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Positioning your web design agency to get more clients

positioning your agency to get more clients
By James Rose. Last Updated September 18, 2023


James: Hey, I’m James Rose from Content Snare and you’re about to watch an interview with Troy Dean from WP Elevation. He’s one of the founders there. They have helped thousands, literally, thousands of people land more jobs at high prices in the web design WordPress space. They’re the real deal. I personally know more than I have fingers and toes. The people have been through WP Elevation and absolutely rave about it, plenty of Content Snare customers have been through as well. We talk a whole bunch about, well, a whole bunch of things, really, but the main focus today is on marketing and how you can position your business to get more leads for web design on WordPress. So if you want to check out more about WP Elevation, see Troy stuff. I’ll drop the link here, but it’s going to be at contentsnare.link/wpe for WordPress Elevation, WP. If you want to find out more about Content Snare which is a tool to get content from your clients on time, that’s at wordpress-193052-573398.cloudwaysapps.com. So, let’s get into it. Sweet. Well, thanks for joining me, Troy. Good to have you.

Troy: Absolute pleasure, James. Thanks for having me then.

James: Or is it all? For those of you who don’t know, Troy runs WP Elevation. If you don’t know, you’ve probably been living under a rock. WP Elevation have helped … is it hundreds of thousands or tens? How many people?

Troy: It is in the thousands now. It’s somewhere between three and three and a half thousand students that have been through our program over the last five years.

James: There you go, thousand … three and a half thousand people run a more successful WordPress business.

Troy: Yeah.

James: And more importantly, to stress less I’ve seen that, getting your processes in order and that sort of thing. I personally know a lot of people that have been through WP Elevation and I don’t think everyone has had positive things to say. So that is awesome. What else have you done? You’ve been down the road of agency life doing premium websites?

Troy: Yep, started in 2007, building websites for clients and built an agency and that was fun, that was fun.

James: You’re a keynote speaker?

Troy: I have been known to speak it at the conferences, that is true.

James: Nice, but most importantly, holy shit, you sang the Cadbury jingle.

Troy: That is true. That’s a true story, my friend.

James: I don’t know if that’s an Aussie-only thing or is that the Americans get that same in jingle?

Troy: Well, I’d think it was an Australian thing. I think it was an Australition thing actually. So the jingle that I sang was a chocolate family went on holidays and they were … and all the world was made of chocolate and they were taking bites of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and that was a television commercial that was played here in Australia, and New Zealand, and Hong Kong. It also went to cinema. So it was quite a big campaign. Of course, it was based on the old Beach Boys Wouldn’t It Be Good song, so, yeah. It was a great melody and it’s a lot of fun. It was a really good session, actually.

James: Pretty much every Aussie knows that jingle. That’s why it was a big deal for me. I was like, “What? No way [inaudible 00:03:24]”

Troy: Yeah, I know. Well, the funny story is that when I met my wife, we kind of got chatting over the first few days that we knew each other and kind of turned out that we were both doing voiceovers. And then when I … and she said, “Come on, what would I know that you’ve done.” I’m like, “Come on, like this …” at that point in my voiceover career, I’d done so much that I was like, “Well, pick an ad on TV and I’ve probably been done something related to it.” So I was just like rattling off all these brands and then I said, “I also sing the Cadbury jingle.” She was like … for her, that was the moment she was like, “Oh, my god, I’m going to marry you. I can’t believe you sang the Cadbury jingle.” I’m like, “Yes, it got me the girl.

James: Unbelievable. It is a pretty big deal.

Troy: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

James: All right. Let’s get into it. So, basically, you said you’re an open book and I can hit you with anything.

Troy: Totally, absolutely.

James: I’ve tried to do as much as I could to get questions from everyone in our community and just to see what people’s biggest problems are. I mean, our data is a little bit skewed because normally we ask that question right after they’ve signed up for our tool which helps people get content from clients. So they always say the biggest problem is giving consent from clients, but I know that’s not true. The biggest thing is always getting clients.

Troy: Clients, yeah.

James: Yeah, and so marketing, and they’re like a steady, steady stream of leads and clients, I guess, because I’ve always been a big fan of referrals and partnerships. I find those are … obviously, referrals are amazing partnerships just constantly deliver, but there’s always … like that’s hard to get this constant stream of clients through like they get the classics of a feast and famine cycle with that at times. So, yeah, I mean, that would be the biggest thing I’d like to talk about today is generating some kind of consistent stream of leads or a consistent … just way to get clients.

