Episode 372

How to Build WordPress Products and a Thriving Agency at the Same Time with Derek Ashauer

In today’s episode of LMScast, we have Derek Ashauer, founder of WPsunshine & Ashwebstudio.com, with us is our host Chris Badgett, co-founder of LifterLMS. Derek has been designing websites for his clients and creating plugins out of things he has been doing over and over for clients or something that is just fun to have.

An added layer of gamification on your course website

Derek Ashauer

Confetti is one of the fun plugins that are quite popular right now. The plugin is now integrated with LifterLMS. You can use this plugin to show a blast of confetti to celebrate an action your learner has done on your site. For example, completed a course, or aced a quiz. Confetti comes with 6 different styles and customization options like color duration etc.

Adding this feature can be beneficial in improving the experience of your LifterLMS powered eLearning platform. We have seen many of our course creators to be teaching language to young learners. This spin of fun to their learning surely makes them smile. But not just them, our adult users can be cheered up too as learning sometimes can become a very mundane task for them.

The confetti plugin was built off a javascript library he found. He was drawing inspiration for a client, on an eCommerce side, he found that at checkout they were using a confetti-style animation when they completed the order. He liked the idea. So he also used that for the client. They loved it. Then it was made into a plugin for all sorts of eCommerce users on WordPress and also it comes built-in with his other plugins.

He has been running the Sunshine Photo Cart plugin for 9 years. This plugin also came out of a client project. He started off by building this plugin for a photographer client’s website. How photographers sell photos is kind of different from course selling. Back then, there weren’t any easy solutions to the needs of a photographer, and the only way you could get what you wanted was around the steep expense of $500. Back then, even WooCommerce wasn’t a thing to base his eCommerce transactions on. WPoffloader is a cloud storage site for photographers and it is integrated with the sunshine photo cart so that photographers can enjoy unlimited fast cloud storage without letting down the speed of their website.

This third most popular plugin, Search Field for Gravity Forms is free because he feels this is something all eCommerce websites should have. It automatically suggests addresses to WooCommerce or Gravity forms fields as you start typing, and it can also autocomplete. He is making it available for all sorts of eCommerce in the future because he feels that all sites should have this.

Some Tips for Client Management

Derek is a great communicator and manages his clients really well. He shared some tips to communicate with clients. Always answer their questions at their level. Meeting the client at their level of technology is essential. Web designing is probably overwhelming for most clients and that is why they come to you. So, you need to give them the assurance that you understand what their need is and then just make it for them. In case of moments when you have to say ‘no’, instead say that may not be the best way to do it.

At LifterLMS.com, you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. I’ve got a gift for you over at lifterlms.com/gift. Thank you for joining us!

Episode Transcript

Chris Badgett (Intro) : You’ve come to the right place! If you are looking to create, launch and scale a high value online training program. I’m your guy Chris Badgett, I’m the co-founder of LifterLMS, the most powerful learning management system for WordPress. Stay to the end! I’ve got something special for you. Enjoy the show.

Chris Badgett: Hello and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett and I am joined by a special guest. His name is Derek Ashauer. He is the creator of the Confetti add-on for LifterLMS that’s from wpsunshine.com. It’s super cool. Stuff like explodes on the screen when people complete courses and complete lessons and stuff like that. It’s a super neat gamification trick. He is also the founder of ashwebstudio.com. Welcome to the show Derek.

Derek Ashauer: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. 

Chris Badgett: I am excited to get into it with you. You know we have a lot in common. We are in the WordPress community, we have run agencies and we have got products, some big, some small. Um, and I think this is gonna be a really interesting episode, kinda looking at your WordPress journey and also um, looking at gamification and what’s it like to build a platform product like you have done with Sunshine Photo Cart for photographers which is quite the feat. But to start this conversation, the way we met was from your work at wpsunshine.com where I just got an email one day that, “Hey, there is this, we have integrated Lifter. There is something called Confetti. Check it out.” Tell us about the story of Confetti. What is it and what does it do? 

