Chapters & Episode Notes
0:00 – Intro
2:35 – Mastering Growth Hacking: Strategies for Solopreneurs
4:35 – Unlocking Growth Hacking Potential: Experimentation and Continuous Learning for Sustainable Success
08:56 – Unleashing the Power of Landing Pages: Passion, Purpose, and a Hundred Days of Tips
13:15 – From Course to eBook: The Unexpected Pivot and Phenomenal Pre-Sale Success
18:32 – Cracking the Code of Twitter Marketing: Growing Your Audience and Leveraging Niche Conversations
22:12 – Marketing Secrets for Rob Hope’s eBook Success: Analytics, Insights, and Strategies Unveiled!
28:16 – Lessons from Hot Tips Launch: Reflections on Strategy and Content Distribution
31:45 – Revealing Unexpected Growth Hacks: Twitter Bio, Parity Pricing and Community Engagement
35:19 – Taking the Leap: Valuable Advice for Transitioning from Freelance to Full-Time Side Projects
43:03 – Finding Success in Side Projects: How Crucial is Passion and Long-Term Commitment?
46:15 – Overrated OR Underrated
50:14 – Scaling Love Curated: Building Revenue, Expanding Content, and Growing the Team
53:03 – Hiring for Business Growth: Specialists vs. Generalists – Which Path to Choose?
56:52 – Finding Balance: The Power of Pursuing Passions Beyond Business
1:00:25 – Landing Page Optimization Advice for Higher Conversions | Simplicity, Curated Content, and Visual Demos
1:05:51 – Outro
Rob: I’ll pay you, like I pay you now. Like, how’s that validation? And I, and the answer is, is no. It’s just no. Like, no, you cannot pay me. I’m gonna release a course and I need to focus. Like, that was it. But then what happened? They’re carried on asking me. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, are we really gonna do an ebook now?’
Patrick: Hello everyone and welcome to the plugin.fm podcast, which is powered by Freemius. In this podcast, I sit down with a different inspiring guest every week and we talk about their experience in entrepreneurship and life. We’re going to go deep into their strategies, practices, and the bad tricks they’ve developed to succeed. My name is Patrick Rauland, and today I’ll be talking with maker and optimist Rob Hope from the Mother City aka Cape Town, South Africa. He’s both a web designer and developer, and in his free time, he’s an enthusiastic bird watcher, surfer, and trail runner. He’s also a solopreneur who has used some pretty creative growth hacks to scale his business, Love Curated, which celebrates simple, elegant design. While growth hacking is the meat of today’s conversation, a person is more than their business. As a twitcher, he loves birds. As a punk rocker, he loves bands. And as a South African, he loves his country’s national drink, beer. I’ve also heard from some well-placed sources that he used to have quite the nightlife, touring with his band across South Africa. All this makes you wonder where he finds the time to grow his various projects, and there are a few. As a fan of slick, minimalist design, Rob created One Page Love, which is all about one-page websites. This side hustle is now his full-time job, and we’ll get into that in today’s show. I’ve already mentioned Love Curated. He also runs the Yo Podcast, which spotlights talented designers and developers, and finally, the Hot Tips landing page ebook, which really showcases the growth hacking tricks he has up his sleeve. Rob, welcome to the show.
Rob: Wow, that was a mouthful. Thank you for having me, Patrick. I just want to say a big shout out to Vova. I’m a big fan of him and what he’s doing with Freemius, and it’s an honor to be on your guys’ podcast.
Patrick: Awesome, thank you, Rob. Let’s start with growth hacking. So growth hacking is a pretty broad topic, and on one hand, you have enterprise-level growth hacking where businesses have whole teams dedicated to scaling super fast. You know, there’s usually some sort of special development team, and they have a product manager, project manager, designer, they have everything they need to scale incredibly fast. They also have large budgets for ads if they need them. And on the other end of the spectrum, we have solopreneurs who have to promote and grow with very limited resources and costs. So as a solopreneur, I’m guessing that you developed some sort of combination of creative tricks. What about growth hacking interests and drives you? How did you get into it?
Rob: Growth hacking for me is neat, it’s needed if you want a successful product for sure, and it is a bit of a Dark Art. You can’t just ignore growth hacking. But what draws me to it is that it’s actually quite difficult, and you have to be creative. You have to think of ideas that other people aren’t really doing. Being a solo guy, I like the idea of building once and selling twice. This is putting effort in place and then reaping the rewards often passively. So I like to think up ways of how we can get creative with the projects we have. A huge one, which we’ll talk about later in the podcast, is distribution. The idea is only so good. Often an experienced maker or developer will say, ‘Okay, that’s a cool idea, but what’s the distribution plan?’ And this is where growth hacking comes in. In my old project, we launched an idea on Twitter and got creative. We pulled in ideas from failed projects. It’s quite a remix of a lot of your marketing ideas, a lot of failing, but it’s me being creative. That’s why it’s Creative Marketing, it’s distribution. One thing I want to say to add on growth hacking is that it’s difficult. Often, when things are difficult, people are reluctant, and people don’t want to do distribution. Growth hacking is yourself failing in public, and often, that’s where the magic is. You need to do difficult things to grow, and hence, growth hacking.
Patrick: Can I stay on this for a second? Is growth hacking something you do, like let’s say, when you write an ebook? Is it something you do from day one or after you’ve got some sort of product market validation, where you know that people are interested in this and you’re getting, let’s say, 10 sales a week? Instead of 10 sales a week, you want to increase that to 100 sales a week, which is something you can live off of. When do you start growth hacking?
Rob: The ideation of it should be from the very beginning. If you can’t answer growth hacking from the idea phase, it’s almost not a green light. There need to be ways to market, and you must also remember that once you launch your product, you will hit that dip, you will run out of steam, and these are often little hacks in place that can help do the work for you passively. So when does it actually happen? Sure, when you want to get your ebook selling from 10 a week to 20 a week. A lot of it is experimenting. For me, a lot of the best little hacks I did for my ebook happened when I was in the middle of the journey. There’s no way I could have thought of that in the beginning, so we adapted, pivoted, and saw an opportunity.
