Joseph Pallante is originally from Houston, but around 5 years ago he moved to Shanghai to teach English. During his stay, Joe met other entrepreneurs and coders. They teamed up to develop a web application for learning languages from people nearby. The project fell through after a year and a half of working on it with 5 other team members from different countries around the world. However, he learned to develop websites and nowadays creates them together with his fiance. She is responsible for the design work and Joe does the backend. After discovering Divi, the couple created the agency Boon Creative and work full-time now, 100% remotely from Vietnam.
During Joe’s time in Shanghai, he learned a bit of Chinese Mandarin which has helped him to communicate with potential Chinese clients.
Back to your App – do you think that because the team you had was located in several parts of the world was one of the reasons it failed? Do you think it is better to be under one roof with your colleagues?
We were all together when we started in Shanghai and gradually learned how to work remotely. The main reason it fell apart was mainly due to communication issues and different views on how to develop the app. That’s when my gf and I discovered simpler solutions via Divi and WordPress.
We learned to ask better questions because we assumed that making websites involved a much more difficult learning curve.
So, what are the questions you would ask me as a client who wants to build a website for his/her business?
The first question is, what’s your budget? What industry are you in? Who is your target market? We’re upfront with clients and tell them yes or no ASAP since we’re a small 2 person agency. We ask them if they already have inspiration from other sites or if they want to rebrand. We then gauge their expectations and give them our quote after we hear their budget. Then set milestones and give them a proposal / timeline.
Let’s imagine I am a doctor and want a beautiful website where I could present my services. How big should be my budget to get a nice website on Divi from you?
We can work to any budget, I’d assume being a doctor you’d need a homepage, services, about, FAQ, contact page, etc. and we can structure it to charge per page (the homepage is more than the others).
The Doctor would need to provide example sites. Or we’d show examples to gauge expectations. We use InvisionApp to send through a mood board after confirming the style which is included in the proposal.
I see. Are you the type of web designer who fulfills everything the client wants or do you try to persuade him/her to follow the style you see as relevant? The client may be a good doctor but not so good at design…
We provide elegant solutions to complex problems and are transparent with our clients. It comes down mainly to time. Would you rather me spend hours and days fulfilling what you think is best or let us do the job you hired us for to get similar, equal, or even better results? We typically gauge this type of client beforehand too.
Before we begin a project if they propose what we think is not good design then we don’t take on the project/client because we have a standard we like to keep for our own agency brand.
You mentioned Divi as a platform you use for creating websites. Before starting the development process, do you use Photoshop or other tools or do you just start creating straight in Divi from scratch?
My fiance went to art school in Auckland and knows Photoshop and Illustrator, so if a site requires graphic design then she’ll create the elements and I’ll set up the layout/framework on Divi. Any technical problems that arise I’ll solve (i.e., CSS, JS, HTML). She’ll do the brand guidelines and I’ll piece it together in Divi.
Do you perceive using themes such as Divi as a good solution? Some WordPress creatives don’t respect using pre-built templates and code a unique theme for every project. What are your reasons to prefer just Divi?
If a client asks to build them a canoe, you don’t build them the Titanic. Divi is evolving into more than just a theme but an ecosystem of other web designers that share resources and inspiration, so the collective whole of the Divi community helps web designers significantly and everyone wins, including clients. I don’t care if WordPress creatives don’t respect using pre-built templates. Purist mindsets can cause more issues for clients. I prefer Divi because my clients like the output and it makes my life easier when trying to fulfill their needs on a budget and deadline.
And not all Divi users can’t code, there is still a need for basic CSS, JS and HTML. It’s just I’m not spending days coding when I can use a tool like Divi to knock out a problem in minutes / seconds.
One thing is to create, the other one to maintain. We all know, what sort of issues a WordPress website can bring. Do you offer maintenance packages for your clients?
Yes, we always offer maintenance and security plans. I also offer client handoffs at the end of projects, I train them on how to maintain the site, but for the most part they just pay us to do the maintenance for them.
How hard is it to persuade them? Do they understand that there is some technical maintenance needed?
We had a client opt out of the maintenance/security plan we offered them. They later had their site infected with Malware. They were in over their head and they came back to us. Now they pay us monthly. We make sure to bring up every possibility that could potentially go wrong with their site if left unmaintained. By the end of a project though we’ve built up enough trust with our clients that it doesn’t take much persuading.
Josh Hall, who is very well-known in the Divi community – says that the maintenance plan is the easiest income of a web designer. Do you agree?
I’d say convenient “almost” passive income. Easy in the sense that it’s simple to attach a recurring payment plan onto a finished site. If you get enough sites up and running and are continually collecting from maintenance plans it‘s pretty nice.
You said you mainly work for Chinese clients now. Is there any difference in their approach, do they have any special needs? Do you amend prices?
Most have Westerners running point and being the go-to for correspondence, so Chinese business structure and how they approach things can be a bit convoluted and not direct. It’s nice to communicate with people on the inside that understand the Chinese way and can interpret what they truly mean.
Overall, we enjoy working with all people. We don’t change our prices.
We live in Vietnam so the cost of living is cheap. It’s nice to get paid in RMB, USD and British Pounds. We use HelloBonsai.com to handle contracts, proposals, and invoices.
How is it working with your fiance? I can imagine that sometimes you don’t like her work or she doesn’t like yours. Is it healthy?
Yes, we do have our moments where we want to kill each other, but since we worked before on our startup project and learned how to work with each other as a team we complement each other. Since we mainly live in resorts we have access to a pool, motorbike, the beach, cafes, the gym, etc. so we can get our alone time to cool down and stay mentally sharp. I love her work and her design. She knows her role and I know mine.
We enjoy our work and are continually improving on separating work from other parts of life. We love to travel and step back from the computer screen at times.
But I handle most of the marketing side of things and correspondence. So I have to use my phone and stay connected. I wouldn’t suggest going into business with your loved ones, but for some reason, it’s worked out for us. We learn a lot from each other.