Introducing Scott DeLuzio
Calling Surprise, Arizona home, Scott DeLuzio is a WordPress developer with a number of business-focused plugins to his credit. Working from his home, Scott is building his business around the sale and support of suite of WordPress plugins.
- WordPress profile: https://profiles.wordpress.org/scottdeluzio#content-plugins
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Tara: And now, the conversation begins. This is episode 4.
Tara: Hi! Welcome to Hallway Chats. I’m Tara Claeys.
Liam: I’m Liam Dempsey. Welcome everybody. We’re here today with Scott Deluzio. Scott? Welcome. Thanks for joining us today.
Scott: Thanks for having me.
Tara: Hi Scott! So you are a plugin developer from Surprise Arizona?
Scott: Yes I am.
Tara: What else can you tell us about yourself? What do you do with plugins and how long have you been doing it?
Scott: Sure. I’ve been developing plugins since 2013. I’ve been working on a number different ones. I think I have 13 plugins on the WordPress.org plugin directory. I have a number of other premium paid plugins that I work on. I have Conditional Check Out Fields, which is a plugin for WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads that basically allows for different checkout fields based on the input in the customer’s cart. I have a WP In post ads which allows bloggers to easily monetize their site by placing ads in the body of their post and WP CRM system is a CRM built into WordPress. It’s a free plugin but has a number of paid add-ons that I sell. I am working on another plugin as well to help affiliate marketing folks and other agencies to be able to easily file a tax return in terms of 1099s for their vendors, contractors and things like that. That’s something else that I’ve been working on. Nothing is out officially yet but that’s something that’s been in the works for me.
Tara: That’s a pretty wide range. So tell us a little about how you started working with WordPress. It sounds like you must know a good amount of code and PHP. How did you get started with that?
Scott: Sure. So when I first started working on websites (this was in in the early 2000s – 2001 maybe) my father was starting a consulting business. I asked him what I could do to help. I was in college at the time so I had really no marketable skills or anything like that. I wanted to help him out because he was kind of going it on his own. So he said, “build me a website”. At that time, it was something I had not done before. I didn’t know a single line of HTML or anything else. I didn’t even know what to do. So when I reminded him of the fact that I had no idea what I was doing with that, he said to go buy a book and figure it out. So I did. By today’s standards, the site that I built was probably crap. At the time, I was proud I was able to get something published. I didn’t know anything about hosting, domain names or anything like that.
Tara: Do you remember what the book was?
Scott: No. I still have it. I don’t remember the title of the book right now. But I do still have it. I can get that to you.
Tara: Did you build it in HTML?
Scott: Yeah. I actually used Microsoft FrontPage.
Tara: Frontpage! Oh! That’s how I started too.
Liam: That is awesome.
Scott: You had to build every single page on the site. It was not an easy task but it was a good learning experience with how to get my feet wet with how websites are structured and built. Then while I was in college I got an accounting degree. It had absolutely nothing to do with website development or anything like that. When I was in college I built websites for family or friends because I enjoyed it. It was interesting to me. Over the years I continued learning and my skills kind of evolved. Basically, I am completely self-taught on all of this. I started with that initial book and went on to do other tutorials and things like that to try to enhance my knowledge of what it is I am actually trying to do. Are there better ways of doing what I’m trying to do (and everything like that). The seed was planted back with that first website. I think over the years, it just kind of grew and got me to where I am today.
Tara: Have you found any learning systems that have worked best for you? You said you started with a book but I know there are a lot a lot of tools online. What have you relied upon?
Scott: So at first I was using that book basically as a crutch. Anytime I was doing anything I’d go back to the chapter was that was in that book. I kind of take that similar mindset and move it online today. There’s so much information online that pretty much whatever it is that you’re trying to figure out, there’s some information out there. Not all of its good information so you kind of have to vet out the good from the bad. This stuff will just get you into more trouble. I’m able to go out and search for the information that I’m looking for. Over time there are people you learn to trust because you got some good information from them in the past, either from their website or from other places. You tend to go back to those sources first to try to find answers to new questions that you might have. You’re not just relying on some forum post where someone was having some problem and couldn’t do whatever. You’re not just relying on the answers you get there. You’re going to more trusted sources. I’m not as big on the forums for the support or learning but going to trusted sources that you have vetted out over the years.
Liam: That’s a really valuable way to do it, isn’t it? You learn what you need to Google.
Liam: Then once you know that, you begin to learn who trust and who knows their code and systems. Who hasn’t fallen into the pit that you’re currently looking over? Who can help you put the ladder across and not fall into that pit? It takes some time, doesn’t it?
