How To Move From Freelancer Agency Owner Successfully!
More About Vito
We Discuss How To Move From Freelancer To Agency Owner Successfully!
Today is a very special day, well for me at least – on one hand it’s exciting to celebrate the launch of a new company, on the other hand, it feels like a summary of everything I’ve done for the past 19 years.
We created a full announcement for WP Feedback and how it can help you save time while serving your clients in a new, visual and exciting way, but here, I’d like to take a few minutes to tell you my story.
About a kid from a small town, in a tiny country, that wanted to be a rockstar and discovered a passion for design, business and WordPress.
Music, business and websites
I built my first website 19 years ago on GeoCities when I was 14 years old, it was scrappy and extremely bright coloured. I made it for my skateboarding crew with my friends from school.
I remember how exciting it was to simply go online.
Back then, when ever we connected to the internet it would take over the land line for the entire family, so I was only allowed to connect for just 1 hour per day.
So I spent the days fiddling with Front Page, just waiting for my 1 hour to upload the code and share the updates with my MIRC friends (kinda like a Stone Age version of Facebook).
That’s about the time I also picked up a guitar for the first time.
I borrowed a cheap electric guitar from a friend to learn on my own and impress a girl I liked.
But that first day was so inspiring I ended up sleeping with the guitar next to me in bed. It was love at first chord.
ThIs week’s show secondary sponsor is WPfeedback.co If you use this special coupon code WPTonicROCKS you will get 25% all plans available https://wpfeedback.co/
Jonathon: Welcome back, folks to the WP-Tonic Show. This is episode 467; we’ve got a returning friend of the show. It was a great interview a few months ago. We thought we would have been back and he was available; Vito Peleg, founder of WP-Feedback is back. Vito, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the listener and viewers?
Vito Peleg: Yes. How you’re doing? Great to be back, we’ve been hanging out almost weekly now Jonathan.
Jonathon: Yes, he’s joined my regular WP round table Friday show. He’s been a regular.
Vito Peleg: It’s fun.
Jonathon: It’s fun to have you.
Vito Peleg: Yeah, so I’m Vito. I’m the founder of WP-Feedback which is a communication platform for WordPress professionals. And now we’re launching something very, very special, which we’re going to talk about today. So I’m not going to reveal anything until then.
Jonathon: We’re going to be discussing that in the second half. But in the first hour, we’re going to be talking; Vito had a really interesting change. He started as a freelancer, and then he became an agency owner and a very successful one. So we thought that would have been interesting for our listeners and viewers, from a freelancer, until you become an agency owner and continue being one. So we thought–
Vito Peleg: That’s the real challenge.
Jonathon: Yes, and we thought we would all somebody that’s got some experience of that in the battlefield as they say. I’ve got my great co-host, Adrian. Adrian, would you like to quickly introduce yourself?
Adrian: Hi everyone. My name is Adrian. I’m the CEO and founder of Groundhogg. I am not in my usual location today but we’re able to make too. We sell marketing automation and sales tools for businesses that use WordPress
Jonathon: He’s been snowed in, listeners and viewers aren’t you, you’re snowed in?
Adrian: Yeah, so it’s not super terrible in terms of the amount of snow; we have about 10 centimeters coming in throughout the day. The only problem is I live in Toronto and nobody in this city knows how to drive when there’s one centimeter of snow on the ground. So I decided I’m not taking the car out today and I’m just going to tough it out at home.
Jonathon: Wise words. He’s a wise young man actually. That’s what I like about Adrian. So, before we go into the main part of the interview, I like to talk about our major sponsor and that’s Kinsta Hosting. Kinsta has been our major sponsor for over two years, and they decided to continue sponsoring this show this year. So what do you keep with Kinsta? Well, I consider them to be the premier WordPress hosting specialist on the market at the present moment, not only for your clients but for your own projects. You get all the bells and whistles with Kinsta staging site one-click back up, lightest versions of PHP. You can select really easily which version of PHP you need. I could go on and on with the features in their UX design and it’s beautiful as well, and really easy to use. And to be truthful after you used Kinsta, it’s really hard to go back to other people’s hosting packages.
Also, you get really fantastic 24/7 support from people that really understand WordPress, your problems or inquiries don’t have to be escalated to somebody that does understand your problem. You deal with people on the front line that have been properly trained. So if that sounds really interesting, go over to Kinsta, look at their packages; buy for yourself or for your clients. And also, and this is the important thing, tell them that you heard about them on the WP tonic website. Their support over the past three years has been fantastic and much appreciated by myself and by the show in general. So, Vito, I thought we have you back for this topic because you’ve done the road; you trod it, so let’s start. What do you think is one of the most important things a freelancers got understand when they are trying to change from freelancer to agency owner?
