Embracing Open Startup Culture

May 5, 2018| Mike Stott

I’ve always been one for sharing the positives and negatives of being an Entrepreneur. If you’re a regular follower of the blog you may have noticed that the content here has dried up a little. Why?  Three reasons.

  • First, I had employed a Content Writer to source and write about useful articles on the blog, so you’ll see things like  How to Get Facebook Style Images in WordPress while this was a good experiment which ran from August 2017 to November 2017
  • Secondly, I’ve been travelling since November, away on my honeymoon and haven’t had “full time” to spend on Epic Plugins and Themes (Diego has been helping out until recently)
  • Finally, I’ve been focussing a LOT of my own time on Zero BS CRM and it’s continuing to perform well (relative to any plugin I’ve released in the past).

However, I don’t want to stop with Epic Plugins or Epic Themes completely, so I wanted to share a bit in this post about what’s next and how I plan to embrace open startup culture even further through making my revenue (and churn!) numbers public.

First, I want to cover each of the above before talking more about the plans for the sites “Open” nature.

1. Content Writing

I follow a number of blogs, some are great, some are not so great. Through believing the hype that a lot of content gets your site (and business) growing I went down the route of commissioning articles for the blog. Here’s how the 4 month stint of that impacted the traffic from August to December (vs the 4 month stint of NOT doing it – from January to May).

I’ve included the full history so you can see whether there’s been any increased or decreases, which there hasn’t. Nothing worth noting anyway.

Nothing to shout home about. No hockey puck growth. That’s traffic alone. Let’s look at revenue from direct plugin sales..


You may think, great, more revenue in, surely the content  has made an impact. However what the above is showing is

  • The jump is from selling WooCommerce My Account as a plugin
    • Previously this was my most popular post, where I shared some snippets of code on how to “write it yourself”
    • Turns out people are more willing to pay for a solution, easy to install than write their own
    • Plus, the plugin is epic, more customisable and more advanced (now) than the original snippets were
  • Content Writing didn’t have much of an impact on sales overall
    • None of the plugins that existed prior to WooCommerce My Account have sold more than usual

Notice how I’m saying “Content Writing” and not “Content Marketing” that’s because that’s what is was. I was having content produced but not really marketing it. Why?

I didn’t want to slip into being one of those sites that do “10 best plugins for pigs, 2018” then refactor to ,2019

I like the content on this blog. I want it to be super fresh, super useful and aimed at Entrepreneur’s running websites like ours, wanting to use plugins (like ours) that enhance it and save time – just like WooCommerce My Account does.

But also, it’s worth remembering that I didn’t really promote the articles when they were produced. I wasn’t 100% passionate about them. I didn’t want them to seem mass produced (which they were).

So, what will I cover in this blog? Relevant, useful updates about plugins and themes, and things I’m passionate about.

2. Travelling

This has been great. I’ve been all over the place since November, too many to write about here. We have a separate blog covering our travels, which the wife keeps updated and takes a lot of her time. If you want to find out what I’ve been doing then you can check it out here.

Some of the highlights for me have been

  • Husky Sledding in Russia
  • Russia in general – what a great place, with a bad reputation (in the West)
  • 3 weeks at a Muay Thai training camp
  • Hiking (part way) to Mount Everest
  • Steak (in Argentina)

While travelling I’ve still be working on my online businesses. It’s meant limited time though vs what I was capable of when I was “full time” doing this. It’s a balance. I’ve always been one to work, work, work pretty much all my waking hours so this has been a lesson in taking it a bit slower (we’ve still produced a LOT) since November.

There’s no hiding the fact that the plugins and themes side (Epic Plugins and Epic Themes) haven’t been as regularly updated as they were.

3. Zero BS CRM

This has been the focus, and while it’s not 100% Epic Plugins Limited – it’s still one of my plugins (50/50% developed), what it has meant though, is to be fair on the other Founder, that it was split out to it’s own Company around November time and stopped being part of Epic Plugins (and it never was an Epic Theme).

If you want to keep up with Zero BS CRM, then our handy blog covers all the product updates we’ve done (April’s update is due out soon).

It’s easy to get carried away when one of your side projects is doing well, and I’ve been carried away with it. What I don’t want to do is completely ignore Epic Plugins and Epic Themes – so I need to manage my focus between the two better.

Epic Plugins and Epic Themes

It’s been a while since I wrote on this blog, and I’m not going to set myself any crazy goals while I’m still travelling. However I do want to keep focussing on these plugins and themes. It’s hard though, in only 6 months things have moved on so much in the WordPress world.

Gutenberg is around the corner and there’s still a constant supply of new plugins being added to both WordPress.org and CodeCanyon, check out chart below (courtesy of Plugin Hunt Stats)

That’s 120 plugins added to CodeCanyon in the last 30 days (a rate which hasn’t slowed, going off the gradient of the chart)

Renewals are in!

Epic Plugins and Epic Themes both switched to a renewals system in October 2016, so it’s been a good year now and plugin renewals are coming in. That means both businesses are very much “SaaS like”. What I’ve been missing however is a “Baremetrics like” solution for WooCommerce Subscriptions.

We use Baremetrics for Zero BS CRM now, as well as our own Sales Dashboard. However, WooCommerce + Woo Subscriptions is a different beast all together. The issues I have with it currently are

  • WooCommerce allows multiple payment gateways (Baremetrics only works with Stripe OR Braintree)
    • I recently turned PayPal back on, so I have multiple sources
  • It has it’s own reporting and items can be added into a “cart” and the cart renews so it means “breakout by plan” is tricky

From using Baremetrics on Zero BS CRM we’ve found it incredibly useful to be able to track our “MRR” and our “ARR” which is how much we expect to bring in over the next 12 months (assuming no-one cancels around the renewal date).

WordPress plugins and WordPress themes are different to Zero BS CRM (even though Zero BS CRM is a plugin), but what I’ve also found is manually updating and keeping track for the multi payment, Woo Subscriptions model isn’t easy (with carts)

But I want those statistics. Either way, what they show is if, each month, you’re adding more customers than you lose through churn, your business is “growing” which is great. Otherwise, it’s shrinking.

Tracking Metrics for WooCommerce

[EDIT] I initially intended to “build my own system” for this, but through research and a “Sunday Funday” of building a MK1 – it boils down to a lot of man hours for me to do this properly.

I also found a good solution already on the market. Not only will this save me the time manually doing the numbers myself, it saves me the time building the solution. It has some gaps (i.e. revenue doesn’t break down between “new” and “renewal” which I quite like. It does doesn’t give me a “all sites” view – something which my Sunday Funday project gives me.

As developers, we have a tendency to see something and think “Oh, that’s cool, but it doesn’t quite do what I want, lets build my own”…  it’s hard to take a step back, but finding something, even if it costs per month – it’ll save me time in the long run.

Want to see what I built in my Sunday Funday? you can read the post here.


Categories: Epic Plugins

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