How to Grow Your Freelance Career or Agency with Tania Mulry (WordCamp Santa Clarita)

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How to Grow Your Freelance Career or Agency with Tania Mulry (WordCamp Santa Clarita)

Good morning, everyone Welcome to Santa Clarita I’m Tania Mulry and I’m the owner of SteamWorks, here in Santa Clarita It’s a community of entrepreneurs who have banded together So, during the course of today, I want to talk to you about why WordPress, why have I been using WordPress for nine years, how to find your first paying client I was hearing that a lot last night And then, how WordPress powers our community, here in Santa Clarita, at SteamWorks Joe mentioned this morning, I met him at our public library, because I was hosting WordPress Meetup, which was handed down to me from another gentleman He had moved to Las Vegas and I decided this would be a great to find people in the community that would be able to potentially become clients, that was one of the ideas But also, become resources to our growing agency and may want to get involved in our business community as we were starting to grow SteamWorks And, just a little bit about me, I had a big, old corporate career, back in New York I was an investment banker Then I worked for Master Card for lots of years, if you have seen the Apple Card, a lot of the infrastructure and tokenization of the card number was that was part of my legacy at Master Card I moved out to Los Angeles 12 years ago to work for a startup It was the week the iPhone came out and I had left this amazing job to move my family across the country for a VC Startup What happens when all of your plans fall out underneath you? You try to figure out, what are you skills and how do you put them to work? At the time, I had no skills in this area I had done product development and management and enterprise IT products, but I hadn’t done that necessarily for local businesses But I started to train myself and my first client somebody was saying yesterday, they got $200 for their first website I was so lucky because my friends were consultants and they gave me $900 to update their site and I was like, wow, okay, that sounds like that could work That’s when my freelance career began I think it was a .NET Framework and I was like, there might be an easier way I was looking at Drupal and I found WordPress and I fell in love Why did I want to have a more, like, instead of jumping back into corporate, why did I want to go down this path? During my 10 years at Master Card, I had three children My three boys, now, are teenagers At the time, they were 2, 4 and 6 I moved my in tear family across the country I poured my heart into learning this and mastering it as best as I could Over the course of time, though, I’ve also supplemented my WordPress business with being a startup advisor and marketing resource So, I’m into growth marketing, growth hacking, if you’ve heard those terms I teach digital marketing and app design at USC My goal is you get to tap into your superpowers and figure out how your background can help you grow your agency Do you feel like you have superpowers now that you know a little bit more about WordPress? Does it sound like we have a long way to go today? [Laughter] WordPress is a super power, but combined with your natural background and super power, you have more credibility than you’re wielding today My kingdom for a dongle I love it

That is a professional pack, I have to say I found the right guy [Laughter] TANIA: Excellent Right I know I usually travel with my I’m just going to pack an HDMI everywhere I go Nine years ago, I left a secondary corporate job I had at a digital marketing agency to start my own company That was the birth of what is SteamWorks Our anniversary is the 14th of April so I’m literally on the cusp of that We’ve built WordPress sites for small businesses, big businesses, schools, startups, anybody who has commercially facing organization needs a website and WordPress is an excellent choice for that And then, I told you a little bit about SteamWorks So, why WordPress? This is where I wish you could see these beautiful slides But, I think WordPress provides a tremendous value for clients First of all, with the plethora of creative themes if you’re a designer, forgive me, but I love relying on a theme when there’s a budget It’s so functional with its super SEO and it’s easy to find support I think one of the things that I don’t love about the ethics of our industry is when developers or WordPress shops try to lock down the site so much that the end customer doesn’t have control over their sites I find that to be really challenging, ethical dilemma because, really, it’s an asset for the business and from my philosophy, respecting the rights of the client is always paramount and so the freedom that WordPress can give to that client is that if they are working with somebody that’s not great, they can go and find someone much more easily, who can better support them and work within the ethical framework that is needed to rescue a project So, how many of you have worked on rescues before? Oh, yeah Being that good actor in a sea of maybe not so great actors can be a really good positioning because people do need help and support People do disappear and, oh, man, we can talk about all of those stories The other thing is just WordPress is super easy to pitch to clients They’ve heard of it, right? Which is always a win It doesn’t sound foreign to them And it powers 30% of the internet Everybody needs it And most websites are kind of crap, right? So, they lack focus They’re designed badly, they have no objective, they don’t work well on mobile devices You can spot a bad website easily and pitch a better option to them Especially when you’re starting, it’s important to remember that just because you think WordPress is easy doesn’t mean your clients do They are overwhelmed with the technology You are the expert You can position yourself as very valuable I like to call it the website whisperer because what you do is magical to them They have no idea how it’s happening behind the scenes and you have the obligation to treat that power wisely Okay Here we go Yes The other thing is, WordPress is extra profit for you If you’re creating all these websites from scratch oops, strike that from the transcription, there was a naughty word You can get more done faster You can get paid to design and develop it, but to maintain it If you’re not doing maintenance contracts, you’re leaving money on the table And, you can also get paid for custom enhancements Your customers can stay with you for multiple years, right Always upgrading, always enhancing, needing more content You can become a trusted advisor and get paid to do other projects, get involved with their marketing, their strategy, their advertising But it started with that get the foot in the door WordPress project This is resonating for you guys? You guys do some of that, too This guy is like, I can give this talk Let’s go chat [Laughter]

