You know those stories that start out “once I was in a rock band . . . ” ?
You'd never guess that Josh Hall's origin story kicks off that way. It turns out that drumming in a rock band would put Josh in the right place for a major entrepreneurial lightbulb to go off. His entrepreneurial growth from that point on has been incredible.
Fast forward about a decade and Josh would be running his own web design firm and launching wildly successful courses for entrepreneurs hoping to follow in his footsteps. Not only that, Josh now has a thriving online community which he just launched on Circle.so (the same awesome platform where SPI Pro lives).
Today, Josh is going to take us through it all: from his first clients to a very tough and pivotal decision he had to make this year regarding the ownership of his business. You'll learn how Josh transitioned from his first clients to starting his agency, building a suite of online courses, and creating his new membership site. He'll talk you through all the “whys” behind those decisions, some of the hard lessons he learned early on, the revolutionary effect podcasting has had on his business, and a lot more. There's so much ground to cover today — roll tape!
Josh is a web design coach, agency founder, and podcast host. He's passionate about sharing what he's learned over the past decade in building and scaling a six-figure, work-from-home web design business. Through his tutorials, courses, blogs, and podcast, he teaches web designers how to build awesome websites and how to build a successful web design business around the lifestyle they want to live. He's based in Columbus, Ohio, and is a family man as a husband with 2 baby girls. 🙂
- How Josh went from being a cabinet maker and drummer in a rock band to going all-in with his graphic and web design business
- What mindset to embrace if you're starting entrepreneurship later in life
- Why you should never put “cheap” on an advertisement (and other critical lessons Josh learned early on)
- How to price your offerings when you first start working with clients
- Why online courses were a huge gamechanger for Josh
- How 2020 positively affected Josh's plans, and why he sold his agency and went full-time with courses
- Why creating courses set Josh up perfectly to hand off the torch of leadership for his agency
- Why Josh says podcasting has been an “absolute game changer” for him
- How to make less mistakes and save more time when you're first starting out
- Tips and tricks for launching a podcast, and why Josh says it's like playing a rock concert
- Why visual-centric businesses — design, photography, etc — should still have a podcast
- The decisions and design behind Josh's successful online membership program
SPI 456: From Side Hustle to a Life-Changing Business - How Josh Hall and His Courses Made It Happen
All right, you've all heard those stories of people who say they were in a band back in the day and then they made it. That's exactly what we're talking about today, but not in the way that you think. Josh Hall was actually in a band, and as a result of being in the band, he made the right connections and was actually able to design something that changed the course of his life and the lives of several others too.
Josh Hall today is a top website designer, somebody who now also teaches other people how to create their own website design business. And today he's going to talk about this journey from rock band to rocking websites and helping other people too, and how he's balancing all this with family and using online courses, and now even a membership to do such things.
So make sure to stick around. This is a great one. I love that we're starting off the year with a success story from one of our own. Yes, a member of Team Flynn, a member of SPI Pro, in fact. I cannot wait for you to hear this story. Here we go.
Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it's all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your host — he secretly wishes he was sponsored by 3M Post-it Notes — Pat Flynn!
What is up everybody, Pat Flynn here, and welcome to session 456 of the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Really, really thankful you are joining me here today. And this is the second episode of 2021. And if you haven't heard last week's episode, I highly recommend after this episode, going back and listening to that one with Rob Mauer from the Tesla Daily Podcast. Incredible growth from what he's doing with YouTube and a podcast in combination with each other.
And today, we have a special guest, Josh Hall. One of our very own who's here to share his story. But not only that, some really amazing advice to help us here at the start of the year, especially if you have goals to grow your business and even monetize your business this year too. So let's not wait any further. Here he is, Josh Hall from JoshHall.co.
Josh, welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Pat, it's great to be here, man. Thanks for having me on.
I'm really stoked. You were actually featured on a blog post success story with Karen and you working together to create that post, super inspirational, and I was like, you know what, I need to bring Josh on the podcast. You are a listener, you're a fan, you are in SPI Pro. And you yourself have an amazing audience who follows you for a lot of website design related stuff, and you have an amazing story. I want to go back to how this all started in fact before we kick off with a lot of the amazing strategies that you have. I know podcasting has been important to you, online courses have been big for your world too.
But let's go back to your band days. You were in a band, you're a musician like me, but you didn't play in the marching band, you were in a different kind of band. Tell us a little bit about that and kind of how that started this whole process for you.
Yeah, I was a drummer in a rock band. And we were kind of weekend warriors for a while. We did some national traveling. At that time, I was also working as a cabinet maker for a tour bus customizing shop. So I did some cool stuff in that business, got to work on Metallica's bus, Johnny Cash's bus. I was a cabinet maker by day, doing the band stuff by night, and then we were traveling around.
And in 2009, I got laid off. So, very similar to you, Pat. I got laid off from my cabinet making job. And I got into Photoshop the day after. I always liked design, I liked doing art and stuff. So, I started dabbling into Photoshop and graphic design. And since I was doing the band thing, I was like, you know what, I'm going to take a crack at designing our teeshirts, and some of our merchandise, and CD work and stuff.
So I started doing that. And I'll never forget it, we were playing a festival, and I had done all of our teeshirts and CD artwork. And somebody asked me, "Hey, who does your artwork?" And I said, well, I do. And they were like, "How much would you charge to do our artwork?" It's like the light bulb went off in my mind. I was like, what, I can actually get paid and do something that I really enjoy? So that's kind of the jettison of how this all started.
And then to summarize the story, once the band time kind of wore down, I was helping out with a local church, and they found out I did design and they were like, would you like to take our website over? And I was like, "Sure, I don't know anything about websites," but started dabbling into web design along with doing graphic design and that's really how it all kind of started for me.
That's really cool. When did it switch from just dabbling to actually getting serious about it, turning it into a business? What kicked that off?
It was a couple years in. The church actually offered to send me to our community college so I could take some classes on web design. This was right before WordPress was getting really exciting, so I was doing like custom code. I'm not going bore your audience with the custom code language, but it was that kind of stuff. So I was dabbling my feet in there, and then my whole goal was to do it on the side and just do some side graphic design, web design work, and then get a full time job as an agency designer. That was my goal.
