Recurring Revenue Services: How to Boost Your Freelance Business

Recurring revenue can be a powerful way to change your freelance business. It can provide a baseline that gives you stability and peace of mind.

But how do you create recurring revenue in the first place? In this post, we’ll look at recurring revenue services and help you think through what you might be able to offer in your WordPress freelance development business.

3 Recurring Revenue Services Questions

First, it helps to think through three questions:

  • What do my customers need?
  • What services can I create to meet those needs?
  • What resources do I need to perform those services?

Those three questions will help you come up with the recurring revenue services your clients want.

3 Services to Offer That Provide Recurring Revenue

For most freelance WordPress developers, there are three recurring revenue services that it makes a lot of sense to offer: hosting, updates, and backups. Let’s start by looking at these common offerings.

1. WordPress Hosting

Website hosting is one of those no-brainer things you can offer to your clients. Here’s why:

  • Easier for your client: You can be all things web for your client. If there’s a problem, they only have one person to call. You are the web professional for your client, their single point of contact.
  • Easier for you: If you’re in charge of their website hosting, you control the environment. There are no surprises with whatever cut-rate host your client picked. That can often mean weird setups and unexpected snags. But with your own environment you know what to expect and can be more productive.
  • Money on the table: Every website needs hosting. If you’re building trust with a client, why should someone else earn that recurring revenue? It should be yours.

How to Make Website Hosting Work

The key to offering WordPress hosting as a recurring revenue service is to partner with a trusted web host that will give you phenomenal support.

2. WordPress Updates

Keeping WordPress core, themes, and plugins updated should be a part of regular WordPress maintenance. If it’s not, it’s only a matter of time before a site is hacked or broken (or both).

Your clients should pay for WordPress maintenance services—don’t do it for free. Maintenance is a lot more than pushing a button. You need to be continually checking for new version updates (probably weekly) and be aware of potential threats that may require more frequent updates.

Your update service can also include fixing anything that breaks from an update. This is what can set you apart for clients who think they can push that update button themselves.

How to Make Updates Work

You can use iThemes Sync to do manage multiple WordPress sites from one dashboard. A tool like iThemes Sync will vastly reduce your time commitment when you’re updating multiple things across multiple sites.

3. WordPress Backups

Everybody understands the importance of having a WordPress backup, right? You might, but make sure your clients do, too. Backups are not something that can be done once; they need to be done regularly and with every site update to the site (content, code, design, etc.).

Here’s how to make sure you’re offering a solid backup solution:

  • Control: You should control your website backups, not your host. Many hosts offer backup services, but it’s not quite as convenient and flexible as you’d like. It also doesn’t protect you if the host has an issue.
  • Offsite: Backups should be stored offsite in cloud storage. It’s also a good idea to have backups stored in multiple offsite locations. It’s unlikely an offsite storage site would have an issue, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Restore: Having a backup isn’t good enough. You need to be able to easily restore the website from the backup files.

How to Make Backup Work

BackupBuddy, the 3-in-1 WordPress backup plugin, covers all of these bases. You can also use BackupBuddy Stash for real-time WordPress backups and cloud storage (as well as several other offsite backup storage options).

Other Recurring Revenue Services

While WordPress hosting, updates and backups are the standard offering for WordPress maintenance, your recurring revenue services shouldn’t be limited to those options. There’s a lot more you can offer.

Don’t Limit Yourself to Website Maintenance

Here are a few ideas of additional services you could offer that still have you firmly in the WordPress development camp:

  • Monitoring: Offer proactive monitoring for WordPress security issues, hacking attempts, and uptime.
  • Reporting: Gather analytics and relevant statistics into a regular report. Consider using a tool to automate your WordPress maintenance reports.
  • Content updates: WordPress is easy to use, but some clients still don’t want to bother. Clients provide the content and you update the site for them.
  • Site changes: Make updates and additions to the site. You could sell hourly blocks of time for occasional updates or offer a monthly service that includes so many hours for frequent updates.

Don’t Limit Yourself to Coding

There are a lot of other recurring revenue services you could offer that start to stray from the typical coding/development/WordPress world. Nobody says you can only offer techie services.

  • Content creation: Some clients can’t even bother with creating site content, so you can do it for them.
  • Social media: Create regular social media content for clients.
  • Email newsletters: A lot clients struggle to maintain consistent email newsletters. You could take over that burden for them.

That’s just scratching the surface. There are a lot of other recurring revenue services you could offer. The trick is to think through what your clients need done, what difficulties they face in doing those things, and what solutions you could offer.

The Recurring Revenue Summit with Nathan Ingram includes templates and examples that can help you generate ideas for new services and plan how to offer them.

Another helpful resource for coming up with ideas is the book Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business in Any Industry. You can watch our webinar with author John Warrillow for more insights.

What’s Your Recurring Revenue Strategy?