I like to think of myself with my own products, and I use a good example of this is that a growth hack can be a coupon. It can be a coupon that just has a ring to it. You can launch a coupon on one platform, and it really doesn’t work. But then, I thought of a coupon saying, ‘For the next 30 hours, it’s $30 off.’ It was like 30 for 30, and that’s a small form of a growth hack. It’s an experiment. I don’t know if it landed, but it had a ring to it, that a lot of people who took the deal, I spoke to them, and they were like, ‘Wow, man, you put the pressure on. You created that haste, and I knew I only had 30, and it was just so memorable. 30 for 30. Let’s go.’ And it was such a great deal because the book was $49 and went down to $19, a massive deal, but 30 for 30. So there, it just organically went their way. To answer your question, as you go, you keep brainstorming. You fail. I’ve failed a lot of growth hacking. But you’ve got to do it in public, and often there’s a reward.
Patrick: What you just said is mostly about experimentation, and I think one of the cool things about digital is you can try everything. Let’s say, 9 out of 10 ideas are bad ideas, if you get one out of ten that’s a really good idea, you just leave that in place and then you keep experimenting. It seems like it’s just you always want to keep learning, run as many experiments as possible.
And obviously, leave the experiments that are positive in place and then, just keep building on that.
Patrick: Okay. cool.
Rob: And refine it. And I’ll drop another one while we’re at it, just trying to add a little value. We will talk about this. So, I have this 100 email drip, and it’s a 100-day email drip. You sign up for 100 days of landing page hot tips, and every single day for 100 days, you’re gonna get a tip. And I thought to myself, what is a good point in this drip to drop a really saucy discount? And I was like, what’s a good discount? So, I was like, 70% is a very good one, but also, you want to reward the people that stuck around for 70 days. So, on the 70th email drip, I go, “Wow, you’re really into these tips. Here’s 70% off on the 70th email.” And again, to this day, and this book was released two years ago, I still get notifications every now and again going, “Yeah, this coupon code, you know, tip 70, was used.” So, there it is again. That one’s a winner. And guess what I’ll do next if I launch an email hot tips book? Guess what I’ll do in that one? I will do exactly the same thing. So, yes, reusing your learnings, implementing, refining.
Patrick: Love that. So, let’s talk about that because that is actually a really cool thing. I’ve built some email campaigns in the past, some email automation. I would say ours are like, the ones that I usually worked on are like a dozen long, so a hundred-long email sequence is pretty cool, just in its phase. But what made you hone in on that segment of web design? Why did you talk about landing pages? What makes them interesting, and what makes you think there’s an opportunity there?
Rob: Okay, so you know, often, I’m not big when it comes to validating ideas where I’m trying to find a segment of the market with a lot of money upping. A good example right now is the AI profile images which are absolutely exploding.
Rob: It’s exciting to see, I love to see what they’re doing, and I like to play TV games with it and like oh if I was doing that I would you know do that and that, but it’s not a passion of mine. I couldn’t imagine spending eight hours a day tweaking some code for an AI generator. But that right now, validation and the trend are all there, but for me, I’m passionate about simple design.
In 2008, which we’ll get to further on about One Page Love, I had a website where I was curating simple design. I was trying to find my own references but couldn’t find enough references. So, I started this gallery using WordPress. Through the years and the experience of building websites for clients and convincing them that they only need one-page websites, I was building a lot of landing pages. So just for context for everyone out there, a single-page website is a website with no second page. There’s no about page, there’s no contact page. All the details on one simple long scrolling page. And if this one page website asks the user to do something, and they do that, that is known as a conversion and so the good example there is ‘Sign up for our newsletter’, ‘Buy our eBook’, ‘Download this’, or ‘Contact us’, that’s even for our photography service and that’s known as a conversion.
When a one-page website has a conversion, that’s also known as a landing page. So landing pages became my world. I was building them. I was curating them. I was giving audits about them. And naturally, I thought you know the online education game looks exciting, I can be creative in this. I can make the course that I’ve always wanted to take. I can integrate music. I can outsource some animations. You can have a lot of fun with this and what actually happened is that it became so overwhelming creating an online course, targeting landing pages and I just started collecting references in my, at the time it was a Trello board, and it was just thousands of landing page designs and components and tips and these are pricing psychology and so on. It was the most overwhelming thing you’d ever seen. I used to open up Trello and go on with my word, “I can’t”, so I put it off. Can I work on the course? And one day I just woke up and I said, “This is never going to ship. I need to be accountable. I need to announce this and I need to put something in place to help me clear this absolute bird’s nest of landing page advice. And just one day came to me, obviously, I’d seen people doing tips online on Twitter and so on and I just said to myself, “you know what would be amazing, if I just told people right now, starting tomorrow, I’m gonna share a hundred tips in a hundred days.
So, about the niche, is that obviously is something that was in my world. Landing pages and the ability to tell a story within one page, it forces you to get to the point. There’s not a lot of fluff. There’s just so many dimensions to why I appreciate a one-page website and that’s why I’m still going in 2022 after starting in 2008. It was a bit of a side ramble to how we got here with the ebook, but why web design? I was involved in web design. I had my own web design, curated gallery and I was planning an online course to do with web design.
Patrick: So let me follow up on this. One of the things that I’ve been working on for on myself is whenever something gets hard, do less and it sounds like, because usually, it’s like you have crazy big Ambitions and I want to make a course with an accompanying ebook and then we’ll have an audio book and we’ll have worksheets and we’ll have a Discord and a Facebook group, and that is where I naturally go and then when I can’t launch my project, I need to scale back. Is that kind of what you did? Did you change your product because it sounds like you wanted to do way more and then you just started with a hundred tips as a starting point just to get it out the door?
Rob: It organically landed there. Let’s just go there. Related to the question is that it would help me sort my notes. It was like a hack as well, it would help me sort my notes. Sorting a 100 tips, I need to spread all the categories within landing page designs so there would be pricing tips, there would be design tips, optimization, development and so on. And it really was an incredible exercise. And because I needed to write it in email every single day, it forced me. I was accountable. Every single day, it went 12 for 9 A.M U.S time. I also paired it with a hundred Tweets in 100 days, it went off exactly the same time. And because of the Twitter character constraints, I had to get straight to the meat of the actual tip, alongside the image and just straight into the tip with as little words as possible. It’s funny reliving the soul in hindsights at the time, I really was trying to build up some hype towards my landing page course. I really was. And what actually happened is that the drip was on tip number 32, people on the 30 second tweet in the long thread, and people would mail me and go, “Rob, can I please have all hundred tips right now”.
