In this episode I talk to Laura Roeder. Laura and I have been friends for a long time. I’ve learned so much from her, and it’s great to have her on the podcast.
Laura started an online community and a course called Creating Fame. She’s done a bunch of stuff in the internet space. She’s one of the people who’s been doing it since the early days.
She got into software with a company called MeetEdgar, which is a social media scheduling service, and grew it into a successful company before selling it. She recently started another company called Paperbell. Paperbell is the all-in-one software that solves all the problems of running a coaching and consulting business.
There’s so much to learn from Laura. I love her direct, blunt style. She’s given me great advice over the years, and you get to tune in as we jump on a call, hit record, and start catching up.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Benefits of choosing a narrow niche for your business
- Common branding mistakes to avoid when starting out
- Laura’s advice for writing great copy
- Tradeoffs between hiring freelancers and employees
Links & Resources
Laura Roeder’s Links
- Laura’s website
- Follow Laura on Twitter
- Laura is on Instagram
- Follow Paperbell on Twitter
- Paperbell is on Instagram
- Follow Paperbell on Facebook
- Check out Paperbell on Pinterest
The best copywriting advice is always, always, always write it how you say it out loud. If you read it out loud and it doesn’t sound like something you would actually say, go back.
That is going to turn out way more casual than what you first wrote. The end result is you’re going to be like, “Can I really send that?”
That works so well.
In this episode I talk to my friend, Laura Roeder. Laura and I have been friends for a long time, maybe nine, 10 years, even longer. I’ve learned so much from her, and it’s great to have her on the podcast.
Laura started an online community and a course called Creating Fame. She’s done a bunch of stuff a long time ago in the internet space. She’s one of the people who’s been doing it since the early days.
She got into software with a company called MeetEdgar, which is a social media scheduling service. She grew that to be quite a successful company and then sold it. We talk about that a bit later on in the episode.
Now she’s working on another software company called Paperbell, which is software for coaches to manage their business.
There’s just so much that you can learn from Laura. I love her direct, blunt style that she’s always had. She’s given me so much advice over the years, and you get to tune in as we jump on a call, hit record immediately, and start catching up.
I hope you enjoy the episode.
One quick thing, if you wouldn’t mind leaving reviews and subscribing to the podcast if you’re watching on YouTube or wherever else. Subscribe on YouTube, and if you’re listening on iTunes or Spotify subscribe to those channels. We’re definitely trying to grow the audience of the show. Leave a comment or review. I’d appreciate it.
Alright, let’s dive in.
Laura, welcome to the show.
Thank you. I had to invite myself on your show, but you said yes. So, it’s sort of like, “Who invited me?”
I said, yes, immediately.
Very quickly, very quickly.
I think it was a hell yes to, I don’t remember. At
It was from me. You know,
Words in our text or Twitter, I don’t know. We have not talked in other than the occasional text message in years.
I know. Yeah. There’s like, I moved to a different country and then there’s pandemic. And so, Yeah. it’s been, it’s been a long time.
Yeah. I’m just, there’s so many things. I was actually writing a story about transport. I put it, oh, in my, private newsletter, about you and I at dinner in Denver years
We yeah, exactly. You’re like, okay, this is where is this going?
Yeah, I know that it’s going, I know the story. You’re going to tell.
So we’re at this like super fancy conference. I think it was, was it at the four seasons or some, some nice hotel and all that. And they’d plan this great dinner at,
I dunno, some like fusion restaurant,
It was really good. It was just, I had a couple of issues. One, they had like 37 courses for the food and every course,
Like 60 people who needed to eat all this food.
And it was so loud I don’t function well in loud environments. I’m just like, I don’t know. So I wanted to leave. We’re enjoying it, but I wanted to leave. So you couldn’t really have a great conversation, all of that, but I also really wanted dessert and see you at one point. And you’re like, Hey, let’s go.
Like, and I was like, well, you know, and they had the place cards with the menu, You know? And I could see that, like there was another course and then dessert, something like that. And it’s like, no, I just want to stay for that.
And the way I remember it is you at like lean forward because it was loud enough that like, it was a hard to hear and you’re like, Nathan, you’re a millionaire by your own fucking dessert.
And it was a good point.
We can afford to buy dessert. You don’t have to get the free dessert here. I think we got ice cream.
Yeah. And then we went and got ice cream. We probably spent, you know, $10 on it for a
Total, you know, and, it was a great time. But, anyway, the reason that I liked that story, the reason I tell that story, is one, you know, helped me shape mindset around money because there’s a lot of things in that where, you know, you realize you’re holding on to things that you don’t need to.
But then it’s also like the perfect story of, like the relationship that you and I have had over the last, I don’t know what nine years or something you’re
To the point with candid feedback and where you’re just like, why are you doing this?
You know, so anyway, it’s good to have you on the podcast and, and catch up on hanging out because, yeah, I just want to hear what’s been going on and you know, if you have other things, you know, where you’re like, why are you doing this?
And get to the point with Mary I’m here for.
You know, I think I want to add to that story too, because I think there’s another kind of lesson in that story, which is also just a kind of like life is short. And sometimes we feel these obligations that.
Else actually cares about, you know, because I remember we were talking about it and we’re like, you know, we don’t want to be rude.
Like obviously the people who organize this conference, but a lot of time and money into putting this dinner together. But yeah, it was this massive dinner. We weren’t, you know, coming up to the organizers saying like this dinner, this dinner is terrible. Like we just left kind of early. I’m sure they did not care at all.
And if they did care, I would say like, guys, you’re a little too invested in how long people are staying at the dinner. You know what I mean? But, so I think sometimes we find ourselves doing these things because we feel some sort of obligation or we feel like we have to, or we feel like, you know, we’re not allowed to.
And I think it’s just a lesson in questioning kind of checking in with yourself. Actually, did I make a commitment to someone to stay for this entire dinner? Like, no, I did not. You know, it’s I, I can go. It’s fine.
Yeah, well, it just makes me think. I used to do a ton of things in life, out of obligation, you know, whether it was, the, if someone invited me to something, especially a family member, you know, any of that, like I would just always go, even if I didn’t necessarily want to.
Maybe around that time, I’m trying to think what it was or, yeah, probably I, I made the shift.
