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14 min read

HubSpot for Solopreneurs - Is It Worth It?

HubSpot for Solopreneurs - Is It Worth It?

When it comes to hosting websites for one-person businesses, cost is usually a factor. But so is what you get for your money. The question we are asking today is "can HubSpot compete with WordPress for solopreneurs from a cost and functionality standpoint." 

Side note, HubSpot is not sponsoring this episode. We just genuinely wanted to see if we agreed that it's a platform solopreneurs should use. We'll let you be the judge!

In this episode, you'll get an honest review of:

  • An overview of the marketing, service, and sales hubs
  • HubSpot's ease of use
  • What you get for your money
  • HubSpot support
  • Risks to choosing HubSpot

And so much more!

Resources Mentioned in the Episode

**Video version of this episode coming soon**

Want to share your experiences and learn from other one-person businesses? Be sure to join our community! It's free :)

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on Apple Podcasts Thanks!


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Episode Transcription

Joe Rando (00:00):

The questions that we're going to try to answer is "What do I get for my money with HubSpot? Is it enough to run caring, connected parenting? And is it easy enough for regular folks to use ?"

Intro (00:10):

Bigger? Doesn't always mean better. Welcome to the One-Person Business podcast, where people who are flying solo in business, come for specific tips and advice to find success as a company of one. Here are your hosts, Joe Rando and Carly Ries.

Carly Ries (00:29):

Welcome to the One-Person Business podcast. I'm one of your hosts, Carly Ries,

Joe Rando (00:33):

And I'm Joe Rando.

Carly Ries (00:34):

Before we dive further into the ins and outs of this solopreneur success cycle series, which will pick up on again next week, today we're gonna share a case study that answers a question that many solopreneurs have when looking for a platform to host their websites, which is, "Is HubSpot worth it." We had this conversation with George B. Thomas on this podcast a while back, and he felt strongly that HubSpot was a good choice for One-Person Businesses. I guess we'll find out if that's the case today. In addition, we'll also be putting out a video version of this episode that will show what we're talking about. So we'll put that in the show notes and be sure to check it out. Joe, why don't we just dive in?

Joe Rando (01:08):

Sounds good. So when it comes to hosting websites for One-Person Businesses, cost is usually a pretty big factor. I would've said, before talking with George B. Thomas that day, that HubSpot is not on the list for most solopreneurs because of the price point. But George made an argument that there was actually a version of HubSpot now that would do the trick. I got curious and decided to give it a shot. So the question we're asking today is can HubSpot compete with WordPress, for solopreneurs, from a cost and functionality standpoint? Now there are other options out there. There's things like Wix and Squarespace, and you should listen to the George B. Thomas podcast to kind of get his take on those, but we're thinking here about people that need some real functionality that use WordPress, that host on a secure platform.

Joe Rando (02:02):

It's important to understand that this is the perspective we're coming at this from. To see if it really can do the trick at the price point that makes sense. I want to point out that HubSpot has great help in every respect. So this is not gonna be a tutorial. You're not gonna learn exactly how to build a website in HubSpot. The goal here is to give you enough info to decide if it's worth your while to use HubSpot for your business for website hosting, as well as the other functionality available at the low price point. Okay. So next question is, what are we gonna do here? I've been hosting a website called caring and connected parenting, which is if you're interested at caringconnectedparenting.org. I'm sure we'll have a link in the show notes for fun. It's a little nonprofit my wife and I put together and it's focused on a parenting guide that she wrote based on neuroscience. By the way, if you have little kids, I really highly recommend it. I wish I had it when my kids were little.

Carly Ries (02:57):

I have a little kid and I second that <laugh>

Joe Rando (03:00):

Oh yeah, that's right. You have a copy. Cool. I do. So the site is low budget and it's currently hosted on WordPress and it's hosted by a very popular hosting company that will remain nameless. Let's call it nameless co. And recently my security certificate got messed up. I didn't do anything to cause it, I didn't even go in there and nameless co wanted $150 to fix it. I then said something that I won't repeat here.

Carly Ries (03:26):

<laugh> I think I've heard that. Before we go on really quick, Joe, I just want to say that we're gonna be using this nonprofit as an example, but the questions and points will be addressing are ones that we hear a lot of solopreneurs have when looking for a hosting company. So pay close attention because I think it'll definitely benefit you.

