Episode 151 | Getting Paid Before You Build, Dealing with Entrpreneurial Angst, Figuring Out How Much to Charge and More Listener Questions

Show Notes


[00:00] Mike: You know, I’m really irritated. Miley Cyrus goes out there and gets naked and licks a hammer and it’s called art. I do it and I get kicked out of home depot.

[00:08] Rob: This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 151.

[00:11] Music

[00:19] Rob: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.

[00:27] Mike: And I’m Mike.

[00:29] Rob: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. So aside from twerking, what is the word this week sir?

[00:35] Mike: I want to send out a thank you to Julian Corlett for putting up a website based on episode 147. Instead of giving you guys the long URL for it, we decided to just register foundertest.com. So if you go to foundertest.com it will take you over to the site. It’s a really good – I guess a summary of that episode. It takes you through all the different questions that you can answer and basically gives you a score at the end as to how well prepared you are to meet the challenges of starting your own business.

[01:01] Rob: Very nice. So last week I spoke about that I was going to be sitting with a glass of bourbon waiting for the Drip early results to come in, the trial conversions and things did in fact go well. I’m quite pleased with it. So Drip is now in the low four figures of revenue so that’s a good milestone to cross over from three to four. Then I think we’ll be doing another launch similarly. I say a launch, it’s basically an email to another small group within the email list.

[01:27] I originally planned to do 10% or 20% of the list basically send them an email and then send to the other 80% to 90% but given all the work that it took to do that first small chunk, I think I’m just going to kind of break it down into small pieces because since our on boarding is pretty intensive, I just can’t imagine trying to handle eight or nine times the load that we handled to get everybody up to speed.

[01:51] And so in order to not sacrifice people’s early user experience with Drip, kind of take it as it comes and then it will be nice because MicroConf Europe is in two weeks and so I’ll get another group in and before that, probably try to get someone in mid to late October once I feel like we really have it down.

[02:07] Mike: Very cool. I’ve got all the new UI code that we’ve been working on for Audit Shark out live. There’s a bug that’s in there right now that we know about that is not displaying the instructions for fixing problems that it finds and that’s just a problem with the angular js. It strips out all the HTML tags that we basically put in there used in mark down language and angular just strips it out just more for safety considerations than anything else. So we have to figure out a way to either put them back or to strip out that piece a bit.

[02:38] But the other thing that I’ve done is remember how you’ve been asking me if there were any other pieces that are essentially preventing people from moving forward and actually paying for it. And I’ve asked those questions. Right now I’m just waiting for the feedback from them to see where things stand right now with this new code in place is what they’re looking for or if it’s not and we’ve got more work to do.

[02:58] Rob: Very nice. So if I recall you had two things left to get done before you felt like you could start charging. One was the new UI, and you’re saying that’s live and the other is remediation and you said you guys just found a bug that you’re technologists, I’m sure you’ll figure that out in the next week here. Once remediation is done though that’s kind of where you think the line in the sand is drawn but I guess you’re going to wait to hear back. You’ve already asked the question and you’re waiting to hear back if that is in fact the line at which people will start paying.

[03:26] Mike: Yeah. I asked if that was the line and if it’s not then they’ll let me know. But I truly believe that it is and even without it showing some of that stuff right there, I can hack in a little bit. It just won’t look as pretty. It will still give them the information. It just couldn’t probably look a little bit better. That’s a fix. It can be put in on the next day or two so I’m not real worried about that. But really it’s just a matter of getting their feedback and I’m going to start putting more people onto the system regardless of what they say and start getting more than just a few people’s feedback on that.

[03:54] Rob: Yeah. I definitely think that will be helpful. I’ve noticed that the more folks that I get using Drip, the more data points I have and it’s hard to make decisions when you only have 5 or 10 people using your app because everybody’s just kind of all over the place and their specific needs come at you and you feel those are the most important things to do. But when you have 100 or 1,000 people using it, it’s actually easier right? There’s more data coming at you but it’s easier to pick out the things that are most critical and that you should tackle next.

[04:23] So I ran across a really interesting study. It was actually emailed to me by Ruben Gomez in bidsketch and the studies from totango.com and it has something to do with whether you should ask for credit card upfront. And we’ve talked about that time several times on the podcast and so we will link this up in the show notes but it basically supports the stands we’ve taken on the podcast of when in doubt, ask for credit card.

[04:46] But if you have a higher touch sales process and you have people in place, you have the labor force there to make phone calls or to actually close sales, then you can think about not asking for credit card and you will close more people if you’re doing it right. So that was the results of the study but it was nice to see it point out in numbers and totango just did a really good job of putting the study together. What else is going on with you?

[05:10] Mike: Well I bought a Nexus 7. It’s based on the Google android OS and it’s just a seven inch tablet.

[05:16] Rob: So what do you think about android versus IOS?

