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Rank #98 in Technology category

Business
Technology

How I Built It

Updated 3 days ago

Rank #98 in Technology category

Business
Technology
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A podcast about building things on the web

Read more

A podcast about building things on the web

iTunes Ratings

82 Ratings
Average Ratings
50
7
14
6
5

Digging this podcast!

By rock phenom - Nov 10 2019
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Really well done show, with good solid advice, and Joe is a very helpful guy!

Great podcast for product builders

By RameshDon - Sep 18 2019
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Wish I had listened to this show earlier. Very actionable advice. Thanx

iTunes Ratings

82 Ratings
Average Ratings
50
7
14
6
5

Digging this podcast!

By rock phenom - Nov 10 2019
Read more
Really well done show, with good solid advice, and Joe is a very helpful guy!

Great podcast for product builders

By RameshDon - Sep 18 2019
Read more
Wish I had listened to this show earlier. Very actionable advice. Thanx

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Cover image of How I Built It

How I Built It

Updated 3 days ago

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A podcast about building things on the web

Episode 2: Rebecca Gill and DIY SEO Courses

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Rebecca and I talk about building an online course, the necessary dedication you need to be able to teach, and some great tools for setting up your own online course!

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The post Episode 2: Rebecca Gill and DIY SEO Courses appeared first on How I Built It.

Aug 30 2016

24mins

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Anton Kraly and a Drop Ship Business

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Anton Kraly is the founder of Drop Ship Lifestyle and has an incredibly story of how he got to where he is today. I’m grateful for Anton’s time and for sharing both his story, and his tips on how we can get into drop shipping.

Show Notes

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Transcript

Intro: Hey, everybody. Welcome to Episode 107 of How I Built It. Today my guest is Anton Kraly of Drop Ship Lifestyle. I’m excited to talk to Anton today because way back in episode 101 Chris Lema talked about how an important thing to think about in 2019 is going to be drop-shipping, and in my opinion, there’s nobody better to talk to than Anton Kraly. He gives us lots of good advice on exactly what drop shipping is, and if you want to get into drop shipping, how to do that. In other words, how to build a dropship business. If this is something you’re especially interested in then this is a great episode, otherwise, there’s a lot of food for thought in this episode. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this interview with Anton. Of course first, I need to bring you a word from our sponsors.

Break: This season is brought to you by Plesk. Do you spend too much time doing server admin work, and not enough time building websites? Plesk helps you manage servers, websites, and customers in one dashboard. Helping you do those tasks up to 10 times faster than manually coding everything. As someone who just spent a bunch of time finding the right tools and automations to save myself time, I can tell you that Plesk is invaluable. You can try Plesk for free today at Plesk.com/build. This episode is brought to you by MailPoet. If you build WordPress websites, you’d probably recommend a newsletter solution to your customers. Why not offer them a solution that is built into the WordPress admin? The MailPoet plugin offers just that. On top of that, they have a new newsletter designer that’s easier to use than MailChimp’s, and it takes only a few minutes to configure. Your customers will love it. MailPoet offers a free sending plan to ensure top-notch deliverability, and if your customers run into issues, the MailPoet support team offers free email and chat support. Classy. Save yourself time and make your customers happy. Try the new MailPoet today. You can download the plugin over at the WordPress plugin repository, WordPress.org/plugins/MailPoet. Again, that’s WordPress.org/plugins/MailPoet.

Joe Casabona: Anton Kraly of Drop Ship Lifestyle.com. How are you today?

Anton Kraly: Doing well. How are you?

Joe: I am doing great. Thanks for joining me today. It is a little warmer for the fall here in the northeast of the United States, but that’s OK. I’m cool with it. I want to thank you for joining me today. I’m excited to talk about drop shipping and this general topic. Why don’t we start off with who you are and what you do?

Anton: Sure. My name is Anton Kraly. I see you have a New York Yankees shirt on there. I’m from New York, grew up there, went to school up in Albany. Started business there when I was 21, right out of school, selling cookies. That was my first business. I bought a delivery route for a bakery in Brooklyn, did that for a few weeks, thought “I don’t want to do this.” I learned about e-commerce in early 2007, and from then on there I’ve been building stores on different platforms, getting better hopefully, that’s always the goal with Google ads, and growing over the past ten or eleven years or so.

Joe: That’s fantastic. Did you go to SUNY Albany?

Anton: I did, yes.

Joe: Nice. That’s awesome. As we record this, it is the beginning of the baseball post-season, so hopefully, by the time this comes out, I’ll have a nice little pre-show intro talking about how the Yankees won the World Series. We’ll see. That’s cool. Why don’t we talk a little bit about that? How did you get into selling cookies for your first business? Was it– Were you really into cookies or did you see that as a good market to get into?

Anton: One of my friends’ dads, one of my friends– I realized they had a nice house and it seemed like they were doing well. It was funny because every time we would go to his house, they lived on a dead end street, and there were like five or six massive trucks out there. I asked him, “What is this?” And he said “My dad owns a delivery route business for a bread company. Like sliced bread, they had the rights to pick it up from wherever it’s made and then sell it to the grocery stores all around Nassau County on Long Island where I’m from. That was just one thing that popped into my head. I wasn’t like, “I need to be in this business,” but when I got out of school, and I knew I wanted to get into business, I was looking for opportunities that didn’t cost a million dollars because I was a kid. So I saw online that there were different businesses for sale, one of them caught my eye. It was a delivery route business for that bakery in Brooklyn, and it was about $25 grand. That was an opportunity I could get into. I saw someone and my friend’s dad that had bought something that was small, built it into something big, and I thought “OK this is an opportunity to, not do with the rest of my life at all, but to build this up maybe double the size, flip it and get into the next business.”

Joe: That’s fantastic. In college, you were ready to make a $25 thousand investment, which as somebody– We’re both around the same age. I basically worked online my entire life, and the startup costs for that are dramatically lower, like virtually zero, but that’s tainted me a little bit to wanting to make the initial investment. “You got to spend money to make money,” is the old adage. That’s cool that you were willing at that point to be willing to make that investment.

Anton: I didn’t know anything else. Back then when I bought that business, I did not know that I could build the website myself. I didn’t know there were tools out there. In fact, one of the things I was thinking of doing back then, again this is 2006. I was like, “I see an opportunity to have a for sale by owner home website. Have Nassau County, Suffolk County, all of Long Island.” And I was like, “I want to have that website built. Then we’ll find the people to list their homes.” And I went online, looked for Long Island web developers or something, and I was going to their offices and having meetings and getting quoted $100k, $200k. And I thought, “That’s any online business. That’s what you would need to spend to build it.” I had no idea that you can start something for $50 bucks. It wasn’t even an option to me.

Joe: $100k. I know a lot of the web developers listening to this cringed. Or, they’re like “I could charge that much.”

Anton: Yeah.

Joe: That’s interesting. I want to touch on two things, being a New Yorker myself. You’re from Nassau County. Does that make you a Mets fan? I don’t want to belabor the point of–

Anton: Unfortunately, yes. It makes me not like baseball.

Joe: I understand. Though the David Wright sendoff was a very nice one. A bakery in Brooklyn, for those of you outside of New York or maybe New York City, Brooklyn bakeries are the best bakeries. They make– I’m starting to sound a little bit like our president here, but there’s no better bakeries in the world, in my opinion. So that’s cool. From there I want to make sure that we have a good timeline for you talking about drop shipping. You started to do more research on e-commerce stuff, what was the leap you made from having this delivery business to getting into e-commerce?

Anton: Yeah, sure. I had the delivery business and a book, The Four Hour Workweek, that book came out in 2007. I read it, and there’s a chapter in it about building a Yahoo store on that platform. It said it was $29 for a month to get started, and then there was a chapter on Google AdWords. My thought process was   like, “What products do I have access to?” And it was cookies. I built a website called NewYorkCookieShop.com, listed all those cookies, and set up Google AdWords. Figured it out pretty simply, targeting people outside of New York that searched for cookies or anything, saying “Do you miss New York bakeries? Order authentic cookies shipped to your home in three days,” something like that. That was a weekend experiment, and within a week or so, that was making more money than that business that I spent $25k for. So I was like, “OK. E-commerce. That’s what I’m doing.” Since then  I started to get into more and more expensive products and whatnot because I realized I didn’t want to sell $20 items, but that was the start.

Joe: That’s incredible. You took a weekend. I will say, I rag on the Four Hour Work Week a lot, but there is a lot of good stuff in that book. I read it probably around the same time. So you set up a website in a weekend, you did Google AdWords which is a topic we could have a whole show on. And it started making a ton of money. You said you started to get into more expensive products? I imagine that this is the part where we start to talk about drop shipping because first of all just like shipping cookies you need to think of a couple of things to make sure they’re fresh when they’re delivered, and stuff like that. Maybe we can get into the research at this point. What research did you do getting into shipping these various types of products?

Anton: The transition there was, again, same thought process. “If I’m selling $20 items why can’t I sell $1,000 items?”  Back then– It’s not the same now, so I don’t recommend anybody do this, but my research process was to go on eBay and go through all of the categories, search for products with the filters that were above $500 and then sort by completed listings. Then I was looking in all the categories for completed listings that sold at Buy It Now prices over $500 that looked to be consistent. Lots of green. When I saw that I was like, “OK. People are buying these things.” Once I figured that out I picked a subset of products I wanted to start with, still didn’t know what drop shipping was, so I went on Google and figured out everything comes from China. Then I found Alibaba and back then I  was importing, we don’t have to talk about it, but for three years I was importing products from China. Bringing the containers to a fulfillment center in Long Beach, California and then I was selling them online. The fulfillment center was shipping them all out all over the country, and then from there once I had all those websites up, a few years into the process I started to get phone calls at my e-commerce businesses. I’ll give you an example. One of them was selling bed frames, so I had a bed frame company call me, and they were like, “We see you sell these products. We have our brands,” whatever bed frames ABC, and “Do you want to sell our stuff?” And at first, I said “No,” because I thought they wanted me to buy them and put them in the fulfillment center and I thought, “I don’t want to do that for the margins,” but then they explained to me “Listen. You put them on your website. We have them in our warehouses. When you get a sale, you let us know, we ship it direct to your customers. For me, that meant no overhead, no extra overhead, and the ability to increase the amount of products that I offered. Once I found out about that I started working with as many different brands as I could, that would work on that model.

Joe: That’s incredible. And that’s sort of like Amazon-ish like you’re the conduit for people being able to buy these products without having to yourself buy these products at wholesale.

Anton: Exactly.

Joe: That’s fantastic. You mentioned that your research process of 10 or so years ago is not the best research process today. What would you recommend for somebody today if they want to get into selling physical products, or their own products, online?

Anton: Some things that I look for, and again I want to see that somebody else, meaning another business, is making money doing it. Some things that I look for are– I use Google, so I go on Google, and I’ll type in different industry names. “Modern leather Italian sofa,” “Mahogany wood dining table,” things like that. Then I’ll pull up the first three pages of websites that have those products for sale, and from there specifically what I’m looking for are websites that don’t have retail locations and that don’t have warehouses. I want to find other internet retailers. The way that I check that, once I have a million tabs open on my computer, is I go through all those websites, and I check their contact page, and  I check their about us page. I see if it says “Stores” or “Store locator,” and when they have that I’m just closing those out. Because I’m not going to be competing with them. What I end up with is a handful of sites that sell the stuff that I want to sell that don’t have that physical presence, and from there I take those domains. I usually check on Alexa to see how much traffic they’re getting. Obviously, it’s an estimate, but I’m looking for stores that are in the top hundred thousand or higher in the United States. Once I have those two things confirmed I take it to the next step, which is how many different brands are these websites selling for? Is it a modern Italian leather sofa website that’s custom making them in their garage in New York? Or is it a company that has 30 different types you could buy? And if I could find that, a website without the address, with that traffic, with multiple brands, then I’m  like “OK this is an opportunity.” That’s the starting point.

Joe: Gotcha. That makes sense. You want to make sure that these are people who aren’t necessarily catering to a local crowd, they want to cater to everybody. Then you said that you want to make sure they don’t have a warehouse either, and that’s because a warehouse implies that they are stocking their own stuff. Right?

Anton: Right, and when that happens, the way that we get– Just so everybody, if anyone is thinking “I should try drop shipping,” never go online and Google drop ship suppliers or anything like that because you’re going to find these middlemen that will say “Pay us X amount of dollars per month, and you get access to a million products,” and you’re never going to make money with companies like that in the long run. The companies that we sell for, we sell for directly. We have direct relationships with every single brand and the way that we find our brands is by finding companies that we’re going to be competing with. We find them from those websites. If my research was just anybody, even that has a retail store, and I’m going to try to sell the stuff that they’re selling. A lot of those brands will say “We don’t work with online retailers.” It’s a waste. We want to segment down further before we start extracting suppliers.

Joe: Gotcha. That makes a ton of sense. We haven’t defined drop shipping, I made the assumption that people know what it is, but maybe– Can you define it for us–?

Anton: Sure.

Joe: Before we move forward?

Anton: Yes. It’s a very vague term, and there’s a lot of different things that would fall under drop shipping, but all it means is you’re selling something, and you’re not fulfilling the orders directly. Even if at your house you were making wooden tables, and I put one on Craigslist, and I’m in Austin, Texas now. I put one on Craigslist, and I sold it. Then I was like, “I got the sale. Can you ship it to my customer?” And you did that, that would be drop shipped. That’s one way to do it. With the cookie business, I don’t even realize back then, but as that website grew I was selling them on my website, and then I was having the bakery in Brooklyn ship them directly to my customers. That technically was drop shipping. If you go online and Google it now, you’re probably going to think it means using a website like Ali Express and selling stuff from China through Facebook ads. And technically that is drop shipping, but again it’s a generic term. It’s a method of order fulfillment.

Joe: Gotcha. As you said if I want to get into selling Star Wars prints, like Star Wars digital prints. Or not digital prints, the canvas type prints.

Anton: Yes.

Joe: And I’m not making them, and I’m not shipping them to the person. I contract with a few people, artists sell them through my website, and then they ship them out. Another good real example is my website for selling T-shirts. That’s all through Printful.com. I uploaded the artwork, somebody orders a T-shirt, Printful prints the T-shirt and then sends it. I don’t touch that process at all.

Anton: Right. That’s drop shipping. We use them too. Good company.

Joe: I’m testing out a few more different products right now. So, cool. I like the advice that you gave about never Googling dropshipping suppliers. Much like what you said, selling from Ali express or whatever, through Facebook ads, it’s a little bit disingenuous. Because you’re taking advantage of the fact that people aren’t sure what to look for.

Anton: Speaking on that too. Never Google drop ship suppliers, and never, when you’re talking to the real brands that you want to sell for, you also shouldn’t use the term drop shipping. My website is called DropShipLifestyle.com so people can find us. But when I’m talking to suppliers, I don’t call them and say,  “Do you drop ship?” That’s not– It has a negative connotation associated with it because a lot of beginners think it means something that it’s not, and they think they’re going to make all this money by selling some big company’s stuff. The truth is the companies that you want to sell for, and they are only going to let you sell their stuff if they trust you and if they think you’re building a real business or already have a real business. That’s not a term you want to throw around besides discussions with other people that are in the business.

Joe: Gotcha. That makes sense. Because they’re putting their products on the line.

Anton: Exactly.

Joe: And if you’re disingenuous, to use the term I used before, then you’re diminishing their brand as well.

Anton: Exactly.

Joe: That’s cool. That’s almost like SEO ten years ago. If somebody said I’m a Search Engine Optimization expert, you’d almost look at them side-eyed. Like, “What are you trying to tell me?” Cool. So to talk about DropShipLifestyle.com, this is the thing that will be the title question. How did you build it? Can you tell us a little bit about that website specifically?

Anton: Sure. It’s a WordPress site, and it has so many, probably way too many plugins and themes. We’ve been through having everything done custom, and the problem with that for me is I’m not that technical, so when it came to making quick edits for changing out promotions or new content, it broke too much. Right now the front end of it, the main content site is running on WordPress using [thrive themes with thrive, architect]. That’s our builder. I love it, and it’s easy enough for me but still seems to load fast enough for Google to show, and we use that. Then for our community– A lot of what we do is teaching based. Our members area is also built on WordPress, that’s using a whole combination of tools, but using a tool called [Memberium], and that does content mocking and [Memberium] is a plugin that works with Infusionsoft. Infusionsoft is our CRM, so whether someone is getting emails from us or whether they buy from us and then get access tags, that’s all handled there. Then Infusionsoft works with [Memberium] to say, “OK give this person access to this thing.” That’s our main content for this company.

Break: This episode is brought to you by Pantheon. Starting a new project? Looking for a better hosting platform? Pantheon is an integrated set of tools to build, launch and run websites. Get high performance hosting for your WordPress sites, plus a comprehensive toolkit to supercharge your team and help you launch faster. On Pantheon, you get expert support from real developers, best in class security and the most innovative technology to host and manage your websites. You can sign up a new site in minutes with a free account, and you only pay when it goes live. That is my second favorite feature to Pantheon, only to the easy ability to create dev staging and live servers, and push to GitHub. It’s very easy to set those things up on Pantheon. You can head over to Pantheon.io today to set up a free account and pay only when it goes live. Thanks so much to Pantheon for their support of this episode and this season of How I Built It.

Joe: DropShipLifestyle.com is an area where people can come to learn about drop shipping, and there’s the community aspect where people can talk to each other. It looks like you have a couple of courses on here too, what are you– Are you using WordPress for the courses as well?

Anton: Exactly. WordPress. They’re on a subdomain, so it’s Courses.DropShipLifestyle, but that’s on WordPress as well with–  It’s using [divvy] as the theme on there, but we use a plugin called Sensei, and Sensei is a good course plugin. It’s pretty basic but more than enough, and it tracks people’s progress throughout so they can click, they completed a lesson. It allows us to attach different downloads to different modules, like worksheets and whatnot. Easy to embed videos, we use Vimeo pro for all of our video hosting there. For our community side of it,  that’s where the content lives for the education of it. But then we wanted to have a forum also, so people can interact with each other. We do have a Facebook group, but I started Drop Ship Lifestyle back in 2013 when Facebook groups weren’t even a thing yet, so we needed a forum integration. For the forum we found the best solution to be through Invision Power Board. It’s InvisionPowerBoard.com, and we use their software to run our forum.

Joe: That’s cool. I haven’t heard of Invision Power Board, and I’m definitely going to check that out. I use bbPress for my community, and it integrates well with my LMS LearnDash. But Sensei is the one that integrates with WooCommerce, right? That’s the WooCommerce LMS?

Anton: They do have a plugin, yeah.

Joe: Cool.

Anton: An extension.

Joe: Nice. It sounds like you have a lot going on, but it sounds like the perfect site builder map. If I wanted to go off and build a website that is a course and community, or an online courses and community, you’ve given us a good blueprint for what we should be using. Which is always insanely valuable.

Anton: Especially since there’s so much out there. We’ve been through so many different tools, and nothing’s going to be perfect, but if you do want to create something like an online course, pick something. This works for us, it does work, so if you want to use it then use it, but don’t get caught up. That’d be my advice for anybody, don’t get caught up in “Which one out of these thousand things should I use?” Because they all do the same thing.

Joe: That’s great advice, and it’s something that– I started a second podcast called Creator Toolkit where I go through things exactly like this. “What do I need to do to set up an online course?” I talk about the themes and different plugins that you could use and stuff like that, but you’re absolutely right, the tools are one thing, and the content is a whole other thing. So even if you want to use Vimeo pro to make the videos and sell the videos, you can do that on Vimeo pro now too. But this is fantastic, and I’ll be sure to link all of that in the show notes. It looks like– As we come up on, we’re coming up on time already I can’t believe it. You have three different courses. I don’t want to make this sound like an advertisement, but this is. There’s so much to know about drop shipping, and you’ve given us, again, like I said a really good blueprint. But what’s the difference between these three courses? I’m looking at the pricing table, but if I wanted to get started with drop shipping today, which course would you recommend for me?

Anton: Either what we call our premium course, which is all our training videos. That’s every training video we have plus our– We do have an app for Shopify that’s not in the Shopify app store, and it’s something that’s on our website. It lives on our website, but we allow our students to use it. That’s included with that. Then also we have– We call it the Drop Ship Lifestyle Shopify theme,  really original name, but you get that too. So I’d recommend either that or for the people that want just us to build the website for you, we don’t go as far obviously as getting traffic and sales and supplier approvals because then we would sell the website ourselves for a lot more money. But that’s the top tier package where we will set up your Shopify store, and we’ll upload your products for you, do all your content pages and your logo. We will set up your social media pages. We will set up your first Google ads on Google Shopping campaign, but that’s for the people that are like, “Let me just hand that off,” and “I’d rather just pay to outsource it.” Depends how hands on you want to be in the beginning, I would say.

Joe: That’s great. This is the reason I ask this question because this is for anybody who wants to sell online courses. This is a great model.

Anton: Definitely.

Joe: You’ve got basic, which is some educational information. You’ve got premium, which is basic– This is the middle tier. This is what probably you’re–

Anton: That’s all the content. So if you want to learn again, boom here you go. You got it.

Joe: Then there’s the ultimate package, which like you said, will do everything for you. You get to learn, but then you understand what’s happening and the setup is being done for you. So you can understand, but you don’t have to sink a bunch of hours into the nitty-gritty of setting the site up and making sure, “Is this right? I think I understood this correctly, but I’m not sure.”.

Anton: Exactly.

Joe: And again, to hearken back to what we talked about earlier, this ultimate package is $4,997, one-fifth of what you paid to start your first business.

Anton: I know. It’s funny. People think about it different like you said too, and I get it. Even when I’m building a new website I’m like, “Can I start this thing for $200 bucks?” And it’s funny. I bought– The truck that I got with that delivery route was like a 1985 dodge something piece of crap that I paid to sit in traffic for two hours on the BQE every day, like that was my investment. And now people are like, “It’s going to cost me $29 a month for Shopify? That’s a ripoff.” Like, it’s powering your entire business. Relax.

Joe: Exactly. That’s something that I try to talk about a lot on this show because I was guilty of it starting out. I’m getting better about it now if I can pay $300 hundred bucks for something that’s going to save me even ten hours that is totally worth it for me. But you’re absolutely right, and it’s so funny. I quoted out a project for somebody, and they wanted an e-commerce site that would have 2,500 or 25,000– Some preposterous amount of products on it. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s say 40,000 products. And I quoted them at $20 thousand because it would just be WooCommerce where we’re sourcing the product somewhere else, and he’s like, “That’s expensive.” And I was like, “That is 50 cents a product.”  It’s interesting because people understand how expensive it is to build a building because they can see it get built. But with a website it’s like, this guy goes into his magic box and sets up a website, and it’s done. That’s cool. We’re coming up on time, and I’m enjoying this conversation. What are your plans for the future of DropShipLifestyle.com? Or maybe if you want to wax poetic a little bit, what do you think the future of drop shipping is?

Anton: That’s one thing– The future for Drop Ship Lifestyle, what’s cool about it is, again, it’s been around for five years. The reason it’s still around and the reason I still do so much for it, like I’m doing a coaching call today for it at 2:00 PM, but it’s because things always do change. It’s enjoyable for me because I do love the business side of it, both on the info business which would be Drop Ship Lifestyle, and on the physical product business. It’s fun for me. So the future is seeing where things go, seeing what works for us and then sharing it once I can confirm some data with our other businesses. It’ll keep evolving as the e-commerce site evolves, and the future of drop shipping is more about the future of e-commerce than drop shipping. Because again, drop shipping is one method of order fulfillment. I don’t think that even if– I don’t see any big difference there between e-commerce as a whole, but what I hope doesn’t happen, because we’ll see what the government does. If they have to break up Amazon or not. Because right now the type of stuff we sell,  knock on wood, it hasn’t been an issue with Amazon with prime because we don’t sell prime products. If you want to sell inexpensive stuff and have your own brand, that’s a great place to have your stuff too. With our stuff, it would never happen. In the future though, if it does, and there becomes a day that you’re moving into a new office, and everything’s going to be furnished from Amazon, and you’re going to place a $20k order on there and so is everybody else and they eat up the entire market, we’ll see if they get broken up or not. That might be five years from now, that might be ten years from now. It might never happen. But that’s the type of thing that would cause a big impact on sales. Same reason when Home Depot went everywhere, smaller retailers went out of business. Not happening yet, but again it could be a negative future for it.

Joe: That’s a really interesting take. Because we do see Amazon getting into– There’s the Amazon grocery service, Pantry I think it’s called, where you can get groceries on Amazon and if you live in the right place, you can get it in the same day. I live near Philadelphia now, and I’m indignant when something takes more than two days to get to me because I have same day shipping now. But that’s a good point. And they have prime wardrobe now which is the same sort of thing as Stitch Fix. They could conceivably monopolize the e-commerce market.

Anton: They’re trying to. That’s their goal.

Joe: Right. That’s so interesting. You’ve given us a ton of great advice, but I do want to ask my favorite question though. Which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?

Anton: Maybe. It might not be a secret based on the kinds of things we’ve been talking about, but one thing that made all the difference for me with growing our businesses was focusing on expensive products. It’s one reason also, even with Drop Ship Lifestyle, it’s why the course doesn’t cost $7. It’s why we make premium products there. The stuff we sell online also, the products we drop ship and the brands we sell for, it’s more of a premium price point. It’s more of something that honestly is going to give our customer a better experience, but it’s also going to allow us enough profit per sale to be able to pay for ads and to be able to have support people, to be able to invest time into growing these things. So, maybe it’s a secret maybe it’s not. But I would say for anybody, whatever you’re selling online, try to sell something– For us, our minimum is $200 hundred bucks that we look for. Ideally closer to $1,000 or more, and since we made that shift, it’s made a massive difference in how we can spend and how we can grow.

Joe: That’s great advice. Because like you said, if you’re going to be selling smaller stuff then maybe sell it through Amazon. Or people will likely buy it from Amazon anyway because their shipping overhead is a lot lower than what your shipping overhead would be. That is great advice, and that’s not just great advice for people who drop ship either. If you’re selling digital products, I for a long time underpriced my courses. I had to grind out each sale, and it wasn’t worth it for me. I’m raising the price of my courses, which allows me to spend more time creating good content, and it also communicates the value of those courses to the buyer. That’s another really important thing. If you’re selling a chair for $20 bucks or something like that, that’s probably a cheaply made chair. But if you’re selling it for a $1,000 bucks, people know I’m getting a good quality chair.

Anton: And it brings in the legitimate buyers. For Drop Ship Lifestyle, if I said “I’m going to teach you how I’ve been doing this stuff for the past decade and how I’ve built multiple eight-figure stores, and how I spend a million dollars on ads a year,” and it’s $599. People are going to be like, “OK this is a scam.” Right? Or instead, people are going to buy it thinking they’re going to get rich overnight. Instead, the people that invest in our program, at least 99% of them, they’re serious, and they’re trying to build something. That allows me to put like you said, more time into the content. It allows me to do things like– I do a monthly call with everybody, but a monthly webinar Q&A type thing. And if I sold something that was cheap you wouldn’t be able to do that. So everybody, go premium and give people what they want which is results, and more. They want more from you, so give it to them.

Joe: That’s great. And I will– Before I ask you where people can find you, there is one more anecdote I want to share with somebody who’s in my mastermind group. She was selling a very cheap or free membership, and they expected this from her because of where they were in their career. They weren’t ready to spend $2 thousand or $5 thousand on the proper learning material, but they still spent money and viewed it as “I need to get everything I can out of this.” And it wasn’t viable for her. That’s a good point about bringing in the legitimate buyers. Cool. Anton, thanks so much for your time. Where can people find you?

Anton: The best spot would be DropShipLifestyle.com. Everything is linked up off there. All the social pages, you want to contact me, we have the contact on there. But that’s where we’ve got all our links.

Joe: Awesome. I will include that and everything we talked about in today’s episode, which is a lot. It’s going to be lengthy show notes. Be sure to head over to HowIBuilt.it for those. Anton, thanks so much again for your time. I appreciate it.

Anton: Awesome, thank you.

Outro: Thanks so much to Anton for joining us today. I liked his thoughts about expanding his ability to sell, and how he built his website which is WordPress and a lot of stuff I use, which is cool. Then his future predictions for drop shipping, especially that of Amazon and how that’s the elephant in the room, and how that’s going to affect the future of drop shipping. He offers a lot of great advice, and I’m appreciative for that. I’m also appreciative of our sponsors, Plesk, Pantheon, and MailPoet. Be sure to check them out. For all the show notes you can head over to HowIBuilt.it/107. My question of the week for you is, have you been thinking about drop shipping or is this the first time you’ve ever heard of it? Let me know your thoughts at Joe@HowIBuilt.it, or on Twitter @jcasabona. If you liked this episode be sure to give us a rating and a review over an Apple podcasts. It helps people discover the show. Until next time, get out there and build something.

The post Anton Kraly and a Drop Ship Business appeared first on How I Built It.

Jan 22 2019

36mins

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Episode 31: Ty Fujimura & Building Client Relationships

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In this episode, Ty and I discuss a few great topics! His company, Cantilever, focuses on strong client relationships that elicit enough trust to try cool, experimental projects, like what they did with Rustic Pathways. We talk about integrating the REST API in an interesting way, the importance of communicating with clients, and why trying a project as “just a project” might not be the best way to grow your business.

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The post Episode 31: Ty Fujimura & Building Client Relationships appeared first on How I Built It.

Apr 11 2017

32mins

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Kirsten Bunch and Changing Careers

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Over the last 2 weeks, we discussed mental and physical health as it relates to freelancing and self-employment. To round out this trilogy of overall happiness in your career, I’m talking to Kirsten Bunch, who is a reinvention coach. She helps those folks who are mid-career but need a change. She offers some fantastic advice on how to determine if you’re ready for a chance, and the steps you should talk in order to figure out what to do for your next career move.

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Transcript

Kirsten Bunch: I think the point is you don’t have to stay on the same path just because of some feeling of obligation, and also because you switch careers or because you start your own business maybe there’s– Definitely when you start your own business, there’s a period of time where you are not making a lot of money, but there’s still lots of ways to make money in this world. Switching careers doesn’t mean all of a sudden you’re not making any money.

Joe Casabona: That was Kirsten Bunch. Over the last two weeks, we discussed mental and physical health as it relates to freelancing and self-employment. To round out this trilogy of overall happiness in your career, I’m talking to Kirsten, who is a reinvention coach. She helps those folks who are mid-career but need a change. She offers some fantastic advice on how to determine if you’re ready for change and then the steps you should take in order to figure out what to do for your next career move. This is advice that can come to anybody at any walk of life, and you don’t need to be 10, 15, or 20 years into a career to determine you need a career change. We’ll get into this interview in a minute, but of course, first a word from our sponsors.

Break: This episode is brought to you by our friends at Ahoy! The easiest way to increase customer engagement on your WordPress site. Install Ahoy! Create a message box, configure a way to display it, and start seeing conversions come in. You can create messages for cart abandonment, up-sales and cross-sells, custom support, and so much more. Ahoy! Has flexible conditions that let you choose exactly where and when you want your message to be displayed. I’ve recently installed it on my own WooCommerce site, and I’ve already seen increased engagement. I know this because of Ahoy! and it’s powerful analytics and reporting. You will see ROI within days of installing Ahoy! If not sooner. That’s even more true for listeners of How I Built It. You can get an exclusive 20% discount on any plan. Visit UseAhoy.com/HowIBuiltIt and use the code HOWIBUILTIT at checkout. Use those today and increase your engagement in sales on your WordPress site. Thanks to Ahoy! for their support of this show.

Joe: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today I’m excited to talk to my guest, Kirsten bunch. She is a reinvention coach and entrepreneur, and the topic we’re going to be discussing today is reinventing yourself and launching a new business if you feel stuck. Without further ado, Kirsten, how are you?

Kirsten: Hey. I’m really good, and I’m really good. I’m really happy to be here and have this conversation with you today.

Kirsten: Absolutely, thank you for joining me.

Joe: I’m excited because this is a pretty unique topic for the show, usually we’re talking about more concrete businesses ideas or services. But I think that especially in the space that my audience is in, the web development space, the WordPress space, a lot of people find their way to WordPress web development by feeling stuck. I’m excited to talk more high-level about this stuff. Why don’t we start off with who you are and what you do?

Kirsten: Yes. Like you said, I am a reinvention coach, and a strategist and entrepreneur. By the nature of that, I help people reinvent and refresh their careers. That can mean starting a business, a lot of my clients start businesses. It could also mean switching from one career to another. It also means passion projects sometimes, people who have clients who are writing books as a way to relaunch themselves or starting film festivals in their communities. Things like that. I find that most of my clients, typically my clients are around the mid-career point where they’re looking at what they’ve done and they’re looking at the next 20-25 years because that’s let’s face it, nobody is retiring at the age of 60 anymore. Thinking, “OK. What’s next for me? What am I going to do?”

Joe: Absolutely. First of all, I don’t know if I would have the ability to retire. I mean maybe I’m about halfway there, a little more than halfway there. Maybe I will want to retire. But I feel like I’d be pretty bored if I retired at 60 or 65. But you mentioned this in the pre-show discussion too, about passion projects, and I like that. Mostly because my career manifested itself out of a passion project. I was doing web development on the side, and it was a hobby, and I liked it. Then I made that my career basically from high school, I was doing that full time– Or, I was doing it while going to school, I should say. I like that too, and one other reason I like that is because I’ve heard from a lot of people in my outer circles that they don’t have a hobby. They basically work, and then they go back to work, and helping people find and pursue passion projects is important to me because I think that you should have other interests outside of your day job.

Kirsten: I think that’s true because I think– One of the things that I coach my clients on is not everybody’s ready to jump out of their career or jump out of their job, either for financial reasons or for identity purposes. I don’t recommend just quitting your job from one day to the next unless you’re prepared for what that means, and we could dig into what that means if you want. But one way to get your toes wet is to do a passion project. It’ll help you feel better about being in a job that maybe you’re not thrilled about, because you’ll have something else to think about, but it’s also a way– Like I said in the beginning, it’s a way to relaunch yourself. I’m working with a woman right now who in order to– She’s a celebrity stylist, and in order to relaunch herself and figure out where she’s headed next she felt the urge and felt the need to write her story. She’s writing a book about the vulnerability of beauty, and all this stuff. Cool stuff. It’s a way for her to take stock of where she’s been and who she is now and where she’s going.

Joe: I love that. That sounds cool. I think it flows very well into the next question that I had for you, which is “How do you know when you’re ready to make a career switch?”

Kirsten: I think if you’re uncomfortable with what you’re doing now, and that feeling of uncomfortable-ness isn’t going away, I think you need to examine that. That doesn’t mean you need a career switch necessarily, but it means that there’s something going on. I do a lot of speaking, and I always tell my audiences I have this whole story about my own reinvention, where I ignored the fact that I wasn’t happy in the career that I was in and I was moving from one job to the next and just doing the same thing. It’s like, what’s the saying– Doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. So what I say is that you can distract yourself from the truth, but the truth isn’t going to go away. If you feel like that’s what you’re doing, is you’re distracting yourself from the truth, that you’re not in the right place. Then I would suggest getting some help to figure that out, and not panicking. Please don’t panic. It’s OK. It’s all going to be OK, and you’ll figure it out.

Joe: I think that’s great. Not necessarily career switches for me, but both times I decided to leave my current job they came after a longer period of “What am I doing? I feel like I’m not growing,” in one instance. I felt like I was falling behind. I felt like I was the person who knew the most, and I didn’t want to be that. I was 26. I didn’t want to be the most knowledgeable person at my company, because there’s so much more to learn there. Then in my previous job, my wife and I had just had our first child, and I was re-evaluating based on that, and the time I was spending at work versus with my family. But I like that if you’re uncomfortable with what you’re doing, you need to examine it and don’t ignore it. Moving forward in this interview, we talked about this in the -pre-show, creating the persona of somebody who is ready for that career switch. As I ask the next set of questions, maybe we can keep that person in mind. Someone comes to you, and they say “I’m ready for a career switch, I’m not quite sure where I want to go next. What do I do?” The follow-up question I always ask in this interview is, “What kind of research do you do?” So how would we figure out where to go from here?

Kirsten: Yeah, no, definitely. It’s a great question. A metaphor I like to use, and I stole this from my branding team, but a metaphor I like to use is “What car–?” If you think about cars and you think about “If you can be any car you want, what car are you now and what car do you want to become?” And it’s not “What car you want to buy,” but “What car do you want to be?” So when you think about the cars, and you think about the car you want to become, you want to think about things like the size of the car. Because that in your career represents community. Have you been working in a big company and you want to be on your own? You want some space, you want to be a solo solopreneur, and you want to explore what that is? Or have you been working on your own in a small business and you miss that bigger crowd around you? The car analogy is, “Do you want a mini or do you want to do you want an SUV? A big SUV or a van?” Then also your values come in. Do you want the gas guzzler in your career, do you want to work for something that’s not mission-focused per se, and you want to work for a big company that does something that maybe isn’t– Like do you want to work for a tobacco company, or something like that? Or do you– Is there something within your values that is pulling you, like you feel like “I want to do something about climate change.” Or “I want to do something about animals,” I don’t know, food systems. So with the car analogy, it’s “Do you want a gas guzzler or do you want a hybrid? Do you want an E-car? What are you looking for?” I think figuring out those two things, what are the values that you’re looking for in your career, your new career and what, how– Sorry, I’ve lost my train of thought. But how do you show up with– If you think about it in the sense of car, what does your car look like and what are the elements of that car? The features is the word I’m trying to find.

Joe: Absolutely. That makes perfect sense. Again thinking back to my own journey, I worked at a big university which is essentially like a Fortune 500 company without the bankroll. Then I went to a small team, and now I’m solo. I made those choices at various stages. Then I like the idea of “Do you want a gas guzzler versus an electric car?” Or “Do you want to work for a company maybe where you do a specific job, and you like doing that job, or do you want to work for someone that has a very clear mission that aligns with your views?” If you dig on what Ben and Jerry’s is doing, they have a very clear mission. Maybe that’s something that you would consider as well. I like that a lot.

Kirsten: Yeah. I think that the idea of being an entrepreneur or working for somebody else, do you want an automatic car do you want a stick shift or a standard car? Because if you’re an entrepreneur, it’s all on you. You’ve got to drive that, and you’ve got to pay attention to how you’re shifting and all of that. That’s not to say in automatic if you’re working for somebody else you don’t have to do it, but it’s a little bit more that somebody else is driving the ship and you’re steering your part of the job.

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Joe: The next question that I would have is, what am I going to do? I’ve been a web developer for 15 years, I’ve worked at– My old man worked at Verizon and before that Bell Atlantic or Ninex and Ma Bell, or whatever. He worked at the same company for his entire career. How do you figure out what to do next, as far as the actual doing the job?

Kirsten: The question I get a lot is, “How do I figure out my passion?” I’m not– Actually, I don’t know. I’m not a passion person. I’ve never really figured out my passion, and my passion has been trying new things if anything, that’s what my passion is. What I say to people is, instead of– “Forget about your passion. If you know what that is, awesome. Follow that. But don’t freak out if you’re just like, ‘I have no idea what that is.’ Follow your curiosity instead and follow the things that are catching your attention, and talk to people about them and read up and talk to people who are working in that space.” For me, my reinvention story was about becoming an entrepreneur and starting my own business. I had never done that, I didn’t– I don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs, my parents were school teachers, and I don’t know a lot of people who had their own business. I do now, and I know tons of people. But my curiosity was about “What would it be like to run my own business? What is that even about?” I think back of how naive I was a couple of years ago compared to where I am now, I’m still incredibly naive, but it can be a curiosity around a specific function, or it can be a curiosity around an issue, or something else.

Joe: I like that point a lot, follow your curiosity. It’s almost like your freshman year of college, taking a bunch of gen-ed classes to see which one you like the best before you determine your major, is what I thought there. I like that answer too, and it resonates with me in an interesting way because I knew from the age of 12 that I wanted to work with computers in some capacity. I was very lucky in knowing exactly what I wanted to do from a pretty early age. Before that, this is a little known fact, and I wanted to be a Catholic priest because I was an altar boy and that seemed like the next logical career move to an 11-year-old or a 12-year-old. But then I discovered computers and I felt like that was a lot more lucrative.

Kirsten: Yes, probably.

Joe: Follow your curiosity and figure out what’s catching your attention. I think that’s a nice takeaway.

Kirsten: You bring up a really good point about this idea of– This happens to a lot of people who are mid-career, that you’ve been on a path and I hear all the time “I’m just going to continue this because this is the way I’ve been going, and this is what I’ve worked so hard to get to.” We take time, we pay attention to our education, we build our skills, and we build our networks, and it’s a little disconcerting, or it’s a lot disconcerting if you get to a point where you’re just– It’s back to owning your truth, and you’re like “I don’t know if this is right for me anymore.” Something in your gut is telling you that it’s not right, but you’ve invested so much, so why not just continue on that path? The difference is now in this day and age, and we’re really the first generation– It’s true for men and women but particularly women, this is the first generation of those of us who are in our 40s and 50s where we have the luxury of time, and we have the luxury of technology and the way cultural norms around work– How they’ve shifted. We have the luxury to ask that question, “What else can I do?” And have a long enough runway to figure that out. Because we’re not, God-willing, we’re not dying at the age of– In our late 50s or early 60s anymore. A lot of us are living much longer. Like I said in the beginning, a lot of us want to be productive and engaged. The idea of retirement is just completely changing.

Joe: Right. The retirement age was determined based on the average lifespan. You retire, and then a few years later you’re probably not going to be alive anymore, and that’s not the case anymore. You retire at 65, and you could live another 25 years or 30 years. All of my wife’s grandparents are in their late 80s, which is not what it was like when they entered the workforce. I like that a lot. Then people who are mid-career and on a path generally want to stay on that path, and I think that’s absolutely true. Especially with the increasing cost of college, I spent over $100,000 dollars or whatever on a college degree, and now I’m not going to use that degree. That weighs on your mind a little bit.

Kirsten: Hopefully by the time you’re mid-career you’ve–

Joe: Yeah, that’s true.

Kirsten: But I know for people who are in school now, that might not be the case. They may be carrying that debt through for years and years and years. I think the point is you don’t have to stay on the same path just because of some feeling of obligation, and also because you switch careers or because you start your own business maybe there’s– Definitely when you start your own business, there’s a period of time where you are not making a lot of money, but there’s still lots of ways to make money in this world. Switching careers doesn’t mean all of a sudden you’re not making any money.

Joe: I think that’s– To drive that point home, before we get on to the title question, I read an article that I like that basically said “If you’re not willing to do something for three years, you shouldn’t think about it.” That falls in line with the idea that if you start your own business, you’re probably not going to make good money or replace your previous salary for about three years as you get up and running. You’re not immediately going to make what you are making at your old established job, so I like that. That’s stuck with me. I’m about to enter year three of my business, and things are going pretty well, not as well as I want them to be, but I’m also– I’m a millennial, so I don’t have any patience. I really like that, that change can be hard, but you shouldn’t stay on the same path because you have a feeling of obligation towards it. Or towards what you’re currently doing, I should say. Let’s get into the title question, and I have followed my curiosity. Let’s pick an example that you’ve mentioned before, let’s say I want to write a book. I’ll say a fiction book because I’ve written technical books. I want to write a work of fiction. How do I build my reinvented career or my reinvented passion project?

Kirsten: If it’s about writing a book, writing a fiction book, I don’t work with people who write fiction, so it’s a little bit of a difficult scenario. But let me talk it through. With writing a book, there are a lot of book coaches out there that can help you write your book. If you have no experience writing at all, I would say start with taking some courses where you’re writing within a group, and people are giving you feedback. I know Gotham– I forget what it’s called, but it’s like Gotham Writers or something like that in New York that has a lot of online courses, and they’re always really great. But I think the thing is that if you want to write you’ve got to write, and that’s like with anything. If you want to start a business, you’ve got to start a business. You’ve got to take action. That’s true– You could give me any scenario, and I would say, “Take action.” If you want to write, start writing. Stop talking about it, and I think there is a big– Don’t stop talking about it, but put action behind the talk. I think there’s a lot of people that are always like, talk talk talk. “I’m going to do this,” and 10 years later, you see the person and you’re like “Are you still talking about this, and you haven’t yet done it?” I think whatever it is that you want to do, follow your curiosity, and take action.

Joe: Nice. Don’t just talk about it, actually do something. If you want to write, you’ve got to write. I love that. I had a track coach– I was on the field part, I didn’t do much track, but I did the field part. Our track and field coach [Mr. Diebold], on the first day of practice, said to the runners, “If you want to run fast, you got to run fast.” Then to the shot putters, “If you want to throw far, you got to throw far.” I remember that, and I’m like, “I want to throw far.” I think that’s a great piece of advice, something that I’ve heard a lot, and going back to your initial point, start talking to people. Take some courses to set you on that path. Let’s speak a little bit more generally now, as far as reinventing goes. Take some courses, and is the first step figuring out your first step? Is the first step in reinventing your career, figuring out exactly what you need to do?

Kirsten: Yeah, no. Not necessarily, because some people don’t know. A lot of– Some people say “I know this doesn’t feel right, what I’m doing now, and I want to figure out what else I’m doing.” If I say to them, “Just start taking action or figure out your first step.” They’ll be like, “I don’t know what that is.” Then they’ll run around in a circle, and that’s–  You get dizzy. I think that one of those– As I said in the beginning, it’s like owning your truth. What is it that you’re experiencing now that doesn’t feel right to you? Looking at that, and it does help a lot to get some help by maybe there’s an HR person in your company that also has coaching skills that could help you talk that through. I think there’s a sense of vulnerability there, you have to be willing to own your truth and– I keep saying that, but in talking to people about it I wouldn’t go and announce it in the company newsletter that you’re seeking your next career necessarily, but if you have trusted people where you are, have a conversation about what it is you’re trying to figure out. Get some help thinking that through, what is it that doesn’t feel right? What is it that–? In some ways, it’s simple. A lot of us know what we want to do, we’re just afraid to admit it to ourselves because we think we’ll fail or we think it won’t work, or we think we don’t have what it takes. Or my favorite is we think we need to spend two years gathering every single piece of information and listening to every podcast and reading every book until we make any steps towards that direction at all. You’re not going to know if it’s right or not unless you at least start taking a little bit of action.

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Joe: In the context of doing things online as a software developer, “Iterate quickly” is “Do something, see if it works out, you can always adjust it later.” Right? This is not like building a skyscraper where we need to make sure all the plans are exactly right before we start building. This is more malleable than that. I’ll link to a previous guest, Scott Bollinger, that basically talked about that. “Launch as soon as you can, because you don’t want to spend two years throwing yourself into this thing and realizing that it’s not the right thing to do once you start doing it.”

Kirsten: Absolutely. I talk to people about having– People have college funds for their kids, they have retirement funds. I talk to people about having reinvention funds. The reality is because of the way, as we talked about because people are retiring later and because of the way we’re working now, the reality is that you’re probably going to reach a point in your career where you’re going to look to reinvent yourself. Whether that means starting a business or switching careers, isn’t it wonderful to have a fund that you can pull on so that you don’t have to be so stressed out about your reinvention? Because a lot of the times– You probably know this as an entrepreneur, it’s hard to know what to spend money on. That fear of, “I only have– I have no money because I didn’t plan for this. I don’t want to hire this web developer to help me,” or “I don’t want to hire this coach,” or “I don’t want to hire this bargaining person because I’m going to go into debt.” But if you have that reinvention fund, it makes it a little bit easier, and it makes it a little bit more– It takes the fear away a little bit.

Joe: Absolutely. Even as somebody who does run their own business, you should– I got some great advice from a friend Jen Bourne who said that you should have a rainy day fund. Take some part of the money you make every month and put it into a separate fund because you’ll probably have that feast and famine. There’ll be good times where money is coming in, and there’ll be slow times, so you need to manage that a little bit. So, “Have a reinvention fund.” I think it’s The Richest Man in Babylon, have you read that book?

Kirsten: No.

Joe: It’s about investing, but the lesson is really good. You take 10% of your income no matter what, and you put it somewhere. You take that, and you invest it in whatever you think you should. This was written a long time ago, so it talks about investing in a farm or whatever, but reinvention fund means you’re investing in yourself. You’re taking that 10% for your future self to help reinvent yourself.

Kirsten: Absolutely. Investing in yourself as one of– It’s a big thing. We’ll invest in our kids, and we’ll invest in our homes. But when it comes to investing in ourselves, a lot of people give a pause around that. They feel like, especially people in mid-career who are just like “I spent my money on my education,” right?

Joe: Right.

Kirsten: But the reality is that it doesn’t stop, the idea of– Sorry. Investing in yourself is lifelong. You’ve got to keep doing that.

