An Interview With Joe Casabona, An Irrepressible WordPress Personality Who Is Everywhere

Head shot, Joe Casabona

When you meet Joe Casabona you will find it irresistible to spend a lot of time with him. That’s how I felt when I first met him at WordCamp Montclair in June 2019.

Joe had been on my computer screen for some time as I was seeing his name show up everywhere. It caught my attention that, like me, Joe has a real educator’s streak in him. So much so that he is a college-accredited course developer. There are even 4 WordPress courses he developed and taught on linkedinlearning.com (formerly lynda.com). That’s a HUGE deal.

But Joe is way more than a WordPress course creator/instructor and way more than an engaging speaker at many WordCamps. Joe’s a leader in the Philadelphia (and beyond) WordPress community.

I recently had a chance to ask Joe a few things I was eager to know about him.

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Me: Your podcast series, How I Built It, is really unique so far as I can tell. How long have you been doing that and where did you come up with that idea?

Joe: Thanks! I’ve been hosting this particular podcast for 4 years now, and have been podcasting in general for 7. I came up with the idea after my honeymoon to Italy. Basically I wanted an excuse to buy a .it domain and came up with the name howibuilt.it. At the same time I was getting ready to launch the first version of my online course website, Creator Courses. In preparation I was having conversations with others in the space (like Shawn Hesketh, Brian Richards, Matt Medeiros, etc) to see what worked and what did. I thought these conversations were so valuable that it would be selfish to keep them just for me, and the podcast was born!

Me: You’ve had so many people on “How I Built It”. How did you get all those people to interview? I suppose it’s a lot about building your network, right? How did you do that?

Joe: Network building has a ton to do with it. I’ve been speaking at WordCamps since 2011, and attending since before that. I’m a pretty extroverted person too so talking to others comes easy. But I definitely go to conferences looking to make new connections and friends.

However, I don’t want to devalue the “just ask” factor. Many people whom I didn’t know also came on the show because I took a shot and emailed them. That’s even more true this season, as I’ve made a concerted effort to go outside my circle for new voices.

Me: That’s sort of what I’m learning about doing these interviews. I am about to start asking people outside my circles to be interviewed. I figure it is a good way to meet new people in a time where that is hard to do.

You told me last year that you believe so much in the future of podcasting you are betting your business on it. Are you still bullish on podcasting or have you seen anything to pull back on that? Non-podcasters like me always want to know how do you monetize podcasting. Is it through sponsors or are there other ways?

Joe: Absolutely. We’re still at the beginning of podcasting (for comparison, there are 31 Million YouTube channels, and less than 1 Million active podcasts). I believe it’s the next content plane for a lot of people because it’s more convenient for many. You can listen to podcasts while doing other things, like driving, doing the dishes, or mowing the lawn. As the barrier for entry lowers, more people are going to do it, just like we saw with blogging.

As for monetizing, this will be a big subject area in my course, Podcast Liftoff. But sponsorship is not the only way. If you’re just starting your show, you can start to monetize in 2 ways: affiliate links for tools you recommend, and giving listeners a clear call to action to hire you! You’re spending time on your show establishing yourself as an expert. Now give your listeners the opportunity to hire that expert!

Me: Great stuff!!

I read somewhere that you’ve been building WordPress sites for 20 years? Ok, so you started when you were seven. Are you still doing that kind of work? What kinds of sites have you developed?

Joe: Haha I will be 35 this year, but thank you for the kind words 🙂 I’ve been making websites since my sophomore year of HS, so yes it will be 20 this year! I hopped on the WordPress train basically right after it came out (2004, on version 1.5). I’m not doing as much as I used to as I’ve shifted focus to content and teaching, but I am doing some to make sure I don’t lose my chops!

I’ve worked on sites big and small – auto body shops and restaurants, higher education websites for colleges as they were adopting WordPress more widely, and Fortune 100 companies like Disney. So I’ve seen a lot! Now I’m using those lessons to teach a new generation of web and WordPress developers.

Me: How did you get that gig at Linkedin Learning? Tell me about the process to making a course for them? Do you work with a producer, do you write all scripts? Where and how is it recorded? You know I’m jealous so lay it on me!

Joe: Ha! I got the gig after talking to a friend a few times to gauge interest and opportunity. He gave me some advice and then when the timing was right, introduced me to his (and subsequently my) content editor. After an interview process, we decided to make it official!

One of my favorite things about working with LinkedIn Learning is the team. I do work with a producer, and an editor, on developing the courses. I write scripts and then we get to recording. I think my favorite part is I just have to record, not edit!

As you can imagine, right now all recording is done remotely and their team has done a great job of adapting and prepping instructors. Under non-pandemic circumstances, there is a campus out near Santa Barbara, CA where you can record and I love it out there. I can’t wait to get back, once this is all over.

Me: Let me break a little news here. What about this book of yours that is coming out in September?

Joe: Love it! SO yes, I have a book coming on in September that goes back to basics. It’s called HTML and CSS: Visual QuickStart Guide. I have the honor of writing the 9th Edition of the book, and we cover everything you need to know to start writing HTML and CSS. This is great from a “new web developer” standpoint, or if you’ve been working as a site builder in WordPress and you want to start customizing with your own markup and styles. Lots of learn by doing (as you know, Bud, that’s my style) and there’s an entire video series included too. And hey…if you sign up for my mailing list you will get 35% off during the presale!

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