Say Bloody Mary 3 Times Into A Mirror, An MLS WordPress Plugin Will Appear

mls plugin myth wordpress

MLS WordPress Plugin ~ Hopefully you will read this article before you agree to develop a website for a real estate client using a WordPress solution.  At first glance there appears to be 100′s of awesome WP plugins to help when developing an MLS (multiple listing service) website.  It’s only after you spend about 20 hours of research you realize you’ve been chasing a dragon.  There is no such thing as a plugin that will retreive MLS data and import it to your site.

I stumbled across this (after all my research)

“I receive calls and emails daily for a WordPress Real Estate plugin that will magically import data from a MLS database into a WordPress real estate website. That plugin does not exist and never will.”

There’s no simpler way to put it.  MLS data is very heavily guarded.  They can’t have their info splattered everywhere, in any format.  They need to control it and more to the point; you have to pay for it.

So let’s start there.  Your client needs to be part of the MLS club.  They need to have an account number.  With that, we can get access to the coveted data.

What seems to work is WP-Property in conjunction with WP-Importer.  You can import/collect the data from a RETS server then from there you lay it out as you wish onto your site.  The downside is, it’s not live.  You’ll need to set up a little cron job to fetch the data as often as you need.  But we’re selling homes, not hotcakes.  So I think refreshing the data every hour would be fine.

One headache… or trust me, there’s more than one.  The data comes back incomplete and in some cases, lumped together.  For example, everything comes back as single family dwelling, so you have to manually set the listings to categories that you have assigned.  Condo, high rise, townhome etc.  You also have to set the, “sold” feature.  It’s work, but if the client wants the design to be exactly the way they want it to be within budget, there are sacrifices.  Unfortunately, this isn’t good news after you have signed on.

If you need absolute real time listings site where you don’t have to touch a thing, it’s best to leverage off of something like Use the client’s existing company and create an out of the box ready to use template.

Know your song well before you start singing.  Do some in-depth research on the limitations of WordPress and MLS/IDX/RETS.  Understand the pro’s and con’s.  Most importantly, be involved as best you can with the design phase and the supporting documentation.  But then again, no matter how involved you are, unless you know the beast that is MLS, agreeing to wireframes and outlines on a project, means nothing.

Forecast Budget And Schedule Completion

forecast budget and schedule completion

Forecasting your budget and your receivables is crucial for any business, let alone a small one.  And by small, I mean you.  You and a ragtag  team of merry men that may include a couple of developers and designers.  After you ask your client, their budget, you then should ask what their  time frame is.  This helps in 2 ways.  It let’s you figure out who you have available and how to schedule them, and of course, yourself.  The other reason you are asking is to give you an idea of when money will come in.  Put those reasons in whatever order you like.  In a perfect world, you want to finish the job within 2-3 weeks.  That happens about 10% of the time.  It happens when your client has a very specific launch  date that may include press releases, screenings, or launch parties.  The rest of the time, 2-3 weeks turns into 4-6 and in some cases, 8+ weeks.

The reasons why, vary.  But it’s typically the client that holds things up.  If they are in no big rush, if their livelihood isn’t directly  impacted by a web presence, if they’re just doing it as a hobby, you can expect delays.

Unfortunately what happens is, you’re 90% done on your end, and the client owes you 50% of the final payment.  There’s really not much you can do. You can hound the client, but that’s just poor relations.  You can drop them an email every few days, then every other week…if it happens to go on that long.

So depending on the project itself, not the cost, but the actual project requirements, you can break your payment structure in 3, rather than your usual 2 (50% up, 50% completion).  So this way, you’ll at least only be stuck waiting for say, 25% of final payment.  The downside, you’ll get a smaller payment up front.  If you’ve been doing this a while, you can pretty much gage those who needs to adhere to a specific deadline, and those who don’t. So what’s it going to be boy…

Know Your Truth: Developing Strength In Business.

strength in business

I’m a pretty obsessive guy.  This characteristic didn’t bode too well with girls in my high school, but it seems to be working well for me in business.  So when tasked with a project, I make sure to see it through to the end, no matter what.  I’m a pitbull of web development and project management.

