In this episode of LMScast, Chris Badgett of LifterLMS talks about becoming an online instructor on Lynda with WordPress and freelancing expert Carrie Dils. They also discuss how podcasting has helped both of them in their careers as teachers.
Carrie is a content creator, she has courses, and she is a teacher on Lynda.com. In this episode she shares her story of how she became a podcaster and her background with blogging. Carrie and Chris discuss her transition from running a blog to becoming an online educator. Carrie tells of her experiences with navigating into the teaching space while also being a freelancer and running her own business.
Podcasting is something Chris and Carrie both do, and they discuss the different ways that it has helped them in their careers and other endeavors. They value the relationship created with people through podcasting, and the interesting experience that occurs when you meet up with the person who has taught you in real life. Carrie has found her podcast has brought people to the other aspects of her life, such as teaching and blogging. They discuss their experiences with podcasting and some cool things they have been able to do with it. Podcasting can also help you with becoming a better communicator and teacher by getting you in front of a camera and delivering information to an audience.
Carrie fills multiple different roles in her business and life. Moving between positions within her business helps her figure out what she is interested in. She shares how she is able to do that, and the mindsets that she uses to fill those roles. There is room for anyone to join the WordPress space. Becoming a unique instructor and finding your niche market is what is important for success.
Carrie shares her journey of learning WordPress using Lynda to teaching WordPress on the same platform. Chris tells of his origin story with creating LifterLMS and how similar it is to Carrie’s story. Carrie has a book coming out soon called, “Real World Freelancing. A No Bullshit Survival Guide.” Chris and Carrie talk a bit about what went into that book, what Carrie’s inspiration was, and who she wrote it for.
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Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and today I’m joined with a special guest, Carrie Dils. How are you doing Carrie?
Carrie Dils: Good, how are you?
Chris Badgett: Excellent. Carrie is somebody I first came across in the WordPress community. She’s a prolific content creator in mini formats, has a lot of awesome multi-disciplinary wisdom to share. She has courses, and she’s a teacher on Lynda.com. We’re going to get into kind of how she does that, and how she rolls. And Carrie’s just an awesome all around person, so if you ever come across her on the internet or in person, she’s super approachable, and it’s always great to hang out. So thanks again for coming on the show, Carrie.
Carrie Dils: Wow! That was an amazing intro, thank you. You made me sound maybe better than I actually am.
Chris Badgett: No, I think you are that good. I first came across you on one of your podcasts called, “Genesis Office Hours.” So that was when I first came across, and I watched your show, and you just had a lot of great tips. I was doing similar stuff. I was building websites for clients. I wasn’t using Genesis, but it really resinated, and I could see too like you had a really, you know, there was a tribe of followers forming around you. And that was quite some time ago. I can’t remember how long ago that was, 3-4 years maybe? Was it that long?
Carrie Dils: Yeah, I think about three years ago, and then it morphed into the office, just plain office hours.
Chris Badgett: Why the change?
Carrie Dils: So that I didn’t have to… That’s a good question. So it’s, you know you said it started off as “Genesis Office Hours” and, so most of my guests that came on were somehow involved using that software. But what we ultimately ended up talking on the podcast was rarely about that software. So I felt like it was limiting the people that might listen to the show. Their like, “Awww, I don’t used “Genesis”, this podcast isn’t for me.” When in fact there was so much great information being shared from my guests that I just ended up axing that to make it a little bit more approachable for anyone that’s doing WordPress for their business.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. So was that your big first foray into content? Like are you like a person who likes to talk and speak? Or were you like really into blogging? A lot of people get into blogging before they do podcasting. Is that true for you too?
Carrie Dils: Yeah. I blogged for several years, and writing, I like blog writing, but it’s so time consuming. And podcasting on the other hand is you push the record button, talk for an hour, and then you push it out. Of course, as a podcaster, you know there’s more to it than that, but it’s another median for creating content that to me is much simpler, and less stressful, than actually writing.
Chris Badgett: I agree. I’m at about a little over a hundred episodes too, and its just so much easier to do this. And I also have some help in terms of somebody who does transcription, post-production, or whatever. It gets transcribed, which gets a lot of the SEO benefit, which is fantastic. But I still write blog posts from time to time.
