Fuck Up story: how I was disappointed in digital services for business and had my own business (well, almost)

It was a glorious hunt.

My life has been dedicated to the IT field. I was an engineer creating interesting products for large industrial companies. My geography was all of Russia, I saw the workshops of KAMAZ, VAZ and other auto giants live. But there is a limit to everything in our destiny, and I burned out. I’ll tell you about the reasons some other time. The main thing is that I, an experienced developer and technician, went for free bread and, since I had a family, I decided to create a business - my store of goods for children, according to special principles. In general, like many of the programmers, to do what is missing from among the offers on the market. And you know what? I found out that it is very difficult to find the simplest, basic, necessary professional contractors. A million freelancers and companies, and the exhaust ... It was a quest, and I have to tell the world about it. Do not walk on my rake.

This is the best thing that described my condition.

Important Disclaimers.

  1. I froze the site, and the link to it will violate Habr's rules regarding advertising. I think one day I will find a way to report it to the world.
  2. The article will mention the companies and services that could help me. I will not spoil the reputation of those who could not - probably, I, too, turned out to be a bad customer somewhere. I think these links to help people like me will not be considered advertising.
  3. I foresee the question of what I live on. While I got a job as a programmer in a warm and comfortable project, plus I take tasks to order (sometimes). And this is very good - you must admit that IT will not let you go hungry.

So, how I created an online store, I was a fool, I was looking for contractors and considered myself almost Bezos, but in the end, there were still worn jeans, work and a dream.

My personal toy story

Naturally, the idea was born before I left work. What didn’t suit me in the existing one hundred million children's goods stores?

Of course, the quality of supply. If it’s cheap, it’s almost always bad, if it’s expensive, it’s not a guarantee of quality. I studied the pricing system, identified margins, talked with wholesalers, understood the law of the market: the broth from cheap goods is higher. Business is business, but I would like for the low-income and middle-income segment of parents not to spend days on sites, and once to buy, trusting quality. Why? Young parents are in a state of fuss, psycho-emotional stress, many of the goods are needed right now, so they just part with the money. And this despite the fact that finances are already exhausted: medicine, a stroller, a bed, rugs, clothes, diapers, powders and curds with mashed potatoes.

Technical aspects: creepy call-to-action games in half the screen, teary pink interfaces, a bunch of related advertising, poor search, slurred recall systems (can’t you copy it from giants and make the choice easier!), Complex and slow filters, etc.

These two factors were embedded in my engineering brain, and I developed the first prototype - a pen on paper. Paper flew into the trash. But a month later there was a concept, and I liked it and everyone with whom I shared my thoughts. I needed a designer. I contacted a dozen freelancers, whose portfolios seemed to me the most attractive, talked about the idea, suggested even becoming partners. What did you find out?

  • As soon as the freelancer understands that you are doing not just a project, but “stir up” the business, he immediately changes the course of the conversation and calls such a price tag as if he had just left Lebedev’s studio.
  • Some freelancers give out other people's work as their own. It turned out funny - two on the same resource sent links to the same portfolio, which in fact belongs to the third. Another gave a link to work that I was not too lazy to find and saw that this was done by an agency to which the guy had never had any relation. The tip is simple: as soon as you see the portfolio, break through the names of sites. image services, etc. Such a lie at the start indicates a knowingly failed work.
  • For the most part, freelancers are not ready for contracts, receipts, and other evidence of delivery of an advance payment to them. I heard one thing: "You will have an extract in your mobile bank stating that you transferred the money to me." Well, you understand that this is legally untenable.
  • Freelancers are actively “selling out”: they immediately offered me a design, and an uncle-programmer PHP, and a girl director, and brother-SEO specialist. Family in a row! Of course, this was not in my plans.

So, the design was stalled, although during these ups and downs I managed to write a good backend for the site in pure PHP, made an ugly but working frontend, bought a nice domain ...

Speaking of the domain. Be sure to pronounce all the options out loud and break through the English translations of the chosen name - imagine how the domain name for the site “Shield and chain mail” will sound. I had a lot of funny moments, especially considering that the words “baby”, “toy”, “baby” have such an interesting double bottom that even the browser history is clear. And it struck me that even the most seemingly perverse options were already taken.

