So you\u2019ve got a great business idea and you want to create a WordPress startup. Maybe you\u2019re developing a web app, a developer shop, design agency, or a pageview monster that generates AdSense revenue. Regardless, if you\u2019re a first-timer, you\u2019re bound to have lots of questions bouncing around in your head.\r\n\r\nThe title of this post refers to <a href="https:\/\/www.amazon.com\/The-Art-Start-Time-Tested-Battle-Hardened\/dp\/1591840562" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>The Art of the Start<\/em><\/a>. I read it back in 2004 shortly after graduating from my undergrad program, and it answered many of the questions I had at the time. You may have the same questions now, but a lot has changed since then, so consider this an updated cheat sheet version.\r\n\r\nBefore we begin, please don\u2019t consider any of the following to be legal advice. These are my own observations and experiences starting a WordPress business. You should consult an attorney for your specific situation.\r\n\r\nWhat I\u2019ll be covering in this guide:\r\n<ol>\r\n \t<li>Starting a Company<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Riches in Niches<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Assessing Your Finances<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Pricing Your Product or Service<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Defining Your Brand<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Building Your Website<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Streamlining with Business Tools<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Promoting Your Business<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Closing a Sale<\/li>\r\n<\/ol>\r\n<h2>Starting a Company<\/h2>\r\nYou should first educate yourself on the types of company formations available in your home country. Here in the U.S., the main options are <strong>sole proprietor, LLC, LLP, S-Corp<\/strong>, and <strong>C-Corp<\/strong>.\r\n\r\nThen there is the tax aspect to consider. For example, you can be a single-member LLC but file as an S-Corp for tax purposes. Sounds confusing, right?\r\n\r\nIn general, if you\u2019re looking to raise capital down the line or you anticipate being acquired, then a C-Corp is the common approach.\r\n\r\nOr if you\u2019re starting a web agency, for example, and don\u2019t intend to raise capital or be acquired (at least not for quite some time), you\u2019ll probably want to have your attorney explain the advantages\/disadvantages of going with an LLC, LLP, or S-Corp.\r\n\r\nIf you\u2019re a freelancer, going the single-member LLC route is probably the most common approach. It requires minimal paperwork and filing fees, plus it keeps your taxes relatively simple. You\u2019ll file what\u2019s called a \u201cSchedule C,\u201d and you can even file your tax return via something like <a href="https:\/\/turbotax.intuit.com\/personal-taxes\/cd-download\/home-and-business.jsp" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">TurboTax Home & Business<\/a>.\r\n\r\nIf you plan to have partners and don\u2019t want to be liable for their conduct, consider the LLP approach. It\u2019s commonly used for partnerships composed of doctors, architects, lawyers, or accountants.\r\n\r\nAn S-Corp is more formal and has more compliance obligations than an LLC, such as creating a board of directors, annual reports, and shareholder meetings, whereas an LLC is pretty informal and the requirements are minimal. Another striking difference is that with an LLC, profit\/loss can be allocated disproportionately among owners.\r\n\r\nWith an S-Corp, profit\/loss are assigned to each shareholder based on shares of ownership. One main advantage of an S-Corp over an LLC is that if you do decide\/need to convert to a C-Corp at a later date, it can be done much faster and more easily. Converting an LLC to a C-Corp can involve lots of headaches, time, and expense.\r\n<h3>Do I Need a Lawyer?<\/h3>\r\nYes. Talk to a legal expert and get advice. It is absolutely worth the money if you are serious about starting your own business. Laws vary by state and country; getting an expert opinion will help you navigate the business laws and regulations relevant to you.\r\n<h3>Do I Need a Business Plan?<\/h3>\r\nProbably not. You\u2019re better off spending your time developing your product, recruiting a team, and raising seed money if you need it. It\u2019s next to impossible to get a bank loan, and banks are the only places left that ask for a long-winded 30-page business plan these days.\r\n\r\nIf you\u2019re planning on pitching angels and VCs, start researching how to create an awesome pitch deck. I, of course, am strictly anti-VC but I understand that not everybody is...\r\n<h3>Do I Need to Raise Capital?<\/h3>\r\nIt depends on your personal preference and the type of business you\u2019re starting. If someone tells you \u201cnever raise capital,\u201d they\u2019re an idiot. Try starting an electric car company or something like Amazon without capital and see how that goes.\r\n\r\nObviously, some types of businesses absolutely require raising funding while others do not. If you\u2019re starting a web agency or a business that requires little money to get off the ground, then you\u2019re better off retaining 100% ownership and running things the way you like. However, if you\u2019re going into a field where scaling quickly makes sense to avoid being squashed like a cockroach, then consider getting your pitching shoes polished.\r\n<h3>Do I Need a Co-Founder?<\/h3>\r\nMany studies have shown your odds of success are higher when you have a co-founder. Most incubators and startup accelerators actually prefer you have one, but it\u2019s not required.\r\n\r\nIdeally, you want a co-founder who has a complementary skill set. Apple was successful because Jobs and Wozniak were perfect complements to one another. Each was strong where the other was weak.\r\n\r\nIn addition, working as a team can be fun and it\u2019s easier to get through the low points when you are sharing them with someone else. Would you rather stay up all night alone cranking out pitch decks or do that with someone by your side?\r\n\r\nMake sure you don\u2019t mind being married, figuratively (or literally, in my case), to your co-founder. You\u2019ll be spending a lot of time with them and if you don\u2019t jive personally, neither of you will have much fun.\r\n<h3>Do I Need to Hire People?