How I made a Business out of WordPress

WordPress is now the largest content management system (CMS) in the world. It simply revolutionized how websites were built, bringing millions to the web to tell their stories, ideas, tips. It allowed for communities to flourish, like minded people with similar interests shared ideas about the next best thing, in a way you could almost say it changed the world forever.

Now I know that WordPress isn’t the only CMS out there, Joomla and Drupal are two others that I have spent some time with, but WordPress is by far my favourite. Soon as your here reading this, I’m pretty sure you either have a WordPress blog yourself, you are looking at becoming a freelance or just simply curious right?

Before I continue my hunt and experiments for ways you can improve your site I thought it was time I told you my story so far.

How did I make a business out of WordPress?

I have worked in a lot of different fields since I left school. I built houses for 2 years, served in the army for 4 years, taught English in South East Asian for a year and a half. All of those Jobs involved travelling around and I have gained experience along the way, some bad, some good.

I left Thailand because of visa issues and thought I could get a job back in the UK and bring my fiancée over. We met during my time in army, I worked in London as a queens guard for 6 months, you know the guys with the red coats and Big hats. Yeah, I was one of them. It’s now been almost two years since separation, due to finances and the economic collapse. So I had to do something about it.

I’m now 24 years old and it was only when I returned to the UK in 2011 did I realise just how bad things were. I started looking for work as soon as I got back, but it was not looking too good. Luckily I had some savings left over so I could still get by on that. Eventually I got a job at a local Go-Karting firm in my home town. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing, it was pretty much part time and only earned £80 a week, so the savings were still being burned.

It wasn’t until early 2012 that I turned my attention to skills I had learned along the way from various attempts at making websites, one was for a small local business in building computers that attempted to set up, but it seems there are not a lot of people in this town that require those services. So website development was now my main focus and goal, I started out with doing what I know best, which is optimizing sites, to make them as efficient as possible. So this is what I did.

Start small Aim High

When entering a new field, especially one as big as WordPress it can sometimes be a little daunting knowing you’re the new kid on the block. WordPress is a big business and trying to make a living out of it was always going to be a challenge. I decided that my best approach would be to focus on getting feedback.

Feedback is almost as valuable as Gold when it comes to freelancing. This is because there are so many people trying to do this and sometimes people are a little cautious about hiring someone who has no background. I began my venture of Odesk, bidding for Jobs against 1000s of other people. There needed to be a way to stand out and be different, something that the client wouldn’t expect. Especially those that outsource on a regular basis.

I started by adding a job to odesk based around the type of work I was aiming to get, the job post was my way of fishing through the typical types of responses that people would give. That way I would be able to see what people write and how I can differ.

The responses I got were pretty shocking, to me they were almost a copy and paste job. They were all laid out like this.

“Hi my name is….

I can get your site running as fast as possible, with over 10 years experience in this field, I can guarantee your site will be at it’s best.”

Some were much longer, some just like this.

But what was similar about all of them was the following points:

  • Talked to much about themselves.
  • Talked to much about how great their service is.
  • Tried to leverage with experience.

Talking about yourself when trying to sell something is probably the worst thing you can do. Telling me how great your service is isn’t going to win me over either, experience in my experience means little in relative terms. I have seen too many people out-compete their competition with far less experience than their rivals.

What they should of talked about, is what is wrong with the site and how you can fix it. Explain a little why certain things should be fixed, what would be the improvement, send them a Gtmetrix report, or Pingdom report to back it up. It might take longer to write the proposal, but over 80% of proposal I made succeeded. I even sent out a couple of generic proposals in the manner above and was rejected every time.

Stick to the point and you can’t go wrong.

Remember they are asking you for a service, so tailor your proposal for that persons site, or whatever it may be they require.

Don’t jump the gun

Odesk gave me the backing I needed, that all important feedback, I started on a rate of just $6 an hour, In the UK that’s not a lot of money at all. But I didn’t care about money at the time, my main goal was to build the foundations and that’s what you should be doing. It is difficult to figure out what the value of something is at the best of times. But coming on to the scene with no backup, i.e. Feedback and charging 15- 20 bucks an hour isn’t going to do wonders for you. So aim low in terms of money for the first few months.

Don’t say you can do something if you can’t

Whatever you do, don’t use clients time to learn. If you make a proposal for a job, you should be confident that you can meet all the requirements. If you can’t then just specify the areas you can’t they may still hire you to fix their problems if your price is right and your proposal is well written.

Clients that outsource work on a regular basis will know approximately how long something should take. When you estimate the amount of time you think it will take, then be prepared to work for free if your way off the mark.

Don’t worry though, next time you will better be able to predict the time frame. Experience is the only way to accurately determine how long something will take, and I would recommend estimating the time you think it will take plus 2 hours, so you would say around 8 – 10 hours. This will give you a little more time, in case something unexpected happens, also your client won’t be shocked to find it’s taken considerably longer than they thought.

What next?

After gaining enough feedback I started to notice that each time I wanted to look for something to use on a site I had to wade through vast amounts of sites to find it, so the solution was to make my own site and write about them there.

This does three things for me:

  • Provides me with a place to quickly get information I need for tasks I perform on a daily basis.
  • Provided me with a stepping stone away from relying on 3rd parties such as Odesk.
  • Helps reinforce knowledge about wordpress, I have found that writing about something helps me better understand it.

