Episode 410 Life as a WordPress Developer With Derek Ashauer

Show Summary

Rob Cairns talks to Derek Ashauer about life as a web developer.

  1. The WordPress Community.
  2. Discussing Product Needs.
  3. Balance Between life and work.

Show Notes

Hey everybody, Rob here again. And today I’m here with my guest, Derek Ashauer. How are you today, Derek?

I’m doing well. Thanks for asking.

And thanks for joining me today. It’s always great to have conversation with people in the community. We have a a vast and a growing community which is amazing, right?

Absolutely. I’ve been enjoying being more involved in it and going to my first word camp this this year in 2023 and meeting some wonderful people in. Nice.

Which one did you go to? The DC-1. So we’re camp US. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s like one of the flight ship ones. So that must have been.

Really fun. Yeah. It was a great time. I was hesitant at first, but but was actually found it pretty easy to to dive in and talk with people and meet some great people. So it was a great weekend.

I didn’t get to any major word camps to share. Toronto didn’t have one. Closest ones were Buffalo and Rochester, and my weekends have been accounted for like from here to eternity. So and DC just wasn’t we were away that week, so it wasn’t quite fitting into the plan. So next year’s another year so. Glad you got to one. I like to start with a a fun story and I’m gonna put you on the spot and ask you what your WordPress origin story is and how did you find WordPress and how did you get into it?

Well, as I’ve been joking with my wife, I blame my now COVID brain. Or it’s my age. I’m not sure, but it’s actually been so long that I can’t. I don’t really know the exact details of it. I think if you look at my WordPress at our profile, I think it’s 17 years ago.


I think it was 15 or 17 years ago, so it’s hard to say, but I mean it was, you know it was a time when I was making static HTML websites and I had made. A little a little thing called ASH News. It was a way to do like to add a news thing like a A blog. Basically. For my clients it was all static files though. So something really simple they could log in, create something, it would create a static file for each post and all this kind of stuff. And then I think just in doing research. For that, or trying, you know, trying to build, I think I stumbled across. I was like, oh, well, I don’t need to reinvent this wheel. Let me just start using WordPress. So it was, you know, quite a long time ago. So I think it’s probably early 2 point something. I think is probably some of the the versions that I remember, so somewhere along those range, but it was mostly to kind of solve a problem for clients at the time, because that’s my entire focus was making sense for clients then.

Isn’t it amazing how many of us stumble on the WordPress to solve a problem we’ve got? Like in my case, it was, you know, it’s funny. It was I I’m like the tech source of my family. I’m also the photo guy in my family, a family. Events and it was an easy way to take pictures and put them up on the web. Instead of writing HTML code to do it. And saying here guys go get your pictures cause I’m not sending them to you.

Anymore. Just.

More it’s yeah, not happening. And that’s, you know, it’s always us trying to solve the problem that we’ve got, that usually propels us into this black hole that turns into a business. Right.

Absolutely. I mean, and that’s exactly that’s a great segue into doing like products because that’s what all my products that I’ve made thus far were a direct result of a client or just myself as a developer being like I wish. This was available or I you know searching. I can’t find this. There’s nothing out there that’s great. Or work. Sorry. I want. So then I was like, well, I can just make it. And that’s kind of how I. Eventually got into starting to make products.

So let’s let’s jump right into that space. So you decided a long time ago to get out of the. The. Freelance build that that hamster wheel and get in the product. So why did you make that move and kind of what are you working on?

Right now, right. So my my journey has been actually a long time coming. It it wasn’t it? I haven’t fully got into products until I would say this year and I’m even not a 100%. Yet about 10 or about 11 coming up on about 11 years ago I started, it was for my now ex-wife, but she was a photographer and at the time there was really only one installable solution or one real solution that any photographer could use. Gina, do a family or waiting session put those photos on a website and sell them and do online sales. There’s about 11 decent one, and the time I think it was like $500 and for her just getting started, that was a massive investment to do something like that. And the age-old thing I was like, I’ll get. That to you in six weeks. I can do something like that. Pretty simple and I you know it’s doing WordPress at the time and it’s like I think you know WordPress solves a lot of the problems for me. Let me build on WordPress. I can get something probably working. Pretty. Quickly, in about six weeks. And then of course six months later, I kind of had a a decent, you know, fully fledged working system. And put that out there. I mostly was solving the problem for her at the time and kind of using her as guidance of what it should do, what it shouldn’t do. You know, all that kind of good stuff. And then I was just like, well, I could put this out there, and if I made 500 bucks a month, you know, on this, let me sell it for, you know, how, you know, trying to figure how much to sell it for. I I originally started selling it really high. And because I only wanted to get a couple of people at a time. I’ve never done a product. I’ve never had anything out there, so I priced it pretty high, especially for the time it’s even. It was even compared to now it’s it would be, I think, kind of a high price. But, but that was what I did and it started making about 500 bucks. You know, I got to 1000 pretty quick within a few months and then making a couple of 1000 from it and all of a sudden it was just like, oh, maybe I get to 1000, maybe I get to 2000, maybe I get to 3000, you know, you know, my original goal blew out. The was blowing out the window. Or plant all the way. And it got me kind of excited about that idea. The downside was that I was still mostly doing client work, and while it was growing and doing some stuff, I never really did need marketing. That wasn’t my Forte when I was doing client stuff, it was custom design and building websites, but I wasn’t doing much marketing work for clients. And so it was just constantly having to do new projects, new builds, new, all that kind of stuff. So and that was making, I was making great money doing that. You know, it’s probably. 80% of my income, even 90% of the time, maybe was client work, 10% was the product. But to really maintain it and build it, it was going to need a lot more time. So eventually did kind of stagnate. I got to a level and then it just kind of hung out there and and kind of sat there went through some personal stuff. As I mentioned, she was my ex-wife. So, you know, personal challenges and other things, so balancing all different types of things, what a client work, what client work needs and what a product needs are. Two separate things, and you know some different skill sets in regards and then they also need both a lot of time. You know there’s not too much marketing overlap between the two.


