Episode 304

How to Transition from Online Services to Online Courses in the WordPress Web Design Niche With Divi Expert Josh Hall

Learn about how to transition from online services to online courses in the WordPress web design niche with Divi expert Josh Hall in this episode of the LMScast podcast hosted by Chris Badgett from LifterLMS

How to transition from online services to online courses in the WordPress web design niche with Divi expert Josh Hall

Josh is a classic education entrepreneur and WordPress pro. He’s been creating tutorials for WordPress users and Divi users for many years and has built courses, a podcast, templates, and all things around education entrepreneurship.

Over a decade ago Josh worked as a cabinet maker for a tour bus customizing shop in Columbus, Ohio. When the economy got hit hard in 2008 and 2009, Josh got laid off. He had an interest in design and art, so he dove into how to use Photoshop. At the time, Josh was in a rock band, and he started doing all of the artwork as they went on tour. He did t-shirt designs and CD artwork. When they were on tour, someone asked him, “Hey man, really like your t-shirt designs, how much would you charge…?” and from there Josh dove further into graphic design.

As he was helping out a local church, they asked if he could take over their website, as no one had been managing it at the time. Josh agreed and learned Dreamweaver, HTML, and CSS for building websites. Eventually he came into contact with WordPress and the Divi theme, and he started learning that and making helpful tutorials for others. And the rest is history. He was able to build up his brand and community to over 20,000 YouTube subscribers and a thriving Facebook group over the better part of the past decade.

Josh’s business on YouTube was 100% referral based, where he earns a commission if a product he shared ended up converting to a sale for the product. He also had his web design agency building sites for clients, and he recently had his 10 year anniversary for his agency. He’s now expanded to include courses in his offerings and membership masterminds to help his highly-engaged community of users get more out of their businesses.

Be sure to check out JoshHall.co to learn more about Josh’s podcast and how you can build awesome websites and a website design business around it. If you’re an expert type person or a subject matter expert, Josh’s site is a great example of having content, courses, templates, and all these different things working together for a clear target audience.

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!

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Badgett:

You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to create, launch, and scale a high-value online training program. I’m your guide, 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. I’m joined by a special guest, Josh Hall. You can find him at joshhall.co. He is what I would consider a classic education entrepreneur. He’s a WordPress pro. He’s a Divi guy. He is a course creator, podcaster, template creator. This dude is all about all things education entrepreneurship, and he’s a rock solid WordPress guy. So first, welcome to the show, Josh.

Josh Hall:

Chris, thanks for having me on, man.

Chris Badgett:

One of the cool things about WordPress, in general but also in education entrepreneurship is it’s often a windy road that gets people to where they are. Tell us about, I call it the turn, for everybody there’s like this event that like kind of turns them or a moment in their timeline. You were a cabinet maker and you still are, you’re still a craftsman, I know you haven’t forgotten how to do that, but how did you make the turn from building cabinets to this whole digital, WordPress, education entrepreneur, online business owner guy? How did that turn happen for you?

Josh Hall:

Great question. And, I probably wouldn’t trust myself to build a cabinet now, it’s been a decade, so I don’t know if I would trust myself to do that anymore. But yeah, I was a cabinet maker for a tour bus customizing shop here in Columbus, Ohio, which is where I’m located. And I was doing that for a long time, I actually worked there through high school, I went from sweeping the floors to becoming a cabinet maker. And when the economy got hit really hard in 2008 and 2009, I got laid off, so me and like half the company got laid off. And I had always had an interest in some sort of design or art, so the day after I got laid off I drove into Photoshop.

Josh Hall:

Now at this time I was also a drummer in a rock band and we were doing the weekend warrior thing and we were getting some pretty decent exposure across the Midwest and we were traveling quite a bit. And we started getting more serious in the band so I just started doing all of our artwork. I started doing our t-shirt designs once I got familiar with Photoshop and graphic design, was doing our CD artwork. And then, I will never forget it, we were traveling, we were playing a show and somebody was like, “Hey man, really like your t-shirt designs, how much would you charge…” They were like, ” Who does your designs?” And I was like, “Oh, I do, I started doing graphic design.” And they were like, “Hey, how much would you charge to do ours?” And it was like this light bulb went off, I like how you call it the turn where I was like, “Wow, I could actually make some money doing something I really enjoy.”

Josh Hall:

So that’s how it all started for me, man. I was a cabinet maker, got laid off, and I was doing the band thing and then getting into design. And then once I started doing graphic design, sort of building that up, I was actually helping out a local church, and they were like, “Hey, we know you’re doing design, no one’s managing our website, would you be interested in taking that on?” And I was like, “I don’t know anything about web, but sure, I’ll give it a go.” I learned Dreamweaver and some basic HTML code and basic CSS in those days, and they sent me to the community college here in Columbus to learn a little bit more about web design and that’s what really kind of started the itch for me with web design. So that’s kind of the genesis of how it all started for me.

Chris Badgett:

That’s awesome. And we’ve mentioned on your show, I was having a conversation with you, you have a podcast called the Josh Hall Web Design Show, and I mentioned this framework I use called the hipster, the hacker and the hustler, which you said you were going to borrow and use. In your turn you mentioned the hipster, which is the designer, you mentioned the hustler, which is, hey, this church is asking me to do something I don’t know how to do, what does a hustler do? They say yes and then figure it out later, and then the hacker. How did you put together the skills to put together a website? How did that come together for you?

Josh Hall:

That’s a great question because the hacker was the one that I’m least adept to. So I was a good designer from the get go, I’ve always been interested in design and look and feel of things. I was definitely a hustler as far as doing my own thing. And even when I was in the band I was kind of like the dude in the band that got everything going, everyone kind of relied on me to get the gear ready in time to go to the show. And so I was good at… I already kind of learned… And actually I’m a big proponent of different industries translating to WordPress and web design, so I actually learned a lot in the band world that translated to eventually running my own business.