Joe Rando (03:44):

Thanks Carly. So I've used HubSpot for years back at my company Trade Area Systems that I started a while back and sold. Now at LifeStarr we use HubSpot and we use most of the professional version of HubSpot, but I'm gonna explore here using the low cost version called the starter version for caring and connected parenting. So the questions that we're gonna try to answer is what do I get for my money with HubSpot? Is it enough to run caring, connected parenting? And is it easy enough for regular folks to use? So let's look at what I need. What I need is secure hosting. I need a website development tool that's pretty easy to use. I need a nice template for the website. I need blog functionality and I need email functionality to send the ebook to people that request it.

Carly Ries (04:32):

That marketing side of me thinks landing pages would be nice too.

Joe Rando (04:36):

<laugh> Absolutely. Again, there are a lot of people out there that are going to need a lot more than this to do what they want to do. We'll try to look at that as well. We need to look at what HubSpot calls The CMS Hub, the CMS Hub stands for content management system. It's basically their web hosting platform. The CMS Hub, I think is $25 per month or $270 paid annually. And this is $200 cheaper than I was paying at nameless co. And it includes the web development tool I currently buy separately for 60 bucks a year,

Carly Ries (05:10):

I actually remember George B. Thomas, again, we'll link to this episode in our show notes, talking about how important it was to host on a secure platform and that has to be as secure as any of them. So I just wanted to throw that in.

Joe Rando (05:21):

Yeah, definitely. They are definitely focused on security. So, if I look at my needs and I look at what they're offering, I've got secure hosting check a website development tool, check; a nice template for websites, there are free themes, they call them and hopefully they'll be good enough for our needs. Blog functionality, check; email functionality to send the ebook. Oh, they don't have that and landing pages, check. Now we've got to look at going and adding the HubSpot marketing hub starter. So it's another unit besides the CMS Hub. We've got to add the marketing portion to get that stuff. So now we get the email functionality to send the ebook. Cool.

Carly Ries (06:04):

And it also has live chat, which is a nice feature for a lot of people, including myself.

Joe Rando (06:09):

The Marketing Hub Starter is $540 per year paid annually. That added to the $270 that we're paying for the CMS Hub Starter is $280 more per year than I was paying at nameless co, but we're not done because HubSpot's crazy. Okay. They have this bundle called the CRM Suite Starter. There's a CRM Suite and they have a starter version of it. It contains the Marketing Hub Starter, the Sales Hub Starter, the Service Hub Starter, the CMS Hub Starter and the Operations Hub Starter. I feel like one of those guys on the late night commercials, what would you expect to pay for all of this? So, this has way more than I need and lots of stuff that other One-Person Businesses could use, but, what's the price? The answer is it costs the same as the Marketing Hub Starter alone.

Carly Ries (07:05):

Which is insane. I also just have to say, HubSpot is not sponsoring this. This is just our take on it. We were floored when we discovered this <laugh>

Joe Rando (07:16):

No, HubSpot is definitely not sponsoring that. I just paid HubSpot today for our next year. So we're sponsoring them. <laugh> So, the CRM Suite Starter costs $540 per year paid annually. I'm paying $530 for my WordPress hosting at nameless co plus the website tool. So all in all, it's $10 a year more for me to use HubSpot instead of nameless co.

Carly Ries (07:48):

And again, you don't need all these features, but listeners who are kind of trying to figure out their platform, you may need that. So, take note.

Joe Rando (07:54):

It definitely looks like HubSpot is a great choice, at least for me. And I think people will find similarly

Carly Ries (08:00):

Now a quick word from our sponsor.

Sponsor (08:02):

You may be going solo in business, but that doesn't mean you're alone. In fact, millions of people are in your shoes, running a One-Person Business and figuring it out as they go. So why not connect with them and learn from each other's successes and failures at LifeStarr we're creating a One-Person Business community where you can go to meet and get advice from other solopreneurs. Be sure to join in on the conversations at community.lifestarr.com

Joe Rando (08:29):

Then the question is, well, great. The price makes sense, but how easy is it? This is a powerful tool used by big companies a lot of times. So, I walk through the process. we'll have video eventually on this, but, I'm just going to walk you through. It was really easy to sign up. Has step by step instructions, name and email, job role, company name, how many people work at the company and they have an option of one. They know that there are One-Person Businesses that may be signing up. So you know you're on their list. They are targeting you, which is great. Now one little Gotcha. I already had a free account under my info at caringconnectedparenting.org email address because I used the HubSpot WordPress widget in the WordPress site before.