From a marketing perspective or whatever, whenever I talk to people who come across Lifter LMS, or for different reasons come across me, often they say like, “Oh, I saw you on YouTube.” Or I was like how did you hear about us? And like, “I found you on YouTube.” Or “I found you iTunes. I heard your podcast.” I had no idea how far these things can go, and because they are a little kind of hard to set up, a lot harder than a blog, I think it just, and you know you have to get on camera and stuff like that, that it’s just not as competitive, and what not.
So I don’t know, did you have a similar experience? Cause I’m really focused on this like online course, LMS nitch, and if you are really focused in Genesis and this freelancer nitch, like how did that podcast do for growing your tribe?
Carrie Dils: Oh my gosh. So funny story. The woman that does my transcriptions, she used to work in the corporate headquarters for Dick’s Sporting Goods, and she was looking, she was searching YouTube for something appropriate to communicate a message in one of her meetings. And she came across one of my YouTube videos that had nothing to do with WordPress, it was just me being silly, and she ended up using that video in her meeting, and then it turns out she’s now left that and is moving into the WordPress space, and is connected with me. Yeah, it’s just a small world. You never know who is out there.
I don’t know how to actually measure the impact that the podcast has on my other endeavors, but somehow I feel certain that it’s a really important piece of that. And that it’s something that draws people into other aspects of like my teaching or my blog or something, that might not have encountered me somewhere else. So man, I would love to have actual numbers on that, but I don’t know how you connect numbers to that.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, I haven’t been able to measure it either, I mean cause it goes to the website, YouTube, iTunes, Stitch, or all these places. It’s like, well I don’t know, I give up. But it seems to be working, so.
How about another cool thing about podcasting is it seems like it gets you really comfortable with like being on camera, talking to your computer screen all day. I mean my neighbors are probably walking by the house like, “There he is, talking to his computer again.” But, it’s actually an acquired skill that I think it helps you develop as a teacher, and as a communicator or whatever. Did you have a similar experience? Do you cringe when you listened to your first podcast episodes or anything like that?
Carrie Dils: Oh it’s terrible. It’s terrible. I only leave it up there as proof that everyone can start with no skills and grow it into something. But yeah, I think it’s definitely something that, it’s a good, you said it more eloquently than I’m trying to say it, so I’m just going to agree with you on that front, and then also say it’s much easier when you have a companion that you’re talking to like we’re doing right now. As opposed to the folks that just look at their computer screen and hit record and their not talking to anyone. That to me, I feel like I sound like an idiot when I try to do that, so I’m much more comfortable with the conversational… having someone on the other end of my computer screen.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, absolutely. I totally relate to that. What was the first foray into teaching? Did you do it, especially teaching WordPress and Freelancing stuff, and all these things, was it in person? Was it online on your own site? You teach at Lynda.com, which we’re going to get into a little bit, but how did you kind of navigate into the teaching side while also being a freelancer or doing your own business?
Carrie Dils: That’s a good question, and it wasn’t necessarily anything I did on purpose. I think as I… So when I started my blog, what I would do is just write usually technical how-to’s, so whatever it was that I was learning, I would then blog about it. More for myself, because I didn’t know who was out there reading it, but it, overtime I realized you know people leaving comments on my blog and stuff like that, like “hey, this was awesome! Thank you. That helped me.” You know, “I’ve been trying to understand this and I finally understood it because the way you described it.” Blah, blah, blah. And I didn’t realize it, but that’s a form of teaching. And I think from there being a part of the WordPress community, you know applying to speak at Word camps, which standing up in front of people talking was nerve racking. It still gives me sweaty armpits.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Carrie Dils: But I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with it. Yeah, so all that sort of went into teaching, but I didn’t call it teaching. I didn’t even think of it as teaching. I thought of it more as just sharing my experience, sharing my knowledge. And then Window, which we can talk more about kind of put a formal package around that, and once I had a taste of that, I was like, “I like this!” This is a really good spot to be in. Teaching is something that I found that I really enjoy, and it’s a way to empower other people, and like you said, the reach of you podcast or your YouTube videos… You know, you have no idea how many people that you can impact, but its just cool to think that you’re making a positive dent in someone’s world.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, on that note on how many people you impact, sometimes like I’ll get on a sales call, and they’ll be like, “Is this really Chris Badgett?” I’m like, hey, I’m just a normal guy, like… I just have some videos and a website and stuff, I’m not a celebrity. But it’s interesting how the internet does that or whatever.