Joe: Absolutely. As we wrap up, I will point to one more book that I think drives this home, especially for entrepreneurs. That’s Profit First, which talks about taking 5% of the money that you make there and just put it in a– That’s your bonus, otherwise you’re not getting anything out of the business. You’re working harder than you would in a full-time job, and you’re not getting anything from it, so as we record this I just used my Profit First money to buy this beautiful fountain pen that I wanted for a long time. It’s the Sailor Pro Gear, I don’t know if you’re into fountain pens, but it’s a very nice pen. I had the support of my wife to buy it, of course, but I feel like I’ve gotten something out of the business this quarter because it’s something I’ve wanted for a long time.

Kirsten: I love that. I think especially as new entrepreneurs we are– Gosh, the money thing is so hard. I love the fact of just buying yourself something nice even if it’s– go and have a spa day or buy yourself a nice pen, or whatever.

Joe: Yeah, exactly. Get something out of your business that you maybe wouldn’t get out of the full-time job, and along with that proper money management is important. I think your point about the reinvention fund and reading Profit First, manage your money, and that gives you freedom. I think that those are very good points to take away. Let’s– I usually like to ask you what your plans for the future are here, but we haven’t talked specifically about you that much. Why don’t we get an idea of what you would do for somebody, for our persona that we’ve created as far as guiding them, and what your plans for the future are?

Kirsten: Sure. I think I understand your question.

Joe: I threw like two or three in there.

Kirsten: OK.

Joe: It’s– What do you do currently and what do you hope to do in the near future?

Kirsten: Got it, yeah. Like I said, I’m a reinvention coach and strategist, and I help people figure out their next act. My book is called– I have a book that came out last year, it’s called Next Act: Give Back and it’s not about volunteering, it’s not about giving money. It’s really about how you give back to yourself, how you give back to the dreams that you had in college to do something that you wanted to do, and you got carried away on a career track that has been good or bad depending on your situation. But now it’s time to reassess what you’re doing, and for me, I continue to work with people who are at that point of their careers where they’re asking “What am I doing here and what else could I be doing, and what’s next?” That work isn’t going to change, because I absolutely love that work. This is what lights me up, and I get up excited, and I’m excited every day to work with my clients and see what they can do. For me, what I’m doing now is focusing on how to be a better business person, and how to learn how to be a better entrepreneur. “What do I need to learn?” Which is tons of stuff. I’m working with a branding agency right now to make my brand a little more polished, and I guess more official-looking. One of the things that I found when I started was that I was talking to too small of an audience. So I’ve expanded, and I’m working with a branding agent to expand who I’m talking to with my messaging. The future really is “How do I help more people, and how do I make more money helping more people?” Basically. That has to do with group programs, retreats, things like that. For me, everything has to be fun, otherwise, I don’t want to do it. I can’t force myself to do things that aren’t fun. So, that’s where I’m headed.

Joe: I like that a lot. “For me, everything has to be fun.” In both of our situations, we’re probably not just happy with the paycheck, I need to be fulfilled by my work, I want to be able to do things that I enjoy doing, and everything has to be fun. So, cool. As we wrap up here, I do like to ask my favorite question, which is, do you have any trade secrets for us? You’ve given us a lot of really great information so far, is there–? What’s maybe the one big takeaway that you want listeners to have?

Kirsten: I think the one thing, and I don’t know if it’s a trade secret, but the one thing that I have learned is that you can’t do everything by yourself and you’ve got to invest in your business. That may mean taking on debt, and if you’re a solopreneur that could mean borrowing money from people or having credit card debt, or there’s other ways to take on debt. But you are not going to grow unless you’re investing in yourself, and in what you’re trying to do. For a long time, I sat and didn’t want to spend any money, didn’t want to invest in myself. I tried to do it myself and what you were saying– There’s a lot of things that I’m good at, and there’s a lot of things I’m not good at. Like marketing, forget it. I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. But you have to figure that out and own that. What are you good at, what are you not good at? Get help and stop trying to do it yourself, stop trying to bootstrap it as a badge of honor and invest in yourself. You can either– Money and time have an interesting relationship. You can either spend a lot of time, or you can spend some money and spend less time.

Joe: “Money and time have an interesting relationship.” I love that. When I was younger, I had so much time, and I would do everything. I had all the time and no money. Now that I am older and I have a family, time is the most valuable thing to me. I will happily spend $200 dollars if it saves me several hours, or whatever.

Kirsten: Yes, absolutely.

Joe: Yeah. I love that, “Invest in yourself. You can’t do everything by yourself, and you may need to take on a little bit of debt. That’s perfectly fine.” People who start brick and mortar businesses before the age of the internet had to go to the bank to get a loan to buy property. The idea is that they were investing in their future self to be able to pay off that debt and be in a better place, so I think that there’s an interesting look at debt today with the whole Total Money Makeover movement and no debt ever. Sometimes you need to invest in yourself, and that future investment will hopefully pay off if you do your due diligence. So Kirsten Bunch, thank you so much for joining me today. Where can people find you?

Kirsten: Thank you. This has been great. They can find me at my website, and it’s KirstenBunch.com. I’m also pretty active on LinkedIn, more than any of the other socials, although I am on all the others. You can find me with my name, pretty– Somewhat unusual name, although there are other Kirsten Bunch’s in the world. I have a blog that comes out weekly that’s called Changed the World In a Hot Flash that people seem to like. That’s something you could sign up for if you’re interested in connecting with me.

Joe: Awesome. I will link to all of those things and everything, especially the books, we talked about a lot of books today– That we talked about in the show notes over at HowIBuilt.it. Kirsten, thanks so much for joining me today. I appreciate it.

Kirsten: Thank you. This has been great. Thanks a lot, Joe.

Joe: Thanks so much to Kirsten for joining us today. Lots of takeaways. There are a lot of takeaways from her interview. She also gives a ton of advice in her trade secrets, and you can’t do everything by yourself. “There is a lot of things that I’m good at,” she said, “And a lot of things I’m not good at, and “That money and time have an interesting relationship.” I liked that one. She said you may need to take on debt, which we may differ on the philosophy of that. I try not to take on any debt if I possibly can, but the overall message here is invest in yourself. This is incredibly important. You need to invest in yourself and the tools that will help you become what you want to be. I think that part is incredibly important, and if you do need to take on a little bit of debt to get that education you need or the certification that you want, then so be it. The idea is that you should believe that that debt is an investment and you’ll be able to pay it back in a short amount of time. So definitely check out Kirsten and all of her fantastic resources, which will be linked in the show notes over at HowIBuilt.it/130. Thanks so much to our sponsors, Ahoy! Creator Courses and Pantheon. We would not be able to do the show without them. My question of the week for you is, “Have you ever felt like you needed to make a career change, and what did you do to mitigate that change?” Let me know on Twitter @jcasabona or via email at Joe@HowIBuilt.it. Thanks so much for listening. If you liked this episode, then please share it with somebody who you think will benefit from it, I would appreciate that. Until next time, get out there and build something.

The post Kirsten Bunch and Changing Careers appeared first on How I Built It.

Jul 23 2019

43mins

Play

Episode 61: Morten Rand-Hendriksen & Teaching at Lynda

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Morten Rand-Hendriksen is an incredible developer and teacher who brings it all to his online courses. In this extra long Season 3 Finale, Morten and I run the gamut on topics, including courses, empathy, technology, WordPress, and more. I strongly recommend you give this one a good listen because it’s a great episode. Thanks so much for a great Season – see you in January!

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Sponsored by:
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  • Liquid Web: Fast, Managed WordPress hosting whether your users are logged in or logged out. Get 50% off the first 2 months.

The post Episode 61: Morten Rand-Hendriksen & Teaching at Lynda appeared first on How I Built It.

Nov 28 2017

1hr

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Sherry Walling & Choosing Self Employment

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This is Part 1 of our mini series, “How You Build a Business”

In today’s episode, I get to talk to Dr. Sherry Walling. She’s kicking off our miniseries on how to build a business and she helps us answer a very important question: “Am I ready to start my own business?” Sherry is a fantastic person to talk to and a wealth of knowledge. We talk self-publishing, self-knowledge, podcasting, and much more.

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Transcript

Intro: Hey everybody and welcome to another episode of How I Built It! In today’s episode, I get to talk to Dr. Sherry Walling. She’s kicking off our miniseries on how to build a business and she helps us answer a very important question: “Am I ready to start my own business?” Sherry is a fantastic person to talk to and a wealth of knowledge. We talk self-publishing, self-knowledge, podcasting, and much more. This is a great episode that we’re going to get into. But first, a word from our sponsors.

Sponsors: This season of How I Built It is brought to you by two fantastic sponsors. The first is Liquid Web. If you’re running a membership site, an online course, or even a real estate site on word press, you’ve likely already discovered many hosts that have optimized their platforms for a logged out experience, where they cash everything. Sites on their hardware are great for your sales and landing pages, but struggle when your users start logging in. At that point, your site is as slow as if you were on three dollar hosting. Liquid Web built their managed word press platform optimized for sites that want speed and performance, regardless of whether a customer is logged in or logged out. Trust me on this, I’ve tried it out and it’s fast, seriously fast. Now, with their single site plan, Liquid Web is a no-brainer for anyone whose site is actually part of their business, and not just a site promoting their business. Check out the rest of the features on their platform by visiting them at buildpodcast.net/liquid web. That’s buildpodcast.net/liquid web.

It’s also brought to you by Jilt. Jilt is the easiest way to recover abandoned shopping carts on woo commerce, easy digital downloads and Shopify. Your e-commerce clients could be leaving literally thousands of dollars on the table and here’s why. 70% of all shopping carts are abandoned prior to checkout. Yes, you heard that right, 70% of shoppers never make it to checkout. That’s why you need to introduce your clients to Jilt. Jilt uses proven recovery tactics to rescue that lost revenue. It’s an easy win that let’s you boost your clients revenue by as much as 15% and it only takes 15 minutes of your time to set up. Jilt fully integrates with woo commerce, EDD and Shopify. You can completely customize the recovery emails that Jilt sends, to match your clients branding using it’s powerful dragon drop editor. Or by digging into the HTML and CSS. Even better, Jilt’s fair pricing means your clients pay only for the customers they actually engage. You get to earn a cut of that through Jilt’s partner program. Whether you have clients that process one sale per month or 10,000 sales per month, be the hero and help them supercharge their revenue with Jilt. Check them out at builtpodcast.net/jilt. That’s builtpodcast.net/J-I-L-T.

And now…on with the show!

Joe: Hey, everybody, welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks how did you build that? Today my guest is Dr. Sherry Walling. Dr. Sherry, how are you today?

Sherry: I’m good. It’s a mouthful.

Joe: I know. I was like totally on autopilot, so it was like the first thing you say is the first name, so just say that. How are you doing today?

Sherry: I’m doing well. It’s like 30 degrees in Minneapolis, which is like summer vacation weather for us in the middle of winter. It’s been like negative 10, so 30 is like amazing.

Joe: Yeah. Being from the Northeast, I thought I had it pretty bad at like negative one, and then I look at what you guys are going through, so I was grateful to have one 60-degree day last week. I’m like it’s 65 degrees warmer than it’s been. It builds character, I think.

You are going to be talking to us today about mental health, in general, but you have a book coming out. I’m going to bleep the bad word, because I don’t want to throw the explicit warning on this. It’s Keeping Your Beep Together.

Sherry: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Beep Together: How to run your business without letting it run you.

Joe: There you go. That’s the full name. I really wish I had that up and I had something else up on my other screen. I was kind of perusing the book before this interview, and there’s a lot of great stuff in there. Why don’t we start with who you are and what you do?

Sherry: I’m a clinical psychologist. I have a PhD in clinical psychology. I have traditionally done a lot of work with people who have really high intensity jobs, so I did a lot of my training with folks in the military, and then since built a practice working largely with physicians, attorneys, people who just have sort of high pressure, high stress work.

In the last couple of years, I’ve been doing a podcast with my husband Rob Walling, who’s a serial tech founder. He started a company called HitTail, a company called Drip, and a conference called MicroConf, so he’s like a techie guy.

A couple of years ago, three years ago, actually, we started a podcast together called Zen Founder, where we talk about the mental side, the family side of being an entrepreneur and try to share some good information that’s informed by science as well as our experience to help people’s lives be a little bit easier in the midst of starting and running a business.

Joe: Man, that’s fantastic. I’m so excited to have you on the show, because it’s unlike any guest I’ve really had. I usually talk to developers or entrepreneurs about the things that they’ve created, but mental health, I feel, is something that is being discussed a little bit more but still isn’t given the kind of center stage thought that it should.

I’m definitely going to link your podcast in the show notes. It’s a great show, and you guys cover a lot of … You guys get pretty personal on the show, too, right? It’s probably not easy doing a show like that.

Sherry: You know, it’s interesting. We started out not very personal. We started out a lot of 10 points to beat procrastination, kind of thing. The last year, really the last year-and-a-half, we’ve been through some really significant things in our family including the acquisition of Rob’s company that led us to the move from California to Minneapolis.

Some of the things that we went through as a family, I think, were just super relevant to the people that listen to this show. Then last January, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, so that became a thing that also shaped our lives, but had some impact on our businesses.

We didn’t set out to do a podcast that was about us, but I work with founders, I’m a consultant with founders, I’m a therapist for founders, so I know that those kinds of experiences in your family life definitely have an impact on your business. It just sort of made sense and was authentic for us to begin talking a little bit more about our family life and personal life in the context of what it meant for us as we both run businesses.

Joe: Yeah. Absolutely. You also, kind of in that same vein, you mentioned that you are a clinical psychologist for high stress work, right? I feel like, and, again, this is like all kind of stuff that is from personal experience, but I’ve gotten, you know, “You don’t have a real job. You work for yourself,” or “You’re a freelancer,” and stuff like that.

A lot of people who aren’t in it, kind of view self-employment or freelancing, especially, freelancing has the negative connotation as like easy. They don’t view it as high stress.

Sherry: Yeah. I feel like maybe those folks don’t know what it’s like to be responsible for your own paycheck.

Joe: Right. Especially like if you have kids. I just went full time self-employed in June. I had a three-month-old at home. I don’t know what I was thinking, but it’s working out so far, but it can get very stressful.

Sherry: Yeah. I think there are some really unique stresses that go along with being a freelance or being an entrepreneur, in that you do assume responsibility for the direction of your entire life. That includes the financial responsibility as well as all of the decisions weigh on you.

Again, lots of us have high intensity jobs and stressful jobs, but I think there’s something unique about the entrepreneurial life because it is such a solo enterprise, and you bear all of the weight on your own. Even if you have a spouse that’s all in, and even sometimes if you have a business partner, it’s a uniquely lonely enterprise, which I think from a mental health perspective, has some pretty significant challenges.

Joe: Yeah. Absolutely. You mentioned that before you did this, you were doing military. Is that right?

Sherry: Yeah. I worked in several different VA hospitals in Los Angeles and in Boston.

Joe: Got you. What was the transition like? Did you find it was completely different contexts? Or were there shockingly similar contexts between the two?

Sherry: I think that there are some similarities in the sense that a lot of people who’ve been in combat learn to operate at a level of elevation or a level of stress that feels normal to them, it becomes normal to them.

Seeing a very similar pattern in entrepreneurs who’ve maybe gone through the intensity of a big launch, if they’re in software, for example, and learn to operate at this level of stress, this level of go, go, go, go, go, go, go, and they forget what civilian life is like, or similar to people who are returning from combat, it feels sort of strange to be in civilian life after adjusting to the intensity of a combat zone.

It’s obviously not a perfect parallel, but there are certainly some parallels in the intensity, constant drive, constant rush, constant push that entrepreneurs can find themselves in without kind of this memory of how to live in a more relaxed sustainable way.

Joe: Yeah. Absolutely. Just to add a personal point onto that: I’ve been kind of self-employed in some way, shape, or form since high school. I’ve been full time, I’ve been moonlighting, and one of the big adjustments, and I’m still having trouble with this, is when I’m watching my daughter, like my wife is a night shift nurse, when I’m watching my daughter, I have a hard time not waiting for her to take a nap so I can go do some work, or when I have some downtime, do some work instead of watch TV.

It’s always, when am I going to have time to do that next thing that’s on my plate? Do all parents go through this? Probably not. A lot probably have like a nine-to-five, and they’re very good at separating their work life from their home life, but that’s a transition for me, and I don’t feel like I’m super high stress in my work, but that’s a transition that’s been kind of hard for me, so I can totally see what you’re saying and where you kind of went with the analogy.

Sherry: It’s a sense of being never off.

Joe: Right. Yeah. Exactly. Which could be very stressful. So you have this book that’s kind of the entrepreneur’s guide to making sure you are ready to be an entrepreneur. Again, I have the book in front of me. I was looking at the table of contents. The chapter that jumped out at me the most was chapter three, Self-Knowledge. Because one of the things that I’ll recommend to people who are saying I’m thinking about doing it, is you need to ask, are you ready? Have you thought about this? Is this even something that you want?

A lot of people say working for yourself is a coveted thing, but it’s not for everybody. We can kind of frame all of the questions around that chapter, but branch out as you’d like. First of all, what gave you the idea for the book?

Sherry: We’ve had the podcast. We just recorded episode 151. So there’s a lot of content that Rob and I have been talking about over the years, and that I’ve been talking about at conference presentations and things like that. We wanted to really create something where it was just easy and accessible, where people could get sort of like the take-home bullet points in a fast digestible way where they didn’t have to listen to a hundred and fifty hours of podcasts although, hey, we’re very entertaining.

It also, I think, is a way of just getting that information out there in a way that’s easily accessible. Then I also wanted to really expand, I think, the reach beyond folks who are dedicated podcast listeners. I think podcasting is an amazing medium. It’s been something that I have really enjoyed doing over the last few years, but certainly there’s a larger group of people who are going to pick up a book than will sit and listen to a podcast.

Joe: Nice. Absolutely. When you set out to do the book, did you get advice from anybody? Do you know a lot of published authors who gave you advice? Did you go through the proposal process of finding a publisher? Are you self-publishing? What was kind of the legwork before you set out to actually write the book?

Sherry: Thankfully, I know quite a few authors so was able to talk with them and kind of review the pros and cons of publishing in different ways. I also have a previous life as an academic. I was tenure-track faculty for three years, so a lot of my world has revolved around writing and publishing, mostly in academic journals, which is very different than what this book is, thankfully. It’s a little bit more entertaining.

We decided, and Rob is second author on the book, so we decided that we would self-publish primarily because it allowed us to retain a lot of control and some focus on building our audience, so that was a decision that we made really thinking about what the intention for the book was.

Joe: Got you. That makes sense. Well, first of all, getting published in an academic journal, I know, is not easy or exciting, because I did it in grad school. It’s like I can’t even go back and read this paper that I helped write because it’s so dry. It’s just like very, here are the facts.

Sherry: I would spend like 9 to 12 months writing a paper, especially after you conduct the research, you’ve run your stats, you do the whole process, and I would spend all of this time writing a paper, and maybe like 50 people would read it. I got published in some reasonable journals that have pretty good reach, but then I get on the podcast and after working at it for several years, thousands of people, for better or worse, listen to Rob and I talk every week.

So the reach and the impact in the community is so much greater, which is why I’m really grateful to have the medium, and hopefully now publish the book in a way that will have bigger reach than the 50 people who read my analysis of, I don’t know, combat-related PTSD.

Joe: Yeah. Absolutely. I will say that my paper, which was on, I think the title was Automated Congestion Detection Using Mobile GPS … It’s like traffic detection using phones. I know it was published like in 2008, before it was a thing that happened. I think one person cited my paper in their paper, and it was like I had a party about it. I’m like, “Yes!” Self-publishing is great.

I’ve also gone through the publishing process with a publisher, so that’s a very different thing, too. It’s like you have the proposal and a lot of back-and-forth, but for audience building, especially, I did that because the publisher had audience and was interested in the topic. You get some money up front, but I don’t know how much my audience grew because of it.

As far as self-publishing goes, before we really get into the topic, do you have like a game plan for it as far as, are you going to do print-on-demand? It is only going to be a PDF or an e-book, and things like that?

Sherry: Well, we’re doing a printed book, an audiobook, and the e-book. We’ve gone through Amazon’s CreateSpace, which is the most archaic piece of software that I’ve used since DOS-based e-mail in college. Sorry, Amazon, but your CreateSpace sucks.

Joe: Plus one on that.

Sherry: Yeah. I’m really, really, this is the best we have? Yeah, so we have the printed version, which I am looking at a proof right now. If feels good in my hands, I’ve gotta say. Then we’ll have the e-book. Then I recorded the audiobook, which I think for the podcast listeners who are used to listening to my voice, that will feel familiar and hoping that it’s not irritating to everyone who’s not used to listening to my voice.

Joe: Was it different narrating the book as opposed to actually doing the podcast? Do you have a more formal cadence to the audiobook? Or is it still that casual conversation? Just out of curiosity.

Sherry: I really worked hard for it to sound more casual, because I think audiobooks, especially when they are read by the author, if they’re read in a way that feels really rote and detached, I think something is really lost. There’s definitely some parts in the audiobook where I just sort of go on a tangent and riff a little bit, and I’m like, “Okay, audiobook listeners … ”

I’ve really wanted it to be more conversational. Again, we’ll see if that feels good to the listener once we get some feedback and reviews about it. I will tell you that I recorded the audiobook before we finalized the printed version of the book, and that was super valuable, because, of course, I’ve read it over and over, I wrote it, I’ve edited it, I’ve spent a lot of time with this material, but reading it out loud, there were just things that, “Oh, that came out funny,” or “That’s not what I meant,” so it was a really nice final process of editing the book, actually, to read it out loud, record the audiobook, and then go back and actually make some changes to the printed text, where it just didn’t sound right as I read it out loud.

Joe: I think that’s really great advice for any kind of long form writing, especially. Some advice I got from an English teacher in school was like, “Read it out loud and see how it sounds.” I did that with a newsletter I got, where somebody said, “This app has become my wife and I’s favorite,” and I’m like you did not read this out loud, because that’s not grammatically correct, and it sounds super weird. Like my wife and I’s? I think that’s great advice in general, because you really do get to see, or hear, how it sounds to the reader. That’s fantastic. Then another bonus of self-publishing is, you mentioned you’re going to get feedback from readers, listeners; you can iterate more quickly on a self-published book, right?

Sherry: Absolutely. I mean, I own the audio files. If people are like, “What happened to you in chapter five?”, I can go back and fix that. Or I can go back and make modifications that I feel like need to be made once the products have had some life to them.

Joe: Right. Right. On that same token, I’m very grateful for my publisher, but my book is three, almost four years old, at this point. If I want to make updates to it, they don’t want to do a version two, so now I have to go through getting the rights back so I can update and distribute it if I want to.

I’m very grateful for my publisher, and it’s Peachpit, and I learned how to make websites from Peachpit, so I’m honored that they published my book, but a few years down the line, especially with tech books, it’s out of date. Now this is another hurdle I have to go through if I want to put out the book again. Oh, yeah. Go ahead.

Sherry: I was going to say, I think if there’s a second or third book in my future, I would definitely consider going through a publisher just to have that experience. I also do swim in the academic circles still a little bit, and there is still a cache to being published by a publisher and having gone through that review process.

I don’t diminish that process at all. I think it’s really important, but I think for this one, we wanted to get this out to our scrappy podcast audience. So it feels good to have self-published this one and, again, I would totally consider going through a publisher the next round.

Joe: Totally. It comes down to like what you’ve been saying, it all depends on what you want. I will say having that book officially published is what helped, I feel, that helped me land my job at Crowd Favorite, or at least Karim, the CEO of Crowd Favorite and a good friend and my former boss, was very happy that I was able to publish that book, because it was something that we could tell clients.

There is a cache to being published, and it really all depends on what your goal is. If you’re going to iterate quickly, self-publishing is definitely the way to go.

We’re like 20 minutes into this conversation. Let’s talk about the subject matter. I’ll say, like, Sherry, you’re very easy to talk to, which is probably a great quality to have in a clinical psychologist, so this is why we’re 20 minutes in and we haven’t even talked about the book. So this is going to be a longer-than-normal episode.

Sherry: Soon I’m going to get you talking about your mother.

Joe: I know. I know. I’m an Italian, so I’m very attached to my mother, of course. Let’s talk about chapter three, Self Knowledge. Maybe you can give us like a quick overview of what that chapter covers and kind of your goal for writing that chapter. Does that sound good?

Sherry: Yeah. So really my goal was not to help people assess whether or not they’re ready to be an entrepreneur. I think my goal is generally to assume that lots of different kinds of people can be successful as an entrepreneur, especially if you have like a really clear sense of what your strengths and weaknesses are and know how to plan around them.

In this chapter, we talk about a couple of different continuums. One is introversion/extroversion, which lots of us talk about all the time. One that we talked about is growth mindset versus fixed mindset. The last one that we talk about is chaos versus rigidity.

We think about these continuums as different ways of kind of organizing a personality, and no matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert, or you tend toward the more rigid, or you tend toward the more chaotic, there’s a place for you in the entrepreneurial world, but being able to tell the truth about what you’re good at and what your liabilities are is really the point of self-knowledge.

Joe: I mean, that’s a huge step in being successful, like being a successful entrepreneur, like knowing … Like I know, for example, that I would like to be more rigid than I am, but I have like 14 notebooks on my desk right now with different notes in each of them. As long as I understand that that’s the way I work and at some point during my day I organize all of those into a single list or a group of notes, that’ll help me stay on track. I’ll focus less on I need to be more rigid and more on focusing on the core of my business. Is that accurate?

Sherry: Absolutely. I think those of us who tend to be more flexible and more kind of big-picture thinking, more outside the box, those are great entrepreneurial skills, but it does mean we probably need to support our business with either the help of a Type A person who can come in and sort of keep us going in the right direction at the right time, or there’s certainly software that can help supplement, too.

I know just in working with you in organizing the podcast, you use Calendly, you have notes that are set up, so you have this system that’s in place that helps you provide structure to people who come on your podcast as guests, so you don’t bear the burden of like remembering, “Oh, I need to tell Sherry that we record this way,” and “I need to do this,” and “I need to do that.”

As an out-of-the-box sort of more chaotic person, you’re not going to be good at those things, so you can create systems that do them for you.

Joe: Right. Right. That came about because my first few guests, I’m like, “Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you this,” and I’m like I should stop forgetting to tell my guests things.

Moving to the personality stuff, I know a lot of … At least a lot of people in the WordPress space, which is where the core of my audience is, are introverts, either self-identified or otherwise. I am super duper extroverted. What kind of effects does that have on a business? What should somebody think about if they’re introverted versus extroverted?

Sherry: For people who tend to be extroverts, it’s such a great super power, especially as you’re in sales or marketing or just letting people know about what you’re passionate about and what you’re doing in your business, but it can provide sometimes some blind spots, particularly in listening and observing.

If you want to be an extrovert, or if you are an extrovert, rather, like you don’t struggle to fill space. You don’t struggle to facilitate or host a conversation, but it might be a little bit harder for you to listen well. Listening, of course, is super important in a business. You’ve gotta listen to your clients, you’ve gotta listen to feedback from people that work for you and with you.

If you are often the center stage person, it’s really helpful to be super intentional about getting feedback and really listening to that feedback well. I also think it can be easy to kind of neglect your inner life if you’re an extrovert. It’s not that extroverts aren’t deep people, they certainly can be, and they certainly are, but to really take time to think about like, how am I doing? What’s going well in my life? What’s my emotional life like these days? That self-reflection, internalization, can be a little bit more challenging for extroverts, but it’s still really important for them.

Joe: Got you. Well, I was nodding my head a lot during that, so I’m definitely relating to what you’re saying. As far as introverts go, first of all, I’ll say this: People often equate introversion with antisocial, but that’s not really the case, right?

Sherry: Psychologically speaking, those are super super different things. Antisocial is like, antisocial personality disorder, which is essentially someone who lacks the neurological capacity for empathy. Like they tend to be highly represented in the clinical, or like in the prison population. Don’t use antisocial when you mean not very socially oriented, because antisocial is a very different thing.

Joe: Got you. Awesome. I’m really glad you clarified that. I meant it more colloquially as in people tend to shy away from social events. Even that’s not necessarily the case for introverts. Introverts, I’m friends with many, whom I’ve met at conferences.

Sherry: Yeah. I was at this speakers dinner for Converted, which is, Lee Page hosted this Converted Conference, which is like heavy marketers. Ezra Firestone was there. Anyway, Derek Hepburn was there, Rob was the speaker, really like gregarious, on-stage people who you would think would be like the extroverted extroverts. As we went around the table and talked about this, like the vast majority of them identified as introverts.

Being an introvert has really nothing to do with how well you can hold a conversation or how well you can present on stage. Being an introvert has to do with how you restore your level of energy, and usually that’s sort of the way of recharging your personal batteries happens by yourself. Your inner world is important. The quality of what happens inside of you is of great interest and importance to you if you’re an introvert.

Joe: Got you. That makes sense. My wife, who is an introvert, and I differ in that way. She values her alone time. I told her the last time I went to WordCamp US I walked in, there were like 2000 people. I knew many of them. I was totally energized by that experience.

Sherry: Kid in a candy store.

Joe: Yeah, exactly. That’s fantastic. What other highlights from this chapter would you like to mention here? Again, we’re just kind of getting a taste of one chapter of a book, and I’m already really excited to read the rest of it, because I love everything you’re saying right now.

Sherry: I think the take home in this chapter is like … is really no matter how you’re built as a person, there are some super powers intrinsic in that. If you’re a really introverted person, you have some amazing skills in your ability to observe and read situations, because you’re not busy talking; you’re often busy watching. Understanding what super powers you have based on just who you are in the world is really great in terms of identifying and cultivating your own strengths.

Then we also want to tell the truth about the shadow side, or the liabilities that go along with being an introvert, for example, and the things that you might have to intentionally either make yourself do, or hire out, or plan around so that they don’t become weaknesses that damage your business.

Self-knowledge is just about self-reflection. What am I good at? What am I not good at? And really being honest with yourself, which is not always easy to do. I think some of us are just naturally pretty barricaded against that kind of honest self-assessment.

Joe: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s fantastic. I know we’re kind of coming up on time already, but there’s more I’d like to talk about. What’s your favorite part of the book, would you say?

Sherry: Oh, that’s like choosing a favorite child.

Joe: I know. This is like out of left field, too. I sent show notes, and I didn’t prep you for this question.

Sherry: No, that’s okay. There’s a chapter that is kind of a deep dive into mental health where we talk about depression. The chapter’s called Coming Undone. I feel pretty proud of that, because I do feel like it’s a unique voice that I offer to the entrepreneurial world that many other people can’t offer with the same quality and depth as somebody who’s spent years and years and years training as a psychologist.

I don’t know. I feel like lame saying this, but I’m proud of this book. There’s a lot of me in here, so I’m already sort of bolstering myself from the negative feedback that I know will come. That’s part of putting something out there in the world. Not everyone’s going to love it, and that’s okay, but this represents some hard work that I want to offer to the community, and I hope it’s helpful.

Joe: Absolutely. Maybe we can parcel that out a little bit. Before we started recording, I told you about an experience I had on the day of this recording, which was not based on any of my work at all. It was about a pretty strong opinion about sports fans from a particular area and all of the negativity I got from that, and that wasn’t even something that I was deeply attached to, but I felt it, because it came pretty hard.

So what advice do you have for somebody who’s totally putting themselves out there? If you work for somebody, you’re probably doing somebody else’s work, and while you might enjoy the work you’re doing, I’m not saying you don’t enjoy that work, but as an entrepreneur, it’s all you. It’s your idea, it’s your execution. How do you bolster yourself from the inevitable negative feedback that will come at you?

Sherry: I think we have to choose our spheres of deep feedback. Rob has read the book. He wrote it with me. If he has feedback, I’m going to listen. There are circle of friends, there’s a circle of other entrepreneurs who I share my ideas with, and whatever feedback they have say, positive or negative, I really listen.

Then there’s, like my Twitter followers, or people I’m with on Facebook, or people who have done consulting with me, and their perspective matters to me, but it’s at this other level on the concentric circles of my selfhood. They don’t get to have this direct route to my heart. I’m going to filter a little bit more.

So we have to kind of choose how much we let people in and be willing to dismiss feedback, or at least give it less weight from certain people.

I think the other thing that I am just talking to myself a lot about is that I did my best to provide something valuable. Again, not everyone’s going to like it, but I did my best to provide something valuable, so I’m just going to say that over and over to myself, especially when I’m confronted with negative feedback.

There are certainly things that could be better about the book, and I hope my next book is better. I hope my podcast continues to get better. I’m oriented towards growing, but I’m not going to spend a lot of time thinking about feedback that doesn’t help me grow.

Joe: I think that’s great advice, and kind of based on what you’re saying there, something that I told myself this morning as I’m reading all of these mean tweets is that tweet is a blip on that person’s radar. They’re going to make that comment and then move on with their life, and I should do the same. I should read it and move on.

If I think it’s going to be helpful to me, then I will take it, but kind of taking all of these five seconds or less that these people took to write the tweet to heart and really carry it with me, is not healthy and not helpful, either.

Sherry: Yeah. Your response shouldn’t be greater than the energy that was put into the feedback.

Joe: Man, I love that. That’s probably going to be the quote that I use to promote this episode.

Sherry: Quotable.

Joe: Awesome. As we come up to the end here, I want to ask … We talked a lot about the content of the book and the book writing process. Let’s look at post launch. What are your plans for the future of this book, of followup books, things like that? What are you going to do after the book comes out?

Sherry: After the book comes out, I hope I get the opportunity to talk about it a lot and share it with people. I’m trying to leave space in my life and world for some conference speaking and being on podcasts and hopefully talking about the book as much as people will be willing to listen.

Rob and I are also hatching a plan for a course that we’re going to do, a video course, that’s going to be related to family life, particularly how to keep peace with your significant other while you’re launching a business.

I’m working on writing the content for that right now and we’ll be recording in early February. I think we are wanting to work together to provide some things that are more accessible to people than, again, like hours of podcast content or coming to a conference or something like that.

Joe: That’s great. The course that you mentioned, is that based on … I know you’re doing these events called ZenTribes. I didn’t have this written down, but I’m ad libbing a little bit. One was specifically about being an entrepreneur and being the spouse of an entrepreneur, is that right?

Sherry: Right. We did a couples retreat in September with a group of folks where we really did a deep dive into how do you keep your relationship healthy under the stress of being an entrepreneur, which I think was one of the things that I found most valuable and am most proud of in terms of last year what I worked on.

Then we put together a ZenTribe for families that we call Founder Families, but to be honest, we never launched it, because we could never find a time when we could get people and their significant others together in a group. We were looking at evening times. People are busy, so that’s why the course seemed like a better way to do that. It’s kind of a do-it-yourself-at-home kind of course.

Joe: Got you. I know the last kind of one that you announced was bad timing for me. I had considered it, though, because the things that you talk about, the kind of camaraderie that you have with the other people in these groups is super valuable. Plus I know that you’re heavily involved with the Heskeths, and they’re like the parents that I want to grow up to be.

Sherry: They’re amazing.

Joe: I’ve told them that before, so they’re not hearing this for the first time. That sounds fantastic. For the last question, I know you gave us a lot of great advice, but do you have any trade secrets for us?

Sherry: I think the trade secret that I’ve been thinking about a lot for mental health is to play long ball, to really not get tangled in the day-to-day ups and downs, but to play long ball with your business and long ball with your life.

Joe: I like that. Have a bad day here, have a good day there, but over the long term … It’s like investing in stocks. You don’t want to live and die by a single day of trading. Cool. Very cool.

Well, Dr. Walling, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it. Where can people find you?

Sherry: I’m at zenfounder.com. All the things that we are scheming and dreaming are there, and we love hearing from people who are thinking about mental health, so people can absolutely find us there. I’m Sherry@zenfounder.com via email.

Joe: Awesome. I will link all of that in the show notes for this episode, which you can find over at howibuilt.it/68/. Sherry, thank you so much for your time. Thanks to everybody out there listening. Until next time, get out there and build something.

Outro: What a great conversation – thanks again to Sherry for joining me and for kicking off this series. Definitely check out here book. It’s in the show notes and it’s $3.99 on the Kindle.

And Thanks again to our sponsors – make sure to check out Liquid Web for managed WordPress hosting. I use them on all of my important sites – they are that good! They are at buildpodcast.net/liquid. They’ll give you 50% off your first 2 months just for being a listener! If you want to save your clients (or yourself) money through recovering abandoned carts, check out jilt. They are over at buildpodcast.net/jilt. And finally, if you want to build incredible websites at a fraction of the time and cost, check out Beaver Builder. I use it and I love it. They are over at buildpodcast.net/builder/

For all of the show notes, head over to howibuilt.it/68/. If you like the show, head over to Apple Podcasts and leaving us a rating and review. It helps people discover us! Finally, last week I published my brand-new Patreon page. It offers a lot better rewards, and great goals, and I’m really doubling down on it. So if you like the show and what to support it directly, head over to patreon.com/howibuiltit/. You can support the show for as little as $1/month.

Continuing our series next week, I’m talking to Sara Dunn about niching down. She’s been very transparent about her process and I’m so excited to get her on the show to talk about the decision making process. Hopefully it will help you too.

The post Sherry Walling & Choosing Self Employment appeared first on How I Built It.

Feb 27 2018

41mins

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A Better Way to Spend Your Calendar Time with Woven and Tim Campos

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I had the pleasure of speaking to Tim Campos, former CIO of Facebook and founder of Woven – a calendar that actually accounts for your life and your free time. We talk about his experience at Facebook and how it lead him to the idea of creating Woven, stats on how people spending their time and schedule meetings, and more. If you want some incredible insight into how people manage their time, this episode is for you. But first, a word from our sponsors.

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Tim Campos: The only solution is to understand the details of how calendars are built, and that’s when I first got the idea that maybe there’s a better way here. Because as I got into the details of this, I was horrified to learn that the calendaring views that you see, particularly in Microsoft Outlook, are basically just a collection of e-mails.

Joe Casabona: This week I had the pleasure of speaking to Tim Campos, former CIO of Facebook and founder of Woven, a calendar that accounts for your life and your free time. We talk about his experience at Facebook and how it led him to the idea of creating Woven, stats on how people spend their time and schedule meetings, and more. If you want some incredible insights into how people manage their time, this episode is for you. But first, let’s go to a word from our sponsors.

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Joe: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today my guest is Tim Campos, and he is the founder and CEO of Woven. He is also a software engineer and former CIO of Facebook. Tim, thanks for joining me today.

Tim: It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Joe: Not a problem. I’m excited to talk to you. It sounds like you’ve got a wide range of experience and I’m excited to dive into that. But first, let’s start off with who you are and what you currently do.

Tim: Awesome. As you mentioned, I’m the founder and CEO of a company named Woven. Woven is an intelligent calendar that we built in an effort to reimagine what calendars can do, to basically help all of us spend time on what matters most. We do that by changing how the calendar is built. Most calendars, all calendars are built on top of e-mail, and Woven is built in a very different way, which allows us to take calendar events and interconnect them with the things that we spend time on, whether that’s documents, or issues, or absolutely other people. Our long term vision is to help people spend time on what matters most to them.

Joe: That’s fantastic. I feel like calendars and e-mails are apps and nuts that people have been trying to crack since the nexus of time. I’m always interested to hear about how things are reimagined, because even today, managing calendars is difficult, even with all these other tools to help us convert time zones and get people on the same page. So it’s interesting to see products like that out in the wild.

Tim: Yeah, Let’s start with e-mail real quick, and what’s wrong with e-mail. In many respects, what’s wrong with e-mail is the premise from the beginning. It is the electronic memoranda, and it came of age at a time when computers were used to automate paper-based processes. With time, is you have a whole generation of people who grew up with technology, the memoranda is not the right way to communicate with each other. That’s why we have text messaging. It’s why we have Facebook. It’s why we have WhatsApp. It’s why we have Slack and other technologies that you couldn’t do on paper. E-mail has largely been reimagined by moving off of it and using other technologies. Calendars are a little bit different because they pertain to this issue of time. We all have time, we all have the same amount of time. There’s only 24 hours in a day, and it doesn’t matter who you are and what you do, you and I have the exact same amount of time today. But what the calendar suffers from is based on how it’s built. First off, it’s a feature of a suite, so it doesn’t get a lot of love from companies like Microsoft and Google. Just by existing, Woven helps with that, because this is all we think about, we’re just 100% focused on making the calendar better. Second, there is a lot of things about calendars that are just wrong. Most of us have a little bit of our time on Google. Most people put their personal calendars in Google Calendar, and some people have their professional lives in Google as well. Google has lots of different calendars. For every single calendar, there is another 24 hours in your day, except there isn’t. If I have three calendars, that doesn’t mean there are 72 hours for me today. It means I have 72 hours of time I have to administer. That creates a lot of work for people. Woven understands that, even though I might have a work calendar and a personal calendar, there’s only one of me. So I can only be in one place at one time. So it brings all of that stuff together, to help me make sure that if I’m busy because I have a doctor’s appointment, then I’m not available to take an appointment at work or vice versa. If I have a dinner appointment professionally, then I’m not going to be home that night to spend time with my family. Those are just some of the things that we do. The other things that I think make calendars very difficult is they’re very isolated. If you and I want to meet together, I want to meet with you, you want to meet with me, how do we solve that problem? We end up sending e-mails to each other, like “How about next Thursday? That doesn’t work, how about Friday? How about the following week?” It goes back and forth and back and forth because the calendars don’t talk to each other. If they could talk to each other, you could press a button and say, “When’s the next time that we’re both free, for a dinner meeting?” Which is not going to be tomorrow at 3:00 in the morning, it’s going to be sometime between 6:00 and 9:00 PM on a weeknight, or maybe on a weekend night, depending on our relationship. Again, we’ve taught Woven how to be intelligent around those things to help people out. Those are just some of the things that we do to make the calendar more intelligent. There’s a lot more that make this product a very rich product.

Joe: Yeah, I love that. I mean, the fact that calendars are isolated. I hate doing that “What’s good for you” dance and that’s why I use Calendly for this “I don’t know what time zone you’re in and we didn’t have to talk about that. I just sent you a link, and you picked an appropriate time, based on what I’ve made available. If everybody I know did that, it would be amazing. I have people who are like, “I’m not going to use it.”

Tim: Now imagine Calendly, tightly integrated with your calendar, so that you can see all of the different scheduling links that you’ve sent out to people and if those people were using that exact same product, that instead of them having to go through an awkward user interface to select the time that works, that their calendars just told them “Here are the slots that are going to work for Joe and I.” That’s Woven, that’s basically how the product works.

Joe: Nice. That’s fantastic. Because I mean, when somebody sends me a Calendly link, I still have to look at my calendar.

Tim: Yeah.

Joe: That’s great. Very cool. I’ve looked at the website, but I haven’t downloaded Woven. I’m definitely going to download it after we talk here if it’s available.

Tim: Awesome. Yeah, there is an open beta for Google Calendar users.

Joe: Awesome. I like all of those words. So that’s what you currently do now, but you’ve also been a software engineer, and you were CIO of Facebook. Let’s start with software engineering. Did you do software engineering at Facebook, or was that somewhere else?

Tim: I started my career as a software engineer at a company called Sybase and did software engineering at Sybase, Silicon Graphics, an internet startup. At that Internet startup, this was back in the early days of software as a service. In that kind of world, the concept of IT, or what it takes to deliver this software and software engineering are much more fused. That’s what got me into IT. I spent the next– After [Portaris], some six and a half years as the CIO of a company called [Kelly 10 Core]. At Facebook, I got to bring it all back together, because my job at Facebook started off being a very traditional IT job, but I brought engineering into the organization because we were building a lot of the software that helped make Facebook employees more productive. Everything from the visitor management system that employees would interface with as they walked in the door, to the recruiting systems, CRM systems that we built for sales, internal productivity systems for employees to be able to schedule meetings with each other and to collaborate with each other. We did a lot of custom-built software, and some of this software made its way into Facebook’s products, things like audience insights, for example. Some of this software became the inspiration for technologies like Envoy. We were quite flattered to see companies make real businesses off of some of the things that we pioneered and created. Some of this stuff continues to be very unique and proprietary to Facebook, but it was all a key part of how we made the workforce more productive. We literally engineered our way there, and while I was at Facebook, we doubled the productivity of the workforce.

Joe: Wow. That’s incredible. To get an idea of the scale of the stuff you were doing, you were at Facebook in the earlier part of this decade. So about how many employees?

Tim: Facebook was relatively small, about 1400 people, just about to cross a billion dollars in revenue. Then when I left, we had not only 20,000 employees, but another 15,000 or so contractors on top of that. A workforce of close to 35,000 people, running on a 40 billion dollar run rate. The company had grown up and become quite the behemoth. My job was to basically help the company achieve that growth without having to scale linearly. If we could make it so that a salesperson could sell more, or a recruiter could help recruit more, or HR person could support more employees, or facilities could support what they do with less people. We could grow the impact of the company without having to grow the workforce at the same rate. That’s how we were able to double the productivity of the workforce.

Joe: Wow. That’s incredible. I’m sure doing all of this, probably gave you a lot of ideas for Woven. Let’s talk about that now. How did your experience as CIO of Facebook give you this insight into how you felt Woven should work? Is it just you or did you have a co-founder, too? What’s the origin story of Woven?

Tim: Sure. I have a co-founder, who was also at Facebook, while I was there. The story starts almost two weeks into my tenure at Facebook, where one of the first problems that I was faced was, the company was having a lot of trouble keeping the calendaring system functioning properly. Literally two weeks in, I was called to Zuck’s desk, by his EA. I was excited to have this conversation with Zuck. Only to find, when I got there, that it was just me and not only his EA but several of the others who were yelling at me about all the problems that they were having with the calendaring system. Events that would disappear, conference rooms that would get double booked, things that were both embarrassing for them and real productivity drains, for not only them but the people that they supported. To solve this, you have to put yourself back in the time, and this is 2010. Facebook was running Exchange at the time. It had a workforce that had a lot of Apple devices. That was not a very healthy combination. It was also not a combination that we were going to change. The only solution is to understand the details of how calendars are built, and that’s when I first got the idea that maybe there’s a better way here. Because as I got into the details of this, I was horrified to learn that the calendaring views that you see, particularly in Microsoft Outlook, are basically just a collection of e-mails. Special e-mails, but a calendar invite is just a specially formatted e-mail. Microsoft Outlook would collect all these things and then present them to you in what we see as a calendar. One of the worst parts about that is if somebody makes a change to a counter-event and doesn’t tell you about it. Then you don’t know about it. If they don’t send you the e-mail, then you don’t know. Whether you are a person or a conference room, this is the source of just a tremendous amount of pain. So we were able to work through this stuff, but it also gave birth to some ideas of maybe there’s a better way to manage this kind of information. Already for Facebook, there was a lot of demand for tools that would be better if they knew when employees were busy, or when resources were busy. When we moved to Menlo Park, we have these really beautiful giant touchscreen displays that show you where people sit and also where the different conference rooms are, and they’re wayfinders, they help you find your way within the campus. Part of what they were designed to do is to help you find a free conference room if you’re trying to do a one on one with somebody and we needed to get that information out of the calendar. Is a conference room free, or busy? It turns out that wasn’t easy, at the time, to get that data. So we built what was a wrapper around Exchange, very similar to what Woven is to Gmail and Office 365, to support that. That same wrapper gave us the ability to do a bunch of other sophisticated things. For example, Facebook does a lot of interviews, a lot of software engineering interviews. A software engineering interview is at least four people, the candidate, obviously and of course you’re going to have to have conference rooms for all this. At the time, in fact, still to this day, Facebook does well over 100,000 software engineering interviews a year. That’s a lot of things to coordinate, more than can be done by people. So we built systems that would take the availability of candidates, availability of panelists, availability of conference rooms and mash all that stuff and come up with what the ideal scheduling plan would be for a candidate, to help a scheduler get things done quickly and more efficiently. We found more and more different opportunities to solve problems using calendar data. That’s what ultimately gave birth to the idea that “Maybe we should go do this for other people and not just for Facebook.” That’s when my co-founder and I left the company to create what Woven is.

Joe: You left around 2016, is that right?

Tim: Yes. We left at the end of 2016, right after the election, no relation. Choice of departure, although it turned out to be a good one.

Joe: Yeah. I was going to say, good timing.

Tim: Immediately started focusing on fundraising for the company. Created Woven right away and closed our seed financing a few months later and hired our first employee. That was May of 2017.

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Joe: So you had all this insight, you built something that you knew would scale, because I mean, 35,000 people and a workforce and rooms and stuff like that. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty, the title question. How did you build this first version of Woven? You mentioned that Facebook was using Exchange at the time. This is built more for Google Calendar and soon, Office 365. So we could we get as technical as you want. We can tell about the programming language, or we could talk about the high– We built a wrapper on Google Calendar, and this is how we’re doing this.

