When it comes to creating a profitable online business, there are many options to consider. But is WordPress the right way to go?
This episode is brought to you by StudioPress Sites.
As some of you know, we are pretty big fans of WordPress. But is it the best way to start?
And if you are committed to using WordPress, can you build a profitable business around it?
It may come as a surprise to you that there are thousands upon thousands of digital entrepreneurs that have created a thriving business not only using WordPress but selling themes and plugins that support the product.
And in this episode, we cover the full spectrum with our very special guest, Andrew Norcross from Reaktiv Studios – a VIP WordPress studio specializing in WordPress custom development.
In this 39-minute episode, Sean Jackson, Jessica Frick, and Andrew Norcross cover the spectrum of the WordPress ecosystem, including …
- Should you use WordPress if you are just starting out?
- How a person with no programming skills to start with created a hugely popular, and profitable, WordPress plugin
- Why building a WordPress product is the easy part, and what the real challenges are in profiting from WordPress
- And of course, our question for the week – Does SEO still matter?
- To sign up for free to the Digital Commerce Academy, send a text message to 313131, with the keyword DIGITS (if you are in the continental USA). If you are outside the USA, email firstname.lastname@example.org. As a special bonus, we will subscribe you to our newsletter when you text or email us
Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...
The Show Notes
- If you’re ready to see for yourself why over 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — just go to StudioPress.com
- Learn more about Andrew Norcross and Reaktiv Studios at ReaktivStudios.com
- Connect with Sean Jackson on LinkedIn
- Follow Sean on Twitter
- Connect with Jessica Frick on LinkedIn
- Follow Jessica on Twitter
Is WordPress the Right Solution for Building Your Online Business?
Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.
You’re listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.
Sean Jackson: Welcome to The Digital Entrepreneur. I’m Sean Jackson.
Jessica Frick: And I’m Jessica Frick. Sean, last episode we were talking about whether you need to use WordPress if you’re just starting out or whether you can get away with using something like Squarespace, Wix, or Medium. What do you think?
Should You Use WordPress If You Are Just Starting Out?
Sean Jackson: Ah, well, it’s interesting that you ask that question. I’m going to give you my honest opinion. I think that if you start small, you will be small, but if you start big, you’re going to be big. Let me explain that.
Jessica Frick: I was going to say, I hope you do.
Sean Jackson: What I mean by that is this. I think that if you’re going to take the time to learn how to be a digital entrepreneur — if you’re going to take the time to really go out there and start putting out content, start selling digital goods online — then starting with something super easy means that when you get bigger, you’re going to have to learn something new. And you have to almost repeat the process over and over and over again.
So in my opinion, you should go ahead and start with WordPress, by default, and take the time to learn how to use that platform. Or if you’re really into digital goods, you go to something like Rainmaker Platform.
In other words, you go to the platform that is going to sustain you when you find that success that learning will come from. If you start out really small, if you go and, “Oh, I’m going to put something on Medium. Oh, I like Medium. Oh, look somebody liked it,” then you’ll learn how to use Medium really well. But as your business takes off, then you have to learn something new and something new.
So why not just take the learning curve upfront? Go to something like WordPress first or Rainmaker, and just learn it inside and out so that you can stay there for the long term. That’s my opinion. What’s yours?
Jessica Frick: Well, I disagree with you. Shocking. But not everybody needs the power of Rainmaker, and not everybody needs the flexibility of WordPress, I guess, for lack of a better term. Something like Squarespace may not be as flexible.
But as far as pricing and support is concerned, if you’re just starting out and you don’t know how to do any of this — you just want a website. You want to get your content up. You want to be done with it for a super low price, and you don’t really care about all of the bells and whistles that are offered through WordPress — I think something like Squarespace is totally fine, or Wix, or Wubu, or I don’t know. They’re all these dorky names, aren’t they?
Sean Jackson: Yeah, but you really made the point, though, if you don’t care, and I think that goes to the heart of it. If you care to do something, then I say go into it full force. Learn everything you can about it because it’s going to take time for you to master the subject. If you’ve finally figured out content — let’s say you do a Squarespace thing or you throw something on Medium — and you start to figure that out and you start to see what’s working — then you want to say to somebody, “Now, radically transform all that and hope that you can take it with you, by the way.”
