Matt Medeiros of The Matt Report is it getting harder to make money from WordPress if you freelancer

In episode 120, we have a great guest and friend of the show, Matt Medeiros from The Matt Report & PluggedIn Radio. In our main discussion, we ask Matt, Is it getting harder to make money in WordPress?

Matt is also the creator of the Conductor plugin, and co-founder of Slocum Studio.

What Is Your Biggest Motivation, Matt?

To keep building things.

What are 3 of your Life Success Principles?

Don’t settle for the way it’s been done before.
Put integrity first.
Don’t be afraid.

Full Show Transcript

Jonathan: Hi there folks, this is WP-Tonic episode 120, we’ve got a great friend of the show and I’ve been really looking forward to this interview all week and that’s Matt from the Matt Report. Hi there Matt, would you like to begin your introduction and tell the audience a bit about yourself if you really need to, Matt.

Matt: No I don’t. No, I’m just kidding. Matt Medeiros from the Matt Report, I do that, I do another WordPress podcast called Plugged In Radio talking about WordPress plugins. We’ve been on a bit of a hiatus even though it just started, run a WordPress agency which we’ll probably talk about today. Sell a WordPress plugin, and WordPress themes, we’ll probably talk about today and I also rant about WordPress stuff on Twitter.

Jonathan: Like to introduce yourself, John?

John: Sure thing, my name is John Locke and I run a small WordPress web design company in Sacramento called Lockedown SEO.

Jonathan: I’m the co-host of this show and I’m going to be leading for the first part and then John will be leading in the second part. I’m the founder of WP-Tonic and if you’ve got Legacy clients which you don’t really know what to do with, WP-Tonic can help you if you are a developer or designer. Matt, I’ve been really looking forward to the chat.

Let’s hit off with what the title was, and I think it’s been a little bit of a theme in your series, this series really when you’ve been talking to people. I’d like to say I think you’ve really come back this series really strong and you’ve had some fantastic interviews, Matt. I’ve really listened to almost all of them and I’ve really enjoyed them. I chose this topic with your agreement because I felt there was a theme in this season about where WordPress is going and is it getting harder for developers, designers, agency owners like yourself to make a decent living out of WordPress. Let’s start off, what’s your reaction to the broadness of the question and any insights Matt?

Matt: Sure. Number one I’m glad that you have found season 3 to be so much more enthralling than the last season. The last season was just-

Jonathan: I didn’t say that, last season was fantastic as well to say it got even better.

Matt: No listen, and I’ll tell you why really like I said in this season really got back to the roots of talking about WordPress and where people are in the WordPress space in terms of their business and their journey in WordPress. I’m actually glad that I did switch things up in season 2, that was an experiment. I try to do anything I can to experiment business wise, I’m always trying new things and trying not to get stuck doing the same old thing over and over again, especially with podcasts because people have such limited time. We’re already talking about a small, niche thing of WordPress.

Season 2 is a mix of randomness and talking to people about WordPress. What as I was getting at is I’m glad there was a gap. I’m glad there was a good solid probably year when I didn’t dig deep into what people were doing with WordPress because it’s a great contrast from season one and even pre-season one of where people were in the uptick of freelancing, agency building, product building, and saw that curve going up. Then there was a plateau which I never discussed on the air because I changed the format. Now we’re starting to see where people are either talking about a plateau or people have gotten the hell out. My plateau that have coming up next week is Rob Walling from Drip, and he just sold his business to Leadpages.

I think what we’re now seeing is not just WordPress, but anybody who started a “digital business” with air quotes in the air, anyone who started the “digital business” we’re seeing this trend where now people are like it’s either a great time to sell because people are investing in these types of things or I’ve built all I could do on my own. As most of us out here in the Twitter sphere or WordPress, the freelancers, or small partnerships, or seek agencies. No more than maybe 6 people, even if we’re all contractors on a pick owner job. I think what we’re seeing is now people are like, yeah I think everybody jumping on the WordPress ship and people being able to find their WordPress developer of choice or WordPress theme of choice, starting to get a little bit harder for folks that are out there.

I do want to say John that, [I’m] noticing … I think that you’ve both done a great job at focusing on your own businesses. Knowing what I know of both of you from let’s say a year, 2 years, even 3 years ago, seeing where both of your businesses are at, you’ve become a lot more focused, a lot more narrowed down on the type of business that you want to go after versus “I’m the WP person, come hire me”. I think you guys have both done a great job at that.

Jonathan: Thank you Matt.

John: Yeah, definite thanks.

Jonathan: Matt-

Matt: The point of that of recognizing that out of both of you is it’s getting harder but I think we’re also a lot of us are starting to get a lot smarter about it too. A year ago, 2 years ago, we can all be that WordPress person and we could still get business. Not that nobody’s getting business now, but it was just a little bit easier, right? Now I think we’re falling into our own verticals, our own individual niches. Those of us that don’t, it becomes a lot harder for those of us that don’t.

Jonathan: Yeah, I think … I’m pulled I should say, I’m really pulled into directions in here Matt because I think in some ways I sense it is getting harder and I sense it’s not totally that there’s a lot of new people entering so the actual level competition because in reality there’s always I think even 2 years ago, 2, 3 years ago a lot of people entered the WordPress area, community, whatever you want to name it. I think also there’s a lot more other platforms.

I think last weekend when we had the virtual conference and Matt, I actually asked him a question. He was talking that he really saw a threat from Wix spending $40 million and other priority platforms is a real threat to WordPress. Do you agree with him, being you’re the next highest man in the community that these priority that might be a factor like the weeks and other similar platforms are starting now to encroach quite heavily on the bread of butter of the WordPress developer designer community?

Matt: Sure. I think there’s a few things at play when you bring that up. Number one is anybody new who’s coming into WordPress trying to build a website, they’re trying to build a website for their business. Everybody is trying to do it themselves at first because it’s who we are. We’re all entrepreneurs, we’re all trying to bootstrap things, we’re all trying to do it as affordable as possible. We all try to go at it alone, we try to do our taxes alone, we try to hire people without council or legal help. We do all these things without other professionals in our business.

