Friday, March 11, 2011

Making Money Work

On Monday night, I watched my first, The Previous Phrase host Lawrence O’Donnell.
Even when O’Donnell laudably tried to focus the audience’s consideration onand hopefully last, Charlie Sheen trainwreck interview, courtesy of the tragic undertow that threatens to pull Sheen underneath for high-quality, I used to be overtaken, not from the pulling about the thread, as well as the voracious audience he serves. It didn’t make me unfortunate, it built me angry.

Concerning celebrities, we could be considered a heartless nation, basking within their misfortunes like nude sunbathers at Schadenfreude Beach. The impulse is understandable, to some diploma. It may be grating to listen to complaints from men and women who delight in privileges that many of us cannot even picture. In case you can not muster up some compassion for Charlie Sheen, who would make alot more dough for a day’s give good results than the majority of us will make inside of a decade’s time, I guess I cannot blame you.

Along with the quick pace of occasions online and therefore the info revolution sparked by the Web, it is rather uncomplicated for your know-how trade to think it is unique: repeatedly breaking new ground and executing things that no person has actually done earlier than.

But you can get other kinds of organization that have currently undergone several of the very same radical shifts, and also have just as good a stake with the future.

Take healthcare, for instance.

We quite often assume of it as being a massive, lumbering beast, but in fact, medicine has undergone a series of revolutions from the previous 200 years that happen to be at least equal to individuals we see in technologies and data.

Significantly less understandable, but even now within the norms of human nature, may be the impulse to rubberneck, to slow down and look at the carnage of Charlie spectacle of Sheen’s unraveling, but of your blithe interviewer Sheen’s lifestyle as we pass it inside most suitable lane of our every day lives. To become honest, it might be tough for folks to discern the distinction amongst a run-of-the-mill consideration whore, and an honest-to-goodness, circling the drain tragedy-to-be. On its individual merits, a quote like “I Am On the Drug. It’s Labeled as Charlie Sheen” is sheer genius, and we can’t all be anticipated to get the total measure of someone’s life every last time we listen to one thing humorous.

Rapid forward to 2011 and I am wanting to take a look at indicates of being a little more business-like about my hobbies (primarily new music). From the finish of January I had manned up and commenced to advertise my weblogs. I had designed plenty of unique weblogs, which were contributed to by pals and colleagues. I promoted these routines through Facebook and Twitter.

2nd: the very little abomination the Gang of Five around the Supream Court gave us a yr or so back (Citizens Inebriated) definitely consists of a little bit bouncing betty of its individual that could quite perfectly go off during the faces of Govs Wanker, Sacitch, Krysty, and J.O. Daniels. Considering that this ruling extended the notion of “personhood” to each firms and unions, to attempt to deny them any perfect to run inside of the legal framework that they had been organized underneath deprives these “persons” from the freedoms of speech, association and movement. Which suggests (as soon as once again, quoting law school skilled family members) that both the courts really need to uphold these rights for your unions (as particular person “persons” as guaranteed through the Federal (and most state) constitutions, or they have to declare that these attempts at stripping or limiting union rights really need to use to leading businesses, also.

Marco Arment, the former CTO of the Tumblr blog platform, is best known these days for his time-shifting reading app Instapaper. But he could start a side-job as a financial advisor to start-ups. His motto: Get the money from your customers, not investors.

Arment’s more traditional take is built largely on the idea that if he puts out a good product, there’s no shame in asking customers to pay for it. And the more they pay, the less he needs to rely on outside investors. Arment said many developers are of the mindset that they need to amass a huge number of eyeballs through free services. But they don’t focus enough on building a solid product that can command loyalty and payment from consumers, and instead try to gain profitability through advertising and turning to outside venture capital.

By contrast, Arment says his efforts to monetize Instapaper have been successful because he was able to leverage the hard work he put into his paid versions and the good will he’s gotten back from consumers. And that has allowed him to avoid outside funding, something he plans on doing for the forseeable future.

Don’t Take Funding if You Don’t Need It

“If a service can be profitable and breakeven without VC money, you don’t need to take it,” Arment told me in an interview. “There’s no reason for developers to get a lot of users without charging. There’s another path. My goal is to spread that message: Charge for something and make more than you spend.”

Arment launched Instapaper as a free website in January 2008 and became profitable later that fall when he first began selling a paid iPhone app alongside a free version. He’s been profitable ever since. Arment won’t disclose his revenue, but he said he can cover his expenses and can afford to hire a couple more people if he needed. He left his Tumblr job in September to devote himself to Instapaper.

