Recently, I stumbled upon a business opportunity that was able to let me charge $300 a month regularly to provide a service. The website I created was fairly simple and direct, so I spent about a total of 7 hours designing and developing the basic site and its landing page. The most time consuming part of the entire experience was the design.
Step One is Always Get the First Customer
I personally refuse to create or do anything without first obtaining a commitment to buy from at least one customer. It’s pretty pointless to spend all that time and effort creating something if you can’t find someone that would value your work enough to pay. I’ll always sell the first copy as a proof of concept and then have them be my first beta user.
Website (1 hour)
For the website itself, I used wordpress because it’s a commonly used content management system (CMS) that everyone uses with TONS of documentation, plugs and a strong community. The theme I used is one that I’ve used a couple of times with a few minor tweeks that in all took less than an hour.
Copy (1 hour)
I hate writing copy and I’m generally super lazy about this stuff initially when I’m building the initial launch because I just want to push this stuff out! So, I googled a few competitors and literally copy and pasted their stuff to word, where I edited and reworded their copy to suit my needs. It’s always a lot easier and faster to just use someone else’s copy as a template than to start from scratch. I’m not here to reinvent the wheel or write the next great American novel. I just want there to be words for people to see because I doubt that they’ll make a big difference initially.
Design (5 hours)
This is where it took a lot of time. When I look at a website, I decide within the first 5 seconds whether the website is credible by the design overall feel of the website. So, I knew that I had to make custom and targeted design that would communicate my value in an aesthetically pleasing way.
I googled a ton of websites to gain inspiration and basically took a variety of design ideas from a variety of websites. Again, I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel lol. Design is always easier when you have a concept in mind to start from because design is always an iterative process where the original idea is never the finishing product. It took 5 hours for me to finally finish designing the 4 landing page images. I usually do all my designs in Adobe Illustrator because I appreciate the vector format so that it’s easier for me to maintain the aspect ratio and crisp lines. I know that a number of the fancy shmancy designers are probably rolling over in their graves because “real designers use photoshop.” In reality, it doesn’t matter which you choose as long as you’re comfortable with the tool and use it effectively.
At this point the basic website is done with the usual landing or homepage, about us page, faq page, features page and a contact us page.
Payments (8 hours)
But, how the hell do I figure out how to integrate and setup a payment system that integrates with my website to provide a subscription charge on a periodic basis without my customer having to reenter their information or approve the charge every month. Clients and customers don’t need to be reminded that their paying for the service. It’s honestly better for everyone if the entire process is in the background without anyone having to worry about late payments or late penalties.
I spent a ton of time looking to figure out how to accept payments and went through the gamut of the different payment/credit card gateways and how to integrate them into different user interfaces as well as subscription billing. In the end I remembered my own rule- Keep It Simple Stupid!
I was killing myself trying to figure out this issue when I finally found the answer. Paypal (I’m not happy about it, but I’ll live with it.) I’m the biggest paypal hater of them all, but when it comes to being lazy or hating paypal. I’m going to choose to be lazy. Paypal was the fastest and cheapest way for me to create a payment system that allowed subscription billing immediately without tons of annoying steps.
For comparison, If I wanted to set-up a traditional payment gateway, then I would have to first decide which option to go with from the billions of different terms. Every gateway charges somewhere from $15 to $150 dollars a month as a basic fee and then a percentage of your gross receipts (This percentage varies based on the company and monthly fee. The lower the monthly fee, the lower the percentage generally.) Also, gateways always charge around a $100 dollars for a “setup fee,” which is seriously bullshit. When you’ve decided the gateway, they’ll require a credit-check of your FICO score for approval. Afterwards, you’ll be able to accept payments and use their API to integrate into your system. But, most of them still require a third-party service provider to help you process “recurring or subscription payments” without requiring a ton of labor from your client. These recurring billing agents or service providers charge between $30 to $80 dollars a month.
The most common gateways are authorize.net, braintree, linkpoint and etc.
The most common recurring billing services are recurly, chargify, spreedly and cheddargetter.
So, I settled on paypal with its $0.30 per transaction surchage plus about another 3% fee based on the amount billed. On $300 dollars, this comes out to be about $10 bucks a charge.
After 2 days of nonstop working and researching, I finally built out my new business where I was waiting for my first customer to pop-in. After 3 hours of launching, I received my first order and paypal sent a confirmation to my mailbox that I got my first subscription customer. Yay!