We Going To Be Discussing How Do You Choose The Right WordPress Agency or Freelance Developer For Your Membership & LMS Website Project?
Also what are the strengths and weaknesses of WordPress compared to Kajabi and other SaaS LMS platforms like Teachable or Thinkific?
Lee Blue founded DoubleStack, a coaching and mentoring program to help WordPress consultants earn $5,000 – $10,000 per month consistently with a workload they can handle on their own without burning themselves out.
This weeks show is Sponsored By Kinsta Hosting
Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the WP tonic show. It’s episode 387 we’ve got a fantastic guest. Somebody that’s got extensive knowledge in the WordPress community and that’s Lee Blue. And Lee, what I’m going to be discussing with Lee during this episode is how to hire a great WordPress developer for your learning management system or your membership site. He’s own experiences of running a membership site for over a year. What he’s learned from that and well he sees still as the strengths of WordPress compared to some of the leading SaaS competitors like Kajabi, click funnel or teachable. So, Lee can you quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?
Lee Blue: Awesome. Yeah, thanks so much Jonathan. It’s great to be here with you, I really appreciate the invitation to join you here. So, basically, I’m Lee Blue and the main thing that I’m doing right now is I’m running double stack, which is a training program for WordPress developers who want to do more than just the technical side of things. It’s really, the reason it’s called double stack is there’s two areas of focus. There are the technical tools that you need to be able to really drive results for your clients. And then there’s also the business development side, so like the marketing strategies to actually reach out to your ideal clients and the business structure that you need to be able to sell like an upfront kind of build out of the tools as well as the recurring revenue that comes in and for more than just WordPress hosting and maintenance. And so, when you put all that stuff together, you end up with a really nice business that you can scale to five to $10,000 per month on your own as a solo-preneur like freelancing WordPress developer.
Jonathan: That’s great. Unfortunately, Cindy Nickerson, my co-host isn’t with us. She’s kind of based in Canada and her children have got the week off and so she’s dealing with her little tribe herself. But she, she’ll be back soon folks. So Lee, let’s get on with it. So, this your clients, you decided that word press is going to be a good solution for your membership, stroke learning management system. However, you going to be using Lifter LMS or LearnDash. How do you choose something to help you build this website, this platform?
Lee Blue: So, one of the main things that I like to really focus on when helping somebody to develop their WordPress consulting business is to pick a particular market to focus on. And if you’re going to be the kind of person who wants to build WordPress learning management platforms for people, look for somebody who knows how to do that, right? So, somebody like Jonathan, for example. Somebody who’s got experience in doing it and the thing not to do in my opinion is to just try to find a random WordPress developer off of Upwork or Fiverr or something like that. Who has never built a learning management platform before and have you be kind of the Guinea pig or the first at bat, so to speak, for doing that? And because there’s so many little nuances with building any kind of an online course that if you’re doing it for the first time, you don’t have really any experience, you don’t really know what to look for, you don’t know what to set up. The whole sales funnel for getting people onboarded in the first place and announcing updates, all that kind of stuff. Yeah. You kind of have to know how to do that. And if you’re trying to hire someone who’s never done it before, it’s not usually the ideal situation.
Jonathan: No. So, I think on hand we’ve all been there, haven’t we Lee? We’ve all take, and approach it, which was our first project in that area. But I love that you’re up front and honest about it. But I do agree with you, finding somebody that specializes in that particular area. It’s probably a good starting point because, they’ve tried the tools, they should have done their research. They should have other people that can help and advise them and be able to bring them in. I’m not an active front in developer now I’m mostly the project manager and the marketer and the face of my company. But I’ve got a lot of resources and people that specialize with me in the learning management area and I can bring on a very experienced team. I have got an experienced team that works with me all the time. So, that’s what you’re hoping to hire and buying in, would you agree with that?
Lee Blue: Oh yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more like to experience, to get somebody who has the experience to know how to lead you to where there is success that you’re really looking for. It’s one thing to just like mash up a bunch of plugins and make something work. It’s another thing to connect with someone who can actually present a path to success for you, that there’s going to be outside of your ability to kind of develop on your own. So, if you go to Upwork or something like that and say, hey, I need a WordPress developer to build like a learning management platform for me, then you have to tell them what to do. And the problem is you don’t know what to say. Now when you get in touch with someone like Jonathan who has this whole team here, they’ll tell you what you need to do to be successful and that’s a dramatically different thing.
