Building the Most Flexible WordPress Membership Plugin with Jason Coleman

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Jason Coleman, CEO and Developer of Paid Memberships Pro talks about what he did to get started, some of the challenges of breaking into the WordPress plugin scene, how talking to others helped him set revenue expectations, and offers great advice on how to handle the inevitable negative feedback that comes with supporting 50,000 users.

Check out his excellent plugin, Paid Memberships Pro and use the discount WP1Mo to get 25% off.

Sponsors A site for freelance writers, small-businesses, new bloggers and creative people who want to expand their online presence, offers great tutorials on getting your site up and running. Check out their latest free guide on how to create your own blog at



Joe Casabona: Hey, everybody. Thanks for listening to How I Built It. This first episode is brought to you by our sponsor and their brand new guide, how to create a blog website that has [.org] is for freelance writers, small businesses, new bloggers, and creative people who want to expand their online presence. And this new blog tells you how to set up a new WordPress website from scratch. So go ahead and check it out over at and enjoy the show. Thanks.

Hey, everybody. Welcome to the first episode of How I Built It, a podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today, my guest is Jason Coleman, CEO, and developer of Paid Memberships Pro. A memberships plugin for WordPress. Jason, thanks for joining me.

Jason Coleman: Thank you. I’m really excited to be the first interview on this podcast. It’s gonna be great.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. I’m really excited. I’m so happy that you agreed to do this. Jason’s a good friend. We met at WordCamp Philly 2012.

Jason Coleman: Maybe?

Joe Casabona: Something like that. It was on my birthday and Jason was gracious enough to drive me around Philadelphia after somebody bought me many shots.

Jason Coleman: So it was like an after-party and the lawyer guys at the bar who were telling us all their startup ideas. 

Joe Casabona: Yeah, totally. Like “You guys make websites” right. So, Jason, you run Paid Memberships Pro. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that? And you know, kind of what your product does, and how you came up with this idea?

Jason Coleman: Yeah. So Paid Memberships Pro is a 100% open source membership plugin for WordPress. It has kind of the two components you need to run a membership site.

So on the one side, it has controls for hiding content and making it members only. And on the other side, it has a built-in checkout page that integrates with the most popular payment gateways. So it allows you to charge for access to your WordPress site and get paid. Yeah. What else do you want to know about the product? We, yeah. I use it for everything. So there’s the association sites that use it and lots of small businesses use it to build their clients. Yeah. All that stuff.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. I mean, that’s exactly, you know, I’m using it on, or I will be using it very soon on to kind of offer course memberships so people can sign up and get a free membership, and see the free videos, or they can pay the annual fee and view all of the courses that I’m putting out there.

And so I’m using it because it integrates really nicely with Woocommerce. It looks like. So based on the documentation that I’ve read so far. but I’ll get the technical support as well. So this is the oldest, one of the oldest? It’s been around for a while, right? 

Jason Coleman: Yeah. Like when we launched it like it was before 2010 when we started working on it. And I think like it officially went in the WordPress repo either 2010 or 2011. But at the time there was WishList Member and I guess, Magic Members, which were kind of close source proprietary solutions I think that they obfuscated their code, and they didn’t, they weren’t really developer-friendly.

And there was an s2Member, which is still around, but that was early on in that product’s lifetime. And I guess like WooCommerce wasn’t around, there was maybe Jigoshop was in its infancy. And WP eCommerce was there. So those relate to traditional e-commerce plugins at the time.

And there wasn’t really, in my opinion, like a good developer-focused membership plugin for WordPress, you know. And so that’s what we set out to build. 

Joe Casabona: Nice. Nice. Is that like you did that sort of research? Did you do any more research to kind of figure out like, these are the features that people want, and this is where it’s other things are lacking for?

Jason Coleman: Yeah. I guess we were doing WordPress consulting in general back then. And we had some e-commerce clients. And we probably had like four or five who are using our proprietary e-commerce plugin so we were very naive about the business aspects of things and even like the community aspects. But we had a plugin that was at the time on par or a little bit ahead of like WP eCommerce, but we only ran it on our own client websites. 