But I was working some side jobs, the band kind of got to an end. And then I realized I was making enough money on the side that I was like, "I think I could potentially do this full time." So I was doing night school, and I think one year I made 30 grand or something on the side. So I was like, "You know what, if I could make that on the side, I think I could double that at least if I went full time." So it was about two years of dabbling, doing kind of freelance on the side, and that's when I went for it. So I really went for it in about 2012.
How much of a conversation did you have with yourself about that decision to kind of go full time? Because I know a lot of people have a little bit of success, and then it's like still grinding at them. "I don't know if this is the right thing to do, this is not what I really thought I was going to do, and it's risky." How much of that conversation did you have? Or was it just, "You know what, all in," from the start?
Yeah, that's a great question, Pat. I think for me, I'm fairly fine with risk. I've always been entrepreneurial, I've never been the typical nine to five academic kind of guy, that's not my style, I would lose my mind working in a cubicle. So the entrepreneurial lifestyle just suits me. But for me also, at that period, I think I was 22, 23. I didn't have a relationship, I didn't have a wife or anything, didn't have a family. I was living with my dad, being that I was just getting out of the band stuff. So there really wasn't that much risk. I figured I'm going to kick myself if I don't go for it, so I went for it. It's been amazing since then, that was the start of the entrepreneurial journey for me.
That's really cool. Let's fast forward a bit. I know that you help other web designers and people in the design space now with their career. For those who aren't 20 who are living at their parents house who don't have the ability to take on a ton of risk, if you were starting now, I know you have a family now and you have these beautiful children and an amazing wife, if you were to do what you were doing back then now, how would it differ do you think? What do you recommend to your clients typically when they're starting in a later part of their life?
So I always recommend look at the worst possible scenario, because usually, it's not as bad as people think. So I'm in Columbus, Ohio, we have a good family base. Worst case scenario, if both my businesses just didn't work out for whatever reason, I'm never going to end up on the streets. We'd be taken care of. That is the absolute worst thing that could happen for us as an entrepreneur. Most people, that's the case. Very rarely are you going to lose everything. So, I always say like, what would be the worst possible scenario or case, and then never think about that again. Put that in the back drawer and just move forward, be optimistic, think about what you can, you think about your value. And be really smart and strategic about your goals.
Really, I think a lot of it — and one reason I'm so passionate about being a web design coach now is to get somebody to mentor you and to help fast track your journey. And that's one reason I love what you're doing, Pat, that's one reason I love what a lot of people are doing now where we've taken our experience and we're sharing it with others so they can fast track their journey. Because when I got started, you just asked what would I do differently. Back then, I didn't seek out any mentors, I just kind of went for it. I just made every possible mistake you could make and it took a long time to get pretty successful into the six figure range as a web designer, whereas some of my web design students are hitting six figures in less than a year now.
So, it really is surrounding yourself with an amazing community, getting in with a good guide, a good mentor, whether it's me or anyone else who you feel a kinship with, and just helping get some help to fast track that journey.
I love that, I love that. It's very sound advice. You'd mentioned that one thing you would do differently would be to find somebody who could help you. What were some of the other mistakes that you had made when you first finally decided to go all-in with business? As we all know, it's often a rocky start, what was your rocky start like?
Well, I'll start with my business card and I'll show you how far I've come from a business mindset. I decided that since I was doing drum lessons on the side as well, that I would put drum lessons on my business card with website design and graphic design. So, I was seeking out clients and giving them this business card that had websites, graphic design, flyers, teeshirts and drum lessons. And that was okay for some of the band people I was working for, but once I started talking with construction companies and legitimate clients with budgets, they were like, "... drum lesson?" I did not represent myself that well in the early days so that was something. But it really was just a matter of all the basic type of business principles that we all struggle with when starting out.
Pricing is a big one, I was very, very low. I also did an advertisement where I put "cheap web design." Here's a little word of advice. Never put cheap in your marketing. That's not a good way to go because you're going to attract the cheap clients. So I was attracting, for the most part, not great leads. But I did land a few good leads and I had a good personal and semi-professional network that I just utilized. I started with my family and my friends which I always tell my students, it's the best place to start. And sometimes it's not them that are going to be your clients but it's who they know. Some of those things were kind of the tough things I went through early on because I really didn't have somebody like myself saying, "Hey, here's where I would start, go through a course, feel good about your services and go from there."
What was it like to work with clients for the first time? It's one thing to kind of do things as a hobby and with people that you kind of already know. Whether it's family or not, when there's money involved, when there's a business transaction, it feels a little different. What was it like working with actual clients who had expectations from the work that you were doing? Tell me kind of what was going through your head and the pros, cons, great, not so great.
So I actually enjoyed it from a standpoint of they had money to spend. Because I came from the band world, if I was doing a teeshirt design, 50 bucks for a band was a lot of money. And then once I started working with a construction company or real businesses, I remember I did a suite of brochures for this construction company, and I had no idea how to bid it, and I bid 150 bucks I think for this suite of brochures that I would normally want to charge at least a grand, two grand to do. And they were like, "Oh, wow, that's not what we were expecting," but they went for it. And it made me realize businesses have a much bigger budget.
So I actually enjoyed working with them, and they were better at getting content to me. They were more professional. So yes, it's a little nerve-racking when you're talking with a business, but it beats talking with somebody who has zero budget and is going to be super cheap and is going to try to nickel and dime you. So yeah, there's the nerve-racking part but I actually really enjoyed it because they actually paid me.
That's great. Now, speaking of pricing, I want to unpack that a little bit. You'd mentioned you lowered your price without — and same thing with me, when I first came out with ads on my website that I was selling or even selling my own product, I was completely undercutting. What's your recommendation for how to know what to price something?
It is tricky. Particularly, I'm speaking to mostly web designers here because that's who I teach. But web design is all over the place with pricing. There's no right or wrong price, some people charge a few hundred, some charge a few thousand. There are websites that go for tens of thousands. So it really is all over.
The biggest thing is you need to feel confident and comfortable with your services first off, which is why I do courses now, why there's a ton of YouTube channels where you can learn web design. You really have to feel somewhat confident in your services, and that's going to help build confidence for working with clients. So one reason I didn't know what to charge was because I just, my process was sloppy and messy at first because I didn't go through any formal training, just kind of went for it.