I know the 3 of us and maybe people watching this show, we get angry when people build up their own website without talking to us first. We’re like, “What are you doing? Hire a professional, we know what we’re doing.” The problem is WordPress is still very difficult for the person who’s just trying to do it themselves. I see time and time again people that I follow from my local network circle, there’s a girl that works out of my co-working space who’s trying to do the internet thing. There are people that I consult in an accelerated program that I’m a part of, some of those people are trying to get an eBook published, or do some marketing stuff, and they all are told to use WordPress and they all give up on because they don’t know where … I don’t even want to say they don’t know where to start, I think there’s enough information on where to start, it usually starts at the host wherever they host their website.

They don’t know where to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together. EDD, OptinMonster, all these things get the right theme and a lot of them spend the most amount of time not on their business plan, not on their marketing message, but on what color blue they want on their WordPress site and trying to get it pixel perfect through another competitors website or something else that they’ve seen and they spend way too much time spinning their wheels doing that and they get frustrated and they give up. What does Wix and Squarespace do really well? They present themes really well and Ellen the core contributor and lead for 4.7, I think it was yesterday or the day the day before, it might’ve been yesterday and she went on a Tweet storm on what it’s like to search for a theme in the repo and set it up.

It’s a nightmare and it’s not easy. It’s not like plugins are any better at this point, a little bit better maybe, but just not easy for somebody to spin up something quick. Everybody wants quick, nobody wants to spend the time on it. It’s like insurance in a sense where you don’t know you need it until you need it. You don’t know you need it until you’ve got your site on Wix and all of a sudden a year from now your business is … You’re actually starting to kick up, you’re starting to make some sales, you’re starting to get some things going.

“I heard about this SEO thing, let me figure out how to optimize my pages”. Or, “I heard about this company called Leadpages and email marketing automation, how do I get that into my site?” Then you hit the wall of Wix and Squarespace, I’m sure they’re a little bit better now, but most of all the instructions you see is “Dive into the HTML, set it up, blah, blah, blah.” They’re like “I can’t do that with where I’m at.” Then they say, “Oh, you should use a WordPress site” and then the wheel starts again or they finally have enough money to hire somebody.

Is it a threat? Of course, of course, but it’s not a “global” air quotes again “global threat” to WordPress site I don’t think. I think what we see is with Jetpack and the initiatives of .com and Calypso, we’re in the infancy stage of how Matt envisions simplifying WordPress. That’s my conspiracy theory is all of this stuff is leading to an easier to spin up WordPress experience. I think that’s the long game on that.

Jonathan: There’s 2 questions that come to mind, but I’m going to go from my original one and then we’re going to come back because I got a secondary question that’s just coming into my mind Matt. This goes for the original question, I think that was a great insight Matt. I think we’ve dealt with the low level, but I think we’re in a pincer movement here a little bit because let’s go upscale. Let’s go up to the $100,000 to $250,000 projects and up.

You’ve got experience with that with higher education, they seem to still have a love affair with Drupal and they still to some extent, obviously you’re getting some traction in the education sector so I thought you were the guy to ask. There still seems to be a preference to Drupal really rather than looking at WordPress. First of all would you agree with that to some extent and if you do have you got any insights why that is?

Matt: Another one with a lot of threads of thought. I can say that my experience in the web world dates back to Drupal 4 going into Drupal 5 and then Drupal 5 going to Drupal 6 where I managed a team of Drupal developers. Now compare that to what I see in higher education and there are plenty of agencies, probably like Modern Tribe and the whole WP Campus movement that have a lot of insights towards this. I really think this is because, there’s 2 things, one I think engineers that use Drupal for whatever reason, at least in my experience tend to be in the enterprise and higher education space. For whatever reason there is a fan base there for lack of a better word.

There’s a Drupal fan base there for a lack of better word from the engineering and technology teams. For whatever reason the stigma is there. I was talking to a professor at a local university that I wanted to come talk at my WordPress meetup and he said, “I don’t really know anything about WordPress anymore, I know some of my students use it for blogging, but I’m a Drupal guy.” This is a really tenured marketing professor, he actually has a PhD and I said, “Why did you lose sight of WordPress and why do you use Drupal?” His answer was “because WordPress isn’t responsive.” I was like, “What do you mean, not fast enough? You don’t get things quick enough?” He’s like, “No, no, it’s just not mobile ready out of the box.” I’m like “No, no, that’s themes and it hasn’t been that way for 7 years. It’s not WordPress isn’t responsive, it’s whatever theme you used wasn’t responsive.”

I say that because people come in from all sorts of assumptions and I think one major assumption on the technical level versus that marketing end user level is Drupal … There’s probably a real technical argument towards this, but Drupal’s more, and I’m going to shot for this, but “stable”. It’s more “stable” it doesn’t iterate as fast as WordPress which comes with a whole host of other problems by doing that.

Look I’ve been hearing about Drupal 8 for 3 years I think and it’s still either just launched or not even launched yet, I’m not even sure. It’s a slow process and I think that corporations like that a little bit more. Enterprise likes that, it doesn’t like the fast iterations as much. Not to say that if you hired an agency and got somebody who knows what they were doing you couldn’t solve that with WordPress, plenty of people do.

I think that in the enterprise space a lot of people gravitate towards that. I was dealing with a large agency in Boston and we spent hours quoting a project and working numbers out on an estimate for a project and they came back to me and said that their client wanted Drupal and that was it, that was the end of the discussion. I was like, “Well, I just wasted 2 days worth of work for nothing and they wanted Drupal.” I said I’d be happy to get on the phone, but they probably didn’t even want them knowing that they were outsourcing to us for development and the client just wanted Drupal.

