The Freelancers’ Show 085 – Screencasting Products & Services

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The Freelancers discuss the idea of creating a subscription screencast series. They discuss how to choose a topic, length, approach, series, etc.


[Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at] [You're fantastic at coding, but do you have an action plan to take it to the next level? The upcoming book, Next Level Freelance, will help you optimize your freelance business for happiness. The book is packed with actionable steps to make more money, case studies, tips to find more clients, and exercises for you to establish your desired lifestyle. Extras include: 9 interviews with freelancers who make great money while enjoying great work-life balance, videos on strategies to find quality subcontractors, and videos on making more free time by outsourcing your daily tasks. Check it out today at!] [This episode is sponsored by Planscope. Planscope is a project management and collaboration net built for freelancers in the way they work with clients. It makes it easy to price out new estimates and once you’re underway and help answer the question, these get done on time and under budget. I’ve been using Planscope to do my estimates and manage my projects and I really, really like it. It makes it really easy to keep things in order, and understand when things will get done. You can go check it out at] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 85 of The Freelancers’ Show! This week on our panel, we have Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hello! CHUCK: Jeff Schoolcraft. JEFF: What’s up! CHUCK: Eric Davis. ERIC: Hi! CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from We were supposed to have a special guest, but there was a scheduling conflict so we’re just going to talk about a discussion that we had in our little private channel on Skype. Reuven was asking about basically starting up a screencast series, and there was a lot of good advice in there. I think generally, it’s going to be aimed more toward getting started with products, but I think he provided a specific use case that we can reef off of if we need to. REUVEN: Sure! After hearing lots of good advice from the other folks at the podcast, I decided the time has come, even though I haven’t quite finished the dissertation yet, to start dipping my toes into the product waters, and one of the ideas that I had was to do a screencast series. I was thinking about a few different options, what seems likely now isn’t just subscription screencast series on PostgreSQL. So I said, “Well, I should probably run this by the other folks in the podcast and see what they have to say.” My first question, I guess, and I’ll sort of rehash the question and then we can see what everyone says is, “So, I want to start a screencast series, how do I go about doing that of sort of letting people know beyond just setting it up and announcing it to my LinkedIn contacts and my Facebook friends? Is that going to be enough to actually make it a viable business? CHUCK: There were definitely some thoughts there. Eric, do you remember the wise advice you gave before I jumped in and start talking? ERIC: That was over 24 hours ago. I don’t remember anything. [Laughter] ERIC: I think the biggest thing – and I think I’ve had this problem myself so it’s from my experience, too – if you have an idea for a product and you say, “I’m going to do a screencast series on Postgres,” and you put all the time into it building and launch it, a lot of times, what going to happen is you’re not going to get a lot of people coming in. I can’t get significant enough sales early on to really feel like this is a viable business. A lot of that comes from the fact that when you really look at it, you have this network of people that you know, whether on LinkedIn or on Twitter or just friends and maybe people locally like a user group or something, those people – well, that might be even a good size amount – not all of them are going to be interested in it. Even if it’s a good amount, at some point, you’re going to really tap out all the people in your first degree network. So, something I’ve been learning and picking up more is like if you can’t just can’t get outside of your network and attract customers, it’s going to be really hard to build a service or a product into a business. Like I said, it also goes like freelancing services, too. REUVEN: So it might be well and good that I’ve got an enormous number of links, but that’s just not going to be enough. I’m going to have to, somehow, get in touch with people who I’ve never heard of, somehow get them to hear about me, get them exposed to the service that I’m offering, and then somehow, get them to sign up and pay me as well. ERIC: Yeah. And with the subscription, it’s a little better because the idea was you get, say, 100 customers in 1 month and by the end of the month, 99 or 98 of them are still going to be there, so you don’t start from scratch. All my eBooks are one-time sales so every month I have to make the sales up again. Like on the first, I start from zero again. So with one-time stuff, it’s a lot harder because you really have to continuously bring in new customers or your revenue is just going to down to zero. The hard thing with subscription on the other hand is you’re selling people on the subscription so it’s a monthly commitment. It’s not like an impulse buying. That tends to make it even harder to get started. But once you get started, that kind of builds on itself. I think probably what one only talks about this, this is like the flywheel effect; it takes 100 pounds of force to get that flywheel moving. But once it’s moving, keeping it moving at the rate it’s going, is a lot less. CHUCK: The other thing that I’ve seen with a lot of the stuff that I’ve tried out is that it really helps to have a platform. If you just go out there and announce to the world that you’re going to put out a series on Postgres, or I think your other idea was Unix command-line tools or something like that… REUVEN: Yeah. CHUCK: Whatever it is, people have to know that you’re out there, that you’re an expert so you need something out there that proves that. If you look at some of the other subscription models such as Avdi Grimm’s RubyTapas, he has 3 or 4 eBooks, he’s on Ruby Rogues, Ruby Rogues Parley, there’s a whole lot going on that he could tap into and say, “Hey, I’m getting this started,” so as it ramped up, it ramped up rather quickly. Railscasts Pro is the same thing; Ryan had been doing that for a long time, and then he turned around and said, “Okay, I’m offering Pro and I’m offering what people had been asking me for like updates to old ones and specific new ones,” and it worked out for him. I’m not sure what Gary Bernhardt did to build up to his Destroy All Software. ERIC: I think it’s the similar thing. JEFF: [Unclear] ERIC: Yeah. JEFF: Avdi, you read Avdi, Ruby Rogues, and Parley, and his eBooks, but even before that, he has booked at a bunch of conferences, regional and national, he had a big following from that. I think Ryan Bates is interesting because I think he started from nothing. He happens to be the first, probably, in the language specific screencast series maybe. I don’t know what the timeline as with Geoffrey Grosenbach and PeepCode, but he was doing weekly, and Grosenbach was doing sort of ad hoc releases. Ryan was a little different typically because he was first, but then Gary did a lot of speaking, I think first in Python and then in Ruby. I think he has mentioned it. It’s hard