Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. You know me. I’m the guy who puts his hand up in front of your face as he says hello. I’m also Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart and the site where over seven years now I’ve done interviews with entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses.
And I go deep and I try to understand and I bring back ideas and techniques that other entrepreneurs listen to end up using and hopefully coming back here and doing an interview, like today’s guest–a long-time fan, someone who I’ve known about for years and emailed for years. And here he is to do an interview.
Dan Norris is a guy who’s been trying to be successful at entrepreneurship for years. He almost ran out of money and decided to do something drastic. That drastic thing changed everything. It’s what led to his successful company, WP Curve, which offers unlimited WordPress support and small jobs. Actually, is that the right way to explain WP Curve, Dan? It is. Cool.
He’s also the author of a book that so many people now in the startup community, especially in the hustler bootstrap community I’ve been loving. The book is called “The 7 Day Startup.” It does what it says. He actually tells you his story and then in seven chapters he breaks down what each of your seven days should be to launch your company and then he describes further how you should be as an entrepreneur based on his experiences. The whole thing is based on him analyzing why WP Curve worked and putting down in a book where he teaches it.
This interview is sponsored by HostGator. Later on I’ll tell you why if you need a web host, you should go to HostGator. Think of the gator. And Toptal–if you need a developer, go to Toptal.com. They’ll do a better job for you than any recruiter. They’re fantastic and I’ll tell you more about them later. But first, I’ve got to welcome Dan. Good to have you here, Dan.
Dan: Thank you. Thanks for being here.
Andrew: Yeah, right. Hold your hand up right in front of my face. Dude, Dan, I’ve been trying to have you on here for–we’ve been going back and forth since I think your book launched. Meanwhile because you’re in Australia and I’m in San Francisco it’s been hard for us to align our times. Then I said why isn’t your cofounder Alex here? And I’ve been wondering that. Let me ask you here, the jerkiest question I can ask–why are you here instead of your cofounder, who’s in the US?
Dan: I think he doesn’t like doing podcast interviews. I think he replied and said, “Dan can do it.” It’s as simple as that.
Andrew: Is it that you’re the guy who’s going to be the face of the company but Alex is going to be more behind the scenes?
Dan: I don’t know. It’s sort of evolved. I think to be honest neither of us are going to be the face of the company going forward. I like talking about what we’re doing. I like talking about startups. It’s a really big deal for me to be on this show because I’ve been following this show for years and years and I think shows like this are the reason WP Curve can exist because it encouraged me to think about something bigger than just starting a small agency.
So, up until now I’ve done a lot of this kind of stuff. Alex–a little bit more behind the scenes. But going forward I think we’re consciously working on both of us not being the guy from WP Curve, just having WP Curve as a service that runs because it’s got a good team that runs it. Both me and Alex are working on other things as well and we’ve got a lot going on. That’s probably how it’s going to look from next year on.
Andrew: Dan, I was getting a sense of you before the interview started. It feels like it’s not just it’s a plan to step away, but you’re kind of burning out on being away and I’m sensing that maybe you’re feeling like things are flat and you need to step away from the attention to find a way to supersize things again, to move faster, to build more.
Dan: Yeah. I’ve sort of made a bit of a decision to step away from the online stuff a little bit. I’ve got a brewery that I’m working on building. That’s going to be something completely out there that’s something I’ve never worked on anything like that before.
Andrew: I saw that, Black Hops Brewery. I said, “What is Dan doing? He’s killing it online.” You’re going into brewing?
Dan: Yeah. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been working online a long time. I’ve done so many interviews and just replying on every social media post–I’ve literally replied to every email I’ve gotten in the last eight years, every message I’ve got, every podcast request I’ve said yes to, especially during–
Andrew: Are you burning out?
Dan: I don’t think burning out. I think I’m starting to wonder whether I should be a little bit more selective.
Dan: I’m looking forward to be some more offline work, not just spending 100 percent t=of my time online. I’m going to start being a little more selective about how I spend my time and who I give my time away to.
Andrew: I appreciate you giving your time to me and that this is the last interview. We should actually start making a bigger deal when somebody says it’s the last interview. You know Jay-Z, when he does it, when he stops making an album, it’s always, “I’m retiring after this album. You better get this because it’s over.” You should say, “I’m retiring from all public appearances after this. I will be wearing a veil like Michael Jackson’s kids after Mixergy.”
Dan: And then I’ll come back like Jordan.
Dan: That sounds good. I’ll get a lot of attention from that too.
Andrew: So, I said that you were struggling for years. Did it feel like a struggle?
Dan: Yeah, to be honest, the seven years when I started my agency, most of the time I felt like things were going well. Most of the time I thought, “Okay, I’m not making as much money as I want to be making but things are going in the right direction,” because revenue would be going up and I’d be making steps forward, like I’d hire someone or I’d get a server that was going to make our office run more smoothly and I’d start a hosting service and therefore have a bit of recurring revenue and be like, “If I only increased this by ten percent it’s going to go up and up.”
This sort of happened continuously for seven years to the point where I got to the end of it and I’m like, “Actually, this is a shit business. I’m not going to make this work. I’m earning half of what I was earning in my job seven years ago. I’ve never actually made any money. I actually have to stop doing this.”
Andrew: What made it a shit business? What made consulting such a bad business for you?
Dan: Well, I didn’t make enough money. It was unprofitable.
Andrew: Why? It seems form the outside so many are making money, but I’m wondering how many are feeling like you. You have some perspective from having time pass by. Why do you feel it wasn’t a good business? What made it a bad business?
Dan: Well, there are a couple of things. It wasn’t a very good fit between me and the business. When I sold the business, I just wanted to do content marketing. That was all I wanted to do. I wanted to write blog posts. When you run an agency, you literally have to go down to the coffee shop and sell people websites. You have to talk to people about it. At the time, I was trying to convince people to have a CMS.
In fact, I built websites with a CMS before clients even knew they had a CMS because no one wanted it and no one cared. That’s how I spent my time. I’m not the sort of person who gets motivated by sitting in a coffee shop trying to convince someone that they need to spend $1,000 on a website. So, the fit was all wrong. There was not differentiation. There was no ability to scale. It was unprofitable because it relied too much on me–all of things, I think. It was just a bad business and I just couldn’t make it into a good one.
Andrew: I read about the different business ideas you had. One of them was you were going to create systems for companies. You said HR is already spending so much money. Why not spend a few hundred bucks to get the systems already created for them? You had a company called Informly, right? Where did your original ideas for all these startups–where did all these startup ideas come from?
Dan: I’ve had so many different things I’ve worked on. The HR manual was the first time I’ve ever done any kind of startup idea. That was in university years and year ago, 13 years ago I think. I didn’t do it. It would have been a great idea at the time. It’s probably the best idea I’ve had. But I didn’t do it. That taught me that it doesn’t really matter what the idea is, you need to execute. So, after I sold the agency, I thought it doesn’t matter what the idea is, I’m just going to execute. That was wrong as well because I executed on a shitty idea.
Andrew: What was the idea you executed on?
