For small businesses wanting a website, WordPress is a cheap and easy to set up choice. With an open development language, it inspires themes and plugins that will do just about anything and look great straight out of the box. Please be aware this article is referencing the self-hosted WordPress, not WordPress.com. Unfortunately, this can create lots of problems too. Since there is no standard to adhere to, anyone can upload a theme or plugin and sometimes they don’t work. Or they don’t work like you imagine they will.
For this reason I don’t like to play around with WordPress very much. I can do a lot of coding, but I don’t do it enough for it not to be frustrating every time I try. This past week, I did get the chance and I discovered a pretty good way to find themes and plugins that work the first time.
I’ve been working on an idea for over a year. WordPress is great for startups to put together a workable prototype without having to sink a lot of funds into development. So I chose WordPress as my platform. I still don’t have a product. There are a lot of reasons for that, the biggest one being I didn’t find a workable theme.
Contrast that with another startup idea I had. I began work on it last week, finished a workable prototype last Sunday and am ready for a full launch now. The difference? I found a theme right away that did everything I wanted and was easy to use. I also found a plugin that provided the critical piece of functionality I wanted. Here’s how I did it.
Do a Google search for what you want the plugin to do. You’ll get names of plugins in your search results. What you want the plugin to do may have a widely accepted industry name you’re unaware of. Now do a search for that product and include “review.” What you’re hoping to get here is an article with a five to ten plugin comparison. (Be careful of affiliate review sites that don’t offer any real value in the comparison.) Read that article and you should come up with two or three that really interest you. Now, go to the WordPress plugin finder and search for those plugins.
You’ll see an option to install or to read more. Click on read more. Take a look at the description on the main page, then look at the FAQ page. If everything looks like what you want, check out the review tab. If it doesn’t get consistently good reviews, don’t install it. You’re welcome. I just saved you hours of torment.
There are a million themes available for WordPress. The screenshots you’ll see for them will show them in their best light. You may have to do custom coding in the CSS to get it to look like the screen shot. Again, I recommend searching for the type of theme you want (two column, three column, responsive) and reading the reviews on them. You’ll get a better idea of what the actual work will be like from previous users when you install it.
I did find a theme editor plug-in, on a review site, that looks like it will solve some of the issues with setting up themes. I haven’t used it, but I will definitely try it on my next project.
Some plugins conflict with some themes, so you may have your theme setup exactly the way you want it, install a plugin, and have the whole thing break. That’s why it’s important to know the names of your theme and plugins. Again, do a search for the issue and some kind soul will probably already have a solution.
Be sure to check the last time the plugin or theme was updated and how well the developer responds to questions. I found the more active the developer is, the better the product is.
To be honest, this milestone would have passed me by if LinkedIn hadn’t sent me a notice. At first I thought, “Wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long!” Then I started thinking about the other things it means. It means this blog is five years old. It means I’m five years older. It means I’ve found a place for myself professionally.
When this business started, Utah was hit with the Great Recession. I wrote this blog for a month and then I started networking in person. That’s when I started getting business and this blog served as a resource to show people I knew what I was doing.
A lot has changed in online marketing over the past five years. Social media is a real thing now. Back then digital marketing practitioners had to persuade businesses to use social media. Now social media is just a given of any web marketing plan.
I became so convinced, I changed the name of the company from SEO by Swaby to Swaby Online Media. It was a move I believe reflected the diversity of what I did in online marketing.
I’ve been very blessed along the way to get help from different people. One early piece of advice I got was to be as specific as I could about who I wanted to work for. That’s difficult to do when you’re trying to keep up with the bills and any money that comes in seems to be the same. It’s not. Being specific about your client is probably the best advice I got. I tried to narrow things down, but it still isn’t narrow enough when your clients include a home builder, a doctor and a start-up designer blanket company.