Tim: So there’s a lot of Woven that was inspired by Facebook. Facebook had a phenomenal environment for building products, whether you’re talking about the products that everybody knows and loves, like Instagram and Facebook Messenger or internal products that most people aren’t aware of, but employees use every single day. That’s all built on top of set of technologies, a set of services that are largely common across all of these different products that run on scalable infrastructure, that abstracts a lot of things from the software engineer. Facebook– A lot of those ideas made their way into Woven. Facebook is built on a graph and has a very rich graph engine. That graph engine manages entities and relationships between those entities. In the case of Facebook, you’re talking about people and their friendships or photographs and likes and Facebook pages and addresses that you might check-in at. Those are all different examples of entities and the relationships that you have. With Woven, it’s similar but different. You still have people who go to meetings, and you have locations, but you have the whole notion of time and other information that might be related to a meeting or an event, like private notes or tags or alternative suggestions for when an event can occur, or even things like documents and customer records and other information. All that’s managed in a graph engine, so very much inspired by Facebook. We replicated a lot of the ideas on how Facebook does continuous integration. The Facebook site is pushed multiple times a day. You don’t have, even though there’s– I can’t say exactly how many servers and probably wouldn’t even know it at today’s day and age, but it’s a lot, let’s put it that way. So it’s just not possible for that to be human administered. You have a lot of technology and automation that handles the replication of software through the environment, and we’ve started with that same idea. Woven is built on an infrastructure that allows us to push changes into staging environments, as soon as they’re coded. Then we can test that. Today we do it twice a week. We could do it as frequently as we want or as infrequently as we want. To push from our staging environment to production is a very simple process. If there are any problems, it’s very easy for us to roll back. We have multiple environments to test and verify that everything is working and a lot of automation in here. Automated tests to make sure that code changes are ready to be merged into the master branch. A lot of tests to ensure that environments are ready to promote from testing to staging, to production. What that does is it offloads the work from the engineers. Now they can focus on their particular changes and what they’re working on at the time. It’s created a very efficient environment. So we’re relatively small, in terms of the number of engineers that we have, but we have done a massive amount of functionality, in a relatively short period of time. Thanks to the architecture of this environment.

Joe: That sounds fantastic. As a developer, making the development environment as easy as possible, for one, is a dream. So that sounds cool. It’s cool that you were able to take a lot of the stuff that you learned at Facebook. Let’s talk a little bit more about the product and the feature set. I know we touched on this a bit, but how did you decide to build out these features? Because, the common calendar exchange, as we talked about, is “When are you free? It’s 4:00 PM in Eastern Time, that’s 1:00 PM Pacific, or whatever. Daylight Savings Time changes things. How did you determine exactly how you would figure out “This is the calendar, this is what free times worked for both of us, and things like that.” What’s that handshake like?

Tim: Some of this came from a lot of user research. Some of that user research we were able to do while we were still at Facebook. Some of it was done afterwards, but it came from the understanding that there’s similarities across people on how they manage time. For example, when you think about, “How does an event show up on your calendar?” It starts with an idea like “I want to meet with Joe.” That idea then becomes a collaboration where I’m like, “Hey Joe, and you want to get together? When would work for you?” We start collaborating on this concept of an event, and that collaboration continues even after we schedule it. Maybe we have our– Maybe we’re doing a dinner party. We’ve got our dinner party coordinated, but who’s going to bring the appetizers? Who’s going to bring the main course? Who’s bringing the dessert? Who’s bringing the wine? There’s continued collaboration there. Or maybe we’re talking about a different kind of an event, like an interview. I’ve got a candidate who’s coming in to meet with me and two other people. What am I going to ask this candidate vs. the other two people? What are some of the concerns that the candidate has that we want to make sure we address in that interview? Again, that’s the collaboration that occurs on an event. We studied this and learned what the general workflow is across events. Then we wanted to architect a system that would support that. There were some very simple ideas that are profound. For example, there is no events on your calendar that don’t have a time associated with them. The counter needs a time in order for an event to go on the calendar. That’s not the case with Woven. We can have calendaring events that don’t yet have time so that they can be collaborated on. We call them scheduling links, similar to what Calendly has, but Calendly’s links are persistent. You have a web URL that you can go to all the time. So after I’ve scheduled this podcast, I can schedule another podcast. But most people don’t operate that way when they’re scheduling their events, and it’s a one-time thing. Let’s get together for drinks one time. So our scheduling links exist both in Calendly form, as well as in one-off form. But that’s, like I said, just the beginning. The information that we can now associate with those events also follows the lifecycle of the event, both the pre-meeting activities. The “Let’s get you into the meeting activity.” and then the follow-up activity. What’s the follow up from this interview or what’s the follow up from this? Maybe it’s a board meeting that you went to. As we studied that by talking to more and more people, then we had the general ideas of the architecture. The next thing that was important is to get some data because we wanted to know, “How many times do people meet with one person? How many times do they meet with multiple people? How many times do they just put stuff on their calendar when there’s nobody blocking out time to take the kids to school, or something like that?” We partnered with a few different companies, and we asked them if we could survey their calendar data, and they gave us permission to do that. That gave us some really valuable insights on what’s common between companies and what’s different between companies. That, again, fed into some of the design decisions that we made in the back end. Then finally, we started the user journeys. Figuring out, “What problems are we going to solve, and how are we going to solve them?” We started by designing them first, getting some mocks of what they might look like, talking to a lot of people about those capabilities. Once we got those mocks to a state that we were comfortable with– In parallel, we were building our engineering team, so we then had the people to start building this. That’s the general strategy that we followed. I’d say it’s evolved a bit as we’ve matured as a company and as the product has gotten more mature, but we still follow a lot of the same concepts and principles.

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Joe: I think I maybe realized– I think it’s always been the case, but I’m just realizing this now as you’re talking, that I am also insanely interested in how people manage their calendars. Because I’ve seen, when I was employed by an agency, I saw my boss’s calendar, and it was just overlapping meetings. I’m like, “How do you live your life?” I am always– We talked about this in the preshow, where I block specific recording times off for this show. I’ll put blocks on my calendar for “This is going to be deep work. Nobody can have this time.” I’m sure digging into that information was incredibly interesting. I don’t know how much data you could share, but were you looking at like US trends, or worldwide specific areas of the world? Did you find that Europeans and Americans manage their calendars differently?

Tim: We focused largely on the US and Canada, as markets. A couple of other markets that were in Australia and the UK tend to have very similar meeting behaviors. I will share some things that we did find that were interesting. We now have over 45 million events that are managed inside of Woven, so it’s quite a bit, and we’re able to use that information to help us really fine-tune how we build the product. One of the things that we had a question on early is “First off, when do people meet? What’s the most common time of day for people to meet?” The other question was, “How far in advance do they typically schedule?” We were originally debating, “Is a 7:00 AM meeting very common?” When does the day stop? Is a 6:00 PM meeting, quite common. If I could show you the histogram of events, you’d find it’s interesting, that most people do not start their day before 9:00 AM. There’s a few that start their day at 8:00 and a very small percentage that start their day at 7:00, but it’s a quite tall spike between 6:00 AM, and 10:00 AM, on when meetings start to occur. 10:00 AM is actually the most common spot in the day. That’s when people seem to like to meet the most. Then when you get to the end of the day, it falls off in a much slower fashion. There’s not the equivalent “It’s 5:00, and there’s no more meetings scheduled for people.” Instead, that extends out into the evening, on a very long, slow degradation. That was one thing that was interesting for us, is how there’s not a lot of people who like to use their early morning time, at least from a calendar perspective, and it very much mirrors a personal anecdote that I have that I like to do my workouts and my maker time, early in the morning because I’m the least likely to get interrupted and least likely to have conflicts. With this data, I could see why that universally people generally don’t use that time to meet with each other. The second thing that was interesting is “How far in advance do people schedule? Is it two weeks in advance, is it one week advance is it a couple of days in advance?” It was really interesting to see that the most common interval is actually a day or less, which makes using your calendar for planning purposes tricky, because it means that if I’m looking at what’s going on two weeks in the future, I actually don’t have all the events that I’m going to put on my calendar there yet. This also mirrors a common bit of anecdotal feedback that we’ve gotten, where people will make commitments in their time, in the future thinking “I can meet with so-and-so in a couple of weeks because I don’t look like I’m that busy.” But really, the decision that they’re making is “It’s not so important to meet with so-and-so today, because my calendar says I’m free two weeks from now, I’ll make the time for them then.” Except they’re not free two weeks from now. They don’t know what they’re busy with yet. So if you could build a calendar, a pro forma calendar– How you normally consume your time, you have a better understanding of whether or not you actually could take a meeting and it would help you prioritize better. I’ve seen for myself, and I have a pretty consistent pattern of 26 hours a week of meetings. No matter what’s going on, I have 26 hours of meetings. Sometimes it goes up and down by a few hours, but the average is pretty consistently 26 hours. If I start with an idea that “I only have 14 hours left.” for something that I wouldn’t normally do, I can answer that question “Does this fit in the 14 hours of time? Do I want to give it to this person?” Maybe that’s just an excuse for me to say, “I’m not interested in spending my time in this way.” Just a couple quick anecdotes. There’s tons of interesting things that we have learned helping people optimize their time with our product.

Joe: Yeah. That’s insanely interesting. I mean, first of all, 10:00 AM is also the sweet spot for me, because from 8:00 to 10:00, I like to do my own thing, in the office. Then by 10:00, the coffee is kicked in, 10:00 or 11:00, because 11:00 is right before lunch. So I’m probably not getting any deep work done. Then, how far in advance do they schedule? I have time-boxed, specifically for this reason. I’m doing a project right now with a bigger company, where they have a culture of this “I’ll grab a time on your calendar.” So people would do that, and I’ve been aggressively guarding my time. If someone just puts a meeting on my calendar, I’m like “I can’t meet at this time. Use this link to figure out when we can meet.” Because 5:00, I’m out of the– I got to go pick my daughter up from daycare. Then the rest of the evening is family time. If you’re going to meet in the middle of my morning, that’s deep work time for me, usually.

Joe: A lot of consultants do this, for example, where if they are working for multiple clients, they’ll block off time in their calendars for each client. One, to make sure that they don’t overbook themselves and two, to make sure that they preserve time to do the things that they’re trying to do for that particular client. It’s actually, I think, a good practice is to block time for things when you make commitments. Whether that commitment is to put together a presentation, or complete a coding task, or to meet with somebody. That’s one of the values of calendars, and if you can make them easier to use and more valuable for people, you can use them in ways to help people spend time better.

Joe: Absolutely. Then, I would just add, commit to that. I say I don’t meet on Fridays. I don’t break that rule. So, if someone’s like “Can, I grab a meeting on Friday?” I’m like, I don’t meet on Fridays, talk to me Monday morning.” Because Friday– Probably contrary to a lot of people feel, Friday is my most productive day, because I don’t have to meet with anybody.

Tim: For Facebook, we had no-meeting Wednesdays. The biggest problem in no-meeting Wednesday is that it was often disregarded by non-technical functions because they would have to meet with people outside of the company, who didn’t have no-meeting Wednesdays. In the counter tool that we built internally, we were able to codify this, so you could at least warn somebody that “You’re scheduling time during no-meeting Wednesday. Do you want to do that?” Inside of Woven, we’ve taken it one step further, where we use templates which are like predefined meetings, and you can set up your templates to say, “When should this meeting occur?” If you didn’t want to have your Fridays booked, you can change the template so that it never proposes times on a Friday and it will never do it for you, and it will never do it for anybody else who tries to schedule time with you.

Joe: Yeah. That’s fantastic, and I love that. When I was at the University of Scranton, we had something similar. We had no-meeting Thursday or something like that, but it was never honored, by anybody. When I was like “I thought we weren’t meeting on Thursdays, this is supposed to be a workday.” They’re like “They’re from outside the department.” I’m like, “They’re not available the rest of the week?” We work from 8:00 to 5:00 every day.

Tim: What you’re highlighting here is a truism. This is something that was important to learn at Facebook, which is that culture is often a function of the tools that you use. The tools can help make sure things happen. Facebook was very much about open communication, and it used Facebook Workplace as a way of helping people communicate because it’s more open than, say, e-mail is. For meetings, we used Exchange. Even though Sheryl Sandberg sent out an e-mail to the entire company, that we are no longer going to have, 60-minute meetings, they are going to be 50-minute meetings. Because Exchange didn’t support that, we ended up having 60-minute meetings. That was– The tool is overpowering one of the most powerful individuals in the company and arguably one of the best leaders in technology. That’s the value or the power of tooling for culture.

Joe: Yeah, that’s incredible. I love that quote. I’m going to make that a pull quote, for this episode. But we are coming up on time. I do need to ask you my favorite question, which is I mean, you’ve given us a lot of really great advice, but do you have any trade secrets for us?

Tim: They’re going to sound not so secret, but they are very powerful. It starts with if you’re going to build a great product, that starts with having great people. One of the things my co-founder and I both learned this from Facebook, and he was at Google beforehand, that part of what made Facebook such an incredible place to work was that people were so amazing. They were the best at what they did. That wasn’t by accident, and the company was very deliberate about hiring. So we’ve been very deliberate about hiring. If I were to go back through my entire career and highlight my greatest successes and my biggest failures, they’ve all related to whether or not I stuck it out for the right person in a role. When I compromised and made shortcuts, it usually cost me. When I stuck to my guns and went for the right person, even if that took a little bit longer than I wanted, it always paid off. So people make a big difference. The second thing I would say, and this is really for startups, speed matters. It’s great to take the time to build something well, but you have to recognize that, as a startup, you don’t know everything. It’s impossible not to know everything. So really, what you’re doing is every bit of code you’re writing is to learn more about what’s going to resonate for your product. When you write that code in a way that allows you to get it in front of users quicker, to get that learning faster, you’re better off than if you take a lot of time to write something that’s perfect, because it’s not going to be perfect. The designs are never going to be perfect. The architecture is never going to be perfect. Even the product focus is never going to be perfect. It’s got to be designed for speed. It’s very relevant learning, for us, on a principle that Facebook had of “move fast and break things.” That moving fast part, especially in the early days of a company, is really valuable.

Joe: The man I love that. That’s been echoed a bit on this podcast, as well, because you could spend six months or a year building something that you think is amazing. Then if people don’t use it the way you expected it to be used, then no one’s going to use it. So then you just sunk a bunch of months into something that’s not usable. So get something out quick, iterate quickly, we have the luxury to do that in today’s development environment.

Tim: Yeah, I mean, one of the other things that we learned is, if there’s ways to test stuff without ever writing a line of code, then you just shaved a bunch of time. You have no tech debt that way, you have no bugs that way, but you get the learnings. Mocks, surveys, we would use ads, sometimes, to advertise for features that we were thinking about developing and we’d see what the click-through rates were. All those were different ways to get to the answer to questions without having to write a line and code. So that when we did write that code, we knew that we had a higher chance of writing the right stuff.

Joe: That’s great. I’m going to steal that one. I’ve done similar things with pre-launching a course. Then if nobody buys the course, I know “Great, I don’t have to write that course. Nobody wants that course or nobody on my current e-mail list, at least, wants that course.”

Tim: That’s a modern-day variant of [Lean Startup]. The whole customer development cycle is built off similar principles.

Joe: Awesome. Tim, thank you so much for your time today. Where can people find you?

Tim: They can find us at Woven.com. The product is in open beta, so the only requirement is that you use your G Suite or Google Calendar. If anybody wants to find me, I’m easy to find on Twitter. @TCampos or Tim@Woven.com. I do also have LinkedIn, and Facebook profiles are easy to find, as well.

Joe: Awesome. I will link to those and everything we talked about in the show notes, over at HowIBuilt.it. Tim, thanks so much for joining me today. I appreciate it.

Tim: Awesome. Thanks for having me.

Joe: Thanks so much to Tim for joining us today. While there’s a lot to take away from this episode, I think what stuck out the most, for me, is how people’s availability and when they meet spikes in the morning, so people are not available before a certain time in the morning, but then it peters off in the afternoon, meaning people continually make themselves available later into the evening. That’s really interesting stuff for me, especially because I pretty aggressively guard my time and my calendar. Thanks so much again to our sponsors Gusto, Ahoy! and Pantheon, they make this show happen. If you want to learn more about Tim and see all of the show notes, you can head over to HowIBuilt.it/140. If you want to create a podcast, just like this, for yourself. Be sure to check out my free podcasting workbook over at HowIBuilt.it/Liftoff, you’ll get checklists and show note templates, and all sorts of other stuff. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, get out there and build something.

The post A Better Way to Spend Your Calendar Time with Woven and Tim Campos appeared first on How I Built It.

Oct 01 2019

46mins

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Using Social Proof to Improve Your Sales with Tevya Washburn

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Tevya Washburn reached out to me over the summer and asked if I might be interested in having him on the show – it turns out his timing was great. See Tevya created a WordPress plugin to help gather and display social proof, and I had just finished read a book that talks about the importance of social proof. So we chat about how he came up with the idea, why he built it, and of-course, how. This is a pretty traditional episode of the show, and I hope you enjoy it!

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Tevya Washburn: We ran it for about six months, and I think he increased his reviews by like 100 reviews on Google, and he increased his overall rating, which was already fairly high. But he moved it up even higher, so he looks really good on Google, and it helped his website rank better too as he did all this. So that’s when we started to see those results on his site, where I was like, “I should sell this to my other clients.”

Joe Casabona: Tevya Washburn reached out to me over the summer and asked if I might be interested in having him on the show. It turns out his timing was great. See, Tevya creates a WordPress plugin to help him gather and display social proof like reviews and things like that, and I had just finished reading a book that talks about the importance of social proof. So I have him on, and we chat about how he came up with the idea and why he built it, and of course, how he built it. There’s a lot of really good advice about getting reviews, and getting that really important social proof that you need to sell your product or service. This is a pretty traditional episode of the show, so sit back and relax. I hope you enjoy it. We’ll get onto it right after a word from our sponsors.

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Joe: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today my guest is Tevya Washburn. He is the creator of Starfish Reviews, which is a social proof plugin for WordPress. Tevya, how are you?

Tevya: I’m great, Joe. How are you?

Joe: I am doing fantastic, thanks very much. For those listening, at the time we are recording I just got back from Orlando where I got to try out– I got to preview Star Wars: Galaxies Edge at Walt Disney World before it opens, and I’m a big Star Wars fan, so I’m in a fantastic mood.

Tevya: I’m jealous. That’s awesome.

Joe: My brother works at Disney World.

Tevya: Sweet.

Joe: It was great. The stars aligned, and I happened to be there anyway for a conference, so it was a fantastic experience. You could see it up on my Instagram story, which I’ll link in the show notes. But that’s not why we’re here today, and we’re here to talk about building social proof. Tevya, why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Tevya: Sure. I’ve been building WordPress websites for about a decade now, and recently– I say “Recently,” but a few years ago, it came to my attention how all these SaaS services were helping people do their review marketing or social proof, as you mentioned, through their services. Where they could help encourage the positive reviews and maybe capture the negative ones for internal review, and the more I started looking at it, the more I realized there was no affordable option on the low end. Especially, specifically, there was none that ran on WordPress as a plugin or whatever, so that’s how it started. That’s a brief vision of how Starfish Reviews is born, and that’s what I do at least part of the time now, is to help build and market the Starfish Reviews plugin.

Joe: Great. So you noticed that there wasn’t something out there that was specifically on WordPress, what did you find as far as looking at other tools? Is there a popular social proof plugin that a lot of people use, or is it industry-based?

Tevya: There’s a number of popular SaaS, software as a service, solutions out there. There’s a ton of them. If you tried to compile a list, it would be quite long, but in case any listeners are a little unfamiliar, social proof is just anytime you can use your user’s or customer’s input or feedback to show other people how they feel about your business. In this case, what we do is we encourage online reviews. That is a big part of social proof, and it also plays into SEO and things like that. Most of the platforms out there are fairly broad, and they’ll cover everything from Google to some very niche ones that have to do just a specific industry, or whatever. Most of them are– We’ll cover all those, but most of them if they have a WordPress integration, it’s just a little bridge or something that pulls in some of your data from their platform. None of them run on WordPress.

Joe: Gotcha. I see. So there are plugins that will sit on their server, and through some connector WordPress plugin, it’ll pull all of the data from their server, etc.

Tevya: Yeah, and usually, it’s just to display the reviews. There are a few reviews plugins that will pull in your reviews and display them, but there’s none that are helping you manage and encourage getting new reviews or “Generating reviews,” as we sometimes call it.

Joe: Gotcha. That makes sense. So, what made you want to create Starfish Reviews? Which is maybe the opposite, you have a plugin sitting on your WordPress site where– Can people fill out reviews through the WordPress site, or does it pull–? Exactly how does that plugin work?

Tevya: Sure, that’s a great question. At its most basic, and right now, our plugin is basic, and I’ll be the first to admit it, but it’s getting better all the time. It just creates these little landing pages that we call “Funnels.” The funnel is essentially a form stepper where people can– It asks them right up front, “How do you feel about this product or service?” And people can decide how they want to word it, so they can totally customize it. That’s another great feature of ours is we made it totally customizable, so they can put in whatever wording they want, whatever audience they’re trying to go after. They know their audience better than we do, and so they can totally customize it to fit that audience. But it basically, the idea is it just says, “How do you feel about this product or service or business?” However, they’re using it, and then they can give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down or a smiley face or frowny face. Then if it’s the thumbs up, for example, then it encourages them, “Go leave us a review.” And then it takes them to Google reviews or wherever the user wants them to go, or the I should say the “Website owner” wants them to go. Or it can give them options too, so they can choose between say, Google and Facebook, and TripAdvisor and wherever else they want to offer to their clients. Then if they give negative feedback, if they say thumbs down or whatever, then it will offer them to submit the feedback internally. It’s trying to counterbalance that tendency that a lot of us have to go leave a review when we’re ticked off and we’re unhappy about it, and instead capture that for internal review. Then the website owner can review with their team and say “OK. We need to do better in this area. Here’s how we can get better.”

Joe: That’s fantastic. There’s a couple of things at play here, and the first is that if it is negative feedback, you can immediately open up that dialogue without having to stumble upon it.

Tevya: Yes, exactly.

Joe: I want to say Amazon. Somebody reviewed my book, my most recent– My last book, and it’s not very recent anymore. They gave it zero stars, and they said “It doesn’t teach the things that they wanted to learn.” But it’s because she didn’t read the description of the book, she’s like “It was too developer heavy,” and it’s called Building Themes. But there was nothing I could do about that. Especially Amazon, they really won’t let you refute reviews from what I’ve seen, or at least the little guy won’t. But the other thing that I like about this is if they click the thumbs up, now you’re giving them the option to review where you want. That plays into this like psychological technique for people wanting to complete the task they start.

Tevya: Sure. And it’s so easy too because all they have to do is click thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s all it is. But then they’ve started, and then like you say, they want to finish. So they’re much more likely to go through and leave a review and do all that stuff.

Joe: That’s fantastic. Because aside from actually getting people to review products and services, which can be hard, you’re also getting that immediate feedback from them by making it as easy as possible. Especially on a podcast, I try to make my calls to action as easy as possible because I know that people are probably on their phone listening or they’re doing something else, and I want them to remember– I don’t want it to be a multi-step process.

Tevya: Yeah, exactly. Ours is easy as just sending them a link in an email or a text message. They just hit it and then decide thumbs up or thumbs down. We even have added a feature where you can construct a link in such a way that the thumbs up or thumbs down is pre-selected, so if you want to put the thumbs up/thumbs down, indicator right in your email, you can do that. Then when they hit it there, you’re even eliminating one more step there and one more click there and shoot them straight into the funnel with one or the other already selected. If that makes sense.

Joe: Yeah, that’s perfect. It’s funny you mention that because we’re going to go on a little bit of a tangent right now.

Tevya: OK.

Joe: Today, as we record this, about two hours ago, I was looking for a solution just like that because I am trying a new format. By the time this episode comes out, I will have tested this format a couple of times here on How I Built It. I want people to either say, “Yes, they like it” or “No, they don’t.” And I couldn’t find anything really good that was just like, “This link is ‘Yes,’ and it logs yes, and this link is ‘No’ and it logs no.” It sounds like your solution will do that, so my follow up question now– And this is completely for me, when a user hits thumbs up or thumbs down, is that logged somewhere? Or is the second step the one that’s logged?

Tevya: No. Each step is logged as it occurs, so if they abandon at any point, you have whatever data you got up to that point. It’s designed to send them to a review platform, but the destination is just an open URL field. If you want to send them to another page on your site and say, “Thanks so much. That’s the feedback we needed to have.” Then yes, it will do exactly what you want to do.

Break: This episode is brought to you by Pantheon. Starting a new project? Looking for a better hosting platform? Pantheon is an integrated set of tools to build, launch, and run websites. Get high-performance hosting for your WordPress sites, plus a comprehensive toolkit to supercharge your team and help you launch faster. On Pantheon, you get expert support from real developers, best in class security, and the most innovative technology to host and manage your websites. You can sign up a new site in minutes with a free account, and you only pay when it goes live. That is my second favorite feature to Pantheon, only to the easy ability to create dev staging and live servers and push to GitHub. It’s very easy to set those things up on Pantheon, so you can head over to Pantheon.io today. Again, set up a free account and pay only when it goes live. Thanks so much to Pantheon for their support of this episode and this season of How I Built It.

Joe: To bring it back, you have a lot of amazing– A lot of features that I guess I would expect to be here as part of a plugin that also curates reviews. What kind of research did you do to get to this point? You said it was simple, but it does a lot already. I know you looked at competitors, and there’s tons of SaaS services, but how did you determine what features would be in it? Did you talk to users, things like that?

Tevya: That’s a great question. I gave the brief overview of how it started before, and I’m going to go into a little bit more detail here to explain some of that. What originally happened was I had one of these SaaS platforms that contacted me, it was one of their sales guys who I assumed was commission only. He contacted me because I also run a website maintenance business, so we maintain and manage WordPress websites, and he’d found that and contacted me and wanted to sit down. So I went to lunch with him, or whatever. We’re talking, and he’s telling me about their product and how it works, and he basically described the funnel similarly to how I just described it, but it was running on their funnel or their platform. They wanted to charge, and the base price was $300 bucks a month for this. Now they had a nice analytics dashboard, and there was a lot of value there, but for my clients who were paying me maybe $200 bucks a month tops for managing and maintaining their website, another $300 dollars was a pretty big upsell. It was more than what I was already charging them. And so I was like, “That’s cool, but I don’t know. We could talk some more, but I’m not terribly interested unless one of my clients expresses a lot of interest here.” And then, as I left, I started thinking about it, and I’m like, “I could probably build something like that runs on WordPress. Now before you assume, “I’m just going to go code it,” a little new information for you. I don’t code. I’m not a developer unless you count CSS and HTML. What I was thinking in my head is I could probably build this on GravityForms. Fast forward about nine months later, one of my clients came to me– Actually, he texted me, he forwarded me a text message that just had a link to one of these funnels in it that one of his vendors had sent him to get a review from him. He’s like, “Could you do this for me on my website?” And I was like, “I think I can because I’ve already thought about this a bunch.” That’s how the very first version of Starfish was done, the “Early alpha,” you might call it, is I just built it all in GravityForms. It didn’t have a lot of the features it has now, but it did the very basic functionality, and it worked, and we could run it on his website. We ran it for about six months, and I think he increased his reviews by like 100 reviews on Google, and he increased his overall rating, which was already fairly high. But he moved it up even higher, so he looks really good on Google, and it helped his website rank better too as he did all this. So that’s when we started to see those results on his site, where I was like, “I should sell this to my other clients.” And then the obvious and logical next step was, “I don’t want to have to reproduce this on every single site in GravityForms, we should build a plugin.” And then it was like, “Duh. We should sell a plugin.”

Joe: That’s so– Actually, I’m going to stop you right there because I want this point to land. You don’t write code, but you did build this out. You prototyped it in GravityForms. I think that’s really interesting because as a coder myself, when I have an idea I always think “Here we go, I’m going to start laying down some code,” without really thinking about what’s it going to look like and how it’s going to get laid out, I make all of those– For an idea I have, all those decisions in the shotgun, we’ll say.

Tevya: Sure.

Joe: But the fact that you laid it out in GravityForms first meant that you had zero technical debt, you got to see how it worked, and you got to see if GravityForms was sufficient enough for this before moving on to coding a solution yourself. I think that’s a really good takeaway.

Tevya: Cool. Yeah, it made me a big believer in prototyping and testing just the “Minimum viable product,” as they often say. That’s basically what I did. I just built in the very minimum, and it just worked, it just barely did exactly what we needed it to. Then we saw how well it worked, and I was like, “This is an idea that I think could have some legs if we wanted to build a real plugin and add some features to it.”

Joe: Yeah, that’s fantastic. First of all, I interrupted you, so I just wanted to make sure you completed the thought you were trying to complete. I’m very sorry about that.

Tevya: No worries at all. The next step was to find a developer, and I had a developer I’d worked with for some time and was able to do a profit-sharing arrangement with them, so I didn’t have to come up with a bunch of funding upfront to get it built. Then after a while, we seemed to hit the limits of his technical knowledge, so I gave him a big payment buyout and then made a similar arrangement with another developer who has a lot more experience and has been doing this stuff for a long time. His name’s Matt, and Matt’s my business partner now on all this, and he has helped rebuild the foundation of it. So it’s much more reliable, much more consistent, and much quicker action, too.

Joe: Again, that’s cool. Because I feel like profit sharing is always something that’s proposed when somebody has an idea, it’s been proposed to me a few times. I’ve never taken the risk of doing the profit-sharing model, but it sounds like, in both instances, it’s worked out for your developers. Can you talk about how you pitched the profit-sharing model and how you persuaded these developers to do it?

Tevya: Sure. The first step, at least in my mind, was I had a great relationship with both of them already. I’d hired them to do other work for me and stuff like that, so they knew that we worked well together. Matt’s a great guy, and we were like-minded on a lot of things that are important, but I think different enough too that we’re not too locked in. That we’re able to explore new ideas and bounce ideas off each other and stuff. I think just that, and then all the stuff that I realized. I was able to go to him and say, “OK. Look what I already did with the prototype for this one client. I think I can sell it as a significant upgrade to my other clients, but more importantly, I think we can sell it just as a WordPress plugin to any website owners or marketers or whatever out there.” And then showed them the market that was out there and showed them how many other of these SaaS products out there, that were doing the same thing but weren’t doing it on WordPress, and how we could very likely come in, much cheaper than them because we didn’t have all the overhead of the servers and the hosting, and all that stuff. But also give people control, it’s their data, and it runs on WordPress on their website, etc. I think just all that, it was pretty clear that there was some real potential there, and they were able and willing to get excited about it. Plus, I didn’t ask either one of them to leave their day job to do it. It was like, “Can you put some time into this on the side? Then if it starts paying you, maybe you’ll drop some of your other freelance projects that you were already doing on the side.”

Joe: OK, so there’s a lot of great advice there. The first, and I think this is the most important one, is that you already had a great relationship with both of them. You’ve hired them before, so they know you’re not just out to make a quick buck off of them. To the business owners out there who are looking for a profit-sharing model, I think this is important because I’ve had basically people who have proposed this thing to me and wanting me to sign an NDA first. Then they wanted me to say, “Do profit sharing.” And I’m like, “I already don’t– You clearly don’t trust me. Why should I trust you at all?” So I think that’s important, you built that trust, and you had a working prototype, so you’re showing that you’ve already put hours and thought into this. I like that.

Tevya: In both cases, too, I was able to say, “Look. I’m a decent marketer. I know how to do SEO and that kind of stuff, so I can get this in front of people, but I can’t build it. So I need you to build it, and I think you need me to market it.” And so that makes a really good relationship that way.

Joe: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. You’re playing off of each other’s strengths, and again, since you had that working relationship, you both knew what the strengths were. Now when it comes to marketing, this is a social proof plugin, how important–? I’ve got courses, I’ve got the podcast. I know people listening probably have their own plugins or maybe even their freelancers, how important is social proof, and is it more important in certain industries than others?

Tevya: It’s extremely important. Yes, I do think it does vary somewhat from industry to industry. I’m trying to order my thoughts here real quick. So, it’s very important in that it affects your SEO, at least as far as we are applying social proof to online reviews. Online reviews can affect your SEO, so it’s really important there. We’ve got a bunch of stats and stuff on our website, but there’s been a bunch of studies done, and most people these days read reviews. Not only that, but they’re increasingly savvy about those reviews. They know that if product or service or a plugin or whatever it might be that’s being reviewed has 100% five-star reviews and there’s 50 of them or more, they know right off the bat that there’s something going on. They’re like, “Nobody’s perfect. Nobody gets it right all the time.” There’s always somebody, like in your example, Joe. There’s always somebody who didn’t read the description before they bought it. It’s not that the product’s not amazing, it’s just that there’s always some situation that can’t fit perfection. So they’re very savvy about that, and it becomes very important because people do spend time on that and start reading through those reviews and looking at it. But it does depend on the industry as well, because if something is wildly popular, and all their friends are telling them “You’ve got to try this thing,” then it’s really not that big a deal that you have a million reviews or whatever telling them the same thing that their friends are already telling them. On the other hand, if they’re hiring a local contractor or they’re buying a newer product, then it’s really important what other people have said about it because that’s going to determine how they feel about it and whether or not they’re likely to buy it or not.

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Joe: I’m sure we’ve all done this, where something has a lot of really good reviews, but you have the one bad review, that has made me not want to buy a product. Because everyone’s like “This is great,” and then one is like “This was broken in the box the day it arrived,” and I’m like, “I don’t know if I want to buy this now.” But to your point, first of all, it informs people about a product that they’re not seeing in real life. You can’t just go to the store, or when you’re online shopping in most cases, you’re not going to the store first to look at it. But the other thing you mentioned is that it can affect your SEO. So, is that to say that search engines like Google are crawling not only like the Google reviews, but Yelp or other ones to surface that and effect the page rank at all?

Tevya: Yeah, exactly. The old adage is “Content is king,” right? Every review constitutes content, it’s additional content about your business or product or whatever it might be, and that includes your replies as well. You can even go in and reply and make sure you’re using relevant keywords as you reply to those reviews, positive or negative. We encourage people to reply to all reviews, positive or negative, and make sure you talk about your business as you’re replying. Or talk about what you did well, or whatever they mentioned in their review. That’s going to have relevant keywords in it, and that’s more content that’s related to your site and your business, whatever, and can help you rank.

Joe: I never really thought of that. I know it’s important to have reviews for the social proof if people happen to come, or I’ve got the testimonials. But I guess I’ve never really thought of it in that sense, that every review constitutes content. My last question in this line of questioning is, are there certain review sites that digital businesses or online entrepreneurs– Are there review sites that those folks should focus their time on?

Tevya: Again, it can be somewhat industry-specific. So depending on what industry that is, Google obviously always loves Google’s stuff. However, Google reviews are made more for local businesses. You can say, “I don’t have an actual physical location, and so I want it everywhere.” You can do stuff, but that’s probably not going to help you as much as if maybe you get them on Trustpilot. I’m not a big fan of Facebook personally, but Facebook is still huge. If you can get reviews on Facebook, that’s always very helpful and then anything industry-specific. Like I said, if you’re selling an e-book on Amazon, then you want Amazon reviews.

Joe: Yeah, gotcha. That’s fantastic information, so thank you for that. Now moving back to Starfish Reviews, this is running right on your WordPress site. Is it something that encourages reviews at other places? Does it curate those reviews on the site itself, or does it just basically say, “Check out my reviews in the places where I’m sending people?”

Tevya: At this time, it doesn’t pull in reviews from other websites, but we are hard at work on that, and that’s going to be releasing very soon. In the near future, you’ll be able to have a dashboard telling you when you get new reviews, and this will probably be– We’ll release of a few features at a time. It’s not going to all come in one big update, but you’ll be able to see your new reviews from various sources on your WordPress dashboard. You’ll be able to see some analytics and stuff like that, you’ll also be able to use a short code or a Gutenberg block or whatever to display your latest reviews on the front end, and all that stuff is coming. We intend it to be a full-featured review marketing plugin by the time– Well, I won’t set any dates. But it’s going to be awesome, and we’re hard at work on the next big features there.

Joe: Yeah, that’s fantastic. I usually ask what your plans for the future are, and it sounds like you’ve laid them out, but I think this is a good strategy. First of all, you got your minimum viable product out. You’ve got the important part out, which is encouraging people to leave those reviews. Then once somebody like me has reviews to display, this new feature will roll out, and I can go ahead and display them. I think that’s a good plan.

Tevya: Yeah, exactly. There were already some plugins that would display them, as I mentioned before, and there are some great ones out there. But we intend ours to be the most full-package, once we get all those features added on.

Joe: Awesome. As we wrap up here, you have those “Funnels” is the term that you mentioned. What kind of wording should I use on a final page to encourage people to get reviews? Is there some magic language I could use, or is it just the constant ask?

Tevya: I would say something that’s personal. You know your audience better than maybe anybody else, and they have certain expectations of you, like how you talk to them. I would say customize it to you, make it sound like you when you ask them, and they’ll feel like it’s more personal that way. I think that’s the best thing you can do. Now, if you try to encourage reviews on Yelp or certain other platforms that have restrictive rules about what you can ask, then you can’t necessarily outright ask. You have to be sneaky about it, or not really sneaky, but don’t ask. Just let them know that you appreciate reviews and leave it at that. I would say the specific wording is only when you’re trying to be compliant with the terms of service or something like that, but other than that, make it personal. Make it sound like you. People love doing business with other people, not faceless corporations and stuff like that.

Joe: Gotcha. That’s a really good point, and we should parse that out a bit. Because if I’m asking for reviews on my own site or if I’ m– For a while, I had a call to action at the end of this, “Leave a rating and review on iTunes. It helps.” But if it’s something like Amazon, Amazon’s the one I keep going back to because that’s what I’m most familiar with. There are certain restrictions like I can’t send you a product for you to then review. You have to buy it through Amazon to review it. Is that right? Something like that.

Tevya: I believe so, but I’m not real clear on all Amazon’s review rules there. But I believe that’s correct.

Joe: I’ll link to an episode of Smart Passive Income where he has an Amazon guy on talking specifically about that.

Tevya: Cool.

Joe: Because I know it’s different for books because it’s just you’ve always been able to send out review copies. But other physical products, I’ve seen people reach out to me and say “We want you to review our product, can you buy it through Amazon and then we’ll PayPal you the money?” And I’m like, “No. Just send me the product. That’s weird.” But they never explained why, and it’s probably because of that.

Tevya: Yeah, I think they want you to be a verified buyer is the thing, because those things get more weight than the ones that aren’t.

Joe: Gotcha. Because that’s another thing, if I’m sending– If I’m giving people access to my course or whatever, or sending a copy of my book to somebody, they might be more inclined to say something nice about it because they got it for free.

Tevya: Sure, yeah.

Joe: Awesome. This has been great, Tevya. I do need to ask my favorite question, though, which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?

Tevya: Trade secrets. I think we’ve covered several of them throughout this, some of them maybe I didn’t mention, or I didn’t emphasize as well as I could have. One is replying to positive reviews, and the reason is that as I mentioned before, it’s content, and it can help with SEO but it can also– Another form of social proof, in that you’re showing that even the people that love you already, you’re still willing to follow up with them and have that conversation and show them how much you appreciate what they said about you. You’re not just saying, “They’re already in our camp, so I’m not going to waste any time on them. That shows another that you’re willing to go to another level of service there, and makes you look all that much better. So that was one we mentioned, but I think it is a well-kept secret. It shouldn’t be a secret, but it’s a pretty good one.

Joe: I think that’s great because you’re right. I see the good reviews, and I’m like, “I don’t need to convince them. They’re already convinced. I’d rather–” and maybe incorrectly, “I’d rather spend my time on the one-star review figuring out why they gave me a one-star review,” when maybe there’s just no convincing them that my product is good.

Tevya: Yeah, and there’s nothing wrong with replying to negative reviews as long as you’re always kind and positive and trying to encourage them to reach out to you so you can make it right. But everybody wants to reply to the negative reviews because that’s the one that gets to you.

Joe: Right. Yeah, absolutely. That makes perfect sense. Tevya, thanks so much for your time today. I appreciate it. Where can people find you?

Tevya: Starfish.reviews is our main website, that’s the best place. You can follow me on Twitter @tevyaw. Feel free to contact me through the Starfish Reviews contact form, or whatever works best for you.

Joe: Fantastic. I will link to those and everything we talked about in the show notes over at HowIBuilt.it. Tevya, thanks again. I appreciate you taking the time.

Tevya: You’re welcome, Joe. I appreciate you and your awesome podcast. Thanks for having me on.

Joe: Thanks so much to Tevya for joining me today. I loved his trade secret about replying to positive reviews and being kind with the negative reviews, that’s something that I need to work on. I always feel the need to defend myself when I get a negative review when I should be killing them with kindness. That’s always the best way to flip the script and other colloquialisms, at least here in the United States. Thanks also to our sponsors Pantheon, Gusto, and Ahoy! Without their support, this show would not happen. For everything that we talked about and to learn more about our sponsors, you can head over to HowIBuilt.it/144. There you will find links to subscribe as well, so be sure to subscribe if you like this. You’ll also find a link to my latest resource, and it’s the podcast workbook. I’m working on a new course called Podcast Liftoff, where I will show you how you can get in front of the mic and get over that stage fright, get over the fear of pressing record and start your own podcast. If you’re interested in doing that, head over to HowIBuilt.it/144 for the link to a free podcast workbook. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, get out there and build something.

The post Using Social Proof to Improve Your Sales with Tevya Washburn appeared first on How I Built It.

Oct 29 2019

40mins

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Repurposing Your Content with Jaclyn Schiff

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Jaclyn Schiff made her way onto the show because she’s authentic. She reached out recommending another guest, in a real way. Then, throughout the course of the conversation, we decided she’d also be a good guest for the show! She’s a master of making the most of your content. We talk all about repurposing – something I could do a little better – as well as that cold outreach she’s good at. We also talk about productizing services, which is something I’m doing at the moment. So lots of great stuff here!

Show Notes

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Transcript

Jacci Schiff: Honestly, it’s still something I’m very much working on. It keeps changing until we find the right fit, but it’s just a much more efficient way to work. Having worked as a freelancer as well, I think you experience firsthand that it’s so helpful when you have a process that you’re able to talk a client through.

Joe Casabona: Jacci Schiff made her way onto the show because she’s authentic. She reached out, recommending another guest in a very real way. She didn’t just say, “Hi ‘Name,” I love ‘Show name.’ You should have this guest on.” We talked about the episodes that she liked and the takeaways she had from the show, which means I could tell she listened to the show, and therefore she probably did know a good guest. Throughout our conversation, we decided that she would also be a good guest, she’s a master of making the most of your content. We talk all about repurposing, something I could do a little bit better, as well as that cold outreach that she’s also really good at. We further talk about productizing services, which is something I’m doing at the moment. As much as this interview in this episode is going to be great for everybody who listens, this is an episode that I got so much out of, and I hope you do too. But before we get to that, let’s hear a word from our sponsors.

Break: This episode is brought to you by our friends at Ahoy! The easiest way to increase customer engagement on your WordPress site. Install Ahoy! Create a message box, configure a way to display it, and start seeing conversions come in. You can create messages for cart abandonment, up-sales and cross-sells, custom support, and so much more. Ahoy! Has flexible conditions that let you choose exactly where and when you want your message to be displayed. I’ve recently installed it on my own WooCommerce site, and I’ve already seen increased engagement. I know this because of Ahoy! and it’s powerful analytics and reporting. You will see ROI within days of installing Ahoy! If not sooner. That’s even more true for listeners of How I Built It. You can get an exclusive 20% discount on any plan. Visit UseAhoy.com/HowIBuiltIt and use the code HOWIBUILTIT at checkout. Use those today and increase your engagement in sales on your WordPress site. Thanks to Ahoy! for their support of this show.

Joe: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today my guest is Jaclyn Schiff of PodReacher. Jaclyn, how are you today?

Jacci: Hey, Joe. I’m doing well, and I’m excited to be on your show.

Joe: Awesome. I am excited to have you on the show. Jaclyn and I have been talking via e-mail for a few months, and we “Wink-wink, nudge-nudge” met at Podcast Movement because this show is coming out after Podcast Movement, even though we’re recording it before Podcast Movement. So, Jaclyn, it was very nice to meet you at Podcast Movement.

Jacci: It was great to meet you, and we had crazy, amazing times. So memorable.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely wild. We hung out with Pat Flynn and Guy Raz, and it was crazy. Cool, so thanks again so much for coming on the show today. We’re going to talk about not just you and your company that you started, but repurposing podcast interviews, which is a very interesting topic to me since I do podcast interviews. Coming up with content is– I feel like it’s such a grind some days. I’m a programmer, and I feel like I could whip up a WordPress plugin in less time than it takes for me to come up with a good content strategy. So, I’m excited to talk about that today.

Jacci: Me, too. This is exactly what I love talking about, developing content strategy based around your podcast. So many people are podcasting and having great substantive interviews. There’s so much information in there, and my passion is really helping people extract that and putting it in different forms and getting it out there. There’s so many different ways to get it out there, so I’m sure we’ll get into all of that.

Joe: Yeah, that sounds great. Before we get into that, why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Jacci: Sure. As you mentioned, I’m the founder of PodReacher. I think the origin story probably best begins about two years before I started PodReacher when I was working at a magazine here in Chicago. I had a great job, but it was a very old media mentality, and for a lot of reasons, I left without having a plan in place for what was next. Very unlike me, not the things I usually do. It was, depending on how you look at it, one of the dumbest life risks I could have taken, but that’s what I did. So I left the job, and I was like, “OK. Now I have to figure stuff out.” I’d freelanced before, and I’d say if you had to put me into a box, I’m a “Content strategist.” That’s what I love doing. I love to create content and then think about “How do you use it, and how do you reach the people you’re trying to reach?” I’ve previously worked as a journalist in Washington, DC, so I have an editorial background. I’ve done also communications and marketing, so pretty well-rounded. But like I say, I’d freelanced before, and it wasn’t– I didn’t think, “OK. Now I want to start the next iteration of my freelance career,” but I got lucky and just happened to quickly find two long-term retainer clients. The whole reason I didn’t want to freelance is I didn’t want to, at that point in my life, hustle hard finding new business and all of that every month. So when this happened, I was like “Great. I’m going to do this for a little while, and these are great opportunities.” I’d also wanted to travel and do the digital nomad thing, so I got set up with the clients and then travelled for a year. I spent some time in Mexico, Guatemala, South Africa, where I’m originally from. I got some extended time with the family down there, and then when I came back to the US after all of that, I knew I wanted to start more of a business, and I knew I wanted to do something with podcasters. I love podcasts. I like to say I was a listener before people were into cereal before it was the cool thing. So I’ve always loved listening, and I’ve dabbled with creating my own, I did a little bit in work contexts before. It’s just always a medium that I’d loved. So this is now 2018 when I’m looking around at the podcast space, and obviously, it’s exploding. Everyone’s podcasting, everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon, and I’m looking at some of my favorite podcasts’ websites. I noticed that a lot of them aren’t doing a lot with the episode pages, they’re throwing up a player there, which doesn’t do much for your SEO. Maybe they’re putting a totally unedited transcript, but they’re not doing a whole lot with the content from the podcast. Going back to my background in journalism, the foundation of journalism is you interview people, and you create articles from it. It’s all about organizing and editing. So naturally, my brain went there, and I was like, “These could be great articles which would serve the purpose of marketing episode pages.” So I thought, “Let me test this out.” I reached out to 10 podcasts totally cold that I enjoyed listening to, and I was like, “Would you like some help repurposing your content, either creating a highly edited transcript or articles based on this?” Out of 10 cold outreaches, I got six really warm responses, and two ended up becoming clients. I was like, “Great. I feel like I might be onto something.” So I started working with them, and at that point, it was just me. After a couple months, I thought, “I think there’s something to this. I think a lot of people are podcasting and not thinking about the rest of their content strategy, and I’d love to form a company around that.” So then I started building up the company, and you recently had Alex McClafferty on the podcast, and Alex is awesome. I feel like I’ve learned a ton from him, and he talks a lot about “Productized services.” So that’s the basic business model of what I’ve been trying to build, and so at this point, I’m about nine months into it and really– Like, we started off with a few different offerings. But really what we do is we work with podcasters to take their podcast content and turn it into– Optimize it for text. Another way of saying that would be “Repurposing,” but I think of it as “Optimizing it for text.” Either into an article or long-form content. So that’s the gist, I guess.

