Dan Norris, it’s great to have you here for the Blogger Interview Series to talk about what you've been up to – including your new podcast, your website and I’m really excited to talk about the launch of Inform.ly. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s back up for a minute…
My Interview With Dan Norris
Q. Please introduce yourself and let everyone know a little bit about where you’re from and say a few words about how you got started in the online world.
Thanks for the opportunity Ms. Ileane.
In 2006 I started a web design company because I was bored with the corporate world (after 4 whole years!). I worked on that business for 6 years with a lot of ups and downs and in 2012 decided to sell it and move on to Inform.ly. While in my last business I built up my blog to a point where it was ranking number 1 in Australia for ‘website design’ and a lot of other big keywords and got a bit addicted to producing content.
Q. I’m a fan of your podcast Web Domination and I know from listening to it that you are a designer and you sold you design site and business. It’s a very intriguing story can you share it with us? What made you decide to sell the site?
I guess I battled for a lot of years really trying to work out how I could make it into something more than just a smallish agency and I never quite figured it out. I never really felt that it was the best business for me to be running and always dreamt of running more of a product business where I could focus 100% on product and content and not on ‘consulting’ (which I’m no good at). There’s only so many WordPress sites you can build for small businesses before you want to do something a bit ‘bigger’.
Q. Now, let’s chat about the podcast. It seems like podcasting is a really hot trend right now but I find that many of my readers are intimidated by the idea of getting behind the microphone or learning a new skill. Can you give us a some advice and talk about what it was like for you to start a podcast. Did you hire a coach or did you have some past experience with podcasting?
Yes, I thought about doing a podcast for quite a while and then one day I decided to do it and the following day my first episode was live. I've written this Beginners guide to podcasting which will hopefully help others through the initial hurdles. Like most things it’s very easy to start once you decide to it’s just not that easy to keep going. Lots of people start podcasts, not that many finish them so I made sure I was serious about it before delving into it. I didn’t have any experience with podcasting and I thought I would be terrible at it, which I am but every episode you do you get better and better. I was very nervous the first episode I did and I still get nervous but it’s amazing how much you improve after just 20 odd episodes.
Q. One of the other hot trends these days is outsourcing. Specifically, let’s focus on your design website – did you do any outsourcing and when did you know it was time to outsource? Also, how did you find good people to work with?
I don’t really think of it in terms of outsourcing. In my design business I had a team made up of people in Australia, the Philippines, Europe and the US. Some were employed full time (Australia and Philippines), some were service providers like web hosts etc and some were contractors (design) but they were all part of the team and the word ‘outsourcing’ doesn’t really capture that for me.
I've tried everything to find good people to work with. The number 1 thing I do is I never employ anyone before giving them a trial first (if I can help it). So with all of the employees I ended up with, they all did paid trials before I employed them. With most of the service providers I tested them out in some way before engaging them – often just seeing how responsive they were to emails etc before I signed up.
Dan Norris Launches Inform.ly
Q. It’s really time we start talking about Inform.ly now. Please tell everyone what Inform.ly is and why you decided to create it?
Well I built Inform.ly for web savvy small business people who want a quick way of viewing stats for their business. They can connect to their favourite services like Google Analytics, MailChimp, AWeber, Xero etc. and Inform.ly will show them a dashboard of simple stats all on the one page.
It has a bit of a long history which I cover in this Inform.ly launch case study. But the short version is I knew my clients in my web design business in general couldn’t understand the complex reports that were generated by Analytics and other services so I built a tool that I could use to email them simplified versions. This meant I was at the forefront of their minds and I could them value each month without doing much myself. After a while I figured it would be more than just my clients that could use reports like this so I decided to focus on building something available to the public.
We are currently working on the agency version of Informly which will let users send these reports to their clients but for now it’s just available to individual business owners.
Q. I’m a blogger and I do email marketing and affiliate marketing how can Inform.ly help me and others like me compared to a small business owner or someone selling their own products and hard goods? Would we use it differently? What’s your vision for how people will use Inform.ly?
Yes, I think you will probably get more out of it because more of your important information is in the cloud. For example you can view your newsletter stats, your web stats, information on the impact of your blog posts etc. We are also working on more services that will show your affiliate earnings etc. The more services we integrate with the more useful it will become for people.
Q. How many people do you have working on the Inform.ly team and what was the hiring process like – did you ever have to let anyone go because they weren't up to snuff? Any good behind the scenes gossip you can share? We can change the names to protect the innocent of course 🙂 I imagine that launching a start-up has it’s fair share of ups and downs.
It’s me, 2 full time developers and contractors or service providers for other stuff (design etc). One of my developers came across with me from my last business and I have employed the other one since starting Inform.ly in August. I've had to go through maybe 10-20 trial runs with others to find them, some of which I've employed and they've left or I've let go. My 2 developers are great and it’s amazing what they have been able to build in a short amount of time. Not sure about other goss?
I’m only 4 months in so I’m sure there are more ups and downs to come!
Q. You also have a blog for Inform.ly – I’m sure many of my readers will want to check that out and some of the writers here might be interested as well. What are the topics you plan to cover there and are you opening the blog up to guest authors?
I want the Inform.ly blog to become a world class destination for any small business owner looking to dominate online.
The blog currently includes a number of in depth ‘guides’ on things like Google Analytics, Podcasting etc, and we are working on more. These are typically very detailed, specific actionable posts often 2,000-3,000+ words. I've also got 2 podcasts, Infographics, video training and a few less than serious business videos. The blog is going to be the only way I market the standard version (non agency) of Inform.ly other than through natural product coverage so I’m 100% committed to making it great.
In the 4 or so months since starting I've written over 80 posts (this includes the videos, podcasts etc) and it’s now getting more traffic than my old number 1 ranking web design blog. I've also done a lot of guest blogging on other blogs like Problogger, ThinkTraffic, Softwarebyrob and Firepole Marketing.
Q. What’s next on the horizon for you Dan Norris? Can you tell us anything specific we should be on the lookout for like new features coming to Inform.ly or any other projects you have in the works?
At the moment we are working on an improved mobile app as well as the agency version that will allow web design companies to handle all of the reports for their clients.
I've just launched my new Agency Talk podcast to help draw attention to the agency version. We are also working on a lot of new services for the normal version and will continue to add these at the same time.
Thanks so much for having me and well done with your site, I’m a huge fan of content marketing and the more we can do to get people creating value instead of wasting it on advertising that doesn't work the better!
Q. It's my pleasure Dan!