How do you go from a WordPress professional one day, to a WordPress business owner the next? The simple answer to that is, you don’t. It takes a lot of blood, toil, tears and sweat. Ryan Sullivan, owner and founder of WP Site Care has agreed to share his journey with us. It turns out he was an entrepreneur from a young age and it took some learning, a lot of hard work and dedication, as well as his ambition to help people to create what we call today WP Site Care. Ryan gives some great advice on how to get started, he will also make you smile and overall make your day. Enjoy a bit of WordPress a l’Ryan!
You wrote a great post that talks about WordPress support business not being a kid’s game. There are some great tips on what you need to get going, and since then you have been asked this question probably at least 50 times, but here goes. What made you start your own WordPress business? Did you wake up one day and say am doing this?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I was 11 I’d push my lawnmower all over town to cut people’s grass for $10 bucks. $12 bucks if you had a big yard. It got to the point where I was making a few hundred dollars on a weekend, which was pretty fantastic money at the time. I did that for the better part of four years and had dozens of repeat customers. One lady offered to pay me 3X what she had been paying me because according to her, “no one could cut grass like I did.”
I always had odd jobs or some kind of venture going to bring in a little extra cash. Then when I was 17 something really interesting happened. Both of my parents left their jobs to start their own business. One of them was an Office Manager for an engineering firm, and the other was a Nurse on the Psychiatric Unit at a hospital.
I didn’t realize it until much later, but them stepping out and starting their own thing played a big role in me having enough confidence to start a business. At the time I was working a full time job and another 40-60 hours per week on top of that with my “side job [WP Site Care]”. It got to the point where I was able to replace my income, and could support my family, and I liked what I was doing as an entrepreneur more than I liked my day job. It was kind of a slow and natural progression.
What previous experience did you have with WordPress, and how did that help you when creating your own business?
I started using WordPress for a personal blog. My background was in infrastructure and Systems Administration, so I knew my way through the command line and knew some code. Most of my programming background was in shell scripting or writing custom configs for enterprise routers and firewalls, but I knew enough to figure things out and learn a little bit of PHP and CSS. Every time I wanted to make a change to my site, I’d figure out a little bit more and go from there. In the early days I was the only person doing anything for clients, so knowing anything about WordPress became incredibly important as I took on more work and more challenging tasks.
What advice would you give to WordPress freelancers out there, who already have great WordPress knowledge, in starting out?
People talk about value-based pricing a lot. It’s a buzz phrase that in my opinion is toxic. If you’re just starting out, ignore everything you’ve ever heard about value-based pricing. Do work for free if that’s what’s needed to establish reputation and build a portfolio in the beginning. Once you’ve shown your skillset and that you’re able to deliver, people will be lining up to work with you. Then you can put more of a premium on the value you provide.
Did any non computer/ non WordPress experience help you along the way and if so how?
Leadership and business skills are the ones I wish I had more of. In a lot of ways I believe the technical piece is easier to solve than the business piece. I worked as an office manager for a few years, so I had general business skills like basic accounting, organization, inter team communication, etc., but I definitely wish I would have had more non-computer/WordPress skills when I started 🙂
A lot of WordPress professionals are struggling with charging $10/month for WordPress maintenance, and you are charging up to $1k/month. What are they doing wrong?
I promise I mean this with the best intentions, but maybe they’re not professionals yet? I know I wasn’t when I first started Site Care. We’ve gone through 3 major pricing evolutions since I started in 2013, but the first customers I brought on were paying $25 per month. Now that we have professional staff, standardized process, automation tools, and more technical expertise, we can justify charging more. We’re a professional company now so we can charge professional services fees. Patience is key.
What makes WP Site Care different from other support businesses?
Our people. Hands down we have the best team of individuals who are genuinely engaged in providing whatever is in the best interest of our customers. We have some team members with heavy development and design chops, cool internal tools that give us a competitive edge from a technical and scaling standpoint, but our secret sauce is our people. Customer service at Site Care is unmatched.
How has switching from an employee to a business owner affected your private life?
It’s flipped it completely upside down 🙂 Before I started WP Site Care, we were a dual-income household. Jackie worked outside of the home, and so did I. We did that for a while after I started Site Care, but once the time demand for Site Care got to a certain point, Jackie took over the much more difficult part of our lives; raising three boys. We have to be very strategic and plan way ahead to get time together. It’s a challenge for everyone, but we have a pretty good system for making it work now. The main difference is you can’t ever clock out completely as the owner. Or at least I haven’t figured out how.
You’ve referred to yourself as a WordPress concierge, what do you mean by that and why do you think one is needed?
Essentially we’re a full service partner for small and medium businesses. On our blog we’ve written about getting started with blog SEO, and tried to narrow down top WordPress plugins, and we’ve evaluated the web hosting landscape, but at a certain point general knowledge doesn’t translate to execution, and actually implementing that advice and knowledge.You also have to take into account that there are so many different variables with every single WordPress size. One-size-fits-all solutions are becoming more and more rare, so being a resource that companies can lean on for direction becomes exceedingly crucial.
3 words to describe the running of a WordPress support business
Work Work Work 🙂
If anything it is becoming more apparent that a good sauce needs plenty of ingredients, but there are always a few key ones that make a difference. Here is what I found the few sacred ingredients are for serving up a good WordPress business.
- Ignore value-based pricing, do work for free if needed to establish yourself.
- Have an excellent support team.
- You don’t just need tech skills, you need to be business savvy too.
- Expect a change in your private life and it’s OK if you can never completely check out.
Going to respectfully disagree with this advice. While you aren’t going to be able to do value pricing on your very first day, it’s a terrible idea to work for free. If you work for free, you are teaching clients your work has zero value. The referrals you will from those clients will be more people who expect work for little to no money.
My advice is to charge what you feel confident charging, and challenge yourself at regular intervals to raise your rate. Your confidence will correlate with the results you produce, and you will still get more clients.
Working for free is a recipe for going out of business, and having to quit freelancing. There’s no reason to devalue yourself as a freelancer.
I will also say value pricing is not about raising your rates and getting more money, as many people believe it to be. It is about aligning your price with the value you deliver. The value you deliver will vary with the client. You can’t charge a small business the same amount that you would an enterprise company.
Hourly billing is a misalignment of goals, and it puts the client and freelancer forever at odds. Value pricing is set by the client themselves, not by the freelancer, another point that people miss.
Hourly pricing and hourly wages is something we all have experience with, which makes it easiest for everyone to understand. Value pricing is still not widely adopted, but growing. Definitely not a buzz word, but rather an agreement between the client and service provider on the true value of the project.
Keep up the great work, ManageWP.
Cool post. Thanks for sharing
Glad you liked it.