Troy: Yeah, 100%. I mean, and it’s a big question, man, and there’s lots to unpack. So, let me answer it by bursting everyone’s bubble and disappointing everyone from the get-go. The truth is that the big secret is there is no secret to getting clients. There is definitely a process that you can go through to position yourself in a favorable way so that you can pick up leads and turn those leads into clients. And so, we have a quite a rigorous process that we put out our elevators through that kind of gets them to the point where the end result of this process is you want to be known as the person who does a specific thing for a specific type of client. So I’m going to use Bill Erickson as an example. I’m just off top my head. He’s a … when he first started out, it was a Genesis child theme developer basically.

Troy: He became known really quickly as the guy that turned your Photoshop files into Genesis child themes in a week for two and a half grand. That was his value proposition. It’s like … so his client were design agencies and his value proposition was you’ve got this great website that they’re going to have to figure out how to do it yourself or you’re going to have to hire a developer. So, what I do is I turn your Photoshop files into Genesis child themes which are industry best practice and a really good way to launch a WordPress website. I do it in a week and it costs you two and a half grand. Right now, if you … if obviously this was kind of before WooCommerce and before membership websites became really popular, so if it’s a super complex site, it might be a little more than that, but that’s my standard offering.

Troy: What’s really key about this is if you think about what Bill was actually doing, it was no different to the work we were doing in our agency and the work that a lot of people are doing listening to this. Now, the technology may have changed. A lot of people listening to this might be using Beaver Builder, or Elementor, or one of the … or TV, or one of the Page Builders. But the end result is that you are basically taking a design and turning into a WordPress theme. As I said, the technology might have changed because some of us now just designing directly in the browser using those Page Builders and we’re kind of not doing the Photoshop thing anymore. But Bill just said, “Well, I’m not a developer. I am someone who delivers this deliverable, this kind of end result,” right? He had a very clear process.

Troy: You had to submit your Photoshop files the week before. You had to have them in before the Wednesday that gave him 24 hours to kind of have a look at it and ask some questions. It was all signed off on by the Friday. And then Monday he sprinted. Monday through Friday, he worked on your project and that was it. He didn’t work on multiple projects at once. He delivered your project two and a half grand, bang, done. Now, obviously, he got very busy. His price went up over time. His business model might be a little more complex now. But what I love about this story is that he instantly became … and you talk about referrals and partnerships, right? He instantly became super easy to refer to, right?

James: Yeah.

Troy: I would have conversations with people saying, “I’ve designed this website and Photoshop and then we’re not really sure what to do.” Hey, man, just said at the bill. He turns Photoshop files in a WordPress themes, and uses Genesis which is best practice, and does it in a week, and it cost you two and a half grand. So he became really easy to refer to. He became really easy to partner with because it was very clear what he did and what his strength was and the deliverable that you were getting. So, the end result of the process that we put our members through is that you want to end up being known as the person who does a very specific thing for us for a very specific type of client and it doesn’t have to be design agencies. It can be serving nonprofits. It can be specializing in e-commerce conversions. It can be specializing in Lead Gen Microsites for enterprise clients.

Troy: Whatever your sweet spot is, whatever it is that you’re best at and super passionate about and can do profitably, that’s what you need to kind of turn into a unique process or your own kind of proprietary technology to steal a couple phrases from Dan Sullivan and [John Gent 00:09:41]. You need to be able to put something in front of people and go, “All of a sudden, I’m not a WordPress developer. I’m not talking about websites. I’m not talking about WordPress. I’m delivering a product, a deliverable, and we’ve got a unique way of doing things.” And then it becomes really easy to market that, really easy to get referrals, and really easy to partner with people.

James: Yeah, and it makes … I think specialization is huge because then you get to know that industry, you know their … sort of the words they used like terminology that you can spit back at them and they think you get them, well, because you do give them.

Troy: Yeah, because you do. That’s exactly right.

James: Yeah, like I was just chatting to the guy-

Troy: And it doesn’t …

James: Sorry?

Troy: Go on.

