Doing SMALL WordPress projects is a perfectly fine business model to pursue

DATE: July 12 2016

Read time: 4 minutes




When you are new to WordPress, it’s a good thing to become part of the WP community. Great ways to do that are visiting local WP Meetups and WordCamps. And although in general, these meetings are very encouraging and uplifting, there is one area that is ‘less encouraged’. To put it mildly. And that is going after small WordPress projects. Well, let me encourage you with this article.  

A WordPress Freelancer is like a Handyman helping a customer do a project togetherif( typeof swifty_add_exec === ‘function’ ) { swifty_add_exec( { ‘fn’: ‘swifty_checkImages’ } ); }

Here’s an example of what I hear at WP Meetups…

The other day a freelance designer told me:


.swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt { overflow: hidden; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper { position: relative; margin-bottom: 1.5em; padding: 0.5em 3em; font-style: italic; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper.swc_quote_has_cite { margin-bottom: 3em; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper .swc_quote_cite { position: absolute; right: 2em; bottom: -2.5em; font-style: normal; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper .swc_quote_cite:before { content: “\2014\0000a0”; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper .swc_quote_cite a { text-decoration: underline; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper:before, .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper:after { position: absolute; display: block; font-style: normal; font-size: 50px !important; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper:before { left: 0; bottom: -42px; content: “\201C”; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper:after { right: 0; top: -15px; content: “\201D”; }

There is a HUGE demand for websites in the 500 to 1500 euro price range


“Over the years I’ve noticed that any WordPress website project takes me at least 20 hours. Minimum. And my hourly rate is 85 euro, so I never take on projects under 2000 euros.” 


Well. that’s great for her. Awesome! Especially if she can endlessly line up these projects back to back. 


But I’ve been to lot’s of WordPress Meetups and WordCamps talking to people like you, and I have found that there is a HUGE demand for websites in the 500 to 1500 euro price range. 


And in WordPress circles, sometimes people tend to scoff at the idea of going after these smaller projects. “Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.” But I’m here today to tell you it’s a huge market and it’s really worth while to go after it. 


Let’s compare the website business with the home improvement business for a moment. 


There are the Do-It-Yourself home improvement stores. Selling homeowners everything they need to do the work on their home themselves. Much like hosting companies providing the tools a business owner needs to create a website. 


Then there are the Construction Companies that can do the job for you. They don’t sell the homeowner the tools and materials. They sell the end result. That would be comparable to a web design agency or an advanced freelance web designer that can do the whole website for the customer. But expectations are high. The end result better be perfect. And yes, of course the budget must be much bigger. 


But there is also a very interesting business model in between. And that is the model of the Handyman.


The handyman is the expert in the eyes of the homeowner. Much like a WordPress freelance designer is the expert in the eyes of the business owner that wants a website. 


When a homeowner hires a handyman to do a job, the handyman takes the lead. He or she does the measuring, the planning, and ordering of the materials. The homeowners role? Maybe offer an extra set of hands. 


The handyman and the homeowner get the job done together. At a much lower cost than when a construction company would charge for the same job. 


So, which of these three is the best way to go? 


I say: it depends on the job, the budget and the customers expectations. 


.swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt { overflow: hidden; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper { position: relative; margin-bottom: 1.5em; padding: 0.5em 3em; font-style: italic; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper.swc_quote_has_cite { margin-bottom: 3em; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper .swc_quote_cite { position: absolute; right: 2em; bottom: -2.5em; font-style: normal; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper .swc_quote_cite:before { content: “\2014\0000a0”; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper .swc_quote_cite a { text-decoration: underline; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper:before, .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper:after { position: absolute; display: block; font-style: normal; font-size: 50px !important; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper:before { left: 0; bottom: -42px; content: “\201C”; } .swc_asset_swifty_quote .swc_asset_cntnt .swc_quote_wrapper:after { right: 0; top: -15px; content: “\201D”; }

People tend to defend their choices after they’ve made them.


There is no right or wrong way to go here. All three are multi-billion euro markets.


And yet, when you talk to people at WordPress events, they often discard the handyman option. They say it’s a pain in the butt, working so closely with the customer. And that there is no way to do these small projects profitably. 