I think in those spaces it’s a tough sell. Then I’d also add onto the fact that I would imagine that Acquia sales team is much more aggressive is something this enterprise solution to other enterprises. Whereas I don’t thin, and you can’t quote me on this, I don’t think the VIP team has an aggressive outbound sales team that Acquia certainly does. Don’t forget, Acquia drew the line in the sand dating back to 2008 is when Acquia officially announced them, became a “corporate enterprise focused entity” and Drupal was an open source project.

Jonathan: I think that’s great insight, they want to get Jake Goldman as head of it, don’t they? He might get aggressive wouldn’t he, in a good way, I like Jake. I think that was great insights. I’m just going to give my penny’s worth before we go to our break actually. I wasn’t an expert on it, but I did a few side gigs in the ExpressionEngine and I was part of a little bit of the ExpressionEngine community because it was really very popular in the UK. It’s obvious folks, I’m not a native Nevadan.

Matt: I never knew that’s what people from Nevada were called, Nevadan.

Jonathan: Nevadan. ExpressionEngine was really popular and I think a lot of top tier agencies, they tend to want to use ExpressionEngine or Drupal basically. I think a lot of that is on the smaller projects they tend to go to ThemeForest and they think anything below 10 grand, $10,000 they tend to hit the ThemeForest and they think that’s WordPress where it isn’t. It has its place and it’s fine, but that is not WordPress, is it? WordPress is a lot more than just ThemeForest, isn’t it?

Matt: I just want to add real quick before you go to break or commercial, how much money do you guys make on this show? Jesus, I don’t even have commercial breaks in the middle of mine. I would say that the people that I’m talking to in the higher education space and even in the enterprise space is still a good time at that level for WordPress. As difficult as it’s becoming, and again I’m not trying to paint the picture like, “Oh my god the world is ending” but I think we just have to position ourselves slightly different than we were in the last few years.

I think a lot of enterprise folks who have been stuck in proprietary contracts because I talk to a lot of people that are getting out of that, they’re looking at WordPress and they’re saying “Wow, I can save a boatload of money on my car insurance by switching to WordPress” and they are because there are a lot of archaic systems out there that people are paying ridiculous amounts of money for. They can finally move to WordPress which I think is a huge boom for them.

Jonathan: That’s great Matt. We’re going to go for our break folks and we’ll be back in a minute and John, my co-host will start off the conversation. Before we go to our break remember folks, please subscribe to iTunes, it really helps the show. If you found this interview really interesting, and hopefully you have, give us a review. It really does help this show on iTunes. We’ll be back and my co-host John Locke will be answering the first question. Back in a minute. We’re coming back folks and John’s going to take over and we’re going to delve some more into this fascinating subject with a great friend of the show, Matt from the Matt Report.

John: Thanks Jonathan. Matt, I feel like you and I have a lot in common in that I think we share a similar strength that a lot of people in the web development world maybe don’t have. That’s we both have a blue collar background in having to do sales and not just writing code. There’s 2 ways that you can really make money in the WordPress space and that’s either through products or it’s through client services. I think in both areas, and especially in client services there’s a need for positioning and marketing that isn’t being addressed. The main topic is it getting hard to make money in the sandbox and I think in a way it’s yes, but I think if you’re differentiated the answer is no. Speak a little bit on that. How important is the sales marketing and voice?

Matt: I think there’s always going to be a place for people who come knocking on your door and say, “I just want the lowest price. I just want the lowest price, I don’t care.” One of my favorite pastimes is actually going through the WordPress job’s board to see the reality that’s out there at the real low end. It would be interesting to see if people could actually serve that market. I think with even the right messaging for a lot of the people who post things like, “Give me a website for 200 bucks.” I think with a little education a lot of the folks that are posting those questions, it would go a long way and they actually might invest a little bit more.

At first glance what we do anyway when a low budget project comes in is we will spend some time, small amounts of time trying to educate, seeing if they even want to be educated. Even if it’s just through a “Look, we don’t have the budget for our team to come in, but what we can do is a site audit. Give you a professional opinion of where you should go.” That’s just spinning a little bit of the marketing message. It’s not just saying “find someone else”, maybe if you’re open to it, maybe an hour or 2 of consulting will get you on the right path. Maybe we can even answer the question and then you can go and do it yourself.

Tools are getting a little bit easier to use for folks and maybe they want to spend a little bit of time doing it themselves. You know John like we were saying at the top of the show is I think you’ve done a great job funneling the message of your own website. Of people coming to your website saying, “What is it that you can do.”

I think it was interesting, it was around 2008, 2009 I think what you saw was this mass exodus from going from a bigger agency. Let me put as an example my local market, a lot of the businesses that we serviced used to get their website built by their IT company. I think we’ve all seen that, I think we’ve all been there before where it’s like, “Well they came and they fixed my printer and they said that they would do my website for me to so we just did the website with them.” There’s no creative talent, there’s no marketing message, none of that stuff. “They don’t even have time to fix their website when something happens and then they charge me $200 and it drives me crazy.”

I think there was this exodus of people going, “You know what, I’m going to go away from that all you can eat company whether it’s an agency or an IT company, I’m going to find a boutique agency or somebody who specializes in my website.” I think a lot of us got stuck in that or we didn’t adapt as time passed. What do I mean by that? A lot of us focused on WordPress development, WordPress design and we didn’t pivot to watch for marketing automation, mobile apps, and start to become a little bit more of the all you can eat to a degree and find that vertical that they really excel at. I did a little bit and it’s not easy, it’s not easy.

One day you just don’t wake up and say, “I’m just going to focus on this vertical.” It’s very tough to do that. You have to have really good team and you have to have really good clients in place to be able to do that. We were lucky enough to stay with higher education and publishing clients, traditional publishers, magazines, newspapers because those are the markets we got a lot of and we figured it out and we know how to speak their language because that’s important too. I think in the “early years” of the WordPress gold rush a lot of folks hunkered down and said “I do WordPress design and development.”

