Categories
Thoughts

July 2020

It’s hard to sum up this past month. On one hand there was a lot of good progress made in terms of sales, but I kind of crashed and burned during the last two weeks and got very little done. I want to be real about my journey and burning out is about as real as it gets.

If you recall from my last update, I mentioned that I would be taking a 3 month break from contract work. That started on the 20th of July. I set out with the best of intentions to immediately start diving in to my side projects full time. The first day went well, but on the second day, my energy was all tapped out. I quickly realised that I actually need to take some real time away from the computer.

We’re currently renovating our house and so I spent the last two weeks of July mostly doing house things. Picking out finishes, figuring out room layouts and planning a wine cellar. This was well needed time off.

As mentioned sales were good in July, even without putting in much effort at all. The numbers this month are better than last month for one sole reason – It was the first month of running WP Discussion Board (a business I purchased in June) for a full month.

Let’s look at each business I run through Sftwr and then break down the numbers.

WP Discussion Board

I’m becoming more and more convinced that the easiest way to get in to the business of software is through micro acquisitions. I tweeted a thread about how I did this with WP Discussion Board last month. Yes, it may not have the romanticism of building something from scratch, but the numbers don’t care about romanticism. If you want to be almost sure of success, I highly recommend you look in to buying someones already proven software business.

That said, WP Discussion Board did as well as expected over the past month, making more than I needed it to make for it to pay itself back on a 2x multiple. I didn’t do any updates, tweak any marketing and all the traffic the site receives is organic or referrals.

What I’m most excited about though is the the plugin has 2k free users, where the most successful competitor has 300k free users. In that there lies 2 opportunities:

  • Converting the 2k users to paid users.
  • Convincing the 298k users (actually thousands more than 298k due to other competitors in the market) who are using a competitors plugin to use mine. The market is large and my plugin has no where near touched it’s potential.

Right now, my plugin is very badly marketed. The SEO is average and there is a TON of potential in email marketing. I’ll be exploring these ideas in August to grow the numbers.

One last point, the plugin is currently only monetised by PayPal as I have been awaiting my US entity for this business to be setup. That took longer than expected due to Covid-19, but it’s finally up and running and I’m just awaiting my US business bank account. I’ve seen a number of abandoned carts on the site that point to being abandoned due to only accepting Paypal. I’m hoping when I enable Stripe this month it will boost sales too.

WP Geeks

I’m still currently only selling one plugin on WP Geeks. It was a plugin I built in a very short period of time based on some SEO traffic I was receiving for a certain search term. I tweeted about this strategy last month and the tweet did really well.

This plugin continued to make sales in July which I am happy about and there was no support effort needed last month which I’m very pleased with.

I’ve got 2 plugins that are about 75% of the way built that can be added to WP Geeks, but right now I’m still trying to figure out if I want to continue to release these smaller plugins on the site or focus entirely on WP Discussion Board due to the potential there. I’ve also thought about bringing on a development partner here to work together on the plugins and share the revenue.

Watchtower

Right now I’m unsure of what to do with Watchtower. Since launching this project, I’ve done no marketing at all other than a few tweets. I initially racked up a few users, but last month, no new users signed up.

I’m sure if I started promoting it I would start getting new users, but I don’t feel like the value add is strong enough right now for users to upgrade to a Pro plan. So it would require some development work to take further and that is time I would rather spend on something like WP Discussion Board which has proven potential.

So my options are:

  1. Leave it as is and let it tick along until I decide what to do
  2. Shut it down, out of sight and out of mind
  3. Try sell it to someone who would be interested in taking the idea further and putting some marketing in to it

I’m leaning towards option 1 right now.

Numbers

WP Discussion Board

  • New sales: 7
  • Subscription renewals: 8
  • Total revenue: $697

WP Geeks

  • Sales: 2
  • Total revenue: $58

Watchtower

  • Subscription renewals: 1
  • Total revenue: $9

Total revenue for July 2020: $764

Onwards to August! I’m excited about doubling down on marketing this month and seeing what kind of an effect it has on sales.

