088: Nathalie Lussier on Creating a Million-Dollar-a-Year Plugin


About Nathalie Lussier:

Nathalie Lussier is an award-winning entrepreneur who has been making websites since she was 12 years old. She graduated with a degree in Software Engineering and a job offer from Wall Street, but she turned down this job to start her own business right out of college.

As the founder of AccessAlly, the powerful digital course and membership solution for industry leaders, she believes that access to education can help defy stereotypes and make the world a better place while providing a sustainable livelihood for enterprising teachers.

Nathalie has been featured in Forbes, Inc., Fast Company, Success Magazine, Entrepreneur, Venture Beat, and Mashable.

Find Nathalie Lussier: AccessAlly | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn


Nathalie Lussier
Women in WP | WordPress Podcast
088: Nathalie Lussier on Creating a Million-Dollar-a-Year Plugin
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Transcript

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Women in WP, a bimonthly podcast about women who blog, design, develop and more in the WordPress community.

Angela Bowman:

Hi. Welcome to Women in WP. I’m Angela Bowman.

Amy Masson:

And I am Amy Masson.

Tracy Apps:

And I’m Tracy Apps.

Angela Bowman:

Our guest today is Nathalie Lussier joining us from Southern Ontario. Nathalie is the founder of the WordPress plugin AccessAlly which helps coaches deliver their courses, memberships and communities on their terms. Welcome, Nathalie.

Nathalie Lussier:

Yay. Thank you so much for having me.

Angela Bowman:

We like to start off each episode asking our guests how they got started in WordPress. What was your journey?

Nathalie Lussier:

Yeah. So if we want to start at the very, very beginning, I would say that I really got the internet bug when I was around 11 or 12 when I built my first website, and it was pure HTML, Notepad and just uploading via FTP, and just teaching myself to code. I would look at other people’s source code on their website, and see how do I build a table? I would copy and paste and bring that over to my side, and just tweak it until it looked the way that I wanted it. And through that I started building websites for my high school and for other local businesses, and I was really, really bad at the actual client management side of things, but I enjoyed the web design side.

And so I decided to pursue a degree in Software Engineering, and I thought there would be a lot more web stuff in my degree, but it ended up being a lot more coding. And there was a class called Graphics, and it was a upper year class and I was like, “Oh, graphics, that’s going to be awesome. I love design, it’ll be great.” But when I got to that class, it was all about the algorithms to generate graphics on a screen, so I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is not what I expected at all,” but luckily I kept building my own websites along the way.

And then I discovered WordPress around probably 2007, 2008, and I just created a blog and it was just very basic at the time. But then also throughout my university career, I got to be an intern and work on Wall Street and Silicon Valley, and I got to do tech things at those companies. And then I got a job offer to go work on Wall Street, at graduation I was like, “Okay, I think if I take this job I’m going to wake up in 40 years and regret it,” so I decided to turn down this job offer to start my own business. And so what it was, actually I kept reading all these blogs about follow your passion and things like that, so I decided to build a business all about healthy eating. And so I just built a blog, and people kept asking me, “Who built your website? It looks so great.” And so I turned into a whole other like, “Okay I’m going to let go of this business and do web design again.”

And I call it the spiral staircase because I was regretting and dreading going back into web design, but at this point things had changed. I had learned a lot more and I was building all these sites on WordPress, and also I got so much better at the business side and actually working with clients and managing expectations, all of that, so that quickly became a very successful web design business. And then I realized I couldn’t take on all the clients that I wanted, so people were saying, “How do you build these popups? How do you build these things?” And I was like, if I were to build a plugin to do it, that would actually solve the problem. They wouldn’t have to learn how to code and they wouldn’t have to get their hands so dirty, so that ended up growing over time. It was in the back of my head, my business kept growing. I ended up selling online courses and doing all kinds of consulting along the way.

