Matthew Pritchett

Front End Engineer. WordPress Developer. Nonprofit Enthusiast

What Getting Rid of 50% Of My Stuff Is Teaching Me About Building A Business

To prepare for our upcoming move, my family and I got rid of almost half of our stuff. This may seem like we went crazy, but it is leading us to a more fulfilling life and an easier move. But above and beyond that I’m learning a huge lesson in my business.

Getting rid of junk brings clarity

Over the past few years, I’ve tried and (mostly) failed to start several businesses online. Everything from WordPress themes to passive income blogs to niche websites. I even got into dropshipping websites one time. Ugh.

While I can’t say that I’ve had some epiphany or I’m suddenly an online business ninja guru expert, I can say that I am more focused and clear headed about business than I ever have been. I’m reading, studying and listening to those who have succeeded more. I’m working on a few core select businesses.

Most importantly, I’ve learned to say no. Chris Lema is famous for saying no. This simple step has allowed me to clear away all the junk that I was involved in before. It has even helped me to decide to let go of some good opportunities. This has been instrumental in my current growth because it has let me take advantage of great opportunities. Good is the enemy of great.

Getting rid of all of these things in my life that weren’t the best possible opportunities has allowed me to see the things I want to focus on more clearly. I have clarity to make good decisions in my business and to get things done efficiently.

Building a solid business take focus

With this renewed clarity, I’ve been able to focus more on the core tenets of my business and ensure that those are utilized and fed. This has been essential lately as I haven’t had a lot of time to invest in building side businesses with my full time job and preparing to move. So the limited amount of time I’ve been able to invest has had to be laser focused on achieving specific goals.

I’ve begun creating manageable to-do lists of short term goals with specific tasks like:

  • Write a post on XXX today and schedule for ____.
  • Install ____ plugin and configure.
  • Email so and so a short reminder that I need X by Y.

These kind of short, to the point, and actionable to dos have led to a huge increase in getting things done that have measurable impact on business and growth. While focus isn’t going to make you millions, it will help to take your hard work and invest it wisely.

So what can you get rid of mentally or physically to help you focus?

How To Find The Right Fundraising Plugin

How To Find The Right Fundraising Plugin

There are lots of different  donation and fundraising plugins out there. But what should you look for in a fundraising plugin? Let’s take a look at what some of the top choices have to offer.

First, we want to set the things we’re looking for in a fundraising plugin. Our choice will be processing payments through a form, so we have several items to cover.

  • Security – we want to make sure that those who give us money know that they are doing so in a safe and secure environment from end to end.
  • Flexibility – we want the fundraising plugin we choose to offer the ability to do multiple campaigns, partner with different payment processors and work with different plugins to give us lots of functionality.
  • Display – We want each campaign and our donation form to be beautiful. While this isn’t absolutely necessary, a form that is well designed and has a great user interface is more likely to bring in more donations.

These are the criteria that I have when looking for a fundraising plugin. You may have a lot more criteria depending on your situation. But at the base level, I believe these will get you to a good place. Initially, I wanted to recommend several plugins and grade them based on this list. However, after several hours of research, I didn’t find enough plugins that passed my inspection to write-up. That is a sad thing considering WordPress has thousands and thousands of plugins in the official repo and thousands more elsewhere.

Know of a good plugin for fundraising campaigns? I’d love to review it! Hit me up on Twitter or my contact page.

The One Step To Building A Business You Can't Ignore

The One Step To Building A Business You Can’t Ignore

Building a business is hard. Building a successful business is even harder. But there’s something that almost everyone misses even though it is completely obvious. To build a business, you have to actually build something.

Recently, I had the pleasure of watching Syed Balkhi give a great talk on business  and our desire for excellence on the live stream of LoopConf.

There is a key hidden in this.  It’s something that I struggle with on a daily business. Currently, I’ve got four different ideas in the building stage. I’ve done the brainstorming. I’ve done the research. I’ve even started to build out content, sites, and code. But between the different projects, they are ALL languishing in a half done state. 