Meanwhile, WP eCommerce was open source, and a repository, and building a community, and showing up at those early WordCamps. And they got thousands of people to use that software and build like a community around it. So that was in my head too at the time was, one, we were that e-commerce software wasn’t really applicable for membership sites. 

So a traditional e-commerce plugin has both like a shopping cart and a bunch of coding for shipping. But a normal membership website doesn’t only have, you know, sells one membership at a time and doesn’t need shipping information. So when you take that stuff and kind of inventory management, like out of the e-commerce plugin, you can really streamline it for a membership site.

And then there’s a bunch of other stuff that membership sites need that e-commerce doesn’t necessarily. Which is like locking down, you know, some pages and not others, and categories, and things. So that was kind of like the feature side of it.

And then the business side, so we knew like a traditional e-commerce plugin wasn’t good. And then when we built it. There were other e-commerce plugins around but they were either totally closed source and proprietary, or just not really super developer friendly. And we were like, “Hey, let’s build a WordPress of membership plugins” You know, make it completely open-source and really developer friendly. And let’s put it out there in the community so we can try to grow, you know, as big as this WP eCommerce is instead of, you know, just me and a couple of other people trying to maintain it.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Awesome. Awesome. So it sounds like you kind of realize that getting involved in the community was a very important aspect of it. And now you guys are really involved in the community and your documentation is like super top-notch and stuff like that, which is great. So did you…I found recently that talking with people helps a lot. Like, you know, kind of, I’ve been pivoting some of my business stuff and I kind of did things in the silo-like, “Oh, I think that this works.” And so I’m going to kind of pursue this direction. And then I had some conversations with some really great people. Most of whom are also going to be on the show at some point. But did you talk to anybody about features or business advice or general direction to go in?

Jason Coleman: Yeah. On the features side, we had like three clients at the time that needed the membership site. So we built it for them and it was a real hands-on process. Like getting it to work for their specific use cases. So they really helped us. And they were all in like three slightly different, you know, business categories, but still like membership focused. So that helped a lot on the feature side.

And then it also helps my wife and business partner, Kimberly, we worked together super close and she’s kind of a UI expert. She is a UI expert. And so she has a knack for like making things easy and figuring stuff out. Whereas I’m like the programming mind and I’m making it super complicated, and programming And she’s like, “No. This is what people really want to do.” So that really helped.

One thing that helped push us forward also was the press, the first PressNomics was right, we were in development. but before we launched the plugin, I believe, or maybe after we launched the plugin, but as we were like tweaking the business model, and that was the first time I was really starting to get out to both that conference and other WordCamps and kind of talking to other plugin and theme authors who are selling and exchanging ideas on, you know, how do we actually make money on this stuff that’s also free. And it was super helpful to just know that other people were in the same boat. I remember like I was frustrated at like the conversion rate of how many free users we had and how many paid users we had. So for like every, at the time we were making like less than $5 for every 100 free users of the plugin, which as the plugin scales, isn’t so bad. But like at the time it was like, is this how it’s going to be? But then when I talked to Addie from Woocommerce and he did the math in his head, you know, calculating his free users, I think they were making something similar, you know. 

And talking to Pippin’s plugins about his Easy Digital Downloads, and it was all within the same range of like, you get about, you know, 5 to 10% of all your free customers become paid, customers. So I was like, Oh, it felt at the time when, like the scale is small and you’re not making a lot of money. And you’re like, “Is this even worth it? Can I get enough money to like, you know, pay for my time and other people to put into this?” It kind of help to like a head check against other people and be like, “No. This is normal.” It’s not that, you know, your product is any different from others. That kind of thing. 

Joe Casabona: Nice. Which I mean, makes perfect sense. Right. You see, I don’t know about you, but I see things out there that are not about, and I figure, well, they’ve got to be popular because I know about them. They’re probably making a ton of money. So what am I doing wrong? So I like talking to people about that. And It’s great that people are just willing to share that information, right? Like Pippin publishes his books basically every year. Does it?