to tell with Gary if his tweets are snark or serious… REUVEN: [Laughs] JEFF: But it seems that his little ‘what’ talk for his little 5-minute late evening talk for JSConf or CodeMash or one of those, like a regional conference, he said that did a lot for this [unclear] work because that basically went viral or something. I think his platform is mostly conference speaking. CHUCK: Yup. But in any case, there’s a tracker there; people knew who they were, were interested in what they were talking about so they went and signed up. I think you can do it the other way where you have a few people who are talking about what you’re doing, and then from there, building up. But I think it’s easier if you already have that community that you can reach into and say, “Hi folks! I know who you are, I’m one of you, and here’s what you wanted.” JEFF: It’s definitely part of it. I think Eric in the back chat talked about Ryan Bates and his consistency; he has 350 similar Railscast before he took a pause and then sort of in def now he is for a long time, which seems to be a kiss of death was off topic or kiss of death for screencasters that make that their solo business; they ran out of ideas or get burn up. But from consistency, it helps to have more than 1 episode so you got to have a platform until people that you’re going to do with the screencast, but it might be worth it upfront. I don’t know, Chuck, you probably know better, what’s the magic number for podcast to get over there for they know they’re going to stay and make that number of screencast [inaudible] focused on that content and have enough so that people aren’t waiting to see if it ever going to be around for the next week or month or whatever. CHUCK: There are couple of numbers that I’ve heard, but my understanding is that more than half of the podcast that you had started don’t make it past episode 6. And if the ones that make it past episode 6 I think another half drop off before 10. So, the ones that make it or the ones that stick around past there, and that’s about 2 ½ months if you’re doing a weekly show. And by then, if you’ve been doing it for 2 or 3 months, I think people are pretty comfortable that you’re going to be around. JEFF: And you can work in – and this is sort of tactics – but if you can work in a free episode every once in a while, I think Ryan Bates had a consistent mix. I think he is publishing schedules like 1 free and then 1 Pro or 2 Pro a week or something in the beginning and then it switched. And I think Gary made 1 or 2 free, Avdi made a couple of free in the beginning, so even if your initial content is not all paid, then you get people some teasers. And from all the screencasters, once you point it up for the subscription, you get all the back content anyway, so just having more content out there for people to look out will hopefully get more people into your funnel. REUVEN: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Also, it’s free. It’s not just for the people who might be interested, but it can then has the potential to go viral, what has been mentioned by others, because if you are interested in something, you shouldn’t had a paywall that’s bad. But if you think someone else might be interested, they’ll going to have paywalls that’s even more worse. CHUCK: The other thing is you get all the benefits of the SEO from it; you get all the benefits of putting it in search engines like YouTube. So, it can really pay off in a lot of ways to have these free ones out there every so often even if it’s just a back catalogue of a handful of videos that can help people out. REUVEN: Right. It makes a lot of sense. ERIC: We’ve talked about this before with other products where you need like a funnel idea where your paid product is where you want people to end up. You either got to give free information from like a blog post or somehow had either lower price things to work their way up to your high-end product. And in the case if we’re doing like a screencasting product, a subscription service would be your high-end product even though it’s going to be a whole lot each month as the overall value of the customers is going to be a lot higher. You might even sell like 1 off like if you want to buy 1 specific screencast, it’s $5, $9, $10 whatever, that’s kind of PeepCode’s model, and then they have their unlimited which is a couple of hundred a year. So that lets you sample PeepCode. And then even if you don’t want to commit money, I’m pretty sure they have like Demo Rails or whatever with couple of minutes so you can see each screencast like would I even be interested in learning about Ember or whatever. That’s something you just need to think about in however you do it – I think Avdi does the 1 free to 2 paid a week or something. I know Gary Bernhardt had free one on the homepage and then like, I think a sample of a paid one, and that was it. You got to figure out how you’re going to basically prove that the service, the knowledge you have is valuable to potential customers and get them to be interested in actually paying for it. You can’t go from ‘by myself, buy my stuff’ to a paid product; you need to do gradual steps. REUVEN: [Laughs] ERIC: Oh, you laugh, but there’s a lot of companies that do that, and it’s funny. You can see it made fun of by other people than know how to do marketing [chuckles]. REUVEN: Right. I don’t know that much about marketing, but it seems pretty clear to me that maybe it’ll make some sales that way; you’ll make way, way more if you demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about and the people trust you as an authority for sure. ERIC: Right. And I’ve seen this in membership sites where somewhere in the screencast subscription where someone is paying a certain amount per month and they’re getting access to something that’s valuable. Membership sites, it’s typically just like text or maybe there’s some video thrown in, but it’s predominantly text information. If you have it open like a lot of the examples we’ve talked about, what can happen sometimes, someone will sign up for 1 month, download everything for the past 9 months, and then cancel. So if you actually do the really hard sell, you’re going to get a lot of sales like that where you tell them, “Hey, just buy my stuff. I don’t have any free stuff, free to try,” someone buys it, jumps and grabs all your stuff, cancels, and then does that every 6 months or something. JEFF: You worry about that, so you get to a point like, I don’t know – I was looking to see what RubyTapas was based on the platform and it’s got DPD. Avdi is like 140 or something Tapas, and what Eric has mentioned, it seems like it’s almost like the fear of getting yourself pirated and getting your eBook pirated and put on BitTorrent. So you get the one guy that comes in and pays you $10 or 9 months but $9 for the month, then download all your catalogue and then unsubscribe so then wasting their 6 months. I guess that thing can happen. If you care about it, if the person’s going to do anything with the videos once they downloaded them, hopefully, they’ll be back to keep watching, but I don’t know how much I would spend energy on people that are going to come in and just start to grab all your episodes and unsubscribe immediately. ERIC: I’m not saying I had to worry about it, I’m saying you’re always going to have customers that are going to abuse you. They’re going to try to work the system. I guess my point was, if you were giving a lot of stuff away and were providing value before you even asked them to buy stuff, the people who are going to go all the way through