Joel Hooks (@jhooks) never found it easy to spend his life working for other people. So when he came across an inspirational book that told him he could learn to code and build his own company, he embarked on a fateful journey to do just that. Learn how Joel helped start a sustainable business that connects programmers to educators, and how he bootstrapped it to over $3 million in annual revenue.
What's up, everyone? This is Courtland from IndieHackers.com and you're listening to the Indie Hackers podcast. On this show I talk to the founders of profitable internet businesses and I try to get a sense of what it's like to be in their shoes.
How did they get to where they are today? How do they make decisions at their companies and in their personal lives and what exactly makes their businesses tick and the goal as always is so that the rest of us can learn from their examples and go on to build our own successful businesses.
Today I am talking to the one and only Joel Hooks the co-founder of egghead.io. Joel, welcome to the Indie Hackers podcast and thanks so much for coming on.
Hey Courtland, thanks for having me.
So Egghead is a platform for people to learn how to code and become better web developers. Can you explain to us a little bit about how it works?
My joke is that we are a video blog that has a membership component, which is really just kind of like a self-deprecating way of minimizing what we actually do. We are basically like a marketing and delivery platform for content creators - specifically people that are creating screencasts for developers.
So we kind of focus on a more intermediate to advanced audience. We invite people that are doing things and kind of teaching already on the internet to come, you know, do it on egghead and make money. So we're there to facilitate people that want to educate and that are kind of already doing that on the internet.
So we give them a platform to kind of take away the unsavory bits around marketing - like asking people for money.
So on one side you've got these creators who are inviting to make courses video courses to teach people the things about coding on the other side you've got mostly software developers, web developers who want to learn how to code and they're paying you for access to these courses.
Yeah, exactly. Like we have like I really I tell people my primary customers actually the instructors that are teaching and then we are connecting them with a broader audience that's paying to view their their material.
Yeah, you're like this two-sided marketplace, which is always fun because it's almost like you're running two completely different businesses with two sets of customers and two different groups of people to make happy.
Yeah, it's a matchmaking service at the end of the day. Like if you think about it that way right like we find people that want to make materials and then connect them with the folks that want to pay to view what they are creating.
You started Egghead way back in 2013 and at that point it was just you and your co-founder John. Today you guys are up to 12 full-time employees are making over $250,000 a month in revenue and you bootstrapped your way here.
How does it feel to be in this position? You've got a company that's actually helping people and you're not beholden to any investors and you're sort of financially independent and you're the one in control.
I really like it. It's suits my personality. I would have a hard time. Like I don't want to shoot for growth, growth, growth, which is you know, like when typically when you describe a startup that's the goal - right? Like we need to grow, we got to grow, we got to grow and that isn't my goal.
I want to build a sustainable business. I want to help people. I want to like be able to hire entry-level developers and help them learn their skills over time. So our approach of not taking any money is slower, but that's that's kind of kind of the intent is to be a little bit slower and more intentional with what we're doing.
We don't take ads either so we don't advertise and we don't don't take any sort of ad. So we've kind of turned it on to hard mode a little bit but at the same time like long-term, it's nice and really suits the the pace that we like to work.
Yeah, we met a few times in person and I would describe you as a super laid back guy a lot of founders of successful businesses like yours or high-strung. They're always busy. They're always stressed out but that doesn't seem to apply to you and I guess if you ever stressed out you hide it very well. What is it that drove you to want to be a founder and want to be an entrepreneur when this is something that's stereotypically is going to involve a lot of stress and a lot of worrying about growth.
It's funny because the motivation is kind of the same motivation for not taking investment in that like having I'm like a to have a boss and I don't want to like I've had employers, you know, if the start time was 8:30 and I show up at 8:35, they're going to like give me grief over that and you know, just like this this general.
A work attitude and working for somebody else has always been hard for me. I think it's hard for a lot of people, frankly. And what are we going to do about it? I started programming computer specifically so I could like get out of that that situation. I read "Hackers and Painters" by Paul Graham and it was an inspiration to me.
He talks about things like Learn Python if you want to be different which probably would be a different language today and then software is this last frontier of wealth creation like I can just sit there with me my computer and my time and actually like make my own workspace right like my own ability to to earn and produce and do what I want to do outside of the confines of like typical like 9 to 5 employment, which has been like true.
In fact, it took like 12 years from reading the book to get to the point. I'm at now because there's a lot of in-between obviously, but you know like that premise really it was like a light bulb going off in my head and I'm like, well I can do this. I can escape my need to make a plan and you know kind of put that in motion and you know, like a decade later it to realize the fruits of that initial inspiration.
Yeah software is pretty magical. I mean once you can sit down and just create something of value at your fingertips from home. It's hard not to have the idea across your mind that hey. Maybe I shouldn't be working for somebody else. Maybe I should just build my own app my own website and sell that to other people.
Yeah, and I mean, you know code is part of it and I'm pretty good at systems. I'm a mediocre programmer. I'm not you know, like a great great programmer, but then beyond that like it's thick the like I studied economics for a couple years. I studied like business and marketing and I try to go back to school and that was so slow and I was just like well I can I can do this at home.
The stack of skills it requires to actually start a business is pretty significant. But like the barrier to entry is also very low. So it's like you can sit there and you know, like learn and study and be kind of a bookish learner on the whole thing and you know, not even necessarily do the thing, which I did for for many, many, many years or you know, kind of get out there and like what's the worst that could happen right?
I'm going to ask people for money. They'll either give it to me and they won't and you know, I can like practice kind of on the job. Which is pretty good like once I started right like once I got over the initial. Well, I don't know what to do or I have this grand idea and it's so big and I'm going to do it in like, you know, when you have these grand ideas, it makes it even harder because like success is a lot further away than if you have like a small idea that incrementally improve.
I've had a lot of founders on the podcast. You said that the more successful their businesses have gotten - the harder it's felt. That it's never ever felt easy to them. Is that true for you and egghead or have you sort of been able to rest a little easier as your business has grown?
So we've been in business for five years. I moved across the country and had a baby in the in that time period. It’s our fifth child and I look at that like I'm thinking about it right now. I was able to like move and really like turn it off like for a full year. I wasn't you know, we weren't focused on growth or focused on anything and it was it was basically stress-free and I could I can be gone for a week and I can come back and guess what and everything didn't collapse it still exists, you know, the mechanisms are in place.
We're a very generous workplace. We actually have my key values profile - if you go to to keyvalues.com, there's an egghead profile where I worked with Linda and I hired her we aren't actually hiring so she normally doesn't do that. But I was like, well, can you put together one of the profiles for me?
Because I really want to communicate with everybody and I built a workplace where everybody gets to enjoy like the same freedom to relax as I do if that makes sense. I think a lot of times, you know a founder is like I get to relax but everybody else has to work their ass off and to me I didn't want it to be that I wanted to be you know, like everybody gets the same kind of benefits of building this calm workplace and like it's true for everybody.
