Whatever your area of expertise, you’ve made a good choice to start a WordPress business. Considering how popular and versatile WordPress is, there’s no better platform to build websites with.
But just because WordPress is a powerful website-building solution, success is not guaranteed.
WordPress will certainly give you a competitive edge. However, it’s up to you to make the smart business decisions that will affect how successful and profitable your business becomes.
Everything You Need to Know to Start a WordPress Business
If you’ve decided to start a WordPress business or you’re in the early stages of it, this post is for you.
This isn’t going to be the typical “do your research, get a business license and launch your business” list of recommendations. You still have to do all the standard prep that comes with starting any business. However, WordPress businesses, in particular, can be very difficult to sustain if you don’t start them off with the right mindset and strategy.
Here is everything you need to do to start off on the right foot:
1. Pick a Niche
You might be thinking, “But I already picked a niche. I’m going to design WordPress websites.” Fair enough. However, that really isn’t enough to differentiate your business from all the developers, agencies, consultants and other creatives who choose WordPress to be their primary CMS.
You need to find a deeper speciality.
Listen to the WP Elevation podcast and you’ll hear examples of this time and time again. Matt Johnson, Karim Marucchi and Nate Wright all spoke about niching down. That’s because, when you do find that perfect fit, everything becomes easier — finding new clients, getting paid higher rates and even your processes go more smoothly.
Custom e-commerce websites. Websites for small businesses in Vancouver. Sites for female entrepreneurs. Find what it is that really drives you to do your best work and commit your business to that niche.
2. Create an Impressive Website of Your Own
Before you start, it’s important to spend time building a WordPress website of your own. And, not only that, it needs to be so impressive that prospective clients would never even think to call your skills into question, no matter how new your business is.
Just don’t confuse “impressive” for “trendy”. What you want to do is combine a clear and engaging message with a simple yet effective design.
Also, don’t forget to include examples of your work. Even if your business is new, you should have samples you can share — websites made for friends or family, former employers or just messing around on your own. Take the most impressive of the lot and share screenshots alongside the story of what you built and why.
Check out this episode of Silence is Golden where Simon walks us through this in more detail.
3. Think “Profit First” Now
I know it’s hard enough starting a new business without the pressure of making it profitable on Day 1… but that’s exactly what I’m telling you to do. In other words:
Don’t be content with taking a loss for the first year or two while you “pay your dues”. There is no such thing. Profitability can be baked into your WordPress business from the very start. It just requires a different way of looking at and managing your cash flow.
Mike Michalowicz, the author of Profit First, spoke to Troy about this money management approach. Basically, the idea is that you should divvy out your income in the following order:
- Profit - the money that goes directly into your pocket to do with as you like
- Owner’s comp - the money that pays your salary and covers the cost of living
- Tax - the money you owe the government
- OpEx - the money you use to pay off your business’s operating expenses
If you prioritise yourself in the payment equation (which you should since you did the hard work of starting and running this business), you’ll never have to struggle with money down the road.
Of course, to ensure you earn enough income to do this, you have to set the right rate. And, as Simon advises, that means stepping away from the hourly rate treadmill. This is going to be the hardest part to do, but it’ll pay off if you can make it work.
Want Help Charging Better Fees?
Take this free online course and earn what you’re worth on Day 1.
4. Create Your Toolbox
There’s no way to start a WordPress business without first having a set of tools you can rely on. You don’t have to go crazy with this. Just focus on the essentials:
- A project management software like Asana or Trello
- Accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero
- Proposal software like Better Proposals, Bidsketch or Proposify
- Internal chat software like Slack
- Chat and presentation software like Zoom
- WordPress themes and plugins you like, trust and are comfortable using
Also, don’t be afraid to go looking for free templates to help you fill in the gaps. While you should build out processes that make the most sense for your WordPress business and that work with your chosen set of tools, don’t recreate the wheel if you don’t have to.
5. Start Building Relationships with Clients Today
I know it’s easy to look at the kind of work you do and think, “Well, I only have to make Client A happy for the X amount of weeks or months it’ll take me to build their site.” But you and I both know that websites are not a one-and-done kind of thing, so why treat your clients that way?
You should be thinking about how to create a long-lasting relationship with them — one that’s valuable to both them and yourself.
Prioritise relationship building in your business now and you won’t have to waste time later on trying to find any client that’s willing to work with you. Loyal customers and high-quality referrals that come from them will fill your pipeline and keep your business profitable instead.
6. Start Building Relationships with Your WordPress Peers, Too
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because you’ve started a WordPress business on your own that you’re going to have to go it alone.
While WordPress.org might not provide direct support to those who work with the platform, WordPress professionals have gone and created their own communities around the web as well as out in the real world. You’ll find them in the form of:
Not only are these valuable resources to learn more about running a business with WordPress, but they give you the chance to ask questions of others who’ve been where you are.
7. Don’t Neglect Your Physical and Mental Wellbeing
When your business is new and you’re hustling to find new clients, it’s natural to want to postpone your workout to tomorrow or reach for that bag of candy instead of make yourself a healthy lunch.
Then, your business starts to pick up speed and you don’t want to stop or slow down out of fear that, if you become unavailable for one day, one hour, one minute, all your clients will walk away. So, you work extra long days, which starts to trickle into the weekend, and, before you know it, you haven’t been on vacation in over two years.
The reality is, it’s much better for you and much healthier for your business to take time off from work. So, if you were thinking about maxing out the hours you work each day in order to make the most amount of money, think again. The best approach to take is one focused on quality instead of quantity.
Starting a business is no easy feat. And for those of you who have decided to start a WordPress business, it takes a lot of resilience, hard work and commitment just to get the ball rolling.
As you finalise plans for your business or kick things off, be sure to keep the points above in mind. They’ll remind you that you don’t have to take the path most commonly traveled by web designers, the one that’s fraught with low rates, bad clients and painful bouts of burnout. You can have a profitable and successful business on Day 1 if you plan it outright.