James: I was just chatting to a guy the other day who did the classic industry of dentists, like everyone uses that as an example but that’s exactly what they did, SEO for dentists and in that area, it’s kind of easy to have … to not compete with each other because the dentists have a geographic area. All they were doing is reselling another SEO package to the point where they became the number one client for that SEO resell and bought the SEO resell, but they still have their original dentist SEO business. It’s crazy.

Troy: Yeah, and the thing is where a lot of people get … where a lot of people come unstuck with this is … by the way, I’m in a hotel room in Manila, in the Philippines right now. So if anyone’s watching that I’m not in my bedroom. This is actually a hotel room here behind me. I just wanted to clarify that. Where people come unstuck with this is a couple of things. First of all, people are people … so the big thing that prevents people from specializing is FOMO, right? People think, “Well, if I pick a niche, like if I go after …” or niche as the rest of the world says, “If I pick the dental niche then I’m going to miss out on all that other work from people who aren’t dentists.” Well, of course, you’re not. You’re not going to say no to someone who comes in with a great project and it’s going to be profitable and fun to work with just because they’re an accountant not a dentist.

Troy: It’s your business. You can choose who you do business with, right? The point of focusing on a niche is that it gives you somewhere to focus your marketing efforts. It gives you somewhere to target your energy. So FOMO is something that you have to manage, but also the reason that I think people come unstuck here is because they don’t want to commit to … they don’t want to commit to kind of going after a particular niche in case it doesn’t work out. And so, I think that what I always teach our elevators is give yourself some security and like a safety net, like give yourself 90 days. In 90 days time, have a time in the calendar where you block out an hour, and you sit down, and you have a serious analysis of what you’ve been doing over the last 90 days. It’s basically go or no go.

Troy: At that point, you’re going to make a decision. I’m going to go hard on this and I’m going to focus or no, I’m done, I’m not having a lot of fun, it’s not profitable, I’m not very good at this, we’re out. That’s, I mean, that’s the process I went through to decide that I wasn’t going to do e-commerce sites anymore because as much as I love them, I’m really crap at them. I wasn’t doing anyone any favors by doing them, so I’m out. I got out of dealing with professional service providers because it just didn’t excite me, you know? As much as I love my accountant and my lawyer, I didn’t want to build websites for them because they just didn’t excite me. I like being around creative industries, you know?

Troy: Landscape gardeners, architects, nonprofits, we did a lot of work with because I get some intrinsic value out of working with those types of clients and that they’re just decisions that you make as a result of having very honest conversations with yourself about what it is you want to do and the kind of business that you want to build. If you can get clear about that stuff and all of a sudden, it’s really easy to differentiate yourself from everyone else because you’ve got to focus and got somewhere that you’re focusing your energy and your efforts.

James: Yeah, absolutely. On that FOMO thing, too, I know for a fact that that’s not a worry, like if you say that I do websites for dentists, that example again, and someone knows that and they’re out talking to someone else who needs a website, they’re not going to automatically discount you because you do dentists websites and …

Troy: That’s right.

James: Because it’s way more ridiculous than that, like when we built … when we only were a software company, we didn’t even like build software for people. We had our own software and that was it. People still thought we built websites because they put tech software websites everything together, and we got referrals for websites, and we didn’t even make websites. So, I don’t think there’s ever a danger of sort of pigeonholing yourself because people still come. They’ll come with mobile apps. They’ll come with web apps like all kinds of things in that space. Can you buy me a computer?

Troy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Can you fix my email signature? Yeah.

James: Yeah, cool.

Troy: Yeah, 100%. I think the other thing in terms of getting new clients, if you look at the different channels that you’ve got, so if … and really what it comes down to is developing that unique process, that unique way of doing things, right? So, at WP Elevation, we have the WP Elevation Blueprint which is a series of processes and standard working procedures, and operating procedures, and templates, and tools that we’ve developed that allow you to run a WordPress consulting business with more efficiency, less stress, and adding more value to your clients which is ultimately how you get paid more by adding more value. There’s the big takeaway there. If you want to add, if you want to get paid more, add more value. And so, we now just coined that phrase, the WP Elevation Blueprint so no one can compete with us. No one else can come along and say, “Well, we’ve got the blueprint for running a WordPress consulting business.” No, you haven’t. We’ve had it five years.

