How To Level Up Your WordPress Business And Escape The Rat Race

The headline of this post sounds like true click bait. I know! It really isn’t, though, because leveling up your business is exactly what I’m talking about. So bear with me. I want to try something different. Instead of talking about Git, I want to talk about business. I love business. I love talking about businesses and I love running a business. So today we are going to talk about – business! If it works, I will keep doing it once in a while, and if not… Well, let’s hope it works! Let me know what you think in the comments or by sending me an email.

Before we start, here is what I’m not going to talk about (today): Launching a WordPress plugin on the side, while running your main service business. Launching a few plugins on the side probably won’t make a huge difference in your business and overall I believe that it’s better to do one thing – and do it well. Instead, I’m going to talk about how to level up your existing business as a WordPress freelancer or agency.

We are going to talk about the 4 levels to go from rat race and all the way to building a real business™. There is no one saying you need to go all the way to level 3 (I’m starting from 0) with your business, but I still want you to know what’s out there. The four levels are:

  1. Billable hours ← You are probably here …
  2. Up-sell recurring services ← … Or maybe here!
  3. Find better clients
  4. Productizing

In the following sections, we will discuss each one of them in more details. Let’s go!

[content_upgrade cu_id=”699″]Bonus guide: 10 Services You Can Offer Your Existing Clients[content_upgrade_button]Grab it![/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

Level 0: Billable hours

Billable hours


This is most probably where you are now, unless you are already flirting with level 1. This is ground zero, where everyone begins. It goes like this:

  1. Spend a lot of resources finding a client
  2. Write a project proposal or negotiate an hourly rate
  3. Finish the project
  4. Client keeps asking for you to change things, which you may or may not be charging for

There is nothing wrong with this model and it’s where we all began when we started out, but it’s a rat race. It’s essentially a leaking funnel, where once a project is done, the relationship is pretty much over. Once you start leveling up, the initial project you do for a client should only be the beginning of a long relationship.

Let’s not dwell too long on this level. No matter how well you are doing with your consultant business, you should at least consider moving up to level 1:

Level 1: Up-sell recurring services

Up-sell recurring services


This is where you start to build a business that is more reliable in terms of revenue. Once you finish a project for a client, you should offer them a way to continue your relationship. If you did a good job and they are happy, why part ways? This is where you need to up-sell your other services – preferably recurring, so you can charge them every month, quarter or year. In a moment, we will talk about which services you can offer, but first let’s talk about recurring income.

Here is a simple rule: If you provide recurring, continuos value to your clients, you can charge a recurring fee for your service – as long as you charge less than the value you provide. Makes sense, right? Recurring revenue is great and it’s what most businesses are (or should be) striving after. When you charge a recurring fee for your service, you also promise your clients that they will be getting recurring value from you, which is a win-win. If you charge recurring for a service that is not providing recurring value, you are doing it wrong. As an example, I just hate it when I see how much my clients have been paying previous contractors for unmaintained web servers. It’s just wrong. Charge based on the value you provide and if that value is recurring – well, then you should also be charging recurring!

There are many different services you could offer your clients once a project is “done”. It depends on what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. But remember this: You don’t have to be the best in the world in order to provide value. You just have to be better than your client. You also don’t have to do the work yourself. If the service allows for it, you can outsource it to contractors around the world, for not a lot of money. I’ve created a short (free) guide with 10 ideas for services you could be doing for your clients after the initial project is finished. Grab it here:

[content_upgrade cu_id=”699″]Bonus guide: 10 Services You Can Offer Your Existing Clients[content_upgrade_button]Grab it![/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

Level 2: Find better clients

Find better clients


I recently heard Seth Godin talk about this with Troy Dean on the WP Elevation podcast, and it really struck a chord with me.

Instead of finding more clients, which might be problematic if your resources are limited, you should instead find better clients. So what are better clients? According to Seth, the best clients are B2B clients using their boss’ money, as opposed to their own. You need the kind of clients that are looking to throw money after a problem their boss have asked them to solve.

