Introducing Chris and Jude Wharton
- Sháá Wasmund MBE: https://www.shaa.com/
- Matt Thomas https://www.shaa.com/
- Hermione Way https://twitter.com/hermioneway, https://www.hermioneway.com/
- Original music for Hallway Chats by Brian Claeys
Carrie Dils, host of OfficeHours.FM podcast for freelancers. OfficeHours.FM is a weekly podcast focused on freelancers, small business owners and other delivering WordPress based products or services.Carrie interviews thought-leaders from the WordPress ecosystem and beyond to discern and share lessons learned.
Tara:Welcome to Hallway Chats. I’m Tara Clays.
Liam: And I’m Liam Dempsey. Today, we’re joined by Chris and Jude Warden, who are the co-creators of the Success With WordPress series of online courses. Hi Chris, hi Jude.
Chris: Hi there.
Tara: Hello, welcome. We’re so excited to be talking to you guys today. Would you guys introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Chris: Who, me first?
Jude: You go first.
Chris: Okay. I’m Chris, so I’m the male voice. I started off as a designer, a long time ago, about 15 years ago and I’ve grown as a designer, I’ve managed studios and all that kind of stuff and I got into WordPress about 10 years ago and I’ve been using it for our clients in our web business, for the last seven years and I’ve also developed a bunch of commercial WordPress themes as well and our latest endeavor is selling online courses for WordPress.
Jude: And I’m Jude and I have a completely different background. My background is in use work and training and development but when I had our first son, and when I say our Chris and I are a married couple. When I had our first son, I decided not to go back to work afterwards, it just wasn’t going to fit in, and so I joined Chris running the web design and development business that he had started up while I was pregnant and then we sort of took it from there really.
So, I’ve been doing the business and finance and admin side of stuff of the business, and then got a little bit involved in the WordPress themes side of the business, planning out some of the themes for Chris to design and develop and then with my training background, this is really our sort of first joint endeavor that we’ve done together with the online courses, with Chris bringing all the real knowledge and me structuring the courses and making sure that we are meeting the learning requirements and we’ve got a real kind of clear guidance on where we are going with our courses.
Liam: That is a fantastic coming together, I love that. Thank you for sharing that and it’s clear you’re very aware of training. Chris, I love it, “I’m the male voice.” [crosstalk 00:02:23].
Jude: Well we have to do that because our names are … Either of us could be the male or female with our names. We had a phone call earlier, someone asked for me and Chris went, “Jude’s a woman.”
Chris: And I’m not Jude.
Liam: Dang that Beetle’s song, dang that Beetle’s song but no, I just appreciate the awareness of it, that speaks a lot about what I imagine the quality of your courses are, is you appreciate this is a podcast going out on audio and I know we can see each other, because we’re with video but the podcast is just going to published in audio. So, that’s fantastic.
The story then is that, Chris you were working as a designer. You got into WordPress, you really started to like it, you were using it … I’m just going to ask you a little bit and then I’ll get onto how Jude got involved and what you’re doing now. Tell me a little bit about what first drew you to WordPress? What you liked about it and how did you first start to use it?
Chris: Okay, I was a junior web designer and I was building school websites, so it was my first job. My mum found it in a tiny little column in the local advertiser paper and I was building websites on a CMS, content management system but it was a bit spoke one and I realized that all that we were ever going to do with school websites and although that was interesting at the beginning, I thought I want to branch out so, I’d heard of WordPress but I actually started looking at it properly, I’m sure you remember that The Kubrick theme that was one of the first, main themes of WordPress and I started to just have a play around with that before I knew any PHP or anything.
So, I looked at it then, that was probably, I don’t know probably 10 years ago, and then I got a new job as a senior web designer where we did more … We were using another bespoke CMS but I started to get involved with some freelance work on the side and started to look at Word, Joomla and Drupal and after having a nightmare with Drupal and Joomla!
Liam: WordPress it is.
Chris: Yeah WordPress it was. It just made more sense to me and nothing was really hidden and everything’s in PHP, in normal statements and I just thought, I get this, as a kind of fluffy designer, as I liked to describe myself in those days. I actually started to understand how to code and logic works. It wasn’t until we decided when our first son was due, that I was just basically an email monkey, in the company, because I’d moved up from senior designer. I was managing the studio, overseeing a team of web designers and developers and .net developers and we were working for some massive corporate clients, and I think I had about a thousand emails one month, all for me and I was like, “No, I’m not doing this anymore.”