So, it was very hard to price. Whereas if you go through some training, and even if you're outside of web design, if you're in a different industry, if you at least know how to do something from start to finish, you get an idea of how many hours are going to be involved, you know the value, you can also do some research, you could do some research on what websites are being bid out for, or what type of price ranges are out there, you can do that. And that'll give you an idea of where to start. And you'll start on the low end when you start out, and that's totally fine. But you can gravitate and work towards the higher end as you get more valuable and as you gain a little more confidence with each client.
I was doing stuff for like 150 bucks in the beginning. My first website I sold for $300. And my client I think felt bad that I had charged so little that he offered to do $350.
Are you serious?
Yes. I did throw a logo in there for him so I think that's where the 50 bucks came from. But now, I wouldn't touch something like that for under three grand. Although the value is different now, I know the industry, but yeah, hopefully some of those tips can translate to all industries, whether it's web design or photography or anything else.
Thank you for that. So you are a business owner now during this timeline and you have clients coming in. And did it ever get to the point where you're just like, "I can't take any more clients," or,
"I'm just so busy now" or, "How do I scale this thing?" When was the first sort of pivot point for you after kind of going down that route?
So I was a solopreneur, web design Freelancer for about six years. I started kind of dabbling out to some contractors and some friends who could help out with different areas. It was a good taste of being kind of a business owner, it helped shift my mindset. And then I think I was about seven years in, I was already married at that time so we were already into the six figures range, and I knew that I was taking on a lot and I had to start getting some help.
The thing is, though, I'm a big proponent of if you want to stay a solopreneur, you can, especially in web design. You can do that for as long as you want to, but you are going to get to a place where at some point, you can't do everything on your own. Some people want to scale faster. I was very content. I had a really good work life balance, I controlled my day, I controlled my schedule. So I felt good as a solopreneur until, I'll never forget it, I had I think 23 projects all by myself. And I was like ... it was just like a wave, it was like a wave of ... because my business was almost 100 percent referral based at that point. And it was just one of those where they all came in at the same time.
Now, these weren't all big website jobs, but some of them were, and a lot of them were still jobs that were going to take five, six hours, something I would consider a project. And I was like, "Oh boy, I can't do it, I have to get some help." And we were also expecting our first daughter who was going to be coming just a few months later. So I was like, "I got to get some help immediately." Luckily, I was involved in a web design community that's amazing. For the techie people out there, I use the Divi theme for WordPress. They've an amazing online community. So I did some stuff in that community, and that kind of attracted some people who were interested in what I was doing. And that's how I ended up finding some really good subcontractors, and then I hired my first guy shortly before my daughter was born and he was able to take a lot of the workload off for me.
Nice, nice. So hiring out some help, cloning yourself a little bit. That's amazing. And then now I know you're at a point where you have even more scalability through things like your courses. When did your courses come into play? How has that impacted your business?
So that really was the game changer for me. So at this time — I started scaling my business in the beginning of 2018. So not that long ago, just a couple years ago I really started scaling. And then what had happened was my first daughter was born — and this will transition to your question, Pat, with how courses came about, my first daughter was born and we spent 56 days in the NICU, newborn intensive care when she was born. So it was a really trying time, and thank goodness I just hired Jonathan, my lead designer, to help with some of those projects, because imagine if I didn't scale and I had all those projects, and go through this time.
So we were essentially at the hospital and I was working from a Panera right across the street. The cool thing that really helped us in that time was I had built a website maintenance plan, which was my only source of recurring income. So, while it was really hard to work, my creativity was zapped because we were in the hospital all day, I still had some recurring income with our website maintenance plan, which is where we take care of our client's website updates, backups, reporting, and all that stuff. And once we got out of the hospital and we got settled in, I thought, "You know what, if I were to do a course," because I had already started training some people at this point, I'd started JoshHall.co, I'd started doing tutorials. I was originally going to do like plugins and themes and a whole different career path.
But I've always liked teaching and somebody was asking me about training some courses. And I thought, "You know what, maybe I will do a course, maybe I'll just give it a go, I'll try it out." And the question was, what type of course do I want to do first? Do I want to do a how to build a website? Normally, I would start there, but because I was so passionate about how our website maintenance plan helped my family through that time — and it covered our expenses, it covered our living expenses through the hospital time — I decided, you know what, I'm going to do a course on that because I've got it working. It was so personal to me how it helped our business, I was like, "I want to help other web designers learn how to build this, not only for situations like that, but just for recurring income."
Web design and just like a lot of industries are very feast and famine. So, wanted to do that, launched my first course in the fall of 2018. And man, that's when it all changed for me, Pat, right there.
Tell me about the course launch. How did you get the word out there? What happened when you pressed go on that sales process?
Yeah, so like I mentioned, I had already started building as an authority in this realm of the Divi theme in WordPress. And I had become a blog author for a couple prominent sites. So I had already started building some authority, so there was some awareness about me and what I was doing. So when I launched my course, I already had a good start of an audience. So it wasn't like I launched a course and had to build an audience. I already had an audience built, and I was producing free tutorials, all my stuff was free. It was actually a very costly venture for about the first year, this brand of JoshHall.co because I didn't have anything to sell when I was just pumping out free stuff.
But it did build my audience. So when I launched my first course, they knew about it, and I think I had 82 or 83 people enroll at first. And it just blew my mind because the course was $297, I think I did the pre-order for $197. And that income, $197 times 83, kind of shocked me and blew my mind about, I mean, I worked my butt off, don't get me wrong, courses as you know, Pat, are a lot of work. It beat the service work. I love my clients but it planted the seed and gave me an itch to be like, "You know what, I want to do more of these because this is freaking awesome." So, I did the first course, and then I dove right in to do more courses. That's where it all started here.
That's awesome. Congratulations on that. And I think that the question then becomes, well, how do you then balance the online course stuff which kind of removed yourself from the process of teaching? I mean, you've taught obviously and people can get access to the course. But then were you still doing client work on the side or did that eventually sort of go away? Do you still do it?
