#95: Josh Hall – from freelance web design to professional creator earning $300K/year

March 22, 2022

#95: Josh Hall – from freelance web design to professional creator earning $300K/year
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Josh Hall is a YouTuber, course creator, and web design coach specializing in WordPress and Divi.

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Josh Hall is a YouTuber, course creator, and web design coach specializing in WordPress and Divi. Josh helps people build and scale 6-figure, work-from-home web design businesses.

He's created nine web design courses as well as a membership, Josh's Web Design Club. On his YouTube channel, he posts videos about the business of web design, the tools he uses, the video interviews of his podcast, and live stream Q&A sessions.

In this episode, we talk about Josh’s evolution from underpricing clients to selling his agency, why he began creating on YouTube, how his first course launch netted nearly $10,000, and how one Opportunity to guest post on a blog ultimately led him down the path to professional creator.

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Josh Hall 00:00

Courses weren't even on my mind in the beginning. But once people started asking me over and over and over, then I was like, oh, I remembered from my agency days of running my business. If your clients or your potential clients are asking you the same question over and over, you might want to consider doing it.


Jay Clouse 00:17

Welcome to Creative Elements, a show where we talk to your favorite creators and learn what it takes to make a living from your art and creativity. I'm your host, Jay Clouse. Let's start the show. Hello, welcome back to another episode of Creative Elements. I'm still buzzing over the fact that the show crossed a million total downloads last week. It is surreal to think that this thing that I literally make in my basement has been downloaded more than a million times on devices all across the world. It's crazy. But things have been going pretty great lately. As you may know, I have a weekly newsletter called Creative Companion. And if you don't know that, now you do and you should visit the link in the show notes to subscribe to it. Every week, I write an essay designed to help you develop your creative platform and become a professional creator. And over the last few weeks, I've been quietly piloting a membership community called the Creative Companion Club. It's a private membership community for up and coming creators to learn and grow together. I'm finding that I make the most progress building my own creative platform when I learn from and collaborate with other creators at my level. And so I wanted to build my own community where I could help other creators do the same, provide some one on one coaching and more. It's already my most successful product launch ever in the 50 plus creators in there already are absolutely loving it. I'll share more about the Creative Companion Club in a future episode. But if you're interested in learning more now, check out the link in the show notes. It's where I'm putting the majority of my time that is not creating content. And I think you'll really love it. The reason I bring it up at all, besides obviously wanting to advocate for my own work is that today's conversation actually had a meaningful impact on how I approached building that membership. Today, I'm talking with Josh Hall, a web design coach helping people build and scale six figure work from home web design businesses. Now you may be thinking, wait a second, a coach, I thought this podcast was about digital creators, not service providers. And you're absolutely right. In fact, I get several pitches each week from coaches and agency owners and I tell them that this show isn't a fit. What I love about Josh is that he embraces the role of coach for his audience, even though he's building a scalable online content business, because even though he identifies himself as a coach, it's not about one on one clients. It's not really about client work at all. Josh has a YouTube channel, a podcast, nine online courses, and a membership community. But to each individual in Josh's audience, they can think of him as their coach. But before I get ahead of myself here, before Josh was a creator, he ran a web design agency. And before he had an agency, Josh was a freelance web designer. And he got into web design sort of by chance.


Josh Hall 03:11

I was a cabinet maker for a tour bus customizing shops, and I got laid off when the economy went through a lot. Those couple years in the automotive industry got hit really hard. So I got laid off along with like half of the company. I was also in a rock band at the time, I was the drummer of a rock band. I always had an interest in art. So the day after I got laid off from my cabinet maker job, I started learning Photoshop, and I started learning how to do graphic design. And since I was in the band, we were traveling all over doing shows. I started doing our T shirt artwork and our CD artwork. And then that transitioned to eventually someone asked me, how much would you charge to design our stuff? And it was like a light bulb moment for me. That's that was my intro into the design world and I did graphic design that eventually started doing web design.


Jay Clouse 04:00

And Josh's journey into web design wasn't any type of overnight success either. In fact, he spent years fighting against himself and his own urge to underprice his services. We talked about that quite a bit in this interview. It wasn't until Josh discovered the WordPress Theme Divi by Elegant Themes that he really began to unlock a ton of value for himself and his clients.


Josh Hall 04:22

Divi is essentially a like an entire website builder that sits on top of WordPress. I was actually at the time doing some subcontract work for a local business here in Columbus. They were a social media marketing and digital marketing agency, but they did web design too and they use Divi. And that was my first experience with it. And at first I hated it because it was kind of just a blank canvas. And I really, I was, I liked starting with templates, which now Divi does have templates, but quickly realize that Divi for me became the one theme to rule them all.


Jay Clouse 04:58

Finding Divi allowed Josh to more efficiently build websites for his clients, hire other team members to help him scale, and to continuously improve his skill set by focusing on a specific tool instead of constantly reinventing the wheel. Josh got so good at Divi that he began teaching others how to use it by recording tutorials on YouTube.


Josh Hall 05:17

Hey, it's Josh here, your web design coach. I teach people how to build awesome websites. And I'll also teach you how to build your dream web design business so that you can have the freedom and lifestyle you'd like to live.


Jay Clouse 05:29

Josh's tutorials on YouTube have been viewed millions of times, which led him to create a podcast, nine courses, and most recently a membership community, Josh's web design club, and that transition from client services to professional creator has really accelerated over the last couple of years.


