Episode 40: Know When To Quit w/Christopher Hawkins

chasing-product-40-header-card
In this episode, I answer questions from listeners about why the show is ending, who my favorite guests are, what I’m doing next, and more!

Let me leave you with this letter:

Dear Listener,

It’s been an interesting three years, hasn’t it?

Every other week, I’ve been swallowing down my nervousness, asking someone more accomplished at product than I to spend an hour dispensing free advice, and posting it on the internet.

And every other week, 1,500 of you have been faithfully downloading it, listening to it, sharing it, and putting the advice into action in your own businesses.  That’s amazing to me.

Even more amazing is that episode after episode, you kept showing up.  Despite me being unqualified to host a show about launching software products, you always treated me with respect, like I was one of you, because I am. You’re my people, and I am yours. There’s no show if there are no listeners, and I’m so, so incredibly thankful for your support all this time.

So today, I move on, proud of the work I’ve done on this show, proud of you for having incorporated the advice of this show into your own product efforts, and proud even of my own (admittedly meager) product-launching results.

What’s next for me? First off, I’m not really prepared to talk about those rumors of me doing a freelancing podcast yet, but…when there’s something to talk about, the folks who get my newsletter will be the first to know.

Aside from that, my blog isn’t going anywhere.  I’ll still be around on Twitter.  Those of you who are still freelancing or consulting now about my free course.  None of these things are going away, and neither am I.  I’m just going to be a bit quieter for a while, and focus on the world of freelancing.

And what’s next for you?  With your dreams of making it big with your own product?  You’re going to be just fine.  There are loads of other podcasts out there that will help you get to where you want to go.  You’ve shown yourself to be smart and determined and capable; I have no doubt that you’ll make it.

So, as I move on from Chasing Product, I say to you this one last time:

Until I see you again, my friend,  keep on chasing product.

ff-large
Kind Regards,
Christopher Hawkins
Host, Chasing Product, 2013-2016

 

Episode 37: Startup Decision-Making and ROI w/Hiten Shah


In this episode, Quick Sprout and Kiss Metrics founder Hiten Shah talks about early SEO consulting, finding the ROI in a startup, and more.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • Why you need good distribution AND good product
  • Why innovation isn’t necessarily a priority
  • The importance of managing expectations
  • How patterns aid startup decision-making
Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

 Show Notes:
Hiten.com – Hiten’s newletter
Quick Sprout – Make Better Content, co-founded by Hiten
KISS Metrics – Analytics Built to Optimize Marketing, co-founded by Hiten
Crazy Egg – Visualize where your visitors click, co-founded by Hiten
Neil Patel – Hiten’s co-founder & marketing badass
A Technique for Producing Ideas – book by James Webb Young
Conquering Client Conflict – Resolve conflicts, get more respect, make more money as a freelancer

Hiten Shah has made the transition from freelancing to products in a big way. Starting as an SEO consultant in the early 2000’s, Hiten has managed to hone his startup decision-making skills to a high degree, all while founding 3 companies, each offering a product not too far removed from the SEO consulting family tree.

“On a very high level, I’m just fascinated by the power of words & business”

In this episode, Hiten and I talk a but about keeping your freelancing business in order to better enable your product aspirations. We touch a bit on the importance of setting expectations and maintaining boundaries (which my free e-mail course happens to cover). In fact, Hiten cites his best freelancing skill that carried over into doing startups as his ability to manage expectations, calling it the most fundamental difference between success and failure. We also delve into his startup decision-making process by talking about some of the frameworks and patterns Hiten uses both when mentoring other founders and when making decisions of his own.

Hiten shares his insight on selecting the best marketing channel for your product, and why it’s necessary to have both a strong product and strong distribution rather than just one or the other. We also talk about the role of innovation in the startup decision-making process, and whether or not it’s as much of a factor now as it was 5+ years ago. He encourages founders to really think about the problem they’re solving and who has it. Hiten suggests that founders look for a direct path to ROI for their customers as early as possible.

And always, we finish the show with 3 action items that you can implement right away in your own business.