Dan: It was Informly. It was an analytics dashboard. It was effectively trying to convince people they needed to pay for a dashboard of analytics when they already have analytics for free. I learned a lot of lessons, which was a lot of people were saying ideas don’t matter, execution matters.
But that’s bullshit as well. Ideas do matter. You need to build something that people actually want to pay for and it needs to get their attention and it needs to be a good fit for you and you need to have a good way of marketing and driving leads to it. So, I learned a hard lesson there. I learned a hard lesson from not launching and I learned a hard lesson from running something for seven years that was fundamentally unprofitable.
Andrew: And what was the big takeaway that you got from all those experiences?
Dan: I think there are a bunch of things that go into a good idea for a company. The tagline of the first book was “You Don’t Learn It Until You Launch It.” So, I think that’s the biggest thing, executing quickly, solving problems as they arise are two really big ones.
But from a fundamental idea point of view, I think the biggest thing is offering people something where they’re already paying for something. Selling analytics is trying to convince people they have to change the way they allocate their money because most people don’t pay for analytics.
So, if I want to do that, I need to convince these people in my audience that don’t pay for Google Analytics that they need to pay me, whereas with WP Curve, people were paying for developers already. My only job there is to convince them they should pay for me instead of someone else. I did that by having a unique spin on the idea. I think a good idea is something where people are already paying for a solution but something where you’ve got differentiation which is something that people can talk about.
Andrew: My favorite quote from your book is the one where you said you started showing off Informly to potential customers and you wrote their responses and what happened after their response. My favorite one is the quote from Jason Calacanis. He says, “It’s a great businesses,” and then in parentheses you say, “It’s from startup veteran Jason Calacanis. I sent him a login. He never logged in.” So, you’re right. People will tell you if you asked them what you think of this idea, “It’s great,” but they don’t end up doing anything about it.
Then I heard that you setup a list of criteria from what you wanted from a business. One of the criteria was subscription business. It had to be subscription. Why is subscription so important?
Dan: I think what’s important it consistency. I think whether you’re 100 percent recurring, whether you’re 60 percent recurring. That part I think is the important bit. I don’t think recurring revenue is the only way to build a business. But I think consistent revenue is the only way to build a business. I think when things are growing consistently you can just invest in so many things that you couldn’t otherwise.
With WP Curve, right from the outset we were growing at 10 percent a month for 18 months straight. And we knew as soon as our response time got below 8 hours, we knew we could hire again and next month we would more than pay for that person.
So, it was like if we didn’t have the consistent knowledge that we were going to grow the next month, we wouldn’t have been able to invest in all this stuff. We paid for systems. We got an office. We started hiring people. I think we went from zero to 40 devs in two years. We were only able to do that because of that consistent revenue.
There are other things like motivational aspects to having like ongoing growth that are huge from entrepreneurs, especially bootstrap entrepreneurs that struggle with that sort of thing. I think the up and down launch thing is not a way to run a business. I decided I wanted my business to look like a monthly subscription business. At the moment, it’s probably 70-80 percent recurring but it’s very, very consistent. I think that’s what a good business looks like.
Andrew: You started asking your entrepreneur friends about the idea of a subscription. I remember when Neil Patel, a friend of mine, started looking at my site and saw that I was doing membership. He said, “Kill membership. Charge a one-time fee. You’re going to make more money even if you charge people more than your current lifetime value of a member.” You’re nodding. What was your experience when you were asking people?
Dan: Well, that’s probably true. You will make more money. But will you build a long-term business? That’s the question. And long-term relationships with your customers and consistent money–the reality is that most people probably don’t want to pay recurring for something.
Most people, if they can get everything that, say, Infusionsoft does for a one-off fee, they’re going to take that option. They’re not going to go recurring. But as a business, Infusionsoft would be a crappy business if they didn’t have that recurring SaaS revenue. So, it’s always a compromise. With our business, from the first year we said absolutely zero projects.
We said no to tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands’ worth of work. We wanted to build something that was going to be an ongoing business and not something that was just going to be up and down launches. I think it’s a compromise. I think if people are starting out, they might want to balance that off and say, “I’m going to do some one-off stuff,” or I’m going to charge yearly memberships, which is what I do with my community.
But I think ultimately what you want to build is a consistent ongoing business. One-off launches will maximize short-term revenue but they won’t push you to create ongoing value and I think you’re going to be constantly having to launch tuff.
Andrew: That makes sense. I hadn’t thought about it that. Maybe you wouldn’t get a bigger pop in the beginning. But it’s harder to project your revenue when you don’t have consistent payments coming in from your customers.
You know, the other thing that people said to you was if you o unlimited, then people are going to abuse it. They’re going to start coming to you with tons of small projects. I would have thought that too, in fact. I knew it was unlimited. That’s why in the intro I said, “Does that sound like the right sentence to describe you?” I know it’s unlimited. I have here in my notes that people told you unlimited.
I see here on your website. It says 24/7 access to the world’s best developers for unlimited small jobs. But it just seems so wrong to me that I had to in the moment just check and say, “Did I just tell people it’s unlimited when it’s not?” So, that’s the feedback you got, right? It doesn’t make sense. Why did you push back on it?
Dan: I just made a decision that I’d listened to entrepreneurs for too long and I’d talked to my mates about ideas for too long. I’d been burnt by the Informly experience with all these same people telling they love this idea and it was great and then none of them becoming customers.
So, I just made the decision at that point that I wasn’t going to take people’s advice if it was something I could test. That is something that could easily be tested. It only took me a month of having customers on board to work out if they were going to abuse the service. It just so happened that because of the way we deliver the service, it’s almost impossible to abuse.
Andrew: What do you mean? How do you deliver it? You take one month to do a small project so they can’t come back with the second?
Dan: We take one day. So, we have same-day turnaround. You can only request one job at a time and you can only do it for one website. So, the chance of someone being at their computer 24 hours a day, having a website that has so many small jobs that they’re requesting one every single day is extremely unlikely. Even if they did that, the maximum they would do is 30. In reality, I think we probably had customers request 15, 20 jobs mainly.
We do have a reasonable use. I think this is just getting more over the top. More often than not, it’s because they’re using it for multiple sites or they’re trying to get around the system or they’re trying to request bigger jobs or something like that. So, it just sort of naturally limited itself. That was a big lesson. It was like a lot of people will tell you something that seems to make sense, but if you can test it, then it’s your job as an entrepreneur to test it.
Andrew: I see. The big change, the drastic move was no asking and listening to other people or at least no listening to what other people said, test it, launch it and do it as fast as possible and get real feedback from your customers. That’s the drastic move that took you from almost running out of money to finally having a business that took off, right?
Dan: That’s it. That’s the initial step. But the important thing after that is like do you just do what everyone says is a good idea or do you do what’s actually working for you? That’s what I do now. If things aren’t working for me with my content or with projects I’m working on, I kill them and I work on the things that are wrong. Maybe some of these ideas seem crazy, maybe starting a brewery seems crazy, but this thing is getting its own traction.
