Category Archives: Goals

2018 Review and 2019 Goals and Plans

Over the last several years I’ve made several attempts at building a product business. Here is a mostly-accurate list of what I’ve tried according to my memory:

2008: Lunch Hub, a web app that helps co-workers decide where to go to lunch. Revenue: $0

2009: “Owl Draw You Anything”, a site where people submit drawing ideas and vote for existing ideas with money. Revenue: $0

2010(?): ToastySites, a website engine for Toastmasters clubs. No club ever used it. Revenue: $0

2010: Food Near You, a site to help people find locally-grown produce and locally-raised meats. Revenue: $0

Early 2011 to late 2015: Snip, a web app for hair salon scheduling. Revenue: about $5,000 total, IIRC. I believe my peak revenue was about $430/mo. This business was doomed from the start and I shut it down after five hard years. You can read about the shutdown here.

Summer 2016 to summer 2017: Angular on Rails, a website to teach developers how to use Angular and Rails together. I actually registered in 2014 (IIRC) but didn’t start trying to turn it into a business until 2016, at which point I started selling an ebook and some videos. Revenue: about $10,000. Around July 2017 I decided to move on from Angular on Rails. It was good practice but I couldn’t see myself working on it for 10+ years. I write about my reasoning here.

Late summer (August?) 2017: Landing Page Breakdowns, a site where I offer, as you might imagine, landing page breakdowns. The idea was I’d post landing page breakdowns of my own and offer paid breakdowns as a service, kind of like but with a different focus. I quickly realized that I knew very little about landing page optimization and that by venturing into this territory I was throwing away the advantage of my 15+ years of experience in software development. Revenue: $0

Also late summer (September?) 2017: AWS for Rails Developers, a site similar to Angular for Rails developers, just AWS instead of Rails. I think this endeavor was smarter than Landing Page Breakdowns because it utilized some of my existing strengths. It didn’t feel like I was getting a lot of traction though. I think the final nail in the coffin was when I realized that practically the only thing I could help with is initial AWS + Rails setup, meaning I’d be attracting people at the very start of building a business at the time when they didn’t have any money. Later, when they had money, they would have harder AWS + Rails problems that I wouldn’t have any idea how to solve. So I decided to move on. (Incidentally, it turns out I was wrong that my site would only attract larval-stage business. More on this shortly.) Revenue: $0

November 2017: Six Figure Coding, a cringeworthily-stupidly-named site purporting to teach developers how to get their first job or get a better job. I went so far as to write an ebook under this venture and sell it. I don’t want to talk about it though. Revenue: ~$150

So that’s about nine product business attempts in about nine years, four of those attempts in 2017 alone. 2017 was a period of great flailing and vexation for me product-wise. I was almost 10 years into my effort to build a product business and basically back at square one, or so I felt.

2018 is when things finally started to come together. I started yet another product business attempt around March of 2018 and I’ve stuck with it ever since.

My new product venture

2018 is when I started to seriously blur the lines between product entrepreneurship and freelancing. The product-related work I do feeds into my freelancing and vice versa.

This product venture actually isn’t a single thing with a name. It’s more of a professional focus. The subject of that focus is Ruby on Rails testing. If there’s any one umbrella I can put all this stuff under, it’s, where all my Rails testing material goes.

Since the time that I first started dipping my toe into the waters of teaching Rails testing I have:

You can imagine how all these things could both benefit product sales and consulting sales. My podcast can help me sell my book. It can also generate consulting leads for me (which it has). Someone buys my book might later want to buy my course or hire me for a consulting project.

My grand total revenue for in 2018 was $400. That came from 8 sales, $50, of a two-day live workshop I put on in October. While not very directly lucrative, the workshop was good practice and a good demonstration that people will buy things from me related to Rails testing.

Not long after the workshop I decided to hit pause on anything to do with a workshop or course and work on a book instead. I’m not sure that I’m able to explain exactly why. Part of it is that I myself am more of a “book guy” than a “course guy” and I feel like I’ll have an easier time writing a book than I would creating a course. Also part of it is that I feel like writing a book will bring me a greater level of perceived authority than a course would. I’m envisioning the release of my book to go in at least three phases:

  1. Launch a very short and inexpensive initial version of the book in ebook form
  2. Beef up the book, add various packages at different prices and launch again
  3. Assuming I’ve gotten traction with the book, try to find a publisher willing to take up the book and publish it under their name, bringing me maximum perceived authority

I’m kind of playing the long game with this venture. I don’t expect huge direct revenue from the book, at least not anytime soon. I want to use the book to help build my audience and then, once I’ve grown a big audience, sell them other stuff and earn higher revenues than I would have if I had not taken the intermediary step of having written a book first.

