Hi, everyone. This is Shanta. I’m glad to be with you here at WordFest to give you my presentation on how I started my business during a pandemic. This talk will last approximately 30 minutes, and we’ll have some time for questions after this isn’t a typical talk that I give, because usually I end up giving a talk where I’m giving instructions.
This one is a little bit more of a community and, and journey talk that I wanted to give. And it We’ll tell you a little bit about how I went through this and starting it during a pandemic. Well, let’s get started
this year. I launched my own company, Namara technologies, Inc. A web solutions company, specializing in WordPress. I am now the president and CEO of Numora technologies, Inc. I’m a former professor at Sheridan college. And I’m also a co-organizer for WordCamp Hamilton here in my local city in Helton, Ontario, Canada, and Ive given more than 40 WordCamp talks.
If you want to find me, you can locate me on twitter at shanta.ca or Namara tech, which is the name of the new company or Namara. My personal website is shanta.ca, but you can also find me at namara.com.
If you had asked me in high school, what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, the first thing I would have said is I don’t want to work for my father. My father had 22 years of municipal service working in real estate and buildings departments in 1989. He decided to go out on his own. And then registered the company by handing over papers to a search company like paralegals.
And in those days you didn’t do it online. You just simply handed it in and they just did it whenever they got to it. Well, it just so happens that that year it got registered on my birthday. Now my dad’s a big believer in that. So of course, you’ve got to think maybe this could be a sign of something or other.
So we think it was fitting. And at the time when he finally started his business in the following September, he was 46 years old.
After high school, I worked in a women’s clothing store for about six months before my father came to me and said, listen, my assistant’s falling behind a bit. There’s a bunch of little minutia stuff that needs to be done. I want you to come and work for me. And after a lengthy conversation with one of my managers after I’d been late one day, I decided I’m heading in my notice.
I am done. I am not doing this minimum wage stuff commission for one to 2% or whatever. And so I did, I actually went and and worked for his company for about six years. While I was there. I did my business management certificate at Ryerson university and continuing education. And one thing I had to do was further my education while I worked for him, I learned about project management due diligence, contracts, consulting, and much more.
One big thing that he showed me was how the old boys club worked. I may never be one of them, but I learned to understand the mentality and how it operated. I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy and typically have chosen male dominated fields. So this was important for me to learn. I realized six years later that I didn’t want to do real estate anymore.
I said, dad, I love you dearly, but I can’t do this for the rest of my life. And it was the worst breakout I have ever had in my life. I realized that I wanted to go into computers and he said, great, how can we do that? Okay.
Since I left my father’s company 20 years ago I had gone into my it career at school, gone back to school at Ryerson university, earning a bachelor’s degree in information technology management. I worked as a data analyst at a hospital, did two political campaigns, a professor, and then finally a QA manager at a software company here in Hamilton.
I’d given more than 40 WordCamp talks. And I built a pretty good reputation for myself. Okay. So now we’re in 2020, by the time we’re, we’re talking here, I’ve been laid off from my job about a month before the pandemic. So at least I have AI support, which is employment, insurance support to get me through the figure out the next move.
I started looking for jobs, then the pandemic hit, and of course the hiring all stopped. I’ve been involved with WordPress and its community for about 10 years. So I felt like returning to that after two year hiatus might make me, you know, give me some inspiration and maybe some connections. And I remember attending word camp, San Antonio, Texas.
And this was one of, if not the first WordCamp that had been done online in the pandemic. It had caused shut downs all over the world. And I was listening to a bunch of people saying, you can do this. Now they may not have been talking to me directly, but I felt like they were, I felt like they were looking through the camera at me just as I’m looking at you right now and saying, you can do this and you know what you can.
And after the talk, I went into one of the zoom rooms with a couple of the sponsors and I’m probably going to name names as well. One of the ways that we, we dealt with the hallway tracks was just, just go into one of those zoom rooms. And one of them was run by Nexus. And I seem to recall there being a few people, but I know that at very least it was the talk with Corey Ashton that started making me think, and she was there.
