Life took an unexpected turn in early March, and my focus went from being a full-time entrepreneur to a full-time caretaker.
My dad, who has lived a life with near perfect health, got very sick, very quickly.
He went from being in perfect health on a Friday, March 2nd, to being near death the following Tuesday evening, thanks to a severe kidney infection.
He thought he had the flu. Unfortunately, it was much worse than that.
The infection got into his bloodstream and his body went into septic shock, and every single organ began shutting down one by one.
Before he knew he had the infection, he got dizzy and fell in the bathroom and broke BOTH of his ankles.
So he cannot put any weight on either leg and is in a wheelchair.
He’s been this way for nearly two months because he had to get clearance for ankle surgery by several different doctors.
As you can imagine, for a man who was very active, this is driving him nuts having to sit all day and be so dependent on family.
He was finally approved for surgery this Wednesday. So hopefully the therapy will begin a few weeks after that and he can get back to walking.
Nevertheless, it all could have been so much worse. I’m just so grateful he is alive and his health is good!
In the meantime, I feel very lucky and blessed to have this online business… especially when I’ve needed “time off.”
Most of March was a wash in terms of getting anything done for the biz.
In spite of all that’s been going on, this is shaping up to be one of my best years in some time.
In February, I had a $10K revenue month with Merch By Amazon and over $13K in total print on demand revenue (Amazon, Etsy, RedBubble, Spreadshirt, Zazzle, etc.)
That was the first time my print on demand income surpassed my largest affiliate income source (GoDaddy’s reseller program).
As great as those numbers look, you have to know that Merch By Amazon is far from being a sure thing. I have invested an insane amount of time on this in the last year, and income is up and down like a roller coaster.
So please do not join Merch expecting your income to grow every month. Mine sure hasn’t. As one of my students said, you have to treat Merch as your vacation money and never rely on it! Nevertheless, I’m completely obsessed with this opportunity!
I also just had another record month with my PSP courses.
As you may remember, my main method for promoting my courses is through podcasting.
For the longest time, affiliate income was my primary focus. Now it’s taking a backseat to course income, and this has been a long-time business goal of mine.
For too many years I was relying very heavily on affiliate income, and I wanted to see a shift.
One thing I’ve learned from my students on Passive Shirt Profits is that your work does not end when you launch your courses.
How many of you have ever thought, “If I can just get my course launched then the hardest part will be over.”
That’s actually when the real work begins.
Creating the course videos was the easy part for me. The bigger and ongoing challenge has been making sure students can execute!
Just because your course is live doesn’t mean it’s optimized for the best learning experience.
Some people get stuck in areas you might breeze through, or we assume certain things are clearer than they truly are.
Typically your first version of the course is going to be your worst, but your student feedback and questions should help you improve it.
I tried something new this year with my Merch Course, and it’s really helped myself as a teacher and several students.
I began sending out weekly strategy tips to students, and many of the tips are very personal to my ongoing experiences with Merch By Amazon.
At first I worried about sending too many emails, but the responses have been awesome!
Students who weren’t selling anything are starting to see sales. I started receiving more “success” emails, and a few even began posting testimonials in my private group!
(I blurred out the name since it’s a private group and I didn’t get permission to share the name.)
Then I woke up to this today….
I eventually want to do one-on-one coaching/training for Merch due to requests, but I’m not ready yet.
However, this feedback and ongoing correspondence with students is prepping me for that when the time is right.
I may experiment with that once things settle down with my dad.
If you’ve ever struggled with how you should be marketing your business or even what kind of work you should be doing online, I’d highly recommend The Marketing DNA Test by Perry Marshall (I am NOT an affiliate.)
It revealed a lot about myself as an entrepreneur AND an online teacher.
It was recommended by one of my followers. (Shout out to Mitch!) I thought it would be fun to take.
Based on how you answer 15-20 questions, the test gives you guidance on the best methods to market your site.
It also gives you insight into the kind of work you should be doing based on your strengths and weaknesses.
I’ve always known that I’m doing the kind of work that fits me, but I wanted to see if the results aligned with what I believe about myself.
The results revealed that I excel more with right-brained, creative work and I connect with people best through video.It also said I have a way of getting inside my visitor’s heads that is almost “psychic and sometimes a little bit scary.”However, I’m NOT so great at analytical work that requires a lot of attention to detail.
I’m also not good with thinking on the spot. I need time to gather my thoughts.
That explains why I fall in love with work like writing/blogging, video and T-shirt design creation, but hate overly analytical work.
That also must be why I abandoned my Accounting major in college.
With SEO, I wonder if that’s why I’d always start off using keyword research software but abandon it after I found a niche.
I could never make myself use it to research every keyword I wanted to write about. I always wanted to follow my gut and common sense.
With Amazon, I have my process I use to find a niche/keywords for Merch. But I spend waaaaaaay more time coming up with my actual shirt ideas and working in Photoshop than I do obsessing over research.
The other reason why these Marketing DNA results were so interesting to me is it made me realize the disconnect that exists between how I learn and operate versus some of my students.
Right-brained people learn differently than left-brained people.
Left brained/analytical people prefer structure when learning. They take notes, like to plan everything out, and need to have all their ducks in a row before uploading/launching anything.
I’m the complete opposite.
I don’t like to do extensive planning and preparation. I’m not a note taker and prefer to jump in and figure it out as I go — even if I know everything is not perfect.
I rely on my gut with a lot of decisions I make, whereas left-brained people use more logic and research before they are comfortable moving forward.
One way is not better than the other, and they both have their pros and cons.
However, as a course creator, I’ve had to learn to focus more on the details and methodical steps for people who prefer that type of learning.
I wouldn’t have been able to improve on that if I hadn’t stayed in touch with my students.
So remember, your course is never, ever complete. It should continue to evolve based on the feedback from your students.
I’ve been selling courses for nearly four years and I’m STILL learning.
Anywho, just thought I’d update you all on what’s going on with me. It’s been an up and down year for sure, but I’m taking it one day at a time.
I hope life is treating you well!]]>
Ya know… it’s been so long since I blogged here, I almost forgot my WordPress password.
How’s your 2018 been going for you? Mine has been super busy but extremely productive and more profitable than I expected.
So I thought I’d catch you up on lessons I’ve learned with my new site, struggles, personal growth and other insights.
The year started off on a fun note. I received a Golden Ticket and was invited, along with a few other high-volume sellers, to meet with Amazon about the Merch By Amazon (MBA) program!
We had to sign NDAs (Non Disclosure Agreements), but I CAN say that it made me even more proud and excited to be a part of this amazing passive income opportunity.
They even created a shirt design for us that we got to print ourselves!
The team was super cool and treated us to a nice dinner with some delicious desserts! We were all pretty vocal about the things we like/didn’t like, suggestions, etc.
I can’t lie…
Before the meetup, certain things about Merch would really frustrate me. But after talking to the team it made realize how hard they’re working to improve on many different fronts.
One thing’s for sure…
These people LOVE THEIR COMPANY. You can see Amazon has a certain standard for the kind of people they hire.
The Merch team is extremely passionate and dedicated to the program, and it was really cool to see their energy and positive outlook on the future of (MBA).
Merch By Amazon caused a COMPLETE detour with my business in late 2016. I saw the potential and knew I had to focus on it as soon as I got in.
To date, I’ve sold nearly 10,000 shirts on Amazon alone, and never dreamed T-shirts would be a big part of my income stream.
But I’m actually glad Merch distracted me because I was about to make a BIG mistake by creating the site about selling online courses from your WordPress site.
I was trying to force myself into a niche that I wasn’t really passionate about JUST to have a more focused/niche site.
I also felt some pressure to start a new site because I really wanted to see what it was like to begin TODAY so I could share more relevant lessons. I was definitely forcing ideas for that reason as well.
Thank you, Amazon, for rescuing me from THAT inevitable failure!
When I launched Passive Shirt Profits in June of last year, I knew that social media wasn’t going to be a big part of my marketing strategy.
