Today’s co-host is Brian Casel. Brian is a designer and full-stack developer, as well as the founder of ProcessKit and Audience Ops. While Brian started as a freelance designer, he has transitioned into a business owner by productizing his own services.
Brian is the founder of multiple productized service businesses, and in recent years has built a few products as well. Rather than ditch all his clients at once, Brian has been intentional about the process. He worked with his best clients to figure out what parts of his business could be transitioned into products, and then built those products on the side until they became self-sustainable.
Over the course of his career, Brian has worked with lots of different kinds of clients. He was a generalist for many years. Once he was established, he realized he needed to focus on a specific type of customer, and specific solutions to their problems, rather than doing anything and everything.
During the last couple of years, Brian has also branched out into products (like ProcessKit) and has ideas for more in the future.
In this episode, we dive into how to transition from generalist services to productized services and find your first client. We talk about pricing strategies during that transition and Brian shares some unexpected and counterintuitive ideas.
In this episode Brian talks about:
- His background and how he got into building productized service businesses.
- His strategies around moving into a productized business and how that can affect your other business.
- How he figured out his pricing between all the different markets he was serving.
- When moving into a productized business, don’t ditch your existing clients. Rather, make moves inside your current business to start working with your ideal clients.
- Pricing is a bit of a gut feeling mixed with some testing to see if the market will bear your prices. The busier you become, the more selective you can become toward higher margin projects. You also need to price so that your service is a good value for your target customer.
- Always start your productized services where you already have inroads. Breaking into a new market, looking for customers, and establishing yourself as an authority will be easier if you’re operating inside a market you know.
Important Mentions in this Episode
Brian Casel 0:00
At the end of the day, even though it might seem like or might feel like they’re, they’re buying you really they’re buying the end result and what they’re trusting is your ability to find the right people. They’re trusting in your process and your methodology, your way of doing things and all of that.
Jason Resnick 0:26
Welcome to episode nine of season six of living the feast I’m Jason aka rezzz helping you grow your business by having a conversation with someone who’s been there had success and built a business designed around the life they want to live that’s live in the feast. If this is your first time listening, hit that subscribe button so that you get notified each and every time a new episode drops. Live in the feast is in your podcast app of choice. If it isn’t, let me know. I’ll get it there. If you’ve heard the show before. leave us a review on iTunes or drop us a comment in breaker or cast box. Today’s co host is Brian Casel. I’ve been chatting with Brian now for five plus years, I discovered Brian when I searched for ways to stop being a generalist developer and become a product eyes service provider. Brian is founder of process kit and audience ops. He’s also founded and sold restaurant engine and hotel propeller. He started his career as a freelance web designer transitioned into building product sized businesses and now is built a few small products as well. In this episode, we dive into how to transition and find your first client when you are going from a generalist service based business into a product eyes service. We talk about pricing strategies during that transition. And Brian shares something that’s a bit unexpected and counterintuitive for those that are providing services to clients. This is a great one. So let me just shut up. And here’s Brian.
Hey Feasters. Welcome to another episode of live in the feast. I’m here today with Brian Casel. Welcome, Brian.
Brian Casel 2:24
Hey, Jason, thanks for having me on.
Jason Resnick 2:25
Yeah, thanks for being here. It was funny. I looked back in our email the first time we I always like to do this, like, see when we first connected by offline in a long time. Yeah. 2014 Oh, wow. I was like, wow, five years ago. That’s Yeah, that’s quite a long time. But uh, yeah, I mean, I’m excited for this one, I know that you have a wealth of experience in the realm of pricing. But before we dive into that, what are you up to right now? What are you working on? That’s, that’s, that’s fun and exciting.
Brian Casel 2:56
Yeah, I mean, right now, in 2019. I really only most all my time is going to a new product called process kit. It’s a software product. And and I’ve been spending all of the past year a little bit more than a year now. It’s actually a pretty big transformation for myself. I basically dedicated all that time to becoming a full stack developer. Up until about a year ago, I was always a front end designer, developer do HTML, CSS, WordPress did that for like 10 plus years. But building an app from start to finish, there was always that wall where I just need to start to outsource the backend development to someone and I got a little frustrated with that. That’s that’s a whole other story. But about a year ago, I was like, Well, my main business audience ops affords me a lot of free time. So why don’t I just invest that time into learning and I decided to learn Ruby on Rails. And I basically spent the past year becoming a Ruby on Rails product builder. You know, I mean, I’m a designer first, but but I’m actually now as a designer, I’m actually able to build products with that. And so I built a couple couple smaller things before this. But I’ve been spending all of 2019 building a product called process kit, which is for building processes and starting to delegate to your team and and basically running your processes on your repeatable projects. That’s essentially what what process kit is for. And as we record now we’re in we’re in August, and going into September, I mean, I’ve been rolling it out to the first users and, and getting the first customers on that. But besides that, I mean, I’m, I continue to run audience Ops, which is a product eyes service company got a really great team of freelancers and people running that that’s a blog content as a service. I really don’t spend a whole lot of time in that business at all, but it is highly systemized, privatized, and it goes pretty well. Yeah, I’m doing some podcasts here and there in between.