And then at this point I was like, “Okay, my business is doing well enough. I’m going to see if my husband can quit his job and join me because he’s also a developer,” and then that’s essentially when we decided to really go all in on the software side and build WordPress plugins. So I knew that building a WordPress plugin, selling it and actually supporting it was a lot for one person. So I wanted to make sure we could actually handle support and ongoing updates and all of that, so that’s how we got to where we are today. And we built AccessAlly for ourselves because we were using a different plugin at the time, and then we were running into all these issues where our host would shut us down because they thought we were getting attacked.

But it was just the way that our plugin was built, it was pinging our email marketing platform with each visit, and so we just quickly built AccessAlly over a weekend because we had to solve this problem. And then over time we were like, “Hey, what if we added this? What if we added that? And then people, again, were asking us, “What do you use to run your courses? What do you use to do this?” And so we’re like, okay, there’s definitely a product here, and let’s actually put all of our efforts behind it and actually make it a real business.

Tracy Apps:

Awesome. And the whole customer management thing, all of that stuff, I like to learn that because no one… I haven’t seen anywhere that they teach you that. I haven’t found that anywhere except for online courses, but learning through experience and doing all of the things wrong, that’s how I learned. Same thing with my web design is I made the most horrible HTML only websites known to man, and literally copied and pasted in the same thing. But that’s really impressive, you also have the code portion of it. How much of that degree, because that’s not going to necessarily focused on PHP or WordPress, how much of that helps you in your business as it is now?

Nathalie Lussier:

That’s a great question. I think that I would say, so my husband studied Math and Business, and I studied Software Engineering, and then I run the business and he does most of the coding. So that’s how we think about our degrees as we’re both the wrong degrees, but for the most part, I do think it was useful because at least I can understand how involved certain things are to develop and I can talk with our developers. We have more developers on the team now, and we’ve also been hiring from our university paid co-ops and interns, so I know what to look for when I’m doing technical interviews and things like that, so I think that’s been very helpful. I don’t do coding as much myself these days. I still build work WordPress stuff all the time, but not so much under the hood stuff. And then my husband really doesn’t do a whole lot with the business management or marketing side of things, so we traded.

Tracy Apps:

That’s hilarious.

Amy Masson:

I find it interesting that the number of women we speak to whose plugin or whatever their business that they created became to be because there was a problem and there wasn’t a solution, and so they had to create it.

Nathalie Lussier:

Yes, Amy. We built our popup plugin, PopupAlly because I wanted to help my clients, and they wanted to have a popup like I had, but mine was all custom coded with specific HTML and CSS, and I was like, “Oh, they’re not going to be able to ramp up and make it beautiful right away, so let’s just do it like a drag and drop and then they can just do that.” So that really sold well because all of our design customers were like, “I want to just be able to update my popup and just make it look good.”

And then for AccessAlly, that was really just pulling our hair out moments where we’re like, “Okay, we can’t keep doing this, and our host is going to kick us off or something soon, so we need to do something about this problem.” And then from there it’s really evolved, obviously a whole lot and we’ve added millions and millions of lines of code to it, but most of the features and ideas that we have for it came from our customers. So once we had customers, we really focused on what they wanted to accomplish, and I think that’s made a big difference too with the direction that the plugin has gone.

Angela Bowman:

That’s amazing, and your story is a lot like Stephanie Wells with Formidable Forms where she had this need for a client, there wasn’t something there. So she built the plugin, and then ended up also hiring her husband to be her assistant. And we’ve heard that story a lot where these women come up with these successful business solutions or plugin solutions, and end up having to hire their husband to be their assistant, and it’s a fabulous journey. Tell us a little bit more about what AccessAlly does and how it compares to other LMS or membership related plugins.

Nathalie Lussier:

Yeah, absolutely. So the way we think about everything in AccessAlly is as an offering. So a lot of times you’re buying an LMS, and you think, “I’m going to create courses,” or you buy your membership plugin because you’re going to have a recurring membership. So AccessAlly, everything is doable within AccessAlly, it’s just how you want to deliver it. So you could do courses, you could do memberships, you can do communities, you could do eBooks, you could do free challenges or really however you want to think about it. It’s pretty much possible in AccessAlly, and we found that the benefit of doing it that way is that there’s a lot of cross selling and cross marketing opportunities. So if somebody who buys your course or even downloads a free thing, they can login to your membership site and see what else is available that’s paid as an upgrade whether it’s continuity or just a one click upsell, so we’ve found that to be really powerful for people.

