For 6 years now, I’ve been apart of several mastermind-type groups. In fact, from my longest-running one in Oklahoma City, I now count some of my dearest friends in life. So I wanted to share a couple of reasons why these types of groups are so incredible.
Why You Need to Join a Mastermind Group
1. Connection / Support
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely job, especially for solopreneurs and freelancers. Mastermind groups offer connection and support for people who know exactly where you’re at and what you’re going through.
2. Feedback / Help
You don’t have to plan and strategize what you’re doing in a vacuum. I remember the early days of starting iThemes and how isolating it was. I would come up with ideas and strategies, but I didn’t have anyone to bounce them off of. I call my mastermind groups my business sidekicks. The feedback, help and support I get has been so invaluable to my success and happiness.
3. Challenge / Accountability
I love how these groups have challenged me to do more and be better as well as offer a sense of accountability through it all. There are times in my life as an entrepreneur that I’ve, perhaps, put things on cruise control for a bit too long. We all need time to relax and recharge, but I’ve also loved the challenge of being in a group that wants to grow and improve. And when I share with an entrepreneurial group something I’m planning … there is a natural sense of accountability that comes with it that I welcome.
And mixed in with all of this are also these valuable additions to my business and life …. like confidence, clarity, energy, focus and camaraderie. The result? All of this should lead to and has led to … more happiness and more success in my business and my life.
How You Can Join a Mastermind Group Today
Just last week, in the realm and mission of our WProsper theme, we unveiled a new mastermind/coaching group for WordPress business owners, entrepreneurs and freelancers. Our new mastermind group is called the High Flyers Club, led by my good friend Chris Lema and myself, and it’s exclusively for our Toolkit customers.
If you don’t know him, Chris is a veteran leader and WordPress expert and is now the Vice President of Product and Innovation for Liquid Web. He’s a product strategist who has provided advice for many of the WordPress companies you know and love (WP101, Ninja Forms, Copyblogger, Modern Tribe, Crowd Favorite, Pippin’s Plugins, Media Temple, GoDaddy, MemberPress, Web Savvy Marketing and us – iThemes).
Getting his advice for your business can cost you anywhere from $500 – $1,500 an hour. And these days, as the VP of Products at Liquid Web, he’s not taking any new customers. (For that matter, you can’t hire me to get my advice, either.)
Beginning March 21, once a month, for 3 hours, Chris and I will be holding High Flyers Club “Office Hours” exclusively for our Toolkit customers where you’ll be able to get our input and advice for your business. That’s three hours, once a month, for the next 6 months.
With the High Flyers Club, you’ll get all the above benefits of a mastermind group PLUS access to Chris and I, so you can get the help, advice, accountability, and support you need to take your business to the next level.
Join the High Flyers Club + Save 35% Off the Toolkit through February 23, 2018
So if you’re not already an iThemes Toolkit customer, go get the Toolkit today and take your business to the next level with this new limited-time bonus, which expires February 23, 2018, @ 11:59 p.m. (CST).
Investing in yourself is one of the strategies high performers regularly use to keep them at the top of their game. Tennis players have coaches. Even CEOs have coaches. They know that the right input, from the right resources, can pay dividends — up to 2, 3 or 10x on their investment.
For years we’ve been inviting customers to purchase our iThemes Toolkit – not only because it provides full access to all our products, but also because of the massive amount of training resources that are included.
In 2018 we’ll be adding several new resources to make our Toolkit better than it’s ever been before. Giving you more and more value for your purchase.
And today we’d like to announce the first of our new Toolkit features … a special limited-time, one-of-a-kind bonus, the High Flyers Club, a new business mastermind with myself and Chris Lema.
As you might know, I’ve been friends with Chris Lema for years. If you’ve never heard of Chris Lema, you may still have landed on his blog when searching for WordPress answers (he wrote every day for 3 years in a row on WordPress). But he’s much more than a blogger. He’s a product strategist that’s provided advice for many of the WordPress companies you know and love (WP101, Ninja Forms, Copyblogger, Modern Tribe, Crowd Favorite, Pippin’s Plugins, Media Temple, GoDaddy, MemberPress, Web Savvy Marketing and us – iThemes).
Getting his advice for your business can cost you anywhere from $500-1,500 an hour. And these days, as the VP of Products at Liquid Web, he’s not taking any new customers.
For that matter, you can’t hire me to get my advice, either.
That’s why we’re excited to announce our new High Flyers Club.
Once a month, for 3 hours, Chris and I will be holding “office hours” where you’ll be able to get our input and advice for your business.
Three hours, once a month, for the next 6 months, starting March 21.
Recurring revenue is a powerful way to boost your freelance WordPress business. Understanding the concept is pretty easy, but how do you actually make it work? We’ll explore how to execute recurring revenue.
Today we’ll teach you how to execute recurring revenue.
Ultimate Goal: Minimize Effort
First, let’s be clear about the ultimate goal. Yes, you’re offering a valuable and necessary service to your clients. They need it (sometimes desperately) and are willing to pay for it (sometimes handsomely). You’re creating a stable income stream that’s more reliable for your business.
But recurring revenue only works if you’re minimizing your effort. If you’re spending hours every day dealing with updates and backups and billing, you’re doing it wrong.
You need to create a streamlined system that can handle lots of clients and minimize how much time you invest. Yes, you’ll need to spend some time each week taking care of your clients. You are offering a service and they do deserve your attention.
Think scalable. Think repeatable processes. Think quick and easy. This should be a process you can set up and hand off to an underling. Everything you set up should be all about minimizing effort.
How to Execute Recurring Revenue
OK, now that we understand the basics of how this works, let’s talk about how to do it.
Start With a Contract
Don’t start any kind of recurring revenue relationship without a contract to set firm boundaries. You need to clearly define what is covered and what is not. Because more often than not you and your client will have a different idea in mind. A contract determines who is right.
A contract should spell out all the details of your recurring revenue service. It should list what’s included and some items that are not included.
Do clients get unlimited space?
Downtime should be rare, but it can happen. Do you guarantee a certain percentage of uptime?
Do you offer email services to clients? (No! Don’t do that—it’s too much work. This is something you should specify that you do not offer.)
