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How I’m Making Five-Figures A Month Off Bootstrapped Products (planscope.io)
317 points by bdunn on Oct 13, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 210 comments

Let me present another view why I dislike this kind of selling. I think this author sells a story of how they got rich and how you also can get rich (and how you can do this easily) It's a common scheme and I think the only people that are getting rich by this are the people that are selling this kind of knowledge.

The problem (at least based on my experience) is that building anything successful takes a huge amounts of dedication and effort -- there's also a large margin for failure. It's simply not something that's easy to reproduce and you probably won't make five-figures a month by selling things to a mailing list. Or create a 30x500 product and instantly be your own boss. And sure, there are some that are going to succeed at this (and great for them!), but presenting this like anybody will get rich by just following a scheme rings off alarm clocks, especially when this kind of knowledge is sold at a high cost.

Going to disagree. I think the level of likelihood for failing when you're shooting in the dark with your idea dú jour is SUBSTANTIALLY higher than when you mine audience pain points and build products around what people are asking for.

That's all I'm doing. There's nothing that I'm doing that someone else can't.

You must also consider that most people do not have the kind of talent for writing that you and patio11 possess. Hats off to you guys for pulling it off and showing the way and inspiring other people. For most normal folk, it will take years of effort to reach this level in writing skills where they can build an audience on that strength.

On a slightly different note, there are SAAS products like SalesForce, Quickbooks and the lot that are going to get the market by the brute force of their marketing budget. On the other extreme are people like you and patio11 and 37signals who take the effort to nurture an audience and generally pro-bootstrap. I think both strategies should work if executed well.

most people do not have the kind of talent for writing that you and patio11 possess

Maybe most people don't, but many (maybe most) here on HN do. Just look at the comments here.

And even if you don't have the writing skills on day 1, you can improve via advice, feedback, various courses and books, and practice.

"You must also consider that most people do not have the kind of talent for writing that you and patio11 possess"

I always find this kind of statement interesting. Where do you think we got our "talent"? Writing our butts off. It's true -- for people willing to put in the effort to be good, being good pays dividends. If you're not willing to put in the work, you don't get the dividends. But nobody is a "born writer."

As bdunn said in my virtual earshot earlier today, "Compare my first blog and my latest." He provided a lesson for my class recently and I made him rewrite it 3 times before it was in acceptable shape for editing. I'm sure the process was kinda sucky for him on the one hand, on the other hand, he grew hugely as a teacher.

Yep, being willing to exercise a skill pays off.

+1 to the writing as a practice.

I look back at things I wrote a year ago - sometimes as much as 6 years ago - and wonder if they were really written by me.

Writing every day and being willing to do it even if it's just for throwaway is the only way to develop the talent. You know, just like every other talent, ever.

Brennan, serious question here.

What have you done and how long have you been doing it for to come along and offer advice which you are now selling to others?

Checking the registration dates of your three domains I find the following:

planscope.io - April 4, 2012

businessoffreelancing.com - Sept 19, 2012

doubleyourfreelancingrate.com - Aug 15, 2012

wearetitans.net (2008) (where you work?) doesn't have an about page so I can find out nothing about your past history or your role there.

This is your twitter:


Your HN profile shows very little and so does a search.

So tell me a little more about why your advice is so valuable.

Before planscope it was projectorpm.com, cease-and-desist copyright issue. The book and podcast are relatively new.

I'm the owner of We Are Titans, my consultancy, and it's been around since 2008. Before that, I was just a freelancer.

Also, http://hamptonroads.com/2011/11/small-tech-we-are-titans-off...

Lastly, I'm not trying to say I'm some uber consultant extraordinaire. But I know what's worked for me, and have had a serious amount of positive reception (success stories) from my book. I think that's what matters most.

If I challenge you it's for discussion. Also to point out that others might be thinking the things that I think (at least some people) but not raise the issue. And you could loose business from them. They might look at your planscope page and note that there aren't bios on anyone. That may be important to them. Now if you're a 1 person company there could be a strategic reason for doing that ("better to be thought a fool then to open your mouth and remove all doubt"). But if you have a "crew" why not do more than just include a picture?

I've been observing business for a long long time. You will do great because you've got the proper degree of BS mixed together with things that you've learned in a short period of time and the ability to take advantage of people's generally trusting nature. Nothing wrong with that. When I started my first business (long time ago) I didn't have any employees and I had a big customer that wanted to visit (physical location - about 1500sf). So I brought in people to just stand around and look like I had employees. I got the contract and kept it for almost 5 or 6 years. I'm lucky that the person giving the contract wasn't me and wasn't able to see through it.

Added: "I'm the owner of We Are Titans, my consultancy" your HN profile doesn't say this, it should.

I'm just confused about why you think I'm running a smoke-and-mirrors shop.

I have a ton of testimonials from people thanking me for helping them raise their rates. If you email me, I'll send them to you.

I take a lot of offense that you think I have "the proper degree of BS mixed together with things I've learned in a short period of time" and that I'm "taking advantage of people."

I am delivering value in exchange for money. If people didn't think the value outweighed the cost, I'd be getting refund requests. By stating in your profile that you had a really expensive, old computer back in the day - I'm guessing you're older, and there's ageism at play against me? My customers don't care what degrees or credentials I have attached to my name, as long as I deliver on my promise - which I have.

"you think I'm running a smoke-and-mirrors shop"

Where in my comment did I say you were running a smoke and mirrors shop? Show me the words that implied that in my comment?

(Others have of course - I didn't say "yeah I agree" either.) I asked you a question and gave you an opportunity to detail "why your advice is so valuable" and I gave you my reasons (before asking that) why I was skeptical.

"I have a ton of testimonials from people thanking me for helping them raise their rates. If you email me, I'll send them to you."

If you have a ton of testimonials there are certainly ones (a percentage of the ton) that you could get the people who gave you the testimonials to allow you to post publicly, right? Isn't that basic marketing? (It is.) So why did you not post some? By the way the use of the word "testimonial" implies to me more than someone thanking you by email. I can understand why you wouldn't post a snip from an email that someone sent you. But you called them "testimonials" not an email thank you. Either way it would seem that if they are happy they would allow you to use the testimonial - even firstname, last initial and type of company (if not full info).

Sorry you take offense to the "BS". I gave an example of how I BS'd and got somewhere with it. Donald Trump and many successful business leaders have used "BS" to get ahead. So have politicians. BSing is not the same as lying. I understand that hackers have some issue with puffery. That is their choice. (By the way I've also observed over the years how lack of ability to BS holds you back in business.)

"I'd be getting refund requests." Why not post the percentage of people who request refund? Is it 2%, 10%, 0%. Seems that would be a good marketing angle if you were able to get up into the 90's, right?

"guessing you're older, and there's ageism at play against me"

I would do the same thing to someone who was older.

"what degrees or credentials"

I didn't raise any issue with degrees or credentials at all. If you had a degree from Harvard I wouldn't have accepted that as anything given what you were trying to sell. I merely wanted backup for what you were doing.

"as long as I deliver on my promise"

If you reread one of my replies to you will see that I said this:

"If I challenge you it's for discussion. Also to point out that others might be thinking the things that I think (at least some people) but not raise the issue. And you could loose business from them."

I have learned much about people's reaction to what I say on HN. I am pointing out to you (I think in a relatively nice way) the impression that I had and then asked some questions. You can take that info into consideration when you go and try to sell to the world of "older people" -or- people who don't spend time on HN. Because you will need it. I'm not selling anything to people who read HN so I will speak my mind as to what I think.

Here's the thing also to remember. Selling to people, a wide range of people is not the same as "getting a job" or "finding a girl/guy". You can be "slightly crazy" (as I was just called by someone) and still do fine if you only need 1 wife or 1 job. But if you are selling to many people you have to take into account how what you do might alter what they think.

"Where in my comment did I say you were running a smoke and mirrors shop? Show me the words that implied that in my comment?"

You mention that he's "got the proper degree of BS mixed together with things that [he's] learned in a short period of time and the ability to take advantage of people's generally trusting nature", and then immediately following that you bring in a story about how when you first started you tricked a major client into thinking you were running a shop with several employees, with the implication that you were also able to "take advantage of people's generally trusting nature"

Arguing semantics -- e.g. "you said 'testimonial' instead of 'quote'" -- is the last refuge of scoundrels. But that's okay. Just like you with your "BS" and "taking advantage of" and off-handed tales of deceit, I mean scoundrel in a nice way.

You and Patrick have done an exemplary job of leveraging the herd mentality, but some of us are getting tired of the pitch. How many times are you going to try and milk this cow?

Patrick was writing prolifically here and on his blog for years with no relevant product at all, just a lot of interesting insight into his bingo operation. The recent lifecycle email course is his first product directly relevant to us, your comment about being tired of the pitch is confusing.

I received a lot of value from Patrick's lifecycle emails course. I hope he creates more courses/products like that.

For me specifically it was being able to talk to our head finance guy intelligently about how cash flow, customer acquisition costs, and customer lifetime value relate. While I can't put a dollar amount on it yet, I can say I think our finance guy's opinion of me was raised a notch.

As long as people keep buying I'd assume.

"Herd" "milk" "cow" --> classic poisoning the well, utterly (udderly?) without basis or merit. Factual arguments make us smarter. What you are writing makes the discourse dumber.


"If I challenge you it's for discussion... you've learned in a short period of time and the ability to take advantage of people's generally trusting nature. Nothing wrong with that."

Larry - reading this along with your other snips at patio and bdunn, I feel compelled to point out that you're coming off as slightly crazy.

No offense. If that was challenging it was for the sake of discussion.

Please point out exactly what "snips" I took at patio11

I think Larry was being facetious, especially considering the context of the comment.

