In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Mike and Rob interview Phil Derksen and talk about his eight year journey to overnight success.
Items mentioned in this episode:
- Rob’s “Finding your Flywheel” talk
- “Getting Real” book by 37 signals
- Kyle Brown’s WordPress support service
- Pressnomics conference
- Phil on Twitter
Rob [00:00]: In this episode of Startups For the Rest of Us Mike and I interview Phil Derksen and we talk about his eight year journey to overnight success. This is Startups For the Rest of Us episode two hundred twenty-nine.
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 your’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.
Mike [00:28]: And I’m Mike.
Rob [00:30]: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week, Mike.
Mike [00:34]: Well, last week I think we got a little over zealous in our recording and we talked about some of the different books people should be reading if they’re a founder and one of the resources that I completely forgot to mention, because it’s clearly written down and I just totally spaced and forgot to mention it, Josh Kaufman, who’s the author of The Personal MBA has on his website a list of the best business books. He’s got a list of one hundred of them. If you just go to his website, we’ll link it up in the show notes but it’s personalmba.com best business books. They’re all categorized into different categories so there’s advertising and costumer development and all sorts of different things but that is a very comprehensive list that has been curated by him. He updates in on a yearly basis. So as new books come out, definitely go back and take a look at that list again because it does change from time to time.
Rob [01:22]: Right. And then as part of him keeping it updated is that he has to reevaluate every year which good books came out about business creation and weigh them against the classics, so to speak. So I think it’s a pretty cool list.
Mike [01:33]: Yeah, there’s definitely a mix between somethings that are fairly old that were written fifteen, twenty, thirty years ago, but then there’s also a lot of new stuff as well. It’s a testament to how good some of those older books are because they’ve been on this list and they’re still there even though there’s a lot of new stuff that has come out.
Rob [01:50]: So an update on my stuff. I’m in the process of hiring two people right now, not full time. One is actually just going to be a few hours a week. Basically she’s like a remote executive assistant. You know how I’ve been complaining every year about how much email I get and just trying to find a better way to manage that?
Mike [02:07]: How much email do you get? I use Gmail Meter to keep track and it emails me a report every month to let me know how much email I’ve gotten and all sorts of statistics. Have you used something like that to track how much you actually get?
Rob [02:18]: You can go into the Gmail settings and there’s a report and it will spit it out. I don’t use a special plugin but last time I looked I was averaging about a hundred and ten messages a day for every day of the month. So it was thirty-three hundred emails a month. It’s enough that it’s a pain.
Mike [02:31]: I get about that much as well.
Rob [02:32]: Do you?
Mike [02:33]: Mm-hmm.
Rob [02:34]: Look at you. If I hire someone who’s good maybe you could use her as well. I’m just getting her started today but as I’ve gone through it I’ve always struggled with what can someone possibly do that is actually helpful, that’s not just five minutes of time saving but really trying to get in and understand what I’m doing through all these different businesses and be able to intelligently reply to more stuff. She actually is going to be able to run my calendar so that if podcast stuff comes up I can just say “Yes, now talk to her to schedule it.” I think that sounds like that’s only a few emails back and forth and that’s only five minutes but what’s interesting, it’s not even the time I’m trying to get back, it’s the distraction. It’s the mental distraction of the sheer volume of tasks that you have to deal with. Because what I realized, most tasks for me, don’t take that long but I just have a lot of them. So my week is comprised of a few hundred five minute tasks. I obviously have some longer tasks but the more of those few hundred, five minute tasks I can get off my plate I think that’s going to free me up. I’m excited about embarking on that and I’ll keep you guys updated as that goes.
Mike [03:38]: I think what you’re really looking for there is the ability to off load a lot of the decision-making there so you can help yourself avoid any level of decision fatigue. Because if you can have somebody go in there and manually, essentially, categorize some of those emails or respond to the ones that don’t necessarily take a lot of time but maybe need to be responded to, maybe just a quick thanks or something along those lines, then those things can still get done and it helps you avoid those mental context switches between them that pulls you out of the more important higher level stuff that you need to get done on a regular basis.