That you don’t have to redo it all from scratch through a massive copying and pasting to go over to the next platform, and the next platform. When people ask me, “Should I use Rainmaker, or should I use WordPress?” It comes down to this: “What is the end goal that you have in mind?” Because whatever that end goal is, might as well be on that platform from day one so that over time you become a master of it.
And while I like reading on Medium, are you really going to build a digital business on Medium? Are you really going to build it on Squarespace? No.
Jessica Frick: But Medium’s not for business per se. Medium is for content distribution. I think for that purpose it’s totally fine.
Sean Jackson: Yeah, but they have Medium for Publishers now. Granted, you got to remember, Medium right now is facing some unique challenges, to say the least.
Jessica Frick: Yeah, I don’t think I’d want to be on that team right now. The ax flying around there withstanding, there are some benefits. With other opportunities that are not WordPress, I think for some people it’s just what you want to do. That said, obviously, my paychecks come from a WordPress-based company. I firmly believe in the benefits, but I don’t know that it’s necessary for everybody. I’m a Honda girl, but I don’t necessarily think that anybody who doesn’t drive a Honda is wrong.
Sean Jackson: Right. It really comes down to your learning philosophy. I think it also comes down to your risk profile. And that’s where the decision really has to be individualized. If you want to start out with the least amount of risk possible — just to see if what you’re doing is resonating, just to put your toe into the stream — then I would definitely say Medium for Publishers is probably not a bad way to go.
Buy a domain. That’ll probably be the most expensive thing you buy. Buy a domain, and put it on something light like a Squarespace, like that medium, and just test it knowing that your risk profile is, “If it fails, I bail. If it fails, I bail. Done.” But if your risk profile is a little higher — if you are truly committed to the cause, if you’re really going to jump off the cliff — then might as well go to the endgame. That, I think, comes down to a very individual decision.
I tend to think, though — and this is why I would push back to you — if you’re just dipping your toe in the water, the moment that water feels at all uncomfortable, you’re out. You forget about it. You’re done. But if you’ve committed time to build in a WordPress site or committed time to putting in Rainmaker, you’re not going to vacate it just because you ran into a little bump in the road, if the water didn’t suit your temperature needs.
So I do think at the end it comes down to the individual and what their appetite is, but for me — if you’re committed, if you really want to be what you internalize that you can be — then might as well start using the platforms that you’ll be using in the future.
I’ll leave you with the last word.
Jessica Frick: I’ll agree that you do get what you pay for also. If you have a regular business, you’re going to pay physical rent. People will look at hosting and say, “Oh my gosh, $12 is obviously better than $30,” but you do get what you pay for. A $12 hosting plan is going to do different stuff than a $50 hosting plan, or more.
So I will agree with that, and I think if you are serious about business, you should probably have a serious business option. I will also say that I can see benefits for some brands that choose to have a presence on Tumblr, for example.
Sean Jackson: Good point.
Jessica Frick: There is a certain level of discovery that comes with that and Medium. Back in the day, you remember Blogger, that you could find people that way. It really depends, like you said, on the learning curve and really what you want to do. Is it a real business? Is it just content? And how much do you care about future planning?
Sean Jackson: What do you think, folks? What do you think about what we just said? Is it better to start out small — dip your toe in the water, take a little less risk — or should you go ahead and bite the bullet and go for the big-boy stuff? Let us know what you think by sending an email to Digits@Rainmaker.FM or sign up for our text messaging at 313131 with the keyword ‘DIGITS.’ Either way, we’d love to hear what you have to say, and we’ll be right back after the short break.
Voiceover: The Digital Entrepreneur is brought to you by the all-new StudioPress Sites. A turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It’s perfect for bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers — as well as those selling physical goods, digital downloads, and membership programs. If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why over 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. Go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress right now.
How a Person with No Programming Skills to Start With Created a Hugely Popular, and Profitable, WordPress Plugin
Sean Jackson: Welcome back from the break, everyone. We are joined by a very special guest today, aren’t we, Jess? Would you please introduce him?
Jessica Frick: Well, he’s a personal friend and someone who has helped me personally and professionally with WordPress. We have Andrew Norcross. Andrew is a WordPress developer based in Tampa, Florida. He is also founder and president of Reaktiv Studios, which is one of 13 WordPress VIP consultancies that you could get to work with you on WordPress. He also created the very popular Design Palette Pro, which is a paid WordPress plugin that helps you make WordPress sites beautiful.