and buy your things are going to have a lot more trust in you, they’re going to feel more connected to you, and they’re going to feel bad if they rip you off or if they put your stuff on BitTorrent or whatever versus if you didn’t do that, you might just get someone in there who is that what they do – they go and get a whole bunch of things and put on BitTorrent and give it to all their friends. It’s the idea of kind of building up trust with your potential customers and kind of – I hate to use the word community for this – but it’s on if you have a community around it where you guys are watching show his back. As long as you’re creating a lot of value and really actually trying to help your customers, they’re going to appreciate it and kind of respond at the right way. REUVEN: Right. JEFF: I’m only a single data point, but for the screencast, eversince I’ve subscribed to, I look forward to the new screencast. I’m cheering a lot at the author basically to get new content out because I’m looking forward to continuing it. I don’t know. I’m assuming most customers are being your fear stuff on a subscription basis or sort of in the same way, but who knows. REUVEN: Okay, so I have to establish authority into someone and trust. What are the ways that I do that? CHUCK: I think we talked about a lot of those with the blog, and the speaking, because that’s what Avdi did. REUVEN: Right. CHUCK: He’s on a podcast, he wrote some books, his blogs are fairly popular, he spoke at the conferences. Gary was speaking at conferences. Ryan Bates put out videos that were free that were fairly popular and he was very consistent about that so people knew that they could count on him putting out Pro videos when they paid him. JEFF: I think you have to worry about the level, too. You can try to come – and I don’t know what your positioning is – but you could try to come in at the high-end and you’d want to do all these stuff that Chuck just [unclear] about. You want to be like a speaker or premiere speaker, had a bunch of events, and people look to you for a commentary, blah, blah. Or, you’ll be honest and upfront with your audience in the beginning and say, “I’ve done it for a while. I might not be an expert, but I’ve got a lot of information that I want to teach,” and there are probably enough people that aren’t at the level you’re at and would be happy to consume that material. REUVEN: Yeah, that’s my feeling like. I know there are people who know much, much more about these topics like friends in Postgres than I do, but I know in my day-to-day work in my consulting work, I encounter a huge number who know way less than I do. So I’d be sort of looking at them. The folks who know the internals don’t need my help and there’s not much I can do to help them to tell you the truth. CHUCK: Yeah. ERIC: One thing I want to say here, though, especially because a lot of this we talked about, they came from they already have a group of people that follow their stuff like Railscast. If you’re starting from scratch like you don’t have a blog or you don’t have any public stuff that says you’re an authority or you know this, don’t feel like you need to go and spend 3 years making 3 screencasts or blogging before you can actually do your paid product. You can start your paid product now. It’s going to be a little bit more work to build the trust up, but just the fact that if you have a good, high-quality product that solving problems, as you get customers, they’re going to like and enjoy all that, and that’s going to build your authority just as fast. I don’t know if you guys were around when PeepCode first started, but Geoffrey didn’t have a lot of stuff out there. He had his blog, which I don’t think he did it that frequently and I don’t think PeepCode ever had free videos, but he was stuck with it and put out such high-quality stuff that over time, people said, “Yeah, PeepCode is a resource. They have only paid products, but it’s worth the $9 or $11 for each video.” REUVEN: Right. CHUCK: One other conversation that we had around this was figuring out which topic to pick and whether or not it would be profitable to do it. REUVEN: Uhm-hmm. CHUCK: The first one that I want to talk about is: How do you pick the topic that you’re going to go with? Do you go with the one that you think has more appeal? Do you go with the one that you’re more passionate about? ERIC: Yes. JEFF: I’d say… [Chuckles] JEFF: I was going to say, you have to be passionate. I alluded earlier the kiss of death, but a lot of people have gone the full length with screencasting and made that their fulltime job and they ran out of ideas. To be fair, Ryan has done 5 years of Railscast or 4 years of Railscast that uses on a lot – 350 episodes, whatever he has done, and did a lot of consulting. He admits that a lot of his topics came from his consulting. I think Avdi has mentioned a couple of times that some of his inspiration for RubyTapas was from the pair programming sessions that he did with people, and I’m not sure where he is getting his inspiration now. But definitely, you want to make it as easy as possible to be consistent. And, if that means being passionate about the content, then that’s probably [unclear]. There’s nothing more frustrating from a consumer stand point and someone that has a schedule and you’re paying for the subscription and it doesn’t come out. I’m not going to name names, but I subscribed to this one screencast series and almost every month when I see the bill, it’s like I really need to cancel this because I think there’s been one release in a month that this worth of stretches as long as it can and it pushed 2 episodes at the end of the month and then somehow they work out 6 weeks between the episodes or something. You have to be able to produce and deliver content consistently however you muster the will to do that or would do that way. So, inspiration and then enthusiasm would be high on my list. REUVEN: Right. I guess the closest thing to this I’ve done has been my Linux journal column, which I’ve been writing for a long time since 1996; every month, I’ve been writing a column. I’m certainly still excited about it and it doesn’t give me trouble to write it, but it’s also a much wider topic area. Meaning, more or less that you make [unclear] on top of whatever I want, and I can say, “Well, this is sort of interesting to me.” Whereas a subscription service, by definition almost, is going to be much more specific and narrowly defined. So if I get to balance between having enough to say and keeping passionate about it, but also something that of depth, it’s probably a literally key thing. ERIC: There’s one thing you can do with have enough topics to talk about which I don’t see many people really do, I don’t know if it’s because they don’t know about it or it’s just they find out it’s not a good strategy. But if you start with, say, you charge people monthly and, say, you do a screencast every week or so on, we’d say, Postgres, you do that for 9 months. If you ran out of topic, whether it’s because you can’t think of anything, you’re not smart enough, you’re not working on Postgres enough whatever, at those 9 months, you can stop the subscription service, bundle up those 9 months of screencast, and just sell those as a stand-alone product. You’d basically tell people, “You’re not going to get any new content with this, but here’s 9 months of stuff,” so you convert your screencast stuff into this one-time download. As a business, that might not be the best thing, but at the same time, if your passion or your schedule just says that you can’t