We are honored and excited to have Vito Peleg for an interview with Cloudways. Here, we’ll throw light on Vito’s journey and most importantly learn all about his new WordPress plugin that is set to revolutionize the way you collect client feedback.
Cloudways: Hello Vito, and thank you for joining us today. Could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Vito: It’s definitely my pleasure! Truly an honor!
Sure, I actually built my first website when I was 14 years old on GeoCities almost 20 years ago. That was for my skateboarding crew from home for showing off our tricks to the world. Learning HTML made me the go-to-guy for helping friends customize their profiles in school when MySpace came in the scene.
That was pretty much the same time I started playing the guitar which is what the next 15 years were about; leading a rock band and touring the world with my friends.
Even though the band seemed successful from the outside (releasing 2 albums worldwide and playing to thousands of people around the world), we were all still broke!
That’s when I started building websites for clients, literally from the back of the van while on tour.
When we all turned 30 and it wasn’t cool anymore to live in a van with 3 other smelly guys, the band broke up and I started my journey of growing from a freelancer to an agency.
Within 3 years I had a team of 12 people building websites and providing marketing services for small businesses and nonprofits in London, UK.
That’s when we came up with the idea for WP Feedback, which is when I pivoted the agency and this our main focus right now and for the next few years (at least).
Cloudways: How did the idea for WP Feedback come to you? What problem(s) does your product solve?
Vito: It came from a real problem I had at my own agency!
Since we grew pretty fast, managing clients at scale became the biggest issue.
Getting them to do what you need, providing the content, approving our designs and educating them on how to reach out with full and detailed requests when they need support on our care plans was a challenge.
This was quickly eroding our profitability as some projects were hanging for months and sometimes years, waiting for the client to do their part, which means that we didn’t reach the final deposit on the project even if we already invested most of the time needed to complete the project.
We had a clause in the contract that said that if they don’t give us what we need, we still issue the final invoice. But imagine how hard it was to get them to pay if they didn’t even make the effort to give us the content or approve the design.
We tried everything.
From detailed Google docs to elaborate spreadsheets, project management systems and some of the SaaS solutions that are out there and they did help a bit, but nothing quite did the trick.
I then realized that we were expecting too much from our clients and that it isn’t really their fault!
We, as tech-savvy people, see the world differently. When we look at a website, we see color schemes, layouts, code, and flows but when a client is looking at a website all they see is a screen.
This reminded me of the days I was teaching music to teenagers. When a musician listens to a song, they hear it in 3D, they can easily differentiate between the lean vocal and the backing harmonies, they can hear each part of the drums and visualize the rhythmic patterns. More than that, as a guitarist, when I listened to a song I can recognize the exact model of the guitar that was used in the recording. But when my students listened to a song they heard a flat representation of the track.
Similarly, when I look at a WordPress website now, I can identify the theme or page builder that was used just from the aesthetics of the design.
With this realisation, we built a tool that on one hand is super easy for non-technical clients to grasp while still giving us, the devs, the level of details we need as well as automate a lot of the work for us.
Basically, it reduces back and forth with the clients to zero, saving us 3 hours per week per team member and reducing the project completion time by 2.5 weeks on average! This resulted in us getting paid faster without having to deal with the mind-numbing work of organizing tasks and chasing clients.
Cloudways: What was the biggest challenge in getting WP Feedback to market? What and how did you overcome development challenges?
Vito: To be honest, after running an agency, this was a walk in the park!
Since I was the target audience, I just started by creating what I needed for myself and once we had our initial users we simply listened to them. The feature requests that made sense with our goals and “North Star” and were in line with our mission of “Being the way WordPress professionals talk to clients” made it to WP Feedback.
This mission is broad on purpose because I want our tool to be the number 1 solution for managing ALL client communications from the beginning of the relationship to all the way to ongoing support.
We look at every single step of the process and check what we can do to reduce clicks, systemize, and automate the process for both the client and the WordPress freelancer or agency.
There’s a huge roadmap ahead of us and most of it is based on real requests from the community.
One thing we did which was really helpful is that even before building anything we created a landing page and surveyed 587 WordPress professionals to ask them how THEY run their businesses.
We surveyed them from the basic processes of launching a project to how many projects they build every 3 months and how many clients they manage on an ongoing basis. We also asked which tools they are using (Go to theme and page builder) so that we can test at least the main ones and be ready for the market.
This allowed me to confirm that I’m not the only one with this problem and unfortunately (or fortunately for us) this is one of the biggest, if not the biggest issue in the industry.
I think that the process of growing an agency and launching projects every month for years is the best Bootcamp I could ask for.
Cloudways: What is your dev flow? What tools and services do you use for maintaining WPFeedback?
Vito: Our site is on WordPress, of course, and we’re using Easy Digital Download to sell the product.
Now, we’re also working on our cloud application that will allow our users to manage their entire network of websites as well as their team from 1 place – Our “Centralised Dashboard” as we call it – replacing the need for a project management systems and support desk with deep focus on the WordPress community in the most precise way. This is being built with Laravel and React.
There are so many tools and services it’s kind of crazy, haha. One of my favorite ones is actually on the marketing side (Funnelytics) that helps us track the entire flow of our website visitors from different marketing channels in a visual way.
In terms of development, I’m a big fan of agile and rapid development so we’re releasing a new update every week with new features and bug fixes.
Maintaining a WordPress plugin (as opposed to a SaaS solution) means that our code is introduced to thousands of different environments on a daily basis so staying on top of things is key.