2018’s freelancing/consulting work

2018 was probably my simplest year in a long time for freelance work. It’s been the first year in many years that I haven’t had an unexpected gap in income due to the vagaries of freelancing.

From the beginning of the year to the end of September, I worked for a west-coast startup. (I actually started working for them in late summer 2017.)

From the beginning of October to the end of the year, I worked for a different client.

In May/June/July of 2018, I taught 6 weeks of classes for the same client I taught classes for in 2017. We’re planning to work together again in 2019.

All three of these clients were great clients. When I worked for the startup it was basically a job, but it was just about the best job I could imagine at the time. The only challenge was that I ended up working close to Pacific hours a lot of the time and I live in Eastern time. Eventually I found the time difference so disruptive to my lifestyle that I decided to leave.

I was working on finding a regular full-time (remote) W2 job to transition to. Around this time someone found one of my posts at (which by that time was about a year old and woefully out of date) and hired me for a project based on that. So I guess some of my entrepreneurial flailing paid off. While the application I’m building is new, the business is actually well-established. When I abandoned I wasn’t thinking about the case of an established business adding a new application. This client engagement has been by far my favorite one ever.

2019 goals and plans

Unlike the previous ten or so years, in 2019 I won’t be striving to get away from anything. I find my work situation great the way it is. As long as I don’t screw anything up and unless something unexpectedly changes drastically in a negative way, 2019 will be what I consider a success.

My product goals for 2019 are to a) get my book published by a real publisher and b) to make a total of $50K in product sales. I also have consulting income goals but I don’t want to share those here.

My overall strategy is actually pretty unchanged from what it has been since late summer 2017: keep a “day job” so I can have a steady income, while on the side building up a product business until I can be 100% supported by product income. What has changed is that now I’m actually enjoying the day job part and I’m in no particular hurry to escape it. That doesn’t mean I intend to slow down though. In fact, the traction I’ve gotten with the Rails testing stuff has encouraged me to speed up. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 1/31/2016

New Client

I realized today that a couple weeks ago I achieved a goal I had been trying to achieve since about four and a half years ago. I’ve grown and improved so much in that time that the achievement of the goal just seemed like such a natural event in the course of going about my life that it didn’t even register as something worth thinking about until weeks after it had happened.

My goal was to get a client that would give me a steady stream of work into the indefinite future and would also be okay with something less than 40 hours a week. Naively, I didn’t even set this as a goal when I first started freelancing. I knew so little that I just assumed that I could arrange such a thing for myself without any special work required to make it happen. Boy, was I wrong. Not only did it not happen effortlessly, it took four and a half years to do it!

The exact form that the fulfillment of my goal has taken is that I’m doing Ruby on Rails work for an agency in NYC that has an explicit 35ish-hour work week for its full-time employees, and is totally okay with 25 hours a week for its contractors. They share my opinion that it’s actually counterproductive for someone to work too many hours in a week, and that you reach the “too many hours” mark well before 40 hours. This is an opinion that’s presently not very widely held and even fairly controversial. I find this silly because to me it’s so obviously true. Anyway, I’m very grateful to have finally found a client who shares my belief and to have a relationship with them. For anyone wanting to duplicate my experience, I wish I had some secret to share, but I don’t. My best advice is to market yourself aggressively and have as many conversations with as many prospective clients as you can. This will increase your “luck surface area” and increase the chances that among the prospects you talk with lies a prospect who is good with a work week of fewer than 40 hours. (And of course, if the client is a guest client, your weekly workload is entirely up to you.)

I’m still contracting on the side with the client who I was working for as a W2 employer for a number of months. That’s going fine.

Destination vs. journey

I’ve been thinking more lately about the destination vs. journey. I’m realizing more and more that there’s no such thing as “arrival”. You never “make it” and then feel all set. Therefore it’s vitally important for me not to subordinate the quality of my day to day life to some expected future result. So I’m thinking about how I can be more present and alive right now rather than to have complete focus on the future. The future, of course, never gets here. It’s always the present, and if you’re always wishing you were in the future and not living in the present, you’re never really fully living. That’s a sad way for a person to live a life, although I think it’s probably the way a lot of people operate. I certainly spent years operating this way. To an extent I still do, although I’ve been dialing it down for some time now.