Back to the site and grief design. I did not find a designer, but I didn’t have money for a cool studio (for a not very cool one either). Therefore, I sinned against humanity and made my online store on a very pleasant and, as it turned out, quite convenient CMS 1C-Bitrix . It turned out, of course, not the Eldorado retailer’s website, but a pretty good solution, similar to what I wanted.

The attentive reader probably thought: “Stop, but what about the site that has already been written - what no, but the work done by the developer is a lot of work? Why was he abandoned? ” Frankly, at that moment I asked myself these questions. But I had motives, and this is another important lesson.
The site was ugly. It would probably be possible to sell chips or goods for geeks on such a chip: photo, description, discussion, price, discount, delivery. But I was aware that the core of my audience will be girls, young mothers who are spoiled for their bright interfaces and accustomed to some standard moves with a basket and a card. This was the first message to choose a ready, honed solution.
There were bugs on my site and I saw them. I could not cope with some, fussed crutches. And I understood that all this piling up could collapse. There was a problem, including security - I myself broke the test base with a simple SQL injection. Web development was not my profile, and I was afraid to run a production website with amateur errors.
I liked Bitrix. I reviewed a few more options, everything was not right. Yes, it is also imperfect, and even on Habré there are stories about numerous problems with this CMS, but from a bunch of evils ...

It was hard to refuse custom code - there was a feeling that they decide for me, I do not affect every line of code, but I I was confident in the stability and standardization of the solution. Compromise. Alas, you need to be able to abandon your decision in the direction of a professional, not to imagine yourself as the king of the world and the god of development. In addition, I found the possibility of applying my experiences - you can write modules for your store, for example, complex calculators. I didn’t need it that way, but for the construction business or the wholesale business, it’s great.

By that time, I had quit my job and worked part-time, writing code for one foreign company. The time seemed wonderful: the dream is getting closer, there is money, there are interesting colleagues from around the world, and most importantly, I am at home and do not spend time on these # @ $ # traffic jams.

Well-designed product cards appeared on the site with excellent descriptions and even the advice of experienced young parents (me, my wife, brother and friend's family). The first orders from China, the USA, Russia and Kyrgyzstan went "to the warehouse". At the same time, the girls insisted on creating a section for mothers and joint purchasing. I liked the idea, but I was in no hurry - I fastened the payment system, opened the IP (in the end I chose the same LLC) and prepared an advertisement in Direct for quick posting.

The start took place. From the first advertisement (20,000 rubles a week - and that’s a penny, the children’s theme is hellishly expensive) I was able to sell off almost the entire first batch of goods, get a bunch of reviews, two complaints, one powerful bug in the registration system (the fool himself). It was decided to divide all the money received into ordering a new product and promotion - especially since I realized that some types of goods go better than others and it is better to expand their assortment for now. Some of the unredeemed went on sale with a minimum margin.


The part for which this article was intended. Because to create an online store on Bitrix or to develop everything beyond the power of many smart guys and girls from Habr, but how to promote it is a forest and dense forest. I walked through this forest with a machete, got branches on my forehead and am ready to become your guide.

So, advertising is offline and online. And for the online store too.


Chats and catch-ups - sorry, but a compromise

So, you already realized that the site came out simple and intelligible. I liked it and absolutely did not want to weigh it with don't leave pop-up, requests to leave the phone and windows promising discounts and extorting an email address for newsletters. But there was a nuance: I am a man with engineering thinking who cannot stand all these rivulets and windows, and the site for the most part was designed for women. And I compromised:

  1. He left a window that would pop up when leaving the site. On it was a request to stay and get a 10% discount and a choice of chocolate. All this was offered by a cute and funny teddy bear (selected on Depositphotos ). In general, I am proud of this banner, which I could create without the help of a designer. Well, to embed in the site is an IT affair. And yes, surprisingly, this stopped many from leaving the site, the discount coupon worked. I think here again the matter is the specifics of the audience.
  2. I connected a Jivosite chat , in which there were no bots, and there were two live girls - my wife and a friend's wife. A little later I planned to develop social networks (well, sacred for my topic!) And connect live lines from Bitrix, but it didn’t come to that, I did not have time to buy their system.
  3. I created not just the pursuit of the newsletter like “You forgot in the basket”, but put it on the content and sent a useful letter with a valuable discount (second time), and the first time a useful one with a reminder. The conversion was 10%. Not bad, believe me.