Rob [04:08]: Yeah, that’s right. What I realized is that I do have some processes, as an example, if someone emails me for a podcast interview I now have questions of like “How long have you been around,” “How many listeners do you have,” and I’ve started just doing that exchange all the time now and realizing that I probably need to have someone else do that. There are criteria. I don’t just say yes to everything anymore and I think that someone else can really help out by saving me the time to do that. And then the other position I mentioned, I’m hiring someone for customer success which is basically doing Drip pre-sale demos, helping with onboarding, building tutorials, that stuff. That’s also probably a twenty hours a week contract but I have a couple pretty good leads on that as well. I just feel like I’ve been on Skype for the past two days doing a bunch of interviews. Both these people, maybe not the email one as much, but the customer success person is going to be video demos. I have to do an interview with them. It can’t be something I can hire over email.
So today I want welcome a friend of mine, Phil Derksen. Phil’s a lifetime Micropreneur Academy member. He’s attended every MicroConf even the one way back in 2011. He is a Fresno local. He actually lives just up the road from me and we’re in a Mastermind group together, which we’ve been in since, I think 2010. Phil has just left his day job. He has been on his own for about a month and he’s living, now, fully on his own product income after spending several years striving for that goal. His products are pinplugins.com, it’s a Pinterest WordPress plugin and wpstripe.net. So it’s a Stripe WordPress plugin.
Welcome to the show, Phil. It’s great to have you on.
Phil [05:49]: Yeah, thanks, Rob. Thanks, Mike for having me on. I’ve been a huge fan of the podcast since you guys started it out and obviously just honored to be here so I appreciate it.
Rob [05:59]: Absolutely. It’s our pleasure. I’m going to kick us off with a question that I think a lot of folks who have not had enough product income to quit there job [are] probably thinking about. So after maybe eight years of building products you finally reach that goal of supporting yourself and quitting your day job. Does the feeling that you have now, does it live up to how you imagined it would be now that you’re on your own?
Phil [06:20]: Yeah, it definitely does. I love the feeling of working when I want, where I want, what I want to work on, that feeling day in, day out now from the start of the day to the end, it’s an awesome feeling. I’m probably still working a little too many hours because I’m still adjusting. It was recently. But I’m loving it. To me it does.
Rob [06:39]: Have there been any major surprises as you basically moved on? You don’t have a boss now. That first week were you shocked or surprised by anything?
Phil [06:47]: Maybe. I think I expected that the day was going to have a lot less time pressure because I was used to having a full day of work each day and then working on my own products whenever I could squeeze them in, in the evenings or early in the mornings or whenever I could. I thought it would be pretty lax. I have the full day to do stuff. I know it’s early but I’m still finding that there’s just so much to do and I’m still trying to get caught up. Like I said, the big plus to it is I’m just working on my own products now so every minute I work that feeling I’m working on my own business, my own products not somebody else’s it’s getting me through. I much prefer what I’m doing now, even though I’m still busy, than what I was doing before.
Mike [07:26]: Do you feel like it’s a lot more stressful now because obviously, you have to be able to pay the bills and you just recently quit your job so there’s that added pressure to make sure that your products are performing. Do you feel that stress, yet, or is it too early?
Phil [07:40]: I think it is a little early. I do feel it though. But I think it’s a good motivator, too. It might kick in down the road but I also waited this long, I obviously got my sales to a certain point before I made that jump. So I’m not too stressed out but it is there a little bit.
Mike [07:56]: Was there a point during this journey that you didn’t know if you’d be able to pull this off?
Phil [08:01]: I never had a “I want to give up,” feeling, but I definitely got pretty discouraged at times. It just seemed like it was taking so long for me to get where I’m at, to get here. At times I was a little discouraged because I didn’t start sooner. I didn’t start really pursuing this seriously back before I had kids when my wife and I we [?] dual income, no kids. I waited until it was tougher. I had a mortgage, I had kids. As my job kept getting better and better I would change jobs, that trap that I felt I had to climb out of, got higher and higher. I’m not real risk adverse for myself. I’m not super risk tolerant either but for my family I didn’t want to take huge financial risks. I felt a little trapped there that I just had to do this over the long haul and take a long time to do this.
