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    Has anyone here done this?

    I’m busy enough that I’ve been considering it lately and this is the second time I’ve seen the Phillipines mentioned.

    1. 1

      I’ve not done it personally, but I’ve worked with a few entrepreneurs with a VA. Philippines seems to be a popular location for it - probably due to cheap labor (often <$5/hr) and a decent grasp of English. If you have some repetitive tasks that could easily be broken down into easy to understand instructions that’s where I would start.

      Ignoring any moral questions, the biggest problem I’ve seen with working with a VA in the Philippines is the time offset. Unless they are working nights (some probably do) you’ll typically have a full day lag time in your communications if you’re in the U.S.

      Upwork seems to be a decent starting place for searching for a VA.

    1. 1

      A previous job used HelpScout and it did everything we needed without getting in the way with unnecessary features. That was 18 months ago, with a team of ~10 and 2-3 dedicated support people.

      I have not done any research, but my take is that this is a crowded space where you’d have a tough time getting customers. And it seems like every new tool starts out wanting to offer a simple, no frills help desk, but ends up growing into ZenDesk. (I.e. the average user uses only use 5% of the features, but it’s a different 5% for each user.)

      Maybe consider researching a few specific niches or industries that you are familiar with and find out if there is room for a help desk-esque tool specific to them.

      Also, thinking through the pricing model based on the # of tickets, one flaw that comes to mind is that if a technical problem happens like the business’s website going down they are going to get a flood of tickets costing them more money when they are already dealing with a bad situation.

      1. 1

        The pricing change is crazy for web customers.

        I am not currently using Segment for any projects. In the past I’ve used it so we could easily pipe data to multiple destinations, and to make it easier to switch analytics providers. (Especially useful in early stages where things change frequently.)

        Today I would probably either build my own abstraction for event handling or look for something open source to handle that use case. However, if I wanted to query my data across providers (I think what they call Sources) I would probably look for another third party provider or find a way to make Segment work.

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          Added about 500 new email subscribers, thanks to a combination of blogging and one very helpful Twitter endorsement. Continued work on the book (expanded followup to this email course: https://codewithoutrules.com/saneworkweek/).

          Lessons learned:

          1. CTA that opens popup form with email signup works pretty well. Signup form on sidebar didn’t work well, perhaps because it only shows up on wide desktop screens given my current design.

          2. A good endorsement on Twitter directing people to signup form is worth thousands of visitors from Hacker News going to a blog post.

          3. Using google auto-complete as basis for blog post worked well too, I’m #5 for search result. It’s not a very common search, so not very helpful SEO, but common enough that I was able to use terms that resonated with readers.

          1. 1

            Blog posts usually don’t convert well (especially with the HN crowd, as they’re pretty cynical). But adding a call to action to the end of a post often works better than a sidebar, which people automatically tune out.

            If you have enough traffic to your blog but aren’t getting signups then it might be worth retargeting those visitors and sending them to an info/optin page!

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            Auditing your ad campaigns is something that should be done continually and the biggest reason for hiring someone to do the work for you, because you don’t have time (and possibly the skills) to do it properly yourself. Things outside of your control regularly change which affect your campaigns. If you’re not analyzing them and making adjustments then you’re leaving money on the table.

            This is especially true with Facebook ads, where you’ll often be targeting small groups of people so they begin to see your same ad over and over again, not only costing you money but often irritating potential customers.

            This article is a pretty good overview of basic ad campaign analysis. The best part is probably this bit that so many people easily forget:

            Conducting analysis that doesn’t lead to a recommended action is a waste of time. Equally, recommending an action without giving context decreases the chance that it’ll actually get implemented, which is also a waste of time.

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              November felt really productive for me, although looking at my recap it doesn’t look it. Over the past 2 weeks I’ve been realizing that I really need more focus. So that’s going to be my goal going into December and next year.

              • began creating the framework for a new productized local SEO / ad management service I’m building. Did a lot of the development and writing work, almost time to get out and start selling.
              • built two small applications in Vue.js for my own personal/work use
              • not much progress on a SaaS I’ve been working off and on for awhile now. Been trying to get better at writing tests for my code and this has me all jammed up.
              • started working with a great new client
              1. 4

                Following hot on the heels of my promise in October, I’ve been working hard on a better UI/UX experience for TakeTime.io. Most of the information architecture got overhauled and the separate admin/reports section got folded into the rest of the app. I’ve reworked the colors, navbar and detail screen. You can see a demo here: demo.taketime.io

                I wanna give a special shoutout to cemk of some.design for his offer on Barnacles to give a free UX audit, it was extremely helpful.