<\/h3>\r\nAbsolutely. Dave McClure, who started 500 Startups, is famous for saying the best founding team consists of a <a href="https:\/\/techcrunch.com\/2011\/04\/10\/dave-mcclure-on-500-startups-if-sequoia-is-the-yankees-were-the-oakland-as\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hacker, hustler, and a designer<\/a>. At the very least, you\u2019re going to need:\r\n<h4>1. Developers<\/h4>\r\nYou might be thinking, \u201cI\u2019m a business guy\/gal, can\u2019t I just hire a developer on Upwork to build my app?\u201d Typically, the best developers aren\u2019t on Upwork. You want to hire developers who you can offer equity to so they have a vested interest in your company (and in keeping their job) and will put their heart and soul into their work.\r\n<h4>2. Salespeople<\/h4>\r\nAs the founder, you\u2019re going to be selling all the time. Whether it\u2019s to potential customers, potential employees, or potential investors. You absolutely need to hire people skilled in sales if you want to scale up properly.\r\n<h4>3. Designers<\/h4>\r\nHow many sites have you stumbled upon and thought, \u201cWow, they have great features but this UI makes me want to puke.\u201d Probably more than a handful. So get designers on board so your UI looks amazing.\r\n<h3>Hiring and Retaining Great People<\/h3>\r\nStudies have routinely shown that emotional intelligence is the <a href="https:\/\/www.forbes.com\/sites\/travisbradberry\/2014\/01\/09\/emotional-intelligence\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">most important predictor of career success<\/a>\u2014more than any other single factor. Prior to this finding, researchers scratched their heads at the fact that average-IQ people would outperform those with the highest IQs a whopping 70% of the time.\r\n\r\nWhy does this matter? Because emotional intelligence (EQ) is critical to being a good boss. You need to understand what motivates your employees and act accordingly.\r\n\r\nBut what happens if you aren\u2019t a good boss? Well, your employees will leave. There\u2019s a good chance your employees are getting job offers all the time without your knowledge. If you don\u2019t treat your employees like gold they\u2019ll be gone.\r\n\r\nRetraining is expensive and time-consuming, so you want to avoid that as much as possible. Turnover is also a surefire way to kill morale.\r\n<h2>Riches in Niches<\/h2>\r\nHere\u2019s a lesson I learned a long time ago: greedy eyes are bad for your wallet.\r\n\r\nOne of the best scenes from any movie is from 1987\u2019s Wall Street. Gordon Gekko gives a ridiculous speech to Teldar Paper shareholders about how greed is good. Gekko makes some valid points; however, the fact is that greed isn\u2019t good.\r\n\r\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=6Da1tDKFfno\r\n\r\nWhat type of greed are we talking about? The \u201cbe all things to all people\u201d greed. The \u201cwe have to sell to all types of customers\u201d greed.\r\n\r\nYou see, most founders and companies want to serve the entire market\u2014capture the \u201cwhole pie,\u201d so to speak. Sounds like a good approach, right? I mean, the more potential customers, the more potential revenue, and so on.\r\n\r\nThe problem with this approach is that, over time, other companies will specialize in various sectors of the market and chip away at your customer base, and it\u2019ll be almost impossible to compete with them.\r\n\r\nIf you\u2019re working on a product that serves ten types of customers and their product serves only one of those, their focus will give them a huge advantage.\r\n<h3>Finding your niche<\/h3>\r\nFocus is key, but what is the best approach to finding your niche? Find one within your space that isn\u2019t currently occupied and use it to scale up quickly.\r\n\r\nEven though the potential market size of your slice might not be as large as the whole pie, you\u2019ll find supply\/demand more in your favor. Once you\u2019ve dominated your niche and reached decent scale, you can consider going into other verticals and adding more products specialized for those markets.\r\n\r\nIf you\u2019re worried your niche is too small, consider this: Mark Cuban once invested in <a href="https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=mgdeIeXi4Sg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a guy who draws cats for a living<\/a>. If there are riches in cat drawings, you might be surprised what you might find in your niche.\r\n<h2>Assessing Your Finances<\/h2>\r\nLet\u2019s be honest: If you\u2019re starting broke with no cash to invest in your company, you definitely have it harder than someone with money. But that doesn\u2019t mean you can\u2019t create a valuable company. You\u2019ll just need to be more creative, and it might take longer to get your company off the ground.\r\n<h3>Talk to an Accountant<\/h3>\r\nWith the money that you do have, talk to a professional about any and all financial questions related to starting and running your business. Also, ask about what tax benefits are available to you as a business owner.\r\n<h3>Raising Capital<\/h3>\r\nAt this point, you might be thinking, \u201cShouldn\u2019t I just raise money from an angel or VC?\u201d If you\u2019re not well-connected to the local financing community and don\u2019t have traction (e.g. revenue or explosive user counts), you should probably focus on getting some momentum before going this route.\r\n\r\nWhy? Because the best way to get in touch with a real angel or VC is to be referred to them, rather than cold calling or emailing them. They get so many pitches that this will help you cut through the clutter.\r\n\r\nSo that leaves asking friends and family to raise capital. I personally find it awkward to pitch friends and family but some people don\u2019t, and if your friends and family happen to be wealthy, even better.\r\n\r\nHere are some other ways to get capital together:\r\n<ol>\r\n \t<li>Sell your time. Ever wonder why so many first-time founders start an agency or service business? Because it requires little capital. Building a product-based business often requires far more capital. A service business is relatively cheap to set up and it can often give you the seed money to start your product-based business.<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Credit cards. I\u2019m not advocating for running up tons of credit card debt, but some companies have been successfully financed this way. If you\u2019re going to pursue this route, first get your credit in order with a service like <a href="https:\/\/www.creditkarma.com\/">Credit Karma<\/a>. This way, if you take out any credit cards you\u2019ll get better interest rates and limits on them.