Rob [08:50]: You’re in a same position a lot of us are and a lot of listeners are where you are married and you may have a child or two and you have a mortgage. I think you made a really good point that the further down that line you get, with the greater income as you get down your career path, it does become a harder and harder thing to risk all of that. You have to take your business a lot further in order just to meet your existing standard of living rather than if you had done in when you were twenty-three coming right out of college, seems like it would have been a much easier path. I’ve thought that the same way about it myself because I didn’t really start until I was late twenties as well.
You said you experienced some discouragement along the way, you never thought you were going to give up. Why do you think you didn’t give up? How did you push through the discouragement?
Phil [09:33]: I guess, like a lot of listeners here, too, I just have that extremely strong desire to own my own products instead of working for a company or clients. I’ve thought about it a couple times, at this point in my career, maybe, I’m at the point where in a typical American career, it’s coming up about halfway through. If I had worked the rest of my career in a nine to five gig I might actually, financially, come out the same. I hope not. I hope my business does better. All things said and done it’s the journey more than anything, I guess, is what I’m saying. Even though it’s been tough doing this on the side up until now, this journey is what I want to do. This is the kind of path I want to work regardless of financial outcome in the end.
Rob [10:14]: So when you started out on this journey, did you think it would take this long?
Phil [10:17]: No. No, I didn’t. When I really started seriously trying to make an online product business, I didn’t think it would take this long but I was learning a lot going through the Academy, talking with other folks. There’s a lot to learn but I made a lot of mistakes along the way, too. I did not expect it to take this long but that’s just how it worked out.
Mike [10:36]: You just mentioned that you made a lot of mistakes along the way. I think that there are certain mistakes that you almost have to make in order to get the experience so that you know not just what not to do but why not to do it. Could you talk a little bit about what some of those mistakes were that you ran into?
Phil [10:51]: Sure. Failed products and things like that?
Mike [10:53]: Either failed products or decisions that you made to go after a particular market, for example, where it didn’t pan out and you look back out in retrospect and it’s clear to you why it didn’t work out but it’s also clear that you don’t necessarily want to go back and do it again and try and redo it anyway.
Phil [11:11]: I would say it was about eight years ago that I really started getting serious about building products on the side. It was about that time I read Getting Real by 37Signals, that book, and started following them, the whole stay lean and don’t worry about scaling, that kind of thing. That’s where I started my learning process. My first projects back then focused on tackling what would be a cool technology to solve not real business problems. For instance, there was one I remember that Amazon’s web services were just coming out around that time, getting popular like S3 and payment services and such, and I thought it would be cool to use that technology and create a pay to download game service. Going after the downloading game market kind of thing. Just –
Rob [11:59]: A solution in search of a problem, that kind of stuff.
Phil [12:02]: – right. Just because Amazon had these new web services.
Rob [12:05]: I did a few of those.
Phil [12:08]: Rob, you talked about, in one of the MicroConf talks, about the different levels of, it was the Flywheel talk, Asprin, vitamin, new and entertainment. I think that I was focused too much on the bottom end of that, the entertainment and new technology. When the need isn’t really there, people aren’t really looking for your solution. Obviously, I’ve always had the entrepreneurial bug but I also enjoy coding a lot. Even now, when I get into some coding problems, I’ll waste a few hours away even when I should have been using that time to spend on something else and maybe hiring out that work. I can get into that a little bit. Back then, it’s still the same thing. I just was wanting to tackle challenging technical issues. Another one I tried, it was just a web based grocery list creator. I built it to show off, at the time, cutting edge web based drag and drop. The iPhone app store just came out and was taking off so I thought I might get into mobile development. It was all focused on that technology.
Rob [13:07]: That’s when I met you.
Phil [13:09]: Yeah.
Rob [13:09]: Do you remember my first comment when I evaluated it as a business?
Phil [13:12]: It was something about if you enjoy working on it that’s great but that’s not a business problem.
Rob [13:17]: Yeah. It’s a nice little B to C app. You might make ninety-nine cents from it but it wasn’t something that was going to allow you to even get a few thousand bucks a month.
Phil [13:26]: That I entered into a local tech event here and it was fun but I didn’t make a dime from it. Those are a lot of my mistakes. It was about that time, too, that I found you guys, found the Academy, met Rob, and started in on that path.
