The WP Agency Journey With Mario Peshev Of DevriX — Post Status Draft 138

In this episode, Mario Peshev, founder of DevriX, joins Cory Miller to discuss WordPress retainers, entrepreneurship, and the future of WordPress. Mario encourages agency owners to chase recurring revenue to build in the freedom to do quality work with the capacity to lead into your future vision for your business.

Estimated reading time: 40 minutes


Mario Peshev had an interest in technology from childhood. After working as a software developer, he transitioned into WordPress and founded his own agency, DevriX. They coined the term “WordPress retainer.” It is the mantra fueling their operations and one they hope other agencies will adopt. He joins Cory Miller to dive deep into the how and why of WordPress retainers, sharing his experience and his hopes for the future of WordPress.

Top Takeaways:

  • WordPress Retainers: Business doesn’t have to be feast or famine. Several other industries utilize retainers because they provide consistent revenue and secure client commitment for ongoing work. The entire world is living around monthly costs. Not aligning your service-based business with that model is counterintuitive. Essentially it is just selling hours in bulk, turning services into products. Allotting 10% for project management while using the rest to prioritize and execute projects. The longevity and security enable you to plan, diversify, hire well and grow.
  • Learn How the Sausage is Made: If you want to start your own business, work in a similar business for a few years. Learn what it takes to operate, what roles are needed, and how the pipeline works. Work with bosses, teams, and clients to learn how you want to build and operate once you’re on your own.
  • Increase Adoption by Building Simplification: Many of us started in WordPress because of the famous 5-minute install, and any design could become a theme. It was easy, but now building on other platforms is actually easier. WP needs to create tools to solve for this in order to increase adoption by younger generations.

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Hey everybody. Welcome back to Post Tennis Draft. This is another interview in our series of agency journeys, and I’m talking to my friend Mario, uh, who lives over in Europe. I’ve got to meet him a couple times in person, but you probably have seen his work online. He’s very active and vocal and does great work in the WordPress land.

Um, passionate contributor. Um, and Ward Preser. So, Mario, thanks for coming on and, and, uh, sharing your journey of, uh, Debs and your personal journey related to that. Hey, Corey, thanks for having me. Anto, uh, you know, having a great time joining you and everyone else on post status. Um, okay. So tell us, tell us, uh, who, how you got started with WordPress.

Tell us a little bit about your work, not just your agency, but like your work and your start with WordPress. Yeah, absolutely. So I’ve been, I’ve been toying with computers ever since I was probably nine. I actually built, [00:01:00] well, maybe since I was six. I built my first website, uh, back in 1999. It was still a static website.

I was a fan of Pokemon, so I built a Pocket X, which was kind of the, the main thing that kept me busy with H C Ss. Uh, then fast forward, it spent a few just trying to kind of, you know, freelance as a kid, pretty much just in my teen years or so. Uh, and. And I’m kind of just moving towards this digital, uh, field of like software development and web development and everything else.

It was kind of back on the market, my trajectory and kind of my, uh, you know, background and career in college and so forth were also related to software engineering, like high school and college. Like university were kind of in that same realm of informatics. Uh, so it wasn’t, it didn’t come as, uh, surprise to me that WordPress is pretty aligned with kind of what I want to do.

It was still a cms. We’re kind of a. Web application framework or anything along those lines. Uh, so unlike other people that I’ve, I’ve been working with back in the day, most of them were, uh, either writers using [00:02:00] WordPress just as kind of bloggers, uh, you know, uh, or let’s say designers who needed kind of a software infrastructure to start building websites on.

And kind of the reason I got passionate about WordPress was I was actually coming from the other side of the fence. I was coming from the perspective of, uh, enterprise grade software. Right back in the day, I was already spending, uh, you know, several years building Java software I was certified, uh, son afterwards, Oracle, Java, uh, software developer.

And, and kind of most of what I was doing, uh, at my day job was actually building enterprise projects for, uh, telecoms, for banks, for kind of multinational stores like, you know, the Walmart of the world, uh, which. Pretty hardcore, pretty complicated, but at the same time, things were moving really, really, really slow, right?

To build a feature, you need four months and a team of 40 people, usually in kind of three different offices, just kind of building specifications and nowy and stuff, and, and honestly, I was getting bored, [00:03:00] right? It, it, it just didn’t move fast enough. I’m more of a startup person. It’s about velocity. It’s about moving fast, uh, and, and kind of, WordPress was a software I stumbled upon that was pretty, pretty quick to get started with and, and then start building on top of that.

So, uh, kind of to sum it up, it’s probably moving from the enterprise world to how can we build rapid applications? How can we stop reinventing the wheel and going through several different phases of that. Like, I, you know, moved from Java to P H P, then from different frameworks like Coding Nire and K P H P and other frameworks in different languages.

Two, WordPress as kind of a side builder. Again, application framework and then building on top of that, uh, this kind of went through different iterations, right? It was more like, Hey, you have a touchpoint to, for press ones like a couple months later, another one, a couple months later, another one. And then at some point it just starts pulling you in, like due to the community, the flexibility, the, the, the promise of better platform, [00:04:00] uh, and everything else.