Jonathan: I think you’ve put that, obviously because of your extensive experience, you’ve put that so succinctly. And that is the fundamental thing that people don’t understand when they’re hiring people, freelancers, either domestic or offshore, is that if they don’t have that knowledge you are expected to know what precisely you want and be able to communicate that in an effective, clear way. And if you can’t, the project is just going to go on and on and be very much over the initial estimate of what it would cost in time and money. Would you agree with that Lee?
Lee Blue: I totally agree. And not only that, but who knows if you’ve even gone in the right direction. I mean, have you ever heard the story about all the guys that are in the jungle and they’ve got the machetes and they’re whacking their way through the woods and everything and they’re making great progress. And then finally somebody climbs up a tree to kind of look out to see where they’re going and the guy realizes, hey, you know what? We’re going in the wrong direction. So, he shouts out, hey, we’re going in the wrong direction. We got to go the other way. And then the guy at the front of the line with the machete, he’s like, but we’re making so much progress. And it’s like what difference does it make if you don’t really know if you’re really going to get where you’re going, if you just start whacking at it and start heading as fast as you can. What you really need is somebody who knows how to tell you what you need to put in place to get success.
Lee Blue: And if you’ve never run any sort of a training program or an online course before, you don’t really know. And I’ll also point out too, by the way, that that’s like if you’re on the developer side of all of this, that’s why nobody’s paying you any money really to do it. It’s so inexpensive, nobody has confidence in the plan if it’s up to the client, like up to the person and wanting to run the program to put the plan together if they’ve never done it before. And there’s a difference between feeling happy about the meeting and enjoying the personal interaction and feeling confident in the plan. Because you could be a really nice person who really wanting to do the best work. And there’s a malice, you’re not trying to hurt anybody. It’s just that when you show up asking questions that your client doesn’t know the answers to and then they have to provide the answers and then you expect them to pay a lot of money for that. There’s a huge disconnect because there’s no leadership. And without leadership there’s no confidence. And without confidence, nobody’s really willing to invest anything in the plan because I don’t know if it’s going to be a good return. And that’s really where things tend to fall off for developers.
Jonathan: Yeah, that tension, that scenario you just described I’ve been part of that as being brought in and it’s been obviously the agency that has brought me in has absolutely no idea how to get the project actually finish and that’s why they brought me in. Because it’s got to that terrible area where they’re not terrible, horrible people but just got, there’s absolutely no confidence that the actual project is going to get finished. And it’s a terrible feeling, isn’t it?
Lee Blue: Yes. Yeah, it really is. And even if it did get finished if the end result is what you really need.
Jonathan: We’ve patrolled a nice picture here Lee. So, let’s move on and talk about these SAS solutions. So, I think over the past and I’m really interested to see what your thoughts about this, I’ll just put this scenario to you. I think WordPress has been in a great deal with flex and change over the past 18 months with the introduction and the maturing of page builders. And then on top of that we’ve had Gutenberg on top of what the page builders like beaver builder and Animator have been doing with DV. So, some of the complaints around word press about being able to do minor changes or add content that looks modern, have been removed in the past 18 months. Some of these are frustrating barriers to a lot of entrepreneurs and clients. And then at the same time it’s seen that things like Kajabi or click funnel offer a really easy solution. But in my experience, they don’t. But on the other hand, I haven’t quantified how to explain the strengths of WordPress compared to things like to Kajabi in a fair way. Have you got any thoughts around this or do you think I’m just dribbling really?