And in terms of how it compares with other things on the market, we try to think about it as an all in one, so that helps a lot. And then I think also from there we have a lot of functionality that integrates with email marketing platforms, so if somebody opts into your email platform, you can generate their login for them and send them a link to go and download something for example. Or also we have a lot of cool things where if somebody completes a quiz or completes a course, you can unlock a bonus, send them an email from your email platform, and there’s a lot of cool integrations that we can have with that. So a lot of that came from what we were doing and also what our customers were doing.

But it has a lot of the LMS functionality you would want like quizzing and points and gamification certificates that you can get at the end and all that kind of stuff. And I will say one thing that we do have that’s a feature that’s a little bit different is our umbrella accounts functionality, so that’s where you can sell or license multiple seats in a course or our recurring membership. So you could say, “Okay, I have this training and multiple companies are going to buy it, and they’re going to import their members or their team members, and then they can track the progress of their members and they can do all the admin.” So you can sell one group license for example or you can sell per seat. There’s different ways to handle that as well, and so that helps people to scale a little bit without having to do individual sales as much [inaudible 00:10:59].

Tracy Apps:

What are most of your clients? Are they focused on courses or are they businesses? Have you found a niche or industry that tends to use this?

Nathalie Lussier:

Yeah. So we’ve found that most people who tend to love AccessAlly tend to be coaches, so they could be coaching one on one right now, and then they want to add courses or they have a book and they want to turn their book into a recurring program or a membership or community where people can come in and connect with other people just like them. And we do have people who are dog trainers, photographers, they teach what they know, and so they’re trying to scale outside of the one to one and into one to many a lot of times.

Amy Masson:

And do you have a lot of developers that use it with clients or is it primarily, do you think, keep the business owner that is doing it by themselves?

Nathalie Lussier:

Yeah. So it’s definitely at 80/20, so I would say that we have people who come in and love it, build it themselves, figure it out, but a good chunk of people do tend to hire. And we had a certification program for a while which we sunset it just because it was a lot of management for keeping people up to date on things. But we’re always looking for developers and people who are looking for solutions for their clients, and we like to support them. So we have demo or discovery calls, and we just do this training to help people who are curious about it if it would work for their clients or client projects. And I would say that a good chunk of people who come to us come from developer recommendations, developers who’ve tried other things and they’re like, “I think for what you’re actually trying to do, AccessAlly might be good.” And it just depends on their goals because I don’t think it is the platform for everybody in all cases. I think it really does depend on what you’re trying to build.

Angela Bowman:

Well, I love it since I’m deep into the LMS space with helping clients with their online courses and with, for example, LearnDash has Uncanny Owl which is a third party tool to do that group’s management feature you were talking about where you could license out the group, and you have to integrate with WooCommerce. It works pretty well. There are a couple of little funky things about it, but I was talking to LifterLMS at Word Camp US, and they’re really working on having some group functionality like that, they’re not there yet.

And so to hear that that is really such a huge feature of yours, and really is part of your product rather than with LearnDash foisting that off on a third party where you don’t have that, not to say you don’t have accountability, but in a way there’s not an accountability to LearnDash to make sure that that works properly. So you’re having to rely on the solo, whatever small team to make sure that plugin works. And that group functionality, I think, is so key to the LMS space, and that’s awesome that you intuited that right away and built that into your software.

Nathalie Lussier:

Yeah. So a lot of times when people are trying to decide, I think that we try to show different options, so there’s what I call the duct tape solutions where, yes, you’ll need five different plugins to work together or maybe there’s Zap Gear in the middle who knows. There’s a bunch of things that you’re trying to make work together and that can work, but also it might be cheaper. AccessAlly is not priced on the lower end. But at the same time things could fall apart or one of the things might break or a new update might need to be required for it to keep working, so it could be a little bit tricky for people.

