Ask Me Anything with Sara Graybill: A Slack Conversation

Each week we invite someone from our community to answer our questions—any question we want—and so far it’s been great.

This week was no different.

This week Sara Graybill answered our questions. Sara is a WordPress developer and runs a successful web design business, graybillcreative.com. She’s also an expert in SEO & digital marketing, her client process is seamless, and her client pipeline stays full. How does she do it all? We had to ask.

Still wondering what an Ask Me Anything is? It’s a popular Reddit format, where an expert who’s got something figured out, or took on a successful project, introduces themselves and what they’ve been working on and openly answers questions for an hour. We are adapting this format to our slack team, where threaded questions and answers work great for the conversation.

So for an hour, Sara answered our questions on onboarding clients, contracting design work, her development process, marketing and so much more. Enjoy!

 

Intro

 

 Sara Graybill:

Good morning everyone! I’m Sara Graybill, owner of Graybill Creative, where I specialize in digital marketing consulting, SEO, and website design and development. I also do a lot of sub-contracting with designers and agencies for WordPress development. Currently, it’s just me with a few contractors I use on a regular basis.

My goal when I work with my clients is to make the whole process as easy and painless as possible. For many of my clients they don’t go through the processs of building a new website that often so they are very unsure of what is expected and how it works.

I try to be very up front about my process and what they can expect. I want to make sure that I explain anything technical in ways they can easily understand. My first goal is always to make them comfortable with what is going on and to blow them away with what we come up with.

A lot of my business is repeat customers or referrals so it’s critical that they are ecstatic when we finish a project.

On a personal note, my husband and I live in Bridge Creek where your you can’t get decent Internet for anything. We had our son in June of 2016 and it took about a year for me to figure out how to balance time with him and running a business. It’s still a work in progress.

 

Q & A

 Ben Parker:

@saragraybill What does your on-boarding process look like for your clients? What tools do you use for that?

 Sara Graybill:

This is something I’ve really been working on refining. Currently, I send my clients an intro packet with all the critical information for working with me. Outline of process, hours, schedule, and intro to the tools I will use. I’ve been using 17 hats to really automate the process of sending quotes and getting contracts and automating the intro email. It’s been saving me a lot of time now that I have it set up.

 Sara Graybill:

Once they fill out a form on my website or send me an email I use Calendly to schedule an initial phone call. Then I set them up in 17 hats to handle quote, contracts and invoices.

 Ben Parker:

Awesome! I’ve had 17 hats bookmarked, but I’ve never given it a go. I need to dive in!

 Sara Graybill:

It takes a little while to figure out everything. I’m all about free apps when I can but for me this was worth the investment just so I can send one email and have the quote, contract and invoice all tied together. It’s saved a lot of time.

 

 

  Cara Bell:

Do you use WordPress for your clients?

 Sara Graybill:

Yes, with the Genesis framework

  Cara Bell:

Do your clients ever object to using WordPress? If so, how do you handle?

 Sara Graybill:

They haven’t so far. Many of my clients just know they want a website that is easy for them to use. They are less concerned with what I use to build it.

 

 

 Jenn Clore:

What do you think are the biggest pros and cons of working with WordPress?

 Sara Graybill:

I think the community behind it is one of the biggest pros. I have a lot of friends who are also WP developers which makes it nice when I run into a problem and need help solving it. The community is always so willing to help.

Since about 27% of websites are powered through WP that puts a target on it. This means you have to make security a priority when you are building a site and put safeguards in place for if it gets hacked. Also, you have to be careful of the plugins and themes you use as a lot of them have vulnerabilities built in them.

 Jenn Clore:

Do you have a favorite plugin that you always use?

 Sara Graybill:

I have several: Yoast for SEO, Sucuri and Limit logins for Security, there is a Genesis Accessible one I use for accessibility. I’ve been using Backupbuddy for backups buy might be switching that one soon.

 Jenn Clore:

Thanks!

 

 

 Cara Bell:

What makes your clients most ecstatic?

 Sara Graybill:

A website that meets their goals and isn’t just pretty.

 Sara Graybill:

A lot of them come to me with an idea of what they want because that’s what everyone has. Once we sit down and go over their goals and what they want to achieve we end up changing a lot of what they thought they needed. The goal when building a website is always to meet their needs. A lot of the time that means more money, more visitors, more interaction. When that starts happening they get really excited. It also goes beyond that to developing a relationship. I try to make note of what is going on in their life. And ask them about it when I talk to them again. I try to send a hand written note at during the process. I try to throw in a few little extras that they might have wanted or that they might need but couldn’t afford. It’s just about exceeding expectations.

 Cara Bell:

such a good answer – I like the personal touches

 

 

 Joyce Tseng:

About SEO and people who work with you (or clients), what do they need to know to make your job easier?

 Sara Graybill:

That it’s a very involved process. Typically it starts with a 1-2 hour meeting where we just sit down and go through their business. I do a lot of research to see what their competitors are doing, what their clients are looking for, and what is the competition for those keywords. It’s not just randomly picking some keywords and hoping they work.

 

 

 Stephen Bell:

What’s the project you’re the most proud of? What makes it special?