So, um, yeah, that’s, that’s probably more or less kind of how I got put in, in terms of a timeline. Um, backing maybe. 2006, I was working in a media group and they were building their own blogging network. Um, and, and I was also part of the research team of other alternatives like, um, you know, blogger and WordPress of course, and live journal.

And there were a few other platforms living out there. And WordPress has always been standing as the kind of, the two that was most promising, had. Famous, uh, five Minute in Install. And, uh, the, the massive flexibility compared to say, Jumo and dpo, other competitors on the market, the ability to, to turn ev any single design into a living breeding website, uh, winning lots of awards like c s s awards and so forth due to all of that flexibility.

So just, just kind of the system that’s really headed. All right. Uh, and, you know, starting with that, spending some time as a boger and. [00:05:00] Couple websites for clients as a, you know, freelancer. Uh, then, you know, working for myself and using different systems until eventually I decided to drop everything else I was doing and just, uh, spend a hundred percent of my time and effort into WordPress itself.

Excellent. So thank you for that background. That’s awesome. Going through enterprise software and then I love the stories I hear all the time about. Being six years old, 10 years old, whatever it is, you know, and doing cool stuff. Um, okay, so that brought us to WordPress and, um, so today, where are you, uh, at Devex?

Tell us a little bit about devex, the agency, um, and your work there. And then after that we’re gonna talk about your journey to get, to get where you are today. But right now I just wanna talk about where are you at today with DevX and what are you doing with WordPress and. Yeah, absolutely. So first off, as disclaimer, I do run [00:06:00] different initiatives right now and you know, dev is the main one, but I also kind of participate in other businesses which do acquire media website to work on SaaS solutions and so forth.

So it’s kind of a broader suite in itself. Uh, but it started Dev, I think 13 years ago, and it was kind of the natural continuation of my, uh, first of. Career as a software engineer, then full-time freelancing, then growing full-time freelancing into the type of business that, that actually makes sense as an agency business.

Right? Uh, so we started right at the beginning of the recession, by the way, which is another, uh, probably interesting fact simply, To the time we are living in right now. Uh, and for, for anyone who happens to be just starting right now, I actually think the translations are the best possible time to start a business, right?

It’s the crappiest possible moment. You get no support, no funding, no clients. Everyone else is like, nobody’s opening your door. Nobody has free cash and stuff. If you, if you can survive. [00:07:00] For the next like six to eight to 10 years. Uh, it, it’s only going to get easier. Like there’s no harder moment than starting your recession.

So like literally the best possible time to start right now if you just wanna survive the next 10 years. Uh, so again, right now we are around, I dunno, 50 people or so. Our main focus is, uh, WordPress retainers, which we completely turned to in 20 14, 20 15. We actually coined the term WordPress retainers, and this is kind of our main, uh, mantra.

My, our main, our main way of living, this is what we believe in this, is we believe that we provide the highest possible quality as retainers has possible attention to detail and, and everything else for our clients. Um, I’ve, you know, spent a lot of. You know, talking about retainers, even at Word camps and other events, I’m more than happy to just, you know, offload that model to everyone else in the market because I believe that this model in itself is the future and everyone else has to adopt retainers.

So that’s kind of just, uh, more or less a side [00:08:00] note. So yeah, we are about 50 people right now. Uh, we have our portfolio retainer clients. Some of them started back when we initially launched retainers 20 14, 20 15, like seven, eight years with. Uh, pretty happy. We are growing with them. They’re growing with us.

Uh, so, so it’s a pretty sustainable way for us to keep learning more and keep investing in growing existing businesses, not just providing development services, but helping them, uh, scale and accelerate and go through different business challenges. So, okay, let’s talk about the retainers. What kind of work and what kind of.

Uh, are we talking about with this? So I get the, uh, idea of a retainer, um, being able to retain your services on an ongoing basis. I think there’s a bunch of benefits obviously around that, but what kinda work are you doing with those re retainers? Well, and that’s a great question, and our retain. Vary due to the fact that different clients look for [00:09:00] different things.

And interestingly enough, even though development like design development is kind of the main thing that we do, uh, we do provide a broader range of services and we have added or evolved some of them over time due to client needs. For instance, we do have a marketing department in-house. We have writers, we have people helping out with seo.

We do have a design team. Uh, we were offering adopt services for several years for publishers, scaling their ad stacks and so forth. Um, speaking of marketing, we used to be a HubSpot agency partner for a while, simply because we had that much demand for marketing, uh, solutions. And kind of when you take a look at the broader suit of this, we keep adding on different things, right?

Either on the technical side, like let’s say. React, which we don’t actively sell, but we still do. Or, uh, you know, DevOps or kind of other activities in terms of monitoring, alerting, integration with third party systems, uh, you know, building with earpieces or anything else on the market or the, the pure.