But I want to get into Lynda in a second, but you mentioned on something like you realized you found a love for teaching and just connecting with people, but it seems like often times the same person is not necessarily the expert, the business person, and then also the teacher. But you’re able to juggle all those. Like I know you’re way more of a developer than I am, but you’re also like a business center, and an entrepreneur, and you do marketing, entrepreneurial projects, and then you’re like a solid communicator. So how did you develop those skills either simultaneously, or in a different order? And then how do you kind of switch between them? Like I mean surely your head is in a different space when your like doing something in PHP vs. like being on the green screen at Lynda or something.
Carrie Dils: Oh definitely. First let me set the record straight, I am not a marketer. I am a terrible marketer. I hire someone to help me with that. But you know anybody, and I know a lot people that listen to your podcast are entrepreneurs, so I think the concept of wearing many hats is probably quite familiar to them. You know I think that those, it’s the combination of a lot of little things over time that’s kind of, and I mean I’m still learning how to do things, but that’s brought me to currently where I am now.
So technical skill, I’ve been developing websites since the late 90s, but I wasn’t teaching it. I couldn’t have taught it at that point in time. Also, I’ve always kind of had that entrepreneurial spirit, but didn’t have any actual business savvy, other than you know, you can’t spend all the money and make it. You’ve got to set some aside in your coin box. And you know over time and experience in different jobs. I did a stint at Starbucks where I was part of their management, part of a local management team. I got to do a lot of employee training, which I found was a whole lot of fun, and also learned how to just run a business. So how to look at a P&L and understand where we needed to push and where we needed to go back and all of those things. And then out of that, I came into this freelancing career, so kind of a rebirth of those technical skills that I had put on the shelf for a while, and then like we were just talking about. I didn’t mean to teach, it just sort of happened.
So anyways, that’s the really long rambling answer that I don’t even know if I properly addressed your question. But yeah, there are distinctive hats you put on and the way I’ve found to be the most, I guess effective at that, is to not try to do all of them at one time or even in the same day. So like there’s one day a week where I’m putting on my business thinker hat taking care of business, looking at strategy, all those sorts of things. And there’s you know a few days where I’m just the developer. I’m not thinking about you know any strategy or whatever, I’m just working on code. And then again when I’m working on say like a Lynda course, that’s all I’m doing. So fully immersing in whatever I am for a good chunk of time before I peace out and put another hat on.
Did that make any sense?
Chris Badgett: It made total sense, it made total sense. I do want to add though that I think you are a marketer, because like when I talk about sales or whatever, there’s three kinds. THere’s inbound, outbound and relationships. And perhaps you don’t do a lot of outbound code calling or knocking on doors or whatever, but you definitely create a lot of content, which creates inbound leads, which is a form of that. And then you know, you’re very involved in the WordPress community and there’s a lot of relationships and that kind of thing there. So that’s really cool, and I think one of the big take aways there is there’s a big difference between like multi-tasking, like trying to do all that at once vs. like having some structured walks. I’m kind of anal about that stuff too where I even have like four hour blocks on my calendar every week for certain things just to make sure I don’t let that thing slip or whatever. So that’s really cool.
Well how did you get into Lynda.com? I mean Lynda was just acquired by LinkedIn right? For a billion dollars or something like that? Is that right?
Carrie Dils: Yeah, I can’t remember what the price tag was, but a hefty sum, and then LinkedIn, the deal was just finalized here recently, but LinkedIn was acquired by Microsoft. So it’s like the fish just keep like… I don’t know, I thinK we’re probably at the end of the line in terms of big fish to keep going. And LinkedIn is going to remain its own kind of individual thing. But Lynda has been completely swallowed by LinkedIn. Not in a negative way, its just I don’t know how much longer the actual Lynda brand will stay around. But anyhow, that was not your question at all.
