Why exiting solopreneurship is the right move

Matt Medeiros continues Season 8 with the roundtable format asking the question is there change in the WordPress ecosystem?  John Turner and Phil Derksen are the special guests that share what significant changes they have made in their careers and what they see in the  WordPress ecosystem.

Listen to this episode:


John Turner joined Awesome Motive through their customer accelerator portal to help his company grow. Syed Balkhi, Awesome Motive’s owner,  suggested that John join the company as a partner since his product and strategy aligned with Awesome Motive. (3:10)

Phil Derksen recently joined Sandhills Development LLC after running a one-man shop company called WP Simple Pay, which is a stripe payment and subscription program.  Sandhills Development, LLC  has a whole suite of products that was founded by Pippin Williamson. (4:20)

What you will learn in this Episode:

Startups in the WordPress economy were easy to start as a fully bootstrapped business. It can be a roller coaster ride of going solo and joining a company, then trying to go solo again. (6:48)

John – Worked for 6 or 7 years and did not feel like he was continually growing. When the opportunity became available with Syed and Awesome Motive John decided to give it a try and take the growth to the next level. It was difficult where the uncertainty and change is concerned, but he is excited to be a part of the company.  (7:48)

Phil – Phil had many happy customers with his product and support. Although he had a level of comfort with his company, he did not feel like he could release the features that customers were requesting. For example, EDD could offer many things that his product couldn’t do. Phil had one product to focus on, but it was distracting to jump from being a developer, then marketing and support. It is exciting to work with a team and see the growth of the products. (11:11)

Product Growth – Marketing or the Product Alone?

Phil – Product features and planning for the future is critical. Then the focus needs to change to marketing to get the word out to the customers. (11:59)

John– Marketing is the most important focus and the lesson to learn. You can have an awesome product, but you need to have the time and focus on marketing. (12:23)

Matt – For people to scale their business they need to market their product successfully and make more money. It takes a lot of time and money to do marketing correctly.  (13:41)


John – There is no magic bullet when it comes to marketing. When you find out what is working you need to concentrate on it. When your business is small, you don’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing. You need to focus on one or two channels (like Facebook and Content Marketing) and focus on what is working for you. It could take awhile. (15:19)

Phil – Phil has recently spent money and time on content marketing. Finding what works and knowing that changes over time are important. It is tough to get noticed with new plugins or themes on WordPress.org. Sandhills Development has a marketing team that reaches out and promotes products. (17:19)

Matt – Some businesses try a blanket approach with marketing and cover too much. The person in the WordPress Community that is doing marketing well seems to be Brad Touesnard from Delicious Brains. His company does a great job with their brand and content marketing. Pagely is another company that does a great job with their quality and material.

Phil: Chris Badgett at LifterLMS does a great job with content marketing and his podcast concentrating around learning systems.

John: LifterLMS has very focused content with their brand and audience. The material has intent.

Content Marketing Focus:

Matt – Content Marketing is very expensive and very hard to do as a business owner. If you are preparing webinars and podcasts, it takes a lot of time when launching a podcast. It can be hard to produce quality content consistently. (19:54)

John – To test the market in the WordPress space getting on WordPress.org is the best place to start and get some eyes on your product. It is essential to focus on the product name and reviews. You need to start somewhere and then figure out how to rank it. (21:03)

Phil  – Some people go to the content route first without a free version of their product. Phil likes the podcast/YouTube style. Joe Howard has started the WPMRR Podcast and focuses on monthly revenue. When you find something that is working, you can double down on it.  While you are adjusting your approach, you should be concentrating on your email list. (22:09)

John – Many niches are very competitive in the WordPress space. You need to build up the business and take baby steps slowly. It is not easy. (22:53)

Matt – There are two sides to this. You can try to rank in WordPress. org. But as competition starts to grow, some new business owners find they start too late with the ideas for marketing. One great idea is to leverage customer stories with a podcast and repurpose the content.  (24:21)

Forecasting the Future of WordPress:

Matt – WordPress is becoming more competitive, and pricing in the marketing is still a challenge.  How is pricing changing in the WordPress space? (26:07)

John – Many themes and plugins have gone to automatic subscription. Many customers are renewing without a discount in subsequent years (especially with hosting or SaaS products) (26:46)

Phil – Larger companies can adapt to charge more because they have a reputation and support behind the product. The customer can count on them with staying power. (28:04)

Matt – Prices in the space are tiered for support for products. Customers seem to value the product and as an end user, they see the value. (28:50)

John  – Customers are buying the products and making money. There was a positive response from his customers with his joining a larger company.

Phil – There were no complaints coming from customers when features were released and annual subscriptions were occurring. SaaS products seem to do this annually. Phil got a great response from his customers when he joined Sandhills Development. They were excited with the partnership and the solutions that can be offered. (30:32)

Balancing User Requests and Feedback:

John:  He would produce a yearly survey to stay on pace with his customers including the feedback that he received over the year. Every feature that you include will be a support burden down the line. (33:16)

Phil – Sent out a survey as well as tracking support requests that looked like new features. Phil collected responses all year and weighed those requests with what it would take to develop and support. Phil was very cautious about adding features while trying to not take any feature away. (33:59)

Monetization with Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0

John – Waiting to see what happens after the release. There seems to be a lot of opinions about what will happen with the newest release. (35:47)

Phil – Is expecting support to be overwhelmed after the release. Documents and videos will help people with the release. WP Simple Pay will not be that impacted. The page builder and themes could be impacted but uncertain by how much and in what way. (36:36)

Matt – There are a lot of folks jumping into the opportunity around Gutenberg with an opportunity to sell to customers. The release seems to be a way to create a SaaS around WordPress.org. With Jetpack enabled you will be able to remind the customer about what is coming and create upsells. (38:45)

To Keep in Touch:
John Turner:
Hooked on Products Podcast
Twitter – @johnturner

Phil Derksen:
Twitter – @philderksen
Phil Derksen


Episode Resources:
Awesome Motive
Formidable Forms
Syed Balkhi
Sandhills Development, LLC
Affiliate WP
Restrict Content Pro
Sugar Calendar
Delicious Brains

To Stay in Touch:

Watch the panel discussion on Matt’s YouTube channel.

To stay connected with the Matt Report, head on over to mattreport.com/subscribe.

If you like the show, please leave a 5 Star review over on the Matt Report on iTunes.


3 responses to “Why exiting solopreneurship is the right move”

  1. It was a pleasure to be on the show talking WP products with John and Matt. Good times!

  2. Hey, there! Great article! Caylin here at WP Buffs, I work with Joe Howard!

    Thanks so much for mentioning the WPMRR podcast, so cool that you follow it!

    Would you mind throwing in this link so your readers can also enjoy the podcast?


    That would be rad!


    Caylin White
    Head Marketing Buff

    1. Hi Caylin,

      Thanks, we had already included a link in the show notes.

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