Jocelyn, mosaic, Nathan Ingram, Chris Lima. And I, I talked to all these people or most of these people before. And so I started asking a bunch of questions. I had them at my disposal, like right there in front of me. So why not? And they all basically looked at me and said, Shanta, we all know you. Like, you can do this.
This is not rocket science. And it was then and there that I decided I was going to do this, you know, maybe I can offer this service or that service. And I finally decided, okay, I’m going to open my own business. Yeah. So let me be clear throughout my entire career. I have always said, I never wanted to run my own business.
I didn’t want to have to deal with the marketing or the accounting or anything like that. I don’t want to have to worry where my next paycheck is coming from. I just wanted to sit, do my work and let somebody else worry about all of that stuff. At one time, I did think about opening my own dojo, but then I thought better of it because I knew people would be relying on me.
And that I think is where the biggest fear came from. What happens if I don’t succeed at this, what happens if I fail then what, what are going to happen to all those people that are depending on me, it, depending on my service and my business. I’d be letting them down as well as the people who referred me to them, the Namara group of companies would have been 31 years old, but about a year ago, my father decided he’s finally retiring.
He’s winding, winding down the business. And so he took the website offline, which by the way, was the first domain I ever registered. My father had always wanted me to take over the company. And there’s a perfectly good domain sitting there with good name recognition. So why not use that? It’s almost like coming full circle, jumping back a little bit in history.
If you recall, my father had his first company opened on my birthday. My dad’s birthday was in April and because of the pandemic, I wasn’t able to see him. So I called up his very good friend. Who’s a lawyer who would have handled all of his affairs anyways. And I said, I need you to do me a favor. When you register this company, I need you to do it on his birthday.
And that was the best birthday present I could have ever given him because now I’ve actually taken over the company. So now Namara has gone from building real estate physical spaces to building digital spaces. And the other thing that I realized afterwards, Is which wasn’t planned is it turns out that I opened my business in my 46th year.
So now great. Now what I have a company name, I have a domain and I have an idea, but what do I do with this? And then I thought I’m just going to focus on building. Whatever the business is going to become. I’m going to start from the beginning. I’m not going to make all the mistakes. I’m going to get all my contracts checked out.
I’m going to set up all my processes, set up all the automations, do all the testing before I take on any clients or anything, I’m going to do this right
Wrong. What are the first people about a week after I was laid off, that helped me get my first client was the guy who had to actually lay me off from the company. And those people are still my client today. And it’s been a great working relationship. They’ve helped me work through some of the stuff that I needed to learn.
I’ve learned from that experience. And a lot of those challenges about learning how WordPress, the WordPress world works as a business owner, as opposed to just somebody who goes to a bunch of camps and who teaches WordPress. I knew a lot of how it worked already, but now I’m starting to learn the processes involved and how we do that.
And. Interestingly, I ended up with three three different clients for now, actually in my lap, but all from different places, most of them are referrals. Now I know that that is not going to continue to go and I can’t completely rely on that, but at very least I know that you’re not going to be able to just start and plan everything out one by one by one.
It’s not going to happen that way. Trust me. When I say it will never happen the way that you expect it to.
So here are some of the lessons that I’ve learned.
So one of the first things that I did is I got out some banquet paper, even before I named the company and everything else. And I started a bit of a man mind mapping, exercise, nothing specifically traditional. I just did a big, big brain dump. And I remember going through and sitting down and laying it out all on paper.
Okay. I’m going to need to think about accounting. Okay. That can be done later, but just all the things that were in my head and I literally just drew it out and drew connections between everything. And I’m more of a digital person, but this one I actually wrote on a bunch of big digital, a big.
Banquet paper took out a pencil and just went to town. People that I needed to contact things about a company name, getting a logo, designed, getting colors determined, and, and all that stuff. Everything I know about the tools that might help me but this exercise did clear my head and just sort of go, okay, these are all the pieces and then figure out which pieces do I have to deal with.
