The Simple Math of Self-Employment

It’s so easy for us to get overwhelmed at the complexity of starting a business or becoming self-employed. You do some calculations of how much money it would take to get there, and it’s disheartening. “How in the hell am I supposed to make that much money?” You get overwhelmed thinking of all the energy, time, and resources that will go into making a product great enough to be expensive enough to earn you that much. For some reason, I begin imagining having to start and run a huge factory. The complexity of it all blows over me and I’m just paralyzed and disheartened. “Only people who have the fortitude or the fortune to buy a factory can start businesses,” I conclude, “And that’s not me.”

This mindset told me that the only way I was going to be able to earn income sufficient enough to leave my job was to have a break-out hit product, a videogame that was just so awesome that it earned me money without me even having to try, like Minecraft. The “earn money without even having to try” was my fear-driven fantasy that conveniently allowed me to avoid thinking about that overwhelming factories of those other entrepreneurs. This dream kept me pursuing all the wrong activities, telling myself all the wrong things, and wasting years of my life planning for some magical stack of perfect conditions. All I thought was right was wrong.

Recently, I began to see that, living in this digital age, the truth is almost stupidly simple: create multiple digital products. This is a lesson I adopted from something Brian Fargo once told me. He mentioned how having a back catalog of products can help your company stay in business, because all those little purchases can add up and maintaining the low numbers of sales is almost effortless. In other words, you don’t need to pin all your hopes to a single, super awesome, needs-to-be-perfect project. Instead, you can just build a bunch of smaller, ghetto-ier products, each one scoped appropriately to what you can accomplish given your time, resources, and skills at that time. This back catalog of products works for you, however slightly, while you sleep, work, and build other products. This back catalog of valuable-yet-not-award-winning products can eventually add up to sufficient income to consider yourself “self-employed”. You can quit that job, fill up your money machine, and move to Moorea.

It may have been the case in previous generations that you truly did need a bunch of capital and manufacturing time up front. If you had information or a story to share, you would need to print and ship the books. If you wanted to help people, you’d need an office space or a substantial travel budget. In our digital age, this is no longer necessarily the case. Many products will still require partnerships with other companies but if you’re building a product that can be digitized, such as an informational product, book, movie, etc. etc. you don’t need any of that. You can consult for free via Skype, self-publish your ebook via Amazon, or upload your film or videogame to a variety of locations. Even if you do have a physical product, you can use methods such as drop-shipping, and sites such as Shopify, to automate and digitize the process. There are plenty of people who have physical product-based businesses that they manage from around the world, wherever they happen to be, using just their laptops. You don’t need a factory.

About a week ago, I committed myself to making and releasing as many products as I could in the next 4 months. If I can release even one new product a month, with an average return at $50 per sale, I would only need to sell ~20 of each product per month to make enough to comfortably live off of ($50 x 4 products x 20 = $4000). To me, that is inspiring. Not only because around 20 sales per product seems far less daunting than the 1,000+ sales I was previously imagining, but because each of these digital products would not really need input from me. Once created and uploaded, like this blog post, they’re hosted. No more effort or energy on my end to keep them up. My only investment is that weekend or two it took to make it. I could just focus my efforts on marketing the current catalog or creating the next additions to it. It’s this freedom of how I choose to spend my time that is infinitely appealing. Remember, this time is going to pass anyways, either at a job you hate or on tasks that can increase your income without limit, whenever and from wherever in the world you want to be doing them. Which would you prefer?

Now, there is a trade-off. Shooting to get these products made quickly and to get them to be valuable enough to sell, I have to make a few compromises when it comes to the “fun” of the process. For example, I can’t create and launch a quality videogame in a month of part-time development so right away the fun pursuit of game development that I’ve wanted for years now is off the table. In addition, the value I currently have within me to package up and give the world is, by definition, the things I am already good at and thus also the things that are no longer interesting. My next product, for example, is a Udemy course on writing bomb-ass cover letters. I know how to do this, I’ve helped so many other people (including a mid-life entrepreneur and tech-industry veteran change careers) and continue to do so even today. It’s something I’m better at or know more about than most people, so it is a bit of value that I can uniquely contribute to the world. However, as you can guess, it is quite dry.