Josh Hall 05:46

Well, between all my revenue streams were right around 300,000 for 2021, which, for me was pretty awesome. I mean, I have colleagues who were talking about seven figures, but that was that's enough for me to provide a great income for me and my family and we're building a house right now. My wife is a stay at home mom, I have two little girls, too hungry Golden Retrievers who are desperate to play with Ted, when he's ready.


Jay Clouse 06:09

So in this episode, we talk about Josh's evolution from underpricing clients to selling his agency, why he began creating on YouTube, how his first course launch netted nearly $10,000 and how one opportunity to guest post on a blog ultimately led him down the path to professional creator. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter @jayclouse or on Instagram @creativeelements.fm. Tag me, say hello, let me know that you're listening. And now let's talk with Josh.


Josh Hall 06:46

Yeah, I did do a lot of our, I always drew, it's a good, it's a great question. I drew a lot. I loved art class in high school. I love doing sketches, I love drawing. So design did tend to come pretty natural. What did not come natural for me was running a business or sales or coding. So there was a lot of hard work that went into a lot of areas but design was definitely more natural, though. Although it's funny now. Now I'm better at strategy and sales than I am design. So it's like the paradigm has shifted for me.


Jay Clouse 07:18

Yeah, I look at your business. And I'm so impressed by every aspect of it down to the about Josh or Meet Josh page on your website that has this beautiful narrative of kind of the backstory that I'm rocket shipping. Rocket shipping is that a verb that I can use through right now? And I'd love to hear about some of those challenges with running a business that happened for you or like learning moments you had still stuck out to this day.


Josh Hall 07:42

I think the biggest challenge for me came because I didn't set out to actually like start a business. I wasn't like I'm gonna start a graphic design agency and web design agency. And this is my 5 and 10 year plan. Like a lot of freelancers and entrepreneurs, I just fumbled into it. I just started doing designs for bands. And then you know, they were they could barely afford $50. And then once I started getting into actually real clients, suddenly budgets became a thing. And then my goal was to just eventually get a job as a designer or website designer. So I went to some night school classes at the community college here in Columbus, I learned a little bit about web design and more graphic design stuff. And then before I knew it, I had made I lose one year where I made like $30,000 on the side. And I was like, hmm, if I could make this amount of money on the side, well doing odd jobs and also going to school and at night and stuff. If I went full time with this, I think I could really make it a business. And so that's kind of how I stumbled into it, and had to become a business owner. But I think those challenges stemmed because it wasn't my game plan. It just kind of happened.


Jay Clouse 08:53

I love the part in your story where you talk about your first business cards and the way you marketed yourself.


Josh Hall 09:00

Yeah, it's definitely a lesson of what not to do. My first business card because I was in the band world. Bearing in mind, this was back when like the grunge look was really cool and splatter brushes were awesome. Part of me still kind of misses that kind of art. But my business card was really grungy and very, I was in a metal band, I was a drummer, so it had that vibe. But more importantly, also aside from having MySpace pages as a service, which dates me, I decided it would be a great idea to lump in all of my design services and website designs with my drum lessons. So I was doing drum lessons on the side while doing the band. So my business card literally was my business name at the time in terms of studios. And on the back, it was web design, graphic design and drum lessons. And then once I started getting real clients, they started asking me, um, what's what the drum lesson? And some people thought it was, some clients thought it was really funny. Like it was I have ever had one client who was like, why would you put drum lessons on there and then it hit me like, oh, I probably shouldn't do that. That's probably extremely confusing. So, yeah, it was one of those where again, no business mind at that time.


Jay Clouse 10:09

I kind of feel like that might be successful in its own way, if done intentionally. You know, like there's a certain humor to that and a certain like, signaling of the type of person you are that it could work if you're trying to make it work in that way. I think you could actually throw drum lessons.


Josh Hall 10:26

That's a good point that maybe it was actually artistic genius that I was unaware of. Yeah.


Jay Clouse 10:33

So you get through your night classes, you've picked some of this up, your your side gig is pulling in some money. When did website design really become the core of what you're doing and specifically WordPress, and Divi?


Josh Hall 10:46

It was pretty early on. When I started learning graphic design and doing print design and stuff, the church that I was helping out with at the time asked if I'd be interested in taking over their website, they had no one to do it. I was like, I have no idea what I'm doing but sure, I'll give it a go. And there was a lot of other areas of people I was working with who I was doing graphic design for. And they were like, do you know anything about websites? It just it came really naturally and it was it was often a conversation. So I just went headfirst into web design and was learning that and then pretty soon realized web design not only takes a lot more time than doing a business card, but I can charge way more. And it was such a big need. It just was very clear to me that that became the main service. And as I got better and better at website design, started really thinking about copywriting and conversion and started getting into SEO and all the elements of web that suddenly graphic design just became less and less important then eventually I phased it out. I really learned this awesome quote that has stuck with me for quite a quite a while now and that is that, "what got me here, won't get me there". And that is definitely what I found. Because I used to love doing business cards. And those would be like the entry gate like people would do a business card with me. And then they're like, oh, you do websites too. Awesome. Yeah, I paid you 300 bucks for this business card but now I'm down to pay 3000 for a website. But I got to the point where I just could not handle the you know what I did. So I realized web design was was where I had to put my focus.


