Tell us who you are and how long you’ve been using WordPress.
My name is Kevin Muldoon. I am a writer, blogger and internet marketer. I am from Scotland but for the last two years I have been living in South America.
I first tried WordPress in 2006. During that year I had tried just about every blogging script out there. The one I chose to use for my travel blog was Serendipity. I had been using CMS’s for several years so I started looking more into using blogging platforms to create small content websites. Eventually, that led me to WordPress and I have used it ever since.
I discovered you through BloggingTips.com. Every time I see your name, it’s behind a different blog. Are you in the business of creating and selling websites?
I have sold hundreds of websites over the years, though it is not something I always set out to do. When I sold BloggingTips at the beginning of 2010, I had been working on it every day for 3 years. I was keen to do something else. My next blog, WP Mods, was sold in part because of an upcoming trip throughout South America and partly to free up more time to work on other websites I was developing.
To date I have over $200k worth of sales on Flippa, but I wouldn’t consider myself a website flipper. All of the websites I have sold have been developed from scratch by me.
I understand you make a substantial amount of your income from your work online. From your experience, which revenue generating technique has garnered the most cash?
I make 100% of my income online. I started working online in 2000. I was working in Finance at the time and would work on websites at night. I probably made a few hundred dollars a month, which was never enough to leave my full time job. I did make a few good sales from domains. One time in 2002 I bought a domain name at work at 8.30am and sold it at 12.00pm for around $300-$400. I had bigger sales but that was probably the most satisfying due to how quickly I turned a profit.
Around 2004 I started making enough to work full time online. All of my money was coming from affiliate commissions. At the height of the gambling craze I was making over $20,000 a month. That helped pay off some debts from university and allowed some fun trips around the world.
Today, I still make most of my money from affiliate referrals, adsense and banner ad sales. I am starting to make money from selling books and I earn money from freelance writing too.
Back in May of 2009, you and Sarah started a WordPress theme club titled appropriately enough, BlogThemesClub.com. Whatever happened to the club and what valuable lessons did you learn from that experience?
haha We sold that one too :)
That site developed out of BloggingTips.com. Through that site I had released several WordPress themes to the community free. We then looked into releasing premium designs to blog readers but later decided that it would be better long term to sell themes from a new domain.
I am primarily a writer/marketer and Sarah is primarily a coder. Due to this, we had to outsource all the design work. This was not without its difficulties. Looking back, we probably should have brought in a designer as a partner from the start. That would have allowed us to develop themes quicker. I am sure we could have made it a success if we stuck to it though we decided to cut our losses and move on as we were spending a lot of time on it.
It was a good experience and I did learn a lot from running a membership driven website and with working with a partner, so it is not something look back on with regret.
Do you find it difficult to generate content for your various sites or does it come natural?
No. That is something that I have never had a problem with. Never have, never will. I am always reading other blogs and I buy books regularly too, so I am never short of ideas. My personal blog KevinMuldoon.com currently has 125 draft posts, all of which are partly written or have details of what needs to be written.
The main problem is time to actually write. Over the next few months I need to greatly reduce my own writing responsibilities and bring in others to help me maintain my websites and blogs.
Obviously you’re only one person. What tips can you provide for those looking to hire people to write for their site?
Unless you want your website or blog to always remain at the same level, you need to bring people in to help you. With BloggingTips.com I had over a dozen people writing regularly. By the time I sold WPMods.com I had two or three people helping me write articles.
Obviously, getting the right people is key. It can be tempting to just get the cheapest writers but you need to remember that sometimes a badly written post is worse than having no post published at all. At the start it can be a balancing act trying to keep writing costs down and turn a profit, but long term it is worth it. Generally speaking, I would rather spend money on hiring good writers than spending money on an advertising campaign or some SEO service.
As you rightly point out, there is only one of me, so for me to move on and do other things, I need to hire other people. There is no other way round it. The old idiom “hire people smarter than you” definitely runs true, and once they know what you are looking for, you should feel comfortable letting them get on with their job. Spending too much time micro-managing them can be counter-productive.
What is it about WordPress that has you using it for just about every site you create?
No other platform out there, blogging or otherwise, comes even close to offering the same level of customization that WordPress does. Can you think of any other platform that offers thousands and thousands of free and premium plugins and themes?
What is your biggest pet peeve with WordPress?
I would say it is that every plugin developer out there wants to hijack my admin area and place a large menu link on my admin sidebar. There are plugins that only take two minutes to set up and then you never need to configure them again, yet they hog my sidebar. All major plugin developers, including Automattic, seem to be doing this.
I am aware that there are plugins out there that let me remove links from the main menu and put them somewhere else, however I do not feel that WordPress users should need to do this. Why should we have to go to the hassle of cleaning up their mess?
Where would you like to see WordPress 5 years from now?
I like the fact that WordPress has started removing things like blogrolls and adding them back as plugins. The core version should not be too bloated.
The problem is that there is so much functionality lacking from the core that you end up installing lots of plugins, thereby slowing down your site. Take commenting for example, WordPress blogs suffer from spam so badly that you need to install Akismet right off the bat. Then you need to install at least one additional plugin to reduce spam, whether it be to add a CAPTCHA field or trick bots into thinking they have completed all fields.
Many people have turned to third-party commenting systems to address this, though they are not always ideal either. So, like many people, I have started using Jetpack for my comments. It works great, but using that plugin means that I a need to install many other things that I do not want installed.
The same thing can be said about security. I have had a few of my blogs infected with malware over the last year so I now install security plugins on every WordPress website I own. It would be better if WordPress tackled this problem head on and make the product more secure. I understand that WordPress is always going to be targeted more than other platforms due to its popularity, though when it comes to the point of needing to install anti-spam and anti-malware plugins every time they use WordPress, you need to step back and think about whether the core product needs to be upgraded.
Today, I have over a dozen plugins that I install on every website. I review the plugins I have installed regularly, though a quick check on my personal blog shows that I have 37 activated plugins. Many of these plugins address problems with other plugins or problems with the core. For example, I have Manual Control for Jetpack to stop the Jetpack plugin automatically enabling new modules they add and I have WP Missed Schedule installed to stop WordPress not publishing my articles on time (and never sending me an email to notify me of this).
Last but not least, I think that WordPress is starting to look dated in some respects. Without doubt it is functional, but along the way it has lost its style. I use the WordPress iOS app regularly and it works great, however accessing WordPress through my browser seems clunky at times.
WordPress has become the number one content management system in the world, though I think there is a danger of it losing its title as the best blogging platform. New blog platforms such as SquareSpace and Ghost are simplifying the whole process of blogging and allowing people to focus more on content instead of worrying about spam, viruses and configuring cache plugins.
Competition is good and I hope that WordPress can take the best features of these new platforms and integrate it into their own platform.
Anything you’d like to say to the entire WordPress community?
I would encourage people to support plugin and theme developers where they can; whether it be telling others of their good work, making a donation or upgrading to their premium products. That being said, I also think WordPress users are allowed to be critical, even of those who release products for free. As a content producer, I understand why many developers get touchy about criticism, though it is essential to their products, and WordPress as a whole, getting better.
So be supportive and be critical about something if you need to be, though make sure you are polite and professional when you do so. Those who complain for the sake of complaining deserve to be ignored :)