Product Development June 18, 2020

COVID forced me to pivot, and then I made $1,200 in the first week.

Bart Boch @BartBoch

The COVID caught me in a bad moment of my life.
I was finishing a significant moment in my life, and I was really vulnerable.
I've had a bunch of unpaid invoices from companies that closed their accounts for the time, so I would not get paid for work already done.
I was caught off-guard - if this would happen a month later - I would not be affected.
But it happened when it happened.
I was finishing a major project that I was working on from January - just a few weeks left, and I could release it.
With massive investments in the project (both financial and in the form of my time) and more needed, I wasn't sure about its future.
I was looking for security after the years of following the ideology of "build to learn".
It's where you build and release projects to learn insider information on how everything works rapidly.
The ideology allows you (and encourages you) to taking a serious risk, taking on impossible projects. It's OK to fail, as long as you learn everything you can from it. After all, you learn the most from your failures!
This way of living takes a significant toll on your mind and health, but it allows you to rise faster.
And here was the issue with my large project - I was not sure if I can tell if I created it to settle down and start monetizing my skills, or if it was another impossible task.
I was forced to make a difficult decision - either continue working on the risky project or quickly pivot and create something else.
After much consideration, I chose the second option.
With the support of my partner, I tried to identify businesses I felt will be secure and will perform well post-lockdown, and could start within a week (as said, financially, I was caught off-guard, so I needed to act fast).
I decided to monetize my work experience directly.
To get the most of it, I have decided to go with a handmade Online Presence Audit business.
I have done those audits before, and I like to do it, so it was perfect.
The idea of it is to perform a full audit of a web presence for a website, including Brand, Audience, UX & Content, Competition, Marketing (social, SEO, etc.), Market Research, Risks & Opportunities, and a Future Strategy.
It's pretty much an audit reviewing everything that might be crucial for web businesses to grow.
There are very few companies and professionals offering manual audits on this scale, and there is a large market for it.
Usually, when an expert starts providing audits like this, they start increasing their prices rapidly (which suggests they are overbooked) from a few hundred to $1,5-5K on average within a few months.
So the niche is great, but...
...and there is always but...
...there is an enormous amount of work needed to complete one audit.
I expect to finish one within 3 days, which at my current rate, is heavy underselling.
But as Paul Graham once said, "do things that don't scale".
The plan is to build a strong brand on the back of long hours and work the way to optimize it until I get to 1 audit per 1/1,5 day.
I think many people should not feel wrong about underselling even if they have a rich background - as long as it is a part of a well-thought marketing strategy.

With landing page ready, first audit template, and one audit agreed with @csallen to be made for IndieHackers as a demo; it was the time to work on getting Almost Cake in front of my audience.

I started working on getting visitors to the landing page.

📈 Summary for first week:

943 users visited the site

1,765 pageviews

70 seconds average time spent on the website

3 sales made

$1,200 revenue generated

0.3% Conversion Rate

16 hours spent on marketing

40 hours spent on audit blueprint & first audit completed.

20 hours spent on website, content, learning, planning.

🔎 Traffic sources:

397 - forums ($400 revenue generated)

225 - email newsletter ($400 revenue generated)

212 - Quora

73 - unknown source ($400 revenue generated)

36 - Search Engines

💡 What I did to get those results:

The majority of my traffic came from forums.
I advertised on two business forums, and I've got excellent feedback regarding the landing page and a lot of interest.
I have spent ~8 hours promoting it there, and I've got 397 visitors and one sale from it.
I think that I'll get 1-2 more sales in the coming weeks, as there was some interest in PMs from potential buyers.
The way I promoted it was:
-Forum #1 - there was a section where I could post a site up for review. I asked to review the landing page and the offer page. This generated a lot of great feedback and some PMs.
-Forum #2 - in an "Online Business" section, I have posted a story about my business idea and my goals. The post got over 3 thousand views, over 70 replies, and got me, my first customer! I have got a bunch of PMs with potential future buyers. I loved the results! It will be hard to repeat that, though.

As of newsletter, I have members signed up to newsletters for my side projects. Around 1,600 people were emailed, from which 225 visited the site. Average results, I would say.
I've got a sale from it though, which was great.
This traffic source is not repeated, so from the next week it will not be used at all, I think. It took me 1 hour to get the email copy and to send it.

I have added 11 answers to Quora. Each of them is well thought informative answers.
I focused on new questions and ones that are not older than a week.
Each of my answers contained images and were trying to solve the issue rather than promote anything.
On some of them (when it was appropriate), I have added a link to Almost Cake at the bottom.
I have the link in my bio that is visible with every answer.
I am waiting now for Google to pick those pages and answers up, and I wonder how this will affect search engine visibility.
From 212 visitors, no one converted.
I'll keep working on answering questions and see how it goes.
I have spent 7 hours on this.

I have not managed to account for all the traffic I've got.
This can be from referrals and people blocking any tracking.
This traffic was most active, and resulted in one unknown sale!
I have asked the buyer where he came from, and he said that he found the link on Facebook.
No promotion was done on Facebook, so I assume a visitor shared the link.

I am getting a lot of search engine traffic already, even if the domain is just two months old, and there is not that much content.
The majority of searches are from "Almost Cake" where I usually rank in the top positions, and the rest is from unknown keywords.

📆 What's next?

Well, my pivot resulted in something great.
I will invest my heart and soul into it.
I will keep promoting it across the mediums, and I want to write 2 more articles within the next week to increase the value of the blog.
This way, I will be able to start getting more attention from Google.
Due to the COVID slowing down, I also have my own old invoices to pay, so this sudden turn in my business will help me get that solved.
Hopefully, by the end of the next week, it'll be all fixed.
I am happy that I have not stupidly followed the project, which had an excellent chance to fail, but I have followed what I like and feel.
Sure, I lost a huge chunk of money and around 200 hours of my time, but I am doing something that delivers instant results.
I fancy doing audits, so this worked out great for me.
It's incredible that within a week, I have managed to create a sustainable business.
And even better - I only can accept 3 more orders this month, and I will be sold out.
It's a fantastic feeling!
Next week will be busy - working on audits, promoting the site, writing the blog...
It sounds like a 60 hours work week, but I am cool with it!

Check it out at Almost Cake

  1. 1

    Love the name.

  2. 1

    Hey Bart, sounds like quite a few weeks for you. Big congrats.

    I can see you've put in a bunch of work and it seems to have paid off, I hope it continues for you. I also like that you've gotten value from doing your 'marketing' (or, as I like to call it, 'showing up') in forums and Quora; that's cool to see. I feel like meaningful, value-adding posts in places like that can be as powerful as guest posts on publications. Great to see this working out for you.

    Happy Fri and good luck from here onwards.