Better Sheets · Andrew Kamphey

Andrew's journey from theatre to creating a SaaS powerhouse, with a $60K ARR revealing the lucrative pivot behind BetterSheets

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  • Andrew Kamphey
  • Tampa, Florida, United States
  • Started in 2020
  • $60K ARR
  • 6K Members
  • 10K Monthly visitors
  • Bootstrapped

What's your backstory?

Hi, I'm Andrew Kamphey, and I run BetterSheets. Before this, I was on a path to becoming a SaaS founder and was learning to code. My journey into spreadsheets began unexpectedly while working in film and TV. I spent five years on cruise ships before moving to Los Angeles to continue in the industry for a couple more years. While working as a Production Assistant at a company, I somehow became the "Google Sheets guy." It wasn't a deliberate choice; Google Sheets just kind of chose me. I had previously learned Excel VBA on cruise ships to automate some work processes, which led me to learn Google Script at this new company about 10 years ago. Before all that, I was deeply involved in theater on cruise ships, and even before that, I was studying for my theater degree in college. So, yes, my background is in theater.

What does your company do and how did you come up with the idea?

So, the way that I came up with Better Sheets was not actually my own idea. I had been working for five years at a startup, doing everything in Google Sheets. We created custom programs to manage every facet of the organization, and I was involved in this for five years. I literally Googled for Google Sheets solutions every single day, working seven days a week—not five—because problems that came up over the weekend just couldn't escape my mind. I loved solving these little issues.

Eventually, I left that job, wrote a newsletter about influencer marketing, sold it, and was working on a SaaS product for newsletter creators since I was one myself. Over one weekend, I just decided, 'I need to launch something because this SaaS product is taking too long,' and that’s how I launched Better Sheets. It started with four videos for free and four behind a paywall.

My initial idea was something like a Dribbble for spreadsheets. I wanted to see beautifully designed spreadsheets, but when I couldn't find any, I thought, ‘Let me make some tutorials on how to design them well.’ Within 24 hours, I launched Better Sheets, offering a lifetime deal, inspired by what MakerPad was doing at the time—a one-time purchase without the need for continuous updates.

I thought it would just be a side project where I'd add content as I could. I said, ‘Buy it once, and you won't have to pay again. What you see now is what you get, and if I don't update it, there’s no need to cancel.’ Four years later, I’m still adding tutorials, learning more, creating more tools and templates than ever before. I keep discovering new needs our customers have, developing new courses based on interactions with members. I’ve turned workshops into courses, and sometimes just an email about a single question can evolve into a full course. I also email members to gauge interest in potential problems—if they don't respond, it’s not an issue, but if they do, that feedback can turn into a new course. It’s been incredibly fulfilling to be able to launch new products and courses so responsively.

How did you get your first 10 customers/subscribers?

So, the story of getting the first 10 customers for Better Sheets is actually pretty boring. I was running a newsletter about the influencer marketing industry, completely unrelated to spreadsheets. I placed an ad for Better Sheets in the footer of the newsletter one month when an ad spot didn't sell. I'm not exactly sure how it went, but I think that’s how I got my first few customers. Additionally, I posted about it on IndieHackers where I secured my first customer.

Actually, the first 10 customers weren't very interesting because it took about a month to get them. However, the first customer, Carlos, was memorable. Knowing him made me 100% certain that Better Sheets would be successful. At that time, I had only created eight videos, four of which were free and the other four behind a paywall. Carlos was the very first to make a purchase; I launched on a Saturday and his purchase came through on Monday. Shortly after buying, he sent me a before and after screenshot of his spreadsheet and dashboard. He said, "I watched these videos, figured out what you suggested, and then I updated my spreadsheet. Here it is." That moment solidified my belief in Better Sheets.

Initially, I thought it would just be a side project. In the first month, I made around $330 from selling 11 lifetime deals at $30 each. But the second month changed everything. I submitted Better Sheets to the AppSumo Marketplace, back then known as Sumo-Ling Spotlight. It was the first product featured there, which now hosts about 13,000 products. Getting featured on AppSumo brought in thousands of new customers, and to this day, four years later, I'm still on AppSumo and sales are going strong. I absolutely love it.

How did you align your product or service with your target customers' needs?

So, four years into running Better Seats, my approach is pretty straightforward: I ask our members via email what they want to learn about. Sometimes, I propose an idea for a new course. I’ll outline it briefly and then ask, "What questions do you have? What haven’t I covered in this outline?" Based on their responses, I decide whether to proceed with that course topic or think about another one.

For instance, I had this idea for a course called MVP Magic, where I planned to show how to create a SaaS product MVP using Google Sheets and walk through the process of validating the business idea as an MVP. I outlined it a bit and asked, "What questions do you have?" And literally, every single question— I kid you not—was about how to integrate Google Sheets with an API of some external data. That’s when I realized the actual need was to learn how to access APIs with Google Sheets and Apps Script.

I then gathered all the projects I had already created, each covering how to access an API and how to do it in Google Sheets. I put them all together into a new course on BetterSheets using these existing tutorials.

