Justin McGill
December 3, 2014 8 Comments AUTHOR: Justin McGill CATEGORIES: Founder Journal

Introduction

I have always been curious to see how other entrepreneurs and startup founders spend their time and what they’re working on.

I have seen several posts that provide “Income reports”, but they don’t really go into detail on the things they are working on – it’s mainly about the results. I am more interested in the details that go into the results.

I figured I probably wasn’t the only one, so I decided to start a monthly series that takes a look behind the scenes. This is the second “Month in Review” post and I’ll be providing one every month.

You can read my first founder diary here that documents my month of September, and my second founder diary here that documents October.

A Jekyll and Hyde Sort of Month

It was an interesting month of November for me. The first couple of weeks were very work intensive, while the last two weeks included a vacation and then a light working Thanksgiving weekend.

On a personal note, on November 4th it was confirmed I’m going to be a dad again! So that was an eye opener.

The baby news has me as motivated as ever to get Workado in the positive and get my book launched.

November 10th through the 13th I had a severe eye infection which hampered my ability to get a whole lot done.

Then from the 15th through the 19th I took a trip to Prescott with the wife and some close friends. We stayed in a cabin up in the mountains for the week and had a great time. Here was my view for the week:

View from cabin in Prescott

Since I wouldn’t be posting for the week, I sent an email to my subscribers before I headed out of town letting them know nothing new would be coming. I also asked what everyone was up to and what their plans were heading into 2015.

Here is what I sent to my email subscribers:

My email message to subscribers

Yes, I realize the second paragraph has a typo. Shoot me!

I also came across RescueTime through an AppSumo deal ($25 for a year) and decided to give it a try and boy did I fall in love quickly. It’s like Fitbit, but for work productivity.

Here’s a screenshot of my stats from November

RescueTime dashboard

Mind you, I didn’t get this until after the first week of November. Then I had an eye infection, went out of town and the last week of November was Thanksgiving.

You really get to see just how much you are actually working on things versus goofing off. I’m proud to say my social media sites are not even where I spend 3% of my time. It tracks your usage inside apps on your desktop, as well as sites you browse.

The app I spend the most time on is Gmail. I need to figure out how I can cut down my email usage going into 2015.

Writing

My primary writing focus has been my book. I am hoping to have it finished by the end of the month which was my lone New Years Resolution this past year.

I’m then planning on a February launch. More details on that later in the post.

I did post a few blogs here this month though:

Reading

I didn’t get much reading in this month aside from some great blog posts. I am thinking about putting together a reading list of key blogs that I read and sending that to my email list. For example, look at how this company spends over $55,000 per year on various SaaS products. What do you think? Should I use something like Goodbits and email my subscribers some of the great blogs I read?

I came across this great site that gives book summaries and decided to read what was written for Zero to One.

I actually read several other summaries through this website as well. I will say, it is nice, but you don’t absorb nearly as much as when you read it.

When I was in Prescott, I did read Amplification by Justin Jackson. He walks you through how he’s gotten some of his blog posts to go viral.

I am probably too advanced of a reader for this, but if you are newer to digital marketing this is a good, quick read.

I also bought two more books, which our outlined in the Purchases section below.

My Projects

Workado

The biggest hurdle was hiring additional development help for Workado. My main developer has a couple other projects that were going to tie him up for most of November.

One came recommended through the Bootstrapped forum and he’s working out great. Unfortunately, he’s only available for 8 to 10 hours a week. So development of several new features went a little slower than I had wanted.

I was originally looking to bring on a Cofounder who was experienced with Javascript (it is built on NodeJS backend and AngularJS front end). However, that didn’t end up working out. He was having issues with drivers and code versions apparently. Most likely though, it was something for which he didn’t feel he could put forth the time.

I am still torn if I want to pursue this option or not. Most likely, I’ll try and get through the next few months of development with the guys I have in place and then go really hard on the marketing and see where things end up.

I hired three content writers on oDesk. Gave them each the same assignment: Write one specific post on digital marketing tools and another that I wanted them to come up with and write about on their own.

One writer was awful, another was decent, but required heavy editing, and the third one worked out great. She was more expensive ($20/hr), but I think it is worth it. She even did the editing of the second writer’s post so I have a couple guest blogs ready to go from this experiment. She’s actually working on a piece I am putting together for Search Engine Journal in December.

I mapped out the development roadmap and setup milestones in Codebase for our next four major releases. This took several hours, but I feel good about where the product is heading and how I am really going to be able to differentiate it in the marketplace.

I had the signup process redesigned to include an indicator at the top which shows you what step of the sign up process you are in.

