Introducing Carrie Dils
Carrie is a web developer instructor and freelance coach. She teaches front end web development and WordPress courses over at LinkedIn Learning.
Tara: This is Hallway Chats, where we meet people who use WordPress.
Liam: We ask questions, and our guests share their stories, ideas, and perspectives.
Tara: And now the conversation begins. This is episode 100.
Tara: Welcome to Hallway Chats. I’m Tara Claeys.
Liam: And I’m Liam Dempsey. Today, we’re joined by Carrie Dils. Carrie is a web developer instructor and freelance coach. And she is one of our very first supporters of our podcast. When Tara and I were starting to consider and getting ready to launch this podcast, we reached out to Carrie, who is a very accomplished podcaster in her own right to ask for advice and for guidance. She shared a lot of logistics, and there’s a lot of emotional support as well. Then when we first started to ask for financial support of our podcast, she was the first and dare I say only individual to contribute to the costs associated with running this podcast.
Just one more bit of introduction for Carrie, before I welcome her properly to the show, is to show that when we have guests on to the show, we asked them to complete a form with just some logistics information so we can describe them and read an introduction about them. And one of the questions that we asked our to-be guests is, who in the WordPress community do they respect but have yet to meet? And I can say that Carrie Dils name comes up more often than any others as someone in the WordPress community who people respect, but they’ve yet to meet.
So as we celebrate our 100th episode, it is with great joy and happiness that we welcome Carrie to the show. Welcome, Carrie.
Carrie: Thank you so much. What an intro.
Tara: Carrie, we’re so excited. Thank you very much for joining us on Hallway Chats. For those who don’t know you and for those who do, can you tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do?
Carrie: Sure. [sound cut off] Over the past few years have gone more into education. I teach front end web development and WordPress courses over at LinkedIn Learning. Also, as you guys said, I have a podcast and then run a series of courses called The Fearless Freelancer, just teaching basic business skills to those getting started in their web development businesses.
Liam: Carrie, I’ve looked up to you for years now as a friendly business leader, and certainly my headphones have carried your voice many times as I’ve cut my grass trying to figure out how to make my little practice better. How did you fall into all of this? Because web technology is relatively new, podcasting is new. Figuring out how to be a successful business owner in an environment that’s always changing, how did that come to be? Can you talk us through that story a little bit?
Carrie: Sure. I probably embarked into it a little bit about 20 years ago. Oh, my gosh, I’ve been out of college like 25 years. Oh my gosh. I don’t know. After I graduated college, I didn’t really have too many marketable skills, other than I learned just basic HTML to make websites. So I found out that I really enjoyed that and just kind of fell into freelancing.
At that point in time, you would actually look in the classifieds for web work. And did that. Then maybe six, seven years ago at this point, somebody told me about WordPress. I’d gotten out of the web development industry and was thinking about making a career change and somebody told me about WordPress. I guess the rest is kind of history. But in terms of the business side of it, entrepreneurial spirit has always been with me.
Liam: As you discovered WordPress, and were thinking, “Okay, maybe I don’t want to leave development yet,” where did WordPress go with your career or where did you take it? What about it? Where did you latch on to? Did you continue to be basically a WordPress consultant offering development and the like? Or how did that come about or proceed? What happened?
Carrie: When I first got started with WordPress you mean? Yeah. I was looking to make a career change. At that point, I had been with the Starbucks Corporation for about a decade and I was tired of the coffee business and frankly, tired of being in the service industry and looking for a change. So I fell back on what was that old skill in web development. I obviously needed a lot of dusting off.
It was somebody that I worked with at Starbucks that actually told me about WordPress. So I started working with it, playing with it. I honestly don’t even remember how I found my first WordPress client. It might have been a referral or friend of a friend. I’ve slept too many times to remember. Just kind of slowly started dipping my way back into offering client services while I was still working at Starbucks. And then there came a tipping point where it was much more financially attractive to let go of the Starbucks work and go freelance full time.
Tara: Your transition then from that, from doing client work, how long did you do client work before you started teaching, I guess?