Josh Hall:

So yeah, the hacker was the part that I really had to work at. So it was really just a matter… And luckily with WordPress, and as you mentioned, I’m a big proponent of Divi, a lot of my students use Elementor though as well and I’ve got a lot of people who are using all different tools in and around WordPress and web design, luckily you don’t need to be too advanced into code nowadays to get by, but I am a big proponent of at least knowing CSS. So for me, it was learning the basics of HTML and then just getting more comfortable with CSS. And then as I started transitioning into web design, I learned more and more about CSS and then one day it just clicked, I kind of realized I understood the fundamentals and that’s what really helped me start to build my own freelance web design business and create custom websites for clients.

Chris Badgett:

Well, let’s talk about what I’ll call the second turning, which is from services to product. So you have templates, you have courses, you’re creating like a content engine too with all this awesome content you have, what caused you to go from, all right, this church wants to hire me, they can pay me to build a site or whatever, and I’m sure you got more clients after that, where did the itch for product come and then how did that transition happen for you?

Josh Hall:

Yeah, Let’s see, I started working for the church with their website, and then once the word got out that I was doing websites, it didn’t take long to start getting-

Chris Badgett:

Referrals.

Josh Hall:

… referrals for that. Referrals, yeah, my business is 100% referral based. So essentially, I technically started my web design agency in 2010 and actually, funny enough, at the time of recording this, this is my 10 year decade anniversary for my web design agency. We’re recording this in October, 2020, I started it officially in October, 2020. So I was doing freelance and I was getting involved in more web design and then I was doing graphic design and web design for my solopreneur agency for years. Essentially I started in 2010 and I ended up doing more classes at the community college here in Columbus, just to learn more about design, I learned Illustrator and Photoshop on a deeper level. And my whole goal was to just work for an agency, like get a job as a designer. But I remember the side business, doing freelance, it picked up pretty well and I think I made like 30 grand or something. And I thought, “Man, if I made this just working part-time, what could I do if I went full time with this?”

Josh Hall:

So when I finished my little two year associate degree, I had already built up some good freelance, I’d come up with my business name, which was actually based off my band’s third album, my business name was, In Transit, and that was our third album. So long story short, I went for it and I continued to build the agency up and then I just became a business owner and an entrepreneur over that time. I had no real drive to be a business owner, it just kind of happened, I just kind of fumbled into it. Learned a lot about personal development, learned more and more about business, I eventually took more trainings and got involved with some coaching that really helped shape my mindset and I was a freelancer and a solopreneur until I eventually started scaling my web design business, and I think this was about 2016, I really started hiring some more staff hour. And then once I started scaling it, I realized that the next step for me was I really had a passion for teaching and I had a passion for sharing kind of what I’ve learned with other folks.

Josh Hall:

So to answer your question, the second turn really happened when I became a part of the Divi Community, I started using Divi and I have not used another WordPress theme since 2014. And in a couple of years into using Divi, I realized holy crap, Divi has an amazing online community. So I became-

Chris Badgett:

Lots of them.

Josh Hall:

Lots of them. So I became a part of some of the Facebook groups. I started a Facebook group called The Divi Web Designers Facebook Group and [crosstalk 00:08:59]-

Chris Badgett:

What year was that?

Josh Hall:

That was 2016. [crosstalk 00:09:02]-

Chris Badgett:

How big is it now?

Josh Hall:

22,000.

Chris Badgett:

Wow.

Josh Hall:

And we have an entrance rate of little over 50%, so we’re pretty stingy on who gets in. So it’s the second biggest group and it’s been amazing. But what I did is when I started that I had no idea how many other groups there were, so it was just persistence and consistency that really helped grow that group. So it kind of gave me a name in the industry, in the realm there with Divi. And then back then, sometimes when you would post on Facebook it would show the location you were at when you posted, and the content manager for Elegant Themes who creates Divi posted in my group and it said Columbus, Ohio under it. And I was like, “Oh, no way, he lives in Columbus?” So I just reached out to him and I said, “Hey man, I’m Josh, I’m a local Divi guy, love Divi, it’s a huge part of my business, I’d love to take you out for coffee.” So we met up, had coffee and then hit it off.

Josh Hall:

And then I think about a month later, he was like, “Hey man, I really like what you’re up to with your business, would you be interested in coming on to blog for the Elegant Themes blog?” Because I had done some blogging on my website for In Transit. And I was like, “Heck yeah.” So that was kind of the start of that new turn for me because I became an author for the Elegant Themes blog and that really just gave me the itch to start giving back to the Divi Community, and then I started my personal brand @joshhall.co and then I started doing tutorials. And that’s kind of the start of what I’m sure we’ll segue to, where things are at now.

Chris Badgett:

Well, before we go there, a couple of things I just wanted to unpack. What was the coaching mindset shifts or unlock that helped you in your entrepreneur development?

Josh Hall:

Great question, again. I think for me the biggest thing was becoming a business owner and delegating. Because I’m a hustler and because I became kind of a makeshift hacker, I could figure almost everything out. Even though it would take me three times as longer as a good developer, I could figure out some coding or how to piece WooCommerce together with some other plugins and stuff like that, so I just got so used to doing everything on my own. And the shift for me was realizing that I was working so much time in the business, I wasn’t working on the business. I wasn’t doing any marketing, I wasn’t really innovating the business too much. At that point I had started a website maintenance plan so it was my first taste of recurring income. And that experience showed me as well that if I take some time to build out something that’s going to be really valuable for my clients… Yeah, it took some time, but it was my first dose of really innovating and working on my business.

Josh Hall:

So there was a series of things that kind of led up to that but one of my clients was actually a business coach and then eventually I enrolled in their program so we were kind of clients of each other, and that really helped shift my mindset as the business owner. I started being more serious about the business itself, where it was going. And at this point I had just started delegating and subcontracting out more work so I really kind of embraced the CEO role.

Josh Hall:

And what I realized was if there were tasks that I could do but I knew were going to take a lot of time, I just started getting those off my plate. I realized I had to focus on the high level tasks that only I could do in the business. And it’s not that I’m above those little tasks or that I’m better than those, it’s just my time is more valuable now as the head of the company. So I learned, whether it was basic Divi stuff or content kind of stuff or troubleshooting CSS issues and stuff like that, those are the things I could hire out. So that was the biggest mind shift when I started really becoming a business owner and an entrepreneur,

Chris Badgett:

You mentioned being a community builder in an online group, so I’m going to put the pressure on you. If you were to give somebody five principles to build an online group, what have you learned, what operating principles would you stand by? And I’ll help you keep track if you got five.