Derek Ashauer: It’s built off of JavaScript library that I found um, you know open source JavaScript library that I did this confetti effect. You can do all different pre you know, add some predefined effects and stuff like that. When I was, it actually started originally when I was just on some other site um, e-commerce store, I don’t remember what it was but after I made a purchase on there and it had a little Confetti effect and I am like, “Wow, that’s amazing.” And at that same time. I was kinda working on a large e-commerce project for a client and I was just like, “Hey, that was kind of fun. Let me throw it on this client’s site. So I just put it on there and just let them know I put it on there and they loved it and I was like, “This is really easy. It’s pretty straight forward. Let me go ahead and make this a plug-in.” I think that would be fun and it’s right around the time as you know, having an agency, I have always wanted to start doing more products. I have had Sunshine Photo Cart for about 9 years now but it’s a massive one and I kinda wanted something that was a little bit more smaller scale, easier to sell and you know, lower price point. Something that wouldn’t require a whole bunch of maintenance and stuff. So it just seemed like a personal perfect fit and I was just trying to you know, go through and one of the things i identified was “ Let me create products that solve problems that I have been doing for my clients. Things I can do over and over, things that happen to be fun or unique like this.” Confetti, this one just happened to be the first one that came up. So yeah, it took me a few days and I converted it, the custom code that I did for my client’s site and turned it into a plug-in. It lets you kinda configure, there is I think like 6 different styles that you can choose from. They are pre-done but then you can customize the settings on it as well like do custom color so it matches your site, custom where it comes out of the screen and come up, start at different points, how long it lasts, duration and you know, all kinds of different configurations that you can quickly do to match your site however want it to look and I think it’s just a fun little plug-in. It’s main thing was when, it was just that, it’s just neat. It was just one of those little things that’s not you know, it’s not a massive thing. It’s not something you need to have right now to increase conversions or anything. It was one of the few things that made me feel something while doing something on a website. So, it was an interesting experience that was just like, “Wow. Thank you. Thank you for celebrating with me for buying this.” You know, I think it was something really this mundane like I don’t even know like I needed to get my daughter a new bathing suit or something like that and I was just like, I have been putting it off for a month and it was like, “Thank you for celebrating my procrastination and finally getting over my procrastination and getting this done and it was great.”

Chris Badgett: It’s so cool and, for the course creator community out there, a lot of you folks also use the Form Plug-ins like GravityForms and Formidables so like on form submissions the Confetti can go. It works with WooCommerce, EDD. In the Lifter stuff you’ve got the order, the purchase, the lesson completed, the quiz pass section, the course completed section, track completed so if you are doing a degree program or whatever. I have to say when we tested this, whenever somebody builds an integration, we have a whole process where we you know, check it out, check out the integration, make sure the quality is there and then we you know, we are a big community people so we work to promote and work to get the word out and everything and I don’t think in, I don’t know, maybe our integration partner program has been around for 5 years, I don’t think we had so much fun just on our just team meetings. Both the first time I saw it and then on our team meeting where Natalie and our team like kinda shows it to everybody so, everybody is aware like on the support team when somebody calls in and everybody knows about all the integrations, it was like, I have never seem like a Brady Bunch on our Zoom with like all smiles so I think fun, fun is the way to describe this. Go ahead.

Derek Ashauer: I was gonna say it’s like, it takes something that’s mundane so like contact forms or you know, you complete something like that. It’s just like, “Thank you. Move on.” It just adds a little something like, you have done something. Like I said, the first time I did it, it was like procrastinating. You know, it’s just a little like, “Hey. Thank you for celebrating with me this little accomplishment.” So it leans, so yeah it goes right into doing you know, LMS stuff where you know, someone takes a quiz and they don’t, you know, maybe they are not wanting to take a quiz but hey, “Congratulations” you know type thing. It just adds that little excitement, that fun it’s just a little, yeah it’s a weird little psychological effect that makes the big impact on things. You wouldn’t think it does, but it really, it just does. 

Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s cool and even just playing in your settings panel like the um, I figured out all the names but I think one of them was called like the style of confetti, there is like a cannon or a bazuka or something. There is like all these like, funny things so I was like, “this is not only fun to look at, it’s kinda fun to set up and play with the different time span and locations and all that stuff.” Um, awesome and I just wanna add too, like gamification for online courses. You know, you have got achievement badges and certificates and automated emails and pop-ups and things that are powered by Lifter but adding this I think is a great add to your gamification stack um, and that’s it. Wpsunshine.com- just look for the Confetti product. Let’s talk about Sunshine Photo Cart. Because I know how hard it is running an agency and then your clients really need this thing or you see a better way to do it than what’s currently available with off-the-shelf tools. Tell us about the photographer niche and what happened and how, you said 7 years ago?(Crosstalk)

Derek Ashauer: 9.

Chris Badgett: 9? So you are older than LifterLMS. LifterLMS is almost 8 years old, so why don’t you tell us about Sunshine Photo Cart. 

Derek Ashauer: Just like I created for a client, it would happen to be my now ex-wife who was a photographer and at the time, there wasn’t so, let’s take a step back-what Sunshine Photo Cart does is that it allows photographers to create galleries and sell prints and digital downloads on their own WordPress website. So, how photographers sell is very different then how you would sell a t-shirt or anything like that. It just works different, photographers need different things than um, what a traditional store is. Um, I created it also because at that time, there wasn’t really any great options whether Sass or even installed options you know, it could be Bolton type thing. There was like one at the time and it was like 500 dollars and it wasn’t even that great. And so I told her at the time and I was just like, “You know what? I can create something for you in like 2 to 3 weeks,” over massive ego thinking I can do it real quick, it would be really easy. I can just build this on WordPress, make it really quick and easy and about 6 months later, I kinda had a version 1 ready and it was mostly for her and it was just kind of a test. When I was, you know, 9 years ago,  when I was kinda had been building WordPress site for clients for a year or two then and I kinda wanted to dive into it so it was a great way to kinda get into more WordPress custom development and stuff, so I kinda used it as a way to learn as well and grow my skills as a WordPress developer. Um, and then I was like, “Hey, you know what, why don’t I just start selling this? I don’t know why it has to be just for her, I can do this.” So, it took a little bit more time and packaged it into something that I could sell and then yeah, I started releasing it and just had been adding to it over and over again over the years but I mean, I did not make it as a WooCommerce add-on because it was so long ago. WooCommerce wasn’t even a thing (inaudible). Honestly, when I was starting, I was like, “Where do you start for a framework for e-commerce and look in the WordPress space?” At the time, JigoShop was actually the top e-commerce plug-in and so I actually, some of the foundations of Sunshine at the time, you know to start something like that I kinda, “Let’s take some of their files and code and just start from there” (inaudible) did it and there is probably still to this day, some remnants of the JigoShop you know, stuff that I brought over. As we all know, JigoShop is gone and WooCommerce was a fork of JigoShop and then WooCommerce grew too often and essentially (inaudible) and it was gone. So, it is , it’s own entire e-commerce ecosystem, um, so that unfortunately means that making payment gateways and doing all the shipping and taxing so it’s a pretty big endeavor to tackle.

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I was just playing around on your demo while you were talking of Sunshine and it’s very cool. How do you power that demo by the way? We have a demo too but I am just curious, how does your work?

Derek Ashauer: Oh god. So it is a multisite setup and I think I had that going for 6 or 7 years and it was like, there was like a plug-in called Ninja demo or something like that. 

Chris Badgett: I think I remember that. I think I remember that. 

Derek Ashauer: I don’t think they do it anymore. I think it’s the same team that does Ninja Forms. Honestly I don’t remember anymore but it still works. Granted it’s a bit slow, I get a lot of comments saying the demos can run incredibly slow so it’s something one of the things I have been meaning to do is do a better demo system because of people see that is slow and think it’s Sunshine Photo Cart but in reality it’s just you know, it’s just kind of the multisite demo environment and how it all works and what not.

Chris Badgett: What did you learn about the photographer customer like, the original customer, was it like a wedding photographer, or portraits or um, like who is the ideal customer for this?

