If you’re reading this, then you’ve already decided to make the leap into the wonderful world of WordPress web development and design. While I’d love to take this time to celebrate and welcome you to what’s bound to be an exciting adventure, I think we should jump right into talking business. Shall we?
Starting a freelance business or building your own small agency from the ground up is no easy task. It’s not something you can decide to do one day and then poof! You’re a freelancer and business owner.
You already know that the devil is in the details—that’s why you work as a web developer. Your entire job is about ensuring that every detail is covered, and covered sufficiently. But there are more details to look after when you make the decision to strike out on your own. You’re now a business owner and need to spend more time thinking about the details of your business instead of just the minutia of your process.
Now, I’ve spoken before on how you can bootstrap a WordPress business on a limited budget. But today I want to go more in depth on how to get your new WordPress business up and running as well as cover some of the processes you’ll need to adhere to if you ultimately want to succeed.
Here is what you need to know.
The 8-Step Process You Need to Efficiently Build Your WordPress Business
Wouldn’t it be nice if all you had to do was announce to the world that you’re starting a business and then it became a reality? Unfortunately, there is a lot more that goes into it than that.
Starting now, you’ll want to have a proper process in place, one that accounts for all aspects of starting up and then running your WordPress business. Let’s cover the essentials:
1. Formulate a Business Plan
Before beginning any work as a WordPress freelancer, you need to define what exactly it is you’re going to do. Without a clear plan for your business, you could easily find yourself getting underpaid, overworked, and in trouble with Uncle Sam if you don’t prepare accordingly.
First, you need to begin with an official statement of what your business will do. This means creating a description and mission statement. This will have a huge effect on everything else you do, so put some serious thought into this one. You should also have a detailed plan on what your WordPress services or product offerings will entail.
Then, you need to create goals for your business. How many clients do you need to have within 6 months? How about 12? And do you see yourself still working as a freelancer in a couple years or would you prefer to run an agency? Think about what the end goal of all this is.
If you’re struggling with this step, I’d urge you to spend some time doing research. Look around at what other WordPress developers and designers are doing. How do they structure their services? What sort of price structure are they working with? Do they generally tend to target a specific niche? Is there room for a WordPress developer with your particular skills?
You should also spend time learning about your target audience: who they are, what they do, why they need your help, and so on. The more you can learn about the kind of business you want to run and the people it will serve, the better you’ll be able to shape and define it.
2. Assess Your Finances
This is the part of launching a business you might struggle with most. In all honesty, it’s hard to set a price for your services when starting out. You don’t want to oversell yourself or even scare away decent clients because you’re charging what they consider to be too much. But you also don’t want to short-change yourself. It’s a delicate balance, but one you can sort out well enough if you project your finances ahead of time.
Here is what you need to consider:
- What are your business’s upfront costs?
- Will you have ongoing expenses for software, hardware, furniture, rent, etc.?
- How much will your business licenses and insurance (like liability, property, health, etc.) cost?
- Have you calculated your local, state, and federal taxes based on your estimated wages? And how often will you have to pay them?
- Do you need to plan for retirement? How much can you set aside each month?
- Do you know what your direct competition charges? If you’re unsure, check the Coroflot Design Salary Guide.
- Do you have a unique offering or set of skills that merit a higher rate?
- How many hours can you reasonably work a week?
- How many simultaneous projects can you manage without creating unrealistically long turnaround times?
This probably seems like a lot, but the more you get a handle on this now, the easier it’ll be to bring on new team members, invest in more business tools and services, and more down the line.
3. Define Your Brand
Unless you’re a web designer who specializes in the creation of company branding, you might not know a whole lot about what this entails.
Basically, you need to create an identity for your WordPress business, starting with deciding whether you plan on marketing your services under your name or a company name. While it’s not unheard of to build a brand around your name (think of like Neil Patel), if you have plans to scale your business to an agency, you’ll likely want to create a name and separate business entity for it.
Once you’ve figured that part out, it’s time to create the branding. If you have the design skills to do it and are familiar with branding best practices, you can create your logo, style guide, and other branded collateral on your own. Otherwise, you can outsource to an expert through a service like 99Designs.
4. Build Your Website
Seeing as how you’re in the business of creating WordPress sites, you’ll need one of your own. Obviously, you’ll need to utilize all the same best practices and attention to detail on your site as you would your clients’. They’re going to view this site as a reflection of your work, even if you have a separate portfolio they can refer to.