And it doesn’t make sense for me to work on stuff that entrepreneurs think is a good idea. It makes sense for me to work on stuff that’s getting traction. For whatever reason, it’s hit a nerve with people. I think that’s what entrepreneurs need to do, they need to be almost like a scientist, experimenting with something, just launch things and figure out not hypothetically will work what actually is getting traction, same with content.
Podcasting might be great. It might work really well for Andrew Warner but it doesn’t mean everyone else should do a podcast. Someone else might do the exact same thing you’re doing, it goes terribly and they can’t figure out why and they just keep doing it because it’s working for Andrew. It’s the wrong way to do things. You need to figure out what’s working for you, not spend so much time analyzing why it’s working but just find that momentum where it is working.
Andrew: So, Dan, if I were to say to somebody who asked me, “Should I start a podcast?” If I were to say, “Start a podcast, see if it works for you and if it does continue and if it doesn’t, drop it,” they would say, “It’s going to take me more than seven days to launch a podcast.” And I know that that’s a lie. I know it’s not possible. You can do it within a day. But I wonder can you really create a subscription-based service that does what WP Curve does, which is fix people’s websites, can you create that in seven days with everything that you’re offering?
Dan: That’s an easy question because I did. So, that’s an easy answer. There are a couple of ways to answer it. A lot of other people have done the same thing. A lot of people in my 7 Day Startup group have launched companies, some of them going from $0 to $30k-$40k a month in six months, real businesses. So, yes, it can be done.
But some sort of businesses can’t be launched in seven days. My argument in the book is, is that the sort of business that you should be working on if you’re a first-time entrepreneur? A lot of people just want to get to the place where they’ve got a good consistent income coming in, they’re happy working for themselves and they be creative and have a good lifestyle.
That’s what people want to get to. So, if you want to get to that, it doesn’t make sense for you to be building a software app that’s going to take you two years to build to try to work out if it’s actually going to be good or making a physical product that’s going to take you a year and cost you $50,000.
Like, are those ideas–maybe they’re good for some entrepreneurs–but are they actually good for you? My argument is if you’re in that position, then the best idea you can work on is the one you can launch quickly and you can get to that point as quickly as possible and make sure you’re not wasting any time or money.
Andrew: The way you did it was you got a domain name. I think the name originally was WPLiveNinja, right?
Dan: Yeah. Good research.
Andrew: WP meaning WordPress, of course, LiveNinja. Why did you change it? I like the name WPLiveNinja?
Dan: Well, when Alex came on board–I actually never loved the name. I just wanted to put something up there. I thought, “Have a live ninja on your team.” It was kind of wonky. I didn’t mind. I just wanted to get something up there.
But when Alex came on board, he found out there was another company called LiveNinja that had nothing to do with WordPress. I think they did live chat. I don’t’ know what they did. He wasn’t comfortable. I was like, “Cool. Let’s change it. WP Curve is nicer.” In the book I talk about ways of naming things. WP LiveNinja wouldn’t’ have met my criteria. So, as it turns out, it was a good change.
Andrew: Except you did say, “Look, just launch something fast. The name isn’t that important.” You have this great quote from Jason Cohen of WPEngine where he said, “It’s better to spend more time,” wait, “Most people want to spend a lot of time coming up with a name that has meaning than a company that gives the name meaning. Build the company and that will give meaning to the name.”
All right. The reason you were able to launch so fast is you just got a quick name, put up a quick website. Got a quick theme. And you were going to do the work yourself. All you needed was a page that said, “If you want to pay me, here’s where to do it and what you’re going to get in return,” right?
Dan: Close. I actually had a developer, Andrew, who’s still our senior developer. He worked with me on Informly and with the agency previously. He’s in the Philippines. He was still with me. I had two developers. I had to give one of them to Jay Cower, which pissed me off to no end and I always like talking about it because he ended up using this developer who was really good and I wish I still had him. I just wanted to keep him because he’s an amazing dev. He was always going to do the work. I’m not a developer. So, I was going to be able to do some percentage of the work, but I was never going to be able to do all of it.
So, the plan was for him to do it and for me to answer the live chats that came through, eventually find someone in the US part of the world. I couldn’t keep doing it in my sleep with the phone next to my head. That was the plan–get customers as I got them, employ more devs and scale from there.
Andrew: And you said–what’s the name of the first developer? I just forgot.
Andrew: Andrew. I should know, just like my name. Andrew was a full-timer with you?
Dan: Yeah, contractor from the Philippines. He worked for me pretty much full-time for probably a year before I closed my agency. The guy who bought it didn’t want him. He had his own team. Thank god. It was the only thing I kept out of that agency. I sold everything, even my Twitter accounts. But I kept Andrew, thank god, but he’s still with us.
Andrew: All right. This is a good time for me to talk about my sponsor, which is HostGator. If you need a website, I urge you to go to HostGator.com/Mixergy because frankly the prices are right, the guys offer incredible service, 24/7 support. They’re there. They’ll take your call. They’ll help you migrate. I think they’ll even do the migration for you if you’re with a web hosting company that you hate. Dan, I imagine a lot of your customers are HostGator customers too, right? They’re pretty popular.
Dan: Yeah. I love companies like HostGator, especially for the 7 Day Startup thing. My thing is launch with something affordable, launch as quickly as you can. Hosting is one of those things that you want to get right, but at the same time, you want to be able to launch something quickly. Their prices are extremely reasonable.
Andrew: Extremely reasonable. I get a lot of emails from people saying, “Are they really good?” Yeah, they are.
Dan: The other thing I still like doing a WordPress install as opposed to a hosted CMS, just because if the company does start taking off, you end up with a platform that you can scale infinitely. So, I think if you can get that right from the start–I do believe you can do that in a couple of hours. I’ve setup websites in a couple of hours that end up becoming sites that are getting thousands and thousands of visitors. So, I think people should definitely go down that path.
Andrew: You gave an idea at the top of the interview where you said that the HR business that you had in mind where you going to create documentation for HR departments, is that right?
Andrew: You said that’s one of your best ideas. If someone were to steal that idea, what are some of the documentation that they’d be selling?
Dan: Well, you couldn’t do it now. That was 13 years ago. It’s all been done now. It wouldn’t be interesting anymore.
Andrew: So, what is an idea you can do that somebody could test with nothing but a HostGator account right now and get it done in seven days and show you in your community how well they’ve done?
Dan: All right. I’ll give you one. How about formatting blog posts repurposing Periscope scopes? So, an influencer goes on Periscope, does a scope. That only stays up there for 24 hours, but he’s put out all of this amazing content that probably doesn’t live anywhere else. Call it Periscribe or something like that. Document all the content. Put it up on their site, charge on ongoing monthly fee and there’s your business.
Andrew: Beautiful. So, for a monthly fee, their customers are going to have all of their Periscope content which would disappear put nicely into their websites if they want it or a brand new site if they don’t have a site yet. And who doesn’t have a site.
