Building Work Hero: The Path To Profitability, 2020

This is a blog series where I walk through how I built my online business, Work Hero, starting from December 2017 to the present.

The Series:

The new year started with so much promise.

Leads were trickling in mostly through:

-Referrals
and
-Cold social media outreach

Momentum was picking up.

Two more monthly paying customers signed up, one in January, the other in February.

We added a couple of promising affiliates, and another customer in early March.

It really felt like we were on the march!

And then, the COVID-19 virus swept across the world, and took out lives and businesses everywhere.

I thought we were TOAST at that point. Everyone was in a panic and things around me were shutting down.

Life was changing quickly. I panicked a little.

Then I noticed this trend of people offering free things.

I started to take advantage. I asked companies I was paying for monthly to wave fees or give us a discount.

It worked.

I slashed my monthly bills down.

Then, I offered my entrepreneur community free WordPress work for an entire month.

It worked. They jumped on it big.

We weren’t even quite ready. But I hired another developer and we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.

Luckily, all of our monthly customers stayed.

April was a big adjustment, as we were giving away quite a bit of free work. Some of the free customers were ideal, others, not so much.

Lots of learning during this time, and we came out of April with 2 new Pro customers! I was thrilled.

In May we offered a similar deal for 2 weeks. The free offer was popular and effective.

However, challenges came up this month. We recently took on two local businesses that “just needed a little work done”. (I outline some of the details of what happened here: The 5 Types Of Customers To Avoid).

These two customers took up a lot of our time. Lots of complaints. Some rudeness. Demands to do phone calls.

We did do a lot for each of them, but there was not much appreciation. Instead, one of them tried to negotiate a lower rate, and the other insisted on doing just one month with us, which goes against our usual mode.

I learned a lot from these experiences. It’s ideal to filter your customers. No need to take on everyone who comes along. It’s tempting to take any money that’s offered, but it can backfire- and even set you back.

Lesson learned: Always pre-qualify customers, and never take on anyone who just wants to use us for one month.

Meanwhile, a couple of affiliate referrals came in and converted to customers for the first time. The second one had 3 sites- and this put us into profitable territory.

How did the affiliate referrals happen?

The first was via a LinkedIn cold message, randomly one of my business contacts had a friend needing WordPress help. I chatted a bit with her on the phone and she was sold.

The second one came from a friend who had an affiliate banner on his site promoting us. Oddly, I never even heard from the customer- they signed up without asking any questions. The best kind of sale 🙂

How we have done hiring and pay our contract workers

A question came in about how we do our hiring and how workers get paid…hourly or salary?

Since the beginning, we have been hiring hourly contractors. Sometimes from places like Upwork.com, and sometimes from referrals.

IDEALLY, it’s important to have part time salaried workers- as they will feel more connected to your business than hourly ones who likely have several “gigs”, of which yours is just one of them, and maybe not the priority.

But when hours aren’t adding up or are inconsistent, it’s tough to justify guaranteed hours.

So I probably waited too long here, but up until a couple of months ago, I only paid hourly.

Now I moved 2 contractors (heroes) to part time salaries, guaranteeing 10 hours a week for each.

I feel comfortable with this as our workload has picked up enough. But in a way, I wish I would have done this sooner, as it would create that loyalty and feeling of being on a team that is still a work in progress.

What prompted me to finally offering guaranteed hours was one of our heroes clearly starting to de-prioritize his work with us. It was starting to make us look bad and we got a couple of complaints. So I offered a slight raise and 10 hours guaranteed. Things have been better ever since.

From here on, we will always have at least 1 hero on our team that’s working with a part time salary. And, with the new heroes joining the team, our goal is to set them up with guaranteed hours as soon as possible.

As far as the actual hiring process, I keep it very simple. At first, I was setting up several stages where they went through a paid trial test, but I found that was all a waste of time. Now, I interview each new hero via text chat, and if it goes well, we bring them on board- with a training wheels approach. We send them tasks, but oversee their work- so the first 2 weeks they are not working directly with the customers.

This cuts out lots of interviewing and trying to find the perfect match. As they are contractors, if the 2-weeks doesn’t go well, we can either keep them on in that role with hand holding for 2 more weeks, or just let them go.

I haven’t had a “bad” hire now since our early days. Trust is key here to having a successful team.

Monthly Expenses:

Salaries: $500 (average)
Email: Gsuite by Google $25
Hosting: $30 (Kinsta)
Canva Software: $14
Social Media (cold) outreach service: $250
Zapier (Automations): $20
Notion: $5
Active Campaign $9
SPP (replacing Intercom): $129
ManageWP: $40
Total Monthly Expenses (June 2020): $1022
Total Revenue: $1125

Profitability: $103

Question of the Week

What is the worst decision you’ve ever made when it comes to hiring? How did it turn out?

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Kevin Koskella

Kevin Koskella

Kevin is a podcaster and writer on living free, despite the crazy world we live in. Kevin travels full time and explores the world and how to achieve and maximize freedom in life.

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