New Podcast In The Works

Phil Derksen and I I are in the process of preparing to launch a new podcast called “Hooked On Products” More details to come soon …

This is video #2 of my February monthly challenge. Learn more about my monthly challenges here.

I finally quit my day job! (and the flu)

So January 30th was supposed to be last day working at the College of Charleston and switching to working on my products full time. Well things did not turn out as planned…

This is video #1 of my February monthly challenge. Learn more about my monthly challenges here.

How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be in Life

How do you get from where you are to be where you want to be in life? Well for me what works best is talking small steps towards my goals.

When I was growing up I loved music and wanted to learn to play the guitar. I was fortunate enough to get a guitar for my birthday one year but then it was up to me to learn how to play it.

How did I learn how to play?

Well I listened to a song I wanted to play on repeat and would slowly test notes on the guitar until I found the right one and would repeat the process over and over again until I would eventually learn the song.

As I repeated this process I got to the pointed where I could hear a song and figure out how to play it within a few minutes.

“Repetition is the mother of all skill”

This is a concept I practice to this day. If I want to learn something I break it into small chuck and consume information how to do it then do it, learn from it and adjust.

This brings me to my point, last year I started doing 30 day challenges to help me get closer to my goals. I loved it so much that I have decided to do it again this year but instead of calling them 30 day challenges, I’m calling them Monthly Challenges since they’ll start and end with the months.

My goals this year are focused on health and to learn to market better. Here are my Monthly Challenges for the first half of the year.

  • Jan –  Meditation Every Morning – Learn Clarity and Focus
  • Feb – Short YouTube Video Every Day.  Learn to find my voice and story telling.
  • Mar – Facebook and Youtube Video Ads Testing.
  • Apr – Limit meat intake to 3 times per week.
  • May – Listen or read a Blinkist everyday
  • June – No challenge, take a vacation

 

2017 Review and Goals for 2018

2017 has come and gone in gone in what seems like a blink of an eye. As I sit down and write this post on New Years Day 2018 and reflect on the past year I am so thankful for everything I have been blessed with and my accomplishments in 2017.

2017 Goals Review and What I Learned

I went back and reviewed my goals for 2017 and will provide an update to how things went and what insight I have gained this year.

  • Consistently work out/ jog at least 3 times a week.
    This started out great at the first half of the year and the later half. I was doing the 7 min workout app or jogging consistently the 1st half of last year. I even did a 30 day challenge where I did the 7 minute workout everyday for 30 days. When summer vacation hit I slacked off and didn’t get back into the routine until the last few months of the year. Lesson Learned. If you fall of the horse get back on as soon as you can and don’t beat yourself up about. Your health should be priority number 1 over everything else.
  • Grow business by at least 15%
    I am very happy to say I grew SeedProd’s revenue by 18% last year. I did this through more product offerings, bundles and better marketing.
  • Finish becoming debt free.
    In December of 2018 I became 100% debt free include my mortgage. I go into detail on how and why I did this my Debt Free and it Feels So Good post.
  • Strategize an investment/retirement plan.
    I really did not do anything significant in this regards. I did think about actions I needed to take but did not act on any formal plan. This goal will roll over to this year. I will say my current investments did great this year.
  • Contribute more to my kids college funds.
    I contributed the same to my kids college funds and they are doing great. Both kids have a nice 5 figure fund so far and they are 3 and 7. However my opinion on college is changing as cost and the ROI of college seems to start to diminish. I went to college and graduated. I’d say I learned more from the experience as opposed to the actual education. As college costs increase kids are graduating with mountains of debt and working that glorious 9-5 job college’s promise take years just to break even. Check out this great podcast on why you lose money going to college. While I am a firm believing in education there are now many other ways to get that education. You can find in-depth knowledge on any topic you want on the internet. And most of the successful people I know own a business and most did not even go to college. So while I’ll still contribute to a fund for my kids of college. I will be teaching them to have an entrepreneurial mindset.
  • Never stop learning
    I read tons of books this year in the topics of Marketing, Business and Personal Development. I can’t rave enough about an app called Blinkist. It breaks down books to 15 minute reads or listens and pulls out all the good actionable stuff. I probably read a round 50 + Blinkist version books. As far as full books, podcast and conferences, courses I consumed in 2017.
    Books
    Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferriss
    The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy
    The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
    DotCom Secrets by Russell Brunson
    Email Marketing Demystified by Matthew PaulsonPodcasts
    MarketingSchool.io
    StartUps for the Rest of Us

    Courses
    Traffic MBA Facebook Video Ads Mastery
    Advanced Ecommerce Marketing Course

    Conferences
    Microconf
    WordCampUS

  • Focus on Learning Marketing Better
    I contribute my business growth this year from a lot of the tactics I learned from the above resources. I tend to hyperfocus when trying to learn something. I find the expert in that topic and consume.
  • Review goals monthly and writing more about my experience on this blog.
    I failed miserably at this. But this will be a top priority for this year. Sharing my knowledge.