really do this weekly stuff anymore without basically phoning that in, that might be the best strategy to take – basically phase out the product and convert it to something where new customer still get a ton of value from it, but it’s not a reoccurring type thing. [Crosstalk] REUVEN: Gary Bernhardt actually did that. CHUCK: The other thing is it seems to have – for me integrity is a big thing. It feels like that’s a very integris thing to do where basically you tell people, “Look, this is where it is, rather than give you substandard content just so that I can hit my monthly quota,” then you just give it away to the people who are subscribed and new subscribers, so to speak, just pay one fee to get the whole thing. REUVEN: Right. JEFF: Yeah. And I think there are other ways. Hopefully, I have active community; once you get a month or so in, hopefully – who knows how long it takes, a month or 6 months whatever – hopefully there’s enough comments and you have a way for that community to comment and you can always go back and revisit topics, which one way to do it. I imagine there’s a way that you could do like sort of live episodes seminar, webinar type, question and answer type, free gatherings and keep people to ask you questions – some stuff you might have covered, some stuff you haven’t. I think the easiest way to come up with new ideas is going to be just the more people you can talk to. CHUCK: Is that like on Millionaire where you ask the audience? [Laughter] REUVEN: I’d like to call a friend! JEFF: I want to say, a while ago, Erin Blaskie, she did some freelance web design consulting stuff. She’s in Canada, but she used to do like a live chat like Friday afternoons or something. It was like a one-hour on or one of those. It was more of a hangout, ask questions and she can answer it, so it’s just a bunch of people chatting. I don’t want to say there was a Rails-ish one that happened for a very short period of time, like maybe 2 or 3 months, they’re trying to do like on-a-call end show, but sort of like a public webinar kind of – there’s a couple of people that do Google Hangouts now, I think there’s a DC-ish group Ruby Group that does the hangout, but it sets another idea. That can be an addition to a regular content, just have something that you do on a regular basis – again, consistency. But then, if you get some people hanging out and asking you questions, hopefully, an opportunity to get more ideas. REUVEN: Right. I would normally assume that subscribers would suggest ideas. But I know, at least, from my Linux journal column, if I get one email a month from a reader, that’s a lot. [Crosstalk] JEFF: That’s a much different thing, right? CHUCK: Yeah, I was going to say. JEFF: Is that delivered digitally? Or, is that still print? REUVEN: No, it’s still delivered digitally. They surprised about 3 years ago, 2 years ago, “Guess what, authors, we’re shutting down the printing presses.” JEFF: Yeah. CHUCK: I think a lot of it, though, comes back to both the passion. And honestly, if you’re going to pick between something that makes you enough money and you’re passionate about versus something that you think will reach more people maybe make you more money, for me anyway, I’m much more likely to stick with it if I love it as opposed to if it – because once it passes a certain threshold with the income, then the income becomes less important to me. JEFF: One last thing before we change topics… CHUCK: No, I was just going to say as far as ideas go, if I love something, I tend to play with it even if I’m not working in it right at the moment. So, I’ll probably have more ideas for the things that I’m more passionate about. It was all I was going to say. JEFF: Sure. So another option might be, there’s a sort of [unclear] for everything, and there’s probably forums and mailing list, and just lurk on the mailing list and the forums so read it and see what people are asking about and what they have problems most with. If they don’t have a sufficient answer – even if they do get an answer that solves their problem and you haven’t covered it in a screencast, then you can rehash it and give their take on it. If somebody is asking it, probably somebody else needs to ask it, too. REUVEN: Right. That’s a good idea. CHUCK: I’m a little bit curious, because I’ve looked into doing some things like this myself and I even started building my own little platform for it… JEFF: Don’t do that. CHUCK: [Laughs] Yeah. I was going to say, I’m pretty sure that you can go and set up WordPress plus some membership thing and whatever in less than an hour or maybe 2 hours. JEFF: There are million ways to do it probably. Like I said, I looked up Avdi because I wanted to make sure I was passing on the right thing, and he’s just get DPD, and I don’t what it send digital platform something, whatever ERIC: Digital Product Delivery. JEFF: Okay! CHUCK: Yeah. JEFF: I mean his comes out as an email and you can get it RSS subscription to it, but there’s no web interface…maybe there is. CHUCK: There is, but it sucks. JEFF: Yeah. ERIC: DPD is what I use for my one-time eBook sales, like Avdi is using the subscription product type. It’s new. I think Avid was kind of their beta user because I know him and DPD support is going back and forth getting like iTunes feeds and all that. I was paying $5 – no, I’m probably $10 a month; that’s actually more than what you need to get your platform going. JEFF: Yeah. ERIC: You don’t need to make customs offer for it. JEFF: But I did, and that’s the worst thing you can ever do. When we were selling pgCast, we spent 2 or 3 times total the amount of time we ever spent on content; we spent 2 or 3 times a month trying to build this stupid custom software. It was just ridiculous. WordPress and some sort of subscription plugin or the Railscast source code is on GitHub and you can get that and use that, or get DPD. I think even Gumroad, there are probably 20 different services that let use of digital content super easy so we’re not wasting any time on that. ERIC: There’s a quote I read in a writing book somewhere. It basically said – it’s this 2 professional writers – “If you’re a writer, the best thing you can do to advance your business is to write more books”. They even said marketing is not as important as writing because when you think about it, when you’re writing in other book, that gives you more opportunities to market and that kind of brings up your older books, too. I kind of think of that when I look at my consultant stuff or anything. If you’re going to do a screencasting product that teaches about a topic, making more screencast is probably the most viable part of that business. Even if you have the worst interface for people to actually download the screencast, if you make more screencast, people are still going to jump through those hoops to get them. REUVEN: Right. CHUCK: Yup. The other thing is that hopefully, if it’s of high-end of quality, it’ll get to somebody who will talk about it. So if they have – and I’m going to use Eric’s favorite word again, platform – [Laughter] CHUCK: Or whatever you want to call it, if they have a community or a group of people that care about them and will listen to their recommendation and they say, “Hey, look, if you really want to learn Postgres, this Reuven guy over here has some awesome videos. Go check it out!” people are going to go sign up. And they’ll go sign up just off of that one person’s word so you put out quality content, you make some good contacts, be interested in them, see what you can do for them, and it’ll probably payoff. REUVEN: Right. I