Kathy Drewien

Transcript:Kathy Drewien

Aaron: [00:00] Hey, I’m Aaron Reimann.

Micah: [00:03] And this is Micah Wood and welcome to the WP Square One Podcast. We are here with Kathy Drewien and I’m going to let Kathy give a quick introduction of herself. Kathy?

Kathy: [00:16] These guys know me very, very well. They’re saying two minutes and quick. I’m Kathy Drewien and I am alive and well in Marietta, Georgia, which is outside of Atlanta. What else do you want to know, Micah?

Micah: [00:32] Well, tell us a little bit about what you do, who you know, all that kind of good stuff.

Kathy: [00:38] I do as little as possible with as many people as possible.

Micah: [00:43] Smart.

Kathy: [00:44] I know. But to be serious about it, I work in the WordPress community and have done so since 2008, I guess. Although I got started with WordPress long before that.

Aaron: [00:57] Nice.

Kathy: [00:57] What I do is I’m a full time professional helper and the definition of the help I provide varies from day to day.

Micah: [01:12] Understood. Well, how did you get into WordPress?

Kathy: [01:16] My introduction was for my own personal website, well my business website when I was a real estate broker. I had built the website for that back in ’94. So even though it had pretty design makeovers over the years, by 2006, it was in need of a technology makeover so I switched to using WordPress at that time.

Micah: [01:44] Okay. Were you doing that for your own business or —

Kathy: [01:49] Yeah, uhmm. I was a real estate broker up until the market crashed in 2008. We built our real estate firms website on — I was gonna say, yeah, Revolution is what it was called. Brian Gardner, who is the owner of StudioPress, well, was the owner of StudioPress. But anyway, that’s for another conversation. I got introduced to WordPress and never looked back after making that switch to a dynamic CMS versus what we used to do in the ’90s. God, that was painful.

Aaron: [02:25] Well, static HTML and stuff like that? Yeah, it’s a pain.

Kathy: [02:29] Oh yeah. When you had to go, “Let’s change this menu item on every single freaking page you own.” But, yeah, so anybody who works with WordPress and had made the transition from static to dynamic knows what I’m talking about and if you don’t congratulations to you for not having gone through that pain.

Aaron: [02:50] Right.

Kathy: [02:50] But the real estate market crashed in 2008 and I was broke. So I did what I always do when I get in that position, I wing it, and by winging it I became a WordPress consultant and developer and faked my way through that for quite a while.

Micah: [03:12] So what did your first client look like?

Kathy: [03:16] Oh my god. Well, I have two versions of that. The official version — well, the first person who hired me was a fellow real estate broker and I said, “Oh, sure, I can do this.” Like change her server and stuff I didn’t even know. I mean I killed her site. I killed her whole business in about a day and a half, but I don’t like to tell that story. But when you are taking on clients born out of desperation, you do stupid, crazy and harmful things and I didn’t even give her her $500 back. But that’s why that one’s not the official version. The official version was building (crosstalk) —

Aaron: [04:16] You know this is being recorded?

Kathy: [04:18] I know, but she won’t be listening to this.

Aaron: [04:20] Okay. Alright.

Kathy: [04:24] And I don’t do those things anymore. One is I know where I’m stupid and get real people to help. But the very first clients came out of those real estate relationships because I have always been the go-to person for them in terms of anything technology. So it was easy to start a WordPress business with the people you know, and sure I can build this and I can build that and I used what is now known as Genesis and StudioPress templates before that even was such a thing. So I customize —

Aaron: [05:05] What was it back then?

Kathy: [05:05] Go ahead.

Aaron: [05:06] Sorry, what was it back then? I mean, Genesis (inaudible 05:12]) —

Kathy: [05:12] Oh, it was Brian Gardner and he had like three templates all called Revolution; something like maybe like Revolution 1, 2 and 3 that had a little bit of variation on the home page layout.

Aaron: [05:27] Okay. I had no idea. So now they’re (inaudible 05:30) —

Kathy: [05:31] It’s longer than that.

Aaron: [05:33] Yes.

Kathy: [05:33] So, yeah, that was maybe back in 2000. Well, certainly in 2006 is when I transitioned my own site and I don’t know what they called it. I don’t know when StudioPress was born. It’s when Brian Gardner and the other Brian got together and formed Copy Media or something. I don’t know. Everybody buys everybody else.

Aaron: [06:04] Yup. Especially StudioPress very recently so — but that’s probably another topic, why and all that stuff so —

Kathy: [06:13] Well, yeah. Go ahead. I was going to say that what I learned to do was what most of my clients do and that was hobble my way through by customizing things.