Troy: Some of it, we just made up, right? We the … I’ve been saying for years is not … there’s nothing new since the Roman Empire. It’s just the technology that we’re using in the way that we’re doing things, but this stuff’s … I mean, the freemium give a little bit and then charge them for more, all this kind of stuffs been around since the Roman Empire. So, I’m not saying that I’m a genius and that I’ve invented this way of doing business. I’ve just synthesized a whole bunch of stuff that works and doesn’t work into a step-by-step process that we can follow. So, now, it becomes really easy for us to do things like content marketing which, shock horror, actually works because we just look at our blueprint and go, “Well, look, here’s an idea. Why don’t we take this like one little idea out of module three which is proposals and talk about why you should add frequently asked questions into your proposals, and the actual purpose that that serves, and how it can help you increase conversions.”

Troy: That is a blog post. It’s a podcast. It’s a training video. It’s a Facebook livestream. It’s a YouTube series. It’s an email marketing course, all this type of content can be cut up sliced and diced and delivered in whatever format you like, and it’s just one little sliver of an idea out of the overall blueprint because now we have that blueprint. That’s our reference point. That’s the story that we tell. That’s the content that we produce. That’s what we share with our JV partners. That’s what we promote on Facebook ads. That’s what we promote on social. That’s what I talk about when I go to word camps. It’s a very simple story to tell. The biggest trick for us is not getting distracted and not trying to recreate new things all the time. That’s actually the hardest problem when you’ve got a unique process is actually just sticking to the story and just repeating yourself over, and over, and over again until people all over the world can reference you.

Troy: This happens now. We’ve both seen this happen in Facebook groups and Slack channels where someone says, “I’ve got this problem with a client about pricing and they’re asking for a discount. What should I do?” And everyone just comes in and says, “You should join WP Elevation and you’ll learn how to handle this stuff,” right? I’m like, we’re now known as that because that’s the consistent story we’ve been telling for five years and that’s because we have a unique process that we take our clients through and that’s something that is our differentiator. And so, I think that really is the number one thing you can do to help generate new clients is to develop that unique process and then use that to tell your story.

James: Yeah, absolutely. I got another question here. So, I mean, this is actually a really good idea here as well. They said, “What are some ideas for reaching out to an industry that I know needs professional websites?” I’ve worked in it. I have first-hand experience with their inferior website, talked to decision-makers, blah, blah, blah, and they continue to hire a third-party proprietary providers for a small fortune that don’t actually deliver. Nice. So, I’ve known a lot of people that work with associations for that kind of thing. So they try and get into the industry through an association. What would you say for that?

Troy: Yeah, 100%. I mean, I’m all about leverage, right? I don’t like doing something once and then doing the same thing again. So, if I’m going to have a conversation and I’m going to pick accountants because I spend a little bit of time in that niche. If I’m going to have a conversation with an accountant about how I think I can help them with their website and, by the way, one of the biggest problems accountants are trying to solve is not getting new clients. It’s actually finding and keeping good staff and a website is critical … this is little divergency, website is critical for that because accountant graduates come out of accounting school. The first thing they do is start Googling and researching the accounting firms that they want to work with. If you’ve got a website that’s like a dog’s breakfast from 1993, they’re going to discount you because you don’t look like a professional outfit.

Troy: I know this firsthand because accounting firms have told me that this is one of their biggest problems. So, I can help accounting firms find and attract and keep better staff through digital presence and through LinkedIn strategies and through their website, and I’m going to have that conversation with one accountant, or I’m going to stand up in a room and have that conversation with 250 accountants at a conference. Well, I know what I’d rather choose. Public speaking frightens the hell out of most people, but there are very simple strategies and tactics and practice that you can do to get over that fear. But if I’m going to have that conversation, I want to have it in front of the 250 people because that’ll generate multiple leads rather than doing it one at a time.

Troy: So, in that example, I was put in touch with the CPA of Australia in their events, their events department. Every industry association has usually got an events department or a professional development department. So, industry associations are generally membership driven. The members in the industry pay a membership fee to belong to that industry associations. My wife is a psychologist. She pays money every year to belong to AHPRA and there’s another one the APS, Australian Psychology Society. She pays hundreds of dollars to belong to them every year. They have an obligation to deliver value to their members and part of the way they do that is they run events and they bring speakers in to teach. The attendees, if she goes to one of those conferences, she gets PD points.

