Jesse Schoberg, CEO & indie founder of DropInBlog, went from $1k per month, to now towards a 7-figure income. Jesse and his team currently faces the decision of “how big they want to grow”.
About This Indie Interview
This is the
#2nd installment of our Indie Interviews series to help aspiring indie founders & indie entrepreneurs to get inspired by listening from those successful indie founders who are already highly involved on the startup scene and *being there* taming the waves & surfing better than ever to achieve their dream – seeking financial freedom, working on projects that matters to them, getting a sense of accomplishment (in their own eyes) and working on their own schedule.
It is also an opportunity for new indie founders to get to know other like-minded indie entrepreneurs.
I hope you will derive as much fun to read my interviews as I’m having by interviewing those awesome indie founders, entrepreneurs & businesses.
And Now the Interview With the Indie Founder
<\> Table of contents
- Please tell us about yourself
- Do you have a routine to start your day
- How do you keep yourself motivated
- What change are you seeking to make
- The books or material you recommend
- Difference between a founder & an entrepreneur?
- ONE habit that played an important part
- Tell us about your business
- Your aha moment
- Who is your ideal customer
- What is your business model
- what does success mean to you
- Your revenue stats
- How do you do your market research?
- How are you building trust
- Your tech stack & infrastructure
- Tell me about your failures
- ONE failure that was actually a sweet one?
- If you have to go back in time..
- The hardest part about launching a business
- One advice you wish someone gave to you?
- Your advice for indie beginners
- Your advice for indie founders
- Your must read blog/platform?
- Your project(s) that you want to share
### Spotlight on our today’s indie person
>> Please tell us about yourself + what your workstation looks like + any productivity tools you use?
Hi. I’m Jesse Schoberg, CEO and Co-Founder of DropInBlog. I’ve been working on internet stuff since 2001 when I learned “web design” as it was called at the time. I taught myself HTML, CSS, and PHP.
I just started building websites for small businesses. That eventually turned into an agency with remote staff.
Learning to find global talent was huge for me. Once you learn how to source a team of freelancers, your journey becomes a lot faster. The agency did well enough that I made a good living. But I knew scaling an agency was a nightmare. The real path to freedom was with my own projects.
I started a variety of side projects over the years with varying success. Some failed, some eventually had moderate 6 figure exits.
I’ve done a bunch of things, but here are a few: vacation rental directory, white label hotel booking engine, white label SMS marketing SaaS, form processing SaaS, franchise directory, and eventually DropInBlog (a SaaS that adds a blog to sites not built in WordPress).
My experience running the agency and knowing how to code helped immensely. It helped me hire, helped me manage staff, helped me manage projects efficiently, Etc.
My workstation – I’m a minimalist and a nomad so I don’t have a big desk setup.
The tools I (we) use daily to keep things organised & productive:
We use Freedcamp for our primary PM tool, and we’ve been delighted with it. They are always responsive to issues and seem to have a great team.
I keep my “today’s focus” just in a simple text doc that runs in its own space. I have a few little apps I like:
- TripMode – limits which apps can connect to the internet, great for coffee shops, Etc
- Micro Snitch – notifies you anytime an app turns on your mic or camera
- Droplr – screenshots / screencasts / code snippets
- Migadu – email hosting based on usage, not domains/accounts
I’m more of a night guy. I don’t feel my real energy kicking in until the afternoon. So I take my mornings slow. I do personal stuff – catch up with friends, life admin, reading, Etc.
You gotta follow your energy, and work when your brain is most “on”. This is different for everyone. I don’t use an alarm, I only eat 2 meals/day, and breakfast is not one of them. I love a good latte to start my day. I like to do a bit of callisthenics.
That said if I’m deep into a project, all that goes out the window. I’ll wake up and go straight to smashing keys as my brain won’t turn off until the task is finished. Sometimes that’s days or a week. Follow your energy.
I value freedom a lot. I also love building stuff. So ultimately that’s what keeps me motivated.
Internet businesses and the money they generate creates incredible freedom that most people can’t even wrap their head around if structured correctly.
Aside from that, I love the satisfaction of creating things and the excitement that can come with the hustle.
If my motivation is low, I try to step away from the keyboard. I walk, listen to podcasts (that are often not about business), play the guitar, or explore whatever city I’m dwelling in.
For me, motivation comes in large waves – I’ve learned it’s better not to force it.
### The Indie Person as an Indie Founder/Entrepreneur
Since DropInBlog has taken off, I’ve done my best to keep side projects to a minimum. But there is one we’re pursuing that is about impact and awareness.
That project is about alternative protein sources. It turns out we’re running out of resources on this earth place. We got interested in bug protein (crickets specifically) and are working on that project over at Crickets.org.
I know everyone talks about it, but if you are new in your journey, you should read The Four Hour Work Week. While the industry has dramatically evolved since its publication, it is a good starting point for mindset — precisely, the Dreamline exercise.
For personal growth and also an understanding of other humans, my all-time favourite book is The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. (Also see his follow-up The Righteous Mind.)
