Brad Spencer does WordPress consulting as well as SEO work. It’s not often you find a well-rounded guy like this that has such a great handle on Internet marketing, SEO, web design, programming, and graphic design. I like what he has to say because he echoes some of the same sentiments I have…like in his profile where he says “It simply doesn’t make sense to pay a Web Designer $100/hour to design your website when your teenage son could do the same thing. The question is no longer how pretty your site is, but how relevant, useful, and profitable it is.” I couldn’t agree more!
So, as part of our new series “Ways to Make Money Online” – this interview with Brad will give you some insight into what it’s like to be an independant WordPress consultant!
Brad, tell us about your background?:
Well I want to start out by thanking you for the invitation to be part of your series. Your blog is a great read and it’s a pleasure to talk with you. On to the question at hand… My background is pretty varied. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and then after graduating high school in 2003 I moved around the USA a lot and did some travels abroad. After about five years of nomadic living I settled in New York and got to working online. I’ve had dozens of jobs… Landscaping, Director of Marketing and Communications for a Pilot TV Program, Chef, House Flipper, Dining Hall Manager at a Meditation Retreat, Fine Dining Server, Snowboarder, Book Store Dude, Coffee Shop Barista, and the list goes on and on. I just like lots of different stuff.
How did you get started working online?:
Well that’s a fun question. When my girlfriend (at the time) and I returned from a trip to Chile, Argentina, and Costa Rica around 2005 or 2006 or something, my girlfriend was returning to college. The school (one of the East Coast ones with endowments that make Ron Jeremy blush) gave us a nice apartment and everything was paid for. This freed me to try some things that could produce money in the long term without having to make money to pay rent each month. At about the same time I got the last payment from flipping houses in Phoenix before the great Real Estate bust. So with a small nest egg and free rent I went about making a Hookah enthusiast website and quickly learning exactly how much I didn’t know. Which, coincidently, I’m still reminded of each day.
Tell us how you went from “creating web sites” to being a WordPress consultant?:
My main hurdle to being a successful affiliate has always been that I don’t have much to say. Since blogs are mostly about saying something and the blog itself is simply a “frame” or “framework” for the content, not having something to say is a pretty big problem. It strikes me that some people just have more to say than others.
So I found myself working within the code and playing with how WordPress works much more than actually writing content. This is the worst way to build a successful blog, by the way, but ended up being a good way to learn the innards of WordPress.
A few years ago WordPress was a lot less glossy and refined as it is now. To really use it you had to work with it’s underlying technologies a lot more. I’m lucky because I learned how to use WordPress at that stage. So now when something doesn’t work in the glossy, user-friendly, wordpress 2.7 and beyond, it’s easy for me to figure out what went wrong.
How do you compare WordPress to other open source tools like Joomla, Mambo, Drupal, etc.?:
I’ve tried a few others, namely Joomla, Expression Engine, and Drupal. None of them compare to WordPress. And they never will. WordPress won. They got the user base, and they will continue to outpace the others in terms of plugins available, updates, etc. If there was a market for WordPress futures I’d drop some cash in it.
What’s your best method for obtaining clients?:
Being on the Official WordPress Consultant list has been a real boon to my business. I also think that using the skill you sell to get clients makes the most sense. In my case I have a Search Engine Optimized WordPress blog that gets a bunch of traffic. If someone arrives to my site, it means I know what I’m doing.
If you are going to be a professional twitterer, you should get your clients on twitter.
If you are going to be a copywriter, you should compel people with your copy.
That way you’ve already pre-sold your services. You can start negotiating with your clients without having to prove that you are competent.
How do you stay organized in your online business?:
It’s difficult. Basecamp is great for collaboration. I also have legal pads all over my desk with list after list of ToDo’s that somehow make sense. But I’ve tried to shy away from any computer-based todo system because I like to physically cross stuff off of my list. Haha.
Tell us about your daily work routine? How many hours, and what’s your schedule like?:
I like to wake up late and check email for an hour or so. Then I’ll do some errands and eat and grab a coffee for a few hours. Then in the evening I’ll do most of the work until the wee hours of the morning. I’ve always been a night-owl and get most of my creative ideas at night. If there is a big project due, then I’ll work during the day at a coffee shop too. Whatever it takes to get it done.
On this note: I think it’s crucial for Internet folks, like us, to take media fasts occasionally. That means no computer, no tv, no newspaper. Just chill outside and let your brain and nerves relax away from screens. I try to do some sort of computer fast every few weeks, if even only for a couple of days.
How has your business growth been from last year until now, and where do you see yourself in a year?:
Booming. It’s been exploding more each year. Keeping up with the workload requires new and inventive ways to provide more value in less time than I did last month.
Is being the “jack of all trades” guy overwhelming?:
Absolutely. But learning to say “No” has been very helpful. Telling a client that you are “Too Busy” may seem obnoxious in our capitalist society, but you have to stay sharp in this business. It is easy to beat a competitor who is overwhelmed, you know?
Have you ever had clients that want a swimming pool but want to pay for a bucket of water? How do you handle that?:
Well said. I’ve never had anyone get a quote and complain about the price. I think I tend to build swimming pools for the price of a bucket of water, and sometimes the low price makes people think they are going to get less than expected. I could likely raise my rates 50% and actually get more clients since the price would corroborate that they are buying a good product. But, alas, I like to make sure that people get a good deal.
I also try to work in verticals that stand to benefit most from SEO or getting new clients. A lawyer or doctor, for instance, can afford to pay 10k for a website overhaul and if they get a few clients out of it will still have a positive ROI. I shy away from industries that can’t make their money back quickly. Before I was a consultant, I was a hustler little entrepreneur and want to make sure that people come out ahead when they work with me. I’ve sent many potential clients away who have “vanity” projects or don’t have a chance of ranking because I never want anyone to even wonder if working with me was a good move on their part.
Will you create any “online products” in the future, or just stick to consulting?:
Great question. If you haven’t read Peter Drucker then start ASAP.
I’m trying to turn everything I do into a product. This includes consulting. People are more comfortable buying a product instead of a service. And if you can product-ize a service business, then you can also measure and improve the value, impact, and efficiency of that service.
So my consulting service has been turned into a One hour phone consultation for $99. That’s a product that you can buy on my site via paypal and get an expected result from. You take an ambiguous process and make it something you can touch and smell and buy. There is a reason why Walmart doesn’t sell insurance (or do they?).
What advice do you have for people that want to start working for themselves online?:
Model your business on something that works offline. Business is the same offline as online, but technical jargon can mask a poorly thought out business plan. You still have to sell something for more than it cost to make/buy it. That’s just business. I’m not saying you have to have a business plan, but just don’t expect something on the internet to make you rich simply because it’s the net.
And there is plenty of space to make huge stacks of money online. All the people who made lots of money online are rich now and not working on new projects. So look for the stuff on the horizon and get there before the mass does. I’d look at twitter right now.
Thanks Brad, for the great interview! You gave some great insight into your online job as a WordPress consultant!
Be sure to read the rest of the interviews in our series: “Ways to Make Money Online”