Josh Hall:

Okay, okay. Well, I would say first off you got to have the heart, you’ve got to have some sort of mission for it. When I started my group, the whole intention was to help people have a safe place, a community that was really going to help build them up and not tear them down because web design groups notoriously are vicious, except for LifterLMS and my groups. Honestly, most forums like developer and designer forums can be brutal. If you post your work you’ll often get torn apart, and I found that out for myself. So I wanted to have a place where people could post their work and have a really good community. I did not intend it to be this big, so it’s a little different now but it’s more of just a support group now. But in the early days, it was a very close knit community.

Josh Hall:

So that was the first thing, I wanted it to be a place that was helpful. I realized that you have to have really good guidelines in place just [crosstalk 00:14:00]-

Chris Badgett:

What are some examples?

Josh Hall:

Any sort of documentation you have to have in place for the product or group itself.

Chris Badgett:

Yeah.

Josh Hall:

It would be like, what kind of posts are allowed? Any sort of guidelines as far as… Again, what’s allowed, what’s not, how to behave. Some groups are really stingy like you post tutorials on Tuesdays, you post your work on Wednesdays, we didn’t go that route, I kept it very open-ended. But at the same time, I made very strict guidelines and the fact that don’t come to the group and ask for work, you can post an opportunity but you can’t ask for work, stuff like that. So having really clear guidelines is one. I would say the third would be to be engaged. If you’re going to be the leader of the group, you’ve got to be there, you’ve got to actually show up, otherwise, it’s just going to die. Unless you have a team, which I guess will be point number four, you really need to be there and really be leading the charge, and you have to be excited about being in there. So I would say being there is the big one, you got to set the example.

Josh Hall:

Number four would be to have, once it scales, to have a good group of moderators or a team that you can delegate some stuff to so you’re not responsible for every approval, every denial, every issue, that was the big one. And then I’d say five, would be just consistency. I think every aspect of business, consistency is always in the mix, you have to be consistent. If you’re really amped up for your group and you post a lot a couple of days but then you don’t show up for another month, it’s not going to go well, particularly in the early days.

Chris Badgett:

How often do you show up now? Like here we are four years later or whatever, how often are you there?

Josh Hall:

I don’t show up as much now just because I have moderators who handle everything. I do request approvals and stuff or I do approve some requests and everything, but I’m in there every day at some point usually just to pop in and to request approvals and stuff like… Oh, excuse me, approve requests, some stuff like that. But I don’t dump into the threads as much now simply because, for one, I found myself getting pinged like crazy and [crosstalk 00:16:10]-

Chris Badgett:

Like personally?

Josh Hall:

Yeah, personally, which is a big issue, I’m actually trying to work some of that out right now. So people will be tagging me like crazy, which was cool in the early days, but now it’s like, man, I also have groups for my courses, which I’m sure we’ll get into so there’s a lot of different groups. So that main group is essentially run by me, I make it very clear that this is a Divi support group by JoshHall.co. But I do hop in usually once a week, at least. I’ll jump in the thread, if somebody has a question or posts my tutorial and has a question, I’ll hop in. So I am still active, it’s just not as much as I was previous to this because now I do have courses and I have different levels of my community, my tribe together. But yeah, even at this level, four years later, I’m still in and I’ve never gone more than a few days without at least being inside it to some extent.

Chris Badgett:

Yeah, that’s awesome. So just to recap, you got to have passion in your group, you got to set the guidelines, set the frame, you got to be engaged, get your team involved and be consistent. I love that, that’s super hard one truths and just a good blueprint of the fundamentals, that’s awesome. Let’s talk-

Josh Hall:

Well, I didn’t have time to think of any better ones. I’m sure it’ll all come back like, “Dude, Chris, I thought of five better ones.”

Chris Badgett:

Well, I think that the big takeaway you said, for me anyways, was that there’s a lot of bad groups out there. Especially in tech or especially around products where it can get really negative or whatever, or people trying to use it to grab clients or something like that. So a group is not a passive thing, it really isn’t and you got to really invest.

Josh Hall:

It’s living, it’s breathing, it’s people…

Chris Badgett:

Yeah,

Josh Hall:

… [crosstalk 00:18:00] it is. And luckily the Divi Community itself is something special, you said that, I think maybe before we went live, you said you love the Divi Community. It is something special, it just attracts good people. Now that said, with a group of 22,000, we’re going to have some bad apples.

Chris Badgett:

Right.

Josh Hall:

And I mentioned that we have just over a 50% approval rate, we still get a lot of people that slip through there and then they ended up spamming or they end up tearing somebody down and then we’re pretty quick to act on that. And if one of my moderators doesn’t know if they should be deleted, then they handle it for me and that’s where the every couple of days me jumping in there is crucial. But I have two thoughts on that. One is that everything rises and falls on leadership. So you as the leader of any sort of group, you have to set the precedents, which kind of goes back to the five points that we talked about. So people are going to see the leader and they generally kind of act like the leader a lot. And then the second part to that is there’s a quote that I heard a while back that I just love as a course creator and as a tribe connector, and that is, “Your vibe attracts your tribe.”

Chris Badgett:

Wow, that’s good.

Josh Hall:

So as somebody who is running a community, people are going to have their own personalities and stuff, but you set the precedent, and that goes back to like staying involved. And I love that quote because it really resonated with me. What was interesting and the way I saw that play out through the years was that there were tons of Divi Facebook groups, there still are, there’s a lot of them, but the question is, what’s the difference between my group and a bunch of other ones?

Josh Hall:

Well, I think honestly, it’s just the five tips that we went over. It was showing up, it was being helpful… Even though the group has changed at a higher level now compared to what it was when we just had a few hundred members and it was a lot easier to be really engaged, the core is still there. It’s still a very helpful group, and if somebody is not being helpful then we nip that pretty quick. Even when I jump in there occasionally and people see the owner of their group giving a free snippet of code or some free advice, it still looks really good and that really sets the precedent. So I’ve always been really open with just sharing everything I know, like here’s the playbook, here’s everything I’ve learned. A lot of people are weird about giving stuff away for free, but I’ve found that the more you give away for free, I’ve never regretted that, I’ve never been like, “Oh, I’ve given away too much.” Even though I have courses and I’ve repackaged a lot of my free information and premium products, it still worked out really well. So, yeah [crosstalk 00:20:27], yeah.

