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July 2020

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E105 – Breaking the fourth wall, how we run our podcast

Podcasting is more than just talking into a microphone, what happens after you finish recording?  

Today on the WPMRR podcast, Joe and Christie talk about running a podcast, how they record, and the technicalities of producing an episode.

Listen now to get ideas on creating your own podcast!

Episode Resources:

What you’ll learn:

  • [00:00:45] Christie’s Update: living alone again in Texas
  • [00:05:06] Joe’s Update: new hire for a marketing position, new Youtube channel
  • [00:08:] WPMRR Course update: whole site was moved to a summit page
  • [00:11:19] Tell people how we run our podcast.
  • [00:12:] How WPMRR started: Joe invited Christie to be his co-host through an email, but she ignored it.
  • [00:14:20] Make sure to personalize messages to certain people, important messages. A short Loom video can be included in the email. 
  • [00:15:46] How do we choose topics? Talk about what’s going within the week before recording, we look at a Google Doc with notes of the stuff we want to talk about.  
  • [00:16:55] Don’t over-plan. WPMRR usually talks about general topics and talks about anything as the episodes go. 
  • [00:18:42] Podcasting can be done like a blog. It can be informal too, almost a ‘not prepared’ approach.
  • [00:21:12] How do we record the podcast? We are using riverside.fm. Before, we recorded in Zoom, now we use this new tool. 
  • [00:25:10] All we would do is record in zoom, and record our individual audio using quicktime audio, and we would upload the files in Google Drive, and send the files for production.
  • [00:27:25] Podcast gears: Mic, Webcam 
  • [00:36:22] What’s important to outline is that those people (with great and expensive gears) built up to that. 
  • [00:38:05] We pay hundreds of dollars for post production, probably more when youtube marketing is added  
  • [00:39:56] We drop the episode in riverside.fm, Bradley and his team picks them up, and one upcoming Tuesday they come out on all podcast players.  
  • [00:42:35] New Thing: We are pushing our podcasts on Youtube.
  • [00:43:55] How we grow and get listeners? 
  • [00:44:26] The really important part is the process is really fun for you. 
  • [00:45:23] Quality content is the more important part, it might take longer if you don’t do marketing stuff. 
  • [00:46:31] When I have a guest, one of the questions is “Can you help us promote the episode…” 
  • [00:50:47] There’s a thing of putting a great product together and not having anybody listen. If you want to do something to put it out, then do something. 
  • [00:51:20] It takes time, maybe you blow up in a few months if you already have a platform or a huge audience.
  • [00:53:05] How do we improve in podcasting? 
  • [00:53:30] I’ve gained confidence, I have stopped speaking with a lot of UHMs and AHHs. – Christie
  • [00:54:38] Listen to other things that you like. Getting honest opinions is a great way to improve. 
  • [00:56:35] There’s feedback that’s really good, that’s critical, that helps you grow, and good feedback for the episode. 
  • [00:57:30] Critical feedback is good but you have to decide what to change. Authenticity is important.

Joe Howard:

What’s most important is you’re having fun doing the podcast, and yeah, maybe you want to grow and get more listeners, but it has to be your way. You’ve got to do it your way, and this is our way. Hey, hey. Welcome to the WPMRR WordPress Podcast. I’m Joe.

Christie Chirinos:

And I’m Christie.

Joe Howard:

And you’re listening to the WordPress Business Podcast. Christie, what’s going on?

Christie Chirinos:

Whoa, that countdown was crazy. 

Joe Howard:

Yeah, it was. That was nice. That was pretty slick, huh?

Christie Chirinos:

Whoa. We are using a whole new different tool for podcasting, and it is fancy, and it had a fancy countdown. But we’ll get there. Things that are going on in my life, oh, my gosh. Well, after six interesting weeks of cohabitating with other people. For my emotional wellbeing, I am on my own again. On my own again in Austin, Texas, and it is pretty awesome I have to say. Someday in my life I will start a family and I will love every second of it, and I will love my future husband and my children having them run around and having it smell like food all the time, some of the things that I remember about living with a family. 

But I’ve got to tell you that there is something magical about living in your own space and running around in your underwear, and leaving the door open when you go to the bathroom.

Joe Howard:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Those are the important things, the most important things.

Christie Chirinos:

These are the important things. And I missed it, and I have a new sense of perspective for feeling grateful for the right to eat cheese straight out of the fridge while I was Indian Matchmaker on Netflix.

Joe Howard:

Oh, yes.

Christie Chirinos:

So there’s that. But yeah, other than that, I got this new microphone. I’m kind of excited about it. I had mentioned to you-

Joe Howard:

Audio mic?

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, new audio mic, and new condenser mic for my voice. I had mentioned to you that with my new apartment here in Texas, in Austin, Texas, it’s a lot bigger than my old place is. Texas has a lot more land. Joe, you’re in DC, you know, and I think listeners know that for the most part I’ve lived in cities sort of in the US East Coast that are much more bunched together. So this is a big adjustment for me. But one of the interesting things is that apartments are just kind of bigger in Texas, and definitely bigger than the very small, characteristically and famously small apartments in New York City.

Joe Howard:

Oh, yeah.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah. And in DC they’re still pretty small. So, I have all this extra room, and one of the things that I decided to do was create a little closet recording booth that’s popular strategy among podcasters and other people who like sound. And so I did that, and I got a new mic, so I’m kind of excited about it, and about standing up that project. That’s a whole new thing to me that appeals to all the things I like, like music and podcasting and shopping for new electronics.

Joe Howard:

Oh, new fancy things.

Christie Chirinos:

All the things that bring me joy. So yeah, so I’m pretty pumped about that. Also, I want everybody to know that today is July 23rd, and we are recording this podcast and a new Taylor Swift albums’s coming out. Exciting.

Joe Howard:

Oh, wow. I’m not in that world at all. I don’t know anything about when any album drops or anything like that. But I’m glad now I know. Now I can tweet.

Christie Chirinos:

I’m embarrassed. Yeah, I’m embarrassed to admit that I am a passionate Swiftie.

Joe Howard:

All right.

Christie Chirinos:

How about you? How are you?

Joe Howard:

I’m good. It was funny what you said about being in the closet and recording. We are pretty good friends with someone who works at NPR, who’s one of their main podcast people. I don’t know if I’d say main, but she’s on air a good amount of the time.

Christie Chirinos:

Wait, who?

Joe Howard:

I don’t know if she’d want me to say [crosstalk 00:04:39].

Christie Chirinos:

Oh, you can’t namedrop on our podcast. Understood.

Joe Howard:

I don’t know. I’d want to ask her.

Christie Chirinos:

I’ll pull her up later.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, we’ll talk about it offline. But she records in her closet. She shot us a video once of her just getting into her closet, like, “Going to record this NPR intro.” Oh, that’s kind of cool. Okay, I guess if the professionals can do it, then we can do it too, so I totally dig it. I think that’s a good strategy. Yeah, what’s new with me? Stuff going on. I don’t know, usually my updates are just the new stuff we’re doing. And yeah, we have recently hired a new head of growth, which is exciting. That announcement will come, I don’t know, probably in the next month or so when he gets started and gets rocking and rolling on things. So that’s a new thing that I’m preparing for. I’ve haven’t really onboarded someone in the marketing position in a little while, so I got to go back through how we do onboarding and figure out how to do that again in the new style. So that’s a big project on my plate.

The YouTube channel I started, so this will also be live on YouTube, people want to go check it out. But also, obviously we’re just doing the traditional podcast publishing as well. But yeah, YouTube channel with some tutorials, so Allie is work a lot on that, and I’m… If I said I was working with her on it, that would be giving myself too much credit. She’s pretty much knee deep in everything and running with it and doing a great job, and I’m just adding thumb up emojis in Slack, like, “That’s good. Keep going.” So, that’s the extent [crosstalk 00:06:17].

Christie Chirinos:

Looks great.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, so she’s doing a great job there. We’ve got a couple tutorials up. Plan to do one to two videos every week, so that’s cool. And then obviously WPMRR Virtual Summit, woo, that’s like a…

Christie Chirinos:

Woo woo.

Joe Howard:

It’s a big thing, but it’s actually not been a terrible amount of work so far. Brian Richard’s obviously helping out with it, so we’re in Slack daily just talking about different stuff and working on things. Yeah, it’s going to be super awesome. So people will have heard that in the little intro to this episode, but that’s a big thing that’s coming down the pipeline. And yeah, Christie, you’re going to be speaking. That’s the first speaker announcement, Christie’s speaking, but I think we have 11 confirmed speakers right now. We’ll probably end up with 15 or so at the end of it all, so we’re moving forward on things, and people will obviously hear about folks when they get announced and stuff. So yeah, that’s what’s up with me. That’s what I’m working on. 

Christie Chirinos:

That is super exciting. I saw the announcement go live for the summit, and I thought it got a really good reception. I was really excited. 

Joe Howard:

Yeah, me too. It’s always so funny when you launch something, I’m not big on launches or anything. Honestly, I kind of like more of a soft launch and putting it out there and tweeting about it, and putting it out in the world, but I don’t have this big launch plan. It’s pretty much just five-step bullet point, like “Tweet it out. Share it with some people in Slack. Maybe have some people I know share it around.” It’s not a huge thing. Share it with our email list. But I’m always pleasantly surprised that there are always a few people… I always feel like I have a few cheerleaders on my side who are like, “Yeah, retreat. Hell, yeah. Let’s share this.” It’s like, this feels good, you know? It’s nice to have people on your side in that stuff. I don’t know, I guess I’m not surprised that they do it, but I’m always a little bit surprised. Oh, maybe they really like me.

Christie Chirinos:

People care what I’m doing. Yeah, I know what you mean.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, exactly. So, yeah, that’s gone live. Actually, I should say this to all WPMRR course members, people who have bought the course before. When people bought the course… So, WPMRR used to be this video course to teach people how to implement and sell care plans. It kind of got outdated after like two years. It wasn’t bad, but it was just a little bit outdated. We changed a lot of stuff we did in two years, and so I needed to update it. And I was like, “I’d rather do this summit thing,” so I actually just switched everything from a course to a summit kind of quickly.

People who bought the course originally had lifetime access. They bought lifetime access. So I moved the whole site over to the new summit page, but in the footer of the website, you can scroll down and click ‘login’ and still use your old login information to log into wpmrr.com and take the course and continue the course. It’s all still there so people who have signed up before still have lifetime access. I actually haven’t emailed anybody in the course telling them about this yet. I totally dropped the ball on that because I was basically with launch stuff.

So, sorry everyone who didn’t get an email all of a sudden got a new page come up one day. But I will send an email soon, I promise. And people can definitely scroll to the bottom. It’s all still there, you have full access to the whole course even though it’s a little bit outdated, so wanted to throw that out there.

Christie Chirinos:

I actually think that’s really cool because then you have all those folks that were in there getting new content through the summit. I definitely appreciate it when companies mind my login experience. It’s like one of my small little pet peeves. I want to be able to log in with the stuff I created. That drives me crazy.

Joe Howard:

Yeah.

Christie Chirinos:

I lose at the slightest inconvenience, and there’s definitely an inconvenience of different portals and things like that, that kind of always gets under my skin, so I really like that.

Joe Howard:

Yeah.

Christie Chirinos:

I mean, the announcement comes when the announcement comes.

Joe Howard:

Totally. I agree with that. Cool. Okay. Intro, done. Let’s get into the meat of the episode. I mean, it’s kind of [crosstalk 00:10:26].

Christie Chirinos:

[crosstalk 00:10:26] tease it a little bit, right? I was like… [crosstalk 00:10:31] cool little transition. Oh, wow, look at that countdown. I was dropping hints, hints, hints.

Joe Howard:

Oh, yeah, that’s what we do is we get people excited and then we totally tangent off into crazy intros and then come back 10 minutes later to actually talk about the episode, which is perfect. It keeps our engagement high. So yeah, podcast, my mom will continue to listen. Don’t worry, she’ll listen.

Christie Chirinos:

My mom doesn’t listen to any of this, or anything else I do.

Joe Howard:

The episode today is Breaking the Fourth Wall Podcasting episode. I did an episode recently, it was about podcasting with Joe Casabona, obviously he’s one of the podcast kings in the WordPress space. He was a great person to talk to about building and growing a podcast. I think this is going to be an awesome follow-up episode to talk to people about how we run our podcast, like all the aspects of it, and that’ll give people an idea. I think it’s good to get a way in so you can really see what’s happening, so it’s not like a mystery. Because I feel like from the outside everything always looks good, like oh, the podcast is great. It sounds good, it looks good on YouTube. We honestly don’t do a ton of crazy stuff in the backend except Bradley, our brilliant editor who does a bunch of that stuff I don’t know how to do, which we’ll talk about in the episode.

But, yeah, I think this’ll be a good episode to start. So, we wanted to start… Christie, you want to tell the quick story about just how it got started so people just have a little bit of background? We’ve talked about this on the podcast before, but one minute just to remind people.

Christie Chirinos:

We’ve told you all these funny story before, but I will recap the story of how Joe sent me this beautiful heartfelt email, about how he was starting the WPMRR, would love for me to be his cohost, and I ignored it. The moral of the story is literally never email me. Call me, text me, send me a Twitter DM, Slack me, I’m so available on the internet, but apparently when I see an email… I think what it was, was I thought that it was a mass mailing. I quickly scanned it and I was probably busy or out of it or whatever, but yeah, I was just like, “Oh, I’ll get to this later.” And he emailed me later again and said, “Hey, I sent you this email.” And then I went back and was like, “Oh, crap. I really messed this up.” So that is the story of why follow-up emails are super important. And that’s how we got started.

But I mean, I think… And I said yes, and the rest is history. But I am also kind of curious about the topic for the podcast, because we’re kind of breaking the fourth wall, and I think that sometimes people say, “Oh, should I have a podcast?” And then the next question is, “What should my podcast be about?” Now sometimes the topic comes to you first and you’re like, “Well, how do I set you this podcast?” But I’m curious about your thoughts on that.

Joe Howard:

Yes, totally. Before we do that, I want to touch back on personalization of email a little bit because I actually sent out speaker emails for folks for the WPMRR summit, and it was kind of like a copy and paste email, except I adjusted obviously names and stuff, and I adjusted what I want that person to speak about, like, “I think you’d be a great person to speak about…” X, Y, or Z. “You’re a designer, you should talk about scaling design for an MRR business.” So it was personal, but Allie actually gave me some feedback that it felt like a copy/paste email, which it probably makes sense, because a lot of it was a copy and paste email. So I think that I actually have a little work to do on making sure I personalize messages for certain people, obviously from the email you got and from the emails maybe Allie gave me feedback on. 

I think an easy way to do that is a Loom video. So if you insert, “Hey, watch this video,” and it’s a video shot specifically for that person… Loom’s this tool you shoot videos, you can insert the links in email, shoot them the link to watch a one-minute video just explaining things. That would have been a cool way to personalize things to make sure people know this email was made for you. So I don’t know, just throwing it out there as I’m thinking about things.

But, topics. Topic selection. How do we choose topics here at WPMRR Podcast? We’re not great at it. This one of the things that we just kind of do. Okay, so fully transparency, right. Today, we started this podcast, we logged in to this room and we said, “Okay, what are we talking about today?” We don’t have a VDA who’s searching for ideas, bits. We don’t spend hours behind the scenes thinking about podcast topics. We kind of log in and say, “Hey, what do we feel like talking about today?” Which I think has some advantages, because a lot of what we talk about is top-of-mind. We try to log in every week to do a podcast. Okay, what were we thinking about this week? What were the challenges? What kept me up at night? What do we want to talk about? And that kind of leads to our ability to talk about things that 1) we’re passionate about, and 2) are just right there in front of us that I think probably makes sense to talk about, because if it challenges for us, maybe it challenges for other people.

But we don’t have a ton of organization in the ideating behind podcast ideas. So not every episode is totally built out and structured in a way that might make it, I don’t know, easier for people to absorb information. We usually spend 10 minutes. We’re looking at a Google Doc right now together, shared Google Doc that just has a bunch of notes about all the stuff we want to talk about, that we just created right before the episode. So we choose right before we record, we write down, I don’t know, what is this, like 200 words? Something like that. Pretty short little bullet points, like 10 bullet points about stuff that we want to talk about.

And then we just kind of go. So that’s our strategy behind that. Christie, I don’t know what your feelings are on that. Do you feel good about how we choose episodes? Are you like, “Could we do more?” I don’t know.

Christie Chirinos:

I feel great about that, and I felt great about that over the 100-plus episodes that we’ve done now. But I mean, I think that goes back to what I was saying. WPMRR is an example of that first category of podcast where we were like, “We want to have a podcast about this general topic. Now what are we going to talk about?” As opposed to maybe podcasts that come with the topic first, and then you set up the other structures around it, and so that’s how we do it. And we’ve been doing it for a while now and it’s working, and people seem to like it. So turns out, that it’s totally okay.

I think that that process has actually taught me a lot about not over-planning, because how many things do we over-plan and then it takes us forever to get them out there. One of the things that I’m working on right now at this moment in time for look at web Nexcess is a handful of blog posts, and I’m having to get over my own perfectionism and just riff and speak and speak and speak about the things that are already living in my brain. And I have this impulse to outline and find links and sources and statistics and things like that, and you don’t always have to present information like that.

Joe Howard:

Totally.

Christie Chirinos:

I think that’s a really great thing to get out there.

Joe Howard:

Yeah. I always said that about the difference between blogging and doing podcast. I feel like when I blog or I write an article, like I wrote this big long, detailed article about the WP Buffs rebrand. It was a great article. It had all the links, had all the details. It was great to give people information about that whole process and an in depth look into that, and resources to if people wanted to try and do that themselves. But that is what a blog post is for. It’s prepared. You can wait. You can present your information and edit it for hours before you publish it and really make it perfect.

To me, podcasting is this medium of… Of course, everyone does it in a different way, and there’s a lot of different ways to be successful with it. Some people do it the same as blog posting. They want to make it perfect. It’s totally produced and totally one thing after the other after the other, all thought out beforehand. And it works well, and it presents people information well, and that’s great. I always gain a lot of information… I like the informality of just hearing people talk and hearing people’s ideas on things. Almost not prepared, because I think that adds a different kind of value because if I prepare everything I’m going to say, everything like a blog post, everything I’m going to write, sometimes that actually gives me too much time to think about things. Sometimes it’s more valuable to hear what people really think. Well, ask me a question. Okay, I guess I’ll answer right now. I didn’t think about it before.

The informality, I think, of the podcast actually, I think, to me adds a value that people can really 1) get to know us, and 2) really get to know what we think because a lot of these things were not preparing a lot beforehand, like what do we think about this? We just take it, choose a topic, riff on it for a little bit, and I think that has a different kind of value, which is why I like… Yeah, blog posts are good for one thing. Podcasting, I think, good for another. But again, I don’t think that’s the one way to do it. We’re not saying that. Of course some people have super polished shows that are very regimented and disciplined about things, and that has value too. 

Maybe we’ll do some of that in the future, but for right now I think we like our style of… It is, it’s our style of just kind of like… It’s where we add value. We talk about things, we ideate. We think about things a little bit off the cuff, and I think that’s hopefully helpful to people. We’ve had a few listeners along the way, and I think it’s always easy to think how can we make it better, how can we get more listeners, how can we do more… Everyone could do that. Everyone could always optimize and do better things, but what’s most important is you’re having fun doing the podcast, and yeah, maybe you want to grow and get more listeners, but it has to be your way. You’ve got to do it your way. And this is our way. So, yeah, does that make sense?

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, yeah. I love that, and I think it’s important to get it out there maybe for the perfectionists in the room. You can totally do a podcast this way, and it works.

Joe Howard:

Yeah. Agreed.

Christie Chirinos:

How we record the podcast. Well, today, we’re doing something new.

Joe Howard:

Oh, my God, perfect time to talk about this.

Christie Chirinos:

What? Yes.

Joe Howard:

Okay. So quick story [inaudible 00:21:28] today. So, we’re using this tool called riverside.fm. It is a tool that… So, how we used do the episode, and what I used to require all our guests to do was we’d set up in Zoom. We’d record in Zoom, but the audio and video in Zoom is compressed, so it’s not the highest quality. We’d use video from Zoom, but we’d also use audio from Zoom. But the audio from Zoom was the backup. We’d also record individual audios, so I’d open QuickTime, you’d open QuickTime. We’d record our own audios, drop that into a Google Drive folder when we’re done here. So it’s kind of like a lot of work I’d also require guests to do that, so it was kind of… I don’t know, it’s fine. If someone asked me to do that, I wouldn’t have any issue with it, but it’s not super professional. It’s more of a pain in the butt than it’s not a pain in the butt. So, I think that that’s why we’re trying to use this new tool, riverside.fm.

So, Bradley suggested we use this tool. He’s actually been suggesting we use a tool like this for like a year, and I just haven’t gotten around to it. So, Bradley, I apologize and I’m slow at these things, but we’re doing it now, so you can’t be mad at me anymore.

Christie Chirinos:

Bradley, I had no idea. I fully blame Joe.

Joe Howard:

Christie was not part of this scheme I had to not use a tool like this. But this is, I think, a lot better. So riverside.fm, what you do is you have access to your own room. We’re doing video here in riverside.fm. It records HD video and HD audio on both ends, individual audio, so it’s recording my individual audio right now, and Christie’s individual audio, my video and your video, and it just saves the file right within the tool. So I can just give this to Bradley and he has everything recorded. We don’t have to drop folders or do anything like that. That’s one thing that’s really cool about it.

You can also record live, so you can hook it into Facebook or YouTube or whatever other tools, Twitter, I think, and you can do a live recording, which is cool. We’re not doing that right now. Maybe at some point we’ll do some live stuff, but I thought this was a cool tool to be able to do that, so you know, maybe we’ll start thinking about doing more live events. You can do that, and also it has a call-in option. So we could have some fun, Christie, and do a radio episode or… yeah, like a radio episode with people calling in to do FAQ and stuff. That could be a cool opportunity. I don’t know, I thought it was cool, so I was like, “Oh, this tool is awesome.”

How did I get started with it? They have a free trial here, and Bradley emailed me, I started the free trial. I jumped in, I started working on stuff. It was a little live chat thing in the bottom corner. I was like, “Hey, how do I do X, Y, and Z?” Someone was like, “Oh, whatever. Here’s how you do it.” And I was like, “Oh, thanks.” And I had a few more questions that were a little bit more intricate and he was like, “Hey, you have time to hop on a video call?” I hop on a video call with the guy. Turns out it’s the founder. He’s the guy on the video on the home page. I was like, “You look familiar. That’s cool.” He walked me through some stuff. I said, “Dude, this is a cool tool.” I skipped my free trial and I went straight to being a paid customer because I thought that was so awesome that he did that. So yeah, we pay like 50 bucks a month for this, but I think we’ll also use it for all sorts of other…

We could do happy hours or Allie’s our new community person, so I’m trying to give her more resources to do community stuff. I think that would be a cool… yeah, opportunities there. So, anyway, riverside.fm is the tool we use now. But we didn’t, literally until, what is this going to be, like 104 or something? We just did Zoom recordings and QuickTime recordings. It was not a crazy, special thing to record. But now we’ve stepped up a little bit and this, I think, makes things easier, so I don’t know, Christie, were you ever frustrated by having to, “Oh, I got to drop another thing,” or whatever, file here, file there?

Christie Chirinos:

Not at all. Not at all. I actually think it’s valuable to outline how we were doing things before today because it’s so much more approachable because it was all tools that people already have right now. All we would do is get on a Zoom and Joe would record a Zoom, and then we would record our individual audio. uSync with time audio on our Macs, and bam, that was it. And then we would upload the QuickTime audio files to Google Drive so that we would have them all in one place. And then Bradley, the true MVP of this podcast, would edit them into episodes.

Joe Howard:

Yup, totally. One issue that we were having with Google Drive is we keep all our old episodes in Google Drive, like the hard copies, which is great to have them all there. But Google, I think, has this… They don’t know who owns what, so I own all the Google Drive things and I share them folders, and I share them with Christie. I pay for Google Drive storage, so I think I pay like 10 bucks a month for like a terabyte of storage. So I’ve got enough storage. We’re not running out anytime soon.

But, Christie sometimes, I try to drop her files in Drive, and yeah, Google would tell you, “Oh, sorry, you don’t have enough space.” And I’m like, “No, this is my folder. Why does she need space?” And so we did run into that issue a little bit, so hopefully we don’t have to worry about that anymore, so solving the little challenges like this is always good.

Christie Chirinos:

That is actually a really good point about riverside.fm, because I ended up just paying for Google Drive. Remember that? It was like one day I could just upload and he was like, “Fine. Here’s my money.” 

Joe Howard:

I was like, “Christie, I’ll just pay for your thing just to not have to deal with this.”

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, you were like, “I will Venmo you $20. I will Venmo you a dollar a month.”

Joe Howard:

Totally. Okay, okay, so that’s how we record. So right now we use riverside.fm. It’s a cool tool. They have a free trial so if you can go and definitely check it out. The founder’s an awesome dude. Yeah, I’m pretty impressed with it so far. So, okay, tools.

Christie Chirinos:

Gear.

Joe Howard:

This is the gear topic where everyone’s got different gear and we’re not saying our gear’s the best. I’m totally not an audiofile, so I bought what someone told me to buy, and I just use it. Maybe Christie knows more. Do you know more Christie? I don’t know.

Christie Chirinos:

Totally not.

Joe Howard:

Yeah. These are the gear we use. I have some idea of start gear versus intermediate/advanced gear. But honestly, you’re going to talk to 10 different podcasters who have 10 different gear sets. In Joe Casabona’s episode, he actually talked about he has a page where he has all his gear. I would definitely trust him and his selections as well. And we actually use some of the same stuff as he does, probably because I asked him like, “Joe, what are you using?” He told me, and we bought those things. So, but regardless, we’ll talk about the stuff we use. So Christie, you want to go first? Tell us about your microphone and your headphones, and I don’t know, anything else that… video camera, whatever.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, I mean, I’m also not an audiofile. If anything, I have strong feelings about not obsessing over gear too much, right?

Joe Howard:

I totally agree.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, especially when you listen to interviews with musicians and things like that, and some of the most amazing musicians in the world are just kind of like, “Whatever. Make things with what you have available to you and the rest will follow.” And I’m definitely a big student of that kind of mindset. I find that trying to get all the perfect gear in place and collecting gear should come after the creation process, just because as you create, you discover the things you wish you had, and then you have a more targeted gear collection process.

I actually really enjoy the process of shopping for technology and gear and things like that. It’s something that makes me happy because it sort of incorporates all the things I like. It’s like kind of geeky and the second-hand marketing is really good and fun, so sourcing things is kind of interesting. It’s the same things of what I like.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, and that’s a really good reason to want to get more gear is you enjoy the process of it. That’s probably a better reason then like, “I have to get the best gear or the ideal gear.” Do it because you like it.