Then over the years it got a little bit more difficult because they never wanted to one, market themselves, but 2 adapt to the market and say “I learned this thing called marketing automation and now I integrate that.” I’m not a fan of productized services as much as everybody else loves them. I do to a degree, just in case people don’t know it’s like you take this gigantic service and you funnel it down into this to do list and you can build a website for 500 bucks. I get it, but I feel like a lot of people who do get into that situation are leaving too much money on the table.

We talked about this the other day with real estate agents. It’s like, “I can get done for you website for 500 bucks.” Guess what? It works for one client but then the next client walks through the door and they’re like, “I don’t like that over there and I don’t like this over there and I want this content area to be bigger. I want my images to pop out.” You’re like, “No, no, no, no my $500 package is just what you’re looking at right here.” They go “I don’t really want that.” Okay, fine. Then you start going, “For a couple more hours I’ll just tweak it around for.” You tweak it and they go, “Well you know what? I like it the other way.” You’re like “I could’ve just sold this thing for $5,000 and sold it on value and got paid a little bit more money to get this stuff done.”

I think that folks really have to find the particular client that they have the synergy with at the same time. Don’t sell yourself too short. I think a lot of folks sell themselves too short with the services that they provide people, me included. There are plenty of times where I’ve sat back and looked at numbers and said “I’m going to go with $20,000 on this project” and then they come back and they were like, “Yes.” I was like “Jesus, that was so easy. What happens if I asked for 40, would we had a little bit of negotiation going on here? Maybe I would’ve got it down to 35.”

Gary Vaynerchuk for those that follow him, when he started his agency which is now a thousand person mega agency, that’s how he started pricing. He started at 10, then he went to 20, and then he asked the next person for 30, and then he went to 50 and somebody told him to jump off a bridge. He’s like, “Okay never mind not 50, 40” and they said yes. That’s how he figured out pricing in the agency world. One of the great things about the agency game is it’s a game, it’s about relationships, it’s about delivering number one, but you can set your price. If your customer finds value in that then you are actually providing the value, so be it.

John: No, I think those are excellent points. When you’re talking about finding a vertical where fit in where you can speak the language to the customer. Something you’re also seeing there is you have to run your business like a business. The goal of your business is to stick around for your clients to where you can service them in the future. I do think a lot of people undervalue their services or maybe they don’t push their boundaries enough. How much practice does that take to keep pushing your boundaries, and knowing your worth, and being able to deliver that value. I think you touched on it a little bit before, but being all around consultant instead of just a technician.

Matt: I’ve never walked into Walmart and said “Man I love that store, that was great. I can’t wait to go back.” Never, ever, but Walmart has the lowest prices. I walk into Apple and I have fun, it’s exciting, there’s new products, there’s always something nice to touch. You walk in and you’re like “Here’s my phone” this isn’t an iPhone, but I used to have one. “Here’s my phone, it broke.” Then somebody takes it, they take it apart, they fix it, and they come back and they go “It’s all set, here you go.” Most of the time they just give you another one, a new phone if it’s relatively within the warranty. Walk in, give it to them, they hand it back, and you get an email receipt. You’re done, you’re out, whatever. You’re like “That was great experience, but I paid a boatload of money for this phone.” You paid a lot of money and you got great service.

Goes with any kind of high end, luxury, fill in the blank. Whatever luxury car you might drive, or want to drive, or buy, Mercedes, BMW, whatever, that experience is there, but you’re paying for it 9 times out of 10. It’s very important that you find the right clients and you can only do that through trial and error. I wish there was a secret sauce to tell people, but there isn’t. The biggest thing that you can do is get out there and keep selling, bringing in projects, and understanding that you have to evaluate every customer.

It’s like if you cast out a net to go fishing, you pull in a bunch of fish and you go “this one’s too small” you throw it back. “This one’s big, perfect. This one’s right on the edge, let’s see if we can get away with it.” We’d throw that into the boat, we’d try to keep going on. When you push the boundaries though it is important that you do provide the value so you have to be cautious of that. You can fake it until you make it and like “Oh yeah I just sold a $40,000 project.” No, let’s even bring it down, “I sold a $15,000 project, can’t wait to deliver on this.”

If you go into this meeting and you’re telling them about their deadlines, because anybody with a $15,000 budget, they probably have a good deadline. It’s not like, eh, whenever you get to it. It’s going to be for a sales cycle coming up or a big marketing thing coming up or whatever or they need it for back to school, whatever. You have to deliver on that and you have to keep them in the communicative loop of telling them what’s going on with the project because that is detrimental to keeping the client happy. What’ll happen is if it’s you’re first $15,000 project but you get a whole bunch of other $500 projects in the pipeline and that’s dragging you down, you’re going to lose sight of this $15,000 project. They’re not going to be happy because you’re not going to perform your best.

You have to be ready, you have to be ready to deliver the value on that. Especially in bigger business, enterprise clients, they’re hiring you because of the continuity. They want to know that let’s say you’re the lead developer, if something happens to you, nothing even bad, but all of a sudden you’re like “I got a vacation going on” they go “Okay, who do we talk to when you’re gone?” You better say “My junior dev, or my project manager, or this other person.” They don’t want you to be like “Okay, see you later, we’ll work on your time.” No, they want you to deliver and they expect your company to be there even if you are not which goes back to your sustainability thing. You want to be profitable because you want to be … You want your customers to tell you to be profitable because they want you around.

You know the presentation I do is I used to show when I was doing more small business consulting is I would show a dollar bill, I did this talk in Miami. I used to show a dollar bill and I would say 60% of it goes to payroll, 20% of it goes to my overhead, my rent and electricity. It was a picture in a slide deck, picture of a dollar bill sliced into 3 pieces. 60% goes to payroll, 20% goes to overhead, my electricity, my rent, 20% goes to profit. I would say “Mr. or Mrs. Customer, for every dollar you spend with me, 20 cents of that is my profit and that goes back into reinvesting into the business, to grow the business and stay afloat. The last thing you want to do is to go back and knock on your neighbor’s door to higher his or her nephew who lives in the basement, say ‘help me build my website again’. We’ve already been down that path before.”

