155 FS Creating a Successful SaaS Proposal Business with Nathan Powell

00:00
Download MP3

01:32 - Nathan Powell Introduction

02:05 - Why move away from doing UI/UX consultant to a product?

03:38 - Nusii

06:01 - Getting Started

10:41 - Finding a Co-Founder

12:46 - Customer Feedback

14:36 - What Makes Nusii Unique?

17:46 - Nusii as SaaS Proposal Software

25:57 - Templates

35:08 - Transitioning From Consultant to Product Owner

40:17 - What Would Nathan Have Done Differently? (Advice)

  • Find a Co-Founder Right Away
  • SaaS’ Are Big
  • Have a Mentor

45:43 - Pricing

46:25 - The Creator’s Guide to Better Proposals (Coming Soon!)

Freelancers’ Show T-Shirts are available! teespring.com/freelancersshow

Styles include unisex up to 3x, ladies', sweatshirts, and long sleeve tees. Teespring also offers international shipping so that all of our listeners have a chance to buy!

Picks

LeadDigits: Why We’re Betting Big on Mobile SMS Marketing (and a Sneak Peek at Our Newest Product) (Jonathan)Revive Old Post Pro (Nathan)Nick Disabato: Solving the Best Problems (Reuven)Gastropod (Reuven)

Transcript

[This episode is sponsored by Elixir Sips. Elixir Sips is a screencast series that will take you from Elixir newbie to experienced practitioner. If you’re interested in learning Elixir but don’t know where to start, then Elixir Sips is perfect for you. In two short screencasts each week between five and fifteen minutes, Elixir Sips currently consists of over 16 hours of densely packed videos and more than a hundred episodes, and there are more every week. Elixir Sips is brought to you by Josh Adams, expert Rubyist and CTO of a software development consultancy, IsotopeEleven. Elixir Sips, learn Elixir with a pro. Find out more at elixirsips.com]**[This episode is sponsored by LessAccounting. Let’s face it. There are a lot of things about being an entrepreneur that we all hate. One of the things that I really hate is bookkeeping. LessAccounting has just started a new service where you can get you bookkeeping done for a really low cost each month. If you're interested, go to freelancersshow.com/bookkeeping to go check it out. I signed up, and they had me all caught up within a couple of days. It was awesome! And, I can’t recommend them highly enough. Their people are professional and good at what they do. So go check it out once again at freelancersshow.com/bookkeeping] **REUVEN: Hi everyone and welcome to episode number 155 of the Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel, we have Jonathan Stark. JONATHAN: Hello. REUVEN: And our special guest this week is Nathan Powell. NATHAN: Hello. REUVEN: I’m Reuven Lerner. Nathan, welcome to the show. Would you please introduce yourself? Tell us about yourself. NATHAN: Yes. Thanks a lot Reuven. My name’s Nathan – Nathan Powell, and I’m originally from South Wales in the UK, but I've been living in Spain now for the last 15 years – 15 years this year. I’m a designer in UX consultant by trade, and all these tapping for the last ten years. The last couple of years, I've started moving away from the consulting side of things and move over into the products and my software that we’re building out now. REUVEN: Ok. Well then, I guess we’ll start with the most basic question which is ‘why’. Why move away from doing UI and UX consulting and to where the product? NATHAN: I think just the fact that I’m getting older now, and ever since I started freelancing, I had this question kicking right in the back of my mind because I didn’t start freelancing until I was in my early thirties. So, I always had this concern about what’s going to happen in 10, 15, 20 years’ time? These companies, are they still going to employ me to be designing their hip and trendy landing pages and software when they could be paying some kid straight out of a university or whatever? And, I just started getting a bit concerned about where I was going to be, and I was trying to picture myself in 20, 30 years, and I couldn’t see it as a freelance design consultant. And, I just started to look for ways that perhaps I could move away from that, still doing something that I love, and I felt was my specialty, but something that could, hopefully, would at least, in theory, keep money coming in for the years to come without having to jump from project to project and still keep up with the cool kids. REUVEN: Right. So your product is Nusii – I’m sure I’m pronouncing that wrong, yes? NATHAN: No, no, no. You’ve got that. You’ve got that. Well done. [chuckles] REUVEN: Excellent, excellent. For those of you listening, as opposed to watching us, which is everyone, that’s Nusii.com. NATHAN: Everyone gets that wrong, it’s like Nusii or Nasi or whatever [inaudible]. REUVEN: Excellent, excellent. So Nusii is for proposals, yeah? NATHAN: That's right – proposal software. It stemmed from my own needs. It really was a case of scratching my own itch when I was still consulting. It was, basically, my most hated part of any project. I was pretty terrible at writing proposals, and I need to do something about it and I know I'm not doing any person at least to do something about this. So, I started looking into it and talking to different agencies and studios that were in Madrid at the time, and it just went from there. If perhaps, looking back now, if I hadn’t known how many proposal software solutions were out there other than the obvious guys, like Bidsketch and Quote Roller and all that, then perhaps I would’ve thought twice about it. But it was a decision I made to go in that direction, and it’s a huge challenge – it’s been a huge challenge – it’s a huge challenge. We’ve still got an incredible amount of work ahead of us, especially as there are people out there with other solutions that have been around for years and have really solid systems and stuff. It’s exciting, and it’s a huge amount of work. REUVEN: But at the same time, you don’t want to go into numbers here, but you're able to pay the rent and put food on the table and sell forth from this instead of consulting, right? NATHAN: It’s about halfway at the moment. There's myself and my co-founder. We’ve both working on this full time, but we’re still not able to live full-time off Nusii. We’re about halfway there, I think, so by the end of this year, we will be full time on Nusii. I think it’s probably about every 4 or 5 months I have to go back and dig through the files and try and take on another freelance client to keep the bank balance; sort of a chop chop. But it’s weird, because you’re left in this weird situation of when you're freelancing, when you're working as a consultant, you always try and make sure that your pipeline is brimming full, and you have plenty of leads coming in, but, of course, as I've [chuckles] focused on Nusii the whole time, I let it go dry until I can’t go on any further and suddenly have to dip back into the park and see what I can find. So, it’s kind of a weird situation now; it’s the best and worst of both worlds at the moment. REUVEN: Well, you said something really interesting before when we were talking about how you got started, and you said that you went, and you spoke to a bunch of design agencies. And this is something that a lot of people – they like to realize that it’s part of the process when