Week 4 : 1KProjects v2 - Solving problems and figuring out sustainability.
Ship therapy challenge
4 months ago
Per the rules of this challenge, This week I was supposed to get started on a new product to ship.
I didn't though, instead I chose to continue working on last week's product 1KProjects, and ship new features in the same timeframe.
It was a tough decision to let go of those other shiny ideas that I was excited to get started on. But considering the traction 1Kprojects has received, I just couldn't stop so early.
Plus, I figured that there are some interesting problems to tackle with 1KProjects, so it's definitely going to be a learning experience for me. Hopefully followers of this challenge will also be able to get some value out of this.
I'm still sticking to the two weeks timeframe ( now only 1 week remaining ), so I needed to get organized and define what is a priority right now and what can wait. To do so, I find it helpful to first start by determining what my goals are.
Below are the goals I came up with :
More revenue : As of today with the current model, around 40% of sellers who submitted a project have paid the $19 fee. Although that's a pretty good conversion rate, it's not much in terms of revenue. And unless I can figure out a way to get thousands of sellers every month, I'm going to need to find a new way to monetize the marketplace.
More projects : In the first week after launching, 10 to 15 people would submit projects every day. This week, only 1 to 3 people are submitting projects on a daily basis.
More transparency for buyers : I feel like buyers are kept in the dark when contacting sellers, while sellers get all the info they need.
Identifying problems and bottlenecks
I'm constantly in contact with buyers and sellers over email, and thanks to their continuous feedback, I've been able to identify some of the recurring problems that I wouldn't have spotted from the comfort of my administration panel.
Here's a list of the problems that keep coming back :
Buyers ask random questions : Without making any offers or sharing their intention to buy and at what price.
Sellers do not answer some of the buyers : After talking to a few sellers, they all say that it's time consuming to answer questions from people not interested to buy.
Some buyers have stopped answering sellers after getting a response.
Some sellers negotiate prices over $1000 when they realize many buyers are interested.
It's time consuming for sellers to email buyers manually by copying their email.
Since launching, 2 new competitors have surfaced.
Photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash
The plan to reach goals, elimiate problems, and grow
Based on all of the above, and some data from mixpanel, I came up with a bunch of improvements to implement. All of these improvements are supposed to fix all or most of the problems, and get me closer to my goals.
I'd like to mention that this is not how I usually do things, instead I would take my time to define hypotheses and assumptions for each of the problems and tackle them one by one. I would do my best to do things by the book ( The lean startup ). But usually that would take way more time than expected and I would get bored / frustrated fast.
Since starting this challenge, I've noticed how this feeling of boredom that was very prevalent before hasn't creeped up on me yet, and I think it has a lot to do with focusing on just making & shipping. I'm starting to think that solopreneurs and very early startups / products should avoid doing things by the book and just wing it. The lean startup teachings are surely valuable, and I'm definitely using the broad principles as much as I can. But anything beyond that should only be used by startups who are getting closer to product market fit, have steady and growing revenue, and have a small team of people working full time.
So here's what I'm planning to implement this week :
Improving buyer/seller communications : Mostly the buyer side, to improve the quality of offers sent to sellers. I'm hoping to achieve that by educating the buyers more and adding a few step to the contact request process to filter non serious buyers.
Starting outbound sales : To get more sellers in, I'm planning to build an internal tool to find me some sellers that I can reach out to and ask them to add their project on 1kprojects. I will be doing that manually at first and measuring the results.
Content marketing : I'm still brainstorming this one, but I think some sort of blog can be helpful in terms of SEO and attracting sellers and buyers. Not sure I can afford to write it myself though.
Domains : Someone suggested that when I first launched, and I think it's a great idea. Makers will be able to sell their domains under $1k as well.
Adding promotional spots on the homepage : For sellers who'd like to pay a bit more and sell their project faster.
Premium Buyers : I'm still brainstorming this one too, but the idea is that some buyers will be able to pay a monthly fee to get access to 24 hours earlier, as well as track the status of their offers ( Has the offer been read by the seller, has he accesssed their email address or has he deleted it ).
I'm not sure I'll be to do all of that in the next 6 days, I haven't started on any of it so far since I took a few days off this week and I'm only getting back home tomorrow. But I do feel recharged and ready to get started.
I need your feedback!
I have dozens of questions that I would love to get some feedback on, but instead I'll just ask two :
For buyers : Would you pay a monthly fee to be a premium buyer ? If so, how much ? If not, what feature would convince you to pay ?
For sellers : Would you pay to put your project on a promotional spot ? If so, how much ? If not, why not ?
Thank you for reading & see you next week!