First of all, I hadn’t finished all 10. I jotted out like 100 or so headlines which I knewI had the confidence I could talk about with a little bit of time but it wasn’t ready. and people go like, “I’ll pay you, like I pay you now.” Like, how’s that validation? And I, and the answer is, is no. It’s just no. Like, no, you cannot pay me. I’m gonna release a course and I need to focus. Like, that was it. But then what happened? They’re carrying on asking me. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, are we really gonna do an ebook now?’ That’s honestly what I thought. I was like are we gonna really do an ebook when we started off with a goal to do a proper video course. That was the goal: are we really gonna stray from this?
I chatted to a few maker friends and entrepreneurs and so on they’re like, validation doesn’t just knock on the door like this. How much extra work is it going to be to put it into a digital format? It’s not that much extra work, the work’s already done. It’s all in HTML format through the email drip. The imagery is done, I spend so much time in Figma creating this little, don’t do that, do that framework. Then the true validation came, and another little growth hack, just to throw it in there, is on tip number 50. That was my pre-sale. So we’re now on tip number 50 and the tip was about creating haste. It was about adding a countdown timer in your landing page. I did the most meta thing ever but the presale had a countdown timer for the landing page hot tips ebook pre-sale and the pre-sale I think was $19. I said this is the countdown time, I think it was available for you know x amount of time. Oh sorry, I think that was also the 30 and 30 so that was 49 minus 30. Anyway, the tip was about the countdown timer. I used the coupon on Twitter and then it was just an absolutely ridiculous experience on my phone. I’d always seen other Indie hackers out there get those kinds of sales where you get a notification every like three minutes, and I’m like, no way. And there’s so much to say about this you know, did I pivot the product? Absolutely. It’s like we created this product and the more I invested in it and the more I started promoting it online, going actually you know what pre-sale had such a great response, I think I’m gonna do audiobook. And as soon as I started sharing behind the scenes about making the audiobook and so on, more pre-sale, the pre-sale amount eventually went up. There’s a lot covered there but the story there was, did the item pivot? Did the course pivot? the course is not live. There is no course, it’s still an ebook. So yes, to answer your question, yes it did pivot.
Patrick: It’s funny how it’s just to me you took something from the jaws of defeat and you turned it into a major victory and there’s something really cool about it. For example, for me it is like, I really want to go on a 10 mile run. I don’t want to go on a 10 mile run today. Okay, well how about a three mile run. Okay, I can do that and like a 3 mile run actually going every week is way better for me than like really wanting to go on a 10 mile run but then not working up the energy to do so and I’m just a big fan of shipping something rather than nothing. And you can always build on that success and the other case where I add the audiobook later, stuff like that. Love all that.
I did want to touch on marketing. It sounds like it was mostly Twitter and then email, is that correct?
Patrick: I guess my question is and Twitter’s going through a weird phase right now with current events, but do you need to have a Twitter following to get something like this going. Can you have a tiny Twitter audience and still market something like this on Twitter or any social network, TikTok or whatever?
Rob: So the short answer is you absolutely do not have to have a big Twitter following but it does not hurt having one. I’ve been on Twitter for a long time and I’ve kind of kept things, I’ve gone through phases of promo but what you often find is the people that do best are the people that try and add value. A lot of people are failing in public, sharing lessons. There’s a lot of guys flexing and so on which isn’t the best and it’s actually becoming a little a place where you question your mental health, checking every day what’s happening, I’m a failure and so on. It happens to everyone. But with Twitter, you can start speaking about a niche and then you can search the conversation. I can search the word landing pages on Twitter. People are talking about landing pages. I can DM if I want. I’m not playing those games, I’m just saying you don’t need the biggest Twitter following to actually engage with people that are speaking about your niche. Twitter for me became just an area where I was doing the threads. I know threads performed really well became a real estate thing. People are abusing it quite badly right now, I totally abused it for that period, I still feel bad about it.
But when you tweet on a thread, research surfaces the first one. Luckily, this is my first one and this is a real big takeaway in hindsight, what was very clever was including the link to sign up on the email drip in my first tweet. So I wrote there, I said if Twitter’s not your jam, get these delivered on email. So what had happened is I would tweet tip number 64 and then that did really well, not all of them did really well but sometimes it would do well, but what it would do is resurface tweet number 1 with the email drip and I was getting subscribers to that email drip every single day for 100 days. And it just becomes this machine that’s happening in the background. But to answer a question on Twitter is that Twitter can be as wholesome as you want it. You mustn’t forget that there’s some real brilliant people out there just sharing the odd thing on Twitter and that’s all you need. You can integrate with people. I use Twitter for support. I’m the biggest Twitter fan, really am. It’s going through a phase, I agree and especially when there was that NFT phase and the crypto phase, and I had all the mutes on and all the words. I had to question my love for Twitter but now I’m really enjoying it again.
Patrick: This is something that you just need to develop as a person who lives in the digital age but you have to know what like online networks give you energy and which ones take energy away. And anytime like I follow politics, I just get angry and it’s not worth it, so I don’t join those groups, I don’t join those conversations and I focus on business stuff or I have lots of board game stuff, so things that give me energy. I think that’s always another good idea there for any social network. So we’re talking about a book here, can you share any analytics or insights? I’m a big analytics person, I love figuring out what was working and what’s not working now and what might work. Were there any analytics or insights from data that you got while promoting this book?
Rob: Just to try and add a bit of value and just throw in as much marketing as well at the same time as sharing data. The guys online just sharing numbers and saying, my book did well. It’s like why did it do well? First of all I think, just looking at it, I took a look just now, we’re just about to cross 2000 sales and the book made about 57 thousand dollars which is great, man. It’s like this book didn’t even exist and it still passively sells. I mean I forget the number and even if I told you it made 10 thousand dollars right now or 500 thousand dollars, it sort of irrelevant that the fact that it’s a layer of income right now while I’m continuing with what I’m doing online. And the hard work done once is sold twice and I’m just such a fan of that model especially being a solo guy online.