Liam: That’s a lot of email.
Chris: Yes, it’s a lot of email. So, I thought right okay, said to Jude, “Let’s just go for it.” And so we set up our company and at that point I was looking at WordPress and MODX, which had come on the scene between and the first site I did was actually with MODX but it was a real learning curve to get working and then soon after that I realized their upgrade path wasn’t very good and WordPress, one of the main things I love about WordPress is, everything is backwards compatible and you can keep upgrading from old versions and still actually have a working site at the end of it.
So, that’s when I properly went into WordPress and I started freelancing through another company, kind of white label work, where I was building out the designs for them in WordPress.
Liam: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-
Chris: And it grew from there and then I came across a guy called Orman Clark, who was selling WordPress themes on his site called Theme Forest and that was, kind of, in its infancy. I think that was about five, five and half years ago. That’s actually before WordPress putting their theme customization API, so I had to write my own theme options, which was a little bit of a learning curve. Took me about six to eight weeks to write my own and I decided to start selling themes on Theme Forest and over the next four years after that, I think I’d developed about 30 to 40 commercial WordPress themes, which were on Theme Forest and alongside that, I was still building bespoke WordPress projects for clients, so that included themes and plugins and basically anything I’ve ever wanted to do, with building a website, I’ve been able to do through WordPress and that’s why I just love it so much and recommend it to everyone.
Liam: Well, that’s a great statement for it right there, “Everything that I’ve wanted to do with websites, I’ve been able to do with WordPress.” That’s awesome.
So Chris, you had this design career, you grew up through the ranks there, so to speak, and then you transitioned to your own business and you were doing some client work, you were selling some themes and then at some point you and Jude … Depends on how your business was going, said, “We need to dom something a little bit different or wouldn’t it be fun if we did something a little bit different or wouldn’t it be exciting?”
Maybe Jude, you can tell us a little bit about how you got involved and how this whole online training course system came about and where that’s going?
Jude: Well it came about really because, through working with our clients and at the process of handing over the website to them, Chris would always create a handover document for them. He’d always give them some training on using WordPress and how to take control of their site, so they weren’t having to come back to ours for every little thing that they needed to do or every little update they wanted to make, and then when we had the WordPress theme business as well, Chris’ level of support for the client who bought the themes was absolutely fantastic. It’d be commented on so much by people who had bought his themes and all the reviews on Theme Forest and again it was almost like training those people and as much as he only had to give support on bug fixes and things like that for the theme, he would invariably go above and beyond and be helping them set up the theme on WordPress and giving them help on how to use WordPress as well.
So, naturally Chris was starting to essentially train people from that point of view but we didn’t think about doing the online courses until Chris went to a business event in London with a friend, they were hoping to go to a networking-
Chris: It was a speed networking, yeah.
Jude: A speed networking night.
Chris: You had 30 seconds each to talk, you and the other person to talk.
Jude: So, yeah, they wanted to go and do the speed networking. They turned up, it was full and so they thought, “What else are we going to do for this hour until we can go to the next speed networking session in an hours time?” And he stumbled across a talk by someone called Shaa Wasmund, I don’t know if you are familiar with her? She is quite big in the business world over here, she’s an MBE for her services to business and she was talking about the fact that she want to have more freedom in her work and she’d worked with some really fantastic people in the past but she wanted to go out on her own and get out there and basically help other people start up their businesses and one of the ways she was doing that, was through online courses and so, Chris listening to her speak thought, “Why don’t we do this? Jude’s got a training background and yes, she’s doing nicely within the business doing all this admin and finance and everything else and keeping him on track.” But it made so much sense and we’d always had the passive income from the themes coming in but the WordPress theme market was getting really over saturated and to actually get your theme out there, getting it to stick, getting people to buy it was getting harder and harder.
So, we thought let’s try the online courses as another way of creating that extra income for the business and we’re still doing the client work but have that other revenue stream and to do something that actually meant we were working together, seemed like a really good idea, a really exciting idea really, so that’s why we started doing it.
