Mastermind groups are awesome

December 2015 update: I wrote a book on freelancing/consulting with my mastermind group. Learn more about that here.

Freelancing Consulting can get lonely

As a freelancer (don’t use that word!), more than likely you work alone a lot of the time. Whether that’s in a home office, from a coffee shop, or a shared office space, you’re the only one working on your business. Now, working alone can be great, of course; it means you’re the sole decision-maker, you have complete autonomy over how you run your business, you get to decide how to deal with difficult client situations, etc.

The problem is, sometimes outside input can be immensely valuable! Other people often have valuable perspectives to offer, based on their experience and their lack of emotional investment in a situation.

Having a business partner (which I do) helps with that, but even so, it can still be great to get input from another trusted source. That’s why I think being part of a mastermind group is one of the most valuable changes you can make in your business.

A little over four months ago, Michael and I joined a mastermind group with Nick, Jane, Philip, Zack, Kai, Kurt, Jeremy, and Jonathan. Joining this group has been the single most valuable change we’ve made to our business in… ever. That may sound extreme or flippant, but I believe it’s true. We continually push each other to be better at what we do, help each other communicate better with clients, deliver (and charge for!) more value, and encourage each other.

Convinced, but don’t know what to do next? Read on.

Talk to people

The only reason I’m in this mastermind group is because Nick somehow knew of me, and knew we were working on a productized consulting service (inspired by his, as a matter of fact). I think perhaps Philip also knew of me, and they colluded on starting the group, but I can’t remember the details. However, I do know that it only happened because I’d interacted with them on Twitter at various times. If not for that, none of this would have happened.

If you know a few people local to you who is also independent and at roughly the same point in their journey, great! Start talking to them and suggest you formalize things somewhat and form a mastermind group.

Don’t know anyone local? No problem. Hop on Twitter, make some connections, and ask a few folks once you’ve built a relationship with them. Don’t know anyone there? Follow me on Twitter, see who I follow, see who follows me, etc.

Once you do get a group going, if you’re not sure what to talk about (especially if you’re all fairly new), I’d suggest reading a book or two together to give you some structure. Brennan Dunn’s Double Your Freelancing Rate and Alan Weiss’ Value Based Fees are both great choices. That will give you something to talk about, and help you improve your consulting acumen and pricing fairly quickly.

Need help?

If you have any questions about starting a mastermind group, what to talk about, etc., leave a comment or shoot me an email, and I’ll help however I can.

Don’t call yourself a freelancer

December 2015 update: I wrote a book on freelancing/consulting with my mastermind group. Learn more about that here.

The other day, I tweeted some advice to freelancers, including “don’t call yourself a freelancer.” I got a few responses asking why, so here’s an explanation.

In your clients’ minds, freelancers are inherently less valuable than [professional whatever you are]. Their neighbor’s unemployed college dropout kid who has a nice camera calls himself a freelancer. Their stoner second cousin who makes a pittance on Fiverr calls herself a freelancer. Is that who you want to be associated with?

Besides being asked why, I also got replies asking if not freelancer, then what? If you’re a writer, call yourself a writer. If you’re a designer, then say so. If there’s not a succinct term that encompasses what you do, then use “consultant” as your title.

Call yourself a professional, conduct yourself like a professional, deliver professional results, and set professional prices. You’ll enjoy your work a lot more, and earn more in the process.

3 systems you can set up to grow your business in 2014

December 2015 update: I wrote a book on freelancing/consulting with my mastermind group. Learn more about that here.

In my last post, I talked about the relative value of setting up systems versus setting goals. Basically, the argument is that if you set goals but don’t set up systems, you might not get anywhere. However, if you set up systems, but don’t have a concrete goal in mind, you can still make forward progress. (The idea behind this and the motivation for that post comes from James Clear, who goes into more detail on the concept)

With that in mind, I want to share some ideas for systems you could set up for yourself and your business, based on what I’m doing in 2014. This assume you’re some kind of freelancer/consultant doing design/development/marketing type work, but these same ideas could easily be applied to other types of businesses and people in other situations. Need help applying them to your situation? Email me and just ask – I read and reply to every email I get from readers.

