Category Archives: Entrepreneurship Journal

Entrepreneurship Journal, 10/12/2018

Last time I wrote I mentioned the following things:

  1. I sold 3 Rails testing workshop tickets for $50 each
  2. The Ruby Testing Podcast is doing well
  3. I was about to go do my first conference talk ever

Workshop

I haven’t opened sales back up since the initial launch. I’m doing another launch next week which will be the last launch before the course runs October 27-28.

I also decided to start offering free Rails testing workshops. My thought is that this can serve as a lead magnet and lead people into the paid workshop offerings.

Podcast

Yesterday The Ruby Testing Podcast got featured in Ruby Weekly 420. This resulted in the download spike you see below:

I’m at about 4500 downloads total.

Conferences

About three weeks ago I gave my first conference talk ever at DevOps MidWest in St. Louis. Then, last week, I went to Little Rock and gave my second conference talk ever at Little Rock Tech Fest. Little Rock Tech Fest was a lot bigger.

These speaking experiences were both positive. They gave me the confidence to apply to speak at more conferences.

Consulting

I’m continuing to work for the client who found me on awsrails.com. It looks like I’ll be doing this for at least the next few months as my main gig. This arrangement allows me much more time to work on CodeWithJason.com than my prior contract did.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 9/14/2018

Last time I wrote I described the failed launch of a Ruby testing course I had created. I launched the course to 271 subscribers. When the dust settled I had made exactly one sale for $49. One sale out of 271 subscribers is a 0.37% conversion rate. Not great.

I had said in my last email that I was going to regroup and maybe try launching another product when I had about 500 subscribers. I only have a little over 300 subscribers but I did in fact launch something else. It went a little better this time.

Some time ago, maybe a couple weeks ago, I put up a sales page for a 2-day online Rails testing workshop. I didn’t make it available for sale. I just put a link to get on the waitlist. Six people signed up for the waitlist.

Yesterday, kind of on a whim, I replaced the waitlist link with an actual purchase link and emailed my list, letting them know tickets were available at $50 apiece. Two people bought pretty much immediately and then one other person bought not long after. I’m much happier with this launch than the last one. Three people out of 308 bought, for about a 1% conversion rate. A 1% conversion rate isn’t terrible, especially considering that I didn’t put a whole bunch of time and effort into trying to make this launch really effective.

My plans as of now are:

  1. Have a call with all three Ruby Testing Workshop buyers to understand exactly what their situation is and what kind of help they need
  2. Design the workshop to specifically address the needs of the buyers
  3. Get testimonials from the buyers, maybe even video testimonials
  4. Based on what I learned from this workshop, make my workshop sales page much crisper (my sales page is currently pretty vague because I’m honestly not super sure yet exactly what people want to learn)
  5. Relaunch the improved workshop

I figure if I tailor this workshop to precisely match what these 3 buyers want, there will be more buyers like them. I kind of believe in the idea of finding my “super fans” and then dialing in everything to specifically address them.

I also want to mention that The Ruby Testing Podcast is doing great. Check out the stats.

As of today, September 14th, there have been 827 downloads this month. Based on that I can expect about 1800 downloads by the end of the month for September, about twice what August was. I’m really blown away by the growth. I haven’t been doing anything special to promote the podcast.

I thought it would be a little challenging to get guests but not only has almost every guest I’ve asked said yes, but four people have reached out to me and asked to be a guest. I would actually prefer to spend less time on the podcast and more time writing articles but good guest opportunities keep popping out of the woodwork.

My plan as of now is to stop scheduling new guests so I can spend more time on writing. In my experience so far, writing is what gets subscribers.

In other news I’m speaking at a conference next week, DevOps Midwest in St. Louis. This will be my first conference talk ever. Three weeks later I’m giving my second conference talk ever at Little Rock Tech Fest in Little Rock, AR.