Jay Clouse 12:19

I love that quote, that comes back to me all the time too, "what got you here won't get you there". It's so true, It's so relatable. We'll probably dive into that in different aspects of your story here through the conversation. One of the things I want to touch on that you mentioned a second ago, that such a head trip is when you raise your prices, because you're mentioning, you know, I was working with bands, they could barely afford $50. And you get different clients and for the same service could pay three times that, ten times that. And I find that, in my experience as a business owner, you can just think about money differently. And it sounds really weird and really simple. But you can just kind of scale the expectations in your mind a little bit and find clients who fit that. But it's so hard in the beginning to think like, well, I charge this client $50, how can I do the same work for 300? Where in reality, you could probably be doing the same work for 3000.


Josh Hall 13:11

Absolutely. It was really hard for me man, it was really hard. I come from a just a middle income family so money has always been interesting. And I had a scarcity mindset for sure, early on. Also, one thing to consider is I knew nothing about how to do my rates in order to be profitable. And in fact, my mindset was such as when I was starting to be a business owner. Just before that, I thought in my young brain that it would be awesome to make the amount of money per year of your age. So when you're 18, you make 18,000, you make 19 you make 19,000, you make 20 make 20,000. That was literally my mindset. So all that to say I really had to work on this. And yes, I did start in the band world where 50 bucks was a ton of money. I'll never forget the first time I met with a construction company with one of my, he was actually I think he was my second or third real client. Awesome guy, to this day, I get chills thinking about meeting with him because he saw potential in me and said that, but we did this full suite of brochures for his construction company. Just, do you want to take a guess how much I charge for that? 150, $150, that's how much I underbid that project. But I'll never forget his look when he asked how much it would be for like these seven or eight brochures. And they were like pamphlets. It was like a folder with pamphlets and stuff. I was like, I don't know, 150? And he had this look and he went for and I was thinking he thought it was expensive. But now I realized that look was he was like, I can't believe you're only charging me 150 for the whole thing, that should be for each. So all that to say I started very low and then I realized that my as I got more valuable I was I was worth more. And then I realized more importantly to your point, these clients can spend way more. And something I teach a lot of my students now, particularly when they're starting out and they feel like $2,000 is a lot to charge for a website, I often tell them remember, what is really expensive to you is not necessarily expensive to somebody else, because they're playing at a whole different table of money, cards, whatever analogy you want to use. And I think that's what you've talked about a lot, too, is it's a whole different paradigm. And now I'm a completely different person with my money mindset than I was 10 years ago.


Jay Clouse 15:38

Yeah, I think increments is a good word to think about this. Because for anybody listening to this, who's impulse bought anything, like there's probably a time when your impulse buy threshold was like, less than $10. I'm at a point in my life now where I'll impulse buy things that are up to $50, sometimes even $100, you know, and that's just like, a different increment in how I think about money. And so for that construction company, they're probably thinking in increments of multi hundreds, if not 1000s, where it's like, okay, I'd be happy to pay anywhere between $1,000 or $1,500 to me, that difference is nominal. And to us, that's when we're getting started and we're charging $150. That sounds wild and unbelievable, but they're working with different increments of money.


Josh Hall 16:25

That's a great point, Jay. And this is this is perfect for articulating something that one of my students just did, because she's new, and she's working on a money mindset. She had two pricing tiers that were 1500 and 1650. I was like,  So yeah. So on, I told her like her increment, what a great I've never heard it said like that, that's beautiful. Her increment personally is probably in that $50 range. So $150 difference is big for her. But I told her, these companies, your increment needs to be in 1000s with website designs. It needs to be like 1500, 2500, and then 5000 years, something much more drastic.


Jay Clouse 16:40

No difference.  Yeah, you get to a point where it's like my minimum increment is in five hundreds before you know 1000s, where it's like, I'm excited about this project, because it's gonna pay me $1,000. It could be a year or two later, when you're like, actually, that doesn't get me excited anymore. It needs to be at least $2,000, which is 100% difference, double the price. But it doesn't feel that way, when you just start thinking in a different increment. And I wish that was something you could just like bottle up and share it because if you just believe that, like people will pay for what they want if they trust that you can deliver it, it's really like how you position it to them.


Josh Hall 17:39

Yeah, that's a biggie when it comes to having some confidence with raising rates, particularly early on. One thing I found that if I was too nervous to like double or triple my rates, what I did that really worked was I just raised my rates and what I like to call the same price bucket. So I was charging, for example, $1,500 for a lot of websites. What I did before I got to the $3,000 to $4,000 range on average was I just bumped it up in that same price range, that same price bucket to like 1950. So it was almost 500 more, but it wasn't that different for the clients, all the clients that were purchasing for me at 1500 bought at just under 2k. But for me 25% more on every project was huge to help me grow.


Jay Clouse 18:24

Huge, huge, huge, huge. After a quick break, Josh and I talk about his move to YouTube, a conversation that led to a big break in his first course launch that generated thousands of dollars. And later we talk about his new membership community too. So stick around and we'll be right back.  Welcome back to my conversation with Josh Hall. Today, Josh is known as one of the leading educators teaching web designers how to use Divi for WordPress. And if you're not familiar with Divi it's technically a theme for WordPress but it's much more powerful than most themes.


Josh Hall 18:57

Like to call WordPress, kind of the engine of the car. And then Divi would be everything else around it. It's how you build the doors, how many doors, I'm not a car guy, so maybe I should have chose a better analogy. But yeah, it basically you build everything on top of that. So you can do everything from styling to complete template design, you can save templates. For me, the way I use it now a lot is because I have a team helping me with my podcasts and a lot of my other resources, which I'm sure we'll get into. I'm able to create workflows and templates for them. So they don't even have to know Divi very well, they just have to do what I do. And I show them how to load things and edit things. So it can be used for a variety of different reasons. It's user friendly, if you're a DIYer, and you're not very techy, but it's also extremely complex if you want it to be.