In addition to these goals I did several months of 30 days challenges. Here’s a few I did.

March – no social media, FB can be toxic and most people are addicted to it and don’t even know it.
April – daily exercise, using the 7 minute workout I referred to above.
May – cold showers, I would turn the water as cold as I could get for about 20 seconds. Post forth coming on why this year.
July– daily meditation, used the Clam app, more to come on this as well.
August – read every night, no tv

So there you have it, not to mention I was so blessed in so many other ways in 2017. I was able to take my kids to Disney 3 times this. Yes, we are Disney nerds. More to come on this as well. I have Disney down to a science and will share my strategy.

2018 Goals

On New Year Eve as I laid in bed prior to Midnight I was thinking about everything I wanted to do and accomplish this year. I hope I can recall everything because I had it perfect in my head 🙂

Anyway here it goes… Ezra Firestone of Smart Marketer talks about the importance of having a motto to drive your Business and Life. So after doing to some reflecting and thinking here’s mine. Gratitude, Give and Grow. This is what will drive my goals for Business and Life going forward.

If you do some research of what actually makes people happy and gives you long-lasting joy you’ll see that gratitude and contributing back are driving forces. It’s crucial you also get clear on the difference between pleasure and joy as well. Pleasure is short, joy is long-lasting.

This year I plan to start my days ( I did this some in the past but this year everyday) with a morning ritual where I give gratitude through prayer and just focusing on things I am truly grateful for and happy about.

Most people focus on what they don’t have all the time. Try focusing on what you do have and see how that makes you feel.

In addition to gratitude I plan to add visualization to my morning ritual. I would have never became debt free or have a business, etc… if I hadn’t visualized these things. You have to know where you want to go to get there.

Meditation will also be a part of my morning ritual. I did a 30 day challenge this part year and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have a very busy mind as I’m sure most people do. Meditation helps calm a busy mind and build your focus and clarity muscle. Your ability to focus will determine how successful you are.

Also I’ll will be adding some form of exercise. Jogging or a workout. I’m not looking to become Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I am looking to become fit and healthy.

A major part of becoming healthy is your diet. This too will be a focus this year. More raw and less meat and processed. I made great strides in this last year. This year it’s a focus.

So the goal this year to is implement this morning ritual everyday and be mind and body health focused.

Up next my business. Just like every business the goal is to grow. Last year I did a lot of consuming on the topic of marketing, this year will be focused more on implementing these things I have learned and blogging about the results.

In the department of giving back. This blog will become a lot more active this year I’ll document and share my knowledge and journey and hopefully will inspire other to achieve whatever it is they want in life.

Ultimately the goal is to be thankful for and enjoy my life, my family, friends, help others, to grow and enjoy the process. I also realize that I don’t have it all figured out, there is no such thing as perfection and that’s OK Gratitude, Give, Grow

Conclusion

So here’s to a great 2018 and remember there is no such thing as failure. Any situation you can label as a failure or as a painful you can find a lesson in if you look hard enough and apply it to the greater good. Cheers to you and to life!

Debt Free and It Feels So Good

I hate debt and I’m sure most everyone does, but for the majority of people (8 out of 10) it’s normal to have debt and be in debt most of your lives and even take it to the grave. I mean you have to have a house, a car, education and things right? And all these “things” take massive amounts of cash which most people simply do not have working a normal 9-5 day job so they take out large loans. Add a wife and kids to the picture and most people live paycheck to paycheck. A slave to debt. So what’s the answer?

The Motivation of Becoming Debt Free

Well for me the answer was living within my means and I knew I had to make more money than what a normal day job would pay if I truly wanted to be come debt free and own a house, provide for my family and not worry about money in the long term.

The way I see it is if you are tied to a fixed income then you need to become really good at saving and minimizing expenses to chip away at your debt. This is a long play for most people. The other option is to live the American dream and start your own business where your earning potential is nearly limitless.

Ever since I graduated college I made this clarification and I knew I wanted to run my own business. I was never satisfied working for someone else and I knew my time would be better spent making my life better as opposed to some company. But I had no choice, businesses just don’t start themselves and they are hard.

So after college I took a day job and I was making just enough to live. So essentially I was working to live. That year I set my goal to start a business and one day own my house, cars and things outright and not have to worry about debt. That was 18 years ago (from setting my goal) and this month, I’m happy to say, “I became 100% debt free!” And yes it does feel incredible but it was a hard fought battle.