Christie Chirinos:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), exactly. Than dropping a bunch of money on a pack or something. I don’t know. But, yeah, I mean, my setup is super simple. I have this Blue Yeti mic that I have been using for this podcast for a while that I like to use for just overall video recordings. I just got a vocal condenser mic, a Shure SM7B that I’m really pumped about, and the audio interface for just a single plug, like Focusrite Solo. So that’s hooked up to my Mac. 

Joe Howard:

Do you know anything about the condenser, like the audio condenser and what that does? I actually have no idea. I know it sounds cool. It sounds like it’s good, but I don’t really know what condenser means.

Christie Chirinos:

So, what I know about the condenser effect is very, very limited. I know that it is an effect that… yeah, makes it sound good by removing the frequencies that you don’t need. I guess vocal registers don’t need the lower frequencies.

Joe Howard:

Yeah.

Christie Chirinos:

And some of the very, very, very high ones, so when you take out all that unheard noise, the things that you can hear sound a lot better. And that is, dear God, if there are any audio engineers, they’ll just cringe at that explanation. Send me an email.

Joe Howard:

[crosstalk 00:31:27] roll with that, actually.

Christie Chirinos:

Disgusting. Like yes, send me an email. I don’t know, you know, I won’t read it. And yeah, so I got that. I’m excited about it because of yeah, the project that I was talking about with my little booth in the closet that I’m sitting on now that I have this little bit of extra square footage to do all kinds of recording, including WPMRR and all the other types of recording that I do. I record a lot of videos. I’m in a lot of videos calls. I would like to record some of the songs I’ve written that I only play for people on my guitar and piano. So, lots of little audio projects, it seemed like a reasonable investment. I just got it. I have the closet for it, so I’m pretty pumped.

Web cam-wise, right now, I’m just using my MacBook Pro web cam, hi. But I do have [inaudible 00:32:15] 20 sitting around that I have actually on a tripod to get maximum webcamming experience. That sounded a little PG-13. And then, my Mac, of course, my iMac has one of the FaceTime HD cameras on it, so I use that in the closet. And yeah, but you know, I am super chill on gear. I’m all about making something with what I have and investing in gear as I find that I need it.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, totally. I think starting off with basic gear’s really important. And as you do more episodes, you can give yourself a treat, like that’s a cool idea. After you’ve done 25 episodes, ah, you’ve earned the ability to upgrade this piece of gear. Doesn’t mean that you have to have a huge audience, 25 episodes that your show has to have grown enormously. It’s just like you did that, and that’s cool, and I think to me, that’s a good opportunity to want to buy more gear.

So I started off with a Blue Yeti as well, which is the microphone you’re still using. I upgraded randomly because I went and did BeachPress, what was that, two years ago? And I wanted to record some episodes there, so I bought a mobile microphone, a microphone I could use mobiley and just hook into my computer, which is what I’m using right now. It’s an Audio-Technica ATR2100 USB mic. It’s a great mobile microphone, and I told our editor, Bradley, I was using it, and he said, “Oh, just use it all the time.” And I said, “Okay,” so here it is, still using it.

But this is a good mobile microphone as well, so if you’re always recording your podcast episode in one place, maybe you don’t need a mobile mic. But I do some traveling. Well, I did before COVID-19, but I hope to do more in the future, and so I like to have a mic that I can grab, put in my bag and roll with, which you can do with your microphone as well. This one is just, it’s literally a microphone you can hold in your hand, like it’s built for that.

Video Logitech BRIO Ultra HD Pro Webcam. Again, it’s one someone told me to buy, so I bought it. It sits on top of my big monitor here, and yeah, it’s pretty HD-quality. It’s probably not the best quality. Yeah, this microphone, I think, is 150 bucks or something, and the video camera’s like 200 bucks, so it’s mid-tier gear. It’s definitely not starter gear, but it’s also probably not the top of the line gear as well. People have recently been putting out the ‘gear I use’ stuff. I know Chris did one, Chris Lemma put out “the gear I use at home.’ Matt Alweg did one as well. Matt’s was hilarious because it was like, “Here are the earphones I use because they’re cool.” They’re like $10,000 ear phones. Okay, I’m probably not buying those today. Chris’s gear was also pretty expensive, but that was kind of the point. It was for, I don’t know, people who are on video a lot, and it’s really important to look professional there. His camera was thousands of dollars. I’m probably not going to do that right now.

But, I also just bought one of those lights that helps your lighting, because I’m doing the summit, and so I’m like, I don’t know, this light, it’s not bad. You can still see me, but I’m slowly trying to get a few more professional things. I don’t actually remember the brand of the light I bought. I bought like a $50 ring stand thing on Amazon, and so it’s nothing crazy, special, or expensive. But maybe just adjust my lighting a little bit and see if I can get that a little better. So, yeah, that’s the stuff I use.

Christie Chirinos:

Chris’s camera is really nice. I look at it almost every single day. It’s good video. But, I think what’s important to outline about those two examples is that those people built up to that, right? They didn’t start yesterday. They didn’t start with that setup. They built up to it. I can actually tell you that I know that eventually Chris hired a video consultant for the setup. So that’s also an option. At some point you don’t have to be an expert or everything.

Joe Howard:

Yeah.

Christie Chirinos:

But I think it’s just so, so important to drill home that gear should not be the thing that stops you from creating and putting your ideas and content out there. Right now I am literally sitting here in a MacBook Pro webcam and a Blue Yeti. This is like $100 microphone. And we’re doing this podcast, and it’s going to come out fine.

Joe Howard:

And it sounds good. It sounds very good.

Christie Chirinos:

It sounds fine, exactly. I have some other gear hanging out in the closet waiting to get set up. It’s a little bit of, like you said, not the starter gear, the medium gear. But it’s 9:00 a.m. and I’m sitting in my kitchen drinking my coffee and podcasting with Joe and my Blue Yeti, and I feel great.

Joe Howard:

Totally. And a little more background about the podcast, it probably will drive a few registrants to the conference. We get a few people coming over to WP Buffs who are potential white label partners, so it drives a little bit of revenue to the business. I’m sure a few people go to Liquid Web and go check out, and Nexcess and go check out hosting there because they listened to the podcast or click-linked on wpmrr.com. But I don’t know how much… I don’t think this podcast breaks even. We pay hundreds of dollars a month for Bradley to manage the whole podcast stuff for us, to do post-production, so it’s not quite $1,000 a month, but actually it probably will be $1,000 plus a month. I’m having him help out with our YouTube stuff moving forward, so it’ll probably be like not thousands of dollars a month for Bradley, but more than $1,000 a month. So that’s probably just something people should know.

This podcast is not super profitable. We don’t make $50,000 in ad sponsor perhaps. It’s not that kind of podcast. But, you know, and so we don’t feel like we need top of the line gear to do everything, but it’s one of those ‘nice to haves’ as you do more, and it becomes part of your life. We try to record this every week. It’s nice to have some things that are… even like level two things. And so, yeah, as we’re talking about the podcast, I just thought it would be good to be transparent about the podcast and really, that’s the biggest cost. 

Obviously we pay like $50 a month now for riverside.fm, which is funded by WP Buffs, no problem. But yeah, I mean, it’s not cheap to run the podcast, and have Bradley do everything, which we’ll talk about here in a second. But, yeah, to me, it’s worth it because I get to talk with you every week, and we get to talk about awesome stuff.

Christie Chirinos:

Yay.

Joe Howard:

It honestly helps me as a business owner hearing stuff that you have to say and question my own thoughts, and like, “Oh, I said this one thing two episodes ago. Am I sure I feel like that?” That helps me a lot. Hopefully it helps you too. Cool, okay. Next topic kind of transitions from that, it’s how we edit and publish episodes. I don’t know, magic. Happens magically. We drop the episodes, now they’ll be in riverside.fm. They used to be in Google Drive. Bradley and his team pick them up, and one upcoming Tuesday they come out on all the podcast players, Spotify, Google, whatever play. I don’t know them all. Apple.

Christie Chirinos:

Like I said, Bradley is the true MVP of this podcast.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, totally.

Christie Chirinos:

We are just the pretty faces.

Joe Howard:

Yes, we are. And Bradley, I’m going to find your website here in a second, so I can give you a shout out. But we’ll include it in show notes as well just to make sure. Record, edit. Oh, I have it, hold on. Record, edit something. Recordeditpodcast.com. Bradley Denham. That’s it. I’ll say it again because I’ll make sure I get it right: recordeditpodcast.com. He’s the editor of our podcast. He actually edits a ton of high profile podcasts. He’s really good at what he does, so that’s why our podcast ends up sounding so good. Audio engineering’s great. And he manages the whole process. We give him files, he publishes it, and it sounds awesome. 

Again, like I mentioned before, it’s not the cheapest option. You could definitely someone on Fiverr or Upwork to do it for a fraction of the cost. But at this point, it’s hit the easy button because that’s not stuff I want to do. It’s not stuff I know how to do. It needs, to me, at least be really good quality. That’s just how I want to do things.

Now that we’re 100-plus episodes, okay, we should have a well-recorded podcast. At this point I feel like we need that. So yeah, totally worth it to me though. I never think twice about paying him every month. I’m like, “Yup, four podcast episodes came out this month. They were all awesome. Keep going.” But yeah, that’s how we do things honestly. There are times to save money and to start off small, and when you’re starting, maybe you do want to do that. But at this point for us, and definitely for me, I’d much rather pay someone to do all that process for us who’s better at it and knows the whole process and has it all systemized, and has our podcast coming out sounding good. So yeah, I don’t know what else to say about that.

Christie Chirinos:

Totally. No, I completely agree on all of that.

Joe Howard:

Cool. One new thing we’re doing, again, this is kind of pushed to YouTube. I know a lot of podcast folks do YouTube as well, so we’re definitely not first to this. It just happens to be something new that we’re doing. But we have this video, it’s like we should do something with it. And I know some people listen to the podcast when they’re taking their dog for a walk or when they’re driving, so obviously video’s not good for them, but a lot of people will have YouTube on as a second browser or while they’re doing work on their computer. So I think it’s good to publish podcasts there. It takes a little bit of extra work, but I think it’s worth it to have that extra medium out there. So YouTube is something we’re starting. We’ll do video here. So that will be a cool part of what we do as well.

But again, not something you have to start off with. Start off with just the audio, and you can move to video when you want to. Our first podcast episode that went on video was like episode 102 or something. Kind of random, right, but it’s like, “Hey, whatever.” You got to start somewhere and don’t feel like everything has to be perfect right away. Hey, it took us over 100 episodes to start doing YouTube stuff, and that’s fine.

Christie Chirinos:

Right.

Joe Howard:

In 50 episodes no one will remember. Everyone will just say, “Yes, it’s on YouTube now.” And all you have to do is just start one day. So, yeah, cool, YouTube. How we grow and get listeners. Very interesting topic. We’re actually probably not very good at. We just record the podcast, and we’ve got some stuff I’ll talk about, but is there anything you do to put the show out there or just sit here and record.

Christie Chirinos:

No, no. We very much put it out there and just like, “I hope you like it.”

Joe Howard:

Yeah.

Christie Chirinos:

But I think that’s a factor of the fact that we think it’s fun first, right? And if other people think it’s fun to listen to, that’s a nice bonus, but I like doing it just for the sake of doing it. And I think that that’s a really important part is the process has to be fun for you. Don’t do something that’s like pulling teeth hoping that it’s going to get you certain lead number of results. It’s a nice perk, but there’s probably something out there that you can do that you genuinely enjoy doing, and can also lead you to new business and more subscribers.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, agreed. I think it’s important that you mentioned doing what you enjoy doing. And if you’re not a marketer or whatever, and you don’t want to sell your podcast and put it out there, the quality of content’s the most important part. You will get listeners over a longer period of time if you put out a good podcast and it just may take longer if you don’t do some more proactive stuff. But I have some stuff that I do that’s actually pretty basic. I don’t think it’s anything crazy, and honestly, it doesn’t feel like salesy or markety when I do it, so I kind of want to tell people some details about what I do after every podcast episode goes live.

So, for all episodes we just share them out on Twitter. We have a new Twitter handle wpmmrsummit, so right now we just changed the process. We’ll tweet it from there. I’ll retweet it or actually I had another process. Maybe I tweet it from my account, and WP Buffs retweets it and WPMRR retweets it. I don’t remember. But one tweets it, the other retweets, so it starts to get a little bit of momentum there. 

Christie Chirinos:

I retweet it.

Joe Howard:

Hashtag [crosstalk 00:46:19]. Yeah, Christie retweets it, woo, three people. The #WordPress is important just to make sure it’s within the conversation of WordPress. I don’t know, that’s not going to get you 1,000 new listeners, but it’s just a good best practice to be part of the WordPress conversation on Twitter. What I do when I have a guest on the episode, I actually have a question that’s specifically talks about this. So people have to fill out some information to be a guest on the podcast. And one of the things I have here is we want to reach one of the questions and you have to check the boxes of things you’ll do. We want to reach more WordPressers and you can help. None of this is required, but these are things we ask of our podcast guests.

Can you help us promote your episode by sharing the episode on social media, mentioning the episode to your email list, add an episode to a ‘featured on’ area or any other relevant areas on your website. Sharing the episode with your online community, like Slack group, Facebook group, et cetera. And then I just added this like two days ago actually, which is embed YouTube videos somewhere on your website.

So, it allows people to just check boxes and say, “Self-select. Yeah, I don’t really have an email thing I send out, or I’m just not comfortable doing that.” Sure, don’t check that. After the episode I’ll always email everyone being like, “Woo, your episode went live. It’s awesome.” You mentioned wanting to do these things if you haven’t done them already. Do you still want to? And I don’t tell people they have to, I just kind of remind them the things they said. And that’s all. I don’t try to remind them again. I just ask once, and then… because they already said they’re doing it. So it allows people to self-select there.

So, I use [Camilee 00:48:01] for guest booking. It allows you to add custom questions, so that’s definitely one thing we do using the guests’ audience to help us put the podcast out there a little bit more. Helps get the episode out there a little bit more, but also helps get links back to wpmrr.com to different podcast episodes. That over the long-term will snowball into more listeners, more traffic, that kind of stuff.

The other thing I like to do, there are some sites where you can post new content. People have probably heard recently wpcontent.io is now managed wp.org has transitioned to wpcontent.io, it’s kind of the same site I think. Now it’s just managed by the Delicious Brains team. You can post content there, so I post every new episode there now and every new blog post and WP Buffs and YouTube videos. So that’s just a good place to post your content. I don’t think it drives us a ton of new visitors, but it’s worth it. What if asset grows and gets bigger? You want to start there, so I think there are a couple sites like that that you can do that kind of thing.

I think we submit it to WP newsletter, because they have a little submit area. It literally takes like five seconds to do, see if they want to include it in their newsletter. Sometimes I’ll ping friends. Maybe I know Corey a little bit. Maybe I’m like, “Hey, Corey, I thought this was a good episode. You want to listen to it?” And he’s like, “Whoa, it was a good episode. I’m going to include it in the post-status newsletter.” A lot of times I just ask if he wants to listen to it or whatever, and I have a few contacts like that. So networks also cool too, but again, I probably do like 10 minutes of whatever, marketing for the episode, and it’s those things. I don’t do anything else. That’s my shtick. Hopefully people can use some of those tips. Yeah, I don’t think I have anything else. That’s it.

Christie Chirinos:

That’s a lot more than I knew about actually… Look at all the [crosstalk 00:50:01]. Why just do nothing? Maybe it’s time for me to start pulling my weight. Let me think about something [crosstalk 00:50:12] about the products.

Joe Howard:

You carry the podcast in the podcast content. I just follow along. So if I can do a little bit more to help promote the podcast, that is totally fine. And again, it’s not a ton of work. It’s really just a few minutes of stuff I want to do afterwards. And sometimes other people do that stuff, but I like to do it sometimes because sometimes, I don’t know, it’s a nice personal touch I had a guest on, I emailed them instead of someone on my team who’s just like, “Hey, Joe says thanks.” I don’t know, that’s fine, but sometimes I like to do it too, so, yeah, cool. I learned something new today. We tried to put the podcast out a little bit into the world and there’s a thing of putting a great product together and not having anybody ever listen.

And you want to try to do something to put it out into the world. Do something. And again, we’re on 100-plus episodes. We don’t do a million things. We just do a few things and you know, eventually people are like, “That’s a podcast in the WordPress space.” That’s one of the main ones. And you’re like, “What? I just… [crosstalk 00:51:18].” Yeah, so a lot of it is just time too, I think, in terms of growing the podcast. It takes time. Don’t think you’re going to start a podcast and then three months later you’re going to blow up. Maybe you will if you already have a platform. I know a few people have launched podcasts and they became pretty popular pretty quickly. But it’s already because they had a big audience. They were already a big company in the WordPress space. It’s easy to launch something and have it blow up more like that if you already had an audience.

Oh, one other thing I will mention that was actually a bigger and longer-term project was if you do a Google search for ‘WordPress podcasts,’ we have an article on wpbuffs.com that actually ranks number one for that, very strategically, and guess what podcast was listed number one on that list? Oh, WPMRR Podcast. And we’re very clear, “This is our podcast.” But hey, you probably want to listen too. We have great episodes from X people or X companies, people at X companies. So when people search ‘WordPress podcasts,’ and want to find a podcast, it does get a good amount of searches every month. People will find that blog post and then find our podcast and then hopefully subscribe. So that’s something that very strategically we’ve used WP Buffs domain authority and SEO performance to try and help drive some stuff towards WPMRR as well. So that’s maybe not something everybody can do.

And no one should do that because we want to keep that number one spot. But hey, if you want to try and rank for it, that’s good. It’ll make us step up our game too, so yeah, that’s just one of those things that was a longer-term thing. But you know, I think probably drives some listeners and some growth towards WPMRR Podcast. So, woo. All right.

Christie Chirinos:

And last, but most certainly not least, how we improve. I mean, you improve by practicing. 

Joe Howard:

Yes. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Christie Chirinos:

No.

Joe Howard:

You feel like over 100-plus episodes, just talking for 45 minutes to an hour times 100-plus episodes, do you feel like you’ve gotten better at being on the podcast?

Christie Chirinos:

I hope so. I think the listeners can tell me better than I can ever tell myself, but I would hope so. I think that I’ve gained confidence. I think that I have stopped speaking without aim or the ums, and ahs, and uh, but who knows? All you have to do is practice and keep putting things out there. Of course, I think it makes a lot of sense to have a sense for the things that you like and want to imitate. I find that people are often afraid of imitation. I embrace imitation. I think it’s the greatest form of flattery, and when I like something, I’m like, “How can I make something like this?” Because the reality is that it’s really hard to make something exactly like something else.

Joe Howard:

Totally.

Christie Chirinos:

You really have to either copy/paste, in which case… what? Or you have to actually try to copy something, and being inspired by something is actually an excellent strategy. So listen to other things that you like. Yeah, and I think of anything getting honest opinions is a really great way to improve. A lot of the time it’s really hard to get honest opinions, because you’ll ask people and nobody wants to be brutally honest.

Joe Howard:

It’s great show.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, [crosstalk 00:55:06] awesome, awesome.

Joe Howard:

You’re perfect.

Christie Chirinos:

But I have found that when I explicitly communicate that I want critical feedback that I’ll get it. Yup, hey, I’m looking for your opinion on this, I would like to hear your critical feedback. I can take it. I want to be better, and I want to know what you didn’t like.

Joe Howard:

Won’t hurt my feelings.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, exactly. And of course you have to actually mean it. Don’t ask for the critical feedback and then immediately start defending yourself. Accept, nod, take note, and find what you can improve. And I think those are really great ways to get ahead and grow as you do, but really I just can’t drill home enough how important I think it is to just do. Just work something. Put it out there. No matter what you do, you’re going to think it’s terrible three years from now. Honestly. Because if you don’t look back at something that you made three years ago, and are horrendously embarrassed by it, you’re not growing. That means that you didn’t learn anything. So just brace yourself for the embarrassment. Oh, my God, I have watched some of the stuff that I did in 2014 or some. I’m like, “No.” 

Joe Howard:

Yikes.

Christie Chirinos:

And I have to just remind myself that’s because you’re growing and you’re learning every single day, and that’s a good thing. Yeah.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, I really like what you said about getting critical feedback. One thing I would mention there is there’s feedback that’s really good, that’s critical, and that helps you grow, and that is good feedback for the episode. I’ve gotten feedback before that’s like, “Why do you put the guests in the beginning…” or “Your guests are always some character. It’s kind of annoying because I can’t see the whole title. It doesn’t show up sometimes.” And I was like, “That’s totally valid feedback, and I’m glad someone told me that.” I actually don’t even remember who it was. Maybe it was Bradley, but I think maybe it had been a listener as well.

And I was like, “Great feedback, but I like doing that.” So I’m not going to change it, and that’s also important I think, taking the feedback and knowing what to change and what is okay that maybe one listener doesn’t appreciate, but that’s okay. Maybe that one listener is probably suggestive of probably 10 or 50 other listeners probably think the same thing. But like we’ve said before, you have to do things your way. I like that aspect of the show, so I’m probably not going to change it.

Another thing, someone mentioned to me, we curse sometimes on the show. It’s not very frequent, but yeah, we drop an F-bomb or whatever, every once in a while. Someone told me on the show, or someone emailed me and said, “Hey, I listen with my daughter sometimes, but I may not listen anymore because you curse sometimes. My daughter’s around.” And that was for sure one of those things where I was like, “Thank you for the feedback. I appreciate you being honest. That means a lot.” But I’m not going to change that about the show at all, because the authenticity is important, and to be able to drop a ‘shit’ sometimes. If I feel passionately about something, I want to be able to say that. And so to that listener, of course I want you to be a listener, I want your daughter to be able to listen, but we’re going to do the show our way, and you know, that’s a good opportunity for her too. You’ve got to talk to her about cursing and language and that kind of stuff, so maybe I’m doing you a favor. I don’t know.

The other quick thing I’d say is in terms of learning, I listen to a lot of non-WordPress podcasts as well. That actually gets me a lot of really good learning. One direct example is… I listen to Indie Hackers Podcast a lot, and they talk about a lot of revenue-funded business stuff, like software as a service, subscription business, a lot of information about that kind of stuff. There’s a ton of stuff, I was just listening to the other day about someone who built a cookie delivery business to a $2 million a year business in like 12 months. And I was like, “What? That’s crazy.” And so that gives me a ton of ideas of maybe what I can bring back to the WordPress space as a lesson from that podcast I listened to.

Christie, you mentioned it’s good to take ideas from other places and apply them in different situations. I think there’s a lot of external WordPress space stuff that we can apply to the things we can talk about here. I may write down some ideas in an idea doc that’s like, “Oh, that would be a cool thing to transition and to talk about, how does that apply to the WordPress space?” Yeah, I don’t know. So learning, I’m listening to other podcasts.

Also, how they format their podcast, how they do things. That also gives me ideas, like, “Oh, I really liked that when that podcast did that. That was really cool. Gave me a really good feeling.” Somewhere in me I really enjoyed that, and it makes me think higher of this podcast. Those things are hard to find and hard to discover. And you can’t always discover your own podcast because you’re too in it. Listen to other podcasts, you realize some of those things, and I can say, “Hey, Bradley, we should try and do something like that.” And that leads to improvement as well, so that’s another thing, listen to others.

Christie Chirinos:

So, yeah, there you’ve go. We’ve broken the fourth wall, and then the podcast about how we podcast. This was kind of fun.

Joe Howard:

It was, and I have a call coming up in two minutes, so we should wrap up the episode. But it was a good episode. I thought it was great. Hopefully gave people some good transparency into the podcast and everything we do here.

Christie Chirinos:

And if you’ve been curious about starting your own podcast to boost your monthly recurring revenue, hope it gives you some insight into what we get and don’t get out of it. 

Joe Howard:

Yeah.

Christie Chirinos:

And where can people find us, Joe?

Joe Howard:

People can find us at wpmrr.com/podcast. If you want to give us an iTunes review, that’d be swell. Wpmrr.com/itunes redirects you right there. Got a lot of old episodes people can go through, listen, binge. Like we’ve talked about before, don’t go back too far, because what were we even talking about two years ago? I don’t even know. Go back to episodes like 25 plus. Those are good ones. I don’t know, they’re all fine. Bingeing episodes, good idea. If people have questions, where can they reach us?

Christie Chirinos:

They can reach us at yo, that’s Y-O@wpmrr.com.

Joe Howard:

Woo. WPMRR Virtual Summit. Come see Christie’s talks, going to be awesome. Can’t wait. We will be in your podcast players or YouTube embedded a video player ago next Tuesday. 

Christie Chirinos:

Woo.

Joe Howard:

Although I don’t know if YouTube videos are being published on Tuesdays. We haven’t figured out scheduling for that yet. They’ll come whenever. They’ll be on YouTube at some point, but Tuesday or some other day of the week, you’ll listen to this. It’ll be awesome. Okay, cool. We’ll see you next time.

Christie Chirinos:

Bye.

Podcast

E104 – Bus factor, selling subscriptions and ConvertKit advantages (Q&A)

The questions keep coming and the answers may not be what you expect them to be!   

Today on the WPMRR podcast, Joe and Christie tackle the bus factor phenomenon, converting one-offs to subscriptions, and the pros of ConvertKit.

Listen now for more business management insights!

Episode Resources:

What you’ll learn:

  • [00:07:11] Economic things that probably won’t go back to old normal, many companies saving on office space rentals by doing remote work.
  • [00:15:50] Do folks have a plan if they are hit by a car? 
  • [00:16:30] The Bus Factor is real. It is a huge business risk that takes a lot of humility to work through.
  • [00:18:59] Bus factor risk in business is extremely important to consider, we don’t want to create dependency on single people.
  • [00:22:21] For most positions, you should have a junior to you, one that learns what you do. 
  • [00:24:09] The Bus Factor phenomenon
  • [00:26:17] Document everything in a list so handing off of work is a lot easier.
  • [00:30:30] When you are selling a subscription, you are selling ongoing value. 
  • [00:32:43] How much time does it take to educate a customer on the value of your product enough for a recurring subscription?
  • [00:35:26] You’ll never target 100% the right people. You have to change, you have to adapt, you have to improve.
  • [00:37:59] ConvertKit, good in email, tagging, and segmenting
  • [00:45:22] Difference between MailChimp and ConvertKit

Episode Transcript

Christie Chirinos:

Hello, WordPress people. Welcome back to WPMRR WordPress Podcast. I’m Christie.

Joe Howard:

And I’m Joe.

Christie Chirinos:

And you’re listening to the WordPress business podcast. What’s going on in your life this week, Joe?