What happens if an update breaks the site? (You should fix it—that’s the peace of mind your clients are paying for.)
What happens if a client breaks the site? (Charge extra or include a limited number of “free” fixes—you need to limit your liability to client foolishness.)
Who pays for and renews premium WordPress plugins? (Should be you—don’t make your clients worry about this. But note that you only renew as long as they subscribe to your maintenance plan.)
You should note that you’re not responsible for third party actions.
What does a WordPress backup include? Database, media files, full site?
How many WordPress backup restores will you do? (Limit the number of restores you will do that are caused by the client.)
A website is only as secure as the users, so specify that you’re not responsible for poor passwords or shared login info.
A contract makes it absolutely clear what you’re offering and what you’re not. That will save you in the long run, and ultimately minimize your effort.
Be sure to cover all the logistics in your contract:
Make sure your clients sign the contract. You might even ask them to initial each page to show that they’ve read it. No surprises.
Any time you make updates to your contract, inform your client and give them a new version to sign.
Include a revision number on the contract (you can put it on the footer of each page). Keep a change log of what changes you made in each version.
Your contract should include information about when and how payments are made (including late payments and collections).
You should have a clear and strict policy for what happens when a client doesn’t pay.
Our Recurring Revenue Summit includes a sample contract used by Nathan Ingram for his maintenance plans. It will show you all the legal details you need to include (though you should always have a lawyer review your contract).
How to Deliver Your Services
Setting up the contract and communicating expectations with your client is the first step. Now it’s time to talk about how to do the actual work. Let’s execute recurring revenue.
How to Do WordPress Hosting
WordPress Hosting is a perfect service to offer your clients because they need it and you controlling it makes life easier for them and easier for you. As a bonus, it also makes you money.
Making life easier is the overriding concern here. You’re offering clients a convenience, not competing with cut-rate hosting. You’re also not setting up a server shop in your living room. You should partner with a trusted web host with phenomenal support.
You’ll need to decide between VPS and managed WordPress hosting (don’t even consider shared hosting). The choice is yours, but in general VPS hosting gives you more control for a cheaper price.
A few tips to make hosting easier:
Don’t bother explaining hosting differences to clients. They don’t understand the difference between shared, VPS, or managed hosting. And they don’t care.
Set up one website per cPanel to minimize the damage of a hack.
If you’re only hosting WordPress sites, you can ask your host to turn off anything not related to WordPress to free up resources.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Do not provide email services. Instead, point your clients to Google apps or Microsoft and an IT person who can help them set it up.
On a quarterly basis, you should do a scan for large files. Ask you host for a list of files larger than 25 MB on the server. These are usually large log files or failed backups that can be deleted. It’s a good way to avoid wasting storage space and slowing down your backups.
How to Do Updates & WordPress Maintenance
You should set up a specific process and plan for doing updates and regular WordPress maintenance. You’ll need to figure out what works best for you, but you absolutely need to have a system and a plan.
Manage multiple WordPress sites with iThemes Sync. This will make regular updates a breeze and save you from having to log in to every single site you manage.
Have a set time every week to update WordPress core, themes and plugins. Schedule that time and make sure it’s consistent. This is not something you can skip or put off.
Subscribe to an online security blog, such as Sucuri’s, to stay informed about security issues, and when there is an increased threat level, you should do more frequent updates.
Keep a list of troublesome plugins to test prior to updates (these include “hefty” plugins such as e-commerce or membership).
Create a staging site to test mission-critical updates or complex websites (BackupBuddy’s WordPress staging and deployment features will be very helpful here).
Use a ticketed support system to handle client changes and requests. Insist that clients use this system and do not email you. Funneling support requests to one channel is vital to having an efficient and streamlined system.
How to Do WordPress Backups
You also need to have a specific process and plan for backups.
Of course we recommend a WordPress backup plugin such as BackupBuddy for regular backups. Use whatever works for you, but remember that any backup system should be automatic, off-site, and include the ability to restore (there are actually 10 must-have backup features to look for when searching for the best WordPress backup plugin).
Set a schedule for your automatic WordPress backups. You want to wow your clients with your service, so go above and beyond. Full daily backups are the way to go.
Be sure to store your backup files off-site in BackupBuddy Stash or some other cloud service.
Check your off-site backup location weekly (when you do your weekly updates) to make sure the latest upload is there.
You should keep at least 30 days of backups archived.
Make sure any email notifications are going to you. Clients should not have to worry about any issues with backups (that’s your job).
How to Communicate
Figuring out how to execute recurring revenue should also include communicating with your clients. By its nature, hosting, maintenance, and backups are pretty quiet work. Your client will likely never know you’re doing this work. Which means it can be helpful to remind your clients that you’re taking care of it.
Find a way to offer your clients regular communication about your maintenance work, not so they can know the details of what you’re doing, but so they have a sense of the value you’re delivering.
You want to find a balance between communicating value and minimizing your own effort. A monthly or even quarterly update telling clients the updates you’ve made can work. If there are any high-level security issues, you might mention your efforts protecting their sites and maybe even send out an extra update. You want to keep your clients from worrying.
Now that you’ve learned how to execute recurring revenue, it’s time for the most important part: getting paid.
It’s no good to set up all these processes and systems and then have billing be a nightmare.
Keep it simple. We nerds have a tendency to look at a problem and come up with an elaborate system we never use. Just do something simple that works.
Here’s a simple billing plan:
Final project invoice: When you finish a web project, invoice for the remaining balance and include the first month’s maintenance prorated to the end of the month (So if the site is finished on the 20th, you’re charging maintenance for the remaining 10 or 11 days of the month—so roughly a third of the regular monthly maintenance cost).
Recurring monthly invoice: Set up a recurring transaction for the first of each month. Make all your clients pay on the first of each month—it’s easier to have everyone on the same schedule. You can set up a subscription using the client’s credit card and an online payment processor, such as Stripe.
Create a billing calendar: You can deal with expiring credit cards by setting up a calendar of expiration dates with reminders at 30 days and two weeks.
Check for failed charges: Check your transaction activity on the third of every month for failed charges.