Currently, you sign up with your contact information. Then you have to enter a credit card, and then you are done. Here’s what it looks like:

signup process

 

Since launching this, signup conversions have plummeted. I am thinking that before (when we didn’t have the step indicator) a person would fill out this first form and then feel obligated to signup after they reached the second step since they just spent the time.

I may go back to removing the indicator to test this further. I’ll be doing several tests on this in time.

That said, I really haven’t done any marketing as I am waiting for the release of a couple core features and then I’ll go back to marketing.

WPEdits.com

WPEdits required some heavy backend work in November.

For starters, we had an issue with Recurly that was causing signups to not process. So we had to work through those first and foremost.

While my developer fixed that, I began implementing an affiliate program using LeadDyno. I also had my designer prepare 30 different affiliate banner images for affiliates to leverage.

We are officially ready to start pumping this product. It will most likely be sold as a package offering with Upswing Interactive sales pitches and through various affiliates.

We have WP101 officially onboard as an affiliate now. For anyone new to WordPress, this is a great community to join.

I’ll be looking to reach out to other potential affiliate partners in December/January as well. Being able to reference the WP101 partnership helps add credibility with it being a new service.

We’ll be looking to build partnerships with the various plugins we use across all WordPress installations as well.

Upswing Interactive

This was an interesting month for Upswing as we lost a key employee that was there in the early days.

It was bittersweet, as he took on a marketing management role for a popular sports franchise and so I’m very happy for him.

I had to hold a team meeting to discuss next steps, roles and responsibilities, etc.

In addition, I am working through a new lead generation strategy for a core web design/development service that Upswing will be offering.

Self Made Marketer

Happy to announce my new book. It is called “Self Made Marketer – The roadmap to building a 7 figure digital marketing consultancy with no knowledge, no connections, and no money”.

I setup the landing page here.

I’m using WPEngine for hosting and OptimizePress for the initial landing page. I’ll be using a different website post-launch to actually sell the book.

I had a designer (and reader of my blog) contact me offering to do a design project for free in order for him to build his portfolio, so I let him design the initial cover of the ebook.

I ended up having my actual designer polish up some of the things, but I used the graph/chart idea from the original designer.

The book is going to document how I built my digital marketing agency with no funds and no connections. There is a heavy focus on the various lead generation methods and sales processes I used.

To write the book, I’m using Vellum on my MacBook Pro. What an amazing tool for ebook authors. It organizes your chapters in the left column for easy navigation, and will ultimately allow me to export in various formats (Kindle for example).

I am having my newly hired write help to write some of the material now while I focus on the various lead gen strategies. Most of the basics regarding the services to offer, setting up your business, etc are already written.

I have around 20,000 words written. It is most likely going to be around 50,000 to 60,000 words – which is what an average book length is.

I may eventually try to get this published, but for now I’m just focused on self publishing.

I am planning to offer the book, plus various templates and files (proposals, contracts, etc) as a separate purchasing option. I am even considering doing some paid webinars or a training course that shows some videos of the actual lead gen strategies in process.

I am also considering putting together an affiliate program around the book (and potential course). I still have to do more research on this, as I don’t see this done very often.

New Analytics Project

Something I’m very excited about, but can’t yet announce is a new SaaS product I’m working on. I have a developer partner for it who is working on it.

I found the developer by reviewing one of his products he had for sale on Flippa. We got to talking and hit it off pretty well and I floated this concept by him.

In a nutshell, the tool will provide marketing agencies the ability to provide better analytics and reporting to their clients, but everything will be available to the user in just one click.

I have started to realize that the key to a successful SaaS product is getting users to experience the product within 1 click. Of course, it also needs to look good if you want user adoption.

This particular product will fit this model very well. My new found realization has me wondering how I can do this with something like Workado.

I’m sure I’ll go into more on this philosophy in a later post.

I will say I spent several hours just trying to come up with a domain name. What a waste.

Through this process though, I came up with a system for discovering some brandable domains.

We are hoping to have the first version of the product launched in December for beta. I’ll share more details in next month’s founder diary post.

I think the only reason I can make this work (having two SaaS products in similar early stages at the same time) is because the market for both products is identical (digital marketing agencies).

Other

I came across CodeCombat and thought it might be a fun way for my 9 year old son to start programming. I showed him the game and within minutes he was hooked, inputting lines of code to control his character.

It is a pretty cool platform and I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with it. Here’s a screenshot of the Javascript version which shows you how to move right and move down to get through the building:

CodeCombat screenshot

Purchases

Note Edge and iPhone 6 – I had been patiently waiting for the Note Edge to get released. I love the edge panel. It is amazing how small my Galaxy S4 felt after using this. My wife got the iPhone 6. $945 total for these two phones, but they go on the NEXT plan using AT&T so makes it easier to digest.