Troy: She has to score a certain amount of professional development points every year to keep her license, right? So, this is a no-brainer. They’ve got a captive audience. They need to bring in speakers. They’re looking for good content and you come along and say, “Well, I know how to help accountants. I’ve got this method that we’ve developed that helps accountants attract better staff and keep better staff. I’d love to give a free presentation.” Oh, happy days that was. Thank you very much and you pick up leads. Now, sometimes you get paid for those gigs, sometimes you do it for free and you pick up leads. But it’s very easy to have that conversation rather than just saying, “Oh, I’m a web developer. I build websites. Can I get up and talk about what I know?” Well, not really. I mean, that’s not helpful.

James: It’s such a perfect example of this whole specialization and like niching down because no one … you wouldn’t know that accounting students Google the places and end up on websites to choose where to work out, like you don’t know that unless you work with accountants.

Troy: Correct, correct. It just comes from listening, man. It just comes from like … I learned pretty early on that building … so, I’m kind of I don’t know what it is about my personality, but I can’t launch a website for a client and then just watch it kind of fall off the back of the boat into the water and sink. I want to like I want it to be hugely successful, partially, I think, because I have a fragile ego, James. I want people to congratulate me, and thank me, and admire me for my genius, right? So I always want … every project I touch, I always want it to be a success because then people are like, “Oh, you’re so clever.” I’m like, “Yes, yes, I know. Thank you.” So, I was like, “Okay, how do I launch successful websites?” It’s not about building the website. It’s about how the website fits into the overall business strategy and it’s about whether or not that business has the potential to be a successful business, and then how the website can help them move a few levers to get them where they want to go.

Troy: So, when you start to think that way and you start to have conversations with accountants about, “Well, what does this website project look like if it’s a raving success?” And they start telling you … and I went in speaking with accountants about, “Well, it must be about getting more clients.” They’re like, “No, not really. We’ve got so many lowball clients, who are not profitable and we’re just doing their tax compliance work. We want much higher clients that we do strategy consulting with and we need more staff to … capacity to fulfill the work that we’ve got. So it’s only through listening to your client, really listening to be a client that you actually understand what role you’re playing in their ecosystem. I’m telling you, man, it’s not code. They’re not paying you for code. They’re paying you for your ideas, your experience, your advice, your guidance. That’s what they’re paying you for.

James: It’s kind of that like that five whys thing, what you were talking about there where to get to the real core, what they want is asking a question. If you say, “What do you want?” “It’s more clients.” “Why is that?” And then you say, “Why is that, why is that,” five times to get to what they’re really, really looking for, so that …

Troy: So we have a slightly different angle on that which we call Go Wide, Go Deep. What it basically is, is you ask why five times or as many times until it’s awkward. So, “Hey, James, what in it … what do you think you need in your website? Oh, well, because ours looks dated.” Okay, that’s … yep, that’s a good reason. But before I ask why, the next question I’ll ask is why else do you need a website. Ah, because … this is a real example. Accountants feel like, “Ah, when we go to network functions and we handed our business card, we’re embarrassed because people going to look at our website and it’s kind of looks like crap. Okay, cool. That’s fair enough. Why else do you need a website? So you ask why else and you kind of stretch out the answers. You go wide on the answers and then once it gets awkward or they’ll look at you kind of go another to, “Man, I’m done. That’s all the reasons I can think of you.” You got right, cool.

Troy: So, out of all of those things that you just told me which is the most important reason that you need a website. And then they’ll start to say, “Oh, well, it just looked to be dated and we’re a bit embarrassed by it.” Okay, cool. So why is that the most important? Things get awkward now because they’re like, “Dude, you ask a lot of questions.”

James: Shut up.

Troy: Yeah, yeah. They’re like, “What?” My answer was, “Look, I’m sorry for all the questions but think of me as a doctor. I can’t give you the right medicine until you tell me all the symptoms. So, just bear with me here. I’ll play along.” And then they say, “All right. Well, that’s the most important because of this reason.” They say, “Okay, why else?” And so, now, we’re going deep on that answer, right? It’s embarrassing to look at, we cringe. Okay, now, we’re going to go deep on that. And then we’re going to go wide. We just keep going wide deep, wide deep, wide deep until you get to the truth. What happened is early on in my career, I was dealing with an osteopath, who needed a new website for his osteopaths clinic. I was doing this go wide, go deep thing. He was a great active participant. He was like, “Yeah, I love this stuff, man. Let’s really pull it apart and explore it.”

