The second push back I got was that someone doing WordPress could even make $60k let alone invoice over $100k.
I've done it. I can think of many people that invoice over $150k (and have for a couple years) doing WordPress development. No agencies, one woman/man shops.
But how are they doing it? I mean we're in competition with oDesk right? That means in competition with $25/hour rates for WordPress work.
I'm not in competition with oDesk (unless it comes to some crazy data entry task like adding images to 500 posts) at all. The hourly rate I figure on for my weekly billing is $150.
I charge $3000/week which means that I expect to put in 20 hours of solid coding or project management time for the client. Since I do business admin stuff (like catch up on books and write blog posts) on Friday that means I shoot for 5 billable hours day.
The rare time I'm working hourly I'm charging $150.
It's great for me to say that but I know some of you reading are trying to charge $40/hour and are having people balk at those prices.
I've been there too. My starting hourly rate was $50. When I raised it to $75 it felt super crazy to be charging that much.
When I raised it to $90 I had a major WordPress agency tell me I was crazy to charge that much. I mean they only charged $95.
So oDesk isn't competition and I charge more for my time than some of the biggest WordPress agencies around. But how on earth do I do it?
Where do I find the clients and how do I position myself?
I'm a specialist. I do my best work on Membership sites and eCommerce integrations. Most often that means WooCommerce now but I also work with WP eCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads a bunch.
Recently I was talking to a freelancer in Vancouver that had a hard eCommerce project that he wanted to take me on. I'll tell you why he was talking to me by summarizing him.
I asked all my normal people about the site and they said they could do it till I told them about feature A. All 5 of them said that I needed to talk to you because feature A was hard and while they did WooCommerce stuff, when it was really hard they called you.
Or how about the membership site I'm currently working on.
I've been looking for someone to do this for a while. I've talked to a bunch of people about it and no one really seemed to have a handle on it. Then I talked to XX and they stopped me and said that I needed to talk to you.
You are the first person that had a clear path to getting my site done.
And another client from last month.
We have been looking for someone to work with our WooCommerce store and it's on Multisite. We want a membership component on one of the sub-sites and shared profiles and single sign on. I've talked to 2 people about it and they said that when it's that complex you are the guy to talk to.
Then I read your interview on WPEngine and your site and you are the guy to talk to.
All the clients I'm summarizing are paying $3000/week and $150/hour for ongoing work if it's a little fix. None of them balked at my pricing.
Can I build a WordPress theme and install plugins? Sure I can and those jobs are super fun and easy because 99% of what I do is huge and complex and there are no helpful blog posts to show me how to do it.
In many cases the first blog post showing portions of it are the ones I write.
But what if you don't want to be the person to talk to about eCommerce and Membership sites. What if you are an awesome strategist or love themes?
While I don't have access to Carrie Dils numbers I know that her training starts at $1500 and sites start at $4500, it's right on her contact page. She is a Genesis specialist and is normally booked out for weeks.
Or how about Jesse Petersen, another Genesis specialist. Full sites start at $2200 and average around $3400 again right on his contact page. His prices are heading up for 2014 so that he can focus on a single site build a month.
How about Justin Sainton who charges $150/hour? If you have a WP eCommerce site he's the guy to go to being a core WPEC contributor and all. Justin builds payment gateways for large theme shops to sell and works on huge WPEC stores.
All the people that I know billing 'high' rates are specialists. No general WordPress developers here.
If you're a generalist then yes I expect clients to come to you and talk about $25/hour workers on oDesk or getting the work done on Craigslist for cheaper. I still get a few of those calls and expect that I will continue to get 1 or 2 a month forever.
Tip 1: Specialize so you are THE person to talk to.
Secondly I solve business problems. Take an eCommerce site I worked on 2 years back that was totally screwed up by a previous developer. It had 300 redirects just to try and get the site working.
Sadly it still wasn't working and the client was stuck.
They paid $2500 for the initial work. I charged $4000 to fix it and they never batted an eye.
I solved a business problem in a week for them. The problem was that they couldn't sell a single product on their site. In one week they could sell products again and I gutted huge parts of the store to make it work properly.
2 years later they are still clients and when my rates have gone up they haven't made any comment at all.
Or how about the $20k communication tool I built earlier this year. It allowed coaches to book their available time on a calendar. Then students could book the call time and coaches could take notes on the call (public and private notes).
I built that in 4 weeks which means I made $5k a week. What I haven't said yet is that the other tool they were using was $50k/year. Not only was it $50k/year for the other system but it made their site unresponsive with API calls almost every Friday as a new block of coaching times were released and students tried access them.
As the API calls increased and students couldn't book calls they started to cancel memberships which meant lost revenue for the business.
I saved them $30k this year and pretty close to $50k next year. Not only did I save them a bunch of money we stopped the site killing API calls and they stopped dropping students.
I solved a real business problem.
If you talk to my friend Angie you're not just going to get a site built you're going to get an overall business strategy that's awesome. She's the person to talk to when you're trying to figure out how to position yourself in the market. She does crazy stuff like help a business advertise to hospitals and sell them online. To get her consulting time it's currently a 1 year contract and is $6,000/month which is right on her site.
She solves the real business problem of bringing in customers with good strategy. She's not just building you a website on WordPress.
The people you are finding on oDesk and on Craigslist are most often (say 98% of the time) not really trying to solve hard business problems. They're looking for sites as cheaply as possible. They don't care about the other work you have done really they just want something done cheap.
They hear they should be online and it's just a box to tick. It's not something that they view as strategically important. Since it's not strategically important to their business they don't want to spend money on it.
Since it's not strategically important they aren't invested in the project. Expect bad communication and push back on every point.
Tip 2: Solve real business problems don't just build themes
If you want great clients who are willing to pay well for your time you need to specialize and solve real business problems. If you're just 'building WordPress themes' then you are in competition with oDesk and you'll continue to be in competition till you change your business model.