Not every client will be willing to use a credit card. You don’t want to chase down monthly checks, so make those clients pay three, six, or 12 months up front. Create a recurring invoice for these clients and a calendar item for yourself to check up on it.
That’s How to Execute Recurring Revenue
You want to make sure you’re doing as little work as possible to have regular money coming into your account. That’s the beauty of recurring revenue.
Check out the Recurring Revenue Summit, a three-hour, on-demand webinar with expert Nathan Ingram. He talks through how to create recurring revenue services, including specific tips and suggestions for selling and executing these services.
In that time, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know their entire executive team, including their CEO Jim Geiger, CTO Joe Oesterling and CFO Terry Flood, among others. I’ve been impressed with their deep experience and expertise, as well as with their vision for WordPress and WordPress hosting that is innovative, bold and exciting. They’re also great people.
Additionally, Liquid Web has a stellar reputation in the hosting industry, a growing and talented WordPress team led by my friend, Chris Lema, and we share many of the values and principles that have made iThemes successful over the last 10 years.
Through many conversations during past two years, it was obvious that Liquid Web’s work in Managed WordPress and Managed WooCommerce hosting, side-by-side with our iThemes software development talent and essential WordPress products, could combine to be a huge win for everyone.
In the past, the one thing missing from the iThemes product lineup that is so critical to our products and customers is quality WordPress hosting. And the one thing Liquid Web needs to make an even better product is our WordPress products. We’ve commonly referred to this as the “1 + 1 = 3” equation.
Reflecting back on 10 years of business in WordPress, and now looking ahead to the future of WordPress, I believe joining forces with Liquid Web is the right decision for everyone (our customers, our team) and everything (our products) for an even brighter future together.
What This Means For You, The Customer, and For Our Products
You can continue to expect the same excellent service and support, from the same iThemes team, that you’ve gotten for the past 10 years.
Our key products will continue to exist as stand-alone products, and will also be deeply integrated into Liquid Web’s WordPress hosting product lineup.
Suffice it to say, one of the most exciting aspects of combining forces with Liquid Web is the future of our products for you, our customers.
What This Means For Our Team
Keeping our team intact was of primary concern to me. Over the years, we’ve recruited and grown an incredible team of people, whom I also call friends.
The Liquid Web team has consistently made it clear they aren’t just acquiring our product line, but even more importantly, they are welcoming our team of committed, talented and passionate people who work hard and care about our customer community and each other.
In other words, our small family will be joining a much bigger one.
Additionally, our leadership team will continue to lead iThemes as an independent unit within Liquid Web, myself as General Manager, and Matt Danner as Director of Technology and Operations.
All in all, today is an exciting day for iThemes and Liquid Web as we turn the page on another chapter in our history. And I’m looking forward to the shared future we’ll have together, as we continue to “Make People’s Lives Awesome” at iThemes.
Content isn’t usually top of mind for a WooCommerce store. You’re selling products or focusing on marketing—and that marketing doesn’t always include content. But integrating content into your WooCommerce store can boost your bottom line.
Shayla Price is a content expert. She writes content for a range of tech companies including Shopify, Kissmetrics, Drip, Leadpages, HostGator and more. She spoke at the 2016 WooCommerce Conference about using user-generated content to increase sales.
“If content isn’t part of your marketing strategy, you may slowly lose the interest of your audience.” -Shayla Price
We talked with Shayla all about WooCommerce content: mistakes, consistency, and why content makes such a difference. Her answers are concise, but packed with helpful wisdom.
WooCommerce stores are often focused on shipping their products. Why should they care about creating content?
Content marketing is a necessary tool at every stage of the customer journey. Content helps educate potential buyers and retain loyal customers. If content isn’t part of your marketing strategy, you may slowly lose the interest of your audience.
Can you give us an example of how content has boosted income for an e-commerce shop?
While working directly with e-commerce shops, I’ve witnessed how a content marketing pipeline can boost revenue by 25% in a few months. It stemmed from placing content at strategic moments in the customer journey. The right content can nudge reluctant buyers into paying customers.
What’s the biggest content mistake WooCommerce stores are making?
Most WooCommerce stores are failing to integrate customer benefits into their content. It’s great to tell an awesome story, but how does it impact your visitors? It’s important to learn your buyers’ needs, desires, and lifestyles to ensure that they can relate to your products and brand.
A lot of stores (and, well, everybody) have a hard time keeping content updated. What are some ways stores can improve their content creation process to be more consistent?
It all boils down to content planning. You want to create a schedule around your content creation process. Knowing when content is ready to be shipped and who is responsible alleviates internal pressure. It’s also vital that you don’t overload your staff with unrealistic content goals.
In this post, we round up the latest cool and useful (oh, and free!) WordPress plugins now available on the WordPress Plugin Directory. This month’s WordPress Plugin Roundup includes everything from a way to allow users to favorite posts to a new way to manage files from your WordPress dashboard. We’ve also included the Christmas Plugin Power Pack—back by popular demand!
The Favorites plugin is designed for end users and theme developers. It provides an easy-to-use API for adding favorite button functionality to any post type. The plugin can provide a way to save favorites, likes, bookmarks or any other similar types of data with its customizable button text.
Very handy plugin to allow users to favorite posts or other content on your website.
Shows lists of a user’s favorite posts or all users who favorited a post via a shortcode
or template tag.
The DayOfWeek Widget plugin provides an easy, lightweight way to show different content based on the day of the week. Can be used as a widget or a shortcode in your posts or pages.
A clever way to have dynamic content based on the day of the week.
Super simple UI. Most clients should have no problem updating this content themselves.
Use the built-in widget or the shortcode [showday] to display anywhere you’d like.
3. Server Mail Check
The Server Mail Check plugin will send an email out to the administrator of the WordPress site to confirm and check if the server can send emails. In the future, this plugin will also provide a whole suite of checks for other things.
If you’ve ever needed to find out if WordPress can actually send email, you can see how helpful this plugin will be already.
Send a quick email from the link under the Dashboard menu item.
Only allows email to be sent to the email address of the logged in user (for security purposes?).
If you need to send email to a client’s email address, just log in as their user and try to send.
