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[Q&A] Is GoHighLevel Worth the Hype?

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In this frank podcast episode, we get real about our experience trying out High Level. As freelancers and agency owners ourselves, we’ve tested a ton of tools for running our businesses. So when High Level started gaining steam, Clay decided to dive all in – signing up for the premium plan, migrating data over, and investing major time mastering it.

At first, we both saw some annoying issues like an ugly interface and bugs, but nothing too bad. However, after Clay put tons of effort into High Level, catastrophic problems arose that made him completely lose trust and abandon the platform.

Clay shares his nightmare story of client emails randomly being sent multiple times to the wrong groups, deliverability rates tanking, and unhelpful support giving him the runaround. Preston weighs in with his take as someone familiar with CRMs and email marketing.

Together, we uncover why High Level still gets glowing reviews despite frustrated users like Clay. Does it have to do with cheap prices, zealous support, or its multi-level marketing model? Tune into this candid episode to get the real scoop on whether High Level is truly worth it for your freelance or agency business.

And for a deeper dive, be sure to read Clay’s GoHighLevel Review.

Episode Transcript

This transcript was auto-generated and may have grammatical errors.

Preston (00:02.979)
Hello and welcome back to another episode of Freelance to Founder. This is a special Q&A episode where we take questions from listeners just like you and do our best to answer them as quickly as we can for you, hopefully get you back on the road with your freelance business. I’m Preston Lee from and joining me on the air as always is my friend Clay Mosley from Hey Clay.

Clay (00:24.694)
How’s it going, man? This is a special episode because we’re probably going to rant a bit, right?

Preston (00:29.663)
We are going to rant a bit. Yes, sir. We’re going to talk about, well, I won’t, I won’t spoil it right up. Let’s catch up a little bit first. How are things going in your world?

Clay (00:39.794)
Uh, it’s good, man. You know, my Georgia, my toddler’s running faster than I am, so I’m having to deal with that.

Preston (00:46.471)
Yeah, been there. And they don’t stop. They don’t slow down. At least not yet. Yeah, mine haven’t slowed down yet. So, well, let’s talk about, I can’t make small talk anymore. We got to just dive in because we were talking about this before we record. And I’ve been looking forward to this for a few days. And this is really, we typically answer questions from…

Clay (00:49.692)
I don’t stop. Nope.

Clay (01:00.654)
Ha ha

Clay (01:03.802)
Okay, let’s go.

Preston (01:14.771)
listeners, right? If you want to ask us a question, you can write in at ask. There’s a quick form there. You just type your answer in. You’ve heard us answer questions from listeners. Today, Clay, I have a question for you actually, and that is I have seen around the freelance community, the agency community, these communities I hang out in, I have seen, it feels like everyone talking about this product called…

high level. It’s like or something like that. It feels like everyone’s talking about it. The search, you know, I do a lot of SEO research for our own blog. The search traffic is enormous. It’s just like skyrocketing. Everyone’s talking about it. Everyone’s wondering about it, right? So, so the other day I actually started a blog post on the, we were going to publish on Millo and I signed up for…

Clay (01:45.496)

Preston (02:06.467)
high level so that I could get a feel for what it is, what it looks like, maybe give my recommendation. Like should you use this if you’re building an agency? I was like this is perfect for freelance to founder because everyone listening is in this mode of like what tools do I use to grow my business and how do I scale my business, etc. So I’m thinking like this is going to be great. I’m going to sign up. I’m going to take a look at it. I’m halfway through that article and I take a break and I get on Facebook and I see Clay

Clay (02:24.641)

Preston (02:34.415)
kind of this mini rant about high level, about you tried it and you didn’t love it.

Clay (02:41.094)
No, I did not love it. That is a very much understated. And when I say I tried it, it’s not like I tried a free trial and hated it. I went all in on it.

Preston (02:42.727)
In fact, I mean, that’s an understatement, right?

Preston (02:54.987)
Yeah, okay, so tell me, yeah, let’s go through this process. So I wanna hear before you signed up what you had heard about it, and then let’s talk about your process, signing up, getting started, migrating over, because you did go all in, it sounds like. I was sort of just using it as a way to get a feel for it. I didn’t move my whole business onto it. And then now have you moved away from it?

Clay (03:18.486)
Oh, I’ve completely moved away, yeah. So I first heard of it, when was it, three years ago? High level’s not that old. I don’t know exactly when it came out. Maybe we can do a quick Google search. But I think it’s only like a handful of years. You know?

Preston (03:19.808)

Preston (03:29.075)
No it’s not.

Preston (03:39.987)
Yeah, I mean, I’ve been in this space a long time, right? And I hadn’t heard of it. I’m doing a quick Google search. It looks like, 2018, April 2018. So we’re recording October, 2023. So five years or so. But you know, the first couple of years of a SaaS, it’s like no one hears of you at all. But yeah.

Clay (03:45.843)

Clay (03:55.723)
Yeah, yeah.

Clay (03:59.378)
Right. Yeah, so I first came across it, man, if they came out in 2018, I came across it when they were super, super young. I think I came across it end of 2019, beginning of 2020. And I came across it because one of my clients was using it from, because they were working with another agency who was using it. And they made my client get on it. And…

Preston (04:27.009)
Hmm, okay.

Clay (04:29.534)
I saw it. I didn’t like it then. And what I did not like was the interface. I hated the interface. It’s yeah, it’s pretty basic, which there’s a difference between basic and like simple. I thought it was ugly. I thought it was ugly, man. Now keep in mind, like everyone has their preference, right? People who I know people who use high love who love it, who love it all together.

Preston (04:34.095)
Ha ha.

Preston (04:38.351)
pretty basic.

Preston (04:45.593)
100% yeah.

Clay (05:00.13)
And they also love the interface. So, but I’m just talking about for me, I just did not like it. So that’s when I first came across it, I did not use it. I actually told my client to get on something else, right? Because I refused to use high level at that point. And then…

Preston (05:04.906)

Preston (05:19.403)
And I feel like maybe at this point, what we should have done maybe a little bit better is just tell people quickly what it is. So high level is from what I’ve seen, basically like they really focus on the CRM aspect of it, but it’s sort of like a business management productivity project management tool, right? Yeah, they’re kind of trying to be, I mean, there’s tools out there that are kind of like this. You think about like the HubSpots, Moxie,

Clay (05:21.728)

Oh yeah.