You know, I have people I'm going to take a month off and I'm going to do this or that or you know, I'm going to move and it's like well you can you can relax everything will still be here. And as will your job. You know, it's assuming that while we're here - we're all working towards the same goals overall. I don't feel super stressed. I put a lot of stress on my shoulders just in terms of improvement because I like to do interesting things. So I get bored and that stresses me out. But ultimately that's just, you know, like me focusing on the future or and caring stress. We don't have deadlines for instance, which is I think a big source of stress for folks is the need to like get stuff done at a certain period of time to meet very specific goals that people are like artificially putting in front of themselves.
One of the things you mentioned earlier that is very true, is that while there are lots of different skills and knowledge sets that you need to be a successful Founder - you can actually go into it knowing very little. You can sort of pick up all this knowledge and all these skills on the job but you took a different approach: you studied economics, you studied programming, you study business - and sort of taught yourself all these skills before you decided to become a founder.
Why did you take that approach? And why do you think that was necessary rather than just learning on the job?
My Twitter profile used to be annoying book guy because anybody would bring up a topic and I have a book recommendation. Right? Like I you know, you should read this book or oh here's this great book on that subject, which is only annoying probably if you live in my house, but that was where I started right? Like I like to read I'm reading books about business as and this goes way back because I read like "Rich Dad, Poor Dad", which is one of the most polarizing books on the internet, but I was it was great and I understand allegory so I'm able to read this and I'm like, oh that's that's pretty interesting.
He's talking about real estate and stuff and then like the e-myth. It was another great book and he talks about franchises like opening franchises, but that's really about systems. And I mean that's you know, like where my my core competency is systems and thinking about them, but I wanted to like understand, you know, like the economics and how people work and how people think in terms of you know, like what economics is and kind of as a study of sociology and how the world works more than like spreadsheet style economics and predictions.
Just you know, like how does it work in terms of human psyche and then more when I talk about business, I've read it, you know good handful of business books, but more like the marketing things like copywriting and you know, like all that kind of stuff that goes into like like building a business and talking to people I was reading reading.
I had these grand ideas and I was going to build this big thing and had the idea what I was going to build and it didn't really like come together for me until I met Amy Hoy who runs a class called 30x500 which is a basically a how to bootstrap a business class and at the core of it is how to find your audience and understand their pain and solve it for them for in exchange for money and I took that class for three years.
She at the time allowed you to take it repeatedly and I'm taking the class and I have my idea and she's always like your ideas are stupid. You need to like kill your darlings, stop with the ideas, find the problems and solve them and finally like I went to the conference that they had called BaconBiz.
And it just like I hadn't like an epiphany moment. It was just like a sequence of events. I'm like, no, I think I get it. I'm a developer. I understand developers. Everybody's trying to learn AngularJS right now.
Why don't I stop and like help them learn AngularJS and that was like the seed like the moment when it occurred to me that that was the business that I could build and I didn't need to have a grand idea.I could just start solving those problems directly and that's worked out pretty good.
Let's talk about this epiphany for a moment. I just got back from an Indie Hackers meet up in Atlanta and I was talking to a few people and I talk to people on the Indie Hackers forum and I feel like this concept of building with an audience in mind rather than just building sort of your pet idea and searching for a customer is pretty hard for people to understand. Can you explain it a little bit and like maybe talk about why it was hard for you to understand it and why it took three years before you had your epiphany.
I think the tendency is especially with folks that are software developers and you know, I'm not like universally describing this to software developers, but we like solutions. We like to get to the solution and solve problems and the entire time when I'm spinning my wheels on this this idea. It's a great solution and the audience didn't work.
So the idea like specifically was my wife's a professional photographer. I built this like my first app that I built was for her and I was this pretty cool like wall designer app for photographers and I was going to sell this this application to the niche market of stay-at-home mom photographers and as I'm going through it and you know, like I'm trying to do Amy's technique she calls it "Sales Safari"
Where you kind of you go and just kind of if you imagine yourself on safari, you know, you're looking at the oasis where all the animals are congregated and you have your binoculars and kind of observing and seeing what they do and how they get their food and water and that sort of thing. So I'm like in their forums trying to you know, like do this do the Sales Safari thing and so the last thing that stay-at-home mom photographers want is some dude sitting in their forums marketing to them.
Like they're used to that - they've seen this coming. They have seen the Jeep on the horizon and know exactly what's you know, what's going on and they just know they're not interested in it. It's not my people, like I don't understand them. They don't understand me.
They don't want me in their space and I was like man, this is just really hard. I don't know what to do and then you know like I'm a software developer. I understand all of the inside jokes. I understand the pain. I can relate to these people across the board in a very very direct way. And once I like was like, okay. Well I can like provide solutions for these folks right now.
So I started writing a book, but then I had a friend that was making screencasts about AngularJS on YouTube and I was like hey man, can I kind of package those and sell them? And that's John linguist who is my co-founder and that's what we did. And so I had the epiphany. I took the I went to this conference and I took a Brennan Dunn had a consultancy master class, which I took sounds like maybe I need to start a consultancy.
So from both of those I had sketchnotes - like I do sketchnotes sometimes and I took them and I put them on my blog and sold them for like $5 each. I was like, alright, I'm selling a product on the Internet. Here's my sketchnotes and I sold a few hundred dollars worth of those. It was my first product but in the same time, I'm like, I'm going to write an AngularJS book.
I want to see what John wants to do and I'm talking to John and John was like, I don't know man. I'm doing YouTube. They said they're gonna allow me to monetize pretty soon. So I might just stick with that and I'm like - I describe myself as the Terminator. I play a long game. I'm not trying to kill you. I'm trying to make you money some not exactly like the Terminator but I will like over time I'm persistent unless you give me a hard no, I'm going to like like continue to ask and continue to like knock those objections down which I guess is basically a sales process.
And I convinced him. I'm like look man. I can take those zip files from YouTube all your videos your 50 videos and put them in a zip file. When an email your donation list, which was like five or six thousand people at the time. And we'll see what happens. So I did that and it did like $6,500 that first week and it was like see dude - I told you and that that was like the seed money for our first year of egghead.
Okay. So John is making these videos teaching people AngularJS all by himself and you come in and say hey John, why don't you email the people donating and ask them to actually pay money so the video and sort of a transactional way.
Why are you so confident that people would actually pay money for these videos and also, why did John needs your advice in this push from you? Why didn't he just charge money for the videos himself without any help from you at all?
He felt bad doing it. Like I think a lot of people do right like asking people for money like is is like this hard thing like what are they going to think about me?
And so like I was able to take that away like I'm like look, you don't have to ask them. I'm going to send it to them and you know, we'll see what happens and it didn't matter right like it's this small thing that provides value to people that they've already proven that they're interested in right like they're interested in this and I think the funny thing about that was it was like two klicks away for them to get to the free thing.
These are all just free videos that John will put down the internet and I'm like look people will buy it. I know in my heart they will buy this stuff and like it blew me away that like I wasn't expecting that many people to buy it like at all. We did that and I was like look and he's like, all right - it's a go and we formed an LLC and I stood up my first rails app in like two weeks and was like, all right.