Troy: Eventually, he said, “Well, the truth is I need a great search strategy and I need to be all over search results so that when you Google all these keywords, I want to come up all over Google because I’m selling the clinic.” I’m like, “All right.”

James: There it is.

Troy: So here’s a thing, right? You’re selling the clinic. The potential buyer of your business is going to be Googling osteopath Melbourne, osteopath Hawthorn, osteopath Richmond and you want to be everywhere so that they see that you’ve got this great search strategy which adds value to the sale of your business. Sweet. Now, it’s a search engine visibility job. It doesn’t really kind of matter whether it’s the sexiest design in the world. What is more important is that your search engine visibility is A plus. Got it. Now, I know what I’m working with because I was prepared to ask lots of questions, sit through the awkward silences, and actually get to the truth.

James: That’s actually a really similar story to one I heard from Adam Hempy from Better Proposals. We had a chat over in Brighton and … except they wanted to rather than a search visibility, they just wanted the website to look schmick so they could show that to the prospective buyer and look at us, we’re so good. So, yeah, and same sort of thing. He had to go, go wide and deep to dig that out of them. Interesting.

Troy: Most people aren’t prepared to do that because it can get awkward. It can get uncomfortable when you’re asked lots of questions. But the more you’re prepared to just sit in those uncomfortable silences, the more money you’ll get paid. I categorically, that is the number one way sort of start getting paid as a consultant and not of developer is to start really understanding what’s going on in the business.

James: Nice. Just … there’s only really a couple we have.

Troy: Not sure if I answered the question.

James: No, I think that we got that. I think we’ve gone way on from the last question.

Troy: Oh, yeah.

James: That was good.

Troy: It’s about industry associations.

James: Yeah, that’s what it started with, but doesn’t matter, those heaps of value in there. So, we’ve got like besides referrals, what are the … what are your most common mark … consistent marketing channels. I mean, we’ve kind of covered that. Is there anything, I guess, it’s in the specialization. But let’s say you’re a newbie and you don’t even know where to start and you just want to know where to get your first client or something consistent where you can at least get a client, you know?

Troy: So, here’s a couple of things. I mean, the quickest way to get people who are interested in you is to run very, very, very targeted ads either on LinkedIn, or Facebook, or maybe Twitter depending on your audience, right? Now, the big problem that most people make when they start running Facebook ads … I’ll use Facebook as the example, probably because at the moment, it’s probably the glory days of the gold rush days of Facebook ads, and probably in three years time, we’ll be having a different conversation because the demand will be so high that they’ll be just too expensive. But at the moment, Facebook ads are still a really good way to build an audience. The problem that most people make is they, “All right, well, I’m going to just drive people to my homepage, or drive people in my portfolio, or drive people to a sign-up page where they can sign up for a free strategy session.”

Troy: That’s going to get really expensive and it’s not going to work. So, the idea is to drive people to content. Don’t ask for anything just drive people to content that is super helpful content, that is part of your unique process. So an epic blog post, a great how-to video, a free template you can give them. If you’re working with accountants, for example, you might want to research your face off until you know put together the checklist for hiring new accounting graduates to make sure you don’t hire someone then lose him in six months time. I mean, you can spend an hour and a half on Google researching this stuff and you can kind of become an expert very quickly on this topics, right?

Troy: So then publish something that’s really helpful. Don’t ask for anything, Don’t ask for any email address or anything like that, just publish something that’s really helpful. Drive Facebook ads to that piece of content. Start building an audience for people who visited that piece of content. And then start remarketing them back to a page which offers them the checklist, or to get on a call, or to get on a strategy session, or whatever your conversion event is, right? So that’s just one little distinction about what to do with PPC. The other thing that … and what really started my business, when I started out, I did not have any clients. I had no portfolio. I thought I knew what I was doing and I had to convince some people. I also had cabin fever because I’ve been living in my bedroom for a long time learning how to code. I was like, “I need to get out of the house and go and have a beer on a Friday afternoon at the pub.”

