One Year Later

A year ago, I quit my job as a product manager at MoneyDesktop (now MX) to pursue a freelancing career, focusing on WordPress and Ruby development. Through a friend of a friend, I inherited a few spectacular clients that helped jumpstart my new business. Through word of mouth, the occasional Facebook post, and the professional network I had cultivated, I never wanted for new clients–in fact, I was lucky enough to start turning clients down when I realized I didn’t have the capacity to take them all on.
A year later, I’m still independent. About 25% of my time is spent working with some of those same clients. Most of them are at a point where they just need some minor tweaking rather than completely new functionality. I still have great relationships with all my current clients, and I even have a list of some other freelancers that I can pass potential clients on to. It’s perfect.

The other 75% of my time is spent working on Stitch People. If you’ve never heard me talk about Stitch People before, I wrote a post about it back in 2013. In the fall of last year, my wife self-published the first DIY Stitch People Book for people who want to learn to make these kinds of cross stitch portraits themselves. We realized that the business of actually making the custom portraits wasn’t nearly as scalable as producing a book on how to do it, so we focused our attention on the education aspect of Stitch People.

So far, we’ve sold over 1,000 physical copies of the book, and more than 500 digital copies. We’ve shipped books to over 20 countries around the world. Of the 103 reviews on the website, all of them are 5 stars. Needless to say, we’re happy with the success of this first book and are making plans for more books down the road.

My involvement in Stitch People is on the technical and marketing side of things. First and foremost, I make sure the website is working. We’re still with Shopify and probably will be for a while. Recently I looked at moving the store over to WordPress, but it just didn’t make sense. We like the Shopify experience, the mobile apps, and the peace of mind knowing that if our traffic spikes, we’re taken care of.

In addition to just keeping an eye on the site, I’m always running some sort of A/B test through Optimizely. Currently I’m running a test on whether or not calling out ‘Free Shipping in the US’ makes a difference on the book product page. So far, the results are pretty inconclusive, but it’s only been running for a day or so.

I also spend time every day looking at Google Analytics to see if there are areas or aspects of the site that need to be shored up. I look at bounce rates by platform and by referral source. If we’re seeing unusually high bounce rates from a specific source, I’ll dig into what might be causing it and see what I can do to fix it, like setting better expectations upfront through that source.

We’re running ads on several different networks. Facebook is our primary source of conversions, with Twitter and Pinterest contributing a handful every week as well. Twitter and Pinterest aren’t as cost effective as Facebook for us right now, so I’m experimenting with creative to see if there’s a better way to connect specifically to the Twitter and Pinterest crowds.

We’re also running some retargeting ads through AdRoll. Retargeting is a new area for me and I’ve been enjoying the learning process. Again, the biggest thing I’m focusing on here is experimenting with different creative to try to appeal to the retarget audience, both on Facebook and on the web at large. I think this is one area where we’ll eventually see some serious ROI once we get the formula right.

The last big thing we’re focusing on is the community around Stitch People. We have over 4,500 newsletter subscribers and great open and click rates for the industry we’re in. It’s an active and interested community, and we’re coming up with strategies for how to better communicate with them, allow them to communicate with each other, and really start a movement.

So between looking at and tweaking ad performance, coming up with new ad creative, checking analytics, doing research for some of our future plans, and trying to connect with our community, I manage to stay pretty busy. As for Lizzy, she’s the one fielding all the support emails, all the cross stitching, all the designing, and all the one-on-one connecting with community members.

It’s been a good year.

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