I think this obsessiveness of mine started when I was growing up and having a need to be liked by everyone.  That, coupled with the fact that my parents or teachers never believed anything I told them.  I digress.

Knowing who you are, your strengths and weaknesses are key to running a successful business (and having a happy life).  For example, nothing is worse than being pushed around by a pushy client.  We have all had experiences with clients who suck everything out of you.  No matter how many times you follow up with them, or keep them informed they are never happy.  Nothing you do seems to be good enough and you soon find yourself going way over board in making sure that they know that you are doing everything possible to resolve any issues (or challenges) you might be facing.

It’s that feeling that they don’t believe you are doing everything you can to make it work (enter mommy and daddy issues).  So believing in who and what you do will prevent you from being pushed around in both life and business.  We also know, that clients who never seem happy, are generally never happy, period.  So don’t be dictated by clients who are malcontents. It’s a losing battle.  Actually, don’t be pushed around by clients at all.  I know, I know, rent is due.

If you’ve been in business for 10+ years, chances are you’ve worked with an array of characters.  From programmers, to designers to developers to social media marketers to other project managers, you’ve had your fill of over sellers and under deliverers, your ups and downs.  That said, you know your market.  You know what service others provide.  You’ve experienced not having your emails or calls returned for 3 days…you’ve been over quoted. You’re developing your strength with all this experience.  You know who you are.  You know your quality of service and you know what you can deliver.  And what did we learn from Saturday morning cartoons?  Knowing is half the battle.  Honest.  Now please be my friend on FB.

New Zealand’s Hidden Gem


Over the last couple of days, I’ve been getting email newsletters from, ihiphop distribution.  These newsletters took me back about 7 years ago, when Frog On Top was commissioned by Chuck Wilson to develop an all hip hop based, social media network.  I knew Chuck from the time I worked with Vin Diesel on his web projects, so naturally I wanted to keep the good connections going.  I accepted the contract.  Great, now all I needed was someone who knew WTF they were doing…

A guy I worked with at the time, got in touch with some kid in New Zealand.  When I say kid, I’m not being condescending.  I really mean, a kid.  I think he was about 15.  With no budget, there was little choice, I had to hire him.  I forget how long the job took, but I do remember being blown away with what the kid was putting together.  “A video converter?  Sure, I can do that…is $200 OK…?”

So in-between cleaning his room and dates with his girlfriend this wonder kid put together an incredible social media platform called, HIPHOP Crack… which eventually became what you are seeing here:  The site landed us a mention in Billboard magazine which helped FOTS reach the next level.

If you’re wondering why he’s not working for FOTS anymore, that’s because he got some job at some small company called twitter doing something called a, Senior Software Engineer..?  Not sure what that means, but I think it means no more video converters for $200…

Anyway, the “kid” is no longer a kid.  His name is Tom Rix and it’s been awesome to watch him grow.  I’d suggest you follow him because chances are you’ll be working for him one day.

Design Versus Development: The Suck Factor.

design vs. development

When I was young, not only did I have to walk 6 miles backwards in the snow to school, but I learned a valuable lesson that things simply look better on TV and that the end product doesn’t always come out the way you envisoned it.

I had asked Santa for the Six Million Dollar Man, Misson Control Center.  It looked so cool on TV.  True to his word, Santa delivered.  But when I opened the box and set everything up, it looked nothing at all like it did on TV.  My dad had to build a contraption with coat hangers just to get the dome to stay upright.  He had to build a custom wireframe to help support it.

Flash forward…2013…things still look better on TV, wireframes are no longer made from coat hangers and there’s still a divide between how things should look vs. how things are developed.  Enter the suck factor.

A client comes to you with some amazing visual concepts, they spent a lot of money on a designer to create something really unique… awesome.  The problem is, the designer didn’t consider the development aspect.  So now the client with their great design becomes confused when you tell them that the design might have to change a little bit to accommodate development.

The designer isn’t going to say anything. They, and rightfully so, want to get paid.  They don’t want to confuse the situation by telling the client about possible issues they may face with developing what they have just designed.

Developers know all too well about these issues, but they’re not the best at communicating with clients.  So, it typically falls on the shoulders of the project manager.