Jay Clouse 19:45

Yeah, it's like it's an in browser, Website Builder, like Squarespace, but with way more power and backed by you know, the CMS of WordPress, right?


Josh Hall 19:57

Yeah. And just a big distinction for anyone who doesn't know the difference between Wix, Squarespace and then Divi and WordPress, with Squarespace, Wix and a lot of these self hosted platforms, you essentially rent your website, you don't own it. With WordPress, it's called open source, which means you own everything. You can do whatever the heck you want with that website. You can put it on different hosting companies. So yeah, the flexibility of a user friendly builder on top of WordPress was huge, because when I got started, I was writing code in HTML, which was just a nightmare. Thank thank goodness, those days are behind us.


Jay Clouse 20:31

Okay, so you're doing websites, you find Divi the theme on WordPress. And I want to dig into why that was such a game changer for you? Because on the surface, it might sound like well, why Divi versus the thousands other themes? Why not just use whatever theme the client wants? Talk to me about how that changed things for you.


Josh Hall 20:51

Sure, it came at a really important time in my career because I was building websites a lot. It's when it became my primary service. And back in those days, this was probably I think, 2014 is when I discovered Divi. Typically what you would do back then is you would just buy a WordPress theme that looked like whatever you were going for, like if you were working with a automotive shop, you buy an automotive theme or a dentist, a dentist theme. And then these pagebuilder started coming out for WordPress like Divi and others, it really became the theme that I did not need to learn over and over and over again. And this is a really important tip for any type of tools that you're going to use. Find something that you can use over and over a lot of different situations. And it's often a great way to go particularly in web design. So yeah, once I got used to it, this agency I was working with used it and then I implemented it in my business. And then I have literally not built a website, not using Divi since 2015 now.


Jay Clouse 21:46

Tell me about this 12 week Divi tutorial series that you made on YouTube.


Josh Hall 21:51

Hey everybody, its Josh here back with another tutorial and in this one I'm going to show you how to create a call to action button for your Divi menu. Sorry, it's been a little while since my last tutorial, I spent so much time putting my site together and doing the first round of tutorials that I really had to focus on my web design business, which is what's currently paying the bills. But as I sell some more Divi products, hopefully and get some more donations and continue to to build my tutorial series. Hopefully I can have more resources and time to be able to dish out more of the expertise I have with Divi and WordPress for you guys.


Jay Clouse 22:23

When did you cross the chasm in your mind of I'm building client websites to I'm going to start showing people how I'm doing this work.


Josh Hall 22:31

Yeah, this was a big turning point. This was the start of what I do now, as a web design coach. I was a freelance web designer and I scaled my agency at a very small level, had people working with me occasionally. I did that for about seven years. And I was also I think important to know, I was a part of a local high school mentorship program for media students. And like every couple months, I would sit down with maybe one or two students for a whole day and teach them about web design. So it was very high touch one on one or one on two kind of situation. I found out that the content manager for Elegant Themes, which are the creators of Divi that he lived in Columbus, so I just invited him out for coffee, I reached out to him. We were in some Facebook groups or Divi groups. And I just said, hey, I'd love to meet you. I'm a big Divi guy, I'd love to share what I'm doing. And after that meeting, he reached out and he was like, dude, you've, you've like done some awesome stuff with your business. And he invited me to be a guest blogger on the Elegant Themes blog, which was huge, still is huge. Like, I'm talking like millions of readers type of big. So I got thrown like, right, right to the opportunity to do this. But I just shared what I knew and what I did in my agency. And then that really kind of gave me the spark for teaching, I realized that I love sharing what I've learned, and I love sharing what I do. And that's when I started my brand, JoshHall.co. So at first I started that as just a little, you know, personal brand. I had no idea where I would want it to go. But I realized I was good at teaching. And that's when to answer your question. I started this video series, I started doing tutorials in and around WordPress web design, and mainly Divi and started a YouTube channel. Now, the reason I did 12 was because I did not want to overwhelm myself with just ongoing content with no end in sight. And this is really important for anyone doing content is to give yourself some light at the end of the tunnel. And it was one of the best things I did, I committed to 12 tutorials once a week. And I created those posted them on YouTube, share them in Facebook groups and my network of web designers and that's what built my brand like big time and I will say too, having that end in sight really helped me because first of all, I didn't do it tutorial ever. Like I didn't record every week, as any content creator knows you can batch record them. So sometimes I might record like three tutorials in one week. Now I'm good for three weeks and I've got some time to do other projects. So that's what really helped me. And that's where it all started.


Jay Clouse 25:03

Okay, I've got a couple of follow ups here. But first before I get to the Divi series follow ups, I want to double click on this impulse to reach out to the guy who was at Elegant Themes and realized lived here locally. Looking back, how important was that outreach to him to meet up for coffee for your business today?