So I used Lynda.com, their training videos, to learn WordPress and to learn kind of beef up some of my technical skills when I was entering this space, and it so happened that they had one instructor in the WordPress space, and that was a fellow named Morton Rand-Hendriksen. So I watched his classes, learned WordPress, and I don’t know, maybe a year or two into my WordPress journey, I met Morton at a Word camp. Its like you on the phone, “Is this really Chris Badgett?” And I mean I saw Morton from across the room, and I mean I totally went and was just a big fan girl. Because for me he was a celebrity. So I got to meet Morton and start a friendship with him, and over time he introduced me to the folks at Lynda, and the rest is sort of history. But I think it’s funny that I am now teaching what I learned from that resource, so you never know.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well is Lynda, do they come after you? Or you have to go after them? Like not anybody can teach on Lynda. It’s not like necessarily like you Udemy. So how…
Carrie Dils: Yeah, so there was an interview process and where I was sending in demos of me trying to teach some concept or whatnot. So there is, I mean its not just anybody that knocks on the door. But now that I have an established relationship with them, I can come to them with course ideas, more often than not their coming to me with course ideas, or refreshing older content in their library. You know, wanting to bring some of that content up to date. If somebody ever wants to teach, like if you go to Lynda.com and I think on the very bottom of the page, and they call it author vs. teacher. Go click on that and apply. The worst thing they can do is tell you no.
Chris Badgett: Do you do it in person? Like do you have to be in their green room or whatever? Or is it, can you record from home?
Carrie Dils: I go out, so they have a facility in Southern California, where they do all their recording, and it’s, Chris it is state-of-the-art. I mean the equipment, even the people, I mean their so close to LA, so their pulling in people that have been working on Hollywood sets and stuff, that level of production. They’ve got all these little perfectly cubed sound booths and they would cringe if I submitted a video that looked like this right now with you know the halo behind me and you know, just talking on my built-in microphone.
So yeah, I go out there to do the recording. Folks like Morton, who he is a full-time staff author there, he has his own set-up at home, because otherwise he’d just be traveling out there all the time.
Chris Badgett: Right. That’s cool. Well how long is your average Lynda course? And then how long is the recording session for it?
Carrie Dils: Oh, that’s a good question. Average course length, probably an hour and a half. And I spend about 60 hours in a booth recording to get that. And all of that time is like the lights going, but its me you know prepping script. But even you know a video that eventually gets cut to like a three minute segment, there may be 12 minutes of recording that… because I mess up, or I don’t say something the right way, or I didn’t quite get the right message across, and oh my gosh. It’s intensive. But, what the resulting product, and this is the thing that I really think sets Lynda apart from other online education training libraries is that level of excellence in quality. So there is no fluff or you know, “umm-ing” and “ahh-ing” like I am right now. I’m wasting people’s time. They edit all that stuff out.
Chris Badgett: And somebody else does the editing for you at Lynda, right? Like they have a …
Carrie Dils: Yes.
Chris Badgett: Like they have their own post-production team or whatever.
Carrie Dils: Exactly. So its like you let the author be an expert at whatever their an expert in, and then other experts in that, you know in recording and production and all that can do their excellent work so you don’t have to learn that, which is really nice.
Chris Badgett: Well you mentioned something else that’s interesting, and I’m going to kind of tie it in to something you said earlier about Morton, but also just what you said even earlier about you didn’t know you were teaching, or that’s not how you approached it. I had a similar thing happen where I started making “How to Build a WordPress Website in a Weekend” videos, and the I just looked the other day, and it’s a free course I put on Udemy many, many years ago, and there’s like 10,000 people in there. I even have like one of my developers who was working for me for a while, he realized after we had been working together for like six months that he learned WordPress from me, like and he’s from Nepal, and he was living in Iceland, or whatever, but I was like, this is crazy.
Carrie Dils: That’s awesome.