[05:18] Mike: I feel like it’s harder to find things in the android store and I’ve only used it for a day and a half so I probably don’t have a good basis for saying that just yet. But it feels like it’s a little bit more difficult to find apps that are like business related. It feels like the android ecosystem is trying to push pretty much anything at me like saying go over here for movies, go here for music and here for apps, here for games. And I’m not really interested in most of that other stuff. It’s just having to navigate around in the android store.

[05:58] Part of the reason I bought the Nexus though is because I’ve started to realize in some ways my knowledge of technology is starting to become a little bit obsolete because technology’s just kind of progressing so fast and I really haven’t taken the time to stop and update my skills or familiarize myself with different ecosystems and operating systems in quite some time.

[06:21] So I figured it would be a nice idea to kind of sit back and go through android a little bit because I don’t have an android phone. I’ve got an iPhone. I’ve got iPads and I got a Mac book pro and I also do a lot of stuff on the window side. And android is really just not something that I’ve delve into so I thought it would be a good idea to kind of invest in myself a little bit.

[06:38] Rob: Very nice. Yeah, I’m also taking a tack with that since Drip is written in Rubyonrails I’m actually going through one month rails which we mentioned a few episodes ago, about half way through that course, it’s been good so far. And I also have been working with Git in GitHub. Learning a lot there, just trying to get up to speed so that I know enough to be dangerous and make some tiny changes to Drip now.

[07:00] And again since it is technology that I have never developed in full time, the ruby on the rails syntax makes sense. It’s easy enough to learn now but it’s kind of the larger paradigms I think that are hard to learn when it’s not something you’re doing 30 or 40 hours a week.

[07:16] Mike: I think that learning that stuff is just it’s not just a matter of being comfortable with it but it’s also the matter of being able to make technology decisions for your business moving forward and that’s really the reason why I picked up the Nexus. I know that I think in a month or so there’s rumors that the new iPads are going to be coming out and I’ll probably pick one up then at that point just because the iPad that I have now is from several years ago. It’s the iPad version one. I haven’t bought a new one since then because it’s done everything that I needed it to do.

[07:45] But just from a standpoint of familiarizing myself with different technologies, that’s where I see it as kind of a necessity. Like I’ve said, I’ve looked at some of my skills and I feel they’re becoming a little bit on the obsolete side because I just don’t know enough about these other things to make decisions.

[08:02] Rob: Sure. And that happens fast. So our podcast is now inside an interesting app. It’s an IOS app called Swell and it’s basically Pandora for talk radio, that’s their tag line. So you have to apply to become part of it as a podcaster but as a listener you can just download it for free in the app store. So I’ve heard about it on this week in startups so I emailed them and they let us in which is cool.

[08:27] I’ve been using Swell for a few days and it is pretty good. It starts to hone in on your taste. I wish it had more podcasts. There’s a lot of NPR and like ABC news audio and BBC and stuff so it is definitely more geared towards talk radio at this point. I think they’re trying to keep the quality high. But if they make it a better discovery engine for podcasts, I would absolutely be listening to that a lot because frankly I seek out new podcast and if they do in fact crack this, make it the Pandora for podcasts instead of just for talk radio.

[08:59] Mike: Hey we’ve got another thank you from Joseph Blackman who says hey, I’ve been a listener for over a year and I’m thankful for the breadth and depth of your knowledge. I don’t code. I don’t have a Saas app and I don’t have a startup. I just like the core values and thought processes that you two have. I bought a business in the east bay area because I don’t have any cool ideas of a startup but I know once I get into the corridor it will start to flow. Thanks for being yourselves. Don’t change. Don’t conform. Joseph.

[09:22] So thanks Joseph. It’s really great to hear when people quit their jobs and kind of go down the road of being a bootstrapper.

[09:28] Rob: Yeah. On that note we should add him to the success stories page on the website.

[09:32] Music

[09:35] So today we’re going to be diving into a number of theirs listener voicemails, listener questions, some just listener comments helping other folks out who have written in the past. So we have some good stuff. We’re going to be talking about getting paid before you build a product, dealing with entrepreneurial angst, figuring out how much to charge and a few other things. So let’s kick it off on voicemail to comment on Mike’s recent explanation of Audit Shark.

[09:57] Voicemail from Dave:  Hey guys! This is Dave from Ohio calling. Listen. Love the most recent episode. Mike, hats off to you. Hope you are feeling better. It takes a lot of courage to come out and talk about that on the podcast. And certainly hope you’re feeling better. Don’t worry about the Nay Sayers. Screw those guys. Second thing, I really loved the most recent episode because I really have a great idea now of what AuditShark does. I was in that camp of not knowing exactly what it did. It really really helped to understand all that work. And Rob would love to hear the exact same detailed kind of talk about Drip as well. So, listen love the podcast. Guys take care. See ya. Bye-Bye.