Episode 34: Self-Care For Founders w/Allan Branch


In this episode, Less Accounting founder Allan Branch shares his journey from freelancer to founder. We’ll touch on being a late bloomer, how cultural values shape the career path we take, and finish on some very strong self-care suggestions to help a founder keep going strong.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • How having highly-focused non-business interests develop you
  • Why you shouldn’t wait for permission
  • Why nothing can really prepare you to launch a product
  • The value of never thinking you have it all figured out
Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

 Show Notes:
Less Accounting – Simple Accounting Software for Small Business
Less Churn – Increase revenue by reducing churn while tracking exit feedback
Less Films – We create videos that turn web traffic into customers
I’m a Customer Conversion Support Designer – from Allans’ blog
Life Over Work – from Allans’ blog
Set Up These Automated Emails – from Allans’ blog
37 Signals
Quickbooks
SaasFest
Hiten Shah
Darmesh Shah
David Cancel
Sean Ellis

“If you can’t create a business in a year of nights & weekends, there’s no honor in killing yourself to be an entrepreneur.”

Episode 32: Designing for Startups w/Jane Portman

This Episode Sponsored By:
90-Day Product Goal Framework
Are you tired of failing to meet long term goals as a product creator? Now there’s a system to help keep you on track and on task as you launch your own products – more details


In this episode, Jane Portman of UIBreakfast.com talks about how she helps founders level-up their UI game, shares how she leveled-up her consultancy, and gives good advice to those of us looking to launch a web app.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • The importance of launching to the right audience
  • Why design templates are actually OK
  • The challenges of managing a team
  • The 2 design stages every Saas app goes through
Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

 Show Notes:
@uibreakfast – Jane on Twitter
The UI Audit – A book by Jane
Mastering App Presentation – another book by Jane
Fundamental UI Design E-Course – authored by Jane, offered by InVision
Authority
Joanna Wiebe – creator of Airstory
Amy Hoy – creator of 30×500
Rob Walling – GetDrip and HitTail
Egghead.io
Brennan Dunn
MicroConf

At age 16, Jane was a typical student, interested in math & physics. After winning a scholarship and becoming an exchange student in South Carolina, Jane studied design and never looked back. Upon returning to Russia, she started working in an agency. Over the next 8 years she honed her skills while working up from Junior Designer to Creative Director and eventually began to freelance, designing for startups. She shares a bit about why perfectionism is more tolerable in agency life than startup life.

Jane shares the reason why she left the agency, and what made her decide to “conquer the US market” as a freelancer designing for startups. She also talks about some of limitations she encountered working as a freelancer on oDesk, and the three things she did to “level-up” her work:

1) Changed title to “consultant”
2) Wrote a book
3) Set a minimum rate of $95/hour

To build authority, she launched first book to start attracting clients. She interviewed her “personal stars” for the book, to start making contacts. Jane talks about launching to a small list, and what the very valuable primary payoff of that first book was (hint” it wasn’t the money).

“Being not-pretty is not a big obstacle to making money online. Seriously.”

To arrive at her current positioning as a UI/UX consultant designing for startups, Jane used the Sales Safari technique, which was intensive but very productive. Jane found that Founders don’t always prioritize design, they have so many other things to worry about.

We talk a bit about The UI Audit, Janes third book and she tells us how this book served to scalably distill her consulting knowledge and spare her personal time. She also explains how this fits into a “product ladder” model.

Not every founder is able to prioritize design, for reasons on finance or exigency. It’s not something that most founders can do themselves, either. Jane found that her client work was primarily related to designing for startups – specifically, bootstrapped Saas founders. It’s a perfect nice for her because it’s between a big corporation and VC-funded founders. Jane says she fell in love with the community at MicroConf. We talk about the two features Jane looks for in an ideal client.

Jane & I talk a bit about the proper role of using templated designs when designing for startups, and when/how/why to invest in a proper designer.

Jane talks about the skills required to know when it’s time to seek expert help, when it’s time to hire team members, and when it’s time to re-evaluate and fire them – “You never regret that you fired someone too early, but you sure regret that you fired someone too late.”

Episode 26: Long-Term Product Success ft/Tom Rossi

Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

buzzsprout-tom
Tom Rossi, founder of Tickspot and Buzzsprout, share his founders’ journey on this episode. From client services to a Web 2.0 epiphany to long-term success without marketing, Tom has managed to sustain a career by focusing on long-term product success.

