6 Figure WordPress Consulting

There is a perception out there that WordPress is easy and a quick way to make money. Here is a summary of a question I got recently.

I work at a 6 figure job doing Windows coding. I want to get out on my own but need a similar income. I always thought that I’d do .NET development but now I am thinking about WordPress. There are plugins to solve most medium sized business problems right, so I wouldn’t have to do custom coding.

Update December 12, 2013: I broke down my expenses.

WordPress is easy

I can’t really disagree with the statement above. There is lots of work with WordPress. The plugin ecosystem is amazing. You will be able to solve lots of problems for businesses using existing plugins.

That 6 figure part though…

6 Figure freelance

To make 100k freelancing you need to be making almost 200k. First you’re going to loose 30% or more to taxes. Then you should be saving 5 – 10% for rainy day money. Now how about those business expenses?

Your 200k quickly turns in to 100k.

So whatever you say you want to bring home, expect to need to generate 2x that number in the business.

I don’t know a single freelancer that jumped into a 200k business their first year. Running a business is way more than just producing work.

What’s your sales process? When I started it went something like “clients call me and I do work, oh and I have a contract to sign”.

While that is the basics of getting work, you’re typically not going to get the highest paying clients with big projects like that. You’re definitely not going to get them if you’re just starting in the industry.

To get high quality clients through the door you’re going to need a solid sales process. If you’re looking to build that process I have 2 recommendations:

  1. Book Yourself Solid
  2. Get Clients Now

WordPress is easy

The other thing in the statement above is the implication that since WordPress is easy you can jump in and make lots of money quickly.

I’ve been doing this WordPress thing for 7 years. I’ve been running a business doing consulting for 5 and for 3 years it’s been my sole income.

This is the first year that my business has generated over 100k. I doubt I’ll hit 120k before Christmas but I’m past 100k today.

I know a number of people who earn over 100k with WordPress and none of them just got started. Even if they don’t really code, they have been in the WordPress ecosystem for years. To say they know their stuff would be an understatement.

If they code they work on WordPress core regularly or they do major work in some of the biggest and best plugins around.

If they don’t code they have used almost every plugin around. They know exactly what WooCommerce can do and what plugins to use and when they will need custom coding. They know who the awesome developers are that deliver high quality work on time.

To think that you can just blog a bit, know WordPress and then jump in to a 6 figure consulting business is pretty presumptuous. It’s probably going to take at least couple years to really know WordPress well enough.

So can you make 6 figures doing WordPress consulting? Yes you can

Can you just jump into WordPress and start making that type of income? Unlikely

It’s as easy to make money consulting on WordPress services as it is in any industry. Just because WordPress is huge doesn’t mean that it’s any easier to make 6 figures.

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

In the Series: 6 Figure Consulting

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22 Comments

  1. Matt Everson December 6, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    200% your current income? I entirely disagree. Benefits aside, in the USA generating 85-90% of your current income should maintain lifestyle and make for a relatively smooth transition into freelance.

    - Taxes are due in both scenarios.
    - A rainy day fund is not a unique need of freelancing and it’s income nonetheless. It doesn’t NOT count.
    - Business expenses are relatively low for freelance devs. Existing expenses like hardware, software, phone, internet, etc. can become new tax deductions in many cases.

    Every situation is different, but a person with a $100k corporate job is likely only bringing home 65-70% of that in cash. Freelancing is an even switch, if not advantaged.

    • Curtis McHale December 6, 2013 at 8:57 am #

      I think that a rainy day DOES count in your business expenses, so we’re just going to disagree there. I run 2 rainy day funds. The first is in the business and would pay my salary. The second is personal and my wife and I save that ourselves in the event that the business fund ran out.

      Regarding expenses, I detail mine in a post coming up next week. Come back on Thursday to see how mine break down with real numbers.

      That 70 – 80% of 100k still means you’d need to pay for computers, internet, office furniture, training, advertising, conferences…I think you’re under estimating expenses. I’d love to see other people’s numbers. If you put out a post showing real expense numbers (even rounded) then I’d be happy to link to it.

  2. Frank Steiner December 6, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    It is quite difficult to reach $200K limit by just freelancing. One has to charge $100/hour and should work 40 hours a week to produce $200K. After all, WordPress related projects are easier to outsource and people are looking for cheap stuff all the time. The only way to make $200K is to have a solid product. For the .NET developer, I recommend to engage in mobile development where freelancers are paid way better.

    • Curtis McHale December 6, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      I totally agree that you probably can’t make that much charging $100/hour but I really don’t charge hourly. I write more about this in an upcoming post, but I don’t compete with the ‘cheap’ services like oDesk. In the upcoming post I write more about how I don’t and talk numbers on my projects.

    • Drew December 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

      I disagree about it being difficult to hit 200k+/year just freelancing. There is most definitely room to do 15-20k+ a month as a developer, and I know of many designers charging as much as higher priced developers.