For those trying to start a business, ideas can abound. Motivation to get started can be huge. But the follow through is tough. Yet, THAT is what gets you to owning a business. That is what gets you across the finish line. The course your building? The membership site? The theme? The plugin? That’s the foundation of your new business. That’s the business that could provide a home for someone who doesn’t have one, like Pippin Williamson’s business. It could allow you to stay home with your family and help raise kids who don’t have one, like Jesse Peterson.

What if finishing the product you have the idea for right now changes your life? What if it allows you to travel like you’ve always wanted? Stay home? Help others? If you don’t finish it, you’ll never know. So sit down and write those last few posts. Finish up that section of code. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Make it good and push it. Publish. Show the world.

How To Build A Simple Fundraising Site – Part 3

Building a fundraising site for your organization to take donations or raise funds doesn’t have to be a huge pain. While there are many solutions for this and other web services, this is just one approach that can get you online and ready to take donations. Take this simple approach and have something up quickly.

In part one, I blogged about the need for a good domain and  a solid web host for your site. Next, I wrote about installing WordPress and configuring both the settings and installing a good theme. This time, we’ll look at some basic plugins to install as well as configure the donation or fundraising part of your site.

Start with these plugins on your fundraising site

While there are thousands and thousands of plugins I could recommend to you for your site and there are many that I would, this tutorial is about getting a fundraising site up quickly. The improvements and extra functionality can come later. Here is a short list of plugins that I would include in order to get your site secured, indexed by search engines and more.

Jetpack by Automattic – Jetpack is a featured filled plugin with individually activated modules that will do things like add social sharing to your site while also providing brute force protection. It’s the first plugin I activate on many sites and provides millions of users with tons of functionality. While it occasionally faces issues, the support team behind the plugin is top of the line and offers great email support.

WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast – This plugin is also one that I install on most of my sites. It is a staple of the WordPress plugin community and has one of the largest install bases of any plugin. It provides not only the ability to add SEO descriptions, titles, and focus words but then also checks each post and page to make sure you are writing in a way that will help get your site indexed and ranked for your keywords.

Adding the fundraising functionality to our site

By now, you have a simple, but functional website with a custom domain and solid hosting. All that is left is to add the donation and fundraising functionality. To do this, we’re going to utilize a relatively new plugin called Give. According to the website, Give is,

The most flexible, robust, and easy to use WordPress plugin for accepting donations directly on your website. Upon activation, Give provides you with powerful features geared towards helping your Cause. GiveWP.com

With its easy install process, quick donation form creation and growing add on base, its a great option for getting our donation or fundraising site up quickly.

First, we’ll need to get the plugin installed. This plugin is part of the wordpress.org plugin repository. That means we can click Plugins, then Add New and then search for “Give.” This should populate the plugin desired which you can see below. Click “Install Now” and wait for the plugin to install. Activate the plugin.

Give Plugin

Next we’ll create a donation form and add it to our donation page. You’ll notice that a Donations menu item has been added to your WordPress admin menu. Hover over this and click “Add Form.”

Give your form a title. Next, you can have either a fix amount for donations or donation levels. You can also allow people to set a custom amount for donations. You can then choose whether or not to display content along with your form. In most situation you can simply type the content onto the page you add the form shortcode. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to ignore the rest of the options, but they offer lots of ways to customize your forms and donation settings.

Next we need to grab the shortcode from the sidebar. Once you have this copied, simply click “Publish” and your form is ready to use. Create a new page or edit a page that you’ve already created and place the shortcode into the content editor. Publish or update the page and your form will appear on that page immediately.

The last remaining item is to setup your donation payment gateway. Give, by default comes with Paypal Standard integration. This means that you can use PayPal to accept debit and credit cards but that visitors will be taken off your site for the payment. Give also offers paid add-ons that allow Stripe and other gateways to be integrated.

How To Build A Simple Fundraising Site – Part 2

Previously, we chose a domain and setup hosting for our site. Now, we’re going to focus on doing some basic setup for our WordPress site and choosing a theme to create the layout and look of our site.

WordPress comes pretty well setup out of the box, but there are a few settings that can help us achieve greater results. We’ll go over these below. Additionally, WordPress uses themes to style and create layout for your site. While your content stays the same, choosing different themes changes how you content looks and is laid out.