So yeah, long story short, when I started doing courses, I was still running my web design business. Luckily, I had a full time freelancer doing design and I had some other subcontractors, so they were doing the bulk of the kind of in-the-business work, like working with clients and doing the design. Although I was still doing all the proposals, invoicing, and some of that kind of stuff. So I was still kind of the project manager running the show and I was doing courses basically part time. So after that first course launched with a big success, I started getting life-changing testimonials coming in, I decided to launch a second course so I built my second course out. And then once I had that second course, I was spending probably about half and half. Half time on the web design agency, half of my time in the courses.
The cool thing about that that resonated with students is that they were learning from somebody who was actively in the business. I was literally working with clients and then turning right around and making course content. So I did a couple courses. It made up like half my income for the year, just a couple courses. So I was like, "All right, I'm going ham on this thing." And then we kicked off 2019, and I went on a tear with courses. I built courses every couple of weeks and started building out kind of a suite of web design courses.
Some topics were evergreen that were just general business kind of stuff. Some stuff was more topical. And that's really what kicked it off. And then as I built more and more courses and ran my business, fast forward to — I'm not sure when this is going to come out, but we're recording this at the end of 2020. Earlier this year, I'll never forget it, I was putting a proposal together, and there was this lightbulb moment again that was like a big red flag because I just didn't want to do that proposal anymore. I remember just going through it, I'm like, "I just don't feel like working with the client stuff anymore." And it wasn't something where I just ... I could have hired that out, I could have had somebody step in.
But I realized not only did I not want to do the proposal, I didn't really feel like doing the onboarding anymore. I didn't feel like doing the project management or the fulfillment with the client. And it wasn't because I was burned out with web design but it was because I was so passionate about the courses, I was getting these life changing testimonials coming in from my students, and I was like, "I want to go for this, I really want to go for this."
That was springtime 2020, and that's what planted the seed for me to get ready to sell my agency. So, also, I should have mentioned too, obviously, we know what happened in the spring of 2020, COVID hit. And I saw a huge, huge influx of people asking about my courses, because there were people getting laid off left and right and they couldn't work. A lot of people were doing web design on the side and then they wanted to take their web design stuff full time because they couldn't work. I've had teachers come in learning web design with me, Uber drivers. Just had an airline pilot come into my courses. All these different industries were segmenting and going into web design.
And I had just finished my suite of courses, man. It was amazing timing. All that combined really led me to go, "You know what, I'm going full time, I'm doing this." So oddly enough, I checked with one of my kind of prized students who had already taken his web design business to six figures in one year, and I felt like he would be a good fit to take over my clients. So we worked out a deal for him to take over my web design agency. I still do retain some ownership in it and I oversee him in our team. But he took all the clients and I essentially sold my web design agency to go full time with courses.
Nice. I love it. I love it. And now you get a little bit more time back, you can put some of that time into more courses and being there with your students. You built this amazing thing, you're handing it off to somebody else, you didn't just sell it to some random person. You sold it to somebody who you knew could take care of your clients still. And you're still involved a little bit. That is amazing. Any regret selling it? We've interviewed people here ... "That was my baby, I started it," but ...
No regrets whatsoever. Now, I will say, again, I wasn't burned out from web design. It wasn't an easy decision because I really, really liked my — I loved my clients. My clients were near and dear to me. A lot of them, I had been working on their sites for years. Some of my clients date back to like 2011, so I was their guy. So, I'm condensing a very, very in depth story with selling my agency because there was a whole process, I did a podcast episode on my podcast about how I sold it, and I actually brought my CEO, Eric, in to get his perspective on it. It was a lot of work, it was a lot of work, it was big. And it was not easy. I'll never forget the day. We made the deal and I was getting ready to send out emails to clients personally, like all of our top A and B clients. My fingers were shaking because I was like, "This is huge, this is a huge moment."
And when we made the decision, I think there just so happened to be some dust that came into my eye and made it watery. It was not an easy decision, but what I was doing with courses and what I was doing with my students just trumped all of that. I love teaching. I don't feel like I'm working when I'm teaching. I love podcasting now, happy to talk about what I've learned with podcasting. So it was just huge. It was a huge, game-changing time for me. And a really cool thing was, I was very careful, like you said, about who was going to take over my clients. I wanted somebody who not only had the like mindset that I did, but I wanted somebody who was really good at communication and somebody who I felt really comfortable to take, because they were my clients, it is my baby, that business was my baby, like you said.
So I felt like he was going to be a really good fit. And they extra cool thing about that was because he was a student, he designed like me, he went through all of my courses, knew my processes. We used all the same tools. He was kind of like a mini me. I was able to transfer the clients, and it wasn't like they were getting all new tools and everything. In a weird way, doing courses really was like a standard operating procedure for me in a lot of ways.
Dude, that's so cool. Speaking of your courses, how many courses do you have now? What's your launch cycle like? Are they always open or do you launch during the year? Give us a little insight on that.
Yeah, so I have nine courses right now. So I did a course on average about every two months there for a little while, two to three months. Like I said, I went on kind of a tear where I did some of my smaller courses, and then last year, I launched a big business course which took a lot of time to build. And then earlier 2020 I wrapped up my final couple courses, which kind of completes a suite of courses for a web designer. So there's one on like design, SEO, the maintenance plan, the business, and coding. It's kind of like a mini university. And then once I launched that final course, that ninth one in the suite, that's when I got ready to sell my business. So I haven't launched a new one since then, but I'm happy to talk about as well what I've learned here with my membership stuff, but I just recently launched my membership because I knew that's where I wanted to take things to the next level.
I do plan to do more courses, but right now I'm actually, and I think you've probably experienced this, Pat, with some of the topical kind of courses — meaning the stuff where technology changes pretty frequently — you have to keep that up to date. So I'm actually getting ready to revamp and do new lessons for a lot of those topical courses. Everything's still relevant but it needs to be updated.
The cool thing about that though, what I'm finding is, like a couple of my courses now are two years old. Well, I can update them, revamp some of the stuff, and do a whole fresh marketing launch cycle with proven testimonials, proven case studies and results. I can condense some of the videos. I know I joined your Power-Up Podcasting course I think right after you did the 2.0 version, so I didn't really get to see what it looked like previously. But when I heard you did that, I was pumped up because I was like, "I could do that and I could do like a 2.0." And then people who already have the course, lifetime access, so they don't pay another dime, they just get to go through it again. It'll be a really good fresh cycle for the new one. So that's kind of the game plan.