So, the last thing I would say in the “Why WordPress,” is the KISS strategy Keep it simple, smarty, don’t be greedy Don’t try to get the year long budget crammed into one project You’ll overwhelm them, you’ll lose the contract In startup land, you have the concept of minimum buyable product Get something simple for them and talk about phase two, phase three, phase four It helps them understand you’re not trying to take advantage of them You’re trying to get the important things taken care of first and you can always make enhancements and work and grow with their business It off loads a lot of the risk upfront and it gives you a steadier pace for work, as well as a steadier pace for income Right? So, I think the temptation is, well, let me get the big, big projects up front But that’s not necessarily the way to maximize your income Okay Ta da! So, based on how to find your first paying WordPress client yesterday conversation, update your sales marketing and delivery So, first of all, you should have a good WordPress website, at a minimum, right? Because people will check you out Your site is your 24/7 marketing and sales department and you’re going to be telling your clients that their website is their 24/7 marketing and sales department If the links are broken, if the content’s outdated, if the picture looks nothing like you, you have some things to update I would make sure you spend a little time on that and book out time on your calendar to keep that up to date and have the content flowing regularly Website must haves oh, this is fun This is good content right here, this blue screen You can’t get that anywhere else, guys [Laughter] Website must haves, you should have case studies Client results How have you improved your client’s business? Testimonials What do you clients say about you? Have they left reviews anywhere? Have you asked them for testimonials? Even if they wrote you a letter saying, thank you so much, our website is so great Ask them if it’s okay to put that on your website with a picture so you keep promoting each other and supporting each other The deeper you make those links, the better off you’ll be in developing your community of customers that can help advertise your business If you’ve gotten awards or done an article on the Huffington Post, keep adding contact to the site If you have been named Entrepreneur of the Year, you should have that kind of stuff on your site because that enhances people’s trust, that you’re a good good at what you do, but also a good person You’ve been recognized by people they trust The other thing I would recommend is talk a little bit about the process What should they expect when they go to work with you? How does your process work? Do you have a discovery session with them? Do you then go into design phase? Do you, you know, then go into development phase? Talk about the phases of your project One thing I found is that people who are especially people who are on the more technical side of WordPress, they tend to overwhelm clients with the technical steps and I would encourage you not to use jargon, not confuse them If you’re working with local businesses, particularly, and you throw a wire frame at them, they literally have no idea what that is and they’re like, why are you giving me boxes? This is not a website I want a website It takes a lot of education If you show them pictures of, here’s what I’m going to do first, here’s what I’m going to do second, this is what it means, this is the feedback I expect from you, the clarity

