November 26th, 2020
Back from vacation.

Took a break from work, writing, and tried to unplug.

Unplugging was hard. I caved a few times and checked Twitter, email, etc.

It was nice taking a few days off, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the work that was on my plate when I got back.

This SEO course feels like it will be a big project. Not only will it take a lot of time, but it’s new. And new things keep me up late at night.

I can’t rest until the new is not-so-new. Until I’ve learned it. Until I’ve tried it.

If I was an investor, I’d only invest in entrepreneurs with this quality. Because they have a bias for action. They experiment and iterate with urgency.

But with a bias for action myself, it’s mentally painful when I can’t take action right now. It’s a blessing and a curse.

Excited to be back, and get back to work. I’m also back to writing every day.

November 20th, 2020
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing a bit about SEO. Mostly, to help me think better about the course I’m working on.

I’m still going through each email I’ve received (over 200!) about the course and sending a personalized reply.

Two people have doubted my approach or said this wouldn’t work for them. This gives me a bit of self-doubt, but it’s also motivating me to work and think harder about how I can make the best course possible.

Anyways... it’s helpful to write more about it...

I have no secrets about SEO. I just have a framework for moving quickly and dominating it.

As a small or bootstrapped business, SEO is the most important channel because it’s free traffic, or more importantly, free money.

But on the flip side, the hardest thing about SEO is lack of time/bandwidth

Writing a great article takes 8+ hours. I might be able to use sheer willpower to do that a few times, but it’s never going to be scalable.

So, you might get stuck in this scenario: 

  1. You vow to “do SEO”
  2. Set up an elaborate plan
  3. Work hard on a couple of articles
  4. Publish them
  5. Not much results...
  6. Life happens...
  7. You stop writing and publishing
  8. “SEO doesn’t work for me”

I’ve been there many times.

The issue with that approach is that it’s missing two key things (1) experimentation and (2) tracking results.

Just like a "lean startup", you win by experimenting & trying new things, getting feedback from the market, tracking results, and pivoting based on that.

I really started to see results when I started approaching my content this way.

More to come…

November 19th, 2020
Today, I “meditated”.

I put it in quotes because I don’t like that word too much. The word meditation comes with too many preconceived notions, like to “focus on your breath”, gurus, specific techniques, etc.

Common meditation advice says you shouldn’t think about anything, but I don’t like that because not thinking about anything is actually a thought itself.

Today, I just sat there and did nothing for 15 minutes. Just sat there. I let thoughts come to me, and I processed them.

And the craziest thing happened to me.

I had this one thought come to me: “I should share XYZ on Twitter”. It was a simple and typical thought for me. Nothing out of the ordinary.

But the crazy part: I actually visualized this thought enter and leave my mind. The timeline:

  1. I saw the thought enter my mind.
  2. I watched it become stronger and stronger
  3. It reached the center of my mind and hit a “peak” for a few seconds.
  4. Then, it slowly started getting weaker. 
  5. And then it faded away, and I was unable to bring it back!

I thought maybe I could pull it back. 

I tried to pull it back, but I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried! 

I was in disbelief.

Once it was gone, my mind moved onto something else.

What happened? I fully processed a thought! It sounds so simple and obvious but it feels revolutionary right now!

I’ll do this again tomorrow, and I’m actually really looking forward to it. I guess this is mediation? This feels more fun.

November 17th, 2020
Today, I have no meetings on my calendar.
Today, I get to work on things I’m excited about.
Today, I get to play tennis.
Today, I get to work with people that I love working with.
Today, I get to spend time with people that I love.
Today, I get to catch up with friends & family that I love.
Today, I’m drinking a delicious iced coffee.
Today, I control my schedule and do whatever the fuck I want.
Today, I get to feel inspirational and write about it right now on this blog.
Today, I have freedom.
Today is awesome.