"the ability to take advantage of people's generally trusting nature" --> Nothing like an ad hominem buried in the midst of a paragraph and then immediately denied as an ad hominem.

Cite? What evidence do you have that bdunn is "taking advantage" of anyone… or that anything he has written is "BS."

"Nothing like an ad hominem"

Well if that's an ad hominem then my example of what I've done myself wouldn't have been used, would it?

And where are the words "taking advantage" which you quote appearing in anything that I have written?

where are the words "taking advantage" which you quote appearing in anything that I have written?

Are you serious? They're right there in the second paragraph!

When a person argues from passion instead of reason, this is the kind of thing that results. A person who argues from passion isn't even fully aware of the words coming out of his mouth (keyboard), because it's a wave of sheer emotion. I'm glad this is in text, because it's much easier to spot.


The rules state that we're not to make empty, negative comments. I respect the community that PG and friends are trying to build, but there are times when the idiocy on display really test that constraint.

You, sir, are a fool. And this is one of those times.

You've nailed it with your first paragraph.

That is the scheme. It's old. It still works. The web, like TV, is absolutely perfect for this scheme. The audience that includes people who would pay for this sort of advice is the one that watches TV at odd hours, and they are now increasingly surfing the web.

It is the rough equivalent of the infommercial.

While it may be theoretically possible, no one is going to make five figures per month except the person selling advice on how to make five figures per month.

I don't know how these sellers sleep at night. Certainly they can do well. But they are _deliberately_ preying on the weak. If that's the type of "business" you want to run, go for it.

But it has always been pure sleaze and will continue to be so for the forseeable future.

The world is upside down when college-educated white and Asian males making $60k+ a year ($40 an hour programmers) are "the weak", isn't it? I just have to put that out there.

Vis-a-vis businesses it can actually make sense, because any business which is e.g. hiring an intermediate Ruby developer for $40 an hour is exploiting him, but "Five figures a month is unachievably high! There are no reliable ways of earning that! (+) The people who tell you otherwise are exceptions! You are an effing commodity who is indistinguishable from a $5 an hour code monkey in a low-wage country! Do not aspire above your station! Play your part!" is not advice which has his best interests at heart.

+ Freelance Rails developers can put out a shingle and get $100 an hour, which trivially gets them to $10k a month even at about 70% utilization. The interesting business problems are in getting from $10k to $20k and then points beyond. Advice which meaningfully accelerates that is worth what the sophisticated, rabidly skeptical, too-smart-to-realize-when-they're-being-stupid developer community will pay for it.

If you know where I can hire decent Rails developers for $100 an hour or less, please let me know! That's not the kind of rate I see.

Just a couple weeks ago a talented 15-year-old in Belarus told me his rate was $100/hr. And when I said "Sorry, you don't have the experience to justify that rate for me," he told me his last client paid just a little less.

Speaking of salesmanship, this kid has a great future!

This is not a typical rate in Belarus. A competent Java developer would net you €25 or so.

I am a reasonabl competent rails developer (doing it for more than five years, actually shipping products) working out of Vienna. Apart from a largish startup gig I also consult/freelance parttime. If you are interested we can have coffee(if you are still based in vienna else skype/email) and talk about your project needs and schedules.

"If you know where I can hire decent Rails developers for $100 an hour or less, please let me know! That's not the kind of rate I see."

Montevideo, Uruguay. Mail me if you want - I'm not the talented Rails developer, sadly, but I know some guys that worked at Cubox (http://cuboxlabs.com/).

I find this outlook really sad. I paid $39 for Brennan's ebook (thanks to a $10 off coupon) and I didn't know him from Adam when I bought it. Literally don't think I had ever heard of him, but someone on HN recommended it. I read the whole thing in one sitting and the very next day, sent out two project proposals at a 50% bump in my normal hourly rates. One guy balked, one guy just said ok without comment. That simple bump represented an extra $10k in revenue for me, or 250x the cost of the ebook. All because I bothered to read a book and make a minimal effort to apply the principles.

Not everyone who buys the book is going to get that much out of it, or even get anything out of it at all. But to call it a scam simply because it's information that is being sold under the premise that it can help you improve if you apply it?

That's pretty sad.

EDIT: I should also mention that this was only a couple weeks ago, so the guy who balked might still come back. That's not uncommon in my experience. Regardless, I'm after great rates, not just total revenue.

Why not just raise your rate regardless of some book -- isn't that really the take away message? I've also been consulting as an independent for 7 years now. I have not raised my rate, but nor have I lowered it (ever). I have turned down plenty jobs, and some have walked away because they did not want to pay the rate, but I have been doing this 40+ hours / week for 7 years now.

I do feel like it is time to raise my rate, though, and the next project I start I will.

I'm not implying the book / info is a scam, I'm just questioning whether a book is necessary vs. a simple well-written blog piece which reasons out what rate is justifiable for your particular situation.

1. I could have raised my rate at any time, but I didn't until I read the book. If you haven't raised your rates for seven years, I'm guessing that you've thrown away six figures of lost income. I say this based on an assumption founded on the observation that something like 98% of freelance developers are undercharging for no reason at all. I was. You are. Even just taking inflation into account, you should be charging 20% more now, not to mention an increase in skills, tightening of the developer market, etc.

2. The ebook is something like 90-100 pages and includes a lot more examples, anecdotes, worksheets, and other practical advice than a blog post would. Like you, I've read tons of blog posts about this topic. And like you, I was lazy about raising my rates.

Honestly, I can't believe we're even having this discussion, given our rates and the leverage they imply. If I bill 1000 hours a year (I bill considerably more), every extra dollar in my hourly rate is worth ~$600 annually, after taxes. So if an ebook like this includes a single sentence that changes my thinking or behavior enough that I can justify an extra buck per hour, then it pays for itself 12x over in the first year.

Oh, and I used a $10 off coupon and I wrote the cost of the book off on my taxes, so it really cost me about $25. So it would pay for itself about 24x in the first year if I raised my rates $1. Again, can't even believe we're having this discussion.

You make some valid points. I am undercharging. Most projects I go into, I end up doing the work of 5-10x of their engineers. I know this. I've known it for a long time.

It is the reason I went into consulting in the first place -- that and the fact that I don't want to deal with the politics and bullshit that goes with the standard corporate environment. I build stuff and get out.

That said, I think we're still talking about the single revelation of just "raising your rate". I'm not sure I need a book to do that, and you haven't sold me on the examples, anecdotes, worksheets, and other practical advice. I think it really, singly comes down to just raising your rate -- am I wrong?

Quite frankly, the reason I haven't raised my rate is that I live a comfortable lifestyle. I can afford the things I need and the things I desire. I have a family - I provide well, and we are far ahead of the curve on retirement. I plan to retire early, and I'm on track for that. I also live in a geographic environment that has been hit significantly hard economically. Doubling my rate would be a hard pill to swallow for local clients -- albeit most of my clients have been on the coasts.

The question I raised, and still do raise, is this: is it really an ebook that made you that extra income, or is it just having the balls to raise your rate? I'm arguing it is the latter, and questioning the value in an ebook whose main point is summarized in the title...

I think it really, singly comes down to just raising your rate -- am I wrong?

For me, it was two things:

1. Realizing that I should (and can) raise my rates in a simple type-in-a-higher-number sense. Yes, I knew this in a vague sense, but the book really drove it home for me.

2. The other rate increase that I plan to work on over the next 6-12 months is a transition from "freelance programmer" to "engineering consultant who delivers business results". Like you said in your example, if you're doing the work of 5-10 engineers, I think there's real value in being able to demonstrate this in a quantitative way and charge accordingly. And the book definitely helped in that regard as well.

Again, for me it was worth it to pay the money just to read some examples, hear about some rates that others were charging, and dedicate some time to thinking about this. $25 just isn't that much money to me in the scope of being able to improve my business. Maybe I could have done it without the book, but I figured it was worth risking $25 to find out if I could do it better with the book.

Quite frankly, the reason I haven't raised my rate is that I live a comfortable lifestyle.

Earlier you say,

I do feel like it is time to raise my rate, though, and the next project I start I will.

Could Brennan's $49 ebook resolve the tension between raising and not raising your rate?

Could some other $49 ebook have done it?

What is resolving this indecision worth to you?

Or is it, as you put it, "just having the balls" deciding either way?

Why not charge the higher rate, but give a discount to local clients, and invoice as such?

We are having this discussion because this particular book happened to make it to the HN front page. Everything you write would be equally valid justifications to buy every self-help or get-rich-quick book out there. In fact, that's one of the standard marketing tricks such ebooks employ: comparing the modest price of the ebook with the potential (typically best case) reward. There must be a name for this common fallacy but can't think of it off the top of my head.

Everything you write would be equally valid justifications to buy every self-help or get-rich-quick book out there.

It wouldn't for me, because I haven't bought all those other books or gotten results from them. I did from this one. YMMV.

Your attack can be used for any product that's ever been sold: "Wait, you're telling me that I'll get more value from this than what I'm paying for it. Hmm...that sounds an awful lot like every get-rich-quick scheme I've heard." Yes, marketing sounds like marketing, whether it's for a bad product or a good one. If you think that this sounds like more fluff than value, don't buy it. But attacking it (not you, but others upstream) because it's for sale and purporting to offer net value seems ridiculous.

I can't speak to the name (or even existence) of any fallacy that this describes, but pricing strategy you mentioned is known as price anchoring, where a higher number anchors the value against which the lower number is compared. Sometimes it's an explicit comparison of price, for or example where a higher price is offered, then "discounted" to a still high, but percieved bargain price; or a comparison of price to value (eg. ROI); or to an unrelated value that sets a subconscious numeric anchor for the price that follows.