Sean Jackson: Hey, Andrew Norcross, thank you for being on the show.
Andrew Norcross: Thanks for having me.
Sean Jackson: Well, I want to get into this because I started my journey, if you will, with the Copyblogger, Rainmaker ecosystem because I had an idea for a plugin. That plugin idea became Scribe, and it was funny because I had really not used WordPress up until that point. But then when I started getting into it, seeing its deficiency, I had this idea, and I managed to cobble together something. I’ve actually built a plugin with, obviously, developers.
You, however, have been building plugins forever. Let’s give our audience a little bit of your history first in the WordPress plugin ecosystem, what you’ve done, and more importantly, why you have done it.
Andrew Norcross: Sure. I’ve overall been doing this for coming up on 10 years now, and like many people, I sort of fell into it. I worked in finance for close to 10 years before I did this. I started doing this just because I was bored, and I was unhappy with my job at the time. What I did initially was simply, actually, funny enough, I kept a column in TweetDeck searching the phrase ‘WordPress help.’ That was how I found my first clients, but that was where I got going with it. Interestingly enough, I had never used WordPress before I developed on top of it.
Sean Jackson: I know how that is.
Andrew Norcross: I don’t write much, and it was simply one of those things where actually I learned it because a friend of mine is an author and needed his site to be moved. I’m like, “I’m sure I can figure that out.” I’d never even seen PHP in my life at that point, and I just assumed I would be able to figure it out. I did, but it took a while. And I made a whole lot of mistakes along the way. Through a chain of events that I didn’t anticipate, nor could they be duplicated, I ended up doing this full time.
I started making small plugins that solved, again, one or two problems because I was finding that I was having to repeat myself all the time. So I would just make the plugin. I would actually get it into the repository, and then I could just install it on client sites as I was working. It’s kind of snowballed from there. I built one or two that got bigger. At this point, I’ve got somewhere — between the repository, GitHub, and a handful of other places — probably 50 or 60 plugins maybe.
Sean Jackson: Wow. Well, let’s talk about that for a second, though, because here’s the thing. You, obviously, being self-taught, you went through the discipline that was required to really learn through it by refactoring, by looking at code, by applying what you were seeing, and putting it to work. It was definitely an arduous journey to be certain, but then over time, you started to get into it more.
Obviously, Design Palette Pro, if you were to have a claim to fame, anyone in the WordPress ecosystem, Design Palette Pro would probably be a brand they recognize. But I want to talk a little bit more about the economics of it. You’ve gone through a lot in the development side, but you also had to figure out, “Okay, I built this thing. What do I do now?” because some of it is just client work. It was pretty easy. “Hey, I need it for a client. I’ll build it. I’ll put it out there. If anyone else uses it, great, but my client is paying me.”
I want to talk more about how you look at the business side of the WordPress plugin ecosystem.
Andrew Norcross: Sure. With Design Palette, I was working for a marketing company for about a year or so, and I built it for them to use internally. It was a much, much stripped-down version of what it is now. It was on the older version of Genesis — I think like the 1.7 or the 1.8 era — and again, I put it up there and kind of let it do its thing. I updated it once or twice and just let it go from there.
What we kept seeing actually on the agency side, on the client’s side, was there was a gap of people. There was people that were fine taking a theme the way it looks, installing it, putting up whatever they wanted, and going about their day.
Then there were people that clearly needed a designer and a developer to build exactly what they needed because they needed something very particular and very specific. But there were a lot of people in the middle that needed a little bit of design. They were comfortable doing it themselves. Whether or not they were qualified, that’s not my business. But they needed a coat of paint. They wanted to personalize it and make it their own, but they didn’t need to move things around. They didn’t need overhaul code.
So for folks that have a job. They have a life. They need a website for whatever they wanted to do. They didn’t have the patience. They didn’t have the capability. They didn’t know where to even start to try to learn when seemingly all they wanted was, “I just want colors and fonts. I want it to look like my own.” Then they couldn’t afford a designer/developer because, again, what they needed really wasn’t in that caliber. This kind of came out of that.