November 17th, 2020
  • Podcasts democratized radio. It won.
  • Streaming democratized music. It won.
  • Social media democratized fame. It won.
  • The internet democratized knowledge. It won.

Bitcoin democratizes money. How does it not win?

November 17th, 2020
Couple things:

  • I will release the "SEO For Developers" course on December 8th. You can preorder now.
  • Along with this, I launched a very early MVP of the "Starter Story Learning Platform".

The course has a landing page. You can buy the course as a one-off, or you can subscribe to Starter Story and get full access to it and all future courses.

Eventually, we'll have dozens of courses. I won't be the only one creating courses.

What's also cool is that the course content will live on Starter Story, which will see its own SEO benefits.

It was fun coding this up today. Now I'm excited to put together the course.

November 16th, 2020
I’m excited about this whole SEO course thing going on.

I’m going to use this to create the first course for the “Starter Story Learning Platform”.

The next big play for Starter Story is selling courses and more specific learning. The goal was to start working on that in 2021, but seems like something serendipitous is happening in the last few days.

Here’s what I’m thinking.

I’ll set a deadline for early-to-mid-December when the course will be launched.

I’ll build out some of the “Starter Story Learning Platform” features (won’t take too long) and I’ll take preorders for the course. 

This will help me commit to delivering a course quickly because I’ll already have taken people’s money.

People can buy the course as a one-off or they can subscribe to Starter Story Premium Plus, which will give them full access to Starter Story and unlimited courses in the future.

The course will be mainly slides + video + me talking over the video. See this series of tweets. 

I think this is a great medium for a course, because I have a lot to say, and I do so many Loom videos anyways, and I’m quite fast at that.

I’m actually quite excited to get all of this out of my head. There is so much to go over.

Eventually, I can convert the videos into text / blog format as well, which could see SEO benefits in the future.

I will also write about this process of creating a course here on this blog, and maybe talk about it on Twitter. Maybe people will find that interesting, as it seems my tweets have been doing quite well.

The other benefit of sharing this process publicly is to find other people who want to create courses for the “Starter Story Learning Platform”. If you want to build and sell a course on Starter Story, email me! 

My stretch goal is to get the preorder page up by the end of the week.

All of this is subject to change, I’ll keep things updated here on the blog. As always, send me your thoughts and feedback and questions.

November 15th, 2020
This weekend, I worked on a new landing page + checkout flow for Starter Story.

Did some analysis and found that almost half of converting users come through this landing page. I haven't really touched that page since May...

Because that page has so much impact on conversion, my hypothesis is that putting some more work into there will yield some results.

  • Simplified above the fold + email capture
  • Added ideas database
  • Added "real faces" (shoutout Harry Dry for the tip)
  • Focused on email capture for this page, then redirect to checkout


As far as the checkout:

  • Far cleaner than before. minimalistic. Keeps focus on the goal.
  • Better disclosure
  • Plan chooser
  • Ability to add promo codes


November 15th, 2020
I received over 120 emails, DMs, and even text messages about my SEO approach.

Conventional wisdom would be to do a whole course, right?

I really don’t want to do that. But it sounds boring, and not really up my alley. I know that I could make some money on it, but it really wouldn’t be the right use of my time.

Here are a few ideas I’m thinking of:

  • Consulting: Find the people that really need this and build out something rough. Help a handful of people in a pseudo-consulting role and have them pay me a lot of money.
  • Really expensive course: Charge $1,000+ for this information. Sell less, but better clients. The money will motivate me to get it done quickly.
  • Use this as the catalyst for Starter Story Course Platform: On Starter Story, we’ll start working on a ‘learning’ platform, where we have loads of different courses. Maybe this could be the first course?
  • Create a small community: Slack, Telegram chat? 
  • 48 Hour Course Launch: Set a really short, hard deadline, spend two days, heads down and crank this out with a bunch of Loom videos and PDF and sell it as a package.

I’m not really sure what I’m going to do. Since this is a side project, it needs to be fun for me and I want to be motivated.

