Introducing Paul Oyler
Paul is a self-proclaimed crazy, old dude, who wishes it were still the 1970s, but who also loves 21st-century technology.
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 110.
Tara: Welcome to Hallway Chats. I’m Tara Claeys.
Liam: And I’m Liam Dempsey. Today, we’re joined by Paul Oyler. Paul is a self-proclaimed crazy, old dude, who wishes it were still the 1970s, but who also loves 21st-century technology. Paul is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a dad, a Pappy, a WordPress user, a Deadhead music lover and a fan of the Buffalo Sabres and the Bills. Welcome, Paul.
Paul: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Tara: Thanks for being here today, Paul. I’m really happy that you’ve joined us. I love that intro. There’s so much packed in there that’s not even WordPress related that I want to ask about. I’ll start by saying that one of my favorite playlists to listen to on any streaming is 1970s music. So among my favorite brings me back to being a kid and listening to Chicago and all these bands that you don’t hear on the regular radio very often. So I love 70s as well. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
Paul: Well, I currently live in Butler, Pennsylvania, which is north of Pittsburgh. I’m right in the middle of Steeler country, so I’m a Bills fan in Steeler country. I like the Steelers too. I was born in Buffalo, so that’s how I got to be the Sabres and Bills fan.
I consider Roanoke, Virginia home because that’s where my dad was from, and that’s where I did most of my growing up. I lived there till I was about 25. Then I moved to Georgia, went to college at 25, and I met my first wife there who was from Western Pennsylvania. That’s how I’ve been ever since. I’ve been in western Pennsylvania since 88, now I think it is.
Tara: That explains your somewhat Southern accent. I’ve always wondered that. When I’ve heard you speaking, you don’t really have like a Pittsburgh-ish accent. You’ve maintained your Southern accent there.
Paul: Yeah. People tell me. I still like to say y’all. I just haven’t got the yen. Exactly, right.
Tara: Tell us a little bit about your WordPress background, how you got started with it and what you do with WordPress.
Paul: I started using WordPress right after it first came out. I mean it was I think the second version after they had forked from CafePress. Before that, I had been doing websites for some local racetrack drivers. I started out using front page, then I switched over to Dreamweaver. And then I was looking for something that was just a little less complicated, and so I started using some of the Nuke software, like PHP-Nuke and PostNuke and several others. I didn’t like them. I just didn’t like the way it was going.
Somebody said, “Check out this new thing that’s just come out called WordPress.” And so I started using it. I figured out, even before there were themes, how to kind of make it look somewhat like I wanted to. In fact, I probably was better designing with the old version before I knew what I was doing then with the current versions. I’ve been using WordPress ever since. That’s pretty much how I got into WordPress. I’m not really a designer, I’m not a developer, but I muck around and I can make sites. Specialty is just taking care of sites.
Tara: How do you get your clients? Were you involved in a racing community? Is that what you started with?
Paul: That’s how I started, and I’ve still got one racer that I still do websites for. In fact, I was just updating his website just a little while ago. He won this last weekend at Lernerville Speedway, so I was getting his site updated with the latest win.
Then I did a lot of churches and I still do a lot of churches and ministries. Then started being just word of mouth. Lately, I’ve been in kind of a lull and I’m trying to figure out how to get customers. My health isn’t the best, I don’t get out a whole lot. So half the time, I kind of sit here just waiting for a customer to fall into my lap, and that just isn’t happening. So I’ve got to work on that.
Liam: What are your thoughts on that? How do you see that moving ahead? You know, I think I agree with you that customers don’t fall into lap all that often.
Paul: I’ve been trying to get some referrals from some of my current clients. But the last several that have been referred to me are people that want $200 websites. For a long time, I’ve vastly undervalued what I do, and I did those kinds of sites and I’m not going back to that. So I’ve got to find a way to network without actually being able to physically get out because it just doesn’t work for me very often. So I’m not sure really what my answer is going to be.
Tara: Do you have I guess some outlets or some…? I know you’re involved in some Slack groups to help you come up with ideas for marketing, and there are lots of people. There are many people actually. We’ve spoken to a few WordPress freelance solo printer people who also are limited physically and can’t get out. And it is a challenge to try to find new customers when you can’t go to your chamber of commerce, but then there are lots of people who don’t do those things and who have other ways of getting business online through online networking.
