Running a Small Business as a WordPress Developer by Troy Dean


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Troy is an experienced WordPress developer. However his real strength is translating real world business objectives into online user experiences and creating sites that serve the customer as well as the brand. He has an infectious passion for communicating in the digital realm.

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  • Troy Dean is Director of Geeky Stuff at Tonto Digital, Co-founder of Video User Manuals and a professional Voice Over Artist and Musician.\n
  • A monkey that no longer needed to hunt for food or build shelter eventually got bored and invented WordPress as a way of reconnecting and sharing stories with his tribe.\n
  • The problem is, with so many people wanting to share their stories and so few of us knowing how to facilitate that through websites, blogs, social media, SEO and email marketing, we end up overloaded and exhausted. And you are no good to anyone if you are asleep at your computer.\n
  • So how do you stay sane, remain profitable and maintain your personal life? Systems. I built my first CMS in Notepad and then discovered WordPress which is essentially a library of systems. It’s all about systems.\n
  • Once the systems were in place I put them to the test. In the middle of a very period I left the country to see if the sky would fall in. It didn’t. So I ate snails in Paris.\n
  • Yum.\n
  • I am now the director of 2 successful companies: Tonto Digital whose clients include Jessica Watson, the 16 year old Australian girl who sailed around the world solo, unassisted and non-stop, as well as FebFast, a charity organisation that raises over $1 million every year by encouraging people to give up alcohol for the month of February.\n
  • And Video User Manuals who make premium plugins for WordPress that are so popular we get copied.\n
  • In the old days we all stumbled around, finding a client, doing the job, training the client, and this cycle repeated itself one client at a time. Nowadays we have systems and direction.\n
  • So you can spend more time doing the things you love. How do you do this? These are the systems I use from the time I have a lead to delivery of the project. I hope you learn something from this.\n
  • So here is your new customer - “Barney”.\n
  • The first action in the system is to send Barney a website worksheet. This is a series of questions that helps me understand what business Barney is in and why the business needs a website as well as who Barney’s target audience is and why they need Barney to have a website. I also use this worksheet to identify opportunities to talk to Barney about SEO, social media and e-mail marketing. Most importantly I ask Barney what budget he has set aside for this project. This is important in determining the next step.\n
  • Based on Barney’s budget and clarity about the project I will do one of 3 things: call Barney to let him know I am unable to help him and recommend some other resources for him, send Barney a proposal based on the best solution for his needs, or contact Barney and organise to meet face-to-face. I try hard not to do face-to-face for 2 reasons: it takes up my valuable time and most client meetings do not actually add value to the project. If I do meet with a client I have a fixed agenda set in advance and a fixed timeframe. This may sound arrogant, but I know my existing clients would not be happy if their website was delivered late because I was spending all my time having coffee with potential new clients who had no budget and very little idea about why they need a website.\n
  • So how do I know what to charge? I know what a website costs me to deliver in terms of my time, expertise, and external resources. I can also gauge how much value the website will add to my client’s business and life. I do not trade my time for money. I do not have an hourly rate. I do not have a day rate. Your time is your most valuable resource. If you trade your time for money you will never be able to leverage your time to grow your business or streamline your process. You will always be chasing your tail because there are only so many hours you can work before exhaustion takes its toll.\n
  • Once you have worked out your pricing develop a proposal template that you can reuse. My proposals communicate the business and the target audience needs back to the client along with my solution, pricing, timeframe and terms.\n
  • However you structure your proposal, make sure you write it once and then reuse it, or sections of it for future proposals. I love or Google docs. Then I set a reminder for follow up the proposal with a phone call in 5 working days. 5 working days keeps me consistently in a habit. And consistency of behaviour builds trust with the audience.\n
  • My payment terms in the proposal by the way are 40% deposit, 30% once designs are approved and 30% on delivery. This is the single best thing I have implemented as it helps your cash-flow incredibly and also gets the client to buy-in to the designs once they’re approved. I never negotiate this. It’s a deal breaker. I’ll walk away from a job if the client does not agree.\n