That's really cool, I love it. Are your courses open all the time, like I could just get any one of them? Do you have the ability to — I would imagine with a suite of nine courses, can I get the whole shebang, all of them for one price? How do you market them?
Yeah, so they are all open. Marketing is an area that I'm really going to take more seriously here in 2021 with how I market them. Currently, I do it very organically, and lot like I ran my business as a web designer. Basically all of my podcast episodes, instead of taking sponsors, they are essentially presented by and sponsored by a course. So I'll do a podcast episode, and I'll say, "Before we dive into this talk, this episode is presented by my website beginners course." So, that's kind of how I promote them. And then to answer your question, yes, once I got my ninth course out there, I created a bundle. And for any course creators out there, I highly, highly recommend doing a bundle because it's been amazing how many people either purchased the bundle, and it's a big discount off of what they would normally spend.
And then what I do is if somebody goes through a course or two and they want to upgrade to the bundle, I always honor a big discount for them to get the bundle with, since they already paid a few hundred bucks or whatever, they'll get a certain discount off the bundle. That's been a game changer. The bundle has been one of the best things I ever did.
Very nice. That's so cool. Let's talk about your podcast, it seems to be a very important component of how you bring awareness, obviously, sales and starting that process. When did the podcast start? What is the podcast about? What do you love about it?
All right. I don't think we're doing this on video but I'm smiling right now because I think podcasting is potentially my favorite thing to talk about right now because it has been an absolute game changer. And I'm not just saying this to blow smoke up for Pat Flynn. It really has been. It's been the biggest converter for me, Pat. It is insane, I'll talk about how I got started and everything, but ... so I'm not on Instagram too much, but I do follow you, and one of your, I don't know if it was like a TikToK animation thing or whatever, but you had like an animated thing about how many people or how much time people spend on your site with a blog post versus how much time they spend on a YouTube video, might be 10, 15 minutes, how much time they spend on blog posts might be seven minutes. And with podcasting, how much time do they spend with you on that, and it's just non stop.
And it suits me because, as everyone can probably tell right now, I am detailed, I am a little long-winded, I like to talk about stuff in detail. So, I hate being rushed, I hate being surfacey, and I want to get into the weeds on topics. So podcasting suits me perfectly. I could do a half an hour podcast episode, people love it. If I do a half hour video, people are like, "It's so long." So I just love podcasting.
So the way it started though, I always knew I wanted to start a podcast, and actually, funny enough, I did almost a trial run podcast when I just started scaling my business. One thing I learned going back to what I would have done differently is I learned instead of doing something yourself and making all the mistakes, just talk to people who have already been there, and you will save yourself so much time.
So, when I started scaling my business, I did a little interview series on my website. It was almost like a mini podcast. I did an interview series with a bunch of web designers who had scaled their agencies. And I did a little nine-interview series, helped boost my awareness as an authority, and I learned so much from all these people. And oddly enough, that interview series is actually how I found my first designer and a couple other subcontractors. So I did that interview series and I learned a lot about how to scale a business. More importantly, though, I realized I'm actually pretty good at interviewing. And I really enjoyed doing these talks. It was like a little mini YouTube podcast type of thing. So that planted the seed for me to do a podcast.
The problem was, because I'm a web designer and I've been doing it for a while, I knew doing a podcast is not as simple as it sounds if you're going to do it right. There's going to be a lot of work particularly at the start. I know how much time goes into editing and stuff like that. And at that time, I also knew going back to my mindset thing, I wanted to find somebody who I could almost learn from to help me fast track. You and I share I believe a similar business coach in James Schramko. So I heard with SuperFastBusiness, I heard you on his podcast. That was actually my first exposure to you. I had heard your name before and then I heard you on that podcast. I loved the interview, I loved your style, I loved how you were really focused on the family balance.
I'll never forget, I think you were talking about how if you traveled for a podcasting seminar or something, you didn't tell your kids that you were just going to be away for work. You told them, "I'm going off to teach people about podcasting." And that idea really resonated with me because I have two baby girls right now, they're two and almost one. So I don't talk like that to them but I bring them in front of the camera all the time. With my membership now, they often make an appearance. So I'm integrating them too. But all that to say, I knew I wanted to start a podcast but I knew it was going to be a ton of work so I was not ready to commit to it until I was really, had the time to do it.
So, it was in the fall of 2019. I'll never forget, I heard your interview, really liked it. I went through your podcasting cheat sheet, gave me a really good framework to base it off of, and then that led me — talk about a perfect funnel — and led me to your Power-Up Podcasting course.
Yeah. That's the funnel, man. Pat, I'm literally taking your playbook and it's working like a dream. And we can talk about marketing the courses with funnels here because that's what I'm doing.
But yeah, I went through your funnel and I felt really good about it. And I started the Power-Up Podcasting course on September 30th, 2019. I had three episodes, launched, ready to go on all the platforms on October 24th. Not even a month. Now, bear in mind too, I'm a tech savvy dude, I was a web designer, I already had my website, I already had a mic because I was doing videos and stuff.
So there was the tech aspect that I didn't need to worry about. And to be honest, I kind of, the Power-Up Podcasting course for me at that time was an investment. And I was like, "Do I need a course? I could figure it out. I can figure out the tech and stuff." But what I really needed help with was the nitty gritty of podcasting itself, and the structure. And one thing you talk about in the course — I hope I can mention it here without giving too much away, which is absolutely ...
You can talk about the course as much as you want, Josh. Thank you so much for this.
So I was just going to launch with one episode. And then one thing that you said that was like, "Ding," again, was make it like a concert. If a band comes out and does one song and they go home, the whole crowd's like "What, that was it?" And that's exactly the right mindset to have when you kick off your podcast. So you said launch with at least three episodes and have some in a backlog. And that's exactly what I did. So, I had my three episodes out, I have an artwork done, description. That was a big piece too, was instead of needing to figure out artwork size, figure out how the descriptions work, how to submit your podcast, I literally just built mine while I did the lessons in the course. So it was awesome, it was like a playbook for me to fast track all that.