Derek Ashauer: Yeah it’s gonna be wedding and portrait type photographers. That’s what my ex-wife was. She did weddings, families and all that kinda stuff and you know, senior sessions and so on and so forth. There’s definitely 2 other distinct markets. One would be like stock photographer which Sunshine isn’t really geared toward to be honest. There is another plug-in out there that is actually which I usually recommend which I can’t remember the name. Then there is what I call bulk photographers which are ones that do like sports or (inaudible) where they are creating you know like, wedding photographer are creating one gallery with 500 images where a bulk photographers will create 500 galleries with one image so you know, 1 school portrait for each kid so it’s kind of reversed and it’s one of the target markets that Sunshine is still working on kinda addressing their needs and they have kinda gotten better recently but there are definitely some unique types of photographers that have different needs within that space.   

Chris Badgett: That’s cool. What advice do you have for WordPress professionals that is you know, doing products and agencies at the same time or wants to like, words of wisdom, words of caution, how to keep it fun like, what are some ideas that you have come across your journey?

Derek Ashauer: Um, the biggest thing is honestly, balancing time with what you (Inaudible) balancing time and I think I definitely made the mistake of going way too big at first cause as I said, Sunshine Photo Cart was my first plug-in that I ever developed and it’s as big as WooCommerce is and I do it only by myself. So it’s pretty hard to balance something that big so that’s why I now have things like the Confetti plug-in which is significantly smaller and more reasonable honestly to manage and handle but I think the number 1 thing that helped Sunshine grow even though I do very limited marketing honestly, it’s a lot of, even my agency, it’s a lot of word of mouth and I found that just having good quality support is something that people will you know, gladly recommend you and start doing that marketing for you on their own. So like, SEO and that that kind of stuff, I know the basics and I have done all that stuff you know, outreach and the few things here and there but I just found it’s so much easier when someone says as an agency or as a, you are just selling products, if you have good reviews, good recommendations and people are actually referring you, the sales are already done. They are already 90% of the way there. Their best friend just said, “oh my god, this plug-in is great. You got to get it.” or, “This agency is great. You gotta work with them.” They just say, “Where do I sign? Here is my credit card number.” I know you asked about you know, plug-ins and stuff but I found that truth to be the same for both agencies and even in the software stuff that people just love like, “Hey, I just responded within the same day to a ticket.”  and they are like just blown away by that idea because on average, in most places, you get a response within 48 hours, you are happy so if you are gonna respond and also, keeping it light and like you are an actual person. I think that is something that is missing in support is talking to people like they are people as opposed to constantly sending the same automated response and it’s okay to say in my opinion, “I don’t know the answer. I don’t know why this doesn’t work. I tried it. I can’t repeat it on my test sites. I don’t have an answer for you but I will keep looking and see if something comes up.” Most of the time people are like, “Okay. Thanks for looking into this.” As long as you are on a like personal level, it really works well and I have only met a lot of my customers through support tickets and they are just like, “Hey Derek. What’s going on? Hope things are going well for you.” you know, they are really supportive of things so it’s interesting how just having good quality support can make a big difference in your sales, support and if you make a mistake, they will be like, “I get it. You are a person.” Especially when you are on your own, you are gonna make mistakes. You are gonna release something where it just breaks a bunch of people’s sites. It’s gonna happen because as an individual doing stuff, I don’t have a team of 4 or 5 people to test every possible combination of settings for every single time I make an update. You know, like a big thing was Sunshine integrated with WP Offload plug-in so photographers can have unlimited file storage on Amazon S3. Well, they have released a big update to their thing and it actually broke our integration and it took me some back and forth. I released something and I was like, “Oh, that didn’t quite work for some people.” and it was just you know, working with a couple people here and there and just being straightforward with them like, “Hey, This is how it just happens sometimes.” I don’t have the resources to spend 3 full days on this one integration that maybe 15% of my users on the plug-in that is 25% of my income and 25% of the time that I have anyway at my overall work with my agency, I just can’t. So, that’s just how it is sometimes.

Chris Badgett: Solid advice. I love that idea of being the super communicator your client and your customer wish you could be like, we have honestly done that to stand out. Just be human and have good communication and as fast as you can and just be real.  

Derek Ashauer: But then, I definitely learnt, “Don’t do it on weekends.” 

Chris Badgett: Yeah, set boundaries. Set boundaries.

Derek Ashauer: Set your boundaries. I did that early. I was responding to every ticket within an hour on a Tuesday or 3 o’clock on a saturday cause I was just so wanted to get good reviews then I was like, “There is a balance, there is a balance.”

