If you’re too lazy to read, just watch the video above :)
So, the blog post below was originally written in December 2014.
It later became the premise for the video above, a talk I gave at SumoCon, a conference put on by Noah Kagan’s Sumo.com in September 2016, in Austin, Texas.
There have been quite a few updates to the story since then, but this video gives a pretty nice overview of where we’ve been, and where we’re going.
ClickMinded started as an SEO training course, and is now just one of a bunch of digital marketing courses.
Here’s the original post in its entirety, slightly refreshed and updated for the modern era:
ClickMinded is the SEO training course I’ve been working on for the last 5 years. It’s been a side project for most of that time, up until two months ago when I quit my job to work on it full-time.
A few years ago, it crossed over the six-figure revenue mark and started bringing in more than my annual salary, managing SEO at Airbnb.
It has grown even more, since.
I’ve gotten lots of questions about how all this happened. The short answer is that it was messy.
Here’s how it went.
Who is this guy?
I lived in San Francisco for 6 years before recently leaving. I moved to the bay area in 2011 to manage SEO at PayPal. Two years later, I left to work on SEO at Airbnb.
If it’s not obvious yet, I love SEO. More specifically, I really enjoy the puzzle that SEO is. Trying to make a particular document the most relevant on the web for a specific query, relative to competitors, is a fascinating process. It’s a lot of fun for me.
I’ve had a number of side projects throughout college and into my 20’s. ClickMinded definitely isn’t the first attempt, but it’s certainly the one I’ve put the most heart and energy into.
My Dreamhost account is a graveyard of domain names that are the byproduct of 1-day idea seizures.
I’m sure this personality type isn’t alien to entrepreneurial-minded people. What I want to point out is that I wasn’t really able to succeed until I stopped having lots of ideas all the time and started to focus on just one.
With that said, I wouldn’t have ever stumbled upon ClickMinded if I wasn’t constantly moving from one idea to the next. So there’s a balance there, I guess. I think the key is to aggressively think through different problems, and when you’ve found something that you’re more passionate about than anything else, drop everything and push on it as hard as you can.
The early days of ClickMinded
Towards the end of 2011, I had asked if I could lead one of the monthly marketing classes that were open for anyone to teach at PayPal. The entire marketing org was obligated, once a month, to “refine their marketing skills” and learn about a subject they generally knew nothing about. I put together a 2-hour “Introduction to SEO” course with a colleague of mine, and it went really well.
I got really good feedback on it. Specifically, I was told multiple times I made a previously uninteresting topic, interesting. The good reviews were a catalyst for me to ask my boss if it was cool if I started teaching SEO classes on the weekends to startups in San Francisco. He said it was okay, but asked me to check in with the eBay legal team first, to see if there was a conflict of interest.
I was super nervous about checking in with them and put off writing the email for much longer than I should have. What if they say no? I would be destroyed and would kick myself for not just going for it without asking for buy-in. I wrote and re-wrote it multiple times. It took me about 5 days to write 3 paragraphs. I was really sweating this one. After sending it, I got an email back in about 10 minutes, one line, that said: “sounds like it’s not a problem”.
I bring this up because this seems to be one of the first big things that hold people back from starting side projects while they’re working full time. Most of the people I’ve met doing a side project outside of their work tend to immediately view themselves as traitorous. My bias is, you shouldn’t be all that worried about it. There are definitely real, actual conflicts of interest out there in the world. If what you’re working on isn’t, and it’s starting to get traction, then let the right people know and stop letting it hang over you. Many of the people I’ve met trying to get a side project going are far more secretive than they need to be about whatever it is they’re working on.
After getting the okay, my back-of-the-napkin plan was:
- Rent space at a co-working venue in San Francisco
- Charge $500 per student for an all-day class, maximum 5 students
- Teach the fundamentals of SEO and give students specific feedback on their sites
The first version of the site was pretty simple:
- WordPress as a platform
- A theme from ThemeForest
- Hosted on Dreamhost
- Eventbrite to host the event
- PayPal to process payments