Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

November 2016 Angular on Rails income report

I’m gonna try to bang out this post as quickly as possible.

Income in November was $871. Let’s look at that next to the other months:

– August: $868
– September: $1053
– October: $1580
– November: $871

As you can see, November was the first month where revenue went down instead of up. I believe the main reason for this is that I didn’t really do anything in November to make revenue go up. I didn’t do any launches and I barely communicated with my list at all.

Frankly, I don’t have any plans to necessarily do much in December to make income go up either.

I recently hired a business coach who I think I’ll keep anonymous. He’s not really a coach, just a successful person I know who I believe can help me.

In my first call with this coach who I’ll call “B”, he shared two opinions with me that I found kind of surprising: a) my conversion measurement is woefully inadequate and b) I should get off of Gumroad in order to have a better ability to track sales. Now that I see these things, they’re obvious. But I never would have found them myself. This is the exact reason I wanted to hire a coach and the exact type of outcome I hoped for in our call.

B also suggested that I add a content-specific opt-in to each of my 8 or so most popular blog posts. Right now I’m getting about 40 subscribers a week or 120ish a month. Based on my traffic, B seems to believe that I can and should be getting more like 500 new subscribers a month. That would of course be good.

So my priorities right now are:

1. Get adequate conversion tracking set up
2. Add some content-specific opt-ins to my most popular posts
3. Do a few certain other things to improve my landing pages/sales pages

So I expect revenue in December to be pretty low again, probably even lower than in November. But then I’m probably going to expect January to look more like October or even better.

October 2016 Angular on Rails income report

I decided to do an income report for Angular on Rails for October 2016. I haven’t officially done this before for Angular on Rails. I don’t know if I’ll end up making it a regular thing or not.

In case you’re not familiar, Angular on Rails is a site where I teach Rails developers how to use Angular on top of Ruby on Rails applications. I started the blog in 2014 but didn’t start making serious attempts to monetize it until April 2016, partly because I couldn’t think of a good way how.

In April 2016 I went to MicroConf where some conversations I had made some lightbulbs come on in my head. In June I pre-sold seven copies of Angular for Rails Developers then released the book on August 30th, 2016.

My revenue in those last couple days of August was $868 and in September I made $1053.

On October 25 I released a $199 book + video package which I sold on launch day at a discount of $99 (and, if you had already bought the $39 book, $60). My total revenue in October ended up being $1580.

To sum up the months it has been:

  • August: $868
  • September: $1053 (18% growth over August)
  • October: $1580 (50% growth over September)

My goal for November is $2000 which would be 27% growth over October. I had previously set a goal of $3000 for October which I didn’t hit, but 50% growth is still “better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick”, as my grandpa used to say. I decided to adjust November’s goal to something less ambitious, partially because I don’t plan to launch any new products in November.

I’m not completely sure where I’ll turn my attention next. I like to think about next steps based on the health of the various steps of my funnel. The first funnel step is traffic. I think I’m good on traffic for the time being. Traffic has historically been 5,000-6,000 visits a month. In October it was about 7,900 visits even though I haven’t been doing anything to actively try to improve traffic.

The next step in the funnel is to opt into my email list. My opt-in conversation rate last month was about 22%. That’s pretty good.

There’s also the conversion rate from subscription to purchase. According to Gumroad I made 40 sales in October and according to Drip I got 270 new subscribers. That means about 15% of subscribers went on to buy something. That actually strikes me as pretty good.

A little while ago I read something interesting Pat Flynn wrote. He said if you want to double your sales, double a conversion rate. It seems kind of crazy but it really is that simple. You can double any conversion rate in your funnel and it will result in a doubling of sales. So maybe the question is: out of all the conversion rates in my sales system, which could be increased with the least amount of time and effort? That’s hard to say. 22% and 15% are both pretty good conversion rates. But I guess that’s not to say they couldn’t be improved. It’s hard to imagine doubling them though.

So far I’ve pretty much only talked about sales and marketing. There’s also the necessity of maintaining the product itself. There are some certain aspects of the book that I’m very unhappy about right now. For example, the material covering authentication is incomplete.

And there’s also the consideration of keeping my list warm. I haven’t been emailing my list nearly as much as I should be. And in order to email my list, I need to have something worthwhile to say. Putting together a worthwhile utterance usually takes me a pretty large amount of time since the nature of my material is such that I can’t just spout it off the top of my head like I could with, say, freelancing advice. There’s research involved. So I have to somehow fit that in.