Vito Peleg: I would sum it in a sentence saying like you need to understand that you’re no longer a technician; you’re becoming a business owner. That’s the biggest mindset shift that needs to happen when you want to scale up. You start dealing with all kinds of different things that are, have nothing to do with actually building a website and you got to go into this prepared or at least willing, or else it wouldn’t work. So that’s the most important thing. Like understanding the transition; you’re no longer a technician working on the tools, you’re the man running the show.
Jonathon: Over to you Adrian.
Adrian: So if you’re transitioning over to a business sort of mentality where did you go to adopt that? Was it something that was natural for you? Did you go to certain people to learn how to operate in a business mindset versus kind of just like doing the freelancer thing and taking jobs when they come instead of going towards an email?
Vito Peleg: Right.
Adrian: You have to learn, HR, finances, all of that good stuff. How did you learn that and adopt that information?
Vito Peleg: So I was kind of into these things before I even was into WordPress, to be honest. I’ve been into marketing and business and like looking into what things are happening in that sense; literally since high school. I just approached it from a point of view that I wanted to apply all of these business skills and marketing skills and all these kinds of stuff to the music career. That was like my, a choice back then. And I was the manager of the band. We were booking hundreds of shows every year, so you got to deal with a lot of logistics. You got to deal with a lot of accounts, budgeting, managing the team, creating, making sure that you have enough merchandise, preparing in this, doing all these projections. So it’s a proper business, especially when you’re working as an Indie artist and it starts working out.
I kind of felt that a lot of the skills just came through the experience with that part of it. But, I did read loads of books along the years to propel me to be in a business owner. You can’t just stop, well, you can just start, but if you want to kind of like make it, you got to like you’re saying, consume as much knowledge as you can from every angle that is possible. So that was my kind of beginning. Then as I was started scaling specifically in the WordPress space, you find challenges that are unique to this industry. And that’s when I approached learning from courses. I love buying courses and learning from them.
The first one that really made a huge transition for me was Troy Deans ones; WP-elevation which I bought when I couldn’t afford and I already had like two people working for me. And it was just a mess trying to juggle all the systems and all of these kinds of stuff, and that just came at the right time. I was feeling the pain that this course was solving, so that was just like a perfect, at that time. Yeah, so a lot to learn throughout the years, but that course really pushed me over the edge to understand that, okay, we can build a business here.
Adrian: It’s always when you purchase something, you can’t afford it, you get the most out of it because you are extremely incentivized to succeed at that point. A lot of people buy things and they’re like, Oh, well, you know, I can take it like next month because I have the money in the bank. When he can’t, it’s like, all right, well I got to consume as much of this as possible right now and then apply it in order to create revenue to pay it off like yesterday.
Vito Peleg: Yeah, exactly. And that’s exactly what happened because I was so into this thing and there was already work coming in, but it was not systemized even close to the level that was taught throughout the course. And it just gave me literally a blueprint that I could work with, and just execute. And because I was hungry and had payrolls to pay; then I just made it work. And within the first month, we already doubled the value that we spent on the course itself.
Adrian: Just goes to show you that if your current barrier to starting something or learning something is monetary then maybe that’s not actually the biggest barrier.
Vito Peleg: That’s very true. It’s part of a business to put yourself in a corner, to push yourself into a corner that’s where you grow the most.
Adrian: 99% of business is risk, right?
Vito Peleg: Yes, exactly. That’s where the magic really happens. So taking these chances is what is exciting about this kind of concept that we’re doing. That’s how I look at it. I tried to apply this to a lot of things. This was comparably cheap to other courses that I bought later on when I couldn’t afford them at that stage. So every time there is something you can’t afford and you should because it’s just going to take you to that next level.
Adrian: I totally agree. Jonathan.
Jonathon: So you talked about, going on Troy Dean’s course and you learn processes, can you give some outlines? Obviously, we haven’t got endless time on this podcast. Well, sometimes it feels endless. Can you give some key things that you adapted into your own agency processes that weren’t there that you think somebody really has done to stand that would benefit them the most if they’re thinking of going from freelancer to agency owner?