On to the systems!

Set up a system for regular writing

It’s no secret that writing regularly can have a huge impact on your business. What might not be obvious is all the different ways it can benefit you.

1. More traffic to your site
Google loves fresh content, and the more fresh content you post, the more search traffic you’ll get to your site. This is definitely a long-term benefit; don’t expect stunning results overnight. However, if you stick with it, the results can be very impressive (and impactful).

2. Build an audience
What should you do with all that traffic you get? Build an audience, of course. Don’t just give people to read and no way to stay connected to you: ask them to sign up for your email list (while offering them something of value, of course), then **help them** by sending them useful information often. Later on (or now, if you’re ready), when you have something to sell, you’ll have a (hopefully large) group of people who care about what you have to say and trust you, and who will thus be hot leads for whatever you’re selling.

3. Become a better communicator (and look more professional)
Have you ever received an email from someone that was poorly written? Was your first reaction that this person must be a well organized person who has great attention to detail and who would be wonderful to work with? Probably not. Fair or not, you’re judged by your writing when it comes to the web and email. Better writers are able to communicate faster, more clearly, and come across as much more professional (and thus valuable). Want to get better? Just start writing. I hunted ducks a lot growing up, and we always joked that with a new shotgun you had to “get all the misses out” – it was our silly excuse for missing an easy shot. However, in writing, there’s an element of truth there – you won’t get the bad writing out of the way until you get it out on the page. The only way to improve is to practice.

Set up a system to ask for referrals

This is something I’ve done a terrible job of in the past, but no more. Our business is almost entirely built on referrals, and yet we’ve done nothing to maximize that stream of leads. Starting this year, we’ll be contacting a past client every week (until we’ve exhausted our past client list) to ask for a referral (and something else; see #3). We also recently added to our processes a calendar event that reminds us to follow up a few weeks after a project conclusion to make sure the client is happy with everything and to ask for referrals (after we make sure they’re happy!).

Please don’t be like us and wait until you haven’t talked to a client in months to ask for a referral. Instead, check in with them a few weeks after a project’s completion, make sure they’re happy with the results, and ask for the referral. The added benefit here is that sometimes, you’ll find out they were happy with your work, and have been thinking about asking you to do some more stuff they don’t have time for, and your call was just the nudge they needed to hire you again.

Set up a system to build up a new stream of revenue

Maybe you’re trucking along just fine with your current business model and are happy with your income level. If so, that’s great! But maybe you’re like us, and you want to both grow your revenue, and have more predictable & stable monthly revenue numbers as well. We’ve found that one-off web projects, while something we’re great at, can be frustrating. We pride ourselves on building great relationships with our clients, but then we just get the final check and call it a day. What a waste! To put a stop to this, we’ve started selling productized consulting services. Basically, a client pays us a fixed monthly fee (but it’s not a retainer – this isn’t buying a package of hours), and we help them grow their business via their website.

To jumpstart this revenue stream, in 2014, when we contact past clients to ask for a referral, we’ll also talk to them about this service and see if it would be a good fit for their business. It won’t be for all of them, but at the very least they’ll learn about it, and possibly be able to refer someone else to us who might be interested in it. Also, when we talk to new prospects, we now talk about this service from the very beginning, with an eye toward either starting them off with it before doing a full website project, or moving them to this service at the conclusion of a full web project.

Can you use any of these ideas for systems in 2014? If you don’t think you can, email me; I’d love to help you figure out a system you can use to grow your business and improve your life this year.

Can I ask you a favor? If you know someone who might benefit from this (and other content like this), could you share this with them? I’d love to help more people grow their businesses and improve their lives in 2014. Thanks!