And how do you and how do you balance that time between the two and and then deal with your personal life, which is another story. I mean, I made a decision long time ago.

And how do you balance it? Exactly.

That I don’t like to do new builds. That said, I’m working on a massive e-commerce build right now for a client who’s actually one of my best friends, so that’s kind of an exception. To the rule. And I’d rather I didn’t dive right into products I actually dove into the security side of WordPress, right? So I have over 400 clients. Retainers and all I do for them is back up security and lock down their sites and hopes that’s it. So I I kind of it’s kind of somewhere in between cause it’s not really freelance work, but it’s not really product work if you get what I’m saying, it’s in that middle ground.

Yes. It’s almost like what I guess some term would term a productized service.


Yeah, basically somewhere. Else, but it’s interesting you mentioned the personal challenges, I want to guide in there from and if. I can is.

Yeah, absolutely.

It the hardest part of working for yourself? The mental health side sometimes, and I’ve been in that journey so and I’ve talked about it very open on this podcast. I went through a bad relationship for 10 years. I went through a divorce in the last three. Years I finally have a partner in my life was absolutely lovely. I’ll. I’ll say that very much. So thank you guys for that. But the mental health side is a problem in our space, wouldn’t you agree?

Yeah, I mean, my challenge is I think there’s some people that will struggle with the isolation and being on their own and stuff like that. I have a personality where I love that my wife you can see behind me, that’s her desk. So we work in the same office and we’ll come together at the end of the day and it’ll be like she’ll be like, So what did you do? And I like, like we were in complete. We might as well. Been in completely different buildings in a different city because my my world is literally this little 3 foot space around me when I’m working I don’t hear or see much of anything else.

That’s awesome. That’s awesome.

And I’m OK with that. You know, I I often joke you could stick me in a basement in the dark for 10 hours and I would be perfectly just as happy as if I was sitting in a bright room. And, you know, having people around, that’s just. Than I am, but I think the the bigger challenge is balance the balance of how much time to spend on your business versus time spending with those people that you do care about. I would say in the past I you know I was a single sole provider in previous relationships and that. I. Came with a lot of weight. It was really hard to, you know, to do that. It was. I gotta keep making money every month. I gotta do this, you know? And so when I woke up, my first thought wasn’t, hey, how are you doing? It’s how’s my business doing? And. Mistakes that I learned because that financial aspect was a scary thing, being the only one for, you know, for my wife and two kids in a house, in the car and all that stuff. I just it. I just let myself get to a point where I was, you know. You know, a lot of lot of maybe could have, should have maybe could have done things differently. But and and learn from that and grow from that at this point.

Yeah. It’s so it’s so true and.


It’s that hamster wheel, right? It’s like, yeah, I gotta work. I gotta provide. I’m worried about where the next job comes from. It’s one of the problem freelancers have. It’s the old feast or famine. Because we all know freelancers are great designers and developers. They’re not good marketers, and they don’t market themselves well.


I’m I’m I think I’m a little bit of an exception to that. I run an agency and I spend half my time marketing for clients instead on the WordPress side so that I discovered really all and that I needed to learn how to market stuff I was doing. So that’s why I went there and it puts me in a bit of a different wheelhouse, but it also means. I’m not chasing that hamster wheel off, worrying about next week where things are going to come from because I, I mean, I’ve got 400 security clients and they can’t, so I don’t. I don’t worry that way. The way a lot of people do.

