Interview With Mike Oliver. Talking WordPress, GeneratePress & More.



A Little Q&A With Mike Oliver

I’m not known for interviewing people, that being said I do like doing it.

So I thought I’d continue my series of interviews with people in the WordPress community.

This time around I’m speaking to Mike Oliver, Mikes a lovely chap and I recently sent him an interview request, and thankfully he accepted.

So without further ado, say hello to Mike Oliver, lets see what he has to say with a little Q&A.

Can you tell me more about you?

I grew up in NY, moved around a bit, and have lived in Florida now for almost 20 years.

I have an amazing wife, a 6-year-old daughter, and eight-year-old son. I coach kids soccer, exercise as much as I can, and drink a very unhealthy amount of coffee.

Tell me about your company.

In 2009, after ten years or so of experience working at a newspaper and a couple of ad agencies I ventured off on my own and created my agency Zephyr Studio (Mike Oliver Design), which in reality at the time was just me.

Over the last ten years, I have made some amazing connections with other designers and developers and based on each project and I pick the right team to do the job.

Sometimes it’s just me; other times it maybe 4 of us collaborating together from our home offices located around the world.

How do you uniquely position yourself within the industry?

I love design, building websites, seeing the end result and all that, but what makes me happy is knowing I am helping other small businesses. I’ve always said the best advertising is over-delivering, and I would estimate 75% of the work I get is from referrals.

I honestly think just doing things correctly the first time, whether it’s a logo or a website, and then backing up your work after you’ve been paid helps build your personal brand.

Over the years, I’ve built a reputation as the guy who does things correctly, fixes other people’s messes and never burns a bridge.

Is there a particular project you are the proudest of? Or one that stands out?

There are quite a few projects I really enjoyed doing, but a recent one I did had a little extra meaning to it. It involved a very close friend of mine starting his own company after 30 years of working with a reputable contracting company.

This one had me excited and nervous at the same time. I knew I had to do something he and his wife would love because they were all in on this. We started with a few phone calls, some sketches and eventually came up with an identity and website they loved.

You can view the project at here:

Quick note: Mike doesn’t know this, but I took a look at the project and have to say its pretty awesome. Logo design, business cards, website the whole thing.

How did you get started with WordPress?

I think it was back when responsive websites began being the new norm. I used to use Photoshop and Dreamweaver and then had a friend take one of my Photoshop layouts and make it a WordPress theme.

That was it, and once I logged in, I was sold on WordPress. I became obsessed, and have spent the past eight years or so soaking up WP knowledge like a sponge.

I notice you favor GeneratePress for some builds, why is that?

I am a minimalist, even in life. I was looking for a theme that was the exact opposite of the mega themes. I can’t remember exactly the day I found GeneratePress, but I remember thinking this is it.

It felt right; it was fast, lightweight, the support was great, and the premium add-ons were perfect. It had everything you needed and nothing you didn’t.

After using GP for a few years and having some conversations with Tom, he asked me to be part of the design team for the GP Premium Site Library, which was really great to work on. Since then, it’s become my go-to theme.

As well as GP, you seem to be a big advocate for Beaver Builder, again why is that?

As I got to know more people in the GP community and saw how well it worked with GP, and how fast the sites still were, I was sold.

I love Beaver Builder, I have an army of templates and plan to give some away on my website very soon. I love that I can build a site in half the time, and it still performs amazingly.

And just like GP, it is not made for the bells and whistles audience, and it is growing at the perfect rate. Stability, performance, and longevity are something I always take into account when picking tools.

Is there anything in the WP landscape from a product point of view, that’s got your interest?

I recently purchased the Page Builder Cloud by Andrew Palmer, and it’s an amazing product. Having quick cloud access to all of my Beaver Builder templates through the dashboard is a huge time saver.

Plus, having all of my custom CSS for things like GeneratePress, Ninja Forms, etc. right there also speeds up my work.

What are your go-to plugins for WordPress? You know the ones that you can’t do without.

Most of my starter templates are pre-loaded with GP Premium, Beaver Builder, Ninja Forms, Page Builder Cloud, SEOPress Pro, and WP Rocket.

Apart from GeneratePress, are there any other themes that you love working with?

I mainly use GP now simply because I know it in and out, and know Tom Usborne is continually working on it and will be for the long run.

The other themes I have client sites built with are from Ben Ritner at KadenceThemes. Ben makes really nice and clean themes, and they all work flawlessly. He is a really talented developer, and his support is fantastic.

What are you working on at present? Anything exciting you can share with me?

I have two client sites I am in the middle of right now, and have two scheduled for October. I try to only work on two sites at a time at most. I prefer one, but with the team, I work with I can split my time pretty well.

As far as side projects, I have a series of free Beaver Builder row templates that should be live in a few days, and I am also working on a couple of new sites for the GeneratePress Site Library.

Quick note: Mike is indeed a busy dude. He’s created the following GP sites available in the site library: Artisan, Catalyst, Pixel, Wordsmith, Trade and Pivot. All are excellent by the way, I’ve played around with them and Mike does good work.

Time machine time. If you could go back and do things differently, what would it be and why?

I would have figured out how to separate work and family as I do now. Co-mingling the two are not healthy. I try now to either be mentally clocked in or clocked out, although it’s not always easy.

I used to think to work 18 hour days was a path to success, and it turns out it is a path towards burnout and disconnect from your family. I now schedule my week every Sunday night and block in 45 workable hours and outside of that just be a husband and dad.

Lastly, what advice would you give to others just starting out for themselves?

I would strongly emphasize getting your processes and proposals ready and bulletproof. I got screwed over quite a few times the first couple years between not getting paid or falling prey to major scope creep, simply because I didn’t know any better.

Not every job goes smoothly and having the documentation to back up your side of the story is essential. As far as building websites, solidify your goals, sitemap, and content first, and let the design come naturally.

Thank you Mike!

I’d like to personally thank Mike for taking the time out to answer my questions. If you like the sound of what Mike has to offer and would like to contact him, please see below for details, if you do get in touch, would you be kind enough to mention you found him on my blog? Cheers!

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