Six months of Tiny Projects

November 18th 2020

Six months ago, I set myself the goal of creating one tiny project each week.

My main aim was to get better at testing out all the ideas I had written down in my phone, but not actually done anything with.

26 weeks later, and a quick glance of this website, you'll notice I've launched 6 things.

Although I'm 20 projects short, it's not all bad. My projects are generating some passive income, I've gone from no online following, to a few hundred twitter followers, and I've had a great time building weird and wonderful internet things.

In this post I'll give an update on how these projects are performing, and the pros and cons of launching micro-businesses.

Let's rewind.

💡 Tiny Website

Tiny Projects was born the day after my 25th birthday. Project #1 is this bare-bones tiny website that you're reading right now.

When it launched, the only content on this website was a blog post, a guide on making tiny websites, and an update about my goals.

Randomly, I decided to submit my blog post "Tiny websites are great" onto Hacker News. Over the next 24 hours it hit the top of the front page, bringing 25k users to this site in its first day. It was absolutely thrilling.

As a double whammy, the guide I'd produced also hit the top of the learn programming sub-reddit with 1.3k upvotes.

Somehow, I'd managed to hit a homerun with no idea what I was doing. Pageviews, followers and emails were flying in fast. Anyone who has produced a bit of viral content on the internet will know, the dopamine rush is insane.

🌐 Silicon Valley Domain names

Funnily enough, my second Tiny Project was the only one I actually completed in a week. Spurred on by the previous project, I was keen to replicate my success.

I wanted to investigate domain names. Specifically, was it possible to buy a google.x domain name? It was an investigative piece with a bit of coding sprinkled in.

Completing this project in a week was gruelling. My day-job was neglected, and I pulled some very long hours. However, 7 days later, I hit publish on my second blog post: "I bought netflix.soy".

Again, I posted it on Hacker News. It became the most viral thing I've written.

The Tiny Projects website received 28k page views, and the post got 410 upvotes. Hundreds of followers and emails again poured in.

Writing two viral pieces back-to-back made me question what I was really doing. Somehow I'd stumbled into writing click-baity blog posts for Hacker News instead of building tiny projects.

6 months on, I still own all the domains I purchased for this project except the Facebook one. Damn you Zuck.

⚔️ 8-bit Battle Royale

For my third tiny project, I decided I wanted to make an online game.

With minimal knowledge of Unity, I cobbled together a tiny battle royale game called "Wee Royale" in 2 weeks and launched it on Android.

Posting this project write up on Hacker News got zero attention. I expected this, as it didn't really fit the usual HN content, but I was still disappointed. My brain had been jaded by the massive numbers of the first two posts.

Wee Royale currently has 25 downloads on the Google Play Store. I'm actually not sure if the game still works though.

Overall, Wee Royale was a flop, but it was hilarious to play it with my friends.

🛍️ One Item Store

With a minimalist design, and the tag line "just sell your stuff", One Item Store lets anyone create an online shop in minutes to sell their goods.

After two weeks of building my micro e-commerce platform, I launched it on Product Hunt. At the end of the day I finished on the homepage with 83 upvotes.

Today, people have created over 1400 stores, selling everything from t-shirts, to human beings. I've seen some very strange things.

In total, £163.09 has flowed through One Item Store checkouts, mainly from a car dealership in Australia offering deals throughout the pandemic. I take a small 1% fee on every transaction, netting me a small fortune of £1.63.

Although its not a significant amount, this was my first Tiny Projects internet money! The best thing is, One Item Store makes money without me having to do anything.

One Item Store is a Tiny Project I'd like to continue building. My next step would be to add some better checkout designs, and make the website look a bit more legit.

📗 Snormal

Snormal is a social network for everything that doesn't make it onto your Instagram highlight reel. A typical post on Snormal is something like: "Dude, I just ate a whole baguette in bed".

I launched Snormal with zero intentions of making any money. It was a bit of a social experiment to see if people were becoming as jaded with social media as me.

After 1 month of building, and an accidental Product Hunt launch, Snormal has gone on to gain 200 registered users, who have scrolled 4432 times on the discover feed.

Its incredibly fun running a micro-social network.

Two weeks after Snormal launched, I hadn't implemented comments on posts. When I finally added them, it felt godlike letting people finally talk to each other.

Growth on Snormal slowly increasing. For some strange reason it has become popular in Portugal. Have a scroll now, and you'll see loads of statuses in Portugese.

💸 Earlyname

Earlyname helps you claim rare usernames (like @ben or @alice) on new, emerging social platforms. Currently it is generating $200/month.

Running Earlyname is so much fun. I get to talk with founders, try out new products, do a bit of web scraping/automation, and find rare usernames for people.

The only downside is that it requires my input every month to produce a new email. I'm anxious for the month I can't find any new social platforms.

At present, Earlyname has 1500 subscribers on its email list, a number which thankfully seems to be growing naturally.

Although its currently only at $200/mo, its cool to think Earlyname is generating $2k/year. My plan is to keep plugging away launching monthly newsletters and see how high that monthly revenue number can get.

👍 Positives of Tiny Projects

I believe there's a big advantage to this "micro-bet" approach of launching many tiny businesses, and then sticking with the ones that become successful.

Firstly, it drastically reduces the risk of putting too much time into an idea that doesn't quite work. Even if you stumbled across a decent idea that did work, what if there's an amazing one just around the corner? It keeps you on your toes.

Creating lots of tiny businesses also keeps things fun and interesting. This is probably the most important factor for me.

Feeling obligued to keep building something that you've sunk hundreds of hours into but no longer enjoy sounds like my personal hell.

With tiny projects, the stakes are so low, I can kill a project with no guilt and build something else, or just bounce between the projects I want to work on.

👎 Negatives of Tiny Projects

My original plan was to launch one tiny project each week, however I've realised this is an insane schedule. You can't build or document anything meaningful in this time.

This schedule might be possible if I treated Tiny Projects full-time like a YouTuber. But, I don't think going all in on Micro-SaaS businesses would be very fun with the revenue they're currently generating.

1-2 months is a more reasonable tiny project timeframe. It gives you enough time to build something with substance, and test the idea thoroughly.

One major downside of launching lots of things is that you become way too happy to give up on a project when it doesn't show instant success.

Perhaps if I spent more time on marketing, or slightly pivoted a project, I could see more success. Currently, I'm more inclined to just start something new.

Maintaining lots of software can also become a bit of a burden. Once the domain name renewal date comes around, I'll have to make some decisions as to whether a project lives on for another year or not.

🔮 Conclusions & The Future

I feel like I'm trying to learn the skill of generating better ideas, and rapidly building and launching them into a business.

I try to think about this process like going for a run. The more runs I do, the faster and fitter I'll be. The more projects I launch, the better and more profitable they'll be.

How often does someone build & launch a business in their lifetime? I'm hoping that by doing this process over and over again, I'll discover some really interesting things.

My main goal for the next six months of Tiny Projects is to learn how to get better at making money on the internet from my projects.

A Product Hunt launch can easily get you a spike in traffic, but afterwards I really don't know what I'm doing. There's this whole other level afterwards called "sales & marketing" that I want to master.

Another goal is to also be more consistent with my writing. Hopefully, this ultimately means you'll be hearing a lot more things from me!

It was nice to catch up.