Troy: So I started this thing on the third Friday of every month, I started this thing called Freelancer Friday because I like the alliteration and I thought it was fun to say. And so, I built a website in WordPress. It was one of the first websites I ever built. If you go to the Wayback Machine, it’ll be pretty fun. You can see it’s freelancerfriday.org, I think, or .com, .au, I can’t remember. Anyway. I basically said to all my freelancer friends, “Hey, I’m going to the pub on the third Friday of every month at 4:00 down tools. I’m just going to have some beers, and hang out, and shoot the shit because we all work from home and we don’t really have office mates to kind of bounce off. So I started this networking thing and my goal was to introduce people that I knew that didn’t know each other.

Troy: So if we were doing it and we had like an online version of this, I would invite you and I would invite someone who I knew you didn’t know that I thought you should know. I’m going to pretend that you don’t know Adam from WPCrafter. There you go. I’m going to pretend that you don’t know Adam Preiser from WPCrafter. I would say, “Hey, James, you should meet Adam. Adam, you should meet James. You guys are awesome guys. I love both what you’re doing and I think you’ll get along.” And then you, guys, just start chatting, right? And so, I would do this. I would have like 20 or 30 people turn up every month at these events and I would just be the connector. I would just introduce people to each other and eventually … and I had no expectation. I wasn’t pitching my shit. I wasn’t trying to sell websites. I wasn’t doing anything like that. I was just literally getting out of the house to have a beer.

Troy: Eventually, people will be like, “Why are you doing? What do you do?” I’m like, “I build websites.” I picked up so much work from that, not generally from people at the event but from people at the event who knew other people who needed websites. I found my first business partner through that event. He was a regular. He came along and we eventually partnered up. It was the absolute number one thing I did to build my local network and picked up enough work to keep me going for the first couple of years until I got some traction and was then just getting referrals and word of mouth. So that is … that’s what I would be doing. Get out of the house and connect people who you think should know each other and they will be forever grateful.

James: That’s awesome, yeah. I think there’s a little … actually a few similarities there and how we got started and it was basically just going to those kind of events. We didn’t start our own. I think that’s next level. I think that’s a really, really good idea if someone’s connected enough to start that up or even if you’re not, start getting a network together. But going to those business events and actually going to the same ones and off with the same people, I ended up getting known as the guy that did websites and same thing, they referred other people in to get web work done, or apps, or software, or whatever it was. So, yeah, I think I’ve always been a big fan of networking as when you’re first getting started. So it’s really good to hear your stories kind of similar because I always talk about it and I’m not sure, you know? I’m like, “Does it work for everybody?” I don’t know.

Troy: Yeah, yeah. It’s the long game, like it’s not going to … you’re not going to win a website next week by going and having lunch with two people and connecting them. It’s the long game, but it’s a great long game. In the virtual world, one of the best things I did when we started WP Elevation was I started a podcast because a podcast is a excellent tool to use to reach out to connect with people. I would reach out to people in the WordPress base who I didn’t know, who I wanted to get to know. I would introduce myself and say, “Hey, I’ve got this podcast, we’ve got these listeners. They’d love to hear from you.” That was a warm call, not a cold call. It’s a great way to ask people at the end of the show, “Hey, James, who would you like see on the podcast?” You’d go, “You know what? I’m going to introduce you to Adam Hempy from Better Proposals. He’d be great.” I’m like, “Sweet.” You’re just introducing me to people and it expands your network exponentially. It was the best thing we did to grow WP Elevation.

James: That’s awesome. That’s really good advice. Thank you.

Troy: No worries, it’s a pleasure.

James: I think that pretty much covers all the marketing questions I’ve got. A good one was how to get your first clients without a reputation or portfolio, but I mean I didn’t have a portfolio and we got our first jobs. Did you?

Troy: No, I mean of course not. I mean you’re not born with a portfolio.

James: Some people go and do pro bono work. Are you an advocate for that?

Troy: I think I built a couple of … before I even was in business as a web designer, I built a couple of websites for Mates for free just for fun, there in the film industry. That was back when I was experimenting with Flash in my experimental.

James: It didn’t go to anywhere anymore?

