It’s often been said that the most important skill for running a successful WordPress business (or any business for that matter) is the ability to spot talent in people, persuading them to work with you, and then managing them effectively.
Although that is an essential factor in running a successful business, it’s not the complete story. There is a set of skills combined with some level of experience that you must hold before you can make it big in this industry.
In this article, we’ll take a step back from the day to day activities and tasks that see us work in our business. Instead, we’ll look at some of the skills a successful entrepreneur should possess so that they can work on their business and start climbing the ladder of success.
Let’s put this all into context before we get started.
Online Businesses and WordPress
WordPress is the fastest growing content management system (CMS) on the Web and now powers 25% of the world’s websites according to the latest W3Techs survey. You’ll also notice that 57% of websites don’t use a CMS at all so there is still plenty of room for growth and further world domination.
Since you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume that you’re an avid WordPress user or you probably at least already know why it’s a solid choice for a platform to build your business around. But for those of you who are still in the decision-making process and are yet to fully commit to WordPress, let’s go over some reasons why you might want to do so:
Free: WordPress is free and it always will be. Whether your business involves creating websites for clients, developing plugins and themes, offering support to WordPress users, or any other service related to the WordPress ecosystem, you and your clients and customers will never have to pay a fee to leverage this software. This lack of financial barrier is partly responsible for the growth in WordPress users, and in turn, the growing number of potential clients and customers you can draw from.
Flexible: WordPress is extremely flexible and this is another one of the major reasons why so many people are drawn to it in the first place. The WordPress repository has an impressive number of freely available plugins that will increase the functionality of a website in just a few clicks. The number of commercial plugins, not to mention free and premium themes on offer is just as impressive, ensuring that no two WordPress websites need ever be the same.
Safe: The WordPress team put an extra emphasis on security by providing regular updates to the software that help prevent attacks from hackers and other sources. Despite the core WordPress software being highly secure, there are also extra measures you can put in place to further harden the security of your website in the form of purpose-built security plugins.
E-commerce Capabilities: WordPress provides users with countless e-commerce solutions that allow you to simply list a single item for sale or completely convert your site into an online store. You can integrate WordPress with popular free plugins like WooCommerce or Easy Digital Download to get your business started right away.
Responsive: A majority of your site’s traffic will now come from mobile devices and making your site responsive is no longer optional – it’s a must. WordPress makes this easy as most of the modern themes available for it are responsive right out of the box, including our very own multipurpose powerhouse Divi.
Freedom. Once you’ve made the decision to choose WordPress, that is just the start of your decision-making journey. You are free to choose whichever web host you want, exactly what you do with your website and even any changes you might want to make to the underlying code of the WordPress software itself. WordPress offers freedom and it’s something that can’t be taken away from you for breaking rules or not paying bills as can happen with some other free and commercial products and services.
A Note on Outsourcing
Mastering all of the skills we are about to cover takes time and hard work. Instead of putting your business on hold until you acquire them, there is another option.
That is outsourcing and by hiring an expert in an area you are lacking in can really help your business get off the ground or start scaling faster. In fact, many successful entrepreneurs know that the power of delegating and outsourcing can be a great way to achieve your short term goals until you are ready to build a more permanent team. Sometimes it’s in your better interest (and that of your business) to outsource some of your work and focus on the core mission of your online business and the one or two things that you do best, rather than trying to do everything yourself
Some examples of areas of your WordPress business where you might want to consider outsourcing include design and development tasks; content creation duties; promotional and marketing efforts; and of course, monetary and financial related responsibilities.
Building a team isn’t mandatory. However outsourcing or delegating tasks and duties on a project by project basis, or through a more permanent arrangement, if done correctly, will help your business grow faster and turn your freelance project into something more scalable.
So now that we know why WordPress is a safe bet to build your business around, whether that’s by creating products for clients in the form of websites. offering services and products to other WordPress users, using WordPress as the underlying technology for your store or another project, or by tapping into the growing ecosystem in some other way, let’s take a look at the top 10 skills that are needed to run a successful WordPress business.
1. Strategy and Planning
Learning how to effectively plan and then set business goals is one of the most important skills that an entrepreneur should focus on developing, even before their business is off the ground. Without SMART goals, it becomes difficult to stay focused, move forward productively, and even know whether you are making any progress at all or not.
Establishing smaller goals that are achievable in shorter periods of time – alongside your bigger picture targets – tends to work well and will help to keep you and your employees and team members motivated over the long run. The next step is to define an action plan for your team members to ensure everyone is on the same page.
The final step is to set benchmarks and measure your business’s performance regularly against these key performance indicators to see if the goals you’ve created are being met. The ability to develop a strategy and follow it through with an excellent plan is an essential skill to achieving success.