 Sara Graybill:

I’m almost finished with a website that has been fun to make because of the complexity of the site. (okchurchwebsites.com)

 

 

 Ben Parker:

What’s your process for training the client on how to use WordPress? How much support on content management do you provide after it launches?

 Sara Graybill:

I start out with a training session where I sit down and go through their website and how to make changes to it. I have a plugin that provides training for the basics of using WordPress and it stays in the backend of the site so they can refer to it whenever they need to. I also add any videos on specialized features to the plugin. I also am available through email if they run into issues or don’t remember how to do something.

As for content management, some of my clients prefer I just take care of everything for them. And if that’s the case I’m happy to do it. A lot of my clients would prefer to just take care of it themselves though.

 Ben Parker:

Love it! I am so impressed with all the processes you have in place!

 Stephen Bell:

What’s the name of the training plugin? Sounds very useful.

 Sara Graybill:

WP101 – it’s amazing. They keep it updated with every new version which is so helpful.

 Sara Graybill:

Thanks @ben.parker it’s definitely been a process to get everything set up but it’s made everything so much easier once I did.

 Ben Parker:

De nada! ?

 

 

 Ryan Kirkpatrick:

You mentioned subcontracting to agencies and designers for WP development. Do you also handle development yourself, or do you stick strictly to design and hand off to your partners for the development process? What does that hand off look like?

 Sara Graybill:

I actually don’t do any designing. Trust me, you don’t want me to. For my personal clients I offer two packages. The first one I just customize a Genesis template for them – I will just pay a graphic designer for a couple of graphics typically. The second package is a fully custom site. I have a couple of graphic designers who I contract out the design to for these.

Typically, the graphic designers give me a mockup on the site. I can take anything from PDFs, to JPGs to PSDs. The important part is a piece that tells me all the components of the site. This document goes over all the sizes, colors, and weights for the different text options. The look of the buttons – both normal and on hover. The hex numbers for the colors. Everything. I refer to that piece the most.

 Ryan Kirkpatrick:

Thanks for answering Sara! Sounds like a smart setup. ?

 Sara Graybill:

You’re welcome!

 

 

EG Kwong:

Do you develop locally or do you set up your clients WordPress site and develop there? What’s your set up look like?

 Sara Graybill:

I develop locally. Where I live the internet has some issues so the less I have to depend on it the better. I have a standard base setup that I just copy for every new website. This is already setup with Genesis and my standard plugins. I then can go in and just start developing the theme according to what my designers give me. It makes it really easy to get started. Once I’m ready for the client to review I’ll move it over to my server so they can take a look.

 

 

 Cara Bell:

How do you use what you know for your own marketing?

 Sara Graybill:

A lot of it comes down to who you are trying to target, where they hang out and what they need. And it starts with being helpful and providing value. For example, I do a lot of white label development for designers. So, there are a few facebook groups I hang out in where there are a bunch of designers. I answer questions and offer to fix small problems if I can take care of it quickly. This usually results in these designers coming to me when they have a website needing built and asking me to take care of the development.

 Cara Bell:

Has blogging been helpful? I read yours a little, it’s pretty good ?

 Sara Graybill:

It has been, the important part is writing what will be helpful to your target market. I’ve actually decided to restructure my blog after the first of the year to try to provide more helpful content to my clients.

 

 

 Ben Parker:

What got you started coding and developing? How did you land upon WordPress as your tool of choice? Did you play with other platforms before WordPress?

 Sara Graybill:

So, I graduated in 2009 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Since we were at the beginning of the recession no one was hiring. A friend of mine hired me to help him out at a local non-profit managing their websites. I had done nothing with websites before then so I just started learning as I went. We eventually moved to WordPress there which is how I started using it. I’ve been using it ever since. I really haven’t done much with anything else.

 Ben Parker:

YES!!! So great! I love this story. Have you seen this #unqualifiedfortech thread? SO amazing!

 Ben Parker:

 Sara Graybill:

I’ll have to take a look!

 

 

 Stephen Bell:

What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing your job in Oklahoma City? What can we do to make this city better for business owners and creatives?

 Sara Graybill:

For me, the community here is amazing. I love how everyone wants to help everyone out. It’s not really been a disadvantage to me because I take on clients nationally and internationally and just do everything remotely. I’d say about 50% of my clients are local and 50% are not. I love the different tech meetups that have popped up, like yours, that let us get to know each other and really learn from each other.

 

 

 Sara Graybill:

Thanks everyone for participating and thank you @stephenjbell and @carabell_okc for letting me do this! If anyone has any questions that I didn’t answer or if there is anything I can do for you feel free to email me at sara@graybillcreative.com. I’ll also hang out here for a little longer to answer any questions.

 Ben Parker:

Yes!! Thanks! So good!

 

Next Week:

Tune in Tuesday at 10 AM to our Slack #ama channel for next week’s expert (we have them every Tuesday now, so this CTA is evergreen). You can log on to Slack by going to https://dsndevokc.slack.com and requesting a magic link, or if you don’t have an account yet, you can request one here >> https://dsndevokc.com/join-our-slack

Got a suggestion for our next Expert?

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Cara helps consumer brands connect with their customers through ecommerce and digital content strategy. She's owner at steedokc.com and also founder here @dsndevokc.

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