Liam: That’s really neat and I love that openness too, well what am I going to do with the next hour? Well yeah here’s what I’m going to do and then you went home and you guys talked about it. That’s great. So, what is the status of your online courses now? Is that all out and live, and what kind of courses are you offering?
Jude: So, we’ve got our Success with WordPress series of courses, which there are four courses in the series and those four courses are all live, they are out there to buy from chrisandjude.com website but we are also combining all of those courses into the Success with WordPress Master Course, which works out better value for people to buy the whole master course. We’ve got a couple of little extras in the master course as well, that don’t come with the individual courses and that is being launched on 29th June, so we are gearing up towards that now.
We have just started recording a series of free tutorials aimed at people who need to get a website, or want to refresh their website, some people who don’t even know what platform they want to use for their website. We’ve got a series of six tutorials, that we’re releasing for free, starting next week on Thursday, on the 15th June, and that’s all leading up to us launching the master course at the end of the month.
And then we’ve got some other offers that we’re going to put out there as well, that includes the master course, plus some of Chris’ time in coaching calls and doing website reviews and things like that, So that’s where we’re at, at the moment.
Tara: Wow, you guys are busy.
Tara: I have about a million questions I want to ask you about how everything’s working and marketing and all of these kind of things but what I really want to talk about now, because I love the title of your course, The Success with WordPress, and it ties into a question that we ask of our guests, which is how you define success? Whether it’s success in your business, in your life. Sounds like you’ve made a choice to leave the corporate world and the email inbox craziness that you had going on, so now that you’re doing this together and sounds like you have a focus on your family. Tell us a little bit about what success means for you.
Chris: Yeah we were discussing this, this morning and I think because our personal life and our business life are pretty much intertwined, because we both work with the same business, we think mainly the success is the freedom that comes around having your own business but also having professionally, having people look up to you, respect you and actually take your advice as solid advice that can be trusted. I think that’s one of the main factors, is just being seen, not necessarily as an expert but as the go to people that, “Yeah, they know what they’re talking about, we can trust them.” And if we can grow the success with WordPress courses and other online courses we’ve got planned in the future, then hopefully we can start building up a bit of a monthly revenue that will create that freedom for us as well and then the more freedom you get, the more we pour into the courses, so everyone will benefit really.
Jude: Yeah the freedom is a real key thing for us because we do have two small children and just being able to be flexible and spend the time with them when they’re little, when we need to spend the time with them, like it’s fantastic that Chris gets to go to all the celebration assemblies at school and the sports days and everything like that, which we know that William is so lucky to have both of his parents at all those things because most people have got at least one parent who’s got to go and do the nine to five and can’t get the time off for all of those events.
So, yeah we do feel that, that flexibility from the personal life point of view and the respect in the actual sector that we work is the key for us when it comes to success.
Liam: Yeah that flexibility is hugely valuable, especially as parents, I get that. I was at the third grade end of school party earlier this week at two o’clock in the afternoon, so that was a real gift and to be there, especially in our current culture, to be there as a dad is not something that is commonly possible or smiled upon and that we’re able to do that, is great.
You really struck a chord with me when you were talking about, not necessarily being the expert but being trusted and I think that’s such a valuable point of you really know your stuff, you know what you’re talking about, you know what you don’t know, right? That’s almost as important as what you do know and to conduct yourself in a way that people will trust you when you say, “Hey, the answer is X.” They know they can build their business or progress their own efforts based on that and that’s a really, really powerful definition of success is knowing that you’re in a position where people trust you. That’s great.
So, within that definition of success then, what’s the single most important thing you do either as individuals or collectively to achieve and maintain that success? The single most important thing you do, yeah, every day. Let me say it that way, every day.
Jude: We were talking about this and we think just getting up every day and going and doing it, basically, because we work for ourselves and we are the only ones who can go and do it, there’s no one else to rely on, we can’t sit back on our laurels and think, “Someone else is going to do this for us.” Is just that consistency and we also think, communication between us as well. I think everyday we have a conversation about where we’re going, is what we’re doing right at the moment? Do we need to re-address this? Are we focusing on the right things? And trying to process information and advice we get from other people and that communication and consistency, I think, are the two things that are the important things that we do day in, day out.
