10 Lessons From A Bootstrapped SaaS Startups 7-Figure Acquisition

I just sold my 4th bootstrapped SaaS business for 7 figures as a solopreneur. Obviously I learned a ton (like I always do with each startup).

Here are 10 important lessons I learned the hard way:

(Maybe you already know all of these. The list is far from exhaustive)

Lesson 1

Wearing all the hats is risky business

In the early days of SEOJet, signing up was by invite only. An automated email would get sent out after 20 minutes of a potential customer requesting an invite.

Because I was so busy with all the tasks of running and growing the business I didn’t realize for 6 months that all of the automated emails telling people their invitation had been approved were going straight to spam.

Obviously this meant a huge slow down in sign ups. I just assumed no one liked my software anymore.

During those 6 months 6000 people requested an invite to sign up for SEOJet and none of them ever saw a reply from us.

When I figured this out, first I cried inside, then I was happy to know that the reason the business wasn’t growing was because of a dumb glitch.

But that glitch probably cost me $250k.

Lesson 2

Don’t fall in love with just one customer acquisition channel, no matter how well it is working

I have a long history as an SEO expert. I started back in 2002 and have made a very good living ever since using SEO almost exclusively as the main driver of traffic.

Because SEOJet was a platform built for businesses doing SEO I knew I needed to rank well in the search engines to prove the software was legit.

This strategy worked well for a while but growth became inconsistent.

It wasn’t until I paid a well known SaaS founder to teach me how to crush FB ads that I experienced crazy predictable growth. (Hint: we doubled in size in 6 months)

Lesson 3

Don’t be afraid to raise your prices, even with current customers

This was another lesson I learned from a mentor. I was petrified to raise prices on my customers but he insisted and begged me to do it.

I finally doubled my prices and only lost about 20% of my customers.

It was a huge increase in MRR for me by simply sending an email saying prices were going up.

Lesson 4

You need predictable growth to become more acquirable

I always knew I wanted to sell SEOJet, but I wanted to get at least 1 million for it.

The 17 other small internet businesses I had sold before that all relied on SEO traffic for their revenue I knew that potential acquisition partners would look down on that because of the risk involved.

This was the main reason I turned to the other SaaS founder to mentor me with FB ads. If investors can see a way to put more money in and get even more money out, this really increases the value of the business.

Lesson 5

You don’t need employees to be a successful company

My goal from the beginning with SEOJet was to be a solopreneur and sell the business for a million dollars.

I accomplished that goal and then some.

But I did have a few contract workers that I paid to help me with tasks I didn’t want to or couldn’t do.

Frankly I couldn’t have done it on my own.

Lesson 6

SEO is not free

There is a big fallacy in the SEO world that SEO is free.

This is why almost all bootstrapped founders choose this as their main customer acquisition channel.

Sure, once you’re ranked high you can get free traffic.

But there is no way to rank for any key phrases worth ranking for without having to spend money on amazing content and a lot of backlinks.

During the 4 years that I ran SEOJet I spent at least $50k on backlinks for my own business. I did that because ranking well was critical for my credibility.

The sad truth about SEO that no one is willing to admit is that those companies that can spend the most are going to win.

On my new startup SquidVision (not in the SEO space), most of the marketing budget (at least until we are self sustaining) will go towards FB and Google ads.

Lesson 7

Don’t be afraid to shift your business model

I figured out an awesome way to generate more revenue from my subscribers by offering to sell guest posts on the backend of the software.

It integrated beautifully with the software and was a financial hit right from the beginning. It quickly became a bigger source of revenue than subscriptions.

But again, it was unpredictable how many guest posts my users were going to buy each month.

I knew that for resell value I needed to shift the business model so that the majority of the revenue was on the subscription side.

I did this by changing our plans so that the more money a user paid in their subscription, the bigger discounts they received on guest posts.

This strategy worked like magic and also reduced churn because our users came to depend on those discounts.

Lesson 8

Create an audience before your launch

I realize that this isn’t always possible, but before I launched SEOJet I had built another smaller SaaS product called Guest Post Tracker.

It was a really simple tool that I charged $37 for lifetime access.

But the audience was exactly the same audience that would want to use SEOJet. So Guest Post Tracker essentially became the tripwire offer for SEOJet.

When I was ready to launch I reached out to GPT users and asked if they wanted to be beta users. Over 100 of them said yes. (There was no free beta)

Lesson 9

Talk to your customers in the beginning

One of the smartest things I did in the beginning was I forced everyone that wanted to sign up for SEOJet to first get on a demo call with me so I could walk them through the software.

This was super valuable for me to hear from my target audience the parts of the software they were really resonating with and were excited to use.

