Jan Koch is a WordPress professional based in Germany, running an agency called WPMastery and hosting the WP Agency Summit this year. He is passionate about setting up efficient processes in his agency, building up recurring revenue, and scaling businesses without burning out.
Cloudways: How did you come up with the idea of the WP Agency Summit? I still remember that you had conducted a similar online event back in 2015. How WPMastery is different from that event? Why there was such a long hiatus between these two online events?
Jan Koch: The idea was in the back of my head since 2018, but I never executed it. It wasn’t until I had a few conversations at WordCamp Europe, with the Cloudways team and also Akshat from Blogvault & Malcare, that showed me the potential of running another summit.
Seeing other agency owners face similar problems I was struggling with, and hearing from popular brands in the community that they would support such an event, I pulled the switch on the WP Agency Summit.
In between these two events, I was busy working on projects and building relationships with other agency owners through Facebook groups. I didn’t take the time to take a step back and clearly think about the opportunity for another virtual summit until WordCamp EU happened.
Cloudways: Why are you targeting agency owners in this event? What role do agency owners play in the WordPress ecosystem?
Jan Koch: Running an agency is tough. It requires perseverance and know-how while dealing with challenges on an almost consistent basis. My own agency was facing challenges as were the businesses of almost every other WP professional I talked to – so I saw a need for creating an information resource around this topic.
Regarding the role of WP agencies in the community, I think they’re massively important. Not just agencies but freelancers as well. Just looking at my FB groups, I can see that I am getting immense value from the communities I am in – mostly run by WP professionals. They share their successes and failures, tips and tricks, and openly communicate about not just business but life as agency owners and freelancers.
I also think that the monetary aspect of selling WP projects helps foster innovation. We all have new feature requests and ideas that spark the development of new and exciting tools. Be it page builders, their extensions, security products, marketing tools or what have you – I doubt that there would much awareness for the needs those products fulfill if there weren’t countless WP professionals using them daily.
Cloudways: What was your research criteria when you decided to focus on agency owners? What problems do you want to solve for them?
Jan Koch: Growing an agency comes with various problems, the most important of which are generating a stable cash-flow, delivering projects on time, avoiding overloading yourself with work, and positioning your agency to attract high-paying clients.
Those are the challenges I face with my own agency and thus those became the main focus for the WP Agency Summit. I knew from conversations with fellow agency owners that I wasn’t the only entrepreneur facing these problems.
My research consisted of having conversations with entrepreneurs in the WP community and diving into the training materials that already exist for building WordPress agencies or freelance businesses. There weren’t too many online courses or mentoring programs, so I took the leap and decided to launch this event to help provide information that seems to be missing in the field.
When you go through the speaker list, you’ll notice a pattern. There are mainly four types of problems that I want to solve for the attendees:
1. How to create a consistent revenue stream?
Most agency owners know how feast & famine cycles feel. In some months, you’re working on more projects you can handle. Cash flow is looking great and your team is constantly publishing client websites.
The downside is the lack of time to do sales. Hence, the good months are followed by months with little to no work – and thus little to no income.
A big part of the WP Agency Summit is to bring together business owners who solved this challenge in their own business by building recurring revenue streams.
2. How to attract high-paying customers?
From my experiences, the prices are racing downwards in the WP space. There are websites being built for $300 or even less – which isn’t nearly enough to cover the costs of being in business.
I have brought together agency owners who regularly do projects with a five-figure budget. They share their successful approaches to positioning, selling, and project delivery.
Using WordPress comes with security risks. Whether that’s automated attacks on the plugins you’re using or social engineering attacks like phishing campaigns, WP professionals need to understand how to protect customer websites right from the launch.
Hence, I invited security experts like Akshat Choudhary, Oliver Sild or Michael Moore from iThemes to cover those topics and give actionable advice on not just building secure websites but also educating the customers.
4. Project delivery and development
Lastly, successful WP agencies deliver projects smoothly and have rock-solid development operations. I wanted the Summit to reflect that, so I invited two WP Core Contributors, agency owners with highly advanced development practices and developers of plugin suites to this event.
Cloudways: I still remember Navid Moazzez was the go-to guy for online events. What did you learn from him during all these years?
Jan Koch: I actually invested in the latest version of Navid’s training program Virtual Summit Mastery to run the WP Agency Summit. He is a huge authority in the field and his training easily is the best I’ve seen.
From his training, I learned how to run the summit, how to prepare everything in advance (website, emails, speaker outreach, etc) and how to launch the event with a clear strategy.
In his community, I also met a fellow entrepreneur from Germany who’s mentoring me. He has run 30+ virtual summits in his niche and I’m lucky to be working with him.
Cloudways: We met for the first time at WordCamp Europe. What’s the difference between attending a WordCamp and conducting an event like WP Agency Summit. How will this event contribute to the WordPress community?
Jan Koch: Nothing replaces making connections in person. Meeting somebody and looking them in the eyes fosters deeper relationships than meeting somebody online through an event like the WP Agency Summit. Even video calls don’t come close.
However, most people can’t attend physical conferences like WordCamps. They’re booked with work, can’t (or don’t want to) leave their family at home or cannot afford the costs related to travel, hotel, conference tickets, etc.
With the WP Agency Summit, I want to give those people an opportunity to join an event that feels like a virtual conference. We get to experience similar benefits like the presentations and room for engaging with each other (we have a Facebook group). Attendees can connect with other attendees online and build relationships there – and that’s already happening in the FB group.
Cloudways: If you get the chance to organize WP Agency Summit offline (on-ground), would you avail it?
Jan Koch: It would certainly be a huge challenge. Right now, I feel that would be a little over my head. As I’m writing this answer, I’m heads-down in the preparation for the virtual event and haven’t given much thought to doing a real conference offline (other than playing around with that idea randomly).
However, I am friends with a few people who pulled off events like that successfully, like Lee Jackson with Agency Transformation Live. So if I can get him or somebody else to mentor me and my business on running a real conference, I’d surely consider doing that.
Cloudways: Please share your future plans regarding WP Agency Summit. How many events are you planning to organize in the next year?
Jan Koch: The WP Agency Summit is really well perceived so far, which encourages me to run more events like that in the future. For 2020, my goal is to pull off one summit per quarter, so four events in total.
I’m already flooded by requests from agency owners, WP professionals and potential sponsors for another WP Agency Summit – so that will certainly happen!
However, I’m also entertaining the thought of doing summits on related topics. I will keep those to myself for now though, as I have yet to decide on which topics would be worth doing a summit and which communities would benefit from having virtual summits available.
Cloudways: What online tools and mechanisms you are using to put up this massive online show? Are you managing all this by yourself or there is a team behind it?
Jan Koch: The website is hosted on Cloudways and I use CloudwaysCDN to ensure solid loading times across the globe.
I use WP Astra Pro as the theme and Elementor Pro as the page builder, Active Campaign for managing the attendees and Memberium to build the membership area for customers who buy lifetime access to the event and have to get access to their bonuses.
The payment gateway is ThriveCart, which also serves as an affiliate platform. It was an upfront investment (a couple of hundred dollars) but it is already paying off. The affiliate platform is super stable, as is the checkout process. I am seeing a few purchases of the lifetime access already during this pre-launch phase, which encourages me and sparks confidence that I’m pulling off a good event with the help of my sponsors.
Thank you, Cloudways, for not just providing a rock-solid hosting experience over the past years but also supporting the event as a sponsor.
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Passionate about technology, entrepreneurship, and marketing, Mansoor Ahmed Khan is in computing since he knows how to type on a keyboard. His daily life is rocked by his family, projects, and his screen. Probably in this order, he likes to be convinced at least.