This Self-Taught WordPress Developer Started An $84K/Year Web Design Agency

Published: April 25th, 2022
Vathana Nguon
Founder, Anachak Design
Anachak Design
from Siem Reap, Cambodia
started August 2015
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello, my name is Vathana Nguon and I am the founder of Anachak Design, a freelance Web Design Agency based in Cambodia. I started the company in 2015, my client list has included a broad range of companies from start-ups and big businesses. Here are some of the projects I have completed: Siem Reaper Travel, Tours By Jeeps, Ride & Rad - The Cycle Tour, etc.

My flagship product is known to be a full-service digital agency that specializes in WordPress Web Design and Web Development. I have many different services that cater to the needs of tourism businesses, and I offer them a variety of options for their website including an online booking system, travel booking engine, SEO, and online marketing.

I am technology agnostic when it comes to a CMS (Content Management System). However, having developed world-class WordPress websites, I am recognized as one of the top WordPress development companies in Cambodia. My agency has worked with a wide range of clients from various backgrounds. And WordPress has become my friend because it offers a lot of great features ranging from themes, plugins, and development tools.

I first launched my web design agency in 2015. I stumbled into beginning a business and I started with very low expectations and grew my business through old-fashioned methods like face-to-face marketing. With time, I began to receive a sufficient number of projects each month and hired my first three employees. Today I was able to generate $5,000 per month.


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

Back in 2013, when I graduated from high school I got a passion for computer science. And I started self-taught code from Codecademy. It was a year that I just went from the bottom line to web development. In the meantime, I had heard about the WordPress platform where the great website design idea came into my mind. Though I had no idea about this, I tried to find out the details on the internet, I went from youtube to youtube to learn about WordPress tutorials, and finally, I love WordPress. I also kept doing freelance development work on the side.

I spent 8 to 10 hours per day studying WordPress creative design. I have a strong desire to succeed, so I began to pursue web design as a full-time career as a freelance web designer in my region. I've spent the past few years building my knowledge of WordPress by going through a variety of sources and mastering the basics. I went through WordPress TV, Skillshare, WordPress Codex and watched some tutorials on Youtube to get a better understanding of how to use WordPress in the development process.

After 2 years of freelance web design, I decided to launch my web design agency that focuses on WordPress design and development. I conducted extensive research and brainstormed my business on a model canvas, which was a vital step in developing a foundation of design and direction.

With my experience in both freelancing and business, I have been able to bring all of my previous freelance clients into my new business venture. This has given me a competitive edge and opened the door to more opportunities within the industry.

For me, I wanted to build a location-independent online business that would allow me to spend more time doing things I love. To do that, I needed to keep my life simple and make a modest income. After extensive research, it became clear that running my own web design business would allow me to do just that while still earning a profit. By doing this, I would be able to give myself the freedom to work from home and set my hours.

If potential clients remember you as a solution to a specific problem, you'll get a lot more business than if you hadn't decided to stand out.

On my mission to become the leading small business branding and web design expert in the region, I now provide more services than just web design. I offer a wide range of services such as web design, web hosting, search engine optimization, and digital marketing for businesses of any size.

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

When I first launched my WordPress web design agency, time was the most important factor. The more I can streamline my process, the more quickly I will be able to complete any given project. This is especially true for clients with tight deadlines.

While each client has their own set of requirements for a website, I might want to consider putting together a toolkit of products that I use frequently. I need to find certain templates or themes that are easy to customize or companies that offer stellar support and add them to the toolbox.

Instead of digging through the thousands of WordPress themes out there, I used Themeforest, TemplateMonster, and Divi Themes to simplify the process of the WordPress website for my client.

Sometimes, It might be difficult to manage many WordPress sites and it can rapidly cause me to fall behind on my workload if I am not prepared.

Here are the things to keep my work organize scale my business:

Keep everything in order: While I manage multiple WordPress sites, I need to deal with many users, passwords, plugins, themes, credentials, logos, brands, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention the fact that some of those items should be safely preserved rather than strewn about on a Google Sheet. I have site updates, new features to put out, redesigns to finish, and new client onboarding meetings to attend, so purchase a planner (or calendar) and begin utilizing it regularly. I usually use Toggle Plan to organize my service with my team and client.

Find a reliable web hosting provider: When I currently deal with many website sites, web hosting and domain name registration partners are crucial. For a smaller project, I have used SiteGround as my hosting partner. If my client is a scalable business website, Kinsta is a host solution for premium managed WordPress hosting & WooCommerce.

Be prepared for updates: WordPress updates are vital, but they may be a hassle. I must make a backup copy of each site, install the updates, and then do a quality check to ensure that everything has been updated appropriately. To put it another way, if WordPress issues an update and I am not ready, my entire process might be thrown off for days. So, I need to gather my team and devise a strategy to ensure that I am always up to speed.

Have customer support: It’s not fun to imagine when my client’s website got worst-case-scenario situations, so I need to be as prepared as possible when something goes wrong when managing several WordPress sites and make sure my client’s sites run smoothly.

Describe the process of launching the business.

This is possibly the most significant lesson I've learned as a business owner. You need to make an effort to stand out from the crowd. If you're doing the same thing as everyone else, there's a slim to no chance that a potential client will notice you.

However, if you are doing at least one thing better than your competition, you are providing a reason for customers to choose you!

This one thing that sets me apart from other web designers is known as Unique Selling Proposition, a word that marketers will likely use frequently.