Clay (05:36.482)
They’re trying to be everything.

Preston (05:47.259)
Even tools that started out as just invoicing tools like FreshBooks or something like that, they’ve become these project management, you think about like or ClickUp is kind of getting into that space a little bit more, but they started more on the project management side. Basically, they want to be this one place that you go to handle all the pieces of your business, from marketing to administration, CRM, customers, clients, all of that stuff all in one place.

Clay (06:03.438)

Clay (06:14.518)
Yeah, yeah, it’s a, I don’t know what people call it. I call it like just a full automation software, right? Marketing automation software, but, and there’s several, there’s several competitors out there that do very similar things, but yeah, that’s when I first came across it, and then I thought nothing of it for a couple years after that. And then I feel like it like blew up in, I guess from their perspective in a good way.

Preston (06:22.335)
Yeah, okay, yeah.

Preston (06:29.623)

Clay (06:43.582)
where I just saw, I just started seeing it everywhere. Like over the last year. And this is where I made my mistake. I was with Keap at the time, formerly Infusionsoft, but now Keap. My mistake was, Keap was working for me.

Preston (06:57.815)
Okay. Yep.

Clay (07:07.87)
and I fell for the shiny object syndrome. But okay, so here’s what I mean though, like when I said I went all in, I didn’t just go like and purchase the software. I purchased the agency level, which is three times more than the normal account if I were to just get it for myself. But in addition to that, I migrated all my stuff over to it.

Preston (07:11.821)
Yeah, yeah

Preston (07:24.612)

Preston (07:30.611)

Preston (07:36.547)
So when you sell your stuff, what had to be migrated? You’re talking client contact information.

Clay (07:37.191)
and uh… oh

everything. So I mean like I have over 20,000 emails on my list but not just that all of my client notes from coaching clients I had I had to manually scrape those and put them into high level not just that I had to create I had to go and fully integrate with my billing system so I use Stripe for that. I had to go and create all the products inside a high level I had to go and create

Preston (07:43.819)
What else? Yeah.

Preston (07:54.301)
Oh wow.


Preston (08:10.251)
Oh wow.

Clay (08:11.934)
all the workflow automations that I had from keep to high level. I had to go and create all the funnels and landing and opt-in pages in high level.

Preston (08:22.136)
How long did this take you?

Clay (08:25.218)
Uh, it probably took me an entire week working full days to do it.

Preston (08:28.787)
Yeah. Yeah, it’s a lot of work.

Clay (08:32.906)
Yeah, probably a good 30, 40 hours to like migrate it. But here’s the thing. So an additional step to this, all of that, just migration was just by itself a beast. I decided because you know this, like you’re a salesperson, I’m a salesperson, I saw opportunity in this. So with high level, you have the ability to have sub accounts.

Preston (08:58.852)

Clay (09:00.746)
So that means like you can create an account under your account. So if like as an agency level account, you can consider it as like a master account. And then you have all these like sub accounts underneath the master. And you can create unlimited of those on an agency level. And so I thought in my head, I’m going to provide, I’m going to resell.

this right this is this is how high level yep this is how high level set up you can resell high level you can do it a couple different ways you can resell it like kind of a sass white label it right that’s what i did um i mean i told people it was high level but it had my logo on it um so i charged for that

Preston (09:31.371)
Got it. Like to your clients.

Preston (09:47.055)
Okay, interesting. So this is why though in your Facebook post you were like, this is really just an MLM. And for people not familiar, a multi-level marketing company is like basically you only make money if you refer a bunch of people and I mean you’ve heard of these, like they’re the gosh, what’s the clothing one that’s been so popular lately like

Clay (09:54.466)

Clay (10:15.512)
All the, no, it’s not Lula, it’s Lula Robe, which went under, which went under. The documentaries are very interesting.

Preston (10:17.919)
LuLaRoe, LuLaRoe. Yeah, they did. They did go out of business. I had a friend who worked there and, but, oh, I haven’t seen them, but yeah, but there’s all these MLM companies where it’s like, they sign under you, you get part of the revenue they pay and you build up your network and it’s a whole thing. It’s a pyramid, yeah.

Clay (10:28.77)

Clay (10:35.762)
Yeah, it’s a little pyramid. Now they do have an option where you can be an affiliate, which in my opinion is different, because if someone signs up as an affiliate, yes, you get a commission of what they pay, but it’s their own account. They’re not underneath you. You just get credits, like just a referral fee, right? You do have that option.

Preston (10:44.498)
Yeah, 100%.

Preston (10:53.173)

Clay (10:59.158)
but I went the option of sub account because I thought, oh, money, right? Like I’m going to get more money if I can resell this. So like I was selling, like you can sell like, if you were to just go to, someone could just pay $97 a month for an account. Base price, we can get into that later. So I thought, hmm, I’m going to sell this for 79 a month if you do it under me. So that’s what I did. In addition to that,

Preston (11:02.326)

Preston (11:15.69)

Clay (11:29.41)
There’s a really, really high learning curve to high level. I said, I’m also going to charge an additional $99 for high level coaching. So that was a separate product. So I was making some money.

Preston (11:39.352)

Preston (11:45.407)
Yeah, like did you have, you got as far as to have clients go for this and it was a, it was a thing you were, yeah.

Clay (11:49.13)
Yes. I didn’t get that far. I was making a couple thousand a month. Which is a good chunk of change. Don’t get me wrong.

Preston (11:54.581)
Okay, okay.

Preston (11:58.386)
Yeah, totally. How many clients did you have in this system that you were building?

Clay (12:03.971)
Uhhh… I had 15 or so? Yeah. 15 or so. I only did this for like a month.