Jason Resnick 4:54
Okay, couple things. What made you choose Ruby? Ruby RS?
Brian Casel 4:57
Yeah, when I first decided like, Okay, it’s time for me to actually learn to code using something, I spent a good month or two kind of exploring the different options, but different popular frameworks and languages out there. For me, it really came down to either PHP and Larry Bell, or Ruby on Rails. And, you know, I didn’t want to go to like the new the newer trendier frameworks, you know, like, I don’t know, like view JS and, and react and like that, first of all, it’s probably too complex for me. And second of all, I don’t trust the newer stuff, I want it to be around like, so I decided to stick to boring, old, but tried and true and very popular frameworks, because I know that those would be easier to learn because there’s a huge community around them, I settled on rails, because it’s basically in version six. Now, when I started, it was in version five. But you look at like a view or something that’s in like version two, or something I don’t even know. But it’s just the younger, you know, so I wanted to go to one of these more mature frameworks. I started with PHP and Larry Bell and went through some tutorials on that. And because I had worked with PHP through WordPress for years, but I actually found that a little bit more difficult to pick up, and I could follow the tutorials, but I had a hard time going and creating something of my own based on what I learned. So then I did a few tutorials with with Ruby and Rails and that for whatever reason I was I was able to get up and running and building my own simple ideas much quicker. And so and so then I just kind of committed to that stack. And, and I love it. You know, I think it’s fantastic. You know what people think that like Ruby on Rails is like, dead are not popular anymore today in 2019. It’s not true. I mean, I think it’s fantastic. And there still is a very awesome community around it. So
Jason Resnick 6:44
yeah, before I entered the WordPress space, I was a Ruby on Rails developer. And I love Ruby on Rails like I just Yeah, I don’t know, it’s elegant. It’s like you said, it’s, I don’t know, I was the same thing like I came from Java development and, and custom PHP work before they were frameworks on top of PHP. And like, just Ruby on Rails for whatever reason, like you like, you could wrap your own abstract ideas into an application. Yeah, really easy. I don’t know why, what what it is about that, but it just made it so much easier.
Brian Casel 7:14
Yeah, and kind of like a as like a, I’m pretty much a newbie when it comes to back end code, or develop our databases and stuff like that. And so, Rails is so readable. It’s easy to learn. But it’s also like, even if I haven’t coded something before, it’s like, if I just take a guess at what the what the syntax probably is. Chances are that’s pretty much it.
Jason Resnick 7:34
Yeah, right. Right. Yeah. Because they make it in such a way that it’s like, the reads as sentences.
Unknown Speaker 7:41
Jason Resnick 7:42
So I know. And you mentioned a little bit that you first were a designer and you had your own services and all that. And then you move started moving into product, eyes, businesses. That’s kind of how I found you back in 2014 was, I was looking to figure out a way that I could product eyes my service, because I was very much a generalist developer and reinventing the wheel every time a new product, a new customer came in. And so I was trying to figure out a way to product eyes. And the listeners always ask me, there’s a lot of times they’ll ask me like, how do you product eyes? A customer service? So what’s your thoughts on that?