Advertising on social networks and groups - attack bots?

I was aware that the topic of children's and inexpensive women's goods requires close work with social networks: Instagram, Facebook, VKontakte, Odnoklassniki. I myself was not even registered in them, so my idea was limited to thoughts about communities, cats and some inarticulate segments. I confess that I was old and stupid - social networks for B2C are the strongest advertising platforms covering all segments: from very poor people to very rich. By the way, VK evangelist Alexandra Cherkas encouraged me to get involved in VKontakte ads and was inspired by her video, and this was her first . And I think that these sites could be of interest to the Khabrovsk citizens, who make games, software for individuals, applications, etc., therefore, I will briefly describe them.

  • VKontakte is a good, lively and, surprisingly, pretty adult audience. I would rate her as solvent, 23-35 years old. Advertising worked well, there were so fast purchases that you didn’t even have to search for them in analytics: it was clear that a person came from a public and immediately bought it, there was no need to track the path to the goal (conversion) in Google Analytics. There was no activity in the public, only lazy likes. There are enough bots, but with some skill and proper targeting you will quickly forget about them.
  • Facebook is a very special phenomenon. It’s very difficult to hook the audience here, almost unrealistic. Maybe she is more business or less popular with the target audience. Some memes appeared in advertisements, but overall I didn’t feel much effect.
  • Instagram, though a sub-Facebook affair, worked really well. This is a pretty "female" social network with a bunch of advertising opportunities. Pictures with text went on them best, video - not really. I wanted to try to integrate into blogging accounts, but it was somehow very expensive, and the characters I selected were not ready to prove the effectiveness or show the effectiveness on the numbers. Noodles in the form "Yes, I’ve placed L'Etoile myself" are not hung up on the old engineer, I’m not Letual, I have so much risk money.
  • Classmates - in short: yes, these bots went in the given direction! The real feeling of a half dead botnet. Maybe I tried hard.

Advertising in Yandex and Google - effectively

I will tell you once peeped at Habré with the same phrase: if you are not in Direct, you are not in Russia. Yes, he is expensive, a little hungry for the money of a novice advertiser, but it really works. So, if you need the Russian market, we take our feet in our hands, hang up the Metric and pay for Direct. By the way, it’s better to hang the Metric at the time of the creation of the site - so you will have all the data from the first click.

What is important to remember?

  • Some products require a letter of guarantee - take care of the list in advance. So I ran into some ointments and powders that are not medicine, but the moderators were rejected. After writing, everything works like a clock.
  • Read Yandex.Direct help before you start - this is the best there is on this topic. And here is the Direct school . In principle, this is all that is needed, but you can watch third-party videos on YouTube - there are insights about headers, URLs, etc.
  • Start at low revs, set very low bids (cost per click). Even if the recommendation is 879 rubles, put 20-30 (well, or how much you do not mind), check all the hypotheses and make sure that you are a little motivated to raise rates.
  • Limit your daily budget.
  • Keep track of the sites (YAN), and it is better to turn them off until you delve into the work of the site to the end - the money is flying away.
  • Disable DRF - additional relevant phrases, especially in vague topics. Otherwise, you will find out what the budget is wasted. This knowledge cost me 23,000 rubles.
  • Separate ads by region - in capitals, the CPC is higher, you will save so.
    Use negative keywords (for example, consider which word should be the first “negative” to the query “buy a toy.” And yes, use modifiers and refine your search queries.
  • Use the offline Direct Commander, it’s very convenient: you can load campaigns and make changes in groups (for example, during promotions).

Google AdWords only seems to be difficult to set up - after a month of setting up and creating ad groups, I got really used to it, used to convenience and logic (by the way, there is also an offline editor). The rules are about the same, with the difference that support works for a very long time. And, judging by the communication with other entrepreneurs, I am not alone here. Google has an amazing AdWords online school that is worth watching and reviewing - there are many honest and useful insights. There is also a huge community with questions and answers in Russian. With experience, a deep understanding of logic comes and you can even earn extra money with it :-)

By the way, the lists from the Calltouch service helped me: for Google AdWords , for analytics , for Yandex.Direct .

