Can I build a million-dollar side project? (clickbait)

Look, you can’t be mad at me for click-baiting you—the warning is right there in the title. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Ever since I posted about mine and Ryan’s success in selling one of our businesses, people have been asking questions about how (and why) we do what we do.

I’m also always looking for “the next big thing” (which is a blessing and a curse) so I’m going to do a case study of sorts and try to build a [drum roll please]….. million-dollar side project!

If you’re interested in following along, sign up for email updates below and follow me on Twitter.

The idea (why am I doing this)

The biggest breakthroughs I’ve had always come when I’m trying something new. A lot of my side projects don’t pan out but I ALWAYS learn something new.

From new ways to design membership sign up pages, to learning SASS as a replacement for vanilla CSS, every project gives me something that I can take away and apply to my successful businesses.

I’m doing this because a) I always learn stuff, b) I love to learn new stuff, and c) I might end up with a million-dollar site at the end of it 😉

Also, I strongly believe that anybody can build a content-based site making $1,000+ a month if they are motivated enough to put the effort in. This case study might provide that motivation.

It should go without saying that the $1m figure is tongue-in-cheek and I’m not really that bothered about the actual value of whatever I build (although I do think it’s possible to achieve).

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

Bruce Lee

Why $1m?

Why not? Like I said, it’s arbitrary and not really the point of this case study but let’s break it down into a monthly goal.

To keep it simple, I’m assuming a 4x SDE/net profit valuation:

\dfrac{\$1{,}000{,}000}{4} = \$250{,}000 \dfrac{\$250{,}000}{12} = \$20{,}833.34

… which means I need to grow a site to $21k a month in profit. Easy peasy?

What am I going to build?

I have a general checklist for what I’m planning to build and how I plan to do it. I’ll cover this more in a future post but for now the list below gives a good overview of the strategy:

Site/domain

I’m going to buy a (relatively) cheap site to kickstart this project. Starting from scratch is too painful and slow for me, and I just can’t be bothered to even consider building links.

So, I want an aged domain that already has a decent link profile and some traffic. It doesn’t NEED to be making money right now, but I do have a couple of requirements:

  1. It needs to have a high potential to become a subscription/membership model. This is the dream business model for me. It’s incredibly scalable, passive, allows for recurring revenue that compounds in growth every year, and it can be done with no code or dev requirements.
  2. It needs to be in a market that is willing to spend money. The ideal customer would either be a business (b2b) or an individual who is motivated to spend money because it will benefit them to do so.

If the site isn’t already on WordPress then the first step will be to migrate it over to the GeneratePress theme.

Content strategy

For the content, I’ll just continue to do what has served me well in the past. Namely:

  • Good ol’ fashioned keyword research
  • 1,000+ word articles (where possible)
  • Well written, easy to understand content
  • Leverage the existing links with good on-page SEO (e.g internal links)

99% of all SEO knowledge you need is in those four bullet points. Don’t @ me.

Since this is a side project and I don’t want to spend $ initially, I’ll probably spend time instead by researching and writing my own content for the first 10 or so articles.

This will allow me to get the structure right and iron out the process so that I can eventually outsource the task.

Passive funnel

I love building new things and exploring what is possible to create. Making businesses is like a game to me and I genuinely enjoy it.

That doesn’t mean I want to work “for” the business though.

My ultimate aim is to put in the effort now to create an almost fully automated, passive, revenue stream that I spend very little time managing (ideally 2-3 hours a week).

To do this, I’ll first look to funnel as many visitors as possible into an email newsletter with a significant number of automated emails going out on a regular basis to engage the list, keep them opening, and ultimately buying a membership.

I haven’t ironed that out just yet, but we’ll get there.

Are you going to reveal the site?

No.

[GASP]

I know, I know, how dare I? What a pointless case study without the URL…

I was always the first to complain whenever somebody did a case study without revealing these details, but I get why now.

The actual site I’m building is irrelevant to you unless you plan to compete against me. And if you did plan on doing that, it’s a good job I’m not sharing.

I’m hoping that by blogging about my specific method of building a membership site from scratch, you’ll be able to understand WHY I do things a certain way and then be able to apply them to your own projects.

The goal is to help you improve your mindset and own processes for building websites, businesses, side projects—whatever you want to call them.

This is as much for me as it is for you, but stop copying what other people do and focus on what YOU are good at, what YOU enjoy and build YOUR ideal business.

Next steps

Can I let you in on a little secret? I’ve already found and bought the site for this project.

The general niche is focused on information and advice for a specific career and it’s one I’ve been interested in for many years.

The site and domain is an absolute peach (if I do say so myself):

  • 21-year-old domain
  • Lots of in-depth content already
  • Written by an industry expert
  • Terrible, non-existent, literally nada SEO
  • 500+ visitors a day
  • Never been monetised
  • YUGE potential for a membership model

In the next post, I’ll talk a little bit more about the existing site I’ve bought, along with tips on outreaching site owners to try and find a gem of your own.

If you have any questions about what I’m working on feel free to tweet me (DM’s are also open) and don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter if you want all the juicy updates.