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From Veteran Techie to Rookie Freelancer: Bianca Welds

We often interview veteran freelancers for the wisdom they can offer, though recently we’ve talked to a few freelancing rookies to see their fire and energy. This time, we’re getting both.

bianca weldsToday we talk with Bianca Welds. A veteran in the tech space, she started using WordPress back in 2005. More recently she started freelancing with L’Attitude Studios, on top of her full-time job. Bianca currently lives in Kingston, Jamaica.

“I’ve been very selective about who I work with, which helps to ensure greater success in the projects I do implement.” -Bianca Welds

We talked about shifting to freelancing, creating the right systems, and making it easy for clients.

How did you get started in freelancing?

I’ve been using WordPress for my personal websites since 2005. As blogging grew in Jamaica, I found myself helping other people with setup and migrations, but I was largely doing it as a “friend service.” In 2014, I decided to properly set up a side business focusing on WordPress and ideally working with creative businesses. I’ve been in and out of the technology field for my whole career so it’s not a shift so much as continuing to remain in a tech space that I find interesting.

What’s been the most important contributor to your early success?

Not sure I’d say early success, given the length of my journey and I’ve not dedicated myself full time to freelancing at this point. But what success I have had has come from the professional approach I have taken, which was largely defined by my participation in Troy Dean’s WP Elevation program two years ago. I continue to use the systems and structures that he outlined in dealing with clients. I’ve also been very selective about who I work with, which helps to ensure greater success in the projects I do implement.

Where do you think you need to improve as a new freelancer?

I need to get much better at marketing my business and attracting new clients. In part, because I’ve been doing it part time, I’ve not put a lot of effort into doing much on that front. The plan was to use content marketing as a pull, but that of course takes time to do it well.

What advice do you have for veteran freelancers? What are veterans overlooking or missing that you notice as a relative newcomer?

Make it easy for your prospective clients. The biggest competition is often DIY website builders because of the ease of getting started. Clients who need more still want the process of working with a freelancer to be easy, so don’t make them have to think too hard to get their project done.

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Client Consultation: How to Move From Contact to Contract

One of the challenges for freelancers is closing the deal and securing work. It’s a crucial step, but how you do it can also set the tone for the rest of your project. If you’re dealing with unresponsive clients, out of control demands, or off-the-rails projects, you might need to go back and reconsider your initial client consultation.

client consultation

A client consultation is an initial meeting with a client to figure out what they need and to sell your services. At the end of the meeting, you should know if this client is a good fit, exactly what they need, a rough price point and whether or not you’re going to put together a proposal.

Not every freelancer has a specific, organized consultation with a client. Everybody has their own process. But it can be a way to streamline your sales process and waste less time with prospective clients that never pan out.

In this post, we’re going to explore what a client consultation meeting looks like, why you should do them, and how to conduct them.

What Is Your Current Process For Landing Clients & Securing Projects?

Before exploring the ins and outs of a client consultation meeting, it might help to consider your current process first. How exactly do you land a client and secure a project?

Some freelancers don’t have a formal process. They make first contact with a client, maybe from a website form or a referral. They trade emails, answering some questions and asking others. A back and forth dance ensues, and it may stretch out over weeks or even months. Eventually, they get enough clarity about what the client needs to make a proposal and the project moves forward.

That may be the best case scenario. A lot of times those conversations peter out and nothing comes of it. That’s one way to land a project. It can work, but it’s not very efficient. Not having a process wastes time with prospective clients who may never pay you a dime. It’s also prone to missing important details or forgetting to ask questions that can cause problems down the road.

We talked about the importance of creating critical freelance systems, and that starts with how you secure clients and land projects. If you formalize and streamline that process, right from the beginning, you can be more efficient, more productive, and more profitable.

First Client Contact

You should have a formal process for what to do when you connect with a new prospective client. You need to figure out what they need, how serious they are and if you want to work with them. A good process will help you weed out bad clients and avoid nightmare projects.

A helpful part of this first contact is to mention a dollar amount: “Our minimum price for a website is $ X.” You’ll find out quickly how serious they are. You’ll also scare away bargain hunters.

Mentioning a minimum project cost is an initial client screening. You might have a script of a few preliminary questions to ask. Maybe you put together a short online form you ask prospective clients to fill out.

The end goal of this first contact is to schedule a client consultation meeting. If this sounds like a project you’re interested in, with a client that seems reasonable, and the budget is workable, then you need to sit down together and have a serious conversation.

What Is a Client Consultation Meeting?