Chris: Unfortunately, that conversation’s usually just before bed. So, we either end up getting into bed too late or that we can’t sleep because we’re thinking about what’s happened in the day but I think communication is key. Obviously, we’re lucky that we’re married and we don’t squabble, that makes things a lot easier but I think consistency and communication is the key.
Tara: Yeah, can you tell us a little bit more about how you do work together as a married couple? I think a lot of people in the WordPress space work, either, as solo printers or if they have employees or contractors or business partners but I think it’s less common to have both partners be involved in the business at the way that you two are and so, I’d love to hear more about how you make that work. What the challenges are that you face in being married couple with a business, together? I’m sure they’re many advantages as well, can you talk a little bit about that?
Chris: I would say it took a long time to get right. At the beginning, we were at each others throats, I would say, for most of the time. It was difficult because I’d never worked with Jude before and any position I’d been in, in my career, I’d always been in charge of people and Jude is used to being in charge of people as well.
Liam: Yeah, I see how that would have been a challenge.
Chris: We worked it in the end, I think just by taking a step back and just assessing what we wanted to get out of the business and that the fact that we were both there to help each other and we weren’t there to work against each other and then all of a sudden, it just slotted into place and it was just everything went really smoothly all of a sudden.
Jude: I think that when it slotted into place was, when Chris started the business he worked from home and then when I came into the business, we still were working from home and so we didn’t really have that physical divide between our home life and our business life but then when we got an office, which was in the town center, it was that we had to physically have to travel to work, I think that was when the difference started because we were in a different environment and it’s like, “Right, we’re working now.” We kind of went into a more professional mode.
We also had another guy come and work with us in our office as well, so then we were not just a married couple anymore, we had someone else there too and so we had to act professionally. So, yeah I do think that was the changing point for us, taking the business out of the home environment but now that we’re much more used together, I mean it’s been nearly seven years now, we work from home sometimes. We work in the office sometimes and it doesn’t matter anymore. Now that we’ve established our roles in the business and we’ve got the dynamic right between us as a business pairing, as well as, a couple, it seems to work much better, but yeah it did take time, but it works really well now.
Liam: Yeah, I can tell from the interaction between you two that you clearly like each other a lot and love each other a lot and are very comfortable communicating openly with each other, in front of people you don’t know [crosstalk 00:20:05] It’s going to be broadcasted on to the internet.
Let me ask you about the decision to get an office, an out of home office and you had said that was a pivotal point for your relationship as business partners. Was that something where you both decided, “Hey, what if we worked outside of the home? That would give us the distance.” Or was it more of a, “Hey, the business is doing well, we need a bit more physical space. I can’t keep all this here, I can’t keep all that, if we had an office somewhere we could go there.” And then after a few weeks or months of going, you realized, “You know what, this was a really smart decision because we have this ability to communicate so much better because we have a different mindset.” Can you talk a little bit about that?
Chris: We were starting to get more client meetings, so the work that I’d started on when the business is very much white label, sort of a secret freelancer resource but then we started to get more actual proper clients and I would go out and travel to them and then there’d be the awkward question about, “Oh, we’d like to come and see you in your office.” And “Well, we don’t really have an office. We could meet you in a coffee shop.”
Jude: Spare room?
Chris: Yeah, so then we thought we’ll start looking around for a cheap office in the center of town and we found one fairly quickly.
Jude: We did and also the days I was working, our son was not in the house, he was off being looked after by the grandparents, but the days I was around, Chris was trying to work upstairs. Our little boy knew he was upstairs, so wanted to go and see daddy but daddy was supposed to be working and so that was another driving factor as well, that Chris’ productivity levels on the days when he was being visited by a little visitor frequently or can hear shouting or crying. iF he’s trying to take a phone call and he’s got a two year old screaming at the bottom of the stairs, didn’t work so well.
So yeah, that was another factor as well. We did need to split that family and business like from that point of view as well.
Liam: Mm-hmm (affirmative) That’s great. I love how that came together as a, sounds almost like an added benefit in the logistics of planning the business and growing the business … Enabled you to communicate better.
So, you’ve talked about how Chris you started getting into WordPress and then Jude, now, you got involved with his business and it’s now the family business and you’re growing it into a training business all around WordPress. Tell me a little bit about how you engage with the WordPress community in your neck of the woods and how you first got involved with that and how you continue to be involve with it?