Preston (12:06.797)

Preston (12:12.639)
Yeah, no, I’m just, I’m sort of like, I’m sort of like foreshadowing, right? I’m trying to build up everything that you did when listeners know already from the top of the show that it all came crumbling down.

Clay (12:19.734)

Clay (12:23.018)
Oh yeah, so I forgot to, I skipped out. So it took me about 40 hours to migrate, but it also took me an additional, probably 50 to 60 hours to master it. Because I wanted to sell the high level coaching, so I had to master it. So I put in altogether triple digits in hours. So I just, yeah, just giving context

Preston (12:35.775)
I’m sure. Yeah.

Preston (12:46.67)

Clay (12:53.346)
time, money, effort, and also opportunity. Like I was making a couple thousand dollars just after a month of launching. That’s a lot to like give up to just reverse back. Right?

Preston (13:10.935)
Yeah, so let’s get into that a little bit more. So your experience, was it okay at first? I mean, it must’ve been good enough at first because you started signing on clients, you weren’t immediately disgusted by it, right? Or did you see early warning signs and you kind of maybe ignored them? Yeah.

Clay (13:23.573)
Ah, yeah.

That one. I saw there, well, okay, so I didn’t ignore them. I saw some early signs in the fact that they, like the software’s super buggy. It’s, yeah, it’s buggy, man. It’s like, but it wasn’t enough for me to be like, okay, I’m switching, right? It was just like little tiny quirks.

Preston (13:40.291)
Hmm, I was noticing that. Even just, I just did a quick onboarding.

Clay (13:56.798)
You know, it didn’t really mess things up totally.

Preston (13:58.549)

Well, and where you knew they were fairly young, you know, we have a little more patience with younger tech companies. It’s like, ah, figure it out.

Clay (14:05.756)

Yeah, it was more on that level, right? But in addition to that, like stacking on top, I thought the software is ugly, right? For me personally, I know a lot of people are like this. I use software more often if it is pretty.

Preston (14:11.052)

Preston (14:17.399)

Clay (14:29.266)
I’m not even joking. Like, if it’s prettier, I will use it more often. You know what I mean? Like if it’s ugly, I’m not going to use it. I mean, this is with the assumption it’s functional. So on top of that, so buggy, it was, it was, it’s ugly in my opinion. Also they have things, and context, this is what I do every day. I have dealt with all types of software. I mean like ActiveCampaign, Keep.

Preston (14:35.566)
Absolutely, absolutely.

Clay (15:00.054)
ConvertKit, MailChimp, I mean you name it, I have worked with it. Either on a personal level or from a client level. So given that context, high level has some certain features in certain places. I’m like why did they put that there? It makes zero sense why they would put this right here. You know what I mean? Like it’s just… But again, yeah.

Preston (15:04.886)

Preston (15:24.819)
Yeah, it sounds like they just had a lot of UX issues. Their UX design was off, their general UX, like where they decided to place things and organize things was off.

Clay (15:35.85)
Mm-hmm. Yeah, it’s but again at this point, you know, it’s It still wasn’t enough for me to be like, you know, like I forget it. I’m just gonna switch away It was you know, it’s just quirky, you know, yes, they’re young company. I can I can I have a little bit more patience for it To add to the quirkiness I just like another annoyance but again not enough for me to

migrate back was they included some things. I feel like high levels trying to be everything, but they’re trying to force it. So for example, you can re if you if you are I don’t know how this I don’t know how it is on an individual account level. I had an agency level, which by the way context high levels designed for agencies.

Preston (16:30.223)
That’s good to know too as we have listeners who are still in the freelance stage and are maybe considering all of them after our conversation. You probably won’t be considering high level anymore, but that is good to know. Why do you say that? What makes it designed for agencies more so than for solo businesses?

Clay (16:45.302)
Oh, for one, they say this. I actually talked to one of the founders at a conference. This is before the whole, my whole thing went down. And he said, we built this specifically only for agencies, not the end user. And when I say end user, not the small business owner. So the issue is, I think one of the things that high levels have in…

Preston (16:49.679)
Got it, okay.

Preston (16:57.075)
All right. Yep.

Preston (17:08.823)

Clay (17:13.622)
quote unquote trouble with is that they’re not staying in the lane that it’s designed to be in. They are gladly accepting money from small business owners knowing that they designed the software for agencies.

Preston (17:18.583)

Preston (17:27.119)
Interesting. They’re trying to, yeah, they’re trying to sort of retrofit it into an audience that’s willing to pay, which there’s nothing wrong with that if you then adjust the product to fit the new audience, right? But it sounds like maybe that’s not working very well.

Clay (17:28.511)

Clay (17:41.831)
Yeah, the problem is that agencies, they know how to work with software, right? This type of software. If some chiropractor or someone like a small business owner or medical professional or even someone who doesn’t deal with this software who’s in our industry, maybe like a web designer, or you know what I mean?

Preston (18:04.647)
Yeah. Uh-huh.

Clay (18:08.326)
who hasn’t been on the agency level, which is a lot of our audience here, the learning curve is super high. It was even super high for me. I mean, it took me 50, 60 hours to master this thing. Whereas I can hop into ActiveCampaign or KEEP or whatever and like I know the software pretty well after like five to 10 hours, you know. But anyways, back to my point on they’re trying to force

Preston (18:30.957)

Clay (18:37.462)
being everything. On the agency level, you can, you can, there’s a feature in there where you can resell WordPress hosting.

Preston (18:38.423)

Preston (18:46.285)
That seems very niche, right?

Clay (18:49.042)
Yeah, and you can resell Yext. Y-E-X-T. I think it’s like a… No, it’s… I don’t want to quote wrong. I think it’s like a… A listing, you know, you can get your list, your directory listings and yes, you can get all those like up to par. You know, it’s kind of like Moz.

Preston (18:53.359)
I don’t even know what that is. Like an SMS service.

Preston (19:08.323)
Like the yellow pages? Okay.

Preston (19:17.948)
Ah yeah yeah, okay. I see what you’re saying, yep.

Clay (19:19.858)
Yeah, but you can, there’s a feature inside the software that says, hey, you want to be a Yext reseller?

