2016 Midyear Update

Shane Labs July 1, 2016 4

I’m so sorry! It’s been almost 6 months since I last posted a profit report update. But don’t let that make you think I’ve given up from failure. Or retired from success. Things are still chugging along pretty normally, I’ve just been a bit busier lately and the profit reports have been the lowest priority on my list.

What have I been up to?

Since I last updated you, quite a bit has changed. Here’s what’s new:

  • I’ve been consulting 30-40 hours a week now. While this is up from the original plan of 20, it has brought down my stress level. Relying on side-projects to support me financially was scary. I still have several hours per week to devote to side projects, and I’m happy with this balance.
  • AmpedSense has grown. At the end of 2015 I had been frustrated that the new freemium model had not taken off. Well, I just needed to be patient and let the new model grow. Luckily it has, I’ll share more about this below.
  • I’m no longer working from home. While the convenience of working from home had been great, being around while your toddler is trying to nap (aka screaming because she doesn’t want to) or having her bang on your office door to come play quickly proved difficult. I found a place that rents offices to independent people like me. It’s only $350/month and 2 miles from home. Totally worth it, check it out:
The office away from my home office

The office away from my home office

Side Projects Update

Surprisingly, not too much has changed on the side project front.

My niche sites continue to earn a steady check from AdSense. EasyDbs continues with a few sales per month. HostBenchmarker continues to test web hosts and provide me some commissions via affiliate referrals. All of these aren’t crazy successful, but they’re contributing a few hundred bucks a month, and I can’t complain about that since they require almost zero maintenance.

However, AmpedSense has grown a bit…

AmpedSense Update

About a year ago I had decided to focus almost all my side-project efforts on one venture – AmpedSense, the wordpress plugin for adsense. Every month I had been discouraged of the huge effort I was putting into it with limited returns. Thankfully, it has finally reached a new level.

Take a look at revenue from AmpedSense over the last year:

AmpedSense revenue over the last year, total $4,607

AmpedSense revenue over the last year, total $4,607

So, what changed? A few things…

1. I switched to a freemium model. Like an idiot I expected that to change things over night, but as you can see it took several months for it to permeate through the wordpress community.

2. I offered monthly pricing. At the beginning AmpedSense used to be a one-time purchase. Most premium plugins are sold this way. However, I feared I may be missing out on those who would rather pay a smaller recurring fee than an upfront regular price. To date, I’ve had 18 customers on a monthly plan, and only 2 cancellations so far. I’m happy with these results and am going to continue to offer two sets of plans (one-time and monthly).

3. I continued to sign up new affiliates. While affiliates don’t account for most of the sales, it doesn’t hurt. Every time someone becomes an affiliate of mine they spread the word in a new voice, with new examples, pics, etc. Here’s a post that Josh Shogren made recently – How I was able to Increase my Adsense Earnings by 74% in 2 Months. How awesome is that?!

4. I added a couple new features. One of the biggest setbacks was that it used to not be as effective on sites with caching enabled. Being an advocate for site speed, I couldn’t tell people to disable their caching plugins. Instead, I had to rewrite a portion of the plugin in javascript (in addition to PHP). This new “client-side render mode” allows it to work very well on high-traffic sites, those that benefit the most from split testing.

What didn’t help?

I added a forum to the site (using MyBB), hoping that it would help with SEO. I seeded it with some decent posts, but since then have only received a few new real posts. Traffic to it has been stale, and I don’t think I received even one visit from google to it. I do receive several spam posts every now and then, so I may choose to remove this eventually.

A core lesson learned

One of the reasons I quit my stable job a bit ago was because it would force me to crank on my side projects. The theory is that if my side projects are just side projects they’re never going to go anywhere, but if they become my 100% need for making a living then I’d be forced to take them to the next level.

Well, that theory didn’t work out for me.

Yes, I can see how it did force me to try new things that I wouldn’t have otherwise tried, but it didn’t lead to instant success. In fact, it just made me a little stressed out. And I know having a little stress is good to push me, but being the sole provider of my family puts extra pressure on me. I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t do well under pressure, but instead under long, thought-out plans.

I’ve said this before, but this experience is another reminder: Side projects take time to catch on. Lots of time.

  • Time for you to really figure out what you’re solving.
  • Time for SEO to catch on.
  • Time for users to spread the word.
  • Time for you to adjust and pivot your project after feedback.
  • Time for testing out many marketing channels.

I’d say each of my side projects take 1-2 years before they get any traction. Plan to be patient.

A quickie side-project for fun

I should share that I did build something new recently. It’s super tiny, took me no more than a few hours, and if it fails it will still have been fun. I reveal to you: HalloweenCostumeIdeas2016.com

halloween-costume-ideas

It stemmed from me never knowing what to be for Halloween. Of course you can always be something standard and boring, but I like the current-event-based costumes that are usually only relevant for a short time. Couple that with the fact that people will pay premium (I’ve seen upwards of $100) on a new costume every year and I saw an opportunity (monetized through Amazon links).

Before building it out, I also did some quick research on the demand. Data from Google’s Keyword Tool suggests that “halloween costume ideas” is searched about 3 million times between September and October, and “halloween costume ideas 2015” was about 300k during that same time. I know the days of exact match domains ranking highly are long gone, but I figured if I could even get just a tiny slice of that traffic it’d be worth the few hours I put into making this.

If you check out the site right now you’ll see I only have 6 costumes up there. I’m waiting to put up a few more until Halloween draws closer, but let me know if you have any good ones worth sharing!

Note: I realize the irony of my lesson above regarding side projects needing time to catch on, and this one only having a few months lifespan. But….well I actually don’t have any rebuttal to that. I’m definitely gambling since this most likely will not catch on in time. Oh well.

Going forward with SideProjectProfit.com

I’m sorry I haven’t had the time to post regularly here. I do love sharing my experiences, and hearing feedback from you all, but in all honesty it’s my lowest priority :-/

Will I get around to doing monthly profit reports again? Not sure. I’ve thought about doing quarterly profit reports, but those would still take up quite a bit of time. Don’t hate me if I just do random updates like this one.

As always, thanks for following along. How have you been doing lately? Please let me know with a comment/reply below!

 

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4 Comments »

  1. Spencer July 1, 2016 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    When I saw your post pop into my inbox I thought “it’s been a while, hasn’t it?” before I opened it. Glad to see you’re still working at it and while things didn’t go the way you originally planned things are still working out alright for you. It’s interesting to read about your perspective on it.

    P.S. How do you develop with just one monitor!?

    • Shane Labs July 1, 2016 at 5:49 pm - Reply

      Haha, thanks Spencer! I used to have 2 monitors and I loved it. Went back to one because when I use my laptop I don’t want to feel handicapped 🙂

  2. Chris Hughes August 7, 2016 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    Shane, glad to see you got an office! If I wasn’t traveling like 95% of the year I would probably do the same to help separate work/home life.

    Right now I just ended up renting a larger villa so I have an extra room devoted to “work” so that I can step into the office!

    Here’s to AmpedSense growing and growing even more!

    • Shane Labs August 8, 2016 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      Thanks Chris! Loved your recent video and seeing your ‘home office’. Cheers!

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