Yeah, I think you know some of my mistakes looking back and when I was in the client freelance space and really focused on that was I did great work and I’m proud of proud of the work that I did. I did great designs, great builds and really happy. With the stuff that he did for clients. But that’s what I really knew. And so I kept doing it and then clients would refer me and I, you know, there was not much selling that I needed to do. There wasn’t, I didn’t know marketing real, you know, not next to no purposeful marketing. I woke up one day literally and was ranking number one for San Diego web design back in 2007. Let’s put some context. That that time SEO was very different than it is now.

Oh yeah.

Because of some free PHPBB themes that I had done five years earlier and had like 10,000 back links to my website because I was on all these forums and my free themes, you know when I was in college working and doing random stuff, you know, I’ve made some free things, teach myself, built all these back links and then suddenly kicked in and I ranked #1. I went from doing, you know, working at A at another company and then two months later after that working for myself, I didn’t purposefully choose to start a full freelance or agency business. I never really. Had to learn how to do marketing it just accidentally happened and I I’m I’m proud I’m, you know, incredibly thankful and appreciative of the luck that I got I mean quote UN quote luck I did the work I you know did some stuff put it out there for free. And. You know, kind of stuff, but. But I never learned marketing. It just kind of happened, you know, for me. And then those clients then referring each other and it went great for like 12-13, fourteen years or so. It definitely declined over the last five years or. So for me and I and but one of the things was because of that because it came so quick. I always had in the back of my mind it could disappear just as quickly. My, my model at the time was I wanted to diversify when I was doing client work, I wanted to diversify by having a product. That’s why I was open to starting Sunshine Photo cart. The line. Which is the the plugin that I made for her, the photography plugin and then my other idea was what I guess now you would call like a niche site. I wanted to do like a little e-commerce site. Those are my kind of Holy Trinity of things to diversify was how was my idea to kind of to. To to be more can’t think of the term right now, but to be a little bit more robust to to, you know if the client work disappeared. I still have these two other things and so on and so forth. I never really considered marketing as the way to prevent that from happening or as or or things that I’ve learned over the years of having.

That’s it.

You know in the product space, we’ve learned or even in the service space of having. Recurring income, such as you know, a maintenance or management plan and things like that. It didn’t dawn on me to do those things to build up a more long term easier business to manage you know, so those are some of the mistakes I definitely made and you know I had.


A couple 100 clients over those years and I don’t have a single one on them. I guess on what you would call a traditional maintenance plan. I got them on hold. Testing but I didn’t do a maintenance plan it it never made sense to me. I have all kinds of opinions on maintenance plans. That’s not really tough. We’re going in here today, but you know, so you know, I do have some recurring income on on the hosting side, but not on the, you know, recurring service side and.


And just for me, honestly, after doing it for you know, I got into, you know, I worked for a company right out of. College in 2003. So it’s now 2023. It’s been 20 years of doing websites for other people and I just am ready to do have a different challenge. Just you know, we all we all know what comes with you know doing client work and it’s just I’m just exhausted on it have some.

  1. I understand, I understand that.

Have some great clients and enjoy them and still work with them. You know, doing some stuff here and there. But yeah, doing the custom builds doing all that kind of stuff, I’m ready to build my own thing in my own world and work on one thing as opposed to having to switch between 20 different websites over the course. Of a week. I only have to deal with one or two different websites now that are my own, so it’s. It’s a lot nicer in that regard.

Not so much. I wouldn’t call those mistakes, Derek. I’d call those learning opportunities. Those, yes, learning. You. And. No, no, not to be negative I I mean. I think you’ve.

I mean, yes.

Learned from things you’ve done in the past and what you like. And it sounds like you got a good handle on what works and what doesn’t work, so I I consider those opportunities that’s first thing in terms of you said you like challenges. So I’ll throw something out there. I’m a big fan of a hockey player by name of Ken Dryden. For those who don’t know, he was a legendary hockey player who won five Stanley Cups Of Montreal, four in a row. That’s an All Star. Or a Hall of Famer. But Ken Dragon was never built on playing hockey. He was built on challenge. He was a lawyer. He was a hockey player. He was a cabinet minister in federal cabinet in Canada and the federal government. He teaches. He’s in his 70s now. He teaches Poly, said Miguel. And he’s an author. How’s that and. By the way, President of Tron, Maple is in the middle of all that mess. So how’s that for challenge? I mean, there’s a man who’s not driven by money. He’s driven by challenge in the world. And I, I see I hear some of that in you. It’s not just about the money. The money will come. It’s about that challenge to keep you go.