I had a couple other family members who I could tell didn’t do anything out of obligation. And sometimes it was annoying, but they like, they set a good model, but like you knew that if they were somewhere it’s because they want it to be there and like that they showed up differently because of that And it actually, you know, when they, when they were, at an event or spending time with you, like, it felt different because you knew they wanted to be there. And if they didn’t want to be there, they’d be like, Hey, I’m going to go do something else now and I’d leave. And so it it was a whole shift from.
Probably about that time of realizing how much I did out of obligation. And then, how that like would come across for other people.
Yeah, there’s, there’s a great phrase that I learned from, there’s this woman called mama Gina. She teach us mama Gena’s school of womanly arts. So if you’re listening and you’re interested, you can just Google that and get into her whole world. I can’t even start to explain what it is. But some lingo from that community is y’all ask someone, is it in your pleasure to do something?
And then someone will say it is in my pleasure. And if, if you’re talking to someone from that community, you know, that, that means that they truly do want to. So it’s great. Especially if you’re asking for a favor or something like that, like you would say, would it be in your pleasure to pick me up from the airport?
And they’re like, yeah, it would be in my pleasure or no, it would not be in my pleasure. You know, that that’s going to be a huge hassle to me. It doesn’t sound fun. I’d rather just see you when you’re there. And it’s just a great way to have this very straightforward communication that you genuinely know that both parties are happy.
You know, you don’t have to think, oh, what if they, you know, what if they just said yes, because they feel bad, but actually they’re going to have to find a babysitter and, you know, just to go pick me up from the airport, you don’t have to have that whole conversation of figuring out what they, what they really want.
It’s like, is it, is it in your pleasure?
There’s another version of this that I ran into last night where, I bought the house that I grew up in from my dad. Cause he’s retiring. He didn’t want to have that big of a house it’s up in the mountains and like has a lot of nostalgia for me, but, we’re remodeling it and we’re gonna use it as a vacation home part of the time, but mostly like rented out on Airbnb and that kind of thing.
So, and the whole process of doing it, I hired a designer for, or I’m talking to like a house stager designer to do that. Lay out for it or not blow out all the furniture in the court and everything, and we’re just going back and forth. And it wasn’t quite working. Like prices were much higher than I expected.
And I couldn’t tell if they really wanted to do this project because they can try and find some way to make it work,
Wanted to work with us or what it was. And so finally I just called them and said like, because I didn’t want to be a burden on them. I didn’t want to, you know, really push for something that didn’t work.
So I finally just asked and it was, you know, my question, it was much longer than like, would it be in your pleasure, but it was like,
You, do you want to find a way to make this work? And I’m like, oh yeah, we do things. We really like working with you. We did it on another project and we really want to do this project.
And it was just interesting being able to ask so directly and then to get such an honest answer back. And then I was totally confident they weren’t doing it just because, they, you know needed the money or they like didn’t want to let us down or something. It’s like, no, no, no, we really want to do this.
Let’s find a way to make it work. And it’s like, oh great. And so I just love that candid communication where you’re like honest with yourself and honest with the other.
Well, I now know that this is also a. American trait because I live in the UK, which is famous for indirect conversation. and it is a cultural thing I’ve had to learn here specific. It sounds funny, but the, the tea thing is real. British people really do drink a lot of tea. And if someone comes to your house, you have to offer them a cup of tea.
And I learned that you do not just offer them a cup of tea once you’re like, do you want a cup of tea? And they’re like, no. And then you’re like, are you sure? And they’re like, no. And then you have to say, well, I’m having a cup of tea. So would you want one? And then they’ll say go on after several times, which for me honestly, is a little bit.
Frustrating because I, you know, as we’ve established, do prefer a much more direct style of communication. And also you had been expected to drink the tea, you know, even if you didn’t want to, because then you had to pretend that you were making some for you and then you can’t just like, not for you. And then you do have to make some for you just sit there and drink it.
So it’s okay. I’ve, I’ve adopted, it’s not that big a deal to, to have to ask a few times
Yeah, you can manage it.
I can manage.
Tie this into business? We don’t have to, but I’m just thinking about,
No, I think the way I think the way that it ties into business is, I mean, I get, you know, I guess your, your personal preferences may vary. Right? But I think giving people permission to create this culture of more direct communication, you know, with their team, with their clients, with the people that they work with, and talking about it, right?
Like it’s really useful to actually explicitly talk about. Whether you resonate with the phrase, is it in your pleasure? That’s totally a phrase that you can use at work, you know, or make me want to have another way that you’re going to say it, but yeah. So that you can communicate with people without all this dancing around the topic and just like knowing that that’s totally okay.
And I think a lot of people prefer to communicate that way.
Yeah. And I think setting an expectation beforehand, like if you were to start working with someone, I I’ve seen people write like these. Like the handbook for working with Nathan, you know, like this is just, this is the way that I think this is what I preferred, you know, like when I show up at work at my best, this is what I’m like when I’m at my worst, that usually shows up like this, you know, that type of thing.
And that’s like the most formal version of it. If you wrote it all out.
But an informal version would be like, Hey, I really valued direct communication. and so like, I’m going to tell you if I want something or don’t want something.
You can just trust me and take me out my word.
And that’s really helpful.
Yeah. And you know, this is something I was working on this morning for my company. So, paper ball is my business now. So it’s a SaaS company for coaches, like life coaches to manage their billing and their scheduling and contracts and client information and stuff, and one tool. and I’m building the company in a very different way than I built mean Edgar, my last company, because MeetEdgar, we were all about having a full-time team.
Everyone was W2 and with Paperbellel, I’m building it with like subject matter expert freelancers. Like you have a specific job, you have a specific project you’d go in and do it. It’s a very different environment because there’s not, you know, we have a slack there’s like basically no chit-chat, but happens on the slack.
You know, there was no. There is no career building opportunities. You know, it’s like the only opportunity is kind of, you know, do your work and get the experience that way. And you can get better at your craft by doing this project. So as we, you know, grow over time, it comes up more and more often like needing new freelancers for different projects.
So I was working on kind of, codifying what, what is the culture here? And I think a big thing for me has been giving myself the permission that it is okay to have this culture, you know, that you, that you don’t have, for example, like customer service, we just need a few hours a day. I don’t see opportunities for them to get to lead a big customer service team, but also there’s a lot of people that don’t want to be a manager that want to be an individual contributor, get it done.