Lee Blue: No, I think you’re hitting on some really important points. I actually caught up with Matt Mullenweg a couple of years ago and he and I started talking a little bit about the future of WordPress. I think it’s 2016, it might’ve been there was a, yeah, I think it was 2016 we were at WooConf and I was actually presenting there and Matt was there and we had a chance to just talk for a little bit after the presentation. And we got to talking about what’s the future of WordPress. Where it’s going to go, what’s going on? And he said a really surprising thing to me. It was surprising to me at the time and he said, you know, our biggest competition is like WIX right now. Yeah and this is before Gutenberg was really even out there. And he was like, I really feel like our page building tools and the way that people actually, the workflow for publishing something really needs to kind of get ramped up. Something more like medium or WIX where like with those really graphical easy block section page builders. And the reason that I found that so surprising was because he thought like the main audience for WordPress where people who might otherwise build a WIX website. And the reason that it surprised me so much is because almost everyone I know that builds WordPress websites, they’re kind of like developers. I mean, not necessarily to the point where they’re like writing code or whatever and like building themes from scratch.
Lee Blue: It’s not the actual business owner that’s trying to build their own website most of the time. It’s usually somebody that’s coming along as a WordPress consultant helping the business owner. And that’s what I viewed as like the main audience. And so now Gutenberg is in there and what I’m hearing from all the WordPress developers that I’m connecting with is it’s getting in the way. It’s causing some problems, and that they just disable it and put the classic editor back in place. And so, and that’s kind of interesting, it seems like there’s really two different audiences. One like the guy that’s selling pins or cutting boards or whatever and they won’t [inaudible] WordPress to make publishing available. There are people that know a lot about the internet, they know a lot. They’re kind of digital marketing. They know about Facebook ads, they know about Google ads, they know about responsive design. They might not know enough to actually code it up from scratch, but they know what it is, how to get that kind of, those types of features built into a site. And that’s a lot more than the average guy who just wants to be a blogger. And so, I think there are two groups. That’s kind of an interesting thing. I know that [inaudible]
Lee Blue: About how to set up any commerce store?
Jonathan: Well, how you make a decision if you’re going to go with either Shopify or WooCommerce, or if you’re going to go with Kajabi or click funnel or you should go with WordPress solution.
Lee Blue: Okay. Well, I know a lot more about the Shopify WooCommerce thing than I do about. I’ve never used Kajabi before. I’ve looked into click funnels and actually I went to Russell Brunson’s talk things at one point.
Jonathan: Like a test it marketer?
Lee Blue: Yeah. Really, he kind of got me hooked in with that free book that he offers. He has that whole sales funnel with the free plus shipping kind of approach where you get the book. So, I got the book, it’s really interesting and it’s a great book. I mean even if all you want is the book, that’s a pretty good deal. But I’ve never actually signed up for a click funnels account or a Kajabi account or anything because I haven’t really, I like to have more control over it. I know how to do that; I’ve been building websites for 17 years and so I’m not really their target audience. Like you go to the click funnel’s website and it is like, hey, you’re going to do all this stuff and you’re not handcuffed to a developer. And I’m like, I am the developer and that’s okay. But, when it comes to ecommerce, I know a ton about that because I’ve been running an ecommerce platform for 10 years and in my membership site is powered by my own platform, which is Cart 66. And the interesting thing about Cart 66 was that we were around in the very beginning before there even was such a thing as WooCommerce. In fact, the folks that automatic used Cart 66 to power the WP swag store up until they decided to go with acquiring Woo Themes which brought Woocommerce into the mix.
Lee Blue: And the reason that they made the decision was a really good one, which was they had a lot of physical products that they wanted to ship and they had a fair amount of inventory for it. They’re doing international orders and Cart 66 was never really intended for that and same thing with Shopify. So WooCommerce and Shopify I think kind of play in the same space, which is targeting people that have physical products as opposed to a digital products, memberships or subscriptions. I don’t even think you can do subscriptions through Shopify, I don’t think, but maybe you can. And wanting to be able to list all the products like sort by category, have catalogues, sort by ratings, and pricing, and alphabetically and all of these different things. Kind of like an Amazon or something where you just have a ton of products and both of those two platforms are similar in that.
Lee Blue: The thing that’s really cool about WooCommerce that, it kind of like you were talking about with Shopify. If what Shopify has and you can kind of just like get in there and do it and you’re happy with it, then awesome. If you want to change it that’s awesome. Kind of the opposite is true with WooCommerce, it’s like nobody just wants the free version of WooCommerce. You have to add some plugins into the mix. Whereas with Shopify, it’s the base stuff that you get is what a lot of people can use. Whereas with WooCommerce, if you’ve got a really specific need, like say you sell something like wine and you can’t ship it to anybody who’s under 18 and you have to therefore do like address verification and things like that. There’s stuff like that that’s just not in Shopify and if you need to get that in there, that’s a hard thing to do. Whereas with Woocommerce, there are plugins available for that. So, that’s kind of where I land between those two things. Like if you’re fine with the base stuff in Shopify, just go with it. If you need something a little bit more unique or custom get WooCommerce in the mix.