4. Post Notif
The Post Notif plugin is an easy way to keep your readers notified when you’ve posted something new. Simply tailor the subscription widget labels, the email subjects, bodies and the subscription preferences pages – all via the common WordPress admin menu area.
Allows you to immediately notify users when a new post has been published.
Has ability to require email confirmation before adding to your notification list.
Emails sent to subscribers are templated and editable on the plugin settings page.
Developer is very active in the plugin’s support forum.
5. WP Optin Wheel
The WP Optin Wheel plugin can help grow your email list by offering your visitors a chance to win a coupon, or link through spinning the wheel of fortune. Users have reported that their signup rate increased by 20%!
Creative way to increase mailing list signups.
Only available as a pop-up in free version. Pro version offers more options.
Pro version of WP Optin Wheel available starting at €35/year for one site.
6. Dev Info Bar Simple But Smart Plugin #1
The Dev Info Bar plugin is a simple WordPress extension which adds itself to the admin bar, providing system information such as PHP, MySQL version and details of the WordPress being used.
We’ve featured other server/environment info plugins in the past, but this one adds the information in a nice drop-down on the admin bar.
Very handy for analyzing the environment of a server you’re not familiar with at a glance.
7. Quick Switching Plugin Simple But Smart Plugin #2
The Switcher plugin allows you to switch between recently viewed public and admin pages. You can see it on the toolbar after activating the plugin. Switching between public and admin views is similar to opening and closing the admin panel with the updating a page.
Adds a quick switch button at the top right of the admin bar that allows you to switch between the last back end page and the last front end page you were viewing.
While I’m not sure this is one I’d leave on a typical site after launch, this plugin could potentially be very helpful during site development.
8. Simple Featured Image Column Simple But Smart Plugin #3
Makes it easy to see posts that do not have a featured image or to quickly recognize posts in a list by featured image.
Supports posts, pages and custom post types, but does not allow you to turn off support for any certain post type.
9. Admin Bar Menu Packer Simple But Smart Plugin #4
Some themes or plugins add menu items to the toolbar (admin bar). These additional items may be useful, but sometimes you feel annoyed as the toolbar fills up with various items.The Admin Bar Menu Packer plugin gathers these items on the toolbar into one hamburger menu. The message “Howdy, username” next to the Avatar is also removed, but most WordPress built-in items remain as they are.
Cleans up the top admin bar with a nice hamburger menu.
10. File Manager Advanced
The File Manager Advanced plugin is cPanel for files management in WordPress. Edit, delete, upload, delete, download, zip, copy etc. multiple operations, no need of any cPanel and FTP.
Provides a full featured file manager from within the WordPress admin area.
We’ve featured a few of these kinds of plugins in earlier roundups, but they have had severely crippled features or a clunky UI. This one is much nicer.
This plugin presents some security concerns, and I definitely wouldn’t leave it active on a site over time.
However, it can be a lifesaver if you’re working on a site for which you do not have FTP access.
Bonus: The Plugin Roundup Christmas Plugin Power Pack!
Back by popular demand, here’s the WordPress Plugin Roundup: Christmas Plugin Power pack! Would Clark Griswold be proud?
We’ve been doing interviews with several pros about freelancer self care. It’s always helpful to hear from the experts, and we wanted to pull all their good ideas into one place. Taking care of yourself is an important part of any freelancer’s business. Unfortunately, most of us put it off or don’t even think about it … until it’s too late.
Why Self Care Matters
We don’t take self care seriously until something serious happens.
When Jenny Beaumont lost her mom to cancer, she re-prioritized her life. She remembers working on her laptop in the hospital room with her mom, missing out on some of those final moments:
“None of us knew how to just be there with one another, to spend that time talking about things, or just sitting in silence, to accompany one another through those most difficult of times. Those are moments I can’t take back, but which have now reshaped my attitude toward life in a positive way.”
Don’t wait for something serious to force you to take self care seriously. Take care of yourself now.
“The life of a freelancer can drive you mad if you don’t find balance.” –Patrick Neve
All the freedom of freelancing means you can abuse that freedom. You can work long hours and never take breaks—and you won’t last long.
It’s crucial that you understand the importance of taking care of yourself.
Freelancer self care is just as important as finances or contracts or marketing. Consider it another part of your business that you absolutely cannot neglect.
The first step to taking care of yourself is to know yourself. Everybody relaxes and recharges in their own way.
Introverts want to hole up by themselves, while extroverts want to hang out with other people.
Some people think a good vacation is a whirlwind tour of action and excitement. Others want to drop into a hammock and not move.
Some freelancers like to think about code 24/7. Some need to spend time with something completely different so they can come back with fresh eyes.
We all have different strengths and weaknesses, different areas where we need to grow. Part of taking care of yourself is learning and growing, but that will look different for everyone.
How often do you need breaks? Do you like long sessions of work followed by long breaks, or shorter work sessions interrupted with shorter breaks? Can you recharge your batteries over a weekend or do you need a solid two-week vacation?
Freelancer self care is all about figuring out what works for you.
And to make it harder: What works for you can change over time. The ideas and hobbies you found energizing a few years ago might not work the same today.
The bottom line is that you need to pay attention to yourself. When are you feeling stress? What helps relieve that stress? Figure out what works and what doesn’t, listen to your body, try different things.
Freelancer Self Care Starts With Health
Every single freelancer we talked to about self care mentioned health. You need to eat right, you need exercise, you need good sleep.
“The thing that motivates me to stay healthy the most is that I’ve recognized that my eating, exercise, and sleep directly impact my work and my business.” –Brian Casel
If you’re not healthy, you’re going to have a hard time getting work done. Again, take action before it becomes a crisis.
It starts by recognizing the sedentary nature of computer work. Sitting all day long is incredibly unhealthy.
You can’t chain yourself to a desk all day. You need to get up and move around. Brian Casel uses a standing desk. Patrick Neve drinks from a 32-ounce jug to force himself to get up. Jennifer Bourn leaves her phone in the next room so she has to get up if she wants to check it.
Simply forcing yourself to get up and move around is a good way to disrupt a sedentary lifestyle. But it takes more than that.