Chris Badgett:

That’s awesome, good stuff. Well, let’s talk about the third turning into courses specifically in training, what happened there? And tell us about how you got into it and really grew it out. And as of this recording, I’m just looking at your website, how many courses do we have here?

Josh Hall:

So we have nine courses [crosstalk 00:20:47].

Chris Badgett:

Nine courses.

Josh Hall:

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:20:49]-

Chris Badgett:

Well, what was first and how did you get into that?

Josh Hall:

Yeah, so when I started my Divi group and I became a blog author for Elegant Themes, I started getting some notoriety in the community, and I’d mentioned that I had started my personal brand site at JoshHall.co. First, I started doing tutorials, I just was doing tutorials like crazy off of what I knew with Divi, and then somebody called me the Yoda of Divi once, and I love that name, so I just rolled with it, I’m kind of still in that personal brand of the Yoda of Divi. So I started doing that and then… I will say for anyone who wants to produce content, one thing that I did that really helped from the get go was I did a tutorial a week for 12 weeks. I gave myself some light at the end of the tunnel, so I was able to commit to 12 tutorials, take my time with those, and those first few months of doing tutorials blew up my brand.

Chris Badgett:

Are those blog content or YouTube content or a course content?

Josh Hall:

It’s both.

Chris Badgett:

Okay.

Josh Hall:

Just blog and YouTube at that time because it was… I would post a YouTube video-

Chris Badgett:

Okay. So free content?

Josh Hall:

Yeah, it’s free content. It’d be like, “Hey, here’s a trick I did on a recent client site, here’s how I did it with Divi.” Maybe a little bit of CSS, and that really kind of elevated me initially, and then I started doing that more frequently. So I was doing tutorials, building up my YouTube channel, building up my site with the blog. And then my whole goal after that… Because I was still running my web design business but I was scaling it so I did it on kind of a low level the first year, I was just doing it essentially part-time, maybe 10 to 15 hours a week I would invest in doing a tutorial in the Facebook group. But then it started getting bigger and bigger and then I started offering layouts that I did with Divi. So if I came up with a team page layout, I would package it up and offer it on my site as just a cheap product basically. [crosstalk 00:22:35]-

Chris Badgett:

And a layout, it’s like a template that somebody else could just suck into their site, right?

Josh Hall:

Exactly, exactly.

Chris Badgett:

Okay.

Josh Hall:

You could buy the layout, it’s a page template, and then you could put it up on your site and customize it the way you want. So I started doing that, I only did a few of those and it went over really well and then that got me thinking, “I’m going to do child themes where I do like full website templates.” So that was my whole goal. But what I realized was I really enjoyed the teaching aspect, and then long story short, at this point, my first daughter was born and we spent 56 days in the NICU, the Newborn Intensive Care Unit with her, so I had to really reevaluate what I was doing. I basically put everything I was doing with JoshHall.co on hold at that time, I was just overseeing my subcontractors in running In Transit. But funny enough, at that time, my YouTube channel got featured on the Elegant Themes blog by another contributor, and then I looked at my subscribers and they like doubled, they went from like 1,000 to like 3,000.

Josh Hall:

So once we got out of the NICU and we kind of settled down, I kind of started going back up with more tutorials, and that’s when I realized I have learned a lot. And to answer your question, you wonder what the first course was? My first course was how to create a website maintenance plan for recurring income for web designers. And the reason I was so passionate about that was because our maintenance plan was one of the things that got us through the NICU. Because I had a really hard time working in those couple of months, I did work from a Panera coffee shop across the street from the hospital, I wasn’t working too much and it was really hard to stay creative. Luckily I had the team at that point, but our maintenance plan was basically paying our bills through that time, the recurring income I had with my clients for hosting and maintenance.

Josh Hall:

So once we got out of the NICU and I had thought about what I wanted to do with JoshHall.co, I was like, “I’m so passionate about helping other people have a maintenance plan that I want to do a course on this.” So I went for it, I bailed out, I kind of came up with an outline. I did go with LearnDash, I’m a big proponent of you, Chris, and what you do with LifterLMS I ended up using LearnDash. I built the course out and then I launched that in, I think, August of 2018. And it went really, really well, I think I had almost 100 signups for the first pre-order and launch phase and I got such good feedback on the course that really, it was all downhill from there, man, I was a full blown course creator right then. So I was about ready to get going on child themes and I pushed that to the side and I was like, “I’m doing courses.”

Josh Hall:

After that went over really well, I did a CSS Divi course, which is a really big course. And then once the new year came around in 2019, I went on a tear, I did like four courses in a few months. One on cPanel because that’s really, really important to know, just to understand how the file structure works and all that, I did one on my web design process, I did one on WooCommerce and then one as kind of a Divi beginner’s course. So, at that point, my lead designer for my agency was really taking off and able to handle a lot of that, so I almost went like full blown course creation. So yeah, that’s kind of how it all started. I went full blown courses in, and that’s what really set in motion for me to finish kind of like this suite of courses.

Chris Badgett:

Wow, that is such a cool story. And just tell us briefly, what was the… Becoming an entrepreneur, I relate to what you’re saying, it’s somewhat of a journey of self discovery, so you were about to become like a child theme creator which is more of like a software product entrepreneur and then you discovered this teaching thing and you’re like, “Wait a second, this one is resonating stronger than rolling out child themes.” What was that for you that lit you up as a course creator?

Josh Hall:

I’ve always liked teaching, and what I realized doing tutorials was that I’m actually a pretty good teacher. I got better and better with the tutorials being more concise and being more direct and I was getting YouTube comments like crazy with people saying, “Dude, you’ve changed my life. I feel comfortable with Divi and I’m customizing.” That really set the it for me. Child themes can be life-changing in a way, but very rarely is somebody going to be like, “I bought your child theme and my journey has changed forever.”

Chris Badgett:

Yeah.