That is an interesting question. I’ve never really thought about it.
I guess in my mind, all founders are entrepreneurs, but all entrepreneurs are not founders.
I feel like I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life. I didn’t feel like a founder until I was focused on certain projects or companies and leading a vision.
If you hustle hot dogs on the street side or flip widgets on ebay, you’re an entrepreneur, if you take those to the next level with process, vision and longevity you are a founder.
Consistency. Success is a long game, and you’ve got to show up (albeit not every day).
### The SaaS Business of the indie person
We have built (and are still building) a full-fledged blog platform. However, it’s a different use case than WordPress or Medium or other platforms.
It allows you to embed a blog into your existing site, using your current template or theme. Some might call it a “headless blog platform”. So that could be your hand-coded HTML site, something built in Webflow or Kartra, a Shopify store, a Thinkific site, Etc.
It’s called DropInBlog. Because, well.. it lets you “drop” a blog into your website. We didn’t overthink it too much. Simple, brandable, and we could secure the .com and related social profiles.
Our niche is people with websites that are not built in WordPress that want to have a blog.
It was quite a long time ago. Before WordPress took the world by storm, we were building sites for our clients using basic HTML, and some PHP includes.
Then clients started asking for blogs. We would install WordPress in a folder and then create a custom theme to match the existing site.
It was a tedious process, and then clients were frustrated because WordPress was a bit convoluted when using it “just” as a blog.
So with that, I thought – “why couldn’t we build a basic CMS that was just a blog that plugged into any existing site?”
It’s a SaaS. There are two plans, and both of them are paid-plans. There is a free trial but no free-plan.
We’ve never done well with freemium.
I want DropInBlog to become the “household name” when it comes to the pain point we solve.
The first few years we had it as a little side project it was only making like $1k / month.
Then we had a bunch of things kind of fall into place early 2019. That’s when we saw the potential.
We blew past six figures once we started focusing on it, now on the road to 7-figures – around which point we’ll have to make some serious decisions about how big we want to take this thing.
Mostly we watch our signups. If there is a community like Kartra or Webflow we see using our product a lot, we start to lean into that community more and cater our content & product to their needs a bit.
Once we identify things we want to target, our favourite tool is Ahrefs for sure.
But we also use Hotjar for user experience stuff and many tools from Baremetrics to engage our customers and keep an eye on how our numbers are doing.
We do a fair amount of content marketing. I’m active on twitter as the founder (@JesseSchoberg), and occasionally I speak at conferences.
We’re mostly organic but are also testing some paid channels. We drive some traffic from some Facebook groups related to the platforms we are popular with as well.
We’re LAMP programmers by trade. Our original code was written in Symfony. However, we’re now working on a rewrite using Laravel.
We use Amazon for the full stack including E2 & S3 along with Cloudflare for cache and routing. Once things got a bit larger, we hired a DevOps team to get our ducks in a row as we scale.
Other tools we use as I’ve mostly mentioned: Stripe, Baremetrics, Ahrefs, Hotjar. We also tend to use some productized services to fill in some gaps with our internal team for things like outreach.
### Key Learning Points
Contrary to what happens with most people, we hired too early. We brought in a full-time person for something we should have brought in a freelancer for.
Then we didn’t have enough work for them. We didn’t hire high enough up the food chain for them to be able to own the position enough so that we could just let go.
In the end, we had to pull back and let them go.
I feel like DropInBlog is the most exciting project I’ve worked on. So I can thank the lack of success from a few other projects for making that happen.
If a couple of other things I was working on that weren’t as exciting would have taken off, I would have never prioritized DropInBlog.
Never use PayPal subscriptions for anything. I bought a project once that was doing this and I wasn’t able to transfer the account/subscriptions – it was a mess. I lost much revenue.
I tend to focus too much on the details of the product. While it’s great to make something amazing, sometimes you really need to focus on marketing & growth rather than getting that button’s shadow just perfect.
getting it to a large and targeted audience quickly.
Get a small base of revenue so you can live. Then focus on long money.
Less consuming and more doing.
Yes, it’s good to get up to speed with things, listen to podcasts, Etc. But at the end of the day, you need to put in the hours on the building & marketing processes.
It’s okay that you don’t know everything. You will learn a lot from failing too.
Once you have a little revenue, try to start hiring some freelancers or productized services to take some things off your plate & help with growth.
It’s a lot more efficient to hire an expert at things than to spend weeks trying to learn how to do it yourself.
## Shoutout & Appreciations
- Tropical MBA Podcast (https://www.tropicalmba.com/)
### Sweet Self Promotion because indie founders deserves it!
>> Your project(s) that you want to share + where can you be found online & best way to reach out to you?
Check us out at DropInBlog.com if you’re looking for a no-code solution that adds a blog to any site that wasn’t built in WordPress (Webflow, Kartra, Thinkific, Etc).
If you’re on Shopify check out our app DropInBlog for Shopify.
Let’s hang on Twitter: @JesseSchoberg
Lastly, we’re also working on a fun side project about Cricket Protein. Check it out at Crickets.org.