Security in Mediocrity as a WordPress Theme Builder

Finding security in mediocrity is an exhausting process. You can only work so many hours, fret only so much. Being a slightly better typist or a slightly faster coder is insufficient. You’re always looking over your shoulder, always trying to be a little less mediocre than the guy next to you. It wears you out. – Linchpin

Recently someone emailed me and asked me this question:

“I want to run a 6-figure WordPress theme building business. How do I do that?”

There are only two ways I can think of, and one isn’t being a theme builder primarily.

Scale it

The first way to turn this into a viable big business is scale. Get faster at your process of theme building, maybe use Genesis or some other theme framework to make it faster.

Get some other people under you and get them to do it for less than you charge.

The problem here is that being just a theme builder puts you in a race with mediocrity. Pretty much anyone can build a WordPress theme. What you’re offering as a theme builder is almost the same as that other PSD slice and dice shop.

You’re likely in a race to the bottom on your pricing. The consumer doesn’t care; they just want the job done right for as little money as possible.

Niche it

The much better path.

Stake out a niche and understand the problems that the customers have in that niche. When you’re looking at their theme, have more ideas about how they can make the site better and thus, earn more money or attract more clients.

Maybe be like my friend Jason, and focus on conversion and drip services. Yes, he builds themes, but he does so much more than that. People aren’t paying him for his theme building really; they’re paying for all the other things that he brings to the table.

He’s a key to their overall business strategy, not some hammer that hits the nail of their theme.

So, which will it be? A race to the bottom or a niche partner that brings so much value to the table?

I’d always go for a niche partner. You’ll be able to charge better. You’ll have clients coming to you because of your reputation as a great niche partner. You’ll be able to do more focused work.

Have an awesome day!


PS: If you’re struggling with your niche, I wrote a book about that you should look at.

Photo by: sagesolar

What Makes You Ready for a 5-Figure Freelance Client?

If he waits for a job to be good enough to deserve his best shot, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever have that job – Linchpin

This is Seth Godin talking about a grocery store clerk he calls Steve. Steve shows up and does the job, but phones it in.

If Steve is waiting for a job that’s worth his effort, it won’t come along he’ll keep teaching himself that all he has to do is show up.

Lots of times I’ll hear from freelancers that they’re waiting to give their best service to their first client over 10k. But they’re fooling themselves just like Steve.

They’re teaching themselves that it’s okay to be late all the time with work. To do a half-assed job. Because the client is only paying ….whatever.

You’re not ready for your first 4-figure client until you’re knocking it out of the park with a $500 client.

You’re not ready for your first 5-figure client until you’re delivering mind-blowing service to a 4-figure client.

If you can’t produce good work at those two level first, don’t expect to get a higher paying client. You haven’t earned the right to serve someone at higher prices.

You’re not providing enough value to deserve it.

There is nothing that says just because you’ve been building sites for people for five years, that you deserve a 5-figure project. There is no ‘time in chair’ that qualifies you.

You either provide the value, or you don’t.

If you want to know if you’re providing that value, ask yourself, what would your client be looking for if they were looking for someone that was much better than you.

If you can’t come up with something, then just maybe you are ready. Maybe you are providing enough value.

But maybe you’re not inventive enough, and you’re not ready.

Ask yourself that question and then put together a plan to become that person that’s much better than you currently are.

Have an awesome day!


PS: If you’re looking to set better goals and build that awesome business, check out my 8 Week Business BootCamp to get you on the right track.

photo credit: wwarby cc

Client’s Grow Too

Talent Magnets encourage people to grow and leave. They write letters of recommendation and they help people find their next stage to perform on. And when people leave their group, they celebrate their departures and shout their success to everyone. – Multipliers

The client you have today will not be your client forever.

We always think of us outgrowing a client. We start charging more or we specialize more. Either way, we no longer serve the client.

Sometimes clients outgrow us though.

They need 24/7 support and we can’t handle it.

They need a bunch of JavaScript work, and we really don’t know it.

Whatever may happen, the thing to do is to see them off with fanfare.

You helped them grow to this point. You have a hand in the success.

Send them on to someone you trust that can help them and celebrate their growth.

Sure you loose some revenue, but that’s minor in the realm of the referrals you have.

Others will ask this company that grew where they started, and that was with you.

Have an awesome day


photo credit: mooglet cc

Are you hiding from the TRUTH of your business?

Denial is a wonderful thing; it lets you ignore reality until reality punches you in the face. – Profit First

We all have something we’re ignoring. Maybe it is the fact that your business isn’t profitable.

Maybe it’s the truth that you are bad at customer service.

Maybe the truth you hide from is that you haven’t successfully launched a client project in 12 months. You’ve started but not finished any of them well.