Jason Coleman: Yeah. And Pippins, you know, at the time and even more so now is like a competitor. He has a membership plugin as well. And like, it’s, we’re almost like naively nice. And just like, “Yeah. Here, let me give you my, you know, trade secret numbers and stuff.” And even, you know, WooCommerce is a competitor in some ways. And so, but yeah. At those conferences, you can really talk to other people about the business side and get some tactics for marketing, and what’s working, what’s not working, and you could really kind of avoid going down bad paths and stuff like that.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, I tell this to people all the time, like the fact that competitors kind of do talk to each other. I mean, I was talking to Shawn Hesketh about my video tutorials for WordPress, which is exactly what he does. And I worked with him to figure out a path that won’t step on his toes too much. And then like we’ll also help him, help me by sending people to me. So like, it’s very cool that we’re, you know, everybody’s just kind of so willing to talk and that was kind of the impetus for this show, I guess.

Jason Coleman: Yeah. I mean, there’s you know, like a quarter of the web is running on WordPress and things are moving so fast. Like there’s a lot of business and opportunity to go around. And I guess everyone thinks it’s also open-source software. And so there is a mindset of sharing in general. And I think the companies that embrace that the most are like the ones that succeed and companies that fight against it. You know, like by co-sourcing their code, or even like, there’s a lot of companies that almost reluctantly accept like the GPL license. Like if you ask them or like, if you have your lawyer ask them about licenses, they’ll tell you it’s DPL too. But if you like go to the website and look at the footer, you can’t really find the licensing information. That’s less common now. I think people are kind of figuring out how to make money with free open-source software. And also just realizing that embracing that mindset works, you know, at least in our little corner of the web, which is becoming a big corner of the web, right? 

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. I guess at this point, you know, we’ve talked about the idea, the research you did, the people you talk to. Why don’t we ask the title question at this point? So how did you build it? You’re a developer and not everybody I have on the show is going to be a developer. So your answer is going to be very different from say someone else’s you found the right plugins and stuff like that. But how did you build Paid Memberships?

Jason Coleman: We, from the tools perspective, like my tools, aren’t so sexy and they change all the time as I’m learning things from people. I guess the one that’s kind of a bedrock of it has been, you know, get version control, and Github, storing the repository. It just helps us keep track of changes and makes it easier for other developers to kind of, to get involved and submit patches and stuff. So that one’s, that one’s really big.

The other things that have helped is, like I said, embracing open-source software, that’s helped from like a development perspective, but also a business perspective. So what kind of marketing trick that I used at the time was when you’re building a product you want to, and you’re figuring out how to market it, you either want to like put it in a brand new category that doesn’t exist so that It becomes the best version of that. Right? 

So when we launched Paid Membership Pro wishlist member and MagicMember, and even s2Member probably like had more features than us, you know, and they had a head start. So if we were going to compete with them on features, it would have been really tough. Right. If we were going to try to, you know, market on ad words for affiliate marketing, like WishlistMember had done, like, it would have been impossible. Like they had bigger budgets than us. They had a head start. So by making it 100% open source, right. So available for free for s2Members also for free. But when we launched, like all of our stuff was free. So not just the plugin, but like all the gateways, and all our add ons at the time were also free. And also like free and the like, you know, freezing and beer, but also like freezing speech that like everything was on Github. So even if like you came to our website and it said, you know, pay me X dollars to download the plugin. If you were smart or you happened to stumble upon it, Github like you get it like, right.

And then also kind of related to that, but it helped a lot too, was that we were always building it, developer, first. So we thought about ourselves as consultants and how we used it. And, this wasn’t easy. And I don’t know if it’s right for every product, but I think it’s right for our product because we’re still, we’re really building a platform more than like a single solution. So a lot of people will give you flack and say like, you really have to focus on the customer, and the use case, and the UI flow, and make it as easy to use. And, you know, for first, for instance, there are some things that you have to do with our plugin. And we will say, you should get a developer to talk to you and figure out the four lines of code. You need to get your prorating working exactly how you need it instead of us like programming and like a prorating settings page with tabs and widgets for end-users to fiddle with. It is frustrating to some end users who want to do those kinds of advanced things, but they either have to figure out the code on their own. 

And we help our supporters, you know, really strongly to help with this. But for developers, it’s, you know, a Godsend. It’s super easy because in the membership space, at least every site is different and has their own roles. And so if you can get a program or the program the exact four rules that you want instead of like kind of fitting it into something else like people are able to build exactly the site that they want.