As sad as it may be to admit, I think this lack of “fun” is a huge reason I never accepted this truth earlier. I want to enjoy my life day in and day out. I’ve found that I can only find fulfillment in accomplishing dreams too big for me to accomplish, so instead I choose to pursue fun. If a project or activity is not fun, I avoid or abandon it. Thus, this recent shift has been rather unnerving and a bit of a jarring transition. I’m trying hard to find the fun in this process. Have these little experimental products be my games. Have the thrill of launch and pain of rejection be my excitement. Have the steady accumulation of entrepreneurial experiences, skills, and a thicker skin be the rewards. It’s not easy, but I think it will be a worthwhile experiment. Who knows, there might even be some extra income involved.

So here goes nothing. I may not be right with this, but I clearly haven’t been right up to this point either. The consequence of failure here is quite literally the situation I currently am, so there’s no risk. The only risk is staying put or trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Sure, my approach may not be that sophisticated or awe-inspiring, but at least it’s simple.

Simple math.

Believe me, all is brilliant,

_Eric

P.S. Check out the song Simple Math by Manchester Orchestra.

4 Months to Self-Employment

So about a year or so ago I came up with the goal to achieve “self-employment by 30”. In the time since then, I’ve flailed around from one idea to the next, unsuccessfully moving toward that objective. Sure, I’ve learned a lot, and even made $40 in sales off of an experiment with a cover letter writing business. Now, I’ve got about 5 months till I turn 30 so, assuming at least one month of time will be eaten up with holidays, that gives me 4 months to earn enough on my own to live off of. In just four months, I hope to have a business up and running. Ideally, it will also be running well enough to support me working on it full-time.

Now, I’m well aware that this is a challenging prospect and that more likely than not I will achieve self-employment during my 30th year or even sometime thereafter. But this truncated timeline can also be seen as an advantage, forcing me to focus on the right activities and disallowing any procrastination through inaction or “research”. I believe it was Jeff Bezos who recommends using 10x thinking, which essentially has you putting even crazier restrictions on your situation to force you into pursuing ideas and actions that will bring 10 times the result. So, if I use 10x thinking and do 80/20 analysis, I should be able to accomplish much of my objective by then, if not accomplish it entirely.

This will require me to discard a lot of emotional and egotistical baggage, not to mention unlearning many lessons and earning a new experiential education via trial and error. However, I am ready for this. Clearly, the past ~5 years of me trying it the Eric way has not worked. I’m at the point where I want a product more than I want a lifestyle. I want a good thrashing more than I want a comfortable cruise toward success. I want a systematic struggle more than I want a get-rich-quick scheme. I want to end this year with a solid foundation of skills, experiences, and–ideally–sales that I can use to build my entrepreneurial future upon.

Not my image, and of course it's cheesy.

Not my image, and of course it’s cheesy.

This is the shaky step out onto the dance floor, the fumbled greeting to a pretty girl, the trust-the-bungie leap off a bridge. Caution and comfort can be a cage if indulged for too long. I’ve fed them well. The freedom instinct still vibrates madly in the core of my being and if I want to achieve some measure of financial liberation by my next birthday, I’ll need to be bold, be lean, and always be moving. Rest not, want not. I’ll also need to remember that there is no perfection to pursue, just hypotheses and experiments. There is no safety or guarantee to find, just the confidence in your ability to thrive in any situation. There is no trick to making money, just the noble pursuit of providing as much value to other people as you can.

Four more months. Let’s do this!

– Eric Daily, September 7th, 2015

Epic Non-Epic Realization

Had an epic realization yesterday that probably should not have been so epic.