And then you have the hosted Kajabi, Teachable, Thinkific, these tend to be a little bit easier for people to get started, but then a lot of times people feel stuck. You can’t add more functionality, you can’t add another plugin or you can’t tweak the design or the thing that you want it to do, so I feel like AccessAlly is in the middle. We are one solution that does a whole lot, and that hopefully we’ll do what you want it to do, but at the same time you’re not stuck, and then you’re also not relying on a bunch of different pieces. So that’s how we like to talk about it, and I know that some people might prefer doing the other options too.

Tracy Apps:

As someone that is currently trying to get out of the weeds of all of the plugins because exactly that one thing updated, and then that was incompatible with this thing, and it is a headache for sure. I’ve been thinking especially, I’ve been teaching online, and there’s not good tools that again, integrate that learning, teaching groups and that functionality as well as email, being able to keep people up to date, be able to upsell all of those things. It is a lot of taping things together, and so it’s really, really cool to hear in this space. Any fun or teaser or things that you can get us about what roadmap kind of things are going to come in the future?

Nathalie Lussier:

Yes. So we’re coming out with a new tier called Community, and so we have already been working on it, and some of our customers have upgraded to it already. So we’re basically doing groups and more of that threaded conversation that you can have around a topic, and part of a course or part of a membership so you can really design how you want it to work. So right now, we’re beta working on it with our existing customers, getting their feedback and improving it, so in the fall is when we plan to actually release the full version where everyone can purchase it on the website. And then the other thing that we’re working on is what we’re calling our no CRM version, so in the past you had to use one of the email marketing platforms to use AccessAlly because we had our tags and custom fields, and all of that was stored in the email marketing platforms like ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, KEEP Ontraport, Drip, all of those were the ones that we’re integrated with.

And we realized people may not want to use those specific platforms, so we could keep integrating with more and more platforms, but then all of the platforms don’t always have the functionality we need. So for example, Mailchimp is a super popular one, but it didn’t have tags for the longest time, and so we were like, “Oh, people really want it, so we’re just going to do all of that functionality directly in AccessAlly so you can have tags and custom fields and all of that stored in WordPress.” And so now, you won’t depend on the CRM, but you can still integrate with it, so that’s coming soon too.

Amy Masson:

Wow, that’s so much. When you first were transitioning into, “I am doing this for my clients too, I’m going to sell this for other people to use with their clients,” what was the biggest hurdle that you had to go figure out and find a solution for?

Nathalie Lussier:

I think the biggest hurdle was really figuring out how to sell software versus how to sell services or consulting or courses which is essentially what I was doing before. And I think a lot of times people are like, “Yes, I’m really excited, I’m going to try it,” and there’s a lot that goes into adoption of software, and I think learning about that was a little bit of a struggle because we were like, “Of course, they like it, they saw the page, they saw the video or whatever it is that got them interested and then they’d buy, and then they try it and they’re like, “Oh, it’s not what I thought or I’m missing this thing or whatnot.”

So just getting over some of that so that we can communicate it better before they purchase, so a couple of things we’ve done to help with that. So we do have discovery calls so people can jump on a call with someone from our team, and then we’ll walk them through and make sure it’s a good fit for them. And people tell us all the time, “No companies do this. I can’t get on the phone with a company and ask if this is going to work for me,” so I think that has helped with some of those issues. And sometimes we will tell people, “Hey, based on what you said, you might really be well served by this other option here,” and we try to keep on top of what’s available, so that’s one thing we did to overcome some of that.

And then also just doing as much for our knowledge base so that people can read about how things work before they purchase. I think people do look at that before they buy sometimes just so they know it’s not just… I think sometimes we see marketing for tools and it’s a checklist of what it all does, but then when you try it you’re like, “Oh, that’s not exactly what was on the… It’s not quite one to one of a matching of what the checklist said.” So just being more clear on how we can communicate what that actually means because I think a lot of times people are really optimistic, and I think being realistic is really important to when you’re marketing software.

