Monthly Archives: January 2021

📻 — Your First Online Business: Create, Launch, Sell, and Grow an Information Product — Part 4 of 4

Good morning yeniverse!

What a week! Per usual, a few good reads to share with your community and/or read yourself over a hot cup of coffee (or tea… if that’s your thing):

  1. Chinese tech. FB’s newsletter product?! Software opinions change.
  2. The best story you’ve read on Twitter this week. Maybe, this month.
  3. Top 100 most popular social platforms. Social media = bad mental health.
  4. Discord bans WallStreetBets. This seriously changes my perspective of this product and how they are treating “the little guys”. Pomp goes off.
  5. Launching is a process, not an event! Bootstrapped to $10k MRR.
  6. Guardian’s style guide. 100k+ icons. A bottle of wine lasts how long?
  7. Big dino! Shift toward remote is here and it’s not going anyway.
  8. Keith Gill — the man with no plan. Thoughts on a16z media.

To infinity & community,

— john

It’s been a pleasure to share a few of my thoughts over the last few days and I have loved answering follow-ups via email — keep them coming!

Over the last few days we’ve walked through the basics / fundamentals of building a simple online business, specifically highlighting the process of creating an info product and learning to appreciate the launch / selling process.

Today, we’re concluding the 4-part series with a small chat about taking all of this to the next level…

… if that’s what you really want. The choice is, of course, yours!

Change is Inevitable, Growth is Optional.

John C. Maxwell — a famous pastor, public speaker, author, and motivational coach once said that it’s important to understand the difference between change and growth; namely, that the latter is something that you must intentionally choose to pursue, explore, and work at while the former just happens, regardless of whether you are intentional or not.

In other words, growth is “optional” because each of us must, at some point in a new project’s life, determine whether we want to take the momentum that we’ve built and continue to invest our time, money, and resources into it so that it can evolve to the “next level”; how one does this is by taking the data that we’ve gathered, collected, unpacked, and analyzed, and then intentionally deciding to grow it into a larger business.

Intentionality is the unlock. It’s what separates the night and weekend hobbyist from the serious business builder.

(One of the best ways to make this decision and determination is to talk it over with folks that you trust and respect; you know, a great community!)

Now, that’s not to say that the former — the casual hobbyist — is in any way, shape, or form bad; it’s just that a real business needs to be taken really seriously (duh!) and it’s important that we can ask ourselves these important questions and then answer them honestly.

To beat a very dead horse (again), hopefully you’ve got the right community and folks around you as you walk through the business-building process!

This, like most things in life, is a process! It is unlikely that you’ll be able to answer that question immediately or without wrestling with it for a bit. Like another pastor that spoke great wisdom into my life:

Pay attention to the tension.

Andy Stanley

If there’s a “tension” in your heart, mind, and soul about whether or not you should take your small (info) product to the next level then don’t ignore it and instead talk about it openly, honestly, and candidly. Get feedback on your own heart’s condition about these important topics.

You see, building a business is exciting and also a lot of responsibility; the timing might not be the best and that’s entirely okay. And, if we were to be even more honest with ourselves, it’s quite possible that you began the process without thinking much of the downstream possibilities! That’s how some of the best products and businesses get built, by the way: By accident!

It’s fun to know that many of the very famous and very popular and very successful products that we all use today essentially started out as “informational” products! And that’s our story here at YEN too.

Growth is something that you must decide not just one time but many times, over and over and over again — there’s no end to it! Or, at least until you decide to (intentionally) stop growing.

You see, without being intentional about growth, change is just simply that: Change. And that can leave us feeling disillusioned, unsettled, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled. Being intentional with our time is how we maximize our lives and how I believe we are the most fulfilled and most happy.

So… Wait… Is That It?

Yes. And… no.

Once you’ve built your informational product and you’ve begun to build an audience and a growing community around it and you’ve test-driven different pricing models, variations, and platforms to sell it on…

… you’re going to have a much broader and more educated perspective on the world than when you started! It is quite possible (and typical) that folks who walk through this process and playbook end up having even more ideas than when they first started!

I bet that’s happened to you too. Now, your mind and spirit are even more woke to the possibility of what you can build, sell, and profit from using the same sequence of workflows, playbooks, and systems! There is truly no ceiling just as there is no spoon.