To launch a successful recurring revenue service you should think of ideas that can run without you. These might require you at the beginning but, ideally, once they’re up and running you can hand them off to someone else. When you create something that someone else can run, that’s how you build a business.

Learn more with the Recurring Revenue Summit, a three-hour, on-demand webinar with expert Nathan Ingram. He talks through how to create recurring revenue services, including specific tips and suggestions for selling and executing these services.

The post Recurring Revenue Services: How to Boost Your Freelance Business appeared first on iThemes.

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WordPress Plugin Roundup – October 2017

In this post, we round up the latest cool and useful (oh, and free!) WordPress plugins now available on the WordPress Plugin Directory. This month’s WordPress Plugin Roundup includes everything from an easy way to add icon widgets to a way to keep up with your post/page word counts.

1. iThemes Sales Accelerator New from iThemes!

iThemes Sales Accelerator

The iThemes Sales Accelerator plugin transforms your WordPress dashboard with dynamic reports so you can get detailed data and e-commerce insights about your WooCommerce store.

Nathan’s Notes:

  • The newest iThemes plugin extends default WooCommerce reports by reorganizing the most important sales data for your store with charts, tables and more in your WP dashboard
  • Has a free companion iOS app to connect with your WooCommerce store so you can check reports on the go
  • The Pro version includes more features like custom date filters for reports, additional reports, drag and drop and more.
  • A must-have tool for WooCommerce shops. You may have never seen your sales data quite like this before

2. Icon Widget

Icon Widget Plugin

The Icon Widget plugin creates a new WordPress widget that displays an icon, title and description. Select the size, color and text-alignment with easy to use dropdown options.

Nathan’s Notes:

  • If you’re not using a page builder with something like this build in already, it’s a pretty easy way to add a featured content block in a widgetized area.
  • Uses Fontawesome fonts.
  • You’ll probably want to tweak the styling a bit, but the CSS is simple.

3. CH Word Count

CH Word Count

The CH Word Count plugin will show you the total word count for all your posts and pages in the admin dashboard as well as in the overview tables of the posts and pages lists.

Nathan’s Notes:

  • Just install and activate and see a new column in the post list called “Words” that shows the number of words in each post.
  • Also adds a dashboard widget with total wordcounts sitewide. Nice for tracking your writing progress.
  • Very helpful for evaluating article length for SEO purposes.
  • Works for custom post types too.
  • Would be nice if the “Words” column was sortable, but it’s not currently.

4. Show Visitor IP

The Show Visitor IP plugin display Visitor IP Address & visitor location info using by visitor IP on post or page, anywhere with a shortcode. Very simple to install, simple to use, lightweight.

Nathan’s Notes:

  • Display current user information based on IP address throughout the site with shortcodes.
  • Can be a little creepy, but also helpful if you want your user to see that you can tell where they’re coming from.
  • Shortcode list:
    • [show_ip]
    • [svip_location type="countryCode"]
    • [svip_location type="region"]
    • [svip_location type="lat"]
    • [svip_location type="long"]
    • [svip_location type="city"]
    • [svip_location type="countryName"]

5. Minimum Featured Image Size

Minimum Featured Image Size

With the Minimum Featured Image Size plugin, you can set the minimum width and height required for featured images. If the user tries to use an image that isn’t large enough they will see a friendly error message, and the post status will be reverted to ‘draft’.

Nathan’s Notes:

  • This could be a really helpful plugin to keep clients and new users aware of the need for larger featured images.
  • The error message could be a little more apparent.

6. Admin Select Box To Select2

Admin Select Box To Select2

The Admin Select Box To Select2 plugin is used to convert all simple select boxes to select2.

Nathan’s Notes:

  • Adds a searchable box to the top of all standard select boxes in the WordPress admin.
  • Can be very helpful if you have long lists of taxonomies or dates that you need to quickly filter through.

7. The Paste

The Paste

With the The Paste plugin,  you can speed up your workflow by pasting images to the WordPress text editor. Copy image data from many desktop applications.

Nathan’s Notes:

  • Images pasted into the visual editor are uploaded to the media library and named pasted.png, pasted-1.png, pasted-2.png, etc.
  • Better naming conventions are on the developer’s to do list.
  • This is an interesting plugin that could improve workflow for many clients. It may not be quite ready for prime time yet, but it’s definitely one to watch!

8. Full TinyMCE WordPress Editor

Full TinyMCE WordPress Editor

The Full TinyMCE WordPress Editor plugin will let you add/remove the buttons that are shown on the Visual Editor toolbar. Configure buttons including Font Sizes, Font Family, text and background colors, tables, etc. It will also let you enable the editor menu. It includes 15 plugins for TinyMCE that are automatically enabled or disabled depending on the buttons you have chosen.

Nathan’s Notes:

  • Brings much of the the control of TinyMCE Advanced to the standard TinyMCE editor.
  • Nice little plugin for turning off editor options that could get your client into trouble (like font color), or adding editor options they might need (like tables).