A client consultation meeting is a focused meeting to move a prospective client from first contact to a proposal and, hopefully, a signed contract.

  • Get the details: It’s a limited, streamlined meeting that should tell you everything you need to know about starting a project with a client.
  • Work toward a proposal: It’s a chance to gather all the important details to make a proposal.
  • Know the client: It’s an opportunity to get to know the client and find out if they’re someone you want to do business with.

Let’s talk about what the consultation is not:

  • It’s not a sales pitch. OK, yes, you’re trying to sell your services. But more than that, this is a first date. You’re testing the waters of a relationship to see if this is something to pursue. Spend more time evaluating the client and less time pitching yourself.
  • It’s not to refine the client’s business plan. If the client doesn’t know what they need or what they’re doing, that’s a red flag. They don’t need a developer to build a website, they need a consultant to refine strategy. You can still do that work, but propose a discovery phase and not a website (or refer them to someone else).
  • It’s not to explain how. This meeting is to discover the client’s goals. Talk about what those are, don’t talk about how to meet them. How to meet those goals is what you get paid for.

Why Have a Client Consultation Meeting?

OK, so why is this meeting so important? A number of reasons:

  • It formalizes your process. If you want to be more efficient, more productive, and more profitable, you must have a specific freelance system. This is how you efficiently move clients from first contact to signed contract.
  • It lays the groundwork for a good project. A client consultation meeting is where you can set all the expectations for how the project is going to go. You’re setting up guidelines for the project that will keep the client on track (see more on the Terrible Client Protection Plan).
  • It can save you from trouble. Keeping the client on track can save you from costly detours, but some clients just can’t help themselves. A client consultation meeting will help you spot those red flags and avoid monster clients.
  • It can save you time. Ever spent hours agonizing over a proposal only to discover your price wasn’t even in the client’s ballpark? A client consultation puts a budget on the table. Ever spent hours in meetings with a client but never landed a project? A client consultation can help you push those vague meetings into a discovery phase where you get paid.
  • It gives you a script. If you’re nervous about meetings or worry about forgetting something, a client consultation meeting gives you a script. You don’t have to think about what to ask next, because it’s all spelled out.
  • It makes it easier to sell ongoing maintenance. While this meeting is primarily about vetting clients, it’s a chance to talk about the need for ongoing maintenance. It’s better to sell ongoing maintenance before a project than to spring it on a client afterward.
  • It shows your professionalism. All of this illustrates that you’re a serious, organized, professional developer. That should put clients at ease and make them more willing to sign a contract and get started.

How to Do a Client Consultation Meeting

So how do actually conduct a successful client consultation meeting? Nathan Ingram shared how he does client consultations during our recent Freelance Summit. Nathan uses the “SCOPE” acronym to define what needs to happen during the consultation meeting:

  • Scope: Learn enough about the project to create a proposal. This is where you ask questions—lots of questions—and it should take up the bulk of the meeting. (See more on 65 questions to ask during your next freelance client meeting.)
  • Chemistry: Determine if this is a client you can work with. This will happen throughout the meeting as you watch for red flags.
  • Ongoing: Explain the importance of your ongoing services. Take the opportunity to stress that a website needs ongoing maintenance and the client should plan for it now, either by hiring you to do it or being prepared to do it themselves.
  • Process: Set expectations by walking through your process. Let the client know what the next steps are and how you work.
  • Estimate: Provide a ballpark estimate and get client buy-in. You need to have a rough budget. If a client isn’t willing to talk about the budget, that’s a red flag.

You should be able to walk through these steps, including all the questions, in about an hour. That should give you enough information to understand what the project entails and create a proposal.

Remember that this is your meeting. You run it. Take charge and run through your agenda to make sure you’ve covered everything you need to. Don’t let the meeting drag on or get sidetracked. If a client is all over the place and doesn’t know what they want, then it might be more appropriate to propose a discovery phase where they pay you by the hour to sort out strategy as opposed to bumbling forward with a rudderless website project.

You want to minimize time spent with a client when you’re not getting paid. Yes, answer their questions, explain how your process works. But don’t get sucked into giving free consulting advice.

More Freelance Training

If you want more help for conducting client consultation meetings, check out the Freelance Summit. Veteran freelancer Nathan Ingram offers 11 hours of video training, including more detail on client consultations. The Freelance Summit videos cover process, profit, and productivity, and include sample files and templates.