Paul: I’m trying to develop that a little bit more, and I’m in the process of doing a major redesign of my own website. Well, right now I’ve got it actually in maintenance mode, so nobody can look at it because it was just a mess, and I just didn’t want anybody looking at it. I’m going to redo it, and I’m going to try to make use of some of the great SEO tips that I’m getting from the Slack groups and from you and from Sarah and some of the other ones and trying to do it.
So maybe I’ll start showing up, people are looking for somebody to take care of their websites. I think that’s going to be more of my push is helping people to have WordPress websites but don’t know what to do with them. Maybe I’m going to try to start pushing that a little bit more.
Tara: That seems like a good direction. And then you’re not limited to just local people either that way because you can work with people anywhere. What’s your favorite thing to do with WordPress? You said you like helping taken care of websites for people. Do you probably free to do that overbuilding them or doing other kinds of development?
Paul: Yeah, I like taking care of them, keeping plugins updated, making sure the backups are done. I’ve taken over a couple of sites where they were using a WordPress version that was like two or three versions out of date, and they were afraid to update it because they didn’t know what was going to happen. And I’m finding that there’s a lot of people out there that don’t know what’s going to happen. They see these little red numbers over there that said their updates, but they don’t know what’s going to happen if they press that update button. So I like just helping those people out.
I’ve got a church that I just started helping recently. They had 40-some plugins, and five of them were different types of page builders. Basically, I just went in and blew their site up and started over for them because it was a mess. I liked doing that, solving that for them. And even though I’m not a designer, I’ve got to know enough people in different Slack groups that I can ask, “Does this work or what works best here?” I try something, see what works and just go from there.
Tara: Yeah, problem-solving.
Paul: Yeah, that’s it.
Tara: I’m sure your clients appreciate that, too. Paul. What do you find to be the biggest challenge? I know you talked about getting business. Let’s put that aside because that’s a challenge that many of us face. But in addition to that, what do you find your biggest challenge to be with your business?
Paul: Trying to code something for special needs. I’m not a coder. I can read PHP, and I can figure out a little bit but my specialty with coding is doing something so that it comes up with a fatal error. That seems to be something I’m real good at. But I’d like to get at least a little bit better with PHP. I love messing with CSS. When it first came out, I was all over it, and I went through a couple of years of sort of being out of the loop, and I’ve been playing catch up ever since. But I love playing with CSS and the things you can do with that.
Tara: Yeah, that’s really fun.
Liam: Yeah, CSS is pretty amazing. Paul, I just want to spend one little bit of the conversation and ask you about updating your own site, because I think that’s a particularly difficult project to stare at your own work and your own portfolio and your own design when it’s about you and say, “Does this reflect me? Does this reflect my business?” How’s your process for approaching that? Because I know it’s something I’ve struggled with.
Paul: So far, my main process has been beating my head off of my desk several times. I have a hard time with it. The thoughts crossed my mind to see about hiring somebody to do my website. But I thought, “That’s kind of weird too if I do other people’s websites and hire somebody to do mine.” But I’m not good at my mine. I’ve just got this huge mental block of what to do and how to present myself.
Tara: I thought about that too. I think sometimes about hairdressers, right? They can’t necessarily cut their own hair. So somebody has to do that for them. It’s hard to look at your own site and be objective about it.
Liam: I was talking with another little practice like myself, and we were all of huge hair away from agreeing to swap, they would build our site and we would build theirs. We couldn’t figure out how we’re going to do, or what if we didn’t like the design, then what do we do?
Paul: Right. Right.
Liam: “You just make it and make it how you want and we’ll make yours and go from there.”
Paul: I’m learning Beaver Builder now too. I was really starting to get into Beaver Builder a year and a half ago and I went through a series of six eye surgeries. So I was like a year with not using it, so everything I had learned no longer applied it seemed like, and a lot of stuff has changed a little bit. I’m still learning it, tweaking it. I’ve got a couple of sandbox sites that I just play with and I think I want to start doing that on my own site while I’ve got it in maintenance mode and see what happens. But my problem with Beaver Builder, sometimes I overthink it and make it too…There are too many neat things I find that I can do with it and then all of a sudden, it’s not exactly what I want at all.
