ThemeValet (Month 1) – Warts and all

Person typing on a laptop computer

A quick(ish) update to report on how things are going, one month after launching my new startup idea, ThemeValet (‘WordPress website setup for busy people’).

(If you’re a new reader, ThemeValet is a new business idea I started as a result of re-reading the 7 Day Startup book by Dan Norris. Read all previous articles).

I’ve been in the nice position of helping out new and old ThemeValet customers today, so please excuse me if the following is more ‘brain dump’ than coherent analysis.

Monthly goal

I set a target of getting 10 customers for ThemeValet in the first month.

In the end I only achieved five.

So while I fell short, and I’m not a fan of missing targets, I feel happy that five people (only one of whom I knew before) felt confident enough that ThemeValet would solve their problem to order the service (and if you are one of them it was my pleasure to help you).

And while I didn’t do a formal feedback survey after each order, every customer seemed very pleased and I’m pretty certain that they would recommend ThemeValet to a friend (in fact I know that some already have!).

I have to say ‘no’ more

It might sound counter-intuitive when you’re just starting out – and it’s definitely not about being snobby – but one thing I’ve definitely learned is that I need to say ‘no’ more.

No, to what?

#1 Extra ‘custom’ requests (that are part of otherwise perfectly sound ThemeValet orders).

Not to everything, just to things that are – in hindsight – far outside what ThemeValet is about that it just makes no sense in us doing them.

That doesn’t mean to say we won’t or can’t ever do ‘extra’ things as part of ThemeValet orders, but I need to be much clearer on what we should and shouldn’t be saying yes too.

To be clear this is not about being lazy, sometimes ThemeValet is simply not best placed to handle a particular request.

And it’s not that any customers have given us any ’unfair’ requests either, it’s up to me to make clear what we can and can’t reasonably help them with.

I believe Dan also mentions the dangers of getting too pulled away from your ‘core vision’ in his 7 Day Startup book.

Though of course there’s a difference between getting a mountain of customer feedback – that suggests you should consider what you’re offering and the way you present it – and trying to accommodate every single request that just isn’t right for your service.

All that said, this seems like a pretty inevitable part of the learning process and likely to be repeated in future as we get new requests from customers.

What’s important then is not to worry about it but to make sure that – whenever we get a request for something unexpected in future – whatever decision I make is recorded and a process is put in place so it’s handled automatically or politely declined(!) in future.

#2 Not disqualifying people we’re never going to be able to help much earlier in the pre-sales process (and having ‘try this service instead’ recommendations ready to offer where appropriate).

Simply put, I just need to define much better exactly what ThemeValet can and can’t do up front and not be so eager to try to help.

Not to sound like a hero, but it’s not in my nature to turn people away. Particularly when they’re clearly not sure how to go ahead and are politely asking for help.

However I need to stick to the script and recognise the goal of ThemeValet is not to try and help everyone.

And my problem is not that there are not enough available customers for the business (WordPress is massive, people are buying new themes every day) that I have to try to ‘force’ non perfect ones to buy.

My problem is that I’m not reaching enough of these ‘perfect’ customers.

Therefore my time would be better spent on building reliable and regular ways of reaching those customers at the moment when they need help.

Rather than entertaining a possible new order for several days – in an effort to somehow find a way to help that person – that I should probably say ‘no’ to earlier.

Which all leads to…

I need to do more marketing

I seem to say this every week but it’s just a fact.

And one of the ways I can find more time to spend on marketing is saying ’no’ better.

Onto the marketing itself, I’m a fan of – and not shy to – try different things.

One thing I’ve realised though – also related to saying ‘no’ more – is that there is an ideal type of customer for this business and I should focus my energies on how to reach those people in particular, wherever possible.

Rather than thrash around to try to get ‘any’ customer.

To me this best way to do that, at least as it seems at the moment, is linking up with ‘theme shops’ wherever possible and is something I’m working on…

I would also like to try some more content marketing, something I’ve been inspired more to do by Dan Norris’ second book Content Machine (out on Monday).

