On 6th of June 2004 7:00 pm Katie met Emil (9 Years ago
, now 10 years ago).... and 4 years later Katie & Emil set up their first company and website.
On this page we share with you what happened with our website since the website lunch date in 2008 and many evoluations which don't slow down.
We set up our first website on 9th of July 2008 and it was called IT Couple (Company name). It was mainly to provide some info on our company and some articles. The business model for the company wasn't very good (remote freelancing) so I went back to being permanent employee but left the website running.
In 2010 we started thinking about setting up a blog on a larger scale which would rely provide free content and get funding from ads. We tried multiple websites (not only SQL/BI) and spend large amounts of time on research and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and in 2011-2012 paid for link building services as it was impossible to rank well on Google.
Was it worth it? No! but we learned new things and don't regret it.
In March 2011 we went back to contracting/consulting under new name (and website name) sql server business intelligence but name was not very good and in IT/Blog business people know each other by name so we decided to change name to Katie & Emil (LTD). We thought it was a good idea as Katie is easy to remember and Emil is fairly unique name and last month nearly 10% of traffic from Google Search contained either word Katie, Emil or both.
In early 2012 we consulted with a top SEO Consultant Ken McGaffin and after several telephone conversations and reading recommended materials by Ken we have realized that top quality content and focus on user experience are the only long term approaches to succeed in this business so we decided to drop ALL SEO effort and focus on writing more top quality content! but it was hard as Google Black Hat techniques meant it was going to be hard to position high in Google. Text articles also didn't provide top user experience so we decided to brain storm and think about another way to help our visitors learn in an easier way.
In July 2012 we decided that maybe short video tutorials (up to 10 minutes) are better approach and recorded two videos and uploaded on YouTube; first video being Introducing PowerView with Excel 2013
that so far after nearly a year; got us 12k views! so in October 2012 we started recording videos and as we were between contracts at that time we managed to record over 100 SSIS videos! Which dominated YouTube for SSIS although there is still a few hundred we could record for SSIS.
Videos was a great hit but we know that video has it's disadvantages together with YouTube limited functionality so we decided to group all videos on our website into online tutorial (still working on that) and convert Video into Text tutorial as not everyone can view Videos at work and it is easier to perform a search or scan the content (something I like).
We were getting funds to develop our website and content from ads and we thought we can continue to use the method but more and more people started to use ad blocking and our "win-win" model became a dead end with 25% people blocking ads and increasing considerably.
Initially we were frustrasted and asked ourselves why people don't understand and don't switch it off when we explained that we may have to shut down our website but eventually we understood that ad blocking has it's benefits, mainly security as some ads may inject malicious code or be very very annoying. I don't think we had any of that as we used Google Adsense which has certain standards but still some ads were annoying.
In April 2014 we decided to try a membership with small voluntary payments but that wasn't sustainable and we hit big administration costs assosiated with accepting payments.
In August we have decided to give 100% into our online training business and decided to take a break and move to Poland to cut costs.
With no other option to increase funding we have decided to move free videos into YouTube paid channel in September 2014 but YouTube huge cut meant our profits would be very low and still many people would just sign up for free 7 days trial, download the videos and unsubscribe.
Luckily we founds ClickBank and quickly realized it's actually very limited and moved to FastSpring. This allowed us to sell our membership via a retailer without having to do accounting for each member.
In September 2014 we moved all our YouTube videos back to our website using VdoCipher that offers encrypted videos so people cannot download them.
Since we introduced paid membership we got quite a few bad comments but all we could do is just live with it. Fortunately we also got a few positive comments and although some people were disappointed with our decision at the same time they understood and support our change and became paid members.
It's November 2014 and it's been nearly 2 months after we started offering paid memership on our website.
We decided to stay in Poland until mid January and focus more on the membership. Our decision meant that we would make a loss and also lose the money we could earn on contracts but we thought it's all or nothing. We will either make it self-funding business or it the website and our business will die.
It's a bit disappointing that we had to do a lot of business / behind the scenes effort instead of focusing on creating more content and introducing new features for our members but if it was so easy everyone would be doing that.
Our target is to make it self-funding but as we will live in England our results have to be much better and we hope we can reach our target in 1 years while doing 1-2 BI contracts to cover for the loss when we work full time on the website.
That's all for now, It's 19th of November 2014 and I will update this blog in
January 2015 (update: 16th July 2016)
We tried hard to make it work, but we focused too much on trying to make money, which supposed to help us to do it full time.
Frustration, anxiety, blocked creativity, and finally we started to give up (several times), and then suddenly it occured to me.
We always wanted everyone to have access to free, and just be helpful, so we let go of our limited thinking, decided to put everyting into people's hands, created Plan B (if it doesn't work out) and decided to do a fundraising event.
We thought about creating a charity, but a learnt after a few days that we really need is a Community Interest Company (CIC), which is has perfect style (business model) for us, and also has a cap for our earnings, which is great as we can earn same money (market value), but not more and that will avoid blocking our creativety.
#1 Focus on Top Quality Content.
#2 Deliver great user experience (Content Structure, Navigation, Newsletters, Updates etc).
#3 Create new content every day!*
#4 Focus on max 2-3 projects (subjects) at a time.
#5 Try new things out with minimal effort and if it doesn't work STOP.
#6 Have ultimate goal in mind but be agile and do detailed plans only 1-2 weeks in advance.
#7 Review direction and compliance with goals every 3 months.
#8 Listen carefully to visitors' feedback and ideas and do at least several videos a month requested by visitors from feedback page
#9 Keep visitors up to date via Newsletter, LinkedIn Updates and Twitter
#10 Spend minimum 70%* of time on creating new content! (rest are updates, website development, reviews, planning, outsourcing etc).
* not going to happen with paid membership until we become self-funding.
Main target: member acquisition rate (later on we will introduce quality target)
Our current pace is about 10 members a day (July2014) and we have over 4,500 members.
In 2008 we were passionate but still very inexperienced in many aspects and below are top things we learned over the last 5 years.
#1 Be open minded, you might be wrong and you may learn something new.
#2 Listen carefully & don't criticize; as you might misunderstand and say things you may regret.
#3 Study, study, study... knowledge opens new opportunities, shows different points of view, and builds confidence and security (including "job" security).
#4 As External Technical Consultant be emotionless at work as you will have much greater chance of influencing key decisions.
#5 Have a strategy but don't over plan it, be agile in thinking and actions.
#6 "Large" companies are created from individuals. Individual(s) is what matters!
#7 One expert is better than 20 mid-level specialists (for complex decisions/environments/development).
#8 Process is what makes individuals and teams productive.
#9 People are emotional and need respect, security and motivation.
#10 Employ one "wrong" (non-adaptable) person and things will go wrong very quickly.
Katie & Emil