How I Started A $211K/Year WordPress Development and SEO Company

Published: March 22nd, 2022
Link Moser
Windhill Design LLC
from Loudon, NH, USA
started April 1996
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Link Moser and I own Windhill Design LLC, a WordPress development and SEO company. We support small business owners by helping them make sense of their digital marketing and web presence. Our primary services are WordPress design and maintenance, managed website hosting, and local SEO. In 2021, we managed about 220 websites which generated around $212,000 in gross revenue with over 60% of that being recurring.


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

I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug early in my life. My first and only W2 was a three-month stint at 12 years old where I worked at a landscape nursery down the road from my house. The work was boring beyond imagination and I hated going to work. I’m not sure if that experience was enough to inspire me that I never wanted to work for someone else again but so far, I’ve been able to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive.

I believe that if you can get clear about your goals, try to come up with a plan, and figure out who or what you need to help you get there, you’ll be well on your way to success.

I grew up on a dairy farm and while my father had a corporate job, looking back, I did get some exposure to working for myself. After the dairy farm, my parents had a few attempts at agricultural businesses like a gift shop, Christmas trees, and retail landscaping plants. None of them made a ton of money but I learned how to do marketing in my teens and enjoyed it.

I always had an interest in computers and technology. Radio Shack was my favorite store growing up. When I graduated high school, I had planned to go to college but due to financial reasons, I deferred my admission and started doing freelance graphic design work for a local real estate company.

The following year, in 1995, my father suggested I build websites. The Internet was in its infancy and I had no idea how to build a website but drove to the bookstore (pre Amazon Prime days!), bought a book titled, “Teach Yourself HTML in 14 Days” and started reading. HTML was pretty easy for me to pick up and luckily early websites did not need to look pretty.

I pitched the idea of a website to the real estate company I was freelancing for and they agreed. In 1996, I registered the trade name Windhill Design, named after the family farm I grew up on and built my website, and came up with some business cards. Back then, domain names cost $100/year which was a lot of money to a 20-year-old kid!

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

My process for building websites started with getting to know the customer and what their goals were, collecting content from them, and starting to scope out the pages. Most of the customers were (and still are) very small businesses and their budgets were small as well. They didn’t need to invest in wireframes and prototype mockups.

I found I could get a feel from what people wanted by looking and talking about other websites in the early stages of the project. With some example websites to look at, a site outline, and photos and text, I usually had enough to build a custom website that 9 times out 10 was a winner. In the early days of website development, the only tools you needed were a text editor like Notepad. I coded the first several websites all by hand using HTML.

Over the years, that process has not changed much. There are still projects that take longer than they should and some clients that want to micromanage the project but most of the time it’s a team effort that yields a solid result.




Below is a picture of a local newspaper article from the Concord Monitor dated 9/15/1996 featuring local websites. That first one, R/W Smith Real Estate, was the first website I ever designed.


Describe the process of launching the business.

Looking back on those early years, I wished I had a mentor or some guidance from someone who knew how to grow a large business. The web was so new that there was very little formal training available. I was still using dial-up Internet and the technology changed so fast that written books had trouble keeping up. It would be years before colleges and schools would have training programs for web development.

Much of what I learned was using ‘View Source’ in my web browser and trial and error. It was about as grassroots as it got and without any formal business building experience, I didn’t know how to scale or grow a company. I didn’t realize the potential size of the market and was content picking up small projects organically, mostly from referrals and search engine optimization.

Windhill Design started as a side hustle. I just didn’t know it at the time! I was in my early 20s and life was inexpensive so I worked enough to cover my bills, never realizing that It could have been much bigger if I had some sense of the potential. Not that everyone wants to grow a big business but I think what I was lacking was the ability to ‘raise the lid’ on my potential.

My launch day was pretty informal. It was just a matter of landing that first client, someone who was going to pay me to build a website for them. I don’t recall exactly how much it was but I’m sure it was just a few hundred bucks.

I pitched the idea of a website to the real estate company I was doing freelance marketing work for and they agreed. They had a second business building homes and so that became the second project. I was pretty shy so I didn’t do a lot of sales outreach as I should. My leads came very organically and word of mouth.

Why do some people grow faster than others when both start at the same point in time? Honestly, I’m not sure I know that answer but imagine there are tons of great founders on this site that do. I look at the success stories of some of these people with envy.

I remember the early years of my career when everyone I knew had day jobs and I know they looked at my self-employed lifestyle as a risk many of them would never consider. Lucky for many, working for yourself has become a lot easier and more mainstream today but everyone still assesses risk in their way.

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

My business has shifted many times over the last twenty-five years. In the beginning, websites were all done by hand-coding HTML. Domains cost $100/year to register and web hosting was such that if one website went down, it could take down the entire server.

I started working with WordPress around 2007 and started to build websites on that platform instead of using static HTML. Software like cPanel and WHM came on the scene and made web hosting far easier to manage.

Social media sites came of age in the late 2000s along with the growth of smartphones and the need to design websites for the mobile experience. I started learning SEO in the early 2000s and by the end of that decade, started learning how social media sites fit into the mix of digital marketing as well.

While I don’t pretend to know where things are heading, I do know that you never stop learning in technology and you have to remain open to always learning new things.