Don’t have to go to meetings. You know, it can just like go in and do your work. So I think. for me, it’s been a big thing just to give myself permission, just to say like, yes, this is how we do things here. You’re going to love it. If you’re like this, you’re not going to love it. If you’re like that. and especially, I think a lot of very small businesses like listening to this podcast, we do need to do things in this more creative way.
And I think sometimes we can sometimes feel guilty about it. Like, oh no, one’s, you know, no one’s going to work with me because they’re not going to be able to have this, this big team to collaborate with. But as a one person business, working with a few freelancers, you have a lot of great unique things to offer to.
Yeah. One thing that stands out in that is saying, I think most people say you’re going to love it. If you’re this type of person and if you’re this type of person, you’re going to love it as well. I’m not really sure why, but it’ll be
Going to love it doing it very deliberately saying this type of person is going to love it.
And this type of person is actually probably going to hit it should
Us entirely, you know, not as a customer, right. But as a team member, right. That’s not something that you’re going to, enjoy. If you’re the type of person who’s getting a lot of your community from work or, know, really looking for managing people career growth in that way.
Like it’s not for you.
In, well, an audience building, in business across the board and then certainly in team building.
The more you lean into The things I’m saying like, very clearly there’s two sides of this coin. These people are going to love it. And these people are not, I am specifically am making an audience for designers and developers are not like, you know, I’m not catering to them at all, know, or whatever is thinking and being clear about who you’re you’re excluding makes who you’re for a lot stronger.
Yeah, but it’s always really scary to do. It’s really scary to do, especially when you’re a smaller, I mean, this again is something we’re doing a Paperbelll where we’ve been doing some customer research lately. And we figured out that, life coaches in particular, and I mean, life coaches can call themselves lots of different things.
But basically if you’re a coach that sort of helps with that more personal side, that really is the home run for our product. And also we’ve recently realized that we are really a product for your one-on-one services. You know, right now we have some kind of very basic like content delivery course delivery stuff.
But the direction we really want to go is servicing one-on-one. and that at first felt a little scary because of. One-on-one is way less glamorous. Like if you are looking at media on like how to grow your coaching business, a lot of it is going to be about doing courses. A lot of it is going to be group coaching, like scale your business and all that stuff is great, but it’s not what everyone wants to do.
Like I think at the end of the day, in most situations, people are going to get the greatest transformation from one-on-one work. One-on-one work is, is really important as a coach. I think if that’s something that you are excited to do, and most coaches businesses are going to be majority one-on-one, even though you don’t hear as much hype and excitement about that.
So it’s a change actually that isn’t on our website yet, but is going to change on our site and our positioning like, and has given me a really clear goal. Actually, I have a little note here that says the world’s best platform for one-to-one. And gives me a very clear goal for our roadmap, for what we want to build in the product and not want to build.
And I know that it makes it so much easier for a potential customer to look at us and say, yes, but it’s, it’s scary to do, especially, you know, online courses. It’s not there obviously a huge trend gonna keep getting bigger. So to say like, no, that’s not the bandwagon that we’re on is it’s like a little bit scary,
Yeah. Those decisions where you could be wrong and they have implications, which makes me think of the inverse, because there, there are decisions where you can’t write. Be wrong. like it’s in a falsifiable way, right? You can’t prove that that this was wrong. So for example, if we target everyone, you can’t really prove that that was the wrong
Because the by-product of that, if it goes poorly, it’s going to be the company doesn’t grow,
The company, not growing on a hundred different
But if, for example, I target one-on-one coaching specifically, and the company doesn’t grow, I’m likely to blame that decision for, you know, for the lack of growth. And so it’s interesting looking at the decisions that you’re making that like, actually feel really scary because you’re like I could be wrong in this.
And those are probably the best decisions to make because. They are actually narrowing your focus and actually having you, no problem with driving growth. And it’s the, you know, it’s the non-decision of like, oh, we’re going to target everyone. We’re going to build all of these features. We’re not going to come into the market with a particular opinion because we could be wrong.
Yeah, but it’s, but then, you know, you said you don’t really know either way,
So what’s that well to the story, what are you supposed to do? If you don’t choose and then it doesn’t grow and then you don’t know why, and then you do choose and it doesn’t grow and you don’t know why.
Well, I think, I think if you do choose you, you learn a lot more, I think a lot of the broad,
The broad decisions, right? We’re going to go after everyone and we’re going to all of that, the, the decisions that open things up, Tend to give you a lot less information, because you could blame a lot of different things.
Whereas you made a decision that narrows something down and we can, we can know in a period of time, is this useful or is that, was this, the right decision?
We might get feedback. That’s more clear.
Yeah, you’ll start to find out,
Like, you’ll get feedback on that specific thing. Whereas if You make a broad open decision, you’re not going to get feedback that ties to that specific thing.
Yeah. Anyway, all of this, I’m a huge fan of like narrowing in and focusing with, as you know, we did that with ConvertKit, because your, your feedback is very precise.
So let’s, let’s talk about ConvertKit because you guys are at an interesting point where obviously now you are adding on a lot of features, right? You have payments now, landing pages. Right. I see. You’re building a lot of things. So how did you come to that decision? Was it like, okay, we have kind of enough of the captured enough of the market.
Then now it’s time to go off in different directions. What, what does that look like for you?
I think it, well, it’s something we talk about a lot how much have you scaled your current thing before you add in the next thing? Right? Because when you get to a certain number of customers, we’re probably at 25 million a year in revenue when we started working on payments. And so it’s on one hand, it’s like, look at all of these customers, say at that time it was 33, 30 5,000 paying customers.
Then you’re like, wow. If I get all of them to do payments, then this is a huge line of business as well. So that’s the like, here’s why you should do it. And then why you shouldn’t do it is the, like, have you scaled the core, right? Email, email, or landing pages? Have you scaled that? As far as I can go, should that get to a hundred million a year in revenue and
A hundred thousand customers first?
And it’s a tough trade-off. And I think one of the biggest mistakes that founders make when they have some level of success is they add the other channels sooner. I refer to it as like building a skyscraper versus building a strip mall. You know, you got your radio shacks and your subway and your,
All these other things, the you next to it.
I don’t think I have a clear way of knowing, which is right. yeah, it’s just seeing the opportunity, like the opportunity costs in each one. And I think I decided with adding ConvertKit commerce, that the Opry to cost for the core platform wasn’t that high and the, and our market was big enough. so at this point we only have like 4% of our penny customers receiving payouts from commerce right now.
