I started off wanting to earn passive income through online businesses. I built this guide for people that share this goal.
- spend as little as possible
- fail fast
Step 1: Me too!
Going from 0 to 1 is much harder than going from 1 to many. I want invest my time and resources in low risk opportunities that I know will make me money. I might not become a billionaire like Peter Theil, but I will get rich.
There are tons of great apps out there that are making some money, but many of them are terrible executed. Maybe the website is buggy. Maybe the app only works in the USA. Maybe the owner just doesn’t care any more.
For Anonymous BTC SMS, I found my inspiration from a uk based sms provider on Indie Hackers. I chose this idea, because I have made several SMS based apps and I knew I could test this idea out pretty quickly. The owner of that app also does a poor job of SEO and marketing online so I knew I could get in front of the right people.
There are a few websites that publish how much money these apps are making and they are great resources to for selecting your “me too” app idea.
Your goal is to find an app that is making $1k-$5k / mo. Any more than that, and they may actually be owning the market and it can be difficult to compete with their marketing, SEO, etc.
You also want to select an app that is simple. Something that has 1 - 2 features that you can build in a weekend. Rule 2 is fail fast.
As you browse these websites looking for inspiration, keep in mind about how you plan on reaching your customers. For example, if there is an awesome mommy facts app that you can do better, you need to think about how you are going to get this in front of your target customer. Are there forums or Facebook groups you can post on? Do you have an existing blog that you can write about the app on?
You can replicate if you have:
- experience with the business
- some slight understanding of the business model
- connections to customers / marketing full < - most important
Often times online business miss their mark or are limited geographically. (e.g. people in USA know about it, but maybe there isn’t a German version)
Once you have narrowed in on a particular idea, write out your marketing plan. How are you going to reach users? Some ideas:
- Hacker news
- Email blast
- Facebook groups
- Launching your project to the world? links
For item 4, sometimes you can get your hand on an email list for your target audience. For example, in the state of Florida, you can ask the government for a list of all of the email addresses of real estate agents for free, which is awesome if you are making an app for agents.
Step 2: Can YOU get customers?
Once you have an idea you think you can do better, you need to prove that. Buy a $0.99 domain from godaddy. Google “godaddy coupon codes” to find the code for this deal.
I love static websites, because they are really fast to load (SEO), simple to use, and free to host. I have lost so many hours trying to fix a broken wordpress install, because some template broke something or the server got hacked. The goal is to make a marketing website as fast as you can using whatever tools you are most familiar with.
I knew that I would be making a ton of these marketing pages to test out different ideas, so I created a generic jekyll marketing template project where I just have to edit one file with the copy, swap out images, and bam I can get a marketing page up super fast. Feel free to clone it from **github.
Check out my example marketing pages: weupgradeios.com & Anonymous BTC SMS(https://www.anonymousbtcsms.com) No matter what tool you use, you need to setup google analytics and have a form for collecting emails for your customers.
Just because you can push traffic to your website doesn’t mean you have paying customers. At this stage, for Anonymous BTC SMS, I also wanted to collect money. I created a coinbase.com account and a super simple rails app that had 2 features:
- send me money :)
I had links placed everywhere in the app making it look like it actually worked, but they always would redirect them to the “hey, before you do that, you need to deposit money” page.
I did the exact minimum possible to find out if I could in fact replicate the process.
Once I had a marketing page and a means to test if people will actually convert, you start marketing.
Take the list from step 1 and start hustling. Post on reddit, write blog articles and post on HN. See if you can get one person to signup and pay for your app.
For Anonymous BTC SMS, I had 3 people send me a total of $20. Once I saw that, I immediately refunded the money and took down the page. I knew I could market and get customers.
Once you have 3-5 “customers,” shoot them an email and refund them their money. You don’t want to scam people, but it looks like you struck gold!
Step 3: Ok, lets build it.
Now is the time to go through and actually build the features you promised your customers. If you can, reach out to the customers that paid and talk with them about exactly what they are expecting the app to do. Once you have everything boiled down to 1-2 features. Start work.
If you are a coder like myself, you can write the app yourself. If you don’t mind taking on more risk, you can pay someone to build it for you.
You should stay away from vworker, upwork, etc. Only low quality talentless people use that website to get work and you will end up wasting your time and money. I highly recommend making a craigslist.com post in various middle america cities or South American cities (Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina). You can find really talented developers that are inexpensive and in a similar timezone which makes communication so much easier.
Avoid working with freelancers from Asia or Europe. I have worked with teams in India and Europe, but I always found I would loose so much time trying to communicate with them.
If you are outsourcing abroad, you should be paying $15-$30/hr for work. Anonymous BTC SMS would cost about $4,000USD to build. It has login, payments, and sms integrations.
Step 4: $$$
Now that the app is built, you need to re-launch. Go back to that list from step 1 and start re-posting and re-advertising. Since you know you have a service people would be willing to pay for, consider re-investing profits to bloggers in your space to write articles about your app.
Take 2-3 weeks to make sure you have a solid marketing funnel in place to help drive to your business. I write a one blog article each week in order to encourage new traffic.
Post on Quora, Reddit, forums, etc. keep that hustle going.
Step 5: Wash rinse and repeat
Now that you got that baby running, you can now wash rinse and repeat. You can checkout some of my past projects on my projects page