Yeah, I mean, you know, I see you’re saying for me, honestly, I think it’s more of I’m not afraid of challenges. I’m not afraid to dive into some things. I’m willing to try. And the marketing thing is a whole other beast. You know, I’m still on the edge and and trying it, but I’m willing to take a shot and do that. And and I’ve enjoyed getting into it. The more I do so as I build some momentum on it and put a couple of days in a row where I focus on marketing. Actually. Fine. Yeah, OK. This feels good. I like this. This is enjoyable. Yeah, I would say what? For me having had certain things happen in my life. I am more focused on building a life and a work life as well. That is around doing something that I enjoy and and finding that because of my experience of you know what that felt like to wake up every day and be terrified and fearful of, you know that. Maybe all this money could go away. The end. You know, you get to a point where you’re making a decent amount, but I would rather build a lifestyle because I don’t like living in fear every day and being nervous and scared. It’s not a fun way to live. And even if I was making millions of dollars, I think I still would have had that fear regardless. And so being more purposeful of. You know, waking up every day and being excited for what I’m working on is what kind of is my compass of which direction I should go. And why I kind of I kind of woke up and realized that when every day and I get an e-mail from a client and great client, great person, but I see it and I just go.

I would.

You know, have that kind of reaction that tell that gives me the clear sign of where I’m at in my life. And just being like, that’s clearly not something I want to be doing where when I wake up and you know, like before this call, I go. Got an e-mail from a customer and it was I maybe misunderstood their request a little bit of what they were asking. They’re asking for a certain feature and they replied with all all caps being. Why did you read my e-mail? Why did you not understand what I was asking and that just even that type of e-mail is just like, yeah, that’s my whatever. You know, but a client requests. Hey, I’m interested in doing some SEO. Can you give me some information? I just go. A very simple question.

Kind of.

Makes me kind of drop my head and a challenging kind of maybe aggravating e-mail doesn’t bother me. Kind of tells him I’m I’m more in the right space, that I’m perfectly fine and cuz I’m happier. I’m appreciating what I’m waking up every day. I have no problem. You know, I wake up and love answering my support tickets and then diving into some marketing, doing some. Coding and so I’m much more purposeful about that, about what I’m doing because it then allows me when I’m done, to then be happy. And to be present with my kids, to be present, with my, with my wife now and and and just be cool. This is great. I I I love it. I’m not worried about anything. At the end of the day.

Now I would agree it’s a good place to be before we jump into the product space because we’re going there. I have to ask it. Have you ever fired the client?

Oh yeah, absolutely good. Those are great days.

I started. I started this morning off by telling a client that wasn’t renewing their support contract, and here’s a list of reasons why, and they had two months to get their site off my server.

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’ve had once where it’s been, there’s no problems. There’s no friction. It was just clear that. They had outgrown the direction and what I wanted to do. I’m not a big. Ohh yeah, we need a new landing page for this. Yeah, whatever. You know, and those types of things don’t excite me in any way. And so I was just like, you know what? Let me find you a better person. So firing wasn’t maybe it’s. Not the most accurate.


Term in that regard, it was just let me find you a better person who can really take you to the next level where you want to go. But I’ve definitely had some where, you know, they I got it clearly wasn’t the right fit. For personality wise other things, and they accidentally you know, they instead of they hit reply and then added a person to the conversation and then had some complaints and being like Derek’s not doing exactly what I say. And all this kind of stuff I’m not sure. And I was just like you know what? I don’t think this message was intended for me. Sounds like you’re not happy. Let’s just part ways in the middle of the project and they’re like, wait, no, I’m like, no, I’m sorry. I’m done. I’m. This is clearly not the thing. Yeah. Yeah. But yeah, there’s just times when you kind of have to let go of that. That one client that’s taking that’s causing 80% of your stress, and I’ve had a few of those where you just kind of realize that over the years you kind of learn to just kind of be like, no, I know where this is going. I see the telltale signs. And I’ve and I’ve not hired clients as a result of that. You know, I pre fired them because they were ready to sign a contract, you know, five, $10,000 project. They were ready to go. They were like send me the agreement. And I was just like, no, I’m not. I I I I’ve seen this. I know where this is going to go. I know how this is going to. Affect me and I know that this isn’t worth the money, but that goes towards being in a space where I don’t. I’m not desperate for that money. I don’t need that money at that moment. So I understand that there’s a lot of people that may not be in that space and it takes quite a few years. Like I said, I’ve been doing client work for, you know, I’ve been self-employed.

You’re correct.

Since 2007, I’ve been doing it since 2003. I’ve had a lot of time to get to the point where I can let go of those clients a little easier than when I could have at that.

Time. Yeah. Yeah, it’s not worth the mental health space or the aggravation. So let’s jump into product spaces, because that’s kind of where you’ve taken your direction. You’ve made that choice, which isn’t a bad choice. A lot of people I know have gone that way. What are you working on now? And what products have you built?