Though Arment maintains a free iPhone app, he said the focus of the company has been on the paid versions which are updated first (a new update is expected in the next month or so). He has yet to release a free iPad version and has only gotten three emails about the lack of it. Most seem happy to pay for the $5 iPad version. Between 25 and 33 percent of people pay for the $5 paid iPhone version. In fact, as an experiment, he pulled the free iPhone app from the app store for a week a little while back and found that only one person emailed. Sales of the paid version didn’t go up, but they didn’t go down either, he said.

“The free version isn’t really competing as much as I expected with the paid version; a lot of people go straight to the paid version,” he said. “It was only a week but the people who were going to the free version would not have gone to the paid version.”

Let Users Thank You by Paying You

That’s what’s allowed Arment to really focus on the paid segment. In fact, he still questions the value of the free version at times because it can leave a more negative impression for users with its limited set of features. Arment said his paying users have surprised him with their support. He started a $1 a month subscription plan in October that didn’t actually offer much in the way of extra features. It was more of a way to let users show their support for Instapaper. He said the response was overwhelmingly positive.

“That was a huge surprise to me how well it’s doing given there’s no real incentive to do it besides good will. But it ends up that good will is powerful,” Arment said. “It shows that people will pay for something they like because they want to ensure its future.”

Arment is testing the theory again with a new API that leverages his subscription plan. For developers who want to build apps with Instapaper integration, Arment said last month he will require their users to subscribe to Instapaper. Again, the response has been very positive, said Arment. Two hundred developers have applied to get access to the API. All this money-making has allowed Arment to sidestep venture capital money. He has had repeated offers, but Arment said accepting VC funding is akin to taking on a new boss, and the act of raising and maintaining money is a full-time job, he said.

Venture Capital Is Like Having Another Boss

“If you can go without funding, you can be a one- or two-person shop without a whole level of bosses,” he said. “You’re not worried about getting more money and getting diluted anymore.”

Arment’s approach doesn’t work for everyone. He was fortunate to be able to this as a side job and build it up while at Tumblr. And he acknowledges that the lack of funding could be a problem if he wanted to build a staff quickly. But he believes his experience shows that a more old-school approach to building a business and developing a following with consumers is a viable one for entrepreneurs that should be explored more. He may not the biggest company, but he can be a profitable one for a while.

“I don’t need the entire market,” Arment said. “I can get five percent of the market and be rich.”

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

  • Why Apple Hasn’t Sewn Up the Tablet Market — Yet

  • Lessons From Twitter: How to Play Nice With Ecosystem Partners

  • Rogue Devices: The Consumer Influence on Enterprise Mobility, Part 1

Some context:

I am basically a one-man design team for a bimonthly magazine.

As a startup, I was never really making much money here. About $48k.

In fact, marketwise, I was barely getting paid what a single designer should make even tho I am doing the job of at least two people.

I havent received a raise since fall 2007, even for cost of living.

In the time since then, my work (and remember that there is only one designer here) has won us about 6 industry awards.

In fact, in 2010 we won 3 awards and they were all design awards.

The reason I bring all this up is because one would hope that a performance record like that would merit a certain amount of base respect. However since this is the first business my boss has owned, I feel like they are simply spoiled into thinking that this work is just a given. Maybe they just dont know any better.

So now, with the industry souring and ad sales dropping a bit, I have taken a significant pay cut and am now doing all of the advert design that they once jobbed out to freelancers. Ad to that our rush to launch an iPad version and I am now doing far more work for even less money.

I wasnt offered flex time. I wasnt offered furlough days. In fact, for a salaried employee that ends up working heavy deadlines once every two months, my bosses still treat me like an employee that needs to saty til the very end of his "shift" regardless of whether I have work to do at the time.

Another issue (more context) is that they seem to think they have some kind of exclusivity with me. At first they asked that I let them know if I was doing any freelance work, as a "courtesy". But the very first time I mentioned that I was doing a poster on my own time on a dead weekend for a friends band for FREE, my boss acted very butthurt. AS if he should wield a veto power over my work on my own time. This has had the effect of me simply hiding the freelance I do from them. I really dont feel its their business.

So annnnnnnyway. Ive had enough and I am building my portfolio site to hopefully begin shopping myself around. I know the economy sucks, but Im not planning to leave until I get a better offer.

Knowing all that you know about the attitude of my boss presented above, should I worry about them trying to prevent me from using the work Ive created here the last 5 years in my portfolio? CAN they prevent me? Should I be worried?

BONUS: am I being treated unfairly? Ive been in this industry for 15 years and Im giving up hope that Ill ever not work for knobs. Does it suck everywhere?

Source: corporate Reputation Management

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