Success Story: Josh Hall, A Designer Who’s Changing Lives One Online Course at a Time

This former cabinet maker turned his web design skills into a $250K brand coaching other designers through online design courses

Josh Hall was a cabinet maker in high school, and after graduating, worked for a company that customized tour buses. When the company got the chance to do the cabinetry work for tour buses including for bands like Metallica, and Johnny Cash, he was all in: “We did some really cool stuff!” he says.

As the drummer for a local band, This Fire’s Embrace, he also toured with his own band on weekends. “We were doing the weekend warrior thing. And then we got pretty serious, and we traveled throughout the country for a while.”

Things were going well, but like many people, during the Great Recession, everything changed. “I got laid off from my cabinet making job in 2009, when the economy got hit really hard. At that point I realized that I needed to start doing something else.”

He knew he didn’t want to pursue any kind of corporate 9-to-5 job. “I couldn’t do it. I could not do it. I am not wired for that, for sure!”

Instead, Josh saw his lay off as an opportunity to pursue his interest in design. “I was still doing the band thing, so we were traveling quite a bit, and I started doing all of the band’s artwork.” He designed their CD covers and T-shirts. 

“I’ll never forget we were playing a festival and somebody was like, ‘Wow, your T-shirts look sweet. Who designed them?’ And I said, ‘Well, I did. I do graphic design now.’” And then the fan asked him how much he would charge to design a t-shirt for him. 

Josh thought: Wow, can I actually make money doing something I really enjoy?

Josh posing outside with his band, This Fire's Embrace. They are dressed in all black and look very serious.
Josh Hall (left) started his design business when he designed t-shirts for his band, This Fire’s Embrace. Someone in the audience noticed the shirts and asked him to design a t-shirt for him, and the rest is history.

That’s How It All Started 

After he designed the fan’s t-shirt, Josh took on some freelance graphic design gigs, and then the church he attended at the time needed some help with their website and they asked him to help out.

“I thought, I don’t know anything about web design, but I’ll give it a go! 

His willingness to take that risk paid off, and during 2009-2010 he started his web design business. 

Josh took a few classes in graphic design, but for the most part he’s been primarily self-taught when it comes to web design. “When I first got started I knew a local guy who owned a web design agency, a little different setup. He was in a different market, but he did give me some really good advice from the business side of things,” Josh says.

“But primarily I did it on my own, and I wasted a lot of time doing it that way” through trial and error. For 10 years he grew his design business. In the meantime, he got married and had two daughters. 

But then he felt his work getting a bit stale. 

“I was doing the web design business and client work for a decade,” he says, “but I was ready for something else.” So he decided to focus on building his personal brand. 

From Agency Owner to

He launched at the end of 2017. “My personal brand is where my passion is!” he says. “I started giving back and doing tutorials and resources. And it’s just blown up to where creating and teaching online design courses is primarily what I do.”

His personal brand started because he loved writing. He realized how much he had learned by starting his agency, and he wanted to start giving back. “So, that’s what really prompted me to start this endeavor with my personal brand.” “I use WordPress and a certain theme for WordPress called Divi, which is one of the most popular themes out there. And the company that built that theme has a massive blog. And the content manager just so happened to live in Columbus. So, I reached out to him, and I had coffee with him, and I shared my experience. And I said that I was looking to do a little more with the community. And he was like, ‘Hey, man, would you be interested in writing for our blog?’ And I was like, ‘sure!’ And then he said: “No pressure. There are only 3.3 million readers right now.” Josh laughs. 

Facebook post for Elegant Themes featuring Josh. It has a photo of Josh and the writer, Nathan, in a coffee shop
Writing for The Elegant Themes blog helped him build his authority within the design community and grow his audience.

So he started writing for The Elegant Themes blog, which gave him some notoriety in the design community.

Then Josh started a Facebook Group for the Divi theme, which is now 22,000. Members. “It’s crazy,” he says. 

A few years ago, Josh found Pat and Smart Passive Income.

“I’m actually a member of James Schramko SuperFastBusiness, which I know Pat’s involved with as well. That’s how I heard about Pat initially.” Josh started learning everything he could about building an online brand.

Once he started coaching others, that’s when things just skyrocketed for him.

At the beginning of 2018, he started creating and selling online design courses. “For the past year and a half, I’ve been releasing courses and two weeks ago I released my ninth course. So, I’m essentially teaching what I’ve learned in my decade of experience with going from graphic designer to web designer, building a business out of it.”

After his experience with being laid off in 2009, he now has the opportunity to help others who are suffering in this current economic downturn. In the past two months he’s seen a huge influx of people interested in his courses, because so many people are transitioning and pivoting to trying to do web design and getting their businesses online.

“I think, okay, what could I have needed eight years ago when I was starting my business? That’s where my mind frame is to help people get to that next level. So, that’s one of the aspects I love about online design courses.”

Creating Courses, Changing Lives

The other aspects he loves about online courses is the ability to build something, and then to market it and then to make money while he sleeps. “It’s much less time intensive than service work, and I control all the variables and the aspects too, which is awesome.”

Josh has seen the lives of his student literally change by taking his courses. “It has been the most rewarding work. I don’t feel like I’m working when I’m putting courses together and marketing them and selling them. One of my students went through my maintenance planning course and the money that he learned to generate from that helped him adopt two kids.”