creating a product. Can you go into a little more detail about how did you figure out that this was something that was needed besides your own needs and then, what specifically did these agencies needed so that you can take all their input and turn into a real product? NATHAN: This was going to be my first product and I [chuckles] went against the better judgment of the greater minds out there and pretty much went for SaaS as my first product. That was above the game while I was specunit-ing Nusii and stuff, but yeah, it was a big undertaking. I knew that I wasn’t just going to dive in without any sort of investigation. So thanks to shows like startups and the rest of us, particularly Rob Walling’s book, Start Small. I was [chuckles] able to put at least enough information together to know I should be talking to people and seeing if they were suffering from similar problems. So essentially, I put together a list of studios and freelance designers while I was working in Madrid because, initially, Nusii was launched in Spanish only. I had no intention of serving the English-speaking public. So, I got in contact with all these studios and spoke to them. Of course, they did what everybody does when you throw an idea at them, and they said, ‘It’s a great idea, I really love it, and it would help decide with a lot of problems’. But of course, the majority of them were actually using other solutions: either they were creating their own apps – with InDesign or Word and then PDF, or they were using other solutions out there. When it came to the moment and I actually did ask, ‘Well, if I could build a solution that you thought was at the level that you would need it to be, do you think you would make the switch? Would you come across?’ And then, five of the great majority have actually said, ‘It would be too much work for us to take everything we have on our system and to come across a new system. As much as we love the idea, it’s probably not something we’d do’. So I could [chuckles] have just taken that as, ‘Ok, don’t bother’ and just leave it, but for some reason I could see that there was a need to – these people were willing to make the move. I was having trouble. I knew that other freelancers that I've spoken to in my own personal circles we’re having trouble, and I just – I don’t know, I think there comes a point as well that you can do the research, you can talk to people – and obviously you should do that – but at the same time as well, I think that, for me at least, I went on this feeling or this hunch that this is something I want to do, this is something that I’m going to do, but at the same time as well, I’d put a limit on it. I said, ‘Ok, well, I’m going to try this. I’m going to get an MVP I’ve been running, and I’m going to limit myself to how much I spend on the initial investment, and if it doesn’t work past that, then it’s done; it’s finished’. JONATHAN: So evidently, that worked. NATHAN: [Chuckles] Well, it didn’t, because I said, ‘Right, I’m going to give the MVP that.’ I actually I had a very low budget. I had 2 and a half thousand dollars, which then was extended to 3,000 dollar budget just to get a very scrappy MVP developed. Got that developed, the MVP was done, actually managed to get a few paying customers on the MVP which still blows my mind to this day because it was just – it was beyond bad; it was really, really nasty. It was full of bugs, the UI was actually still pretty terrible. But then, it did actually get a handful of paying customers, and it motivated me to move forward with it. But I had this second set of problems which was that back then it was just me. I’m designing the UX, I outsource the MVP, and I didn’t think past the MVP – what happens if it does work? I didn’t even presume, really. I guess that it could go anywhere. So, I hit this other wall like, “What do I do? Do I continue to pay outsource web development and get the entire app developed by someone else?” Which as you can imagine would cause absolute fortune, or “Do I look for a co-founder?” – and to be honest, the thought of bringing in a co-founder wasn’t – it didn’t particularly appeal to me. This was my baby, this was going to make me a million. So I spoke to a friend of mine who runs a successful startup in Australia, and he just said, ‘You have to think about what you want. Do you want a hundred percent of nothing, or fifty percent of something?’ And that was like the source spark that made me see that it’s not going to go forward on my own and the rest of started moving from there, really. And, I think if I hadn’t gone down the road of finding a co-founder, then Nusii would be one of those solid projects that you would find for sale on Flip or somewhere, and not for an awful lot either. REUVEN: So how did you find your co-founder and what did he brought to the equation? How does that make things better? NATHAN: Wow. If Michael isn't with me now, there's no way that it would existed in any way shape or form now; so, it exists [chuckles]. That’s probably the major contributing fact, but it was a weird thing because I was having this conversation with this friend in Australia right about in the same time that I was still consulting and I was actually working a few months as a product lead for a startup in Madrid, and I was actually working in the house for a couple of days a week. When I went down, there was this full stack of project lead, and it was Michael. We were just working together for a few months, and obviously I would tell him about my projects, he would tell me about his, and we just started – I got into the whole thing about Nusii and what was going to happen with it - was I going to be able to continue paying subcontracting the development? And, actually ended up giving Michael a few hours’ work. The contract there at the start came to the end, and Michael approached me by the end of it and said, ‘if you're looking to take on a co-founder, I’ve definitely been trusted and look on this with you and I like where this is going, and I think I could really help you’. And, that was that. So, we drew up a very temporary contract, went to a bar, signed it, and then things moved from there. The MVP was at this point then that we had – or that I had – a few paying customers, but like I said, it was terrible. There were holes everywhere and we realized that we had to just rip it down, start again and re-launch. And, that's what we did. We actually completely closed down the original MVP, or v1 – whatever you want to call it – we’re not taking any more customers because as soon as they sign up, they would just cancel straight away. It was terrible. And so we just closed down for a few months and I think we just spent about six months reworking, redesigning, recoding the entire thing, and then re-launched at the end of September last year - September 30, I think. JONATHAN: In the re-launch, how much of the feedback – I assume you got feedback from the original MVP customers – how much of that feedback went directly into the new product and how much of the new product was like your dream vision of what you wished you had launched in the first place? NATHAN: I think obviously, yeah, a lot of the feedback we received over the course of the MVP was taken into account and helped us to form and