Several of our freelancers made exercise a priority by starting the day with it. And exercise doesn’t have to be a sweaty, intense affair. Jenny Beaumont starts the day with yoga and goes on walks with her husband in the evening.
Physical health is important, but don’t forget mental health. All that stress can weigh on your mind and result in serious issues. Depression is not uncommon, and sometimes you need some help.
There can be a temptation to self medicate when you find yourself in a dark place: “Having that extra beer or shot to make yourself feel better starts you down a dangerous path,” cautions Adam Soucie. “When you’re teetering on the edge, mixing either with your stress and possible depression is a recipe for disaster.”
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, talk to somebody.
“Having someone to talk to about your deepest and darkest thoughts without judgment is incredibly helpful,” Adam Soucie says, describing the benefits of therapy.
For more on the value of mental health, check out these resources:
iThemes founder Cory Miller has been up front about his struggles with mental health and most recently his efforts at physical health (the two are certainly linked). There’s no shame in taking care of yourself.
Give Me a Break
Taking care of your health is a good foundation for self care. Now you need to be proactive about taking appropriate breaks to rest and recharge.
“Every day we need rest: It’s not something that we should push back until the last possible moment. We need to pace ourselves and take care of ourselves every single day.” –Jenny Beaumont
You should take regular breaks throughout the day. Getting up from the computer and walking around, letting your eyes rest, allowing your mind to unplug—even five minutes can make a difference.
Be sure to include breaks as a part of your daily routine. That should also include having an end to your work day. Working late into the night might have worked in school, but it’s not a viable long-term solution.
“It’s really important for agency workers and freelancers alike to have set work hours. Once those hours are over, work stops. Period. You have to have a life away from your code or design.” –Adam Soucie
Regular short-term breaks, whether it’s a 15-minute walk around the block or putting work aside to actually enjoy the weekend, are important. But you should also include regular long-term breaks—also known as vacation.
Taking a vacation can be a real challenge for freelancers: “Vacation is a pretty foreign concept for me,” admits Jenny Beaumont.
Paid vacation is a nice perk of full-time employment, but it’s something freelancers have to figure out for themselves. Taking time off usually means not making money, and for a lot of freelancers that’s not happening.
To make vacation a reality, freelancers have to plan for it and schedule it. That means setting money aside (both to cover the lost income and to pay for the actual vacation) and clearing your calendar.
It can be a real challenge, but it’s worth it. Jennifer Bourn says it’s one of the best perks of freelancing: “We typically take seven to eight weeks of vacation each year, plus long weekends throughout the summer, and all major holidays.”
As a freelancer, you set the rules. So if you think you can’t manage a vacation, you need to change the rules.
Our freelancers have some tips for how to make the most of your vacation (once you do manage to make it happen):
The anticipation of vacation is the best part: “We almost always have our next vacation planned,” says Brian Casel. “If we don’t have some kind of getaway planned in the next few months, we (especially me!) get antsy and it makes work less enjoyable.” (This is one of the lessons from Happy Money).
Time to readjust:Michelle Schulp tries to take a day on either side of her vacation to adjust. You need a day to step away and unplug, and you need a day to step back into things.
Unplug from email: “I would always recommend steering clear of emails while on vacation,” says Patrick Neve. “Email can easily eat up hours of time that would be better spent creating memories with the ones you love.”
Leave work behind: “It’s all about being present in the moment and allowing everything else to fall into the background,” says Jennifer Bourn.
Turning work trips into vacation: A lot of work trips do double duty as vacations for Michelle Schulp, and she makes that work by taking time for meaningful social connections. That energizes her and makes it more than a work trip.
Vacation can be a powerful reward, but you also need more regular rewards. You should have small, daily or weekly rewards—whether it’s taking a few hours off in the middle of the week or a special snack or treat.
Figure out the reward that motivates you, even if it’s as simple as a sticker.
“We have to reward ourselves once in a while. It’s easy to feel guilty for doing this, but if you never reward yourself, you’ll burn out.” –Patrick Neve
Learn New Things
Freelancer self care doesn’t have to be all vacations and rewards. Sometimes taking care of yourself means improving yourself. Sometimes you need to learn new things or stretch your creative muscles with a side project.
Maybe you need to take a class and push your skills. Or maybe that class should be in something completely different from your daily work.
“Never stop learning and never stop trying new things.” –Brian Casel
Again, you need to know yourself and what works best for you.
Interact With Others
Another way to take care of yourself is to hang out with the people who inspire and sharpen you. Go to some events and spend time with your people.
Maybe rubbing shoulders isn’t what you need. Maybe you need to invest in people. Look into mentoring an up and coming freelancer. Inspire the next generation of coders.
Sometimes passing on what you’ve learned and investing in others can recharge and refresh you. You’ll gain a new perspective and a sense of accomplishment you won’t get from keeping everything to yourself.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Freelancer self care isn’t just about taking time away from work. It’s also about working better.
Taking breaks and getting exercise and all the things we’ve talked about above will actually make you more productive.
That’s right, take some time off and get more work done. It’s magic!
Not really. You’ll be happier, more engaged, and more energetic. You’ll attack your work with more vigor and brain power, you’ll have more stamina, you’ll do better work in less time. And getting things done will make you feel even better. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.
So take a look at how you work and find ways to be more productive.
You can find some advice in the book, Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much by Tony Crabbe. The premise is that busy is a myth and should never be a goal. Instead of rushing around working harder, we should work smarter.
A lot of taking care of yourself is about how you work. Some tips from Busy for a better work life:
Finally, the perks of freelancing really make taking care of yourself easier.
Brian Casel, Jennifer Bourn, Patrick Neve, and Jenny Beaumont all said that a flexible schedule was one of the best perks of freelancing. That flexibility means you can tackle family drama and finish work later. Or work extra hard now so you can take a three-day weekend. You’re not punching a clock and following someone else’s demands. You make your own rules, and that freedom allows freelancers to breathe easy.
That’s quite a boon to self care.
“The biggest ‘perk’ is just giving myself permission to prioritize self care,” says Michelle Schulp.
