I Switched From ReCharge To Swell… Here’s What Happened.

I was recently involved in the migration of a DTC brand with 6-figures in MRR from ReCharge to Swell. As many of you know, ReCharge is a billion-dollar payments platform built around subscription businesses. This is the second time I’ve used ReCharge in a DTC startup. Anyone who has worked with ReCharge knows how unaccommodating their support is. Although much of our core business was stable, our business was really limited in terms of functionality and freedom to manage subscriptions.

ReCharge was used for our checkout experience whereas the core WWW was based on Shopify. After talking with some of our affiliates who run large campaigns, it seems to be of general consensus that Shopify is slow and not ideal for brands looking for that extra edge in terms of CVR. So we decided to move this brand from Shopify/ReCharge to Sanity/Swell.

Sanity is a CMS platform used by some large brands. I wouldn’t say the platform is perfect, but it’s not awful. There are bugs you expect when moving from an established eCommerce CMS to a newer CMS. They’re not totally unequipped however, as they did recently raised another $39 million.

After careful consideration, Swell was our choice for a payment gateway that allowed plenty of flexibility around managing subscriptions. It wasn’t until a few days into the migration that we realized it wasn’t as ideal as we thought. Swell has led to a number of issues, some of which I rather not publish to world on the internet as its embarrassing. Here are a few.

The Good

Before we get into the bad, let’s talk about the things I love about Swell.

Weekly calls

Every Monday our team syncs with Swell’s and we review our ongoing needs and blockers. This is not something you get from ReCharge.

Live chat support is always online

Whenever I need a quick answer, live chat is often available to chat immediately. They are really helpful with simple onboarding problems when our team was learning some of the basic operations within the dashboard. Shout out to Steven!

The Bad

Here are some of the struggles we run into with Swell. I’ll update these as their platform improves. So any of these listed below are current issues you likely also experience with Swell.

Lack of tracking capabilities

Performance marketing, specifically tracking, is of the utmost importance when it comes to growing a DTC brand enough to move it from seed to series A. Things like GTM, GA and the Facebook pixel are essential for any DTC brand. Essential cannot be emphasized enough. I don’t think there’s a single eCom brand that can operate without analytics. Swell presently does not implement checkout scripts correctly, causing marketing campaign attribution in Google Analytics to be incorrect.

Conversion API

If you run Facebook ads, you could run into serious complications. Unlike Shopify, where Conversion API is just a matter of updating your settings, Swell doesn’t offer an implementation for Conversion API. With iOS 14 adopted in full-force, you need Conversion API. The workaround is to use Zapier, but sadly they don’t pass essential information from the order which Facebook needs for matching events to users. These data fields include:

  • The customer’s email (yes, the email address)
  • Facebook browser id
  • Facebook click id
  • User agent
  • IP address

Slow bug fixes

Most of our bug reports are normally well-received by the Swell team but they are not implemented quickly. The smallest of fixes, regardless of how badly they impact workflow take about 2 weeks at minimum to deploy. This is really hard to base a business around.

Reporting is incorrect

If your company cares about KPIs at all, they’ll be incorrect. This is due to an ongoing timezone issue. So for example, if you report weekly KPIs, the stats for purchases for the week December 1-7 may actually include purchases from November 30 or December 8. This means our KPIs every week are out 1-10%.

Overall Rating: 3/5

After bringing up a lot of these complications to the Swell team, we learned most customers don’t use their self-hosted checkout but rather custom build their own checkout. Little did we know.

This post will be updated to stay relevant and accurate to our current experience as a DTC brand using Swell.

Why Guest Post Prices Are Not Fixed

It’s a common misunderstanding among some marketers to assume the guest post price you get is the same that everyone else gets. Owners of guest post sites are extremely good at maximizing profit and spotting opportunities to overcharge. If you’ve traveled from the US to an Asian country, you’re probably familiar with the experience. For those who have not, what happens is when you go to Thailand, for example, is they’ll charge you a different rate if they think you’re a tourist, just because it’s well known that Americans are rich. If you speak Thai, then you’ll be able to get a better price. This is why American nomads often get a translator to help them secure an apartment in Asian countries.

