Making the Leap from Freelancing to WordPress Agency – best practices and things to consider

Marius Vetrici
CEO wpriders
January 25, 2017

Do you want to scale up your freelancing activity to a full-fledged WordPress agency business?

The good news is that if you succeed, you’ll start enjoying normal holidays without your laptop around, you’ll spend more time with your family and even have some time for yourself. However, there are some critical success factors that need to be properly defined and implemented in order to make this possible.

Here’s a short 2 minute video on how I’ve done this transition. But then, read on if you want to have full details:

This is how I managed to make this transition which is not as easy as it may seem:

  1. Write your business plan:
    1. What are you going to do – choose the service you want to focus on. The keyword here is focus, which means choosing what not to do and that means sacrificing the other services you provide but do not bring so much value. We decided to fix complex WordPress problems, work on tailoring WordPress to specific business processes.
    2. For whom – choose from your existing clients those who are ideal clients in terms of maximum profit margin, who perceive the high value of your service and who are the most pleasant to work with. Our ideal client is the one who knows what he wants, who has the right budget for this and is open to discuss about it.
    3. Marketing and sales – decide how you are going to generate new leads as well as manage them and convert them into paying clients. Currently, I’m the only one doing this part, but this year we are planning to hire a marketing plus sales reps.
  2. Build your own tribedefine your organizational culture. A strong and healthy culture will help you choose the right people on your team, make decisions about projects and clients and, ultimately, it will help you survive throughout ups and downs. To define your culture means to articulate:
    1. Your mission – this is your big Why?, your reason to exist. For example, we chose as our mission “Your Online Success”.
    2. Your core values – this is your big How?, your boundaries for action. For example, our core values are: Accountability, Integrity, Personal growth, Contribution.
  3. Hire your team – hire based on your core values and mission.
    1. Hire experienced people that can deliver a well-rounded job and who share your company values.
    2. Communicate your mission and values on your company’s website, in your hiring ad as well as during your interview.
    3. Ask your candidates to write code during the interview and watch them as they write the code. This is very insightful.
    4. For example, I hired first 3 coders, then one of them became our Project Manager, then I hired 2 more coders. Aside from that we have some part-time collaborators: a copywriter for our website, an accountant and an office assistant for handling paperwork.
  4. Watch your cash flow – some say that cash is King, but cash flow is King Kong! This is one of the most important, yet difficult parts in this freelance to agency switch.
    1. Make sure you have constant streams of work from your freelancing activity either from recurring clients, recurring partners or freelancing platform. For example, we have a nice stream of work from as well as from our own website and some partner agencies.
    2. Set aside cash for any rainy days, which should cover at least 3 months of any possible inactivity.
    3. Make sure you get paid every month because you have fixed costs to cover. Therefore, break down your projects to smaller milestones that, once delivered, will be paid by your client. Work with full advance payment as much as possible.
  5. Get organized
    1. Give clear tasks to your developers
    2. Write down your flow. Ours is: take project, write down scope, backup client website, code it, test it, deliver it, backup the website again.
    3. Choose the right tools: we use Asana to track our tasks.
    4. Track your time and plan your workload: we use Harvest Time Tracking and Harvest Forecast to plan our projects in advance.
  6. Get a business mentor – find someone you trust and who is more experienced than yourself in business. Make sure you can call him/her every now and then whenever you have important decisions to make. This is one of the simplest yet most effective factor that will support you in your business. I am lucky to have found such a person. At the same time, I’m a mentor myself for other start-up businesses.

Key takeaways for you

  1. Write down your business plan
  2. Define and build your organizational culture
  3. Hire your team based on your culture
  4. Watch your cash flow
  5. Get organized
  6. Get a business mentor

Final notes

This article and video are part of my application to speak at WordCamp Europe 2017, Paris. If I don’t get selected 🙂 I hope it will help and inspire other freelancers looking to make the transition to WordPress agency.

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