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INTRO Taking my life back!

Chris Franklin

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Hello Fastlane Forum!

I just wanted to drop an introduction in here and start the process of getting to know everyone. I'll try not to wax poetic, but the guidelines suggest that more details make for better posts, so here it goes!

My name is Chris Franklin and I am a 35-year-old Software Engineer. I have been working corporate jobs for nearly 15 years now, the entire time dreaming of starting my own company. I have started 5 different businesses in the past 10 years, that all failed within a year or two. In no particular order I have tried: Affiliate Marketing, Amazon Seller, Ebay flipper, Blogger, and Software as a Service.

Each of my business failed for a different, but no obvious reason. Affiliate Marketing is a crowded space and the topic I chose was not in high demand. Amazon Sellers are a dime a dozen. I was competing by racing my price to the bottom which is a losing battle... Ebay Flipping was similar, just a different website name. Blogging was done with my wife (a story I will tell in a minute) but turned out to be a game we just had no passion for. Finally, my SaaS service was a stupid idea that I should have known better about. I was not solving a need, just building a cool little toy.

The thing that really tied all of those businesses together? My motivation for money. Money is great, but it isn't really a reason that a business does well, now is it? I wasn't solving real needs, and the amount of money coming my way proved it.

Two years ago, everything changed. I was standing on the expo floor of the biggest cloud computing conference in the world when my phone started going off. My wife was calling with the most terrible news possible. The "blocked duct" she had been having trouble with the previous 3 months, was not actually caused by breastfeeding out newborn. Nope, it was late-stage breast cancer. The best news we got was that it hadn't spread very far yet...

The next 18 months were hell. I found myself in a terrible position. I was now responsible for raising our children, nursing my extremely sick wife, and still working full time for the man. It was the hardest 18 months of my life, and it changed me. (FYI, we blogged through the entire endeavor with the hope of educating other women about the process).

Currently, my wife's cancer is in remission and almost everything is back to normal. What has changed? My resolve in life. I don't want to waste another damn minute working for someone else. I want the freedom to take care of my family and spend every minute with them. Because dammit, this life is too short to spend it working 60 hours a week to make someone else rich!

Six months ago, I joined a brand new "Startup Academy" and worked through the initial steps of starting a business. I found a market I know exactly how to serve and started building a solution that solves their biggest problem. As of yesterday, I made my third sale (so I am at $75MRR). I am working every single day toward building this business and the processes that will help it continue to grow and help me achieve the freedom I really need.

What is my market? Aspiring developers.
What is the problem? Bootcamps are great if they didn't cost so much time and money
What is my solution? A virtual bootcamp that is accessible with a monthly subscription instead of a lump tuition and has no time limit

Currently, I have a landing page, a mailing list, and the first set of lessons which I am letting some early adopters in for feedback. I have also started producing free content as a marketing strategy.

I saw a few other posts mentioning links, so I will drop my landing page in here if anyone would like to provide feedback? Get Upgraded (if this is a faux pax, please let me know and I will remove the link!)

I am really excited to be here, and look forward to continuing on this life-changing journey with you all!
 

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lowtek

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Chris, thanks for sharing your story. How incredibly challenging. I hope your wife is able to fully recover and lead a normal life.

Who I am, so you can parse my comments in context:
I'm a (mostly) self taught programmer (couple years of CS in college before I switched) focusing on machine learning and artificial intelligence. I've done some web design, but hold no talent or passion for it.

My commentary on your landing page:
What I like:

The branding: "Get Upgraded" is to the point and simple
Logo is clean, I like the font
I like the headline and the subheadline - it's benefit driven
The three major points are again benefit driven and seem to hit the pain points of students.

What I don't like:

It really looks like it's designed for mobile first. On my desktop, there are two sign up boxes in close proximity. You may consider doing away with the top sign up box.

What I would improve

I would make the "how to code" stuff more prominent on the website.
I would include the curriculum, at least an outline.
Explain why you're not just a carbon copy of FreeCodeCamp

Especially that last point is not clear to me from checking out the site. Why should someone invest in your platform over FCC?

