AMAs September 20, 2019

I'm Jordan O'Connor. I'm a husband, father, writer, developer, polymath and founder of Closet Tools. AMA!

Jordan O'Connor @jdnoc

Hey, IndieHackers!

I'm Jordan O'Connor. I'm a husband, father, writer, developer, and aspiring polymath.

In the last year and a half, I've taken Closet Tools from $0 to $12k+ MRR and 400+ customers as a solo founder, while being employed full-time, and while being married and having two children. My wife was my first customer!

The main driver behind Closet Tools' growth has been SEO.

I graduated college as an electrical engineer, and have been working for a large corporation for the last 6 years. College put me over $100k in debt, and my wife brought along another $40k when we were married.

Radical debt elimination was my motivation to create Closet Tools.

When my first child was born, I had a drive to get out of the hole we had dug for ourselves. So, three years ago I started learning web and product development, SEO, writing for the internet, and all things IndieHacker.

I'll be here on September 27, at 1 PM Eastern Time to answer your questions.

Ask me anything!

  1. 2

    Hey Jordan,

    Thanks for offering to answer our questions!

    I work full time at a small SaaS company running customer success and growth. So I know how distracting tickets can be if you try to answer them quickly. The constant context changes can be interruptive.

    So my question is about whether you personally handle support tickets on Drift or if you hired someone to take over that aspect. If you have a hired hand, are they helping with other tasks at the company in tandem? If you have not hired someone, is it something you would consider for the future?

    1. 2

      Hey! Great question.

      I might have some different views on support than most. I don't see it as just a 'task to be done', it's a core way to communicate with your customers.

      Over 3000 people have tried the Closet Assistant, and I have 500 active customers. In the last month I've had 62 conversations, and I've had a total of 658 conversations since I launched the product.

      Each one of those conversations helps me develop the product better. If I get the same question a lot, that means either my documentation isn't clear, people don't know about my documentation, or my product isn't intuitive enough for people to understand.

      Not only that, but it's sales too. If I can jump on a chat and convince someone to check it out, with my free-trial conversion rates I've got a 50% chance of turning them into a paid customer.

      So, to answer your question, nope! I don't have anyone help me with support. It's just me.

      I would argue the only time I would hire someone to do that for me is if it was too big of a distraction that I couldn't get work done. As of right now, I can get all the work done that I want to, so I'm feeling pretty good about it.

      I feel like the product could easily double in traffic and I'd be okay. But also, as more conversations come in, I'm writing more documentation and adjusting the product to make it so I don't have more conversations in the future. I'm automating the process.

      1. 1

        Nice, it sounds like Closet Tools is stable and you're not bogged down by support tickets. I can understand how, with your current active customer count, it would be reasonable to manage tickets and continue development in tandem.

  2. 2

    Hi Jordan. Couple of SEO questions.

    1. What's your organic traffic each month?
    2. Do you focus on getting backlinks or just producing content?
    3. Is it blogs / homepage with drives the organic traffic?
    1. 3
      1. Organic traffic: https://unindie.com/open
      2. Just producing great content. I really haven't done very much. There's 2-3 blog posts that drive most of the organic traffic. Something I'll be ramping up soon.
      3. Definitely the blog posts, though my homepage ranks for brand keywords and generic keywords like "Poshmark automation".
      1. 1

        Cheers Jordan! Never knew you had an open page :)

  3. 2

    I understand you attribute some of the success to choosing the right market and recommend building add-ons for growing markets.

    Say you have two different markets:

    • Market A is B2C, currently has hundreds of thousands of potential customers in it and will grow fairly quickly in the next few years thanks to some marketing by fairly well-backed startups
    • Market B is B2B, has only a few hundred potential customers and is growing slowly but has plenty of room to grow in the coming decades

    Assuming your passion for either market is the same, how would you go about identifying and validating which market is worth going after?

    Thanks for doing this Jordan as well as all your past advice!

    1. 2

      Hey! I think this is a great question.

      I think it depends on what you want to build, the types of people you want to interact with, and how you want to grow your product.

      In a B2C market, you're going to be building something that is used by an average consumer, not necessarily a business person or a digital native, so your product has to be simple, polished, and performant.

      The support and conversations with customers in a B2C market are different as well, as you'll be dealing with all ranges of people.

      Also, you'll need to focus on more public facing marketing methods. You can do sales, but you'll need marketing as well. The sheer number of people you'll need to use your product is much higher because the cost would be lower, so you might have to work harder to get them all.

      In a B2B market, things are a little different.

      You still need to build something that's solid, but it can solve a very specific pain point of a business, and that's pretty valuable. Rather than catering to the masses, you can make something that's more niched down.

      Your support will need to be more streamlined and professional, instead of just 'conversations' it'll be tickets and support requests from businesses.

      In the marketing department, you can do some public facing marketing but you'll find the biggest bang for your buck in sales.

      So, at the end of the day it's all about the product or service you want to build. What's going to be the one that gets you out of bed excited to work every day?

    2. 2

      It sounds like you're leaning towards Market A but don't trust it enough. I, coming from a non-entrepreneur background but reading a lot, would learn towards B2B because you'd probably need less customers to get the same in profit as B2C. I also like the fact that it isn't a single person's money that you're asking for, its the company's which feels easier.

  4. 2

    Hey Jordan, Congrats on scaling Closet Tools to 12K+ mrr!

    Two questions for you.

    1. What is your support load like with 400+ customers?

    2. Did you have an SEO strategy and if so what did it look like?

    Thanks!

    1. 1
      1. It's not too bad. I had 62 conversations with customers in the last month (through Drift) and some emails.

      I do everything I can to make my product more intuitive and document things that people ask the most so I don't have to repeat myself a lot.

