Category Archives: Entrepreneurship Journal

Entrepreneurship Journal, 10/27/2016

It’s been about a month since I last wrote.

Two days ago I did a big launch. I came out with a new video product on

It’s always been my intention to create a product ladder for Angular on Rails. Here’s what the product ladder looks like now:

  • Free guide (to getting started with Angular + Rails)
  • Book ($39)
  • Video courses ($199)

The idea is that some visitors will download the free guide, some people who download the free guide will buy the book, and some people who buy the book will also buy the videos.

I launched the video courses on Tuesday at a special price of $99, and for people who have already bought the book, $60. Total revenue since Tuesday for the videos has been $576.

Here’s my month-by-month revenue so far:

August 2016: $868

September 2016: $1053 (18% growth over August)

October 2016 so far: $1364 (30% growth over September)

Total all-time sales is $3285.

I like to contrast these numbers with the fact that Snip never made more than $450/mo. Angular on Rails’ first month of making money was better than Snip’s best month ever!

My goal for November is $2000, which would be about 50% growth over October (or at least 50% growth over what October has earned so far, although I hope and expect I’m not done making sales for October.)

If I grow by 20% a month, I’ll be at $5,000/mo by June 2017 and $10,000/mo by September 2017.

If I grow by 30% a month, I’ll be at $5,000/mo by March 2017 and $10,000/mo by June 2017.

So I think it’s reasonable to shoot for being done with client work (or at least done needing client work) and living 100% off of product income sometime in 2017.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 9/25/2016

I haven’t written in a long time. This is not because nothing has happened but because things haven’t stopped happening long enough for me to take the time to write an update about it.

Last time I wrote, my book sales were at $273 and I had 370 subscribers. Today (exactly two months later) sales are at $1609 and I have 714 subscribers. Not counting the $273 in presales, that $1609 has all happened in the time since 8/30 (less than 30 days ago).

Angular 2.0.0 final just came out, so I’m working on updating my book to cover that version. I told my list it’s coming out Tuesday, partially to give myself a hard deadline.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 7/25/2016

Things continue to go well with Like I said in my last post, I did a book launch on 6/28/2016. Seven people pre-ordered my book (total sales: $273) which I’ll be delivering on September 1st.

At the time I did the launch I had about 300 subscribers to my list and was getting about two new subscribers a day (14 per week). About a week ago I redesigned the homepage for to be optimized for conversion and that week I got 39 subscribers. That’s a 2.79X better than 14/week. There wasn’t a meaningful change in traffic, so that improvement can be pretty safely attributed to the conversion rate.

As of today I have 370 subscribers. I guess in a month I can expect to have (39 * 4.333) + 370 ~= 540 subscribers and in a year I can expect to have at least 2400 subscribers, although I hope and expect that my traffic and conversion rate will go significantly up between now and a year from now.

My planned next steps are:

  • Release the book on September 1st (with announcements to my list beforehand)
  • Promote the book via podcasts, guest posting, and I’m-not-sure-what-else
  • Pre-sell a relatively high-priced course
  • Continue to post new content
  • Expand and improve the book

Entrepreneurship Journal, 6/29/2016

Yesterday I did a book launch. It greatly exceeded my expectations. I’ll tell you about it.

I’ve had the idea for a couple years about writing a book about Angular + Rails. My site is pretty popular and it stands to reason that some of the visitors there might like to read a book on the topic. The reason I didn’t write such a book was because I didn’t want to invest several months in writing the book only to discover that no one wanted to buy it (or too few people). I’ve experienced that sad scenario several times already and I’m not eager to do it yet another time.

I also couldn’t conceive of any other way to make money with This changed at MicroConf in April. Tim Conley suggested to me that I offer paid courses on the site. I have no idea why that didn’t occur to me before. I shared the idea with Brecht Palombo and he suggested that I pre-sell the courses before investing the time in creating them. Good idea.

