How This Web Dev Went from 0 to 60 (Websites)

This is the first in a series, Member Success Stories, where we ask WPMU DEV-ers who are killing it in the WordPress web dev business to share key contributors of their success with us – and you.

Today we welcome Phil, the owner of Capital Web Design, a Canadian web services agency based in Ottawa.

WPMU DEV: Congrats on your professional success, Phil. Please tell us straight away, how did you grow your business so fast?

Phil: I wouldn’t say the business itself grew that fast. I’ve been building websites in some way or another since the early 2000s. Either static sites coded by hand (HTML + CSS + Javascript), using frameworks (VueJS), or with WordPress.

I started my freelance web design company in 2014, after being approached to do a replacement build for what was a costly, difficult to maintain website – and that became my first client. From there I found small and medium businesses in my hometown that had old, unsupported and unmaintained websites, or who had no website at all.

As I continued my efforts, my business ethos emerged: help companies, nonprofits and individuals in my city build a web presence they can be proud of. I focused on creating bespoke WordPress web design based on well-supported multipurpose themes, WPMU DEV and other dependable plugins, and fully managed white-glove web hosting.

Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of working with 20+ clients, and have built 60 websites targeting a multitude of industries and commercial sectors.

WPMU DEV: That’s awesome. Did you know about WPMU DEV at that time?

Phil: I had known about WPMU DEV since around 2016-18, back when you offered dozens of plugins for all sorts of functionality. I couldn’t justify the cost of a membership then, but I popped in every so often to check and see what progress was being made.

In 2019, Hosting was added as a WPMU DEV service – and this really caught my attention. During the Black Friday promotion that November (lifetime reduced membership cost!), I joined as a member, and I can’t see myself ever leaving.

It was a perfect storm: high-quality plugins + managed hosting + 24/7 support + highly reduced cost.

WPMU DEV: So as you were building your clientele, you were putting together your professional tool box. Can you give us a peek inside?

Phil: The tools and services from WPMU DEV have been invaluable to me.

Plugins have provided me with consistency and reliability for all of the most important aspects of WordPress websites.

Knowing that I can count on Hummingbird and Smush for performance optimization allowed me to stop using other freemium plugins such as W3 Total Cache, Autoptimize, WP Super Cache and EWWW Image Optimization. I found these plugins were all good at some things, but had a lot of paywalled features that Hummingbird and Smush offered out of the box, for free.

Defender has been a great peace-of-mind addition to my repertoire, as the one-click recommended fixes are super straightforward and quite effective.

Forminator forms may be difficult at times to style with CSS, but that’s more than made up for in functionality. The drag-and-drop UI makes it much easier to build forms compared to Contact Form 7, and the amount of extras that are baked in (calculation, email routing, etc) blow other (often paid) form builders out of the water.

WPMU DEV: Aside from plugins, you mentioned our services have made a huge impact as well. Can you expand on that?

Phil: When it comes to services, it’s hard to put into words just how much The Hub and the associated Hosting have helped me throughout the last few years.

I have worked with hosting providers like 1and1, DreamHost, Media Temple, Digital Ocean VPS, and Bluehost. Each had their advantages, but in the end it always became a chore to use their services. It was clear that the quality of their offerings reflected the low cost they positioned themselves at. They were in a perpetual fight to undercut their competitors on price, at the cost of quality of service and support.

WPMU DEV Hosting came in late in the game, but out of the gate addressed two of the major concerns I experienced at other hosts: lack of support, and lack of trust in the infrastructure.

By having dedicated resources (versus shared), the web servers were consistently fast, reliable, and offered premium features such as staging, backups and WAF.

WPMU DEV: Walk us through a typical work day; what you reach for the most, and your usual workflow.

Phil: I keep The Hub open in a tab at all times, refreshing it every once in a while to keep track of ongoing community discussions, website maintenance statuses, and plugin updates.

I subscribe to key email notifications to receive alerts of technical issues on my managed sites, as well as member discussions in the WPMU DEV member forums, blogs and newsletter.

When a technical issue occurs, I’m able to troubleshoot it quickly. If I’m unable to resolve it on my own, the LiveChat support is always there to help me right away.

WPMU DEV has allowed me to optimize my workflows across the board, in areas like:

Faster site creation with one-click managed WordPress server provisioning from The Hub.
Easier client invoicing using Client Billing.
More efficient website monitoring and maintenance through The Hub.
Lower maintenance effort required with WPMU DEV plugins.
Faster technical troubleshooting with the LiveChat support.

WPMU DEV: Outside of your own talent and determination, what would you say has contributed most significantly to your growth?

Phil: WPMU DEV has reduced my server build-out time from 30 minutes to 3 minutes (90% reduction). Over the past few years I’ve stood up well over 75 servers, so this has saved me many hours of effort.

At the time of joining, The Hub allowed me to manage about a dozen sites from a central location as opposed to manually logging in to each separate site. This was a reduction of biweekly maintenance effort from approximately 60 minutes to 2 minutes.

Client billing and streamlined invoice creation allowed me to save approximately 20-30 minutes per invoice creation, which throughout the past few years I estimate has saved me over 30 hours of work.

All of these time and effort savings have allowed me to comfortably take on more projects and clients.

Since joining WPMU DEV, my completed projects count has grown approximately 416% – with each project being more efficient to produce than the last.

WPMU DEV: As a self-proclaimed diehard fan, you know we’re constantly upping our game and adding new features and services to our offerings. What’s a newer release that you’re really getting into?

Phil: Reseller focus. I look forward to adding WPMU DEV automated site provisioning via the reseller offerings, as well as domains and email reselling.

WPMU DEV: One last question; let’s close it out with a fun one. If you could talk to yourself at the start of your career, what would you say?

Phil: At the start of my career, I often looked up to senior staff who seemed wise beyond their years. I was afraid of making mistakes or breaking something, for fear that those-who-never-broke-anything would look down on me.

I would try to explain to a younger me that wisdom comes with experience, and experience comes from doing things, failing, and working through the failure.

The more things you work on, the more you get exposed to what works and what doesn’t. Failing or breaking something isn’t strictly negative, because every failure is a learning opportunity: troubleshoot what went wrong, understand how to fix it, and implement a solution.

Do this cycle enough times and you start to pre-emptively detect patterns, plan for success, and you get faster at fixing problems. Don’t be afraid of failure because the more you fail, the more you learn and the wiser you will become.

That wraps up this premiere episode of our Member Success Stories. Thanks to Phil for his candid, insightful answers in our interview.

Phil is one of WPMU DEV’s Agency Partners, and uses his 20 years of web design experience to achieve one goal: give back to his hometown by building modern websites for businesses and nonprofits in the Canadian capital.

You can reach Phil via his agency partner listing or visit Capital Web Design.

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