This is the same on the internet, of course. If they think you have money, you’ll be charged a high rate. So when it comes to guest post sites, it comes down to your ability to negotiate. Do you consider yourself a good negotiator?

I’ve been quoted $80 or $100 for a guest post and countered with $30. A lot of these sites will accept anything but shoot for the stars, and some people actually pay the first price they’re quoted. Especially people who are new to guest posts and never negotiated. They’ll take the first price and pay it, which is weird.

So it all comes down to your individual abilities. Make yourself appear less fortunate.

The Best (And Worst) SMM Panels On The Internet

Social media panels are insanely popular right now. The amounts of services they offer range from Instagram followers to TikTok views. The problem in this space, is there are a lot of scammers. I’m going to be updating this blog post with some of the best (and worst services) I’ve used. Every month I spend over $1000 on different social media services, so I think it would be useful if I shared some of my findings with blog readers.

The Best

Let’s start with the best. These are some of the services I’ve used over the past decade or so.

YTBot

YTBot is one of my favorites. They are a custom panel, not a reseller. When it comes to YouTube, they offer some of the best services. However, even though their name suggests YouTube, their services expand beyond YouTube, so certainly check out their offerings. It’s a bit limited in terms of offerings but that’s expected. Anyone who offers a lot of services is likely a reseller meaning the quality will be spotty.

The Worst

There are no shortage of bad experiences on these platforms. Here are some of mine.

SMMRaja

SmmRaja has an awful reputation when it comes to customer service. I have experienced it first hand and also read reviews. My main issue was, even though their prices are unfair, their customer service consciously chooses to not help when given the choice to be helpful or not. I need receipt for my transactions. So if I load the account with $950 then I’d like a receipt sometime in the few weeks that follow for it. However, they refused to generate 2 separate receipts for my deposits. Separate receipts are essential

Given they were unhelpful (and honestly kind of rude) with such a simple request, I know how they’ll act in other requests. Check out the review below which backs up everything I just said.

TrendyIgPanel

Well these guys are straight up scamming. I got taken to the cleaners on a $400 test and then after taking a few more to the cleaners a few weeks later he was banned on the forums for dodgy activities. I don’t think this one needs further explanation.

BulkFollows

BulkFollowers took a 4 week vacation and ditches all his commitments for the time being. This is a standard thing in Europe to just disappear on vacation and drop all responsibilities, but this is odd behavior for anyone from the US, Canada, Australia, UK, etc and generally unacceptable behavior. It’s been a while since I’ve tested the service but you can read a bit more about his escapades on the forums.

Neutral

SMM.net

These guys are pretty solid, but they’re just ridiculously expensive. The owner has a spotty reputation on BlackHatWorld but I know he does well financially. There are certainly some hefty margins on these services.

JustAnotherPanel

These guys are the kings of reselling. They’ve had a bad rep for poor quality but it’s getting better. They’re pretty massive and have been around for a long time.

GoToTop

Really liking these guys customer service after a rough start. Sadly they only accept crypto which is why I stand fairly neutral but this is a great product so far. Happy this relationship turned around. They offer custom filters and push notifications that a lot of different panels don’t offer.

Here is a friendly reminder on how to place the order properly:

  1. In the field -LINK- : URL to the Instagram account OR post where you want to redirect people
  2. In the field -QUANTITY- : Amount od DMs
  3. In the field -USERNAMES- : just put the link of the account you want us to collect users from
  4. In the field -HASHTAGS- : specify the text of the message for sending

As it’s mentioned on our website and BHW, the pricelist is following:

Instagram Mass DMs with PUSH notifications
50k DMs – $2.8/1000
100k-300k – $2.3/1000
300k-5M – $2/1000

For your balance of $500, we can send 218k DMs with Push notifications. Or you can try any other smaller amount. For example, if you order 200k, then you will have $40 left on your balance.

Don’t forget that we have different filters that you can use if needed 🙂
Filters are already in a price, there no additional costs for filters.