Yeah. So my first and my, you know, my flagship product is called Sunshine Photo Card. It’s the first one that I made a while back. It is a comprehensive e-commerce plugin for WordPress, but specifically for photographers. So it’s not something that integrates with WooCommerce, it’s its own. This system, one of the reasons why that is, is because I started it 11 years ago it WooCommerce wasn’t even really a thing. It didn’t even exist at the time I actually built it based off Jigo shop, which was the primary e-commerce plug it in WordPress. I actually I, you know, cloned or copied jiggle shop and then started from there, you know, pulled some things out.

Ohh wow you like?

Added some things and there’s there was even some code from actual jigo shop in my plugin as of a few months ago. I did a complete rewrite for Sunshine Folkart 3 which came out early September, so that was. A complete rewrite from scratch because again, it was had 10 year old code in there so it was time. To. Update it, but that’s my primary thing. So photographers just have a little bit of a more unique workflow. We’re trying to add it on to WooCommerce. Isn’t the ideal workflow, it’s something I’ve considered, but yeah, but that’s my that’s my main flagship product and being in there my other plugins are some other things because that’s such a massive plug in. It’s an entire e-commerce ecosystem that I code and support and market. All on my own. It’s a lot. It’s a huge code base and all this kind of stuff, so I kind of went in the opposite direction with some other ones that I’ve done and and kind of took from client work. There was one of my plugins is a confetti plugin which was for a client site. They really they were just trying to stand out, be a little bit unique I’d run across. This seeing some confetti on some other site. While I was working on that, I think I purchased something from another retailer, online retailer and this little confetti thing explode. I’m like, oh, that would be fun to do it on that client project. So I built something so I can make. So I made that work on their on their WooCommerce site, a little confetti thing would pop up whenever someone would they can order. I was like, that’s kind of fun. And I was like, well, you know what, I think within a couple of days I could turn this into a just plug in. And yeah, I did. Only took a little bit of time. So I turned that into a a plug-in, integrates with a whole bunch of form plugins, LMMS plugins, e-commerce plugin. You know, so that you can just have this fun little confetti effect after any kind of conversion that you have on your site. Just kind of help separate things and then interesting enough from that exact same product. They had some custom stuff that they needed and made. To do addresses they needed. They’re creating contacts on their site and they wanted it to to do like an address auto complete, but because mine was a custom thing. There wasn’t just a WooCommerce plugin that I could just address auto complete that I could do. I had to do my own and then I realized well, I could build this in a way so that it could. You could add address auto complete to anything. And so that’s literally what the name is. Address autocomplete. Anything with, you know, a pretty simple. Configuration. It does does some does some automatic integrations with WooCommerce as well and some you know there are other form plugins and things like that. So there’s some automatic integrations, but you could do it to anything within the WordPress space that has a form or anything that you need for your project just kind of helps speed it up. So those are my three paid plugins that I have. And then I have. Some you know. Future ideas that I’m throwing around and and looking to do as I continue to grow, but you know nothing as big as a tire e-commerce platform cuz that’s a pretty big one. But just kind of finding the balance in some smaller ones. So those are kind of my ideas at the moment.

Running a plug in shoppers hard work. One of my good friends is Mark Westgard. You might know Mark. He’s. So he’s the founder.

No, I’m. I talk. Yep. I talk and chat with him and hung out with him at word camp. You hustle quite a bit, actually.

He’s such a lovable guy and he’s developed as far as I’m concerned, the best form plug in in the. It’s so easy to use. I’m. Actually taking this plug in right now and implementing cloud flare turnstile on the website as we speak because it has spam problems that say the least. But yeah, Mark’s a good friend so you know and and he’ll talk about the same challenges of building a successful plug-in and very much similar and.


It’s hard work in the photo, your flight ship plug in. How many page users would you have? Can you share or?

Would you rather not? Yeah, I don’t mind. I have. I think there’s, you know, we can only estimate, but I think I have about 1800 using the free plugin because it’s. A. Freemium model and then I have over 400 using my pro version of mine which so it’s a freemium model like we’re commerce and that has a bunch of add-ons. The Pro bundle being you get all the add-ons, so there’s about 400 doing that. I would say about 5 to 7% by individual add-ons from that one. But I price it in a way to have it be like it makes sense to just get the whole thing.

That’s all.

So. So yeah, so I have about about 400 going on there. Yeah, it’s.

Have you stayed away from lifetime pricing? Have you said I’m not going down that road or is that something you’ve considered?