The first step: start emailing people back and learning more about what they need.

Any ideas?

November 14th, 2020
I have written a bit about how much I dislike Twitter.

But what if that was really just a reflection of my own insecurity? My own jealousy of others? My ego?

I'm reminded of this guy Austin Rief. He always has great things to say about Twitter:

https://twitter.com/austin_rief/status/1327725617408774147

What I like about Austin is he's an optimist. Most of his sentiments and tweets are positive. He stays in his own lane. While everyone complains about how negative Twitter is, he seems to ignore it and have a grand ol' time.

He also just sold his company Morning Brew for tens of millions of dollars.

I want to see Twitter the way Austin does.

November 13th, 2020
Seeing if there’s some interest...

I have a unique strategy to grow search traffic through code, data, automation, outsourcing, and UGC.

I don’t see this talked about in SEO land, because mainly it requires some technical ability (need to be able to code).

Starter Story will do 300k+ uniques this month, and forecasting 500k by January 2021.

I know this strategy can be applied to other niches. Starter Story is about starting businesses. But this would work in pets, plants, fashion, food, travel, and hundreds of other topics.

What you’d need for this:

  • Ability to code (or to put a full-time engineer on this)
  • Time / patience / long term mindset (can take months to rank)
  • Some money (to pay for tools / engineer / data / outsourcing)

Would this be valuable to you?

If this sounds interesting, please reach out to me, and let me know what blog you’re trying to grow. If you want to start something, that could work too.

(my email is the mail icon at bottom of this post)

--

Update: I've decided to do a course. You can preorder here. I'd still love if you emailed me :)

BTC
November 12th, 2020
I've been doing a lot of research and learning about cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin.

Honestly, I completely ignored it over the past few years, even when it kinda blew up in 2018. I thought it was a fad.

But a few things have changed:

  • I have less trust in U.S. gov to manage the economy and the dollar
  • I have less trust in corporations to do the right thing. If Google and Facebook are evil, are the banks not?
  • I have more money (thinking about what could happen to it)
  • Many of the people I look up to are invested heavily in it
  • Bigger financial institutions are starting to take Bitcoin seriously

Right now, it feels like an exciting time, like cryptocurrencies are on the cusp of something big. I can't miss this.

November 11th, 2020
There are a million ways to make a million dollars. 

Call it hubris, but I know how I could make a million dollars in six months if I did a few things.

I’m not saying these things are easy, but they are quite simple. They’d just be time-consuming. And it would mean going in a different direction with my company.

If I had investors, I might be labeled as ‘fiscally irresponsible’. I’d be doing them a disservice by not following the money.

But I don’t want to do those things! I know that I should, but I’m not motivated enough to work really hard on them. They don’t sound like any fun, or what I’m excited about.

I asked my founder friend about this:

“Do you ever think you’re a ‘bad’ entrepreneur because you don’t always follow the money?”

His response:

"Yes, I go through this. I could be rich if I did [REDACTED]. As an entrepreneur, you realize there are unlimited opportunities to make unlimited money. But, we became entrepreneurs because we love to build things. Because we wanted to build our own things. If we were only in it for the money, we’d be better off working salary jobs and investing our profits.”

You can always follow the money more. But the more you follow it, the more you sacrifice in other areas. Your time. Your fulfillment. Your vision.

You’ll never be able to fully maximize money following. There’s always more money right around the corner. 

So, keep a balance. You’ll still get rich, it just might be a bit slower.

Make a million doing the things you love. That’ll feel better in the end.

November 11th, 2020
As I’ve gained a small following on Twitter, I’ve become more and more afraid to tweet stuff and be myself. Why? Many reasons, which I'll outline some in this post.

This is what's called a fear setting exercise. I’ll write about my specific fear about why I don’t tweet, and then write about the reality, and why that fear is actually not valid. Here goes...