Right now that could be everything from hiring a lawyer to getting errors and omissions insurance. Do I need it? Do I need to cover myself? Who do I need to talk to? But that exercise just cleared everything up. And even if I didn’t have to do it right away, I knew that I could go back to it.
So, one thing about my process is I always like to look at things like templates and other tools. Not because I’m trying to find the perfect fit, but because sometimes I don’t know if I’m going to miss something. So I was downloading templates. Like you wouldn’t believe or taking this course or that course or whatever have you.
And the point is is that you don’t have to have everything before you start. Even if you have to write it down in a fricking notebook and use Google docs or Microsoft word to just write everything down, then do that. For me using a template or a bunch of templates gave me the idea of these are a bunch of questions that I might have later, or they ask the questions that I haven’t even thought of with a client or, you know, having to deal with all of that.
So for me, the process that worked well was to find templates about something that I was looking for. So let’s say how to run a project management. A WordPress course or how did, how did I do a course? Okay. So what are the things that I need to consider? Well, you need to consider a camera or audio or this or that and downloading those kinds of checklists or templates really helped me to fill in the holes of things I hadn’t even considered at the end of the day.
It’s what works for you. I. Again, I spent a lot of time just looking at tools. But I wanted things at least 80% of what I want them to do. And then I’ll find something else to fill in the gaps,
watch out for the shiny squirrels. One of the errors that I made initially was I started looking at the tools that I would need without understanding what I was going to be doing with them. You know, you need accounting software, perhaps a CRM. You know that you need the underlying infrastructure for your business, the digital infrastructure, the servers, and so on.
But until you know what it is that you’re building, it’s a waste of time. So learn from my mistake here. The challenge again, is that I already had a client that was on the go and they wanted to start working at it. So I had to hit the ground.
automate the process, but only after. You’ve tested it manually even to this day. That is still my biggest challenge, because if I’m going to start using a tool or start doing a process, if I can’t get it to automate, then it’s going to be a really, really tough time to do. So I usually end up doing them a bit in conjunction with one another.
I’ll find a process, but if I need to tweak it a little bit to fit a tool, I will do that. And it will automate it in a different way or do it in a different order or something of that Valley. But you’ve got to have at least most of, if not all of the process done before you can actually start to automate it.
Trust me when I say that there is so much to learn for those of you out there that are hiring developers and designers learn a little bit about the language that we use in our world as web developers and so on. And we’ll learn a little bit more about yours. You’ll find all kinds of courses, free things.
What I’ve learned so far is that the ones that you pay for are the ones that you’re committing to. And. The ones that you will probably learn from most, if it’s free, you can always put it off and you will trust me on that. And I’m going to give you a couple of the ones that I have found most helpful in my searches.
At the end of the day, this doesn’t have to be perfect. I did a technical audit for a client, and then the clients had great. Those are fantastic. Now we need to fix this. And I said, well, the problem is. It’s not just a matter of going from one to the other. We need to redesign the site. And when I use the term redesign and I’m realizing after I got to my third client, that the term redesign really does scare some clients.
So I started calling it after the third client, a rework, because we weren’t really changing the color scheme. We weren’t really changing the layouts. We were actually just changing. The background infrastructure to the client or to the end user, it was going to look almost all the same. So the reality is is that it didn’t have to be perfect the first time around.
So I changed it and now we just call it a rework. So that at the end of the day, you know, that the content is probably going to stay the same. The front end is going to be the same. And again, that’s my process. That’s what I do. And, but knowing that I could change that afterwards, made this a heck of a lot easier.
So make sure that when you’re doing this, that you go through those ideas of it, doesn’t have to be perfect. Just get it going and even doing recording this talk today. I have put this off for so long because I’ve been afraid to do it because I’m afraid it’s not going to be perfect. Why I get up in front of a room and I can have them record it.
I don’t care, but it’s standing here in front of a camera like this and recording this in advance. Scares the living daylights out of me, go figure
don’t just take a gig because you have to now to be fair at this point, I haven’t quite found a niche though. I’m getting better at it. I’m finding a good way to go. And this is an ideal thing to do. I’m taking clients as they are coming to me. And anybody will tell you that if you keep, if you’ve got to keep the lights on, just do the work, it’s better than starving now, to be fair, I am not starving.