And then I had those episodes up. I officially launched my podcast on November 4th, 2019 and had three episodes live, had a whole marketing plan, and had some backed up. So I was able to stay ahead of that. And that's how it all started with the podcasting, man. At the time of recording this, I'm 73 episodes in, and it's been like the top convertor for me. Every student, I swear, every student that goes through my web design course bundle and my top tier courses, and now my membership, which I'm happy to talk about, every one of them mentions the podcast. It brings in a whole new audience compared to YouTube.
My YouTube videos bring in great people but it's mainly people that are just starting out in web design, they're not ready to invest in the business course. They're just learning website stuff. So, I'm catering my content to people who are just learning web design, and then people who are learning web design, but then they're serious about a business. They want to work for themselves, they want to work when and where they want, they want to build their business. And the podcast has brought those people to me, the business-minded serious professionals, and just great people. People in the podcast realm are just cool. You've experienced this with everyone you interview. They're just cool. I just interviewed Jon Vuong, who's a member of SPI Pro as well, and he's a big fan of yours. I just had him on. He was just a cool dude. It's amazing, whenever somebody comes to the podcast, I know more than likely they're going to be a cool guy or cool gal.
That's cool. Well, thank you for that and just sharing your thoughts on Power-Up podcasting. And, obviously, we have that available at PowerUpPodcasting.com for anybody who wants to check it out. And we'll put links in the show notes and everything. I do want to talk really quick before we get into the membership because it's interesting, we're on very similar paths, in a sense, doing a lot of the same kind of things. And now you've just come out recently with a membership. I want to see how that sort of is an add-on, or how you sort of interplay with your courses and what that's done for you.
But I have a very specific question about the podcast, and I'm going to take this clip, I'm going to take your answer, and I'm going to just share with everybody who asks the same question. And that's this: What in the world do you talk about in a podcast about something so visual? What would even be good content on something like that? We have photographers, we have people who are web designers, other people in visual niches who are just like, "I don't know if a podcast makes sense to me because you kind of have to see the thing for value to be there." But obviously, that's not true.
Yeah, totally agree. So my podcast is about design but also the — I probably talk about business stuff more than design. However, in regards to web design, I talk a lot about conversion-based stuff. So, you don't necessarily need to see it to hear about how designs can convert, whether it's having a strong call to action, knowing the demographic of a website. Something you've talked about Pat that I've totally ripped off from you and fed it to my students, and they think I'm awesome, is the idea of when you have a newsletter signup, instead of having name, email, sign up ... I totally ripped this off from you talking about have a button to get a quick win first, then bring them to the forum where they give you their name and email or phone or whatever because it's a lot like dating. I think you talked about this.
When I met my wife, I talked to her, we made small talk before I asked for her number. She used to work at Panera, she was a catering coordinator. I did a lot of meetings there, thought she was pretty cute. So, long story short, I ended up getting her number over the counter in front of a lot of people. So, it could have been a little embarrassing had she said no, but we had already made small talk before that before I asked for her details. If I was just some random guy that said, "Hey, can I have your name and your number?" No, absolutely not. But we had kind of established a relationship and then I asked for her number.
So I take the same principle when I'm implementing that with all of our sites with a call to action. So don't just have name, email, and all that stuff there. Get a quick win, get somebody to know you first, and then they'll be much more apt to sign up. I hope that's a good example of a way to like, I could talk about it visually, but those kind of conversion-based stuff, at least in web design, is huge. And it translates to how you would do things visually.
That's perfect. Thank you. I think just hearing examples like that makes sense. Thank you for that story, by the way. I can just imagine like, somebody going to Panera and being like, "Can I get the salad with the Greek goddess dressing ... and your number?"
"I'll take the pic two and a date tonight."
Yes, "Pic two, the food and you. Let's go." Anyway, thank you for that. I'm going to use that answer many times because it's just very obvious, to me and to you. But to others it's just like, "No, that's impossible," but there are ways to do it correctly. So let's finish off this conversation talking about your membership. When did this come into play? Why did it come into play? What's it doing for you?
So the membership is brand new at this point. And what I found — and I think you guys have probably found this as well with SPI Pro because I'm a member in that, your guys' membership, is the courses were amazing. Life-changing stories, amazing stuff. But there was one big problem with courses, and for anyone who's doing courses, I would definitely listen to this because this is huge. The problem with the course is that it is not recurring income. It's, you have really good waves on sale periods or marketing periods. To answer your previous question from a while ago, I do keep my courses open all the time. So people do join them and they funnel in.
But the problem I found is that when students went through my courses, I'd hear from them for a while, but then inevitably, they would disappear. And it's no fault of their own, they were done with the course. Unless I intentionally reach out to them or they reach out to me, they're not going to stay involved. I was able to reach out with a lot of students initially but now I just crossed over 700 students. I can't think to remember, "How's Jim doing from 10 months ago?" It's not practical.
So I knew I wanted something that was going to be like the glue to kind of hold everyone together. And I also realized through my web design journey and expanding my network through these courses and seeing some amazing students come through and doing the podcast, I have built this incredible network. I'm not boasting myself on that, I'm boasting, there is an amazing group of people here that I've just been fortunate to talk to and piece together. I found myself being essentially a matchmaker with email. People would be like, "Hey, do you know somebody who does this?" or "Do you know somebody who'd be a good fit for this?" And I was doing that left and right.
So there was all these signs that led me to feel like I needed some sort of membership. So once I launched my final course and sold my business, the big thing was thinking about my membership. What I wanted to do was to bring kind of my tribe together. And a quote that you say all the time that I always pass on as well is that "Your vibe attracts your tribe." And that's 100 percent what I found with my membership. Everybody who has joined already — and we just did the soft launch, I just launched last week, like it's brand new, at least at the time of recording this. So brand new, keeping it small, quality over quantity. But the people in there are like minded, they've all primarily been through my courses, they all have that same ... they're on the same wavelength of being helpful, being generous, and being serious about their business.
So I knew I wanted to bring everyone together and the membership was the perfect way to do that. It was also a great way ... it was kind of like, again, the glue to hold all the other stuff in and around the courses. So, with web design it's a really complex type of industry that's changing a lot. So, there is all these little things like advanced stuff with Google Analytics, advanced stuff with email delivery, stuff that I didn't really cover in any of my courses. They just didn't lend themselves to those courses. But the membership is a great place to do additional trainings and workshops that will be a perfect complement to those.