actually contacted both Avdi, who is very generous and roll back to me and was very encouraging, he told me that he uses DPD and he’s happy with them, and he said – he’s actually at the same as you guys were which is he gets to concentrate on his screencasting then and he said, “Yes, the website doesn’t look as good then,” but he is concentrated when he wants to and they take care of the rest. I also contacted the DPD people and I asked them a few questions about it partly because I’m in Israel and I want to know what the payment options would be to get it to me to my company in Israel, and they said I would have to use Paypal, which is not ideal, but it’s not supposed to be terrible. Actually, the real problem with Paypal is the conversion rate to other currencies, but fine, I’ll live. And I also asked them if it would be possible to have multiple pricing structures. So if I want to have individual price and the enterprise price or something, and they said, “Oh, yes,” they take care of that as fine. The only thing they don’t do is let you automatically have the same content in subscriptions and individual purchases. One of you mentioned earlier that you can take individual screencast maybe and sell them separately, that is possible with DPD, but you have to put it in a separate store and manually move it around. But even that, does not sound so terrible. ERIC: I think I know what’s going on, like you make a new store and you upload a new file and set a price and you’re done. REUVEN: Right. ERIC: I actually have, I think 4 “storefronts” in DPD because I have automation stuff separated differently. So actually, everyone of my eBooks is in a different store. REUVEN: And that’s because it gives you a chance to track it more easily like you not have all your eBooks in the same store for instance? ERIC: It’s basically because each eBook has its own mailing list of people who signed up for it, and this is actually because DPD didn’t have a feature that they have now. So if someone bought book A, I’d want them to get on the mailing list for book A so I can tell them there’s an update, but I don’t want to tell people that bought book B because it’s not relevant to them. But the DPD has changed that, so I’m actually in the process of consolidating it into one store right now. But setting up a new store and uploading your product, it’s probably a 15-minute operation once you know what you’re doing. REUVEN: And you found that DPD has good service? They responded to my query pretty quickly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. ERIC: Yup! They’ve had a couple of downtimes. I think they had some DDoS attacks or something, but it’s been very minor. My server, if I hosted it all myself, would go down easily 10 times more than their actual stored stuff. And the fact that they handle Paypal and then a couple of clicks and I had it Stripe support, they probably saved me dozens of hours of actual custom development. REUVEN: So basically, if I just set up WordPress on my server and with each new episode, I have a headline or something and a link to the DPD store to subscribers to log in, I’ve basically done all the software development I need as it were on my server? ERIC: Yup! REUVEN: That’s pretty nifty. Speaking of mailing list, you had a lot of really, really good suggestions and advice about setting up mailing list both sort of initial interest mailing list for landing page and then contacting people and segmenting and sort of figuring out the marketing for that. CHUCK: Yeah, do you want talk through that? Because I thought that was fascinating. ERIC: The context of this is, the mailing list to kind of get an idea of (1) kind of who you’re potential audience would be, (2) to kind of test where they’re coming from, and (3) to kind of figure out what they want. So it’s not kind of the ‘my weekly newsletter’ or ‘here’s the monthly mailing list from my company’, it’s not in that. It’s just that in this case, we’re using email to deliver it. But the idea is the classic you make a coming soon landing page that says, “I’m starting a Postgres screencasting series, would you be interested? Sign up below,” and opt-in form to put your email address in it. With that, you can then send traffic to it from whatever sources you want to try, see how those convert, see if you can get people that are both in your network of people you know like putting on Twitter or whatever, but then also getting outside that network and see how effective you can reach outside. That’s basically the first step of any kind of business. It’s like how easy and how much it’s going to cost to actually attract customers, or actually in this case, even potential customers. REUVEN: I’m sort of curious to know, let’s say I put out links and announcement on Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook and in few other places, how do I know, based on the mailing list sign ups, which is converting? Am I getting a different URL? Or, is it obvious? Or, is it keep tracking somehow? ERIC: Yes. There’s a lot of ways. Easiest way is you’re probably going to have Google Analytics on the landing page, and you can use the UTM parameters to say, “This came from another website, this, this is the website,” and the actual link they clicked was like the call-to-action at the bottom of the post versus if you bought like a banner ad or whatever. You can also send 2 different landing pages like you can have – I think I suggest you have like over 2 dozen landing pages then some of them are all like 80% the same, but the 20%, that’s different because if I’m sending people to one many page for freelance marketing, I’m going to want the landing page to talk about freelance marketing. But if I’m sending people to a landing page like the ad or the link they clicked was ‘How to Get Started in Freelancing’, I want the landing page to say the same thing. I want basically the message that they clicked to be consistent from the action they took on someone else’s homepage to my landing page. That’s a big thing. That’s how you actually really get good conversion rates. You don’t want to click an ad that says ‘Learn About Marketing’ and you’re on this side learning about sales – it’s kind of [unclear]. Basically, what we do is, it’s very, very easy. You can set up codes to track and know who came from where. And then depending on how long you do it, you can go like, “Okay, it’s Tuesday. I’m going to have a guest post go live on a big Postgres blog,” Tuesday and Wednesday, most people that signed up are probably coming from that source. REUVEN: Okay, so I get these people still sign up for my mailing list. And then, you were telling me that, now that I’ve got people signed up, now I can use those people who express some interest to poke them a little more and find out what would really be of interest to them in terms of scheduling, in terms of pricing, in terms of topics. ERIC: [Chuckles] Yeah, you don’t want to poke them, but yeah… REUVEN: [Unclear] [Laughs] ERIC: Once they signed up, basically, at that point, you can assume they express an interest in the landing page, whether it’s because they know you like, “Oh, I want to learn what he’s talking about here.” I’ve had a lot of my customers come because they know my previous stuff; I had a “platform” about it. Some of them might be interested because your headline spoke to them, or the details you gave them spoke to them, or maybe a friend referred them. But all of that, it’s a very small amount of interest, and you’re not going to know who has what interest. You don’t know why Bob came versus Mary versus Sue. What