The Beacon Agency: IT project manager turned digital marketing specialist

Q&A with Ed Perry

Ed Perry is President of The Beacon Agency, a Houston-based digital marketing agency. His journey has taken him from education through I.T. consulting to now helping small businesses manage their marketing, advertising and technology challenges.

The Beacon Agency

What’s The Beacon Agency all about?

The Beacon Agency is a digital marketing agency that offers marketing, advertising and technology consulting services for small businesses.

We were built with the idea that all of these things could be done better, faster and more efficiently so that small businesses could have access to the same products and services that were normally only available to the largest businesses.

I believe that small businesses are the heart and soul of a strong economy.

 

The goal of my business is to help other small businesses succeed by providing them with the products and services they need to grow and expand. I believe in hiring the best people and creating a management structure that allows them to be successful when and where they are most likely to do so. And above all, I believe in working every day to figure out how I can create the most value for each dollar my clients spend.

What got you into this line of work?

Ed Perry The Beacon AgencI’ve had an interesting career that began in education. After doing that for five years, I had an opportunity to make the switch over to the private sector by doing instructional design for an education company.

I took that job which led to a career in I.T. I moved up the ranks there until I was eventually managing all of the company’s infrastructure and doing I.T. project management and software implementations.

I started offering marketing and advertising services as a way to make some extra money on the side doing something that I enjoyed, which was social media and websites.

After deciding that a career in I.T. wasn’t for me, and really wanting to start a business myself, I decided to go into digital marketing consulting full time.

Pro tip: Learn how to start a web design business with this worksheet.

What I really enjoy about it the most is having the ability to help small businesses succeed, that every day is a little bit different, and that I can see in tangible form the difference that I make helping other people grow their businesses.

How many clients are you working with today?

The Beacon Agency WebsiteThat number changes frequently based on how many website projects I’m working on and things like that, but it’s usually somewhere around five to eight.

I’m looking to expand my subscription service offerings to create a little more stability in my business and to provide value to my customers beyond just the websites I do. These services include fully managed WordPress hosting, as well as local SEO, on-page SEO, content creation, social media management, email marketing and more.

Pro tip: Learn how to generate monthly recurring revenue with a WordPress maintenance business.

How did you land your first client?

I didn’t actually land my first client — I was actually brought in to help someone else with a website. But I realized that this was something I enjoyed and was good at, so I pursued more clients after that. It turns out a lot of people need a website.

Who’s your ideal client?

Our ideal client is a small business that is looking to grow by adding new customers or by increasing customer retention. We love clients who are eager to learn and try new things.

What’s your pricing model? How do you charge your clients?

What I charge depends on the project. For websites projects, I prefer flat-rate and usually broken up into phases. For subscription services, I charge regular recurring fees on a monthly basis.

Everything is designed to be as inexpensive as possible by eliminating inefficiency and using technology and automation.

Most WordPress websites range from $3,000 to $7,000, and most of my subscription services are less than $800 per month.

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How long did it take you to become profitable?

It took about nine months of doing it full time to be able to really support myself. It is still a struggle, but it is getting better each month. I would love to bring on more people, and we’re going to be getting to that point soon.

What’s the biggest win you’ve had so far?

I would say my biggest win so far was just figuring out a system that works for creating websites quickly and efficiently. Being able to replicate that formula has really been the one thing that has helped my business grow. It really came from just a lot of trial-and-error and a lot of mistakes made with past clients.

Can you share some details about that system? How’d you come up with it?

The system refers to the process we use to estimate, plan, and then quote the project. We’ve learned that the more planning we can do before any code is written, the smoother the project will be.

The basic process goes something like this:

  1. The client expresses in interest in working with us.
  2. We get to know each other through conversations about project goals and business objectives to ensure a good fit.
  3. We provide the client with an estimate for the project based on what we’ve learned about the site and the amount of assistance we will be required to provide.
  4. If the client approves, we collect a small retainer fee and use that to plan out the project. This includes the sitemap, basic sections on each page, technologies used, custom integrations (if any) and any other pertinent information.
  5. We provide the client with a project plan and a quote for the project. They own this project plan and may do as they choose with it. They are free to work with us or take the plan to any web developer they use to quote the project for a second opinion. If we’ve done our job well and priced the project fairly, it is our hope that the client will work with us.
  6. If the client approves, we get started on the project!

This process was developed over many website projects completed and the lessons learned from each.

What have you learned from the hurdles you’ve overcome?

The Beacon Agency LogoI’ve learned that not every client is a good fit, and sometimes it’s hard to make that decision and walk away from someone who’s offering you money. But what I’ve learned is that there are lots of people who need my services, and lots of other agencies that do business differently than I do.

One bad relationship can really do a lot of damage to your business and can also really take up a lot of the time that you should be spending on other things.

That’s been a steep learning curve for me, but now that I understand who I am, how I want my business to run, and the type of clients I want to work with, things run a lot more smoothly.

Where do you see your business in five years? Ten years?

In five years, I would like to have at least 10 full-time employees and clients across the country. In 10 years, I’d like to have at least 50 employees and a large network of service providers that are changing the game for small businesses.

The working environment

What’s your office/studio setup?