So, one of the main reasons I have been so utterly unsuccessful at game development (well, indie game development anyways) for the past ~3 years is due to my fear of “wasting time.” It wasn’t the fear itself that was the problem, but my response to the fear.
I was constantly planning, researching, and going back to the drawing board in attempts to find the “one idea” that would ensure I didn’t waste any time in moving towards my goals: self-employment, impact, and doing ‘fun’ work. I eventually accepted that my approach of finding the perfect idea was fundamentally flawed, but I was still so scared of wasting time that I could not shake the allure of a guaranteed way forward. I kept trying to act like I would if I wasn’t afraid, but I was and it would always pull me back into my old, flawed ways.
Thus, in recent months, I tried to purge myself of the fear. I began to meditate heavily, get reacquainted with Stoicism, distract myself, and eventually put game development on a hiatus. But the fear remained. As a mortal and an atheist, I wanted my time on Earth to be well spent. The thought of wasting years of my life on something that wouldn’t advance my goals was just unbearable…but that was exactly what I was doing! Three years had already passed without a single game. All I had to show were a few broken prototypes and a ton of google docs. I was wasting time in an attempt not to. It made no sense.
Eventually I just threw up my hands and decided to give it one last hurrah before abandoning the idea of independent game development all together. Now humbled by three years of failure, I decided to not have grand ambition for the game, just three vague pillars of design. I’d build the game one feature at a time and test frequently. If I determined it wasn’t going in the right direction after a few months, I’d give up game development and try something new.
I began to think of what else I’d do, and why that would be different and better. “The cool thing about a physical product, a service, or even an app,” I thought, “is that you can validate that idea with people before you even build it.” There are many ways to do this, some of which I experimented with already in the Monthly1K course, so I knew that methods worked. “The great thing about getting that validation early,” I thought, “is that if no one likes your product, service, or app, you can pivot to a new idea without wasting a lot of money and…time…HOLY SHIT BALLZ!”
That is the way to avoid wasting time, not my previous approach of finding the “perfect idea” that will guarantee success before starting! If you build in small chunks and validate that those small chunks move you toward your goal before you build more chunks, you can avoid wasting valuable resources (in my case, time) on the wrong thing.
For example, let’s say I worked on a game that took 1000 hours to complete. With my former approach, I had to first find the perfect idea (fantasy), then make a huge assumption that the idea will guarantee success (risky), and then spend 1000 hours making it (expensive). If I succeeded, great! If I failed, however, that’s 1000 hours wasted. With the new approach, I’d spend, say, 10 hours building some core gameplay (inexpensive), I’d playtest that gameplay by myself or with the help of others (fun), and that experience would tell me whether I should pivot and change the game or persevere and keep building (safe). If I succeeded to produce a good bit of gameplay, I can safely move on to the next 10 hours of game development. If I failed, I only invested and lost 10 hours. Much better than wasting 1000!
It was such profound realization for me despite having read The Lean Startup twice, taken a $300 course on this approach, and having spent the last several years of my life scouring written and spoken word about this stuff. I have probably even preached this approach to people many times before (see: below) so I clearly knew the how like the back of my hand. I just had not yet internalized the why. You build, test, and learn quickly in order to avoid wasting your most precious resources. That’s how I could deal with the fear! Duh!
Anyways, that was my epic, non-epic realization.

4-Hour Game Dev

If you read my last post, you’ll know that I spent many a year stressing out about not “having enough time” to make the games that would bring me closer to my dream of self-employment and wealth. More recently, Derek and I talked about how hard it is to bootstrap a game company and how squeezing the time it takes to make a game into your already busy schedule leads to burnout. It is a common, almost uniting feature of the game industry, and tech in general, and it affects everyone from indie developers to AAA powerhouses.

Programming, design, art, play-testing. It all takes time. It took Derek and I the good part of a year of part-time work to bring a simple game called Shaped from prototype to market. A game like Grand Theft Auto 5 takes a team of 500 veteran game developers about five years to complete. There’s so much that goes into a game, so much one needs to learn, so many obstacles that one cannot anticipate, that the hours just get away from us. It seems logical, and people accept it as fact. I know I did, and thus I stressed about not having enough time to get those dreams off the ground before kids, a mortgage, etc. entered the picture.