The Journey

How did I become debt free? Well I must say it was not easy. After graduating college I took a day job at a startup in Nashville. At night I started working on a business idea I had dreamt up and it took me about a year or more to build out my first version. I was new to programming so I was also essentially teaching myself how to program at the same time.

I ended up launching a band website builder called eArtistManagement and since I lived in Nashville I knew a few people would I could get to instantly start using it. So I launched and I think the first month I got 2 or 3 signs ups at $15 per month. Needless to say I was excited. But the next month I got no signs ups. I thought I could just build something and people would flock to it. I had no idea about marketing at that time and it would take a while to learn that lesson.  Over the next 5 years or so the website chugged along and at the peak I think I was making around $1000 per month off the site and while this is not wildly successful it did prove I could make money on the internet and it afforded me some extra income.

I continued to work my day job and hone my programming skills at night on the site adding features which I thought would attract people.  At one point I decided to rebuild the site on a new platform at that time called WordPress. I thought it would be easier to add these features since WordPress had a plugin system. I spent a year porting the site over to WordPress. Launched and crickets. No more new customers and my revenues stayed about the same.

So I did what any good programmer would do, I built a new page builder for another niche without doing any research. This time I built a custom page builder for Facebook. I thought since Facebook was a social network it would be easily for people to discover my product and to get to new customers. This was around 2010.  I spent a year building this new platform on Google App Engine and learning to program in Python. I remember thinking to myself since this is going to be huge I need to be able to scale.  Again I had no clear concept of marketing, product market fit and I certainly did not need to worry about scaling.  I launched and nothing.

The Enlightenment

At this point I really didn’t know what to do next.  I was married now living in Charleston, SC and had two mortgage payments.  My wife and I had both bought property before getting married and the housing market crash. We had around a half million dollars worth of debt between our houses, cars, student loans and credit cards. I was drinking about every night and smoking around a pack of cigarettes a day.  I was not happy or healthy. I was still working a day job and thinking this can’t be the rest of my life. Also my first child was on the way and I knew I had to keep searching for a way to provide for my family and a way to achieve my goal of owning a business and being debt free.

Somehow I found a website called Micropreneur Academy. It’s tag line was something like “Where solo software developers learn to develop and market their first product“.  I thought this is perfect, while I was not the best developer in the world I knew I could build anything I could imagine. I was just missing the marketing secret sauce, I thought.

I instantly signed up and was eager to learn the marketing side so I could solve all my problems and learn why what I had built previously had failed.  I consumed as much info as I could in the Academy. Being a developer, marketing is a hard skill to learn and I’m still learning to this day.

I realized it was time for me to shut down all my other products and and use their blue print to find a new product that had an audience.

The New Beginning

Since I had learned WordPress in and out porting my band builder application to it and the WordPress theme market was coming to life during that time, I thought I could build a WordPress theme as my next product. The theme I had in mind would be geared toward SaaS companies.

In the academy I learned that you should test your idea before you actually build something. Essentially put up a coming soon page  and drive traffic to it and see how many leads  and interest you can generate. I went looking for a good coming soon plugin and could not find one. So again being a developer I built one and released it for free on WordPress.org.

A few months later, while I did have some interest in the new theme idea, it still was not generating quite the buzz I thought. But at the same time something strange had happened. My free Coming Soon Page plugin had become quite popular on WordPress.org. I think in the first couple of months the plugin had gotten over 10,000 downloads and I had people posting to the forums and emailing me for features. The WordPress plugin market was in it’s infancy at this point.

Then it hit me! This is the product. I spent about a month putting together a pro version and then released it to people who had asked for the features. September 14th, 2011 I made my first sale. Ever since then I have been making sales, learning to market and growing the business keeping my goal of becoming debt free in mind. Slowly I started chipping away at my debt.

Did I also mention that I had been working a day job this entire time as well, even after my plugin sales exceeded my day job I kept it for insurance and just incase the business went boom. I have a wife and two kids to provide for and while I could have left I wanted to see it through.

So here we are almost twenty years later and I have reached my goal. It’s an amazing feeling and even though the battle has been won I still have many more new goals and and new journeys that await.

Conclusion

I also just want to communicate that whatever it is in your life that you want or want to change,  never give up and keep on keeping on. During this journey there were times I got down and burned but I keep going. Always find the “why” to the things you do. When my kids were born it was major motivation for me to keep going and never give up and ultimately it’s family who motivate me to do the things I do.  Thanks to WordPress for being an open platform and thanks to Rob Walling and Mike Taber for building the academy and sharing their knowledge.