We made it a practice that every support ticket that lands on our desk is first fixed for the customer and then rolled out to the entire community on the upcoming update. This also helps us keep support request to the minimum.
Cloudways: I read somewhere that you built your first website when you were just 14 years old. Could you please share the story? Is the website still live?
Vito: Haha, I wish! I tried looking for it a while ago but there’s no trace of it.
I’m sure it looked horrible but being able to create something and sharing it with the online world was mind-blowing for me. I was also a huge South Park fan at the time and I designed a bunch of icons and Win98 themes that I shared with people with another website I built – this one got a lot of hits actually – all with a free 10MB account on GeoCities.
Cloudways: In your opinion, what’s the significance of WordCamps and similar community events? What are your top three tips for attending these events?
Vito: In one sentence I’d just say – GO TO WORDCAMPS!
This is the best way to, first of all, check yourself and make sure you’re on the right track and making the right decisions within your WordPress business, whether you’re a freelancer, agency owner of product maker, you can always ask people who have already walked the path you want to walk and tap into the knowledge of the community.
If you’re reading this interview, you’re already on the right track to learning and expanding your knowledge based on other people’s experience. But that kind of exposure only comes face to face – giving you the power to ask whatever you want and more than that, you should just listen.
My top 3 tips are:
- Don’t bury your head in a phone or a laptop – look up and be approachable.
- Smile and shake hands – People are there to meet other people, so go for it and don’t be shy.
- Wear comfortable shoes as, if you’re doing it right, you’ll be on your feet all day long.
Cloudways: You were at WordCamp Europe recently. How was your experience? How did you promote WP FeedBack at the WordCamp?
Vito: Oh man, I was a machine at WordCamp EU – I didn’t rest for one bit as there were so many interesting people to meet and talk to and I didn’t want to miss out on anyone! The connections I managed to create in these 3 days would’ve taken me at least 3 years normally!
This time, since I launched the project at the same time so I took a more strategic approach to the event, preparing for it 6 weeks before the event to make sure I make the most out of it!
It started with looking into the attendee’s list – I went through the 3,000 people on the list and flagging the core 40 I wanted to meet in person.
This took a lot of time but was worth every minute as I knew exactly who will be there and how they looked by checking their Twitter profiles.
I also printed out the survey I told you about asking WP pros how they run their business and as a way to provide value along with 1 page about the plugin.
People found it super interesting as it was kind of a benchmark report of the industry.
This allowed me to give away content without being spammy.
I also attended 2 meetups (at least) every evening to make sure I hang out with other WP peeps in a more relaxed environment.
And most importantly I had a LOT OF FUN 🙂
I wrote a blog post about my experiences, the incredible people I got to meet and how I strategically launched the plugin at the event: My WordCamp Europe 2019 Experience
Vito Pleg meeting with Cloudways people at WordCamp Europe”
Cloudways: Are you planning to attend any upcoming WordCamps?
Vito: Yes! Not only attend but now that I have a product myself I’m taking a much more active role in the community.
Next week I’m speaking at WordCamp Brighton here in the UK.
This will be a talk about a personal experience of mine when I first moved to England and was busiking in the street and how I used growth hacking tricks to optimize my daily revenue as a busker to 9X the revenue within a month.
It’s a story about setting goals, efficiency, persistence, and optimization for the win.
This is based on a blog post that I wrote about this experience. You can find it here if you want to dig in: Growth Hacking Lessons from Busking Street Vito Peleg
Then later this year, we have our first sponsorship in the community, supporting WordCamp US in November – That’ll also be on my birthday so I’m definitely looking forward to that one.
Then, next year, in February I’ll be going to WordCamp Asia in Thailand. The plan is to fly my entire remote team there so we can meet face to face for the first time!
Cloudways: Would you agree that web hosting drives the internet? What are your thoughts on cloud hosting and how do you compare/contrast it with traditional shared hosting for businesses?
Vito: I think that cloud hosting is the professional way to go!
When I first started, I messed around with cheap hosting accounts trying to save a buck but the more experienced I got the more I realized I was wasting more time than the money it was saving.
We’re using cloud hosting for all our clients for the past 2 years and definitely for us now that our product needs stability and quality performance!
Cloudways: What do you do in your free time? Could you share some interesting stories/pictures of your hobbies/travel from your Rockstar days?
Vito: To be honest, I work a lot!
I really enjoy what I do and it doesn’t feel like “work” to me because I’m building my future and working toward my goals. Lately, since I’m launching a new business, most of my energy goes there.
On the weekends is when I relax with my wife – She’s an amazing singer so we jam together at home and go out to enjoy London. We love going to the cinema, mostly for superhero films 🙂
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Cloudways: Finally, here’s your chance to freestyle. Write anything you think could be interesting or useful to our readers. 🙂
Vito: Understanding that those reading this are probably web professionals – being developers, designers or agency owners, I’d say – Work on your mindset.
It’s all about mindset in this world and investing an hour every single day on educating yourself, asking yourself the hard questions you’re trying to avoid and empowering yourself to be positive and appreciative of what you have achieved and what you can achieve in the future will change your life.
Cloudways: Could you please share pics of your workstation? That would be all!
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Saud is the WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed WooCommerce Hosting Platform. Saud is responsible for creating buzz, spread knowledge, and educate the people about WordPress in the Community around the globe. In his free time, he likes to play cricket and learn new things on the Internet. You can email him at [email protected]