The one percent rule (how to improve your business)

One percent at a time

Yesterday morning I saw Tyler Young’s post Marketing Your Small Business in 2 Hours a Day. It’s a great post, and you should go read it. Towards the beginning, he introduces an idea that has really stuck with me as a simple, yet powerful, framework for improving your business. That idea is Alan Weiss’ “One Percent Solution”. Simply put, if you improve your business by one percent each day, in 70 days you will have improved it by 100%. Granted, you could start picking that concept apart and arguing that it’s not possible/sustainable, but that would be missing the point entirely. The whole idea is to shift your thinking from “I need to make my business way better”, which for many people induces panic and fear, to “I just need to do one thing better today”, which is completely and totally achievable, each and every day.

Not sure where to start? Read on.

Charge more

This is true: you probably don’t charge enough money. Some of you reading this might charge enough, but chances are you don’t. To rectify that, go buy my friend Brennan’s Double Your Freelancing Rate and read it. It’s $49 and worth every penny, and if you use the promo code “TNORTH” you’ll get 20% off. I don’t get any affiliate commission on that, by the way – I just asked Brennan for a promo code to share with you. This book is great if you’re still charging a fairly low hourly rate for design, development, copywriting, consulting, etc. I’d classify anything under $50 per hour as “go buy this book and implement its advice tomorrow” low, but of course as with everything, it depends on the circumstances. However, do not use that as an excuse to convince yourself that your situation is a special case and you can’t justify charging more for the value you provide! Even if you’re charging more than that now, you can still probably benefit from the book. My partner Michael and I raised our rates from $75 per hour to $100-150 per hour (depending on the client and type of work) after implementing Brennan’s advice.

Charge for your value, not for your time

I just said we raised our rates to $100-150 per hour, right? Well, the truth is, we only charge by the hour for small, one off tasks. For our typical projects, we (try to) charge for the value we provide, not for the time we work. Why? The better we get at what we do, the faster we do it (for most things). If we charged an hourly rate, we’d be penalizing ourselves for getting faster! Sure, we’d have more time to churn through more projects, but we’d still be artificially limiting ourselves – there are only so many hours in a day. Instead, we try to charge our clients based on the value we provide to them. We’d rather work on fewer high-value (and high-dollar) projects and do work that is more interesting and more fulfilling than churn out a river of projects as fast as we can. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with that model, it’s just not what we want to do. Of course, this means that we’re not interested in taking on every project. Some prospects just don’t emotionally or institutionally value what we do enough to pay what we would charge them.

Even though the title of Brennan’s book suggests it’s only for time-based pricing models, the content is actually extremely relevant if you want to learn how to charge for the value you provide. I’d also recommend Breaking the Time Barrier, by Mike McDerment (CEO of Freshbooks). It’s a very quick read, and free/name your own price to boot! One more book to check out is Value-Based Fees, by Alan Weiss. I can’t give that one my full endorsement yet, as I haven’t read the whole thing. However, at the very least there is some good advice in it.

Blog Write more

Nathan Barry is a far greater authority on this topic than I am, so I’ll let his post extoll the benefits of writing more:

Looking at my business revenue from the last 365 days, I decided to filter it down to just revenue I could trace back in some way to my writing habit (which is almost all of it): $249,602 (before expenses). That’s insane.

Most of that is from book sales, and the rest is from two small contract writing projects I did. Divide that number by 365,000 words and you get $0.68 per word written or $683 per day. That’s an incredible return on investment.

In 2012, Nathan started a habit of writing a thousand words for every day. Some days he wrote nothing, and other days he wrote more than a thousand words to make up for the nothing days. Sometimes he didn’t write, but made videos or recorded audio, which he counted at roughly one hour of work = one thousand words. The point is, he established a solid habit of creating nearly every single day. Sometimes it was blog posts, other times writing for various books he sold, etc. I’m obviously nowhere near that level (yet!), but I’m working on it. Michael and I are doing a challenge for the month of November to write 500 words every weekday, whether that’s on our personal sites, our business blog, or email newsletters and courses for our business. That doesn’t sound like much, but even a little bit adds up over time; by the end of the month we’ll have written over 20,000 words combined, and that’s just in one month.

