Wouldn’t it be great to only have to work four hours every week to pay the bills? The rest of your time could then be devoted to the little things that make life rewarding: your family, your relationships, and your passions. Things that more and more people are noticing they simply don’t have time for in an office job.
If you’re like many aspiring entrepreneurs, you’re at least aware of, if not fully evangelized by, The 4-Hour Workweek. It’s the sensational book by Tim Ferriss that turned millions of founders on to creating automated sources of income by outsourcing minor tasks.
Bjorn Forsberg is one of the many founders influenced by Ferris. After traveling the world and then working as a business analyst for Saxo bank, he settled down in Denmark with the love of his life and realized he wanted to spend less time as a project manager and more with his family.
After some experimentation, Bjorn joined a wave of early Shopify app developers in the first half of the 2010s creating his own company called FORSBERG+two and won big on the rising ecommerce scene. Today, he makes over one million dollars in annual recurring revenue from a suite of apps he helped design, and some he even coded himself. Here’s how he did it.
Finding His Hustle
Bjorn is a family man. FORSBERG+two is named after Bjorn plus his wife and daughter. The name reminds him of his goal: to spend more time with them. Now, however, FORSBERG+three would be more fitting as Bjorn has two children, but he is reluctant to change his branding.
“I’ll just tell my son that it was named for him and his sister,” says Bjorn.
Bjorn’s platform started in 2011 as a side project while he was on paternity leave in Denmark, a period that ranges from two to over ten weeks at a time. As a native Australian, paternity leave (if not the primary caregiver) was a foreign concept to him and he loved it. He wanted to spend quality time like that with his family for the rest of his life.
Bjorn began searching for a steady way to make a side income. He first researched how to create a Shopify ecommerce store. However, he soon realized that running a shipping warehouse in his home wasn’t the way he wanted to spend his time. Searching for other options, he noticed the budding Shopify ecosystem had a program to help developers build apps for its platform.
Building apps wasn’t far outside of Bjorn’s expertise. Despite not being a coder, as a product manager at his day job, he frequently wrote product specs for development teams so he knew exactly how to get coders to build what he wanted.
“That seemed like a great place to start considering my background,” says Bjorn. “Back then they (Shopify) even had a request forum where customers would put in suggestions for software they would like people to design. It was nice because you basically knew that if you created these simple apps you would have a customer base.”
Bjorn invested $2,000 to hire a team of developers in India for his first successful Shopify app. He then launched a second app in 2014. In 2015, he quit his job at Saxo Bank to focus on FORSBERG+two full time. Then he launched two more apps and kept right on growing.
One million dollars in ARR took eight years of hard and steady work to achieve. During that time all revenue was reinvested into creating apps for FORSBERG+two and upskilling himself.
To start, Bjorn wanted to construct a basic app quickly and cheaply and wanted professionals to do it.
“Finding someone to build on a small budget was key,” he says. “I knew I wanted to use Ruby on Rails to build so I just googled Ruby on Rails in India and clicked on some of the first results.”
Bjorn created a simple vetting procedure to ensure developers he contacted were reasonably qualified.
“My first filter was to check if they had a proper site themselves. Then I’d ask if they were willing to build a minimum viable product. I would also make sure the price was low because generally, they get you in cheap, and then the hourly rate and the amount of time goes up the longer you work with them.”
Bjorn worked with his outsourced development team on his first app and was happy with the product. However, sure enough, the prices began to climb. Tired of sending money abroad, he started learning to code small features himself and eventually began coding his own apps.
“I worked on FORSBERG+two during the evenings for an hour every night for the first three years,” says Bjorn. “I quit in 2015 because I was earning an income equal to that at my day job.”
Eventually, Bjorn started expanding his team to share some of the coding and customer service workloads. He wishes he had done the latter sooner but was happy to have learned how customer service worked and how to do it well. However, he was quite far off from the four-hour workweek because of it.
“Doing your own CS is good for founders because you get feedback,” says Bjorn. “When I started it was easy, but now customers expect answers much faster. It got to a point where I couldn’t take a holiday without taking my laptop for emails in the morning,” he says.
Finally, he started outsourcing his customer service to South America.
“I’ve tried to hire freelance CS staff before but training them is kind of intense. Eventually, I found a team based out of Colombia called Support Heroes. They’re great because they’re on a 24/7 365-days-a-year support schedule and their pricing is about the same as hiring a local daily rep,” he says.
The products were growing well, bringing in about $50,000 per month by the end of 2019. Bjorn nearly sold his business but didn’t receive the offer he wanted. He’s happy he didn’t as his monthly revenue doubled after COVID. Today FORSBERG+two has four tools and a revenue metrics web app for Shopify developers. All of the tools are profitable.
Don’t Overthink It
FORSBERG+two’s products aren’t complicated. They were created to fulfill very specific customer needs few people were providing at the time.
The FORSBERG+two suite includes products like email-theme creators, document generators, and order processing aids. Things that are necessary for ecommerce businesses but annoying and time-consuming to make. Specifically, they target busy entrepreneurs like Bjorn who want to scale their businesses quickly without spending a lot of money.
“My customers are usually store-owners,” says Bjorn. “Newer merchants that want to scale fast like my template designs, also international merchants. My printer apps are used by larger merchants mostly in the West.”
For monetization, Bjorn uses a mixture of freemium plans for subscription services and one-time payments for custom templates. Doing his own customer service for years, he has figured out exactly what price points and models are just enough to give value without turning off his customers.
All of his products seem to have found their niche. Bjorn claims he split about 25 percent of revenue between each product before COVID. Today, however, his freemium app now makes up a dominant 43 percent.
It’s a Different Market Out There Today
Despite his great success, Bjorn acknowledges that his path may not be as easy to emulate a second time.
“It helped to be early into the Shopify system,” he says. “Shopify is a great platform to work with because once you’re established, it’s easy to cross-sell people your other products since they trust you.”
Unfortunately, Bjorn says it is much harder to create a Shopify app startup today than when he began. But he doesn’t think that should deter founders.
“Today you need a more polished product with great customer service from day one,” he says. “Making people wait is not going to cut it.”
He also has a range of tips for other founders starting on Shopify.
“In the app scene, reviews are everything, so creators need to make sure to build that up from the beginning as it controls your rankings. My other advice is to make sure people installing your app know what they are getting into and to be aggressive on marketing and app store ads. Also, be wary that people can take your app name pretty quickly and copy it.”
While Bjorn says he still hasn’t quite achieved the four-hour workweek he does say he’s whittled it close to six hours on some weeks.
“It’s been a great journey and it turned out pretty profitable even though money wasn’t the goal. I strongly feel you need your goal to be something other than money or your business probably won’t work,” he says.
The trend towards the four-hour workweek and early retirement plans like Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) have picked up steam as more people take their careers back into their own hands. People like Bjorn make prove we can provide meaningful value to the world without shelling out large percentages of our lives. Perhaps there’s a small corner of our infinitely scalable market for each of us to eke out our fortunes just like Bjorn did so we can spend time focusing on what is most important to us too.
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