In this episode, we talk about Toms’ experience dealing with the economy post 9-11, switching to Rails from .NET, and more!

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • how to “accidentally” create a product
  • letting go of client service work, the right way
  • how to manage a team effectively
  • how to prioritize for long-term product success

 Show Notes:
Tick – Time Tracking
MSites – Web sites for no-profits
bsites for non-profits
Buzzsprout – Everything you need to podcast
Tom Rossi – Twitter feed
37Signals
RECORD & RELEASE – Learn How To Podcast In Just One Day (discount code provided in the episode)

After starting out in 1996 doing client services work, as many of us do, Tom quickly got excited about the Internet boom. But he soon found himself trying to stay afloat in a post-9/11 world.

Creating a CMS for non-profits in 2001 was Toms’ first step toward long-term product success, made for a variety of reasons:
– desperation move
– important for culture
– trying to retain the team
– fell into developing it
– no strategy

Creating a time-tracking tool for freelancers in 2005, in the wake of the Web 2.0 ethos popularized by 37signals, was another step toward long-term product success. The motivators for this product were:
– frustrated w/ clients
– more planning & strategy
– just me & kevin
– Switching to Rails from .NET
– Attending the “Getting Real” workshop
– letting go of client services thinking: documentation, process, making everything provide value, default to “no”, shoot for MVP, how can we be the best at x?

Later, Tom created podcasting software, based on client work helping churches to put sermons online. This would be yet another link in the long-term product-success chain.

As always, a horrible client project spurred a desire to change to products – Tom goes into detail on this in the show. We’ve all had horrible client projects, and the one that drove Tom out of client services was a bad one!

SEO & marketing was difficult for Tom and his partners, as it is for many of us. A chance conversation with Rob Walling convinced Tom that he needed to improve his marketing game in order to maintain that long-term product success. Tom talks about some of his go-to marketing moves, and shares his shock at discovering where Buzzsprout stood in the podcasting world due to a lack of marketing. Don’t miss his story here, it’s good.

A big part of Toms’ long-term product success is the idea to “make quality of life a part of what you do”. A lot of us in the freelancing world struggle with this, as well.

Tom also talks about how changes in the cultural outlook on how software is sold have made things easier in some ways, including the old outlook that Saas will never work, that nobody understood it, and why Ruby On Rails has changed the game for small-time product founders looking to experience long-term product success.

And of course, we finish the show with Toms’ 3 “do this now!” bullet points for aspiring founders. You don’t want to miss these.

Episode 14: Copy Hacking for Conversions w/Joanna Wiebe

Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

In Episode 14, Joanna Weibe (founder of CopyHackers) sets us all straight on what copy hacking (writing conversion copy for the web) is all about, and how it can help your startup.  We cover Joannas foundational years as a copywriter, then move on to what she’s learned about copy writing on the web. 

Copy Hacking Talking Points

  • Why everything you learned about writing in high school & college is wrong
  • What makes web copy/conversion copy unique
  • Why the best person to do your copy hacking is you
  • Why getting & keeping consistent web traffic is hard
  • Why news stories about huge traffic spikes are garbage

and a bunch of other topics that are near to my heart as an aspiring bootstrapper.

@copyhackers – Joanna Weibe on Twitter
CopyHackers – where startups learn to convert like mofos
Intuit
Lance Jones – Joannas husband, co-founder of Copyhackers
Hacker News
Page99Test
Unbounce
Swipe file – A swipe file is a collection of tested and proven advertising and sales letters. Keeping a swipe file (templates) is a common practice used by advertising copywriters and creative directors as a ready reference of ideas for projects.
Drip campaign – Drip marketing is a communication strategy that sends, or “drips,” a pre-written set of messages to customers or prospects over time.
Squeeze page – A squeeze page is a landing page created to solicit opt-in email addresses from prospective subscribers.
Portent – headline-generator
SmallSpec – Christopher’s startup; painless functional specifications

Plus Joanna did a Tuesday Tear-Down of my SmallSpec page.

