Alice joins the battle - August 2021 retro
I’m on a quest to launch a new project each month until I get overwhelmed or bored. The goal is to find some fulfilling projects that can bring in some (‘ramen profitable’) revenue. This was month 5. And compared to my rocky July, August was great!
One of the things I started doing was tweeting about my projects and my progress. It has been a great way to help keep focus on tasks and to reflect on what I’ve been doing. Another bonus is connecting with other people who are in a similar position to me - working on projects and products as Indie Hackers (or whatever you want to call us). It also helps that so many of them on Twitter are kind and helpful.
This month I started, developed, and then shipped my August project - Art by an AI. But more on that later.
Revenue is still negligable, yet higher than all previous months. On top of that, I now have multiple projects with potential to bring in some revenue.
This is my August update.
Recap of the projects I’m talking about this month
Map of Strength - A directory of top gyms for enthusiast lifters and strength-sport competitors.
Art by an AI - a site that hosts a daily prompt comptetition. Art is generated for each of the top 10 prompts using VQGAN+CLIP. Canvases and posters of the art can be purchased.
My full project list is here
Start and launch August’s project ✔️
I launched Art by an AI this month. I’ve had the domain sitting unused since early 2020, and after having several different ideas for what to do with it, I finally decided on this one.
The idea is that people submit their prompts in the daily competition for everyone else to vote on. Then, at 12:00 UTC, the top 10 prompts are taken and used to generate images using VQGAN+CLIP. For some reason I ended up personifying the AI and called it Alice.
Once the images are generated, you can buy prints of the art as a canvas or a poster - but only until the next batch of images is created.
The concept and the site itself feel a little like an art piece. And I like that about the project. It feels less ‘serious’ and more creative.
Although NFTs have been huge this year (particularly for AI Art) I decided to avoid them for ArtByAnAI. At least for this version. Maybe I’ll try integrating NFTs in the future if there is a demand for them.
The project was only (soft) launched at the very end of the month - just hitting the goal by the skin of my teeth. Right now I’m planning the ‘full launch’ which will be in the next few days.
This project has been one of the most involved ones (at least in terms of development) so far during this 1 project per month challenge. I had to learn some new things to facilitate voting without requiring user accounts (though I fear that might bite me in the arse at some point). And I had to develop some automations to make sure that I don’t need to be doing any manual work on the site down the line. For MVPs I don’t normally mind some manual work behind the scenes. But because it’s a daily thing it made a lot of sense to build them in from the start.
Since the project hasn’t been completely ‘launched’ I don’t know what to expect. Will people find it compelling? Do people care enough to buy a print?
I guess we’ll find out what happens in next September’s retrospective.
Get 5 sales of PC Nameplates ❌
Last month I created an Etsy listing for PC Nameplates, and it’s already paid off. I put no time into promoting PC Nameplates this month yet I still got some sales.
The first one came on a Monday morning. I woke up, checked my emails, and there was an email from Etsy saying I had sold one!
Whilst I was creating the plate for the customer, I also created a plate as a gift to a computer system integration company along with a letter. The idea was to start a conversation about selling them plates with their logo so they can install it into their cases.
So far I haven’t heard anything back from them. Although, to be fair, it takes a little while for mail to get delivered from the UK to the US. I’m not expecting anything from it. But it’s worth a try.
I had some interest in the plates on Etsy. It turns out you can see who ‘favourites’ your items. And there were a decent number of favourites compared to the number of impressions that the listing gets. And if you go incognito and look at your listing, you can see how many people have the item in their cart. When I checked the first time, it was 6. So people are interested. We just need to get them to click buy. Some of the hesitancy might be because I don’t have many sales or reviews.
I got a couple more sales via Etsy. Except one of them didn’t leave any details about what they wanted. So I had to cancel and refund it.
On another note, I don’t really know how Etsy works. Mostly on the charges side of things. There are so many little fees here and there that I don’t really know what’s going on. And on top of that, you’re automatically enrolled in an offsite ad scheme. Where you pay 15% of any sales that you get as a result.
So I’m trying to see whether it’s actually worth keeping the offsite Etsy ads going.
Unfortunately I’m basically in the same position that I was before. I know that people want something like this. But I don’t know how to reach more of them organically while also having it make sense time-wise. The margins on a product like this aren’t that great in the first place.
This month, I got 2 sales of PC Nameplates out of the 5 for the goal. It would have been 3 if not for the one that I had to refund. Maybe next month?
Re-launch Map of Strength ✔️
On the first of August, I ‘launched’ Map of Strength again. This time on the /r/strongman subreddit where I visit each week. The response was overall pretty good. And it came along with the typical spike in traffic that tapered over the week.