[10:30] Rob: Thanks Dave for the voicemail and certainly for the encouragement. I’m glad we did that explanation of AuditShark because I got a couple other comments that said it really enlightened them and gave them a better idea of the problem, the pain point that AuditShark is going after.

[10:43] So Dave asked basically what is Drip and I kind of have it boiled down to just maybe 60 seconds. In essence, so Drip is an email marketing app. It’s the easiest way to capture drive by website visitors and engage with them using an email mini course. So most of us know we should be engaging with prospects via email but it’s time intensive to do that. So Drip’s single purpose, the sole reason that I came up with the idea and then wanted to build this is to fix that time issue with setting up an email mini course and capturing email addresses on your site.

[11:16] So it goes all the way from capturing emails to helping you create a mini course and then to tracking your trial and purchase conversions from the mini course. It’s basically three steps. The first is you install one snippet of java script code into the footer of your website and then you have an email capture form that appears on every page of your site. So you don’t have to modify any code and you can go into the Drip web app and you can modify that headline, moving forward in the description and we’re going to be adding the ability to split test that form against itself. And you can go to hittail.com and you’ll see it in the lower right that’s an example. You can also go to planscope.io and getambassador.com to get an idea of it.

[11:51] So the next step, after you’re capturing emails into Drip is we offer what I think is the fastest way to get an email mini course live. We literally spent weeks building and honing and making it simpler and simpler and I think we have the simplest email sequence or auto responder management flow. So basically creating an auto responder is very simple and I’ve used mailchimp, I’ve used Aweber campaign monitor and I like to say we’ve turned auto responders into a first class citizen instead it being just a bolted on piece like it is with the other providers.

[12:25] So the kicker is so yeah, we’ve given you a tool but now we’ve put something on your to-do list. It’s to put together a five day email course. So for free originally I was going to charge for this but I figured out it’s just to our benefit to do it for free so no charge to people signing up. We will compile a five day email mini course for you if you have some existing content that we can pull from. So if you have five blog posts or an eBook or something we can grab, we have templates that we just put them into. Basically the end goal is to increase your conversions right? Either to trials or buyers, that Drip should pay for itself every month. And so we track those as well.

[13:01] So you can see if someone originally hit your site from say a Google search, searching for particular keyword, then went through your email sequence, clicked on a link and email number five and then converted. That’s another piece of function I haven’t been able to get out of any other – all my analytics tied together, I still can’t see that. And that’s what Drip has given me. It’s given me insight into hittail’s flow.

[13:24] And then yeah, the last point is we do offer split testing within email sequences which is not something that I’ve seen in any other product. So the most common question after I kind of – that’s the pitch right? And the most common question I get is should Drip replace something like mailchimp or does it add on? And it can do both. We have broadcast emails. We have all the basic functionally with something like mailchimp but we also integrate with mailchimp in case you want to – if you’re really invested in mailchimp or Aweber, sales force or something else. We have an integration where we push every Drip subscriber to your either system. Mailchimp’s done and then we’re working on Aweber and sales force and they should be done in the next couple of weeks.

[14:00] Mike: When I got started with Drip, it was very easy to set up an email campaign where if I want to be able to teach somebody and get them on a mailing list, it allows them to do that very quickly and it automatically builds all the codes to put that widget on my site to capture that information. So that’s not something I’ve seen from other email marketing tools that are out there. And then in addition, the sequencing that is in getdrip is I would say superior to a lot of the other things that I’ve seen out there. Not to say there aren’t things that are comparable but it was just very, very easy, very intuitive to get in, get started to do it and I wasn’t even asking for any help.

[14:34] Rob: Nice. So yeah, it’s at getdrip.com it’s just a landing page right now but we are letting people in slowly like I talked about earlier in the episode. Next we have a voicemail that’s about getting paid upfront before building your app and it actually refers back to comments we made a couple episodes ago.

[14:52] Voicemail 2: Hey guys! Love the show. At the end of episode 147 you answered a question about a listener who wanted to know about getting money upfront before a product was built. Your answer did a great job of explaining the options. And your thoughts on the viability of that technique but I would like to see you spin that in a different way. Maybe more in the way that this guy actually asked the question which was what he heard a lot at MicoConf. That means people were really a proponent of that technique. And also if it’s a needed avenue if you need the development money upfront in order to get the product created. And you really feel like it’s the best way to go. What are some of the things to consider as you actually enter into that strategy? Anyway, love the show. Looking forward to the next couple episodes. Have a great day. Bye-Bye.

[15:37] Mike: I think that’s a great question there. From my standpoint, what you’re really trying to do is you’re just trying to validate that people actually are willing to pay for it. When you ask your friends or your peers whether something’s a good idea, nobody wants to hurt your feelings. So they will probably agree with you in many cases when if you were some random person off the street, they may very well disagree with you.