Now you can subscribe for $99 a year and we'll have pro content at some point because we had no plans on how we were going to do that at all at the time but it was minimal for me to go to do that, right? Like it's not a big idea. You know, like I said, we're a video blog right? Like I just made a rails app thats a video blog that could also take payments. At the end of the day, like people were interested and they started subscribing and giving us money monthly and we had to you know, now we have to produce videos.
So it wasn't, you know, hey, I got this grand solution or I'm building, you know a big SaaS app - it's just, you know, people need to learn any knowledge. You're good at sharing knowledge John. I'd like to do the selling part. So maybe we should collaborate and it worked out.
At the very beginning once you saw that you sold over 6500 of videos in this first week.
What was your plan for the company at that point? I mean, I know you eventually switched to a subscription model. Do you have any other big decisions that you wanted to make any vision for what this thing could turn into?
Yeah, I mean initially like my plan was the subscription model like that was like the whole thing. I was just trying to prove the point and get those people in the door and that was like immediately afterwards like we sold it. I was like see and he says goes to we do that the problem like the big hurdle after that like after we start taking subscriptions was John is one person and producing content relentlessly for people like on a weekly basis is a lot to ask of anybody.
Its lot of pressure and we've seen people, you know burn out like some people that kind of famously do the screen that casting thing have, you know experience burnout just disappeared and they stopped doing it. So like my first next step was to bring other people in, to bring other instructors in both to relieve the burden of that from John.
Then also to eliminate risk myself because if I'm going to go all in on this thing, like I can't have the linchpin of the whole operation being like I can't do this anymore - I can't produce and then, you know all the people that are giving you money or now like having to like you have to explain that to him which is a hard thing. So we started. You know, I asked a few people and I was like, hey, can you make videos for us? I promise they'll be some sort of payment involved and they trusted me.
I kind of tap my network up front and they made videos and you know our first courses and you know that that led to more people being like hey, can I make videos for you to or folks? I'd reach out to and get them to come in and make videos for us.
So now we are up to like a 140 published instructors and are bringing people in all the time and we've got a system and we're a small book at howtoegghead.com and are able to expand on that general idea and improve that process over time, even though at first it was like I didn't have a solution or a system in place, but we are to just start and just start doing the thing and that led to you know, the ability to improve it now, so we get to start working on improving it because we've already started.
Which side of this marketplace would you say over the course of your business has been the toughest to grow the course creators or bringing on programmers who want to learn?
Yeah, I mean it has to be the creators is a really is a just a big challenge to keep that flowing. We have those relationships. We have a you know a slack channel for them.
So it's like a constant ongoing thing, you know, we had to like initially it was like, oh that's not to our standards, but we didn't have anything written down. So it's like the standards were just in John and I's head. So like developing that and then, you know, like finding the voice and developing a style and setting clear expectations.
That's been a real significant challenge where if that falls into place, if we're able to like deliver consistent content the rest of it that growing the audience base has really just been kind of you know, it just it just happens. Right? Like it just follows like so if we're delivering the quality the audience is there and they enjoy it.
You know, I still work pretty hard. Like I'm like email marketing is a big big portion of what we do and then you know, like generally like how do we you know funnels and all that business which I really enjoy like thinking about but then also, you know, like balancing that with the like instructor development and the contents of it's been an interesting and you know, it goes back and forth.
Okay, so let's dive into growing and dealing with both sides of this two-sided marketplace. You said that just by having really good courses and great content that the developer side of your marketplace all the people who come to your website to learn sort of took care of itself and that's really fascinating to me.
I really want to dive into that and come back to that later. But first let's talk about the course creator side of your marketplace. What are the process look like for training these course creators and getting them to create content that was up to you and John standards and what kind of mistakes did you guys make early on in that process?
John and I we would just be like really aggressive and you know kind of - there's no there's no softening to the to the like the delivery of our critique and you know for the most part that would mean that people just kind of fade away, right?
Like they wouldn't want to put up with our BS so instead of doing that they would just would just stop or you know, it's like this idea of also like starting the man expecting like the end result immediately versus giving them like achievable goals over time. Like how do you take somebody from being a novice to being a badass which there's a book called "Badass" by Kathy Sierra that's like an inspiration and really maybe reading that was was a big part of how we changed our approach to like teaching instructors because we want to do that for everybody right?
Like the people watching our videos. We want to take them and want to make them badasses and we want to make you know, badasses out of instructors too and it's kind of an interesting chain and in the end a lot of our instructors have actually come out of our user base like they are people their fans, right like they're people that interact and they like what we do and then they'll send us kind of their demo or whatever and we've taken that and developed it and then softened our approach. Both in the writing it down like where John and I and others collaborated to to make this document and then bringing people in they can help instructors more directly and that's you know, kind of the their whole job is to be the support network for our instructor base, which was a big help to just kind of like moving John and I out of the mix because you know, like we're a little close to it.
And you know, if I personalities didn't work just right like it was. Whatever we needed documentation and to me it's like anything the same is true for code reviews for developers. Right? Like we do code reviews but code reviews can be really harsh and they can be like a bad environment that turn people away or you can have a nice set of standards that you can reference and Link people to and have discussions and ask why and guide people along and get a better process going to so kind of drawn from that experience.
And then, you know, like like just feedback from the group of instructors that we would roll through over time.
Can you explain this this concept from Kathy Sierra of turning people into badasses because I think most people looking at this from the outside and would say, okay well if you want to get people to produce good courses and all you really need to do is provide a financial incentive.
What is this about making them in a badasses and how did you get people to want to make courses for you that are high-quality when you're really in your early days and you couldn't guarantee they're going to make a whole lot of money.
Yeah, so the financial incentive is really weird like everybody has that right like all of us like we have our hierarchy of needs what we need to do to meet them and everybody, you know, like making money is great.
I found it's not a great motivator. Like I've even had like a difficult time getting people to take advances if I want them to do a course just because they don't want to do the commitment. And really like getting people to accomplish first, right? Like like if you if I pay in advance to somebody that's just putting a bunch of pressure on them and giving them deadlines and causing stress over the whole thing.
That's how the traditional publishing model works. Which isn't what we want to do like we want to like build a relationship. I want it like I want an instructor to be able to come in. They're going to go ahead and you know now we have them like make a 30-second demo that leads into a draft full-length single lesson.
We do several of those before we get into, you know talking about the course and I want them to win and understand the process and feel comfortable with the process throughout the entire thing right like so we come in and here's a really achievable thing that you can do. We're going to take you from never having recorded a screencast before to your first 30 second demo, and we're going to talk about that instead of you know, like recording a five-minute thing me like this is garbage start back over because it isn't, you know, it isn't up to snuff which was I mean like not literally but generally how we used to approach it.
So we're able to, you know, take people from you know, not knowing anything up to you know, all the way through a course development or more recently we're even like trying to help people launch like a bigger product outside of egghead because everybody wants to know like what's the next step after you've you know succeeded to the to the max on egghead.io, you know, let people want to go out and like oh and I want to do my own product, I want to have a big launch of my own and we're helping people do that too.
