Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman

As a non-technical tech founder, I’ve always had to rely on a different skill set for starting a software company. I don’t have a huge following, so unlike content creators on YouTube, I lack any extensive reach when it comes to my entrepreneurial projects.

Whether you know how to code or not, perhaps you are in a similar situation, and so I want to share my methodology for starting a business (specifically software products, but it could be applied to any industry).

The premise is simple: start marketing prior to, or at the same time as, building the product.

This is the process I used when launching LearnDash, a company that I grew to over 42,000 paying users before selling. I am starting GapScout using the exact same process as I did a decade ago.

For years, I’ve been telling people to start marketing at the same time as building their product. I don’t understand why this advice doesn’t stick. Maybe because too many people have shared this tip, so it feels dated? Let me assure you that it works.

In 2012, I did this and built my email list to 1,000+ people before launch, a process that took about 10 months. It’s a modest email list size, but it helped me to be profitable and gain traction from day one.

It has been 10 months since I started a blog for GapScout (you guessed it: doing marketing at the same time as build, which is just a few weeks away from being done). And guess what? After 10 months of blogging, over 1,000 subscribers.

Here’s the thing: I’m not doing anything other than blogging, and the posts themselves are simply helpful content. Just do some really basic research on themes you want to rank for in your industry and start writing blog posts around these themes. Don't try to game the system or worry too much about how Google will rank your content. Just write blog posts:

  • 1400 words minimum
  • 3x per week
  • Configure SEO (I use Yoast)

On each page of your website, have a sign-up form/call to action for when you launch. This is obviously how people sign-up to your list. That’s all.

This methodology works for many reasons, but mainly:

  1. You get early traction. You can run special deals to start recouping costs and making money. Treat these early adopters well and they'll help spread the word.

  2. New customers will come automatically. This is the most important part. My site now gets thousands of visitors per month from my blog posts. It feeds itself now, in addition to any other marketing endeavors I add (for example, YouTube).

After launch, make sure you communicate often to keep the buzz alive about your product. Announce ever update that you do, share your excitement, and always explain how your product improves their life. Constantly emphasize this. Never stop. People need to be reminded all the time. Oh, and issue refunds promptly if that ever comes up. The easiest way to piss people off is to hijack their money.

Most of all, have fun. Don't overthink the process, enjoy the flow of everything, and be flexible as you learn along the way. Listen to customers, and they'll give you their loyalty. Don't hide behind email – use chat. Be accessible. People like to do business with people, not brands.

#entrepreneurship


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You know how people say time flies? I’ve never been one to buy into that concept. From my experience, this is the case when you don’t take time to appreciate the moment you are living.

Two years ago today, Lorena and I were married. It’s our second anniversary, but the amount of life we have lived could easily be packed into three or four years. Over that time, I have taken the time to stop and appreciate our time together, be it watching Netflix on a random Tuesday night, or celebrating holidays with family.

Another year together and we continue to grow even closer.

And just as it was on our first date, her smile makes me melt.

#personal


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As Lorena and I looked at the calendar this year, we decided that we should go somewhere to celebrate our anniversary. We had fun discussing various destinations, from Europe to tropical islands.

While we would have undoubtedly enjoyed those locations, we both preferred something a little… slower. A trip without the busy distractions, allowing us to connect to one another and to nature. We really liked our time visiting Lake Tahoe, so with this in mind, we landed on Big Sur.

We have just returned from the trip, and I must say, it was really special.

If you haven’t been to Big Sur, then you owe it to yourself to spend some time there. The landscapes are both stunning and peaceful. You have mountains, tall pines, redwoods, cliffs, and the ocean. There is plenty to do outdoors, and we took advantage of it.

Some of the activities we did during our trip:

  • Went on several hikes.
  • Discovered local herbs and plant life (including the dangerous ones).
  • Enjoyed some massages.
  • Relaxed by the various pools.
  • Learned about bees and tasted the local honey.
  • Learned how to make cocktails with natural herbs.
  • Just rested, appreciating nature.

We stayed a total of five days, and that was just about right. We plan to come back again next year, but will stay at another hotel to get some new experiences.

Here are just a few of the hundreds of pictures we took!