That may sound crazy to you in 2018, but if you know me, you already know that social media marketing has NEVER been a strength OR favorite of mine.
As a matter of fact, MARKETING IN GENERAL has never been a strength.
What you need to understand is that being proficient at teaching, making videos, and being admired online doesn’t automatically qualify you as a great Internet marketer who knows how to sell their own products.
All I knew was that I wasn’t going to stress myself out trying to grow another social media account I would probably abandon.
So I decided to start with podcasting. I really wanted to see how much traction I could gain with doing nothing but focusing on that.
I also wanted to challenge the “Be Everywhere” strategy that a lot of newcomers feel they need to adhere to when starting a website.
My goal was to commit to podcasting weekly to see if it would drive people into my courses. I launched my first show in May, 2017.
You may remember that the initial launch for PSP was great.
It was a good decision to offer a bundle package that was priced lower than the total price of all courses individually because most people bought the bundle.
I made more in the first 3 days of launch than I typically made on Udemy in a month (WITHOUT Udemy discounts.)
But let’s be real.
The sales were mostly from people who found out about PSP from THIS site.
The REAL tell would be the results AFTER the initial launch.
Well let me just say that after launch, things were slow.
So slow that I wondered if I should keep podcasting.
But the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it so I decided to keep going in spite of doubts creeping up.
It’s funny how I’m always giving you all pep talks about never giving up, and I had to remember and start using my own advice!
Then in December, things started to slowly turn around.
Suddenly sales went from very sporadic to several per week.
Then in January it was like someone flipped a switch. (I think it had a lot to do with Merch accepting people into the program again.)
So my listeners and email list subscribers who had been waiting to get approved, decided to enroll.
My podcast downloads started increasing and so did my course sales!
I launch a show every Monday so those are the peaks you see. I think it’s very important to maintain a rhythm with podcasting.
I took a 6 week break between Thanksgiving and the New Year, so that’s why you see the spike on January 8th.
But here’s the cool part….
I recently had my BEST. WEEK. EVER. for the PSP courses, and it was really encouraging to finally have a bit more momentum.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not getting numbers like this all the time, but compared to how things started, I’ll take it!
PSP doesn’t get many comments or social shares.
And if that’s what you view to judge the success of a website, well then you’d see it as a complete failure.
But ironically, it’s converting better with courses than this site did with a larger traffic base!
So yeah, no complaints here!
Don’t get caught up in social shares, traffic and comments. They don’t always equate to more income.
Let me tell you. It gets quite discouraging in the early days of building a new site as many of you know!
It was a VERY humbling experience after having instant success with 2 Create a Website.
This site just TOOK OFF like a rocket thanks to Google back in the day, and PSP has been NOTHING like that.
I knew I wasn’t going to have the luxury of building up my search engine traffic to 2,000 visits per day in the first two months like I did with 2Create years ago.
Even though I was prepared for a slow start, it doesn’t mean it was easy to swallow.
It took 8 months for me to really feel like momentum was picking up, and I know many people would have given up LONG before then.
That’s why you have to keep pushing and give it time.
And that’s EXACTLY why I wanted to share this.
I think it’s equally important you hear when things are challenging, and not just when they’re great.
I know how overwhelming some of you feel when you’re just starting online today.
With Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and so many options to choose from, it can feel like you have a gigantic hill to climb.
But I’m here to tell you to START SMALL.
Most people are never GREAT with every social media site. They typically focus on one or two.
You have to remember, when you see big influencers with 5 and 6-digit followers on multiple sites, usually it’s because they focused on one or two and the other accounts grew because of the success of the initial accounts.
So it’s not like they are spending that much time and energy on every site.
And who cares about the number of followers if you aren’t turning those followers into customers!
Be careful of getting distracted by looking or being popular on social media.Just because people are clicking LIKE doesn't mean they will also click 'BUY.'Click To Tweet
Now THAT’s what I need on a T-shirt!
So focus on ONE platform that fits your style and audience, and commit yourself to growing that for the next 6 months.
The beauty of concentrating on one strategy is it will very clear if it’s working or not.
Kim George wrote a really good article on follower obsessions, and how to choose your best social platform. I envy her commitment and dedication to social media. I just don’t have it.
I was so proud of myself for setting a podcast goal that I stuck to EVERY SINGLE MONDAY until the Holidays. (I did miss one other week due to a death in the family.)
Staying focused is often a challenge for me, but I stuck with podcasting, even when I wasn’t sure it was the best thing to do.
And the great thing about my show is every episode is only 5-10 minutes long. So it only takes me an hour or so to record, edit and publish each episode.
I set a realistic goal for myself that I knew I could meet, and that is so important.
Plus, it feels sooooooo good to know I don’t HAVE to be on every platform. I no longer get social media marketing FOMO (fear of missing out).
For the record, I’m not suggesting that you ignore social media. I believe most people SHOULD consider using it today. This was just a personal decision for ME. I have a unique situation with multiple income sources (some are recurring), so I didn’t feel like social media was something I HAD to do. Having said that, I TOTALLY APPROVE the podcast-only strategy for starting out — especially if you’re in a niche where podcasting is hot.
Just remember, you don’t have to be everywhere. It’s a myth.
Even though I feel PSP has earned what I put into it now (effort wise), there’s so much more I COULD be doing to earn even more.
I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished, but I still have a ways to go.
I haven’t setup many marketing funnels, don’t do much with landing pages, my email list, etc.
I am now getting help with those aspects of marketing.
Entrepreneurs who are incredibly successful focus on what they do best and outsource the rest. And I’m JUST now getting comfortable with doing more of that.
I’ve also grown a lot personally and professionally in the last year.
I’ve learned to be comfortable saying “NO” to unreasonable requests and being OK with not pleasing everyone (limiting certain levels of help to students only, no coupon expectations, pricing etc.)
I’ve set boundaries for what I will and won’t do in my business both online AND offline.
Boundaries are something a lot of women entrepreneurs struggle with. Google it. It’s like an epidemic!
Maintaining that boundary without feeling selfish or mean has often been a challenge for me. But I had to do something because things were getting out of balance in my business.
Don’t feel sorry for me. I created that monster by operating in “people pleasing” mode.
I just recorded a podcast on this very subject. Stay tuned.
It’s also been incredibly rewarding to create additional income streams. That’s something you HAVE to do as an entrepreneur.
My income sources look a LOT different from when I started online, and thanks to Etsy, PSP and Amazon, I’ve developed some new ones in the last 14 months.
And I have to mention AdSense because I’m always asked about it.
My response to that is…
Seriously, if I make a $1,000 month, I’m having a good month. Fortunately, I’ve more than replaced those earnings with other income streams.
One thing’s for sure…
If you expect everything to remain the same out here, you’re in the wrong place. The only constant is change!
Three years from now, I might be talking about Merch in past tense and on to something else. That’s just how it goes.
But I’m going to ride this Merch train ’til the wheels fall off! And it’s been a fun ride!
Anywho, I just wanted to update you all because it’s been a minute since I blogged.
Let me know what you are up to these days, and I hope your 2018 is going grrrrrreat!!]]>
Now that Merch By Amazon has likely frozen the uploads for the rest of the year, that has given me time to catch up on things I’ve neglected…
Like this blog!
Have you joined Amazon’s Influencer Program yet?
It’s been out for many months now, but they recently opened it up to more people and you don’t have to wait as long to get approved.
It’s very much like their affiliate program and managed in the same location, but you receive a personalized page with a vanity URL.
It’s a personalized way to promote products you recommend to your audience without using the long, clunky affiliate URL.
The people who will benefit the most will be bloggers, vloggers and social media mavens who tend to discuss topics that have products sold on Amazon.
For example, if you’re a beauty or tech blogger/vlogger, you may shop a lot on Amazon. No doubt you get questions about what products you use.
This is a great way to display them!
Well instead of creating an affiliate link for the individual products, you can just send them to…
You can post your vanity URL in your blog posts, social media content and YouTube description like social media diva, Ms. Ileane does in her gear videos.
