It’s been about a year since I decided I was going to focus hard on a specific side project – and it’s been quite a struggle. Traffic has gone up, and so has revenue – but my profit is still in the red. Looking back at the data makes me wonder, “When is it time to kill my side project?“
The side project I’m referring to is AmpedSense, a wordpress plugin aimed to help people split test their AdSense configurations. I had presented it at Pat Flynn’s 1 Day Business Breakthrough event and got a great response. I had a plan of action, validation from those attendees, and more motivation than I knew what to do with. It seemed like there was no way I could fail (ha!).
Looking at the numbers
Let’s take a glance at the numbers over the last 12 months:
Revenue and Expenses:
Cumulative Earnings to Date:
Despite the growth in visitors, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize I’m in the red. My site redesign was a huge expense, as was article writing. I was hoping these expenses would be investments that would be recouped by an increase in sales. It looks like they may eventually, but it’s so slow it’ll be several years before I break $1k. That’s not the kind of momentum that excites me.
Looking at the product
The plugin itself has worked solidly for me. It’s helped me double my AdSense revenue on my niche sites, which brings in about 1/2 of my steady monthly profit. But there are a few things about it that make me hesitate about it.
First, I am highly reliant on Google. With a simple product update to AdSense, my plugin could become instantly useless. For example, they could integrate split testing into their ad code directly. Or the API I use to create the ads could be deprecated. I’d be obsolete overnight. That scares the crap out of me.
Second, the API Google provides to create the ads is old. They haven’t updated it in years, and that means I can’t take advantage of their new responsive ads. With almost 40% of web traffic these days being on mobile screens, that’s a huge shortcoming.
Third, getting the plugin set up is a bit complicated. In fact, the original installation process was horrendous (you had to follow so many steps I was forced to make a video). I was able to fix this by getting it down to a much simpler 2-click process (auto-login with Google), but that didn’t affect sales at all. Regardless, AB testing is a tough concept and many people don’t easily understand the math behind it.
In short, it’s hard to be 100% behind the product.
Looking at the effort
In addition, it takes a great deal of man-hours to keep AmpedSense running.
Supporting it is almost a full-time job. WordPress is a beast. Everyone’s theme and set of possible conflicting plugins is a nightmare. I once spent 3 hours creating a custom build of the plugin for a customer that would work specifically just for his site. My time is valuable – I should have just given him a refund instead.
Making connections has been difficult. There’s simply not as much industry love as I would have hoped. I contacted many industry experts – some wanted to make their own product, some were too busy, some didn’t respond at all. I did end up forming a relationship with Spencer Haws from Niche Pursuits. I gave him a demo over Skype, and he planned to try it out on his own sites, but never followed through (or perhaps he hated it and was just being nice to me). It has been draining reaching out to these people, with no success.
Marketing was a time-sink. SEO competition for “making money with adsense” is super saturated. Reaching out to people on reddit and other forums feels spammy. I set up a free email course and have so far received 20 signups (1 actually bought), but that wasn’t enough to get the ball rolling. I would have loved to try Adwords advertising, but Google kept denying my ads since they were very particular about what I could and couldn’t say about one of their own products. I did try facebook advertising – that was $50 I’ll never get back.
In short, I’m kinda not excited to work on this product anymore.
Is it time to KILL it?
Considering all the above, I see a lot of negatives. It seems evident that AmpedSense has very little potential. Does that mean that I should kill it? Maybe.
Well I am going to kill it. But I’m going to kill it for another reason: I’ve lost my passion for it. My heart simply isn’t in it anymore. It used to be, but this past year has beat me up, and I’m simply not motivated to continue to work on this particular side project.
Additionally, I have other projects I’m really excited about. HostBenchmarker has been making waves in the industry, and I’m super stoked to continue to drive it forward. There’s also a related idea I’m playing with that has huge potenial. My heart IS behind these.
How to retire your side project
Does that mean I’m going to take down the site, delete all files, and ignore my existing customers? Absolutely not.
Almost all of my side projects continue to generate income even after I stop working on them (mostly because SEO continues to build with time). Throwing all of this away would be like trashing lottery tickets without scratching them first.
But I am not going to spend any more time improving or marketing this side project. I’ve proven that this effort is a time-sink, and as a new parent I can’t justify wasting any second of my free time.
You may remember back in April I killed a previous side project – TaskShot. In that situation I did end up taking down the site. What makes this situation different? Simply that TaskShot had never generated any revenue (I didn’t even have a business model), and I was going to have to continue to pay hosting and domain registration to keep it alive. Plus since it was such a minimal prototype I had to spend a decent amount of time manually supporting users. No point in spending money or time on something I know isn’t going to give me a return.
What do you think?
Pretend you’re in my shoes. Would you give up on AmpedSense? I don’t want to be a quitter, but after considering all this I feel like I’d be an idiot to continue spending time on it and not focus on other projects that are picking up momentum.
Have you ever killed one of your side projects before? What happened? Let me know in the comments below.