If you’ve been following my writing, more specifically Day 13 – Writing code is easy, launching the project is not you know that I decided to hire a developer to implement WordPress plugin idea I had in mind.
There were few reasons for that. First, I didn’t have very deep knowledge of WordPress at the moment and more importantly, I wanted to focus on the important parts – minimum viable functionality and marketing.
Once I got the basic idea in my head I contacted one very smart girl in Belarus and we came up with the timeline for the features I needed. The whole process was amazing, once I described what I wanted, I was free to focus on the promotion which I almost never did in my previous projects.
The first demo was ready in a week or so. This was possible only because we included only very limited set of features that would make the plugin appealing for the target audience as well as easy to use. Actually, here is the plugin link if you want to check it out, it’s called Smart Facebook Page Like Overlay.
How did I come up with this crazy idea? Well, some time ago I started following Glen Allsopp and his blog ViperChill. He basically writes really long and interesting articles related to marketing, business ideas and effective SEO techniques.
If you think my posts are too long, try reading some of his 🙂 Anyway, there was one post about Viral Sites, where people would get 100M visitor in 6 months by posting Viral / Clickbaity stuff on Facebook and then make money on the ads.
I was very intrigued by that actually (as you probably know I always like to try out new ideas), so I went ahead and built my own Viral Site! 🙂 You can see it here: AquaCrista (why that name? simple – I had the domain already as it’s also my small business name, plus it didn’t really matter).
As you can see my site was targeting Russian audience as the differentiation factor. Later on, I realized it was a very bad idea. Why?
- The AdSense and other ad networks rates in general are much lower in runet than in US
- The viral stuff I was sharing (funny videos and images) was actually attracting people, but almost no advertisers (at least in runet) wanted to pay good money for that untargeted traffic.
I actually made another mistake with this business (for the second time!). I hired a guy right away who would moderate and add new content every day, because I didn’t want to do it myself. The problem with that was that the idea and content direction were not completely defined but I already outsourced it, naively assuming that the guy would just “figure it out” for me.. Plus I didn’t pay the guy a lot of money, so he didn’t show much interest in the project and only followed a few brief instructions that I gave him.
As you can imagine the “business” didn’t last long, but there were few important things that I learned from it. For one I learned how to get very cheap traffic from my Facebook ads. I was able to achieve the infamous $0.001 per click!
I still remember the day when I brought in more than 200K people in one hour from Facebook and was suppose to make $500 or so from it! At the time I was very excited and thought that I finally broke through. I started multiplying $500 by different numbers and stuff, calculating my potential earnings 🙂 That was until Google counted most of my clicks as “accidental”, so my $500 profit became $100 and I actually lost the money after paying for the ad costs…
The other useful thing I learned was how to find viral stories and images from other sites and social networks (I’ve used services like BuzzSumo and some others to analyze Russian social networks).
Almost every image or video was a hit after I discovered that method, but it was still not enough. Let’s just say I was fortunate enough to kill this business idea on early stages, which was a progress compared to my previous projects.
There is one thing that I’d like to repeat – don’t hire too soon, you need to put some of your own time at the first stages, no matter which business you are starting. You need to emerge completely otherwise there will be no results. Trust me, I’ve done it multiple times in the past.
If you are not excited about the project and only focusing on money – don’t do it either. Been there done that.
Ok, where was I, why did I bring my Viral site? Oh yes, so site idea failed, but then I was hit by another one “What if I create a WordPress plugin that helps other ViralSites owners to collect Facebook likes?”.
You probably heard this saying – people who make most money during gold rush are the ones who sell shovels 🙂 That’s how the plugin was born.
While my idea was in development in Belarus, I came up with the list of sites that write about WordPress themes and plugins. A week later when the first version was ready I contacted those websites and lists owners, paid them some money (the cost depends on the site and the list size) and got my message out.
We also created the free version of the plugin for the WordPress.org, so people could try it before upgrading.
All in all the whole project was a success story. I didn’t make crazy money with it, maybe 5K total, but I’ve got very positive feedback from the users. Remember, customers always tell you what the want. Don’t get upset and angry (I was initially), just listen and improve your product.
That was a fun run for a while, but it wasn’t exactly the passive thing I was shooting for. We would have to release new features, fix bugs, answer support emails. Like I said before – if you start something, you need to deeply care about it.
One of my main goals was to learn the process of not creating the product by myself (like I did multiple times in the past) and I def achieved it. Overall Facebook likes collection business was not very interesting to me after a while, so the revenues slowly dropped and I put it into “passive” mode.
In the meanwhile, I was still on the path to find truly passive investment and got attracted to the real estate market. Got some useful knowledge about HELOC and mortgage acceleration. Then I went ahead and bought hosting reviews website instead of the rental property for 11K on the flippa auction…