In an ideal world, I’d have enough money to burn that I could work full time for months or years. “With all of that free time I could finally make those dreams come true!” This fantasy rests on the idea that having a full 8-9 hours of development time would produce greater results than 3-4 half that time. Well, after 3 years of carving out more dev time out of other aspects of my life, I can confidently conclude that “more time” is not the solution. My girlfriend and family have gracious cleared my plate for weekends so I could have all 48 hours to game dev. The result? Burnout after the first 8-12 hours.

Now, maybe this is because I went into this jam after a full workweek had drained me. After 5 days of 9 hours of sitting at a desk and working, a 48 marathon just isn’t going to be physiologically palatable. However, many full-time indie devs report burnout, as do AAA game developers. This isn’t to say that the ability to engage in full-time development is not desirable. It definitely is. But it does highlight the fact that ‘more time’ is not the entire solution here. More time does not necessarily lead to greater output.

Perhaps if we accept the time constraint, if we abandon the dream of full-time work (for now, at least), we’ll be forced to discern and focus on the variables that have the greatest effect on productivity. Tim Ferriss, author of the 4 Hour Workweek, is perhaps the right person to lean on in this regard. What if we embraced a 4-Hour Game Dev experience? I don’t mean to say we should create a game in a total of 4 hours, although it has no doubt been done before. Rather, I’d ask what if you could only spend 4 hours a week on game development? What would you have to do to make it work?

Having read his books, I know that his methodology would prompt us to to boil down game dev into the minimum building blocks of game development. Next, we’d utilize Pareto’s Law, or the 80/20 rule, to select which blocks make up the 20% of building blocks that get us 80% of the desired result (a good game). Then, we need to figure out the sequence in which to execute those building blocks. Lastly, we need to setup stakes to keep us motivated to continue to attack those key building blocks.

First, let’s look at the building blocks of a game:

  • gameplay (mechanics & dynamics, gamefeel)
  • graphics (textures, art style, polycount)
  • sound (sound, music)
  • fiction (context, narrative)
  • marketing (internet presence, convention presence)
  • the developer (honesty, confidence)

So, now we ask ourselves: what are the 20% of these building blocks that will get us 80% of the way toward a successful (good) game? In other words, if we only have 4-hours a week to work on it, what are the things we should be focusing on? The rest is just going to be a distraction we can’t afford. From what I can tell, it’s the following:

  • Gameplay
    • 10-30 seconds of enjoyable gameplay in an endless loop.
    • Game feel (how good it feels just to play)
  • Marketing
    • being present on twitter, facebook, reddit, itch.io, etc. etc.
    • meeting folks and having them play your game

In other words, great art and sound, while important, are what make a good game great. They’re not, however, what make a non-game, or a crappy game, a good game. Thus, to get to a ‘good game’ status, we need to first focus on making a fun game and then developing a following around it so we can validate that it truly is a good game.

As for sequence, well, I think the above ordering works well. Nail the gameplay down first. You can add in some placeholder art if it helps to communicate visually, but remember that Minecraft still uses uber basic textures and that Super Meat Boy, Super Crate Box, etc, all got big with basic sprites. Next, start getting your game out there in peoples minds, twitter feeds, and in their hands. You can start doing this while developing, but I’d recommend holding off on this until you have your core gameplay in, as doing so beforehand will lead to a lot of wantrepreneur-esque distractions. A bonus that comes with doing things in this order is that for the rest of your game development experience, you get to play a very fun game rather than dwelling in half-finished buggy crap land for the duration.

Lastly, stakes. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing Derek a check for $100 bucks with the agreement that if I don’t finished X game(s) by Y date, he can cash the check and use the money for himself. One way we’ve added stakes in the past has been by participating in game jams, where there’s a set deadline that you have to submit your game by. This is how Shaped was made and what eventually led to the creation of Send More People. Another, perhaps more beneficial source of stakes, is to commit to sending your game to the IGF or another game festival. Knowing that you have a deadline, that your game will be judged, and that you’ll probably lose money in order to submit, means that you have to make sure your game arrives in a good, fun, playable state.