Joe Howard:

This week feels like kind of a new beginning for me, like a new chapter, because Morrison started his… Today he’s at his third day of daycare today, and he goes… It’s like everyone’s being super safe, as safe as possible, everyone who’s going gets negative tests, negative COVID tests. The daycare, they do the temperature when you walk in, that kind of stuff. But he’s gone for three days this week, and I feel like I’ve gotten so much work done, it’s crazy. Like, I can sit down for like three hours and work on something now, and it’s totally… It’s like I didn’t really realize how, you know, I was getting some stuff done, but it was like 15 minutes of work, hang out with the baby for half an hour, 15 minutes of work. You know, it was like I was trying to put a lot into a little bit of time. Now I really have time to spread my wings a little bit and do some more work, so it’s been excellent. That’s what’s new with me and my newfound bandwidth.

Christie Chirinos:

I mean, that is super exciting. Isn’t it so funny how we take things for granted sometimes with the whole “I can work for three whole hours without stopping”? Yeah, well, congratulations. They grow up so fast.

Joe Howard:

Thank you, thank you. What is new with you?

Christie Chirinos:

It also feels like a new beginning for me, because I have relocated completely to Austin, Texas.

Joe Howard:

Wow.

Christie Chirinos:

So, Joe and I, as of this recording, small tear, are no longer in the same city. That was a fun year of this podcast being produced in Washington, DC, but alas, that has now changed. And I’m excited about it. You know, Joe knows, most people, if you know me and you listen to this podcast and you personally know me, you know that I move around a lot. I’ve sort of always been semi-nomadic, and just the trying on different things, especially at this stage in life, and with the flexibility that our job allows. I was here, I got here about a month ago, and finished bringing over the rest of my belongings, not very many, but I had some things. I had like two pieces of furniture. Finished bringing those over over the weekend, and here I am.

Joe Howard:

Amazing. We were talking a little bit off air about this before we started recording. I was saying, “Oh, I’m going to miss you very much,” but it sounds like an exciting opportunity for you, and I was like, oh, I’d probably do the same in your shoes. Austin, lots of outdoor space right now, when you can still go outside without necessarily having too much social… I don’t know, what’s the difference… What’s the opposite of social distancing? Social proximity?

Christie Chirinos:

Closeness?

Joe Howard:

Yeah, [crosstalk 00:03:13], all sorts of stuff. Closeness, I should’ve thought of that one. But it’s also, it’s a little bit cheaper of a city too.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah.

Joe Howard:

DC is, we know, is somewhat expensive, and so it’ll be a nice change of pace for you, I think. Plus, it’s like, yes, I will miss you and hanging out in person more often, but WordCamps will come back, and plus, we see each other every week because we do this anyway, so it’s… [inaudible 00:03:39], in person we will miss a little bit, but we still get to see each other every week, so that’s cool.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah. Leaving Joe and [Mo 00:03:47] and [Sterling 00:03:48] behind was definitely on the cons column. But yeah, exactly, the pros column contained a whole lot of, hey, our lives are not and should not return to “normal” any time soon, and if I’m leaving in this abnormal situation for the next 12 months, I need to do that somewhere where I can save some money, be healthier, and have a little bit more space to be inside. I lived in a 400-square-foot studio apartment in downtown Washington, DC, so awesome during normal times, where I can go outside every single day and go to bars and go places, and the very expensive and beautiful city that is Washington, DC, is my living room. Not so awesome during pandemic times, and so, made some quick decisions, and thankfully, I’m very privileged that my life has that flexibility where I can just be like, “All right, you know, let’s try something different.” So, I’m feeling great, but yeah, it’s definitely a new adventure.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, yeah. You also mentioned that there’s other folks on LiQuid Web team too in Austin, right? So you get to combine remote life and some IRL work time as well, so that’s cool.

Christie Chirinos:

I’m actually super excited about that. There are maybe about 15 or so Liquid Webbers, Nexcessers, here in Austin, and then the whole bunch of them in San Antonio, which is about an hour away. I am pumped about that. I’ve said for a while that to me, I love remote work, and I would never go back, but I’m the kind of person where the lack of office culture and office social life is actually a drawback of remote work. It’s something that I deal with and compensate for, but that I genuinely enjoy the traditional office-work setting. But the benefits of remote work are so outstanding that I sacrifice the office social life. And so, I feel like I am going to get a little bit of the best of both worlds by being here, and I’m really excited about that.

Joe Howard:

Yeah. That’s a really good point, actually, because I think remote work has a lot of advantages, and a lot of people like the aspect of being able to work remotely and not being location dependent, and that’s great, but I think great remote work probably comes with some balance of some in-real-life interaction, maybe not totally professionally, but at least personally. There has to be some aspect of what you do that’s IRL too, because human beings are such social creatures. Maybe some are extroverts and some are introverts, but it’s like… During this whole COVID thing, it’s like we’ve had to lock down in our house and work remotely, which is great, we can keep working, but I don’t know about you, I’m sure you know some people too, it’s like they feel like they’ve hit breaking points of, “I’ve been sitting in my house for six straight weeks doing work, and it’s kind of driving me a little crazy.”

Joe Howard:

Yes, remote work’s nice, it’s nice to be able to do that, but you got to find some sort of balance with some outdoor time, or some friends time, or some… you know, a happy hour now and again, and some social interaction, because it’s tough… Remote work is tough when it’s 100% remote. It’s kind of like anything, it’s tough when you’re 100% that. You need a little bit of balance.

Christie Chirinos:

Absolutely, and I think that we maybe found that balance, and then that balance was thrown off center by the coronavirus pandemic, and so we’re having to re-find that balance and figure out how that’s going to work for us in a world that’s probably not going back to the way it used to be, right? Even when we have a vaccine and we can have our old normal back, there are economic things that probably won’t go back to being the exact same way. How many companies are now fully remote and are kind of loving it, and could be saving $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 a month on that commercial office space, you know? So we’ll see, and we’ll all have to figure out how to operate as more remote workers.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, yeah, or like Twitter, they’re like, “Oh, we’re remote now, no one has to come back to the office,” or Jack Dorsey’s like, “No one come back to the office.” Imagine how much they’re saving in office space.

Christie Chirinos:

Millions.

Joe Howard:

You remember, it was like two years ago, I think, when Automattic made that announcement, that they’re losing their San Francisco office, they’re moving out of it? It was like two years ago or something, and I remember reading about it. I can’t remember how much they were spending on it, but it was like, “Holy shit, Automattic has been spending that much on an office where like 10 people come in a week? That’s pretty crazy.”

Christie Chirinos:

Right. I remember the article and that headline, and I remember the article saying, “Yeah, you know, right now coming to the office is optional, and it’s kind of quiet and sad in here because no one takes advantage of it.” It was a Bay Area office.

Joe Howard:

Probably tumbleweeds, tumbleweeds rolling across, yeah.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah. But yeah.

Joe Howard:

Right on. Today, whew, we have another Q&A episode, but before we dive into that, we wanted to chat a little bit about our episode about being minorities in the WordPress space. This is our first time jumping on and being on the podcast and recording after recording that episode, and we just wanted to, I don’t know, give not a recap, but maybe some shout-outs to some of the feedback we got from it, and just put a little bit of a bow on it, because it was kind of an intense episode. If you haven’t listen to it, feel free to jump back a few episodes and check it out. But yeah, maybe you want to start with some of the, I don’t know, feedback you got, and/or some of the last, somewhat final commentary… “Final” is like, this is an ongoing conversation that will never be final, probably, but to put a bow onto that specific episode, anything you wanted to say about it?

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, I mean, I thought that we got really positive responses to the episode. I definitely want to acknowledge it just because it would feel kind of awkward and random to not acknowledge it, right? It was very much an unusual episode for us, and when we published it, we got an unusual amount of…

Joe Howard:

Unusual amount of microphone feedback.

Christie Chirinos:

Please hold, technical difficulties.

Joe Howard:

Do you want me to go?

Christie Chirinos:

We’re back.

Joe Howard:

You still sound good to me, I think you’re on.

Christie Chirinos:

Oh, yeah, okay, good. Wow, what was I saying?

Joe Howard:

Some of the feedback you got from the episode, you said it was mostly… Mostly positive, yeah?

Christie Chirinos:

We mostly got… Yeah, all positive feedback, definitely was a bit of an unusual episode for us, and I think our listeners and people especially within the WordPress community noticed. But yeah, just want to shout out a couple of people that were really sweet. Chris Ford, you’re wonderful and a big supporter, and thank you for using your voice to amplify the podcast episode. And yeah, also the contributor most commonly known as Rarst, Andrey Savchenko, thank you so much for your support, and Rachel Cherry, thank you for your support. And yeah, just thanks for reaching out, for listening to the episode. I hope you learned something new. Definitely also want to shout out Liam Dempsey, big fan of him and all his work within the WordPress community, and just some people that reached out and said nice things about the episode. Thanks for listening, and thanks for being you.

Joe Howard:

Oh my God, Liam’s just… Liam’s the best.

Christie Chirinos:

Yes.

Joe Howard:

I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone who’s so purely good before. I don’t know, every time I talk to him, I’m like, “Oh my God.” He’s like an angel almost. I’m like, “So, Liam…” Yeah, what Christie said, I couldn’t say any better. Thank you for being you. I’m actually talking to him on Twitter right now, DMing him about sponsoring WordCamp Philly this year, so it’s a good coincidence.

Christie Chirinos:

Ah, cool.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, I wanted to give a few shout-outs to some folks too. I got a few here, just a few nice responses to the episode. Kevin Hoffman from the Give team just tweeted at us, “Thank you for sharing your stories, experiences, recommendations with us. The paradox of tolerance, that’s a new concept for me, and I enjoyed learning more about it after the episode.” So thanks, Kevin, for the reply. Aaron Jorbin gave a nice thank-you to us, a nice little reply, so thanks, Aaron.

Christie Chirinos:

I love Aaron.

Joe Howard:

Aaron, shout-out. Brasco… Brasco. There’s no first name in the Twitter account, or maybe Brasco is your first name, there’s no last name? But Brascoder, Brasco, thank you. “Just listened to this episode. Thank you both for using your platform to shed light on the issue.” And Brasco also looks like a minority in the WordPress community, so it’s nice to get some feedback from other folks who are also in our same shoes who listened to the episode, because, you know, there are people from different backgrounds listening, and so it’s nice to get some positive feedback from different folks, which is nice.

Joe Howard:

Joseph Dickinson… Nope, sorry, Joseph Dickson. Messed your name up, Joseph, but I’ll say your name a few times now and give you more shout-outs because I messed your name up, Joseph. Awesome name, Joseph. Your name’s super dope. “The most important WordPress community conversation I’ve listened to in some time.” Thank you, Joe. I don’t know if you like to be called Joe; some people don’t like to go by nicknames. Hannah Smith gave us a nice reply. The Events Calendar gave us a nice reply.

Christie Chirinos:

Oh yeah, I saw that.

Joe Howard:

I’ll read those tweets quickly, because I don’t want to leave them… I read other tweets out, I don’t want to leave them out. Hannah said, “Took the time out to sit down and listen to this episode today, and I’m so glad I did. It was a great convo to be party to, and you did it so well. Kudos to you and a million thank yous.” Heart emoji. Is it a green heart emoji? I like the alternate heart, not just the basic red heart, but a green heart.

Christie Chirinos:

Purple heart, blue heart.

Joe Howard:

Purple heart, blue heart.

Christie Chirinos:

Yellow heart.

Joe Howard:

Events Calendar: “Really great episode, Joe and Christie. Extremely important for the WP community to think about inclusiveness more, especially when it comes to dismantling systematic racism.” They got it. They got the… They listened, they definitely listened, because they nailed that one, pretty much. So, Events Calendar, thank you, appreciate it.

Joe Howard:

I also got some DMs, some folks slid into my DMs because I said… Okay, my direct messages are no longer open, because I don’t leave them open for extenuating periods, because I don’t like to get a ton of direct messages, because I’m… Honestly, it’s not just because it’s spammy a lot of the times, but just because I’m not going to probably read them that much, because I’m not on Twitter all the time. But I did get some messages as well. Taco Verdo sent me a very nice direct message. It’s pretty similarly in the vein of what other people sent me. It was a direct message, so I’m not going to read it, because it was not a public tweet, it’s a direct message. So, Taco, I’m not trying to not give you a shout-out. I super appreciate the message; I just want to be cognizant of your privacy. It’s a direct message, so I’m not going to read it, but thank you, Taco, for the equally as awesome feedback I got from other places. Last-

Christie Chirinos:

I got a message from Taco too, but I wanted to let you give the shout-out, but thank you, Taco. Your message meant a lot to me

Joe Howard:

Oh, okay. You get a double shout-out, Taco, nice job, nice work. Thank you. And honestly, this is a good moment to give a little bit of feedback for everybody. We both got direct messages from Taco. We both loved Taco before, but now we super love Taco. So a really easy way to make good friends in the WordPress community is like, “Hey, I saw this thing you did. Nice job.” It really takes 10 seconds, and it really can connect you with someone. So, Taco, you’re at the top of my list now, buddy. Thank you.

Joe Howard:

Cory Miller gave us some nice shares, he shared us in the Post Status group. We got some nice shares in this episode. We’ve got a share in the Post Status newsletter, which you should for sure subscribe to, and the MasterWP newsletter, which you should for sure subscribe to, and the Repository newsletter, which is sent out by MailPoet, which you should also subscribe to. So, it was nice to see it get shared around a lot. I think that sharing is indicative of saying, “I agree with something, and I think this should be put out there in the world, and I want to share with my audience,” and that gives positive… It’s not just like pushing a button to say “I’m sharing this,” it’s like, “I have some agreeance with that.”

Christie Chirinos:

We might say sharing is caring.

Joe Howard:

Ooh, sharing is caring, on this episode of Barney, or Sesame Street. So, yeah. That’s all we wanted to say about the episode, just give some people some shout-outs and thank you for the positive feedback on it. Yeah, we may do some more episodes like that in the future. We’ll try to stick to monthly recurring revenue-related stuff, but these are important topics, and we want to talk about monthly recurring revenue, but we want to talk about what’s most important right now in the WordPress space, so, glad we got to do that episode, and we appreciate all the positive feedback. So, woo.

Joe Howard:

Okay, Q&A episode. Episode 100 was a Q&A episode, and episode 100 and… whatever episode this is going to be, 5, 6, something, I don’t know, will also be a Q&A episode. So, we got some nice questions to go through. Christie, are you ready?

Christie Chirinos:

I love Q&A episodes. I’m ready, these are my favorite.

Joe Howard:

All right, sweet. First Q&A… First Q, and we’ll give the A. First question is from Nate Hoffelder. Nate’s in DC with us, so… A lot of shout-outs this episode, shout-out Nate, thanks for the question. Nate’s question is, “Does everyone here…” Or, “Do folks have a plan for if they get hit by a car?” is pretty much the question. There’s also a follow-up question which is like, “Who doesn’t have one?” which I think is also an interesting part to the question, because there’s stuff to talk about around having an “if you get hit by a bus” or “if you get hit by a car” plan, and people who don’t, why don’t you, and what do you… Do you need one? What should be included in it? So it’s kind of two pieces of the same question, but a super-interesting one. Christie, you want to give an answer for… Do you have one? I don’t know, do you?

Christie Chirinos:

I have so many thoughts on this one. Bus factor. The bus factor is real, and bus factor is a huge business risk that you need to be aware of, and that it takes a lot of humility to work through. You are not forever, you are not invincible. You could go down any second, and whatever you’ve created doesn’t only belong to you, it also belongs to your team, your users, your customers, your investors if you have them, your vendors. And if you don’t have a bus factor plan, you need to make one, because figuring out how things are going to continue to exist without you is, in my opinion, the ultimate goal of what we’re doing here with WPMRR.

Christie Chirinos:

With that said, the “Who doesn’t have one?” bit of this question really gets me, because-

Joe Howard:

Me too.

Christie Chirinos:

… because I actually know someone who straight-up got hit by a car.

Joe Howard:

Oh man, [crosstalk 00:19:36].

Christie Chirinos:

Like, was biking down a bridge and got hit by a car going 55 miles an hour, and they were knocked off this bicycle.

Joe Howard:

[crosstalk 00:19:48].

Christie Chirinos:

If they hadn’t been wearing a helmet, they would’ve died. And he was incapacitated for three months, he had several concussions, he couldn’t take care of himself for three months. And let me tell you that no plan that you have for getting hit by a car is enough of a plan.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, [crosstalk 00:20:08], totally.

Christie Chirinos:

It is just the kind of thing that when it happens, you’re just flying by the seat of your pants. You can plan for this, and I don’t know that he had a plan, right? But just the severity of this type of situation, of anything that incapacitates you for several months. I want to tell you that I think at the time, this friend of mine was in pharmacy school, and it was like, yeah, there’s definitely a bus factor risk of being in pharmacy school, also known as “What if you get hit by a car and then can’t continue?” But when he was in bed, unable to take care of himself, his entire family was coming together to take care of him for the next three months, no one was thinking about pharmacy school. And chances are that if you got hit by a car, literally, you would not be thinking about your business as much as you would be thinking about your physical survival.

Christie Chirinos:

With that said, bus factor risk in business is extremely important to consider, because even if people don’t literally get hit by a car, we don’t want to create dependencies on single people. What do you do about this, Joe, at WP Buffs? You have more of a problem with this than I do now.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, that’s true. I do want to ask more from your side, because even as a teammate and employee, it’s important, your role is… Like, what if no one’s doing… What if you’re not there for the next month? Who picks up the pieces? How do other people pick up the pieces? There’s a lot of systems questions there. But I’ll go into how I think about things at WP Buffs.

Joe Howard:

You’re also very right, especially at big companies, they have… It’s like C-suite insurance. It’s literally an insurance you can go get, and it’s pretty fucking expensive. Like, think about Automattic. Matt Mullenweg has… They probably pay tens of thousands of dollars a month for insurance on Matt, because if something happens to him, he’s a huge part of Automattic. They get a payout, it’s insurance. It’s probably the same with a lot of big companies; WP Engine I’m sure has a lot of this stuff. Any big company that you’re thinking in the WordPress space definitely has insurance, especially on C-suite employees. So it’s a real thing; you can literally get insurance for this.

Joe Howard:

We don’t have that insurance; I don’t have that insurance for us, speaking honestly. But we do have things in place so that if I’m incapacitated suddenly, things will be okay. Interestingly, we’ve done episodes before about how to take a three-week vacation; that was one of our first 10 episodes I think we did. We’ve done a lot of episodes about how to decouple yourself from being super required to do day-to-day stuff at your work, and being able to replace yourself pretty easily.

Joe Howard:

So, a lot of this is actually stuff you should be thinking about on a regular basis, regardless of if you get hit by a car or not. You should be making sure other people can do your job if they need to and be flexible around that. It’s one of the reasons why we’re very big on forcing people to take vacations and forcing people to take time off, because it’s not only good for that person’s mental health to take some time away, but it helps other people have to take up those persons’ responsibilities. It gives people more responsibilities and more ability to be promoted and stuff. So, it’s actually good for everybody, so that’s something you can think about, because if that person gets hit by a bus 10 days after they get back from vacation, well, someone else was ready to pick up their stuff already. So, that’s something.

Joe Howard:

Another thing, just from a practical standpoint, is have health insurance coverage for yourself and your employees. If you get hit by a car and you have $50,000 in medical expenses, and you’re a contractor, you’re a little bit screwed. That’s something you’re going to have to pay out for the next 10 years of your life, maybe, if you don’t have health insurance. That’s crazy. So, I think that if you’re not majorly successful financially or whatever-

Christie Chirinos:

If you’re not in the US.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, [inaudible 00:24:19] not in the US. If you’re a leader of your company, have health insurance for US employees. Cover health care expenses for your international employees. A lot of international outside the US people have state-sponsored health care, but they still have to pay for it. Pay whatever their $200 a month for health care coverage is. We do that for all our employees, even international ones, and for US ones, we have full US coverage, and really good health insurance. We’re hiring right now, so come talk to me if you are looking for a new team to join. But have health insurance; that’s just a… That’s an important thing for if you get hit by a car, I think, a pretty practical one too.

Joe Howard:

The last thing I’ll say here is just, it kind of goes with the other thing I was just mentioning, but most… Especially for leadership positions, but for most positions, you should probably have a junior to you who’s learning to do what you do. There’s not that much that I do at WP Buffs that’s like “Joe has to do this.” There’s some marketing stuff that I’m the best at, for sure; there’s some decision-making that I’m the best at, for sure. But if I wasn’t here, someone else could, and especially a group of other people could come together and make probably about as good a decision as I could. I mean, the amount of times I’ve made a decision and part of my leadership team has been like, “Nope, that’s not what we should do,” and I’ve been like, “Yup, you’re right, thank you for letting me know,” is a ton of times.

Joe Howard:

So, I think for me, it’s having Nick around, especially, but Dean also. I mean, they’re both people I rely on heavily all the time, and the more I rely on them, the more responsibility and accountability over work they can have, the more they give back to WP Buffs, and the more ready they are to be leaders at WP Buffs. And they are, and have been for a long time, so I’m far from the only leader here at WP Buffs, and probably not the most important piece of the equation, and that’s been… I’ve done that purposefully, not just it just happened to happen. I was like, Nick and Dean are going to be more central to our core competencies than I am. Also, they’re just super great at what they do, and there wasn’t really another thing that could’ve happened. Like, I couldn’t have stopped it if I tried. They’re too good at what they do.

Joe Howard:

So, yeah. I mean, those are some, I guess, somewhat practical things to have in place. But now we’re talking about insurance. I probably should have some sort of additional insurance for if I get hit by something. I think that’s probably a pretty good idea, but… Yeah, I don’t know. What do you think, slash what are maybe some systems you have at Liquid Web that are helpful?

Christie Chirinos:

I agree with everything you said. I think that for people who are curious about this or have never maybe even considered it before, I deeply, deeply encourage you to Google “bus factor,” right? Talks about this particular type of business risk-

Joe Howard:

Bus factor. I never heard of that specifically, but it’s a good term [crosstalk 00:27:13], okay.

Christie Chirinos:

It’s a term, yup, that’s a term, that’s a term. It talks about the specific type of business risk, how to overcome it. It’s a very well-documented phenomenon, because… And this is kind of what you wanted me to talk about, was even in large companies, this is a problem, because if you have one person who is very central to a lot of processes and a lot of stuff lives in their head, if something happens to them, that can bring down hundreds of people, right? So bus factor business risk is something very important, and that’s literally what it’s called, and it’s called that because it’s the “What if you get hit by a bus?” type situation, right?

Christie Chirinos:

This has especially gone out into the entrepreneurship and startup spaces, because obviously, bus factor is massive with founders. But it can be really key with, say, directors of engineering; it can be very key with product leads. Product leads have big bus factor. And especially, for example, my role, I am not a product manager, I’m the product manager for the product line for Managed WooCommerce at Nexcess, which means that with me, if we weren’t doing things correctly, there could be some bus factor. There could be things about Managed WooCommerce that only live in my head, and that if I got hit by a bus, knock on wood, then we would possibly have some difficulty, right?

Christie Chirinos:

And so, how do we overcome that? Well, we collaborate on teams, right? I work on a team, and my team knows what I’m working on every day. So, if I got hit by a bus, my team together can take over, and that goes back to what you were saying about how bus factor for founders eventually turns into a leadership team can make decisions that that person would’ve traditionally made, right? So, maybe we work a little bit less efficiently because we’re going from one person singularly making decisions to a group of people coming together to make decisions. But groups of people make optimal decisions a lot of the time when they come in with different types of expertise, so that can be really helpful.

Christie Chirinos:

And then another thing that I do, because I’m particularly conscious of this type of problem, is I document everything. When I come up… I have this one Google Doc that it’s just my job, and when I come up with new things or new rules or new places to do things, I just jot them down in a little list. And that also makes the process of handing off work, whether for vacation or to move on to your next role, a lot easier, because then you can just be like, “Hey, here’s the thing. I documented all the stuff that I’m doing. This should give you what you need to get started.”

Joe Howard:

Yeah. Yeah, documenting’s big about that too. It’s a big reason why documenting’s so important, you know, obviously to get systems down, be more efficient at things, and share information, but part of sharing information is like, if something happens to one person, everybody has access to it. Definitely something we probably don’t do a good enough job at. We’re actually doing a big revamp on all our documentation right now and making it better, and getting one real central hub for it. That’s something I’ve written down… Actually, also just emailed the guy who manages… He’s our broker, he manages all our insurance and stuff like that, and I asked him about this insurance, so I will be looking more into this as well.

Joe Howard:

I know small businesses, there is insurance you can apply for as a small business to… It’s like business insurance. It’s around this kind of thing, like if I get incapacitated or something, so there’s not… It’s not just for big companies. I think there are also smaller-company versions of it, or maybe it’s just you just pay less because you’re a smaller company or something. I don’t know exactly how they… I’d have to do some more research into seeing exactly how they calculate it, but that’s definitely something people should look into. “Business insurance for founders” would be what I would Google to check this out if you’re a smaller business or freelancer with your own little LLC, definitely something to look into. So, cool, nice, good answers, Christie. I think that was pretty good.

Christie Chirinos:

Awesome.

Joe Howard:

All right, next question. This next question is from Daniele Besana. Thanks for the question, Daniele. I think it’s Daniele, I think is how you pronounce it, D-A-N-I-E-L-E.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah.

Joe Howard:

So, Daniele.

Christie Chirinos:

That’s like Italian Daniel.

Joe Howard:

It’s just the spelling on that. Yeah, it’s a non-English spelling, so, sorry, Daniele. But I think I got it right.

Christie Chirinos:

I went to high school with a guy named Daniele with an E at the end, and everybody called him Danielle, and he was like, “No, it’s Daniele.”

Joe Howard:

He was like, “Goddammit.”

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah.

Joe Howard:

Well, I’m glad… See, your experience is coming very important here to the [crosstalk 00:31:56].

Christie Chirinos:

Thank you, Daniele.

Joe Howard:

“Hello, folks.” Okay, so this is kind of a subscription versus one-time support question. Daniele asks, “Nine out of ten leads ask for a one-time quote and are not interested in a subscription. At this stage, we only want subscriptions, so we consider them out of scope. I’m trying to figure out if it is a normal ratio, or if we’re attracting the wrong leads. Do you have any experience that most of the people don’t want a subscription? Any input is appreciated.”

Joe Howard:

So, this is kind of more support-related for me, because hosting companies don’t get, probably, people asking for one-time stuff, but maybe in your support, you do get a good amount of people asking for, like, “I need help with this WordPress thing, can you help?” This was specifically for, like, “I’m selling care plans, and I get people asking, ‘I just need help with this one thing, can you help?'” But I think we can probably both have interesting answers to this, because again, I’m sure you get support that’s totally outside the scope as a hosting company, and I know a lot of hosting companies do. So, what about for a hosting company, Christie? Obviously you do subscription billing, and you want to get people on subscriptions. Do you get asked for one-time support a lot? And if so, what do you do with the one-time help ask?