Preston (19:27.075)
because they probably have accounts there and they’re basically doing what, it sounds like they just really love this MLM model. They’re not only participants in other MLM models or affiliate models, but they’re also, yeah, it feels kind of all over the place. And I didn’t get into it deep enough to experience all those tiny little things, but what really got me about it was just, again, I’m gonna use that word simple, and not in a good way, because there’s simple software that’s super powerful.

Clay (19:41.739)

Preston (19:55.679)
and it’s like, wow, this is gonna take so much off my plate. And then there’s simple software where it’s like, wow, this is gonna take me forever to learn and I’m still not sure it’s gonna do what I actually need it to do and there’s gonna be all these features that I’m gonna have to check out but I probably don’t need and that’s more how I felt when I was looking at HiLabs.

Clay (19:59.287)

Clay (20:14.41)
Yeah, I can see that. I mean, it’s funny because I think aesthetically, it looks super basic. But quite honestly, the functionality and the learning curve and all the features it has is super complex.

Preston (20:27.375)
That’s so interesting, right? That it would be so reversed that way.

Clay (20:29.442)

Yeah, and I think the reason it looks, the reason why I think so is because a lot of it’s the UX. Like for example, when you go and build, like they have a funnel builder.

Preston (20:37.043)

Preston (20:43.093)
Mm, okay.

Clay (20:45.074)
Well, they have three different settings, like settings areas when you’re creating a funnel, at least at the time that we’re recording this. There’s the overall funnel settings, the settings for each page in the funnel, and then you have the product settings. Well, it would make a lot of sense.

in my opinion, from a UX perspective, that all of these are, at least the buttons where you would find these settings, would be all in the same location on the webpage, right?

Clay (21:28.434)
They have the location for the links to all three of these settings across all the way across the webpage from each other. One’s all the way over to the right, one’s all the way over to the left, one’s towards the bottom.

Preston (21:36.14)

Clay (21:44.266)
And it took me forever to figure that out.

Preston (21:46.127)
So it sounds like there’s all these little things that are starting to add up. Like the UX is just okay for you, you don’t like the look of it, it’s disorganized, it’s, there’s like weird things that feel like they shouldn’t necessarily be included, it just feels very disjointed. So all of this starts adding up, and at what point does it kind of switch for you where you’re like, oh man, I’ve signed on 15 clients, I’ve migrated all this stuff over, like.

Clay (21:54.934)

Clay (22:08.849)

Preston (22:14.undefined)
What was the tipping point where it was bad enough that it was like, nope, I am done?

Clay (22:20.926)
Okay, so I built out my automations exactly how I had, there was two things actually, two things. I built out all of my automation workflows exactly like I had them in Keep, and I quadruple checked everything, right? I even tested it multiple times.

Preston (22:23.404)

Preston (22:44.813)
And when you say workflows, is this like, once a, yeah, walk me through like what a workflow would look like.

Clay (22:50.954)
Yeah, so like here a really simple one is when someone downloads a lead magnet, what happens after that? So in an automated way, they get an email drip sequence, right? They’re tagged in a certain way. Yeah. And, and I’ll give you a little bit more context because this is where the error happened. There’s a decision diamond. So I have like five lead magnets on my website. I have a workflow automation.

Preston (22:57.305)
Got it.

Preston (23:01.775)
They’re tagged in a certain way in your CRM. Yeah, okay.

Preston (23:16.9)

Clay (23:20.822)
that checks to see what tag was applied, so that way the user knows, or sorry, the software knows which lead magnet was downloaded, so it takes them down that path. So it tells them, user A downloaded lead magnet A, so therefore they’re gonna get the email drip A, right? Or if they downloaded B,

Preston (23:32.065)

Clay (23:50.918)
email drip B. So it checks for whichever tag was applied. That’s a very, like in the automation world, that’s a very simple automation. Yeah. Yeah, it’s super common. And I, you know, with this being a new software, I just newly migrated, I’m constantly checking my automations to make sure that.

Preston (23:51.63)
Right, yeah.

Preston (23:58.967)
Very basic, yeah, and very common.

Clay (24:18.018)
Did the emails get sent to the right person at the right time, you know, down the right path? I quickly realized there was one morning where 171 people got sent an email, all at 7 a.m. exactly, who shouldn’t have gotten that email. 171 people.

Preston (24:44.687)
And what had happened? They mixed up which workflow they were supposed to be in?

Clay (24:50.182)
Yes, so that’s what happened technically. So I thought, hmm, maybe I messed up, right? So I went in, I checked, and I was like, I don’t think I did.

Preston (24:57.837)

Clay (25:05.846)
But let me delete this module and remake it, right? So I thought, okay, surely this fixed the problem. I checked back, I made the mistake of not checking until like three days later. Turns out another 171 people at 7 a.m. for the next three days, different, a different set of 171 people every day.

got sent the same exact email who were not supposed to be getting sent. And I was like, no f-ing way. And so I double checked, I triple checked, I got on support, right? So High Level has like a support line where they have like people who you can get on Zoom with, which this is the thing I can say positive about High Level, is that you can get on a Zoom at any time 24-7. There might be some wait, but you can go and workshop something, right?

Preston (25:42.707)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Preston (25:50.781)

Preston (26:05.571)
This actually is a really interesting point because I, so as I was getting ready for this episode, I was looking up, you know, on TrustPilot, high level has a page obviously, and they have, let’s see, I’m gonna look real quick, 1100, over 1100 reviews, and they’ve got 4.9 stars. And so I’m like sitting down ready to have this conversation with you where you’re really disappointed in it, right? And yet the majority of people super love it. And so I’m reading through some of the reviews just on the first page.

Clay (26:27.476)

Preston (26:34.847)
And what’s really, really interesting is everyone is raving about the support. So like probably what happens is after you have a support experience with them, they probably ask for a review and then it pushes to Trustpilot. So like, yes, their support is really good, but in my opinion, you know, a company that doesn’t need to have you talk to support is really a better company than one that you have to get with support and then the customer service is good. So.