The project manager is now tasked with telling the client that their awesome design just can’t be developed the way they want it.  Enter the suck factor.

But you’ve already taken on the client, the check has been cashed, and you’re doing whatever you can to convince your developer to “try harder”. This typically means you have to pay them more money.  So what started out as a nice profit for you is slowly being sucked away because the client’s designer never took development into consideration.  Or they did, but they just didn’t care because they just cashed their check too.

So for the next project that comes in, make sure you either A) get your team to do both design and development B) if they already have the design, make sure you let the client up front the challenges that may lay ahead.  Because nothing is worse than over selling and under delivering.  I’m looking at you Steve Austin!

article: Design versus development and the challenges faced by project managers.

Why a Website Matters For Your Job Hunt

job hunting

Before the Internet, our biggest concern when applying for a job, other than getting the job, was what  paper stock to use for our resume or CV. You can’t use standard white, it needs to stand out…but of course, like everything else, it’s what’s on the paper that counts.

Once you figured out the color and weight of the paper, the next challenge was trying to fit all of your awesome karate, French, and jam-making talents and other special interests onto one page.

You shave everything down as best as possible, squeeze it all on a single page, (scrapbooking didn’t make the cut), slip on your ill-fitting suit, and embellish your way through an awkward interview. Of course you follow up a few days later by sending a letter thanking them for their time, blah blah.

Those times were awesome.

It’s now almost 2014. Safe to say we are competing with an exponentially larger job market than even 10 years ago. So whether you are looking for work, or looking to hire, the approach may have changed, but the execution has stayed the same. We still need to go through awkward interviews, in some cases personality tests, and the all-around hiring process, but the approach to getting that interview now goes beyond your light gray 24-lb sheet resume.  more

You Want A Free Mock Up? Sure, I’ll Get Right On That!

free mockups

My first job dealing with the Internets was for a company called, CSP Internet. It was based in Victoria, BC. I remember sitting in on a web meeting with a senior project manager and a potential new client. The “client” asked if we could do a free mockup and based on that he would decide if he’d continue on with us. I thought it seemed like a fair request, but the senior project manager, shut him down. She told him, “we don’t do free.” We never heard from the client again.

I couldn’t believe what had happened. We gave up a potential client. The project manager looked at me and said, if you don’t value your time, no one else will. 15 years later, it’s finally sinking in.

Every now and again, you’ll come across a client asking for a free mock up. Their “argument” is, “if we like what you do, it could lead to getting the full job.” They become confused if you say, no.

Here is what I have learned to tell the client:
If I did free mock ups for everyone, I’d never have time to do any paid work.
How do I prioritize my schedule? If I am doing a free mock up for you, and someone else wants to pay me for a job, do I ask them to wait?
Mock ups are a process.  It involves good communication and they typically go through a few stages before sign off. Rarely are mock ups perfect on the first round. To judge our ability based on one mock up, is short sighted.
The few hundred dollars you’ll pay for the mockup will work towards the final cost of developing an entire site.

It’s a very competitive market, but if you have a solid portfolio and a good list of happy clients, there is no need for you to do free work. Your list of completed sites should be enough to demonstrate that you have the necessary skills to create and develop something quite effective.

If someone has an issue with paying you for your time, they’re always going to have an issue paying you. Also, do not work for free based on promises of paid work in the future. “Oh yeah, hey…I have another site I want you to do after this one…”. They’ll tell you about all these other projects they are working on hoping you can give them a deal on one of them blah blah. The funny thing with plans is, they tend to change. Steer clear of these situations.

Don’t give your time away. It’s time off your life. It shouldn’t come cheap.

Employer Employee Contract: The 3 Must Haves

employer employee contracts


Having a contract between you and your “employees” is as important as having a contract between you and your clients.  It doesn’t have to be some long winded document, but must include these 3 main points: delivery dates, payment terms and source files.

Delivery Dates: We’re all painfully aware that design and development is not a perfect science.  Glitches and bugs happen.  You know this and your developer(s) know this.  The developer more so.  So when they give you an ETD, based on the direction and assets you have provided, they need to deliver on time.  If they are going to be late, they need to tell you as far in advance as possible.  The night before is not acceptable. Unfortunately, there is little you can do at that time but once the project has been completed, that’s when you can have a little sit down with your guy.

