@pjc I appreciate the scrutiny. The issues with the salon market were numerous.
First, I was effectively selling a B2C product since my market had B2C money and a B2C mindset. ("$30 a month? Hmm…that’s a lot of money for me right now.") My customers weren’t business people and they didn’t respond to price anchoring. They had an expense mindset as opposed to an investment mindset.
Second, hair styling is an offline profession. Many types of workers spend all day every day on the computer but they spend all day every day off the computer. The next best way to reach a person is presumably phone. Unfortunately that doesn’t work too well for stylists because a) their job requires them to be present with clients most of the day and not on the phone, and b) they are very very resistant to spending any time on the phone, especially with people who are “trying to sell them something”. This leaves a) reach them via trade shows (works but costs a lot of money), b) send them mail (works but costs a lot of money), c) take out trade mag ads (works but costs a lot of money), d) visit them individually (fine in the beginning but much much too time-consuming for a solo bootstrapper), or e) catch them online at 2am on Sunday night because that’s when they search for software. I did that, and I got people that way, but each salon was their own special snowflake that just couldn’t get on board unless the software had a certain combination of features. And a number of prospects, even after getting on board, just couldn’t handle the whole “computers” thing. Once I got a support call because a salon owner’s computer wouldn’t turn on, and she didn’t understand where the line was between a general IT issue like that and something related to my software.
The salon market could be conquered and has been, but mostly by funded startups. I potentially could tackle it as a solo bootstrapper, but I’d basically be attempting the whole product thing with one arm tied behind my back in that case. Better to cut my losses and gain the ability to use both arms.
No, my salon software site sucked. I didn’t have the skills or money to make it look good. I didn’t have organic traffic figured out except that I figured out that the organic traffic/beauty industry/Jason Swett combination is a terrible one. I actually did have paid traffic figured out to a decent extent, and it was my success with paid traffic that revealed to me how heterogenous, fickle and business-inept my market was.
Sorry for the rant. It was a frustrating five years.
Here’s what makes me think this time will be different:
- I have strong evidence that I have something the world cares about. I casually farted out a few blog posts in mid-2014 and I’ve gotten between 4000 and 5000 visits a month every month since then without touching the site at all. The first blog post I wrote since I decided to restart it was featured in Ruby Weekly (and so were some of my old posts). One of my posts made it to #3 on HN.
- I’m following a proven business pattern. There are a lot of developers out there just like me who have done exactly what I’m intending to do (technical courses), just with different technologies.
- I know the domain. I couldn’t write blog posts about the beauty industry and I was never going to be able to. I was a total outsider and I had no interest in becoming an insider. With Angular/Rails there is no end to what I could write about.
- I can test product ideas before creating them. With the salon software I couldn’t really pre-sell anything. With a course I can create a sales page before committing to doing the work of creating a course only to discover later than no one wants it.
- This business synergizes with my other business which is my consulting career. One of Snip’s problems was that it was a distraction from my main occupation. AngularOnRails.com has already been a huge authority booster for me. My daily work helps me get better at AngularOnRails.com and vice versa. So even if AngularOnRails.com never makes any money at all directly (unlikely unless I just don’t execute), it will still be, and already has been, a valuable asset to my consulting.
Having said all that, I’m not saying I think Udemy is definitely a good idea or definitely not a good idea. I think my next step will be to create a sales page on my existing site and see what kind of interest I can create there. If I judge what I get there to be good enough, then that’s good enough.