Barn raising for products!

FwdMarket prelaunch preview

Here’s a few things I’ve learned since we released ArkAdmin six months ago.

For most of the authors it took a long time to deliver a product that everyone loved and was full of great features. This means that like in anything you do in life, building digital products takes practice and persistence until you can truly bring value to your potential customers.

You also need to be a good designer with a lot of ideas in order to make it. Having mostly hacked my way through a lot of code did not vote well for me unless I was able to attract a few designers that could create the layouts and then turn them into a fully functional theme or web application, depending on the case.

Another thing I noticed is that it’s far better to have a team of people behind your product. It can get very time consuming to keep maintaining and improving your current products while also creating new ones on the side. Especially if you have to do both the design and the implementation.

Once you have your end product designed and implemented you need to be able to show that you’re in this for the long hall and you have to have a great way to present your product. Most authors have their own presentation websites, aside from their theme pages on the marketplace.

Documentation is also important, as well as being able to show your potential customers what features you will be releasing next for the item they buy and to show that any bugs they report are scheduled to be fixed in future releases.

Unfortunately the current marketplaces don’t offer you many options to help you succeed on your own.

For me implementing a cool new feature or a complex application is something that I am good at. Design on the other hand is something that I didn’t think I would ever do. That’s why a few months ago we started to look for designers with who we could collaborate and share everything in half.

This is where the idea for FwdMarket came from. It’s a platform for managing products and interacting with the community in order to build and sell your design, theme, app, library or anything else you can zip and upload online.

We’re planing to introduce new ways of building products online and connect with the community around you.

Its focus is on nurturing lasting relations and getting things done without the stress of paying anything upfront. You just give a percentage of your revenue to your partner(s) every time you make a sale.

We’re currently working hard on building the platform  and getting feedback from the community so to that regard we set up a prelaunch page where you can sign up for early access.

Join us on our journey and let’s make things better.

Selling on WrapBootstrap: The good and the bad

A few months ago I designed and developed a bootstrap admin theme called ArkAdmin and started selling it on WrapBootstrap.

WrapBootstrap was my first choice because I bought a few themes from there before and had a good experience with the website and how easy it was to find what I was looking for. I also chose them because they were offering a bonus for posting a theme  in the admin category of $150.

The commission for an exclusive item was about the same as on themeforest so there was no point in debating which was better since I did not have any experience in selling any kind of product before (on or off these marketplaces).

It took about one week to have the item approved and available in the marketplace. For a first theme it sold good enough to be able to maintain the theme and not consider the time invested in creating it a waste. Also having been through both processes of WrapBootstrap, as a buyer and as a seller I managed to get more familiar with what are the good and bad things of the platform.

What is good about WrapBootstrap:

  • One of the good things about it is how easy it is to find a theme that you like, well designed and is suitable for your project. There are also great designers or developers that have created some very amazing bootstrap themes.
  • Has a decent number of visitors and buyers. I usually get over 5000 unique visitors per month on the demo page of my theme and they can easily identify my theme when they want to come back.
  • The commission they offer for sellers grows for an exclusive item from 55% to 75% based on the number of sales that you make.
  • They provided the promised bonus of $150 after one month after approving the theme.

The bad things about it:

  • It takes a long time for the owner(James) to approve any update you make to your theme. I am currently waiting to have my last version of the theme approved for three weeks now. A friend of mine also wanted to add his theme to the website but he waited for over four weeks and even though he contacted James multiple times over the email he got no answer back. He decided to move it to theme forest in the end.
  • They have no way to promote your theme within the marketplace. No matter how good your theme is the number of themes displayed on the homepage is limited. If you don’t have customers for a few days your theme can drop two or three pages and your visitor count will drop considerably.
  • There is a one way communication with your customers and that makes getting feedback for your work very hard. You have no idea who bought your theme unless they contact you first and ask for something. You know only the license key for the new purchase, without knowing which user bought the theme.
  • Everything is up to you to make your theme more attractive to your potential buyers. Given the lack of features the 65% they get out of each sale for a non exclusive item or 45% for an exclusive one seems to me way over the top.

I think that most of these problems can be easily solved with a bit more focus on customer support and on the people that actually made WrapBootstrap what it is today. There are multiple websites similar to what they are offering, but none as successful. It would be a shame if the designers and developers would move away because of lack of proper support like many other mismanaged services out there.

Selling a product online can be hard enough even without the extra hassle and limitations of the marketplace. Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into before you go with one service or another.

If you have any suggestions on how to bring more value to the platform or you would like to share your own experience, I would love to hear from you.

The battle of two wills

Getting out of the outsourcing business is hard. Even more so if you are not doing it alone and you have people depending on that type of business.

Paul and I started our small company in the second year of college. Back then we were doing a lot of freelancing to have a bit of extra income and we thought that we could gather a few colleagues and make a business out of it.

Said and done. We started with a couple of friends and we grew to a team of 10 people(in-house and remote) in a few years, learning and perfecting our craft over the years. The first few years were very hard, trying to gather new clients and keep them for longer periods of time, but in the end we managed to have a nice list of recurring or long term clients.

Due to the nature of our business model and the expansion of our team we each focused on a different area of the business. Paul had to talk to the clients and manage what everyone was working on and I was working on their applications and providing technical support to the rest of the team. Sufficient to say that our experience grew in different directions.

Last year also provided us with an opportunity to work together on a bigger project that we pushed into production and is about to be used by major companies around the world.

Going in a new direction this year is not without its challenges. On one side our outsourcing business has been good and we want to continue doing it as best as we can and keep most of our clients. On the other, we see how the old business models are changing and selling time for money will just not cut it if we want to expand further and remain agile.

As a side note, most big companies in Cluj follow the first model because they have a large supply of developers and their main promoters are in other countries where the hourly price is double than it is in Romania.  Therefore they win for each individual developer and also multiply that with how many developers they have. If you have over 300 developers, outsourcing is a very profitable business.

That being said we also see them trying to go in a different direction, oriented towards collaboration with other local companies in an attempt to expand their core business model and find partners for building products or services.

Back to our point, the business manager in Paul is probably screaming inside that we have a team of developers that needs to be paid every month, bills to pay to keep everything going and a lot of taxes to top it all off and that going into building something that you can’t estimate how much income will provide is just crazy. Luckily for me he is doing a great job keeping that side of his inner voice suppressed for now and I can divert most of my time to following up on our goals for this year.

Moving from getting paid by the hour to having a steady passive income by selling products is not something you do from one day to another. You will have less time than you would like to focus on it and also have to make sure that all your team is taken care of if you work on something without an immediate payout.

Think of a way to create a product that you can complete very fast (in a matter of days or 1-2 weeks tops).  Start selling it online whenever you have an MVP and don’t wait for it to contain all the features you can possibly think of. That way you have something that can bring you the smallest amount of income by using the new business model and you can also create demand for new features and you can better connect with your potential customers.

Once you complete this first step repeat it a few times until you have a steady monthly income. Focus most of your time on building an improving your products and the rest on responding to requests and building your communication with the customer.

Only then try to build something that is more time consuming and requires more intense focus.

Building a successful passive income is about finding your best way to go from $0/week to $100/week and improving it daily instead of going from $0 to $10000 in one month.

You can certainly get there with passive income in a few months, but that should be something that happens progressively instead of one big bang.

Please let me know how things worked out for you and share your two cents on reshaping your business.