2014 results and 2015 goals

2014 has been an amazing year for me in business. Last year things started taking off with WP Curve, but even in December 2013 we were still doing less than $10,000 in monthly revenue with a team of 5 people including 2 co-founders. It was going in the right direction but it was hardly a success story just yet.

The 7 years prior to that were pretty much a complete disaster, so I’m still getting my head around the turnaround in 2014. Here is how Kyle from WP Curve plotted my annual wage against the happiness levels of Cindarella he he.

CinderellaDan

My original goals for 2014

In December 2013 Alex and I wrote out our goals for 2014. They were:

  1. Reach $250,000 in annual revenue run rate ($20,833 / month)
  2. Release 365 pieces of content
  3. Meet each other

What actually happened in 2014 was a bit more complicated!

What I achieved in 2014

2014 was full of surprises and I ended up achieving a lot more than I ever imagined possible.

WP Curve 450% revenue growth

At WP Curve, Alex and I achieved our $250,000 in annual revenue run rate by June and we are currently at over $650,000.

Related107 new customers, 17% growth, starting a wait list, 7 new team members, Alex meets Dan – November 2014 WP Curve monthly report

We have over 700 customers (up from 178), a team of 31 developers around the world (up from 5) and we’ve grown every month by 15% or more for 8 out of the 12 months of the year.

We are getting 50,000 visits to our site each month (up from around 10,000 a year ago) and we’ve been featured on Fox, Inc.com, Forbes, Product Hunt, Life Hacker and more.

We’ve also inspired hundreds or possibly thousands of people to build “service as a service” businesses. These have ranged from countless identical (or close to identical) rip offs, through to similar models operating in totally different areas. I’m not that worried about the rip offs and I’m stoked to have inspired other entrepreneurs to build their businesses.

Related: Why I chose service as a service for my startup

I was also able to meet my co-founder Alex in Hawaii and teach him how to drink beer like a boss. We had a great time and even did a little bit of work. We will be catching up again in 2015 at least once.

dan_and_alex

I don’t know exactly how much content we put out, I lost track around the launch of the book but I know we didn’t hit our target of 365 posts. We did 171 posts that we took note of and I also did a lot of content around the launch of my book that I didn’t track. It was probably more like 200 in total.

Some time during the year we decided that quality was more important than quantity, so we focused on bigger detailed posts and had quite a few posts that got some solid traction.

Related: Lessons learned from 171 pieces of content in 2014

In short it’s been an amazing year at WP Curve. Each month more amazing than the next. I think we are still scratching the surface with what we can do, and 2015 is going to be epic!

A best selling Startup book – The 7 Day Startup

We started thinking about writing a book about a year ago, you can see we mentioned it in the 2013 December report. Alex encouraged me to do it, I don’t read books (trying to change that), so I probably wouldn’t have done it without some encouragement.

I started writing about a few different things and releasing posts via Medium and the WP Curve blog. The content around startups, growth and my story was consistently getting the most traction.

So I decided to focus on that for the first book. I wrote the first version of the book in a few days, and I didn’t give it too much thought for a while after that. I was lucky enough to find some amazing supporters to help with the rest.

Elisa from Craft Your Content agreed to edit the book for me for free to test out her new team. The process took a long time but we ended up with something really solid compared to the ramblings I threw together in those few days.

Derek from Creative Indie Covers agreed to design and format the book for me for free. I ended up with some great branding and a book that looked and felt like a book. And one that I could use via CreateSpace to create physical copies.

7_day_startup_physical

Rob Walling from Software By Rob, Startups For The Rest of Us, and Drip agreed to write the foreword. This was a huge thrill because I’d been listening to and looking up to Rob for a long time. I even appeared on his podcast this year which was super cool.

Originally I was going to put it up for free on my site in exchange for an email address. Once we’d put all of this work into it, I really wanted to give it the best shot, so I decided to put it on Amazon and do a proper launch.

Again amazingly the right person was there at the right time to help. Tom Morkes had applied as an intern to work for me a few weeks prior. He didn’t get the job but I decided to reach out to him and ask if he was interested in doing a month with me to promote the book. Turns out Tom is a book marketing guru and ran an amazing process to give the book an epic launch. He also wrote this sensational post if you want to give it a go yourself.