Whatever it is, the only remedy is to stop hiding.

Face the reality and start to fix it.

Hit reply and tell me what the reality you’ve been hiding from is and how you’re going to face up to it.

Have an awesome day


PS: If you need help facing reality with your dreams, book a FREE strategy session and let’s get your business on track.

photo credit: bobsfever cc

How About a 10% Raise

John tells us to raise our rates 10% which I endorse.

Other firms like Stuff and Nonsense used to have double your rate Friday. They won just as much work on Friday as any other day and they had doubled the rates.

You probably undervalue yourself. You’re a wizard and you better not forget it.

Have an awesome day


PS: If you need help understanding your value and asking for it set up a FREE coaching call

photo credit: kwl cc

Stop purchasing crap

In a sense, marketers know us better than we know ourselves. They feed on our insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. Society hijacks our passion and directs it toward material things. But nobody gets to the end of life wishing they had bought more things. – The More of Less

I’ve actually seen the quest for stuff ruin fledgeling businesses.

I had one client that landed their first few clients and went out to purchase the best MacBook Pro they could possibly purchase.

They went on vacation.

They bought a new car.

Then they got a job and spent a few months finishing off the client work they had committed to.

They killed their business buying things.

If they had waited a few months to purchase that computer or never replaced their car that worked just fine but wasn’t shiny the business would have survived.

Don’t let just a bit of success run away with your brain. It’s a long hard road to launch a business.

If you want to budget better, I recommend Profit First it’s the system I use.

Have an awesome day!


PS: If you need help stabilizing your family and business finances, let’s talk. I have helped lots of people get on the right track.

photo credit: clement127 cc

No Wonder Your Rates are Low!!

Yesterday I wrote about a micromanaging client and how to deal with them. On a related note today we’re going to talk about a client micromanaging project details.

You get yourself into this when you simply take whatever they provided you and send over a quote. That’s like a doctor moving from listening to their patient talk about what’s wrong to providing a prescription.

They did no diagnosis.

The most valuable thing you provide is a diagnosis.

So when you get a list of requirements from a prospect it’s time to start digging in.

Ask them why they want to do the work now. Why is it important? Why is it more important than something else they could be doing.

With this new information in hand, you can hit the results they want, and do it the best way you know.

Remember, you build sites or write content or design every day. You’re the one that’s best equipped to provide an awesome solution.

If you’re just taking their list of tasks and doing them, no wonder your rates are low.

You’re really not that valuable.

Have an awesome day


PS: Get a daily dose of a business kick in the ass right in your inbox

photo credit: paranoidfs cc

Hours are stupid and clients don’t care about them

Measuring time is literally the easiest way to assess someone’s dedication and productivity, but it’s also very unreliable. – Rest

Your clients don’t care if you put in 8 hours. They want value out of you. They want the value you provide.

Selling them hours is a lame way of making pricing easier. It saves you from the hard work of talking to your prospect to figure out the value to them in the work.

But hey, most people do it so it must be good…right?

Nope, it’s terrible, and who wants to be average anyway?

Have an awesome day


PS: This is a sample from my email list. If you want a dose of how to run a business better 5 days a week subscribe. Like some say, it’s a weekday dose of an ass kicking so you can do what you know you should be in your business.

photo credit: fallentomato cc

If you’re scared of charging more, you need to see these 3 questions

The piece of advice I give to my coaching clients most often, and the one that remains unheeded, is that they need to charge more. Far too many of you are charging well below what you’re worth because you believe the wrong facts about your business and your own value.

See, it’s easy to think that if we raise our rates our clients will laugh right in our faces. They’ll tell us we’re simply not worth it and then they’ll tell everyone around us that we aren’t worth it so we’ll end up on the street.

We forget that we’re wizards.

To combat these false beliefs we need to fact check our story and find out what’s true.

The key to fact-checking a thought or story is to have a realistic assessment of the situation while actively searching for fueling facts. Fueling facts are true parts of our reality that give us hope and a sense of empowerment in the face of a challenge. – Broadcasting Happiness

Let’s apply the fact-checking exercise from Broadcasting Happiness to see what happens when we charge more:

Step 1: Isolate the stressful thought

The stressful thought for most of you is what I’ve already stated. Your higher rates will mean that no one wants to work with you and your business will collapse.

You figure that you’re simply not worth the higher rates.

Step 2: List the facts you know

Now what are the facts that support your feelings? I said facts, not feelings, here.

Ask yourself: “Do I know anyone who raised their rates and then couldn’t get work anymore?”

Write down the facts that support those feelings.