Andrew: That’s it? That’s a brilliant idea. You just go to HostGator.com/Mixergy. You could quickly, I’m talking about within minutes, setup a webpage that’s on the WordPress platform or frankly if you don’t like WordPress, they’ll host it on any other platform you want to. I prefer WordPress too.
Set it up on WordPress and you start to test it. Within days, you’re up and running and you’ve got some real feedback from customers who are paying you if you’re happy or if you realize you can’t get enough money and you can just scrap it and frankly–let me see, what is it? 45-day money back guarantee. You can test this whole idea within the 45-day money back guarantee of HostGator.
If you’re already with someone else and you want lower prices and you’re tired of your website not staying up and you’re tired of tech support being emails and emails away and you’re not getting a response and you want 24/7, 365–that means even on Christmas, they are there–if you want that, go to HostGator.com/Mixergy. They will migrate your site from your crappy host to them and if you have a new idea, they will help you get started and get results fast. HostGator.com/Mixergy.
How did you and Alex connect?
Dan: Through my content. Most of what good things have happened to me over the last few years have been a result of putting out all the blog posts and podcasts and other stuff I’ve done. Alex was reading my blog. I think I was doing monthly income reports.
Andrew: You still are, right? People can go to WPCurve.com/Monthly-Reports to see what your revenues are and what you’ve learned as you’ve continued to grow.
Dan: Yeah. And I was doing those from 2012 before I had an income, all through the Informly process and frustratingly posting about what I was doing. So, Alex had been reading those and then he reached out and said, “Can I do a bit for free work for you?” He came on board for a couple of weeks when he was in the US and this business just started taking off. He was just part of it. It was just sort of me and Alex going at it for a couple of months growing this business trying to hire people. After that, it was clear that it was going to be part of this thing.
Andrew: Your first customers also came because you wrote so much. You kept a mailing list, right?
Dan: Yeah. So, during the Informly–when I started my agency, I basically said, “I’m going to start a business that just does marketing through content.” That was it. I’m like, “I’ve tried Yellow Pages, I’ve tried paid ads. I don’t want to speak at conferences. I don’t’ want to go to anymore coffee shops to sell people websites. I’m just going to do content.”
I think during 2012 I did maybe 200-300 blog posts. I started getting a bit of traffic to the site, a bit of traction. I started to understand what good content was and I started building an email list. When I launched, none of this was providing me any income by the way, because Informly was a business that wasn’t working. But it was providing me with a lot of attention and some relationships with influencers.
I built a bit of credibility in the online space and an email space and a website with traffic. All that momentum went into WP Curve. We redirected the website and all the content and we just changed the name from Informly to WP Curve once that business started taking off and we used all of that.
Andrew: Was your goal just to get attention for yourself when you were writing? It’s a lot of work to sit down and write and have the world either reject it by never coming to the site or see it. What was your goal? What was your end goal with it?
Dan: I just fell in love with this idea of content marketing. I had a website, a blog in Australia that used to rank really well for website design for that keyword. I bought it off a guy who was sort of great at SEO. And I’m just like, “This is going to die. I need to be doing content because this is going to be the end of this website.” I started getting into blogging and I really enjoyed it. It was the only form of marketing that I really have ever enjoyed. I decided I wanted to build a business just doing content.
So, I think yes it wasn’t paying off at the time, but at the same time, I was getting a lot of good recognition. I was getting not a lot of traffic, but I was getting more traffic than I’m used to and building an email list. I enjoyed doing it. I felt it was going well even though the business wasn’t going well.
I just decided I was going to make it work. I’d spend some times where I’d write 13 blog posts in one day and put them all on the site, like big marathons and all that and other things like that that I actually loved doing and was kind of desperate to make the content thing work. That’s continued to now although I have a team that does all that for me now.
Andrew: I guess after the first email, you got ten customers who are paying a total of $476 in monthly recurring revenue. The price– $47, roughly, is what you were charging, right? How did you come up with that? How did you know what to charge for these small tasks?
Dan: Well, the price was, I think–it might have been $59 the actual price. I did a discount for the first people that signed up for this forum that I’m in called the Dynamite Circle which you might have heard of. But in terms of coming up with a price, all I really did–and I talk about this in the book–I assumed my business was at a certain size.
I figured out how much it was going to cost me to do all the work in the business by employing other people and then figure out how much that’s going to cost per client based on a number of assumptions around how many they’re going to request and things like that. And then I doubled that amount–if it’s going to cost you $40 to have a customer, double that amount and your price is $80. That’s the very rough napkin math calculation that I did.
Andrew: Did you ever have any problems with publishing your revenues and having the world know what they were?
Dan: It depends what you mean by problems. I think sometimes early on it was a bit–you have to put yourself out there. so, I think you did get a bit of attention, some of it unwanted. But overall, my goal with content has always just been to be open and honest about what we’re doing, to be transparent.
Also, it’s telling a good story. Those income reports now, they don’t have the same effect they used to. When we first started doing them, it was a story about a guy who was trying to work on a business that was completely failing. Then it just took off and this line chart was going up and up and up and it was a great story.
Now, not so much, not so much impact. But I think at the time, this content was really getting a lot of traction for us. It’s what put WP Curve on the map for a lot of people. That meant a lot of copycats, but at the same time, my stance on that is it’s silly to copy someone else because you don’t understand what’s really going on and you’re just going to miss the boat. So far, as far as I know, no one’s really copied that and had a whole lot of success with it.
But it’s also inspired lots and lots of entrepreneurs to take some of those ideas to build their own companies. That’s the most exciting thing for me. There’s like WP Curve for design and WP Curve for Shopify and all this kind of stuff happening, which is really cool.
Andrew: The thing that they’ve taken away from it that makes sense is something that Brian Casel calls productized service. He did a course here on Mixergy with that. If you’re a Mixergy Premium listener, you’ve got to watch that. If you’re not, you should sign up just for that freaking course. Brian is so smart about this.
What he says is, “Look, service companies end up going crazy trying to do everything for their clients and what they end up with is a really elaborate job that’s depending on other people doing part of your job but you’re always needing to be there. It never stands up on its own and it’s hard to grow as a business.” So, he says, “Find something that you can do repeatedly and sell that like a product, as if a computer was doing it even though really people are doing it.”
That’s what you’ve done. That’s what the real copycats, the smart guys are taking away from what you’re saying. They’re saying, “Instead of doing all design work, we’re going to do these small design works and we’re going to charge for them like a service.”
Dan: Yeah. That’s right. Brian’s great. I think the important thing–it’s like with our little napkin math exercise. When I had my agency, I would do conversion optimization hosting. I’d do sales very badly, content, web design. I even taught myself to program at one point. I built my own CMS in ASP and I’m not even a developer. It was just crazy the kind of stuff I used to do. If you were to work out an hourly rate for every single job I did in that company, there’s no way the business would make money.
That’s what I mean by fundamentally unprofitable. If you’re going to offer a service that does all of these different things, what happens when you have to start hiring people to actually do it? If you can’t do that, you’re going to get to $100k a year and that’s going to be about it, maybe a couple hundred if you’re lucky and work your ass off.