Carrie: A couple of years. Maybe two, three years. And the teaching, I kind of backed into that too. It was as I was learning WordPress, I would blog about my experience and blog in the form of tutorials, mostly to help me remember what it was I was learning. But I got a lot of good feedback on those that people were finding them helpful. So that led me to start being more purposeful about writing tutorials and things that would be helpful for other people.
Tara: So you taught yourself and then your documentation of that was blogging, which then turned into another business outlet for you?
Carrie: It did.
Tara: Did you find that you liked that more than doing client work? Because it seems like your business really transitioned more and then into teaching freelancers how to be freelancers. You’re a teacher at heart, would you say?
Carrie: You know, I would have never thought of myself that way, but I have found that work to be very gratifying. I guess maybe so. I’ve never thought of myself as a teacher or ever necessarily wanting a career in education. But it’s really fun to watch somebody want to learn how to do something and get to have a hand and teaching them and then see them go be successful in whatever, whether that’s creating a website or filing their official papers for their business, or whatever it is. It’s cool to be part of that journey.
Tara: Yeah, I can definitely see that. And I think your personality is comfortable and fun so you make it interesting for people to want to interact with you on that level. When it comes to your running a business, how have you found that transition from client work to being a teacher? Because teachers don’t get paid as much as business people, right? Or that is not true in the LinkedIn and WordPress world?
Carrie: Well, I mean, certainly, it’s not part of traditional education which certainly our teachers are grossly underpaid. But thankfully, I don’t rely on government budgets to set my salary restrictions. That was a little bit of a juggling act to make the leap. It wasn’t really even a leap, it was just kind of a slow overlap of doing the educational stuff and doing client services along with it until I had enough income coming into let the client services go. A lot of hustle.
Liam: Yeah, Yeah. And you told me, Carrie, but I would imagine it was LinkedIn says, “Hey, would you like to put together a course?” And you say, “Okay, sure.” And then you realize or learn about the difference between a well-documented blog post in a formal LinkedIn Learning course and the level of preparation and energy and hours, frankly, that you would have to put into that. What was that all like?
Carrie: Oh, yeah. That’s been an education on its own just learning how to do courses at a professional level. Thankfully, I write all the courses, I plan all the courses, and then I show up and record them. But they do the heavy lifting in terms of the production and whatnot.
But yeah, from a planning perspective, it’s a pretty significant upfront time investment that goes into creating the materials. Of course, I’m working with some of their staff to make sure that what I’m thinking of actually sound like it makes sense. So there’s some collaboration there. Kind of learning that model, it’s not like it’s any big secret or difficulty. Every course just starts off with first, what’s the learning objective, what do you want to teach somebody, and then creating an outline. Okay, here’s the big five bases we want to cover. And then within each of those bases, maybe there’s five or six subtopics.
So just coming up with that initial outline for a course has helped me think through how I wrote my Fearless Freelance or courses, how I structure blog post now. It’s even helped me in just if I’m preparing to talk at a WordCamp or something. Again, it’s not like it’s any big magic, but it was just something I had not been exposed to. I’ve gotten in education in the process.
Tara: How do you balance imposter syndrome with this? Obviously, there’s a lot of talk in our space about imposter syndrome, and I think teaching sometimes helps you learn something more. I found giving talks is helpful because I feel like I learn things and I realize that I know more than I think I do. Is that hold true? Do you think that this process has helped you if you ever did have imposter syndrome to I guess work on that? Maybe not get over it, but work on it?
Carrie: Yeah, I did and I do still have imposter syndrome based on the scenario. But I think the teaching and repeated showing up in those capacities has helped build my confidence. And of course, when people will give you feedback, it’s not always positive. Or I should say it’s constructive but not always necessarily in a praise way. But when you hear enough people responding positively, it helps you say, “Okay, I guess I do know what I’m talking about or I guess I have been helpful. So I’m going to try to put my imposter syndrome on the shelf a little bit.”
Liam: Yeah, that’s a thing that never goes away. Carrie, you mentioned talking at a WordCamp, and I want to ask you about how you first encountered the WordPress community and maybe even your first WordCamp – how that came about and what you made of it all back then?
