LinksSpy.com – Monthly Income Report October 2014

Welcome to the third installment of my monthly income report. After an awful income report in September (for which I got a lot of great feedback & encouragement – Thanks a lot to everyone who reached out!), LinksSpy came back swinging.

Before I get into the details here are a few things I want you to know about my income reports:

  1. I publish income reports for two reasons: a) Accountability helps me push forward. b) I know that most of us compare ourselves to “famous” people like Patrick McKenzie, Brennan Dunn, Nathan Barry and others. I am no stranger to that and it is hard to feel good comparing yourself to them. Well, compare yourself to me and you’ll feel better instantly πŸ˜‰
  2. I will only cover what I make from LinksSpy – no consulting, no day job
  3. I am terrible at accounting – so most numbers (especially expenses) are not 100% accurate.
  4. I have an agreement with Nathan Powell of nusii.com that I will stop income reports by the time I hit $1,000,000 annual run rate. According to Nathan that should happen sometime in June 2015 – we’ll have to see about that.

The Numbers

Last Month’s Revenue

In September I had increased my MRR to $320 from 16 customers. That was after a correction of $216 MRR – I had accidentally kept charging customers after they had cancelled.

On the plus side, I published a blog post that got quite a bit of attention in early september. That brought me about 5,000 unique visitors and 100+ subscribers to my mailing list.
You can read the full story in my last income report.

This Month’s Revenue

October has been a crazy month for me. I started to see the effects of my blog post about the costs of paid links.
The retargeting didn’t go so well: I spent $25 for just a single click. Not what I had hoped for πŸ™

Still a number of people signed up for the trial and converted to paid. This leaves me with 22 paying users – not counting 2 users who have failed charges and need to update their credit card data. The MRR from those 22 users is $593.50 – with the other 2 customers I’d be looking at $644.50 MRR. That is a growth of 83% MRR.

01_october_mrr_growth

Graph taken from FirstOfficer.io (go check that out – it’s an amazing tool!)

 

 

Finally, I went to MicroConf Europe in Prague at the end of October, which resulted in a huge spike of new signups (about 50 by the end of November 3rd). More on that further below.

Expenses

Due to the way LinksSpy is set up my costs are really low. It was one of my design goals to keep most things running on Heroku‘s free tier. This is partly because I’m really cheap and – more importantly – because I didn’t know how well LinksSpy would do and I was afraid of catastrophic failure.

Total expenses:

  • $36 to Heroku for database, SSL and Papertrail
  • $23.80 in Stripe fees
  • $49 for Drip
  • $215 for one blog article per week – written by my content marketing genius (this is the average for one month of the weekly rate of $50)
  • $37.50 for Retargeting with Perfect Audience
  • $5 for email / Google Apps

If I didn’t miss anything (which I probably did), the total costs were $366.30.

Profit

For the time being, I don’t plan on making any profit from LinksSpy. I want to focus on growing it as fast and as big as possible, thus I’m re-investing everything back into LinksSpy.

LinksSpy made a loss of about $400 in September and made a profit of $226.70 in October. That’s pretty cool overall, because it means I got about half the loss from last month back.

Progress

I got quite a few signups from the blog post I published and tried to follow it up with another one on how I bought a link on BuzzFeed. I published it before I felt good about it, which turned out to be a really stupid mistake.
I got hardly any visitors and the few I got were disappointed in the quality. Understandably, because that article adds NO value.

My guess is that most people who signed up during October did so because they went through my drip email campaign. I need to get some hard data on that, but at least 2 of the 6 new customers used a coupon code I gave away at the end of the drip campaign.

I also had two people basically say to me: “I love the data I get out of LinksSpy, but I don’t have the time. Could you do the work?”. I had to say “no” and forward them to existing customers of LinksSpy, which is cool because that is a win-win-win situation. But it also keeps me wondering: Could I automate the link outreach to the point where I provide that service for e.g. $249/mo?

Additionally, I managed to book some reddit ads and they will go live in mid-November. I think I booked $15.84 of inventory in /r/bigseo. We’ll see how that goes.

Furthermore, I started a business journal (hat tip to Brennan Dunn for the idea)). That journal tells me, that I also did this:

  • added two beta features to LinksSpy: an automated email that informs customers about the new links they acquired (as a method to hopefully reduce churn, because it shows LinksSpy’s value) and a link building report that customers use in proposals to win over more clients
  • wrote a 1,600 word article about getting clients to pay on time – just another piece of content marketing

Finally, I went to MicroConf Europe in Prague at the end of October. While the ideas I took away from the talks (full notes here) were worth the ticket alone, the hallway track was amazing. I had such a great time talking with friends – both old and new – that I was heartbroken on wednesday when I had to leave.
The best part is yet to come: My friend Dave Collins was a speaker at MicroConf and added a slide to his presentation promoting LinksSpy (without me knowing, he told me a day before his presentation – THANK YOU, Dave!).
That slide was visible during his whole Q&A session – the better part of 20 minutes. A few people started talking about LinksSpy on Twitter, which piqued the interest of Adii Pienaar. Adii submitted LinksSpy to Product Hunt, where it – thanks to the help of Nathan Barry, Charlie Irish, Brennan Dunn and other MicroConf attendees – rose immediately to the top 10 and stayed there for the rest of the day.
Long story short, just from being on Product Hunt and the buzz (blog posts, news stories and Tweets) LinksSpy had 50+ new signups. They are all in trial right now, but I have some $1,500 MRR in the pipeline waiting to be realized. (nb: That’s almost 3x my current MRR!)