Joe: So that’s interesting because first of all, you’re absolutely right. A lot of shows I listen to I’m very upset when I don’t see at least show notes as part of– When they mention something, I want to go and see– Especially ones that reference a bunch of YouTube videos, I want to go, and I want to watch those later. But even I feel like as a web developer myself, I’ve got the little blurb and I’ve got the show notes, and I’ve got the transcript, which is pretty much the conversation with maybe some “Um’s” removed. But I’m not repurposing that for articles because that can be a lot of work, which is why I’m sure people are willing to outsource that essentially to you. It sounds like your origin story is pretty well-researched, and I generally do like to ask what research you did, but did you find that other people were already in this space doing it? Or was it a pretty unique offer that you were sending out there?

Jacci: Yeah. To go back to an earlier point you made, and then I promise I’ll answer the question. There’s definitely– I like what you said, “As a listener,” so we both listen to a ton of podcasts. I like to have that transcript, or at least show notes, as a resource. I think there’s that element, and you want to have a text resource for your listener because it’s hard to go back and find the place in the audio. But then I think the distinction, and maybe this speaks to your question a little bit of what we’re offering, is we’re saying “Let’s turn those show notes into a marketing asset, where someone doesn’t necessarily have to be a listener to have the context, but they can see this either on another website or find it through a search and come to your website and see it as a standalone thing and be able to get the gist.” Then because more people are listening to podcasts, they will think, “This is interesting. I’m going to listen to the episode, or I’m going to subscribe and listen to other episodes.” I didn’t focus a ton on competitors. From listening to a lot of podcasts and just reading a lot about business through the years, I was interested in that cold outreach that I did. I knew that if I could get– Basically, my goal with reaching out to 10 people cold is I thought, “Let me see if I get one response.” When I got two people to become clients, I was like, “I’m on to something.” So I mostly focused around that, and then there’s definitely some other people that are doing this. It’s a good strategy, and they offer it as a standalone business, but I just mostly focused on “What can I and what can our team offer people?” I mentioned the productized service stuff, so that’s something I’ve also done. I find that intriguing as a business model, and that’s something I did a lot of research around when I thought about “How do I structure our workflow and structure onboarding clients?”

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Joe: First of all, before we get to the productized service. I’m saying that so I remember to bring it up. You focused on cold outreach, and you got two clients out of 10 e-emails-mails, which is by most conventions good. That’s a 20% conversion rate, and with cold outreach, you generally expect a lot less than that. What did that cold outreach look like? Was it just an e-mail introducing yourself, or did you–? And you had absolutely no connection to these people, whatsoever?

Jacci: Yeah, zero. Aside from the fact that I was a listener or came across their podcast. I think wearing another hat, I’ve also edited an e-mail newsletter called The Gmail Genius. That’s directed to how people use e-mail better, and a lot of it is geared towards people in sales and marketing. I read a lot about “Cold e-mail,” and I think the key with a good cold e-mail is to sound like you’re human, if I had to bottle it down to one thing. I think one of– In a way my weakness, almost, as a business person is I do put a lot of research and thought into every outreach that I do. As a business person, that doesn’t scale. You can’t be thoughtful about everything, but I believe in it. I know we all get cold pitch e-emails-mails, and the ones that are not relevant are painful. I just cannot and would never want to come across like that, so it was really about very briefly introducing myself because I think also when you’re reaching out to someone, it’s not really about you, it’s about them and what they need. So I said, I’d say something like, “I notice you’ve done all these great podcasts, and a lot of the content is evergreen, have you been thinking about doing more? Could we have a discussion about doing this, this, and this?” I’d lay out some of the options, but introduce the idea in the hope that they’d want to discuss it further. So, that was the general approach.

Joe: Yeah. That’s a great approach. Your first e-mail to me was a cold e-mail, but you mentioned that you have listened to the show and that you liked a recent episode when you reached out. That’s stuff that you can’t just automate unless you have a script that pulls a random name from my feed, that’s too much work. A lot of people reach out to me, and they’re like, “I think this person would be good for your show.” And then I say, “Why? What about my show, did you like?” If they can’t pass that basic litmus test, then I’m probably going to say no to them because I want– I think we talked about this in the pre-show, but I want good content. So your cold e-emails-mails are a lot more personal, and I feel like “This person cares about my content.”

Jacci: Yeah. The other person I would bring up with that who has a fascinating story is Sam Parr, the founder of The Hustle. I forget where he published this, and I can send it to you for the show notes.

Joe: Yeah, awesome.

Jacci: Again, the importance of show notes. But he wrote an extensive article about how he built up The Hustle through cold e-emails-mails. The gist of it also was personalized outreach and follow up. That’s another big part. Everyone’s so inundated, and when a stranger is e-mailing you, it’s less memorable. So, to follow up and to follow up well is also a skill in and of itself.

Joe: Yeah. Again, that’s another great point. Because the first e-mail, the first cold e-mail I see, if it sounds like it’s auto-generated or mass e-emailed-mailed to me, I’m going to ignore it. And then if somebody follows up, then I’m like “All right. Maybe there is a person behind the e-mail.” So that’s another great point.

Jacci: Yeah. We live in interesting times. We’re wary, questioning, “Is there a person behind this e-mail?” But I get it.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes the curtain will get pulled back, and it’s like, I got an e-mail one time that’s like “Hey, Joe. I loved your video on ‘Product.'” And then I was like, “What product?”

Jacci: Oh, my God. Exactly, it’s so embarrassing. When it’s bad, it’s just– Yeah.

Joe: The more you can sound like a human, like Jacci said, you should. You mentioned a couple of times having a “Productized service,” can you dive in a little bit more to that? Because it seems like if you’re helping people come up with content, each job is maybe a little bit different. Maybe there’s a couple of variables here, but how did you build that up?

Jacci: 100%, yes. When you’re dealing with content I think there’s a huge temptation to be highly customized, and obviously we are customized to the specific client needs, but to the extent that we’re able to each time– There’s a few ground rules and basics when you’re working with a client, and you’re taking their interview and transforming it into an article that is a readable, interesting to read piece of text on its own. There are systems to that, and even though I wouldn’t say I’m naturally a big systems person, it’s just so much more efficient when you’re able to extract some of the steps. For example, we’ll work from a transcript. We’ll have the transcript done, and we use Temi.com. I don’t know if you know them, it’s an AI transcript. I find it a really easy, good tool. So we’ll work from that and then listen to the interview, and the podcast episode that we’re working with is assigned to a writer. The writer has been trained to listen to the episode and think of the target audience. Like in your case, you’re probably talking to a lot of other founders, a lot of technical founders, WordPress developers, that kind of thing. So we think about that as we’re listening to the interview and then extract. Because the way you would write an article for that audience is different than the way you’d write it for general and someone who doesn’t even know what WordPress is. So, we pay attention to that, and then extract the specific points and organize that into an article with different subheads and takeaways, and whatever. The process is definitely productized in that sense, we have a system to it, and we also initially– The first couple months I was doing this I would offer clients, “We do custom work all the time.” It was like this person wanted a batch of 10 articles, the other person wanted to work monthly. So when I say “Productize,” it’s like we work with clients in a few different ways. We will either work on a monthly basis, we typically work either with people who are producing regular shows and sometimes we’ll create content for every show, but then we also work with guest– People that are doing just as a guest on a podcast, and maybe they don’t even have their own, but they then want to turn that into a piece of content afterwards. Because a lot of times people go on a podcast, they prepare, they say a lot of really interesting things, and we want to capture that knowledge and help them get more out of that interview. So, we have different packages based on whether you’re the podcast creator or the podcast guest. Honestly, it’s still something I’m very much working on. It keeps changing until we find the right fit, but it’s just a much more efficient way to work. Having worked as a freelancer as well, I think you experience firsthand that it’s so helpful when you have a process that you’re able to talk a client through. There’s discipline for the client, and there’s discipline for you. I think having that process is essential for getting to the best work and managing expectations along the way. But it also takes, I think, working with a few different clients to know, “What is the most effective process that will work for most people?” That’s what I’ve spent the last couple months trying to figure out.

Joe: That is just fantastic general advice for anybody working with clients or people. It’s important to have a process that you could talk a client through. I feel like I’m feeling those growing pains again. Like, I’m learning that lesson again. Because I’m pivoting from web development and freelance web development full time to doing videos for hire. The process is very different. Where with a web design client, I’m like, “I need your content, and we’re going to get the domain and the hosting and this, and here’s the whole timeline, and here’s about how long it’s going to take.” I know I can like build in a buffer because they’re not going to get me the content on time, or I’m going to spend too much time on the design. With the videos, it’s like, “What do you want your video to be about?” Like, “I don’t know.” So I need to work through that process so I can manage expectations like you said.

Jacci: Exactly. That’s the thing. I think whenever you’ve freelanced, and you’ve worked with different types of clients, and everyone does have different types of needs. I don’t want to deny that. But I think a lot of times people are just saying things differently, but they want a similar result. You can fit it into bucket A, B, or C. The reason they’re working with you is because they want your expertise. They want you to help get them from where they are to where they want to be, and so having that system is helpful. But again, it’s weird. If I would have thought about it, or if you would have asked me five years ago, “Would you be on a podcast talking about business systems?” I would have laughed in your face. But it’s just been helpful to learn a lot of this along the way, and there’s a great Facebook group. You might even find it helpful, it’s called Productized Startups. Robin– I forget his last name, but he’s the founder of ManyPixels. There’s a lot of founders in that group that talk through different pieces of this, and everything from “What technology do you use for doing this, this and this thing?” To aspects of, “How do you run the business better?”

Joe: That’s interesting. I will– I’m looking at it now, and I’m going to click “Join” and see if there’s not like a barrier. There’s a few questions, so I’ll do this later. I’ll definitely link it in the show notes, though. That sounds great. Facebook has been– It’s pivoted for me from like a place where I share pictures of my kid, which is now Instagram, to a place where I interact with people about “How do I do this?” The Podcast Movement group, for example, or the LearnDash group. Both are helpful.

Jacci: Totally. I’ve noticed this, I think I went through a period of just hating Facebook and everything they do, but I am in a lot of groups that are valuable. I still, personally, don’t like that group format. I find it hard to find older conversations and that thing, so I wish they would solve that problem. But I guess because there’s such a critical mass of people there and because people log in so often, some of these groups, whether they’re writing groups, business groups, podcast groups, are just great. So, I definitely am with you on that point.

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Joe: So, you created a productized service. Maybe now we can go to some advice for people who are looking to maybe “Repurpose” I know is the word you didn’t want to use, but repurpose their content. Whether they are a podcaster or maybe doing stuff on other people’s podcasts, or on YouTube, or whatever. Do you have some tips for that?

Jacci: Totally. Again, the other thing I guess I didn’t bring up is it’s not like I came up with this idea. There are other podcasters, and in fact, a lot of really top podcasters that are using this as a strategy. So when I was looking at this, I was curious. James Altucher, Pat Flynn, they are doing this well and consistently, and a lot of other people aren’t doing it. I think as podcasting has become more mainstream and as this more seamless interaction between smartphones and computers, and all of that. I know this has happened for me, I, for example, have read about a podcast in The New York Times, and then I’m like, “That’s interesting. I’ll check it out on my phone, and I’ll subscribe.” So I think there’s a huge benefit to being multi-channel, and people a lot of times will come to me because they want to market their podcast better. I would say, “The first thing you should do is be a guest on other people’s shows. That is definitely the best way for audiences to discover you, and that’s the first thing you should be doing.” But there’s different levels down, and I think now there’s a lot more discussion. People that are serious about their podcasting and businesses that are podcasting are realizing this isn’t– We can’t just do this in a vacuum. We’ve got to have an e-mail list, all the usual marketing stuff that you would do for something else. A podcast is no exception, the only thing I’d say with podcasting is that the growth tends to maybe be slower, but it’s a little more linear. This is just based on having conversations with lots of different podcast hosts, so I definitely think repurposing should be part of your strategy of how you’re getting yourself out there. If you’re podcasting for business or to promote yourself as a freelancer, or whatever it is, you’re trying to get a message out there. What repurposing does is it gets the message out there in another way. You have two options then, you can do it on your episode pages. So each episode page could have the podcast player, and then I think either have some really good show notes that give a very comprehensive introduction, “This is what you can expect to learn. These are key takeaways,” and then links to resources mentioned. That’s great for listeners, but if you wanted to take it one step further, this is what I see a lot of the A-list podcasters doing, have a whole article. Have something, because I think you’re not as likely to share an episode page that has an audio player on. You’re more likely to share something that has more text on it, so whether it be an edited transcript or something like that. Obviously, that’s going to– If you do that for each episode, that’s going to help your SEO for your podcast website, and you’re going to over time become more findable that way. The other approach is to use the repurposed content as guest posts. So instead of posting it on your own website, coming up with a list of, let’s say, 20 targeted websites that have overlap with your audience and placing it there. You can obviously, in your bio, mention that this is based on an episode of your podcast, so people know that and put links to other relevant episodes of your podcast within the text of the article. But if you write something really good, place it in the right place. It’s definitely over time going to help people find you, and I would point out one quick example. There was a great example on Noah Kagan’s podcast, Tyler Schulty, who has a podcast– I don’t know, I’m probably mispronouncing his name. But he talked about how he used this with the guest posting strategy. He had a column in Kiplinger, and I think a couple other places, and in five months he saw I think like– I don’t know, he went from a couple thousand to like 13,000 downloads a month. So, you can have real impact, but you’ve got to be in the right places.

Joe: Yeah, that’s such a great idea. Everything you just said there was great stuff. But the guest article from a repurposed interview is so great because some of my more popular talks there’s things I learned by asking, “How did you build that?” It’s not an article anywhere, and it’s a talk that I gave at a conference. So I’m definitely going to take some of your advice here and see how much I can grow my podcast at the end of the year.

Jacci: We’ll brainstorm it at Podcast Movement.

Joe: Sounds good. Yes, absolutely. That sounds fantastic. So as we wrap up the interview here, what are your plans for the future? Podcasting to people who have been listening to podcasts for a long time, it probably seems like podcasting is getting to its critical mass. But to a lot of people, this is just the beginning of podcast growth. So maybe you can give a prediction for the future, and then your plans for growing your business in the next couple of years.

Jacci: I see the rise of podcasting very much like blogging back in the day. It was like, “Blogging is this hot new thing. Younger people only read blogs, they don’t read news.” All these sensational discussions about it, and then businesses were jumping on board, and everyone was launching a blog. Then I think after a few years, the only people that committed to it as a strategy stuck with it. We’re doing it for the right reasons, and not just because it was just the hot new thing. I think you’ll see a lot of that with podcasts, I think it’s still going to grow, and I think a lot more people are going to jump in, but probably 2-3 years from now, it’s more of the serious folks that are going to have stuck with it. All the while, what’s great is because it’s getting so much more attention, there’s more technologies that are making it easier and more seamless. Publishing a podcast in 2010 was hard, and today it is not hard at all. So, yeah. That’s where I see it going. There was a second question in there, which I totally–

Joe: Now I will get back to that, I will get to that. But what you said reminded me of– Have you ever watched Parks and Rec?

Jacci: Yeah.

Joe: OK. So, excellent. There is a clip of Tom Haverford, he’s Ansari’s character, listening to a podcast. Somebody asked him, and I think it was Adam Scott’s character Ben, he was like, “What do you listen to on the radio?” And he was like, “I don’t listen to the radio, I listen to podcasts. They’re totally different.”

Jacci: Exactly. That is the moment we are in, 100%. I need to look that up. I like it.

Joe: It’s so good.

Jacci: There’s got to be a GIF of that somewhere.

Joe: I will link that in the show notes, yeah. Absolutely. The second part of that question was, specifically, what are your plans for the future?

Jacci: I’m super focused on this right now. I guess in like November, we’ll be at the official one year anniversary of PodReacher, and my plans are to focus on growing that and refining those systems. I think reaching more people and just finding ways to be more helpful to podcasters. This is just something I love doing, it’s a space I love being in. I’m 100% into the podcasts and always looking for great new podcasts to listen to as well.

Joe: That’s fantastic. I need to end with my favorite question, of course, which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?

Jacci: I would say my trade secret is probably not a secret, but I don’t think enough people do it. It’s to never stop talking directly to your customers. I guess this ties in with how we started the interview, with just the humanity and that kind of thing. I also think of customers as people you sell to, but I think also people that you work with, I think of as a customer. Because people have a lot of choices, especially in the gig economy, and I think it’s really important to just always be in touch with people’s needs and be very clear on how you help in solving those needs, to always be thinking about innovating around that. I think sometimes in the early stages of a business, people will talk to customers, especially if you’re not in a freelance business, but then that drops off. That’s something I’m challenging myself to do is to keep in touch. Again, to the point of Facebook, to just be listening and know and understand what it is that people are working on and needing.

Joe: Awesome, that’s great. I love that. Especially the part about “It’s not just people you sell to, but it’s people you work with.” The woman who transcribes this show, her name is Mercedes. She e-mailed me, and she was like– It was Friday, and she’s like, “I know I’m late on this one transcript, and I know you’re probably anxious to get it out, but would it be OK if I did it tomorrow?” Meaning Saturday, “It’s my boyfriend’s birthday, and we just want to go out and celebrate.” I’m like, “Do it Monday.” I’m like, “Go out. Have fun.”

Jacci: Totally.

Joe: Like, it’s a little bit my fault for not getting her the finished episode before the episode went out. I’m not going to be like, “Yeah. Work on a Saturday.” So, I think that’s important. Because it forges good relationships with the people you work with and the people with whom you work for.

Jacci: Exactly. It’s like, we all– A lot of people working remotely write, you work with people that you’ve never met face to face, and I think it’s just easy for things to become transactional. You have to work hard for it not to be, and like you said, I think just taking an extra minute there to be thoughtful. I think it’s really important. So I’m with you, Joe.

Joe: Awesome. Jaclyn Schiff, thank you so much for joining me today. Where can people find you?

Jacci: Thank you, Joe. This has been so great. As I’ve said, I’ve definitely listened to your podcast for a long time, so it’s an honor to be on it. PodReacher.com is probably the best place, and anyone listening is welcome to e-mail me directly with questions. I’m always up for a brainstorming session, anything like that. I can be reached at Jaclyn@PodReacher.com.

Joe: All right. I will link that and everything we talked about in the show notes. We have a rich show notes for this episode, which you can find over at HowIBuilt.it. Jaclyn, thanks so much for joining me today.

Jacci: Thanks, Joe. I appreciate it.

Joe: Thanks so much to Jacci for joining us this week. Again, I loved this interview. She talked about great content strategy, her research about cold outreach, and creating resources I think is just something fantastic that everybody can use. Then her trade secret, of course, “Never stop talking directly to your customers.” This is a lesson that we learn time and time again on this show, and it’s nice to hear it reinforced every so often. So, thanks again to Jacci for coming on the show. Thanks to our sponsors Ahoy! Pantheon and Gusto, definitely check them out as well as all of the show notes. You can find everything we talked about on today’s show over at HowIBuilt.it/145. Now, if you like this show or this episode, be sure to subscribe and leave us a rating and review over on Apple Podcasts. If you want to start a podcast of your own, Jacci and I are both big into podcasts, so I’m sure she would agree with me here. But if you want to start your own podcast, I think you should definitely check out my podcast workbook over at HowIBuilt.it/Liftoff. That will give you the checklists, and the worksheets and some templates to help you work through starting your own show. Again, that is over at HowIBuilt.it/Liftoff. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, get out there and build something.

The post Repurposing Your Content with Jaclyn Schiff appeared first on How I Built It.

Nov 05 2019

45mins

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Episode 35: Diane Kinney & Writing an eBook

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Diane Kinney is a WordPress Developer, Designer, and Marketer. And soon, she’ll be adding author to that biographical line. She and Carrie Dils are working on a book called Real World Freelancing that talks all about what it really takes to be a freelancer. In this episode, she and I talk all about the writing process, decisions for self-publishing, and more.

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May 09 2017

28mins

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Brad Williams & Client Relationships

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Brad Williams of WebDevStudios knows a thing or two about client relationships. In this episode, We start at the beginning with finding a client, the proposal process, and touch on things like having a Discovery phase. It puts a nice cap of what we’ve been talking about for the last 3 weeks – the importance of building relationships.

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Transcript

Intro: Hey everybody and welcome to another episode of How I Built It! Finishing our series on How to Build a Business, I get to talk to my friend Brad Williams about client relationships. We start at the beginning with finding a client, the proposal process, and touch on things like having a Discovery phase. We’ll get into that in a minute, but first, a word from our sponsors…

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And now…on with the show!

Joe: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today, I have a good friend of mine on the show, Brad Williams of Web Dev Studios.

Joe: Brad, how are you doing today?

Brad: Hey, buddy. I’m doing well. How are you?

Joe: Well, as we record this, we’re in the throws of football season so I’m just okay. I’m sure you’re a lot better than me though.

Brad: I’m kind of average. The Raiders are doing … They’re doing okay. I don’t think the Giants are doing okay.

Joe: The Giants are not doing okay.

Brad: Yeah. We’ll survive.

Joe: They’re being very charitable because they gave the 49ers their first win, which is nice of them.

Brad: That was helpful.

Absolutely. I actually forgot you’re a Raiders fan and not an Eagles fan.

Brad: Yeah. So the Eagles are doing pretty good, but I’m a Raiders fan in Philly. So you can imagine. So Christmas is going to be fun because the Raiders are coming to Philly.

Joe: Oh, nice. Are you going to the game?

Brad: I don’t know. It’s still up in the air. The family’s not super excited about it.

Joe: Oh yeah. Because it’s on Christmas Day.

Brad: It’s Christmas Day. So hopefully. We’ll see.

Joe: Oh, cool. Maybe that will be a nice Christmas gift. This is coming out after that game. So we’re not dropping any hints for anybody in the meantime. But why don’t we get started with why don’t you tell everybody who you are and what you do.

Brad: Sure. So as you said, my name’s Brad Williams. I co-founded a company called Web Dev Studios about 10 years ago, and we are a WordPress development and design agency. We specialize in WordPress scale, WordPress in the enterprise, really building large WordPress powered websites. WordPress is the only platform we work on so we’re truly experts at it, which is awesome. We work with some really great clients. So it’s been a lot of fun from starting on a coffee table to growing our business over the years, growing with WordPress and working with some amazing clients and some amazing brands.

Joe: Awesome.

Brad: That is what we do.

Joe: Awesome. That’s kind of what we’re going to be talking about today, right? Usually on the show we talk about a specific product, but this is kind of in the middle of a business strategy series. We’re actually going to talk more about pitching a client and forming a new client relationship, right? Which is something that you have quite a bit of experience with.

Brad: The pitch, man. You ever watch Madmen? The old ad agencies and they pitched in the ’60s. Yeah, it’s nothing like that. Although that makes it look really cool, right? I guess other than smoking 50 packs of cigarettes a day. Maybe the day drinking isn’t as cool now. But yeah, pretty much the opposite of that. So you can imagine … So one kind of caveat is we are 100% remote company distributed. So we’re all over the United States. There’s 33 of us at the company. I think it’s important to kind of note that just in term of how clients find us and how we kind of get in front of clients in a pitch or proposal situation. So we’re not just an agency that’s located in Philadelphia with offices here. I’m in Philly, but we’re literally all over the United States.

Joe: Yeah. That absolutely does make a big difference, right? Because you don’t have the situation where you can just get in a room with your team and really hash things out.

Brad: Right. So yeah, I mean, it definitely has … I like to say it has a unique set of challenges. All business has different challenges. Some same, some different, and across all industries, right? So being remote is just another challenge. I think there’s definitely some pros and cons to it. I don’t think it’s better. I shouldn’t say that. I do think it’s better than kind of the traditional approach. I think there’s more pros than cons. The big reason for us early on was to just find talent. We started out in the Jersey Shore area. If you’re not totally familiar, outside of summer, there’s not a ton of people around there. So finding developers or designers that were local that could come into an office was next to impossible. So we had to. We were kind of forced into it, right? So we had to look outside of our area a little bit. Towards New York, towards Philadelphia, towards Baltimore, and we quickly realized why worry about the location, let’s worry about the talent. Let’s go after the talent, and from that day forward, we just hired based off the talent regardless of where you lived. It’s worked very well for us.

Joe: Nice. You’ve definitely compiled a huge team, both current and alums of very talented people. I’ve had the good fortune of working with some of them either before or after they left Web Dev Studios. So you certainly have been able to find good talent.

Brad: Yeah. I mean, I mentioned it earlier, I feel like Web Dev really grew with WordPress, right? When we first started using WordPress, it was very much a blog platform. It was kind of one option that we looked at against a number of other options in terms of how we should build a website. As WordPress matured, so did our company and so did our clients and the size and type of websites that we were building. So once it really became more of a true CMS, we were using it full-time for everything. The larger companies were starting to look at WordPress as a viable option, and now it’s a bit of a no brainer for most companies that WordPress is a great option. Certainly one they should be looking at. It’s funny to think back that that wasn’t always the case. The first few years of the company, we had to sell people on WordPress. We had to really sell the on it. Now, it’s like they find us because they know they want it and they want to work with a company that specializes in it.

Joe: Yeah. Absolutely. Let’s start to really parch that out because a lot of … At least when I was freelancing, I always thought, “Man, how do you get the next big client or how do you even approach an enterprise,” right? So why don’t we start with how do people find you now? Is it basically like through your form or do you … What do you do to kind of put yourself out there?

Brad: So it’s a good question. One that people ask me a lot. How do people find you, right? So the majority of people find us via search or they’ve heard of us either via a WordCamp speaking or our various contributions to WordPress. We’re pretty active with our content, strategy, social media. We get good search traffic because of all those things, right? So we also have some books we’ve written. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Professional WordPress is a series that I was a co-author on. Lisa Sabin-Williams, my partner, has been writing all of the WordPress For Dummies books for like, I don’t know, forever. She’s done all of them. So if it’s got WordPress and dummies in the title, she wrote it or was a major part of it. So that helps, right? That helps just kind of validate that we know what we’re doing, especially earlier on when not as many people knew who we were.

Brad: So we also get a lot of … Another big stream of kind of referrals from either existing clients or friends in the industry or just friends in general. People refer people to us. We’re a “larger” company in the space. People look at us say, “You’re large.” It’s like, “Well, we’re really not.” In the grand scheme of things, we’re a very small company. But in the WordPress world, we are considered a bit on the larger size being 30 plus people. So we’re friends, I’m friends … Our company teams across the board are friends with a number of freelancers and smaller agencies and boutique shops as Medeiros would say. You know what I’m talking about.

Joe: Yeah.

Brad: So a larger client comes in the door and they know, “Yeah, this is bigger than what we can do. This is bigger than what we can support. Let me send you to a company that is better suited for this size of a project or a size of an engagement.” So we get a number of those referrals. So all of that kind of combined is where the majority of our leads come in. Now, we have been a little more proactive in the past year. So about more outbound. Being more kind of proactive rather than waiting for leads to just walk in the door. Be a little more proactive in our marketing strategy and kind of getting out in front of the type of clients we want to be in. It’s kind of a new area for us. We haven’t had to do that as much in the past, but we’re trying to be a little more proactive in that front. So that’s kind of a new area that we’re starting dabble in. But yeah, that kind of sums up how clients come in the door.

Joe: Gotcha. Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, I feel like the general sentiment right now in the WordPress space especially is there’s been a lot of success with … I say this all the time. The field of dreams approach, right? If I build it, they will come. I think there’s been a lot of success in the WordPress space up until recently. Now I think we’re seeing a lot more of people kind of having to put together a marketing strategy and be more outbound as you say. Would you agree with that?

Brad: Yeah. Absolutely. There’s definitely been a shift where it’s not as … Yeah, I like that analogy. The field of dreams approach. Yeah, I mean, a couple years ago we just sit back and the number of leads that would come in the door was ridiculous. We just couldn’t even spend as much time as we would even want to on them or we just had to refer them out because we were too busy responding to others. It was crazy. I think we’re a bit naïve in assuming, “Oh, it’ll always be like this,” and that’s not the case. I think a lot of that comes with the maturity of WordPress, and I think there’s a number of factors. I don’t think it’s all WordPress. I know it’s not all WordPress because I talk to other friends in the tech industry that aren’t WordPress at all, and they’ve seen a down tick in the past year or so of leads and kind of new engagements and work coming in the door. So I think it’s wider than WordPress, but obviously we’re in the WordPress space, the WordPress bubble, so that’s what we talk about and that’s what we’re looking at.

Brad: So yeah, I think it’s opened our eyes. We need to be a little more proactive. We need to try a few different things. It’s not always going to be just everybody walking in the door and doing these massive projects and craziness like that. It’s also, again, I keep going back to the maturity of the community and WordPress itself I think it’s just inevitable. WordPress has been around for over, what? 12, 13 years now. Something like that

Joe: Yeah.

Brad: It’s growing up. So are all the companies around it. We’re growing up with it. So it’s just kind of the nature of the beast I think.

Joe: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s exactly right. We’ve talked about on the show development practices have been maturing over the last few years. We talk about like automated testing and other things like that that have been in other software project spaces before this, but we’re finally getting to a place in the WordPress community where that is becoming the normal thing.

Joe: So when you do have a potential client, right? Or a potential project, what’s the first thing you do? I know a bigger companies have RFPs, request for proposals. Do you go through that process or what’s it look like? Let’s say a potential client fills out a form on your website, what’s your next step?

Brad: Yeah. So, RFPs are interesting. Right? I think there’s like very, very distinct two sides of thought around RFPs. One is don’t ever touch them. They’re a waste of time. The other one is respond to every single one of them and eventually something will happen. We’ve kind of gone back and forth on that. My general rule with RFPs is unless it’s an opportunity we just don’t want to miss out on, unless it’s some brand that just really stands out. Like, “Oh, we want to work with them,” you know what I mean? We generally will not respond unless we have a bit of a inside track. Meaning we know someone within the company or someone that can kind of … We have a better sense of we might be in the short running. Not to say we’re trying to cheat the system or get around the RFP process, but to say it’s more than just an anonymous company responding to this document that you blasted out to who knows how many different agencies.

Absolutely. I mean, filling out an RFP, if you do it right, takes a lot of time, right?

Brad: Takes a lot of time. Yeah. I mean, RFPs are generally very specific. This is our goals, this is our current situation, these are the areas we expect to be accomplished by these dates, this is how you will respond, this is what we expect, and you have three days. It’s always … Or the dates already past. It’s like, “What?” It’s crazy because you have to … If you’re going to respond to an RFP, you have to follow it to a t. It’s the first test. Can they listen to instruction? If they ask you for four references, don’t give them three. Don’t give them five. Give them four.

Joe: Give them exactly four. Yeah.

Brad: It is the first test. So you have to follow it to a t, and it is a lengthy process. So you have to know going into RFP, you’re going to spend some time up front. You’re going to spend an investment to respond.

Brad: If you do it correctly. So generally speaking, we do not respond to RFPs unless it’s, again, an awesome brand that we really want to just have our name in a shot or we have a little bit more insider information and have maybe a connection or someone within the company that we can work a little bit closer with.

Brad: Now, the majority of the leads we get in the door aren’t RFPs. They generally have a here’s kind of a spec doc or here’s a general overview of what we’re looking for. Can you give us a quote? What’s it going to cost, right? That’s the number one question. What’s it going to cost?

Brad: Those are my favorite articles. I think you might have written some of these too. Like, how much does it cost to build a website?

Yeah. Yeah. Actually that was popular I think because you guy shared that out like one day and that got a lot of traffic. So I appreciate that.

Brad: Oh yeah. For sure. It’s funny because most of those blog posts I’m always like, “Oh, okay. I’ll skim it,” and I always go to the bottom because it always summarizes with, “Well, it depends.”

Yeah.

Brad: It depends.

Joe: Which is, spoiler alert, that’s how mine ends too.

Brad: Spoiler alert.

Brad: Yeah, it depends. It’s just like if you go to any agency, any web development, design shop and you go to how much is it going to cost. Well, it depends. They almost will never give you a price.

That’s because I always equate it to like we’re building a house. That’s like coming to me as a house builder saying, “How much to build a house?” Well, it depends. What kind of house do you want? How big of house? How many rooms? Is there a garage? There’s just a million questions to understand how much that house is going to cost or how much that website is going to cost.

Brad: So yeah, a lead comes to the door. The first thing we do is we want to hop on a call and really get to … I like to hear … The first question I always ask is, “Tell me about your project. Tell me about your goals. I want to hear it from you in your own words.” I know the documents and emails probably say that, but I like to hear it from them.

You can get a lot from that, right? You can understand not just the specific goals that they’ve written out on paper but you can hear a little bit of the emotion behind it. You can understand a little bit more about if they’re having some struggles, if our website is just a terrible experience and we can’t work on it. Everyone’s frustrated and they’re all coming to me. You can get that. Or maybe it’s a new initiative and it’s a new hire at the company and they’re just super excited and engaged. You can just sit back and listen and listen to them explain to you what their goals for the project are, what they’re looking to accomplish, and then start digging into some of the specifics. I’ve always felt like that’s really good way to kind of kick off those conversations.

Brad: Plus, again, going back to being remote. We’re generally not sitting across from a table. We’re generally on a phone call. Sometimes we do video, sometimes we don’t. But we’re … Just like we are right now. We’re talking, right? So I also want to get to know the person a little bit. I want them to get to know me. I want it to be a friendly and fun conversation. Joke around a little bit, start to build a rapport because at the end of the day you’re both kind of interviewing each other, right? Are they a good fit for you and are you a good fit for them? Yes, it’s great to make money, but do you want to make money at the expense of working with a terrible person.

Brad: That is going to treat you and your team like you’re inferior and I’m paying you. You work for me and you do as I say and that’s that. Do you want to … Some people might be like, “Sure.” But most of us are probably like, “No. We want to work with good people.” We want a partner. We’re not just a client relationship here. We’re going to be a partner, an extension of the company. I’d like to try to look for those things when I’m on that call and try to figure that out early if there’s some concerns here or not.

Joe: Nice. That’s fantastic. I love that for a few reasons, right? Because you’re not just relying on the words that they sent to you, which are probably more calculated, right? That’s the pitch that they practiced, but when you ask them on a phone call or a video call, you’re getting what’s on the top of their mind, right? They’re no reading the script that they wrote.

Brad: Exactly.

Joe: Like you said, it is a relationship. You’re interviewing each other. I think that a lot of people tend to take it a little bit too personally if they don’t get a job, if they’re not hired by a client. I used to take it personally all the time.

Brad: I still do sometimes.

Joe: It sucks. Yeah, right.

Brad: I don’t think you ever get over that completely, right?

Joe: Especially if it’s someone you really want to work with.

Brad: Oh, man.

Joe: But I mean, somewhere along the line it was decided that you guys wouldn’t be a good fit, and I try to think it’s for the best even though sometimes it might suck.

Brad: Yeah. I mean, that’s how you have to look at it. It is business at the end of the day. There’s going to be some that just burn you a little more than others. There’s going to be some you might breathe a sigh of relief. Like, “You know what, I’m actually kind of glad we didn’t get that because the more we understood, the more we realized it might not be the best project in the world.” So yeah, I mean, you kind of got to brush it off, try to learn what you can from it, if anything, so you can use that for the next discussion or pitch and move forward. Yeah. At the end of the day it’s sales, right? I wouldn’t consider myself … I can never be like a door to door salesman. That would be an impossible job for me, right? I couldn’t sell cars. I’m not that type of person.

Brad: But I’m very passionate and excited about the web and websites. So I’m less trying to hard sell people and more trying to understand their goals and speak to how we can help to accomplish those goals and the direct result is essentially I’m selling the person on Web Dev Studios and our solutions and what we can give to them. That’s kind of how I look at it because I’m just not a salesman. I could never be a salesman, right? Ever. So I just speak to my passions, which indirectly help us bring in sales. So I found a way to make it work over the years and it seems to work well.

Brad: I think clients and the people we speak with and our partners really respect that because I think most of them anyways get that. They understand that passion. They hear it and they see it. Really anytime you can work with someone that is passionate about what they’re doing, and I preach this to the team and the people we’re interviewing and hiring. Anytime you can work with someone that’s passionate, it’s going to be reflected in their work across the board because they actually care. It’s not just making a quick buck and sending you on your way as quickly and cheaply as possible. They care that the end product is something that they want to be proud of, they want you to be proud of, they want to be successful, and that’s how I try to approach it and that’s how Web Dev Studios approach it and how we kind of preach internally about we’re partners with our clients. It’s not just a client relationship. We’re an extension of their team and we want them to know that from the start.

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Joe: Nice. That’s absolutely fantastic because it’s a good relationship is definitely the foundation, right? That a good project is built on. Along with understand the project, right? So you have that initial call, it’s time for you to build out the proposal. Are you doing other research after the call to see exactly what they need and what they’re about and how you would do it? How deep do you get into implementation during the proposal process?

Brad: This is a tricky one, right? Because there is a number of different ways to go about this you could spend a lot of time up front. Like really understanding every minute detail of the house you’re building, right? “House”, the website. Every little specification up front in the proposal. The challenge with that is, again, is the upfront time and investment, right? We used to do that. We used to spend 20, 30, 40, 50 hours upfront, and realized over time that it wasn’t … The upfront investment for us was not paying off in the long run. We weren’t getting enough clients to justify doing that over and over. So what we did is we found a happy medium of really understanding the project from more of a high level. So understanding if it’s a fresh rebuild. Is there design phase? Yes. Okay. How many mock ups do we need to do here? We’re going to do five and these are the five pages. Really high level. We’re not getting to specifics of what are in those mock ups.

Brad: Now, we are talking about features and functionality. If there’s any integrations with third party services, any APIs, any special widgets or modules that we want to discuss so we understand. So from a high level, do you need a calendar? Are you accepting payment? Are there subscriptions? Are you selling product? That type of stuff.

Brad: Then we architect a proposal around that. Again, that high level plan and we’re pretty good and kind of taking those high level over view and putting real dollars against it based on level of effort that we know from past experience, from past projects, and what that looks like. The goal is we don’t want to give the client, “It’s going to cost you $10,000 to build your website,” and then we get in there and realize, “Oh, this is actually going to cost you like 20.” That’s a terrible situation and one you never want to find yourself in.

Brad: Because it’s bad for you, it’s bad for the client, it sours the relationship. It’s just bad. You make those mistakes early on when you under bid. I think everybody does when they first start. I think my first website was like couple hundred dollars, right? I’m sure we’ve all done those and we look back like, “Wow. They got a good deal.” Or maybe not if you look at that code 10, 15 years ago.

Joe: I’m sure. Yeah. I got a good deal. I got paid to learn.

Brad: Yeah. So we’ve gotten pretty good about taking our past experience, what we know about projects, what we know about designs and architecture and development and features and integrations, and putting together numbers around that. At that point, we’re looking to kind of solidify that high level plan and get signatures. We’re trying to get an agreement in place and say, “Great. We’re going to move forward.”

Brad: The very next thing we do is what’s called a detailed discovery phase, and that is drilling down the minute detail of the project line by line, and we put together a proposal plan, which I like to call the blueprint. You see where I’m going with these? So the blueprint of what we’re going to build, which is the exact specifications of the website. It’s all right, if we’re enhancing the search, how are we doing that? Are we using elastic search? Are we using search WP? Are we doing it some other way. Like actually putting together the development plan. That is something that takes weeks to go through for a relatively decent sized project. It’s a number of weeks if not longer. The reason we’re able to spend that amount of time is because we have a signed agreement. We have money to cover that. We have a line item in our proposal that covers that discovery time. So we can sit there with a client over the course of a bunch of phone calls or screen shares or in person meetings and hash this out.

Brad: That approach has worked very well for us. So when we’re done with that discovery phase, we have a detailed plan. We go back and forth with the client on our visions and we get that thing as flawless as we can, and then we have them sign off on it. That is the build plan. We now have our blueprint, and we’re ready to move forward into development.

Joe: Nice. That is the investment for the client is obviously we’re going to give you something that at the end of the discovery phase, we deeply understand. So you’re not going to get hit with one and a half or two times what we originally quoted you, right?

Brad: Exactly. We make sure if we quote you a $20,000 project build, we make sure that the discussions and decisions within the discovery phase are in line with the budget. So we don’t want to say, “Hey, we can do this, this, this and this,” and then we include I and realize, “Oh yeah, by the way, that’s going to cost you an extra $5,000,” right? We want to say, “Hey, there are other options. However, they would probably be beyond the budget we set. Do you want to discuss those knowing that it will an increase in cost?” We let them make that decision. If they say, “Great. Let’s go ahead and talk about it so we know what that cost would look like, and then we’ll decide if we want to include that.” Okay, so we’ll figure it out, put the details around that, and add it as a line item.

Brad: Hey, if you want this, it’s going to cost x. It’s over and above what we originally quoted, but we make sure it’s part of that conversation because we just want to be as transparent as possible. We don’t want to surprise our clients with an unexpected cost because that will always end badly. So just keep it part of the conversation. Keep that total in your mind. Oh, we have x amount of mock ups. This is all we have. If you paid for five and you need an extra mock up, okay, we can do one, and here’s the cost if you want one more mock up. But it’s outside of that initial estimate.

Brad: So again, that’s worked well. So by the time we get down with that discovery phase, nine times out of 10, we’re lined up with the initial cost we gave them and away we go.

Joe: Nice. So now, as you move forward, right? So we’ve talked about the contact, the initial phone call, the proposal and then the discovery phase essentially.

Brad: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joe: During the build phase, what happens if, because there’s a million things that can blow a projects budget, right? Either you misquoted, which it sounds like you do have a safe guard in place for a lot of the time, the discovery phase, or maybe the client … It turns out the client doesn’t actually know, despite the discovery phase, what they needed. How do you kind of mitigate that? It’s like, “Okay. We’re approaching our budget. We’re definitely going to go over. How do we properly communicate that to the client without torching the relationship?”

Brad: Yeah. That never happens, right? Ever.

Joe: No, never. Everything’s always under budget. I mean, that’s how …

Brad: I know. Yeah. A couple scenarios here. I think one is if something new is introduced and that never happens, right?

Joe: No.

Brad: So something comes to light that we didn’t know about or there’s some feature that needs to be rebuilt on their own site that was not a part of discovery. So we have a change order process basically where when something like that comes up, we identify it. We have a call and a discussion. Basically a little mini discover. Okay. Let’s understand what we’re looking at here. Let us put together a plan of what it’s going to take to execute whatever it is you’re requesting. We’ll put together our cost, and say, “Okay.” It’s essentially a change order. It’s usually a one page add on to the original contract, and it just says we’re going to do all this for you. It’s outside the original agreement, but we’re going to do all this stuff. It’s going to potentially maybe adjust the timeline, maybe. If it does affect the timeline, so we have that in there. Timelines being pushed an extra week. It’s going to cost you x dollars. If you want to do this, sign here and we’ll get it in the schedule. So that’s usually pretty cut and dry as long as it’s clearly out of scope.

Brad: The other scenario, which is a bit trickier, is when you kind of committed to something and as you dig in you realize it’s more complicated or bigger than you expected, right? Maybe there’s some API integration on the surface that looked pretty straight forward and you get in there and realize, “Well, this isn’t straight forward at all.”

Right.

Brad: It’s going to take way more time. That ones tricky because you kind of have to look at each case case by case basis, right? So there’s no set answer. Generally we’ll look at and say, “Okay.” I always approach it as, “All right. What’s the impact here? Why are we off? Was it our doing or something unknown?” If it’s our doing, what is the impact? How off are we? How much extra time do we need? Then you have to make the decision, is this something we approach the client with or is this something we just eat the time on basically.

Brad: It’s not black and white. It’s every projects different, every clients different. So you have to kind of take in on the different variables and make your decision on how you want to handle it. But I always gauge it against how well the projects doing, how well we’re working with the client, how good the relationship is. Obviously the nicer the client is, the more our team likes to work with them, the more we want to hook them up.

Joe: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.

Brad: There’s nothing better than saying, “Oh, we came across something. It’s going to take a little extra time, but you know what? You’re just such a great client. We want to really help you out here. There’s no cost to you. We’re going to take care of it. We got it.”

Brad: On the flip side, if the client isn’t as nice, then we’re less likely to kind of go that extra mile, right? Because it’s like, oh, you know, they’re kind of mean to us on phone calls and they’re always yelling. I don’t feel like we want to eat this, you know what I mean. It’s just you got to kind of judge it based on what’s going on. But it does happen. It always happens. So you just got to kind of access the situation and make a decision from there.

Joe: I would imagine that decision is probably at least partially influenced by are we going to continue the relationship with our client, right? I might be more likely to eat the cost of something if I know we’re going to continue the relationship over the next few years or something like that.

Brad: Oh yeah. Absolutely. I mean, if it’s going to be ongoing, which the majority of our clients are ongoing clients, right? We do our initial project, we roll into kind of a support, maintenance agreement, and we continue to support their website. Whether it’s updates or backups or minor development things, maybe it’s full blown rolling out new sections, phase two, phase three type projects. But the majority of stuff if you really kind of set that great relationship with your client, why would they want to go anywhere else? They want to continue … If they already built that rapport with you and your company, why go find some other company to work with? They’re going to stick with you, and that’s the most important part is to keep that relationship as healthy as possible, to keep that client as healthy as possible because a one off project could turn into quadruple the amount of overall money from that client over the course of two or three years of them doing support and some random work here and there. So it’s super important to keep that client retention as much as you can.

Joe: Nice. Absolutely. We’re coming up on time here. I’m thinking maybe I can steal a few more extra minutes from my Patreon subscribers if you don’t mind.

Brad: Sure.

Joe: But for kind of to put a nice bow on this conversation, we’ve talked about basically everything except the development phase. So what kind of … You’ve won’t the job, you’ve won them over with the discovery, and you’re ready to launch. When in that process do you try to hit them with a retainer or when do you try to secure a continued relationship, right? Because I feel like timing is very important there, right?

Brad: Yeah. For sure. So our initial proposal has information about ongoing support, post launch support and maintenance and some options there. We bring it up initially with zero intention of getting a commitment at the beginning. Sometimes they want it because they need to get everything in the budget all at once. Great. There’s the information. Here’s the cost. We bring it up initially just so the seed’s kind of planted, right? You’re right. Timing is the thing. Over the years, we weren’t good at this early on. We were terrible about it, in fact. We would launch a site and run to the next one and we would have no follow up conversation. Then they’re gone, right?

Brad: Years ago, we were like, “We got to get better at this.” So generally speaking, we start to bring up that conversation around QA. so we’ll do our overall development, however many weeks, four, six, eight, 16 weeks, whatever.that’s full blown development. Then we go into an internal QA phase. It could last a week or two, maybe longer, depending on the size. That’s where we’re doing internal QA, cross browser testing, functionality testing, load audits, all that, performance, all that good stuff internally. Then we hand it off to the client to do their QA. Every client is a little different in how they do QA. Some have QA departments, some have one person that’s going to poke around, some don’t even look at it.

Brad: So generally right around the time where we’re doing our QA, we approach the subject and say, “Hey, we’re coming up on your QA period,” and after QA’s done, we’re talking about launching. So we’d like to start the conversation pre-launch at least initially, and then we like to try to dedicate a call post-launch with the stakeholders and to really go through the options. Our support is really kind of configurable based on the client needs. So we want to sit down and understand what kind of support they’re looking for, how involved or not involved they want us to be ongoing. Some want more support, some are completely hands off. They want us to do everything including minor content changes and little adjustments that they could make but they just don’t want to. They want to have a company that does it and they don’t have to think about it. To other companies where they have an internal development team that we basically hand it off to them, and then we’re done. They support it.

Brad: So we kind of have those conversations or craft that support plan based on their needs. Generally it’s either going to be right a week or two pre-launch to start those conversations, but post launch is where you really get into the meat of it because the problem is pre-launch, they’re focused on pre-launch, right? They’re focused on what’s coming in the next few weeks. So it’s good to kind of, again, plant that seed but not get too deep into it, and then try to set a call about a week or so post-launch, at least for us that’s how we do it. Then we go through the options.

Joe: Gotcha. I mean, that makes sense too, right? Because I week post-launch you’re probably coming up on the end of your post-launch support contract or whatever, and now the client really is starting to think about stuff like that.

Brad: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. It’s a good time to do it about a week after the dust has settled from the launch usually. If your launch went smoothly, I would hope so. So it’s a good time. The dust settled a little bit. Like you said, they’re starting to wind down the post-launch stuff and start talking about what that ongoing engagement looks like.

Joe: Gotcha. That’s fantastic. So well, Brad, thank you so much for your time. I’ve got one more question that I’m going to combine. It’s like two questions I’m going to combine into one.

Brad: Okay.

Joe: That is what’s one thing that you want to improve on your process moving forward, and maybe based on that, do you have any trade secrets for us?