Why Building a WordPress Product Is the Easy Part, and What the Real Challenges Are in Profiting From WordPress
Sean Jackson: Let’s go through this because you spent a lot of time on it, but then you said, at some point, “It’s ready.” So you decided to put it up for sale by yourself — what did you do thereafter? We said this earlier in the run-up to this show, that sometimes building the product is not the hard part. It does take a lot of time, and you do need to think through it. But there’s a whole other aspect to it.
So you built Design Palette Pro after doing numerous plugins. Really learning through seeing where you saw the fit for it. Building on the Genesis Framework, which is part of StudioPress. So then, at that point, you’re like, “Okay, I’ve got it. It’s ready.” What did you decide next? Where did you come up with the pricing? How did you come up with the distribution? What was that point that you said, “Okay, I’ve got it built. What do I do now?”
Andrew Norcross: Sure. The first thing was I knew that it was going to be large enough that it warranted its own site. I already had the name on that first version of it that I built like two years prior, so I used that. I went and got the domain. They were all available. I did the standard get a couple of misspellings and just make sure everything’s set up.
Built the site, and sold it using EDD, Easy Digital Downloads, because not only did I know that it worked because I was using it for something else, I knew that it solved the problem that I wanted to solve, which was selling digital products, creating license keys, and doing all that stuff. I didn’t need to worry about shipping anything. All that extra stuff that comes with some other e-commerce. Also, I knew the developer. I knew Pippen. So I knew that if something came up, I could ask, and I could get an answer.
That’s always been a big thing for me. The stuff that I use that I don’t build, I want to be able to know that I could ping somebody and get it solved. Initially, I had it up on my site, and most developers — and I will put myself in this category — are horrible at marketing. I built it. I released it. I tweeted about it. I did all the things that I thought I was supposed to do.
What I didn’t actually really figure out was any sales channels other than just it existing. I reached out to people that I knew. I reached out to some folks I knew both in the Genesis space and just in the overall WordPress space. Again, gave out some free copies.
I put up a live demo, which I think helped a lot in the beginning because then people could just go click around and see what it did, and made myself available to people who wanted to learn about it. We did some sponsorships with WordCamps. I spread it out. Then we had actually had the discussion with you all — with StudioPress — about some partnerships stuff. We went through all that, and that was another like six to nine months by the time all that was set up.
Then, by that point, I had worked out some of the initial bugs. I worked out some of the edge cases that, again, I never thought about until somebody used it, and it went from there. Then it took off because, obviously, there’s sales channels available that I myself would never have.
Sean Jackson: Sure. Let’s go through that because, again, when you said you’d launched it out there, and I think everybody kind of does the same thing, “I’ve built it. Now, world, come en mass and buy it from me.” You get it out there, and sales, I assume, were fairly slow in the beginning, right?
Andrew Norcross: Mm-hmm. Oh yeah.
Sean Jackson: So you had to work a little harder. You had to put a demo up together, so people could play with it. You try to get more word out there, so people would sit there and stop scratching their head and say, “What the heck is this?” so that you have some context to what you were selling. Then, it was really through a partnership, and were we kind of your first big partner for Design Palette Pro, or did you have others? Or did you have an affiliate program? That was something else I wanted to cover.
Andrew Norcross: Yeah. You all are the only partner really. We do have an affiliate program. We can obviously jump into that in a little bit, but I’m not one to just partner for the sake of partnering. I would never want to partner with someone that adds liability to what I’m doing without there being any sort of … there’s obviously risk/reward.
But I felt comfortable with you all knowing that you’re not going anywhere. You’re not trying to bleed every dollar out of somebody. There’s other companies and stuff you’ve seen, I’m sure, both in WordPress and everywhere, where they’re trying to make as fast money as possible because they know that in a year or 18 months, it’s going to be gone, or they’re going to move on.
I knew I wasn’t going anywhere, so I knew that the fact that it could be more of a long-term thing. That’s why we had all those conversations. Furthermore, you all are Genesis.
Sean Jackson: Right. That helps.
Andrew Norcross: Yeah. My product works on Genesis. It was a natural fit for what I was doing because it solved the problem that you had, and you solved the problem that I had, which was marketing channels and reaching a wider audience.
Sean Jackson: I think that kind of gets to it because, much like you, when I had built the technology behind Scribe, I went to Brian Clark. I knew Copyblogger. I was a fan of Copyblogger. I literally met him at a conference, pulled him aside, showed him what I was working on, said, “This would be a perfect fit for your audience.”