to forge what later became Nusii as exists now. In fact, we still have a couple of users form the original MVP that are users – customers with us now. So, that feedback has been continued from then to now. But at the same time, when there's only one developer, when there's only one me [chuckles], we’re doing everything else outside of development; there's only so much you can do and we always knew that the version we were going to launch within September was still going to be a bare-bones version, if you like. It was never going to be launched with all the features that all these other big players have – integrations and team management and all these kinds of thing. So, we knew that we had to just get essential features and the features that were actually going to help people win more business through that proposals. So, essentially, we had to just sit down, write down everything that we wanted to go in, that needed to go in, that would be nice to have in, and we just have pretty ruthless and just strip out 90% of it. We still now several months down the road, we still have an awful lot of work ahead of us, as much in development in features as we do in marketing and the blog and everything else that comes with that. I think there’s definitely more work ahead of us than I we have imagined there would be. REUVEN: You mentioned before that you have a bunch of competitors, right? You're not the only folks out there with a SaaS application to do proposals. NATHAN: For sure. [chuckles] REUVEN: Right. So on the one hand, how is this daunting? On the other hand, how do you try to position yourself so that people will say, ‘Yeah, we want to use Nusii and not those other guys’? NATHAN: I think originally [crosstalk]. REUVEN: You can trash talk, no one’s listening. [Chuckles] NATHAN: Originally, I had a very solid plan because it was going to be launched in Spanish for starters. That was a pretty unique selling point - well at least I thought at the time for creative studios in Spanish-speaking countries: in Spain and South America. Obviously, that went out the window. In fact, that went out the window six weeks after launch. I had no clue how Nusii could’ve been received by the Spanish-speaking audience, and it wasn’t what I received at all. So, we quickly swapped over to English, like I said, not really knowing who was already out there as in the people that I tried and make me wanted to go and build my own solution. But, I think the solutions that were already there when I started looking at Nusii were solutions that had been there for a long time, had been built and designed several years back and I do know that just the usability of it – of the existing products – just wasn’t what I was looking for. It wasn’t what I wanted to help me, and it wasn’t really simple enough for me to use, and I wouldn’t have considered them simple enough for who I wanted users of Nusii to be. So, while I can’t go after anyone that I don’t have any contact with, so my people, my audience, designers and creators - that’s pretty much where we went from day one. It was always proposal software for designers. I think it’s more slightly now into the creative professionals because we’re seeing that we’re not just getting designers now, we’re getting marketers, we’re getting even a few small sales teams, we’re getting freelance writers, we even got a few lawyers and we’re getting all kinds of people from all kinds of markets. But we’re still very much – everything we do is aim the creative professional. I think the freelancer audience is certainly the majority – makes up the majority of our customer base now, purely because, again, I think that’s because that’s where we come from. That’s the people we know, so it’s the people we can relate to most. But I think as well, as the time has gone by, from the time we’ve launched up until now, there's been a gradual build up as well of studio accounts that are coming on-board now. So, I couldn’t find what I wanted in the solutions that were out there. To me, they seemed old, they seemed outdated, they just were full of features that I would never use or never want to use. I just want something that was going to be quick and easy to use that I could get in and not have to think about getting done and just get out again and get on with what I wanted to do, which was whether that was design or whether that was [inaudible] or whatever it might be. JONATHAN: Can you give us a crash course on what it does? I do a lot of proposals and I can’t imagine why I would use a SaaS for it, so I’m sure there's some super cool stuff that I’m missing out on. NATHAN: [Chuckles] Well, I don’t know about that. I think it depends. When I first started doing proposals, like I said, I didn’t know what a proposal really was. I wasn’t educated in the ways of – when you start freelancing, when you start freelancing on your own without any group around you, or mentor, or mastermind, or anything. It’s very much you learn as you do, and inevitably you end up making a lot of mistakes. I think when I originally started doing proposals, I was just basically writing out what I thought were elaborate contracts stroke pricing list. And it would take me a long, long time, and I think the fact that it took me so long to do these proposals made me realize that I needed to look at the way I was doing things and there must be better ways out there. I didn’t know at the time, I didn’t know these courses. I didn’t know who Alan Weiss was. I didn’t know Brennan Dunn was and what he’s doing – what he’s doing that now. Back then, I saw all these other people talking about proposals and skills. So I wanted to have my content in one place, because this was a time before I was specializing, really.So I would have proposals come in for more different types of clients, obviously web-based. I’d have to go searching for my content from this proposal – lab proposal. I was using InDesign at the time, by the way, so I go from InDesign to PDF and then from PDF to email. JONATHAN: That’s basically what I do. NATHAN: Yeah. Just keeping all those documents in order, and keeping that content in the boiler place stuff, as well as, obviously, the customer stuff – it was always a pain for me, and I wanted to have a better way to organize that content without meaning I would have to setup this system that I would never [chuckles] have enough energy to keep updated. And, I just wanted that template to be there, to be accessible from wherever I was because I’m not always on my own computer. I have everything on external hard drives. A lot of it are up in Dropboxes but I don’t always have that data with me. So, it’s nice to be able to have everything in a central place, to have that content, to be able to go out. I think one of the other big things, as well, and obviously this is old proposal software. This is by no means a unique selling point.It’s that whole thing of actually knowing that once a proposal has gone out, that it’s actually been received and opened by the client because when you're sending out the PDF, it goes off by email and that's it. Until you hear from the client, or until you reach out and say, ‘Hey, did you get a proposal? What do you think?’ or whatever; there's no feedback on that. JONATHAN: That's very interesting. Like analytics on your proposal. [chuckles] That’s awesome. NATHAN: Yeah [chuckles], I just think I would always have this sensation of being lost. My proposal goes out the door, sent off into this and that, and that what happens until I get the email back, I’ve no idea what happened with it. So now, assume that a client opens a proposal, I'm going to get an instant notification saying ‘Build Blog has opened your proposal and getting ready to answer any questions’ – whatever, obviously the amount of time – if they're opening the proposal again then you’ll be informed about these things. And of course, the added bonus – I feel like I’m doing a sales pitch now – but the added bonus, as well, has been to be able to actually just sign on the dotted line online instead of when you're doing PDF, you either have to go down the email root where you can accept email and take that as legally binding, or using another third party service to get it signed online, or [chuckles] print the PDF, signed at Skynet, send it back as attachment – those days weren’t that far gone. JONATHAN: That still what happens with me. I like the signing aspect. I don’t mind you – I know you feel like you're selling it, but I'm just curious. I’m sure a lot of people that are listening are in that situation where they’re using InDesign pages to – basically, they copy an old proposal and they try desperately to make [chuckles] sure that they change all the client information. REUVEN: You would never accidentally send out a proposal with the name of the previous client. I’m sure that happens to no one. JONATHAN: Knock on wood. I’ve never done that, yeah. Not yet – knock on wood. NATHAN: So that's the other thing, as well. Once you’ve done that, once you’ve committed to sending that PDF, that's it. If you’ve messed up, you're screwed, like, ‘Ooops, sorry, I sent the wrong PDF. Here’s the real one’. But of course, with Nusii, you just go update the proposal, and of course, because it’s online, it’s automatically updated – the client might not have even seen it, so you can make any amendments.And I will say again, sometimes there is feedback from the client saying, ‘Well, can we look again at this section’, or ‘I’m interested about this pricing option, can we talk about this?’, and then obviously, you can just make those updates based on the conversations and they're just going to have access to that again straight away and sign off on it or whatever the case may be. So, I think for me, the core of it was just saving “me” time because I did take a long time to write my proposals. For one reason or another, if you're billing and whatever the case may be – 50 dollars an hour, 100 dollars an hour and you're spending – I know Nusii customers are spending between 2 hours and half a day on a proposal. So if you can make any kind of saving on that, you're only saving yourself a considerable sum of money, and especially on a monthly basis. It’s win-win. [chuckles] JONATHAN: Yeah. when you look at it like that - you're charging a hundred bucks or more per hour and it saved you 2 hours every time, then it’s worth the money. NATHAN: I think so, yeah. Underneath all, that was why I wanted Nusii for me. And I think at the end of the day, if Nusii had gone nowhere, I would’ve continued to use it because like I said, it was very much scratch my own itch, and I always hoped, of course, that other people would find it useful and would want to use it, but I knew that it was something that I was going to use whatever happens. [Crosstalk] JONATHAN: It seems like the sweet spot really is people will have no switching costs – new freelancers, people who don’t already have a team or the workflow or a workflow in place around creating proposals, or people who may be do have a workflow in place but are essentially just doing their own document management like I described that I’m doing. NATHAN: Yeah. And I think that’s why we see more freelancers than we do studios and agencies because it’s easy for them to come on-board. And as you say, especially in newer freelancers - we speak to a lot of freelancers that are brand new to the game, and actually they're going to Nusii because they want to learn how to write proposals. We don’t just get people signing up and firing away and using the templates.They actually get in touch with us and ask what might be the best approaches for certain things because we’ve run a free course, as well – email course – and we get a lot of response via that, as well. I think definitely the freelance side of it is easier – it’s an easier sell, almost. But like you said as well, there are larger teams who are still working on that old school system of Word documents, or InDesign, or some may even using Powerpoint or Keynote to their proposals – especially the studios that are still doing the work, going down the work root, they still want – we speak – they’re desperate to move away from Word, because they need that organization and they need that system, and they want to be able to just grab that section, that snippet, and just drop it in wherever it needs to go. And that was the –. [Crosstalk] NATHAN: Yeah. And it makes the entire process just so much faster. Let’s face it, nobody – I don’t know if anybody likes using Word – I wouldn’t say nobody likes using Word – but for me it’s just no. No. I wouldn’t even know how to make a proposal template in Word, I think. JONATHAN: I’m super curious about your templates because I have a lot of really strong opinions about how a proposal should be written for certain kinds of work. So I guess I have a two part question; one, what can you tell us about the different kind of templates that you offer and the logic behind that? Actually, let’s just start there, if you don’t mind. NATHAN: Ok. When we launched, as I said, we launched with a bare-bones version. We just offered a web design proposal template because that was the audience we were targeting primarily. And we’ve added another one last week; we got another one going up in a couple of weeks. I think we’re going to get about three to five starter templates in there, because people expect it, especially for the newer freelancers, but it’s not actually the area that we want to focus on because like you said, there are so many ways to write a proposal and so many people – I’m not talking about the new freelancers now, but the more established freelancers or the studios – they have very specific ways and thought and processes behind writing their proposals, same as I do. So, I think it’s more of the system we have in place than the template because on the Nusii blog, we talk an awful lot about the entire project from initial client contact through to getting the proposal, running the project, to successful completion, etcetera. We talk a lot about proposals and we do our very best to educate in the best ways that we think a proposal could or should be written. But of course, when you look across the various groups – the various industries in web design, a full service marketing agencies, social media marketing – they all write proposals in a different way. They all have their own pricing structures. I'm a big fan of tiered pricing whereas some of those in social media marketing, it might not make any sense for them whatsoever. They might