Micah: [06:29] So now, where you’re at now? I’m assuming your client approach has changed significantly. So tell us a little bit about where you find clients now and how you approach that as opposed to where you started.

Kathy: [06:46] Clients tend to find me. In terms of my real growth, my gift is not in building websites. My gift is in building people and I see the, I’ve toyed with this phrase, the invisible people, but that’s not a very kind way to refer to those people who are on the fringes of the WordPress community and struggle and I see them around the rooms. So when I got started, my focus was on teaching people how to use WordPress. And I started a meetup in 2011 that, I mean, it was like the whole meetup was one big happiness bar even though there was a presentation. But it was very much targeted to those people who, like me, stumbled across WordPress and discovered that it’s not quite as intuitive as one might expect, and that drove my business for quite some time and I became known as like one of the best WordPress teachers around. And that’s okay. So that led to Atlanta WordPress coach; officially it’s atlantawpcoach.com, which targets small businesses and do-it-yourselfers who have either broken a website, don’t know how to fix it or they are struggling.

[08:21] And so that’s kind of the bulk of my business. Every so often, a real-life serious business owner will come to me and that’s almost a fluke because of the reputation I have in the community as being a teacher. And I can go on and on and on. You all just have to stop me and interrupt when you want to know something different. So when I have real-life clients, like real, real businesses who are serious business owners with employees and big budgets and those kinds of things, I become the project manager and project consultant for that. My gift is in closing the deal because I’m a people person. I no longer go and actually touch people’s websites because I don’t enjoy that. To call myself a WordPress developer is really a misnomer but the checkboxes don’t usually apply to me. I’m not a designer and I’m not a developer. I’m a builder of people and a connector of people and that generally leads to great websites built by people on my team, not Kathy.

Micah: [09:41] Gotcha. Yeah, I think most people listening are probably going to be interested in, because I know a lot of people are starting out particularly in web development or anything related. They’re looking from the outside saying, “Well, you know, I have a hard time getting clients,” or “The clients I get, they don’t have tons of money.” So how do you make that work? How do you attract people to you that are, you know, they don’t know what they need. Like how does that work?

Kathy: [10:07] I’m kind so when I get an email, I reply from an empathetic point of view, which comes quite naturally to me. And so, gosh, I can teach people how to do that sort of — Basically, I begin the conversation with, “I acknowledge where you are in your struggle.” Yes, the struggle is real and allow them to tell me where it hurts and then I can respond with what we can do to eliminate some of that pain. A lot of the do-it-yourselfers have minimal budgets so we can talk about doing things hybrid. I will teach you to do what you want to do over and over and over. Like I will teach you how to add images to your content, but if you want to go in and make a color change of a hyperlink or change the font sizes on anything, more often than not, that’s better for me to do for you. And lo and behold, I have support plans that will make it economical for everybody.

Micah: [11:29] Thanks. I think from the teaching I’ve done and the things I’ve learned from doing that, I’ve found that the more you normalize the struggle, the more — the easier it is to people open up, right? Like if you —

Kathy: [11:47] Absolutely.

Micah: [11:48] Yeah. If you don’t normalize and say, “Hey, it’s expected that you don’t know this and that you’re going to run into XYZ and it’s okay when that happens. That’s why I’m here.” I think that’s, just watching from the outside, I’ve always thought that’s the one thing that I think you do really well.

Kathy: [12:06] It’s hard for people to ask for help in the first place because it’s admitting that they won’t — admitting that you need help with anything is difficult. And so when somebody sends me an email, that’s what I acknowledged first. I know that asking for help is hard but, hey, you don’t know what you don’t know and, as you say, normalize that is pretty easy to do because it’s a normal human condition to feel like you are less than when you’re struggling with something. And building a website is certainly a struggle for most people. It’s a struggle for those of us who do it for a living even if we’re at the top of our game because there’s always something we don’t know and always will be.

Aaron: [13:04] Tell me real quick, you mentioned support plans. How do those work? Are they monthly type things or how does that function for you?

Kathy: [13:16] I have three different levels. One reason I have three different levels is because in a pricing structure, it is always better to offer three options.

Aaron: [13:28] Yup.

Kathy: [13:29] And I don’t know that we need to go into the neuro-psychological reasons for that, but I have three plans and they are —

Aaron: [13:40] I added a third, like with some of our proposals, we added a third option in there because sometimes that third option makes people go to the second option.