of your communication will make them feel comfortable and they won’t feel surprised or under duress I was working with one of our local WordPress resources in town and working with a local cake shop and this woman is fabulous She’s been in business the 40 years Unbelievable, right? We were really excited to do this website for her, for her anniversary and she’d been through a few different prospective firms to work with and she was like, I feel really comfortable with you guys She gets overwhelmed When you present something that’s too much or ask her for too much content or too many pictures or present something that’s unfamiliar, she’s just not able to process it in the scheme of all the other things she has to get done in her business, so being careful about how you dose out the updates and dose out the content requests makes a big difference And also, make sure they can contact you That should be on your website I know that seems like a dumb thing to say, but such a big mistake I see people make If they cannot get to you, if you have no phone number, email or web form, people can’t figure it out, they move on They go to the next person they find in their Google listings Make sure they can contact you Those items are trust builders and knowledge builders and they are laid out on the slide very nicely [Laughter] Glad I did this Thank you so much for helping try to figure this out, I appreciate all the work you’re doing while we’re doing this No worries TANIA: So the other thing is, getting good at selling Everybody hates the word “Sales.” Raise your hand Why do we hate this word? What if we used a different word? What if you said that sales is service? You’re just telling people how you can serve them and seeing if there’s a match What if you actually changed it to this whole idea of servant leadership or service to the client and all you’re doing is putting on a menu like a restaurant and you’re seeing, here’s how I can help you I’m going to showcase your expertise and services and connect you with more customers and help you deliver content I’m going to get you found I’m going to be your sales and marketing It will work automatically, you don’t have to keep paying me like a sales person Our maintenance contract is a fraction of it This thing is going to keep serving me all day and night, 24/7, 365 Doesn’t that help? They say, I need the money, so let’s talk It has nothing to do with the money, it has to do with the value you’re delivering to the business and how their customers are going to find them and become deeper, longer lasting fixtures in their business Let’s get good at business and not sales The next thing is to make sure, in the process, it isn’t about selling, it’s about asking questions Good questions to ask is, what’s a good client worth for you? Why? Because you can really get a lot of information about what their budget for their website might be Okay Here’s why What if they are an oncologist and a good client is worth $50,000 to them? I haven’t done an oncology site More TANIA: How much is it worth? I’m a cancer patient You’re worth at least $100,000 during a lifetime TANIA: Should they pay more than $2,000 for a website? Good answer Now we’re talking How about a lawyer? What’s a good client worth to a litigator? [Laughter] As much as they can get, right? TANIA: Do you think a lawyer should pay the fraction of a good client? What if they got one good client this year because they improved their website? $1,000 TANIA: At least

What if it’s a different type of price? A restaurant or a burger shop They are very dependent on having a steady flow of traffic, right? They need really good search optimization Access to their menu Maybe ordering What’s a good day or a good week worth to your restaurant? What if they didn’t have that good day or didn’t have that good week, what happens to restaurants when they don’t get the traffic? Now, in Santa Clarita, we have a foodies group on Facebook and restaurants go out of business literally every week So, a restaurant is really dependent on having excellent marketing, from day one Get butts in seats, get people in the door They need high throughput of those tickets to get through What’s a client worth to you is an important way of getting value and stacking the value story for the client What if you could use this? Right? And it was attracting more clients to you? What if it got you one, two, three more big clients? What if it got you 10 more good days in a year? What does that mean to you? And that’s a way of getting out of the lowest price bid conversation and into the “This is how it’s going to help your business” conversation What’s the main job this website needs to accomplish for your business, especially going back to that MVP conversation A website, especially when you’re doing the first project, needs to go to one, single focus What is the outcome you want? And then the other things can be added in The singular drive to the end focus, is it getting a lead? Is it selling products? Is it getting to the point where they’re making an appointment? Have one, singular objective on that website, that’s the primary focus Get that chunk done, first and add other things to it so you get them to admit that up front If they get that, you help them prioritize that way, you added tremendous value to their business Also ask what they like or dislike about their current site Many do have a website and many do have a bad website So, you can see what they’ve had and what worked and what didn’t work and then also, inspiration sites Sites in their industry or sites at businesses that they really liked the design of or the functionality of And always be listening Objections are good Objections, in the sales process, means they’re engaged It means that they’re still deciding That they haven’t said no yet, in their mind Objections mean that they’re sorting through their own priorities and there’s something else bothering them So, ask about the real concern behind the objection Is it a time objection? What is it about the timeline that’s still bothering you? What is it about the price that’s still bothering you? What is it about the content limits that maybe somebody else was putting on you that you find objectionable? How can we figure out a way around that? If you can get through the objections, you have their business If you care about understanding and addressing the client’s need, more than you care about making a huge maximizing the first sale, you are going to have this business Then you can agree on a price and timeline for that first phase that works for everybody Yes! Ta da! [Applause] Look how beautiful they were Okay Yay! Okay So, protect your scope That’s my number one enemy in WordPress projects, right? Because people have ideas all day Because it takes time to build a site and so really explaining to the client, upfront, that the clarity of what’s in the scope of this project and what is not is super important to define upfront and having a process for adding scope, which, you know, in enterprise software land, scope is a the big term You have to have a firm sense of what’s in scope, what’s out of scope, what’s an additional project or an additional piece of scope and then you write up another little sheet and say we’re adding this scope, it costs this much money You get them to sign off If you keep adding things and try to bill them at the end, chaos, chaos and terror It’s a reign of fire I don’t advise that