Conclusion

Had an experience, good or bad? Let me know! Reach out on Twitter.

Ontario Locked Down Its Population Cumulatively For 15.1 Million Years To Save 222k Years Of Life

Ethics behind lockdowns has been a common topic for the past year and a half. I wanted to introduce some utilitarian philosophy to the discussion, backed by the facts so readers can draw an opinion on their own.

A bit of a disclaimer – there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to lockdowns. Some people values believe it’s more important to have more years in your life while others believe it’s more important to have more life in your years. Your opinion will also differ based on how your lockdown experience was. If your health diminished because your gym closed, causing you to lose 20 pounds of muscle, then lockdown affected you more than most. If you experienced domestic violence, then it was harder for you than for others. If you or a family member lost control of their disease (like cancer or Crohn’s disease) due to cancelled screenings, then it was worse for you and your family than it was for others. If you were one of the 1 million Canadian children who called the Children’s help phone in 2020, then again, it was harder for you than it was for most. If you were one of the businesses that went bankrupt, and you lost your livelihood, then the lockdown was harder for you than most.

I used Florida as the worst-case scenario, who was mocked in media for their decisions, which experienced 2.69 deaths per 1000 over Ontario which had 0.67 deaths per 1000. These two provinces/states sit on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to lockdowns. This table will show you the decision they made.

The difference between Florida’s and Ontario’s death rate is the reason Ontario decided to lockdown harder than any other province or state in North America. As you can see from the data, the 29,384 people saved are the reason behind dramatic lockdowns in Ontario.

These people (who are dying from COVID-19) have an average age of 84 in Canadian statistics, and according to Actuarial Life Table from the Social Security Agency, are expected to live another 7.56 years without COVID-19 implications.

With the average age of COVID-19 death being 84, it’s worth pointing out that life expectancy in Canada is 82.

Doing the math, you can see Ontario locked down for 15.1 million years of life to save 211k years of death (ratio of 71:1).

What’s the right answer? You decide. Ontario and Florida had opposing opinions. Florida sided with the 99% and Ontario sided with the 1%.

If you decide it’s worth locking down 14.6 million people for 29k lives, what would you define the threshold as? 1000 lives? 1 life? If you could lock down an entire nation for a year to save 1 person, would you still do it?

Let me know your thoughts and where you draw the line, in the comments below.

The Drive Behind Canada’s Housing Market

According to data from MLS, the average house in Canada costs $716,828.

The 28/36 rule has different version but generally speaking:

The 28/36 rule states that a household should spend no more than 28% of its gross monthly income on total housing expenses, and no more than 36% on all debt, including housing-related expenses and other recurring debt service.

Meaning after a 20% down payment, a mortgage payment for the remaining $573,462 would be $3,181 on a 30-year fixed mortgage. For $3,181 to be at max 28% of your gross monthly income, you’d need to make $11,360 per month or $136,320.

This level of income would put you in the top 5% of income in the country.

So what does this mean for home buyers? If you aren’t already in the marketing, you need to make a lot of money.

Anyone my age (mid 20s) who owns a home either:

  • Makes over $100,000 a year
  • Jointly makes over $100,000 a year with a partner
  • Had financial help from parents
  • Got into the housing market several years ago
  • Any combination of the above

What’s causing this?

It’s mainly supply and demand. During the pandemic, the demand for single family homes rose. Low interest rates can cause aggressive growth, but thinking interest rates are the leading drive is simply due to lack of knowledge/history.

Here are two charts showing lack of correlation:

Historical Home Prices: US Monthly Median from 1953-2021 - DQYDJ
Interest rates are going to go crazy soon?

In the 1950s, interest rates were low, but as you can see, housing prices generally remained untouched.

Now that the data has debunked interest rates as the primary driver, we can look at the real issue, supply and demand.

Canada isn’t losing houses. If anything, we are building and continue to live in old houses. I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a house demolished and turned into a farmer’s field. If anything, people are buying old houses and fixing then flipping them. So supply is not decreasing.