And also we get the developer support and they’re kind of the evangelists for our plugin. And so we got some flack, but I think people kind of forget that WordPress, you know, kind of was built up this way, that back in the day before really got launched, you know, WordPress was the blog platform for nerds and programmers, you know. And if you didn’t want hassle, you used, you know, Blogspot or you know, one of the other solutions,

Joe Casabona: Yeah. It was, oh man. I started with a, like an X right. There was that one, Zynga..

Jason Coleman: Oh, yeah, yeah. And eventually this is what, how we feel like I feel this way about software in general, that like open-source always wins. Like there’s a few cases where like, you know, close to our software can stick it out. But, you know, like code wants to be free. And when you have developers who want to use code that has, you know, good licenses that are friendly for them to work with. And so, as long as we enable that like we’re going to end up with the best product, and best platform, and we’ll, you know, we’ll figure out how to run a business on top of it.

So that’s kinda been our guiding principle. And we might’ve given up in the early days. We might have kind of given up some early money, like at different points. We, you know, for instance, like a lot of our add-ons were free and we weren’t charging for them. And so if we had put a price on them early, we would have got people who wanted those add-ons to pay us. And we put off that like kind of thing for as long as possible. And now we use a model that a lot of plugins use where, like, you can still get the add-ons for free on GitHub if you want to use them. But if you’re an end-user downloading through our site, we charge you for downloading it through our site.

Joe Casabona: Gotcha. I mean, but like everything you said makes perfect sense here. Right. There’s like, classic in business, there’s that classic curve where there’s the early adopters. Right. And then there’s like the middle, and then there’s the laggards. And generally, the developers will be the early adapters for things like this, you know. It’s for you guys or for WP Migrate DB Pro or, you know, one of the forms, plugins, like there’s a developer license for a reason.

Jason Coleman: Yeah. Yeah. And, eventually like what our plan is, you know, for the future is…Maybe I’m skipping two questions ahead.

Joe Casabona: Oh, it’s alright. Go ahead.

Jason Coleman: And like, yeah, you know, Paid Memberships Pro is a platform for membership sites and there’s a lot of different kinds of sites that can run on that platform. And we’ll work with other developers to streamline each of those sets. Right. So if it’s courseware, for instance, you know, we work with one of the courseware plugins to make sure that PM Pro Plus, you know, LearnDash or, whatever works flawlessly together, and all the other stuff they have to think about, you know, is kind of coded upfront and exactly the way that you need. Yeah. So in the future, we’ll streamline the individual use cases and that’s kind of what happened with WordPress, right? So WordPress was pretty tough, but then it’s like, if you wanted to, you know, have a sequential blog that looks like the 2012 theme like you can launch that immediately right away, you know. And if you want an e-commerce site, like the WooCommerce plugin makes it super easy to do a typical e-commerce plugin immediately. 

So we’re yeah. We think of the same way, like eventually, as like a use case solidify and the tools get better, like, you know, things would just get easier for people.

Joe Casabona: Gotcha. Cool. Very cool. So a quick follow-up question before we get onto the next one. But, was it just you at first, or did you work with like other developers?

Jason Coleman: Yeah, so it was just us. So for the first couple of years, it was myself and Kim. So, Kim worked on UI and front-end stuff, and also, chatting about the organization of it and things like that. And helped, you know, we did the consulting work together and she kind of does the accounting part of our business as well. 

But I was, you know, 80% of the programming going on there. It took a few years before people really got involved. And I say like, we were developers first and we got developers on board, but it took a little while. Right. So it wasn’t like, if you build it, they will come. I remember going to WordCamps and I would show people my plugin and explain it and they’d be like, “Oh, it’s like a membership plugin with hooks in the right places. That’ll make it easy for me.” And they were like, “That’s really cool. I’ll look at it.” And it wasn’t until like a year later when they actually used it. They were still like, “But I used this other one last time or I understand this, or I can custom code it.” And it was like a slow build till we got to the point where it was kind of so good and being used, and being talked about like they had to look at it.