So I’ve now decided I only want to work with service based businesses in finance and real estate. This makes my target client real estate agents and brokers, mortgage professionals and insurance offices. That’s still fairly broad, but much more focused. When you know who you want to work with, it becomes easier to find them!
Another lesson I learned is to network in person. As I said earlier, I spent my first month in business writing for this blog. Then I went out and networked. Networking got me business but it also got me some perspective. It’s lonely being a solopreneur. Networking got me out of the house, gave me fresh ideas, allowed me to speak in public and helped me establish myself as an expert.
Over the years, I did have regular employment in spurts. I had one gig that looked like regular employment, but they were still really a client. Another challenge in being self-employed is commitment. It’s easy to be committed when you have clients, but a lot more difficult when you don’t. One of the main reasons I started this business is I recognized the economy was changing. America is going to be filled with people who have their own businesses, consult or work multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet. This was research I had done 15 years ago, so I was committed to the idea of working for myself.
However, working for yourself isn’t idyllic. It means chasing new business. It means chasing checks. It means criticism. It means losing clients. It means it can be a wild and crazy ride.
My life is a lot different now and more ideally suited for self-employment. I’ve downsized financially so my overhead is low. I have a family commitment that makes my time precious. All my circumstances compel me to be self-employed and keep this business going, so that’s what I’m going to do. I have a new client from my focused target market and I will continue develop business in those industries.
It’s been a great ride so far and I’m looking forward to the next five years!
I’ve said it before; the whole point of marketing is to get you, a.k.a. your sales team, in front of real, live decision makers. What happens if you outsource sales to technology or overseas? Here’s an example. My snarky additions are in parentheses.
Chat with: Visitor, Jeff
Jeff: Hello, thanks for contacting Preferred Law Team. My name is Jeff, may I have your name?
Jeff: Hi Ben
Jeff: How can I assist you?
Visitor: I was wondering who won the Alabama vs. Va. Tech game on Saturday? (A current event to assess who I’m really speaking with.)
Jeff: I see. Before we proceed, may I have your phone number and email to better assist you?
Jeff: I see.
Visitor: Are you software or an outsourced, overseas agent? (When I first thought I wasn’t dealing with a human.)
Jeff: I am sorry as I am not allowed to disclose that information.
Jeff: Is there anything else I can help you with regarding our services?
Visitor: Are you human, or are you dancer? (Thanks Killers!)
Jeff: This is a real person
Visitor: So why didn’t you answer my first question?
Jeff: Our areas of practice include (but are not limited to) Real Estate, Finance, Civil Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Corporations, Partnerships, LLCs, Bankruptcy & Foreclosure, and Entertainment.
Jeff: Can you tell me a little about your case?
Visitor: Your response questions my belief in your humanity…
Jeff: I see. May I know about your legal matter?
Visitor: Can you answer my first question?
Jeff: I apologize, I don’t have access to that information
Visitor: It’s in the chat transcript. Hint…scroll up…
Jeff: Well, I’m not allowed to answer general questions. For more details you can also contact our office at: 801-727-4290.
Visitor: Can you help me with my delinquent mortgage?
Jeff: Would you mind explaining a bit more about your case?
Visitor: My mortgage is delinquent…and so is my child. Can you help with either?
Jeff: The attorney can help with this. Would you like to speak with someone on the phone?
Visitor: Why can’t you help Jeff?
Jeff: I’m sorry, I’m not an attorney and as such am not able to answer specific legal questions or give legal advice. May I have someone from our office contact you? They can assist further.
Visitor: So are you a lead gen bot?
Jeff: For more details you can also contact our office at: 801-727-4290. I’m sure one of our staff member will be happy to help you.
Jeff: Thank you for contacting Preferred Law Team.
System: The chat session has ended. (Way to hang up on your prospect!)
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Admittedly, I didn’t know a thing about this company except for an email they sent me. However, what they sent piqued my interest and I responded…only to get the proverbial phone hung up on me when I asked too many questions.
Would you trust your marketing budget to a technology based or overseas team?