This is the biggest and most exciting part of the open startups challenge for me. I have a great deal of experience with CRM administration and development, and specifically with certain niches around clienteling, marketing automation, and audit automation. These niches are currently exploding as multibillion dollar international markets while CRM companies are posting enormous gains. These markets are targeted primarily by large conglomerates who focus on large customers. As the old saying goes, 90% of businesses target less than 10% of a market.
I want to focus on small players. There is a virtually limitless supply of crm administration and development work already be sought after on platforms like Upwork by these small players. A quick job search shows countless open positions in this field in Northern California alone. Clearly there is a huge demand for this.
I have spent the last five years of my career working on launching a free crm product which leverages these niches to monetize itself by adding value for customers. This has proven extremely challenging. So I am pivoting to focusing on adding value for customers who are using paid platforms like Salesforce. Later, I can come back to my project of trying to offer a Free Gmail-type alternative to Salesforce’s paid Outlook-type CRM.
I have already set up a pipeline which pulls all salesforce and crm development or administration jobs posted on Upwork and puts them into a trello board. This will allow me to aggressively target the most valuable work and build initial relationships from the perspective of this new consulting business.
My blog receives a decent amount of traffic, and I have a consistent ability to generate organic traffic for certain niche topics. I have experimented in the past with monetizing posts via affiliate links, and I was surprised by how easy it was to make some revenue with just organic traffic and no ad spend.
I have seen a lot of promoted posts on social media with simple top ten lists for things like “Cheap last minute gifts” or “Best office gadgets under $10.”
I often click on these ads with genuine interest, and always realize that whenever I do, I am generating affiliate revenue for the sites.
This seems like a super easy gig to get into. It’s very straightforward. The ROI is easy to measure, and I already have a great deal of experience with every part of this business.
I have compiled a list of these types of sites and used automation tools to integrate all their posts into a to-do list which I can go through searching for content for my posts. Then, I will publish the posts on social media and boost them so lots of people see the posts and click through to my site. If even a few of them click through to affiliate sales sites and make purchases, then the project will be profitable.
It will be critical to develop a small, focused set of content types and to aggressively measure results for each post. Important metrics include traffic, engagements, clicks, and of course affiliate link conversions.
From there, each niche will need to have its own reporting about the time spent developing content and its cost, the amount of ad spend, and the revenue generated. This will enable clear and concise business analysis of each niche.
I have owned this company for 15 years since I started it at age 14. My strategy has always been to accept essentially any work. I want to narrow my focus and think more strategically. Different types of gigs come with enormously different amounts of work, reward, and prestige.
I’m done with schools. These are stressful jobs which don’t pay well. I may outsource this to a contractor in order to continue to leverage that segment, but I don’t want to work school gigs anymore. The kids are always mean, and I spend all my time mediating between the opposite wants of kids and their parents. It’s not worth it.
I want to focus primarily on two weekly residencies at dive bars. I want to set up an 80s dance party which benefits a worthy cause, as well as a weekly hard techno night (In the Berghain sense) which more closely resembles San Francisco’s underground sex party scene. This is a very complex and challenging pair of weekly events which should prove a very challenging and engaging project. Currently I am looking at Wednesday and Thursday nights but I do not have venues in mind yet.
Weddings are a very high ticket gig which is also a high stress gig. It’s worth it, and I really should be doing more of these. I usually gross about $1k/gig. Stress is no excuse for ignoring such a lucrative market segment.
Third, I want to expand my probono work. I already have some of the best sound and lighting equipment currently available, and I can literally give a mic to worthy groups in need.
My first goal is to make $200/week in revenue from these two weekly diverbar events.
My second goal is to do one wedding a month at that $1k price.
These two goals make up $1800/month in revenue. This is just shy of half of my overall monthly revenue goal for the open revenue project. In order to fulfil my overall goal that each of three project should supply at least 20% of an overall revenue of $4,000, this means I should have two other projects grossing at least $800 each. This still leaves me $600 shy of the $4,000 goal.
There are lots and lots of bars in the Sacramento area which do not have the required entertainment license for hosting live events. This prohibits them from having dancing, bands, DJs, or any other music that isn’t coming from either a jukebox or radio. The cost to get this license is actually very low, but you have to pay for several years up front. Many venues simply choose not to have these types of events.
The solution is so simple. I have already spoken to several bar owners who said they would happily accept a binding contract for several years of work in exchange for me paying for the permit and giving them several days a week to host their own events. I project a weekly amortized cost of just $8, with potential weekly profits up to twenty times that.
It can’t just be bars and weddings. I have had many other reliable sources of DJ revenue over the years including sororities, middle schools, high schools, etc.
These days, many small venues such as hookah bars are impacted by a changing legal landscape and struggling to identify ways of enticing larger crowds while selling less product. Live entertainment is the obvious age-old solution. I have already spoken to several hookah bar owners who would love to host live DJ events. Incidentally, the smoke would really make the lasers pop!
I had the worst time trying to source a set of lag bolts for Burning Man online this year. I found them listed on Amazon for as much as $50 a set. This is absolutely insane. I went to the hardware store and put together a set from scratch which cost about $6.
I intend to put together sets like this and list them on Ebay and Amazon at prices which dramatically undercut the competition. The beauty of it is that I can use JIT to eliminate all startup costs by simply waiting until a set sells to purchase the parts.
I have the strong feeling that this will be a seasonal business which peaks just before Burning Man, but there is no harm in starting now.
Several figures are inspirations for this project. Chief among them is Pieter Levels. His open revenue dashboard shows his several projects and monthly revenue, along with a graph. His dashboard also shows the status of many serverless bots which perform tasks to facilitate his projects. This enables him to be an effective solopreneur and digital nomad.
Andrey Azimov is another interesting case, and a friend of Pieter Levels. I have been following his progress on a very similar open revenue dashboard on his site. His dashboard also includes the interesting feature of an overall progress bar towards his MRR goal and a countdown to the deadline for his MRR goal. I think this is an interesting approach which could enable additional analytics about trends and progress.
Following as I often do, the example of Pieter Levels, I have decided to create an open and public page to show progress towards my revenue goals with several of my projects. This allows me to hold myself accountable and to show hard numbers related to the writing I’m doing.
Dashboards are a valuable tool which helps us to define clear and measurable metrics for concisely tracking and communicating progress towards goals. This is an excellent tool for business as well as for our personal lives.
I have seen several different approaches to accomplishing this type of dashboard. Many of them have included attempts to develop the dashboard itself from scratch in order to prove the ability to do so. Instead, I have decided to go for a serverless approach. I will simply use a Google sheets document and then publish a connected graph onto the page. I will simply add data to the spreadsheet and then Google will update the graph pictures automagically. No reason to overcomplicate this.
I want to follow two main metrics; total monthly revenue by project, and revenue mix.
Each of three projects produces at least 20% of total revenue.
Total monthly revenue from these new projects exceeds $1,000.
Most entrepreneurial thought leaders advise starting with a number for how much cashflow you need to live. This number is often called MRR or monthly recurring revenue. I am currently a student who does not need to have any income. Thus, I am less focused on the total than on coming up with a steady non zero amount for each project’s revenue. I have set an arbitrary goal by the end of the year of $1,000 MRR.