Demand comes from population growth generally, in addition to people buying/owning multiple houses, sometimes as rental properties. While “boomer money” presents a problem for future generations, it’s not the primary driver.

Population growth comes from fertility rate and immigration rate. Looking at the fertility rate, it’s constant.

Let’s look at immigration.

Canada’s population (2019) – 37,590,000

Canada’s immigration (2019) – 313,600

Canada’s immigration rate – 0.83%

USA’s population (2016) – 323,100,000

USA’s immigration (2016) – 1,180,000

USA’s immigration rate – 0.36%

Canada’s immigration is 2.3x that of the US’s.

Immigration in Canada is necessary for the aging workforce but at this velocity, it’s not sustainable.

Recent election promises discussed a plan to build 1.5 million houses. At $300k per house, the project cost would be $450 billion. For comparirson, that’s 62% of the US’s military budget (a country 9x bigger in terms of population and 12x in terms of GDP), aka money Canada doesn’t have.

The solution to get us out of this mess? I don’t know. The solution on a personal level? Make a bunch of money hopefully, or move.

How to Hire a Programmer Online

I’ve hired over 300 remote workers over the years. In this article, I want to briefly look at a few things I do when hiring for programmers, specifically on Upwork. If you haven’t checked out my book, The Non-Technical Founder, I suggest you do as many of my tips are explained in detail there.

Tip 1: Look for programmers with no active work.

Often programmers take on too many jobs and they’ll lose track of your work. I try to find someone who can dedicate at least 30 hours a week to my job. Even if they have a full time job, 30 hours per week is something many can commit. That’s less than 5 hours per day.

If they have active work, it may also be a sign of tardiness and disorganization. Programmers who focus heavily on a project then wrap it up are organized people. As a computer scientists myself, I know programmers can be messy. So finding one who is organized in their work is important and one way to measure that is by how many active jobs they are involved in.

Tip 2: Give them a technical test.

It can be difficult to determine what they’re worth. Once you see their code and analyze it, the picture becomes clear. If you don’t understand code very well, it’s often best to work with someone technical, like a consultant to help you with the hire.

Often times programmers and computer scientists will bill $25-30/hr but code at the level of $18/hr. When I’m hiring for a role, I’m open to the idea of a programmer within $5-50/hr, but the quality must match.

Tip 3: Hire urgently.

Do not wait for your schedules to line up. I sometimes post jobs on Thursday or Friday so I can do interviews leading into the weekend. Only the truly motivated will make the time to join you on the weekend.

I will generally allow for flexibility in the time of day, as most of them will not be on my local timezone, so as long as they make an effort to chat within the next 12-24 hours, then I’m happy. You can sense the effort and cooperation even over text.

Tip 4: Talk to them on the phone.

Phone communication speeds things up. It also established a higher level of connection. This is something I wish I did more earlier on in my entrepreneurial journey. Real programmers are used to chatting by voice or on call. Especially during the pandemic, programmers collaborated at home with coworkers via Zoom and other tools to improve efficiency.

It’s Easier to Play by the Rules Than to Argue the Rules Are Stupid

Governments, friends, family, and employers alike all set forth rules expected to be abided by. In the situation of government rules, those are the toughest to change and require intense lobbying which may not even work without immense existing power. For example, laws set in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. You may not agree with the rules, and you can spend your time explaining to others why they’re silly but if you choose to not abide by the rules with the purpose of setting an example, the personal punishment you will have to endure will not be worth the little to no changes your actions will invoke. You could have spent your time on something that will in fact better your life rather than trying to take on a problem too big for your abilities. Focus on a problem with a size you can handle.

Governments with rules set forth in law are not the only rules we should probably play by. Friends and family have deep emotion invested in certain opinions or topics, say politics and such topics should be avoided – even if you believe their thinking is ignorant or not correct. Life is hard, but it’s even harder for stupid people. So let their poor thinking exist and continue to play by the rules.

1-Hour Delivery Is Coming to E-Commerce

A common advantage that keeps brick and mortar stores hopeful of the fast-paced future is the fact that customers who shop in person, don’t want to wait 2 days or longer for items to arrive – such as those ordering from Amazon.com or a similar e-commerce store. Amazon has since started to offer same-day delivery in some cities and shows no signs of slowing down on their delivery time advancements.