Chris Badgett: You mentioned it real quick in your comment but I just want to surface it um. If somebody is gonna have a large WordPress media library, there is something called WP Offload S3. Can you just explain what that is if someone is not aware of it?

Derek Ashauer: Oh yeah. It’s made by Delicious Brains. They have a plug-in that lets any media that you upload to your site, it offloads it to Amazon. I think it works with Dropbox or another one. For my purposes, I only work with Amazon for various reasons but yeah, it’s a great way so you can truly have unlimited file storage on Amazon S3. It’s significantly cheaper. 

Chris Badgett: So the key benefit is like, not having hosting problems or WordPress upload limit and things like that?

Derek Ashauer: It’s mostly like you know, file storage. It’s one of the major things for like, photographers who are uploading. Photographers have 500 galleries and each one having 500 images in there, each with 10 to 20 megabyte high res photos in there so it quickly adds up and although there is unlimited file storage option, some web hosting companies they, you know, that’s not really true so, it’s just a way to get it onto Amazon Word. It’s a lot cheaper.   

Chris Badgett: That’s cool. Well, let’s just (inaudible) other plug-ins here quickly. Address AutoComplete. What’s the story with that one? 

Derek Ashauer: Same thing. It’s actually for the same e-commerce client that I did Confetti for. We built a custom integration. So, what it was is, it’s called perfectgiftclub.com, check it out but it’s a great site where you create a list of contacts and then you get an email reminder 30 days before like an event like their birthday or anniversary or whatever.. So, none of the existing address autocomplete plug-ins would work because I had a custom area where you would enter that, your recipient’s address. It worked with the checkout area, it worked with my account area but it did not work with my custom area. So, I had to build one anyway.

Chris Badgett: Is the key thing there that it like, if you type in a street address and it is like, “Oh yeah, there’s 2 of those in the United States.” and then you’re like, “Yes it’s the North Carolina one.”  Is that what it is?

 (crosstalk)

Derek Ashauer: So it’s like if you start typing in, you know, my address is “123 somewhere street,” when you start having 123-the address pops up, you know, there may be some few different options to choose from, you click on the one that auto-completes with your address, city, state, zip into the field. This is one of my favorite things on any e-commerce thing whenever I’m checking it out, especially new stores, I’m like Yes! I hate retyping my address over and over again, let me just pop-it in there real quick, I know Shopify, you know, has it, all kinds of popular e-commerce stores use it, it just makes data entry so much quicker, on stores, so, ah, it’s one of my favorite things on e-commerce stores so I really wanted to do-but it came as a necessary thing from this client project. Um and then, and then, it turned and I added that into Sunshine Photo Cart as well, as it is just an e-commerce platform that I had just made that available to everyone (inaudible), cause I loved it so much I thought everyone should have it. And then I realized the way that I built it , it would be really easy to make this applicable to any form on any site, (inaudible) so it could be easily bundled as a plug-in for WordPress. So yeah, that one, that one’s still a little bit of in its (inaudible) right now um, its a solid plug-in orchestrate in Gravity Forms and WooCommerce at the moment and I’m gonna go do the same thing with Confetti and go through and get it to work with things like Lifter and what not. But, ah, client work? No way. So, right now, that one got a little bit pushed backward at the moment, so when I get sick of some client work, wanna take a break and do something more fun, I get back into it. Lifter and you know, some other forms of plug-ins.

(crosstalk)

Chris Badgett: Search field for Gravity Forms? Is that a back-end plug-in or like in the back-end (crosstalk)

Derek Ashauer: No, that came as, well you know it’s another, you know,“trying to solve a problem” as a developer having made WordPress, you know, client sites for so long, you’re trynna solve a problem but that actually came about in doing , for, actually for Sunshine Photo Cart when someone needs a ticket. I was trynna find ways to really help. I found so many people who’d just ask a questions thats already in my documentation. And I forced people to search the documentation before they then get to the form, but I was like (crosstalk).