Carrie: This was I think maybe 2013. I’d never heard of a WordCamp. I had started working with WordPress, and of course, just googling, finding tutorials and stuff like that and I came across Billy Erickson’s website, who’s a very talented developer that I look up to. He’s based out of Texas, which is where I was based out of. Somehow I was poking around on his website, looking at something and I saw a reference to a WordCamp. I was like, “What?”
Trace it back, I find the link to the WordCamp site, and I realized that I’ve just missed – maybe this is 2012, I can’t remember – but I realized that I’ve just missed whatever Texas camp had happened. It was probably working in Boston. So I just waited until the next year till it rolled around again and I went. And I think I was just jaw-dropping the floor that all these people were interested in this software, and we’re coming together and giving away information at such a ridiculously low cost. Of course, it was fun.
I remember that was the first time I met Chris Lema in person, the first time I met Megan Gray in person, Bill Erickson, and Jared Atchison. All these people that I had interacted with online, and respected. And it’s like, “Oh, my gosh, like, I’m standing in the same room with you.” Of course, that just started a trend of attending as many WordCamps as I could manage to get to.
Tara: They are pretty life-changing. We’ve talked to so many people who had that experience, myself included, and I think we give a lot of credit to WordCamp for changing people’s interaction with WordPress in their business and their life, I guess.
I’m going to ask you about success, Carrie. We like to ask everybody about that topic just to explore your definition of success, personal professional, either or both, how they fit together. If you could share that with us, that’d be great.
Carrie: Sure. Personally, I guess I would say that success looks like your relationships – having people that love you and support you and being able to give that love and support back to your friends or your family. If you got that, you’re the richest person in the world. Professionally, I’ve always been kind of a work to live not a live to work person. So I’m not super driven by corporate ladders or promotions. Not that those things are bad, that’s just not the way that I’m wired. I would much rather find something that makes me just enough money that I can go to whatever lifestyle I want. In my case that happens to currently be driving around the country and camping out of my car and just enjoying this beautiful green earth we live on. So the flexibility, to be able to do that, that’s maybe kind of simple, but I don’t need much.
Liam: I liked the simplicity of your definitions, both the personal level of being able to not only get love and support from those around us but be able to give back and to share and support them. Because it really is a two-way street, doesn’t it? It has to be. And if it’s not, it’s not a healthy situation. And I think your approach of working to live also emphasizes that healthy relationship, healthy exchange of enough money to do what I want, but not focusing too much on money and not focusing too much on what I want. Thank you for sharing that with us, Carrie.
Carrie: Sure. Thanks for asking.
Tara: What are some things that you do in your daily life toward those ideas? Do you have a schedule, a plan, goals? How do you set that up?
Carrie: Yeah. The current place I’m in, in my life, is not representative of maybe what the past five or six years looked like. I’ve moved out of my home, ended significant relationship and have not really put down my route yet. So the one thing I have missed is actually having some sort of a set schedule. Right now it’s more of, “all right, when can I get to a Starbucks and take advantage of the Wi-Fi and get some work done?” Work comes in some odd time pockets. So let’s say this time is not really representative.
Previously, and Tara I know you’re familiar with the 12 Week Year, I would set out to do 12 Week Year. So usually in either mid to late December, early January kind of plan out what I wanted to get done for the year, and then break that into those quarterly segments. I’ve been in masterminds at various points with people who help to keep me on track or help make sure I’m reaching after my goals. But I like that model of having a big picture plan, but then having the flexibility to change direction if need be, or if an unexpected opportunity comes up.
Tara: Even with your change in your routine, is there something that you that you’ve hung on to, something that you do every day?
Carrie: I try to take a walk every day. And that’s not necessarily work-related, but it is just a way to kind of clear some space in my head, and also use that time to listen to a business book or taking a podcast. That’s a habit that I’ve tried to…that’s good for my mental health and sanity. And I can do that anywhere in the world.
Tara: Yeah, for sure.
Liam: Where have you been lately? You said you’ve been traveling, and so you’ve piqued my interest and even maybe a little jealous. Where have you gone? What have you seen?