[15:58] And when you’re talking to those types of people that you do have that relationship with, asking them for money is essentially that dividing line. It’s the red line where the rubber meets the road where they’re going to say is this something that I would actually pay for versus something that I just say hey, I think that’s a great idea. And oh yeah, I think you could definitely charge and make money for it.

[16:19] But if they’re not willing to put their money where their mouth is, that’s where it becomes different. I think that’s in many cases the dividing line between when you’re talking to people that you know versus you don’t know as to whether or not it’s a good idea. If you’re talking to just random people and they’re telling you that it’s a good idea and they would pay for it, then you can take them – I’ll say a little bit more face value because they’re not so invested in a friendship relationship with you of any kind that they’re going to say things that will in some ways appease you. And you don’t have that level of investment with people that you’ve just met I’ll say.

[16:50] The second piece of it is whether or not you want to ask for money when you’re trying to fund a product. I think that one’s a little bit harder for me to answer because I’ve never gone down that road. I would have to say that if you absolutely need some level of money to make it work because you need to invest in tools or what have you, I would be doubly sure that what you’re doing is actually going to be received by the market and there are people willing to pay for it and then if you can fund it through your own personal finances.

[17:18] Because really what you’re doing is you’re investing in your own future whether it’s tools or training or infrastructure what have you, those things are an investment of the future and it’s going to be difficult to get to where you want to go if you’re always looking at things as if they were expenses rather than investments.

[17:37] Rob: First comment that Dave made was about a lot of people mentioning about MicroConf, if I recall, only one person mentioned it and then some other people referred back to it. So I don’t take it as something that’s like super popular or that a lot of people are doing. I know Nathan Barry has done it. He’s the only one that I know who’s done this in recent memory and actually had success with it and got I think he had 1,000 in presales or 1,500. It wasn’t a huge amount. It wasn’t enough to fund the development of it for sure.

[18:02] The question that I have about is because I’ve never done this and I don’t plan to do it. I have some reservations about it. I think we mentioned that. But I’m not even sure it’s legal to take money that far in advance when you haven’t even built anything. I know it’s not legal to take money if you don’t have a physical product to send someone. Do you know if it’s even legal to do it if you haven’t built software?

[18:19] Mike: I don’t know if it’s legal but I’ve done it.

[18:21] Rob: Okay. Well, there you go.

[18:24] Mike: I mean it was for my alteria’s training product. I put it out there, had people – they were able to pay for it, they were willing to pay for it and people were actually making payments and then after they made the payment I had to go and refund their money because I didn’t actually had a product. But it was just because I wouldn’t to put that hard line in front of them to say will you cross this line? And if so, what is the bend for that?

[18:43] Rob: Got it. So that’s a good point. You took the money but then you refunded it right away and that’s different than what – Dave’s talking about doing it in order to fund the product so that you would actually be keeping it. I don’t think that’s legal. I’ve never heard anyone do it to fund a company. The other thing is it could get complicated. Let me give you an example. We started building Drip last December and I had emailed folks in like October, November and said here’s the basic idea of it. Would you pay X dollars a month for it and I gave them a specific price and some people said yes, some people said no.

[19:13] The people who said yes I said okay, I understand it has to have value for but I am going to hold you to that. I wanted them to make a commitment. And that’s the key thing you’re trying to get here is an actual commitment for someone to buy it when it does come out. I felt like since I knew these people, some of them anyway, that their commitment was worthwhile. And if I had taken money at that point for the first month or the first six months worth of the service, it would’ve kind of a crazy ride because I expected it to be done in 3 to 4 months, that was the original development cycle and here we are 10 or 11 months later and the product is just about to launch.

[19:45] I mean we do have paying users at this point so I guess early access would’ve gotten it a few months ago but bottom-line is if you take money from someone then you are really on the hook for something very quickly. Like you can’t say alright I’ll be back in a year, give me your first six months of payments. You need to turn something out quickly. So you’d have to have a pretty small product or be pretty sure about your development cycle.

[20:08] Again, I tend to be a little more risk averse than some people. Some people put $20,000 on credit cards and I won’t do that. And this is also an approach. I don’t think there’s as much value in it as some people might think. It might sound great to get this money upfront and be able to pay for it but I have I serious reservations until I see someone pull it off and pull it off well. I also think just doing it on a landing page which is how I’ve seen it done leaves money on the table. I think that you will get more people to buy if you just collect emails and you actually build a product that you have to show to them and then they can decide whether to buy it or not.

[20:37] If you force them to pay five months before the product’s done, you’re going to get less money upfront during your launch. I don’t know if that still answers the question. Thanks Dave for calling in and getting us to discuss it again.

[20:48] Mike: I think the real point is just getting that firm commitment. And when you ask them for money it doesn’t mean that you take the money. It just means that you’re asking them for money. That’s the very subtle difference I think that most people are kind of skipping over in their minds like oh you’re asking for money so you’re taking the money. It’s like no, I’m asking for money and you’re just trying to get that extra level of commitment.

