May 18th 2021
Exactly one year ago, I started this blog to try out all the random project ideas I kept in my phone notes.
Although this is just a hobby, something I've become very interested in is selling these tiny internet projects.
So far I've sold 2 things, and found the process incredibly fun. Conducting tiny business deals from my bedroom with a cup of tea is great.
In this post, I'll tell you how I sold my last project, Earlyname.
Last year I got excited that I managed to get the username @ben on a new social network that I tried.
Short, rare usernames can be valuable. They're a vanity status symbol, and the sign of an early-adopter. The handle @jack on Twitter is much "cooler" than @jackyboi99.
My idea was a website that sent you brand new social networks each month, and told you if your rare username was available on them.
I didn't know if this idea would work, but I knew the best way to find out would be to build it and see.
Over 3 weeks I cobbled together a small website and found 4 new social networks with usernames. I added a paid "username reservation service" for $10/month, and launched the website on Product Hunt.
The launch went great. 400 people signed up, and my website Earlyname.com was making $150/month in subscriptions.
You can read the full story of how I built and launched it here.
Every month I'd find 4 new social networks, write some scripts to check username availability, and send out a newsletter. It took roughly 5 hours per month.
Over 6 months, I had 2500 newsletter subscribers and revenue had grown to $350/month in username reservation subscriptions.
Running Earlyname started out as fun, but slowly became a bit of a chore.
I'd tested more social networks than one man should ever try in a lifetime. Social networks for dogs are a very real, and very strange thing.
My emoji email address service had also just launched, and it quickly did $9,000 in sales over a weekend.
This made me realise I should start focusing my time more on projects that required less of my time, but maximised my personal fun and revenue.
Earlyname was doing well, but it required my input each month and I had no desire to grow it.
I wondered, could I sell it?
One morning, I typed up an advert to sell my project on Microacquire.
It was a simple listing, with some information about Earlyname and its revenue numbers.
Over two weeks, 17 interested people sent me messages.
I video chatted with some of them. One guy I spoke with ran a website selling personalised Disney-style dog paintings. The internet is awesome.
However, after several calls, I had found a great potential buyer.
The next step was to agree on a price for Earlyname. Over email, me and the buyer worked our way towards a deal:
Buyer: Just to start off some pricing talks, I’d offer $4,500.
Tiny Projects: I'd be looking for $15,000.
Buyer: I think I could come up to maybe $7500 but that’s about it.
Tiny Projects: Would you be willing to meet me at $12,000?
Buyer: I think I’d be willing to move up to $9,000.
Tiny Projects: If you met me at $10,500 we have a deal
Buyer: Ok at $10,500 we have a deal.
Giving your project to a stranger on the internet is risky, so we used escrow.com to make the transfer. The fee was around $88.
The buyer first sent $10,500 to Escrow. Once I knew it was locked in, I started sending over code, accounts and domain names.
To help with the transition, I also created 10 YouTube videos explaining how to run the website. The buyer was an experienced developer, so I knew it was in good hands.
The deal was complete. It took 38 days from posting my advert to receiving the funds.
Here's a question I ask myself a lot:
Is it a more profitable strategy as a developer to build side-projects purely with the intention of selling them?
I made more money selling Earlyname than if I'd tried to run it for 2+ years. Plus, I got instant funds to invest into new projects, and more free time.
I acknowledge that I'm good at building projects rapidly, but don't enjoy marketing and running them. Honestly, I get bored and want to move onto the next thing.
SaaS businesses are hot right now. Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur and reliable monthly recurring revenue in the form of SaaS is weirdly becoming an asset class.
Could I pump out tiny SaaS starter projects and sell them at $10k+ a pop? I've not seen anyone try this strategy, but it really interests me.
I'm now one year into this Tiny Projects mission.
Graduating into year two, I'm not going to change much. My only resolution will be to make projects that require little ongoing demands on my time.
Otherwise, I'm still going to be building projects; lots of them, and I'll still keep things tiny.
Each project I make is like another roll of the dice. However those dice land, I learn something new which makes the next project better.
Thanks for reading.