It could be the last bullet point - one on one mentoring. If so, then really hammer that home. I've done a bit of free code camp, and didn't find the community particularly helpful. One on one mentoring could have been a strong selling point there.
 
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Chris Franklin

Chris Franklin

Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Oct 30, 2018
14
50
23
36
Raleigh, NC
What I don't like:
It really looks like it's designed for mobile first. On my desktop, there are two sign up boxes in close proximity. You may consider doing away with the top sign up box.

What I would improve

I would make the "how to code" stuff more prominent on the website.
I would include the curriculum, at least an outline.
Explain why you're not just a carbon copy of FreeCodeCamp

Especially that last point is not clear to me from checking out the site. Why should someone invest in your platform over FCC?
First, thanks for taking the time and looking at my landing page! You are right that the page was really designed for mobile first. I will remove the top signup box to streamline the flow for both mobile and desktop users.

I am currently building the sales copy for the bootcamp page, and it will address most of the improvements you bring up. I will make sure to include a full course outline on that page, and really hammer home the mentoring aspect. A lot of the early signups I have are people with that exact complaint about FCC, they need more hand-holding and I want to provide that for them. Some people just naturally need a lot more guidance.

I have plans to take the free "how to code" content that is currently hidden in the footer and make it a prominent link in the header after I build a little more content into it. That is going to be one of the main ways I build enough trust so people feel comfortable paying for my content (vs. the free of FCC).
 

lowtek

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Sounds good. If you want continued feedback once the changes are made, just shoot me a message on here.

Another potential angle, and feel free to toss out this idea as stupid, is to include PHP in the course. It's not sexy any more, but so much of the web is built on it. It would be harder to market, so maybe just don't really mention it, but the students could really benefit from the material.
 

Andy Black

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Welcome @Chris Franklin. Thanks for your intro. So glad to hear your wife is in remission.

I had a quick look at your homepage.
  • I think the logo looks a bit "clickable". I thought "GET" was a button.
  • It's not obvious what the site is about, or what I'd get in exchange for entering my email address.
  • Maybe call out WHO you help, WHAT you help them with, and HOW you do it?
Speaking of which, WHERE did you 3x $25/mth subscribers/students come from?


I think this call might be interesting for you:


Also... is it "just" coding that people will learn? Or will they learn how to get a job and structure their CV? I was going to do a course along those lines but just created a few videos instead:


You may want to check out how @Fox has created a course around the sales side of website design, rather than the technical side.
 
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Chris Franklin

Chris Franklin

Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Oct 30, 2018
14
50
23
36
Raleigh, NC
Welcome @Chris Franklin. Thanks for your intro. So glad to hear your wife is in remission.

I had a quick look at your homepage.
  • I think the logo looks a bit "clickable". I thought "GET" was a button.
  • It's not obvious what the site is about, or what I'd get in exchange for entering my email address.
  • Maybe call out WHO you help, WHAT you help them with, and HOW you do it?
Speaking of which, WHERE did you 3x $25/mth subscribers/students come from?


I think this call might be interesting for you:


Also... is it "just" coding that people will learn? Or will they learn how to get a job and structure their CV? I was going to do a course along those lines but just created a few videos instead:


You may want to check out how @Fox has created a course around the sales side of website design, rather than the technical side.
Great Feedback! I will add a section under the signup form that answers WHO, WHAT and HOW for sure.

As for where I got my first paid customers? I have been driving traffic to the site for a couple months now as I iterate on the message to optimize list signups. As part of the list signup process, I send an email asking people to join my private Slack group. I have had about 30 people join it so far and have had some good conversations around what they are looking for. 3 have asked to be part of the early access and I have gladly obliged them and given them early access for $24/month. They are basically paying me to give me feedback on the content as I write it!

Funny question about the "Learn to get a Job" course. That was actually the original course I set out to write. My first 20 list signups were for that exact purpose. The thing is, as I spoke to them through Slack, I quickly learned that most of them didn't have all the skills they needed to get the jobs they actually wanted at Top-Tier tech companies. The conversation (and course) evolved from there to focus on teaching programming.
 

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Very interesting, I like your style, I check it right now! Thanks @Lenin looking forward to it. :)
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