August 21, 2014
Dan Cameron is a freelance developer that has been working with WordPress since before version 1.2. Today he is the lead developer of a suite of WordPress products called Sprout Apps that are geared to helping small business and freelancers manage the business side of things. The first app available is for invoice and estimate tracking.
- Guest: Dan Cameron
- Group Buying Site
- Sprout Venture
- Sprout Apps
- Search Everything plugin
- Big Snow Tiny Conf
Update Aug 27, 2014: Brad has released the build script he mentionned in this episode: https://github.com/deliciousbrains/wp-plugin-build
BRAD: Welcome to Episode 24 sponsored by WP Ninjas. Today we have a special guest; Dan Cameron is with us. But before we meet Dan, Pippin, what have you been working on?
PIPPIN: I’ve been keeping busy with two primary things over the last two weeks. First, I was working on an add-on for Affiliate WP that integrates with Stripe.com, a payment processor, because I wanted to give a way for the managers of an affiliate system to pay out their affiliates with a single click. Now it integrates with Stripe, and it just connects to debit cards on affiliate accounts, and you can just go through, and you can pay individual referrals, or you can pay a batch of referrals all at one. That was pretty fun. We got that pushed out a couple of days ago.
BRAD: That’s cool.
BRAD: Does Stripe pay right to your bank account or something?
PIPPIN: So kind of in the same way — if you’ve ever used Stripe before, the funds that you accumulate in your Stripe account get transferred to your bank every couple days, like every three days, I think.
BRAD: Yeah, it’s three days. Yeah.
PIPPIN: Every three days, and so it works pretty much the same way in that instead of sending to your bank, you send to the bank or the debit card registered with the affiliate. It’s a pretty slick system. Unfortunately, it’s limited to the U.S. only right now just because of Stripe requiring that. I’m really hoping that they go international soon with it.
Then the other thing that was keeping me busy is ED version 2.1. This has been in development for about three months now, maybe two months, and we’ve been making a couple of really big changes on the underlying structures of the plugin. Previously we didn’t really have a customer’s API or database that was any true customer system. It was kind of just hacked together. And so, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been building out a complete customer’s API, a new database structure, and then figuring out how to properly migrate all the existing data into that. That’s been a lot of fun. It’s been kind of a cool challenge.
BRAD: Is that going to be all backwards compatible?
PIPPIN: Yeah, it should be 100% backwards compatible.
BRAD: That’s awesome.
PIPPIN: So far, aside from finding bugs during the development, I’m not aware of any particular issue that will fail on somebody if they’re using an old function call or an old method or anything like that.
BRAD: That’s awesome.
PIPPIN: How about you? What have you been working on?
BRAD: We’ve been — I think I mentioned it before. We’ve been restructuring Migrate DB Pro so that the free version and the pro version are one code base. We have a build script that builds the free version and removes files and that kind of thing. And so we finally finished that a couple days ago. We released the free version on WordPress.org, so there’s a — that free version actually has some new features and stuff as well in it, like the find and replace fields. You can drag and drop them, and you can add as many as you want now, whereas before it was limited to two. There’s a new UI and stuff.
PIPPIN: That’s really awesome.
PIPPIN: I love the idea of having that build script so that you can maintain one single code base for the free and the pro version and then simply have that build script either add or remove things.
PIPPIN: That’s really intelligent.
PIPPIN: Have you gotten any feedback?
BRAD: It’s actually pretty cool. I actually added some other stuff into the build script, so it’ll actually publish to .org and then publish like a mirror to GitHub as well, so it’ll publish just the free version files to GitHub so that people have that if they use GitHub.
PIPPIN: That’s awesome. You should — at any point you feel ambitious, you should write up how you built that script because I’m sure a lot of people would love that.
BRAD: Yeah. I think I have it. I think it’s up there on GitHub, actually.
PIPPIN: Nice. Have you had any feedback yet from previous users of the free version with the new upgrade? I know it’s only been out for about two days.
BRAD: Yeah, well, it’s been out for two days, and it’s received like, I don’t know, 3,000 downloads or something like that. Yeah, we haven’t heard much, so I think that’s a good thing, right?
PIPPIN: It’s at least good in that you haven’t blatantly broken anything yet.
BRAD: It seems to be the case, yeah.
PIPPIN: That’s awesome.