Well I wonder… Could it be that they themselves were unable to crack the code? That they could not make it work? 


It’s remarkable that a lot of designers, who start out as freelancers, end up working for an agency. And then – when you talk to them – they tend to defend their choice. Of course.


To wrap this up…


The Swifty team is on a mission to help these small business owners and freelancers properly present themselves online. Through a website, social media, email, etc.


We would love it if you, as a freelance WordPress designer or working at an agency, will join us in this noble cause. Because when we help these people, they will be better able to help others and take care of their families. And that will make the world a better place. 


So by all means, go after this huge market. Go do small WP projects. I’m doing a series on this topic so make sure to follow us on <a href="https://www.facebook website”>Facebook and Twitter

July 12, 2016
Chris Vermeulen
General, Small WP Projects, WordPress, Business, Freelance

Double your revenue. Quadruple your profits.

DATE: July 6 2016

Read time: 4 minutes



At WordCamp Europe 2016 I had the honor to deliver a talk on one of the three stages. It was about: “How to do SMALL WordPress Projects profitably”. And when I came home I decided to make a blog post series out of this. Because I believe with all my heart, that when an agency, or especially freelance WordPress designers, read and do these tips, they will prosper.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the first problem EVERY freelancer has. And fix that.

Double your revenue. Quadruple your profits.

There are 2 major problems almost ALL freelancers face, regardless of their occupation

Improve 1 by 30% and you will have a 30% increase. Improve all 3 by 30% and you will have more than doubled your revenue.

And those are:


1) what happens before they to the thing they are really good at
2) what happens after they do the thing they are really good at


Let’s take a freelance WordPress developer or designer as an example. He or she is really good at creating beautiful and powerful websites for clients.


But after the job is done, they struggle with invoicing, getting the money, filing the taxes and doing the accounting in general.


In another blog post, I share some insights on how to solve this issue. But for this article I’d like to focus on solving the first one:

Are you having trouble filling your pipeline with new projects?


Lining them up nicely for when you are finished working on your current project?


A lot of freelancers struggle to get new business coming in. 


That is why many freelance WP developers and designers end up working at an agency. That agency has other people on the team to cover those areas before and after they do what they are good at.


Instead of presenting a lot of hyped up internet marketing tactics, I would like to help you with some basic, underlying marketing principles that are easy to understand and easy to implement. Today.


It comes down to this:


There are three, and only three ways to increase your revenue stream:


1) more customers
2) higher sale price per customer
3) sell multiple times to the same customer


I’m sure you’re smart enough to think of all kinds of variations. But they all can be categorized in one of these three categories. 


Now let’s have a closer look at each of these and dissect how you as a WordPRess professional can increase your revenue by implementing these strategies. 


More customers will increase your revenue


But how. Right? How do you get more customers? Here are a few suggestions: 


  • Focus on helping other freelancers that are just starting out. As well as small businesses that have a limited budget. Most agencies don’t go after this demographic because they can not deliver websites for smaller budgets. 
  • Make sure you are easily found in Google Local Search. Seriously. Google it. 
  • Make sure your own website is awesome and responsive and has a clear call to action on every page that can be acted upon on a mobile device. 
  • Offer to wrap the one-time fee for setting up the website into a 12 or 24-month payment plan that includes backups and updates. So instead of charging 750 for the setup and 29 for the maintenance, charge 99 per month for the package. 
  • Go to local coffee meetups and see if there are people that might need your help. 
  • Offer to do a talk on web design at multiple entrepreneur meetings in your area. Position yourself as an expert. 
  • Ask. Ask each of your customers for a referral. Ask them every 3 months if they know someone in their network that might need a site. 
  • Share some of your knowledge on Facebook. In short snippets of insight that your customers and their friends can do on their sites themselves (or call you to do it for them). 
  • Create case studies on your website of succesful projects. 
  • Don’t be discouraged. It’s a numbers game. Approach a lot of prospects. Don’t sell them. Help them. Physically walk through their door. Introduce yourself, leave a flyer and business card and be on your way. Position yourself as a helper and the go-to person. Be the guy or girl who knows a guy who knows a guy. Need help with your computer network? I know a guy. Need some professional pictures taken for your newspaper ads? I know a guy. Need a copywriter? I know a guy. You get it right? Make sure they tape your business card at the bottom of their keyboard and don’t dump it in the trash bin. 
  • Team up with one or more design agencies that do not have a web designer on staff but do want to offer web design as part of their package. 
  • Do a website for a very noticeable local non-profit for free in exchange for free publicity. 