Business, uh, side of [00:10:00] things, which is, um, uh, again, marketing, building funnels, helping out with business models, even kind of price gauging or, or kind of other activities from the marketing segment. And then there’s purely business where in some cases we literally just get inside of a business and, and help out with, uh, the, the actual kind of product line.

The, the, the production line from, hey, like for example, your e-commerce, let’s build out. Uh, let’s make sure you have the right dashboards. Let’s set up the right KPIs. Let’s build out your OKRs, right? Like, just make sure we participate in your quarter planning. Let’s make sure we build out scorecards and then, you know, try to evolve with them.

Let’s try to, you know, do some data and analytics, data engineering, which we do for some of our plans, right? Uh, to, to make sure we identify needs to, uh, identify new markets, new opportunities, new target audiences, or anything like that. So, so it’s more of a consultancy than, you know. You know, offloading a one-off offer development due to the fact that we keep working with our [00:11:00] clients for years, years to come, and we spend enough time to understand their business models and just say, Hey, let’s try to be as helpful as possible in as many areas of work as possible.

And, and this oftentimes it just explores different ways to be helpful for, for our. Excellent. What’s a wide range of op of services, which is incredible. To really come alongside business or an organization, you can help out in a ton of ways. Um, so how does, how does it work? A new client comes to you all, um, and you, you’re talking through h how does it they present, okay.

They’re coming to you for something and then how, how does it work? You, you, you’re talking about, okay, this is how we work. We’re breast retainers. Can you. You know, just that. Mm-hmm. , how that works. Yeah. Uh, to, to oversimplify that, you know, our retainers come at a price tag, right? So, uh, you know, public one is 180 per hour, and to go, of course we have discounts depending on how many [00:12:00] kind of monthly package and so forth.

But at the end of the day, we say, Hey, like, based on your budget, we can offer a bulk of ours. And then make sure, like, let’s say you, you, you buy a 50 hour retainer or a hundred hour retainer, let’s say 50 hour, right? 10% is project management. You end up with, uh, 45 hours, which is a little bit over 10 hours a week, right?

So we make sure we develop our sprints on a week-to-week basis. Uh, we work with you. We try to have flexibility for stuff that comes up last moment. Uh, and based on kind of your long-term goal, we try to split it into, again, milestones, split that into sprints, and then just work on this one, uh, one piece at a time.

So this is kind of a K D R essentially. You know, depending on how much you’re willing to pay ahead of time, that’s how much time we can invest. And, you know, depending on that, we can figure out what sort of resources are suitable for kind of what you need. Uh, again, that’s not how we sell it , but this is the simplified explanation of kind of how it works.

Uh, and, and then it really depends on kind of what sort, what sort of plan, what sort of project and kind of what sort of initiative, uh, for. [00:13:00] Part due, due to kind of the way we’re working and we structure our, uh, kind of business. Most clients coming to us are existing businesses generating like 7, 8, 9 figures.

We have Fortune one thousands and kind of larger businesses as well. We work with Meta, uh, and so forth. But, uh, in most cases it’s like at least, you know, seven figure business, uh, with an existing business. That’s kind of based on digital, right? They’re, uh, a publisher, a SaaS, uh, B2B leg, a website, a e-commerce, anything that’s actually making money off of, off of the business is built out, uh, with a kind of crappy code base.

You know, let’s say, um, I know, uh, DV plus five sliders plus something crappy on a, you know, $10 per month host or something like that. You know, just, just, uh, several non-ideal compromise. Bundle up together and, and, and, and they understand that they’re losing money, right? They have a pain point in place. So they started themselves, or they started a freelancer, then they went to a kind of mid tier [00:14:00] agency, uh, that didn’t really quite help them.

And then they know they have to pay premium and go to. Really people who profile in that solving complex problems are willing to just retain them for a bunch of different things. And oftentimes while we are doing kind of the initial reviews, assessment, d conversations, whatever it is, we just end up identifying lots of different things that need attention as kind of separate swim lanes, separate verticals, right?

User experience. We see that, you know, like, uh, in terms of accessibility, in terms of user experience, in terms of conversion rate optimization, there’s a lot of work needed. Performance for various reasons. You know, again, US usability or a c or anything else, it is a problem. We do profiling, you know, improving core web vitals.

We do partner up with vendors like Nitro Pack, which are kind of turnkey. Uh, get your core web vitals fixed. We have the, the quick solution to stop the bleeding, and we have the, the permanent solution to, to fix the underlying cause, right? Uh, then it goes, you know, uh, Just functional development, then we have design, then we have, [00:15:00] could be different things sometimes against EO analysis.

It’s restricting content, lots of different areas. So we try to analyze this segment, then figure out what’s the pain point that the client’s willing to, or has prioritized, figure out if there are other vendors in the field, like an SEO agency, creative branch agency, anything else. And we try to play in the same kind of playing field, um, in a fair and consistent manner.

Love it, you know. With all that you do and your technical expertise in your team, it, you know, it’s such a, to me it’s a risk and it’s a hard thing to hire somebody full-time to come in to do any of the things that you mentioned. It’s the workforce we’re seeing at Post in particular. Um, we’re hearing it’s, it’s a tight workforce.