To start the episode, I ranted like a crazy person about my soul-crushing winter, and revealed the extreme action I recently took regarding my product SmallSpec.  I now regret taking such extreme action, but don’t see any way I could have avoided it.

As a 10-year copywriter and 5-year CRO pro responsible for selling 30,000 eBooks and helping 100s of startups with blog posts that have reached an audience of 100,000+, Joanna is in a unique position to help startups with their copy hacking.

We trace her journey from having a day job writing web copy all the way to her present work with startups. The interview covers the whys and hows of why copy hacking is not as accessible a skill as it may appear.  Joanna tells us how to make it more accessible, and what to do to maintain your momentum.

The ethos of “do the work, then do the work again” applies heavily to copy hacking and web marketing in general. Joanna makes it clear that diligence is rewarded over the long-term when writing web copy.  We also talk about some of the common mistakes that beginning copy hackers make when it comes to their new app, site or landing page.

To finish it all off, Joanna shares her three concrete action items for aspiring copy hackers to get started with writing conversion copy.

Comments & feedback are welcome via Twitter or e-mail.

 

 

Episode 10: If At First You Don’t Succeed, Product Launch Again w/Tim Whitacre

Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

In this episode, Tim Whitacre of Plain and Argyll Studios shares what he’s learned while transitioning out of freelancing and into products.  Tim is fearless, and freely shares the story of multiple non-thriving attempts at product launch, as well as the story of his newest product launch (which has since taken off!).

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • Tim’s comments on the tension between consulting revenue & investing in product
  • the critical nature of pricing for your app
  • what it feels like to sell off a product
  • how to maintain the motivation & desire to try again

You can follow Tim on Twitter or check out his blog for more info on Tim’s work and the story of the startups he’s been a part of.

Barley – The Inline Editor for Everyone
New! 
Barley for WordPress – Released after we recorded the podcast
Presstaurant
HostedNotes – Password Management Made Simple & Secure

The show notes will be fleshed out later – for now, just check out the interview!  Tim talks about a side of product launch that most people shy away from, if not hide completely; what it looks like & feels like when a product launch “fails”.  I put “fails” in quotes because as long as you learn something, it’s not really a failure.

Tim learned from every product launch experience, moved on, and now has a hit on his hands.  Learn from him!

Episode 4: Software Product Marketing & Design w/Brian Casel

Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

Ready for more talk about bootstrapping? Brian Casel joins us for the 4th episode.  We talk about Brian’s experience developing and releasing 2 Saas apps (and more!). We also get to cover some practical aspects of keeping on track through a bootstrapped product launch. As if that weren’t enough, Brian and I also cover some good nuts-and-bolts material regarding software product marketing & design, planning your work, and more.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • how Brian’s new book can help bootstrappers understand – and benefit from – the marriage of software product marketing & design,
  • the importance of planning your work and patience,
  • allowing yourself to develop as a professional before going out on your own,
  • why copywriting is absolutely critical to a bootstrapper
  • the new direction Brian plans for his freelancing work

Brian also shares 3 concrete action items that he recommends to aspiring bootstrappers looking to move measurably closer to their own bootstrapped product launch (and dovetail with your software product marketing needs).

Speaking as an aspiring bootstrapper, I found Brian’s interview answers really valuable.  In particular, Brian’s dedication to planning his goals out ahead of time really speaks to me.  This is a practice I already use with my consulting projects, and for some odd reason I haven’t fully applied this practice to my product endeavors.  Have you?

Design for Conversions – Brian’s new book about software product marketing & design
ThemeJam – Brian’s first bootstrapped product business; premium WP/e-mail/website themes
Casjam.com – Brian’s personal blog
RestuarantEngine – Brian’s bootstrapped product; a Saas site-builder for restaurants
SweetProcess – Brian’s other bootstrapped product; a Saas app for documenting your procedures and systemizing your business

FreelanceSwitch – Freelance Advice and Freelance Jobs
Mixergy – Learn from proven entrepreneurs
Public Beta – an online learning community for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs
StartupsForTheRestOfUs – Rob Walling’s bootstrapper podcast
Adii Ienaar – co-founder of WooThemes
StudioPress – Premium WP themes
Jason Shuller – Creator of Press75
Evernote
The T-Shaped Web Marketer (via Moz)
The Cascading To-Do List (how to get BIG things done) – how Brian makes things happen with his work
SmallSpec – Christopher’s bootstrapped product for painless functional specs; join the launch list