Tara: It’s easy to go down some rabbit holes there. You said you had a number of eyes surgeries. How did that impact your business? And I’m wondering if you were working at all, if you had the opportunity to employ some accessibility features if your vision was impaired or low during that time. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?
Paul: Yeah. I didn’t do a whole lot of anything. I was fortunate that I had somebody from one of the Slack groups that I’m in. It was Benjamin from WPStudio was actually helping me out a lot with maintaining my sites. I just didn’t do a whole lot because I went almost a year without being able to see. It was really frustrating.
Liam: Wow. A year is a long time.
Tara: That’s a long time.
Paul: It was a lot longer than I had thought it was going to be. I was thinking it was going to be like maybe a six-week process. I had a couple of complications. And when we thought it was finally right, something happened again and my eyes shifted so I had some more trouble with it.
Tara: Were you online during that time with other websites? I guess you may have had a unique perspective on utilizing the web.
Paul: I didn’t take advantage of it the way I should have. I put stuff in extra-large print and just used it the way I had been doing it. I didn’t take advantage of some of the accessibility features that I should have so that I could have learned more about accessibility.
Tara: Well, it’s interesting that you were able to utilize the web with what you’ve just described, you know, using larger typing, something that you didn’t have to use. So that’s an interesting discovery right there. That some of those accessibility features maybe aren’t necessary depending on how limited your vision is.
Tara: That was an easy thing to do to zoom in and see the type larger. That’s interesting.
Liam: Yeah, that’s really interesting. And what a challenge to your point, Paul to have a big challenge like severely impaired vision and you think it’s going to be six weeks and it turns out to be 12 months. That’s going to be difficult to keep spirits up and keep focused and keep going and keep trying to keep on keeping on. I wonder if your love of music helped you deal with that in any way?
Paul: Yeah, I listened to a lot of music. I’ll be honest, I struggle with depression and when all of that was going on, that was a real struggle. And so there was a lot of days I would just put on some music. Grateful Dead in particular just seemed to pick me up. And I just put them on and just listened to three or four hours of a jam and seemed like it helped get me through.
Liam: Yeah, the Dead can jam for that long too. You don’t have to play the album on repeat.
Paul: Nope. One time I think I was adding it up, and with all of the tapes that I’ve got in albums and concerts recorded. I’ve probably got a little over 2500 hours’ worth of Grateful Dead music that I could listen to without repeating anything.
Tara: Wow. Wow. Have you attended a lot of concerts as well?
Paul: Not as many as I wished I could have.
Tara: But you can get them recorded?
Paul: Yeah. They’re on the internet archive, archive.org. I’ve got just a boatload of them. I’ve also got a plugin on my own website, that when I log in on the admin page, it’s this day I’m Grateful Dead history. And so different concerts that were played on this day in history. It’s kind of cool. I like it.
Tara: That’s awesome.
Paul: And so everyone, I say, “Oh, they were in Roanoke on this day.” So I’ll go and listen to what they were playing in Roanoke.
Tara: That’s awesome. Do you have a favorite song?
Paul: Probably “Fire in the Mountain.” There’s so many. “Scarlet Begonias,” “Sugar Magnolia.”
Tara: Nice. Well, thanks for sharing that with us. I’m glad you found that to be something that helped you when you were feeling down. And I’m glad to hear that your vision has come back and hopefully that’s how as well getting through the hard time you had.
Tara: Paul, we like to ask everybody about success and what their definition of success is, how they view it and implement their idea about success into their daily life. How do you define success?
Paul: That seems to be a process for me that’s changing. It used to be success was I’d have enough money that I could do whatever I wanted to. Now success is I’ve got a very good marriage, my wife’s happy, I’m happy, we get to see our grandkids, we’ve got a house to live in. To me, that’s success anymore. I mean, I don’t have these grandiose dreams of getting rich because that’s not going to happen for me. My whole perspective just seems like it’s changed and I’m learning to be content with what I have. I don’t know how else to word that. That’s a hard one for me to…I saw that on the questions you guys might ask and I was thinking, “I still don’t know exactly how I define success.”
Liam: I love the way you’ve interwoven the priorities for your life now versus when you were a younger Paul. Maybe still going to those Grateful Dead shows. And it went from money, and probably not money just for money sake, but money to live the life you wanted to now it’s your relationship with your wife, that relationship you have with your grandchildren, the fact that you have somewhere to call home and you’re rooted there, and it’s not going anywhere. You have a lot of stability, you know, probably to be who you are, right?