And speaking of freelancing, that’s what takes up most of my time. For a while I was allocating about an hour a day to working on Angular on Rails, although lately I’ve been barraged with client emergencies as well as sales conversations too good to pass up, and both those things have swiped a pretty huge amount of time from my plate. So I have to get my schedule back under control, and once I do I have to fit all this stuff inside an hour a day.

Perhaps I’ll spend, say, three days a week developing my educational material and three days a week on sales and marketing (Monday through Friday plus an hour on Saturday mornings).

It’s interesting how the nature of the challenge has changed over the years. When I first started with attempts at a product business, the challenge was that I had literally no idea what to do at all. Now the challenge is that I think I know exactly what I need to do, I just don’t know the best way to prioritize. Like Dan Sullivan said, “The skills that got you out of Egypt aren’t the same skills that will get you to the promised land.”

What you should do after MicroConf 2016

This is a post written specifically for those who attended MicroConf 2016. If you run a bootstrapped software business and you haven’t been to MicroConf, do yourself a favor and get on the waiting list for 2017.

It’s natural to think of a conference as a series of talks. As you already knew or surely discovered at MicroConf 2016, the most valuable part of any conference is actually not the content of the talks (although that’s great too) but the relationships you form and the conversations you have during the conference.

You spent a not-small amount of time and money to go to MicroConf. So what you should do after the conference is to put in a couple hours of work to hold onto the relationships, which are possibly the most valuable part of your investment. I’ll tell you how I do it.

First, during my conversations with attendees, I make sure not to end the conversation without asking for a card. (Some people think business cards have been made obsolete by phones but that’s very much not true.)

Maybe you didn’t get everyone’s card, or anyone’s card. That’s okay since MicroConf has its own Slack organization. If you remember the names of the people you met, you can look up those people’s email addresses there. From my stack of cards and from the people I look up in Slack comes my list of people with whom to follow up.

For each person, I do three things.

First, I send an email saying it was nice to meet them. I try to include at least one detail about them from our conversation to show them that I care about them and their business.

Second, I add the person to my CRM, along with all the relevant details I can remember about that person, including both business and personal stuff. Hopefully you’re using a CRM too. I can’t think of any situation where running a business and not using a CRM (or something like a CRM) makes any sense.

Lastly, I evaluate the person’s business focus to see if it makes sense for us to schedule a time to talk and learn more about each other. For example, my new friend Melanie runs a design agency. I know a lot of the kind of people who would hire a design agency, and she might know the kind of people who would hire a developer, so I’ll probably invite Melanie to have a Skype so we can learn a little more about each other’s business. A couple other guys do technical education, which is what I want to do, so I’ll probably talk to them about the possibility of a mastermind.

That’s all. It can be surprisingly time-consuming to do this for everyone you’ve met but it’s very much worth it.

If you were at MicroConf 2016 and you want to keep in touch with me (whether we met in person or not), please send me an email at

Driver vs. Passenger Client Engagements

Note: I’ve since decided that I’m not crazy about the terms I came up with in this post and I wrote a new, slightly modified version, which I think is better.

I spent most of 2014 working contracts that were 40 hours a week of billable client work, or some combination of hourly projects that added up to more than 40 hours a week. Most of 2015 was about the same.

I was technically freelancing but I often found myself asking: how is this really different from just having a job?

And I think the answer is that it’s not, at least not in a very meaningful way.

Passenger Engagements

The story of most of my client engagements goes like this: I scan a job board for someone who’s looking for a Ruby on Rails developer. I send them an email, probably with my resume included. The prospect emails me back and set up a time to talk. We talk over Skype and they ask about my skills and experience. If they like me, we work out the details of our arrangement and they give me access to their codebase and issue tracker, and I get started.

This type of client is evaluating me as an individual. They more or less know what they want. I’m signing the contract they have all their contractors sign. I use their technology stack, their way. They communicate their desires to me and I carry out the work. Compensation is based on time and effort.

I call these engagements passenger engagements because they’re driving and I’m coming along for the ride. There’s of course nothing so wrong with this kind of arrangement.

