So you’ve decided to take your crack at building websites for profit, huh? In the words of the great Winston Churchill, “I have nothing to offer but Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat.” Web development is certainly not for the faint of heart! The rewards are priceless, but the competition is equally stiff.Not only will you be competing with millions of others, but conglomerates like Intuit and GoDaddy.com have also jumped on the bandwagon. This makes it all the more difficult for your business to compete for customers.
That’s why your first business decision should be to develop WordPress websites. There are several good reasons for this. For one, WordPress is the leading content management system (CMS) on the Web. Aside from the fact that it’s built on open source technology, WordPress is used by millions all over the world and contains an in-depth, “living” knowledgebase known as the Codex. WordPress shows no sign of slowing. In fact, be sure to check out 7 Celebrities You’d Never Expect to be Using WordPress to get a really good idea of WordPress’ online aura.
The second reason is that static HTML websites are relics of the past. It is likely that your customers have heard about WordPress, and will certainly want the option of publishing their content dynamically and on their own. WordPress makes this possible.
Finally, WordPress makes your business competitive! You will have the option of developing cutting-edge websites per customer, or cutting-edge themes that can be sold to multiple customers. The latter enables you to compete directly with the likes of Intuit, Go Daddy, and other conglomerates that have commoditized web development. I’ve addressed commoditization in several previous columns; be sure to check out Why Premiums Are Essential to the Progression of WordPress and the controversial Why Freebies and Fees Make Jack a Dull Boy.
So, without further ado, let’s jump right into the 5 Important Rules To Follow When Starting a Business Developing WordPress Websites…
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Rule #1 – Develop your OWN website first!
Nothing is tackier than starting a business, and attempting to operate that business from someone else’s establishment. This is the same as telling folks that you build websites, and then referring them to some other site that you were (hopefully) commissioned to build. Unless that website is offering some sort of incubator program, which I have yet to witness in the world of e-commerce, you should make the proper arrangements of establishing your own identity. This means building a WordPress website to serve as your official home or storefront. Your pitch can then go something like…
Yes, I build websites! [Insert elevator pitch] Recently, I was commissioned to build the White House's new website at www.whitehouse.gov. But if you REALLY want to get a feel for what we do, check us out at yourbusinesswebsite.com.
Sounds good, eh?
WordPress makes building websites seamless, whether you are building them for yourself or a customer. Because you are building websites for profit, however, you SHOULD NOT use a free or premium theme for your business website. This could be construed as hypocritical. Instead, refer to the WordPress Codex and build it from the bottom up.
Rule #2 – Use a Program Spec to drive productivity and prevent feature creep
Many design veterans will tell you to get what the customer wants in writing to avoid what is commonly referred to as “feature creep.” Basically, this is when a customer keeps changing things, adding things, taking things away—then adding them again. Before you know it, a few months have passed and that $1,000 advancement equates to less than minimum wage.
So yes, definitely put everything in writing, but do so by composing a program specification document, or “program spec.” This is an organized and sophisticated word document that will set you apart from amateurs. Think of it like a mini WordPress Codex. It doesn’t have to be as technical, of course, but it will serve as a roadmap to all the website’s features, and how those features work should they have to be tweaked or updated. For maximum efficiency, you should try building your websites and program specs simultaneously. (WRITER’S NOTE: Very soon, I will publish a detailed column on writing useful program specs)
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Rule #3 – Target a small percentage of the market!
This is known as niche marketing, or targeting a specific area of a larger market. Do you like the idea of building websites for musicians? Target that area! Are you a charitable person who’d love the opportunity to provide low-cost websites for charities or churches? You should go for it!
In the end, niche marketing will prove much more profitable. It’s been proven that marketing assets, both online and off, will work a lot harder when they are “laser-focused.” Once you nail down a winning formula, you can duplicate that business model. More on this later.
Rule #4 – Join professional associations and stay abreast of current trends
Professional associations are extremely important. They are great sources for the latest news and trends of the industry. They are also great platforms for networking and discovering new leads. Joining your local chamber of commerce is a no-brainer. Also consider joining the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), or its SIGGRAPH, SIGMM, or SIGWEB special interest groups. For WordPress associations, create a free account at WordPress.org, and subscribe to the WordCamp and WPMU.org mailing lists.
Earlier this year, Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress, spoke at WordCamp 2012 about the future of publishing. The event took place in my stomping grounds of Atlanta, Georgia ;)
Rule #5 – Duplicate your success!
At this point, you have launched a successful, WordPress development business. You have targeted a profitable niche and your business is growing. So what do you do now? You should expand your business by duplicating its model!
The art of duplication is an old business trick. When I was kid, for example, fast food restaurants hardly ever shared the same building. These days, it’s common to see a KFC, Taco Bell, and Long John Silver’s all served from the same building. This is an example of co-branding. Co-branding has many forms, but the main idea is to increase product revenues.
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Let’s say your website business targets aspiring musicians, but you are also passionate about civil law and would like to build websites for civil attorneys. The most effective approach would be to duplicate your business website to target civil attorneys. WordPress’ theme methodology makes this task easy, and I highly recommend that you take advantage of it! If your first website business is a hit, rework its identity and tweak the necessary parts to target another niche! Repeat this process over and over again. Soon, you will have several website businesses all utilizing the same winning formula!
A successful, website development business requires the same amount of devotion, energy, and logic as any other business—if not more. The great thing is that WordPress enables you to maximize your endeavors. Its extensibility and thematic capabilities levels the playing field, and enables you to compete with conglomerates and other equally talented individuals. Using WordPress as the core of your development will ensure that your products remain fresh and cutting-edge. Happy designing, and I wish you and your WordPress website business much success!