So there we go. We don’t need full-time game dev. I can stop stressing over “not having enough time” and focus more on making the most of my 4 hours each week (for reference, 4 hours a week can break down to about 35 minutes a day). I can stop distracting myself with wantrepreneur shenanigans like gathering art assets, making a website, and recording podcasts for noone but myself. I can greybox to quickly prototype ideas and see if they’re fun before I waste hours or years of my life working on a fundamentally flawed game. Most of all, I can stop worrying about the game and business in its entirety and focus more on getting that 10-30 second loop of joy to as many people as I can.

Running in Circles

Perhaps it was the growing press coverage of indie game developers, the fact that I read The 4-Hour Workweek, or the fact that I had finally arrived at my ideal job and still found myself bored, arrogant, and hungry for something new, but I got hooked on this dream of working for myself. It was like a glimpse through the slats of the fence at greener grass beyond and I just could not let it go. I dived in and did everything I thought I should do to make it happen.

Fast-forward through about three years of stressing about how little free time I had (a continuing source of misery for me, wrongly), pouring through self-help and business books and blogs for the guaranteed way to succeed, an ever decreasing social life, and a rather embarrassing public series of YouTube videos, and you find me where I am now: still not financially independent, still maintaining a paltry social life, and still seeking the best way forward.

I currently work at an ‘actual game company’ but still desire to make my own games and my own companies. My family, girlfriend, and friends have given up expectations for me seeing them but still do not feel like I have ‘enough time’. I’ve read even more books and watched far too many YouTube interviews but still find myself no closer to a ‘best way forward.’ By all measures, I have wasted the past three years of struggle, passion, and neglected relationships. I’ve been hustling, but to unproductive ends. I’ve been treading water.

So what happened?

First, I’ve consumed many of the most recommended, most life-altering books currently out there. My mind is filled with the advice of others and I am glad I know it. I think it definitely gives me an edge. However, unless I act on that advice, that edge is never demonstrates its value. Without acting, the advice has just filled my head with ideas, causing me to think and over think. Over thinking leads to analysis paralysis and depression. Stasis and a shitty mood leads to the ‘better’ way out, which leads to gathering of more advice. The cycle repeats itself.

Secondly, when I recognize I need to act, my next step is, naturally, to make a plan of action. I draft up spreadsheets and To Do lists. I have even made burn-down charts for my future company, plotted my escape from my current job, and have had solid talks with my loved ones about my plans. I was preparing for what I needed to do but often have never advanced to actually doing what I needed to do. Why? Because planning is the easy part. Planning is the fun part. This is what Noah Kagan at AppSumo calls “playing business.” For Send More People, we came up with our business name, logo,looked at studio space, and we even legally registered a business before we had made a product or a profit.

According to Kagan, this is exactly what a wantrepreneur does. Planning makes us feel productive, it helps us feel on top of things, and it comforts us by showing how ‘serious’ and ‘mature’ we have become about our dreams. If we don’t act on those plans, however, then all that is just masturbation. It only serves to make us feel good and keep us well within our comfort zone. Eventually, I wise up to this fact and lament, “Gah! What is wrong with me? Perhaps I don’t know everything. Maybe I should get some advice from others who have been more successful.” The cycle repeats itself.

Thirdly, I eventually recognize I am furthering this vicious cycle and, in my new found wisdom, conclude that all I need to do is to actually do more. Indeed, the advice of many of my heroes calls for me to act now, not wait for tomorrow, and break free from my comfort zone. But I’ve spent years pushing myself beyond my comfort zone to the limits of my health, my sanity, and the patience of my loved ones in order to put in the time at my computer writing code to produce something. I became quite adept at making myself quite busy. But three or more years of busy-ness did not product a business.

I think this is mostly because I was doing things which, like planning or gathering knowledge, made me feel productive without actually producing forward momentum or tangible gains. It’s like buying workout clothes or a new gym membership. I feel like I’m headed in the right direction. A clean slate. I have thus spent many of my weekends in front of my computer, programming gameplay for a game that, just like a workout routine, I will eventually abandon when other priorities, laziness, and exhaustion set in. Without external feedback as to whether or not our time is actually making progress, it eventually begins to feel Sysyphusian. “Damn, this just isn’t sustainable. This project is going nowhere. I shouldn’t waste my time like this. I need to find the right idea to work on.” And just like that, the cycle repeats itself.