This is relevant: http://danwin.com/2011/12/the-irrationality-of-price-anchori...

Your argument seems to apply to every book in existence, yet books sell. Why is that? Perhaps because the books are in fact worthwhile, but the particular book you buy is more a function of marketing than merit. And this applies to entertainment, groceries, etc. It is the "microphone effect".

Why go to a therapist, when you can talk to yourself? Why call a plumber when you can buy a wrench on Amazon? Why go to a doctor when you can look up symptoms on Medscape? Why pay for a gym membership, when you can do P90x at home… hell, why buy P90x tapes, you know what you ought to be doing, everybody knows that all you have to do is burn more calories than you eat, and you can use some heavy books or angry cats you have lying around for weights. Everybody knows what to do. Applying it is just that simple. That's why everybody does what they know they ought to be doing, all the time.

Is there a reason your writing comes across as agressive Amy? There's some jerks in other threads, but you're not being attacked and if you're secure in your success... then great!

As you're successful is there any gain by not being gracious?

I don't think it was aggressive, but if you did, I apologize.

Some beliefs are so wrong that they need to be put down -- not violently, but with a wave of proof so it's clear that they are false.

The belief, for example, that people don't need or want help implementing is one of those. It's just so wrong, it can't possibly be allowed to live.

When the time comes to negotiate terms, it is a short conversation.

Thanks for the downvote. I felt the conversation was civil and fine until it seemed I struck a nerve with you. I still haven't really heard why just reading some advice here http://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/10/10/kalzumeus-podcast-3-grow... is a sufficient substitute - as opposed to courses / books, etc.

I still posit that the thing that matters most is the rate - that's what affects your bottom line the most, garners more respect, etc. Negotiating that rate is a relatively quick exercise -- it takes some skill, and some experience, but it has nothing to do with weight loss or plumbing -- sorry, I'm not buying that either.

If the books / courses / etc. held different titles, e.g. "How to be a better consultant", "How to improve your consulting business", maybe it would be different, but the way all this stuff is being marketed is straight for the jugular: "How To Double Your Freelancing Rate In 14 Days"

Truthfully, the recording I did with Patrick is enough for some people. But the book goes much more in depth (i.e. how and what to change on your sales site, examples of qualifying emails, followup tactics, academic research re: pricing theory, how to assess your value to clients, and interviews with 7 freelancers who once charged very little and now charge much more, what they did to get there.)

Zenocon: You are not the customer I'm targeting. I can't stress this enough. People who value their time and don't have hours and hours to kill Googling around often times want someone else to present the research to them in a structured, easily consumable package and are willing to pay for that, because their time is a non-renewable asset. That's what I've done with the book, and considering I've had exactly 1 refund request and close to 400 sales, I think I'm doing a pretty good job.

You've also nailed it with your first sentence.

The answer to your question of whether the book is necessary is in the blog post (I think marketers call this a "sales letter"?). It is in bold. It describes a person who wants to pay money in order to improve their life.

Now, as to anyone claiming to have paid money and had their life improve, we may know that paying money was not necessary and not at cause for any change in their life. That was something they did on their own. But the blogger is OK with that. In fact he sees it as a key to his enterprise. He says the product (web app, etc.) does not necessarily matter. You simply need to find people who want to pay money to improve their life.

The ethical question is do you care if 99% of them may fail to improve it by simply paying money? That's not your fault of course. But it makes you wonder what exactly you are selling. Maybe you are just a sink for a known type of source --> The type of person looking to spend money on information to "improve their life", despite the availability of the same information without cost; and despite the fact that the key to improving their life may have nothing to do with impulsively buying an ebook.

Not everyone will answer that ethical question the same way. If they did we would not be having a discussion about this.

Any Rails developer can skip the ebook and just raise their rates for new clients. What's the worst that can happen? The only way to know what the market will bear is to test it. Alternatively they could stop coding and sell ebooks to other developers with the knowledge that "some people are looking to spend money to improve their lives and it really doesn't matter what that something is". It doesn't have to be a application you spent large blocks of time developing. An ebook on how easy it is to make money (by finding people ready to spend money to improve their lives) that you wrote in a single day may be just fine.

I think the approach is what the parent is reacting to and I don't disagree that the approach is definitely reminiscent of items that are sold that are of the "get rich quick" variety. Others in the comments have also pointed this out as well.

From skimming it (no patience to read every word) it seemed to follow a well known formula where the author probably read a book on how to create this type of thing himself which he paid for. So my reaction was the same and in another comment I asked the OP to offer up his expertise to give this info at all.

That said, it would be fascinating to have an a/b test of two approaches. One which is typically interpreted as "sleezy" (that the parent objects to that has been done and the point of this thread) and another approach that doesn't reek of that. Part of me wants to say that the "sleezy" approach will work better otherwise why would people be doing it? The other part of me wants to say "the non-sleazy" way will work that the only reason people take the sleazy approach is that they are parroting what others are doing (or what they have been taught).

I don't understand where you're coming from; all of his products are about how to be better at consulting, not how to create info products or SaaS apps. If he was selling books on how to write and sell books, that would be one thing. But he's a consultant writing and selling a book, a workshop, and an app on how to be a better consultant. To me, that's no different than a successful attorney writing a book on how to run a successful law firm.

To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Why do I need to buy a book to raise my rates? I do anyway. Why did you need to? I'm confused.

If you're positive that you're charging as much as you possibly can and there's nothing you could read or learn about the way you do your consulting that would help you raise those rates by even $1 / hr, then I wouldn't purchase this particular book.

I couldn't disagree more. This is such a defeatist attitude. Nothing separates what Bdunn or patio11 are doing from doable, teachable possibilities for others.

I, along with countless others in this community, am building a SaaS product that will create value for others, and will generate wealth for my team. No scam. No sleaze.

Concepts and products like bdunn's offer immense value for other creators and entrepreneurs like me, and we pay them for it. No scam. No sleaze. No victims.

Sometimes it's easier for nay-Sayers to reject an option as impossible and scammy than to admit they're too lazy, too scared, or whatever else. Sometimes they geniunely just can't see it. Either way, it's unfortunate.

But it has always been pure sleaze and will continue to be so for the forseeable future.

I disagree. It's like condemning all 'learning to program' products because of the terrible 'Learn Java in 3 hours for idiots' books.

Sales, marketing, running startups, etc. are teachable skills. Learning those skills helps enormously. Figuring out what's a good source of learning is, like in any other field, a job of research and reference chasing.

I wish some of these things had been around ten years ago so I didn't have to learn stuff the hard way ;-)

"It's like condemning all..."

No, it is not like that. I'm not sure why you would see it that way. It is condemning a very specific practice. This practice is much like multi-level marketing.

You might think of it as a sort of recursion. To use your example, it would be like selling a book on how to sell a book on how to learn to program. You might do very well with this sort of business but it does not require that anyone ever learns how to program. That is, the book does not need to be effective in accomplishing anything more than selling itself. As long as you understand this, it's fine. But somewhere down the line, someone may actually want to learn to program (not just sell ebooks). If this still isn't clear I am happy to give another example.

Do some Google searches for "how to become wealthy without...", "work from home..." or some similarly popular too-good-to-be-true idea, or even just "internet marketing". You will find eventually examples of people, who have (surprise) done very well for themselves, by selling advice on how to sell advice on how to {become wealthy, work from home, etc.}, using the internet (email, web). These "advice on how to sell advice" schemes are perhaps the most lucrative forms of advice that can be sold via the internet. And also the most hollow. A best selling ebook might simply be a ebook on how to sell ebooks (on how to sell ebooks)! Keep recursing.

Or just cut to the chase and search "multi-level marketing".

Your whole attack falls apart here, because none of Brennan's products are about how to build products. They're all about how to better do consulting (which he has done and continues to do). There's a pretty strong difference here.

"none of [his] products are about how to build products. They're about how to do better consulting..."

The question is: What is being consulting on?

Is it substantive?

Building products seems substantive. Especially building products that can produce sufficient income over the long term. But if it's not on bulding products like this then what is it? Is it about how not to have to build products that make sizeable but not sufficient income and instead to sell advice to people in that position? How clever.

If every developer were to become a "consultant", then who is left doing the grunt work of actually building products? Who is left to discover these websites, while they can produce decent bursts of monthly income, are not enough to sustain someone over a long period?

Sorry for not being clear. Brennan is a programmer, and his audience (myself included) seems to overwhelmingly be programmers who do freelance programming. So his products are specifically for programmers who do contract / freelance programming work. Is that clear enough?

This discussion might be more productive if you had bothered to even check out his products.

To be fair, what I am commenting on goes well beyond this specific blog. The type of practice I've described gets much, much worse than what is on this blog. But is essentially the same thing, only to a different degree.

It's ironic that the web has opened up the door to vast amounts of free information and at the same time led to many people believing they can and should sell any information they manage to acquire. Will some people pay? Yes, some people will. Buy my ebook and I'll explain how.

Just one of my products, Freckle, makes $30,000 a month… more than 6x what you claim is impossible. On, what, you say? Time tracking. A space in which we are a tiny niche player. http://letsfreckle.com

But there's no point in letting facts get in the way of righteous condemnation, is there?

Amy, what percentage of your customers come from organic search? Is SEO an important part of your business?

Not a lot (maybe 15%?) and no. More than half of signups come from either untraceable referrers/direct or searching for Freckle specifically. We rely on content marketing + word of mouth.

I am curious, is that $30K/mon revenue or profit? Per developer or total?

Revenue. We have one very very part-time developer (my husband Thomas) and the occasional freelancer.

Upvote for logic and common sense.