just have a fixed price to do this, that, or the other, or in a monthly recurring basis. I think with regards to proposals, we just try and educate as we can through the blog and then hopefully, that trickles down to the actual app. Obviously, we actually have a private community inside of Nusii for the customers. So, whenever anyone signs up and becomes a paying customer, they get asked to join a private community and slack and they see how the proposal feedback section there as well where people can come in and ask for help on the proposals and ask what changes could be, should be, might be made, and obviously, it’s not just myself making these comments; everyone’s in there pitching in. So, I don’t know – I think [Crosstalk] JONATHAN: That sounds like a huge value added for me – to me. NATHAN: I think so. Again, it came down to because we value very much the little league here. We can’t compete – I’ll keep on saying that – we can’t compete, answer on things with the big boys. We have to make up for it. There are areas - we are doing our very best to be side by side with our customers, and one of the ways of doing that was actually creating this private community because then they can comment, they can tell us what they feel is working within the app, what isn't working, they can have a direct line to us, they can ask for feedback on their proposals, or indeed any aspect of consulting or the business life. And it was one of the ways we are actually able to set ourselves apart, so to speak. Customer support and customer service has been a big part of that, but I feel like I am digressing that far from the template. JONATHAN: It’s interesting because we had a guest on a previous episode named Rob Williams from Workshop, and he – you may be familiar with – it’s a related situation, not a competitive, but related – it’s hard to describe, I guess. He’s got this signup mailing list that people can post jobs in, and freelancers and other creative professionals paid beyond the mailing list and they can basically pitch for these jobs. And, he was seeing the most horrendous, amateurish, just a disaster area of pitches; they were just horrible. It seems to me like you're, in a sense with templates for people who are, say, picking a type of project like a web pitch or whatever, a template would be pretty valuable for someone who is just starting out. And what have really demonstrable financial benefit be really clear, like ‘Wow, all of a sudden I’m getting all these gigs because I’m using Nusii – I’m using the Nusii template – and all of a sudden, my proposals are way more professional’. I guess my point is that sure, you might think you're writing professional proposals or people might think they're writing professional proposals, but in fact, lots of people aren’t; when you think about it, how would you even know if you were? It’s not like there's a place where you can go and look and see what the other proposals look like that went to the client that you are pitching. So, having peer feedback, I think, is hugely valuable there, whether it’s peer to peer – I prefer actually more of either a mentoring type of relationship, or someone who’s farther along than you letting you know, ‘Wow, that’s a great proposal’, or ‘Wow, there's some glaring errors in that proposal’, and it feel like templates are a great first step there. I feel like you're talking to templates down, and to me they sound like – not talking them down, but you don’t think it’s your most exciting feature, and to me, that’s actually super exciting for a particular segment of people who are getting started. They didn’t take a class in school; I don’t even know if there is one. I know a local design school – it’s world-famous for design – was the world-famous design school, but they don’t teach the students a thing about business or any pitching work or [crosstalk]. NATHAN: The business of design, I think, is completely forgotten on the educational side of things. [Crosstalk] But I do agree where you say about maybe I am downplaying the templates thing, because we do have new freelancers come on and we do – and in fact, these are the nicest emails or the nicest tweets we get when someone just says, ‘I’ve just won my first proposal ever with Nusii template’, and they have just literally gone in and used the stocked template in there, obviously changed the names, places, etcetera, and just sent it off and obviously for them, that’s a huge, and for us, it’s just feels fantastic. I think when you start building a product you always have a couple of goals in mind. One, you think maybe I’ll make me a little bit of money, maybe it’ll useful to me, maybe it’ll allow me to build actually a business that will take me through the years, but then once you start seeing people using your service, using your products and actually, you see that their businesses are being improved, it changes things a little. It almost changes how you see your own product and it changes, to a certain extent, the goals you have as well, because I think what with the private community and the blog and everything, I think we’ve almost taken it now as to be – like Nusii, we want Nusii to be the place to go to learn about proposals, about the education, about helping people to win more business through proposals, as opposed to just being a proposal software for creative professionals because there are lots of people that offer that. And, how can we do it differently? Let’s actually try and help people win more business and there’s always a huge silly grin on my face every time we see one of those emails or tweets; it feels good. JONATHAN: Yeah, I bet. REUVEN: Absolutely, now, the fact that you're helping people build their businesses must be a tremendous feeling. I guess it’s like what I do with consulting clients, right? But here, these are people you haven’t still even met. They found your site online, they're paying you money, their businesses are getting better, and they appreciate you. It’s a [chuckles] big win for everyone. NATHAN: It’s amazing, yeah. Michael and I go often just coming on [inaudible] how nice of our customers! It’s really weird, obviously because I've never been on this side of the service before. To receive these emails – and not necessarily just from the people who’ve won a contract or whatever, but people who are just looking around or have found – they’ve gone to the free email course and just signed up, and people are actually really – they're really open;they really want to talk to people about these things and it’s just amazing, actually, how open to communication some of our customers are. They're just [chuckles] really, really nice. It was just not something I ever expected to happen. JONATHAN: Isn't that funny? REUVEN: I’m so curious. You’ve now made this transition largely from consultant freelancer to someone doing products. And you're working with people who are freelancers, so largely understand their pain, hopefully not encouraging them all to do products instead of proposals. [Chuckles] NATHAN: No, no, no, no. REUVEN: Is this a route that you suggest people take? And if so, what mistakes have you made that they should learn from so they can do it better? NATHAN: Is this route that I would suggest? [Inaudible] to the individual, I