Christie Chirinos:

I have a lot of thoughts on this, because yeah, we do, actually, fun fact. With hosting, when we get asked for “one-time quotes,” what ends up happening, really, is somebody has the specific length of engagement, and they don’t want to sign up for something recurring, so they’re like, “Can I just pay for a chunk of time at once?” Usually a year, right?

Joe Howard:

Of hosting.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative). So, we actually do have annual billing, but it’s annual recurring. So you can get billed annually if you want, you’ll get a discount for doing it.

Joe Howard:

As opposed to monthly?

Christie Chirinos:

Right.

Joe Howard:

Yes.

Christie Chirinos:

You’ll get a discount for doing it, because obviously, money now is better than money in the future. And a lot of the time, people will say, “Oh, can it be just this year?” and it’s like, no. “Well, why?” And that goes back into the core of this question, which is, because when you’re selling a subscription, you are selling ongoing value. To me, you getting this question indicates that you’re not communicating your ongoing value. I don’t know what Daniele’s website looks like or what types of content he’s putting out that’s attracting leads, but if your marketing clearly states, “This is the way in which we’re going to help you from now until the future, this is what you’re going to get for your entire life every month from us,” then people don’t ask, “Oh, but can I just get it one time?”

Christie Chirinos:

And then, when they say, “Can I just get it one time?” you can easily turn the conversation around and be like, “No, no, no, the benefit of this is that you continue to get it. Look at all these new things that happen every month. Look at all of these ways in which we save you time and continue to build upon the thing that you’re paying on each month due to your monthly subscription. The product gets better, the services get deeper. We get to know you better.” Because the reality is that if you’re selling something that’s just kind of the same every month, of course they only want to buy it one time and then kind of get over it, right? You have to continue to keep building.

Christie Chirinos:

You asked about out-of-scope support requests in hosting, and yeah, we get those all the time, right? There are people that specialize in one-offs like this, and that is what they want, and we keep a directory of them, but it’s not what we do. Right? That is a type of product, and that product itself has been productized in a way; it’s just not what we do, and we have an entire partner directory where we can send people and say, “Hey, this person needs help with this one particular thing, they want to build out this one particular feature.” The reality is that a lot of the time, when you’re looking at things that are one-offs, one-offs are rarely one-offs. How many things in this life do you really, truly, only need to do one time? Very few.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, I totally agree with that. I think people who come for one-off help often are going to need help on an ongoing basis. The challenge you have as a business owner is, how much time is it going to take to educate that customer on the value enough, to the point of getting them to buy a subscription? And is that worth your cost of acquisition cost in terms of education? Because education is one of the most expensive customer acquisition costs. If you have to educate everybody who comes to you that they need to go from one-time to subscription and then close them, that’s going to take a ton of resources and time.

Joe Howard:

I agree with what you said, Christie, about just messaging and marketing and copy. I think that Daniele said nine out of ten people come to him for one-time support. To me, that’s, yeah, one of two, probably, issues it’s most likely. One is either targeting the wrong kinds of customer or the wrong kind of target market, where they’re people who just need one-time support. So you may have the wrong traffic coming to your website, so if you wrote a blog post about where to go to find a freelancer for the help on that one small issue, and you get a lot of traffic to that blog post, and people are contacting you, well, probably it’s because they were searching Google for “How do I find one-time help?” and then they came to you.

Joe Howard:

So, that would be an example of just targeting… And I’ve never seen Daniele’s website before, but… This is totally an example, but that would be an example of writing a blog post that actually targeted the wrong kind of customer for you. When you’re looking for subscription customers, you want to write more blog posts like what we do at WP Buffs, like “How do you make more monthly recurring revenue?” “What tools can I implement on my site to actually capture subscriptions?” There’s more subscription-related stuff you can write.

Joe Howard:

So, that’s one thing, is just the targeting aspect, and then the second is the actual copy on your website, and the way in which you’re selling your services and subscriptions, which is kind of what you were talking about, Christie. It’s like, you don’t want to be talking about one-time support on your sales pages. You want to be talking about the subscriptions you offer, and educate people on the website, because that’s a much more scalable way to educate people than having to talk with every single customer and explain the difference between one-time and subscription. Explain it really nicely on your website, maybe have a video about subscriptions. The more you can talk about the subscription service, the more you’re going to attract people who are interested in a technical partner or whatever, a subscription, and the less you’ll have to talk to people who want one-time help, because they’ll get the message.

Joe Howard:

This is a challenge. We still get a good amount of people that come and ask for one-time support. And it’s annoying, I’m not going to lie. It’s a little annoying. Did you not read anything on the website? We talk about subscriptions everywhere, and people are like, “Maybe I missed it. Maybe they do do one-time support, maybe I should ask them.” Which I get; I shouldn’t make fun of them with that voice. You’re allowed to ask for one-time help, that’s fine. We just don’t do it, if you’re listening. Don’t ask for one-time help, we don’t do it.

Christie Chirinos:

“Oh. Oh, right.”

Joe Howard:

Yeah. But that’s part of business, also. You’re never going to target a hundred percent the right people. It’s a long-time play, you have to change, you have to adapt, you have to improve. The goal for good customers is to continue to try and attract good customers. How do you attract more people like that? And you can talk to your current customers: “Hey, what else do you need? What else can we build to help you more around subscription stuff?” That’s a good way to attract more people like the subscription customers you already have.

Joe Howard:

What do you do with the people who come to you that are asking for one-time support? For me, I like to keep them in my universe. Like, I like them to be subscribed to my email list, I like for them to read our blog. I want to help them; it’s not like I don’t want to help them. That’s cool. And maybe over the long term, we’ll educate them. But I also don’t want to spend high price time on them. I don’t want to spend five hours trying to sell them on something if they’re not going to end up buying it. I want to attract people who are interested in a subscription so I can spend one hour selling them, and get them in, and get their lifetime value up.

Joe Howard:

I always say, get the people you… Look for your red flag metrics, like people asking for one-time support, that’s a red flag metric for us. Get those people out of your direct sales funnel and get them into your long-term sales funnel, or your education funnel, or your email list, and you’re sending them out more podcast episode or blog posts. And then maybe in a year, they’re like, “Oh, I have like 10,000 visitors a month on my blog now. I need someone to manage it, because I’ve got to work on growing it. This could be a big thing.” Maybe at that point, they’ll be ready. So, that’s some of my advice, and I think that hopefully is helpful. That’s how we think about it at WP Buffs, how I think about it at WP Buffs, anyway.

Christie Chirinos:

Agreed.

Joe Howard:

Sweet. Okay, we could do one more question. Do you have time, Christie, or do you have a… time?

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, I have one more question, although I feel a little bit of shyness around this one. I’m going to let you go first.

Joe Howard:

Okay, I will go first.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah.

Joe Howard:

And you can comment if you’d like to, but you don’t have to. This is our podcast, Christie, we do what we want. You talk about stuff, you don’t talk about stuff, whatever. This question is… And let me do a quick little search to make sure I know who it is. It’s from Terry Loving. Thank you for the question, Terry. Also, excellent last name.

Christie Chirinos:

Loving.

Joe Howard:

My son, Morrison, his middle name is Loving as well, and so, excellent name choice there. I won’t tell the whole story about the middle name, but same middle name, so Terry, super appreciate you. Terry’s question is, “Wondering what advantage you find working with ConvertKit versus others.”

Joe Howard:

I will tell my quick story about ConvertKit. I love ConvertKit for certain reasons, and I also dislike it for other reasons, and let me talk a little bit about that, because I love… Let me talk first about the reason why I love ConvertKit. I love ConvertKit because it solved a really big pain point for us and for a ton of people by doing a few things really, really well. We used to use Mailchimp, like three years ago, and it just didn’t have simple… Like, how do I get a list of people tagged with this thing, or segmented with this thing? It had horrible tagging and segmentation, and I just wanted to say, “If someone clicks this link, it tags them as someone who uses WooCommerce.” Like, they clicked on “10 WooCommerce strategies to use,” it tags them as WooCommerce, so when I send a WooCommerce email out, I can just send it to those people.

Joe Howard:

Mailchimp was shit at doing that, totally horrible. And maybe they’re better at it now, I haven’t used Mailchimp in three years, so I won’t totally shit on them right now. But ConvertKit did it awesome and made it so easy, so I was like, “Let’s use ConvertKit.” Like, tagging and segmenting are done so well, it’s perfect.

Joe Howard:

But they also do some things that I would expect better of a somewhat big bootstrapped company, like a company that starts revenue-funded and doesn’t raise money, and makes it to… Like, we just crossed a million-dollar-a-year barrier, which has been pretty cool, so it’s like, “Yeah, we hit this cool milestone of a million dollars at WP Buffs.” ConvertKit is at, like… I think they do like $2 million a month, so they’re at like $25 million a year as a bootstrap company, which is pretty big for a bootstrap software company. Not the biggest, but significant size. They should be doing, like, have a better editor. The editor is pretty wonky, and some text doesn’t come through the right size in email. So, it’s totally not perfect. There’s definitely things I think they could work on and do better at.

Joe Howard:

But they do great things in terms of email, tagging, and segmenting, and if you just want to have a sub-list of people of your whole list that are of a certain… something special about them, they clicked on a WooCommerce, or maybe they run a membership site. Or for us, we do direct customers, are they an agency, are they a freelancer? Those are important for sales. And to monetize an email list, this is kind of a best practice, but it’s also, I feel like it’s pretty true, is you have to segment our email list into somewhat relevant areas so that you can send people things that they want. If you just send every email to every person, you’re going to have higher unsubscribe rates, you’re going to have higher people not really reading everything, and that’s bad for your send rate, it’s bad for your emails not going into junk and appearing in the main inbox tab and stuff.

Joe Howard:

So, you want good click-through rates, and you want good open rates, and that kind of stuff, so segmenting your email list helps with that. Plus, it’s just like, you send people what they want, just like… So many people don’t do that, it’s like… I don’t subscribe to almost any email things, because most of them are pretty bad at targeting me. But there’s also people that don’t follow that rule and just send one email out to everyone, like Matcha WP, I’m pretty sure they send just their newsletter out to everybody every week, and it’s great, but that’s their shtick, it’s like, “We send a newsletter out.” It’s not like… You know, there’s not as much targeted sales stuff like we’re doing.

Joe Howard:

So, that would be my big advantage of ConvertKit, is tagging and segmenting. Also, you can create nice rules so that if someone’s tagged as this, they’ll be added to this sequence. It’s all around tagging and segmenting email lists that I think is really powerful for ConvertKit. And I think that this is one of those companies that… I really like ConvertKit, even though I have a few issues with them. I like ConvertKit a lot. I like their team, I like their founder story, which is like… “I’m going to shut this down, it’s not really working,” and someone was like, “You should actually double down on it and do it.” “Okay,” and now it’s a $25 million company. It’s a pretty cool story. You should go and check out that story.

Joe Howard:

But anyway, I think ConvertKit, if you’re looking to… If segmenting and tagging email subscribers as certain things is going to be a big lever for you in terms of monetizing your email list, or having good, happy email subscribers that want to get your emails every week or every day or every month, then ConvertKit, I would definitely try that. I just talked for a long time, and a lot about ConvertKit, but those are my thoughts, and those are, or I think are the advantages, so hopefully that is helpful, Terry. Did you want to add something, Christie, or are you like, “No thanks”?

Christie Chirinos:

No, you said absolutely everything I would’ve said. I started off by saying that I’m feeling shy about this question, because… And I want to start by saying that my opinion of ConvertKit is the same as yours. I love their founder story, I think they’re making such a cool product, it’s so good for segmented email marketing. The tagging system is unbelievably powerful, it’s just really, really well done. Billing is transparent as well, which I love.

Joe Howard:

Yeah.

Christie Chirinos:

But I was feeling shy about this question because my personal experience with ConvertKit was actually that when we started getting more serious about our email marketing program at Caldera WP, we decided to migrate from Mailchimp to ConvertKit, and I found it so difficult to use that I switched back to Mailchimp.

Joe Howard:

Wow, interesting, because totally separate experiences.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah.

Joe Howard:

What about using it was difficult? You’re allowed to have a little bit… Like, this is good feedback for them, if they listen. This is good feedback.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, if they listen, this is good feedback, and I’d love to talk about it. And what’s funny is, I still have an extremely high opinion of ConvertKit; it’s just that I wasn’t the right user. ConvertKit is very much intended for someone who wants that incredibly powerful tagging system, and wants and has the capacity to get into the minutiae of absolutely targeted segmentation. And for me, that cost-benefit was a little bit off. It was so much work, and I just needed segmentation that was level two, not level seven. And I was already seeing the kinds of lists that I wanted from basic segmentation, and I didn’t have the marketing team in place to get into advanced segmentation of my users. And so, I found ConvertKit to be overkill for what I wanted to do, and I ended up bringing everybody back, because I was working with a bunch of contractors, and it was easier to contract out Mailchimp work than it was to contract out ConvertKit work.

Joe Howard:

Gotcha.

Christie Chirinos:

And a lot of my team and my users, especially working on a form plugin, were deeply, deeply visual people, so form design and things like that went a really long way. Email design, image design, and those things tended to be easier in Mailchimp. And I think that if anything, this is a lesson for our listeners on… Your product can be the most amazing product at its stated value proposition, and it’s still not going to be right for someone, and that’s okay. You don’t have to fight to get the people who aren’t right for you; different products are right for different people, and that’s why we have a large variety of products to choose from out there.

Joe Howard:

Yeah. I totally agree with that. I think if people from ConvertKit are listening, they may actually be like, “Good.” I don’t actually consider Mailchimp and ConvertKit to be super-direct competitors, because I think… The way I think about it is like, Mailchimp is level one, like you start at Mailchimp. Most people do. Then level two is ConvertKit; if you want, have a team, and you’re doing more advanced stuff, you’d go to ConvertKit.

Joe Howard:

And then to me, I actually had the same issue as you did, but I’m maybe one level up, because I was choosing, I think, between level two and level three, and level three would be like ActiveCampaign, which I was looking at, and I had a sales call with them, two sales calls with them. And it was super expensive, and I was like, “But it does so much cool stuff,” but at the end of the day, I was like, “This is too fucking complicated. There is no way I’m going to be able to…” Managing this requires me to have a full-time, maybe not just a full-time marketer, but a full-time marketing team to manage just the organization around ActiveCampaign.

Joe Howard:

I think it’s super powerful, but that was my reason I didn’t go with them and I went with ConvertKit, was because I thought ConvertKit’s level two, I get this. As a marketer myself, my marketing skills are pretty good, and I can understand exactly what ConvertKit’s doing. It’s pretty simple for me. But ActiveCampaign, I was like… If it’s too complicated, I’m not going to do it, or I’m not going to understand it, or I’m not going to want to understand it, and I’m going to get frustrated, so I need it to be simple for me to be able to do it as well.

Joe Howard:

So, I think, I totally get where you’re coming from, Christie, and I think that that’s a really good point, actually. I’m super glad you brought that up, because I think, Terry, if you’re thinking about ConvertKit, yeah, you should probably have some segmenting and tag experience to want to go and to do more of that work. I think someone who’s a beginner could go and learn it, but it will take time to figure out how ConvertKit works, and all those things. Maybe there’s some… I’m sure there’s some YouTube videos out there that could help in all that stuff. But that’s a really good point, Christie, of ConvertKit’s probably like… I don’t know if I’d call it level two and Mailchimp level one, but it’s definitely level 1.5.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah.

Joe Howard:

Like, it’s at least a half step up from Mailchimp. And I’ve heard Mailchimp now actually does segmenting and tags much better than it did when I was using it.

Christie Chirinos:

A lot more advanced than they did when I was making these [inaudible 00:52:11] for sure.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, okay, so I’ve heard that too. Maybe Mailchimp is good to… Still, if people aren’t super interested in… If you just want to send an email out to some folks, Mailchimp might be a good place to start. ConvertKit is like, once you’ve gotten your sea legs under you, maybe you move to ConvertKit. Maybe you start on ConvertKit if you’re feeling saucy, but if not, then Mailchimp’s fine too.

Christie Chirinos:

Use both.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, exactly.

Christie Chirinos:

No, don’t do that, please don’t do that. Please don’t do that. Pick one.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, [crosstalk 00:52:36] whoa, we’re going into Christie’s bad advice here, yeah. Next episode, yeah.

Christie Chirinos:

Bad Advice with Christie Chirinos, yeah.

Joe Howard:

I’d listen to that podcast. Okay, cool. Well, we did three nice, juicy Q&A today, so we can probably wrap it up there. Let’s wrap it up, let’s finish out the episode.

Christie Chirinos:

All right.

Joe Howard:

If people want to have more awesome Q&A episodes like this, you’re more than welcome to shoot them in to yo@wpmrr.com. We really like to do these Q&A episodes, and yeah, it’d be fun to do some more. People can binge the episodes. Right, Christie? Should they go and do some binging?

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah. Get into your podcast app and sort from oldest to newest, and hit Play. Bam.

Joe Howard:

Ooh. Does mine do that?

Christie Chirinos:

100 hours of content.

Joe Howard:

I don’t even know if mine does that. Is that a thing, you can sort different ways? I don’t think I… I think mine automatically sorts by newest to oldest. You can do it different ways, I guess.

Christie Chirinos:

Really? I think you can usually flip it, at least you can on the Google Podcasts app.

Joe Howard:

Okay. I use Downcast, so I don’t know, maybe they have ways. I’ll check it out.

Christie Chirinos:

Maybe it can. I don’t really know.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, do what Christie said, order and listen. But maybe… Yeah, go check out our first episode. That’d be a trip. [crosstalk 00:54:01], probably didn’t know anything then. What else? Reviews, oh yeah. Hey, we love those. If you want to give us a nice review-

Christie Chirinos:

Please.

Joe Howard:

… that would be super awesome. It helps us in a bunch of different ways, actually. Obviously, it helps us get found in the iTunes store, that’s nice. It makes us feel good and want us to do more episodes, which is awesome. It also actually gives us really good feedback for new episode ideas, so if you leave a comment like, “Hey, I loved this, would love…” Like, “Love this topic, five stars,” we’ll do more topics about that. So, all it takes is a quick wpmrr.com/itunes, and just leave a little five-star review. That would be super splendid.

Christie Chirinos:

Just a little five-star review.

Joe Howard:

A little five-star review. Wpmrr.com, some big news coming out around wpmrr.com. I don’t know when this episode’s going to launch, so I’m not going to say anything right now, but-

Christie Chirinos:

Ooh, mysterious.

Joe Howard:

… if it’s out there, you’ll know about it. We’re launching a new Twitter account for WPMRR, and I’ll tweet about it. Like, it’ll be out there in the sphere of WordPress. So, come and look around for WPMRR stuff, and we’d love to see it. So, mystery closed, end mystery. Code text. Cool, you can tell I’m not [inaudible 00:55:24] because I don’t even know how to say that. We will be in your podcast players again next Tuesday. All right, see you, Christie.

Christie Chirinos:

Christie Chirinos:

Hello, WordPress people. Welcome back to WPMRR WordPress Podcast. I’m Christie.

Joe Howard:

And I’m Joe.

Christie Chirinos:

And you’re listening to the WordPress business podcast. What’s going on in your life this week, Joe?

Joe Howard:

This week feels like kind of a new beginning for me, like a new chapter, because Morrison started his… Today he’s at his third day of daycare today, and he goes… It’s like everyone’s being super safe, as safe as possible, everyone who’s going gets negative tests, negative COVID tests. The daycare, they do the temperature when you walk in, that kind of stuff. But he’s gone for three days this week, and I feel like I’ve gotten so much work done, it’s crazy. Like, I can sit down for like three hours and work on something now, and it’s totally… It’s like I didn’t really realize how, you know, I was getting some stuff done, but it was like 15 minutes of work, hang out with the baby for half an hour, 15 minutes of work. You know, it was like I was trying to put a lot into a little bit of time. Now I really have time to spread my wings a little bit and do some more work, so it’s been excellent. That’s what’s new with me and my newfound bandwidth.

Christie Chirinos:

I mean, that is super exciting. Isn’t it so funny how we take things for granted sometimes with the whole “I can work for three whole hours without stopping”? Yeah, well, congratulations. They grow up so fast.

Joe Howard:

Thank you, thank you. What is new with you?

Christie Chirinos:

It also feels like a new beginning for me, because I have relocated completely to Austin, Texas.

Joe Howard:

Wow.

Christie Chirinos:

So, Joe and I, as of this recording, small tear, are no longer in the same city. That was a fun year of this podcast being produced in Washington, DC, but alas, that has now changed. And I’m excited about it. You know, Joe knows, most people, if you know me and you listen to this podcast and you personally know me, you know that I move around a lot. I’ve sort of always been semi-nomadic, and just the trying on different things, especially at this stage in life, and with the flexibility that our job allows. I was here, I got here about a month ago, and finished bringing over the rest of my belongings, not very many, but I had some things. I had like two pieces of furniture. Finished bringing those over over the weekend, and here I am.

Joe Howard:

Amazing. We were talking a little bit off air about this before we started recording. I was saying, “Oh, I’m going to miss you very much,” but it sounds like an exciting opportunity for you, and I was like, oh, I’d probably do the same in your shoes. Austin, lots of outdoor space right now, when you can still go outside without necessarily having too much social… I don’t know, what’s the difference… What’s the opposite of social distancing? Social proximity?

Christie Chirinos:

Closeness?

Joe Howard:

Yeah, [crosstalk 00:03:13], all sorts of stuff. Closeness, I should’ve thought of that one. But it’s also, it’s a little bit cheaper of a city too.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah.

Joe Howard:

DC is, we know, is somewhat expensive, and so it’ll be a nice change of pace for you, I think. Plus, it’s like, yes, I will miss you and hanging out in person more often, but WordCamps will come back, and plus, we see each other every week because we do this anyway, so it’s… [inaudible 00:03:39], in person we will miss a little bit, but we still get to see each other every week, so that’s cool.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah. Leaving Joe and [Mo 00:03:47] and [Sterling 00:03:48] behind was definitely on the cons column. But yeah, exactly, the pros column contained a whole lot of, hey, our lives are not and should not return to “normal” any time soon, and if I’m leaving in this abnormal situation for the next 12 months, I need to do that somewhere where I can save some money, be healthier, and have a little bit more space to be inside. I lived in a 400-square-foot studio apartment in downtown Washington, DC, so awesome during normal times, where I can go outside every single day and go to bars and go places, and the very expensive and beautiful city that is Washington, DC, is my living room. Not so awesome during pandemic times, and so, made some quick decisions, and thankfully, I’m very privileged that my life has that flexibility where I can just be like, “All right, you know, let’s try something different.” So, I’m feeling great, but yeah, it’s definitely a new adventure.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, yeah. You also mentioned that there’s other folks on LiQuid Web team too in Austin, right? So you get to combine remote life and some IRL work time as well, so that’s cool.

Christie Chirinos:

I’m actually super excited about that. There are maybe about 15 or so Liquid Webbers, Nexcessers, here in Austin, and then the whole bunch of them in San Antonio, which is about an hour away. I am pumped about that. I’ve said for a while that to me, I love remote work, and I would never go back, but I’m the kind of person where the lack of office culture and office social life is actually a drawback of remote work. It’s something that I deal with and compensate for, but that I genuinely enjoy the traditional office-work setting. But the benefits of remote work are so outstanding that I sacrifice the office social life. And so, I feel like I am going to get a little bit of the best of both worlds by being here, and I’m really excited about that.

Joe Howard:

Yeah. That’s a really good point, actually, because I think remote work has a lot of advantages, and a lot of people like the aspect of being able to work remotely and not being location dependent, and that’s great, but I think great remote work probably comes with some balance of some in-real-life interaction, maybe not totally professionally, but at least personally. There has to be some aspect of what you do that’s IRL too, because human beings are such social creatures. Maybe some are extroverts and some are introverts, but it’s like… During this whole COVID thing, it’s like we’ve had to lock down in our house and work remotely, which is great, we can keep working, but I don’t know about you, I’m sure you know some people too, it’s like they feel like they’ve hit breaking points of, “I’ve been sitting in my house for six straight weeks doing work, and it’s kind of driving me a little crazy.”

Joe Howard:

Yes, remote work’s nice, it’s nice to be able to do that, but you got to find some sort of balance with some outdoor time, or some friends time, or some… you know, a happy hour now and again, and some social interaction, because it’s tough… Remote work is tough when it’s 100% remote. It’s kind of like anything, it’s tough when you’re 100% that. You need a little bit of balance.

Christie Chirinos:

Absolutely, and I think that we maybe found that balance, and then that balance was thrown off center by the coronavirus pandemic, and so we’re having to re-find that balance and figure out how that’s going to work for us in a world that’s probably not going back to the way it used to be, right? Even when we have a vaccine and we can have our old normal back, there are economic things that probably won’t go back to being the exact same way. How many companies are now fully remote and are kind of loving it, and could be saving $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 a month on that commercial office space, you know? So we’ll see, and we’ll all have to figure out how to operate as more remote workers.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, yeah, or like Twitter, they’re like, “Oh, we’re remote now, no one has to come back to the office,” or Jack Dorsey’s like, “No one come back to the office.” Imagine how much they’re saving in office space.

Christie Chirinos:

Millions.

Joe Howard:

You remember, it was like two years ago, I think, when Automattic made that announcement, that they’re losing their San Francisco office, they’re moving out of it? It was like two years ago or something, and I remember reading about it. I can’t remember how much they were spending on it, but it was like, “Holy shit, Automattic has been spending that much on an office where like 10 people come in a week? That’s pretty crazy.”

Christie Chirinos:

Right. I remember the article and that headline, and I remember the article saying, “Yeah, you know, right now coming to the office is optional, and it’s kind of quiet and sad in here because no one takes advantage of it.” It was a Bay Area office.

Joe Howard:

Probably tumbleweeds, tumbleweeds rolling across, yeah.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah. But yeah.

Joe Howard:

Right on. Today, whew, we have another Q&A episode, but before we dive into that, we wanted to chat a little bit about our episode about being minorities in the WordPress space. This is our first time jumping on and being on the podcast and recording after recording that episode, and we just wanted to, I don’t know, give not a recap, but maybe some shout-outs to some of the feedback we got from it, and just put a little bit of a bow on it, because it was kind of an intense episode. If you haven’t listen to it, feel free to jump back a few episodes and check it out. But yeah, maybe you want to start with some of the, I don’t know, feedback you got, and/or some of the last, somewhat final commentary… “Final” is like, this is an ongoing conversation that will never be final, probably, but to put a bow onto that specific episode, anything you wanted to say about it?

