On Starting A $3K/Month PPC And WordPress Development Business

Paul Franklin
Founder, SideGains
from Bath
started July 2019
alexa rank
market size
avg revenue (monthly)
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
270 days
average product price
growth channels
Word of mouth
business model
best tools
Google Drive, Bing Ads, Google Analytics
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
39 Pros & Cons
5 Tips
Discover what tools Paul reccommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Paul reccommends to grow your business!
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Paul Franklin and I run SideGains, through which I offer a range of different services aimed at businesses and individuals who want to start a blog or grow their online presence.

I’m a language graduate (Spanish), with a strong IT leaning and this is how I ended working in the online space.

I’ve been involved in many different areas of “Internetwork” for almost 20 years from frontend and backend development to SEO and PPC. In my last employed role, I was the Director of Search Marketing for one of Europe’s largest dancewear companies.

Most of the client work I undertake in my business is Pay Per Click campaign management and building / supporting WordPress blogs. In normal times this generates between $5k to $6k per month, but things have changed in recent times due to client budget reassessments as a reaction to the COVID-19 crisis.

Right now I’m putting more emphasis into monetizing the SideGains blog so I can move away from my dependence on client work.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I started my business in 2015 when I was made redundant as a result of business restructuring. Luckily for me, someone who I knew through a past business relationship in the industry heard about this and head-hunted me as a contractor to run his PPC campaigns. So I walked straight from redundancy into a contracting position.

I’d recommend making plans and setting targets. If you just work without something to aim for you’ll just coast along and without a sense of achieving things you’ll struggle.

In a sense I hadn’t planned on becoming a business owner, it just sort of happened naturally. Had I never been made redundant, I might still be an employee.

Since 2015, I’ve been fortunate to pick up client work through recommendations and word of mouth. This has been great but also a little stressful as I often find it hard to turn down work opportunities.


As a result, I’d been considering putting more emphasis on the SideGains blog before the coronavirus outbreak, to try to create more of an opportunity for a healthier work/life balance. The coronavirus forced my hand somewhat to focus more upon making my blog a more stable, scalable, and lower-maintenance way to generate revenue.

I have some way to go, but my blog is beginning to grow, which is very encouraging.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

I built the SideGains blog using WordPress - my favorite blogging platform! I’ve been working with WordPress since around 2005 when I started my first blog as a sideline to my full-time job at the time.

I mostly produce content designed to share the knowledge I’ve gained through my years working on creating and promoting websites and blogs. My content addresses issues people might have with WordPress, SEO, PPC, and other aspects of online marketing.

I produce everything for my blog currently, which is a challenge as I also have to manage clients' work on top of trying to run it. My blog traffic is beginning to grow nicely and I see a point shortly where I will need extra hands… there’s simply too much to do alone, especially when new client work comes in.

There are so many strands of work to properly monetize a blog and your growth will be limited if you’re working on things that don’t add much value upfront, but still need to be done. As such you need a team to help out.

Trying to grow blogs is challenging… they’re very easy to start but difficult to maintain because it is like trying to start a business these days. Most real-world businesses don’t take off for years and blogs are no different. Hence many people quit before they ever really give their blogs a chance.

For anyone thinking about starting a blog, I’d advise them to think long-term just as you would start any business. It’s certainly not a get rich quick enterprise, even though there’s some hype to suggest otherwise.


Describe the process of launching the business.

Because I effectively started out freelancing, investment was relatively small. I bought a domain, paid for hosting, and took liability insurance to cover my client’s work. All in, start-up costs were under $1k when associated costs of registering a business are included.

Since I work from home and occasionally at client sites my ongoing costs are low also. I have an accountant and continue to pay liability insurance and hosting that amount to around $1k each year.

If I’m able to remodel my current revenue streams, these costs should decrease by 50%.

Of course, there are always taxes to pay, but this varies according to how well my business runs each year.


Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Right now word of mouth and existing clients are providing the bulk of my company income. However, my blog is beginning to contribute, not only in terms of affiliate income (the primary way I monetize my blog) but also in terms of leads for the WordPress development side of my business.

Proper planning and objectives setting also helps to keep you focussed. How many businesses have failed because people bailed on their plans because something else looked appealing?

Hence, content writing and promoting is the way I’ll see my blogging business growing alongside client work. As I say this takes a lot of upfront and consistent work despite the relatively small signs that what you’re doing is working as a consequence.