And I know that there are tons of people out there who need that kind of work and have to do it. But if you don’t have to do it, trust me. When I say, save your brain and your emotional state, the headache. The whole in the whole world is changing. And if anything that we’ve learned over the last almost year now is that people need us as web designers, as web developers, as web professionals, we are not contractors.
We do not charge necessarily by the hour. We are giving you a project and now you need us. So when you go through this, make sure that. If you are taking a gig, it’s because you believe in what they do and that you guys are going to work well together. But hopefully you have the ability that if something comes along where you’re all your alarm bells are going off to say, I’m sorry, this isn’t going to work.
Reach out to your network. Find the people that are going to be able to support you for good or for bad, you know, the bad ones and just get rid of them from your life. But they always could lead to something else. And we’ll probably teach you a lesson. And that’s what I had. I gave a bunch of talks. I help coordinate my local meetup.
I helped manage the WordPress, Canada Slack team. This positions me to know what people are looking for. And whether the products or services that I offer keeps me at top of mind, or they refer me to somebody, they can hire me to do their website or hire somebody else. It shows that I have a level of authority in a given area of knowledge.
So make sure that you attend those things, make sure you reach out to your local meetups, help out. If you can, even if you don’t think that you can. Trust me. You’re probably teaching the rest of us a lesson that we hadn’t even thought of either. So make sure you get out there and participate. There are plenty of options for that, and I’ll give you some afterwards, create a pool of people.
And what I mean by that is you can’t well, you might, but the reality is, is that you more than likely can’t do everything yourself. And I’m not just talking about networking to get business. I am talking about those people who can support you emotionally as well, as well as being able to find the people that can help you in your business.
For example, I am terrible at design work. I can do a wireframe out. I can do all that kind of stuff, but if you ask me to come up with a color scheme of anything, that’s not going to happen, I’m terrible at it. So have somebody in your pocket that does graphic design or that does design work or UX or DevOps, which is probably why I’m showing this one here.
But the point is, is that make sure that you create a pool of people that you can rely on so that if you get overwhelmed or you get so much work, that you can then start to farm it out to other people. And that’s what I’m doing right now.
Now, most of the photos that you’ve seen so far, by the way, have all been from WordCamps that I’ve attended. And this one is kind of out of place, isn’t it. But I wanted to put it in here for a very specific reason you will fail. And the reason that this photo is in here is because this. Was me going back and redoing my third degree, black belt grading in ancient weaponry because the first one I failed, it was the first one and the only grading so far that I have ever failed in my martial arts career.
But this, this was the one I passed. There is an old Japanese saying Jen Nana Korobi, ya oki, life means falling down. Seven times and getting up eight, please remember, and be kind to yourself because eventually you will fail. It will happen, but be good to yourself. Oh,
This one here, it was taken at word camp Rochester in 2017. This is the Canadian contingent. If you can imagine, if you can imagine it. In Rochester, New York. The point here is you don’t have to do this alone. There are plenty of other people attending this conference. There are plenty of other people that are actually speaking at this conference.
There are plenty of places where you can go and get help. You don’t have to do this alone, whether it’s with your own network, with a different network, with the resources that are available to you, there are so many places that you can go and get help. You don’t have to do this alone and there are others out there that will help and support and give you advice.
Maybe even give you referrals, because if they’re not necessarily in the same realm as you are, or they don’t deal with that particular niche, maybe you guys should have a conversation.
So now I’m going to talk about some of the tools that I use and the resources that I rely on. Just a quick point. This was the other Canadian contingent at the first WP campus down in Sarasota, Florida. And of course, if you know, any Canadians that go down to the U S we always have to equip ourselves with our favorites tool, the coffee crisp.
So one of the first ones and I’ve just noted on here that any of the ones marked with an asterisk are my affiliate links. If you don’t feel like using those, that’s fine. Please contact me. And I will send you just the straight link with no problem. Okay. Monster contracts. So this is a Nathan Ingram product and he has devised two contracts.