Brian Casel 8:24
Yeah, I mean, I get that question all the time, too. And there’s a few things to think about. I mean, number one, moving into a product sized business of any kind, it does require some some thought and some intentionality around like, I’m, I’m setting out to change my business. So probably just like I did, for many years, I served clients, all different shapes and sizes. I did all day, I was a freelance web designer for many years. And I did all sorts of different types of websites, e commerce, membership, blogs, brochure websites, like whatever it was, I did it, I know, at a certain point, you do need to say, Okay, I’m going to start to focus on a certain type of customer and a certain type of solution to some problem that they have, you know, rather than doing everything in anything, so I mean, that’s, that’s the first thing is like, and this is certainly not a change that that should happen overnight. And you shouldn’t just ditch all of your revenue and projects just to start on this new path. But it’s something that you can be intentional about and say, you know, over the next year, I’m going to really start to focus on just working with universities and making the best possible solution for a University website. And then you can, once you standardize that, then then you can start to actually build a business around that you can build processes, you can hire people to fill very specific roles and things like that. But I mean it, when you think of a product eyes service, it doesn’t have to literally be cookie cutter or a template, you know, solution, sometimes templates do factor into it. And that makes things faster and streamline. But the actual work that you’re producing, and that you’re delivering to a client, it can be 100%, it probably should be 100% unique. And original, I mean, my business audience Ops, we do blog content as a service, every article that we write is obviously original, we don’t duplicate content. It’s not like we, you know, we’re not working off of template articles, you know, we have a writer who literally researches comes up with a unique topic just for a certain client, does the research on that topic writes 1500 words on it creates a unique lead magnet around it, like all of that is unique custom work. But the difference is that we’re producing that in a very standard, streamlined, predictable way. So like we always have the same time estimates. It’s not even an estimate, we know exactly to the day like how how many days it’s going to take us to to produce an article for a client. And we know it goes from from a writer to a copy editor to an assistant to the manager who sends off the email to edits and then we follow the same procedure for the creative process. But the output is original, if that makes sense. Yeah, totally makes sense. Yeah. The other question that comes up around that is also like, Well, my clients want to work with me, because I’m so talented, or they trust me, or they think that they believe in my personal skill. And and they they won’t trust or they won’t buy my what my business offers, they want the person. And you can grow out of that, too. I’ve done it. I mean, anybody can can do it. And you see this happen all the time. And I think the thing is, at the end of the day, even though it might seem like or might feel like they’re they’re buying you really they’re buying the end result, right. So you can put together people who are even more talented than than you are at the thing. I mean, I wouldn’t write articles for my clients, and they wouldn’t want me writing their articles, because our writers are so much better than I am, you know, right, and what they’re trusting your ability to find the right people. They’re trusting in your process, and your methodology, your way of doing things and all of that.
Jason Resnick 12:15
Brian’s first point in this whole transition, this whole process is to intentionally work with one particular client and find the best solution to deliver to that client. He goes on to say that you shouldn’t ditch all of your work, either. That’s a big myth out there in prioritizing your services. But what he says is that over time, the focus of your intentional work will start to swing your business towards becoming that go to resource for that particular client. This is the most asked question, I get around privatizing services, as well as deciding to niche down, not going to lie here, it takes a ton of work, Nobody said it was easy. To be honest. For me anyway, it felt like I had a side hustle against. If you want worksheets, exercises, and the ability to create that laser focused and precise solution, and not have it take yours like myself and Brian, head on over to feast course.com. Today, as a member, you’ll get the processes the templates, not only to figure out who your ideal client is, and the services that you can provide for them. But you’ll learn how to figure out the price to put on those services that makes it a complete no brainer for the client. You’ll also learn how to systematized and product eyes, the bits and pieces of your business so you know exactly how to deliver your solution. I want to invite you to check out feast. If you use the code product eyes at checkout, you get your first month for only $20. feast is the community and resource hub for developers and designers ready to get off that project searching hamster wheel and actually run the business that you set out to build feast helps position you in the market with what you do, who you help, and helps you build out all of those processes and systems, your business isn’t the same as everyone else’s, I get that when you become a member of feast, you get personalized guidance from me, it is essential to meet you where you are and make sure that you are getting the exact tools so that you don’t get lost in that shuffle. The moment you sign up, we’re going to have a chat. So that I can create a custom syllabus of resources within feast to meet you where you are. If you want to stop chasing that next project all the time, so that you can start living your life go to feast course.com today and use the code product eyes at checkout. And your first month is only $20. That’s essentially how I’ve shaped my businesses that everything else around it. It’s a very standard process of how clients come in how they managed, how they’re on boarded. And now afforded that delivery, all of the rest of it. All of that is very process oriented. It’s just the actual work is different, right? And it could be different services. And they’re all based around certain, not just requirements from the client, but budgets, timelines, and etc. Yeah, when somebody is thinking, right, so if they’re a designer, or they are developer, and they’re definitely building out bespoke projects at the current time, you said that it’s obviously not an overnight thing. You and I both know that, how can you then start to say, Okay, I can’t cut off my revenue, you know, that’s like, then I need to pay bills and all the rest of it. But how can you be intentional about saying, Okay, I’m only going to work with universities, let’s say, and turn away all of the other work, so that I could start building out the business in that way? How would you suggest people start to approach that?