BRAD: Yeah, hopefully that is the case and people aren’t just grinding their teeth quietly.
PIPPIN: You’ll find out when a whole bunch of one star reviews suddenly flow in.
BRAD: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
PIPPIN: I don’t think that’s going to happen. Well, why don’t we jump in and introduce our guest, Mr. Dan Cameron. Thanks for coming on the show with us. Why don’t you take a couple of minutes and tell us about yourself? What do you do, where are you from, etc.?
DAN: I’m from Ventura County, California, and I’ve been working on WordPress since, man, in 2008, I believe. I was a freelancer. Oh, man. Sorry, guys.
PIPPIN: You started as a freelance developer?
DAN: Yeah. Well, no. Actually, well, it goes back farther than that. In 2004, actually, I started working with WordPress, and WordPress was actually just a hobby of mine.
BRAD: It was like a blog or something or what? What were you working on?
DAN: Yeah. Yeah, some guys at my church, blogging was super popular at that time, and it was the cool thing to do to use–what is it called–movable type.
BRAD: Oh, yeah!
DAN: And I installed movable type, and I was just messing around with the CSS for like hours. At that time, I had no idea you could build something dynamic. I had no idea how databases worked and how CSS worked and all that stuff.
BRAD: Right, because it wasn’t movable type. It was like Pearl, and it just baked everything.
BRAD: It generated static files. Isn’t that how it worked?
DAN: Yeah, exactly. It was difficult to work with. It was difficult to do certain things that I wanted to do. But, at that time, I really just, I was wet behind the ears on programming. I was a computer guy. I lived videogames and stuff like that. But I was developing a hobby out of messing with this blog.
PIPPIN: That’s awesome.
DAN: And it was actually pretty fun to do, so around — man, was it 2004? I think it was in 2004. That was a long time ago.
PIPPIN: I just looked it up just because I was curious, real quick. In 2004, it was WordPress 1.2, for anybody who is not sure how far back we’re talking.
DAN: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
PIPPIN: That’s awesome.
DAN: Yeah, it was way — and, well, if you’re familiar with movable type, like at that time they moved to a paid version, so there was a mass exodus for a lot of people to move to WordPress. I think that’s when WordPress got super popular. I’m not really sure because I was new. I jumped on the bandwagon with everybody else. But when I installed WordPress, it seemed like really comprehensible to me. It’s PHP. It’s a mixed language, so I was able to do what I call programming at that time, and I was able to see things change dynamically on the site. I was able to break things in real time. I didn’t have to rebuild the site or anything like that. I was just enthralled by the technology.
Ever since then, I’ve been really into WordPress as a hobby. I released themes a year later, I think it was. Soon after, I was doing themes, releasing public themes. I don’t know if you guys heard about it, but there is this plugin called Search Everything.
BRAD: Oh, yeah.
PIPPIN: I used to use it.
DAN: Oh, that’s funny. Yeah, that was my plugin for the longest time, I think, like, nine years.
BRAD: Oh, really?
PIPPIN: That’s awesome. I didn’t know that.
DAN: Yeah, yeah. I go way back. But I have a story actually behind that. I don’t control Search Everything anymore. I sold it.
BRAD: What did it used to do back then? Why did I use it? I can’t remember.
DAN: Back then, well, WordPress search was always bad, but back then what I did was I combined the ability to search for pages and posts and, I think, terms as well because in 1.2 I believe they came out with the taxonomy API.
DAN: I’m not really sure.
PIPPIN: I think it was around then.
DAN: Yeah, it was a long time ago, so I’m surprised I remember this much. Yeah, anyway, I combined; pretty much what I did was I took two search plugins and combined their code base in a way to make them work together. I build an admin, and it was funny too. I used select lists for activating and deactivating things, so I would have, like, do you want to include pages within the search.
BRAD: Yeah, I remember that.
DAN: The person would have to select yes and no instead of a checkbox.
DAN: I feel so embarrassed about it now when I look back on it, but that’s what I did.
PIPPIN: I think we’ve all done that at some point.
BRAD: Yeah, yeah.
DAN: Yeah, that’s true.
PIPPIN: I used that plugin for probably at least a good two years. It made a huge improvement.
PIPPIN: I don’t know if that was when you were still contributing. When did you transfer it off to someone else?
DAN: Oh, that was late — wait, the beginning of this year, I believe, I sold it to Semantia, I believe.