However I realise, in most cases, this is more of a ’slow burn’ and about helping people and building trust over time.

What I need to try and do is build a strategy that brings me customers in the short term (by continuing to build connections on Facebook groups, asking existing customers for referrals, working with my affiliates) and building for the longer term in the background.

Too many ‘distractions’?

Speaking of doing and finding more time for marketing, I’ve also been thinking a lot about focus and whether I’m still creating too many distractions for myself or whether these other activities are complementary to what I’m doing.

I heard Tucker Max say the following on Jonny Nastor’s Hack the Entrepreneur podcast and it really stuck in my mind:

The only way you create outside success is by extreme, ridiculous focus.

The following activities might only take me a few hours a week but that’s still a few hours not working directly on ThemeValet.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy them or I just want to abandon them without a second thought, but at the same time I think it would be smart to review each one.

Daily posts on this website

Apart from the regular ThemeValet updates, I’ve started writing daily posts on whatever is on my mind right here on this site.

I think this has helped me get clear on a lot of things (like writing this update helps me get clearer on ThemeValet) and I’ve even received some nice compliments from people that I respect like Brian Gardner (which makes me want to keep writing even more), as well as a few ‘what the hell is this’ type comments from friends!.

But if I’m being brutal about finding more time maybe I should stop these for now. I still have a few in the tank, so I’ll post those anyway but if I’m serious about finding more time that is one way.

Whatever happens, I’ll still keep writing about ThemeValet though.

Arguments against?

Maybe keeping myself ‘in the mind’ of the people on my email list – and, by extension – keeping ThemeValet in their mind?

But it’s a small email list, I’m not trying to ‘sell’ them on ThemeValet (see my earlier point about the right customers) and maybe my time is better spent directly on ThemeValet.

A few months ago I started a new blog called

It’s probably mega geeky to most people reading this but Genesis is something known as a framework for WordPress (basically a great foundation for a fast, secure WordPress website).

That might sound incredibly niche, and in some ways it is, but Genesis has been bought by over 100,000 people and is used by some of the most respected developers in WordPress.

Since launching the blog I’ve had reasonable success with over 1,000 people a month regular reading it and each article often getting 20 or 30 shares on social media.

The people reading it are not likely my ideal customer but they are the developers that might raise awareness of ThemeValet and refer people to it (acting as affiliates or otherwise) so there is some value there.

Recently I’ve also been interested in seeing if other people from the Genesis community would like to guest edit some articles on the blog.

The original idea was that it would help give a different voice to the articles instead of just my perspective all the time (on what is a very diverse community).

Admittedly though it might also help me spend more time on ThemeValet.

My position is then I’ll continue to seek guest contributors but for the moment at least I will carry on updating for the reasons I mentioned above unless I think it is severely hampering my ability to grow ThemeValet.

Snapchat updates

It wasn’t taking up a huge amount of my day, but due to the lack of other people I know on it (I guess I’m the wrong generation right now), I’ve stopped posting to Snapchat for the moment.

However I did ‘succeed’ with my experiment in getting to properly figure out how it works(!) and understanding the marketing benefits for many people and brands.

Other projects

Did I just say reducing distractions in one breath and other projects in the next?

Yes, I’m afraid I did. Back when I first started the ‘7 Day Startup’ process I mentioned another idea I had (WP Owner) and I still have a strong desire to start some kind of membership site either around or related to that idea.

I realise though with my audience at the moment I would probably have to build up interest first by blogging or creating other kinds of content around it for free first.

Therefore something I’d quite like to spend some time on every week is building up content and an audience for that. At the same time though I don’t want to lose focus.

The better news is that whatever the final idea will be it will be related in some way to ThemeValet so that any content created for that could also serve to drive people to ThemeValet too.

I’ll keep an open mind on this for now but I am encouraged about the idea from a couple of people I’ve spoken to.

What is my ideal type of customer?

