October 6, 2019

Self-Funding: An Update on Blurt

Corey Gwin @coreygwin

Wrote an update from my adventures self-funding Blurt.app. 🤠

It feels a bit like a house I can't afford.

"Cool metaphor Corey, but what do you mean?"

Let me explain.

https://coreygwin.com/home

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    Hey, Corey!

    I'm a "writer writer" so I thought I'd share my thoughts:

    • I don't think that finding a new text editor is a pressing problem for writers since Google Docs does the job well enough and is free.

    • Those who do want a text editor other than Google Docs might be wary of the the whole monthly subscription thing.

    • I suspect that text editors are better packaged as desktop applications with a one-off payment (e.g. iA Writer).

    • Last month, I was actually looking for a text editor, but I wanted a desktop application that would have a distraction-free mode. Almost settled on iA Writer but they didn't have a white page + black text option. This was for personal writing that I wanted to keep on my computer.

    • I came across Blurt, but the features didn't seem worth $15/month, plus I didn't want my personal writing on someone else's computer.

    • I don't want to discourage you since you have gained some traction with Blurt, but let's keep it real, "writer writers" are broke, it seems to me that getting them to pay $15/month for a writing app will be an uphill battle.

    • If I were you, I'd research what the "writer writer" pain points are, then turn Blurt into a desktop application with a one-off payment. Not everything has to be a SaaS app.

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      Wow! Super appreciative of all your feedback, @agota. 🙏

      Chatting with writer writers is my next step so helpful to hear from one already. :)

      ---

      Some quick thoughts on your feedback — not to convince you but so yourself and other IHers might help me with my thinking… :)

      New Editors

      It's really interesting to learn that you were seeking out a new editor! Particularly for the distraction-free and local storage value. As a fellow writer, also totally get the desire for a dedicated desktop app — that's mostly what makes it even more distraction-free.

      But I think the desire for a new editor is symptomatic of an underlying problem most of us writers experience that Blurt is trying to address. We seek out new editors because previous editors have failed to help us achieve our aims. That being, quite simply, to stick with writing.

      In a number of chats I've had with Blurters (can I call them that?), they revealed they'd started Blurt to help them gear up for a new writing efforts — "Develop a writing habit," "Start writing for my blog," "Get a book finally written," "Journal regularly to clear my mind." Writing more or consistently is something they all aspire to do but haven't managed to do.

      We hope a new editor will be the key to help us finally get it done — some new feature helps us unlock some new ability — but in truth, the solution is instead instituting consistency, discovering what you have to say that makes writing worth the effort, eliminating expectations, preventing self-editing, getting the imperfect words on the page, publishing publically regardless.

      So, I'm doing a terrible job on the landing page explaining how Blurt aims to alleviate the writing process problems and creates value by helping you actually write. Part of it is a bit of education — which is part of the problem — people may not know they need this. But, worth experimenting better framing all this on the landing page. As I mention in the post, right now the landing page is just all features and not explaining how Blurt provides hope in the painful writing process.

      New headline? "Crank out words. Not excuses." Something like that. :)

      Google Docs et al.

      Totally agree, Google Docs is stellar, particularly for collaboration. A few people have mentioned to me that Apple Notes is their editor of choice. 😅 If you have to write, you'll find a place to write.

      And there really are so many fantastic editors out there. I'm a huge fan and regular user of Notion for note-taking. I really dig iA Writer too.

      All that said, I didn't necessarily intend for Blurt to compete as an "editor" but the editor has been a means to an end. "Blurt isn't just a place to write, it's a place to help you write."

      So, my hope is that Blurt's ability to help you actually write supersedes any other standard feature you'd find in another writing app. If it's helping you actually get words on a page, do you really care if you can bold a word? If you don't have anything down, you have nothing to work with.

      In this way, Blurt does things other writing apps don't like:

      • Helping you improve your writing by reminding you to write regularly
      • Developing the writing habit through word count goals
      • Blurring your writing to help prevent self-editing
      • Session timers to help force you to get your thoughts down
      • A Smart Edit feature that helps you clean up your writing once you've got all those words down
      • Export functionality to let you take your writing wherever you need it to go

      Problem is, all these features are just laid out on the landing page without any explanation of the value, together, they ultimately provide. I intend to fix that and will then see if the benefit is convincing enough.