It took my a while to figure out what to do. The plan I came up with was to start with a book priced at maybe $49, then evolve that book into a $200 course, then evolve that course into a $500 course, then evolve that course into a $1000 course, and so on, keeping each tier in place as I develop the next tier. What I would end up with is what they call a “product ladder”. Customers start with some little free offering, then buy the cheapest thing, then buy a more expensive thing, etc.

Yesterday I opened the book up for presale. I wanted to strike an appropriate balance between “don’t prematurely optimize” and “don’t half-ass it”. I also had a very hard time believing anyone would buy the book, so I found it very difficult to muster the motivation to do anything more than half-ass it. So I pretty much half-assed it.

To my surprise, seven people bought the book. All seven bought the $39 tier meaning my total sales yesterday were $273. That’s nothing compared to the $5,000 or $10,000 book launches I read about, but for someone who has experienced so many utter failures over the years, I’ll gladly accept a $273 launch. I was already happy after just one person bought the book. When the second person bought, I couldn’t believe my luck. Four people had bought by the time I went to bed, and again I was completely satisfied with this number. When I woke up this morning I discovered that three more people had preordered the book yesterday for a total of seven.

A question I’m asking myself now is what are the next steps. Obviously, one of the next steps is to actually write the book and deliver it. Delivery is scheduled for September 1st. I believe I should also keep the blog posts rolling so I can keep my email list warm. (My email list is a little over 300 people now.) At some point I should also create a not-half-assed version of my sales page but I’m not sure where to prioritize that.

Lastly, I’d like to make an observation. It took me 18 months to make my first dollar with Snip, and after that, I never earned more than about $60/month for a very long time. has been around since 2014 (and I’ve been writing various technical blogs forever) but I didn’t decide to turn it into this-is-my-next-full-blown-product-business-attempt until April of this year. So it took me about two and a half months to make my first dollar with, and instead of $30/mo like my first month of Snip revenue, I earned $273 in a day. Time will tell what my monthly revenue will be like from here on out but I think the time it takes to make your first dollar says a lot.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 6/3/2016

In my last update I shared that I was officially embarking on my seventh attempt at a product business. My plan was/is to monetize by offering courses there.

As of April I had about 260 people on my email list, I believe. I developed a few different plans and scrapped each in succession in favor of a better one. Where I landed at one point was this:

  • Put up a sales page for an e-book (that won’t exist yet) called “A Beginner’s Guide to CRUD in Angular and Rails” (or something similarly titled)
  • Perform a two-week launch process culminating in a 48-hour purchase window
  • If enough people buy, write the book and deliver it

In order for this plan to work, I decided I should have about an 80/20 mix of helping/pitching. Because I’m learning Angular as I go, the blog posts I write require a lot of research and exploratory development. So I haven’t had much in the “helping” category to share, although some.

I’m glad I write these posts because articulating this stuff is helping me realize that I could really stand to get more specific about my plans. There’s no reason I can’t decide that my launch sequence will include X “provide value” emails and Y “pitch” emails, and then work backward from those numbers to figure out how many tech posts I need to come up with, and then queue up that many tech posts. That’s a much better idea than what I’ve been doing so far, which is to put out a tech post whenever.

As time passed I noticed a certain problem with the site. One of the site’s main jobs is to be collecting emails for my list. The problem was that I couldn’t figure out an opt-in form that would convert at more than 0.5%. Every time I emailed my list with a new post, a few people would naturally unsubscribe, and so I was losing people at a faster rate than I was gaining them. That’s no way to be.

Since the opt-in problem certainly needs to be solved at some point, and time is just burning while people are not signing up, it probably makes sense to prioritize fixing the opt-in problem first. I had an idea to kill the opt-in popup thing and instead put up a squeeze page for a “learn Angular 2 mini-course” or something. But then something unexpected happened.