Once you’ve finished a client consultation meeting you should know whether or not you want to do business. You’ll know the scope of the project, you’ll know if it’s in your wheelhouse and if you’re in the client’s budget. You’ll have a measure of who they are and if you’re willing to work with them.

If all is well, the next step is to put together a proposal. This is where you put everything in writing and get your client to sign a contract. For help with proposals and contracts, check out the Freelance Summit.

Learn more about the Freelance Summit

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Website Design and Development with Custom WordPress Development from Manila, Philippines

World class website design and development outsourcing services that feature custom WordPress development and WP themes are among the services offered by website design and development outsourcing companies from Manila, Philippines. With the expertise of professional WordPress designers and developers, a professional website design and development outsourcing company in Manila, Philippines like the respected Web Dot Com can help any small or medium sized company profit from the global market from any country with a good internet connection.

While small and medium sized companies used to be confined to their localities for a limited market, nowadays the internet has provided the means by which they can offer their goods or services to the worldwide marketplace. They can even avail of e-commerce solutions in order to allow clients and customers to safely place orders and make payments online.

To succeed in the online market, though, it is necessary for a small or medium sized company to have a website with professional design, development, execution and maintenance. The business owners should remember that the website becomes the face of the company on the worldwide web. It stands as the virtual office, showroom and store of the company, presenting its image and message in the best possible light. A balance has to be achieved between aesthetic attractiveness and full functionality. The website should be inviting to visitors and should provide for all their needs.

A small or medium sized business can hire the services of a website design and development outsourcing company from Manila, Philippines to create its website. It could also opt to establish its own website design and development department in house, but this would be a major investment that not many businesses are ready to undertake.

It is not a simple matter to set up a new department in a company, especially a highly technical one like a website design and development department. Manpower requirements are very specialized. Unless the company is prepared to pay a high price by hiring experts to staff the department, re-training existing staff will take much time and training costs. It will also mean taking them away from more important core tasks. In addition to manpower, other expenses will include office space and furnishings, computer hardware, software and ongoing overhead costs. In contrast, hiring outsourcing services is much simpler and more cost effective. The services are immediately available at expert levels.

A website design and development outsourcing company from Manila, Philippines is the perfect business partner for any small or medium sized business operating in any country. The only requirement is a good internet connection. By offering custom WordPress development and WP themes expertly done by professional WordPress designers and developers, a website design and development outsourcing company can enable any small or medium sized business anywhere to compete with the bigger players online in courting the world market. It is crucial to find a reputable website design and development outsourcing company, though. You cannot go wrong by getting in touch with one of the best in Manila, Philippines, which is Web Dot Com.

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Post-Mortem: Did You Learn Anything From Your Last Website Project?

One of the downsides of being a web designer is that you’re always too busy to slow down and look back. No time for a post-mortem on your last website project. You’re working on so many projects concurrently that when one ends you don’t take the time to evaluate how it went. You’re just moving on to the next project, the next deadline, the next urgent task.

Web Design Project

It’s good to be so busy. But it’s not good to never take a moment for a post-mortem.

What worked about that project? Did you learn anything? Should you modify your process?

Sometimes a project might be so awful that you need to call this process something more accurate—like an autopsy. Slice it open and see what went wrong.

Why Do You Need a Project Post-Mortem?

The life of a freelancer is busy, so why should you set aside time to evaluate the project you just finished? It’s done, move on. Right?

Moving forward with efficiency is admirable, but you might be missing out. There’s really just one reason to evaluate your work: To get better.

There’s really just one reason to evaluate your work: To get better.

It’s that simple:

  • It’s a learning opportunity. You can’t get better if you never evaluate. This is how you do it. Athletes go back and look at the game tape. Freelancers need to do the same.
  • You need to do it now because if you don’t take time to evaluate when it’s still fresh, you’ll lose any valuable insights. The passage of time will warp or dull your perspective, and you’ll miss out on the lessons that could improve your business.
  • Taking time for a post-mortem will allow you to spot trends. You’ll start to notice when you spend too much time emailing clients or when projects stall out in the contract phase. If you have recurring issues, it’s time to make a change.
  • Evaluating your work is an intentional way to get better at your job. Better doesn’t happen automatically. You need to work at it.
  • Without pausing to figure out what worked and what didn’t, you risk making the same mistakes over and over again.

How to Do a Project Post-Mortem

OK, so debriefing can be valuable. How do you do it?

