How Nathan Barry Built ConvertKit to $2.1 Million Per Month and Bought a Ghost Town

How Nathan Barry Built ConvertKit to $2.1 Million Per Month and Bought a Ghost Town

In this Niche Pursuits podcast episode, we discover the key themes that made ConvertKit a success. ConvertKit is an email marketing platform started by Nathan Barry, a former designer and author, in 2012.

I reviewed the tool back in 2018 and you can read about my personal experience with ConvertKit here. 

The software is now generating $2.1M monthly revenue, has been listed on the INC 5000 numerous times, and founder Nathan Barry recently invested in an actual Ghost Town. 

Here are the exact numbers if you were curious:

And you can always check their publicly listed numbers on Baremetrics here.

Watch the entire interview with Nathan Barry

How Consistency Leads to Success

So how does a former author build a high-growth software company? 

Show up every day for two years. 

Sean McCabe gave this quote to Nathan that has stuck with him throughout building Convertkit.

Nathan explains it’s the two years part of the quote that made the difference for him.  

He would see so many people start projects or companies, never truly to see them all the way through. 

Making an effort to see projects in the long term (at least two years), you start to see a compounding effect on your results. 

Nathan is from Boise, Idaho, a relatively unknown but old school internet marketing community hotspot. Websites like Bodybuilder.com, Click Funnels, ClickBank are all located in Boise. 

Bryan Deluca of BodyBuilding.com was part of the inspiration. Bryan was never distracted by the next new thing. He kept focused on creating BodyBuilding.com. He forwent short-term profits to focus on building for the long term.

Before starting ConverKit, even as a writer, Nathan upheld this mindset of consistency and focus. 

As a writer, he committed to producing 1000 words a day. Nathan finished the book; once completed, he had an 80-day streak of writing. 

There was no way he wanted to break that streak, so he kept writing. At one point, he had a 600-day streak. 

His goal for his book was to sell $10,000 of the whole lifetime of the book. It ended up making $12,000 in the first 24 hours. $19,000 by the end of the first week. 

The second book. $26,000 in the first day and $50,000 by the end of the first month. 

So how did he generate the sales? 

Nathan discovered the power of email marketing.

The encouraging part is, at the time, Nathan only had an email list of 800 people. 

With his newfound obsession for email marketing, Nathan built Convertkit. 

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How Convert Kit Started: The Web App Challenge

The project began as a web app challenge, which Nathan created to publicly document his new project. The requirements of the challenge: 

  1. Within six months, build a web application to $5,000 in recurring revenue. 
  2. He could only spend $5,000 of his own money in the entire process. Meaning any other development work costs would need to come from paying customers. 
  3. He couldn’t spend more than 20 hours a week initially on the project. He had other contracts he had to focus on as well. 
  4. Build the project in public for all to see progress. (This is still a focus at ConvertKit to this day. )

Unfortunately, Nathan didn’t meet his goal. 

We’ll give him a break as the goal was a bit ambitious. 

But he stuck with his plan and kept at it. 

Building Convert Kit in Public

I know first hand about building in public as the start of Niche Pursuits was all about my case studies and sharing results (both good and bad).

Telling the world what you are working on is not easy. Nathan attributes this as one thing that kept Convertkit moving in the right direction. 

Building in public not only kept him accountable but generated help from the community. 

People came out of the woodwork to offer to help. Teton Shaw, who previously founded a ton of successful SaaS companies, and David Hauser, who was running grasshopper at the time, all offered their help.

Nathan would blog about his experiences, and people would jump in and provide advice right there in the comments. 

The first versions

It wasn’t always easy for Nathan. By the end of the six months, he was generating $2000 in monthly recurring revenue. An outstanding achievement, but still short of his $5000 goal. 

The first versions of ConvertKit were pretty bare. It was essentially an email collection tool with automated email sequences. 

You couldn’t even send an email to all of your subscribers at once with ConvertKit. 

ConvertKit’s Biggest Challenges

Getting customers. Initially, Nathan tried to use content marketing to get customers. Content marketing at an early stage software company is hard. It’s even more difficult when the software is still early on and needs improvement. 

Nathan was able to solve this by talking to customers. Nathan found that many had no interest in switching from their current Mailchimp or Infusionsoft. 