There’s talented people are always in demand, and I think if I’m a business and I don’t focus on doing what you. I’m trying to run my business over here. I wanna pull in experts that, that worry about that [00:16:00] acquiring talent, training talent, you know, getting them in a process and stuff like that. So I, I love that aspect and I see it more and more with WordPress or agencies of post status.

Well, okay, before we get to the journey to where you are now, Now I gotta talk about WordPress retainers. I gotta let you go on this because I mean, from a business model standpoint. So the first part was for prospective clients, if you are looking for a great partner in Devex is awesome. Um, and you can see how they work.

But now I kinda wanna talk about for our other fellow agencies out there and freelancers, um, when you say retainer, I instantly perk it, perk up because it’s consistent revenue. It allows you to work with good clients. See, you know, committed value, what you’re doing. And I mean, so many times I talk to agencies and it’s the feas famine, it’s up and down.

And from a pure business standpoint, I go retainers all the way, subscriptions all the way. Um, but tell me about WordPress retainers. [00:17:00] I wanna let you go on this. Just see, get your thoughts and I’ll chime in and ask questions. Oh man, I’m pretty sure I have so much to, to say about retainers. Again, I’m so passionate about that.

Like, a lot of people just call me crazy, like, do, like, that’s not the only way, right? People still do one off projects. People still want a fixed food, still look for just, uh, you know, um, $99 maintenance or something like that. Like, so many other opportunities. I’m like, Nope, everything’s a retainer. That, that’s just how my head works, right?

I’m, I’m so brainwashed at this point. So we can just start a separate, like, uh, you know, post retainers post or whatever, and, and you know, I have. At least a hundred episodes prerecorded for you. Uh, but, but, but really, I mean, we do as an agency and like, not just my agency, but, but like other businesses as well, we do have a legal formal retainer, right.

Retainers are fairly popular in the low, uh, kind of field, you know, reviewing contracts and kind of, you know, sending, I know letter of intent or NDAs or whatever. We do have a legal formal retainer. We can’t get access to a lawyer on time unless you have that. [00:18:00] Uh, we have a c p A, we’re an accounting firm retainer, and like we work with other business, like a PPC firm retainer or like , gen, DemandGen, whatever it is, right?

It’s, it’s really not unpopular, right? What I’m trying to say is we haven’t reinvented the wheel. We haven’t kind of invented, like, I know traveling, uh, flying to Mars and then actually flying back to Earth. We haven’t quite done that. Uh, so it’s popular in different fields, is what I’m trying to say.

Marketing right. Copywriting, Azure reviews, like even brand work, it is essentially retainer. So what, what I saying is most other indu industries have figured it out already. Why haven’t we, you mentioned the feast and feminists as a very common problem, right? I hate that. I hate the fact that if you don’t have business close by, let’s say December 15, you have to wait up until, let’s say February 1st to start getting some leads.

That sucks. Or December is your busiest way of the month of the year period, simply because everyone wants [00:19:00] everything done by the end of the year. That’s so common. In the industry that’s burning people out and making their lives miserable, simply because it’s based on that seasonality that everyone’s looking for, right?

So I firmly believe in diversification. I firmly believe in recurring revenue, right? Uh, if I had to start all over, the first thing I would do in a business is just chase recurring revenue as the holy Grail period to rather rise, and probably not even going to get there, just recurring revenue that. Uh, and diversification, like building a business model that’s not as expensive.

Like it’s not, you have an agency of five people and then you have to get a project with three people full-time, and then you can take another project, or you can only take one or two. And when this project is done, you have no idea what to do after, right? So retainers so. Both the fifth and timing thing due to that recurring plan and long-term planning and the diversification thing.

And of course it’s recurring revenue that you can plan around, figure out if there is kind of a payroll to be tackled. It actually helps you out and kind of define [00:20:00] a proper financial modeling of like revenue and profit margins. And again, hiring plans like can you afford to go to an event or sponsor something out does make sense to do PR or like, like lots of opportunities when you know kind of what you’re making more or less on a monthly basis.

So, Yeah, again, probably oversimplifying, but like again, in my head it’s just retainers and like everything else is, um, like a . Yeah, I totally agree. Um, it, it’s just better for business when you have that consistent revenue and you’re not trying to continually go out and allows the business, your business to, to hire good people, retain good people.

So like in that scenario, when you’re hiring a firm like Devex, Um, you’ve done all the recruiting for that technical talent. You’ve done all that time and expense that it takes to find good people. And so they don’t have to do that. They can co concentrate on their core expertise, and it’s a huge benefit.

And I, I would [00:21:00] say this too, like I’m on the bandwagon with you. Um, I, I would say like you should want to. Businesses that have retainers because, you know, there’s a long, they, it’s, it’s better for the business. Growth that, that you’re using with a vital vendor. Um, yeah, so, okay, love that. We’ll be talking more, we’ll come back to WordPress retainers cuz I, I agree.