Fear: I’m afraid people will ‘out’ me as an impostor. Running a business is imperfect, and if people look close enough, they’ll uncover the truths I’ve stretched, things I’ve said and haven’t fulfilled, and the weak points in my business.
Reality: Overly self-imporant. People aren’t looking that closely at your every move. If they wanted to find it, they would have already.

Fear: I’m afraid I won’t get any likes, and people will unfollow me because they see I don’t get many likes.
Reality: Most things you say won’t get likes. People won’t unfollow you for that, they’ll just keep reading their timeline. More important to be authentic. It’s better to be authentic than get lots of likes.

Fear: I’m afraid to broadcast and overshare.
Reality: Overly self-important. Nobody looks at your timeline like you do. People follow you for a reason. People follow you because you did something cool like build your own business. Even the little things you share have a lot of value.

Fear: I’m afraid haters will attack me, find holes in my business, and exploit them.
Reality: People will just unfollow me. There are always haters, but haters just say mean things, but don’t actually execute on anything.

Fear: I’m afraid people will tell me I’m wrong.
Reality: This happens all the time, and it’s actually a good thing. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, that's the point. As long as you're honest and clear, you can't be wrong, or right. You're just being you.

Fear: I’m afraid to lose followers.
Reality: Followers are not worth much. If you lose them, you’d probably lose them anyway. If you polarize, you’ll gain quality followers which lead to more quality engagement, which will lead to a healthier, more engaged audience in the long run.

Fear: I’m afraid to tweet things unrelated to the topics for which people followed me in the first place.
Reality: People change and evolve. You may lose followers in the short term, but look at people like PewDiePie: he constantly changed and evolved but that’s what made him authentic, and why his success has lasted longer than everyone else’s.

Fear: I’m afraid of IRL friends judging me.
Reality: They don’t follow me on Twitter. And if they do, why would they judge me for being authentic? Maybe they are not good friends.

Fear: I’m afraid that my boss, customers, investors, etc will judge me.
Reality: I’m lucky to be my own boss and can say things without the risk of losing my job. That is more than most people can say. Again though, this goes back to being overly self-important. Nobody is watching my ‘moves’ as much as I think they are.

Fear: I’m afraid of not being able to one-up myself.
Reality: One-upping yourself is impossible. But you can one-up yourself by doing things differently. Like Pieter Levels… He’s launching small fun apps and having a great time. He doesn’t have to create a unicorn startup after his success bootstrapping, he just does different stuff. That’s still leveling up, but just in a different direction. His audience still grows.

Fear: I’m afraid to be judged by ‘smarter’ people. Some people follow me on Twitter that I really look up to. I’m worried they’ll judge me and stop following me.
Reality: Same logic as losing regular followers above. People that I look up to people are no more special than anyone else, and also change just like I do. I probably have a skewed perception of these people anyway. It’s better to build relationships than think about who’s following who.

This has been helpful!

November 10th, 2020
Great month for revenue, traffic, and email subscribers (all-time record on all accounts). 

236K uniques to the site, a 51% increase in traffic over last month! Revenue also at an all-time high at $17.1K.


Our growth is mainly from all of the SEO work we’ve been doing over the last 3-4 months. You can go back to our last few updates and learn more about that.

Ideas 2.0

In October, we spent a lot of time working on Ideas 2.0, which shows off thousands of business ideas and lots of metadata around them. We are rolling this out today. Here’s what it looks like:


New Tagging System

We also put a ton of work into our new tagging system on the backend. 

This will allow us to tag business ideas with different characteristics, like funding, business model, skills, growth methods, and more metadata that we want to add.

As we keep enriching this structured database, we can do really cool stuff. For example, a how-to guide can be generated through our tagging system. The possibilities are quite endless. If we do this at scale, we’ll have millions more in traffic.

In a way, our goal is to be the “Crunchbase of small business ideas” and this gets us closer to that.


