I am making a commitment to myself to try and launch a few side projects in 2017, and see what (if any) of them gets some interest during this year. I am constantly coming up with new ideas for products or services, and rather than shake them all off, I’ll dedicate a little time and money to a few of them, and see if I get any form of traction.

Before I commit to working on any of these, I’ll measure each against three criteria, being;

1. Can’t take too much time every week
2. Needs a reasonable chance of financial gain
3. Should be cheap to get started

To kick 2017 off, I’ve started a little early, and just over a fortnight ago I launched growth.email – a weekly curated email that uncovers great content on growth hacking and marketing.

I’ve set aside $99 for the first 3 months. At the end of this period, I’ll either deem it a failure or a success. For simplicity, let’s say the deadline is 31 March 2017.

Now, $99 is less than taking the family out for a meal, so I need to be very mindful how I spend this small budget. The cost includes any setup as well, so I’ll be relying heavily on cheap or free tools to help me.

How I will measure success
I’ve set a ‘minimum’ and ‘stretch’ goal for both subscriber list and income. These will be measured on 31 March and this will determine where I go with growth.email from here.

Build that subscriber list
For this idea, subscribers are what I need to see any form of financial success down the track. Whilst the newsletter is free, it needs to generate some income, and so I’ll be looking to sell advertising. To do that, I need subscribers.

Minimum target: 500 subscribers
Stretch target: 1,500 subscribers

I feel I should be able to rustle up 500 subscribers within 3 months, and ideally, 500 subscribers per month. This is, however, a side project so I am trying to purposefully not dedicate every awake hour to it; in fact I hope to spend under five hours a week. Heck, I have two other businesses to run as well.

Create some income
My end goal with growth.email is to eventually operate it as a side business, or at least generate more income than expenses.

Minimum target: $1
Stretch target: $100

I feel if I get at least one dollar in income, that helps validate that advertising in this may work as a model. My stretch target is to cover the hard costs of this experiment. I may try using relevant affiliate links to start with, until I have a sizeable subscriber list.

Set up and launch
I managed to get the domain name for $7.11 from GoDaddy, and host it on a server I am paying $5 a month for another project I am planning. I’ll allocate $2.50 a month for the hosting.

Next up, I signed up for a Goodbits account (to curate and send the weekly emails) at $8 a month.

Status (2 January)
I’ve now got the newsletter running, and have sent two issues out so far. It’s a quiet start, given the time of year, yet I am putting things into place to grow this in the first month of the new year.

The website is up and running, now with a new theme and info, thanks to some feedback. I have added a testimonial (social proof) sharing buttons and link to the archives. Thanks Ben for the suggestions!

Landing page

Landing page

The landing page is collecting a small trickle of subscribers (as shown below) which now stands at 186 subscribers. I have the Twitter account running, as well as email autoresponder and newsletter template.

As well as these, there are a few free tools that I’m experienced with, and using for this project as well;

I am using a few free tools along the way to automate some things, to save time. I am using IFTTT for some auto fave tests on Twitter, I am using Quuu to help feed my tweets, and Buffer to deliver and schedule my @thegrowthemail Twitter account.

I am collecting links via RSS in Feedly, and using the Goodbits Chrome extension to push them into my moderation pile.

Subscriber growth

Subscriber growth chart

Marketing efforts
Outside of my previous blog post, emailing a few friends and some social media sharing, I haven’t done much to promote this project so far. I’ll start to ramp this up, now that the festive season is behind me.

Tonight I splurged $20 on a promoted post on Facebook, to see what that gets me. We know from experience that posts with a photo of a person tends to get more response, and given I am trying to target my contacts, I made a dodgy image of myself (below).

Facebook promoted post

Facebook promoted post

I’m not super happy with the photo (taken on iPhone in my lounge room) the deep etching or the photoshopped logo on t-shirt, but it’ll do for now.

The finances so far
To recap the expenses I have incurred so far;

$7.11 domain name
$8.00 Goodbits
$2.50 hosting
$20.00 Facebook ad

I expect my future expenses over the next two months to be

$16.00 Goodbits
$19.80 Campaign Monitor
$5.00 Hosting
$40.80 ($20.40 per month)

That totals $78.41 in outgoings. I’ll have a spare $20.59 to spend on some other promotion, in order to keep it within my original $99 budget.

I’ll report back in around four weeks time on how I am going, and how the numbers look. In the meantime, please consider adding yourself to my subscriber stats – you can sign up in seconds on the growth.email website.

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