And a big chunk of that revenue was to do with affiliates. So I want to talk about that. I want to encourage a lot of people, even with a plugin game, if you’re doing an info product and so on, they really helped you know tide me through when they were dips, sales dipped to my side and then all of a sudden, there someone would do a promotion and then we would see that. What I offer them is 50% of the ebook. Often, I would give them their own exclusive coupon so it felt exclusive to their audience. So for example if the coupon was Patrick and you tweeted to your friends and community, and it gave them twenty dollars off, then whatever’s remaining, we just go 50-50. That went really well. And I gave them the option, what do you want to give your audience off, sometimes in Indian audience for example, not as much as purchasing power, let’s give them a much bigger discount. And that was amazing and just want to go a little deeper on this point for anyone considering a referral program is that, often, people are out there they’ve got websites, they’re approached by so many people saying, “can I do a guest blog?”, “can you promote my product? Often, luckily enough, most of the people that are referring to the book are the people that actually bought the book. But they would speak to me like, I’m interested, and then I would look at their assets and I would see their adblock on their sites, and what I did is I created this super comprehensive documented, it’s now a notion just for the Affiliates potential headlines to use, copy to use all the books and the different angles what not to do. It’s basically a press kit but I think the real kicker for them was I would tell them, “hey, here’s like a short code with your affiliate link applied and it’s got your coupon, this one will give you ten dollars off, this one will give you 20 off, and also here is the optimize jpeg for your design gallery in the exact dimensions and I’ve already optimized for speed and stuff. It’s written and all that stuff, all you need to do is replace your current ad. And that turnaround time, like people would integrate that within 24 hours. There was no back and forth questions and that for me was a lot of work at first and it still is a lot of work but just something I don’t want anyone to leave here to overlook is the power of people referring and don’t forget that they have a lot of people giving them noise, you’ve got to cut through the noise and answer all their questions. And that really worked for me. You’re talking about analytics, what I also learned, Appsumo. Don’t ignore Appsumo, it’s quite difficult to get in there but again if you have an info product, it becomes passive. They do Black Friday specials for example, and you click a button saying I want to be involved in Black Friday. Then all of a sudden on Black Friday, I made $80 or something, I’m like, “Wow!” Imagine Appsumo didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have that layer. A lot of experimenting. With analytics, did anything surprise me? There was one little trick I did, I put a link in my Twitter bio where I had a coupon code attached to that so I say, basically, my book is on sale now and anyone who clicked that exact link in my bio which is only found in that bio would go and it would apply a coupon discount and then they would buy it. And it was incredible how many sales I’ve got through my Twitter bio, so again to answer your question about Twitter, is Twitter worth it? Hundreds of sales through my Twitter bio, just from when someone is talking about the ebook and then I chime in, and I say, “Hey, thanks for mentioning my ebook. Let me know if you have any questions.” Within 12 minutes, the bio link strikes. It’s so interesting if you get engaged and you get in a conversation on Twitter, people are like, “that’s interesting, he’s proactive, he enjoys his product.” Oh, so much to say about that.
Patrick: That’s cool. Before I forget, we do actually have special links, if you go to robhope.com/freemius, there is a 50% off of his ebook. So if you’ve listened this far which is roughly halfway through the podcast, you will get 50% off. So we’re following that tradition nicely there, robhope.com/freemius.
Awesome, so hindsight’s 2020. Whenever I finish a project, it’s nice to think back on it and go over what worked and what didn’t. Would you have done anything differently with Hot Tips now that it’s, I don’t want to say done, but now that it’s launched and optimized, would you’ve done anything differently?
Rob: Hindsights, it’s amazing in 2020 and I will say that a hundred tips in 100 days is very ambitious. Don’t listen to this and go, Rob did a 100 WordPress tips to market your WordPress plugin, I’m just gonna do that. You have to flesh out the ideas, get 150. If you cannot get 150 pretty easily, you cannot do a hundred. I can get 200 landing page tips, hundreds easy. But at the same time you also need to ask yourself what are you promising? Because a hundred tips is pretty much more than three months. So if you are planning on launching something and each tip does take a lot of time. What is at the end of this road? Is this road an actual launch of a course? I can’t actually believe I thought I was going to do that here. It’s just that it’s so much work involved in staying but the positive of this is being accountable, reap so many rewards but be more realistic. So in hindsight, to answer your question, maybe 50, maybe 50 would still have equal sort of attraction, a 50 email drip is still super long, 50 tweets is long and then at that point you’re like, “Hey, you want another 50?” In hindsight as well, I gave away all 100 tips in the email drip. I gave away all the content and I just said, if you want a few more resources per tip, a couple more images and examples, also obviously, notion Book, audiobook, you know there’s so many different formats to consume other than email and search and so on, but I gave everything away and in hindsight, was that smart? We’ll never know.
Patrick: I think in the digital world there’s a lot of people who give everything away and I think I probably lean towards giving 90/95% away and you have to keep a few things that are sort of exclusive. Otherwise, it is hard value for someone to just sit on the email list for a month or three months and get them all.
Rob: I think Adam Wathan from Tailwind CSS, he used to make courses back in the day to do with Laravel and when I was chatting to him, he mentioned something along these lines saying that, give away so much for free it’s in the form of blog posts, YouTube videos and so on and you build up your community, they’re very grateful. But when someone’s trying to actually get stuck in and learn something, they don’t really want to fiddle about and try and find things that are kind of backwards order and a few loops and here all of a sudden you’re saying, “hey, I’ve given away everything for free. Fine, you can get it for free but here is everything beautifully formatted, additional links per point and YouTube videos about all over the place and so on. And it’s just a refined product and he said that that worked really well for him. So take away there, don’t be afraid to give away everything for free. People are paying for the convenience and the packaging and also just to try and give back to you.
Patrick: Love it. Love all that. Were there any growth hacking experiments that surprised you just while making this stuff?
Rob: I think the one we mentioned, basically, the Twitter bio. That was unbelievable. I just couldn’t believe it and another one was, which is really good, is that I put coupons kind of everywhere. I planted coupons just to see what happened. I’ve actually got some other products where I’ll drop a coupon right at the bottom of the archives and it almost confirms people actually scroll in and I think I have something like 300 coupons created for the book and it’s basically just throwing lines everywhere. Another one that surprised me was parity pricing.
