It’s been a few months since I’ve written on my blog. It’s not because I didn’t have anything to say. There were a lot of things I wanted to talk about but I wanted to address the elephant in the room before I addressed smaller issues.

The Setup

Just over a year ago I took on the role of product manager for WooCommerce. That means that I make sure we’re building the best possible software for our customers. I don’t think up features willy nilly. I read the same blogs & books as our customers, I listen to the same podcasts as our customers, I go to the same conferences, I evaluate e-commerce platforms to see what they’re doing and talking about, and I spend a lot of time talking to our customers.

I’ve successfully adopted the entrepreneur mindset which is great for my job. It means that I see an endless stream of opportunities. Every time I hear “It sucks that …”, “I wish that …”, or “Why does …” I know there’s space for a product or service and my mind starts turning about all of the ways to fill that gap. Could we build a piece of software to fix that? Could we create an e-course on this topic? Could we promote this service in some way?

This is a good thing. We’ve created a whole bunch of new features in WooCommerce based on these conversations and we’ve gotten more customers and made the existing customers happier. When WooThemes wasn’t interested in pursuing something I would do it on my own time. I’ve created & sold my own products. I’ve learned how to promote my products through content and I’ve learned how hard it can be to build and maintain a newsletter. These experiences gave me practical e-commerce knowledge instead of theory.

And then in May things changed. WooThemes was acquired by Automattic and we had new policies.

The Policy

Aside from the uncertainty which appears anytime your life situation changes there was only one hurdle I had to cross. And that was the Conflict of Interest (COI)  policy. I won’t repeat the whole thing here but suffice it to say that you can do just about anything as long as you don’t make money off of it. That means that I can’t write any more books, and I can’t create any new courses or plugins. I also had to open source or sell my existing plugins.

This is where the mindset & attitude I developed over the last couple years becomes a bit of a problem. I had assets that were generating a ton of revenue that only required occasional fixes and they had to be sold off. It was like asking me to give up free money.

Sigh. It’s just frustrating.

I’m not here to debate the policy. The policy is the policy and it’s here to stay. The only thing I can do is choose to accept it or to go out on my own. And I’m still here.

I want to give this a chance. Automattic is the top of the WordPress industry. There is no going higher. I’m working with some of the best people in the industry they are people who have passion and purpose. If you’ve ever read the book Drive you’d know that that’s all you really need.

My Philosophy

I love small businesses and I love the idea that people can take care of themselves. That’s part of the reason I love WooCommerce so much. It’s technology that frees people from working for terrible companies. They can create their own product, work for themselves, and sell their creativity in any way they see fit.

I disagree with the policy. I think Automatticians know how to prioritize their job over their side projects and I think the benefits of side projects outweigh the negatives. But as much as I believe this; it doesn’t matter. The policy is the policy and you need to accept it or move on.

I’ve decided to push through this uncomfortable period. Not working is challenging for me right now. I’m so used to putting in 110% that it’s weird to have free time in the day. I’m going to take advantage of this free time. I’m going to get back into my hobbies, spend more time with friends, and spend more time with my partner. For better or worse this policy is forcing me to spend time taking care of myself which is maybe something I’ve left by the way side. Make no mistake this is very uncomfortable for me. But on occasion it’s good to be uncomfortable. How else are you supposed to grow?

E-Commerce Isn’t a Sprint

Blurs in Subway

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is how I can help store owners succeed. WooCommerce doesn’t have every imaginable feature but it is complete enough for a huge number of store owners. What I mean by that is that in terms of functionality WooCommerce is a very viable option. Newsletters – check, bundles – check, subscriptions – check, tracking numbers for shipping, check; you get the idea.

The problem for many store owners isn’t a lack of features it’s that they don’t know how to run an e-commerce business. And that’s no slight against them. Do you add intelligent recommendations or do you write blog posts to bring in more traffic?

There’s no right answer and no guide that can give you all of the answers. You have to learn how to run your e-commerce business. Learning from other businesses is great but you have run your own experiments and see what works for you.

While I can’t give you the perfect e-commerce quick start guide what I can do right now is tell you what not to do.

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The Secret to Great Writing Is to (Consistently) Write

Pingpong table

After attending LoopConf and learned all that I could about WordPress development I took the next day off and played a game of ping pong with some friends. There was the guy who’s really good at hitting the ball fast so you have to play really far back, the guy who taps the ball over the net so you have to dive towards the table, the guy who’s good with placement so you have to run from side to side to return the ball, and the guy who plays aggressively and smashes the ball with every opportunity. And then there was me the guy who has a very basic serve and very basic technique.

So who do you think won? Maybe the guy who was really good at placing the ball? Or the guy who hit it really fast?
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A Year of MailChimp


I’ve been recommending MailChimp for years. Probably as far back as 2009. Part of that is because they have a free plan which is great for small businesses. The other part is that they have a phenomenal user experience. Everything in their system is easy to use. That’s why when I started marketing my book I signed up for a MailChimp account. As of today I’ve been using it a full year and I’ve learned quite a lot in that time. I hope you can learn from some of my mistakes.

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A Little Newsletter Experiement

Lady Sitting on Couch

Just over a week ago I released the WooCommerce Cookbook. And when I did that I also shared the announcement post on social media. A few days later I dug into the data to figure out exactly how many people went to the purchase page from my social media efforts. The results weren’t amazing.

A few days later I sent out the message to my newsletter subscribers. I’ve heard stellar things about newsletters out performing social media but that wasn’t exactly the case here. Let’s look at the numbers.

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Append OptinMonster to Post Based on Tag

I started my newsletter a little less than a year ago and at the time I set it up quickly because I was just experimenting with newsletters. As I’ve done more research and as I’ve seen my list grow to 350+ subscribers without an incentive I’ve decided to take my opt-ins more seriously. That’s why I’ve been playing with OptinMonster and it’s actually really great.

It’s not a form builder and it won’t make your contact form. What it can do though is give you a really nice interface to build an opt-in form. You choose a type of opt-in (sidebar, after the post, popup, etc), define some styles, tell it when to appear (only on this page), connect it to your list and press save. It’s pretty slick.

This post though isn’t about opt-ins. It’s about being able to choose exactly where I want to place them. I write a lot about WooCommerce. In fact, 50 of my 192 posts are about WooCommerce. And I have an newsletter for people who want to learn more about WooCommerce so it makes sense to automatically add an opt-in form to any post that’s tagged woocommerce. And that’s something that OptinMonster doesn’t handle natively. Luckily their support was great and pointed me in the right direction.

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