Jonathan: I think, just to wrap up our first half, I think you’ve put that and it applies to the job [inaudible] click funnel, the problem is you got to have the knowledge to know is the bulk standard solution really going to fit my business model right now? Because otherwise I’m going to go into a SAS solution and I’m going to spend time and money on it and I’m going to find it doesn’t really do what I really need and I have spent all this time and money. But being that you don’t know that if it’s your first attempt, is exactly the same as e-commerce. So, really hiring somebody to give you that knowledge or that advice can probably save you a lot of frustration, can’t it Lee?
Lee Blue: Oh absolutely. I totally agree.
Jonathan: Right? We’re going to go for our break folks were coming back. We are going to be discussing Lee’s own journey with his own membership solution. What he’s learned over the past I think year and 18 months. It’s going to be a great conversation. We will be back in a few moments.
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Jonathan: We’re coming back folks. Before we go into the second half of the conversation with Lee, I like to mention one of our great sponsors and that’s Kinsta hosting. And we host the WP tonic website on Kinsta. Kinsta uses Google cloud as their platform. But what you get is you get all the power of Google cloud in a very usable interface and you get supper club 24 seven support from people that really know what they talking about when it comes to WordPress and hosting. And you don’t get that with a lot of companies, they are also of the specialized word press hosting providers. I think they are offering some of the best value at the present moment in their starter plan and they’re just a superb company to work with. I know the founder, the financial officer and the marketing officer of the company and they’re all great people. I’ve built up a great business in the WordPress hosting area. So, if that’s interesting to you either as a consultant, a developer or a power client, superb solution for WooCommerce for a learning management, a membership website, go to Kinsta.com and find out more about them. Sadly, as we were chatting before we went live with the show, you decided to go into the e learning training area and start your own membership sites. So, what are some of the fundamental things that have surprised you on this journey so far?
Lee Blue: Well, there’s the technical side of things and then there’s the business side of things.
Jonathan: Go to the business side, shall we?
Lee Blue: Okay. So, the business side of things that has been surprising is there are so many people out there who are sort of, they want to have their own business, they want to. So, the surprising thing to me with regard to the particular training program that I’m putting forth in terms of the membership side of things is that there are so many people that really want their own business. They’re stuck. They’re feeling a lot of financial pressure to try to do something about things. But yet they’re insisting on doing it by themselves, they refuse to reach out for help. And one of the things, I know there’s a ton of membership sites out there and the point behind them is to help people not be by themselves. And the surprising thing to me is how many people kind of just insist, if it’s not free they don’t want to be part of it.
Lee Blue: And consequently, they stay stuck and in fact even dig deeper into the hole. Whereas if they just reach out and join a community of folks that really want to help them and have done it before, then their mindset will shift. And you can’t grow a business that’s bigger than your mindset. I think that that’s one of the most surprising things that I didn’t realize people didn’t realize. Because if you don’t have the mindset to actually grow a business, you’ll never grow, the business won’t grow itself. And it’s very difficult to shift that by you. And if you’re not willing to kind of join a community to get the help you’re looking for, then you stay stuck. And the surprising thing is how many people just insist on staying stuck and it’s kind of been a frustrating thing in terms of, because you know, you’ve got what it takes to help them. They are just uncoachable I guess is what it comes down to.
Jonathan: So, you think they are a minority of people who are uncoachable?
Lee Blue: They seem to be, it seems to be, and like I was this way too. So, I’m not pointing the finger at everybody and say that I’m different. I have the mentality that hey, you know what, I’m just going to dig in and I’m going to figure it out, I can do this, I’m smart enough to figure this out you know. I’ll just do it on my own and I kind of resist wanting other people to help, I kind of had that inclination and so does so many other people especially in the WordPress community. And that’s one of the things that’s awesome about the WordPress community to the point where it’s like there are so many people that are resourceful and they can dive in and figure stuff out and just kind of make things happen.