Josh Hall:

It’s very rare that a product’s going to do that as much so I really enjoyed the human aspect of just really making a big impact with the knowledge I was sharing. Because I realized too, I’ve learned a lot in my experience. I never considered myself an expert, but I realized at that point I’d been doing web design freelancing for seven, eight years and I learned so much so I didn’t want to keep it to myself, I wanted to share that on a one to many level. And I’m a big proponent of even if you’re in a year into your journey, you’ve probably learned so much, so you can start giving back. And you can do that for free in Facebook groups or I’m a big part of people starting courses pretty early on as well, just sharing what you know.

Josh Hall:

So that was the big thing for me, I actually just always liked teaching too. Before all this happened, I was actually an advisor, I still am an advisor to a local high school media program. And years ago, they would send me in like once a quarter for a full day and I would have a couple of students and I would just show them how to do websites and some basic design stuff, and that really got the itch for me to do that on a bigger level. Now then, it was like one to one or two students who were maybe halfway interested. Most students were just wanting to learn video game design and they would just kind of space out, whereas I had some students in there that were all about it. And when I found the students that were all about it, that just lit me up, it was like the favorite thing I had done to that point.

Josh Hall:

So when I started doing courses, I realized it was like those few students I had back then, but it was like hundreds of them. So now I’ve got hundreds of people who are amped up and fired up and really serious about their business. So yeah, that was the initial it, and then it just kind of grew from there.

Chris Badgett:

That’s awesome. I’m glad you talk fast because there’s so much I want to cover and we only have like 30 more minutes. I wanted to dig in for the WordPress freelancers and agency people listening to this. And if you’re an expert and you don’t build sites for clients, hang in there, we’re going to get into the membership and where Josh is going with podcasting and other things. But I’m just going to challenge you again as a course creator, if you could give five principles for building a web design maintenance plan.

Josh Hall:

Well, first off you need to think about your clients because you got to think about the benefit for the client. Because if you just think about recurring income for yourself, your client’s going to know that and it can come across a little greedy, because it’s awesome, it’s awesome for web designers to have this recurrent income, it’s crucial. So you got to think about your client, you have to think of the benefit for them. And those benefits are you are their web person, you’re that web guy that web girl for them ongoing, you are their support person for years to come. So you have to think about it for the client and really highlight the benefits. I would say for you as a web designer, as kind of a number two, it’s going to end the feast and famine of web design because web design is very project oriented, so you have really good months and really bad months and website maintenance and hosting plan really kind of alleviates that often because you can cover your basic expenses with a maintenance plan. It doesn’t take too long to scale it and it is scalable.

Josh Hall:

So you got to think about your clients, got to think about how it’s going to help your business and how to implement that into your business. As far as the plan itself, I would say, trying to think of a good way to recap this, I would say limit the amount of tools that you use in your toolbox. I think that’s an important thing because we did our maintenance plan and I only use Divi, WordPress and our handful of trusted plugins and WooCommerce. So when you have a maintenance plan where you’re dealing with a lot of different themes and a ton of different tools, that can be a little tricky because inevitably, sometimes there’s conflicts between a bunch of stuff. And when you end up bringing people on to help you with your maintenance plan, if you have a subcontractor or something, if you’re using Elementor, [inaudible 00:31:02], a bunch of different themes and Divi, they’re going to have to know all these themes to be able to work with that plan. So, I’ve found that kind of keeping up a smaller set of tools has been really huge.

Josh Hall:

The next big thing is the extra platforms for the maintenance plan. I use ManageWp, but there’s some other good ones out there as well. So you want to have something that is going to be trusted, and that really handles all the main aspects for like updates, for plugins, basic optimization. With ManageWP, you can do reporting, which is huge, keeping in touch with the clients is absolutely huge, and then you can do backups and stuff like that. So having a platform that’s going to work well with all of your tools that you decide on, but then it’s going to be kind of your dashboard, your hub for everything that you do for your plan, that’s huge. And then as far as kind of a fifth thing, I would really, really encourage everyone to be proactive in keeping in touch with their clients apart from just sending reports, like really nurture those relationships.

Josh Hall:

And the really cool thing about maintenance plans is not only does it end the feast and famine, but it keeps you from having to sell every day or every week. If you get a dozen clients or a couple of dozen clients… I’m a big believer, and if you get 25 to 30 clients, you should be able to make six figures a year with those clients, with the maintenance income plan that you can circle back to them. It’s going to open the door for more projects and more work so those are five of about 50 points I would come up with, but those are some of the biggest ones I’d say.

Chris Badgett:

That’s awesome. Well, I was just looking at your YouTube channel and you’re at almost 19,000 subscribers, what tips do you have for somebody, as an expert, in your case Divi and WordPress, and being a web designer, as a business, what helped you go from zero to almost 20,000 here?

Josh Hall:

It probably goes back to what I said earlier, which is consistency. I just consistently pumped out Divi tutorials which really elevated my exposure on YouTube and my website. Because contrary to my service business, when I did my agency, that was 100% organic and referral based. JoshHall.co on the other hand is 100% SEO based, so there’s no local referrals with this, it’s completely YouTube Search and SEO, so consistency was huge. I didn’t go wild on keyword research, I basically just posted stuff that I learned and I was curious about or if I looked for a question and it wasn’t addressed or it wasn’t addressed well, I did a tutorial on that. And then I’ve branched it off to not only Divi tutorials, but eventually I did more like personal development kind of vlogs and videos and stuff like that.

Josh Hall:

As of right now, it’s primarily just my podcast because my podcast is video as well, so all the videos go up on there. But I’m going to start implementing more tutorials in with the podcast videos because if you look at my channel right now, all the recent stuff is just podcast videos just because I’ve got a lot else going on right now. But I’m going to start doing more Divi tutorials and tools and tips and tricks in and around platforms for web design. But consistency, consistency is a big one. And then going back to what I said earlier, if you give yourself some light at the end of the tunnel, do like a three month tear of content and then take a month off, you could do something like that, that way it’s not so overwhelming. Because if you just say, I’m going to do a tutorial every week, it can be a little daunting until you have a system to keep up with it.

Chris Badgett:

And how did podcast enter the conversation? Because you started with blogging and guest blogging and YouTube, when did the podcasts roll on the scene and why?