To solve the problem, Nathan followed the advice of Paul Grahams, do things that don’t scale blog article he teaches in YCombinator.

Nathan decided to migrate users to ConvertKit from their existing platforms for free. 

The migration process sometimes took up to 8 hours. At the time, he was charging $50/month.

If you are doing the math, Nathan was making far less than the local fast-food worker.

The compounding effect

By considering that time spent as an investment, Nathan saw growth. Each migration would become more comfortable, sales pitches would get better, and processes became more efficient. 

convertkit statsIn November 2020, they onboarded 2329 new customers. There is no way their team could have spent 8 hours migrating all the customers today, but it was by doing things that didn’t scale, which allowed ConvertKit to see what mattered to customers.

That’s when things started to take off at ConvertKit. 

You’ve seen compounding effects everywhere. Relationships, fitness, learning, investing, and you see it building a SaaS company. Most people don’t keep going long enough actually to see the compound returns. 

It takes years. Think of it like investing. In the first few years of investing, you don’t see much compound interest. But after ten years or so, the compound interest becomes significant. 

As the ConvertKit team grew, they stayed focused and consistent. Just as Nathan would initially set goals and challenges, ConvertKit continued to set goals and even showed all their metrics publicly on Baremetrics

Growing ConvertKit

In 2018 ConvertKit landed on the Inc 5000 for the first time at 72. In 2019 they ranked 29th on the Inc 5000. 

ConvertKit also has gained customers from some of the largest names and brands in the world. Today they have a total of 33,878 active customers.

convertkit number of customersI’ve sent out 14 million total emails myself alone through ConvertKit.

Nathan admits that he still has some catching up to do to MailChimp, whose revenues are in the $700 million range. But they also had a significant head start. 

By keeping consistent and focused, Nathan believes he can outpace and beat Mailchimp, the current leader in the email marketing industry. 

Monetize Your ConvertKit Emails 

Most recently, ConvertKit has released its product monetization feature. A tool that allows you to monetize your email campaigns with paid products or a paid newsletter. 

Competitors like Substack have entered the market and are gaining a significant share of the paid newsletter market. 

Substack email platform is still small compared to ConvertKit. In comparison, some of the best Substack users have 10,000 subscribers. The best ConvertKit subscribers are well into the 100,000s of thousands if not millions of subscribers. 

Substack Vs ConvertKit

Yes, you can now create a paid newsletter on ConvertKit. Nathan sees the difference between Substack and ConvertKit as Amazon is to Shopify. 

Substack has created an email platform similar to Amazon with end to end solutions but with limited customization. You can’t even change the Substack branding. 

ConvertKit, on the other hand, is building with more of a Shopify mentality. A simple platform to use, but with the ability to customize as you see fit. 

How has life changed for Nathan Barry?

Looking back, the $5,000 limit he gave himself on starting a company seems small. Nathan admitted today, “$10,000-$20,000 is now kind of a rounding error in a budget”. 

He still is continuing to stay focused on building ConvertKit, and his writing remains consistent. The goal to write everyday remains. Although he no longer has the 1000 word requirement.  

Even though he’s focused on building a great company doesn’t mean he can’t have a little fun. 

Buying a Ghost Town

nathan barry ghost townAlongside Brent Underwood and Ryan Holiday, who runs the site Daily Stoic, a popular email newsletter on ConvertKit,” Nathan invested in a literal Ghost Town. 

Cerro Gordo has since been featured on just about every major news outlet and travel blog. It’s now a popular destination with an incredible history. 

Nathan says that while it was an investment, ultimately, it just sounded like a lot of fun to own a ghost town. 

You can read about his ghost town here

Try ConvertKit

I’ve been using Convert Kit for several years now for Niche Pursuits, Link Whisper, and other businesses.  I’ve been very happy with the product and the support team is excellent.

If you’d like to try out ConvertKit for free, you can manage up to 1,000 subscribers for free here.

If you want to start a paid newsletter, you can now start on ConvertKit. They recently announced their “commerce” package which allows you to sell digital products directly through ConvertKit, and this includes paid newsletters.  You can try out ConvertKit Commerce here.

Or if you already have an existing email list of over 1,000 and you’d like to give ConvertKit a try, you can get a 14 day free trial right here.