We’ve seen the fastest delivery times recently in the grocery sector however. In most major cities, there are several options to get your groceries in just a few hours. In addition to regular grocery stores offering quick deliver, Amazon’s grocery division, Amazon Fresh, is also available in major cities around the world. They’ve acquired Wholefoods to help them with this.

Some may think grocery delivery is different because there are less items than a typical warehouse-style store. Comparatively speaking, Amazon Fresh in Germany has 85,000 SKUs available for order which is creeping up to the 100,000 items available in a regular-sized Wal-Mart. The difference is Amazon Fresh delivers their items to your doorstep within 2-3 hours.

In the future, we could see delivery of household items be as quick as calling an Uber or ordering Uber Eats from any restaurant around town. This means an order from a catalog of 85,000 items online could be picked, packed, picked up and delivered in under half an hour. Variety stores like 7-Eleven have already started offering their catalog of confectionary on apps like Uber Eats meaning you can order a $2 Slurpee or a Kit-Cat chocolate bar and have it delivered to your house in under 15 minutes for $1.99.

Within the next decade or two, we could likely see an estimation of delivery, in minutes, shown on each product page on a retailer’s website. It would say, “Buy this now and receive it in 22 minutes.” This kind of calculation would be based on the GPS location of the next available delivery driver, the current backlog at the store, the current stock, traffic data, and the customer’s distance from the store, among other things. This is something highly achievable that any skilled software team could develop immediately.

For this to be a reality, for Amazon for example, they would need warehouses in every city and town. Right now, they don’t have warehouses in every sizable city. Their subsidiary, Amazon Fresh, is only available in major US cities and a few major cities outside of the US. However, some retailers already have a leg up on the e-commerce giant as they already have warehouse-style stores in every town big enough to be worth serving, such as Wal-Mart, Target and Canadian Tire. All that’s left is to develop the technology and systems to offer the doorstep delivery service that Amazon continues to capitalize on.

Retail stores who plan to offer delivery in under half an hour would be wise to work with pre-existing driver networks like Uber who already have over 5 million drivers working for them and an integration with such could shave years off deployment.

Retailers don’t have to partner with a driver network either. They could start their own local delivery service with a driver delivering to the local geo that the store serves. In an urban area, the area served may only be 5 kilometers due to higher traffic, slower speed limits and more stores, where in a more rural setting, 10 or 20 kilometers might be the limit.

Some big box stores have folded while others continue to thrive. The exact difference between those that succeed and those that don’t is unclear to my naive mind. What is clear is that big box stores offer more product for a better price and should be able to continue to succeed by beating out smaller retail stores who don’t offer those advantages – and with proper adoption to modern technology have an opportunity to continue to thrive for decades to come.

I Published With Morgan James and This Is My Experience

I’ve been working with Morgan James for about 3 years now. I think my I’m in a position to share my experience as my book has done better than most Morgan James authors. I’ve earned my way into over 600 libraries worldwide, some of which are very prestigious. I got those placements through various marketing techniques, which I’ve learned over the years. Morgan James does offer advice, but what I’ve done to market my book is kind of above and beyond what they assist with. However, I’m going to walk you through what they do assist with and a few other things – I guess you could call this my review of Morgan James.

Morgan James Publishing helps with:

  • Cover design. This means a few iterations of a design. This kind of stuff can be outsourced for $100 on Fiverr if you wanted to.
  • Interior design. They do some formatting, again Fiverr would be under $100.
  • Distribution. IngramSpark offers basically what they do for $49. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing offers a similar distribution service as long as you agree to a lower royalty. I think it’s like 35% royalties instead of 70%, but don’t quote me.
  • Education. If you consider yourself a beginner, you could use their resources to learn. Like any other paid education (like a $100,000 college degree), you can find the same info for free online.

What they do not help with:

  • They do not put your book in the book stores.
  • They do not put your book in libraries.
  • They do not pitch your book to anyone.

