Google Sheets and its competitor-predecessor, Microsoft Excel, are integral to almost every business in the developed world today. According to the VP of Google Workspace, Javier Soltero, Google Suite, and by extension, Google Sheets, crossed two billion monthly users¹ and five million businesses in 2020.
Yet most companies use spreadsheets for simple tables and basic equations. Few ever scratch the surface of its 494 different functions.
This week I met with spreadsheet wunderkind, Andrew Kamphey, founder of Google Sheets tutorial-and-template service, Better Sheets. He credits his success to smarter pricing after a failed startup nearly bankrupted him.
Using his background in content creation (he’d previously sold a newsletter for five figures), Andrew built a website hosting a handful of Sheets tutorials behind a paywall. He published new spreadsheet content sparingly over the following two years while he focused on another startup, became a father, and took on another job.
After earning $100,000 in revenue from Better Sheets in just two years and with one contracted employee, Andrew turned to Better Sheets full-time in 2022. Here’s how he grew a small tutorial business into a 4,000-member Google Sheets subscription service by using deals on AppSumo and expanding into peripheral industries.
The Company Sheets Guy
Andrew learned Google Sheets while working for a startup TV network called QYOU in 2015. After watching tutorials, he fixed a hopelessly messy internal licensing form with one line of Sheets script. From then on, he was “the Sheets Guy ” around the studio and he spent his remaining three years honing his skills.
After he left QYOU in 2018, Andrew began a new project over a weekend with a cofounder. It was a domain ranker with dropdown menus that showed how valuable each domain was – built entirely on Google Sheets.
After looking at the forms Andrew had created, his cofounder stared at him dumbfounded. “He said my sheets looked different from any he’d ever seen before,” says Andrew. “It was cool because I didn’t have this external view that what I was doing was so impressive.”
Andrew sat on his uncommon knowledge of Google Sheets while working on a newsletter called Influence Weekly (weekly insights about influencer marketing). He sold the business in a five-figure exit in 2020. That same year, he decided to educate the masses after reading an article on Google Sheets that made his blood boil.
“I read a Next Web article somebody wrote called The Most Useless Google Sheets Formula Ever,” relates Andrew. “I got so angry about it because the formula in question was extremely useful. I couldn’t believe there were no courses teaching people why these formulas were so important.”
Andrew recorded eight videos of himself making useful and unconventional spreadsheets on Google Sheets. He put four behind a paywall (a $30 lifetime subscription), gave four away for free, and launched the website on a Saturday. By Monday, Andrew’s first customer, a man named Carlos, bought the subscription, watched all four videos, and then sent an email with pictures of his sheets before and after. “That kind of energy from customers is why I kept going for two years,” Andrew laughs.
But despite a great first customer like Carlos, Andrew didn’t get another sale for two more weeks. He almost gave up hope of more signups, but then he got five more in one day. He says it’s been a roller coaster since. Even with traction, Andrew still viewed his service as a side project and would work on other projects full-time until 2022.
In 2021, Andrew bought a SaaS from a friend, and two days later, discovered his wife was pregnant. He quickly sold the startup on MicroAcquire for $30,000. Then, in January 2022, took a full-time job as a Publisher Community Manager at a newsletter business called Paved. That lasted about five months before he quit, moved to Bali, and focused full-time on Better Sheets – the business had quietly made him six figures in two years.
“I noticed every other project I’d done had never gone past three years. I wondered what year three would be like at Better Sheets, so I stuck it out,” he says.
Freebies For AppSumo
Andrew initially created Better Sheets with the intent to land corporate clients looking to upskill. However, his first 4,000 customers were all business and startup owners. He believes this is partly because most of his marketing is through a fruitful collaboration with AppSumo, the software deals site and entrepreneurship community with over two million active users.
Andrew’s relationship with AppSumo was always collaborative. He created a special deal for its customers with 19 free Google Sheet templates. The AppSumo platform helped Andrew make 100 sales in a week after his deal launched and 1,000 after three months. AppSumo has since created a highly-ranked blog post about BetterSheets, and its founder, Noah Kagan, placed BetterSheets on one of his famous lists of online tools.
Despite being a great source of traffic, Andrew acknowledges that running marketing through a third-party deals site cuts into BetterSheet’s revenue. Appsumo takes 30 percent of all referred subscribers. Today Andrew has started using other social channels including Twitter and YouTube to attract less costly leads.
Make Your Customers Pay, and Soon
Andrew’s payment model for Better Sheets came from years of research and failed attempts at profitability.
He believes his biggest failure for monetization was a SaaS product called CreatorGrowthLab. He spent $5,000 developing the site and brought in 200 customers through a freemium model, but try as he might, couldn’t get them to pay a cent for it.
“Nobody paid because I didn’t charge. It was so stupid,” he says. “People were abusing the hell out of it too. It took so many resources as a solo founder just to operate the free version. It needed a team and I didn’t have one.”
The experience with CreatorGrowthLab inspired Andrew to write a short, 2,000-word ebook on monetization called Charge. “The only validation is cold hard cash in the bank,” he says. “Ironically, I almost released that book for free but then changed it to one and then two dollars on Gumroad.”
With Better Sheets, Andrew monetized from the start. He stuck with a set, one-time fee as he’d heard it would be more attractive during unstable times like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I read an article about recession pricing,” he says. “One takeaway I like is that if the world is crazy, your pricing needs to be concrete. Instead of doing what people normally do and charging for monthly access, I thought I’d charge once and you never need to pay me again. I also didn’t think I wanted to be on the hook to push out content.”
Andrew’s pricing model is perfect for a side project building a customer base. He’s also increased the subscription price as his tutorial library expands. Today’s lifetime subscription is $109, and he now offers a $19 per month access pass. He tells me July and August 2022 were both $10,000 revenue months.
Onlyfans For Spreadsheets
Over two years, Better Sheets evolved from a video tutorial product to a host of related tools. Today Andrew offers pay-to-download templates such as a tweet idea creator and a spreadsheet to track your bad habits called Dark Habits.
Besides templates, he’s recently created another parallel business called Onlysheets.xyz (Onlyfans for spreadsheets, as he calls it). Onlysheets let customers sell their own templates on Gumroad to customers that pay for access – almost mini-SaaS tools. “A large group of Better Sheet members want side revenue or lead magnets that are bigger and better than just info products,” says Andrew.
Andrew also has a growing backlog of one-off videos he’s made for clients that he may publish in the future. “I have an ask me anything policy, so when customers ask for more specific instructions, I’ll privately send them demos of me walking through stuff,” he says. “I think I’ve made a thousand videos, but members get access to 220.”
Free Users Aren’t Validation
As Andrew continues growing Better Sheets, he’s become more aware that he can’t remain a solo operation forever.
“I’m reading this book called The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It,” he says. “It’s about creating franchises and turnkey businesses. It’s very old school but very true. If I continue to build Better Sheets around my personality, it will end. I want to build a machine that can go without me.”
For other founders, Andrew suggests they follow the Better Sheets business model if they like specificity and niche research. “Find a specific topic that you can become the expert on and zero in on it.”
Finally, he tells everyone to avoid creating a free product in the validation stage at all costs. “That’s not validation,” he says. “I do give some things away for free but it’s always so I can get their emails. I have a landing page and consistent ways to upsell leads.”
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