Patrick: What does that mean?
Rob: Parity pricing is basically offering a discount to any people from countries that don’t have a strong purchasing power so a good example is someone who’s building landing pages for a company in San Francisco could be earning 5000 dollars a month and then someone is doing exactly the same thing in Delhi in India is earning 500 dollars a month. And here’s all of a sudden, this book is 50 dollars, it’s ten percent of the income whereas in America it’s nothing, cool added to the collection. So what I did is I wrote a message, and I won’t go too deep on this, but what surprised me is how amazing the communication was with the community and I didn’t set an automated parity price that just pops up, there are those Services out there that do that, what I said is that, “Hey, if you are struggling with work anywhere in the world or you’re from a country that doesn’t have strong purchasing power, just message me and just tell me what’s up, tell me where you are.” And someone will be like, even in Spain which they don’t earn that badly, but sure less in other places and I’ll be like, “hey, I went there, man. I went there in Spain.”, and then all of a sudden, he’s like did you try that place and so the conversation with the community was absolutely amazing, but India we’re obviously speaking about Cricket. And generally, people are so grateful, just at that point once you’ve given them a big discount and they’re like, “hey, I really want to succeed by improving my landing pages and like thank you so much for the discounts”, I’ll throw another growth hack at this point at this point where they are grateful and have spoken to me about movies or location or whatever and we’re just real human beings. I just tell them like, “hey, if you enjoy the book, do you mind retweeting this tweet. And it’s like, the conversion at that point that they’re not going to retweet that is pretty much zero. And then someone will go, “hey, I’ve only got like 10 Twitter followers”, and I’m like don’t even worry about it. It’s just another count to the launch tweet that says it’s like we’re on 400 tweets. Every little retweet counts and I just really appreciate it. So is that intentional? Did I speak to them to get the retweet? Absolutely not, but often when your intentions are in the right place, the sort of reward happens at the end and it’s just amazing.
Patrick: I love all that and I think humans like reciprocity so if you give them a discount, I think people feel better, “wow, he gave me a discount, I want to do something for him” and just ask like, “can you retweet this tweet?” It’s a very small ask but people feel good that there’s some reciprocity. I love hearing that.
Rob: Good word of the day.
Patrick: So let’s talk about one of your passions, one page love. So we have this ebook, how is One Page Love different. It sounds like the ebook is like good money but not like you’re gonna like buy a boat money, whereas it does sound like One Page Love, you turn from a side project into a full-time career, maybe not boat money yet, I don’t know, but how did you turn something that is a side project into a full-time career?
Rob: I mean golden question. I’ve been experimenting for a long time. I think I was born with this curiosity, I like to build things online. I’m actually not that good at coding. You know what this actually goes here, I’m actually not that good at anything. It’s like I’m jack of all trades, master of none. I can design a bit. I can code a bit. I can market it a bit. I don’t see myself as a professional at anything and I’m okay with it. I wasn’t okay with it for a long time, I had this bit of identity crisis online. So here I am building websites for clients, often 99% were WordPress websites, and on the sides I was always looking at what other people were doing. So there’s the Indie hackers Community which is really great if you are trying to get into this world, definitely subscribe to the Indie hackers newsletter, just tips off the tips. People sharing their struggles, often the best stories are people that make their first dollar. That is really where the sources and I was fascinated with it. So what I did and and just to sidestep quickly, just to talk about where the bug bit, is that often clients would give me half a page Word documents of content and it was just all caps, it was all capital letters and then I integrate this in the website. This is way back here, I want to say 2007 or 2008 and now it’s all native. You can do the stuff pretty much within your operating systems or Word and so on. And so anyway, I thought to myself, let’s create a little case converter ,let’s convert cases online. So what I did, well first of all obviously, I’m searching to do this online and I see the solutions and they’re really noisy and they get filled with ads and I’m like this is terrible, this is not a good experience. You know what, why don’t we make this opportunity to do this myself and I want to create the version I’d love because I also want to use this. So the big takeaway here into creating the leap is you need to start scratching your own itch and start creating products you’d appreciate and what you’d use. So a step back into case converter, I bought caseconverter.com. I paid my friend, Nick, I think it was, I don’t know the currency at the time, 20 dollars to code me the PHP script that you click the buttons and it would change the text and then copy the clipboard. And then I created this case converter site, then all of a sudden, people started visiting and I was using more and more, I was telling friends about and so on. And years passed, I wasn’t using it as much because it became a little bit more native in the software we’re using and then I heard of a site called Flipper. This is a marketplace where people buy and sell websites and domains and so on. I thought to myself why don’t we just dabble here and see what happens. So I put caseconverter.com on Flipper with no reserve just to see what had happened.
I remember I was in Mozambique at the time, I actually kind of forgot about the end time and I was like checking email and so on, I’m aware this bid’s ending soon and two people started to bid against each other, it was a bit of a bidding war. The size of the time is actually quite decent in hindsight, like I probably shouldn’t have sold it but it had like a really good passive traffic just through SEO, and I think it was something like 10 000 people a month or something, and all of a sudden, people started out bidding each other and I made 808 dollars for this site that cost me like the domain was 10 dollars, the code was 20 dollars. It was passive and I made 800 dollars and it’s in African Rands. I’m in Mozambique, I’m on the beach in Africa. It’s like this is a lot of money and at that point , I just saw myself in that, there’s no way I’m ever gonna go full time on freelance anymore like I’m permanently gonna try and chase this forever. So I just started experimenting. I created just a side project, a little side project, I wanted to interject here and I say robhope.com/graveyard is where I have listed the full obituary of everything I’ve ever created and it’s got timelines. It’s got everything and it’s often where I go back and I remember how long the journey’s been. And again people are like, “Oh Rob, One Page Love does so well.” I failed 50 times. So anyway, it was case converter failure or success, it’s absolutely a success and a lot of the projects that I don’t work on with success is that I took the learnings. I applied them into the next thing I was doing. This is a windy road but you needed the context and saying that I just knew that US Dollar’s very powerful in Africa and I don’t need to make that to actually quit freelance. The more I added value to my websites, the more I invested my own time and made them better. The more people would return, the more people would talk about them. And then through tons of experimentation and so on, you’re monetizing just layers and layers, baby layers, lots of layers, failing failing but you start chipping away and with every additional new layer is one less client that you can take and eventually I got to the point where I could take the leap and sayonara. Never looked back. No more clients. Side projects full time, it sounds amazing. There’s lots to say about the whole journey but I just want to add one bit of value for everyone is that you know how do you take the leap? For someone who’s doing freelance right now and it’s like, I’ll do anything to work on my side projects full time, first bit of advice on this is you also don’t have to have the stress of worrying about sales all the time. A lot of people try and say, “oh, I’ll try to create a SaaS”, it’s very difficult to create a SaaS business where recurring income comes every month. I’ve been building online for over 10 years and I’ve never got it right. So I just want to say that to everyone and then, when you are reliant on sales, you start every month on zero dollars so it can become a mental health challenge. So to answer, I want to take the leap, you don’t always have to take leave, you can always just keep one or two clients to cover a home loan, to cover like the base costs and just have just such a ball. I would advise that for anyone wanting to start but if you truly hate the client game and speaking of people and you’re a full introvert and you want to get your thing going, the answer is how can you provide as much value as I can to your niche, what would they want to see and read on that page and how can they do it and as fast as possible, unobtrusive, blazing experience and that’s how people return. That’s how it becomes remarkable and that’s how you grow a community. There’s a lot to unpack there but it’s about adding value. How can we keep ourselves? How can I add more value? And that’s what I did with One Page Love. Every single day for 8 years, for 10 years and then I only took the leap.