Episode 3: Mobile App Marketing and Double-Bootstrapping w/Andrey Butov

Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

After two episodes of bootstrapped product founders with Saas apps, I went mobile! Episode 3 features a talk with Andrey Butov, the founder of Antair Software & creator of more than 2 dozen BlackBerry, Android and iOS apps. Plus we take part of the conversation all the way back to the old-school Joel on Software forums.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • the product strategy that is even worse than “build it and they will come”
  • why Andrey had to bootstrap the same company twice
  • the trade-offs of a huge early growth curve vs taking your time to grow
  • why selling to small business is the same as selling to consumers
  • why Andrey’s latest product is a Saas app instead of a mobile app (although it does address mobile app marketing)

We also talk about our shared hatred of the term “lifestyle business”.

Andrey has survived and thrived in an often brutal mobile app marketing environment.  Mobile app developers have little control of the customer relationship, and sometimes no way to contact customers directly.  Andrey shares what he has learned over the years, what he has realized about mobile app marketing and what he’d do differently now. We also talk a bit about how his latest product, Uberdeck, just might change the entire face of mobile app marketing.  That’s an exciting prospect for a bootstrapper.

As always, we finish the show with some action items for aspiring founders.  This is a tricky question to ask, and runs the risk of encouraging generic responses.  Andrey gives a reply that is clearly informed by his years of experience as a bootstrapper. Don’t miss it!

Uberdeck – Andrey’s newest product; Send marketing campaigns and important notices directly to your mobile apps to serve as mobile app marketing.
Antair Software – Andrey’s long-running software company
Bootstrapped.fm – Andrey’s bootstrapped product podcast
So You Want to Be a Wall Street Programmer – Andrey’s book

Joel On Software forums – where an entire generation of bootstrapped product founders got their inspirations
Perfect Table Plan – founded by Andy Brice, back in the Joel On Software days
Collectorz

Andrey & I talked a bit longer than expected, but his story is so interesting I didn’t want to edit too much out.

Episode 1: From Freelancer to Bootstrapped Product Launch w/Rob Walling

Hi there! To help Chasing Product grow, please take a moment to visit iTunes and give the show a 5-star rating. Thanks!

I’m so grateful to announce that the first episode of Chasing Product is now live.

In this episode, Rob Walling shares what he’s learned while making the transition from freelancing to launching bootstrapped products. We spend a bit of time talking about the mental game of a bootstrapper, then move on to marketing for engineers.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • Rob’s take on how long it took for him to “own” his bootstrapper-ship,
  • finding people to support & understand your endeavors,
  • coming to understand marketing from an engineering background,
  • why your freelancer marketing skills probably aren’t good enough even if you have some,

and more, including the story of how Rob acquired (not built!) HitTail (a must for any aspiring bootstrapper who considers buying a bootstrapped product instead of building one) and what’s going on with his latest bootstrapped product, GetDrip.

We finish off with concrete, can-do action items for your own bootstrapped product launch. Would you like to walk away from this podcast with nuts-and-bolts actions you can take to move yourself closer to being able to validate or launch a bootstrapped product? Then hold on all the way through to the end, you’ll definitely learn something.

Proper show notes will be up later.

  • Cogeian.com – my consulting firm
  • SmallSpec.com – my bootstrapped product. Painless functional specs in minutes, guaranteed.
  • SoftwareByRob.com – Rob Walling’s bootstrapped product blog
  • StartupsForTheRestOfUs.com – Rob Walling’s bootstrapped product podcast
  • GetDrip.com – Rob Walling’s current bootstrapped product. Use email to convert more visitors to customers.
  • HitTail.com – Rob Walling’s other current bootstrapped product. Guaranteed to increase your organic search traffic.

Getting this first episode out the door has been a lot of work, and I’m thankful to every guest who agreed to come on & record a show. Look forward to more great guests with more wisdom about releasing a bootstrapped product in the coming weeks.