Brad: All right. Two combined. Trade secrets. I’ll hit that one first. One thing I’ve learned being remote communication is like critical, right? With a team and with our clients. It’s just that much more important because we’re not face to face, we’re not in the same room, we’re not in the same building, we’re not even in the same state mostly. So one thing I’ve learned is while communication is definitely key, some things that are often overlooked are having more one on one conversations with your team. So about a year ago I started having one on ones with my management team. So my project managers, directors, as well as our lead developers. That is anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes where it’s just me and them. We have video and we chat. It doesn’t have to be like a run down of current projects or active statuses. It can be if that’s what’s on their mind and they have concerns or whatever. But it doesn’t have to be that. It’s just time to get some face time. It’s a one on one.

Brad: When we were smaller and younger, it was a given because I was working with everybody every day, but as we got larger, that wasn’t the case. Many times while I’m still talking to our PMs and our leads very, very often, I’m doing it in group settings. I’m not doing it where it’s like a one on one where you’re going to get much more open and honest conversations, and that’s really, in my mind, really I think helped the relationship between the executives, myself and Lisa, and our leads and our PMs. I think it’s helped the health of the company because we just have better communication.

Brad: So it may not be the biggest trade secret, but it’s one that I learned I think a little bit late is that kind of one on one time, even with a smaller team, just having set aside time to interact face to face just you and that other person at least once a month is super valuable. You will learn so much. That’s been great. So that’s a bit of a trade secret and one that I’m sure people do. But if you’re not, you should try it because you will learn stuff and it will be great.

Joe: Awesome.

Brad: What was the other question? That was a long answer.

Joe: What is one thing that you want to try to improve upon with this process in the future?

Brad: Okay. So our process, it probably sounds like it’s this flawless … I think it sounds not flawless, but this really perfected, stream lined, everything is just rainbows and unicorns and it’s not true. There’s always room for improvement. There’s always room to make things better. One of the things that we always struggle with is keeping our process documented and current, right? So it’s one thing to have a process. It’s another thing to have it documented in a way that you and your entire team can understand it. That’s one thing we’ve struggled with because we get it documented and then a year goes by and we’ve made all these adjustments but we haven’t updated any of the documentation because it’s like the most thankless job in the world working on documentation. Even documentation to cover your internal process, but it’s so important. Not just for our team to make sure we’re following every single step, every single time and staying inconsistent. It’s important for like on-boarding when we bring in new developers, new project managers and say, “This is our process. Read it. Learn it. Understand it. Live it. Because this is what we do on every project and once it’s documented, then you can really truly make sure that you follow it to a t every single time.”

Brad: I’ll tell you, every single project that goes off the rails, I can always point to one spot where we did not follow our process. We skipped a step or we didn’t do something like we’re supposed to, and it hurt it. So it’s getting that process that works for you and your team and getting it written down and keeping it current. That’s one of my goals because we have not been good at doing that. So while I feel like I know it very well, we probably all have it in our heads slightly differently. So we got to make sure it’s written down and it’s agreed upon and everyone’s on the same page. So it’s definitely a goal we’re working towards.

Joe: Nice. I dig that. Me, as a developer, I, as a developer, and I know a lot of developers listen to the show. They could probably level with that. They really relate to the disdain of doing documentation.

Brad: It’s the worst.

Joe: So awesome. Well, Brad, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Brad: Yeah. Thank you, man. This was a lot of fun. Glad to be on the show.

Joe: Thank you. Yeah, absolutely. For anybody who wants to hear just a little bit more, maybe like 10 or 15 more minutes of me talking to Brad, we’re going to get a little bit technical in the second part, which is over on Patreon.com/howibuiltit. Otherwise, until next time, get out there and build something.

Outro: Thanks again to Brad for joining me. I love talking about this stuff because a good relationship with a client can be worth more than the biggest marketing budget. I think that’s something we’ve learned over the last 3 weeks: connect with people, forge relationships. For those non-football fans, The Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl. Brad went to the parade. I waited patiently for baseball to start.

And Thanks again to our sponsors – make sure to check out Liquid Web for managed WordPress hosting. I use them on all of my important sites – they are that good! They are at buildpodcast.net/liquid. They’ll give you 50% off your first 2 months just for being a listener! If you want to save your clients (or yourself) money through recovering abandoned carts, check out jilt. They are over at buildpodcast.net/jilt. And finally, if you want to put a cherry on top of the e-commerce trifecta, there’s Checkout for WooCommerce. If Jilt brings back the people who leave, Checkout for WooCommerce is the tool that prevents people from leaving in the first place. I use it, and I love it. And you can get 10% off using the code BUILD at buildpodcast.net/cwc/

For all of the show notes, head over to howibuilt.it/72/. If you like the show, head over to Apple Podcasts and leaving us a rating and review. It helps people discover us! Finally, last week I published my brand-new Patreon page. It offers a lot better rewards, and great goals, and I’m really doubling down on it. So if you like the show and what to support it directly, head over to patreon.com/howibuiltit/. You can support the show for as little as $1/month.

Next Week, we’ll close out this series talking to my good friend Brad Williams about client relationships. Brad works with some big companies over at WebDevStudios, so he knows a thing or two. Make sure to tune in! And until next week, get out there and build something.

The post Brad Williams & Client Relationships appeared first on How I Built It.

Apr 03 2018

44mins

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Allie Nimmons and Freelancing / Mental Health

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Allie Nimmons is a freelance web designer with an unique perspective to my own. She made the transition to freelancing after losing her job, but still needing to make money. We talk about what that’s like, as well as how she’s be able to hone her offerings based on what her target customers need. We also talk about mental health, and what it’s like to be black, and female, in a white male-dominated space.

Since recording this, Allie has been hired to work at GiveWP, providing tech support to users of this awesome plugin. She has minimized Pixel Glow to focus purely on providing WordPress maintenance. She can be found most often at her blog – allienimmons.com

Show Notes

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Transcript

Allie Nimmons: Oh well. I’m going through this mentally, so I’m probably being over-dramatic, or I’m probably overthinking it. Or, “It’s probably just my anxiety, and things aren’t that bad.” Until it became apparent to me that it was that bad.

Joe Casabona: That was Allie Nimmons. Allie Nimmons is a freelance web designer with a unique perspective to my own. She made the transition into freelancing after losing her job but still needed to make money. We talk about what that’s like, as well as how she’s been able to hone her offerings based on what her target customers need. We also talk about mental health and what it’s like to be black and female in a white male-dominated space. Candidly this isn’t something I normally talk about on the show or otherwise, but I think we cover some important topics. I don’t want to delay that anymore, and we’ll get right into the interview. But first, a word from our sponsors.

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Joe: Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of How I Built It. The podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today my guest is Allie Nimmons, founder, owner, and designer over at Pixel Glow Web Design. Allie, how are you today?

Allie: I’m great, Joe. How are you?

Joe: I am doing very well. Thank you. Allie and I met at WordCamp Miami, 2019. We were both talking in the freelance track, helping budding freelancers how to hit the ground running. Allie and I spoke a little bit, and today we’re going to talk about how you built your freelance career, is that right?

Allie: Yeah, absolutely.

Joe: Awesome. Why don’t we start off a little bit with who you are and what you do?

Allie: Yes. At the moment, I have a– I try to think about it less like freelancing and more like business-owning. I feel like there’s a point where you make that transition into a more formal agreement with yourself if that makes sense. My roots are definitely in freelancing, that’s how I started. I have Pixel Glow, which is web design for beginner businesses. Businesses who are either just starting out, or maybe they’ve existed for a while, but they’ve never had a website, or they have a terrible website. People who are needing help with that first step into having a really strong online presence. Then I have a daughter business to that one, called Beam, which is specifically for nonprofits. I’ve changed up the pricing structure and the package of what you get. It’s a little bit more attainable for a nonprofit to reach out and get something that they need and can afford. I’m focusing on those two things a lot right now.

Joe: Fantastic. I love what you said there. That you are trying to make a more formal agreement with yourself when you say that it’s business-owning. I think that freelancing, the term freelance, has a little bit of a negative connotation. I used to tell people, “I’m a freelancer.” They say, “When are you going to get a real job?” I’m like, “This is a super-duper real job.” On the other side, too, freelancing sounds a little bit informal. When you say, “I own a business.” Now there’s the weight of “I own a business.” I like this, and you target beginner businesses and nonprofits. If I can ask, do you have any processes in place to streamline things a little bit? I know people who like to target specifically bigger businesses because the budget is there. With beginner businesses and nonprofits, nonprofits it’s not always the case that the budgets not there, but they’re usually budget-conscious. Are there things that you can do quickly and efficiently for them to keep costs down?

Allie: With Beam specifically, the reason that I made it an entirely separate entity is because I felt like when a nonprofit would approach me in the Pixel Glow relationship and they wanted a site, there was a lot that had to be decided upon. A lot of times, you have people who are either volunteers, or they started a nonprofit because they had a great idea, but they don’t have an eye for business or marketing. They aren’t the most, and I would say “educated consumer” about what it is that they need. I did a ton of research. I talked to a ton of nonprofits. I surveyed a bunch of people. I basically have a singular package within Beam, so you don’t have to decide “How many pages do I need? Which pages do I need? What sort of functionalities am I going to need?” and risk spending the board’s money on things that you don’t end up using. The package is a specific number of pages, a specific number of functionalities, which you can always build upon if you want to. One thing, one price. The real customization power comes in at “You have a services page, but what goes on that services page? You have a volunteering page, but what specifically as pertains to your nonprofit needs to be on that page?” I tried to trim a lot of the fat, as far as decision-making, honestly. Make it answer a lot of the questions before I even have to ask them, so they can feel a little bit less intimidated. There are a lot fewer decisions that have to get made, and they end up with a more targeted site than they might have had previously.

Joe: That’s great. I absolutely love that, because you’re right, a lot of nonprofits start because they’re very passionate about this cause, but they necessarily don’t have the business or marketing background. The fact that you offer a singular package here is very cool. Because you’re right, the fewer decisions they have to make, the more smoothly the project will go. You said you did a ton of research here and I’m curious. You said you spoke to a lot of nonprofits. What was that like? Did you have a survey that you sent? Did you have a more casual conversation? Was it online, or in person, or over the phone?

Allie: I just scoured a bunch of Facebook groups, honestly, for nonprofits. I hated it. I was that annoying person who was in these Facebook groups who didn’t own a nonprofit, but I was trying to reach out to people. I would try to answer questions as best as I could within the actual group, make connections with people and then reach out and say “I’m glad I could answer this question for you, or clarify the question you offered to the group.” I’m doing some research, would you mind? I had a Google Forms survey that was completely anonymous. They could fill that out and answer questions about what it is they prioritized. As far as their marketing, their websites, if they already had a website, or if they imagined getting one. What would be their most important goals, and factors and things like that. I tried to spend at least 20 minutes a day in the handful of Facebook groups that I joined. Trying to send as many messages to people that I could. I got somewhere between 100 and 150 responses, which they’re definitely more thorough surveys out there. For just being me and just reaching out individually, one on one to people, I was pleased with that data set of its 130 something responses that I got.

Joe: That’s great. At least to me, that’s plenty of information to go off of. There was something important that you said there, you joined these Facebook groups. Then you answered questions, so it’s not like you were just there going, “Hey, do you need a website?” You were adding value to the group, right?

Allie: Exactly. I hate that I find it to be incredibly disingenuous. That is my primary networking space, is Facebook groups because I am very much an introvert. I don’t love going out to talk to people. There’s always that person who’s in there to hawk their services, or in there to further their own goals, without actually having a community type of give-and-take focus on it. Even though I knew I was in that Facebook group to further my goal. I feel like you have to do that. You have to provide something in return. You can’t just ask people, even if it’s just for an anonymous survey, you can’t ask people to give you value without offering anything up in return. I didn’t want to be that person that people looked at and was like “She’s just here messaging people all the time, and she’s not participating.” A couple of people did get annoyed with me. They didn’t like that I was asking people to fill out a survey. I was able to point to that and say, “I have been participating, and if you don’t want to help me, that’s totally fine.” I think because of that, I’ve managed not to get kicked out of any of those groups because the mods and admins saw that I wasn’t just there to be obnoxious.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. At the end of the day, those Facebook groups are there because people are seeking help with their business. It’s not like another nonprofit would be like “This guy, all he does is ask questions, he doesn’t answer them.”

Allie: Yeah.

Joe: That’s what the group is there for. The fact that you’re not just there marketing yourself, the fact that you’re there helping people and then saying “Maybe you could help me out,” I think that’s totally reasonable. It sounds like you found a couple of pretty good niches or niches, depending on who wants to pronounce it. I’m curious as to– Did you know, moving into your freelance career, that you wanted to target these groups specifically? Or at first, were you more of a generalist?

Allie: Not at all. I was definitely a “Anyone who will hire me” type of person. I started freelancing not even necessarily by choice, I was working at an agency locally and– I’ll say I left. There was a debate about firing vs. quitting, but I had to leave without giving any notice basically. I was 22, and I suddenly didn’t have a job, I didn’t have anything saved, I didn’t have a car. Because I lived about a mile from where I worked, so I would walk every day. I had sold my car for money. I was in a town that was– I was living in Boca Raton, so if you know anything about Boca, it’s very affluent. There’s is a fairly large university, FAU is there. It was really hard for me to find something locally. The closest thing within walking distance that I could potentially apply to was a Wendy’s. I was like, “I don’t want to work at Wendy’s.” I was like “I have this knowledge and these skills that I’ve gained at this agency. I could start selling that.” I started building websites for my friends and family for like $200 and building up a portfolio until I could get clients who had never met me before. That’s really how I started. Definitely, at the beginning, it was out of desperation. I was like, “I just need clients.” I didn’t have a niche until I had enough work that I could look at my work and say, “Who is hiring me?” I think it’s one thing to decide you want to work with a certain sort of person vs. the people that want to work with you. I realized that the majority of my clients, the majority of my clients who our projects ended very successfully and who I did a really good job with, who would rehire me for extra services were women between the ages of, I would say, 40+ who were either their own boss– Like had their own businesses, or worked at nonprofits. That seemed like a no-brainer, to start targeting those specific kinds of people. When I joined the board of a nonprofit for whom I did a site for, I was like, “I seem to like this nonprofit thing.” I decided to branch out and specifically target nonprofits with the individual business. I’m sure if you’ve run a business and are marketing to a specific type of person, and then you decide to market to an entirely different mindset, it’s virtually impossible to do that effectively. I figured having two businesses would allow me to market to one cleanly and directly and then do the same on the other side with the other one.

Break: This episode is brought to you by Pantheon. Starting a new project? Looking for a better hosting platform? Pantheon is an integrated set of tools to build, launch, and run websites. Get high-performance hosting for your WordPress sites, plus a comprehensive toolkit to supercharge your team and help you launch faster. On Pantheon, you get expert support from real developers, best in class security, and the most innovative technology to host and manage your websites. You can sign up a new site in minutes with a free account, and you only pay when it goes live. That is my second favorite feature to Pantheon, only to the easy ability to create dev staging and live servers and push to GitHub. It’s very easy to set those things up on Pantheon, so you can head over to Pantheon.io today. Again, set up a free account and pay only when it goes live. Thanks so much to Pantheon for their support of this episode and this season of How I Built It.

Joe: I think a lot of freelancers do try to be the generalists. When you’re talking to everybody, you’re talking to nobody. When you set up a site, you want to make sure that you’re using the language that your potential customers also use. You want to say, “I know you. I know your problems, and I can solve your problem.”

Allie: Exactly. If you visit my two different websites, I think that’s apparent– At least I hope it’s very apparent, that I’m talking to two very different types of people. The products that I offer are very different. That’s extremely intentional because I want to be able to be specific. Not even with just the marketing, but with the actual services and the processes themselves. To give the experience that’s necessary for each type of person.

Joe: Absolutely, and to that point, it sounds like your successful projects, you said, were women over 40 who were running a business themselves and non-profits. Would you say that you also were able to be in their mindset? It’s one thing to say, “I’m going to make a website for anybody.” If somebody comes to me, and they’re like, “I have a construction company, and I need you to make a website.” I don’t know anything about construction companies, so I’m going to have to lean on my client for that. If somebody comes to me like “I need a website for a podcast.” I’m like “I podcast, I could totally– I know exactly what you need.” Do you think that the successful projects were the projects you had domain knowledge in? I guess that’s the question I’m asking.

Allie: Yeah, that’s such a good point. I never really thought about it too much like that, but I think that there is definitely truth in that. Where the projects that float to the top of my mind, we did have similar experiences, as far as starting up whatever it was we were doing. I’m trying to think if there’s a specific example. Most of them are online service providers, not a ton of shops or product-based businesses, but a lot of people online, providing a service to somebody else. I would definitely say that similarity in priorities, as far as when we’re thinking of our business, what’s the most important things? I think that similarity definitely made a difference and made a connection where there might not have otherwise been one. I’m turning 27 in a couple of months, and it is really funny that my best clients, the ones I’m closest with, the ones who I’ve even started a personal friendship with, they’re all women who are older than me. Some of them are as old as my mom. I think that definitely is a connecting factor, ladies who’ve struck out on their own and started their own thing.

Joe: Awesome. That makes a lot of sense to me as somebody who’s been trying to straddle the services business and the product business. I was like, “This will be– I’ll just make a website, and I’ll sell my courses, and it’ll be great.” There are two totally different worlds. Now looking back, I’m almost 34, but looking back in my mid-20s I got hired for an e-commerce site, and I focused mainly on the tech stack. Not on helping them sell their products. I wouldn’t say they were unsuccessful, because the client was happy with the website they got. But they weren’t as successful as they could have been had I known what I was doing in their space.

Allie: Yeah, for sure. That makes a lot of sense.

Joe: Your story is really interesting, and I think it’s probably one that resonates with a lot of freelancers. You had a job, and then you were suddenly without that job. You still had this skill set, and even if people are still trying to find a full-time job, in-between that in-between phase, you can still use your skills to generate income while you’re unemployed. In your case, you made it a full-on business, and it sounds like you’re doing very well for yourself. What steps did you take to build that business? Take me from, let’s say, the day after you were suddenly without a job until the day you landed your first non-friends and family website. What did you do to build that business?

Allie: I will definitely preface by saying that I didn’t do a lot of the things that I know that I should have done. I think I would be a lot further along if I had done a lot of things that I should have done, but I didn’t know. It was a lot of looking at other sites. Sometimes I would find a site, even a site that I was looking at for personal reasons. I’d be like, “Wow, I like that.” I would build it, and I would try to replicate everything that they did. If I ran into a problem, I would research it, trying to figure out how they accomplished what they accomplished. Tried to build my knowledge and my know-how that way. Because I knew that continuously building things was going to make me a better designer. I remember somebody once said to me, “It doesn’t matter if you’re published. If you write, you’re a writer. If you paint, you’re a painter.” I knew that if I designed a lot, I would become a designer. I tried to design as much as I could, watch as many online YouTube tutorials as I could, design things for my friends and my family. I designed a bunch of actor websites because I majored in high school in theater. A lot of my friends were actors who needed a simple resumé website. I built an e-commerce site for my mom, which was a huge challenge. Building your first e-commerce website by yourself, with no know-how of how that works is– It was stressful. It was diving straight in. A lot of the things, like I said, that I know that I should have done. I didn’t have very strong contracts, and I figured out things like invoicing and bookkeeping as I went. I realized, after a year, that “Oh, I was supposed to be putting money away for taxes.” I didn’t do that. It was making a lot of mistakes. I will say is that first year, it was probably about a good year before I got a decent client who had never met me before but who hired me for a site. I was doing a lot of side work, in terms of– I would write SEO optimized blog posts on Fiverr because that was something that I learned how to do at my agency job and it was somewhat web-design related, so I was doing that. My focus was building my portfolio, and it was building a body of work. I knew that nobody would hire me unless they could see something that I’d done and that they liked it. There were things that I built that are completely gone, and the business has closed because whatever friend I had, stopped doing whatever they were doing. There were things I built that were terrible that have never seen the light of day. But I was able to cultivate a small little body of work. It was 4 or 5 sites that I was proud of, that I was able to start showing off. It’s interesting and something that I’m weirdly proud of, that even though I’ve only been in business for three years, none of my first original sites are still in my portfolio.

Joe: Wow.

Allie: one is, one is still in my portfolio, but it was super crazy simple, and so it looks nice. I feel like I’ve been able to grow enough that I could say “That was my old stuff, that nobody needs to see.” I can show off a lot of the better stuff. The building of it was building a portfolio. At the same time building my own skill as a designer, as somebody who works with WordPress, to learn WordPress. A lot of that did come from the inspiration that I got from the first WordCamp that I went to because the agency I worked at sent me to WordCamp 2016. Was it–? Yeah, pretty sure it was WordCamp 2016. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m very bad with dates. I remember going to that WordCamp and seeing so many amazing people, some of whom were at WordCamp 2019 and thinking “I have to keep designing and keep building things until I can get to that point. Until I can get to where these people are.” Which, I feel like I’m rambling now, but as far as building things, when you’re at the beginning– You decide on things that you want to build that don’t mean anything. Me comparing myself to all of these speakers was great, in terms of the inspiration that I got, but didn’t mean anything. I had no idea where all of these people were in their careers or where they were personally. The fact that I’ve now spoken at two WordCamps, I’m still not where a lot of people are. It doesn’t matter so much because I’ve built something sustainable for myself that I can be proud of. A lot of it was also building that self-awareness and not comparing my own experiences to what other people are choosing to show if that makes sense?

Joe: Yeah. I think that’s such a great point. You see somebody up on stage, and they’re talking about their successes, and you’re like “Man, this person is just really successful. I’m never going to get there.” Part of the reason that I started this podcast is because I wanted to hear the stuff that you just talked about. Like, the “I didn’t do things the way I should have.” I started in high school, and I definitely didn’t– I was 15, and now I’m 33, I know how dumb 15 year-olds can be. I was like, “Yeah. I’ll make a website, and it’ll be great.” I didn’t know I need to save for taxes. I used Excel for invoicing and keeping track of numbers that I knew because I was a nerd. I think you made a lot of really good points here. The next couple of points, I want to make sure I approach tactfully. One is, I did start freelancing in high school, and I did it through college. I ran into a few where I was like, “You’re just a kid, why should I pay you?” I knew I was good, but I have these preconceived notions because I wasn’t an adult. A lot of the people in this field today look a lot like me. I’m a 33-year-old white male. What was it like? What was it like in that sense, moving into your own freelance career and starting your own business?

Allie: That’s a great topic that I think about a lot. The funny thing is that– The agency that I started off at, I was by far the youngest person there. First, more than anything else, I did encounter a similar thing to you. I was the youngest person there, so my opinion didn’t matter as much. I was allowed to make suggestions or contributions, but people would smile and nod their head and be like “Oh yeah. That’s a cute idea.” Then it would never be implemented. I think that was something that was more apparent to me, that was more obvious to me. That I wasn’t being taken very seriously. I was always being treated like the kid sister. I had a supervisor that would refer to me as like her work daughter. From the beginning, I felt like that was inappropriate and condescending. A large portion of why I left there, was just the emotional, I will say abuse, that took place as far as not respecting my boundaries, not respecting my feelings and being made to think that “This is the real world. This is a professional environment, so we don’t have to think about your feelings. That’s for children.” That was what was most apparent and in my face. What I think has been a lot more under the surface is the male vs. female thing. Obviously, we’ve met, but people listening may not know, I am African-American. I have the privilege of being light-skinned. I speak very, what kids would say, “White.” When I was in school, everyone told me that I spoke “White.” I have been lucky enough to be able to surpass a lot of the challenges that darker-skinned women or women from particular parts of the country who don’t sound like me would have experienced. I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve never encountered all-in-out racism or all-in-out sexism within this sphere. But it exists in all of the small ways that add up, over time. When I was starting off, even before that agency job I got and I started teaching myself to code, I couldn’t find, I didn’t know of any resources, or any mentors, or any people that I could look up to who looked like me. It was a very– I think everyone can agree, when you think of the tech space, when you think of Silicon Valley, it’s a specific person that you think of, a specific type of person. Knowing that I was stepping in to– I was stepping out of theater, which typically is a very inclusive space. Your differences are what might make you attractive to somebody who’s looking to hire you. I knew that there was going to be struggle, as far as what I looked like. Point blank. The challenge has come in, as far as the mindset, as far as there are people who I’ve met who look like you who didn’t take me seriously. I’m ready, and I want to have a conversation about WordPress, or coding, or whatever the case may be. Even things like video games. I’m really into video games, and people hear that, and they look at me sideways. They’re like “Yeah, sure. OK, fine. You’ve played Mario Kart.” It’s this very subtle but constant thing of trying to reach out to other spaces or other resources and just the “OK. It’s a bunch of white guys,” which is fine. White guys have a lot to contribute to the world, but over time it gets disheartening. Especially when you’re freelancing, and it gets very lonely. It’s extremely tough to feel like you can’t find your “Tribe,” for lack of a better word. You can’t find your peeps. Which is why I fell in love with WordCamp Miami so completely. For those who are listening and may not know, this past WordCamp, we surpassed more than 50% of female speakers for that conference. That was so huge to me. I don’t know if you went to the talk that Josefa Hayden came to talk to us. I didn’t even know she existed. To see an Asian woman as the head of WordPress, as the head and the leader of the technology that we work with, I was practically in tears. It was so inspiring, but it sucks that inspiration is so few and far between. You know what I mean?

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. I’m glad you brought this up because I wanted you to make these points. I’ve been trying to be cognizant of the ratio of the guests I have on this show. At first, it was very– I’ll put it this way, it was my tribe and my inner circle. A lot of my inner circle looked like me because those are the people that I relate to. Now that I have a daughter, I’m more cognizant of “Are there people that she can look up to that she might be able to relate to better than me?” I’m glad that you talked about this a little bit because it’s something that is– I know it’s out there in the WordPress space. I think the WordPress base tries very hard to make sure that there’s good representation. I’m the lead organizer of WordCamp Philly, and something that we tried to do is make sure that all groups are represented in speaking, in attending and things like that.

Allie: That’s so important. Not to cut you off, but just the fact that you are doing that and that you are cognizant of it is extremely important. I attended the Grace Hopper Celebration last year in August. Basically, it’s a giant women’s tech conference. The point is for it to be a space for women. There were thousands of people there, and it was enormous. It was the biggest single gathering of people of human beings that I’ve ever attended. It was pretty much 100% women. I saw a scattering of male individuals there, who I believe, were sponsors or something like that. While it was fantastic, I’m glad that it exists, I hope that it continues and I have nothing bad to say about it. I prefer something like WordCamp, and I prefer interactions like the one we’re having now because it bugs me when people of color are like “We need to have our entirely separate own thing. We can only talk to each other, or we can only interact with each other about things.” That is the exact opposite of equality, and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. The idea of WordCamp having been, at first, we thought it was 50/50, male to female. I think we found out it was 54 to 40 something.

Joe: I’ll link that in the show notes.

Allie: The fact that we had an even, relatively even, mix seemed so much healthier to me than saying “This is only a space for this sort of person,” because then only one sort of person is experiencing any growth. For me to go to a conference and feel empowered and happy and all those things for being around all these women, it just affects me, whereas for us to go to something like WordCamp and for you to make an effort with your WordCamp to be more inclusive, everyone is affected by that. Long story short, I like hearing about people who look like you also being part of the conversation. Because it’s something that affects all of us.

Joe: Maybe I’m different than other people who look like me, but I feel it’s probably– There’s a lot of subconscious. Unless we’re told, or unless we see a good mix and everybody being included explicitly. You can’t break a bad habit if you don’t approach that habit and if you don’t confront that habit.

Allie: It’s learned behaviors. We can’t always put ourselves at fault for learned behaviors, but we also have to be open to growth, open to change, open to realizing that certain learned behaviors need to be unlearned. We are capable of doing that, as human beings. We should be open to it.

Joe: Absolutely. I have experienced the opposite, as well. I’m a cigar smoker. I go to cigar shops. Cigar shops are basically where old guys hang out. I brought my wife to one time, because she thankfully, at least, tolerates his bad habit of mine. We got the side-eye a little bit, one guy made a joke, “We don’t really like girls around these parts.” He’s like “I’m kidding.” It was very obvious he wasn’t kidding. We were engaged or just newly married at the time. He was talking about how he had two failed marriages and “Don’t get married.” I was like, “Maybe you have failed marriages because you talk the way you do. Maybe it’s not marriage, and maybe it’s you.”

Allie: Yeah. I would agree with that.

Joe: I always feel uncomfortable if I bring my wife to a cigar shop, where the clientele shift and they’re like “There’s a woman here now. We can’t act the way we want to act.” vs. this one great cigar shop in Scranton, where we met. Where she loved it, I loved it. It was a fun place to hang out, and there happened to be cigars. Anyway, that was a little bit long and ramble-y, I like to tell that story.

Allie: That’s a good story.

Joe: We are going over time, but there is another thing I wanted to talk to you about. You mentioned seeing WordCamp speakers. Them talking about their successes and to not know what’s going on personally and professionally. Corey Miller, formerly of iThemes and the founder of iThemes, gives a fantastic talk about mental health where he talks about the iceberg. The iceberg is what you see above the water. There’s this whole mess of stuff underneath the water that nobody sees. At the freelance workshop, at WordCamp Miami, where we met, that came up a bunch of times. How did you being 22, suddenly without a job, starting a business–? Starting a business is so stressful. How did you maintain your mental health? Getting only as personal as you want to get. How did you realize that it was something that we, as freelancers, need to be mindful of?

Allie: That’s a really good question. I’m going to try to keep it brief because I could talk about this for a long time. I had been struggling with mental health issues for a long time. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in college, and it was something that I struggled with when I was at my job. It was interesting because so much of that job– I should have left a long time ago, but I attributed a lot of it to “I’m going through this mentally, so I’m probably being over-dramatic. I’m probably overthinking it. Or, “It’s probably just my anxiety, and things aren’t that bad.” Until it became apparent to me that it was that bad. After I quit, that didn’t go away. The depression and the anxiety didn’t disappear. To be perfectly frank, I wasn’t dealing with it. I was trying to get through every single day of just trying to stay alive and trying to stay afloat. It was probably one of the worst times in my life because I was incredibly alone. I didn’t live near any of my friends, and it was very scary. Most of the work that I’ve done on myself mentally has come a lot more recently. It’s the habits of being nice to yourself, which is such a difficult thing to do. I think about it like, I don’t know how into Harry Potter you are–

Joe: Very.

Allie: The Dementors were always something that got me. I mean, she wrote them based off of her own depression. For anybody who may not know what clinical depression feels like, I feel like everyone gets depressed sometimes, everyone gets sad, and everyone goes through crappy things. Clinical depression, when your brain is physically not making the chemicals, you need to feel OK with yourself, that is what a Dementor is like. It’s this inexplicable, unexplainable darkness and despair. It’s not even sadness, and it’s just absolutely just wanting to give up. When that comes, you feel the need to lean into it. You have to not. It sounds so simple, but it’s so hard. You have to lean the other way and focus on the things that are good. Even if that means not working that day, even if it means putting aside something that you should be doing, but you know that it’s not going to help. I’m not, in any way, qualified to coach anybody on dealing with mental illness. If you’re dealing with any of this type of stuff, you should get as much professional help as you possibly can, but you don’t always have access to that. That was one of my big problems. I was medicated in college, and so I was able to have more of a balance. When I left college because I realized I hated it, I lost access to that, and I haven’t been able to regain access to that. In the interim, when you cannot get the professional help that you need, it’s all about building positive habits. It’s about knowing yourself, being familiar with your own patterns, being familiar with your own triggers. Something like bipolar disorder, you don’t necessarily have triggers all the time, it can be incredibly random. I’ve noticed that there are things that will trigger me. A perfect example is something like WordCamp. When I partake in something that’s very high emotion, and I’m moving around talking to people a lot, when I achieves any emotional high, I will immediately have a low. Like clockwork. I will crash. I remember the last WordCamp I went to in 2017. I didn’t go in 2018, because I was afraid of the crash that would happen afterward. This year, I felt like I had to go. I was already in a dark place, and I knew that it would make me feel better to go. I went, and I was like “OK, the Monday afterword is not going to be a good day.” So I didn’t work, I didn’t check my email, I sat on the couch. I watched the entirety of the new season of Queer Eye on Netflix. I cried for, however, many hours that season is. I got ahead of that emotion, and I got that out of me. I was able to go full steam ahead and to work again on Tuesday, and I had a fantastic week. It takes a lot of time and patience and talking about it with people. Journaling is great. It’s not something I’m super good at, but journaling so that you can keep track of your own patterns and habits and get all of that stuff out of you to make room for putting good things in is extremely important. That’s a very long way of saying that I feel like, but it takes time. I’m still not in a place that I’d like to be. I’m still not in the best place in the world, but it’s definitely a one day at a time thing.

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Joe: Two follow up questions as we close out the show. One is silly, and one is more serious, so I’ll do the more serious one first. What do you recommend for people who might want to help with people who are struggling for mental health? I personally can’t empathize with some of the feelings that you described, because I’m lucky enough to have never experienced them. I’m certain that, put in a situation like this, I would react poorly. Not poorly, but I would do things that might seem intuitive to me, but are counter-intuitive. What do you recommend for people who are on the outside who want to help?

Allie: That’s a really good question. Ask questions, ask the person who is not doing so well “What can I do? What do you need? What would you like?” One of the things that I would hate is people asking me the wrong question. Asking like “What’s wrong?” When I don’t know what’s wrong, that’s why I’m upset. Things like that. What’s great is that my boyfriend, we’ve been together now two and a half years, and I’ve for lack of a better word “Trained” him on the sort of things to say and not to say when I’m feeling this way. If he can say, “What do you need?” I can either say “I want to be left alone. I want company. I want to go out. I want to stay in. I want to go get ice cream. I want to watch–” It forces me to think for myself about what I do need that would help. Sometimes it’s literally just sitting there and being quiet. What I would say is try to avoid, unless the person says that that’s what they want, try to avoid things like “Why are you so sad, you’re so great. You have this, and you’re like that. You have no reason to–” That, to me personally, is the worst thing ever. Because that then makes that person feel guilty, which they are probably already feeling.

Joe: It’s almost like having kids gloves on. If your child is having a bad day, you’re like “Don’t worry buddy, you’re great.” That’s not the same thing as what you’re describing right now.

Allie: Yeah. Just listening. My mom is one of my absolute best friends, and it’s taken her a little while to understand what’s been going on with me. She was raised in a time where this sort of thing is not even necessarily talked about, but just even thought about. She did something amazing for me recently, where a family member who I didn’t know very well passed away. When my dad called her to tell her about it, she knew that I was at WordCamp at the time. She told him to wait until well after before telling me in case I was in a low period. She was able to, from the things I’ve told her, has been able to anticipate what was best for me and my mental state, which was incredibly moving to me. It’s listening when they are in whatever mood that the person is in, whether they’re depressed or anxious or whatever the case may be, but also talking about it when they’re feeling more balanced. Right now, I’m having a great day. I feel fine, and I can talk about it a lot easier. If you know somebody who is going through anything like this, don’t just talk to them about it when it’s happening, but try to talk to them about it when they’re feeling better so that you can have a better understanding once they come out of it, what it was like.

Joe: That’s fantastic advice. That’s advice that I will be able to apply to my own everyday life. I’m a problem solver, and so when my wife is bothered by something, I’m like, “Here’s how we fix it.” She’s like “Can you just say ‘That sucks’?”

Allie: That’s exactly right. Sometimes the problem doesn’t need to be fixed. We know what the problem is. We need to live in the problem for a minute, and we’ll get through it. We need that support.

Joe: Yes, absolutely. Thank you, Allie, so much for your time today. I do need to ask my silly question, “Silly.” What video games do you like to play? I forgot to ask this earlier.

Allie: That’s OK. I just finished– What’s the game I just finished? I just recently finished the new God of War.

Joe: Is it good?

Allie: Dude, it’s amazing. Oh my gosh.

Joe: I always used to bum off my brother’s PlayStation, but now he lives in Florida, and I live in Pennsylvania. So I’m like “Should I buy a PlayStation just for God of War?”

Allie: Buy a PlayStation just for God of War. It’s amazing. I mean, my favorite games– I’ll list some of my favorite because I haven’t been playing for that long. My boyfriend got me into them. God of War was fantastic. Horizon Zero Dawn was amazing. I have a lot of feelings about Final Fantasy 15. I think it’s a terrible game, but I love it. I don’t even know how to explain that, it’s a terrible game, but I absolutely love it. There’s this really weird Japanese RPG called Nier Automata. If you want something cerebral and philosophical with ridiculously awesome gameplay and fighting mechanics, play that. We just bought Sekiro, which is from the makers of Bloodborne and Dark Souls.

Joe: OK. Nice.

Allie: It’s not as hard. It’s not as Dark Souls-y, but it is pretty challenging, I will say. I’ve raged quit a couple of times already, but I’m going to give it another go.

Joe: Rage Quit is my middle name. I get to a point where I am on this level. I’m like maybe 80% of the way through the game, and I can’t get it. I’m like, “I guess I’m never going to finish this.” Then I start something else.

Allie: I did that with Spider-Man. I think I did get about like 75% and I’m stuck in a battle with two of the villains, I forget now which ones. I can’t get through that battle, so I put that game down and haven’t picked it up in like two months.

Joe: Been there. Awesome. I will link those in the show notes and also check some out, because I am reading Armada right now, by Ernest Cline, and it makes me want to play video games.

Allie: We should have a separate conversation about Ready Player One. I have a lot of feelings about that book/movie.

Joe: Yes. Look for the b-sides for that one later, for everybody who’s listening. As we wrap up, do you have any trade secrets for us? You gave us so much great information, but do you have any trade secrets for us?

Allie: Honestly, go online and see if there’s a WordCamp near you if this is the industry that you’re in. Any coding, web design, anything like that. Even if you’re a freelancer and would like to attend a freelancer workshop if the one near you has one. It’s a fantastic community. It’s a fantastic event. It’s extremely affordable, and you get a lot of value out of it. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind, but I think my Twitter and stuff is going to be linked as well. I try to tweet– More recently, I hadn’t been tweeting very much before WordCamp. I’m going to try to tweet more. I will be tweeting out a lot of resources and cool stuff that I find.

Joe: Excellent. On that note, where can people find you?

Allie: Awesome. Yeah. People can find me at PixelGlowWebDesign.com, all one word. My Twitter is @allie_nimmons like Simmons, but with an N instead of an S.

Joe: Thanks so much to Allie for joining me today. I appreciate not only her coming on the show but her opening up and getting personal in a way that I think is going to be beneficial for the audience. It certainly helped with my perspective and the way I look at things. I love her trade secret to see if there’s a WordCamp near you. There likely is, and that helps you get into the community. For a lot of people who work remotely or freelancers, it could be a little bit lonely. WordCamps certainly help that. Thanks so much to Allie, again, for her time. My question of the week for you is “What makes you feel to be a part of the community, for whatever community you’re in, maybe you’re not in the WordPress space?” Maybe you’re in a different community, “What helps you feel a part of that community?” If you’d like to answer that question, feel free to e-mail me Joe@HowIBuilt.it or on Twitter @jcasabona. I want to thank our sponsors for this week Ahoy! Pantheon and Creator Courses. Definitely check them out. Their support helps this show tremendously. If you liked this episode, go ahead and share it with somebody. Maybe somebody needs to hear the things that Allie talked about? Maybe they’ll find this very helpful? You can find all of the show notes that we talked about over HowIBuilt.it/128. Once again, thanks so much for listening. Welcome to Season 7. Until next time, get out there and build something.

The post Allie Nimmons and Freelancing / Mental Health appeared first on How I Built It.

Jul 09 2019

58mins

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Sam Brodie & Selling Your Business

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Before Sam Brodie founded OffSprout, he successfully sold a niched business that focused on websites for lawyers. Sam generously shares his advice and experience with us, from niching down to how to properly keep your books. There’s tons of great advice in this episode, so make sure to listen to the whole thing!

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The post Sam Brodie & Selling Your Business appeared first on How I Built It.

Apr 02 2019

46mins

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Episode 3: Brian Krogsgard and Post Status

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In this episode, I talk with Brian Krogsgard about how he started Post Status, deciding to take full time, getting members, making decisions, and of-course, the tools he used to built out the website!

One of my favorite parts of the interview is around 7:20, where Brian talks about his method for researching his stories.

Show Notes:

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The post Episode 3: Brian Krogsgard and Post Status appeared first on How I Built It.

Sep 06 2016

36mins

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Episode 50: Mike Rohde and Sketchnotes

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Mike Rohde is a designer and founder of the Sketchnotes Army! He’s also a twice-published author and Green Bay Packers fan. In this episode, we talk about how he came up with sketchnotes, why it helps with retention, getting published, and tons more!

Show Notes

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Sep 12 2017

41mins

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Susan Goebel and Bringing Drugs to Market

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It takes the right combination of bioscience knowledge, marketing intelligence, lead generation strategies, operational insight, product R&D expertise, and personal drive to fuel the business development of any life science firm. For almost 2 decades, Susan Goebel has been leveraging these core trails to deliver multi-million-dollar revenue generating initiatives with global reach. Now Susan has turned her focus to supporting others in their ventures into bioscience businesses. From helping doctors bring new medical solutions to market, to connecting investors and inventors, Susan helps shape the future of health, wellness and bioscience.

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Intro: Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 127 of How I Built It, the last episode of season six. I am so excited to talk to Susan Goebel today. Now, she is very different from the people I’ve talked to so far. She is a BioScience coach and expert. She has information on marketing intelligence, and she works with prescription drug companies to bring their new drugs to market. She has experience in the full stack from doing the lab work all the way up to lobbying governments and everything in between. I thought this was such an interesting conversation. While it doesn’t directly relate to small businesses, there is a lot of stuff to take away from this conversation. I could have kept talking to Susan for hours, I find this super interesting, and I hope you will too. So as we wrap up Season 6 and go into a short break, I hope you like this episode with Susan Goebel, which we’ll get to in a minute after a word from our sponsors.

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Joe Casabona: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today my guest is Susan Goebel, a 20-year veteran bringing products to markets around the world and an expert in BioScience business development. Now she’s a consultant and coach in the BioScience field, and I’m excited to talk to her today about what it’s like to bring products at that scale to millions of people. Susan, how are you today?

Susan Goebel: I am good, Joe. I’m excited to be here as well. A lot of people don’t understand the process of what it takes to bring that product to market, and I got to say, when you’re sitting there at the dinner table, and you’re watching the news and people are going “Look at this great thing that this scientist made,” in my head I’m thinking “That’s a good 10 years away.” So, let’s learn about this.

Joe: That’s fantastic. I’m excited to talk about that because I’ve gotten a little bit of insight. My father in law is in the R&D field for a large pharmaceutical company, so he’s told me what the process is like. But why don’t we start with a little bit about who you are, and what you do?

Susan: Great. OK, so 20 years and I have had the pleasure and the privilege, I would say, of spanning a whole bunch of different areas within my career. I started out as a scientist bench top level, and then I moved from there to project management, and from there running divisions, co-founded a company– It’s been everything from lobbying to full commercialization successes, as well as failures. You’ve got to remember and celebrate those just about as much as the wins, and doing it across multiple regions around the world.

Joe: Wow. You have basically run the gamut. You started off on the front lines on the ground level as a scientist, and then you went up to lobbying. I am excited to hear about a lot of that stuff. Today you are leveraging your background and your experience to help other people bring new medical solutions to market, is that right?

Susan: That is right. There are a lot of people, whether they be doctors or veterinarians, who have the experience in clinic to go “I’m seeing a lot of whatever the problem is, and I think I have the best solution possible to help the health of my patient and give them the best quality of life. But I’m an MD or I’m a DVM, I don’t know what it takes to take my product and make it a success.” That’s where I come in.

Joe: Nice. That’s fantastic. I think that’s an important aspect. You’ve got the implementer or the person who is creating this product, but as a developer myself, I always find that there’s a disconnect between me creating the product and then me being able to bring it to the right audience, which can be difficult, especially when you’re so close to the product.

Susan: Joe, you are absolutely right. We get so emotionally invested. I’ve had a couple of my clients, and they call it their babies. It’s not the four-legged furry kind, they’re not the two-legged kind, but these ideas because they really– They come from the heart. A great example of this is that I had a colleague who is developing a unique product. Smart guy out at the University of British Columbia, and he and his wife– The wife is a pediatrician, and she was encountering a number of kids whose kidneys were shutting down because of a bacterial infection. She was lamenting one day about the life these poor kids have, and how in some cases it’s a very painful death, and “What can we do about this?” The husband went out the next day, and he goes for a run, and on the run, he has this “A-ha” moment. The bacteria that that’s causing all this doesn’t even come in humans. It comes from cattle. So, “Why don’t we create a product to treat it in the cow? Then we don’t ever have to get to the human side of things, and those kids can be safe.”

Joe: Wow, that’s incredible. As close as I can be to the web applications that I create, I imagine that the people who are coming up with life-saving technology or breakthroughs are a lot closer. Why don’t we talk a little bit about your process? You’ve had the experience of working in the lab and of talking to the people and the government organizations that you need to talk to get this to market, and now you’re consulting with people through this process. What does that process look like? If I came to you with an idea today, to say, “I’ve got this great idea that’s going to be huge in the medical field.”

Susan: Great question, Joe. That’s awesome, because if you came in and you said “I’ve got a problem that I think I have a solution to,” the first question I’m going to have to ask is “Have you protected your idea? Have you patented it? Is it any copyright, patent, industrial design? There’s a whole bunch of things that we need to do.” Or in the case of say Coca-Cola, which everybody’s usually familiar with, “Do we just keep it a trade secret because patenting can be expensive?” So there’s some thought process that needs to go into that and plan around that, and once you’ve gone past that stage, you’ve usually got an idea of the competitive market and where your product fits. Once you know that then we can go on to go, “OK. If I have a solution to a specific problem and this problem I know I can solve, I know that there might be one or two competitors out there, but I believe that I have a better mousetrap. Then let’s see if I can develop it.” Now, that can be a whole lengthy process in and of itself. Then “Let’s see if I can develop it, can I manufacture it at a larger scale? What are the regulatory compliance issues I’m going to have, and what country am I going to go into?” Because that’s different depending on the country that you want. As an example, Australia is an island, and so it’s very protective about what it brings into its country. You not only have to go through the regular regulatory approval processes, like in the US it would be FDA for example, or in Australia, you’d have to do the equivalent of the FDA plus an import security process as well.

Joe: Gotcha. Wow.

Susan: All of that to say that sometimes, in the case of the doctor that I told you about and the pediatrician, ten years had passed by the time it got approved, and the marketplace had shifted, and all of a sudden you no longer have a place to put your product.

Joe: Wow. My father gave me a little bit of insight to this, but we talk about how expensive medical stuff can be. Stuff is, of course, the scientific term here. But ten years getting patents which are expensive, developing it, which is expensive, manufacturing and going through the government approval processes is expensive, and then by the time, it gets to market there’s not even– There’s nothing to do with it. So, what happens in that case? Once it’s to market you can’t do anything with it, what do you do? Do you still have your patent, or is it just back to the drawing board?

Susan: That’s a great question. Unfortunately then the patent, by that point in time which has, depending on how you calculate it a 17 year or 21-year lifespan, is already half gone. In some cases, you can try when you have patents and experience to license it to somebody else, but you don’t have a lot of patent life left. If the market doesn’t want it, unfortunately, it’s not going to be a product that is going to be viable commercially. So, you have to go back to the drawing board. You have to work with whatever the evolution has become. I would say that for anybody listening to this, if they’re spending the time to put that thought process in up front, that you also have to make sure you’re keeping in touch with the market and how the shifts and the changes are going so you know whether or not you need to make a shift or change yourself in the strategy. Don’t get too married to the strategy.

Joe: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. This audience traditionally is people who work on the web, or smaller scale physical products. We always talk about, “Make sure to put out as fast as possible that the minimum viable product.” It’s just simply not feasible in this case. So, is there things that you can do in your research process to maybe soften that blow or make sure what you are bringing to market will be accepted by the general population, or we’ll have a fit somewhere?

Susan: There are things that you can do, and I would say the fun part is that in real estate, they talk about “Location, location, location.” So in planning and in pharma, I would say it’s “Planning, planning, planning.” You need to put that thought process in upfront first, because if you’re going to go down a pathway where in 100 drugs, for instance, that may come to market, one will make it all the way through, and it’s not a minimum viable product. You have to have full formulas and expectations, whatever you’re doing in the trials with people, you’re doing exactly that when the product is fully approved. There is no minimum viable product when it comes to pharma. It’s an entirely different beast for that. If you don’t know what the various steps are and the processes are from a regulatory perspective, and you haven’t dotted your I’s and crossed your T’s or even know what those are. That’s a problem. So step one, plan. Because you may find that there’s something in that pathway that is a hurdle you can’t overcome.

Joe: Yeah, wow. Let’s back up a little bit, because again, what you’re saying– I’ve heard a little bit about from my father in law. But if we’re talking specifically about pharmaceuticals, there’s a whole long process. There’s the patent and the idea, and then there’s the trials, and the double-blind study, and the– What’s the path for a drug to make it to market?