This helps you to guard your team’s value and time so you’re not off doing these tangents We call them goat rodeos You really even if it seems like it’s an emergency, even if it seems like it’s the last thing, you have to be in control of the client relationship and explain how this can work Now, I’m not saying don’t be flexible, don’t be helpful Charge for your value and definitely get approval in writing And always be testing This goes for your own site Always be testing your own site, but also their site because one thing that goes wrong, as you’re going to launch it and you lost all credibility and you worked super hard Make sure you have a good testing process at the end Frustrated clients talk to other potential clients and things can spread Always be Googling Make sure you are checking for any complaints, bad review and issues Set up Google alerts for your team, your teams names and your clients names You can alert them when somebody’s talking about them online You can talk to them about reputation management and proactively respond The other piece of Googling is once I was referred to the retirees group called the Stardusters The amount of detail questions they had for me, we were sitting around a board style table and I’m explaining WordPress to them, which, you know, this is not rocket science, but it takes a little bit to explain and one guy’s on his computer the whole time and he’s typing and typing I’m wondering what’s happening to this guy? He’s so engaged Halfway through the meet ing, he said, wow, I’m on page 10 and I haven’t found anything bad about you yet [Laughter] He was live searching for me and my company name while I was interviewing with them and that is the world we live in now I did get the job They’ve been clients for several years Now their average age is 75 and we’re still doing enhancements for them They have a massive membership site and it’s using WooCommerce and Member It’s really important that you keep your online reputation clean And make your proposals simple How many of you spend a lot of time on proposals? Like, massive 15 page documents? Have you ever watched your customers flip through your proposal? Where do they go? The price They don’t care about all that stuff you wrote They really, really don’t So, we’re really overdoing it I would say, have a “What to expect” document and have a good contract, a good agreement All that work to do fancy, beautiful proposals, simplify and streamline as much as possible because they just don’t care If they’ve seen good samples of your work, if they know you, they’re hiring you and your team and you as a trusted advisor They’re not hiring your ability to create a 15 page document You’ll be terrified the first time you send out a streamline proposal, but when you win it and they appreciate the clarity, you’ll thank me later You can tweet at me and say, that worked! I can’t believe it! Stick to the basics Customize a bit to the client’s brand and needs Don’t keep a hot lead waiting because you don’t have time to produce a 20 page proposal I promise you, they’re going to appreciate your clarity and your speed The other thing I see as a mistake for people building is they spend a lot of time on consulting and educating and that has value If you offer to sit in a half a day meeting with a client to discover their needs and come up with a requirements document for them, that has value and you’re going to be like, oh, I don’t know if I can charge for that time I’m telling you, they will pay for it if you position it the right way If you say, listen, this is the goal of this time I’m going to produce a document for you that you can then take and shop out to anyone you

want and you’ll find out how it is to work together You relieved all pressure and you might have gotten $400 $500 for building that document versus wasting your whole day and wondering if they’re ever going to buy a project from you I hope that changes your lives a little bit This is really this discovery scope could be the way of actually winning more clients in the long run They will appreciate that you ask them to pay for the full site before knowing how it is to work with you and before knowing what they needed and you’ll, you know, improve your cash flow and your time management Keep your terms simple Some projects are small, some projects are large I really have a hard time doing projects without a deposit I would not do that And, you know, having milestones is great, in a larger project, and being clear about when the payments happen For some sites, and for some businesses, it doesn’t even make sense to have a milestone projects They don’t understand what a milestone is They just don’t get that Sometimes I do it based on time 50% now and 50% on this timeline and this date That is because managing their response to you is on them to be responsive Right And so, it’s a tricky subject, but I have had a completion payment two months before they actually finished approving the content and that is just how we set it up at the beginning of the project and it’s fair because they know they’re not responsive Right? So, that’s just a suggestion But definitely make sure you get a good deposit upfront You don’t want to be doing a lot of work without knowing they’re going to pay you If you’re a theme oriented person, like I am and I have a friend that is anti theme I do not like in the past, I used to spend a couple hours going out and searching for the best theme and what makes most sense for this business I can really get wound up in this Now I use one to three themes that we’ve used repeatedly and I just show different versions of them to see what the customer likes, if they haven’t already given me an inspiration site But I do really like for them to give me sites that they like and features that they admire and layouts that they think are really great so that I understand their taste, their aesthetic and that makes it a lot easier to give them something they love Make sure you get that design direction approved, layout one page for them and say, do you like it? Versus, oh, my gosh, like, get getting the whole site done in one design and then suddenly, oh, my gosh, they hate it They need everything changed, right? How do you keep communication flowing with the client? Make sure you have a weekly schedule to call and update on this schedule I’m committing to you I’m going to use plain English as I describe things to you We’re going to have a good conversation It’s not going to be too techie And they will really appreciate that Three minutes? Is that what it is? Or does that mean, three out of five? [Laughter] All right And help them understand what to look for in the staging So, growing the business from freelancer to agency, if you’re one person, you’re doing everything, you’re getting burned out, you can’t go on vacation, it’s feast and famine, as you start to grow, you may be able to take on more clients, 6 to 12 clients, you start to specialize your resources and build teams around development, content creation It gets to be easier Making that leap from one to two is super hard And then to beyond Now the good things is you can find a lot of freelancers that are willing to work with you on a project basis Before you jump into all these full time resources, have an Elastic staffing model and find some really trustworthy freelancers who want to get business from you on a regular basis