And so it’s, it’s still relatively small. so there there’s a lot of opportunity to grow and it’s grown more slowly than I expected. So
So does that mean that maybe you did it too early?
Maybe it was the wrong call. You never know this is the
And then you can stop worrying. You’ll never know. So stop worrying about.
Yeah. I wonder if we, if we did it too early, or pro I think also the feature set required to compete in that space, is pretty substantial.
And that, and that’s the thing, especially if you go abroad, right. This is, an advantage to what you’ve done with paper belt of going narrow, because now you don’t have to have a course platform that competes with
And you don’t have to have, you know, whatever else. so anyway, narrowing down, especially early as is a really good thing.
Yeah. I mean, that’s kind of what we saw the writing on the wall is like, if we keep. Going broad, where we end up is, is Kajabi. that’s kind of the more similar, like, you know, the podia teachable or like just courses, Kajabi is courses and email marketing. And like, God knows what, like just literally every website, bill.
Yeah. Just literally everything. and I’m like, I do not want to build like personally, I just don’t love that kind of all in one software, just ju it’s just like, it’s not what I, it’s not the company I want to have. It’s not what I want to build, but if we keep, and I think, you know, this is why it is so important to figure out where you’re going sort of longterm, you know, a year or three years or whatever.
You might just start sort of adding on here and there things are, oh, people are asking for more courses. People want to be able to share videos, whatever, and then you realize, well, now I have this in-between any product that it’s like, you would never, we’re not Kajabi. So it’s like, why are you going to, why are you going to choose us over Kajabi?
Where we could have stayed really focused on your, again, your one-on-one services, your one-on-one coaching. Then we can build something that really is the best.
Yeah, yeah. Being the best for a narrow market. And then you can choose how to expand from there.
About feature set it’s it’s customer attraction. The how established your feature set is in your core market, before, before expanding, there’s a ton of things that I want to ask you about paper,
Look, I actually want to go back to Edgar for, for a second. Are you, when do you change from calling it MeetEdgar to MeetEdgar? Cause it was originally Edgar, right?
Yes. I think very few people would know that it wasn’t. What happened was it was originally Edgar. Our domain man was MeetEdgar.com. edgar.com is actually some sort of like securities thing. There’s something called Edgar and all caps. So we’re never going to get that. so we made the domain MeetEdgar.com, but then everyone was calling it, MeetEdgar.
And we’re like, it’s actually kind of a better name as far as like easy to Google, because Edgar is a little, it’s always Edgar Allen Poe. If you just Google Edgar, Google MeetEdgar. And the security thing, if you Google MeetEdgar, you know, you’re always going to get us. So we actually did switch like the brand and the logo and the stuff to be meet either.
Yeah. And you’ve always been good with, with branding and like me And your head, the world’s cutest octopus.
Kudos, octopus. people love that octopus.
Okay. So since we last talked, you sold me at your out look at that octopus. Cammy. Yeah. what, what brought you to selling me? Edgar. And how did that process go?
Yeah. well, so first I have to mention that I wrote a really detailed blog post about like the actual selling process. it’s on my name, Laura roeder.com. So if you’re interested in selling a business, especially a software business, but I think useful for anyone, go read that blog post, but you know, the decision to sell the business was definitely a long journey.
So the business was seven years old when I sold it and we launched in 2014 and we sold at the end of 2021. So, you know, for software company, that’s kind of a while. And I had taken myself gradually more and more out of the business over those years. So for a while I was CEO, but I had a head of operations kind of running the day-to-day.
And then actually when I moved to the UK, I was living in the U S and all our team was always remote, but all in the U S and when I moved from the U S to the UK, which was about four years ago now, it created a huge distance in a way that I wasn’t totally anticipating because we had been remote, but we always worked in this kind of real time, remote way, where we would have a lot of meetings.
You know, we had a lot of overlap. We’re all in America, a lot of overlapping work hours. And what I didn’t anticipate is like moving to the UK. American work hours are basically evening hours, totally evening hours for west coast. The problem is I have little kids, so like maybe if you don’t have kids, you’re like, sure.
I’ll just start my work day at 5:00 PM. But like, if you have kids, like that’s afterschool time, dinner time, FaceTime, bedtime, like the prime us working hours are your prime kiddo. It just doesn’t, it just doesn’t work out. so at that point, I, I was sort of not forced to I’d been on the path already, but that was kind of a forcing function and saying like, okay, I’m gonna move the head of operations to a president role and I’m really going to be out of the business.
So it was like a long journey from, you know, obviously being super involved in the business when we launched to being out of it more and more to deciding to sell it. I mean, there’s so many factors that come into selling. I don’t even know kind of where to start.
Yeah, well, I think it’s staying on the business operation side for a moment. You and I have always had a little bit of a different style in business,
Where you’re better at systems and like, and you’ll create that space. I think I’m the person who’s like all the way in it. And then I’ll like, get a little bit of distance from okay.
Hire these people. And then
I’m like, I don’t just perfectly replace the person. I like dive right back into the
I’m actually doing it right now. Now that I think about it, our VP of growth left and I’m like filling that role And having a great time doing it. But also you know, the, the advice is that if you want to be able to sell your business, like it has to operate and function without you.
And then also if you want to be that good leader, right, you can’t be in the weeds of everything. and so I think that’s something that you’ve, you’ve always done well. Having those systems to operate at scale. So anyway, I just want to that out.
Yeah. And also a big part of my story is I went on maternity leave six months after launch and I was actually away for like two months. So again, just a great forcing function. I knew I wanted to be able to take a real leave. So I had to set the business up in a way where it didn’t all just fall apart.
When I was gone,
Yeah. Yeah, that’s good. okay, so you decided to sell and people can read the, read the post because it is very detailed and has all kinds of great advice on it. did you end up, like after the sale, did you end up having to be an involved, in any way, or it was just a clean break.
It was, it was a clean break. I mean, I do, have a contract with them. It’s actually like just now finishing where they could ask me questions for six months after the sale, but I haven’t heard from them in a few months. but yeah, the business, like you said, Having things systematized was definitely always a strength of mine.
The business is just really simple. As far as business model goes, you know, we were a hundred percent self-serve so we didn’t have any clients on a special plan. We didn’t have any customer success where we were like servicing people. No custom features, no one mailed us checks. No one had a custom payment plan.