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, I mean, I thought that we got really positive responses to the episode. I definitely want to acknowledge it just because it would feel kind of awkward and random to not acknowledge it, right? It was very much an unusual episode for us, and when we published it, we got an unusual amount of…

Joe Howard:

Unusual amount of microphone feedback.

Christie Chirinos:

Please hold, technical difficulties.

Joe Howard:

Do you want me to go?

Christie Chirinos:

We’re back.

Joe Howard:

You still sound good to me, I think you’re on.

Christie Chirinos:

Oh, yeah, okay, good. Wow, what was I saying?

Joe Howard:

Some of the feedback you got from the episode, you said it was mostly… Mostly positive, yeah?

Christie Chirinos:

We mostly got… Yeah, all positive feedback, definitely was a bit of an unusual episode for us, and I think our listeners and people especially within the WordPress community noticed. But yeah, just want to shout out a couple of people that were really sweet. Chris Ford, you’re wonderful and a big supporter, and thank you for using your voice to amplify the podcast episode. And yeah, also the contributor most commonly known as Rarst, Andrey Savchenko, thank you so much for your support, and Rachel Cherry, thank you for your support. And yeah, just thanks for reaching out, for listening to the episode. I hope you learned something new. Definitely also want to shout out Liam Dempsey, big fan of him and all his work within the WordPress community, and just some people that reached out and said nice things about the episode. Thanks for listening, and thanks for being you.

Joe Howard:

Oh my God, Liam’s just… Liam’s the best.

Christie Chirinos:

Yes.

Joe Howard:

I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone who’s so purely good before. I don’t know, every time I talk to him, I’m like, “Oh my God.” He’s like an angel almost. I’m like, “So, Liam…” Yeah, what Christie said, I couldn’t say any better. Thank you for being you. I’m actually talking to him on Twitter right now, DMing him about sponsoring WordCamp Philly this year, so it’s a good coincidence.

Christie Chirinos:

Ah, cool.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, I wanted to give a few shout-outs to some folks too. I got a few here, just a few nice responses to the episode. Kevin Hoffman from the Give team just tweeted at us, “Thank you for sharing your stories, experiences, recommendations with us. The paradox of tolerance, that’s a new concept for me, and I enjoyed learning more about it after the episode.” So thanks, Kevin, for the reply. Aaron Jorbin gave a nice thank-you to us, a nice little reply, so thanks, Aaron.

Christie Chirinos:

I love Aaron.

Joe Howard:

Aaron, shout-out. Brasco… Brasco. There’s no first name in the Twitter account, or maybe Brasco is your first name, there’s no last name? But Brascoder, Brasco, thank you. “Just listened to this episode. Thank you both for using your platform to shed light on the issue.” And Brasco also looks like a minority in the WordPress community, so it’s nice to get some feedback from other folks who are also in our same shoes who listened to the episode, because, you know, there are people from different backgrounds listening, and so it’s nice to get some positive feedback from different folks, which is nice.

Joe Howard:

Joseph Dickinson… Nope, sorry, Joseph Dickson. Messed your name up, Joseph, but I’ll say your name a few times now and give you more shout-outs because I messed your name up, Joseph. Awesome name, Joseph. Your name’s super dope. “The most important WordPress community conversation I’ve listened to in some time.” Thank you, Joe. I don’t know if you like to be called Joe; some people don’t like to go by nicknames. Hannah Smith gave us a nice reply. The Events Calendar gave us a nice reply.

Christie Chirinos:

Oh yeah, I saw that.

Joe Howard:

I’ll read those tweets quickly, because I don’t want to leave them… I read other tweets out, I don’t want to leave them out. Hannah said, “Took the time out to sit down and listen to this episode today, and I’m so glad I did. It was a great convo to be party to, and you did it so well. Kudos to you and a million thank yous.” Heart emoji. Is it a green heart emoji? I like the alternate heart, not just the basic red heart, but a green heart.

Christie Chirinos:

Purple heart, blue heart.

Joe Howard:

Purple heart, blue heart.

Christie Chirinos:

Yellow heart.

Joe Howard:

Events Calendar: “Really great episode, Joe and Christie. Extremely important for the WP community to think about inclusiveness more, especially when it comes to dismantling systematic racism.” They got it. They got the… They listened, they definitely listened, because they nailed that one, pretty much. So, Events Calendar, thank you, appreciate it.

Joe Howard:

I also got some DMs, some folks slid into my DMs because I said… Okay, my direct messages are no longer open, because I don’t leave them open for extenuating periods, because I don’t like to get a ton of direct messages, because I’m… Honestly, it’s not just because it’s spammy a lot of the times, but just because I’m not going to probably read them that much, because I’m not on Twitter all the time. But I did get some messages as well. Taco Verdo sent me a very nice direct message. It’s pretty similarly in the vein of what other people sent me. It was a direct message, so I’m not going to read it, because it was not a public tweet, it’s a direct message. So, Taco, I’m not trying to not give you a shout-out. I super appreciate the message; I just want to be cognizant of your privacy. It’s a direct message, so I’m not going to read it, but thank you, Taco, for the equally as awesome feedback I got from other places. Last-

Christie Chirinos:

I got a message from Taco too, but I wanted to let you give the shout-out, but thank you, Taco. Your message meant a lot to me

Joe Howard:

Oh, okay. You get a double shout-out, Taco, nice job, nice work. Thank you. And honestly, this is a good moment to give a little bit of feedback for everybody. We both got direct messages from Taco. We both loved Taco before, but now we super love Taco. So a really easy way to make good friends in the WordPress community is like, “Hey, I saw this thing you did. Nice job.” It really takes 10 seconds, and it really can connect you with someone. So, Taco, you’re at the top of my list now, buddy. Thank you.

Joe Howard:

Cory Miller gave us some nice shares, he shared us in the Post Status group. We got some nice shares in this episode. We’ve got a share in the Post Status newsletter, which you should for sure subscribe to, and the MasterWP newsletter, which you should for sure subscribe to, and the Repository newsletter, which is sent out by MailPoet, which you should also subscribe to. So, it was nice to see it get shared around a lot. I think that sharing is indicative of saying, “I agree with something, and I think this should be put out there in the world, and I want to share with my audience,” and that gives positive… It’s not just like pushing a button to say “I’m sharing this,” it’s like, “I have some agreeance with that.”

Christie Chirinos:

We might say sharing is caring.

Joe Howard:

Ooh, sharing is caring, on this episode of Barney, or Sesame Street. So, yeah. That’s all we wanted to say about the episode, just give some people some shout-outs and thank you for the positive feedback on it. Yeah, we may do some more episodes like that in the future. We’ll try to stick to monthly recurring revenue-related stuff, but these are important topics, and we want to talk about monthly recurring revenue, but we want to talk about what’s most important right now in the WordPress space, so, glad we got to do that episode, and we appreciate all the positive feedback. So, woo.

Joe Howard:

Okay, Q&A episode. Episode 100 was a Q&A episode, and episode 100 and… whatever episode this is going to be, 5, 6, something, I don’t know, will also be a Q&A episode. So, we got some nice questions to go through. Christie, are you ready?

Christie Chirinos:

I love Q&A episodes. I’m ready, these are my favorite.

Joe Howard:

All right, sweet. First Q&A… First Q, and we’ll give the A. First question is from Nate Hoffelder. Nate’s in DC with us, so… A lot of shout-outs this episode, shout-out Nate, thanks for the question. Nate’s question is, “Does everyone here…” Or, “Do folks have a plan for if they get hit by a car?” is pretty much the question. There’s also a follow-up question which is like, “Who doesn’t have one?” which I think is also an interesting part to the question, because there’s stuff to talk about around having an “if you get hit by a bus” or “if you get hit by a car” plan, and people who don’t, why don’t you, and what do you… Do you need one? What should be included in it? So it’s kind of two pieces of the same question, but a super-interesting one. Christie, you want to give an answer for… Do you have one? I don’t know, do you?

Christie Chirinos:

I have so many thoughts on this one. Bus factor. The bus factor is real, and bus factor is a huge business risk that you need to be aware of, and that it takes a lot of humility to work through. You are not forever, you are not invincible. You could go down any second, and whatever you’ve created doesn’t only belong to you, it also belongs to your team, your users, your customers, your investors if you have them, your vendors. And if you don’t have a bus factor plan, you need to make one, because figuring out how things are going to continue to exist without you is, in my opinion, the ultimate goal of what we’re doing here with WPMRR.

Christie Chirinos:

With that said, the “Who doesn’t have one?” bit of this question really gets me, because-

Joe Howard:

Me too.

Christie Chirinos:

… because I actually know someone who straight-up got hit by a car.

Joe Howard:

Oh man, [crosstalk 00:19:36].

Christie Chirinos:

Like, was biking down a bridge and got hit by a car going 55 miles an hour, and they were knocked off this bicycle.

Joe Howard:

[crosstalk 00:19:48].

Christie Chirinos:

If they hadn’t been wearing a helmet, they would’ve died. And he was incapacitated for three months, he had several concussions, he couldn’t take care of himself for three months. And let me tell you that no plan that you have for getting hit by a car is enough of a plan.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, [crosstalk 00:20:08], totally.

Christie Chirinos:

It is just the kind of thing that when it happens, you’re just flying by the seat of your pants. You can plan for this, and I don’t know that he had a plan, right? But just the severity of this type of situation, of anything that incapacitates you for several months. I want to tell you that I think at the time, this friend of mine was in pharmacy school, and it was like, yeah, there’s definitely a bus factor risk of being in pharmacy school, also known as “What if you get hit by a car and then can’t continue?” But when he was in bed, unable to take care of himself, his entire family was coming together to take care of him for the next three months, no one was thinking about pharmacy school. And chances are that if you got hit by a car, literally, you would not be thinking about your business as much as you would be thinking about your physical survival.

Christie Chirinos:

With that said, bus factor risk in business is extremely important to consider, because even if people don’t literally get hit by a car, we don’t want to create dependencies on single people. What do you do about this, Joe, at WP Buffs? You have more of a problem with this than I do now.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, that’s true. I do want to ask more from your side, because even as a teammate and employee, it’s important, your role is… Like, what if no one’s doing… What if you’re not there for the next month? Who picks up the pieces? How do other people pick up the pieces? There’s a lot of systems questions there. But I’ll go into how I think about things at WP Buffs.

Joe Howard:

You’re also very right, especially at big companies, they have… It’s like C-suite insurance. It’s literally an insurance you can go get, and it’s pretty fucking expensive. Like, think about Automattic. Matt Mullenweg has… They probably pay tens of thousands of dollars a month for insurance on Matt, because if something happens to him, he’s a huge part of Automattic. They get a payout, it’s insurance. It’s probably the same with a lot of big companies; WP Engine I’m sure has a lot of this stuff. Any big company that you’re thinking in the WordPress space definitely has insurance, especially on C-suite employees. So it’s a real thing; you can literally get insurance for this.

Joe Howard:

We don’t have that insurance; I don’t have that insurance for us, speaking honestly. But we do have things in place so that if I’m incapacitated suddenly, things will be okay. Interestingly, we’ve done episodes before about how to take a three-week vacation; that was one of our first 10 episodes I think we did. We’ve done a lot of episodes about how to decouple yourself from being super required to do day-to-day stuff at your work, and being able to replace yourself pretty easily.

Joe Howard:

So, a lot of this is actually stuff you should be thinking about on a regular basis, regardless of if you get hit by a car or not. You should be making sure other people can do your job if they need to and be flexible around that. It’s one of the reasons why we’re very big on forcing people to take vacations and forcing people to take time off, because it’s not only good for that person’s mental health to take some time away, but it helps other people have to take up those persons’ responsibilities. It gives people more responsibilities and more ability to be promoted and stuff. So, it’s actually good for everybody, so that’s something you can think about, because if that person gets hit by a bus 10 days after they get back from vacation, well, someone else was ready to pick up their stuff already. So, that’s something.

Joe Howard:

Another thing, just from a practical standpoint, is have health insurance coverage for yourself and your employees. If you get hit by a car and you have $50,000 in medical expenses, and you’re a contractor, you’re a little bit screwed. That’s something you’re going to have to pay out for the next 10 years of your life, maybe, if you don’t have health insurance. That’s crazy. So, I think that if you’re not majorly successful financially or whatever-

Christie Chirinos:

If you’re not in the US.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, [inaudible 00:24:19] not in the US. If you’re a leader of your company, have health insurance for US employees. Cover health care expenses for your international employees. A lot of international outside the US people have state-sponsored health care, but they still have to pay for it. Pay whatever their $200 a month for health care coverage is. We do that for all our employees, even international ones, and for US ones, we have full US coverage, and really good health insurance. We’re hiring right now, so come talk to me if you are looking for a new team to join. But have health insurance; that’s just a… That’s an important thing for if you get hit by a car, I think, a pretty practical one too.

Joe Howard:

The last thing I’ll say here is just, it kind of goes with the other thing I was just mentioning, but most… Especially for leadership positions, but for most positions, you should probably have a junior to you who’s learning to do what you do. There’s not that much that I do at WP Buffs that’s like “Joe has to do this.” There’s some marketing stuff that I’m the best at, for sure; there’s some decision-making that I’m the best at, for sure. But if I wasn’t here, someone else could, and especially a group of other people could come together and make probably about as good a decision as I could. I mean, the amount of times I’ve made a decision and part of my leadership team has been like, “Nope, that’s not what we should do,” and I’ve been like, “Yup, you’re right, thank you for letting me know,” is a ton of times.

Joe Howard:

So, I think for me, it’s having Nick around, especially, but Dean also. I mean, they’re both people I rely on heavily all the time, and the more I rely on them, the more responsibility and accountability over work they can have, the more they give back to WP Buffs, and the more ready they are to be leaders at WP Buffs. And they are, and have been for a long time, so I’m far from the only leader here at WP Buffs, and probably not the most important piece of the equation, and that’s been… I’ve done that purposefully, not just it just happened to happen. I was like, Nick and Dean are going to be more central to our core competencies than I am. Also, they’re just super great at what they do, and there wasn’t really another thing that could’ve happened. Like, I couldn’t have stopped it if I tried. They’re too good at what they do.

Joe Howard:

So, yeah. I mean, those are some, I guess, somewhat practical things to have in place. But now we’re talking about insurance. I probably should have some sort of additional insurance for if I get hit by something. I think that’s probably a pretty good idea, but… Yeah, I don’t know. What do you think, slash what are maybe some systems you have at Liquid Web that are helpful?

Christie Chirinos:

I agree with everything you said. I think that for people who are curious about this or have never maybe even considered it before, I deeply, deeply encourage you to Google “bus factor,” right? Talks about this particular type of business risk-

Joe Howard:

Bus factor. I never heard of that specifically, but it’s a good term [crosstalk 00:27:13], okay.

Christie Chirinos:

It’s a term, yup, that’s a term, that’s a term. It talks about the specific type of business risk, how to overcome it. It’s a very well-documented phenomenon, because… And this is kind of what you wanted me to talk about, was even in large companies, this is a problem, because if you have one person who is very central to a lot of processes and a lot of stuff lives in their head, if something happens to them, that can bring down hundreds of people, right? So bus factor business risk is something very important, and that’s literally what it’s called, and it’s called that because it’s the “What if you get hit by a bus?” type situation, right?

Christie Chirinos:

This has especially gone out into the entrepreneurship and startup spaces, because obviously, bus factor is massive with founders. But it can be really key with, say, directors of engineering; it can be very key with product leads. Product leads have big bus factor. And especially, for example, my role, I am not a product manager, I’m the product manager for the product line for Managed WooCommerce at Nexcess, which means that with me, if we weren’t doing things correctly, there could be some bus factor. There could be things about Managed WooCommerce that only live in my head, and that if I got hit by a bus, knock on wood, then we would possibly have some difficulty, right?

Christie Chirinos:

And so, how do we overcome that? Well, we collaborate on teams, right? I work on a team, and my team knows what I’m working on every day. So, if I got hit by a bus, my team together can take over, and that goes back to what you were saying about how bus factor for founders eventually turns into a leadership team can make decisions that that person would’ve traditionally made, right? So, maybe we work a little bit less efficiently because we’re going from one person singularly making decisions to a group of people coming together to make decisions. But groups of people make optimal decisions a lot of the time when they come in with different types of expertise, so that can be really helpful.

Christie Chirinos:

And then another thing that I do, because I’m particularly conscious of this type of problem, is I document everything. When I come up… I have this one Google Doc that it’s just my job, and when I come up with new things or new rules or new places to do things, I just jot them down in a little list. And that also makes the process of handing off work, whether for vacation or to move on to your next role, a lot easier, because then you can just be like, “Hey, here’s the thing. I documented all the stuff that I’m doing. This should give you what you need to get started.”

Joe Howard:

Yeah. Yeah, documenting’s big about that too. It’s a big reason why documenting’s so important, you know, obviously to get systems down, be more efficient at things, and share information, but part of sharing information is like, if something happens to one person, everybody has access to it. Definitely something we probably don’t do a good enough job at. We’re actually doing a big revamp on all our documentation right now and making it better, and getting one real central hub for it. That’s something I’ve written down… Actually, also just emailed the guy who manages… He’s our broker, he manages all our insurance and stuff like that, and I asked him about this insurance, so I will be looking more into this as well.

Joe Howard:

I know small businesses, there is insurance you can apply for as a small business to… It’s like business insurance. It’s around this kind of thing, like if I get incapacitated or something, so there’s not… It’s not just for big companies. I think there are also smaller-company versions of it, or maybe it’s just you just pay less because you’re a smaller company or something. I don’t know exactly how they… I’d have to do some more research into seeing exactly how they calculate it, but that’s definitely something people should look into. “Business insurance for founders” would be what I would Google to check this out if you’re a smaller business or freelancer with your own little LLC, definitely something to look into. So, cool, nice, good answers, Christie. I think that was pretty good.

Christie Chirinos:

Awesome.

Joe Howard:

All right, next question. This next question is from Daniele Besana. Thanks for the question, Daniele. I think it’s Daniele, I think is how you pronounce it, D-A-N-I-E-L-E.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah.

Joe Howard:

So, Daniele.

Christie Chirinos:

That’s like Italian Daniel.

Joe Howard:

It’s just the spelling on that. Yeah, it’s a non-English spelling, so, sorry, Daniele. But I think I got it right.

Christie Chirinos:

I went to high school with a guy named Daniele with an E at the end, and everybody called him Danielle, and he was like, “No, it’s Daniele.”

Joe Howard:

He was like, “Goddammit.”

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah.

Joe Howard:

Well, I’m glad… See, your experience is coming very important here to the [crosstalk 00:31:56].

Christie Chirinos:

Thank you, Daniele.

Joe Howard:

“Hello, folks.” Okay, so this is kind of a subscription versus one-time support question. Daniele asks, “Nine out of ten leads ask for a one-time quote and are not interested in a subscription. At this stage, we only want subscriptions, so we consider them out of scope. I’m trying to figure out if it is a normal ratio, or if we’re attracting the wrong leads. Do you have any experience that most of the people don’t want a subscription? Any input is appreciated.”

Joe Howard:

So, this is kind of more support-related for me, because hosting companies don’t get, probably, people asking for one-time stuff, but maybe in your support, you do get a good amount of people asking for, like, “I need help with this WordPress thing, can you help?” This was specifically for, like, “I’m selling care plans, and I get people asking, ‘I just need help with this one thing, can you help?'” But I think we can probably both have interesting answers to this, because again, I’m sure you get support that’s totally outside the scope as a hosting company, and I know a lot of hosting companies do. So, what about for a hosting company, Christie? Obviously you do subscription billing, and you want to get people on subscriptions. Do you get asked for one-time support a lot? And if so, what do you do with the one-time help ask?

Christie Chirinos:

I have a lot of thoughts on this, because yeah, we do, actually, fun fact. With hosting, when we get asked for “one-time quotes,” what ends up happening, really, is somebody has the specific length of engagement, and they don’t want to sign up for something recurring, so they’re like, “Can I just pay for a chunk of time at once?” Usually a year, right?

Joe Howard:

Of hosting.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative). So, we actually do have annual billing, but it’s annual recurring. So you can get billed annually if you want, you’ll get a discount for doing it.

Joe Howard:

As opposed to monthly?

Christie Chirinos:

Right.

Joe Howard:

Yes.

Christie Chirinos:

You’ll get a discount for doing it, because obviously, money now is better than money in the future. And a lot of the time, people will say, “Oh, can it be just this year?” and it’s like, no. “Well, why?” And that goes back into the core of this question, which is, because when you’re selling a subscription, you are selling ongoing value. To me, you getting this question indicates that you’re not communicating your ongoing value. I don’t know what Daniele’s website looks like or what types of content he’s putting out that’s attracting leads, but if your marketing clearly states, “This is the way in which we’re going to help you from now until the future, this is what you’re going to get for your entire life every month from us,” then people don’t ask, “Oh, but can I just get it one time?”

Christie Chirinos:

And then, when they say, “Can I just get it one time?” you can easily turn the conversation around and be like, “No, no, no, the benefit of this is that you continue to get it. Look at all these new things that happen every month. Look at all of these ways in which we save you time and continue to build upon the thing that you’re paying on each month due to your monthly subscription. The product gets better, the services get deeper. We get to know you better.” Because the reality is that if you’re selling something that’s just kind of the same every month, of course they only want to buy it one time and then kind of get over it, right? You have to continue to keep building.

Christie Chirinos:

You asked about out-of-scope support requests in hosting, and yeah, we get those all the time, right? There are people that specialize in one-offs like this, and that is what they want, and we keep a directory of them, but it’s not what we do. Right? That is a type of product, and that product itself has been productized in a way; it’s just not what we do, and we have an entire partner directory where we can send people and say, “Hey, this person needs help with this one particular thing, they want to build out this one particular feature.” The reality is that a lot of the time, when you’re looking at things that are one-offs, one-offs are rarely one-offs. How many things in this life do you really, truly, only need to do one time? Very few.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, I totally agree with that. I think people who come for one-off help often are going to need help on an ongoing basis. The challenge you have as a business owner is, how much time is it going to take to educate that customer on the value enough, to the point of getting them to buy a subscription? And is that worth your cost of acquisition cost in terms of education? Because education is one of the most expensive customer acquisition costs. If you have to educate everybody who comes to you that they need to go from one-time to subscription and then close them, that’s going to take a ton of resources and time.

Joe Howard:

I agree with what you said, Christie, about just messaging and marketing and copy. I think that Daniele said nine out of ten people come to him for one-time support. To me, that’s, yeah, one of two, probably, issues it’s most likely. One is either targeting the wrong kinds of customer or the wrong kind of target market, where they’re people who just need one-time support. So you may have the wrong traffic coming to your website, so if you wrote a blog post about where to go to find a freelancer for the help on that one small issue, and you get a lot of traffic to that blog post, and people are contacting you, well, probably it’s because they were searching Google for “How do I find one-time help?” and then they came to you.

Joe Howard:

So, that would be an example of just targeting… And I’ve never seen Daniele’s website before, but… This is totally an example, but that would be an example of writing a blog post that actually targeted the wrong kind of customer for you. When you’re looking for subscription customers, you want to write more blog posts like what we do at WP Buffs, like “How do you make more monthly recurring revenue?” “What tools can I implement on my site to actually capture subscriptions?” There’s more subscription-related stuff you can write.

Joe Howard:

So, that’s one thing, is just the targeting aspect, and then the second is the actual copy on your website, and the way in which you’re selling your services and subscriptions, which is kind of what you were talking about, Christie. It’s like, you don’t want to be talking about one-time support on your sales pages. You want to be talking about the subscriptions you offer, and educate people on the website, because that’s a much more scalable way to educate people than having to talk with every single customer and explain the difference between one-time and subscription. Explain it really nicely on your website, maybe have a video about subscriptions. The more you can talk about the subscription service, the more you’re going to attract people who are interested in a technical partner or whatever, a subscription, and the less you’ll have to talk to people who want one-time help, because they’ll get the message.

Joe Howard:

This is a challenge. We still get a good amount of people that come and ask for one-time support. And it’s annoying, I’m not going to lie. It’s a little annoying. Did you not read anything on the website? We talk about subscriptions everywhere, and people are like, “Maybe I missed it. Maybe they do do one-time support, maybe I should ask them.” Which I get; I shouldn’t make fun of them with that voice. You’re allowed to ask for one-time help, that’s fine. We just don’t do it, if you’re listening. Don’t ask for one-time help, we don’t do it.

Christie Chirinos:

“Oh. Oh, right.”

Joe Howard:

Yeah. But that’s part of business, also. You’re never going to target a hundred percent the right people. It’s a long-time play, you have to change, you have to adapt, you have to improve. The goal for good customers is to continue to try and attract good customers. How do you attract more people like that? And you can talk to your current customers: “Hey, what else do you need? What else can we build to help you more around subscription stuff?” That’s a good way to attract more people like the subscription customers you already have.

Joe Howard:

What do you do with the people who come to you that are asking for one-time support? For me, I like to keep them in my universe. Like, I like them to be subscribed to my email list, I like for them to read our blog. I want to help them; it’s not like I don’t want to help them. That’s cool. And maybe over the long term, we’ll educate them. But I also don’t want to spend high price time on them. I don’t want to spend five hours trying to sell them on something if they’re not going to end up buying it. I want to attract people who are interested in a subscription so I can spend one hour selling them, and get them in, and get their lifetime value up.

Joe Howard:

I always say, get the people you… Look for your red flag metrics, like people asking for one-time support, that’s a red flag metric for us. Get those people out of your direct sales funnel and get them into your long-term sales funnel, or your education funnel, or your email list, and you’re sending them out more podcast episode or blog posts. And then maybe in a year, they’re like, “Oh, I have like 10,000 visitors a month on my blog now. I need someone to manage it, because I’ve got to work on growing it. This could be a big thing.” Maybe at that point, they’ll be ready. So, that’s some of my advice, and I think that hopefully is helpful. That’s how we think about it at WP Buffs, how I think about it at WP Buffs, anyway.

Christie Chirinos:

Agreed.

Joe Howard:

Sweet. Okay, we could do one more question. Do you have time, Christie, or do you have a… time?

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, I have one more question, although I feel a little bit of shyness around this one. I’m going to let you go first.

Joe Howard:

Okay, I will go first.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah.

Joe Howard:

And you can comment if you’d like to, but you don’t have to. This is our podcast, Christie, we do what we want. You talk about stuff, you don’t talk about stuff, whatever. This question is… And let me do a quick little search to make sure I know who it is. It’s from Terry Loving. Thank you for the question, Terry. Also, excellent last name.

Christie Chirinos:

Loving.

Joe Howard:

My son, Morrison, his middle name is Loving as well, and so, excellent name choice there. I won’t tell the whole story about the middle name, but same middle name, so Terry, super appreciate you. Terry’s question is, “Wondering what advantage you find working with ConvertKit versus others.”