[21:06] Rob: So our next email is actually a comment from MicroConf attendee Tim Kohl. He says hi Mike and Rob. I was catching up on old episodes of your show today and heard your listener Scott Underwood in episode 147. He described how he was contemplating doing a consulting engagement as basically a product development exercise. I actually did the exact same thing last December so thought I’d share my experience.

[21:29] Tim basically goes on to say that he found a company that approached him to make basically a plug-in and it didn’t have the money to pay his full consulting rates so he says so what I did was charge him 25% of my normal hourly rates with the understanding that I’d be building a mini product that I could resell at my leisure. I made sure to bill in my normal way with an invoice at the end of the month listing the full hour rate and then adding a clear 75% discount at the end.

[21:54] This way the client perceived a tremendous value in the work but didn’t have to pay more than they could afford. It had the added bonus of controlling scope while the discounted hourly rate wasn’t huge, it was still large enough to discourage scope creep and motivate the client not to want to add every little custom feature that wouldn’t necessarily make sense to have it when I resold it. The development portion worked beautifully and all told it took only 50 hours to build and I now have a super niche product for which there’s a real need ad no competitors. Mostly everything I developed is easily applicable to other businesses also in his line of work.

[22:28] So that part was a resounding success. But here’s where I messed up. I figured I’d need to resell the solution to 10 people to break even on the 75% hourly rate discount. And if I only count development time then that turns out to be accurate. But I didn’t allow for any time to actually make sales because users in this market are relatively on sophisticated lot. So they’re very hard to find on the internet and it sounds like it’s just much more of a high touch sales process.

[22:51] I spent almost as much time/money in gathering a list of a few hundred phone numbers and having an assistant prequalified leads as I did developing the software itself and now actually making those sales is held up on me finding the time to make those few hundred phone calls. Anyway if you’d like to forward my contact info to Scott feel free. I’d be happy to talk to him if he hasn’t already pulled the trigger. All the best.

[23:11] Rob: So thanks very much Tim for writing and definitely enlightening. I like the way Tim handled that. I also think a difference is Tim’s product only took he said about 50 hours of development where Scott’s if I recall it’s a Saas app and I imagined it’s several hundred hours worth. Our next email is from a listener in southern Indiana and he’s emailing us about dealing with the angst of being an entrepreneur with a good full time gig and he’s wondering how to get out of the 9 to 5 mindset and frankly whether he should.

[23:40] So he says hi Mike and Rob. I’m 33 years old, married, one kid and a nice house with a big mortgage and a full time gig as a systems consultant. The pay is very good for the area in which I live. I like everyone I work with and everything’s going well. There’s nothing to complain about other than it being mundane sometimes. I always say it’s the best job I could have if I liked working for someone else but I’m not happy. What’s wrong whit me here? I have a deep seeded desire to quit worrying about the mundane details that go on in my job and do something more important with my life.

[24:07] I’ve listened to your podcast and consumed a slew of other resources during this time about moonlighting, working for yourself etcetera but I’ve never made a mental commitment to actually seriously think about quitting my job. It’s comfortable, routine, easy and I have little responsibilities like on call schedules. I also have no real support from my wife, family or friends. My entire social circle is made up of 9 to 5ers that either think I’m “interesting” for running my side business or think I’m selfish and should spend more time with my family.

[24:33] I realize I should go out and meet others like me. They do exist in my community but it’s hard for me. I’m a major introvert and I really hate the schmooze sessions. I’d much rather be coding. It’s also hard because they’re outside of my typical social circle. Frankly I have no idea where I go this bug from. I know no one close by that has any desire to do anything else with their lives. I could go on forever but I’ll spare you. I appreciate any advice or assurance you can give me. I just hope I can get my mindset changed and actually take you up on it.

[25:00] Mike: Well there’s a lot there. Where to start? I think that if you look around the country there are probably tons of other places that would provide you with the same experience where there’s not many people who are in your social circle who are interested in doing those kinds of things. I think that unless you live in or around a major city then chances are really good that you’re not going to have friends who are also trying to build a software based interest business. So that’s the first thing. Definitely don’t feel like you’re alone in that regard.

[25:33] The second thing is that you have to really decide whether or not it’s something that you want to do or if it’s just something that you’re interested in. I’ve heard a lot of people who basically looked at different things that they were interested in doing in their life and decided hey, do I want to build a business around this? If you’re interested in let’s say golf, do you want to go out and become a professional golfer? That may or may not be realistic depending on your skill set but the same time, once you decide to do that full time, it becomes a job.

