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 39: Your Product Business Is An Asset w/Glenn Stovall

This Episode Sponsored By:
difficult-clientsConquering Client Conflict
Paying late, not responding to emails, arguing about art direction…enough is enough. Get more respect & make more money by resolving these conflicts in your favor – more details

 

Consultant and freelance developer Glenn Stovall joins the show to talk about how he diversified into the product business. We cover the idea of products as a long-term play, the true nature of a launch, and shadow work!

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • Why a product business launch is a process, not an event
  • Why products won’t earn like services – and that’s OK
  • Adjusting from service sales to product sales
  • How pulling back on scale can help you ship
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:
Dependable: Deliver Software on Time and On Budget – Glenn’s new book
Special deal on Dependable for Chasing Product listeners
Glenn on Twitter
Gumroad
Small Product Lab
30×500
Amy Hoy – creator of 30×500, previous Chasing Product guest
Spin Selling
Drip – Lightweight Marketing Automation That Doesn’t Suck
Marketing for Developers
Justin Jackson
Majestic SEO – Marketing Search Engine & Backlink Checker
Thrive Themes – Conversion-Focused WordPress themes
Editflow – editorial calendar for scheduling blog posts
Audience Ops – content marketing service & tools
Brian Casel – founder of AudienceOps, previous Chasing Product guest
Remarq – create stunning documents from Markdown in seconds
Stripe – oh, come on, you know what Stripe is!
War of Art – book about winning the inner creative battle, by Steven Pressfield
Do The Work – overcome Resistance and get out of your own way, by Steven Pressfield

Glenn didn’t start out in the product business.  Like many of us, he started out working in an agency.  After taking a 5-year long “semester off” from college, he found himself in an agency position, managing other developers.  After later making his way into his own business, Glenn spent 3 productive years freelancing before considering launching a product business.

Glenn learned about the importance of scope in the product business after participating in the Gumroad Small Product Lab.  His initial product was going to be a Saas app but he reduced the scope and launched a book instead. This product would serve as seed material when he launched Dependable a year later, providing more valuable experience and asset-building for Glenn’s product business.

We talk about the disconnect between the skills needed for service business sales and product business sales.  Glenn points out that product is a long-term game, and that it won’t earn the same money in an immediate time frame that services will.  We talk about how building a product business is like building an asset, and the fringe benefits that come from having product on the market.

Glenn shares his basic marketing stack with us, and talks about some of his go-to moves for growing his product business.  Then he caps off the interview by sharing 3 action items for his fellow founders.

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 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 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 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 13: Organic Product Development w/Josh Pigford

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

Josh Pigford, serial maker of things, joins me for this episode.  Josh has a wonderfully diverse portfolio of projects.  Starting as a designer and gradually transitioning into launching web products, Josh has had both successes and failures as a founder.  We talk about some freelancing issues, how to do organic product development, and the exigencies of freelancing for equity.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • What prompted Josh to make the leap to products
  • The importance of filling your skill gaps when you can’t outsource
  • The most accessible go-to marketing techniques Josh has used
  • Organic product development vs plucking a product idea from thin air

Temper.io – Better Customer Service Over Time; measures how your customers feel about your business so you know what to improve
PopSurvey – Create Surveys People Want to Take; PopSurveys are beautiful, easy to create and more importantly, fun to take
Baremetrics – SaaS Analytics for Stripe
PugSpot – The spot for pugs!
Tiny Farmstead – Learning how to farm in the ‘burbs!

Fugitive Toys – an Urban Vinyl Toy Store
Ruby on Rails
Flippa
The Apple Blog – Started by Josh, later acquired by GigaOm
Track the Pack – Universal package-tracking app that Josh had to shutter
Track the Pack Post-Mortem – fantastic account of the story behind Josh shutting down his app
Package Fox – Stop losing money on late shipments
Rovio – creator of Angry Birds
Entrepornography – the overhyped productivity BS foisted on the startup community by the media
SmallSpec – Christopher’s product-in-development. Join the launch list!

The organic product development idea is interesting to me, as someone who has struggled to come up with product ideas out of the blue.  There are probably more examples of organic product development out there, where a founder distills a product from an existing app or starts out with a pain point to solve.  But there are also a lot of “if you build it they will come” scenarios playing out, and those often end in ters for the founder in question.

Josh also shares some of his biggest regrets about product development, and three action items for aspiring bootstrappers.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Episode 11: Launching an App With a Full-Time Job w/David Raffauf

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

On Episode 11, I talk to David Raffauf, founder of Scoreboard, a Saas app that handles invoicing for freelancers and agencys.  David shares his story of launching an app, marketing, and doing business in the Saas world while holding down a full-time job.

David’s blog can be found at http://davidraffauf.com/ and you can follow him on Twitter as @draffauf.

WordPress ate my show notes, so this will have to do while I re-create them.

Scoreboard – David’s Saas app; Invoicing made fast & simple
37Signals
Bidsketch
Ruby On Rails
Rob Walling

Episode 6: Acquiring a Software Product w/Carl Diesing

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 6, Carl Diesing shares the story of how his consulting firm went about acquiring a software product (Saas app).  We talk about running a consultancy while building or buying a product, and the appeal of diversifying out of pure consulting.  Carl walks us through the process of acquiring a software productand tells us what he had to pay attention to for it to work.

Bootstrapped Product Talking Points

  • why acquiring an existing product makes sense,
  • what to do first after the acquisition,
  • when to worry about ambitious consulting employees,
  • the importance of making your product good before you promote it,
  • how to keep your consulting practice running smoothly

Acquiring a software product seems strange to many founders, but Carl thinks it really can be a great way to get right into the market. If you’re already running a consultancy and can’t devote too many resources to developing your own, an acquisition can be a huge leap toward having something to sell.  We also talk about general consulting topics, and how to make sure your consultancy is in good enough shape to diversify into products.

We finish the show with Carl’s three bullet points for bootstrappers.  Whether you’re looking to acquire a software product or develop your own, you’ll find Carl’s advice helpful.  Are you looking to keep doing consulting or freelancing work?  Are you planning to just expand your efforts into product without leaving client work?  This episode will show you what that looks like.

DNL Omnimedia – Carl’s consulting company
Expens’d – Simplified expense tracking online

Ruby on Rails – Web application framework optimized for sustainable programming productivity
Ian Landsman – founder of Helpspot and Snappy
Andrey Butov – founder of Uberdeck
Bootstrapped.fm – Andrey and Ian’s podcast
Patrick McKenzie – founder of Bingo Card Creator
Brennan Dunn – founder of Planscope
Rob Walling – founder of Drip
Flippa – The #1 Marketplace for Buying and Selling Websites
Red Ocean strategy vs Blue Ocean strategy
SmallSpec – painless functional specifications; join the launch list