I’ve kind of in experiment to worth in learning is the types of emails you send; you can kind of have people take action and guide and tell you what they’re interested in. So in your first email, you’d say, “Hey, there’s this interesting thing on the official Postgres blog about performance tuning and a Postgres cluster, here’s your [unclear],” and through the different software, you can track who actually clicked that link. If you originally started, like I’m going to talk about like general Postgres stuff, but you found 97% of people on your list clicked that link, you know they’re going to care about Performance. So now, you’re going to put Performance on your list of topics you want to start covering. And same thing if you sent a link talking about how to set up a Postgres cluster and 1% of people clicked that, you’re going to know, “Okay, they don’t want a set up” and you can kind of draw some little conclusions that these might be advanced people; they know how to set stuff up, they can follow instructions, but they want like tuning and kind of optimization stuff. This gets into really high-end advanced stuff in your mailing list, but you can actually then send targeted mailing list like if people clicked the Performance link, you can send only them an email with more Performance links, or we mentioned, maybe even sending them a survey of, “Okay, do you have performance problems with your Postgres cluster? What problems have you had? Have you solved them” and basically, figure out what real problems they have and figure out if there’s any kind of value you can deliver to them. And this works even outside of a screencast; this works for all of the products. Like if you’re actually building, say, a consulting service about Postgres performance, this is the same process you can use. REUVEN: Okay, let’s say people sign up on this landing page, they express an interest. I’m sending out email with some information, maybe some links. Half of them or some percentage of them clicked on some link, some other percentage clicked on another link. Do most of these mailing list services, like we had discussed using Aweber last night in the chat, will Aweber allow me to segment the people and only send a follow up message to those who clicked on the first link or clicked on the second link? ERIC: With Aweber, you might have to use another tool that I’ve been experimenting with. But you can see who clicked on a link and you can always, at the very least, that might not be automated, which is the software I’m looking at, but you can always look at the details of that email and see how many people clicked on it and see actually the people who clicked on it. And for the kind of the ‘I’m-starting-a-product idea’, really if you can get an idea like, “Okay, here’s a percentage of this versus this,” that might be all the comparison you need. Because I think some people just might not read your email, so you can’t draw a scientific A then B conclusion. You can just kind of get a feel for it and use that, and basically, use it to kind of help your marketing; help figuring out what you’re going to offer and not actually being a strict guideline. REUVEN: Okay. So how do I then approach these people? Let’s say they have been clicking on my links, let’s say they’ve been opening my messages, how can I then approach them and ask them about pricing? Do I just come out and say, “How much would you pay for such a product?” Or, do I give them options? ERIC: You can either way. One thing is survey the market. See how much competitors or close competitors are charging, and that’s going to give you an idea of what people are willing to pay especially if the competitors aren’t successful like Railscast or RubyTapas where you know they’re making money; it’s not just a product out that no one’s buying. And you can ask people. The hard thing is, if you ask me, “Would you pay $20 a month for this,” I might say yes, but when it comes down and getting my credit card up, I might hesitate and not do it. REUVEN: Right. ERIC: To real big test is actually ask for the credit card and see who actually pays you. That kind of gets a lot like the link startup stuff or it’s charging people before there’s a product. I’ve actually heard about a gray area where someone actually did a bait and switch with someone and pissed a lot of people off. The other thing is this, you’re starting a business, you’re an entrepreneur, you might just have to take a leap of faith and just say, “Here’s the price”. If people don’t respond as much as you want, go back to them, ask them and maybe try a lower price or a higher price. Or, like I said, in a monthly thing, make it a weekly thing or an annual planner. Play with it. REUVEN: Right. That makes a lot of sense. JEFF: I think, at least with the screencast market, there’s a – I don’t want to say the price is set for this – but there are a lot of folks out there that follow basically the same model. It’s all really close to 9 books a month for some published schedule, and the schedule changes a little bit. That seems like that’s where most screencast are falling in. REUVEN: Right. I’ve seen $9 a month; it seems to be the standard price. But there’s one on Python that’s $9 a month and you got 1 a week, and there are others. Avdi started doing 3 a week, but then he moved down to 2 a week. For Avdi basically, I think twice as much content for the same price, and what that means it should be increasing his price, I don’t know. JEFF: You have to look at that a little bit because Avdi, his Tapas are all under 5 minutes. REUVEN: True. JEFF: Not that – ERIC: Yeah, just be careful there. JEFF: Not that it’s the same across the same, but it’s the same as a value of comparison or whatever. There are some differences. I think I’m paying maybe $14 a month for 1 screencast series, and not that’s the one funny enough that’s why I want to drop because their schedule is so inconsistent. But yeah, screencast…I think a lot of this can be traced back to PeepCode, and I think they sort of set the high mark for screencast even it was a one-off screencast that’s $9 or $11 or whatever it start out to be. You’re looking at basically, a feature length production from Geoffrey Grosenbach, it was like an hour and a half with a ton of effects and transitions and all the stuff. It was, I don’t know, that just seems where it got set, and most people fell in line with the $9 a month; they’re very close to that. People pay it for value. So if you’re going to provide the value, you might be able to get away with different pricing structure. ERIC: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. We have a couple of sets on pricing and almost all of the points work the same for products. For me, when I was an employee, when PeepCode was out, I would pay $9. It might have saved me 3 or 4 hours which at my hourly rate that I was getting paid, it might have been a value of $50, we’ll say, versus as a freelancer, okay now that value of saving time to learn it and going to the kind of the shortcut route of PeepCode, it might be worth $200 an episode. Right now, if I knew someone that was putting out like a really good marketing subscription podcast/screencast whatever service, I would probably pay a couple of hundred dollars a month for it and actually, in fact, I did a while back. The reason why is, if I spend $200 a month but I’m getting $2000 or $3000 or $4000 a month in value and in learning and education, as a business owner, it’s stupid for me not to do that. So I think that’s something you have to watch for. PeepCode has kind of set the bar, I