<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Small business loans. Full-size Small Business Administration (SBA) loans that are available in the U.S. might be hard to get if you\u2019re just starting out, so first focus on their <a href="https:\/\/www.sba.gov\/funding-programs\/loans" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">microloan program<\/a>.<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Peer-to-peer lending. If you can\u2019t get a microloan from the SBA, then see what kind of loans and rates you can get at places like <a href="https:\/\/www.fundingcircle.com\/us\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Funding Circle<\/a>, <a href="https:\/\/www.lendingclub.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">LendingClub<\/a>, <a href="http:\/\/www.prosper.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Prosper<\/a>, and <a href="https:\/\/www.ondeck.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">OnDeck<\/a>.<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Partner up. If you have a great idea and bring value to the table, then consider partnering with someone who has the cash to co-found the company. Yes, they\u2019ll get more equity because they\u2019ll be making more of a \u201ccapital contribution,\u201d but that\u2019s life.<\/li>\r\n<\/ol>\r\n<h2>Pricing Your Product or Service<\/h2>\r\nThere are a few approaches often discussed that you can take when it comes to determining your pricing. But first, here\u2019s what I recommend you don\u2019t do:\r\n<ul>\r\n \t<li><strong>Mistake #1<\/strong>: Going with your gut. You\u2019ll typically over- or undervalue your product one way or another, selling yourself short. How can you sell yourself short if you overvalue\/price your product? We\u2019ll get to that in a minute.<\/li>\r\n \t<li><strong>Mistake #2<\/strong>: Following the competition. Looking at your competition and pricing your product or service accordingly will likely fall short as well. Why? Because the perceived value of your product to potential customers is based on a number of factors. You are likely not a perfect clone of your closest competitor, so you will each be able to extract different prices even if your products are very similar.<\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\nWhere does that leave us with pricing? <strong>Economic theory<\/strong>. Specifically, <a href="https:\/\/en.wikipedia.org\/wiki\/Price_elasticity_of_demand" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">price elasticity of demand<\/a>, which is the measure of responsiveness of the quantity demanded for a good\/service to a change in its price.\r\n\r\nIf you\u2019re thinking, \u201cUrgh\u2026 what?\u201d Basically, we want to find what\u2019s called <a href="https:\/\/en.wikipedia.org\/wiki\/Price_elasticity_of_demand#Optimal_pricing" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">optimal pricing<\/a>, which means finding the price that maximizes your revenue.\r\n<h3>Step 1: Estimate the Price Elasticity of Your Product or Service<\/h3>\r\nWe want to figure out how sensitive your customers are to price changes in your product. At one end of the spectrum, you have products with high elasticity, meaning consumers are very sensitive to price changes. At the other end, you have products with low elasticity, sometimes referred to as <a href="https:\/\/www.investopedia.com\/terms\/e\/inelastic.asp" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inelastic<\/a>.\r\n\r\nLet\u2019s look at an example for each end of the spectrum, keeping in mind that most products fall somewhere in between:\r\n<h4>Example #1: Pizza<\/h4>\r\nPizza is considered very elastic, meaning if you jack up the price you\u2019ll sell a lot less. Here\u2019s what the graph of price elasticity looks like for a slice of pizza. Notice the angle of the line is about 45 degrees.\r\n\r\n<img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-20279 lazy" src="https:\/\/pagely.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2019\/06\/pizza.png" alt="" width="280" height="287" \/>\r\n\r\nSo if the pizza shop owner tries to charge $3 per slice, they\u2019ll only sell one slice, so revenue is $3. If they only charge $1, they\u2019ll sell nine slices and revenue will be $9. But neither of those prices maximizes revenue.\r\n\r\nIn this case, the optimum price is between $1.50 and $1.75 a slice. Both yield the highest overall revenue at $10.50. (Seven slices sold at $1.50 provides the same revenue as six slices sold at $1.75.)\r\n<h4>Example #2: Gasoline<\/h4>\r\nGasoline, on the other hand, is considered inelastic, meaning that even if you jack up the price you\u2019ll sell almost the same amount. That\u2019s because people still need it. Here\u2019s what the graph of price elasticity looks like for a gallon of gas. Notice the line is much steeper here.\r\n\r\n<img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-20280 lazy" src="https:\/\/pagely.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/2019\/06\/gasoline.png" alt="" width="280" height="287" \/>\r\n\r\nNotice that if the station owner charges $1.10 per gallon, they\u2019re going to sell a little over five gallons. If they jack it up to $1.90 (nearly double), they\u2019re still going to sell four gallons.\r\n\r\nNow look back at the pizza graph above and think about what happens to that poor soul if they try the same trick. Their demand plummets and they sell way less. That\u2019s why sales of things like gasoline and medications remain fairly steady in a recession, whereas non-essentials like spa services and expensive restaurants watch their sales tank.\r\n\r\n<strong>Do people need your product or service?<\/strong>\r\n\r\nNow that you understand how price elasticity works, you can probably estimate on which side of the spectrum your product or service falls. Do people absolutely need it? Will a change in price have much effect on the number of units you sell?\r\n<h3>Step 2: Do Some Real-World Testing<\/h3>\r\nOnce your website is up and running (we\u2019ll get to that soon) run some A\/B tests with a tool like <a href="https:\/\/www.optimizely.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Optimizely<\/a> to figure out which type of landing page works best, given whatever prices you have set initially.