I wanted to start offering something different on the blog. Something which gets the community involved. So I’ve started a new initiative. I’ll be posting a series of background stories / interviews with people who want to share. The first up is Benjamin Gilstrap from Techie Support.
He’s a long term IT specialist turned WordPress user. Through using Zero BS CRM he’s now catapulting his business to the next level and making things count.
Here’s his story.
Q1. What is your background, & how did you first get involved with WordPress?
My original background — I mean way back — is in the medical field. I worked for several major hospitals doing medical transcription. In 2013, shortly after marrying my amazing wife, I made the decision to transition into IT. I’ve been working with small businesses and other IT providers in Phoenix since then.
Basically I’ve been the fix-it guy, supporting everything from desktops and servers to networking gear and printers. It’s a very challenging but also rewarding career path. One of the biggest challenges is selling yourself and your abilities. Especially within the small business sector, many people look at general IT services as an unwanted expense.
I first got involved with WordPress because I needed to build a website for my business. I found out it’s actually pretty awesome, and I also learned that I enjoyed building websites way more than just doing general IT support. I’ve also found that it’s much easier to show the benefits and ROI to business owners when you narrow your focus to their website. And with WordPress you’re not getting just a website. You really have the capability to build out a total business platform which is pretty awesome.
Q2. What website are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on a website for a friend’s contracting business. Like a lot of small businesses, they don’t currently have a website and just operate off of a Facebook page. They specialize in custom remodeling jobs, so I’m creating a nice-looking site with a portfolio to really showcase what they can do. Of course, I’m throwing in some good layout and copy tricks to help with conversions as well.
Q3. Is this a side project, or a full time piece of work?
Building websites with WordPress is a full-time project for me and is now the main focus of my business. I left the traditional 9-5 job behind back in 2013. I had been tired of my previous line of work almost since I started. At that point, I had put 8 years in doing it and was really ready for a change. There have definitely been some ups and downs in the process (and sometimes it can feel like the downs outweigh the ups). Thankfully I have a very supportive wife who keeps me level.
Q4. Which 5 WordPress Plugins are a must for your site and why?
- Zero BS CRM (https://www.zerobscrm.com)
- MailPoet (https://www.mailpoet.com)
- WP Esign (https://www.approveme.com)
- UpdraftPlus (https://updraftplus.com) and
- wBounce (http://kevinw.de/wbounce/)
Those are my must-have plugins. Zero BS CRM is the best CRM I’ve ever used, and it’s got some really awesome features. Being able to manage your customers, your estimates and your invoices all in one place is amazing.
MailPoet is cool because it essentially replaces MailChimp, but it does so in a way that integrates right into your WordPress dashboard. You can design, send and monitor newsletter campaigns without having to log into a separate tool.
WP Esign is great for anyone that deals with contracts or other documents that need to be signed. It integrates the document signing process (which is UETA/ESIGN compliant) right into your WordPress dashboard. And it’s priced on a per-site basis rather than per-user like the other major e-signature platforms (i.e., DocuSign) which can mean some pretty big cost savings.
UpdraftPlus is a really good backup plugin for WordPress. Even the free version does quite a bit, letting you back up on a schedule to multiple different places (like Google Drive, Dropbox, FTP, etc.). It hasn’t let me down yet.
The last one, wBounce, is actually pretty new to me, but it’s really cool. It gives you a fully customizable exit pop-up. You’ve probably come across these on various sites. Essentially they pop up when your cursor leaves the window (for example, to close the tab) as a last ditch effort to grab the attention of your visitors. It integrates really well with MailPoet for signing people up to your newsletter as well.
Q5. What’s your favourite Epic Plugin and favourite Epic Theme, and why?
My favourite plugin is undoubtedly Zero BS CRM. It’s just the quintessential business plugin. If you don’t have a good CRM, a good way to keep track of your customers and sales, then you’re going to struggle. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. There are a lot of awesome plugins out there, but this one is universally useful and can noticeably help immediately.
I actually haven’t used any Epic Themes yet, although I have to say WPeddit looks pretty awesome!
Q6. What pains you the most about using WordPress?
As a website builder, I’m annoyed at how many poorly coded themes and plugins are out there cluttering the marketplace. They can absolutely destroy what would otherwise be a really awesome site.
As a user, I would have to say that WordPress does at times feel like there are too many clicks needed to get certain things done. Using a fast hosting solution helps with this so it doesn’t take too long for the different sections of the dashboard to load.
Q7. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not on your laptop / computer?
Mountain biking, swimming and spending time with my amazing wife.
Q8. What do you think is most important when it comes to making a decision to purchase a plugin or theme? Features? Price? Demo?
I 100% believe it’s a combination of all three. For instance, the WP Esign plugin I mentioned earlier doesn’t have a free version. However, they provide a very nice demo that you can run through so you can see how it works and what the user experience is like. That’s very powerful.
WordPress plugins in general are on the cheaper end of the spectrum when compared with most SaaS-type products. However, it’s still a lot to ask of someone to spend a couple hundred dollars all at once if they don’t know what they’re getting.
Even if you offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, I still feel like having either a free version or a demo is going to help convert more leads to paying customers.
So that’s it. A big thanks to Benjamin for being the first out of the gate and being so thorough with his responses to my Questions.
If you’d like to be featured on the blog with your own story, just drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll arrange it.