Michelle Schulp on running an independent business

In this episode, Matt Medeiros wraps up the season interviewing Michelle Schulp from Marktime Media In Minneapolis. Michelle is an independent designer and front-end developer who works with many agencies and other freelancers. Michelle’s background is in design and she is well known as a WordCamp Speaker. She loves teaching design and sharing her knowledge with the WordPress Community. Michelle also is the Director of Technology at AIGA Minnesota.

Listen to this episode:


What you will learn from this Episode:

  • Michelle made a deliberate choice to stay independent and not own an agency. She realizes the challenges of managing other people in a business. (2:40)
  • Being an independent freelancer allows you to stay flexible for traveling and working remotely. (3:54)
  • There is a lot of overhead and “crap” when running a business. (4:04)
  • If you make business decisions based on why you went into business in the first place you can be very successful. Ex: Your priority is to have more time for your family. (4:44)
  • The reason to travel and speak at events allows you to teach and volunteer by giving back to the community. (7:07)
  • 95% of Marktime Media’s business comes from referrals or being known for teaching at WordCamps. (8:00)

Business Growth and Success:

  • Your personality or personal brand separates you from the crowd. (9:34)
  • The differentiator in the WordPress space for independent freelancers now comes from service. You must be able to communicate and be responsive to the client. (10:40)
  • Sometimes your brand is just not for everybody and it is best to qualify your business when working with a client. (12:18)
  • Clients can try to nickel and dime you and make multiple changes when you are first starting out. You can just act as an advisor for the client that does not have a budget for the work.  (13:50)
  • Specializing in a personality type has been how Michelle chooses her work. People need to be passionate and understand the value you offer. (15:24)
  • Michelle often starts a project with a worksheet that asks the client how does somebody find out about your business? How would your client describe what you do? (17:13)
  • Freelancers in the WordPress space now seem to be defining their business with what they do rather than focusing on just open source software. (19:32)
  • WordCamps bring together people of all different levels of experience. (19:56)

Future of WordPress:

  • It seems that there are 3 levels of focus now in the WordPress world: Pagebuilders, Themes, and Gutenberg. (22:17)
  • It is better to focus on the features that are in the client’s control and their expectations of publishing content. (23:52)
  • Module design concepts with repeatable design patterns are allowing the customer to concentrate on their content. (23:06)
  • WordPress is still very confusing for the average client. Clients should not have to worry about the design of the website. (24:15)
  • Michelle is keeping her eye on the changes within the WordPress Community with Gutenberg and limits what the client can change. (26:05)
  • You will need to understand where the conflicts may come with plugins and source code when updates to WordPress occur. (35:54)
  • There are always risks keeping up with WordPress updates. When you are familiar with the plugin author or developers in the community, you provide value by knowing what is coming and how to “fix” it.  (39:14)

Skills for Independent Freelancers:

  • It is important for the freelancer to explain what they do and where they want to concentrate. (31:08)
  • If you want to stay proficient as a developer in WordPress you should be proficient in Javascript. (32:33)
  • If you are going to implement and configure websites you should understand the tools available and what good code is. (33:03)
  • You should have strong skills in a focused area rather than just general skills in WordPress. (34:17)


Episode Resources:
AIGA Minnesota
Atomic Design
Advanced Custom Fields
Gravity Forms
Beaver Builder
Rocket Genius
Modern Tribe

To Stay in Touch with Michelle:
Michelle on Twitter
Michelle’s Personal Website
Marktime Media

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