But if you want something that can scale, it needs to be fundamentally profitable. That’s why learning to say no was our biggest thing. It was hard because at the time I didn’t have any money. It would have been nice to get a $10,000-$20,000 project. But that’s the only reason we’ve been able to scale and grow into something that’s more significant than my own agency was.
Andrew: So, you went to your mailing list, you got your first customers. You went back to your audience, you kept getting customers. What did you do to grow beyond your initial mailing list so you can bring in most customers?
Dan: To be honest with you, Andrew, the majority of what we did in order to influence growth didn’t work. I think these grow through word of mouth, I think WP Curve grew because it was something that people could talk about. It was a point of difference. I think the point of difference was something that people cared about as well. It’s like a lot of people have anxiety they’re developer is not going to be available. They’re not sure how much the invoice is going to cost.
There are a lot of people that have that anxiety around services. So, every time they have the conversation about a WordPress developer, we naturally fall into that conversation because we offer something different. I think that’s why grew. The content kept the moment going with the traffic. The traffic has gone from about, I think, 10,000 visits a month to about 70,000, 80,000 visits a month at the moment.
So, that’s all gone consistently. The email list has grown as well. We’ve got press that’s worked as well. But the actual specific efforts we’ve made to influence growth, most of them have either had the opposite effect or had no effect.
Andrew: What’s one that had the opposite effect?
Dan: Trying to sell to agencies early on. I think like Alex was really focused on trying to sell like multi-site plans to agencies. Actually, at the time, he wasn’t selling multi-site plans, he was just selling sign up five customers and we get five individual plans. For the agencies, that didn’t work. So, we spent two or three months trying to work on that. It was a massive distraction. No one ever signed up. Meanwhile, the rest of the business was growing 10 percent a month or 20 percent a month early on.
Andrew: Just from content?
Dan: I don’t think so. Content is the only marketing we actively did. But I think the business has grown through word of mouth. I think it’s grown because the idea is something that falls into a conversation. I think that’s how other businesses grow too. If you look at Uber, you look at Airbnb, I think these businesses grew–I know there’s a lot of growth hacking and shit that goes on. But me and all of my friends found out about Uber because we talk about Uber because we hate taxis and because Uber has a point of difference that we care about.
I think that’s how things grow. You can push things along and you can get a lot of extra attention. Alex went on TV on Fox to talk about WP Curve and we had a few pretty big interviews. I did Smart Passive Income Center, so a bunch of customers, I’m sure we’ll get signups from this. But that kind of stuff, it really hasn’t been a massive part of our growth.
Andrew: So, why do any of it? If it hasn’t been the massive part of the growth and it’s all about just creating a good product, why do all of it to the point where you’re now having to retire from doing interviews?
Dan: I’m not having to retire from doing interviews. Why do all of it? Well, the content, I think, is something I was just deciding, “I’m going to do content marketing.” It was an extra boost to our traffic. It was an opportunity for us to get good publicity. I think the press and the content go well together. And there’s no doubt people have signed up because of our content but I guess the point I want to make is I think people get too caught up in, “What do I need to do to push this along?”
But the reality is when good businesses are working well, you don’t push things along. You just struggle to keep up. I’ve had that a couple of times with that business, with the brewery, with the book, where things just take off. It’s kind of hard to analyze why. I’ve tried my best to analyze why. But I can tell you it’s not a result of any kind of growth hack.
Andrew: No. I can’t imagine that there’s one growth hack here that you did and suddenly bam, it’s on all of the Craigslist sites everywhere and everyone’s coming to you and you trick the system. I don’t think it’s that. But your writing and your podcasting and your being out there and your reputation has definitely helped people understand the quality of the service.
Without it, the service wouldn’t be known. So, if that’s the only marketing that you’ve really done that’s worked, let’s talk a little bit more about your strategy with it. It’s not just happenstance that your stuff is good. What’s your strategy? What’s your thought on that?
Dan: So, the content–I just wrote a book called “Content Machine” on content marketing because it’s a passion of mine. The lesson there–I’ll give you an example. You mentioned before you can’t start a podcast in less than a week. About two years ago I had written about 400 blog posts. Not a single one of those had sent me a customer. Not a single one had more than ten tweets, to give you an of the kind of traction. I’ve written more words than “War and Peace” and I haven’t written an article that got more than ten tweets.
And then I wrote an article called “How to Start a Podcast” or I can’t remember what it was called. But it was a specific post on exactly absolutely everything you need to do to start a podcast.
Andrew: I remember that.
Dan: You remember that one?
Andrew: Yeah. Even I liked it. Even I got something out of it. Let me go find it.
Dan: You might have shared it. I mentioned a bunch of influencers in there. I had really detailed stuff that I talked about in there. It took away the excuse from people not having a podcast. I actually used this to start my own podcast for the brewery about two months ago. My lesson there was–it got 200 tweets at the time. That was the first piece of content I did that actually got any kind of traction.
The massive lesson for me was like you have to do stuff that people actually care about. It took me a while to figure that one out. But the quality of the content is important. Whether or not it sounds good on paper is not important. What’s important is do people share it. If people are sharing it, it means they care about it.
Andrew: So, how can you find something that people are going to share and that they care about?
Dan: I think you need to test and measure. Like being an entrepreneur. You don’t know what’s going to work necessarily, but you learn it more and more as people share more of your stuff. I’ve tested every kind of content you can imagine. I did all kinds of stuff that probably shouldn’t exist on the internet right now.
Andrew: What’s would that you think that would feel foolish if I had to ask somebody else for permission?
Dan: What do you mean?
Andrew: A piece of content that you’re now looking back on and you say, “That’s one of those things I shouldn’t have done?”
Dan: All of it. I did illustrations. I did webinars, Q&As. I did these crazy videos where I was just carrying on like an idiot and putting stuff on YouTube to try to be funny. I did everything. None of this stuff had any kind of impact. The only thing I did that worked was posts like that podcasting one. Once that one work, I realized people wanted it and I aimed to do more of that.
Andrew: What does it mean to do more of that? More how-tos?
Dan: One of the things I noticed work was definitely the how-to stuff. Neil, who wrote the forward of my book, Neil Patel, you mentioned before, he had the same lesson. He did a bunch of content. It didn’t work. As soon as he went with a real detailed, actionable piece of content, it really took off and he just ran with that. That’s his thing now. He’s the guy for that kind of stuff. So, he inspired me a lot.
The other thing was telling stories. I noticed that our line chart going up or going down from our entrepreneurial story was something people resonated with. The final thing was just being a little bit contrarian. The whole 7 Day Startup Idea was a bit of a shot at the idea of validation in the startup community. That got me a lot of attention. I think the idea of being contrarian is something that’s worked well for me. So, those three things I did more of and I scrapped everything else.
Andrew: I did see… One of the sad ones, it fits completely in with your model that you shouldn’t regret–I’d be proud to have it–it’s called “Informly March Stats Report: Paid Plan Results and New Product Validation.” You say here. Here’s the first sentence, “Hey guys, March was a great month. Not all stats were up, but overall it was an excellent month. Here are some highlights.” This isn’t the one. I’m reading the wrong one.