\r\n\r\nIf you\u2019re going to experiment with different price points to see which one maximizes revenue, you need to try to make sure you\u2019re only playing with one variable at a time (in this case price). As you test various price points on your landing page, make sure you are keeping all else constant in your business as much as possible.\r\n\r\nThis means no layout or design changes while testing, no pursuit of major press coverage, and no fiddling with your AdWords budget and bidding. Ideally, you want to isolate as much as possible. Otherwise, you\u2019ll be confusing <a href="http:\/\/en.wikipedia.org\/wiki\/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">correlation with causation<\/a>.\r\n<h3>Maximizing Your Revenue<\/h3>\r\nYour aim should be to make your product or service as inelastic as possible so your customers will be unable to live without it, allowing you to charge more without killing demand. Google and Apple have done this by creating entire ecosystems that revolve around their products.\r\n\r\nIf you\u2019re running a SaaS, offer <a href="https:\/\/pagely.com\/plans-pricing\/">different plans at different price points<\/a> that appeal to a variety of users. If Pagely only had one plan, we\u2019d probably see a dip in signups.\r\n\r\nHow many plans do you need? Most WordPress startups tend to go with a number between two and five, depending on the industry. Figure out how many <a href="https:\/\/econsultancy.com\/customer-personas\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">customer personas<\/a> you have and then create a corresponding plan for each one.\r\n<h2>Defining Your Brand<\/h2>\r\nBranding encompasses all of the ways you establish an image of your company in your customers' eyes. This can include company names, logos, icons, symbols, taglines, and even design.\r\n\r\nA lot of newbie entrepreneurs suck at branding and it\u2019s not their fault. It took me a while to truly understand its power, and I had it hammered into my head in B-school for four years in undergrad. Here\u2019s how you can tell that someone doesn\u2019t get branding:\r\n<ul>\r\n \t<li>Terrible company name<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Shoddy website design<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Logo looks like it was made for $10<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Products\/features aren\u2019t named in a memorable way<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Domain name is terrible<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Little to no usage of trademarks, whether \u2122 or \u00ae<\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\nTake a look at your own WordPress startup and be honest. Are you checking all the boxes? Have you created a real brand or just a pile of garbage?\r\n\r\nWhen someone mentions a well-known brand, expectations and experiences usually come to mind. McDonald's? Fast, unhealthy food. Apple? Quality, reliability, premium, expensive. Walmart? Low prices, long lines, zero people to help you find anything. Google? Engineering, scale, intelligence. WordPress? Open-source, free, scalable, ubiquitous, flexible.\r\n\r\nThink long and hard about what you want your WordPress startup\u2019s brand to convey and make sure your company name, tagline, logo, and design reflect that.\r\n\r\nYou\u2019ll also want to come up with a marketing plan and strategy, making advertising just one piece of it. Give your brand the smell test above and see how you measure up. Then try to figure out how to reverse engineer Coca-Cola\u2019s branding. I\u2019m still working on that myself.\r\n<h2>Building Your Website<\/h2>\r\nIf you haven\u2019t already, you\u2019ll need to launch a website for your WordPress startup. Since we\u2019re talking about how to create a WordPress startup here, it makes sense that you would want to build your website using WordPress.\r\n\r\nI won\u2019t go into detail about building a site with WordPress. You can read about that in our guide to <a href="https:\/\/pagely.com\/blog\/enterprise-website-development-critical-considerations-for-choosing-wordpress\/">enterprise website development<\/a>. Instead, I want to talk about scaling and why hosting infrastructure is critical to your company\u2019s success.\r\n<h3>Don\u2019t End Up Like Achilles<\/h3>\r\nIn Greek mythology, when Achilles was a baby it was predicted that he would die young. To prevent his death, his mother Thetis took him to a river named Styx, which offered powers of invulnerability and dipped his body into the water.\r\n\r\nBut because she held Achilles by his heel, it was never washed over by the magical waters. Achilles grew up to be a warrior who survived lots of great battles. However, one day a poisonous arrow lodged into his heel, killing him swiftly.\r\n\r\nMany WordPress startups are just like Achilles in the sense that they have everything going for them but have a major weakness: their hosting architecture and ability to scale. In fact, it still happens all the time, despite the many startups that have popped up to address the issue.\r\n<h3>Why You Need Scalable Managed WordPress Hosting<\/h3>\r\nYou\u2019d think WordPress startup founders would worry about the scalability of their product or service and the infrastructure powering it, but so many skip over this critical step. You\u2019re excited to launch and hosting seems boring, or you\u2019re focused on your product and customers.\r\n\r\nBut have you ever built a really popular application with more than a million users? If the answer is \u201cno\u201d then you likely need to slow down for a minute and think long and hard about how well your setup will scale. Don\u2019t let startup excitement and euphoria cloud your judgment.\r\n\r\nThis is where working with a <a href="https:\/\/pagely.com\/blog\/managed-wordpress-hosting\/">managed WordPress host<\/a> like Pagely can help. You\u2019re probably not an expert in web hosting, and you probably don\u2019t have an engineer to optimize your server or fight off cyber attacks. Tending the back end of your site requires time and technical expertise. When you partner with a Managed WordPress Hosting solution, we\u2019ll manage your site\u2019s uptime, security, performance, and more.