2. Time Management and Productivity
Once you’ve established your goals and what you should be focusing on, it’s all about getting down to work and getting things done.
No matter what field you are in, managing your time effectively and becoming more productive is a vital skill to have. However, it’s rarely more important than when you are working for yourself.
If you only get paid when you are working then it’s essential that you are able to keep your equivalent hourly rate as high as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to minimize the time that is wasted while you should be working. Dragging out tasks that you don’t enjoy is a surefire way to earn less money and is a good sign that this aspect of your work is ripe for outsourcing.
In order to optimize your working hours and generate as much profit from your day as possible, there are some effective time management techniques you can adopt. This includes prioritizing the most important tasks and being realistic about how much work you can actually take on.
Another important time management lesson to understand is the Pareto Principle (aka the 80/20 rule). The rule basically states that 80% of a business’s profit comes from 20% of the effort that is put in. To operate a successful WordPress business, you need to identify the 20% of activities that generate you the most profit and focus there. This is instead of focusing on the remaining 80% of your effort that only generates 20% of your profits.
Making lists and assigning yourself deadlines can help get you started with managing your time effectively. The hard part is maintaining that routine over a longer period of time. Some people work more productively when they have a boss or manager that they have to report to. As a WordPress business owner, you’ll have to be your own boss and take deadlines seriously.
If you want a better handle on where your time is spent and how productive you are being, be sure to check out these time tracking apps for independent workers.
3. Personal and Professional Development
You might be the best in your field right now, but there is always someone out there working away, honing their skills, and getting ready to launch their product or service in the same space.
Competition shouldn’t be feared and with the right mindset it can be a great motivator. However, it’s essential that you don’t never rest on your laurels or consider yourself the finished article. Instead, it’s highly recommended that you set aside some time each week to not only improve your current skillset but also work on keep your existing ones up to date.
Things move pretty fast in the online world and WordPress and its ecosystem is no exception. The WordPress software is updated on a regular basis, new plugins are released all the time, and design trends and tastes can change at an alarming pace.
When time is money and without a boss to pack you off on paid-for training courses, it can be easy to push personal and professional development to the back of the to-do list and focus on short term wins instead of the bigger picture.
However, taking this approach would be doing yourself and your business a great disservice that could have disastrous consequences for your future prospects. Thankfully in our line of work there are plenty of places where you can improve your WordPress skills and other abilities online without ever having to set foot out of your home office.
4. Content Creation
No matter what services or products you are offering, or what the focus of your business is, there is no escaping the need for high-quality content.
Whether you want to generate new leads through content marketing, convert more visitors into customers or clients through your sales page, or simply deliver a completed web design job to a client, your business is going to require high-quality content at some point.
Thankfully content creation is one of the easiest aspects of your business to outsource. With many freelance bloggers and copywriters available for hire at any given moment, finding someone to create the content for your blog, craft your sales page, and work on your email newsletter shouldn’t be a problem.
Writing is just one aspect of content creation and in this digital age, content can take many forms. If you aren’t a natural writer or don’t have the inclination to become one, there’s nothing stopping you from launching a podcast, starting a vlog, or getting creative with your camera phone.
However, as tempting as it is to offload all of your content creation duties, it’s not entirely necessary. With many great resources covering how to produce content that will grow your business out there, it’s a good idea to get a good understanding of what content you really need before hiring someone to create it for you.
5. Search Engine Optimization
Is SEO dead? Not while search engines like Google are still around it’s not. However, it’s a constantly changing world and its one you will have to get to grips with. That is if you want to keep the new leads coming in while also ensuring any websites you build for your clients are able to draw traffic from the search engines. You might even find your clients asking for help with SEO, presenting another way to generate revenue for your business.
WordPress is nicely search engine optimized right out of the box. However, there’s more you can do to give your site a fighting chance in the search engine results pages (SERPS). The first step is to install a proven WordPress SEO plugin and then start getting familiar with what is working now in search engine optimization.
SEO is not only vital for promoting your own business and services but its something you need to be able to speak knowledgeably about with your clients when discussing a project. Get really good at SEO and it could also add another revenue stream to your business as an extra service you can provide.
6. Market Research
Hundreds of seemingly brilliant ideas get shot down every day for the simple reason that no one’s willing to pay for the product or service they offer. Researching the market is a vital step in developing a product or service that will actually sell. Remember that without customers you won’t have a business or at least not for long.
Conducting market research for an original idea can prove to be difficult. The best course of action in such a situation is to survey your potential target market to get some perspective into how they react to your business idea.
Setting up a survey is simple with Google Forms (or Gravity Forms, if you’d rather stay within WordPress) and you can convert the collected data into meaningful graphs and charts to quickly get a better insight into the what the market wants.