Josh Hall 25:20

You just gave me chills Jay, because I do think about that often. This was back in the day when in Facebook groups that would show your location, it would be like, you know, like, posted from wherever, whatever city you're in. And so we were in this, I think it was the official Elegant Themes Divi group. And he had posted some one of their resources. And I saw that, and yeah, it was, it was a biggie it was I mean, I think I probably would have built something similar and maybe got to this point, regardless, but at the same time, that was the moment, man. That reaching out was the moment and another life lesson, just reach out, you never know what's gonna happen when you just reach out. Actually, the first guy I hired at when I scaled my agency, was somebody who said the same thing. He said he had typed up this whole email, and then he kept it as a draft because he was afraid to send it. The next day he sent it. And I loved hearing from him so much that he ended up becoming my lead designer when I scaled my agency, just by reaching out. So that was a huge moment, man, that really, it was the big moment. And then when I remember vividly, vividly remember being at Graeter's Ice Cream, for anyone not in Columbus, like me and Jay, Graeter's awesome ice cream. And I remember checking my email, my phone like I don't recommend doing. And I remember Nathan, the content manager asked it that was when he asked me if I wanted to contribute for the blog. And then I was like, oh my gosh, this is this could be huge. Like this could be really cool. You know, I did take the action to make it happen. I did a really good job. I really worked hard with those blog posts. But yeah, it really all stemmed back from just seeing an opportunity and, you know, going for it and just asking just what the heck, just ask why not?


Jay Clouse 27:09

Yeah, not to undersell any of the work that you've done afterwards because none of that matters if you don't do everything you've done since. But I come back to this this moment, this outreach in this idea of outreach, because I was telling you before we start recording, I'm back to full time creator mode right now, with half of my time back from from, you know, working full time with the SPI team. And my instinct is more projects do more stuff. And my intuition is actually telling me, well, no, instead fill that time with just more conversations because I didn't have the time for that last year. And in my experience, so much opportunity that you get is from conversations that may feel like nothing in the moment or setting them up. It's like this, this is probably going to be nothing but like the world runs on people and conversations and relationships and opportunities. And I feel like we probably really undervalue that today in a world of what's easy to engage on Twitter and Instagram and yada, yada. And yes, it is. But if you can have those one on one conversations, it's really differentiated, it really sticks out.


Josh Hall 28:16

Yeah. And sometimes there doesn't need to be a goal. Like I didn't invite him out to coffee, in hopes to become a blog author for a massive web design blog, or to work for Elegant Themes or something like that. I didn't have any goals in mind. I just, I mean, I knew he was connected. And it was it was gonna be cool. Either way, I just thought it would be cool to talk with somebody who is behind Divi. And yeah, I think that is a good life lesson too. Like sometimes just reaching out without any ulterior motives. You never know. You never know where that's gonna go. And I I'm sure you've experienced that, Jay, and it always leads to opportunities. Yeah.


Jay Clouse 28:55

You never know what it is. I think I think that is important, though, to go in without any type of real agenda other than, like, maybe the soft understanding that, hey, because we have similar interests that could potentially align, a conversation could yield good things. And like if if that's all you go in with, and that's your filter on some of these people that you outreach to and, and talk to, I think that's gonna really, really serve you.


Josh Hall 29:18

Agreed. Yeah. And I found it the same with podcasting. Sometimes, I connect with people if I'm just interested in what they have going on, or them as a person, sometimes incredible opportunities and relationships and partnerships blossom and sometimes it's just kind of burnt. Nice talking, but nothing's gonna come out from there. So you're gonna have the mix of both. But yeah, that was, I think definitely also paying attention to your gut when you feel like something is something could be a big moment. I would really, really pay attention to that and just do your best. Do your, whatever the opportunity looks like just go for it and definitely going back to idea don't be afraid to reach out.


Jay Clouse 29:56

And this was all probably like circa 2014, 2015?


Josh Hall 30:01

I became a blogger author for Elegant Themes in 16. And then 2017 is when I launched my brand and started doing videos. So I was already, I already had a name for myself as a blogger Elegant Themes, which I would just do like once a month or something. And then that's what kind of definitely a thing that helped me launch my brand.


Jay Clouse 30:18

I love your focus on I'm going to do something that feels kind of contained. And like I can finish it, it's not overwhelming this 12 week idea. I would love to hear what your expectations were at the time or what you thought like a best case scenario was putting yourself out there on YouTube and building this brand behind your name Josh Hall. Is that an aspiration at the time of I would like to be a content creator or a digital product creator? Or was that just an urge to teach?


Josh Hall 30:46

It was it actually it wasn't as much teaching in the beginning. I mean, it was, it was teaching, I really enjoyed sharing what I was doing. But my initial thought was that I because I was so heavily into the WordPress and Divi community in specific, which has a awesome online community. My thought was, I might become a Divi creator and create templates for websites. So I thought it was gonna be much more tech like, and who knows, I was like, you know, maybe I'll do more with Elegant Themes. That was my initial thought. But I realized that the teaching side of things is what I was really good at way back, I was a way better teacher than I was a designer and a coder, even at that point, I felt like, and then more and more people started asking about courses, courses weren't even on my mind in the beginning. But once people started asking me over and over and over, then I was like, oh, I remembered from my agency days of running my business. If your clients or your potential clients are asking you the same question over and over, you might want to consider doing it or providing a solution for it. So that's where the seed of doing courses was kind of planted. And then I launched my first course in 2018. And I had no idea. Still, at that point where it was gonna go, I just was kind of throwing things at the wall to seeing what would stick. And then, after my first course, it became very clear. It was all about courses. And not necessarily like, you know, templates or stuff like that.


Jay Clouse 32:13

How did it become very clear?