Driver Engagements

There’s another type of engagement that goes like this: I attend a networking meeting, maybe a BNI group. I stand up when it’s my turn to talk and say that I convert tedious and time-consuming Excel-based systems into easy-to-use web applications. A prospect tells me that he uses a lot of Excel, and he’d be curious to hear my thoughts on his situation. We schedule a time to get together, at which point we dig into his situation and see if it matches up with what I do. If it looks like there will be an ROI there, we jointly identify a small initial project to tackle together. The client signs my agreement, gives me a deposit and I get started.

This type of client is evaluating the ROI of a project. They have a high-level business objective but the exact way we get there is not a big concern of theirs. They sign the agreement I have all my clients sign. I use my technology stack, my way. (Maybe I even have someone else do the programming work.) They share their pains with me and I alleviate their pains, my way. Compensation is based on results.

I call these engagements driver engagements because I’m driving and the client is coming along for the ride. Passenger engagements are okay. Driver engagements are awesome.

Driver engagements unlock higher rates

I believe driver engagements are the key, or at least a key, to charging really good rates. In 2014 I tried to raise my rate from $75/hr to $150/hr. I met so much resistance. Eventually I basically gave up on trying to charge $150/hr and did a number of (passenger) engagements at $100/hr. There seems to be some sort of hard psychological wall somewhere between $100/hr and $150/hr where $100/hr is acceptable but $150/hr is shockingly pricey. Frankly, I can understand this, and I don’t blame people for not wanting to pay $150/hr.

Table of differences

Passenger Engagements Driver Engagements
Acquisition method Job boards, referrals Networking events, referrals
Methods used Dictated by client Vendor’s discretion
Work arrangement Usually 40 hours or close Vendor’s discretion
Subcontractable? Almost certainly not Almost always so
Perception of vendor’s role Technician, hired hand Expert and trusted partner
Pricing method Time and effort Results
Pricing anchor Client’s perception of market rates Value of project outcome

I’m shutting down Snip. Here’s why.

About a week ago I made the decision to put a bullet in Snip after almost five years of effort. There wasn’t one big event that caused me to make the decision. It was a number of realizations that built up over time, and then one day a certain customer cancelled and that was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I had had a level of success with a PPC campaign I had started in late spring, but eventually the PPC campaign inexplicably fizzled and most of the customers I “won” via the PPC campaign didn’t actually end up completing their trial periods. The success was mostly an illusion. It was the day that one of these customers cancelled that I started seriously pondering the idea of shutting down the business.

Here are some of the challenges the salon market presents:

  • Unlike developers, designers and other office workers, stylists and salon owners aren’t on the computer all day. They do use smartphones, but not nearly in the same way we use computers. This makes it hard to reach them.
  • Salon owners have a competitive scarcity mindset. They guard their “secrets”. There aren’t local salon owner meetups. Therefore, there’s little opportunity for referrals.
  • Salon owners usually don’t view themselves as business owners. They’re technicians who happen to be in possession of a business. Most of them also seem to have an expense mindset as opposed to an investment mindset, which is of course an obstacle to selling.
  • Stylists and salon owners are very averse to talking with salespeople on the phone. Most of them don’t really seem to use email in my experience, and in fact many of them don’t even HAVE email. Again, hard to reach.
  • I’m not a domain expert in the beauty industry. I don’t want to be, and I’m never going to be. I can’t build an audience of fans.
  • What I already do for money (programming) has nothing to do with the beauty industry. My product doesn’t feed my service business and my service doesn’t feed my product business.
  • Salons open and close like crazy. I lost a customer recently because they just opened their salon and they failed to get it off the ground. High turnover means high churn.

Of course no market is going to be without challenges, but this one seems particularly challenge-laden. I don’t seem to have above-average entrepreneurial aptitude (as I’ve painfully come to realize over the last seven years of failure). I probably shouldn’t be taking a shot at business success with one arm tied behind my back.

I’m going to take another stab at building a successful product business. This next one will be the seventh attempt. Here’s what I’ll do differently:

  • Pick a product that synergizes with what I already do for money, programming
  • Pick a market that spends a lot of time online, searching for solutions to problems
  • Pick a market in which I can build an audience that cares about things I have to say
  • Pick a market that has money and can pay $X00/mo, not $X0/mo
  • Pick a market that has a problem that can be solved with a relatively simple product that won’t take forever to build
  • Detect the demand first, then build the list, then sell the product, then build the product (or something roughly like that)

Or at least I’ll pick an idea that meets most of those criteria.