#personal


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This past week, Lorena and I made a trip across the country to Connecticut to visit her older sister. As a bonus, we also saw her younger sister (who lives in New York), and it also gave us the opportunity to see our nephew, who is also our Godchild, for the first time this year.

Connecticut holds a special place in my heart. Back when Lorena and I started our relationship, COVID was just starting. It wasn’t until that Thanksgiving that I was able to finally meet her family in person, and we did this in Connecticut.

Since then, we’ve made several trips out east to celebrate holidays and birthdays. I’m becoming quite acquainted with the area that the familiarity is comforting on some level.

The trip was quick, just shy of a week, but still very enjoyable.

We have done a good job getting to see family this year, already having spent time with my brother and his family, my parents, and now Lorena’s sisters. Next up will be a trip back to Mexico to spend time with Lorena’s parents.

#personal


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Physical activity has always been a part of my life.

When I was young, I played many sports, including soccer, baseball, basketball, track & field, lacrosse, and tennis. I eventually settled into soccer and played that through college.

I continued to play in highly competitive men’s leagues with former collegiate athletes, until one day in 2013, that changed. I was hit from behind while jumping for a header, and I herniated a disc in my neck. To this day, I still don’t have complete feeling in my left pointer finger.

Eventually things healed with my neck, and I started to incorporate other cardio workouts (namely boxing and Muay Thai) into my strength training.

10 years later, and my body is telling me to make another change.

Over the past two years, I have been constantly battling nagging injuries as a result of my current workout routine. I have injured my hand, wrist, elbow, groin, and (as of writing this) I am dealing with a pretty significant shoulder injury.

Some of these were the direct result of kickboxing on the heavy bag, others were exasperated by that activity.

I am frustrated, and I have realized that I can’t keep doing what I am doing, or this cycle is just going to continue. I need to change my activities.

So, now I am officially a White Belt in Brazilian Jui-Jitsu.

I needed to give my body a break from the high-impact striking that I have been doing. At the same time, I also wanted to learn a new skill – and so after a lot of research, I landed on BJJ.

I’m excited, and nervous about this journey. I have never done wrestling or any kind of grappling activity in my life, so I am literally starting from zero. That said, I am energized by this decision for a few reasons, specifically:

  • BJJ is both useful and practical.
  • I’m learning and working out at the same time.
  • Goals are built into the journey.

It sounds silly, but my first goal is to get my first “stripe” for my white belt. To me, this signifies that I am starting to gain an understanding of the principles of BJJ, and these principles will be my foundation going forward as I work towards one day reaching blue belt.

So far, I have already had three classes, and I am ready to dive further into the world of BJJ.

#personal


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When I started GapScout in August 2022, I wanted to try something different.

I had success with LearnDash, but my motivation for that business, and the online education industry as a whole, was different.

I landed on building in public.

This involves sharing more details about my journey in starting and growing a software company. I am finding it quite enjoyable, and it challenges me to go outside my comfort zone as well.

To date, I have been doing this primarily on Twitter, but plan to expand to YouTube as well.

Discussing the pros and cons to building in public.

This week, I got a chance to chat with my friends Devin and Matt.

The last time we were all in together in person was back in 2019. I have chatted with each individually since then, but not as a group. I really enjoyed catching up and “talking shop”. I always walk away learning something new.

Here is the replay of our discussion. We talk about the pros and cons of building in public, how to do it, and the results of doing it. If you are eager to learn more about this marketing strategy, give it a watch!

As a special bonus: enjoy my dad interrupting me in the middle of the discussion, even after I asked him not to interrupt because I was in a meeting. 😆

#entrepreneurship


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At the end of last year, I suffered an injury to my shoulder from overuse. I was lifting heavy, and doing this for months on end really messed it up. As a result, I can’t do any weightlifting for my shoulders or chest. It also has meant that I’ve been unable to do my favorite cardio: Muay Thai.

This has been hard for me. I’m someone who needs variety in my workouts (both lifting and cardio). Sitting on the sidelines while letting an injury heal takes a ton of patience and is incredibly frustrating. To make matters worse, I just came back from a tennis elbow injury which took seven months to heal. I feel like I’ve been held back for some time now.

My shoulder is not 100% better, but I have been able to incorporate some weightlifting (back, arms, and legs) and even some Muay Thai on the heavy bag – albeit more controlled and for less time.