Set up lifecycle/sales funnel emails

I mentioned above that we’re working on some email courses for our business. Well, I think you should be doing that too. The idea here is that when potential clients arrive on your site, you should offer them something of value right away. What if they’re not quite ready to contact you? Maybe they’re just thinking about redesigning their site, but don’t want to deal with a high-pressure sales process. Why not offer them some helpful information, in exchange for their email address? On our site, we offer “5 things you need to know before starting on a new website”. 5 Things to Know optin They enter their email address, and we send it off to them, and can then follow up after a few days to see what questions they have. This is a pretty basic example, since we only have one automated email that goes out. We also have another course focused on improvements they can make to their website right now. That one is five emails sent out over eleven days, with a follow up after a couple of weeks to see how implementation is going. That follow up is the perfect time to start making a sale, because if it’s been two weeks and they haven’t implemented any of the small suggestions we’ve made, chances are they won’t ever get around to it, and they know that. At that point, we can talk more about doing this (and more complex stuff, too) for them.

Resources for setting this up:

Teach

I wrote a post last week about the power of teaching as a way to win more (and better) business. Besides just writing more blog posts and email courses, you could also do in-person training/teaching. This isn’t something I’ve done yet, although it is something we’re planning on doing in the near future. However, Tyler Young has an excellent post on his experience with this on the Plancsope blog. I highly recommend reading that.

What are you going to do?

I’ve presented five different things you can do to improve your business, and of course there are countless others. However, the best way to start is to choose just one thing and make it your priority for tomorrow. What one thing are you going to improve in your business? Post a comment and share, and feel free to ask questions if you have any. I’d love to help you get 1% better.

Carrie Dils: Capturing Clients – How Building Good Relationships can Build Your Business

Carrie Dils delivered an excellent talk at WordCamp Austin on the why and how of building great relationships with clients. The slides are posted online so you can follow along. If you have any questions about my notes, feel free to post in the comments or find me on twitter.

Capturing Clients

How building good relationships will build your business

Not talking about: literally capturing clients (illegal) micro details (invoicing, etc.) We ARE talking about: God habits for maintaining great relationships with your clients The Goal: Pass on a useful nugget: leave today with a Monday morning action to take Agenda: 1. Finding clients 2. Setting the stage 3. Creating a love fest 4. Recovering from a bad situation (just in case!) Carrie Dils

Finding Clients:

We want the right kind

Know your ideal client

  • For Carrie, this is a small business owner – she likes working with the person signing the check
  • For others, this might be subcontracting with an agency
  • Know what’s valuable to your ideal client
  • What makes them tick? What do they really want from you?
  • Know where your ideal client hangs out
  • You want to meet them!
  • Is it at a chamber of commerce meeting? A linkedin group? Facebook?
  • Be visible in the space where they’re hanging out

Be visible

  • Participate where your ideal client is hanging out
  • Make yourself available – be welcoming with your body language, with how you talk to people online, how you present yourself in general, etc.
  • Have a network – Book called Love is the Killer App (how to win business and influence friends). Her value to her client is not just her knowledge, but also her network – she can connect them to other people

Have confidence!

  • Know the value you provide
  • Put a value on your time
  • Position yourself as someone of service

Offer value

  • Share information
  • Answer questions – you know some stuff that other people don’t know
  • Connect people – share your network

Setting the stage:

Communication

  • Invite it
  • Insist on a response
  • Acknowledge – at Starbucks they acknowledge someone as soon as they come in the door. Even if you can’t help someone right away, let them know they’ve been heard.