Joe Rando (09:16):

When I tried to sign up, it kind of threw me into a loop and I had to go back and reset my password and reactivate the account. So if that's happening, don't try to create an account. Try to just sign in and then purchase it. Let's talk about setting up the CMS Hub. Remember that the CMS stands for content management system. This is the website. There are ways to import WordPress sites into HubSpot. We're gonna put a link in the show notes for how to do this, but it's pretty technical. It certainly wasn't worth my time. It defaults using a theme called the growth theme. It's free. You can also buy other themes, but I'm gonna see if the free one does the trick. We'll keep it as affordable as possible.

Joe Rando (09:58):

We'll punt back to buying one if it doesn't work. Themes are kind of like website templates, but with a unified setting for colors and fonts, etc. You can start out by setting our colors, our logo and default font and that propagates through the whole site. Then you can put your logo in. Note that when you put your logo in, you want it to be 50 pixels high. I got messed up on that. Then it gives you a nice set of "to dos" to finish it off. Basic pages that you might want to build. The home page, the about page, the pricing page. You click one and you get started on it. You can choose a page layout for the homepage, select how the header and footer should look. All very easy. Point, click, drag and drop kind of things.

Joe Rando (10:42):

It has a drag and drop tutorial for how to use it. There's some wonky elements, takes a little getting used to, but it's not hard. It's certainly easier than anything I ever used in WordPress. There's a place where there's basically a design tab when you're editing a webpage. That opens up a button to get to the theme setting. This is kind of the global theme of the entire website and you affect all the pages. You can go in and set these things, anything that has to do with the site, colors, fonts, spacing, and tons of other stuff. It's really awesome to be able to change it once and have it just propagate everywhere. You can spend a lot of time tweaking this stuff. It's really worth it to get it to look the way you want.

Joe Rando (11:30):

The page will contain kind of dummy images and text that you replace with your own, make it your own. So the image on the hero, you replace that with something that makes sense for your site and you can go in and edit all the texts. You can add more units just by dragging them in. It took a little doing to make my images and texts look really right in the template, but I just had to play around a little bit with it. You want to carve out a little time to do this, but the results, as you'll see were pretty good. I was really happy. Then the cool thing it does is it tells you how to optimize your page. It talks about the title, crawling and indexing, mobile friendliness, your header, your images, meta description and links. It checks them all to make sure that you don't make any rookie mistakes. That's just really cool because if you set it up and you don't get it all right the first time, you never go back and fix it . You really want to be optimized for SEO and all these other things that just make so much sense.

Carly Ries (12:30):

Just to chime in, the other platforms do offer the feature of the SEO optimization, but they aren't great. And HubSpot is known for being really great at this. So you will see this feature in other platforms, but they don't really compare from a ranking standpoint.

Joe Rando (12:45):

From my perspective, I didn't have it in the particular WordPress site that I was using. I'm pretty sure there was something where you could spend some money to get SEO optimization that I didn't do. Certainly some of the other, kind of easy to use sites have the feature as well. Thanks for pointing that out. I'm kind of comparing this to my one reference point and certainly the world is bigger than that. Then I'm gonna go through and do this for my other pages. I'm keeping a pretty simple site here, just a few pages and then I've got to set up my menu so people can get around the site. That was really easy to do.

Joe Rando (13:25):

You just kind of go in and give it the name of that particular menu item. You can select whether it's a page in the site or a page you could put a URL in or something like that. Next, I need to create a form because I want to collect people's name and email address so I can email them the ebook. I need to create a form to do that. As a form editor that's really easy to use, you just kind of drag in the fields that you want. You can set which fields are required and which are optional. All the information collected on the form goes into the contact record and HubSpot. So you're collecting this info, but you're also feeding your database automatically, which is very cool. One thing missing from the starter version of the CRM Suite is workflows.

Joe Rando (14:09):

We use a lot of workflows in our HubSpot, here at LifeStarr. First I thought that was going to be a show stopper, but it's actually not. They let you define an email to be sent after a form is submitted. I think you can actually define multiple emails to be sent. It is kind of like a paired down workflow that lets you send follow up emails. In my case, I'm gonna send that with a link to the ebook. So that's how I'm gonna gate the content. Next I needed to set up a blog. There are two components to a blog, the listing page, which has all the blogs that you can click on to go and see it, and the blog page itself. You are going to need to customize the blog listing page because it's not going to look like you until you go in and set the text and the words and things.

