People who have been on this forum for a while may know me as the guy who worked on a hair salon scheduling app (Snip Salon Software) for about five years, eventually accumulating enough wisdom to throw in the towel on that particular business and begin anew.
I killed Snip in October 2015 and in April 2016 I started my next earnest attempt at a product business.
I had had an educational site called AngularOnRails.com out there for quite some time but a) didn’t want to try to grow both Snip and Angular on Rails at the same time, and b) couldn’t think of a not-stupid way to monetize AngularOnRails.com anyway. I could write a book, I figured, but I didn’t know how to avoid writing a book no one would buy.
Then at MicroConf I was talking with Tim Conley and he suggested that I sell courses on the site. It sounded like a great idea to me. Then later I talked with Brecht Palombo and he suggested that I pre-sell the courses. Again, great idea.
So I returned from MicroConf with a fairly clear plan. I had accumulated 268 email addresses over the time AngularOnRails.com had been up although I hadn’t ever emailed those people. I imported my list into Drip and started sharing new content with them. A number of people unsubscribed but that’s of course to be expected when you’ve let the list get cold.
I also added a “free email mini-course” as a lead magnet. Before I didn’t really have a lead magnet other than “stay up to date” or something fairly weak like that. The mini-course converted a lot better.
For some reason I decided that although I wanted to sell courses I wanted to pre-sell a book first and then write the book. I guess I decided that because a) I had an easier time believing that I could get people to buy a $49 book than a, say, $499 course, b) I figure people will be more apt to buy a course from an “authority” who has written a book on the topic, and c) I figured the book would also have a number of positive side effects including the benefit of being able to mention to prospective consulting clients that I’m writing a book (and it turns out I was definitely right about this). I also ready the book Authority by Nathan Barry which helped steer me toward writing a book first.
I did a book launch on June 28th. At that time I had about 300 email subscribers. I would have been perfectly happy if just one person bought the book, since I frankly couldn’t bring myself to really believe that anybody would buy the book. By the end of the day I had seven pre-orders which wildly exceeded my expectations. The total dollar amount was $273.
I told people I would deliver the book on September 1st. I was confident in such a short time span because a) I had already done most of the work necessary to write the book, I just had to package it up, and b) I did the math wrong and thought June 28th to September 1st was three months but it’s two months.
I’m in the process of writing the book now. I believe I’m about 80% of the way done.
The homepage of AngularOnRails.com had been tossed up with very little thought and I had a hunch that it wasn’t converting at nearly the rate it could. I decided to redesign the home page to get a better conversion rate. I took it from about 14 opt-ins per week before the redesign to 39 opt-ins the week following the redesign. My strategy was to simply rip off iwillteachyoutoberich.com. Not surprisingly, if you copy Ramit Sethi, you get good results.
So after I finish my book I believe what I’ll do (in addition to of course promoting the book and continuing to write blog posts) is to ask, “Okay, I’ve found something people will pay $49 for. What would people pay $499 for?”
This is where I think the courses come into the picture. Perhaps I’ll offer a $199 course, a $499 course and a $999 course, and pre-sell those.
Part of me says I should focus on fixing the obvious shortcomings of my site (unpolished design, no nav on the homepage, no CTA at the bottoms of posts, etc.) before I take on new projects. But then another part of me says I should sell the courses before I feel ready and continue to optimize as I go. I’m going with the latter unless I come across something that makes me change my mind.
I’m sharing all this for two reasons:
- I think it might be an interesting and perhaps even instructive story. Maybe others are doing similar work who are “behind” where I am right now and have questions. Perhaps I can be helpful.
- I wonder if people reading this might have suggestions in areas that it hasn’t even remotely occurred to me to think about. There are things I know I should do but haven’t done yet, but I imagine there may well be things I haven’t even thought of yet - like when Tim Conley suggested I sell courses, which I somehow hadn’t previously thought of.
I’m open to any kind of feedback or questions.