                The next month will be busy with holidays and me traveling back to EU to visit family, but I’m looking forward to keep iterating on the design, building out notifications for Slack, and preparing for my public launch.

                Final note: if any of you is interested in my product and achieving better work/life balance for you team, hit me up for a free account at dennis (at) taketime (dot) io.

                1. 3

                  I’m not remotely your target audience, but clicking through the demo was a very pleasant experience! Everything was easy to understand. I did go looking for how much time off a particular user had taken, and how much they had left, and this proved difficult. Showing the overlaps on the time off requests was even better than I expected. Though I did wonder if there were warnings or hard limits when too many people in a department requested time off.

                  1. 1

                    Thanks for your kind words matthias! The reports on how much a user has taken/left still needs to be done properly, it’s on my list :) Also, hard limits will be removed in favor of clear warnings for both the employee and manager when going over your accrual limit.

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                    I agree with matthias, you’re demo app is very polished. Nice work! Out of curiosity, what does the tech stack look like for this app?

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                      Django, PostgreSQL and AngularJS; not much magic :)

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                    Automating is good advice, and I try automating as much as I possibly can, but it’s also the sort of high level advice that falls empty because it takes such a zoomed out view. It sort of works for developers, who have a better understanding how to create something programmatically. Less so for non-developers.

                    The average entrepreneur has a much easier time delegating than automating. (Delegate and Automate are two parts of a business framework I’ve been very slowly working on over the past few years.) It almost always costs more, but it’s easier to get a freelancer - usually a “virtual assistant” - to take over those tiny tasks that drive you crazy than it is to automate them. Automations tend to break down over time as APIs change or software updates are released. A human is more adaptable to these changes.

                    Of course, once you start to delegate you begin to see the series of small, logical steps that comprise the task. If you write these down, or have the VA closely document the steps as they are assisting you, you are a lot closer to automating than you were before. It will be easier to find a developer to take that sequence and write a script to automate it.

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                      Meanwhile, Google is finally starting to crack down on annoying popups and interstitials. It seems like this change will be mobile only for now, but I’m glad to see something happening.

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                        I cannot miss the irony in their interstitial that asks me to download their gmail app every damn time I open gmail in my phone’s browser.

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                          Can’t argue with you there. When I searched “google interstitial” to get the link for this blog post, right underneath “Google warns it will crack down on intrusive interstitials in January” is “Interstitial Ads | AdMob by Google”.

                        2. 1

                          And meanwhile their adsense team is pushing hard new ad formats, such as full screen pop-ups on mobile.

                          It’s called interstitial or vignette - - nice names for spammy popups :) They just cover the page instead a new window.

                        1. 3

                          I find it fascinating to always see this hate towards popups in online communities with a high percentage of developers or designers. When you live in such an echo chamber, it seems that everybody hates popups.

                          So let me ask you a question: if they are so universally hated, why everybody keeps using them? To me the problem is that everybody seems to have opinions and assumptions that they use instead of data.

                          From the comments in this thread:

                          Popups suck Google is finally starting to crack down on annoying popups and interstitials I’ll almost always just close the tab

                          This is what a small minority of people might think but reality is different. Popups work, and very well. This means that they do not suck and people do not hate them. If what you offer has great value, people will not mind a popup at all. I would really like to be a fly on the wall and spy over the shoulders of all the people that leave negative comments about popups and see if they really leave a website when there is a popup or if they just close it instead or even click on it. I guess I will never know.

                          this kind of sales tactic is more likely to end with the customer coming away with a negative impression of your company and/or leave them experiencing buyers' remorse

                          Based on what data? Do you have any study to support this?

                          Interaction of people with popups shows there is no bad impression left. Buyers remorse is caused by completely different reasons.

                          You wouldn’t put a popup advertisement for another product on your site, what makes you think it’s ok just because it’s your own product?

                          Because you have your website to sell your own product and not someone else’s.

                          Exit popups are anti-user. They de-value your brand.

                          If you use them to provide great value to people, none of these assumptions is true.