Susan: Let’s take the example of the evening news. You see the evening news, the evening news goes into a University usually in a setting and says, “Here’s this researcher that’s come up with this great idea.” OK. In order to get to that great idea, there’s probably been years of research alone, maybe five years of research. OK, so now we say that the scientist has the actual plan in place and they’ve got, say, a small molecule that they want to bring to market that’s going to target a very specific disease. OK, so now they’re going to need deep pockets because the total process from a dollar perspective to bring a new drug to market, it can be upwards of– I mean a “B” when I say this, a billion dollars.

Joe: Wow.

Susan: Now, there are ways to make that not a billion dollars, but it’s still going to be several hundred million dollars in order to bring that new product to market. That’s a lot of money. So next phase, go get some investing. You’re going to need people to come in and help you because it’s a long process. Let’s assume that you’ve gone in next and you’ve done a trial, proof of concept. Small animal molecule in beakers, labs, whatever that needs to be depending on the planning stages that you’ve done. OK, so that’s probably taken you another year. Now you’ve got proof of concept, and if you’ve made it past that stage, I want you to give yourself a really big pat on the back because at this point half the products have failed out of those 100.

Joe: Yeah.

Susan: Now, you’ve done that, assuming you still have funds available you can go into the second phase. But now you need– Any product that goes in really has to be your final formulation. Now you also have to be able to test all of the raw materials, and you have to be able to test the final product, even something as simple– This was a big eye-opener for me when I went into the manufacturing side, the water that gets used. You can’t go out and use the tap water, and you have to have water that meets very special requirements. Rooms that air is extremely clean. It’s all about protecting the product so you can protect the person or the animal, wherever that’s going. OK, so let’s say you make it through phase two. You’ve got all your I’s dotted, and all your T’s have been crossed, now you have to go into phase three. Phase three usually is your final licensing, and depending on what your indication is, now you’re looking at another two to three years to finish the trial because you’ve got to recruit the patients and you’ve got to recruit the physicians, the clinicians, the veterinarians, whatever it winds up being. Probably at this point, you’re down to about 20% that have actually made it through, so those 100 that you saw on the evening news, 20 have now made it this far. Now you’re getting another three years, now you have to go another year before the data comes in, and let’s say that’s all you needed before you submit to the regulatory agencies. Depending on the agency itself, once you submit the document, the clock starts ticking. Different agencies, different timeframes. In some cases it could be six months, once upon a time in some countries, it was three years before you’ll get an approval. If they ask a question, then the clock starts over once you submit your answer. All of this time, so you’ve got a window there where you’re not even doing anything. That’s where you want to start your marketing. You want to start your commercialization processes, your lobbying. You get your payments plans, your insurance companies, all these stakeholders onside and make sure it works. Then the day comes where you get your final “Yes” or “No” from the regulatory agency, and that’s where it’s usually one or two out of the 100 that make it that far.

Joe: Wow.

Susan: I’m exhausted already, and now I’ve got to go out, and I’ve got to sell it.

Joe: So we’re talking about ten years, maybe 10-12 years from research to market depending on how long it takes for the regulatory agency to come back, assuming they have no additional questions.

Susan: I’ve never seen that happen, by the way.

Joe: I’d imagine they probably come back with several questions. I had questions on my first trademark, and that’s like generally benign. So I imagine that they are probably a lot more stringent. You said maybe one to two of those initial 100 drugs or products come to market, so the evening news here, they hear a story and they want to report it. This is a little bit tangential, but what we’re seeing on the news, they’re making it seem like it’s so close, but it’s a decade away.

Susan: In a lot of cases, that’s true. Now you will see things on the news that talk about pharma products where they’ve finished the phase three trial, and that’s when they’re talking about it. It depends when the news report comes out, are they talking about the basic research at the University? Or are they talking about the final product and the clinical trial results and all the great news pieces that have already taken place? When you hear it on the news, you need to put some thought into “Where is it in the process? Is it right at the beginning, or is it close to the end?” I would add, having spanned both the human health world and the animal health world, that they are different again. Because recruitment in human trials takes a lot more time, whereas if you wanted to develop a product for a herd of cattle or dairy cows or something to treat some disease there, recruitment of the herd is usually more up to one or two stakeholders as opposed to each individual cow having an opinion.

Joe: Right. That makes sense. What does that look like, when you’re about ready to enter a trial? Is it you talk to doctors, and then they look for patients that fit and ask their patients?

Susan: Yes. Now, that’s a very general process. There’s ethics boards, and approvals, and regulators that all have stakeholders and involvement to make sure that anything that goes into people is as safe as it possibly can be, and has had as much smart minds around the table to ensure that the thought process has gone into it. There’s no more accidental thalidomide or anything like that coming out.

Joe: Gotcha. That makes sense. Are things–? Maybe this is too specific of a question, but I’m just generally interested. Is the general mental health of the patient, like if they are too emotional, like “I’ll do anything to help cure this disease,” is that taken into consideration? Or does the doctor usually vet that before he presents an option to the patient?

Susan: That’s a great question, Joe. Not a lot of people ask that, so kudos to you.

Joe: Thanks.

Susan: It’s up to the physician who they enroll, but they are given a list of criteria. “Here’s the specifications, if the patient is this or has this, go ahead and talk to them about it. If they have this or that, then you need to exclude them.”

Joe: Gotcha. Again, that makes a lot of sense. We got a pretty high-level overview, and maybe we got into some pretty good specifics here of the process of bringing a product to market. I haven’t asked the title question yet, which is, “How did you build it?” But I feel like we’re talking in this nebulous space where we’re talking in the abstract, and I do want to ask you about the lobbying side of things because this is– I’m in America, and we hear all sorts of things, mostly negative, about lobbyists. It’s a very interesting process to me. So, could you unpack that a little bit? Like, what does that look like?

Susan: Sure. I’ll take a step back, Joe, if I could. Just to the manufacturing side, just for a moment.

Joe: Yeah.

Susan: Whether you’re doing a drug or a biologic or a device, and those are very much three key terms in the industry, because they have three different processes that are involved in them. It takes specialized experts in order to do each of those. If you’re doing a drug or you’re doing a sterile device, or you’re doing something that needs fermentation capacity, each one of these is done very differently, and that’s only a handful of a myriad of different ways to bring products to market. So it’s a little tougher to say it’s one or the other, I had worked on a project once where it was plastics manufacturing, and then you’re embedding the drug directly into the plastic. That’s an entirely different process again, because now you’ve got molds and dyes and casts, and you’re doing an embedding and extruding and all of these sorts of processes. It has nothing to do with the fermentation or growing anything that makes it secrete, or whatever. Or collections and harvesting, which is very much a biologics process.

Joe: Right.

Susan: I know we didn’t get very much into that little nitty-gritty detail, but there’s certainly lots that can be done and talked about from that perspective. I had to go to your lobbying question, a very similar thought process, and I’m sure that you and I are not alone. “Lobbyists. I don’t know, are they good, or are they bad? Politicians, are they good, or are they bad? I don’t know.” But it was an eye-opening experience going in and being a registered lobbyist for a while. To the amount of effort that these individuals who are the politicians do take, and the care, and how hard they work. I could not imagine doing their job at all. I would not want it. We were up, and we would go to the Hill for days at a time, so you’re literally going to 15-minute power meetings, and you’ve got at least 10 of them booked in a day because we didn’t live in the same town as the Hill was. So you’ve literally got these 15 minute– Assuming that nothing chaotic had gone on. Overnight one night when we went up to lobby there was the opposition party, and the opposition party had decided that it wanted to throw something as a matter of parliamentary procedure in place. All of a sudden, your meetings are all gone because now the politicians are very much involved in the bureaucracy, and the in-fight, and the “What’s this little piece mean? How does our party feel about it?” And you’re like, “But I really would like to save some kids.” They’re like, “We know. So we’re going to do our best to try and walk with us.” There’s this building over here, and that building over there, so you get these little 15 minute snippets as you’re going from this place to that place, and you’ve got to get your elevator pitch down properly and be able to address the questions and develop the key messages. Even though you’re talking directly into the politician, it’s not likely the politician that you’re going to be continuing to develop the relationship with, and it’s usually their chief of staff or someone else. So at the end of the day we had a product that after five long years of lobbying, we were lobbying on one side and we had another party that was lobbying on the other side, and that association had a much stronger lobby than ours did, so they won and we didn’t get the funding.

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Joe: This is a very tumultuous process that could basically fail at any moment. You said it, 98% if we’re looking at 100 of these products, 98% are not going to make it to the market because of something. So, let’s then talk about something that has made it to the market. It’s gone through the research, the trials, the investments, the lobbying. It’s now on the market. What are the steps once a medical product is approved, and you can bring it to market?

Susan: If you’re in the veterinary field, that’s pretty much it. Now you need to go out, and you need to sell it. You need to sell it to the associations, and you need to understand the distribution channel. You need to get your message out there, and usually you’re using your– I’ve heard the different terms “Alpha marketers,” or “Key opinion leaders,” “Early adopters,” these sorts of people in order to make that a success. On the human side of things, it can be a little more complicated because now you have insurance companies involved. Are they going to go through another approval process? Is the government going to pay, is the insurance going to pay? How do you determine if you’re selling the drug–? This is always a fun one if you’re selling the drug in more than one jurisdiction you need to make sure that you’re following all the rules and you’re not giving favoritism to one jurisdiction over the other, because there are certain rules against doing that. Which is part of where the third world countries, they have so much trouble in paying for the cost of the drugs, because there are these strange barriers and rules that companies don’t want to work around. They want to comply, but they also want to be able to save lives.

Joe: So for example, you can’t sell a drug in the United States for a $1,000 but in third world countries it’s $100 dollars or something like that. Because it’s more cost affordable, or–?

Susan: Not unless there’s some special arrangement, that would be government lobbying, that would get that done. Special funding, so if you had assistance with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as an example, they do a lot of stuff in third world countries with access to drugs and whatnot. Lobbyists are not all bad. Depending on the skill set, you’ve got to try your hardest in order to make a positive impact in the world. I was talking to a group of people one day, and they were heading over to the United Nations to talk about anti-microbial resistance because there were certain things that some countries were doing that other countries were not, and they wanted it all to be as harmonized as possible. Which is a very long process, trying to get countries to agree, let alone getting politicians within one country to agree. It’s a fascinating process in and of itself, and it’s certainly not straightforward. It’s not like– I’m launching a digital product called the BioScience Boardroom, and in this product, it’s a mastermind group. I don’t have to go through a lot of regulatory processes, it’s about bringing this knowledge and expertise to people who want to understand the process have an idea of something they’ve discovered that fits their clinical application and solves a problem, but “What do they do with it?”

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s talk about that a little bit because we are mostly digital builders here in the How I Built It community. Do you know the platform that you’re using for your digital product? Do you know any of the– Are you using WordPress or Wix, or are you using teachable or anything like that? This was not prepared, by the way. This is off the cuff. So if you do not know the answer to this, I wouldn’t expect you to.

Susan: In preparing some of this I honestly think I’d rather go back to splicing DNA, it’d be a heck of a lot simpler than what you guys do, honestly. ClickFunnels is what I’m using. I do have a website that’s powered by Wix because I started out with the free version and thought “That’s easy enough to do,” and I had tried WordPress in the past and I was not very good at it. It took me a day where it probably would have taken somebody who understood the terminology like five minutes to do something simple. So it’s been a longer process than what I wanted, but I’ve got these clients that have this problem and when I talk to the business development experts and the people who are the angel investors for them they go, “We get these people, and they come in, and they want to pitch us their product, but they’re not ready. They haven’t put the thought into it.” OK, so now we have a blue ocean. I have a skill set that I can fit to allow that understanding of this process if I can provide a digital product, a place for them to go and get this information, then I can do my part as a business expert in this field and in this area to move it along. Now you’re doing the interviews, and the building of the site, and drafting the text, and doing the beta testing, and oh my goodness I really would rather bring a drug to market.

Joe: I am a little bit glad to hear that as a web developer myself because clearly, you are much smarter than I am, but I’m glad that I have a skill set that that is valuable. That sounds super interesting, so I’ll be sure to link that in the show notes, and we’ll get to where people can find you in a bit. But I do want to ask you, wrapping up as we’ve covered a lot of ground in about 25 minutes. But then we talked a little bit about what you do and how you did it, what are your plans for the future? Are you going all in on the BioScience Boardroom or are you going to continue to be boots on the ground for people bringing medical products to market?

Susan: That’s a great question, Joe. I would love– My goal frankly with the BioScience Boardroom, if I could, I would love to help 10,000 BioScience wannabes or entrepreneurs and inventors to be able to have that understanding of “This is what it takes to get from concept to commercialization.” That would be my ideal golden scenario, and I’m going to work hard to do that this year. Out of that though, just like the 100 only became one, probably only 1,000 of those would ever go on to do anything, and I’d respect that. Even out of that 1,000, if I could help 100 of them to work a little more closely with me like I do with my current products, my current clients, to help their products get to market. Or be and out-license or joint venture or whatever it is that needs, to be able to positively contribute to animal and human health, I would love to do that. So, I’m going to do both. I’m going to do the BioScience Boardroom which is a lot of bringing experts and the inventors together, as well as continuing with my current clients and bringing their products to market to make sure that we can positively get people back to health as much as we can, as well as animals.

Joe: Yeah. That’s fantastic. I like the sound of that. So, I’m going to ask you my favorite question now, which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?

Susan: Hmm, trade secrets. Oh, my goodness. Don’t tell anyone, are you ready?

Joe: I’m ready.

Susan: OK. There is a lot of really good free stuff out there on the web. Use that first to do the planning.

Joe: Awesome. That is a great piece of advice. There’s a lot of really good free stuff on the web.

Susan: Hey, Joe.

Joe: Yeah?

Susan: Shall we tell your listeners that that’s true for any product they want to bring to market?

Joe: I think we should. That’s true for anything. Look for the free stuff, and then you know what you need to pay for.

Susan: Exactly, and do the planning. Do the planning and know your competitive marketplace. Know where you fit and know where your niche is, know who your customers and your avatars are going to be.

Joe: “Know who your customers and your avatars are going to be.” I think that’s also a great piece of advice because a lot of– I don’t want to generalize the folks in my field, so I’ll speak specifically about myself. I know other people feel the same way, is I always took a very Field of Dreams approach to marketing, “I’m going to build something good, and then people will come.” But that’s just simply not the case anymore, you need to understand who you’re talking to and you need to talk to those people because those people want to know that you understand them.

Susan: Exactly. Great advice. Did you hear that everyone? Great advice.

Joe: Thank you. You said, “Hmm, trade secrets.” I think I’m going to start adding a ding when people say that in post-production because that’s like my favorite part of the show. Where people go “Trade secret.” I want to make a compilation of that. So thank you, I didn’t tell you to do that, but I’m sure glad you did. Susan Goebel, thanks so much for joining me today. Where can people find you?

Susan: Joe, thank you. It has been a pleasure. You are just a lot of fun to be around. You guys can come over to the website, and we’ll put the link for it into the show notes if that’s OK.

Joe: Absolutely. For our listeners, I think I want to make sure it’s SusanGoebel.ca/HowIBuiltIt is the URL I have? Of course, it will be in our show notes over at HowIBuilt.it as well. Susan, thanks so much for joining me today. I appreciate you taking the time.

Susan: Thank you so much, Joe. I appreciate that.

Outro: I want to thank Susan again for joining me on this last episode of Season 6. Again I super-duper, I don’t know if you could tell during the interview, but I enjoyed it. I love hearing about the process. We talked a bit about how she built her marketing website, and some of the tools she’s using there. Then her trade secret is something really important for everybody, that I think that everybody can take away from that, which is knowing your customers and your avatars. Create a customer avatar. In development, we call them “User stories.” “Who is the perfect person, the one person you’re talking to?” I think that’s important. So my question of the week for you is, “What is one customer avatar that you want to create?” Let me know by e-mailing me Joe@HowIBuilt.it or on Twitter @jcasabona. I want to thank my sponsors for this week, and those sponsors are Soshace, Plesk, and Pantheon. In particular, I want to thank Plesk and Pantheon because they sponsored the entire season, and so all of my sponsors make this show possible. But the backing that Plesk and Pantheon gave me helped me take this show to the next level by hiring a new editor and a new transcriber and do things well. So, I hope to continue to grow this show for next season, season 7. We’re going to take a few weeks off, a little bit of a break. I might release one or two bonus episodes in that time, but you can look for season seven to launch at the beginning of July. If you liked this episode, feel free to share it with a friend or family member, and until next season get out there and build something.

The post Susan Goebel and Bringing Drugs to Market appeared first on How I Built It.

Jun 11 2019

40mins

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Season 6 Wrap Up (Bonus Episode!)

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We got lots of great advice over the course of Season 6. Over the course of about 10 minutes, we’re going to distill all of that advice into 3 overarching themes. Take a listen to find out what they are. Here are the best trade secrets of 2019.

Show Notes

The post Season 6 Wrap Up (Bonus Episode!) appeared first on How I Built It.

Jun 24 2019

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Beka Rice and Jilt

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Closing out Season 4 is Beka Rice, Head of Product at Jilt! After an entire season about hearing about Jilt, Beka and I dig deep into how it was built, how to be effective with your abandoned cart emails, GDPR, and much much more. It’s a great way to close out the season and I’m very excited to have her on the show!

Show Notes

Sponsored by:
  • WordSesh: A must attend virtual conference on July 25th 2018 with highly curated speakers and virtual swag, for just $25.
  • Jilt: The easiest way to recover abandoned shopping carts on WooCommerce, easy digital downloads, and Shopify.
  • Liquid Web: Fast, Managed WordPress hosting whether your users are logged in or logged out. Get 50% off the first 2 months.
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Transcript

Hey everybody! And welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Closing out Season 4 is Beka Rice, Head of Product at Jilt! After an entire season about hearing about Jilt, Beka and I dig deep into how it was built, how to be effective with your abandoned cart emails, GDPR, and much much more. It’s a great way to close out the season…but first, a word from our sponsors.

Sponsors: This season of How I Built It is brought to you by two great sponsors. The first is Liquid Web. If you’re running a membership site, an online course, or even a real estate site on WordPress, you likely already discovered that many hosts have optimized their platforms for a logged out experience, where they cache everything. Sites on their hardware are great for your sales or landing pages but struggle when your users log in. At that point, your site is as slow as if you were on $3.00 hosting. Liquid Web built their managed WordPress platform, optimized for sites that want speed and performance regardless of whether a customer is logged in or logged out. Trust me on this. I’ve tried it out and it’s fast. Seriously fast. Now, with their single site plan, Liquid Web is a no brainer for anyone whose site is actually part of their business and not just a site promoting their business. Check out the rest of the features on their platform by visiting them at BuildPodcast.net.liquid. That’s BuildPodcast.net/liquid.

It’s also brought to you by Jilt. Jilt is the easiest way to recover abandoned shopping carts on WooCommerce, easy digital downloads, and Shopify. Your WooCommerce clients could me leaving literally thousands on the table and here’s why. 70% of all shopping carts are abandoned prior to checkout. Yes, you heard that right. 70% of shoppers never make it to check out. That’s why you need to introduce your clients to Jilt. Jilt uses proven recovery tactics to rescue that lost revenue. It’s an easy win that lets you boost your clients revenue by as much as 15% and it only takes 15 minutes of your time to set up. Jilt fully integrates with WooCommerce, EDD, and Shopify. You can completely customize the recovery emails that Jilt sends and match your clients branding using its powerful drag and drop editor, or you can dig into the HTML and CSS. Even better, Jilt’s fair pricing means your clients pay only for the customers that actually engage. You get to earn a cut of that through Jilt’s partner program. Whether you have clients that process one sale per month or 10,000 sales per month, be the hero and help them supercharge their revenue with Jilt. Check them out at BuildPodcast.net/Jilt. That’s BuildPodcast.net/Jilt.

Now, on with the show.

Joe: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today, I’m very excited to have Beka Rice, who is head of product of Jilt, on the show today. Beka, how are you?

Beka: I’m doing great, and thanks, Joe, for having me. I really appreciate the chance to take an opportunity to talk a little bit about what we’ve done today.

Joe: Oh, absolutely. My pleasure. I should say right off the bat, I’m very excited to have you on the show because Jilt has been a season long sponsor. If you’ve been listening to Season 4, you’ve heard me talk about them at the top and bottom of each show. I’m also a Jilt user, and it’s helped recover income for me. So I am a user of this product as well, and I’m a big fan. So I’m excited to really dig into it and talk about how you guys built it.

Beka: Yeah. yeah. First of all, thank you so much for using it. I was excited when we talked about doing this sponsorship to have somebody who’s kind of been interested in the product. So it’s been pretty cool to get feedback and your thoughts on it. So thanks so much.

Joe: Oh, my pleasure. So why don’t we jump right into it. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, and how you, as a group, came up with the idea for Jilt.

Beka: Sure. So in terms of my role, Jilt is built by SkyVerge, who if you’ve been WooCommerce space, you’ve probably recognize that name because we started out building WooCommerce extensions. So these days we have over 50 premium extensions on WooCommerce.com, and getting into that showed us a lot about what store owners really need and what is important to them. So while we were building WooCommerce, fewer people know that we also got into the Shopify space pretty early as well. Like six months or so after we had started getting involved in WooCommerce. So we had done that under a different brand name trying to kind of build up brand equity in both places and not get confusion between what works for Shopify and what works for WooCommerce.

Beka: So as we were really digging into those spaces really deeply, we were doing as much customer development as we could. So we did a lot of interviews. We were doing some client work at that time, and just trying to learn what are people’s biggest struggles when they’re starting a store. Kind of out of that came the concept of people A, don’t have time to set up the tools that are available to them, and B, also have trouble with marketing and they’re not sure how to do it or what best practices are because they know their product a lot of times and not too many store owners are coming to their store with a lot of marketing experience. So kind of out of that was our idea we want to do something that’s really easy to use that can do automation for marketing and that also builds in best practices so that people can get set up and not have to think about what they’re doing too much. They can customize it if they want to so we want to have power but really under the surface. So that’s kind of the idea of Jilt came. So it was originally actually only for Shopify, and then we sort of re-architected it and brought it in the WordPress space as well.

Joe: Wow. That’s fantastic. The part you said about marketing rings a 100% true. I just moved into the product space more or less full-time in June of last year, and I honestly thought it would be the same as selling services but I quickly learned that I could sell a $5,000 website to one person a lot easier than I could sell $50-$100 courses. So the marketing aspect of it has been very difficult for me in the product space. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned about cart abandonment in October when I went to CaboPress.

Well, that’s not actually true. I learned more about it but we actually met at Post Status Publish where you guys were promoting Jilt. So I had heard the term but I wasn’t keen on the value of it until I talked to a bunch of people running products who were like, “Yeah, you should do this.” I’m like, “Man. Well, Jilt does that. So I’m going to get Jilt.”

Beka: Awesome. It’s something that is interesting to me because the reason we started in cart abandonment and we’ve kind of started to expand from there, which we’ll talk about a little bit. But the reason we started in cart abandonment was because there’s so much money that is just sitting there from it, and it tends to be the number one revenue driver for stores whose customers are coming in. Everybody has kind of heard that metric there’s 68% of your carts are abandoned. Our data supports that. We have like 65% or 66% among our customers. So it’s a ton of revenue that people are leaving, and we find that just by sending recover emails, out about those abandoned carts, 15% to 20% of them can be recovered. So it ends up being a huge revenue boaster for small stores, especially to optimize existing traffic, the traffic you’re not paying more money to acquire. It’s already there. So it ends up being super powerful for these small merchants and then amazingly powerful for really large merchants too.

Joe: Man, that’s fantastic. So when you were kind of getting into cart abandonment and building out Jilt, was there a lot of research that went into it, or was it mostly the interviews that you were having, the services and the other plugins? I didn’t realize that you guys had a bunch more extensions on the WooCommerce platform. You said 50 I think, 50 plus?

Beka: Over 50.

Joe: Over 50. Yeah.

Beka: I don’t know the exact count these days, but it’s a lot.

Joe: Yeah, that is a lot more than I thought you had. So what kind of research went into building out Jilt?

Beka: Well, the research component has always been a strong function for us, and so having built a lot of those extensions, one of our most popular ones being memberships, right? We kind of go through the same process for all of those where it’s a lot of customer interviews, development, and validating the space with existing competitors and what they’re doing, and kind of looking at what we need to address those needs and where we can fill a gap that we feel lik exists. So with Jilt, when we were doing the research for it, it seemed like it was a problem that Shopify merchants were more aware of than WooCommerce merchants at the time. So what we found is actually acquired an existing customer list in the name Jilt. So it wasn’t trademarked when we acquired it. There was an app developer in the Shopify space who had shut it down completely. We were sort of looking for an opportunity in that space. Actually kind of had Jilt as one of the names we were interested in. So he had shut the app down a while back. We’re like, “Hey, you don’t have a lot of customers, and you’re not running this anymore, but we’re interested in just kind of acquiring this customer list so we can talk to them and then we want to bring this app back.”

Beka: So we ended up buying that to get started and do a lot more research with those customers who were already doing this. We didn’t have a huge success rate, obviously, in talking to those people. But it was enough to say, “Yes, this is an awesome idea. We should revive this.” Rebuilt the entire thing from scratch, brought it back on to the Shopify platform, and then expanded into other platforms from there, understanding that merchants that were already doing it were having huge success rates, and merchants that weren’t doing it were interested in it once they understood the problem. So we knew that both getting the product out there to address this need first as well as also start getting some education around it would be a really powerful combination.

Joe: Yeah. Wow. That’s great. I’ve learned recently that you should try to piggyback off of other audiences is maybe not the best way to say it, but the fact that you’re working with an established audience of something that was called Jilt that people were definitely interested in, I’m sure was hugely helpful, as you said. So that’s a very cool kind of avenue, not really the answer I was expecting.

Beka: I mean, it’s sort of an interesting thing for us because we were mostly trying to see if we could buy our way into more customer development and then we’d always planned on building it. So the app that we have now is something our team built from scratch, but the name really grew on us and we were like, “Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s trademark it. Let’s actually use this, and continue with it.” So it was sort of not our typical path for building things where we do everything from scratch, but it was kind of faithful moment to find a customer base that we could talk to and acquire essentially. Then spend something back up for this.

Joe: Awesome. So I think that a lot of people could probably visualize the abandoning carts themselves, right? You click through, you add a bunch of things, you go, “Ah. I’m not ready to pull the trigger,” or you’re on a website that doesn’t have that one click like Amazon has so you put in your address and then you’re like, “Do I really want to do this,” then you put in your credit card, and you’re like, “Do I really, really want to do this?” So there’s a lot of steps in between to kind of … There’s a lot of opportunity to abandon cart if you don’t make check out as easy as possible, and I bring this up because part of the abandoned cart process is sending emails to people who have volunteered that information. I know that you guys, around the time of this recording, released a feature, and we’ll get in to kind of building the whole thing in a minute. But I’m just really curious about this. What do you find is the best way to collect that initial email to make sure that those abandoned cart emails are going out, right? Because if someone’s not putting in an email address and then you can’t send that email to somebody.

Beka: Exactly. With the concept of abandoned carts, we break that down internally into recoverable and nonrecoverable carts, and you have to have an email address for something to be recoverable. If it’s not recoverable, you could look at retargeting and stuff like that, but I find that that tends to be way less effective than email does. So with recoverable carts, the key is, as you said to get the email address whenever you can. So we do that on checkout or if we have a registered user, we’re golden there because we already associate everything in that cart with that user as early as possible. But then it comes into kind of the area where you have guest users and you don’t know their email address. What are ways you could do that?

Beka: So what you mentioned is we added a feature that you can enable where when someone adds something to the cart, we’ll do a pop over that says, “Hey, would you like to reserve this item in your cart? Your email will save this for you.” Then we can capture that email earlier, the first time someone tries to add something to the cart. If they opt not to do it then, it’s a little difficult, right? We encourage people to stay, get people into the cart, get people into checkout. With our plugin we move the email field up to the first field in checkout so that it’s right there and hopefully people fill it out first. We’re trying to increase the number of carts that are recoverable. We’re also working on integrations with other forms so that you can say if someone’s opting into your mailing list, for example, we can capture that email and set it. So that’s a problem we’re constantly trying to address and constantly trying to expand the number of recoverable carts. But obviously in a way that’s respectful of your customers and makes sure that they’re explicitly entering that to opt into it.

Joe: Yeah. Right. That makes sense. I’ve heard people doing techniques where like they’ll use kind of JavaScript on … They’ll use JavaScript to like secretly capture the email address, and I’m sure that’s super effective. But I know that some people might think that’s a questionable thing to do. The, “Do you want us to reserve your cart?” I feel like that’s a very cool way to solve that problem because you’re now providing a service kind of to the customer. You’re saying, “Hey. Go away, we’ll hold this for you. Don’t worry about it.”

Beka: Exactly, and on our end, we feel that the checkout is a little bit different of an email just because that shows intent to purchase. So we do capture email addresses there as someone’s feeling out the form, but other places on the site, I definitely agree with you, it can be unexpected for customers to have … Like, “Whoa. I didn’t submit that mailing list form. Hold on a second. That’s a little weird.” So we do try to tune down the sort of Big Brother like thing that can happen there, and we try to find ways that makes sense in the UI so we felt like that probably was a good way to do that. Even though on those shopping carts, your cart sessions would expire after a given time. We’ll store them forever on Jilt. So even though you can tell your customer, “We’re going to clear this cart out for you,” we make sure that it’s always recoverable so that cart can always been then regenerated later on to maximize the number of purchases you can save.

Joe: Great. Man, that’s fantastic. I mean, so we talked about the research. We talked about kind of talking to your customers. Are there people in the business space that you talk to? I always like to ask this question because this podcast kind of started as a mastermind I was having with other people that I’m like, “I should record these conversations.” Are there other kind of contemporaries that you talk to about adding features or what they’re doing and working with other people?

Beka: Absolutely. We’ve been very fortunate in that respect in having worked with a lot of companies in the WooCommerce space via our extensions that are all under SkyVerge there. So we have a lot of great conversations with partners as to how they do things and advice, which is awesome. A great example is we work with Avalara to build their Ava Tax Connector for WooCommerce. They’re team is awesome. So they are super generous with their time and what’s cool is we focus on building a great product for them. But they’re also really great resources for us. I can ask them, “Hey, how do you guys approach partnerships? How do you do this? How do you do that?” That mastermind concept is super powerful, right?

Beka: So we have an existing network that we try to leverage that we can and then also, selling a B2B product ends up being pretty cool because our customers are also business owners. So digging into that with customers is really insightful because they can give you feedback on a couple different levels being business owners themselves. So our customer development ends up being different than I think most people who are selling direct to consumer, but for us, every interview ends up being a gold mine of just cool concepts that merchants are doing and how they’re running their business. It helps us to build a product that really hits on needs of both them and their customers.

Joe: That’s great. Yeah, it’s almost like … I mean, as a programmer, I feel like if I’m giving feedback to another programmer, I need to bring my A game as far as that feedback goes because I hope for that when I get it from my users, right? I’m not just going to say this isn’t working. I’m going to say, “I tried it at this time right before this. Here’s a screenshot.” So that’s great. The other thing about a B2B product is I imagine that people will see the value a lot more quickly than just a regular, not regular consumer, but B2C, right? Especially in the WordPress space, I find it’s hard to convince people who are using a free open source product to pay for other good products, right? You see it in the Android space. You see it in the WordPress space where people want the free thing, but they’re not willing to pay for the paid thing even though it might save them hours of time.

Beka: Yeah, and it does make it way easier to sell because you set up this product and it makes you money. It’s pretty easy sales pitch for us where we can say, “What’s your revenue right now? How many orders do you have? This is what we think we’ll recover for you. That’s going to be more than what you’re paying every month.” You do certainly get people who are like, “Well, I could do this with a free plugin. Why should I pay for a service to do it instead?” Then we treat that as just an education opportunity. Say, “Well, there are certain things that WordPress is terrible at. Scheduling events is one of them and sending emails is another. These aren’t things you want to be doing on site.” So we do definitely see that, and it’s not necessarily systematic with open source but I think just kind of you get price anchored at things that are free. To be fair, we do offer a free plan just so we can support people who are getting started. But we look at it as an opportunity to open up a dialogue about education and why we do things the way we do.

Joe: Yeah, that’s a great approach. Not to make this like a complain fest are anything, but I hear the same thing. “Why should I buy your course when I can get it for free on YouTube?” I take that opportunity to say, “Sure. You can get it for free on YouTube, but you don’t get access to me as the instructor or you don’t get to ask your specific questions anywhere except for the YouTube comments, which are like a terrible place most of the time. Sure, you can get the content probably for free, but for $50 or whatever, you are also getting access to me and my 16 years of experience do this.” So yeah.

Beka: Yeah. We’ve definitely found that once people appreciate that opportunity then to ask questions and say, “Oh, well I didn’t know this. Can you explain that further to me?” So it ends up being kind of a cool opportunity to chat with people, and especially in our position, what I find powerful is we’ve built tons of plugins. So we can say, “Coming from what started as a plugin shop, there’s a reason we didn’t do it this way and here’s why.”

Joe: Right. Yeah. Absolutely. I think the most important lesson here is to kind of kill them with kindness, right? Don’t respond to their snark with more snark because you’re not going to make a customer out of that person. Where if you’re nice, you might make a customer out of that person.

Beka: Yeah. Exactly. That’s a great way of saying it.

Joe: So while we’re pretty well into this interview and I haven’t asked the title question yet so, and this one gets to rhyme. I’m really excited about this. We were talking about this before we started recording. So let’s talk about how you built Jilt.

Beka: There are tons and tons of layers that go into Jilt, and when we started, we knew that we did want to build this as an app. It’s something that was offsite, despite having had a ton of experience in WordPress. We’ve also had a lot of experience with hosted apps in the Shopify space. We know that trying to schedule events, WordPress plugin is just going to go poorly. So it was a pretty clear choice to us that this was something that we were going to build as a standalone service if we were going to do right, which is important our team. We want to try and do things the best way.

Beka: So we started out by building it in Ruby-On-Rails because that was what our main proficiency was as a team. We were building Shopify apps in Ruby. So it’s build with Ruby-on-Rails and Prospress. As we’ve kind of continued with Jilt, we’ve sort of started the brand a lot more components. Like we use Elastic Search under the hood now to determine campaign entry roles, and we’re starting to expose some of the Elastic Search abilities via segmentation, which we’re going to be rolling out in a couple weeks. So that you can target specific customers and orders instead of just general campaign rules. Like every carts that’s abandoned, it’s really important to us to let you say, “Nope, I want this cart that was abandoned with these characteristics.”

Beka: We also use Angular and UJS in a couple different parts of our app for customer facing features like the email editor and/or segmentation rules UI, which is been in progress for sometime and we’re getting pretty close to now, which I’m very excited for. Then we also use Intercom pretty heavily for in app messaging and support, which ends up being really powerful for a service like what we do to make sure that people can textually get help. “Yes, I’m in the email editor page, I want help with email. Can you help me get this set up?”

Joe: Very nice. Man, so there’s a lot of things here that I want to parse out. It sounds like in the … So first of all, I heard Angular and View, but what about React?

Beka: Everything in it’s place. We just felt like it wasn’t the right fit for us. I mean, we got started originally with the email editor in Angular because that was what we knew, and so it was the fastest way for us to get tat done. But we found that with the segmentation UI, getting started with View has given us much better tools. So the person who’s been leading that kind of switched over to that. So we are definitely not huge proponents of any particular JavaScript framework, and I know I’m probably going to upset some people just by saying that, but we try to use whatever we feel like is the best tool for the job. We don’t get tied to any particular tool or pattern or method of doing something. Evolution is a really big, important part of our company culture. So if we decide to change it in the future, we’ll change it.

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Joe: Absolutely. I mean, if anybody does get annoyed, I will happily defend your point because I’m much more interested in learning Vue than React. I know that react has gotten a lot easier to develop on with like a … I think Human Made put out like some easy build tool, but when I was looking into it, it was like, “Install this million things, and then run them and then maybe you can start writing code.” I’m like, “I just want to write code. I don’t want to build the car and the drive it.” So that aside, just like the JavaScript trolling aside, you mentioned that you knew you wanted to build an app because of the scheduling. In a previous episode I talked to Blair Williams of MemberPress, and he mentioned the difficulties of using WP-Cron, which is what I immediately thought of when you said, “You want to make sure the scheduled emails and building stuff on top of WordPress.” Was that something that kind of came into … Was that something that you were kind of thinking about? I know that WP-Cron only fires like when visitors hit the website.

Beka: Yeah. Having been in the WooCommerce space and working really closely with Prospress who built WooCommerce subscriptions, they are probably most acutely aware of every downside of using WP-Cron. So we knew that was not an opinion for us at all because of the fact that when you’re scheduling that number of events, you’re not guaranteed reliability in when Cron is going to fire, and those events are going to happen. More importantly, every Cron event is stored in a single option, which if you’ve worked with Cron, you’re probably nodding along and like, “Yep. It’s terrible.” So that’s why the subscriptions plug in actually uses Cron to just trigger a runner with their own custom scheduling library, which stores every event as a separate post, which they’re also in progress in moving to a custom table instead.

Beka: So what happens then is when you get to scale and you got a lot of events scheduled, you end up basically exhausting the maximum size of that option to store events. So we knew as soon as we were getting started with this that trying to do this on site was totally out of the question for us with the amount of emails that we were going to be scheduling. Because if you think about the number of orders you have, right? You’ve got twice as many been in cart. So imagine tripling the size of that orders table and sending emails for two out of every three of those. It’s a lot of events. So we knew going into this that that was not going to be something that was even on the table.

Joe: Gotcha. Yeah. Again, that makes perfect sense. You also take out the unknowns of other people’s hosting environments, right? Liquid Web is a very good host, very friendly to WooCommerce especially. But if somebody’s running on … Well, I won’t call out any hosts, but if somebody’s running on a host that’s not as friendly to running just regular Cron or WP- Cron or handling a bunch of events, your product could fail due to the environment, which is not necessarily your fault or within your control.

Beka: Right. We do have a number of things that are sort of happening on site just because of the fact that we wanted to have the tightest integration we can, but definitely if we can eliminate some of those variables to improve liability, it’s a huge win for the people who are using our service.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. So for anybody who’s not using Jilt, you have the app that is off site, kind of your hosted thing, and then you have the plugin that gets installed on your WooCommerce site or the, is it an extension on Shopify? So you install these components mostly to have the right data to be sending information, right?

Beka: Yep. So we could look at things purely via the WooCommerce rest API. But there are components that are better managed on site for reliability. So we do have the integration plugin that kind of rests on site, gives you set up options on site, and does some of those mission critical functions also in integrating with other extensions so that we can try and make Jilt as seamless as possible with WooCommerce. So the plugin itself isn’t doing a ton of heavy lifting. We try to offload as much to the app as we can, but it makes it pretty easy for people to get set up, and a lot of people are also really used to that. For example, with WooCommerce you realize, “Okay. If I want payment processing, I’ve got to install a plugin that connects a payment processor.” So with Jilt we do that. We try to make it really simple so when you install Jilt for WooCommerce, there’s like a one click sign up that’s like, “Here, yep. Connect to Jilt. Create an account. Cool. Come back, you’re ready to go.” So the plugins are what we’re using to connect, and then in the Shopify space, it ends up being a little bit different. Our Jilt Shopify app is actually built into the core Jilt app itself because we are doing everything via the API there with it being hosted.

Joe: Gotcha.

Beka: But it ends up looking the same where you’re in the app store and you click, “Yep, I want this app.” Connect, and then it connects to Jilt app.

Joe: Cool. Very cool. So I have one more followup question on building it, and it’s solely because this episode will be coming out around the time that this is happening, so I’m sorry I didn’t prep you for this. I just thought of it now. GDPR, do you have any thoughts on how that could affect shop owners or your people, if not we can totally edit this part out.

Beka: No, no, no. Yeah, it’s terrifying. I mean, not really terrifying, but it’s a lot. So the biggest thing that’s difficult for me with GDPR it’s a huge burden on both small merchants and small product builders like our company, right? We don’t have an in house equal team to refute EU regulations, nor do we know EU lawyers. We’re usually finding them through networks that we’ve built. So it’s a lot of compliance stuff, and I do worry how platforms themselves are going to handle it.

Beka: What we found on our end is that WooCommerce core has already added a couple PR’s in place to try to address this. By the time this airs, those might be merged, which lets your customers say, “I want you to delete my data from the site. I don’t want you to have my data anymore.” The problem being that you can’t just delete their orders, right? Because it’s illegal to delete those records for tax purposes. So you end up having this weird situation in which you have to anonymize some of the custom data but not all of it because we need to know where that customer was for tax ability purposes. So it ends up being a huge burden try and technically figure out how to do this. So WooCommerce core is working on it.

Beka: Liquid Web has a plugin actually already that you can install to do this for you. So they’ve been ahead of the curve there. Then there’s also the concept of opt in, which is the one that affects us most. So when a customer says, “I wan to reserve this item in my cart,” we have to say, “and here’s how we’re going to use your email address in this specific instance.” You have to explain what that opt in is going to do, and if you have an email list that you use or multiple purposes like marketing this and marketing this and marketing this, you have to lay out every single one of those opt ins when you’re opting the customer in, and they all have to be unchecked by default. So there’s a lot of maintenance burden that goes into it.

Beka: On our end, we’ve been sort of just watching what platforms are doing. So what WooCommerce is doing, what Shopify is doing. To see what we should be doing on site to piggyback that. On our end, that also affects us as a business owner who has EU customers to say, “Well, when our customers request to delete data, what do we have to do with our data?” Fortunately, we had already been in progress in making this simpler for ourselves to get the UK privacy shield certification done. So we can handle that on our side, but kind of helping our merchants me GDPR compliant has been our biggest focus right now. So it’s definitely pretty onerous for small business owners. I mean, just as much as the that moss regulations or for merchants in the EU a few years ago.

Joe: Right. Yeah. Because that’s the thing, right? This is an EU regulation that’s trying to be a kind of global regulation, and at this point, you can say, “Well, the EU doesn’t have jurisdiction in the United States, over the United States customers at least.” But we have to wait for like Google to sue the EU if they’re going to do that. Better safe than sorry.

Beka: For us, if we only had merchants based in the U.S., we probably wouldn’t be concerned with it. But we’ve got a significant user base in the EU whose in the same boat, right? We don’t want them to feel like, “Oh my gosh. This is overwhelming.” So if we can do something that helps them comply with that, we’re certainly keen on looking into it. But I can’t imagine being a merchant and being in this position and saying, “Oh my gosh. Now I’ve got … I can’t afford to hirer a developer to do all these things for me.” So fortunately, WooCommerce itself has been kind of looking into that and trying to give merchants tools they need to be compliant with it, but it’s a lot. It was definitely very, from what I saw, hasty. People didn’t know this existed until a month ago.

Joe: Right. That’s exactly … I was like, “When did this happen,” right? I mean, I have hear, “Oh, this thing passed today and in two years it’ll be a thing.” I feel like GDPR, which for those of you who don’t know, it’s like a data privacy act that … I guess, what’s the best way to describe it? It requires people who are collecting data on their websites to give their users an option to just get rid of all the data at its most basic level, right? I’ll have a link in the show notes to something that describes it more thoroughly. But I feel like it happened and now in May it’s happening.

Beka: Yeah. The first time I had heard of GDPR was, I mean, I think January. It was like, “Oh, okay. We’ll have to worry about that at some point,” and then it’s like, “Nope, you have to worry about it now.” It’s overwhelming. For a small team like ours, I mean, it certainly puts a big burden on us, which is not particularly welcome. But we can then empathize with the small merchants we work with who are in the same position.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great way to put it. That’s a very positive spin on that. So I really like that. We’ve talked a bit about the transformations of Jilt and how you acquired it and how you built it. What are your big plans for the future? This episode is dropping in May. So stuff that we’re talking about today that could be out by May, maybe. I don’t want to tie you to any of that. But the big things that you’re working on for the next few months.

Beka: Yeah. We have a ton in progress always. So right now our main focus has been getting segmentation UI available to people who are using our app so that when you send cart abandonment emails and post purchase followup emails, which we already do, that you can target those to your customers a bit better. So that’s the immediate focus. Longer term, it’s really important to us to be able to send emails that are going to make you more money. So we’re looking at other kinds of emails that are going to help you do that. So abandoned cart recovery emails make the most money on average, but there are tons of other emails that do that.

Beka: So for example, welcome emails. They don’t make a ton of money directly, but they make all your other emails more likely to be read. So we’re working on better welcome emails like, “Thanks for your first purchase,” or, “Thanks for registering as a customer on the site.” To get those other emails read, better post purchase follow ups, and win back emails. So we have the structure in place to do all of this now, which has been a pivot for us because Jilt doesn’t originally build to do what it’s doing now, and we’ve done a lot of infrastructure work. So I’m super excited over the next few months to start to put all the infrastructure we’ve refactored into play and say now we can make it easier to do welcome emails and then we can do win back emails. Let’s say after 60 days, someone hasn’t purchased.

Beka: We’re also looking at tighter integrations with other plugins given that we have a really unique skillset, a particular set of skills, right? That other companies don’t have. So working with things like memberships and subscriptions and other extensions. We want to get really granular there and give you a super seamless experience between your site and other extensions. That extends into things like other apps on Shopify that we can work together with and integration partnerships, other plugins and easy digital downloads as well because we think that space sort of gets ignored a little bit by bigger players and knowing that space very well, we can do the same thing there.

Beka: We’re very excited for more types of email sending that are onboarding and even more integrations, especially with the tools in a particular platform.

Joe: That’s great. I can definitely speak to the welcome, post purchase emails. I sell online courses. So LearnDash, my LMS, has an add on for that. So when somebody signs up for a course, I send them a welcome email. When they complete a certain module, I send them a follow up like, “Hey, how it’s going? You probably just took the hardest part of this course.” People are always surprised when they respond and I respond back. So adding that human element is really important and very difficult for an online shop. The things that you just said that you’re working on can really help bring that human element.

Beka: Oh, absolutely. Then that’s one of the things that I love about automation is people think of automation and they think it’s impersonal, right? You get this thing in your head about like automated call systems is always the thing that comes to mind for me. That’s not the case. It’s a way to get more personal because you can do things in a way that previously wouldn’t have scaled for you. When you have an online store 10 years ago, every customer looks the same to you. So you’re sending all of them the same emails. You’re sending all the same order receipts and things like that. That doesn’t have to be the case anymore. We can get more targeted and more granular.

Beka: Our goal is very long term that we want to be able to send every email in your customer’s life cycle for you eCommerce store. That means for stores that sell subscriptions we need to give you tools to say, “I want to send this to subscribers, but I want to send this to everybody else.” For membership stores that means, “I want to send these emails when new content is available. I want to send this information when you switch a membership.” All of these things that help you stay in contact with your customers and build a relationship. Building that relationship is essential for building loyalty and building repeat customers.

Beka: So it’s an ambitious goal but we’re definitely … We make progress towards it every single day.

Joe: Hugely helpful because right now in order for me to do that, I need to make sure that I tag customers in ConvertKit when they buy something so that I can then send them an email when they have that tag. If I don’t have to worry about … There’s a plugin that’s like customer email purchase list or something like that that gives me a list of all the emails, but, again, I want to make things as automatic as possible. I’m a one man band. So I don’t want to have to remember to send out these emails because they probably won’t get sent out, and then it seems impersonal, right? The automated email is something I don’t have to remember to do, and then when somebody responds, I get to respond to them. So, like you said, it does make things … It creates opportunities to be a lot more personal.

Beka: Yeah, exactly, and that’s what we’re looking to do is help you build those relationships with your customers and keeping instated communication with them is one of the best ways to do that.

Joe: Great. Great so we’ve gotten a lot of really good information here, and I want to end with my favorite question, which is do you have any trade secrets for us?

Beka: You know I thought about this one, and the one that came to mind was like send abandoned emails because as someone who builds an app for that, when we get leads who don’t convert, we’ll send them followups and stuff like that. So apply that to your business no matter what you do. But I guess more specifically to building products, both downloadable software and SAS products, the biggest thing that we found that has helped us be successful is to invest in your customers. So we try to spend a lot of time on customer education and helping them solve problems and talking to them and trying to understand what challenges their business faces. It’s a big time investment. It’s hard to do, right? But when we do that, we find that we learn so much about their journey and what they’re doing that it helps us big much better products and be more successful as a company as a result. So that kind of concept of investing in your customers has really benefited us in what we’ve been doing.