Clay (26:58.143)

Preston (27:02.839)
But it’s super interesting, like if you look on their front page of TrustPilot, it’s like yeah, one, two, three, four, I mean I’m not sure I found one on the front page here that wasn’t about customer support.

Clay (27:17.518)
Mm-hmm. Yeah, I have a theory about that on why they have so many positive reviews I’m gonna say all this maybe I’m an anomaly. All right, I don’t know. I Just know I live in this world. I Tried apply every marketing automation software out there that exists on some level and You know, I went all it I mean I went all in on it so that’s my only

Preston (27:31.863)

Preston (27:44.681)

Clay (27:47.01)
background to this so I could be an anomaly I’m just like anyways to continue my story I got on support which was really good it’s a kind of actually kind of hit and miss with the support because sometimes you get people who actually know what they’re talking about some people who are just looking at a flowchart decision thing or just like what did he say okay let me check the flowchart and look for an answer but I went in and the first person said well you know this looks right like

Preston (27:55.31)

Preston (28:02.696)
Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Clay (28:16.678)
it shouldn’t happen anymore. And the answer I got was, well, we had a server go down the last few days. And that may have caused some glitches. So I was like, hmm, okay, I guess I can like, buy that right for now. At least I’m hoping in my mind that that’s the case. Right? So I said, okay, you know,

Well, let’s just see what happens. Dude, no joke. The next day, it happened again. 7am, 171 people.

Preston (28:50.883)
7 a.m. 171 people. That was the moment. I can tell by the way you’re talking about it. That was the moment that you’re like, yeah, I’m done.

Clay (28:57.374)
Yeah. Well, I got on support again. And they told me the same thing. Well, it could have been a server issue. And I’m like, when did? Yeah, they don’t know. Yeah.

Preston (29:08.803)
So they don’t know, they don’t know, they’re like grasping for straws at an excuse, trying to appease you temporarily, but they have no idea what happened. Yeah.

Clay (29:17.41)
Mm-hmm. So I asked them, I said, hey, when did the server go down? And they go, oh, they thumbed around a little bit, they found out the quote unquote answer. And I said, then that’s not my issue because this happened outside of those dates. It keeps happening every single day. I had to go and manually shut down that particular automation to stop this. And then,

Preston (29:28.736)

Preston (29:32.355)
And it keeps happening. Yeah.

Clay (29:45.65)
That, yeah, that was what did it. I said, screw this, I’m done, I’m going back to what worked before. I forgot to mention that my open rates went down drastically.

Preston (29:59.503)
And okay, so I live in this space too, right? And this is so interesting because this happened to me when I switched from MailChimp to ActiveCampaign. ActiveCampaign was not my favorite. I tried to switch over for a few features that I really wanted to try out and the features themselves ended up not being that great. And then the overall tool, I just didn’t like that much. Part of it is just what you get used to, right? I’d been in MailChimp for 10 years. I just knew how it worked. But I also just like their UX better.

Clay (30:09.073)

Clay (30:20.437)

Clay (30:28.747)

Preston (30:28.939)
And then MailChimp ended up picking up some of those features that I wanted anyway. But in the meantime, yeah, I switched to ActiveCampaign. I had the same experience as you, which was my exact same email list, we warmed it up, exact same content, same sender, everything, and my open and click through rates just plummeted. And I reached out to them three or four times, and every time they kind of gave me the run around like you were getting from this support, which was like, well, it could be this or could be that or just give it some time.

After a year on there with no improvement, I went back to MailChimp and the first email I sent out again, it was back up to…and now we have even better rates than we had before. And again, I get that like, yeah, we had been warming up that list on MailChimp for eight years or something, so I get it. But you have to…I mean, you can’t say you’re an all-in-one tool if you can’t actually deliver the tech that you need in order to get those high deliverabilities. You just can’t.

Clay (31:10.249)

Clay (31:17.097)

Clay (31:26.962)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean my open rate went, I averaged with Keat before, like 30-35% open rate. And then I went, as soon as I went to high level, it went to like, not.

Preston (31:35.041)

Preston (31:41.107)
Dude, yeah, you can’t, I mean that’ll kill your business. You can’t be doing that.

Clay (31:42.514)
And oh yeah, and then it, and then as soon as I switch back to Keap, back up, back up to 35, 40% now. You know, and you know, it’s, actually you know what the real trigger point was? Out of all of this, out of all of this, none of this was the actual trigger. Even with support telling me, hey, it’s a server thing. I actually got on support one last time.

Preston (31:52.189)
Yeah. Yep.

Clay (32:13.026)
to see if I can get somebody who knows what they’re talking about. And they did a little more digging. And then they, there’s a place in high level where you can look at like logs, right? Like activity logs, like what’s happening, like if there’s any kind of export or if a user did a certain thing or whatever. This particular person told me that there was a…

Preston (32:28.624)
Okay, yeah.

Clay (32:42.338)
user and then some sort of random strings, string of characters, right? Like that’s what the, it’s just me and my wife that are users on this account. But this person told me there was another user that was literally labeled user and then a whole string of characters and said, yeah, it looks like that you are manually sending these emails to all these 171 people at a time for like five days in a row.

Preston (32:48.156)

Preston (33:10.755)
That user was?

Clay (33:13.598)
Yeah, and they tried to tell me it was me who was manually doing it. And I’m like, I don’t know who this user is. It is not me, it’s not my wife. My wife doesn’t even log in to high level. I’m the only one that logs into high level and there’s zero reason why I would manually be adding these people to an automation, which is why I’m here complaining about it.

Preston (33:15.701)
No way.

Preston (33:33.819)
Yeah, I see why that’s like the scary point, right? Because you’ve got a customer’s private information, their contact information, it’s like, what are they actually doing with this information? Is it protected, is it safe?

Clay (33:42.583)

Clay (33:48.39)
Yeah, and I came to two conclusions. It’s gotta be one of them. One, my account got hacked for whatever. Or two, their software is just completely not working correctly at all. Yeah, and I thought, nope, I cannot deal with this. I’ve got way too many, I got thousands of contacts in here who I cannot have random emails and text messages going out.