Just be real, just be real with customers. I don’t even try to do proposals anymore, I just cut to the chase. I just say it’s going to cost you whatever number I think it might cost, 20 grand, 15 grand, 10 grand, whatever it is. “Oh, can you get back to me on that?” I’ll get back to you on it, I’ll let you know some of the stuff we’re going to do, but I think you’re looking at 20,000.” “How do you know that?” “Because I’ve been doing it for 10 years. What you’ve asked me to do I’ve done a million times and I can tell everything that we’re doing. I’m not going to go in my Excel chart, plot all this stuff out for you. I know it’s going to be roughly 20 grand, are you comfortable with that or not?”

John: That’s a good point, qualifying them like that, finding out if they have the budget and if they’re a good fit. Definitely that’s part of getting a good client base. Are there any other things that you would say too people who are looking to grow or they’re wondering how do I make this a living? I’ve heard there’s a gold rush, I’m trying to figure it out, and what’s your advice? I know what I would say to people, but I want to hear what you have to say.

Matt: I’m glad you brought that up because I’m actually writing an eBook about this right now.

John: Very good, awesome.

Matt: I would say that number one as cliché as it sounds you have to set that goal of what it is that you want to get out of this business. Yes you want to make some money, yes you might be at a 9:00 to 5:00 job with a 4 hour commute every day and you’re like “This sucks, I don’t want to be in this cubicle anymore, I want to do my own thing. I feel like I have creative energy, I think I can help other people get their message out there too.” Define what that goal is for you. If you know you always want to be a solo freelancer, what’s that number? 40 grand a year, 60 grand a year, 100 grand a year, what is that number?

If you think want to grow an agency, a boutique agency, that becomes slightly more difficult because you’re going to have to hire people and you’re going to have to start thinking about a lot more money and a lot more pain. If you look at WebDevStudios and you’re like “That’s so awesome, I want to be like them.” That doesn’t come without a lot of work, and a lot of years, and getting lucky sometimes.

Being a freelancer is try to find the person that you relate to best. Try to work with those customers as much as possible, but know that if you’re quitting your job, you’re going to have to take on clients that you probably aren’t going to like but they’re going to pay the bills for you. That’s okay. You just know that one out of every 3 clients, that’s going to be a portfolio piece for you. Ultimately that’s what’s it’s going to boil down to. At least in my total guess out of the top of my head is one out of every 3 clients is a real home run, they let you do whatever you wanted to do, they give you creative control.

I’m not saying the other clients were bad, but it probably just wasn’t the best experience and you might not have liked the outcome because they wanted to control it a little bit more. They paid you fine, no problem, you just weren’t happy with the project. Find the clients that you can get the most … “Where do I get those clients?”

You’ve got to get out, you’ve got to get out, get out from behind Twitter and go find these people, unless … I don’t even want to say it, I’m not even going to give you another example, you’re going to get out and find these people. Find these people. Go to, try to find a meetup, try to find some kind of networking event in your area, cold call people, I don’t care, you just have to find the right people.

“What about this content marketing thing, I heard I could just attract people through content marketing.” Yes, it’s the same damn problem. If you haven’t done it before, you start that content marketing wheel, day you hit publish you’ve only got 0 people reading it except for maybe yourself. You’ve got one person reading it and that’s going to take a lot of time too. It’s a balancing act for sure, you want to do all these things, you want to get it all out there.

Then if you’re somebody who is like me, not a developer, yeah you’re technical enough, you’re a web professional, you understand these things, you understand what Facebook means, you understand how to run a Facebook ad, you might be able to link that up to a landing page on somebody’s WordPress site. You know how to install SEO, find the tools that you are comfortable user. Beaver Builder, Conductor, Genesis and StudioPress Framework, themes from iThemes, whatever it is, BackupBuddy to back up your stuff, whatever it might be. Jetpack, Jetpack is honestly becoming increasingly better with 4.X right around the corner. Find the tools that you’re comfortable with and don’t be afraid to spend a little money.

John: Yeah, true. Totally true.

Matt: Buy a theme pack, buy a good plugin, and reinvest that back into the company.

Jonathan: I think that was fantastic. We’re going to end the formal podcast folks, but hopefully Matt is going to agree to stay on for another 10, maybe 15 minutes. He’s a busy man, he’s got a young family now, but hopefully we’ll be continuing the discussion which you’ll find on the WP-Tonic website with a full set, a full transcription of what we’ve been talking about on the show. Plus you can go to the WP-Tonic YouTube channel which my co-host has been improving drastically. We’ll get a lot more subscribers.

To wrap up, Matt thank you so much for coming back to the show. Matt, I just want to give you … Matt’s one of my favorite people in WordPress because he was one of the first people who agreed to come on the show when I started over 2 years ago and it was quite gracious of him to agree because he didn’t know me and we were just starting out. You’ve contributed so much, I’ve learned a lot from your podcast, Matt. I think you really have contributed an enormous amount to the WordPress community and I just want to thank you for that.

Matt: Thanks for thanking me and thanks for having me here, it’s a real pleasure.

Jonathan: It’s been a real pleasure. How can people get a hold of you?

Matt: They can find me on Twitter @MattReport M-A-T-T report, or

Jonathan: Thanks Matt. John, how can people get a hold of you?

John: They can find me at my website which is, there’s a silent E after the “lock”. You can find me on Twitter @LockedownSEO, how do the fine people get a hold of you Jonathan?

Jonathan: I answer my email, all the email that comes to WP-Tonic, a bit like Pippin Williamson so if you email support or you get a message back from me the same day or next day, or @JonathanDenwood, that’s my Twitter handle and people have always remarked that I reply to that pretty quick. Like I said we’re ending this part of the show, folks. We’ll be back on Saturday for the live round table which is getting really popular, getting a lot of good feedback from people about our round tables on Saturday.

