We hope you all are having a great time and are planning towards the holiday season. It’s been few weeks we published content and sent out weekly email newsletters. We have been away because we have been working on a few things lately and working on better strategies to serve you better moving forward. In the coming weeks you would see a lot of changes effect site wide and the newsletter, we believe together we can impact this world positively by sharing. Today we resume again officially with a wonderful and interesting interview. We interview Work Hero’s founder – Kevin, as he shares his journey of starting and running a WordPress support and maintenance service. Let’s go!!!
1) What motivated you to start Work Hero?
Hi, I’m Kevin, from California originally, now living in Austin, Texas.
After spending time in the corporate world and not having a good time, I finally got laid off and was forced to find a new job- or start something myself. The thought of another job was completely uninteresting to me, as I struggled to fit in with corporate and office life.
Instead, I went with what I was excited about at the time, which was fitness and sport, and started coaching a local adult masters swim team making $12/hour for a few hours of work each week.
This led me to a swim lesson business, and I eventually took this online.
I got my start in online business with the site triswimcoach.com – swimming training, workouts, and step by step plans for triathletes.
With that business I hired VA’s, and later teams to help run everything involved in the business.
In 2017, after years of hiring designers, developers, and admin assistants, I started Work Hero. My original plan was to offer each of these as a productized service, where businesses could pay monthly for access to teams of highly qualified experts in each of these areas, instead of the need to go out and hire and build these teams themselves.
I soon realized this was a little more than I wanted to take on, and narrowed it down to design and WordPress development only.
Between the headaches of design customers and designers, as well as the combo package of design and development being a tough sell, I decided to focus just on WordPress support and maintenance, as there were (and are) and endless number of businesses in need of this, and with my outsourcing experience, we can offer it for very affordable prices.
My team at Work Hero now helps businesses with the small edits (tasks that take less than ~1 hour), as well as all the headaches many experience with WordPress sites.
Our pricing plans are here: https://useworkhero.com/pricing
$189 a month for unlimited edits (for coaches, small businesses, and marketers), $79 a month for a 5 task limit (for blogs, hobby, and low-traffic sites), and $499 a month for agencies with up to 8 websites.
All plans include:
-Weekly safe updates
-Broken links scan
-Daily off-site backups
-24/7 uptime monitoring
We had 1 customer in December 2019, As of October 2020 we had 26 customers and were serving 45 websites. Most customers are paying the unlimited fee of $199/month, a few are on the Agency plan with multiple sites at $499/month and a few more on the Standard limited plan at $79/month.
Our team currently consists of 6 developers and a designer.
“My original plan was to offer each of these as a productized service, where businesses could pay monthly for access to teams of highly qualified experts in each of these areas, instead of the need to go out and hire and build these teams themselves”
2) How did you setup the initial product
The first product was unlimited graphic design + WordPress technical support for $297/month. We had a team of 3 people, 2 developers, and a graphic designer.
Things first started with a combination of email communication and a Google Spreadsheet to keep track of tasks & our heroes. This actually worked okay until we had 3 customers, then we upgraded and went with a system called Wrike- project management software we saw another startup, Video Husky, using for their unlimited video service.
We beta tested our service with a few free customers. It did not go very well. The SOPs weren’t quite ready, tasks slipped through the cracks, and we had too many unhappy customers.
We tightened our SOPs and customer service, and things started going better. The Wrike system helped, and we were getting better at the process of handing off and checking everything in the system.
Costs were minimal. The biggest cost in these days was Wrike- which required signing up for 1 year and paying upfront. It came out to about $1200 for the version and number of users we needed- tough to do when you only have a few paying customers!
Otherwise, most of the business costs are just worker compensation.
Luckily, we started as a design + WordPress company, and already had a very competent designer on board. So she worked with us through our transition, and we were able to quickly update the website, and articulate our new offering.
We had already been using a customer portal called SPP that was working quite well, so we just kept that going and changed out our product offerings. Our lowest cost product went from $297/month to $79 a month.
3) What went into building this platform? (What technology or stack):
Originally, we were just scrapping our way to making things work. But as we quickly outgrew our pieced together system, we began to upgrade. We needed something that could help us automate tasks. Our first go around was with Intercom. That was a nice system, but was lacking in a few areas that we needed. We finally landed on SPP.co- kind of an all-inclusive system that acts as an ecommerce shopping cart, as well as a place to organize our customers, tasks, affiliates, and all the numbers.
To keep track of everything, we also use:
- Slack for internal communication
- Zapier for automations
- Notion to store SOPs, internal login details, assets
Now, we have SOPs for each stage of the customer cycle:
- Onboarding: including obtaining login credentials, and setting up the website in our system for weekly reports and website monitoring
- Task submission: A customer submits a task through our portal, and we have a PM to handle it- typically handing it off to one of our developers.
- Off boarding: Here, we ask for feedback and if possible, a testimonial
“Luckily, we started as a design + WordPress company, and already had a very competent designer on board. So she worked with us through our transition, and we were able to quickly update the website, and articulate our new offering.”
4) How do you attract and retain customers? (Initially and Now)
The customer acquisition methods I have used that have worked have been:
Referrals: We have referrals from previous customers. Most of these are not from our affiliate program, but we are ramping that up now.
In-person networking: Typically, there are people who need WordPress help in most small/solo business communities. Meeting people in groups like the Dynamite Circle has resulted in new business. More challenging in 2020, as “in person” now means Zoom meetings 🙂
Cold social outreach: We have campaigns going out to related group members on Facebook. These open up conversations and can lead to business.
We have recently started some content marketing, posting weekly WordPress and marketing-related articles on our blog.
