Category Archives: small business

WordPress London – March Meetup

It had been quite a long time since I last attended a WordPress  London meet-up, so I was very excited about going along again and getting a good fix of WordPress geekery (as well as chatting to folk and drinking beer of course). The event was held at Shoreditch Works Village Hall for the first time and it provided ample space and the required tech. The venue and pizza was sponsored by the following kind orgs;

The Talks

Joel Hughes – The Business of WordPress

Joel gave a passionate and honest account of his move from permanent employee, through contractor and freelancer and onto running his own agency. He covered some of the key mistakes that folk (including him) make when starting out in alone, and some notes on avoiding them (the second time perhaps). They include;

  • Undervaluing Yourself : On a personal level right through to pricing
  • Clients from Hell : Educate the good ones, they’ve probably not bought a website before. Fire the bad ones.
  • Business is Personal : If you’re a freelancer, BE a freelance; don’t pretend to be an agency if you’re not. If you do you won’t be authentic, and this will show.

Joel also did some shameless pimping of his The Business of Web Design conference, which I have to say has a nice looking line-up of speakers. I’d probably be going if we weren’t due a baby the week before.

He also asked for freelancers of all sorts to get in touch with him. Looks like business is good.

David Coveney – Let’s Move It

I have seen one or two of Dave’s talks before at various WordPress (un)conferences and after seeing his take on Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen” I wasn’t sure what to expect next. He didn’t disappoint by starting the talk with some kind of body convulsions which, I think in popular culture, could be described as dance moves.

He then proceeded to talk us through some basics behind running a WordPress migration with as few hiccups as possible. He discussed various migration types (server to server, multisite to singlesite, domain swapping) and their various pitfalls. He also talked through a few tools which can make life easier. These included MySQL Workbench and his company’s Search/Replace plugin.

In true Coveney style he then plumped for a live demo of a site migration (server to server and domain swap)… the audience, of course, new the perils of live demos and were all waiting for the inevitable.

Don’t work with computers – Dave Coveney

And of course the inevitable happened. So much so infact that Dave’s new database that he was using in the demo ended up being named fuckit. He rode out all that the live demo-gods could throw at him with it finally succeeding. His parting words of advice were “Don’t work with computers”.

Stiofan O’Conner and Tim Clark  – GeoDirectory

Stiofan and Tim talked to us about GeoTheme and the move to a new GeoDirectory plugin that will be appearing on WordPress.org very soon.

They briefed us on the history and the direction they think the plugin is headed. How they want it to become and extendible product with multiple revenue streams. The plugin looks like it’ll be very powerful and is well worth looking at if you’re interested in building up any kind of location-based directory.

Parting words

The standard post-meetup beers were had in a hipster-filled pub just around the corner, and I had some lovely chats with old friends and new from the WordPress community. I heard from a couple of the guys and gals that there was a lot of work out there for a WordPress freelance dev… this is certainly good news with my resignation notice period winding down.

I certainly can’t wait for the next one.

How not to get our support

I just received an email from a lovely guy/gal complaining about how they wasted some time trying to get one of our plugins working. Sadly in this case we’re not going to even bother to help them sort out the issues but instead are going to use them as an example on how to not get our support.

So here we go… things to remember or take note of when wanting help;

  • Ask us… yup that’s quite important!
  • Our plugins are free
  • We generally do not charge people for adhoc support for our free plugins
  • Be polite… ’nuff said on that one
  • Even if we can’t help there’s a huge community at WordPress.org that are more than likely to be of some assistance

And there we have it… it’s not a tough list to take in and we believe that most of the things on there are common sense too.

Oh, almost forgot… here’s the mail that we received… so if you do want our help it’s best not to use this as a template.

Wasted 2 hours trying to figure out your instructions for pages plugin. When you make something you really should try to write more the what you did for this. I just erase of the site and gave up.

What is success

Throughout this series I’ve been looking into starting an online business. This quick post looks into what success means for me in this experiment.

Man holding a trophy
What is success?

Success can mean a variety of things to different people. It could mean being able to survive solely on the business, it could mean being in the top 5 companies for a particular product search on Google… or it could be just surviving the first year of business.