Josh Hall 32:15

Oh, probably because the launch went so well, I made like, I think if I remember right, I think I made like $8,000 on my first course. And that turned my head. And I say that number because it's not, you know, like life changing. But that was the first experience I ever had of creating a digital product that could be sold at scale. So I was used to do one on one service with with being a web designer. And I did a recurring income with a website hosting and maintenance plan where clients would pay. And coincidentally enough, that was my first course, I basically shared my entire process for building a website hosting and maintenance plan and building recurring income. And that's what I made my first course and, and then we out the launch, like, I did not exceed the number of students I wanted, I wanted over 100. But I think I got 82, or I think it was 82, if I remember right when that first wave, but I had still made like thousands and thousands of dollars in that first, that first launch window. And then I was like, oh my gosh, I can now make courses on all the other aspects I know and do this over and over again. And then I can you know, I just funnily enough, I just revamped that course and did a whole new launch cycle on version two point over the course. So it just it never ends in a good way with online courses.


Jay Clouse 33:34

When we come back, Josh and I talk about how he was able to find so much success with that first launch, and how transformational core sales have been for his whole business. We also dive deep into how he's thinking about the role his membership community plays in his overall creative platform. Right after this. Hey, welcome back. Before the break, Josh was telling us about his first course launch and how it landed him more than 80 students in nearly $10,000. That type of success on a first product launch doesn't happen by chance. So I asked Josh, what helped him to find that traction early on?


Josh Hall 34:08

Yeah, that's where the YouTube channel came into play. I was still once I did that first 12 tutorial series, I kept going, I kept going with that. And I did have some basic legions for like, people could sign up to get a template or just sign up to my email list. So that was a biggie. I tried to do that pretty consistently. So I was by no means super skilled at lead generation and, you know, taking care of everyone who came through my email but I did build a list. That's that's how it all got started. The other thing I did prior to that was I had started my own Facebook group. I know we're probably going to talk about community. I've always enjoy community. So once I started my own Facebook group for Divi that became another area where I had a lot of following, a lot of people. It's different now, that group is 24,000 people now, it's still active, but I really don't spend too much time there kind of goes back to the what got me here won't get me there. But between my YouTube channel, my Facebook group and my blogs on the Elegant Themes blog, those are what really gave a name for myself. And then once I started doing courses, I had an audience that was ready to buy. Looking back, it's kind of interesting, I don't know what your thoughts are on this, Jay. But I essentially built an audience with nothing to sell. So on the books, my business was, you know, very costly, very, very costly, cuz it was taking me away from my web design agency. I got paid for being an Elegant Themes blog author, but it wasn't that much. But it was really costly. Now, if I had started a content marketing strategy was something to sell, it would have been different. But in a way it worked out, I built an audience, and I had nothing to sell. So I think they even felt more like I was to be trusted, because I wasn't asked them to buy anything. I just gave all my info out for free.


Jay Clouse 35:53

Yeah, I think people underestimate not only the value of building an audience, because that's kind of obvious. But it's even just like having people you can communicate with because they've said you're allowed to, it's having trusting relationships with them too, which takes some time. So even if you did do a content marketing strategy, and you had something that you could sell pretty quickly, after you starting to begin to pull people into your audience, I feel like it still wouldn't have been as successful as your first launch was, because you wouldn't have built up that trust for as long of a period of time. I just see a lot of people that build a product, and then they they realize, oh, I need to actually build an audience now that I can sell this into, but then they start trying to sell too quickly into it, there's no trust there.


Josh Hall 36:33

That's a really good point. And now that I'm on the opposite end of that, now that I have a ton of products to sell, what I'm still trying to remember and try to do is to give so much free content out. And now a big part of my strategy is to have webinars, masterclasses, free workshops, challenges and things that are kind of the bridge that are between a free podcast episode, a free tutorial, a free training, which is in the middle, and then the premium type of product, which is kind of 101 for digital online traders. But I didn't know that when I got started so I'm learning it now.


Jay Clouse 37:07

You now have nine courses, which you will sell individually. But you also sell as a bundle. I'm curious to know you not to have an exact theme or numbers around this. But what is the breakdown between the percentage of people who buy an individual course or a couple of courses versus the bundle?


Josh Hall 37:23

I can tell you this, 2021 was my first full year of being an online course creator and a coach. And over half of my revenue comes from the bundle. So I cannot encourage people enough if you have multiple courses to consider bundling them all up. Now, it's, it might be a little bit different for me, because my courses are kind of like a little mini Web Design Academy. In fact, one of my students just call it that. And I was like that is a interesting name, I might need to think about that. So they all kind of go hand in hand. However, I do have a lot of students, what typically would happen is somebody would buy one course. And then they want the bundle or they might get a couple courses and then upgrade to the bundle. What made that tricky early on is because obviously I didn't start out with nine courses. So I had to make all these courses to eventually have a bundle. But one thing I did a little small sales tactic that actually worked is I actually created the bundle while I was still about ready to create the last couple courses. So I technically sold some courses before they were live. I just because I at that point, I think we were closing in on Black Friday for 2020 if I remember, and I was like, it'd be awesome to capitalize on this opportunity and then create these courses over the next couple months. And then they already have access to it when it when it goes. So yeah, that's how that's how it's worked out with kind of a suite of courses for me right now. And to answer your question more practically, the the majority of the percentage comes from the online course sales. I do have a membership, which is a coaching community, which I'm happy to talk about. That's not quite at the six figure range, but we're getting close. And that will definitely be the case this year in 2022. But the bulk of the income is the online courses, and then stability recurring income with the coaching and then I do have some income from like my YouTube videos, I run ads on those just google adsense, some affiliate marketing, and I don't really do any one on one coaching. I did it sporadic, like intensive coaching, but I found I just don't quite have the bandwidth or time I prefer to do things at scale, although I do coach in a one on one way in my community. But yeah, those are my main revenue streams. So yeah, I mean that that's where and I actually was able to take this personal brand to six figures on the side and in 2020 and 2020 when I really kind of started doing more courses and stuff. It was at six figure range. And that's what quite honestly gave me the the confidence to go full time because I sold my web design agency in 2020 to one of my students actually but But once I got to that point, I was like, okay, now my income is starting to like Trump, my service work. And I had such a passion for courses. I wasn't burned out being a web designer, but I just was so much more interested in online courses that that's, that's what I did.