The question is not of how you might go about it as you’ve proven — especially to yourself! — that you can ship a virtual product online, connect with strangers on the internet, and convince them to give you money for something you’ve constructed! Way to go! Give yourself a pat on the back!

No; the question is whether you’ll build your next products and financial experiments in a way that aligns and/or converges around consistent themes or a (growing) brand or whether they’ll stay independent and isolated projects.

The former equals a growing business (empire) while the latter could eventually do that but will be more of a federated constellation of products that may or may not have interdependencies or shared resources.

But the choice is yours.

There’s really no right nor wrong way to build an online business; trust me, I’ve built a bunch of them and I’ve tried a ton of different models and methods, bootstrapped as well as venture-funded.

What I’ve discovered is this: They are only as satisfying and meaningful as you allow them to be. Sometimes (most times?) we don’t give ourselves permission to be as successful as we can be and that’s something that I think we should try to correct, right?

Let’s go! This is the year my friends!!

I understand that this may feel “insufficient” as a place to end in the 4-part series but you have to remember that the entire series is a looping cycle — a process — not a starting point with a discrete ending point!

You’ll continue to loop through the process of building, getting feedback from your community, refining you’re offering, and optimizing the price. You’ll accelerate your “rate of learning” if you spend more time with other folks who are doing the same things that you’re doing.

This is why I stress the importance of community before everything else. You can either do this alone or you can do it with others — that’s really the choice that you’re trying to fundamentally make:

And, at this point, you already know what the better option truly is.

And I’m here to help and so is our very cool (and growing!) YENIVERSE. In fact, we’re still looking for a few more folks to help us test-drive our new community-building platform.

You can learn more about what we’re looking for via this issue here.

📻 — Your First Online Business: Create, Launch, Sell, and Grow an Information Product — Part 3 of 4

Good morning yeniverse!

It’s been a busy few days, hasn’t it? Yikes! So many interesting things to read, check-out, and review!

  1. WallStreetBets 101… just in case you missed the madness.
  2. Community governance models. AI-powered seo copy? Gleek!
  3. Content strategy in 2 hours. TinyJar. Sell sound directly. Remove back.
  4. MailChimp for video. Make money helping others. Convert images.
  5. 3D pack of avatars. Paywall for email. Predictive scoring for Hubspot.
  6. DevOps via Slack. Drag, drop for email design. Mock magic.

To infinity & community,

— john

The first 2 parts of the series — creating the content for your first digital product (and business!) and building a launch system — aren’t difficult to understand but they will take time for you to digest and then execute against!

Thankfully, I don’t plan on making any of this content “paid” or “premium” — my promise from the very beginning was to deliver exceptional value, daily, and make it forever-free. Consequently, save these posts for later or when you have a bit more time to test-drive them!

Of course, email me at any time; I’m here to help!

Selling is a Process, Not an Event.

If I sound like a broken record then I have no apologies for that because these principles create practices that actually work! Just like how a “product launch” is a process and not a singular, isolated event, selling is the exact same thing! It’s a process, a system of discovery, iteration, and refinement.

In other words, selling is, for the Full Stack Founder, an iterative process where you test-drive technology solutions and pricing over a set period of calculable time.

What this looks like — actual repeatable behavior — might easily include the following tactics:

  1. Identify tools (preferably free ones) that can help you sell your product.
  2. Test-drive each tool to learn how they operate and perform.
  3. Launch full / partial versions of the product with different price points.
  4. Asking community and customers for candid feedback.

This is then repeated as you deliver the value of your info product — because it’s a system! — until you have maximized your revenue generation with the right price and the right version of the product.

Most new creators, entrepreneurs, and startup founders forget to experiment and iterate on their pricing as much as they do their product!

And, of course, you should always be thinking about raising prices on your product, up until the point that it hurts… and then go some more.

So, let’s try one tool together that’s free to use and fairly simple to get started with, shall we? For this experiment we’ll use Gumroad, a creator tool that I’ve used for nearly 8 years!

The product continues to get better every year and I’ve even used it this month for a few live workshops that we’ve hosted for the #yeniverse!

Needless to say, I’m a fan.

So, let’s sign-up and then add our first info product! Thankfully, Gumroad has one of the more intuitive interfaces and workflows out there!