think they started at $9, I think it was like $11 or something, and a lot of people just kind of saw like that’s a competition that we’re going to price to match the competition. They didn’t really look at how they wanted to be on like how much value PeepCode delivers versus how much value they’re going to deliver. It can work and it has worked for a lot of people, but you need to look and figure out is your product a direct competitor to these other people? Or is it a higher end product? Or, is it a lower end product? That’s a whole pricing discussion and that’s, like I said, you have to do a leap of faith and try something to see, maybe like your time at the Postgres, people who are very high-end and know about performance, maybe they’re working in jobs where their employers want to pay $49 a month. But you’re not going to know that unless you talk to them or you actually set that price and see what happens. REUVEN: Right. And if a price doesn’t work, there’s no rule that says you can’t change it; you can move it around. It might be trickier to do with a subscription service, probably then, you need to add them re-subscribe with the new price point, especially if it’s higher. But if the business is going to survive and it’s not surviving or it’s not doing well at one price point, then playing with that might be necessary. ERIC: Chuck mentioned this earlier; he was saying how he would want to work on a project that has a certain amount of passion for him as long as it hit a baseline revenue or whatever. If you’re undercharging, and you know you’re undercharging and you’re still having to produce, it can actually drain your passion knowing that, “I have to make this screencast, and I need to still go do freelance work, and I need to have this part time job just to pay the bills because I chose the wrong price,” versus if I pick the price, I could just be doing the screencast thing, and I wouldn’t have my passion getting suck by all these other tangents. That’s something to think about, too. The more you charge, the more flexibility you have whether it’s to give discounts, to have sales, or just to lower your price and actually make most of your customers happier because they have to pay less. JEFF: There’s no quicker way to resent the thing than know you’re undercharging for work that you have like you’re doing. CHUCK: Yup. REUVEN: Right. CHUCK: Yeah, that was a lot of way I don’t do Teach Me To Code anymore. I love doing the screencast and I love interacting with people, but ultimately, when I had to pay for things and when I had to make things work, I was going to pay for it so it was one of the things that I had to get dropped. So it was unfortunate and that’s something I might want to start up again, but making it a priority is hard because I have all of these other things that are paid that I also love that are more important to me. So if I did have a revenue model behind it, it would be a higher priority because I could justify taking the time away from one thing and putting it on that. REUVEN: Right. CHUCK: Anyway, we’ve been talking for almost an hour. Are there any other aspects of this that we should cover? I think there was a little bit of discussion over like the video quality versus the production time and the cost… REUVEN: Right. I have zero experience. I’ve done some screencast, but not really that many so I’m guessing I’ll have to spend a fair amount of time learning the ropes in that and getting the editing down. But, you guys were saying, it depends on the market, it depends on the person. Sometimes, a bit of quality can be amazing, like PeepCode was; it was super, super published. CHUCK: Yeah. And Eric made a good point in the chat room, and that is that you could just hire somebody to do the editing for you. That’s what I do at the podcast, and that works out real nice for me. JEFF: I think it’s hard, and the sort of post production is just a pain. I don’t know what it takes Mandy to podcast maybe, twice the time of a published episode or something like that, but it takes even longer for a video especially if you’re cutting in like chapter or markers or something else like that. Video takes a ridiculous amount of time to get done, and there are few schools have thought to that. I think Gary Bernhardt, he did all his live, he do cuts just to take a drink or something, but he would do the whole thing live. If there was a mistake, he would scrap it, and do the whole thing again. He didn’t do any editing, but it took him 9 or 10 passes to get it right. And then if he do go to the traditional route and prepare for the episode and have a script to follow and lay it down and then have to go back and edit the video and edit the audio and put it altogether, it takes a while. Now, hiring is interesting. One of the problems maybe is not a huge problem anymore, but video is way bigger than audio, it’s way bigger than text so you have to find ways to share that video that doesn’t kill your network or your offsite storage or whatever and not lose a bunch if you’re compressing it down. It’s interesting. Expect it to take way longer than you think it’s going to get that stuff done. REUVEN: Right. [Crosstalk] ERIC: I’d say for a case thing, the book I wrote where I had – I have almost an hour of video – it took me I think 6 days to write the entire book, but then it took over I think a week and a half to record an hour video. The hour video was like minutes to go compared to the amount of content in the book. That’s because I know how to write, I know how to edit, and I hired someone to help me, and the video I did all myself – I basically had to learn from scratch. So your production is going to get better as you go and as you practice. But, you need to take them into account. You have to plan your schedule so if you’re going to do weekly video screencast, you might want to start a couple of weeks ahead of time at least until you know how long it’s going to take. REUVEN: Right. I have a cousin who worked in Hollywood television for many, many years, and we once visited her a few years ago. She earned a job to be assistant director. After they’ve shut the TV show, she would then sit in a room and say, “We really want camera 1 here, we really want camera 3 here, and let’s take this up here and there,” and that’s when I realized that if you want a super high quality video, it takes enormous amount of editing and to someone like me, at least, it’s mainly boring. To her, it was exciting and she got a bunch of energies out of it, so good for her [chuckles]. But that’s definitely not where I want to be spending an enormous amount of time on. But let’s see. That’s part of the deal. JEFF: Luckily, one of my single source just for screen, maybe 2 sources if you’re going to do a talking floating ahead over the screen, so it’s not in a sources to cut in and you don’t need super high-end tools. I think there was a PeepCode on how to do a screencast, and I think there were 2 levels, and he had some really, really high-end tools like that Pro rendering form to do all the rendering and stuff like that. But ScreenFlow is good enough for just about everything – audio and video; $100, you get like the bundles and sometimes, you can grab it for $50 or whatever, but it’s definitely worth the money. You can get almost everything done on the ScreenFlow. And then rendering time, there are services that you can form out the rendering, too, if you’re going to transcode it to a bunch of different formats. It’s just another discussion, but I mean everything takes a long time. CHUCK: Yeah. JEFF: It’s just the nature of the