Yes. Yeah. So early September, I launched Sunshine Photo CART 3, which again was the whole recode from scratch. And I did introduce some lifetime there just to try it. I kind of was curious to see how it is. You know there’s a lot, you know, there’s all kinds of models and methods and things that can work. What does work? What doesn’t work for you? And you know, and I think there’s a lot. Of there’s no one way to to say this works, and every WordPress plugin should do this, I just don’t. I simply don’t think that’s true. I think every every one works in their own space, whether it’s, you know, give WP doing nonprofits or paid membership, pros doing memberships and things like that. Or lift. Unless doing, you know doing LS’s those type of people come at it from a certain. Angle and certain space and So what works for one market, that model isn’t going to work in my opinion, isn’t going to work for the other. So it’s great to hear what everyone’s saying. I love listening to, you know, the WP product talk podcast as well to get some great ideas. I think that’s a great one. I get all kinds of ideas. Listening to that one, they do a great job and it’s great as a place to learn and experiment. With and see what can work for you specifically. So I’m trying lifetime licenses. You know, I look at how long my average customer uses it. You know, for example, what I look at is of photographers, I get the photography space gets a lot of people who want to, you know, who want to become a photographer and want to do it. Professionally, maybe they are doing it on the side. Maybe they’re a stay at home parent or it’s kind of a side thing. They get a nice camera, they wanna turn it into a business. It’s a it’s a very common path for someone to start doing. You know, family portraits, they do it for their church, all kind of stuff. It’s story I heard over and over and over again from my ex-wife. That’s, you know, and her friend and other people that she knew in the industry and all kind of stuff is a very common thing. But it’s it’s because it’s a hobbyist. Oftentimes it’s a hobby model for, I wouldn’t say, every photographer that does it not. All my customers are that model, but it’s a very common. Math. It’s low profit margins. They’re just getting started. They’re doing things. And so for that type of thing, a freemium model is a great way to get in. You get them in there, help them make some money, and then really advertise to them within the plugin itself and get them to upgrade. I’ve seen a lot of great success in.

Yes, you’re not something.

That you know, in that path of getting them in there because, yeah, the photography space in general. Well, I’ve talked to some of my customers. It’s not a high profit margin industry. There’s you’re not gonna find very many millionaires that are doing wedding portraits or, you know, family portraits. They’re may, they can make good money. They’re, you know, they can feed their family, have a house, have a car and do all that kind of stuff. But it’s not an industry where you’re going to have someone making half $1,000,000 a year. Very often so.

And it’s a home. It’s a home. It’s a harder beach.

As though they’re very yeah, they’re very, very cost conscious group, you know. So it’s that, you know, they want to find.


Find efficiencies so they’ll, you know, have some people say don’t use coupons. It cheapens your it cheapens your brand. It sets the precedent. But when 75% of your audience is very cost conscious and they’re running and their and their business is working on slim margins, they have to be conscientious of where they can save money. I would say my experience, I I kind of did a race to.

How do you know?

The. Bottom and kind of. You know, was racing my competitors to the bottom and meet those slim margins and meet on. Volumes, but as a one man, one man business. I can’t. I can’t compete on volume. It’s something that I’ve learned. That’s not where. Where I can find success. I don’t. But the great thing is about me being by myself. I don’t need 5000 customers. I only need. I have 400. Now. If I had about 600. I would be I I would pay my bills. I would be able to live comfortably on that. I’m not quite there. I I don’t have too much further to go to be 100% self-sufficient off of just this product. But I only need 600 because I can price it in a if I price it in a way where I’m getting limited stuff where I’m getting limited support or I having to offer limited support. Sorry, a limited amount of support, not the quality of my support because I only have so many customers, I can still manage that myself and I don’t need to pay for support reps I don’t need to pay a customer liaison. I don’t need to do that. Maybe I’ll get there and want to do that, but I don’t need to at the moment. Working for myself and that’s what I like. I’m. I’m personally I know myself. I probably wouldn’t make a great manager of people. That’s not my Forte. To inspire people to be a leader. Hey, let’s do this and that kind of stuff. That’s that’s. Not my strong suit. And as results, I know that hiring 1015 people is not going to be something that I’m going to be successful with. I want to just kind of keep it small and do my own thing and if I price it high I can get a certain type of customer who understands the value of my product. Sunshine photo cart what? What unique aspect it brings compared to most of my competitors are SAS. I was reviewing that they’re charging $1015.00 a month and and and includes 100. You know 100 gigabytes of file storage and all this kind of stuff.

How they’re expensive.

And I’m just like. They’re making, you know, they’re probably making a dollar a month. On each one of those people you know and and so they need 10,000 customers to make money on that where I’d rather have 506 hundred and do it this way. So you know, there’s not one way to be successful for every single person in this.


In this area and you also have to think of what is your definition of success. For me, it’s finding a lifestyle as well, and that mental health stuff that we talked about. I know I will not be happy if I’m managing a team of five or ten people just like I know I’m not happy anymore doing client work anymore. So.


