Business Insights: From A Personal Blog To SWP Academy

Preface: Ancient History

It all began in 2008, right after I broke free from my self-chosen enslavement with Ernst & Young Switzerland (“Big Four”). I had been working for EY for about 6 years in a higher position as the Electronic Media Manager Switzerland (neat, huh?). But things got too corporate-ish and then, with the implementation of the Blackberry communication (remember those gizmos?), the company culture took its hardest (and permanent) dive. 24/7 politics via emails (preferably via bcc); no time left to do my actual job anymore; just political chess moves to follow along. But I am losing myself in off-topic memories here…

I chucked it all, threw my Blackberry device into the Lake of Zurich (IT dept. was not entirely happy about that move) and went back to my beloved photography, but yet still keen to remain in Switzerland.

At this time, I just knew one thing: Besides my offline activities, I wanted to “do something online”. No idea what and how, but the igniting spark had been set. After all, I had learned a thing or two about IT, project management, business models, transitions, etc. while working for EY. Yet, “internet” back then was still kind of Stone Age. So it would take another few years until I actually could wrap my head around a (small) online plan.

Early Days: My Personal Blog (B+)

In 2011, the plan that would ultimately culminate into my first online presence started to come to fruition: my personal blog, called BLOG+ (B+). It was set up on a sub-domain of my website studioprague.com (private photo workshops). I found that to be the best and tech-wise easiest way to simply start something up. Not many thoughts about branding or future scalability had been put into this; just a “dive in & push hard” approach. Only the color Orange was set as main element because of the fact that I used to run a little production lab, called MediaLab, before my time with EY. Its visual branding had been built on Pantone 1595 (the “Orange” as such). However, I’m digressing yet again…

On B+ I wrote a weekly post about my photography (lighting, concepts, and models). Readership grew, cheering grew – everybody was happy. Readers received valuable insights and my recommendations for free. In return, I felt satisfaction about being recognized and getting feedback.

Over time, however, I had to invest more and more of my business time into the free blog for content creation which left me with less and less time for doing my offline work (= paid shooting gigs). Therefore, I made a virtue of necessity and started to develop and sell eBooks. Some of them turned out to be bestsellers.

In view of my successes at hand, I thought: everything is well.

B+ Limitations

But while I was creating the free content, I noticed unease from other photographers. I contacted quite a few of them over time, asking for interviews or other content, but I could sense their hesitation.

Analyzing the “why” regarding this matter, it clearly showed that it was because the blog was completely tied to my name and studio, which in a lot of cases had been seen as an element of competition. I realized that if I wanted to bring in other top-notch, industry-known creators, I would have to change the branding- and business-approach.

Fast forward and in short: That is why we now have SWP (SexyWomenPhotography). In case you are interested in reading about the trials and tribulations of getting to the final SWP launch, read “Having Faith; Losing Confidence.” and “A Sense Of Confidence: All Turned Out Well.”.

SWP In Autumn 2017: Great Readers. Heavy Losses.

SWP developed towards a decent success, more and more video content was demanded, the contributors list grew – we gave it our all in order to create unique content based on our different POVs.

SWP operation and productions were by then solely funded by the sales of the single digital products. It was not a bad decision and situation back then to operate SWP on a transactional business model, but the efforts to produce and promote single sales pieces appeared to be expanding into astronomical dimensions. If we would have sold tens of thousands of copies from each title at that time, there wouldn’t have been a problem. But as we were (and are) a small community and alliances have not been plotted, I had (and still have) to put a disproportionate amount of my unpaid time into SWP which led to declining offline gigs which finally resulted in a double loss.

But (!) I am not writing this to complain; I am actually here to explain the opportunities of such circumstances!

SWP In Spring 2018: Adding Subscription-Based Prime Content

Taking all challenges from the former paragraph into account and adding the legacy readers into the mix who never spent a dime over the last 5 years here, left us with only one option: starting to create additional prime content for an exclusive, paid membership level: the Academy members.

We don’t want to oust and scare away our loyal, long-term readers by any means, but we need to find a way to fund the basic SWP operations. To make a crystal clear statement: SWP has arrived in the realms of needing to make money in order to exist. For quite some time now, SWP has been pocketing immense time efforts (and cash-out). For a few of us, SWP even developed into a substantial part of our careers/workload. It is quite easy: Either we are able to absorb the cash drain with the help of the prime offer (Academy) or we will close down. Now let me just say: Don’t panic! Currently all looks very good, we are greatly positioned and we are working on plotting alliances (for reach) and for much more exclusive content for you.

Regarding content production this means that we have to split forces in the beginning and to balance production efforts between Academy members and non-paying legacy members. In the first few months, legacy members might feel a bit neglected, but please believe me when I say that you are important and the backbone of the current SWP. We do everything in our power in order to provide useful and unique content on all levels.

SWP Academy: Outlook

As mentioned, we are excitedly looking forward to add more exclusive content from exclusive creators.
This development (and unique value for you) is only possible because:

  • We established a “neutral” brand (not based on a particular person) with SWP
  • A subscription based model helps us with budgeting productions and operations
  • A subscription based model helps us to attract other creators and opinion leaders to contribute because it will be possible to create a palpable revenue share model once we break even
  • The small, yearly flat rate is a BIG PLUS FOR YOU! It will provide you with an above-average added value and access to various experts worth so much more than what you’re actually spending.

Overdose Of Insights? Well, Why Not.

Yep, all I have talked about is true, frank, unfiltered and offers a lot of business insights and “secrets”. I know that one should probably not show their hand like this. But honestly, there is not too much to hide at this point. Until now, operations and strategy were solely done by me (one-man band). No investors; just hard work.

This might change slightly in future and it might be that for some part of the business you will therefore get less insights. But for now: You got the complete disclosure of the business evolution from B+ to SWP Academy.

It would be marvelous, if you became an active participant in SWP’s future. Which means: Buy a subscription!

SWP Academy: What Do You Get?

In order to bring my personal notes and honest insights to a closure, let’s place the inevitable sales pitch here: What do you get? Hint: A LOT!

An (Ultra) Brief History Of Time: From B+ to SWP Academy

  • 2011: It has to be done! Deciding about What & How to go online.
  • 2012: BLOG+ is born. Personal blog by Dan Hostettler. Openly accessible.
  • 2013: BLOG+ > Digital Products. Releasing the first eBooks & subsequently other digital training.
  • 2015: Transition from B+ to SWP
    • Rebranding to SexyWomenPhotography.
    • Subscription based readership; free to sign up.
    • Migrating legacy readers from B+ to SWP.
    • Selling transaction-based products.
  • 2017: SWP Paid Subscriptions
    • New subscribers have to pay a low one-time, lifetime fee for access to the library.
    • Selling transaction-based products.
  • 2018: SWP Academy Platform
    • Re-modelling business case from transactions to subscriptions (hybrid at times).
    • Creating the Academy membership level for prime content including additional tools.
    • Starting yearly subscription-based access: “Smart, Unlimited Education” for a low flat rate is born.
    • Transition & Integration of Core Systems: Centralizing user accounts for access, user profiles; single-login for chats, forum posts, and administration = “one account, all benefits”.
    • Starting to build alliances with creators for unique, additional content and reach.
Content value?