We Discuss how to be a Great Freelancer and How to Build Your First Successful Course
We discuss with Nathan how he got into web design and what has he learnt that he can share with the audience connected to being effective freelance web designer. We then go into what he has learnt connected to building a number of successful online courses and how he effectively marketed theses courses. I you want to get some real insight connected to being a freelancer and also how to build your first online course this is a great episode for you.
This weeks show is Sponsored By Kinsta Hosting
Here’s A Full Transcript of Our Interview With Nathan Allotey
Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic Show. It’s episode 315. We’ve got a great guest with us today, Nathan Allotey. He gave me instructions about how to pronounce his name. I’m terrible. And I’ve got my great co-host, Cindy Nicholson with me as well. Nathan, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?
Nathan: Yes. As mentioned, I’m Nathan, Nathan Allotey. (https://nathanallotey.com/) Don’t worry about the pronunciation. It’s always interesting to hear how many different pronunciations that are out there. No, don’t worry about that. But, yes, I am a Web Designer and Digital Marketing Strategist located in Houston, Texas. I’ve been working with Web Design in WordPress since about 2009. I actually started working at a web hosting company. And once at that web hosting company, I learned quite a bit but also there were certain services we didn’t offer clients for whatever reason and even I suggested, I said, “Hey. Why don’t we offer Web Design services and build sites for people?”
They weren’t interested. They only wanted to do the hosting environment. So, I said, “Well, if we’re not offering it and I hear people asking for it every day, let me learn something.” So, I learned Web Design, self-taught, just different tutorials online, practice, reading books. I started freelancing. I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I was just trying to figure things out. So, currently, I still do freelance Web Design but I also have a podcast and I teach other freelancers to avoid the common pitfalls that I had. So I’m trying to create the resource I wish I had when I first started. That does include online courses and a few other things but that’s pretty much what I do.
Jonathan: That sounds great. And I’ve got my great co-host, Cindy Nicholson, the Course Whisperer. Cindy, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?
Cindy: Sure. Hi, everyone. Thank you, Jonathan. I’m Cindy Nicholson from TheCourseWhisperer.com where I help entrepreneurs who are wanting to scale their business and create online courses. I help them with the design and development of those courses. So, happy to be here Jonathan. Thank you.
Jonathan: Right. So, before we go into the meat of the interview, I just want to quickly mention something about my main sponsor which Kinsta Hosting. And Kinsta Hosting is managed WordPress hosting on steroids. If you’re really looking for a really quality host for your E-Commerce, your Membership or your Learning Management website, Kinsta is the business. We host the WP-Tonic website on Kinsta and I have some of my client websites. Fantastic support. Fantastic interface design, staging site, daily backups, great interface design, latest versions of PHP. If you’re a Developer looking to host your own site or host clients’ sites, you will not be disappointed with Kinsta.
So, go to the WP-Tonic website. There’s a load of links and banners on the website to Kinsta. They are affiliate links so you would be helping the show if you use one of those links. Thanks. So, Nathan, you to training when it comes to Web Design. What are some of the main challenges for people looking to build either a second career or a main career in Web Design at the present moment?
Nathan: Yeah. The biggest thing I would say and I know it’s a mistake I’ve made in the past is there is a lot of popularity around aesthetics. In order words, you want the website to be nice. You want it to look good. You want it to be pretty and the list goes on and there’s a lot of overlap with Web Design and Graphic Design and even Illustration right now. So, when people look at websites, they think every website has to look like that or have that appeal.
But in all honesty, people tend to forget a website has to be read. A website has to have a story. A website has to flow and make sense and leads you to making a decision. I mean any web page has that. So, I think there’s a lot of emphasis placed on design when in actuality it’s more about thinking of the story and overcoming objections when you’re on a web page. So I think a big thing right now is, and we even see some of the change on website builders. A lot of things like Wix and Squarespace. They are saying, “Click and drag. Make your own site.”
But you have to know a lot about design theory the intuitiveness of a website to really make something good. If you just hop in there, you’re just dragging things where you think they want to go. So, overall, I would say read more about branding and storytelling just to understand where you’re trying to lead somebody rather than just hop in. So that’s definitely something I see right now and learning those skills are really timeless because no matter what it is, you’re going to need those type of skills.
