Midmonth Post – Motivating Purposes, Outsourcing, and Life

Planning to get at you (the collective “you”) in a couple of days with the earnings report, but wanted to share a little of what’s been “up”.

Beginning with this. Which made my week.

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Thanks Will. Haven’t checked out Will’s videos yet but if he’s anything like most of the other folks who have written and commented, he’s probably a great player, which I find humbling and motivating.

Which brings up a point. I’m keenly aware that this blog is the third or fourth result in Google for “8020 Drummer”, which means anyone looking for more info on my product will probably see my blog on its creation, from which they’ll be able to peruse sales figures, strategies, etc. Everyone, including competition. Which makes this @#$% “real”. I’ve wagered that in the new abundance economy, “zero sum” competition is irrelevant, and businesses like mine can only benefit from transparency: Make only moves I’d be comfortable with the whole world reading about, and…be comfortable about the whole world reading about it. Sure, if I were patenting drugs or aircraft parts I’d have “trade secrets”, but music is so individual – nay, this whole yourself as brand economy that Mike Johnston, JP Bouvet, Gary Vaynerchuk, all the makeup bloggers my wife follows – is so individual, that “idea theft” is beside the point. Even if I wanted to steal someone else’s ideas I’d never do them as well as I could do my own, and vice versa.

All of which means, if you’re a fellow drummer, and 80/20 Drummer customer, welcome, and please enjoy reading about the business side if you’re interested. 80/20 Drummer is my Tim-Ferriss-inspired “muse” – the raison d’etere of this blog – and the test case that if I can become good at drums and profitable in business, truly anyone can.

That wasn’t the point of this post, but it’s an important adjunct. The point is, I’m trying to find a place where I’m giving myself the best chance of financial success without fixating on it. My focus has to be solving problems and helping people, both because that’s far more rewarding than judging myself solely by sales figures and because it ironically gives me the greatest chance of success. If I can say anything about my products, it’s that while some of them are for sale, none was produced for the money. They all have my heart, soul, and passion for discovery, even if they’re imperfect video specimens (my video editing and equipment is gradually getting better, as is my playing).

Which brings me to the Outsource portion. I finally conquered my fear of hiring help, and though I’m starting small, I’m already seeing results. I found a great VA, with enough expertise to coach me through some of the learning curve of supervising her. In the last week, I’ve outsourced a number of things – some of which immediately saved me time, others of which are investments in future time savings (training her to do things that will save me time in the future, etc) – the most important of which is worry, about the day-to-day of my sales.

It’s simple. I need to check my business email practically every day, so I can respond to customers and community members in case somebody needs help. But I can’t not see my sales when I do that. They haven’t been bad – I’m not complaining at this point – but I dislike the day-to-day focus on “how much did I sell?”. Now that I have people working for me, they can respond to most of the day-to-day stuff (for instance copying and pasting the “thankyou” letter I wrote personally into an email to everyone who buys my videos), while I focus on making videos, getting better as a drummer, and helping people. If someone has a direct question or comment, they can forward it to me.

I’ll discuss things like advertising and sales strategies at greater length later this week when I publish the monthly sales figures, but now I can truly “set and forget” all of my split-testing conversion experiments.

Finally, as the weather improves, I feel pangs of regret at not being out walking the dogs, reading a book in Prospect Park (oops I geo-identified myself;), and generally living in the present, and that focus is, I think, a positive one. It’s with the really important things in mind that I want to structure my life. Get to an income figure beyond which money is no longer a worry. Become fluent at Mandarin. Learn (and write about – stay tuned) travel hacking, using credit card rewards to travel the world and build amazing credit at the same time. Start a drumming community in Taiwan that I can retreat to every year to get paid to travel to the homeland of my in-laws. Make gonzo videos of myself auditioning for Juilliard and the Monk Institute even though I have no intention of attending either. Run experiments in low-cost musical self-promotion via the internet. Read more good books. Start the blog Stuff Post Modern First Worlders LIke to lampoon myself and my ilk.

