This is my second retrospective. I have to say I'm absolutely loving this exercise. As a solo, bootstrapped founder, I need this retrospective to keep myself on track.
Despite a pretty awful June month in terms of numbers, I'm feeling extra hopeful because of what's coming up in July and my overall progress.
6 more months to get to my goals of $5,000 monthly revenue in Dec 2021.
A pre-mortem is when a project team imagines that a project has failed, and then works backward to see what can lead to the failure.
I've done it multiple times in my career, why not do it for my own journey?
So what could go wrong so that I cannot hit my goal in Dec 2021?
My attention is spread thin
Being a full-time creator is not easy, my friend Janis illustrated it very well.
I'm currently running a monthly #30DaysInPublic cohort which means I need to run + market at the same time. I also run the Public Lab community. Write 2 newsletter. Tweet daily. Write blog posts.
If I need to hit my goal, I need to double down on what works and stop doing the other things, even if they contribute to the goal lightly.
So far, tweets work well for me to build my bigger audience on Twitter. Actionable blog posts on KevonCheung.com work well. Mini products like Making Twitter Friends or #30DaysInPublic Preview work well.
What I'm not so sure: quick video tips and blog posts on PublicLab.co. They're high effort but I haven't seen much payoff.
My top funnel is weak
Top funnel means where new people come into learning about my work. Essentially, marketing is about attracting new people and convincing them that I can offer value.
My numbers tell me that I should work on attracting more people to come in. Something I relied a lot on Twitter so far.
My SEO game is not solid. You can see that my new blog posts are ranked 21-90 so far, I need to get them to first page.
I know how SEO works, but often I'm just grabbing the keyword with decent volume & low competition, then write a blog post around it. I'm not super technical in getting blog posts ranked.
While it is not paying off yet, I strongly believe SEO is the way to go in the long run. So I need to study it more closely in July. Because even if I start doing things right, it takes time for SEO effects to kick in.
My nurturing funnel is weak
Once new people come in, it is likely they're not convinced on 1st visit. It takes time and several value-added moments for them to realize "Oh, Kevon can help me! Let me sign up."
Honestly, my drip campaign is fairly weak at the moment.
For example, my #30DaysInPublic preview consists of 3 emails which I copied from the curriculum, and that's it. I haven't spent time to understand how to offer value and slowly educate them so that they'll want to enroll into #30DaysInPublic.
Well, I set it up quickly just to start capturing emails. Now it is time to upgrade.
My exposure game is weak
I haven't done a lot of events, talk, podcasts, etc. I know they're great ways to build personal brand, but it is not measurable so I haven't proactively do it.
So far, I'm only doing it if someone invites me to speak. E.g. this Building in Public workshop for the 100DaysOfNoCode community.
I should probably "put myself out there" more in speaking live with people.
My one-man band approach is limited
For the last 8 months since I set out to figure out the Internet, I've been doing literally everything myself.
I enjoy it. Because I can focus on the most important things right away. I don't need to spend time communicating or having meeting calls.
But anyone entrepreneurial knows that a one-man band has its limitation. You can only do so much as one person.
So for me to reach $5000/month as one person, I need to be more strategic and smarter in where I spend my time.
Embarrassingly, I still wander off sometimes trying to add CSS effects to my websites which add minimal value to the entire plan. I need to remind myself.
Can I get help? Certainly, but I think I'm still in the early days. Adding any manpower help is premature and might actually be slowly me down.
June 2021 Income Report
Net Profit: -$51.99
Revenue $204.5 - Expenses $256.49 = -$51.99
- #30DaysInPublic Challenge: $0
- Public Lab Community: $195 (MRR)
- Affiliate: $9.5
I made the decision to adjust future #30DaysInPublic cohort to start on the 1st, so I give up having a June cohort. It is also because I want to take time to revise the program based on feedback from May cohort.
I added 5 new members to the Public Lab community but had 3 churn, so MRR grew only slightly.
The numbers might be disappointing, but #30DaysInPublic July cohort is at $1,868 vs $843 (in May). 121% growth! That was encouraging! I'll share more what went behind in July retrospective.