Another interesting thing: a week or so ago somebody found awsrails.com, a site I had put up about a year ago. This was a little after I had decided not to do AngularOnRails.com anymore. I thought maybe AWS + Rails would be my new focus. That exploration didn’t last long. But almost a year later (like 4 days before I was going to let awsrails.com expire and fade into the mists of time forever) somebody found it, contacted me, and asked me to do a project for him. I had to charge a lot in order for it to be worth it to me, but he was okay with that, and now he’s a client. It’s been a good experience so far. Things go so much better when clients find me than when I try to go after them.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 8/16/2018

A lot has happened since my last update on July 2nd. It’s hard to believe it’s only been about a month and a half since then.

I said in my last post that I would launch my Intro to Ruby Testing course on July 23rd. I did in fact do that.

My launch window was 5 days. On the first day I made exactly one sale. Later that day (IIRC) the guy came back and said that he actually didn’t learn anything in the course. I believed him. He was way too advanced for the course. I gave him a refund.

Then the next day or day after, somebody else bought the course. This guy actually seemed to get something out of it. But no more sales after that.

So after all this I made a grand total of $49 in sales. It was pretty disappointing.

But not everything is going badly. Here’s my “new subscriber” report:

I took a break from writing blog posts and stuff for a while, apparently from like April to June. But then in late June I started again and you can see the positive impact on subscribers. I haven’t kept up the blogging for certain reasons but I plan to pick it back up soon.

My total number of subscribers right now is 289. As of my last post on July 2nd it looks like I had 250. I’m pretty happy with that growth rate. It will be nice to get to 300. I think I can do better though.

I’ve been continuing to record The Ruby Testing Podcast. I’ve been able to get some pretty big names on the show. I’m really happy with the way the podcast is going so far.

I have 868 total downloads for the podcast so far. It will be cool to get to 1000.

I’m giving my first-ever conference talk in about a month. The conference is DevOps Midwest in St. Louis, Missouri. You can see my name on the speakers list. That should be pretty cool. I also gave a talk last week at the Chicago Ruby meetup.

Today I canceled my Teachable subscription, which was the platform my Intro to Ruby Testing course was on, and refunded my one sale that hadn’t already been refunded. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do next. Putting together a course honestly felt pretty unnatural to me. Maybe I’ll do another book this time instead.

Things have been pretty crazy at the “day job”. I don’t really feel like talking about it that much right now but I’ve been learning a lot and expanding professionally.

I believe my focus with CodeWithJason.com for the next few months will to be to grow my subscriber list and build a more cohesive body of work. Maybe once I reach around 500 subscribers I’ll try launching another product.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 7/2/2018

Last time I wrote I said that I was planning to create a tiny, inexpensive Ruby testing course and then launch it to my relatively small subscriber list. Since that time I did in fact start building a course. I actually got maybe about 90% of the way done. But then I decided my course was dumb and confusing so I started over. Now I’m at about the 90% mark with the new version of the course.

I got far enough with the new version of the course that I felt comfortable committing to a launch date. The date I picked is Monday, July 23rd, 2018.

My plans between now and July 23rd are:

  • Finish the course material
  • Finish the course’s sales page (already 95% done)
  • Write several ebombs so I can provide free value before I ask subscribers to buy something
  • Put together an email launch sequence

My plan is that the launch sequence will consist of at least 5 emails, most of which will contain an ebomb or link to an ebomb. The first of the 5 emails will go out on Monday, July 23rd, notifying subscribers that the course is now available for purchase and will be through Friday night. The last email will go out that Friday, letting subscribers know that the course will no longer be available after Friday night. The emails in between will mostly just contain ebombs.

In other news, I finally made it to the round number of 250 subscribers. Here’s what my subscriber graph looks like:

As is labeled in the graph, the big spike is from when I got featured in Ruby Weekly. You can see that my flow of new subscribers really slowed down in mid spring. Part of the reason for the slowdown was that I got sidetracked by other, more pressing work during that period. Another part of the reason is that I chose to stop focusing on ebombs in favor of creating the course material. I also spent a non-trivial amount of time getting my podcast up and running.

The main thing I care about at this point is selling more than $0 worth of the course on my July 23-27 launch. After that we’ll see what happens. If my sales are abysmal, that probably means something is wrong with my offer or the way I did the launch, and I need to address that. If sales are fine, then the logical next step would be to go get more subscribers and then launch again.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 6/13/2018

This is the longest I’ve gone without posting an Entrepreneurship Journal entry in a while. The last one was almost three months ago.