Brian Casel 16:08
Yeah, I mean, I, again, I don’t think, you know, you necessarily have to turn away business, at least not in the beginning. But the idea is that, as you put in more work to attract or talk to more of the of that ideal customer, the universities or the restaurants or whoever it’s going to be that works, overtime, crowd out the other work, you know, and and then you have the luxury of turning away business because you have too much business coming in over here. And it becomes easier to attract those customers, because you’re putting all this work into marketing to that ideal customer rather than the other customer. And the other thing to keep in mind is that if you start to be intentional about selling a solution to a very specific type of customer who has a specific problem, the sales process becomes a lot easier than just working with anybody. Because if you work with anybody, you probably get a bunch of referrals from clients. And those always come with a certain level of trust, because somebody personally introduced them to you. But you still need to have this long drawn out conversation, maybe series of conversations, write a custom proposal, figure out what they want, the client never knows what they really want. They need to figure out how many hours is it going to take from you and when is it going to be delivered and define all the scope and all that. Compare that to a full, we’ll just keep going with this example I universe, somebody who works at a university needs a new website for one of their departments. They come to your, your website, or they hear you speak somewhere or whatever, and, and everything that they’re seeing and hearing from you speaks to the needs the unique needs of a university. I don’t even know what those would be, but like maybe, maybe they need to like they they need a way to show a large number of academic programs that students can choose from, if you’re speaking to that problem, and then somebody just comes and discovers or hears about you. They’re reading your content they’re hearing from you. And then they’re saying like, Oh, yeah, this person gets me. They know me, they know what I’m going through, because they’re pointing it out right here. And so since they know me, so well, it’s implied that they have that they know the answers. They know the solution to this. And so right there, it puts you miles ahead of any other competitors, because it’s like, Am I going to buy from a generalist? Or am I going to buy from the person who literally designed their whole business to serve people? Just like me, you know? Sure.
Jason Resnick 18:29
Yeah. So I have a ton of questions on different transition points of pricing, and how you think about these sort of things. But before we do that, and I mean, your professional career has had shifts in focus. So I’m curious to know what your defining moment in life so far is, and it may not even be part of your career? I don’t I don’t know. But,
Brian Casel 18:53
yeah, that’s a big question.
So obviously, you know, having kids, I have two little kids, three and five years old. And that’s, I bet a lot of your guests probably point to that. Certainly was for me, and, you know, because and I guess just thinking about that, if I have a more interesting event that I’ll talk about in a second. But the I’ve been self employed for, I don’t know, going on 12 years now. So more than the first half of that I didn’t have kids. And now now I do, I could definitely point to that as being, I definitely became more focused, after having kids and maybe a little bit more strategic about the about what I choose to work on. Maybe some of that is just having an experience to but I mean, the other thing just practically is like, as, as any parent probably knows, is like, when you have your work time, that is gold, because you don’t have all the free time that you used to have. And so when I’m here in the office, I’m making these hours count, I guess, when I agree get out of the office, there’s I’m not going to get a lot done for the rest of the night. So compared to, you know, before kids, I could work all night if I wanted to. But that’s not really an option now. So the other the other one that I think about actually a lot is the time is the is when I decided to become a freelancer. This was January 2008, is when I left a a web design agency, I was working there full time. And then I became a freelance web designer in New York. And that was the reason why I keep thinking about that, especially more recently is that if I had not decided to go freelance, then I’m not sure that I ever would have. Because I went freelance and then everyone knows, like later that year 2008 was the economic crash, right? If I had held on to that job for like, one more year, and assuming I wasn’t laid off or something, I would have held on to that job, like I would I wouldn’t have gone freelance and in the middle of the Great Recession, you know, so. But I did, and I went freelance almost a year before the recession really hit. And in some ways, you know, that sort of helped my freelance career grow a little bit in the in the first and second year, because a lot of these companies were not hiring employees, but they were hiring freelancers, you know,
Jason Resnick 21:21
that’s interesting. Yeah.
Brian Casel 21:23
And so I’m just glad that that happened that at that time, and also, because I was young at the time, and I didn’t have a mortgage wasn’t married, didn’t have kids. So I think that was a good time to get out on my own, and then spend a few years trying to figure it out and stay, stay above water and everything. I have a lot of friends who are still employed at jobs now and have little kids and they’re in their 30s and 40s. And they’re trying to make that switch now. It’s just impossible. It’s not impossible, but it’s a lot harder. It’s a lot harder, you know, I mean, the salary that I was giving up was like nothing back in my 20s. So it’s these people are trying to replace a six figure income. It’s just so hard, you know?
Jason Resnick 22:04
Yeah. On the personal front, that super focus is like, I don’t know, I felt like I was focused before. Before I had my first son. And it was like this again, like even with the second one, it was like, boom. All right, we need to focus, right. And same thing.
Brian Casel 22:21
So that’s a productivity hack for you right there. Just have a kid.
Jason Resnick 22:25
or multiple? Yeah. For sure. Yeah, I mean, that’s interesting about the recession, too, because I went full time in 2010. And left than all that, and I was definitely. And now that you mentioned it, as far as how companies were hiring. Yeah, I was basically at a tipping point where I was only sleeping about three hours a day, essentially, like where I was working full time hours there in the morning and afternoon, and then working all night delay 3am. And then waking up again. And that that’s that was my tipping point. I was like, Okay, well, this is the time go full time. Yep. And they were I was getting plenty of clients at that time. While most people were losing jobs at that point. So
Brian Casel 23:12
right. Yeah, it was kind of a weird, weird transition time there for sure.