just think it depends where you see yourself. I think all the freelance designers [inaudible] I used to talk to, we would only ever see two routes; it’s either you start your own agency – from personal experience now, what do I want to do with my design career? Well, I’m going to start a studio or an agency, and that means obviously you’re going to take a couple more people, [inaudible] business clients – roster and everything, or you do your own products, and I just couldn’t see myself going down the agency route. I couldn’t see myself staying as a freelancer, so to me it seemed that there was only one other way to go. So I think it just depends largely on the person. Alan Weiss again is the example of the ultimate consultant who’s still rocking it at whatever agency [inaudible] now, and I’m very happy with that. I think one thing – if you are going to look to down the products route, I think you have to do it gently. Don’t jump in feet first. Don’t burn bridges. Make sure that you do have ongoing work, because it takes a long – when I say products, now, I’m referring particularly to SaaS, obviously books, maybe plugins, courses and stuff that you can obviously do while you're still consulting, you can sell those on the side. But when you jump into a SaaS, for me at least, in myself and Michael, it’s all consuming; it really is full time. And you have to have a way to be able to support that as it grows because as everyone says, it really is the slow ramp of death. It takes a long time to get from zero to anywhere near the amount of money you’d need to live off. I think you definitely have to have a plan, you definitely need to have work on the side while you're building it, or some kind of fallback to that. I think with regards to definite mistakes we made – or mistakes I made, I think – I probably didn’t reach out to enough people before I started building Nusii. Like I said, I spoke to people, I called the MVP [inaudible] we’ve very much – I just put it out there in and went, called, emailing studios because I didn’t know anyone who could – I went to a list of agencies by city in the state and just wrote off, called, emailed, and you can just imagine the response rates on that were pretty low. I actually got my first client who’s still with us. JONATHAN: I had the exact same experience where cold email had exactly one response and they stayed with me forever. [Chuckles] So weird. NATHAN: Yeah, that one percent response. That is not something I’d recommend, but when you're there, when you're against the wall, these are things you do, these are – so, I don’t know. I think I would’ve tried to build more of a community, I think – not community, my group of people around me, I think I would’ve – I've never really had any mentors or anything back then, or rather, I didn’t know people who are further down the road who I could lean on and say, ‘What could I do to be able to help with this area or that area’. I think it would’ve been hugely beneficial for me as an individual and also for Nusii – for the service – to have that body of help. And, now, I do have all those people. It’s hugely beneficial, even if it’s just a mastermind. I think even a mastermind is mostly, largely unheard by the majority of freelancers. Maybe for folks like yourself or people I know, the mastermind is a given, but there are so many newer freelancers out there, or so many freelancers out there who wants to do something else and don’t partake in any kind of these group activities, and these things could be hugely beneficial, as well. In fact, the mastermind I was in nearly last year when Nusii was still MVP, they were largely responsible for Nusii being here today because I was about – I was still jumping from project to project, I was still creating products that I though was going to land me a quick bargain; I was going to launch, and I was going to – and it just helped me to focus and to buckle down and Nusii had paying customers. It was a SaaS – SaaS is hard to build, so to focus on that – and again, that was thanks to my mastermind, to my friends, to my community. So I think focusing on building a community around yourself, for one of the better expression I think, is hugely valuable, and that will help you avoid the great majority of mistakes that you will never to believe what make otherwise. JONATHAN: It sound like the way the timing was in some of the comments you made earlier, it sounds like you’ve availed yourself of what you considered to be conventional wisdom, or modern conventional wisdom on the approach to a SaaS – I must have been imagining it, but I think it sounds like you came across Brennan Dunn a little bit later in the scheme, and you came across Alan Weiss a little bit later in your scheme; if you are going to start over today, or you are going to make a new SaaS today, what would you do differently? I feel like it’s a little bit of a different question than the previous one. If you would have an idea for a SaaS today, how would you approach that? NATHAN: How would I approach that? From the onset, I’d find a co-founder, because for me, because I can’t do the development, I can’t outsource the development, because to get a service or a product or an app done properly – for these to be done properly, unfortunately, you can’t get corners on that and that's what I learned from the MVP. And it is difficult to find a co-founder, at least a technical co-founder. I know there are hundreds and thousands of them out there vying for a seat at the table of any service or product. Finding the right person to work with you is hard. So I think I would definitely – I would’ve – Nusii would be in a completely different place today if I’d been with Michael from the start. Put it that way. I oscillate between,‘Which do I look? Do I look at it then, I would be a year ahead of where I am now, or well, Nusii wouldn’t exist anyway if it hadn’t existed as it did before. So I think I would definitely [crosstalk]. JONATHAN: Almost like it had to go through that – [crosstalk]. NATHAN: Yeah. It had to go through that stage, otherwise, who knows? I’m a big believer that whatever is going to happen is going to happen anyway, so there's no going back on that. So I think definitely finding the right people to help you build that, I think, as you’ve said – Brennan and Rob Walling and everyone, I already knew that before, but what I didn’t know was that a SaaS was going to be so big. I think regardless of how simple a SaaS is, it’s always a lot bigger than people think it is. I just played it by ear. There was no real planning, there was no ‘This is what’s it’s going to look like in 6 months, 12 months, this is actually really where I wanted it to be in 2 years’ – it was just winging it. It was just, ‘Here’s an idea. Let’s try and make it work’. JONATHAN: There’s just so many things, like cost of customer acquisition, and lifetime value of the customer, and churn – how you're going to be able to churn, how much you would spend on marketing – it’s so much. NATHAN: I just don’t know – even if I did another SaaS now, which I can’t see myself doing at the moment – I just don’t know because I’m the kind of person who jumps in, scopes it out, and get on with it. I’m not the best planner in the world. So I don’t know if I could