9. Post Category Image With Grid and Slider

Post Category Image With Grid and Slider

The Post Category Image With Grid and Slider plugin allows users to upload category image and display in grid and slider.

Nathan’s Notes:

  • Enabled a “Featured Image” for each post category.
  • Display categories in a slider using shortcode [pci-cat-slider].
  • Lots of shortcode options on the plugin page.

10. Clearfy

Clearfy – disable unused features

The Clearfy – disable unused features plugin allows you to disable the REST API, emojis, RSS, XML-RPC, revisions, Remove Yoast Comments, Reduce HTTP requests, heartbeat and version control.

Nathan’s Notes:

  • Gives you quick access to turn on or off many “hidden” features of WordPress.
  • There are likely quite a few things you could disable and incrementally improve the speed and security of your website.
  • There are also some things you might inadvertently break with this plugin, so be sure you know what you’re turning off and why.

11. Bye, Felicia This Month’s Hello Dolly Replacement

Bye Felicia

The Bye Felicia plugin is just a simple plugin to replace Hello Dolly. For funsies. You’re welcome. Today was a good day. Now, bye Felicia.

Nathan’s Notes:

Watch the Webinar: WordPress Plugin Roundup
– October 2017

This post is based on the October 2017 Plugin Roundup webinar by Nathan Ingram. In this webinar, Nathan demonstrates how to use each of these plugins so you can get a better idea of how they work. Check out the entire series of monthly WordPress Plugin Roundup posts here & register for the next Plugin Roundup webinar here.

The post WordPress Plugin Roundup – October 2017 appeared first on iThemes.

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Recurring Revenue: How to Think Smarter About Freelancing

Recurring revenue is the foundation of a successful freelance business. In this post, we’ll talk about why it’s so important and why you need to embrace the concept.

What Is Recurring Revenue?

Recurring revenue is any kind of consistent income you earn automatically. You don’t have to go drum up sales, it’s already sold. And it keeps coming—maybe monthly, quarterly or annually.

Recurring Revenue is a smarter way of doing business because it offers more stability and less time wasted on sales. Recurring revenue can help you avoid (or at least minimize) the feast or famine freelance cycle that plagues many freelancers.

Freelancing Without Recurring Revenue

Consider the challenges of freelancing without recurring revenue:

  • No guarantee of making sales: Just because you made six figures last year doesn’t mean you will this year.
  • No safety net: And if those sales don’t come in, you’re sunk.
  • Desperate for sales: Because you’re so dependent on sales, you’ll take on clients you probably shouldn’t.
  • Client’s mercy: You’re at the client’s mercy to supply content or approve changes so you can finish a job and get paid.

Now maybe you’ve been able to find consistent projects. That’s great. You’ve managed to keep busy. But things can change. Do you really want to bank on being lucky? Do you really want to live with that kind of uncertainty?

Freelancing With Recurring Revenue

Recurring revenue sets you free from all that. It can be a safety net when regular work is slow. It offers stability for your business, which means stability in your life.

Consider the benefits of freelancing with recurring revenue:

  • More consistent income: You create stability in your freelance finances.
  • More predictable work: You can spend time working instead of selling.
  • More profitable relationships: Clients will see you as a partner and refer more work.

Now sure, nothing is ever certain. Even with recurring revenue, you could have clients flake out or the economy crashes and you start losing clients. But even in a nightmare scenario, recurring revenue gives you a major leg up. Clients will freeze new projects first, but they’re more likely to stick with a maintenance plan because it’s a basic need.

Establishing the Proper Mindset

As a freelancer, you need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset that pushes beyond simple service transactions.

You build a website, you get paid. That’s a great business, but it has some serious limitations: You’re working project to project, you’re limited by the hours you can commit, and you have to keep drumming up new sales.

But you build a website and sell a maintenance plan, you get paid for the site and you get paid for the maintenance every month.

As you build that recurring revenue, it can really add up. It will start to smooth out your finances and provide a baseline that means you can chase fewer projects if you want.

Do you want to work harder or do you want to work smarter? It’s all in how you think about it and approach your work.

When is a dollar worth more than a dollar? When it’s predictable. The more predictable a dollar is, the more valuable it becomes. One dollar every month adds up to a lot more than $5 right now.

Consider the income models of Netflix vs. Blockbuster. With the old retail rental concept, Blockbuster relied on repeat sales. People had to come in the door every day and rent a video for them to make any money. But Netflix relies on a subscription model. They make money whether you watch Netflix or not.

The Recurring Revenue Difference

One way to think about the value of recurring revenue is to think about the difference it would make in your business.

What if 30% of your income was recurring revenue? What if you could pay your salary with recurring revenue? How would that change things?

The pressure of sales would go away. You wouldn’t take on problem clients, but would only go after the projects you really wanted to do. You could take more vacations. You wouldn’t be as stressed about money.

It could change how you approach work.