Set expectations

  • Roadmap – imagine if you showed up for surgery and they didn’t tell you anything about what was going to happen. This is how clients feel! They don’t know anything about the process of building a website, so tell them what’s going to happen. This is simple for you, but gives them warm fuzzies
  • Timeline – when you’ll start, projected finish date, etc.
  • Costs – be clear upfront

Set your client at ease

  • Be in control – let them feel like you’re driving the bus. They don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen, because you’re showing you have a clear plan.
  • Invite questions
  • Drop knowledge (or don’t) – depends on the client. For some clients, show them the behind the scenes. Other clients don’t care one bit, and that’s ok!

Be excited for your client

  • Tie your success to your client’s success – if someone has a bad experience with Carrie, that’s bad for her business! She wants them to know that when she delivers a successful site, it means success for her.
  • Get your client excited – talk to them about what the website can do for their business, get them pumped up, etc.

Create a Love Fest:

“Satisfied customers are often repeat customers. Thrilled customers are also repeat customers, except they bring their friends with them next time.” – Peter Stark in How to Thrill Your Customers

Say Thank You

  • End of project appreciation – be honest, but in some way thank them for their business. Even if you didn’t enjoy them personally, you appreciate the business.
  • Yearly, hand-written note – you will blow their minds! – Carrie likes to do this around the holidays, but it can be on whatever timeframe makes sense for you
  • Referral gifts – can be as small as a thank-you email, or flowers, fruit basket, gift card, etc.

Keep in touch

  • Share relevant news that doesn’t benefit you – some news article about their industry you saw, whatever
  • Share relevant news that does benefit you – e.g. there’s some new gravity forms add-on for taking payments, and you can implement it for them next week
  • Check in periodically

Share and share alike

  • Send business – send people to your clients (if your clients are good!)
  • Give business – patronize your clients if it makes sense for you to
  • Draw positive attention to your client’s business

Recovering from a bad situation:

Don’t be like Smokey

  • “I second that emotion” – Smokey Robinson
  • Don’t rise to meet your client’s emotion. Maintain a professional demeanor.
  • A gentle answer makes anger disappear, but a rough answer makes it grow. – Proverbs 15:1

Turn that frown upside down

Own your mistakes – if you did something wrong, admit it, and then:

  • Make it right
  • Give a peace offering (a high-value to your customer, minimal cost to you add-on) – E.g. if you took too long on a project and your client is upset, offer them 3 months of free maintenance, where you would normally charge $100/month for that.

—– Carrie, thanks for providing advice that’s actionable! My biggest takeaway was the idea of sending yearly hand-written thank you notes to clients. This is so obvious, and something I’ve heard of before, but not something I’ve done. What’s your biggest takeaway?

Bill Erickson & Jared Atchison: How to succeed at freelancing

Bill Erickson and Jared Atchison gave a great talk on how they run their freelancing businesses. It was fairly unstructured, with lots of question and answer time. They did a great job of sharing their philosophies and processes for running their businesses. My notes are fairly stream of consciousness; I was just trying to get as much down as possible.

Getting started – making the jump to full time

Jared:
Started off just working evenings, scheduled meetings during lunch, etc. Eventually switched to working his job half time as client work picked up and he had some clients bringing him repeat business. Networking is super important: going to WordCamps and networking with people has been a huge factor in growing his business.

One of the big things that put me in a position to be able to go full time was going to WordCamps and meeting people.

Bill Erickson and Jared Atchison

The Beard speaks!

Bill:
There is still more work than most developers can handle. If you’re just starting out, build relationships with accomplished designers and developers. The good ones are in high demand and are always looking for other people to send business to.

Find a niche that you can target (Genesis, bbPress, WooCommerce, etc.), and specialize in that. Become the go-to person for that niche. This way, other freelancers will send you inquiries they get in that niche.

Scalable processes:

Bill:
As you grow, some stuff (like communication) becomes a problem. A 1 hour phone call always takes 1 hour, so reduce the number of 1 hour phone calls you have to take per client.