Chris: We probably should mention we’ve got a Facebook group that we set up for the support, it’s called Support with WordPress actually. I’ve been randomly helping people who knew that I did WordPress over Skype and Twitter and I’ve also joined a bunch of Facebook groups as well, WordPress related Facebook groups to try and help people and the WordPress community is great but I think I’d say on the most part, it’s mainly aimed at other developers and people who come in who are entrepreneurs or small business people or start-ups, sometimes they don’t even know what WordPress is, let alone how it works, and I found that a lot of the other Facebook groups that are around, it was very much a kind of … Obviously it was free and it was great that people were helping but someone coming along with perhaps it is a stupid, simple question and they’d just get the response back from other people in the Facebook group saying, “Well Google it.” Or “Oh that’s such a simple question.” And they’d be mocked.
I got involved in a few conversations in various WordPress related Facebook groups saying, “Look, you guys are being mean to people. There is really no silly question, just answer the question and move on and if you don’t like it, don’t answer it.” I got a bit fed up with that. So, we just thought, “Oh, we’ll set up our own one.” And the idea of our one is that it’s nice and friendly environment and it’s geared towards entrepreneurs and start-ups and people who are known techy people.
Jude: And Chris is also like, since you’ve been running your own business, going to various, not WordPress specific but various web meetups in the area and now you do run your own web meetup as well in the nearest town, with a couple of other web guys called Meet and Geek, which is on a Wednesday evening in a pub, once a month but it’s another way for him to get into the community and support other people and have a night out [crosstalk 00:24:45].
Tara: I love the range that you are involved and the patience that it seems like you to work with people who are starting out with WordPress and that you’re recognizing the kind of attitude that’s needed to make them feel welcome. So, I think that’s great. Did you receive help like that when you were starting with WordPress? Where does that appreciation come from, for you?
Chris: I think I’ve always liked helping people, that’s one my of things that I think is in my DNA. The first help I got with WordPress was just Googling and looking at the WordPress codex and WordPress forums and getting help that way. I don’t think I got any specific help from a specific community that I can actually think of. I think I just learnt stuff on the way and got help when I needed it.
Jude: Yeah, I can’t remember you getting any specific advice or anything. It was just find your own way type thing, wasn’t it?
Chris: That’s one of the great things about WordPress is, you can go off and Google it or find a blog post and just do stuff with it, information is very freely available.
Liam: It’s a real selling point for the CMS, I totally agree with that. So let me ask you folks this question. Now that you’re growing this online training business and Chris you said you like to help people, it’s in your DNA and Jude, trainings been your professional background for a long time now. Can you tell about, within your day-to-day business, what’s your favorite thing to do about your work, your career, your business?
Jude: I think for me, now that we’re doing all of the training stuff, it is being there and talking to people. I love doing the Facebook lives that we’re doing. I love the fact that although now I’m doing my training in front of a camera, I’m actually there training again because I had such a big gap between actually doing the training in my career previously to starting doing this. I’m loving the fact that I’m there again and delivering information and helping people out and it’s in a completely different area of work but it’s still the same kind of feeling and that same kind of opportunity to have that engagement with people and yeah, I like being the center of attention, standing up there everyone looking at me.
Liam: Excellent and Chris?
Chris: I do love helping people but I think the thing I like most about the profession it sitting down in front of Photoshop, with a blank canvas and designing something. That’s definitely my favorite thing to do. Just sitting there and designing for hours on end.
Tara: That sounds like you guys have a good match between the two of you. So, you’re still doing some client work then? So you like that still, Chris?
Chris: Yeah, we still do client work, yeah.
Tara: Tell us about where you live. Sounds like you’ve got a nice community there and you’ve found a great place to have your office in your town. Can you tell us about where you are?
Chris: Yeah, so the nearest town to us is a little quintessentially English market town called Romsey and actually our office is in the second oldest building in the town, so I think, is it Tudor?
Jude: I don’t know.
Chris: It’s got wooden beams. It’s wooden beams in there and it’s got a curved-
Liam: That would be Tudor.
Jude: Yeah, there we go.
Chris: And it’s got a curved door as well, which is the original door, which is amazing. Everybody comes and visits us, comments on that.
