How to make it in WordPress



If you’ve been following me for a while, you might catch an undertone of hustle and hard work are at the core of my message.

It might be because I started working at the family business during the 5th grade or that launching a product any business aint easy.

I do what works for me and I don’t subscribe to the if you build it they will come model — in fact — no one person should. There are, however, those that get by using a systemized formula. Product fit + SEO + PPC + Heatmaps = .037 conversion rate, multiplied by the market index divided by the sun’s position = blah blah blah.

If that works for you, God bless you.

If you’re looking around at your industry and you’re trying to figure out “how to make it” you’re going to need to put in the work. You need to be you. You need to be confident and today’s video from Gary Vaynerchuck crushes that point.

A PSA from GaryVee

(remember, I told you so)

Started at the 2:38 mark, Gary answers a question from a listener:

How do very new & small channels gain a following when people don’t interact & we get like 5 views on our video and 3 r from us.

I know I get this question a lot.

I’m sure some of you reading this are thinking the same thing and wondering how you can get more traction in your business. Business development is the keyword in Gary’s message. Getting out of your seat and knocking on doors.

You might laugh at that — but it’s true.

I recently spoke at PrestigeConf and I shared my lessons as a car salesman turned software sales guy. Part of the talk was theory and part of the talk was actionable. I had someone approach me at lunch to say:

“Hey Matt, great talk, but I hear a lot of this “theory thing”  being spewed a lot. Everyone says get out of your seat and hustle — but how do I do it?”

Hustle your face off 15 hours a day to get people to care. ~ Gary Vaynerchuck

Here’s my answer:

  • If you’re not confident enough in your abilities or product that you can’t knock on someones door and show them then you’re not ready.
  • If you’re not confident enough to shake someone’s hand at a WordCamp then you’re not ready.
  • If you can’t dig deep and expose yourself for better or for worse — you’re not ready.

There is no handbook or step-by-step to business development. Well, maybe there’s some stuffy middle-management corporate books you can buy, but nothing is going to teach you more than doing it.

Here, start with this:

  • Ask a designer to partner up with your developer skill set.
  • E-mail another agency looking to partner up.
  • Find other vendors that might align well with your market fit.

Opportunity is endless as long as you’re willing to reach for it. But if you’re looking for the easy-button to business development — you’re doing (and thinking of) it wrong.

Give 51% value and get 49% of the rest

(playing from the 5:03 mark.)

I love this. I mean, I really fucking love this.

Probably because I get hit up 15 times a week like Gary does with no offer of additional value. What will you do for me?

“But Matt, you just told me to knock on doors.” Yes, yes I did.

However, I’ve been building an audience for a while and what you’re after is exposure to that audience. In fact, I know this, because 80% of the cold e-mails I get end with: “I’d love to show your audience this.”

What about us WP media types?

I have friends like Chris and Brian that will write about you — but they say no a lot — they value their audience. I have smarter friends than myself like Carrie that will charge you to access her audience. Tom won’t write about you, but you can buy ad space on his WordPress blog.

I’ve said this before, things are starting to get much more competitive around here. The community is changing and my friend Bob warns us not to fall into the abyss.

Sure, this sounds like a rant, but I’m in a unique position to witness the cold PR moves that are obvious in every other industry happening behind the scenes in ours. Blanket e-mails going out in mass to WordPress media types (like myself) requesting exposure, write-ups, and product placements.

Not what they can do for us, but what we can do for them.

So if you’re considering this route for your business — where’s your 51%?

The WordPress “media” industry (if you can call it that) isn’t big enough for this kind of traditional tech news approach. Not yet anyway and a large reason for this is (sadly) — there’s not a lot of money to be made (Yet? Ever? I’ll keep questioning it.)

Let’s break this down:

It’s easy to approach the plethora of tech sites and blast out your PR letter. Their revenues are in the millions and have large sponsorships. There’s many publications and the market is much greater. Arguably, they are on the lookout for stories and welcome them delivered to their doorstep. A staff writer might pick it up, blast out 550 words, and send a  link your way.

Your blanket e-mail gets a 10% conversion your PR strategy churns on.

Whereas the WP media industry does not have that luxury yet — if ever.


Let’s look at WP Tavern as an example.

If there were one definitive news source for the WordPress space, it’s them. It’s the only WordPress media site that you can count on to get some form of WP news, nearly every day. It also took Matt Mullenweg to make this happen. He purchased the brand and pays staff writers, Jeff and Sarah, as Audrey Capital employees. (Learn more from my interview with Jeff.)


Now let’s look at Brian, founder of

Brian has been a “freelance” WordPress journalist longer than I’ve been podcasting. He has one sponsor partner to aide with revenue concerns. He is, just recently, dipping into his audience and asking how to find new revenue opportunity. It’s difficult, even for a veteran WP journalist, to find sustainable models in this space.

The point here? Our space isn’t as vast and exploitable as the valley tech space. It takes damn hard work to do what these people do and for enterprising startups to think they can gain access to this under the guise of community, is just, wrong.

Bring your value

Let’s wrap this up, shall we?

1. You have to work your ass off to build an audience, get attention, and get people to follow you.
2. You have to be confident in yourself and your product.
3. Be smart with your business development and look outside of the WP space.
4. Bring your value to both sides of the table. To the consumer and to the media.

We’re not [WP Media] big enough yet and I’m not sure if we ever will be.

If you want exposure you’re going to have to earn it or sponsor it. I’ll let other media sites define what their earned rapport and monetary level of sponsorship means to them.

The point is, in this community, you shouldn’t expect hand outs and you should value your ambassador and their audience. No one wants to wants to read, watch, or listen to the same regurgitated message.

Not my audience anyway.

I want to hear from you in the comments. What are you doing to provide value to both sides of the table?


8 responses to “How to make it in WordPress”

  1. Thanks for sharing, Matt. I loved your “readiness” checks:

    “If you’re not confident enough in your abilities or product that you can’t knock on someones door and show them then you’re not ready.”

    When it comes to metaphorically knocking on doors, I like to channel the spirit of Jay-Z: “I got 99 nos, but a yes ain’t one.”

    1. Ha! Yes, good ol Mr. Jay Z.

  2. Hi Matt. Just one comment from me. You’ve earned my respect and headspace through your podcast that you pour energy into. You give a heap to the community through your podcast and I’m grateful for it. For that reason alone I’d promote your products/services if I had the right audience. Simple as that. 51/49.

    1. I really appreciate that, Richard, it means a lot. Hope everything is going well for your practice. 🙂

  3. Hello! I just stumbled onto your blog and I really enjoyed this article. I especially like that having great content and or ability is simply not enough, you gotta knock on those doors! I will definitely be taking that to heart.

    1. Indeed we do, Roy!

  4. An awesome interview Matt. I am a big big fan of Gary Vaynerchuck. He said it very RIGHT that if you want to grow the business, you need to build an audience. And I believe the only way to build a WordPress business is to build a community around your brand. WordPress people are awesome and they really go all the way to help each other. You just have to find the way to inspire them. To found the communities/groups where they hangout, talk all about WordPress. You just need to be a part of that talk. And people will start recognizing you and what you do. You build relationships, that turns into partnerships and the business grows beyond your imagination. I have experienced that at Cloudways. And proud enough to interview as well on our blog. 🙂

    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your point of view, Muhammad! 🙂

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