If you’re interested in joining, I created a 5 minute video to show you how it works.
If you get approved, don’t do what I did. I forgot to use it and got the inactivity warning. They will close accounts that aren’t active.
Hope you enjoy the video!]]>
If you don’t want the Chrome browser scaring your visitors away, here’s what you need to know…
Pages with any kind of form field on them should start with https:// instead of http://.
The “s” stands for secure and encrypts any data submitted through your website’s forms.
If you aren’t using encryption on those pages, starting in October 2017, Google Chrome users visiting your website will see an intimidating “NOT SECURE” message.
Yes, that means your email opt-in forms will trigger this warning too. That’s what makes this relevant to so many site owners.
If your page is encrypted, Chrome will display a padlock and the word “Secure” next to your website URL in the address bar.
Let me start by saying this.
If all this techy stuff makes you nervous, please call your host and ask for help. They may have even better suggestions than I do.
I’ll be mentioning that a lot in this post, so please take my advice if you feel uncomfortable with any of these steps.
I’m doing a lot of disclaiming here because this post is more about a heads-up than a tutorial. Where you host your site will largely determine your steps.
If you have a Google Webmaster account and your site is not yet secure, you might have received an email like this…
It lists all the pages that will show a “NOT SECURE” warning in October. The page you see listed above has an email opt-in form on it.
Most of you do not need this to encrypt credit card purchases on your domain. You’re probably using a 3rd party that has encryption already.
You are doing this to prevent annoying Chrome warnings on opt-in and form pages.
That’s why this announcement impacts so many people. I mean, who doesn’t have at least one page on their site with some kind of form?
I have dedicated hosting for my most profitable websites through LiquidWeb (affiliate link).
Many hosting plans (especially high-end plans like VPS and dedicated) offer free AutoSSL. See if your host has this.
It took all of 3 minutes for the tech guy to set it up on my server.
Next, I installed the Real Simple SSL WordPress plugin to instantly redirect all my pages from http:// to https.
If you’d rather not use a plugin for redirects, you can manually set this up with your .htaccess file. Call your host and have them set it up.
To verify that SSL is working, I went here to validate it.
Also, I’m not by any means saying this is the best way. It’s just the way I chose to do it, and it also seems to be a very popular and fast option for WordPress users.
I don’t think most of you need to switch hosts or upgrade your plans — especially if you only have a few pages with opt-in boxes and other simple forms.
The video below also shows another FREE way of encrypting your website without buying an SSL certificate.
It’s called Let’s Encrypt, and here are the hosts that support it.
Don’t forget to PLEASE backup your site and database before making any of these changes.
To those of you using Website Palace (GoDaddy), I did call support yesterday because I also have a few sites hosted there on my reseller store as well. We can use Let’s Encrypt (above) but it’s a manual install. The bottom line is, call support and have them walk you through if you choose to install it. I may not even bother since mine are smaller, less significant sites.
Honestly, hosting companies want you to buy an SSL certificate. So it comes down to money at the end of the day. But I don’t think most of you need to do this.
Thankfully AutoSSL and Let’s Encrypt are slowly rolling out to more and more hosts.
I won’t even pretend to fully understand all the technical differences between the free AutoSSL and a paid SSL certificate that you purchase from your host.
So anyone who is a pro at this techy stuff, feel free to fill me in.
As long as the web browser shows my site is secure and it validates, then I see no need to buy a traditional SSL certificate.
My web host agreed.
Plus, I’m not taking orders from any of my websites directly. I’m using 3rd party sites, and they already have SSL.
Again, I’m mainly doing this to prevent those Chrome warnings on form (opt-in) pages.
Yes and no.
If you are taking payments directly from your domain then YES!
If you are not taking payments or collecting sensitive data directly from your domain, you don’t need it from a customer data protection perspective.
That’s not going to stop Chrome from displaying the “NOT SECURE” message on opt-in pages and any other pages that include form fields.
Also, in 2014 Google introduced SSL as a “weak ranking signal.” Well, now it’s a stronger signal. See this article.
So if your site’s reputation with Google is something that concerns you, that’s another reason to look into this.
Did you register your website with Google Webmaster Tools?
This is where you verify all the sites you own with Google.
In a Q&A last year, John Mueller of Google confirmed that the engine is smart enough to figure out the change from http to https (provided nothing else changes in your URL).
However, he said you should still add the https version of your site as a new “property” in your Google Webmaster Tools account since it is seen as a separate site.
Also, I use the Google XML Sitemap plugin, and thankfully all my canonical URLs in my post/page headers and sitemap automatically updated to https.
If all this tech talk confuses you, once again, I recommend calling your host. This switch to https has been a VERY standard procedure lately so they should be able to guide you.
This is definitely something you should not ignore, but don’t lose sleep over it either.
Google warned us that using https would become a stronger ranking factor over time. Does that mean they will just drop all sites that don’t?
I doubt it, but you might move down a few spots for certain keywords — especially on pages with forms.
It’s really hard to know, and I’d be lying if I said I knew for sure. I just don’t keep up with SEO the way I used to.
If you are one of those people who follows everything Google says to the letter and you are very concerned about your rankings, then you should act on this sooner than later.
I’m actually more concerned about the Chrome warnings scaring people away.
Just remember, if you have opt-in boxes on every page, that means they will all will trigger a “NOT SECURE” message in Chrome starting in October.
Not a good look.
If anyone would like to offer additional suggestions and advice on SSL/encryption, please feel free to leave comments below.
I have not used Let’s Encrypt yet (the option in the video), so if anyone wants to share their experience with this, feel free to do so.
If your host offers AutoSSL or Let’s Encrypt, feel free to share the name of the company below.
Just remember, you have until October when Chrome will start warning your visitors that your form field pages are not secure.
If you could do me a big favor and tweet about this blog post using the link below, I’d appreciate it.On 10/1, Chrome will label your website 'Not Secure.' Here's the scoop!Click To Tweet ]]>
I received an alarming DM from one of my e-buddies, Darren of Small Biz Geek.
This is what it said…
Now, I will say this…
I know not to ever use “admin” for my username, and I’m aware of the nickname issue.
What’s the nickname issue, you ask?
Always change your admin nickname to something else, otherwise the name shown with your comments will be your username.
Go into Users from your dashboard, and edit your Admin user account. Make sure you change your nickname to something other than your username.
But I had already done that, so I wasn’t aware of any other username vulnerabilities.
Well there’s another one, and it’s a biggy!
Darren figured out my login username for my new site, and he didn’t have to hack the database or go to great lengths to figure it out.
All he did was hover over a link in my author byline.
You might have the same vulnerability on your WordPress site, and there’s a very easy fix.
If you have “By [Name]” in your byline that usually shows up underneath your WordPress title, you might be exposing your admin username.
So I wouldn’t risk exposing anyone’s site that was vulnerable, the byline in the above example is not even hyperlinked, but I just wanted to show an example of what it would look like since I ended up removing my byline altogether.
Hover over that name in your byline. (Not all themes show the byline.)
You will notice it goes to http://yoursite.com/author/[name]
Whatever you see in the [name] is your login username.
How crazy is it that WordPress has not addressed this yet???? As if WordPress is not vulnerable enough!
And since most of us post using our Admin accounts, this is dangerous. You are basically telling the hackers of the world what your WordPress admin login username is.
So all they have to do is run their script to figure out your password. And if it’s super simple then it’s not hard for them to crack into your account.
For the record, hackers easily crack some passwords by running scripts that attempt to figure them out. They typically start alphabetically and go down the list.
a… aa… aaa… aaab… aaabbb and then they had numbers to the end.
Sounds tedious, right? But here’s the deal…
This is happening at a rate of million of attempts per second because it’s a script, so they can go through the millions of combinations VERY quickly.
It’s not like John (or Jane) is sitting at your login screen manually entering each option. This process is totally automated!
Many WP blogs get hacked because they use “admin” as the username and then a super simple password. That’s why you should always use lowercase, numbers, uppercase and symbols.
