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Hi, I'm Tracy, author of Hello Web App and founder of WeddingLovely


#1

Hi there! I was recommended to join, this place looks great.

I learned how to code and launched my startup WeddingLovely about five years ago. I walk couples through the process of planning their wedding, and connect them with local/small-business wedding vendors. Marketplace-wise, WeddingLovely works with 5,000 vendors worldwide, and is mostly-bootstrapped (I got $50k from 500 Startups about three years ago, and got an extra $25k from a teeny tiny failed raise last summer. I’m running it solo, doing all design/development/marketing, though I do hire contractors to help out with small tasks every now and then.

I also wrote and self-published Hello Web App, an introduction to web app development with Python and Django, aimed at designers and non-programmers. It’s basically what I wish existed when I was learning to code – a no-nonsense book aimed at building web apps, not learning how to be a software engineer. The process of self-publishing was very much like running a bootstrapped startup: I learned a ton and created a product that brings in passive income. If anyone is thinking about building their own product and think they need to find a co-founder or developer, I highly encourage you to learn how to code (and of course I recommend my book!)

Happy to share stories about my experience building and running WeddingLovely solo and self-publishing. Looking forward to being a part of this community!


#2

Hey Tracy! Good to see you here.


#3

Hey, I know you! High five!


#4

Hi

It says on your website:
“WeddingLovely’s planning accounts are free! If you’re a wedding vendor, we list you for free as well.”

So how do you make money on WeddingLovely (assuming you do)?


#5

WeddingLovely’s vendor accounts are basically freemium — vendors can pay $190/year to be apart of our “Certified Lovely Vendor” program. It used to be a simple pay-and-get-listed-at-the-top, but then a lot of scummy vendors paid and my listings went to shit. Now there is a review process and application, which has actually increased the number of paid vendors we get, because then it’s more of a status rather than just paying for views. Otherwise, I also make money from advertising and affiliate sales on our weddings blog, which gets ~40k page views per month.

It actually doesn’t outstanding amounts of money (or enough really to pay me full time) but it gives me enough freedom to write books and travel so it’s worth it.


#6

I see. Must be tough when there are so many other wedding websites.

Do you do any affiliate deals? It might be interesting to offer my http://www.perfecttableplan.com/ software through your website for commission. Message me if you are interested.


#7

Unfortunately running everything myself means I don’t have the time to run efficient affiliate campaigns, so I stick with adding links to existing posts, like Modcloth or big wedding websites campaigns. Actually the vast majority of my affiliate revenue comes from one post that took off on Google, and I added links after the fact. That said, when if we do a post on table plans in the app, will definitely link your app!


#8

Welcome! Seems like a brilliant business model!


#9

That would be much appreciated!


#10

Hiya Tracy, awesome to see you here!

I’d love to hear lessons learned/what you’d do differently for both WL and HWA, if you’re game. Is WL your full time gig right now? Any other interesting stuff in the works?

Cheers!


#11

WL is technically my full time gig, but at the moment I’m not being paid for it, have been supporting myself on HWA revenues. I had hired a manager to take care of the site and maintenance, but she was fairly expensive (even as part time) so I shuttled all revenues over to her (but the site was still losing money month/month). She ended up amicably leaving for another job, and right now I’m working on building up the bank account to a safe spot. =/

So yeah, SO much stuff I would do differently for WL, but hindsight is 20/20. I wish I focused on just one property rather than trying to build an empire, it’s rather atrociously complicated now. As always, I wish I focused more on sales. Maybe I should have tried out paying for advertising.

I get kind of in a mental hole when I start focusing on things I’ve done wrong, so I try not to do it too often, heh. At the moment I’m trying to make the best exit situation I can that protects the customers I’m working with and protects me. It’s growing in revenue (albeit slowly) and vendors and users so I’m happy to keep working on it until something positive happens!

As for interesting stuff, WL-wise — I’m working on a vendor ranking algorithm/something so, rather than random ordering, vendors are displayed in order of awesomeness. It’s going to be great, for visitors and my vendors. I’m also working on moving all of my images over to S3 (already ported my static assets) but my analytics script for my vendors (to show the number of search/profile views that the paid vendors get) relies on access logs so I need to make it work with S3 logs and ugh. Harder than I thought.

In terms of non-WL stuff, I’m working on Hello Web App 2 (“Hello Web App: Intermediate Concepts”) - trying to launch this way faster than my last book so I can do a Kickstarter in September and have the book finished by early December. It’s exciting!


#12

Hi Tracy! Wow, great to see you here. I was reading your blog posts just this week and had saved several of them to my Pocket. This blog post of yours especially caught my attention, I think it must have been on Hacker News last week?

How I run a bootstrapped marketplace with eleven different properties and 5,000 vendors - by myself

I like how honest your blog posts are, and I think a lot of people here will relate… but also be inspired and get a couple of ideas for their own businesses that they might have missed too. So, welcome!


#13

Yeah, I did post that to Hacker News, good catch! I totally thought it was going to bomb too, it only had about 2 upvotes about a half hour. Pleasant surprise when it finally got some engagement. Thanks for the welcome!


#14

Hey Tracy,

I admire how you built this and grew it to the point that so many people use your site.

I’m pretty much in the opposite situation you were in: I’m not a designer and am struggling with getting my pages in a shape that looks appealing and is usable but I believe I can code half decent. :slight_smile:


#15

Yay, you can do it! Design is hard because it’s so subjective (there isn’t just one answer or just one working solution). I always recommend people to pay attention to other sites and try to get a feel for what they think works and doesn’t work, which helps build up your “design eye.” Also, feel free to steal ideas, just make sure not to copy them verbatim! If you like how an app has centered, big headlines, feel free to do it too (changing the copy/font/etc.)

I’d love to write a book on web design for devs, happy to help with more tips if you’d like!


#16

Grumpi, you might find this course helpful: http://designforhackers.com/. I’ve not taken it myself, but David has a good reputation (I actually did some work for him years ago), and it looks like a pretty good resource :slight_smile:


#17

Feel free to laugh, your site was the inspiration for me to put the logo in the center of the top navbar and the menu items right and left of it when I rebuilt all the HTML/CSS from scratch. I figured it looks great on your site and symmetry is usually not a bad choice.

I think what would be useful at the stage I’m at is something like a “design review”, or a “usability review” where someone experienced looks over things and points out the worst flaws they see.


#18

Heh, I learned pretty much all I know about design so far from his eMail course and from links on the web. :slight_smile:

David’s course stuck out among all the other resources because he really focused on one simple design principle at a time. He seems to have some kind of community for people learning design, maybe I should pay to join that.


#19

Thanks for sharing, and congrats on the impending launch of HWA2! ICYMI, you might find Amy Hoy’s Ship by September challenge quite relevant: https://unicornfree.com/ship-by-september-lessons

Cheers!


#20

I LOVE giving those. Feel free to email me at tracy@limedaring.com and I can send feedback!