Kathy: [13:54] Well, that’s what it’s designed to do so if we talk about that for just a second, because I am a consultant to business owners as well as do websites, but the psychology behind the three options is, one, you anchor a price point with that very, very top one and that’s your, in your dream world, this can happen. But the psychological piece of it is what you’re describing. That third piece allows people to choose option number two, which is the one you want them to choose anyway. There are always going to be people who will choose the least expensive option because that’s how they’re built. And there are always people who will choose the most expensive because that’s how they’re built. But by giving three options, as you said Aaron, that top one that is like two and a half times more than your second one makes the second one look more attractive. It’s also why it’s always positioned in a pricing field as most preferred or most popular or best option.

[15:14] So anyway, I have three levels and over the years I have increased the prices of those levels because I tend to give more than people expect. And so, once upon a time, for example, my lowest priced option was $49, but the clients that I attract send me emails that say, “I just got this email. Do I need to pay attention to it?” And the answer invariably is, “No, that’s a phishing scam.” And so I respond to people’s needs, but was leaving myself on the short-end of the stick financially as a result. So I now have my lowest price plan is $150, but it allows people to ask me those questions without limit. And I generally include hosting with that, too. And then my super, super duper big one is something like, I don’t know what I’ve got on it these days, maybe $850, which buys you 24/7 access.

Aaron: [16:32] Sounds like a deal to me.

Kathy: [16:33] It does. It is a deal. I’ll sign you up today. I’ll send you the link. I think touching on that, in terms of the support, is I try to shape my business as a consultant versus a pair of hands.

Aaron: [16:53] Fair enough.

Kathy: [16:54] I am not a hired hand or a typist. People are paying for my wisdom whether they are doing that at the lower scale of that tier or middle or higher.

Micah: [17:08] You found a way to make sure that the value that people are getting is directly in your gifted set, which I think is great.

Kathy: [17:17] And that value is based on what is valuable to them, not my value. I know my value, but value is in, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So for some people the value of the relationship is they don’t have to think about their website ever. It’s just somebody else’s taken care of it. And for other people it’s, “I know that I can send this email to Kathy and she will answer it and I don’t have to worry.” So the value changes based on who the client is.

Micah: [18:04] Awesome. So if you were to go back and start a WordPress business back in, what was it, 2006 or so when you first started? What would you have done differently knowing what you know now?

Kathy: [18:23] Wow. That’s always hard for me to answer because I was introduced to WordPress before I ever knew that there was a WordPress community. My first WordCamp, for example, was in 2008 and I walked into that room and went, “Oh my gosh, here are my people.” They get me. So if someone were starting now, I would encourage them to get involved in the community of WordPress. We’re so fortunate here in Atlanta because we have an enormous community of users as well as people who are in the business and we have, I don’t know, a bajillion meetups all across town. Easily fifteen meetups in our geographic area.

Aaron: [19:17] I was about to say don’t say too many, but we definitely have a lot of meetups.

Kathy: [19:23] We do. There is a meetup for everybody in every part of town. And what happens when you go into those meetup communities, you will feel alone when you walk through the door, but very quickly you will recognize that the people in the room are generous with their time and their energy and they want you to learn and they want you to be helpful. And I think that is the culture of WordPress, bubbly, at the community level. It’s unlike any community of people I’ve ever been involved with outside of 12-step support programs. Everybody wants you to succeed and are willing to share.

[20:16] Now that doesn’t mean give away our professional time, although I’ve learned to say that if I am within the room of a meetup, if I’m in those four walls, I will share everything that I know professionally. But if you catch me in the parking lot and asked me a question, the clock will start ticking because I have to draw boundaries around it some way because I am who I am and I say what I say and I’m pretty much what you see is what you get, so I can’t act differently inside an official WordPress event than I do outside or at my desk. So I think getting involved in the community would be my short answer.

Aaron: [21:08] Yeah. I’m kind of the same way with the whole WordCamps and whatnot. I’ll sit there and spend Saturday and Sunday working, helping someone out with WordPress in some way forward fashion. And I’ll tell people, I’m like, “Let me help you right now because Monday morning I want to start charging you.”

Kathy: [21:30] Absolutely.

Aaron: [21:30] It’s giving back to the community is kind of how I see those WordCamps. It’s one way to help out and you’re heavily involved in what, how many, I guess WordCamps have you scheduled and helped out with?