If you’re using a password like happy123, then you’re begging to get hacked — especially if your username is exposed in the byline.
For the record, words that can be found in the dictionary are a big no-no — even if you add numbers at the end.
This may seem intimidating at first, but it’s super easy and should only take you about 3-5 minutes.
Darren created a video that explains all this and shows you how to fix the problem. There are also text instructions below.
I would highly recommend you backup your database before making any changes. Pleeeeease!
If you prefer text instructions, here ya go…
1. Login to your cpanel or hosting account control panel.
2. Go to PHPMyAdmin or whatever database software your host uses. It might just say “Databases.”
Your interface may also look slightly different. I’m on dedicated hosting, and my cpanel just got upgraded. The point is to find phpMyAdmin or your database icon.
You will see your WordPress database name(s) and any other databases you have setup. It should look similar to the image below.
3. Click the name of your database (or the plus sign next to it), and it will expand a list of all the tables inside that database.
4. Look for a table called wp_users (or something similar) and click it. This is where all your blog’s users are stored.
This will bring up a table of all the users in your WordPress database.
5. Find your username for your admin account and click Edit.
You should see a field called user_nicename and it will be the same as your login.
This is the culprit and what you should change IMMEDIATELY! Change it to “webmaster” or anything other than your login username.
6. Click “Go” or “Save” and that should be it.
Now if you use the byline on your posts, your username will no longer be displayed in the hyperlink.
It will show the name you just changed it to, which is OK because it’s not tied to any of your login details.
In case you’re worried about breaking something with this change, here’s some reassurance.
The user_nicename field was only created to simplify the URL of the author archives.
It’s a slug to make the author post archive link appear “nicer”, hence the name.
So if your username is something funky with symbols and hyphens, then the user_nicename will simplify the author post archive link (URL).
If you change the user_nicename, you are changing the URL of the author’s archives.
The good news is WordPress will automatically make this change dynamically so you won’t have broken links in your bylines.
But if you happen to manually link to all your author posts somewhere else on your site (rare), then you will have to change those links to the new one.
There really is no need for a byline when you have a single-author blog anyway. If you use Genesis themes like me, you can easily get rid of it by installing The Simple Edits plugin.
This is pretty common today. A byline might not be coded into your particular theme.
However, even if the byline is not displayed, the author URL still exists because it’s part of WordPress’ dynamic code.
So you can still go to http://yoursite.com/author/[admin_username]. But if your theme doesn’t link to your author archives, then it would be nearly impossible to find.
Nevertheless, it still exists if you go to it manually. So I’ll leave that up to you to decide if you are going to change it or not.
Thank you, Darren for alerting me of this! This is such an important issue so I want to spread the word as you have done on your blog.
I can’t believe I’ve used WordPress all these years and have never come across this info!
Look-a-here, ladies and gents! All WordPress users need to know about this. Please spread the word by tweeting the link below, especially if you have a website that targets bloggers.WordPress is exposing your admin username! Here's how to fix it.Click To Tweet ]]>
My T-shirt tutorial website is live and I have never been more excited about a website launch!
Because for the first time I feel like I’m doing things in the RIGHT order.
Even though 2 Create a Website has had tremendous amounts of success, I always felt like I did a lot of things backwards.
For example, I waited way too long to start a list, sell products, etc. That’s largely because I didn’t have to.
Having said that, it worked very well for me because I got an early start and was able to capitalize on search engine optimization, residual affiliate programs that I still earn from today and other advantages you gain as an early adopter.
But things have evolved since I launched this site, and my strategy has to evolve as well.
When I launched a website many years ago, I’d focus on building up a ton of content for search engine traffic and monetize that free info with affiliate links ads.
That won’t work as well today.
I also care more about building a list and selling my OWN products instead of someone else’s.
In this post I will discuss what I am doing differently with my new site, and how I’ve grown in a business sense.
If you’ve been following me lately, you can’t be surprised about a new website.
Since getting into Merch by Amazon last fall, I have been completely obsessed with print on demand — the process of uploading an image, adding it to a product and earning a royalty when it’s sold.
By the end of this year, I will cross the six figure mark in royalties, and most of those earnings have come recently.
I’ve also branched out and I’m selling designs in over 25 different niches/topics thanks to Merch.
Not bad for a part-time gig!
I decided to create Passive Shirt Profits for two main reasons:
I keep hearing people in the POD world complain about Photoshop or Illustrator being difficult to learn, and I say to myself, “That’s ’cause you haven’t taken my courses!”
I don’t want to just focus on individual print on demand sites like Merch By Amazon.
I want to teach practical skills such as coming up with creative shirt concepts for many niches (one of my secret weapons with Merch By Amazon) and software.
It seems so many people are doing Merch sites and courses with a lot of the same info. I want mine to include more practical lessons.
That’s why it’s important to research what potential competitors are doing and pay attention to comments in private groups, forums, etc. I used this as inspiration for my upcoming courses.
With that being said, let’s get into what I’m doing differently…
I will never, ever, ever, launch another site again without having an email list.
I didn’t launch one for this site until 2010. By that time, 2 Create a Website was eight years old!
I also did not have any products to sell at the time, so I didn’t really utilize my email list to the fullest.
This time I started an email list immediately, and thanks to my private group and podcast I already have 31 subscribers after just 2 weeks.
I launched my PSP Podcast on May 29th without announcing it, and had 30+ downloads and two email subscribers within the first week.
(I have a call to action for my list at the end of the episodes.)
That goes to show that people are searching and listening to podcasts about Merch and print on demand, so choosing that as one of my traffic methods seems to have been a good choice.
Podcasting is always a great option for money/business topics anyway.
After two weeks, I’ve already had 150 downloads! (The additional traffic boost came from announcing it to my private group after the first week).
By the way, I’m loving Pat Flynn’s Smart Podcast Player! (No affiliation) It’s so functional and works great on mobile too!
I love that people can listen to all shows in one place on my landing page, search episodes and share on social media — all in one concise, mobile-friendly interface!
Three courses for PSP are already complete, and should be out within a week or so. Make sure you are on my list if you want to be notified.
I’m just waiting for my reviewers to give me feedback so I can polish them up before launch.
One reason I’m announcing the site before the courses launch is so I’ll have people on my list.
And it feels super encouraging to have people in my private group actually ASK me when the courses are coming out!
That’s confirmation there is demand for what I’m teaching, and that’s always a plus when you create a site and product.
Also, when you wait a long time to launch a product, you may struggle with what to include and what to leave out because you already have so much published content.
This was a huge struggle with me on this site when I first launched my affiliate course in 2014.
It took me a full year of updates to finally get it to a point where there is a significant amount of different info that I don’t have elsewhere.
Now I understand why people say your first course draft is always your worst because you are constantly adding/improving over time.
And just for the record, it’s totally fine to include material in your course that you’ve covered in blog posts, emails, etc. (especially if you are upfront about it). I personally wanted it to have a lot of new material.
I didn’t struggle with that with PSP because I have very little content out here on this subject, and that was completely intentional.
I cannot believe I actually have a website with only one column!
At first I thought it would feel restrictive.
Then I realized I actually enjoy reading clean sites with lots of white space (especially on mobile), and I rarely pay attention to the sidebar links and widgets.
More importantly, when I check my Google Analytics I realized how many people have the same browsing habits!
Because more and more people browse on mobile devices now, that means the sidebar drops below the main content (if your theme is responsive).
As a result, many people don’t even see your sidebar, much less click on the links!
So I made the decision to go with a minimalist design approach. We’ll see how long that lasts!
There’s not a lot to do at PSP just yet, and that was done for a reason.
Right now, I’m focusing on podcasting and building my list for the upcoming courses. I’m keeping it very simple right now so I can track certain activities.
I’m using the Maker Pro StudioPress theme. (affiliate link)
This is the first time I’ve ever had a niche community prior to building a website and it was very helpful.
The great thing about starting a private group before launching a site and product is that I have been able to gain insight into what people struggle with so I can address those issues in my courses.