Vito Peleg: Sure. So the idea of systemizing, that’s the biggest concept, but you can systemize every single thing that you do in life as long as it happens more than once, and that’s the kind of trick to it. The big things that came from this course were the onboarding sequence that really helped systemize when people are coming on board, what’s going to happen? When are they going to sign the contract? When are they going to pay the deposit? Everything was kind of in the gray area before there were set policies for stuff. The onboarding sequence is, was a huge help there. Also, that kind of introduced me to the concept of doing care plans. As a freelancer, I didn’t want to even think about maintenance. I didn’t want to even like look at it.
I wanted to be like I was an artist in my mind that was building beautiful websites, so I shouldn’t be dealing with emails and setting up Gmail accounts and whatever. And the maintaining website, worrying about security, long-term backups, all of these things that now seem so obvious back then; it was like, no way, I’m not touching this thing. But the fact that I wasn’t touching it didn’t stop my clients, my previous clients to reach out to me and expected to be there. So, it just created more grief than help until I kind of realized, all right, if you guys want my help, then at least I’m going to get paid for it. That’s when I started to set up the care plans. A lot of this was through Christina Omeros kind of strategies, but the initial idea came from seeing the flow of the kind of like the blueprint as Troy defines it on his course over there.
After the first year, the recurring revenue was incredible when it comes to running the business, making sure that the payroll is done on time, that there is profit that I can actually enjoy the fruits of this business. Now I know this even from, you know because we’re working with a lot of the agencies. A lot of agencies are not making any money just because they are living on such slim profit margins that when the tiniest things happen, it just rattles the ship, and you go below water, so recurring revenue really helped me. I was in the same state and recurring revenue got me out of it.
Jonathon: So fundamentally would I be correct in saying that I’m not in all kinds so I’m going to see if this applied to you, that actually your income, if you’re moving from a freelancer to agency, your actual personal income will probably be hit for a certain amount of time, is that correct?
Vito Peleg: For sure. Like the model that I tried to adapt to try and keep that in check is that I would work until I am at 150% capacity. That’s when I would bring a guy that will take 50% off of me, so he has 100% but then I have only 50, which then I need to build back up. I mean in terms of revenue but also in terms of work that is flowing through the business, and that was the kind of like repeatable process. To be honest, if I would do it now, I wouldn’t jump into hiring so early. I hired pretty early because there was just work. But instead, I would just a filter more and the increased prices and reach to a place where I have more money than I need, a lot more money than I need before I start bringing people on board. That wasn’t the case, I kind of just was under the mentality that, okay, if I have work I need to take it. So you end up bringing an employee just out of necessity instead of strategy.
Jonathon: Over to you Adrian.
Adrian: So you have the recurring revenue portion set up and you have the maintenance and that is able to help you create that sort of sustainable level of revenue that you enjoy for payroll and all of that stuff. The typical agency way of doing things, and the way that an agency that I used to be in also used to do things is the client comes in and they have this huge list of tasks. And then the agency or whoever’s in charge of pricing kind of like makes up a number and it’s like, yeah, it will cost around this much and then they do it and then it costs around that much. And then as you said, no experience, all of the other pain points, like you have this pretty website security, g-mail, backups, and all of this other stuff. I suppose I’m leaning towards the question is, if you’re currently in an agency in a position that does that, how do you make a successful transition into doing that sort of packaged, productized pricing? Where do you, where do you go to learn those skills? How did you [inaudible 16:07]? Did you end up creating a formula that you found works really, really, really well in terms of getting someone or getting a potential client to say, all right, I don’t want to pay you this lump sum, but I’m going to sign on for this care package, et cetera?
Vito Peleg: Sure, so this kind of evolved over time throughout the evolution of the agency. At first, it was just basically care plans. We had like 80 pounds and you get like basic coverage of the website for the month. And if you need more help then it goes all the way up to 800 pounds. That includes an hour pack within it that was kind of allocated to people. But we ended up just tailor building most of these things. So this gave a frame, but the agency world is very customized. If you want product as services then you wouldn’t necessarily go to an agency, if you know what I mean. There are other solutions out there they’ll just take off the shelf or buy off online, you know, buy online or something.
But if you already do meetings and getting the process of building a relationship with another company, clients expected a level of customers’ ability that they could have to it. So if they needed more hours, we should be able to accommodate it. If they needed another feature that we’d never did before, we should be able to build it. So, there wasn’t any kind of point like that, but towards the end of the agency, I saw a huge necessity in what you’re describing and that’s what happens to people as they reach pretty much around 10 to 15 employees. In the agency model, you started seeing this necessity for scale because everything is nice and awesome to do custom projects when you’re not churning out 10, 15 projects a month.