Not Simple, But Possible

Of course building recurring revenue is not easy. It won’t happen overnight. It will take time to figure out what services you can offer, start offering them, and build that business. But over time, you can do it.

With the right understanding and the proper mindset, you can build a recurring revenue business. More than specific strategies or what recurring services you can offer, you first need to embrace the mindset of recurring revenue.

To learn more about recurring revenue, including concept, strategy, and execution, check out the Recurring Revenue Summit with Nathan Ingram. This three-hour webinar includes sample templates to help you get started.

The post Recurring Revenue: How to Think Smarter About Freelancing appeared first on iThemes.

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How to Close the Deal: A Freelancer’s Proposal and Contract

Freelancers love to land new projects. It’s what we do. A good proposal and contract can make it even easier to seal the deal.

proposals contracts

Too often freelancers do work without a contract (48% of the time). Or they stumble into a project with vague parameters. Scope creep becomes a real problem.

Another challenge is clarifying payment terms: Do you get a down payment before any work begins? When does the rest get paid? Is it dependent on you or are you at the mercy of the client?

Sometimes clients ask too much and you’re giving them solutions without a secured project. You should be getting paid for those good ideas, whether it’s part of a project or as a consulting fee.

Proposals and contracts can be a freelancers’ best friends. They’ll help protect you, make the project go more smoothly, and help you to close the deal and land more work.

Part of a Bigger System

We’re going to talk about how to put together a proposal and contract. But before we get too deep into the details, you need to understand where a proposal and contract fit into a larger system. Some of this advice won’t make any sense if it’s not part of a larger freelance system.

We already explored how to build a freelance system. That big picture overview will show you where a proposal and contract fit into the process. It’s also important to understand the value of a client consultation meeting. You can’t put together a proposal or contract without doing a client consultation meeting. And if you do that client consultation right, you’ll have all the answers you need to put together your proposal.

This is all pulled from our recent Freelance Summit with Nathan Ingram. It’s a series of more than a dozen webinars diving into the freelance process. The Freelance Summit also includes a sample proposal and sample contract you can use as templates to create your own.

What’s a Proposal and Contract?

OK, we all know what a proposal and contract are, but how do they fit into the freelance process and what do they accomplish?

So an ideal freelance system will include a client consultation meeting that should tell you whether or not to put together a proposal. You should know everything about what a client needs, you should have a rough idea of their budget and you should know that they’re ready to move forward.

If that’s the case, you put together a proposal. It should offer high-level deliverables, pitch other services (e.g., content writing) and ongoing services (e.g., site maintenance, security, etc.), and close the deal. The client should be able to sign it and the project will get started.

Contracts are perhaps more familiar than proposals. In this freelance system, the contract is where you lay out clear definitions and expectations. Everything is explicitly stated and agreed upon by both parties. It should cover the project process, time frames, payment and terms, technical details, and any necessary legalese (because no matter how hard you try you can never escape the lawyer speak).

You should deliver the proposal and contract together, and walk through the proposal with your client. Then it’s time to close the deal.

The beauty of this approach is that you’re not proposing some lofty project in the future, you’re proposing a clear, specific project with exact time frames and dollar amounts. You’re ready to have the client sign on the dotted line and get started.

Why You Need a Proposal and Contract

This approach of delivering a proposal and contract together helps you close the deal while also protecting yourself as a freelancer.

The detailed language of the proposal and contract allow you to put very specific parameters and constraints on the project. Here’s how it helps:

  • It eliminates scope creep because everything is carefully defined.
  • It showcases your professionalism.
  • It ensures you’re not missing anything. Everything the client wants is accounted for—if it’s not there, it’s not part of the project.
  • Using a templated proposal and contract streamlines the process. You’re not writing a completely unique proposal and contract for every project.
  • Ultimately it protects both you and the client. Nearly every potential issue is covered, so there’s no guessing or even fighting about how to handle a situation.

The reality is you don’t need a contract until you need one. And then it’s too late.

Keys to a Good Proposal

The single most important thing to understand about a proposal is that you should be fairly certain you’re going to get the job.

Don’t pop the question until you’re sure of the answer.

This puts the pressure back on the client consultation meeting. You should be asking the appropriate questions and gauging the prospective client—is this someone you can work with? Do they have reasonable expectations? Does their timeline work for you? Will you be within their budget?

If you’re not getting the right answers, don’t write a proposal.

This isn’t about desperately closing a deal with any client out there, it’s about finding the right clients, the ones you want to work with.