When you create a course, it’s easy to fall into the trap of adding what YOU think is important, but a customer might value something else.
Here you are going on and on about step B and your audience is yelling….
“Hey!! But wait! You didn’t even explain step A well enough!”
We make a lot of assumptions when we’re creating our products and many times it’s because we don’t really know what people want.
In addition, we’re often too close to the subject and assume people know or will learn it the way that we did. So we skip what we think is obvious to us, but it might not be obvious to the student.
I am also having people review my courses before launch. I also did this with my Spreadshirt course, and I promised to never launch without this step.
It’s always good to get a person in your target audience to view the course with fresh eyes from THEIR perspective.
Again, we are often so close to our content, we miss key information that someone might need.
I’ve read over and over again that you should always have an intro course to upsell other advanced courses.
Plus, if someone likes your intro course they are much more likely to buy more.
So for example, I have a 101 course for someone who knows absolutely nothing about print on demand, what software to buy, etc.
The follow-up courses are on brainstorming, software, etc.
I’m also planning to have smaller courses and then offer a bundle that will be less expensive than buying each course individually.
My first courses on Udemy taught me a lot about what students like and don’t like. Those lessons were invaluable.
I’ve learned from feedback that people like…
I’m using Thinkific (no affiliation), and I’ll do another post about why I chose them and ditched Teachable at the last minute. Thanks, LaTosha for the push to switch.
(Learn why I won’t be uploading to Udemy anymore.)
If you value your sanity and want people to respect that your time is valuable, you HAVE to learn to set boundaries for yourself and business.
There was a time when I would do a LOT for people for free, and while I know people appreciated it, I now realize some abused it.
It drained the heck out of me!
And PLEASE don’t feel sorry for me because I allowed it. I’m sharing this so YOU don’t fall into the same trap I did.
The one incident that sticks out in my mind was when I helped a gentleman with his website code. We went back and forth for 3 days until the issue was finally resolved.
He praised me for the help I gave him and I felt awesome.
A week later he was back with another site issue…
And then another…
Now multiply this story by several others over the course of many years.
From the outside, it looked generous and helpful. I genuinely DO enjoy helping people.
But trying to help everyone came with a price…
Keep in mind, I’m not just talking about answering questions that require one or two sentence answers. I certainly don’t mind it when people email me with questions.
In fact, I welcome that!
I’m talking about extensive work like helping people with code, coming up with strategies for their sites and things that took a lot of time — especially when you are doing this for several people per month.
(Not to mention I was also doing this for people in my personal life for free.)
That’s one of the reasons I decided to open my Facebook group to students only. That was my first small step into the world of setting boundaries.
Two years ago, I would have felt selfish saying all this, and would have NEVER admitted this on my blog.
Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for setting those boundaries. Also, don’t complain about people sucking up your time without paying if you’re allowing it.
There’s an old saying that goes…
You teach people how to treat you.
That holds true in every area of life, even business.
While I will never change how I operate in terms of integrity and ethics online, I have learned that it is OK to say “no” and set boundaries for what I will and won’t do for free.
Creating this new site caused me to reflect a LOT on 2 Create a Website.
If I could launch this all over again I would have kept the content much more focused instead of covering Internet marketing, earning online AND WordPress.
Website creation or blogging might seem specific enough at first, but it attracts people who want to create so many different kinds of sites and their reasons for the site varies.
I would get questions on how to create sites I had no idea or interest in creating, as a result, I alienated potential subscribers and customers right off the bat.
Looking back, I would have narrowed down the focus to tutorials for creating a specific kind of site like an infopreneur website — which is really what this site is.
So if you’re looking to create a site in this space, make note of that. Don’t be afraid to narrow the focus down.
Everyone and their mama has a how-to blogging site these days, but not many are “niching down” to a type of website (ecommerce, membership, infopreneur, etc.), and I think there are major opportunities there.
It may feel like you are alienating people, but what you’re doing is attracting a very specific audience that will be easier to target content to.
…It’s more like “hello” to new lessons!
While I may not be blogging or podcasting here regularly (it’s not like I have been anyway!), I will certainly be back to share the lessons along the way like I am now.
Having a new site will make my content here even more helpful if you’re also doing some of the same things.
So you’re not getting rid of me that easily!
Having said that, I will be focusing more of my attention on PSP due to the fact it’s new and I will be dedicating time to helping students when the courses launch.
This has been such a journey, and I’m so happy to be able to share these lessons with you.
I’ve been in transition for quite a while now with my business, and I finally feel like I’m moving in the right direction.
One thing’s for sure…
There is a big difference between monetizing free content with ads and affiliate links and selling your own products when it comes to overall strategy.
I have learned how much I truly did NOT understand about business and setting boundaries.
It’s ironic that people often come to me for coaching on starting an online business when I feel like I’m JUST now grasping many of the core fundamentals.
Kinda crazy, right?
But I don’t regret a thing I did or any mistake I made because that’s how I learned.
You have to put things out there and make mistakes so you can learn what to do, and more importantly, what NOT to do!
So the journey continues…]]>
It’s time for me to eat some crow.
And that’s REALLY difficult for me to do because I have a fear of certain birds.
There are articles all over the Web about why discounting your products is bad.
I ignored them and thought that was odd advice.
Some of you warned me about Udemy.
I ignored that too.
My goal was to make my courses affordable for people to learn, and many of you praised me for that.
But I didn’t really understand the long-term limitations of a pricing structure like Udemy’s.
If you have not launched your product yet and/or are considering Udemy to sell your online courses, please pay attention.
There’s also a podcast for this post. If you’d like to listen, scroll to the bottom.
The ongoing discount strategy is NOT good for the long run, and it often creates a proverbial ceiling when it comes to what some people will pay.Offering too-frequent discounts trains people to buy only when there's a sale.Click To Tweet
When a large discount is the #1 motivating factor for purchasing, you attract a lot of people who…
As a result, you have to sell a lot of cheap products to make worthwhile money, and you often end up with a less engaged student due to the low risk/investment.
Of course this is not ALWAYS the case, but I have a good sample size of Udemy stats to study and the results are clear…
When I opted out of the Udemy promotions last Summer, it was amazing to see the increase in course engagement/completion and how the average ratings improved.
The bottom line is…Don't price low. Pack your product with value, and charge what it's worth.Click To Tweet
If you care more about the volume of students, and are not concerned with the amount you earn per sale, then Udemy is fine.
Just understand that your income will largely depend on how much Udemy promotes your course (if you cannot drive sales yourself). And many of your students will never pay more than a certain price.
Notice I didn’t say “ALL” but “MANY.”
There are instructors on Udemy who are doing very well and are happy with their model. So I would never say it’s bad for everyone.
It’s just not for ME anymore, and I won’t be uploading there again.
Even though I’ve opted out of the discounts, there is still an unspoken expectation for what my courses SHOULD sell for because they are on a notoriously discounted platform.
I know this to be true because I’ve gotten messages in my inbox from people begging for coupons.
One guy was so relentless, I had to block him after the 10th message in a 3 day period.
Another guy criticized me because my courses weren’t part of the promotions.
Oh the NERVE of me for not selling a 3 hour course for 15 bucks!
I had two emails this morning from someone asking for a coupon.
And when people on Udemy ask for a coupon, they don’t want $5 or $10 off.
They want 75 to 90% off.
This is exactly why Udemy is a bad choice for people who want to sell courses over a certain amount. That discount expectation is a killer.
They tried to fix this last year with a limited discount structure, but it flopped badly.
Just like JCPenneys discovered when trying something similar, they realized people need to FEEL they’re getting a discount.
Udemy knew they had to change it back so they could keep profits up. It may not benefit all the instructors, but it benefits THEIR bottom line.
So it really doesn’t matter what you price your course if you’re opted in to the discounts.
In most people’s eyes the value is always under $25.
That expectation is always there, and if you don’t offer that, you may look sleazy or like you’re trying to rip someone off.
It doesn’t matter how detailed your course is or that it’s 3 hours long. It “should” be cheap because it’s on Udemy.