DAN: They just contacted me, and they wanted to purchase it. At that time, I don’t think I committed or approved any patches on GitHub for the longest time, and I was just like, okay, well, if you guys promise to improve it, then you guys can take it, especially if you give me a little bit of money, which they were so eagerly happy to do.
PIPPIN: That’s awesome.
DAN: Yeah. I was really busy at that time, and I was just like, man, I don’t want to deal with the support. And people that are using it have to be pissed off at me, so this cannot be a good thing, so I just got rid of it.
PIPPIN: That’s cool that you were able to transfer it off to someone and let it still remain a functioning plugin that’s alive, that’s maintained —
PIPPIN: — that somebody is looking after, as opposed to just letting it die out because it was a huge plugin that a ton of people used.
PIPPIN: For anybody not familiar with it, it’s got 720,000 downloads on .org.
PIPPIN: So there are definitely a lot of people that have been using it for a while.
DAN: Yeah, and I feel really bad about not committing more time to it. Actually, up until recently, I’ve been really busy with this project for the last four or five years, ever since I started freelancing, so I wasn’t able to put any time into it. That’s mainly because of freelancing and some family stuff that I had to focus on. But yeah, man, that plugin was so popular, and that really got me into the WP community a little bit. It jumpstarted me.
It’s surprising to hear some people that used it because I thought, oh, well; I’m just filling a niche that WordPress never filled. It was amazing to me that pages were not in search for the longest time. That’s why that plugin worked. People downloaded it. It was crazy.
PIPPIN: Yeah, it’s awesome. That’s why I downloaded it.
PIPPIN: Since you’ve been involved with WordPress for so long, as a plugin developer, as a user, as a hobbyist, have you ever spent any time contributing back to WordPress Core itself?
DAN: Oh, yeah, I have been. Man, it’s a tough thing for me because I have wanted to contribute for so long. Way back when I felt that, in 2005, 2006, 2007 when it was just my hobby and I had a full-time job, I really wanted to contribute, and I tried. I just felt that, well, I wasn’t really confident in the work that I could put out, especially in backend programming. At that time I was just doing front-end theme development. The theme repo, I don’t even think the theme repo was available at that time. I’m not sure. You would know, Pippin. You do theme reviews, right?
PIPPIN: Actually, I don’t do theme reviews.
DAN: Oh, no, you do plugin reviews. Sorry, sorry, sorry.
PIPPIN: Right. It’s funny. A lot of people don’t realize the plugin repo and the theme repo are actually entirely separate systems.
DAN: Yeah, I’m sorry. I got that mixed up.
PIPPIN: No, that’s fine.
DAN: Yeah, yeah. But, yeah, I really wanted to contribute, especially with CSS when they were doing the backend, the new admin. I just felt like I could not commit enough time to it, and I wasn’t confident in what I was going to commit. I have a real confidence issue in my code up until recently.
PIPPIN: I think that’s a problem that we all face.
PIPPIN: Definitely. Everybody at least faces it at some point, whether or not we’re able to get over that. For example, I learned PHP from WordPress. I started building plugins and stuff like that. Then I got into the idea of contributing back to Core. There’s this giant mental roadblock that says these are the people that built the software that taught me how to program. They’re so much better than me.
PIPPIN: They’re so much better than anything that I can do, regardless of where I am. There’s a mental block that’s very hard to get over.
BRAD: Mm-hmm. I think the way I contribute to Core is just when I find something that’s irritating me, that’s when I kind of try to tackle it.
BRAD: I don’t know. That’s probably not the best way to go about it because I very, very rarely do anything with Core.
PIPPIN: I think that’s actually a really good way to go about it. If you’re just looking for — if you’re not looking to be actively involved with contributing, you want to give back a little bit because it’s taking a very programmer’s mentality about it and saying, “I have a problem. I want to fix it.” Now in this case it just happened that that problem is in WordPress Core, so you say I’m going to go through and I’m going to figure out how to fix this, and I’m going to try and give back and submit this improvement to them.
BRAD: Yeah. I guess I just see guys on there just conversing every day countless messages through the tickets and stuff, and I’m just like – DAMN!
BRAD: These guys — these guys are contributors.
PIPPIN: Definitely contribute as well if you ever jump into WordPress dev on IRC.