  • Barney usually wants to negotiate the pricing once he’s seen the proposal. it’s human nature. I’m happy to negotiate pricing as long as Barney is happy to take something out of the proposal. I NEVER discount the price without removing something from the project. If you do, it appears as if you were overpriced to begin with. You will also set a dangerous precedent for this client and any work they refer you.\n
  • Once the quote is approved, I send the client the initial invoice with payment instructions along with an email and ask them why I got the business. I also request visual assets, logos, colours, style guides and any analytics of their existing website if applicable. This email is setup as a canned response and takes me 10 seconds to send. Then I do nothing until the 40% deposit has been paid.\n
  • Once the deposit is paid I prepare some wireframes or mockups for the client. It’s important to educate them and manage their expectations about what a wireframe is. It’s NOT a design concept. Clients don’t know what they want but they know what they don’t like. This process cuts off 2 rounds of revisions in the design phase and they start buying the website. I like Balsamiq, Protoshare and Wireframesketcher.\n
  • Once the wireframes are approved I prepare a design concept to show the client. Because I have faith in my team I only prepare one design concept. In my experience the more options you give a client the more indecisive they will become. Again I will avoid meetings wherever possible, not because I hate clients, but because meetings don’t actually help move the project forward. The client has 2 rounds of revisions. 2. Not 3. Not 4. Not 5. 2. If the client needs any more than 2 rounds of revisions, they don’t like the designs and no amount of revisions will help. That’s how I roll.\n
  • Then I invoice the next 30% and do nothing until it’s paid.\n
  • I develop websites on a staging server with my own theme that includes CSS reset, 960 grid layouts and multiple column options as well as plugin central for easy install of my chosen plugins - White Label CMS, WordPress User Manual, BackupBuddy, Yoast SEO, WP File Monitor and Gravity Forms. Whatever your process is - DOCUMENT IT so nothing falls through the cracks. This also means if you are unable to finish a job for whatever reason another developer can take it over and complete it.\n
  • Then I get the client to test on the staging server and sign off. And then...\n
  • Somebody in the organisation invariably wants a new feature that until now has never been discussed. It’s called feature creep or scope creep. I always respond by saying “Yes, that’s possible, but we need to approve the site as is and make sure we have delivered what we promised to make sure we don’t break it with any new features first. Once that is approved and paid for I’ll be happy to give a quote on any new features.” This is not negotiable.\n
  • Then the final invoice is paid before I send the website live. What if the client is not ready with their content? Not my problem unless I have included content delivery in my proposal - which I rarely do. That’s why I use a content management system. Within 30 days of the website being approved by the client the website goes in one of 2 places. To the clients domain or staging server (provided the final invoice has been paid) or the archive. Also known as data heaven, file #13 or the trash. I need my stagiung server for the next job. If all this sounds a bit harsh watch Mike Monteiro’s presentation from Mule Design at the San Franciso Creative Mornings: it’s called “Fuck You Pay Me” and is available at\n
  • Barney is finally happy and it’s party time as the website is live. Sometimes I’ll visit the client with a bottle of champagne to celebrate.\n
  • Then I’ll train the client how to manage their website in 2 minutes flat by showing them how to use the WordPress User Manual plugin (yes I am a co-founder) at\n
  • I set a reminder to follow up in one month. Not five weeks, not three weeks, one month. Consistency of behaviour breeds trust. I also automate sending them a Google Analytics email every Monday morning with a personalised note.\n
  • Most small businesses fail because they do not systemise the process and therefore spend too much time doing the unimportant stuff, like kissing the clients baby, instead of the important stuff like marketing themselves as thought leaders by sharing presentations on slideshare. :)\n
  • The next thing you need to do is go to and download all the resources you need to work out your costs and your pricing from here on. Be confident. Systemise so you can continue telling your story.\n
  • Running a Small Business as a WordPress Developer by Troy Dean

    1. 1. TROY DEAN @troydeanDirector of Geeky Stuff @ TONTO DIGITAL Co-founder of VIDEO USER MANUALS Pro V/O ARTIST & MUSICIAN
    5. 5. 40% 30% 30%UPFRONT DESIGN DELIVERY
    6. 6. IN THE40% BANK
    7. 7. IN THE30% BANK
    9. 9. IN THE30% BANK
    10. 10. IN THE30% BANK - Mike Monteiro
    11. 11. 0:02
    12. 12.