I’ve also been thinking lately that maybe there’s no meaning or purpose in anything except the meaning or purpose you give it. I used to evaluate every activity based on whether it was a means to a worthy end. For example, reading a book about how to retire at age 30 is a means to a worthy end, but washing the dishes isn’t, because washing the dishes doesn’t really “move you forward” at all. But now, as I think about how I might spend my time after I free myself of the need to work for money, I’m wondering if there’s much of a significant difference between painting a painting and doing the dishes. As long as I can learn to enjoy the activities I’m performing, does it really matter what the activity is? And if I can learn how to enjoy any activity, do I really have to wait to unlock some achievement before I feel like I can start enjoying life in general? These thoughts are synthesized from the ideas I took from two books I recently read, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The former is full of voodoo but has some messages worth hearing, and the latter is just pure fucking gold and I can’t wait to read it again.

2016 goals

Here, in no particular order, are my 2016 goals. I might change the list later but most of these I’m pretty sure about.

  • Visit Nigeria again
  • Take family on at least one out-of-state vacation
  • Get at least 5 Excel automation clients
  • Earn at least 175k
  • Give away at least 10% of income
  • Visit Chicago at least 4 times (for networking)
  • Start a new product business
  • Read at least 50 books
  • Be able to do 10 pull ups and 15 chin ups
  • Get down to 165 pounds
  • Teach Elliott how to read
  • Record at least 5 complete songs
  • Play at least one show

I’m at kind of a “brainstorming” phase with 2016 goals. Some of these, like “start a new product business” could benefit from some quantification and dates.

How to be a good mentee

  • Make the mentorship convenient for the mentor. As the mentee, you should handle scheduling any meetings. A good way to schedule meetings is not to ask “What time works for you?” but to ask “Would any of the following times work?” and then list the times. When you meet, come prepared with specific things to talk about.
  • Show the mentor you’re taking his or her advice. Busy, successful people are especially sensitive to wasting time. Nobody wants to invest time in giving advice to a loser who’s not actually going to put the advice to use. So when a mentor gives you advice, take the advice, and let the mentor know you did, and what happened as a result.
  • Have clear goals and a clear agenda which you share with your mentor. The purpose of a mentor, in my mind, is to help you achieve some particular thing. It will help the mentor help you if he or she knows what you’re trying to accomplish. So decide what your goals are and share those goals with your mentor.

Side note: when seeking out a mentor, don’t limit yourself. I’ve been surprised by some of the famous/wealthy/busy people who have agreed to mentor me.

Accomplishments of 2014

I spend a lot of time, probably too much time, thinking about the things I don’t have yet or are missing from the picture. I’d like to take a little time to list some things I did accomplish in the last 12 months.


  • Took my wife on a vacation to Arizona and Vegas
  • Took my oldest son (age 4) on a father-son visit to a dinosaur museum and car museum
  • Got up to being able to do 50 push-ups at a time
  • Went from not being able to do a pull-up to being able to do 7


  • Raised Snip’s revenue to about $430/mo
  • Got Snip back to the first page of search results for “hair salon software”
  • Got 3 out-of-state Snip customers (the first 3 out-of-staters)
  • Got Snip’s online sales funnel to work for the first time ever
  • Improved engagement on the Snip site by adding Olark chat and “view demo” opt-in (thanks to a mentor’s suggestion)
  • Reached the milestone of 10 Snip customers
  • Straightened out Ben Franklin Labs’ positioning and USP, which as of January was wildly off course and ineffective
  • Earned 5 figures in a month for the first time ever (the source was consulting)
  • Raised my consulting rate from $X to $2X
  • Hired a design subcontractor for the first time ever
  • Hired programming subcontractors for the first time ever
  • Hired personal/admin assistants for the first time ever
  • Launched the somewhat popular educational site
  • Landed a gig working with one of the most well-known people in the Rails world
  • Moved into my own office, not a co-working space

I have a long list of goals for 2015 but I want to focus here on accomplishments. For the 3 or 4 people who read my blog, please feel free to share any accomplishments of yours in the comments.

How October 2014 is different than October 2013

  • I’m working at a rate that’s 2X what I had worked for most of 2013, sometimes 3X
  • I have 9 Snip customers instead of the 3 or 4 I had in October 2013
  • Snip is profitable
  • I have the satisfaction of knowing I can earn a whole year’s “real” income while self-employed
  • The Snip website has a couple opt-in forms and Olark chat, which are collecting leads, which didn’t exist in 2013
  • I have a dedicated co-working space that’s a lot better than my previous co-working membership
  • I have a bunch of business relationships that I didn’t have before

How I’d like October 2015 to be different from October 2014

  • Working a max of 20 hours per week on non-Snip stuff
  • At least 50 Snip customers

Snip in 2014

I’m changing the way I work on Snip

I’ve come to realize over the last couple months that my work on Snip has been kind of sporadic and disorganized ever since the beginning (January 2011), and that I should really be getting more systematic. Sporadic was fine when I was just building the product, but I think activities like lead generation and following up need to be systematic in order to really be effective.