Jonathan: I totally agree with you Nathan, especially, you know, both Wix and Squarespace, they’re not exactly, how to word this. They’re not lying with their adverts but they’re not being totally forthcoming about the reality of building a site that has any effectiveness. Would you agree with that?
Nathan: I would. I will say they’ve improved over time. I remember when they both first came out. But they’re making it seem like, “Just hop in and you can create your own site.”, which is true but people, and this is the mistake I made, people don’t want a website, they want the website to actually do something. They want a result from the website. They want it to lead them somewhere and that takes a lot more information than just clicking and dragging. That’s my thoughts but that’s something that people can learn over time but if they learn that up front, they’ll be way ahead of where I was because it took me years to figure those things out.
Jonathan: Well, you know, in a way, WordPress was just as guilty when it entered the market with it’s, what was it, free minute install and you’ll be going and some of the statements they made which if you weren’t from a technical background, you would spend a whole day installing it. You would be lucky if you got it to work, wouldn’t you?
Nathan: No, you’re right. I remember when that came out too because I was still working at the web hosting company. It was 1-minute install, 3-minute install, click a couple of buttons, it’s ready for you. And then, the next question is, “I want to build a site.” “Okay. Use this theme.” And they use the theme and they’re like, “Okay. Now what?” “Okay. You have to actually write content. What do you want to write?” And then, they would write something. But then, again, the question comes up, “It’s not doing what I want it to do.” So I do believe there were some false expectations, you know, build it and they will come. But that’s something that everyone has to figure out. Building the website is step 1. Then, you have to analyze it and figure out is it doing what you want it to do and that’s like step 2 through 23 and ongoing. Step 1 is getting something up but you have to keep reiterating as time goes on.
Jonathan: Cindy, got a question?
Cindy: Yeah. It’s interesting because you often hear people who are starting a business that they’re often worried about like the website and, “I’ve got to get my website up.” So, when people are working with you, where do you start with them in order to kind of overcome this huge perceived obstacle that they have?
Nathan: Yeah. Honestly, it’s really about setting expectations. When I work with someone, I try to ask them two main questions just to see where their mind is at. One question is, if everything was to go ideally perfect, what is success? They say a lot of things. I tend to see if they’re too far in the clouds or if they’re grounded. I tend to see where their head is at and then I say, “Okay. Well, if everything does not go perfect and things don’t go as planned, what is failure?” And then, they say what their fears are, what they want to avoid and things of that nature. So, going from there, I tend to ask questions about who they are or their business as a brand, if you will. Because if your website is your best salesperson, what is the personality of that particular salesperson. So what is the voice of that salesperson? I try to find out what they’re for because there are so many things that are on the opposite sides of the spectrum that still work but you have to choose where you fall. You have to choose your segment. You have to choose who you’re targeting.
This list goes on. So I just try to find out more about who they are, who they’re trying to reach. And then, the biggest thing for me I really try to hone in on is, what is your story and who are you, how can you help people and why should they care if you will? So, I really try to hone in on that because I even know for me, when you put yourself out there and you don’t answer those questions, people will put in a box. The problem is you don’t have control over what box they place you in. So it’s better if you as a creator, you as the brand person, you as someone who wants to build a site, you’re the one defining what that box is. So, yeah. It’s more questions about that. And then finally, we can talk later about a website and their feelings about it. But it honestly is finding out more about them and their unique story because that will be their positioning.
Cindy: Well, I can imagine with building websites, like if somebody just wants their, they don’t kind of recognize it’s so much more than just having clickable links and web pages or whatever, there’s so much more than just the website itself. I’m assuming that how you ended up doing the brand strategy alongside it because you can’t have one without the other.
Nathan: Yeah, true. I mean too many times I used to build a website, deliver it and then leave it be. And then I’ll say, “I did what I was supposed to do. Our transaction is over.” Money has been transacted. And I started recognizing and observing that wasn’t what they wanted.
Nathan: As I mentioned, they wanted the website to do something. So, as a better service to my clients, I said, “Okay. A website is the first step.” But I might need to analyze it and come back months later and say, “Is it doing what you want it to do?” Or on the front end really challenge them and say, “Do you really want a website? Maybe a one-page website is good enough for you. Maybe a landing page is all you need. Convince me why you need a website if you will.” As long as they can do that and their thoughts are strong about it, it makes sense. I’ve done that too many times to where I’ve built something and at the end of the day, it either didn’t do what they want it to or it was up and on my portfolio and then I had to take it off my portfolio because the website doesn’t exist anymore because they weren’t making money or progress as they wanted to. That’s what I’ve learned over time with that.