Scott: It does. Over the years when I was first starting I was finding stuff where who knows how good the information was at the time. I would use some of the information I found and only later find out that there’s a better way or that was a completely terrible way to begin with.
Liam: Copy, paste, and hope.
Tara: Yes. That’s how you learn.
Scott: Exactly. I suppose it’s not a terrible way as long as you’re not doing it on a live site. There are certainly better ways out there to accomplish that. You’re right. It does take a little time figure out who to trust and the good information that is out there.
Tara: How did you get connected with WordPress? When did you start using it?
Scott: I don’t remember the exact year that I started. I had started a blog while I was in college. I was using FrontPage. So for every page I created for the blog… it wasn’t really a blog. It was a series of pages that I threw up on the site. It was getting to be such a pain to work with. I came across a WordPress article. I think I was just searching for something that was easier. That was probably my initial dive into Google searches to find the answer to a problem I was having. So I came across WordPress and I tried it out. I installed it and it was so much easier. Once I did my copy and paste migration from all my old posts into the new site I was hooked. I really liked it. Over the years I built a number of different sites that were all WordPress based. I don’t think I worked with anything else other than testing the waters on other things just to see how they worked. Every site that I’ve used so far has been run on WordPress in some form or another.
Tara: Did you have another career or were you doing this on the side? You said you started using it in college. After you graduated what did you do?
Scott: Yeah. So when I was in college (I was in college for accounting) so I worked in public accounting for a number of years along with finance. So I was doing the WordPress and website stuff kind of on the side. It definitely wasn’t a full-time thing. I wouldn’t even say it part-time. It was just kind of sporadic. As I had an idea that I wanted to create a site for, I went out and built something. If I don’t do something for a couple of months then things change. So I have to go out to learn and catch myself back up on what’s going on with the new changes in technology and everything else. So it was way for me to continue to learn how to build sites and everything. It wasn’t until about 3 ½ years ago where I decided to leave my job. I jumped into website development and WordPress full-time where I started working for myself. I love it. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do…work for myself and be my own boss. Work my own hours and schedule along with everything else. It’s great! I have no regrets.
Tara: That’s great. That’s really great to hear.
Liam: Scott? When you made that transition, did you transition to the point where you saved enough money in your day job where you said hey! I’ve got x amount of time. I’m going to give it a go. We’re you burning the candle at both ends where you were 9-to-5 in public accounting, then from 5 to 9 in the evening doing development work on the side. How did that transition happen?
Scott: It was kind of where I was doing a little bit of work during my last job on nights and weekends with the goal that I would be saving some money. I knew I wanted to have a few months of living expenses socked away (knowing full well with most businesses when you first start) it’s not going to be people throwing money at you. I knew that it was going to be a challenge. I think the first month where I dove in full-time I was barely scraping by with one client by the end of the month. I was starting to rethink the decision I made on whether or not that was going to work out long-term. But the next few months started turning around. I did start getting a lot more clients. Primarily, they were local to this area. They were local businesses that I was helping out. Like anyone else starting a business, I had to kind of do that legwork, pound the pavement and get out in front of people. I had to let know who I was. You just can’t build a website and expect the phone to start ringing off the hook.
Scott: So I was going out to different networking meetings and everything else trying to get out in front of as many people as I could. That was part of that. I don’t know how much business necessarily came from networking meetings or if it was through the other interactions that I had with people from around the area. Really, it was a lot of hard work in the beginning. It should be. If it were easy, then everybody would be doing this.
Tara: Did you have some mentors while you were doing this? When you were switching and doing this as business versus doing favors for people (where you’re probably not charging them what you charge now) how did you know what to charge? How did you set up your systems and your business to be a web developer? It sounds like your focus right now is your products but you started out as a Unicorn… a designer, developer, website builder…correct?
Scott: Right. Yes, I did start off as a website builder working for mostly small businesses who have a site that was maybe built 10 years ago. It looked like it was built 10 years ago. It needed a facelift. Those were the clients and the primary market I was going after. Over the years, I enjoyed that work less and less and enjoyed the development side more and more (the plugin side and selling the products). That was kind of a new challenge for me. Over the years I had built a few plugins that I released on the repository but I never really did much with it. I never marketed the service for building plugins or anything like that. I just kind of put them out there. If they were being used, great. If not, oh well. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just something that I had put together. It was either a need that I had or I saw maybe someone else could use something like this. I decided that I enjoyed that work much more. At the beginning of this year, I decided to scale back the amount of client work that I was doing and focus more on the plugin and product side.