That interaction with members, asking them about their needs and using their language to shape the course, has been crucial. I also ran several workshops, not one-on-one but in a group setting, where we’d all join live calls. Everyone could see how others were managing their spreadsheets. Each time, I ended up coding some Apps Script right in front of them, answering their questions, showing them how simple certain tasks could be.

From this experience, I got the idea to create an Apps Script course that was more accessible to everyone—those who couldn’t attend the workshops or afford the fee, which was around $100 to $200. I decided to offer a one-time payment for access to all these videos and answers about Apps Script. This eventually evolved into Spreadsheet Automation 101 on BetterSheets, and on Udemy, it grew into a comprehensive 20-hour course called Master Spreadsheet Automation. I realized that what started as basic automation needed to include more advanced topics like deeper API integration, even AI integration, and creating your own APIs within a Google Sheet.

On BetterSheets, it's called Spreadsheet Automation 101, but on Udemy, it's Master Spreadsheet Automation. This course emerged from that iterative process of doing workshops, talking to users, responding to their needs, making videos, and then compiling those videos into a package that made sense, continually expanding and deepening the content. That's how I did it.

How did you gain your first 100 customers and what platforms or methods did you use?

I mentioned earlier that I got featured on AppSumo Marketplace, which was at the time called Sumo-ling spotlight. That got me my first like 1,000 or 2,000 customers. And I wanted to speak more about that. It's really cool having my own distribution methods. I have what everyone else has—Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, an email list, YouTube, TikTok, all of those things. Plus, Hacker News and Product Hunt are platforms where I continue to launch. I keep making products that are inside of a Google Sheet and then sell them, like Only Sheets, which is a paywall for Google Sheets.

For Better Sheets as a whole, the ideal place has been as a lifetime deal on a marketplace where people are specifically searching for Google Sheets solutions. This way, I continue to make sales without needing to constantly push promotions. But I can still do the promotions; I still promote my stuff on AppSumo, Gumroad, and Udemy. However, I don't have to do it day in and day out, and I don't need to go viral. I don’t need to make sure I have perfect SEO across my site, which I do work on. I get a few thousand clicks a month now from just writing blogs from my content, offering helpful things. But it's not necessarily converting very well.

I think customers really come when they have purchase intent, and a lot of what I do does not necessarily involve purchase intent. Like the content I put out on YouTube, TikTok, and in my blog writing—it's really just solving a problem right then and there. Once that problem is solved, they go away. So having that first batch of customers really helped by being on a marketplace, in a place where people are searching for what I offer and have problems that match what I'm doing.

With purchase intent, it doesn't necessarily matter that people are not willing to pay a lot. That's okay because what you lose in price, you make up in volume. AppSumo gets so many people with purchase intent each and every day.

What distribution channels did you try that didn’t work?

So, absolutely, this is going to surprise a lot of people and probably make them think that I haven't tried enough, but SEO has been absolutely the worst thing in the world for me. It has been the number one most horrible distribution channel, and here's why I think that is. Better Sheets as a whole now includes tools, templates, and tutorials. Two or three years ago, it was just tutorials. Since then, I've added some templates and, in the last year, tools as well. Throughout these last two to three years, I've been doing a lot of SEO—trying to make my site visible and searchable on Google for the right people, and I've been pushing hard for backlinks and content. I have a directory of formulas that was supposed to be very interconnected and helpful for people searching for individual formulas to see videos based on those formulas. And I also wrote a lot of blogs. But these efforts never consistently converted to customers, and I think I've figured out why. This might not be the correct answer, but in the educational world, if someone comes to your site through a search and you solve their problem, they leave. Done and done. They’re squared away, they won't thank you, tip you, or buy from you. There's no purchase intent in educational-only content.

That’s why I started building a bunch of tools last year because the SEO approach wasn’t really working. I thought I’d try what you might call engineering as marketing. I hoped I could build a tool and then drive traffic to that tool, and then people would buy access to the library of tutorials. That didn’t work either. I've also tried targeting purchase intent SEO, which is sort of the ideal, looking for keywords and queries that come with purchase intent. But in the world of Google Sheets—my world, not Excel—it's rare. The few purchase intent keywords there are usually revolve around templates. When I started Better Sheets, my marketing strategy was, 'I’ll give away the template and sell the tutorials,' which has probably been the worst decision I've ever made. But I continue to see SEO as a potential avenue for reaching out to broader and larger niches, not so niche down in the massive world of Google Sheets, even though there are thousands of keywords out there. I constantly get advice like, 'Look for how-tos, make a page, rank for it,' but there's zero purchase intent. You’d think it would be a volume game, and some competitors do monetize page views, but I’m not getting enough page views to monetize just that. If you have the time to write 2,000 to 5,000 articles about how to do simple things in Google Sheets, you can rank and get the page views. But that's not my game. I’m in the game of solving very uncommon problems and going deep on them, making life in spreadsheets easier continuously instead of just solving that one problem. Reflecting on my own experience five to ten years ago, when I was learning Google Sheets and never paid a dollar to anyone who taught me via a blog—like Labnol from Digital Inspiration, who taught me almost everything I know about Apps Script—I realize I need to align purchase intent with the traffic and show the value more clearly. That's been very challenging.

