My Story

Hey there, curious who’s behind the site and the videos? My name is Randy Johnson and I should probably explain who I am and why you should feel confident in me to teach you throughout this course. I’ll try to make a long story short, so here goes… (spoiler alert, this is a long read haha)

Working in my vending trailer at the 2015 Severed in the Midwest show in Indiana.

Back in August of 2000, I was the last person accepted into my small, private art school. Graphic design seemed like a cool field to get into, and I liked art and computers, so I figured, why not? After getting my Associate’s Degree in the summer of 2002, my first job was doing yellow page ads. (I’m really showing my age…) Luckily this was just a temporary job, but over the next 10 years, I worked for a handful of other companies doing graphic/web design work.

From art school to the real world
In college, the couple web design classes that were taught were pretty basic, and honestly the internet changes so fast that my knowledge was quickly outdated. Most of the jobs I had focused more on the print side of things like business cards, catalogs, flyers, signs, etc. I was very confident in my abilities with that side of the design world. When it came to the web stuff, I was just trying to learn enough to get by, but that wasn’t cutting it. We had an e-commerce site at this company so I definitely had some experience, but not as much as I should have had.

Making updates to a client’s website from a demo Macbook at the NYC Apple store back in 2012.

Around 2008, I began getting frustrated on a daily basis with the complexity of some of my job tasks, mixed with the fact that I really didn’t want to work at this company anymore. In fact, I was ready to just give up and go fold clothes at a random store in the mall. No joke. I kept telling myself web design wasn’t for me, and that graphic design was the extent of my art skills. But I hung around for awhile longer, and I randomly decided to quit in March of 2009 after interviewing with a company I had found off Craigslist. I was so confident in this new job working out, but my current boss and coworkers were clueless as to why I was giving up the job I had, and I was about to get a big raise. This was also the time I came up with the phrase “Risk Without Regret.” The day I quit that job, I got that quote tattooed across my chest, and I later used it as the title of my podcast.

Packing up my vendor booth at LST 2016 after I sold a ton of merch down in Houston.

I realized I wasn’t skilled enough
Anyways, my new job was supposed to be primarily focused on web design. I was excited for this job because it was more like an agency, so I got to work with several different types of clients. In the past, I was always the in-house designer for one company, which got old quick. I remember building a couple sites the same way I was taught in art school, the old school way as I would describe it (tables instead of divs for the tech-savvy people still reading). It worked ok and I got no complaints. And then I got a bigger job, and they really tested me, to the point where they hired another company, probably because they could tell my skills weren’t up to par.

This is also around the time when I started tinkering with WordPress at home in my spare time. I remember following a friend on Myspace (wow I’m old) or maybe Facebook that mentioned he built his new personal website on WordPress and he was blogging there. I didn’t even know what any of that meant, so I checked it out and before you know it, I was blogging on my own site too.

Fast forward a year or so and I was leaving that company to be the in-house web guy at a decent size company (100+ employees), definitely the largest I had ever worked at. This was towards the end of 2010, and I was still messing around with WordPress in my free time at home, mainly using it to blog about anything and everything, and as a place to share some of my photography. Within the first week of working at this company, I quickly realized I wasn’t ready for this kind of work.

Shooting photos of a bagged C10 at the SEMA Show in Vegas back in 2015.

A light bulb went off
The company had 2 large e-commerce sites (non-WordPress) and it was my job to handle all website issues, add new products, edit product photos, setup email marketing campaigns, but most importantly… customize the sites. It was a lot of HTML and CSS work, and I really didn’t know what I was doing. I felt like a failure. I barely got by for a week or two before I finally caved and told the new IT guy that was working next to me that I had no idea what I was doing. He walked me through some of the basics and it was helping, but then he showed me this tool that changed everything.

Him and I were avid Firefox browser users and he asked if I had ever used Firebug. I said Fire what? He then went on to explain that Firebug was an extension for Firefox and it’s like a web designer’s cheat sheet. After installing it and having him walk me through how it worked, again, this was a game changer for me. It’s just like the inspect element feature built into Firefox and Chrome now, but it works so much better in my opinion. It basically lets you edit the code of a live website in real time so you know what your code changes are going to do, before you edit any real code, if that makes sense. I went home and was customizing the hell out of my personal site and began building other sites for myself and others because I couldn’t get enough. I was a total CSS geek, and still am. Haha

Getting interviewed by Sean at SoLo Films DVD back in 2015 at the Last Resort Show in Louisiana.