Preston (33:54.753)

Preston (34:01.527)
It sounds like it’s just so buggy. Yeah.

Preston (34:15.839)
Yeah, yeah. You lose trust so fast with someone, right? They’re in that nurturing phase. They just signed up for your email list or just downloaded a lead magnet and you’re in that nurturing phase. You can’t be messing up like that.

Clay (34:20.447)

Clay (34:29.754)
Yep, so yeah, so I switched immediately. Immediately. I, I halted.

Preston (34:35.725)
So how long from like when you decided you were signing up until you decided you were out?

Clay (34:43.054)
It’s probably like 45 days. Yeah, it’s probably 45 days.

Preston (34:44.715)

Preston (34:49.367)
Dude, that’s painful. I mean…

Clay (34:49.802)
Yep, it only, which is, here’s what’s funny about this. I had to go back, I had to, unfortunately I had to go recreate a new Keep account. But this just goes to show you that how complicated high level is. I went back, I had to go and create a new Keep account because my old one was gone.

Which that was a mistake on my part. Like I should have just kept it just in case, you know? But like Keep was costing me $600 a month, you know? So I’m like, I’m not gonna just keep it around, you know? Like…

Preston (35:23.263)

Preston (35:26.911)
Yeah, yep.

Preston (35:31.371)
You know what, that’s actually one thing I loved about MailChimp is, so I went away from MailChimp, they have like a pause where you basically, they store all your contacts but you can’t send any emails. And so you can’t actually use the core functionality, but they’ll store all the email addresses, because you know, it doesn’t cost them that much to store 100,000 email addresses or something. And…

Clay (35:38.303)
A pause.

Clay (35:45.29)

Clay (35:51.49)

Clay (35:55.267)

Preston (35:57.183)
So that was super nice because then as soon as I came back from ActiveCampaign it was all there. I had to migrate in the ones that had signed up while I was on ActiveCampaign, you know, but all the old ones were still there. All of their data was there. What they had opened before, what they liked, what workflows they had gone down, etc., etc. Like it was all still there was really nice. Not to brag, because I’m sorry about your… Yeah, that’s too bad.

Clay (36:05.946)

Clay (36:14.798)
Mm-hmm. Yeah, you know, I did make, I made that mistake, but you know, I was thinking $600, I can’t just like pay $600 a month just to, which I kind of, I wish I did though, quite honestly, it would have been, yep.

Preston (36:25.061)
No, totally.

Preston (36:29.035)
Well yeah, in hindsight, it’s like I would have paid an extra $1,200 or something, but it wouldn’t have been that big a deal.

Clay (36:33.982)
Yeah. Yeah, so anyways, I had to go recreate it, but what’s funny is it only took me two full days to recreate everything in KEEP.

Preston (36:43.479)
Well, part of that is, you know, keep really well at this point, right? But yeah.

Clay (36:46.846)
It is. Part of it is. But a big part of it is, it’s way easier to use. Way easier. So, anyways, I got a theory on why people love high level so much. Why I get so many positive reviews. The first one is, I’m an anomaly. Maybe I’m the only one who doesn’t like high level. Because apparently right now, I think I’m the only one.

Preston (37:05.087)
Okay? Yeah, I want to hear it.

Preston (37:10.795)
I mean, I’m…

Preston (37:14.531)
I’m sure you’re not the only one, but I actually appreciate that you say that because we could be wrong in this, right? This is literally just like one guy’s experience, but also you’re not just a random user. You’ve used tools like this in the past, a variety of tools like this in the past. You’ve been doing this a long time.

Clay (37:16.157)
If you go Google the internet.

Clay (37:22.158)
Could be.

Clay (37:31.167)

Clay (37:35.254)
Well, here’s how I know I’m not the only one. Because when I made that post in my Facebook group, there were a ton of comments of people who were on high level and said, thank God you said this. Now I have a reason to move away from it. They needed the validation, you know? So.

Preston (37:47.064)

Preston (37:51.011)
They needed the validation.

Preston (37:56.139)
Well, and I stick with the idea that if there’s that many support reviews, like if they have 1200 reviews and they’re mostly about their support, imagine how many people actually use their support, which means they’ve got a lot of support tickets coming through, which means there’s a lot of errors happening and yeah.

Clay (38:01.957)

Clay (38:13.858)
tons. I think, well I don’t think it’s just the errors. I think it’s the learning curve, man. I think people hop on to support because they just need help just to learn the damn thing.

Preston (38:20.186)
Ah, yeah, yeah. Mm-hmm.

Preston (38:27.531)
Well, you know what, when I signed up, right, they tried to, during my onboarding sequence, they tried to sell me on like a, you know, an upsell on a we’ll migrate all your stuff for you and we’ll show you how to use it and make sure you’re all set up and ready to go. And my belief is software, for the most part, like we are out of those days. That’s like early 2000s time when like they call a corporate meeting and everyone has to sit through a boring four hour training on how to use the new software.

Clay (38:40.235)

Clay (38:46.059)

Clay (38:55.475)

Preston (38:55.644)
We, this is 2023 software, you should be able to use it intuitively. If you can’t use it intuitively, it’s built wrong.

Clay (39:00.449)

That’s because of early 2000s, that was around the tech bubble. It’s like technology was just now a thing. Or like online web technology.

Preston (39:06.099)
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah, no, it’s… No, we are way too far for needing to have a whole training around a piece of software.

Clay (39:16.462)
Mm-hmm. In fact, like even if you look at keep it used to be called infusion soft it This company is like 20 years old That’s when they started was early 2000s. And I remember if you signed up for infusion soft back then you had to pay an onboarding fee for setup and all that stuff because And I remember this too because people bitched about it but like again, that was like early 2000s when

Preston (39:21.182)

Preston (39:24.557)

Preston (39:34.811)

Clay (39:46.03)
web, even like software in the cloud, right, aka the internet, was a new thing, right? Software before that, or even at that time, was mostly local. You had to install it locally on your machine. And then on top of that, this automation all-in-one software was a new thing. So the market sophistication was immature.

