Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
We provide care plans to various customers, from blog owners to large businesses, charities, and eCommerce companies. Our care plans are at the core of our service offering.
In addition to this, we offer other services mentioned above like malware removal, hosting, and one-off support.
WordPress website care is critical and often overlooked by many until it's too late.
Much like your phone or computer, the software they run often receives updates for security, bug fixes, and new features.
WordPress websites also receive updates, and these need to be managed carefully. Due to the complexity of websites and the varying developers of themes, plugins, and the core software, there can often be compatibility issues and security issues.
If essential maintenance tasks are ignored or attempted without good knowledge, you leave yourself open to being hacked or end up with a broken website. That's where a service like ours comes in.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My experience in websites started many years ago when the average site was just using an HTML template. I used to build sites for my own little projects or friends and family.
Over time my knowledge and expertise grew. I started playing with the forum software and eventually created my own forum using software called phpBB.
This was for a forum about autism and parenting, something I also have experience in. This then leads me to create another forum on different software for self-employed window cleaners, which I once was. This site which is called the Window Cleaning Forums is still going strong today, with over 480,000 posts at the time of writing this.
I continued to learn more about website maintenance, security, and development when I started using WordPress for a blog.
The idea for ThriveWP came from a need that I had myself: keeping websites up-to-date with patches and updates so they don't run into issues when vulnerabilities are discovered in WordPress plugins or core code.
I now have over fifteen years of experience in the WordPress industry – both in WordPress maintenance and hosting.
Formerly a manager of an autism support center for 17 years, I am no stranger to providing top-quality support and advice in complex situations.
I loved nothing more than learning new things alongside my managerial role and continued tinkering with website software of varying functionality and creating several startups with hair-brain ideas.
In the early days, I was doing a lot of WordPress maintenance on my own sites until someone contacted me and asked for help with their site. It started as just an hour here or there at night and then slowly turned into more hours each week.
Word spread about how good the service was, so I started turning this into a small sideline business. I ran like this for several years without any major plan or direction, still working full time for the autism charity and managing sites on the side.
It was April 2019 things took a turn I did not expect at all. The charity, after 17 years of service, made me redundant. This was the only job I knew and loved.
I didn't know what to do or where to go next, and then it dawned on me, I already have the next step lined up. I just had to turn my sideline into a full 7 days a week business. That's when ThriveWP was born.
This was probably one of the scariest and most difficult times in my career where I suddenly found myself without a job and had to think and work fast if I were to make this work.
I think one thing our customer's value is the non-jargon approach. We don't assume our customers are experts in WordPress or the related terms.
I instantly threw myself (after the shock) into getting this new business up and running.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I got my start in WordPress Maintenance before it really had a name. Now WordPress maintenance or site care is heard often, and the competition is ever increasing.
When I started, I really didn't have anything in terms of investment, equipment, or anything like that. It was me in my dining room on my 5-year-old laptop!
Any little bit I could put aside, I did, and for a long time, I was running, making no profit as everything was going back into the business to ensure it would eventually bloom into what it is now.
I had my humble little website and worked on it as best I could to promote my service. Over time our client base grew, along with our knowledge and expertise.
I was regularly fixing issues for customers and started to gain some wonderful reviews. Which honestly, I love reading! Your customers are your business, and if they are happy, then your business will be too!
I think one thing our customer's value is the non-jargon approach. We don't assume our customers are experts in WordPress or the related terms.
I try my best to ensure our customers have everything explained to know what is happening and why. This can help our business in two ways. Firstly the customer feels listened to and cared about.
Secondly, the user can take this new knowledge and use it themselves if they so wish.
We have some customers who want a hands-off approach and some who like to try and do some things themselves. Yes, it might take a little bit more time, but looking after our customers is the number 1 priority.
Maybe this came from being dropped by my employer out of the blue without as much as a thank you after 17 years. I truly believe you look after your customers or employees, and they will look after you.
Describe the process of launching the business.
ThriveWP was built from hard work and late nights! To be honest, I still feel like I am building it today.
Never be too humble to ask for help. There have been several times I have had to ask specifically skilled people for help and support.
You are constantly learning and adjusting with the times, so I don't think there will really be a time where I sit back and say I have arrived as a business. I think the process of launching a business is constantly evolving.
I was lucky because I already had a market I could directly approach, my window cleaning forum. I started marketing to those business owners with website design services that also came with ongoing maintenance.
Of course, I charged a silly low price back then to gain customers, which was a mistake that took several years to move away from. Still, it was a start and gained me the business I needed and, most importantly, word of mouth.
These first customers were spreading the word for me. I didn't do any other advertising and only a small amount of SEO in the early days.
As I grew, the idea of a WordPress maintenance service as the core product came about.
The service seems obvious, but starting with a low price point made it difficult for me to adjust prices to be profitable while still offering that value I wanted customers to get when they bought from me.
I had many conversations with clients where we talk through pricing and how much time something takes on average. They often wondered why my rate increases jumped so high as they see what's being offered is just providing support or installing plugins if needed.
It may not seem like an involved task, but those tasks take up hours each day, adding up over time. Plus, there's always more work needing to be done around these tasks like backups, testing of updates before doing it live, testing compatibility, and so on; this all takes time.