\r\n<h2>Streamlining with Business Tools<\/h2>\r\nRunning a company is by no means an easy task, but there are a lot of tools and apps that can make your life easier. A few years ago, I did an interview with Matt Medeiros (now, Pagely\u2019s own superstar) for his show Matt Report, <a href="https:\/\/mattreport.com\/josh-strebel-pagely-matt-report\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">during which I talked about many of the tools I use<\/a> and thought might help other people who are launching WordPress startups.\r\n\r\nHere are some of the tools I mentioned along with other personal recommendations:\r\n<h3>Accounting<\/h3>\r\nIf you\u2019re just starting out then you definitely need an accounting system of sorts. Previously, <a href="https:\/\/quickbooks.intuit.com\/move-to-quickbooks-online\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">QuickBooks<\/a> was the de facto choice, but nowadays there are many others, most of which are easier to use.\r\n\r\nIf you plan on creating an S-Corp or C-Corp, then you should definitely check out <a href="http:\/\/www.xero.com\/us\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Xero<\/a>, which is neat in that it can help you find an accountant in your geographic region who is trained in their system and can be linked as the accountant on your profile.\r\n<h3>Benefits and Payroll<\/h3>\r\n<a href="https:\/\/gusto.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gusto<\/a> is both affordable and intuitive for first-time users. Y-Combinator-backed <a href="http:\/\/www.zenefits.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zenefits<\/a> is another great option. These can help you with managing health insurance, 1099s, worker\u2019s comp, retirement plan administration, and more. In addition, they can help with more HR-type stuff like tracking paid time off, employee onboarding\/offboarding, I9s, and more.\r\n<h3>Billing<\/h3>\r\nIf you\u2019re planning on doing recurring billing at scale, then I recommend checking out <a href="https:\/\/recurly.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Recurly<\/a>. It\u2019s great for collecting granular data on your subscriptions, like how long the average customer on a plan sticks around or how many invoices went initially uncollected last month.\r\n\r\nRecurly will also ensure you have nice, pretty data to show in the event you need to raise capital or get acquired. No VC or diligence team wants to spend their time combing through your own homegrown billing system\u2019s data or, worse, having to run calculations to figure out things you should have been tracking in the first place.\r\n\r\nIf you plan to sell or products or services in person, then I highly recommend getting a <a href="https:\/\/squareup.com\/us\/en" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Square<\/a> reader. And if you need to cut those all-important invoices and you\u2019re not in a subscription-based Recurly plan, then get set up with <a href="http:\/\/www.freshbooks.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Freshbooks<\/a> and enter invoicing nirvana.\r\n<h3>Conference Calls<\/h3>\r\nNo, Skype is not a good solution if you\u2019re going to be talking with serious business people. There are infinite things that can go wrong and you\u2019ll look like a cheapskate trying to talk to the CIO of XYZ who thinks that Skype is for calling your grandma in Florida. So get set up with <a href="https:\/\/www.uberconference.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">UberConference<\/a> or <a href="https:\/\/zoom.us\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoom<\/a> and start making legit conference calls.\r\n<h3>Cost-Per-Click<\/h3>\r\nIf you\u2019re going to be managing serious CPC campaigns in Google Ads, I highly recommend downloading the latest copy of <a href="https:\/\/ads.google.com\/intl\/en_au\/home\/tools\/ads-editor\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Ads Editor<\/a>. This powerful software runs locally on your laptop\/desktop and lets you make changes at scale with ease. Need to adjust 1000 ads at once in various ways? Done. Need to quickly scan 1000 ad groups? Done.\r\n\r\nIf you want to get nice, pretty monthly or quarterly reports on your AdWords campaigns (among other things), then check out <a href="http:\/\/raventools.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Raven Tools<\/a>. If you\u2019re running an agency of sorts you can white label their stuff and your clients will think you\u2019re a genius.\r\n<h3>CRM<\/h3>\r\nGetting a CRM is one of the most important things you can do to increase your closing\/tracking of inbound leads. Here at Pagely we use <a href="http:\/\/close.io\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Close.io<\/a>, which is run by a really nice guy named Steli Efti who personally helped us come on board. They also have an <a href="http:\/\/developer.close.io\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">API<\/a> you can do cool stuff with.\r\n<h3>Email<\/h3>\r\n<a href="https:\/\/gsuite.google.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">G Suite<\/a>. It\u2019s the only logical choice, in my mind. Yes, they got rid of their awesome free plans, but their service is well worth the $5\/mo. per user. And keep in mind one \u201cuser\u201d can have multiple email aliases, so the pricing is even better than it sounds. Think of a user as a mailbox and an alias as an address.\r\n<h3>Email Marketing<\/h3>\r\nYou\u2019re going to be building a mailing list, right? I think <a href="http:\/\/mailchimp.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mailchimp<\/a> or <a href="https:\/\/www.activecampaign.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ActiveCampaign<\/a> are great options.\r\n<h3>Legal<\/h3>\r\nIf you\u2019re looking to pursue a trademark, I recommend starting with a search on <a href="http:\/\/www.trademarkia.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Trademarkia<\/a>. From there you can decide whether to use their services or hire an independent IP attorney. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.\r\n\r\n<a href="http:\/\/www.legalzoom.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">LegalZoom<\/a> and <a href="http:\/\/www.rocketlawyer.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Rocket Lawyer<\/a> are other resources but, much like Trademarkia, just know that they should be considered a resource and not the resource.\r\n\r\nIf you plan to have contracts or documents signed, then you\u2019ll probably want to check out places like <a href="http:\/\/www.docusign.