Some new pricing

We ran some AB tests and found that people are willing to pay $179 for a lifetime membership at about the same ROI that people would pay $99. We’ll raise our prices to that. I’ve been thinking about raising our prices, in general. Starter Story is probably too cheap.

New Content Experiments

Here’s some of the new content we’re trying last month:

- Best Books For X (leans on UGC)
- Best Tools For X (leans on UGC)
- Email Subject Lines
- Slogans
- Quotes
- Hashtags

October Numbers

- Monthly revenue (accrual): $17.1K (+11%)
- Traffic: 236K unique users (+51%)
- Content published: +240 (+38%)
- New email subscribers (net): +4.4K (+47%)
- Email collection rate: 2.1% (-12%)

Plans For Future

micro

This month, we’ll keep pushing on new content ideas. We’re still gunning towards our goal of 500k monthly uniques by the end of the year. I think we have a good chance.

We have a good playbook for growing through SEO now, so now we’re trying to think about how we can build more tools, and more process around this. Our focus has and will always lean on code, automation, and outsourcing to keep scaling that.

macro

We’ve spent so much time on growing traffic over the last few months, but eventually, we’ll want to think a bit more about different growth channels and more monetization.

What’s on my mind are two things (1) YouTube and (2) courses.

YouTube

I chatted with my buddy who has 100K+ subscribers on YouTube and he sees an opportunity to turn our case studies into YouTube videos. 

If we do this right, we could have hundreds of YouTube videos and a massive new acquisition channel. This would be a super long term play, but I think it can be huge.

Courses

Eventually, we will want to sell some courses. This is a huge revenue opportunity because our traffic is so high and people are willing to pay a lot for courses. 

I’m not sure exactly how we’ll do it, but we’ll probably start with super-niche courses, like “how to get started on TikTok for your business”. I can imagine that one day, we have dozens of smaller courses that all drive revenue.

(previous monthly updates)

November 10th, 2020
Internet communities are filled with keyboard warriors who are certain they could build a unicorn startup on nights and weekends with a CRUD app.

They just haven't gotten around to getting started.

(inspired by this)

November 9th, 2020
I wrote 365 blog posts in 365 days. My thoughts:

1. Writing solves problems. 

When things got hard, I pulled up a blank Google doc. When depressed or frustrated, I used writing to (1) get it out of my system and (2) reason through solutions.

Not only did writing solve personal issues, but business ones too. In the last year, I’ve doubled revenue and tripled web traffic. This is not luck! It’s from writing (example).

Would I have figured these things out on my own? Yes, but slower. By writing, I was able to think and move faster. Probably 2-3x faster.

2. Writing builds real-life confidence.

Some people are “talkers”. They’re innately smooth and charismatic. I’m not one of those people. But I’d like to be better.

Writing helps. 

In real-life situations, I found myself mentally referencing back to my writing. My blog posts were like nodes in my brain, helping me express myself better.

3. Writing is a skill

Now, writing feels more like an extension of my body. Like writing code, or proficiency in Excel.

Compared to a year ago, I write better, faster, and with more confidence.

This has translated to other domains: emails, texts, tweets, etc. 

Yesterday, my friend told me I should write an important email instead of him: “because I’m the better writer”. That felt good.

4. Writing forces you to be vulnerable

Throughout the year, I dug deeper into topics. I peeled back the onion more and more.

I shared some things I thought I never would. But pulling these out led to my best writing, and my biggest progress IRL.

Being vulnerable is essential to great writing, because it’s accessing your true feelings. Whenever I do this correctly, I get emails and DMs where people say “Damn I can really relate to this”.

5. Accountability

If I miss a day of writing, I have to donate $20. I knew I needed this accountability to really get better.

Two things: 

(1) the thought of losing money got me to write every day
(2) doing it in public forced me to polish and refine my writing

This forced over a thousand hours of (often painful) writing and re-writing. That’s what really pushed me this year.

Nobody read my daily blog for months. Now it has 1,000 daily readers!