                          All the people who instant-close popups without looking at the content will instantly lose you potential fans. They’re not looking at the content of the popup, they’re just trying to get it to go away.

                          Again based on what data? The assumption here is that most people try to immediately close or leave. Data instead shows that popups work very well. The proof is in front of your eyes: everybody is using them.

                          It’s a sign of desperation and egotism

                          Or simply a pondered decision based on real data.

                          you’re going to interrupt my browsing experience? You and your product are not that important to me.

                          Another developer/designer assumption. Granted that most products out there suck, if the product is a real solution to a real problem, it is indeed far more important to the customer than his “browsing experience” (which is a thing that does not even exist in the mind of people that are not designers).

                          To me is much more offensive to see developers build crap just because they think their idea is genius instead of actually stopping and listening to real customer problems. Trying to sell that garbage in my opinion is much more ethically wrong than a popup on the web page of a legitimate product.

                          And yes, I do use a popup on my website. In the past I was jumping on the popup hating bandwagon myself because I was listening only to the echo chamber. Until I started looking at the actual data and using one too. And the results are:

                          • Signups increased and a third of my subscribers now comes through the popup (which means that no, people are not leaving my website)
                          • People write me emails and thank me for the free guide they got through my popup
                          • They give me testimonials and some of them become happy customers (with no buyer’s remorse or refunds)
                          • No one ever complained about my popup to me (they might be leaving silently, but the first point shows otherwise)

                          This is my data, and is consistent with the data of everyone else. And my website is targeted at developers, which also shows that the vocal minority is indeed a minority.

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                            I checked your website to see the implementation and noticed something immediately: Your best copy is in the popup.

                            Start here: “The 9 fundamental concepts every iOS developer should know that shows up at the top of every blog post is not very attention grabbing.

                            Improve your iOS development skills that shows up above the header on any blog post is vague and not interesting unless someone has already gotten value from reading your posts.

                            Do you know where to start learning iOS development? is very attention grabbing, actually makes me personally interested in what you have to offer, and yet it only shows up in the popup.

                            That’s why I’m not convinced by “I added popups and my subscribers increased” and “everybody is doing it.” Maybe just using your best headline: Do you know where to start learning iOS development? in other places would have given you even better results than the popup. Also be careful attributing every subscriber that comes through the popup to the popup itself. Even though it’s “exit-intent” that doesn’t mean you know the actual intent. If I read your blog, think it’s great, and then go to put my email in at the top of the screen (where it says Improve your iOS development skills) and I overshoot with my mouse or trackpad just a little bit, then I get the popup. Now my signup is attributed to the popup when my intent was actually to sign up somewhere else!

                            1. 2

                              I’m not sure why you’re being downvoted, because you gave a mostly balanced and thoughtful comment.

                              While you’re absolutely correct - that popups DO work better than almost any other on-page element for gathering opt-ins, and that the developer/designers/tech crowd tend to hate popups much more than the general public - there’s nothing wrong with disliking popups and expressing your opinion about them. But it is good to have a reality check and realize that one’s perception of what people like/dislike doesn’t always match up with reality.

                              Personally, I dislike any sort of intrusive advertising. Whether it’s an entry popover, an exit intent, an ad that pushes the rest of the content down the page as soon as I’m about to tap something on my phone, or the terribly irritating Forbes interstitial. If I’m only idly interested in a piece of content when an ad/popup interrupts me I won’t hesitate to back out and forget about it. If I’m really interested in something I’ll usually find a way to escape it and continue reading the content. And on a rare occasion, a popup or an ad even interests me enough to take action.

                              As a marketer, I’ve worked with many clients to setup popover opt-ins. I don’t let my personal like or dislike of something get in the way of doing what’s best for the client (as long as there is not something morally/ethically wrong involved), and popup ads work exceptionally better than anything else at getting opt-ins. They don’t drive away a large percentage of visitors if done correctly.

                              The most important thing is not to blindly listen to advice one way or the other, but to test it properly in your own situation to find out whether it works for you.

                              1. 1

                                I would like to propose you a provoking thought. Maybe you don’t like them because you have been educated to not like them.

                                For me it was like that. I didn’t like them because all I was reading (mainly on Hacker News) were comments alike the ones you find in this thread.

                                Until somebody made me think about it and now I don’t dislike them anymore. I actually read them and even use them sometimes. Unless they are trying to sell me crap, but then the problem is in the offer, not in the popup by itself.