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">DocuSign<\/a>, <a href="https:\/\/acrobat.adobe.com\/us\/en\/sign.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Adobe Sign<\/a>, and <a href="https:\/\/www.hellosign.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">HelloSign<\/a>.\r\n<h3>Motivation<\/h3>\r\nIf you\u2019re feeling overwhelmed or down in the dumps, then hop over to either <a href="http:\/\/mattreport.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Matt Report<\/a> or <a href="http:\/\/mixergy.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mixergy<\/a> (or better yet, both) to get some inspiration. Watching videos is more fun than reading books, and you\u2019ll often learn things that founders wouldn\u2019t reveal in print form since it\u2019s off-the-cuff.\r\n\r\nBoth Matt and Andrew do a great job; each caters to a specific type of audience, with Matt focused more on the WordPress side and Andrew on the general startup space. You\u2019re better off watching ten different hour-long founder stories via video than spending ten hours with one founder\u2019s book.\r\n<h3>Office Space<\/h3>\r\nUnless you\u2019re going to be meeting clients on a daily basis or absolutely need space for your team to work beyond your local co-working space, renting an office isn\u2019t typically necessary during the beginning phase.\r\n\r\nIf you need to meet with current or potential clients, get yourself a <a href="https:\/\/www.regus.com\/membership" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Regus Businessworld<\/a> membership so you can rent their Class-A conference rooms on the fly. You\u2019ll have the same view and location as those on other floors spending thousands per month with long-term leases, and you\u2019ll just be paying for the room by the hour and be on your way when you\u2019re done, client impressed and contract in hand.\r\n<h3>Retirement<\/h3>\r\nIf you\u2019re planning on flying solo and never hiring employees, then I highly recommend looking into <a href="https:\/\/www.fidelity.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Fidelity<\/a>, as they are one of the few that allow you to run a SEP IRA as well as a Solo 401K. I won\u2019t get into the details of the tax advantages that allows, but let\u2019s just say that having both in your arsenal maximizes the amount you can put away and minimizes your tax liability.\r\n\r\nI say \u201cflying solo\u201d because the <a href="http:\/\/en.wikipedia.org\/wiki\/Solo_401(k)" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Solo 401K<\/a> is designed for companies without employees, otherwise, you\u2019d need a general 401K and have to comply with ERISA rules that sound scary.\r\n<h3>SEO<\/h3>\r\nIf you need to find all the broken links on your site (and who doesn\u2019t) then you should check out <a href="https:\/\/itunes.apple.com\/us\/app\/integrity\/id513610341?mt=12" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Integrity<\/a> if you\u2019re running a Mac. It is a simple, free program and does just that. Those of you on Windows should check out <a href="http:\/\/home.snafu.de\/tilman\/xenulink.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Xenu\u2019s Link Sleuth<\/a>, which does the same thing.\r\n\r\nIf you want to go a little more advanced with spidering tools, download a free copy of <a href="https:\/\/www.screamingfrog.co.uk\/seo-spider\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Screaming Frog SEO Spider<\/a>, which has a few extra bells and whistles. If you want to reliably track your organic rankings, something like <a href="http:\/\/authoritylabs.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Authority Labs<\/a> would be an excellent choice.\r\n\r\nFor a comprehensive guide, take a look at <a href="https:\/\/pagely.com\/blog\/seo-checklist-webmasters\/">The 2019 SEO Checklist for Webmasters<\/a>.\r\n<h3>Social Media<\/h3>\r\nIf you\u2019re going to be managing a bunch of social media profiles (and you probably will be), then you\u2019ll want some way to reliably blast your message out to all three or four of them at once. The cheaper option would be something like <a href="https:\/\/hootsuite.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">HootSuite<\/a>, and a more polished option would be something like <a href="http:\/\/sproutsocial.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sprout Social.<\/a>\r\n<h3>Support<\/h3>\r\nMaybe not the sexiest of tools, but one you\u2019ll probably be spending a fair amount of time with. At Pagely we run <a href="http:\/\/www.zendesk.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zendesk<\/a> while others swear by <a href="http:\/\/freshdesk.com\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Freshdesk<\/a>. To each their own.\r\n<h2>Promoting Your Business<\/h2>\r\n<em>\u201cHow much should I spend on marketing?\u201d<\/em>\r\n\r\nI\u2019m often asked this question because I\u2019ve started a few companies that have done between hundreds of thousands and millions in annual revenue, which doesn\u2019t make me too cool for school, it just means there\u2019s a chance I know what I\u2019m talking about.\r\n\r\nSurprisingly, it\u2019s not just first-time founders who ask me \u2014 even seasoned entrepreneurs still don\u2019t have a gauge for what their competitors and those in their industry are spending on marketing (and advertising), or even what they should be allocating to help promote their brand.\r\n\r\nMany are jaded. They say \u201cadvertising doesn\u2019t work,\u201d or \u201cadvertising is for big companies with big budgets,\u201d or perhaps aren\u2019t patient enough to allow the proper time for ROI to kick in.\r\n\r\nDo you think GEICO saw an immediate return when they started running those TV ads? Do people really whip out their laptop or tablet and start getting car insurance quotes while watching TV? Maybe now more than before due to the second screen trend, but most people see the commercial and continue on about their day.\r\n\r\nBut what\u2019s the first brand that comes to mind when you think of car insurance? If you\u2019re like me, it\u2019s GEICO. They\u2019ve got great \u201cmind share,\u201d and when people like me do get a car insurance quote, we typically check GEICO \u2014 and maybe even check them first.\r\n\r\nOne last anti-marketing comment you\u2019ve likely heard from blowhards is something along the lines of \u201cjust make a great product like Apple and you won\u2019t have to spend anything on marketing.