What to find out what’s next for me? Keep an eye out for my 2017 Year In Review and 2018 Goals Post.

 

How to Track Free to Paid Plugins on wp.org

At the beginning of this year I started tracking users who visited my upsell page from my free coming soon plugin in wordpress.org to learn how many of my sales were coming from wordpress.org and to learn how long the conversion time was. I had been tracking this with campaign variables in Google Analytics but I felt it was not giving me an entirely accurate picture. Also Google Analytics only breaks down time to purchase by day. GA was saying 96% of my sales happened within one day. So adding my own tracking cookie would let me figure out exactly what was going on.

Here’s how I implemented it. First I add a cookie to the user as soon as they visited my upsell page from my free plugins on wordpress.org. Since I don’t index my upsell page and the only way to get to it is via my upsell ad in my free plugin I knew this would only be users coming from the free version. I add this code in my functions.php on my theme.

So what I’m doing here is inserting a cookie on the user’s browser if not set with the source which is ”free_plugin’ and the datetime  with a pipe as a delimiter. When and if the user purchases my Pro Version I then check and read that cookie if it exists and add the info to the user’s order record. How you do this will depend on what you are using to sell your plugin. I have a custom system but I will provide the code so you can see how I’m reading the cookie.

So now I have the source and datetime on the order record. Now I can just use sql queries to figure out how long free to paid is and what percentage come from .org.

Here’s what I learned:

Time to purchase:
within 1 minute: 2%
within 2 minute: 14%
within 3 minute: 25%
within 4 minutes: 35%
within 5 minutes: 40%
within 10 minutes: 53%
within 20 minutes: 61%
within 30 minutes: 65%
within 1 hour: 70%
within 2 hours: 74%
within 3 hours: 76%
within 12 hours: 80%
within 1 day: 83%
within 2 days: 87%
within 1 week: 92%
within 2 weeks 95%
within 1 month: 98%
greater than 1 month 2%

Percent of sales from .org:
48%

Hope this gives you some clearer insights into your sales funnel.

2017 Mid Year Goals Checkup

I wanted to write this blog post mainly as an accountability tool for myself. At the beginning of the year I wrote out my goals for 2017 and just wanted to give an update on how things were going. BTW it’s crazy how half this year is already gone.

Here were the goals I listed for 2017 and an update for each one:

  • Consistently work out/ jog at least 3 times a week.
    I have been doing this, back in May I did a 30 day challenge to do the 7 minute workout for that month. I completed that with only missing 2 days that month. This helped me build a habit which I have stuck to. Not every day but at 3 to 4 times a week. Plus I have been swimming mostly everyday this summer. So I’d say I’m on track with this goal!
  • Grow business by at least 15%
    This has been a standing goal every year since I started my business. This year so far I have seen an 8.5% increase in revenue over last year. I’m happy with that but I have some things planned for the latter half of the year to try to make it into double-digit growth territory. I also switched SeedProd.com over to automatic renewals in May so hopefully I will see bigger gains by next year’s update.
  • Finish becoming debt free.
    I was on track at the begging of the year to have been completely debt free by mid 2017. But then my 2000 Honda Accord gave up the ghost. So I ended up buying a new car and had a little than larger tax payment in April than I was expecting. With that said I’m still on track to meet this goal by the end of the year! 
  • Strategize an investment/retirement plan and contribute more to my kids college funds.
    Even though I’m still contributing I have not sat down to figure out a long-term plan and projection. This has been deferred until I finish paying of they little but I have left on my mortgage.
  • Never stop learning.
    I bought a Kindle early this year and have been reading like crazy, in fact I rarely watch TV any more. I have been reading mostly personal and business development stuff. I also love the “Send to Kindle” chrome browser extension. So instead of breaking my concentration during the day when I see an article come across I want to read, I send it to my Kindle so I can read before I goto bed.
  • Focus on learning Marketing better
    I’m currently reading and learning everything I can about email marketing. I think this is a marketing channel I’m really not taking advantage of. I just finished reading “Email Marketing Demystified” by Matthew Paulson who was one of the speakers I saw at Microconf this year. I loved the book and I’m implementing the techniques I learned in it. 
  • Review goals monthly and writing more about my experience on this blog.
    I have been review my goals each month but not writing about it. Right now I’m planning on doing a 30 day blogging challenge to build this habit to rectify this. I think communication and self brand are key for entrepreneurs. So I need to build that skill.

OK so that’s it, so far I’m pretty happy with my progress. To keep up my momentum I’m going to start doing monthly challenges every month to help me improve on the areas of my life and business that I want.  So subscribe and keep up with my progress. I’ll be announcing my July challenge which I have already started later this week.