Nathan Barry also suggested to me to reach out personally to anyone who signed up for LinksSpy during that period. I managed to do that for the first 2 days, but I was really stressed about it and have not sent a single email since πŸ™
It is a fantastic idea, though and definitely helped me keep people interested in the app. I should pick it up again.

During that phase I had a few bugs – e.g. I destroyed the sorting algorithm for suggestions. That shouldn’t have happened, but man… I am stupid, what can I say?
Luckily, I have exit interviews in the app, so I at least got a bit of qualitative feedback out of the cancellations.

Overall, this month was exceptional. I don’t think I can easily repeat that in November – but that won’t keep me from trying.

What to Focus on Next Month

November will be a mixture of improving the product, talks with customers and more marketing.

On the product side I need to improve the backend to bring down the time it takes to finish new reports and finish the two features currently in beta. I also have a few items on my todo list after MicroConf to improve the website.

Talking to customers I hope to find ways to improve LinksSpy to deliver even more value. I think there might be a way in automating/streamlining the outreach for link building. Anyways, I need to talk to customers and find their pain points.

Furthermore, I need to do more marketing. I bought reddit ads which will go live this month, but I also want to try my luck with Facebook ads. I also want to do more link outreach since that is showing first results.

Lastly, this is my todo list after MicroConf Europe:

WEBSITE

  • add telephone number to marketing websites
  • move trust symbols into container on “Credit card page”
  • move trust symbols closer to CTA on CC page
  • turn “hide” into “X” on campaign#show
  • improve onboarding process (less repetition)
  • remove last step of onboarding process and turn into layover

(Most of the items on this list are due to a UX/UI teardown by Jane Portman)

MARKETING

  • hire VA for editing/publishing blog posts
  • Convert “Paid Link Study” into SlideShare (STARTED)
  • Let koudoku_coupons change views to show the coupons to the user
  • Customize Drip email campaign β€žconfirmation email/pageβ€œ
  • Facebook sidebar ads (STARTED)
  • Add Facebook sidebar ads to PerfectAudience (DONE)
  • ask customers for testimonials & referrals
  • Onboarding emails: different email campaigns depending on where they are in the onboarding process

DEVELOPMENT

  • hire freelancer (STARTED)
  • add “delete campaign” button for users (DONE)
  • add Customer Happiness Score (CHI)
  • record user events
  • refactor backend for parallel execution (STARTED)

My Takeaways

My big takeaway this month is that it pays off in unexpected ways to have friends like Dave Collins of SoftwarePromotions.com. Without his promotion of LinksSpy I would have never got on Product Hunt and would never had such a huge number of new signups.

Other takeaways are:

  • I need to hire people to help me grow LinksSpy – going at it alone is terribly slow. I already started the hiring process for a part-time developer, but I also need a part-time assistant to help me with various tasks like article editing and social media (if you are interested, send me an email to christoph@[any domain I own])
  • personal emails are huge, but also time-consuming & stressful
  • I am a lucky man for having an understanding wife and a great community & friends that push me me forward

Conclusion

October went extremely well and I can not expect November to be anything like it.

There are a lot of items on my todo list, which should make for a few interesting weeks ahead. My motivation is soaring after MicroConf, hopefully it last for a bit.

Anyways, I’m looking forward to seeing you again next month πŸ™‚

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About Christoph

Christoph lives in Munich, Germany and is bootstrapping his own SaaS application as a part-time entrepreneur.

He likes to write on this blog about anything of relevance to single-founder bootstrapped software startups.

Comments

  1. Andrey Lepekhin says

    Hey, Christoph!
    Thank you for these reports. They are always interesting and motivating. I salute your openness and humility.
    Can you share the reasoning behind agreement with Nathan Powell?

    • Christoph says

      Hi Andrey,

      good to hear from you and thanks for the kind words.
      That number ($1,000,000) was half-joking, but the reasoning is, that both Nathan and I think that numbers at a certain level no longer have any meaning to someone starting out. When you scramble to get your first paying customer, $10,000 MRR is your goal and $100k MRR is insane.
      At some point it is no longer about “telling the story” and motivating others, it is purely boasting about your numbers (“My MRR is bigger than yours”).

  2. Very cool breakdown Christoph. I’m hoping to make it to the next MicroConf myself. When did LinksSpy launch?

    • Christoph says

      Hi Justin.

      LinksSpy launched in a dark, cold night at the end of april 2014. The MRR growth graph shows it all right from the start.

  3. Awesome Christoph and happy to see this. I knew this month would be good from your MicroConf buzz πŸ™‚

    I guess as you say a key add on would be providing the aspirin as you already give the prescription. Maybe tie in with an SEO company or link building company for one-click link builds on top of the report.

    Great stuff

    • Christoph says

      Hi Michael,

      that buzz was totally unexpected, but soooo welcome πŸ™‚
      I’m still in awe and can’t really grasp all this.

      Cheers,
      Christoph

  4. Wow Christoph,
    Great details! I want to encourage you to keep building. Hiring help is crucial! Especially when you can’t afford it. That’s because you can’t afford not to if you’re going to achieve your goals. I just hired a couple virtual assistants and my user growth tripled in a week. At $3 per hour, I can go without beer for a few weeks until I can monetize better. Keep it up and feel free to contact me if you want feedback on anything. -Dave

  5. Hey folks.
    If you see this comment and wonder “what the heck is going on here?”, then rest assured that I am just testing something: https://www.linksspy.com/lbt_examples/referrer_fake_backlink.html

    http://localhost:3000/lbt_examples/referrer_fake_backlink.html

    Cheers,
    Christoph

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