PIPPIN: I jump into dev chats occasionally. I always jump in with the idea like, ooh, I want to participate and contribute to this. I’m just like – I’m lost.
BRAD: Right, right.
DAN: Yeah, that was like me way back when in WP Hackers.
DAN: I don’t think I still subscribe to that, but back when, man, I just couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t keep up with the threads that I was interested in. I just felt like, man, I can’t jump in. I don’t have enough free time. I have a kid and I want to focus on that, or I want to focus on her, and I want to focus on my real job. Then the time that I have left over, I want to learn how to … better. I want to learn how to build themes and do plugin updates and stuff like that.
One thing that has caused me now to contribute back, and it’s one of the scapegoats I think a lot of people have, and I was really reluctant to even say this, but I’ve been — for the few years I felt like I was burned in a way. I would try to jump in, and it was like, oh, no. I was pushed back in a way. I felt for the longest time that that was like, oh, well, that’s the community’s fault for not making me be inclusive or not including me and making me feel like my contribution or my suggestion wasn’t valid.
I’ve just recently realized within the last year or so that that’s my fault. That’s my problem. I wasn’t able to put enough effort into trying to convince the other person or try to see that person see my track ticket and understand it.
DAN: I think a lot of people — because I hear from friends that just get “burnt” in the WP community. They don’t feel like they can contribute or they feel like they don’t want to. I’ve taken a different approach to that. I’m going to be more avid with the tickets that I create and understanding the responses that I get to it because, like before, I guess I was just a jerk or very stubborn or something.
PIPPIN: I think it’s really easy to be naïve —
DAN: Yeah, yeah.
PIPPIN: — of how much activity there is inside of an open source ecosystem. When I first jumped in and started jumping onto a couple of tickets, I would be like why didn’t I get an answer here? Why is there no answer? Now, after a couple years, I’ve been able to realize, oh, it’s because these people that I’m trying to get an answer from are answering hundreds of tickets every day or every week.
PIPPIN: The fact that I didn’t get an answer shouldn’t be surprising. If I get an answer, that’s awesome. I think it’s very easy to forget about that fact that there’s a lot of time that they have devoted to other aspects of the project, regardless of how good your suggestion is.
DAN: Yeah, and their principles guide them too. Whether they’re principles for future editions don’t line up with mine, it’s not something that I should get bent out of shape about —
PIPPIN: Nope, definitely.
DAN: — and stop. I should try to understand that because, as a project lead for multiple projects now, I should have understood that earlier. I should have understood that there are times where you need to focus on certain things. Some tickets, some features, some suggestions are just distractions in a way, and I should be more respectful to that. I don’t think I was. I really don’t think that I was. I felt like it was switched. I thought they were being disrespectful to me, but I was actually being disrespectful to the community by just giving up and feeling that way and feeling bent out of shape.
BRAD: Yeah. I think it’s really hard, too, if you’re not involved on a daily basis to understand why there’s resistance to what you’re saying, right, because you don’t have the whole picture, right?
PIPPIN: Yeah, yeah.
BRAD: To have the whole picture, you need to be involved every day and have the history of conversation that’s been going on on IRC and throughout all the tickets and stuff.
BRAD: You really have to just trust the community members that are putting the time in day-to-day, I think, that they know what’s best for the project.
BRAD: I don’t know. I found that to be a problem, too, because it’s like I don’t get it. Why? Why isn’t this a good idea?
BRAD: But they’re thinking three versions down the road, right?
BRAD: And we’re just looking at the present. Yeah. Dan, where did you start freelancing? What year would that have been?
DAN: Okay, so my son is six. I had a good job in Camario. I would go there, and it was run like a startup. I had a director position, but I would work like 50 or 60 hours a week, and I hated it. I loved the position that I was in. I loved the responsibility, but I didn’t like the work that I was doing.
BRAD: Is this an agency or something?
DAN: It was a business for — sorry — it was an Internet business selling scrubs, and it was a multi-million dollar a year site that sold scrubs, and it was running on Yahoo Commerce, and it still does to this day. I was hired to get them onto a real commerce solution, and I had experience in IBM WebSphere and a lot of different things from previous jobs. Anyways, I’m getting a little off track here.
PIPPIN: That’s all right.