Overall, I hope you enjoyed hearing the success story of Nathan Barry and ConvertKit!

ClickFunnels vs. ConvertKit 2020 Review: What Are The Differences?

ClickFunnels vs. ConvertKit 2020 Review: What Are The Differences?

What are the differences between ClickFunnels and ConvertKit? More importantly, which service best fits your business’ needs? Find out here!

ClickFunnels vs. ConvertKit

Which service best fits your business’ needs? 

In this 2020 overview, that’s the questions we’re going to help you answer. We’re going to compare the integrations, features, price, and third-party reviews of both ClickFunnels and ConvertKit. 

But before we dive into all of that. 

Let’s answer one very important question. 

What’s the difference between ClickFunnels and ConvertKit?

The biggest difference between ClickFunnels and ConvertKit is that ClickFunnels is a sales funnel builder and ConvertKit is an email service provider. 

In other words, you can use ClickFunnels to build high-converting sales funnels…

Click funnels page builder dashboard showing option to select a high converting landing page template.

… and you can use ConvertKit to send versatile and effective email campaigns. 

Convert Kit analytics dashboard showing increases in emails sent.

But, that’s oversimplifying things a bit.

While ClickFunnels and ConvertKit both have a specific area of expertise, they also have a suite of features to support their member’s businesses.

And that’s where the overlap begins. 

While ClickFunnels is primarily a sales funnel builder, it can also be used to collect leads, organize lists, send broadcasts, and customize autoresponder campaigns (along with quite a few other capabilities that we’ll discuss later). 

At the same time, ConvertKit is an email service provider that can also be used to build landing pages, sell products online, and more

But here’s what you should keep in mind: these tools are most effective when they’re used for their primary purpose. 

ConvertKit is more versatile and effective for sending email campaigns while ClickFunnels is more effective and streamlined for generating leads and selling products online. 

Both are great services — they are just great at different things.

In fact, when used together for their own primary purposes, their capabilities compound and create something even more remarkable.  

(That’s why ClickFunnels email autoresponder easily integrates with ConvertKit and other similar services)

Screen shot of clickfunnels dashboard showing direct integration to convert kit.

Now that you understand the primary difference between ClickFunnels and ConvertKit, let’s dive into the rest of the review!

TL;DR Overview Of ClickFunnels vs. ConvertKit Review

Short on time? Here’s the bullet-list TL;DR overview of our ClickFunnels vs. ConvertKit breakdown. 

  • The difference? ClickFunnels is a sales funnel builder and ConvertKit is an email service provider. The tools have some overlap in their features, but they are most effective when used for their primary purposes. 
  • ClickFunnels and ConvertKit easily integrate together, so you might consider using both services in tandem. 
  • If you only want to send well-designed and versatile emails to your list, then ConvertKit is the way to go. If you want to build a high-converting sales funnel to generate leads and sell products, then ClickFunnels is the ticket. If you want to do both, consider using both ClickFunnels and ConvertKitin tandem.
  • Both ClickFunnels and ConvertKit are trustworthy and have been around for quite some time. 
  • Both services have a free trial — so try them both out and see how it goes!

Claim 14 Days Of ClickFunnels For FREE!

ClickFunnels Features

Here are some of ClickFunnels’ most noteworthy features.

High-Converting Sales Funnels

ClickFunnels’ best feature is its proven-to-work, plug-and-play, sales funnel templates. These sales funnels have literally generated millions of dollars for entrepreneurs all around the world (just check out our Two Comma Club). And they can do the same for your business. We have sales funnels for generating leads, selling products, and hosting online events. Go here to learn more about how the sales funnel works

Flowchart of how a tripwire funnel works.

Drag-and-Drop Page Builder

Side by side with our sales funnel templates is our powerful drag-and-drop page builder. That means, while you can start with a high-converting template, you can also customize any of those pages to fit your brand, your message, and your products or services. 

Click funnels drag and drop builder for building landing pages, and online sales funnels.

Email Capabilities

Email marketing is an extremely important part of building an online business. In fact, we’ve found that there’s a direction correlation between the number of subscribers you have to the amount of money you make every month (typically, it’s $1 per subscriber per month). That’s why we give our members the ability to collect email addresses, organize contacts into lists, and send broadcast campaigns. 