Chris Badgett: Help Scout has this feature, but I’ve always wanted to bridge the gap at WordPress, but you figured it out, that’s cool (crosstalk)

Derek Ashauer: But that was a thing that people would still type something and then go to the form and still not do it. It needed to be in there so, I wanted to wait for them when they were typing, what is the subject of your issue? So, as they’re typing, then all the documentation and articles are right there and they have a chance to click on that and do it. That was the main reason why I created that one, just to solve one of my own problems. And, seems a lot of people, seem to enjoy that so.

Chris Badgett: And that’s free, that’s on your website?

Derek Ashauer: Yeah, I mean that one’s free cause that’s a pretty small one so.

Chris Badgett: wpsunshine.com and then order redirects for WooCommerce. I remember needing a custom redirect before. I wonder if I used this, I don’t know how long this has been there. (crosstalk)

Derek Ashauer: No, this one’s relatively new (crosstalk), it was a, it was to solve a custom client problem, ah, what this one does is, when you’re done with an order in WooCommerce, it can redirect you to certain URLs. So, what they needed to do was, they wanted to be able to, they had to buy tickets. It was like for a annual symposium or something like that. And then afterwards they needed to gather some information and they had it on a, like a form or something like that, so they wanted to do that (inaudible) they also pre-populated with some of the information they used to purchase.

Chris Badgett: Like a name and stuff?

Derek Ashauer: Yeah, their name and email address to make it a little bit easier. But also each, each, there were different levels of tickets, so depending on what ticket they bought-they had to go to a different form which had a different URL. And so we were like, “This is great!” There were some order redirects out there, but there was a situation where was a, um, it needed a priority system, that was the big thing that it didn’t have. That there was no way to prioritize which reader, if you bought two different products which have a redirect, which one do you go to? All the existing ones just pick the first one at redirection (inaudible) but there are cases that work like, “Oh no, this one is the main one we needed to go to.” I spent a little to pass, you know, order meta data in the URL so you could redirect to anywhere afterwards. It’s a, then again, a mini plug-in that just solves just the very niche problem. Maybe one day I’ll grow it to do some other things, like custom “Thank You” pages along with (inaudible) something, but I’m not sure, it kinda seems to do what it needs.

Chris Badgett: Very cool, very cool. Well, let’s talk about your agencies. This is ashwebstudio.com You’re in Colorado, is it?  How many of your clients are in Colorado? I went through your portfolio and I’m seeing like Hawaii and other places, are you like, are you spread out, are you kinda concentrated in your area or, where, where do you get clients?

Derek Ashauer: I get clients from throughout the entire country, I even have some international clients as well. Um, I moved to, I mean the history of my agency is kinda a weird one. I never intended to even start one, ah, I was born and raised in San Diego, and then in 2007, I moved from San Diego to Fort Collins, Colorado. And, honestly at that time, literally on the drive, my website, again it’s 2007, it’s probably not gonna work for anyone these days, um, in the, now that SEO is such a big deal. But my site just randomly became number one Mini-Search in the San Diego Web Design.

Chris Badgett: Dude, that’s awesome!

Derek Ashauer: I was gonna work, I was just gonna tell a colleague for a company that I was working at that time. Uh, from Colorado, uh, back to San Diego, and, uh, but then, because I signed two clients on the drive, you know driving with my U-Haul truck and the whole thing was talking on my cell phone and like sure, when I get there, I’d get a contract together and suddenly was, you know, signed two clients literally on the drive with my U-Haul, um, and then two months later, it was like, I have so much work. I quit and started my own thing, um, so ah, yeah. And then it just whipped through referrals, made mostly, friends, you know. I came up for number one for San Diego as I had started with a lot of San Diego clients, but they would refer it to friends as I talked about earlier, just keeping everyone happy, the latest word of mouth, just spreads and spreads and spreads and you know, it just quickly grows and honestly I only have, I think two or three clients in Colorado. 

Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. 

Derek Ashauer: 15 years of being here.

Chris Badgett: That’s so cool. Let’s talk about WordPress, you’ve been here for, 2008, so that’s like ah? I don’t know, 15 years or something like that?

Derek Ashauer: Close to it, yeah.

