I thought I would share my WP Elevation story as I’m sure many of you would be interested to know how I went from a freelancer just scraping by to a digital nomad traveling the world and working minimal hours per week.

Prior to owning my own business, I worked as a web designer for an agency. I gained valuable experience learning about web design and front end development from senior web designers and developers. While working there full time, I was steadily growing a freelance business on the side. However, I still knew nothing about managing a business. For example, I was charging under $1,000 for an entire website!After working for the agency for a little over a year, I decided to pull the pin and go out on my own, even though I was only 25 and had zero business experience. I reasoned that I had enough work to keep me going for a few months and, once those projects were completed, I would be back on Seek, looking for a new job.

After working for the agency for a little over a year, I decided to pull the pin and go out on my own, even though I was only 25 and had zero business experience. I reasoned that I had enough work to keep me going for a few months and, once those projects were completed, I would be back on Seek, looking for a new job.

The first year of flying solo was great. Being my own boss, working my own hours—it was a dream! However, I quickly realised that I had no idea how to run a business, how to market and how to meet and manage clients. During that first year, I even had two clients threaten me with legal action over poor project management.

After a year of running the business full time, I was slowly growing but still had a long way to go. As much as I loved being my own boss, I was living and dying solely on client work. My motto of “fake it till you make it” was a daily chore.

Around this time, I attended the Melbourne WordCamp. The first speaker was a man by the name of Troy Dean, presenting “101 Ways to Elevate Yourself and Demand Higher Fees.” His presentation motivated and inspired me. I implemented some tips and tricks from Troy’s speech and immediately noticed real improvements in my business.

However, it wasn’t until nine months later, after chatting with fellow WP Elevation member Cath, that I learned of Troy’s WP Elevation Group. I was hooked after watching the first training video. I knew this was the group that would help me understand the basics of running a web design company—lessons which I desperately needed to learn.

I joined up and implemented three key business skills straight away, which I believe changed everything about my business:

  1. Writing proposals
  2. Handling client inquiries
  3. Managing projects

By absorbing everything I could in the WP Elevation Blueprint, I was able to position myself better in the market and get paid more.

Later that year, there were two key developments which helped shape my business to where it is today. The first was the WP Elevation Thailand Masterclass. On this trip, it became clear to me that I had to get off the tools and get staff to help with managing projects and handling day-to-day tasks so that I could focus on growing the business. The second was meeting some great people who are still good friends today. Shout-outs to Cath and Nick, who have been very close over the past two years!

After the Thailand trip, the WP Elevation forum was starting to discuss the topic of “recurring revenue” in a bit more depth. I was charging clients a yearly fee for hosting, but revenue from this service was minimal. After reading the forum discussions and speaking to a good friend running a successful web design business, I slapped together three plans, billed quarterly, and signed up a few of my “bigger” clients.

In the beginning, these plans were quite basic, consisting of hosting, a few hours of monthly site maintenance and “fluff” such as site monitoring, security and updates. The plans didn’t bring in that much, but it was great to have a bit more income.

Over the next two years, we evolved these plans into a proper monthly service for each client, either a plan off the shelf or one customised to fit their needs. We also implemented Stripe (a service I cannot recommend highly enough) to handle automatic payments on a monthly basis. Having the funds transferred automatically into my account each week was a game changer. I didn’t have to worry about invoicing or chasing funds.

After two years of signing up every new client onto a monthly plan, I can now say that the revenue from these plans is enough to cover my wage and break even with business expenses.

In other words, freedom! 

Any project work is pure profit. Currently, over 50% of my revenue is from recurring income, and the number keeps growing with every new client we sign up. I don’t have to go through any more sleepless nights, wondering where my next client will come from since I know I have guaranteed income.

Living the Dream

In mid-2015, I decided to try running the business completely online. I didn’t know how business was going to go, but I had the insurance of recurring revenue in case I didn’t manage to sign any new clients. So I got a Melbourne-based Skype number, packed my bags and jumped on a plane to Poland, where I found an apartment and prepared for the European summer. As I had hoped, the recurring revenue was rolling in and I even managed to sign a few new clients. While I was enjoying life on the other side of the world and making fortnightly trips to some of Europe’s popular cities, I was making money and working only around 20 – 25 hours per week. I really was living the dream and twice ended up pushing my flight back to Melbourne to a later date.

I’m back in Melbourne now, with my next trip to Europe and South America planned for four months’ time. The goal in Melbourne is to sign up as many online clients as possible to make traveling even more comfortable.

We have just launched a new site for the business and are already seeing great results. You can view the site here: http://sgd.com.au

I really owe my current lifestyle to everything I’ve learnt in WP Elevation. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time and I’ve seen many amazing places across the world. I’ve got a great team around me and we are working on some exciting client projects!

Thanks to Troy for really helping me change my business and allowing me to live the dream!

P.S. I may have initially joined WP Elevation for a trip to Thailand!

A multimedia and design professional with a healthy obsession for all things web. James’ passion for web design sees him stretching his creative imagination to eternal limits and forever sees him thinking outside the box, even if it is not work related. James’ ideas are original and innovative, and implementing them into the world of the web to create aesthetically enjoyable websites is what he does best.