Interview with Brian McDaniel: Getting WordPress gigs from social media

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There have been days for all of us where we have been sitting at our desk in the office and the thought of chucking it all and just setting up our own shop crosses our minds. No lame meetings, no politics, just doing what we are passionate about and ditching lame clients. Come on, admit it.

What has held most of us back is that pesky notion of paying bills and eating that really gets in the way of following our dreams. If you have ever had your own consulting business you are painfully aware of the “feast or famine” effect that makes us rethink the whole thing. If you are considering a career freelancing with WordPress one question you are likely to have is: Where will I get exposure and find clients?

Today we are interviewing Brian McDaniel (aka BK MacDaddy) a WordPress freelancer that has been pretty successful at keeping himself busy with the help of social media. In the interests of full disclosure, Brian and I were following each other on Twitter and we found mutual interests and eventually met up based on what we were tweeting about. When Brian announced he was moving back to San Francisco on Twitter, via a series of messages we ended up getting together for a couple of beers with a few other friends.

Read the full interview just after the break.

First things first: why WordPress?
I actually started designing websites without a content management system back in the mid-90s. At some point I had a client who requested a Joomla site, so I taught myself the framework and started recommending Joomla to my new clients. Eventually I dabbled in Drupal a little for the same reasons, and then stumbled onto WordPress about 4-5 years ago. The more I used it, the more I loved it, and by comparison there is so much more I could do with WordPress from a design and theming aspect. Most importantly, my clients’ are far happier with WordPress’ intuitive UI and ease of use. I actually wrote a post in more detail about this, if you’d like to reference it.
Big question: where do you get most of your business?
I have a partnership with a consulting firm that generates a lot of my business. Outside of that partnership, all other clients come from either Twitter, Facebook, Google searches or my blog (in that order). I always ask where new clients heard about me, and those are the results.
Have you actually got business from your social media efforts?
Absolutely! In fact, almost 90% of my clients over the past 18 months are directly attributed to my social media efforts. Social media has become the ultimate word-of-mouth advertising for my business. The best part is that I am not an aggressive self-promoter on my social media channels. Instead I try to offer resources and assistance, which in turn has built my reputation as an authority in my field as well as (hopefully) just a nice, trustworthy person. This approach has apparently opened the door for those in need of web and graphic design to hear about me from others that I may have interacted with. Most of my new clients either follow me on Twitter or know someone via Twitter that has recommended my services. I really don’t promote my services at all, but instead allow others to do it for me based on their experiences with me.
Do you get more business from your blog & social media than traditional marketing efforts?
A resounding, unequivocal yes. I do not use any traditional marketing efforts at all. I have never paid to place a print or online ad anywhere and I don’t even have anything in the phone book. Instead I focus my efforts on building my online reputation, and the best advertising for me is the recommendations of others.
How many projects do you work on in a typical month?
I am usually working on anywhere from 2-8 projects of various sizes per month. In general I am always working on at least two different WordPress websites, along with designing and coding email templates and campaigns, at least one logo design or identity package, and any maintenance for existing clients. Depending on the size and functionality of each project I do more or less simultaneously.

I usually am at my desk from 5am to sometime between 3-5pm Monday through Friday. I try to take weekends off, but I usually will put in a couple hours on Saturday and/or Sunday mornings before my family wakes up. Of course, those hours at my desk also include social media updates, breaks for lunch, or errands, or taking a few minutes with my kids when they get home from school, or just helping around the house. So it’s not an overbearing 10-12 hours per day of nonstop work.

How long did it take to get over 12,000+ in followers on Twitter?
It’s been just under 2 years since I started on Twitter. After the first few thousand followers I stopped being so concerned about the numbers, so I can’t really give you an exact timeline because I don’t know. I do know that once I hit about 8,000 the growth has slowed down quite a bit.
The blog on your site: is it just for you and your readers, or is there a business reason?
I actually started the blog on my site shortly after I took the plunge into social media only because I needed a creative outlet for my writing. It was completely self-serving at the time. It didn’t take long for me to almost accidentally realize the potential benefits of blogging, especially when paired with other social media tools. So I made the transition into a more strategic approach, writing about things that I thought would not only be helpful but could be interesting enough to be shared by others via social media. Ultimately I only write about things I feel very passionate about, as writing is a way I enjoy expressing myself, my thoughts, my emotions and my opinions. I am still developing my strategy for blogging, and hope to improve my consistency, but I cannot imagine having the same business growth without it.
Do you think it would be a good idea for WordPress consultants to blog?
I think it’s important for anyone who does anything to try to blog. It’s an excellent tool for building your online presence, reputation and authority in your field. By writing about things you are interested in, sharing who you are and what you’re passionate about, and providing resources and knowledge in your field, you can generate interest and respect that may have otherwise never been tapped. I don’t blog enough – sometimes only as much as one post per month – but I have actually gained clients from certain blog posts. One client read a post I wrote about WordPress that he found in a Google search, and it convinced him to hire me. I consider blogging a social media and SEO tool that, when used in conjunction with my other social media efforts, creates additional opportunities for colleagues and potential clients to get to know me, and vice versa.
Any advice to the newbies?
In a lot of ways I still consider myself a newbie. The world of web and graphic design is always changing and growing, and it’s a challenge just to keep up! I guess I can offer the following advice to others, as well as a reminder to myself:

  • Patience: overnight success in this business is a myth. Stay the course and pursue your dreams with patience and they will eventually come to fruition.
  • Passion: Figure out what you are most passionate about doing and then go for it with everything in you. If you are not passionate about it, but instead you’re just trying to get rich or chase some other fleeting experience, you most likely will not make it. Achieving the fulfillment of your passion is more rewarding than anything else ever could be.
  • Perseverance: don’t give up and don’t slack off. If you really want to do this thing you have set your mind to, you must give it your all. There is no easy shortcut. Hard work will always reap better benefits than searching for a quicker path.

Thanks Brian for sharing your tips.  You can follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

4 thoughts on “Interview with Brian McDaniel: Getting WordPress gigs from social media

  1. Great interview! I know Brian through social media and I consider him a friend of mine now. I consider him as a resource for my company when thinking of designers and developers. Social media is very powerful and Brian is defiantly using it correctly. Great to see that he is still continuing it!

    Great interview article and I congratulate Brian for getting this review, i’m sure it will increase his recognition from this great website, he deserves it

  2. Brian, great interview and great tips. I started almost the same way as a html/css web designer, but then all my clients wanted to have control over their photos, content and links. So WordPress was the way to go, and after that I never looked back.
    Patience and Passion is very important if you love what you do you will give your best, once people see that you will succeed.

  3. Thanks for the feedback guys.

    One important factor about Brian I failed to mention is the way he approaches social media. For Brian, it is really a conversation and he actively communicates with all of his followers at every opportunity. I think his level of engagement is vital to his success and he makes a great effort to stay connected.

    That really should not be overlooked and is really the lesson to be learned here.

  4. I have known Brian for the past 2 years, and he has been an amazing friend online. I actually met him via twitter, and I do hope that we cross path soon at a conference or something. He is very talented and just all around amazing guy.

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