So we're able to like take from zero experience all the way through, you know, kind of the finish line, of somebody that's connecting directly in building their own audience versus, you know to sharing ours.
Yeah, that's great. You're sort of mentoring people and guiding them along this entire process from having no experience being a teacher. Of course your creator to you know, selling the course on egghead to going off to do their own thing.
That's exactly it. Like, it's just like a stage progression of advancement in terms of you know, how they are approaching, you know, this kind of second career/side career as a content creator and giving them, you know, like achievable steps based on you know, their motivation and interest. Like we have plenty of people that have come on and created a single course or a single lesson and then they go away right? Like we send you know, we send a thousand dollar box of professional audio gear. So like if somebody creates a lesson and that's it like a, you know, it's like disappointing like we're like, well what happened?
Why did they go away and that's but that's a learning opportunity for us to like why how do we get you to this point? And then just have you kind of disappear and no longer want to work with us. You know, you got your gear you created a lesson and then you know that that's it. Like what's next and understanding that's you know, something that we continually strive to understand because you know one we don't want to be shipping internationally, you know expensive boxes of gear that don't get used and that's disappointing but more we want to like learn how to build those relationships and learn like what the roadblocks are and why somebody would be interested in then and stopped being interested.
Let's talk about the other side of the marketplace you first got started with John making his own video courses on learning AngularJS and you took that and you emailed it to all the people who donated to them in the past and ask them to pay for it. How did you go from that presumably small list of donors to the massive number of people learning on egghead today?
So that was actually a pretty big list is I think I like 6,000 people total head like John. Oh, wow, John is really good at what he does and he's you know, probably one of the the best screencasters on the planet like he just just great at it and he was doing it for quite a long time.
So we had a pretty good list and it equaled out about to a dollar per person on the list, which is decent for a kind of a cold list - if not great for a cold list when we first did that. To me like the subscription is just the way to go. I predictable input income, you know, like like just just giving really that's what it gets down to its predictable income. So it's like how do we how do we build that up? And then, you know like at the end of the day that's more email is like the email list to me is the key to specifically like an online content business for sure.
But like I think any sort of even a software-as-a-service like the email list is kind of the the foundation/the bedrock of the entire thing is keeping that list warm and using the list and providing them value over time in exchange for them eventually, you know converting into a paying customer.
So I assume these first people that you emailed you just charge them a one-time transaction fee for access to the videos. They didn't pay the recurring fee. You decided to move to a recurring subscription model. Did you have to go find a bunch of new customers?
Here's the cool thing when somebody's paid you already, they are very likely to pay you again in the future. So we had that list. We sold them a tangible product, right? They all got their their zip file of videos. They liked it. Right? Like they have them they can archive them.
They can store them collect them print them out. You can't print out videos, but I guess you could have just be weird, but they paid us money and then you know it wasn't it wasn't even a month later. I you know sent another email. Hey, we now have a subscription site.
We don't have any videos yet outside of those first 50 that you've already paid for. But we promise we're going to have some premium content and it'll never be this cheap again. Buy for a hundred dollars for the year or $9.99 a month and you know, a bunch of people signed up and our RMR started climbing at like $1,000 a week and that lasted for quite some time - a few years actually.
We did about $1,000 a week of increased MRR. Which was like amazing. It's slowed down considerably at this point. But you know, I think it's some point you reach a plateau but like, you know, it's like well, I found dollars a week look at that grow and that allowed me to like four months in really consider quitting my job, which I did and then did workshops.
So I sold workshops because we had the list so I was able to like advertising the site and we've always had good traffic and get me booked up so I could do workshops to augment my income which I was able to quit doing that as of two years ago - right about in the time we had the baby.
That's really cool to hear. I think one of the biggest challenges for a lot of Indie Hackers is they've got a lot going on in their life. They might have a family they have a career, a full-time job and they have no idea how they're gonna juggle building something on the side with living their normal life.
With you guys you just sort of fearlessly sent emails these people and ask them to pay your monthly subscription for product that really didn't even exist yet. I mean you guys hadn't created the courses and yet people were paying you $100 bucks a year subscribe.
Yeah, I mean that trust right right like that like them sending me $100 to for a full year. Right? Like it's like that that's me pledging to you that for a year, you know for the next year. I'm going to provide you high-quality content.
We just don't know what it is yet. Like that's amazing to me that people would and that's you know, that's like I had a small audience and John had an audience and we were selling to people inside the AngularJS community that we were part of.
So they're people that knew us and trusted us right like the enough to do that and that really gets to the like the point of like choosing your audience and where's your audience coming from because like stay-at-home mom photographers were not going to ever do that for me. But this audience said that's my people that are the folks that I deal with and interact with and engage with anyway, they have that level of trust and were able to like place it in us and know that we were going to deliver.
One of the interesting things about catering to the audience that you know, is that most Indie Hackers are developers. And so the audience that they know is other developers. And so you see dozens and dozens of companies being started that end up competing with each other and trying to solve some of the same problems.
For example teaching people AngularJS and I think for a lot of founders first time founders, especially seeing all this competition, it's pretty discouraging people will actually switch and to an entirely new idea because I think their idea won't work because there's so much competition. How much has the existence of all this competition affected your decision making in your thinking if at all with egghead?
I mean it approaches 0. I'm just not worried about it. Like I don't you know, it's like people, you know, like the big site/little site right like they're the big player in this space and I just don't care like I don't don't chase when anybody's doing I'm not worried about competition. I've always just focused on making the thing that we can do as good as we can do it.
Like if I get bogged down and start worrying what everybody else is doing and then it really just takes away from what we want to do. So like from day one. I haven't. I haven't paid attention to that at all to be honest.
I wonder how much that is because and the particular industry or and was education people like to learn in different ways.
I mean I've talked about this on the podcast before but like some people like going to school and getting degrees some people want to be self motivated Learners and take online courses.
Some people want to mentor or tutor. So it's it almost doesn't matter if there's competitors because you can carve out your own niche and if people like the way that you teach and what you're doing then it doesn't matter how big your competition is.
I mean, there's just there's a lot of space to and you know, like if I'm learning something right? Like I have a new topic. I'm all hyped up for like my first stop is to get all of the five-star books on Amazon. I don't get the one you know book I get get the stack of them which my wife would verify it with my stacks around the house.
There isn't. There's not enough. It's not explained well enough and it's not explained in a way that will resonate with every individual. So people really want to you know, absorb multiple information streams and then combine them into form their own opinions, which is you know, like that's that's ultimately what education is there is no, you know, it's like when we talk about well, I'm self-taught.
We're all self-taught like education like you if you are not learning like if you are not putting in the work whether somebody's standing in front of you and class, it's recorded or it's in a book. If you're not putting in the work, not paying attention, not taking the notes, not trying not doing the projects.
Like you're never gonna learn anything regardless of where the information comes like. I hate watching coding videos. I really don't like it. I like to read a blog post and books. I like like ziens. Those are really neat. That's a trend that I've seen lately where people using cartoons and comics to to make hard concepts easy to understand and I don't really want to sit down and watch videos.