How long has freckle been around for? How many hundred blog posts have you written to promote it? How many interviews have you done over the years and plugged it? How many joint ventures and mailing lists has freckle been on?

Yeah, if I hustled like you have with freckle, I'd be making at least $30,000 a month too.

I'm just trying to insert some reality into the conversation. It's like watching professional athletes, we never see how much of their life they sacrificed to get to that point.

Amy certainly has a bit of hustle to her, but it should't be an imposing amount of it. She'd tell you that she doesn't even work 40 hours a week, partly out of lack of desire to and partly for medical reasons.

I'm amazed by the "work equals money ergo lots of money equals lots of work" mental script. Do I have any credibility on this topic? I've said this for six years: you can make substantial amounts of money on product businesses without it being a life-consuming obsession. BCC is going to hit $10k this month and I will barely touch it. Life very much not sacrificed.

Also, psychologically, there's a bit of a defense mechanism there, right? Amy has a situation many people would like. I think, candidly, you'd not decline it if it were offered to you. But you don't have it. So rather than saying "Hmm, maybe I should take the actions that would predictably achieve that" you simultaneously say "I can't do that! She's 'Internet famous'!" (i.e. a technologist quite similar to you, from a background of no special distinction, who a few years ago started writing things that people enjoyed and just kept doing that) and "I could do that but I don't really want to make $30k a month writing software people genuinely love, no siree, that holds totally no appeal."

Your last two sentences got interesting. Amy may be a great programmer with a great product, but her income was predicated from writing copy and marketing for that product (and I further note that some people, like the Rich Dad guy, skip the product stuff and just write copy to sell fluff).

Maybe I could make a product like freckle, but as you famously constantly argue, I don't make money writing software, the money comes from selling it, and all "selling" entails.

Maybe I could make a product like freckle, but as you famously constantly argue, I don't make money writing software, the money comes from selling it, and all "selling" entails.

From my perspective what selling entails is finding people who have the pain/need that your product alleviates/ fulfil - and letting them know that your product does that.

This is a bad thing? We should expect products to succeed without doing that?

"Amy may be a great programmer with a great product, but her income was predicated from writing copy and marketing for that product "


"Amy may be a great programmer with a great skillet, but her income was predicated on creating a resume, going to a job interview, getting hired, and actually showing up at the office and doing the work her employer desired"

What's the difference here? The first paragraph is some kind of evidence of moral inadequacy, but the second, totally fine, normal, laudable?

Add "had a fantastic GitHub profile and contributed to OSS" and… don't these two sound exactly alike?

I think the problem is that the people who are attacking the original post would like to make lots of money with only programming skills. Unfortunately, as patio11 and others constantly repeat here, most people don't value code, they value results that solve a business problem, and this requires the ability to sell those results.

Her point is that her product is a counterexample to the parent commenter, not that it came without effort. Where is she ever saying it doesn't take effort?

I think it's pretty hilarious that you think I've hustled like crazy, considering most months I don't spend more than 10 hours on Freckle… and that's being generous. In addition to it no longer being my main focus (for good or ill), I have chronic fatigue syndrome. If I work a 30-hour week, that's extraordinarily high output for me.

How many blog posts? Easy to find. Look at the Freckle blog and how it's been neglected for months and months until we hired somebody recently.

How many interviews? Google http://www.google.com/search?q=amy+hoy+freckle+interview --- looks like the number is, practically a la the center of a Tootsie Pop, 4. I rarely talk about Freckle except as a story in my podcast interviews, which happen oh, maybe 2-3 times a year in general but never solely about Freckle.

Freckle is nearly 4 years old so, 1 podcast a year on average.

You can ask leading questions, a la Fox News, or you can use facts, which are more persuasive. Unfortunately the facts are not on your side, so leading questions it is, I suppose.

Interesting that you & the other newbie HN user have ways to "counter" every argument. "Nobody could make more than $5k" "I make $30k" "Sure, it's easy to make $30k off suckers, selling a sexy quick fix" "What proof is there that my customers are suckers, and who thinks time tracking SaaS is sexy?" "Oh everybody could make $30k if they worked their asses off like you have" "I barely touch it at all" -- what will your counter be this time?

I am a happy customer of Freckle, love the product and what it does. But to hear the statements of the work that is in Freckle is a little disheartening. I have made requests in the past for updates and was happy when I was answered back about the requests. Its been already half a year and I haven't seen my request or really anything new come into the service. Small lesson here is that a simple answer back made me think of progress.

Is this a big issue? No, I am not leaving Freckle - I recommend it a lot to people. But with the little time as stated previously in development, I shouldn't hold my breath. It's just an example of how communication can be presented and perceived differently. I don't want to call it BS, but that is what I think is meant in other comments here.

But with the little time as stated previously in development, I shouldn't hold my breath.

It sucks when the tool you rely on doesn't get as much love as it deserves.

Fwiw, Amy devotes a huge chunk of time she would otherwise spend on Freckle and Charm to her 30x500 course that (horror of horrors!) teaches how to build SaaS products one wee baby step at a time.

Let a hundred freckles bloom.

(You'd think that she'd force her students to sign non-competes. In their own blood. See, here's my scar!)

ryan_f, I agree, it's disheartening… and not by design. We've been trying to hire somebody to develop new features for Freckle for some time; we must have gone through 5 freelancers who became flaky or committed broken work. (Note: I don't do ANY development on Freckle any more.) But, if you're still a customer, you'll probably have received some newsletters lately full of improvements & new goodies. My husband/partner Thomas has been working on it.

In your opinion, what has driven its success? Is it stuff that people with time but little money could emulate?

This isn't a tennis match Amy. I'm not in competition with you. My life goals are not the same as yours. I still want to make gobs of money, but I want to make it on my terms.

I'm highly creative and can't stay with old ideas for long. I want to invent and innovate constantly.

BTW, I may be new to HN but I'm not new to hustling or marketing, so I know making a consistent 30,000 smackers a month on time tracking software would probably require a lot of blood, sweat and tears. New people need to hear this because its a more complete story.

Congratulations on your success.

If the niche products are doing so well, then why the need to sell consulting? I mean if you have a product that is truly revolutionizing the time management space, one would think that business would constinue to grow and require a lot of energy to maintain.

It seems like this niche is a given number of programmers with poor time management skills surfing the web (what a coincidence :). Giving them a quick fix impulse buy is the niche. You will not catch enough fish to last a lifetime but some not-so-smart fish will get caught in the net, consistently.

And we can apply this same idea to selling admission to a talk or sellling an ebook. The point is to sell a perceived quick fix to people who are foolish enough to believe in such things.

No one would question this works as a "business". People _will_ pay. I would not doubt someone could make 30K in one month.

What's being questioned is whether you want to sell to an audience of people who you know will, with very rare exception, never have that success. This is because they believe in quick fixes. And of those rare cases where a buyer does succeed, can you really take credit for their success?

1. What consulting? I don't do consulting.

2. Are you privy to hard facts about my customer base like "it's all programmers with poor time management skills"? Or how big a global population that might be? If so, that's very valuable data for me… please share!

3. How much do you think Harvest, Toggl, Freshbooks, etc., make off selling their "sexy quick fixes"?

(I believe you might be the only person ever to suggest that time tracking applications are a sexy quick fix.)

Please, if you're going to a debate, bring a coherent argument to the table, with facts, instead of changing goal posts from "Nobody could make $5,000" to "Of course people could make $30,000 -- off idiots" etc. etc. etc. I'm sure you feel righteous and like you are making great points, but you've got no evidence or solid reasoning to back them up other than "Only stupid people would pay for a professional tool, ergo, only stupid people would pay for a professional tool."

Just in case you hadn't noticed, there are 3 throwaway accounts (apparently opened just for this) running around this thread attempting to discredit any of the ideas expressed by the OP because the OP had the audacity to charge for his time and efforts. It either set off their BS-alarm, which may be improperly calibrated due to their own views of the world which they then project; or, it might be simple jealousy.

Either way, I guess my point is that we (well, I, anyway) have all wasted too much time giving them the benefit of the doubt, I appreciate reading these types of posts (and yours and patio11's), yet would never spend money on any of the products mentioned in any of them.

I noticed. :) The arguments among the "green" accounts all have a similar incoherency. Looks like astroturfing to me.

But I still can't bear to let them stand because if you aren't privy to underhanded "argument" techniques, they sound mildly persuasive. I'm not arguing trying to convince the "greens," but rather the silent majority reading.

I don't say anybody ought to buy my products or Brennan's, but the unfounded accusations flying around are hilarious.

I don't say anybody ought to buy my products or Brennan's, but the unfounded accusations flying around are hilarious

They're not amusing - because the silent majority might take them seriously. And I already have enough problems with developers and founders thinking that they just need to build it and people will come ;-)

I agree with you about the silent majority - that's the only reason I bother to show up here and argue. To represent. I surely don't believe I'll actually convince one of the aggressors that they're wrong. Ha!

It's still kind of funny, though, to watch them twist and pivot their arguments, moving the goalposts and on moving sands, in order to prove that they are more "rational" than we are, we evil people who sell things.

Upon further reflection, I retract all my prior statements. I concede defeat. You win the "debate". Alas I cannot downvote my original comment back to "1". I will need help. Any takers? What were those upvoters thinking anyway? Surely we need more ebook marketing of this variety on the HN frontpage.

It's not about ebook marketing. It's not even about marketing at all.

The silent battle is between taking glam money (angels and VCs) versus rolling your own.

It's between sexy, techcrunch-y, big-name funding versus toiling in the pits unlearning all that self-defeatism and pulling yourself up inch-by-inch.

And sad to say, despite all the assumptions of meritocracy being the super default setting here, it's also about the crab bucket syndrome [1].