I think if more agencies went to that, it could be a net effect to say like, this is how you get consistent quality work. Um, from an agency you can depend on, just like you hire a full-time person, you pay them salary or whatever it is on a consistent basis, it frees them up to focus on what they do best.

I mean, your life is, as you said, like you’re hiring people. It, it, you know, you pay them on a, like every couple weeks, every month or whatever it is. You pay rent, you pay, you know, electricity bill or like, like most things that you pay in life are just schedules, right? Every couple weeks, every month or so.

So that’s [00:22:00] how life works. So not trying to invest in. Kind of recurring revenue is just counterintuitive. That said, product businesses, especially SaaS and subscription based, they know that and that’s why they’re successful. That’s why unicorns are normally SaaS businesses, they’re scalable, they have better ROI and so forth.

So like in most cases when you have a successful product business, you know, that like that’s the only way forward, right? Uh, but, but I think that kind of the biggest obstacle, like the biggest reason why people. In kind of the WordPress space are not spending time thinking about retainers is due to the fact that service-based businesses are traditionally not structured as retainers.

Right? You, like you, when you call a home board, it’s not a retainer service when you call a I know hairdresser. It’s not a retainer service unless you turn it into an, unless you turn it into a package, unless you turn it into something else. And, uh, I was just looking, uh, just a couple months ago. Well, couple months ago I was speaking with Brian Castel from Zipes.

He has a great service for ay and ay kind of [00:23:00] ambassador, but back like maybe a, I dunno, 10 years ago or so, he had a, a, a website, I think it was productized and scale and she was teaching people. Yeah. You know, wow. I I was, I was a student. Yeah. I mean, you know, you know that like he was literally teaching people how to stop changing every single project and turn whatever series they.

Into a product, right? Um, Naval, you know, the AngelList guru, like, oh, ominous investor, you know, like the, the tweet rockstar and so forth. He also has a productized type of service, uh, and, and book as well, just preaching about that, right? So like a lot of smart people, a lot of people smarter than me, Have figured out that services have to be productized.

And again, you, you have been a student of brand. You know what, he preaches it. It’s really the, it, it’s just a mantra. It’s just a way of thinking. Like the entire world is living around monthly costs, monthly fees, you know, your bank takes a monthly whatever, uh, or annual. Create [00:24:00] card fee taxes or anything else, like you file annual taxes as an individual and like everything else, right?

Everything is recurring. So turning, adapting and adjusting to that one way or another is going to make your life easier so that you have that spare time actually thinking of strategy and bigger picture things. Well, in particular in web, web work, it’s someone to rely on, someone to go to and trust and know they’re gonna be there to help you with your technical needs in particular.

Hmm. Okay, we can geek out on this for the rest of the time, but I wanted to talk about your journey. So we’ll have to follow up, uh, Mario, and, and talk more about retainers, cuz I think it’s something that we need to talk about in, in the ecosystem so that there’s more sustainable businesses with outcomes that products that clients can, can rely on.

Absolutely. Okay. So I’m curious. Devex and all the other things you have going, you have several projects [00:25:00] you talked about, like SAS and different things of your own. Um, in addition to helping your clients with that, um, 50 people, all this work. That’s crazy. Congratulations on your journey to get here. Oh, thank you.

But how’d you get here? So I know we got back, you got a computer technical background, you found WordPress. What was that first step when you started, um, getting paid to do what you’re doing that eventually led to and grew to what you’re doing now? Um, Yeah, good question again. So considering the fact that my background was in software engineering, I already had, um, idea and exposure to different businesses doing that, right?

Uh, I worked for two different, It’s development shops. It’s not quite an agency, but it kind of works similarly. Uh, but you know, I still, I was still working on, on proposals. I was still working on kind of functional analysis and lots of different like, uh, time and material type [00:26:00] of projects going through me for just for more complex projects or rather, Projects that were taking more time due to the tech stack, right?

Uh, so what I’m saying is, and, and that’s kind of also a piece of advice I often kind of recommend to my, you know, followers and people just kind of, uh, working with me. If, if you wanna start your kind of own business, just don’t start with no experience whatsoever. Spend at least a few years working in a business kind of similar business, especially a service-based business, which is fairly dynamic.

To understand how, uh, you know, the, the, the bread and butter, how sausage is made, as they say, right? Uh, and, and takes to figure out what the business looks like, like who’s in charge, like who’s, you know, generating revenue, what’s kind of the pipeline like, and, and, and just go through that process a few times to figure out how it works.

It’s a lot easier than, yeah, go ahead. Get? No. I wanted to say yes, a hundred percent. A hundred thousand percent. Most entrepreneurs I’ve known over my career didn’t go in high school or [00:27:00] school go, I’m gonna be an entrepreneur. I’m gonna be a startup founder. That’s a whole startup. Founder’s a whole other thing over here, but most entrepreneurs will talk about.