I’m happy to report that I’ve continued to stick with the same focus, Ruby testing, and I still feel good about it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I finally enrolled in 30×500. It was 30×500 that helped me arrive at my focus of Ruby testing.

At one point I think I asked Amy and Alex in 30×500 how many subscribers I should have before launching my first product. I think had around 225 subscribers at the time. I was wondering whether I should work on getting more subscribers or if I should launch a product to my existing subscribers. The answer I got was that a list my size is big enough to launch a product to. The advice was to launch a tiny product.

So that’s what I’ve been working on. For the last couple weeks I’ve been working on an “Intro to Ruby” course. My intention is for the course to be tiny in scope and for the price to be relatively low.

Also since last time I wrote, I started a podcast called The Ruby Testing Podcast. According to the stats I’ve gotten 131 downloads so far. Seems good, I guess. So far I’ve interviewed two guests. I have one more interview scheduled for July. I’m holding off on scheduling anything more right now because I’m teaching a class through mid-July.

My near-term plans are to finish the course as quickly as possible and then launch it. After that I plan to work on getting more subscribers, improve the course, and sell the course for a higher price. I plan to pretty much repeat that process indefinitely.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 3/22/2018

So I’ve changed my focus for the thousandth time. I’m now exploring the idea of teaching Rails testing.

Let’s review what I’ve explored since roughly this time last year:

  • Angular + Rails
  • Landing page breakdowns
  • AWS + Rails
  • Shopify email marketing
  • Job search skills for programmers
  • Rails testing

Of all the things I’ve tried since ditching Angular/Rails, the job search thing was the most successful. I was able to get about 100 of my Angular/Rails email subscribers to follow me to that topic. I also wrote an ebook on the topic and sold more than zero copies. (I sold four more than zero copies, to be exact.) So why did I decide to move on?

In January I enrolled in 30×500 which was something I had wanted to do for a long time. My approach for going into 30×500 was to be totally neutral and not bring the baggage of any previous ideas or endeavors I’ve had. If going through 30×500 led to the job search focus still making sense, then great. If going through it led to working on something else, great. The important thing is that I come out with something that works.

A big part of the 30×500 process is research. You go to places where people talk about the thing you teach (“watering holes”) and find out what their pains are in order to alleviate their pains.

I decided to do my research at /r/rails, at least for starters, to see what I could turn up. I ended up uncovering a certain amount of pain around TDD/testing, which is something I have a lot of experience with. I’ve been doing Rails testing since 2011. Many of the questions I saw were things I could answer.

I started writing blog posts (“ebombs” in 30×500 language) about Ruby/Rails testing. To my delight and surprise one of my posts ended up getting featured in Ruby Weekly. Then I decided to email my list of 2,353 Angular + Rails and job search subscribers and basically say, “Hey, I’m only going to write about testing from now on. If you want to keep hearing from me, click this link. Otherwise you’ll be unsubscribed.” So far 154 people clicked the link. Combined with the 43 people who opted into my “Ruby testing micro-course”, that makes a total of 197 subscribers.

(Side note: I just remembered that I kicked off my Angular on Rails product sales with only about 300 subscribers.)

Here’s where I’m imagining going with the Rails testing specialty. I’m imagining that to make money from this I can do two things: 1) sell online Rails testing courses and 2) sell live, in-person Rails testing classes. These are arguably roughly the same service, just delivered two different ways.

I discovered not long ago, through a Twitter conversation with Wes Bos, that it’s apparently a common pattern for someone to buy a course and then request custom in-person training services. This was a real eye-opener for me. It means that, presumably, all the work it would take to market and sell a packaged Rails testing course would be along the same exact path that it would take to market and sell onsite Rails testing courses.

I’ve also recently realized that it would probably be a really good idea for me to speak at conferences. So I started applying to a whole bunch of conferences to talk about Rails testing. I even got a talk accepted but the dates ended up not working out.