It’s a good one to use for your first attempt and then experiment with other platforms as you have time and as you learn more about your customers, community, and the value that you’re attempting to deliver.

As you can see, you can follow their on-screen instructions. Choose a simple price to start and don’t worry as you’ll be able to edit all of this later before you hit the “Publish” button and go live!

This interface can look a little daunting at first, but, take your time and start filling out each section. Some folks have used this process to help them even outline or think through their (info) product as well!

Hey, whatever works!

Here’s what a “built out” product might look like:

You can see this product live here.

Remember, you’re not going to get your copy or graphics or pricing right the first time! This is a process just like launching is a process and you’re going to have to do this over and over and over again.

The more you get used this this as a system / process the better! What this also means is that you can give yourself a break and release the “pressure” to have a “perfect” marketing page or even product!

🛑 — The goal is to build trust with a growing audience and community. Never forget that this is what you’re really trying to do!

You’ll attach / upload your .pdf information product into the “Content” section above and you’ll be good to go! Choose a “short URL” and then publish it!

And, if you do, please let me know or tweet @ me! I’d love to check it out!!

And now, the next step after “Going Live” is to:

  1. Go share it with your existing audience and community. See if you can get some sales! If not, that’s okay. Zero sales isn’t a bad thing; it’s simply data that you can use to optimize and refine your info product’s offering! Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up!
  2. Get feedback from early customers. Ask rigorous, penetrating, honest questions. Don’t let them escape by giving you “cheap” answers. Be confident in what you’re fundamentally trying to sell but be humble because you know that you haven’t figured out the best version for your business and them, as a customer and community member.
  3. Try new platforms (as you have time) and experiment with pricing. Try selling it for 200% next month and see how that works. Rinse, repeat. Sometimes you might just have better success with a different technology platform and solution; for no obvious or apparent reason! This is important because some folks try one platform and then stop. Don’t be like htem!
  4. Never stop communicating to your audience and community. Remember to build in the open! This is the magic of how you ultimately grow something into a much bigger project and into a profitable business!

That’s about it! Now, the final step will be how to “Grow” beyond the initial creation, launching, and selling process…

… in other words, it’s time to think a bit bigger than just an “info” product.

Chat tomorrow!

📻 — Your First Online Business: Create, Launch, Sell, and Grow an Information Product — Part 2 of 4

Good morning yeniverse!

Before we jump into the larger issue… as you know I do… here are a few good reads from around the internet! Share them with friends and/or your communities! Some fascinating stuff.

  1. Gaming saves Microsoft. Gamestop memes. Limit via Bitcoin.
  2. Pomp and President of Shopify talk… shop. LOL. Steve and Bill.
  3. Dashboards are cool. Super-enhance photos! TikTok strategies.
  4. Instant endpoints. Chamath for CA Gov? What. Rosie talks Dev Love.
  5. A reporter job for the creator economy. Directly engage with your chef.
  6. Typeform’s new community, powered by Insided. Sell more, anywhere.
  7. Growth-hacking notion template. $4 pie. An automated life. Piku.

To infinity & community,

— john

If you’ve gotten through the first part of this 4-part series, then, you’re in fantastic shape because you’ve already done most of the heavy lifting!

I mean, let’s just be clear: You can’t sell, grow, or profit from an “info” product if you don’t have one to offer to your waiting audience, readers, customers, and growing community!

And, of course, we must be thinking about (and executing against growth goals for) community from the very beginning — without a community, what would you really have?

Launching is a Process, Not an Event.

Today’s focus — “launching” — is less of an actual “task” and more of a shift in mindset; in other words, we’re going to reframe your thinking about “the launch” and introduce a few new habits and behaviors that can assist you in getting ready for the 3rd step in the overall process: Selling!

🛑 — Here’s the sauce: Just like the larger SYSTEM of creating and selling an informational product, launching is also a system, a recurring process and not a singular event.

The goal is to launch continually as you work through the product-market fit process. This is an important point that will take some time to both get used to psychologically and then for you to mirror your behavior to this new truth!

So, at a high-level, what does “launching continually” look like? It means “building in the open” which means sharing your progress with your growing audience and community as often as you comfortably can:

“Building in the open” is a practice of sharing what you know as often and as candidly as you feel comfortable.