Including this one stumbled into it, fell into it. And what you said there is so relevant. I’ve got friends that own construction companies, um, ma big manufacturing companies, and what you said right there, so vital because you didn’t just, we weren’t just perhaps born with all of this knowledge about how do I.

How do I do a client proposal or anything? And I, so I think if there’s someone that has that interest in buildings having their own business, that is critical because you can watch, I look back at my career, Mario, and I’m like, oh, I learned leadership from these people. This one I learned leadership. Not to do the opposite, but like that collection of experiences is so vital.

So I just wanted to say, heck yes, because then you get a feel for. How you wanna operate [00:28:00] and see as a model for someone else. So that experience, I just wanna say, heck yeah. Okay. Keep going. And, and and, yeah. I love it. And you mentioned leadership and learning leadership from people how to do or how not to do.

Yeah. And, and the ability to actually work in a, you know, real business. Gives you the opportunity to work with bosses or majors or clients and just understand what you like and what you don’t like, and actually develop your style before you’ve had the chance to start and have no idea what you’re doing.

And like, not even get an opportunity to build your own style. Right. So that’s why I also think it’s, it’s so damn critical. Uh, but, but kind of back to the original topic of kind of WordPress, like working for a few years, I already knew kind of what the process was like. I was already building proposal, I was already talking to clients like, you know, kind of a, a.

Uh, business intelligence person or whatever role I had back in the day. Uh, and, and it wasn’t really. Uncharted territory. However, I, I also spent probably a year just reading freelance resource, right? Uh, there were a bunch of these, like one of them actually got, got acquired by Envado several years [00:29:00] ago.

Uh, but like several kind of freelance. I just, you know, talking about estimates and kind of how you do pricing and taxes and proposals and contracts, like all. Just the, the operational part of the, the work, right? You can get a brief and develop it one way or another, regardless of whether you’re a developer, designer or something.

You, you can get a fun, you know, functional list of features and build it, right? You can go to even weeks and we and squares and all the others and just draft it out one way or another. Right? But there’s so much to lending a project and completing a project to that, right. Uh, First off, lead generation and marketing.

How you do that, how, how you position yourself pr, branding. Then you have sales and negotiations. Then you have again, pricing and estimates. Then you have budgeting for all the horror stories. Then you have gathering requirements. Then you have, uh, time slash resource location. What do you do with multiple projects at a time?

How do you hire, how do you manage projects? How do you report, how do you communicate? [00:30:00] And again, tax and legal. There’s so much in running a business. And again, I’m not saying that to discourage people even though I don’t. Everyone has to deal with all that shit. Uh, but, but there’s just a lot to that. So again, it’s important to be in a business to figure out what the business looks like.

And it’s also important to read and, and kind of figure out how it looks. So after spending several years working for people and learning extensively, and also building small lance projects, I turned into full-time freelancing and almost went bankrupt simply because it was still not. It was just still not enough.

Right? My negotiation skills sucked. Uh, I was really bad into that. I was great at allowing scope creep to happen, right? A month long project, easily turned into a five month project to the same fee. Cause clients wanted everything and anything in the world, and I was a good guy and letting that. And this was absolutely terrible and a horrible way to just run a business.

Right? Uh, luckily I had other ways to make money, which is essentially my technical [00:31:00] training and kind of other capabilities, kind of charging high profile consulting rates, working for companies like S A P and VMware and, uh, a bunch of other Jans, including cern, the Hadron Collider Company, uh, and so forth.

Like they were literally paying all my expenses like several months ahead so that I can. Go to realizing. Um, and, and I mean, it was funny. I really wanted to do that. I said like, I was okay at development, right? And like I was building my brand and stuff, but negotiations just, just terrible. Just, just horrible, right?

Uh, so, so this was a pretty slippery thing up until we got our first pro. Well, it was I and. Like one person, my kind of co-founder, uh, who’s our CTO right now, um, we were kind of working on one of projects really hard to, to just compensate financially. But we got the first project paying a monthly retainer, right?

And it was absolutely eye-opening, right? So, so this way we [00:32:00] kind of. Kept working with them, allocating enough time, uh, getting some breeding room, not arguing on scope, like whether you’re getting paid or not. Getting a solid monthly paycheck, and then allocating resource for the team. Growing a small team, it was really great in like, all right, like that’s how it’s supposed to be done.

It’s really efficient. We are delivering more. We are not spending time marketing, and so everyone’s happy. Uh, so like this was the way to, to get it done. Um, now this was a horror story in itself in the sense of, um, one day that plan that was literally generating 90% of our 85% came to us and said, look guys, this software is so great.

It can run on autopilot for a year. We’re just going to take the next four months off, just like literally doing nothing and keep it, you know, on autopilot for another four or five months and then sell it. Because like we literally, it’s absolutely brilliant. Doesn’t require maintenance. Thank you so much for helping us out, [00:33:00] but we are not going to pay anymore.

Right? So we were, as you know, people say we were victims. Our of our own. . Um, so the reason that failed is the, the second reason I like retainers, which is divers. It’s just being smart enough not to work with Longwell and, and kind of going bankrupt. So anyways, I, I had this followed a couple months when I was working, probably 18 hours a day.

