We decided to become a transparent startup and share with our community our numbers and statistics, as well as the exact strategies we used to achieve them.
Hey, welcome to our first-month report! It was a crazy month. That's why, after beating around the bush for a few months, we decided to become a transparent startup.
We consider it a big opportunity to share our numbers and statistics, as well as plans for the future. That's why we are so enthusiastic. We will also go through the marketing strategies that we used and reflect on which resulted in “successes”, and which in “failures.” Let's begin!
As you might suppose, apart from working at Failory, we all have different jobs. Therefore, we have only a few hours per day to work on our project. But this month was special. We had much free time, and we decided to spend it on marketing.
Our objectives were, in the first place, to increase our email newsletter, and in second place, gain many daily visits to our website. These were the strategies we used to achieve these goals:
We have been thinking of writing a free eBook since the launch of Failory, but we didn't have the time to do it. December was finally the month.
The first step was to choose the eBook topic. But we couldn't decide whether we should write about:
We decided to go big and create an eBook in which we included all these three topics. However, we discovered that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of books telling the ultimate formula to build a successful startup and become a millionaire in a week. Therefore, we decided to focus on side projects.
The eBook we were going to write, would describe the entire process of building a side-project, from idea to monetization. It would be a practical guide, with lots of strategies and tools that people could easily copy. Something easily scannable and quick, but at the same time, complete.
Once we knew the topic, it was time to brainstorm some ideas.
We fastly came with a great content scheme. The eBook would be divided into 8 stages:
Each stage would contain some strategies, our favorite tools and things to avoid or mistakes we committed when creating Failory.
After deciding some key points that we would definitely have to include on each stage, it was time to start writing.
We decided to write the eBook on Google Docs and then design it, but it isn't probably the best option. It takes a lot of time.
Writing the eBook took us 5 days. Do not think of 5 days of writing day and night. When we had some free time, we wrote some words.
The eBook has 72 pages and 11,868 words. In 68,351 characters we number 8 stages of a side project, we explain 43 strategies and recommend 59 tools.
Choosing the tool to design the eBook was a nightmare. We didn't know how simple it was to design it with a software like Word or PowerPoint. We spend hours searching for the correct tool, reading articles and lists and asking other people how to do it. We even began designing the eBook on a few different platforms which did not give us the desired results.
At the end, we discovered Pages for Mac. It was easy to use, had the features we needed, and allowed collaboration with other people.
The design of the eBook is pretty simple. We first designed the cover, which is composed of an orange gradient, a big title in white and a subtitle in black, and an illustration of a Viking.
That amazing illustration that you are seeing was not designed by ourselves. Let me introduce you Joy Design, an awesome website that provides free illustrations. It was our salvation.
We dedicated each stage an entire page, similar to the cover, with a background color and a nice illustration from Joy Design.
We then adjusted the font, the colors, the titles, and the eBook was ready to be launched. But before, we needed some feedback.
You might have noticed that we are not native English speakers. We commit many grammatical mistakes and English usage errors. So, before launching, we needed to check the eBook with an English speaker. Moreover, we wanted to know the opinion of side project experts.
Therefore, we sent a message to Mubashar Iqbal, Andrey Azimov and some influencers. We also submitted a post on the Side Project subreddit asking for feedback on our eBook. 47 people were willing to help us.
We were able to improve the eBook a lot and correct all the grammar mistakes. Moreover, an awesome user called enthusiasm_overdose sent us a copy of the eBook with all the corrections and possible ways to say things in a better way.
After so much work it was time to launch the eBook. These were the simple strategies we used:
A few days before launching it we contacted Bram Kanstein, a well-known hunter, who (luckily) was willing to submit our eBook to Product Hunt. It wasn't a successful PH campaign. We didn't even end up on the front page. Maybe it was the Product Hunt audience, maybe the eBook. We personally believe that product hunters don't like the idea of free stuff in exchange for emails. In any case, we received 80-100 downloads from PH.
We submitted it to Hacker News. 1 upvote. Ours. Complete failure. To succeed in Hacker News, you need to submit an article or a product that people can easily realize whether it is great or trashy. There are almost any chances of succeeding with an eBook. To upvote it, people needs to write down their email address, wait for the email to arrive at their inbox, download the eBook and read a few lines. At that time, your submission has already disappeared from the “new page”.
We submitted it to Designer News. Designers seemed to like the eBook. It received a few upvotes and stayed in the front page for a few hours, resulting in many downloads.
We submitted the eBook in many subreddits. We thought that we were going to receive many upvotes on the Side Project subreddit, but the post had almost none views. We don't know why. Maybe it was the title of the post. We also publish a post on the Entrepreneur and Startup subreddit.
During the launching day, we published a few tweets with a link to the landing page of the eBook. A few clicks resulted in some downloads.