Josh Hall:

Yeah, So 2019, I had just went through releasing a bunch of courses together and at that point I had like six courses and I was working on my next course, which was going to be the biggie, which is my business course. And I was planning everything out with pricing and collecting content and all the big areas of web design, and then I released that in the summer of 2019… And I knew by doing that course and getting the feedback from some amazing people, I always knew that I wanted to do a podcast because I figured it’d be a great way to build my community and my network of designers and folks like yourself, Chris. But also I knew as a podcast listener, there was something about podcasts that builds likeability, trust and just a lot of other aspects that are to get with videos, particularly like tutorial videos. So I always knew I wanted to do it, so I was actually planning on doing one the year before, but I just felt like I didn’t have the time.

Josh Hall:

So once I got my business course done, I knew I wanted to get going on the podcast. I’m a big proponent and a fan of Pat Flynn, who is an entrepreneur in an entrepreneurial space, but he has a podcasting course. So I invested in that, it was a big investment, but I went through that course and it rocked my world, it really helped set me up. Because, again, I had learned that my time is the most valuable thing, so if there’s a course that’s going to help me from point A to point B, then I’m going to take it. And that’s exactly what I tell my students, “Yeah, you can learn CSS on your own, but it might take you how many days or months? It’s going to be very scattered. Or you can go through my course and it’s going to help you in a matter of hours and in a matter of a couple of days.” So I had that same mindset, I am a course creator, but I take a lot of courses now too if it’s going to save me time.

Josh Hall:

So went through that course, it really helped set me in motion to have a successful podcast [inaudible 00:36:38] start. [inaudible 00:36:40] do a podcast, don’t launch with one episode, if there’s one thing I learned in that course was to launch with few episodes and I made it like a concert, like a big kickoff. And then I had a few episodes that I launched, I had a few episodes lined up and then I just started doing it consistently, and I’ve never missed a week. Right now, I’m publishing two episodes a week, but I think I’m going to back down in the new year here back to the one or two a week just to have some time for some other stuff. But it’s been huge, man, it’s been a game changer for me as a course creator because it just builds that like and trustability. Trustability, I just made up a word.

Josh Hall:

But it really builds so much that videos and other types of content can’t build. Because with a podcast, people are listening to you over and over and over and over. And as everyone can probably figure out by listen to me, I do like to talk, I like to get detailed on stuff so podcasts lends itself to my personality really well because with a YouTube video, I’ve gotta be fairly brief, I’ve gotta be fairly swift. And I’ve actually explored putting some of my YouTube videos as podcasts, and I had one video a while back that I did which where like my top 10 lessons as a freelancer, and I had a lot of people on YouTube and on the video saying, “This is really good but it was really long.” It was like a half an hour. I did it as the podcast and everyone loved it on the podcast. So it’s just a difference of how you can be really detailed with podcasting. So it’s been a game changer for me, man, it’s something I still love. I’ve actually learned so much from it as well, just from guests. Now, instead of relying everything on my experience, I’m able to share what’s worked for other web designers and other agencies, so that’s been a big game changer part of it too.

Josh Hall:

Last point on podcasting is I’ve found it’s brought so many people that are serious about their business. The YouTube tutorials I did with Divi, a lot of people find me through there and it segues them to my podcast but I also get a lot of people who have zero budget and are just looking for something free or something cheap, and they’re never going to buy a course or they’re going to be like, “Oh, 97 bucks for a course, oh no.” Whereas the podcast folks are serious about their business and [inaudible 00:38:55] drop 500 bucks on my business course because they’ve listened to me and they’ve got a lot of value and it started changing their life already. So they’re like, “Absolutely. If the podcast is this good, then the course has got to be way better.” So, yeah, it’s been huge, man.

Chris Badgett:

That’s awesome. A question about where you’re headed next. You mentioned going towards membership and I find that people get a little hung up on these words, I’m going to build an online course, I’m going to build a membership site, I’m going to build a coaching program, I’m going to build a training company, I’m going to build a online community, how do you think about where you’re going next and how you’ve used those different words in what it is that you do?

Josh Hall:

Yeah, it really all started with the needs of my students now. So just like with the maintenance plan, I had the need for my maintenance plan for my clients. And I should say too, once I got my podcasts going, I finished up kind of my suite of web design courses, I did two more courses in the beginning of 2020 right before COVID hit. And so what was really interesting is once the pandemic came, I actually saw a huge influx of students in my courses because a lot of people were losing their job or they had done web design on the side and they were forced to do it full time. So it was really an amazing time for me to have gotten all that stuff done, I feel really fortunate to have all of the suite of courses done right then.

Josh Hall:

But long story short, I ended up actually selling my web design agency just a few months ago because the course stuff had taken off. The courses were like 75% of my income at this point, so I was like, “I’ve got to take this full-time, this is the opportunity, I’ve been doing service work for almost a decade.” One of my students is actually the one who took over my web design business. And what was really cool about that was he came through my maintenance planning course at first, then went through all my other courses, learned my systems, learned Divi, learned all my processes, so when I turned my clients over to him, I’m condensing a very long in-depth story but when I turned my clients over, it wasn’t like they were working with somebody who used different tools. He used all the same tools and better yet he used the systems that were in my courses.

Chris Badgett:

Trained by you, that’s awesome.

Josh Hall:

[crosstalk 00:41:05]-

Chris Badgett:

Just to be clear on this, how long did you run a service company and a training company at the same time? How many years?

Josh Hall:

So about two years.

Chris Badgett:

Yeah.

Josh Hall:

The first year I was doing the layouts, I wasn’t doing courses yet. It was actually a year and a half exactly from the time I first built my first course and then with selling the agency.

Chris Badgett:

So there wasn’t a switch you flipped, it was a transition.

Josh Hall:

It was a transition, yeah, yeah. Anybody who is going from one endeavor to another, I heard a good analogy a while back, it’s like swinging from a vine and you need to make sure if you’re swinging from one vine to another that there’s enough weight there to hold you, otherwise you’re going to plummet to the ground. So yeah, I didn’t have a successful web design agency and then said, “I’m just going to start building courses and get rid of it.” I did them together. And the cool thing about doing it together was I was still actively in the industry while I was producing content. So that was a biggie, but the cool thing too now, kind of as we look moving forward, I still retain some ownership in my agency and I’m overseeing my CEO now who took over the business, and I’m still really in touch with the team and our processes. So he’s basically relaying everything to me to continue on with good relevant content for my students.

