Helping people launch WordPress membership sites with Andriy Haydash is the topic of this LMScast hosted by Chris Badgett of LifterLMS. Andriy is a WordPress consultant specializing in membership websites, online courses, and learning management systems. In this episode he and Chris talk about Andriy’s journey from when he started freelancing a few years back to how he is now running his freelance practice, and what principles you can learn from that if you’re interested in running a freelance practice online.
Chris first got started as a freelancer building websites and eventually turned that into a niche agency doing work for online courses, membership sites, and websites in the LMS/teaching space.
Attracting better clients and providing more value to clients was the main motivation for Andriy to focus on LMS websites rather than the general website industry. He is also listed on Codeable.io, a website for finding freelance WordPress developers, and he saw the trend that a lot of people were looking specifically for membership site help through that platform.
Andriy and Chris dive into the differences between a membership and a LMS. A membership broadly covers a website where you become a member, typically with a recurring fee to get access to content such as Netflix. An LMS focuses on the learning experience and often includes lessons, modules, quizzes, and more structured programs.
One important point to note if you’re looking to build a membership site is that it is important to provide recurring value if you’re charging a recurring fee. Recurring revenue is a great way to scale an online membership, but you could also offer a membership as a course package, similar to how WPCrafter offers courses for $99 and a full membership that gives you access to all courses for $399.
Adding recurring value to your course site can be as simple as opening up a weekly or monthly live Zoom call, and that can be worth the price of an ongoing program for people. At LifterLMS, we have the weekly Office Hours Mastermind call that is included in the Infinity Bundle.
Andriy emphasizes minimalism for new course site builders. It allows you to really see what areas your students want more development in, rather than going through all the work building features upfront that students won’t use.
At LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thank you for joining us!
Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re a course creator looking to build more impact, income, and freedom. LMScast is the number one podcast for course creators just like you. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of the most powerful tool for building, selling, and protecting engaging online courses called LifterLMS. Enjoy the show.
Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. I’m joined by a special guest, Andriy Haydash. He’s a WordPress consultant specializing in memberships sites, online courses, and learning management systems. Welcome to the show, Andriy.
Andriy Haydash: Hello, everyone. Nice to meet you, and thanks for having me.
Chris Badgett: I’m really excited to talk to you today. Before we built LifterLMS, I was in the agency space. I started as a freelancer, and then I turned it into an agency, and then I turned it into a product company. The niche, everything changed for me when I started focusing on the online course, the membership site, the LMS niche, specifically around teaching. Courses is like the fundamental building block. How did you decide to focus in on that area of WordPress instead of being a generalist website builder, I can build all kinds of things?
Andriy Haydash: Yeah, let me go back a little bit. I kind of started freelancing and doing my own thing about, I would say, two and a half years ago. I was having some projects. I still do, but I wanted to attract better clients and to be able to provide more value, and also to increase my income. So a lot of people in marketing space tell that you have to niche down.
Andriy Haydash: I’m also a member of codeable.io, and I saw this trend that a lot of people were coming to Codeable to get help with their membership and LMS sites. I thought that this is an interesting niche. It requires quite some skills. It’s more difficult in my opinion than building just regular brochure sites, probably more responsibility as well from the developer.
Andriy Haydash: So I saw this trend, and I thought, “Hey, I don’t know what niche to pick. Let me just see if this one works for me.” And I just picked it and never looked back since. So this is kind of how I started off.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Yeah, a brochure site is marketing for the business, but an LMS site or a course site, membership site, is the business, so it does come with a lot of responsibility. But also the clients value it more, and they really want a specialist as opposed to a generalist who’s really familiar with the space or invested in doubling down on the space.
Chris Badgett: I’m just curious from your experience at Codeable and on your own and everything. I find the words cause issue with people. The word membership site or online course or learning management system, I find when I’m talking to people I kind of have to sift through what they’re trying to do to figure out what they actually need. How do you differentiate membership from learning management system or online course?