Patrick: So there’s a lot there. I love that you have the graveyard because I’ve had a lot of side projects and some of them have worked really well and some of them have just disappeared right. The side projects that I made that were pretty successful all took a really long time to ramp up for me so for a while I had some WordPress plugins that I was selling on someone else’s website and I think at first, I think literally it was like one sale every one to two weeks. One thing I did, a little dollar sound whenever I got a sale, felt there’s something psychological about just walking around town and hearing cha-ching in your pocket. It’s great and that was the first plugin, I made a couple more and I think maybe by the end, I had like nine of them. And then, I actually had to turn off that notification because it would ring 5 times a day when I’m in meetings or something, I’m in a meeting like, okay let me just turn my phone off. I think that took months to get to and I also have LinkedIn learning courses and those also, it was a very very long process so there’s something about start your side project but then you have to give it weeks or months of time to to grow to where it can actually support you and you have to spend a lot of time reinvesting. Anyways, that’s what I took away from your comments there.
Rob: I want to ask you a question. In those projects that took really long, did you loathe any of them? Did you say, wow, I actually really don’t enjoy working on this but I’m gonna hang in there because I’m gonna make a lot of money? It’s super interesting. What are you gonna say?
Patrick: I was gonna say no. There is a caveat. The caveat is years and years later, now I have to like refresh some of my courses. So creating all the plugins to begin with or creating all these courses to begin with is really exciting and maybe even the second edition is so pretty exciting because like, I could make this better, I could make this a little bit better, I could have a better graphic here but now I’ve refreshed some of my courses for the third time and maybe that’s a little tedious but that’s only once you’ve refreshed something three times.
Rob: So like with everything I’m doing, I can honestly say I’m enjoying it. There’s nothing that feels like a chore. The chore part is often the marketing that sort of needs to be done afterwards. I know that if I sat on a ton of podcasts, guest posts for all these sites, I would sell more ebooks. It’s like the most proven model but I also just like building and designing and how do you want to spend your days. My site makes enough money to live in Cape Town. There’s no wrong answer here but I often find that if some people don’t enjoy working on the product, it’s a very difficult task to work on for a long time and if you are not working a long time the likeness for that to finally succeed and get that hockey stick growth is very low.
Patrick: Agreed, because I think you need that little bit of passion to help you get through those early periods. So we’re running a little short on time and I have a ton of more business questions but I want to get to a couple personal questions so let me skip ahead a little bit here. I do want to know what are your plans for Love Curated going forward? Do you have a grand vision?
Rob: So Love Curated is my parent company, the umbrella company for One Page Love and and the second love site is Email Love and there’s UX Love and the Yo podcast that I have is sort of sitting under this. It was mainly for tax reasons to start this. It just makes things a little bit cleaner. All this ebook income doesn’t just go strictly into the personal bank accounts, it becomes a little bit of a bird’s nest. We’re also into Vat law now in South Africa, there’s a lot more admin. Unfortunately, and I don’t want to be negative on this point but when you deal with this much admin, you actually need to break through a certain earning barrier to make it all worth it. It’s just the amount of time I spend on with accountants and explaining things because there’s lots of digital transactions, and just a little more context and I promise I won’t go deep here, but you know every single transaction is in a different country and it’s not in South Africa so I don’t have to add vat to it, but it needs to be explained and accounted for. And what happened when that sale was made through Gumroad? Did it sit in Gumroad for 30 days? Did it sit for like 14 days? Was there interest made on that? And then that goes into PayPal and then it goes into just layers and layers. So the point I’m getting is I’ve spent this I started the company this year and I spent most of the year just on admin, getting systems in place,explaining to accountants how things work and I feel, honestly, to make this all worth it, I have to increase revenue. It’s something I’ve never ever aimed for in my life. It was always just to create freedom in my life and I did through One Page Love, but now I’m actually looking to ramp up revenue and I want to be able to create more output. So I’d like to create more YouTube videos, and I’d like to interview more people on the podcast. And being a solid person, I am the bottleneck. Often, when I go into podcasts, I go all in, and then afterwards, I just edit it and I freeze my entire life. Next thing you know, I haven’t updated One Page Love in like 12 days or something. So I’ve hired someone this year sort of part-time, four days a week and we are getting our systems in place. We are getting consistent. We have a Cadence for newsletters. We are growing, things are good but who’s editing these videos? Who’s editing these podcasts and who’s paying for these people? so we’re sort of at this point in One Page Love and now we’re planning to add more layers of digital products and then we’re hopefully going to grow the team and organically do this thing that people know.