Students wait for the next promotion, and it’s typically just a few weeks away.
And who could blame them? Why wouldn’t they wait for a discount? That’s the precedent Udemy set.
I’m just glad we can opt out.
I do get full-price marketplace sales (referred by Udemy) quite often for my affiliate course, but I bet they are from new students who haven’t figured out the “Udemy system” yet.
I also hate how their pricing looks scammy. “Oh, let me price my 30 minute course at $200 when I know it will sell for $20.”
When you opt out, YOU control your prices.
The decision to start cheap will always hurt my course sales in some way because I set a low price expectation.
So if you want to control how much your course will sell for, you should consider other options like Teachable (where my future courses will be uploaded).
My 2create courses will stay on Udemy (minus the Udemy promos, of course) for now, and existing students will always have access to them even if I stop selling there. It’s part of their terms.
The truth is, only a small percentage of Udemy instructors earn a substantial amount of money selling courses cheap.
If you happen to have a top course in an in-demand niche, you could make five figures per month selling courses at $10 or $15 due to Udemy promoting your course for you.
Just remember that if you rely on Udemy for your sales, a competitor could come along with a better course and Udemy may promote their course over yours.
Many instructors feel trapped and obligated to participate in the Promotions because without them, they would hardly make anything due to the fact the students look for the discounts and they don’t have an audience.
Well I don’t feel obligated at all — even if that means I earn less.
I have no regrets about opting out of the Promotions last year.
I would much rather have 5 students who pay $100 than 100 students who pay $10.
When people invest more into a course, they are far more likely to complete it, act on the content and buy ANOTHER course for the same price or more.
If you attract more students that really NEED your course and not just motivated by a discount, you’ll make more in the long run.
So you have to sell fewer courses to reach your income goals, and you’re getting paid for your work.
So how do you deal with people who complain about price?
If people are used to discounts, no doubt those comments will come. I get this all the time now that I opted out of the Promotions.
You simply explain that you invested a lot of time into creating your product, and your price is set to reflect that.
Why should you disregard the work you put into creating something just because someone doesn’t want to pay?
A higher price will help communicate the value of those who are ready to commit time and money, and drive those away who aren’t.
It’s that simple.
I’m no longer afraid of driving people away like I was before.
It’s about learning to create a product that people NEED and WANT instead of trying to target anyone and everyone by dangling a cheap price in their face.
Creating a private Facebook group for my Spreadshirt (and future POD T-shirt design students) has been a learning tool for me as a course creator.
It’s helped me learn where I need to improve with structuring my courses.
I am listening to the problems that people have and noticed a common theme with the challenges many of you face that I wouldn’t have picked up on without the group.
I’ve had several A-HA moments!
This gives me direction with my upcoming 101 print on demand course.
So it’s not just about jacking up your prices. You also have to improve, deliver and give people what they need and want.
It’s a two-way street.
So having a group where you can interact with your potential students is great because you can learn about what they want and where they struggle most.
I will certainly use this info for my future courses.
I’m working hard to ensure the courses are setup for optimal learning and easy implementation.
I have to do my part too.
This may be hard to believe, but I don’t care about high enrollment numbers right now.
If I did, I’d still be opted in to the Udemy promotions.
For me, it’s about removing that cheap course expectation and finding the right price point that…
And you know what?
I STILL don’t have the perfect formula for pricing a product. I’m going to be testing and welcome you to share what you’ve learned.
But I can tell you this…
Giving products away for cheap is NOT the answer for me.
If you’ve benefited from my discounts then you might not like this. It might look greedy or that I’ve changed.
Well you’re right.
I have changed.
I’ve learned that it makes no business sense to price below the value for the long run.
As you can see, I’m such a work in progress when it comes to all this selling stuff, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned.
This topic was so important that I decided to also do a podcast. You can listen below or right-click this link and download the mp3 file here.]]>
I sent out a check-in email to my list last week, and I was blown away by how many people said they are stuck in neutral with their sites or businesses.
What’s even more interesting is that the underlying reason for the standstill seemed to be the same for most…
Fear of failure!
There’s nothing wrong with planning and making sure you have all your ducks in a row.
But when you start obsessing over insignificant details, making excuses for not moving forward and keep putting off things over and over again, something bigger is going on here.
Perfectionism often means you are deathly afraid of making a mistake.
So you adjust, tweak, pause, plan, hesitate, and over analyze details until you end up doing nothing at all.
In the end, that makes you feel even worse because now you’re not doing anything.
The reality is, you won’t REALLY know what’s going to work and what’s not unless you put it out there.
No one and I mean NO ONE gets it 100% right the first time, but online businesses are incredibly forgiving.
You can always adjust or tweak your strategy.
I often hear from people who want me to validate every aspect of their website idea before they continue because they are so incredibly afraid that it might not work.
Sure, you can get guidance and tips from others, but the only real way to know if it will succeed is to DO SOMETHING.
I love it when marketers share their success and earnings.
It’s inspiring and can leave you feeling motivated and ready to follow in their footsteps.
Many successful people are not talking about the sacrifice and the time they’ve invested.
They aren’t sharing how many times they failed before they eventually got to where they are.
So when YOU set out to try what they’re doing and encounter roadblocks, you start to doubt yourself because you aren’t matching their results.
That is exactly why I share when I’m struggling with something.
I suffer from distractions, insecurities, setbacks and many of the same problems you go through.
So when you see those big payments plastered all over the net, don’t forget there’s always a story behind how that person got there.
And they probably went through many of the same things you’re going through now.
They just don’t tell you.
The only difference between you and them is they kept going and didn’t let fear of messing up stop them.
Derek Halpern talked about this very issue where he reminds us “Everything is NOT awesome and that’s OK.”
When I launch my content and courses about POD, you’re going to see screenshots and videos of some pretty sizable and inspiring earnings.
I do that for proof and credibility — nothing else.
February and March were amazing months. I haven’t been as excited about a passive income opp since AdSense launched in 2003!
Sure, revealing those payments may help get a handful of people into my courses, but don’t be fooled.
You also need to know that there was a time when I hardly earned anything with POD.
I remember joining Zazzle in 2011 after reading about people making thousands per month and yet it took me 6 months just to earn a measly $15!
But you didn’t hear me talking about my pitiful earnings then did you?
I wasn’t blogging about how much time I spent tinkering in Photoshop an uploading stuff that never sold.
However, I never gave up on POD because it’s something I genuinely enjoy doing in my spare time.
Even when I was making less than $20 per month in 2012 I was still working on it as if I were making thousands.
Thanks to Merch, my earnings are finally matching the time I invested.
I have now expanded into other niches and the time I spent learning over the past 6 years is finally paying off.
So those nice 4 figure monthly earnings may be inspiring, but to get to that point I spent a LOT of time learning, finding niches, fiddling around in software, uploading crap that never sold, studying POD blogs, you name it.
You don’t get to see that side of it.
You have to invest the T-I-M-E and know the money is not going to come instantly.
It’s important for you to realize that you HAVE to go through those slow or low periods. It may seem like failing, but it’s all a matter of perspective.
You’re not failing. You’re LEARNING what NOT to do. And you will never learn ANYTHING if you sit and do nothing.
Stop seeking idea and concept validations because you want protection from failure.
No one can guarantee your idea will work or protect you from making mistakes.
Put it out there and adjust based on what you learn!
I wanted to do this post to let you know that many people in my audience are stuck just like you.
A very honest private group member admitted that she really wants to get started with POD but keeps making excuses about not having time out of fear.
That was super brave and very self aware of this member to admit that.
It also made me wonder something…
I polled the group a month ago to ask about their biggest challenges with POD.
I thought the number one answer would be “software/technical issues” or “making the first sale.”
The most popular answer BY FAR was “I can’t find time to work on this.”
I didn’t think much of that at first, and took the answer at face value.
But now I wonder how many people use the “I don’t have time” excuse when it really means, “I don’t want to MAKE time because I’m afraid I won’t be successful.”