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crab_mentality

Nobody has presented it like you are presenting it… you built a strawman, which handily you are able to knock it down.

The depressing truth about the software business is that most of the success stories take the form "and then I started spending all my time on marketing, and my business took off!".

I say depressing because most software developers didn't choose their profession out of a burning desire to become a marketer.

That's sort of like saying "the depressing truth about relationships is that you need to go out and meet people to get involved in one."

I take a lot of pride in promoting my products. Marketing is just storytelling, and when your story aligns with the needs of someone else, a transaction occurs.

Honestly, if you want to just write code all day (and there's nothing wrong with that) don't create a product - work for somebody else.

"if you want to just write code all day (and there's nothing wrong with that) don't create a product - work for somebody else."

this is exactly correct. it is the same reason why so many restaurants fail; somebody says "hey, im a good cook, why dont i start a restaurant?" if you are a good cook and dont know how to run a business, become a chef. if you are a good coder and dont know how to run a business, work for somebody else. business is about way more than just creating a good product. for true, lasting success a good product is almost always needed, but what good is a good product if you dont know how to get anybody to know it exists?

> That's sort of like saying "the depressing truth about relationships is that you need to go out and meet people to get involved in one."

This was supposed to be snarky but it's actually a great analogy. There are many people who would love to be able to skip all the go out-meet-impress-pickup courting rituals and get right into a relationship, just like there are many devs who would love for their product to sell itself on its own merits. Usually doesn't work very well in either case but that's not to dismiss this particular wishful thinking.

I couldn't agree more with this posting. I would take it a step beyond the story aligning with the needs of someone else and the transaction. If it is something you truly believe in, it becomes a story you enjoy telling over and over, regardless of the outcome. People enjoy spreading passion, and when you are spreading passion, it ceases to become marketing in the "traditional sense" of a self-serving corporate activity, and it just becomes the act of sharing interest and excitement.

That defeats the purpose. If I have a great idea for a product and I want to work on it, why would I go work for somebody else instead? A much better idea would be to join forces with a marketing guy or girl or hire one.

Doesn't this sound oddly like the often reviled "I have a great idea, now all I need is to hire a programmer!"

I don't think so. If I have an idea _and_ I am able and willing to develop the product, I have more to offer than just an idea. Product development is a job. Having ideas isn't.

I see no reason why software developers and marketing people shouldn't start a startup together. Both have something valuable they can contribute.

I think you may have missed my point. It was that the "business person" is usually seen as "just having an idea, not doing any real work" by this community -- even though they would bring marketing, PR, product, etc skills to the table.

And the dismissive "I'll just hire a marketer" talk sounds a lot like the marketer saying "I'll just hire a programmer".

It seems like we're in full agreement: these two functions can and should co-exist.

Life is not so simple. A lot of people don't have the option to develop their ideas. That is why joining people who are building something similar ends up being a good option for them. They might not get the same financial benefit, but they may get other intangible benefits from it (pride, sense of accomplushment, experience).

Saying that joining a marketing person or hiring one is not the recipe for building a business. Realize that a business is not solely its marketing, nor programming. You cannot just take a program and market it, and become rich. Not so easy. It takes a lot of hustle (which is not marketing), and luck.

So are you saying that developers and marketing people should never start a startup together? Is that really too simple to be "life"? I don't believe that. Sure there are more entrepreneurial functions than product development and marketing. That doesn't preclude some division of responsibilities.

A software developer can be one without being in the software business. No need to market anything, ever. Now, if you want to sell software, then you better learn how to sell.

The depressing truth about the software business is that most of the success stories take the form "and then I started spending all my time on marketing, and my business took off!".

What's depressing is this line of thinking. You just can't program something and expect people to buy it. You have to sell it.

It's depressing because to a typical cynical programmer (and we're prone to be cynics spending our time looking for bugs) selling anything has a coat of slime on it. Marketing is mostly about deception and half-truths, and promoting a product effectively means maximizing the positives and minimizing/omitting the negatives: "Look at this shiny car!" (engine leaks oil) "Buy our shiny lightweight computer!" (can't change battery) etc...

Good programming is the search for The Right Way to solve a particular problem, Truth if you will. Marketing and sales seem to be about un-Truth. It is little wonder that there are so many programmers who look at sales/marketing with disdain.

Marketing is mostly about deception and half-truths, and promoting a product effectively means maximizing the positives and minimizing/omitting the negatives: "Look at this shiny car!" (engine leaks oil) "Buy our shiny lightweight computer!" (can't change battery) etc...

That's life. Being ultra logical is the slimy oddity, not the nitty gritty of life.

When you're dating, applying for a job, or trying to get elected as town mayor, you don't throw it all on the table right away and say, hey, I've got a bowel problem, I occasionally pleasure myself to pictures of vegetables, and I have a prescription drug habit.. even though all of us have various things of this nature under our hats (well, maybe not the vegetable one..)

I wish I could pull out a chair and have a long talk about marketing with you. Not because I think you are wrong, obtuse, or even a cynic. You are not. But due to the fact that you sound exactly like me some years ago. Hopefully, the following lines will save you the trouble I faced, and the failures I had to crawl out of.

Marketing is mostly about deception and half-truths, and promoting a product effectively means maximizing the positives and minimizing/omitting the negatives: "Look at this shiny car!" (engine leaks oil) "Buy our shiny lightweight computer!" (can't change battery) etc...

Marketing is about showcasing the world your ideas. It is not about deception, although some people do deceieve others through it. Real marketing, the one you and me experience at a hundred percent is something that you don't realize exists. You never heard it. Saw it. Or even thought of it. It simply resonates with your ideas, your self, and your values. The aroma of a pure rythmic parallelism between us and what we want to become. That is marketing.

In the 1980's, when Steve Jobs set out to market Apple, he understood the true meaning of marketing. Jobs set out to showcase the world the ideas behind Apple. That is why the original series of advertisements set out to show Apple as more than a computer company. It was an idea. A new idea. The computer did not have to be boring, or tied down to social structures. It was fun. Modern. The future. Apple was about freedom from the regular business computer. That idea is still living these days in the form of iDevices and Macs. In a world of boring Windows-based PCs, the Apple computer and device are still showcasing the original Apple idea. There is a better way to use technology. Such way is the Apple way (according to their marketing, not my opinion).

Did it work for Apple? Yes. Did Jobs set out to deceive people? No. Could they have sold millions and millions of devices based on a marketing lie? No.

The problem with us hackers is that we tend to forget that the world is not all black and white. Not every salesman is out to get us. Some really do want to help us. Like that insurance agent selling Cancer policies. Go ahead and talk to one of them. Ask them how many people has the policies he sells saved from starving. How many children will have an education or even a roof to live because their deceased parent bought a Cancer policy from him/her. For a programmer, a Cancer policy is just a lottery. For the rest of the world, it can be the difference between life and death. That is why they are marketed like that. It is real.

I like the idea that good programming is a search for Truth and the Right Way to solve a particular type of problem. What struck me is that good Marketing is actually the exact same search.

There are lots of bad programmers and lots of bad marketers (hard to say which are in more abundant supply). It may seem like there are more bad marketers, since we're more likely to be aware when we see "deceptions and half-truths" in sales/marketing... after all, we're very likely to be exposed to marketing in our daily life.

When you get down to it though, a really good programmer and a really good marketer are both rare commodities. Marketing is not inherently more evil than programming. They are just both usually done poorly, and we all suffer as a result.

"Marketing and sales seem to be about un-Truth"

Although it's easy to see why you would think this, it is a misconception that is costing you dearly, in ways you don't even understand yet.

I highly recommend you get a copy of "Three Steps to Yes: The Gentle Art of Getting Your Way" by Gene Bedell. He applies the same sales principles to any social situation where you're trying to get your way, whether convincing a partner to go on vacation to your chosen destination or selling software.

Suppose your partner just wants to tan at the beach, but you want to go rock climbing. Crucially, they may not want to admit (even to themselves) that this is what they want. A bit of empathy and creative thinking can lead to a solution where e.g. you go climbing a few days and you stay at a hotel with a nice spa for them.

That software buyer may only be interested in not losing their job, rather than the cost savings of the software. How do you show that person that you've done this at other companies to put them at ease? Can you see how useful understanding that prospects mentality could be?

Marketing is this kind of work at a larger scale. What it is people want to buy? How will you price it? Where will people find out about it and buy it? These fundamentals are hard to pin down and some practitioners are sleazy liars. Yet even without being an entrepreneur, just as an employee, you can try to answer those questions -- and that's marketing.

Learning more about these fields will let you spot good practitioners; working with them can be a boon to your career.

Marketing is mostly about deception and half-truths, and promoting a product effectively means maximizing the positives and minimizing/omitting the negatives.

It's extremely telling that you consider this to be an accurate description of marketing.

Please explain.

Programmer: "Programmers think that X is Y because X is Y."

It's actually an extremely powerful marketing technique to tell people exactly who the product is wrong for. It's an extremely powerful marketing technique to shape the product from its very beginning to discourage certain types of customers. Honesty is a killer app in marketing, assuming you pick your customer base (audience) carefully.

That's how I've made lots of money.

How you are describing "marketing" is actually "marketing" as you describe it -- simplified, glossed over, and half-true at best.

The technique you describe here is not the same as honesty. Example: "This product is not for uncreative people who think you have to work 60 he's a week at a desk to retire at 70." is a subtle appeal to snobbery/wishful thinking that makes them want to prove they are creative get-aheaders, and they can "prove" that buy joining your customer base.

Where on any of our product pages is there a phrase like that?