So what is the way forward?

I’m still figuring that out. I’m beginning to think, however, that none of it will feel right or comfortable. I’m beginning to feel like success is what happens despite doing all the things you think you should do. But that is probably for the better, because so far chasing my dreams has been the equivalent of running in circles. I think it’s time to veer off the road, without a map, into the thorns and weeds.

Three Great Years (repost of old Blogger post)

Oh man, its been three years since my last post. I’ve since co-founded a videogame company, graduated, made my first commercial (but not profitable) mobile game, and started working at a serious games company in L.A. called Alelo.

Funny how in my last post I mentioned:

This interest and apparent passion (I sometime stay up all night because I can’t stop testing out different scripting ideas) for the videogame/”interactive media” has made me not only question my choice in gradschool and career path, but also cued me into the possibilities of creating interactive simulations or games that can give the general public insider’s perspective on complex human/foreign policy issues or give a professional a platform to test out their policies on.

That kind of questioning came to a serious head a semester later and I was seriously considering dropping out of graduate school. I decided I was already 50k in debt, so I might as well stick it out. A semester after that, I was right back to the same line of questioning. I recall sitting in a slump on my couch, wearily looking over at my bookshelf, and noticing a perfect 50/50 split between videogame development/programming books and counterinsurgency, development, and conflict resolution books. I decided then, “Whatever that combination is, that is what I’m going to do.” If it didn’t exist, I was just going to make it happen.

So I did.

I still have a long way to go, but I now work for a serious games company that predominately produces products for the U.S. and Australian militaries.

Next step, world domin…errr… my own serious games company. Or something like it.

Been a great 3 years! 🙂

– Eric

 

Arrested Development

Hi All,

Haven’t posted recently as I’ve been busy traveling and catching up on work/sleep. In addition, and unfortunately, the venture I was about to begin had to be put on hold due to funds (my disposable income) drying up quicker than expected. So, I’m putting the brakes on that idea for the time being (should only be a month or so before I can return to it) and focusing on less costly (read: free) startup ideas.

Been thinking about leaning back towards videogame development as an avenue for my venture. I kind of wanted to get away from relying on creative works to produce income because they take a long time to produce and in many ways the creative work becomes the means to the end rather than the end itself. Now that I need a cashless startup process, it’s starting to seem like the best option. Either that or an app of some sort. We’ll see what shakes out, but I’m a little more optimistic this go around. Reason being, I’ve finally learned the true value of game jams.

Game jams are where you crunch in a very short period of time to produce a complete game. They’re great because you often finish the game before your mind has time to move on to other passions, to get over the ‘phase’ you’re in, or before you start to really feel the need to cut off all electronics and hit the gym. Working part-time as I am, it is hard to fit in a week or so long game jam, but weekend game jams are feasible albeit exhausting come Monday morning. For my situation, however, it seems like the best option.

I did the Ludum Dare 27 game jam this weekend, just to reacquaint myself with the art.

You can see the half-baked result here: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-27/?action=preview&uid=7380

You can also watch the timelapses here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JKTkHvKX1s

and here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8owRTV0o7es

This might seem like idle fun or procrastination at best, but keep in mind that this very game jam produced my buddy and I’s very first commercial product, Shaped: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ck1EssTFwRk

That’s all for now, I’ll keep you all posted on what happens next.

Cheers,

– Eric

Teasing out some details

So, I’m thinking about reincarnating an old social networking site idea I had from years back for my first venture. But can my social network achieve sustainability? In other words, can it ever pay for itself or will it always be something I sink money into each month?

Being a broke college student, I couldn’t afford to keep up the first incarnation of this idea and so I eventually had to Old Yeller it. In order to avoid that, I’ll have to be a bit more careful this time around and work through some of the details first.

