the gap / February 21, 2017

I’m Building a Startup, Live, And Then Giving It Away to a Reader

The challenge starts today.

Today I’m embarking on a journey that is honestly a little scary: I’m going to build an online business from scratch and attempt to make money with it within 30 days.

Then – since I’m incredibly busy on a number of projects right now – I’ll be giving it away to a Gaps reader (more info on how to win below) along with $1,000 spending money to continue to grow the brand.

I was inspired to do this project when my friend Noah messaged me about the possibility of building a business together.

We had different ideas on what we would like to create – hopefully we’ll be collaborating on something after this – but his asking gave me the idea to do something in public.

When I say that sharing this journey is quite scary, I’m not trying to be humble or ‘relatable’.

As you’ll see at the end of the 30 days, I’m building something unlike anything I’ve created before, or anything that currently exists (that I know of).

Due to a lack of businesses following the same model to give me confidence, I genuinely have more chance of failing with this than succeeding.

It’s my hope that even if the site is a ‘failure’ in terms of not making money or failing to gain an audience, you’ll still learn one of the most important lessons in succeeding online: Take action.

I have far more failed online ventures than ones which are successful, but if you believe entrepreneurs far more successful than me, failure is a necessary step on the journey to building a profitable business.

The Rules of the Challenge

To make the challenge more difficult, but something you could more likely replicate, I do have a few rules in place.

The first rule is that I can’t use my current audience or ‘influence’ in any way.

I’m not going to pull in any favours or use my name on the site or anything like that.

I’ll be using a pen name on the website and in any marketing efforts.

Speaking of marketing efforts, I will be doing this on as small of a budget as possible.

Ideally I would like to spend less than $100 on the entire project (including advertising) but if I have to spend a little more to have a better case study to share with you, I will.

The maximum I will spend on this project is $1,000 but again, I will be trying to keep spending much closer to $100.

So far my expenses are planned as being:

  • Domain name – $10.87 on Namecheap
  • Hosting at $9.88 per year through Namecheap
  • A website theme for $12 from ThemeForest
  • Possibly another website theme costing no more than $50

I purchased the domain yesterday just so it could propagate in time for me to set-up the website and email address today.

I can design websites myself from scratch, but my time will be better spent on promoting the website since I only have 30 days, and buying a theme would still keep me around the $100 mark.

You can see I have already purchased the first template for $12.

I know I’m also going to be judged not only on what I spend, but how much time I invest. It’s hard to put a number on that.

When I offered coaching calls a few years ago it would cost you anywhere from $200 – $500 to talk to me for an hour. If I valued each hour at $200 then there is no way I would make a return on investment within 30 days.

You’ll see how much time I spent at the end of challenge, so I’ll let you be the judge about whether that investment was worth it.

Logo design is often another expense new webmasters have to pay for, but I’ll be doing that myself. Don’t worry though, I won’t be creating something that you couldn’t replicate in 30 minutes of learning Photoshop.

I’ll reveal the industry I’m focusing on shortly, but for now I’ll point out that I won’t be focused on building a marketing agency or anything to do with SEO.

I think I could land clients from scratch fairly easily within 30 days, but I want to challenge myself here as well, so I’m not relying on what I already know.

The final rule is that I won’t be hiring any programmers or using skills new webmasters don’t possess or couldn’t in their first month building websites.

Leaving My Ego At the Door

As I said in the introduction, this project has far more chance of failing than succeeding.

I’m not just saying that.

When I reveal the website, you’ll likely agree that the success hinges on a few factors which are totally out of my control.

Though I build one-page websites to rank in Google, I don’t typically build things and try to make money with them within a month.

I subscribe to the idea that you should build something that you want to see grow over months and years, rather than going all out and trying to generate revenue in a set period of time.

The reason I am a little nervous about the project is because if it fails, I accept that it’s not going to look very good for my reputation.

Surely this guy who has been making sites for 11 years could build just one more which makes money.

If I can’t, then it doesn’t say much about my skills as an internet marketer.

That’s why I’m leaving my ego at the door.

I’m not doing this challenge to impress you with my abilities (or lack of them), but to show that not everything you build is going to have some guaranteed way to make money.

The most important criteria to make money online is to do something, so… I’m doing something.

If it fails, I hope you’ll learn as much from the process I took and why it failed, as much as you would if I succeed.

Scratching My Own Itch (The Angle I’ve Chosen)

One of the most enjoyable parts about building Gaps has been documenting literally hundreds of online success stories.

The content I have to share over the rest of 2017 will continue to highlight those and the available gaps in the market.

This documenting has allowed me to find a lot of businesses following similar models and making money, which is why I could share 13 companies following the “teaching sells” model I recently covered.

There’s another industry where I have found a lot of different brands succeeding in, and that’s condensed learning.

That’s the market I’ll be tackling with this 30 day challenge.

In a fortnight (March 7th) I’ll be covering the market research for this project in more detail as to not potentially benefit myself by revealing too much, so that’s all I’ll say for now.

To make this project more fun for me, and to have more chance of succeeding, I’m scratching my own itch.

That means I’m creating something that I wish someone else had created, and I hope to show there are a lot of opportunities to succeed with the model in a variety of niches.

If the site succeeds, it’s something I’ll use myself – even after I give it away – so I certainly have a vested interest in making it work.

Speaking of giving it away…

How to Win the Website (And $1,000 Marketing Budget)

I created Gaps to share online business ideas I don’t have time to focus on myself, so it would be a little ironic to start something new and spend substantial time on it going forward.

I’m building something I would love to already exist, but I am working on too many things to give it the attention it will require (and deserve).

That’s why, after 30 days, I’ll be giving the site away to a reader of Gaps.

I thought of a number of ways to decide on a winner – like asking people to answer a marketing question in the comments and picking the best reply – but that wouldn’t be fair to people just starting out.

Throughout the case study I won’t be sharing any affiliate links or promoting any products or services.

In other words, I’m not doing this to sell anything.

Instead, I would simply like to reach more people who may be interested in following this case study and to learn what it means to just take action.

So, all I ask to stand a chance of winning is that you tweet about this challenge to mark your entry.

Simply share a link to this article – adding the hashtag #gapschallenge – and I’ll use a random number generator to decide on the winner. (Any Twitter buttons on this page should do that for you by default).

I’ll then randomly select three people who tweet with the hashtag over the next 14 days to stand a chance of winning.

Once the site is revealed, I’ll personally contact the three potential winners to see if they would be interested in taking the site on.

I would hate to give it away to someone who has no interest in what I make so I’ll check that they’re (you’re?) interested in continuing to grow it.

The tweet button below (and left on desktop) should include the hashtag and link by default.

The planned schedule for updates is:

  • February 21st: Announce the challenge and start the project (that’s today)
  • March 7th: Share the market research that led to building this gap
  • March 21st: Revealing the results, including detailed insights on how I built and marketed it

I had originally planned to share updates weekly, such as how I built the site and how my efforts are going, but I would have to blur out so many details as to not ruin the case study that they just wouldn’t be very valuable.

Having a break from writing also gives me more time to actually focus on the case study so I can’t make any excuses about not having the time to work on it 😉

I hope you’re as excited about this as I am nervous, and gain a lot of value from the end result.

If you don’t want to miss any updates, make sure you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, or via our newsletter.

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