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I’m building 12 side projects in 12 months

I have a mission this year: Build a business that generates $10K of revenue per month.

Just typing that felt insane. I’ve never even built a $1K per month business before. And in less than a year, I want to more than 10x my previous best.

Why am I doing this?

My goal can be split into three parts.

  1. The act of building
  2. Going the business route
  3. Earning $10K per month

The act of building

Whether it’s a business, my body or even content, building something (anything) is an end in itself for me.

Resisting entropy and seeing a brand new entry into the universe is immensely fulfilling.

Going the business route

A similar mission could be to “earn a six-figure salary as a software developer”, but this wouldn’t do. It has to be a business.

The mechanics of a business/self-employment provide four major benefits that careers don’t.

Less risk

I’m not talking about the risk of failure; a career is definitely a more assured pathway than a business. I’m talking about income risk (and the follow-on effects from it on your life).

In a career, your income is at the mercy of a single employer. If you stop working or even find yourself on the wrong side of a company merger, you could be fired and lose all your income.

In contrast, a business spreads your risk to dozens of clients or hundreds of customers. Even if you only have two clients/customers, your income is still half at risk compared to a typical career.

This one characteristic has far-reaching effects on how you work and think. And this affects who you become.

Authenticity

Income diversification allows you to be authentic without concern for your growth/survival. As an employee, to get a raise or avoid being fired, you have to subconsciously gain the approval of a single employer.

But as a business? You can be yourself as the power dynamic is vastly different. You get raises not via a gatekeeper but via the free market. If you get fired, you still have other clients/customers to fall back on.

That’s powerful.

Value-based income

Needing your employer’s approval to increase your income results in a capped ceiling on your income. Your employer sets the ceiling based on what they think is right, not explicitly on the value you add.

Businesses also have income ceilings. But they’re set by more democratic forces like the free market and the value you can add.

A career is almost like an artificial environment. In it, your actions aren’t the true determinant of the value you add to the economy. Rather, the time you spend and how much your employer values it is. So to “hack” this, you just have to spend lots of time and convince your boss your actions are valuable.

On the other hand, in a business, it doesn’t matter how long you spend on a task. If it doesn’t add value, you’ll rarely get paid. Exceptions apply.

Careers incentivize being less efficient & lazier while it’s the opposite in a business.

Over the course of 40 years, this has major consequences on your quality of life, personality and self-esteem.

Freedom to work as I like

Businesses allow the freedom to create value without the constraints of a typical career. This comes from the different power dynamic compared to a career.

I can work any way I want. I can take a sabbatical, go remote, abandon meetings & emails or even outsource to others.

Disclaimer – there are “dream jobs” out there that provide much of the same benefits as self-employment but these are rare rather than the norm.

Earning $10K per month

$10K per month is more a symbol rather than a figure of concrete importance.

It’s not really about the money but what it enables me to do. It allows me to be comfortably financially free and more importantly, fulfill a purpose I’ve assigned myself (and have a larger impact on the world).

I want to help build India.

Felt weird typing that; like a cheesy patriotic slogan. But I mean it.

Around my early childhood, my family immigrated from India to New Zealand (and then Australia) in pursuit of a better future. In doing so, they left behind a country that needed them to stay and contribute.

After centuries of colonization, exploitation and bad governance, India is like a freight train that’s being used to deliver groceries. Once among the wealthiest & most prosperous areas in the world, it’s now one of the poorest & most neglected.

Despite being one of the largest and fastest growing economies in the world, relaxing comfortably in a first-world country is not as attractive (or morally sound) to me as at least participating in India’s growth (i.e. by buying from Indian companies, paying taxes, having skin in the game etc.).

I see India both as a population to help and a rising tide that will help me grow with it. A humanitarian and a self-actualization exercise.

Unfortunately, I have little to no connections, resources or experience to contribute in a meaningful way. While I could contribute just by moving back and participating in the economy, my vision is to do more than that.