My plans as of right now are to keep putting out educational material around Rails testing and to keep going through the 30×500 course and keep following its advice. I can’t emphasize enough how helpful it has been to be part of 30×500. It’s so nice to follow a path as opposed to try to blaze my own trail which I’m demonstrably not very good at.

Unlike some previous ventures I have no goal of getting to my first dollar of revenue as quickly as possible. I want to focus more on building something that’s genuinely good and helpful. I want to focus more on doing things right than doing things super fast.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 2/1/2018

In 2016 I started selling an ebook about how to use Angular and Rails together. Between June 2016 and December 2017 I sold about $8K worth of the book and related video package. I sold (and still sell) these products at AngularOnRails.com.

In July 2017 I decided to put AngularOnRails.com on the back burner for various reasons. I then proceeded to flail around wildly for a while. I tried several new business ideas, all of which I ended up deciding I didn’t like.

I eventually basically said, “Okay, fuck it. I give up. I’ll just go back to the thing that was working—AngularOnRails.com—even though I’m maybe not super crazy about it anymore. It will be easier to grow this existing success than to try to make a new one.”

So I went back to AngularOnRails.com and tried to think of how I could grow its revenue. At that time revenue was at a couple hundred bucks a month (although it varied quite a bit from month to month). The two products I had for sale were a $49 ebook, a $99 video package and a $249 “corporate” package which no one had ever bought.

I figured the easiest way to grow revenue would probably be to add a higher-tier product (~$500) that people would actually buy.

I had gotten the impression that most people who were learning Angular + Rails were doing so because they wanted to get a job. So I sent an email to my list. The answer was an overwhelming yes. Over 50 people responded (out of a list of a little over 2000) saying yes, they were in it for a job.

So I thought maybe I could add some sort of “get a job” course as a higher-tier item in my product ladder. But then I realized there’s nothing specific to Angular + Rails about getting a job. So rather than add an item to my product ladder I decided to create a whole new product ladder.

I decided to call the new site Six Figure Coding, drawing some inspiration from Million Dollar Consulting. I emailed my AngularOnRails.com list. Over 100 people signed up for the SixFigureCoding.com email list within the first two days. The intention was to make the site all about how to get a higher-paying programming job (or how to get your first programming job).

Then, later, I decided I didn’t like the name Six Figure Coding. I renamed it to Code with Jason.

Then I realized that if I wanted an instant traffic injection for Code with Jason, I could just move some of my best-performing blog posts from AngularOnRails.com to CodeWithJason.com. That’s what I did and it worked.

Then, slowly, it dawned on me: I don’t have to completely abandon the audience I’ve built up at AngularOnRails.com. I can just retroactively decide that I’m just renaming AngularOnRails.com to CodeWithJason.com. I can still offer the same products, which are still selling, and I can still use the same lead magnets, which are still working. My email list can continue to grow as always.

But the advantage to the new domain name is that now I’m no longer limited to just talking about Angular + Rails. I can do a course that’s just Angular if I want. I don’t think the job search idea was a bad one but now I’m no longer sure that I want that to be the primary focus.

So my plans for the near future are:

  1. Launch my job search book, which I already have 95% done
  2. Move all the products at AngularOnRails.com over to CodeWithJason.com
  3. Move all the lead magnets at AngularOnRails.com over to CodeWithJason.com
  4. Start experimenting with an Angular-only product

I don’t imagine creating a product called “Learn Angular” or something like that. It will almost certainly be something more specific like Angular testing or observables or something like that.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 1/18/2017

Some interesting things have happened since my last update.

I renamed Six Figure Coding to Code with Jason. Something always rubbed me the wrong way about Six Figure Coding, like I was bragging about how much money I make or something. Plus I discovered that my readers aren’t mainly focused on making more money. They’re mainly focused on getting a more enjoyable/fulfilling job. I also like the name Code with Jason because it can be used for almost anything I want.

I realized that since I’m not concerned with keeping Angular on Rails alive as a business anymore, I’m free to move content from AngularOnRails.com to CodeWithJason.com for an instant traffic injection. So I did. I moved over my top 7 posts from AngularOnRails.com which account for about 2300 visits a month.