Jay Clouse 40:13

Okay, let's dive into the community then. Because here's where I'm stuck in, where I really just want to have a conversation and learn how you're thinking about this. You have nine courses that you sell ala carte, you also have the bundle, now you have the membership, how do you think about those different offerings and how they interplay with each other, for people that are coming into the Josh Hall universe, you know, today?


Josh Hall 40:35

Josh Hall universe, that's what I need to rename the website to for sure. It really all started from a challenge in a problem. And that was a lot of my students would go through the courses, they'd have great results, great experiences and then they disappear. And I'm sure you've seen this as a course creator, Jay. And there's nothing worse than wanting to know like, how's everybody doing? Like, unless I get a review, or somebody randomly reaches out to me, they're never going to talk to me. And it's not a fault of their own, I just they took the course and they're off, they're doing their thing. So I knew that I wanted to have something for my students who wanted to come together kind of bring my tribe together outside of a free Facebook group, outside of something that is too public. So I always had that in my mind that I wanted to do something like that. The next challenge I had was, is this something that like all of my students have? Like, and I'm sure maybe I don't know what your exact setup is, Jay. But a lot of course creators wonder myself included, should I just have like a membership that has access to everything? But I'm kind of glad I didn't go that route. Because I feel like when most people join a membership or a community, too much content can be extremely overwhelming. I have found it better to have one off ala carte courses or a bundled option that will give people results. And then having, in my case, a coaching community that is much more of a tighter tribe, a support community. And in my personal membership, it's both it's coaching in community, they get coaching with me not one on one via calls. But we have a private messaging thread within Circle, Circle is what I use, I know you're huge, actually, you were key and selling me on Circle and getting me in plugged in with those guys. So I do personal coaching via private chat, where we'll talk about strategies, and I'll get my tips on pricing and stuff. If there's something they don't feel comfortable asking the whole group. But then there is the community aspect. It really it really is a community I've been I've been running my web design club for a year and four months now at the time of recording this with you. And it's been the most rewarding work I've ever done, most impactful. And now, it is a much more hands on and high touch type of environment, to where I still have my courses to do at scale that anyone can buy over the world. And then the people who are serious, they can come into my coaching. So like as of right now my community is still under 100 people. We're at like 87 right now or 88. We just had a member join yesterday. But it's it's fine at that rate. I'd like to get over 100 just financially to have it be over a six figure business. But it's awesome. It works really nicely in conjunction with my courses.


Jay Clouse 43:15

Is there any cross promotion between the two explicitly as like a value proposition? Like if I am a core student, do you offer some sort of incentive to become a member or some sort of percentage off? Or vice versa, if I'm in your community, can I get a discount for courses?


Josh Hall 43:32

Yep, there's a student, there's a student discount for everybody that you get, essentially, when you become a student of any of my courses, you get 50% off any additional courses, you'll get a special discount if you upgrade to the bundle, depending on what courses you have. Or you can use that to get that percentage off my membership, my coaching community.


Jay Clouse 43:50

I'm thinking about this a lot right now. Because as I'm redesigning my own business to be simpler, to explain and give people kind of an on ramp into my content. I'm wondering how much to give in a community of my courses and workshops. Because like, on one hand, I'm thinking well, if everybody if what I'm really trying to get people to do is engage with the community. And that's why I just pour as much low as possible on those people. That sounds good. But then there's also some cannibalization that would happen, right?


Josh Hall 44:23

Yeah. So what the way I balanced it that has worked and I intentionally have not marketed my web design club, my coaching community too heavy up until more recently, just because there was a lot of feeling out. There was a lot of trial and error. A lot of learning how to build a community quite frankly like a private community and keep turned down. But what I have found work pretty well is that the courses are good for like very topical in depth start to finish kind of programs for a certain something. The membership is more for community, for coaching, and for we actually do a month training, actually after this call heads up, I'm going to ask you to if you'd be interested in talking in my club for a monthly training, but those trainings would be something that would kind of be outside of a course. Like one of my good colleagues, the owner of LMS, software called LifterLMS, Chris, he spoke on yearly planning. And we did that in December of 2021. That didn't really fit in a course that I have, you know, I mean, I could, it's almost like its own little mini course. But it was a perfect thing to add to the club, to community. So yeah, as far as like content and trainings, it's more things that might fit in and around my courses. But I never duplicate any content. The courses are their own standalone programs. And then what I found more recently, that's been interesting, because I thought for sure, no one would join my community, if they're not already a student. But now I'm actually finding a lot of people are getting coaching first, and then going into courses, which is actually really genius if somebody serious, I mean, like looking back, instead of just figuring out my own path, I totally would have signed up for an affordable coach to guide me on the steps and then go through programs as needed. That's kind of what's happening now.


Jay Clouse 46:12

That's really interesting. And something I'm definitely gonna take a note of, it almost sounds like you've had this be a little bit like under the radar and something you have to discover. I'm curious in like your feeling out phase, you know, you kind of say that when you join, you get like a personal message thread with me for coaching. Has that been something that people have utilized more or less than you expected?