Andriy Haydash: Those things sometimes work together, but they are also different. So membership is essentially where somebody just becomes a member and yearly pays a recurring fee for being a member. An LMS, it’s more like a system that allows you to structure your courses, your lessons, modules, quizzes, and everything like that. It allows you to structure and organize all that kind of content. Yeah, as I said, they sometimes work together. Courses, basically, a series of lessons, probably sometimes with some assignments, things like that.
Andriy Haydash: I feel like membership sites is still very broad because I had one project where it was a membership site, but it was also an eCommerce site where members could rent a few pieces of clothing. So it wasn’t like a typical membership site in the sense of providing courses and learning materials. I still feel like membership is still very, very broad. Yeah, but that’s basically the differences that I see between LMS and membership and courses.
Chris Badgett: I think that’s a really good way to say it. You said membership’s where somebody is paying a subscription for recurring access to something, and it may not be courses. It could be a subscription box service that comes in the mail. It could be the ability to have your business listed in some kind of directory or whatever. The membership site space is big because there’s lots of use cases for that, and training, it just kind of sits under that.
Chris Badgett: I think that’s helpful for people to think through. Sometimes I see people get in trouble … I should say, sometimes, I see people come in building a membership site, but what they really need is an LMS. Then they started thinking about all these things like, “Oh, I need a student dashboard. I need progress tracking. I need certificates. I need a quiz plugin.” Then they kind of come at it a little funky because they got this word membership site in their head, but it’s just there’s a lot of nuances to it.
Chris Badgett: So I wanted to encourage you, the listener, to really think through what you’re trying to build. If I could wave a magic wand, I recommend if you’re going to do a training-based membership site, that you can do a course first. Because if you get the confidence from doing a course, and if you work with somebody like Andriy to get the site up, get your course up, then you can think about adding a membership on top, maybe doing more courses, adding other benefits like private coaching or whatever.
Chris Badgett: Because sometimes, when you build a membership site from day one, it’s a lot of work. We have grand plans for this coaching empire, expert empire, but it’s more of a process than an event to launch. I don’t know. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Andriy Haydash: Yeah, exactly. I think that some people might be missing that with membership site for people to keep paying you, they have to get some kind of recurring value, I would say, on a monthly or weekly basis. So, yeah, for many people, it’s just better to build a course because they’re not prepared or not confident enough to keep on producing more content or whatever it is, and to keep adding value to basically, their customers.
Andriy Haydash: Also, another interesting way to do this is … Well, there are two ways that I can think of. One is, as Adam from WPCrafter has, he has all these courses, I believe. I think you can buy either one course, like it’s a one-time fee, or you can become a member where you actually get access to, I think, all of his courses. By becoming a member, you don’t have to pay for them. Somebody maybe starts with a course, and then he creates more courses. He can kind of make them together.
Andriy Haydash: Another interesting model that I can think of is from WP Elevation. What they have is a course plus membership. For those of you who don’t know, it’s like a program for WordPress consultants, WordPress developers that helps them just become better at their marketing and business. What they have is I talked to their support team, is that they have this course that you get access to for whatever the price is, and then for the following months, you can pay a membership fee, and you can get access to the community, maybe to some other lessons. I’m not sure.
Andriy Haydash: It starts with the course, but then you get additional value with the membership and being a member. These are just two interesting models that people can think of that might be helpful. I think it all comes down to, basically, listening to your customers and figuring out what they want, asking questions, and providing the most value.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s awesome. I just want to touch on, from the business size where you’re talking about, if you do a high-end course like WP Elevation … Well, I don’t know how much it costs, but if it were a $500, 1,000, 2,000, whatever, or even more for the course, there’s also often this opportunity for an ongoing smaller amount membership for whatever it is, 30 bucks a month, 50 bucks a month, 100 bucks a month. They’re not having to layout this big transformational program price for the big course anymore. They’re just doing that once, but then they get the community, the forums, maybe some mini-courses and other things.
Chris Badgett: That process helps create that recurring value and expansion revenue in your business, so you don’t become launched into it like, “I’ve got to do another launch for my course.” There’s also this building recurring revenue in your model.