After I moved these posts I realized that if I want more traffic I can just write more about Angular + Rails. I can even move Angular for Rails Developers over to CodeWithJason.com and continue to sell it there.

I changed the name of my upcoming ebook from Six Figure Coding: The Book to The Job Search Manual for Developers.

I appeared on a podcast called Developer on Fire. Unfortunately I did this just before I changed the name from Six Figure Coding to Code with Jason. Oh well.

I plan to go on more podcasts after I finish and release the book. The planned release date for the book is still February 6th, 2018.

I’ve been working on the book pretty consistently. I got it to the length I want. Now I’m going through and editing it. Turns out I’m really not happy with most of what I wrote. So I’m rewriting a lot as I go. I suppose that’s kind of how it works.

Next steps are to finish the book, get a cover designed for the book, rewrite the sales page for the book, then launch the book, then go on a podcast tour.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 11/28/2017

The last few weeks have included some very positive developments.

Successful Launch

On November 8th, I set up a WordPress site at SixFigureCoding.com. My idea was that my next project would be teaching job search skills to developers.

I was able to leverage my existing AngularOnRails.com audience and immediately get over 100 subscribers at SixFigureCoding.com.

I wanted to get to my first dollar of revenue as fast as possible. So, on November 17th, I did a launch. What I sold was access to a Slack group for $19 and a coaching call for $249. Nobody bought the coaching call but 8 people did buy the Slack access. My total revenue for the launch (which took place over the course of 3 days) was $152. The first sale took place on November 17th, meaning it was only 9 days between the time I set up SixFigureCoding.com and the time I made my first dollar.

This is an improvement over Angular on Rails which took me 2 months to monetize. (And actually, Angular on Rails existed as an unmonetized blog for about 2 years before I made any real money off of it, but during that time I wasn’t really trying yet.)

And it’s a big improvement over the 18 months it took me to make my first dollar of revenue from Snip (my failed hair salon scheduling software business).

Next Steps

My planned next steps for Six Figure coding include:

  • Guest on career-related and coding-related podcasts
  • Guest post on relevant high-traffic sites
  • Write articles on SixFigureCoding.com to build up a body of useful content
  • Launch a light, relatively low-priced ebook

Something I’ve learned relatively recently is the wisdom of tapping into other people’s audiences rather than trying to create my own from scratch. A year or two ago, my traffic strategy might have been to write a whole bunch of blog posts to try to get traffic. That probably would have worked but it would have taken needlessly long.

This time my approach is different. I figure that when I guest on podcasts, I’ll get at least a little inflow of traffic as well as a backlink in the show notes which will have SEO benefits. Similar deal with the guest posting.

My thinking with the ebook is that it will have two particular benefits. First, it will get the feedback loop started early. I know that my first attempt at an ebook will not exactly be a bullseye. I’ll probably be at least slightly off the mark and I’ll have to go back and adjust based on buyer feedback. Since the first incarnation of my product will be imperfect and there’s nothing I can do about it, I might as well launch that first incarnation in a low-key, low-stakes kind of way.

Second, I expect that having an ebook, even a very small one, will do something to put my name on the map and lend me some credibility when I’m doing my outreach campaigns to podcasts. I’ll no longer be just “Jason Swett” but “Jason Swett, author of [whatever I decide to call my book]”.

Long-Term Vision

I’ve long been a fan of patterning off of successful people’s business models. For this one I intend to do a hybrid of Brennan Dunn and Ramit Sethi, mostly Ramit Sethi.

My understanding of Ramit Sethi’s products is that they’re mostly high-ticket items in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Right now I’m thinking it could make a lot of sense for me to offer a program that is, say, $97/mo for 6 months, with the idea being that by the end of that 6 months you have a better job (or your first coding job).

Ramit’s “authority piece” is a published book. Brennan’s authority piece, on the other hand, was just an ebook. In the beginning, I think it was even just like a 30-page ebook. That’s the model I plan to pattern after because it seems a lot more achievable, especially in a short time span.