Joe Howard:

I will tell my quick story about ConvertKit. I love ConvertKit for certain reasons, and I also dislike it for other reasons, and let me talk a little bit about that, because I love… Let me talk first about the reason why I love ConvertKit. I love ConvertKit because it solved a really big pain point for us and for a ton of people by doing a few things really, really well. We used to use Mailchimp, like three years ago, and it just didn’t have simple… Like, how do I get a list of people tagged with this thing, or segmented with this thing? It had horrible tagging and segmentation, and I just wanted to say, “If someone clicks this link, it tags them as someone who uses WooCommerce.” Like, they clicked on “10 WooCommerce strategies to use,” it tags them as WooCommerce, so when I send a WooCommerce email out, I can just send it to those people.

Joe Howard:

Mailchimp was shit at doing that, totally horrible. And maybe they’re better at it now, I haven’t used Mailchimp in three years, so I won’t totally shit on them right now. But ConvertKit did it awesome and made it so easy, so I was like, “Let’s use ConvertKit.” Like, tagging and segmenting are done so well, it’s perfect.

Joe Howard:

But they also do some things that I would expect better of a somewhat big bootstrapped company, like a company that starts revenue-funded and doesn’t raise money, and makes it to… Like, we just crossed a million-dollar-a-year barrier, which has been pretty cool, so it’s like, “Yeah, we hit this cool milestone of a million dollars at WP Buffs.” ConvertKit is at, like… I think they do like $2 million a month, so they’re at like $25 million a year as a bootstrap company, which is pretty big for a bootstrap software company. Not the biggest, but significant size. They should be doing, like, have a better editor. The editor is pretty wonky, and some text doesn’t come through the right size in email. So, it’s totally not perfect. There’s definitely things I think they could work on and do better at.

Joe Howard:

But they do great things in terms of email, tagging, and segmenting, and if you just want to have a sub-list of people of your whole list that are of a certain… something special about them, they clicked on a WooCommerce, or maybe they run a membership site. Or for us, we do direct customers, are they an agency, are they a freelancer? Those are important for sales. And to monetize an email list, this is kind of a best practice, but it’s also, I feel like it’s pretty true, is you have to segment our email list into somewhat relevant areas so that you can send people things that they want. If you just send every email to every person, you’re going to have higher unsubscribe rates, you’re going to have higher people not really reading everything, and that’s bad for your send rate, it’s bad for your emails not going into junk and appearing in the main inbox tab and stuff.

Joe Howard:

So, you want good click-through rates, and you want good open rates, and that kind of stuff, so segmenting your email list helps with that. Plus, it’s just like, you send people what they want, just like… So many people don’t do that, it’s like… I don’t subscribe to almost any email things, because most of them are pretty bad at targeting me. But there’s also people that don’t follow that rule and just send one email out to everyone, like Matcha WP, I’m pretty sure they send just their newsletter out to everybody every week, and it’s great, but that’s their shtick, it’s like, “We send a newsletter out.” It’s not like… You know, there’s not as much targeted sales stuff like we’re doing.

Joe Howard:

So, that would be my big advantage of ConvertKit, is tagging and segmenting. Also, you can create nice rules so that if someone’s tagged as this, they’ll be added to this sequence. It’s all around tagging and segmenting email lists that I think is really powerful for ConvertKit. And I think that this is one of those companies that… I really like ConvertKit, even though I have a few issues with them. I like ConvertKit a lot. I like their team, I like their founder story, which is like… “I’m going to shut this down, it’s not really working,” and someone was like, “You should actually double down on it and do it.” “Okay,” and now it’s a $25 million company. It’s a pretty cool story. You should go and check out that story.

Joe Howard:

But anyway, I think ConvertKit, if you’re looking to… If segmenting and tagging email subscribers as certain things is going to be a big lever for you in terms of monetizing your email list, or having good, happy email subscribers that want to get your emails every week or every day or every month, then ConvertKit, I would definitely try that. I just talked for a long time, and a lot about ConvertKit, but those are my thoughts, and those are, or I think are the advantages, so hopefully that is helpful, Terry. Did you want to add something, Christie, or are you like, “No thanks”?

Christie Chirinos:

No, you said absolutely everything I would’ve said. I started off by saying that I’m feeling shy about this question, because… And I want to start by saying that my opinion of ConvertKit is the same as yours. I love their founder story, I think they’re making such a cool product, it’s so good for segmented email marketing. The tagging system is unbelievably powerful, it’s just really, really well done. Billing is transparent as well, which I love.

Joe Howard:

Yeah.

Christie Chirinos:

But I was feeling shy about this question because my personal experience with ConvertKit was actually that when we started getting more serious about our email marketing program at Caldera WP, we decided to migrate from Mailchimp to ConvertKit, and I found it so difficult to use that I switched back to Mailchimp.

Joe Howard:

Wow, interesting, because totally separate experiences.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah.

Joe Howard:

What about using it was difficult? You’re allowed to have a little bit… Like, this is good feedback for them, if they listen. This is good feedback.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah, if they listen, this is good feedback, and I’d love to talk about it. And what’s funny is, I still have an extremely high opinion of ConvertKit; it’s just that I wasn’t the right user. ConvertKit is very much intended for someone who wants that incredibly powerful tagging system, and wants and has the capacity to get into the minutiae of absolutely targeted segmentation. And for me, that cost-benefit was a little bit off. It was so much work, and I just needed segmentation that was level two, not level seven. And I was already seeing the kinds of lists that I wanted from basic segmentation, and I didn’t have the marketing team in place to get into advanced segmentation of my users. And so, I found ConvertKit to be overkill for what I wanted to do, and I ended up bringing everybody back, because I was working with a bunch of contractors, and it was easier to contract out Mailchimp work than it was to contract out ConvertKit work.

Joe Howard:

Gotcha.

Christie Chirinos:

And a lot of my team and my users, especially working on a form plugin, were deeply, deeply visual people, so form design and things like that went a really long way. Email design, image design, and those things tended to be easier in Mailchimp. And I think that if anything, this is a lesson for our listeners on… Your product can be the most amazing product at its stated value proposition, and it’s still not going to be right for someone, and that’s okay. You don’t have to fight to get the people who aren’t right for you; different products are right for different people, and that’s why we have a large variety of products to choose from out there.

Joe Howard:

Yeah. I totally agree with that. I think if people from ConvertKit are listening, they may actually be like, “Good.” I don’t actually consider Mailchimp and ConvertKit to be super-direct competitors, because I think… The way I think about it is like, Mailchimp is level one, like you start at Mailchimp. Most people do. Then level two is ConvertKit; if you want, have a team, and you’re doing more advanced stuff, you’d go to ConvertKit.

Joe Howard:

And then to me, I actually had the same issue as you did, but I’m maybe one level up, because I was choosing, I think, between level two and level three, and level three would be like ActiveCampaign, which I was looking at, and I had a sales call with them, two sales calls with them. And it was super expensive, and I was like, “But it does so much cool stuff,” but at the end of the day, I was like, “This is too fucking complicated. There is no way I’m going to be able to…” Managing this requires me to have a full-time, maybe not just a full-time marketer, but a full-time marketing team to manage just the organization around ActiveCampaign.

Joe Howard:

I think it’s super powerful, but that was my reason I didn’t go with them and I went with ConvertKit, was because I thought ConvertKit’s level two, I get this. As a marketer myself, my marketing skills are pretty good, and I can understand exactly what ConvertKit’s doing. It’s pretty simple for me. But ActiveCampaign, I was like… If it’s too complicated, I’m not going to do it, or I’m not going to understand it, or I’m not going to want to understand it, and I’m going to get frustrated, so I need it to be simple for me to be able to do it as well.

Joe Howard:

So, I think, I totally get where you’re coming from, Christie, and I think that that’s a really good point, actually. I’m super glad you brought that up, because I think, Terry, if you’re thinking about ConvertKit, yeah, you should probably have some segmenting and tag experience to want to go and to do more of that work. I think someone who’s a beginner could go and learn it, but it will take time to figure out how ConvertKit works, and all those things. Maybe there’s some… I’m sure there’s some YouTube videos out there that could help in all that stuff. But that’s a really good point, Christie, of ConvertKit’s probably like… I don’t know if I’d call it level two and Mailchimp level one, but it’s definitely level 1.5.

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah.

Joe Howard:

Like, it’s at least a half step up from Mailchimp. And I’ve heard Mailchimp now actually does segmenting and tags much better than it did when I was using it.

Christie Chirinos:

A lot more advanced than they did when I was making these [inaudible 00:52:11] for sure.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, okay, so I’ve heard that too. Maybe Mailchimp is good to… Still, if people aren’t super interested in… If you just want to send an email out to some folks, Mailchimp might be a good place to start. ConvertKit is like, once you’ve gotten your sea legs under you, maybe you move to ConvertKit. Maybe you start on ConvertKit if you’re feeling saucy, but if not, then Mailchimp’s fine too.

Christie Chirinos:

Use both.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, exactly.

Christie Chirinos:

No, don’t do that, please don’t do that. Please don’t do that. Pick one.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, [crosstalk 00:52:36] whoa, we’re going into Christie’s bad advice here, yeah. Next episode, yeah.

Christie Chirinos:

Bad Advice with Christie Chirinos, yeah.

Joe Howard:

I’d listen to that podcast. Okay, cool. Well, we did three nice, juicy Q&A today, so we can probably wrap it up there. Let’s wrap it up, let’s finish out the episode.

Christie Chirinos:

All right.

Joe Howard:

If people want to have more awesome Q&A episodes like this, you’re more than welcome to shoot them in to yo@wpmrr.com. We really like to do these Q&A episodes, and yeah, it’d be fun to do some more. People can binge the episodes. Right, Christie? Should they go and do some binging?

Christie Chirinos:

Yeah. Get into your podcast app and sort from oldest to newest, and hit Play. Bam.

Joe Howard:

Ooh. Does mine do that?

Christie Chirinos:

100 hours of content.

Joe Howard:

I don’t even know if mine does that. Is that a thing, you can sort different ways? I don’t think I… I think mine automatically sorts by newest to oldest. You can do it different ways, I guess.

Christie Chirinos:

Really? I think you can usually flip it, at least you can on the Google Podcasts app.

Joe Howard:

Okay. I use Downcast, so I don’t know, maybe they have ways. I’ll check it out.

Christie Chirinos:

Maybe it can. I don’t really know.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, do what Christie said, order and listen. But maybe… Yeah, go check out our first episode. That’d be a trip. [crosstalk 00:54:01], probably didn’t know anything then. What else? Reviews, oh yeah. Hey, we love those. If you want to give us a nice review-

Christie Chirinos:

Please.

Joe Howard:

… that would be super awesome. It helps us in a bunch of different ways, actually. Obviously, it helps us get found in the iTunes store, that’s nice. It makes us feel good and want us to do more episodes, which is awesome. It also actually gives us really good feedback for new episode ideas, so if you leave a comment like, “Hey, I loved this, would love…” Like, “Love this topic, five stars,” we’ll do more topics about that. So, all it takes is a quick wpmrr.com/itunes, and just leave a little five-star review. That would be super splendid.

Christie Chirinos:

Just a little five-star review.

Joe Howard:

A little five-star review. Wpmrr.com, some big news coming out around wpmrr.com. I don’t know when this episode’s going to launch, so I’m not going to say anything right now, but-

Christie Chirinos:

Ooh, mysterious.

Joe Howard:

… if it’s out there, you’ll know about it. We’re launching a new Twitter account for WPMRR, and I’ll tweet about it. Like, it’ll be out there in the sphere of WordPress. So, come and look around for WPMRR stuff, and we’d love to see it. So, mystery closed, end mystery. Code text. Cool, you can tell I’m not [inaudible 00:55:24] because I don’t even know how to say that. We will be in your podcast players again next Tuesday. All right, see you, Christie.

Christie Chirinos:

All right, bye.

Podcast

E103 – Darth Sidious on everything podcasting (Joe Casabona, podcastliftoff.com)

Can’t decide which podcast format to use? Darth Sidious has come to your rescue.

Today on the WPMRR podcast, Joe is joined by Joe Casabona, an online course creator, podcast host, and web developer, to talk about podcasting from scratch, professional audio editing, and repurposing content for different mediums. 

Listen in for some pro podcasting tips!

Episode Resources:


Joe Howard:

Hey hey, good WordPress people. Welcome back to the WPMRR WordPress Podcast. I’m Joe.

Joe Casabona:

And I am Darth Sidious.

Joe Howard:

And you’re listening to the WordPress Business Podcast. Darth Sidious on the pod this week. I love when people pick dark characters or evil characters, because most people pick the good characters. But you went with a dark one this time. You were BBA last time. You get to be a bad character this time. What’s going on?

Joe Casabona:

Not too much. Yeah, Darth Sidious, that choice is brought to you by my daughter, who tends to also like the dark characters.

Joe Howard:

Nice.

Joe Casabona:

She loves Darth Vader and Darth Sidious and Count Dooku. Got to represent the Sid.

Joe Howard:

Totally. The dark characters have a place in this too. It’s this balance of good and evil. You can’t have all the good without some of the evil as well. Plus, some of those evil characters are some of the coolest. They have some of the coolest makeup and costume stuff, so I’m down with that. It sounds cool.

Joe Casabona:

Sidious is just a… talk about bad guy who executed his plan nearly perfectly, over the span of like 60 or 70 years. Just impressive.

Joe Howard:

That is totally true, yeah. Almost exactly, nailed it exactly over a long period of time. He was senator. Man, he played the game pretty well, you have to admit, even though he was a bad character. Darth Sidious on the podcast this week, also known as the one and only, the great and powerful Joe Casabona. What’s going on, Joe?

Joe Casabona:

Not too much, I’m good. I’m glad we could get together back on the pod. I’m glad to be here.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, man. It’s your second time on the pod. Man, we’ve known each other for a long time. It even seems weird to talk about how we met and that stuff, because we’ve known each other in the WordPress space for so long. You’re always up to something new in the WordPress community, or with your WordPress work. People can go and listen to your last episode and hear about all of the amazing stuff you do in WordPress. Maybe let’s do an update. Tell people some of the new stuff you’re working on now.

Joe Casabona:

Yeah. The things that I do mostly these days are podcasting, course, and video creation. As we record this, I am sending the last of my new book to layout with my publisher. I’ve got a book coming out on HTML and CSS that’s being published through Pearson. I’ll be happy to wrap that up. As we record this, I’ll have a second child on the way very soon.

Joe Howard:

That is a big new thing for sure. Listeners know I’ve got a six-month-old at home now. I’ve got number one. You, Joe, were actually one of the people I was talking to before Morrison was born being like, “Okay, what’s it like to have a baby? Can you still work? Can you do anything? What’s going on?” You were one of those people that definitely guided me through this. Hey, if we decide we want a second at some point, I guess you can be my guide again. Tell me about what it’s like to have two. Let’s start there. How are you feeling? Are you feeling a little nervous? Are you kind of feeling cool, calm, collected? What’s going on in your head right now?

Joe Casabona:

I’m feeling a little bit nervous because I have two major projects I need to wrap up, pretty much before my son comes. That added pressure, because I don’t want to work once he’s here. Especially because it’ll be, now we’re going to have to switch to man to man defense, because we’ll have two. I want to be there as a supportive father and a supportive husband. I don’t want to be distracted by the major projects. I’m going to barrel through and get all this done, so I can be fully present when my son is born.

Joe Howard:

Yeah. That’s always a little bit stressful, because you don’t really know when the baby is coming. Sure, it could be right at nine months, or nine and a half months. But also, it could be a little bit early. When does the deadline come? Correct me if I’m wrong, but your wife is expecting in the next couple weeks, few weeks here. You have kind of a deadline here coming up, right?

Joe Casabona:

Yeah, she is 39 weeks today as we record this.

Joe Howard:

Wow.

Joe Casabona:

The due date is exactly one week from today. Theresa was right on time. She was born at 11:06 P.M. the day before her due date, so just an hour before her due date, because Casabonas are always on time. He could come early, or he could be right on time. But yeah, we’re in crunch time right now.

Joe Howard:

Nice. All right, well, by the time this episode goes live, you will probably have two kids. You’ll have your new one here. If you’re listening to this episode, go and give Joe a congratulations. You can probably hit him up on Twitter. He’s just JCasabona, right?

Joe Casabona:

That is correct. Thank you.

Joe Howard:

No problem, yeah. Give him a little shoutout. I’ll be on Twitter. I’ll be like, “Hey, Joe. How you doing? Everything good?” Man, two is more than one. I like that expression that people say. Going from one person, you have one kid at home. You have one person in the game. One person is on the bench getting a breather, or you have two on one. Now it’s one on one.

Joe Casabona:

It’s one on one.

Joe Howard:

The next step is totally zone defense.

Joe Casabona:

You’ve got to go zone defense, yeah. My father-in-law said you’re not a real parent until you have three. I’m like, “Great.”

Joe Howard:

You think your skills are advanced with one or two. Oh yeah, just try juggling with three. Cool, well, congratulations, Joe. That’s really exciting for you, man. I’m pumped.

Joe Casabona:

Thank you.

Joe Howard:

Finishing up a few projects before that gets done. Obviously you’re a podcaster. People know you as being a podcaster in the WordPress space. How I Built It is pretty popular. Now you’re not just running a podcast, but you’re actually helping other people with podcast stuff too, which I think is pretty cool. Tell us a little bit about the kind of work you’re doing there too.

Joe Casabona:

Yeah, for sure. I’ve been podcasting for seven years or so now. I’ve had a successful one for… it’s for years this month actually that I launched How I Built It.

Joe Howard:

Nice.

Joe Casabona:

That’s been a lot of fun. I do get a lot of questions around, how do I start a podcast? What do I do? How did you grow? And things like that. How are you making money? At first, I figured that the market was pretty saturated with podcasting courses, because lots of people have those. I decided to just launch a build your podcast website course. Then I realized that nobody needed a website for a thing that they didn’t have.

Joe Casabona:

If we’re going back to the Star Wars analogy, I was sending Luke to fight Darth Vader, not without mastery of the force, without a light saber. I was just like, “Go fight Darth Vader.” I took a step back, and I created a new course called Podcast Liftoff that shows you everything you need to do to plan, produce, and publish your podcast. Then you get the website course for free. Once you have your show, if you want to build your own website, then you can.

Joe Howard:

Cool. It’s everything podcasting. I remember starting this podcast, and it was a lot of work. It was a lot of stuff to do, and a lot of things I didn’t know. When you’re going through and saying, “Okay, I have an idea for a podcast.” Okay, how do you get from I have a great idea for a podcast, I’m motivated, I want to go do this. Actually get from there to having your podcast on all the players, and having a system down for how you’re publishing? What’s my content about? How am I targeting an audience and giving valuable content? Am I planning out each episode? How do I edit my audio? Those are all questions I had to answer along the way. I remember totally flying by the seam of my pants and being like, “This is the decision I’m making today. This is the decision I’m making tomorrow.”

Joe Howard:

It would’ve probably been helpful to have a pretty good guide of someone who has done it before, and has run a successful podcast. Maybe our next podcast will have a little bit more help doing it this time. I’d love to chat about starting off with a podcast. I’m sure that there are other listeners here who are like, “I would love to do a podcast. I don’t even have an idea for a podcast.” What are good first steps people should be taking in terms of making it easier to actually get started with podcasting?

Joe Casabona:

Yeah, for sure. Well, let me just say that you’re absolutely right. I had no idea what I was doing when I first started either. I didn’t even know I needed a separate audio host. Jackie D’Elia informed me of that. She was like, “Who are you hosting your audio with?” I’m like, “I don’t know, WordPress.” She’s like, “Probably don’t do that.” Shoutout to Jackie for making sure that I got off on the right foot.

Joe Casabona:

Starting a podcast is… choosing your topic and your format are critical. Everybody says this about everything. Don’t just start something to make money. But don’t just start a podcast to try to make money, because you’ll be disappointed in the beginning. You will lose steam quickly. If you’re not passionate about the topic, then you’ll have no drive whatsoever. The first thing I tell people is, podcasting is a great way to grow your business. I believe it’s the next content plane. I am proof positive of that.

Joe Casabona:

I would not be self-employed without my podcast. That’s how helpful it’s been for me. The topic I picked was one that I was passionate and curious about. I was having conversations with people about how they started their businesses, to get insight on how I should run my business. I thought this should be a podcast. It was a topic I was passionate about. I was asking the right questions. You should make a list of topics for yourself when you are ready to pick yours.

Joe Howard:

Totally.

Joe Casabona:

Things that you’re interested in that you want to be known for. Especially if you are going to try to grow your business here. How do you want to establish yourself as an expert? In what field do you want to be seen as the go to person? That’s where I would start with picking a topic, because it’s something that you’re going to have a depth of knowledge of, that you won’t need a ton of motivation to talk about. If you are an expert in the field, you won’t necessarily need to do a ton of research in the beginning. We’re lowering that barrier of entry for you.

Joe Casabona:

Then the second part of that, before I stop on this very long winded answer, is your format. A lot of people are like, I should just do interviews, or I need to do one specific format. You don’t. Mix it up. Do solo shows where you talk about some topic for 15 or 20 minutes. Bring on guests that can help reinforce your points, or teach your audience and you about something new. I learn so much from my guests on how to run my business better that I can then pass that information on to my audience. Mix up the format. Make it easier on yourself, and pick a topic that you know a lot about and you’re very passionate about.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, I love all that advice. It’s all resonating with me so much thinking about starting this podcast. One thing I’d add to that is, because you mentioned be flexible around your formatting of your content. I think this is super, super important. Because I think a lot of people start a podcast and say, “I have to keep it super consistent. I have to deliver my format the same way every time.” There are some established podcast you listen to that have the exact same formatting every time. It’s really well produced. It’s really nice to listen to. That’s great, but it does not have to be everybody.

Joe Howard:

If you decide after a few episodes, I want to do a guest appearance, go do it. See what works, see what doesn’t work. Our podcast, I think listeners know at this point. We’re a pretty informal podcast. It has good audio production, but it’s not formatted, or it’s not engineered like some of these super TED Radio Hour podcasts. Kristie and I started the podcast, and we did the first 10 episode or so together. One day I was like, “I want to talk to some other people.” I started having guests on. That’s literally how it started. I didn’t put a ton of thought into it. I was just like, “I want to talk to more people. I want to put more people in front of other folks, in front of our audience. Selfishly, I want to learn from them.”

Joe Howard:

I totally agree with you, Joe. So many people I have talked to in the podcast, I’ve learned so much from. I would never know anything about the iPad Pro or what pen I should use to write beautifully had I not talked to you last time. These are things that help me. If you can help yourself, you’re helping your audience. After episodes I’m like, man, I just learned so much. I know that’s a good episode, because the audience is like a kid in the room who is brave enough to ask the question. 10 other kids probably have the same question too. I totally agree with all that stuff.

Joe Howard:

I think the place where a lot of people get stuck is the audio engineering piece, or the editing of the audio. Anybody can sit down and record a podcast episode by themselves, with someone else. That part is actually not too hard. You get the recordings together and you have audio. You can turn that into a podcast. But how do you do the audio editing piece? For some people, they may want to learn it. Maybe that’s something that you go over a little bit in your course. Some people may want to try and find someone to hire who can… maybe not the $100 an hour person. But maybe there are some folks out there who can, for $10 or $20 an hour, do a little audio engineering for you and make your podcast episode sound good. What do you recommend about bridging that gap for folks who are like, I have a podcast. I can do all the recording. How do I go from having my audio to making it sound good, and putting it out there in the world so that people won’t hate it because the audio is so crappy?

Joe Casabona:

Yeah, for sure. I would say absolutely, you do not need to sound like Joe or me when you’re first starting out. Again, I’ve been podcasting for a long time. This is not my first podcast microphone that I’m using. I am a stickler for my own mic quality, more than I should be. You will spend a little bit of money here, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a lot. For $60, you can get a decent built in… I’m sorry, a decent external microphone. For let’s say $300, you can get an upgraded microphone and what’s called an interface. It’s an XLR microphone. That’s what you see on stages if you go to a concert or speaking event. It’s a microphone that can go into a piece of hardware that will make your voice sound better right off the bat.

Joe Casabona:

That’s the next step. I think if you’re starting out, the ATR 2100 is the microphone for you. It is, again, $60, $70. It’s a USB microphone that actually converts to an XLR microphone. It’s going to give you a much cleaner sound going into your computer. It’s pretty forgiving of the environment too. That’s the second thing that you want to do to make your life easier, is try your best to treat your environment for audio. Don’t be in an echoey room. Make sure you have at least some way that the sound is being deflected away from your microphone. This could be bookshelves behind you. Mike Rowe, the Dirty Jobs guy, if he is recording at home, he will record in his closet with a comforter over him. Because clothes are a great way to dampen sound and echo.

Joe Howard:

Totally.

Joe Casabona:

I’ve recorded a course like that, where I’ve put a comforter over my head and I record it. Anything to make your audio sound better going into the computer is going to make your life a lot easier. You have two paths, as Joe alluded to. If you want to edit your own episodes, I would recommend Audacity. It is free. It’s open source and cross platform. There are a lot of tutorials on it, including one in my Podcast Liftoff course, in how to remove white noise. How to cut and do transitions and things like that. Or you can go the hired editor route. Again, you don’t have to pay $100 an hour to somebody.

Joe Casabona:

I pay my editor something like $30 or $40 an episode. He just puts my guests’ audio with my audio. He cleans it up a little, and he inserts ad spots. That saves me hours a week. I found him on Fiverr. If you want, I can give Joe a link to him in the show notes or whatever, but you don’t have to spend a ton. If you’re starting out, try it out and see if you’re going to edit. But treating your audio going into your computer is going to massively help you in the editing process as well.

Joe Howard:

I have a lot of thoughts there. But two are, one, when I started doing podcasting, I always hated the sound of my voice. Which I think a lot of people can resonate. It resonates with a lot of people. I remember hearing my voice on an audio message machine growing up. I couldn’t stand it. It’s cringe worthy. It really turns out, it’s just that the audio quality was so bad. Yeah, maybe some people have better speaking voices for radio or podcast. Maybe that’s true to a certain degree. But when we got our audio engineer to produce our podcast, I remember the first time I heard the final version of it with the really cleaned up audio, really high quality and thinking, oh my God. I actually kind of sound good. This is great. I’ve never heard myself sound like this.

Joe Howard:

It really does make a huge difference. Not just for the quality other people are listening to, but for liking to do the podcast, and liking to hear yourself on the podcast. That’s just something that I always remember. Still till this day I’m like, how do I sound like this on the podcast? It sounds good. High quality audio is really the answer. I think for people starting off, I did a podcast before I did this podcast, which was totally a warmup into podcasting. It was called The Walking Marvin Podcast. Marvin is my dog.

Joe Casabona:

Yes.