Andriy Haydash: Exactly, yeah. I think, I’m not sure, but sometimes, what you see is, for example, if you buy a course, you’ll get access to certain materials. But sometimes, courses can also be updated with new lessons or some lessons can be swapped out and new lessons can be added. Some businesses, what they do, is that if you buy a course and then you’re still a member, you get access to these new materials that were added. But if you’re not a member, you just get access to these initial lessons that you got first. So this is also something that some people do.
Andriy Haydash: If somebody’s thinking about creating a course/membership combined model, this might be a good idea if you plan on adding new lessons to your course, let’s say, regularly. It might be also a good idea to structure it this way.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, another thing too, just to give people, is one of the easiest things you can add to give recurring to your membership site, you’ve got the course, but if you want to add a recurring revenue, which comes from recurring value, probably the absolute simplest thing you can add is a monthly office-hour kind of ask-me-anything call. If you’re an expert in the space, you don’t have to prepare for that. You’ve already become an expert. It’s not like you have to create this big content or organize this joint webinar with another expert.
Chris Badgett: You can do all those things, but just making yourself available for an hour in a Zoom meeting or a webinar format to just help people out is probably the easiest way I know to add recurring value.
Andriy Haydash: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I’ve seen a lot of people do that from our space like they have these group coaching programs, like Chris Do from The Futur, and, I think, Jonathan Stark has this program. So if somebody is in our, let’s say, space, design, development, they probably heard of these names. Yeah, and if you’re an expert, exactly, just like you said. You’ve already put in your 10,000 hours, so you already mastered it. You can just answer questions easily because you have all this experience.
Andriy Haydash: It’s also cool because while you can’t maybe work with 100 people at a time, but you can just work maybe between five and 10 people. You can better leverage your time. Your salary’s still your time, but you can add more people as long as you can provide them all value on this one-hour call or whatever. You can just kind of leverage your expertise and not just get paid for your time per se like per hour, but also leverage your experience.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Andriy Haydash: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: One of the things I spent a lot of time doing, just talking to people who want to build training-based membership sites or courses, is I try to give them the simplest solution to what they’re trying to do, especially if they’re at the very beginning. Where do you see in your work people kind of getting into trouble or overcomplicating things or making poor choices on software or other hardware, content, whatever? Where do people get into trouble for your perspective?
Andriy Haydash: Yeah, that’s actually a good question. I think that people get into trouble is that … With all these training videos on YouTube and whatever, everything seems so easy to kind of install a plugin, add this thing in, add that thing in. In three days, you have this great website with a mass membership and social networking, whatever.
Andriy Haydash: What happens in reality, even experts, not just regular people, they usually get in trouble. What I see is that they try to overcomplicate things at the very beginning. So they have this crazy idea in their mind with this complex website, and they try to make it all work together. Usually, first of all, it’s overwhelming because you’re so new to this space, so even just creating simple membership sites can be quite challenging. But when you start adding these all other plugins and pieces of functionality, it just becomes so overwhelming. People get stressed, and it’s much more difficult to get the website basically launched.
Andriy Haydash: Plus, you kind of postpone the launch date because if you were to start with, let’s say, leaner and with less technology, you would be able to launch the site earlier, and hopefully, it will already make some money before you start adding new pieces of functionality.
Andriy Haydash: Another thing is that people overcomplicate things, and what I often say to people is that you don’t need to add all these features if you don’t know that your members will want them. Why would you pay for these licenses, these plugins, spend so much time and effort building these features, or even pay an expert to build these features if they may not be needed because your customers may not like it?
Andriy Haydash: I try to suggest people that they start very lean, like have the minimum pieces of functionality that they need. Then once the website gets going, you get some members there, you can start talking to them, see what they like, what they don’t like, what needs to be changed, what kind of features you can add. Then it’s easier to figure out what you need to add, and you can spend your money more wisely and provide more value to your customers. Yeah, that’s how I see it.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, people tend to try to pack too much into the first release. I’m just thinking about it as a software company at LifterLMS. We have our groups add-on, which we’re working on, which allows course creators and membership site creators to sell into organizations in volume and provide an experience for a group inside the platform, which is something people had been asking for for a long time. But we had to perfect and work on the one-course experience first before we can get into groups.
