Watch me build an online business (part five of a few more)

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This is part five of in-depth look at the process I’m going through to create a new business. Did you miss part onepart twopart three, or part four?


I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed this process so far. Not only the building of a new business, but also sharing all the details, struggles, and thoughts publicly. From the responses I’ve received from folks on this email list and on social media, it seems you feel the same way too 

In a post I wrote a few months ago about superpowers I said something like “you know you’ve found your superpower when you find something you enjoy doing and that thing benefits other people.” Building businesses and sharing all the details about them (good or bad) might be my new favorite superpower. Through this five month process I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to be doing next in life (that’s for another email).

What Have We Spent So Far?

Last week I talked about competitive pricing analysis, but I didn’t talk about our potential revenue or our expenses. I’m actually not interested in doing revenue projections and I’ll get to that in a bit. For now, I’d like to show you just how little we’ve spent building CreateYourOnlineCourse.com (CYOC):

  • $100: Five months of Basecamp Subscription ($20 per month)
  • $190: Five months of Heroku Subscription ($38 per month, this is a “techy thing” my co-founder Gerlando uses)
  • $20: SSL Certificate #1
  • $29.88 SSL Certificate #2
  • $10.87 NameCheap Domain Registration (CreateYourOnlineCourse)
  • $10.87 NameCheap Domain Registration (Another domain we registered that we don’t like, whoops!)
  • Free: MailChimp Account (anything under 2,000 subscribers is free)
  • Free: GitHub (issue/bug tracking thing)
  • Free: My simple design work on the pre-launch page

Total: $361.62

This is what’s called “bootstrapping” in the entrepreneurship world. We could easily spend a lot more money on a lot of other things, but we want to stay very lean. $361 and we almost have a fully functional product? Not. Too. Shabby.

Of course, there’s one caveat here and that’s our time. Gerlando has spent many hours building CYOC and I’ve spent a few hours marketing it (read: emailing friends & writing these emails).

That’s the beautiful thing about building your own business; you can pour your sweat equity into it and as long as you have some extra time and the right people working on it, you can save a ton of money.

Let’s Talk Revenue Projections

I want to clearly state my stance on revenue projections, so I’m going to use bold text to make sure you read it:

Making goals and revenue projections is a waste of time. You actually have to start doing something before those things matter*.

(*A did a recent podcast interview with James Altucher where I dive deeper into these thoughts.)

There are industry statistics that I’m sure I could find about the percentage of revenue projections that are actually correct. But I’m not going to waste any time looking for them because I know 99% of initial revenue projections are completely wrong.

Let me be clear, you can absolutely forecast revenue projections on an existingrevenue generating business, but not for a new business that’s sold zero product (also, existing revenue projections are usually wrong too… sorry, I had to add that).

Too many entrepreneurs spend unnecessary time projecting and forecasting revenue, when all that time could be spent getting actual customers and learning from their experiences using your product or service.

Revenue projections can also lead you down a troubled path. Why? Because you’ve set your expectations at a super high level, before ever getting your product to market. If you don’t meet or exceed your revenue projections you might think you’ve failed. That’s the worst possible mental state you can be in when launching a brand new business.

Yes, I want to know that the business I’m going to build is going to be a profitable venture, but I don’t need to do a bunch of revenue projections to figure that out. Here’s as far as the CYOC revenue projections go at this point:

Our monthly expenses: $72

Can we afford that without paying customers: Yes

Revenue projections = Done

But Jason, don’t you want to be swimming in money Scrooge McDuck style? Absolutely! But we’re not ready for lots of revenue. At this stage in the process, we’re focused more on building our minimum viable product and showing it to our first group of beta testers. That leads me to…

Initial Goal Setting

This topic came up along with revenue projections on Facebook and via email. Many people wanted to know what the goals of CYOC are and if they could help us meet them (which is awesome!). My issue with goals is that they’re a lot like revenue projections and that it’s a waste of time in the early stages of building a business.

Here’s the problem with goals: When you set them, you want to stick to them, sometimes to a fault.

I completely realize that I could make goals and adjust them daily/weekly/monthly, but at this point in the process, I’m wasting valuable time that could be spent making sure our product does the critical thing it needs to do (build beautiful online courses simply and easily).

That being said, I’m not completely ignoring goal setting because I do think have a couple loose-fitting goals can help you stay on track with launching and growing.

This is what our goals look like right now:

  • This week host a webinar and sell my Sponsorship Course on the CYOC platform
  • In the next week let 10 beta users in CYOC
  • In the next two weeks, get feedback from the first 10 users and adjust CYOC accordingly (adjusting based on user feedback will be an entirely separate topic)
  • In the next month, allow 20-30 users to start using CYOC
  • In the next six months, get to $10,000 in revenue per month

Those are our goals. Funny enough, I don’t even think Gerlando and I have even written them down like that anywhere yet (Hey Gerlando, look, our goals!).

I’m not going to hinge the success of CYOC on these goals either, these are just a bit of guidance at this point.

Don’t get me wrong, some people need initial goals to keep them on track and to keep them hitting milestones and deadlines. Lucky for me, this isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to building a business. I know how to keep things on track without worrying about concrete timelines.

Goal setting is different for everyone and if it’s helpful for you to stay on track, set more well-defined goals. Just don’t waste time constantly adjusting goals when you could be spending that time getting your business up and running. And make sure that if you don’t hit your initial goals you’re okay with that and you make changes and adapt (not give up!).

Inline Course Editor Update

Just last night I received an update from Gerlando on some new changes to the inline editor we’re using for CYOC. You may remember from Part Three I showed you what the course editor looked like and how it worked, but we’ve made a few more changes. Here’s a peek at the new simplified dashboard:

CYOC Dashboard

This week we’re working on tidying up a bunch of features. That includes custom domains, adding multiple videos per lesson, ease of adding lesson content (pasting text in from other sources), customer activity, and overall design of CYOC.

I’m really excited for how far CYOC has come and I know we’re getting really close to letting the first few beta testers use the app. As a friendly reminder, we’ll be accepting our first groups of users from our pre-launch list on CreateYourOnlineCourse.com (please only signup if you’re actually interested in building an online course).

To be continued next week…

Next week I’ll share feedback on using CYOC to sell my own course, feedback from a few friends who’ve seen the course, a fun idea I had about customer retention, and hopefully we’ll have invited a few beta testers in!

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