Once you understand that, here are some other keys to successful proposals:

  • Proposals are presented in person to decision makers who are ready to buy. Notice the three key phrases:
    • “in person” – You want to make the case for your proposal, put everything in the best light, and respond to questions immediately. You can only do that in person (video chat is second best, on the phone is third—but don’t email it).
    • “to decision makers” – Don’t waste time presenting to the wrong person.
    • “ready to buy” – Don’t pitch unless they’re ready to start now. If they want to start in six months, tell them you can give them a proposal then.
  • Price comes before proposal. You should get a ballpark price in the client consultation meeting that will weed out the wrong clients and set the proper expectations.
  • Proposals don’t sell, you do. There shouldn’t be any sales language in your proposal. The document should be straightforward. You are making the sale.
  • No surprises. There shouldn’t be anything surprising in your proposal. It’s simply laying out what you discussed in the client consultation meeting. So no shocking new prices, no new services that you didn’t mention in the consultation meeting.
  • No specific solutions. The proposal should give a high-level view of what you can do, but it doesn’t offer specific solutions. Don’t say which plugin you’ll use or how you’ll solve specific problems. The scope of work is big picture and goal oriented. It should be worded from the client’s perspective and not include technical jargon.
  • Simple is best. Your proposal should be short and sweet, focused on scope and price. It should take you less than an hour to create your proposal. Nathan’s sample proposal (which you can get in the Freelance Summit) is only four pages—one page lays out the project details, two cover other services/offerings, and the last page is for signing and how to get started.

Keys to a Good Contract

The most important thing to understand about your contract is that it should fit your workflow and policies. A contract shouldn’t be a cookie-cutter legal document that any freelancer can use. Part of it will be, sure, but it should reinforce how you work.

Here are some other keys to a good contract:

  • Work with a lawyer. This should be obvious, but you absolutely must consult a lawyer. It’s fine to work from a template, craft your own contract, and have a lawyer review it (it’s cheaper than paying a lawyer to start from scratch). But do not assume it’s legit just because you found a contract template online that some lawyer reviewed.
  • Always improving. Your contract is never complete. You’ll always be improving your contract and adding new details from experience. That’s OK. The point is to start somewhere and make changes as you need them.
  • The client can read it themselves. While you want to walk a client through your proposal, don’t go through the contract with the client. This is fine print legalese and there are some sections that can be awkward to talk about. Tell a client you’re happy to answer questions, but you shouldn’t need to go over it line by line.
  • As detailed as it needs to be. Nathan’s template contract (which you can get in the Freelance Summit) is 12 pages.

The purpose of a contract is to protect you. So take the appropriate steps to make sure your contract is protecting you. Remember: If you’re lazy or lackadaisical about your contract, you’re only hurting yourself.

For more help on contracts, check out Why You Should Love Contracts and Lawyers. Also, remember that while contracts are important, relationships are what matter.

Close the Deal

A proposal and contract should be an important part of your process. If you find yourself going back and forth with clients, trying to nail down a project and not quite getting there, you need a proposal (you can always propose a consulting arrangement if a client needs help figuring out what they need). It can help clarify when and how to close the deal.

If you want more help with proposals and contracts, as well as a broader view of the entire freelance process, check out the Freelance Summit. Veteran freelancer Nathan Ingram offers 11 hours of video training, including proposal and contract templates. The Freelance Summit videos cover process, profit, and productivity.

Learn More About the Freelance Summit

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How to Make the Most out of your WordCamp Experiences

The WordPress community is absurdly large, which should be expected when you consider WP makes up nearly one-third of the internet. It should come as no surprise, then, that there is a worldwide series of conferences called WordCamps that are designed specifically for your networking and professional (and personal!) development.

WordCamps range from city-wide gatherings to national get-togethers to continental parties. Every Camp is inclusive for all WordPress users, from bloggers to developers to hobbyists and everything in between. Because of this wide scope, attending a WordCamp can overwhelm a person pretty quickly. It’s easy to try to do everything and feel like you’ve accomplished nothing.

If you can’t attend in person, that’s okay, too, because WordPress.tv puts up a ton of Camp videos you can watch at your leisure.

We’ve asked some experienced WordCamp vets for advice on how you can make the most of WordCamps, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll listen.

Nathan B. Weller

Content manager here at Elegant Themes, Nathan is an old pro at traversing WordCamps, and he can help you eke out every bit of WC goodness you’re entitled to.

Orient yourself to the moment and think about things that can only happen in person and prioritize those things. Breakfast, face to face sit downs, lunches, dinners, late night conversations, etc. Follow your curiosity and trust your personal chemistry, and if you meet someone you hit it off with, don’t cut short a good conversation to sit in on a talk you’re not really excited about.

Grab some coffee in the hall, and build a new relationship. When you do attend talks, engage; take notes, ask questions, and pull everything you can out of the presenters. They’ve likely spent a decent amount of time preparing, and I’ve yet to meet one who wasn’t happy to share more. For some of us, “covering” a WordCamp on social media is our job, but if you’re attending for your own growth and networking, focus on that. Be present.”

Matt Cromwell

Another pro at the whole WordCamp thing, Matt Cromwell makes a living at helping people get the most out of WordPress they can as the Head of Support and Community Outreach at WordImpress.