I think that story that you shared, that I’ve experienced, that I think is very common — much more common — is probably something that a lot of people who are building products now don’t always think through. The product is maybe the easiest point because you can at least solve it. If there’s a bug, you can fix it. It is those extended partnerships and finding them that may be the inflection point to a product gaining wide success.
But I want to continue on with this. Let me give you my argument against the WordPress plugin ecosystem. Because I’ve got your story down, but WordPress is under GPL, which technically means if I download something, I can tweak the heck out of it and use it for how I see fit. How can anyone make a living in a WordPress plugin GPL system? Seriously, how can anybody make money from doing that?
How to Use License Keys to Make Your Plugin Profitable (If You’re Prepared to Follow Through)
Andrew Norcross: Well, the easy answer is we’re both basically on the clock right now having this conversation, so it works. But the whole idea, like Design Palette has license keys, and they get a year of support and updates.
Sean Jackson: Stop there right for a second. A license key — so what you put into your product was, “I’m going to put some way of identifying that this product belongs to this person. So if this person asks for support, then I know they’ve bought it, and they are entitled to support.” Is that essentially correct?
Andrew Norcross: Correct.
Sean Jackson: Okay, so if they don’t renew or if they don’t have a key, then that means you’re basically not supporting them. Is that the demarcation of value, if you will, from the free open-source to the paid version?
Andrew Norcross: Correct. Yeah, and mind you, it’s still open-source. It’s still GPL. If someone wanted to take it, fork it, whatever, I legally could not stop them. Obviously, I could make them take out any sort of trademarks, branding, things like that. The amount of effort that it would take for me to try to police that is not worth what little payoff there may be. My time is better spent doing other things.
Sean Jackson: I want to go on that because this is a very, very important point. We have seen this repeatedly, which is why I asked you the question. I think when people come out into this space, when they are really thinking about the WordPress ecosystem, what they fundamentally do not understand is that, in the paid market space, it is as much about what the product does as the support that you to provide to it — because there will be times you run into a problem.
You want to know that somebody is there willing to fix those problems, to address those problems, to continue to iterate on the product so that it continues to get better. I often find that in WordPress, people are like, “Why isn’t it free? Why isn’t it free?”
Well, do you want to have these benefits? Because if you don’t, then you’re fine. But if you want to have more features and improvements, and addressing the issues that you’re facing, there is a cost that is associated to it, which factors into the pricing that you put for the product.
Andrew Norcross: Exactly. It’s one of those things where, yeah, there’s always going to be some people where they complain about the price. Or they don’t like that it’s not free. Or they want support and updates lifetime. I understand where they’re coming from — I don’t agree with them — but my feeling on the whole thing has always been I either release it for free or I charge for it.
Personally, we don’t do any freemium products. I know that works for other folks. Some folks have the extension model where the core or whatever it is, is free, but then all the other stuff is paid. Those models work for more ecosystem-type plugins, especially like, again, an e-commerce and things like that.
For me, and it kind of goes back to that thing about the partnership, my face is on the website, and I’m sure that there are some people who buy it because they know who I am, even if I don’t know who they are. There’s a level of trust there.
I have zero problem paying for plugins, themes, or obviously, hosting. I have no problem paying for things if they provide value, if they fulfill a need, and I can look at it and go, “Okay, I’m going to spend X amount on this, but I’m going to save 3X time because I’m not having to build it myself. And I’m not having to do all those things” — so there’s always that trade-off.
I think what some people who get into the product space think that, well, again, once they build it, then they’re done — and that’s when it starts. Building it is pregame, and then the day that it’s live, that’s when it starts because now, yeah, I have to support it. I have to handle tickets. I have people on my team that help me with those. I have to continuously do all the marketing, the updates, adding features, and streamlining things along with keeping up-to-date with WordPress core to make sure that if they change anything that my stuff goes with it, or in your case Genesis as well.
There’s obviously that ongoing work, which I knew that signing up for it. I had built and released enough plugins, and enough of them had gotten popular, to where I had a decent idea as to what the expectation of support would be.
Sean Jackson: Right.