DAN: But anyways, my son was born in 2008. At that time I was just like, okay, I need to take two weeks off. I was talking to my wife, and I’m like, I don’t know if I want to go back to work. What do you think about me just freelancing? What do you think about me just doing what I’ve been doing as like a hobby and for fun as like a real job? I know of a friend that does it, and I feel like I can do the same thing.
I had some meetings with the friends that already do freelance, and my wife was like so supportive. She was just like – do it. You don’t feel right in your job. Just quit. And I was just like – no, I can’t. But she was supportive, and I feel like if she didn’t push me a little bit, I wouldn’t have gone to freelance.
It was rough for the first couple months because I was going on Elance trying to get theme jobs and all this stuff.
DAN: Trying to build up Sprout Venture as like a PSD2 WordPress template business and all that stuff because that’s the stuff that I liked to do. I loved building themes and it was fun.
BRAD: Sprout Venture, that’s the company you set up as your freelance kind of business?
DAN: Yeah, so one of the first things I did was create Sprout Venture. I didn’t want to be – hire Dan Cameron or make your checks out to Dan Cameron, so I created a d/b/a for Sprout Venture. While it seems like a big, huge business that employs a bunch of people, it just employs me right now. I do contract out a little bit, but that’s what it was. I created Sprout Venture because I didn’t want a business called Dan Cameron Website Design of Ventura County or something like that.
PIPPIN: I think there are a lot of freelances that do it that same way, not to be deceptive in any way, but they want to start out in a way that markets them as an agency. It doesn’t matter if it’s one-person agency or eventually becomes a 100-person agency.
PIPPIN: It also makes things a little bit easier if you want to expand. I found that firsthand because I branded my first, when I was a freelancer, I branded it as Pippins Pages, and sure I could hire people to work for me, but it’s still me you’re talking to. I couldn’t ever have a different person or a different boss or anything like that. It’s me 100%.
BRAD: I always look at it from the employee’s perspective. When someone asks them —
BRAD: — who do you work for, do you really want them to say some dude’s name, or do you want them to say something awesome, you know, like some kind of awesome company.
PIPPIN: I absolutely run into that exact same problem.
PIPPIN: Dan, at what point during your freelancing — at some point anyway, you started working on a group buying site, right, called Smart eCart?
DAN: Yeah. Let me lead into that because I think there’s an important milestone or crossroad —
DAN: — or whatever you want to call it in that process that got me there. First I worked for Shane and Peter. They’re called Modern Tribe now.
PIPPIN: I had no idea that you worked for them.
BRAD: Yeah, me neither!
PIPPIN: I know Shane and Peter well.
DAN: Yeah, I did.
BRAD: That’s cool.
DAN: Yeah. Shane and Peter are awesome. That was — working for them was like going to school, right? It was not only a way for me to learn a lot, but it was a way for me to get a lot of friends. Not just like, oh, I have a lot of friends in the business side or something like that. But I got a lot of good friends. We still talk to this day.
PIPPIN: They are very, very social people, and everybody that works for them is the same way.
DAN: Yeah, well, their hiring process dictates that, right?
DAN: I mean I don’t know if they —
BRAD: You have to go surfing with Shane. Is that step one or something?
DAN: Yeah, standup paddle boarding with Peter. Yeah. Gosh, man, that was a huge — that was a great experience. Working with those guys, it taught me a lot and actually helped me learn more in the backend development because, when I first started there, I just did theme work. I worked on the Gigaom site when they were going through a redesign. I don’t know how many redesigns they’ve gone through since then, but working on that project was a huge experience. I feel like that was one of my big accomplishments. I feel like everybody in the tech industry —
PIPPIN: Pretty major site.
DAN: Yeah — has heard of Gigaom, and I’m like, yeah, I built that site right there. That code that runs that site, I made it. Of course, I didn’t make all of it, and I was led by a lot of great programmers to help me, but that project was awesome to work on. Mark Jaquith worked on that project too from the .com site.
PIPPIN: That’s really cool.
DAN: Oh, so anyways, so to transition, one of the relationships that I built there was Nick Ohrn. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, plugindeveloper.com. He’s going to hate me that I got this mixed up.
PIPPIN: The name sounds really familiar.
DAN: Yeah, okay, so he was in Seattle. He did the WordCamp up there a little bit, and he’s been doing a lot of work for, I think it’s, Boost WP now, but anyways.