In this way, you’re “launching” your product continually and the benefits of this couldn’t be more powerful:

  1. You’ll grow an audience and community around the (future) product!
  2. You’ll build a pre-sale list / early-customer acquisition channel!
  3. You’ll build a better product because you’ll get feedback from the very people that want to buy your product!

Here’s the point: It is vastly better — and infinitely more strategic — to “sell” to an existing audience and community who really likes you and who feels like they’ve been part of the process and conversation.

If you need a really good review of two indie hackers and creators who have done this multiple times, go read Arvid and Rob‘s #deepdive:

Or, if you want another great example, Monica Lent‘s strategy of building in the open has resulted in some very decent results — in fact, she goes as far to say that you should try to “become friends” with your users while you’re building your products!

So, how does one begin the process of “building in the open” now that you’ve got the right mindset about it? It’s all about communication.

In fact, that’s the first step of building a “launch system” that will work:

  1. Determine your communication vectors. As I shared in my overview of how we’re building our CommSaaS, we intentionally decided to communicate to our audience and community via 4 tools: Twitter, YouTube, the Email Newsletter, and our Indie Hackers blog.
  2. Create a consistent schedule of publishing content into the channels that you’ve chosen. I recommend that you be as intentional with this schedule (and metrics / goals) as you might with a brand new email newsletter.

Whatever you choose in Steps 1 and 2 above make sure that you are — above everything else — consistent. Why? Because consistency creates the most important currency that you’re really building: Trust.

If there’s one “system” that I’ve built that grounds and powers my entire professional (and personal) life it’s this: I try to be the person that does what he says he is going to do. And I wake up each and every day making sure that I’m that type of person for my team, my friends, my family, and my YENIVERSE.

I mean, let’s not pull any punches: Why would anyone read anything that I write or even listen to me if I wasn’t also a trustworthy person?

This is what the process of launching is all about: Building a foundation of trust between you and your growing audience and community that will eventually and inevitably birth a ton of value for everyone.

The way that you actually build that foundation is by involving them in the larger dialogue and conversation about the process and product — how you do that is through the creation of content — like a tweet or blog post or YouTube video or TikTok or newsletter issue / update — that invites folks into that type of encounter.

✅ — Don’t miss this: I’m using this playbook right now via YEN.FM! This email newsletter is one of my most important communication channels between me (and my team) and our growing audience and community.

You see, building in the open gives me the opportunity to provide incredible value while also sharing updates and progress on my own startup and business which will help build momentum towards an eventual product offering and/or sale.

And I do it 5 days a week! And, it’s working. Now, ask yourself this important and penetrating question: Why aren’t you building in the open, really?

So, let’s quickly recap:

  1. “Launching” a product on the internet is a process, not an event.
  2. Building in the open is one of the best ways to create a scalable and repeatable system for building trust around your (info) product.
  3. Build trust by creating content consistently (scheduling really does work!) that invites and allows for intentional dialogue and conversation.
  4. Look for easy and obvious ways to provide immense value to your audience and community members.

Finally, if I were to be overly-prescriptive, I’d suggest seriously taking a look at building a system around these tools:

  1. Twitter — It just works.
  2. Blog — Use Indie Hackers as a blog for free! I use it!
  3. Newsletter — I have a larger guide here and even more examples in a larger B2B SaaS project here.

The reason that I’d start with these is because they have great short and long-term utility and are simple, efficient, and free ways to test-drive content generation which is how you start the conversations that build community.

🛑 — Community is the Operating System: If this wasn’t obvious, the process / system of launching is fundamentally about community; it’s about building important connections with other humans on the internet.

Finally, let me be clear: I’m not dogmatic about any particular communication tool, device, or social network and/or platform! All of them can be used for mass-effect. You should always use what you feel comfortable with and feel that you can commit to doing for a serious and considerable amount of time.

Naturally, experiment all-the-things! Entirely okay to test-drive and bail on the ones that you don’t like but once you find the channels that work, dig in deep and try to be amazing at them.

Remember: You don’t have to be amazing at all of them! Just the ones that you’ve intentionally chosen as conversation-points and conversation starters in your overall process of launching…

… over and over and over again.

I’m here to help! Hit me up at any time and let’s chat about what you’re building this year!