beast. CHUCK: And we did do an episode on screencasting, so I’m going to refer a lot of people back for that, and I think, we’ve also done screencasting on some of the other shows. I know we did one on JavaScript Jabber as well. I’ll put links to those in the show notes. But yeah, there is a lot of stuff that you can outsource related to this. Are there any other aspects of the business – go ahead, Eric. ERIC: I was going to say, one thing, this was actually the [unclear] with the chat, I don’t need to really talk about it, but you don’t need to have the exact same high qualities that PeepCode has. You can get by with having a lower quality version, and depending on what your actual customers want, you might not need it. Like I actually prefer really short like Avdi’s Tapas, or like perfect size for me, and I don’t like all the post production and all that stuff. PeepCode works for me, but I fast forward where I play PeepCode faster than 1x speed because I don’t care about a lot of production; I just want the knowledge. Having an intro in the different chapter mark was actually deterrent for me personally. So the point is to go and figure out what your customers want, what they would like to have, and the amount of production quality that they need, and then just stay there; don’t worry about making it the best or an Emmy Award winning screencast. REUVEN: Right. I’m actually personally attracted also to the Tapas’ super short get-in, get-out, like say what you have to say because the people we all work with are busy and they’re much more likely to watch something that’s 5 minutes long than 15 minutes long even a little hour long. CHUCK: Yeah. For me, what that speaks to is your audience; you understand the audience that you’re at after you understand that they have this time constraint. So you also then understand that putting together short video that immediately and concisely solves their problem is what they want. REUVEN: Right. CHUCK: Alright, well, I think we’re about to the point where we need to wrap the show up, but it’s been a good discussion. Hopefully, this helps some folks decide how to move forward with their product development, be it something that is kind of an ongoing thing or just one-off products. I think there’s a lot of good stuff here for that. JEFF: Before we go into picks, I think one last thing from business perspective is, I don’t think there’s probably no such thing as [unclear] in the market in the screencasting space right now. There’s still a lot of opportunity for a lot of different people to provide; a lot of different takes and views on the same topic. So even if you’re interested and you want to do Ruby which seems to be like the language for turning screencast into money, there’s probably still opportunities there. CHUCK: The other thing that I’ve seen is that generally, if there’s nobody in this space, you want to be looking for why that is because in some cases, yeah, there’s a market there and people are going to want to buy that product. But in a lot of other cases, there’s no market that’s why there’s nobody there. So pay attention to that as well; go see what’s there. But the thing is this, like with Postgres or some of these other topics, I’ve talked to enough people that know that there’s a market there for it, so just some thoughts there. REUVEN: I’m happy to doing my market research for me, Chuck, thank you! CHUCK: [Laughs] Alright, well, let’s get to the picks. Eric, what are picks? ERIC: I’ve been messing around with my habits and try to build better habits. I have kind of “thought wagon”, or got on a wagon, whatever it is when you stopped doing them. I’ve actually got an app that’s an older iOS called “EpicWin” that I’ve been using a lot. It’s actually now my main habit tracking up. I might have picked it before, but it’s actually working really good for me now. It’s nice to check stuff off to win the game. Other than that, I have nothing else. I haven’t been looking online for much of anything recently. CHUCK: Alright! Jeff, what are your picks? JEFF: I only have one, and it’s – I don’t know how genuine and pick it is because I’ve only seen it and it looks cool; I’ve never used it. It’s called “Doodle”. It’s a group scheduling. I think I mentioned in the last show, I coach my daughter’s robotics team and this is just the way that they practice at my house Sunday who can be there or when can people be there, and it just does that online. But it looks cool, so that’s my pick. CHUCK: Awesome. Reuven, what are your picks? REUVEN: I got 3 picks this week, all of them are sort of fun in nature. Number one is a podcast “Planet Money” from NPR. I’ve been listening from the beginning. They seemed to slow down a little bit in the number of new episodes they do, but the idea is that it’s economics reported from an interesting angle, usually interesting stories and so forth. I think it’s generally a lot of fun. They’re doing this big project now where they’ve decided to create a T-shirt, and the T-shirt is so beautiful, but they’re doing the entire process of the T-shirt creation from design to the weaving – the picking of the cotton to creating the thread and on and on, to the actual creation of the T-shirt on their broadcast. That’s interesting to hear the economics of the clothing industry which, we all wear clothing, but I don’t much about how it’s produced. So I’m really been learning a lot from that, and just in general, it’s a fun podcast. Two other things, I drink a lot of seltzer, so I love my “SodaStream” machine; I’ve had it for a few years. It’s very popular in Israel because the company is from Israel, but I know they’re now in the US and elsewhere. If you’re a big soda drinker, then create great fun. And last but not the least, I’ve discovered I think years after everyone else did, thanks to Netflix’s “Futurama”. Boy! What a fun show! Anyway, those are my picks for this week. CHUCK: Awesome. I have one pick this week, it is “The Secret Weapon”, What it is in a nutshell is it’s a way of managing your GTD workflow from your inbox and Evernote, so I’ve been using this for the past few weeks. I tend to like it for the most part better than Omnifocus. There are one or two things that I wish it had that Omnifocus has, but other than that, it’s really, really nice, and it’s a system that works for me. I do have the Pro version of Evernote, and that way I can email stuff into Evernote and things like that. The one issue that I really have with it is the fact that it doesn't seemlessly integrate the email that I use which is the Gmail web interface with Evernote so I have to do a lot of forwarding and importing things with a browser plugin and things like that. The guy that did it, he uses Outlook and then there is a plugin for Outlook that allows you to push things back and forth between his version of Evernote and Outlook. The other thing is he recorded it on Windows and the Mac version is just a little bit different than the Windows version of Evernote, unless his version of Evernote is a little old, which is also possible. But for the most part, I really like it and it's working really well so I'm trying to find ways to solve the discontinuity between the two, but I had the same discontinuity with Omnifocus so there is that. Anyway, that's my pick. Next week, we're going to be talking to Joe Kutner about his book, The Healthy Programmer, so don't miss that and make sure you read it. REUVEN: Bring your vegetables. CHUCK: [Chuckles] That's right, bring your vegetables. We'll catch you all next week!

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