I could then take that info and tweak all of my marketing copy to really focus on the features and benefits I knew my audience would care the most about.

The close rate from these demos was probably about 60% and many of them were still customers when I finally sold the company.

Lesson 10

Always be testing – AB Test everything

I love running AB tests. Increasing conversion rates is super fun for me.

It was critical for the growth of SEOJet when I needed to squeeze more revenue out of the business without increasing traffic.

For bootstrappers, it’s free and frankly there is very little downside to it.

You should absolutely AB test the crap out of your homepage, and paid advertising landing pages and probably your pricing and sign up pages.

If you’re curious about what I’m working on now, I built SquidVision.com to help SaaS business owners grow their revenue by showing them a visual overlay of exactly how much revenue every single button and link generates on each page of their website.

It’s really useful to track how effective your content marketing campaigns are and how well your landing pages are performing.

When you can see exactly how much revenue has been generated by each CTA on every blog post and landing page it becomes really clear which posts to focus on promoting.

It might be the most addictive (non-social media) app out there, IMHO.

We’re going live in just a few weeks. Join the waitlist here: https://squidvision.com/

Thanks for reading!

Obviously there are many more things I could have included. What critical tips did I leave out?

Need some help with your SaaS growth?

I have been building internet businesses for over 20 years and have built and sold 4 SaaS companies.

I take on one or two SaaS clients at a time. Reach out to me. Let’s see if it’s a good fit.

Guest Posting Site – From Conception To Paying Members In Just 10 Days

As many of you know I always like to have a handful of SEO clients to work on. I do this for 2 reasons. Firstly, they pay me (I’m not an idiot). Secondly, it helps me stay on top of what is working now in the SEO world.

Over the years I have found myself developing new tools that make my life easier when I do SEO for these clients.

Guest Post Tracker falls under this category.

One of the main branding and link building strategies I like to use is submitting guest posts.

Guest posts are awesome for 2 reasons.

First, if you choose the right blog who has the same audience as yours, it can drive awesome converting traffic instantly (more on that in a bit).

Second, the power you get from an SEO standpoint from links in those guest posts (or author bio) really do make a difference in your rankings.

So what is Guest Post Tracker?

As I was doing the SEO for both my websites and my clients one thing I noticed was that it was extremely time consuming to try and find blogs that would actually allow a guest post.

So then I went to some of the “ultimate” list of blogs that a few bloggers had already put together and probably half of the blogs in those lists didn’t accept guest posts anymore.

So I started putting together my own list. As my list got bigger and bigger it became very easy to find a related blog and submit a guest post.

I shared the list with some SEO friends and they loved it!

I knew I was on to something.

I was working with the list so much that I wanted more features added to it.

For example, I wanted an easy way to track which blogs I had submitted to for each SEO client. I also wanted to easily sort blogs by category.

But the list kept growing. When I got to over 500 websites I realized my Google spreadsheet wasn’t working anymore.

So I set out to build GuestPostTracker.com.

The funny thing was, I had the idea to build it, I got on the phone with my programmer and in less than 10 days it was finished.

It was easily the fastest project I had ever embarked upon.

The website turned out amazing, better than I expected.


The site has 3 huge advantages over any other list of blogs that accept guest posts out there.

1. The site is always updated. I add (and sometimes remove) new blogs almost every single day. You don’t have to waste time looking for blogs.

2. The list is searchable by category. This makes your life really easy when you only want blogs in a certain category.

3. Submission tracking. The software allows you to mark any blog that you have submitted a guest post to. So when you look down the list you see which blogs you’ve submitted to, that date you submitted and what anchor text you were targeting.

These three features made this list of blogs extremely useful to me as an SEO guy and anyone else that wanted to promote their website through guest posting.

It was ready for the masses.

I decided to charge just $5/mo for people to use the software. This would help cover my programming costs plus the cost to keep the list updated.

How I Started Getting Sign Ups Without Spending A Dime

Like I mentioned earlier, guest posting can be an amazing advertising tool if you do it right.

I found a blog (business2community.com) that I knew was a good match with my new business. I didn’t know how much traffic a guest post there would bring me but I did want a strong link to get my new site indexed.

So I asked one of my SEO friends who is a contributor (he was using the software) to post an article about the new software. He posted the guest post entitled, “3 Must Have SEO Tools For 2016 You’ve Never Heard Of Before“.

2 days after he posted the article it was live on the site.

Now keep in mind the site was brand new and I was just trying to get it indexed from a good authority site.

But once the article went live, people started signing up.

To my surprise not only was the guest post driving traffic, people were signing up.

The conversion rate on the site was close to 3% which is phenomenal.

I knew the guest posting site was useful but I was thrilled to see people agreed with me and were signing up.

