Like many others in our industry, my WordPress journey started a while ago.
I built my first website using GeoCities when I was 14 years old, 21 years ago (boy am I getting old). At the time I was obsessed with skateboarding, the website was for friends I used to hang out and ride around with from school. I remember how excited I felt when I could see that my website was online and I would literally show it to everyone I could, even though looking back at it now it was extremely brightly coloured and scrappy!
Back then, with my family’s 56k connection, whenever I connected to the internet it would take over the landline, so I was only allowed to go online for an hour per day. So I spent the days fiddling with Front Page, just waiting for my 1 hour to upload the code and share the updates with my MIRC friends (kinda like a Stone Age version of Slack).
That’s about the time I also picked up a guitar for the first time….
Music, business and websites
To start I borrowed a super cheap electric guitar from a friend to learn how to play, and impress a girl I liked. After playing all evening, I felt so inspired that the guitar ended up next to me while I slept in bed. It was love at first chord.
Because I was so obsessed, I couldn’t stop practicing and quickly I became pretty good (for a kid). So much so that I formed a band with some friends and started performing wherever we could. For the next decade, I focused on becoming the best rock musician I could.
I didn’t want to just play the guitar in a band that was performing at local events and school, I wanted us to go places and started treating it as a business. I began studying business by reading every book I could, which led me to take courses and become a certified business and digital consultant.
During my studies, I learned WordPress and the entire Adobe suite. This was my first introduction to WordPress and it made me love designing and developing websites even more than I already did.
I had fun during this time, but they were some tough years and despite all of my efforts, my band wasn’t doing very well.
After everything I had put into it, I thought I’d have my own episode on MTV Cribs already!
We decided the band needed a change.
We rebranded, wrote new stuff, this time in English to maximise our reach, and did an online launch using everything I learned.
Within a month of the launch, my local band from a small town in Israel was signed to release an album worldwide through a British label.
We were stoked!
We decided to drop everything, come to the UK and start touring Europe. And so we did!
Starting from scratch, we began building our audience at small venues and pubs, while really pumping things up online, using WordPress to build our website and promote!
We went from playing to sometimes less than 10 people to hundreds, then thousands. Playing with some of the artists we grew up listening to.
It was pretty amazing, but I was still broke surprisingly!
Luckily though, from my efforts in promoting the band using our website and designs on social media, my work began to get noticed and I started to attract clients.
With little to no money in my bank account, I started freelancing out the back of our tour van and built clients websites while touring Europe. Free McDonalds WiFi became my best friend and no matter where we went, there was always one nearby.
While I drew in more clients and started generating revenue for myself, unfortunately my band ended up splitting up. It was unavoidable and in the end, it was the best thing that could have happened to me (even though it was devastating at the time).
I then thought, “you know what, I’m going to start taking this freelancing thing seriously.”
I started building my own business, using my rediscovered passion for the web and WordPress in particular.
As I got deeper into building websites, I began to insert myself more into the WordPress community, which filled the void of being “the band guy”. As my time now wasn’t being taken up by touring, I employed my first designer and this is where my agency took off.
We managed to pull in 6 figures within the first year, and we kept growing!
Within a few years, my agency grew to 12 employees. As I acquired more clients, I realized there was something holding me back.
From Agency To Product Maker
As we began dealing with more and more clients day-to-day, it became blindingly apparent that we simply did not have the correct tools to deal with the volume efficiently.
So, I went on the hunt for a platform or tool that could help organize and deal with client requests quickly and easily. We already had a ticketing system in place, while using emails, phone calls and face to face meetings, but it was just all a mess.
There are solutions to the problems of project management BUT I struggled to find a purely dedicated platform that was for a web design agency.
I arranged a meeting with my team and we decided, let’s just build our own solution.
We had the designers and developers to make it happen, so…we did! We developed a simple WordPress plugin that we could use to take requests from our clients across all of their websites, and after it was implemented, it worked like a dream.
Being the person I am though, I didn’t stop there. I thought, “other people should be using this” and that’s where my product, Atarim, was born. I reached out to the WordPress community wherever I could and got a bunch of beta testers to try it out with their own clients.
The feedback was so positive that we developed the plugin even further and started charging monthly and annual plans for other agencies and freelancers to start using it. We are now a fully fledged agency management platform serving thousands of freelancers and agencies and helped deliver tens of thousands of website projects. In just short of two years.
Now we only deal with a couple of legacy clients who have been with us for a while, and we use our own platform to manage them.
The WP Community
I’ve been part of the WordPress community for a long time now, and I’m humbled and honored to say that without it, my product would not be where it is today.
Before COVID, I was a regular at every event I could get to, whether it was in London (where I live) or another country.
I’ve made some lifelong friends within the community and it has made working day-to-day an absolute blast
…(obviously with some major stresses in between, but hey you aren’t doing it right if you aren’t stressed most of the time!).
Because of COVID though, I was driven to creating our own event online. Last year we had our first and we are currently gearing up for the second one to go live very soon!
The Atarim Web Agency Summit was born out of love for the WordPress Community. An online event that spans 4 days where we can all come together and listen to some of the greatest minds in our industry talk about their craft and how we can improve our agencies and freelance businesses.
We managed to develop the summit into the biggest online event in the WordPress space and it was incredibly humbling to partner with some of the largest companies and famous speakers. Companies that have products I myself have been using for years, and speakers that I used to watch on YouTube!
Also, the feedback we received from our initial beta test and the feedback we continue to get from our current users, helps shape the product every single day. The WordPress community is integral for it’s success and I can’t thank it enough.
I love that our platform is helping agencies and freelancers that are experiencing the exact same stresses and problems I was facing when growing my agency. This is what drives my team and I to continue working and evolving Atarim, until it is the only way to manage website projects.
Next, I want to make our platform accessible on any type of website, whether it’s WordPress, Drupal, Shopify or built purely from custom HTML & CSS. I want Atarim to be accessible to any type of agency owner and freelancer so they can implement our platform and reap the benefits.
I’m continuing to build the team as our product gets more and more users, so we can up development on a weekly basis and release updates that enhance the experience for our current and bring in new users.
As for me personally, I’m learning new and exciting things every day, attending courses and webinars where I can to ensure that I’m doing the best I can to steer Atarim in the right direction. I’ve been at this for nearly 2 years now, the plan is to go for another 8 years and re-evaluate from there.
I’m excited for the future!