Half Year of Bringing Ideas to Life
A six month update on my journey since leaving my 9-5 job.
(Photo Location - Colgate Clock, Jersey City, New Jersey. Photo Credits - Me)
When I left my job six months ago, I had no concrete plan on what I was going to do. Instead, I seized this opportunity to let my curiosity guide my journey. For example, imagine spending an entire day working on an idea that struck me during my morning shower.
My strategy involves experimenting with multiple ideas, investing more in the ones that show promise, and setting aside those that don't. (If you missed my three-month update, you can check it out here.) In this post, I share my six-month update - experiments and challenges, learnings and what’s next and a roller-coaster of emotions.
So far, I've successfully brought the following ideas to life:
PlaylistGeniusAI.com - Playlist Genius AI allows users to create a Spotify playlist based on a description provided by the user. The concept was conceived while experimenting with ChatGPT and OpenAI APIs. I pursued the idea to gauge its market demand. Not only did the app garner over 10,000 monthly users, but I also managed to successfully sell it just three months after its launch.
For the first time in half a year, I earned a significant income. Although there was no pressing need to sell Playlist Genius, my curiosity prompted me to explore the possibilities of a sale.
ReviewHeroAI.com - Review Hero, a Chrome extension, lets Amazon shoppers condense product reviews, showcasing a summarized pros/cons table. Realizing its potential as an Amazon consumer, I embarked on its development. The extension, currently assisting about 550 users, secured a feature spot in the Chrome marketplace.
Surprisingly, four months post-launch, Amazon declared its plans to furnish customers with an AI-generated summary of product reviews in the review section. This unforeseen announcement reaffirmed my intuition and boosted my confidence.
SOAPNoteAI.com - The successes of my previous apps introduced ChatGPT as a household name for us. My kids think I work for ChatGPT now and my wife - Physical Therapist - has become an avid user too. As she started to tinker with it, she realized the vast potential of AI in streamlining Physical Therapy documentation. However, it took her a lot iterations to get the AI working. She then approached me to simplify if I would make her process simple and the idea of SOAPNoteAI was born. With her expert insights, we designed an app that helps PTs with SOAP Note. SOAP Note is a standard to document notes for healthcare providers. By leveraging SOAPNoteAI.com, providers can expedite their documentation process with enhanced efficiency. SOAPNoteAI now has hundreds of registered customers and generates revenue.
PharmTutorAI.com - I had the chance to collaborate with Dr. Dayanjan Wijesinghe from the VCU School of Pharmacy. He and his students have been exploring the use of AI to develop bots that assist both students and professors. I assisted Dr. Dayanjan in integrating these discrete bots into a single application with secure login. This fall, Dr. Dayanjan is working with students and professors to test the bots' effectiveness as study aids for pharmacy students. I can’t wait to see the results.
IdliCooker.com - A brainchild from my shower thoughts, I envisioned a platform offering reviews on trending Idli Cookers on Amazon, hoping for affiliate commission-based revenue. Despite the effort, I struggled to drive the targeted audience to the site, deeming it a learning experience rather than a success.
Marketing and Reach: Not every marketing effort worked out. I did use platforms like Product Hunt, LinkedIn and Twitter, but not every campaign resonated with the audience. It took a lot of trial and error to understand which channels worked best for each product. For example, PlaylistGenius has 9 upvotes when I launched it on Product Hunt. A typical successful product get about 700+ upvotes in a day. But a viral instagram reel brought thousands of users to the app just a day.
Listing your apps on AI directories: Between March and July the landscape for AI directories (websites aggregating AI tools) changed dramatically. Earlier AI directories like TheRunDownAI, There’s an AI for that would immediately list your tool for free. When I checked again in July, I saw most of these directories would charge a fee to list the app on their site. I tweeted about this in detail here.
Technical Challenges: All my apps run on AWS. There were a few technical challenges but the one with AWS Cognito surprised me the most. I use AWS Cognito for authentication and user registration and was surprised with the limitations of Hosted UI. Customers have been asking for specific basic features for years and yet those haven’t been prioritized. I wrote about the short comings of AWS Cognito in this tweet.
Conflicting Feedback: Receiving feedback is valuable, but encountering contradictory feedback can be challenging. For example, when SOAPNoteAI was launched with a subscription model, a Reddit user argued that the pricing model was impractical. They felt they didn't see enough new cases in a month to justify it and would prefer a pay-per-use model. I obliged and changed the pricing model. However, a month later, another user requested a subscription/annual model. I haven't addressed that feedback yet. If anything, the conflicting feedback has left me perplexed.