I like them more now that I'm doing it two times speed with transcript or closed captions, but it's just you're not how I enjoy learning. But other people really love it, and I think that's great. And then we can all kind of have our preferences met and that's the joy of the internet is that while we all have these preferences and we want them to be a certain way.
It doesn't have to be that way and there's probably something out there for you. So if you just make something that's good and you can meet the expectations in terms of quality and you know consistency than people will comment and watch your stuff.
And I think if you're listening to this you want to start your own company, it's you know, probably wise for you to enter an industry or a market where that's the case where there's never going to be one competitor who comes in and does it better than everybody else and suddenly your company's dead.
Yeah, I mean it's like, you know online book delivery. That's a tough market and you know competing against Amazon is going to be tough but they're still people that do it. Like here's the thing like there's like I see, you know, like pragmatic programmers and and they use Amazon but just do like these different publishing houses and stuff to do their own thing and probably do pretty well.
I think there's like space especially if you're targeting the audience and you're solving a specific pain or you're doing it in a kind of a opinionated or principled way and like, I love principal businesses, like I love it in like restaurants and you know boutique education on the internet and just just people that take a stance and do their thing and do it well and deliver on their promises something that constantly inspires me when I see other people in something that like I strive to do in terms of my own business.
Yeah, you mentioned you had a profile on Lynne Tye's website keyvalues.com and that's a super opinionated principled business and it's in a super crowded market like a ton of businesses are trying to help companies hire developers and help developers find jobs, but there's so many different ways to do it that it's another example of like an industry where you can carve out your own niche and stand out and it doesn't matter that they're a competitor.
It didn't stop in it, you know, like like with what she's doing with on anybody's doing this you like sales process and you have to you know, like learn like you have to to message it properly and you have to deliver on that the promises and the principles that you uphold that you know, all that stuff is achievable, you know, if you can't stick to it and your goal is to help people.
Honestly like that's like a driving thing for me. I think if your goal and your attention is to truly help people and help them elevate themselves in their lives, then you know, it's. It's kind of hard to fail if you succeed at that at all
So let's jump back into growing egghead. You mentioned several times that one of you know, the tricks one of the tools that you've used to your advantage is building an email list and maintaining that email us and improving it.
What are some things you've done since you first launched since you first started emailing people about your subscription model to sort of tap into your email listen to grow it and to use that as a distribution channel and find more customers.
Yeah, so we like our side is really heavily trafficked. We get a lot of organic search and we're aggressively free meaning that you know, I think somewhere around 50% of our content is actually free. So if you land on it, you know, you can just watch it. One of the biggest ways that we get new subscribers to our email list is just you know, annoying them and that's that's the thing right?
Like I don't want to annoy people like I don't want to bother them is a real hurdle. Having a business online because you have to you know, like if you don't like if you don't ask if you don't ever ask them to pay, you if you don't ever ask them for their email address and you just hope that passively they will somehow give it to you.
It's going to be really hard to like grow and build a sustainable business, to do things like provide healthcare for employees and you know, like give them paid vacations and take them yourself.
You have to ask and you have to be confident enough to put it forward and kind of demand that they comply with this this next step if they are getting value from from what it is you're delivering and that's like one of the biggest hurdles that I see from people. Even for me for the first couple of years I didn't use my email list in a way that was effectively I was like scared to email them.
I was like if I start emailing them will just unsubscribe because look at my email and they'll hate me and I was talking to Patrick McKenzie who has always been kind of a friend and mentor that helped me in both direct and indirect ways and he's like, yeah, just just email your list.
Like you have to start emailing your list and I did and then I've had you know, like I've got a great network of friends and mentors and Brennan. Dunn is helping me out a bunch and they'll be like he come in and be like he got to do this Joe and I'll be like wow, that's just too much and I can't ask them - like I can't be that aggressive and he's like look, you need to be that aggressive and you quit like like whining about like what we need to do to get this done and I do it and it had you know, like a radical impact on and it was like the enough of an impact where we could start hiring people and I could stop doing everything by myself.
You know, when I when we would just ask and start being more aggressive in terms of you know like our marketing efforts and being in people in boxes. I get a lot of hate to like I get you know, like some people just hate it and that's fine. I really try not to reply sometimes I have to because it's fun.
Like I try to engage right like if somebody's like, oh, I hate your thing. It doesn't meet my preferences instead of replying. I just block them.
Right and I think dealing with developers I think developers are obviously like one of the most sophisticated and internet-savvy audiences to deal with and we have sort of the strongest opinions about email marketing etc.
The fact that most of your customers aren't bothered by it and actually like it is pretty cool. I mean if you're building something that people like that actually helps them and it turns out they're not all that upset when you emailed them about something new that you've done. I give them a special offer etc.
You know, and and you know, like well and somebody our lovely friends the software developers, they'll put like honey pot emails in there right like spam trap emails and fake emails and really like try to subvert your thing because they're just so angry that you're asking for emails and you're just a spammer that's like, you know, or you know, we'll have a promotion and we do a Christmas promotion and I send so every workday we release of course and it's over two weeks and I sent an email every single day for two full work weeks.
And on the last day I send like five emails and I say okay this is the final one and then the next day the next morning right? It's done, there's no more sale. I sent a last chance too. You know, a portion of the list and that gets likes angry, angry people in my inbox. Like they just you said it's the last one and you're a filthy spammer and it's just like - one it's not true. right like you signed up
We had you know, we have an agreement. There's an unsubscribe button like like a legit unsubscribe button at the bottom of every single email. I send I click it for them and block them and don't even reply like it's like you weren't you know what those people are those people are never ever going to be a client all they are as a complainer.
So just ignore them and. You doing what you're doing and especially if you're approaching it from a principled way where you're legit and they're complaining about like getting 12 days like 15 free courses that they can watch. That's the complaint like well, you're just showing too much. It's like, okay.
Well one just ignore it. Right like you have like the tools at your disposal to just ignore it. But like if they're complaining about that and they're they're they're only there for the free stuff and they're even complaining about that. You can ignore them. They don't need to be there when people unsubscribe from your list it's actually a good thing that's filtering out. It's making your list higher-quality.
You want people to unsubscribe and you want to give them the real deal and not just tiptoe around them. You want them to go away if they are never going to like fall in line with what it is you're trying to deliver.
So speaking of things that are sort of hard to deal with psychologically and practically as a Founder you guys are entirely bootstrapped you mentioned earlier that bootstrapping is hard mode, you know, you're not taking money from investors so you can't grow quite as fast you guys don't do any advertising which I'm sure it could be lucrative for what you're doing with all your videos but like you've decided not to Why have you gone this route and what have you seen in terms of advantages and disadvantages?
Yeah, we had good luck with Facebook advertising in terms of profits. I have just you know, like some personal issues with with their business model. So I'm like nothing against anybody that loves Facebook or works at Facebook or anything. It just didn't isn't in line with with how I wanted to operate.
So we stopped doing that and it mostly because we can, right. Like it's not essential to us and you know, like the numbers were great. But like it was just you know, it's like it's like money versus kind of like following my. Instincts on that like at the end of the day like, you know, like we had a few things in our favor like in America, you know, our health care situation is kind of whack.