On the other hand, check out patio11's Lifecycle Emails page for frank honesty such as:

"Do you not have a shipped product yet? Ship something. Do not buy this course. Well-implemented lifecycle emails do not ship software."

Or, on the sales page for my class,

"If you can’t make these chats on a regular basis, you should not attend."

Where's the sexy ego-revving in these simple statements?

Those are disqualifiers, which are great sales tool. It basically auto-qualifies a client by making him/her decide from the start if they are going to buy depending on their current situation. Other examples might be:

- You have a steady job, but nobody will sell you a car? If you can get some proof of employment I will sel lyou a car. Today!

- Tired of paying a lot of money for quality web hosting? Don't want to deal with the hassle of a VPS? If yu are willing to get your fingers dirty every few weeks in exchange of great prices, service and flexibility, then you might want to look us up. wonderfullyawesomesuperwebhosting.com is the addres you might want to visit right now. Or dont.

Nothing depressing about that - it's part of what needs doing. The thing I sometimes find a bit depressing is that there's more money to be made selling tools to the miners than there is in the actual products. For instance, I bet patio11 could make way more money from consulting/seminars/books/courses/motivational speaking (haha, just kidding, sorry Patrick:-) than from AR, from how he's describing it.

I'm not sure that's true. My hypothesis is that we find it easier to meet and communicate with people similar to us, so marketing a product aimed at other developers is an obvious path. There is lots of money to be made by getting out of our stupid little bubble--last week I went for coffee with a guy that sells a modern UI for a legacy system in the construction industry. His code base is probably not the prettiest, and he has less than ten clients, but he is a multi-millionaire.

Here's why I think it's true in some abstract sense. Actual details may not be quite so clear cut - apologies to patio11 if I'm tweaking things a bit to make a point.

Let's take the bingo card thing and ignore Appointment Reminder: it makes good money, but seems to have some kind of upper bound in that he's never going to turn it into a multi-billion dollar business.

On the other hand, he's developed some serious competence in things like A/B testing, email marketing, and things like that, and is able to demonstrate their effects on companies' profits and thus command a percentage of those profits or at least get paid really well. So, by selling to companies that deal in the millions of dollars, it's almost mathematical that he's going to bring in more money than by fiddling around with niche products.

That's not to say he could have gotten to B without first going through A (sorry:-), as he gained those skills with the niche product.

Ahh, I think I may have originally caught you before an edit (or just misread). There is probably more money to be made teaching eg. email marketing for someone in patio11's position, but that doesn't extrapolate well. For young developers like myself, I think it would be foolish to target other developers when there are so many valuable business problems that software can solve. (IOW I was contesting the idea that there is generally more money to be made selling shovels, but I do not contest the idea that patio11 or perhaps bdunn might be able to make more money selling shovels at this point.)

"most software developers didn't choose their profession out of a burning desire to become a marketer."

I agree, if you choose to be a pure software programmer type then of course you can be just that. You can work in a core team or do research in academia. But if you have an entrepreneur itch you have to learn marketing and sales. In fact its pretty fun once you begin to realize that marketing also has lot of intellectual fun in it. A/B testing, human psychology, data analysis etc.

Also being a dev who can market is an unfair advantage over substantially all devs and substantially all marketers. It is seriously unreal.

An example near and dear to my heart: consider an engineer, a marketer, and one of us weird chimeras all studying a graph of feature adoption among the userbase. The engineer things "Hmm, only 20% of the customers use X. That's unfortunate. Maybe they don't need it." The marketer thinks: "Maybe we should mention that in our newsletter." The chimera says: "All users who haven't Xed with receive a guide to why they want to do that automatically on the 4th day of the trial and it is also covered in the onboarding process. That's live in production as an A/B test. We'll know in two weeks whether it is a discoverability problem or a user need problem. Oh, that's actually a good point, maybe we should talk to the users about this. BRB guys I'm off to call five successful trial accounts who don't X and ask why."

Agreed that this may be news for lots of programmers, but I think you're overstating their advantage. I once took a serious marketing course in a business school, and the idea of A/B testing is very old. Any professional marketer knows about it, and is currently being done by people that don't know anything about coding (by asking programmers to code it for them).

Yes the idea is very old, I recently happen to read 25 year old document with A/B testing and CPM discussion in it. Whats news is that people with hard skills can actually make money by working for themselves and not for someone who knows marketing.

Yup, marketing is a soft-skill that any developer with a little interest (sometimes desperation) can learn quickly. I've been learning all about it from Mixergy videos and reading all kinds of stuff on warriorforums and applying it to my projects. Its about realizing that 90% of your development effort will goto waste if you don't understand marketing.

I say depressing because most software developers didn't choose their profession out of a burning desire to become a marketer.

I started development (age 10) coz - well - it was a computer! Getting it to do shit was fun. More than thirty years on I still find making the computer do shit is fun.

Along the way though I found I got a real buzz about seeing people use the stuff that I made the computer do. That was freaking cool.

So now I do both.

This involve being sure that I'm helping build something that folk will actually want to use (UX, Customer Development, Lean Startup, Lean UX, etc.), building stuff (UX & dev), and making sure that the people who will like using my stuff can find it and discover value there (UX and dev and marketing).

I don't acquire marketing skills because it's fun (although bits of it are - how could I not find the intersection of things like statistics, socal & cog psych, etc, etc. fascinating). I do it because I get a stupid amount of entertainment value from seeing people use and enjoy stuff that I help make - and I get a kick out of helping other folk achieve that too. And if you want that you need marketing skills (or need to work with people who do).

And I don't find it even the tiniest little bit depressing ;-)

I can still picture myself sitting next to a shelf full of programming books and thinking the same thing, johnrob, so I know how that feels.

When I started looking into advancing my career, though, I realized that I would just have to market myself to my prospective employers.

The self-sell vs. product-sell marketing skills overlap far more than not. Focusing one one leads to a lot more autonomy (and sometimes profit), though.

This is quite common in any area of work, not just programming: the more you become "the man", the less time you'll have to do the thing you love, since you're likely to spend it administrating and coordinating a lot of people to keep the ball running. I guess the trick is getting to also enjoy this other side of things - or have the luck to start off with a partner whose main passion is the business side of things...

It's like working out or writing. Do a little every day. And if you absolutely can't, delegate. Find someone who can.

I yearn for the day I can delegate my working out. Waiting for my Rosie robot!

I had an experience very similar to Brennan's recently. Appointment Reminder, the SaaS which I wish was the center of gravity of my business at the moment, is profitable but not profitable enough to hire the folks and buy the things that I want to accelerate growth of it.

So I have been supporting it by consulting, but when I'm consulting I'm not selling Appointment Reminder accounts, and consulting is always more distracting than I expect it to be. (You think I would realize this after two years of it, but I persistently underestimate how much time it takes to e.g. prospect for new clients, negotiate/schedule engagements, travel to them, and deal with follow-up stuff like invoices.)

The traditional option for scaling a software business with a working product and actual customers is to take investment, but that's another ball of wax. There's fairly attractive options in angel investing these days, but taking any outside money would have an outsized effect on the character of my business at the moment, and I'm not ready to pull that trigger yet. Also, like consulting, raising an investment round is a very distracting event -- it basically commits you to months of doing near no productive work. (And unlike consulting, taking investment causes time debt which is impossible to discharge until you exit your business: you're now committed to keeping those investors happy and in the loop for, well, forever in business terms.)

But, having seen a lot of smart software companies do side projects (37signals was a big fan of it, and Amy Hoy and company have quite a bit of success) I decided to try my hand at it once and see how it went. So I started packaging one of my most-commonly-a-win consulting offerings as an online course, and decided to experiment with it once. (And, like Brennan says and like everybody in the space will tell you, I started by making an email list and sending them lots of free stuff they enjoyed which further burnished my credibility on the subject.)

The experiment was very successful: my customers seem to have liked what I produced, many of them have actually used it to positive effect in their business, and it raised a significant amount of money. (I'll probably blog in detail about it later).

An unanticipated side effect was, because of the topic I picked for my video course, I actually sat down and took all my own advice for a change (AR had an email strategy which I would have never let fly at a consulting client simply because I shipped the minimum necessary and never revisited that decision), and that ended up working out very well.

So, basically, yes: confirmation from someone else, this does work and it is perfectly compatible with running a software business.

I think there is a key difference between appointment reminder and the two other things (consulting and the course).

AR is something that will provide residuals that will continue for quite some time. During that time you will have to improve the product (at your leisure) and basically keep the infrastructure running. In return you will collect $29 to $199 per month, every month. No need to resell those that are already paying you money. You just have to keep them happy. Although I have some issues with the price points you have chosen (I know you have probably blogged about this and know much about it I would have taken a different strategy) leaving that aside for now I see the other things you are doing as simply distractions (as you realized) from spending time on the thing that will pay off long term.

I had an opportunity, way way back, to get in on the ground floor of the PC business but didn't have the capital. Instead of getting others involved I started another business to earn money which I sold profitably after 10 years but it was no way as successful as fulfilling the thing that I started out would have been. It was just a distraction. You stand the chance at getting sucked into the "success" of the consulting and the courses because they are making you money. And what will happen is that instead of creating things with residuals (like AR) you will constantly have to work to keep that up with new ideas and materials. Rather than just being able to have a residual business, which, from my opinion and experience, is much better. My advice is therefore to bite the bullet and take money from others that will allow you to grow the SAAS (and then create other SAAS).

My quick idea would be to setup a network of college students to sell the white label version walking literally door to door in office parks signing up professionals (doctors dentists) to use this product by giving them 3 months for free or something like that.