Jude: We live in a little village just outside of Romsey, which is quite close to Southampton, that’s one of our nearest cities and we’re close to Winchester as well. We do love where we live because we are so close to both Southampton and Winchester, we jump on a train and we’re in London in an hour but where we actually live we have views of horses and fields and we walk up the road and there are some alpacas in a field. We feel like we’ve got the best of both worlds, don’t we? Because we are nicely close to everything we need to be close to but we’ve got a nice rural feel as well.
Tara: That sounds lovely.
Liam: Yeah that’s fantastic. I very much miss that. I have the same set up just outside Oxford and it was a really nice little village outside Oxford, so I could go into Oxford, I could take the train or the bus into London and be there but I could also, you know, every afternoon at four the horse clip, clopped past my home office window, which was kind of nice, “Sorry, can’t hear you. There’s horses going by.”
Jude: [crosstalk 00:29:27].
Liam: So let me totally change gears on you and we’ve talked about this idyllic, peaceful location where you folks live but what’s been your biggest challenge to date?
Jude: We’ve got personal challenges and professional challenges.
Liam: Of course.
Jude: We were talking this morning, with our professional challenges, the thing that we struggle with the most is, we love doing the client work. Chris loves doing the design, he really likes talking to the clients and really getting their ideas out of them, so he can make them become a reality on the web but we do struggle sometimes with the clients who don’t pay their bills and so we’re having to chase them and it’s that side of the business that we are less fond off, aren’t we?
Chris: Yeah, I’d say trying to build up a recurring, not a passive but just a recurring revenue month-on-month is a tricky thing to get right. We tried it with the WordPress themes. It sort of worked until everyone jumped on the band wagon and it was just too much saturation out there and I think the work involved was a bit beyond what we were able to put in at the time, as we actually sold the theme business as part of setting up the course because I really think the courses can make a difference to people whereas the themes was kind of, not selfish but selfish in the fact that I wanted to make recurring revenue for our family but I think, if we can help people and make money at the same time with our courses, then that’s a win-win for us really.
Liam: Yeah and I think that’s a really important point is, money is a valuable tool, right? It’s useful. You’ve got children, they need to eat. You’ve got a mortgage or rent, you’ve got to pay that, it’s difficult to live indoors if you don’t and tying the ability to cover those human needs in a way where you’re giving back to the wider world or community through your work and through your effort, is just fantastic. I love that. I love that.
So, let me ask you what, maybe in another 50 episodes will become our signature question. What is the single most valuable piece of advice, personal or professional, that you have heard, received and implemented in your lives?
Chris: Stay consistent I’d say was the-
Jude: Yeah. I think consistency is absolutely key, whether it’s in the way that we work with clients and Chris does have a process that he goes through each time so that he knows that he’s setting up a project in the right way with a client but equally with our themes, like the consistency in the support that Chris gave and the consistency in the products that he delivered and then obviously moving onto the courses, doing the same thing.
Chris: We’re consistently in our Facebook group every single day, making sure that people are on the right tracks and understanding things and trying to add value all the time as well.
Jude: So yes, just that keep going. Keep doing it.
Liam: Keep moving forward. Keep moving forward and it’s clear that you both really believe that, because Chris it took you all about of eighth of second to respond to the question and Jude you jumped in right away and said, “Yes, yes, yes.” So it’s clearly a mutually held belief.
Tara: You guys are in sync.
Liam: SO, thank you both very, very much for joining us today, before we say official goodbye to you all, I’ll just ask to share where people can find you online. You’ve mentioned Facebook and your Succeed with WordPress but maybe you can rattle off a few URLs and locations for us.
Chris: Yeah, so our website is chrisandjude.com and you can find all of our course there and you can actually find a link to our Facebook group and our Facebook page there as well but you can find us on Facebook as Chris and Jude and our group on Facebook is called Support With WordPress.
Chris: And we’re on Twitter under Chris and Jude.
Jude: And on Instagram. We’re everywhere really.
Liam: As Chris and Jude, yeah there’s a theme there.
Tara: I’m sorry that we’re out of time because I do want to keep talking to you and hear more about your business, so I’ll look forward to seeing your launch and following you guys in your progress along your path with your courses and I hope to see you again online sometime soon.
Chris: Yes, thank you for having us.
Jude: Thank you. Thanks for having us.
Liam: Thanks. Bye.
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