Everybody knows that everybody makes fun of us on the internet as a country over this thing, but we you know, we were able to do it with the Healthcare Act and able to get insurance and stuff for John and I and our families because he has five children too and then you know wasn't even till last year.
We were finally able to like afford to offer you know like paid like full paid health care to our employees which was like a huge milestone for us, but it took four years to get there because of the bootstrapping you know, where if you take you know seven-figure funding round and you can probably start that and like immediately right?
Like that's one of the first things you line up. So, you know, like that's been a real struggle with the bootstrapping and the ability to you know, like make sure we're taking care of our employees and doing the right thing with regards to them. But otherwise, I honestly wouldn't wouldn't have it any other way.
I've thought a few times. Well, we could go so much faster. And then I think again I'm like I couldn't handle if we're going any faster. Like I don't know what I'm doing in terms of my role as a leader and I have to figure it out.
So like slow pace allows me the space to figure it out as we go along and figure out my place and you know in terms of being a leader of this thing and what does that mean and other people are looking to me for answers and you know like that that's all new to me.
So I'm able to like slow that down and really be more considerate about how we approach them the whole thing.
I can see how on one hand moving slowly is really effective for saving you from a lot of that stress and anxiety because you're not worried about needing to grow as fast as your biggest competitor.
You're not worried about hitting all these artificial deadlines, you know, if you're doing well, you can just sort of relax and enjoy that but on the other hand, let's say things aren't going well. If you're stagnating or you're shrinking that can cause you a lot of stress and anxiety as well. Is that ever been something that you've had to worry about and if so, how do you handle that and stay true to your mission of slow steady growth?
Little bit mostly. It's like I got this really big idea I want to do which is funny if you think about like what I talked about in terms of starting the business at all right like this this idea. I want to do this big thing. And if you have the capital to do big thing, that's what you're going to do.
Right? Like I want to pursue this big goal. If there's anything that I've learned over the last five years, it's that things change and you know, a lot of times the Big Ideas are bad, you know that a lot of money in the big idea is that turned out to be bad I had to do it slowly. So thankfully I didn't you know blow millions of dollars on some bad idea.
It was just, you know tens of thousands of dollars and what's what's also interesting in terms of being a bootstrapper and like the responsibility and what that means to me is that that my decisions directly impacts my wallet, right? Like if I spend six months on a bad idea that doesn't pan out like I had to pay for that like literally took food like off of my table and money out of my bank account to make that happen.
You know, it's like you have skin in the game, right? Like it's like yelling poker for no money. You're never going to play good poker until you really have your money in the game.
So I'm learning how to grow this business and it cost me. I'm not playing with Monopoly money. I'm not playing with you know VC cash. I'm playing with my money like, you know, this is like this could be a my kids college fund instead of being spent to you know build this dumb feature idea that I had the didn't work out at all.
So like in that respect like not so much the stress aspect of it just the reality of the situation in terms of like picking what we do and thinking about the big idea has been interesting because a growth opportunity for me and then you know like as a kind of a lever in the decision-making process.
I think that's one of the reasons why more entrepreneurs should consider charging money as early as possible sort of doing what you guys did and bringing on customers before they even have a product out because once you are actually have money coming in and you got skin in the game you're going to try to make better decisions.
There's a lot of times people will spend 6 to 12 months building something for free, no business model, no customers and it's sort of trading away their time and it doesn't feel as tangible as trading away like dollars out of your own pocket.
I mean I get why people don't do like I do you know, I know people that talk to people in there like they want to get capital and they want to you know, get them big dollar so they can do the big thing and just go after it and you know, like swing for the fences and that fails and then these do the next thing right like the whole idea of a serial entrepreneur and gathering investment that way like I see the appeal and why that works for a lot of people and they would just like die of boredom if they had to do it my way like it would just like just eat at them because of the the slow. snaily turtle turtle pace that I take.
To me it's like I'm like, I'm not looking for an exit. Like I've had like endless venture capitalists and people in my inbox like hey, do you want money? Hey you looking to sell and like I'm like, no, I don't want to do that. Like I have family members that work for us and I'm like, I like the idea of a legacy business something that we can you know commonly grow over time.
I really like I look to you know the base camp 37signals Jason and DHH, I really looked at them a lot in terms of how they built their business and they're kind of attitudes toward the whole thing has been really inspiring to me and continue to be like looking at them and watching them run this business and build it and kept their employees at 50 because you know Jason's like I just can't handle more than that. That's where I'm at right now.
Maybe one day we might grow more employees than that but this is where we're at right now and then be successful with that over time, like just you know have something that they can build and craft and not worry about what the next big thing is because I'm not really excited about new things or change. I really, you know, I like to improve on what exists and grow that.
Yeah. It's like you said earlier you got into this to sort of control your own life and to be financially independent to have a job that you actually liked so it make any sense to make decisions for your business that put you in a place where you're running something that you don't enjoy running and it's super stressful and that you can't control.
I truly love the work. I kind of like, you know, it's like a big payout right? Like, you know, you get millions of dollars now, what do you do?
Find something to do.
I mean, you know like you could have worse problems for sure. But like, you know, it's like I have to work like it's like I love it. I'm driven to do it.
Like I want to wake up every day and get things done some days. I don't them some you know, some weeks I don't so I need to be able to facilitate both of those those modes and balance it out. And this is you know, like bootstrapping the business growing it slowly building a team slowly. All that stuff is really help to facilitate that in quite a significant.
So one of the cool things you mentioned earlier on this note is that as a Founder it's really easy to build a business. Well, I won't say it's easy, but like let's say you built a business that successful. It's easy to take time off yourself. It's easy to sort of live the life that you want.
But you've gone a step further than that and you've made it so that the people working for you can do the same thing. And I know that's difficult to do. I remember talking to John O'Nolan the founder of Ghost who said he felt super guilty that it if you ever take any time off as a Founder, but his employees are still working hard. How have you set up egghead to function in such a way where your employees have the same sort of freedoms that you do is the founder.
So the idea is like, you know, you get the unlimited vacation and people talk about that. So we like and I try to I try to phrase it more like a mandatory minimum vacation, you know when you say unlimited like well I could just take the whole year off and I was like wow. You know, that's not really what we're talking about.
And you know, so it's kind of a like a it's a contract with with everybody that's doing the thing. We all we all want to work hard. We all enjoy doing the work. Sometimes we can't you know, like I've had it with that slack messages. We're going to read in the park because it's sunny today and like I think that's fantastic and I want to be able to do that and I don't think you know, like I'm not, you know, I shouldn't be able to go do that and then everybody else like if they said that well, what do you mean you're going to reading the park today?
Like that's not cool. So to me, it's like an experiment with like how the the tension between you know, being loose and being able to you know, like trusting and loose in that regard versus, you know, like like a rigorous workplace. There's been experiments like the fellow that runs team Treehouse.