Angela Bowman:

I’ve seen people struggle if they don’t have a free version on the wordpress.org repo, and so how did you get the word out about your plugin? You’re amazing all in one, just that’s a hurdle.

Nathalie Lussier:

It is, yes. So I think luckily we had our community already which was female entrepreneurs. They just were around me from my online courses and all this stuff I had done, so I had an email list already, so that helped. And then we just focused on working with developers who would recommend us, and that helped a lot. We also did some co-marketing with the CRM companies that we were integrating with, so those companies either accepted a guest post from us, maybe we did a webinar together. So we marketed directly to those people because we knew they had to have one of these systems to use us, so it made sense for them to be potential customers of ours.

And then just like SEO, having blog posts that show up when people are searching, we do have a lot of comparison posts where people might be looking at two different options, and we did our research hopefully enough to give them information to make the best decision for them. But we’ve tried all kinds of things, we’ve done Facebook ads, we’ve done Google ads, we’ve done LinkedIn ads, but I think really what it comes down to is focusing on the product or the problem you can solve for people and then making sure that they can find you. We do a lot of YouTube videos. We’re all over the place, but hopefully they find this when they’re searching for something that they’re looking for.

Amy Masson:

And just every time you talk, I have so many more questions, sorry. And I bounce around all over the place, but you made a comment about having a network of female entrepreneurs from your courses, and so I wonder, do you notice a certain demographic that tends to use your product more than others?

Nathalie Lussier:

Yes. So I would say we were probably 90% women customers for many, many years, and then I don’t know exactly what changed, but our website was completely pink at first too, so I think that might have been part of the issue, but not issue, but part of the branding behind it. So I do feel like over time more people found out about it, and it was outside of our network, and that the word spread a little bit, so I think that helped even things out, but I would say it’s probably still 60 to 70% women at this point. We do have more male customers as well, and sometimes they’re in a husband and wife teams and stuff, so it’s hard to say which of the two we should account, but I think that the initial community aspect helped a lot.

And then sometimes I do think about it because I haven’t been super duper active in the WordPress community, so people are like, “Oh, I’ve never heard of AccessAlly. I’ve seen the website, but I didn’t really associate you with WordPress very much.” And people do sometimes also come to our website and get confused that it is a WordPress plugin because they’re comparing us to Teachable or Thinkific and then they’re like, “Oh, wait. No, this is on WordPress, okay.” So I think a lot of it has come from that initial group of people, but then we’re trying to also branch out a little bit.

Angela Bowman:

It’s interesting you mentioned the WordPress community. There was someone who sent out a tweet, a dude who’s like, “What WordPress plugins or companies are out there that are run by women?” And he listed three, and that’s all that could come to mind for him. And he didn’t have Formidable on there, he didn’t have Strattic, he didn’t have any of these really big companies that were founded and run by women, WebDevStudios, any of those. And so people were just not really trolling, but trolling. Just flooding his comments with all these women. But a lot of them were smaller agencies and stuff, and that’s fine too, but there were some agencies that have 10 employees, and to me that’s pretty substantial. And here you are, a multimillion dollar plugin that probably no one would know was founded by a woman. So in terms of the WordPress space, do you have any plans to get yourself more known in that way, maybe to do some talks about your journey? I think it would be fabulous?

Nathalie Lussier:

Yeah. It’s definitely on my list. I feel like the last few years have been rough with kids at home more, and just not having the extra time or extra bandwidth to be out there a bit more. But I was the opening keynote speaker at Word Camp Atlanta in 2015, I think. So it’s been a while since I’ve been back on stage and doing a lot of things, but it’s definitely on my list to do. And I think doing more podcasts and more things like that too would be really helpful. And I think part of it was because I was so focused on running the business and just growing it and all of that, that I just didn’t even lift my eyes up to see what’s happening in WordPress even though WordPress powers our business and is such an important part of what we do. So I think this is now my time to dive more into the WordPress community and give back.