Choosing a theme is an important step in the process as it sets the tone for your site. We will focus on choosing a theme that shows off the mission of our organization while providing a solid base in terms of code quality, design aesthetic and portability in case we choose to move to a different theme in the future or hire a developer to create a custom theme.

Setting up WordPress to maximize your efforts

Out of the box, WordPress comes with an assortment of settings preconfigured for the general use case. But we are focusing our efforts on providing a means to raise funds and spread brand awareness for a nonprofit organization, not running a blog or creating a portfolio site. So we need to do a little maintenance to give us the most return on our efforts.

First, I recommend changing the permalinks to “pretty permalinks” or telling WordPress to use human readable URLs rather than page id numbers. You can set permalinks by hovering over Settings in the WordPress Dashboard menu and clicking “Permalinks.”

Screen-Shot-2015-05-05-at-2.36.54-PM

While any of the options listed will work, I recommend choosing “Post Name.” This will set all of your pages and posts to use their title as the URL structure. If you are planning on having a blog that you post to very often, you might use “Month and Name” instead as this can prevent problems with duplicate post names and can prevent issues with site speed when you have thousands of posts.

Secondly, I recommend taking a look at the Settings page and setting things like your site title and description to match that of your organization. You can also take this chance to change the timezone to match your locale. It bears saying that going through all the Settings panels and knowing what each one features and defaults to is always a good idea so that you begin to understand WordPress as a software.

Choosing a theme for your fundraising site

Themes can be a polarizing topic in the WordPress community. There are so many styles, so many opinions and so many way to go about things that you’ll find differing opinions everywhere. However, for our purposes, we simply need something simple, clean and well-coded. WordPress offers a wide variety of free and paid (premium) theme options from a wide variety of online sources.

For the purposes of this tutorial, we’re going to choose a theme from our friends over at churchthemes.net. These guys know what they are doing. The themes handcrafted by these guys are beautiful and coded to the highest standards. They currently offer two themes, Shepherd and Uplifted. We’ll choose Shepherd for our fundraising site.

Simply fill out the registration form after clicking the Download button. Once you register the download starts automatically. Then go to your WordPress dashboard and click “Appearance.” Click “Add New” and then “Upload Theme.” Once there, you can upload the zip file that you downloaded and activate the theme. You now have a fundraising site with a beautiful theme installed!

Next time, we’ll install some plugins and setup the site to take donations. As always, if you have questions, let me know in the comments. If this was helpful, please share!

How To Build a Simple Fundraising Site – Part 1

Building a fundraising site for your organization to take donations or raise funds doesn’t have to be a huge pain. While there are many solutions for this and other web services, this is just one approach that can get you online and ready to take donations. Take this simple approach and have something up quickly.

Pick a domain

Your domain is the address for your website. You want something short, easy to remember, and easy to spell. For example, if you organization’s name is We Help People, you would want to try to get wehelppeople.org, .com or something similar.

How To Build A Fundraising Site - Part 1

There are lots of tools available to help you find and register a domain name. Here are a few of my favorites:

It is extremely important to take some time to think through your domain. You want something that directly relates to your organization, but you also want something that provides for things like brand building, search engine optimization and is easy to remember and type.

Choose a Hosting Provider

Hosting is where we will point your domain to and where your files will actually live. This is an important part of the process as it sets the pace for your online activity. Hosting is normally a monthly or yearly subscription fee. There are lots of options ranging from a shared space on a server for a few dollars per month to dedicated server racks inside mammoth facilities for hundreds or thousands of dollars per month. On top of that there are things like managed hosting options that give you a bit more support on things like security and software updates. You may have a dedicated professional or team who can do those kind of things and want a bit more flexible solution. All of these are options that you can choose from.

My guess is that you are looking for something that is low maintenance for a low cost. I recommend several providers and have written about them in the past. They are all solid providers who have strong reputations and service. I use each of them to host several sites and find value in each of them for different things. There are several options in this space that offer just the right amount of management and cost efficiency.

WP Engine

Flywheel

These two hosts will take care of your WordPress updates, security, and server maintenance. These three benefits alone can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

One of the other nice things about these hosts is that because they are WordPress specific, there is no need to install WordPress on the servers, which can be somewhat complicated for someone who doesn’t web development experience.