Advertising on thematic blogs and forums

Forums are dead, and those that are not dead are breaking crazy money and the conditions for the right to just be mentioned there.

Blogs and sites are alive, but expensive. We managed to integrate for free into a couple of local ones thanks to exceptionally cool content. In general, I must tell you that promotion with expert texts is the coolest thing that exists among advertising today, but this requires either money or a huge expertise. Learn to write, and work on the content.

SEO, his mother

I wanted to start with this painful topic, but it crushed me so much that even here I procrastinated a week to finish this part. I understand that SEO is still driving the world, I realize that it is different and I wanted to play honestly in a very busy category of sites. Then I did not know what was waiting for me.

The first help was rendered to me by an excellent friend of the copywriter - he worked with the largest Russian companies and did not do SEO himself, but wrote optimized texts on technical tasks. From the texts of TK, he made conclusions - on points that invariably coincided in the terms of reference from different companies:

  • content is no longer for robots, content is for people
  • keywords - in headings, subheadings and in the first sentence
  • the keywords and description meta tags are not really needed, but let them be (I originally had them)
  • any lists are desirable in the text: numbered, marked, with dashes
  • no need to cram keywords with maximum density
  • the volume of the text is 4-7 thousand characters without spaces (for reviews in articles and blogs). For categories, text is often not needed at all, or several hundred characters will suffice.

Based on these principles, we started by creating a description for exclusive products (which I delivered at low prices) and blogging, which “joint purchasers” gladly connected to on a voluntary basis (but I was ashamed and as a bonus I canceled a number of them restrictions and organizational fee, also for them the delivery of single packages was at our expense).

The SEO effect was for 7 products out of the necessary at least 50, the blog, of course, could not break through numerous mammoth forums and thematic sites. But traffic grew to 100 people a day - 2 times, for me it was very good. But you understand that for an online store these are cat's tears? I also understood.

I need a super SEO-shnik I decided and went to cry, inject and have a cactus, namely I turned to freelancers. The response was just the sea, I did not have time to sift out the portfolio and people without the portfolio, which were already familiar to me with a carbon copy. However, the rest could not offer anything worthwhile, all of their strategies were given mothballs - even I already learned to understand this.

Since online parallel advertising brought me sales, I was ready to pay for SEO companies. Therefore, I began to look for mine. I must say that some companies surprised me by the fact that at some point they disappeared, did not get in touch or did not hear me, but stupidly tried to get their services involved. Those who did not try to compile a ToR or conduct a survey, but joyfully shouted that in a month I would wake up in the top 3 were also rejected - I do not believe in fairy tales. Who stayed and helped?

  • Rookee is the most convenient link mass purchase service. I was very afraid of the purchased links and pessimization on the part of search engines, but the guys do everything cleanly, efficiently, coolly. I have heard about them for a long time, without even touching this sphere, and this also inspired confidence. Prices did not come out too expensive, transparency was especially pleasing - I understood what was happening.
  • Further, as a true resident of St. Petersburg, I stuck in RealWeb - and who does not dream that they work with any promotion, not just SEO? They were heard, they recommended me, but it was too expensive. Although for medium and large companies this is what you need - all the services and a thoughtful team. But the posts from their blog on Habré helped me , there is a lot of cool about online advertising and analytics. Pros will be pros.

So, I had links, text-based SEO on my knees and wasn’t enough for a top agency (well, not surprisingly). I began to go to the sites of St. Petersburg studios and methodically read out, phoned, compared prices - I knew what to look for. The solution came from where they didn’t wait: at the same time I was looking for a project management system and on Habré I came across a huge comparison of those . Reading it, I just came to the free version of Bitrix24, which I used, but, as I said above, I did not come to the paid one. And all would be fine, but in the author’s profile I saw the inscription “SEO”. Of course, I thought it was a typo and it should be CEO, because this is a corporate blog, but what the hell is not joking ... Damn not joking. I wrote to the author and a few days later I got the answer - that SEO and not just SEO, but in St. Petersburg, only the company is called not Ptysh, but DFaktorand they have two more cool posts on Habré: a checklist about SEO in Yandex and checklists for online advertising . Sometimes, as a reader, I will say: Habr, you are the cosmos.