Kathy: [21:46] I’m extremely involved in the WordPress community. I have a role that’s referred to as community deputy and that, in short, kind of means like super volunteer. So I answer health questions at the community level in Slack as well as emails. If somebody is interested in starting a meetup in their community, I counsel with them, show them how to go through that application process and kind of, not kind of, I hold their hand and serve as a mentor to them as they get their meetups off the ground. I do the same thing globally, well not so much globally, but nationally for first-time WordCamp organizers.

[22:36] So I serve as a mentor in many, many capacities and have been instrumental in starting lots of meetups and supporting lots and lots of WordCamps. I’ve been an organizer here at WordCamp Atlanta since 2010 and never-ending. I’m no longer the lead organizer. Woo-hoo! But that doesn’t mean I’m not heavily involved. I’m also a organizer of WordCamp US for the second year and I’ve been told that once you’re in that family, there’s no getting out. For both of those, I am the sponsor team lead for both Atlanta and for WordCamp US, which I absolutely adore. It enables me to use all my people skills and my schmoozing and support the community by supporting the people who support financially, which is awesome.

Aaron: [23:41] Makes sense to me. So with WordCamp US, are you going to stay on that for, I mean, I guess my question is, is there a term limit in that type of stuff? Because I know with like organizing Atlanta, you can only be the lead guy for two years. Does that work the same with US?

Kathy: [24:08] It does and you can only be in the same city two years for US at the lead level. But if you’re a team member or leader of a team, there’s a lot of continuity there, which is also helpful as you bring in new people to have that continuity. I like it enough that I have all intentions of staying as the sponsor team lead for WordCamp 2019, which will be in Saint Louis.

Aaron: [24:43] Nice.

Kathy: [24:43] I just love it. I mean, you work like a dog for free, but I love every minute of it.

Aaron: [24:50] Yeah, it’s fun getting, I mean, I’ve known you. I mean, I remember like Googling WordPress Atlanta and I remember seeing you had like this little cartoon character, a view on your website and then, I don’t know this is probably 2011 or so I’d met you and I was like, “Oh, she looks like that cartoon character.”

Kathy: [25:16] Was that back when I had the cape on and the big (inaudible 25:19) on my head?

Aaron: [25:18] Yup.

Kathy: [25:19] Okay.

Aaron: [25:19] Yup. So, but I mean, I’ve known you for a while and I know that you have always been involved, heavily involved and it is giving back a lot of your time, but the friendships are worth a lot to me so —

Kathy: [25:39] Thank you. For me and my very, very core of my being is all about relationships and I would shrivel up and die without them as does everybody else. I’m just better at creating them than some people. And I use the word “gift” a lot because I feel blessed that when I meet people, I’m able to connect with them below the surface and there is something in me that allows them to open up and trust me and share things with me that they don’t share with other people. And as a result, they leave a conversation with me feeling empowered to take whatever next step that is in their life; whether talking about building their website or building their business or even in my personal life, their life transitions. But that is at my core. And what has happened for me over the years is that I have come to embrace that.

[26:59] So to come back to that question of what would I encourage people to do if they were just starting out today, it would be to find yourself as quick as you can because once you find yourself and what makes you sing, then you don’t have to struggle quite so hard to attract the people that are looking for what you have and what you are. But I’ve lived a very, very long time so I’ve had a lot of years to hone that and practice it and come to embrace that. Okay, this is who Kathy Drewien is and she’s going to be that way in all circumstances all the time. There are no secrets and there are no surprises. This is who she is. And today (inaudible) absolutely, absolutely. Because we figure if it’s this easy, I mean it’s so easy, how come everybody doesn’t know how to do this? But we totally dismiss what comes natural to ourselves. That’s just human condition.

Aaron: [28:12] And it’s like, people pay me to do this? This is what I do in my spare time. This is what I enjoy. So it’s nice to have — like I kind of tell my kids, “Find something that’s fun. Don’t necessarily try to do something that is profitable or something that is seen as success by society.” I say, “Find something that you’re passionate about and do a job or try to try to get a job doing that.” Because that’s fun to me. Like the WordPress, doing the WordPress stuff, helping someone out, fixing something that I might not see as real hard to do. I mean, maybe (inaudible 28:59) being in, fixing one little semicolon in the PHP or something; real easy to me, really hard to some other people so —

Kathy: [29:13] And it’s, like you said, it makes your heart sing.

Aaron: [29:17] Yeah. It’s nice.

Kathy: [29:21] And the pace that is consistent for me across my three careers —

Aaron: [29:26] And it’s amazing how long it takes for you to figure out what you’re good at and what your strengths are. And sometimes it’s just so natural to you that you don’t even think of it as a strength, which is what makes it so hard to identify sometimes.