If you now have 6 customers per month, do you think your can find 2 more using these ideas? If you have 10, could you find 3 more if you really tried?


A higher sale price per customer will increase your revenue. 


Obvious. Right? So why not just do it?


You have to realize the budget for your target audience – small entrepreneurs and freelancers – is limited. But you also have to realize that is flexible. 


On average any small business spends about 3% of their annual revenue on marketing. So a freelancer doing 50.000 a year still has a total marketing budget of 1500 euro. And a shop owner that does 500.000 a year has a budget of 15.000 euros. 


So even tho the budget for the website might be limited to 500 or 1000 euro, their total marketing budget is not. And that is good to know. 


So here are some pointers on how you can ethically increase the average sale amount for each of your customers. 


  • Take on the initial job for the agreed upon price. Then try to expand the scope of the project. Maybe do more pages for the site. Or offer to migrate email or setup email. Offer to create an email template. Offer to setup and integrate MailChimp for them. Create a set of html5 ads fro them. You get the picture, right?
  • See if you can upsell external services. For instance, ask if the customer does the copywriting or if you should hire a copywriter (and take a cut). Ask if the customer provides images or if you should use stock photo’s (with a markup) or hire a photographer (take a cut). Maybe they want to have a logo (re)designed. 
  • See if you can upsell tools such as a theme and or plugins. Get them at the developer license price and sell them for the normal price. 
  • See if you can upsell subscriptions such as hosting. Get the hosting at a discount (reseller or affiliate) and charge the customer the normal price. This is obviously besides the time you charge for setting things up.


Maybe you can think of a few additions that are very helpful for the customer and that can come out of the remainder of their annual marketing budget. 


So, if you really had to, could you increase the sale amount from 600 to 800 by adding valuable and fitting extras? If you had a sale for 1000, could you make it 1300 by adding Mailchimp, hosting, photography?


Selling multiple times to the same customer will increase your revenue. 


Getting a new customer is way, way harder than selling to an existing customer that already knows you. And selling multiple times to your existing customers is not only a sure way to increase your annual revenue. It’s also a great way to get some stable, recurring revenue coming in. 


So let’s see how you can sell multiple times to the same customer. 


  • By far the easiest way is to sell a monthly subscription plan. Offer three plans: 1 has hosting, backups and updates included for, let’s say 39,- a month. The second, costing 59,- a month has the same as 1 but includes you being available for questions. The third may cost something like 89,- a month and includes pack 1 plus on average 1 hour of work on the site per month. Beware, most clients will pick the middle option. 
  • Contact your customers months before a seasonal event, such as the summer (set up a summer sale for them), Christmas (help them set up advertising and such), and way, way more. Your customer needs help in these areas. Position yourself as the go-to person. Remind them in advance that it’s coming and that they can jump on the bandwagon. Af they decline (as well as when they say yes) ask them if they know of anyone else that might need help. Offer these 3 packs at these prices for monthly payments. And offer them at a discount when paid for a year in advance. 
  • Regularly offer other people’s services to your clients and take a cut. 
  • Keep the relationship with your customers alive by contacting them regularly. Ask them for referrals. Ask them for testimonials. Ask them if they’re working on new business ideas they might need help with. 
  • If upselling extra services or products did not work at the time of the project, maybe it will be good timing later. So ask again after a few months. 


How many of your customers might take you up on your subscription offer? Imagine upselling your 39 euro subscription with a 600 euro site. That’s an extra 468,- revenue!

Could you – on average – sell one subscription for every 2 sites you create? What would happen if you had a phone call with every one of your clients every 3 months? How much work would flow from that?