And just when it couldn’t get any more crazy, shortly after launch I started getting emails about people translating the book into other languages. I had no idea how to deal with them, but a week or so later I got a message from Derek from 2 Seas Agency offering to represent me for the translation rights. Derek works with James Altucher and we are both a member of the Dynamite Circle forum (Elisa and Derek above are also members).

Book results

Anyway, long story short, we launched the book and it was an amazing success. Here are the highlights.

7_day_startup_results

  • As a free book for it’s first week it was downloaded 13,000+ times reaching #1 in the free listings on Amazon.com for Startups, Small Business and Entrepreneurship and #13 for the entire free business category.
  • As a paid book it reached #2 in Startups and #2 in Small Business, being beaten only by Zero to One, arguably the best business book of the year. 3 months on, it’s still sitting at #3 in both categories.
  • It has sold around 3,000 copies since swapping to paid, and it continues to sell 20-50 copies every day. I think I make $2.50 or something on each book so it has also become a significant and very surprising revenue source.
  • It trended on the front page of Product Hunt after Jacques from my Facebook ambassador group posted it on there. It hadn’t even crossed my mind to post it on there. I got thousands of visits out of that.
  • The translation rights have been sold to Korean and Polish agencies. We are negotiating with other countries currently. Each time I make a couple of grand up front and a small ongoing percentage. But more importantly, the book gets out to more people that it wouldn’t have otherwise.
  • It’s been mentioned countless times around the world from blog posts, to podcasts and even university courses.
  • I estimate hundreds of people have used to to launch a business. I get emailed or tweeted almost daily with different examples of people using it.
  • It’s inspired my Facebook group which is nearing 1,000 members (if you are an entrepreneur or want to be, please join).
  • It resulted in record traffic and conversions to the WP Curve site.

If you haven’t read the book, you can buy it for $3.76 on Amazon. I’m not legally allowed to distribute it outside of Amazon.

Launching Helloify

I started working at the Wotso Co-working space in Varsity Lakes this year and shortly after I met Luke from Helloify. We shared common interests in buiding cool IT things and drinking craft beer. Before long we’d moved into a shared office together and had beer on tap in the office!

#beeroclock @blackhopsbeer #australiancraftbeer #craftbeer

A photo posted by Dan Norris (@thedannorris) on

More importantly, we agreed to work on launching Helloify together. Luke had been working on it for 12 months and was getting close to having the functionality complete. We started working together on planning the launch, building some differentiation into the product, developing a blog and content strategy and improving the design of the app.

It took us a bit longer than we hoped but we launched the site, the customer happiness blog and the app itself all before the end of 2014 which I feel was a good effort.

helloify_screenshot

Here are some of the results:

  • We managed to launch the app on 5 platforms(web, Windows, Mac, iPhone and Android). We had some help from Luke’s friend Ryuhei, towards the end of the process, but most of the code has been written by Luke. Not a bad effort given most of our heavily funded competitors don’t have apps on that many platforms. These things are a lot more complicated than they appear to outsiders.
  • We were featured by local and international press including Startup Smart, Startup Daily and trended on the front page of Product Hunt.
  • We’ve had just under 8,000 visits to the blog and the site in the last 30 days.
  • We’ve had over 200 free trial signups to the app.

It’s too early to tell if Helloify will be a success. Once the trials run out we will start getting a feel for whether people are going to sign up to paid plans.

We are going after a huge opportunity with Helloify. We are competing directly with at least two, billion dollar companies. This makes it exciting, but also makes it a long shot.

Helping create Black Hops Brewing

To add to 2014’s craziness, I was also involved in launching a brewing business, Black Hops Brewing.

black_hops

The idea started when we were at the pub talking about beer and my best mate Eddie started going on about his Eggnog Stout idea. It sounded a bit whacky but we all agreed that if we got it right, it would be a damn tasty beer. Govs was with us and he happened to be a brewer and had recently bought a home brew kit.

A few weeks later we headed to his place to brew a pilot batch of the Eggnog Stout. The beer turned out amazingly well, to the point where beer critics were reviewing it and we started getting mentioned on blogs. At the same time we worked on branding, a website, and a blog (these were my main jobs).

It just seemed to gather momentum and before long we were brewing our first batch of commercial beer.

Related: Black Hops, How to make commercial beer

We pre-sold all 14 kegs and launched it at one of the top craft beer bars in Brisbane. At the launch the whole keg was consumed in 2 hours and 20 minutes breaking the previous bar record of 24 hours.

black_hops_launch

We said from the start that all we really wanted to do was drink our own beer at a pub and we’ve done that!