They had like their 32 hour work week and then they decided that wasn't working for them that they couldn't do that and they were going to be you know, he's like I work 60 hours a week anyway, and sometimes I feel like that too. Like I'm you know, like I do work a lot like an I but I like it and I work, you know constantly, but I don't want to expect that of everybody because I don't think you know, like everybody needs to be and the weekends and evenings and you know
Whatever I'm putting in it's because I want to and it's kind of my business and you know, I get compensated accordingly, but then also want to open it up to where everybody makes a good living, works a job that they like, is to do meaningful work, but then also gets to like have the space to be themselves and relax and take care of themselves, you know, mentally and physically outside of the workplace. I think you know, if more more companies could do that, that'd be great. But you know, like I don't really have to worry about them because we get to do.
You mentioned that you are the father of five kids. You mentioned on the website a few months back that you guys homeschool your kids and you mentioned earlier that you even had a baby while you're building egghead.
You moved across the country, you kind of turned it off for a year, but your business kept going how have you been able to sort of systematized things and outsource work and hire people in get it so that business can work so well with your attention divided? I mean you're doing a ton of stuff and I think it would be hard for most people to keep pushing the business forward while being in your situation.
So the home school thing is generally speaking. I think like K through 12 education particularly in the United States is a conversion sales funnel for college debt, and you know, and I don't think it's a great system and you know, like honestly, I'm just like we enjoy our kids we homeschool like they don't have a whole lot of pressure and in terms of you know education like academic education.
And so the idea is that you constantly have to be learning like that's all I really care about. Are you what are you working on in? Are you getting good at something? Doesn't matter what it is. I'll facilitate whatever it is you want to learn but you know, they all know how to read and do math and stuff.
Like we you know, we're not trying to raise like wilderness weirdos or anything. That's fine if that's what they want to be. I'm just you know, like that's not the objective. But what that means like, you know in terms of logistics, it means that my house is I worked at home for the last 10 years to so we're always here and that's been interesting right like so it's like starting a business having meetings doing these things and then, you know, like having my office in the dining room as kind of the central hub of the the house while everybody else is working and learning too.
It's been great - it definitely is like like just like. Hey, I want to make this a little bit harder. So I'm going to have you know, too many kids and we're going to keep them home and start a business.
Hey, we can move across the country to and why not have another one because we just got to the point where they could all like feed themselves and we could go to Europe together and you know, like I love it and I love the experience and also like the baby was a great decision and I don't know if like making the decision and moving across the country at the right time as necessarily what I would recommend for other people, but you know, it's just.
It's fun and interesting. And you know, like I said, I play this long game and to me it's just this this kind of long-running experiment, you know with with them as my as them as my experiment. He's and like we gave them the opportunity like we're like, hey, do you want to go school and none of them have taken us up on that at all. I think they like what they do.
Yeah, I think you're the entire way that you run your company has sort of allowed you a lot more freedom in life to take liberties and do things that would be harder if you had a normal job or harder to run a more traditional company that investors are had this, you know, sort of mandate to grow as fast as possible at all times.
I want to go back to something you said earlier, which is that kind of as a result of having to grow slowly and move slowly. You can't do all the big ideas that you have but that's okay because a lot of times your big ideas are bad. And there's this idea of product market fit where you sort of come up with an idea or product of really fits well with your market and it works and you guys sort of had that from your first week.
You know, the second you can build your list and six thousand dollars in revenue came in on one week. You knew what you're doing could work and you knew that you could charge subscription fees for it. Have you had any big idea since then that have changed your business or if you just sort of put the pedal to the metal and just take in that initial idea that initial business model and just grown it to where it is today?
Yeah, so we took the initial idea for sure. We were like over the last I don't know six months had the realization that our model. Yeah, I've always liked like a kind of compare ourselves to O'Reilly or a book publisher and we had the Alex Hellman who is Amy Hoy's business partner in 30x500 and a friend and mentor of mine.
I was like you guys are really more like a record label like your tire business is like a record label and I was like wow. That's like like totally spot-on with with how we run it like we do, you know in our which is artists and repertoire which is you know out there finding talent and we're looking for people dropping mixtapes on YouTube and we'll take those folks and we'll develop them over time and up to the point where we're going to work with them to collaborate on a you know, like a hit record that will drop and which is what we just did with with Kent C Dodds.
It's more like wow, we did this and then it's like hey, what if we, you know, just did this and we could you know have this side and we can use our API and he's our infrastructure and our payment gateways and all this different stuff that that we have set up and you know do something bigger for instructors that were motivated to do so and had their own audience and you know, we've worked with for years and you know, like the one when they if we release something like that on egghead completely like are royalty pool is like a zero-sum game and it would completely destroy it and destroy everybody's royalty.
So how do we solve that problem plus give people, you know, like take people from the paying the mortgage payment to pay in the freaking mortgage off like in one fell swoop and right that's what we have actually achieved. It's been a raging success. I'm like over the moon about the whole thing and really excited for the future.
So that's kind of the you know, like our progression and it doesn't even change egghead and what we do. In fact, it allows us to kind of like be more true to our original vision of what egghead was and serve that audience even better because we can you know, like hey, what if we stand up a site that's like this that serves, you know, this other niche are you know, it's like we really struggled with the beginner content because we don't we don't cater to that audience very much.
So, you know, where does that go? Do we wedge it and we change our whole model on Egghead or can we can we do something else? So it's you know, like things like that kind of open up for us in terms of using it as more of a the idea of a platform beyond just Egghead.io.
Yeah, there's a lot there. That's so good. I mean. One part of what you're talking about is almost like you're starting a completely different business, which means you have to a lot of ways go back to the drawing board and do customer research and make sure that like all the resources are investing into this new thing.
You're going to be well spent and then it can work out and you can't just sort of assume and take for granted that it will work in addition to that. It's also. By having this other analogy for your business by seeing yourself as a record label and sort of enables his creativity and enables you to see different models of how your business can work.
And then the last cool thing is that like this came about because of really your relationship with Alex like the mentors and people you have who are sort of helping you run your business. How do you find these mentors? How do you incorporate them into your decision-making as a founder?
I pay them.
No. Yeah, like straight up. Like I've always liked since I started as a software developer and had this idea that I want to start a business. I've you know paid people to coach me. I joined their classes I buy their books I talk to them I take their advice and actually implement it and then tell them what I've done and asked if I could do it better which is apparently pretty rare like like people that are in the advice business like having people actually listen to them and then like Implement and then iterate on their advice.
Isn't something that occurs a lot, which is I guess sad. But like I have no no problems with like like like just compensating people for their time. I don't like asking anybody to pick their brains. I ask them if we can talk for an hour and I'll pay their consulting rate. That's like how I do and I've always done that.
I've done that since you know, when I first took Amy Hoy's, Aimee and Alex is 30x500. It was $1,200 and it was like a significant like family meeting like sit down like let's talk about this because that's a big expense, but I'm going to do this and that's one of example of doing that but that's that's where most of like the mentorship that I've received in my life is me, like directly compensating them for the opportunity to you know, but for their time like for their you know that we're talking about something that's making me money.