To my surprise, though, my close relationship with my customers has proved helpful in growing my business. Yes, we lost a few during the transition period, as I called it, but the majority understood, and loyal customers stuck with us.
One important thing to note, which I think helped, is that I didn't just up prices. With each increase, I tried to add more to the plans we already had.
When a price increase comes with no benefits, it's never going to go well; however, adding more to the service offering, I think, really helped us.
Time was really our biggest investment by far. I didn't take any business loans or any financial support as I didn't want to be chasing my tail, so to speak, in terms of having to pay these things off.
It was just lots of time, sleepless nights, and square eyes from staring at a screen for way too long!
I'd say it's taken a good 2-3 years to really establish the business and confidently rely on the recurring income to support my family.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
As I said previously, pricing was a big part of attracting customers in the early days, but we also had to offer something that set us apart from our competitors.
This came through by being really customer-centric and ensuring every little detail of the service was taken care of.
Our mission is to always provide the very best service we can to customers, and it goes a long way into how your service is seen and talked about by those customers.
Word of mouth has often been our biggest way of attracting customers. Although we have tried many avenues, including paid advertising, social media, and SEO, word of mouth is always the best form of advertising.
As I mentioned, we had tried paid advertising, but in all honesty, we have never really gained a great deal for the spend we put in, so we have pretty much stuck to growing organically while providing the very best service we can.
We have dabbled in ebook marketing which can help a little if done right.
We have a handy WordPress maintenance ebook that when someone subscribes to receive, it is then entered into an email campaign which slowly drip feeds helpful and valuable tips to them. This can, at times, result in customer sign-ups for a care plan.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today things are great, and we are starting to feel more comfortable financially. It's still amazing that only a couple of years ago, I was sat in my dining room with my 5-year-old laptop trying to get things moving.
Today, I am sat here with my custom-built PC, which I built myself managing hundreds of websites for all manner of customers.
The future is looking very good for ThriveWP we even won best website management and maintenance provider 2020.
Over time we have improved our service offering, tested and changed the tools we use, upgraded our servers, and much more. At our current rate of growth, we expect to double our turnover at least.
We have recently started offering a white-label WordPress maintenance service to agency customers, which has also been going very well and is proving invaluable to both our customers and us.
This is more than just business for me though, this has been as much of a personal journey as it has been profit and business.
We are now in a great position with a loyal customer base and all the tools and skills we need to fine-tune everything and offer the very best in WordPress maintenance and care plans.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Yes, never be too humble to ask for help. There have been several times I have had to ask specifically skilled people for help and support.
Many think if you provide such a service you have to be an expert in everything there is to do with the internet and websites.
Everyone has their own skill sets and is better suited to specific jobs. Don't be afraid to ask if your knowledge is stretched.
I would also say if at all possible, don't rush and throw tonnes of money at this. Nurture your business organically and always have your customers at the center of any decisions.
Don't start just for the money, as it is very likely you won't see a real return you can rely on for a good year or two.
Did you know most startups fail in the first two years? It's often due to that short-sighted view that you can set something up, throw money at it, and suddenly be rich.
This does not happen and takes serious hard work day and night.
Whatever you are looking to do, the first thing you must do though is a start!
If you have a passion for the particular thing or is your hobby, then even better as you have a genuine interest, and that will keep your focus.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
There are lots of tools we use regularly but to name a few:
- WHMCS - for our billing and support
- Gmail business - Great email deliverability and management
- Stripe - For accepting payments
- Quickbooks - For accounting
- Loom - For quickly and easily recording screens for customer support
- Microsoft todo - Handy to keep me on tasks!
- Outlook and Google calendars to keep organized.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I wouldn't say I am a book person, I have always found it hard to get into books and stories, but reading or learning about our industry and areas of interest has been pretty easy over the years.
I have subscribed to so many mailing lists and resources that I have no end of information about WordPress and the latest goings-on.
I will always try to read up on the latest to keep my knowledge fresh. That said, I think anything that can further your knowledge and keep you motivated is very good.
I actually read the book The Happiness Advantage, which, although not directly linked to WordPress or the industry, does focus your mindset.
One thing which is often overlooked when starting up is managing your time and work-life balance.
When working from home, it's easy to get distracted and just as easy to work too much. This book has helped me to keep focused and refocus on occasions!
I really believe in mindfulness and meditation, taking the time to switch off and be in the moment with no distractions.
It all helps to ensure you are mentally strong and ready to take on the challenges of running and managing your own business.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
When you're in the process of building a new business, it's important to have some idea of where you want your company to go and what you need to do next.
This will give you something concrete for everyone involved with the project to work on together.
But really, just start! Don't be afraid to ask for help and keep working. Don't expect success overnight and ensure you take time to look after yourself as much as your business.
I love riding my bicycle, so this is my outlet and downtime. It takes me away from the screen, and I forget all my worries, ideas, and stresses so that when I come back to it, I can start fresh, focused, and ready.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We're always looking for talented people to join our team as freelance workers. If you have experience as a web developer or in dealing directly with customer inquiries, get in touch.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
ThriveWP has provided an update on their business!
About 1 month ago, we followed up with ThriveWP to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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