He can re-use code all day long, but can’t re-use one-on-one communication, so he uses his website to weed people out. He puts pricing and timeline information front and center, so people who want a $100 website never even call him. Same thing with timeline/availability: he shows what date he’s currently scheduling projects for, so people won’t contact him if he can’t help them with their urgent project.

He also has canned responses for once people do contact him. He customizes them for each client based on what they say.

Once they’re qualified from there, he schedules a 30 minute phone call to close the sale.

As an example, 100 people might see his website, 40 will contact him, and then of those, he mgiht schedule a call with only 10 of them and closes the sale from there.

Reusing code & scaling development efforts:

Best practices for reusing stuff: build things in a modular way – do it right once and reuse it forever.

Break down a project into multiple processes: pre sale, contract, initial development, modification period/training, launch.

Bill looked at his projects and found where he can save the most time, e.g turn stuff into a plugin that he can reuse on every project from now on (he gave the example of his Genesis Title Toggle plugin). As you build things, find ways to store that knowledge so you don’t have to reinvent it later.

Combatting scope creep:

Have an iron-clad contract with a scope that you’ve defined, then defined again, then defined again.

Any time you run into a nightmare client/project, step back and analyze the situation, then figure out what you can add to your contract & communication to prevent that problem for future projects.

For average small business contract, Bill likes to put the scope of work in an email with bullet points and avoid the legalese (I happen to disagree with this approach, for what it’s worth. I use a contract for anything over a few hundred to a thousand dollars. However, I also realize Bill operates on a different scale; he’s doing much, much more volume with many of them being at that lower dollar amount, so it makes sense for him to optimize for speed). He sees contracts as a way to get everyone on the same page. He includes 1 hour of phone consultation in his contract, and everything above that is billed at his hourly rate. Most clients like this so they’re not paying for the overhead from the bad client who needs 10 hours of hand holding.

Bill uses the design to avoid scope creep: he requires the client to hire a designer, then he works off of the design comps, so the scope is clear: if it’s not on the design, there’s no way that Bill can know to build it, thus it’s not in scope. The design process serves as a discovery process as well, so the client can figure out what they actually want.

Audience question: What about when a client comes back later and they want something new (not a whole new project, just add something on that wasn’t in scope)? Do you take it on an hourly basis, or send them to someone else?

For Bill, he likes to avoid if possible since it’s not super profitable. He’ll tell them he won’t be able to do it for 8 weeks (discourages it by pushing it back), and here are some other devs who can do it now.

Bill doesn’t like hourly work: it punishes you for being skilled, and it doesn’t align interests and incentives. If he estimates 10 hours for something (and that’s the minimum), then if he finishes in 5 hours, they’re not happy, because they feel like they’re paying for 5 hours of empty time. He charges by the project, so the client is happy if they get a good website (because that’s what they signed up for – not a certain number of hours).

How do you work with designers?

Bill gives them a list of designers. He doesn’t suggest just one, so if they have a bad experience it’s not solely on him (they need to assess and choose). He requires layered .psd files from designers. Some clients provide more (brand guides, etc.).

Pricing structure:

Bill: I do value based pricing. I charge what I think is a reasonable rate for a site (base level), up from there is based on time. Starts at e.g. $2500 and goes up from there based on custom features.

Bill makes data-based decisions. He logs everything on each project: revenue, expenses, time spent. Then from there, he sorts by effective hourly rate, and figures out what the highest dollar per hour projects have in common. He discovered the smaller sites are better for him, because more of the work is reused (because there’s not a lot of custom stuff), whereas the bigger projects he was spending way more time per dollar on, since it was lots of new/custom work.

Jared:
It was crucial to track time on projects for the first year of freelancing to see where he was spending his time, figure out where he went over time budget, etc. Can then fix from there.

Bill built a CRM so he could analyze where leads were coming from (especially the higher quality/more likely to convert leads). If you find that referral leads are 5x more likely to convert, spend time maximizing that channel.

