Romane Vernet is the founder and CEO of AnythingPixel, a smart boutique digital marketing agency based in Atlanta, Ga. that builds beautiful websites to convert visitors to customers. After leaving his eCommerce job of 10 years, Romane set out to support businesses that were too big for freelancers, but too small for most established agencies.
Getting to know AnythingPixel
What’s the elevator pitch for your agency?
AnythingPixel is a smart digital marketing boutique agency that does SEO, PPC, reputation management, WordPress maintenance, email marketing and builds beautiful websites out of Atlanta, Ga. I design and develop websites and manage a group of talented remote designers, project manager, developers, SEOs, writers and digital marketers.
What inspired you to start AnythingPixel?
I worked at an eCommerce company for more than 10 years. It got sold earlier this year. That was my motivation to create a business that I would enjoy working at for decades to come.
As a long-time and part-time freelancer, I saw a market for small businesses needing websites and digital marketing services. These business were either too small for big established agencies or too big for a freelancer.
What first steps did you take to get the business off the ground?
Even though I had experience working on websites, doing SEO, PPC and email marketing, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I wanted bigger clients. So the first thing I did was humble myself and shadowed an agency owner. I worked there for a few months and still do a few tasks here and there at times.
I did that to get the agency experience and see what that life is all about. I also did a lot of research on the industry, talked to business owners that I saw advertising, and listened to their needs and what they do and don’t like about their current provider(s).
Once I gathered enough information, I worked on putting together a like-minded team. Then, we worked on some custom solutions, incorporated some client-side technology, like a dashboard for full transparency of our work, and a custom marketing automation application we call Sellergence (Seller Intelligence).
What challenges did you face early on?
One noticeable challenge an entrepreneur faces in the early days is time management and prioritizing what needs to be done in a particular order.
At first, you are everything. You are the accounting department, tech department, developer, salesperson, etc.
Another challenges for the situation I was in was cash flow. Coming from a traditional job where every two weeks a check was deposited into your account was gone for me. I had to create income in a new way and learn about money management from a business owner point of view.
What big wins have you had so far?
I value people. Having a good team is a big win. I love technology, and our client dashboard and CRM sets up apart.
Where do you see your business going in the future?
In five years, I see the business maturing with a healthy size client base and making a name for itself locally. In 10 years, I believe we’ll be servicing the southeast region, tapping into clientele nationwide, and hopefully going international.
Dealing with clients
What’s your ideal client?
An ideal client is a business that needs a virtual/remote in-house marketing department. A business that needs a modern website that turns visitors into customers, and who wants to create a partnership with us to help them scale to where they want to be.
How do you find new clients?
We have lots of word-of-mouth, but we do digital advertising and marketing for ourselves. We also do a little bit of print marketing to certain industries where that’s the best method of garnering attention.
How do you retain your clients and encourage repeat business?
We don’t have any long-term contracts. We let our hard work drive the results our clients want, and if they continue to like the results, they keep us.
We are always staying on the cutting edge by tweaking our own technology and introducing new services to clients, like reputation management and WordPress care plans.
Have you ever had to fire a client? What was that experience like?
Yes. I wouldn’t use the word fire, but I’ve had to part ways with a client or two in the past. The experience wasn’t as bad as one would think. I would have a conversation about expectations and goals and see if the relationship still made sense.
What’s your approach to contracts and project agreements?
In terms of contracts, we make sure that both sides know what they are getting into and gaining. Once that is agreed upon, we have a mock walkthrough meeting of the processes and then launch the project. We have a talented group and we wear many hats, but each of us has our own forte. We capitalize on those strengths and stay true to the processes.
Your working environment
What’s your office/studio setup?
All of us work remote unless meeting with a client or having a meeting. We lease office spaces that are workplaces for the day (which is becoming a trend) and that fit our personalities: geeky, modern, fun, hip, and laid back.
How do you work? What’s your day-to-day routine?
I get up in the morning and start my day around 8:30 a.m. I check emails and follow up with any leads.
If there is a new active project in the pipeline, I follow up with the team to see where everyone is and if help is needed for any of the milestones. We use milestones in the project to know where we are in the process and how close we are to delivering.
Once I get a scope on where the projects are, I check our ads and make any tweaks necessary and then perform some SEO tasks. Finally, I will make phone calls to leads and sometimes go out and look for business the old fashioned way.
What tools do you rely on?
Depending on the size of the website and if it’s a new build, I use the new GoDaddy Pro Managed WordPress hosting.
GoDaddy has stepped up their game in that department for sure. The company use to get a bad rap for their shared servers and customer service. I too use to point fingers. I can honestly say now that their customer service is bar none. The folks on the other end of the line go far beyond where they are supposed to, in my opinion.
Everyone from John (the Eagles fan) to Ben (who is a freaking genius). They are SOOO patient and knowledgeable. I can’t say enough about them. They are HONEST, too. The Pro server is new and has a few kinks that need to be worked out, and all the tech folks over there are up front with it.
I think the path that GoDaddy is on is a great one that will benefit any entrepreneur. They even have business phone numbers, which include 800 numbers, too. I love the way GoDaddy has also tied in ManageWP with GoDaddy Pro Sites to help with WordPress maintenance.
Other tools we use:
- Screaming Frog
- Google Search Console & Analytics
- Sellergence (our custom solution)
- Dreamweaver, BBedit, Sublime Text
Many of the tools are used for keyword research for SEO and PPC. The other tools are for design, coding, and marketing and project management.
I’m a believer that technology is supposed to help with certain tasks, and the tools we use are not perfect, but they do add value. They save time and keep things organized.
Growth and learning
How do you unwind outside of work?
I have a wife and a 5-year-old. They keep me busy as well, but I am doing what I’m doing for them. When free time comes up, I like spending time with them. I’m a family guy for sure. I also love video games and traveling.
What’s your guiding philosophy in life?
Basically the golden rule: Do unto others as you want others to do unto you.
I’m Haitian, so my perspective on life has in international angle. I value family and people. I think we all can learn from each other, and ultimately, we are all a product of our environment and others we encounter along the way.
I once heard an awesome story of what’s on a tombstone. There are two dates and a dash that is on there — when you were born and when you are no longer amongst the living.
The import thing is the dash in the middle. What did you do in between those dates is what matters in life.
I also run a nonprofit organization called HYRO (pronounced like hero), that encourages youth to give back to their communities and doing that type of work keeps me grounded.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
My wife and daughter. I get up in the morning for them. Also being an immigrant with a global understanding, I appreciate living in a country that has so many opportunities and freedoms to push my potential and get rewarded for it.
What advice do you have for aspiring freelancers and entrepreneurs?
I would say to have plan and research what you want to do. Your heart can push you do many things, but freelancing and entrepreneurism is about earning a profit.
I would love to play video games all day, but I don’t have to proper skills to turn that into a profitable business like some people. I have my strengths, and I try to exploit that.
Once you have a marketable strength that is profitable, I would then say follow your heart. Stay true to yourself and service your customers/client like you would want to be serviced. Take care of the customer and they will take care of you.