In the case of iLoveShirt (and in the context of this experiment) success will be measured against the following goals:

  1. Still being in business after 1 year
  2. Having a positive bank balance (any profit would be seen as a bonus)
  3. Being personally happy with the past year and wanting to continue trading for another year. This is perhaps the most important goal to me)
  4. >80% customer satisfaction. This is not to say I won’t strive for 100% but in life there are just some people that are never happy.

Of course, returning to the fact that this is an experiment, I shan’t (hopefully) be too unhinged by any failings that occur in the year’s trading. That is as long as the business learns from these events even if they are not bought on by something in our control. There is always room to mitigate any damages.

With these goals in mind and a lot more thoughts running through my head it’s time to turn my attention to the business plan. Perhaps this should have been completed sooner rather than later… but as long as it’s looked at then better late than never. This business plan should make up the next post in the series and perhaps will be a lengthy one.

Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow

So we’re starting a new business as an experiment… what next? Well we need an idea; we need to have at least a basic idea of what the business will provide. Will it be a service or a product?

Starting a Business
Starting a Business

Well I’ve always liked comical T-Shirts (at least I think they’re funny) and in the past I’ve scrawled down some ideas for designs of my own in my old beaten moleskine… so this is gonna be my domain. I realise that these online T-Shirt shops are ten-a-penny but at the moment I don’t actually think this’ll be too much of an issue… I’ll go into this in more detail later on.

Oh, once again I should make it clear that when I say “I don’t actually think this’ll be too much of an issue” that this is exactly what I mean… this is only my current thinking and I may be wrong… very wonrg. This, being an experiment, is however not really a bad thing.

What’s in a name?

Ok, so we know now that we’re going to design and sell T-Shirts… what’s next? Well we need a name. And one that will also be our domain name as we’re are talking about an online business (actually this would probably be needed even it wasn’t going to be purely an online business). Ideally this name will contain a useful keyword to aid decent search engine results and also shouldn’t be too long so is easy to type. A .co.uk name should be fine for starters I think.

I have investigated a few names that I liked and to no surprise most of these were taken aleady. I have also decided to drop the “t” from T-shirt as this would reduce scope for confusion with a “hyphen/no hypen” query. In the end I have settled for iloveshirt.co.uk as a play on words from the “Anchoran, The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (one of my fave films ever) quote “I Love Lamp”.

With the domain secured we’re ready to move on. In this instance I’m not registering a company but instead am hoping to use an existing company I have and have a “trading name”  (I need to confirm that this’ll be fine… but I’m sure it is). This approach saved a few pennies surrounding the setting up of a business tasks. I imagine that this has saved ~£200/£300 .

Right, that’s it for now… back next time with some info on where I want the business to get to.

New Moo Business Cards

So with the launch of the new colour-scheme over on Gingerbread Design main site it was time to get some new business cards printed up. Having read only good things about Moo.com I decided to give them a shot… and boy was I pleased with their service and products!

Following getting the first batch through in the post I was disappointed to see that the ‘front’ had a black background instead of the white I was expecting. I mailed the Moo customer service suggesting that perhaps this was due to my use of transparent png images. They promptly replied stating that ‘yes’ they use a default black background colour. They also offered me a discount code enabling me to get a second order for free (inc P&P) and that once I’d placed it they’d check to make sure that they looked OK.

Once I’d replaced my order I did contact them giving my order number and got a reply back from their CS saying that all was good with my new cards… what great customer service!

Our new business cards
Our new business cards

And front…

Our new business cards
Our new business cards

I would definitely recommend Moo to anyone who needs this kind of printing to be done… just brilliant!

Oh… there’s a useful page here with a template image that can be used.

Starting an online business – A case study

So how difficult is it to set up an online business? What steps need to be taken and how can it be made successful? What can be done to make it all easier and what mistakes can be made (and hopefully how can we avoid them)?

But first of all why would you (or I) want to do this? Well it could be for any number of reasons really but for me it’s primarily an experiment… I am actually just curious.

I should say at this point that this series of posts is not a “how-to” guide in starting an online shop/business it’s more of a “docu-soap” into my attempt at doing so. I don’t have all the answer and I’m certainly not (at least not yet) an expert in this area. But what I do hope to provide is an account of how I went about it, what decisions I made and why and ultimately how successful or unsuccessful I was.

Hopefully the outcome will be helpful to some and what’s more at least slightly entertaining. OK, thinking hat on… here we go!