We published some FB posts promoting the eBook. We also shared it on some FB groups, related to side projects and startups. They received some clicks and likes, as well as comments. If done well, this can result in many conversions.
The launching campaign of the eBook was not an enormous success, but it went pretty well. In the first 2 days, we received 490 downloads.
The days after we keep working on the promotion of the eBook, with some other strategies:
We decided to try Facebook Ads. We spent $20, with high expectations. We reached 1,439 people and received only 26 clicks to the landing page. We couldn't track the downloads.
We answered a few questions on Quora about side projects. It didn't take us too much time, as we answered them with the information of the eBook. At the end of each question, we added a link to the landing page and recommend them to download it. It was a successful strategy.
We are still working on this strategy. It consists of getting traffic with Pinterest. To do it, we designed a few infographics with the information of the eBook and publish them in Pinterest. Our objective is to make them rank organically when people search for “side project” on Pinterest.
We contacted a few people who run websites around side-projects, for example, the Side Project Checklist (btw, this awesome website helped us a lot when writing the eBook). We agreed on different collaborations with them, such as adding a backlink, sending an email to our newsletters and posting on Twitter.
This let us collect 92 more emails. At the end, the eBook was downloaded 582 in only two weeks.
Was all this work worthy? Absolutely. Not only because of the 582 new emails, but also because at the end of the month happened something that increased amazingly the downloads…
We launched 5 new interviews this month:
We find the owners of failed startups with different tactics, such as online articles, forum comments, and Facebook groups. Some owners contact us through the submit page.
The process we use to promote the interviews is quite similar to the one we used for the eBook. The better the interview is, the more viral it gets. Interviews usually receive 900-1700 visits the first 2 days, plus the reads in subreddits (we post them on Reddit as a text).
On December 26 happened something awesome. We published an article written by Amir Rajan, in which he tells the story behind his mobile game called “A Dark Room, which hit #1 on the AppStore and grossed over $800,000. It went viral on Hacker News, receiving 22,356 sessions in a single day. Here is the story.
A few weeks ago we contacted Amir Rajan, after reading his great interview on Indie Hackers, in which he talked about “A Dark Room” his IOS game. We thanked him for sharing such a great story and asked him if he had failed to build an application in the past. He didn't fail before, but he wanted to share his experience quitting his job, going on a sabbatical year and building his mobile game.
We published it on December 26 and did the typical promotion that we use for interviews. We submitted on Hacker News, without big expectations. After 5 minutes we reloaded the page and BOOM… front page of HN! We immediately entered Google Analytics and check the real time. 272 visitors. We were shocked.
The post on HN keep gaining upvotes and achieved the #1 position. Comments began to arrive: some critics, feedback, positive messages.
We reload Analytics to discover that 543 persons were reading Failory at the same time.
We couldn't believe it. It was such a crazy moment.
The post ended the day on the front page, with 391 upvotes and 246 comments. It was quite controversial the article, so people discussed on HN comment section a lot.
21,446 people entered the website that day. 8,201 the next one. And even today, 3 days after the article going viral, we are still receiving some traffic from HN.
But, why are visits so important? They are not. But we knew that the traffic would bring us a lot of new email subscribers. And it actually happened. 170 people subscribed to our newsletter, which is a lot for one day. And, the best of all, 916 downloaded our free eBook.
At the end of the day, we had 1086 new emails in our newsletter. The key to achieving this was this little “pop-up” in the middle of the article.
But the article not only got viral on Hacker News. In the Entrepreneur subreddit, it got 267 upvotes and stayed in the first position the entire day. It received 9,300 views and 76 comments. In the Game Dev subreddit, it got 78 upvotes and was viewed 3,000 times, as well as commented by 38 people. And finally, it got viral on the Game Design subreddit where it got 60 upvotes, 1,200 views, and 23 comments.
A few weeks ago we discovered that many of our “competitors” have had press coverage in big media such as TechCrunch, The Next Web, Business Insider and Mashable. Therefore, we decided to contact a few journalists and try to get press coverage for Failory.
We went big and contacted well-known journalists from the kind of medias named above. Lots of hours writing the email, searching the correct journalists, looking for their contact details. But they didn't even answer our emails. Complete failure.
However, we did not give up and prepared a new strategy, which consists of reaching smaller media from different countries. We are still carrying it out, but we have already validated our strategy. We have discovered that a medium magazine or newspaper can result in thousands of visits and hundreds of email subscribers.
That's why we are still working on getting PR coverage. We are reaching some journalists and magazines. We are providing them some information about Failory and we are answering some interviews.
This is a not-so-common marketing strategy that has helped us a lot when gaining email subscribers. If you are an email subscriber, you have probably already realized that we usually recommend newsletters associated with startups. We do it in exchange for a promotion in another newsletter.