Josh Hall 46:35

Way less. And I don't know if that speaks to me as a coach, but I was terrified Jay of like starting this community and having 87 people email me every day, that'd be I couldn't keep up with that. But just like any type of product, you're going to have a smaller percentage of people who are going to hit you up frequently. I actually have to like, tell my community, message me, how's it going? I want I want I make it very clear, you're not bothering me, you're paying my it's 99 bucks to join my community, although a lot of them are on a student discount or a promo. But they're still I'd say the average is like, let's round, it's like 80, 80 bucks a month, on average. That's a good amount of money to pay. I want them, I mean, obviously, they're getting a ton of valuable feedback. We do weekly Q&As, we're almost like group sessions, and I do web site reviews, we have monthly trainings, I have all the threads to get support. But yeah, I have to like encourage people to message me, tell me how's it going, coaching tends to happen a lot in the beginning. And then when they're busy doing their business, I tend to not hear as much. So it tends to even out.


Jay Clouse 47:42

I really like this frame. I've never heard of a membership described as a coaching community. And I think it's really powerful because as community becomes this co-opted buzzword that means more and more and at the same time, less and less. I feel like this is a good unique differentiator for the type of experience you can expect here. You can expect to get specific feedback in training to improve you personally. I'm curious how you came across that term or why that fits.


Josh Hall 48:12

I would love to take full credit for that. But I have to give full credit to Circle, Circle I read I saw recently that they redesigned their website and their front page and they put me on the front of it. And I've I have really been open with the whole team at Circle on what's worked for me and they brought me in to do a training a while back. And I love the team at Circle and yeah, they they put me on the front page if you go to circle.so and they had coaching communities. So you'll see like Brendon Burchard for, I forget what his says. Pat Flynn's on there, some other awesome entrepreneurs, and then it has me and it says coaching communities and I was like, ah, that is genius that perfectly describes what this is. So yeah, full credit to them. And I don't know who came up with that. But uh, sent in it really does articulate what I have in place, because I did not want to make people feel like it is one on one coaching. That is like, you know, just me and them phone calls every week. I could not do that at scale. But I also wanted to make sure they knew it was much more than just a forum. Because there's Facebook groups and free forums. So coaching community, just perfectly articulates what's what's going on there.


Jay Clouse 49:22

Really, really good.


Josh Hall 49:23

Maybe we should copyright that, by the way, before somebody.


Jay Clouse 49:27

It's pretty good.


Josh Hall 49:29

Let's split, let's split it 50/50.


Jay Clouse 49:32

What does the future look like? Is that becoming more of what you're pushing on? Like would you rather somebody join the membership or would you rather they purchase the course bundle?


Josh Hall 49:42

The perfect flow and this is still more common. Most people still go through courses then upgrade to the membership, the but there are again, the few who go to the membership first. This is this is kind of the visual of what's happening right now for me for the perfect scenario. Somebody sees, my one of my YouTube videos or hears about my podcasts. And they like to free content. And then they sign up for one of my master classes or a webinar, or I'm about ready to release my first challenge, they go through that, then they go through a course. They love the course so much, they get awesome results, they get more courses, and then upgrade to the bundle, all the courses. They love that so much, they're getting good results, but they realize I have some personal things in my business that I need help with. And I want some coaching, I want some structure, that's when they die. And they want support. Because as we all know, entrepreneurship is extremely lonely, a lot of times. So that's where the membership comes into play, I coach them, they get this awesome collection of this amazing little corner of the internet and my web design club. And that's where we really take things to the next level. Now to your question, Jay, what's next? Here's what I'm finding that's interesting. I have now and this goes back to another quote that, um, I think I've heard you say, which is your vibe attracts your tribe. I have now started attracting a lot of webpreneurs, web entrepreneurs, folks who are either they come from a freelance web design world, or they're an agency owner, but they're doing much more than just websites. They're doing like content marketing. They're helping clients with email, and they're, you know, they're doing like all these different services or strategy, strategy is a big one, there's a huge opportunity for website strategy and how to just strategize all the things that are going on in your online business. So now I'm finding that I'm actually bringing a lot of people who are not just web designers, but web entrepreneurs. So for me looking forward, what I'm actually looking at starting to do is to create a separate category of courses for more web entrepreneurship. I plan on doing one for like video marketing, and how to grow your web design business with video. I get more and more questions about podcasting and content strategy. I might do one on email. So I'm getting all these different ideas that I might make courses on and then the web design club will really be a collection of everybody. Pretty much everyone in there as a web entrepreneur, there's not too many people just learning web design.


Jay Clouse 52:12

I think Josh's story is really relatable from charging $150 for an entire project to committing to just 12 videos on YouTube. He just kept taking steps forward and all that forward progress has built up to become an incredible growing content business. And look, Josh's YouTube channel has 25,000 subscribers. I've spoken to creators who have many, many times that number, but aren't making more revenue than Josh is with his courses and his membership. He's done such a great job of specializing and creating deep relationships with his audience that is not all about the biggest audience imaginable. It's about serving people, serving them well and creating products that they actually want. If you want to learn more about Josh, you can visit his website at joshhall.co. Links to his website and YouTube channel are in the show notes. Thanks to Josh for being on the show. Thank you to Emily Clouse for making the artwork for this episode. Thanks to Nathan Todhunter for mixing this show and Brian Skeel for creating our music. If you like this episode, you can tweet @jayclouse and let me know and if you really want to say thank you, please do it. Please leave a review on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Thanks for listening and I'll talk to you next week.