The magic of additional multiplication


Okay, I made that up. Additional multiplication. But what I mean by it is this: 


If you increase either the number of customers with 30% or the average sale amount per customer with 30% or the number of times you sell to the same customer with 30%, you will have increased your revenue by 30%. 




If you increase the number of customers with 30% and the average sale amount per customer with 30% and the number of times you sell to the same customer with 30%, you will have increased your revenue by 120%


Here is the simple math: 


1.0 x 1.0 x 1.3 = 1.3
1.3 x 1.3 x 1.3 = 2.2 a 120% increase in revenue!


How awesome is that?!


If I asked you if you would believe it’s possible to more than double your revenue, you might not have believed me. But an increase of 30% in each of these areas? Sure, that’s possible!


Raise one of these by 30% and your revenue has increased by 30%.
Raise al three by 30% and your revenue has more than doubled.


Now one final thought and I’ll be out of your way


Imagine the impact a doubling of the revenue will have on your profits.


Doubling revenue might equal quadrupling your profits!


In your profession, you make a lot of expenses, such as the depreciation of the laptop you work on. The mobile phone plan you are on. The internet connection you have at home and the car you drive. 


There are also costs for visiting nice cities to attend WordCamps, such as Sofia, Sevilla, Vienna and next year Paris. (You are going to these events and charging all costs of the trip as business expenses, right?)


But doubling your revenue does not necessarily mean you need 2 laptops, 2 phones and 2 internet connections at home. So…


Doubling revenue might equal quadrupling your profits!


Just for a moment imagine what life would be like…

Now go out and get it. You can totally do this.

July 6, 2016
Chris Vermeulen
General, Small WP Projects, WordPress, Business, Freelance, Marketing, Profit

How to do SMALL WordPress projects profitably.

DATE: July 1 2016

Read time: 10 minutes



At WordCamp Europe 2016 in Vienna, the annual WordPress conference, I had the privilege to speak on one of the three stages. The subject of my talk was: “How to do SMALL WordPress projects profitably.” Here is the video and the the transcript of this talk. I believe it can be very helpful for WordPress freelancers and small agencies. 


Let me start with a story…


Please PLEASE hire a professional designer

Chris & Robert

Just two months ago, a friend asked me and my business partner Robert if he could come over to our office and discuss some ideas he had about switching from being an employee to being a self-employed freelance consultant. 


His name is Norbert. And he’s a really smart guy. He has been improving and tweaking production processes for big companies and factories. And though it was a well-paying job, he felt he could do better being self-employed. So others could hire him. 


Like I said. Smart guy :-)


So he came over and we talked for a few hours about his plans. He was very well prepared. He even created a logo and a mockup of a website in PowerPoint. And at the end of the day, the main takeaway tip we had for him was: 


“Please PLEASE hire a professional designer to create a logo, a business identity and a website for you.”

We even introduced him to another friend of ours who is a freelance designer.


So Norbert took our advice and got in touch with Bjorn – a brilliant freelance designer that does everything from Business Identity design to photography and web design. Of course, he uses WordPress. 


Now imagine for a moment being in Norbert’s shoes. He has a wife and 2 children. 2 cars and a mortgage and NOW he decides to give up his secure job and step into the unknown as a freelance consultant. Not knowing if and when he will be hired and start making money. 


AND now he is asked to take 2500 euro’s from his life savings – his security buffer – to invest in a logo, letterhead, business cards and a website. 


Can you imagine how that conversation went with his wife?


Anyway, Bjorn split the budget into 1500 for the logo, letterhead, and business card stuff. Including the printing costs by the way. And 1000 for the website. 


And that brings us nicely to the topic of my post: 


How can Bjorn do this small WordPress project for Norbert for 1000 euro and STILL make a PROFIT?!?


Well, I could talk all day about how you CAN do small WordPress projects profitably, but let me give you a few quick pointers and then I’ll be out of your way. 

The biggest problem ALL freelancers have regardless of their occupation: What happens before and after they do their thing.


Having a pipeline of new projects lined up to start working on and after the job is done, getting the money, doing the invoicing, taxes and accounting. 


Well, this could be a talk all on its own, but let me give you this piece of advice: HIRE someone who is good at accounting and have him or her do ALL of that stuff for you. It’ll probably take that person 1 or 2 hours a week tops but it will take you at least double AND it will take you out of your flow. 