The real problem with consulting right now is that it's so freaking lucrative that the opportunity costs for building long-term recurring revenue projects like AR are not insignificant. It's just much more of a gamble, and I too often fall prey to the allure of the large check in the next six weeks, rather than the hundreds of small checks over the next six years, even though the small checks may eventually add up to dwarf the large check. Well, hopefully, but that's the gamble.

"The real problem with consulting right now is that it's so freaking lucrative"

I suggest for anyone doing consulting or building an app that they build into the price a monthly maintenance fee as a residual. We have an app that was written for us about 6 years ago (+-$65000) and we pay $6000 per year just to have the developer make minor changes and answer emails quickly. Very little work on his part but it gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling. (He originally asked for $1000/month). We'll probably negotiate this down when we get around to it.

"hundreds of small checks over the next six years, even though the small checks"

Hundreds of small checks are also "forced savings". You can't spend them before you receive them. You tend to keep your finances inline this way.

I love this idea...I have a long list of clients who email me occasionally for little updates and enhancements. I should definitely include some kind of retainer arrangement for ongoing maintenance and updates.

I suggest for anyone doing consulting or building an app that they build into the price a monthly maintenance fee as a residual

I do this on many non-coding consulting gigs - and I know other folk do too. More because walking in then walking away means that clients often don't get the full benefit (since they fall back into old habits or have questions) so they need some ongoing support. Unless you get successful improvements you don't get the referrals - so it's not just about getting extra money on an ongoing basis ;-)

So, for example, an engagement might look like

* 5 days onsite

* four weeks of being available one day a week remotely/onsite during set hours

* N weeks of some number of remote hours / onsite visits depending on client/location.

I'll say it again: I'm pretty sure several people here would finance your transition. With standard conditions, you should be able to raise in under a month. Think of what you could do with 100k, perhaps only diluting 5%.

Not sure if you saw it, but one of his concerns is the time debt that essentially binds him to the will of his investors if he were to take their money.

IMHO this is a very valid concern for a "lifestyle" business, if that is indeed what he intends it to be.

Investors with a minor stake don't get to boss you around or gobble up all your time.

patio11 could make $100k appear -- without strings -- by waving his Magic Product Wand, and producing 10x-20x value for his customers (at least!!), to boot.

Why, then, do you think he should take investment?

Magic (!) or investment, doesn't really matter, so long as he gets to focus on product instead of consulting.

Another option for improving sales of AR would be to start a referral program. I would love to send you referrals for a little cut but I don't really want to stand up a whole white label operation.

I don't mean to pick on OP, but I'm always a little surprised at how some authors can make money, by writing about how to make money. When in fact, the way they made money was selling books about it, not necessarily by the advice found in their books.

I personally don't feel qualified to write about how to build a successful business, because I feel my business isn't satisfactorily large or successful enough. Though I'm pretty sure I could write about it. I guess I'm surprised to see peers doing this as a means to become successful and raise money. It's almost like a self fulfilling prophecy.

Just write the book, changing the parts about losing money to making money, and start promoting it.

Don't get me wrong. My business makes decent money. At least as much as I'd make if I had a fulltime job instead. I'm just not sure that's enough success to qualify me as an educator and model on how to do business well. Hell, most of it boils down to luck. Yet, lots of people in the same boat as me write about their "success." Maybe it's lack of confidence on my part, or maybe it's Dunning–Kruger effect.

On the other hand, there's a lot of value (to other people) of disclosing what you've learned as a mildly successful business person. Most people like to keep their cards close to their chest. It's nice to read exactly how your peers are doing business.

I'm in the exact same position like you. My bootstrapped company pays a bit more than if I were employed somewhere (but with waaaay less time I need to spend on it), but I also don't feel entitled to write a book about making money.

It'd feel fake for me. I was also lucky with my business.

Anyways, since I've got some time now, I'll try to build another business by following a specific process I think is right. Maybe, once I'm done with this second business (or a 3rd) and I can claim that my process/experience helps other people to also start their businesses, I'll write a book about it.

One more aspect: If I talk to friends (being employeed somewhere) or people who try to get started in bootstrapping a business, I'm quite surprised that I know much more than I used to know and that my advice might even help a bit here and there.

Brennan also just did a really good podcast with Patrick (patio11) and Keith Perhac on how freelancers should double their rates (with transcription!). Definitely recommend it to anyone who sells services.



We met at LessConf, and talked quite a bit. I think you're a great guy and you are obviously very talented and very smart.

But...I got into this business because I got tired of the get rich blogging circle jerk I was part of in the past, and I'm very disappointed to see it coming into the tech world too.

I don't take issue with what you are doing, but between the turn Andrew took at Mixergy (pumping out a bunch of subpar marketing courses), the #leanstartup hysteria, and Frank Kern's IM marketing buddies infiltrating the space, I'm grossed out by the pitching and the polish.

Please let there be solace from this stuff somewhere...

I'm a Mixergy Premium member, and have actually found Andrew's courses to be really helpful. I love the Mixergy interviews, but at the end of the day where I've really gotten the value is the courses where the specific tactics the interviewees have used is laid out in real detail.

I don't known Brennan at all personally, but I'm actually pretty amazed that you equated his post to a "get rich blogging circle jerk." The point of his post is various ways you can bootstrap revenues while you're waiting for SAAS subscription revenues to grow. Seems like a pretty far cry from a "get rich quick" scheme.

Just standing up for two guys that I have never spoken to, but admire for how much they have given back to the 'net entrepreneur community.

I didn't equate his post to that, I'm saying that that's the path we're on with much of this.

I'd rather bootstrap revenues by iterating on my product.

I've been thinking about trying one of the mentioned courses because I am trying to transition from side projects just to scratch an itch to services that people would actually use. So figured that learning from the experience of people who've done it before (Amy, Patrick, Brennan...) would cut down on the trial and error phase.

But how would I shake the feeling that these exist as part of the marketing scheme that the entrepreneurs engage in. These courses are not exactly cheap, but you know... "How do you make $10,000 selling an ebook online? Write an ebook that promises to teach people how to make $10,000 selling an ebook online"

Let's look at a few examples:

* Amy Hoy's 30x500: An alternative to the "pick an idea, build, then sell" mentality. She's poured a LOT of research (trust me on this one) into her course, along with what's obviously worked well for her.

* Patrick McKenzie's latest course: A distillation of the stuff he usually advises his consulting clients to do. Read through his blog, it's knowledge he's accumulated over years of trial and error.

* My book or workshop: I've consulted for a while, and bootstrapped a fairly successful consultancy ($1mm+/year), and I also spent months reading through ridiculously boring CXO-level books on pricing tactics and strategy. I've distilled this down into something easily consumable for a freelance consultant.

You're buying our expertise (largely the result of our trial and error and the losses we incurred) and any ancillary research we did.

If you value your time, and think - you know, that spending $49 on a book that in 2 hours covers strategies and tactics related to pricing freelance services is better than the alternative - namely, cobbling all that information together yourself - then you're a good candidate to be a customer.

I'm specifically looking at getting into product development. Any suggested reading material for me?

The thing is, I've been around HN for a few years. I've seen people like patio11 transform from what they were doing before, to selling these types of courses. I've also seen patio11 give out free, amazing material for the last 2 years. And a lot more before I was around.

So when someone new to the "scene" is skeptical, I find it very funny. You have a right to be skeptical, of course, but really the best most of us can offer is to say: "These people know what they're talking about. And they're not just selling snake oil. We've known them for years". Maybe if enough people say it, it will help prove to you that it's not just a "marketing scheme".

P.S. I don't know Brennan Dunn, and haven't (yet) read his book, but he is endorsed by patio11. So is Amy Hoy, if I'm not mistaken. And with Amy, I've also used her time-tracking software for some time.

Brennan is the only student of mine who created a how to make money type product, but of course, that's a gross simplification of what his consultancy training/workshop is.

Compare to…

Jarrod Drysdale http://bootstrappingdesign.com

Jim Gay http://clean-ruby.com/

Martin Polley http://livetyping.capcloud.com/

Noah Gibbs http://rebuilding-rails.com/?

Jess Barkell http://www.ibooksauthortemplates.com/

Brad Pauly http://www.realviewapp.com/

Dimitri van de Putte http://www.photocouch.org/public_site

Adam Brault https://andbang.com/

etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum.

Brennan is also the only one of us, AFAIK, who has run a $1 million/year consultancy, so it's wise of him to teach what he knows. He's also a BEAST at implementing.

EDIT: Fixed itself

Taking the kid to a friends house and you all hosed the server :-) I'm on my way back to fix. Sorry!

How much time do you spend on SEO for Planscope? What percentage of paid customers sign up through organic search?

About 25% of accounts find Planscope organically.

Honestly, I don't spend much time on SEO itself. I follow standard best practices, write content targeted to my audience, and let the Googles figure out the rest.

It's a bit misleading to say "Five-Figures A Month" when you only have one month's of data.

Let's see that graph in a year's time.

I don't see how riting and workshops are "bootstrapped products". They won't be bringing nearly as much revenue in six months. A better title would be "How I'm financing my startup by selling books/courses" but I guess that doesn't fit the sales pitch so well.

Are you confusing 'bootstrapped products' with some other concept like 'passive income'? Amount of revenue six months out doesn't have anything to do with whether something's bootstrapped.

As always, available to answer any questions or share any metrics.

How do you market to someone that is immediately skeptical of any long form sales letter promising five figure a month income?

I think you either a) let testimonials from third-parties try to assuage the skepticism, or b) you write them off as nerds who aren't going to buy your stuff no matter how you market it.

On the first point, I highly recommend Brennan's ebook (I can't really speak to the workshop or planscope). I bought and read the ebook a couple weeks ago and successfully jacked my rates by 50% and I've planning another similar increase within the next 12-18 months.