I’ve been talking with some training companies about doing some Angular training for them. A couple weeks ago I scheduled a “demo presentation” with a certain training company for June 3rd (today). I figured a good way to prepare would be to go through my presentation with some people the day before. I decided just for shits and giggles to toss up a free webinar in case a couple people might want to sign up. It turned out that 24 people signed up for the webinar, which was way beyond my expectations, especially since my webinar “sales page” was comically bad and lazily done. That also of course means that I added 24 new people to my list. I also learned a lot about my audience from the experience. So I think what I’ll do is perform a webinar, say, every few weeks. I’ll put up a squeeze page for the webinar and collect emails that way, which might fix the opt-in problem. Plus after (or during) the webinar, I can pitch other products to these people.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 4/19/2016

Last time I wrote I said my client had unexpectedly run out of work for me. Fortunately, I did in fact find a new client at MicroConf. I traveled all the way to Vegas only to run into someone I had met in college over ten years ago who now runs a Rails dev agency. What a crazy place the world is.

Another thing that came out of MicroConf was a decision to kill Freelance Launch Kit and focus on as my next product business endeavor. Previously, the only way I could conceive of to monetize was to write an e-book. I talked to Tim Conley at MicroConf and he asked me why I don’t offer courses on the site. I can’t believe I never thought of that.

I shared my traffic figures with a few people (between 4,000 and 5,000 visits a month) and to my surprise, everybody seemed to think that was a lot. I had had no idea if that was a lot or a little.

I also met a couple other people who run technical courses as a business. I’m scheduled to Skype with both of them to compare notes.

My plans for first couple steps were to write two new blog posts to warm my email list back up, then send them another email asking them what they want to learn. I did write those two blog posts and the first one got featured in Ruby Weekly. (My writing has been featured in Ruby Weekly a number of times before as well.)

My next step will be to send that email asking what people want. Before I get too ahead of myself I think I want to find other people who run technical courses and see what they did and in what order. When people ask me for advice I always say, “If you want to be successful at something, find someone who’s already successful at the thing you want to do, and copy what they did.” So I think I’ll take my own advice.

My last product business attempt, Snip, was my sixth attempt. Here goes number seven.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 3/31/2016

I’ve been subcontracting with a certain development agency since late January. On Monday afternoon I found out that they had unexpectedly run out of work for me.

I got to work immediately on Monday on finding my next gig and since then I’ve had four prospect conversations. I have one more call scheduled for tomorrow. Then on Sunday I fly to Vegas for MicroConf, so it will be an interesting challenge to try to continue my client search while also getting the appropriate amount of value out of my MicroConf investment. I’m hoping and expecting MicroConf to be a good place to find potential clients as well.

Freelance Launch Kit is on hold for the time being as I imagine it’s probably wise for me to put all of my focus into finding my next gig. This unexpected loss of work and subsequent scramble to find another client is not doing any favors for the imposter syndrome I was already feeling toward writing the book. I was also banned from /r/freelance recently (banned for 30 days) because someone asked how to build a network as a freelance programmer and my response included a link to my blog post about how to build a network as a freelance programmer. I don’t feel too upset about some overexcited moderator banning me but it definitely hinders my ability to be helpful to the community.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 3/24/2016

A few weeks ago I started listening to the Stacking the Bricks podcast with Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman, the people who run 30×500. I was so fascinated by the first episode that I binge listened to the whole podcast.

A large portion of the episodes were interviews with 30×500 alumni. One guy was a Ruby developer who created something called Ruby Steps. There was another Ruby developer who wrote some Ruby book. I also learned that Brennan Dunn was a 30×500 alumnus, and that the first edition of Double Your Freelancing Rate was only 30 pages.

One particular snippet of one particular episode really stuck with me. Amy said something like, “We don’t allow our students to be ‘creative’. If you’re a Ruby developer, then congratulations, your audience is Ruby developers.” To me that was a real breath of fresh air. When I was trying to sell scheduling software to hair salons I was frustrated by how much I was clearly not cut from the same cloth as the people in my target market. I wasn’t like them and there was no way I could ever be like them. It’s nice to know that it’s okay to choose an audience of peers, and that it’s apparently possible to make a living (or at least make a meaningful amount of extra money) selling something to that audience of peers.