Amy Masson:

You’ve mentioned [inaudible 00:25:06]-

Tracy Apps:

Do you have more employees now?

Nathalie Lussier:

Yes.

Tracy Apps:

Or is it just the two of you?

Nathalie Lussier:

Yes.

Amy Masson:

… you literally took the question out of my mouth, Tracy.

Tracy Apps:

See we’ve been doing this too long. We started to share a brain.

Nathalie Lussier:

I love it. So we’re a team of eight full time employees, and right now we have three paid interns at the moment too. And we rotate interns every four months, so we’re always mentoring new people. And we’ve had one person graduate and joining full time who was an intern with us too. So that’s our goal, is to get to know people and train them up, and if they like it then hopefully they’ll join us full time when they graduate.

Amy Masson:

And is your team remote or do you have an office?

Nathalie Lussier:

Yes, we’re all remote, all over the US and Canada right now.

Amy Masson:

Nice.

Angela Bowman:

You know what? I’m tuning into this, what else would you like us to know, a piece of our question. And now, I just want to come visit you in Canada to see your small permaculture farm in which you have sheep, chickens, ducks and geese. And I also have chickens, but I’m not on a permaculture farm. I am in a city, and I’m an urban chicken farmer, I guess. I have five chickens which is all, but it’s fabulous, so tell us about your farm.

Nathalie Lussier:

Yeah. So about two years ago we moved here, and we had always loved gardening and planting trees and that side of things. And where we were living before, we were in a certain area where they didn’t let us have any animals. So we were, “Okay, if we wanted to do this, let’s actually go all the way and actually get a farm.” So we moved to this farm which was actually a horse property, and so there’s still horses here, but they’re renting the barn, and they’re like tenants. So we can enjoy the horses, but we don’t have to muck them out every morning which is really nice.

So we have chickens, ducks and sheep, and they’re actually milking sheep, so we milk them during the spring and summer. And so we’re really enjoying that part of things, and I think that balances out all of our tech time because we’re always on the computer, so it’s nice to get outside a little bit. Yes, we have someone who calls us software nerds who shovels sheep turds, and I do feel like that’s pretty accurate because we are mucking out the sheep sometimes, but we do a lot of the permaculture. We planted a lot of trees since we’ve moved here, and just learning a lot about that too.

Amy Masson:

And the most important question, do you make feta cheese out of your sheep milk?

Nathalie Lussier:

Oh, I haven’t yet. We’ve made mozzarella plenty of times, but feta, not quite yet, but next year for sure.

Amy Masson:

Okay. I’m looking forward to hearing about the feta cheese experience. That might be goat milk.

Angela Bowman:

Feta can be sheep, but sheep mozzarella. That’s a good stuff. You can do sheep. And what else? You could also make some of the hard cheeses with the sheep.

Nathalie Lussier:

Yes. We made a cheddar and we aged it, and we tried it and it was so sharp that we were like, “Okay, maybe we didn’t do it right.” So I don’t know if it’s just how long we waited or that, but anyways we have books, we have YouTube videos. We were learning very actively on that side of things because it’s trial and error still, but mozzarella came up great, so I’m very happy.

Tracy Apps:

My fiance loves the extra sharp cheddar, so if you ever have something it’s like, “Oh, it’s too sharp,” just send it all. We’ll take care of it for you.

Nathalie Lussier:

I’ll ask for your address, yes.

Angela Bowman:

I just love Nathalie. It was so great when you were saying, “I haven’t spoken since 2015, and there’s a pandemic, we have kids at home, and we have this whole company that we run and… Oh, by the way, we have a farm.” And I was just like, “Yeah, you’re just a little busy,” but that work life balance thing, having that excuse to get out away from the desk, get out there, be with the chickens and the sheep and ducks and geese… I mean, it just sounds wonderful. And we always like to ask women, as you’re a woman entrepreneur and what kind of support, mentorship or encouragement have you got in being that person?

