You can find John on LinkedIn or Twitter. This is our recent interview with him, as part of our Kinsta Kingpin series.
Q1: What is your background, & how did you first get involved with WordPress?
I came to web development late. Originally, I worked in restaurants and bakeries. I first came to Sacramento through a job transfer as a bakery manager for the company I was with at the time. In my late thirties, I saw the future for bakery work was not going to be what it was up to that point. That’s when I made a decision to learn web design and development. I studied for about two years in between shifts, then started building sites for family and friends, just to practice and get the reps in.
In mid-2012 is when I opened Lockedown Design and started charging money for building websites. That’s been my full-time thing ever since. I discovered WordPress around 2011. Many of the early sites I built for friends were on WordPress. I also got involved in the local WordPress and web community around early 2013. That’s made a big difference in my path ever since.
Q2: What should readers know about all the stuff you’re doing in WordPress these days?
Recently, I’ve been focusing more on SEO, and not just being another generalist WordPress shop. Many of the other people I talk to that are doing well in WordPress are also specializing. I think there was a time when being a WordPress specialist was enough, but I’m not sure that is true anymore.
It takes time to discover some of the things you are more drawn to, and are good at doing, but I think it’s worth niching down, because you stand out more when people have a specific need. I still develop custom built sites on WordPress, but it’s not the thing I’m accentuating as the main selling point, anymore. I like focusing on SEO, because showing the ROI of a project is a lot more clear-cut.
Q3: What challenges did you face in getting to where you are now professionally?
Looking back, I really thought at the time that building up a business would be easier than it was. I never expected it to be easy, but the path to where I’m at now, I can honestly say I underestimated how long it would take to get to where I’m at now. To be clear, learning how to do the development was the less challenging part. That takes time and practice. But doing business development was a skill I truly had to learn.
In my previous life, I liked to believe I was entrepreneurial, but there’s a world of difference between being managerial and being entrepreneurial. It’s a different scenario when you have to get your own leads, then close them, then do the work, and then do ongoing support. That said, I think everyone should practice business development. It’s a handy skill to have if something ever happens to your job or your employer.
Q4: Has anything surprised you while coming up in the WordPress world?
The one thing that has truly amazed me is how many friends I’ve made through the WordPress community that I’ve never met in person (yet). That was the original allure of the web, being able to form community over the world. And I have many friends who can say the same thing: that they have made friends and formed alliances through WordPress, and distance has not been a factor.
Q5: What does the future look like for you in the WordPress world?
I see myself continuing to help the people I call friends in the WordPress world, even if WordPress itself becomes something different. Like a lot of people, I’m interested to see where Gutenberg goes. Hopefully, that project continues to evolve WordPress into something that people continue to be passionate about. Wherever the world of web development takes us, I want to keep an eye on what’s coming next. Right now, agencies can provide value by understanding online marketing as a whole, and how WordPress can help support that, so that’s something I’m focusing on.
Q6: What do you look for in a WordPress host?
The biggest things I look for in a host are page speed, support, and tools like staging and migration. Being able to set up a new instance or install easily is also important. Right now, I see managed WordPress hosts as pushing a lot of innovation in the hosting market. Even five years ago, the hosting market looked a lot different.
But, even with the great choices there are for hosting right now, a lot of businesses are still on downmarket hosts that don’t serve their needs or provide great service. Sometimes small businesses end up on a hometown hosting company, and they are slow to update things like PHP, or installing a SSL certificate takes forever. I’d like to see all serious businesses get on a quality host.
Q7: What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from your laptop?
I love playing guitar. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I used to write songs and play in garage bands. Today, I still pick up the guitar a few times a day. Karaoke is fun for me too, now you know why.
Q8: Whom should we interview next & why?
Sara Dunn of 11Web. I think Sara has a lot of good advice for consultants that are trying to grow into an agency.