Episode 40: Know When To Quit w/Christopher Hawkins

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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.

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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 33: Following Your Startup’s North Star w/Sahil Lavingia

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, Gumroad founder Sahil Lavingia opens up about VC, recent layoffs, the bright future of the company, and how having a startup “north star” has helped him to find his way as a founder.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • What a “north star” is and why it’s important
  • Why VC is just a tool, not a pair of shackles
  • The role of automation in a small company
  • Important lessons from being an early employee at a startup
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:

Sahil on Twitter
Gumroad
Gumroad on Twitter
Small Product Lab – Gumroad’s contest for product creators
Show HN: my weekend project, Gumroad – Gumroad launch in 2011

Sahil lavingia has had an interesting ride. Getting into the game as a teen doing self-taught freelance logo design, Sahil moved on to ad banners, web design, app design and eventually app development to meet market demand as brochure sites became less and less desireable.

The connections he made led him to landing a job at Pinterest in 2011 (which was not “the” Pinterest we know today). Being an early employee at a funded startup taught Sahil a number of valuable skills, including:

  • Learning to adapt to goals
  • Taking charge of one’s personal destiny
  • Managing up/down/sideways
  • Learning to develop & articulate a vision
  • How to not be idle

During that formative time at Pinterest, Sahil came to understand the concept of a startup “north star” – core values that vet every decision a founder makes. Sahils own north star led him to launch a startup of his own, Gumroad. After coding up a proof of concept consisting of a hew hundred lines of code/html/css, the next indicated step was to turn it into a business that scales well.

Being plugged into the Valley startup ecosystem, Sahil discovered that there was a system & process for turning ideas into money. After securing $1mm in seed funding, Sahil proceeded to behave like a bootstrapped startup, building out Gumroad on his own for an extended period of time and letting most of the money sit in the bank. The decision to take funding was guided by Sahil’s startup north star to help creators be able to earn a living from selling their creations.

“My default answer is, yes, I totally can.”

In recent years, that same startup north star led Gumroad away from further VC and back to being a bootstrapped business. Sahil talks frankly with me about his experience with VC – which he says has been very positive – and what recent layoffs mean for the company.

We also talk about how his startup north star led the development of a high degree of automation at Gumroad, why the Gumroad team continues to roll out new features, and why the company never needed more than a few employees to handle the day-to-day operations of the startup. Sahil further tells us how his startup north star will guide him through the decisions facing Gumroad as they continue to operate as a bootstrapped company for the foreseeable future.

“People like saying you’re either bootstrapped or VC-funded, and I don’t think it’s that binary…it’s a spectrum.”

We also talk frankly about what VCs expect from their portfolio businesses, and why this works out acceptably well for Sahil and Gumroad, according to his startup north star.

Episode 30: MVPs and Product Validation w/Ian Lawson

This Episode Sponsored By:

Mastering Business Email
Don’t let unprofessional emails cost you business or harm your reputation – simple guidelines to help you write better, more professional emails
Special offer for Chasing Product listeners in this episode – more details


Ian Lawson from Awmous and SlickPlan joins us today. As an agency owner turned product-creator, Ian has plenty to tell us about the importance of an MVP, and the surprise product validation that launched his product.

In this episode, Ian talks about being a self-professed art nerd, starting his own interactive studio, and how he went about deciding what product to create.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • The importance of avoiding tech/design debt
  • How to capitalize on a business accident
  • How to plan for growth
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:

Awmous – Ians newest venture
SlickPlan – Create a beautiful site map in minutes
Honeypot – Simple and intuitive web app that simplifies HR tasks
Startupland
Basecamp
Lean UX
Remote: Office Not Required

Episode 29: Launching a Productized Service w/Brian Casel

This Episode Sponsored By:
RECORD & RELEASE: Learn How To Podcast In Just One Day
Podcasting can help you gain status and notoriety as a subject-matter authority, and effectively build an audience by reaching your entire market.
More details


Today’s guest is Brian Casel, a return guest, in a first for Chasing Product.  Brian is currently the founder of AudienceOps, a done-for-you content-marketing productized service. Before launching a productized service, Brian had successfully made the transition from freelancer to product creator over the past several years with his earlier businesses.