Just, you know, calling, waking up in the morning, uh, sales coach with Australia in the evening, sales calls with the States daytime, trying to chase local league in Europe. So it was, uh, uh, a horrible part of my life. But even. Did close some projects to help us persevere over the next four or five months, and we tried to turn all of them into retainers and we converted maybe two or three of them as retainers.

So this got us back into the recurring revenue game and gave us a solid start and, and just, you know, Allowed us to be grateful and thankful to these clients. And also keep chasing even [00:34:00] small projects or other deals or kind of maintenance or steroids or support jobs or whatever it is, and just add to that retainer portfolio.

So I’d say this is the kind of the high level of how it worked out and some of the obvious horror stories of why it was this close to not working out if it wasn’t for. I think that’s part of the gig with being an entrepreneur is start, start going on something, see when something’s not working, and try to refine the process.

You know, looking at a business as a product itself and going, we’re having a bug here, we need to, you know, patch that bug. We want a new feature release, new version release. Okay. And I see that with your. Is I, I resonate too, by the way, with it. I don’t like sales . I don’t like the back and forth contract stuff.

Um, I’ve done all that, but I don’t like it. And then going, it seems like there was this big version release with your journey where you’re like, this is not working. We’re gonna go to this new [00:35:00] model, and why it helped. Were there other things along the way that were catalysts to where you are? Uh, perhaps, I mean, there are a bunch of these, but I’m going to try to synthesize them in a short term manner.

So one of them was just rediscovering corporate. Um, again, I had exposure to different systems and different platforms at, at some point in time. At the same time, um, I had a. I had a c plus plus project going on for, for mining, you know, gold mines and all those cards pulling, mines c plus plus. I was building, uh, a similar software for, for set up boxes for hotels.

Uh, I was working on a UNICEF project in Jango, which is Python. I had a couple of PhD projects and I still had like, uh, my Java job, like some remaining projects that I was completing. Right. So it was, and I was also working on Android. By the way, but that’s still kind of Java. So very diverse, very, you know, [00:36:00] inconsistent and focused kind of way of, of doing development.

But it was working out, right. The problem is you can’t really kind of specialize in one thing or the other. So one of my. Clients for the Jango app. Uh, he was starting a theme framework business, right? For, for kind of one of the big, uh, team marketplaces. So I joined as a Ct O right? Just kind of technical reviews and stuff.

We had a lead developer, so I spent maybe three months working day-to-day on WordPress, actually trying to extend it towards a powerful theme framework. Now, whether this was a great idea of providing the monstrous premium multipurpose theme, experie. That’s a different story, but it really opened my eyes as to how flexible WordPress is besides design, right?

Custom posts, custom taxonomy settings, API options, API transients, lots of different things happening behind the scenes. That was pre rests API and. Pretty guttenberg and stuff, but it really told me, all right, like this is actually extensible, right? [00:37:00] You can build an e-commerce from scratch, you can build a mo, you know, a marketplace from scratch or whatever.

You can build an OMS from scratch. It’s not a hacky way. It’s not something that you’re patching on top of that, because you know, It has to be in WordPress, it’s actually thought out, right? You do have APIs and and SDK and stuff to do stuff. And if it doesn’t make sense, for example, like stable or so for the general ui, it works out right away.

You can register postop in 20 lines of code. Great. If it works out, great. If not, just register a custom table and then wrap it up without P d B or so and then it still works out, right? So this was kind of my, uh, you know, Revelation of, alright, you can start real quick. If you know what you’re doing, you can scale indefinitely and just grow it to infinity because you say, alright, 95% of the products still working.

This one is, is kind of not working out. Let’s say notifications are in, I know, post me. Stupid idea, [00:38:00] right? Just lead them, move them to a custom table or whatever, or like lead them, move them to Rabbit 10 q, delete them, move them to a NoSQL table, whatever. Regardless, build a micro SA or whatever, microservices.

Go, go to Amazon Lambda, right? Just extract that thing. Co a jack there, rest api. You are done. Right? You can the, the compare decompartmentalize or so the, the project in a way that you actually allows you to tap into different pieces and only. Extract the piece that is outgrown the platform. Everything else remains and stays the same.

Um, I think this was one of the key moments that really made a difference because just picking WordPress is, alright, this is worth investing in for the next 20 years. Uh, in itself is, is kind of a tough choice, okay? You. Segued into my next question. So thank you for sharing your story, some of your experiences that so many people can learn from, and then what you all do in WordPress.

[00:39:00] Um, now I wanna switch gears to the last couple of minutes we have left, Mario, and, and you’ve been through a long journey with WordPress and you just said it, you’re like, where I wanna work with the tool for the next 20 years. I’m curious your perspectives on WordPress in the future. What, what, what do you see the good, bad, and bad and ugly in the future for WordPress?