\u201d That is a pile of nonsense. Despite Apple making great products, they still spend a ton of money on marketing. In 2015, they spent a whopping <a href="https:\/\/www.businessinsider.com.au\/apple-stopped-disclosing-ad-spend-2016-11" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$1.8 billion on advertising<\/a>. Yep, and that puts them among the top spenders overall.\r\n\r\nSo let\u2019s take a look at what you need to know about marketing.\r\n<h3>How Much Should I Spend on Marketing?<\/h3>\r\nThe first thing to understand is that you shouldn\u2019t be asking \u201cwhat amount,\u201d but rather \u201cwhat percentage.\u201d\r\n\r\nFirst of all, hopefully your company is growing if you\u2019re thinking about ramping up marketing spend, so using a static amount is suboptimal. Second, it\u2019s much easier to compare and benchmark yourself against other companies both in your specific industry and in business in general when you talk in percentages.\r\n<h3>What Big Companies Are Spending on Marketing<\/h3>\r\nIt\u2019s important to understand what large companies spend on marketing for a few reasons. First, you might be competing with them directly or indirectly, so it gives you a snapshot of your competition and comprises one aspect of competitive research.\r\n\r\nSecond, since data on your WordPress startup competitors is often hard to get (e.g., you likely aren\u2019t publishing what you spend on marketing, either), knowing the percentage that large companies spend will at least give you some idea in the event you can\u2019t dig up much on the startups in your vertical.\r\n\r\nThe <a href="https:\/\/www.webstrategiesinc.com\/blog\/how-much-budget-for-online-marketing-in-2014" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2017 CMO Survey<\/a> found that the mean (average) marketing budget as a percentage of revenue\/sales was 7.9%. When broken down by industry, we get even more interesting findings:\r\n<ul>\r\n \t<li>Banking\/Finance\/Insurance = 9.2%<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Communications Media = 9.0%<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Consumer Packaged Goods (think P&G) = 9.1%<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Consumer Services = 18.9%<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Education = 12.0%<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Energy = 8.3%<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Healthcare = 9.0%<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Manufacturing = 2.4%<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Mining & Construction = 3.0%<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Service Consulting = 7.5%<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Retail\/Wholesale = 4.4%<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Tech\/Software\/Biotech = 9.7%<\/li>\r\n \t<li>Transportation = 8.5%<\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\nI\u2019ve emphasized the \u201ctech\/software\u201d and \u201cservice consulting\u201d categories above since they\u2019re probably the most applicable to launching a WordPress startup. Notice that even consulting businesses, which tend to rely on referrals, still spend more than 5% of revenue. Also, note that tech\/software firms have the third-highest spend at 9.7%.\r\n<h3>What Small Companies and Startups Are Spending on Marketing<\/h3>\r\nThe<a href="https:\/\/www.sba.gov\/blogs\/how-set-marketing-budget-fits-your-business-goals-and-provides-high-return-investment" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> Small Business Administration<\/a> suggests the following guidelines for small businesses setting their marketing budget:\r\n<ul>\r\n \t<li>2\u20133% for run-rate marketing<\/li>\r\n \t<li>3\u20135% for startup marketing<\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\nThey note that the above should be adjusted for the industry your business is in, its current size, and phase of growth. Remember that industry data we dug up above? Use those metrics to adjust your number upward or downward. They go on to say:\r\n\r\n<em>\u201cAs a general rule, small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7\u20138 percent of their revenues to marketing. This budget should be split between 1) brand development costs (which includes all the channels you use to promote your brand, such as your website, blogs, sales collateral, etc.), and 2) the costs of promoting your business (campaigns, advertising, events, etc.). This percentage also assumes you have margins in the range of 10\u201312 percent (after you\u2019ve covered your other expenses, including marketing).\u201d<\/em>\r\n\r\nOK, so the SBA is telling us a range of 2\u20133% if we\u2019re established and as high as 7\u20138% for those with revenue less than $5 million. Since the SBA might not exactly be keeping their finger on the pulse of the true \u201cstartup\u201d scene, we should also consider another data point.\r\n\r\nIn his post, <a href="http:\/\/www.startup-marketing.com\/ideal-ratio-of-product-vs-marketing-spend-in-consumer-startup\/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ideal Ratio of Product Vs Marketing Spend for a Consumer Startup<\/a>, GrowthHackers CEO Sean Ellis talks about when to make the adjustment of funneling more cash into marketing. He suggests a <strong>95\/5 ratio between product and marketing initially<\/strong> during product development. Once you\u2019ve validated that people want or need your product, the spend ratio tips heavily towards marketing, <strong>with some companies spending as much 80% on marketing and 20% on product.<\/strong>\r\n\r\nAs with anything, it\u2019s hard to throw out a magical number for your marketing spend. However, I could say it\u2019s important to determine the average lifetime value of your customer and then figure out the cost to acquire them. If you can get things dialed into where you\u2019re getting greater than a dollar in return for every dollar you spend on advertising\/marketing, then you should scale up those initiatives as high as you possibly can.\r\n<h2>Closing a Sale<\/h2>\r\nMost people think they\u2019re good at sales but actually suck at it. They say \u201csales is easy, anyone can do it.\u201d But the reality is, convincing people to do something (e.g., buy your product, fund your company, join your team) is one of the hardest things in life.