Jared: Don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth.

When you’re starting out, how do you schedule/estimate what a project will take?

Bill: at first, I just took whatever I could get, and learned from there how long it takes.
Schedule initial dev in week-long sprints. A small project takes less than a week, bigger ones are 2 weeks, etc.

Week-based timelines work great: clearly shows what I have going on and when I can schedule more work.

Always under-promise and over-deliver.

What about pro-bono work?

Bill says it can be good, but be careful, because you don’t want to get known as the free guy. Maybe instead, find a random website, rebuild it in WordPress and put in your portfolio as a sample of what you can do (especially if you’re a designer).

On WP101:

Jared: the WP101 Plugin puts all the video tutorials on the WP dashboard for the client. It’s been an invaluable resource.

Bill:
It’s the best way for a non-WP user to learn how to use WP. Bill sends the video tutorials to his clients before the site is ever done, so they can review them while he’s building the site, and then not be overwhelmed when he delivers the site. Then he just gives instructions on the custom stuff he built.

Jared puts in his proposal the awesome plugins he uses (Gravity Forms, WP101, BackupBuddy, etc.) that they get for free because he has a developer license, and the value they get from that.

What do you do in a situation where a client has paid you a deposit, but then takes forever to get you the content?

Bill has something in his contract where the modification period is separate from the development period. The modification period can last as long as the client wants (if mods are within scope), but each modification can only last up to 15 business days. If it’s been over 15 business days since the last communication, then the project is complete (for Bill).

Jared says look for the red flags up front. If you have to beat the design out of them, it’s going to be a bad project. You can adjust your contract/payment terms so that if they take forever to get ready to launch, it doesn’t hurt you. Final payment isn’t tied to project launch; instead, tie it to completion on your end, not when they’re ready.

Bill sets the payment terms to align interests: if payment is tied to launch and the client decides they don’t want the site anymore, they’re not incentivized to complete the launch. Instead tie payment to development/modification completion.

Jared: when I send out a contract, I tell you my availability as of *now*, but you don’t get on my schedule until you pay the initial deposit.

Some people put an “inactive” clause in the contract: if the client disappears for x days, the project goes inactive. Then it takes e.g. $300 to get the project restarted. Also, if a project goes inactive, then they get put at the end of the line, so they can’t just show up and demand you do something right away.

What about staging sites?

Bill:
If it’s an existing site, he copies it to his dev server and builds it there. Works same for new site. Only problem is if you’re redesigning a busy existing site where you need the new content that’s being made.

Jared uses the excellent Registered Users Only plugin to keep the site from being publicly visible during the development phase.

I’ll add here that my process is a little different: I develop locally on my machine, and use git to push code to a site on WP Engine (whether the production site, or the fantastic staging site that WP Engine provides). I also use the excellent WP Migrate DB Pro plugin to push and pull the database as well. A workflow like this (using version control) is especially important if you’re working with a team (even if it’s only two people).

What about payment?

Bill and Jared both use Freshbooks and take credit cards through there (google payments, but they also have Stripe). They also take checks. Don’t use Paypal! Both Bill & Jared have had their accounts locked there.

How do you convey that you care about the customer’s site, even though the onus is on them to handle content etc.?

Jared: set realistic expectations up front. Do some amount of hand-holding, but not too much.

Jared on when you have to end a relationship with a client: “It’s not you, it’s me.” When you turn someone away, try to send them other options.

I really liked this talk, and especially the format (for this subject matter). It was great for audience members to be able to ask questions and get them answered right away. I feel like I’m in a pretty good place as far as running the business side of doing client work with WordPress, but I still learned plenty and got some great ideas for things I can implement in my business (such as Jared’s “you don’t get on my calendar until you pay the deposit” method).

If you have any questions about any of this, please ask in the comments! I’ll try to share whatever I can, and I’ll ask Bill and Jared to add more if they want to as well. You can also find me on twitter: @tnorthcutt