First off, congratulations to Joshua Strebel and to his wife as they are now first-time parents. Secondly, Joshua has put together a pretty transparent view as to how he created Page.ly, a WordPress specific hosting service. So far, the guide is five parts long but I advise you to start out with part 1, Identifying the opportunity. ∞
By Jeffro on October 4, 2011
-From Six Figures To Ten Bucks
By Jeffro on May 3, 2011
-Pushing For Innovation
By Jeffro on September 26, 2010
During an email conversation one day, Paul Mycroft who operates his own web design firm told me something that I thought was interesting. In fact, he’s been the first one to say such a thing and that is that the commercial themes being produced in the WordPress community are eroding his web design business. When I asked on Twitter whether or not anyone else had experience such a problem, I received a few replies that agreed with Paul but they also stated that they evolved their business to take advantage of these new themes. Here is the interview with Paul and I look forward to your responses in the comments.
Who are you and what do you do for a living?
I am a 1-man web design shop who has been designing and building web standards websites from scratch for over 10 years. I have been working with WordPress for 2 or 3 years now, as well as a recent project or two using ExpressionEngine. I also offer SEO services, web traffic analysis and an email marketing tool. These services combine to not only help my clients get decent search engine traffic but develop and market their sites using email newsletters and blogs. I have been supporting 40-50 clients for over 10 years for one or more of these services.
In your line of work, has the evolution of commercial themes as they’ve become easier and easier for clients to use without the middle man harmed, or benefited your business?
I would say that it has harmed the design and maintenance aspects of my business. I used to update many sites for up to an hour a month, which provided regular income and a chance for me to constantly improve those sites. I have offered WordPress as a cheap solution for many clients with small budgets. However, the WP3 (as a CMS and blog) commercial theme industry is opening up new avenues for both clients and me, which I need to develop and become proficient in.
How much of your work these days is web design versus working with established products such as commercial WordPress themes?
Web design takes up 30% where before it was 50-60%.
You mentioned to me that the commercial theme business is starting to erode your core business, in what ways?
My core business is web design and web standards build. I work with clients and another designer to establish a specific “look and feel” then build the site to web standards, sometimes integrating a blog (if the client requested it).
WP3 as a CMS is allowing clients to have a website that doesn’t look like a blog and have a blog built-in.
With the world entering into a recession, people do not seem to have the budget they used to so are looking for cheaper ways to get what they need. They come to me with small budgets but still need websites so the premium theme market provides me with a way to still earn money (on install and adjustment of theme to match brand) and a provide a solution for my clients.
How are you changing the way in which you do business to compensate for the erosion?
For every potential new project and budget, I will now use WP3 as a base. I will offer either a custom-built solution (higher budgets) or a premium theme (lower budgets). For the premium themes, I can still earn money by spending a day or so installing and adapting it for the client’s brand then act as support when needed.
For those higher budgets, I may have someone who can take my designs and convert them into WP3-driven sites. We’ll see how it works out with a test design. I also have a business partner who may go in with me to start selling themes on Theme Forest. But that will take time and testing.
Final thoughts on the entire situation in general?
I feel that in the next few years more and more web hosting companies are going to offer “one-click-install websites” driven by WordPress, much like wordpress.com does. It will get easier and easier to have a website up and running in minutes from more and more companies.
We are rapidly turning into a “one-click” society as we get information in an easier and quicker way (e.g. Google, Apple software, iPhone apps, iPad, BlackBerry). Off-the-shelf software empowers people and turns them into “professionals” in their heads even though they aren’t. It’s dumbing down technology, which is actually a good thing.
In 10-20 years, essential business tools such as website, CRM, email will all be easier to set up online. Web design will be in the theme industry.
By Jeffro on August 31, 2010
Today, I’ve disbanded the WPTavern VIP Program that I launched at the end of May. Everyone that was a part of the program was sent a pro-rated refund. I’ve been keeping tabs on this particular section of the forum and it was under utilized. I’ll take some of the blame for that. While I did keep up with the coupon portion, I didn’t put effort into the other areas of the program. To really get that section going, I would had to put forth extra effort and work which would take away from the site in general. I’m one man when in reality I need 5. I also didn’t think the program provided any value anymore and thus, was a waste of money. I know some of you simply went through the checkout process as a means of supporting me and the site which I sincerely thank you for but you paid money to be part of a value oriented program which wasn’t delivering on a consistent basis.
So instead of letting the subscriptions expire and simply disabling the subscription process, I wanted to get this out of the way as quick as possible. For those of you that subscribed and your money situation is bleak, think of this as a mini stimulus package!