All of our revenue comes in through Stripe all like when we, for a long time, we only had one plan. We did have two plans by the time we sold, but it’s like a hundred percent of people are in this plan or that plan, that’s it?
You know, it’s like, it was a very simple business. We always use just like, you know, standard stuff.
As far as we weren’t making like coding our own weird things, using like weird programming languages. No one’s ever heard of which, you know, I didn’t know how important that was until I sold the business. Like doing things in a standard way, definitely for software. But I think this applies to other businesses as well.
Like just use the sort of standard best-in-class tools is the standard processes. If you like got real, crazy, and creative and are making up all your own things, your business is very hard for other people to ride.
Yeah. I mean, I think that’s why these like WordPress plugin businesses are get sold so often, and they’re relatively easy to sell it’s just like, you can hire a WordPress developer, you
A rails developer. Right. And each of these categories, it’s like, don’t, don’t get too clever
Then you’re gonna, you’re gonna regret it later
Okay. So one thing I’m wondering, well, going back to the money conversation from the
Were there any shifts in how you, have shown up over the last, like three to six months since selling the business where you had. Opera or like you realize, oh, I can let go of that way that I was working or the way that I interacted with money or, anything else?
Yeah. So I was in a very strong financial position before the sale. So I had always
Paid myself a few hundred thousand a year. Always been like a strong saver. So I had like a pretty substantial. Well, you know, portfolio by the time I sold, but I did not have, like kind of amount of money in investments that I could just live off of forever, which now I do, like now I’m at the level where, and obviously that number is different for everyone, but I feel like I have enough investments.
I don’t have to work. Don’t have to do any sort of scrimping, you know, on the, the life I want to lead. So when I first sold the business, I took a week off and just stayed in Brighton here where I live, because I wanted to have that experience. Like I wanted to put my brain, you don’t have to work. and to be clear, by this time I had paid for bell had already started like.
A year ago or something, you know, I was already well into Paperbell. and I was pretty clear that I did want to keep doing paper belt, but I just wanted to make sure that I stopped and considered like, okay, how did this life for a week? You’re not like on holiday, you’re just living your normal life where you live, you’re still picking up your kids at the normal time.
Right. You’re just not working like you usually do during the day have that experience. and it was really good actually to have that experience, to remind myself that that really is a real choice for me. And I, I do sometimes. I mean, the way I work now is like very part-time very casual. and it, it has made me kind of remember that I’m doing.
I am doing this for fun and a lot of ways, my business now. And I mean, it relates exactly to what we were talking about earlier, the different way than I’m building a team. I’m like, this is kind of an experiment for me in what sounds to me like the most fun way to work with people, because like, you kind of alluded to, like, if there’s a spectrum of like people, person, systems, person, you know, they’re not totally, usually more on the systems side.
So it’s like, yeah, okay. Can I, can I build a company my way where I’m not needing to do a lot of performance reviews and check-ins and, and team meetings and stuff that honestly, I never really loved, like, can we get freelancers to, to show up And do the work? And part of the reason I’ve been able to give myself permission for that is like, okay, you, you have enough money.
This is just a project you want to do. So make it enjoyable for yourself.
Yeah, I like that. there are times that I found myself explaining, you know, like to my kids or something. I was like, oh, I have to go to work or all of that. And it’s like, okay, I don’t actually, I’m choosing
And she goes to
And, and going back to the, doing things out of obligation or all that, like saying it’s not an obligation at this point.
And so just changing that relationship and saying like, oh, this is what I want to do. Even on the days where I’m like, why do I still do this? You know,
Wrong, like, I dunno, I, I deliberately choose to do this. So I like the idea of, of taking a break from it. or like living that, that reality for a little bit,
Yeah, I think I felt the money once I started investing it. So basically kind of what I’m doing with the money from the sale is more or less just putting it in various index funds. and you know, for various reasons, it just sat in cash for a while. Before I started doing that, I did get to buy in like a little bit of the drop at the beginning.
I mean, I was like, you’re not supposed to time the market, but I’m like, oh look, it’s a good down day. Like I’m gonna buy. So that actually like it, I didn’t honestly have like this huge sense of accomplishment when the money hit. But once I had the big investment portfolio and I got to like, make those really large fives of, of the investments, that kind of felt like, oh, this is like, this is real.
This is kind of cool.
Yeah, that’s great. Okay. Let’s go back to branding for a second. It could, because, you know, we have MeetEdgar. We talked about the domain there and how, like the domain that you ended up with ended up changing the name
Business slightly, with. Which, by the way, I just love cause no one’s ever going to misspell it.
A, like a fun, positive, playful connotation. You get all these people, giving advice of like names don’t matter. Like just pick something like firmly disagree.
That, I think it matters quite a bit. And so I really liked Paperbell as a name. I guess two questions, one, how’d you come up with it and then two, you started with paper, bell.io.
And so I want to get into, you
So. I also wrote a blog post about this. So again, look on my blog. So my process for Paperbellel was actually to start with the.com. Even though we did have the IO very early, I knew I could buy the.com. so basically what I did is like, I’m like, I want a business where I can get the.com. So I don’t have to have this thing happen where you have to pay a 500, $500,000, right.
For the.com down the road. So when I was brainstorming names, what I did was think of, I wanted a name, I mean, convert pitfalls, this formula, your failed name, didn’t follow this formula, by the way, like ConvertKit, like ConvertKit is two real words. So everyone knows how to spell it. Everyone knows how to say it, but because it’s two real words and not one, it is still very Google-able.
I think the absolute worst names, there are so many startup names now they’re like Penn. And I’m like, how is anyone supposed to Google that? Like I tweeted the other day, I’m like, I found another fathom. I found like four startups that are all called fathom. Like, how are you supposed to find them? Or there’ll be called like, screen.
I’m like you can’t type in the word screen and find your like enterprise analytics tool or whatever. So the two, just having two words, instead of one word solves, solves that you know, which ConvertKit has. So that that’s sort of, my formula is like, put two real words together. I found a bunch of words and I kind of liked the sound and feel up.
And then I went to premium domain sites. I think my budget was like $3,000. I went to premium domain sites to find, I think a lot of people look for domains that are just fully available, which is like, well, there’s not that many that are just unregistered, but if you have $500, a thousand dollars, $5,000, like the world, the world is your oyster for some pretty good dot.