  1. Create a standard process: You want this to be quick and easy, so have a standardized form ready to go. Maybe custom code it, use Gravity forms or just create a Google form. A simple Word doc is fine too, but be sure to have standard questions to answer so you’re not staring at a blank page.
  2. Ask some basic questions: You don’t need to ask very many, but just go through a few that get to the heart of the project and the lessons you need to extract from the experience. Here are few (more than you need) to get you started:
    1. What worked about the project?
    2. What didn’t work?
    3. What were you proud of?
    4. Was there anything you were ashamed of?
    5. How did you like working with this client? What made it work better?
    6. Did you learn anything?
    7. Should you modify your process?
    8. Did this project reinforce anything you’re currently doing? (Instead of what to change, what should you be sure to keep.)
    9. One approach recommends asking just three simple questions: What worked? What didn’t work? What should we do differently next time?
  3. Include some metrics: Your form should also include some objective metrics about the project:
    1. How much time did you spend?
    2. How long did the project take from start to finish?
    3. What was your initial bid vs. final price?
    4. How profitable was the project?
  4. Find something positive: Even if a project didn’t go well and you’re doing more of an autopsy than a debrief, find something that went well. Look for the positive. There’s surely a technique that worked well or a bit of code that was truly elegant.
  5. Mid-project notes: Sometimes you might have an epiphany in the middle of a project. That’s great. Make sure you can take notes in the middle of a project to save for your post-mortem.
  6. Take good notes: When you look back on your evaluation months or years later you need to be able to make sense of it. Make sure your notes are concise, but detailed. If you have more detailed notes, it might help to summarize them at the top with a few bullet points.
  7. Data storage: As you figure out this process, make sure you have a standard way to store your data. You might want to keep a set of evaluations together and then include a copy with your project files. Or maybe your Google form dumps into a spreadsheet so you have all the data in one handy spot. Just make sure you’re not creating a bunch of files you can’t find or make sense of.
  8. Don’t over do it: We’ve covered a lot of different ideas, but ultimately you need to keep it simple. You want to make the post-mortem process quick and easy so you can save some ideas, learn some lessons and move on to the next project. Don’t make your evaluation overly complicated.
  9. Debrief your debrief: Finally, you should evaluate your evaluations. Once a year or so you should go back over your notes and see what trends emerge. Consider your post-mortem process and see if you can improve it. If it’s not working, find ways to make it work.

As you begin your evaluation process you’ll start learning more about what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully you’ll notice some things that can improve your business.

Don’t Just Do It Yourself

But don’t make the evaluation process a solo endeavor. You should ask other people for input as well.

  • Anyone you work with: You should ask anyone you work with to offer input. Mainly this is going to be the client, but if you have partners, employees or sub-contractors you should ask them as well.
  • Standard form: Yep, you’ll want another standard form. Make it super short and either an email or an online form where you can ask for feedback and a testimonial about the project. Short is key. You don’t want to be asking a client to answer more than three questions.
  • Repeat clients: If you’re always working with the same client over and over again, you might not want to send them the same feedback form. It could get a little repetitive and the client is likely to default to the same answers. Consider asking them for feedback on a less frequent basis.

Client feedback can be a great way to improve your process. Getting testimonies can also give you some added marketing ammunition.

Your Turn: Project Post-Mortem

Take some time to look back at your projects and figure out what worked and what didn’t. Self-evaluation is one of the easiest ways to get better.

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7 Lessons I Learned from Creating WordPress Backups

There is a saying in the web business regarding WordPress backups… “If you haven’t had problems with your website, you are either lying or you just started.”

wordpress backups

Okay, I made that up. But the honest truth is at some point in the life of a WordPress website, a backup will be needed. After operating websites for more than 25 years, I’ve compiled a list of lessons I’ve learned from creating backups for WordPress sites as well as other websites.

1. Backups allow a good night’s sleep.

I now can rest at night knowing that if anything does happen to my site I have an easy restoration process. I remember one client who had a WordPress site that generated new content multiple times a day. They called me one Thursday to let me know the site had “problems.”

Sure enough, the server’s hard drive had failed and, at the time, I had been relying on the hosting company’s backup capability. This proved to be a poor choice because the backups the hosting company created were only on a weekly basis and took place on Sunday. So not only did I have to struggle getting the backup from the hosting company restored, (at one point there were three copies of the same site on the server), but I had to chase down all the content that had been written on the site that week.

Enter BackupBuddy. BackupBuddy provided the ability to schedule both full site backups as well as a basic database backup whenever I want so that I can almost guarantee I’ll never have to scramble to find content or wrestle with site reconstruction projects when something goes wrong with my WordPress sites.