You can join us on that on FireTalk and be part of the discussion. Please join us at 10:00 AM Pacific Standard Time on FireTalk. You can be part of the round table discussion. We also will have another great interview next Wednesday with somebody part of the WordPress community. See you later folks, bye. We finished that, that’s the recorded part. I think we’ve really covered some really interesting things. We’ve got a couple-

John: Eduardo, Eduardo has a question. Want me to-

Jonathan: Yeah, go on.

John: Eduardo Sanchez Hildago Urias says, “I think the WordPress is about to change in a big way. Where in the WP development world do you think the opportunity be?” What he means is the new stuff that is maturing.

Matt: Sure. Yes, I think that things are definitely changing and they’re changing rapidly, but there’s a slight bump in the road here and that is with the REST API. The episode that went out this week was with Rachel Baker, episode of Matt Report was with Rachel Baker and we talked about some of the difficulties, some of the challenges of getting the rest API into WordPress. She also debunks that myth a little bit and explains what the REST API can be used for in developer speak. Some of the stuff is slightly above my head for sure, but it’s a definitely good listen if you want to learn about the REST API.

That’s going to change things a little bit, and not right away, but it will be slowly maturing if and when it ever gets into core. I think it will be, I think it’s just going to take some time. That’s going to be app, that’s going to be app development, it’s going to be app-centric. It’s going to be about I think anyway WordPress as an … We use WordPress for hosting blog posts, now we’ll be using WordPress to interface for applications. It’s still a little ways off, or a lot of ways off, but I think that we’re going to see some of that starts mature a little bit. I think we’re going to see to the detriment a little bit a fragmentation of WordPress.

If you watched WordSesh over the weekend, Brian Krogsgard hinted at this where the coupling of the WordPress admin through the front end of WordPress, now we have all these various stakeholders that are interested in WordPress because it runs their platform or their little ecosystem. I think we see some of that with Rainmaker, I think some of the webhosts are going to start to invest in a lot of that stuff because they’re going to want to spin off WordPress in their own sort of flavor. It might not be, “Oh my God WordPress is forking”, but I think the experience of WordPress and how people experience WordPress is going to become controlled by other people. Hosts for sure, and other companies that innovate like Rainmaker. For dev I think plugins are still hot, plugins is still a great way to do things with WordPress that WordPress doesn’t do otherwise and it’s a little hot space. Anything in the mobile sector again with WordPress and apps I think is going to be great, a great thing for people to focus on.

Jonathan: That was fantastic. Before I leave I’m going to ask you this one, I’ll be interested to see what your response is. Over the past couple weeks there’s been a lot of talk on Twitter, on the Tavern, I also over the weekend asked Matt a question about this and it’s about a few people have been saying things about the core development team and how outsiders are treated or input outside and how it’s dealt with and how decisions in general are made by the WordPress rendition. One of our panel, Walton Henderson has posted a lot of stuff about what his feelings about this. I’ll put this towards Matt and he said he didn’t think there was a real problem. These are volunteers, and basically he seemed, and I am putting words in his mouth a little bit that this was in some ways a lot of hot air. What’s your take on this?

Matt: Where to begin? In the episode … Listen, I think that, and this has been said before I’m not the first one to say this, this is a human problem, this is not a WordPress problem. We’ve got the Tavern and if you look at that article them versus us or us versus them, I forget which way it was, just look at the comments alone in that blog post. Look at the comments that go throughout the different things, which amazing to me because this so much, some of it’s just literal hate that goes on here. It is actually quite disgusting and it’s just one of the … Why? Humans, that’s why.

Because when you gather enough of us around this one topic this is the stuff that happens. There’s no way to have this everyone loves each other everyone helps each other kind of movement with this many people. You can see it on the Tavern comments, you can see it in advanced WordPress Facebook group. When you have 18 or 20,000 people in there you can’t post one thing without somebody else saying something else totally against it.

What’s actually quite laughable as a side note is when somebody posts a premium plugin and they’re like, “Oh yeah for a hundred bucks I can do this” and then somebody chimes in “A hundred bucks? I’d never pay that ever, I’ll just do it myself.” It’s like, Jesus, all right, fine you will.

When you have somebody as intelligent and as capable as a Rachel Baker helping lead the REST API movement along with the rest of her intelligent, capable team and they can’t get a project through like this, it’s not … Like in my blog post I said sometimes it’s us versus them, it’s them versus them, it’s us versus them. Even the top tier people can’t agree on things so it’s not just top tier people looking down at the little people.

Again, to me, again growing up in car sales, if somebody says, and plenty of people do … There are plenty of developers out there who hate my show because they think I sensationalize this whole thing, which is laughable and I don’t care. I’ve heard comments at WordCamps, I don’t care. I just keep coming back and I think if somebody is shied away from contributing to core WordPress, you haven’t tried hard enough, you haven’t tried hard enough. If your feelings got hurt … I mean so long as it’s not borderline threatening somebody’s life, or personal well-being, or whatever, if you get upset because somebody else doesn’t agree with your pull request, make another one. Try it again, find somebody else who wants to do that and try to have somebody else champion it with you.

If people aren’t getting along, find more people to do whatever it is you’re trying to do and approach it in a more sensible, sane way if that’s what you have to take. If you’re just like, “I wanted to change this on the interface and they didn’t like that” maybe it wasn’t a good idea. Maybe you’ll find somebody else to champion that idea with you if it’s that valuable. That’s my 2 cents. To me I agree with Morten, I don’t think it’s an us versus them scenario at all.

Jonathan: I agree with everything that you said, this is my take. I have been shocked by the kind of tone in some of the threads around this subject. Especially that last threat that goes on forever and I’ve got 2 businesses which I’m trying to develop plus make a living. I haven’t got a young family like you Matt. I haven’t got that responsibility, but I’ve got a lot of things going in my life. I just couldn’t spend all my life reading this ongoing rant on the-

Matt: That’s the thing, a lot of people … The person listening to this says “Matt you’re an idiot, whatever the reason is, I’m trying to get through to the core team because XYZ needs to change, whatever.” Look, I understand that you can bang your head against the wall to the point that you’re going to burn out. You’re either going to burn out, and I don’t mean this in a bad way, but you’re going to burn out and give up on whatever that is and so be it, so be it.