So. We were always planning to buy the.com that, I mean, again, you’re really paying attention that, you know, there was an.io. I think that was when we did like a landing page prelaunch. We did that on.io, just being like, we’re not going to spend $3,000. If the universal feedback is like you dummies, like no one, no one wants this, you know, we’ll wait to get some people come through the landing page and then we’ll buy the.com.
But we did buy it very, very early.
How much did you have to pay for it?
It was right at that like 3000 type of number.
Yeah. It’s interesting, going to the premium domain marketplaces, cause there’s a lot and you in the say 2000 to $20,000 range,
Which is a lot of money when you’re just starting.
At the same time, it’s not like in the grand scheme of things. If this business works, it’s very little money, you know, you’re going to have to have to spend for it.
And so, like I went, I searched for domains that were available, you know, to register, go to eight for 7 99 or
But hearing your story and others, and this is also right, because if I started another business, I’m doing it with a budget. And so
That helps a lot.
That helps a lot. But one example is teachable. For example, it used to be called fedora was used fedora.com.
And pony, I used to be called coach, which was the worst name ever.
Oh, there was used with coach with coach.com. I think it was their domain or
I think that was coach use coach.me even.
Oh, that could be, oh, I have a rule on, company names or domain names. You’re allowed one model. So you, if you misspelled a word, like that’s your modifier and you have to have the.com, you know, you added the extra vowel in there or whatever.
Or if you have, if you added use or with, you know, so use coach, then you have to have the.com cause that was your modifier. Or if you have the.me or to IO, like that’s your modifier and you have to have like your bite, your
And it upsets me when people are like, yeah, use coach.io or, you know, or some misspelling anyway, only allowed one modifier.
It was a fedora. Like they I’m trying to think what revenue was. I think it was probably 50 K Mr. Moore. cause I remember like, you know, convert it and fedora then teachable grow at the same time.were searching for a new name for their business, they just went on the premium domain marketplaces and just scrolled and
And they found something, I think it cost 20 grand or so.
Know, but teachable is like a really great.
An excellent name. Yeah. Yeah.
I know. It’s not as expensive as people think. So. Yeah.
Like I said, I spent 3000, which is a lot, but a lot less than 20,000, you know? And there are some names even for like 500 to a thousand, maybe not as good quote unquote, but like you can get. especially, like a podia type name where it’s something sort of similar to a real word.
You can definitely get those for that thousand and under type of budget, just because they’re so random. It’s like someone, you know, may, may or may not want it. So yeah, I think it’s, it’s a path that a lot of people, it just never occurs. They just think they can’t afford a premium domain. I think they’re all hundreds of thousands and that’s absolutely not the case.
Well, I think another thing that you have going for you with paper, bell is domains are often priced based on length, right? So podia.com is going to be a fairly
Because it’s only five characters.
Val is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 as long as
And so what you’re going to end up with there is, it’s priced as though it’s less valuable, you ended up, you have very simple letters.
This is something that I do differently with ConvertKit is I would not put two continents, like two hard consonants together were ended like the nerdiness of naming, right? We’re like technically with paper value of two continents together, but neither are hard. Like it’s not a hard transition when you say it.
And they’re all like very simple, letters, you know, you’re you don’t have any cues or Zs or.
I think you’re overthinking mess by the way. I think ConvertKit is great.
Think that, you can end up with a longer domain, a longer, you know, two word domain, but it feels, and sounds very, very simple.
And that, like, that’s the thing that I would have people take away. It’s not about the length of the domain. It’s about how it feels and sounds and how, spell and pronounceable it is.
Anyway, I, yes, I’m a, I’m a nerd on. Okay. Another thing that I want to ask about with paper bill is you have a long form, like blog posts, style sales page, which, you and I both have a little bit of a background in direct response copywriting in that world. But most people, when you, when you do a, a SaaS page, right, it’s that sales page, you make it all fancy.
You gotta hire a
You have to do this. You have to look at whatever illustration style is in Vogue right now for SaaS pages and you have to copy it. Exactly.
It look exactly the same. No variation.
It has to be, you know, you’re like, oh, what’s Intercom doing now.
Let’s do that. by the way, people called Intercom intercom.io forever
A long time to grow out of that.
Anyway, so I I’m curious why the, the long form written page.
Yeah. So it’s to be clear for anyone listening, it’s our homepage. So it is very, very unusual for a software company to go to the homepage.
Long-form text. So, there’s a few reasons why I thought it would work for our market. We have split tested it and it did win, not a massive split test. but I think the reason it works for our market.
So one, our market sees a lot of long form sales pages. and ours is nice looking with a nice design, but I know there are some markets programmers who, if they see a log, anything that looks remotely like a long form sales page, they’re like, it’s a scam. I’m leaving now. It’s a scam. You know, just like some audiences like it, they have a bad connotation with it.
Our audience does not Our audience is used to buying online courses. You know, lots of our coaching often uses kind of the long form sales page they’re used to it. So it’s kind of how they’re used to buying things. another big reason why it makes sense to us is because paperbacks. Is a new category.
So this is something that is very, very different from MeetEdgar. So when we launched MeetEdgar, we were not the first social media scheduling tool. We did not think of that idea. You know, hoot suite and buffer both already existed. We had kind of a new spin on it, but it was an established category. And in retrospect, that was the best thing about marketing a business like that.
Obviously ConvertKits the same when people choose me, Nagra ConvertKit. What they do is they look for an email marketing tool. They look for a social media marketing tool. They read a bunch of blog posts with lists of all the top 10. And then they choose one of them, you know? So if you’re in a stab and this is again, why it’s great to have competition, people are so scared to have competition.
If you’re in an established category and you can make it to those lists, a certain percentage of people are going to choose you. Like, that’s just kind of how it is. That’s kind of how marketing those businesses is. At the end of the day, people go to the category consciously. They have to make a choice out of the category, give them a reason to choose you.
Paperbell is very different. So we are creating a new category. Like most coaches are not actively looking for a tool to manage their scheduling and payments and client admin in one place. It’s a new idea. So we, if we just present them with like, here’s the software features, it’s like, well, I wasn’t, I wasn’t looking for those software features.