Sharing Revenue Numbers: When I began this journey, I intended to publicly disclose all my revenue and expense figures. I wanted my journey to be transparent to possibly assist others in making similar decisions. However, I've since realized that sharing these figures in real-time might not be the best strategy for me. I might be wrong, and my opinion might change in the future. But if you're curious, and these numbers are holding you back from making a decision, please reach out to me directly. I'd be happy to provide more specific information in private.
Ship Quick, Ship More - As is evident from the pattern, my focus has been on OpenAI SaaS products. I chose them because they were faster to build (1 person team). Surprisingly, these projects have equipped me with new skills, such as how to market a product (e.g., launching it on platforms like Product Hunt, Hacker News, LinkedIn, and Twitter), pricing strategies (like soliciting user feedback on Reddit), and tactics to rank higher on Google. For instance, I discovered that if a significant number of users (around 2k) search for your app (like Playlist Genius) within a brief period (roughly 2 days), Google will elevate your app to the top position. Had I lingered in pursuit of a flawless product, I would have overlooked the array of insights garnered in such a short span.
Deadlines are important - Deadlines have kept me on track and helped me to deliver more rapidly. For instance, I had spent 6 weeks before shipping SOAPNoteAI.com and I wanted to add more features. But given that I had gone past my deadline (4 weeks), I shipped it with minimum features. This decision proved beneficial. Early users offered pivotal feedback prompting a shift in the pricing model. A few weeks post-launch, I learned a rising demand from Mental Health and Nursing professionals. This allowed me to integrate new features within just a week. Had I lingered on my initially perceived crucial features, it would have postponed these invaluable insights.
Building Trust - After I left Amazon, I have no brand attached to my professional work. Building trust to conduct business is crucial. For example, why should a customer trust me with their money and information? One of the many ways to build trust on the Internet is building your personal brand. By sharing your learnings and knowledge in the public, you can give strangers an insight into your thinking which creates an opportunity to build trust with them. I use platforms like Twitter (now X), LinkedIn, and this newsletter to build that trust with my readers. It takes time but being consistent is the key.
Learning from Others - There is a wealth of knowledge that people are sharing on the Internet. I have curated my social media feeds to stay continuously motivated and strive for better. For example, in this tweet I shared how I learned about SEO, Domain names, making YouTube videos, Writing Newsletter etc. from others who are expert in their fields.
Marathon, Not a Sprint - When I started this journey, I time-boxed it to one year. I was confident that it would be enough time for me to decide if I like it or not and if it financially sustainable or not. I’m enjoying the challenge. However, I have realized that I’ll need more than one year to make it financially sustainable.
To hold myself accountable, I am setting a goal to generate $10,000 in monthly income. I'm unsure of how soon I will achieve this, but if I can't reach this mark by the end of next year, I will consider returning to full-time employment. Hence, my renewed objective is to "Delay the return to full-time work". I don't want to lose the freedom and flexibility I currently cherish.
How do I plan to achieve my monthly income target of $10,000?
Though I lack a concrete roadmap, my curiosity drives me forward. In the short term, I plan to expand SOAPNoteAI and ReviewHero. In the medium term, I'm also set on creating informational products such as tech blogs, courses etc. Additionally, I'll pursue new SaaS ideas as they present themselves.
If nothing else, the past half-year has been a roller-coaster of emotions. Let me conclude by providing a glimpse into those feelings:
Doubt: Wondering if this will ever work.
Inspiration: Finding motivation in others' success stories.
Joy: Celebrating when thousands of users engage with my app.
Satisfaction: Relishing the grind as I turn my ideas into reality.
Anxiety: Nervousness when I start writing my thoughts publicly.
Heartbreak: When I hear crickets after posting my thoughts online.
Dumb: Feeling lost when someone asks about my long-term strategy.
Elation: Feeling a thrill when those Stripe notifications begin to arrive.
Concern: Worrying about burning through my savings at an alarming rate.
Fear: Apprehension that this newfound freedom will be taken away from me.
Confidence: A sense of empowerment when I make money on my own terms.
Excitement: Embracing the freedom to work on problems I'm passionate about.
Puzzlement: Bemusement when my kids' friends' parents ask what I do for work.
This path is not for the faint of heart, but the personal growth and freedom I've experienced is unparalleled. The journey is filled with ups and downs, but it's one I wouldn't trade for anything.
Here's to the adventures that lie ahead!
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