Entries from July 2010 ↓

Three Tips for Getting People to Read Your Email Newsletter

Micropreneur Academy member Ruben Gamez launched Bidsketch five months after joining the Academy, and has experienced quite a bit of success with this niche application for designers.

I’m subscribed to his mailing list, and recently received an email update about a new version of the app; the kind of email I would typically delete without thinking.

But three things about this email drew me in until I found myself reading the entire email and clicking the link contained within. So I am presenting them here as tips for getting people to read your email newsletter.


Tip #1: Use a Custom Design
I’m typically a fan of text-only newsletter email due to the challenge of getting things to display correctly in email clients. But the design of this email is branded, yet simple. It immediately caught my eye as something I wanted to at least take a peek at.

Tip #2: Use Bullets
This email is made up almost entirely of bullets. This makes it very skimmable, and if you want to find out more information you can click through to the blog. The email is also super short so it’s hard not to read the entire thing.

Tip #3: Be Funny
The writing is clever without trying too hard. It draws you in, and not only makes you want to read more, but puts a human face on the company. The company happens to be run by a human, so this is a good thing.

(Bonus) Tip #4: Personal Reply-To Email
When I replied to the email to tell Ruben what I liked about the email, the reply-to address appeared as “ruben@bidsketch.com.” Not “noreply@bidsketch.com” or “support@bidsketch.com.” Another nice way to put a human face on your company.

Book Review: Never Eat Alone

While on paternity leave this week I read seven books. I haven’t had that much spare time, but I’ve been following my “if I’m not taking notes, toss it” methodology, and wound up skimming through the better part of five of them.

Never Eat Alone

Never Eat Alone was not one of the skimmers.

The author has walked the walk – he has a network of over 5,000 people whom he has used throughout his career to achieve some pretty hefty accomplishments, including becoming the CMO of Deloitte Consulting, and CEO of YaYa Media. While his use of examples from his experience gets tiring (I did skim those parts), it’s obvious by the first chapter that he knows his stuff.

I have a list of around 20 bullet points I took away from this book, which is a solid task list for me to mull over in the coming months. The gyst of the book is to network, but to be genuine about it, to build relationships before you need them, and the biggest takeaway: try to help others without expecting anything in return.

While none of this is groundbreaking, the author’s examples help lend perspective to what he means specifically by “help people” (mostly it’s about connecting two people within  your network who can help each other).

He also provides something of a process for maintaining your network. Not trite advice like “Everyone enjoys the sound of their own name,” but things like “Make a list of all the people you know and want to know, organize them into categories, and ping those in category 1 once a month, category 2 once a quarter, etc…”

It sounds rigid, but this is the kind of process I need to put in place or else I find myself never lifting my fingers from the keyboard to have lunch with someone.

Frankly, Never Eat Alone delivered on the promise of How to Win Friends and Influence People; a book I’ve attempted to read three times and have never made it past the first chapter. It’s painfully bad.

So while Never Eat Alone is not revolutionary, it is an expert’s take on how to network in a way that allows you to keep your self-respect. I recommend it.

Lessons Learned Taking Parental Leave as a Solo Entrepreneur

My wife had our new baby 7 days ago, and I am currently on leave from work. Except I work from home so I’m not sure I can really call it “leave.” But you get the idea.

My time off consisted of 3 days completely disconnected, and then about 30 minutes each day of email and maintenance (easy to do when everyone’s asleep). Lucky for me there aren’t any tasks that I’m required to do in a given time-frame. This is the time independence I’ve talked about in the past, and the beauty of being a Micropreneur instead of a consultant. No clients busting my chops.

I’ve viewed this time off as a test of the Micropreneur approach; to see if I could really pull back from work and let things run on auto-pilot. This is helpful to do periodically, as it always exposes potential improvements I can make to my processes.

Discovery #1
I really don’t need an email notification every time I make a sale. Although it gives me a good feeling to get a “you’ve got cash!” email during my normal workday, my apps make enough individual sales that these emails really pile up.