Moving back to ThemeValet itself, I want to just talk quickly for a moment about something I touched on earlier:

What is the ‘perfect’ customer for ThemeValet?

Right now, I don’t think I can say 100% but I’m starting to think the following.

  • Someone who knows what WordPress is
  • Someone who has already bought a WordPress theme (or knows the theme they want to use)
  • Someone who is setting up a new website with WordPress (i.e. not importing any content from an old site)
  • Someone who is more concerned about getting launched and live than every tiny detail of a design
  • Someone who doesn’t have the time or motivation to set things up themselves (but knows enough about WordPress they probably could if they wanted to or at least create a ‘version’ of what they want)

I say perfect because that’s not to say I want to rule out everyone who doesn’t fit the above criteria, but based on the people I’ve helped so far it’s these people that seem to be getting the most value out of ThemeValet.


Before I get on to the future of ThemeValet, a final word on the packages I’m offering to customers at the moment.

Currently I have:

  • ‘Just Like The Demo’ ($99)
  • Demo + Content ($199)
  • Demo + Content + Branding ($299)

I’ve had a lot of requests to set up e-commerce, membership and even podcasts along with theme setups.

I’m in two minds about this, but clearly a lot of people want to set-up e-commerce websites in some form or another.

Therefore I’m considering changing packages like this:

  • ‘Just Like The Demo’ ($99)
  • Demo + Content + Branding (~$249)
  • All the above + setup of one other feature (e-commerce or membership or podcast) (~$499)

However I think I would have to very tightly define what would come in each feature setup (i.e. customer is choosing off a small menu of options).

Something that needs more thought and probably more customers.

Should I carry on?

Oh yes, I’m definitely carrying on. I’m still extremely excited, motivated and enjoying working on ThemeValet (and as I mentioned in my last update I really need more data (customers) anyway).

However beyond that the one thing that’s really ‘keeping me going’ is the amazing reaction I’ve had from my customers so far.

I’ve had great support from people who like the idea (but who might not be customers) and I hugely appreciate it, but it’s the reaction of customers that has me convinced that if I can just:

  • get the offer right (and say ‘no’ when it’s right to do so)
  • get the marketing right

ThemeValet could really help a lot of people.

I don’t have a huge worry about scaling the business (though I don’t underestimate it will be hard work and a challenge).

It’s these two points I need to focus on.

It’s up to me to ‘make the time’ and figure it out from here.

Next month goal

For my next month goal I’m torn between saying 8 customers (+50%ish) or 10 customers (+100%).

I’m also away a bit in August (though not completely detached from a computer).

Assuming I can hit my goal next month and I want to maintain the same growth rate, here’s how it would look if I could stay on target.

‘50%’ growth rate (rounding up)

  • 5 customers in a month
  • 8
  • 12
  • 18
  • 27
  • 41 (revenue of $6,150 per month at $150 average order size)

100% growth rate

  • 5
  • 10
  • 20
  • 40
  • 80
  • 160 (revenue of $24,000 per month at $150 average order size)

Bear in mind I believe Dan (author of the 7 Day Startup) sets himself a 15% growth rate, mine probably seem a little crazy, particularly as I missed this month’s.

I think it’s still so early though – and I still have so many marketing cards to play – it’s difficult to set one accurately so I’d rather go aggressive for now and push for 100%. No doubt, even if I hit it, it will slow down in months to come but I can review things then.

So my goal in August, even though I’m not around as much, is 10 customers.

I know it will be a challenge but hopefully this will push me to work smarter and not just harder.

Thank you for following along and everyone who keeps sending me their support, it really makes a massive difference. Cheers.

PS If you have a comment on any of the above, particularly my thoughts on ‘distractions’ I’d love to hear it in the comments section below.


10 responses

  1. Keep going Nick!

    And please don’t stop the personal development/psychology/motivation emails. They’re the best thing I’ve been reading anywhere in the last few weeks; loved the one on busy = lazy 🙂

    Re pushing ThemeValet, if I were you I’d bypass the theme shops and go straight to the theme developers. Their contact details should be a doddle to find from their sales pages and demo sites.