So that’s kind of advice for some people who are kind of early on is that those first couple of years, like, even though, and even I said, like, we didn’t compete feature-wise very quickly. We started to, with the other plugins, I remember someone who was evaluating membership plugins sent us like a spreadsheet and it had like a hundred features and it was like check all the ones that you applied to. And we covered, our coverage of those features was like three times what every other plugin was. And mostly because of the kind of add-on and the customized model. So a lot of them were like, checkmarks. Yeah. Use these two lines of code. Right. So that’s how we built it. It was like, it’s super flexible as long as you use like our library of code just and add-ons.

So, yeah. It’s always frustrating when it’s like ours is obviously better. We’re on a good track, you know, all this stuff, but people are using the other plugins anyway. You just have to fight through that and just keep on making it so obviously good, you know, and eventually, people will turn around. 

Joe Casabona: Cool. Well, that is great advice. Right. Cause I think a lot of people probably launch a business and then they think they’re going to get a million sign-ups the first day because they got a bunch of retweets or something. But, you know, retweets don’t convert to actual money. 

Jason Coleman: Right. Right.

Joe Casabona: So, cool. So you guys have been around for four years, five years, something like that?

Jason Coleman: Yeah. I guess the plugins have been released for like five, six years.

Joe Casabona: Nice. Yeah. So has it gone through any major transformation since it first launched?

Jason Coleman: I think code base wise, not so much. I’m trying to think what the big updates were. We kind of, it’s like a lot of iterative improvement and then we would build, excuse me, like add ons for like the really strong use cases. But business model-wise, we’ve changed quite a bit. We tried to launch with like a monthly support plan, so I forgot. It was like 10 or $20 per month. I think it was like 10 for a little bit. And then we bumped it to $20 per month. And that was a mistake for us because we realized that the value that we were delivering wasn’t monthly. So If someone was using our plugin and using our support, they would ask a couple of questions. The first month we would answer them, then their site would work and then they’d kind of didn’t need us anymore.

And then what usually happens is, three or six months later, they’d be like, why am I paying you $20 per month? And then they would ask, they would either chargeback or ask for a refund and, you know, cancel my membership. So we switched from that monthly plan to an annual plan that made more sense. So it was like a one-time fee. It’s like, “Hey, you pay us, you know, $100 now. And then we give you the support, and you have access.” That a few years later, actually last summer we started delivering updates of our add-ons off our own servers. And so we have an annual membership plan that you have to keep as long as you want to get updates from us. 

So some of our plugins are in the repository, and you can get updates for free. But some of the other ones that are a little more complicated and like are going to usually require support or just, you know, we just don’t have available in the [.org] repository. We update to our own servers and we charge for access to that. So that was like an update where we started. Again, all our stuff is on Github to use and explore and develop with. But if you’re paying for updates and support, you know, you pay through the site. So we’re kind of putting up a paywall and more places on our website when people go to the popular add-ons they need to use. And that’s been great. Like the, when we made the change last summer, I was really worried because we both like doubled our price from like a hundred dollars to $200. Right. And then we doubled the number of places. Basically, we were asking for money and people like {Inaudible 22:26.65] And I like, we were totally undercharging like it. So we just quadrupled, you know, our monthly rates and monthly income from the plugin. And it allowed us to stop, you know, doing consulting work and hire other developers to get on board. Hey, look, I looped around to your original question. Is it just you, right? Yeah. So once we actually started charging a fair price and then people don’t blink, they need the software and they’re willing to pay, we’re still, you know, it’s not a lot compared to other things. We got more revenue into the system so that we can hire more developers. 

So a little bit before that we had like two part-time developers, and now we have like six developers doing like 20 hours a week doing support development, helping with documentation, things of that nature. Yeah. And we ideally like, we need more. We need, like a, you know, a strong developer. And the other thing we need is a partner. So we have consulting partners pretty good now. So people who like took over our role as the company that does installations to Paid Memberships Pro. So that’s been really good working with those companies. And we need kind of development partners for, like I said, those niche use cases, the premier add-ons that are being used. So other developers who want to kind of own a niche underneath us, you know, people are interested, get in touch, and there’s lots of opportunities. 

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Awesome.

Jason Coleman: We’ll just tee it up for you.

Joe Casabona: Are there other people like making and selling add-ons for Paid Memberships Pro?