There was a few great comments about it too. So I think I’m on the right track.
“I’m sure many folks will find it useful”
“Very cool idea”
“This site is a great idea”
“I think this is one of the absolute best things you could do for the sport.”
A week later I commented thanking everyone for their support and for submitting gyms. And then a moderator asked if they could link the site on the top level of the post! Of course they could!
The only problem with that is that people don’t read the content of the post when it’s posted by a bot every week…
Traffic and contributions to the site dropped pretty significantly over the last two weeks of the month. Although there has only been 1 day with no visitors at all. This makes sense because I haven’t done anything to promote the site over those weeks (I was working on ArtByAnAI).
I do keep an eye out for people asking about gyms. If I can I’ll do some research and reply. Maybe I’ll become the ‘gym guy’?
Get 5 user-contributed gyms on Map of Strength ✔️
We added over 20 user-contributed gyms this month.
After posting Map of Strength to Reddit, along with the positive response, we also got a bunch of gyms submitted.
We hit 5 gyms contributed by users before the 2nd of August. And after I caught up on adding them, there were over 20 of them. And throughout the rest of the month a couple more came trickling in.
I was actually pretty surprised at this. I wasn’t expecting such a strong response to submitting the gyms. It is pretty low-friction for someone to fill out the contact form with the name of a gym and its rough location or a link to the website. So that definitely helps. It’s not exactly good for my time. ‘Do things that don’t scale’ I guess.
Add data to hit 45 total gyms for Map of Strength ✔️
This is basically the same story. We hit 45 gyms in less than a week because I was pretty focused on catching up on user-submitted gyms.
By the end of the month, we had over 70 gyms on the map.
There are more to add from some lists that I’ve gathered. But they’re not a huge priority just yet.
Progress is good on Map of Strength. But I think it’s going to take a while before it can be monetized in any way. There are some planned upgrades coming too, but the focus should now be on growth.
Last month I mentioned that liftingstones.org had it’s best month ever. Well August eclipsed it. So much so that it beat July’s unique visitors in less than 17 days.
There were a couple of reasons this happened. Mostly all external factors. First, there was a news story about the Inver stone and its new location on an online publication, which meant people were Googling the stone. The Inver stone article on the site ranks No. 1 on Google. So there was a decent amount of residual traffic from that.
After that there were two other events that spiked traffic a bit. The first was when Laurence Shahlaei broke the Dinnie Stone walking distance record. The Dinnie Stones article isn’t top of Google, but I think it’s front page, so there was a little traffic.
The a few days later Laurence Shahlaei posted a video of him lifting the Barevan stone. The Barevan stone is much less well known than the Dinnie stones, so there was a lot of people searching for information. Again the Barevan stone article on the site ranks top of Google.
August was the first month that we had 100 unique visits in 24 hours. And it was also the first month that we had 200 unique visits in 24 hours, following the Barevan stone video. We actually got super close to 300, but not quite. The feeling of growing is good one - especially when it’s passive.
Looking at the traffic graph for liftingstones.org is pretty nice. We went from 1.6k unique visits last month to 2.6k this month. A pretty big jump. And it’s even more mind blowing when I realised that the first >1k unique visit month was May - 3 months ago.
In the last week of August, I started thinking more about my September project. I looked through my idea list of over 150 ideas, and nothing stood out to me. Which is unusual. There’s usually something that I think is worth working on.
A couple of days later I had a new idea. It’s a ‘tiny’ project. And it’s not exactly a product either. So I’m not sure what to expect. It could be a huge flop.
I bought the domain too (I’m surprised it wasn’t taken). So I guess I’ve made my decision. If worst comes to worst, I can try and sell the domain for a profit.
There’s a lot I need to do next month on other projects, so a tiny project will be nice to work with.
One of those things I’ve been meaning to do for a while is to kill-off Sterki - my first SaaS product. I’m probably going to write a whole post about the whole thing, so I won’t say much more here. It’s been a ‘zombie’ for a while - still on the internet, but effectively dead. I want to come back to the idea eventually. But not as it is now.
Anyway, here are my September goals:
- Start, create, and launch September’s (tiny, weird) project
- Launch ArtByAnAI on Product Hunt (and elsewhere)
- Get 5 sales of Art (by an AI)
- Get 5 sales of PC Nameplates
- Add filtering to Map of Strength and do a slight redesign on the landing page
- Create some real (consistent) Instagram content for Map of Strength. Get >50 followers.
- Kill the current iteration of Sterki and replace it with a landing page
- Write a blog post about killing Sterki, and the failure story
August’s revenue from projects: $30
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