By the time the Great Recession ended in 2009, web design for small businesses had become a commodity product. Technology had matured to the point where it was cheap to build websites and after the downturn, many small businesses were cutting costs. Add to that more and more people were offering digital marketing services. My business revenue declined for several years in a row, bottoming out around 2016. I had shifted my focus to working in another industry and by the time I came back to Windhill, I needed to fuel growth quickly and I did that with acquisitions.

Surround yourself with people who are taking the same journey, do not be afraid to reach out to people you admire and think might be able to help you.

Between 2017 - 2018, I acquired four separate client lists to grow my cash flow from $18,400 in 2016 to $124,000 in 2018. All four of these opportunities came from mailing letters to other business owners asking them if they were interested in having a conversation around selling.

I struggled with business development and growing organically. Maybe it’s because I failed to find a niche or offer enough differentiation in the market to gain traction. Maybe I was burned out. I’m not sure but growth by acquisition was a growth lever I had not really pulled and so I was excited to explore that opportunity with more focus and it worked out. I learned a lot about micro acquisitions and continue to invest time in seeking companies to acquire and different ways to build a bigger business.

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

Windhill Design by many people’s standards may not be a huge business but what it is is a great lifestyle business that fits my world very well. It’s great to help other small business owners with their websites and hosting. Client churn is minimal, there is a lot of recurring, stable revenue with web hosting and maintenance.

I use WHMCS to automate billing completed with WHM/cPanel on the hosting side. I use ZohoDesk for ticketing to handle email support. Customers send their support requests via email to a dedicated email address which creates a ticket in ZohoDesk.

I have a small team of part-time subcontractors that work remotely who can answer the tickets, help address customer requests and reply directly to them. The age-old belief that if you treat customers right and provide good, timely service at a fair price, you do not give people a reason to look for someone else to work with. Organic growth in the small business website space is still slower than I’d like.

I believe future acquisitions in other digital marketing niches maybe my path to greater growth. For many of the reasons why this business makes for a great lifestyle business for me, I think it would for others as well. Many people with a day job looking to start a side hustle should consider web dev/digital marketing.

With access to a global freelance market on sites like Fiverr and Upwork, you do not need to know how to build websites to start in this industry. You’ve just got to know enough about the medium to be able to sell your services to others and then find quality people to do the work that you can mark up.

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

There have been plenty of mistakes made over the years. I think the biggest one was that I didn’t think large enough or had a growth plan. I wasn’t afraid of doing the work, I just didn’t know what the path looked like to get where I wanted to be in terms of scale. I eventually realized that I couldn’t accomplish my goals of growing a larger company on my own and I needed help from others. I’ve invested far more time and money in trying to find those answers and I'm not sure I have yet.

There are plenty of would-be ‘experts’ and consultants out there happy to separate you from your money and are often better salespeople than they are advisors. I learned to be careful taking advice from people who can’t demonstrate they know what they are talking about.

In the agency space, I remark on how many people sell themselves as being able to take you from zero to seven figures if you just sign up for their training programs. When the sizzle wears off and you are not seeing the results you were promised, it’s your fault for failing, never theirs or the program. It’s easy to get caught up in these sales funnels and over the years, I’ve fallen for a few myself.

Be humble and accept the fact that you will never know it all and when you are successful, make time to pay it back to people who are just starting their journey.

I believe that if you can get clear about your goals, try to come up with a plan, and figure out who or what you need to help you get there, you’ll be well on your way to success. As I said earlier, being able to surround yourself with others who have accomplished similar goals and are willing to share some pearls of wisdom is huge. No one gets there alone and I can attest to how lonely the journey can be at times.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We build all new web sites on WordPress and prefer the frameworks of Divi and Elementor. Some favorite plugins are Gravity Forms, UpdraftPlus, Yoast SEO and Wordfence.

WHMCS is a great tool to automate billing and combined with Stripe, has saved a ton of time when it comes to sending out invoices for services. Zoho Desk has also saved a ton of time and allowed me to scale our ticketing support. LiquidWeb is great for web hosting and has the best support I’ve experienced in the hosting industry.

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

I love books. I struggle to find the time to read them all but have a bookshelf full of nonfiction titles, many of them business-related, that I have gleaned value from over the years.

Some of my recommended titles include Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, Traction, E-Myth, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, the Lifestyle Business Owner, HBR Guide to Buying a Small Business, and Buy Then Build.

The first book gives some insight into how to work as a team. I learned that finding the best people to work with on your team is critical to your success. I believe that great leaders spend the bulk of their time seeking great talent, supporting and inspiring them to grow, and then getting out of the way.

The book, “4 Disciplines of Execution '' laid out a very simple process by which companies and teams can focus on just one or two things, often the KPIs that will impact the business the most, and then have a process around focusing on that.

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

The best advice I can give anyone considering a path of entrepreneurship is to just jump in and go for it. Surround yourself with people who are taking the same journey, do not be afraid to reach out to people you admire and think might be able to help you.

Realize that you will only be able to go so far on your own before you need the help of others. That help might be a partner, mentors, employees, family, or all of the above. Take your time and invest in your first hire. The right person can grow your business and take it to the next level.

Read and never stop learning. Be humble and accept the fact that you will never know it all and when you are successful, make time to pay it back to people who are just starting their journey.

Where can we go to learn more?

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