take that step back and say, ‘Alright, ok, well, here’s an idea. If we can get x amount of customers in the first month, 3 months, whatever, then this is how I wanted to look in 12 months’. I don’t think I’ll be capable [chuckles], even now, of going a different route on that. I think I'm kind of scrappy in that [chuckles] respect. JONATHAN: I think your advice is well taken, then, for your personality. Not even just your personality, I think people in general. I think getting into a mastermind of peers that can help them see the forest for the trees is hugely beneficial. And then, if possible, get someone that’s a mentor that's ten miles down the road from where you want to be – maybe more than one. And those two things – it sounds like you would have reacted well to that had you done it earlier. So I think that that's probably – do you think that’s good advice for anybody that's maybe thinking of doing a SaaS? NATHAN: Oh, for sure. If you don’t know other people now who are building products and services, then you should start trying to find them because like I said, the guy that was running this startup in Australia, it’s a startup called Clinical. That was a bootstrap SaaS as well, and it’s been going now for several years and it’s huge in terms of customers and revenue; it’s immense. That was my only touching point to the world of products and services, and the few conversations I could have with him – with Joe – were gold to me. It was like the new freelancer coming to Nusii and discovering these templates and like, ‘Wow, seriously? You can do this?’ I think just having that person with you on the other side of the table, or the other side of Skype, or whatever it is, you are actually been there, done that, made those mistakes It’s hard for me to sit down now and say, ‘These are the mistakes I've made. Don’t make them’, compared to somebody coming to you on a private one-on-one, or a mastermind, or whatever, and say, ‘I'm thinking about doing this, and what’s your experienced being with that’ It’s so much easier to be on the turnaround and say, ‘I had a terrible time with that, or this works for me, or that didn’t, or you might want to think about taking this approach’. I think without finding people who are further down the road than yourself is going to be one of the biggest favor you can do for yourself definitely. REUVEN: Excellent. I think we’re closed to out of time. I think that was a pretty great summary, but do you have any other words of wisdom? Jonathan, do you have more questions? [Crosstalk] REUVEN: Jonathan, if you have words of wisdom or anything, if you have questions, it’s also ok. [Chuckles][crosstalk] JONATHAN: I was just wondering if you – I'm sorry I don’t know the answer to this from browsing your site already, but safe to assume it’s like a monthly recurring service that I could potentially pay for anyway – is that the case? NATHAN: Yeah, it’s monthly recurring. You can pay for annual, as well. The actual – the yearly price is up in the website. The [inaudible] is something that we just started doing now, actually reaching out to customers to offer them the upgrade yearly, so yeah, it’s something that needs – we’ve still got quite a few areas and pages actually on the website – the marketing side – to develop as well, and the pricing pages is next up on the list. So that would be there. JONATHAN: So that sounds good, sounds normal. I’m wondering if it makes sense or if you thought about doing an info product for sale, not for free, that targets the same market in order to attract newbies, if you will, like new freelancers and build their trust with the lower risk of purchase. Does that ever cross your radar? NATHAN: Yup. It’s about 99% done. [Chuckles] JONATHAN: Huh, there you go. NATHAN: It’s, at the moment, it’s going to be titled The Creator’s Guide to Better Proposals. JONATHAN: There you go. [Chuckles] NATHAN: It’s actually been sitting on my – at my bookshelf, it’s been sitting on my – I’d say my bookshelf – it’s been sitting [inaudible] for the last few months, and it’s about to be [inaudible] sort of structured at the moment. The plan was, actually, that it was going to be out this month, but that’s not going to happen now. So I think the plan is that it will be up on Amazon actually next month. On previous occasions, with my previous book, I’ve done self-publishing, and this time I thought we’d experiment with something – or I’d experiment with something slightly different and we’ll try the Amazon route this time and see what happens. So yeah, the idea is that we’ll be able to reach as many people as we can who are needing to improve the proposals, and hopefully as well, that will also work as some kind of lead magnet for Nusii, as well, so I’m actually – it’s one of those things that’s on my list that keeps getting pushed down – each day pushed down, pushed down, pushed down but I've really got to make it happening and get that finished by the end of this month. JONATHAN: It seems like a no-brainer. NATHAN: Yeah, definitely. JONATHAN: I know it’s a lot of work, but it seems like a no-brainer. REUVEN: I think Jonathan’s analogy earlier to Rob Williams with his mailing list or being able to look at people’s emails and then make a book out of it, I think it’s definitely in a similar situation. You can probably even do some statistics, because not only what people wrote and how they wrote it, but which were accepted. You can probably even have insights into what it’s like to get your proposals viewed, what it’s like to get it read, what it’s like to get it feedback, and what it’s like to get it accepted. JONATHAN: Yeah. It’s like LeadPages with real money. [Chuckles] REUVEN: Right, with real money. JONATHAN: Yeah, it’s not conversions – well, it’s conversions but it’s not just clicks. It’s not just emails, it’s not just catching a lead, it’s boom! You’re catching sales! NATHAN: It’s money in the bank. I’m excited to get back, and like I said, it has said that it’s pretty much done. The book is pretty much written. I just need to get it edited, and we’ve even got the cover done and everything, so I'm going to make the commitment. I’m going to make the commitment now that it’s going to be ready next month. REUVEN: Well now, the world has heard it, right? NATHAN: Now the world has heard it. I’ve now stuffed myself next. JONATHAN: No more weekends for the next four weeks. NATHAN: No more weekends. Well, weekends. JONATHAN: I’m right there with you, buddy. REUVEN: I’ve heard rumors of this thing called weekend that which you speak. NATHAN: That false sales on myself of that I don’t want to be a freelancer because it’s jumping form project to project and work in every hour there is, so I’ll create a SaaS and work every hour there is instead. [Chuckles] JONATHAN: Yeah, but the difference is between renting and owning a house. It’s a big difference. NATHAN: Oh yeah, that's what I’m hoping for. REUVEN: Alright guys, I think we’ve come to the point to some of your picks. Jonathan, do you have any picks this week? JONATHAN: I do a pick. Speaking of LeadPages, which I just mentioned, LeadPages has a new service – I’m assuming most of us know a LeadPage is. If they don’t, check it out. It’s a great way for marketing people in their organization to put up landing