And tell people what you do Always be sharing what you do and how you do it and your client projects, not just when it’s slow because that’s the tendency is I don’t have any projects next month, I’d better start telling people what I do Have it as a steady drum beat of your business Oh, man, I had some more stuff here I’m going to give you some last things We didn’t get to SteamWorks, but you can ask me questions about that Lining up clients, the Ugly Betty strategy People used to come up to me on the street and say, hey, you’re Ugly Better I’m like, what? I call this Ugly Betty strategy If you’re at a trade show, look at an ugly booth, ugly website or ugly ad, that’s your client They need you [Laughter] I can put on my glasses and get braces, okay [Laughter] That’s one of the best strategies I guess we’ll open it up for questions and you can ask me anything else that can go over specialties here and I’ll tell you more about SteamWorks at the end Can we get your PowerPoint? TANIA: Maybe Yeah, we can figure that out I think they have that now [Laughter] Will your deck be available for us to look at the rest? TANIA: Yeah, for sure We can do that How long did it take you to go from freelancer to be an agency? TANIA: How long did it take me? Well, as long as it took me I didn’t want to do everything by myself so I started to find a good crew of at any given time, four or five freelancers I could rely on to be consistent in delivering the product I decided to do that early, I’ve been working with some of them six or seven years, at least, and refer them on to other clients so they got that steady work going, too Because as an owner of an agency, you feel responsible If you can’t supply them with enough work, you feel guilty if you can’t keep them going We have a lot of good people in our network, now, that we do send work to pretty regularly Right now, I’m running a hard core WordPress agency We still do WordPress and support our existing clients Okay So that $400 to $500 discovery phase, what do you typically include in that? TANIA: The goal is a details document It is what is going to be in the project and estimates associated with it In a way, it’s helping them decide what a project should cost and how to communicate a good, formed project They could take that and say, great, now that we’ve flushed this out, give me three bids Most of the time, they won’t want to because they like working with you already On a bigger project, I think it’s a super valuable way if they’re like, we’re not ready, we’re not ready, we don’t know what we know Why don’t we do $500,000 $100, 000, it depends on how complex the business is Do, like, a 10% project up front to get to that scope Does that make sense? You were talking about designing How do you balance that with if you determine that what their clients want is something different than what they want? TANIA: That’s an awesome question and to show insight in the questions, up front, with the client, to talk about the segments that they serve is really important Right? So Especially the older woman who might not know what websites are about TANIA: Does a 60 year old woman know what a 20 year old bride wants? Probably because she’s talked to thousands of 30 year old brides But does she know what that looks like from a web perspective

I have a phrase in my contract that I borrowed from a friend “We reserve the right to push back on you when we believe that you’re making the wrong decision.” Like, we want to have that healthy dialogue in order to get to the best outcome for you and to serve your clients You have a disclaimer? TANIA: I really do have that built into my agreement because I want to set that expectation up front You know what you’re doing You make amazing cakes We honor and cherish that We know what we’re doing because we’ve built hundreds of sites We know what the trends are You know more about butter cream than we do We know more about WordPress than you do I build that in When I saw that clause, I was like, that is getting adapted for my use because it’s awesome That’s it And, that’s it Okay Russian judge says it’s time to go [Applause] Maybe the weirdest talk, ever But thank you for your attention and good questions What was the name of your company again? TANIA: SteamWorks