Get more insights on freelancer self care by reading the complete interviews with our experts:
Knowing day of the week data can improve your WooCommerce store. Do you know which days of the week are busiest for your e-commerce shop?
For example, restaurants are crazy busy on Saturday night and dead on Tuesday night. It’s pretty obvious: You can see the line out the door or the empty tables.
Those busy and quiet days aren’t so obvious with a WooCommerce store. You need solid “day of the week” data to sort out which days are popular and which aren’t.
How Does Day of the Week Data Help?
You better believe restaurants respond to their own day of the week data. They staff up on their busy days. They want to fill every table and keep them turning over. That means a top-notch, well-oiled staff of cooks, servers, bussers, and hosts. No restaurant manager in their right mind would start a rookie waiter on Saturday night.
Restaurants also react to low-traffic days. Tuesday nights are often ‘kids eat free’ nights, a marketing trick designed to lure in families on an otherwise slow night.
Online Day of the Week Data
The world of e-commerce is certainly different from the realm of restaurants. But day of the week data still matters.
Monday brings in the most sales, followed by Sunday.
Consumers generally shop more at the beginning of the week than the end of the week.
The prime online shopping hour? 8 p.m.
Wednesdays and Tuesdays are the best day to email shoppers.
But that’s general data across a wide swath of e-commerce shops. The same trends may not hold true for your store.
All kinds of factors may mean a different trend in your shop. You need to know your own data. Don’t assume what works for other stores will work for yours. That’s a rabbit hole of poor decisions and poor results.
OK, so day of the week data is helpful, and you need to find your own trends. Now what? How can your WooCommerce store take advantage of this day of the week data?
We’ve got five suggestions:
Big splash: If you want to make a big splash, launch your biggest initiatives on your biggest days. Roll out the big sales or the hot new products when you’ve got the most eyeballs.
Nice and easy: On the other hand, if you want to make sure a promotion is working or test a new product, launch on your slowest days.
What’s your goal: Have a goal in mind and experiment. If you want to make more money, is it smarter to boost your biggest sales day even higher or try to salvage a slow day? Pick one, try something, and see what happens. Your day of the week data will tell you what works and what doesn’t.
Staff up: Make sure your customer service is ready to respond on your busy days. You might need to shift schedules or plan creatively.
Fix it: Do your maintenance, updates, and training on your slowest days. Give yourself time to fix anything that goes wrong without worrying about jeopardizing your busy days.
You can make better decisions when you’ve got the right data.
Track Day of the Week Data with iThemes Sales Accelerator
Knowing your day of the week data can empower you to make the right changes to make your WooCommerce shop more profitable. But you can only do that with the right information. You need the right data, which you can get with our WooCommerce reporting plugin, iThemes Sales Accelerator. Sales by day of the week is one of the data points offered in our WooCommerce reports plugin, iThemes Sales Accelerator.
2018 is officially here. Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? Your WordPress website could probably benefit from some renewed attention and updates, and the New Year is the perfect time to revisit your business or blogging goals.
In this post, we offer 18 WordPress New Year’s resolutions if you’re in need of some inspiration. Choose one, tackle them all or write your own—you decide!
The Key to Successful New Year’s Resolutions: SMART Goals
Does your WordPress site have a reliable backup strategy in place? Are you relying on host backups alone? Owning a website means protecting your online investment, and one of the best ways to do that is with something as seemingly boring as backups. WordPress doesn’t have a built-in backup system, so it’s up to WordPress admins to have a backup strategy in place.
A WordPress backup solution should offer these four components:
A complete website backup. You need to backup your entire WordPress website installation (the database + all WP files). A database backup alone won’t cut it.
Scheduled, automatic backups. Backups need to run automatically at scheduled intervals, depending on your site activity and traffic, like hourly, daily or weekly.
Support for off-site backup storage. Backup files must be stored off-site in a safe, secure location, not on the same server as your website.
A way to restore your website from a backup. If your website crashes, you need a way to restore your WordPress website quickly & easily from a backup file.
Note: While your website host may offer backup services, it’s important to know how their backup system stores your website data, how accessible it is to you (can you download the files yourself?) and how quickly support can restore your latest backup in the event of a server crash or error.
Tip: Install a WordPress backup plugin such as BackupBuddy. BackupBuddy was designed specifically to backup WordPress websites and also offers a real-time WordPress backup feature with Stash Live (included for free in BackupBuddy 7.0+). BackupBuddy offers customizable automatic backup schedules and supports multiple off-site storage destinations for your backups.
2. Start practicing good WordPress security measures.
How secure is your WordPress site? Do you know the most common WordPress security issues? Spend some time this year to review WordPress security tips (such as using a reputable hosting provider and keeping your software updated) to minimize your risk of being hacked.
Tip: Install a WordPress security plugin such as iThemes Security. Run the WordPress security check feature to analyze your site and activate the recommended security settings.
3. Update out-of-date themes, plugins and WordPress core.
Are you running out-of-date versions of WordPress core or any themes or plugins on your site? If so, you could be running software with known security vulnerabilities. While it may seem like a chore to keep up with constant updates, keeping everything updated is a very important part of maintaining your WordPress website.
Tip: Use a service like iThemes Sync to manage multiple WordPress sites. Instead of logging into each individual site, Sync gives you one dashboard to perform updates. Sync also sends daily update notification emails to let you know when new updates are available.
4. Set up two-factor authentication.
Are you using two-factor authentication for your WordPress admin login? If not, you may want to consider implementing this important security measure in 2018. WordPress two-factor authentication (or WordPress 2-step verification) adds an important extra layer of protection to your WordPress site’s login and admin area by requiring 1) a password and 2) a secondary time-sensitive code to log in.
While it may seem like a hassle to add another component to your login, two-factor authentication is still one of the best ways to secure your login, making it nearly impossible to be compromised. At the very least, set up two-factor authentication on all online banking or financial accounts.
Learn more about WordPress two-factor authentication and how it works. The iThemes Security plugin offers two-factor authentication for your WordPress admin login with support for multiple two-factor apps and other methods.
