In this interview, I talk to Matt Medeiros from the Matt Report podcast, his agency Slocum Studio, and products at Slocum Themes. His podcast focuses on WordPress news, interviews, and advice for freelancers, businesses, and agencies. The agency provides design and development services, and his products include premium WordPress themes and plugins.
Here is a summary of the interview with Matt Medeiros.
I’ve been doing the agency stuff for nearly 10 years now. The concept started in 2007 when I was working as a project manager for an ISP. At the time, my father was a professional photographer and had sold our family business, which was in cars that we had had for roughly 40 years.
So my father’s first paid gig was a high-end jewellery shop who also needed a new website. The ISP that I was working at had just acquired a Drupal shop through another ISP so I was familiar with set up of sites. We looked at Drupal and quickly shifted to WordPress as I got acclimated to WordPress. So I did that on the side, and that little nugget became Slocum Studio.
Back when I was at the ISP ingrained in Drupal, I, with a co-partner, developed one of the first Drupal-focused themes. That was the genesis of me getting into digital products. I had done it for Drupal so I thought I should try it for WordPress, which is what we’re doing with Slocum Themes.
As for Matt Report, I saw how Jake Goldman who runs 10up growing his agency at an exponential rate. I had worked on some projects with him, including a TechCrunch redesign, and I saw that he had such strong ties in the community. To try to match his cadence, I started the Matt Report. I didn’t think it was going to be a podcast at the time. I was planning on just doing blog posts about people in the community to highlight their work.
I used to listen to Mixergy at the time and so I thought, why don’t I try to become the Andrew Warner of the WordPress world. So that was the idea to get my name out there and build better ties with the community.
We’re located on the south coast region of Massachusetts and there’s the Slocum River near our agency. I grew up on the river as we have a house on it. My father grew up there, and so did his father. Summertime growing up involved a lot of activities on the river like hunting and fishing.
So it was important for us to come up with a brand name that’s grounded and had roots in the area, and not something generic like “DigiShop” or “eWordpress” or something. We wanted something rooted in the community.
We’re a team of 6 people at the studio now and it’s a good controllable number when it comes to products and services. Our lead developer takes care of running development related things, and I can focus on business retention and development.
One thing that does happen is that during some parts of the year client work takes precedence over our products and vice versa. As an example, around holidays the agency work dips down, and around the new year it picks back up when everyone has plans for their websites.
There’s always that fees-to-famine aspect of agency life where some months are great but others are terrible. One good thing about agency life is that you can sell the same project for $500 to one person but for $5,000 to the next person.
However, we are conscious of the fact that you need multiple streams of revenue to make sure you can weather downturns in certain parts of the business, if that happens.
Hands down my favorite podcast is Mitch Joel from Six Pixels of Separation. Still some Mixergy, Tim Ferriss, and in terms of WordPress I listen to all my competitors.
- Find the skill-set you’re really going to excel at. Don’t just take things for the money. As you excel up the heightened revenue, they’ll pay more money, but their expectation also changes on the quality of service, integrations, from the technical side, etc. So be ready for that before you get in over your head.
- For small agencies, if the customer is trying to price you out and has unrealistic expectations of what they’ll get from a low price, take that opportunity to do some consulting with the business.
There are a lot of customers who are afraid of setting up an eCommerce store because they’re afraid of all the leg work required in setting things up. So to them, my advice is to trust the platform a little, hire a professional, and be courteous of a professional’s services.
If you know you’re going to do well with your products, it’s okay to spend some money. If you’re going to make $1,000 by using a $30 plugin, then it’s okay to use it. If you have costs in the real world, why would you not have costs online.
Start out possibly on WordPress.com as it’s safer and you can get the basic stuff done very well. Even if the first iteration exactly how you’re expecting, get something up and improve upon it.
Another thing to do is understand how to pick the best WordPress plugin. A lot of it comes down to what your goals are and what’s the best fit for those.
I’m excited in the change of direction in the software from external sources. It’s hard to continue the same growth WordPress has had in its fragmented state. So the only way to improve the experience is to tighten the experience.
I recently wrote about what I think is going to be the future of WordPress experience.
For the business, we’re trying to focus on finding a way to service the small businesses around the area. A way that’s more all-encompassing – whether it’s local workshops, presentations, or events. We’re trying to find a way to service them better with information they can get direct results from.
For the product side, rebranding our Conductor plugin and the messaging around it – which we’re aiming to launch by the end of this month.
And for the podcast, trying to turn that into more of a business by actively pursuing sponsorship for the show. I’m also trying to find more creative ways of delivering content better ways like mini-series or something.
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