Jason Coleman:  There’s a few. So it’s not a marketplace as much as some other plugins. And actually, I don’t know if you noticed, but some of them like Woocommerce and Easy Digital Downloads, they’re almost like they’re going back on the marketplace idea. Because one thing I’m jealous of the marketplace is it’s a really good way to engage developers early and get them committed. Like I know myself when I build a plugin for an add-on for Jigshop back in the day. I built it for a client and I kind of probably wanna spend the extra hours to release it. But I was like, “Oh, I could make some money in the Jigoshop out on the marketplace.” And it turns out that wasn’t a good business decision because I probably made like a hundred dollars in that marketplace. But just even a little bit kind of gives developers the appreciation that they’re a partner with you.

So that’s a good way to get people involved. However, it gets complicated then because decisions get really hard. So when new functionality is required and you’re like, do I put it in the core add-on, the add-on that I control a hundred percent of the revenue or this add-on that someone else does. Or like if the other developer doesn’t support the plugin anymore, what do we do with it? So maintaining an add-on marketplace and just the logistics of it gets really messy.

At the same time. So, there are some people making money off Paid Memberships Pro. Like the most famous instance, there are some themes that are on like a not CodeCanyon. What’s the theme version, theme forest?

Joe Casabona: Yeah. ThemeForest.

Jason Coleman: So those themes are highly functional. They look really good and they do a lot of stuff. But one of the major selling points of a few of them is that they have membership integration, which is basically just, I bundled the free Paid Memberships Pro or now install it. And those teams have made over, you know, millions of dollars. That’s the thing I like about like the e-commerce spaces like there’s a report in the dashboard that tells your customers how much money they made using your plugin. 

Joe Casabona: Right. So it’s like super easy to justify the cost of that. Like, yeah. Awesome.

Jason Coleman: Yeah. So there’s that. And there’s a few, random ones and we’re getting more like, one thing that excited me was a, I think it’s ActiveCampaign, but maybe it’s another one. It’s an email service like MailChimp, but they, without my knowledge, hired someone else to build a plugin for Paid Memberships Pro and have them supporting it. So I always love it when like my Google alerts pops up and it’s like, blah, blah, blah. I don’t want payments just for pro. And I’ve never heard of it. I wasn’t involved at all. And I’m like, oh, this really is, you know, like an ecosystem. Other people out there.

Joe Casabona: Wow. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Cool. So you kind of talked about your plans for the future already. We are going to jump right to the, maybe the coup de Gras, right? The bonus question. Do you have any trade secrets for us?

Jason Coleman: Trade secrets? So I have something that’s, it’s a little serious, so I hope it doesn’t, it’s not too much of a downer, but I think it’s important. And this was an important part of the business that I wasn’t really ready for. 

As soon as I started having thousands of people using my software, thousands of people paying me for stuff, and hundreds of people, kind of thousands like giving you their feedback, Right. And a lot of it’s constructive and good. And a minority of it is just really biting, and horrendous, and scathing, and hateful. So it was something I wasn’t ready for, especially switching from like consulting to selling products. Right.

So in consulting, when someone reaches back out to you and they say, “I’m really upset with this thing you did” it blows up, you know, my website or whatever. And when 50,000 sites are running your software every single day, some handful of them had a really big problem, then either actually what’s caused by your software or maybe it wasn’t, but they think it was. Right.

So about at least half the time, you know, we help people figure out something else that’s broken with their website. But, a lot of people are really upset and understandably. But from the consulting end of things, my instinct is to like help them. Right. I have to make this right. But when you get, you know, a couple dozen of those every day, like I don’t have all the time in the world. Especially people who aren’t paying us, you know, our customers, we jump on like that, but people aren’t like, we just, you just can’t possibly do it. 

So you can’t possibly make everyone happy. And when you start getting flooded with unhappiness in your inbox, and your Twitter, and your Facebook, it can make you depressed. Right. So like, where a lot of people I think in this business are, you know, they’re solving problems for people and they really get a charge out of helping people. And that’s why they’re doing this. And then when you realize you’re, there’s some people you’re not helping, It bums you out. So, and you really have to learn how to deal with that. How to like insulate yourself from it, how to take the feedback out. Like, sometimes there’s something really crazy, but you’re like, “Oh, maybe that guy has a point and I’m going to file that away.” That everyone’s like, “Why don’t you do this a hundred percent? This is the obvious feature that everyone needs.” You know, “Oh, yeah.” of the half a million dollars I spent and the tens of thousands of hours me and my developers have worked on, we just never thought of this thing that would take five hours to code. Right. Or we weren’t doing anything else that’s important.