Kathy: [29:44] Nice.

Aaron: Well, Micah, do you want to ask the final question?

Micah: [29:51] I don’t know. What’s the final question?

Kathy: [29:54] (inaudible)

Aaron: [29:56] I know it sounds crazy, doesn’t it? So we’re going to, since you’re a big networking person and you tend to know everybody in the WordPress community. We have three people. Can you come up with three people you would like to nominate to be on this podcast?

Kathy: [30:19] And they can come from anywhere or do you prefer Atlanta?

Aaron: [30:23] Oh, no, anywhere for sure. So we actually have two people lined up already that are out of state so —

Kathy: [30:34] Cool. I have lots of names.

Aaron: [30:37] Oh, I know.

Kathy: [30:37] The first one that comes to my mind is Andrea Rennick.

Aaron: [30:44] Okay.

Kathy: [30:44] Do you want me to spell these for you or send them to you?

Aaron: [30:48] I can Google it.

Kathy: [30:48] It’s Andrea Rennick, R-E-N-N-I-C-K. And she’s top of mind for me because when I got started playing with WordPress in 2006, I learned everything possible through the support forums. And whatever they were called at that time, whether it was StudioPress or something else, Andrea was one of the support people and continues to be a support person. She’s wonderful to know. Delightful. I’m sorry, I’m losing my voice. So anyways, so she comes to mind and I will send you contact information for her.

Aaron: [31:40] Cool.

Kathy: [31:40] Someone else that I like that I met through WordCamp US last year is Alex Velaquez. Velaquez. I’ll spell it, V-E-L-A-Q-U-E-Z or something close to that. He’s in California. Quirky personality. He’ll give you a run for your money on his sarcasm, Aaron.

Aaron: [32:11] Alright, game on.

Kathy: [32:15] Yeah and you could tell him I said so.

Aaron: [32:16] Alright.

Kathy: [32:16] And who would I want my third person to be?

Aaron: [32:23] You can go local if you want. I don’t have an issue with locals.

Kathy: [32:29] Well, we know all the same people.

Aaron: [32:32] I know.

Kathy: [32:35] I know.

Aaron: [32:36] But you know everybody so —

Kathy: [32:39] I do. Brad Morrison is excellent. He’s one of the smartest people I know in our community in terms of running a business and is eager to share his experiences.

Aaron: [32:53] Awesome. I’ve actually (inaudible 32:56) —

Kathy: [32:55] And he has a business model that’s different than the rest of us so that I find that to be a —

Aaron: [33:06] Yeah, he’s a service, well, product-based where a lot of us —

Kathy: [33:07] And subscription-based and most of us do not run our businesses solely as a subscription-based model.

Aaron: [33:14] Sounds good though. I’m interested and I’m going to be Googling Alex and Andrea, so figure out if they can get on the podcast so —

Kathy: [33:29] Sure. Use my name. Tell them I set them up.

Aaron: [33:33] Alright. Yeah, it’s not like it’s an ice ice bucket challenge or anything like that.

Kathy: [33:43] Right, Kathy’s dare.

Aaron: [33:43] Although I think that’d be funny but that might not be a way to get people on the podcast.

Micah: Well, he has to do it now.

Kathy: [33:50] Yeah, maybe not. Save that for the WordCamp or something.

Aaron: [33:55] Right. So after party, (inaudible 33:59) ,so if you’ve never gone to a WordCamp and you don’t know about the after party, they can be very fun and you should check it out so —

Kathy: [34:09] You can check it out in Birmingham on August the 4th and Asheville, two weekends after that and then you can come to Nashville December the 7th.

Aaron: [34:20] I love it. I love the plug. So, but yes —

Kathy: [34:24] That’s right.

Aaron: [34:25] Alright. Well, I think that covers it. I said in the invite to this, I said I think it’s going to be about thirty five minutes and I’ll let you know afterwards how long it would be. So, we’re at thirty six so it’s not bad.

Kathy: [34:41] That works well.

Aaron: [34:43] Awesome. Well, thank you for your time. I really appreciate it. I know you have a lot of knowledge and hopefully we’ll have you back on the podcast in the future.

Kathy: [34:56] I can talk anytime, anywhere and for as long as you want. Not as short as you want.

Aaron: [35:03] Nice. Alright. Well, have a good day.

Kathy: [35:05] Bye, guys. Thanks.

Micah: [35:21] Thanks. Bye.

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