On the second point, nerds are a dreadful audience to market to in many ways. We're pedantic, skeptical, and have a horrible case of why-pay-when-I-could-do-it-myself-itis. That Brennan is doing so well with this market is a testament to the value he's creating.

For every 1 person who fits that profile, there are 10 that don't :-)

I meticulously track the results I'm getting, and have tested a variant that ISN'T a long form sales letter. Guess which won out?

Just out of curiosity, and if you still have it around, I'd love to see the non-long form letter. I wonder if it would appeal to the other demographic.

Also you're clearly eliminating the skeptics, which is a good way to screen those with actual buying potential aka suckers ;)

How did you determine pricing for your workshop? As an outsider without interest in the particular coverage area of your workshop, $999 seems steep to me. Are you comparing your workshop with others to determine price?

Also, how did you market your eBook? Solely through your mailing list? And just a question on eBook mechanics - how are you selling it (through Amazon or something else?) And also determination on pricing - same here that $49 seems high, but not as high as the workshop. I can see that price being justified, but I'm still curious as to how you set it.

Finally, how did you go about starting and building your list? Did you post to specific user groups / forums? Speaking at other events?

Inquiring minds want to know!

How did you determine pricing for your workshop? As an outsider without interest in the particular coverage area of your workshop, $999 seems steep to me. Are you comparing your workshop with others to determine price?

I'm targeting established consultants and small business owners who want to scale their consulting practice and avoid VERY costly mistakes. Pricing is also a way to qualify the right kind of customer.

Also, how did you market your eBook? Solely through your mailing list? And just a question on eBook mechanics - how are you selling it (through Amazon or something else?) And also determination on pricing - same here that $49 seems high, but not as high as the workshop. I can see that price being justified, but I'm still curious as to how you set it.

I promoted the book via Twitter and with a few incidental mailings to my Planscope list (then 2k members.) I've already received a few dozen testimonials (see the sales page) with people who have applied the book to their freelancing business. The cost of the book is a drop in the bucket compared to the financial upside they're now experiencing.

Finally, how did you go about starting and building your list? Did you post to specific user groups / forums? Speaking at other events?

I promoted a pitch page for Planscope to the audience that had the pain points I was tackling. And it grew from there.

What were your first steps? What would be your first steps now that you've learned from all of this?

The first thing I did was find an audience of people where there was a consensus about a specific set of pain points (in this case: client project scope creep & transparency.)

I then just reversed their pain to derive a solution. If the pain is "they're cold and wet because it's raining", the solution would be "then shield yourself from the rain."

From there, I derived a product. In the above example, an umbrella; in my case, a product that showed clients how scope relates to budget.

This all came from taking Amy Hoy's 30x500 (which I really recommend.) It's the way successful products are generally born - at much less riskier than ideas you think up in the shower.

If I were starting over, I would have focused more on immediately cultivating my mailing list.

Could you explain how you found that audience? How can I find a reasonably sized group of people who will just tell me what their problems/pain-points are? I don't know where to start.

Can you tell what type of clients you got more at 1st the small or the big ones (25$/mo or 100$/mo)? Where do you want to focus your efforts (the small medium or "consultancies")? Edit: Q is for Planscope

Most of my initial customers were freelancers. The problem is labeling - some go by "freelancer", others "contractor", "consultants", and so on. I decided early on to focus on freelancer, and got what I aimed for.

Now I'm getting some enterprise accounts (like, universities) who fall off the pricing grid, and quite a few former freelancers and bringing in their contractor friends and upgrading to the team or consultancy tiers.

Brennan, congratulations! It is well deserved. I've had a lot of success selling a book, but now it is time to make the switch to recurring revenue.

They both have their places.

You can budget against recurring revenue - it generally just takes time to ramp up.

Infoproducts require constant tending (marketing), but when life happens and you need some cash, you can run a sale.

Also - mailing lists glue it all together - best decision ever.

> Also - mailing lists glue it all together - best decision ever.

So Brennan, how did you start your mailing list, and how do you keep it healthy and growing? For example, do you allow your subscribers to post to the list, or is it just a newsletter?

Also, have there ever been times when you've wanted to hold back some secret sauce and not share it because it's just too darn good?

Nope, I like sharing (and, confession: it gets me incidental business. Win-win all around.)

My mailing list initially came from Planscope subscribers. You'll notice I have a "get 8 free reports" opt-in on the blog and when you sign up for a trial. That is rehashing the BEST email reports I've ever sent using an autoresponder. My general freelancer mailing list (non-Planscope specific) is people who came over via Planscope or the book.

Here's an example: http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=ac67336d11c5d745a54e0867...

Selling products to people who have subscribed to an email list may be a great way to get customers. But part of the secret sauce is getting people to be on your list in the first place. I was hoping the article would touch on that a bit more.

Where do you find people who are potential customers who willingly want you to market to them? If I could master that, the sky is the limit.

Awesome post. I'm a huge fan of Brennan's ebook (we're about to do a discounted promotion of it to our 7500-developer-strong mailing list at http://21times.org) and it's already paid for itself hundreds of times over for me.

That said, the most exciting thing out of all the items he's making money from (consulting, ebook, workshop, and planscope) is planscope, because of that steady climb in monthly recurring revenue. Give it a couple years and that will dwarf everything else he's doing, and give him a nice platform from which to still bring in spikes of cash from info-products or workshops.

I'm starting to wonder if I should have ponied up the cash for Amy Hoy's 30x500 course (I believe Brennan is a graduate). Speaking of which, Amy is another poster child for this approach of SaaS + info products.

So what you are saying is that the successful business model is shifting to selling shovels to the poor hopeful fools coming off the boat. I do hope that is not the case. I hope there is still gold in the mountains.

Edit: Problem solved. Thanks Brennan!

That's the ejunkie default, it should be fixed now - did you email me about it? I'm more than happy to manually resend.

Yeah I did email you about it earlier today as I wanted to read your book this weekend :)

My apologies if I am being too impatient. If it's the default setting I agree you went with it. (Amy Hoy would call this "worry about it when you are rich" wouldn't she?)

Not sure what the original problem was because the OP's been edited but probably, that sounds like something I'd say… sorta ;) I rarely use the r-word ("rich") but there is definitely a list of problems I categorize as "Great Problems to Have."

on getting out of consulting-- wouldn't that slowly age your relevance on marketing products/workshops/ebooks as an expert on running a consulting company? Why not keep some consulting business to stay 'in the game'?

I don't think there will be any breakthroughs in managing cashflow, value based pricing, and similar topics anytime soon.

If I were writing ebooks and workshops on something technical - like Ruby - then yes, it would be a bad example to withdraw from Ruby.

Also, I doubt I'll ever stop consulting altogether. But my days of writing code full time for clients is drawing to an end.


Just a guess, but October is only 13 days in. Thus, about half the revenue so far this month.

Because when I took that screenshot (last week), we we're only 1/3 of the way through October :-)

We're only 13 days into October.

Guys, I am sorry if you think this is a bad comment but I had this question in my mind so I thought of putting it up here.

Now most of life runs off of smart phones which basically comes off with softwares like Appointment Reminder, time scheduling, notes etc (basically productivity suites) so I am not sure investing in this type of software will even let you break even. Although I see these pre-installed softwares are missing features like synchronization across phones. We are talking about SAAS software so I will not talk about inside office premises hosted software.

So again I am not sure how one see Appointment Reminder software business as a profitable one.

Patrick's Appointment Reminder doesn't have much in common with your smart phone app. Patrick's app is really a robocall tied to a central calendar. Your smartphone is just a personal calendar.

You could cobble together a solution using manually sent email to meeting invites, but it wouldn't work for all customers as well.

Looks very interesting, just bought your book.

Quite an innovative way of making runway money

Agreed. While there's a concern that non-product development activities are a distraction from product development and marketing efforts, I can tell you from experience that raising money and managing investors is a MAJOR time drag. It can consume 3+ months of your life in doing nothing but chasing meetings, crafting presentations, and satisfying the puzzling whims of different investors.

Then you have to work with lawyers to draft and finalize terms. And once you are done, you aren't done. The monthly/ quarterly investor presentation dance and the associated mental stress is just as defocusing as putting together a workshop or writing an eBook.

On the whole, I actually think having a complementary side-business to your main business, especially something that has some scale to it like workshops and/or e-books makes a LOT of sense. Especially when you combine it with the fact that software startups nowadays require less capital than ever to start.

Is there any benefit from a quarterly presentation though for organizing your strategy? Even if I don't have investors, should I not create some similar type of document to organize a picture of where the business is and where it is heading?

How does one come up with something to sell? I don't know anything about PM so I could never write something like that.

How does one come up with something to sell?

That's backwards. Try: How do I come up with a community to serve?

And then you add on: How do I come up with a community that's within my ability to serve and demonstrates willingness to exchange money for value?

And then you go study that community to see in what ways you can help.

This is a good insight. Thank you.

'though I can't think of anything a community would want...

Seek and ye shall find ;-)

You don't think up something the community would want. You observe people and see what they need. Find the problem first - then figure out the solution.

I think the problem now is that I can't relate. I don't like restaurants, food, social networks, music or whatever else it is people are into it seems. I don't have any professional contacts or anything really outside of software so I don't know what people want or need. I don't even know how to observe people

I'm getting a database connection error.

cool...more get rich quick schemes!

HN loves get rich quick schemes!

You don't have a business until you hire your first employee. Until then, you're just a dude trying to make a living.

Just wait until you have an employee... you'll realize your just a dude trying to make 2 dude's livings.

You are so wrong.


There are plenty of business that are run by individuals. And there are plenty of not-quite-really-businesses that have plenty of employees. See: Zynga


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