I still remember my first online business adventure as if it was yesterday! Good times!
After devouring a good amount of self-development and freelancing books, I was fired up with enthusiasm about my brilliant idea and was almost certain I would join the internet millionaires club in no time.
Back then, slicing services were booming. So, I decided to jump in and grab the opportunity.
Slicing service providers are small companies that specialize in turning graphic designs (using Photoshop for example) into HTML/CSS templates at highly competitive rates.
Since the number of slicing companies was growing so rapidly, the competition was fierce. As a result, it was very hard for potential customers to see the trees through the forest. This is where yours truly came into play!
My million-dollar-idea provided a clever solution to this problem. I designed a simple, one-page website which enabled companies providing these services to enter all the details and rates of the slicing services they provide.
Customers looking for slicing-agencies could visit my website ‘Slicejobs’, and automatically have the website deliver a list of companies who provide this service, immediately calculating their specific rates. Every slicing-agency could create a basic profile on the site for free, with the option to upgrade to a paid premium account to maximize their visibility and increase their value by displaying testimonials.
When I had the website developed, I created a system that the website would completely support itself. Payments, premium-accounts, price calculation, advertisements, you name it was fully automated. My only job was to enjoy spending the money I received on my PayPal account.
On top of that, the website immediately gained a lot of attention because Antonio Lupetti, a great blogger whom I feel so grateful for, published an entire article dedicated to Slicejobs. He was very excited about the idea and his article was the number one reason why I had thousands of visitors to the site from day one.
When I saw that such a great blogger was supporting my idea, it boosted my confidence that I was going to make it big time. As a result, I decided to put some of my hard-earned into the project. I had dollar signs in my eyes which gave me every motive to act fast and get as many agencies as possible to create profiles on the site, and eventually upgrade to premium.
I talked to the guys from Smashing Magazine and made an 800-Euro deal to put advertisements for SliceJobs on their website for the duration of one month. This bold move sent me heaps of traffic.
In addition, “SliceJobs” was featured on a great amount of CSS-galleries all over the internet, also sending a lot of traffic to the website.
Let’s look at the pros so far:
- Clear and simple design
- Excellent promotion
- Huge amount of visitors
- Completely automated (Carefree-life, Seychelles here I come…)
- Taking advantage of a booming service and offering a unique solution to a growing problem
By now I can hear you saying: “So far so good Davy. Why on earth did you let it fail?! You had the best start imaginable!”
Well, there was just one important fact that I overlooked!
This project could easily turn into a smashing success if three key points were in place
- The website needed slicing-agencies to create profiles
- Premium accounts and advertisements needed to get sold in order for me to earn back my investment
- The website needed a lot of traffic from potential clients in need of slicing services
Point 1, Check! Great promotion on some high-traffic well-established web design blogs reached a lot of freelancers and agencies. Profiles were being set up every hour and the site was growing. All is well in the world of wonder.
Point 2, Check! Because the website had a nice amount of visitors at start and companies noticed that a lot of profiles were being set up, some made the sound decision to stand out from the crowd and immediately went for the premium option.
Ignoring point 3 was where the trouble started.
I thought my project was working well and I could make loads of cash out of it if I got even more slicing-agencies to create profiles on the site. I set up Google adwords campaigns promoting SliceJobs as a great website where companies could set up a free profile and simply get clients in return.
The premium members’ cash completely blurred my vision and shifted my attention from the simple fact that I should give my premium members a good reason to stick around. In other words, I needed to equally focus on promoting the site to customers who needed slicing done. As a result, 99% of my visitors were agencies providing slicing services and a very small percentage of the visitors were clients who were looking for slicing agencies.
After a while, premium payments stagnated and eventually died out. SliceJobs’ premium users weren’t getting any clients from the website and simply stopped paying for the service. The hype was settling down and my visitor-counts dropped like dead flies.
I was way over budget and had spent every earned dollar back into advertising to the wrong target audience.
Here comes the best tip of all!
Richard Branson taught me to “Never cry over spilled milk” and I’m NOT going to.
The SliceJobs-project was an amazing learning experience and offered me valuable hands-on knowledge that far exceeds years of “theoretical” college studying. It taught me how to effectively communicate with customers, set the RIGHT price for my services, handle PayPal and taxes, outsource parts of the project to external developers, use Google adwords, analytics & a/b testing, and more! It was such a blast I had so much fun!
It also gave me valuable insights on my Must-Dos, Nice-to-Dos, and the big No’s. Looking back at it now, I can honestly say that this project was a 1000-euro investment in my personal career which feels like nothing compared to the priceless knowledge that I gained along the way.
I can’t tell you how eager I am to hear your comments on my first project!
Please do so below, and if you have had a different or similar experience in your career, please share it with me! Let’s learn from each other.
Go make it big!