Tara: Interesting. That is going well so far? We are a couple of months into the year.
Scott: Yeah. We are a few months into the year. It is going well. It was a bit of a transition…kind of like when I quit my previous job and started working for myself. There’s the little bit of the unknown. It this even going to be something that pays the bills or am I going to have to go back and start doing more client work? It’s going well. It’s good. Like I said, the first couple of months it was hit or miss. I wasn’t sure how great it was really going to be but I think it’s moving in the direction. We’ll see in a year out how this experiment turns out.
Tara: Well that actually brings us to one of our key questions we like to ask people which is about success and how do you define that? It sounds like you transitioned a couple of times now in your career. Each time it sounds like you’ve been successful. How would you define success?
Scott: I’ve had jobs in the past where I hated getting out of bed every morning. I’d roll out of bed and think to myself this is going to be torture. I’m driving into work and doing this job to basically pay the bills. It wasn’t something that I really enjoyed doing. To me, success is not having to do something like that. It’s being able to find something where you can jump out of bed and be excited about going to work. You can start working and really get moving with something that you enjoy doing. To me, that is success. Obviously, there are still bills that need to be paid and you need to make some money at some point but if you can pay the bills and do the thing that you enjoy then I think you are successful in your career.
Liam: I like that definition. That’s a good one. I’m always intrigued by people when they have an avenue out they stay in jobs or careers where they are not happy….obviously, there are people who don’t have the option…we spend so much time at work as adults…eight hours a day, five days a week and often it’s longer than that. If it does not fulfill us in some meaningful way, it can certainly be soul crushing depending on how much we don’t like it. At the very least it makes it hard to enjoy the other 16 hours of the day. It is the most productive part of the day and if it is just an exercise in frustration and futility…so yeah. I like your definition.
Tara: There is probably something to be said for liking your boss. If you are your own boss (that may not always be the case) but at least you have a little more control.
Liam: Your annual review is going to be a little bit easier and at least a little more polite.
Scott: Sometimes my boss is a jerk.
Liam: You can tell them off without any problem.
Scott: Yeah. Exactly.
Tara: Is your office in your home?
Scott: It is. We have an in-law suite that’s off the house. My commute is basically a walk across the driveway. I’m still home. I don’t have to get in the car drive anywhere but I’m not in the house where my wife and kids are usually. My kids are running around and screaming their heads off and everything like that. That will really hamper productivity. It will put a damper on productivity there. Having space where I can mentally say ok. I’m at work now. I’m here. I’m at work and can do my work. At the end of the day when I shut down, I leave my computer in the office, I go back to the house and pick up our normal family life. I don’t have to think about work when I’m over there. I worry about work when I’m here.
Tara: Yeah. You don’t sneak back over after the kids are in bed to do some more work?
Scott: Not much. I try a really have that separation between work and home. I do on occasion (if there’s something that is pressing) try to wrap-up for the morning or something like that. If something urgent came in I’ll step over to work on that. For the most part, I try to keep those two separate.
Tara: That’s important and it’s difficult when you’re doing client work because they are on that same 9 to 5 schedule necessarily.
Scott: There’s lots of little fires that need to get put out sometimes. That gets difficult too.
Tara: Yeah. So you are still accessible even though you are in your office? Your computer is there?
Scott: I try to make it less convenient to have to go do work. If I bring my computer into the house then I can just pop it open and start doing work. But it’s that little mental barrier. If I have to walk across the driveway, I have to open the door, take out the computer and start working. That’s enough of a hassle for me to do say well this will still be a problem in the morning.
Tara: Yeah. I like that. That’s great. Scott? What do you think is the most important thing that you do at work every day?
Scott: The most important thing I do at work every day? I try to keep a consistent schedule. I try to get into the office around the same time. I try to handle the emails or the customer support type things at a certain time during the day. I try to keep a consistent schedule throughout the day. It doesn’t always work out where that consistency is going to work but do I try to make it so that every day I know what to expect. I don’t have too many curveballs coming to me. That to me is important for being successful. It is a little bit of consistency during your day.
Tara: Ok. I think that’s a hard thing to do also when you are working for yourself. Is to be consistent.
Scott: A little bit of self-discipline is involved there to make sure that you’re not hanging out too much on Twitter, Facebook or whatever. You have the computer in front of you. You have just a couple letters to type and boom! Twitter is there. You can end up blowing a whole day just scrolling through that. You need to know what to focus on at certain times. It is important.
