One year of the Post Status Club
I’d like to share some details with you about the first full year of the Post Status Club. I like transparency, so I figured I’d lay out exactly what happened over the year, what went well, what didn’t, and how the numbers shake out.
This post is extremely personal, as Post Status is my personal income, so just take that for what it’s worth and do with it whatever you feel comfortable. Let’s get to it!
I launched the Post Status Club on January 21st, 2015, the same day I was set to fly out to PressNomics. Between that afternoon, and the first recurring renewal on January 21st, 2016 (yesterday), 565 people joined the Post Status Club. Amazing! I’m over half way to my 2 year goal of 1,000 members, but I still need steady growth to make that goal.
- Of these 565, about 49 are Patron level (paid $365)
- 85 are bulk members, meaning an employer bought memberships for some or all of their employees (for $69 each, a $30 discount).
- Another 36 memberships were included with Partner packages (3 per partner)
- I gave away 14 memberships for giveaways, friends & family deals, or other special circumstances.
That means 381 or so people paid the regular Club rate. A few of those had discounts applied, but literally only a few.
Revenue and managing money
- Altogether, non-partner revenue from memberships was ~$61,000.
- Each partner paid $2,500 for the year, accounting for another $30,000 in revenue.
- We made some revenue on the WCUS party, but ended up paying a couple thousand dollars each, so I’m not counting it. I’m counting the net amount paid for the party into overall costs.
That means that gross revenue before expenses for Post Status in the first year was around $91,000. Not too bad for WordPress news!
Expenses for the same period (travel, accommodations, contractors, accounting and lawyer fees, business fees, software, hosting, equipment, etc) account for about $18,000. That number should go down this year. I also paid $20,000 in quarterly taxes and I have no idea how that will shake out.
That means that net revenue for Post Status was around $53,000 post-tax for the first full year –assuming I don’t owe the tax man anything extra, and I sure as hell hope not!
From a gross revenue standpoint, if you take the $91,000 Post Status revenue and about $10,000 in other miscellaneous revenue (I’m a man of mystery I tell you), this was my first “six figure” year. However, from a net revenue standpoint, it’s not my highest paid year by a fair margin.
Owning a business is fun! Make more and spend more and get taxed more. But still, I’m absolutely thrilled by the outcome! I went into the year paying myself $2,500 per month (net), which was a drastic self-induced pay cut. I gave myself about a $10,000 bonus late in the year, so in reality I paid myself $40,000, leaving a margin of about $12,000 to stay on the business side going into year two.
Part of why I share all of these numbers is because I know many of you are also self-operators or tiny businesses that operate similarly. If you have any other questions about how I’m managing things (not that I’m any expert), I’d be happy to share what I can.
What went well
Let’s start with what went well this year. The two prominent features were the Notes Newsletter and the Slack channel.
Your average open rate on Notes was 80%. The average click rate was 31%. I’m thrilled with these numbers! The open rate, I found, matters much more than the click rate. You tend to click when I don’t provide enough of the story.
So, obviously footnotes get clicked way more than full articles. There is also little correlation between where in the newsletter a story sits and how often it’s clicked; and my takeaway from this is that most of you either fully scan or fully read the newsletter when you open it.
I’m incredibly happy with these numbers for Notes, which I’ve always called the “meat and potatoes” of your memberships.
It took a while for me to figure out the flow for Notes, but throughout the year there were 181 newsletters sent, and 602 “Notes” within. That means there was a newsletter roughly every other day, and 3.3 notes in each newsletter.
Later in the year I sent fewer per week on average, but they were typically more in-depth. My goal for this year is a more consistent 3 times per week. I think many members value consistency, and I’m going to try as hard as I can to not send 4 one week and 1 or 2 the next, because I want to make sure I stay part of your routine and am there when you expect me to be there.
I felt really good about newsletter content. I was less afraid to go long form the more members we got, and we had some pretty good exclusives and long form pieces that I felt brought a good bit of members-only value.
The Slack channel was an afterthought, and a hit. Today, 490 of 565 members are in Slack. I sent the invites in March, and many of you who haven’t joined are those that joined Post Status prior to Slack, and the invite probably seemed out of place. Almost every new member joins Slack as soon as they sign up.
There are a bunch of specific Slack channels that have their own feel and group of regulars, and the conversations are pretty great. If you haven’t checked them out, drop in #ecommerce, #wpbusiness, #heavydev, and #learntogether. Those are the largest and most active non-#club channels. Other smaller channels like #life, #health, and #tech are fun too but not as active.
If you aren’t utilizing the Slack channel, I hope you’ll give it another shot! We had an unfortunate bit for a while where I learned the hard way about managing an online community, and after I made a few changes the vibe was drastically improved. Something I learned: people can’t say whatever they want; they do it my way or they go, and that’s the only way I can ensure a positive community.
I think quite a few of you joined because of the Slack channel. And while it baffles me that some of you love Slack and don’t often read the newsletter, I’ll forgive you! As long as you see value in Post Status, in one way or another, I’m happy.
I went to a number of events this year that went great. PressNomics, a few local WordCamps, and especially WordCamp US were excellent marketing opportunities. I learned that speaking is very helpful, speaking about something related to Post Status even more so, and throwing a party most so. I think around 20 people joined either specifically for the WCUS party, or due to conversations around it.
This year I’ll be at A Day of Rest, PressNomics, WooConf, WordCamp Europe, and WordCamp US, plus a smattering of WordCamps I presume. I’m outlining a possible party for WordCamp Europe.