Carrie: I started in Texas. One of my missions was to just see as many national parks as I could in 2019. This is another great thing about the WordPress world. You meet people from all over the place. So you can just put your finger on a map and there’s probably somebody from WordPress that lives there. But I went to Oklahoma. So Corey and Lindsay Miller, spend some time with them. Saw my old college roommate. Then cut across to Colorado. I tried to go to the Grand Canyon but it was snowing tremendously and the road was closed that I needed to use. So I skipped the Grand Canyon this time around.
Liam: Yeah, that’s not a ditch you want to slide into accidentally, is it?
Carrie: No, no. I was really disappointed to miss it, but I’ll be back I’m sure. Let’s see. I spent some time in Arizona and gotten to spend time with folks from the Phoenix WordPress community. Utah, I’ve been to the Four Corners, but that was about my extent to spending time in Utah.
Liam: You checked the Utah box. Well done.
Carrie: I got my border picture and then I moved on. From there, I spent most of my time in California. I didn’t quite expect to spend as long out here as I have but had the opportunity to do some pet sitting for a friend and so stayed out here a little bit longer. In the middle of that, I’ve gone back to Texas and spent about a month visiting with friends and catching up there.
Then tomorrow I’m going to start heading up the coastline of California and hopefully, by this weekend to be in Yosemite. Well, we’ll see how the Wi-Fi connection is.
Tara: Sounds like a great adventure and a lot of driving. Do you listen to a podcast when you’re driving? I eat a lot of candy when I drive and I know that you and I both enjoy good Hot Tamales.
Carrie: We do enjoy a good Hot Tamale. Oh, my goodness, yeah. They are so good for keeping you awake when you’re driving. I’ll listen to podcast. Not necessarily business or WordPress podcast, but a lot of NPR shows, and then listen to – I was going to say books on tape – audio books, and sometimes music. Just kind of depends on the mood.
Tara: Have you had any surprising encounters or episodes or views or Vistas, surprising/favorite things with all the driving?
Carrie: Oh, probably the most surprising happened fairly…This was back in January. I had just been to the Four Corners monument and snapped my picture there, and was headed to the Grand Canyon and making my way in that general direction. And there was a beautiful dog that was on the road. I pulled over and… I had some goldfish that I’ve been snacking on. Not Hot Tamales. I was in a salty mood I guess! But I use the goldfish to coax the dog into the car with me and ended up kind of a fun story or at least fun for anybody who’s a dog lover.
Took him, made sure that he didn’t blonde anybody, he wasn’t chipped. Got his shots, his vaccinations and then ended up with the help of the inner webs, and kind of putting up the call finding a foster home for him. And I did a lot of driving to get him there, but that was a really fun experience.
I remember at one point taking a client call. And I was in some place with just terrible cell connection, and I had this dog – I kind of nicknamed him Floofy because he was big fluffy. So I had Floofy sleeping in the back of my car, I was trying to transport him, and I had terrible cell reception. So I was on a rest up on the side of the road trying to have this call with a client. Thankfully, the client was very gracious person because it was not exactly the smoothest. That was unexpected.
Tara: That’s a great story for your freelancing advice. Maybe don’t take client calls in the car with that cell service and a stray dog.
Carrie: Yeah, yeah. The planning on that one could have been better for sure.
Tara: But it worked out. It worked out.
Liam: Carrie, I want to ask you about advice. One of the questions that we like to ask our guests here is around not so much advice that they’ve shared, but advice that they’ve heard or read and embraced and successfully implemented in their lives. Can you share with us some piece of advice that you’ve received and implemented successfully in your own life?
Carrie: Oh, what a great question. Man, I’m trying to just pick one because thankfully, I’ve had a lot of mentors speak a lot of wisdom in my life. I think probably the most recent would be my dad who I’ve always had tremendous respect for both professionally and personally. He is also a college professor. He was talking about when he tells the students to kind of go with their bent. Everybody has a natural bent, whether they’re implying to athleticism or they’re inclined to work with their hands or inclined to be a helper or take care of people. Everybody has their bent. And when you lean into that is where you find kind of the least resistance and can find some success.