Another thing I want to change is how I balance working on Snip with doing client work, since I still need an income. (By the way, I have plenty of work as of this writing but I’m always open to talking about new projects. I mainly do Ruby on Rails programming. Email me.) I pretended for a long time that I could work one day a week on Snip and spend the other four days of the week doing client work, but that turned out not to be workable in reality. I would always spend five days a week on client work, and then maybe I would work on Snip for a few minutes here and there throughout the week, which was stupid.

My plan now is to instead allocate a small slice of each workday to Snip, like about an hour. That hour itself will be divided two ways: 1) make 10 phone calls, either cold calls or calls to warm leads if I have them and 2) stuff that can be done on the computer, including working on the online part of the selling system (my website, external links, etc.) or product work, depending on what the priority is (usually the selling system). So far this has worked out better than the one-day-a-week plan, since it’s a lot easier to carve out an hour of each day than a day out of each week.

I’m getting more systematic with marketing

In addition to getting more systematic overall, I’m planning specifically to get more systematic with marketing. In the past my Snip work would go like this: work on the product for a while, go out and canvass (canvassing ≈ door-to-door sales) for a while and then quit, do cold calls for a while and then quit, work on link building for a while and then quit, go back to canvassing and then quit, etc. I think what I need to do is consistently do a little bit of all these things in parallel. I read a Jay Conrad Levinson quote recently that said something like, “Mediocre marketing with commitment works a lot better than really good marketing without commitment.” I can’t claim to be anything more than a mediocre (at best) marketer but I can apply some commitment to what I’m doing. Here are the tactics I plan to use somewhat in parallel:

  • PPC. I haven’t done this much before. I started a Google Adwords campaign on January 1st.
  • SEO. I’ve been working on this for a while and I’m apparently better at it that most of my competitors because I’m ranking above most of them.
  • Phone calls. This includes both cold calls and calls to warm leads. Haven’t seriously tried this as a marketing tactic much until now.
  • Canvassing. This is how I’ve gotten most of my customers so far. It’s effective but slow, time-consuming and maybe kind of expensive.
  • Offline, direct response marketing. I’m talking about sales letters and trade magazine ads. I haven’t done this at all before.
  • Email marketing. I haven’t done this at all before, either!

As you can see, there’s a LOT I haven’t done yet marketing-wise. So far it’s been almost 100% canvassing.

So rather than switching sporadically from marketing tactic to marketing tactic like before, my plan is to move each one of these things forward a little bit every week. I’m not sure exactly how I’ll accomplish that. So far I’ve just been doing phone calls and Google AdWords and I haven’t been able to manage doing anything more than that. I think I might want to start by getting the AdWords and phone calls totally on lock, and then once I’ve done those consistently for a while, add another marketing tactic, get that one totally down, etc. If I try to change my habits too much at once, I bet it would be like a crazy diet where I stick with it for a few weeks and then totally flake because my self-discipline isn’t there yet.

Goals for 2014

My main Snip goal for 2014 is to get one new customer a month every month of the year. I chose this goal rather than just “12 new customers in 2014” because the latter would let me get away with getting all 12 customers in December, leaving me off the hook for the first 11 months of the year. I want a goal I can measure myself against at relatively short intervals.

(Side note: since Snip has a 30-day trial, there’s a one-month delay between the time a salon gets on board and the time they submit their first payment. So the goal will technically be for me to get one new salon fully onboarded each month, since so far no one has gotten fully onboarded and then bailed – once they go in, they’re in for good. I’ll define “fully onboarded” as, let’s say, having 50 appointments in the system.)

By the way, you might be thinking my goal is wimpy, and I wouldn’t argue with you. But I think my goal for 2013 was “100 new customers” or something like that, which I fell short of by at least 96 customers. If I add 12 new customers to the 4 I have now, and the customers on average choose the $50/mo plan, that would be 16 * 50 = $800 in monthly recurring revenue, which for me would be fuuuucking awesome. I really hope to do better than one new customer per month, but I want to be at least halfway realistic. I can always adjust the goal later if I start killing it mid-year.

Also, this isn’t really a goal, but I plan to make a weekly “accountability” post for Snip where I report on how I did that week in terms of both effort and results. To my great surprise people apparently give a shit about my little business and for some reason enjoy reading what I write here. So if for some fucked up reason you find my writing interesting, there’s more of that to come!

Tell me your goals

If you have goals for 2014, I want to hear them. Share a link to your product or blog or Twitter or whatever. I wish you the best of luck.