Patrick: Cool. Can I ask about scaling? I’ve worked in a couple businesses. I’ve worked with Freelancers. I’ve worked with part-time people. I think there’s a couple different routes you can take, I have my own bias so I’m curious what yours is, where I think some people hire one person to do a very specific job, so it’s like your only job is, maybe it’s five hours a week or something, is to answer customer queries and give them refunds if they want refunds, and give them the coupon if they wanted the coupon. Some sort of like customer support and then you hire a bunch of people who all do very specific tasks. And then, there’s people who are like, okay I just need a second me, so I’m gonna do the podcast but I want you to edit the podcast and I want you to also answer some customer support stuff and also update the coupons and Gumroad whatever. So, do you go for the more general person to help you who can sort of do a little bit of everything or do you go for very small specialists who are all good at one specific thing?
Rob: So in my case, I think the answer was to try and replace me in as many fields as possible, just so I have that ultimate freedom to do something and focus on something but it’s really difficult, especially the person I hired, shame she’s incredible, she’s quite a Swiss army knife but I can just see I’ve been absolutely consumed by this online world that I’ve created myself for 12 years and she has to learn all the nuances. Even today, we’re working on figment. We’re talking about spacing and auto layout and then, we’re creating videos in screenflow and I’m talking about fading into the beginning part two Loop. And then I’m like, upload this WordPress and you know put it in the custom field and then, there’s just layers and layers, and I can see it gets overwhelming. There’s a lot of back and forth so I think the answer there is that when you do hire this person that’s sort of trying to replace yourself, try and batch as many tasks as you can, just like too much back and forth is just like a little bit of a hectic route for them, but the answer to your question is that I think you need to aim for the latter and you need to aim for the specialists. A good example like just using my example is the podcast, I’ve got a podcast recording next week and I would love my employee that I’m paying to also help me with editing but then she’s not a podcast editor. I’m quite particular with certain things as well, and sound is big for me and I want to integrate music and she has to step inside my brain and try and sync an intermission which is a fun quiz with the beat. I have to sort of spec that.
So do I dive in? Do I hire an actual podcast person? I think the answer, which I have not successfully done at all, I think the answer is that you need to batch produce everything. Ao it’s 10 podcasts and you’re brief to a specialist on how to sync to a beat and you get those all out. But I just haven’t got that in me yet to arrange 10 people to record in 10 weeks with everything I’m juggling at the moment. So to answer the question, aim for specialists but if you are a solo person, basically, a VA style person really does help. Also, where I’m planning on going with which is a team where there is someone that’s editing video, where there is someone doing XYZ, if she can sort of be the glue when I’m not there and know how everything works, I think is a smart long-term play so that’s what I’m aiming.
Patrick: Love that and definitely agree on batching podcasts. Even if you can get two a day, that’s better than one a week. So I do want to move into this, I know your time is running out here. I do want to move into this one or two fun questions if you got the time There’s a game I like to play called “Overrated/Underrated” and basically what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna give you a word or phrase and you need to tell me if it’s overrated or underrated. So if I said Christmas cookies, you might say underrated because who doesn’t love having cookies in the home in December, something like that, sounds good?
Patrick: All right, so the very first one Gmail workspace apps, so that means Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Sheets, etc., overrated or underrated?
Rob: The hardest underrated online at the moment. There is no way you can get that amount of quality value for 5 dollars a month or 6 dollars a month or whatever it is. All the emails land, custom domain, unlimited spreadsheets, is just gold. It’s just the absolute most underrated thing online, not celebrated enough.
Patrick: Love it. How about the new year, as in just like the holiday and how it how it resets so like the holiday of the New Year, overrated or underrated?
Rob: Totally overrated. It’s a lot of distractions. I like to focus and everything is crowded. There’s just so much admin, there’s like who’s doing what. I’m very much a guy who likes to take holidays off season. I like going away chasing waves midweek. I work for myself, it’s like when I’m sitting in a queue around New Year’s or in traffic because I’m trying to get to a beach, I think to myself this is my fault. This is no one else’s fault around me, I am the problem.
Patrick: I feel that way when I drive is like, if I choose to drive at five o’clock, there’s traffic and I get annoyed and it’s like I work from home, I could have easily taken off an hour at like 2 p.m and driven and did this errand and then work a little bit later in the evening but that’s my fault
Rob: It’s your fault.
Patrick: So I think I know this one now. Twitter, overrated or underrated?
Rob: Massively underrated. No one talks about enough how you don’t have to follow the news, you don’t have to follow the influences making the noise, and you can really spend a lot of time muting words and you can create your own motivational top up every morning. Every time I open up Twitter, every morning full battery, it’s just guys clothing, amazing stuff, people bird watching, people surfing, it’s amazing.
Patrick: Love it. Last one here, what about owning a house, like you own it, you don’t rent it? Is that overrated or underrated?
Rob: I think it depends where you live in the world. The answer is it’s underrated but I think if you want to talk about the concept of moving out of home and doing your own thing early in life and that’s only when you’re successful. I’ve seen this narrative, especially in South Africa. But in Europe, you hang with your parents and you keep expenses low and you spend time with your family and that’s amazing, keep that cash flow, invest it somewhere else incredible. But for us here owning your own bit of land and it’s a force saving where I’ve got no choice. Every month where PayPal does this, and it comes through and there’s ebook sales and so on and I was like guess what, I have to put a chunk into the bank because I have no choice and guess what happens at the end of the day, I have my own home and it’s a force saving. So I’m a big fan of home loans. I actually just bought a plot up the coast. Not a forced saving.
Patrick: Awesome, love that. I agree with you on forced savings for sure. So we are basically out of time. I want to try to make these podcasts like there’s also a person behind this growth hacker. Obviously, growth hacking is a big thing here. I know you do trail running, I know you do bird watching. You do some surfing, you were in a band. There’s a lot of stuff right there. How about this, which of those four things is your favorite? Let’s start with that.
Rob: There’s no question of surfing. I’ve been surfing for about 25 years and we go through phases like trail running and so on and you said playing in a band. It’s a cool phase, there’s no way it’s sustainable but with surfing, surfing is the one thing that you are always seeking this offset from staring at the glowing rectangle all day. Surfing is just the place where you have no phone, no one’s contacting you and you’re actually trying to achieve a few things in the water. One of the things that not a lot of people know is that you get a thing called barrel riding and it’s being inside of the wave.
Patrick: What is it called?