      The design and distraction-free interface are just givens and "expected"s for a writing app. It's a bit of a bummer because they take effort to implement, but I do think they are necessary (as you've indicated) given the importance to writers.

      I've also contemplated turning it into a browser extension or, better yet, a background desktop app that allows writers to use any app on their computer and still get the same benefits of Blurt — but that has developmental limitations (and complications), particularly once you move to mobile (and is a bit out of my wheelhouse from a technical standpoint).

      $15/mo or Bust

      To your point about the price — totally agree, $15/mo is pretty steep for consumer products.

      Part of the rationale behind putting the $15/mo price point is:

      (a) Find out if it is a problem writers are worth throwing $15/mo at to resolve.
      (b) If not, figure what would make it worth paying $15/mo for.

      As I've discussed on Twitter, my aim as a self-funded founder is to find a middle ground between price and number of customers. $15/mo is a good target. (I also need to get a discounted annual subscription out — party foul!)

      A product with a one-time fee—while viable—I fear doesn't have the economics I need as a self-funded business. Ideally, I build a product worth and happily paid for with an annual subscription.

      So all that said, I'll likely consider targeting Blurt for "prosumer" writer writers and fulfill some sort of business or professional need that warrants the price tag.

      ---

      Long-winded, but there ya have it. :)

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        From my perspective, there seems to be a disconnect between the audience you want to target and the problem that you are trying to solve.

        On the one hand, you seem to be focused on helping people write consistently.

        On the other hand, you want to target "writer writers", by which I assume you mean professional writers, as in they get paid to write.

        But is writing consistently really a serious problem for professional writers?

        I mean, if they pay their bills with writing, surely they already have that figured out?

        What I personally would be more interested in is an app that would help me increase my writing speed without losing the quality, since writing speed (not to be confused with typing speed!) is one of the key limiting factors when it comes to increasing one's income as a writer.

        Maybe it would be helpful to think about this in terms of a target audience that you are presumably more familiar with:

        Do full-time web developers really need help with developing a coding habit? Or would they be more interested in something that would help them increase their output without sacrificing the quality?

        Of course, I only speak for myself, but my guess is that "writer writers" would be willing to pay for an app that is proven to increase writing speed.

        That being said, I also think that they could use some "writing habit" style help when it comes to personal projects, since in my experience writing for clients is much easier than writing for myself (no external accountability with the latter).

        It's similar to how full-time web developer have no problem coding at their 9-5 jobs but struggle to build side projects despite having all the relevant skills.

        I'm not sure if writers would be willing to pay for a product focused on personal projects, though.

        P.S. I thought my initial reply did not get posted, so I wrote this up again, only to realize that I posted two replies. Sorry about that! :D

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          Super appreciative of all this feedback, @agota!

          Really is funny (and sad) how we can be more productive on client projects than our own efforts. 😅

          A lot to digest and figure out here. The worst part of all this (but a good problem to have) is that Blurt continues to have signups. Churn is high, but people are clearly interested in signing up for what they believe it offers. I just need to gain the right feedback from customers to understand what's missing or better position Blurt to meet expectations.

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        This comment was deleted 6 months ago.

  2. 2

    I may go against the grain here, but IMO all you need to do is (1) increase marketing and drive more traffic to the site and (2) slowly improve the product by talking to and building relationships with your customers.

    Do that long enough and Blurt will be very successful IMO.

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      Big thanks, Pat.

      Totally agree, I need to figure out how to drive more traffic.

      Taken me some time to wrap my own head around how to better position Blurt and for the right audience. We'll see!

  3. 2

    Well done @coreygwin. Keep pushing!

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      Thanks, @johnkueh! 🚀

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    This comment was deleted 6 months ago.

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      Hey @webapppro!

      I appreciate having you and your support along for the ride! 😅

      Yes! All existing subscribers stayed at the original $4.99/mo plan. The $14.99/mo plan, as described in another comment here, is more an experiment to see how much this resolving this problem is worth to writers.

      Also, as a solo self-funded founder, I think the sweet spot is a $15/mo product, so if it's not selling at $15/mo, I'll need to figure out what makes it so.

      So far, it's certainly helped with churn, but overall signups have definitely decreased. It's yet to be seen if this will have a positive or negative impact. It is nice knowing one subscriber is worth three previous ones but is quite painful when they churn. 😅