It’s something that often isn’t going to connect with them right off the bat. But if we’re telling the story and for Paperbell, a lot of the story. Your love is of doing the work with your clients. You do not care about the business admin. You wish the business admin didn’t exist. You absolutely hate asking for money.
You hate sending reminder emails, you hate sending a contract and then they didn’t sign it. And you have to remind them again, before you can actually work together. You hate all of that stuff. You want to focus on the coaching. So we have to sort of back into things where we’re like, we know, we know what’s up with you.
You want to coach, you don’t want to do this business admin stuff. Good news. We have a solution for you. We have software that does this. I think it makes a lot of sense for our market that we would really need to tell the story, which I think the best way to really connect like that is through a wall of text because you can really have a conversation with someone.
It would be hard to do with just kind of a few graphics with one little line of text underneath.
Yeah. When, and I’ve definitely tried it for like you and I have both sold courses with long form sales pages. It works really well.
Like that great copywriting drawing people in. And it’s the opposite of the approach that probably most software companies take where they’re like, here’s a beautiful design.
What texts should we put in it? What do
Out this morning? Or maybe they worked on like the, the main headline. But then everything else is kind of written to fill in the design rather than the designer of the text. Something that you have, a date on the homepage of April 5th, 20, 22, happens to be, today’s date.
I don’t think that’s an accident. Did you notice in the like, cause it feels like it’s this, this article that you’ve just published, right?
Is that something that you split tested or you just put it in there and tried it
I haven’t split, tested the date, but it’s funny for me, it’s actually, it’s less about like that looking like it was just published for me. It’s more, the inspiration is from those like old school direct response letters. You know, if you actually, you know what it doesn’t say this anymore, the headline did used to be like, dear coach was the headline.
So now we have a different headline and it doesn’t start with dear someone, but it used to start with dear coach. It actually was written as a letter. So I’m like, well, if you have a letter, you have a date on the top of the letter. So yeah, for me, it’s not so much about like, and just to be clear, that date is updated automatically, just so everyone knows we’ll will always say today, I’m not going in.
And changing it. So yeah, for me, I just wanted to create a feel like I wrote you a letter, you know, and I think what we often can forget when we’re doing online marketing is the person reading that letter is reading it today. You know, like I wrote it a few months ago, I’ve edited, it, edited it. A bunch of times I’ve split, tested it to me.
It feels like this other thing. But to them,
It is a letter that they are reading today, you know? and I think having today’s date is just a little thing that sorta catches. It just makes your brain be like, oh, that’s that’s today. It’s just a, sort of
Tiny, little thing that catches your attention.
Yeah. I think that people get really high up on sales pages. Right? Cause you have to be a designer, you for sure have to be a copywriter. Like it’s all of these skills that you have to have to make a sales page. It’s like, oh, I couldn’t possibly do that. And the approach that you’ve taken, which you are a very good copywriter.
So that helps. but the approach that you’ve taken is just like, Hey, you know, like dear customer, dear potential customer. Here’s why we made this. Here’s what
Here’s why you should buy it. And if you write that out, maybe later you’ll hire a copywriter to punch it up. You’ll
To do other things with it, but you can start from that. And anyone who. Can I articulate a business idea enough though, like I want to spend the next five years of my life building this, like has the ability to articulate, you know, why they’re building it why you should buy it. And the letter is a great tool for that and it lets you get past all the things that we get hung up on.
Write of the design and everything else.
Absolutely. And I mean, I think, you know, the best copywriting advice is always, always, always write it how you say it out loud. So if you read it out loud and it doesn’t sound like something that you would actually say, just go back and that is going to turn out probably way more casual than what you first wrote.
I do this all the time with email, you know, I do all the copywriting for paper belt. I do it all the time with emails because I often a lot of our emails for paper ball are plain text emails just signed for me. And it is even though I’m very experienced my initial mode, when I’m writing an email is a sort of promotional copywriting email, which has its place.
It’s not like you never send it. But so I will imagine a real I’m like, okay. If I literally wanted to tell Nathan about a new feature, if I’m like, I know that my real friend Nathan uses paper bottle, I know he would want to know about this new feature that I released. What would I write in that real email to him that is always going to be excellent copywriting, but it can be hard to make yourself do.
And it, the engine result is like, you’re going to be like, can I really send that? Because what I would really say to him is, you know, sometimes it’s like, oh really? Something, no, no, you wanted a new calendar. Check out the link here. No signature. Right? That might be the real email that you would send your friend that would work so well.
The product announcement, email, like I promise you because it has that real, it has that real feeling of someone sending you an email on your own. I do want to check this out. I’m going to click the wig.
Yeah, that advice is probably the best for writing. It’s like writing to a single person. I’ve actually written an entire book once to a single person. it really helped my, my book, designing web applications. it was written to, my brother-in-law who was getting into designing web applications at the time.
And so I just kept thinking about, okay, what would fill up, want to know about this topic? And it’d be like, dear Phillip
Like, Hey Philip. And I would like write an entire chapter and then I would go back and remove the Hey, fill up. Cause it’s just weird a book, but it’s such a useful tool because it takes you from like, what would the broad masses on the internet or
Readers want to know? it just takes you into like right here you go.
And a real person, not a persona. I think often people, you know, you make your little customer persona and you’re like, oh, it’s singing Sally. She loves to sing. It’s like, don’t write, don’t write to singing Sally, like write to a real customer. Right. You emailed with them the other day. They had a question for you, right.
To that real person.
And then if you’re like, I don’t know who that real person is like, well, you need to have a lot more calls and do a little more customer research because
Right. If you don’t know one real human who might be like, cause they don’t even have to invite yet. Right. It’s just like a real human that may be interested in purchasing is all we’re talking about here.
Yeah, for sure. okay. You have a headline, so you pay for that. I was two years old now,
Almost two years old.
Almost two years old. you have on here, the headline for the page is the little tool that paid out over $2 million to coaches last year. first that’s phenomenal, like. I don’t know, you’re half, two year, one and a half basically.
Is that what that is
Yeah. Well, cause yeah, that was in the 20, 21 calendar year. And how that headline happened is, so I work with my husband, Chris is our developer built paper ball. So we process, we’re not the payment processor. We connect with your Stripe account process payments, but he was like, you know, doing something.
And he happened to come across the total volume that we’d processed in 2021. And he goes, did you, did you know that we processed on 2 million? I was like, wow. I was shocked, no idea. Cause we don’t really, like, we don’t really see it. We’re not, it just it’s, it’s kind of on the customer’s radar. Like it’s not really on our dashboard.