My advice to anyone new to WordCamps is three things:

1. Look at the schedule in advance and first circle only the talks that are REALLY interesting to you. Then circle 2 or 3 talks that just seem really interesting and maybe out of your league a little, but make sure that you have at least 2 or 3 slots where you have NO talks circled at all. Use those times to do what we call “The Hallway Track”. Cruise the venue, walk through the sponsor tables get cool swag, and make sure to talk to as many people as you can. WordCamps are just as much about connection as they are information and learning.

2. Make sure to attend the afterparty, and make sure you talk to as many people as you can. Again, make connections.

3. Ask around about local Meetups and Facebook Groups that people are part of. Because after you do a WordCamp you’ll want to maintain those connections until the next WordCamp. Meetups and Facebook Groups are a great way to do that.

BONUS #4: Have fun! WordCamps are a lot of fun.

Josh Pollock:

Tagline: “I make awesome things with WordPress.” Website: joshpress.com. Conclusion: take Josh’s advice when he tells you about WordCamp.

I love WordCamps, and I’ve gone to five or ten or so a year for awhile now. They are all about the people, meeting new people, and improving existing relationships. I used to be super-awkward about talking to new people. Most people, including me today, are in that same position, so it’s really just about getting a conversation started.

If I don’t know someone, I normally ask them “what do you do with WordPress?” which is a pretty perfect question as they must do something or want to do something with WordPress if they are at a WordCamp.

Chris Lema

When something happens in the WordPress-osphere, Chris Lema knows about it and has something to say about it. He’s the kind of dude you kind of have to listen to if you know what’s good for you.

The thing people forget is that everyone feels new, at a WordCamp. Few people feel like “insiders.” So the trick to engaging is to take initiative. Because the moment you break the ice with, “What do you do?” you discover how great the community is.

The best thing you can do at a WordCamp is walk up to 20 people you don’t know, one at a time, and ask them about their journey. They’ll likely ask about yours. And those conversations will transform the event into a network building dynamic. You’ll recommend some of those people to others, get leads from some, and partner with some. All because you walked across the room and spoke with a stranger.

Nathan Ingram:

Lead organizer of WordCamp Birmingham (Alabama), Nathan has been involved in the planning of multiple Camps in different cities. So he, understandably, had a few pointers for ya.

Meet people and enjoy the community. By the end of 2017, I will have been to 10 WordCamps across the country. No matter where I go the WordPress community is open and friendly. So attend with the idea of intentionally networking and meeting people. Starting a conversation is as simple as saying “hi!” and asking them what they do with WordPress. I promise you’ll find friends – WordPress people are awesome.

Take great notes, but don’t get overwhelmed. You’re going to be hit with a firehose of information at WordCamp, which is awesome! But it’s easy to get so inundated with new ideas that you actually get none of them done. I recommend spending an hour in the days following WordCamp to review the best ideas you heard and pick the top three to implement in the coming weeks. Then, when you get those accomplished, check your notes and pick a few more.

Eric Hoanshelt:

A WordCamp US organizer (among others), Eric has put in his time to learn exactly what makes a fun and worthwhile WordCamp experience. If you can’t listen to him, who can you?

WordCamp is literally for anyone interested in WordPress, from designers, to developer, to bloggers/copywriters, to someone that knows nothing about the software.

My biggest piece of advice is to have a goal around what you want to accomplish at WordCamp. Do you want to network with others in the same field? Maybe to network with others in a field you’re interested in getting in to? Do you want to hone a particular skill?

Often times, I see many wondering around, figuring out their next steps at the WordCamp right then and there, not fully utilizing the sessions and networking opportunities available. Knowing your goal, you can check out speaker sessions ahead of time to see which which sessions can help achieve your goal and/or plan out time for networking when certain blocks of time have no speaker sessions you’re interested in.

Raquel Landefelt:

Raquel is the co-founder of Mode Effect, a WP dev and design company. She works on making WordCamps awesome. I mean, she calls herself an “intentional community builder,” so she gives good advice.

If this is your first WordCamp and you are new to the WordPress community, let me encourage you to dive in. Go to the talks and workshops. Get caught up in the Hallway Track. Don’t be afraid to approach anyone.

And go to the After-Party! This is one of the best places to connect with the community. We’re one of the friendliest communities out there, and there are so many of us eager to get to know more peeps! WP communities actually want more people and we’re full of intentional community builders so let this give you the gentle nudge you need to dive in.

Christina Blust:

Christina is a dev and designer from Tennessee, who makes a point to spend her spare time giving back to, as she puts it, “geeky pursuits on the internet.” That makes organizing multiple WordCamps a no-brainer.

Use Twitter to follow the #WCUS hashtag (author’s note: or the hashtag of the cityCamp you’re at, such as #wpnash or #wpyall), even if you’re not usually a Twitter user. A lot of info gets shared there during WordCamp, and it’s a great resource after the conference too for slides, great quotes and good suggestions. Try to follow the speakers you see and the sponsors you click with, and going forward you’ll continue to get to learn from the active, enthusiastic WordPress community.