    I’d spend a day or 2 finding contacts, then write 3-4 emails and start a campaign to them. Touch 1 would be something like, “Are you leaving money on the table? Let us set up your new clients in your brand…”

    Then a couple more short and sweet emails to those that don’t reply. I’d bet you have a few takers over a couple of weeks if you start out with 100-200 theme developer emails.

    They could add you to their installation guide for those that need extra set up help? Could earn them some more money too with no extra work on their part, and reduce the amount of support requests they have to deal with.

    Keep up the good work, following with interest and wishing you all the best 🙂

    1. Hey Lee

      First of all thank you for the kind words on my random emails, I do enjoy writing them and as I said in today’s update ( it doesn’t actually take me that long so maybe I’ll keep them going 🙂

      I think you’ve absolutely nailed it on pushing ThemeValet. I should actually clarify (and it’s the fault of my loose language) I did mean theme developers in the sense of working with them direct, I guess re-reading it theme shops makes it sound more like Theme Forest etc (i.e. marketplaces). I’ll tweak my language on that in future.

      I think you’ve even laid out exactly what my plan should be too so I have no excuse not to do it now.

      Hope you are good and appreciate the support!


  2. Adrian Avatar

    I’d definitely say you should keep blogging. And to keep doing it for yourself like you’ve said before (referencing Seth Godin). That being said, it does sound like you are fielding a lot of different projects all at once. This is something I am guilty of myself.

    1. Hey Adrian, thanks mate, when I get feedback like this even though I’m ‘writing for myself’ it definitely helps. (I know most of the time I keep the comments switched off on the shorter articles but I think that works better).

      And I loved your article the other day and your kind words about this blog, if it inspires you to write more that makes me happy!

      (And if you’re struggling to carve out the time check out my post today on batching in case that helps:


  3. Hey Nick, good to catch up with where you’re at. I’m getting closer to launching Add Products. I’ve had the chance to spend some time refining the site this weekend. A few more tweaks and I’ll be out there, too. It’s a scary thought!!! I hate the hustle. Someone should do a ‘hustle for hire’ business for the likes of me. Take care, Sandra

    1. Hey Sandra!

      Great to hear you’re moving things along.

      Outsourcing the hustle sounds like an interesting idea 🙂


  4. Hey Nick!

    Great article.

    I love the idea of adding in ecommerce to your pricing structure. I can see that being quite a lucrative spot for you. I can see people that maybe have a bit of an idea about setting up a site, but wouldn’t have a clue how to set up the pricing etc. for a shop.

    Also, it might be good for you to try and sell the benefit of saving people a load of time?

    Keep up the aweseome work!


    1. Cheers Gav!

  5. Amen to #2, Nick! I think it helps build credibility and authority to be clear w potential clients when you know you are not the best fit for their needs but can point them to somebody else who might be.
    If you keep running into the same issues, you could generate a post about how to address an issue and point people to it. (“We can’t help w that, but here’s an article I wrote that can get you started. Or you could try Company XYZ.”)
    You don’t get paid by those people, but I think they remember you as helpful, knowledgeable, and responsive to their needs.
    Keep going, Nick! And keep posting about it!

    1. Hey Kevin! Thanks so much for the comment.

      Yeah, I definitely want to make sure that ThemeValet can always help people (even if we can’t help them directly) and having a bank of content like you suggest is the way forward.

      At the same time I definitely want to try and help people from time to time that are maybe not exactly in the original ThemeValet ‘brief’ if I can (like the successful experiment (I hope!) in helping you with Rainmaker, which I now plan to offer to others too) because it helps me learn and challenges a lot of the way off assumptions that I’ve no doubt built into things 😉

      Like anything it’s striking a balance and keeping a close eye on what works and what doesn’t.

      Really appreciate the support.

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