The Indie Hackers Podcast September 8, 2017

How Wes Bos Teaches 100,000 Programmers as a One-Man Operation

Episode #028

What goes into creating a collection of online courses that reaches hundreds of thousand of people? Wes Bos explains everything from how he's built an audience and grown his massive email list, to his work habits and schedule, and a step-by-step walkthrough of how he created and launched his most popular course.

  1. 2

    Good interview but I was expecting more real-world marketing strategies/tactics from Wes Bos's.

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      He said something that doesn't get said often, and in my opinion is completely underestimated: all the tactics in the world won't make up for a mediocre product. I believe the opposite is also true: a badass product (i.e. a product that lots of people really want) can make up for a lack of tactical cleverness.

      I realize it's not the most exciting lesson to learn, but it's one of the most important. Wes' success goes a long way to showing that.

      1. 1

        Yep exactly that - no popup, facebook ad or clever copy is going to make up for a bad product.

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          Thanks! "build a great product, they will come" is your the best marketing tip I guess? However, I still really wonder on your real-world "how"s if you have other tips?

    2. 1

      I am a bit surprised that you didn't find more real world strategies. As I have listen to the podcast and read the transcript, I found quite a few.

      The over all I think the strategic vision is obvious, grow your audience, which is really about growing the top of your sales funnel. Wes pointed out he does that in a few ways. On Twitter he gets followers though his "Hot Tips". He points out that Twitter is a one way road so you have to create real content and add value to the conversation to get noticed. That's a tactic. He also mentioned that he messages 10+ times a day but puts out a Hot Tip 1 - 2 times a week. He then explains that he replies to conversations and tries to be helpful, again a tactic. He even explains he uses TweetDeck.

      Then the whole giving away content and using that to grow his audience. Look at the Javascript30 part of the decision. He talks about the "hard ask" which is another tactic. He talks about the business model of reciprocity. Again a tactic.

      Personally, I got a lot out of this discussion that was both strategic and tactical as well as actionable. Thanks Wes!

      1. 1

        Hi, thanks for your bullet points like summary, I loved it. You're right, these are good tips. Maybe I should have emphasized "more" keyword on my question. I believe he has much more good tips.

  2. 2

    Hey Wes,

    During the episode you mention directing beginners to freeCodeCamp. I am currently working through it. I have trouble finding material to help me figure things out when I get stuck, is there anything you can recommend?

    1. 4

      I recommend Colt's course Web Developer Bootcamp for 10$, 40 hours of video quite up to date and probably the best primer. Take it from the person who tried all => FCC, CodeCademy, OneMonth, Other Udemy stuff. Wes Bos courses + Web Developer Bootcamp is probably the best investment I made in learning to code over 5 years time during my free time. Not associated with it :)

      1. 1

        Thanks!!

  3. 1

    My Main Takeaways:

    • If Wes had to pick one of his titles ["Developer", "Speaker", "Designer", "Teacher", "Entrepreneur"], he'd pick Developer, because that's what he feels he is at his core.

    • Wes has been building websites for over 17 years.

    • Wes did freelance consulting throughout highschool and college, and by the time he finished college he was running his own business doing consulting. He also got into teaching, writing blog posts and making videos, his popularity resulted in him writing a book which was his first product.

    • Wes describes himself as a reactionary person rather than visonary. He typically looks at what's going on around him, and then reacts. Which is why he is unsure as to what the future holds, and usually just reacts to whatever happens.

    • At the time of this interview, Wes had an email list of over 150k people, that he had been growing for 4-5 years prior. And a Twitter with over 100k followers, and had been building it for about 11 years

    • Wes wants to learn to delegate as he struggles with losing control of things.

    • Wes didn't want to make a course, he just wanted to write blog posts of things he'd learned, and to answer people's questions.

    • In the early days, Wes just genuinely liked to spend a large chunk of his day helping people.

    • Don't use publishers, it's not usually a good deal. Just self-publish, particularly if you already have an audience.

    • When self-publishing his first book (about Sublime text), he had built an email list of about 2,000 people. And by the time he launched, about 300 people from this email list bought it. And that was his epiphany moment of "Woah, this actually works!".

    • Wes was very vocal about writing his first book for about a year, but he had many moments doubting himself.

    • Wes' biggest misconception about entrepreneurship was that "If someone else has already done it, then there's no point in doing it". Don't worry about the competition. Be unique and differentiate.

    • One of the best ways to get started is to start Teaching.

    • In this "Internet Marketing" world, a lot of people tend to just push out poor products and only focus on the marketing "Tactics", but these types of businesses don't last. Instead, create genuinely quality content.

    • Wes only picks things up that he's genuinely excited about.

    • Wes was building audiences on MySpace, he had a big following (around 20,000 "friends") and was receving checks from bands all over the world who worked with him. (All he had to do on MySpace was click the "Add Friend" button 20,000 times.

    • Wes usually posted 10 times per day on Twitter (and possibly still does).

    • When you're starting out on Twitter, most of your tweets should be replies to people in your niche. Join in on the conversation.

    • Email is a much better platform for reaching people than on Social Media, because Social Media only shows your posts to a subset of people.

    • Wes likes to take the emails that he receives from followers outlining their problems, and use their wording in the copy of his content to make it more relatable.

    • Wes balanced client work and his own projects, but over time has been focusing more on his own projects than on client work.

    • Wes put in the long hours and hard work up front, early in his career, so that he could spend more time with his family later when he started one (as he now has).

    • Teach in person (At least at first), you get to see the live reactions of those people you are teaching (which you cannot do on an online course).

    • JavaScript30 was inspired by pain-points his students were facing. Wes' built up the habit of thinking of cool JavaScript projects that his studenst could make, and adding them to a folder (he built up this list of 30-50 small JavaScript projects for a year and a half), eventually he got 30 of these small projects, polished them, recorded them and released it publicly, and it got traction.

    • In the coming months of the JavaScript30 release, Wes made sure to hype it by emailing his email list once or twice a few months before. He also tweeted about it on his twitter. And lastly, he emailed his email list when launching it.

    • Wes belives in the business model of Reciprocity, giving away at least some content for free. This also helped people who were on the fence, to become familiar with his teaching style. And people who liked his style could buy his paid products, while the people who didn't, didn't have to, and that was fine.

    • Wes is good at listening to the pain-points of his followers, customers and students.

    • Advice for an aspiring entrepreneur: Start putting content out there. Start helping people. And you'll figure the rest out along the way

  4. 1

    Really enjoyed this interview. I enjoyed it so much I broke out the 6 points about why you should start by teaching into an Indiehackers article - https://www.indiehackers.com/@joshdance/looking-to-start-a-business-6-reasons-why-you-should-begin-by-teaching-069e25d609

  5. 0

    Courtland, I understand wanting to grow your mailing list, but forcing sign-up to be able to read instead of listening is not great.

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      Understand your frustration, but producing, editing, and transcribing the podcast is a very time-consuming and expensive set of tasks, and considering it's all free, I think a signup form to read the transcripts is a fair ask. 😇