Joe Rando (14:52):

The single blog page required less tweaking, because it just basically gets fed by whatever you put in the blog when you post it in HubSpot. That's pretty much it. We're ready to go. We've got a website and all I need to do is publish my pages and do some testing. And honestly this site came out looking fantastic. Again, we'll put a link to it, caringconnectedparenting.org, but we'll put a link in the show notes. I was really happy and it didn't take me that long to do it. It was probably six hours of work because I'm a little bit fussy sometimes, but it wasn't hard.

Joe Rando (15:38):

I got stuck on a few things and the support was fantastic, They got me right through it. Let's talk about the things that I'm not using. There's so much in this CRM Suite that I'm not using. I had no idea I was gonna wind up with all this stuff when I started this exercise. Personally, for what we're doing, I don't need it at this point. The chat flows that Carly mentioned, you can put that on your site. We do use that in our LifeStarr website, but I didn't need it. The service hub supports tickets, which is great for apps as well as e-commerce. You've got things like a shared inbox so different people can respond to customers, a mobile inbox, team email, ticket pipeline so you can track any kind of issue you're dealing with.

Joe Rando (16:24):

There's automation. A lot of different things that you can do here. Slack integration has a reporting dashboard, email tracking. So there's tons of things that you can do if you need to service your customers in some way. The Sales Hub, again, I didn't need it, but, live chat, meeting scheduling, documents, one to one emails and things. There's payments, conversion routing, as you're converting people, you can move them to next phases, Stripe integration. It's a calling SDK if you wanna hook up so you can make your phone calls. Really powerful stuff like that. The Operations Hub is a little more geeky; custom field mappings and custom properties and things. There is a ton of stuff here that we didn't use, didn't need, but still, getting effectively, from my perspective for 10 bucks.

Joe Rando (17:17):

I think the final analysis here is that my use case was too easy. This caring, connected parenting just didn't need a tool this robust. There is so much functionality we're not using, but you know, at least you can note it and maybe you'll get to use it. Maybe it'll make sense for you. I think the most compelling reason to use HubSpot over WordPress, given everything else is the support. The comparison between nameless co support, which is kind of equated with Bigfoot, does it exist? We're not sure. The support is fantastic. ,As long as it was work hours, I would go in, I would send the message in the chat and I would hear back in minutes. On the weekend, it would take until Monday to come back and turn around.

Joe Rando (18:05):

I cannot say enough about HubSpot support. That alone was worth the transition. Let's talk about risks. Nothing is without risks. I see two risks in using the HubSpot CRM Suite for a One-Person Business. First is that it's such a good deal. They might jack up the price someday, right? Once you're committed, it's gonna be hard to switch platforms and they wouldn't be unjustified given how much they're giving you. But I really view this as a low risk because it would make a lot of people angry and that's something that HubSpot definitely doesn't do as part of their business model. They are focused on delighting customers. This would really be counter to their approach to the world. I'm looking at that one as a very low risk.

Joe Rando (18:52):

Here's the big risk. The big risk is that you're going to find yourself wanting additional functionality The next step up is the professional version of whatever hub you're dealing with. And that step is really large. The Marketing Hub Professional is $800 a month and the CRM Suite Professional is $1,600 a month. You're going from basically $50 a month paid monthly to $1,600 a month. Unless your business is really thriving, you're kind of stuck with the admittedly extensive functionality of the starter version with a very large step to the next tier. That's something to think about. In wrapping up, there are a lot of options for website creation and hosting and HubSpot may not be the best choice for everybody. But the ease of use, the extensive functionality and the world class support means you should definitely put it on your list. I'm really surprised to be saying this, because having known HubSpot for so long, I thought it was not ever gonna be priced in such a way that it would make sense for most of our customers, but here it is.

Carly Ries (20:00):

And most solopreneurs for that matter. So yeah, hopefully you all found this information extremely helpful. I've been using HubSpot for years, but I learned a few things today too, Joe, so thank you so much for diving into all of that. If you want to listen to other episodes of the show, be sure to visit lifestarr.com/podcast, or you can find us anywhere you listen to your shows. We will be back next week with another episode of The Solopreneur Success Cycle series, as well as our interviews. We'll see you next time.

Closing (20:30):

You may be going solo in business, but that doesn't mean you're alone. In fact, millions of people are in your shoes, running a One-Person Business and figuring it out as they go. So why not connect with them and learn from each other's successes and failures. At LifeStarr we're creating a One-Person Business community where you can go to meet and get advice from other solopreneurs. Be sure to join in on the conversations, community.lifestarr.com