From Filling the Void to Gaining Traction: How to Get Your Plugin Built and Selling
Sean Jackson: Let’s go through this because now you’ve got me excited about building plugins again. I do think there are a lot of digital entrepreneurs out there who are much like I was, who saw a void, if you will, in the ecosystem. This is the other thing. There’s a lot of plugins out there, but not all of which are supported. They make a lot of claims that they cannot fulfill, or if they do try to fulfill them, they don’t do it very well.
I do think that, if anything, in the WordPress plugin ecosystem, there is an active market. Trust me, I’m the actual guy who writes the check that we send to you every month, so I know there’s an active, viable market for WordPress plugins. I want to step back into the role of a digital entrepreneur. I see a void in the market for X. I think the WordPress ecosystem is a place that I want to be a part of because I have, for whatever reason, some experience in it.
If building the product is truly easy, what are the key things that a person like me needs to focus on when thinking about hiring an outside developer? Because I will tell you right now, my first blush, Andrew, is just to go into Upwork and put a thing out there and say, “Hey, I got this idea. I’ll spend $1,000 on it. Will somebody build it for me?”
So really walk through the idea of someone like me coming to someone like you, and really trying to think, “I want this to be a real, viable commercial product.” What are some of the things I should thinking about from the get go? Because, trust me, you’re right. It’s a pregame show for this. The whole game is once it’s built, but let’s get the damn thing built first. Talk to me about that.
Andrew Norcross: Yeah. The first thing is actually trying to figure out if what you think is a void actually exists. I say that because the first paid plugin I ever built did ratings. It would give you little stars, and on the front-end, people could rate whatever they wanted. I sold, I think, maybe 20 copies of it.
At the time, there was like one plugin that was out there that did that, and it was garbage. It as bloated. It was really old. A lot of the architecture was supporting WordPress before custom post types. It was a nightmare to work with. I saw that, and I had to set up something similar on some client’s stuff for them. I go, “Okay, well, if this is the best one that’s out there, I know that I can build something better because I have, and there must be a market for this” — and there was not, at all.
Then I built another small plugin that I literally built in a weekend because Carrie Dils asked how a particular function worked in WordPress. I’m like, “Oh, well let me show you,” and I wrote just some real quick code sitting in my recliner with my laptop. I sent her the thing, and she’s like, “Oh, okay. Well, what about this?” Then it turned into a plugin over the weekend without any intent on doing so. I did zero research, obviously, because I was just answering her question. That one sold a pretty decent amount.
So I saw both sides of it. I saw that, “Okay, I had no idea what the market was, and it worked.” I was convinced of a market that didn’t exist. Because there’s so many plugins out there and most of them are free, not only is it having to solve the problem, but you have to solve it in a way that someone is willing to spend money as opposed to getting 80 percent of their problem solved for free.
Obviously, there’s some amazing free plugins out there, but there’s many out there that do most of what you want to do. It works but it’s not exactly the way that you want, or it’s a little more heavy-handed than you wish it was, things like that — but it’s free. So people will still be like, “Well, I’m willing to deal with this inconvenience because I don’t have to spend any money on it,” as opposed to spending money and then, “Am I getting what I want? Am I getting what I expect to do?”
As you alluded to, there’s some out there that make claims that nobody could ever back up. I notice that more on the theme side than on the plugin side, but it’s obviously moved over as well. I think a lot of plugin developers get into the mindset of trying to solve every problem that their product possibly can, and that has never worked for me.
One of my most popular plugins, I have a huge refactor that I’m afraid to release because I don’t want to break 50,000 sites. So the idea that you can just walk into the space and be like, “Hey, here’s a new thing,” it’s not going to get a lot of traction.
The other thing is, when people who are not part of the WordPress community come in immediately with a commercial product, having never done anything with anybody, there’s a lot of skepticism. And it’s warranted because there’s people that, “Oh, I can make a quick buck off the WordPress space. I’m going to do that.” Those often don’t work either because there’s no community. Nobody knows who they are. It’s like, “Yeah, are you going to be here in six months? Are you going to be here in a year when I have a problem with this or when WordPress updates something?”
It’s not like you make a product, put it in a store, then the store sells it, you get your money, and that’s that. Software’s a living thing, so it’s making that deeper commitment to maintain the product, work with it, work through all the bugs, edge cases, and people that were like, “This Jeep would be really awesome if it would float and then go 100 miles an hour.”