Here are some of the articles that have been written about Black Hops:

Public speaking

One thing I’ve always said no to as an entrepreneur was public speaking. However this year I decided that if I really wanted to help people and get my message out, then I shouldn’t just restrict myself to online. I’m not comfortable at all presenting at conferences, I’m not even comfortable attending conferences, so it was a big step.

My first gig was at WordCamp Sydney on How to build a scalable WordPress business in 1 week. It was extremely nerve racking but it actually went really well. I had a lot of people come up to me afterwards and thank me, some even saying I’d had a profound impact on their life! Maybe they got the wrong person lol. I also had a lot of people come up to me who had been following my blog, which was super cool.

I then presenting at the Dynamite Circle event in Bangkok. First in front of the main stage of 300 odd people on 19 lessons learned from 0 to $500k / year in 15 months. Then the following day a small workshop for 20 odd people on 6 design hacks for tightarse founders with Jon Myers.

I went into DCBKK thinking it would be easy and I was unprepared. The presentation in front of the main stage was only 8 minutes but I made a lot of mistakes. The key one being assuming I would be able to look at my slides while I was presenting which I couldn’t. I also had someone come up to me before hand asking me if I was nervous cause I looked nervous and that threw me a bit. I’m always nervous no matter what I’m doing, even just walking along the street or going to the shops. But I never admit it and I like to think people can’t tell, she obviously could haha.

The design workshop on the Sunday was much better, I was a lot more relaxed and I think the content was well received even though it was a very small group.

I learned a lot from these 2 experiences. I don’t think I’ll ever be a good speaker but I like to think I’ll always have good content, so I’ll try to push myself to do more of this in the future.

My goals for 2015

I learned in 2014 that what you plan for and what you get are usually 2 wildly different things. But nonetheless I have made an attempt at setting some ambitious goals for 2015. Things are going well and I want to make sure I capitalize on that and get the full reward for the fortune I have had this year.

Here are my main goals for 2015.

WP Curve – $2m in annual revenue run rate ($166,666 / month).

We thought hard about whether to put this goal out there given it’s so far from where we are at right now ($55k / month). However I don’t want to get to the end of 2015 and wonder if we aimed high enough. I think we are onto a winner with WP Curve and we are only scratching the surface. I think if things go our way, then $2m in yearly run rate is possible.

Black Hops – Start a physical brewery on the Gold Coast

This is a long shot. It’s something that will take a long time, and also most likely some investors to make it happen. We have made such a good start with Black Hops and we feel like there is a big need for what we are doing. We will continue to brew beers at other breweries in 2015 and have some solid plans for that. But it would be a dream to have our own facility by the end of 2015.

Helloify – Growing 10% per month by the end of 2015

It’s extremely difficult to come up with a goal for something that we launched a week ago. For any business I start I like to see month on month growth, so I’ve decided rather than pick out a revenue or signup goal, I will simply strive to have it consistently hitting 10% growth per month by the end of 2015.

If it does that, it might still be a tiny business by the end of 2015. However as we’ve found with WP Curve, if you can get into that momentum of monthly growth, things can escalate very quickly.

Another best selling book and $50k earned through personal content

I would also like to write another book in 2015 so I’ve decided on a goal of having another best selling book on Amazon. I’ve also set myself a goal of earning $50,000 through my personal content. I’m hoping I can do that just with my existing book and one more. If not I’ll write more or I’ll try something else.

Money has never been a huge motivator for me but I like the idea of having a personal revenue source that is enough to keep me from having to get a job, regardless of the direction any of my businesses go in. I also enjoy writing and I want to push myself to do more of it in 2015. My output since releasing the book has been fairly average.

Speak at some more conferences

I’d like to do some more speaking in 2015 and I’ve already started talking to people about some opportunities. I don’t have anything concrete here other than to do a few more gigs and build up a bit of confidence.

What are your goals for 2015?

Join my Facebook group here and share your goals. We will keep each other accountable. Or if you have any comments about this post, I’d love to hear them below.

  • Inspiring stuff Dan – keep pushing the boundaries and inspiring others to do the same!

  • Tom

    Dude awesome stuff. Inspiring. No idea how you manage it all.

    And thanks for the shout out. Humbled.