Joe Howard:

I don’t think the website is up anymore, but it was WalkingMarvin.com. I’d just walk Marvin and talk about stuff, business things, etcetera. It was not a great podcast, the quality of the audio, because I was just talking into my microphone on my… Back then, there was no AirPods. It was with wired headphones for my iPhone. It’s fine to get started with something like that. I would for sure say if you have $60 to invest in it, it will really help the audio quality to have even a basic microphone.

Joe Howard:

If you’re starting podcasting, you’re not going to be great at it your first episode. You’re probably not going to be great at it your first 10 episodes. This is going to be episode like 100 plus, 103 maybe of the podcast. I don’t really consider myself that great at it. It’s a work in progress. If you start off with that expectation, I think you’ll be much better off. Like you said, Joe, it’s hard to build a business on a podcast. You have to grow a pretty big audience to do that. This podcast, it throws a few customers to WP Buffs. It throws a few people to WPMRR and the stuff we’re doing there. We probably, at the end of the day, lose money on it. I don’t know.

Joe Casabona:

Got you.

Joe Howard:

I don’t know, it’s a complicated equation. But it’s not a profit center for sure. It’s not a place where I’m like, “We’ve got to keep doing the podcast because we’re making so much money on it.” It’s like, I like doing it. WP Buffs helps to fund it, and that’s great. I get to talk to cool people like you. At the end of the day, I think yeah, I just talked about a lot of thoughts. I have thoughts apparently.

Joe Casabona:

Yeah. I think you’re right. You need to get your reps in. That’s what I tell people. I was asked about this at a Word camp in September in the before time, when we could go to Word camps. They’re like, “How do you get comfortable in front of the microphone?” I said, “I was in drama club. I have always been comfortable performing or being in front of people.” But being in front of a microphone is a little bit different. You need to practice and do it.

Joe Casabona:

Record a few demo episodes for just you, and listen. They never have to be released if you hate them, but you will find your sea legs. You will become better. You’ll understand what you can do to improve some of the things that you do that you might want to stop doing. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. We’re not all going to be Joe Rogan as far as making money is concerned. But this can be good, consistent content for you.

Joe Casabona:

One of the stats that I keep saying is, there are 31 million YouTube channels. There are less than one million active podcasts. Only about 50% of Americans listen to podcasts right now. There is plenty of room to grow in this field. If you start now, then you will be on a new platform, a new plane of content where you can grow your business. Especially as more people start to listen to podcasts.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, totally. I don’t know about you, but I just got offered a $100 million deal by Spotify. Maybe you’re not the biggest podcast, but this podcast is huge, man. I’m good.

Joe Casabona:

I’m hoping. I think they’re just snatching up all the Joes right now.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, right. There you go. [crosstalk 00:24:16] Joe Rogan followed by Joe Casabona followed by Joe Howard, obviously. That’s a good strategy for them. Another thing about podcasting is, I feel like having a podcast in the WordPress space, and you know this very well, it gives you this platform and this voice to speak to people. As you grow your audience a little bit, you start to get shared around the WordPress space. This could be in any industry. But you start to become someone that people listen to in their industry. I find that very interesting for the reason that I know a few things about entrepreneurship.

Joe Howard:

I’ve grown a semi successful business. I know some things, but there is so much I don’t know. I started a podcast which I think I’m supposed to be an expert in stuff, because I started a podcast and I talk about things. That makes me an expert, but it’s kind of the other way around. If you just keep doing a podcast and you kind of grow into your space, you’ll start to gain a smaller audience and maybe a medium sized audience. It’ll grow. But it’s almost like you become whatever “expert,” or you happen to know things, and it’s become of the podcast.

Joe Howard:

I don’t know things and I’m giving that to people. It’s more like, I think people think maybe me and you, we know stuff. But it’s because we have a podcast. Of course they must know stuff. But it’s not really like that. People who listen to this podcast know, I don’t know about a ton of stuff, because there’s a ton of stuff I don’t know about. I would for sure advise people to… don’t worry about being an influencer, or being one of the voices in your industry. That will come once you’ve done a podcast for a year.

Joe Howard:

I’ve only been doing it for a year and a half. You’ve been doing it for years. At this point, people know us from the podcast. But it’s really just because we did it for a while. People eventually were like, “Fine, I guess I’ll listen.” Now we have a good amount of listeners. When you-

Joe Casabona:

That’s like… Sorry, you’re in the middle of a thought. Keep moving with it.

Joe Howard:

No, go ahead, go.

Joe Casabona:

I think that’s so powerful in podcasting. It’s a more intimate medium. People who are listening to this right now, they’re probably listening on headphones. They’re hearing the inflection in our voice. If we wrote this stuff, our personalities wouldn’t shine through as much. As a result, people feel like they know us a little better. Therefore, they trust us a little better and they view us as experts.

Joe Casabona:

If you’re thinking about starting a podcast, this is really important for you. You are always going to be ahead of somebody. You don’t need to be the number one businessperson on the planet to give out advice. Again, this is stuff I learned from my podcast. Brian Krogsgard just said this to me in one of our interviews the other day. You’re always going to be a step ahead of somebody. Somebody will be able to learn from you. If you make your content relatable and give them quick wins, they will absolutely trust you and view you as an expert, because they are learning from you and growing with you.

Joe Howard:

That’s a really good point, because the world is so big. The podcast space is so big, and the WordPress space is actually pretty big. There are always going to be folks who are just a step behind you, or a few steps behind you. What’s also interesting is that your content, once you put it up there, can last forever. Someone in 10 years could come and find something that’s useful to them. Some evergreen content that you wrote or put in a podcast.

Joe Casabona:

People prefer different content in different ways. Some people prefer to read because that’s how they consume information. If reading is cognitively taxing for people, or they are driving somewhere and they can’t read, but they still want to consume some content, a podcast is perfect for that. They can listen and consume the content that way. Cover your basis. Make sure that you’re catering to all of the people who want to learn from you in different ways. Whether that’s having a podcast and a transcript, or taking a blog post and turning that into a podcast episode, and repurposing that content.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, that’s a very interesting point about the purpose of repurposing content. Which is that people absorb… it’s not just people with different learning methods. Some people are visual, some people are audio. Some people want to read. Obviously that’s one reason to put content in different mediums. But also, people just absorb content. It’s not just a learning method, it’s the time of day. Sometimes I’m on a walk with my dog, and I want to put a podcast on. That would be audio. But when I’m walking my dog, I’m not going to put a YouTube video on.

Joe Casabona:

Right.

Joe Howard:

But if I’m working on my computer, I’ve got this big huge gaming monitor. I’ll have my work on one side. Maybe I’ll want to listen to something while I’m working. Then YouTube is going to be better because I can literally just go to YouTube.com, I’m subscribed to Joe Casabona on YouTube. I can just go and listen to his recent podcast episode or his recent unboxing or whatever. I think having content for those different pieces is also super important. That’s a good point.

Joe Casabona:

Absolutely. It’s a quick win for people who are wondering, how do I come up with consistent content? Unless today is your first day on the internet, you’ve probably created content in some way. That is prime for repurposing and resurfacing. Because you put out a podcast episode about a five year old blog post, guess what? You can send more traffic to that blog post too.

Joe Howard:

Yeah. It’s a snowball effect of… When I started WP Buffs, it was nothing. I had to work every day to write another blog post. Please don’t go to the first 20 blog posts written at WPBuffs.com. They’re so bad, but that’s how you get started. I actually keep them up for that reason, because yeah, maybe people find them and they’re like, “This sucks.” Good, yes, it did suck at the beginning for sure. That’s how you get started. I’m fine with people seeing that stuff actually.

Joe Howard:

When I started the podcast, we got started somewhat more quickly because we already had a small email list in WP Buffs. It kind of snowballed into other things. I think it’s important for people to keep that expectation. If a podcast is that first thing you’re starting, no one is going to listen to it for a long time probably. Maybe not a long time, but you should be expecting your first year not getting a ton of traction.

Joe Howard:

If you can keep that expectation in your head, because I feel like a lot of people will get down on themselves. After a month, I did four episodes and no one is listening. I got like 10 downloads. Three of them were my long, which was how a lot of our stuff started too. My mom recently replied to one of WP Buff’s tweets. I was like, “Thanks, mom.”

Joe Casabona:

Nice.

Joe Howard:

Helping us get that engagement. You’ve got to be ready to put that grind and work in. It’s like what people say about being a professional athlete. All the work you do when the cameras are off is what makes a difference. Being a podcaster is no different than being a professional athlete. We’ll make a good parallel there. You’ve got to be working.

Joe Casabona:

That’s exactly what I tell people too. “I am a professional athlete,” is what I tell people.

Joe Howard:

A professional audio athlete. There you go.

Joe Casabona:

Yeah, exactly. But you’re right. Instead of saying, “I only got 10 downloads,” you should be like, “I got 10 downloads. 10 people were interested enough in me to listen to me talk for 20 or 30 minutes.” That’s really nice. Because time is, I think Bill gates said this, time is the only thing that you can’t buy more of, right?

Joe Howard:

Yeah.

Joe Casabona:

The fact that anybody is willing to give you their time, especially when you’re first starting out, is something to celebrate. Whether it’s 10 people or 10,000 people.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, I agree. People like Joe, and me Joe, and anybody who is a huge podcaster or a huge anybody in their space, they started with 10. I remember getting our first email subscribers and being like, “Oh my God. People are giving us their email address?”

Joe Casabona:

Yeah.

Joe Howard:

You dummies. I can’t believe you actually did that. Now we get a bunch every day. It’s kind of an afterthought. But it all started there. That’s where everybody starts. If anybody is out there who has got 10 listens and they’re feeling a little down or something, that’s good. You have to be there and go through a little bit of that struggle period to get to where you want to be.

Joe Howard:

I studied math in college. I was a mathematics major. It was hard, very hard. But my dad always said, “If it was easy, everybody would do it. You would see a ton of math majors out there.” It’s not easy. That’s why it’s good that it’s hard. Think about that. That’s good, it’s good that things are hard. Let’s wrap up a little bit, and talk a little bit about video. Because I think video is a cool area that you’re also into.

Joe Casabona:

Sure.

Joe Howard:

I don’t know if I’d say another step up from audio. Maybe it’s a similar step. I don’t know how you would think about it. But to me, video is like not only do people have to hear you, but they see you on video. That’s a little bit more pressure. It’s like, okay, obviously you need some sort of video equipment to do this sort of setup. Let’s keep with the basics and just talk about what kind of video can people get started with? Since video is such a huge, growing piece of marketing and just the internet. Video has always been big. It will continue to grow, I think. But how can people get started with video in a somewhat simple way?

Joe Casabona:

Yeah. If we’re talking about professional services that I offer, the video startup is a much easier sell right now. I think more companies and brands are realizing that they need video. It’s because YouTube is so huge. It’s easier to discover videos because there is YouTube. There’s not a YouTube of podcasting yet at least. I think Spotify is probably trying to be that, but we’re probably a couple of years out from that still.

Joe Casabona:

There’s a whole YouTube algorithm thing. To answer your question, if you don’t have a rocking camera, if you have something that is just a built in camera, I think that if you want to do in front of the camera stuff, you should probably at least get a webcam. But if you can’t, lighting I think is the most important thing. Because if you’ve ever taken a picture, maybe not before the current set of phones that have that night mode now. But if you’ve ever taken a picture with a camera in daylight and then at night, the night picture is going to be grainy because the camera has to work harder to get a clear picture. Same thing for your webcam.

Joe Casabona:

If you are in a dark room, you’re going to just look bad because the camera has to work harder. Make its job easier by setting up a couple of lights. For like $20 or $30, you can get a couple of white lights that you can put on your desk. That’s going to improve your picture a lot. But if you could do screencast stuff, it doesn’t matter what camera you have. Most computers come with screen recording software. On a Mac, you can use QuickTime. If you want to step up a little bit, you can get ScreenFlow or Camtasia, which is both Windows and PC. I’m sorry, Windows and Mac.

Joe Casabona:

When you’re thinking about what kind of videos to put out, again, determine how you want to establish yourself as an expert in your field. Then figure out what you want to teach people. If it’s a screencast, walk them through something step by step. Narrate everything that you do. Script if you need to. If it’s a talking head video, again, dole out some advice. It’s not going to be as long as a podcast. Three to seven minutes, three to 10 minutes I would say. I think the YouTube algorithm favors… it changes all the time, so who knows? I’m not a YouTube expert. But it seems to favor that seven to nine minute content.

Joe Casabona:

That’s probably the amount of attention that you have for a viewer as well. Some of the YouTubers I like have 17 minute videos. Sometimes, I break those into two sessions. Because I’m eating lunch, and I watch half the video. Then I come back later. That’s kind of sad that I’m only taking 10 minutes for lunch. That’s a whole other thing. The point is, determine what kind of content you want to put out. If you’re doing talking head videos, make sure if you can’t get a really nice camera, at least have good lighting. Or start with screencasts where you show somebody step by step how to do something with the tools that you use on your computer.

Joe Howard:

Yeah, I think all good advice. Cool, man. I think that’s probably a good place to wrap up. We talked about audio, we talked about video. Let’s tell people, where can they find all the stuff you talked about? Your course, some of your video stuff. Also, maybe some of the tools that you use. Because I know we didn’t talk a ton about tools. People are always like, “What does Joe use? I want to know what he uses.” I know you have a page up with all the stuff you use too.

Joe Casabona:

Yeah, for sure. All of my stuff you can find at… We talked about a lot of things actually. By the time this comes out, there will be a page on by website, Casabona.org/… we’ll just say Joe. Hopefully that’s not taken already. Make it really easy. Casabona.org/Joe. That will take you to a bunch of resources. But if you are looking for anything that you want to do right now, my blog is Casabona.org.

Joe Casabona:

My podcast, course podcast, Liftoff, is at PodcastLiftoff.com. You can get 25% off with the code Bufftastic. Then I’m on YouTube. If you search for Joe Casabona on YouTube, I’ll have breakdowns of my recording gear and my video gear. Again, if you’re looking for a hub, Casabona.org/Joe will have everything.

Joe Howard:

Nice, cool. And he’s JCasabona on Twitter.

Joe Casabona:

Yes.

Joe Howard:

If you want to give him a follow, he’s a WordPress influencer. He’s one of the people you have to follow, so give him a follow.

Joe Casabona:

You’re making me blush over here.

Joe Howard:

Last thing I ask guests for is just to ask our listeners for a little five star iTunes review. If you wouldn’t mind giving them a little ask, I’d appreciate it.

Joe Casabona:

Yeah, definitely. Give this a rating and review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts, because it helps people discover the show. Please do that.

Joe Howard:

Yeah. Thank you, man. In the comments, leave something you learned about this episode. Maybe a “Thanks, Joe.” Joe C., because you’ve got to be explicit about which Joe you’re thanking. We’ll shoot him a screenshot and say, “Thanks for the review.” It’s cool to hear what you learned so we can do more episodes about these kinds of topics. If you’re a new listener to the WPMRR WordPress podcast, go through some old episodes. We’ve got 100 plus old episodes for you to binge. We’ve got any topic you probably could have thought of. We’ve got some content on it. Go through and check out some older episodes. If you have questions for us at the show, shoot them in to Yo@WPMRR.com. We like to answer questions live on the podcast. Kristie and I have a few Q&A episodes that have been really fun to do. We’d love to do more.

Joe Howard:

Any questions you have around monthly income or revenue, or podcast, video, or anything around growing your WordPress business or business in general, just let us know. We’ll answer some questions. That is all for this week. We’ll be in your podcast player again next Tuesday. Joe, thanks again for being on, man. It’s been real.

Joe Casabona:

My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.

TomAlex
Podcast

E102 – Equity crowdfunding in WordPress (Tom Fanelli, Convesio & Alex Denning, Ellipsis Marketing)

What’s been your experience with the WordPress community?

Today on the WPMRR podcast, Joe and Christie are joined with Alex Denning of Ellipsis Marketing and Tom Fanelli, CEO of Convesio, to talk about WordPress hosting, how to get investors, and the close ties between WordPress and WooCommerce

Listen in for some advanced WP hosting tips!

Episode Resources:


Christie:

Hello, WordPress people. Welcome back to WPMRR WordPress Podcast. I’m Christie.

Joe:

And I’m Joe.

Alex D.:

I’m Manny from Black Books.

Tom F.:

And I’m Neo from The Matrix. 

Christie:

And you’re listening to the WordPress Business podcast. What is going on this week, everybody?

Joe:

We’ve got two fictional characters, Manny and Neo. I know Neo. I think people are familiar with those characters, but Manny. Who’s Manny? I don’t know that one.

Alex D.:

Shout out to listeners who got that. Manny is from a cult TV show Black Books where they run a bookshop. My name is Alex Denning.

Joe:

Yeah. We’ve got Alex Denning on the pod this week, who we’ve known for a little while and then we’ve also got Neo. Neo, why’d you choose that character this week?

Tom F.:

Huge Matrix fan and I’m actually outside the Bay Area and before all this crazy COVID stuff started happening, they were filming actually the next Matrix, so I think it’s good timing to revive the Matrix fandom.

Joe:

Nice. I’m a big Matrix fan too. I’ve always been, ever since the first one. I think my dad and I always went to see the new Matrix when it came out in theaters and stuff, so I definitely remember Matrix Reloaded and that highway car chase. I was like, “Yes, excellent.” Cool, we’ve got Alex and Tom on the pod this week. Why don’t we, Alex first, give people a quick intro to who you are and then we’ll go to Tom? Then we’ll just kind of get into today’s episode.

Alex D.:

Sure. My name’s Alex. I run a marketing agency called Ellipses Marketing and we do marketing for WordPress businesses. I have been involved in WordPress for 13 years maybe, so just a little while and also, co-author a weekly newsletter for WordPress people called MasterWP.co, the people say it’s good and that they read.

Joe:

I second it. I say it’s good. Christie, I think-

Christie:

I third it. It’s good.

Tom F.:

I fourth it.

Joe:

Yeah, and we talked about MasterWP… I mean, I think we’ve talked about it in multiple episodes, but in the funding episode we did recently, we touched on a big topic in the MasterWP newsletter that was actually authored by our other guest today who is Tom. So, Tom, give folks a little intro about who you are as well.

Tom F.:

Sure, yeah. Thanks. My name’s Tom Finelli. I’m the CEO of [Convesio 00:02:56] and we are sort of trying to revolutionize WordPress hosting. We’re a container based, highly scalable, highly performant hosting platform for WordPress and we’re basically trying to rewrite the book on how to host WordPress.

Joe:

Whoa, tall order for this week. It’ll be interesting to have a couple hosting folks on the pod this week, Christie. We’ve got obviously [inaudible 00:03:23] nexus and then we have Convesio too so we can talk more hosting stuff that goes way over my head.

Christie:

Ooh, hosting.

Joe:

Yeah. Cool. Convesio, what’s the… Man, you’re talking a big game about changing the world of hosting. What makes Convesio different than other hosting out there?

Tom F.:

Yeah, so let me give you a little history of the genesis of the idea of how we came up. It’s awesome to be here with people that have been working in WordPress for a really long time. I’m going to date myself a little bit, but I started building websites in the mid to late ’90s and so, before WordPress was, I don’t know, maybe even an idea in someone’s head. But I was using a product called Adobe Pagemill, so I started my career in the agency space and I transitioned into tech companies and really my DNA is product marketing and technology. 

Did some executive roles at sales companies. 11 years ago, moved to California to work for a startup. A year into the gig, we sold the company and then a year later, the company that bought us had an IPO and I stayed there for another, gosh, five years, I think. I was very fortunate. I did the whole startup to exit to IPO thing in a short period of time, coming out to California.

I worked in enterprises for the following, I don’t know, eight or ten years. That experience showed me this huge chasm between what enterprise hosting has, disaster recovery, scalability, containerization, all of these really cool things that you can do at the enterprise level and when you see where shared, VPS, dedicated hosted, all of this stuff I put under legacy hosting, it really bothered me that so many hosting companies just “me too” one another. They license [c-panel 00:05:40], throw it on some servers.

They’re literally the same thing from one company to another. The only thing that is different is the marketing. So, as a product person, it really bothered me that there was so little innovation taking place in the hosting space. Three years ago, I decided to see if we could completely rewrite the book on hosting with a custom tech stack and using containers and all the latest technologies available since it felt like hosting was stuck in the 15 years ago time space.

So, we did that. We went to beta, we got some raving fans, and what we do that is really different than other hosting providers is we’ve broken the entire tech stack of WordPress into different layers and microservices. We deploy sites not on one server and share the resources, but on a cluster of servers and the database is replicated across multiple nodes in the cluster.

The WordPress instance can scale up in seconds across multiple servers in the cluster and then everything is load balanced natively, so your WordPress runs in this multi-instance type of environment, which helps remove single points of failure traditionally associated with WordPress, like my database goes down and my entire VPS is offline with all my sites.

We’ve tried to flip the model from going from all of these single points of failure associated with shared and VPS hosting and make a redundant, very resilient, and highly native, scalable WordPress platform and that’s what we’re doing. As you guys know and you mentioned, we just raised just over a million dollars with 800 plus investors. We just closed that in December and that’s been an exciting journey for us and a lot of validation that what we’re doing…

Basically, we’ve come out of beta and we’ve started hustling, so everyday for me is a sales, marketing, keeping customers happy, hustle and trying to continue to evolve our platform to fulfill and deliver on those promises.

Joe:

Yeah. Cool, man. You just talked a whole ton about hosting infrastructure and as a non-technical person, I’m like, “That sounds cool. Yeah.” I’m like, it sounds very impressive and I’m sure that it is. I’m also just like, “Oh, yeah. I guess I’ll take your word for it,” because all the container stuff, I’m like, “Yeah, sure. Sounds great.” Christie maybe will ask some better questions about it than I could probably.

Christie:

I think that for both your sake and the thing about having questions is that when you have a question, most likely other people have a question. For our listeners, let me give it a stab at simplifying it.

Tom F.:

I love this. This is always fun.

Christie:

Yeah. My job at Liquid Web is as the single product manager for the Manage WooCommerce line, so in terms of the skills that I bring to the table, I bring sort of what the organization would call WordPress and up the stack. I’m talking about WordPress sometimes, but really I’m talking about the plugin ecosystem most of the time, so Woo Commerce and up. Thinking about WooCommerce, thinking about the other plugin ecosystems that exist, thinking about the WordPress ecosystem that exists and the types of people who buy Manage WooCommerce hosting and bringing in market understanding to do competitive analysis and things like that.

That’s a lot of what my job is. Liquid Web is a very market driven IT services company, but as part of my job, I have to understand everything Tom just said because if I don’t understand everything Tom just said, at some high level, I don’t know what technologies you’re deploying and how, but I have to get why that’s better.

Essentially, I’ll encourage you to think about it this way. In the traditional paradigm of WordPress hosting, you would at the cheapest level get space on a shared VPS. There is a box. If you get it from Liquid Web, it’s in Lansing or somewhere else, depending on some of our international locations but centralized in Lansing. If you get it from Nexus, it’s in Detroit. There’s a box.

Although with Nexus, that’s different and we’ll get there but with Liquid Web, traditionally, there’s a box and multiple people are on that box and multiple websites are on that box. If somebody else says, “Hey, we’re having a viral campaign and ten million people are going to come to my site”, the box is like, “Nope, we’re done. We can’t do this. This is too much.” Okay. Our first solution to that was, “What if you had your own boxes?”

Yeah, nobody can bring you down if you go viral if you have your own box. Dedicated VPS hosting. That’s the enterprise, that’s the high end solution, it’s a dedicated box. Well, the problem with the dedicated box is that it still has a number of limited resources, so even if it’s just you in the box, if you get 100 million views because your Instagram post went viral, you’re bringing yourself down.

The next space there was what Tom is talking about. How do we dynamically allocate resources to different requests across multiple servers, whether virtual or physical, to make sure that everything has what it needs and that everything stays up and has maximum stability, point one. Then you also said something about replicated databases. That sounds to me like maybe a way to distribute the kinds of queries that we do.

WordPress asks for a lot of different stuff. Many of us use WordPress for both external calls, what we see on the page, what we see on the checkout, but also internal calls like what do we have in terms of our order data, what do we have in terms of analytics in the WordPress dashboard. At scale, that kind of stuff gets super slow and I can give you the world’s biggest, greatest, shiniest box ever but I can’t really. Not when you’re running millions and millions and millions of requests a day.

When Tom were talking about enterprise hosting, he was talking about the way in which we hear all these things that we pair with them of Time Magazine uses WordPress, Beyonce uses WordPress, right? But the reality of situations like that is that there is a lot of custom infrastructure work that goes into making sure that that works. At the enterprise level, that happens because there is a team that is standing up container based cluster on cloud stuff and again, I have to understand this at a high level, right? To make sure that those WordPress websites stay up reliably, usually we’re using something like AWS or GCP to make sure that that is custom created.

But that means that you are going to be responsible for that entire custom infrastructure instances. So, what companies like Convesio…

Tom F.:

That’s correct, yeah.

Christie:

What [inaudible 00:13:28] like Convesio are doing is productizing that concept. How do we give you that whole thing at scale? What’s interesting is that, and the community is slowly learning about this, which is that Liquid Web acquired a small company in Detroit called Nexus and Nexus is essentially that. So, we are figuring out the ways to describe how and why and the different ways in which that is better and can be done at scale and Nexus in particular hit this nail on the head with Magento.

Right? So, the thesis there is well, they did it really well with Magento, how do we bring that to WordPress? This is actually super cool. I hope that helps bring some clarity to the people like me who are operating in the site implementor and you know the products and you know the ecosystem and you know the concept of grabbing the right tools to put together a pretty looking website using minimal code to understand how a company like Convesio is bringing you something really exciting.

Joe:

Yeah, super cool. That was actually super helpful for me, Christie. I think what you and Tom both just said kind of came together in my brain and helped me to understand a little bit more about the scalability of hosting and how that works. That’s cool. Tom, I do want to come back and talk about the funding stuff at some point because Christie and I just had a great episode all about funding in the WordPress space and I think both of us would like to dive into that a little deeper.

But Alex, I also want to talk to you a little bit about the part you’re bringing to the equation, just the helping of the marketing stuff with Convesio. Maybe we can talk about that for a few minutes here.

Alex D.:

Yeah, so I have been working with Tom for nearly two years now, I think and yeah, it’s a lot of… I guess it’s developed a bit in that it was a lot of education to start with. People understand what they have to the extent that they need to and this is something new, so we need to talk about why that’s different, why that’s better. Specifically for Convesio, it’s quite interesting in terms of the benefits that you can bring that are non-technology to the target audience.

If I run an agency and I have 100 sites and I get a phone call in the middle of the night because my client’s site’s gone down, I get blamed for that but I don’t get any sleep and that’s just a bad outcome. If your hosting provider is taking care of that kind of thing automatically for you, then I can sleep better at night and that’s great because I love my sleep. You can apply that across all sorts of things.