2. Simply having a WordPress backup isn’t enough. You need to be able to use the backup for whatever situation presents itself.

I learned quickly that simply having a backup is not the important part of the equation. I can schedule and make backups 24 hours a day, but if there’s no easy way to get the data out of the backup or to restore the site quickly, the security WordPress backups provides is wasted.

When deciding on your backup solutions for your WordPress site, you need to take three factors into consideration:

  1. Can I quickly restore my complete site in just a few seconds?
  2. Can I recover an individual file from the backup in just a few moments?
  3. Can I transfer my site to a new server, domain and/or location at the drop of a hat?
WordPress backups

BackupBuddy provides WordPress backups that can restore, migrate, and backup.

If you can answer yes to all three of these questions, then you have a quality backup solution. For WordPress sites, you will be hard pressed to find anything coming close to the power of BackupBuddy. In addition to answering yes to those three questions, BackupBuddy can do so much more.

3. The process of making a backup doesn’t have to slow your server or take up your working time.

It is surprising how many people I’ve talked to over the years who say they do not have the time to do backups on their site. They claim they are too busy and backups take too much time. I have even heard people tell me that they don’t do backups because when they start a server backup during working hours they slow everything down in the office and co-workers get mad at them.

Over the years I have learned that we need to make our WordPress backup solutions work FOR us and avoid putting ourselves in situations where the WordPress backup solution makes US do the work.

Two of my rules of WordPress backups are:

  1. Always schedule backups to occur automatically so forgetting isn’t an option.
  2. Take advantage of “slow” times on your site to make your backups. (Even if that means 3am on a Sunday morning.)

4. Knowing when you need a backup is not a difficult decision if you follow these simple rules.

Rule #1 – All content (posts, pages, ‘things you write in the WordPress admin area’) are stored in the database. If you write a post you need a database backup.

Rule #2 – A full site backup must include plugins, themes, files on the server, or additional folders that may or may not be part of WordPress. Any time you upload a new theme, add/update a plugin, modify the functions.php file of the theme … you need a full site backup.

If you follow these two rules you will NEVER be left with lost content when something goes wrong with your WordPress site.

5. Choosing a storage location to use for WordPress is not as important as choosing how many locations to use for the backups.

It happens way too often that someone comes to me asking for help with their WordPress backup because their server is down and when I ask them where their backup is located they tell me its on the same server. The usefulness of a backup goes to almost zero if it is stored in the same location as the site it is backing up. In fact, simply sending that backup to one other location may not be the best solution either.

Here’s a scenario that may be all too familiar:

You have an important client that is about ready to launch their brand new website you built for them. The morning of the launch, their hosting company is having troubles. So you quickly go to grab the backup files so you can transfer the site to a new server but Amazon S3 is down for maintenance because Netflix got hacked. Now there is no way to get a copy of the backup files and you are stuck at the mercies of other companies.

WordPress backups

Multiple locations for WordPress backups are key for creating security when things go wrong.

Having backups stored in multiple locations, even physical burned CD copies of the backups, can make the difference between successfully navigating the storms of a broken site and sitting around waiting for hosting company’s support tickets to be answered.

6. WordPress backups are not just for restoring hacked websites.

A WordPress backup does not have to be a virtual storage of bits and bytes on some cloud storage device. It can be a physical deliverable in an ongoing contract with a client. For many freelance web developers the idea of a physical deliverable as part of a milestone-based contract can be very foreign.

A physical copy of a backup can also serve as an easy method of keeping the communication channel open between the client and the developer. Many freelancers have stated that they find it difficult to stay in touch with clients after the initial development/design finishes. Having the ability to physically mail a burned CD of the “monthly” backup to the client along with a short letter about the status of the site (data points, basic analytical stats, etc.) can keep that communication line open. I had one client who had no clue what to do with the backups but he kept them all in order on a shelf in the office and he admitted that it made him feel safe that at any time he could grab the latest copy of the site and take it with him.

7. Most people don’t realize they need a backup until they need a backup.

What is one of the primary purposes of having insurance? Car insurance exists to financially protect IN CASE of an accident. Life insurance exists to provide for those that remain IN CASE of something happening to the insured. Business insurance policies exist to protect the continuance of a business IN CASE something outside of normal operations occurs. In all these cases the key term is “IN CASE” something happens. Therefore, would it not make sense that our website carries some sort of “insurance policy”?

Have you learned any life/work lessons regarding WordPress backups?

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