[26:01] So is that what you want to do to yourself? Is that the position you want to put yourself in terms of billing a product? It sounds to me almost like you might be in a better position if you have a co-founder who can do a lot of the customer development side of things and push on that side that you’re not necessarily comfortable with or that you don’t want to do because you’re going to find that when you own your own business, there’s a lot of things that need to be done and if you don’t do them, you’re going to have to find somebody else to do them or they don’t get done.

[26:30] So those are just some of the challenges that you’re going to probably run into going down this road. But I definitely feel like this is a mindset thing that a lot of people have. It’s very difficult to give up a 9 to 5 job that’s very steady, very stable and pays very well. I think if you don’t have the support of your friends and family, I mean your friends are one thing because they may not necessarily understand what it is that you’re trying to do but definitely if you don’t have the support of your family, is very, very hard to try and do anything substantial or make it into anything more than a hobby.

[27:00] Rob: I think the first question that you should ask yourself is how unhappy are you at your job? It sounds like you like your job but there’s some restlessness going on. But how burning is that restlessness? Is it just killing you? Because the people that I know who have left their jobs and made this work, they had to do it. Like in all caps, THEY HAD TO DO IT. It wasn’t a matter of I’m comfortable, I might want to do something – wouldn’t that be fun to do it? Because you’re just not going to make it. You’re not going to make it through the long nights, the weekends, the comments from friends and family, all that kind of stuff.

[27:33] If you have to do this you absolutely – you view it as kind of a lifelong regret if you don’t do this, if in 30 years you look back and said you know what, I had a good life as a consultant and you imagined that that’s going to make you happy then do that. But if it’s a burning desire, and it’s something that you absolutely cannot live your life without doing, then take this more seriously.

[27:52] Second question I would ask is really try to get down to the nuts and bolts of like why do you want to leave your job? Where does that come from? I think like Mike said, is it just an interest or is that something like a burning desire? Is it a hobby? Because I was into startups in the 90’s when I was in college and it was just this fun kind of diversion. It’s something like I don’t know, watching reality TV or reading a romance novel on the plane. It’s just kind of a fun entertainment thing and is that what it’s like for you or do you feel again this burning desire to kind of have a legacy that’s different than the path you’re traveling now.

[28:25] I know it’s complex. It’s not something that we can answer in a single podcast episode here but I hope that helps and definitely thanks for looping us in on your decision. I imagined that a lot of other listeners might feel this way as well. Alright, our next question is about how much this person can charge for their twitter digest service.

[28:43] This is from Andrew Bonnello and he says hi Rob and Mike. I wrote TweetQureet to scratch my own itch and we’ll link that up in the show notes because the name is hard to spell. He said my own itch is too many interesting people to follow, no time to monitor my timeline for top stories. Lists are manual and need maintenance. Tweet recommenders I’ve seen send to use social signals like retweets rather than subject and theme. Can daily tweet filtering based on the user’s own interest be automated?

[29:08] Once the user signs up, they get a daily email digest of up to 10 top tweets. If there are more they can explore a timeline page with the full list. I’ve completed the initial bare release and I’m looking to grow rather than branch the product in new directions. For enterprise customers I want to figure out how much can I charge individuals who get value out of the service. I’m not looking for exponential growth in user numbers or a high profile buy out. I just want a solid engaged user base and a recurring monthly revenue stream of three or four figures. Do you have any suggestions?

[29:36] And a little bit of background, he says I’m a software developer formerly at Google and DreamWorks animation. I quit full time work about three years ago to try and use my software skills to build a sustainable online business for myself.

[29:46] Mike: It sounds like this is geared more at the consumer market than at the business market. Twitter already sends out emails on a daily basis to say hey here are top tweets from people you follow or people you might be interested in hearing from. But it sounds like this is positioned a little bit different where they’re essentially data mining the people you follow to find out what stories are trending within that list of followers that you might be interested in hearing from or hearing more about.

[30:15] Obviously if you’re following a lot of people then there’s tons of tweets that fly by on a daily basis that you never see. So this is essentially a service that will help you filter those down a little bit. It’s hard for me to just generalize and say this is how much you could charge for but because it’s a consumer based product or at least that’s kind of the way that I see it, it seems like you probably could not charge very much.

[30:37] I think that probably $10, $15, $20 is probably the top range. I hate saying you should charge $5 or $6 for it because you start getting down to the point where one support call just blows your entire profit for the entire customer. I think that the $10 to $20 range is probably something you could pull off but again I look at something like this and I would probably not use it. I don’t know if I’m the best person to be asking for pricing advice on that.

[31:03] Rob: I think that’s the key is asking us, you can get our opinion but I probably wouldn’t use this either so I think you really need to find people who are willing to pay you for it. They’re the only people who can tell you what they’d be willing to pay because they get some kind of value out of it. If you’re trying to bootstrap and app like this, you need to find revenue. And in order to do that you have to provide value. So who do you provide value for?