In the next part of this series, we’ll talk about setting up your initial WordPress settings and choosing a theme. If this article has helped you, please share on social media!

Getting WordPress Out Of The Way With Lasso

Getting WordPress Out Of The Way With Lasso

Sometimes, WordPress gets in the way of creating content. Lasso, a new front end editing plugin by Nick Haskins, is changing that.

I spend lots of time in front of the WordPress post editor screen. Whether I’m working on a site for my day job, writing a new blog post for my personal blog or other places I write, or just checking out the new features in the latest version of WordPress, I spend a lot of time every day there.

Most of the time, it does a great job. It’s got lots of options for editing content, media and settings. But when I have to write a lot of content or have content that needs to look a certain way on the front end of a site, it can be a major pain. Having to switch between a preview tab and the post editor can be a major hassle. Especially when someone is writing dozens or hundreds of pages for a client.

I’ve used several front end page builders and come up with mixed results. I reviewed Velocity Page Builder a while back and had good things to say. While I liked what it did, an update hasn’t been released in a while and my job took me beyond what it could offer.

One of the nicer things about Lasso is it isn’t trying to do everything. They clearly state that it isn’t a page builder but a front end editor. In fact, most of the code behind was developed in conjunction with Nick’s Story.am site that is meant for serious writers, authors and bloggers. While Lasso could certainly be used to create vivid front end interfaces and has the extensibility to have those kind of components added, that isn’t the goal.

Performance

Apart from the cool factor with getting to write and edit a post completely within my theme, Lasso has a lot going for it. The editing toolbar interface loads quickly, with no perceptible delay on several sites and environments that I tested it on. It doesn’t slow down my site while editing or viewing content. I was also pleasantly surprised to find no errors or warnings on the console which can’t be said of most JS heavy plugins.

Design

The editing toolbar for Lasso is dark, sleek, and gorgeous. It stays nicely at the bottom of your screen along with post save and post publish buttons that follow you as you scroll. The image upload functionality uses WordPress’s own design and development functions and feel so you don’t have to worry about learning a new interface. Overall, the design is just right. It stays out of your way and lets you get the job done. Exactly what I want in a front end editing tool.

Price

With pricing starting at $129 for three sites, $179 for five sites and $249 for unlimited sites, per year, Lasso isn’t a low-cost solution. But the functionality you are getting at that price I believe is well worth it.

Lasso Pricing Options

Not only for bloggers, authors, and other intense writers, but for clients. If your clients don’t need lots of complicated page elements and just need basic images and text, Lasso is a perfect way to bypass the WordPress post editor and let them edit content directly on the page.

Overall

Lasso is worth the cost. While it may not be a need for many people, the plugin is well written, has a thought through interface, and gets the job done beautifully. I recommend Lasso to anyone needing a front end editor for themselves, a client, or a friend.

Reducing Clutter

Reducing Clutter

My family and I are leaving Texas.

Don’t get me wrong, we have loved living in Dallas. There are lots of things to do, lots of restaurants, and our church small group has been awesome. But we have decided that we want to be closer to family for ourselves and our children.

We’ll be heading to Atlanta in June of this year. We’re pretty excited about it. I love Georgia (having lived there three times in my life) and there are lots of things to do in Atlanta while retaining that Southern charm.

With just under six weeks until our move date, we’ve begun packing and organizing things as much as we can. While I don’t necessarily enjoy packing or moving, I have become somewhat good at it after almost 30 moves in my lifetime. One of the biggest challenges to me in the process of moving is reducing the amount of stuff we own.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a super minimalist or super into stuff. I have just come to the realization that the more stuff I have, the more money it costs me to move. With a wife, a cat and two small kids who are spoiled by both pairs of grandparents, we have a lot of clutter. So after a long conversation with my wife, we decided to reduce the amount of stuff in our possession by a large amount. The basic rule was that if we had more than one of something or hadn’t used it in a year, we were getting rid of it.

You wouldn’t believe the battles we’ve had not wanting to get of things that don’t matter. Things that haven’t been used in years. T-shirts from middle school. USB Flash Drives that have 512 MB of storage and are corrupted. Things that realistically have no value to us, but we act like have huge emotional investment. But one by one, they’ve been donated or trashed.