Troy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Eventually, they were like, “All right, we need you to build us a proper website and we’ll pay you for it.” I’m like, “Oh, okay. Fair enough. I better learn how to do this.” I built some websites for my … I was a voice-over artist at [inaudible 00:34:33] and so I built websites for my own projects. That’s your portfolio, right? If you’ve got a hobby, like if you collect model trains or something weird or like maybe you’re into remote-controlled boats on the weekend or something weird, then you should build a website for your hobby and then put that up in your portfolio and say here, here’s one I did, here’s one I prepared earlier. It doesn’t matter what it is, it just so that you can show people, prove to people that you can actually do what it is you’re telling them you can do.

James: Yeah, absolutely, awesome. Okay, well, I think that’s pretty valuable. There’s a lot of takeaways there, though I think the biggest ones were networking to start with, specialization in what you do and who you do it for. Actually, one thing I was going to say around that too is that packaging mentality is basically the Built To Sell book. I was going to recommend people go and read that.

Troy: 100%. John Warrillow Built To Sell is a fantastic book. Absolutely, because the truth is if you’re doing services for clients, it’s not scalable, but forget about it not being scalable. It’s worse than not scalable, right? If you’re just building bespoke custom websites for every client that walks in the door, it’s worse than not scalable. It’s a trap. You’ll actually handcuff yourself to your business. I’ve got a buddy of mine who’s a headshot photographer. He’s really good. He shoots a lot of headshots for a lot of famous actors in Australia. He went on a holiday to the States last year with his fiancee and he came back and he’s like, “You know what? I’m 25 grand in the hole.” I’m like, “What do you mean?” He goes, “Well, I spent 15 grand on the holiday and I didn’t earn 10 grand while I was away on the holiday because I wasn’t on the camera.”

Troy: He’s like, “I have no revenue in the business unless I’m actually on the camera.” I’m like, “Dude, we’ve been talking about this. You’ve got to solve this problem. You’ve got to start packaging it up what you do and repositioning it and selling it to corporate clients or selling it to actors, make it more valuable, and put them on packages, put them on yearly or quarterly packages so that you’ve got some predictable revenue coming in. You can’t scale a custom service business. As I said, worse than that, it actually is a handcuff to your business. One of the things we talk about in our program all the time is how to productize what it is you’re doing, and how to add more value to your customers and get them on some kind of recurring revenue model because that’s the only way to free yourself from that time-for-money treadmill.

James: I’m almost going to have to get you back to talk about recurring revenue, I think.

Troy: Oh, my, my-

James: Exactly. One person did asked about that.

Troy: One of my favorite topics of all time. I’ll come back any time and talk about recurring revenue. In fact, we are we going to San Diego at the end of June and we’re running a full-day recurring revenue masterclass, so it is totally-

James: I think I saw that.

Troy: Totally one of my favorite topics, man. It’s changed my life, recurring revenue. I wouldn’t be here right now talking to you if it wasn’t for recurring revenue.

James: Absolutely.

Troy: Yeah.

James: I know a lot of clever people switching to that kind of model. Like James Schramko, he’s all about it as well, always gone to his membership, got rid of all of his one-time products and rolled it all in to a membership.

Troy: Yeah.

James: Everyone’s doing it for a good reason.

Troy: Yeah, yep, totally.

James: Sweet. Well, thanks for coming on.

Troy: Thanks for having me, man. I appreciate it.

James: and if you guys watch in, obviously, go check out WP Elevation. I’ll drop a link … it’s going to be right there overlaid on the video.

Troy: Awesome.

James: Yeah, I’ll drop a link below the video as well. So, awesome.

Troy: Thanks for having me, James, and keep up the good work with Content Snare, man.

James: Thanks, man. So hopefully, you got a few gold nuggets out of that. Obviously, Troy’s our bloody awesome guy for sharing that information with me and you. That link again, contentsnare.link/wpe to jump on the next intake of WP Elevation. You probably get … depending on when you visit that link, you might get some free videos. They run through like proposal breakdowns and provide a lot of awesome free info on how to land bigger projects and more of them. So, yeah, hit that link. It’ll be below the video as well and just sign up when you’re ready.


James Rose

James is the co-founder of Content Snare - a software platform that helps professionals collect content & files from clients.

Once an automation engineer, his new priority is to help business owners regain their lives, be more productive and get more done in less time.