March 21, 2019

My Wife’s Ultimatum

Chad Thiele @Chaddeus

Well.. I suppose it was inevitable. My wife has given me an ultimatum. 6 months to take this business to $500 MRR, or quit.

Can’t say I didn’t see it coming. I mean for the last ten years she’s been very patient while I try new things, grow, learn, fail, learn more, and try something else.

I think a major part of my failures are I quit too soon; chase the next cool think. Never letting an idea mature and grow.

I honestly believe I’m on the right track now with TokyoSpark ( But I have 6 months to get to $500 MRR.

TokyoSpark is $7/mo... the membership I just launched a couple weeks ago. Right now it’s curated research to hand-pick eats and sights for members to discover in Tokyo.

There are exclusive, members-only, Japanese language courses in the works. And members will get discounts on artwork of Japan.

Currently one active subscriber, 45 in various stages of an email funnel.

What would you do? What’s the 20% to get 80% there?

Ugh, I’m nervous. I reeaallly don’t want to fail again.

Thank you!

  1. 4

    I think I echo the sentiments of many here that it will be difficult to reach decent profitability on what is essentially a lifestyle newsletter. I'm not sure that you can compete with professional Japanese language learning services, either. If you want to hit $500 MRR in 6 months, I would look at trying to fill some business need instead of going after consumers.

    1. 1

      Turns out the Japanese courses are a hit. Going to spend some time working toward that being a bigger part of the membership.

      Thinking about making the curated research “newsletter” part free to funnel audience toward the site and into learning — and other member benefits.

      Time is short though. Time to work my ass off.

  2. 4

    My wife has given me an ultimatum. 6 months to take this business to $500 MRR, or quit.

    Quit this project or all business efforts?

    1. 2

      All. It’s time to throw in the towel she says. :)

  3. 2

    @Chaddeus, after seeing your WP🐹 post, I stumbled upon this thread. I am wondering how it turned out? Tokyo Spark is still up and running and I've seen your recent pivot, so are you making the $500 now or did you file for divorce? 😂

    1. 1

      😂 it turns out she has more patience than she thought... that, and I’m practicing better work-life balance.

      And COVID killed TokyoSpark traffic. ;/

  4. 2

    I was in a similar position to you several years ago, minus the ultimatum - I'd made lots of different stuff but couldn't get any of it to make money. I was missing some skill, or some ability, or some mode of thinking that kept my side projects from being successful.

    So I stopped working on ALL of my side projects and changed jobs. I joined a small startup where I was exposed to every aspect of the business. Everyone pitched in on everything, and I learned a ton about the different things that help businesses succeed.

    I thought of it as an "Applied MBA." A way to get an education about how modern technology businesses operate. I stayed three years, then - with renewed confidence and a dramatically better understanding of marketing and product/market fit - quit to pursue a side project.

    I don't know if this approach is a good fit for you, but if you've been struggling as long as you have, it's possible that success ISN'T "just around the corner." It may be that you need a more complete understanding of how to build a business.

    Most importantly, whatever you choose, good luck!

    1. 1

      Thank you. That was super brave of you to do.

      Monetarily, I'm fine. My day job pays quite well. For her it's not the money, it's the time. I spend a lot of time on these side projects.

      But you're right too. It has been a lot of mindset problems. I'm 90% certain that I had all the right pieces in place with this project in 2014... but pivoted and pivoted and pivoted -- so often that I wasn't giving anything enough chance.

      I think this ultimatum may have been what I needed. I don't have time to pivot and change things (unless absolutely needed). And so at the very least the project will at least have time to "bake" for a bit. :)

  5. 2

    Would you recommend holding off on getting married until I have a successful biz? :P

    I love Tokyo/Japan though. Best of luck to you!

    1. 2

      Haha. Nope. But I would recommend communicating everything very clearly -- even when you need to pivot -- and especially when you know it's going to take time.

  6. 2

    I understand how hard it feels when running an indie business. For startups, starting in very niche market is ideal because they are very focused in extreme growth rate. So after a year or two, funded startups can potentially grow huge later on.

    But for online SMEs, I think market size where it starts matter a lot because indie entrepreneurs won't expect a fast growth rate. Instead, we focus more on the revenue side. Maybe look into the market size? No matter how perfect the execution is, the market size is what determines the volume of an SME.

    1. 1

      That's a good point. Fortunately the market size for travel/discovery of things in Japan + Japanese language learning is pretty big -- I only need a tiny piece. :)

  7. 2

    Think of it this way.

    You are either trying to do something that is really hard: Making 500 usd pr month in subscriptions from an email news letter.

    Or something that is really easy: Making 500 usd pr month working full time.

    In other words you need a compromise between the two. Doing something that is more akin to client work while being in sync with your end goal or vision of TokyoSpark.

    That could be something like doing copy writing for the places you visit which may have no or bad menus, marketing material or descriptions in English ... but you can probably find better ideas ...

    1. 1

      So true. I really could just get a second job and make more. :)

  8. 2

    Having an existing project that has such a low subscription fee makes reaching the ultimatum terribly hard. But moving onto a new one is even a worse solution. It would have made more sense to have received this ultimatum for a one or two year period. Then again, desperate times ask for desperate measures, maybe this ultimatum will teach you to deliver features faster..