It’s like on their dashboard. So I was floored. I had no idea it was that much money and I’m like, that is too good. Not to use in our marketing. Like we have to use that or marketing somewhere. I’m like, that’s so good. That’s the headline of our home page. That’s so good.
Yeah. I mean, that’s phenomenal traction, like, early in the product. And that’s really exciting. One thing that I have to say that I’ve told you over texts before is that you need to switch to being the payment processor. I know it’s a bunch of work and all of that. Right. But moving
From strive, connects to Stripe custom connect.
Now, if it makes you feel better, any better, we talked to, we talked about Kajabi earlier, they’re at a billion dollar run rate on payments. They’re not the payment processor or maybe now they are, but like a year ago when I was talking to the team,
Are you doing? This is a huge revenue stream.
Like, and I mean, that’s part of why we built out ConvertKit commerce, right? Is
We are the payment processor. that’s a revenue stream for us.
Listen, nobody’s using that thing. You already tell.
It’s still going to make like, Yeah, exactly. No, I actually think it probably makes us $25,000 a month in
Fees. and we’re just getting started because the other thing that’s gonna happen right, is the sooner you make that switch, then people will be building on their paper, Belle accounts, right.
And then all future payments will go from that.
Whole base that is, you know, on their Stripe accounts, is going to like those
Customers will always be on their ship accounts. So they’re not going to migrate, to this other system without manual work.
This is a boring topic for listeners. So I’m just going to ask you one question about it. I think. So do you guys have to limit the types of businesses that are allowed to use commerce?
We have to limit the countries. so we’re only in about 40 countries.
Like HoneyBook? You can not be a travel agent and use HoneyBook because they’re the payment processor.
Oh, well, we haven’t noticed any restrictions like that.
Show your lawyer, this video asking them about travel agents.
Yeah, exactly. That’s weird. The travel agents is the one,
I have no idea why,
Not that one specifically. I mean, so you are taking on more, more risks. There’s potential for fraud. There there’s other things
On the long-term scale of the
It’s something that, you should definitely start where you did and then I’m going to be that person who’s like,
That’s going to be
Go over to Chris and be like, all right, Chris, we’re going to rewrite this, just this portion of it.
It’d be good. Cause you, you would have made 50 grand last year on that
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we’re still small. That’s.
Yeah. So anyway, a lot of that would have gotten then paid onto visa, but still, okay. Where are you going from here? What, as you scale paper, Belle, what, what’s the plan going forward?
I mean, the plan is to stay really focused and be that, that best tool. I love being in an industry vertical. So I was kind of talking before about what was easy about MeetEdgar marketing was they’re already looking for a social media scheduling tool. What was hard about MeetEdgar marketing is we didn’t have a specific niche beyond kind of freelancer solopreneur, very small business.
So we couldn’t find a list of our customers. It had to be people who are looking, you know, for social media scheduling paper. Mel is the opposite. Very few people are looking for us, but, you know, where a sponsor with the international coaching Federation. And we actually get a ton of leads from that sponsorship, which I was actually really surprised by because I’ve tried a lot of the stuff over the year is usually don’t really get any clicks from it.
Like when ICF publishes our lead magnet link in their newsletter, we get like hundreds of new leads, which I was like, wait, what is that? I was like, I actually paid for something and it actually worked. but it’s a really targeted audience and, you know, we’re giving them a really targeted offer. So the plan for paper about, you know, maybe someday in the future, we’ll expand to other industry verticals.
I think if we do expand, it will be industry vertical as opposed to expanding the tool. I think it will be, you know, a similar version of the tool for other basically because the tool works for a service professional. Who sells one-on-one sessions, which is a lot of different people. You know, we’re not designed for you if you like, let the clock run.
And then you bill your hours were not designed for you if you’re sending deliverables to your clients. But if what you sell is that one-on-one session, it’s an excellent tool. And, you know, coaches and consultants are not the only profession that have that model. But yeah, what sounds really exciting to me is to keep working towards that goal of having the absolute best tool for coaches.
It’s a really quickly growing industry, both the coaching industry and the coaching software industry. Like a lot of tools like us are launching all the time. which I genuinely think is great because my vision is for. Coaches to know that they need a Paperbell. If I would prefer that they use paper ball, but I see a future in which coaches it’s just obvious, like, okay, you need a Paperbell.
Hopefully they’ll even call it that. Even if they use another one, they’ll be like, oh, well I use this crappy cheap paper belt, but paper. Well, you know, that, it’s just an obvious choice. If you have a coaching business, you need a tool like this. and you know, I’m very genuinely excited about coaching and broad strokes.
I think coaching is an amazing thing. It just, you know, Probably this audience doesn’t have a lot of coaching skeptics, you know, but there are a lot of coaching skeptics out there and I’m always like, you’re, you’re just hiring someone to support you get better in some area. Like what, how can you be mad about that?
I just don’t get coaching as a sham. I’m like, how could someone just chats to you and like checks in with you? I’m not getting better about something it’s a scam. Okay. but yeah, I think coaching in general makes the world a better place. And I am unexcited about kind of professionalizing the industry, helping the industry to get better and grow.
Yeah, that’s awesome. I mean, as anyone who listens knows I’m a huge fan of coaching because I have a higher coaches and all of that, and yes, there are bad coaches out there just
Programmers out there,
Whatever industry, there are people who are not effective at their job
Or create more problems than they solve.
But, yeah, that’s awesome to see. I’m going to be really curious in a couple of years as you write more about the business of independent contractors, and you and Chris are the full-time people working on it.
There’s so many things where people are like, “This is the best practice. This is the way it must be done. This is the way it’s always done.” And I’m like, you just mean that you don’t have a good example of another way. You’ve never read a good example of a different way, which might be for a good reason or it might not.
I like it when people show other paths. Thanks for doing that, and keep it up.
Where should people go to follow you and read the articles that you’ve written, and then sign up for Paperbell?
Yeah. Paperbell is Paperbell.com or Paperbell on social media. You can check out my website, lauraRoeder.com, where I blog once every quarter.
When you have something really substantial to say.
Yes. When I have something to say, I write a blog post. So the ones on there are pretty good.
I love it.
Laura it’s great to catch up. Thanks for coming on the show.