Jason Resnick 23:16
Yeah. So based off of your experience in services work, and then building out a product eyes service. And now products as well. And this is going to be a really big question. But how does your mindset shift from the complexities of, of pricing between all of those three different spaces,
Brian Casel 23:40
it pricing is so hard, it seems so easy on the surface, like you just pick a price, you know. And so sometimes it is just for at least for me, it’s kind of like gut feel, but it is really hard. And and I think it’s even harder for if you have, if you’re trying to price a product, then pricing services, it’s really, really strange. But like, with selling services, you can charge a lot more in terms of dollar amounts. But at least in my experience, that’s easier to to ask for a higher dollar amount and actually easier to close a big contract than it is to sell a $49 a month software product. You know, it’s it’s really strange, but it’s actually a lot more difficult to, to sell a lower price product, it seems, or at least to sell enough of them for it to be a significant business. I mean, with with pricing services, obviously you you can especially if you’re just straight freelancing or consulting, and it’s, it’s not a very well defined product, eyes service, then you can and you probably should fluctuate your prices and learn over time. And, and over time, you should probably be increasing your prices to I, when I start when I went freelance in 2008. I mean, I think I remember my very first freelance client project was like a whole website for like 800 bucks, something like that. And I’m in, you know, but a couple of years after that, I was doing similar websites for 20 $30,000, you know, but so over time, during doing doing the freelance services, stuff, it was just a gradual increase of pricing. It wasn’t super scientific or anything like that, it was just like, sometimes it was just like, hey, let me let me let me try to price this 1000 or $5,000, more than I did the last one and see what happens. And because that because I was doing like different proposals for clients at that time. The other thing is like, as you get busier, you can become more selective, which can just mean, you’ll just start quoting higher prices to naturally only win fewer, but higher priced products. That’s generally how that goes. But then later, as I as I did, as I started to get a little bit burned out on the generalist project work, and I wanted to go to more product type stuff, I was getting into building my restaurant engine, business and things. At that point, I started investing my own time, like a lot of my own time into these products, or products or services that were not necessarily off the ground yet. This is another thing that a lot of freelancers have a hard time with, I think, is investing your time into these projects that may or may not bring you any cash whatsoever. Even like what you’re doing here, this podcast, I just think that more freelancers should do things like this, whether it’s a podcast, putting out a book, creating a product, you know, learning a new skill, like just invest your time and stuff that doesn’t pay that sounds so weird, especially for somebody who charges by the hour. But it’s so worth it. Because you’re going to leverage that you’re even if the thing that you put out doesn’t do any you learned a ton of stuff. And now you can do another thing and you’ll you’ll probably do it better. Or, or you put content out and maybe you can attract an audience. And then that can make things easier. So I highly recommend investing your time and not being worried about you know, making making money from that time, obviously, you need to pay the bills. But if you want to change, if you’re happy doing project work, that’s great. If you’re not, and you want a better or bigger or different type of business, then you will need to invest extra hours into something else. And that that might mean cutting down project work. So that extra week, or it might mean working late at night or working on weekends. I mean, I did that for years, you know before. But the other thing related to pricing that I did during that during that time, especially going into restaurant engine was I intent, I very intentionally quoted higher project prices for my client work, so that I could take on fewer projects, and have more free time to throw into this new startup idea. And then it got to a point where I sort of, I like winnowed it down as I phase out the client work. So I kept the two or three really good, high paying clients, and didn’t take any other projects. And then it went down to just one high paying client for like the last six months of it. And then when that finished up, it was like, Okay, I think I have the other thing to a point now where I don’t really need the client work. Yeah.
Jason Resnick 28:24
So when you started to then product eyes, your services will get the process getting a minute, because I think that that’s a little different to as well, when you started to prioritize your services, how aligned? Or I guess, how aligned were your existing services that you are providing to your clients, to the new business?