While we’re still working hard on packing and going through things, something crazy has happened. As the clutter has disappeared, so have large amounts of stress from our lives. A clean countertop is way better than a cluttered mess of extra mugs and bowls. Having space and clarity to think has been a huge boon to my personal and professional productivity.

So it has me starting to clear up my digital life as well. Why do I need so many social media accounts? Files from 3 jobs ago? Nope. Pictures? Store them in the cloud and get them out of my devices. Domains that have never been used? Sell ’em.

Overall, the benefit for me mentally and physically has been great. I feel better knowing that my digital and physical clutter has been greatly reduced. But it is an ongoing battle. I also have begun to consider applying this to my mental and emotional health as well. I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you have reduced the clutter in your life.

Trying PhpStorm

Trying PhpStorm

That’s right. I’m changing IDE’s.

Really, I’m just thinking about it. I’ve used Coda 2 by Panic for several years now and have always enjoyed it. It has all kinds of tools built in and a WordPress function auto-complete plugin available for free. But what I’ve always missed is something a little more dedicated and aware of WordPress and its code standards.

Standards are something that I’m very big on and that I honestly struggle with. While I believe that I write and speak fairly well, it isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I have always struggled with grammar and the nuances of language. I’ve found this issue in languages other than English. I spoke fairly good conversational Spanish for several years and faced the same issue. I could never quite remember the grammar rules. When learning PHP and WordPress, I still have trouble sometimes remembering small details of the standard best practices. So I continue to study, to write about them and to search out tools to help me remember. After almost eight years, you’d think I’d have them down.

Enter in PhpStorm. While this IDE has been around for a while and been on my radar since they announced full WordPress integration in version 8, I haven’t really had time or inclination to try a switch until now. But yesterday I downloaded the free trial from JetBrains and will be working in PhpStorm for the next few weeks to see if the switch is one that I should make.

One of the main features that I see as a benefit over Coda 2 is that PhpStorm is aware of the WordPress best practices and desired syntax and can correct and suggest functions and standards. I see this as a major win to help in my struggle with such things and to help take me to the next level in my development skills.

I’ll let you know how it goes and will be posting some tricks and tips that I learn and acquire over the coming weeks.

Connecting People

Connecting People

While developers and business owners get a lot of love in the WordPress community, there is another skillset that lurks beneath the usual din of blog posts and events. It can be far more valuable and far reaching than code or business plans. This skill, applied at the right moments, can and has changed my life in very meaningful ways. In fact, it has changed my life more than experience, resume, and charisma ever could (I’m definitely not saying that I’m charismatic).

I’m talking about the skill of connecting people. While everyone does this to some degree, I have found that there are certain people who are naturally connectors. They know lots of people and know when and how to introduce them.

This skill at connecting people can spark new jobs, new business opportunities, life-long friendships and so much more. One of the companies that I previously worked for paid consultants millions of dollars per year to have this skill and connect them to prospective clients who were looking. That’s all. Not to pitch them. Not to win them. Just to introduce them.

I was lucky enough to have a friend who has this exact skill.

 Connecting Friends

Have you met my friend, Sarah Pressler?

If so, you know that she is going to hate this article as it talks about her.

If not, I suggest you follow her on Twitter. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Sarah creates value in the WordPress community. She doesn’t consider herself a developer. She isn’t a business owner (that I know of). And that’s okay. In fact, her skillset is far more valuable. Sarah, quite simply, is a connector. She knows everyone. It’s crazy. She knows people’s backgrounds, what WordCamps they attend and if they are hiring or looking for a job. In fact, she runs a site that posts remote jobs that she goes out and collects from other job boards, WordCamps, and other places. She has personally introduced me to people that have made huge impacts in my professional life and in my family’s life.

Sarah is a connector. She not only knows and cares for a lot of people, but she recognizes when two or more of those people have the possibility of doing great things together. Then she does something about it and introduces them. She creates value by helping others create value that they couldn’t otherwise create. That’s powerful. That’s valuable.

What about you? Are you a connector? Do you know one? Give them a shout out. Let them know that you appreciate them. That skill might just change your life.

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