Weekly #1 - Pricing, (not) hiring and my first hate mail!

Last week, I wrote down on a piece of paper all the tasks I do for Lunch Money. Then I organized them into two columns:

  • Column A: what I wish I had time to do more of
  • Column B: what I rather not be doing

At the top of Column A was engineering and blogging.

Writing blog posts like Preparing for solopreneurship and Optimizations as a company of one takes me days because I pore over the content and every little word. While I’d still like to write longform posts, I’m also interested in journaling regularly and casually in an effort to document the rollercoaster that is solopreneurship. I’ve always been in awe of my fellow retrospective-writing Indie Hackers1 so this is me finally joining in!

Because I am a fan of small attainable goals, this is the first of 4 weekly retrospectives I plan to write for the month of February. We’ll see how things go beyond then!

On pricing strategy

In January, I raised Lunch Money’s pricing to $10 month and $100 per year (prices in USD).

The last time I raised prices was back in March 2020 when our base pricing went from $60 per year to $80 per year. My general strategy has been to raise cautiously and pair with discounts.

For example, the raise to $80 was aligned with our Product Hunt launch and a 25% first-year discount. From there, I ran a few other promotions offering the same deal.

I like doing this because the user understands that they’re getting a special limited-time offer. It also gives me roughly 1 year to get the product to a point where they feel it’s worth paying 25% more to continue using the second year and beyond. With Lunch Money, my goal is to retain long-term users and the motivation to get there is baked into my pricing strategy.

Raising the price to $100 per year was a ballsy move. This puts us at a higher annual cost than YNAB (but still cheaper at the monthly rate). It also further positions Lunch Money as a premium product. This aligns nicely with my goal of having fewer users who are willing to pay a higher price rather than (unsustainably) lots of users paying a lower price.

I felt if I was going to make a big move like this, it would be best to do it during our “peak” season, which lasts the immediate months following new years when people are most motivated to start new habits.

The paired discount I went with was 50% off the first year. I did a few marketing pushes to promote this including sending an email to churned users (that is, users who previously signed up but never converted to paid) and running a marketing campaign with @IndieAppSanta.

Overall the results were great– we had 665 signups in total which was a 60% increase from December! Of those 665, so far, we are seeing a 12% conversion rate which is slightly above normal.

For February, I lowered the discount to 40% off the first year. I’ll likely run this until March when it’ll dwindle down to 30% and so on.

The real test is going to come in 12 months when we’ll see how many of our users continue their subscription at the base rate of $100 per year. I’m confident though; I’ve got lots of exciting new features on the docket for next year that will continue to set Lunch Money apart from the rest.

On (not?) hiring

About a week and a half ago, I posted a job description for an apprenticeship at Lunch Money.

I’d been thinking about doing something like this for a while. For the last 2 months, I’ve been working with a friend of mine who is an amazing digital marketer and nearly every call ended with him telling me to hire an intern.

The reason? I had this perpetually long list of tasks I knew I should really get through but quite frankly, I had absolutely no interest in doing. Rewriting my landing page? I had just sunk 10 hours redesigning it a few weeks ago and I didn’t feel like spending any more time on a static site. I also get writer’s block trying to think of how to stretch “we help you manage your personal finances!” into 10 pages of unique content that will rank on Google.

I go back and forth a lot on hiring. I feel that I’ve really embodied this whole “solopreneur” thing and made it a big part of my identity in the Indie Hackers space. This has made me resistant to adding more to the team. A part of me feels that I’ve come this far on my own, why shouldn’t I keep going? I also don’t have an urgent need for help. Reasonably, I could go away for a week or two and new users would still come through the door and everything would still be running smoothly (aside from support tickets piling up). The other part of me thinks about how much quicker I could go or how much time I could free up if I had someone helping out.

I also spend a lot of time fantasizing about what I would do if I had 10 to 20 extra hours per week. A recurring idea is that I’d love to encourage the next set of solopreneurs via some sort of mentorship.

Then I got to thinking– what’s the most effective way to help someone? Words and advice can only go so far. Real-world experience is what’s valuable. Perhaps the work I find boring and tedious is exactly what someone wants to add to their resume.

