This is a blog series where I’ll be walking through how I built my online business, Work Hero, starting from December 2017 to the present.
Momentum: Tough to hold onto
Momentum is an interesting thing. By mid-2018, we definitely had it. I had a lot of confidence that we could get over the hump and make it a sustainable, profitable business.
But that was not “meant to be”.
The next few months were met with a limited number of referrals. I shifted into mostly attending events to try to drum up business.
Lots of effort, little results.
My biggest mistake during this time was making assumptions.
I assumed that because we had one customer who was essentially an agency, we should make that our target market.
I doubled down on efforts to attract other agencies.
Lots of swings, lots of misses.
-A Facebook ads campaign that never really gained traction. Used about $100/month for a few months as an experiment, testing various audiences. This included various combinations of interests, that would indicate they are an agency and looking for help with WordPress & Design. We did land 1 customer with these efforts, but nothing more, and I was tired of seeing the money go out with little return, so we stopped the ads.
-Paying an SEO company to optimize our site. It was a $1000 setup and $500 a month. In the end this was a mistake- as we never were able to improve our rankings much, and when we later pivoted, most of the keywords we were moving up the rankings for were useless to us.
-A trip to Denver to attend a conference specifically for digital agencies. I thought this would be a goldmine of leads. But that couldn’t have been further from the case. I spent around $1000 on this event when I was said and done, but conversations mostly went nowhere. Typical response to my business: “Oh we already have all of that taken care of.” No one was interested. I did get to explore downtown Denver, however!
-A failed attempt at a partnership with a consultant who teaches agencies how to market. It seemed like the perfect fit. We put together a video presentation for his members, that got into great detail of what we do. He said his members needed exactly what we offer. In the end, he ended up scrapping what he was doing with member content, and put the whole thing on hold (permanently!)
Dip, dip, dip.
We managed to hold on to the customers we had, but no growth was occurring. And in the mean time, I was getting tired/burned out on explaining our business to people and getting the same reaction from most- non-interest.
The conversations would always turn into the other person asking:
“Do you do X? Do you do Y? Z?”
Question after question, followed by a rejection.
I felt the dip big time in much of 2019.
I needed help with the business, how can we escape this dip?
I went to 3 conferences, and tried to learn as much as I could, using the mastermind groups in each one to describe my challenges.
With the first two conferences, I did meet some great contacts, and learned some things. However, the answers weren’t coming.
Until the 3rd conference. I was describing the problem I was having to someone with a similar productized service business that just offered unlimited design– that it seems too hard to explain to people and they waste my time and find reasons not to be interested.
He said: “Why don’t you just do WordPress and not mess with design?”
Light bulb moment!
I could offer WordPress support for less than $100/month, making the decision for prospects much easier- meaning, shorter conversations up front, and more sales made without any conversations.
It felt so right when I came up with this that we started making changes to pivot the business 1 week later.
At first, it seemed like shifting the business like this would be super easy. We’re just dropping one of our services.
But instead, it was an entirely new business.
We re-did the website, re-wrote just about everything, changed the pricing, and lost a couple of customers.
The transition took a few weeks.
But there was 0 doubt in my mind, “How could this be wrong when it feels so right?” is how I felt.
December 2019 was month 1 on the new Work Hero.
Overall, expenses went down. No more designer salaries, no
Salaries: $500 (average)
Email: Gsuite by Google $25
Hosting: $30 (upgraded to Kinsta)
Canva Software: $14
Social Media (cold) outreach service: $250
Zapier (Automations): $20
NEW: Active Campaign (replacing MailChimp): $9
NEW: SPP (replacing Intercom): $99
NEW: ManageWP: $30
Total Monthly Expenses (December 2019): $982
Total Revenue: $743