Back midweek with the earnings report.

Peace,

Nate

Yaaaaaay Earnings Report Number Two

So I’m actually feeling pretty good about online business and my businesses. After the last post wondering whether to go deep or go broad, I’m happy I decided to follow Pat Flynn’s advice and double down. I doubled my ad spending and lowered my prices somewhat, and…good results so far.

Let’s Get to The Earnings

First, the hilarious news.

Niche Sites – Smart Getaways for Couples – $0.34

That’s right. Adsense on Smart Getaways for Couples made me 34 cents last month. Page views are decent, but I need to go big with this site and find another way to monetize, because the Adsense…not so happening.

Now, some good stuff.

The 80/20 Drummer – $290.88

That’s $240.88 from online sales, and $50 for a private coaching session.

Gross Revenue – $291.22

Of course, I’m spending money for ads and site hosting.

Site Hosting – Bluehost – $9.99/year/12 = $0.83

Site Hosting – Squarespace – $10

Facebook Ads – $114.69

Total Expenses – $125.52

Total Profit – $165.70

Still a pretty modest number. Let’s look for a second at conversion rates though. Site hosting is fixed. For every dollar I spent on ads, I earned $2.53 back. Assuming that rate held, if I increased my ad spending fivefold ($573 give-or-take), could I expect a fivefold return on investment? ($1450, with $877 in profit.) There are, of course, limiting factors.

  • The sample size is still too small to make statistically significant predictions about the conversion rate. It may still be that I “got lucky”.
  • Ultimately the size of the market may also be a limiting factor. If there are 20,000 existing drummers in the universe who might have an interest in my product, and the market self-renews at 100/month, that means at the present conversion rate there’s a definite point of diminishing returns, at which everybody who would have bought under present conditions has bought, and the low replenishment rate means slower sales.

It’s almost so theoretical as to be a waste of time to think about. Luckily, I can test, by increasing my ad exposure and budget incrementally and seeing if the conversion rate holds.

The other side, of course, is increasing the conversion rate. How many people saw the ads, clicked through, and decided “meh, I’m gonna wait”? If I use myself as a case study and my propensity to see what the gist of a new product or service is, then ruminate for a while before I purchase is representative of anybody else’s tendency, there are a least a few folks like that out there.

And here’s how I’m addressing that. Social proof. I’m making a documentary series about my attempts to tackle different drumming challenges, based loosely on Survivorman, except instead of “I’m in the outback with only the clothes on my back. Can I make it?” It’s “I’ve got just three days to learn this or that demanding tune of prepare for an audition.” But pretty much the same in all other respects. (Read: Real Tigers.) For now, I’m doing the Gary Veynerchuk model somewhat backwards – build the product first, then the audience second.

Anyway, I put mailing list opt-ins all over the site, and the good news is I’ve been getting a lot of sign-ups. I know I’ll soon have 1000 facebook “likes”, and my goal is to get my mailing list to 200. These are the folks who will get the “reality show” in their inbox every week. Not for nothing, a funny psychological thing happened – I’m almost as happy to see a mailing list signup as a sale.

The ancillary effect will be lots of videos on Youtube, which to-date has been my highest converter. (People who found my videos while browsing on youtube were most likely to buy my products.)

It’s all a grand experiment. Maybe the videos won’t work, or won’t work well. As long as I’m able to shift and adapt my strategy while maintaining focus on the larger goal, I’ll be okay. As someone once said, “you only loose when you quit,” and as I like to add, “as long as you’re receptive to what works and what doesn’t.”

So let me set a somewhat quixotic goal. I want to do $1000 in sales in the month of March. No idea if I’ll reach that or not, or how, but I’m putting it out there. Better ads, better on-site conversion architecture, more free videos, more mailing list subscribers. Let’s see if we can get there.

Yours (really),

Nate