Chris Badgett:

Nice.

Josh Hall:

So that was the big thing. But yeah, I really still went back to the need for my students. So what I found as a course creator was the money that was coming in with courses was awesome, however, it’s not really recurring income because it’s not something that somebody buys once and it pays over and over, they just buy a course and that’s it, and it’s not really passive because you need to actively promote it and do a lot. So I had months that were really good with course sales and months that were a little down if there wasn’t a launch or if there wasn’t a sale or there wasn’t any good promotion around it.

Josh Hall:

And what I found was, number one, I wanted to have more stable recurring income with the courses, but the other aspect was the students themselves. What I found was a lot of students would come into a course or they’d go through multiple courses and they would say it was life changing and it was amazing and it would be awesome, but inevitably once they’re done, they would disappear. Unless they would intentionally reach out to me or come back to me, it was hard for me once I got several hundred students to remember, “Oh, I should reach out to Jimmy to see how Jimmy’s doing with his business.” It was hard for me to do that.

Josh Hall:

So what I realized was there was a big need for a deeper sense of community and connection, which is what I’m actually building out right now through my membership. So my membership is going to be, I’m just calling it my web design club, and it’s going to be basically much different than a free Facebook group because it’s going to be a premium type of membership where a lot of my students are going to be able to connect with each other. What I was doing was I was pairing students up with each other like crazy. So I never [crosstalk 00:43:56]-

Chris Badgett:

Like mastermind creation or what?

Josh Hall:

Yeah, exactly. Very much like a mastermind, like a community that’s private, that’s going to weed out the people who are not a good fit. If somebody has zero budget or they’re not ready to invest in themselves, then I’ve got a free group, they can join my free Divi web designers group, but this is for people who are really serious about their business.

Josh Hall:

I’m also doing like exclusive training and a bunch of other aspects and really cool things in the community. But it’s also a place where they can connect with me because as I get more notoriety in the community, I’m not going to be able to answer every email that comes through or a random message. So, everyone who joins my community will get a private messaging thread with me for basic questions and basic coaching basically. And that was really the key, to bring my community of amazing students together because, like I said, I was basically playing matchmaker. Like I’d have one student go through a course and they’d say, “You’ve helped me out so much, I love the course. I’m ready to hire somebody, do you know of a designer?” I’m like, “Oh, I do. Here’s a list of recent designers, this is my network.” I was doing that left and right, and I still am.

Josh Hall:

So the community aspect is going to be where like everyone can go and I just can’t wait. I’m really close to launching it here, so I know it’s going to be a big piece. And it’s really going to be, I think, kind of the glue that fits all the puzzle pieces together because there’s a lot of things that I want to teach on and go in more in depth but don’t really fit in my courses. Like I’d like to talk to people about how to get better on camera and how to do like basic videos for their business, I guess I could do a course on that but I’d rather that be kind of a membership type of piece. There’s-

Chris Badgett:

That’s cool.

Josh Hall:

… a lot of little side topics like that, that are going to help my students that don’t really fit into my web design courses that this membership is going to be a big part of.

Chris Badgett:

So just so we’re clear on the model here, the membership is like a value add, it doesn’t include courses, the courses are standalone. But then there’s this continuity thing which provides more support, more community, ancillary content that is around the ecosystem of what they’re up to, that’s what it is? It’s not like a membership that includes all your courses, right?

Josh Hall:

Exactly. Yeah, the courses are still separate, they’re their own standalone things. And I had debated on putting the courses in the membership but I’ve got hours and hours of content in the courses and it would just be overwhelming if you joined a membership and there’s like a hundred hours of stuff to go through, it just doesn’t lend itself for success for the students. So, the courses are separate, yeah.

Chris Badgett:

Do you see people joining the membership only after having taken a course or they might join and then realize like, Oh, I might want to take this course or both either, or, choose your own adventure kind of thing?

Josh Hall:

I think it will be both and maybe we could schedule a follow-up on this next year, I’ll kind of fill you in on what I’ve learned with the membership alongside courses. But I have heard from people who do both that they feed into each other. I think that more people will go through courses first and then they’ll come to the membership as the sense of connection. What’s interesting is I built up a little member interest email list, and I’ve been doing some calls and some Q&A’s with people who are my students, who are interested in the membership and they’re like fired up. They’re like, “I can’t wait to join, I’m ready to go like right now.” Just because they’re dying for that sense of community that’s at a whole other level than a free Facebook group or a course group. So yeah, I think it’s going to feed both, but I have a feeling that most people will come through courses first and then the membership is going to be that piece that really engages them, it really connects them.

Josh Hall:

And I think it’ll be a really good upsell for people who maybe go through my business course and then they join the membership and then they hear talk people talking about my SEO course, and they’re like, “I need to take Josh’s SEO course.” And then they go through that. So I’m pretty sure it’s going to feed really nicely with each other. Will do a round two if you want and I’ll fill you in what I’ve learned [crosstalk 00:47:48]-

Chris Badgett:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ll definitely check in a year from now and see lessons learned. In terms of pricing, I’m just asking you because we get all these questions, I’m not asking you specifically on price point, but are you thinking of like a monthly thing or an annual thing or both options?

Josh Hall:

Two options. Both, yeah. So right now I’m like 99% sure I’m rolling with $99 a month for the membership, although I’m going to give founding members a 20% discount.

Chris Badgett:

Early adopter, nice.

Josh Hall:

Yeah, early adopter discount. So if you join within a few months, I’m going to set the deadline, you’ll get it at like $79 a month. And that will include everything in the membership with trainings, weekly Q&A’s, the private coaching thread with me and everything that’s involved with the membership. But then there’ll be an annual, and I’m thinking annual I’ll probably do for like the $999, [crosstalk 00:48:33] want to say, but then I will be giving discounts to students who are already in a course. So if they’ll want to upgrade to the membership, then they’ll get a special student discount because I’m a big believer in not being a cable company, meaning you want to give your best deals to the people who are already a customer because-

Chris Badgett:

Wow. Yeah, I love that.