Rob [13:39]: Yeah, I think that’s an interesting thing I want to follow up on is what finally changed? What switched from that to where here you stand today a few years later and you have two successful products and enough revenue to quit your job?
Phil [13:52]: Yeah, the Academy and just that mindset that finding real business problems and strategies for finding what people are looking for to solve these. Going through that whole process, and again, it took awhile, I had a lot of experiments, but I wouldn’t call them failures. They may have all not made any money but going through and learning SEO keyword tools and AdSense and affiliate stuff like that. I bought some domains to do the exact match domain name back when it was a little more popular. I got my feet wet with hiring VAs, paying for content, writing, that kind of thing. So I was just learning a lot at that time. I bought a four hundred dollar drop shipping site off Flippa. I don’t know if you remember that one. Rain water –
Rob [14:35]: Rain water barrels.
Phil [14:36]: – yeah.
Rob [14:38]: That was great.
Phil [14:39]: And I live somewhere where you won’t find any rain water barrels so I knew nothing about it. I eventually turned that into an affiliate site and eventually let it expire. Actually, I sold it but the guy never took it. He never did anything with it either. Those were all just early learning experiences and that was all before starting in on WordPress plugin.
Rob [14:58]: Right. And was there a mindset shift there as well? It sounds like moving from technology in search of a problem to more of looking for a business problem, like a pain point type of thing went along with that.
Phil [15:11]: Yes. And also some of the other guys in the Academy were having success with WordPress plugins so guys like John Turner and Dave Rodenbaugh, I say what they were doing and talked to them and thought this would be a good route to try.
Mike [15:26]: I guess during this process, what are one or two different internal factors or personality traits that you think are really the ones that carried you through to this point? Is there anything that stands out in your mind?
Phil [15:37]: I guess what keeps me motivated is my products are selling while I’m sleeping, while I’m on vacation, those things. Knowing that I’m not trading dollars for hours. I don’t know if you’d call it a personality trait but that’s one of my big motivators. Even the business name that I came up with for this, it’s called Moonstone Media, the way that came up is I was hanging out with my family at the beach, just enjoying family time, on vacation and later on I pulled out my phone and a bunch of sales came through. That was the time I was trying to come up with a business name. I named it after the beach which is called Moonstone. I guess that’s that biggest thing is that I can step away for a little bit and the business still moves forward and might even continue to grow a little bit.
Mike [16:22]: It sounds to me like that’s a lot of positive reinforcement as well because that isn’t necessarily an internal factor or a personality trait but it’s a situational experience that you’ve come to where you are in a situation, you’re on the beach, and sales are coming in. I can see how that can just be innately motivational where you see this is happening and not just that it’s possible, but it’s happening to you, and it allows you to double down on this behavior, which is of course pursuing this path.
Phil [16:52]: Yeah, exactly. I also set some sales and launch goals along the way and I didn’t always meet them when I wanted to, but I just think it’s important to have those goals but also to celebrate them. That’s another tip, I guess, if you’re not already doing it is when you have that launch, or you meet a certain sales member, I had sales members of five thousand a month and then the next one was ten and a half and then ten thousand, I had a little reward in mind for that already set out. It can be whatever you want. They don’t have to be extravagant, and I don’t even think they should be something that replaces special occasions like vacations with your family or anything like that that you’re already going to take. Something extra like I joined my first wine club when I hit five thousand a month, just something fun, a winery that I liked. You could also just go out to a nice restaurant, and extra night out, I guess, or extra vacation, or for us parents, maybe a whole day to yourself just for fun.
Rob [17:49]: I have a friend who bought himself an iPad when he hit a certain [?] goal.
Phil [17:51]: Yeah.
Rob [17:53]: That’s cool.
Phil [17:54]: And then for me, the top one there, the last goal when I hit ten thousand in sales in a month, that was my trigger I can finally quit my job. I did try more the punishments, if you don’t meet this you don’t get this. I didn’t find those worked as well. I can’t watch Walking Dead or any football games until my sales hit this X of dollars or something like that, just taking away some fun things. I found that wasn’t working. When I was striving for the rewards, I naturally sacrificed some things to get there.