The added benefits of building a site like this, is that others like yourself can also use the resources, scripts and ideas that I’ve written about. Over time, more articles, tips, ideas and tutorials will be published. So people just like you can further benefit and hopefully improve your site also.

Web development is an ever evolving place to be in, nothing is constant. I am always learning new things and that’s not something to shy away from, I don’t know anyone who knows everything there is about web development, servers and SEO. They change all the time, and with that so must you.

Where I’m at now

As a freelancer it’s important for me to keep working hard. I could stop now and be content with what I’m doing, but I see to many freelancers providing less than adequate work and for me that’s not good enough. Eventually I look to having a team of like minded people who want to share great information, but also provide a great service to my clients.

I have a great client base now, with regular work. Some have become friends and recommend my work to others. I have not received a bad review to date and hopefully it will stay like that. I am one of those people that couldn’t bare to look at myself if I knew I did something that was not to the best of my ability.

The defining moment in building this business was working on Pat Flynn’s Blog Smart Passive Income, it took some time, but eventually I was able to convince Pat to let me work on his Blog, in return I got something really important. A backlink from a high profile blogger. Since that happened, an explosion of work occurred and other high profile bloggers such as Kim Roach from Buzzblogger.com both of which I highly recommend to follow, bother of their sites have been inspiring and really helpful to me.

There information is true, it works and it’s honest.

I now charge $15 an hour, but this is due to go up later this year again due to being able to complete the work faster, but also due to higher demand. So if you want to hire me, this year would be your best bet before my rates increase. You can hire me by simply sending me an email.

Final thoughts

Over time, my client base will grow and I will be looking for like minded people to help out and deliver the quality of work I expect others to provide me with if I was outsourcing work. Perhaps you have some great information that you would like others to see, I am now opening the doors to guest blogging. All you have to do is send me an email and I will always respond to it.

In short I made a business out of wordpress by working really hard and more importantly being honest. Read, practice and read some more. Your brain isn’t going to run out of memory so make the most of it, maybe even make that your challenge, see how much you can learn and put in to practice.

You may be happy to know that me and my fiancée will be re-unified in the next few months due to the success of this business and I only have you to thank for that.

I look forward to servicing your sites and feel free to email me with any questions, queries, interests in guest blogging and more.

Finally

Remember that when looking at a career as a freelance:

  • you must put your clients first.
  • Be prepared to work really hard, work for feedback if you must, but it will get you on the ladder.
  • Don’t be intimidated by others in the crowd, be honest about your abilities and what you can provide for others.
  • Become a social monster, no good providing a service if others don’t know about it.

Meet the Author

Matthew Horne

Matthew Horne is web developer who specializes in optimized development. He also builds custom solutions instead of reverting to plugins. Matthew Has a strong understanding of PHP, JavaScript, jQuery.

10 comments… add one
  • Enstine Muki@EasyRetweet.com Sep 3, 2012, 12:14 pm

    Wow! you have an interesting testimony bro and congrats for going this far. Wordpress has opened many opportunities for online marketers.

    • Matthew Horne Sep 3, 2012, 12:17 pm

      Hey Thanks

      Wordpress Certainly has opened up a whole new side to the internet. It’s amazing how just one idea can change the world.

      Regards

      Matthew

  • Patrick Parks Sep 3, 2012, 5:11 pm

    Matthew,

    Radio here 🙂 Glad to see you are doing well! I would like to keep up to date on how your doing, and would like also to be included in your circle of people to work with and share knowledge. I havent seen you on FB much lately, hope to talk to you soon!

    Patrick Parks (aka RadioFreq)

    • Matthew Horne Sep 3, 2012, 5:13 pm

      Hey Radio, yeh I have been super busy the last few months, just working non stop. I’d be happy to have you in my circle, what skills you got?

  • M Scott (CRM Guy) Sep 5, 2012, 6:58 pm

    Radio –

    Thank you for sharing how you are currently growing your business and customer base.

    One thing that I am curious about – especially since you have a relationship with Pat Flynn – what is your plan to move from exchanging time for money (i.e. – hourly work) to true passive income?

    Monetization of your site…

    Other?

    • Matthew Horne Sep 5, 2012, 7:14 pm

      Im not quite sure just yet. Im still in the process of building up a little more, I have some new service pages being developed and looking at a few various options.

  • John Overall Sep 6, 2012, 2:49 pm

    That is a great story Matt, it will help anyone looking to get into the world of freelance understand what they need to begin a career in freelance web development.

    • Matthew Horne Sep 6, 2012, 2:50 pm

      Hey thanks, its a tough business but with some persistance its possible.

  • Clare Sep 11, 2012, 2:25 pm

    Hey Matt,

    You are a pleasure to work with and in the 1 hour we have worked together so far you have already told me LOADS to help my blog load faster and made some tweaks to my server too.

    I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you to anyone who wants their websites optimized, and as I said I am compiling a HUGE list of questions to ask not just you, but a few people!

    Haha, some of them I might be able to answer myself, it’s just collecting my thoughts at this stage, but either way I know you will be able to help loads and for a very reasonable hourly rate too.

    All the best with everything, I will write a proper blog post recommending you shortly too.

    Cheers, Clare 🙂

    • Matthew Horne Sep 11, 2012, 2:31 pm

      Thanks clare, there is plenty more to come. I have some great ideas to help people and in return I get to do what I love.

      I’m easy to work with lol

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