I’ve already started researching and brainstorming for my next idea. I’m open to any ideas anyone might have. Wish me luck.

The E-Myth Revisited

I read kind of a lot of books. I thought it might be a good idea to jot down some thoughts on each book I’ve read to a) help crystalize any knowledge I might have absorbed from the book and b) share the book and some of its knowledge with the people who read my blog. (Yes, to my continued astonishment, there are people who actually read this blog.)

Today I finished The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. I listeded to the audio version on Audible, which I’m glad I did, because it was read heartfully by the author. I don’t say this too often but this book was a mind-blower and a life-changer for me. I’ll explain why.

I’ll start by explaining what “The E-Myth” is. The E-Myth, as I understand it, is that small businesses are started by entrepreneurs. The truth is that small businesses are started not by entrepreneurs but by “technicians experiencing an entrepreneurial seizure”. Instead of creating a business for himself, the technician creates a job, often a shitty job. I found this insight interesting because I’m a technician and I’ve created a job for myself. I’m mostly doing the technical work of a software engineer rather than the work of an entrepreneur.

Michael Gerber contrasted this job-masquerading-as-a-business picture with that of McDonald’s which apparently calls itself “the most successful small business in the world”. The product McDonald’s sells is not hamburgers and french fries but the unique way it has developed of operating its stores. Because McDonald’s has a system that’s been proven to predictably produce the right results, McDonald’s stores can be operated by teenagers with no work experience.

The author’s suggestion is to apply the franchise model to your small business. He doesn’t mean to literally turn it into a franchise. He just means to turn your business into a prototype of a franchise with a documented system describing how it works. Instead of thinking of yourself as someone who works in the business, think of yourself as a stakeholder outside the business. Of course, there’s work that needs to be done, and early on, the founder will be the only person available to do it. The author says to come up with a complete org chart for your business including all the roles that need to be filled. For me and Ben Franklin Labs, that might include programming, marketing, web design, sales, and accounting, for starters. Then I would assign myself to each individual role and design and document the system that describes that role. After I developed a system for each role that was proven to produce the right result, I could hire someone else to fill that position and I could move onto the next position, and repeat.

There was more to the book that I’m not summarizing here but those are the broad strokes that I remember off the top of my head. This is definitely the kind of book I plan to go back and re-read and study, just like I’ve done with How to Win Friends and Influence People and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

The E-Myth is exciting to me because a) the author recognizes the fact that people like me tend to create jobs for themselves, not real businesses, and b) he describes a path for escaping jobhood and creating a real business, e.g. a business that doesn’t require my constant presence.

I’ve already started with the org chart for both BFL and Snip. Looking forward to seeing where this takes me.

How To Meet Successful, High-Profile People

One of the things I’ve found to be true of all rich, successful people is that they know a lot of people.

How did they get that way?

And more importantly, how can little old me meet all these successful people I want to meet, people who don’t necessarily have any reason to give me the time of day?

These questions have interested me for a long time. I’m kind of a slow learner and so it took me a very very long time, but I’ve finally discovered a technique that works.

First I’ll quickly explain how I found the technique. I knew that the golden rule of networking is to give before you get, but not in all situations do I have something to give. For example, what could I give, say, Richard Branson that’s not already within his easy reach? What can I give to someone who’s “ahead” of me in every way? Nothing, right?

Then one day it dawned on me what I could give. Even if I have nothing else to give someone, I can still give sincere appreciation and a legitimate feeling of usefulness and importance the person. This can take the form of simply asking thoughtful questions, listening with genuine interest, and then repeating from the first step.

So when I wanted to improve my salon scheduling software business by making connections in the beauty industry, I decided to put this idea in action by performing interviews with beauty industry influencers with a strong focus on the other person. What I’ve found is that not only are my interviewees very happy to spend the time, but there’s also a strong sense of mutual goodwill built up by the end of the interview.

And in my case I’m also giving the other person the opportunity to promote his or her business, but I don’t know that that piece of it is super relevant. I’ve also done interviews when there was no economical component to it at all, and it still had the same connecting effect.

So there is my suggestion: if you want to meet successful, high-profile people, one good technique is to interview them.

And by the way, here’s a tactical note: the way I’ve done it in the past is to talk to the person over a Skype video chat and record the session using Ecamm Call Recorder which I then upload to Wistia. Then I have the interview transcribed by Casting Words and put it all up on a blog post.