Joe: Yeah. Calling back to what you said earlier, it helps you empathize with your customers more, which is what we want. That’s excellent, excellent advice. Invest in your customers, and of course send abandonment emails. I can vouch for that definitely. It’s definitely … It’s worth the investment. You definitely make what you paid and more in that investment.

Joe: So Beka Rice, thanks for joining me today. I really appreciate the time.

Beka: Yeah, thanks so much, Joe. We’re both in Pennsylvania enjoying being snowed in right now. So we had nothing better to do, right?

Joe: Yeah, exactly. Hopefully by the time this comes out it’ll be nice and we’ll be able to spend time outside, but we’re snowed in right now. Where can people find you?

Beka: So you can find me on Twitter @Beka_Rice. I also write on our Jilt.com blog on our SkyVerge.com blog and many times if you really want to get ahold of me, if you’re one of those contact forms, you say my name three times like Beetlejuice, I pop up. So feel free to reach out. I do love talking to people about what they’re doing. So you can always get ahold of me through either one of those sites.

Joe: Thanks again to Beka for joining me today! I’m a huge fan of Jilt and was honored to have their support for this season. I have an even bigger appreciation of it now that I know some of the under-the-hood stuff. If you do anything with ecommerce and carts, check them out (their blog is great too!)

And Thanks again to our sponsors – make sure to check out Liquid Web for managed WordPress hosting. I use them on all of my important sites – they are that good! They are at buildpodcast.net/liquid. They’ll give you 50% off your first 2 months just for being a listener! If you want to save your clients (or yourself) money through recovering abandoned carts, check out jilt. They are over at buildpodcast.net/jilt. Finally, be sure to check out WordSesh. An incredibly affordable, 12 hour online conference with some of the biggest thought leaders in WordPress. get your tickets at buildpodcast.net/wordsesh.

For all of the show notes, head over to howibuilt.it/81/. If you like the show, head over to Apple Podcasts and leaving us a rating and review. It helps people discover us! Finally, if you like the show and what to support it directly, head over to patreon.com/howibuiltit/. I’ll continue to push out content there even during the break. So if you can’t get enough of the show, Patreon’s your best bet to get even more great stuff!

Thanks so much for listening this Season – it’s been the best season so far! I have big plans for Season 5, so be sure to stay subscribed and keep an eye out for that, dropping in a few weeks. So until next season, get out there and build something.

The post Beka Rice and Jilt appeared first on How I Built It.

May 29 2018

42mins

Play

Episode 33: Erin Flynn & Teaching Freelance

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Erin Flynn is a freelancer and educator based on Colorado. In this episode we talk about how she found her way into the product space, all the twists and turns of freelancing, and how she creates courses and keeps her sales funnel on point.

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The post Episode 33: Erin Flynn & Teaching Freelance appeared first on How I Built It.

Apr 25 2017

27mins

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Episode 16: Jackie D’Elia & What We Learned Podcasting, Part 1

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It’s the end of Season 1! In this 2-part episode, Jackie and I cover everything we’ve learned while starting a new podcast. In this part (part 1), we go over the ideas for each podcast, some early trial and error, pre- and post-production, tricks of the trade, and more.

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The post Episode 16: Jackie D’Elia & What We Learned Podcasting, Part 1 appeared first on How I Built It.

Dec 06 2016

27mins

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Getting the Right Audio Gear with Ryan White

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I’m ending this season of How I Built It by geeking out about audio stuff with my guest, Ryan White. He’s the US Product Specialist for Rode Microphones – a company that makes great gear, and who has an increasingly bigger presence in the podcasting space. We talk gear, room acoustics, and more. AND you can hear their newest product, the Rodecaster Pro, in action (if there’s anything to hear, that is). All of that and more, after a word from our sponsors.

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Transcript

Break: Hey everybody. As we gear up for 2020, I want to hear from you and the things that you’d like to see on this show. If you have a question, a comment, a topic, a guest, or any suggestion for How I Built It in 2020, let me know by going to HowIBuilt.it/feedback. That’s HowIBuilt.it/feedback if you would like to see something on this show in 2020. And now, on with the show.

Intro: Hey, everybody. I am ending this season, and this year of How I Built It by geeking out about audio stuff with my guest, Ryan White. I met Ryan at Podcast Movement, and he is the US product specialist for RØDE Microphones, a company that makes great gear and who has an increasingly bigger presence in the podcasting space. I thought this was appropriate because I have focused a lot of my own year on podcasting, launching my own course, and my own service, which you’ll probably hear more about in the coming weeks or months. So I wanted to end with some information about how you can start your own podcast, room acoustics, and stuff like that. We talk gear, room acoustics, and more, and you can hear their newest product. That is if you can hear their newest product. The RØDECaster Pro in action, and again that’s if there’s anything to hear. Of course, if you want to learn more about podcasting in general, you can head over to the show notes for this page. HowIBuilt.it/149, there will be a free PDF podcast workbook that you can download. But we’ll get into everything that we talk about with Ryan, and more, after a word from our sponsors.

Break: This episode is brought to you by our friends at Ahoy! The easiest way to increase customer engagement on your WordPress site. Install Ahoy! Create a message box, configure a way to display it, and start seeing conversions come in. You can create messages for cart abandonment, up-sales and cross-sells, custom support, and so much more. Ahoy! Has flexible conditions that let you choose exactly where and when you want your message to be displayed. I’ve recently installed it on my own WooCommerce site, and I’ve already seen increased engagement. I know this because of Ahoy! and it’s powerful analytics and reporting. You will see ROI within days of installing Ahoy! If not sooner. That’s even more true for listeners of How I Built It. You can get an exclusive 20% discount on any plan. Visit UseAhoy.com/HowIBuiltIt and use the code HOWIBUILTIT at checkout. Use those today and increase your engagement in sales on your WordPress site. Thanks to Ahoy! for their support of this show.

Joe Casabona: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today my guest is Ryan White, and he is the US products specialist for RØDE Microphones. I met him at Podcast Movement 2019. Ryan, thanks for coming on the show. How are you doing?

Ryan White: Joe, thanks so much for having me. I’m doing excellent, and it’s been a great week.

Joe: Awesome. Glad to hear it. We got to chatting at Podcast Movement because while you were at the RØDE table and I wanted to try out– I’m going to mess up the name here because I don’t have it written down and I forget the order, but the RØDE Pod Master? RØDE Master, or something like that?

Ryan: It’s the RØDECaster Pro and the new PodMic. I apologize, we’ve got some– Especially with the podcast stuff growing so much, we got a lot of the “Podcaster,” “Procaster,” “PodMic,” “The Podcaster.” All those are obviously puns on the application. I always joke that no offense to these guys either, but all the companies like Audio Technica that have the numbers like “The 4040, the 4050, the 4060.” They all go like 20, 30, and 4. I don’t have to memorize those, and I have a couple of names that I have to memorize that are application-based. But those of you that don’t work with RØDE every day, I completely understand a little bit of the mix-up. But yes, the RØDECaster Pro is the new podcast desk, and the PodMic is coming very soon, the new $99 dynamic podcast mic.

Joe: Yes, I was using the RØDE Procaster for a while, and the RØDE Podcaster is a USB mic that I often recommend to people. I always mess up the name of the RØDECaster Pro because I think I’m mixing them up.

Ryan: Totally. I Freudian slip them all the time as well, and then you catch yourself and go, “No. I totally meant the desk, the RØDECaster. Not the microphone, the Procaster.” But it’s all in good fun. The thing is, I think it sticks into people’s heads, they have to picture it. They have to dive a little deeper, so maybe there’s a little bit extra in the naming to make it stick with you.

Joe: Absolutely. Because we have a product specialist from RØDE Microphones, I thought it would be fun to talk gear today. A lot of people generally ask me, “What do you use? What should I use? What’s a good first microphone?” I always give a recommendation without digging deep into the science of it. I understand it, but I don’t think I can explain it as well as some folks. Let’s start off with who you are and what you do at RØDE.

Ryan: I started five years ago with RØDE. An old coworker of mine at Slate Digital, which was where I was as an intern right after school, called me and said, “I got the sales job over at RØDE Microphones. Are you familiar?” I said, “NTK. First microphone ever that I fell in love with from RØDE, and I bought the NT1-A.” I was an intern in LA, so I didn’t make enough money to afford the NTK at the time, but a $230 NT1-A was just right up my alley. Then I eventually upgraded into the NTK and the K2, with two mics, but I knew about the company, and I loved them, so I said, “Heck yeah. What’s the job?” It’s travel for work, and I always wanted to travel for work. I’m in the audio industry, so whether that was touring or being a front house engineer all the way to the sales or education side of things. They said, “We’re going to have you talk about microphones across the country, and you just hit the road, no pun intended. Maybe a little bit of a pun intended.” I started talking to our dealers and other events that those dealers might put on. So what I then transitioned that into was schools and events, Podcast Movement and different things like that, so that we can also interact with the end-user. That has helped grow the number of people that we’re reaching on the backside.

Joe: That’s fantastic. So you’ve basically been in the audio space since you graduated, did you major in–? Did you study this field as well, or what did you major in? I know a lot of people probably don’t think of majoring in podcasting, but there is an audio engineering field.

Ryan: Absolutely. Funnily enough, I was the [A2] for an arena when I was 19 years old, and I like to joke that I knew the person at the time. But so much of what we do is knowing the right person at the right time, and then I like to joke that I was good enough to not get fired. It’s true. It’s funny, but it hits hard. Sometimes some of the hardest lessons you learn are messing up, but I was good enough to not get fired on that job, and I did three and a half years at the arena and became the [A1]. At about 23, it got a little bit too political, and I went and got that piece of paper that everybody was looking for. Back then, everybody was looking for a degree, or at least an associates or tech school or something, so I found the Conservatory Recording Arts and Sciences out in Phoenix, Arizona. Shout out to those guys, they’re amazing. At the time, it was an eight-month program with a guaranteed 280 hour, I believe it was, internship. They also guaranteed, “You’re going to have to go get in the industry after this is done.” So I was like, “What an easy way to get that piece of paper and then right back in the industry.” It wasn’t a two year or four-year thing, so I could also invest some pretty quick time and get that going. That led me to Slate Digital, and a few years later, here I am with RØDE, so it’s been great.

Joe: That’s fantastic. First of all, so much of what we do is knowing the right person at the right time. I love that. There’s hard work, luck, and timing that I think all go into success. But with such a focus on doing the four-year education, you are a great example of somebody who knew what they wanted to do and got the education they needed without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get it.

Ryan: Yeah. I had a very deep conversation with my father about that eventually, and it’s funny because, like I said, I didn’t go to an audio school until I was 24-25. I was going to school, and I did DeVry University for a year. It was a great program, and it got me all the electronics stuff for one year prior to, but I was diving into more engineering from a physical mathematics standpoint. Like an actual engineer, not an audio engineer, which we throw that word around loosely, but I like to lovingly say what the school would call a “Pretengineer,” somebody who fakes it and acts like an engineer. I’m thankful for my past having put me in the fire, whether it was from a school standpoint or a live sound standpoint, to learn troubleshooting. Because once you learn troubleshooting and how the signal works, it’s not as difficult as it seems. It seems like a little bit of witchcraft, voodoo, and so forth to start, but once you learn that, everything falls into place from everything else. Like, application standpoint. DeVry was great for a year, but it was leading me into another path that I didn’t quite want to go into, so I moved on from that. I went to KU– I’m from Kansas City. I’m a Kansas City boy, so I went to KU for about a semester, and that’s when my dad reached out and said, “Love you, but–” I was at a business major at that time. I completely flipped the script. I was like, “Maybe I can start my own business in the audio space,” because Kansas City wasn’t a huge market for it. I just gave that up for a little bit, took my Dad’s advice. It was great advice. I dated this girl, got the job at the arena, and the rest is history. It was just meant to be, and it was really good advice from my father. He was like, “Don’t spend all your money just trying to do that. Find the one thing that you truly want to do and go find the place that will help you do it.” Then I had the guts and so forth to leave state, move halfway across the country, uproot myself and move to LA, which was a culture shock from Kansas City. I did this whole back and forth thing for quite a while, to try to find my place, and it’s been really good for me so far. I’ve met some amazing people along the way, and it then solidifies that.

Joe: Lots of really good advice already, just like general life advice.

Ryan: I don’t think about it until I talk to people who just did a four-year degree, and then they’re back out into it, and they’re like, “You did what to chase down some audio?” “I moved to three different states six different times.”

Joe: That’s great because now we have a really good setup for what we’re ultimately going to talk about. Which is, let’s say I’m a podcaster, and I want to start doing screen casts. Where do I start? Usually, I ask people on this show what research they did in vetting their own idea for a business or product, but in this case, what research should somebody do setting up their audio equipment, or determining what audio equipment they should get?

Ryan: I surprise people when I talk about this, but I think truly, Ryan White the audio engineer that works for RØDE Microphones feels that the best thing for audio, for RØDE, for Ryan White the engineer– And then again, for that end user who’s going to actually be using this stuff, I surprise people because I don’t just pitch a microphone right away. I say a couple different things. First thing is unless you already know you have an unlimited budget, don’t just aim for the top. I always use Mogami Cables as an example, they’re amazing. But if you have a full-fledged studio– Not even a home studio, and you want to upgrade your microphone cable to Mogami into your interface, but then you patched through this patch cable that’s $2, you just took that $50 cable and turned it into a $2 cable. I always preach that you need an average, find your budget. It’s not about the money to start, but if you don’t have the money, you can’t start. So it’s also a bit of that conversation. I never ask, “Are you at $200, or are you at $2,000 dollars? Or are you at $200,000 dollars?” Because it’s irrelevant. You find the average and set the budget that you have, and that’s what solves your thing. I know a lot of guys who do video work on YouTube and so forth that have videos that are talking about the $350 dollar podcast, the $2,000 dollar podcast, the $20,000 dollar podcast. So they all have their own space, but what they never say there is, “You have to have this piece of gear.” No, it’s “How do you solve your problem with the budget that you have, with the setup that you have, with the room that you have?” Because the next thing that I ask is, “How’s your room?” So there’s two things, get an average, and “How is your room?” And those two things are before I even ask you about what microphone you want, because if you buy a $3,500 Neumann and then put it into a room that sounds horrible, that Neumann was just again turned into a $2 piece of junk. You also have a nice average on the room. Once we get past that, we can start talking about microphone type and placement.

Joe: That’s fantastic. Because I think a lot of people probably don’t realize how important the environment is, no matter how expensive your microphone is. If you’re getting a ton of echo or you’re right next to a nursery, and your kid is crying, and your microphone picks it up, there’s nothing you can do about– There’s very little you can do about that.

Ryan: Very little. I love the guys over at Isotope, and Adobe’s doing a lot of great stuff inside of Premiere now. I’ve been using the Isotope stuff since day one, and RX is a wonderful piece of software, but I often get customers who come back to me from a freelance standpoint before RØDE, where it was like “How do I get rid of the reverb in this room?” And oh my gosh, the algorithm to even think about getting rid of reverb is astounding. RX does a good job of their reverb plugin, specifically to that, but one thing you can’t do is if it’s just reverb RX has nothing to pull from the source. So I commonly teach in my video classes that what makes me professional is not what I record from a standpoint of my source. Like, if I’m recording you, Joe, it’s fairly easy to have you stand in front of my microphone from 5-10 feet away with a good room and record you. Now, if that baby starts crying or that airplane flies over, the reverb in the room is more than Joe by himself. Big issues, so solve that first. Use RX to customize and/or to amend it a little bit, but don’t use it to be your sole source of sound.

Joe: Yeah, exactly. People have asked me, “My dog is barking in the background. How do I get that out?” “You get that out by re-recording what you just said without the dog barking in the background.”

Ryan: Asking your dog politely to be quiet. No, you ask your buddy. I joke about it, but it’s your animal. You love that animal. If you can, I’m not even joking about if your setup calls for you to ask your buddy to babysit your dog while you do a two-hour recording, do it. It sounds like an extreme, but it’s either that or try to fix a dog bark in a recording. It’s very tough to do.

Break: This episode is brought to you by Pantheon. Starting a new project? Looking for a better hosting platform? Pantheon is an integrated set of tools to build, launch, and run websites. Get high-performance hosting for your WordPress sites, plus a comprehensive toolkit to supercharge your team and help you launch faster. On Pantheon, you get expert support from real developers, best in class security, and the most innovative technology to host and manage your websites. You can sign up a new site in minutes with a free account, and you only pay when it goes live. That is my second favorite feature to Pantheon, only to the easy ability to create dev staging and live servers and push to GitHub. It’s very easy to set those things up on Pantheon, so you can head over to Pantheon.io today. Again, set up a free account and pay only when it goes live. Thanks so much to Pantheon for their support of this episode and this season of How I Built It.

Joe: I just recently moved into a new house, and there’s one amendment I need to make to my office, which is there’s no door at the top of the stairs. When my daughter is playing two rooms away, that sound is traveling because there’s nothing to stop it. Now I record on the days she’s in daycare or when she’s down for a nap, but I have my door ready. I need to put it up.

Ryan: That whole thing turns into a chamber and amplifies it by the time it gets to you, funny enough. Put a Bluetooth speaker in a bathroom and then walk four rooms down and tell me if it’s not louder than it appears when you’re in that bathroom. It absolutely does.

Joe: It’s funny, you mention that. My wife, she was like, “Really? You can hear us from the other end of the sunroom?” And I’m like, “Yeah. That sound gets amplified when it travels through the kitchen and down the echoey stairs into my office.

Ryan: Every word.

Joe: It’s not their fault, I’m not going to tell them to stop playing.

Ryan: Absolutely. “Daddy’s recording, so please–” Yeah, can’t do that.

Joe: All this talk about environment, what are some things that somebody can do in a home office to improve their environment? Or, generally, improve the recording quality even before they buy a microphone?

Ryan: Rugs are your best friend. A non-reflective surface on a table, like your desk. Considering the fact that you don’t want it to be reflective right at the microphone, and then after that there is a ton of do it yourself videos out there for making your own sound panels for– By the time you’re done with it and everything it is a lot more work, but you’re talking $10 a panel. Past that, if your budget also allows, the guys at [Arlex] do excellent work. The various companies that are out there for sound paneling are absolutely amazing at what they do. Like I said, a rug is the first one that people often overlook, but your hardwood floor is very reflective, and when you’re talking dialogue, you don’t need a lot of reflection. You don’t need a completely dead room either, but if you’re even outside of that budget, I literally went to U-Haul and bought five or six heavy moving blankets. You put up two or three microphone stands in a T bar and hang those heavy blankets over the top of them and surround yourself with them. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s that. And then the next thing that everybody does on a super budget if your house happens to have a walk-in closet fill it full of clothes and put some foam on the ceiling and on the door, and sit in there and do your podcast. It’s absolutely hilarious, but it is very budget-friendly to start making podcasts.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s great advice. People laugh at that, too. But after my daughter was born, I would grab a comforter, and I would put it over my head, my microphone, my whole computer. Because it worked, it absorbed the sound.

Ryan: Yeah. You were totally like Harry Potter in the beginning of whichever movie that was where he was lighting up the wand, and you’re just burying yourself under the blankets. Let’s do the best we can. You’re hanging out under there for an hour, your daughter comes in and thinks you’re crazy. But at the same time, good sound.

Joe: Yeah, exactly. I think probably the principles that we’re touching on here are we want to make sure that sound is absorbed and not reflected back into the microphone.

Ryan: Correct.

Joe: Deferred or diffused. Let’s say that we’re at a spot– By the way, I’ll include a bunch of this stuff in the show notes. I have a couple of [ROX] panels right behind me.

Ryan: There you go.

Joe: I’ll include a lot of the stuff in the show notes, but let’s say we’re at a spot where we found a good place to record, it’s absorbing and deflecting sound to the best of its abilities. Now we’re ready to get some equipment, but before we get to the microphone– I swear this is not a way to keep people listening, but before we get to the microphone, you mentioned something that I very rarely talk about, which is cables. I want to talk about this because when I first had my setup, I had a nice pre-amp, but I had a very long, cheap cable, and I was getting ground noise or white noise, and I couldn’t figure out why. Turns out, the cable was too long and cheap, so I was losing a bit on the way to my computer.

Ryan: Was it XLR, or was it like an eight-inch headphone-style jack?

Joe: It was XLR. Yeah, I had an [ATR–] Something.

Ryan: Yeah. XLR surprises me, because XLR at its max I’ve ran a 400 foot XLR before. Back when I worked at that arena, it was sometimes necessary to get to trucks, and the whole point of an XLR is that it’s balanced, positive/negative doesn’t equal left and right. It equals in phase and out of phase, and without getting too crazy about it, they cancel each other out the whole run. So unless you need more push from the actual signal, it runs a long way, and it’s supposed to cancel noise the whole way. If it’s an eighth-inch unbalanced cable and or stereo unbalanced left and right, it doesn’t do that. So you’ve got a 30-foot max if you are in a good scenario. If you’re in downtown New York, all the radio and TV broadcasting stuff can amplify through your cable and then into your recording. So, when we can, I always push for XLR, but that’s astounding that you had that problem with an XLR at a home studio.

Joe: I’m guessing I probably got the cheapest cable– Or is it just like XLR–?

Ryan: It could have just been as simple as being damaged.

Joe: Yeah, that’s true.

Ryan: If the negative chain is shorted out, it’s still possible that you could still be getting signal and then adding noise to the signal. Another rule of thumb too, and this is typically for longer cables, is to not let it run directly alongside power cables. Because power is the one and only thing that really can jump into your audio signal from an XLR. Because if it’s running alongside of it, alternating current can jump. It sounds absolutely crazy, it’s not going to be this voltage arc, but I’ve worked many live sound events where people get shocked and so forth from actual power running through the audio signal. It’s scary, man.

Joe: Absolutely. And I’m glad you mentioned that too because I did specifically by a surge protector that has ground protection and there’s a bit more balance. It’s not your run of the mill surge protector, and I got it for that reason. I have it mounted in a little box, and everything else is plugged into it. Either way, that’s all for naught now because I have a universal audio arrow that it’s just USB-C powered and plugs right into my computer. We’re talking a lot about XLR microphones, and I will link in the show notes a resource describing the difference between a USB and an XLR microphone. We have our room, we’ve talked a little bit about cables and signal and how we can prevent some of that ground noise, let’s talk about microphones. Let’s say we want a USB microphone, and I’m reading this stuff about plosives and condenser mics, and this and that. How do I parse through all that information?

Ryan: I teach three things in my class, for microphones first. This is typically more of the microphone tech itself, and we can get into some of those other secondary things here in a little bit. But I teach the type of microphone, so dynamic, condenser, ribbon. Then I teach the polar pattern, because like I said earlier, what makes you a professional is what you get rid of. It’s easier to capture yourself, but it is harder to get rid of things. So if you are using a sensitive shotgun microphone in a noisy environment, that shotgun is going to do a better job because it’s doing its job of picking up all that surrounding noise as well. So a dynamic microphone is often softer, harder to influence with outside noise. Like you were talking much daughter earlier, running around the house way down the house, dynamic has a better chance of not picking that up because it doesn’t have as much energy. When we’re close to it, it does pick it up, and when we’re farther away, it doesn’t as easily. So, you get a little bit better chance of that. If you’re in a noisy environment right from the start and your room’s already good, I do recommend the dynamic for the dialogue first, because it’s going to also help you with all the other external noise. Unless you’re in a professional studio, you’re probably going that way. Then the third is frequency response, which is basically the EQ of the microphone. It’s a fixed EQ built into the microphone to make it sound this way, and we use a lot of adjectives to talk about brightness or accuracy or mud or beefiness, or whatever adjective you wanted– Body and chest tone, and all the other adjectives that you want to throw onto that. The main thing there is to be sure to look at those three things, because they’re going to be what creates your original setup and tell you how to best design your room and your podcast, just from the specs of the microphone alone. After that, you can get into some of the more strenuous tech talk.

Joe: To sum that up a little bit, we’re talking type of microphone. Because depending on the type of microphone and what you’re using it for, I would probably have a different microphone for my drum set than I would for podcasting.

Ryan: Absolutely, and that’s one of the things that I talk about. When you learn the tech, then you can start artistically getting creative with them. I’ve been lucky enough in the five years that I’ve been doing this, especially with schools, you’ll be with students who the best time to learn is to do it at school. So they’re like, “Let’s put this ribbon microphone on top of the snare.” This is not an example of something we did, but you can try that stuff. I’m blessed to be a product specialist with demo microphones that I’m not out there actively trying to break any microphones, but the best time to test them is when you’re with a representative and when you have a demo microphone, and when you’re in school. Because that’s going to– I used to be in the Patch Bay just patching everything that I could, just trying to work myself out of the signal flow so that I could find my way back. The goal was to mess it up. I literally remember some dude making fun of me at school because I put Auto-Tune on every single track in a song one time, and I was trying to learn Auto-Tune. What’s the best way to learn Auto-Tune? Do it too much and then come back, come back to reality, and “OK. The vocals need this. I know how to use Auto-Tune now.” That’s what I talk about with microphones too, and it gives you a little bit of problems too because I’m not telling you to go out and buy five microphones to do this. But when you are in the market, it’s best to go find some demos that you can try out on location or anything like that and then take them home.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. Find a local music shop near you and see if they have some demos setup. My friend Sean Housecat, I’ll link this in the show notes as well, he has a six mic shoot out where he says the same thing over six different microphones. But that still will only get you so far, because everybody’s voice is different.

Ryan: Absolutely. Everybody’s room is different, everybody’s voice is different. Then I’ll also be a bit of a stickler here too, in that a true shootout calls for the microphones to be on the exact same performance with the exact same phase, as close as humanly possible. So if you’ve ever seen a shootout where they put two microphones, literally microphone to microphone, capsule to capsule, that’s a true audio test. With headphones or with your studio speakers on, you can sit there and go, one, two, one, two. They are literally the exact same performance because if you do it two different times, I’m not even joking when I say that if you say the same thing a second time, you cannot repeat it to the exact same specs. Now, you don’t have to be that overly detailed or technical about it. If they do a good job of just trying to stay consistent, you get a good idea of which one you feel like might be better for your voice. So, you go for that.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s see, so you mentioned types of microphone, polar pattern, and frequency response. I’m going to skip to frequency response before we talk about polar pattern, just a little bit. Because I think that a lot of podcasters probably could get away without buying the $3,500 Neumann microphone because you don’t need to pick up as much vocal range when you’re talking when you’re doing spoken word voice over, versus when you’re singing. Is that right?

Ryan: 100% correct. We do that with singing because we want a lot more of that clarity, that brightness, those adjectives that we’re talking about where you, “Sit on top of the mix,” you come out above the guitars, the drums, and etc. Sometimes with tracks like screaming tracks or rock tracks, you bury the vocals a little bit deeper. Plus, they’re screaming at a million DB, so the RØDE Procaster or the PodMic, the SM-7B from Shure, the RE-20 from Electro-Voice. All the things you got the RØDE options there, which tend to be more affordable doing the same job. Then you can go for the professional industry standards that have been around since World War 2, to exaggerate a little bit.

Joe: That’s absolutely right. I interviewed Peter Holland about a year ago, and I wanted to ask him what microphone he used, and he was using a multi-thousand dollar Telefunken, he said was his favorite because it picks up that really deep singing he does. He has a wide range, so he can do the highs. I don’t want to say the words, because I think I’m going to mess them up. Baritone is deep, right?

Ryan: Yeah, I believe so. There’s bass, and think bass is the lowest below baritone.

Joe: Yes, right.

Ryan: I’m not classically trained, so if I got that incorrect, sorry to those out there that are classically trained as well.

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Joe: If we’re talking about a microphone for podcasting, then you want to make sure you have a good– Like Ryan said, a dynamic microphone. The polar pattern is going to be important here, and I know a lot of people who the Blue Yeti gets recommended a lot, and then people say they have a bad experience with it. The Blue Yeti allows you to change the polar pattern, so I’ll usually tell people if they’re getting bad sound from a Yeti, they should check the gain and check the polar pattern. Can you unpack that a little, and then let people know what I mean by those things?

Ryan: Absolutely. The polar pattern, again, it’s going back to what you can get rid of. With a polar pattern, it gives you options to do omnidirectional or bi-directional, what’s called super- and hyper-cardioid, which are shotgun microphones. Then cardioid, which is not exactly accurate but it’s about 50%. The back of it is cancelled, and the front of it is not. In the case of a home studio, the cardioid pattern tends to work the best. Because home offices, bedrooms, living rooms, they are square and they are reflective, and in a bad way. Where it’s fast enough to get back to the microphone to be awkward and cause fazing and cause weird sounds and tones, so if you can cancel out the backside of that microphone and be closer to the microphone, the better chance you have of your signal being clear and unedited into the microphone. Then the back of the microphone takes care of a bigger chunk of the extras, the other things that are going on. So, reflections off the backside of it. Kids running around the hallways, all that stuff. I always like to say, “Put the bad noise behind the microphone and put your face in front of the microphone, and then whatever proximity is going to depend on whatever room you’re in.” Close proximity is going to give you a deeper, more full sound, and back off of it’s going to give you a little bit more natural sound. But again, the further you get away from it, the more you’re going to pick up the stuff you don’t want. Then with things like omnidirectional, going back to the Blue Yeti. Now, I’m not a representative of Blue, but at the same time, and I’m an industry familiar. Because we have the RØDE into USB, which is designed as a cardioid vocal microphone, instrument microphone, and you can absolutely use it for podcasting. I 100% love it for Twitch. Anybody who’s doing something else while they’re trying to get dialogue into USB is an absolute rockstar, and the reason is because it’s sensitive. It’s got a good tone to it that’s not overpowering, so you could set it on your desk and point it back at your face from about three feet and capture what’s happening while still having a controller in your hand, while still having headphones on, while still playing a guitar or singing. Which we also have people that do that, so it’s just a nice overall plug and play USB microphone with less options. One of the downfalls to the Yeti is that people that are uneducated in polar pattern technology or anything like that might sit there and turn on all microphones. Because I think it’s got three capsules inside, they are half-inch condensers, which makes them sensitive and flexible, and that’s a good thing if you know how to use it. If you put it in omnidirectional, you’re going to have one $150 dollar microphone that’s capturing everything that you tried to get rid of. So, if you have multiple people, it’s also going to be worse because whoever is closest to the microphone is going to sound nice and clear and big, and then the person that’s not is going to sound like they’re a football field away. So, use that with some knowledge of what it’s doing, and you could use it 100% if you’re trying to minimize problems. I’ve always taught if you have four people in your podcast, don’t put one omnidirectional microphone in the middle. Give everybody their own inexpensive, dynamic microphone.

Joe: Absolutely. I think that’s a really good call because you can get a pretty inexpensive dynamic microphone these days, or a USB one that plugs just right into your computer or whatever. We are coming up on time here, I could talk about audio geek stuff all day, but the last question– Or maybe to sum up and put this in a nice package, we’ve talked a lot about USB vs. XLR. If I am starting a podcast today, we have an outline of what we want to do. We have the environment, we have some of the things that we can do in the room to make sure we have good sound, and then we’ve talked about different types of microphones. What, in your opinion, is a good starter kit for a podcaster? I know this is a little bit of a loaded question because you work for RØDE, but I’m talking to you specifically because I think that there is a really good answer in here, and I think that you’re very apt to answer it.

Ryan: Absolutely. With some of the new stuff from RØDE, we’re definitely diving heavier into the podcast space, as everybody probably already knows. If you’re listening to this and our talk at Podcast Movement, and so forth. A great starter kit and the one that I’ve been editing for and or using for a long time with some of my friends who do podcasts and different things like that, the Zoom whatever level to the XLR. I think it’s the H-1– I don’t think the H-1 has an XLR otherwise, but it was usually like some external recorder and a microphone or two. So you could go get a dynamic microphone for $20 bucks, and again I teach application over everything else. So you’re looking at a recorder, whether that’s your phone or zoom or a [inaudible], and then two basic dynamic microphones. Boom, I’ve started. The secondary thing is, “Are you going to make a phone call? Are you going to bring in USB technology? Do you have pads to trigger things?” I think everybody knows where I’m going with this. As soon as you have to do those things, it’s the RØDECaster Pro 100%. So RØDE did an amazing job when they built this desk to take those problems that are not based on RØDE, they’re based on industry problems because the guys over at RØDE are also doing this stuff. You’ve got a mixer, you’ve got three channels that are absolutely the powerhouse on it are the USB, the TRRS, and the Bluetooth. I can have up to seven tracks on this, and I can do redundant recording to ProTools. It is a zoom recorder because it’s got an SD card in it, but it’s not a zoom recorder, by the way. Just a disclaimer, but it’s got the SD card right on it, so you are recording to it. And actually, I’m doing that right now as we’re talking. Then I can plug in a TRRS jack from Skype, which I am also doing right now, a Bluetooth signal if you have another phone call from wherever in the world, and then the USB track. All that stuff put into one bundle at $600 dollars, that’s the price, it’s $599. Trust me, the headaches and the gear alone is going to cost you $600 bucks or more, and the headaches are going to want to make you quit. So after you’re out of that basic setup, you want to dive into this piece, and the other thing is as soon as the PodMic is released officially in full force, which it’s getting better every single day. At $99 dollars, you can buy four of the PodMics for the cost of a lot of our competitors. So there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those competitors, it’s just again, going back to consider what you’re trying to accomplish on what budget. This is an amazing pack for that to happen.

Joe: Awesome. I love that. Again, if you’re looking to start a recorder and two basic dynamic mics, I think that that’s something I generally skip over is the recorder part. I say, “Plug it right into your computer.” But if your computer crashes or something and it fails, you’re going to wish you had that recorder that was dedicated to recording that. My friend Jeff is very insistent upon saving to a recorder and then exporting it later.

Ryan: Absolutely. I did not touch on that, and I apologize for that. Sometimes with the newer gear, it goes by the wayside, and I apologize for that. But I did mention the into USB, but even more so than that it’s a little bit more expensive. But you mentioned it earlier, and The Podcaster is a dynamic broadcast microphone. It stems from the Procaster, which is an XLR version, and you can get that for $230. USB right into your computer and headphone out. The whole thing is designed to be plug and play, so again at $230, that’s an excellent solution where it’s all in one. Now you open up your Mac laptop, you open up [Reaper] or ProTools or whatever your level. GarageBand, for what Mac can do. Then that becomes your recorder with a USB microphone that’s a professional microphone.

Joe: That’s fantastic. Ryan, I appreciate you joining me today. I do need to ask my favorite question, which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?

Ryan: I gave you a good chunk of them, but the main thing here is go for a solid average. Consider what you’re trying to do and go for a nice average to get consistent tone, and then continue to do it. Don’t stop. Plug it in, start recording your content, and stop worrying about the rest of it. I’m giving that because I’m bad at it myself, so you got to get out there and force yourself to do it, and I think everything will come together.

Joe: That’s fantastic. I recently just wrote a blog post very similar to that called Getting Your Reps In. Go and record. I’ll link to that in the show notes as well.

Ryan: Sometimes, we get in our own way too much.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. I will link to that and everything in the show notes. Ryan, where can people find you?

Ryan: So, RØDE, in general, is RØDE.com. In general, I’m on LinkedIn as Ryan White, and you can search that with RØDE. My name, unfortunately, is very basic. If you tack on RØDE Microphones to that, I’m on every social media platform. RØDE.com is a great asset for you in general for all things RØDE.

Joe: Fantastic. And actually, I cheated because I’m going to ask one more question here since you mentioned RØDE.com. I see a disclaimer usually at the top saying that Amazon is not an authorized retailer of RØDE. Should people be buying RØDE stuff off of Amazon? Is that still okay?

Ryan: That’s so far outside of my job description.

Joe: Loaded question.

Ryan: Here’s the thing, guys. “Fulfilled by Amazon” is what that’s talking about. “Fulfilled by Amazon” can be anybody, and we always recommend if you actually go to RØDE.com, and then you find the microphone, you can go and search your local area. We’re fine-tuning this now as we speak into something that’s a little bit more powerful, so you type in your zip code, and it will give you a RØDE reputable dealer in your backyard if applicable. Online retailers are always amazing for that as well, and Amazon is currently a reputable RØDE dealer, but Fulfilled by Amazon is not. You have to be very cautious that you’re not buying it from John’s music in such and such whatever, and then you have no details of who that person or what that person is. Going to RØDE.com and searching your zip code is going to be the best option for finding a reputable– That means the warranty, so if you buy a RØDE Procaster, you get a 10-year warranty, I believe, with that microphone. The NT-1’s and NT-1A’s, all those come with a 10-year warranty. So if you buy it from a reputable dealer, it is not counterfeit, and it is also very much covered by our in-house warranty, which is an excellent warranty. That’s all we’re trying to caution you in.

Joe: Ryan, thank you so much for joining me today. I appreciate it.

Ryan: Thank you so much for having me. We had a great talk.

Outro: Thanks so much to Ryan for joining me today. We got a lot more than I originally bargained for here. Of course, he gave us information about recording, and you need to average and find your budget. Don’t just go for the most expensive stuff, and people can’t– I can’t afford the most expensive stuff. We talk about all sorts of stuff, but we also talk about knowing the right person at the right time and following what you think you need to follow, not just the beaten path or the one that everybody thinks you should. There’s going to be lots of links to gear and stuff like that too, so thanks again to Ryan for his time. You can find those links over at HowIBuilt.it/149. There’s also going to be a couple more resources over there that I’ll tell you about in a second, right after I thank our sponsors, Ahoy! Cloudways and Pantheon. Thanks, especially to Ahoy! and Pantheon for sponsoring the entire season. Thanks to them, I’ve been able to increase production value a little bit and do even more with the website and transcripts, and things like that. So thanks to all three of them. Of course, Cloudways, Ahoy! and Pantheon, the latter two of whom sponsored the whole season. If you liked this episode, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcast and leave us a rating and review or wherever you listen to podcasts. Now the little teaser, there are a few more resources that you’ll be able to find over at HowIBuilt.it/149. The first is that podcast workbook that I mentioned, that’s going to give you everything you need. Checklists, and advice to start your own podcast. It’s also going to get you on the list for when I launch my Podcast Liftoff course. By the time this is out, it may already be launched, but make sure to get the list by signing up for that free PDF workbook at the very top of the show. I also mentioned that my plans for 2020 include hearing from you, I want to know what you want to know. So if you go to HowIBuilt.it/feedback, the link will also be on the show notes page. Don’t worry, if you only want to remember /149, do that too. There is a form that you can fill out, and it’s two fields. It has the email address field so I can get back to you and a feedback field where you can put in a topic, a guest you want to hear, a question that you have, or whatever it is you want to see on the show in 2020. Thanks to everybody who has written in so far, and I want to hear from even more of you to make 2020 the best year for How I Built It to date. Be sure to keep an eye on the website and this feed, we are going to take a short break in-between seasons, but there will definitely be bonus episodes. I always do a year-end wrap-up and a couple of other things. So, while it is in-between seasons, there will still be more coming through on the feed. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, get out there and build something.

The post Getting the Right Audio Gear with Ryan White appeared first on How I Built It.

Dec 03 2019

43mins

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Getting Back to Basics and Blogging with Colin Devroe

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I was excited to reconnect with my friend Colin Devroe on this episode. We met through the WordPress community in Scranton and I just the co-working space he and his business part Kyle created. In this conversation, we get back to basics, and talk blogging. With the ever changing landscape of the web and social media, how important is it to have your own blog? Let’s find out!

Show Notes

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Transcript

Break: Hey everybody. As we gear up for 2020, I want to hear from you and the things that you’d like to see on this show. If you have a question, a comment, a topic, a guest, or any suggestion for How I Built It in 2020, let me know by going to HowIBuilt.it/feedback. That’s HowIBuilt.it/feedback if you would like to see something on this show in 2020. And now, on with the show.

Colin Devroe: “Do what you want.” I think that’s the biggest thing that people leave out sometimes, is themselves in their blog. The most important thing that you’re going to bring to the world is yourself because your ideas very likely aren’t going to be original. In the sense that if you’re blogging about a particular lamb recipe, there’s a very good chance that it may exist out there, but it’s about bringing your own personality to it. How many times have we subscribed to a blog that the only thing that we liked about it was that the person had their own attitude?

Intro: I was excited to reconnect with my friend Colin Devroe on this episode. We met through the WordPress community in Scranton, and I joined the co-working space that he and his business partner Kyle created. In this episode, we get back to basics, and we talk about blogging. Colin has been on the internet for a very long time. Nearly as long as you could be on the internet, actually, so he’s been blogging for just about that long. With the ever-changing landscape of web and social media, “How important is it to have your own blog?” That’s the main question we answer, and we’re going to find out right after a word from our sponsors.

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Joe Casabona: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today my guest is a good friend of mine from Scranton, Colin Devroe. He is the senior vice president of product and marketing at Jujama. Colin, how are you?

Colin: I’m excellent. How about you? I’m excited to talk to you today. It’s been too long.

Joe: Yes, it has. I was thinking about this recently. There’s a co-working space that’s probably bikeable from my house, and I don’t want to go there, but I miss the co-work days. I miss going there, for those who don’t know, Colin and I know each other through the Scranton tech community, the WordPress community. He and his business partner started a– Is it Scranton’s first? I’m going to say Scranton’s first–

Colin: I would imagine, yeah.

Joe: Of which I was a founding member, and we had a lot of fun there until I moved away.

Colin: We did. Co-working is great. If people are listening to this while they’re working from home and you need to shake the box every now and then, I highly recommend finding a local co-working spot and getting involved.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. Because I’ve said this before, too, but a lot of people are like, “I could just go to a coffee shop.” But you don’t get the community at a coffee shop. You get the, “Leave me alone” at a coffee shop. Co-working spaces are like you have co-workers, but they’re not co-workers. Cool. So why don’t you tell all of us, because I don’t think I know exactly what you’re doing these days. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Colin: Sure. I’m an OG internet blogger. I’ve been online since ’94, and I’ve had various businesses throughout the years. Now, currently, I am working for a friend of mine’s company called Jujama. My CEO is named Nadia Dailey, and what we do is build apps for events. If you go to an event in Vegas, let’s say to a WordPress camp, a WordCamp, or to a WordPress event or something. You can download an app that has an agenda on it, and you can see who is attending, and you can communicate with the speakers and all those sorts of things. That’s the app that we currently build, and we manage to have clients all over the world. Even just this week, we have events in Hawaii and Boston and South Africa and Dubai and Europe, and it’s been really exciting. I’m helping to run product and marketing there, and recently we’ve begun retooling our entire mobile apps from the ground up. They’re about ten years old now, so it’s about time. In software years, that’s about 150, so it’s about time that we have to start rebuilding everything. I’m having a lot of fun not only helping the team to start that project, but I did some hiring around that, and we built a small team to rebuild our entire stack from the top to the bottom. We could talk about that a little bit if you want, I know that’s what this podcast is about, the tools and the pieces. We’re building our mobile apps again in REACT, and we’re redoing everything from infrastructure to our API to the client applications on all platforms. It’s been really fun this year to focus in on that.

Joe: Gotcha. That sounds interesting, but you mentioned that you’re an OG blogger, and I like that. Because the circumstances under which we met, you had a really interesting product. It was your own CMS, but it was also a plugin for WordPress. Is that right?

Colin: That’s right, yeah. It was called Barley. If anybody has ever seen Medium, and what I mean by “Seen Medium,” is if you go in and try to create a post. Medium has this inline editor. Now, Gutenberg obviously for the hundreds of thousands of people that have installed that on their WordPress blog now, I think it ships by default, doesn’t it now? Gutenberg?

Joe: Yeah. Gutenberg is as of 5.0, so it’s been about a year.

Colin: OK, so pretty much anyone that’s using WordPress right now probably has at least tried it and used it or turned it off. Maybe? I don’t know. Depending on what they think of it, but that inline editing– Barley was that piece. We built a whole CMS around it that allowed you to manage an entire website, not just blog, but create pages and forms and so on and so forth. So yeah, we did that for a few years, but I don’t use the term “OG blogger” too lightly. I have been blogging for over 20 years, sometimes daily for runs of years at a time, and I can’t ever imagine not doing it. So, I don’t throw that term around very lightly, Joe.

Joe: Yes. No, I know. A lot of the conversations that we had and some of your encouragements were around getting us in the co-working space to blog more often. I know that.

Colin: 100%.

Joe: For a while, I was doing those daily [scrapples] that you were doing that I thought was pretty cool, and so I would love to focus that conversation around that. Because I’ve been– I’m working on a podcasting course. I’ve been full-in on podcasting for the last few years, and about a year ago in October– A year from this coming October Seth Godin blogged on his blog that “Podcasting is the new blogging.” But I think there’s still a lot of value in the blog, but maybe we can talk a little bit about how it’s changed since you started. I’m a little bit behind you, and I think my first blog was– I called it “A bootleg blogger” because I just copied the HTML from a blogger template and put it up on my GeoCities site in like 2002.

Colin: That’s pretty good, Joe. That’s pretty OG right there.

Joe: That’s pretty good?

Colin: Yeah.

Joe: But maybe you could talk about– I feel like you were more cognizant of it while you were doing. I had no idea what I was doing, and I was a dumb 14-year-old. So, how has it changed? Like, how has the landscape of blogging changed since you started?

Colin: Blogging has changed so much. It’s interesting that you say you were 14 in 2002, I was 14 when I also started what I would call a blog, but it was 1994. So, I’m a little bit older than you, but not that bad.

Joe: Not that bad, no.

Colin: So the tools have changed, obviously. I was copying and pasting HTML as well back then, and there was a service called Tripod that the internet service provider that I used at the time owned. They would give you 5MB of space for free. Nowadays, some JavaScript libraries are 5MB, so I would say that that one of the things is that the speed of the internet has changed incredibly since 1994, the space that you’re able to use. I’m sure this podcast will run– What does your typical episode run? 50MB or 30MB, or something?

Joe: Yeah, probably something like that.

Colin: OK. So one episode was six accounts on an internet service in 1994, and sometimes we take that for granted nowadays. I can upload something to my website right now that’s a gigabyte, and I don’t even think about it. So that’s one big thing, but as far as the actual method of blogging, that doesn’t matter. It comes down to writing, and really there’s a couple of blog posts– Which maybe I’ll dig up for your show notes, I’m not sure how extensive your show notes usually are, but if you search my blog for “Writing is how I think,” there are many bloggers that have covered this topic in the past. Like Jeffrey Zeldman, and there’s a few others that are escaping my memory at the moment because this is probably about an eight or nine-year-old blog post at this point. But “Writing is how I think” is like, there are times where I’ll start a blog post, and my mind on a particular topic– My opinion will change by the time I’m finished writing it. I start off with this real ranty whatever blog post sometimes, and then by the time I finish editing it and going over it and looking up other resources about it, I come full circle on it. Now sometimes I won’t even publish that, or sometimes I will literally change the entire post and then end up publishing it. So for me, the blog has been– I do not blog for money. I don’t have any ads on my website. I have some statistics on there, only to know if anybody is linking to me. That way, I can respond to them when they link to me, but I turn off all other statistics because I don’t want to know. I don’t care. I have some blog posts that have been viewed millions of times, and I don’t write for that. My personal blog and so many others that have been doing this for that long, it is about me being able to share my ideas. It’s about me being able to formulate and reaffirm my ideas and carrying on conversations with others. In that way, I don’t think that the core of blogging has changed at all that whole time since 1994. People are still sharing. Let’s say you have a home project where you’re building a chicken coop, or you’re trying to help your kid fix their bike, or you’re doing this, or you’re doing that. People put that on their personal blogs or a vacation to Venice or something. Those things will always be there. I think one other big change that has happened is that what’s not a blog now, The New York Times runs on WordPress. The TechCrunch’s of the world and so forth follow that same reverse chronological blog paradigm. I would say some of the bigger changes is that everything’s a blog now, but the core blogging ethos hasn’t changed since then. But all the tools have space, internet ubiquity, all that stuff. All those things change around it.

Joe: OK, so great. There’s a lot of stuff to parse out there. But you mentioned some of the people who have been blogging for a long time, Zeldman is one of them. Jeremy Keith over at Adactio– I’ve never pronounced that right, but Jeremy Keith has pioneered even in recent years a few blogging things. Like, not track-back links, but the response links.

Colin: Yeah, web mentions.

Joe: Web mentions. That’s exactly right. Then you have people like [Kottke.org] who have been professionally blogging since 2005, as far as that’s when his full income– I think it was 2005 or 2006 was made from his blog.

Colin: I was a subscriber at [inaudible] [Kottke] since day one and a paying subscriber at both [Kottke] and Daring Fireball, and so many others that in that early 2000s went subscription model. You got a T-shirt, with Daring Fireball you got a card that said you were a card-carrying paying member back then.

Joe: That’s amazing. That’s a precursor to Patreon.

Colin: Sure.