My dad, of course, knows me pretty well, and he was just telling me some stories from my childhood and we were talking about my bent. So it was just kind of encouraging to hear as I think about kind of what’s this next chapter in my life look like career-wise, especially, what is my natural bent. And it is definitely towards entrepreneurial adventure, and how does that play out and how can I lean into that? I guess I haven’t really implemented it yet. It’s still kind of knocking around the noggin.
Tara: Yeah, I like that idea of your bent, your skill. Have you done any of these like personality tests that are all the rage, the enneagram or all these things, that help you identify your personality type or I guess your bent in a way?
Carrie: Oh, yeah. I kind of love those tests.
Tara: They’re addictive, aren’t they?
Carrie: Yeah. Probably the Myers Briggs. I don’t know. I did that a year ago or so – probably the most recent one. I feel like I straddle the middle on a lot of things. I’m like, “That’s not helpful.” My bent is I don’t have a bent. Apparently just right down the middle. I do love taking those things.
Liam: I’m curious about the manner in which your father shared that advice. Was that when you were out visiting, and it was the two of you on the back porch, maybe having a beer as the sun went down, and he kind of looked over and says, “Carrie, let’s talk”? Or will you just shooting the bowl and asking for advice? I just love dad and advice stories. Can you share about that?
Carrie: Well, at a really neat experience this past fall, I got to go to Spain with my dad and spend five weeks with him hiking across the country.
Carrie: So we have a lot of opportunities to talk. So we were just talking about figuring out what you want to be when you grow up. He’s 70. And he told me, he still didn’t know what he wanted to be. And I said, “Well, that is so discouraging. You don’t know and you’re 70. How is that helping me?” That was the context.
Liam: What a great experience. Five weeks just hanging out with your dad, walking, talking, probably doing a lot of nothing too in terms of just walking and focusing on the road and introspection. What a blessing to have that.
Carrie: Yeah, I treasure that. I will always treasure that. I would say to anybody if they get a chance to spend time with their parents like that – and of course, not everybody is as good relationships or that opportunity. But if it does come up, I highly recommend taking it.
Tara: Yeah, and having a freelance lifestyle that allows you to do that I imagine.
Tara: Did you have Wi-Fi in your travels? Did you work at all or did you completely disconnect?
Carrie: I completely disconnected. Other than uploading some photos to Instagram and phone calls of family.
Tara: So you just told clients that you were going to be gone and you gave them a person to contact?
Carrie: For about six months, I had been working towards having that space cleared on my calendar. I picked two active clients at that time and I introduced them to someone else who could take care of them just in case there was an emergency or they needed something while I was gone.
Tara: Excellent. Wow. That’s something to keep in the back of one’s mind is having that opportunity and having the courage to do it. I think that’s a big thing. Very cool. Thanks for sharing that with us.
We are running out of time. I want to acknowledge Carrie. And thank you for not only being a supporter of the show but for being a supporter of me and the WordPress community that I found, which really started with your live podcast. I have so many friends in the WordPress community that came from that show, and I’ve learned a lot from you. So personally, I want to say thank you for that. I probably wouldn’t be here right now if it weren’t for you. So thanks.
Carrie: Oh, thank you.
Tara: Thanks for being here on the show, and being part of my journey too.
Carrie: Thank you that means the world to me.
Liam: Carrie, it’s been such a pleasure. I’ve long admired you from afar and listened to your show. So to have you on our little show today is just a wonderful way for us to celebrate our 100th episode. Thank you so much for joining us.
Carrie: Absolutely. Thanks for having me guys, and congrats again on number 100.
Tara: Thanks for your support. Where can people find you online if they haven’t already?
Carrie: You can find me at carriedils.com or on Twitter @cdils.
Tara: Thanks again, Carrie. Hope to see you soon. Bye-bye.
Carrie: Thanks, guys.
Liam: Thanks, Carrie.
Liam: Thanks for listening to the show. We sure hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Tara: If you like what we’re doing here – meeting new people in our WordPress community – we invite you to tell others about it. We’re on iTunes and at hallwaychats.com.
Liam: Better yet, ask your WordPress friends and colleagues to join us on the show. Encourage them to complete the “Be on the show” form on our site, to tell us about themselves.