I was a little confused by the simplicity of their site, but Dmitry’s professional and simple approach (that’s the name of the author) led me, already incredulous, to see the price list. It suited me. The marketing, but not stupid and relevant feature among modern services, scored the last wedge in my brain: all the basic work is done in one month and no monthly fee is required. Of course, after all the throwing, I was sure that little would come of it. And in vain: my site for a month did not hit the top, but from the ass of Runetmoved from the fourth page higher. But for me, of course, the fact that traffic increased and the number of leads increased was a more significant indicator. By the way, according to Metric, at that time I already knew that my visitors were 71% Yandex Yandex. In the process, we fixed a bunch of bugs and usability flaws in my online store, which already had statistics on views and conversions.

Somehow my growth in Yandex looked like

By the way, I hope Dmitry will forgive me, but after working with him I realized that having a lot of time and an intelligent head, you can configure SEO yourself. In addition, when I started, this section on the site about what is important for SEO in e-commerce was not there, but now you can guess a lot about it yourself. Do not be lazy to work your head, on the Internet everything secret is almost obvious!


Offline flyers and elevator advertising worked great. They laid out everywhere: in polyclinics (quickly cleaned), in parks, on sites, in mailboxes. The advice is simple: if you have a massive, but still an Internet offer, sculpt a QR code everywhere , it’s easier to scan it than remember the site address.

Five months later, I closed my online store - simply because I had never worked so much and never got so tired. I was at home, but I wasn’t there: calls, correspondence, meetings, round-the-clock conversations with suppliers from the USA and China in other time zones, kiddies of these suppliers. At the same time, I had a little more clean than my former salary, when I could get home by 19: 00-20: 00 and ride my daughter, drank with my brother, talk with my wife, and call my parents. I don’t know if I will return to my business and whether I am created for business. I received offers to sell my online store as a ready-made business - I refused and will refuse, because this is my concept, my history of mistakes and who knows ... life is long.

Now I am Senior Java Developer, a team leader in a small company with a large salary. I slowly move away from that stress and enjoy life at work and beyond. I no longer have clumsy Chinese speaking and clumsily talking to me Americans. I have experience of independent swimming, and it helps cool to communicate with people. I wrote this post for a long time, maybe it is torn in some places, but it should be on Habré - for those who think that business is simple and beautiful. No, this is hellish, continuous labor.

In parting, I want to repeat the main conclusions that I made - be sure to consider them before dipping into the Russian digital market.

  • Prepare everything in advance. There was an idea, open an IP, open accounts, design while you work somewhere. Take care of your affairs in your free time, but do not deprive yourself of sources of income for the first time. Quit the moment you feel that you can no longer combine.
  • Carefully work with freelancers: both sides are legally defenseless, but you can’t count on human decency. Try to draw up a statement of work, conclude an agreement, get more than one contact for communication.
  • The same story is with companies - do not work without a trust agreement! By the way, a good indicator: if you started interacting with a contractor company, and it communicates sluggishly, has little interest and forgets about you, then run. Now firms are well aware that service solves. And, if he does not decide, probably the company is not very interested in what it does.
  • Fully control the processes: creating a product, website, advertising. You must understand this and be ready to pick up any direction. Yes, it’s a gaddy micromanagement, but these are the fates of small and micro businesses - besides yourself, in fact, nobody needs you.
  • Do not place bets on videos and banners unless you are sure that this is directly your reliable channel - banners do not work at all, and it’s expensive, long and hard to work on promoting YouTube. Even 10 decent videos will not save you.
  • Have a reliable team of loved ones. At least for moral support.
  • Try to overcome standard IT thinking. Our business, even super-technological, is the world of commerce, advertising, marketing and all that we so hate in everyday life.
  • And, probably, the most important thing. Do not hold on to business. If you feel that on corporate breads you are better or more profitable, close the business and take pride in your experience and your facaps. Go to work in a company and get a stable salary, time, effort, health.
  • The last on the list and the first in essence: you can’t buy health. Take care of it, take care of nerves and strength, you have a long life to live.

Here's a slightly nervous pathos story I got. I hope everything was not in vain. At least, everything was at least for the sake of this article.

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