Paul: Right. That’s a lot of it. And I’ll be honest without getting off on a side tangent, but my relationship with Jesus has changed a lot of things. It’s just changed my perspective on so much. I mean, 40 years ago, my perspective was, where am I going to get my next tie?” And now it’s like spending some more quality time with my wife is like the best thing in the world.
Liam: Yeah, perspective changes with time and we’re lucky that, you know, for those of us who were on a good spot, our perspective way changes in ways that make us happy and comfortable and not the other way around.
Paul: Yes, exactly.
Tara: I think not taking that for granted, the fact that you acknowledge it and realize how your priorities have changed. You’ve shared that you’ve had some health issues and struggle with depression, so being able to kind of look down from another perspective at your life and recognize those things and how they’ve all contributed to where you are now sounds like your definition of success has evolved in a way that’s leading you to a contentment that helps you overcome those challenges that you’ve described. So, I think that that makes a lot of sense. And I’m glad to hear that you’re happy. That’s good.
Paul: I’ve had a lot of life experiences that’s made me who I am today. I mean, starting with the day I turned 13, my dad was killed in a truck wreck. And I was real close with my grandma, and she died. I’ve been through a divorce that I never wanted. When I got married, I thought I was going to be married once and that was it forever happily ever after, all that jazz, and my current wife is my third wife. I never thought I’d say that.
My second wife died very unexpectedly, and I didn’t think I’d come out of that. That put me into a nosedive that I didn’t think I’d come out of. But a year and a half later, I was married again. And I can’t believe how happy I am now. But all of those experiences put together has made me who I am today.
Tara: Thank you for sharing that. You’ve had a lot of life experiences. I can’t imagine losing your dad at 13. I just watched an interview with Stephen Colbert [SP] and Anderson Cooper. They both lost their fathers when they were around 10 or around that age as well, and they really poignantly described how that’s impacted their life in sort of the before and after way that they define their life. Do you have siblings that you could rely on during that time or was your mom there? Talk a little bit about that.
Paul: I’ve got one younger brother. We’re close but not close like some people are close with their siblings. I mean, we’d stand up and fight for each other in a second. He lives in Arizona now and I’m here and we see each other, maybe if we’re lucky, once a year.
My mom died about six years ago, but I leaned on her a lot. My second wife, when she first went into the hospital, I was calling my mom every night. I continued that until my mom was no longer able to talk. I just talked to my mom every day. So that was really important. It was even more important to me because of what I put my mom through as a teenager. With my dad die and when he did I was, I was a typical 70s rebellious teenager, and I did a lot of stuff that I know, it broke my mom’s heart. I was glad I had the end of her life we were super close
Tara: Well, and having both of you having lost a spouse that probably gave you another bunch.
Paul: Yeah. In fact, my current wife and I, part of what makes us such a good match is that we both had a first marriage that we thought was going to be our forever marriage and didn’t work out. We both had a second marriage and our spouse died. And then we met each other. And we’re at the point like where we knew exactly what we wanted, what works, what doesn’t work. Yeah, we’re very happy together.
Liam: That’s really lovely. Thank you for sharing that. From great turmoil comes great joy, it sounds.
Paul: Yeah. What’s cool is we met online. We met on ChristianMingle. And we weren’t supposed to. We were both outside of each other’s parameters, and yet somehow, it came across. I think I smiled at her and she smiled back, and a week later we met and eight weeks later, we were married.
Liam: Oh, my, that’s great. That’s great. Was she in your geographic area, though? She must have been right?
Paul: Yeah. Yeah. We just celebrated our seventh anniversary.
Liam: That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. That’s wonderful. I’m thrilled for you too. Congratulations.
Paul: Thank you.
Liam: Paul, you’ve shared a number of really big stories with us. I haven’t delved into any of them too terribly deeply. I guess we’re just kind of chatting as we go here. But I want to ask you about advice. As you’ve gone about your life and lifted as you have, what’s been the best advice that you’ve received and successfully implemented into your life?