Categories
Open

June 2020

For many years I’ve read and been inspired by open startups and creators who share their results and numbers with the world. So when I started Sftwr, my intention has always been to be extremely transparent with the business and share wins, losses and the in-betweens.

I’m excited that June was the first month where I started bringing in income through the various different businesses I’ve embarked on over the last ~2 months. Even though the amount that I made is in some ways a little embarrassing to report on, it’s progress none-the-less! And I’m proud of that.

I haven’t quite yet figured out a good format for this update, but overtime I’m sure it’ll settle in to a familiar pattern. And soon, I’ll be aggregating the live stats from my various businesses to a single page on this website – so look out for that. In the meantime, let’s start with wins from the past month.

Wins

WooCommerce Plugins

A big part of my strategy going forward is a focus on WooCommerce as a platform as I believe there is enormous potential in the WooCommerce space. So in June I started testing the waters on WP Geeks. I built a plugin called Hide Prices for WooCommerce and within a week, I made a sale from some content marketing efforts. I made another sale a week after that first sale.

In July, I plan on building out more plugins and building a content marketing strategy around them to drive traffic and sales.

Discussion Board

Another key strategy of Sftwr is to acquire existing WordPress plugin businesses and integrate them in to the Sftwr portfolio. After some initial due diligence, negotiation and an offer in May, I closed on DiscussionBoard.pro around the middle of June.

The plugin has a decent base of existing users and consistent sales over the last year. The reason I bought it was for the upside potential of creating a number of add-ons for the plugin and improving the content marketing efforts around the brand to drive better sales. I can see the plugin becoming one of the best discussion board plugins for WordPress in the future with some really useful add-ons.

The first thing I did was rebrand the plugin as WPDiscussionBoard.com and refresh the website. I’ll write more about this in the future.

Also, I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but Ryan Kulp’s Micro Acquisitions course (aff.) was instrumental in pulling off this purchase. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get in to purchasing online businesses.

Opportunities for improvements

Not everything went well this past month. Let’s look at the areas where I struggled.

Watchtower

After and initial really good launch of Watchtower, I was unable to dedicate a lot of effort to it this month due to closing on WP Discussion Board and all the work that was needed to get it transferred (remember, I’m still working full time too, so I have very limited time available).

In fact I didn’t get any new sign ups this month, after close to 20 in the first month. The reason? No one knows about the plugin. I’ve done no marketing. The only way people would find it right now if that happen to find it on the last page of a search for “monitoring” in the WordPress.org plugin repository.

That said, at the end of May I added performance reporting for Web Vitals and I’m excited about the future possibilities for it. I’m also currently looking at niching down the plugin to focus on just WooCommerce stores. I’ll spend a good amount of time on Watchtower in July.

Tiredness

During the second half of June I spent almost no time on side projects (other than the WP Discussion Board transfer). I’ve been putting a big effort in to my “real” work that ran in to numerous late evenings in June and I felt really tired towards the end of June.

The upside here is that after 5 years of full time contracting work, I’m taking a 3 month break. Around the middle of July, I will be not taking on any new projects. My intention is to unwind a bit, but also work on my passion projects – in other words, Sftwr. It’ll open my schedule up in the mornings to work on my businesses and in the evenings, rest and spend more important time with my family. I’m looking forward to it!

Numbers

Now the part I’m sure you’re most curious to see. Let’s get in to the numbers. In this update I’m just going to give total revenue. I’ll break it down in future updates, once I’ve got the live stats pulling in to this website.

  • June Product Revenue: $224
  • June Unique Visits (across all businesses): 1396

Overall, I’m happy with the progress I made in June. I’m looking forward to continuing in July and hopefully building on the numbers above. I’ve got some exciting plans for both this site and the Sftwr businesses. Subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date.

Follow along as I build a software business

Categories
Thoughts

The 2 week SAAS MVP

I posted this on the IndieHackers community about a month ago, but felt it’s worth a re-post here.

It’s a story of how I built the Watchtower MVP in 2 weeks. Even though I’m about to reposition Watchtower as an ecommerce monitoring service, I learnt a ton by building fast, launching quickly and having real users use the product.


I wanted to tell my story of how I spent the past 2 weeks building and launching a MVP SAAS product.

