Q&A with John Locke of Lockedown Design & SEO

john locke lockedown design & seo

Like so many of us, John Locke did not begin his career in the website industry. He got his start working in a bakery where he was a manager.

He breaks down the story on an episode of WP-Tonic in 2016.

Later, John worked for a factory bakery.

For years John has been taking care of clients in the Sacramento, California area where he has racked up some top recognitions, including being named one of the top web designers in Sacramento. He has also gathered recognition for his work in SEO.

He has served as a Speaker and Co-Organizer for Sacramento WordCamp and served as a panelist on the WP-Tonic podcast.

His blue-collar background is a value that he cherishes and uses to his advantage when working with manufacturers.

In this Q&A article, you will learn:

  • The hobby John loves
  • What his biggest challenge is
  • Why he pivoted his business
  • What he underestimated
  • What he sees as a foundation for success
  • His personal toolbox
  • His top 3 pieces of advice
  • Where he wants to see WordPress improve
  • Why he is making videos

What is your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?

Taking a break. Scheduling time off is something that you need to learn how to do. The work will always be there tomorrow.

What do you do for fun? What are your favorite hobbies?

I love to play guitar. That’s a hobby I  picked up when I was 14, and I continue to play a little bit each day. 

Why did you decide to pivot to SEO services?

I made the change about two and a half years ago to de-emphasize WordPress development, and start pushing SEO services. Up until then, I had been doing a mix of WP development for my own clients and subcontracting to agencies. It felt like I had hit a ceiling for what my skills were worth in the market. I had dabbled in SEO in the past and had some success. This decision turned out to be a great one. My earliest clients in SEO went on to be successful and are still a great source of referrals. There is still a lot of opportunity for SEO agencies that can do what they say they can do and can deliver results.

What do you wish you knew before you started your business?

Running your own business is difficult. I honestly underestimated how difficult it could be, and how long it can take to gain traction. I’m still glad I made the leap, but it is not for the faint of heart.

If you were advising a new website designer, what would you tell him or her?

Steady communication with your clients will be the foundation of your success. If you are honest with people and communicate where you are at with a project, that will build trust. Silence erodes trust. All other skills, like design, coding, typography, can be learned. People just want to know you are on the case and are doing a good job for them.

What tools can you not live without?

Sublime Text, Photoshop, Advanced Custom Fields Pro, Ahrefs, Google Search Console, and Google Analytics.

What are your top three pieces of advice for other WordPress Professionals?

Charge more. You can’t help your clients if you go out of business. You’d also be surprised what other agencies charge, that are outside the hardcore WordPress community.

Stop leading with plugins and features. These are things that we love to talk about amongst ourselves, but clients don’t care how the site is built. Talk about outcomes and how their business will improve from your collaboration.

Follow people outside the WordPress space. There’s a lot to learn from agency owners and entrepreneurs from many different paths. We are wise to learn from as many different sources as possible.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received in life and business?

In life, “Treat everyone with respect and kindness because you don’t know their story or their future.” In business, “It’s not what you make; it’s what you keep.”

How do you want to see WordPress improve?

I’d like to see Gutenberg become an editing tool with less friction. It’s getting better, but it still has some room for improvement. In a perfect world, you would be able to choose what features you could spin up in a new install (built-in Advanced Custom Fields support, Custom Post Types, etc.)

Why did you decide to start making videos for Youtube?

I started making videos several years ago, but then I stopped. After a long hiatus, I wanted to get back into it, because I had enjoyed it before. At first, I started making videos once a week, but several months ago, I started going to daily videos. The idea was to create more content in a place where prospective clients would see it (YouTube). This seems to be working, as I’m starting to get leads from different videos that people just happen to see. Using video lets people get to know you better because they can hear your voice and see your face.

Wrapping it up

Readers should check out Locke’s blog post on how he performs SEO Audits. His SEO audits are pretty robust and thorough. We talked about it before on MainWP.

You can catch John each week as a panelist on the Friday editions of WP-Tonic. John is very active on Twitter, often tweeting his thoughts on business and sharing his videos.

John, thanks for sharing your thoughts with the MainWP community!

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Donata Stroink-Skillrud
Donata Stroink-Skillrud
President of Agency Attorneys

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