Sean Jackson: It’s funny because what you said there, I think there’s a lot of wisdom, and I’m going to kind of sum it up because we’re getting to the end of our time together. But you said something right off the bat that I think if you are looking in the WordPress space, you have to have some appreciation for it to begin with because there are known players in there.
You mentioned Carrie Dils. She’s a known player in there. You’re a known player in there. There’s a lot of people who are known personalities with proven personalities, proven developers that already are well-respected. I think that’s the first step that any digital entrepreneur really needs to think about once they start looking at it and saying, “You know, I do think there’s something here,” and talking to someone like you. Talking to someone who is known in the space so that they can bounce these ideas off.
I would definitely think, in your particular case, if I came to you with some crazy solution — let’s say I want to do a new SEO plugin. I saw a Yoast’s plugin, but I want to do something a lot better. You’ve been in this space long enough, you’re like, “Well, what do you really want to do?” I think part of that initial side from the digital entrepreneur is talking to someone who knows this space, who develops in this space, who is known as a professional developer in this space, and really using that as the first filter point.
I don’t think you’re going to waste your time with somebody crazy unless they’re going to write you a giant check, but even then you may say no because they’re an idiot, right?
The other aspect that you said, too, is that by working with known commodities in the space, then they will probably be around. Their reputation is going to extend far beyond the work that they just do for you. That’s also important.
I will say that when we built Scribe, I had someone who actually came from a computer science degree. He was not as well-known in the WordPress space, but he was making a living in the WordPress space. In fact, he was going after ‘WordPress developer’ was his primary keywords that he was targeting. I knew that he was going to have to be around because that’s where his career path was leaning towards.
I definitely think that right there is probably something that our audience, as digital entrepreneurs, if they’re thinking about this, is to spend time not only researching the void, but researching the people who are filling the voids as they are there and talking to people that are known and reputable.
Andrew Norcross: To be able to market anything, free or paid, there’s got to be some trust and some credibility there, and that has to be earned. Whether it’s earned on your own by ‘getting in the trenches’ and doing the work there, or if it’s co-opting with somebody else who already has that standing and is willing to put their name on you. Without that, I think it’s just dead in the water. You might sell 20, you might sell 50, but it’s going to be discouraging.
Sean Jackson: Yeah, and to end up this interview, I think you’ve said it best — building the product is really just the pregame. It’s the practice. It’s getting ready for the real game. Once that thing is built, there are a whole host of other issues that make coming up with the product seem so easy in retrospect.
Hey, Andrew Norcross, thank you so much for being on our show today and for your insight and wisdom to share. I can’t thank you enough.
Andrew Norcross: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Sean Jackson: Hey, everyone, this is Sean Jackson, the host of The Digital Entrepreneur. I want to ask you a simple question. What is your business framework for selling digital goods online? Now, if the question perplexes you, don’t worry — you are not alone. Most people don’t realize that the most successful digital entrepreneurs have a framework or a general process for creating and selling their digital goods in the online space.
One of the best free resources is Digital Commerce Academy. Digital Commerce Academy combines online learning with case studies and webinars created by people who make a living selling digital goods online. The best part is that this material is free when you register. Are you interested in joining? Well, I’ll make it easy for you. If you’re listening to this show on your phone and are in the continental United States, I want you to send a text message to 313131 with the keyword ‘DIGITS.’ When you send that text message, we will send you a link to the registration form right to your phone.
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Question for the Week: Does SEO Still Matter?
Sean Jackson: We’re back from the break, everyone. Jessica, what is the question for next week we are going to talk about?
Jessica Frick: Okay, this one’s going to have people lining up with pitchforks. Sean, does SEO still matter?
Sean Jackson: Okay. You do know my history, right?
Jessica Frick: I know, but I want to know what you think.
Sean Jackson: You do know that I actually am a patent holder on some SEO-esque type of things, right? I’m going to answer that with an affirmative response. What would you say?
Jessica Frick: I would say sometimes, not always.
Sean Jackson: Oh wow. Can you be any more non-committal?
Jessica Frick: I would say it doesn’t always matter.
Sean Jackson: Well, we will have a very interesting back and forth on that particular response on the next episode of The Digital Entrepreneur. Have a great week, everyone.
Jessica Frick: Have a great week.