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Which brings me to your portfolio. While it might be nice to build one out on a website like Behance or Dribbble, you’ll also want one within your business’s website. All information for your business should be located there, so that prospective clients have no reason to look elsewhere.
When building your on-site portfolio, think about what would truly highlight your strengths as a developer and convince clients of your value. Would you share:
- Wireframes or storyboards?
- Design mockups?
- Completed websites?
- Specific niche websites?
- Plugin or theme demos you’ve developed?
- Custom designs (e.g. fonts, icons) you’ve created?
Include whatever will help you put your best foot forward.
5. Develop a Process
In all honesty, most of your WordPress projects are going to follow the same trajectory. While each client’s business may differ as will the design and content you create for them, the underlying structure of your workflow shouldn’t.
Starting out, you might not know exactly what steps you’ll need in your process, but you’ll at least have a good idea on how to get moving. You can then shape your process into something leaner and meaner as you take on more work.
In the meantime, however, a well-defined process and project templates are a must. One of the best examples you could follow is that of a marketing agency. These guys are used to managing large quantities of clients and diverse projects all at once, so there’s a lot to learn from how they shape their process.
Outside of the agency-style of working, you can adopt tried-and-true processes for SEO and launching a new website. And you can use these helpful tips on how to create a freelancer schedule that will keep you on track and productive each and every day.
6. Build Your Contract
Unless you’re signing on clients as long-term, permanent fixtures (which is rare in our line of work), you’ll need to have an iron-clad contract in place to keep your business safe. As part of the client onboarding process, you’ll want to share this freelance contract with clients, review it in real time, and let them know that this is to protect both sides: them as well as you.
Your freelance contract should include the following:
- Name and contact information for you and the client
- General summary of the project as well as the full scope of the project
- Start and end date
- Project milestones and deliverables owed at those intervals
- Payment terms (including price, milestone payments, acceptable forms of payment, late fees, etc.)
- Copyright terms
- Contract termination terms
- Signature and date
While you may experience some hesitation from clients—especially at the beginning—a contract will eventually become a natural part of your routine. And, as you take on a better quality of client, you’ll find that they’ll expect to receive a contract, too (which is a good sign).
7. Gather Your Business Tools
Managing a business is no easy task, especially if this is your first time doing it. But with so much software now readily available in the cloud—much of which is free if you’re a one-person shop or small agency—there’s no reason to let productivity, accuracy, or efficiency slide when trying to get your work done and manage your business.
That said, there really isn’t one tool you’ll find to streamline or manage every aspect of your business. Unfortunately, you’ll need to hunt around to find something to help you for a variety of needs, including:
- Project and task management
- Productivity and time management
- Development and design
- Customer relationship management
- Finance management
Depending on what sort of WordPress business you run, you may have a need for other tools as well. As you stumble upon them, make sure to do your research and find ones with free trials or plans, so you can do a test run before committing to any new expenses.
8. Find New Clients
Even if you’re using the title “freelancer,” that doesn’t mean you don’t have the responsibility of running it like a business. And one of those key responsibilities is to attract new clients.
While you might think that this can wait until after your site has launched and your business has started to get attention, that would be wrong. Marketing can happen as soon as your business plan and branding are established—and it would be a good idea to get started that early, too.
Marketing is all about proving that you are a trusted and reliable expert in your field. Rather than hope prospective clients will trust a new business with their website, establish a reputation for yourself wherever you can—on social media, online forums, WordPress communities, wherever your target clients are to be found. Work on making your name synonymous with WordPress now so they’ll have more reason to trust you even without a huge stockpile of work samples.
Of course, like with all the other parts of the business-building process, you need to determine what this step will actually entail. In other words, do you know the right way to market your business? Do you know which platforms will present the greatest ROI for your efforts? And do you have the time to create marketing material while you’re busy building this business or should you outsource?
The goal here is to passively attract new clients to your business, so always keep that in the back of your mind as you make these decisions. While you will need to spend time actively finding new freelance clients too, marketing will help relieve some of that pressure.
As you can see, building a business from the ground up takes a lot of hard work and commitment. But, silver lining? Once you have this process in place and have the right resources to turn to, scaling your business to new heights will seem like a breeze compared to the startup phase.