I followed this string of thoughts and eventually came up with the idea of an apprenticeship role. I hesitated to call it an internship because I didn’t want post-college folks to look at the job title and shy away. I wanted to evoke an expectation of learning and growing in the role. I was very excited at the idea of finding someone sharp and ambitious who just needed the right opportunity to shine.

In the spirit of transparency, here’s what’s happened after the job posting:

  • A lot of going back and forth between excitement and anxiety
  • Self-doubt and fear that I wouldn’t be able to provide an enriching or interesting enough role for the apprentice
  • Re-reading every application I received at least 5 times
  • Finally taking a chance on someone only to have them go radio silent and then back out
  • 3 day trip in nature with my husband and parents to clear my head
  • Coming back and thinking about what I should do versus what I want to do

Here’s what I want to do: mentor someone and provide them with real world experience to hone or build their skillsets. Like I said, I want to help and encourage the next set of solopreneurs. The problem with this is that it takes time. A lot of it. And with the complexity of living in Taiwan (time zones are hard) and the current speed at which I expect things to be done, I may not be in the right headspace or phase to dedicate extra time to somebody. I realized that I am not quite ready yet to be that mentor for somebody.

Here’s what I should do: find someone to do the work I don’t want to do, but quickly, efficiently, to my standards and without too much supervision from me so I can reclaim that time and spend it on the things under Column A (things I wish I had more time to do). Mostly the tasks under Column B involve include copywriting, content writing, and other marketing tasks. Essentially, I need a marketing assistant/writer.

This was kind of an awful mental round-trip I took but I think it was necessary. It was also a good exercise in turning around the feeling of guilt and being honest with my shortcomings. I’ve since sent a reply to everyone who took the time to apply for my listing explaining the above.

Sometimes I have all the initiative in the world and I deliver beyond my own expectations. At other times, I succumb pretty badly to decision paralysis or I get lost in my own thoughts and I am left feeling like, crap, I have no idea what I’m doing.

The hiring saga… to be continued.

What went well

Lunch Money

  • I shipped two major features: file attachments for transactions and auto-suggestions for payee names.
  • The Lunch Money Slack community hit over 200 members!
  • I started a Canny and it’s been effective in terms of user satisfaction and keeping my inbox clear of feature requests!

Personal life

  • In early January, I started personal training. I feel great to be prioritizing my health and well-being. It’s also incredibly humbling to absolutely suck at something but have a goal to work towards. I did my one-month check in and have been making great progress so far!
  • In late December, my parents were able to come to Taiwan on a visa to visit Justin & I. It’s been wonderful to have them around and going on trips together after not seeing them for a year.

What didn’t go so well

Lunch Money

  • I got my first hate mail! Well, it was a strongly worded reason for why they were canceling and it ended with “bro, it’s not me, it’s you”. I’m not bothered by it as it seems his complaints are mostly that Lunch Money doesn’t fit exactly how YNAB works. I posted about this on Twitter and received some really supportive and uplifting replies and for that, I’m grateful!

Personal life

  • I got sick earlier this month (not COVID!) and it sucked. Last time I got sick was exactly one year ago as well, about a week after we landed in Taiwan.

Next goals

This week is Chinese New Years in Taiwan which means the country essentially shuts down. For one, my Mandarin classes are canceled so that frees up my afternoons. I’m actually pretty excited about this because I plan on getting a lot done for Lunch Money, mostly around the “first-hour experience”. We are in dire need of some new product walkthroughs– both written and visual.

I finally set up Lunch Money for Lunch Money which sounds a bit silly and late, like why didn’t I do this earlier? I encountered a number of bugs (which I ended up shipping fixes for this morning) and I plan to go through the setup over and over again until the onboarding is perfect. I also think it would be neat to then record a video of this setup. We’ll see what gets done.

This was nice and therapeutic for me. Let me know if you liked it. Otherwise, see you next week!

1 - Shoutout to Michael Lynch, Cory Zue, Allison Seboldt, and DK!

Thank you for your readership!

Jen is the founder of Lunch Money, a personal finance management tool for the modern-day spender. She is currently based in LA. Follow her on Twitter!

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Weekly #2 - Prioritization, (more) hiring and a case study!