The podcast with Joe Hoyle has been great! We’ve been consistent, gotten good feedback, and people are listening. Episodes get about 1,500 listens in the first week, and some continue to do well after that as well. It’s a great opportunity to go into more depth, be more personal, and have a good chat with someone I respect very much.
What didn’t go well
Not everything was roses this year. I learned that my time was quite well spent between the newsletter and staying on top of all Slack activity. I’m working to better utilize and segment my time so I’m able to manage more stuff.
It’s become a bit of a running joke about when the job board would be live. I said it was “coming soon” in the announcement post of the club, and a year later we still don’t have it. But I promise this time, it’s coming soon!
Really though, it’s a huge opportunity. I’m guessing well over $1,000 per month in revenue from the beginning, and potentially for quite a bit more than that. I’m an idiot for not better prioritizing this.
I intended to slowly build out resources that are more evergreen. While I feel like I provided a bunch of good resources in Notes themselves, I don’t have a repository to show for it, and didn’t finish many of the ideas I had for better evergreen content that members could draw upon.
This is a big priority for the next couple of months, to invest my time writing content that can be useful to members for a long time.
Iterating on the site
The site has hardly changed from a year ago. I wanted to build out a bunch of features and do more to highlight partners, Patrons, and members. I wanted to create fun search and filtering stuff. I wanted to iterate and test the sales pages. I wanted to create a video. I didn’t get to much of any of it. That has to change; I can’t let the site stagnate.
Google hates me
I don’t know why, but when I changed the site URL and went HTTPS last year, my SEO tanked and never came back. There is no penalty that’s shown, and it’s likely algorithmic. I don’t know what will fix it, I just know Google hates me. I have some pretty relevant posts that have been read tens of thousands of times, and when you search for the relevant terms, posts linking to my post and share snippets of my post show up on page one while I’m on page gazillion. I wish Google would quit curb stomping my site.
Free blog posts
The main “free” blog has languished. In part, it’s because I focus where the dollars are: you! But also, I get a lot less excited to post on the other side of the blog when Google pays no attention to the site. However, I want to get back into a flow of one post per week on the main site, plus the podcast.
I do like posting on the free side, but it’s a trade-off because it means it wasn’t exclusive to you. And it directly takes energy from you. But it’s good marketing, so I have to figure out a good way to mix it in.
What I’m looking forward to
The job board is going to be important, and exciting. I’m excited to see what we can make it.
I’m also looking forward to the swag that’s being made right now. Partners and Patrons are getting some, and I’m going to make some available to members in a more dedicated store as well. People love swag.
What I’m nervous about
Shipping swag is going to suck! But weirdly, my wife (a busy pharmacist in her own right) is excited about it. So I’m confident we’ll get it done together.
I’m also nervous and excited to see renewal rates. The second half of last year saw a pretty linear line of new members, around one per day. So as long as more people keep coming in than fall off, the site will grow.
However, to hit 1,000 people, I need the new member rate to be well ahead of the non-renewal rate. Thankfully, fewer than 5% of members have set their membership to “pending cancellation”, meaning they turned off autorenewal. Only time will tell what percentage of you actually don’t renew, but I’m hoping for over 80%.
And that means I need to do whatever it takes to make you happy customers!
Looking for feedback
Post Status is far from perfect. I have a ton of stuff I want to improve. Is there anything you’d like to see? What would help you be better at your job? How can I improve this service? What is bugging you? I want to know! Email me or hit me up on Slack.
First and foremost, I’d like to thank all members! You are amazing.
Second, I’d like to thank my partners:
- Design Palette Pro
- Gravity Forms
- Pippin’s Plugins
- The Theme Foundry
- WP Migrate DB Pro
- WP Site Care
- WP Valet
They put a lot of faith in me, and I have a lot to improve on that front! I’m actually extending partnerships through February 21st so their terms are 13 months instead of 12, partly so I can give them more public thanks that they deserve, and so I can prevent renewals and partner negotiations and other things all hitting on the same month in future years. I hope you’ll check them out, buy their stuff, and tell them thanks.
Next I’d like to Katie Richards, my editorial assistant. She helps me do a lot of things that I’m not good at doing: reviewing profiles and organizations submissions, running reports, keeping some bookkeeping straight, managing tasks, and holding me accountable. Bringing Katie on board was a good decision.
I’d also like to thank Joe Hoyle and Japh Thomson. Japh has filled in for me to do the newsletter, twice (and both times unpaid) while I took vacation and paternity leave. And Joe has been a wonderful (and also unpaid!) podcast partner. Human Made (where Joe is a partner and Japh works) has been super supportive of Post Status. You’ll see more between myself and Human Made, including my coverage of A Day of Rest this next week.
I’d finally like to thank Shawn Heskith, Brian Richards, and Daniel Espinoza; the four of us have a weekly mastermind that’s been incredible, and I’m excited to be starting a second year with them to learn and grow as small eCommerce business owners together. Brian and Daniel were also helpful as contract developers for me a couple times this year.
This has been my most fulfilling job ever, and it’s my privilege to serve you in this capacity. I’m also humbled that you read what I write and listen to what I say. I hope the next year is even better than the last. Onward!
This is a great wrap up, Brian. Thanks for the great service and the transparency. I admit to being one who reads or skims the notes most of the time, but never visits the Slack channel (although I am set up there). Maybe I will try to poke my head in more now.
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