You know that that may change in five years from now for me, I may finally get burned out on this in 5-7 years from now, I don’t know. But for me, at this moment, that’s what I’m happy doing and I’m going in the direct. Mentioned that both makes me money but also gives me a lifestyle to go sit in my hot tub at 10:00 in the morning just cuz I feel like it. You know, that sounds like a great time for me. I want to go do that right now for the next hour. That’s that’s what I care about. And do that kind of stuff so.

I agree one of my best friends, the one I was telling you, I’m building a a large e-commerce built for. He was originally a professional. Actually was one of the inside photographers for the 12 Blue Jays baseball club back in the 90s when they won two World Series. He was there and then he got out of that because. The money issue for photographers is very hard. We all know and he got. His dad was in the jewelry business and he got into the jewelry business. He’s been in the jewelry business for 30 years. He’s that certified gemologist and he’s run a successful jewelry business. But it’s because photography is so hard to make a dime. And it’s gotten worse because we all now have good cameras in our pockets, so. Back in the day, if you wanted a family portrait, you were running into Sears or Kmart or Walmart and to their photo studio and saying, hey, do a photo shoot. Well, guess what? We do our own photo shoots. Now. And that has changed it dramatically. I’ve even seen some weddings. Where the host basically set up a photo button, say, upload all your photos here please and go have fun and they don’t even bring a photographer into the wedding. Anymore. It’s gotten that back and you know some do. But I’ve seen many that happen and it’s like. If you’re in that space, and if you’re a journalist, a lot of journalists also shoot their own pictures. Now they they don’t send out a separate photographer, they do the story, the pictures. That’s a little different because you’ve got a secure job, but even the media market is dropping off because of the. Changes going on in. The world so. Yeah. That’s one business I would consider really hard to be in. Frankly, it would. It’s just so.



Absolutely. And it’s it’s one of the challenges that I face is that I’m not actually a photographer. I mean, I built it alongside of someone who was a photographer and that was the, you know, plan and obviously that didn’t work out. And so now where I’m at, that’s one of my biggest challenges is truly understanding. Where my customers are at and you know, I think about a month or so ago I did set up and scheduled about 14 or 15. Zoom calls where I just met with my actual customers and did that. That was one way to try and help overcome that, to learn where they’re at, why, you know what, what’s going on with them and things like that and I’ll it. It was a great thing. It’s something I plan on doing, but because I am not a photographer and talking with other photographers just within my day-to-day type. You know, friends and family, you know, type space. I have to make a purposeful effort to go reach out and talk to them, to make sure I keep up to, you know, up to date on it and the pulse of it and what’s going. And on and I mean it’s what any industry or any person who has a product needs to do regardless. But when you’re solving a problem. That you have. It’s a lot easier because you just know what the what the pain points are and how to solve them cause you are your you could be your own customer. And so that’s one of my challenges I’m facing with this product at the moment.

Yeah. So with your products, what are you using on the back end to manage using like Freenas or digital downloads or something else to manage your licensing? Or what would?

Yeah, I’ve been using easy digital downloads. I’m still, you know, a little bit of the old school type thing. I want to have a little bit more control over last little thing, how the checkout page appears and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, so I’m using that. I’ll give. Let’s see. Yeah. I’m using EDED to do all the licensing and the recurring.


Billing and all this kind of stuff. I’m. I’m pretty happy with it overall it’s it’s worked. It’s worked a lot of people.

Go one way or the. Other way, yeah.

Yeah, I mean, I’m. Yeah, I’m pretty happy with it, so.

Would you using to manage customer support or are you?

Yeah, so I have help scouts that integrates pretty well. So there’s, you know, some Ed stuff that helps you know, tie those two together helps scouts is. Yeah, it’s been pretty simple, pretty straightforward for there as well. Well, and then I just also just I think last week just switched to to Groundhog for my CRM and e-mail marketing. Yeah, AJ was awesome. Yeah, he was great. He helps.

Awesome Adrian, Adrian told this one old friend. I I.

Yeah, he helped me migrate over and so I’ll be, you know, as funny as I just, you know, it was during Black Friday was kind of on, you know, we just had got done with Black Friday stuff. And I wasn’t really buying anything really thinking of doing anything and then. I was like, well, you know, I kind of, you know, I was doing my own Black Friday emails and was, you know, and then got the notification from MailChimp. Guess what, next month your things going up again and I’m. Like God Dang it. You get that e-mail every few months that your rates going up. And then as I’m sending out those emails, I’m like, oh, maybe I should do that. And I saw. Something on Twitter and. Like, well, let me check it out. And I think he reached out to me and we chatted a little bit like, you know what? Alright, let me dive in. Let’s do this and then, you know, so now you know it’ll be. I don’t know. I’m. I’m. I’m only like, a week into it and I’m already really happy with it. So just save saving money and and I feel more comfortable knowing that it’s directly on my site because then it can directly ping and pull the customers and all that kind of stuff. So Adrian, I’m hoping to get a free renewal out of this or something with all this promo, but but no, I’m kidding. Done. But but yeah, so far I feel a lot more confident of using it going forward. So it actually inspired me. Now I’m like where else can I be, you know, bringing this on and having a little bit more control and where can I be saving some money? You know, like, you know, talking with Grid Payne about my client hosting to, to go through there and reduce that. Where can I where can I reduce a lot of my costs? I’m ditching base camp for my clients cuz I’m not doing clients anymore. So I’m actually going through this little. I need to purge all. My subscriptions right now.