      The only thing I want to repeat a lot is "check out the documentation"!

      1. I think strategy is the wrong word, but I did some keyword research, wrote some great content, and now I rank in Google for some pretty good keywords that directly result in customers. It's no different than what anyone else would have done with SEO. It just takes time, effort, and patience.
  5. 2

    What is the list of ideas that you tried? How did you know when to focus on one idea?

    1. 2

      Closet Tools was actually my first app idea. Pretty crazy that some people try to make products several times before nailing one.

      I knew it would be successful because of lots of validation.

      To make the story short, I made the original product for my wife and published it for free on my blog. I started getting emails as the months went by from people interested in using it. They were surprised it was free.

      About a year later, I fixed it up and published it on the Poshmark subreddit. I got 200 beta testers that gave me feedback about features they'd like to see in the actual product. I spent a month building the product, and launched it. I started at $300 MRR in the first month and never looked back.

      I definitely recommend building things in public to help people. You don't have to sell everything you do, but if you make something small and give it away for free, you can test the demand. If you find there's demand for something more powerful, then you can keep building and sell the more capable product.

      I think it's really hard to focus on multiple ideas, so I would recommend trying one thing for a few months to test if there's anything there. That's plenty of time to get validation from communities where your customers hang out.

  6. 1

    Hi Jordan! As I already told you a couple of days ago over Twitter, I think Closet Tools is an amazing example of a successful niche project.

    You did everything right: found an obscure niche with high potential/low competition, developed a great product and find a way to drive qualified traffic to your website.

    I would like to give you a suggestion. Probably the vast majority of your visitors land on your website through your blog posts and I can imagine that only a small fraction of them end up installing your extension.

    What about all the others? Once they've read one of your articles, don't let them go away! Start collecting their emails with a well timed popup. Send them weekly tips and tricks. After a while, once they know you and trust you, remember them about your product with an offer!

    1. 1

      Hey! Thanks again. You're totally right.

      There's definitely going to be a focus on content and audience building in the coming months. Until now, I've been working full-time as an engineer and Closet Tools has been a side project. I've mostly focused on word-of-mouth and product improvements.

      I'm quitting my job in November to focus on the product for at least a year or so. I'll be ramping up everything then.

      Now that the product is getting closer to feature-complete, it's all about marketing and sales.

      It's on my list! Thanks for the reminder.

      1. 1

        Oh wow, that's a big step! Good luck then! 😀

  7. 1
    1. Where would you direct an absolute beginner to get started with SEO?

    2. How did you balance full time job, family, etc. with starting Closet Tools before you knew it could generate significant revenue?

    1. 1
      1. There's a lot of advice out there - but SEO is pretty simple.
      • Do intent based keyword research.
      • Write great content (or produce the content that's best for that keyword).
      • Promote your content and build a list.
      • Keep building your content engine consistently.

      I really like this story about building traffic to an e-commerce blog: https://www.growthmachine.com/blog/seo-case-study

      I would totally read and practice everything that Brian Dean from Backlinko talks about.

      The Ahrefs blog is really good too for SEO tips.

      1. I was very confident it was going to generate significant revenue because I had done lots of validation, but the best way to balance a side project is through consistency and discipline.

      I wake up early every morning to put in 2-3 hours on the business. I did this for a year and a half straight while also working a full-time job. Working in the mornings is best because you're not taking away precious time that could be spent with the wife and kids.

      I also had to cut a lot out of my life. We don't have a TV in our house. I've unproductive people from my life. I have all notifications disabled on my phone when I work.

      When you can put in 2-3 hours of deep work into a project that generates income for your family, you can do just about anything in life.

      That being said, I don't really plan on changing that, even when I quit my full-time job this Thanksgiving. I can't really productively do more than 4 hours of deep work everyday, so that's about all I'll do.

      So basically, become a productivity machine and you can find time to do anything you set your mind to do!

  8. 1

    How long it took you to gather first 100 installs / users?
    Do you measure ratio of installs / active users somehow?
    Do you have any clever idea how to build sort of a funnel between you landing page and a chrome store, to track which sort of traffic is best? I have this problem I'mtracking which traffic generates more to Landing Page but as chrome store is different page, Google Analytics cannot distinguish original source of traffic there
    Any growth tricks you want to share that are very specific for browser extension?

    1. 1

      Looks like it took me 10 months to get to 100 paying customers - https://unindie.com/open/.

      I don't pay too close of attention to it. Right now it's about a 2 to 1 ratio. 450 paying customers and 900 current installs.

      I don't have any clever funnels, though it's something I keep telling myself to work on. I would say make sure you have an install button on all of the pages you have on your site (blog, homepage, etc.) You can at least see the path of the page that sent traffic to your chrome extension.

      The only thing you can do is ask your current customers how they found out about you when you're onboarding them.

      I don't have any tricks, I just try to play it straight. I'm currently looking to see how I can get more reviews, and how I can add a viral piece to the tool (without being spammy).

  9. 1

    Hi Jordan! Very cool - that's really inspiring. How did you identify your early customers? Did you launch with this same concept, or something different? Any tips for iterating towards product-market-fit?

    1. 1

      I talked about my early stuff above, and I talk about it at-length on my blog: https://unindie.com/something-from-nothing/ and https://unindie.com/up-and-to-the-right/

      The core product has roughly been the same from the beginning! I've been adding features regularly but the design and experience has been the same.

      I would say you need to make things that solve problems that people care about. People care about their time, their money, etc. If you can find a way to save people time, or make them extra money, you'll have made something that sells well.

      This generally comes from having a product that's simple, intuitive, and solves the problem with little hassle.

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