Two Easy Ways to Raise Your Profile

If you want to raise your profile in any area, an effective way to do that is to assume a position of leadership. People will naturally assume you’re “somebody” in that area because you’re in a leadership position. I’ll describe two ways I know of to do this.

Method 1: Volunteering in an Organization

For a year, I served as President of Michigan’s oldest continuously-chartered Toastmasters club. People seem to be impressed by this credential when I share it with them, but it doesn’t represent a hard-won achievement. There was only one person running against me, and her “campaign speech” was “I don’t want to be President. Vote for Jason instead!”

I recently volunteered to serve on my local Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassador Committee. I’ve only been an active Committee member for about two weeks, but I’m already experiencing access to high-quality business connections I would not have had otherwise. Becoming an Ambassador wasn’t hard. All I did was ask.

In organizations run by volunteers, leadership positions are yours for the asking. Most people don’t want the responsibility. In my experience, just about any position can be yours if you just express interest.

Method 2: Teaching

I’ve been blogging about technical topics for years. When I find the solution to some tricky problem and I’m in the mood to write about it, maybe I’ll put up a blog post. Occasionally other people find certain posts helpful.

In 2014 I created with the intention of becoming the internet’s best resource for issue at the intersection of Ruby on Rails and AngularJS. Whether or not I meet this objective, I can always say I’m the author of, which without my having to say anything else indicates to people that I know my way around those two technologies.

By the way, here’s how I came up with the content for I solved problems as I encountered them, and then I blogged about how I did it. You don’t need years of experience in order to teach something genuinely useful!

You Can Do It

The barrier to entry for teaching is pretty low. But even if you can’t think of something to teach yet, I’d say the barrier to entry for volunteering is even lower. So if you want to raise your profile, there’s a fairly clear and easy path for you to follow.

A rough picture of my marketing system for Ben Franklin Labs

A common problem for freelancers/consultants is the “boom or bust” nature of freelancing. You oscillate between too much work and too little. I believe this is a fixable problem, and I think the answer to this problem is probably a solid marketing system that has been tested and proven to consistently bring in new work.

I think the most ideal possible marketing system is one that somehow operates without any involvement from the business owner. I realize that’s not realistic, but it’s the end of the spectrum toward which I’m always trying to head. The other extreme end of the marketing system spectrum is a “system” that’s nothing but desperate, frenzied cold-calling.

What I do think is realistic is a marketing system that’s comprised of activities and assets where the assets are continually becoming more and more valuable and effective and the activities are continually becoming easier, more enjoyable and less time-intensive. For example, attending a Chamber of Commerce meeting is a marketing activity. When I meet someone, I hand him or her my business card which is a marketing asset. My card may send my new friend to my business’s website which is another marketing asset. The more effective my business card and business website are at getting any particular prospect to know, like and trust me, the less time and effort are needed on my part to achieve the know/like/trust thing.

So activities are gradually replaced by assets. But in the beginning I didn’t really have any marketing assets, so all I could start with was activities. Below is a list of my different marketing tactics which are each a mix of activities and assets. Below is my first-ever attempt to document my marketing system for Ben Franklin Labs, so consider it a first draft. Both the marketing system itself and this written representation of the marketing system have huge room for improvement, but I hope this snapshot of where I stand in October 2014 is somewhat useful/interesting.

Attending networking groups

Number of leads generated from this tactic so far: 5+ (don’t know exactly)
Number of engagements won through this tactic: none yet
Description: I’ve been attending between 0 and 3 Chamber of Commerce events per month since I joined in spring 2014. I’ve also been randomly attending some other events, including a BNI group and a couple BNI-copycat groups. I plan to join the BNI group.
Funnel steps: meet a member, chat about business, follow-up email, one-on-one meeting, then either a) sales meeting(s) then engagement start or b) referral to someone else who has a need.

