7 Ways to Scale Your WordPress Consultancy Past Six Figures with Redmine
The title could have been “Business Process Management for WordPress businesses”, but that would be awfully dry, and you’d probably stop reading.
Nope, in plain terms, I’m talking about streamlining the routine, standard tasks to deliver value to your clients.
If you want to break through the six-figure barrier and even hit seven figures while working with WordPress, you’re going to need to bring some process to your business, unless polyphasic sleep is your thing.
This process will let you do the work in less time, hand it off to someone else or even automate it.
You’ll be able to focus on the higher value items, which is the type of work that will push you well past six figures.
It’s hard to zero in on your most important work when you’re too busy writing a project update to your client. You won’t have time to find the clients who won’t flinch at a five-figure monthly retainer if you’re too busy running after your penny-pinching clients for the content for their $500 WordPress site.
I’ll look at how you can use Redmine, the most popular open source project management tool. I work at Planio, which provides hosted Redmine, so I’ve learned a lot from talking to WordPress developers who use it.
Keep Clients in the Loop Automatically
Clients can’t hear from you enough. As a rule of thumb, if a client has to ask for an update on a project, you haven’t been communicating enough. At the same time, it’s a huge energy sink to have to write emails to all your clients after a day’s work.
And if you have multiple people working for you, you have to figure out what your team has done before you can update the client.
In Redmine, you add a custom-defined client role. Your client can log in to see the latest status of the project. You can still have private comments if 100% transparency sounds too radical.
In my experience, some clients are reluctant to use a new project management tool, so they never actually log in. Redmine lets you send them daily updates on the status of tasks automatically.
Your clients get automatic status updates without you even having to think about it.
Document Every Increase in Scope
On one of my first WordPress projects, the client emailed asking me whether I could add an extra language to the site.
No big deal I thought, so I emailed back, “Sure!”.
Turned out it added quite a bit of extra work managing translations and finding a plugin that would play nicely with the other plugins.
That experience taught me that it was a bad idea to have these increases documented in an email. It’s hard for the client to remember every increase they authorized, and you can’t quickly see how much bigger the project has become.
In Redmine, you can add every single increase in scope as a new issue or even a new milestone and mark it as an increase in scope.
This makes it obvious to the client that their ‘small changes’ often have a big impact on the final price, and you’ll have a good overview if a project is ballooning in scope.
Hold Clients Accountable for Moving the Project Forward
There’s nothing sweeter than handing off work to your dear clients. More seriously, a clear separation of responsibilities will mean you spend less time waiting on content from clients or being prevented from moving forward while they review designs.
In Redmine, many people assign certain issues to the client, so they get daily reminders if they’re late on choosing a WordPress host or registering a domain.
You can also create custom workflows, so only they can move an issue to the ‘approved’ status. That means you’ll have documented sign-off on key elements such as design and development work.
Systematize and Outsource Routine Steps
Documenting and systematizing your processes makes it easier to guarantee a certain result for your clients, whether you do the task, or someone else does it.
Making sure every page on a client’s site passes Yoast SEO’s traffic light system?
In Redmine, you can break that down into a checklist, create a wiki page on what to do in edge cases and never touch that task again by outsourcing it someone else.
Obviously, you’ll have to spend some time in your unique situation to find the processes that make the most sense to systematize.
One way to do that is to map literally out a project on a whiteboard and think about ways to simplify or document certain sections.
Track Your KPIs for Better Pricing and New Pricing Models
I remember working for a SaaS company that had started offering services.
One of the big challenges we had been that we weren’t tracking the metric that matters for services businesses, which is the time spent on projects, broken out by billable and nonbillable hours.
The result was that pricing was a “finger in the air” affair. We had no idea how much time we spent on projects.
Needless to say, it did not go well for us.
Time tracking is built directly into Redmine, so you can track time for each task and then generate reports for the entire project.
You can also use custom fields to add a yes/no field that will allow you to distinguish between billable and nonbillable hours.
With this data, you’ll have the basis for determining the true cost of delivering your service, and you’ll be able to consider alternative pricing models, such as monthly retainers or “nearest 15 minutes” pricing. You’ll also have the confidence to start scaling up to more clients.
Adopt the Software Methodology that Works for You
It may be heresy to say, but you don’t necessarily need always to go for an agile methodology for managing your projects.
I’ve talked to many development shops who’ve found that using a milestone-based planning when projects are routine and repeatable works well.
Redmine supports both agile (using a free plugin) as well as Waterfall approaches, so you can find the one that suits you best.
Store Repos, Client Communication and Documents in One Place
Developers tell me that one of the reasons they love using Redmine is that you have great integration with Git or SVN. You can attach issues to commits, and the graphical Git browser lets other people see what’s changed with each commit.
Like WordPress, you can also upgrade Redmine with plugins to add a CRM and file sharing similar to DropBox.
The advantage is that you keep all your client communication, development work, and design work in one central location. Developers can quickly grab a PSD from the project folder, and designers can leave comments on latest commits if they spot issues with the CSS.
Build a System that Works for You
Obviously, any system to improve your business is going to take time, thought and some work to implement.
The payoff, however, is that you move from just charging for your expertise as a freelancer to having a business that can scale beyond you.
The big advantage of building your systems on Redmine is that it’s open source. This means that your data stays yours, and you can choose between hosting it yourself or choosing a Redmine host such as us at Planio.
And if you don’t like your host, you can pack your bags and go elsewhere, just like with WordPress.
Happy business building!