at $xxx/article



Premium Add-on – SEO Services

Some people may offer SEO services as an add-on; I don’t as I am not good at SEO and don’t want to pretend that I am. If you do decide to offer SEO, make sure that you charge enough for this service. It would probably be a good idea to check with a few reputable SEO providers to get an idea of what they charge. And please make sure you know what you are doing. SEO is not just getting green lights on every page.



Social Media Services

Some small businesses may want/need social media help/management – MAKE SURE that this is an ULTRA PREMIUM add-on. Do NOT give away this service – it is time-consuming and must be done in a timely manner. I’ve made a couple of serious mistakes with this before realizing that this is not one of my strengths, so now, if a client requests this, I refer them to someone I know who IS an expert. This is NOT something that can be done whenever you have some free time.

  • Creation of social media pages on an agreed-upon platform with regular updates. Specialize in ONE, do not try to do them all. Platforms supported can be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
  • Regularly scheduled posts targeted to your target audience.
  • Coordinated marketing campaigns.
  • Special Posts by the client as desired on each platform.



Market Yourself

Market yourself to clients as you are taking care of their website needs so they can focus on and take care of their business.



Take Your Business to Another Level with WordPress Connections

What if you want to take your website offerings to another level?

Make connections with other WordPress folks who are experts in something you are not. Do that at this and other WordCamps. Go to your local WordPress meetups. Follow WordPress people on Twitter, then follow folks who interact with them about WordPress stuff. Get to know people.

If I want to have something custom coded for a client, I know who to reach out to that I can hire for that project. If I need a design that is more advanced than stick figures, I know designers who I can reach out to.

When I had a weird problem with the Give donation plugin, I just asked for help as I have gotten to know many of the great Give folks. In this case, Devin, a Give developer, was at a WordCamp that I was attending; I asked for some help, and he sat down with my laptop and did some coding on the spot to fix the weird issue I was having.

When I am stuck with a problem, I have people I know to ask. WordPress people love to help. So make those connections.

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