Step 3: List facts that support the other side of the story

Now it’s time to list the facts that support the other side. Ask yourself: “Who do I know who raised their rates and did better?”

I can tell you that every single one of the people I’ve coached to raise their rates made more money with less time and had better clients.

Now that you have a realistic picture of what raising your rates means, maybe it’s time to raise those rates.

If you need help positioning your business for those higher rates, I’d love to talk.

photo credit: zstasiuk cc

The 5 Big Mistakes I See When I Critique Proposals

Working with my coaching clients I regularly get asked to look at proposals before they’re sent out. Of the many proposals I’ve critiqued, here are the top five mistakes I see people make.

1. Rushing it.

The first mistake — and in many ways the root of all other mistakes — is that most freelancers rush their proposals. They get an email from a prospect and want to submit a proposal within hours. They haven’t talked to the prospect yet, or had any real chance to think about the project and generate questions they need answered.

This means that many proposals I read are sloppy. They’re written in vague ‘wiggle wording’ that could be interpreted 90 different ways, and always leave the freelancer a way out to be right about what they said they’d deliver. This means that the prospect can have almost zero confidence in the proposal and will be much less likely to accept it.

Combat this by having a defined workflow for proposals. I don’t get on the phone with a client about their project until I’ve had my initial questions answered. I don’t produce a proposal without at least one call about the project. I regularly tell prospects that it takes at least two weeks to get a proposal from me.

Sticking to this slow timeline and requiring contact from the prospect means I have time to think about the potential project and ask good questions so there are few surprises in the middle of the work.

2. Not knowing budgets.

Far too many people are afraid to talk about money. Money is part of business and you need to know the budget your prospect is working with to see if it’s even worthwhile. I ask prospects their budget in my initial prospect email and if they can’t give me some sort of answer I don’t get on the phone with them about the project.

Many prospects say they have no idea what the work should cost, but they almost always can tell you what’s too expensive. You may even start with a range and say something like, “Is $3,000 too much? What about $5,000, or $10,000?”. At some point they’re going to balk at the numbers you throw out, which is where the work is no longer worth it. When they balk you know they don’t see any value in the project if it’s over that dollar figure.

Knowing the budget means you can write a proposal that matches it.

3. Not knowing WHY the project is a good idea.

Your job as a professional is not to simply do what you’re told. At least it’s not if you want to be a well-paid professional. Those well-paid professionals are always going to question why a project is worth doing.

It’s far too common for prospects to have some great idea they should never spend money on. Last year I worked with a client who wanted some custom plugin features because it would make life a bit easier. From a value perspective she’d be saving maybe 10 minutes a week, which does add up to a bit of time over the year.

The problem came when I realized they had already thrown away a few thousand dollars on the feature with someone else and were looking at a few thousand more with me to get it landed in its initial form. Getting the feature built perfectly — in order save 10 minutes a week — would have been way too expensive. It would have taken a decade for them to save enough time to justify the cost of building it.

Once we did that math we realized the feature had no real business value at all. They could pay their assistant to do the work and not have to be frustrated and not have to pay many thousands of dollars.

If you don’t know why the project is a good idea for your prospect’s business, then you’re not ready to write a proposal for them.

4. Not offering options.

Your proposals should always have at least two options, but three is better. The first option should be the basics of what the prospect wants and should be inside their budget. If it doesn’t hit those criteria, then you’re doing the prospect a disservice and fooling yourself into an option. Clearly they’d never choose it if it doesn’t meet the criteria for project success.

Your second and third options should add on some of the dreams the prospect has. If you spend time talking with the prospect properly you’re going to hear “and if it did this…” That’s a prime candidate for one of your higher-priced options.

By offering options you’re changing the decision from one of deciding whether to work with you at all to deciding which option they like best.

5. Making it hard to accept and get paid.

Is your proposal a PDF? You’re doing it wrong! Stop sending PDFs and start using some system like 17Hats or Nusii. All of these services allow the client to get an email with the proposal, take a look at it and accept it right away.

Some of them (17Hats for sure) allow clients to accept the contract and pay online with a few simple clicks. This means I send over my proposal and don’t have to interact with it again unless the client has questions. It means I can send over a proposal at the end of the day on Friday and have money in my bank account over the weekend with a project ready to add to my calendar.

If your prospect has to email you for the contract, and then figure out how to send you payment, you’re increasing the friction and decreasing the number of sales you’re going to make.

I know you want to win work, but if you’re making any of these mistakes you’re limiting that win rate. Make sure you take the time needed to ask the proper questions of prospects. Make sure you offer them options and you make it easy for them to accept your proposal and pay you.

If you can start doing those things, you’re going to start winning more work.

photo credit: atin800 cc