5. Start using a password manager.
Are you using a password manager yet? If not, you might want to review these important reasons for why you should use a password manager (in addition to two-factor authentication) to protect your online identity. Adding a password manager to your online workflow may actually speed up your logins and give you peace of mind as well.
A password manager such as LastPass remembers your login information for you, allowing you to use complex passwords for all your logins across the web. Check out this recent free training webinar on Getting Started with LastPass.
6. Blog more.
Blogging may fall to the bottom of your to-do list, especially when you’re juggling other high-priority tasks. But maybe 2018 is the year you resolve to blog more. Realistically, can you blog daily? Maybe twice-weekly? Maybe just weekly? Make it a priority to blog more frequently to bring in more traffic to your website.
How’s your SEO strategy? Are you seeing success with your targeted keywords and phrases, qualifying leads through quality content? If not, and you need to brush up on your SEO knowledge, set aside time each week or month to work on your website’s SEO. Little changes can mean big results!
One bad habit a lot of website owners get into is not optimizing the images they upload to use in their posts or pages. Do you know large image files can have a BIG impact on page load time? Are you optimizing your images for the web? Stop uploading huge image files to your website and optimize them instead. Even in the era of retina displays, images should still not climb above 500KB in size. Yikes.
Is your blog looking tired or outdated? Is 2018 the year you need to roll out a new website design? Perhaps it’s time to overhaul your entire website, but maybe all that’s needed is to “freshen up” your theme or design.
It’s easy to get focused on design rather than content. If you aren’t blogging regularly, a new design can be a distraction from actually writing and producing content for your blog. Sometimes it’s best to work with the website you have now, make changes and get creative. Make some changes and get creative. At the end of the day, your goal as a blog owner is to focus on producing new high-quality content.
What did you accomplish in 2017? What major projects did you complete? Does your website reflect your latest client work or product releases? Resolve in 2018 to spend some time updating your portfolio with project photos, summaries and client testimonials.
A major update is coming soon to the WordPress. Do you know about the Gutenberg WordPress Editor? If you don’t know already, Gutenberg is a new page builder that is being designed to integrate with WordPress core. Gutenberg will add content blocks and page builder-like functionality to every up-to-date WordPress website. When in use, Gutenberg will replace TinyMCE as the default content editor. With Gutenberg, content is added in blocks of various types from the WordPress backend.
Did you know WordPress has a thriving online and in-person community? Are you participating? Have you attended a WordPress meetup or a WordCamp? These WordPress focused meetups and events bring WordPress users together to share knowledge, solve problems and network. Who knows! Maybe you’ll make a new friend or two.
Do you have Google Analytics and Google Search Console properly set up on your website? What about WooCommerce analytics to track sales data for your store?
Analytics offers a ton of insights and clues as to what’s working (and what isn’t) with your website, but some website owners get quickly overwhelmed by the setup required and the data in the reports. Maybe this is the year you finally tackle your analytics and translate the data into actionable steps to improve your website and e-commerce performance.
Are you charging enough for the work you do? Have you raised your rates in the past 12 months? Why not?
You should raise your rates at least 5% a year. (Seriously!) Most markets can support a 5% increase in rates. Communicate your rate increase to your existing clients, and raise both your hourly rates and your service contracts in 2018.
Need help pricing your services or help in dealing with clients? Check out the Freelance Summit hosted by Nathan Ingram.
15. Start building (and using) an email list.
Do you have an email list currently for your website or blog? Are you emailing that list consistently with updates, tutorials or promotions? Email is still one of best performing marketing platforms based on ROI, so spend some time in 2018 either building your email list, working on your email strategy and actually sending emails. To help build your email list, use an opt-in incentive such as a free download (think ebooks, templates, worksheets, videos, etc.)
Use a tool such as OptinMonster to help drive your email signups, then integrate OptinMonster with an email marketing service such as MailChimp.
16. Write an ebook.
Writing an ebook can seem overwhelming. But if you already have a blog post series on a similar topic, you can easily compile those posts into an ebook. Ebooks downloads can be as simple as a PDF (if you’re not comfortable yet with EPUB or Kindle), and you can offer the download directly from your website as a way to build your email newsletter list and position yourself as an expert.
Some tools and services will do the work of compiling blog posts into ebooks for you. Check out Beacon, which also offers a WordPress plugin, to turn your blog posts into a well-designed PDF.
17. Learn a new coding/design/marketing/other skill.
Check out iThemes Training for professional WordPress training and other online training sites such as Lynda.com or Skillshare. If you don’t already have one yet (or if you haven’t used it in a while), take advantage of your local library card.
18. Have more fun and practice self-care.
One of the most meaningful resolutions you can make this year is to have more fun and practice better self-care. This may mean different things to different people—from committing to eat healthier, exercise more, get outdoors, get better work/life balance or spend more time with the people you love. What do you enjoy doing? Do more of that. Maybe it’s finding a new hobby or returning to an old one that got lost in the midst of being a grown-up. How will you have fun and take care of yourself in 2018?
Check out our recent interviews with WordPress freelancers on freelancer self care. They share a ton of great advice and insights!
A successful entrepreneur figures out what’s working and does more of that. A successful WooCommerce store does the same thing. Pay attention to stats and optimize what’s working.
Knowing your best product is an important indicator that can help you boost profits. It’s the kind of WooCommerce data you can track in our WooCommerce reporting plugin, iThemes Sales Accelerator.
We’ve got 12 suggestions to make more of your best products:
1. Figure Out Why
Before you run around trying to optimize your best product, you should figure out why that product is selling so well. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s a mystery. But the more you know about why that product is hot, the better you can optimize it.
Ask yourself some questions:
How long has the product been selling well? Is this a recent spike or has it always been a strong seller?
If it’s a recent spike, what might have caused that spike? Is it something internal (like a recent feature or sale) or external (new fad, cultural phenomenon, etc.)?
Is this a product you’d expect to do well or is it a surprise? Either answer can have helpful implications.
By what margin is it the best product? Is it just edging out other products or is it an order of magnitude better? You don’t want to single out and double down on a product that is only doing marginally better than other products in your store.