At the same time, don’t spend the whole WordCamp with your head in your phone or only talking to the people you came with. I’ve attended several WordCamps with my sister & business partner Jessica, but we always try to split up to maximize our learning & mingling opportunities. So chat with the people sitting next to you and try to be open to the hallway conversations and social opportunities! WordCamps are great for introverts like me because the vast majority of attendees are kind, creative and open-minded. Whatever your experience or knowledge level, you’re welcome there.

B.J. Keeton

Hey! That’s little old me! While I am definitely not in the seasoned veteran category, I do love me some WordCamps, and I want you to love them, too.

Say hi to strangers. Just walk up and introduce yourself. One of my favorite openers is “your shoes are awesome.” It works wonders, and if you don’t like shoes as much as I do, then you’re welcome to replace that with another garment the person is wearing.

Make sure you each lunch with others. You can just sit down and say hello. You’ll have a great conversation, and you may make a new friend. Some of the best experiences I’ve had at conferences come from lunchtime conversations.

Send emails after you get home. Take out all the cards you collected and send out quick emails (personalized, obviously) to everyone you met. Such a small step makes a big difference to potential business contacts and friends.

I’ll reiterate what was said above: you should go to the after party–they’re awesome.

Happy Camping!

Whether you’re a developer or blogger or use WordPress for file storage (please don’t do that–there are way better options), WordCamps have something for you.

If you listen to even a little of the advice given above, I can pretty much guarantee that your Camping experience will be better, brighter, and more enriching.

And if you don’t, then you’ll still have a great time because a WordCamps are fantastic.

What advice do you have for making the most out of WordCamps?

Join Us at WordCamp US This Year in Nashville (December 1-3)

If you’d like to put these tips into practice with a huge portion of the Divi Nation and six or so members of the Elegant Themes staff, join us this year in December at WordCamp US.

As has become tradition, we plan to kick things off with an early morning coffee and pastry meet and greet. We’ll be doing a live stream, handing out free t-shirts, and mixing it up with everyone who shows up. This is a great way to meet a few friendly faces right at the beginning of the conference and it even helps us plan follow up events around the WordCamp like dinners, drinks, and hangouts at Airbnb’s for those interested.

Use the button below to join our page and then be sure to RSVP to the WordCamp US Coffee and Pastry Meet and Greet.

Go to Divi Nation Meetup Page

Article Thumbnail by Faber 14 / shutterstock.com

The post How to Make the Most out of your WordCamp Experiences appeared first on Elegant Themes Blog.

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Client Consultation: How to Move From Contact to Contract

One of the challenges for freelancers is closing the deal and securing work. It’s a crucial step, but how you do it can also set the tone for the rest of your project. If you’re dealing with unresponsive clients, out of control demands, or off-the-rails projects, you might need to go back and reconsider your initial client consultation.

client consultation

A client consultation is an initial meeting with a client to figure out what they need and to sell your services. At the end of the meeting, you should know if this client is a good fit, exactly what they need, a rough price point and whether or not you’re going to put together a proposal.

Not every freelancer has a specific, organized consultation with a client. Everybody has their own process. But it can be a way to streamline your sales process and waste less time with prospective clients that never pan out.

In this post, we’re going to explore what a client consultation meeting looks like, why you should do them, and how to conduct them.

What Is Your Current Process For Landing Clients & Securing Projects?

Before exploring the ins and outs of a client consultation meeting, it might help to consider your current process first. How exactly do you land a client and secure a project?

Some freelancers don’t have a formal process. They make first contact with a client, maybe from a website form or a referral. They trade emails, answering some questions and asking others. A back and forth dance ensues, and it may stretch out over weeks or even months. Eventually, they get enough clarity about what the client needs to make a proposal and the project moves forward.

That may be the best case scenario. A lot of times those conversations peter out and nothing comes of it. That’s one way to land a project. It can work, but it’s not very efficient. Not having a process wastes time with prospective clients who may never pay you a dime. It’s also prone to missing important details or forgetting to ask questions that can cause problems down the road.

We talked about the importance of creating critical freelance systems, and that starts with how you secure clients and land projects. If you formalize and streamline that process, right from the beginning, you can be more efficient, more productive, and more profitable.

First Client Contact

You should have a formal process for what to do when you connect with a new prospective client. You need to figure out what they need, how serious they are and if you want to work with them. A good process will help you weed out bad clients and avoid nightmare projects.

A helpful part of this first contact is to mention a dollar amount: “Our minimum price for a website is $X.” You’ll find out quickly how serious they are. You’ll also scare away bargain hunters.

Mentioning a minimum project cost is an initial client screening. You might have a script of a few preliminary questions to ask. Maybe you put together a short online form you ask prospective clients to fill out.

The end goal of this first contact is to schedule a client consultation meeting. If this sounds like a project you’re interested in, with a client that seems reasonable, and the budget is workable, then you need to sit down together and have a serious conversation.