Chris Badgett: That was just me challenging myself to make a … I was actually doing it to kind of attract new clients, and that’s when I first started freelancing, they’d be like, “Hey Chris, I saw your YouTube videos. This looks easy, but it’s actually kind of hard. Can I just pay you to do it?” I’m like yes! So this similar thing happened where I started blogging actually about, I created online courses around organic gardening topics with my wife, Sam, and I used a theme off of Theme Forest, and an LMS theme, and I started blogging about it. And like most blog posts Chris used to write, you know I might get 100 people on it here or there, but then all of a sudden I was getting like thousands of people a day. And then you know fast forward four years, you know my agency started specializing in online courses and membership sites and we build a product to kind of scratch our own itch, and solve some of the problems we solve in this space. It all started from just like creating content and just kind of becoming a teacher by accident and getting better and better at all the technology stuff.
But the piece I wanted to kind of tie into related to you know I teach WordPress, you teach WordPress. When I first met you in Abo, Mexico, I was like, “Oh, there’s Carrie Dis!” from the, it’s the same thing, from the podcasts. But there’s a lot of people doing similar things, so even like you mentioned, you did something in a similar way to what Morton did, perhaps updated it. Of course, its in your own style and flare and your own unique insights, but also I saw you at I think it was a Word camp U.S. show were you were with Shawn Sketcher, who also teaches WordPress …
Carrie Dils: Ah yes.
Chris Badgett: And Bob WP, I think you guys were being interviewed by W.P. Engine. But there’s not, I think what my point is, even though it might be crowded, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. So how do you approach that? Or do you even worry about trying to be unique? Or just trying to do the best you can do on your topic? How do you see all that?
Carrie Dils: Yeah, to me that’s not, just like you said, it’s not a bad thing at all, its a credit space. I think there’s still plenty of room there, especially with a piece of software like WordPress that’s so vast, and there’s so many different ways that you can approach it. Like Bob, W.P. Bob, or Bob W.P., has taken very, very beginners under his wing and wants to just demo the very, very basics of using plugin or whatnot. Whereas Hesketh has gone on with his W.P. 101 videos and really created a solution that he can make available to people like you and I that do client work or that used to do client work teaching clients how to use WordPress. And then there’s me who I’ve got a little bit more of a technical or developer bet on teaching WordPress.
I think there’s room for anybody that wants to play. I think the important thing is you can find, let me just Google you know “how to learn WordPress.” And you’ll probably find a bajillion different things out there, or different people that could teach you. But I think part of what makes an instructor unique and why a student might choose you vs. someone else is specifically because its you. So their part of your tribe, over time they’ve seen your YouTube videos, maybe they bridge your content, you are a trusted face and a trusted voice, and therefore it doesn’t matter if ten other people put out a class that’s just as high poly as mine. Those are people that want to hear what I have to say, which still blows my mind. But I think that you build a tribe, you build an audience, and then when you have something to teach them, you will be the obvious source.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, the world is a very big place, so people will find you. I think heard Chris Lema say that you know often times people do it backwards. They start getting online course or LMS software, and then they start building community, and then they start building content, or content and then they start building community, but you should actually do it the other way around or whatever.
Carrie Dils: Absolutely.
Chris Badgett: Cool. Well what about like the mediums? So you do client work. You write, you podcast, teach, like what’s up with all this like multimedia thing? Like instead of, why not be an author? Or why not be a podcaster? Why not be just a business person? Like how is it, I’m the same way, so maybe I’m just trying to look into the mirror here, but how does that happen to somebody?
Carrie Dils: So I’ve actually cut out client work. I phased that out at the end of 2016, which was a big chunk of what I was doing. So that lets me focus more on you know the teaching. And I think the fact that there’s all these different mediums, I really don’t know Chris. Maybe its just curiosity to try out different formats and see what works or see what people respond to. But the thread is the same through all of them. So whether I’m writing or doing a formal course or hosting a guest with some great expertise on a podcast, those are all informational and instructional things that you could broadly put under that umbrella of teaching. So yeah, Chris, I want to affirm you that it’s okay to have professional ADD. And I say that so I can feel better about myself.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well like kind of like on Lynda, your still surrounding the same person with just different kind of offers or creations or works of art. You may be teaching something more technical in your course, but then like you have a new book that is about to come out or may be out when the listener or viewer sees this, but its called, “Real World Freelancing. A No Bullshit Survival Guide.” So maybe that same user has a, you know they learned something technical from you, but now they need some business advice. So you come at it from different angles. Your just helping the same person in different ways. What’s the book all about? Like what is the origin story?
