Monica started Blogging for Developers, an email course, newsletter, and paid community to help developers grow their blogs. Currently, the community has 350 members, with 250 receiving compensation. It has topped $25,000 in income, over 7,500 newsletter subscribers, and $2,000 in monthly recurring revenue. Monica’s background is software developer and former engineering manager who resides in Berlin, Germany. She has two main sources of income, Blogging for Developers and Affilimate, an affiliate dashboard for content creators.
In order to help developers grow their blogs, Monica started Blogging for Developers, an email course, newsletter, and paid community. Currently, the community has 350 members, with 250 of them receiving compensation. It just topped $25,000 in income, over 7,500 newsletter subscribers, and $2,000 in monthly recurring revenue.
What are you currently working on and who are you?
I am a software developer who was born in the United States and a former engineering manager who presently resides in Berlin, Germany. My speech has gotten so strange that most of the people I talk to don’t know where I’m from!
About eight years ago, I relocated to Europe for a job as a researcher at the Leipzig, Germany-based NLP chair. I quit my academic job and started working in Berlin for a fintech company that was experiencing fast expansion. I stayed there for five years, progressed through the ranks, and then I quit to concentrate only on my items.
I now work two jobs that are my main sources of income, and I mean that in the literal sense that they could both be full-time jobs requiring well over 40 hours a week.
The one I’m here to talk about today is called Blogging for Developers, though. Without needing to be “famous” on social media, this paid community, newsletter, and email course help developers expand their blogs through excellent content and SEO.
Currently, the community has 350 members, with 250 of them receiving compensation. It just topped $25,000 in income, over 7,500 newsletter subscribers, and $2,000 in monthly recurring revenue.
What is your background, and how did you come up with this idea?
I’ve never before intended to produce a product for developers. Even though I never planned to do so, this is how it came about.
Early in 2019, I released Affilimate, an affiliate dashboard for content creators, as my first SaaS product. It developed out of my frustration with trying to track my affiliate income and identify the methods that were generating conversions on my website after building up my travel blog to a monthly income of about $5,000.
I recognized the need for an automated solution, especially as a developer.
I launched the product with my business partner Gernot, and we rounded up about 70 test customers. They and I both worked in the travel industry. Why don’t you start with what you already know?
It’s probably possible to predict what will happen in 2020.
We went from getting our biggest client and making our first $2,000 per month in income to everyone asking to cancel their memberships in a couple of weeks. The monthly revenue from my initiatives abruptly fell below $500, leaving me little choice except to rely on my savings.
I decided to try something new after taking some time off to lament the collapse of my business (and play a lot of Animal Crossing).
I made Blogging for Developers available as a free email course in May 2020.
More than 1,200 new customers were acquired in less than two weeks. It ultimately won the prize for Product Hunt’s Product of the Day. Additionally, I made $10,000 in the first six weeks that registration was available when I opened the premium community six months later.
This experience was distinct because I had a strategy for distribution—a Twitter audience I had built through years of blogging and presenting at conferences.
I believe that the importance of developing distribution for your goods was the most important lesson I learnt. In reality, the quality of the product is practically unimportant in the absence of a trustworthy distribution network.
How did you turn a concept into a finished product?
The initial version of Blogging for Developers went from idea to delivery in less than three weeks. I had heard the phrase “Launch quickly” in many different ways. I paid attention to this advice.
I created a 9-day email course using ConvertKit that included an introduction email, a 7-day challenge, and a concluding email.
I twice rewrote the email’s text before opting to go live, with the assistance of eight friends who agreed to act as beta testers. The main adjustment I made was to narrow the course’s focus to its intended learning outcomes:
“Create an optimized article for your developer blog, step-by-step, within 7 days.”
Following the success of that, I started a private, invite-only community that was free for the first 100 users. I wanted to evaluate whether it was the ideal format and first shape the culture cautiously and gradually.
It eventually took up so much of my time that I had to admit I needed to go for work.
I set myself the famed “12 startups in 12 months” goal, and I launched the community as a paid service in less than a month.
My main marketing plan was publicly growing the queue on Twitter. More than 20% of the waitlist had turned into paying members in the first week after the show’s launch.
What marketing techniques did you use to grow your company?
Incorporating word-of-mouth growth into Blogging for Developers is the main step I’ve made to increase its reach.
For instance, I ask people to post their email address on Twitter as soon as they confirm it for the free course. I follow suit when the person has finished the challenge. This guarantees a steady stream of people advertising the goods for me.