Nathalie Lussier:

That’s a great question. I feel like I’ve been really lucky with different mentors throughout my life, so I had a martial arts teacher way, way back when I was like 11, again. And I did martial arts for a really long time, and I feel like just having a strong role model like that was really helpful, and even though it didn’t necessarily impact the way that I thought about business, I think that was really helpful. Just having someone who believes in you I think is really powerful.

And beyond that, yes, I’ve had great mentors in business and coaches. I’ve hired coaches to help me think through things and make decisions sometimes. They would just listen to me and be like, “I think you already know what you need to do, you just need to do it.” And so that’s always helpful to just have that reflection and just be like, “Yes, I just need to trust myself a little bit more and go with what my gut is telling me,” so that’s been really helpful. And then I think now that we have more of a team, it’s nice to be able to balance ideas off of them and make sure that the whole team is on board with ideas and things. And sometimes I do get a little bit too idea focused, and the team balances me out a little bit, especially my husband who’s a little bit more stable and more of the entrepreneurial idea person, so that’s also a nice thing to have as well.

Tracy Apps:

So that actually leads into what my question is. So now, especially for those of us because you mentioned a little bit about this, it’s much different running a product than it is with a service. Because you’ve obviously been successful at this, so what tips can you give from transitioning into that successfully?

Nathalie Lussier:

Yeah. So I will say you need money and a runway because product does not happen overnight. So I had this plan that we would get to thousands of customers in year one, and that totally did not happen. And so we’d see all this hockey stick growth, and I think that’s not super realistic, especially if you don’t have a big audience or if you don’t have the ideal people following you. If you’re doing freelance, you tend not to have a huge email list or a huge customer base that you could just turn into customers unless you’re going super high ticket with your product which is also totally legit, and I would consider if I were doing things differently. I might start high price and do semi custom and then slowly make it available to more people, but I think that’s really important, thinking about the size of your audience and how you’re going to market your product because putting up a product page does not automatically get you sales, and I think that’s a misconception.

And I will say also, for our first plugin we did put a free version in the WordPress directory and we had, I think, it was like 15,000 downloads for that. But part of that was because we had our email list already and it was free, so everyone on our email list was like, “Oh sure, I’ll go download a free version, why not?” And then from there, that converted into sales of our pro version, so depending on what product you’re creating, that could definitely be a good strategy. I’m not sure because that was again 2013, 2014, so I’m not sure if things have changed since then, but those are a couple of avenues I would pursue. But I would say give yourself more than a year to have money coming in maybe from other services or whatnot.

Tracy Apps:

That makes a lot of sense for sure.

Nathalie Lussier:

To fully depend on the product.

Amy Masson:

I actually am wondering, when you moved to your farm, did you have any issues with internet access? Is it a more rural location? Because I know a lot of people that struggle at least in the US with being able to do online remote work when their internet is so terrible.

Nathalie Lussier:

That’s such a great question. So top of our list was they had to have good internet otherwise we were not going to choose this location. So we’re in a really interesting neighborhood where it’s essentially residential across the street, but then on our street it’s farms, so it’s a very weird setup. I’m not sure how it happened, probably the zoning changed it over time. So we actually have fiber which is amazing, so we looked at a property across the highway to a different location, and they didn’t have good internet and I was like, “Nope. Sorry, that’s an automatic. It’s not going to happen.” So we had a spreadsheet of what we were looking for, and that was at the top for sure.

Amy Masson:

Oh, wow.

Tracy Apps:

Yeah. It’s funny because every time I think about, well, if I’m looking at houses or even Airbnbs, I look at what is the reviews on the internet speeds? How many outlets are there? Is it going to support all of my computers? Because I just want to see, I just want to make sure. It’s interesting, we have more things to think about. I love it.

Amy Masson:

So I have a question I want to go back a little bit to, before you developed your plugin and you were coaching or you were teaching classes, what were you teaching people?

Nathalie Lussier:

Yeah. So I was teaching, some of them were WordPress things. So I had a course called Websites Made Easy, and that came out of working with clients where I was like, “I can’t take on all the clients, and I would like to help people make their own websites,” and that was one of my most popular courses. I also had Simple SEO which was another course, and then I think it was called Expand Your Reach which was more about marketing and getting more people on your email list.

