Category Archives: Entrepreneurship Journal

Entrepreneurship Journal, 12/17/2018

It’s been a very long time since my last Entrepreneurship Journal post. Here’s what I was up to last time:

  • I was about to put on my first paid online workshop
  • I had just given my first- and second-ever conference talks within a short period of time
  • My podcast was going well
  • I was continuing to work with my new client

Here’s what has happened since then:

  • I sold $800 worth of tickets for my workshop
  • I got accepted to my first national-level conference
  • I had some big guests on the podcast
  • I visited my new client in person, and realized over time that our project is a bigger and more important project than I had originally thought
  • I started writing a new book

I’ll discuss each one of these items.

Workshop sales

I sold tickets for my October workshop over two launches. On the first launch I sold 3 tickets which were $50. When I did the second launch I wouldn’t have been surprised if I hadn’t sold any more. But I did sell more, 5 more. I was pretty surprised and happy about that.

The workshop itself went pretty well. It took place over a Saturday and Sunday. Given that it took up my whole weekend, $400 of revenue wasn’t a great return on investment time-wise. That’s not the point, though. Putting on the workshop showed me that the answer to the question “Can I get anybody at all to buy tickets to an online workshop I put on?” is yes. It doesn’t matter that the number was small this time. I can do this again and do a better job of everything.

As a mental exercise, if I double the price to $100 and I’m able to sell 16 tickets next time, that would be a revenue of $1600 instead of $400. Maybe I shift the delivery to be more self-serve and less live time, too, making my effective hourly rate higher. Eventually maybe I could get to the point where it’s almost fully automated and revenue is a few thousand bucks each round. We’ll see.

I’m putting my workshops/courses on the back burner for the time being, though, due to certain other things I need/want to work on instead.

Conference talk

On December 5th I got an email saying my talk proposal to RubyConf India had been accepted. So I’m going to India next month. I’m bringing my wife and kids with me and we’re planning to stay for two weeks.

This will be my first time speaking at a “national level” conference as opposed to a regional conference. It will also be my first Ruby-focused conference. I’m excited to be able to add to my bio that I’ve spoken at RubyConf India. Speaking at a conference like this has also been kind of a goal of mine for a long time. The conference itself happens on January 20-21.

I actually got accepted to another conference as well, PyTennessee in Nashville in February. I don’t know much about this conference yet.

Podcast

I had some relatively big guests on the podcast including Michael Hartl and Ben Orenstein. That was pretty cool.

I also had someone reach out for some Rails testing consulting help, a CTO from a Y Combinator startup. We had a call about it. Somewhat surprisingly, after the call, my prospect said he was going to go with a certain gem instead of seeking outside help for the various problems his team was having with the test suite. My suspicion is that the reality is that he just wasn’t that impressed with our call for whatever reason. Oh well. It’s cool to have generated a consulting lead via the podcast anyway. Hopefully I can expect this sort of thing to continue happening.

Having said that, I plan to take a break from the podcast for the next couple months. I’m getting kind of tired of it and I don’t want to burn out. Preparing my RubyConf India talk and preparing for India travel will take most of my available time and mental bandwidth between now and the end of January.

Consulting client

Things continue to go well with my new (relatively new now) consulting client. I had originally thought the project would only last perhaps a weekend. Then I thought it might last a few months. Now I think it may well last 10 years. I visited my client in person just before Thanksgiving and I was very impressed with him as a person. And I’m not just saying that because I know he might be reading this right now.

Book

Some time ago I decided to write a book. Recently I pulled the trigger. The book will be called Rails Testing for Beginners.

All I’ve done so far is set up the plumbing for the book (I’m using a tool called Softcover) and write a few paragraphs. My decision to write the book came right around the same time my RubyConf India talk got accepted, and things have been kind of crazy since then. Getting everything in order for traveling to India is a surprisingly large amount of work, even though I’ve flown internationally three times before (Nigeria, Bulgaria and the Netherlands).

Plans for the next few months

My plans for the next few months are:

  • Prepare and deliver my RubyConf India talk
  • Ditto for my PyTennessee talk
  • Get a good portion of Rails Testing for Beginners done
  • Continue putting out blog posts and videos the whole time at roughly the usual pace
  • Continue working for my consulting client as normal

That all should be enough to keep me fully busy. Then, perhaps sometime in the spring, I’ll start turning my thoughts back to the podcast and paid workshops. I’ll certainly want to start the podcast back up before I launch my book (it will be a good way to get the word out) but I think I want to wait until after the book launch to start the workshops back up again.

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.