There’s one where you say, “Things are good, but no one’s buying.” Oh, here we go. I take it back. Here’s the headline on that one. I’m reading this all in real time, “Lots of Users but No Money: Informly Stats Report.” This is for February, 2014. That’s the sad one.
Andrew: You look back and you’ve got to be proud that it’s up there.
Dan: Yeah, for sure. I think it’s a great story. When I speak at conferences now, which is kind of ironic that I do some of the stuff that I used to hate doing, when I do that, I show that line chart and I show the absolute failure, mediocre success with my agency and massive failure with Informly and then it taking off with WP Curve because it’s a great story. When you present stories in that way, entrepreneurs feel part of that journey. Every entrepreneur I know at some point has had a journey somewhat similar to that.
Andrew: It doesn’t look like you had that many people who were reading at the time who were rooting you up. Four comments is all that post got, zero tweets. Actually, the tweet number I wouldn’t count because this is off of a different domain and it’s hard to look those numbers over. But four comments and two of them are you. But what you’re doing is what a past Mixergy interviewee, Tim Sykes called leaving breadcrumbs. People can go back and see this is what life was like back then. It’s hard to do it at the time, but it helps.
Dan: What I think we’re going to do is wrap that story up and be like, “This is the story of zero to annual run rate of $1 million,” and leave all those reports as basically an archive of, “This is our story from zero to $7 million.” The story is not going to go on forever. That part of the story, the part that those self-funded bootstrapped entrepreneurs can relate to, its’ the zero to seven figures that they can relate to. Stuff after that is other stuff they need. As a story, that’s worked really well for us.
Generally as content marketers, I think people need to get better at telling stories. People just naturally, even if they don’t comment on it–these posts, I go to conferences and people remember these posts and say, “I’ve been following you since those Informly monthly reports.” It really blows my mind. People do see it and they do comment on it. They do feel part of it.
Andrew: All right. My second sponsor is Toptal. Top as in top–these are the best of the best developers. Seriously, I had the founder of at my house for dinner. Actually, was Alex over at my house for dinner or did he come here for scotch?
Dan: I think he did go there for scotch.
Andrew: To my house for scotch, right?
Dan: Why are you asking me this? It’s your house.
Dan: Why are you asking me this? It’s your house.
Andrew: I can’t remember if it was my house for scotch or whatever. Meanwhile, I asked if you knew. I’m glad you did. But the founder was over at my house with a bunch of other impressive entrepreneurs. He looks over at me when we’re just sitting there at the side of the table talking and he says, “Listen, these two guys over there, they asked to develop for us to be Toptal developers and we had to turn them down,” because they weren’t up to snuff.
They weren’t the top of the top. And these guys were incredible entrepreneurs. Still, when they applied they just weren’t the right people. That’s the thing about Toptal. They only want the top developers for you and they make them available to you at a reasonable price.
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They go to their network of top developers–can I emphasize that enough? If you hire them and you don’t end up with a top developer, I want you to come and tell me in person or on the phone. I need to know it. I’ve never heard anyone say they’ve had a horrible experience with Toptal.
These are top people. You go to them and you tell them what you’re looking for. They will find the developers for you. They will find them and either get them into your place full-time, part time, whatever you need and they’ll be there between you and the developer if you ever have an issue.
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If you had like a side project–I’m going to come back to you, Dan, because I think your ideas. I like the way you think. Is there some side project, some website who if you had a developer who can just sit and focus on it that you would build, what would that be?
Dan: We’ve got a need for a developer within WP Curve to do some of our system stuff. So, as you’re saying this, I’ll probably email you at the end of this. Like we use Help Scout as a help desk system, but we have our own system we’ve built on top of that that allows us to do some funky things around prioritizing jobs, not just sort of doing the last one that came in and a bunch of other stuff.
It needs to be a pretty advanced system. It’s not like fixing WordPress fixes. It’s a pretty solid thing. So, we’re going to be looking for someone to help out with that. That sounds perfect.
Andrew: That sounds perfect. I don’t know if my audience is signing up for this, but in the interview, either in the interview the guest takes a note of it or afterwards they ask me about Toptal because for people with real companies, this is a huge resource.
Andrew: Toptal.com/Mixergy. Top as in top of the heap, tal as in talent. Toptal.com.
Pricing–you mentioned to our pre-interviewer here at Mixergy that that was an issue for you. What was the issue with pricing?
Dan: Well, I was always, sort of, of the opinion that this is like a no-brainer thing. It’s like $60-$70 a month. Any kind of entrepreneur could sign up for it and use it and it was one of those things where people didn’t have to think about it too much.
Alex was more or less of the opinion that it needed to be a more premium service and that it should be at least $99 a month. And so, I was always against that idea, but I sort of eventually came around because I sort of felt like we needed to at least test it and see what happened. And we tested it and it had a disastrous effect on our signups, our subscription signups halved. We stopped growing for a couple of months.
So, that was a bit of a tough time. But what we ended deciding to do was increase the standard plan by a little bit and then put in some higher level plans for VIPs, people who want a faster response time. The signups of those plans have been really good.
Andrew: I guess the big lesson is always test. But for you, what you discovered is adding a second price plan seems to be the answer and it feels like something I’m hearing a lot in my interviews.
Dan: Yeah. Well, it’s tricky. I think the only answer really is to do what’s working. It’s sort of hard because you don’t want to just keep doing the same thing without changing anything. The reality is when we try to make drastic changes to what we do, normally it hasn’t worked out for us. It’s like we’re onto something that’s working. If you make drastic changes to it, you find that it doesn’t work so well.
You’ve got to remember, a lot of people who come to our site, they know more or less what we charge. So, for them to get there and find out it’s actually twice as much as what people have talked about and it’s a lot more than they would pay for a software subscription, for example it really rules a lot of people out.
Alex’s assumption was that we would get a lot better customers from that. I sort of thought maybe that was true. As we analyzed the data, as far as I could tell, it wasn’t really the case. I think it wasn’t really the case that charging $99 versus $69 really resulted in that much better customers.
So, the decision was to go back, keep the standard plan, put it up a little bit so it’s got a little bit of extra margin to move there but also have a high-level plan, also introduce annual plans which have been popular too and are really good for cash flow. Between those things, we’ve managed to kick the growth off again and things are kind of back to normal.
Andrew: I see you guys use Stripe for payments. Do you use Baremetrics? I know you’re a fan of the company. Do you use Baremetrics for analytics on your revenue?
Dan: The only reason I don’t use it is because we’ve still got legacy PayPal customers. I started using it. I love Josh and the team. I love the idea and the story. Actually, that’s one of the stories I told in my book. But because we’ve got legacy PayPal customers that’s part of it. The other part of it is because I spent the last year building my own dashboard, I actually have all this stuff already that we use. So, our dashboard looks at Infusionsoft, pulls all that data from Infusionsoft and we get data that comes in from Stripe and PayPal. So, we don’t need another system for it. But it’s just another system to maintain that we probably don’t need.