What I realized quickly from doing online courses that were teaching people tech things is that tech things change all the time, so my courses were out of date within a week or two. So it was really rough to keep maintaining them and updating them, so I did for the most part in the beginning, but then I realized, “Okay, there needs to be a different model or a different way of doing things,” and that’s part of why I was moving more towards the plugin way because if I just had to stay on top of things, that’s all I would do, is just update my courses instead of marketing or helping people answer questions and things like that.

Amy Masson:

And that’s held me back from ever making a course, it’s because everything changes so rapidly. I go back and look at a tutorial blog post I wrote six months ago, and it’s like, “Oh, well, that’s not useful anymore.”

Angela Bowman:

Same. I have a six week theme customization course, and I would teach it a couple times a year to 10 or 12 people. I’m was teaching in person, but all of the lessons were online because I’d want them to go through step by step, and they would recreate a website and I would be teaching them. The CSF stuff would stay the same. Some of the PHP stuff would say stay the same, but everything was changing so often. Every time I had to go teach the course, I’d have to spend hours updating things, and then redesigning everything because if we’re going to build a website together, you want them to have a sample website that they’re building the looks modern. And when things started to changed and I picked up another page builder, and a lot of people were making videos for that.

It’s like, “Do I really want to compete on that level and spend all my time making tutorial videos that are going to be out of date?” Because it takes forever to make those, and that’s definitely held me back quite a bit. But I really want to help people, but wow, it’s been super challenging to. The only course that doesn’t change a whole lot is just the SEO, that’s stayed pretty much the same, but it’s also much shorter course. And luckily there’s a tweak here and there, but surprisingly as much as we talk about SEO’s changing so much, it’s like, “Not really.”

Amy Masson:

The basics stay the same.

Angela Bowman:

Yeah, totally.

Amy Masson:

Write good content, have a good site.

Angela Bowman:

The technical stuff’s pretty much the same. But good for you for making that transition. Were there any particular technical challenges like coding wise, learning? You talked about the business evolution and having to get your brain around some of that, and the marketing and all of that, but did you face anything where you had to level up your technical chops? Or did you just hire it out at that point?

Nathalie Lussier:

Yeah. I would say, so my husband figured most things out, but I think one thing we did which I’m not sure if I regret, but it was an interesting decision looking back, is that we built our own license manager. So a lot of people when they sell plugins, they use, what’s it called? EDD.

Angela Bowman:

Free Me S.

Nathalie Lussier:

Free Me S, yes. Exactly. Easy Digital Downloads, I feel like there’s a couple of different options that are the standard for selling our plugins. And so we built our own which sometimes means we have to stop working on our public facing plugin to then update our plugin server or our license manager and all of that. So we take our focus off of customers to make sure that things keep working on the back end, so that’s sort of a challenge. I think sometimes it’s good because we know exactly how it works, we are not going to get hacked, there’s some benefits to that. But I think part of that was because we were in our own little bubble so much, we didn’t even look and consider, “Oh, there’s something that already does that, let’s just use that.” So I think that’s a challenge on the [inaudible 00:39:05] for sure.

Amy Masson:

Well, it’s been wonderful having you on the show today and learning all about your WordPress plugin. Before we go, can you tell everyone where they can find you online?

Nathalie Lussier:

Yeah, of course. So accessally.com, that’s the plugin website. Popupally.com is our other plugin which is for popups and list building. And then also nathalielussier.com if you want to check out my more farm updates or more personal side of things. I do talk about the business a bit there too, but a little bit less AccessAlly specific focused.

Angela Bowman:

Awesome. Well, thanks for being on today.

Nathalie Lussier:

Thank you so much for having me. This was great.

Amy Masson:

Thank you for listening. Interested in being on the show? Sign up on our website, womeninwp.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and join our Facebook group to have conversations with other women in WordPress.

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