When I’m home, I work in my home office. The office includes a large IKEA desk that is fairly tall. I go back and forth between a leaning stool and standing with the use of a laptop standing desk that sits on top of the regular desk. I travel often, and sometimes just want to be out of the house, so I frequently work at coffee shops and outdoors when the weather permits.

Do you still find time to combine your love for music and your love for technology?

I rarely find time to make music anymore, but I am always listening to it! Being a digital nomad, my office is wherever my laptop happens to be. I frequently listen to music while I work, and my diverse musical tastes from my previous career certainly have carried over into what I listen to now.

How many hours a day do you dedicate to client work?

It’s hard to say, really. When you own your own business and you’re doing everything yourself, you don’t ever really get to turn it off. Even if I’m on vacation I’m still working, so I would say at least 10 hours a day, usually more. It depends on workload and how many projects I am managing.

Walk us through your routine. What does an average day look like for you?

The Beacon Agency Promo ImageI try to make every day different, but I am still a creature of habit so most days begin very similarly.

I wake up and boil some water to make coffee in the french press. I am VERY particular about my coffee, so this is important. While the coffee is brewing, I prepare some fruit and a smoothie for breakfast.

Once I have breakfast and coffee ready, I sit down to check my email and respond to anything that is urgent.

Once I’ve cleaned out my inbox (which I’m a little OCD about and rarely exceeds more than seven or eight emails) I head to the gym. I spend 60 to 90 minutes at the gym, and I usually try to end with some relaxation/meditation in the sauna or hot tub. This helps clear my mind and focus on what I need to do for the day. I then shower, head home, and get to work.

I’ll work until around 12, then I go grab some lunch. This gives me a chance to get out of the house for a bit and take my focus off work for a while. I return home and eat while I catch up on a episode of one of the many YouTube series I subscribe to.

After lunch, it is back to work until dinner. Dinner is usually around 6 and is usually vegetarian. After dinner, I might do another two to three hours of work, depending on my current workload for the week. Around 10 p.m., I will usually watch a movie or something on Netflix to wind down. Then it’s off to bed, and back at it again tomorrow!

When I travel, my days are much less structured, but I love having the freedom to do that because I can work anytime and from pretty much anywhere.

What tools do you rely on?

WordPress is really important to my business. We use other CMS platforms from time to time for some projects, but the majority of our websites are WordPress. With that, there are several plugins I rely on to manage and build websites. These include several from WPMU Dev, UpDraft Plus for backups and migrations, and many more for specific use cases.

We use Google Apps for business for email, document storage and collaboration. This is huge for us, and we use Google Docs with almost every client. We use Zoho apps for finance, invoicing and CRM as well. We love the Zoho suite for small businesses, especially how easily you can add apps and integrate them.

Pro tip: Check out these 15 powerful productivity apps for businesses.

We always try to ensure we’re “dogfooding” whenever possible. We recommend all of the apps we use to our clients and also provide technology consulting to help them implement when requested.

How did you get into using GoDaddy Pro?

Anytime you’re working with multiple clients, it’s always hard to manage all the different accounts, passwords, etc. Having one interface design for people like me who are dealing with multiple clients that all use GoDaddy services just makes it all so much easier.

In GoDaddy Pro, what tool do you use the most?

Pro Clients. These tools save me so much time and effort with clients. Right from the beginning, with the ridiculously simple on-boarding of new clients, it is a game changer for consultants.

The shared shopping is a huge time saver for both me and my clients.

 

I can set them up with the exact products and services they need, and all they have to do is check out. This gives the client confidence in their purchase and creates a stress-free buying experience for all.

Your customers will have no idea what you do behind the scenes once you have access to their account, so take the time to educate them on each step of the process. The more you do that, the easier they will be to work with in the future, and the more they will understand. This also helps build trust so you can try new things for them, which is how you grow your business.

Growth and learning

How do you unwind outside of work?

I try to work hard and play harder. When I’m not working, I love to get outdoors. I enjoy fishing, kayaking, and camping. I frequently plan trips to combine them. I have also recently gotten into overlanding and try to plan “scenic” routes whenever I travel.

What’s your guiding philosophy in life?

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. And always do the right thing.

Where do you turn for inspiration?

YouTube! There are so many people out there doing amazing things, and YouTube is a great place to discover them and learn from them.

What’s on your bucket list for personal goals or experiences?

Oh man, this is a loaded question. So many things. Most of them involve outdoors exploration, visiting national parks, and catching huge fish!

What books, websites or other resources would you like to recommend?

Books

Websites

Others

  • Exercise every day — doesn’t matter how
  • Stretch or do yoga — even if you don’t have time/funds for gym
  • Meetups — join your local meetups and go meet people
  • WordCamp — if you work with WordPress and haven’t been to a WordCamp, you’re missing out

Any business advice for other aspiring freelancers and entrepreneurs?

If you’re putting it off, waiting for a time to start your own business that will be convenient, just do it. Going out on your own is never convenient, and it’s never easy to start, but the freedom that you’ll experience and the satisfaction of knowing you’re creating your own destiny will definitely make it worth it.

Thanks, Ed, for taking the time to work with us on this story. Visit The Beacon Agency at beacon.agency, and connect with them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


Also published on Medium.