Vellum – I mentioned this is my writing tool of choice. I got a half off discount that was only good for a brief time period for $74.99 (normally $150). I purchased the 10 book option (lets me write and produce 10 different books) for $70. Don’t think I’ll be going beyond that.

LeadDyno – This is the affiliate system I went with for WPEdits.com.

Amplification – eBook for those interested in how to leverage HackerNews and other channels to get your content to spread.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products – This book is directed at someone in my position, launching a couple different software products. Looking forward to this read.

E-Myth Revisited – Should have probably already read this as it is immensely popular, but hoping to dig in sometime in the next month or so.

RescueTime – As I mentioned above, really helps you evaluate how you spend your time working.

CrocDesk – I got this to be a platform to build a backend support channel for WP Edits. Going to integrate with our recurly account to match up update requests to active customers and then add time tracking all the while keeping everything through email handling for customers.

Trademarkia – Trademark filing for Workado $159 + $335 government fee once it is processed.

Code Monkey Island – I came across this back in June on Kickstarter and this officially got greenlighted. Cool board game that helps youngsters understand the fundamentals of programming. I am hoping that this, coupled with CodeCombat, will help him get into programming more. Whether he chooses to program or not, the principles behind it will help him tremendously.

WPEngine – WordPress hosting. Free for four months for being a Moz customer – then it is $29/mo

OptimizePress – $97 + $9 for a landing page template which I used for Self Made Marketer.

AffiliateWP – $49 – black friday deal of 40% off. It is a one-time purchase and something I want to implement on Self Made Marketer.

AppSumo Giveaways – $49 black friday deal 75% off to help me run giveaways/contests.

For Fun

Aside from the vacation and light last week of November, on 11-22-2014 I played a “Jack and Jill” tournament with a friend who plays poker.

You alternate with your teammate every 20 minutes. Cool structure. 109 players and my partner busted on her turn with 24 players left.

I then played $8/$16 for a few hours. Was in for $400 and cashed out with $413. Lots of swings. I didn’t really suck out on anyone, but got sucked out on several times…could have easily cashed out with over $1k in profits had a few of my big hands held up. I feel fortunate to have ended about even.

My Arizona Cardinals prediction was spot on until this past Sunday against Atlanta. What a let down. We ended up 3-2 on the month and are now riding a 2 game losing streak.

Based on the last couple of weeks, I am really struggling to see us win any ball games left on the schedule. However, I do think we will pull out our two home games and finish December 2-2. It will give us an 11-5 record overall. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will be enough to hold off the Packers for the top seed.

What’s Next

I will be launching a whole new website to coordinate the launch of several of the new features. The website is going to be quick hitting with a large screenshot and an overhaul to the website copy.

It won’t have the one click and you’re in functionality (not really sure if it ever will to be honest as this type of product is hard to have that in place), but it should be a much better site.

I’m hoping to have my second SaaS product launched as well, which I referenced above.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish my book!

I will be outlining my 2015 goals as well for all my projects as well as some of my own personal goals.

8 Comments

  1. Dave 2 years ago says:

    Hey Justin – firstly congrats on the new baby – that’s awesome!
    Secondly, I want royalties on the Self Made tradmark 🙂
    You’re working on so many projects, man, I don’t know how you do it (esp with only 113hrs in the month – ha). I’m really trying to cut down to being JUST NinjaOutreach, but I still have my blog of course and The Mastery.
    Dave recently posted…Review Of SoHelpful – Does Helpful Marketing Work?My Profile

    Reply
    • Justin McGill 2 years ago says:

      Thanks Dave – it helps when you are a master at outsourcing! 😀

      The “Self Made” thing is actually how I found you as I was doing research to see if Self Made Marketer had been in use!

      Reply
  2. Joseph Ho 2 years ago says:

    I look forward to your book launch!
    Joseph Ho recently posted…Monthly Income, Growth & Traffic Report – November 2014My Profile

    Reply
    • Justin McGill 2 years ago says:

      Thanks Joseph – I see you signed up! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Minhaj 2 years ago says:

    Congrats to your new baby!
    Hey, you are revealing all of the things you do in a month so frankly. Very few people do that. Anyway, I appreciate your honesty. I atually enjoy your “month in review” post so much than others. We learn not only what you do but also how you do it. That’s great. I feel connected to you when I read this post.
    Hope you will finish all of your projects in time. Thanks for mentioning my work on your book cover. Now the cover is looking really great. Thumbs up!
    Look forward to your next post and new year resolution.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Justin McGill 2 years ago says:

      Thanks Minjah – really appreciate the feedback!

      Reply

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"Justin is the proto-type of a 21st century business leader. Unmatched skills with evolving technology, combined with the social and emotional intelligence required to handle an increasingly advanced consumer." ~ Michael Lambourne of Blend.