When I heard this, I asked myself, “What am I?” I am, of course, a Ruby developer, although I don’t have much faith that I could come up with a Ruby book or course or anything like that. I could come up with something like that, some course on how to learn Ruby or something like that, but I don’t think I’d be able to believe in it. Why should someone choose my book or course over all the other programming books/courses out there? I can’t think of any good reason. (Maybe Amy and Alex could help me think of something. I do plan to take 30×500 when I can. Enrollment for it has only opened up once since I killed Snip, and at that point I had just bought a house AND quit my job, so I was kinda financially wiped out for a little bit and couldn’t justify spending the $2500 or whatever on 30×500. I hope/plan to be able to afford 30×500 next time enrollment opens up, or at least one of the next times enrollment opens up.)

In addition to a Ruby developer I’m also a freelancer. That’s an area where I can more readily connect the dots as far as how to help people. I’m certainly not the greatest freelancer to ever live but I have had a certain amount of what you might call success. I’ve had a couple six-figure years as a freelancer. I’ve been the main breadwinner for a family of four and never missed a rent/mortgage payment due to not having money. I also know the answer to a number of very basic questions, for example, “How do I get my first freelancing client?”

So I decided to write a book for freelance programmers. A friend of mine suggested that instead of thinking of the book first, I should focus on the audience first. I can decide on the book’s topic after I learn what the audience wants to learn. This approach makes sense to me and so that’s how I started.

As part of my audience-building and research I’ve been spending time on /r/freelance. A good portion of the questions there are things I happen to know something about. For example, what should you do if your client doesn’t pay? Just anecdotally it seems to me like most of the questions are centered around the early stage of a freelancing career.

Based on that input I thought it would be a good idea to write a book for programmers who are either employed right now and thinking about going freelance or in the early stages of their freelancing career. The working title of that book is Freelance Launch Kit.

A concern that I have is that I’m just being a poor man’s Brennan Dunn. The answer that I have to that concern is that Brennan is (as far as I can tell) targeting all freelancers while I’m targeting only programmers, plus I’m only targeting beginners whereas Brennan’s focus is not limited in that way.

Final, unrelated note: MicroConf 2016 is happening week after next and I’m going. I expect that like Double Your Freelancing Conference, MicroConf will be a huge leap forward for my entrepreneurial development.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 2/24/2016

After I shut down Snip in October 2015 I decided to take a break from any kind of product endeavor for a while. Part of my reasoning was that maybe if I stopped trying so hard to make a product business happen, then maybe it would finally actually happen. Not too surprisingly, nothing happened.

Because “don’t try” doesn’t seem like a very good plan, I’ve decided to start trying again, as far as trying to identify a viable idea goes. Unfortunately I have no idea how. I’m familiar with the standard advice on how to do this, which is to just go out and talk to people and try to detect problems that can be solved with software, but so far that hasn’t worked out for me. It’s like looking at one of those Magic Eye things and not being able to see it. You know there’s a picture there, and you know other people have seen it, but you don’t see the picture and you don’t know how to see it.

I’ve been working at this for eight years and I haven’t figured it out. Clearly I’m lacking in character in some way, I just don’t know exactly how, or how to fix it.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 2/16/2016

New client continues to be good.

I had a sales conversation last week with an existing client. Looks like we’ll be doing some more work together soon.

I turned 32 a couple days ago.

A couple months ago someone approached me with a business partnership opportunity that, unlike most partnership “opportunities”, passed muster with me. I learned that the business idea won’t be viable, so we won’t be moving forward with that venture.

Life at the new house continues to be good. I much prefer living in Sand Lake over Walker.

Sorry if this is so terse as to be boring. I decided to try to write this one as fast as I could.