Andrew: I have legacy stuff too and it drives me nuts because it means that you can’t make it easy for people to see their account information because some people are on old PayPal. Others are on some shopping cart app that I started out with that I wish I never had. Some are on Stripe, which I freaking love.
Dan: Yeah. We moved away from PayPal very early on. We probably had 50 customers on subscriptions at PayPal. At some point, we’ll probably be like, “Actually, we’re just going to turn this off.” We’re not quite ready to do that. It’s still a couple of grand each month. People will probably sign up again, but I’m sure we’ll lose people. That always happens. So, we’ve just kind of kept it here for now.
Andrew: Yeah. I do that too. It doesn’t really pay for me to let them go or give them a hassle for moving away.
Andrew: You use Infusionsoft. How are you liking Infusionsoft for marketing?
Dan: I think for what we use it for it’s incredible. We use it for everything. We’ve got all that customer data in there. We’ve got our affiliate program in there, all the ecommerce stuff we use we’ve built integrations into our site to integrate with that, all of our email marketing, our automation emails, our manual monthly email, absolutely everything.
Andrew: So, what does your automation email look like?
Dan: We’re actually working on it at the moment. We’ve got a pretty advanced content strategy we’re working on with different lead magnets for different categories of ideas that have different sequences to sign up for WP Curve. So, we’re working on all of that at the moment with the content team. We’re also working on the main lead nurture sequence for WP Curve. Up until now, we haven’t had much in terms of lead nurture.
We just have like a weekly email with our best content. But we’re starting to do a lot more with that. We do a lot of like email course delivery things with Infusionsoft with our content, that works real. Having said that, for my personal stuff, I use Drip, which I think Rob’s been on your show. It’s so much simpler and easier.
For what we need, like I don’t need all the Infusionsoft stuff. I don’t think it’s necessarily much cheaper, but it’s so much simpler and easier. I think Infusionsoft is great if you need all those things. If you don’t need all those things, it’s pretty daunting. There are some things it really doesn’t do very well, like the on-page stuff is really not very good with Infusionsoft. So, fit for purpose is probably what I’d say to that.
Andrew: Yeah. I use them too. I feel not overwhelmed sometimes. But I feel like it’s just needlessly–it’s just too many features that distract from the actual business. When you’re saying Drip, it’s at GetDrip.com. It’s Rob Walling’s company. He’s been on here a few times. I always thought he was going to offer a cheap alternative to Infusionsoft.
But he’s offering, I think like you said, a comparable alternative but what he’s offering is a simpler marketing alternative to Infusionsoft and all those other guys. He must be–so, I think his latest marketing tactic is to email people who are using Infusionsoft. I got an email from someone on his team who said, “Hey, I know you’re using Infusionsoft. Isn’t it maddening? Why don’t you check out Drip?” I thought, “This is really impressive that he’s growing to their level now that he’s taking them on.”
Dan: I think it’s cool. What I love about that is Rob–I call him the oracle–he’s the bootstrapped entrepreneur’s kind of oracle guy. But he’s still hustling. Like ever since he launched Drip, he’s emailing me. I’ve met him. I know him. He’s still emailing me, “How’s Infusionsoft going? You should check Drip out. We’ve got these features out.” I love that. He’s still hustling. And they didn’t even give me a discount and I like that as well. It’s like he’s actually just hustling his ass off to make this thing work.
Andrew: Speaking of hustling, he’s emailing still as the founder. In my inbox is an email from Alex, your cofounder, from July 3rd, 2014, over a year ago where he said, “Hey, Andrew, just thought I’d let you know that we just celebrated our one-year birthday. Here are two relevant articles, including revenue which I know you love.” He gave me one to your happy birthday article and another one to your revenue report. “Would love to share WP Curve’s story on Mixergy.”
You guys do outreach like this. In addition to the articles, this seems like one of the ways that you’re growing–emailing people like me, seeing if the content makes sense for our sites, seeing if we might want to be using WP Curve, right?
Dan: You said no.
Andrew: I did say no. You know what? I’ll start off with that. I’ll tell you why. So, there’s always a challenge here at Mixergy. I want to interview people who’ve done it, not people who are still doing it and look back on how they did it. I felt that in 2014, especially one year in that you guys were on the path to doing it. You’re looking at $20,000 a month recurring revenue, which is what you did at the time. That’s solid. That’s absolutely solid. But I feel like it’s not fully there. I felt like I had to say no and wait for you guys to get much bigger.
Dan: I think this is a mistake people make. I think people look too much at what the monthly revenue is and they don’t look enough at what the fundamental business is. If I look at a business that’s an agency that’s doing $20,000 a month in revenue and I look at another business that’s 100 percent recurring that’s growing 10 percent a month that’s doing $20,000 a month in revenue. I think they’re two completely, totally and utterly different things. I knew within the first week I launched WP Curve that this was going to be a significant business.
Early on we weren’t hesitant at all to reach out to people like you. Even Fox News, Alex went on there. I think that came as a result of him reaching out to them. We knew we were on to a good thing. It wasn’t just the revenue. The revenue has never been something I’ve really been that interested in, although we do the monthly reports.
But it’s always been the growth. The line chart has always been the growth. It’s been a constant 10 percent growth goal that we had. My idea was always if we can grow 10 percent a month for a couple of years, we’re going to build a $1 million business. So, that’s the way I thought about it.
But back to your other question–we don’t do a lot of that kind of stuff. I think at the time, I think I’d seen that you were doing a $0 to $10k series or something at the time. I was like, “Oh, we should get on that.” So, Alex reached out to you. But I don’t’ think that was completely cold. I think he sort of had a relationship with you. Yeah, we definitely don’t’ do a lot of that kind of stuff.
In fact, I think when you’re doing the cold email stuff–I got an email the other day from RJ Metrics saying, “Hi,” I don’t even know if it said my name. It might have been a sponsor on your show. It said, “I know you guys spend a lot of money on paid advertising.” They’d obviously use this Built With tool to work out a website that spends money on paid advertising.
I’m the zero advertising guy. I wrote a book about building a business with no advertising and you’re spamming me with an email saying, “Let us help you with your paid ads.” I’m like, “What sort of damage does that do to a brand?” So, we definitely don’t do that kind of thing. I don’t’ think the cold email stuff is really good long term for a brand.
Andrew: But I think this warm stuff absolutely helps. It helps for sure. I may not have had you on Mixergy, but guess what? If people were talking to me about issues with their website, there’s one company–actually, there was another one that I would have thought of. The other one’s founder I had on Mixergy. I don’t know why I had them and not you. But your name comes up. Absolutely, 100 percent.
Dan: Warm stuff is good. I think Alex is good at the relationships and that kind of stuff. I don’t do a lot of that sort of thing. I like to help people if I can. Like if an influencer asks me to speak at a conference, that would be an example of something I would do when I would speak at any conference just for the fun of it or just to get paid. I don’t’ really go around sending that many emails to people. I definitely don’t do the cold stuff. The warm relationship stuff has worked really well for us. There are a bunch of influencers who have been really influential in WP Curve’s success and that’s all come through relationships.