Chris Badgett: Why WordPress? I mean it sounds like you started with the photographer niche. I see some people like, they burn out of WordPress or, they ah, maybe they get jaded or something, and some people are like, I don’t know, just to share my thing is I kinda later figured out, just like  you, like “Okay, agency guy, product guy.” Um, I do stuff in the WordPress community too or whatever, but I guess like WordPress is meant for people just like me. Like I didn’t know that in the beginning, but I kinda know that now that I’m kinda like a perfect fit for the technology. But what is it like for you?

Derek Ashauer: What is WordPress like for me?

Chris Badgett: Yeah like why WordPress and ah?

Derek Ashauer: At the time, it was a great way, I was you know, there was a lot of, you know, when I started to build the HTML sites, and it was like linking a HTML file with a HTML file that just got, and you’re doing maintenance for clients and that’s the biggest thing, the biggest thing I hate doing is maintenance on websites, which apparently- is a great way to make money was doing maintenance! (inaudible) Maybe it’s not a great business model but I hate doing maintenance on client sites, I simply hate doing it, I don’t wanna (crosstalk).

Chris Badgett: Update content?

Derek Ashauer: Rotate photos and change the (inaudible), I don’t want to do it, you do it. I’m more profound in designing, coding and building things, so, it was just a way to start doing that, ah, so that clients could have a little bit more control in a controlled environment. I like that I could kinda dictate what they have access to. I’m very much a, as I stress to my clients, “I’m building you a content management system, not a website management system.” Because in the early days when I’d give them full control, all of a sudden there’s 15 different fonts and 7 different sizes and 3 different colors and this is  in two paragraphs of text. And I’m like “Come on, you guys just destroyed your brand guidelines within one page.” You know, and I was kind of (inaudible), so, I like that I could have the right amount of control over what the client could do, like they have the flexibility to create pages, create new pages, blog posts, you know, upload stuff and control it but I could kinda find the middle way where they can’t destroy their websites, um and make it look like the 1990s geocities within a matter of minutes, which some clients tend to do when they have too much power. But um, for me, that’s one reason I really like WordPress is it allows me to do that, just giving them the right amount of control.

Chris Badgett: Is there any particular tech tools or your tech stack that you just pieces of technology you work with on most of your projects?

Derek Ashauer: I think I’m probably a, I definitely would be considered by as a dinosaur for people who just started in WordPress. Right now, I just use, you know, the Atom Editor?

Chris Badgett: Yeah.

Derek Ashauer: That’s about it!

Chris Badgett: Nice!

Derek Ashauer: I use Atom Editor and I kinda have my own Boilerplate theme which is very barebones. I don’t even use CSS frameworks. I don’t use, I mean, a pool like, you know, a couple trusted JavaScript libraries, like Magnific Pop-up or you know a couple things like that with custom coding in the client site, but ah, yeah I don’t really have like a stack. I start with like a CSS file that has about 30 lines of just base stuff and then go from there.

Chris Badgett: Very cool. Um, and in your service offering, in addition to build web design, well you say, web design, web development and web marketing and e-commerce. But like, guide us through the offer like, those various parts that are, people can achieve through your agency.

Derek Ashauer: Right, so, its, the goal’s obviously be full service. One stop. So that they can work with company, but I found that, they find it very helpful to do that, so they have to go to you know,  “(inaudible) here’s the designer, here they created my logo, now can you create my website and you, you know, market my website, how can you do the hosting.” It is nice to only have to go to one person and honestly, I found that people will pay for it. They are happy to pay premium. To know that it’s just easier to go to one place as a opposed to try and piece it all together because it’s just, it’s so overwhelming. Most people never create their website as per they are hiring someone to do it for them. So, when they can go to one place as opposed to many, it just makes them quicker and easier for them to get it over and done with, um, so yeah.

Chris Badgett: That’s cool. You sound really zen with the client. I think, it’s cause you’ve done it for so long? You feel like “so this is what they actually want!” You know, like, kind of the beginner mistake is to start trying to teach them too much about how the web works and having to make decisions they don’t understand or whatever um, any, I could just tell from some of your earlier comments, you’re a master communicator with clients. Any final tips just around how to communicate effectively with clients and customers so that everybody’s happy?