In this episode, Brian talks about what he’s been doing since we last heard from him, what he’s learned along the way, and shares some insights into what launching a productized service requires, without becoming overwhelmed.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • The importance of a team
  • Why “done for you” is the new hotness
  • Content marketing for personal vs business branding
  • Building an audience from nothing
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:

Casjam – the online home for Brians projects
Audience Ops – Grow your audience, your email list, and your customer-base with done-for-you content marketing
Restaurant Engine – Brians original Saas product
Content Upgrades – WP Plugin for use w/Audience Ops service
Software Product Marketing & Design (the previous episode of Chasing Product, featuring Brian)
How To Start A Freelancing Business That Won’t Fail

It was interesting to talk to Brian again after having him on the show so early on. He’s been talking about launching a productized service for a while now, even creating a course to teach others how to do it. Getting to sit down with him and actually talk about how a bootstrapper can go about launching a productized service was educational.

Brian learned that launching with a team was crucial – he wasn’t interested in going back into freelancing. Launching a productized service with a team behind it on day one allowed Brian to work ON the business instead of in the business. He had no interest in this business if he’d be the only one doing the work, which is reasonable.

The other part of launching a productized service that was crucial was focusing on doing ONE thing really well for an ideal customer. Audience Ops does content marketing for B2B software companies; that’s their focus. This powerful focus made a lot of decisions very clear in the new business.

The real wisdom in launching a productized service is in how easy it is to launch and how little infrastructure is needed ahead of time. Launching a service offering allows for lower costs and lower technical requirements on day one. Brian was able to launch the offer with a 1-page sales pitch and start signing up clients right away. It may *use* software, but software is not the offering.

Launching a productized service is not easy, but Brian was able to take the lessons learned from previous business efforts and roll them into this one. It’s a big inspiration for those of us who hope to eventually do the same thing.

Episode 28: Teach Everything You Know w/Nathan Barry

This Episode Sponsored By:
RECORD & RELEASE: Learn How To Podcast In Just One Day
Podcasting can help you gain status and notoriety as a subject-matter authority, and effectively build an audience by reaching your entire market.
More details

convertkit-nathan
Today’s guest is Nathan Barry, founder of ConvertKit and author of several books. His career has spanned from anonymously doing client work to becoming a highly-visible and well-respected author, speaker and founder.

In this episode, Nathan talks about his journey, including early struggles, professional epiphanies, hard-learned strategies for growing his Saas app, and why “teach everything you know” is so powerful for marketing.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • Growing a Saas app
  • Why your heroes are no different than you
  • How to position yourself as an expert
  • Why it’s important to get customer feedback
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:

ConvertKit – Email Marketing For Professional Bloggers
Authority – A step-by-step guide to self-publishing
Designing Web Applications – Nathan’s guide to web app design
The App Design Handbook – Nathan’s guide to iPhone/iPad app design
How To Cheat At Online BUsiness – Nathan’s article about audience-building
Chris Coyier – Writer, CSS Tricks
Jason Fried – Marketing By Sharing

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 25.5: Gumroad Small Product Lab Winner, D.J. Coffman

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

dj-coffman-small-product

DJ Coffman joins the show today. We talk about DJ winning the recent Gumroad Small Product Lab challenge. We also discuss his journey from being a young artist to becoming an experienced cartoonist. Currently, DJ has a best-of-both worlds work situation that includes both a stable job, and small product releases.

And of course, we’ll get into detail on what it took to conceive, create and launch a small product in just 10 days.

Small Product Talking Points

  • why a small product matters
  • how “reuse and recycle” is a hack to help you create a small product
  • how to leverage your background for product creation
  • how to deal with distractions

 Show Notes:
Comic Drawing Toolkit For Photoshop
Small Product Lab
Cash for Cartoonists
Hugh MacLeod
Chris Brogan
Steven Pressfield – The War of Art
RECORD & RELEASE – Learn How To Podcast In Just One Day

Episode 24: Learning As You Go w/Tracy Osborn

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

Tracy Osborn joins us today to talk about her founders journey. From college CS to art courses, to an incubator, Tracy has made her bones in the industry by learning as she went along. Now, Tracy can claim multiple products and recently authored a book.

In this episode, we talk about Tracy’s early experiences working in both startups and agencies, her experiences with partnerships, and why it pays to get an app in front of customers, fast. We also cover some practical aspects of being a founder and keeping a product moving forward.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • the benefits of participating in an incubator/accelerator
  • how Kickstarter can aid your product launch
  • why it’s important not to dilute your focus
  • why learning as you go is better than reading books

 Show Notes:
WeddingLovely – Tracys web product
Hello Web App – Tracys book; Learn to Build a Web product w/Python & Django
Limedaring – Tracys blog

Python
Django
500 startups
Y Combinator
Kickstarter
PyCon
Nathan Barry
Authority
Gumroad
Leanpub
Product Hunt
Reddit
Uber
Skillshare