Carrie Dils: I like that, I like that. Yeah, so origin story, I actually have a colleague, Diane Kinney, that I’m working with to write the book, and its, the origin was, and I don’t even remember who it was I was sitting down with, but somebody that was cranking up a new business and so I was like all right, get out your pen, and we’re going to talk about everything. First, you need to, you know, go establish yourself as a legal entity, and then you need to separate your money into different accounts, and then you need to … And we hadn’t even gotten to actually what it is you do for a living yet. We were just talking about all the business aspects that surround it. And I was like holy crap, I wish somebody had sat me down and told me this when I was 22 years old. And so the book is, you know if I could go back in time and sort of mentor a younger me, that would be who it was for.
So you know, there’s a ton of developers, designers, people in the WordPress space that want to hang out their shingle and start doing client service and make a living off of it. And while there is room to do that, I think that those are going to be a lot of candles that fade out quickly if there’s no like actual business savvy underneath it, or as a foundation. And again, I don’t think you need to go get your MBA, I certainly don’t have one. It’s just been the school of life. But that’s sort of the origins of the book, and yes, so the people that I’m teaching technical things to, if a lot of them, and I know this just from surveys of done with my readers yet, but a lot of them either are already freelancing or aspire to ditch their 9-5 and hang out their own shingles So that’s exactly who the book is for.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. And I think that that whole freelancer economy vocation, independent, work-from-home or wherever, co-working thing, is like, it’s just, I think we’re actually still just at the beginning of what’s happening there. I think the economy is really changing, and people need stuff like that.
My mom used to always say that I had to do things the hard way, and since its already, we already have the explicit tag on this podcast episode, when I first started learning WordPress, I went to YouTube and I was like, “This is bullshit!” Like it’s taking me forever to piece together all this stuff to like build a site, and I was just a user, not a developer. So then I was like, alright, I’m going to like scratch my own itch and I’m going to make like, okay, you can do it, you can do it fast, this is the critical things you need to know, and I started doing that, and then I you know started publishing that in different places and stuff.
But yeah, that whole like, you don’t have to do it the hard way, like you’re saying. Especially in this day in age when things, the world is moving fast, it’s really complicated, you need to be more and more integrated and interdisciplinary if you’re going to be some kind of expert or specialized skill. You really need to know how to run a business too, and stuff like that. So that’s just an awesome thing to do to write a book around.
Carrie Dils: Well thank you. Yeah, a lot of things that, this may be telling of my age, but we didn’t have the internet. The internet was very, very young, so it’s not like resources to learn WordPress. I mean technically, WordPress wasn’t even around at that point, but you couldn’t just go YouTube “How to do XYZ,” because there was no YouTube. So it’s awesome to have all these resources, and you can now tell your mom that you don’t have to learn everything the hard way.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. I mean I’m feeling the age too. My daughter the other day pointed to something, “what’s that?” I’m like, “that’s a payphone. You can actually like call somebody.” But yeah, I think that that overlap, if you were to make like a Venn diagram, like if your doing like web development WordPress skills, but also business. I see that a lot of people, that’s just how they find their unique angle or their tribe is like, they overlap something. And often times it may be harder to compete like at one thing, but when you find a sweet spot between two things or three things, that’s really where you start getting you know a brand and some uniqueness going on. So that’s really cool.
Carrie Dils: I love that. That’s a great way to think about it. And I’m going to start doing this for my Venn diagrams.
Chris Badgett: So if you’re listening, you’re going to need to come on over to YouTube to see what this is. But I would encourage you the listener to check out Realworldfreelancing.com. One of the great things about books and courses and things is that you can stand on the shoulders of giants and learn from people without necessarily making the same mistakes. You’re going to make mistakes, but why not shortcut the journey. There’s never been a better time to teach and to learN and to leverage the experience of others.
Well where can people find out more about you, Carrie? Where do you want to send them?
Carrie Dils: Carriedils.com. That is the hub of all of my various hats and adventures. And then on Twitter @CDils.
Chris Badgett: @CDils. All right. Well thank you for coming on the show, and I appreciate you sharing the wisdom and being an inspiration to all of us out here.
Carrie Dils: Thanks so much for having me.