Rob [18:24]: Yeah, I like that. I’ve never tried the stick approach, as you said it. I’ve only tried the carrot and I think it’s a really good thing for people to try to do. Assuming you have some control over it, right, before you have a product it’s tough, but as soon as you launch something and you’re at a certain revenue mark and you just want to grow it, you’re in more control of being able to do that and I think it can be really helpful. It’s motivation to work a little more, right, or to be a little more focused, or not take the evening and go out for happy hour and watch Walking Dead, but to take that evening and maybe put in some hours on your product.
Phil [18:54]: Yes, it’s what worked for me. Different personalities might work different ways but –
Rob [18:58]: Sure.
Phil [18:59]: – you got to find that.
Rob [19:00]: Phil, you obviously learned a lot on this journey, you made some mistakes, you had some successes, but you have a process laid out, you and I have talked about, where you are able to launch a WordPress plugin and turn it into something profitable, essentially. Could you walk us through that a little bit?
Phil [21:15]: Yeah, sure. After learning some of those basics through the Academy and seeing some other members successful with WordPress plugins, I went ahead and did my own. What happened was I was going to follow what I saw work for them, and that is the Free [?] Model, where you have a free plugin in the WordPress repository, you see if it gains popularity and then you start building a premium version of that. This was fall 2011 and my wife who’s a photographer, I had been helping her, tinkering around with her WordPress site for a year or two and I also got more familiar with WordPress building trying to build my own landing pages and such for the previous endeavors, and she was like “Hey, this Pinterest sharing button’s all over my site,” and this was when Pintrest was really starting to take off. So I said “Why not? I’ll try it.” The need was there . It wasn’t B to B necessarily but there were people online asking for it, she was asking for it. There were very few Pinterest plugins in the repo at the time. I taught myself a little bit of WordPress development and in December of 2011, around that time, I launched my first free plugin in probably a month, maybe two, of my own development time. So I didn’t yet hire anybody. Real simple, just outputting Pinterest embed code but in a plugin. I was pretty fortunate. Downloads started coming in pretty quickly and pretty rapidly and that’s when I was like “Wow, I have something here.” At that point I tried to make best use of my time and I did what you guys have done and I went oDesk and hired a WordPress developer. I went through a few candidates. At the time I was on the lower end, ten dollars an hour, overseas developer. I found one and the code wasn’t high quality but I wasn’t really good at WordPress development at the time and I wanted to make better use of my time so I used the approach off of a few test projects, trying to find the best candidate at that price point. Found somebody and took about four months and probably paid around a thousand dollars but got my first paid plugin out the door. Also, just a note, and I recommend this, I started building a mailing list within the free plugin right from the beginning. I’ve done that ever since, too. I did continue teaching myself WordPress development. I wanted to learn more and I wasn’t satisfied with the code quality. I did find myself fixing code quite a bit. I think the mistake I made here is that I spent a lot of time on this. I should have hired a more skilled developer and just risked that but I also wanted to get some more cash flow first –
Rob [21:49]: It’s also hard when you’re that early because you just don’t have the money. I was in the same boat where I had to hire developers that were five to ten bucks an hour and you just have to deal with it. I believe that you start where you have the means to and then as soon as you can you level up with who you can hire.
Phil [22:05]: – right. I guess that may have not been a mistake, necessarily, but it felt like it delayed my first paid plugin launch quite a bit. All of the other stuff always takes more time, like crafting the landing page and all the copy and everything. It always takes longer than you expect. May 2012 I launched my first paid version of the Pinterest plugin. It was right after MicroConf that year, I remember. My first plugin sale to a stranger was only twenty-three bucks with a launch discount but I still have that receipt, I printed and framed it and hung it on my wall. In fact, it’s behind my desk. My first ever sale to a stranger. That’s another motivator.
Rob [22:43]: Yeah, that’s cool.
Phil [22:44]: But I did expect a big launch and very few bought that first week. I was a little disappointed there. I had pretty high expectations, I think. In that first week, I think I only made about two hundred and fifty bucks. And the first two full months actually didn’t get that high, it was only three hundred or four hundred dollars. So, again, a down point thinking I was going to make this big bang and it didn’t happen.