Click funnels CRM contact dashboard

Follow-Up Funnel Builder

Speaking of email marketing, you know one of the most effective tactics that you can use to sell more products? Follow-up funnels. These are email-based funnels that trigger when someone purchases, abandons their cart, or takes some other noteworthy action. They can be used to recapture lost sales or upsell new customers. Just tell us what you want to say and when you want to say it. We’ll do the rest. 

Click funnels follow up funnels dashboard for creating email sequences.

Membership Site

A membership site is a website that allows you to secure monthly or annual recurring payments from your subscribers and then deliver exclusive content to those people. The site also allows members to log in and out to access their personal accounts. With ClickFunnels, you can easily create a membership site. 

Click funnels membership dashboard for creating new membership areas to deliver training content

Ecommerce Capabilities

Own an ecommerce business? Or maybe you want to start one? Not a problem. With ClickFunnels, you can seamlessly build a typical ecommerce website. Then you can build sales funnels to promote certain products and convert new customers like clockwork.

Click funnels dashboard for adding new funnels steps with a single click.

Sales Funnel Analytics

Want to know how your new sales funnel is performing? Just visit your sales funnel and click on “Stats” to view automatically reported mission-critical metrics. 

Click funnels analytics and sales tracking dashboard.

Split Testing

At ClickFunnels, we’re marketers. And if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that you can’t know anything until you’ve tested it. That’s why we give our members the ability to split test their sales funnels — because a better conversion rate is just one test away. 

Clickfunnels split testing dashboard with 2 pages that can be tested against each other.

Domain Hosting

With ClickFunnels, you don’t need to seek out third-party domain hosting (although you can if you want!). You can move your domain over or even purchase a new domain right inside of ClickFunnels. We’ll keep it online for you free of charge!

Clickfunnels dashboard for adding new domains to the system.

Free Affiliate Account

All ClickFunnels members also get their own affiliate account. Whenever you refer someone to ClickFunnels, you can get up to 40% recurring commission on their monthly payments. This is a great way to go if you’re not sure what kind of online business you want to build. 

Clickfunnels affiliate tracking and payout dashboard.

ConvertKit Features

Here are some of ConvertKit’s most noteworthy features. 

Versatile Email Builder

ConvertKit’s email creator is intuitive and easy to use. They also have predesigned templates for you to choose from and then customize. 

Stylish email templates for the Convert kit autoresponder.

Autoresponder Capabilities

In email marketing, nothing’s quite as important as the autoresponder. This is the part of ConvertKit’s software that sends emails automatically when a subscriber takes a certain action — such as abandoning their cart, visiting a specific page, or opting in to your email list. 

Convert Kits email automation walkthrough wizard.

Email Analytics

Want to know how your emails are performing? ConvertKit will deliver all mission-critical email marketing metrics straight to your dashboard — such as open rate, click-through rate, and bounce rate. You can even run A/B tests to determine what email elements are most appealing to your audience. 

Convert Kit email analytics dashboard.

List Management

As with most email service providers, ConvertKit has a versatile and simple system for organizing and managing subscribers. You can automatically segment your list using tags, engagement scores, and demographical data. 

Convert Kit automation sequencing dashboard.

Landing Page Builder

As a ConvertKit member, you need somewhere to collect all those email addresses, right? Well, ConvertKit also offers a landing page builder that allows users to build simple pages for collecting subscribers and even selling products. 

Convert Kit's landing page builder.

Email Sign Up Forms

ConvertKit also has a feature that allows you to design and add simple opt-in forms to your website. These forms will automatically send subscriber information to your ConvertKit account. 

Convert Kit's email optin form builder.

Integrations

These integration lists are not exhaustive. They simply highlight some of the more noteworthy integrations that both ClickFunnels and ConvertKit offer. 

ClickFunnels Integrations

Here are some of the main integrations that ClickFunnels offers. 