Preston (40:00.427)
Yeah, on your machine. Yep.

Clay (40:14.262)
But now, 20 years later, it’s very mature. People know what it is, people know how to use it. There’s tons of them out there. And now, if you sign up for Keep, there is, I think you have that option if you just like, if you want it, but you can go and sign up for a Keep account and you can go right into using it.

Preston (40:30.827)
Yeah, I mean don’t get me wrong, I am all for like help documents and you know if you have a question. But you know, I did this when I worked corporate jobs. It was like we would get a new, some genius would decide it was a good idea for us to switch our software to something else and then 25 of us would all have to sit in a room while they explained how to use it before they’d ever even let us log on. And I’m just like, first of all, if it’s that complicated, you need to work on your, how the app works and your UX and your usability of it.

Clay (40:35.147)

Preston (41:00.787)
Second of all, I’m not gonna remember everything you cover in this four hour training, right? Your software needs to be usable without me having to take extensive notes and I don’t know. So yeah, I’m with you. There’s certainly a place for some of that, but I think more and more software needs to be intuitive. And if it’s not, it’s out.

Clay (41:05.059)


Clay (41:11.649)

Clay (41:19.166)
Yeah. Yeah, so there’s actually five total reasons of my theory. We’ve already, yeah. I’m making notes. So we’ve covered two of them. That’s one, we’re an anomaly. Maybe we’re wrong. Number two is the support, right? The support discussion. Number three, I think we, yeah, we kind of mentioned is the learning curve is so high,

Preston (41:25.214)
The longer we talk, you keep racking up more.

Preston (41:45.059)

Clay (41:49.282)
people get on the support, I guess it’s lumped into that support option. Alright, so the fourth and the fifth one are the main ones I think. And this is also what kind of pissed me off about High Level is if you look at that software compared to all the other competitors in the market, they are about half the price. Half if not less. So when I say half, for context, I was on the agency level.

Preston (41:51.747)

Preston (42:12.323)
I’ll get ya.

Clay (42:19.954)
of high level, which was $300 a month. That’s more expensive than just a basic account. The basic account is actually $100 a month. I was paying $600 for the same, quote unquote, same thing with Keep. I was paying $600 a month. Because the way high level pricing works is it doesn’t matter how many contacts you have, it’s just a flat fee.

Preston (42:30.681)

Clay (42:47.126)
Whereas every other software, the more contacts you have, it’s on a scaling pricing model, right? Yeah, it’s super appealing. And I think that’s why a lot of people move over, because it’s like super cheap.

Preston (42:52.311)
That is, I mean that is very appealing, right? Yeah, yeah.

Preston (43:00.995)
Mm-hmm. And they can grow without the fear of paying more as they grow.

Clay (43:05.646)
Correct. Now, here’s where I got really pissed off. Is they’re not upfront about this. At least I didn’t see it. Is that I started seeing on my credit card statement, a bunch of random $10 charges.

Preston (43:23.092)
Oh wow.

Clay (43:24.838)
So, and then I figured out they charge a certain amount per email that’s being sent.

Preston (43:37.894)
Got it, so yeah, companies that send emails, they’ll go one of two models. It’s either pay based on the volume that you send, or pay based on the number of contacts that you have.

Clay (43:38.219)
It’s a-

Clay (43:47.882)
Yep. Mm-hmm. But the way High Level does is they charge you in $10 increments. So they charge you a few cents per email that’s being composed and sent out. Well, I got like 20,000 emails. And so that adds up. So I was getting charged like, and I was sending out two, three emails a week times 20,000 people. That adds up a lot. And so that $300.

Preston (44:00.659)
Got it. Yeah, yeah.

Preston (44:12.435)
Yeah that adds up.

Clay (44:17.958)
ended up being really like $475 a month. No, and then on top of this, because I had an email deliverability issue, like I went from 35 to 9% open rate, I decided to invest in Mailgun, which is supposed to help with this. Now, lead, not like, high level.

Preston (44:25.027)
So at that point, you’re not really saving that much money.

Preston (44:41.088)

Clay (44:47.314)
used to not have their own version of mailgun, you used to have to get mailgun. Like it was.

Preston (44:53.507)
So Mailgun is just to let everyone know, right? Isn’t it an email optimizer? Like it makes sure your spam rating is super low, your deliverability is as high as it can be.

Clay (45:01.126)
Yeah, yeah, it goes through like a verification process, like they’ll verify that the email is actually real and stuff like that. Like, so back in the day, when high level first came out, you had to purchase Mailgun. It was required in order for you to use email. Well, since then, high level came up with their own proprietary one called Lead Connector. And I tried Lead Connector at first, and I was like, dude, this is this blows, I’m getting 9%.

Preston (45:04.759)

Yeah, yeah.

Clay (45:28.31)
Well they still have the option of mailgun so I said okay let me go purchase mailgun, see if that’s better. It did bring it up slightly better, it went from like 9 to like 14-15% which is still crap. Yeah. But like mailgun was costing me $150 a month so $475.

Preston (45:39.279)
It’s still like half of what you were getting before. Yeah.

Preston (45:46.995)
So now you’re at like 625. You’re basically at what you were paying for keep.

Clay (45:49.874)
Yeah, yeah, it was more. It was slightly more than what I was paying for KEEP and then that, right, like I was done. I was like, I’m paying the same amount of money. You know, at least the difference is, is that with KEEP, I don’t have any of the headache. You know? So anyways, that’s the fourth reason. I think there are positive reviews because it’s quote unquote inexpensive. Not in reality, in my opinion.

Preston (45:53.912)

Preston (46:06.56)

Clay (46:19.75)
The last one is, and I think this is a real reason, is it’s an MLM. We already talked about this. It’s, it’s, they do have the affiliate part which is not MLM, but they have the MLM where if you sign up a bunch of sub-accounts under you, like that’s an MLM. Because what happens when you as the master account quits? There’s one of two options. One,

Preston (46:24.822)

Clay (46:47.806)
All these subaccounts, they have to be transferred to another person, another master account. Or, or they sign up for a brand new account that’s under their own name. And then they have to start from scratch.

