The Indie Hackers Podcast #75: Escaping the 9-to-5 Grind to Create a $3 Million Business with Joel Hooks of egghead.io

  • How does EggHead work? We help people that make screencasts for developers make money. My joke is we are a video blog with a membership component. 

  • You started with just you and your co-founder. Now you have 12 employees and are making over $250,000 a month in revenue. How does that feel? It suits my personality. I don’t want to shoot for only growth. I want to build a sustainable business while helping other people. Not raising money is slower but that is the intent. I want to be more intentional.

  • Working for other people was always hard for me: I read Hackers and Paintersby Paul Graham. That was an inspiration to me. Software is the last frontier of wealth creation. You can sit there with just your computer and your time and actually make something. You can create your own ability to earn, produce, and do what you want to do.

  • I got really good advice from Amy Hoy: Your ideas are stupid. Kill your darlings. Find real problems and solve them. I had an epiphany. I’m a developer. I understand developers. Everyone is trying to learn AngularJS right now. Why don’t I help them learn it?

  • It took a long time to convince his co-founder to work together: I describe myself as the terminator. I play a long game. Over time I am persistent. I will continue to ask. I will continue to overcome your objections. 

  • How EggHead got started: I told my co-founder that I’ll take the 50 videos [screencasts teaching AngularJS] you put up on YouTube. I will put them into a zip file. Then we’ll email your list of donors [about 6,000 people] and see what happens. We had $6500 in sales in the first week.

  • Why we work well together: John is really good at teaching and sharing knowledge. I like to sell. It works. 

  • How to lower the risk of the screencast model: We had to diversify. We had to bring in more instructors. What would have happened if John got burnt out? Then the whole business is sidelined. Now we have 140 instructors and adding more all the time.

  • Book recommendation: Reading Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra was a huge inspiration

  • How we made the switch to subscription revenue: We emailed the same people that already bought the zip file and said we are producing premium content. A bunch of people signed up. Our monthly recurring revenue increased by $1,000 a week. That growth rate lasted for a few years.

  • How much does your competition affect your thinking? Close to zero. I’m just not worried about it. I don’t care. I don’t chase what other people are doing. I just focus on making the thing we do as good as we can do it.

  • You describe bootstrapping as hard mode. You don’t sell any advertising on your videos which could be lucrative. Why have you chosen this route? I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometimes I thought we could be going so much faster. But I couldn’t handle it if we were going any faster. I still don’t know what I am doing. The slow pace allows me the space to figure it out as we go along. I can be more considerate.

  • What bootstrapping means to me is that my decisions directly impact my wallet: If I spend 6 months on a bad idea I have to pay for that. It literally takes money out of my bank account. You have skin in the game

  • How did you find all these mentors that help you run your business? I pay them. Straight up. Since I started with this idea that I wanted to start a business I paid people to coach me. I joined their classes. I buy their books. I talk to them. I take their advice and apply it. I ask them how I could do it better.

  • I have no problems compensating them for their time: I don’t ask anyone to pick their brains. I ask them if we can talk for an hour and I’ll pay their consulting rate.

  • Book recommendation: Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman

  • Full podcast here.