[31:27] I can imagine this as a funded IOS app that’s given away for free when someone raises a million bucks, builds it and then tries to sell it to a twitter or raven tools or Google or someone. So I just don’t even know there’s a revenue model here until you have someone paying you money, I don’t know that I think that there actually is a group that’s willing to pay you unless you do go up into the B to B space. Right?

[31:51] You try to make this – I think we talked a little bit about on twitter but try to make it a brand monitoring or some kind of system that actually helps a company save some time, makes them money, saves the money that’s sold on value. Without that, I just don’t know. Without really knowing who desperately needs this, if it’s just all consumers can use it, then it’s not going to fly.

[32:12] Mike: Yeah. I think the biggest problem that I see with this is that essentially you’re showing people tweets that presumably they’re probably already getting in some way, shape or form and you’re aggregating them in some special way that allows them to see things that are most interesting to them which is very subjective to begin with. So essentially what they’re paying you for is a level of trust that you are searching through the tweets that they’re already supposed to be getting and presenting them with ones that you feel would be interesting.

[32:39] And because those things are already available to them, then you’re somehow saving them time of searching through these. But you’re bridging that gap between how much time are they spending on it versus how much effort does it take to find those. I think that in the consumer space people value their time a lot less than in the business space.

[32:58] Rob: Our next email is from Doug Martin. It’s on the value of consistency. He says I’ve been a long time listener. As I hit refresh on iTunes this morning I had to smile as I saw you guys have put up yet another episode. My podcast list is cluttered with shows that’s repeated out over the years. It is good to know I can count on you guys for great content regularly. Keep up the good work.

[33:18] I just wanted to read that not so much that it’s a compliment to us but it’s more of a testament to like putting something out every week. Remember that it’s easy to be great. It’s hard to be consistent. A lot of people come out and they put out a flurry of 7 or 9 episodes and then poof, they’re gone. And unless you have some kind of idea in mind, some kind of vision, some kind of revenue model, like you have to have things in place, just coming out and putting out a podcast for a week is a nontrivial thing. So definitely appreciate it when folks take notice. I think that’s the reason that we have been able to build an audience over these years is just showing up every week, every Tuesday morning right? Right in their iTunes feed.

[33:52] And our last email of the day is from David Lepont and he says hi guys, I have a comment about your episode where you talk about AB testing. He says I have a reaction to the part about calling customers which as he said is supposed to raise conversion rates. So he’s talking about if you asked for credit cards upfront, then you get a good conversion rate, but if don’t ask then you’re supposed to call customers. That’s kind of the rule of thumb. It’s what I see working with Saas apps who don’t ask for credit cards.

[34:17] He says personally I hate being called by a software company and I find that really aggressive and it would very likely have the opposite effect on me. Many people of my age in their mid 20’s really hate to speak on the phone and feel like every interaction originates from the web or the software world should continue as a communication method on the computer or on the internet. Emails with incentives are really more appealing to me. I don’t know your thoughts on that but that’s my opinion.

[34:39] Mike: David thanks for the reply in that. I do want to point out that just because that’s the way you feel doesn’t mean that that’s the way other people feel. There are definitely people that feel the way that you do and it would probably push them away. But when you’re looking at the numbers and analyzing them kind of independently of feelings, if you’re looking at those numbers, if you’re getting a 20% to 30% measurable increase in the performance of your sales campaigns by reaching out and calling people or if the average dollar amount of a particular sale is going up by calling people then it’s very difficult to argue. Well we shouldn’t do that because there are few people that we’re going to make angry or they don’t like it.

[35:19] Because at the end of the day, you’re in business to stay in business. You’ve got to make money in order to stay in business. And if you’re not making those sales calls and you have to let people go because you didn’t do it because it would make you feel bad to call people when the other side of the coin is you have to let people go then chances are good you should be making those calls. This just kind of continued upon you actually offering a product that has value and the fact of the matter is that you’re running a business and the number one goal of the business is to stay in business.

[35:47] Rob: Yeah. I think a couple of things. One is remember that you’re not your customer. So what you prefer isn’t necessarily what everyone prefers. In aggregate, numbers don’t like. So like Mike said, if it raises your conversion rate overall, that’s something to really keep in account of. I hate phone calls myself. I don’t answer my phone during the day at all. But I have noticed that when software companies have called me and at first, it does kind of put me off but it does remind me that I signed up for their trial and some of them have converted me not by talking to me on the phone but it reminds me to go back in and yeah, that’s right. I have to cancel that or I want to take another look at it. And frankly it’s probably worked more times than it hasn’t.

[36:27] So there’s kind of this fallacy. Developers fall into this a lot. It’s where they say well, I hate signing up for email lists and getting all the spam. So email doesn’t work so I’m not going to have an email signup form and yet we know that email is one of the best, if not the best marketing approaches out there today. And so don’t fall into the trap of thinking because you don’t like something that it doesn’t work.