Like you were saying is you have other things you need to focus on. You need to have a living, you need to make a living, you have your life, you have all this other stuff. If you’re going to let this project burn you out it’s not good, it’s not good. Focus on something else. They don’t even like me in the theme review team channel because I’m the guy that looks at … My tickets come through with themes hat because I’m not a developer. You get a guy who doesn’t shut up, who has his own podcast, who’s not a developer, goes into a room with a bunch of developers. There’s probably a joke in there somewhere. When I go into the theme review team and I say “Why did my theme just get rejected” because we had a Twitter link in our option’s panel and they say “Twitter links aren’t allowed anymore, the one click follow links aren’t allowed anymore.” Then what do I do? I go into top 20 themes and I look at all the top 20 themes with all one click Twitter links, I say “This theme has it, this theme has it, this theme has it, why can’t I have it?” They’re like “That’s not what we’re about, we’re not policing all the other themes, this is the new way of doing things.” I rant all the time but I don’t give up on it, I don’t give up on WordPress. I say “fine” at the end of the day fine, whatever, and then I move on. I’ll be back.

John: That’s right.

Matt: I’ll be back.

Jonathan: I feel I’m getting to the key of it here, Matt, I just want to quickly and we’ve got a question from Dave and then we’ll wrap it up. I think you just touched upon it, I think what was said a lot of it was well over the top. Like a lot of things there is some essence of truth.

You just said it, I’m a bit more of a developer than probably you. I haven’t been doing too much, I’m a bit rusty, I stopped almost 2 years ago because I’ve been concentrating on other things on the marketing and that and I need to get back. I did a fair bit of development, but I really hate a snotty developer attitude that because you’re not a developer you’ve got no real voice. I think it’s very ungracious and very detrimental to the WordPress community that you … I’m not saying, there’s a lot of developers … Technically I think he’s probably one of the … Let’s have a look at Pippin Williamson, and I don’t get that attitude from Pippin at all. I don’t get that kind of crap from Pippin, he’s one of the most gracious, knowledgeable developers I know and you just don’t get this kind of nonsense from somebody of the quality of Pippin. When you do come across it I think it’s just a personal weakness myself.

Matt: Yes, right. Knowledge is power and people who are knowledgeable feel like they are more powerful in these scenarios. Because they have control over something like core contributor team, and again I’m not saying this, I’m just saying this as an example. You have the power to contribute to core, there’s an element of “Yeah, this is mine. This is yours.” It happens … We learn this in elementary school when the cool kids sit at the other table and another group sits at another table.

We’ve been doing this for years. Some people just have to look past that and I know it can be tough. You have to develop that thick skin and press on. There are plenty of people that … There are developers that don’t like that there are commercial themes and plummets.

Jonathan: That’s crazy.

Matt: Then they have their own offerings, right? They sell something well I have a donation. I have a donation thing or I’ve got this other thing going and that’s how I try to make money. Then you hear them six months, a year from now and they’re like it’s not easy making ends meet. Right? Try a little bit more money. We’ve all been doing it, I don’t know where you’ve been. It’s just like god.

Jonathan: Yeah, just to finish off the subject. I think on the other side what Morten has been saying a lot. I’ve been consistent. The last word count that was in San Francisco I was asked a question in public. It’s a question about democracy. Not democracy telling the volunteer developers of the core what to do technically but democracy where it comes to some kind of road map. Or where the community might have some input about some road map in an adult considerate way. If you’re really an open community I don’t think anybody can say anything against democracy. I know it’s messy and sometimes businesses have to have owner, but when you get in such a large community I think having some democracy and some representation isn’t it terrible? It’s finding a balance, isn’t it? What do you just think I’m talking about?

Matt: I think that in one of the recent blog posts I put about was “F*** Platforms, give me WordPress”. For all of the stuff, I had the same questions. One of the ways I got Matt Mullenweg on my podcast was when he said Jetpack was one of the shining movies was the growth of WordPress. I was like that’s the biggest load of shit I’ve ever heard in my life. I commented on it on the Tavern and I’m paraphrasing a little bit but not really. That’s a real slap in the face to developers and I have only been in the community for six years. Not even like everybody else who has been here for over a decade.

That’s what got him onto the show but I had the same questions as you and I say this in my piece. Nobody from WordPress helped me, nobody at Automatic or WordPress Foundation or VIP helps me get more clients which then in turn helps spread WordPress a little bit more. I know I don’t get that help, nobody helps me. I keep doing it because of the idea behind what WordPress stands for. The ability for me to either control my own stuff and save my content and all that stuff and not go to a platform like Squarespace or Facebook. That kind of thing.

For all it’s imperfections I’m down with the perfections that it has in terms of that but I had the same questions. Why can’t we have the REST API? Where is the road map? When people say “Why is Drupal getting more of nod on the enterprise space.” I don’t know because I haven’t looked at it in a while but there’s probably a better defined road map for the enterprise that lives out there but there isn’t one for WordPress. That blog just opened up today. Not today, yesterday or whatever. I’m just messing around, I forget what domain I put in and it was like a hundred thousand dollars to hold it but the API is exposed. The REST API is exposed with a little developer logic, my lead developer showed me, you can Inspect Element you can see the premium flag being triggered and the price point that’s being triggered. was two hundred and fifty dollars, what a surprise? Of course Matt has, of course somebody was like “Oh you’re trying to register” I’m like no Matt’s already got it and he got a hell of a bargain. It’s his. A whole bunch of other people have their .blog domains but it’s not really on the open market yet. Whatever. I really want like I’m clambering for .blog domain.

Jonathan: You can make stuff up. Or not, it’s up to you. Dave Bell has put some things just to wrap it up, I think I took too much of this post show up with really that? I think it was worthwhile talking about it. I think you gave insights, Matt. It takes 2 minds even to bring it up, really. Go on John, what’s Dave been saying about me?