And if you are just starting out, you could offer a satisfaction guarantee. Don’t be afraid to offer this. It will reduce the risk on the customer side and it will increase trust. And when a customer is not satisfied, you can then still decide to abandon the project and take your losses or make an attempt to make the customer happy. 


Be clear about the process


Be very clear to your prospects and explain on your own website exactly the way you work. Explain that there needs to be a certain way to do this project together. Manage the customers expectations. Position yourself as the expert. The project lead. 


Build in 1 or 2 review rounds where the customer can tell you what changes must be made. Then have the customer confirm that if you make these changes the customer will be satisfied. If you communicate this clearly up front, you avoid endless rounds of feedback and changes. 


Be clear on your pricing

You can make 3 offers, 3 packages the customer can choose from. With three different price points. Like does the customer write the copy for the site or do you introduce a copywriter you work with? Does the customer provide images or do you use stockphotos? Do you send over a photographer you work closely with?


Be extremely clear on what is included in your packages and what extra work will cost. 


Maybe you could have 3 different hourly rates: 
One for regular work that you can schedule in at your own discretion
One for drop-everything-and-do-this-now-this-is-an-emergency work
And you could offer a pre-paid block of 10 hours at a discount


Embrace the 80-20 rule


You know: get 80% of the result in 20% of the time?


I know, this is probably the hardest to do if you are a creative person. But you need to understand that when you might consider a mediocre design is still amazing in the eyes of your customer! Remember: you are the expert in the eyes of the amateur, your customer. 


Many designers fall into the trap to not be satisfied and wanting to keep making it juuuuuust a little better. That’s a sure way to spend way too many hours on a project. Focus on the end goal and be realistic about what end result can be expected for this budget. 


Embrace the  80-20 rule


Find tools that allow you to work FAST


One major problem is that the customer has seen some website that may have cost 10-15.000 euro and wants you to build a similar site for only 1.000 euros. For you to pull that off, you need to find themes and plugins that allow you to create a beautiful website fast. 


Save time on the setup


Without taking a cookie cutter approach, you need to find a base set of tools that you need that you can install with only a few clicks. If you want to do small WordPress projects, you need to look at it as an assembly line or as a process that you repeat over and over again, but every time with a unique outcome. But none the less the process is the same and can be optimized. 


Save time during the delivery of the site


When you hand over the site to the customer, you not only hand over the end result, you also hand over the tools you have created the site with. WordPress, the admin area, the theme, and the plugins. 
A lot of time can go into explaining the WP-admin area and the plugins. So look for tools that your customer will understand. And make a non-admin user account for your customer that limits what your customer can do in the admin. It also limits the things the customer can break. 


Upsell a maintenance plan

Sell either a prepaid pack of 10 hours at a discount that the customer can use to let you do extra work on the site. Offer 3 different maintenance plans at three price levels. For instance 


29,- a month for backups and updates. 
49,- a month for backups, updates and being available for questions and 
89,- per month for backups, updates and on average 1-hour work on the site. 


Offer all 3 at a monthly plan and all three at a discount when paid in advance for 1 year. 


This gives you more continuity in your cash flow, allows you to plan maintenance for multiple customers more efficiently and it allows you to maintain the relationship with the customer over a longer period of time which allows you to upsell even more services. Be them your own or the services of other freelancers you work with where you can take a cut. 


Let me wrap this up with a few closing remarks.


SwiftySite helps you with a lot of the stuff we talked about in this post.

SwiftySite is a free plugin, available in the repository, that can help you, as a freelance WordPress designer or developer, to create beautiful and unique websites for your clients fast, easy and profitably


Setup is fast. 

Designing and filling a site is fast and easy. 

And handing over the site to the customer is fast, because you can completely hide the WP admin for the client. 


You can read all about SwiftySite here  :-)


Oh! One more thing!


Wanna see how the 1000 euro website that Bjorn created for Norbert using SwiftySite turned out? Check this out:


July 1, 2016
Chris Vermeulen
General, Small WP Projects, Stories, WordPress, Freelance, Talks, WCEU, WordCamp