Chris Badgett: The software’s been around for five years. If we had waited to launch until we had this group functionality, it would have just taken a long time. But we went into it. Got in contact with our customers, and what they wanted, they just tell us. What they like, what they don’t like, what they want to improve, it’s more of a conversation.
Chris Badgett: I like to say it’s not about a launch. A launch is an event, but what it’s more about is the process. What’s your process for innovation and developing in concert with your community?
Andriy Haydash: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:16:23].
Chris Badgett: I’m on your site, Andriy. That’s at Andriy.space, A-N-D-R-I-Y.space. One of the things I really love about what you’re laying out, you specialize in helping people build out online courses, training-based membership sites. You have in your “how can I help you,” you layout your process, which I think, the do-it-yourselfer will often skip. So I love how you’re educating on this.
Chris Badgett: I’m just going to read these out. You have a discovery call number one. Number two, you have a strategy and a plan part. Then you get into the number three, which is the execution. Number four, you get into the testing. I don’t know how many people I see launch a site without testing it. Number five is you launch it. And number six, you look into future growth and maintenance.
Chris Badgett: Tell us about your process. How did you develop it? That, to me, looks rock-solid. If you get the discovery and the strategy wrong, the execution doesn’t matter because you might be heading down the wrong path. But how did you develop this?
Andriy Haydash: Well, I would say that this process is universal. It’s not unique to just membership sites. I think the way I developed it is based on my experience and just building projects for these different clients of mine. Well, it’s rock-solid, but it also makes sense in my mind because, well, first, you have to figure out what’s the end result. That’s why I did the first call is important.
Andriy Haydash: You talk to the client. You see what their vision for the website is, what they want to achieve business-wise, not just features and things like that, but also what’s their vision in general. Then, once you see it and once you know it, you can kind of advise a little bit from your experience what may be a good idea to do, what may not be a good idea to do.
Andriy Haydash: Then you can … Well, basically, whatever you want to achieve in life, I think you have to create a plan. Even though if you don’t end up executing it exactly step by step, it still gives you a good direction because things happen, obstacles happen all the time.
Andriy Haydash: Yeah, and then you just execute the plan. See how it’s working. Hopefully, everything will go right. Relaunch it, and see how it’s performing. Hopefully, people will join, and then you can just kind of … Yeah, you can just kind of develop from that. That’s basically it.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, I want to get into you talked a little bit about who your services were not for. For other people who are out there thinking about building sites for their clients or doing introspection on themselves, I love that you highlight four, kind of, red flag areas that aren’t the best fit for you. If you’re building a site for yourself, these are also important to look at. Well, just tell us why you don’t want to work with people who are in the get-rich-quick mindset?
Andriy Haydash: Well, I think those people don’t have realistic expectations, and they just aren’t that committed. I think it happens a lot of times these days because of these whole social media promises and ads and things like that. I’m probably guilty of this myself partially as well, but people, they don’t set realistic expectations, and they think that I buy this course or I get this idea, and I will just, in three months, I will make a million dollars or whatever.
Andriy Haydash: Maybe one person in a thousand maybe can pull it off, but almost everyone, it’s not realistic. So I think that these people are not realistic with their expectations. That’s why I don’t want to work with them because I want to work with only people who I can help, who I can add value to and contribute and be a partner in their project, and not they just pay me whatever, a low fee, and I just quickly create a site for them. And then they try to make a huge amount of money. I don’t believe in that approach. That’s why I don’t want to work with those people.
Chris Badgett: What about idea chasers? What are they?
Andriy Haydash: Oh, those are basically, people who, I don’t know, see an ad, let’s say, on Facebook or Instagram, and they say, “Oh, I should start, I don’t know, a marketing agency,” and then, “Oh, I should maybe do dropshipping,” and then, “Oh, I should maybe do something else.” Those are people who are just seeing these all cool ads and promises, and they think that it will work. In theory, it makes sense, but they just don’t go deep and don’t commit to this one thing to make it work.