Hence, it’s necessary for me to achieve some semblance of (financial) freedom first. It allows me to quit my job (freeing up 40+ hours per week). It gives me capital to invest. It frees me from being reliant/desperate for external funding. And in the process, I’ll gain business experience and connections that will undoubtedly help me contribute.

How do I plan to accomplish this?

A study that analysed several hundred startups found the following factors most affected success:

  1. Timing
  2. Execution
  3. Uniqueness & quality of the idea

Timing is luck-based and so largely out of our hands. But we can always control how we execute and the quantity of ideas we choose to pursue.

As Pieter Levels realised, a decent approach is be to build as many projects as you can until you strike gold with timing and idea quality.

That too, the one month time constraint ensures you don’t get carried away with unimportant tasks and grandiose ambitions. You focus on the critical path needed to make things work.

Becoming a business factory

With each business you build, you’re increasing the odds of success. You get execution experience, new connections and resources that make your next venture more likely to succeed.

You become a business factory with increasing efficiency.

The process

At the start of every month, I’ll pick one idea to pursue based on the quality of the idea and what I feel like building.

To choose the right idea, I’m using Jon Yongfook’s pre-made spreadsheet for ranking ideas. It’s far better than anything I could have created myself.

It ranks a list of ideas based on the following attributes:

  • Hair on Fire – is this a nice-to-have or a must-have?
  • Access to Market – do I have easy access to potential customers?
  • Day 1 Revenue – does this have the potential to make money from day 1 or does commercialization require further thought?
  • Revenue Scalability – does this target market have scale?
  • Defensibility – how hard would it be for someone to create a copycat?
  • Lack of Competitors – is this blue ocean or red ocean space?
  • Personal Passion – is this aligned with my interests?
  • Unfair Advantage – do I have some special skill set that makes me the perfect person to launch this?
  • IP Creation – will I be creating something of technical value that could be re-used elsewhere?
  • Acquisition Potential – is this idea in a space where there is acquisition activity?

The idea that ranks the highest and is one I feel like pursuing that month gets the go-ahead.

But I don’t place as much importance on choosing an idea as I do on simply getting to work. When you’re as new to business as I am, quantity (practice & inputs) matters far more than quality (outputs).

During the month, I’ll build & market my business while sharing my journey on my blog/Twitter. I’ll also do anything I can to increase my odds of success (like take business courses, ask for guidance from mentors or buy tools).

At the end of every month, I’ll reflect on whether to continue or stop working on the project to free up time for others.

To decide whether to continue, I’m looking for traction. If the project has paying customers or a growing userbase, it’s worth continuing. I haven’t quantified exactly how many paying customers/users since it depends on the nature of the project.

Key note – if a business reaches $2K per month within one month, I’ll likely stop the challenge to double down on it. The challenge is not the end, a $10K per month business is.
Let’s see how I go.

Progress

Last updated 10/04/2022

1. January – Tressel

A microSaaS to save tweets, threads & conversations from Twitter to Notion, Obsidian & Evernote. Freemium and monetized via a $5/mo premium plan.

Started – ~November 2021 (largely ignored until January 2022)
Launched – December 2021 (available to public but not “launched” on ProductHunt – still in beta)
MRR – $25

2. February – Underscore Digital

An SEO/content marketing agency for SaaS’ to scale customer acquisition. I create content strategies, write blog posts and build links for SaaS’ to help them rank on Google and get organic traffic.

Started – 1st February 2022
Launched – N/A (it’s a service business)
MRR – N/A (closed)

All updates

I built Tressel, a SaaS to save tweets to Notion, Evernote & Obsidian – Aseem Thakar
As part of my challenge to build 12 side projects in 12 months, I built an app called Tressel and learned a bunch of things along the way
aseemthakar.com
I launched and quit Underscore Digital in 18 days – Aseem Thakar
The second part of my challenge to build 12 side projects in 12 months. Tried pivoting to a marketing agency and failed (but not how you’d expect)
aseemthakar.com