Other options include reaching out to your ideal clients and pitching them the offer, launching with a minimum viable product (MVP) before going all in, or seeing how the competitors in your proposed niche are fairing – low competition can be good, but it can also signal a lack of demand. And remember, a lot of people might like your idea, but if you can’t get them to put down a deposit or purchase an MVP, then their praise alone isn’t worth much.
Before starting work on a new project or product, or deciding to add a new service to your portfolio, it’s highly recommend that you carry out some form of market research into whether there is a genuine need and want for what you are planning. The Internet makes it easier than ever to conduct market research in a short period of time as you can now connect with a global audience.
7. Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing currently accounts for a small fraction of online business marketing budgets. However, that number is expected to increase from 9% to 22% in the next five years. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have become a part of our daily lives and what better way to market your product than through a platform that’s being accessed throughout most of the day, all around the world.
Here are a few quick social media statistics that you cannot afford to ignore:
- 93% of social media users believe a company should have a presence in social media.
- 60% of all online adults use social media.
- 56% of users feel a stronger connection with, and feel better served by, companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment.
Social media networks give businesses another way to connect with their target audience and introduce them to their services and products. In many cases, it will be quicker to grow your reach by leveraging social media, rather than building your own platform in the form of a blog or email list.
As well as boosting your own business, becoming proficient at social media marketing, again, like SEO, gives you another string to add to your bow when offering services to clients.
8. Sales and Negotiation
It’s just a guess, but you probably didn’t launch your own business or start freelancing to end up as a salesperson. However, the tough fact of life is that sales are now an essential skill you need to develop or at least know enough about in order to be able to find someone capable who can work in this role on your behalf.
Many of the other skills we’ve already covered, if mastered and put into practice, will reduce your reliance of cold calling or pitching. Successful SEO, content marketing, and social media marketing efforts should have potential clients and customers flocking to your door.
However, you will still need to convert those hot leads into paying clients and customers and that is where your sales and negotiation acumen will need to come to the fore. There’s a lot you can do to perfect your sales funnel in order to land more clients, but at some point you will need to communicate directory with those prospects and seal the deal. That is unless you’re selling a product or you’ve successfully managed to productive your services.
In most cases, you will need to go out and find clients and customers in the early days and becoming better at sales and negotiation will help your business get off the ground faster.
9. Responding to Feedback and Emerging Trends
Whether you ask for it or not, you should start receiving feedback from your customers and clients fairly quickly. Once this information starts coming your way you can either ignore it, just focus on the good stuff, or take it all on board and use it to improve your offer.
The last option is the preferred choice as your brilliant idea of today, might not be in such high demand tomorrow. Keeping your head down and focusing on offering a popular service or product might keep you busy for now, but if you don’t keep your eye on emerging trends you could wake up one day and find there is no longer a market for what you have to offer.
You might be on to a good thing now. However, failing to move with the times or optimize your current offer based on customer and client feedback can negatively affect the longevity of your business and increase the risk of finding you’ve become obsolete.
Setting up a way to collect customer feedback from within WordPress is easy, with many plugins to choose from. However, the main focus should be on making it as easy as possible for your visitors to do so, while also remembering that for some, its just too much to ask.
In those cases, you will have to ask for feedback. While fishing for compliments or critique might not be in your nature, it’s worth remembering that any feedback you receive is a win-win. Positive feedback can help you generate more business in the form of public testimonials and reviews while negative responses can help you improve your business.
10. Financial and Accountancy Abilities
While you don’t need to possess the skills of a qualified accountant, some financial acumen can go a long way. Keeping on top of money coming in and going out can help you get a handle on your profit and loss statement. Taxes are also something you now need to keep on top of as a business owner or self-employed freelancer.
Thankfully there are many online apps and services that will help you do your bookkeeping and stay on top of your finances. While it’s always recommended that you seek out the services of a professional in this area, it’s great to know you can do a lot yourself, with very little effort, including sending out invoices directly from your WordPress website.
Wrapping It Up
So there you have it, my top 10 skills that I think are essential for running a successful WordPress business. In most cases, these are skills that can be outsourced or delegated so there is no need for you to be an expert in all of them.
However, it’s always recommended you have a good basic knowledge of each area your business relies on. This ensures you can confidently talk about each area with potential clients and your peers, and perhaps more importantly, so you can hire the right people to fill your skills gap.
Running a WordPress business isn’t all fun and games, it requires years of hard work and dedication to make it successful and sustainable. It’s not all about focusing on the things you do best and enjoy the most. You will have to get your hands dirty with some of those essential but less glamorous tasks that are required to keep a business ticking over.
Thankfully there are some great resources out there that can help you get better in all areas of your business and make the whole process more enjoyable and more profitable.
Which skills do you feel are most essential to running a successful WordPress business? What areas do you struggle with and what have you learned to do since launching your business that you never thought you’d have to? Please share your thoughts below.
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