\r\n\r\nThink about it. People are lazy and like to stick with what they\u2019ve got. In addition, you might be in a market like we are (hosting) where there is lots of competition. If there are ten players in your space, statistically you\u2019ve only got a 10% chance of getting someone\u2019s business.\r\n<h3>The Best Sales Book Ever<\/h3>\r\nRobert Cialdini wrote <a href="https:\/\/www.amazon.com\/Influence-Psychology-Persuasion-Business-Essentials\/dp\/006124189X" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion<\/em><\/a> in 1984. This was before anyone knew what a CRM, or even the internet, was. It has sold over two million copies and Fortune called it one of the 75 smartest business books of all time. When <em>Harvard Business Review<\/em> <a href="https:\/\/hbr.org\/2013\/07\/the-uses-and-abuses-of-influence" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interviewed him<\/a>, they wondered if he gave away too much information on how to hack the human brain.\r\n\r\nSo, yeah, this book is legit and worth reading. It talks about <strong>six key principles of influence<\/strong> and here I\u2019ll relate each of those to sales.\r\n<h3>Reciprocity<\/h3>\r\nThe human brain is wired to return favors. Humans hate to feel indebted to others. Ever wonder why it seems Macy\u2019s has a sale every other week, why companies do free trials, or why companies spend all that time creating whitepapers and infographics? They\u2019re giving you something to get something in return: your business.\r\n\r\nOne great way to incorporate this into your business is to be helpful to your community. If you\u2019re in WordPress, answer questions on Quora or in forums and become known as a great resource. If you\u2019ve answered a question for someone and they\u2019re thinking about using your services, they\u2019ll be more likely to pick you over someone who wasn\u2019t willing to offer advice for free.\r\n<h3>Commitment<\/h3>\r\nIf you\u2019ve seen The Wolf of Wall Street or Boiler Room, then you probably remember how most of the stockbrokers opened up their pitch. They\u2019d say something like \u201cHow about I start you off with a small investment, just 50 shares and we\u2019ll see how things go.\u201d That was their way of getting a small form of commitment, which makes it much easier to get larger investments later on.\r\n\r\nBoth of those movies were about scamming people so I\u2019m not advocating that, but you get the idea. Another example would be the way many companies push hard to get you to \u201ccommit\u201d to a demo or webinar of their product. They know this will increase the likelihood that you think of yourself as a customer and, hence, will be more likely to end up one.\r\n<h3>Social Proof<\/h3>\r\nThis is one of the most used by web startups. Most human beings feel validated based on what others are doing. In other words, safety in numbers; humans like to do what we see other people doing.\r\n\r\nSo how are web startups using this? Visit the homepage of any tech startup and you\u2019ll typically see a section allocated for logos of prominent clients. That\u2019s because they understand the value of social proof. If they show 50 of the Fortune 100 companies on there, they know customers will think \u201cGosh, if they\u2019re all using XYZ, maybe I should too.\u201d\r\n<h3>Authority<\/h3>\r\nAnother principle deals with authority and obedience. Sounds strange, but let me explain. Psychologists have done experiments where they have figures of authority ask people to do objectionable things and, more often than not, they do them, even if they know they are objectionable.\r\n\r\nTitles and uniforms are some of the best ways to convey authority. Why do you think dentists like to be called \u201cdoctor\u201d so much? It conveys greater authority. We\u2019re taught as kids\u2026\u201cYou\u2019d better listen to your doctor,\u201d and so forth. If the \u201cdoctor\u201d says you need a $5,000 root canal, your response will probably be \u201cWhere do I sign?\u201d even if you don\u2019t need one.\r\n\r\nWhat is the best way to take advantage of this? Having a prominent spokesperson is a great example. Starbucks hired Oprah to create and endorse one of their teas. Oprah did her \u201cfavorite things\u201d list, which everyone loved, so she must know a great tea, right? When LegalZoom first started out they used Robert Shapiro\u2019s face on their homepage and in their ads. Brilliant. People thought to themselves \u201cHey, a prominent lawyer founded this, so their services are good enough for me.\u201d\r\n<h3>Likability<\/h3>\r\nPeople are more likely to be persuaded by people they like. One way this is used in the startup world is the \u201cAbout Us\u201d page. If you view a company\u2019s \u201cAbout Us\u201d page and like the people you see and the way they carry themselves, then you\u2019re more likely to buy from them.\r\n\r\nCEOs are another example. If a CEO is well-liked, then their company will have an easier time converting customers. Part of the reason people buy Teslas is because Elon Musk is a modern day Tony Stark. He\u2019s controversial, but people love (or love to hate) him.\r\n<h3>Scarcity<\/h3>\r\nPerceived scarcity leads to increased demand. Ever wonder why every other commercial says \u201climited time only\u201d or something along those lines? It\u2019s because they\u2019re using this principle.\r\n\r\nFlash sales sites are a great example of this. They force you to sign up with an email address to \u201cget access to limited quantity deals\u201d and then have a countdown showing the quantity remaining. Visitors think to themselves, \u201cI\u2019d better get that pair of shoes before it sells out\u201d and, bam, another sale is made.\r\n<h2>The Art of the WordPress Startup<\/h2>\r\nBuilding a WordPress startup from the ground up takes more than just a bright idea, as I\u2019ve covered here.\r\n\r\nPerhaps the most well-received blog series we have ever published, we've condensed the entire series into this one master post. There's also a digital download available where you can get all 20 chapters covered in the blog series, plus bonus features including forwards by WordPress community notables Chris Lema, Syed Balkhi, and Matt Medeiros. Also, we\u2019ve included four short essays I\u2019ve written. Let us know in the comments if you'd like a copy, and we'll email it to you!\r\n\r\nWhether you\u2019re just starting out, or already on your way to success, these are my tips, advice, and guidance to help you on your way.