Preston (47:04.703)
That is nuts, that’s bonkers to me. I guess I could see like, you know, like if you’re white labeling it or something, you know, I could sort of see why that would work. But, oh, that’s crazy to me. To imagine that like, no. Well, and to imagine that my account is subject to your business, staying in business, and continuing to use that software, that’s just nuts.

Clay (47:06.875)
or the account goes away.

Clay (47:22.003)
It’s not ethical to me. It’s not ethical.

Clay (47:29.298)
Yes. Mm-hmm. I mean, there’s just too much at stake. There’s too much at stake because what if I was a sub-account under somebody else? And I don’t know this, right? Maybe I don’t know. Most people actually don’t know. They don’t know that if their master account decides to not use high level.

Preston (47:40.627)
Yeah, exactly.

Clay (47:54.07)
then their account either has to be going to another person or they have to start a new account or their account goes away. There’s too much at stake. I have so many workflow automations and I spent so many hours and so much money and I have 20,000 contacts that I own. What happens if my master account quits and doesn’t tell me?

Preston (48:13.619)
Yeah, no way. No way. Yeah, if that’s really true, if that’s really how that works and there’s like no way of coming back from that, I just can’t even imagine what that’s going to, that’s totally going to come back to bite them.

Clay (48:23.883)

I don’t, I just don’t want that much of my business to be dependent on someone else like that.

Preston (48:33.419)
Yeah. For me, you know, this is really interesting to wrap this up. I think, I think this is, we advise people against this shiny object syndrome all the time and I’ve been guilty of it. You know, I shared my active campaign story. You’ve been guilty of it. We’ve all been guilty of it. It’s very, very easy to do, but this is maybe like one of the clearest stories I’ve ever seen of shiny object syndrome where it’s like, this just wasn’t worth it. It just, if something is working,

To me, to switch after I’ve done this wrong a couple times, in order to switch, it has to be like way, at least twice as good and obvious that it’s gonna be, it can’t just be marginally better because in most cases it’s like, well, you know, if it’s 10% better, I can probably figure that out by cobbling together a couple extra pieces of code or apps or integrations or something. It has to be significantly better.

Clay (49:08.423)

Preston (49:24.707)
for me to change everything, risk it all, because a lot of times you just end up coming back to what you have set up that’s working. When something’s working, that is, I think we maybe undervalue that. When something, particularly when it comes to automation and stuff, if it’s working, just leave it alone.

Clay (49:25.155)

Clay (49:40.982)
Yep, that’s the lesson of this episode. I mean, even if you’re on high level currently and you’re listening and it’s working, just keep it. Yeah, just keep it.

Preston (49:49.951)
And don’t change because we said to if it’s working. Yeah. Yeah, we’ll also include links to Clay’s high level sub account. You can sign up under him.

Clay (50:02.034)
Hey, I do have an affiliate link if you want to sign up. I am a Keep Certified Partner now.

Preston (50:07.251)
Oh, we will not be including links to High Level after this episode. Not that anyone would click on them. We will include, you know, I will include our list of top 10 CRMs for freelancers and agencies, which is actually one of our most popular blog posts, and it does include on their keep. I was going to include High Level, but after this conversation, I don’t think I will. We’ll see how time plays out there.

You know what? They could come back too, right? They could in five years from now, could be like they’re the market leader and indisputable. But for now, yeah, for now, thanks for sharing your story, Clay, and helping the rest of us know not to maybe think twice before we go jump on the shiny bandwagon of go high level.

Clay (50:33.538)
They could come back, yeah.

Clay (50:53.403)
I’m hoping, this is what I’m hoping to reach with this episode is the people that are currently on it and they’re frustrated with it but they’re trying to hang on to it but they hear everybody else saying you have to use this. Here’s validation. You do not have to use it if you’re frustrated.

Preston (51:11.071)
You do not, you know what, that goes for any software you’re using. It should make your life easier. You do not have to stick with anything just because it’s quote unquote the market leader or because you saw someone else use it. Like this happened a little while ago. You know how Pat Flynn, Smart Passive Income, for years, he made a huge bulk of his income from promoting Bluehost as an affiliate.

Clay (51:15.096)
Anyone, yeah.

Clay (51:33.768)

Preston (51:35.999)
And it turns out Bluehost is just okay when it comes to hosting. If you want anything more than basic hosting, Bluehost is not really the best option. And yet, yeah, and yet people talked about it like it was the best thing because they got 200 bucks every time someone signed up, right? Yeah, oh yeah, and Bluehost knows it. And they lean into that strategy. And in terms of marketing, good on them. In terms of actually customer satisfaction and…

Clay (51:44.298)
I think it’s less than okay.

Clay (51:51.866)
Oh, they got the best commission, the best, yeah.

Preston (52:04.367)
actual product, they definitely have room to improve. All that to say, you don’t have to go with what everyone’s talking about because often what everyone’s talking about, there are other motives besides just your best interests in mind. Keep that in mind. It’s a good thing to think about when you’re considering switching. Clay Mosley from Been super enlightening for me today, hopefully helpful for the listeners as well. Thank you so much, man.

Clay (52:08.246)

Clay (52:19.746)

Clay (52:33.406)
Yeah, for sure. Happy to rant, as always. Ha ha.

Preston (52:36.972)
This has been our longest Q&A episode to date, but I wanted a rant. This is totally a full episode. You’re getting a lot of bang for your buck on this episode, definitely. I’ve been Preston with and we will talk to you guys next time. See you.

Clay (52:41.87)
This might be a full episode.

Clay (52:52.994)
See ya.


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Hosted by Preston & Clay

'Freelance to Founder' Podcast

Freelance to Founder is a unique call-in show helping real-life freelancers grow their businesses and escape the feast-famine lifestyle. The podcast is co-hosted by Clay and Preston, two former freelancers who have started, built, and even sold six- and seven-figure businesses of their own. Catch the Tuesday Q&A episodes, dive deeper with Thursday's call-in episodes, or join us on the air and take the next step on your journey from ... freelance to founder.

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