Attending local tech meetups (sometimes as a presenter, sometimes not)

Number of leads generated from this tactic so far: at least a couple (don’t know exactly)
Number of engagements won through this tactic: 1
Description: I’ve been attending the GrWebDev meetup and the Grand Rapids Ruby Meetup, both somewhat sporadically. I’ve been plugged into this “scene” forever and so I’m pretty well-connected with the people who come to these meetings.
Funnel steps: meet a member, chat about web development, see each other around multiple times, maybe be seen when I’m presenting, get an email saying the person’s company needs a developer and asking about my availability

Attending tech conferences

Number of leads generated from this tactic so far: 1
Number of engagements won through this tactic: 1
Description: Every year since 2012 (so 3 times) I’ve gone to Windy City Rails. Every time I go I make a few more solid connections (and strengthen existing ones) and I also get pushed forward a little as an engineer. I go to WCR because it’s within driving distance. I think I should probably be going to more like 2-3 tech conferences per year rather than just one.
Funnel steps: meet an attendee, chat about web development and probably career, follow-up email, maybe ask the new friend for a referral, maybe receive an inquiry email later down the road

Public technical writing

Number of leads generated from this tactic so far: none yet
Number of engagements won through this tactic: none yet
Description: I’ve been producing technical content for a number of outlets:, and a couple of other business’ sites. is where I’ve put most of my content in 2014. Both AoR and BFL get good organic search traffic (1000+ clicks per month). AoR has gotten more attention, having been featured in Ruby Weekly and JavaScript Weekly. (At least I’m pretty sure it’s been in both. I get the two mixed up. It’s at least been in one multiple times.) I’ve also been in Ruby Weekly and/or JavaScript Weekly for the content I’ve written for other people’s sites. Some of my articles have gotten passed around on Twitter quite a bit, and at least two have reached the first page of Hacker News. I think my biggest couple days ever were about 5000 visits each. Although my writing seems to have gotten a relatively large amount of attention, I haven’t yet gotten a single lead from it. The reason for that could be that I haven’t yet put more than about 30 minutes of effort into trying to build a funnel around my writing.
Funnel steps: visitor reads a few articles over time, sends inquiry about my availability (this funnel has never worked and is probably naive and probably needs some more thinking put behind it)

“Staying in touch”

Number of leads generated from this tactic so far: none yet
Number of engagements won through this tactic: none yet
Description: I’m not sure what a good label for this tactic would be, but every month or so I go through my CRM and reach out to people I haven’t talked to in a while. I might just send a quick email asking how things are going. I might share a resource. I might invite the person to lunch, coffee, or some other kind of in-person meeting.
Funnel steps: I engage with the person however many times, then eventually the person sends me either a referral or asks me him- or herself about a potential project.


Number of leads generated from this tactic so far: can’t remember – I think 3
Number of engagements won through this tactic: 1
Description: Referrals can of course be solicited or unsolicited. Sometimes during my “staying in touch” rounds I ask for referrals. Sometimes people send me referrals out of the blue. My understanding and expectation concerning referrals is that they’ll naturally become more numerous as my list of contacts and list of clients and past clients grows, although it would definitely also be good to put some sort of formal referral system in place.
Funnel steps: I ask for a referral and get one, or a referral comes to me unsolicited.

Talent marketplaces

Number of leads generated from this tactic so far: 10+, don’t know exactly
Number of engagements won through this tactic: 1
Description: I haven’t done a lot of this so far. Talent marketplaces vary widely in quality. What I mean by talent marketplace is something like ODesk (at the shitty end of the spectrum) or AirPair (at the totally awesome end of the spectrum). AirPair has sporadically sent me “expert requests” throughout the year and I’ve done a few mentoring sessions with them. The work is easy and can pay well, although so far it seems like only a good source of supplemental income, a “side dish” as opposed to a “main course”.
Funnel steps: I get an “expert request” email, I respond to it with my pitch and availability, the prospect books a session with me

Engaging with recruiters

Number of leads generated from this tactic so far: dozens, maybe hundreds, mostly low-quality
Number of engagements won through this tactic: 1
Description: I’m constantly getting emails and phone calls from recruiters. Most of these leads are junk. Most of them are for either full-time permanent positions or “staff aug” positions where you’re technically a contractor but you have to commit to 12 months and work in the office (which would usually mean out-of-state relocation), and the only difference between doing that and being an employee is you maybe get paid a little more. And my rate these days is almost always way higher than staffing agencies can afford to pay, so I almost never engage with recruiters. But once in a while it works. Just last week I accepted an offer from a recruiter where all the factors came together in just the right way for it to make sense for all three parties (myself, the staffing agency and the client). This kind of thing is super rare, though.
Funnel steps: recruiter calls and/or emails me, I respond, we have some interviews, we do some negotiation, I get an offer