Josh Hall:

… the cable companies is the typical like we’re going to give our best deals to new people. And then what happens after a year? They hike up your prices.

Chris Badgett:

Wow.

Josh Hall:

So I’m a big believer in if you get a student or you get a customer, treat them even better as the years go on, give them more discounts as time goes on because you’ll make a client for life. So yeah, pricing model wise, that’s what I’m looking at. Eventually I might do more tiers for like more advanced coaching or maybe even a basic level of the membership that maybe doesn’t have access to me, I might explore that. But right now, I’m keeping it just $99 a month or $999 a year with discounts to students, yeah.

Chris Badgett:

Man, this is awesome. Cool. Well, I want to kind of wrap it up with one question just to kind of put a button on it. You talked about, in our episode where I was on your podcast, about competition and being different in the space and all this like… There are other web design courses and memberships and stuff like that, not like who are your competition but how do you think about competition? Because I see that hold back a lot of would be course creators or people who want to build a coaching program or an online community or membership, what is your perspective on competition?

Josh Hall:

It really goes back to the Divi Community, I think. Because that community is so open and everyone’s sharing their code and sharing what they learned, it really put the bug in me that you don’t need to have this dog eat dog mentality online, and even if it’s a different industry, you can share what you know and you can actually help your competition. I like to call it, and I didn’t come up with this word, I stole it from some of my competitors, but they call it cooppetition to where, yeah, you have competition but you can cooperate with them. So some of my competitors are like Divi Life and Divi Space and some of these plugin and course and theme creator companies, but there are some of my best friends. I have them on my podcast and then eventually we’re going to be doing trainings together.

Chris Badgett:

Right.

Josh Hall:

Like I’m going to have them to do a webinar on my membership. What’s really been interesting is the creators of those two companies in particular, they have a course together, they have their own Divi business course and I’ve had a lot of students go through both of our courses. And the cool thing about that is, some people might say, “Why would you go through two Divi business courses?” Well, each one of our courses are based solely off of our experience. In web design, there’s no right or wrong so the way I do contracts and proposals and my onboarding process looks different than the way they do it. But if somebody goes through both courses, they can learn so much and they can apply what they want to do in their business. So I’ve had a lot of students say, “I really like the way they do certain processes, but I like the way you do this.” And then they make it their own and it’s amazing. So, yeah, big on cooppetition.

Josh Hall:

Yeah, we have competing stuff, but at the end of the day, I’m not looking to get every person in the Divi market. And as a web designer, you’re likely not going to be able to work with every person in the world that needs a website, so just stay in your lane and it can be you. And it was the same principle with my Divi group, my Facebook group, there was a ton of other groups, but instead of looking at their numbers and being worried about how many subscribers they were getting or whatever, I just focused on being genuine and being real and helpful and that’s how my group grew.

Josh Hall:

And it’s the same principle that I applied to my courses, and it’s actually the same principle that I pulled from my web design agency. We had a lot of competitors, but I wasn’t trying to compete with them. I was like, “I’m in Columbus, Ohio, there’s plenty of people who need websites, I’m not going to try to get every person in Columbus who needs a website.” So I just focused on my few clients that turned into a few more and then it built up from there. So yeah, that’s a biggie, man, cooppetition, all about it.

Josh Hall:

And actually, you learn a lot from your competitors if you’re friends with them and you’re not worried… I know my episode that I had you on for my podcast, Chris, you talked about Justin and LearnDash, you guys are friendly competition as well, but I know you’re cool with each other. It’s not like you see Justin at a WordCamp and give them the side-eye.

Chris Badgett:

[inaudible 00:53:00].

Josh Hall:

I don’t know, maybe I haven’t seen you, but I can’t imagine you’re that kind of person. So yeah, it doesn’t have to be like that, there’s plenty of fish in the digital sea, I guess. And it just makes life better. It sucks waking up trying to compete with somebody when there’s no need for that. You can help each other out and then you can really make a big impact and you can actually wake up and enjoy your day and love getting online, so yeah.

Chris Badgett:

Totally.

Josh Hall:

I want to make the web a more friendly place, that’s kind of what it’s all about.

Chris Badgett:

Yeah, it’s about the infinite game. There’s a lot of resources and customers out there or whatever, it’s more infinite than a fixed game where there’s only so many. You can’t build a website for everybody in the world.

Josh Hall:

And also just real quick, I know we’re on a time crunch, but I will often promote and recommend my competitors. So somebody in my Divi group a while back said, “Hey, there’s a bunch of Divi CSS courses, which one should I go with?” Some of the other course creators popped in and they were like, “Go with my course, it’s way better than the other ones.” And I tried to take a different approach so I said, “Hey man, there’s a lot of good options, it might come down to who you resonate with. Look at the course overviews, look at the budget to see if it aligns with everything and just make sure it’s somebody who you resonate with.” And I said, “Here are all of the people I know and trust that create Divi courses, and either way, no matter what route you go, you’re going to be taken care of. But I would just encourage you to choose who you want to be your teacher and your guide.” And that person went with my course after I’d post that.

Josh Hall:

So oddly enough, recommending a bunch of other courses was the catalyst for them to join my course.

Chris Badgett:

That’s awesome. So-

Josh Hall:

Try that out next time [inaudible 00:54:47] like that.

Chris Badgett:

So that’s Josh Hall, he’s at JoshHall.co. If you’re an expert type person, subject matter expert, go check out his website, I think it’s such a great example of having content, courses and all these different things that work together for a clear customer. If you’re a WordPress professional or agency, go check out his business course, check out his membership. Josh, I want to thank you for coming on the show, any final words for the people as we sign off here?

Josh Hall:

Thanks for having me on, Chris, I really enjoyed my time with you, man. I would just say, just think about your mission and just align your content and your plans around the impact you want to make. It sounds cheesy, it sounds really entrepreneurial and corporatey but if you keep that at the heart of it then life will never get boring and you’ll be able to do all kinds of cool stuff.

Chris Badgett:

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’ve got a gift for you over at lifterlms.com/gift. Go to lifterlms.com/gift. Keep learning. Keep taking action. And I’ll see you in the next episode.

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