Payment Terms: Assuming your running a small business, you might not have dozens of dollars to front a project.  That said, you have to wait for the client to pay before you can pay your developer.  The down payment part is fine, nobody starts until people are paid.  Simple.  But it’s the final payment that can be tricky.  Once the site is up and running, it’s considered complete, therefore payment is due.  That’s great, but it’s unrealistic to think you will be paid the very next day.  If you’re dealing with a larger client, there’s the process of invoicing, accounts, mailrooms etc.  It might take up to 2-3 weeks.  It’s certainly not ideal, but you’re in it to keep your clients happy, you can’t hound for payment, unless they’re well overdue.  Your developer needs to understand this.  When you get paid, they get paid.  They will hit you with their problems, or financial woes, tell you they worked hard and want their money…but there’s little you can do and they need to accept that going into the job.  Their personal issues have nothing to do with you.

Source Files: Once a project is done, make sure your developer sends you all working files.

Most importantly, never become complacent.  Don’t ever get stuck in with the same designer(s) or developer(s).  Always have a few well trusted and reputable worker bees at the ready.  Because if things don’t run smoothly with the team you have, and you find yourself pulling out your hair, don’t.  There are plenty of responsible and business savvy contractors ready to be put to work.

Setting Your Price

setting your prices

Finding your place in the market is not an easy task. Charge too much, people will walk. Charge too little, people won’t take you seriously. The latter, is a tough one to learn. I, naively used to think, if I undercut everyone, I’ll do well for myself. Offer the cheapest rates and everyone will come to me. Let me tell you, if you offer the cheapest rates, you get the cheapest clients. If that’s your thing, fill your boots.

But if you want to be taken seriously, you need to find yourself a perfect price point between demand for your service and your talent for said services. Maybe you have a high opinion of yourself and you like charging $90/hr. So if you do, and you are, you need to make sure you can get about twice as much work done as someone who charges $45/hr for doing the same thing. If you charge too little, because you’re nervous about losing a client, you’ll die a slow death, simple. If you charge too little, there’s no wiggle room when S hits the fan. And doesn’t it always?!

The best way to position yourself is to go online and look at your competition. Look through their portfolio. Be honest with your team’s skill level, and if you can do what they do, send them an email pretending to be a potential client. Go through the process with them and see how they do it, and what they charge. Don’t be afraid if you charge more; just make sure you show them why.

Setting Client Expectations


Setting a client’s expectations seems like a pretty straight forward thing to do. It isn’t. Some clients, if not most, will always want more than they are willing to pay. Or, they think your quote is too high based on what they want. Because a website is not a physical object they can touch, or drive, or live in…it’s difficult sometimes to understand how much work goes into designing and developing an effective site. So it’s only natural for a client to think that just adding a few things here and there, or coming up with another design concept takes no time at all. “Come on, it’s only one more mockup…”

A client may say, “it’ll only take 5 mins.” The response to that of course is, “5 mins. plus 15 years of experience”

All this goes can away if you properly (and politely) set your client’s expectations which all goes back to developing a good contract.

But before you get to the actual contract, effectively communicating what you can and cannot do can be tricky. Not necessarily because of what you are saying, but because of what they (the client) are hearing. Make sure your client understands important things like, how many mockups they will get. I used to always be apprehensive in telling a client in plain English, they get 2 mockups, any more they will be billed extra. But then I found myself doing mockups all day long doing 7,8…10 mockups until sign off. But there wasn’t even a sign off…because there was no contract, because I was willing to do whatever to get work coming in. But that’s called paying your dues. How else are you going to grow your portfolio? It’s like trying to get that first job: “We’d hire you, but you don’t have any experience…”

Now, several years later when speaking with clients, I make sure the they understand what they are getting for their budget. The contract is merely something for their reference when they can’t remember why they need to pay extra for excessive design requests.