Rob [23:07]: I think that’s pretty common. I think our eyes get pretty big. You hear of other people’s successes as well, right, and you start measuring up to that.
Phil [23:14]: Right. Exactly. I sat down and I think I also didn’t have the features prioritized correctly, like what people really wanted and wanted to pay for. Because when I sat down and built the next version of that plugin, it was a different plugin but the real pro version of it, I would call it. When I launched that in October that was a much bigger splash so it turned out all right. The two months previous, in fact, were less than a hundred dollars of sales so while I was trying to do this, I felt like that first paid plugin launch was a little bit of a failure. When I launched the next one in October, that actually made twenty-five hundred the first month and the next couple months. I count that as my big breakthrough.
Rob [23:57]: Right. There was a lot of trial and error to it. There was a lot of learning. It’s like you said, by the time you’d got there you had put together a number of sales pages, you had figured out how the WordPress repo works, you had figured out how to write the good copy, how to make a good wordpress.org page. All that honing the tools, it’s having the tools on your tool belt to do it. You didn’t necessarily need to learn content marketing and [outbound to cold?] email because you weren’t running a business that needed that. That’s what I think is something important to communicate, is you learned a very well defined niche skill set and you’ve learned to do WordPress plugins really well, but that means you shouldn’t be listening to folks who want to be venture backed or want to launch a SaaS app, in particular, or who want to do something else because you guys don’t necessarily need the same skills in order to succeed.
Phil [24:42]: Right. Exactly. Even paid acquisition doesn’t make sense up to a certain point.
Rob [24:46]: That’s right because you don’t have the lifetime value to support it.
Phil [24:48]: Right.
Rob [24:49]: The interesting part is you’re really a textbook case of stair-stepping. I talked about this a few episodes ago, Mike and I ran through it, and in essence that first step is the single channel, single purchase price app and then it’s non-recurring. You double down on that and you create enough products that you can eventually reach step two which is where you can buyout your own time and you basically find hat freedom. Step three is typically trying to find a recurring revenue model. It doesn’t always have to be but that’s how I played it out. Now that you really achieved step two, you’ve achieved a goal that a lot of folks are going after and you achieved it by leveling up, right. By going from playing high school ball to college ball to the minor leagues to just stepping up your skills and plotting along and doing it in a really repeatable fashion. I’m curious what’s next for you. Are you going to double down what you have already had success with, which is launching plugins, and launch more plugins at this point or are you thinking more along the lines of going towards recurring models like SaaS?
Phil [25:47]: I think I’m going to repeat this process. I did it for a Stripe plugin. It’s a lot easier the second time around, and I also changed some things with that. I’d went after a more eCommerce, B to B, so I was quicker to a certain revenue point with that. I do have another plugin in the works. Since it’s working and I still have quite a bit to build and I have quite a bit of features and add-ons and things like that that people are requesting, I’m going to continue that for a while. Maybe I will do that SaaS eventually. I’ve been going through ideas here and there but I’m just not rushing it or setting a deadline of when I’m going to do it because the plugins are working. I know it’s a long path on the SaaS apps.
Mike [26:28]: Yeah, I think that’s one of the features that I’ve seen of successful entrepreneurs is they find the thing that’s working and then they double down on it. I think what Rob just talked about, in terms of looking at SaaS because SaaS is viewed as the Holy Grail of the software industry, but at the same time you’d have to learn an entirely new set of skills in order to pull that off. It would be a pretty significant change from what it is that you’re doing now, right?
Phil [26:50]: Right. Exactly. On the second plugin, on the Stripe plugin, that’s when I went after a more B to B audience. As I was building that up I hired a more mid-level developer, tried to off-load that more and then when I launched the Stripe plugin I did the same thing [?] Model. Took me just a few months to get the first paid plugin out there. During that time I hired actually another Academy member, Kyle Brown. He has a product [ice?] service, I guess you could call it. It focused on WordPress. Just a shout out to him, firstname.lastname@example.org. I hired him to basically hire all my tier one support, him and his team. That has been a huge load off my back, too, and I continue to use him for future plugins as well. I already have that relationship in place. It’s a little bit of an experiment here, but my third plugin, it’s a Google Calendar Events plugin, if you look it up. It’s actually an adopted plugin. I adopted a free plugin off the repository and it already had a lot of downloads and the author agreed to hand it over after we talked back and forth and he wasn’t interested in maintaining it. I have had to do quite a bit of re-factoring, stabilizing, and updating it. The paid plugin’s not out now but I’m going to repeat pretty much all those steps on it except that I’m coming in where it’s already got a big audience. I’m not creating it from scratch basically.
