Back in December I launched Future Tools. When I launched it, I made the decision that I was going to build it all in public and share updates along the way. Since then, I've shared a lot of updates on Twitter but haven't done any more in-depth blog posts about my journey.
Well, if you've been following along at all, you probably have seen that things have gone absolutely insane.
When I wrote my blog post back in January (of 2023), I had set these goals:
- Grow my Twitter following to 1,000 followers... 4 months later, I'm approach 33,000 followers on Twitter.
- Grow my email newsletter to 2,500 subscribers... Today I crossed 83,000 subscribers.
- Grow my YouTube subscribers to 2,000 subscribers... Today, I'm going to pass 288,000 subscribers on YouTube!
- At the time, I hadn't set any traffic goals for my website because it was only a couple weeks old and I didn't even know if people were going to care about it. Today, the site is getting almost 1 millions visitors per month.
Needless to say, it's been an insane ride that I did not expect. I went from obscurity and podcasting about digital marketing to someone that people actually pay attention to.
It's come with a lot of pros and a handful of cons, which I'll get to at the end of this post... However, I first want to breakdown how things are going and show some screenshots like I did in my January post to show the contrast of where things were less than 4-months ago to where they are now...
👇 This screenshot was from January 10th, 2023, when I made my last blog post.
👇 The below screenshot is what the traffic looks like today.
👇 This screenshot is from January.
👇 This screenshot is what it looks like today.
Here are my Twitter stats from January 2023:
And here are my Twitter stats from April 2023:
I gained over 15,000 new followers in April alone and had close to 4 million impressions!
This also happened in April...
Here is a screenshot of my newsletter growth from January, right before I passed 1,700 subscribers for Future Tool Weekly.
And here's the screenshot I took today:
Here's what my daily signups looked like back in January. The first big spike was when I imported my list from ConvertKit over to BeeHiiv, so that doesn't really count. I was averaging about 110 - 120 new subs per day back then.
...And here's what it looks like now:
They changed the way the graph looks since January but today, I'm averaging roughly 1,200 new subscribers per day on the newsletter.
YouTube is where I've seen the most insane growth... That's really saying a lot too because everywhere else has grown like crazy.
Back in January, I was so excited to pass 2,000 watch hours. I was well on my way to the 4,000 that I needed to get monetized. It was also absolutely insane to see over 1,000 subscribers in a single month.
Well here's what the channel analytics look like today:
What a difference 4-months can make! I'm getting more subscribers per day today than I was getting in a month back in January.
Here's where my subscriber count was on January 9th.
And here's where it sits today (April 28th, 2023):
The Roadmap I Set in January
When I wrote my "build in public" post back in January, here's the roadmap that I created to keep momentum high.
- ✅ Build "The AI Income Database" into the site.
- ❌ Build a database of prompts for GPT, MidJourney, Stable Diffusion, etc. - I never build a database of prompts on the site.
- ✅ Create a "Matt's Picks" tag to help people better choose the right tools.
- ✅ Add "Featured Listings" to monetize the site.
- ✅ Offer sponsorships inside the Future Tools newsletter.
- ✅ Go heavy on YouTube.
What I've Learned
Like I mentioned at the top of this post, there have been pros and cons to the insane success of the site and channel. I'm extremely grateful for everything that's come my way and all of the people that have tuned in to watch my videos, read my posts, and hang out with me on Twitter. It's been an amazing journey and I'm so excited to see what the rest of the year has in store!
I don't feel like I need to go too deep into the pros. They're fairly obvious. Having influence has a lot of benefits. I'm earning good money from YouTube, featured listings, sponsorships, and affiliate marketing. I no longer have to stress about that. I also get access to a ton of cool tools and gadgets for free because companies want me to test stuff and talk about it. It's gotten a lot easier to reach decision makers at companies. There are a lot of amazing things that I'm so grateful for. The pros have been amazing.
It hasn't been as smooth as it all seems though. There have been some downsides and I think it's important to share those as well...
Trolls, Fear & Anger:
One of the most challenging things for me has been learning to grow a thicker skin around comments. I'm the type of person who wants to read and try to respond to all comments on YouTube and Twitter. Up until everything skyrocketed, I literally replied to 100% of the comments on both platforms. Now, not only is it nearly impossible to reply to everyone, but I also have to deal with trolls and mean-spirited comments. I can't make a post on any platform anymore without a small percentage of the comments being personal attacks directed at me.
I wouldn't say I have "haters." I think that's a silly term. I don't believe anyone's doing things out of hate. But there is undoubtedly a lot of misdirected anger towards AI that lands on people like me. Or there are people who are fearful and take out their fear in personal attacks anonymously towards someone they know they are likely to never meet in person and, even if they did, they know I wouldn't recognize who they were anyway. This lesson took me some time. I've almost stopped making content on several occasions because I was so down about comments that affected me more than they really should have.
Luckily, a few months in, I've gotten much better at just brushing it off. Unfortunately, the unintended consequence is that I've also had to throw the baby out with the bathwater to some degree. I don't read all the comments anymore. I don't read all the replies to my tweets anymore. For my mental health, I've had to take a new approach to comments. It's a real shame because I enjoy constructive feedback, I appreciate suggestions for new content, and I love people telling me they enjoyed the content. But now, I miss so much of that because I've had to tune out many comments.