[36:39] Mike: Yeah. There’s a lot of things that coming from the world of developers and then kind of moving over and doing marketing and sales, there are lots of things that as developers they always irritated the crap out of me and then in going over and seeing the other side of the world is not like everybody’s a developer. There are tons and tons of people who are not developers who don’t fall into that mindset. And you kind of have to keep an open mind when you’re looking at those things.

[37:13] Music

[37:17] If you have a question for us you can call it in to our voice mail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt used under Creative Commons. You can subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for startups or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com where you’ll also find a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.


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9 Responses to “Episode 151 | Getting Paid Before You Build, Dealing with Entrpreneurial Angst, Figuring Out How Much to Charge and More Listener Questions”

  1. Hey Guys… you were talking about whether it’s legal to accept payments up front for something that doesn’t exist yet. Isn’t that what funding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are offering? Now I know Kickstarter (not sure of Indiegogo) doesn’t really allow software/saas products to be funded, but I think that has more to do with quality and types of projects they’re interested in.

    In general though, I don’t see anything wrong with accepting payments up front for something to be delivered later. Obviously if the service is not delivered, that’s a problem.

    I guess I’d be interested to hear how what you were talking about is compared to what Kickstarter and the like are offering.


  2. Rob – I received an email from WPBeginner.com this week that mentioned a service for building your email list in WordPress. The product/service is from OptInMonster.com. Can you explain how Drip is different than OptInMonster.com?

  3. Ho Rob, Further to previous comments, how would you differentiate Drip from convertkit?

    Its great that there are competitive products, as it acts as product validation.

    Also, its been covered before, but in the context of your own product, how do you justify a recurring charge versus some other previously mentioned products and code snippets/plugins available on codecanyon?

    Great show, keep it up!


  4. Hi guys,

    Thanks for the call out for the Founder Test! If you’re interested, about 120 visitors have come through from here and about 50 of those took the test.

    Interestingly, there is a residual flow of about 10 visits to the test a day which hasn’t tapered off yet (7 days in).

    Anyway, I hope your listeners got some value from it, I had fun putting it together. At some point I’ll pull a post together that collates the results.


  5. Like Dan I wonder how Drip and ConvertKit differentiate – especially because they are in the same community with people like Amy Hoy and Patrick McKenzie.

    I havn’t tried any of those two products, but one differentiating factor might be that Rob and Nathan seem to have slightly different personal audiences: in my opinion Rob is the prototype of a product guy whereas Nathan is known for his info products.

    Sure Rob has written his own book, but I bet he did it because he enjoys giving back to the community rather than for the profit. To put it in other words: Rob has many software products and a few info products whereas Nathan has mainly info products and a few software products.

    That said, I imagine that both Drip and ConvertKit are influenced by the needs of Rob’s (rather software guys) and Nathan’s (rather educational) audiences.

  6. I really identified with the guy from Indiana who is struggling with motivation. I too have the comfortable software development job in a low cost of living part of the country. I feel like I should be grateful for and enjoy what I have, and I am, but another part of me wants to do something on my own.

    I’ve been listening to the podcast for a couple of years and have struggled to make a go of things in my spare time. I did try Rob’s approach of buying a couple of small websites, and while I did learn a variety of new things, I’ve kind of let them languish in recent months. They are marginally profitable, but it’s not a motivating amount of money. I’ve realized that I really need to be interested in what I’m doing especially when I’m trying to work in my spare time.

    Another thing that’s tough when working far from a major city is lack of like minded software/entrepreneurial folks. Like the guy from Indiana, I’m also not particularly good at networking, and one of my fears of quitting my job would be losing the group of smart people I currently work with.

    Anyway, I look forward to the podcast every week (although I’ve gotten behind lately!). It helps keep me inspired. And hearing other people’s stories reminds me I’m not alone. Keep up the good work.

  7. @Greg – If you are clear that you are accepting payments for an item that very well may NEVER be delivered, and are super clear about that fact…then yes, it’s probably fine. But if you have a sales page where you talk up benefits and talk about how it is going live “soon” (which I see a lot of pre-launch sites doing), then I think technically that’s a problem.

  8. @Rick said: “Can you explain how Drip is different than OptInMonster.com?”

    Sure; Opt-in Monster is a plugin that allows you to collect emails into your WP DB. Drip is a SaaS app that does that, and then allows you to create email sequences to send to those folks, split test them, ensures high deliverability using Mailgun, and tracks who signs up and then converts to a paid user…OIM does the first in that list. Drip does all of those things.

  9. >>Further to previous comments, how would you differentiate Drip from convertkit?

    My view is this: If you have an existing website, use Drip. If you don’t have a website and need a landing page, use ConvertKit.

    I have referred several people to ConvertKit and Nathan Barry and I have discussed the differences between the services. There are more subtle nuances than this, but that’s the single major differentiating factor, IMO.