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Benjamin Lin

Benjamin Lin

Benjamin Lin

Benjamin Lin

1 month ago

I sold my side project for $20,000: 6 lessons I learned

How I monetized and sold an abandoned side project for $20,000

Unfortunately, there was no real handshake as the sale was transacted entirely online

The Origin Story

I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur but never succeeded. I often had business ideas, made a landing page, and told my buddies. Never got customers.

In April 2021, I decided to try again with a new strategy. I noticed that I had trouble acquiring an initial set of customers, so I wanted to start by acquiring a product that had a small user base that I could grow.

I found a SaaS marketplace called MicroAcquire.com where you could buy and sell SaaS products. I liked Shareit.video, an online Loom-like screen recorder.

Shareit.video didn't generate revenue, but 50 people visited daily to record screencasts.

Purchasing a Failed Side Project

I eventually bought Shareit.video for $12,000 from its owner.

$12,000 was probably too much for a website without revenue or registered users.

I thought time was most important. I could have recreated the website, but it would take months. $12,000 would give me an organized code base and a working product with a few users to monetize.

You should always ask yourself the build vs buy decision when starting a new project

I considered buying a screen recording website and trying to grow it versus buying a new car or investing in crypto with the $12K.

Buying the website would make me a real entrepreneur, which I wanted more than anything.

Putting down so much money would force me to commit to the project and prevent me from quitting too soon.

A Year of Development

I rebranded the website to be called RecordJoy and worked on it with my cousin for about a year. Within a year, we made $5000 and had 3000 users.

We spent $3500 on ads, hosting, and software to run the business.

AppSumo promoted our $120 Life Time Deal in exchange for 30% of the revenue.

We put RecordJoy on maintenance mode after 6 months because we couldn't find a scalable user acquisition channel.

We improved SEO and redesigned our landing page, but nothing worked.

Growth flatlined, so we put the project on maintenance mode

Despite not being able to grow RecordJoy any further, I had already learned so much from working on the project so I was fine with putting it on maintenance mode. RecordJoy still made $500 a month, which was great lunch money.

Getting Taken Over

One of our customers emailed me asking for some feature requests and I replied that we weren’t going to add any more features in the near future. They asked if we'd sell.

We got on a call with the customer and I asked if he would be interested in buying RecordJoy for 15k. The customer wanted around $8k but would consider it.

Since we were negotiating with one buyer, we put RecordJoy on MicroAcquire to see if there were other offers.

Everything is negotiable, including how long the buyer can remain an exclusive buyer and what the payment schedule should be.

We quickly received 10+ offers. We got 18.5k. There was also about $1000 in AppSumo that we could not withdraw, so we agreed to transfer that over for $600 since about 40% of our sales on AppSumo usually end up being refunded.

Lessons Learned

First, create an acquisition channel

We couldn't discover a scalable acquisition route for RecordJoy. If I had to start another project, I'd develop a robust acquisition channel first. It might be LinkedIn, Medium, or YouTube.

Purchase Power of the Buyer Affects Acquisition Price

Some of the buyers we spoke to were individuals looking to buy side projects, as well as companies looking to launch a new product category. Individual buyers had less budgets than organizations.

Customers of AppSumo vary.

AppSumo customers value lifetime deals and low prices, which may not be a good way to build a business with recurring revenue. Designed for AppSumo users, your product may not connect with other users.

Try to increase acquisition trust

Acquisition often fails. The buyer can go cold feet, cease communicating, or run away with your stuff. Trusting the buyer ensures a smooth asset exchange. First acquisition meeting was unpleasant and price negotiation was tight. In later meetings, we spent the first few minutes trying to get to know the buyer’s motivations and background before jumping into the negotiation, which helped build trust.

Operating expenses can reduce your earnings.

Monitor operating costs. We were really happy when we withdrew the $5000 we made from AppSumo and Stripe until we realized that we had spent $3500 in operating fees. Spend money on software and consultants to help you understand what to build.

Don't overspend on advertising

We invested $1500 on Google Ads but made little money. For a side project, it’s better to focus on organic traffic from SEO rather than paid ads unless you know your ads are going to have a positive ROI.