                              2. 2

                                Thanks for the thoughtful discussion.

                                I think popups have a time and place, and I know that they clearly can work. But some popups are just bad, particularly on mobile. Developers probably notice the details of the implementation more than the average person, and a couple of bad implementations have poisoned the well. One easy to dismiss popup that loads up over top of what I’m reading? That’s fine with me. A slow to load piece of crap that pushes the very content i’m trying to read up and down dynamically as it forces something like 700 complete page reflows? That’s what I can’t stand.

                                Do you have any data on exit-intent popups? I think there’s a very niche group of sites where those are actually effective. But I guess they are infinitely more effective than not having them, so they have that going for them.

                              1. 3

                                This is a noble attempt, but it’s written with such broad generalities and it sounds like it’s written by someone who has never actually launched their own course.

                                Another way to look at this is figuring out how many people are likely to buy your course. Generally, you can assume that at least 2% of your email list will purchase, so you can decide on pricing that way. If you have 1000 people on your list, 20 people will probably purchase. If you want to make $4000 you’ll need to sell your course for at least $200 to meet your goal.

                                That’s… not how it works. By the same logic, if I want to make $50,000 I could just price my course at $2,500 and not work the rest of the year.

                                You can increase the value of your course by several hundred dollars by improving the production quality of your course.

                                No. You might slightly increase your conversion or retention rates for the handful of people who are concerned about aesthetics, but if you’re delivering truly valuable material the production quality matters very little. (So long as the lack of production quality isn’t hurting usability.)

                                The “pricing calculator” is even more naive. It’s just a list of “bonus” options you could add to your course to increase its selling price by a fixed amount.

                                1. 1

                                  Nice guide! I assumed Gmail was doing all of this automatically for certain emails.

                                  1. 2

                                    It was really interesting to me to see just how much the broker (FEI) does to help along the sale.

                                    I’m now curious how well ClientSpot is doing post sale. The new owner seems to have been blogging consistently once a week since then, but otherwise hasn’t changed the marketing site at all. The blog posts seem… like the kind of post you’d get from a blog writing service. And they haven’t posted any news updates since April of 2015.

                                    I wonder if the buyer really had an interest in maintaining the site, or like the other buyer who was an investor, just wanted it for the cashflow. He was a finance guy with no experience running an online business.

                                    1. 8

                                      The author touches on this a bit, but Know Your Company was spun off from Basecamp/37Signals in January of 2014 after generating almost $400k in its first 6 months. 70% of their revenue in 2015 was from existing customers, though she didn’t tell us how much of that was from customers that are still around from the Basecamp era. Generating that kind of revenue for a 2 person business is terrific, but they took a path that isn’t typically available for most people, and are riding on the coattails of 37Signals.

                                      Anyway, the business model is very interesting. It’s closer to a software licensing model than a SaaS, This works well for them because the resource demand from customers over their lifetime is exceptionally small - they aren’t server intensive, and likely have few customer service issues. Because they’re focusing on established businesses. Because the pricing varies with the size of the business. And because they can rely on employee turnover bringing them “recurring” revenue from existing customers. Plus, they don’t get lumped in with other SaaS tools when the business is looking to cut their monthly expenses. Very smart.

                                      1. 3

                                        Agreed, spinning off of Basecamp can do nothing but help the bottom line.

                                        1. 2

                                          Aside from the obvious boost they got from basecamp,

                                          I’m curious as to how software products paid “for life” work. What would happen if they choose to close the business? Will they refund? I’m aware that sounds nitpicky and everyone should “get” that it just means “a very long time”, but IDK, maybe there’s a hidden term in their contract that allows them to legally void that promise.

                                          1. 2

                                            I’m glad you noted this as the article feels a bit disingenuous coming from that angle. This (to me) is the equivalent of saying that Niantic (the makers of Pokemon GO) are generating huge amounts of revenue when most of their familiarity and infrastructure comes from when they used to be part of Google. A company that is a spin off should be making that obvious and abundantly clear in these sorts of articles.

                                          1. 1

                                            I think this framework is fascinating and something I’ve considered loosely before, but not sat down to draw it out. I wish you’d dig more into the “exchange rate” between currencies. You throw it in there as a fact without explaining your rationale, and I’d like to see how you compare them to one another.