Vs May 2021: $284.51
Nothing really changed. Less revenue means less transaction fee on Stripe.
- Stripe: $17.55
- Outseta (1% subscription transaction) = $1.95
- Webflow: $40 (KevonCheung.com & PublicLab.co) / Hypefury: $19 / ConvertKit: $29 / Zoom: $14.99 / Outseta: $29 / Circle: $79 / Descript: $15 / Gmail $6 / Notion $5
I subscribed to Notion $5/mo because instead of sharing the #30DaysInPublic program brief as open link, I'm now adding everyone's email in to access it. I want to protect my intellectual property a little more.
I'm using Notion everyday, might as well show some support!
What important things happened in June 2021
Migrated the Building in Public Definitive Guide
It used to be hosted on my personal website, but as I'm building up Public Lab, I feel that it is a better home for this resourceful guide. After all, Public Lab is all about Building in Public and people might be interested in my other offerings!
Of course I've been hesitant to migrate it because I might lose all the organic traffic from SEO. After asking for advice, I learned that doing 301 redirect will likely tell Google that this guide has a new home, and all will be fine.
So I did it, and after about 16 days, I checked Google and it is ranking my new pages!
Kept revising #30DaysInPublic curriculum
May cohort was my first paid cohort, hence the feedback I gathered was more reflective from a paying customer's point of view.
I decided to change a few things: adding 15 add-on challenges to make it a full 30 days program, changing how i form accountability groups (by whoever fills in their profile first, showing their committment), and tweaking my weekly group call format.
I used to focus a lot on designing a "collaborative whiteboard" for the weekly call to make it a fruitful workshop. After hearing feedback, the part attendees enjoy the most are conversations with other attendees. That's when I knew the instructions don't have to be fancy, and I just need to give enough instructions to shape their conversations.
Having fancy whiteboards can actually add overhead to an one-hour call.
Started to build a Notion template
I've been working with builders on Building in Public for a while, and I've compiled a library of writing prompts and audience building tactics.
Because my two products (a cohort-based course and a community) both require a huge commitment, it is only attractive to a certain type of people who have the time and interest.
If I want to achieve my goal of $5,000, I need to diversify my offering to include "passive" info products.
Products that can be purchased and used anytime.
Products that people are going to do impulse buying, like a book, a guide, or a template.
Since many people want to build in public and grow an audience but lack ideas what to do each day, this is why I'm putting together a Notion template to serve this group of people.
They're likely people who don't have the time for a 30 days course or a community, or they prefer to control their own pace. This would be a great fit for them.
Had a realization about content creation
In the last couple of months, I always thought I had to create new content all the time: new topic, new thoughts, new inspirations for my followers.
As I grinded through the work, of course I realized
- It is impossible to come up with new concepts all the time
- People need to see a concept repeated multiple times before they get it
- I was running and I picked a podcast that has short 3-5 mins audio. I listened to about 7-8 during the run, and same tips showed up for a few times.
That's when I had my big moment. It is not about freshness. It is about giving the right content at the right time. And they can repeat.
Of course, I still need to create new content as I cannot rinse and reuse forever. But honestly, not everyone goes through ALL my content. Most people only read a few and then they move on.
Students don't learn everything in one day, it is much better to spread the learnings out and take in bits by bits.
What didn't go well
- Events and community activities are not promoted enough or I simply don't have a big enough community, so in hindsight, it looks like participation rate is low. I have to be okay about that given the community is so small.
- I wanted to write a short guide on audience building. I had it outline but I haven't been able to write it.
- I still struggle with using Circle as a community platform vs Discord/Slack and even tweeted about it. Live chat platforms have this illusion that it is more engaging because of the new messages, but it easily becomes overwhelming for most people. I know forum is the way to go for long-term because it encourages slow and thoughtful exchange, and that's what I want Public Lab to be.
Plan for July 2021
- Level up my #30DaysInPublic free preview nurturing funnel by figuring out the timeline and content to boost the interest to enroll
- Build and launch the Notion template. I would love it to blow people away and help them self-start building in public.
- Step up my SEO game and improve my process to write for the end results. I'm going to dedicate 2 hours a week to focus on SEO studying. Monday is the best day for that!