Jonathan: So, what’s your position on paid discovery or what I call a business intensive session or sessions, what’s your position on that Nathan?
Nathan: I guess I always did that as a part of working with my clients but it was included in just the overall price. I never separated that out by itself as a product or service. That’s something I did honestly toward the end of last year. So I’ve been freelancing nearly 10 years and I never did that. I only had that as a part of the service. I think that’s required and it makes sense and the biggest thing that I would say is it’s something people need they don’t think they need.
A lot of businesses that we look up, that we look at, that we reference, whether it be Amazon, Google, Nike, all the things that we reference and we tend to quote over and over, Apple, they all have those things. They all know their mission, their vision, their target. They already have those things. They define them once and then it drives everything that they do. So, we tend to covet like that level of success but then don’t want to do the work up front. But again, it’s one of those things people say, “I don’t need that. You’re just trying to nickel and dime me. I don’t need all that.” But honestly, once they go through it they’re like, “Oh, I needed it.” So I do offer that as a stand-alone product but I tend to do that also with all of my clients as well. And if they really don’t want to pay for it or don’t see the importance of it, I might try to make a case study or tell them, “Okay. Maybe I’ll take a section of what you’re saying and put it on my podcast or something.” Just so other people can see a glimpse into my business. But I think it’s necessary for everyone because if you don’t do that and don’t discover what they target is, you always miss when you don’t have anything to aim for.
Jonathan: Yeah. That’s great. I think we’re going to go for our for break folks. When we come back, we’ll be talking some more with Nathan but we’ll be focusing on his experience of building online courses and what he’s learned through the process. We’ll be back in a few moments folks.
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Jonathan: We’re coming back. We’re talking to Nathan and my co-host Cindy Nicholson. So, Nathan, you’ve got of experience. We’re about WordPress but we’re also about building courses and getting success from your experience. So you’ve been doing courses for quite a while. What are some of the key things you’ve learned through your years of building courses and promoting them?
Nathan: I think the biggest thing that I would say in terms of building a course, you don’t have to know everything. And the great thing about a course is you can add on to it. I think people forget that. Oftentimes, they plan everything out. But it’s like, “Hey. You can start with however many lessons and just continue to add value to it.” So, the first thing I would say it start with an outline, start with however many essential lessons you have and definitely do video. I would definitely do any type of screen sharing and definitely do writing or a transcript of that video as well.
The reason I’m saying definitely on those things is you want to tackle or least address the different type of learning styles. Auditory. Those who learn by hearing and visual learners. For those who are more kinetic, they want to do something or follow your instructions. So if you cover all bases, that normally makes a more immersive learning experience because you don’t know how someone learns but if you cover all those bases, even if that’s stripping the audio from the lesson and adding it as a download to the lesson so someone can listen to it on the go, something like that. Those type of things work well when putting together a course.
And the reason I mentioned you don’t have to have everything up front, just have your essential lessons, you can add to it later, that’s somewhat of a pitfall I see with courses. People tend to build a course, launch it and unfortunately, never go back to update it or when they do update it, it’s literally maybe 5, 3 years later, something like that. Show that you have value, that you actually care, right? So, somebody goes through it, they give you feedback, change it and get credit for the fact that you’re changing things. Whenever you update it, it’s another excuse to announce the course, promote the course, move forward with the course. Speaking of promoting the course, even with your building it, no matter how much you have done, continue to talk about it. Continue to talk about the course. No matter what it is. You finish a module, you’re writing something, you made a graphic, put that out there on social media to build expectation of the course. And really, that’s an ongoing process. Anything you add it’s another excuse to promote the course. I have a lot more I can say about courses but I don’t want to talk too long in one breath. But that’s just some things up front.
Jonathan: No. I’m going to let Cindy. I’m sure Cindy’s got some questions. Cindy, off you go.
Cindy: So your business is helping like other freelancers build their business. Do you have many freelancers wanting to create online courses? And what struggles or how do you get them over that initial barrier in terms of getting courses created for them?