Joe Casabona: It’s like people who go to Disney World and then you’re like, you know what Disney should do? Like yeah. The one thing that they didn’t think of…

Jason Coleman: Yeah. it’s not that we’re not trying. And I have to understand that you, like, not everyone’s a, you know, a developer and understands how, you know, stuff is hard. Things that sound easy aren’t actually easy. So, but anyway, like those little things and other things like, so you have to figure out like, how do we actually take the feedback? You’re like, “Oh if I’m hearing this a lot, I got to put it in the queue. I really got to think maybe I should make this part easier. Maybe we should do this slightly differently or offering it.” So Make sure you can get the feedback out of it. 

And then also you have to like, learn how to insulate yourself from the kind of negativity, and move on. Right. So one thing that helps us now is that, like, we have someone who kind of handles the incoming email for us, or even like personally, you just got to like, don’t check that email in the morning. Right. Or like the reviews in the morning, it’s going to like bomb out your whole day. Find time for it. I meditate. I go for walks. I take breaks in the middle of the day. I try to move on. There’s kind of like mantras, like, when you send that email back to someone you’re like, “Hey, I’m really sorry. I can’t help.” Because like, you know, it’s just something that you’re not involved with and you can’t help, that you have to kind of be like, “Oh, I can’t help everyone. Like, they’ll figure it out. Yeah, I’m going to move. I’m going to focus on the people who do want to be my customer. I’m going to focus on the people who, you know, the plugin will work for.” You know, sometimes it’s not as negative, but sometimes people reach out and they’re like, “Hey, does your plugin do this with this work?” or maybe like your WooCommerce, like we integrate with WooCommerce. But a lot of the time when we consult people with how to do a membership site if we commerce is a component where like, just use WooCommerce and use the WooCommerce subscriptions plugin. Or use like a couple of lines of code for like the membership piece you need. Right. But there are use cases where, and that’s why we have an add-on where like you want a membership plugin, and a WooCommerce plugin working together. But like sometimes, like our solution isn’t the best, you know, and you kind of move on. 

So, yeah. I don’t know, like the exact answers for how to deal with that, but it’s just like a warning that it’s going to happen. And I see a lot of people there too. Like when they start running into this, like, it’s something you’re not prepared for because it’s like this psychological therapy thing I need to do to get over this. Like, I’m ready to tackle, you know, like programming challenges and business challenges. And then, you know, you’re like, “oh, how do I handle this?” You know, this feeling I get that I’m not saving, helping everybody.

Joe Casabona: Right. Totally. I mean, you amp yourself up, you know, you’re really excited about this thing because you put so much time into it. And then, you know, all these people you blow up and all these people are saying that it sucks or whatever being really mean about it. Like, yeah, absolutely.

Jason Coleman: The other trick to that, and this is what works for me every once in a while is when we get like a particularly bad negative review, we have a mailing list right of our customers. You write a really nice email out there where you say like, “Hey, you know, I appreciate all the support every day. We’re excited when new people are using the plugin. It would really make my day if some of you, if the plugins working for you, go to, write a review, go to our blog and write a review, do a shout out”, and people do. Right. So like we’ve had like a few negative reviews, and when we ask people, you know, dozens of positive reviews come in. And you’re like, “Oh, that’s why we’re doing it for these people.” You know.

Joe Casabona: It is. We are at the end of our time. And Jason, thank you so much for joining me. This was a really great conversation and I’m excited that you’re the first guest.

Jason Coleman: Awesome. Thanks, Joe. Can’t wait to listen to every podcast.

Joe Casabona: Thanks, Jason. And thanks to everybody for joining us for the first episode of How I Built It

Make sure to join us next week where we’ll be talking to Rebecca Gill about how she built

Also, thanks once again, to for sponsoring this episode. Make sure to check out their guide over at to learn how to create a WordPress blog from scratch.

See you next week.


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