By Jeffro on June 17, 2010
Francine Hardaway gives her six reasons as to why small businesses need WordPress on the FastCompany blog. While all of the reasons she gives are good ones, I needed to take a moment to correct her on number 1. WordPress does not have an in house e-commerce plugin. Francine probably got confused with the WP E-Commerce plugin which to someone who doesn’t know the ins and outs can be confused to think it’s part of the software. She also mentions that the e-commerce functionality will be built into 3.0 which is not the case. I’m sure many people would be happy to see e-commerce be available for WordPress out of the box but I feel that use case is better suited for plugins or even a mildly forked version of WordPress.
By Jeffro on May 26, 2010
Cory Miller who heads up iThemes.com along with PluginBuddy.com gives me the low down on what is going on with the company. Cory gives the details regarding what their newest offering, Plugin Mobile Buddy is all about. It sounds like an awesome plugin and once WPTavern.com goes through a minor redesign, this will be the first plugin I install to provide a mobile version of the site. We also talk about how iThemes tries to take customer feedback to heart by monitoring trends and responding to those trends with awesome products.
By Jeffro on May 6, 2010
Jason Schuller has published a great post that takes us on a journey on how he went from point A to point B. Two years ago, Jason was sitting in a cubicle. Today, he is one of the top guns when it comes to commercial WordPress themes. His story is not only inspirational but it really hits home for me. Right now, I’m in the same situation. I think about quitting my job all the time. I sometimes get pretty depressed that I have no career in front of me. I don’t have a salary where I get paid at least 30-40 thousand dollars a year. I’m 28 years old and the only thing going for me is WPTavern.com. Within the next three months, I’ll be moving out of my parents house into one of my own with my wife to be. I’m starting to feel the pressure of the need to make more money to at least keep the bills paid.
Part of my reason for not quitting my job just yet is that I’m afraid. I’ve given that grocery store 10 years of my life and right now, I make about $13.75 an hour with anywhere between 16 and 35 hours a week. I’m also trying to figure out a plan to properly monetize my passion so I can continue to do it while paying the bills at the same time. However, unlike Jason, I do not have a theme or plugin to sell. Also, consultant work is out of my league. What I truly enjoy doing is continuing to write about the evolution of WordPress through this website. I also love the fact that I can provide a wide outlet for people to share their stories on how they use the software. Anyone who has ever interviewed me for a podcast or for a textual post realizes that I love talking about the software. After all, that’s why I have my own show. So I what I love to do is generate content without being tied down into what I can write about. The problem is, this content is free so I have to come up with other creative ways to generate revenue. Here is a list of current methods with a couple of other methods I’m thinking about.
Existing Revenue Streams
Display Advertising – This has worked well for me since I added it to the site. The only problem is that the display ads do not get as many clicks as advertisers would like. However, the display ads definitely provide visual awareness of their product or service.
Audio Advertising – This has also worked well for me although there are currently no advertising slots being used on the show. This type of advertising is two deals in one. Not only do the listeners get to hear about a product, event, or service, but the text as well as a link to it is provided within the content of the show notes.
Affiliated Reviews – This method by far has had the biggest impact on me in 2010. Especially the review I did of BackupBuddy. Affiliated reviews have definitely picked up the slack during the times when there were open display advertising slots. I’ve also taken to the idea of any affiliated review I perform gets added to the Tavern store since the review post can get lost after a few days.
Revenue Stream Ideas
Branded Merchandise – I’m currently researching various companies to figure out how I could easily create some WPTavern branded merchandise for folks to purchase. I wouldn’t mind having a WPTavern mug myself or a couple of shirts to give away at any WordCamps I attend. Since the audience has pushed me for merchandise, I’ll figure out a way to deliver. The only problem with going through a company is that the prices are generally steep and I only make profit if I charge above the flat rate price. However, the convenience of not having to package and ship the items myself makes up for that.
VIP Membership – Longtime fans of WPTavern.com know that I was very close to putting in a pay wall for the forum. However, I backed out of it after a lengthy discussion. I’m now considering doing it again but instead of making the entire forum a pay wall, I will be creating a new section in the forum exclusively for those who pay a membership fee of $25.00 a year which I think is fair with all things considered. Some of the perks I’m working on include special monthly deals on commercial products or services, an area where members can post and respond to job offers, a private forum that can be seen or responded to by ONLY paying members, a special discount on any of the merchandise I sell as well as any other perks I can think of.