When you get to that kind of level, then you start looking at oh it just crazy. We keep starting from ground zero with every project that we bring out so that’s when I started looking into that. That’s when we also niched down and decided to work specifically with the charities here in the UK. That allowed us to create an offering that wasn’t based around building the website but was based around creating a digital strategy for the nonprofit. So it framed it in a completely different way as more of a guide and a consultant and a done-for-you kind of consultant that works with them and did everything. So we took over with a kind of allowance fee compared to some of the other stuff we did that was monthly. And that went into building the website, maintaining the website, but also creating a proper launch strategy– building a strategy, taking it to market obtaining grants for the charities. There’s like a Google grant that they can get over there, getting that to work; so all of these kinds of additional marketing services were also offered as part of two and a half thousand-pound package a month.
Adrian: A lot of different ways you can be an agency except building websites?
Vito Peleg: Oh yeah. The website became the profitable part of this thing; it’s kind of like the lump sum that you get when you start that relationship. But then, the real magic, and that’s what I learned over the years is to stretch that relationship as much as possible by providing value of course to the other side. And that was done through managing their Google ads and managing their LinkedIn accounts, even making sure that there are strategies and they’re following reports, and they’re following projections, and all of these kinds of stuff.
Jonathon: Oh, that’s great. We’re going to go for our break when we come back Vito is going to be discussing some new functionality. Well, much bigger than that around WP-Feedback. And then in the bonus content, we’re going to go back to our main topic, how to go from a freelancer to an agency owner. We’ll be back in a few moments folks.
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Jonathon: We’re coming back. We have Vito back in the house. As normal, it’s been an interesting discussion. So Vito, on to WP-Feedback, you’ve got some exciting announcements, so tell us all Vito.
Vito Peleg: Okay. So I don’t know if it’s some of the people that are watching and know what that WP-Feedback is, but basically, it’s a tool that allows you to post stickers on live websites. To just systemize, and fix all communication breakdowns between web designers and their clients, that’s what WP-Feedback was until the beginning of this week. Now what you know is WP-Feedback have become WP-Feedback Pro. That’s our full offering that will remain as is we made paid ads a lot of value to agency owners and freelancers. But, we wanted to take an extra step and find something that will help us accelerate the awesome growth that we have over the past few months. I don’t know if you guys know, but WP-Feedback is seven months old so far.
It grew very fast. A lot faster than I expect that it too but I wanted it to be bigger and faster this year. So to do that, basically, in our ecosystem, there are two ways to go about it, either you do a free plugin or you do content marketing. We decided instead of starting to compete with 60,000 plugins and people like Jonathan and Adrian that are doing these awesome podcasts I decided to create a completely different concept that will help benefit the community. And this is our gift; this is our free offering that we’re giving to everyone around. It still continues on our mission to fix communications for WordPress professionals. But now instead of looking at it’s just between the relationship of a customer and the web designer, we’re looking at it from a much broader point of view.
Bringing into this how we consume content day-to-day, how we all buy products in our space. How do product makers communicate with their audience? Now, I’m seeing this from this perspective that I couldn’t even imagine seven months ago. All of these communication breakdowns that happened throughout the ecosystem, we fixed through one platform. This platform is the new home for the WordPress community. And what we did in there is we created essentially, it’s like a social media platform that has very unique features that work specifically for our niche. How does that work? Jonathan, can I share my screen and show a little bit of what’s going on?
Vito Peleg: Okay. So this is what’s going on in here. And what I kind of like found that was really interesting when I was researching how to make this happen and how to make this successful is that a social media platforms are basically all the same. They have the basics, which is like having a profile, a messaging board some kind of a feed or messaging, kind of like a feature that is available to the public. These are the basics but what makes a good social platform is having a very unique differentiator that is special just to that specific target audience. For example, if you’re looking at Snapchat with their face filters and the stories that really appeals to kids and like Ticktock does now as well; they still have profiles, they still have messages in all of these things. If you’re looking at Dribble, what they did for graphic designers, but they still have these basic functionalities around them. So for us, our differentiator is what you guys are seeing over here, which allows people to upload websites or images of their designs and people can give them feedback on it.