Liam: So within that structure then (the structure of consistency or the consistency of structure) you can go either way on that, what’s your favorite thing to do at work? What’s your favorite task? What do you get excited about?
Scott: I like solving problems. Whether that problem is a customer coming to me and saying that they have an issue with something (not necessarily that they have an issue) but they’d like it if one of my plugins did something else or had something additional. Thinking through the problem…I’m not saying that I need to jump on every single feature request that comes through…I could be sitting here for years trying to please everybody…but when someone comes to me with a feature that I think is valid and would be a useful addition… trying to figure out the best way to implement that into the plugin as a whole and doing it the best way possible to solve a problem is something I really do enjoy doing.
Tara: Do you have a favorite project that you’re working on at the moment?
Scott: I was talking about the 1099 plugin that I’ve been working on. I like that because it kind of merges together two of my skills sets with the tax and accounting side and the plugin development side of things. It’s really coming together doing two things that I have a background in. I like making that into something that’s hopefully going to be useful for lots of people.
Liam: Cool. I like that. So kind of related to this, over your wider WordPress web development and Microsoft FrontPage career; what has been your biggest challenge? That could a project, a recurring issue or a mindset for pulling into your list where you have that visual space…how did you get to where you are today? When living in your bubble of success, what has been your biggest challenge?
Scott: Since I work for myself, the biggest thing has been getting involved with a broader community because on most days it’s me and my dog in my office. That can be a challenge. I have gone a whole week where it’s just been me sitting in my office with my dog. I go back into the house at night and see my wife and kids for a little bit. At the end of the week, I realize I haven’t left my house or office. I haven’t talked to anybody or even gone to the grocery store. For me the challenge is getting out, meeting new people and things like that. So getting involved with local Meetups, WordCamps and other events like that is a great way to get out and meet new people. You tend to start conversations with people you otherwise would not have an opportunity to meet.
Tara: I think there are a lot of Meetups in the Phoenix area if I recall.
Liam: I feel like your dog is a pretty reliable partner. Maybe you want to give your dog a little shout out on the podcast? (laughs) What’s your dog’s name?
Scott: My dog’s name is Roxie. She’s an almost 9-year-old English bulldog. She usually just sleeps the entire day because she’s lazy.
Liam: That’s what I try to do.
Tara: I’ve got a dog to get out. I’d take him for a walk and chat with our neighbors but he doesn’t like anybody. He barks at other dogs. I have to walk quickly past people. I am not accomplishing that goal. If your dog sleeps all day it sounds like she is not getting you out either.
Scott: She doesn’t really want to out for a walk especially in the summer around here. It usually gets too hot for her so she just usually sleeps the day away.
Liam: We’re coming up close on our half hour time here. I want to ask you if you what is the single most valuable piece of advice (business life or otherwise) that you have received and probably then implemented?
Scott: It’s been (I forget who gave me this advice now. It was a while ago) it’s been to get out of my comfort zone. Take some risks. Even if that risk seems like it might be more than I can bite off, jump in any way. There’s going to be a time when I’m going to look back and say I really could have done that. It could have been something great but I didn’t. Now it’s nothing. I think that’s something that is a valuable piece of advice. There are so many things that I wouldn’t have done if I didn’t have that advice. I would not have started my own business and working for myself. I would have taken the safe route and just stuck with the same job for years and years. Maybe I would have hated going to work every day but I would have had a steady paycheck. I would’ve had all the benefits that come with a steady job. I wouldn’t have had that definition of success that I mentioned earlier of being happy with what you’re doing.
Liam: I love that! I call that cliff jumping. It could be a small 3- foot cliff.
Scott: It would have to be because I’m afraid of heights.
Liam: I am too. I can kind of edge up to them. I willing to tackle it but I have a little fear. Scott? This is been a fantastic conversation. I’m pretty sure I can speak for Tara when I say it’s been an absolute pleasure.
Tara: Yeah. I loved talking to you.
Scott: It’s been great. I’m glad to be here.
Liam: Where can people find you online? Where can they check out your plugins and keep an eye out for updates on the 1099 project that you’re currently on?
Scott: My website is Scottdeluzio.com. I’ll probably post some updates there. You can follow me on Twitter @Scottdeluzio. I’ll be posting regular updates to both of those places.
Liam: Awesome, thank you. Scott? Have a fantastic day.
Tara: Thank you for joining us.
Scott: You’re welcome.
Liam: Thanks for the listening to the show. We sure hope you enjoyed it much as we did.
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