                                            1. 1

                                              I think you pasted the edit link when posting, so it asks me to login to Medium.

                                              Correct link: https://medium.com/@ctaylormpearson/why-cash-is-worth-less-than-you-think-135b416299a8

                                              1. 1

                                                Yup, that’s what it does for me too. Thanks for sharing the correct link!

                                              1. 3

                                                I don’t know that HN is manipulated, but it isn’t enjoyable for me any more. I used to love reading the comments there, now I find myself visiting less and skipping the comment section altogether. There’s so much negativity, nitpicking, and politicking. (If I posted this comment over there I’d be torn apart and asked to prove it with veritable data, and a dozen people would remind everyone else that this is just one person’s anecdote.)

                                                It’s still somewhat useful for finding tech news and articles, but you have to sift through so much mainstream news that gets posted there under the guise of “being interesting to hackers.” Whether it’s changed or I’ve changed, I couldn’t say, but I’m happy alternatives are popping up.

                                                1. 1

                                                  Definitely noticed a significant decline in the last year or so. Lots of new blood with no respect for the old ways. Same stuff gets posted and reposted. It appears that eternal September has come to HN (some would argue it happened long ago). Such is the way of the world.

                                                1. 2

                                                  I’ve been doing some customer exploration for a new product I’m working on. Focusing right now on finding people who generally don’t know how to cook, so they end up eating a lot of microwaved food or eating out. If that’s you I’d love to chat for a few minutes, message me! :-)

                                                  Also trying to scrape up a little freelance work while doing this. In talks for a small monthly project, but still need to find 1-2 more clients over the next month. I do online marketing consulting with a focus on data tracking, and I also run a mean Facebook ad campaign.

                                                  1. 1

                                                    Cool. I’m interested in what kind of product your working on. I’m a big believer in cooking your own food, and there are very few nights that I don’t cook something from scratch. Honestly, if I could cook all day, I think I would be happy, but i’m definitely not made out to work in a commercial kitchen. I’d love to hear more about it when you get a chance.

                                                  1. 2

                                                    It might be just me, but I am honestly not sure if I can commit to a weekly video chat, but I wouldn’t mind joining a small group to talk in slack/email/other async communication.

                                                    1. 1

                                                      Would you be able to commit to an hour every other week?

                                                      1. 1

                                                        I don’t know…maybe? I’m just not big on something that’s pulling me out of my already very busy days. Which is why async communication is the part appealing to me.

                                                      2. 1

                                                        Same here. I’m in Mountain time, and 1hr a week is probably not doable for me atm.

                                                        1. 1

                                                          Would you be able to commit to an hour every other week?

                                                          1. 2

                                                            It’s more doable. I’m also more likely to have accomplished something over the span of two weeks. Logistics may be an issue, i’d be most available after 9pm MT (11pm ET, 8pm PT).

                                                            To fill out the rest of the response:

                                                            What is your business (or industry)?

                                                            Services/Products for photographers

                                                            What stage is your business at? Does it support you, do you have employees, is it a side job?

                                                            Idea stage side-business.

                                                            How long have you been running your business?

                                                            Just starting out. I’ve been seriously looking at potential opportunities since about February, but haven’t settled on a particular business or model yet.

                                                            What would you hope to get out of a group like this?

                                                            Accountability, boucing idea’s off of people, Marketing advice

                                                      1. 2

                                                        Got professional help to launch (yet another) Facebook campaign.

                                                        Running for 24hrs now and got 0 results. What’s worse, the ad got a few extremely dodgy comments from other pages, not even users, so I suspect this professional is … not professional. Or maybe it’s just me not giving the poor sod a fair chance. I’ve spent money on a landing page based on his advice. I won’t regret it, as I’m learning, but I might not go down this route again.

                                                        1. 2

                                                          Send me a message with your email, I’d be happy to take a look (free) to see where any issues might be. I’ve profitably spent over $300k on Facebook ads for clients.

                                                          1. 2

                                                            @WormholeNetwork, If you guys eventually figure out what works and what doesn’t, I think we’d all appreciate a brief writeup about your experiences. I’m looking into FB marketing right now, and love to hear about it.

                                                            1. 1

                                                              Will definitely write it up and share with the community!

                                                            2. 1

                                                              Thank you Matthias, I’ll drop you a message in a second.