Rob: It’s called barrel riding, getting tubed or whatever. It’s quite cringe explaining it as a surfer but like, it’s basically being inside the wave and it’s just there are no words for the feeling of spending so much time investing in a sport and getting to the skill level where you can paddle out at a place that’s the waves of consequence. There’s a reef below you and there’s people all around you that want the same thing, it’s competitive and you put in your time, and then, the wave comes and you’re patient and then it’s your turn and you get it and you don’t fall and you position yourself just perfectly. And next thing, you inside a bubble of water and the whole world is just one big liquid ball and then you come out again. You come out unhurt and you just took this little trip inside of the sea. There’s so many different ways to phrase this but it’s just that you cannot explain the joy you get from surfing, just being in the sea with friends. It’s it’s actually dictated a lot where I’ve been in the world Indonesia, Portugal. I’ve just I’ve been seeking waves, it’s been a narrative. I’ve met so many friends just because I’ve paddled past them in the water and I like their Vibe. We’ve got chatting on the beach, we hoot each other on as they take waves. A huge part of my life is surfing, I’ve taken quite a break on it to get into trail running, new challenges, bird watching, I’m bird watching way more now but like with surfing, it is the absolute Holy Grail when it comes to just being offline and just feeling good.
Patrick: I love that there’s a moment that it’s without your phone. I actually love running, I go running once a week and I run without my phone. I know lots of people like to run with music but just to literally have no way for the world to contact me for an hour feels really good. It’s great
Rob: Is it safe?
Patrick: It’s pretty safe but I shouldn’t. If I get hit by a car, I guess I’ll ask them to call my wife but hopefully that doesn’t happen. It’s nice to be without your phone because there’s zero distractions. At any moment, try not to call me during this time,someone texts you or someone pings you on your phone or maybe you get a great little dollar sound on your phone but even that is a little distraction. I’ve tried surfing by the way and I’m very bad at it but still there’s a moment I love there’s that flow state, I want to ride in that tube of water. That is a really cool goal and you have to be so good, you have to time it perfectly. You don’t want to run into someone else who’s also doing the same thing. There’s a lot of variables so I can see how it’s magic when you get there.
Rob: It feels like you’re in the impossible.
Patrick: I love it. Okay, so we are overtime. I had so many other questions but the final question, there are a lot of people with landing pages for their products, a lot of people probably listening to these like WordPress products. Any final thoughts on how to improve conversions?
Rob: Absolutely, so a huge part with landing pages that you’ve spent a lot of time involved in your product, involved in your niche, you’re on a very technical level and you just start splashing down information on the page and you’re often thinking like, “oh I just gotta add as much as possible.” It’s not often the case when it comes to landing page optimization. The real secret is you’re trying to convince people as little as possible, not as much as possible. As soon as you add too much text, it becomes overwhelming. A lot of your message that you’re trying to say is drowned with just so much clutter in the page. Again, you can see I’m just drawn to the simplicity of one-page-websites landing pages’ simple design. But what you need to ask yourself is who is my audience? How does your product solve their problem? So you need to actually write these things down often, when you write this down, it engraves it in your brain and much better than you can think in your header. And now you need to ask yourself, what would that person who’s got that problem need to see and read on the landing page to be persuaded to act? I’m just going to say it again like, what would they actually need to see on this page, visually see, to be persuaded to use a credit card? This is all sounding very trivial at this point but when you start actually breaking it down and actually eliminating through this exercise, you really get somewhere. Let’s use a real ridiculous example, 40 FAQs, it’s like no, 40 testimonials, no, embedded YouTube videos, 12 of them, slowing down the page. What you need to do is you need to curate and you need to filter all your content to the core stuff. Once you’ve got and you’ve stripped it all down and you know the content’s good, now you need to start refining it. What you’re going to do for your WordPress customer or any customers is that you need to ask them, what testimonial would they like to see or read that is maybe answering a doubt that they have. Which testimonial out of this bunch is actually highlighting a feature which is one of our unique selling points. Here’s like two testimonials, just example, the one is from Acera and it says, “Damn, I love this product.” I see this all the time when I’m doing the landing page orders. People are like that is such a good testimonial, they add like eight of them and there’s just no value. There’s no weight at all to this. But one of the testimonials says, “this WordPress plugin saves us no less than 10 hours a month from manually exporting csv’s.” It’s like, that’s the testimonial. There it is, like it’s a unique selling point. So, often the ones are like save it houses save you time, how can it help them make money. So you talk about, “oh, this plugin increased our revenue by 20%.” I won’t go too deep on this point but it’s about hand picking everything in the page that aligns with what they’d want to see and read to be persuaded, to be convinced. Just to finish up on this point, there’s three ways you can kind of pitch your product to someone and the one is you can basically tell them, “hey, our product’s amazing”, “hey, our WordPress plugin is amazing, trust us.” Other one is you get other people to tell them so those are testimonials. This is your social proof. This is your rating. This is like don’t take our word for, take everyone else and that’s better than the first one. So there’s a bit of a hierarchy but what’s the third one is you show them. It’s don’t tell them, don’t let others tell them, you show them. And I’m the biggest fan of landing pages that can visually display just the magic that’s actually happened. Show me the transformation. Show me that WordPress plugin that had that really gross or maybe like a desktop of CSV documents and you’re about to like to drag them into QuickBooks or something. But this one goes like, it just shows a button and goes export to QuickBooks and again with showing, it’s like a static image great but what about just a little video that just showed the mouse going boom and the bar went and it said synced. That is showing them with an in-page demo and that is the absolute X Factor to landing page optimization.
Patrick: I love that. I have a couple examples of that but I we’re so over time now so I won’t show you. I love showing them rather than telling them. That’s super good. Rob, thank you so much for being on the podcast. We love having you here, this was really great. I think you really helped the listeners. I do want to mention we have the Freemius coupon for 50% off of your ebook at robhope.com/freemius, Just go to that URL, it’ll automatically apply it to your cart.
Thank you everyone for listening to the plugin.fm podcast which is powered by Freemius. You can go to plugin.fm to find this episode and future episodes and you can check out Freemius.com if you want help selling your premium WordPress plugin or plugins.
My name is Patrick Rauland and thank you again, Rob.
Rob: Thank you for having me, Patrick. Thanks, Vova. Thanks Freemius, you’re doing a great job.