His online design courses teach people how to build awesome websites and how to grow a successful web design business. They include a website maintenance plan, how to manage the websites and clients, and a beginner’s course about WordPress and Divi. He also has some technical courses, a business course and SEO course. Right now he has over 654 students across all courses.

He also has a YouTube Channel where he posts resources and tutorials. Right now he has over 1.5 million views, and 18,417 subscribers. “That’s where most people hear about me because I post tutorials on website tricks and things like that. I just released a video on working from home during the pandemic.”

He’s also building his email list, with over 5,000 subscribers, and he’s hoping to double that when he takes Pat’s Email Marketing Magic course

Right now, his courses are his main source of income, and he’s on track to earn $250,000 from his online courses this year. He recently sold his design business. He hired a lead designer, and he’s planning to hire another person to help with the agency so he can focus 100% on his online courses. 

Pursuing Podcasting

Josh started a podcast 6 months ago, the Josh Hall Web Design Show

He waited over a year to start his podcast because he didn’t have the bandwidth. He was creating online courses and building his business and he didn’t feel like he could do it justice. 

But by the end of the summer last year, he thought, You know what? I feel like it’s time. I feel like I could do the podcast. “I heard on James Schramko’s podcast about the SPI Podcast Cheat Sheet. He went through the Cheat Sheet and he thought, I like this guy [Pat]. This looks thorough. He had had a  couple people in his network who also recommended Pat and that was enough to convince him to take Pat’s Power Up Podcasting Course

“So, I joined the course. My goal was to release the podcast in the fall last year. I signed up for the course on September 30, and I had my first three episodes out by I think it was October 21st. It was less than three weeks.”

Josh officially launched The Josh Hall Web Design Show on November 4, 2019. “I launched with three episodes and did a big launch party and stuff and ever since it’s been amazing. It’s been awesome. I enjoy digging into things deeper and really talking through it, which is why I love podcasting. You can’t do that on videos. I’ve done videos that are half an hour and they just don’t go over as well. Whereas podcasting, I can talk for an hour and it goes over really well. It lends itself much more to my style of communication.”

Josh started podcasting ten months ago and already has 52,000 plays and downloads.

He’s ten months into his podcast journey now, and the podcast has attracted a lot of new people who are more serious about starting a business. “Some of the people that find me on YouTube are just looking for a quick fix or something that’s super cheap. The podcast has attracted a whole different type of person.”

His guests include colleagues in the web design space and wider business network. His first episode was an introduction show, where he told his audience how he got started in the web design business. His first couple of guests included a fellow web designer who has been very successful in the WordPress and Divi realm, and another one was a web designer from Poland, who’s a mom of five kids who talked about how she manages five kids while doing web design.

Taking It To The Next Level

Josh recently took Pat’s Amp’d Up Podcasting course to take his podcast to the next level. The course taught him how to better plan out his show month by month instead of doing it ad hoc. And it also inspired him to hand off a lot of the editing and post-production. Josh recently hired a VA to help with distributing his podcast and doing show notes, outlines, and full transcription.

“Right now, I’m 51 episodes in and I still love it. It’s awesome. It’s still one of my favorite things to do. Podcasting is an incredible asset to have. It builds authority. It’s a really cool way to get yourself out there, and potentially explode your business in record time.” With just 51 episodes, he has 52,000 plays and downloads.

“I think the biggest thing that I found is that it builds trust, and that is the hardest thing to build. You can watch a video and you get a feel for somebody. But there’s something about hearing somebody in an in depth conversation week after week, after week that just helps build a connection that is unrivaled with other mediums.”

While he eventually wants to monetize the show, for now he’s using the podcast as a conversion tool to get people into his courses. “A lot of my students that come in now say they got hooked on my podcast, and then dove into a course.” 

Success Is Living the Life He Wants

In 2019, Josh earned six figures through his online design courses, and his new goal is to start a membership program. “The only downfall with courses is that people go through them and then sometimes they just disappear. There’s no reason for them to be connected ongoing. So, the membership portion is what I’m really excited to continue to get people in and do advanced training.”

Photo of Josh posing with wife, toddler daughter, infant, and golden retriever
Building his own business and working from home since 2010 has allowed Josh to spend more time with his family.

But Josh says success to him is more than just making money. “I think bigger than anything is it’s not about a certain amount of money for sure. It’s about what lifestyle you want. But the really great thing is that what I’m doing has allowed me to stay at home. I’ve worked from home since 2010.

“I have segments throughout the day where I don’t work 9:00 to 5:00. I’ll work a segment in the morning, in the afternoon, and I’ve really learned to balance that with family life, which has been huge, so I can see my daughters and help out around the house. My wife is a stay-at-home mom. So she’s got her plate full with the kiddos. But I’m very active and a hands-on dad with that kind of stuff.”

Josh says he thinks it’s tricky in the entrepreneurial world because “everyone just envisions the dude on a boat, that kind of thing.” But for him, success is “just the freedom of what lifestyle you want to live. I think as long as you’re on that path, then you’re doing pretty well.”

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  • Pat Flynn

    Hi, I’m Pat, founder of SPI and host of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Let’s continue the conversation over in our communities.

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