In this case, I determined that I need to go beyond general web designers and that I wouldn't be successful if I targeted everyone who needs a website. I felt that the best course of action was to focus on establishing websites and branding for a certain target market or demographic.

I opted to target a tourism-based website because I have a depth of travel technology expertise that is second to none. While every other web designer offered website design to everyone who needed one, I only worked on the tourism market and made sure that our entire business model was designed to ensure that I was the best web designer for tourism technology.

Yet, the result was fantastic. I've earned a reputation as the go-to guy for tourism business branding and websites, which is exactly what I want to do to stand out in a crowded industry. Because my city has the fastest growing tourist destinations in the region, many businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and travel agencies require a website.

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

To run a web design agency to stand above the rest, I need to have an awesome website.

When I first launch my web design agency, I always take a look at my website – how do I feel about the design? Does it feel like my agency, or is the branding a little off? Is it updated with my greatest portfolio?

So I start building a list of everything I want to change, pages I want to add, and the information that converts into sales. Once I've created my dream site on paper, I'll be able to devise a strategy for bringing it to life online.

It's easy to get caught up in new projects with new clients but don’t forget your website. So taking the time to care for your website and portfolio will help you to build trust with the client.

However, one of the most profitable ways to bring customers to my business is through SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Good content, along with the correct choice of keywords and search phrases, can help my company achieve long-term success. As my potential clients always found my agency on the internet, I needed to position my service on the search terms of google which brought my business to the top result. So I’ve started blogging regularly. Here is the blog post that performance best “Best WordPress Hosting in 2021

It may help to establish myself as a go-to source for useful information, cultivate my readership and turn them to my clients.

Another key to success in my web design is social media strategy. I often share my portfolios on Facebook and Instagram with my audience and also keep consistent posts to engage with them. I also ran the Ads on Facebook & Instagram to target the specific niche.

Sometimes, I am not just their designer, but also a mentor, a collaborator, and a friend.

Because I truly want their projects to succeed, and I put my heart and soul into their project. These small measures will aid in the development of relationships with those who require my services.

Last but not least, I also partner with other businesses such as IT Solution, Marketing Agency, Graphic Designer, and Industry Group to approach them for ways I can work together to better serve clients together.

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

My career has always been to be able to spend my time doing work that I enjoy, such as creative work, and also as a freelancer. I've discovered that I appreciate the independence of being my boss and operating my own business.

In any case, it's been a pleasant surprise; I've learned a little more about myself, and it's something I'd like to continue to cultivate and strengthen as time goes on.

I've set a new revenue goal to earn $100k per year, and I'm ready to take on another personal challenge while continuing to improve my services as much as possible.

Here are the things that I am planning to increase my revenue:

Raise my rates: I’ve learned and increased my professional skills every single day as I tackle new projects, and that hard work deserves a raise! My clients will agree to pay more, potential clients will not be scared away, and you are undeniably worth that much!

Join Affiliate Program: I believe that joining an affiliate program is a great way to earn some extra money while providing my clients with the greatest resources available. It's a win-win situation for everyone when used in that context! I start writing blog posts and recommending useful tools that I love to my audience.

Setup referral program: I offer a discount for referring a friend and asking my current clients for referrals is a terrific method to start growing my business revenue.

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

It's not always easy to be a web designer. I faced a lot of challenges when I was trying to establish myself as a professional.

When I just started, my business was not at the height of success, but it was only at the beginning of the path to world fame. The main problem was: where and how to find clients? And the second: how should potential clients trust your business?

Yes, It was tough at first because I was starting from scratch with no client base, but I worked hard to build this up over time. I now have a steady stream of clients, both new and returning.

Now I'm able to continue to learn and push my business in ways I never could as an employee. So working for my web design business allows me to attempt new things, and improve my talents. I believe it is worthwhile to devote time to learning and mastering a new talent.

In the meantime, I've learned a lot about social media, SEO, WordPress, copywriting, and blogging, as well as sales, business, tax assessment, and marketing. I may not be a guru or want to bill for all of these services, but they've all been highly skillful to master, and they'll be among the many I aim to continue to grow and build upon.

And, I have discovered that it's not just the innovation and constant progress that I enjoy, but just like many other young professionals, I wished for a more exciting, flexible lifestyle that allowed me to work from anywhere.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Tools that I used on my web design business:

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

Well!!! I don't often listen to podcasts, but I do read Steve Jobs' book (Co-founder of Apple), which is undoubtedly the most influential in the way people interact with technology today. The book was written by Walt Isaacson, perhaps one of the most powerful storytelling tools that I ever met.

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

People don’t achieve success by accident. You have worked hard and been smart, and you will drown if you lack passion and expertise. My experience taught me this fact. I wanted to keep contributing to the newbies who want to create a career in this industry because it had taken a lot of hard work and devotion for me to get here.

In recent years, I've been able to look back on a successful career, but it wasn't always easy. I believe that every successful person achieves their prime goal through thousands of hours of day and night work.

It would be irresponsible of me to say that I have attained or even come close to accomplishing this goal. I have, on the other hand, turned my web design business model from mediocre to a high-quality service for which clients are willing to pay a solution. The 5-year-old web design experience helps me become a successful web designer by implementing three key lessons into his web design business, among them:

  • Never stop learning. Don't get too comfortable!
  • Make yourself stand out from the crowd.
  • Under-Promise. Over-deliver. Always go above and above!

All of these things may be accomplished without paying any additional money. There's no reason you shouldn't start doing all three of the things I said before, and there's no reason you won't be a good web designer as a result.

Where can we go to learn more?

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