  • Twilio — Use to personalize and schedule SMS messages.
  • Embed A Calendar Into Your Funnel — Use to allow leads to schedule themselves on your calendar. Can use lots of different calendar software for integration.
  • YouZign — Use for hosting custom images on YouZign and then publishing those same images on ClickFunnels. 
  • VWO Engage — Use to set up push notifications for your funnels. 
  • SalesForce — Use if you want to integrate SalesForce with your ClickFunnels account. 
  • Warrior Plus — Use to sell Warrior Plus products in your ClickFunnels site. 
  • Disc Delivered — Use to enable automatic order fulfillment when someone places an order in your funnel. 
  • Stripe Payment — Use Stripe as a payment integration and send funnel customers receipts directly from Stripe.
  • Kajabi — Use to connect your products in ClickFunnels with membership areas in Kajabi. 
  • PayPal — Use to add a PayPal button to your ClickFunnels page and accept payments through PayPal. 
  • WordPress — Use to integrate your ClickFunnels account with your WordPress website. 
  • Shopify — Use to integrate your Shopify website with your ClickFunnels account. 
  • Slybroadcast — Use to send voicemails from Slybroadcast to your subscribers in ClickFunnels. 
  • Shipstation — Use to set up Shipstation for order fulfillment once someone purchases through ClickFunnels. 
  • Zapier — Use to integrate your ClickFunnels account with any other popular service. 
  • ZenDirect — Use to send customer information from ClickFunnels to ZenDirect to ship items from ZenDirect.

ConvertKit Integrations

Here are some of the main integrations that ConvertKit offers. 

  • Crowdcast — Use to host live webinars and broadcast them to your audience. 
  • Stripe — Use as an online payment gateway. 
  • KingSumo — Use to run giveaways and grow your email list. 
  • Join By Text — Use to capture leads through SMS.
  • Sumo — Use to connect your Sumo account to your ConvertKit account.
  • Gumroad — Use to create subscription plans. 
  • ClickFunnels — Use to build high-converting sales funnels.
  • Zapier — Use to integrate with other major online services. 

ClickFunnels Pricing

ClickFunnels has two pricing options. 

The first costs $97 per month and includes 20 funnels, 100 pages, 1 user, 3 payments gateways and domains, chat support, and access to our Funnel Hacker Forum as well as Funnel Flix (which is basically Netflix for entrepreneurs).

The second plan costs $297 per month and includes unlimited funnels and pages, 3 users, 9 payment gateways and domains, unlimited follow up funnels, priority support, weekly peer review hackathons, and access to our Funnel Hacker Forum as well as Funnel Flix. 

But there’s no need to pull out your wallet right now — you can try us free for 14 days!

Claim 14 Days Of ClickFunnels For FREE!

ConvertKit Pricing

ConvertKit has three different plans that have different prices depending on whether you sign up for monthly or annual payment plans. 

The first plan is free (it doesn’t even require a credit card) and it allows for up to 1,000 subscribers. 

The second plan starts at $29 per month and allows for 1,000 subscribers, as well as providing automated funnels and email sequences, premium support, and versatile integrations. 

The third plan is $59 per month and additionally provides Facebook custom audiences, deliverability reporting, priority support, and more. 

Also notice that you can also change the list size on these plans to change how much it’s going to cost you. In that sense, ConvertKit scales with your list growth. 

But no need to pull out your wallet yet. 

ConvertKit has a free trial. Might as well try ‘em out before you pay!

ClickFunnels Case Study & Reviews

Check out the video below to learn how Jaime used ClickFunnels to build a 7-figure ecommerce store selling skincare products!

Third-Party Reviews
Capterra: 4.5/5
FinancesOnline: 9/10
G2: 4.5/5

ConvertKit Demo & Reviews

We couldn’t find a case study for ConvertKit, but here’s a step by step tutorial to how to use their service!

Third-Party Reviews
Capterra: 4.7/5
FinancesOnline: 8.9/10
G2: 4.5/5

ClickFunnels vs. ConvertKit: Which Service Do YOU Choose?

ClickFunnels and ConvertKit are both great services. 

But which one is the best fit for your business? 

Do you need a versatile email marketing service? Then ConvertKit is probably the way to go.

Do you need to generate more leads and sell more products online? Then ClickFunnels is the ticket. 

If you want to do both of those things, then integrate ClickFunnels and ConvertKit together and reap the benefit of both tools — each has a 14 day free trial… so what’ve you got to lose? 

Claim 14 Days Of ClickFunnels For FREE!