Lee Blue: And that’s why the community and the ecosystem has evolved so rapidly and so powerfully. Like the stuff that used to be hard is now easy because people have come up and made plugins for that like the Kinsta hosting. You’ve got the stuff, like the backups and the staging sites, and the security, and like getting Google cloud into the mix. Used to be really hard to pull that off. People have now said, hey, you know what, let’s make it easy. And so now people that otherwise wouldn’t need help can still do all of those things by themselves. And so, I think that’s kind of brings this momentum where people feel like they can do everything by themselves to a fault. And I think that’s kind of one of the biggest surprises. I didn’t realize that was going to be the case and it seems to be.
Jonathan: So, that’s what we’re discussing. You have managed to build a very, quite successful membership platform in your target audience. So, you found that some of those aren’t coachable. How did you find the people that you were able to help Lee?
Lee Blue: So, the way that I’ve done my membership program, which I think is significantly different from others, is I don’t go for volume. I don’t just try to get anybody to sign up and in fact, in order to get into the program, we need to talk in some way. Like whether we meet up at a word camp or we get on the phone or through Facebook or something. Because it’s invitation only. Because I don’t want people, there are two reasons I don’t want people to join the program thinking that they’re going to get something out of it that I’m not putting into it. Right? Like a lot of times people will hear me say, oh, you know, make $10,000 a month as a WordPress developer all about yourself, work from home and people are like, oh great, I’ll just build plugins and write Java script and stuff all day long and that’s not at all what the programs are. You don’t write any code, maybe a little CSS or something. But we’re not building plugins and themes and stuff like that. It’s much more of a business minded thing like what can we do to drive business results for people and you’ve got the technical chops to pull it together. And so, I want to make sure that people want that. Like that’s kind of the outcome. And so, we talk about that to see, hey, is this going to be a good fit? And then I’ll legitimately ask people, I’ll be like, are you in fact coachable? Like before you get into the program, there are three different traits that I want to make sure people have.
Lee Blue: I want to make sure that they’re committed because if I’m going to show up and spend the next, it’s an eight week course, the next eight weeks pouring a 100% of my energy into helping you build your business and you’re not responding to my emails or you don’t care, that’s no good. Coachable is another thing, like if I’m saying, hey, here’s what works, this is literally I was just on an interview last a couple of days ago with Brian. Brian’s been in the program three weeks. He’s made $24,600 starting at zero, a huge shift. There’s Charlie made $25,000 in six weeks. Another lady, Jessica went from being a full time school teacher to a full-time web designer in about seven weeks. Another lady, Valerie has a part time job making about 20 to $26,000 a year. Now she’s making almost a $100,000 on the same part time hours. In fact, we were just talking yesterday, her biggest problem now is that she has too many clients doing too much work, she needs to scale. And so, if I’m going to tell you how to do that and if you’re, but if you resist doing that, that’s going to be a big frustrating thing. And so, come in and just do what works to make a difference. So coachable is another thing, and then resourceful is the third thing. Which is like kind of like we were talking about before, it’s like if you’re going to show up expecting me to do it all for you, that’s not going to, that’s not going to work. It’s really critically important to me that the people I work with learn the skills to be able to do the kind of stuff themselves.
Lee Blue: I do it with you, not for you. And so, I legitimately say if I invite you into this program, do you feel like those three traits apply to you? And if they say no, then it’s not going to be a good fit. Kind of like you were talking about before, like there’s certain people that are just not a good fit for working with you. And so that’s kind of how I sort of make sure that people get results. First, they want to make sure that the goals that they have, the vision they have for themselves is what I can help with. And if it’s not, I’ll say I’m just totally open about that. Because so many people want to build their own WIX platform but power it with WordPress. You know, sort of like a hundred-dollar websites, all that kind of stuff. Then it’s like, that’s not what we’re teaching here. If you want to, if you have an idea that you feel like it’s good, I’m not telling you not to do it, I’m just telling you not to do it here. Like I can’t help with that. And so, that’s kind of the first thing, and then actually to make sure people have the traits for success. I think that’s a really critical role to kind of like filtering out who’s a good fit and who’s not.