This whole process I had just gone through proved how valuable having a good updated list of blogs that accept guest posts really is.

I picked a blog from my list, submitted a guest post and saw a boost in traffic and sales instantly. Awesome.

So as I saw the amazing response to the site with such small amount of traffic I am really excited about the future of this site.

3000 Users By The End Of The Year

I’m setting some ambitious goals for this site. I want to be at 3000 users by the end of the year.

This means that I need to get about 150,000 unique visitors over the rest of the year which averages out to be almost 14,000 visitors per month. From those 14k visitors I need to average about 273 sign ups a month.

The first part of my traffic strategy is to continue to get engaging guest posts on high value blogs that match my audience.

The second part of the strategy is to approach the bloggers who already own the search rankings for all of the “list of guest posting blogs” and pay to advertise on those lists. I’ve already approached 2 of the highest ranking blogs and they have agreed to allow me to do that.

Third strategy is to target through SEO the hundreds of phrases that will drive targeted traffic. One of the cool things about this niche is people not only search for broad terms (ie “guest posting site”) but they also search by category (ie “submit health guest post”). So I will spend time targeting all of those niche phrases as well.

As it has been well documented in articles like this one: https://springhillmarketing.co.uk/the-ultimate-guide-to-blogging-for-seo-success/ creating smart blog posts that target specific key phrases and solve the problems of my target audience is the fourth part of my SEO strategy.

14,000 visitors in a month is a lot but with the right traffic strategies I am confident I can make it happen.

Why you should be your own boss…

One of my favorite things to do when I don’t feel like working on internet marketing stuff is to work on what I affectionately call “Bourne Training”. The Jason Bourne movies are in my top 10 of all time favorite movies.

So today my two brothers and I went to a neighbors house who has a shooting range in his basement and got our Bourne on.

Check me out in action:

The music is actually music made for the trailer of my movie Inspired Guns.

I’m back!!!!

I was recently at Warrior Forum and saw a post there where a user was asking where I went. It was fun to see the responses and speculation as to what happened to me.

My favorite guess was that I had made so much money from flipping websites that I had sailed off into the sunset and retired forever.

In actuality I was filming a feature length movie I wrote and directed. The movie was in theaters in Utah, AZ, Hawaii and Idaho in January and February and
just came out on DVD
on April 1st.

As you can imagine this was a full time endeavor for me that lasted 15 months. It was an amazing experience. I made the movie for the LDS (Mormon) audience although anyone could enjoy it and the response was awesome. Tons of laughs in the theaters.

Here is the trailer for Inspired Guns:

Flipping Websites

ALthough I was away from the internet marketing world fulfilling one of my lifelong dreams I am excited to be back and to tackle the world of website flipping head on. If you are still interested in learning how to buy and sell websites the Prosperly way then stick with me and let’s do this together.

I didn’t vanish from the face of the earth

Hey all, sorry I haven’t posted in so long. Life has been really crazy. As many of you know my true passion and main goal in life is to pursue filmmaking. The reason I do internet business stuff is so I can have the freedom to make movies.

Well after I sold one of my internet businesses I knew the time had come to produce and direct my first feature film. So that is exactly what I am doing. I have been in full preproduction on this film that we will start filming in 2 weeks. There is just so much to do to get a feature film made the right way that it really is taking up all of my time right now.

This film is going to be released locally here in Utah in October most likely and then probably in a few other western states (California, Arizona, Nevada) as well. This movie is an LDS comedy called Inspired Guns (go like us on facebook please) that I am making for the Mormon community but the humor and plot etc can be enjoyed by anyone. It’s kind of like, Dumb and Dumber in the mafia meets The Man Who Knew Too Little with Mormon missionaries.

Pursuing Another Dream
If that wasn’t crazy enough I also was presented with an opportunity to pursue another dream of mine, to own a clothing company. I trained in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for a while and am a big fan of the sport of mixed martial arts. Well the owner of Riven MMA clothing approached me and asked him to help him run the company so I told him I would definitely do it. So we have been in the process of relaunching the brand.

If that wasn’t enough, many people have asked me about the movie I was involved in last year (Chick Magnets – PG) and have asked how they can get a copy of a DVD. Well, we are trying to distribute movie ourselves and so we are running a kickstarter campaign which if you contribute $20 to that will be prepayment for your DVD. So if you are one of those that wants a copy of the movie or wants to help support our project, you can go contribute to Chick Magnets here.

Anyway, that is why I haven’t been posting on Prosperly.

One internet marketing note, one thing I have seen is that you have a website that has been penalized in Google for unnatural links, it may be easier for you to start a brand new site and get it ranking before you will get the old site out of the Google penalty. If that isnt an option for you then I would suggest using a service to help you remove links.