Job boards

Number of leads generated from this tactic so far: dozens (haven’t kept track because I’m stupid)
Number of engagements won through this tactic: 4
Description: Job boards for me include craigslist,, and this service called Workshop where I get a daily email with a curated list of job board leads. It’s pretty simple: I scan the job boards and send pitches. With 4 engagements won through this tactic it’s been my most “successful” marketing tactic so far, but it’s kind of a lame marketing tactic. It’s time-consuming and the prospects tend to be looking for “commodity developers”, meaning the prospect has a very rigid range of compensation they’re willing to consider. It’s also a 100% “me-chase-them” marketing tactic as opposed to a “they-chase-me” tactic. I intend to eventually outgrow this tactic. The good thing about job boards, though, is that there’s not much system-building necessary in order for it to work. You can just go try to find a client. But this also means there’s more competition from other vendors and more noise on the prospect’s end.
Funnel steps: I send my pitch, prospect responds with questions or to schedule a conversation, we talk, we start the project


Number of leads generated from this tactic so far: a few (don’t know exactly)
Number of engagements won through this tactic: none yet
Description: Every once in a while I’ll search Twitter for “looking for rails”, “looking for angular”, “seeking rails”, etc. Sometimes the tweets that come up are promising, like “Looking for a Rails developer IMMEDIATELY. Email me at”. I’ve generated some promising conversations this way, although no projects won yet. Twitter as a lead source has many of the same problems as job boards, so I plan to also outgrow this tactic eventually.
Funnel steps: I respond to the call for a developer, prospect responds with questions or to schedule a conversation, we talk, we start the project

Email newsletter

Number of leads generated from this tactic so far: none yet
Number of engagements won through this tactic: none yet
Description: I have a list of about 30 or so people who have opted into my newsletter. They’re almost all local, and if I recall correctly they’re mostly business owners. (I should probably have a better handle on who’s on my list.) For a while I was pretty good at sending my newsletter but for the last few months I’ve been totally sucking at it.
Funnel steps: newsletter subscriber receives the newsletter however many times (and maybe responds to questions in the newsletter emails), then sends a referral or inquires about an engagement, either unprompted or as a response to a direct offer or request for a referral

Casual conversations throughout the normal course of life

Number of leads generated from this tactic so far: none that I can recall (at least not in 2014)
Number of engagements won through this tactic: none yet
Description: Zig Ziglar said “always be prospecting”. So I am. I almost always carry at least a couple business cards with me in my wallet, and I meet people in my day-to-day life with surprising frequency whose lives in some way “touch” what I do professionally. I’m very conscious not to go into “sales mode” with people at inappropriate times, but there’s of course a difference between trying to sell to everyone with a pulse and a wallet and simply keeping your eyes open for when legitimate opportunities present themselves.
Funnel steps: meet someone at a party/grocery store/dark alley, talk about something to do with business or computers, get to know each other over time, the person asks me if I’d be available to do a project

How to get recognized as an expert/important person by volunteering

A couple years ago I attended an internet marketing meetup I found on It was a valuable meeting, but the organizer got busy or whatever and the meetup “went dark.”

After the meetup lay dormant for many months I decided to step in, pay the fee and become the group’s new organizer, even though I’m not yet an expert internet marketer (I’m more of a beginner).

Tonight is the first meeting under my new management and I shot off an email to my co-working space’s email list announcing it. A couple hours later a woman walked up to me at the space and expressed a need to improve her nonprofit’s site’s web presence and SEO. This new prospective client now perceives me as an expert (or at least a hub/resource) simply because I stepped up to run this volunteer organization, which is a tiny commitment.

I’ve been paid similar dividends by having successfully run for and served as president of my local Toastmasters International club. The competition for this positions is so scarce that a term as president is almost yours for the asking. Now when I tell people (including prospective clients) that I’m a former president of a Toastmasters club, their estimation of my character gets a little boost, especially if that person is or was a Toastmaster.

I’ve also had the same thing happen by volunteering to help at a weekend code-a-thon to help nonprofits with their technical needs. I met the co-director of a certain nonprofit there, and at the end of the weekend she asked me to help with their website (for pay).

These are just a few examples. If you want to meet more people, get more clients, and/or just be perceived as an important or knowledgeable person, volunteer to run something.