For customer retention, the best thing that is working is amazing customer service & support. We are very fast in replying to customers, and give each of them the best treatment. Also, always being willing to get on the phone with customers. We’ve had customers leave, and come back, leave again, and come back again. It’s important to really understand what their needs are and to also be okay with “letting them go”, knowing that they could be back.
We have a few auto responders going out to customers to remind them that we are here for them, and send out any new info that may help them succeed in business.
I’m also currently sending video messages to companies looking to hire WordPress developers, and setting up meetings. So far, no customers have resulted from this, but it’s ongoing and I expect that to change soon.
” For customer retention, the best thing that is working is amazing customer service & support. We are very fast in replying to customers, and give each of them the best treatment. Also, always being willing to get on the phone with customers. We’ve had customers leave, and come back, leave again, and come back again. It’s important to really understand what their needs are and to also be okay with “letting them go”, knowing that they could be back.”
5) Describe your business model, current revenue and target revenue?
Work Hero is a WordPress support & maintenance service offering unlimited tasks on a monthly subscription basis. We have a team of expert WordPress developers, located in the Philippines, Brazil, and Eastern Europe. We work with agencies or other online businesses with a significant amount of WordPress tasks and edits that need to be done on a regular basis. They pay us the monthly fee; our team takes care of their tasks.Our monthly recurring revenue is currently ~$4140/month.
Our next goal is to get to $10,000 of revenue a month. From my estimate that’s about 80 customers. This will be done by:
- Expanding our affiliate program
- Hiring a PM or Operations Manager
- Beginning a Facebook Ads campaign
- Continuing our content marketing and SEO efforts
- Continuing networking efforts with digital agencies
- Podcast advertising and offers to entrepreneur groups like Dynamite Circle
6) How has your background/previous job experience /skillset helped you with starting and running Work Hero?
There are a few things that really helped with growing Work Hero:
- Having an online WordPress business and being able to empathize with customers’ frustrations with WordPress needs, and headaches.
- Having experience building teams and going through the hiring process, then managing those teams.
- Understanding how to communicate effectively with methods like Non Violent Communication, including being able to empathize with customers and team members on an ongoing basis.
- Knowing when to hire and when to fire. In other words, knowing what my skillset is that will help the business grow, and be able to hire out for areas that are not my expertise.
- Then, knowing when it’s time to move on from a bad hire, and when to give another chance.
- Having patience. It’s very often that things take a LOT longer than it seems they should, but being able to withstand that without a lot of frustration is key to moving forward.
7) What Books, SaaS tools and equipment do you use and recommend to every entrepreneur running a productized service?
Here’s what we use (our stack):
- When we first started our business, Work Hero, we tried several combinations of help desk software, client management, shopping carts, affiliate programs, and paid subscriptions.
- We tried copying what others were doing but kept running into limitations.
- Every solution had its benefits, but we were running into things that just became unacceptable.
- Some were just too expensive for what we needed.
- When we became a 100% WordPress support business, we came across SPP.co.
- It has everything needed for an ecommerce or productized service business:
- Shopping cart. The SPP cart integrates easily with Stripe and looks much better than the other carts we’ve tried. You can accept credit card payments, PayPal, and even Bitcoin! (we have yet to make our first bitcoin sale, but we’re looking forward to that :)) But even better, you can set it up so that you can offer monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, or annual payments- and the discount is automatically calculated for customers. Setting up discount coupons is also something you can easily do on the fly, set expiration dates, and the maximum number of uses.
- Client management. This lets us see all our customer info- contact info, orders placed, payments made, and lifetime value. Super helpful to get a quick customer snapshot.
- Project management. New orders show up on the dashboard, so it’s super easy for everyone on our team to see what needs to be done. We use this in combination with Teamwork to make sure nothing ever “slips between the cracks”.
- Form builder. Super easy to set up your forms- including intake forms, thank you pages, and project data forms.
- Member area. This is a huge problem that SPP solves. We have one place to go for customers to submit tasks and see all of their past requests and what has already been done. All customers have one login, and they can access their invoices and any reports as well.
- Affiliate management. We manage all of our affiliates on SPP. This is a great feature to have, as everything is in the same place- customers automatically become affiliates, so there’s no need for them to go anywhere else to get their affiliate link, banners, check commissions, etc.
- SPP.co has been one of the keys to the success of Work Hero, and I recommend it to anyone running a productized service business as one of the first investments to make in your business.
- We started out with MailChimp, and while that served a purpose early on- a free tool that we could use to manage customer notifications, as well as leads- we outgrew it and needed something with more functionality.
- We tested out a few email management systems with free trials, and Active Campaign won out. Now, we are easily able to manage all of our lists- including customers, leads, affiliates, and former customers.
- We have several autoresponders set up, with customer instructions, lead follow-ups, and affiliate info. These are very easy to set up, and you can create a bit of “intelligence”- which we have needed, particularly when we had to merge our affiliate lists.
- All this, at a very reasonable cost.
- Once you get over the initial learning curve, Active Campaign is the best email management and CRM out there- and they are very customer service oriented, willing to work with anyone no matter how small your company may be.
Teamwork: Project management software that helps us keep track of tasks in our system- assigning, who is working on the task, completed tasks, and team collaboration.
Notion: All of our company documents and assets are stored here. We also have our onboarding materials, developer training, logins, and designs here.
Slack: A savior for all things internal communication. We have been using Slack ever since we started, but are reviewing competitors currently, including Twist and Discord.
“We tried copying what others were doing but kept running into limitations.”
- Company of One – Getting away from the idea of constant growth while building a small or solo business.
- Tropical MBA lots of valuable info on running a location independent business.
- Productized Startups Community – a helpful group with anything related to a productized service.