How I Failed 2 Side Projects In Under a Year And Lessons Learned
I feel like I should start off this blog post by mentioning that I am a Product Designer with little to no development skills, so I heavily rely on no-code tools to get my side projects up and running.
The idea of creating something that thousands of users could potentially use was just so exciting to me. Over the course of just shy of a year, I worked on 2 projects that made me less than $20, combined, so I feel like it's safe to say I can share my experience with you guys and hopefully you'll learn from my mistakes.
Oof, designtarget was a wild ride. On 18-8-2019, god knows what happened but I just hopped on Namecheap and purchased the domain designtarget.org with no prior experience in web development. I was just so into the idea of creating the 'ultimate design directory' that I really didn't think anything through. How would I monetize the platform? Do I even have a list of resources that I can work with? Where will I market the website? So many questions, and little to no answers.
I remembered seeing an ad for a visual editor plugin on Wordpress called Elementor, it seemed intuitive so I go to Namecheap's cPanel and install Wordpress, purchase a year's subscription to Elementor and I get building. Literally next day I was done, I didn't think the design through, I just wanted to get an MVP out right away, and this atrociousness was born, but I was proud of it. I had no web development knowledge and I made a website, and it felt great.
Naturally, I wanted people to see what I had built, so I go on Reddit and post the website on /r/webdev - no it wasn't a Saturday(you can only post your work on Feedback Saturday on /r/webdev), yes the post was locked. But that doesn't matter, why you ask?
8.5k visitors in less than 2 hours of being on reddit when I wasn't supposed to. I knew I was onto something, but a little after the hype died down, it dawned on me, I just missed a huge chance to build an audience. I rushed creating the website that I missed some essentials such as creating a newsletter sign up or even just a blog.
Fast-forward a few months, I eventually create a newsletter, Instagram page, and even a blog.
📧 ~300 newsletter subscribers.
📸 ~400 Instagram followers.
and most importantly, my blogs were ranking on Google. I don't have Search Console screenshots but I had ranked around ~11th or so for a few articles.
I had solved the traffic problem of any side project, but monetization was where this project went downhill. I simply had no monetization plan whatsoever. And this is where the story of designtarget, ends, well, I sold off the project for a measly amount but that was it.
👉 No matter how excited you are, keep cool and think things through.
👉 Traffic is easy, business is hard.
👉 Think things through, but also do not spend much time working on an MVP.
👉 It is fine to not know what you're doing.
This one is close to my heart, it really is. You can read my post on IndieHackers to know why I stopped working on Good Code.
This time, I was ready, monetization plan was straight-forward, content was ready, community building was in place, newsletter was in place. I cook up a static version of the website using HTML and CSS and release it on Github Pages, you can view Good Code here and straight to reddit I go (and IndieHackers this time as well).
September 3rd, to September 15th. I was onto something, again. Shortly after launching, I view my Gumroad page only to find 2 customers have purchased templates for a total of $10. My first internet money!
I also had people posting their solutions on the subreddit I created just for this website, it felt great.
I really wanted to continue working on Good Code, as it stands, it's only hosted on GH Pages, so there's a good chance there could have been more sales had it been on an actual domain. I might resume working on Good Code in a future date, but for now, I'm pausing for reasons listed in the IndieHackers post.
👉 Spin ideas. I could have just released this as just another website selling Adobe XD templates, but I feel like the 'improve your HTML and CSS skills' twist was what brought this to life.
👉 Create a community for your side-project.
👉 Don't be afraid to shut down.
To wrap things up, had I not started designtarget, I wouldn't have learned how to code (albeit being bad at it), had I not learned how to code, I wouldn't have started Good Code and made my first $ from a side-project, who knows what my next had I not started is going to be, but I feel like it might be success.