📅 Sept 23 & 24

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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.

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