6 reasons why we don’t want to be a WordPress.com VIP agency

Written by Tom Greenwood - March 21, 2017

As one of the longest established WordPress agencies in the UK, and with an enviable list of enterprise clients, some people ask us why we are not an official WordPress.com VIP agency.

We looked into it a few times over the years, but have always decided that it isn’t for us, and that we can be a better agency and give better service to our clients without it. Having just gone through this thought exercise again recently, we thought that we should be transparent and share our reasons.

Reason #1 – We love our clients

WordPress.com VIP is at its heart a hosting service, with affiliated partner agencies who help sell and support it’s services.  It’s always been our belief that there is no single hosting provider that can meet the needs of every project for every client. It’s in the best interest of our clients if we give impartial advice to help them make informed choices on what’s best for them. Sure, we do have great relationships with many hosting providers and we are agency partners is with WP Engine and Flywheel, but we avoid any relationship with strings attached that might bias the information that we give to our clients.

Our client relationships are all built on trust, which we earn in part by always putting our clients first and giving them our honest advice. The WordPress.com VIP relationship is at its core, based upon the agency acting as a sales agent for Automattic’s extremely expensive hosting services, and that’s something that were simply not comfortable with.

Reason #2 – We believe in openness

As our team t-shirts say, we believe in being open, from the way that we communicate to our belief in open source, and we expect the same openness from our partners and suppliers. As the VIP in the name suggests, the WordPress.com VIP service is a somewhat closed and opaque world. It may well be the limousine of hosting solutions, but unlike the open source WordPress community that we love being a part of, VIP services are more like a private limo with blacked out windows. We only recommend hosting services that we have tried and tested, but we’ve been told that the only way to see inside the limo is to first push one of our clients inside it.

Feeling uncomfortable? Enough said.

Reason #3 – We sail our own ship

When Vineeta and I founded the company, we did it in part because we wanted to do things our own way. Although information about what WordPress.com VIP agency status means is extremely vague and difficult to obtain, the information that we have been given has made it clear that there are some pretty big strings attached that would noticeably impact, and arguably, dictate the way that we operate some elements of our business.  That is simply something that we do not want.

Reason #4 – We think that it is risky

As an agency that specialises exclusively in WordPress, we see ourselves as part of a thriving open source community and ecosystem, whereas WordPress.com VIP status would arguably make us a dependent on the billion dollar private company. At present, we can evolve our business with the evolution of the community, but if we were a VIP agency then we would be in a position where a profit driven corporation holds the cards to a large portion of our revenue and our future business. No matter how nice they might be, that’s a huge risk that we don’t feel is worth taking.

Reason #5 – We had a bad experience

In our ten year history we’ve only had one proper experience with WordPress.com VIP services, when a client of ours signed up off their own back. What started as an exciting opportunity turned into a nightmare for us all. It took over two months to get a server provisioned, even longer to get the code reviewed, and no clear communication channels were provided. The client missed their launch date, and the customer service could be politely described as “utilitarian.” It was anything but VIP.

That was several years ago and the service has no doubt evolved since then. In fact, following Automattic’s acquisition of Code for the People a few years ago, we know that they now have some fantastic people on their team, so hopefully it now lives up to its name. But we are once bitten, twice shy and not risking our clients with it and less we have evidence that it has improved significantly.

Reason #6 – It isn’t WordPress.org VIP

Only the most observant people will have noticed the dot com in WordPress.com VIP. This signifies that it is a commercial, profit driven service of Automattic Inc., and not a certification or approval from the non-profit WordPress foundation that manage the open-source project of WordPress.org. Of course, the two are connected, but it would be na├»ve not to acknowledge that there are some very important differences. If there was such a thing as a WordPress.org VIP agency status, then we may well be interested, but there isn’t.

So instead, we pursue the true meaning of WordPress VIP in our daily work, treating every client and every member of the WordPress community as the very important people that they are.