As you figure out why this product is doing so well, you can start to narrow in on areas for improvement. For example, if one of your marketing emails caused the spike, you better take a close look at that email and see if you can replicate the results. If your best product is a surprise, you should look at your audience and try to sort out if this is a fluke or if you missed something key about what your audience wants.
2. Create Best Product Content
Keep the sales of your best product going by creating content focused on that product. You’ll boost your SEO and increase conversions by educating consumers. You also set yourself up as an expert.
Ideally, your best product is a natural fit in your store, so all of this content helps boost your status as an expert in your category.
If your best product is an outlier, then you should tread carefully. Think about how this product connects to the rest of your store and focus on those connections. You want the success of this product to spread to the rest of your store.
3. Invest in Successful Referrals
Look at your site analytics and pay attention to what’s driving traffic to your best product. Invest in the top performing channels and dump the underperforming ones.
For example, if SEO is driving sales, you might invest in Google AdWords and redouble your SEO efforts. If sales aren’t coming from social media, maybe you stop trying so hard and definitely ditch the Facebook ads.
4. Featured Product
Are you highlighting this product on your homepage or featuring it in other areas? You want to sort out whether or not this exposure is helping create your top-selling product or whether it’s something else.
If featuring is driving your best products, then you can be extremely strategic about what you feature and when. If you feature another product, will it become the best seller? Pay very close attention to what you feature and how well it sells, and be careful that your experiments don’t kill off sales.
If what you feature has little impact on your best products, then you can safely experiment with highlighting other products, knowing that you’re not risking your big sales.
5. Who’s Buying?
A good store knows its customers. So who’s buying your best product? Are you seeing regular customers coming back for more or is this a steady stream of newbies?
If you’ve got regular customers driving your best seller, you want to figure out everything you can about those regulars so you can create more regulars. You should also make sure you’re keeping those regulars happy.
If you’re bringing in newbies, then you need to worry about two things: First, are you doing everything you can to make them repeat customers? Second, it might be a product that doesn’t generate repeat sales, so what can you do to generate even more newbies?
6. Power Up Profitability
So you’ve got a product that’s selling well. Are you making as much money as you can on that product? Now is a good time to look at the margin on this product and see if you can make more money on a successful product.
You’re moving a greater quantity, so maybe you can negotiate a better wholesale price. Or maybe you should research a cheaper source (though be careful not to sacrifice quality).
If this is a product you create, look at getting a better deal on the materials. Or buy in bulk to get better deals. Are there ways you can optimize your production process? Figure out ways to make the product cheaper so you can increase your profit per unit.
It’s a lot of work to optimize your profitability on every single product, but you can maximize that effort by focusing on your best product.
7. Experiment With Pricing
Once you maximize profitability on your best product, it’s time to experiment with pricing. You now have the most latitude to change the price. Remember: Dropping the price is not the only solution. Raising the price could be a very real approach to make more money.
Pricing is always a challenge. It’s tempting to overthink or assume that cheaper is always better. That’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes customers are willing to pay more than you think they will. And sometimes a lower price will drive enough sales to make up for the lower profit margin.
Don’t just guess. Test different pricing strategies and gauge the results.
8. Efficient Shipping
How often do you order something small from Amazon and it comes in a giant box three-fourths full of that air pillow packaging? It’s hardly efficient. (Though knowing Amazon, they’re probably taking advantage of some archaic shipping loophole and saving money, even if it is a total waste.) You’re shipping a lot of your best product, so make sure your shipping is the best.
Take a look at how you’re shipping your best product and see if you can maximize your efficiency. Maybe there’s a better sized box or a better way to package it that can reduce costs.
9. Up-Sells, Cross-Sells & Bundles
Once a customer makes the decision to buy, a standard sales technique is to get them to buy more. There are a number of strategies that can help you make more money with your best product.
Up-sell: If you like our best product, you’ll love our better product! Suggest a different version of your best product that has more features or a higher profit margin.
Cross-sell: Since you’re buying our best product, you’ll also need these. Offer a complementary product the customer will need anyway. Such as cables with a new TV, a case with a new phone, etc.
Bundle: Get our best product along with this other awesome product and save! Pitch your best product along with another frequently purchased product and offer a discount for buying them together.
All of these options can be ways to increase your average order value, one of the 10 WooCommerce data points you need to follow.
10. Diversify What’s Best
If your best product is a red knit hat, maybe you should sell other knit hats. Experiment with other colors and patterns. Figure out what’s the draw and then consider other factors you can vary.
This is the standard product cycle for really popular fads. Imagine the fidget spinner:
First the plain, boring product takes off and sells like crazy.
Then variations are introduced, fun colors and new patterns.
Then cheap knockoffs and expensive premium versions (gold plated!) hit the market.
Then more complicated variations come out, like the mini fidget spinner or the light up version (glow-in-the-dark or light up versions usually mark the end of any toy fad).
Finally, the more enterprising latch onto the fidget toy factor and start offering a broader range of fidget toys.
Chasing fads can be exhausting, but on a smaller scale offering variations of a popular product can be a way to drive sales.
11. Best Category
Your best product is an obvious focus, but you should also pay attention to your best category. Top product categories will tell you why people are coming to your store. That can help you make better choices about what products to offer, what to highlight, where and how to advertise, how to grow your store, and more.
12. Optimize Your Entire Store
It can be tempting to chase your best product in hopes of boosting your profits. But don’t do it at the expense of your store. Popular products may come and go. Your store is a long-term investment.
Use your sales data to identify those best products and make the most of them. But make sure those efforts also benefit your store over the long haul. Grow your customer base. Build relationships with customers. Focus on the fundamentals.
Optimize your product page so you can get better conversions on your best products, but those improvements can also help across your entire store.
Extra Tip: Don’t Be Myopic
It’s easy to be seduced by the exponential sales of a best product. You should capitalize on those opportunities, but recognize them for what they are. Every fad is a bubble that will one day pop.
Milk your best product, but also be looking for the next best product. Remember that you’re growing an entire store, not selling a single product.
Track Best Product Sales Data with iThemes Sales Accelerator
Knowing your best product can empower you to make the right changes to make more money. But you can only do that with the right information. You need the right data, which you can get with our WooCommerce reporting plugin, iThemes Sales Accelerator.