So, I imagine you'll probably ask this, but my courses are separate. The membership is not access to the courses. The membership is community, networking, I do weekly Q&As, a monthly training, and the monthly training, I'm also bringing in experts to talk more about certain subjects. We've got one coming up on SEO. Next month, I'm doing a training on how to get better in front of camera because a lot of my students are wanting to implement video in their marketing. All web designers are terrified to get in front of the camera. I just want to pass on what I've learned about that. There's all these secondary and tertiary type of trainings that are a perfect fit for the membership.
And then members will get access to me as well. That's the other big piece is I'm realizing I'm already to the point where I can't get back to every email just about. I'm sure you've seen this, Pat, the way I'm communicating with all my students is extremely messy until opening the membership because it's Facebook Messenger, it's email, YouTube comment. There's all these different places I'm getting hit from left and right. And I should say too, I run a web designer Facebook group that's really big, 22,000 people now, so I'm getting pinged in that. But just as an aside, there's a big difference between a free Facebook group and a membership. The Facebook group, you just never know. I mean, I've tried to build the best community there as possible, but it's a free group, 22,000 people, you don't know what kind of answer you're going to get if you post something.
Whereas the membership, you know it's going to be quality. So I kind of took us on some tangents there but hopefully that was a good look as to why.
No, that's fantastic. I think it's very smart, obviously. We've done the same thing with SPI Pro, thank you for being a member and big shout out to all the pros that are out there. If you want to learn more about that, SmartPassiveIncome.com/pro. Before I forget, Josh, where can people see all this stuff, get all this stuff? Obviously, we'll have links in the show notes. But is it just JoshHall.co to get all the things that you're talking about?
Yup, JoshHall.co, that's C-O. Link to courses if you just want to check them out just to see how I do it. My podcast is there if you want to get a feel for that. Everything is there. Everything on my YouTube channel and all my tutorials still funnel back to my site. There's another SEO tip for everybody: put all your content, put it on the site, make your website the most important hub for sure.
Yes. Exactly. Exactly. When it comes to the membership, what are your thoughts on price point? I know that's a big thing that we had discussed internally in our team for quite a while. How much are we asking people to pay monthly and/or annually? Where was your decision put at?
Yeah, that was a painstaking decision because web designers ... for the people who are just starting their journey, it's likely they're making five to 10 grand, probably less than that. So, the membership may not be the best fit until they're at least over the 10 grand mark. Although they still can, but I don't want to be a burden on people, I want people to be able to invest confidently in it. But there's people I'm coaching who are doing 50 to six figures and growing a six figure business.
So, I wanted to try to have a happy medium, so what I ended up landing on — originally I was going to do tiers. I was going to do a lower tier that had access to the membership but not access to me. I was going to do a middle range tier that had access to the membership and a messaging thread with me. Then I was going to do a higher intensive coaching tier. What I decided to launch with, mainly for my sanity, was the middle tier, which was 99 bucks a month, and then $999 a year. So, I think SPI Pro at the time of recording this, I think is $499 a year, so basically just double that. Mainly because it's still access to me. I'm the one running the membership, I don't have a team doing it yet. I also don't want it to be that big, quite frankly. At the time of recording this, we're at 50 members. Once we get to 100, I feel like I'm going to have to really start changing how I run it, get some help.
So, I didn't want it to be too big, I want it to be, again, quality over quantity. I felt like that was a decent price point where I'd weed out some of the people who are not ready for that kind of thing. But again, I have a free web design group they can join. And like 95 percent of my content is free. So I still feel like I'm doing a fine service for everyone who wants to pick off the free stuff.
So, that was the price point, and I decided I'm just going to launch with my middle tier. Maybe I'll open up a lower tier one day. I'm hesitant towards doing that. I will definitely eventually do more intensive coaching. But right now, I really like the work-life balance. I've got a family, like I mentioned, I've got two little girls. I personally don't work more than 35 hours a week on average. I really like doing work segments. We're recording this on a Friday afternoon for me. This morning, took my girls to swim lessons. We have these things where I kind of work around the lifestyle I want.
I say all that to say, I didn't want to launch a big membership and then hate it, and then just be like stressed out and have a bunch of calls that I couldn't keep up with. So, it really is a testament to what I've learned as an entrepreneur over the past decade — because I've been freelancing myself and working for myself for a decade now — is do it a phase at a time. I'm a big proponent of doing things in phases. So, particularly with a membership, it's going to evolve. I let my members know right from the get go, "It's going to evolve. So be patient and we're going to do this together."
I don't know how you guys felt but I felt like it was very hard to promote the membership and build a landing page for it when there was nothing in there. Like it was just me. So, what I did was I let founding members in, I had already built a founding member interest list. I talked about it on my podcast, did some little promotion just to say "Hey, membership is coming soon. If you're interested in finding out more on becoming a founding member, sign up." I did some live Q&A's and got people's feedback. I should mention too, for the initial founding member launch I did do a discount for founding members so it's $79 per month, and they get grandfathered in, that will always stay their rate, or $799 a year. So it's a 20 percent off founders discount. And that's everyone in the club right now.
And really cool thing is the founding members, not only are they loving it, but they are like the best of the best. What's really cool for me, and I think for anyone who does courses and content creation is considering some sort of membership, is I've got all these people, like I mentioned, these different networks. Now I see them together. So I had this one student who I loved talking to and I knew she'd be a great fit with this other student. Well, now in the membership, they're talking together and they're partnering and stuff, and they're helping each other out. It's just the coolest thing in the world. I'm just getting my feet wet with it but it is awesome.
And I do want to say, I am completely, again, using the SPI and Pat Flynn playbook. Learn from your podcast stuff, learn from your content strategies and affiliate marketing strategies. I'm doing the email course next month, which I'm really excited about. I'm taking the playbook and I did the same thing for the membership. So my membership is a little bit different than SPI being that it's just me and it's much more, there's some more technical stuff involved in there. But the big question was what platform do I use? This is a big deal. It's a really big decision. And you guys use a platform called Circle at Circle.so. And checked it out, loved the interface, love the UX, the user experience.