Paul: I guess the best advice I can think of would be to love my neighbor as I’d love myself. I mean, that was a teaching of Jesus and it’s one that I’ve taken to heart. I put God first, and then I try to love everybody. It’s cliché, but I try to treat everybody the way I’d want to be treated. That’s important to me. I put a high value on other people. It’s hard sometimes, but I try to respond. Even if people don’t respond the way I like to I still try to respond back with love. So I guess love one another and putting it into practice. It’s easier said than done, but that’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten.
Liam: Yeah, I definitely agree with you that it’s easier said than done, but that you’re doing it and especially that you’re doing it probably in some ways through work and through people who might be upset that their website isn’t doing what they want, when they want, and how they want, deal with that and fix it and try to make them happy, all while being polite and treating them with love.
Paul: Yeah. I’ve got a lot of clients who aren’t exactly web savvy or tech-savvy and trying to explain things to them. It’s funny, somebody, in one of our Slack groups, was talking about how one of their clients wanted to know why somebody left a review on Google, and they thought it was on their website. And I deal with that a lot. It’s hard for me sometimes to remember because I do it all the time, but a lot of people just don’t get how the internet works and how websites work. And I have to catch them myself sometimes to put it into language they understand.
My stepfather never used a computer until after my mom died. He was 78. And I was teaching him how to use a computer, and I didn’t realize how hard it was to teach somebody how to use a mouse. Because it’s something I do every day, and it’s like…I always, compared, how do you teach somebody how to play catch. I mean, it’s just something you do. And that’s just the way I feel about a lot of this stuff.
Even with websites I work on, it’s so easy to me, but there’s a lot of people that just don’t get it and they don’t understand it. So things I think are nothing that are so simple, a lot of my clients think I’m Superman because I can do this for them. I don’t know, that’s kind of cool.
Tara: And balancing that with not making them feel that you’re frustrated with them or that they aren’t smart or any of those things can be hard too. You don’t want to seem patronizing. I think the advice that you share about treating others as you would want to be treated, that must come into play because we’ve all been in situations where we felt like we were being put down or we felt not smart. So to have that in your mind and realize how you would like to be treated in that circumstance, I’m sure makes you a great partner for those people that you’re helping. And that shows in your business and how people feel about working with you. So applying that advice to your personal life as well as your work life, in your case, sounds like you’re doing that.
Paul: I give it my best shot.
Liam: That’s all we can do, though, right? I mean, all we can do is try. And someday we achieve, another day we fail, but all we can do is try.
Paul: Yeah. I love when I’m working with somebody, especially one of the churches that I’m helping out with and… In fact, that one I just took over helping with, the lady that’s actually running it, it just sort of was dumped into her lap, and everyone saw it. She just sent me an email out of the blue, just saying, “Thank you so much for what you do. You’re such a blessing.” That’s a highlight of a day when I get an email like that. And I get it from some of my other clients, that they’re like…there’s one lady that sends me an email every once in a while. It just says giant letters. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” That’s cool because I get down on myself, I think, “I’m not anything special.” But other people think it’s pretty special. So I have to remind myself that sometimes too.
Tara: Those are good things to save and put in a special folder or something so that when you’re feeling down, you can go back and refer to that, right?
Paul: Yeah, yeah.
Liam: That’s an important thing to do because it’s easy day to day to forget the value that we have, but also what we bring to others sometimes in moments of uncertainty or depressing, having some kind of document to says, “Oh, yeah, I really helped that one person out. It took me five minutes and it didn’t mean that anything to me in terms of challenges to overcome, but it just made the world for them.” So that’s a good technique, Tara. Thank you for sharing that.
Paul, I feel like we could go on for hours and hours and hours here, but we’re coming up to the limits of our time together. Thank you so much for joining us. It’s been an absolute pleasure learning about you and getting to know you a little bit.
Paul: Well, thank you for having me. I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed talking with y’all. It’s been a really good time.
Tara: I’m glad you could join us and we could get to know you a little bit more. Where can people find you online?
Paul: On Twitter, I’m @PappyOyler. I’ve got my business websites, oylercreative.com, but don’t go there now because there’s nothing there. I do have a personal blog that I’m starting up that I do write a lot about my personal stuff, and that’s pauloyler.online.
Tara: Great. Thanks again for sharing with us so openly, Paul. It’s really great to spend this time with you. Hope to see you soon.
Paul: Thank you.
Liam: Thanks, Paul. Bye for now.
Liam: Thanks for listening to the show. We sure hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
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