Longer-term I will add PPC to promote the SideGains blog, but for the moment I want to grow as organically as possible. Although I consider myself a PPC expert, with all the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, I don’t want to risk investment in PPC advertising since most of my clients have requested working on a month to month basis rather than the 6-month contracts I worked to previously. This has meant I’m unsure what my business income will be month to month so I feel I need to be careful right now.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Client work pays the bills at present. Around 90% of my income comes from clients and 10% from the SideGains blog. I expect to change this to a 50-50 ratio in a year and from there take the blogging side of my business to be the primary source of income.

Client work takes a huge amount of my available time. I’m not scalable and there are only so many hours in each week. I don’t plan on growing into an agency since in my view that will impact my work/life balance.

I see my blog as something scalable but only if I take on help. As a consequence, I anticipate outsourcing work to either an employee or more likely several freelancers in the coming year to help me. This is where I believe the SideGains blog will be able to take off.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Starting any business is a risk. Although I sort of fell into working for clients rather than employers, there has been a risk in choosing to maintain this course. I have been offered permanent roles in the past 5 years but I chose not to accept them. This might be considered risky for some.

I believe you can’t grow any business without betting on yourself and for me, that’s the risk I’ve taken. I feel I’m generally risk-averse and so this is something that makes me uncomfortable… but I’ve been learning to live with this for 5 years now!

Investing time and effort into the SideGains blog is a big risk for me but it’s something I believe in. I’ve run several blogs as side businesses since 2005 (some very successful others earned me pocket money) so I know how things can work out. So I guess the risk I’m taking is calculated to a degree.

Luck too plays a part. I know several very successful business owners who all attribute huge doses of good fortune to their success. I find each of them to be maverick risk-takers, so perhaps through their personalities, they have created situations in which luck and opportunities can flourish.

I find this idea very interesting. The British psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman researches the psychology of luck and believes four factors appear to create “lucky” opportunities:

  • An openness to unexpected possibilities.
  • Sociability.
  • Resilience.
  • A positive outlook.

His research suggests that we can influence whether or not positive opportunities come our way according to our mindset. I like the idea of this and believe it’s true.

A long time ago, a mentor told me that “luck” is an acronym for “labor under controlled knowledge”. I take this to mean work hard to create opportunities.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I use a whole suite of tools for client work and the SideGains blog:

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

My book choices are quite dated but still relevant and well worth reading for anyone who works in online marketing or blogging now. They’re also the books that helped to shape me and my ideas about the Internet environment.

  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Bradwell - I found this fascinating when I read it first around 2005. It gives examples of how real businesses reached a tipping point when their businesses took off. I like the idea of consistently applying knowledge and effort into tasks that lead to a point at which your business suddenly starts to take hold.

  • Only the Paranoid Survive by Andrew Grove - This was super relevant to me when I first started working after graduating from university in 2000. In those days, web work sat very clearly in the IT arena solely as opposed to marketing as well and this spoke volumes to me about IT management and the importance of objective setting and planning.

  • The Long Tail by Chris Anderson - This has been updated in a newer version called The Longer Tail, which I’ve not yet read. The title of the original version was adopted by the SEO fraternity to categorize keyword search targets. The idea is that you should not go after high-volume search terms but work to build up your ranking positions in search of lower hanging fruit: less competitive but easier to rank for.

I don’t listen to many podcasts, but these two are always interesting to me:

  • Do You Even Blog by Pete McPherson - Pete always has very interesting guests from a range of different online niches and he delivers his interviews with flair! His guests are mostly very successful in their online fields and always offer useful advice and insight.

  • The Nine-Five Podcast by Nick Nalbech - This is a relatively new podcast but it’s already gathering speed. Interviewees range from business owners to social media and SEO experts. I find it pretty inspirational since some of the guests are starting out and so it’s great for people getting started in the online game.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

I’d recommend making plans and setting targets. If you just work without something to aim for you’ll just coast along and without a sense of achieving things you’ll struggle. For me setting objectives and reaching them helps me to feel as though I’m making progress, even if other signals seem minimal.

Since I know that my objectives are milestones in my plan, I can use them to visualize where I presently am and how far I’ve got to go.

Proper planning and objectives setting also helps to keep you focussed. How many businesses have failed because people bailed on their plans because something else looked appealing?

If you truly believe you’re on the wrong course and that your plans should change, then of course adapt them accordingly. But don’t lose focus just because something becomes fashionable or appears to be more exciting.

If you’re starting a business, you’re going to have to live with uncertainty, which is uncomfortable. For most entrepreneurs, this can be a struggle and can make you fearful, which is not the best place to be in terms of decision making.

You’ll encounter situations where you need to be objective and so overcoming fear is a challenge that you’ll need to address. I find talking with others in my situation (and those who have been) helpful. Many successful people have experienced this so it’s comforting to know and get advice about how they handled unplanned hurdles and issues.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Paul Franklin, Founder of SideGains
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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