Let me ask you this…
Why do you fear failure so much when it’s something almost EVERYONE goes through at some level?
So what if you stumble? Who doesn’t? And who is going to know about that stumble but you?
Why do you put so much pressure on yourself to succeed at something when it’s completely normal to make multiple mistakes before you find success?
Don’t let previous failures rob you of an opportunity to try something else or start again. Learn from what you did wrong and keep pressing on ’til you get it right!
Isn’t it funny how Internet marketing gurus are always talking about growing your email list, opt-in strategies, landing pages, what email provider to use, etc?
But how many of us really understand the problems our subscribers face at the core?
After many years, I’m just now figuring out how much deep-seeded fear is ingrained in many of my subscribers.
Think about why it’s important to fully understand where your followers are mentally.
Here you are, using your list and trying to sell products while not realizing that a big reason people aren’t buying is they are crippled with self doubt and fearing failure.
They’re stuck, confused and paralyzed with fear and indecision. That’s not exactly a buying mood is it?
It’s our jobs as infopreneurs to bridge that gap because that roadblock could be the difference between whether they ever buy or not.
Honestly, I don’t know what that bridge is going to look like for this audience, but your responses were a BIG wake up call for me.
Many of you don’t need a website course right now.
You need help with motivation, getting over fears and conquering massive bouts of indecision that are paralyzing you before you even START.
I’ve always known that was a problem for some, but I don’t think I realized how many struggled until the responses I received last week.
It was amazing to see how similar the problems were with fear as the underlying root.
And I don’t think I’ve done a good job of addressing many of those core issues with my content.
I’m very, very comfortable with the Internet, software and computers, but a lot of you are not. And sometimes there is a disconnect because I assume you’re moving along and you’re stuck.
Here I am encouraging you to go to step B, and many of you haven’t even started step A due to fear.
I can’t validate your website or business idea and protect you from failure.
No one can.
But I can guarantee this…
You might stumble and do some things wrong, but you always have a chance to recover. That’s how the process works.
In fact, that’s how LIFE works.
However if you stay stuck out of fear, I can promise you will NEVER succeed because you aren’t giving yourself a chance.Not trying is far worse than any failure you could ever have.Click To Tweet
And I can say that because I’ve had more failed sites than successful ones, yet I’m still out here doing this full time.
But it’s important that you understand I go through the same destructive inner dialogue and setbacks as you.
Everyone does at some level.
Now here’s what separates those that succeed from those that fail…Successful people take action. Period! Click To Tweet
Are you going to sit and drown in indecision or make the choice to step out on faith and try?
It’s all up to you!]]>
No one enjoys reading about WordPress malware and security.
And if you’re like I was, you skip over many security tips and warnings because you’ve never had major issues.
Don’t be like me…
In addition to the plugin tech issues I was having with setting up my self-hosted course site, I was also very concerned about malware along the way.
And it didn’t help that several of you shared your membership hacking or malware nightmare stories with me.
I must say…
That was always something that made me nervous about hosting my courses. I just couldn’t get the “what-if-my-site-gets-infected-or-hacked” question out of my head.
I’ve already had several site malware issues over the years.
Fortunately I got the problem fixed last year after much frustration, and I want to share what I learned.
Keep in mind, I’m on a $200/month dedicated hosting account. I have a firewall and tried almost every “great” WordPress security plugin anyone recommends.
And my site was STILL compromised over and over again.
If you host (or plan to host) your own products and customer data, please don’t ignore this.
Malware is a malicious file that can be inserted into your site through vulnerable/bad code (a WordPress plugin or theme).
Through that malware file, hackers are able to do all sorts of things such as send emails out from your server (and get your site IP address banned by email providers and Google), make changes to certain pages, etc.
That’s why you should limit how many plugins and themes you install and always make sure you update them.
Malware is difficult to avoid completely if you use WordPress plugins and themes because WordPress runs on PHP, which can create a vulnerable environment for malware.
However, you can help prevent it, and I’ll discuss that below.
I don’t say this to scare you away from WordPress (I could never imagine using anything else), but you need to be informed about what can happen.
I know there are a lot of recommendations for free and low-cost security and malware scanning plugins for WordPress.
They do help to a certain degree, but if you have an e-commerce site and collect or pass customer information, you need something more reliable.
The free recommendations countless bloggers have made were not good enough to keep my site safe and clean.
I even had a premium version of Wordfence installed ($39/yr), and it overlooked a malware file that was installed right inside the main WordPress admin directory.
What’s crazy is I actually found the file myself!
You better believe I cancelled that service in a hurry.
I questioned their support about why this obvious file was not found during a scan. They sent me a response with all these settings changes I needed to make.
Okay fine. But the fact that the file was located right inside the main WordPress admin directory and the plugin missed it with the default settings really bothered me.
I bit the bullet and signed up with Sucuri (no affiliation) last year. My host actually suggested it.
They’ve been featured in all the reputable tech magazines and blogs for years, but their price always scared me away.
However, I knew that if I was going to ever sell directly from WordPress, I had to get my site issues under control.
Up until that time, I had an ongoing issue with my entire server crashing.
It was so bad, I had to pay an extra $15/month monitoring fee to auto-notify tech support and bring my site back up when it crashed.
No one could tell me what was going on. I bought several of these one-time malware scanning packages, and many of them said my site was clean.
My host continued to scan my server for malware, and I kept getting the “all clear” message.
When I signed up with Sucuri the service immediately found a very old, buried malware file (probably from a plugin) outside the WordPress directories.
That was the culprit.
None of the other WordPress security plugins ever found it.
I have a friend who is a server tech and he told me that most of these hosting companies are not malware and security specialists.
The support staff are made up of server admins who are very well versed in topics such as Linux, SQL, file management, but not Internet security and malware.
They typically use very generic firewall scripts/software and their support staff is not trained to handle sophisticated hacking and malware issues.
They are often reactive instead of proactive when it comes to online exploits and security.
Now, of course there are exceptions.
Companies like WP Engine (no affiliation) are a little more advanced when it comes to that.
So a managed host that handles the security part for you may be better at the security piece. WP Engine doesn’t even let you install security plugins because they want to handle it for you.
But you’re going to usually pay more for that kind of host.
Honestly, I’ve used roughly 10 different hosts in my 19-year online journey, and have had malware issues with almost every host.
But that’s because it’s not the hosting company.
It’s the software we’re using as website owners (WordPress, forum scripts, plugins, etc).
I was with Hostgator (EIG) during one of my early outages and their solution was to buy more RAM to prevent crashing instead of fixing the root of the problem.
See what I mean? Hosting companies are not malware/security experts!!
By the way, I like to spread my sites around with regards to hosting so if something happens to one server, not all my sites are affected. Currently I use Website Palace (GoDaddy), Liquid Web (dedicated and VPS only) and NameCheap. As many of you know I stay away from EIG-owned companies.
Since using Sucuri for over a year, my malware crashing problem has completely disappeared (knock on wood).
It scans my site hourly and did find one malware file last year, but it was discovered and cleaned within 1 hour.
I will certainly keep paying for them even though I’m not going to be hosting my own courses.
If you are collecting, passing (taking orders through PayPal, Stripe, etc.) and storing customer data, pleeeeeease look into top-notch security for your site and customers.
I know this stuff is boring, intimidating and you always think these things happen to someone else or more popular sites.
But here’s the deal. It doesn’t matter how popular or unpopular your site is…
Your site is a target.
Unfortunately because WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and most popular CMSs run on PHP, hacking and malware are always going to be a threat.
Here’s the biggest problem…
WordPress sites use the same file/folder structure so it’s easy for hackers to find sites that use vulnerable/exploited themes and plugins.
They use sophisticated scripts that can scan the Web and locate vulnerable sites in seconds.
And just like many of you, I trusted the free scanning plugins too. You think they are working fine…
Until your site gets infected and it’s not fully cleaned!
I hear people say all the time that certain free plugins or scanners are great! But you don’t really find out how great they are until you have a major problem that won’t go away.