    P.s. need someone to help you make $50k off your next book? Just let me know 🙂

  • I just took a look back at 2014 for me, it’s incredible to look back on everything that has happened in that amount of time. If you would have asked me what was possible at this time in 2013 I would not have guessed.

    2 million sounds very possible good to me, and I am excited to be a part of it. I’ll keep the WP Curve content driving value.

    I’m interested to follow how you make that 50k from personal content happen. Are you going to keep the 7 Day Startup at 3.99? Will the next book be in that price range too?

    My big thing for 2015 is to have my plan to take my conversion optimization skills and apply them to a productized and recurring revenue model. Continuous optimization.

    • Good stuff mate. I think 2015 will be a big year. With the personal content it really depends on whether the first book keeps selling. If it does I might go halfway there just from selling the old book then I’ll do a new book which might boost it a bit. Not sure how I’ll get all the way to $50k. I’ll think of something ha. Re pricing yeah I’ll leave it at $4. Next book will be the same, free for a week then $4. I make money from translation right too, so a few more of those would boost it a bit.

  • Amaze. Your talk at DCBKK was great, seriously man totally dug it. You moved through the slides with great timing. Really a pleasure to follow you this year!

    • Thanks man. I think it could have been better. I went in a bit unprepared and learned my lesson. I should have listened to Alex but I think I was trying not to stress myself out so I tried to pretend like I could just cruise through it.

  • I’m very proud of you, Dan.

    This post is testament to how far you’ve come in 2014 and how far you’ll go in 2015. To anyone who reads this post, but doesn’t know Dan… one of the secrets to his success is his ridiculous work ethic and sheer volume of output.

  • Claire Oldfield

    I’m so proud of you Dano. What an incredible year!

  • Wow Dan,
    what an amazing story!
    I’ve been following your journey with WP Curve for quite a while and I didn’t know you had so much other stuff going on! Really impressive how you juggle things… I wonder how you make sure that you make progress in all projects at the same time?

    My goals for 2015 are to relaunch an info product that I created in summer this year and to transition from service oriented business (web design) to product focused business.

    Looking forward to see you hit your goals in 2015!

    • Hi Jan thanks. So far I’ve managed to juggle things ok but I guess we’ll see how it goes long term.

      Thanks for the comment and for jumping on the chat. Looking forward to our interview.

  • Adam Brooks

    An amazing year by any sane standard! Nicely done. The real beauty I think is that you’ve achieved all this without a single, very narrow focus, which – depending on who you ask – is impossible. It’s a real eye-opener (and role model) for those of us who like to try different things *at once*.

    • Hey Adam most of my focus has been WP Curve. I don’t necessarily think it’s a good idea to do 10 things at once, it’s just sort of the way it’s worked out for me towards the end of this year.

      • Adam Brooks

        Thanks for the clarification Dan!

  • Tung Tran

    Wow what a good year for you Dan! Hard work definitely paid off.

    Congrats on your success and best of luck on achieving your goals next year.

    PS: It’s kind of funny to see all the new productized businesses which look almost identical to WP Curve in terms of pricing and homepage’s layout.

  • Congrats man! Great to see your success after putting in all that WORK over the years. Best of luck in ’15!

  • Impressive, motivating and now exciting to watch your 2015 rollout. Good luck on knocking it out of the park.

  • Nice one Dan, it’s inspiring that you have persevered through and come out on top in 2014. Congrats, what a year!

  • Thanks for the suggestion Alex.

    Looking for more 2014 reviews, add them in the answers on quora:
    https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-most-interesting-2014-year-reviews-with-a-summary-of-finances

  • Nathan Barry

    That’s an epic year!

  • Freddy Lansky

    You’re a rockstar Dan, I was thinking about writing my own 2015 goals on the DC. I love your story as well as your book (and yes, I did finally read it. At DCBKK I told you I was 25% done and you kinda gave me a dissapointed look lol). Keep up the good work man

  • Incredible, Dan! So stoked for you, and really enjoyed meeting you at DCBKK this year. I want to taste some of your beer! Rock on. Here’s to a kick ass 2015!

    • Hi Willo thankyou. I wish I could bring the beer overseas but it will be just in Australia for now 🙁

      • I’ll just have to get my arse over there at some point! I’m only in HK, so it’s closer than the US anyway! 🙂

        • Oh right, I was there recently. They have good beers at the Roundhouse bar in Soho.

  • Wow what an amazing year you’ve had – I wish you the best of success in 2015!!! 🙂