When I help developers with their blogs, they usually end up posting about my website, which generates backlinks and boosts conversation about the newsletter in developer-focused public forums.
Currently, 20–30% of Twitter users sign up for the site newsletter. Even higher (sometimes over 60% opt-in rate!) when a renowned tech writer makes the advice to join.
As a result, it is by far the best strategy for growing my email list.
I’ve had little luck using my rankings of the best development blogs to drive organic traffic and gain subscribers.
I need to conduct further testing to determine the best email opt-in forms that won’t annoy developers that frequent these ranks. You may already be aware that developers dislike most lead magnets and are sensitive to pop-up ads. It is therefore challenging for a chance internet creator to provide their email address.
The email course serves as a channel for community participation in terms of income development.
Students receive the foundations they need to act in two final emails at the end of the course, along with the opportunity to join the community and collaborate on their blogs with other students. One email for announcements and one for FAQs.
Although they are not perfectly optimized, they are the main way that individuals discover our community and ultimately sign up as paid members.
What are you doing right now? What are your long-term goals?
I only recruited my first employee last month! One of the residents of the community, Stefanni Brasil, is employed part-time to help with daily operations.
For instance, integrating new members, creating guides to aid individuals in more effectively locating community resources, arranging events, and a host of other duties all need for human involvement.
I release monthly revenue reports that include all of my earnings and outgoing costs.
Operating a community needs the integration of various technologies and the facilitation of bigger groups, which is far more expensive than most people believe. As a result, you qualify for numerous SaaS subscriptions under the “mid-sized” or even “enterprise” category.
We make, on average, between $2,000 and $3,000 each month, and we spend, on average, between 25% and 33% of that sum.
In terms of growth, I mostly rely on extending my newsletter because I need it to keep a vibrant community membership. I don’t want to make it huge since a significant inflow of new members might quickly destroy the sense of intimacy in the group.
My main goal is to grow my SaaS rather than developing the community into a money-generating behemoth. This is because it is more of a hobby than something I want to grow into a huge business (at least for the time being).
My stretch objective for this year is to gather 20,000 newsletter subscribers. It’s a stretch, but I have faith that I can get myself to the finish line with a few missiles up my sleeve:)
What have you learned from starting Blogging for Developers that is most valuable?
The importance of dissemination and the efficiency of email are the two main factors.
In terms of what I want to turn into my main source of income, I’m still largely focused on my SaaS product, but if I had to start over right now, I would adopt an email-first strategy.
Currently, optimizing for email interaction takes up the majority of my marketing efforts. Not what I had anticipated before the encounter!
I also discovered how difficult managing a community is. There are no vacation days for good behavior; you must show up every day and support others around you. Communities cannot run without a facilitator to connect people, build connections, and make things happen.
I log in to the community at least once a day, even while I’m on vacation.
What were the toughest obstacles you overcame? What were your biggest mistakes?
I’ve had a lot of luck with Blogging for Developers thus far. But the main reason for this is because with my first product, Affiliate: I did all the typical rookie mistakes.
No marketing plan other than “build it, and they’ll tell their friends” a marketing plan that needed to be implemented quickly but only relied on SEO (which has its own timeframe, especially in a crowded sector like affiliate marketing).
Fortunately, Blogging for Devs helped me avoid a lot of these mistakes, and the result was beneficial.
I’ve been able to turn around the bulk of them, even with my SaaS, and things now seem incredibly different than they were a year ago. Some tasks only need time:)
What equipment and sources would you recommend?
I use ConvertKit and Circle to handle the paid community. I edit and caption each Vimeo movie that I upload privately using Descript.
In my 2020 retrospective, I covered the following topics about resources: The one that changed the game for me was Amy Hoy’s piece, Content Marketing that Sells.
It covers how to use a tactic called side project marketing to draw customers to complementary ventures.
This mindset has had a big impact on how I create and carry out initiatives, so everything kind of blends. It is considerably easier and less expensive for me to establish side projects that help my revenue-generating companies grow as a developer.
I suggest the online business and marketing blogs listed below to Failory readers in addition to Amy’s article: Detailed.com (SEO blog), Gaps.com (online company ideas and in-depth case studies), and Marketing Examples (marketing case studies).
My two favorite podcasts for content-driven businesses are without a doubt Authority Hacker (about internet marketing) and Inbox Besties (about email marketing).
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