      It’s primarily about pricing yourself higher (and delivering higher quality) rather than taking more projects. Of course you also need to have a steady amount of higher quality leads to comfortably do that.

      Is it easier to do with a product? I’m still not sure but I’m starting to think so after having discussions with people who just develop products/plugins. It seems up and down there too though.

      • Curtis McHale December 9, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

        I have been thinking about that to. I’ve had 2 months this year over $14k and 3 others over $10k. Then where were a few in the summer around $3k.

        I can certainly provide the value for the higher paying clients, but it’s keeping the leads around for the higher paid clients.

  3. Thomas Griffin December 6, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    You are right – it is not easy to make 6 figures with WordPress. Last year was my first year over 6 figures and it took me a few years to do it.

    Don’t get me wrong – I think making 50-75k before expenses and all is fairly easy with WordPress and doing consulting, but it is tough to do 6 figures. You have to work a ton, and it is very stressful managing that many projects and one time in order to make that kind of money.

    Fortunately I am out of that sphere I to products now, but you are right – 6 figure consulting is no easy task.

  4. Trisha Salas December 9, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    Good post, Curtis. I find myself reading a lot more of your stuff lately….by chance ,maybe? I think not. Keep up the good work :)

    • Curtis McHale December 9, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

      Thanks Trisha, I’m glad that people are enjoying what I’m writing.

      Have an awesome day.

  5. Mike July December 9, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    There are many attributes to running a business – the one thing I’d add to this is that scale and infrastructure need to be considered. I don’t think you can make a six figure income doing all the work yourself. If you focus on sales and project management, you leave little time to actually get the work done. If you focus on working on the stuff you’ve sold and supporting those projects, the sales effort will lapse until you complete some projects – then you’ll be scrambling for work. It’s a vicious cycle.

    The only way to fix this is to hire help – either freelance help that will work on a per-project basis or actual employees.

    • Curtis McHale December 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

      Yeah it’s hard to do the sales stuff when your buried under code. The thing I’ve found helpful is to determine the minimum amount of sales work required to keep leads coming.

      I’ve done a decent job at that and spend 1 – 2 hours a week getting in touch with past and potential clients.

      One book that really helped me get a process was Book Yourself Solid. 5 minutes a day spent in the right spots is really all you need.

    • Trisha Salas December 9, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

      Mike,

      I have to agree, it’s really hard to scale this kind of business. In fact, I almost quit freelancing a few months ago but work seems to keep finding me. My biggest problem is that I’m really not a very good business person (project manager, etc)…I just like to code :). Add that to the fact that I’m overqualified for most jobs I would want locally and I seem to be under-qualified for most remote jobs…that is another vicious cycle.

      My hope now is to get bigger paying clients so that I’ll have time to work on upping my skillset to get the job I want. The big jobs bring in enough cash flow without the juggling. I was probably working 80+ hours a week there for a while…no fun!

    • Jonathan December 17, 2013 at 9:02 am #

      Hi Mike,

      You bring up an interesting point here. I’ve recently contracted with a buddy who really enjoys marketing, sales, and customer acquisition/retention. He gets and handles the customers while I do the “grunt” work of designing and building out the sites in WordPress. I’ve personally actually made more money doing it this way than I ever did on my own. I just got bogged down in the marketing and sales process. Now I’m free to do what I love, and that’s create with WordPress! I’m not saying this is the right way for everyone, it is just what has worked for us so far. We are stoked about what 2014 holds for us.

      Thanks for a great post, Curtis!

      • Curtis McHale December 17, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

        My fear with getting involved with a ‘sales’ person is that they might push to take projects I wouldn’t touch because they aren’t interesting or maybe the client has flags for me.

        How are you navigating that portion?

        • Jonathan December 17, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

          We have very open communication about which projects we take on. Ultimately, I can decide whether I want to take on the project, and he usually goes along with it. So far it has worked out great. Since it isn’t either of our sole income, we can afford to do this on a trial basis and decide what works and what doesn’t.

  6. Brad Touesnard December 12, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    For me, the watershed moment was when I realized I should stop quoting hours for projects and start putting price tags on them instead. You should sell expertise, strategy, and attention to detail instead of simply trading hours for dollars.

    • Curtis McHale December 12, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      Absolutely right. I’ve been doing that for a while but I really turned a corner this year as I know more and can provide more value.

  7. John Locke December 16, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    Freelancing is a very different beast than having a regular job. It takes time to level up into each revenue strata. I am always thankful when others who have walked the path before are willing to share their insight into how they got there and how they maintain. Thanks much, Curtis.

    • Curtis McHale December 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

      You’re very welcome.

      So many people think that because they are a great programmer/designer… that they can freelance. You need to be a good business owner to be a good freelancer.

      Learning to manage your income is part of the process.

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