DAN: That relationship has not only given me — man, I just — I don’t know how to express it, but he has given me a lot. He referred a client to me that created or that built Group Buying Site. That client was the one that asked me to build a group buying plugin for WordPress. I don’t know where I would be without Nick actually referring him to me because, in the last four years, I’ve been working on Group Buying Site. That’s what it started out as called GroupBuyingSite.com. Then we recently revamped it and rebranded it as Smart eCart and as a social buying e-commerce plugin for WordPress. That’s what I’ve been working on for the last four years. Wait, oh, man, five years.
PIPPIN: That’s awesome.
BRAD: Have you been working on that, like how much time per week have you been working on that? Is that mostly your full-time job? How does that work?
DAN: Oh, okay, so — well, when I worked at Shane and Peter, I worked a ton, right? Then when I worked for my client for Group Buying Site, I worked not a ton, but it was full-time, and I was able to work 30 to 40 hours a week just on that project, and it was awesome. It felt like a job of my own. It felt like a project of my own because, after a while, he really respected my opinion. I don’t mean to say after a while as in he doesn’t respect my opinion now, but —
PIPPIN: No —
DAN: — he still respects my opinion, and he gave me the project pretty much.
PIPPIN: You were able to demonstrate that you knew what you were working on, and you knew what’s your ability, and you knew how to do it, and that your knowledge was valuable to the product.
DAN: Yeah, yeah, and it was awesome. It was great to do. I was able to add features without having to go through a process of approval and stuff. I would just say, hey, I think this feature would be really good. Let’s release it in the next version. Okay.
PIPPIN: That’s awesome.
DAN: Our relationship was, is very uncommon. I can’t imagine having a client like that again.
PIPPIN: Definitely the rare one.
DAN: Yeah. I was able to hire some people to redo Group Buying Site a few years ago, the 3.0 release, I believe it was, to make it more cart based and do a bunch of other things. I’m able to write a check to my friend every month that does all of the project development and support right now. It’s a huge accomplishment. Writing those checks to friends feels really goods to provide for them.
PIPPIN: Yeah. That’s really awesome.
DAN: It’s awesome.
BRAD: That’s cool to hear you say. I feel like you’re on track for employing people in the future full time.
PIPPIN: I absolutely agree. What you just said right there is, if I look back on it, that’s when I kind of felt like I was doing something good was when I was able to consistently provide for the welfare of someone else.
PIPPIN: Through work that I had done, and that is a really awesome feeling.
BRAD: Yeah. That’s part of my motivation as an entrepreneur as well to be able to provide for people. I think it’s — I get a lot of satisfaction out of being able to do that. That’s probably a red flag if that is not something that appeals to you, right?
BRAD: As a person who thinks they might be wanting to get into an entrepreneur future, if you’re not motivated by employing people, it’s going to be probably a tough road for you, right?
DAN: Yeah, exactly.
PIPPIN: Dan, if I remember right, you’re not super heavily involved with the group deals anymore. Now you’re working on a product called SproutApps.
PIPPIN: Want to tell us a little bit about that?
DAN: Yeah. In May, I was at a crossroads with Smart eCart, and I was in a position where I could give all of the development and support work to a friend and either work on my own product or go back into the services. Nick again, Nick Ohrn really inspired me to do my own product. I really wanted to do my own product. I had been doing it for the last five years or so with Group Buying Site. I felt really confident that I could do something. I wanted to do things differently. I wanted to do things the same. But, yeah, Nick really inspired me to not only go in the route that I went with SproutApps, but inspiration for what I could do next.
It was between doing a booking plugin because I was really familiar with the e-commerce site or doing an invoicing plugin. After a lot of research, I decided not to do a booking plugin because there are so many out there. But I did a little bit of research and found that not only do I think my itch isn’t being scratched in the invoicing area for freelancers and developers running WordPress for their sites, but I felt like there was an opportunity. And whether it is one is still to be known, but that’s what I’m working on. I’m building SproutApps.
PIPPIN: SproutApps is going to be a collection of apps with Sprout Invoices being one of those apps.
DAN: Yeah, yeah. Originally it was just going to be Sprout Invoices, like I mentioned before. I was going to release an MVP plugin out there and just see how it went and see if there was a market out there. I gradually, with Nick’s advice, I moved it more into an area where I want to do other apps for small businesses like myself and freelancers. I want to do a CRM app. I want to do a team management app. I don’t know if I’ll get to the point where I do a project management app because that could mean a lot of work, but that’s the type of business that I want to create with SproutApps. I want to build apps that help freelancers and developers like myself because I’m really stubborn with my workflow, and I just haven’t found solutions to help me with it.
