Do you want to know the secret that many WordPress agency entrepreneurs forget to tell you when they talk about their success? It's something so simple that most people who learn the lesson will gloss over it in favour of "work hard" and "don't give up". It is the lesson of recurring monthly revenue - much like the WP Buffs who earned over a million dollars on Stripe by offering WordPress agency services.
While those two gems of advice are essential, they aren't the kind of thing you need to know when you decide to strike out on your own. My own example is proof perfect of that. Starting in the early days of the internet, "selling websites" was the way to make money. Hosting has razor-thin margins, so you need a large number of clients to make it worthwhile.
That means I was stuck on a treadmill, chasing after new customers so that I could put food on the table every month. Working this way burned me out after a while, so I took some time to take stock of my situation and decide how I could do things better. How I could work smarter - not harder. I already worked hard, and I saw that any increase in workload would not be good for my health.
Enter the Age of The WordPress Agency
When WordPress first came along, it made my job a lot easier. I didn't have to spend time creating static web-pages. Changes could be made instantly, with minimum effort. I could increase the number of clients I had and still have some time for myself.
The critical difference between my old way of working and the new way was to offer different WordPress agency services. This allowed me to charge monthly and earn recurring income on things that I was already doing. I split up my services into three sections: WordPress kick start services, WordPress SEO services, and WordPress Theme Development Services.
WordPress Kick Start Services
I had been doing this before, but it was now much easier. If someone wanted to make a website, I would immediately present the benefits of WordPress. I would offer them an installation, hosting and keep WordPress running smoothly. The one thing I had learned is that no matter how easy something is, there will always be people who are too busy to learn how to do it.
So I used that knowledge to my advantage. I offered standard hosting and offered my clients the passwords to their servers and the WordPress backend. It only took a little while before they moved onto my more expensive, but infinitely more convenient WordPress Kick Start Services option. This didn't include adapting designs into themes or plugins. This didn't include any content either - it was just kick starting their websites. The management of which would be a viable recurring income.
WordPress Managed Services
Once they had received their kick started WordPress site, they needed to keep it running smoothly. Regular backups need to be made - and it takes time. Regular updates need to be maintained, and they take time. Regular malware checking takes time.
This is time that the average business owner does not have (or does not want to waste). That is why when I offered my time and my knowledge for their recurring revenue - they jumped at the opportunity.
Bear in mind that this was before there were tools that automated many of those tasks. Now you can use a tool such as WP Blazer to automate backups to a variety of storage mediums. You can use tools to upgrade your WordPress whenever there is a new version coming out. There is no more reason to do it all manually.
The managed and kick start services went hand in hand. Once I sold the first, the second would invariably come soon after. Which is why the two services should be considered one and not be separated.
WordPress SEO Services
The second service I offered in my WordPress agency was WordPress SEO services. This was time-consuming at first, but developers quickly came to the rescue with a multitude of plugins that helped streamline the process and make sure I wasted as little time as possible with tweaking the SEO of my clients' sites.
This second one helped me build enough monthly revenue to branch out more and more. I was then able to offer more services, and the final service I started offering (after a year of stable monthly income) was WordPress Theme Development and WordPress Plugin Development.
WordPress Theme Development
If a client wanted something more than the standard theme, I would offer them two options. One was a theme based on a design that I could buy easily online. The other option was to help them design their own theme and develop it for WordPress. This required some coding knowledge, but it soon became a top seller.
I was also able to outsource some of the work. This experience with outsourcing helped me when it came to personalized plugins. Offering this to premium clients was the best recurring income I would make during time as a WordPress agency business.
WordPress Plugin Development
Plugins that you can buy or get free are great - but nothing says to a business owner that they are in the big league like having their own, proprietary "programs" that run on WordPress.
This aspect of my business was outsourced from the very beginning since the level of knowledge needed was high (and to some extent still is). However, it was my most significant monthly revenue stream by far even with the lower number of clients opting for this option. However, there was one more option that I had going for me - and that was because I loved to write.
Custom plugins and themes need management - or else they will stop working when the newer version of WordPress comes out. I always made sure to include monthly management of both themes and plugins so that my customers would never have a problem - and so I would always have some recurring revenue.
WordPress Content Services
WordPress is excellent, but it needs content - and when the phrase "content is king" exploded on the internet marketing scene, it opened up a precious and profitable niche for me. Writing.
I would offer a set of content, curated and done monthly for a reasonable price. This soon became my staple revenue source, eclipsing the development and hosting I was doing before. I used every tool under the sun to churn out content for SEO, for selling and for general use on my clients' websites.
It was where I finally found myself doing what I truly loved - and that was creating content on a regular basis.
Kickstarting your own WordPress agency
Today, it is easier than ever to start your own business, your own WordPress Agency. The tools to manage multiple websites have not only become better, but also more powerful. The tools to sell have become more social and doing a good job can net you more clients than I could have hoped for in the past.
Make Your WordPress Development Services Plan
Before you do anything, you need to make a business plan. This is somewhat of a complex issue, but there are numerous resources for this around the internet. Bplans.com is a perfect starting point if you have never made a business plan of your own. If you have, then skip to the next step which is…
Choosing a WordPress Agency Name
Choosing your business name can be a bit difficult these days. Unique, usable and easy to remember domain names have become more difficult to find by the day. However, once you have a name and a domain, it is time to choose a host.
If you are looking to get into the hosting side of things (which you have to in this market), then you should look at a reliable cloud service provider. Digital Ocean is a favourite of mine for many reasons, but they are by no means the only provider out there.
Hostgator is still kicking, and RackSpace and Dreamhost are all worth a shout. I have used many of them, but I find that the precision of Digital Ocean is just too much to give up (though I don't mind setting up my Linux partition and installing a free, open-source cPanel such as Webmin).
Choose Your Tools Carefully
There are two types of tools. The first type of tool helps you with your core work. That means finding a tool for SEO and finding a tool to manage multiple WordPress websites Those two tools would be your basics. Depending on what services you will be offering, your toolset might be slightly different.
However, make sure that you find the right WordPress management software as that will be your day to day workload. Checking multiple websites manually can be difficult and downright tedious. WP Blazer makes this a lot easier with several tools that will make any WordPress agency's job a lot easier. Tools such as clone installing websites and super fast SSL installation.
SEMRush, on the other hand, will give you all the tools to provide the best value proposition to your clients with regard to SEO. If you are a content marketer, then you will need different tools (such as Grammarly and Hemingway). If you design and sell themes, you will need Photoshop.
Find clients, expand your portfolio
Finding clients these days has never been easier or more cut-throat. Fiverr has changed the game when it comes to getting people interested. Gigs, as they are known, are a great way to lure people to your more expensive services.
Then there are old-school WordPress Agency referrals from happy clients, and this is where your social media presence has to be spot-on. Those referrals will mainly come from people commenting on Twitter or Facebook profiles - so make sure you monitor them constantly.
Every great website you build, every milestone you hit with SEO for a client should become a part of your portfolio. WordPress agencies live and die by their portfolios and improving yours is the best way to stay competitive.
While the above may seem like there is a lot of work - there is no more or less than with any other business. First you plan, then you find your tools and then you start. Start small and work your way up. This is the key to success - great tools and a great work ethic. That leads to recurring revenue, better plans and a sustainable business that will allow you to be the master of your destiny.