Brian Casel 28:45
Yeah, I mean, I, I personally took a little bit of a weird path to get into it, because I started with this business called restaurant engine, which was a web website builder, built on WordPress, but it was for the restaurant industry. When I started out that business, I didn’t really started intentionally as a product, eyes service business, I didn’t really have a concept of what that was, I was just trying to build us a hosted website, like a SAS type of service. And I was a web designer, WordPress person. So that seemed like the easiest path for me to have like a hosted subscription service that I knew how to build, or at least I could work with some people and, and get it built. But what I learned in the first year of that was restaurant owners, small businesses, they don’t want this fancy Website Builder that they can come in and create their own websites, they want it done for them. So then I started offering that as a service to get people to have their website built very efficiently, because it’s built around our templates and stuff. And then, and then get them onto the subscription service. But then I hired a team to handle all that setup, work and design work for clients. And that’s what sort of led me down the path of like, Oh, this is actually more of a product eyes service, then it is a software thing, even though we were using our software a little bit. So that’s sort of how I came to it originally, and then I and then I continue to scale out that business using processes and people and all that. And then that business I sold in 2015. And the only reason I was even able to sell that business was because it was built around these systems and processes and as a team, and it basically ran without me. And then a new owner is able to continue on with that business. without me being in the business. That’s that’s the whole idea of of building systems and processes. And then the next, the next one that I started right around that time in 2015 was audience ops. And that that time around, that’s when I really went like I doubled down on that idea of, Okay, I’m going to build a product, eyes service business from day one, and build a team. And I didn’t build a large team from day one, but I did start selling it as a service from day one with processes and a very clear value proposition and everything.
Jason Resnick 31:01
So with the value proposition, is that how you came up with the pricing, because you could deliver on a specific ROI for the client or?
Brian Casel 31:09
Yeah, so. So pricing for a product eyes service is difficult, because you need to balance a few different things like number one, it has to be a good value for your target customer, you know, you could sell the same exact service to 10 different types of customers, and it’s only going to be really valuable to like one or two of them. You know, so so we sell blog content as a service, you know, the average plan is like 2000 bucks a month. And for a lot of people, that’s that’s way too much money. For a lot of other people, that’s, that’s peanuts, and it’s too cheap. And they won’t buy content for that cheap, but our niche is is like the the software founder that the small growing software company, and, and they see it as a pretty good value. And so so you need to align that value with your target customer. The other thing in a service business, of course, is you know, need to understand your costs. So I needed to figure out, how much does it cost to have a team of a writer and a copy editor and an account manager and an assistant handling all the pieces that go into producing every article that we do. And then, you know, building in profit margin, and yeah, and then just like, how can we make all those pieces work really, really efficiently? So that so that this thing can run predictably and continue to scale and grow and all that?
Jason Resnick 32:28
Yeah, there’s so many questions. And you said that there were there was, there was challenges, and there is some things that you had to overcome. What were they? Yeah, I mean, there’s always challenges I have challenges today, you know, but so like, in which business when you went from restaurant engine to audience Ops, and you were said, Hey, I could $2,000 is value for that one person at a 10, we found out who our niche was based off of that, right? I mean, initially, did you go and seek out those sorts, we’re founders, or was it?
Brian Casel 33:01
Yeah, so it was II. And this is what I recommend to everyone is start where you already have inroads, you know, don’t try to reinvent. And I learned that the hard way, really with with restaurant engine, I was selling to restaurants, I don’t personally know any restaurant owners, I don’t have any connection to that industry or any recognition or anything like that, like, and it was an uphill battle, I had to, it took me years to like, get content and SEO and things like working for that business to start to get customers. So with audience Ops, when I started that, going into it, I was like, I definitely want to sell something, a product or a service to the people that I’m already connected to anyway. And that’s primarily software founders and other service owners. And I definitely wanted to make sure that I’m solving a problem that they have. And that was something that I heard, like, literally going to conferences, I would hear people talk about how they’re having a hard time figuring out how to hire writers and how to, you know, get content done for their, for their startup and everything. And instead, that was something that I was hearing, it was something that I had already figured out in my previous business, I hired writers and got a system going for that. So I was like, well, that’s, that’s a solution that I know how to how to deliver, I can put those pieces together. And then I just needed to figure out the price point. And so the first step that I did was I emailed about 20 or 30, personal contacts, so people who I knew personally, and they knew me personally, who were basically in, in that industry, and I thought would be potential customers, or would almost certainly know a few people. And so I, I emailed those people just say, Hey, here’s here’s my new business idea, here’s kind of what it’s all about, I might have showed them like a very rough landing page or something, it included pricing, and including what’s included. And then I was like so just let me know what you think I’d really love your feedback on it. And if you happen to know anyone who you think is a fit, I, I’d love an introduction and an out of that warm email that I sent out, I think it resulted in something like six or seven good conversations, and then three paying customers out of that. And then you know, I continued to, after that, I started to publicize it to my larger audience and different networks and, and all that and so and then it started to grow a little bit faster. And to be honest, I feel like the price point I kind of got a little bit lucky because it I have I literally have not changed the pricing on audience ops since day one, which is really strange. Most most businesses change pricing a lot. And I’ve had, maybe that’s a sign that like I should be charging more. But you know, I just feel like it’s, it’s one of those things that just works. And it’s not, I don’t believe in just increasing prices for the sake of squeezing out every penny that you could possibly get, I really believe in making it a good value without losing money as a business. And that’s, that’s been working pretty pretty well, I think one of the things I noticed about pricing on that is we have two plans, we call them light and standard and the light is around 950 a month. And the standard is is like 1950 a month or you know, 1000 or 2000 a month. And the people who buy the top plan, the standard plan, they tend to see it as like, Oh, this is a really good deal. Like we would be paying a bunch more for audience ops. And then the people on the lower plan, they’re usually like, all right, this is like right in line with our budget, or it might even be a little bit of a stretch for us. So it’s weird. It’s like the lower priced one. They’re kind of reaching up to it. But the but the higher priced one they’re, you know, really affordable for them. And, and so you just want to like align the the package with the right type of customer and, and make sure it fits.