    Please note that not all companies reach success within a few months, most have to "tend the crop" for years before they can "reap the harvest".

    1. 1

      I know! I wish I had 1-2 years ultimatum. I feel like the path I'm on now would work -- but maybe not in 6 months. Going to have to hustle efficiently for sure.

  9. 2

    I think working more on the blogging + maybe supporting with an instagram account is very suitable for this type of business

    1. 1

      Aye! Food in pictures. But would it really effect click through rates? I think it would to the very niche and interested audience. High probability of long-term members.

    2. 1

      That is part of it for sure. Did you mean dive more into the blogging side than it already does?

  10. 1

    Plan now is to super focus on optimizing existing articles while crafting some new ones slowly -- and continue developing my members-only Japanese language courses.

    The optimization piece will be "done" when I've managed to go through all the content from when it was subscriber-only access.

    Mostly because, in that format, it won't ever have a chance to rank in Google.

    That will bring me to roughly 70 articles. I know, not a ton, but a decent start.

    After the article content is cleaned up it will be a routine of new courses and articles, while analyzing ways to optimize email opt-ins and then nurturing readers to become subscribers.

    Solid plan?

  11. 1

    Step 1 nearly complete.

    Moved previously "paid premium" content to free. Will be enhancing and cleaning up for SEO purposes (previously the content was sent directly to members and didn't need to be SEO optimized at all).

    Step 2 is to create the premium Japanese language courses and artwork that members will have access to.

    Step 3 is to re-tool email automations to "nurture" leads into prospects and ultimately into members.

    So far so good -- but I want to get these changes done ASAP so I can focus purely on the content and marketing.

  12. 1

    Hi Chad,

    I feel your pain here, since I am in somewhat similar position :)

    Difference is - I started with entrepreneurship 6 months ago and my wife still has will and energy to support me, but she is pissed of me because I jump to quickly from project to project.

    I'm new guy here so maybe my advice will not be as good as experienced entrepreneurs, but I will do my best.

    I would like to know who exactly are your customers? If you're offering this product to tourists in Japan, why would they subscribe to your product? Who will stay more than one month in Japan? If you are targetting people who tend to spend couple of months in Japan, then you should treat them as enterprise clients and sell them product as "custom tailored Japan experience for Westerners from a Westerner" and charge them really high prices.

    Anyway, this is from the top of my head. Maybe I don't understand your product really well, but I hope I managed to help in some way.

    Good luck with wife and don't give up! :)

    1. 1

      Good point about audience. I tend to think about U.S. military members— who are here for 2-4 years.

      Outside of that you’re probably right. Why would someone subscribe for well-researched, curated content?

      This is part of the reason for building Japanese language courses too — with the content + courses being exclusive to subscribers.

      I wonder if there is a way to package that curated content into itineraries of sorts... or custom packages — for one-time sales.

      And maybe offer discounts to subscribers?

      Thinking out loud here now. :)

  13. 1

    Chad, I'd say you're just got a few steps towards success. I've gone through your Alexa ranking, your keywords, and other analytics, I'd say you're on the brink of success.

    Based on your rankings, I'd say you're hitting approximately 1500 to 2500 visitors per month. Would that be correct? I would say you need to focus on raising it to 10,000 while ensuring your conversions funnel is well developed.

    What's your primary business model? Can it be refined? What if you gently integrated BuySellAds into the mix, and pitch to tour companies? Would it then open another revenue stream?

    1. 1

      Yep, that's pretty close.

      Right now the primary business model is membership -- which is super brand new -- launched just a couple of weeks ago. And "launched" is really not a great word for it. More like "opened." ;)

      Subscribers get access to well researched curated content to help discover new eats and sights in Tokyo.

      The part taking a ton of my time right now is developing exclusive, members-only courses teaching Japanese using techniques I learned in Yale Medical's Cognitive Science courses.

      I crafted two free courses to show off the technique. They've received really good reviews so far.


      I was thinking about making the researched, curated content free -- maybe expand on it for SEO purposes. And then let that bring more traffic to funnel toward courses.

      Making membership primarily for getting access to the courses.

      And then potentially adding proper, vetted ads and affiliate links to the free content.


      I'm also a digital artist and plan to create artwork of scenic/iconic things in Japan. Members would get discounts.


      I suppose you could say that's my three-month plan.

      • Get exclusive courses created.
      • Turn curated content free.
      • Add ads/affiliate links
  14. 2

    This comment was deleted a year ago.

    1. 1

      You pretty much nailed it. She is super supportive. Her main beef is mostly my fault. I've said "just a little more" or "I feel like I'm almost there" for so long now...

      Indie-hacking is basically my sole hobby, but I've made the mistake of calling it "my business" and promising to make something out of it.

      And then saying things like "I need to work on this..." rather than doing things -- not totally. I spend a ton of time helping her and her father -- and we go out most weekends too.

      I think a lot of it has been my bad habit of getting started and then changing direction before even allowing my "hobby" to succeed before chasing the next shiny new thing.


      It has led to me gaining a TON of experience. I can do a lot of things now that I couldn't do before -- and my latest project is benefitting from this.


      And yep -- I am looking at it as a challenge. A constraint I have to break through at all costs. I just hope I can. I don't want to have wasted all this time. ;)

      Thanks for the comment.

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