PIPPIN: Sure. I think what you’ve experienced is the same pain that every single freelancer who is serious about running a freelance business experiences when they go through what are the best apps or services that work for them, whether it’s for clients, keeping track of clients, keeping track of invoices, etc. And so building this based upon your own experiences, your own frustrations, that’s awesome.
PIPPIN: And the name is very appropriate.
DAN: Yeah, yeah.
PIPPIN: Love the name.
BRAD: Yeah. Did you do the branding and design of your SproutApps.co site?
DAN: Well, since I didn’t have much time, so when I first started this project, my first commit was in the end of May, and I was supposed to get it released in July, and so I’m a month, I guess a month behind, so it’s not that long. Anyways, I didn’t have time and money to put into getting somebody to design the site and the logo, so I went to 99Designs to get that logo, and I was blown away with it.
PIPPIN: It’s a great logo. I love it.
DAN: I asked a bunch of friends on Facebook to help me and, yeah, thanks. I really like it. I’m glad how it turned out, but the design of the site, the SproutApps site, is a bootstrap them, like an HTML theme that I found somewhere. I was like, whoa, this thing is awesome. This will work out perfect, so I bought that theme somewhere around and converted it into a WordPress theme using underscores, of course.
PIPPIN: That’s very cool.
DAN: Yeah, I’m glad that — I’ve heard really positive feedback about the design. I’m actually really proud of how it looks because it looks pretty good and unique and stuff.
DAN: Hopefully it converts. I don’t know, but yeah.
PIPPIN: I wanted to ask you. I don’t know if this is a question that you can answer yet or if you’ve thought about it, but I was reading your bio and kind of like your history on your About page from your personal site. One of the things you mentioned is that you originally started to go to school for iOS development, or at some point you were interested in getting into iOS development.
PIPPIN: Are there any plans to build an iOS app that connects to SproutApps?
DAN: Yes, absolutely.
PIPPIN: Awesome. That’s what I wanted to hear.
DAN: Somebody asked me that on Twitter, I believe. Maybe they asked something else, and I said — they asked are there any plans, and I said, well, there’s no plans for that yet, but there’s aspirations and hopes for it. I can’t really say that I have plans for an iOS app or anything like that right now.
PIPPIN: But you would like to build one eventually.
DAN: Oh, yeah, definitely. I think that in order for people to really use Sprout Invoices, for example, they need to have a mobile app.
PIPPIN: I agree.
DAN: Whether it’s a Web app or whether it’s a real base.
PIPPIN: At least a mobile friendly UI. I remember — I don’t do much freelancing anymore, but when I was actively freelancing, that was one of my biggest pain points was that the system that I was using didn’t really have a mobile UI, but I was mobile all the time. And all I wanted to do was go in and generate an invoice or send my invoice or something like that, or even just check. That’s definitely a huge asset if that’s something that eventually you’ll build.
DAN: Yeah and, I think, before I get to that point, I think notifications is a big deal too. Maybe I’ll build a notifications add on for Sprout Invoices, for example, that sends you notifications on accepted invoices or accepted estimates and stuff like that. Then that can maybe link to the Web page, like a Web view that you can manage. Yeah, I’m all about workflow in management and I understand that, well, out of experience that you have to be mobile. I hate the word, but mobile friendly.
BRAD: Wow! I love this idea, by the way, this invoicing stuff. I love how the screenshots that I’m seeing here, you’ve clearly put a lot of attention to the details, and so it’s looking really good. The one thing I’ll say is that I’m currently with FreshBooks for my invoicing, and I don’t even do freelancing anymore, but I still have to have it for the next five years or something, right?
BRAD: — for the data that’s locked in there. And so I’m paying $250 a year or something —
DAN: Oh, wow!
BRAD: — to have this SAS that I don’t really use anymore. That’s one thing I love about this is that you own the data. It’s in your WordPress site, and you can extend it. You can do whatever you want with it, basically.
BRAD: Yeah, I love this idea.
