Journey from hobby website to microbusiness


Previous: The dreams

I still remember the excitement of the day the site was launched. I showed it to my friends and a few colleagues at work. It felt great to have a presence on the web. All I needed to do now was to wait for those 1000 visitors to turn up! I eagerly waited for the next day morning to look at the site statistics.

The following morning, I saw a whopping number of visitors who visited the site on day one - a total of 5 (that is right: FIVE) unique visitors! And the best part is - I knew all 5 of them - they were my friends and colleagues who I was showing the site to!!

And needless to add there was not a single penny from advertising.

Ah, it must be because the search engines have not caught up with the new site, I thought. Should just be a question of time - after a few days I should be seeing the numbers shoot up.

Everyday I would wait for the following morning to check the updated statistics. The number of daily visitors never went beyond single digits. Somedays no one turned up at all. Many days it was just one visitor - and I knew who it was, it was just me!! Forget 1000 visitors a day, I wasn't even going to get 100 visitors the whole month.

Obviously, no traffic also meant no money. The first month, I made less than $2. The hosting costs were $5 per month, so the revenue was not even covering my costs. If it kept going that way, there would be no point running the site. It was a complete disaster.

Emotionally, it was quite hard too. I was hard to believe that my estimates were off by a factor of 1000! And I had no one to turn to for help or ideas on what I was doing wrong. I went back to looking up on the web and the results were dominated by success stories, and it made the feeling so much worse!

In hindsight, it was great that things turned out the way they did. If the site took off straightaway, there was nothing I would have learnt. With the failure, I learnt 2 things straightaway - the first that "build it and people will come automatically" doesn't work and that you should not blindly believe in your own idea (or "drink your kool aid"). Till today, I do not have anywhere near 1000 visitors a day. But now I know how hard it is to get traffic when there are millions of web sites looking for a visitor's attention.

I could have pulled the plug on the project at that stage, but fortunately I didn't. I started researching seriously and trying to figure out the factors that attract visitors. It was hard work.

Next: The slog