I make a car payment to PayPal every month in commissions…that’s a lot of individual sales that I’m getting notified about, and a lot of emails I’m deleting. Waste…of…time.

Discovery #2
My income has not been impacted in the least. It’s only been a week, but if I were consulting I would be several thousand dollars down by now. A nice testament to having income tied to products instead of hours worked.

After a couple years of Micropreneurship, it’s still difficult to accept that there are enough systems in place that I’m able to make money without working…at least for a period of time.

Discovery #3
Not a single email has been do-or-die for any of my businesses. I’m confident I could completely walk away from email cold-turkey without giving notice, for two weeks. I’d just have a pile of email to sort through when I returned. I’ve also realized that I could run at this “30 minutes per day” pace for a month pretty easily. Maybe 6 weeks.

If I adjusted my current processes and outsourced a few more things (see below) I think I could pull off between one and two months at this pace (three feels like it would be pushing it). No need to do that now, but it may be something I attempt in a couple years once my kids are older and we take a (currently theoretical) trip to Europe.

Discovery #4
I’ve made the painful and extremely helpful discovery that over the past six months since I last ran this test, that I’m handling a lot of emails that I should be outsourcing to my VAs. When you only have 30 minutes a day to take care of everything on your plate, it becomes apparent right away what you should not be spending your time on.

Within 48 hours of this experiment I realized that all the “little” email support tasks I’m handling need to be outsourced. I have a VA who can handle these emails better than I can. They’ve got to go.

Rest assured they will be off my plate within two weeks.

A Micropreneur Blueprint: How to Stay Solo, Bleed Passion, and Build Products that Matter

The internet has created an unprecedented opportunity for solo technologists known as micropreneurs to conceptualize, create, and launch products that make a difference.

It wasn’t until the past decade that a designer or developer could leave the safety of a salaried position in pursuit of a career as a solo entrepreneur. At this moment in time, you can do something never before imagined: launch a software product completely on your own from anywhere in the world…with no employees and no outside funding.

That’s an excerpt from a manifesto I have in the works called A Micropreneur Blueprint: How to Stay Solo, Bleed Passion, and Build Products that Matter. But I need your help to get it published.

If you want to read the manifesto and don’t want to bother with the rest of this post, simply go here and click “Yes, please write this manifesto.” You don’t even need to register.

The idea for ChangeThis came from Seth Godin, and the site was built by a group of talented developers in 2004. From their FAQ:

ChangeThis is a new kind of media. It’s calm and thoughtful and direct and transparent. And unlike almost every other form of media, it reaches people through community. If an idea is a good one, it’ll spread, because people like you will send it to their friends. Unlike a broadcaster, we’re not using FCC frequencies to send our ideas to people who don’t want to hear them.

Each month a set of manifestos are submitted, vetted by the editorial staff, then voted on by the community. The top 6 are given the green light.

At this point my proposal has been vetted by the editors, and the community vote is on. According to the ChangeThis rules, it’s perfectly acceptable to encourage people to vote for your manifesto.

So there you have it. If you like the idea of reading a manifesto called A Micropreneur Blueprint: How to Stay Solo, Bleed Passion, and Build Products that Matter go here and click “Yes, please write this manifesto.”

You don’t even need to register.

Why You Should Build Your Startup to Sell (But Not to Flip)

Photo by mrphancy

I recently started listening to the E-mything Your Business Podcast which is essentially a nine-episode commercial for a book called Built to Sell: Turn Your Business Into One You Can Sell. But it’s not a bad commercial; it has interesting information about the factors that can substantially increase the value of a business.

This ties in with something I’ve said before:

Build your business to sell, even if you have no plans to.

This is because the factors that make a business attractive to potential acquirers are the same ones that make your business a better business to own: efficiency, automation, repeatable, documented, scalable, etc…

Notice I’m not talking about building your business “to flip.” Flipping implies building a shoddy company that maximizes short-term profit.

Instead, we’re talking about building your startup to maximize its value based on factors the market values, since these factors will make it a better company to own in the both the short- and long-term.

Continue reading →