One is a master services agreement, and the other is a website maintenance project agreement. And the point of this is, is that, that means I don’t have to start from the ground up. The beauty about this is that I also could use this for a Canadian one. Now I’m actually having my lawyer look at it right now.
And the reality is is that there haven’t been many changes at the end of the day. So even though he will preface by saying, please make sure that your legal team looks at it. On face value at very least where I’m from in Canada, it worked pretty well for my purposes. And like I said, I’m now having my lawyer vet that properly, but it’s not looking like there’s going to be too many changes from a legal standpoint, the WP project management roadmap by the WP project managers Academy.
Beth Livingston is a wonderful human being. They have a great community. And I go on their chat every Friday at 11 Eastern. And we talk about all of our projects and we talk about different topics. This was the ultimate template for me and gave me the processes. So I didn’t have to rework this. There are other people out there who have done this before.
There has to be somebody who’s done this before. So guess what? Why not just pay for them to do that. That saves me a lot of time. A lot of overthinking if somebody has already done it before, I’m going to go with that. So I trust me when I say check out the WP project managers Academy link is there and you can do the one-on-one for free.
And then there’s a paid version after that I’m on the paid version and I absolutely adore it. And thank Beth for all of her advice. So far, because I know that there’s going to probably be more Calendly is what I’m using for scheduling. You can set it up on your website to embed, send somebody to a link and it will automatically sync with your schedules.
This has been a really big help. It saves the whole back and forth of emails. I’m using Adobe Acrobat and sign because I’m with I have the Adobe creative cloud. And this has really helped in getting signatures so I can send a document over and it can also track it and show this is where you have, where somebody opened it, where somebody signed it.
And this has been a really big help. Slack is a go-to and whether or not you’re a solopreneur, find your local. Area where there might have one. Like I said, we have a WordPress, Canada Slack team, and we can talk to other people that are in our, our local neighborhood or even across the country, but we all tend to have pretty much the same problems.
So trust me go, not even just learning Slack the tool, but also finding those communities is a really big, big piece. James Burchill I forgot to mention earlier on. And when I finally decided to open my own business, I called him up and I said, James, remember what you said to me said to me back in December, this was over a year ago now.
And I said, remember how you said I should start my own company while I’m there. I’m ready. I’m ready to take the leap. And he goes, I’ve been waiting five years for you to say that. So he’s been a really big supporter of mine and he has a bunch of courses on chat bots on creating your first course on time-saving methods.
He’s just really, really great at all of that. The WP elevation with Troy Dean is also an extremely great community that I’ve recently joined and started engaging with. And he has a number of different programs where everything from his Mavericks program to the client acquisition formula and his accelerator program.
I highly recommend that you check that out as well. So here are a couple of tools that I’m looking into. So air table is looking like my front runner to actually replace a CRM. I just could not find a CRM that sort of worked that made sense or that, you know, didn’t cost a million dollars. So I’m going to try AirTable.
It seems to be. One of the ones that a lot of people are using. Power Automate is also one that I’m getting into from Microsoft to try and automate a bunch of processes. So if somebody comes in and does this, it automatically sends them an email those types of things, that’s probably more or less what I’m using.
I’m still looking and deciding, but I’ve more or less decided on one note. As my note taking app, I had Evernote premium. And there was just enough stuff in there that it just didn’t do that. And notion was just far too confusing and I hit a limit of about a hundred and it says, Nope, sorry, now you’ve got to pay for it.
So I didn’t reach anything that could really test a property properly. Some additional resources wordpress.tv, which is where a lot of the talks from regular word camps are hosted really a big, big source of those. And of course, wordpress.org, where you can find themes, plugins, and so, so much more.
I want to thank you for coming out today. I want you to go out there, figure out what is going to drive you because I know that now. I can’t look back and this is going to be my year. My slides are going to be available at word for WordFest 2021. And you can find me @NamaraTech and namara.com. Wishing you the best of health and best wishes.