So, I’m thinking of using Social Engine Cloud for my website. It currently costs $29 per month but it covers all the backend coding, database and server maintenance, etc. This allows me to focus on content production and course correction. My financial objective with this venture is to at least achieve sustainability. In other words, make it so the site pays for itself.

One of the first things people, and I, think of when considering how to monetize a site is ad revenue. The go-to service for website advertising is Google AdSense, in which Google (or somebody) pays you for every impression and click-through that an advertisement on your website receives.

Frustratingly, most of the ‘how to calculate ad revenue’ articles seem to rely on numbers earned from test ads or even a years worth of site data.

As someone that doesn’t want to use my very limited disposable income (grad school loans, lol) to run some test ads, I’ll stick with an estimate for now.

I read that a Revenue-Per-Impression (RPM) rate of <$1 is bad, while a RPM of >$2 is really good. I’ll stick with an estimated RPM of $1 to keep it simple and adequately humble.

So, let’s say I earn $1.00 per 1000 views. In order to make $30 (the cost of the website per month), I need 30,000 views per month. Now, let’s say the average visitor checks out 1.5 pages (the landing page and maybe one other before leaving), then 30,000/1.5 = 20,000 visitors per month.

So, I’ll need an average of 20,000 monthly visitors to make $30 per month (pay for the site). That breaks down to an average of 667 visitors per day. So, let’s estimate that I’ll gain 17 unique visits per day–I have no idea how naive this may be. That give us an easy figure of 650 consistent members that should be visiting the site every day.

Now, this number reminds me a lot of the famous “1,000 True Fans” article. The author defines a ‘true fan’ as “someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce.” In other words, someone who is so into your product/site that they’ll fly across the country to attend a convention for it. Now, I have no idea how to please everybody, which is why this article is so helpful in focusing my efforts. To quote the article:

One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years.

So, what I really want to aim for with the site is not 1 million daily visitors, or 100,000 members. I want to achieve 1,000 true fans of the site. People who will visit it every day because they love it. Assuming my 1000 true fans visit the site, and at my $1.00 per 1000 views figure, that’ll earn me 1 dollar a day, which comes out to about $30 a month. Enough to pay the ‘rent’ for the site.

And that, for now, is my only goal: make an awesome social networking site that pays for itself by proving its value to its members every visit.

I should be launching it soon, like next week, so stay tuned!

Cheers,

– Eric

Defining My Nightmare

I wrote this back in April, but it’s worth reposting here:

I did a personal Q&A straight from The 4-Hour Workweek (fantastic book!). Here are the results (was written stream of consciousness so typos abound – names have been removed for privacy):

1. Define your nightmare: I quit my job and do not become profitable in time, loans ..well, i guess those wouldn’t kick back in because i’d be unemployed, but they’d still accumulate and then I lost X-amount of repaymentime, but in the end that’s kind of irrelevant because my whole plan is to make so much damn money that loans can be payed off ina single year… anyways, so i am stuck living with my parents while i get my shit together, they think i’m throwing my degree away and being an lazy ass and selfish and entitled and idealistic, my girlfriend is frustrated because now she’s once more having to bend her life around my career/life choices, i can’t afford an engagement ring for her and wedding is out of the question. that my chosen pursuit of a company/field/product/service is going to fail, be unwanted or not profitable. that i’ll end up working just as much if not moreso for a cause that is emotionally draining, habitually discouraging, and not profitable in the least bit…my friends would think i’m stupid and unsuccessful because i’m not doing anything and living with my life.. i’d have to face my friends parents and family friends and tell them what i’m doing (or failing to do) on a frequent basis, feeling like i’ve made the wrong choice and that i’m entitled and a huge drain on the sanity and bank accounts of my parents. that i’d burn bridges with the good people of CompanyX, that i’d let them down, and that i’d never find another job as ‘perfect’ as this. worse yet, i’d never find a job in videogames again, or in anything ‘cool.’ Does that really matter? lastly, my girlfriend’s family woudl think i was a bum and being foolish, lazy, or a combination of all three. that my prospects for their son-in-law would dim significantly, or their enthusiasm for those prospects… that i’d end up right back where i am now, but with no girlfriend, no ‘dream job’, 2x the debt, 1/2 the monthly income, and a whole boat load of failure.