Derek Ashauer: Um, there’s not one set rule, because you kinda have to do on a per-client basis, ah and knowing their level of comfort with things. Um, and in a lot of these is meeting with the client with where they are at technology. I get so many clients that go, “I just don’t know how to do this, I don’t know how to do this!” And it’s just, “I understand. I know. I know you don’t. That’s okay! I’m gonna help you, that’s what you’re paying me for.” And then they go “Okay!” Like, that kinda ticks off a lot of pressure like, you don’t have to learn how to code, you don’t have to learn how to, you know, what size fonts am I picking, what sizes- that’s what, that’s what I explained earlier. Don’t give them too much power, because it’s overwhelming. If they wanted to build a website themselves, they could have gone to wordpress.com or, you know, Weebly or Wix or something like that and done it themselves! And I had recommended that for some clients, “Sounds like you really wanna have full control. Go build it yourself. It’s okay.” Uh, and so its, it’s maybe you should just answer their questions in an appropriate, to their level.” You wouldn’t talk to a second grader about you know, the intricacies of building a rocket, you just say,“We are going to build a rocket and that uses fuel to go up into space.” I’m not gonna get into the finite, you know, the  fine-grained details of all the inner-workings of that. So, it just maybe shows that the right amount of education, education, to know that, you know what you’re doing, and then they understand that what you’re doing is hard and so they let you do your job and not get in the way cause there’s a lot of clients that go like, “We should do this, we should do that, we should do”, you know “ why are we doing this?” Okay. I hear you, I hear what you’re saying, here’s my reason why I don’t think that’s the best idea and not being a, not being afraid to say “No,” to a client, say, “I don’t think that’s the best  thing to do. Here’s why.” And most of the time it’s like, “Oh, okay!” So I think, honestly, I worked for myself for 15 years so I haven’t worked hard and got done (inaudible) with those issues for a long time, remembering what those early days were like. One of the few things is being a client-pleaser. Um, and trying to do every single thing. Just do it exactly as they asked. But if you come off as the professional, they are gonna go, “Oh, he knows what’s he doing, I can trust him.” And the moment they have your trust, they stop asking for these ridiculous things. Cause then they just go, “Oh no, Derek’s already proud of that, he’s already taken care of it, it’s all set  and done.” Um, so, that’s, it actually can be very helpful to say “No” to clients and not just be like, “You know what to put?’’ I don’t know-all those kinds of stuff. You know, a (inaudible) or you as a designer, developer, you’re  just like, “I don’t know, I don’t understand why anyone would want this.” Um, and not just be in a pixel pusher, and doing everything as the client says so.

Chris Badgett: Wow! Solid, solid words of advice, that’s Derek Ashauer, say your last name for me one more time.

Derek Ashauer: Derek Ashauer.

Chris Badgett: Ashauer! I want to say it right. He is from wpsunshine.com , go check that out, go check out Confetti, and also Sunshine Photo Cart and the other great things he has gone on over there. If you’re looking for someone to help you with your project, go check out his agency site which is ashwebstudio.com. Thanks for coming on the show, Derek. Really appreciate it, any final words for the people or anywhere else they can connect with you?

Derek Ashauer: Um, that’s about it, I would say avoid social media so..!

Chris Badgett: Hey, that’s a good thing! That means he is busy, he’s  productive, he’s grounded and ah, that’s awesome!

Derek Ashauer: But yeah, no, I’m just happiest being more involved in the community and doing things like this and talking of people and I’m hoping to connect with more developers, like I said, I’ve been doing this in my own little world for a long time, um and ah, and um, kinda looking forward as I’m starting to build more products to kinda connect with more people on the WordPress space. One can just learn some more things, I know there are people doing it for a long time, they are still planning and there’s always more to learn, but also just, ah, yeah, communicate  with more people who are in similar to me and in situations so I can find new ways to grow and learn and maybe even talk with some other people into how can they grow as well. I think it’s fun to talk about that kinda stuff. 

Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, thanks Derek, we really appreciate it.

Derek Ashauer: Absolutely. Thanks for your time.

Chris Badgett (Ending) : And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. Did you enjoy that episode? Tell your friends and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode and I got a gift for you over at LifterLMS.com/gift. Go to lifterlms.com/gift. Keep learning, keep taking action and I will see you, in the next episode.

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