What Is a Client Consultation Meeting?

A client consultation meeting is a focused meeting to move a prospective client from first contact to a proposal and, hopefully, a signed contract.

  • Get the details: It’s a limited, streamlined meeting that should tell you everything you need to know about starting a project with a client.
  • Work toward a proposal: It’s a chance to gather all the important details to make a proposal.
  • Know the client: It’s an opportunity to get to know the client and find out if they’re someone you want to do business with.

Let’s talk about what the consultation is not:

  • It’s not a sales pitch. OK, yes, you’re trying to sell your services. But more than that, this is a first date. You’re testing the waters of a relationship to see if this is something to pursue. Spend more time evaluating the client and less time pitching yourself.
  • It’s not to refine the client’s business plan. If the client doesn’t know what they need or what they’re doing, that’s a red flag. They don’t need a developer to build a website, they need a consultant to refine strategy. You can still do that work, but propose a discovery phase and not a website (or refer them to someone else).
  • It’s not to explain how. This meeting is to discover the client’s goals. Talk about what those are, don’t talk about how to meet them. How to meet those goals is what you get paid for.

Why Have a Client Consultation Meeting?

OK, so why is this meeting so important? A number of reasons:

  • It formalizes your process. If you want to be more efficient, more productive, and more profitable, you must have a specific freelance system. This is how you efficiently move clients from first contact to signed contract.
  • It lays the groundwork for a good project. A client consultation meeting is where you can set all the expectations for how the project is going to go. You’re setting up guidelines for the project that will keep the client on track (see more on the Terrible Client Protection Plan).
  • It can save you from trouble. Keeping the client on track can save you from costly detours, but some clients just can’t help themselves. A client consultation meeting will help you spot those red flags and avoid monster clients.
  • It can save you time. Ever spent hours agonizing over a proposal only to discover your price wasn’t even in the client’s ballpark? A client consultation puts a budget on the table. Ever spent hours in meetings with a client but never landed a project? A client consultation can help you push those vague meetings into a discovery phase where you get paid.
  • It gives you a script. If you’re nervous about meetings or worry about forgetting something, a client consultation meeting gives you a script. You don’t have to think about what to ask next, because it’s all spelled out.
  • It makes it easier to sell ongoing maintenance. While this meeting is primarily about vetting clients, it’s a chance to talk about the need for ongoing maintenance. It’s better to sell ongoing maintenance before a project than to spring it on a client afterward.
  • It shows your professionalism. All of this illustrates that you’re a serious, organized, professional developer. That should put clients at ease and make them more willing to sign a contract and get started.

How to Do a Client Consultation Meeting

So how do actually conduct a successful client consultation meeting? Nathan Ingram shared how he does client consultations during our recent Freelance Summit. Nathan uses the “SCOPE” acronym to define what needs to happen during the consultation meeting:

  • Scope: Learn enough about the project to create a proposal. This is where you ask questions—lots of questions—and it should take up the bulk of the meeting. (See more on 65 questions to ask during your next freelance client meeting.)
  • Chemistry: Determine if this is a client you can work with. This will happen throughout the meeting as you watch for red flags.
  • Ongoing: Explain the importance of your ongoing services. Take the opportunity to stress that a website needs ongoing maintenance and the client should plan for it now, either by hiring you to do it or being prepared to do it themselves.
  • Process: Set expectations by walking through your process. Let the client know what the next steps are and how you work.
  • Estimate: Provide a ballpark estimate and get client buy-in. You need to have a rough budget. If a client isn’t willing to talk about the budget, that’s a red flag.

You should be able to walk through these steps, including all the questions, in about an hour. That should give you enough information to understand what the project entails and create a proposal.

Remember that this is your meeting. You run it. Take charge and run through your agenda to make sure you’ve covered everything you need to. Don’t let the meeting drag on or get sidetracked. If a client is all over the place and doesn’t know what they want, then it might be more appropriate to propose a discovery phase where they pay you by the hour to sort out strategy as opposed to bumbling forward with a rudderless website project.

You want to minimize time spent with a client when you’re not getting paid. Yes, answer their questions, explain how your process works. But don’t get sucked into giving free consulting advice.

More Freelance Training

If you want more help for conducting client consultation meetings, check out the Freelance Summit. Veteran freelancer Nathan Ingram offers 11 hours of video training, including more detail on client consultations. The Freelance Summit videos cover process, profit, and productivity, and include sample files and templates.

Once you’ve finished a client consultation meeting you should know whether or not you want to do business. You’ll know the scope of the project, you’ll know if it’s in your wheelhouse and if you’re in the client’s budget. You’ll have a measure of who they are and if you’re willing to work with them.

If all is well, the next step is to put together a proposal. This is where you put everything in writing and get your client to sign a contract. For help with proposals and contracts, check out the Freelance Summit.

Learn more about the Freelance Summit

The post Client Consultation: How to Move From Contact to Contract appeared first on iThemes.

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