Sometimes they appear to work well simply because you haven’t had a major issue yet.
Sucuri passed the test because I’ve had malware, and it’s found and cleaned it instantly. Their support is also lightening fast and thorough.
(It ought to be for the price, right?)
It’s certainly not cheap due to the fact you have to pay yearly, but worth it. Sometimes you have to put a price on peace of mind.
Again, I have no affiliation with them at all.
I am a genuinely happy customer who got tired of malware issues with no help from WordPress plugins or hosting support.
There’s no way I’d ever host my products or customer data without something like this guarding my site.
Remember there are two parts to this: prevention and cleaning.
You can prevent malicious activity by doing the following:
Cleaning is a separate issue because if all the malicious files aren’t removed, you will continue to have problems.
That was my issue.
Hackers often hide multiple malware files within your site. (They’re called backdoor files.) So if you don’t get rid of them all, they can keep coming back and doing harm.
The scanners might find some files, but not all of them.
Sucuri has been the only reliable solution I’ve found for CLEANING my site THOROUGHLY after a malware injection.
But keep in mind, Sucuri or any malware scanner/cleaner is not going to necessarily help with prevention if you have other vulnerability issues such as weak passwords, poorly coded or outdated plugins, themes, no firewall, etc.
I realize Sucuri is not cheap, so I welcome you to share what services you use that have fixed problems you’ve had.
Perhaps you know of something that is less expensive, but has worked well for you.
And I’d especially like to hear from those who’ve had something major happened, and it’s been solved for a long period of time.
That’s how you know something is truly working.
I am not saying that free plugins and scanners don’t work. I believe they do to an extent, and could be fine for a standard WordPress site that is not hosting customer data or collecting payment info.
But if you are hosting or passing sensitive customer data, you should consider a premium solution where the company actually specializes in Internet security.
Because hackers are always coming up with new ways to do harm, so you need the support of a company that stays up on the latest and is proactive instead of reactive like a lot of web hosts.
Protecting your data and your customer’s data should be a top priority.]]>
Haaaaaaaapy New Year!!!
Hope you had a fabulous Holiday. Mine was filled with food, family, friends and fun!
I went on an Internet detox after Thanksgiving and greatly limited the time I spent online in the last month of the year.
It always feels very weird when you first disconnect because you feel like you’re missing out on so much, and I didn’t like not updating my blog for so long.
But I realized I needed it, and after the FOMO (fear of missing out) wears off, you start to welcome the pause.
I had done this before and forgot how great it felt! I need to do this more often.
To put it simply, the project became a headache.
So what happened?
So let’s start with the technical difficulties.
Everything was going smoothly with MemberMouse, which was the plugin I was using to process the payments.
I loved it (once I learned how to use it.)
But MemberMouse is just the payment processor. It doesn’t have anything to do with the display of the course videos in WordPress.
Sure, I could have just embedded the videos into the WordPress pages, but I wanted a user-friendly navigation within the course itself like Udemy, Teachable, etc.
So I installed a premium plugin called WP Couseware. This provides a better interface for the course, a table of contents landing page, etc.
As I was going through my final rounds of testing, I noticed an ugly code error displayed along the bottom of every page of the course.
I assumed it was WP Courseware because when I disabled the plugin, the error went away.
I contacted them and they could not duplicate the issue. So it probably had something to do with a clash with another plugin installed.
But I didn’t want to disable the other plugins because I needed them.
The bottom line was it made me super nervous about the whole process. What if I had been live and couldn’t resolve the problem?
I didn’t like the feeling of having a broken site and not know how to fix it. Meanwhile the plugin creators are pointing fingers at each other.
Thank goodness all this happened while testing and not after I went live.
That’s the downside of self hosting and using two separate plugins that are not affiliated with one another.
Sure, I know there are other options with WordPress, but going through that made me realize it’s best for me to stick with 3rd party course sites.
I was kind of bummed about the whole thing after being so excited about it last year, but what happened below quickly got me out of my funk.
During all this, I became distracted by T-shirt sales because I started selling designs in different niches.
Last year was a record year, thanks to the 4th quarter, and I want to crush that in 2017.
It began when I started watching different YouTube videos so I could learn how to use the pen tool and draw more cartoon-like designs.
That’s one tool that really really aggravates me, but it’s the key to drawing illustrations in Photoshop or Illustrator because you can draw curves and arcs like you see in the pic below.
So after playing around with it, I started learning how to draw basic characters from scratch. (And I do mean basic!)
My designs improved and so did my passive income in the 4th quarter of last year.
I had a very simple Halloween cartoon design that ended up earning me around $500 in 7 days with absolutely no marketing.
I also had good organic success with Spreadshirt’s marketplace in 2016 selling funny shirts about wine, birthdays, golf, pop culture and more.
Again, there was no marketing or niche site attached to the shirts whatsoever.
A side hobby went from hundreds per month to thousands per month in the last 3 months of 2016.
How crazy that this is possible for someone who has absolutely NO background in design! And trust me when I say I am not anywhere close to being an artist or designer.
But this is why I love the Internet. There are so many different opportunities to earn.
So now I’m thinking about how I can scale this even more.
I’m completely obsessed with this model and have been since I discovered it in 2011. Not just because it’s passive, but because it’s so much fun!
The one roadblock I have is selling shirts from my Facebook pages.
I have several niche pages (one has over 13,000 likes). I bought the first 2000 likes in the Summer of 2015 ($100), and the remaining 11,000 came organically by posting funny memes.
These pages have an excellent reach and engagement, but I would love to learn how to convert more T-shirt sales.
You may remember me talking about the shirt orders that came in on this podcast, but I haven’t had them roll in that frequently since.
I think a group of people must’ve ordered them for an event because the same design kept selling over and over for a short period of time.
I get that people don’t go on Facebook to shop, but there are still others selling shirts regularly from their pages, and I just haven’t been able to crack the code.
I’m considering starting a private Facebook group for this income model and opening it up to my existing students in my Affiliate, Photoshop and Spreadshirt courses since they are most relevant to this.
The reason I’m considering Facebook is…
So if you’d be interested in joining my private group on this let me know below or email me. I think it would be fun!
We could share experiences, triumphs, challenges, Facebook marketing and so many other things.
With all the new P.O.D. stuff happening this year, we’d have a lot to talk about!
Unfortunately the malware and spambots got the best of Website Babble, but I miss having the community.
It was a great way to connect with my loyal followers, and I loved the positive vibes going on there.
I want to create that again, but in a more focused / niche way.
I told myself I would never setup an online community again unless there was a strategy behind it.
As great as Website Babble was from a community standpoint, I was never strategic about how I used it. It just hung out there and was quite disconnected from everything else I did.
Years ago I would have never considered Facebook over a self-hosted community, but I cannot ignore the popularity, convenience and live streaming has been a game-changer.
Love it or hate it… Facebook is where people are — especially in the 30-55 yr old demographic.
And with a private group, I wouldn’t have to worry about organic reach like a regular page.
I feel like I am the only person who hasn’t announced their “word of the year!”
I actually like that idea rather than a resolution because I never stick to those anyway.
If you haven’t heard, the idea is to create one word that sums up what you want to concentrate on for the upcoming year.
My word is…
Being your own boss is a blessing and a curse.
It’s a blessing because…
Ironically, that blessing can be a curse because I have trouble focusing on ONE thing.
I tend to get bored VERY easily with one thing quickly and move on to another. I’ve been that way my whole life.
When I was in Corporate America, I haaaaaaaated having to do the same thing everyday.
The only thing that kept me going was I had a fun group of coworkers, and I looked forward to working on my websites when I got home.
But because I love so many things about computers and being online, I always end up with 101 things I’m working on at once, and I get distracted so easily!
So if anyone has any tips on what works best for you to stay focused, I’m all eyes!
Do you keep a to-do list? (I do sometimes, but never stick to it.)
Do you use any kind of app? How do you stay on track and meet your goals?
Hope you have a fabulous and prosperous 2017, and please let me know if you’d be interested in a private T-shirt group!]]>