Here are 3 ideas to find and attract better, higher paying clients:

  • Be an expert – Find a niche to focus on, instead of appealing to everyone.
  • Ask for referrals – Talk to the best clients you currently have and ask them to refer other potential clients.
  • Charge more – This might sound strange, but by charging more you will seem more serious and also attract more professional, serious clients.

If some of your clients are consuming a lot of your time, without making you a lot of money, don’t be afraid to fire them. By freeing up your time, you will have more time to find the clients that will take your business to the next level.

Leveling up by finding better clients is something you can do no matter where your business is currently at. The reason I put it after “Level 2: Up-sell recurring services” is because I think it would a shame not to establish a continous relationship once you find a really great client.

Level 3: Productize your service

WordPress productized services

This is the real gold and why I was excited about writing this post. Productized services! This is the ultimate leveling up, where you stop trading your time for money and start building a real business™. I follow 2 people for information and inspiration about productizing: Brian Casel, founder of Audience Ops, and Dan Norris, co-founder of WP Curve.

Brian Casel originally founded (and later sold) Restaurant Engine, a service offering WordPress based websites to restaurants. What made Restaurant Engine different from most other WordPress businesses was that everything was standardized and the whole offering was turned into a product that the clients would pay a fixed recurring fee for. With a productized service like that, you can have a pricing page on your website, where people can sign up – just as if they were buying a more traditional software product.

In his great book The 7 Day Startup, Dan Norris talks about how he launched WP Curve: A service offering unlimited WordPress support and small development jobs for as low as $79 a month. Every process in WP Curve is streamlined, standardized and outsourced, so Dan can spend his time working on the business – instead of in the business.

The goal of productizing your service should be to escape the rat race of project to project and charging by the hour. By standardizing and productizing the services you offer, you can spend less time writing proposals, negotiating rates and avoid many misunderstandings. Instead, you get to spend more time growing your business, by adding more clients, growing your team and streamlining your processes. Almost all services can be productized, as long as you are clearly defining your offer. Here are a few examples of services I have seen successfully being productized:

  • Web development for specific niches
  • Website support and small development jobs
  • Link building
  • Marketing automation
  • Content outreach

I encourage you to think about how you could productize your service offering. This is where the real meat is, if you want to grow your business.

Do this now

In order to call this article successful, I need you to take some kind of action. I want you to think about how you can take your business to the next level. I know productizing your whole business may be a pretty big thing to do and also it might not be the kind of ambition you have for your business. However, no matter what level you are currently on and what you are striving after, you should at least do 1 of the following 2 things: 1. Think about how you can find better clients that you can charge more. 2. Find an extra service to offer to your existing clients. You can grab the free guide for inspiration:

[content_upgrade cu_id=”699″]Bonus guide: 10 Services You Can Offer Your Existing Clients[content_upgrade_button]Grab it![/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

I would LOVE to hear from you in either the comments below or by email. What do you think about the ideas in here? Are you already using some of them or considering it? What do you think about this kind of content, as opposed to the more technical kind?

WP Pusher – Git for WordPress

This post was brought to you by WP Pusher.

WP Pusher keeps all your client websites up-to-date whenever you push a change to GitHub or Bitbucket. Visit our website to learn more about WP Pusher.


Illustrations by Ena Sadikovic.


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Peter Suhm

Peter is a web developer from the Land of the Danes. He is the creator of WP Pusher and a huge travel addict.


3 thoughts on “How To Level Up Your WordPress Business And Escape The Rat Race

  1. Great article thanks and very timely as I’m working on packaged subscription based solutions for a niche market of holistic practitioners who generally don’t have a clue about websites and often get taken advantage of. I’m looking forward to reading your report on additional services. 🙂
    Jan Moore

  2. Great post and thanks for sharing. I do love the concept of Productizing Services, would love to see more business articles on your blog!

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