Jason Resnick 36:55
Yeah, I mean, I think I think if you haven’t raised prices, I think it goes to what you said earlier is that you you went intentionally for people that you were connected to that you knew the industry in the space and the language in which they talk and and knew that you were solving a specific problem for them. And you you knew all of those things going in together, you kind of put that formula together. And here’s the solution, you put it in front of them and said, here’s the price. Is this valuable to you? Is this not valuable to you. And the fact that you got those three signups off the back of those calls. And obviously continuing on several years later, obviously, it’s a good value, right? Like, you know, for me, like I do the podcast, right? And like I hate post editing, right, that’s just something that I don’t enjoy doing. So rather than me sitting there for hours on end, slicing and dicing and levels and all that stuff, which I really don’t understand at all, I could pay somebody else to do that. And for me, that’s a value, right? And so I think that goes into really saying like, Hey, this is what I understood to be the market, this is what I understood to be the proper solution. And if the price hasn’t changed, you’re still getting more and more customers. Obviously it’s working. Right. And it’s producing that by
Brian Casel 38:15
Yeah, and it goes back to, to that thing of like it’s easier to sell. And it’s it’s also easier to buy, right? Like if you’re a client, and you’re a podcaster, and you hate doing editing, and you see somebody offering a podcast editing service. I mean, they’re speaking to your pain point. And it’s like, yeah, like, Where do I sign up? You know, they Exactly. And the way that I like to think about it is or the way that I tell people quite a bit as imagine that ideal customer who you would love to be selling to just came to you and said, You know, I kind of have this business problem. I don’t really know what I need, why don’t you tell me what you think I need, which is obviously a dream, like no client ever really does that? Right? But that’s sort of your chance, if you just, you know, roll with this thought experiment, like just imagine that this fictional client came to you and said, like, we you know, budget is not an issue for us. We want to increase our organic traffic like how, how would you suggest we do that? Then you can put together okay, well, if if it were me, these are all the things that I would want to be doing. These are all things that I would want to include in some package to say, to increase that organic traffic. And, and I would price it at this level to make it make sense. And so so it’s like you get to custom design your your best possible, recommend recommended package of services to solve that specific problem. And then if you if you write that up and put it on a landing page, and then you’re writing copy that speaks to that person’s needs and their goals and all that then then it should resonate.
Jason Resnick 39:51
Yeah, that’s a great, great exercise to go through just kind of put yourself in that space just to see, what would you say? What was the package? What would be the ideal solution? To solve a problem? So two questions before I let you go, one, what is one fun experiment? Or maybe funds are wrong word, but what one experiment that you were surprised that with your pricing if you have one that produced some unexpected result. Um,
Brian Casel 40:23
I don’t know if I’m that surprised by this. But I guess one interesting thing is that, so we offer, so this is an audience and we offer those prices that I was talking about those, those are monthly, but we offer the option to pay on a monthly basis or quarterly basis. And the majority of customers actually choose the quarterly option. And that’s been pretty consistent for a long time. I mean, they get a 10% discounted rate when you pay quarterly. But, but if you’re on that top plan, I mean, that’s that’s not cheap, you know, to put on a credit card. And so I guess that’s sort of surprises me, but I think it’s a good thing to offer those those options to think what else?
Jason Resnick 41:06
Why quarterly and not annual,
Brian Casel 41:09
here and there, I’ve we’ve had a client or to pay annually, and that’s more like by requests, but then you get into a pretty high price point. And, you know, not everyone’s credit card is able to charge that much all at the same time and things like that. And we do all of our billing through stripe. So gotcha. But in some select cases when it when it was by request, we you know, we did we did a whole year, or sometimes we did a six month thing, but but in terms of the available options that almost every client does, it’s it’s either monthly or quarterly.
Jason Resnick 41:43
So before I let you go, what’s up next? I know you’re working on process kit, and that’s rolling out for the next six to 12 months. What’s up?