Good for. Good for you. Now I’ll start with an Adrian story. You might not have. Heard Adrian worked for his parents digital marketing agency, where you might might not know, called trading business pros. So his father Paul, is a dear friend of mine and a mentor for me in this space for many, many years. And his mom, Nancy, they were the.


Partners Nancy was the CEO of the Chief Operating officer of the. And when Adrian was building Groundhog, I remember walking in the office one day for seminar. Paul was in the teaching game for a long time where he did like seminars on topics for a week at a time, and I was walking in and Adrian called me over and said, Rob, you gotta check this out here and all this stuff and what he was showing. Me was him. In the early days of Groundhog before he even released it, some of the stuff he was doing, they were the number one infusion soft key. Reseller in Canada, one that they’re not anymore and one of the reasons they got out of that is because of the direction infusion stuff was going. They were not happy with it and but the one thing Paul always taught was the system and the system you can take and drop into any marketing platform and a lot of it. Was about organizing yourself, so I always say to them, I mean, I’ve seen, I think the last time I saw Paul in person was in January of last year, we actually. Paul’s interesting guy is an ex jazz musician and we sat in his house. We ran into him in Niagara-on-the-lake. He’s moved out to Toronto and they invited us over for. For wine in the chat and catch up, and then he actually jumped on the piano and played a few songs for us. He’s he’s great. And so Adrian and I go back like a long way and it’s really wonderful to see him do what he’s done. And he dropped out the university to do ground up, which is even more. Amazing. Like he’s he’s just such a bright young man. It’s not even funny so.

Yeah, it’s been a great experience, so.


Yeah, I’m not surprised. He’s he’s big on customer service. I’m going that way in the new year. I was hoping to go that way this year, but you know what happens is the agency where it gets in the middle of it. And you end. Up shoving well.

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, yeah, it’s one of those things where my agency work, you know? And then it’s just gone like this for a very long time and it finally hit crossed that threshold where it was. Like I could wake up in the morning and not purposefully just because I didn’t have any client work to do because it wasn’t coming in anymore. I was just like, well, I can work on sunshine stuff. So let me do that and then it just was like, wait, I’m actually enjoying this now and then, you know, and then started purposely. Starting every day doing product work and then setting the client stuff to like the end of the day. Or even saying what I’ll get to you later in the week. Even being like I’ll get to you and set a set. Set it aside for later instead of jumping on it right away cuz like you said with Adrian, customer service has been one of my biggest things. That’s why I was so successful on the client side and I’ve been bringing that to the product side as well with how quickly I responded tickets, how in depth I do getting out updates like there’s one little. One thing I I love. You know, I I love giving my money over to someone like Adrian, cause he did the same thing that I would have done, which I appreciate where he was doing my onboarding and the Ed integration had a bug in it while he was walking through me on a, you know, on a call together. And he’s like, you know what? Hold on, you know, you know, he’s trying to fix it on call, couldn’t quite get to it. Later that day had it fixed, put a release out. Let me know that you know, I think it was that day or the next day that it was updated and I could finish importing all my EDD things cause they Ed had made a change somehow that, you know, had caused bug. But he was right on it, fixed it, released it. And I’m like that. It’s it’s cool to how I felt, OK. That’s how my customers feel and why they keep coming back and and stuff like that. So it’s it’s just validation to that customer support. It’s been my strong suit where marketing maybe wasn’t my strong suit, customer support and getting referrals. It’s another way to do it.

Yeah, and I’ll what I’ll tell you is customer support, good customer support is your marketing.

And I think it’s something. Yeah, exactly. Yes, yeah.

You become known. For that, because of all the amazing stuff. You know what? There this conversation has been absolutely awesome. I hope we have many more. I’m sure we will cause that. I really appreciate you and your time. If somebody wants to reach out to you about your, your photography plug-in or any other one has the best way.

Yeah. My photography plugins at sunshinephotocart.com and then my other ones are at. Wpsunshine.com the confetti and address autocomplete and a couple of other free ones as well.

Yeah. And you’re on Twitter as well, you’re, you’re.

Twitter under Derek ashler.

Yep. Yeah. Thank you very much. You have a wonderful day, my friend. Appreciate that.

Thanks so much, Rob. It’s great chatting with you.


Similar Posts