Using tools like InboxReads and SponsoredTech, we search for newsletters with a similar amount of subscribers that talk about startups, businesses, technology, marketing, design or development. All things that our audience can find useful. Then, we contact their owners with a simple email like this one:
The response is usually really positive. This great strategy goes really well and has resulted in many new email subscribers.
We encourage you to try it. If you have any question, just email us.
Finally, it has been a month with high participation in social media. Especially on Twitter, Facebook, and Medium:
We have been really active on Twitter, publishing 3 tweets a day, retweeting content and mentions and following interesting people.
I know it is not too much 3 tweets a day, but until only a few weeks ago, we almost didn't enter to Twitter, so it is a big change. These are our Twitter analytics of the month:
The first tweet is usually a quote about failure. Just a nice thing to start the day. The second tweet is always a great article that we find on the internet, usually in Medium. The third tweet varies, but it is often an image associated with startups, accompanied by a reflection of the topic.
We have to admit that we schedule our tweets. As we work during the day, we can't be in our offices tweeting. To do it, we use Buffer, only because is free and easy to use.
Since we began tweeting, our number of followers has increased a lot. Many people have arrived at our website via Twitter and with almost any efforts from our part. That's why we will continue with this strategy. Moreover, these are the audience insights:
Facebook sucks. We really don't know why are we still posting content on Facebook.
We don't use any strategy to increase our likes, to interact with our followers, to carry people to our website. We simply automatically post the same tweets on Facebook.
Somehow, we have managed ourselves to get 103 likes on our Facebook page, but our posts aren't seen by our followers. Nowadays, if you don't boost your post and spend some dollars on them, people won't see them. We can't spend $10 for every post we publish, so we simply don't care about Facebook.
A few days ago we were recommended to start publishing our interviews in Medium. It would be really easy to do and it would only take us a few minutes, so why not?
We published our interview with David Kramaley, founder of Sharkius. 11 days before and it has been read only 1 time. We really don't understand why. Maybe we need to publish many of them and keep it constant.
We will keep experimenting with Medium. It is a platform with a lot of room left to exploit.
We have been sharing some of the numbers of the month, but this is the complete number report of December.
- Sessions: 40,988
- Users: 35,774
- Page views: 53,776
- New visitors: 84.8%
- Returning visitors: 15.2%
- November: 810 email subscribers
- December: 2759 email subscribers
- Change: 1949
- Growth rate: 240.62 %
- Emails from eBook: 1649
- Percentage of the total: 59.77%
- Emails from homepage and interviews: 1110
- Percentage of the total: 40.23%
- November: 232 followers
- December: 329 followers
- Change: 97
- Growth rate: 41.81%
As we have said, this month was special and, luckily, we have had much more time to work on the project. We don't use any application to track the working hours. Therefore, this is only an estimated report. Moreover, we will take into account the sum of hours worked of the three co-founders.
We spent 145 hours (without taking into account the hours screwing around on Twitter, Product Hunt, and Hacker News) working on Failory in December. This is an average of 36.25 hours per week, and 4.68 hours each day.
This is how we spent our time this month:
What sucked this month was the big amount of unproductive hours that we have spent. In the first place, we spent lots of hours reading online articles and educating ourselves. This is not lost time, but they were hours in which we weren't working to improve Failory. Secondly, we spent a few hours testing features and strategies that didn't work. And thirdly, we spent a considerable amount of time wandering around Product Hunt, trying all the new apps, Hacker News, reading even the articles we didn't care about, and Twitter, checking the newest trends.
0. Zero. Nothing. Nil.
Yep, we are still making $0 with Failory. We have worked on the project for many weeks and months, but we haven't taken a single dollar from it. Some of you may consider it a complete failure, but we are sure that we are going on the right way.
We have three plans to monetize the project in a near future:
We will start selling sponsorships on our newsletter. We know you don't like them. Neither us. Therefore, we will only place sponsorships of companies and software that you can find useful.
We want to keep the website clean and minimalistic. That's why placing advertisements is not a really great option. We are still thinking on a way to do it, without bothering the readers.
We will start recommending applications, services, and gadgets that can help small business owners and entrepreneurs. The books that are recommended by our interviewees will also have an affiliate link.
The reason why we can continue with the project without earning any money is that we almost don't have any expenses. We use Webflow to build the website. They have provided us a promo code so we only pay $8/month. We bought the domain and hosting for an entire year, which costed us only $41. We use free email services and free marketing tools. The biggest payment of December was Facebook Ads, in which we invested $20.
January will be a quiet month. We are going on holidays, so, unluckily, we won't publish any new interviews. We will post on social media, and answer your emails and questions, but do not expect any new content.
We want to be back on February 100% concentrated on the project and rock it. We won't set any objectives for January, more than to keep posting on Twitter and growing our community. But we have set some big goals for February:
Thanks everyone for your support this month. Remember to email us if you have any feedback, ideas, recommendations, or just want to talk.
We wish you a happy new year!
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