Andriy Haydash: I don’t want to work with those people. Plus, if I start working with those people and, let’s say they want to build a membership site, and one month in they see a dropshipping ad and they, “No, let’s build a drop shipping site,” and I already put in all this work, it’s not a good situation for anyone. That’s why I’d rather just say no to those people.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s awesome. It’s about building a technology partnership. A membership site, it is the business. It’s not a one and done thing. What are deal chasers?
Andriy Haydash: [crosstalk 00:21:53].
Chris Badgett: And why are they not a good fit for you? Yeah.
Andriy Haydash: Those are basically people who are looking just for the cheapest price. First of all, I don’t want to be the cheapest person on the market. I want to be one of the most valuable person and provide my knowledge to people who value it. I don’t want to work with them because all that’s important to them is basically the price. The first with that they ask you when they just come to your website is, “Hey, I need this. How much do you charge?”
Andriy Haydash: I don’t see the value in it, and it’s also difficult to work with them because you don’t even get to a discovery call with them and you can’t even give them a realistic price and timeline and expectations because you don’t really know what their vision for the project is, their problems are, et cetera. I don’t think that I can really help those people as well.
Chris Badgett: All right, there’s one more, and that’s people who are too busy. What is that all about, that you want to avoid people that are “too busy”?
Andriy Haydash: Yeah, so some people, I don’t think they’re as common as the previous categories, but those are people who are like, “Oh, let me send you a document with all the features that I need and just go and build it.” If you know anything about, basically, any website, you need ongoing communication with clients because things might change. You may need to ask some questions, et cetera. And it also tells me that if somebody’s too busy to focus and stay committed on the project, the project is not valuable to them. So why would I even take their money and spend my time helping them, trying to help them if they are not even committed?
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s the bane of website builders existence is often … Some people call it the content problem, like getting content from clients is actually the hardest thing.
Andriy Haydash: Exactly.
Chris Badgett: What it is, is if you’re building an online course or membership site, the website is the business. And you may think of it as like, “Okay, it’s a business in a box. I’m going to buy. I’m going to buy some software. I’m going to buy somebody to implement it for me,” but you still have to put stuff in the box. You have to give people photography of you maybe or definitely video content. That’s a whole thing, creating the actual content that goes in the course.
Chris Badgett: It’s really a partnership. It’s not you pay the money and then come back, and you just have a functioning business.
Andriy Haydash: Yeah, plus, I also want to work with people who … As I been working as a developer for almost five and a half years, I’ve gained some knowledge, and I know some things. Not to sound arrogant, but I know some things better than some people who don’t have that experience. I usually try to help people based on my knowledge make the best decisions. Some people, they just don’t value it. So I want to be like a partner, like a consultant, not just an order-taker because I believe then I can provide much more value and sometimes save some money for those people or help them avoid some mistakes or things like that.
Chris Badgett: I think that’s really smart. I’ve done a lot of work as a web agency owner and working with a lot of clients, and when the client treats you like a trusted advisor, it goes much better, especially if you have a bunch of experience. The client is often the expert in what they know, what they’re expertise is, but they’re not necessarily an expert in website development, plugin selection, marketing, eCommerce, all that stuff.
Chris Badgett: A “good” client would lean on an expert unless they happen to be a marketing expert. Then maybe they take the lead on the strategy there. But yeah, it’s a partnership. You also mentioned you like to work with people who have an existing audience. Why is that important? Do you believe that you should build an audience first before launching a site or a program, or it’s just easier to work with you if that’s the case? Or what do you think?
Andriy Haydash: It’s not that it’s an absolute requirement, but I feel like people that have an audience … I treat audience as an asset. Once you have an audience, especially if they trust you and they have already bought something from you, it’s going to be much easier to make the membership site or the course site profitable because people already know that you provide a lot of value to them and that they can trust you.