I don't expect like free work out of anybody. I don't like free work. I don't think people should should give it I don't like spec work. I'm trying to hire designer. I hire eight designers to do the same project and pick the ones I like best and they all get paid the same not that kind of thing is important to me. Just in terms of them like a lifestyle choice.
I think a lot of people listening are probably going to want to copy you at your you're saying right now, so I want to dive in a little bit more detail.
I mean is this something that you're doing on a regular basis like every week you're emailing somebody you want to learn from and offering to pay their consulting rate. Is it just a limited set of mentors you found early on that you stuck with? What does this actually look like in practice?
So I went to microconf last year and you know, I was it was funny cuz I'm watching the talks.I'm like, man. I want to implement that but I really want to hire them which is what actually happened like coming out of it. I was like, hey, you know, we work with us on a project.
So I like to do like, you know people that already offer their services for a fee or a lot easier because you can you know, simply hey let's work on a project or they consult or whatever, you know, so I'll do like a discovering engagement.
Okay. Can we do a discovery engagement, you know, I'll pay you X dollars. You can come in you can look at the processes and see what's up and then like give suggestions about other projects that we can do together if it's a good fit. Which is where I've kind of come to these days in terms of hiring folks.
I have a why we hire Consultants at Egghead blog post that kind of goes into some details about this but I love hiring consultants and working with them and using them as both to implement like like tangible things that what it's in their sphere of influence, but then also like advancing that relationship hiring them over time.
I have several people that I pay retainers for. Like Consultants that have worked out really well to get a monthly retainer and then kind of hang out with us and we do things every month on an ongoing basis. I mean, I really love that like I love the you know the ability of the internet to like find smart people and as we've grown in our budget is increased I've been able to do it more and it's like one of the things that keep you know that I really really love is like like I can you can contact your heroes and be like, hey you want to work together?
I have this idea and would really love your help and often, you know their schedule permit if you can pay the fee and then over time. Even if you're paying somebody right like you can you can it's like a you know there. It's like an employee and you can have a relationship.
Like it's not like it's like a peer relationship at some point and sometimes it moved me on, you know, hey, we're not going to work together and pay but we're peers now. So we talk about it. We can collaborate and in other ways and discuss what we're doing with our businesses dad super cool and I haven't heard of anyone else besides you sort of operating their business and spending their budget that way but it sounds like not only useful but really fun.
Yeah, it's great and it allows us to work with people that we like literally couldn't afford. Like in terms of being like full-time employees and then also people that don't work that way but, you know, like the the best and the brightest of the folks that I really am inspired by like you need to work with them is like a such a nice benefit of the gig for me at all.
And then I can take that I also like I'm like, well this is you know, like. This is way better than like a college class. Right? Like I can pay this person, you know, however, whatever thousands of dollars to come in on a month engagement. And you know, we take notes we learn from them.
We talk to them we clarify with them and we actually Implement what they strategies that they are dictating to us. And the end result is that we learn and grow we deliver a better product and our business is healthier for it and it's worked out really well across the board.
So you've got Egghead to the point where you guys are doing a little over three million dollars a year in revenue. You're pretty much financially independent. You can run your business however, you want. What are you looking forward to in the future? What is what does that could look like five to ten years from now.
Well, I that's that's a pretty good question. I don't really know like I look at it. As you know place like I have all these children that I'd like to raise up and like offer the opportunity to work in the family business if they want to that's interesting to me.
I love the idea of continuing what we're doing and like the catalog at that point like, you know, when you're 10 years in and you have this the back catalog like the historical record of all, the things is really fascinating to me as well.
And then you know as we spin off and we think about this and all the people that we can help, you know, I see a lot lately where these kind of bootstrap funds right like whether offering to invest in bootstrap businesses for different different things.
There's been a few of them that I've noticed lately and the idea to that we can you know, we can like help people that are trying to start out and and help them like build their audience and help them get their content, you know, like their content products off the ground so that they can work on whatever, you know, like come up with new ideas and build new SaaS’s or do whatever and funded like through this way that's outside of the investment space.
They could like a new opportunity for funding it through like helping them build little content empires to fund fund their dreams and I think that's like a like a strong possibility in terms of what we can do and it's cool because that also, you know, like what we've built in the the approach that we've taken isn't limited to developers.
There's so many markets and I don't think every one of them has to like be as lucrative as software development and that like software development is lucrative. And you know like that space has so much money right now, like hopefully like, you know, I'm all for that trend continuing but there's all sorts of like artists and people they're doing like smaller things and different, you know, like.
I don't know. There's all sorts of people out there creating really cool stuff that I think people will pay for and can enrich all of us across the internet and get that kind of more sharing and really like I'm personally like I don't like school. I don't like work. I want to change both of those things and I'm just a guy with a little tiny hammer and a chisel in the corner chipping away at that rock and that's that's my general goal is to keep figuring out how I can change that for as many people as possible.
What a world were living in in 2018 where you can pass down the family bootstrapped SaaS business to your kids. One more question that I let you get out of here Joel - a lot of people listening in are software developers, are people who don't know how to code as well, would like to make their own online business and aren't quite sure where to start. What advice would you have for somebody in that situation?
I mean, I'd be like read a book and take a class. I mean, I can't express how much I enjoyed and got out of that 30x500 class I've mentioned several times. I don't think like going out there and just like doing it on your own like, you know like you there is an education component to it. The trick there, the balance is, one - to like pick the right learning materials and two - to execute and actually try them, you know, the idea of analysis paralysis or I'm going to read every single book. I gotta get all the five-star books and read them all and I'm still confused. Like that's the hard part. That's the hard part of learning anything.
It's like that's the biggest Rebel struggle that people have one is finding the time to do that and then to actually implementing and I see that like for people that are trying to learn how to be software developers or business owners or whatever. It's like you can learn the thing but actually, you know, like you can memorize the terms you can like, you know, like like read it and until you actually do the thing like it's really hard.
So you find something small that you can practice on. Release it out there. There's a book called apprenticeship patterns that I love quite a bit that has a chapter titled breakable toys and the premise is that you can build something and it doesn't matter if it fails or breaks you just you know, like building and getting out there.
And like I said, the first thing I released was literally like a 10-page scan of some notes I took at a conference. They're pretty cool actually, but like that was it that I sold it and I sold it for five bucks a pop and people bought it and my list grew and you know, it kind of opened the door for me. So, you know, like think small .Think small while thinking big I I think you can you can think in both ways and you know, like like do the next smallest thing to get to your goals and actually doing it is is really the hard part but it's the most essential part.
Yeah actually doing it pretty crucial part. Well, that's great. Advice Joel. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast and sharing your knowledge and your story with us. Can you let listeners know where they can go to learn more about Egghead and about what you're up to in your personal life as well if you share that stuff online.
Yeah, we record a podcast we like a lot. It's all Egghead dot IO is where all that stuff lives forward slash podcast if you like to listen to developers, and I like to like talk about business with them and people that are doing interesting things in that regard. So I like that quite a bit and then joelhooks.com, which is a infrequently blog, but there's some gems on there too if you're interested in that sort of thing.
Alright, Joel. Thanks so much.
Nice to talk to you Courtland.
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