I work full-time as a Product Manager, but I also love side-projects. Like many of you, I’ve been working on little products and ideas in my spare time since I was in high school. People who know me say:
“Oh, Justin’s always working on something.”
2013 felt pivotal for me: it was the year I met many of you (the folks who read this blog, and interact with me on email). It was the year I wrote some of my favourite pieces: This is a Web Page, J.F.D.I., $20 in an Envelope, and Why You’re Not Making Sales. I was also able to produce about 50 episodes of Product People, my podcast.
But more than anything, 2013 was the year I really launched my own products. I quit thinking, dreaming and talking about it – I started doing it.
There’s no substitute for doing. Great product people are great because they consistently build, launch, and sell. I’ve learned more from doing a single product launch than I did in 4 years of university. It’s not enough to plan something out, or build it and never launch it: it’s the act of putting your product up for sale that will teach you the most. That’s where the rubber hits the road:
“If you can get anyone to show up and pay you $1, you’ve made it on the internet. People don’t [charge money for their products], because they’re scared that their product sucks.” – Dan Martell, from our interview here
Why I’m sharing my revenue numbers
I wasn’t originally planning on sharing my revenue publicly. One danger with sharing numbers like these is that they can invite comparisons. Personally, when I compare myself to others (with higher revenue) it can be demotivating. The same could be true for many of you that will look at my stats: for some of you, my numbers will be higher than yours. I don’t want that to detract you from the act of creating.
While the transparency in the bootstrapping community is awesome (and can be really helpful) it needs to be tempered with a disclaimer: everyone’s situation is unique. We’ve all had a different combination of good + bad choices, opportunities, luck, timing, and life’s circumstance. That’s OK. We’re not in a race with other people: we’re merely trying to improve ourselves. If you made $50 from your own product in 2013, that’s great! This year see if you can double it to $100.
Here’s how I’m hoping my stats will be helpful:
- They’ll inspire you to get started: things really clicked for me once I released Amplification, my eBook. You don’t earn revenue until you put a product up for sale.
- They’ll show you what’s possible: yes, your situation is different than mine. But I believe that most of the folks reading this have the potential to build something of value, and earn their own income from it. Having someone buy my eBook was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life.
- They’ll give you a picture of what “one guy” accomplished on the side: unlike a lot of my product compatriots, I don’t do this full-time. I have a full-time job and 4 kids at home. I build and sell products in my spare moments: early mornings, evenings, weekends. Like Chris Bowler said, you need to adjust your expectations to match your current stage of life. If you have 20 kids, you’re most certainly busier than I am with 4. If you have a newborn who sleeps all day, you’ll probably accomplish more than a parent whose baby has colic.
My 2013 side-project revenue numbers
|Month||Web hosting (recurring)||Podcast (recurring)||eBook (one-time)||JFDI.BZ (recurring)||Monthly total|
Web hosting revenue: this is ongoing recurring revenue I’ve had for years from websites I’ve built on the side. Basically, I charge a flat $50/month fee for hosting, automatic security updates + maintenance, and up to 30 minutes of customer support. I’ve been doing this for years, but didn’t put much work into increasing revenue here in 2013 (I don’t built many websites these days).
Podcast revenue: you’ll notice that in the first half of the year, I focused a lot of my time trying to earn revenue with my podcast, Product People. I knew podcast advertising was a tough business, but I wanted to give it a try. Even though I had great monthly advertisers (Sprintly being one), I realized that there wasn’t going to be a lot of growth here. A funny lesson: serving 2-3 advertisers is actually more stressful, than serving 100 customers who are paying you for a product. Building an advertising business is a lot of work + a lot of risk for a potentially small reward.
eBook revenue: everything changed when I sat down and released Amplification. I was originally going to write a much longer book, but instead, I decided to write a short guide that I could get to market sooner. The original version was a 45 page PDF, videos of me showing my stats, and Excel worksheets. The initial price was $19. I’ve slowly improved the product (and increased the price) since launch: it’s now a 55 page book + the Hacker News Handbook, and includes a video case study. It now retails for $39. I can’t stress this enough: start with a tiny product. That’s something I learned from Amy Hoy, and it really helped me get my “first thing” out the door.
JFDI.BZ revenue: the idea behind JFDI was to quickly validate a pain pattern I kept seeing in the conversations I had with people on my email list, on forums, and on Twitter: building a product on your own can be pretty lonely. It’s hard to find people that you can immediately bounce ideas off of, or who can give you good feedback and advice. The initial “product” was a $10/month Campfire room. Since then, we’ve raised the price to $20/month, and expanded JFDI to a full membership site, with forums, a searchable membership directory, and regular campaigns (like Week of Hustle).
First: keep in mind that these are revenue numbers, not profit. I’m going to need to subtract taxes, payment processing charges, and hosting fees off these numbers.
Last year, it looks like I made roughly $10,000 in income on my side-projects. This year, I was able to double that. In 2014, I’d like to quadruple this year’s numbers.
What will you accomplish in 2014?
I’d like to help you achieve your goals this year. If you’re just getting started with building and launching your own products, now’s a great time to join my mailing list. Why? I know how it feels to be where you’re at right now. I’ll be showing you the techniques I used to get my first products off the ground, and what I plan to do this year to grow my revenue by 4x.