WordCamp Sponsorship – I’ve toyed with this idea before but I turned it down because I didn’t want to be a shill for a company. However, after giving it some more thought, I’m pretty sure I can conduct my business at a WordCamp without that happening. I’m going to try and come up with a price that at least covers my airfare and hotel to a city where a WordCamp is being held. During this trip, any video content, audio content, or posts that are generated from the event will be branded with the sponsors company, product or service. Also, if the sponsor sends me some sort of sponsor package with business cards, a hat or shirt branded by them that I could wear, buttons, etc. that would be even better. I even wouldn’t mind giving that companies stuff away to any fans in attendance. The key here is that this would allow me to work for the people, work for myself, and work for the company that sponsors me all at the same time without having to worry about the financial aspects of it all.
I really hate the grocery store where I work but the thought of quitting and not having job security is scary, especially when I know I can make one to two-hundred dollars per week if need be. With WPTavern, there might be a week that goes by where I don’t get paid anything and payments come in at all different times of the month. It’s also important to note that much of the money that WPTavern makes goes back into the site or helps pay for my travels to WordCamps. Not much of it is used to directly pay myself.
Also, it is my strong belief that if making money is your only goal in life, you will probably spend the rest of your life chasing that goal and never end up where you want to be. I realize that the title of this article is “How I Monetized My Passion”, but what I really mean by that is money can sometimes become a by-product of chasing your passions. Money is not a bad thing, but it really should not be your means to happiness. When I left my day job two years ago, money was never my end game, and I hope it’s not yours when/if you decide to make a major change in your life. Let your interests and your passions be the driving force behind change in your life – I did.
In my situation, money is not the end all be all. Money is what will help me to continue doing what I love to do. I don’t want to become filthy rich from running an enthusiast community, I just want to make enough to continue doing what I’m doing while being able to put bread on the table and give my wife to be the confidence that what I’m doing is paying off. A sense of accomplishment and well being wouldn’t hurt either.
By Jeffro on April 4, 2010
This episode was the first in a series discussing the commercialization of WordPress. Within this episode, we talked with three commercial theme authors who are in the midst of maintaining a successful business. Joining us on the round table was Jason Schuller of Press75/ThemeGarden.com, Brian Gardner of Studiopress, and Cory Miller of iThemes. Considering the commercial theme market will be red hot this year, this episode gives those new guys or aspiring commercial theme authors plenty of food for thought. Also, Matt Mullenweg made a surprise appearance near the end of the show to ask some questions he had to the members of the panel. Jacob Goldman did a great job asking some meaty questions that were really business focused and I feel that just about anyone who listens to this episode will be able to learn a thing or two about the business of commercial themes.
Smashing Book Contest:
Want to win a copy of the Smashing Book and a chance to participate in our wrap up episode on April 24th? Help us publicize the special WordPress Weekly series on commercialization! Just follow @WPTavern and guest co-host @jakemgold on Twitter, and Tweet a message mentioning us both with a link to the most recent episode. We’ll randomly pick one of our favorite tweets right before the next show.
We’ll be giving a book away for each of the episodes (excluding wrap up). You can participate each week. Each contest starts at 2pm on Saturday with the show’s recording, and ends the following Friday evening. You may participate if you’re outside of the contiguous United States, but will be asked to cover shipping expenses.
If we get over 500 participants in the contest, before the wrap up show, we’ll also give away one copy of Smashing WordPress
This episode is also sponsored by EnvironmentsForHumans.com This is an organization that brings together expert speakers on a given topic exploring that topic from different angles. While they recently had a WordPRess Workshop, the next event will be a UX Web Summit on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM (CT). This event will teach people how to improve their websites so that they are more responsive to visitors as well as making this more usable. If you’re interested in this summit, visit UXWebSummit.com
Part 2 of this series will take place on April 10th with the Commercial Plugins roundtable features Carl Hancock of Gravityforms, Ronald Huereca of Ajax Edit Comments and Jonathan Davis of the Shopp plugin.
Next Episode: Saturday, April 10th 2P.M. EST
Subscribe To WPWeekly Via Itunes: Click here to subscribe
Length Of Episode: 2 Hours 12 Minutes
Download The Show: WordPressWeeklyEpisode94.mp3
Listen To Episode #94:
By Jeffro on March 29, 2010
Brian Casel has a great post over on DesignM.ag that showcases the various opportunities that exist to run a freelance business around WordPress. Developers, designers, and copywriters all have a ton of opportunities to make money around WordPress. I suppose I would fit into the freelance journalist category even though I don’t consider myself to be a journalist. I know I’ve mentioned WP125 before to manage advertising on your site but Brian linked to one other advertising system that may suit your needs called Advertising Manager. Based on the features page, this looks to be a nifty plugin. I might review this at some point in the future.