Issues I’ve had, or complaints:

  • Lack of accurate sales reporting. They have a panel for authors to track sales but at one point in my journey, there were more libraries claiming to have paperback copies of my book stocked, than what Morgan James reported as sales. This is obviously alarming and sketchy to say the least. They claimed their sales data is more accurate than what WorldCat displays. I’m luckily I’m not too worried about a series of $1 royalties being miscounted or I’d investigate this deeper.
  • Printing defects. I received a 1-star review on my book for a print defect. Through a series of emails with Morgan James Publishing, the publisher basically just sided with the printer and didn’t make any movement towards resolving this or pursuing compensation from the printer. 1-star reviews will kill you online – and getting one for a mistake you didn’t even cause is a nasty feeling.
  • Charging for manuscript updates. When I wrote my book, I was 21. I had a high-maintenance girlfriend, was making a lot of money, struggling school. I was busy and my mind was cluttered. I wouldn’t mind going back and updating the manuscript but they charge a hefty fee to do that.

Morgan James Publishing does not have a low acceptance rate. If you have anything half decent to say, you’ll be accepted. So that means they will stand behind your work a lot less, which is fine. That’s to be expected. If you were expecting something different, that’s just not the case.

Overall, I do not regret publishing with Morgan James. They handled headaches while I was busy building my company that I most recently sold, and was also still finishing school. I wanted to urgently publish a book properly and they were able to do that. Everything was done accurately.

I may use Morgan James again, and if I do, I will update this article with relevant updates. Recently I’ve used Amazon KDP for my second book. I may self publish next with Ingram, or maybe I’ll get a literary agent and go with a traditional publisher.

If you have questions about my review of Morgan James, head over my contact page and shoot me an email. I’m happy to help.

Net Worth Projections Based on Life Choices and Financial Assistance

In your 20s is when the net worth of your peers starts to radically change and grow. Those that were born poor are no longer poor and those born rich may not stay rich.

There are two major factors on how your net worth grows. One is whether you take a safe and secure 9-5 job or take the risk going self-employed with hope to make more. The other major factor is whether or not you received financial support – usually from family. However, government support exists for those without family financial support, as long as your family doesn’t make too much money. If your family makes a lot of money and they are unwilling to help pay for education for example, you are SOL and fall into the category of no financial assistance. If you are able to get financial support from family, you will be further ahead than your peers – obviously. In this article, I’m going to graph the 4 combinations of the above factors.

Situation A: No Financial Assistance, Take 9-5

Assuming you were not given money from your parents to get you a head start on life, and you decide to avoid risk of starting your own business, you’ll have a slow linear growth until you enter the work force full-time and then your net worth will stay on linear growth at a higher rate for the remainder of your life.

Situation B: No Financial Assistance, Start Company

This is where I identify. I was born into wealth, but never got breaks that you’d typically expect. When compared with kids from families of similar wealth – I paid for my 3 vehicles, gas and all the insurance associated. Throw in my boat, side by side, dirt bike – you name it. I wasn’t given assistance on a house. Essentially, if I couldn’t pay for it with my own dollar, I didn’t buy it. In the short run your life won’t be glamourous. You’ll have some fun because you feel you deserve it after working double the hours of anyone else, but real money won’t start until your primary project has mature success. This could be in your 30s, or more likely your 40s or 50s.

Situation C: Take Financial Assistance, Take 9-5

If you’re in this path, you’re basically just following the path that was laid for you. It’s simple living, stress free. You will rarely have debt in your own name. Life will be very easy, but rewards will also be limited until your inheritance starts to trickle down in your 50s if it’s available.

Situation D: Take Financial Assistance, Start Company

This is obviously the most optimal position you can be in. These are people like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. Born to doctors and attorneys, sent to Harvard and take the risk to start a business with the resources they’re given and succeed massively. Of course success isn’t guaranteed, but with startup resources, it’s much more likely than those in situation B. Your net worth is consistently ahead of those in situation B and your company also succeeds earlier thanks to financial assistance.