So let’s see what’s going on the list one, for example. I can see we landed on this page and we’re going to see some feedback that other people have given this guy. Not easily readable, not enough contrast between the white text and the decorative ball, maybe add a darker text-shadow; that’s a really good point in there some great use of mixing fonts here, some are compliments; very, very nice conversation happening on this particular design. As this designer is done or revising, he can upload new versions of this so that he can communicate with other people in the community and ask them what they think of their design right now and so on. And you can see all of the items right here and navigate them. This is basically what WP-Feedback does.
We just repurposed it for peer to peer communications between people in the community. And that’s the big game-changer here.
Now you can do it either with an image like you saw or with a website. There is a free plugin that you can upload and it will integrate your website into this platform right here through this button. And we can see some of the websites that people have uploaded onto here. Great way to inspire, but a great, great way to learn, especially, you know, we were talking about freelancers. Working on yourself, you’re on your own. You have no reference of what’s going on outside in the world, and most times we are not really even sure if what we’re doing is the right thing. Is this a good design, you know, after staring at the screen for so many hours we all have these kinds of doubts.
This is coming to solve this problem completely for all of us, but also to inspire. I already saw a button here that I really liked and I asked Jerome, how he did the button on this? Let me see if he replied to me actually, hey, see this little button here; that was really interesting. It’s an image, now I know. I thought it was done with CSS; yeah, that’s the main differentiator. Now, let me take you to some of the other stuff here or you guys have some questions so far.
Adrian: So let’s say for the sake of argument, I’m a designer or I’m a business owner and I’m trying to come up with better ideas or more ideas or get some feedback on a new landing page, I could just come here and get a feedback from other people who are also working on designs? Are the people who are commenting or providing feedback vetted in any sort of way or can we like see their credentials or where they’re coming from, how does that work?
Vito Peleg: Sure. So when people sign up, we ask them three questions that tell us who they are within their WordPress journey. Let me just show you all that kind of looks; create a profile and these three questions help us kind of understand where to place them in the space. When it comes to getting feedback, no, so far there is no filter on that. But as this community will grow and we’re going to have thousands and thousands of people in here, that’s when the feedback items will be more relevant within different groups so that you know that you’re getting the feedback from your exact peers within the space. So if you would upload your website, Adrian, it would probably be posted in the product makers group.
And if Jonathan is going to do it, it’s probably going to be done in the freelancers’ group, but, the professional ones because he’s been doing it for many years, so we can see those three questions. Where are you in the space here? What do you consider yourself? So I would say like this and how many years are doing this? These three questions tell us everything that we need to know. There are a lot of things that are connected to these three questions to optimize the experience. And again, we’re all about fixing the communication breakdowns. When you land within Facebook and you’re trying to figure out which group should I join, which group will give me the value for my place in my WordPress journey, you have no way of doing it. It’s just jumping in and trying to figure out who are the other people in there. I feel that a lot of the groups nowadays are kind of for beginners, it’s not for me anymore. I find myself hanging out in some of the more professional groups that are smaller of like our kind of segment of this industry. So this is what this helps do, and this comes into the groups.
Jonathon: Wouldn’t you be able to see all this, listeners and viewers, if you go to the WP tonic website when the show goes up on iTunes and you’d be able to see the video part of this show. Vito we’re going to continue this in our bonus content and you can show us more, but we try and keep the actual podcast part of the show, very tied to about 30 minutes, and 30 minutes goes rather quickly, which we’ve just failed. We’re gone slightly past the 30-minute cutoff, so I like to end the podcast part of the show. So how can people find out more about you and more about WP-Feedback and the new functionality that you’re going to be showing us in the bonus content?
Vito Peleg: Awesome. So come visit us at wpfeedback.co. It’s free to join, we’re already growing very fast compared to the fact that we just opened it a couple of days ago. And yeah, it’s just happening in there. There’s a party, so come on in, join us.
Jonathon: Adrian, how can people find out more about you and Groundhogg?
Adrian: So if you’re in need of marketing automation help and you have a WordPress website, then you can go on over to Groundhogg.io, and there are plenty of tools and resources there to help you get started.
Jonathon: All right. And if you want to really support the show, go to the WP-Tonic website and join our monthly newsletter list. Basically, you’ll get newsletter every month with all the leading stories around WordPress around learning management systems. It’s a great resource and I have all the recommendations that my panelists on the Friday show give around new products that sort of part of the newsletter as well. So go over to WP-Tonic and sign up for our newsletter. We’ll be back next week with another great person giving you advice about WordPress, learning management systems or online marketing in general. We’ll be back next week folks, bye.
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