Joe: All of that is productized now. But I think what you said is right, New York Times is a blog, and all of these other news outlets are constantly pumping out content. Which is what you said, it’s about being able to share ideas. So from here, maybe it’s a foregone conclusion that if you’re on the web, you probably have a blog, but maybe it’s not. Maybe most people still don’t have a blog, or they have a website where they don’t regularly blog. What are some tips that you can give us for blogging regularly?

Colin: I have a post, I just wrote a post on my site this week actually, called Bad Reasons Not to Blog, because I had seen a few. I am a member of Micro.blog, and that’s a service that Manton Reece has created that not only has a very simple blogging platform if you’re interested, it’s as easy to use, I would say, as a Twitter or a Tumblr. But it gives you your own domain name so you can own all your content, which is the important piece. But then it also does syndicate other blogs, so you don’t have to use Micro.blog’s, publishing system in order to use it. I use WordPress and then syndicate to it, very easy to do. All those words probably sound pretty complex to those out there that don’t know what they mean, but it’s very easy to use. One of the conversations on there sometimes is that people are coming back to their blog all the time. Some people have ten-year-old blogs where you look, and there’s only five posts in the last five or six years, and the reason is because the oxygen of the internet has been sucked up by Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and wherever else that people post. Instagram stories, Snapchat stories. So, I think some of that is going to start leaking back out. Some of the privacy policies of these different companies are starting to– People are starting to get wise to them. They’re like, “I don’t want to be a Facebook member anymore. Maybe I’ll pull some of this stuff somewhere else.” There’s reasons on there not to blog, but I do have a post from 2017 called My Personal Blogging Tips. If you have like writer’s block, one of the best things that you can possibly do is create a new note in your note thing of application of choice, and just one day write down an inspiration list. Write down all the things that you wished you blogged about, and make the list like 50 things. Just keep writing. Don’t worry about what it is, what it says. It could be cats, could be dogs, could be vacation. Could be about the latest REACT JavaScript library if you’re a developer, or it could be about cooking or a recipe or whatever. Write all these things down. Then if you have a schedule of postings, say you say “I want to publish Monday, Wednesday and Friday” and you don’t know what to publish on Wednesday, look at that list and grab a random one. A lot of times, once your fingers start moving, you’ll figure it out. At that point, it’s really about just starting to write. The other thing that I think holds up people is they’re really scared of publishing sometimes. I always say that publishing is a muscle, it’ll atrophy if you’re not using it. But at the same time, it gets stronger if you are using it. So if you get used to putting stuff out and continue to do it on a regular schedule, it does get easier. That perfectionist in you will die eventually, and often times it’s the things that you put the least amount of worry into and the least amount of angst into or whatever, that attention to detail, those sometimes resonate more. Think about a musician or a dancer, or what have you. It’s when they lose themselves in the moment is when people appreciate those things the most. Yes, they practice. But then when they’re able to remove themselves from that moment and start dancing or start playing the guitar or whatever it might be, that’s when they do their best work. I would say the same thing goes for your blogging. If you’re so focused on getting it perfect, it will never be. But if you let that energy run through you and you get that muscle working 50-60-150-450 posts in, you’re going to be killing it. Like you mentioned, Seth Godin, I know for a fact that he publishes daily. He’s been publishing daily for years and years and years, and one of his tips is that he writes all of his posts whenever he feels like it. He’s not sitting there at 7 o’clock in the morning and hitting pushed publish at 7:05, and he has 50 drafts that are in some state of doneness and publishes when they’re ready. So, that’s probably my biggest tip. There’s other tips that you can find there, but if you look up blogging tips on CDevroe.com, my first initial and my last name dot com, then you’ll find it.

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Joe: It makes sense, what you’re saying. In the broadcasting community, they say the same thing. Over the summer, Michael K one of the– I’m a Yankee fan, so I’m going to say he’s famous, but he has a show on ESPN, and he’s pretty well known. He’s a play by play announcer for the New York Yankees, and he had some vocal cord surgery over the summer, so a guy who’s like a year older than me or a year younger than me, Ryan Ruco, took over and they were talking about as a broadcaster getting your reps in. They had a broadcast night where kids were taking a broadcasting summer camp, and they went to the game, and they had their recorders, and they were paired up, and they were doing a play by play of the game as kids for nobody to hear but themselves because they were getting their reps in. It’s the same thing with blogging. Just get your reps in. I’m looking at Seth’s blog right now, Seth Godin’s blog and these posts are longer than his usual blog posts. For a while there, he was blogging three to four sentences. Maybe it’s just the layout, maybe he changes his layout, and it just looks longer. But I guess the point I’m trying to make is that you don’t need 1,500-word tomes for your blogs, for your blog posts. If you listen to SEO experts, they’ll say, “It needs to be between 900 and 1,200 words to get good Google juice.” But that puts a lot of pressure on you. Like, if you want to write 300 words, do it.

Colin: Yeah. Obviously, there’s no rules. Everything I’m saying I’m saying in general terms, and I’m generalizing things and “Do what you want.” I think that’s the biggest thing that people leave out sometimes, is themselves in their blog. The most important thing that you’re going to bring to the world is yourself because your ideas very likely aren’t going to be original. In the sense that if you’re blogging about a particular lamb recipe, there’s a very good chance that it may exist out there, but it’s about bringing your own personality to it. How many times have we subscribed to a blog that the only thing that we liked about it was that the person had their own attitude? [Kottke] is an example of that. He’s curating the web for everybody for the last 20 years and trying to show you some of the interesting things, and if we weren’t interested in the things that he was, then we wouldn’t subscribe to it. So, Seth Godin’s blog, I think some of the length is coming from the fact that he just started a podcast. That’s my theory. When you started podcasts like this, I guarantee that if you listened to this podcast back, you’d have 50 blog posts written just in what we’re talking about. I think that him getting his mouth moving probably has lended itself to some of these slightly longer posts than we’re used to from him.

Joe: That’s a really good point. I think it touches on another really good topic, which is around repurposing your content. If you’re a YouTuber or you’re a podcaster, and you’re like, “I just don’t have enough content for my blog.” Just take that. Take a transcript of either one of those and finesse it into a good article, and publish that. Link to the original source, and maybe you’ll get more views. It’s like you said, Colin. It doesn’t need to be original, but it needs to have a unique spin on it.

Colin: Yeah. One other little tip for that, as far as syndicating across different platforms, the idea is what you’re spreading, but the medium changes with each platform. So if you have a recipe, you may share that recipe as a description and a set of instructions and then a list of ingredients on your blog, with maybe a photo or two. On Instagram, it could be a top-down stop-motion, whatever that they do on Instagram for recipes. We’ve all seen them, where within 15 seconds they make the entire dish, and then some instructions underneath. On Twitter, it could be a tweet storm of the instructions. Who knows? You can take the exact same idea or content and say, “How does this fit within that Medium, which is different on every platform, and repurpose it for all of those things?” The same thing could be said about a rough idea, not all things have to exist on all platforms. But if that’s what you’re trying to accomplish, then you can easily do that.

Joe: Yeah, and I think that’s great. To that point, you mentioned all of these platforms, but your blog can also be the one true source.

Colin: It should be, I would say.

Joe: I don’t do a good job of this, but I can have a new blog post every day. My regular blog posts, the YouTube videos, I should automatically create a post of my YouTube videos on my blog. I should automatically create a post on my blog every time a new episode publishes, and then that’s my life feed. People can go to Casabona.org and see all of the content that I’ve done.

Colin: Yeah. So, there are– I have a war in my brain about this particular topic, because the nerd in me wants me to save everything on my domain name. Coming from 1994 when I literally was saving every single pixel that I could– If you look at someone like Tom [inaudible], which I think that’s the way you say his name, it could be [inaudible], but I’m not exactly sure. He works for Mozilla, he started and helped found the indie web, he’s on the W3C team. I think it’s [inaudible].org, and Jeremy Keith and several others that are part of the indie web movement, they would say that you published your website first, and then you let it syndicate everywhere. In indie web terms, they call that “Posse.” “Posse” is publish on your own site, POS, and syndicate everywhere, SE. I have a slightly different opinion about this because the tooling of this is very difficult, and to be able to publish just to your blog and then have it automatically go everywhere and look the way you want it to– For me, it gets a little exasperating, and it’s a little overwhelming. I want the tweet to look exactly the way that I want. I want the Micro.blog post or the Tumblr post or the Facebook– Whatever it is that you’re syndicating to, I want it all to look the right way. I have a hard time just letting a WordPress plugin tweet for me and stuff because sometimes it doesn’t work. I’ve been beginning to view each of these platforms– Yes, my blog is the most important and I want to save everything that I think is worthy of saving there so that I own it and it’s my data, and I can link to it forever, as long as I keep paying Digital Ocean, my $4 every month or whatever it is. I would like it to stay there forever for the things, but I view Twitter now as a bar. If you go to the bar and you have a couple of drinks with your friends, and you’re having this great conversation about who knows what, it will never go anywhere other than that. “Is that a bad thing? Does it need to be recorded? Why aren’t your visits to the bar from 2000-whatever available everywhere?” Because those are just ephemeral things. There are things in our life that are ephemeral, and it’s okay for me personally that Twitter is ephemeral. When I post a tweet, I don’t think about it as “I hope I have this forever.” You can save your Twitter archive, and you can publish it to your blog and do all that, but I don’t care as much about my Instagram story that my mom is going to look at as much as I do about my blog. I view each of the platforms as their own thing, and I publish to them accordingly. The same way as if I was to stand at a podium and speak to 400 people, I would like that to be recorded, but if I’m standing at a bar chitchatting with my buddy over a couple of beers I don’t care if that ever goes– In fact, I would prefer it not to go anywhere. So, I don’t mind those platforms being ephemeral. That’s how I deal with it, although there are others that are a little bit more– I think that there’s a balance probably somewhere in between those two things, so I definitely recommend you looking up the indie web movement if that’s in the show notes. IndieWeb.org and that’s where you’re going to see things that Joe mentioned like web mention, or being able to connect– You could even do following and liking and everything on your own site and have it be where you’re connected to Mastodon and Twitter and everything now, which is really awesome if you have the time to go through and do all that. It’s getting better all the time.

Joe: Right, yeah. I love what you said about Twitter being ephemeral because I was the same way for a while. I was like, “I need to save all my tweets. These are thoughts that I had,” but it was earlier this year Joost De Valk held Yoast Con, and there was some drama around stuff he tweeted back in 2008, and it was inside jokes with other people in the community. Maybe they were inappropriate– Everything is inappropriate by 2019 standards, and he got in trouble for something that he tweeted 11 years ago. At that moment, I found a service called Tweet Eraser. I just deleted every tweet from 2016 back through 2006 when I started. Because I’m like, “I don’t remember tweeting anything like that or anything inappropriate, but who the hell knows.” James Gunn nearly lost the Guardians of the Galaxy– Like, he did lose the Guardians of the Galaxy job for an amount of time for some joke he made. Kevin Hart got lampooned for jokes he made that he subsequently apologized for, but the apology isn’t attached to the tweet.

Colin: This is the trouble with the internet as it stands. Obviously, someone can stand on a street corner and spout off anything that they want, and only a certain number of people will see it, and that number of people may never even remember it, and it doesn’t exist in perpetuity. The EU recently passed a law that says that you should be able– That the internet should forget you. That you should– So, these rules are changing. The privacy laws are changing. I don’t think that’s an excuse for people to say things that are whatever.

Joe: Sure.

Colin: But at the same time, the internet does not follow the same rules as the world does at this time. So, things are catching up. The internet is very young, and it’s one of the things that sometimes us OGs do forget because we’ve been online for so long. It’s still very young. Only being around for 35-40 years, whatever it’s been, that the oldest version of the internet even existed. It has a long way to go. In a few hundred years, it may catch up with all of the other rules and regulations that we have.

Joe: Yeah, right. Absolutely. The worldwide web existed in ’91, it was invented, but it wasn’t in people’s living rooms and widespread until the late 90s, maybe even early 2000s. So, you’re absolutely right there. You’re right that it’s not an excuse for saying inappropriate things, but the bar today by which we measure inappropriate-ness will probably change in 20 years. So maybe something I’m saying now on this podcast has been deemed inappropriate by the fine people of 2040, and what if I get in trouble for that? But in any case, that’s neither– That’s a whole other podcast. We’re talking about blogging, and we’ve covered a lot of ground here. I want to ask you what you think the future of blogging is? We looked at its past, we looked at its present and how we have all of these different platforms where we can produce content and that content can serve as our blog, and we can centralize it. But what does the future of blogging look like?

Colin: It’s interesting that you say that because, of course, there’s always a blog post that I can point to. That’s a nice thing, too. One of the nicest things about having a blog is if you take the time to jot down your ideas, you might be wrong, you might be right, or you might be somewhere in the middle. I have a blog post from 2004 called The Future of Blog– Or, 2014, called The Future of Blogging. You can look that up, and my first sentence is, “I don’t know what the future of blogging is.” So, take it from there if anybody wants to read that. But essentially, I go in, and I talk about the decentralization of blogging, and I think that’s starting to come to the fore. I don’t think anyone ever considered their Twitter account a blog. But guess what? It’s exactly what it is. It was started as a micro-blogging platform, and that’s exactly what they called it back then. So technically, everyone that publishes to their Facebook account or to their Twitter account, Instagram account, is blogging. I think it’s funny because when I had my own personal blog and there was eight people online, I remember people thinking I was nuts for having a blog. Today, people think that you’re nuts for having your own domain name and blogging there rather than Instagram. But they are might blogging on Instagram, they don’t realize it, but they’re sharing their latte, and they’re sharing that they’re at the beach. They’re sharing that they’re here, they’re there, and they have a little story underneath. They’re commenting, and their friends are having a conversation. How is that not blogging?

Joe: That used to be called photo blogging, and now it’s just an app. Just like Instagram stories or YouTube, they used to be called vlogging. Now it’s just you’re a YouTuber, or you’re posting an Insta story.

Colin: Yes. So I think the decentralization of blogging is going to continue to get more bifurcated. It’s going to continue to split and split and split and split and split. Each of them will have their own flavors of things, which I think it’s a good thing. If you look at something like Mastodon, which on Mastodon for anyone that has looked into it, it looks a lot like Twitter on the outside. But what it allows people to do is create their own instance, so imagine if you could take Twitter, all of the pieces of Twitter and being able to tweet, being able to retweet and reply and all that, and you can have your own and have it be only about gardening. Or have your own and have it only about tattoos, or about this or about that. That’s what Mastodon let you do, except it lets you follow everyone across all of those so you can belong to a gardening Mastodon instance, and follow people from every other Mastodon instance, and in fact, Twitter accounts now I think. You can follow Micro.blog accounts. You can follow blogs on there. And Micro.blog, by the way, also has these features. If you have a Micro.blog account, you can follow Mastodon accounts, you can follow blogs. All blogs that have an RSS feed are already on Micro.blog, so if you do a search for anybody’s domain name– Like your HowIBuilt.it is already on there if you type it in. If it’s not, I think it’s just one button to add it or something, but as long as it has a feed that it can read, it should be able to create that. I think that’s we’re going to start seeing, is this splitting of where you publish what. Will you belong to more than one? Maybe. Could you belong to more than one? Yeah, you should be able to. I think the last thing that has to happen though is people have to own their data. I think even Facebook if you fast forward seven years from right now, lets mark a calendar. I think seven years from today, and you’re going to see that Facebook lets you completely own your data in some way. I think they’re going that way, and Mark Zuckerberg put a flag in the ground about 4-5 months ago with a blog post that said that they’re going to go private first for all things like WhatsApp and Instagram and Facebook. They’re going to go end to end encryption for all of those platforms, and so I think slowly but surely– I don’t know if Facebook will ever let you have your own domain name. I think they should have a long time ago. I think people’s Facebook pages for their businesses should have been their domain name a long time ago. I do not know why they didn’t do that. They could’ve charged anything and made that money.

Joe: That’s a crazy vertical because there are businesses today that their website is their Facebook page.

Colin: Yes. I use Facebook only to find people’s restaurant, “What are their specials today?” And so forth, that’s what I use Facebook for. So why is that not easy to make it so that when I type in Chip’s Diner that it goes right to their Facebook page? That may come, I hope that comes. I think that should come for people’s accounts. Why can’t CDevroe.com be my Facebook profile if that’s what I would want, and own that data? We’ll see, I think that’s the future of blogging. That it’s going to get more split up than ever, which to some may seem overwhelming and confusing, but I think that’s good to have that choice of platform. You can rally behind the platforms that you want to support more than ever. I think Twitter’s free speech rules and the way that they enforce them is going to end up hurting them because they’re creating their own rules that are above and beyond the country that they exist in. I understand why because they’re a global platform. The same free speech rules do not exist in India as they do here in the US, so I don’t know what choice they have. I don’t know what tips or tricks or recommendations I would give to them. But the fact that they are enforcing rules that go beyond the US Constitution is going to make it very interesting where people are going to be forced to move to other platforms to be able to say what they feel like saying. So, it’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

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Joe: Maybe we’ll have to tread lightly here, but we both have some connection to the social media website Gab. Do you think that–? I should say I’m not a user, the founder just happened to be from Scranton.

Colin: Yeah, I’m not a user either. I don’t know much about the platform other than he founded it, Andrew Tauber, and he just happened to be from our area. That’s it.

Joe: I remember I didn’t have much of an impression of him. Gab has gone in the complete other direction where you could basically say whatever you want there.

Colin: I’m not a free speech activist or the opposite of that. I think that if the constitution allows that to exist, then it should exist. That’s my opinion. If someone wants to talk about whatever they want to talk about on some other website, our Constitution does not allow me to have any objection to that. But that does not mean that it can exist in India or in North Korea, or China or whatever else. So, that’s the world that we live in and the country that we live in. You have to be able to take that if we live in the US, that’s it.

Joe: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. I think last year around this time, we were having some trouble with WordCamp Philly, and one of our sponsors was hosting neo-Nazi websites, and we didn’t want them to be a sponsor anymore. But there was a whole big back and forth about that, and it’s just a very interesting conversation to have. Again, we’ll have to do a three-part series now.

Colin: I’m down for it. I could talk about blogging all day, to be honest with you.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely.

Colin: We didn’t even get to RSS readers.

Joe: No, we didn’t. I was going to wrap up with that before I ask you my favorite question. I’ve seen a little bit of RSS reader Renaissance.

Colin: Sure.

Joe: Lately, people are like moving away from Twitter and going back to RSS. I’m trying to do the same thing. When I explain what a podcast app is to people, a podcast app is just a glorified RSS reader.

Colin: Sure.

Joe: So I guess, what are your general opinions about that? What can we expect from RSS in the near future?

Colin: I’ve had to temper my expectations for RSS readers over the years. I find them useful, but I have since RSS was invented– In fact, here’s a little short story for you, Joe. I tried my hardest to get onto the board of the RSS 2.0 Consortium in 2003 with Dave Winer and all those guys. Adam Curry, and a few others. Because this is, by the way, RSS 2.0. For those that don’t know, this is when they added the enclosure tag, which allows things like podcasts to exist. If it wasn’t for the fact that you could “Embed an MP3 and an in a RSS feed,” you would never have anything like what we’re doing right here. So I tried to get on the board of the RSS consortium because I had opinions about what should be in RSS. I didn’t get on the board, I was like 21 or something– 22 at the time, and they were like, “Get away.” They are swatting me. Yeah, exactly. Who knows what RSS– I probably would have ruined the internet at the time. Podcasts would have never came out, or who knows what.

Joe: “RSS should just be this.”

Colin: Yeah, exactly. “It should just say Colin on every RSS feed.” But so anyway, going back to my expectations. I cannot envision a future where I do not use an RSS reader, but that does not mean that my wife will ever use one that she knows of. If she opens Google News, Apple News, or any of these other news things, they’re all RSS readers, and people don’t know that. Or Flipboard, these are massively popular apps. Apple News probably has 50 million daily active users or something, or maybe more. I don’t know. Google News–

Joe: Some people even pay for it now.

Colin: Yes, people pay for it. Which they are syndicating content from magazines and news outlets and such, and they’re doing it with a slightly extended specification of RSS. So I think more people are using RSS than ever before, they don’t know they are, but I do believe that there are a subset of users right now that would enjoy using something like Feedly or InnoReader or NetNewsWire. If you visit multiple websites every week to see what the latest stuff is, you can stop doing that by going to Feedly.com or FeedBin.com or InoReader.com, or I don’t know. What’s your favorite one right now?

Joe: Feedly is the one I use, though I’m very curious about NetNewsWire. I have a strong requirement that it has to work on both Mac and iOS.

Colin: OK, so iOS App is coming very soon. It’s open-source now, NetNewsWire. Brent Simmons is the one that created it. NetNewsWire is super OG.

Joe: As of this recording, 5.0 just came out.

Colin: Right, and so NetNewsWire runs on your Mac and does not need a cloud-based service to run. It can store your subscriptions on your Mac, grab those RSS feeds, show you a cool version of it and work that way. It’s coming for iOS as well, as far as I know. I think the most recent episode of the talk show with Jon Gruber is Brent Simmons and Jon Gruber talking about NetNewsWire, so you might want to link that up. But the Feedbins of the world, I think I think NetNewsWire already syncs with Feedbin, but it will sync with Feedly soon. So, maybe you want to wait until that point release comes out and then hook up that way. My expectation for RSS is that there’s going to be a subset, maybe 5% of the internet user base– That’s probably being generous, that will love it and be diehard RSS users. There is a subset of probably 75-90% of the internet that’s going to use RSS and not know it, and that’s– I think Fred Simmons calls RSS “Just the piping.” It doesn’t matter. That’s how you’re getting it, and we don’t care where– We don’t know that when we turn our faucet, how far the water travels through the pipes to get to us. So, that’s what RSS is.

Joe: Yeah, that’s great. That’s a fantastic analogy. I think it’s absolutely true. Like you said, more people are using RSS than they ever before, but they don’t know it. For a while, I felt that RSS was going to be the way that I, as a programmer, would get information from other people’s sites.

Colin: Sure.

Joe: Then, REST APIs happened, and JSON happened. But if you’re listening to this podcast right now, and if you are doing it in a podcast reader and not on the website, you are using an RSS reader.

Colin: Sure. If you’re in Pocket Casts or Overcast, or even Apple Podcasts, whatever it is. You’re using RSS, and you don’t even know it, which is fine. I think they created it for that, by the way.

Joe: Yeah, right. Exactly. They did that, and they changed the spec a little bit for podcasts.

Colin: Yes.

Joe: That’s how you got podcasts, and they did the same thing for Apple News, and then Google reads everything. Some of the information– Like, if you search for a podcast on an Android phone, you will get podcast episodes directly in the search results because they’re grabbing your podcast RSS.

Colin: Yes.

Joe: It’s all just very interesting to me. I love those thoughts. I’m going to make a commitment right now as we speak to use RSS more and make it part of my habit because I haven’t. I find stories on Twitter when I’m browsing Twitter, but I’m reading deep work right now, and I want to be less distracted, and having dedicated reading time in the morning be RSS will be better than just catching stories on Twitter when I catch them.

Colin: Yeah. I’m addicted to it. I’ve always had a few hundred subscriptions over the years. Every now and then, I do go in, and I delete all of my subscriptions at one time and then start over, and I do the same thing on Twitter. You’ve probably noticed that. But the reason why I do that is because I don’t like to create an echo chamber, so I don’t like to have the same people instructing my opinions over time. I delete everything and start off fresh, and whatever cream rises to the top, I get. So, that’s my personal little thing to keep myself from being too dogmatic about things, or what have you.

Joe: Yeah, that’s interesting. I try to keep the number of people I’m following to 300. I strictly adhere to that, because again I don’t want the noise.

Colin: Isn’t that double Dunbar’s–? Is it Dunbar?

Joe: Is it Dunbar? Yeah, maybe.

Colin: Dunbar’s rule, or something like that.

Joe: Yeah, it’s something like that.

Colin: Dunbar’s number, as it’s called. I think it’s less than– It’s way less than 300. What is Dunbar’s number? It’s 150.

Joe: Yeah, the number of people you can associate with, it’s 150 stable relationships. I wouldn’t consider anything on Twitter– [inaudible].

Colin: No.

Joe: I took that rule from my friend Chris Lema who does the same thing. Because there are people following thousands of people, and I’m like, “How do you get anything?” Like, you rely on Twitter’s algorithm, I guess. Which shows–

Colin: I do things a little bit differently than you, Joe. I don’t know how many people I follow because I follow a couple of accounts, that’s it. But I have lists for everything, so I have a list for local stuff. All the local businesses, all the local people, all the local everything that’s on Twitter that I can possibly find. I throw them in a local list. That way, when I want to see what’s going on in a local festival or whatever it is, I have a Twitter list for that. I have one called Lump of People, and it’s literally everyone that I’ve ever met, like shaken hands with. I throw them into this thing, and every now and then, I dive into it. “What’s going on with Tim that I met at a random event way long ago, or whatever?” Just interesting to see what’s going on. I have one for creativity and inspiration, so people that only share inspiring tweets or creative art or music, paintings, so on, and so forth. I throw everything into that, and I have a few other lists. But I split everything into lists, I can look at the lists anytime I want, and I do. I can also go weeks without looking at them, which is nice.

Joe: Nice. That’s fantastic. So, we’re a little bit over time, but that’s OK. I do want to ask you my favorite and final question, though. Which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?

Colin: Trade secrets? Give me an example.

Joe: Most people– First of all, you did the thing that I hope everybody does, which is say the word “Trade secrets” in that grandiose fashion. I want to do like a cut of everybody saying it. I say “Trade secret,” but it’s just generally good advice that has helped them. So it can be like, “Don’t read the bad comments early in the morning,” I think was one of the first ones from the show.

Colin: I see. I’ll give you two. One is blog. Whether that’s for your company or for yourself, find a reason to blog. It will help you think and communicate and build an audience and everything. There are so many reasons to blog. I really can’t– Unless you’re a spy of some sort, I can’t think of any reason not to blog. So that would be– Since it’s on topic that we talked about today, the other thing I would say is something that Joe and I both do, which has changed a lot for me is bullet journaling. Definitely do a bullet journal. If you ever have anxiety about what you have upcoming or what your tasks are, if you don’t know when you’re going to fit in that workout or you don’t know when you’re going to finally get to work on that talk that you have to give at the coming upcoming event, whatever it might be, bullet journaling makes it so that you can let the anxiety of what you need to do go and only focus on what you need to do for the day and have time slots for things that are coming up. I would recommend going– It’s a free thing. You don’t need to buy any particular notebook or anything, and you can use the piece of paper that’s in front of you right now. If you go to BulletJournal.com, you can find out the instructions on how to do it. I’m sure Joe has blog posts that he should link to that he’s covered bullet journaling in, and my wife and I have modified that. We created something called a “Weekly index” now, so one open page and one full spread of a page is now our weekly index. The whole week goes on one spread, which I love, but that’s taken the bullet journal method and then just tweaking it for yourself that makes you work good. That’d be my other tip.

Joe: Yeah, I will link to– I did my organization tools as of earlier this summer, so I will link to that because I have modified the bullet journal method a little bit, but it’s usually helpful. Colin, it is always good to talk to you. I’m glad we got to catch up. Where can people find you? I know I’m going to link to a million of your blog posts, but say it for the transcript.

Colin: OK. I would say CDevroe.com is where you can start for everything. If you have an upcoming event and you’re an event organizer, and you’re listening to this, please consider using Jujama’s app. If you go to our website, you can see what we do, but it can help your event to encourage attendee interactions and so forth. That would be great if people could look that up, but I would say CDevroe.com for everything, and that’s it. Don’t worry about all the other things, because they’re going to die anyway. Don’t follow me. Follow me on Twitter if you want to, but who cares. It’s going to be gone someday.

Joe: Yeah, exactly.

Colin: My website’s going to last through dystopian future.

Joe: Forever.

Colin: Forever.

Joe: I will link to those, and all of the fantastic links we talked about over in the show notes at HowIBuilt.it. Thanks so much, Colin. I appreciate your time.

Colin: It’s been awesome. Thank you very much for having me.

Outro: Thanks so much to Colin for joining me this week. I love talking to Colin. As a matter of fact, when we were in the co-working space, there were certain days where my productivity was way low just because we spent the whole day talking about whatever and doing stuff. But it was fantastic. So, this episode is rich with links mostly from Colin’s blog, but lots of other stuff too. You can be sure to find all of those over at HowIBuilt.it/148. I think that it’s probably not a secret at this point that blogging is important. Having your own platform and owning your own platform, because of everything that’s happening with other platforms like Medium and Facebook and whatever, Twitter. It’s really important to own your own platform. So as Colin said, “Blog for your company, for yourself, find a reason. Even if it’s just a scratch pad, even if you don’t want to make it public, there are great apps like Day One out there to help you get your thoughts out and get those reps in for writing.” I enjoyed this episode. Again, you can find everything we talked about over at HowIBuilt.it/148. Thank you so much to our sponsors, Ahoy! Cloudways and Pantheon. They make the show happen, so definitely check them out. If you liked this episode, please subscribe. Give us a rating and review over at Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. As I said at the very top of the show, I have big plans for 2020. I want to be more intentional about the content that I’m giving you, and that means that I need to hear from you. If you have a topic you’d like me to cover, a question, or a guest you’d like to suggest, then head over to HowIBuilt.it/feedback and let me know. It’s a simple two-field form, your email address so I can respond and the feedback that you’d like to give. Again, that’s over at HowIBuilt.it/feedback. As always, thanks so much for listening. Until next time, get out there and build something.

The post Getting Back to Basics and Blogging with Colin Devroe appeared first on How I Built It.

Nov 26 2019

55mins

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The 2019 Gift Guide!

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The 2019 holiday season is here! Many of you are business owners, remote workers, and freelancers – so I thought I’d put together a bonus episode based on my 2 popular gift guides. Here are some great gifts for podcasters, and people who work from home!

Show Notes

Enter the 1 Million Downloads Celebration Giveaway!

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Transcript

Hey everybody. Before we get started this week, I want to thank you sincerely for helping the show cross a milestone that’s really important to me, and that is the million downloads mark. On Tuesday of this week, that is the week of November 18th, we crossed over the one million downloads mark lifetime in just over three years. So I want to thank you sincerely because this was a show that was just kind of a side project for me and I didn’t think it would do anything or go anywhere. I thought maybe it would help bring in some traffic to my online courses, and it’s taken off and it’s its own thing now. I’m really happy with the way it’s turned out. So thank you again.

To celebrate a million downloads, I am giving away some things. You could win a RODE PodMic, which you’ll hear about in the last episode of this season, coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m giving away an annual subscription to OptinMonster, Starfish reviews from our former guest Tevya. He’s giving away a few licenses. A lifetime membership to my own courses. You can be a guest on the show or you can get a 30 minute consulting call with yours truly if you have questions about podcasting or anything. So if you want to enter this giveaway, it’s running until December 5th, you can enter over at howibuilt.it/giveaway.

Once again, one million downloads, incredible. Thank you. I wouldn’t be able to do it without you, the guests or the sponsors. The support I’ve gotten for the show over the last three years has been incredible. Thank you so much.

Now, let’s get on with this bonus episode. The holidays are coming up and while everybody is probably doing their gift guide episode, I decided to do the same thing. For a bunch of years now I have been putting out my gift guides over at casabona.org. You can go to casabona.org/gifts-guides or if you go to howibuilt.it/gifts it’ll all be there. So that’s howibuilt.it/gifts.

I’ve been doing three or four gift guides. I’ve been maintaining gift guides for remote workers or people who work from home, the gift guide for podcasters, the gift guide for web developers, the gift guide for cigar smokers and then my friend, Jim, put together a gift guide for pipe smokers. This year I only updated two. Those are the top performing ones. Frankly, I’m getting rid of the web designer one and I’ll explain why in a second. The gift guide for podcasters is updated for 2019 and the gift guide for people who work from home has been updated. I got a big update for people for 2019.

I am getting rid of the web designers, web developers one because there’s a lot of overlap between that one and the gifts for people who work from home. The only main differences were basically hosting, which I don’t know how many people are actually gifting hosting. It’d be weird if my wife got me like Pantheon Hosting for Christmas. And then there were books to learn stuff from, and online courses, but aside from that the gift guides were very similar. In this episode I want to run through some of the highlights of these gift guides. There will be links in the show notes again over at howibuilt.it/gifts. You can find the gift guides over at casabona.org as well.

Let’s get into it. I’ve broken each gift guide down into various categories, but for this episode, because I’m going to be talking a little bit about both, we’re going to go over recording gear, home office gear, tech gear and analog tools. Those are the four main topics that I’m going to cover here.

Let’s start with the recording gear. In both guides I mention that you should have a good microphone. If you work from home, you’re probably doing a lot of video calls, so you’re going to want to have a good microphone. That microphone, the one that I recommend in my podcasting courses and most of the time is the ATR2100. It is a simple microphone. It is less than $70 and it is a USB and XLR microphone. If you want to upgrade, you can do that with the ATR2100.

If you want to get a sample of what that can sound like next to my professional Shure SM7B Microphone, listen to episode 147. That’s the one where my wife did the interview side for my guest, Svetlana, who is deaf. You can hear how my wife sounds in the ATR2100 and right next to it how I sound in the Shure SM7B. I think you’ll see that in most cases the ATR2100 does a really good job. That’s the one I would recommend.

Then there’s the webcam portion. If you work from home or if you want to do a video podcast, you should have a good webcam. Using a good webcam clutch for video calls, I will usually recommend the Logitech C920 because that falls perfectly between price and quality. It’s an HD 1080p webcam. Gets the job done. I am using the Logitech BRIO which is a 4K webcam. It’s pretty good. I think the iPhone, honestly, the iPhone 11 Pro shoots better, but this is connected to my computer, I can use my microphone and without jumping through hoops. So I’ll recommend the Logitech BRIO.

The only caveat for the BRIO is that you need to make sure you are using the appropriate USB-C/Thunderbolt cable and that you are plugging it into an appropriate Thunderbolt port. Because it’s pushing 4K, the computer you’re using needs to support 4k. I’m on the iMac Pro; the port supports 4K. But if you’re using a PC or a MacBook Pro or a different iMac, make sure you’re plugging it into the right port because that is going to make a big difference.

Those are the two that I recommend as pretty good beginner first microphone and webcam. If you’re looking for an upgraded microphone, I will generally recommend the RODE Procaster. Again, I’m using the Shure SM7B. I love it, but that is a very pricey microphone for just taking video calls or doing general recording.

The RODE Procaster is I think a good upgraded pick. The Procaster is a XLR microphone. The RODE Podcaster is the same microphone as USB. If you are going to go with a XLR microphone, you are going to need a XLR cable to connect your microphone to an interface, which is a separate box that converts the XLR to USB. That interface that I recommend is the Focusrite Scarlet Solo. It is a $100 interface. It’s great. It gets the job done. It’s on its third iteration now. It was my first interface and I’m a big fan of it. So if you’re looking to upgrade that loved one’s microphone set up the RODE Procaster plus the Focusrite Scarlet Solo is a good pick.

Now, I will say that the RODE PodMic is out. It’s hard to find, but it is out and that’s supposed to be like the podcaster’s mic to end all podcaster’s mic. At $99 it’s super affordable. That’s the one I’m giving away in the giveaway. I’m going to pick one up for the giveaway winner as well as for me and I will do a test wit that microphone to see how good it is. That is also an XLR microphone, so you’ll need to get the interface anyway.

Then there are accessories for the recording stuff. I’m using, if you’re watching the video, I’m using a boom arm. It is the RODE PSA1 Swivel boom arm, but there’s a more basic boom arm that you can get for $13 by Neewer. That’s linked in the gift guide. That’s just a nice way to keep the microphone out of the way, if you need to type or if you hit the desk a lot, the boom arm will make sure that vibration isn’t getting there. That is the recording gear that I would recommend.

Just to recap it again. This is all in the gift guides of course, but just to recap it again. Decent mic; the ATR2100 I think it’s a great beginner mic. The webcam is the Logitech C920. It’s a 1080p webcam. Better in most cases than what’s built into the computer. If you’re looking to upgrade that loved one setup, then the Logitech BRIO is a good upgrade pick for the webcam. I gave you a few options for an upgraded microphone. The one that I would genuinely recommend right now is the RODE Procaster with the Focusrite Scarlet Solo, but the RODE PodMic is a more affordable option if you can find it.

The last thing I want to cover here in recording gear is a good set of headphones. Again, if you’re watching the video, you see I’m wearing the ATH-M50xs. Those are really good monitoring headphones. They are wired so they need to plug into the computer, but I have used these for years and I’m a huge fan. I also just picked up the AirPods Pro noise canceling earbuds. I use them on a plane and stuff like that and I thought they were fantastic. I have a video on my YouTube channel on what I think of that. So AirPods Pro, I’m a big fan. The AirPods in general are I think really good wireless headphones. So if you don’t want to quite spend 250 bucks on a pair of headphones, the second generation AirPods are also really good.

Okay, so let’s move on from recording gear, even though I could talk about recording gear all day and let’s talk about the home office stuff. Especially for people who work from home, the comforts of home are really important. You want to have a nice home office area since you’re spending most of your time there.

The first thing I want to point out is a bit of a productivity tool. It’s new this year. I just picked it up. I think it’s a little blown out in the video, but it’s right over here just off of video, actually right here. I’ll link to it in the show notes though. It’s called the Focus Calendar. It is a wall calendar. It’s a year wall calendar. It gives you a fantastic bird’s eye view of what’s going on and it’s going to let me plan out a year’s worth of projects. Or it’s broken down in the quarters. So if I only want to do the next quarter, I can do that too. There’s one on my wall right now. I’m really excited to use it. I think it’s going to improve my planning as well as my wife will be able to come to the office and see when I’m traveling and what I have planned, so it’ll be a nice kind of family thing too.

That’s the first thing I wanted to point out. It’s 29 bucks. Great gift for anybody who works from home or has the wall space and needs to plan out a bunch of stuff.

As far as the comforts of home; good coffee. When you work from home, you are your own barista, so good coffee and a good coffee maker are a must. I have an AeroPress that I really like. AeroPress is a super affordable single serving coffee maker. So if my wife’s not home I will just use the Aero. If she goes to work earlier in the morning and doesn’t make coffee or something like that, I will use the AeroPress and just make myself a good cup of coffee. Now if you’re looking for something more heavy duty, there’s an espresso. We have a Hamilton Beach model just like a standard coffee pot, coffee maker. This one is a big iron thing. The burner’s not on the bottom, so it’s not going to burn the coffee over time. I’ll link that. That’s not in the gift guide. I will link it in the show notes though.

Now, if somebody is using an AeroPress, they probably love coffee, they probably buy their own beans and so I would recommend finding a good coffee grinder. I have the Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder. It was recommended by Wire Cutter. I use that. It’s great. I’m a big fan of that. We subscribe to a couple of coffee places, so we get beans monthly. I like grinding my own coffee. This is a great coffee grinder.

If you are wondering about beans Rook Coffee is relatively close to me here on the East coast. They’re in Northern New Jersey. They make fun nominal coffee. I send it to friends and they rave about it.

I’m also a big fan of Carlin Brothers Coffee. If you are a Disney or Harry Potter fan, you may have heard of the Super Carlin Brothers. They have a fan theory channel on YouTube. It’s really good. They recently started their own coffee company. Interesting vertical to get into based on YouTube. But I got to tell you the coffee is really good. My wife loves it too and she doesn’t usually like that gourmet premium coffee. So Carlin Brothers Coffee or Rook Coffee are the ones that I would recommend.

So once you have the coffee squared away, I don’t know what your morning routine is like, but I like to get my coffee squared away, and then a time to put on real clothes for the day. Putting on real clothes when you work from home is a bit of a challenge, right, if you don’t have to. I drop my daughter off at daycare every morning so I have a quote unquote commute but it also means I have to put real clothes on. You want to make sure … working from home it means being comfortable, and sweats and tee shirts are great, but it’s also good to have some nice clothes for when you need to get out of the house.

This year I discovered UNTUCKit. They make men’s shirts. I’ve started upgrading my wardrobe to that. They are really nice, comfortable button down shirts that you don’t need to tuck in. I’m a bigger guy so I’m always kind of uncomfortable in button down shirts and self-conscious. Well, UNTUCKit has solved all that. I’m a really, really big fan. If you go to untuckit.com they have lots of shirts, lots of styles, sweaters, Henleys and all sorts of things. So a really, really big fan of UNTUCKit. If you are a guy and you are looking for … or you like wearing stylistically what’s considered guy’s clothing. UNTUCKit is fantastic and it fits me really well even as a bigger guy and I don’t have to tuck in my button down shirts. I’m not ready to start tucking any shirt into my jeans yet. I know that’s the next dad move probably for me, but I’m not ready for that yet.

Now, if you are not a guy and you like wearing not guy’s clothes, Stitch Fix is a great subscription box service. They seem to get it right every time. I’ve had people rave about Stitch Fix, including my wife. I got it for her for Christmas one year. She had it for a while and loved it and now her wardrobe is pretty full. But she absolutely loved it. They started off specifically for women but now they have boxes for men and kids too. So Stitch Fix is something I’ve heard lots of good stuff about.

As far as comfortable unmentionables, Mack Weldon … seriously, Mack Weldon. Maybe if you listen to a lot of podcasts, you’ve probably heard of Mack Weldon. They’re boxer briefs and undershirts … I don’t want to give too much … I don’t want to be TMI here but God they are so comfortable and they last a long time too. This was something that I was concerned about because I did have MeUndies and I still recommend MeUndies, but their initial run of modell underoos they broke down for me a lot. Mack Weldon’s Airknit boxer briefs are amazing. They make like longer ones, like nine inch or so that are great for travel, super comfortable. Their undershirts are great. So I’m a big fan.

Mack Weldon is another company that targets men. So for women I would recommend MeUndies. Again, super comfortable stuff. I can’t vouch for any of their underwear and stuff because I haven’t worn the women’s underwear stuff, but it’s made from the same material as the boxer briefs and I’m a big fan.

Socks; Darn Tough socks are the best socks ever. They’re super warm but they don’t make your feet sweat. It’s weird, magic, love them. I’d also recommend a good pair of slippers. I have a pair of L.L. Bean slippers that I really like, but Mack Weldon just put out a pair of slippers and I’m probably going to get soon, so I’ll report back on that.

Those are kind of the home comfort stuff. For the office some ideas, a home decor or office decor, decorating a home office can be a lot of fun. I like a lot of what Ugmonk makes. I have a few of his prints hanging up in my office. His name is Jeff. The company is Ugmonk. But I’ve also been big into national parks print lately. I went to visit Rocky Mountain National Park last year and my wife got me the official Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder Field Shelter Cabin print and framed it and it’s hanging on my wall and it’s beautiful.

I have a lot of Star Wars prints up in my office. I’m a big Star Wars fan, but I’m trying to balance that out with less Star Wars and Disney stuff and more other things that interest me, and the parks print stuff is really good. Parksproject.us is the website. This will be in the show notes. Parksproject.us is a good place. They make some really cool US national parks prints.

I like Star Wars waller too. But that’s very subjective. So think about the person that you are shopping for and what they like, but a gift card to get some print stuff or even a gift card for Michael’s or AC Moore or something like to just have some artwork framed so they can buy the artwork. The framing is usually the expensive part, so if you can help with that, that would go a long way too.

A good desk chair, again, this is another highly subjective thing. I have a Steelcase chair, they’re super expensive, but I am sitting in my chair eight to 10 hours a day. I’m standing at my standing desk right now. A good chair is super important, especially if you work from home because you might spend a little extra time in your office. Not that I’m saying you should, but I do when I want to and if I have some downtime and my wife’s at work and my daughter’s napping, I’ll come into my office. The point is I spend a lot of time in my chair, so a good chair is important. If you’re looking for something more affordable than Steelcase, Hon, H-O-N chairs seem to be pretty popular. They’re sold at Staples, but you can also get them on Amazon.

If you’re shopping for somebody who does have a standing desk, an anti-fatigue mat is a great gift. I have the Topo mat, that’s the one that’s recommended by Fully, which is where I bought my desk. The imprint CumulusPRO looks really nice though. I think I’m going to get that next. The Topo mat has seen its fair share of standing and is ripping in some areas, and the CumulusPRO seems to take up less space. So one of those two mats is what I would recommend.

This is a fun geeky one, but for office automation, you could do some cool things in your home office. One thing that’s super affordable, you can get 25 for $11 or something like that is NFC tags. These are great. They’re affordable. They’re a way to automate certain things like turning on lights, starting playlists and things like that. And now that Siri Shortcuts supports NFC tags, Android I believe has supported scanning NFC tags for a long time; these could be a lot of fun for a home office. I have one where I’ll put my phone down on it and the lights can turn on or some other things. I have one in my car where I scan it when I get to the Y and then my whole gym routine starts.

Now, if you are trying to get somebody to a point where they can start automating things, Wemo Smart Plugs are a really good way to get started with simple home automation. You plug it in and you get going. You don’t have to install a wall outlet or anything like that. The Wemo Smart Plugs that I recommend work with Alexa, with Google and with Apple’s Home Kit, so I can control these devices from any of my devices that I talk to. I can activate my Amazon tin can friend or my phone lady and have them turn on the lights.

And then finally I would recommend if they don’t have something like this already, an Amazon Echo or a Sonos One. Those are both pretty affordable. I mean the Amazon Echo is 30 bucks. Pretty affordable smart home listening devices. We got my parents one for Christmas two years ago and they love it. We got them an Echo Show and we got them a regular Echo and they love it. The Sonos One especially is great because you can listen to good music or you can bark orders at it because it has Alexa built-in. So that is the smart home stuff.

Looking at my list here, let’s see, home decor, office stuff, coffee, clothes, fantastic. So let’s talk about the tech gear. This is the stuff that I’m most interested in of course. Backups in storage is a good place to start. A lot of people don’t think about backups until it’s too late. I know that I was like that for awhile. Now I have a crazy backup strategy. I’ll link to the blog post I wrote about how that crazy backup strategy saved me from losing 15 years of photos.

An external hard drive is a really good practical gift, especially if your loved one has a Mac Time Machine, could not be easier to set up. I have a Western Digital My Book, that’s what I use, but any external hard drive is going to be fine. I have an eight terabyte model. Again, I think a four terabyte model is perfectly fine. So that’s a really nice practical gift.

Also Backblaze for cloud offsite backups. There’s a rule, I think it’s the three, two, one rule; you need your data on three devices, two different mediums, one off site. Backblaze is $60 a year or something like that for unlimited backups of a single device and that has saved my bacon a lot. So I would recommend Backblaze. If you gift it or just give them a gift card or set up an account for them Backblaze is really good.

Then there’s also portable hard drives. With Dropbox or other cloud services, there’s less need for these, but I always have a flash drive in my bag when I need it. Those are the things that I would recommend for backup stuff.

I also have a NAS network area storage. This is probably overkill. If someone doesn’t think they need a NAS then they’re probably not going to know why or what to do with it. They’re a lot of fun for tech nerds, but for the general person who works from home and your life, an external hard drive is going to be good or a subscription to Backblaze, some sort of cloud or offsite backup is going to be just fantastic. If it ever comes in handy where they use it, they will love you for the rest of their life.

Other tech stuff to think about, I have a whole section in the work from home gift guide about smart phone gear. I’ll just list them off really quickly. Wireless chargers. I love [cheat 00:25:58] chargers. I could just put my phone down someplace and have it charged. So a cheat charger is really good. I link to a couple.

A good case … Cases are pretty subjective. People either don’t care about the case they have or they care deeply about it. So I always recommend Peel. I have the codeable lucid clear one now. It’s a little bit thicker than the Peel case for my new phone. It’s got pretty good drop protection. I just got my wife a clear case from Tech21. That has drop protection of up to 10 feet and she is a phone assassin. Tech21 makes pretty colorful cases too. That’s maybe if you know somebody who just assassinates phones, then a Tech21 … if you don’t want to get them the OtterBox, which is just like a behemoth, Tech 1 is like pretty svelte for such a protective case.

Extra power, portable power is I think another … for somebody who works from home, they might not need this, but maybe if they’re like me they travel a lot or if you travel a lot, they go to conferences, on trips, they can work from anywhere, so having extra power is pretty important.

Anker, in my opinion, is the best in the business. I have a few Anker chargers I would recommend. The PowerCore Slim, they just came out with it in midnight green, which is the same color as my iPhone Pro, so of course I picked that one up. It’s really good. It’s got USBC and USB on it. It fully charged my iPad Pro at least once. I haven’t done the test, but it’s pretty fast. It works really well if you need it in a pinch and it’s super slim.

I also have the Anker PowerCore Plus 26800 PD 45 watt. That’s a terrible name, but it’s a giant battery that can charge a laptop. It’s a beast. It is always in my travel bag. I once used it on a week long trip to charge my iPhone at night because the outlet wasn’t accessible or easily accessible at least and I never had to recharge that battery. It lasted me the flight, it lasted me the whole week that I was there and then i