Andrew: How have you gotten to know them?
Dan: Just by adding value where I could. Like Chris Sacca is a good example. I’ve been sort of hanging out with him for a bunch of years. He’s probably our biggest referrer. I was over at his conference this year presenting. I was at [inaudible 00:57:17] presenting with Chris as well and just tried to add value over the years. I think at one point I built a website for him for virtually nothing. I travelled to Sydney to have a beer with him when he didn’t even know I wasn’t in Sydney, just tried to help over the years.
I’ve done the same thing with like-minded people I think I can connect with. That’s resulted in becoming mates with these people ultimately.
Andrew: I had the founder of Tweaky on. They changed they their name to Entelo and then they sold to GoDaddy. What do you think happened with them? They were doing the same kind of stuff, tweaks to a website one at a time. They didn’t have a subscription as far as I remember. What do you think happened there?
Dan: Well, I’m not an insider. I’ve never met Ned. I’ve got a bit of weird vibe from that whole thing. It sort of seemed like nothing much was going on at that company and then all of a sudden GoDaddy grabbed it. I’m not sure if he’s like Dan Bilzerian now and private jets on Instagram and shit. I have no idea. It seemed like he kind of had a good crack at it and found someone to take it over and they took it over.
Andrew: I’m curious about what that was like. Was it a successful sale? It seems to be. In fact, it’s still running as Marketplace.GoDaddy but in a different way. It’s a place where you go and find a freelancer for your WordPress site.
Dan: I honestly have no idea. You’d have to ask him.
Andrew: I don’t think I can ask him and find out in a Mixergy interview. I need gossip. That’s the only way I can find that answer out, I think. I think we’ve hit on everything except Black Hops Brewery. I’ve got to ask you about that. Why not take all the skills that you learned online, the reputation you’ve got online and build online?
Dan: Because it’s much more powerful when you have a point of difference. Our point of difference in the offline world is that we’re very good at online. It’s always been a thing that I’ve thought. It’s like why would I compete with internet marketers that have just got these insane skills and it’s impossible for me to stand out? Why wouldn’t I just learn all those skills and just apply them in an offline setting where we can do the most basic stuff like writing a blog post about how to build a portable bar and it can go amazingly well and get all sorts of attention? I’ve always though that.
This opportunity came up as a result of a home brew we did. I’d mocked up some decals, some labels. We put it out there. People loved it. We started writing blog posts. We had investors reaching out to us. Before long we were ordering equipment from China and I had an application with council to build a brewery.
I’m super excited to focus on that. I think it’s something where we can do something really different that’s not being done. It’s something that’s getting a real legitimate amount of traction and a good project to work on with a couple of mates.
Andrew: I see it. It’s the three of you guys. Who are these two other guys?
Dan: Eddie is my best mate. I used to work for the government with him years and years ago. He actually quit a month ago to work at Black Hops. He’s worked there for over ten years driving up from the coast every day. So, he’s really excited. Gus is the brewer. We met him through another company that makes beer a few years ago. So, we got the brewer, the sales guy, the online guy. It’s working really well, a couple of investors as well.
Andrew: You have investors in this business, you’re saying?
Andrew: You also have Helloify.
Dan: Yeah. I’m not involved with Helloify anymore. I was working with my mate, Luke, on that. He’s still working on it. I had a good crack at that for a year and couldn’t make that work. I couldn’t really figure out a way to get paying customers for that. I guess in a way for me, that’s another failure.
Although, we were able to achieve some good things like actually launching out there, getting free customers and getting out there and getting some attention, building a product that works. But for me, I’ve really made a decision for the rest of this year to get offline and get rid of a lot of those sort of projects that aren’t working for me and focus on the ones that are.
Andrew: Dan, when you mention growth 10 percent. I looked at your growth chart, the most recent income report and it looks like your revenue is flat lining. Not flat lining it’s flat. It’s not going down. It’s going up just a little bit. What happened?
Dan: Well, the pricing thing had a massive impact on it. I think if you look at the last month revenue, it went up quite a lot, actually. I think if you were looking at the August report, I think we did actually grow by 10 percent, which now is probably not achievable for us. A 10 percent goal was early on. Now, 10 percent is quite a lot of money. It’s a lot of customers. We did have three months there where we were flat and that was a result of the pricing. We have the amount of signups that were coming through. Once we fixed that the revenue started taking off again.
Andrew: Okay. Actually, let me end it with this. In addition to Black Hops, in addition to Helloify, which you tested, there’s one other thing you told our producer you’re working on, which is private communities, like the one you have. Do you still have the private community on Facebook?
Dan: Yeah. I’ve got a 7 Day Startup Pro, which is like the pro version of our 7 Day Startup group. I launched that about a month or so ago. It’s a Facebook and a Slack group. It’s just an annual subscription. It’s not very much money, $200 a year. We’ve got about 50 people in there.
I’ve actually just made the decision to sort of focus more on that group, add value to that group, help those people rather than just blanketly going on social media and being open and accessible to everybody because I think I can have more of an impact doing that and it just makes sense for me to do it that way. I’ve also got a Content Machine open group and 7 Day Startup open group on Facebook with thousands of members. People can join that if they don’t want to pay.
Andrew: I see it. That’s come up a few times here. Actually, I don’t think here. In the Mixergy community we’ve talked about you guys a lot and your community. All right. Cool. How do you think it went as a final interview?
Dan: Awesome. I’ve been watching to this show, listening to it more so for years and years. I have to tell you shows like this and This Week in Startups really, I think my main problem for the first seven years is I really just had no idea of what I could build, like what companies are getting built out there in the world. I didn’t know you could just not build websites. You can start a subscription and sell something all around the world and have a US company and charge US dollars and build a team in the Philippines. I didn’t know any of this stuff. It’s through podcasts like this that really opened my mind.
So, it’s a real thrill to be on here. I wanted to thank you for putting it out there. People might not realize the impact it makes because it’s not a specific takeaway skill that I got. But it’s a mindset thing that’s going to be with me of the rest of my life. So, thank you.
Andrew: You bet. I’m really proud to have you on here. I have been watching you guys for years. Actually, it hasn’t been yeas. You haven’t been around more–is it three years now?
Dan: Informly was 2012, but I’ve been around.
Andrew: Yeah. It makes me feel good when people refer me to you or tell me about you, like they just discovered you. I think, “Wow, look at these guys, they’re really doing it. They’re building the reputation.” Whenever a guest talks about you, I feel really proud. I feel like people who are fans of music who discover a band years before anyone else did and then the rest of the world discovers them, they feel good even though they did nothing to do it.
Dan: Yeah. I know that feeling.
Andrew: All right. The website is WPCurve.com. They’ll fix your website on an ongoing basis for you. I’m grateful to you, Dan, for being on here. Thank you.
Dan: Thanks, Andrew.
Andrew: You bet. Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye everyone.