Brian Casel 41:52
Yeah, I mean, process kit, but just software in general, I at this point, I’m, I’ve literally been working software for the last year and a half every single day. First learning, I’m still learning it but but now building software designing software products every day. So I I definitely see that as the next long term chapter for me. I know people sort of know me as like the product, eyes service person. And I still have that business. And I have the course around it. But for me the goal in all of that was to free myself up to work on new products and, and I never would have been able to get into software, if I didn’t have literally 40 hours a week that I could sink myself into these courses and practice projects and stuff like that. And so, so that’s been the most fun for the past year is just getting into software. And then right now this year, I’m very much focused on on the process kit product. But I’ve got a couple other little software ideas too. And one, one small one that I actually did launch before process kit at the end of last year was called sunrise KPI. It started as like a practice project while I was learning rails, but it was actually a need that I had, which is I wanted to get all of my key metrics, like my revenue, my traffic, my email, subscribers, all that, like I wanted that emailed to me every month, every morning. So I built the tool to do that you can connect to your stripe, you can connect your Google Analytics, all that. And so so that’s like a little product that’s out there. And then process kit is the big one. Couple other little ideas here. And I will probably be looking to hire a developer at some point kind of soon to work with me on these products so that we can ship more features at the same time.
Jason Resnick 43:42
Awesome. Yeah, yeah, sunrise was great. I mean that there was a couple of clients. I mean, I signed up for the free one, just to kind of see what it looked like. And this couple of clients of mine that used some of that, but they had other, you know, I was building out basically what you were building out Google Sheets, and, and Data Studio and things of that nature. And I was like, Hey, I could just offer this to sunrise KPI. But there was just some nuances and some custom stuff that I was pulling from custom databases. And I was like, Okay, well, then they’ve, they’re kind of back at the same low. Yeah. But
Brian Casel 44:19
it’s like, intentionally very simple. And it’s a lot of people. It’s like, it’s too simple. But, you know, for me, I just wanted like, some key numbers that request a lot like people wanted to, you know, generate reports for for clients. And maybe at some point, I’ll you know, that I do like the idea of working on one product and then taking a taking a break and working on a different one for for a month or two and then coming back. And so, you know, maybe at some point, I’ll I’ll get back on to sunrise and make some improvements to it.
Jason Resnick 44:47
Why do you take the break? If you don’t mind me asking?
Brian Casel 44:50
Uh, you know, like I said, sometimes it’s just see a burnt out on one project, you literally look at the same screen the same design every single day. But then it’s also like I, you know, I hear Jason freed talking a lot about this recently from he’s from base camp. And I think they call it like Tick Tock development, where they’re like working on one thing for a while, then they’re working on another thing, and then they come back to the first thing. And I like that idea. Because it it’s not like I take a break to go take a vacation. I mean, I do that too. But the taking a break and working on something else. You can use different creative muscles, you’re solving different problems. You’re learning a whole bunch of new stuff. And then you can take all that that you learned and and it’s like you come back to the first project with with fresh perspective fresh ideas, you know?
Jason Resnick 45:45
Yeah, that makes sense. Awesome. All again, this is fantastic. Brian, where can people reach out and say thanks?
Brian Casel 45:53
Yeah, I mean, my main site is at Brian Casel dot com and my newsletter is there you can I send kind of like real time updates behind the scenes stuff to my newsletter every week. I also co host a podcast with my friend Jordan gal. It’s called bootstrapped web.com. I love that when when we’re not too busy or traveling, we can get some episodes out there. So
Jason Resnick 46:19
it’s one of the few podcasts that I will I like I subscribe to and I will listen as it downloads. Great, guys. All right. Well, for everyone listening definitely will link up everything in the show notes is plethora of links there to check out. Go sign up to Brian’s email list. He definitely does do that behind the scenes look, which is really interesting to see how he thinks about certain things and problems over the course of a week. And he shares some insights. And he says, Hey, well, yeah, I’m still figuring this out. And so, you know, the behind the scenes stuff is always awesome. So thanks again, Brian, for being here. really do appreciate it. Gotta do it again.
Brian Casel 47:01
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Jason, thanks for having me on. Always, always a pleasure.
Jason Resnick 47:06
And for everyone listening Till next time, short time, live in the feast.
If you enjoyed this episode, I could speak for both Brian and myself by saying that we’d love to hear the one takeaway that you got from this episode. It’s super simple. In your podcast app, presumably this one that you’re listening to right now drop in a comment or review, or go on Twitter and share it and tweet and tag me at breads. And I’ll be happy to pass that along to Brian as well. Hit that subscribe button to so that you’ll be the first to listen in next week. When we’ll be back with jack McDade. jack is a designer, developer, dungeon master and creator of status. We’re going to talk about parenting, pricing, being an 80s and 90s kid and strategies for end against monthly and lifetime plans. Until then it’s your time to live in the feast.