Rob [28:13]: Right. So you’ve learned from your successes as well. Like you said, you hired someone who is a middle tier developer rather than super junior and cheap because you have the means and you know it’s worth the time. You’re working with Kyle Brown on handling support because you know it’s worth your time to outsource that. Even though you have to pay him money, you know that your time is more valuable. I know the backstory of you WordPress Stripe plugin and I know that that hit more revenue faster then either of your first two Pinterest plugins. There’s some luck involved, there’s something about the niche but there’s also something about you taking your experience and leveling up and expanding. I feel like the GCal plugin is probably the next step in your journey.
Phil [28:53]: Yeah, the only challenge now though is now I’ve set myself up with three separate customer bases –
Rob [28:58]: Mm-hmm. Makes it tough.
Phil [28:59]: – yeah. I’m happy with where I’m at but that is tough. There’s very little cross-selling between them but that’s where I’m at so that’s okay.
Rob [29:07]: Yeah.
Mike [29:08]: So you’ve mentioned the Academy and Kyle Brown, what are some other external resources that you’ve leveraged to help you get to this point because you can’t just go down into a cave and learn everything that you need to learn completely on your own. There’s obviously some help involved from other people and external resources. Could you talk a little bit about some of the different things that you leveraged to learn or get to this point, especially with WordPress because you said that you learned that from scratch?
Phil [29:54]: Yeah, definitely the conferences. MicroConf, I know it’s run by you guys but it’s been key because at those, each year, this will be the fifth one coming up, I’ve connected with a lot of peers and speakers, too, face to face, and then continued those relationships later on. Some of those guys are in the WordPress space. There’s another conference as well that’s similar that I’ve gone to for three years now called PressNomics. It’s a lot like MicroConf in it’s size. You keep it small, less than two hundred folks but it’s focused on the WordPress business. I’ve met a lot of guys doing the same thing there. In fact, it was just in January as well. Community, talking with guys online and offline, learning from them, just sharing with each other what we’ve learned. Masterminds, obviously are a big one. I have the local one here with Rob. You get a lot of inspiration, help with ideas but they’re keeping you accountable, all that stuff. It can be fun, too. I’ve had some off and on online ones as well, more focused in the WordPress space with John Turner and Brad Tunnard and guys like that. They’ve all been super helpful. They’ve gotten to where I am now before I did. They love sharing what they know as well, so that’s all a part of it, right there, that community and that help from peers.
Rob [30:52]: Phil, thanks so much for coming on the show. I’m sure folks have enjoyed hearing your story. It’s definitely inspirational and I think we’re all looking forward to your attendee talk at MicroConf 2015 here in a couple weeks.
Phil [31:04]: Looking forward to that.
Rob [31:06]: Yeah. So if folks want to keep up with you on the Interwebs what would be the best way to do that?
Phil [31:11]: Yeah, you can catch me on Twitter @Philderksen or you can head to my personal site Philderksen.com. I got all my products linked there and I’ve neglected the blog for a while but I want to start sharing more of my journey there.
Rob [31:23]: And your last name is D-E-R-K-S-E-N.
Phil [31:26]: Correct. If you’re at MicroConf say hi to me there.
Rob [31:29]: Sounds great. Thanks a lot for coming on.
Phil [31:31]: All right. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.
Mike [31:32]: If you have a question for us you can call it into our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690 or you can email it to us at email@example.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from We’re Out of Control by Moot, used under creative commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for startups and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.
Thanks for having me on gentlemen. It was a pleasure.
Thanks Rob Mike and Phil for the shout out! The podcast was great! I think it tells the often unsexy, untold but more common path to sustainable success.
I LOVED this episode. Congrats on following your passion full time Phil and thank for sharing your story Phil. It was truly inspiring, especially for a fellow WordPress plugin creator.