My new approach, in case you're wondering, is that I treat my videos and tweets like I just gave a presentation. After a presentation, people have a window to meet and greet and ask questions. Once that window is over, I move on with my day. Basically, I read and try to reply to comments for the first hour or two after I post something, and after the window has passed, I need to move on and start thinking about my next project. It's the only approach that keeps me sane.
I've grown to accept that it comes with the territory of what I'm doing. I don't dwell on it anymore, and I don't let any individual comment live in my head anymore. But I'd be lying if I said it was easy for me to deal with.
The "Hey Buddy" Problem:
Another interesting phenomenon that began happening after my YouTube channel grew in popularity was that everyone on social media suddenly wanted my attention. People I hadn't talked to in years started texting me or blowing up my DMs with messages saying things like, "Hey buddy, it's been a long time. I think we should catch up."
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, the quantity of messages I started receiving became overwhelming. I remember one week when I had about 20 text messages from people all wanting to get on calls with me. Some of them would follow up relentlessly when I didn't immediately respond. I began to feel horrible for ghosting so many people. Eventually, I got through my backlog of messages, telling people I was swamped and overwhelmed.
I'm too much of a people-pleaser. I don't like feeling like I'm letting others down. However, I've had some conversations with close friends that helped me realize that my priorities need to be focused on my family, my business, and doing what's best for my audience. I shouldn't be concerned with anyone who's upset with me because I haven't been able to prioritize a "catch-up call" or a "pick your brain" session right now.
As you can probably tell, I'm somewhat neurotic. I often overthink how others perceive me and my content, and whether I'm upsetting someone. The more my reach expands, the more attention I receive – something I never anticipated. This, coupled with my desire to please everyone, seems counterproductive.
This is a lot less of an issue than the first two. As expected with the growth of any business – and this isn't my first – I never anticipated the rate of growth. In four months, I went from practically no traffic to almost a million visitors per month and from a tiny email list to close to 100,000 subscribers. All of a sudden, every service I'm using wants me on their enterprise plan at costs of five-figures per month. My income hasn't caught up with the growth of everything else yet, and I find myself on the hook for huge expenses that I wasn't anticipating reaching this quickly.
For example, I've been paying $49/month for WebFlow to run Future Tools. A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from them saying I'm getting too much traffic and that I need to move to the enterprise plan. I replied with "sure, how much is the enterprise plan?" They responded with a $60,000 per year price tag! I asked if that could be broken into monthly payments, but they said, "nope... Net30." So, uh... Yeah. Future Tools hasn't made $60k yet, and I'm faced with the decision of figuring out how to fork over $60,000 or finding a developer to help me rebuild the site somewhere else.
Now, to be fair to WebFlow, they haven't kicked me off yet, and they've continued to extend the amount of time I have before I get the boot. But, with everything else going on, it's a tough decision because I'm not sure if I have the time to manage the development of a new site from scratch.
Just today, I got a note from BeeHiiv, my newsletter provider, that I'm approaching 100,000 subscribers and, once I get there, I'll need to upgrade to their enterprise plan. I don't know the cost of that yet, and I'm honestly a bit afraid to ask, but it's something else that's rapidly approaching.
Don't get me wrong – my income is increasing as a result of this success. It's just not increasing at the rate these costs seem to be increasing. So, I'm trying to navigate that minefield as well right now.
All this to say, things are going great. BUT, from the inside, I am still fighting my own mental, financial, and bandwidth battles that were hard to anticipate until I was in the thick of it. I love what I'm doing, and honestly, I'll take all these stresses over the ones I had when I struggled financially and when I didn't have an audience that cared. These are far better problems to have. I truly believe this, but this post is all about transparency and building in public. Everyone always shares the awesome stuff, but people rarely share the struggles that come with it.
Plans For The Future:
Like my last "build in public" post, I want to share what my roadmap and next steps are so that, when I do make a future post, I can share whether or not I've made progress.
- Work out a deal with WebFlow to stay on their plan because I really don't want to need to move away. I really do like WebFlow.
- Hire a WebFlow expert to help me make improvements to the site. Some of the improvements I'd like to make include:
- Really continue to keep my eye on the ball on YouTube, creating 3 types of videos... Latest AI news updates, AI tutorials, and AI challenges where I figure out unique ways to use multiple tools together. These are the types of videos that really seem to do well on the channel and that I enjoy making the most.
- Get out to several events related to AI and XR. I really need to get out more and meet people in-person and build relationships with people in the AI space.
- Create an AI related podcast. I've been talking with a few people about partnering on a podcast to interview experts and thought-leaders in the space. Podcasts are one of the best ways to network and build relationships.
Some additions I'd like to make to the Future Tools Website
- Adding a "dark mode" - My most requested feature
- Giving people the ability to suggest changes to tools
- Adding user comments on tools to encourage reviews
- Add an "events" section to Future Tools to keep people informed of upcoming AI and XR related events.
- Create an AI chatbot that will suggest tools based on your specific needs
So there you have it... That's the breakdown of where I started and where I am today. The successes and the struggles. All out there for you to see and learn from. It's been a crazy ride and I'm super happy to be on it. I've had my struggles with it but I finally feel like I'm starting to settle into the role that I feel I was meant to play.