A huge turning point in my life
It got to the point in late 2011 that I had some good freelance work on the side, and I was also working with a past coworker to build some big sites for a lot of money (a lot of money to me at the time). And then, in February 2012 (the 17th, a day I’ll never forget), my life changed. I was unexpectedly fired from my job. Everything seemed to be going great and then it came to a crashing halt in an instant. I freaked out. I was scared. I didn’t know what I was going to do.

Luckily I still had some freelance work, but I was actively trying to find a full time job. After a couple months, I still couldn’t find a legit graphic or web design job. And then my friend let me know about a local sign shop that was looking for some part time help. I had bills, and I needed money, so I took it. It was boring, repetitive sign shop work, and it was kind of labor intensive at times. I would work this job during the day and work on websites at night. This was probably the hardest I ever hustled in my life, because I was forced to, there was no other option.

Standing in front of my Low Label vendor booth at LST 2016 in Texas.

Here I go again on my own
But just a month into working this part time job, I actually told the owner I had to quit. I had too much freelance work that I couldn’t keep up. It was kind of scary to give that job up, but I knew what I had to do. I was confident in my web design skills now, I was a diehard WordPress fan, and I knew the only way to move forward was on my own. This was the middle of 2012, and I haven’t looked back since. Once I had that kind of freedom, there’s no way I could go back anyways. Getting fired from that last full time job was a huge blessing in disguise. One of these days I’m gonna shake the hand of the guy that fired me, because he has no idea how powerful that was for me.

Anyways, by this time, I had worked on a couple basic e-commerce sites with WordPress. I just saw so much potential with it that I knew I could easily learn it, but I also saw how quickly others were picking up on it, people that weren’t web designers. Sure, they weren’t doing any hardcore coding, but they didn’t need to. They just needed to know the basics and follow a simple process.

Rainy days at a show in Indiana with some of the best tacos around. And a few beers.

Learning how to sell clothes
At the beginning of 2013, I decided to start selling clothing for one of my side brands that I was working on. I didn’t know a lot about selling tshirts or hats or stickers, but I wanted to give it a try. So I redesigned my site and added the e-commerce functionality to it, and right away, orders were coming in. I was shocked. This was so easy. Sure, I spent a couple years building up an audience, and my shirts looked really cool, but the whole idea of putting the products online, it was way easier than a lot of people made it out to be.

Since this was my own site, I spent a ton of time trying everything I could on it, installing new plugins, purchasing shopping cart extensions, using coupon codes & having random sales, customizing the site to look different on my phone than it did on my computer, etc. Not to mention working on plenty of client sites at the same time. I fully immersed myself into the world of WordPress and e-commerce, and it’s still that way today.

Airport hangs with my bearded brother from another mother after a Colorado trip in 2016.

Forks in the road
It’s to the point now where I realized that I can only build so many websites myself. I’m at a big Y in the road and I believe I really only have 3 options if I want to continue down the web design path, which I do. Option 1 is to hire people and really grow my web design business. I’ve never really been the type to want to hire, for a couple reasons. I don’t want to deal with the hassle, and I genuinely love doing the work and love doing the whole process myself. Option 2 is to keep raising my costs and take on less clients or lower my costs and take on more clients. Both of which I don’t really want to do. Or option 3, build an online course where I teach my whole process so others can build their own sites. Option 3 makes the most sense to me!

Sure, some people will say, “Why are you doing this? This makes zero sense. You’re gonna tell everyone how to do your job, and then no one is gonna hire you to build sites anymore, and you’re gonna lose money and have to go back to a regular job.” My response is, “Sure, someone might have paid me thousands of dollars to build their site, but instead they paid a fraction of the cost to do it on their own. They learned a new skill, I made a little bit of money, they are selling products on their own site and making money, it’s a win win. And think about how many more people I can help this way. If I was solely building websites for people, I can only build one website at a time, and I can really only handle a few clients at any given time. With this course, I can spend a ton of time and effort putting it together ahead of time, release it to the world, then a thousand people could download it in a single day and I essentially helped a thousand people from all over the world. And there’s no way I would have ever been able to help that many people in my lifetime if I was building one website at a time.”

Doing tourist things at Cloud Gate (The Bean) in Chicago during Podcast Movement 2016.

I just want to help people
So, that’s my story. My web design business is called Eight Deuce, and I’ve literally worked on over a hundred WordPress sites since 2011 when I started taking it more seriously. At least half of those are e-commerce sites built with this same process. I want you to feel comfortable purchasing this course, and I want you to be confident that I’ll be able to teach you how its all done. I’ll be adding testimonials very soon from customers that have finished the course and I look forward to teaching you everything I know. I can’t wait to see what you’ll create!

Walking down the beach in St. Petersburg, Florida, thinking about life and new business ideas…

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