pages without bugging the development or design teams. So that’s what that is. They have a new feature called LeadDigits, which I am, as a mobile guy, am utterly in love with where they have a short code that they paid for, which is a really expensive thing to pay for. You can reserve keywords on that short code as a LeadPages customer and have – basically, own that keyword so you can – like on a podcast, you could say, ‘Text freelancer to 33444 to get more information about this episode’ or what-have-you. I’m super into mobile, especially SMS – I love all that stuff, and I've tried all the ones out there that I've come across, and this is by far the best implementation that I've seen for capturing leads. So, LeadDigits is definitely my pick. It’s fabulous for anybody doing any kind of real world marketing where they want to get a – they want to be in person – a podcast non-person, but you're trying to jump the gap between talking and clicking; it’s tricky. NATHAN: Cool. That sounds very neat. REUVEN: Nathan, do you have any picks for us? NATHAN: Yeah. It’s just a plugin that I discovered this week and I've started using them on the Nusii blog, actually called Revive Old Post. I will use it whenever we got a new post going up, I go through and so I plan them out and buffer them, and I've always found it to be a bit of a pain, to be honest to then, at some point, go back through all the old posts and start tweeting them out. So I've found this post – I’m sorry, this plugin Revive Old Post Pro. And, essentially, it does what it says. It goes through your old posts. You could say, write [inaudible] a tweet out a post that’s 15 days old, 30 days old, 45 days old, and you can send it out obviously with a title with the featured image. You can send out the category as a hashtag, and it’s really nice. It’s doing a really nice job, and you can hook it up to bit.ly and things [inaudible] you can see actually how well it’s doing. So it’s Revive Old Post Pro, by themeisle.com. Very nice. REUVEN: Very neat. I got two picks this week. One is a post on Nick Disabato’s mailing list – on his draft mailing list. I think a week or so ago – maybe this week, maybe last week when we’re recording, which was basically about – it’s sort of an inspirational letter about how you get really good clients solve their really expensive problems. And, I know this is really an obvious thing. And, he just states it very nicely in an elegant way and eloquently that the more acute the problem, the greater the pain you are solving for your client, the more they are going to love you, and the more they are going to pay you, and the more they are going to recommend you to their friends, and it just gets better from there. Another spin on what he’s saying, by the way, is don’t work for clients who has small problems, because then, of course, they're not going to pay you as much and they won’t be as thrilled, and they won’t feel the problem as acutely, and on and on and on. So I’ll have the link in the show notes, and you can definitely look at it. I think it was fun. The other thing is – [crosstalk]. JONATHAN: I have to chime in that because I've got that email too and it blew my mind. It was so great because everything you just said is one hundred percent true, but Nick is a designer’s designer. And, the email is aimed at designers. The thing about it that really rang my bell was that he makes an argument for Designers – capital D, Designers – to come up with a way to measure the financial benefit of their work, which, I think, is critically important. It brings value to the entire industry instead of this handwave-y, oh-it’s-so-sexy stuff. These are businesses that are paying you money for design, and if you can’t measure the benefit of your design, then it’s not going to be perceived as valuable. Full stop. NATHAN: So many designers struggle with this. [Crosstalk] Really, really struggle with it. JONATHAN: I know. I wish I had thought of it, Reuven. ’m glad you mentioned it. It’s a fabulous email. REUVEN: Good, glad to hear it. I also have a fun pick, which is a podcast I just discovered earlier this week called Gastropod. Gastropod, and it’s about food, as they say, food through the lenses of science and history. [Chuckles] I listened to, I think, 2-3 episodes at this point. It’s fun, it’s interesting, they’ve got interviews, and perhaps my favorite part of it is not just the interviews and not just the information, but their sponsor. I wish I could find the name of it. Their sponsor is [chuckles] this company that is trying to encourage the world to eat crickets. [Laughter] And so they sell – you would have to wonder whether this was a joke, but basically it said no. ‘Our sponsor, they will send you for 10 dollars, whatever it is, a bag of cricket flour that you can mix into pancake mix or whatever. Now, let’s ignore that –. JONATHAN: They could have said that there's added bacon. [Laughter] NATHAN: That's not very comforting in San Francisco – they sell you dog poo in a box or something. REUVEN: No, no, no. They actually then went often made muffins, and one of the host said, ‘Oh, I went to a party with my friends and I made muffins with cricket flour and I brought it to them and they all loved it’. She did not mention if she told her friends if she used cricket flour. [Laughter] Anyway, it’s a fun podcast and anything for those interested in food, cooking, science, history, or all that other stuff. So I hope some of you can enjoy that. I've also been reminded to remind all of our listeners out there that we are currently selling t-shirts. That's right. If you like the Freelancers’ Show and if you’re listening to the end of it, you definitely do – you want to buy one of our t-shirts, you can go to teespring.com – the link is in the show notes – get t-shirts to support the show. Tell all of your friends that this is what you're doing with those earphones on your ears all the time, you're listening to us. And the t-shirts are available until the end of April. So whenever you're listening to this, assume it’s before the end of April; you could still get one. That's it for this week. Nathan, thank you so much for joining us. NATHAN: Thank you so much, Reuven. REUVEN: And we will be with all of you folks next week.[This episode is sponsored by MadGlory. You've been building software for a long time and sometimes it gets a little overwhelming. Work piles up, hiring sucks and it's hard to get projects out the door. Check out MadGlory. They're a small shop with experience shipping big products. They're smart, dedicated, will augment your team and work as hard as you do. Find them online at MadGlory.com or on Twitter @MadGlory.]**[Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at BlueBox.net]**[Bandwidth for this segment is provided by CacheFly, the world’s fastest CDN. Deliver your content fast with CacheFly. Visit cachefly.com to learn more]**[Would you like to join a conversation with the Freelancers’ Show panelists and their guests? Wan to support the show? We have a forum that allows you to join the conversation and support the show at the same time. Sign up at freelancersshow.com/forum]**

Sign up for the Newsletter

Join our newsletter and get updates in your inbox. We won’t spam you and we respect your privacy.