2. Steps I Would Take to Repair Damage: I’d find a job, anywhere (but preferably in somewhere cool like game industry, could ask my girlfriend’s cousin to hire me at his company), I’d save up enough to move out, anywhere cheap, or at least to show my parents that i’m not a total bum. I’d alter my loans strucutre to afford me a more reasonable payment plan, i’d contact ,my old job and see if they’d hire me back. … i guess that’s pretty much it. Pay off any loans i’ve taken from people to start the business or live there.

3. If I Succeeded: I’d have a profitable company that allows me to pay off my loans, pay for everything in my life, take my girlfirend and my family on vacations, buy the beach house, send my parents on a much earned vacation, buy whatever clothes and stuff I want, outsource and automate a lot of my business prospects so i have free time, FREETIME GANDALF!, spend time with my lover, family, especially the little ones, and my friends. read books and rekindle my interests and passions for science, literature, history, art, etc. feel happy and at peace with life, feel like i’m living rather than surviving. feel like a kid again, feel young, feel powerful, feel confident and sure-footed, feel bold and brave, feel entrepreneurial and fearsome, clever and dashing. feel proud and well-liked, feel like i can provide and that people admire me, feel attractive and wanted, feel free and …well.. fuck free! feel like i’m making my ancestory proud and making a name for myself and my family, providing a sure future for my own family, removing the want for money, feeling like i’m establishing ‘survival skills’ for any economy, any political or social situation.. in other words whatever life throws at me i’ll be able to bounce back, be clever, and turn a profit to improve my life and those around me, feel like a cool dude, feel like a badass. be able to think, sleep, and other things with a calm spirit, calm heart, and clear head. peace.

4. If I was Fired Today: I’d count my current savings, see how long that would last me with regards to paying off my car payments, look at that as my window to get shit profitable or at least ‘proven’, set up a temporary office in my family’s garage or wherever… basically do what i’ve been wanting to do, start a business and be entrepreneurial. If I had to get back, I’d just apply to those places with abandon, but more than likely i’d tap the networks i already have to see where that takes me, i’m an entrepreneur now, afterall, so i can increase yield anywhere. Oh, and I’d also go out and celebrate, run in a field, go to the beach, hang out with my girlfriend, fucking relaxxxxxx. Get some damn sleep for once. feel healthy, spend time with family, oh shit this sounds really nice.

5. What I’m Putting off because of Fear: I’m scared to talk to people, namely to tell my bosses and coworks that I’m leaving them, of telling my parents and my girlfriend’s parents that i’m quitting to pursue an amorphous concept of a company with no real guarantee for success. I’m scared of facing myself and the challenging road ahead, I’m scared of failing and feeling 100X more screwed than i already feel. I’m scared of grovelling, I’m scared of trading one yoke for another, I’m scared of finding that there ISNT more to life, and that I will be stuck wiht a 9-5 forever…that i’ll be trapped… that i’ll never be free of that, never in command of my own life and my own time. Mark was right when he said I shouldn’t join the Military. ;)

6. What is it Costing Me to Postpone: My health, first and foremost is taking a really shitty hit. I wake up every morning and go to sleep every night feeling like my arteries and heart are becoming brittle and acidic, i feel my skin is getting drier and wrinklier, my body is aging prematurely, my body is fat and unattraqctive, i’m grumpy and miserable, i’m MORE selfish and less attuned to the needs/feelings of others. that i’ll have a heart attack at this rate. I’ll never have abs or good shoulders/pecks. Economically, it’s preventing me from ever breaking 60 figs in the near term, from paying off my loans, it’s keeping me a slave to them and that ever distancing goal of repayment. i enjoy an income, but i’d prefer 50k+, and i think it’s necessary to repay my loans, otherwise i’m always going to have those hanging over my head, and i don’t want to be constantly thinking about them for the next decade of my life!!!

7. What Am I Waiting for: Fear….for there not to be fear. Damn. It’s just fear. JUST fear. :-P