I decided to become a member for SPI Pro for two reasons. I wanted to be a member and get your exclusive trainings and hop in there. But I also wanted to see like, what's working, that way I can use it for my community. And going back to what I did originally with the interview series I did with web designers, since I'm all about doing some R&D, some research and development, and sharing it with other people, I interviewed your Senior Content Manager, Karen, and I had her on my podcast. So she wrote the story for me on the SPI Blog, and I just really enjoyed talking with her, and I said, "Karen, would you be interested in coming on my podcast and sharing what you've learned about membership stuff? Because a lot of my web design students build membership sites out for clients."
So again, multi-purposing, killing two birds with one stone kind of thing. So I interviewed her, learned a lot. And then as I learned more about Circle, I decided, you know what, this platform for when it's brand new, they're making a lot of incredible improvements, but it's fresh, it's clean, you've talked about it before, Pat. It's kind of like a mix between Facebook and Slack, and a little bit of LinkedIn, maybe like all together, which is great because I'm getting a little tired of social media, particularly being that we're just out of election, political time. It's very hard with free Facebook groups to be focused when there's just so much outside distraction on Facebook. Not even the polarizing stuff, but even just ads for products or you saw your mother-in-law did something. You're going to get distracted.
So with a membership, you're there for that. I've already had a lot of students and members say, "I feel like I'm on Facebook less, and I just feel more balanced. And I like being here."
I've heard the same thing too, which is really nice. That's really cool, and I love that you launched with a smaller founding group and they're helping to influence sort of where it's going to go. We did a founding group as well, 10 times bigger, 500 people, and it was definitely a lot of work for sure. And it's obviously not just me, it's my team. You've gotten to meet, Karen, there's Matt, obviously. We even hired a new person, Jillian, to manage and take care of the customer experience, the student experience, and the memberships. And it's just been really great. I mean, we've gotten incredible feedback.
And I think more than ever, especially after what we've all gone through in 2020, just connections are what people are missing more. And here we are building communities. Community is not about us as the leader always. We happen to be the one who puts these things together and facilitates and creates these discussions. But it's really about the connections between members, and I love that you shared that example.
That was the other big thing, Pat. You just hit the nail on the head there. Now, more so than ever, with the pandemic stuff continuing on, there is such a need for online community. And there's no better time for it. And there's such a need for an online community that is, again, private and related to what you're most interested in and to have some like-minded professional type of support. That's the other big thing too with some of these free Facebook groups. I'm not against free Facebook groups, I run one and I have some for my courses. But there is just a difference, man. When you're in some sort of membership or mastermind, particularly in Circle. I love the design. I just like being in the platform, it's one reason I chose it, I was looking at some other ones. But I just didn't like being in there. I just like being in Circle.
I love the membership, it's an incredible addition alongside the courses. And it's also a great addition alongside my podcast. And I'm continuing to do tutorials, and my next kind of phase moving forward is figuring out how to best do all the different content for certain types of platforms. So that's kind of the next thing I'm working on. But I'm a big proponent of focusing on your tribe.
I've got competitors that have massive YouTube channels that have millions of views and hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Mine is fairly modest. I do have almost 20,000 subscribers and almost two million views. But compared to some of my competitors, that's nothing. But I'm running a really healthy six figure business now with a core group of tribe people, and I'm balanced, I don't feel scattered, I don't feel overwhelmed. And I'm able to keep it much more personal and relatable.
I like the less is more mentality. I'm actually, I've got it right here, I'm reading a book called Company of One.
We've had Paul on the show before.
Paul, yeah. Great book. I think entrepreneurship, the industry in general, I feel like is shifting more towards folks like yourself, Pat, who are encouraging those who don't want a big, stressful business. Bigger is not always better and I think I'm a prime example of how you can focus on a small group of people. How many people are learning web design? Hundreds of thousands, millions? But I've got 700 in my courses and just 50 in my membership and it's awesome. I'm making a really good impact with a small group and I like that. It's a great way to go. You can find your tribe, you can find people that resonate with you and your brand, and you don't need hundreds of thousands. Is it 1000 True Fans? I haven't read that yet but you mentioned it. I want to read through that because just from hearing you and a couple other colleagues talk about that, I'm like, yes, that's exactly what I'm talking about. So yeah, quality over quantity.
Josh, thank you so much. Definitely check out 1000 True Fans. That's what inspired my book, Superfans. And it's something that I think could be very relevant for your clients and your students as well to inspire them. And like you said, you don't need a blockbuster hit, you don't need millions of views, millions of subscribers. You just need that core group. You're not even at 1000 and you're doing well and you have a six figure business. That's just incredible.
Can I say something real quick too, Pat, on that idea of smaller versus the bigger scale?
It doesn't just apply to course creators or coaches or member stuff. I tell this to my students who are web designers: you don't need to keep on hustling and killing yourself to land a new client every day or every week. You could focus on a couple dozen clients and bring that to six figures if you provide enough value. That's what I experienced in web design. I was able to take it to six figures with I think forty-some clients. And you can absolutely do that. The same can be true for photographers or coaches or yoga studios or any other type of industry. If you focus on your people, and don't be a cable company, meaning don't give all your best deals to new people and then jack up their prices a year later — take care of your current clients.
I'm also, just as an aside, for course creators I always give a discount for current students for other courses. So once they're in a course, they're in a loyalty program, they feel special — take care of those current people, it will take so much stress off needing to feel like you need to constantly hustle and sell, sell, sell when you have a good group of people and you focus on them.
I think it's a beautiful message to end on and a message that I think a lot of people needed to hear, especially, and I believe this episode's coming out the beginning of 2021. So right to start off the year, what an amazing sentiment, Josh. This has been incredible. Thank you. Congratulations to you and all of your success, and I can't wait to continue to chat with you and to learn more from you and see you in SPI Pro and all that great stuff. One more time, JoshHall.co, that's where you want to go. Thank you, Josh, appreciate you.
Thank you so much.
Oh my gosh, what an amazing way to start the year with Josh Hall. Second episode of the year and we got plenty more coming. So make sure you hit that subscribe button if you haven't already. And of course, you can always check out the show notes if you want to get more info about Josh and the things that he has going on. You can again check him out at JoshHall.co or the show notes page with other resources for you at SmartPassiveIncome.com/session456. Once again, SmartPassiveIncome.com/session456. Thank you all so much. Appreciate you. Hit subscribe so you can get next week's episode delivered right to you and we'll see you then. Cheers.
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