Be firm with your quotes and your deliverables. Explain the process to your client. Once you start hearing yourself talking about what’s involved in putting together a kick-a** website, it’s easier to stand up for yourself when giving your proposal. If you start to bend, they will keep asking for more. Time off your life is valuable, so set your prices accordingly. The reason you set a limit on the number of mockups or revisions you do, is to prevent the client from changing their mind. It’s amazing how quickly someone can settle on a concept if they know they have to pay extra for another one. Let them know what your hourly rate is for after sales service and give them the source files, it’s good practice. Setting prices and terms simply makes everything fair for everyone. And yes, I realize this is business and it’s not supposed to be about being fair, but you’re not selling furniture, you’re essentially selling a service and if you’re not on a level playing field, someone is going to get hurt.

| 0

What’s Your Budget?


When I was 18, I knew these 2 guys that bought and sold cars. I happened to be looking for one, so they showed me a Ford Escort. They asked me what my budget was. I told, them $1500. Guess, what? The car happened to be $1500. What a coincidence. Turns out the thing was only worth about $800.

That experience has stuck with me all these years. It’s impact, prevented me from asking clients about their budget. I would spend an hour on the phone with a client before I found out they would be better served looking on Craigs list for help or down loading a free WordPress template. Nobody wants to waste that time, least of all you.

I felt that as soon as I asked the, “what is your budget” question, I became a used car salesman, trying to trick them. But the truth is, “what is your budget” is the first question in establishing a trusting relationship with your client. It puts everything on the table and allows a common ground from which you both can work. If they are up front and tell you their price range, it allows you to move the conversation in a particular direction. It helps save everyone time when you know what kind of budget you are dealing with and sets expectations. You know the saying, why try to sell them steak if they have a hamburger budget.

There are clients that will tell you, they’d rather get a quote than give their budget. That’s of course fine too, but it’s tricky, because you don’t know what they want and in my experience, a client will under estimate their needs, so your pricing needs to allow for a large margin of error. It’s unsafe. The best way to determine a client’s budget is to ask them for sample sites. Sites they like. They don’t have to be related to their industry but seeing any live example of what they want is absolutely best way to deliver an accurate quote. If your client adds in a site map, even better. So this way, when putting your pricing together, you can start with, “Based on (the website examples and site map provided by client X) we can deliver blah blah for a total cost of $XXX…” Of course if they have a high budget, you’ll be the one putting together the site map!

It’s definitely ideal to get a budget upfront. Being asked for a quote without knowing, is like playing pin the tail on the donkey. And don’t even get me started on the impact that game had on me…

| 0

Be Accountable


Hopefully, by the time you get out of high school you learn that, for better or worse, your reputation is everything. Unfortunately, when you’re young, sometimes you don’t quite get that. The good news is, if you mess up, you’ll probably end up moving to a new town or city when you’re older anyway so you can start over. But in business, it’s not that easy. Throw in the Internets and it’s pretty much impossible to escape your reputation.

For example, if you’re employee or contractor quits in the middle of a job, you need to find yourself another employee to finish that job, regardless of added expense. If you paid said employee a deposit and they quit before they got halfway through the first round, the best you can do is ask for it back. But considering you probably paid them a couple weeks prior, chances are you won’t see that money again. It’s the course of business. What you need to do is, notify your client immediately. Again, as in most cases, don’t be an alarmist. Tell your client that you saw this coming and you already had a contingency plan in place. Let them know that another developer on your team has taken over so please allow a few extra days whilst they are brought up to speed. Pretty much anything can be handled with proactive, honest dialogue. In a case like this, don’t email the client. CALL THEM. Then you can email a follow up. What you can’t do is whine and complain and don’t blame the guy that just quit on you. Dig your heels in and get the job done.

As a small business owner, there is little you can do if your employee quits mid-way through a job. If you don’t have another source that can continue the work, you need to do everything you can to find one. Hopefully, they will work on 100% at completion of a project, but chances are they won’t. You can’t blame them or ask them, so you must find a way to pay them in order to keep the project on task. You need to do everything possible to keep your reputation in good standing. Your client will understand. They will see your efforts and will appreciate your hard work. Your margin may have been cut in half, but that’s nothing compared to your reputation being…wait for it…cut it half.

If you don’t believe me, believe this guy: jason nazar

| 0