Nathan: Probably the biggest thing is making sure that they actually complete it. A course can come across as overwhelming because when you look at some of the things that are out there, it can be intimidating. You see somebody making a course and you’re like, “Wow. I have to have that.” And I’ve fallen victim to that as well and I’ve been guilty of that as well.
The fact that I need to have everything by the time I’ve launched. And as I mentioned, even if you launch in pieces, it’s an excuse to show people you’re making it better. So the biggest thing for me is do an outline and finish the course. This will get better over time. Because another thing that I’ve had to learn and I’ve even seen in working with clients is you launch your course, people will then give you feedback and tell you what to change. Right now, you’re just guessing. You might have some background as to why you’re doing that and that makes sense but you’re just guessing. And as people go through your course, they’ll tell you exactly what to change and what to fix and you’ll be surprised that you wanted to do 12 things but then you only did 5 of those 12 and people say, “Oh, this was an awesome course.” And you’re like, “Oh. I wasn’t even done. But, yeah, sure. Awesome course.”
More time should be invested in talking to your community and then hearing back from them. On that point, I didn’t say this earlier, but your course should also have some aspect of community. It can be a chat room, it can be Slack, whatever, but if you’re going to have a community, stay active and stay immersive because as I mentioned, those are the people who are going to tell you what to change and they’ve actually paid you. So that’s the biggest thing. Course creators feeling overwhelmed by all the work but they really just need to pare it down and get something up and running because they’ll find out it’s easier to make changes to something that exists rather than to keep building something that hasn’t launched yet. Does that answer your question? Because I can definitely go in different places with that. Was that enough to answer your question or you have like a follow-up to that? What are you thinking?
Cindy: No, absolutely. In terms of working with freelancers, I often find that a lot of them struggle to actually get their course done because they face this, who am I, the whole imposter syndrome of putting something like that out there. Do you find that your clients face this” And how do you help them overcome it?
Nathan: Funny you mention that. Literally, the past weekend, at the time of this recording, I released an episode of Imposter Syndrome on my podcast. We all face that. An imposter syndrome is you have a certain level of accomplishments but sometimes you feel like a fraud because you’re not good enough or how can I compare to Matt Mullenweg. I’m not him. It’s like whatever. The thing is you have to take a step back and just look at your accomplishments and I tend to recommend to people, I’m very good at finding out other people’s value because they don’t view what they’ve done as important or impressive because as I mentioned, we’re all comparing ourselves to the people we look up to. But in all honesty, if you just sit back and think about everything you’ve done in the last 3 to 5 years, you have a lot of evidence to show you are making progress. You do know what you’re talking about. You have grown. People are coming to you for a list of things. So, again, it’s really just getting people to see that they’re valuable. I gave this example in the video but there was a filmmaker named Cory McCabe and he was all apprehensive about making a course and even working with a YouTuber. And I was like, “Cory, haven’t you already edited over 1,000 videos on YouTube? You’ve been a part of at least making six courses.” He’s like, “Oh, yeah.” I’m like, “What do you mean, “Oh, yeah”?” So, again, lean back on what you’ve done in the past for support on the more that you will do in the future. We all need that encouragement or self-encouragement really.
Jonathan: Yeah. You’ve got a fascinating, I was going to say background but that’s not really the correct word really because obviously, you’ve got an MBA, haven’t you? And also, you’ve got your artistic side as well. So you kind of link your business insights with your artistic design part of you as well, don’t you Nathan?
Nathan: Yeah. Great observation. You really did do research. Yeah. I did get my MBA. My background was in Engineering. I did Engineering and Applied Mathematics. And then, I started, I said, “Wow. I don’t know anything about business. Maybe I should go to Business School.” And then, I went to business school and learned those business skills. But even more than that, it was the application of taking a business concept and pairing it with the creative skill that really allowed me to get some progress. I really feel like in Design School, they do need to teach more business, you know, brainy.