Still, I feel like it’s time for me to get back on the horse!

No fancy apps, just using Google Calendar to send me reminders every day of my workout. It’s a one-week workout that I created (with two rest days), so the reminders will continue every week until I’m ready to switch it up.

Something I know about myself is that I need mini-challenges, or goals, to stay motivated. This will do the trick for now, but I am also searching for something a little more regimented and long-term, and will report on that (hopefully soon).

#personal


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Time isn’t lost, and since it’s not misplaced, “finding” it doesn’t make much sense. Yet, we hear all the time about people trying to “find time” to accomplish something.

It’s as if we like to pretend that the only problem is the time itself doesn’t exist, and we have to somehow stumble upon it in order to then, finally, get to the activity in question.

Personally, I think that this is a bullshit excuse.

Whenever anyone tells me that they have to “find the time” to do something, I know that they’ll never do it because they don’t want to do it. Plain and simple. When you want to do something, you do it. It’s action-based, not time-based.

You don’t need to accept the lies people tell you about why they won’t do something. They have their own priorities, and that’s fine. In business, or life, never wait on anyone to find time.

You can’t control the priorities of other people, but you can control your expectations of the people around you. Understanding this simple truth has helped me to alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress and negative emotions.

#happiness


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Lorena and I just returned from a four-day trip to San Carlos, Mexico. The purpose of the trip was to attend the wedding of our friends (who just visited us in January). We rented a stunning Airbnb right on the water’s edge, located a little north of the wedding venue.

It was my first time seeing the Sea of Cortez. I find it beautiful in an untamed way. Steady breezes made for a choppy, deep blue surface. The sky was always blue with an occasional puffy cloud, but those usually blew through rather quickly. I enjoyed drinking coffee in the morning, watching the pelicans swoop down again and again to catch fish.

It probably goes without saying, but I had an opportunity to practice my Spanish quite a bit, especially during the wedding reception dinner. I met a lot of Lorena’s friends from the time she lived in North Carolina. Speaking became more challenging when the DJ put the music on volume 10.

Luckily for me, everyone was bilingual, and their English was better than my Spanish. This made conversations over the loud music more possible. I hope to get to a point where I can continue interacting effectively in Spanish in very loud bars or parties, but I fully recognize that is a very advanced level that will take years to reach. One day!

The plan was to get back to California late Sunday night, flying from Hermosillo to Tijuana, then using the Cross Boarder Xpress (which is amazingly efficient). However, our flight was cancelled due to weather. It was a bit hectic and stressful as we figured out what to do, but ultimately we were on the first flight out the next day.

I really enjoyed the wedding, and San Carlos. Perhaps one day we will return for another visit, but if not, I’ll always remember it.

Here are a few memorable scenes from our trip!

#personal


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Prior to the new year, Lorena and I talked about taking the initiative to travel more. Sticking to our word, we just returned from a quick trip to Seattle.

For close to a year we have discussed the possibility of going to Seattle, so when we saw a gap in our schedule, we purchased tickets for a four-day trip.

Lorena and I are similar in the way we like to travel. We don’t plan many activities ahead of time, but rather “go with the flow” once in the location. Our idea prior to going was to walk around a bit, go to Pike Place Market, try some coffee shops, do a little shopping, book a nice restaurant, and to just discover Seattle’s beauty.

It was a brief visit, but we were able to:

  • Stay at a nice hotel that was centrally located.
  • Have a Washington wine tasting and food in the Space Needle.
  • Walk around the Chihuly Garden & Glass museum.
  • Participate in a guided seafood tour of Pike Place Market, where we got to sample amazing seafood and learn the history of Seattle.
  • Ride the Seattle Great Wheel.
  • Walk around the city and try new restaurants.
  • Drink coffee at the original Starbucks and try other Cafés with incredible coffee. Seattle is known as a coffee hub, and it was some of the best that I’ve ever had.

Of course, it rained, it’s Seattle after all. I’m a sucker for sunshine, but didn’t mind it so much. I feel like it wouldn’t be a proper trip to Seattle without a little gray skies and rain. More than anything, we really liked the vibe of the city. There is a big emphasis on sustainability, organic, and nature.

We are back in California now, and we are recharging our batteries quickly before we head out again, this time to Mexico for our friends’ wedding.

#personal


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