DAN: Yeah, so I worked with — or not worked with — I used FreshBooks for like two or three years, and then I moved to Harvest. One of the main reasons I moved from FreshBooks to Harvest was because of their price.
DAN: It was out of control, I thought, especially when you get to having a lot of clients. I did not like having to go and delete clients that I had because I wanted to be on their tier that I thought was acceptable to pay for every month.
DAN: And when I first started as a freelancer, I did not want any overhead. I had an aversion to paying monthly fees. But I new I had to get like FreshBooks and then Harvest to pay for. But to go off what you just said too is that I do have plans for importers for both Harvest and FreshBooks. Hopefully you’ll want to import all of your data to Sprout Invoices and start using it.
PIPPIN: I know that if I was to use it, I would definitely want to be able to import data just because I like to have that history there. I like to be able to go back and see the reports.
DAN: Yeah, yeah, because, personally, I’ll admit this. I don’t use Sprout Invoices yet. I still have a couple of estimates that come in, and I don’t use Sprout Invoices. As shameful as that is, I have not built an importer yet for Harvest, and I want to get all of that data in there. I think it’s essential.
DAN: That’s my plan for 1.0.
PIPPIN: And eating your own dog food is super important too —
DAN: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
PIPPIN: — just for figuring out where your pain points are or finding little bugs or kinks, stuff like that.
PIPPIN: Also, I think it’s very easy to become — it’s much easier to become disillusioned with a product or project if you’re not actively using it yourself as well.
PIPPIN: For anybody who is building projects, building products like this, once you’re able to, starting using it because it may look amazing to start, but once you actually start using it, you’ll find all the little things that are kind of iffy or weird that users report, but you don’t see them until you’re a user.
PIPPIN: I think it’s one of the best ways to make a product really good.
DAN: I think, from experience too, I think it also gives you the ability to add features to your own product because you’re —
DAN: — that you don’t think about, and then also like add-ons, if you’re creating a marketplace. You can create a bunch of add-ons just by the customizations that you do for yourself.
PIPPIN: Very cool.
BRAD: Well, I think our time is pretty much up. How about, okay, so one thing I want to mention is Big Snow Tiny Conf. We’re getting together at Sugarbush Mountain in Vermont January 26th to 29th to talk about business and do some skiing and snowboarding. So if that sounds awesome to you, then go to BigSnowTinyConf.com and check it out.
Also, if you could review us on iTunes, that’s awesome. It helps us or helps other people find us, so that would be a huge help for others and us.
PIPPIN: I’ll throw out the offer again. If you give us a review, let us know, and I will happily go review your plugin or your theme. I reviewed one last week from somebody who did exactly that.
BRAD: Wow! Awesome! Thanks again to our sponsors. Pippin, do you want to cover that?
PIPPIN: Yeah, WP Ninjas are our permanent sponsors. They’ve been kind enough to sponsor ongoing episodes, for the last quite a few actually, which has allowed us to do some really cool things on the site. WP Ninjas are the creators of Ninja Forms as well as Ninja Demo. You can go check them out. Something else that’s kind of cool, Dan Cameron has built in an integration with Ninja Forms for Sprout Invoices, so go check that out as well.
BRAD: Yeah. Dan, you’re using Ninja Demo as well on the site, aren’t you?
DAN: Yeah, I am. Ninja Demo is awesome. It’s pretty slick.
PIPPIN: It’s pretty slick.
DAN: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I have a few customizations to it just in order to get it to work the way that I want it to work and also my hosting provider, but it’s awesome.
DAN: I’m glad that that is there because, out of experience, demos are horrible to do.
BRAD: Yeah. I see you’ve got, you’ve blogged about how you customized it actually, didn’t you?
DAN: Yeah, I need to update that actually too because I don’t use that anymore because I’m using an SSL site, so I need to go back to that post and revisit it a little bit.
PIPPIN: Sure. Well, Dan, thank you so much for coming on. It was an absolute pleasure.
DAN: Hey, you’re welcome.
PIPPIN: Tell us really quickly where are the best places for people to find you online.
DAN: I’m Dan Cameron on Twitter and just about every other social network, I guess, but find me on Twitter @DanCameron and SproutApps.co is the product that I’m currently working on.
BRAD: Thanks a lot, Dan.
DAN: Hey, you’re welcome.
PIPPIN: Thank you so much.
BRAD: Great to have you.
DAN: Thank you.