I’ve had a goal to build a SAAS product for a very long time. I’ve spent 2-3 years thinking about it, coming up with ideas, over-analysing and reading about other peoples successes, thinking to myself “one day I’ll do that”.

Two weeks ago, I realised that if I was ever going to make this dream happen, I ironically needed to stop dreaming and start doing! Enough messing around, it was go time. It was a Friday and I said to myself, this weekend I am going to build and launch a SAAS product.

Well, come Sunday I had made a lot of progress but I had a little way still to go. The product I was building was essentially 3 different pieces as it includes a WordPress plugin, membership website and backend service worker. I was still fired up to get the product finished though.

In the past, it’s usually at this point that I’d give up and I knew it. It would be a convenient time to use my 3 kids or full time work as an excuse to not continue. But I pushed through and constantly reminded myself of the end goal.

The next week and a bit after the initial build weekend was hard. I worked a number of late nights and had to try balance family life, work and finishing the product.

I’m proud to say that yesterday I launched Watchtower. It’s not perfect and there are a few kinks but it’s live and people are signing up.

To throw a cherry on top, I got my first paying customer!

My hope is that if you’re reading this and are in the same position as I was 2 weeks ago, that you find motivation in this and build your product. And so my question to you is this, what are you building and launching this coming weekend?

Follow along as I build a software business

Categories
Thoughts

Fresh start

I just pulled the trigger on deleting all of my previous blog posts on this site. Sure, I have a backup of them in case I ever need to reference them again in the future, but to the outside world, they’re gone. 404, no redirect.

I’ve been blogging on this website for around 16 very inconsistent years. And naturally, overtime my interests have swayed. I’ve written about all sorts of things. I started off writing about my entrepreneurial pursuits in the early days (2004-2010) but then over time it migrated to writing a lot about development and technical topics.

And this actually isn’t the first time I’ve reset the content on this blog. When I started writing about more technical topics, I removed all the business content that I had previously written about.

Well guess what, we’ve come full circle folks 😉

To explain why, I need to go back about a few months.

I written a lot in the past about feeling burnt out and it’s something I’ve struggled with a lot. And over the past year I’ve been feeling the burnout quite badly again. This time though, I sought to figure out why I was constantly feeling at breaking point.

And the answer wasn’t really a simple one. It was multiple factors and probably a number of other things I wasn’t and am still not even aware of. But one thing that was nagging on me BIG time, was that I was feeling unaccomplished. I’ve had ambitions since I was really young and over the past few years I’ve been doing nothing to chase those dreams and ambitions.

And so, fast forward to around March of this year, I reached a point where I had to talk seriously to myself and ask, what do I want? Do I want to give my dreams a shot or do I want to continue on the same path I’ve been walking?

I recently made a video about this on my YouTube channel, check it out.

It was clear to me that it was go time. And when I made the decision consiously to pursue my dreams, it was crazy to see how things just started to align and fall in place for me.

I’ll tell some of the stories in future posts, but there were two very specific pieces of content that I stumbled upon that were major drivers and inspiration to spur me on. They were…

The podcast episode above really got me fired up and I resonated so much with what Andrew is building and living with Tiny. And then on a more practical “how to” sense, the Micro Acquisitions course blew my mind. I’ve got a story to tell here about this, but it’s still unfolding and I’ll share it when the time is right.

And so I started my current side hustle. It’s called Sftwr, and we build and buy software businesses. I’ve got some really exciting things to share about Sftwr and what I’m working on! In due time of course.

That brings me back to today. The blog posts are gone because in a lot of ways, I’ve started fresh. Fresh in mindset, business and goals for my life. The previous posts were not an accurate reflection of who I want to be and what I want to achieve. So I scrapped them.

I’m excited to share this journey I’m on. I’ve got tons to share. Things I’m creating, open numbers from my projects I’m building, software businesses I’m buying, how I’m balancing “real work” and a side hustle and more.

If that sounds interesting to you, subscribe to my newsletter to follow my journey. Also, I scrapped my old email list of ~500 people, so if you were on that, you won’t be on the new list. You’ll need to subscribe again.

Follow along as I build a software business