We love this open, open source software that’s enabled so many of us to live our dreams, um, in business. Um, click publish, like that’s how my journey started, uh, with WordPress and. So I’m just curious, and I keep asking this question of our members, cuz I think it’s something we need to keep an eye on and I want to hear from talented people that know what they’re talking about.

So what are your thoughts on the future of WordPress? Uh, yeah, great question. Definitely a thoughtful question that’s hard to kind of sum up in a academia. I do. I still believe in the future of WordPress, I believe that powering 44% of the weapons show it’s really [00:40:00] hard to beat and really hard to compete with.

Right. Uh, what I think is there are several segments that are eating up. WordPress’s market share right now. For instance, e-commerce, Shopify, uh, basic side builders weeks, really, uh, webflow and that kind of stuff, or Squarespace or whatever, right? There are several aspects that are kind of trying to eat that up.

Uh, and I think that WordPress has to, to, as a community, as an ecosystem, as just future feature, just trying to work on, uh, more power. More resilient way to make it happen, right. Uh, again, historically World has got famous with the famous five Minute in install and the ability to turn any design into a theme.

I think that we’ve kind of moved away from that right now. It’s easier to start a site in one of the site builders and it’s easier to turn a Figma into your. Outside WordPress, right? So I think we need to strengthen down and get back to the basics and make that possible and either turn Gutenberg into something that makes it [00:41:00] possible or like, I don’t know, acquire Elementor or something like that, or build builder or whatever, and just just actually make it possible in-house.

So I think this is kind of one area that just WordPress needs to double down. The second thing is WordPress became popular because, Businesses are wo, like successful businesses are using WordPress and they’re using WordPress primarily because they used to be bloggers and, and writers and journalists using WordPress.

So they, you know, turn into marketing majors, marketing directors, VP of marketing, CMOs, and they say, Nope, we are using WordPress. Like, everyone’s going to use WordPress. We know how to, like, this is the, the defacto platform. And right now that disconnect that, you know, the latest generation is. As much of an adapt of WordPress is also lightly slightly concerning.

And I think that we just need to, uh, pay attention to that. And then just thinking of the next generations, you know, gen Zs and, uh, Jane Alpha, what, uh, Matt said at State of the World right, was, Hey, that’s why we are building. Tum to WordPress so that this is a [00:42:00] social media slash social networking experience that kids use and then they move to WordPress.

So I’m not sure how exactly it’s going to, uh, plan out, but I think that the moment we finalize and just improve the editing experience of Guttenberg and WordPress, the moment we turn tumble into WordPress and just kind know, get more adoption, get. Kids back into the WordPress field, uh, we are pretty much good to go for the next 10 years.

We just need to not forget about our competitors and make sure we, uh, we really stand our way. I totally agree. You, you nailed it. You know, Squarespace, wick and Wesley have eaten the bottom of the market. Um, I knew this from my themes with themes. I mean, quickly, they, they got on the scene. Um, and, and I think about my kids in the future is like, there’s WordPress needs to exist.

Open source needs to exist. Web publishing in this manner needs to exist for the future because there’s this tendency, we just had a billion. By Twitter, rock the Boat, right? Or there’s another change in Facebook [00:43:00] or Instagram that affects a lot of businesses, and the flag we’ve always flown at WordPress is freedom.

The ability to do whatever you want with it, including fork, it, , ghost is getting the news again today and WordPress. So I, I love that. I think, um, your vision about the Gutenberg and the publishing experience is so critical. I just talked to someone, um, uh, a couple weeks ago about, uh, the Fed averse and understanding that little and thinking there’s an opportunity there for WordPress to.

The, the Fed averse, um, whatever that is, WordPress needs to make these changes, these little, little direction things that come back and go. It was a, it is and has been a powerhouse for democratized in publishing as we know it. But like you pointed out all these things, technology continues to accelerate and we gotta keep pace.

We gotta keep ahead to keep that core mission alive in the [00:44:00] world. Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Mario, thank you so much for being on podcast, uh, post status draft. Thanks for being a member of Post Status. You’ve been, been with us for a long time, and thanks for sharing your experiences and your journey with others.

I appreciate you so much. Where can people learn more about you? Uh, well, thanks, uh, once again for having me. It’s, uh, definitely a great crew and, uh, you know, kudos, kudos to brand for also starting all that at, uh, eight years ago or so. Uh, and I’ve been a member for like, I know back then, maybe seven, eight years or so.

Uh, people can, uh, look me up, Mario patch dot coms, my website when I’m, uh, building. Kind of a portfolio like my online m MBA book of source. Also, also I’m on, uh, Twitter noia with underscores or LinkedIn, Mario Pasu. These are kind of the main networks most on the other socials. But definitely, uh, make sure you, you touch base and of course on postal Slack, which is, uh, you know, kind of the, the cool kids place for WordPress tips.

Absolutely. I love it. Thanks Mario. You [00:45:00] have a great day and I hope to see you soon, my friend. Likewise. Have a good one and chat soon. Bye.

This article was published at Post Status — the community for WordPress professionals.

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