So several months from now, my product ladder might look like this:

  1. $49 ebook
  2. $599 job search program

That’s probably too big a gap between the tiers so it might actually look something more like this:

  1. $49 ebook
  2. $299 job search program (“light” version)
  3. $599 job search program (“pro” version)

If I can sell just 200 copies of something that costs $500 (just to pick numbers that make the math easy), then that’s $100K per year. That’s actually my #1 2018 goal, to earn $100K from SixFigureCoding.com.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 11/13/2017

In the last few months the following things have happened:

  1. I decided to put Angular on Rails on the back burner
  2. I started a new project called Landing Page Breakdowns
  3. I killed Landing Page Breakdowns and started a project called AWS for Rails Developers
  4. I killed AWS for Rails Developers and started trying to do Shopify consulting
  5. I decided not to try to do Shopify consulting anymore and decided to start a new website that teaches job search skills to developers

Here’s how the last thing happened. Some time after I decided to try to do some Shopify consulting, I realized how hard it was to get clients, or at least the right kind of clients. I also didn’t like the starting-over feeling of moving into Shopify consulting. It became apparently to me a little while after getting into the Shopify thing that it would take me quite a while to gain a level of genuine competence. To a certain extent I’m okay with a business idea that takes a long time to build but I’m not okay with an experiment that takes a long time to build.

Based on when I wrote the blog post about it, it looks like my decision to put Angular on Rails on the back burner came around July 2017. Then I spent July, August, September and October experimenting with various other business ideas, none of which ended up seeming very promising.

After all that time and effort and disappointment I asked myself, “Rather than trying to start a new thing from scratch, why don’t I just go back to the thing that was already working and make it work better?” Angular on Rails isn’t perfect but it does have revenue. And as of August through October 2017 it was even back to the $300-$400/mo it was doing around December 2016 to March 2017 (before it dipped sharply in June and July).

So I took a fresh look at Angular on Rails and even made a concrete list of things I might do to move the needle. One thing I wanted to think about was this: I have a $49 product and a $99 product. Is there anything I could create that would be worth, say, $499? Because it would sure be a lot easier to grow the business’s revenue that way than by just trying to increase volume.

In pondering this question I recalled that a good portion of the people who signed up for the Angular on Rails mailing list did so because they wanted to build side projects. I wondered if a large percentage of these side-project-builders were doing so because they wanted to try to get a better job. So I emailed my list of about 2,100 people and asked.

The response was somewhat overwhelming. Over 50 people responded, almost all of them with a yes. So I thought, it looks like there’s something here.

And then I thought: I could add a new product onto my Angular on Rails product ladder, or I could start a whole new product ladder. I decided that creating a whole new product ladder would make the most long-term sense. This decision was partially driven by the fact that a lot of the people who responded to my “Are you trying to get a new job?” email said that they were no longer interested in the Angular + Rails combo. There’s no reason why the skills of finding a new programming job have to be tied to any particular technology.

The name I came up with for my new endeavor is Six Figure Coding. IIRC I registered the domain on November 7th. By November 8th, I had set up a WordPress site (using WP Engine) and then I used Leadpages to connect my site with Drip, allowing people to subscribe to an email list. At midday on November 8th I emailed my Angular on Rails list and let them know that Six Figure Coding was open for business. I also tweeted about it and put a link on Facebook.

I would have been satisfied with 20 or so subscribers. I remember that I immediately got about 8 subscribers. Then later the number crept up to the mid-20s. Then the number passed 32, making it the second-biggest email list I’ve built after Angular on Rails. By the time I closed my computer for the day around 8pm, I had 67 subscribers. When I opened my computer the next day, I had 86 subscribers. By the end of that day, I had over 100 subscribers. Today I have 115. My expectations have been greatly exceeded.

At a high level, my plan is to come up with a product ladder with products at $0, $29-49, $99 and $299+. I plan to immediately sell access to a paid Slack org and see how that goes. I actually have that launch scheduled for Friday, November 17.

My plan for getting traffic early on mostly revolves around doing podcast interviews and guest posts.

I’ll of course continue to post updates here like always.