What tools, software, or resources have been crucial in scaling your business?

So, the number one tool that has been absolutely core to my business—and frankly, without it, my business wouldn’t exist—is Loom. Loom’s screen recording, with my face in the corner and cloud-based video, has been indispensable. Sure, there have always been substantial video-related software options out there, like QuickTime in the past, but Loom offers a pretty cheap annual deal and a very, very simple user flow for recording a video and making it available. In the last five years, I’ve actually made thousands of videos. Even though there are only about 470 videos on BetterSheets, I've answered tons of emails by just clicking on Loom and recording a quick response like, "Hey, here’s the answer to your question." It has really transformed my business and made me more accessible, not just through the videos I publish on BetterSheets or on YouTube and TikTok, but also through one-on-one help that I can provide by quickly answering an email without much setup. Loom has been absolutely pivotal.

Additionally, for those who might not have enough money to pay for video software, I would recommend OBS Studio. It’s something new I’ve picked up, which allows for high-resolution screen recordings. It's not cloud-based, but it’s great for YouTube or TikTok, especially if you're creating educational content involving software demonstrations. I think it's the perfect software to get started with, and nowadays, you have editors everywhere—TikTok has its editor, and I think YouTube still has one, but don't quote me on that. Editors are pretty cheap and good to have.

Descript has also been a great editor for me. Even though I come from a video production editing background, the number one thing I decided when I started Better Sheets was that I didn’t want to spend time editing videos. I needed to make the video creation process unbelievably easy, or it would be a slog every day. Initially, I achieved what I set out to do, which was zero editing. Now, I'm doing more editing, a bit more cleanup and trimming to make things easier to watch on YouTube and TikTok, but at the beginning, and even now, I’d suggest to others not to worry about video production. Just start with Loom,  QuickTime or OBS.

How did you shift from a side hustle to full-time entrepreneurship?

You know, this is such a personal question because everyone's situation is different. My advice might sound crazy, but I would recommend not making the decision to shift from a full-time job to a side hustle until it becomes absolutely necessary—until the side hustle demands more time than you can give while working full-time. I was in a full-time job and juggling a side hustle for about two years. I managed to fit in about an hour in the morning, half an hour at lunch, and another hour in the evening for the side hustle without it ever impeding my day job. During this time, I was making an extra $1,000 to $2,000 a month.

I kept thinking, "If I quit my job and did this full-time, I could make three to four times as much." But honestly, every time I tried to expand beyond that $1,000 to $2,000, something would go wrong—a client would leave, or I wouldn’t scale properly. It’s a common misconception with side hustles that if you just put in three or four times the effort, you'll make three or four times the money. That's not always the reality. You might already be at the maximum potential of that side hustle, but you wouldn’t know unless you quit your job. However, you don’t necessarily need to quit. Just keep running your side hustle as much as you can until you physically can’t find the time, or you need to be in two places at once.

I was fortunate to have a very understanding boss. After two years, I took a five-day leave to focus on my side hustle for something urgent. I also maximized long weekends—any holiday was a chance to dive into a new project or learn something new, like coding. These days, with everything being so online, you can set aside a three-day weekend to learn to code from YouTube videos or complete a course for under $100. If it takes longer than three days, maybe it’s not for you.

This approach allowed me to gauge if I could actually make more money with the side hustle without sacrificing the security of my full-time job. Sometimes, you find you can't because you still value the full-time job. It's crucial not to push yourself to the point of breaking. Don’t run yourself ragged just to see if you can handle both. It’s about finding that moment when you physically can’t juggle both, not about burning yourself out.

What drives you to do what you do?

I’m driven by a love for puzzles—not just any puzzles, but specifically things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, word searches, and math problems. I was literally a mathlete in high school and middle school. The thrill for me is in the challenge that comes from users sending me their problems, which often have many constraints.

People might think I'm all about thinking outside the box. However, I actually thrive inside the box—or should I say, inside the spreadsheet. I understand the limitations of spreadsheets very well and find freedom within those constraints. It's all about solving these puzzles within the boundaries provided, helping users achieve what they need to do, or explaining why something they want isn't feasible.

For example, people often want to automate things without a clear understanding of the necessary structured data, processes, and expected results. They might say they want automated reports, and I’d ask what exactly they want in those reports and how we can achieve that using Google Sheets. This is the kind of problem-solving that excites me.

I got into coding because of a practical need at a startup I worked at. A coworker was frustrated with errors others made in a spreadsheet. I figured an Apps Script could automate the corrections, preventing these mistakes and sparing her the constant annoyance. That solution was my first script, born from the need to simplify and solve a recurring issue.

This passion extends to my learning journey as well. Before fully diving into Apps Script, I automated my daily tasks using Excel VBA, which saved me from mundane, repetitive input tasks and eliminated countless meetings. This practical approach to solving problems—making life easier for others and myself—is what truly motivates me.

Who do you recommend to follow for business growth insights?

2 books from experts that helped me greatly:

Launch! by Jeff Walker

$100M Offers by Alex Hormozi.

I think these two books can help anyone launch a new business within a weekend.

Any quotes you live by?

Memento Mori

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