Andriy Haydash: That’s why I said that I want to work with people who have an audience. It doesn’t mean that if somebody doesn’t have an audience, the website can’t work. It’s just that it’s probably going to take much more time to get the return on investment unless you’re willing to spend maybe huge amounts of money on ads. Yeah, that’s basically why I think having an audience is important.
Andriy Haydash: On that note, I think having an audience is also great, not just for membership sites, but in general because once you have an audience, you start talking to them, start seeing what problems they have, you can then try to offer solutions to their problems and package them as courses or products or whatever. Once you have an audience, you can just kind of build you, let’s say, business or your offer around their problems. Almost all audiences have some kind of problem, so it’s almost like it’s hard to lose in that situation. Versus when you have an offer, you don’t have an audience, and you try to sell it. It doesn’t always work. That’s how I see it.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s a super good point. One of the ways I slice and dice it when I’m talking to people is, is this like an established expert, like a speaker, author, coach, whatever, already moving with their expertise, or is this a side project around their passion or whatever? The audience-
Andriy Haydash: Chris.
Chris Badgett: Yep, can you not hear me? I got you. Can you still hear me?
Andriy Haydash: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Okay, we just had a little glitch. No biggie. I was just saying that if somebody is doing a side hustle and it’s a passion project … And maybe they have a great job or whatever, but on their side hustle, if they don’t have an audience yet, there’s a lot more friction to getting to success as there is if you’re already established. Maybe you’re a personal trainer, and you want to teach fitness on the internet. You already at least have a crew of people, even if it’s small, that you can sell to, and you’re already kind of zen with your customer, which I think is super important.
Andriy Haydash: Plus, people who launch a membership site, they’re going to have to market it and build an audience anyway after they launch it, so why not choose the approach of building your audience first and then, yeah, basically, trying to sell them something and helping them. I think it’s less risky, I would say.
Chris Badgett: Well, what’s a pro tip you have for somebody who’s thinking about hiring a freelancer, an agency to work with them? What questions should they be asking when they’re exploring options that’s maybe not obvious? What should somebody look for when they’re hiring somebody to help them with their membership site?
Andriy Haydash: I think the most important thing is asking about best results and best projects, especially if the agency or the developer has done projects either very similar or the exact same niche as the client is. Because you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a project and work with somebody you don’t trust. Social proof is probably the biggest, I would say, factor that comes in when you try to build trust.
Andriy Haydash: Other questions are probably, I don’t know, maybe like technical questions just to make sure what they are doing. Ask them if they are doing also marketing, or they just do a website. And you have to ask questions to set clear expectations like what this project might cost us and what are realistic timelines and what obstacles might come along. If you ask these questions, you kind of see how the developer or the agency, if they are experienced in this area or not, because if they are, they’re probably going to tell you that, “Hey, these might be the problems. This is what it’s going to cost roughly, and this is what the timeline might be.” I would say things like that, yeah.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, Andriy Haydash, he’s at andriy.space, A-N-D-R-I-Y.space. Is there any other final words you have for the people or anything they should go do to connect with you?
Andriy Haydash: I think they can just go to my website if they need direct work, or they can just search on YouTube for my YouTube channel that it’s also andriyspace. I have a Facebook group. I will leave those too. The YouTube channel and the Facebook groups are on my website. I just didn’t have time to do it yet.
Andriy Haydash: The best way, if you want to just connect with me, say hi, you can just send me an email to my application form on the website. I read those daily, so yeah.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, Andriy, thanks so much for coming on the show, and I appreciate it. I’m looking forward to seeing how you evolve and your YouTube channel and everything. Thanks so much for coming.
Andriy Haydash: Thank you so much for the opportunity. It’s been a great talk, and I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Chris Badgett: That’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I hope you enjoyed the show. This show was brought to you by LifterLMS, the number one tool for creating, selling, and protecting engaging online courses to help you get more revenue, freedom, and impact in your life. Head on over to lifterlms.com, and get the best gear for your course creator journey. Let’s build the most engaging, results-getting courses on the internet.