They always talk about brainy from a design standpoint but they really do need to teach more business skills. One of my favorite classes was Pricing Strategy in the MBA program. Talking about how do you set a price. Everybody needs that. So, I really do think they could benefit from implementing more Design into the Business degree and more Business into a Design degree. One of the classes I took in the MBA program was How to Make Beautiful Presentations and it was taught by an Art teacher. I was like everyone needs this because we all have seen death by PowerPoint. So I really think the more you can, if you’re a Designer, even a Developer, it doesn’t matter, the more Business concepts that you learn and integrate with your business, I think the stronger you will be because your clients more than likely are businesses. You can talk about PHP code base and I coded this in Python and the list goes on. They just care about, “Okay. What’s the bottom line for my business?” So you have to be able to translate that.
Jonathan: So, when it comes to the courses, when you did your first course, looking back, what are some tips and insights about Marketing that first course? What were some of the things you thought you did well and by reflecting back, this you could have done better?
Nathan: Yeah. The first ever course I did, I made it free and I just put it out there because I just wanted to see what would happen and I didn’t expect so many people to come from, well, one thing is, I didn’t expect so many people to be international like come from overseas. I’m like, “Oh, wow.” I didn’t even think about those who, and I live, like I mentioned, Houston, Texas in the United States. I didn’t even think about those who were overseas. I was really thinking about the Americans.
Jonathan: Do you mean the rest of America?
Nathan: I was just thinking about, “I live in the US so people who are like me in the US will look at the course.” That’s what I was thinking but a lot of people came from other countries. And I was like, “Oh, wow. I didn’t even consider, maybe I should have thought about translating things possible. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so nuance into only speaking to the US market.” Because one of the course lessons was about taxes because I didn’t think a lot of people spoke about taxes. And it’s hard to do that on an international level but even still, a lot of my examples were strictly United States. I really should have looked into other countries and spoke more generally about it. And far as the promoting is I mentioned I fell victim to, “I only want to promote when I have everything together.” And that was definitely not the right way to go. A guy named Adam I know, he did a great job just talking about his course. It’s like one of his first courses. He just talked about it the whole time and he just allowed his email list to grow. I was in my little course laboratory by myself building Frankenstein and I didn’t want to tell anybody. And then, when I launched it, I said, “Hey. It’s ready now.” I probably could have had more people if I just was more open about what I was building in public. I definitely would say that as well. Pricing. I wasn’t sure on what to price it as well. Like I mentioned, the first course was free. But when you make things free, it skews the value of what it is that you’re providing because they don’t know how to perceive the next level. Free to anything seems expensive. So maybe that first course I probably would have had a price tag on it even if it was small. Even it was using price anchoring where I said, “A free course. You get 5 videos. The next level up, the plus level, you get 10 and then the advanced level you get everything.” I should have had some type of anchoring there just so people can see how valuable it is they’re getting. So, yeah. Just many mistakes made. It’s not really a mistake. It’s an opportunity for improvement I’d say.
Jonathan: Oh. That’s great, Nathan. I think we’re going to finish off the podcast part of the show folks. Nathan’s agreed to stay on for a little while and we’re going to be talking about the future of WordPress in our bonus content which you’ll be able to view on the WP-Tonic website with a full set of show notes and on our YouTube channel. So, Nathan, if people want to get a hold of you and learn more about yourself and what you’re up to, what’s the best way for them?
Nathan: Yeah. The best thing to do is you can go to NathanAllotey.com. That’s N- A -T – H – A – N – A – L – L – O – T -T – E – Y.com. If you’re tired of trying to figure out how to spell Allotey, you can just go to FreelanceJumpStart.tv. That’ll get you to that podcast section of my site. That’ll work too.
Jonathan: And Cindy, how can people find out about what you’re up to and what you’re doing?
Cindy: Well, if anyone’s needing some help with getting their course designed or created, then they can reach me at TheCourseWhisperer.com and send me a note and I’d be happy to help.
Jonathan: That’s great Cindy. And WP-Tonic, we’re a maintenance support company with an emphasis on Membership and Learning Management Systems. I’m quite passionate about it even though I’m English. If you really want to support the show folks, leave us a review on iTunes. It really does help the show and it helps us get some great guests. I’m excited for the next couple of months with Cindy’s help. Already we’ve got some great experts that are already booked that are going to share their insights with you the listeners and viewers. So we’ll see you next week and we’ll have somebody doing something really interesting in WordPress, Online Marketing or in the course educational space, sharing their expertise with you. We’ll see you next week folks. Bye.
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