The Laziest Best January

IntroCave Updates

(That's the laziest looking lemur I could find. Poor guy is probably about to fall asleep. Aspect ratios being what they are, a triptych was in order)

The Laziest Best January

January was my best month ever for IntroCave. All time best traffic. All time best sales. Relatively light maintenance and support load. I only spent about 30 hours keeping the lights on, compared to an average of 100 hours per month over the prior 6 months.

Now that I've got a little bit of operations experience under my belt, I thought it might be interesting to do a bit of a deep dive into how I spend my time. I currently split my time between four buckets: marketing, development, customer support, and maintenance. I want the site to continue growing to the point where I can eventually do this full time or hire a few extra folks to help out, so it's also worth talking about what tasks would be easy to hand off.

Marketing

A the beginning of each month, I'll write a blog post summing up the previous month and kick out a newsletter. These two tasks combine to take up about a day and a half. In the middle of the month, I try to do another blog post—usually something about a new feature or a more general marketing piece. I got lazy in January and skipped this. That one typically takes less time—call it half a day. Besides these routine items, I have a list of longer-form articles and tutorials that I want to add to the site that aren't really blog posts. These will eventually form a sort of Knowledge Center full of more substantial articles.

Besides the newsletter and blog posts, I also need to keep an eye on analytics. This is more ad-hoc. I generally keep an eye on where traffic is coming from along with overall site metrics, but I will also do some sleuthing whenever I see a spike in traffic in an attempt to figure out what's causing the spike.

Total
16 hours/month

Can it be Outsourced?
Partially. I'm not opposed to hiring a writer for the blog (see this post), but the site isn't very writer-friendly right now. Until I build some more infrastructure to let a contractor add images and deliver a ready-to-go article, this isn't a significant time savings over writing it myself.

Maintenance

IntroCave has a lot of moving parts, and sometimes those parts break. Over time I'll try to smooth out some of those rough edges, but as the site has grown this has gotten worse. My render servers generally need to be tuned/restarted about once a week to keep them running smoothly, and this isn't a fully automated process (yet). I find that an hour spent in proactive maintenance can remove 3-4 hours of emergency maintenance if a server goes down.

Within this category, I also tend to include things like paying bills and accounting. I spend about 10 minutes every morning making sure the servers are still on and logging the last day's stats into my spreadsheets. This could be automated over time, but I enjoy kicking the tires every morning.

Total
8 to ???? hours/month

Can it be Outsourced?
Not really. Maybe at the point where I can have a full-time engineer on staff.

Customer Support

Customer support requests tend to fall into three categories: lost videos, failed renders, and custom intros. For lost videos (where a customer no longer has access to a video they've purchased), I'll typically just issue a coupon for a customer to remake their video. It's not cost effective for me to do extra customization work, so for those requests I typically respond with a recommendation of hiring someone on Fiverr or Upwork. The final category goes hand-in-hand with maintenance. If one of the render servers has gotten backed up, I usually need to babysit it and manually process a few renders to get things running smoothly again.

In January, I had 59 support requests. I'm too lazy to go pull historical stats, but that feels light compared to previous months. If support requests take about 5 minutes on average, that adds up to about 5 hours on a light month.

Total
5 to 10 hours/month, but scales with traffic

Can it be Outsourced?
Yes! Well, at least 2 of the 3 can be outsourced. There's maybe 40 hours of development and admin work that would need to happen on my end to add user roles and support queue management on my end. The support volume isn't overwhelming right now, but I'd love to grow enough that it's worth it to make this happen.

Development

My server problems are probably not as bad as I make them out to be in these posts. The site could absolutely run with no new features and the current servers just by bringing on more capacity, so I don't feel like I got a raw deal or anything in that regards. Engineers like solving puzzles, though, and spending the time now to get my digital house in order should pay dividends in the future.

There will come a time where I'm "happy" with IntroCave's tech stack and start working on a brand new customization system over at IntroMaker.

Total
0 to ??? hours/month

Can it be Outsourced?
Sort of. I can't see myself hiring another engineer to build what I want to build&emdash;at the point where that makes sense economically, I should just shift more of my "day job" time into IntroCave. There's probably some arbitrage play where I could make more money by hiring a dev shop on retainer in a cheaper part of the world, but that isn't really my goal with IntroCave.

The 5th Bucket: New Templates

IntroCave is a content business, and I'm currently not investing any time or budget in "new" content. The time that would be invested here is currently being put towards organizing and cleaning up the existing library. It takes me around 10-15 minutes to update each template into the new render system, so conservatively I have around 15-20 more hours of cleanup on top of the development side before I'm ready to start adding truly new content.

Total
8 to 16 hours/month*
*this is how much time I think should be spent on this, not necessarily how much is being spent right now

Can it be Outsourced?
Yes! Template sourcing (finding 3rd-party templates for license), original template creation, and copy (name, description, keywords) could all be outsourced. There would still be a little bit of manual integration on my part (deploying the new files to the render servers and entering the copy into the database).

Totaling it Up

Doing some quick math, I need a minimum of about 40 hours/month to keep things running smoothly and moving forward. I mentioned that I totaled around 30 in January, which is in keeping with the notion that it was a pretty light month for both maintenance and support. There's not really an upper limit, as there are easily two months worth of engineering work for things I'd like to do to the site.

When you think about it in these terms, what hourly rate would justify taking on an extra client for 8-10 hours a week? For me, it's about $200 right now. I'm nowhere near that amount now, so I've still got a lot of work to do!

By the Numbers

Top Searches in January

Top Keywords in January

 

Top Intro Videos in January

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