That’s good for your MRL. It’s good for that because your clients are going to stay and spend more money with you, et cetera, so you might be able to [inaudible 00:16:46] your support in making that contract or whatever it looks like. Yeah, we’ve done a lot of that. At the moment, we are supporting Convesio in their efforts to get people to join. Yeah.

Joe:

Yeah, very cool. Alex, had you done marketing for a hosting company like this in the past? Is this something you had to pick up on as you were trying to market? Because a lot of marketing is learning the product and how it works and I’m hearing this as a marketer and I’m like, “That sounds kind of hard to market because I don’t really know much about the technical aspects of hosting,” and I probably lean more towards what are the non-technical benefits like getting more sleep and having your clients’ websites stay up more and that kind of stuff. Was this your first time doing hosting stuff, Alex?

Alex D.:

Yeah. We have internally a big cheat sheet on the technical stuff [inaudible 00:17:39] Tom. The non-technical benefits are important and to some extent, resonate more with the specific target audience right now, I think. Yes, you and I can understand that sleeping is good and how being phoned in the middle of the night because the site has gone down is bad.

Joe:

Yeah.

Tom F.:

I think there’s two aspects to this, which is the question of how are we different and how are we disrupting the marketplace and then what’s the… We do that through our technology and then the other aspect is the one that really resonates to the masses, which is what’s the value of that difference. It’s a bunch of these short little snippets of things like we’re 239% faster, we take complete accountability for your sites being online, we monitor sites at every minute. If anything happens, our team intervenes 24/7 and so, that’s the kind of stuff that I think goes from a feature to a benefit and that’s what Alex has really been great at helping us figure out.

Joe:

Yeah. Go ahead, Christie.

Christie:

That’s also a lot of my job. At a larger company like Liquid Web that is trying to innovate the best that it can at its size and scale, what a product manager does effectively communicate and build bridges between marketing and engineering and sales so that everybody can understand what we’re selling and so that we can look at market perspectives and product descriptions to sell something and grow something effectively.

In a setting where product managers aren’t needed, Alex’s and Tom’s are talking directly to each others which creates efficiency and then in large, big, slow, bumbling corporations, you have little Christies running around talking about an Instagram post bringing down boxes to help people across the entire organization understand. 

For example, one big challenge that we see and that we’ve started to see as we’ve started to shift from, “Hey, Liquid Web is good because you get your own dedicated server on every single high end Manage WooCommerce plan,” to, “Hey, Liquid Web bought Nexus and Nexus is good because you get this auto scaling Nexus cloud platform.”

Now, people will say, “Well, it’s dedicated,” and we’re like, “Well, no, it’s better.” They’re like, “Oh no, it’s not dedicated. It’s shared. Shared is bad. Bye.” It’s like, “Wait, no, no, no, no. Hold on, hold on. Wait, wait, wait.” Right? The big conversation that we have is how do we work the innovation against the status quo of what this product ecosystem and what this market is used to. I’m sure you’re all dealing with that and trust me, we’re dealing with it too.

Tom F.:

Yeah, I mean I think of people like Elon Musk, right? Before I moved to the Bay Area, I was in Florida and I remember a time 15 years ago where people were just downright anti electric vehicles. You think about how long he’s been working at changing the tide of perception to now these things have become like a status symbol. That’s a great example of how sometimes, believe me, I know what we do is complicated and it’s hard.

I remember when I first started building websites for people. Do you know the biggest challenge people had when we would build a website was setting up their email? Now, people rarely ask for help with how do I configure pop servers and iMap servers because collectively, the community as a whole, the world has gotten much more tech savvy. I see that kind of paralleling hosting a little bit in the fact that there’s such an entrenched standard of shared and VPS hosting that when something new comes along and it’s drastically different, there’s a bit of an education curve to it.

Right now, I would say we’re getting the early adopters, the people who get what I said and they’re like, “Wow, that’s cool.” Alex is trying to broaden that for us but it’s certainly people who are open to going with something that’s still new and still evolving.

Joe:

Yeah, hosting is such a big… I mean, every website online needs hosting and it’s such a big industry that it’s hard to move the entire industry away from something like c-panel. Not everything’s bad about c-panel, but Christie and I definitely talk about c-panel in our last Q&A episode and we’re like, “There’s some definite issues with it.” Yeah, Tom, I would also love to talk about the funding stuff because Christie and I got a lot of great feedback from our funding episode.

We had a ton of listeners and we got a lot of people that were like, “That was a really good episode”, so I think people probably are hungry to hear a little bit more about that. It’s interesting to hear someone from your background coming into the WordPress space and trying to innovate on something like hosting, especially someone with more of a tech background. A lot of WordPress folks have WordPress backgrounds. Alex and I have been working WordPress for Alex for a long, long time.

Christie and I, probably for somewhat similar amount of time. I don’t know, I’ve been eight years or so but a lot of WordPress, but not as much in the more tech scene, like the bigger tech scene. As someone who raised money to build a company that’s working in the WordPress space, it’s very interesting to us. Christie and I literally said that in that episode. We were like, “We want to talk to more people who are doing more funding stuff. That’s super interesting to us.”

Could we talk a little bit about the million dollars you raised? From 800 people, that’s also… I want to touch on that because you’re not raising from [inaudible 00:24:04] two people, you’re probably raising $10,000 from smaller maybe angel investors. Can you tell us the walking through of how that worked and how you came out the other side of it?

Tom F.:

Yeah, sure. I’ll start with the fact that when I had mentioned earlier I moved to the Bay Area 10 years ago, 11 years ago now, that was in a space, the prop tech industry. So, it’s a subsection of real estate dealing with usually rentals. So, that space, the company that we took public was the first unicorn in that space. Now, fast forward eight, nine years later, that space has blown up. There’s conferences with hundreds of startups that attend. There’s billions of dollars in VC money that’s getting poured into it and it’s this flourishing industry that people now purposely go into with the model of raising money for a startup, a more traditional-

Joe:

It’s pop tech, you said?

Tom F.:

Property technology.

Joe:

Prop tech. Property technology.

Tom F.:

Right, and so basically, I see this type of thing happening in WordPress because I think the big shift in prop tech was that when we went public, which WP Engine I predict is going to be the first to do this in the WordPress space, now you’ve got EIG and GoDaddy and other web companies that are public, but when the institutional investment community starts to see that there is a unicorn in the WordPress space, it’s going to change the dynamic of the industry.

WordPress is very grassroots because it’s an open source industry and while there’s some great examples of open source industries just blowing up, I think that the investment community is still unsure exactly how, especially the non-tech investment community, is still unsure how to wrap their head around it. I think WP Engine, when they go and they have their IPO, we’ll be able to see man, there’s now a billion dollar company in the WordPress space. Automatic is going to follow it, maybe Pantheon with follow them, who knows?

But there’s going to be a string of IPOs and people are going to start to realize the profound nature of a platform controlling 35, 30 some percent and growing of the web. Okay? You look at people who get super excited about the Wixs of the world. They’re around three percent market share, compared to WordPress’s 30 some, five percent, whatever it is. It’s going up every month. 

I think that that has made it both traditionally difficult to raise money, because we started pitching angel investors and I pitched for some angel groups and they’re like, “Wait, what’s WordPress?” So, I immediately realized, “This is the wrong crew. I’m not in front of the right people. They don’t get this. They don’t get what we’re doing.”

So, we decided, after sort of trying to find some people in the VC community to partner with, a buddy of mine came to me and said, “Hey, you should check out what’s called equity crowdfunding. I just raised a million bucks on it for my startup. You should check it out. I’m going to introduce you to some people that can help you.” He introduced me to a company called WeFunder.

In 2016, Obama implemented the JOBS Act and as part of that, they lifted the restrictions on being what’s called an accredited investor to investing in startups. To be an accredited investor, you need a million dollars in net assets or three years of 200k or more verifiable income. Then they basically say you know enough or you have enough wherewithal to invest in startups. 

With the removal of that limitation, it’s created this hybrid where sites like Kickstarter, where they’ve got massive amounts of people wanting to help start startups, and investment community models have come together and they’ve created these sites like WeFunder or Start Engine, they’re both the two big guys in the space but there’s dozens of other ones. Basically what they do is they allow hundreds of investors, thousands of investors to make micro investments.

But unlike Kickstarter, and by the way this is one of the biggest things we struggled with was explaining the difference to people investing because a lot of people are like, “Wait a second, this is like Kickstarter, I’m just making a donation”, you actually own equity in the company that you invest in. It’s a real funding vehicle, it’s regulated by the SEC and Finra and we basically leveraged that through what’s called a regulation CF or regulation crowdfunding campaign. That allows you to raise somewhere around a million dollars.

That’s what we decided to do. There was a lot of work launching that campaign and I’m happy to talk about that if you want, but that’s really what we used and we used WeFunder to run our campaign.

Joe:

Gotcha. Yeah, cool. I figured it was something like that, but I didn’t know about WeFunder specifically and that model of buying equity in the companies and stuff. I mean, that’s a cool model for people who may not have a million dollars in assets or whatever. I think you said they make $200,000 two years in a row.

Tom F.:

Right.

Joe:

Most probably haven’t done those things and still probably want to maybe do a little more than getting out the Robin Hood app and try and do a little [inaudible 00:29:54] company, so…

Tom F.:

It lets individuals invest in companies they believe in and that they want to get behind and they want to go on this and that’s why I love it for WordPress. WordPress is so community driven. For us to be able to give people the ability to get into actually own a piece of hosting company that will hopefully turn into the next WP Engine, Pantheon, Flywheel, is a really cool way to I think keep your customers and your fans close to you in a way where you have this shared success.

As we grow, we have the ability to bring people along on that journey with us, so that’s a really cool proposition that I hope more WordPress businesses and companies take advantage of this. By the way, if anyone’s interested and wants more details on this, you can reach out to me. I want to kind of be an advocate of WordPress businesses using this to help generate capital for them to make more investments, because that’s going to make the overall ecosystem of our products and services much better.

Joe:

Yeah. This is becoming very interesting to me hearing this because, because like Christie and I on our last funding episode were talking about, big companies coming in and changing the WordPress space and maybe not for the better. I’m hearing a lot of ways for us as a WordPress, like you said Tom, grassroots community to have more financial control over the future of WordPress just because a lot of us aren’t these top investors or have a hundred million dollars to invest in the WordPress space. We can still invest in companies and have a financial stake in, albeit a small one, but have a financial stake in companies we want to see do well. I don’t know. That has some positive connotations in my mind. Christie, what do you think about that idea? You think that’s something that would be welcome in the WordPress space?

Christie:

Here’s a fun fact about me that you don’t know because, I don’t know [crosstalk 00:32:06].

Joe:

We’ve done 100 episodes and [inaudible 00:32:08] episodes, I learn something new about Christie. I didn’t know that before. Okay, cool.

Christie:

It’s because I am an idea a minute type person and every once in awhile, I act on them, you know? Here’s the fun fact about me that you didn’t know. My Master’s thesis was actually on alternative methods of new venture financing back in 2015. Yep, and I looked deeply into both crowdfunding but also equity crowdfunding and also a lot of zero percent loans, Kiva.org, things like that and all the different methods that are existing beyond sort of the first round of alternative methods of new venture financing, because it’s an interesting topic both in economic development and also business development.

It’s a whole rabbit hole that we should totally do multiple episodes on. It’s super interesting. I’m sure that the things that I learned and dug up in my interviews and research in 2015 are all now just completely obsolete, because it’s such a space that’s changing so quickly. But one of the things that really stood out to me in that research was that your success with these kinds of methods right now is actually closely tied to your existing social capital.

We tend to think of these methods of democratizing the ability to fund raise and they are, but in addition to that, we have to put in other efforts to make sure that people engaging in these alternative fundraising methods are able to leverage people of more privilege and people who have access to resources, right? The thing is when you have money, you know people who have money type situation. And making sure that we make that playing field as level as we possibly can was a big part of the conclusion of that paper for me, which brings me back to something that really caught my attention which was WordPress seems particularly positioned for that because there is such an ability to enter. All you need is time and a computer.

There is such a propensity to help others. I had a call yesterday with someone who is building a new WordPress product and wanted just some tips of getting those first few customers. One of the things that I kept drilling on is you’re going to be surprised at how willing people are to help, to help you, to be advisors to you, and to support you just because you are new and this is a community that believes that everybody rises together.

I was surprised when I started working with WordPress at the way in which my top competitors all wanted to give me good advice. I was like, “What? What’s happening here?” One of the most incredible moments I think in the WordPress ecosystem that I had was I spoke at WordCamp San Jose and I got to meet the creator of Gravity Forms while I was working on Caldera Forms, Carl Hancock. He was kind, encouraging, had lots of good advice and lots of positive spirits to give me.

This ecosystem knows that there are billions of people in this world and they all need websites and it doesn’t see what we’re doing as limited pie, which is the perfect foundation for an equitable and democratized system for new venture financing. So, I love everything about this.

Tom F.:

Yeah, well said.

Joe:

Cool. Alex, as someone who writes this super popular newsletter in the WordPress space that I think most people in the WordPress community who I knew subscribe and read and check it out, as someone who puts that newsletter together and putting together Tom’s update on Convesio and this thought on companies potentially IPO’ing and that bringing a lot of attention to the WordPress community, is that something you’re starting to see and hear more rumblings about?

[inaudible 00:36:38] that in general but also funding in the WordPress space just as someone who does a lot of gathering of information and delivers it to folks.

Alex D.:

I’ve been running this newsletter for just over three years now. We do it every week and that probably coincides with when this has really taken off. There was I guess a slow down the last couple of months but there was a time at which every week, there was someone’s raised $100,000, not even worth mentioning. Come back to me when you’ve got a million.

There was a time when 100,000 was very exciting and everyone dropped everything for that. Automatics invested in whoever. Two years ago, I would’ve known exactly all the details. There was something last week, I didn’t even look. For me, I’ve accidentally become a source of news for people.

Christie:

[crosstalk 00:37:46]

Alex D.:

People increasingly leak us stuff, which is fun and yeah, there’s just more and more and more and it’s not going to stop and we’re going to see hopefully more equity crowdfunding but also more just straight up, here’s a big pile of money, go ahead and do something with it. There’s been a lot this year. Elementor, $15 million. Stratic, I think $6.5 million. Others who I forget the names of, my apologies, and we’re just going to see more and more of that and those numbers are going… The baseline for what is a normal amount is just going up and up.

Tom F.:

Yeah, and what’s interesting is if you look a little below the surface of those, what I look at is who is investing. Excuse me. You take Elementor for example, their lead investor was Lightspeed. That’s a top tier VC in the Bay Area, okay? And beyond. You look at Stratic and they had some lesser known ones but they had participation by Excel. Excel is one of the top three venture partners in Silicon Valley. I mean, they were Spotify, Facebook, early stage. I mean, they’re a titan in the VC world.

If these guys can get validation of these top tier VCs, that is a really big sign that these more traditional sources of venture capital are wising up to the maturity of the WordPress space. The other thing that I would say is the fact that while Stratic and Elementor are both WordPress companies for sure, I think a lot of the buzz around Stratic is the serverless possibility and I think a lot of the buzz around Elementor, quite frankly, is the notion that we help people built websites, okay?

I think there was some hinting at their press release on this that the story that they’re talking about is something that goes beyond just WordPress, right? It starts to touch into this notion of where Wix is at, which is we make it easy for people to build websites and get online. Make no mistake, that market is massive, okay? Lots of people want to get online but it’s a totally different animal than the agency developer space who’s building five WordPress sites a month and they’re totally baked in on that.

I think that while WordPress is definitely a narrative in those and a very important one, I think it’s cool to see how we’re attracting these more traditional VC sources and the valuations, to Alex’s point, just keep going up, up, up and up. I think those are all really encouraging signs as to where the market’s heading.

TechCrunch posted an article in the beginning of 2018. They said WordPress was the most underfunded, one of the most underfunded VC segments of the technology landscape. Now, 300 million from Salesforce into Automatic skews those numbers, but you take that out, it still remains there’s very, very minimal VC investment into WordPress companies. 

Alex D.:

Something else that’s exciting about the Elementor and Stratic deals is those are not US companies which, for me as a European, is very exciting because I don’t think… They’re isolated examples before, but for those two to come along quickly was very exciting and that paves the way I think for more of those.

Joe:

Yeah, for sure. I had not looked a ton into the actual funders or the people behind the VC money but that is super interesting to me. Thank you both for talking about that because I have not really thought about it in that way and it is enlightening to hear that wow, some of the top VC firms, some international VC interest is coming in. All these different companies you’ve talked about getting VC funding, they’re all somewhat in different spaces. Convesio is, as you know, doing funding and there’s kind of the headless WordPress stuff with Stratic and then Page Builder potentially aiming more towards a closed system in Elementor.

I mean, all kind of in different spaces. Tom, what you said made me think that maybe this is VCs kind of dipping their toe in the water and seeing what’s going on in the WordPress space. Obviously, these companies have a lot of money they’ve invested in things like Facebook. They probably are doing pretty well financially. This may just be the first step for some of these VC firms and then they may start looking for bigger options. I don’t know.

Tom F.:

Yeah, the ecosystem is so broad, I think that’s absolutely going to happen.

Alex D.:

That’s a very important point. We think of it as WordPress, but that WordPress market splits out so many different ways. I run a marketing agency that obviously can’t work with two people doing the same thing, so we have a conflict of interest rule and we basically never have to deal with it. I can think of twice in the last three years where we’ve had two people who are actually doing the same thing because WordPress splits out so many different ways. You look at your form plugins, which you would I guess think is a fairly narrow space, but no. 

Christie:

No, no, right? One of the big things there was why are WP Forms and Formidable Forms now under the same thing? What? It’s like, because they’re completely different. There’s so much space and that is only thinking about the people who even identify as being WordPress related, because before I was involved with the WordPress community, I was working with WordPress every single day and at no point was I like, “I am a part of the WordPress community” because nonprofits don’t think of themselves as part of the WordPress community, agencies serving major NGOs building WordPress websites don’t think of themselves as part of the WordPress community. They’re the nonprofit tech community.

Associations don’t think of themselves as part of the WordPress community. The people who serve the technologies required for associations which mostly leverage open source technologies and member plugins and things like that to run association websites do not think of themselves as part of the WordPress community, so it’s huge. Because it’s distributed, we haven’t seen the way that all the links fit together, but they’re all there under the hood if you understand the market and you understand the products.

Tom F.:

Yeah, think of how many companies have… We just participated in the Ecom Services Summit just a couple weeks ago and I was on a panel there and one of the companies was this company OmniSend and they do multichannel ecommerce and I don’t think they think of themselves as part of the WordPress community, but they have a deep WordPress integration plugin and I think I’ve seen a bunch of companies like that before and it’s almost like they look at WordPress as an extension to what they’re doing, but they don’t realize, “Man, I could actually go into the community and leverage that a heck of a lot more as a channel to engage people than I could just going, oh, I’ve got a few WordPress users, I’m going to build a plugin for them.” You know?

So, I think it’s mindset in some of these bigger companies as to do you want to part of the community and contribute or do you just see it as something that’s this, I’ve got a need for a plugin so I’m going to build one and you never even think of yourself as part of the community.

Joe:

Yeah, that’s totally true. There’s so many companies that try to, I don’t know, get into the WordPress space or do more WordPress. Well, you’re right. There are a lot that don’t take advantage of it and just kind of almost even know the communities there. A lot do, but they don’t really know how to get into the community. Tom, I think it was very smart of you to work with someone like Alex who has a lot of experience in the WordPress community because I’ve seen a ton of companies try to come in and it’s like, that’s not really-

Christie:

Yikes. Yeah, I’ve seen that so much. It’s so cringey, right? Hiring Alex was such a smart move because Alex deeply understands the ecosystem and it is more common than not to watch outsider companies come in and just be cringey in weird, small ways, like not capitalizing the P and other things that are so inconsequential and yet mean the world when competition is high and details matter.

Tom F.:

Yeah, I don’t know who this guy Alex is. I hired Manny and so, Manny’s awesome. You should check him out. He’s great.

Alex D.:

That’s a good point about the capital P though. That’s just the single biggest thing. Single smallest biggest thing that you can do to signal that you understand what’s going on.

Christie:

Or the C in WooCommerce. That’s one that I end up dealing with now or even the understanding of how WordPress and WooCommerce fit together, right? With the larger ecommerce world, the larger ecommerce world is looking at WooCommerce like, “Whoa. Okay, hold on, that’s a thing.” Then they try to market to it and without understanding the deeper ecosystem around it, it just seems weird. Right? If you don’t understand that WooCommerce subset of WordPress and how, you’re going to put your foot in your mouth in lots of awkward ways which is why you need competent and… I don’t think competent is the right word. I think involved is the right word, people on your team.

Tom F.:

Can I ask a question of Christie? I mean, I know I’m not the host.

Joe:

Turns the interview on Christie.

Tom F.:

This is something that… Christie, I was really hoping when Automatic took the 300 million from Salesforce that… In my mind, I was telling myself this narrative that they’ve seen what Shopify’s done and they’re just angry about it and they basically have taken this investment capital and they’re going to crush Shopify with WooCommerce and then the Tumblr thing came into play. I’m like, I want to know your opinion being so close to WooCommerce. Are we just going to let Shopify eat our lunch for another 10 years or what are we going to do here?

That Shopify situation is… I mean, it’s an amazing story but it’s also bittersweet because I’m like, “Man, that should be WooCommerce.” What’s your thoughts on that?

Christie:

Tom, let me start by saying that my hair is full of secrets I can’t disclose. That’s why it’s so big.

Tom F.:

That’s not fair.

Joe:

She’s going to drop Alex some secret [inaudible 00:49:49].

Christie:

But in terms of the question, for real, for real, I think that’s exactly what we’re doing. That’s what’s going to happen. Now, the problem is that you want it to happen faster. We all want it to happen faster. We want to see the turnaround overnight and that is what we’re not seeing and why is that? I don’t know, because we need more hurried, spazzy people in there. That’s okay. That is the nature of these things is that change happens slowly and all at once

I do think we’re going in that direction. The conversations that I’m internally from my boss and my boss’s boss all are throwing me in that direction. The innovations that we’re seeing surrounding WooCommerce and then also surrounding… I just lost my train of thought. The innovations that we’re seeing surrounding WooCommerce, both itself and also the companies that exist around to prop it up, are all about that. 

Within WooCommerce, we just saw WooCommerce payments roll out. That’s a clear attempt at moving in that direction. Within the innovations surrounding WooCommerce, I just told you all what the hosting end is working on, right? Liquid Web sort of was the first one to hit with this Manage WooCommerce idea and now we’re making the underlying infrastructure even bigger and better while continuing to add stuff to the top so that it’s an all inclusive feature rich platform. That is also going after the Shopify lunch.

Then the last thing that I look at is numbers. Shopify has lots of money, so it feels like they’re everywhere and they have lots of reach at the lower end of the market so it feels like it’s absolutely everywhere, but Shopify only maintains a third of the market share that WooCommerce maintains right now. So, WooCommerce kind of came in and took over. Why? Because of the proliferation of WordPress.

If you already have a WordPress website, you can install WooCommerce on there and then there you go, you have an ecommerce store now. That is not to say that that means anything. Actually, that means nothing at all. You could overtake that with enough money. Boom, bye. Knock WooCommerce out of the park, which is why WooCommerce needs to catch up with all the other feature functionalities and quickly. That’s what you’re feeling. That’s exactly where everybody’s minds are. We just need to move faster.

Tom F.:

Yeah. Cool. I’ll sleep a little bit better at night knowing that you’ve told me secretively it’s happening.

Joe:

Christie’s [inaudible 00:52:25] the WooCommerce train. Cool. That’s probably a good place to start wrapping up today’s episode. This was super informative for me. I had a ton of fun talking with all three of you. This is, I think, our first episode with four people and it actually went pretty well, I think. Awesome. Let’s wrap up. Tom and Alex. Alex, you first. Where can people find you online if they want to catch up with you?

Alex D.:

I run Ellipses Marketing if you would like some marketing. 

Christie:

Please buy my marketing.

Alex D.:

Our website is getellipses.com. I’m also on Twitter, just my name, @alexdenning and I run MasterWP.co, which as we all agreed, is a pretty good newsletter that you may like to read.

Tom F.:

Go sign up.

Joe:

[crosstalk 00:53:17] good. Cool. Thanks. How about you, Tom?

Tom F.:

Yeah, you can find me at… My email is tom@convesio.com. Feel free to email me if you’ve got questions and you can find me @tfinelli on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Joe:

Right on. Last thing we ask our guests to do every episode is to ask our listeners for a little five star iTunes review, so Tom, maybe you could ask our listeners here for a little review for the show.

Tom F.:

Yes, so to all the WPMRR listeners, please go to iTunes and give us a five star rating for the awesome job Joe and Christie are doing with this.

Alex D.:

I listen to no podcasts apart from yours, pretty much. So, five stars.

Christie:

Special.

Joe:

Thank you. If you’re giving a review, make sure in the comments, you leave obviously your favorite emoji but also something you learned from this episode, something you took away, maybe Tom and Alex’s names so we can send them a screenshot and say thank you for the review. Poo poo. How else do we wrap up the show? If you wanted to leave that review, WPMRR.com/itunes. We direct you right there. 

If you’re a new listener to the show, if this is your first episode or second episode or third episode, go back through some old episodes. This is going to be episode 101, so we’ve literally got 100 other episodes for you to listen to. So, go back and check out some old ones. Got a ton of content there. Q&A episodes. Christie, you want to talk about Q&A episodes?

Christie:

I want to talk about how I just followed Tom on Twitter, who was the only person on this podcast that I didn’t already follow on Twitter, so if you want to be just like me, follow Tom or I don’t know. If you don’t want to be just like me, still follow Tom. What was the real question? The real question was if I want to tell people about…

Joe:

Q&A episodes. [crosstalk 00:55:23] should they reach out to us for [inaudible 00:55:25]?

Christie:

Hey, if you have questions about what you heard today or anything else that you hear in the binge listening of WPMRR that you’re going to do because we recommended it, let us know. We have an email inbox where you can send your questions and it is yo@wpmrr.com. Why? Because we are hip and cool and totally not in our 30s or old. I love answering questions. I think Q&A episodes are super fun, so that will make me really happy.

I’ve been pushing Joe for the past month now on letting me do a WPMRR episode that is just bad advice with Christie [Churinos 00:56:03], so if you think that would be funny, you can send your questions and we will do a bad advice with Christie Churinos episode.

Joe:

Yes, love that. It’s coming. Cool. Check out Convesio, check out MasterWP, check out Ellipses Marketing, check out Nexus, Liquid Web, WP Boss, WPMRR, all of the above. We’ll be in your podcast player again next Tuesday. Tom and Alex, thanks again for being on. It’s been real.

Tom F.:

Thanks so much.

Alex D.:

Thank you, guys.

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