Jonathan: I think it fantastic what you just said and I just want to make sure that I’ve absorbed some of that fantastic knowledge you’ve just given us. And I don’t think that’s in your membership site. Don’t be scared about not wanting to attract everybody. You’re not there to attract everybody. You’re there to attract the right people that will benefit from your course because then your course will grow. Because the people that first enter it have found value and they will tell other people that you provide value. So is counter-intuitive when you’re starting because obviously, you want to start making money for the membership site. But not taking everybody in and pre-identifying those that are uncoachable or not a good fit is just as important as attracting the right people. Have I got the right jest there, Lee?
Lee Blue: Absolutely. I think you’re right on. I also think as a sign that we can talk about it later is that also applies to web developers. If you’re going to build a website for somebody, you want to make sure it’s a good relationship and that you’re being intentional about building the business you want with the clientele that you want so that when you wake up in the morning you’re totally jazzed to go to work, instead of, oh good grief, I have to listen to these people holler at me all day. You don’t want that, so, I think it really applies in a variety of areas.
Jonathan: And so, when you’ve been, when you, how long did it take you to build a syllabus of the course? The basic outline and how much have you had to change with the first few groups that have entered the course. Can you give some insights about that Lee?
Lee Blue: Yeah, it took me, probably took me maybe six months to really build the course. Now if I had done it like all day long, full time, every single day of the week or whatever, I probably could have cranked it out a little faster. But I was, I have other things kind of going on at the same time. And so, I couldn’t devote my full time to like building the course. But I took some serious time. There are probably 45 different individual lessons or so in there. And then another thing that I do is I’ll add, like every week I get in there and do like a live training session. And that is based on, as people go through the program, legitimately, just right before we got on this conversation, I added another program to the course because I was talking to some people that were just newly enrolled and it’s gotten to the point now where there’s so much information and so many things that you can be learning that people are like I need a better path and this.
I need step by step plan for making some progress. And so, when we did our live training session yesterday, I went through, let’s not lose focus for what we’re really doing and here’s a really simple plan to get started. And so, like I add that kind of stuff into the mix. So, it’s constantly evolving based on the needs that people have as we’re interacting kind of live and people are asking me questions and that sort of a thing. So, there’s that part, but the core part of what really matters has always been consistent and the main thing is driving results for people. And I think that applies to a learning management platform or website in general, even at ECOMMERCE, whatever. Nobody really wants to just have some kind of a membership site. They want a membership site that makes an impact for people. And so, when you focus on the impact, the results, the outcomes, then everything else sort of follows suit
Jonathan: I think you’re spot on. We’re going to wrap up the podcast part of the show. Hopefully, Lee’s going to stay on with us for a little while and we have some bonus content which you can view the whole interview on the WP tonic YouTube channel with the bonus content plus on the WP tonic website and with a full transcription of the interview with links. For the podcast part, we’re going to wrap it up. How is the best way to find out more about you? What you’re up to and your course Lee?
Lee Blue: Sure. Yeah. So, there’s a couple of great ways to do it. The best way, just head over to doublestack.net and you’ll see me right there. That’s the online course powered by WordPress and cart 66 and just send me an email through the contact form. Check it, there are probably 70 free training sessions if that’s something that you want to check out. But I also have a Facebook group, which is also free. It’s called building high value WordPress sites. And so, you can just hop over there and join us there and I’ll do live training sessions every Tuesday there. So, that’s another way we can get in touch. So, if you just hop over the doublestack.net you’ll find all kinds of ways to get in touch.
Jonathan: Oh, that sounds great. And if you want to find out more about WP tonic and our services go to the WP tonic website. We’ve been doing the podcast now for over five years I’ve been told and we’ve interviewed some of the biggest marketing people in online marketing, and also in WordPress. So, it’s a fantastic result to man. If you’re a client, consultant, designer, or developer you’ll find some great information there. And if you’re looking for help with a learning management system, I’m easily available folks. We’ll see you next week where we’ll have another great guest with insights about learning management systems, WordPress and we’ll get your online business going and successful. We’ll see you next week folks. Bye.
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