Latest biz attempt going well, curious to hear opinions

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 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 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 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 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 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.


No. Just no. Unless it directly adds money, don’t.

Create videos to go with the book. Sell them for $99.

Create a few ready made templates, server install scripts, and a few more goodies advanced users and companies with more money than time would find useful. Price at $299 or even $399, depending on how much value you are offering.


If you decide to go the info-product / Training way, consider checking out the book dotcom secrets (don’t mind the title) by russell brunson. Great Information about building a product ladder and a sales funnel to support that. Responds exactly to your question.

Then, you can enter Ramit Sethi, Amy Hoy, Copyhackers, and others email sequences. Great resource to study how they build the funnel and launch sequence.

Erm - I would think in his case that it could directly add money.

A large part of the success of having an info product would be perceived authority I would think. His existing site falls very flat on that and must be a very leaky funnel especially if you consider the target market is likely to be quite design focused.

Congrats on the success so far!

I’ve been toying with the book idea for some time too. Are you releasing an electronic copy only? Or getting published somehow?

Thanks, guys.

@conradomaggi Thanks for the book recommendation! I added it to my Amazon wishlist.

@Rhino I think you’re probably right but can you elaborate? I know where I think my site needs improvement but I’d be interested to hear an outside opinion.

@shanelabs Thanks. For now and the foreseeable future, just electronic.

We’re talking about right?

@Rhino Right.

Apparently my post must be at least 20 characters.

Erm well where to start? Its bare, lacks details and looks like a site quick thrown together with little care. I value my email address! We do make snap decisions and for your site my first impression is very unfavorable (perhaps we shouldn’t but we’re human and we do).

Even just a $50 template will give it some pizzaz + extra copy.

What am I getting? Why trust you with my email address? Who are you anyway? Take inspiration from the well known info product peeople (off top of my head,, Amy How or your want to be rich guy) - who has a site as bare as yours? Even the home page of which has little content has some design to it.

I don’t think you have to do a lot here - a half day and a $50 template is all it will take.

Yup, I’m totally with you as far as what needs to be improved.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find an acceptable WP theme and, to my great surprise and horror, I’ve never been able to find anything remotely acceptable, free or paid. So I’ll probably just wait until I can afford to hire a designer.

Hey @jasonswett congrats on dusting yourself off and getting started again.

I’m not a developer so have no idea what angular on rails is or any detail about what it would be used for. Feel free to ignore my comment but when it comes to copy I think someone that is ignorant can add value. After all, if even I can understand the value then it must be clear!

  • I like the headline. If I hate javascript I am probably pi**ed that I can’t make angular on rails apps quickly. My only comment would be to replace “Start Building” with just “Build”. (N.B. The other bullets assume you can deliver on the headline’s promise.)
  • The course title, Angular for Rails Developers, doesn’t offer me any benefit. Besides the headline it is the most prominent copy on the page. You offered me a way to build apps quickly with angular on rails but now it is just run of the mill angular for rails developers. Reinforce the benefit.
  • The bullets have the same problem. Nothing here, at least to my non-developer mind, tells me how I will build angular on rails apps quickly even though I hate javascript.
  • I don’t want to “receive the first lesson”, I want to stop f**king about with javascript that I hate and ship my rails app.
  • The yellow box hurt my eyes. It also just reminded me of horrendous internet marketing sales pages. (you mentioned you did a redesign so maybe you have results to show it is working)
  • I’m not sure 100 people is really enough to provide social proof. Do you have any data for the effectiveness?
  • Again, “who have learned” sounds weak to me. What have they gotten from the course (i.e. implementing their rails app quickly despite their javascript hatred)? As a side note, have you spoken to any of those people?
  • My personal bias is towards not bothering to ask for a first name.
  • The button copy is the same as above. People want the result not the “first lesson”.

I realise this post sounds a bit negative but that isn’t my intention. I hope at least one of the points turns out to be useful.


I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find an acceptable WP theme … I’ve never been able to find anything remotely acceptable

Excuse me being blunt… but thats crap! :wink:

There are LOADS of great themes, too many in fact and that is the problem.

Timebox it - set the stopwatch for 1 hour (2 if you like, but really can’t see the need for more than that) and just buy the best one you find in that time. It will be good enough and a great improvement until you’ve proven the concept and can then justify the considerable expense of a designer.


Now that I look at the site, I agree. It looks like a plain Html site from the 90s. All we need is some blinking logos and cat pics :wink:

Agree again. I have never heard anyone say they can’t find a WP theme. There are literally millions of themes, paid and free. Googling “wordpress landing page theme free” got me this:
In 20 seconds. Any of the themes on that page would be better than what you have.

Can I just ask: How is it you couldn’t find a theme?

@MrAndyChris has some great points about copy writing, but until you fix the ugly page, none of that matters.

Oh boy. This is a sore point for me.

Not only have I not been able to find a good theme, free or paid, I haven’t been able to find one that’s remotely acceptible. Anywhere. Ever. If you find this hard to believe, me too.

I looked at just now. For the first theme, clicking “Live Demo” gives me an error page. So nope. I looked at the second one and it consists of:

a) First section: huge headline that takes up the whole viewport, which I don’t want - I want a headline with room for copy underneath, plus an opt-in form
b) Second section: I don’t have icons to swap out in this area, nor do I even have a list of things I would want to display in this sort of format. This section gets me nowhere.
c) Third section: a CTA button that I have no need for.
The remaining sections are equally irrelevant/unhelpful to me. They just don’t apply.

So once I strip away the irrelevent/un-useful/not stupid parts of this theme, I’m left with roughly nothing. This has been my experience every time I’ve ever looked for a WP theme.

What I don’t understand is how anyone can.

BTW, if you look at the sites of “industry leaders”, most of their sites, IMO, look nothing like the WP themes you find in theme stores:

I’d say the closest is Ramit Sethi’s, which I based my home page on. But his doesn’t have the flourishes that the WP themes have. His site is extremely plain other than the headshot and logo, which a theme wouldn’t give me.

If I want to emulate Ramit Sethi’s site, it would take me less time to start with nothing and add things rather than start with a WP theme, take away almost everything, and then add back in what I want.


Quick look at the page source and Unicornfree uses Rapidology which seems to be free. Maybe that’s a way?

I hear you Jason - but it doesn’t have to be perfect, just better than what you’ve got already.

Indeed, the sparse content certainly won’t do well with SEO.

Weirdly, I think your current simple site might convert well.

But the simplicity, lack of marketese could convince site visitors that you are a programmer, and an expert in Angular, and not a marketer, and that you are not going to spam them with marketing fluff, but will only send useful info.

Could be that sparse is better (and you could a/b test this), but I have an assumption that the type of dev’s interested in Rails and Angular have an eye for design. Look at most hot open source technologies now they have really nice sites.

My understanding, based on reading I’ve done as well as observing people who I believe know what they’re doing, is that short, simple pages convert better for collecting email addresses.

@Rhino I think you’re right that people interested in Rails/Angular have an eye for design. What I plan to do is keep the short/simple page but make it look much nicer.