John: He was just saying will WooCommerce hosted? Will it be a thing in the near future and will it be available as self like Cart 66 or just or Jetpack?

Matt: Oh Dave. I think it’s going to happen. It’s inevitable and Shopify just recently their point of sales system in the UK. I think I tweeted that the other day. Again, the person that asked about development opportunities before I mean that’s just tremendous. Creating point of sales, creating anything in the E-Commerce space. Especially mobile or app development. It’s going to be huge but for sure. Looking at that as one of the major opportunities for acquiring with commerce is definitely some hosted stuff.

Jonathan: I’m going to ask one more final question and we’ll wrap it up because I know you want to get home to your family. I’ll be really, really fascinated to hear your answer to this. Your own plugin, composer-

Matt: Conductor.

Jonathan: Conductor, sorry.

Matt: That’s okay people call it composer all the time. People call piece of junk, people call it composer, whatever.

John: Call it whatever, just buy it, right?

Jonathan: I bought one nice, I’ve used it on a couple projects. I actually one I bought when you had your initial great film. On the internet it’s a great offer because I get free updates and it’s there. I bought it because I really learn a lot more about supporting you in a way. You tried to do it the right way the official WordPress way. Then you got something like BeaverBuilder appears. Great people, great developers, great product but they did it there. Then you got someone like Elegant Themes with Divi. Have you got any insights about all this and then any kind of things that would go through your mind about it all?

Matt: There is. Conductor was really born out of the way that we did it with our customers. That’s the way we want to do it. It’s built specifically for those who want to build the look and feel of their content consistently. Not a page builder but a display builder. Therein lies the rub. There’s not a lot of people that want that granular control or need that kind of granular control but you’re right. BeaverBuilder is a great product, even Divi 3.0 coming out looks like they’re reinvesting to be a better product. I give them all the credit in the world because a lot of people are looking for that building experience until they’re not. There will be a point in time where maybe their website starts getting more traffic.

Eventually what will happen is somebody in the marketing department wants a special content layout on a page and they can’t do it because there’s a builder on top of it. There’s all this other overhead that comes into it but for the time being it got them to where they needed to go. Trust me, it’s definitely an interesting lesson. We’re revamping Conductor, we just had another meeting about it today, coming out with a new add on that is starting to shift the way conductor is used but still sticking to our guns. We’re still sticking to our guns on our core product. We want to be able to display content within WordPress in an easy to use way. We’re not trying to build a page but we want to make beginner people feel a little more powerful. Almost feel like a developer but not really or if you’re a developer feel like you can save time and give a sort of drag and drop to somebody without all the overhead or the kitchen sink as I like to say of all these other plugins.

I think that I’m also early to the game and WordPress isn’t ready for it. When the Customizer started to become the de facto way of customizing your WordPress site. Which is still isn’t but it’s supposed to be in terms of work off of the theme team. We’re all in doing it the WordPress way. We’re hoping that really WordPress would have iterated faster on the Customizer and I think not until this last version did we see some performance enhancements.

Jonathan: Can I say something about that? I really like your plugin I just hate the composer, I just hate it.

Matt: The Customizer?

Jonathan: I just really hate it [the WordPress Customizer] but I love your plugin. Quite truthful. The only reason I go there is your plugin basically but I just do not.

Matt: It’s our own hardheadedness that said let’s not build a new interface for somebody to build a page because that fragments the WordPress experience. We do want to turn to our clients and use something like a BeaverBuilder and they go in and see BeaverBuilder logos. They’ve got this whole new interface, it does all these different things and let’s say they install I don’t know WooCommerce or whatever. WooCommerce is definitely going to use the Customizer because it’s by WordPress let’s just use that as an example.

I don’t want to fragment. I don’t want my customer looking at a WooCommerce instructions manual and going okay go to the Customizer, go here. Then they go and do that and they go how do I edit my page again? Oh yeah, Matt told me to go to this BeaverBuilder thing and I go there. The BeaverBuilder is now a whole new interface. I’m not saying it’s bad, just two different interfaces. People starting to experience WordPress two different ways. What happens if another plugin comes up with their own interface now. Now there’s three interfaces.

We said, let’s just be bullish on a Customizer and pull our WordPress widgets. People could take widgets to another theme. Part of the problem people would always say about builders is well they switched themes they lose everything which it true. With widgets we can take it to another theme because it’s part of WordPress. People say widgets suck well that’s fine but this is what WordPress gives me and I’m trying to stay as close to WordPress as possible for better or worse. Really, truth be told, it’s worse for me.

Jonathan: It’s been difficult. I admire you for sticking to your we’re going to stick it out. I’m sorry John, I’ve taken up all the time, haven’t I? With the post podcast, I apologize.

John: It’s okay. FireTalk is going to probably kick us pretty soon here and Matt’s…

Jonathan: Matt, thank you so much for joining us. Hopefully it’s not been boring. I think we’ve covered some really great stuff, haven’t we?

Matt: We have.

John: I would give him five out of five stars.

Jonathan: Just to finish off like I said in the podcast thank you for your contributions to WordPress community and for the podcast. It was one of the first ones that I started to listen when I decided to get back into web design when I moved to America. I’ve learned a lot from it and thank you so much for continuing it. Like I said I think this series you’ve ramped it up even higher and the guests and the insights have been fantastic Matt.

Matt: I’m glad somebody’s listening.

Jonathan: I’d like to finish off, Matt is one of the nicest down to earth people. The thing about podcasting is you really get inside about what people are really like, get some inkling about that way they treat you post show and the decorum. Matt is one of the nicest, straightforward guys that’s been on the podcast. I can vouch on that. Thanks Matt.

Matt: Thank you.

Jonathan: We can end it now thanks. Kick me out co-host, remove me.

John: Begone. [waves hand]

Jonathan: Unleash the Trojans.

Matt: The Krakens.

Jonathan: The Krakens. I’m laughing.

Matt: Unleash the Trojans is for another show.

John: With that we can’t end on a higher note, so all right. Thanks everyone for showing up.

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