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How did I earn my first online dollar after leaving my corporate job in 2023?
Here's a three-month timeline of how I earned my first dollar online.
Photo Caption - First Dollar Online
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On May 4, 2023, I earned my very first dollar online. However, until 2023, I had never sold any digital products online. I had never needed to. Frankly, I didn't know how to.
As a full-time Software Engineer for the past 15 years, I've traded my time and skills for a paycheck. My work has spanned popular consumer-facing digital applications like Amazon, Prime Video and Adidas to name a few. They are used by millions of people worldwide, with billions of dollars flowing through them.
When I finally quit my full-time job in February this year, I embarked on a new journey: to earn my first online dollar.
Here's my journey from February to May 2023:
February and March 2023
Upon leaving my full-time job as a Software Engineer at Amazon in February 2023, I had no concrete plans for the future. I took a break and reconnected with old colleagues and friends. Mid-March, I joined Daniel Vassalo’s Small Bets community where I found individuals who shared my curiosity and enthusiasm.
In our conversations, ChatGPT and AI trends frequently emerged. I followed this lead and began experimenting with ChatGPT prompts and OpenAI APIs. When I asked ChatGPT to "Recommend fast-paced and motivational Hindi songs," it came back with a surprisingly solid list.
Impressed, I asked it to create a Spotify playlist of these songs, but it couldn't.
So, I manually created this playlist, sparking an idea. Could I automate this process? And thus, PlaylistGeniusAI.com was born. For the next four days, I worked on a web app that could take a playlist description and create a Spotify playlist with AI recommendations using OpenAI. After receiving feedback from close family and friends, I launched the prototype on social media on March 27, 2023. I made a LinkedIn post, HackerNews post and tweeted about it.
Early April saw online AI aggregators like TheRundownAI.com covering PlaylistGeniusAI.com. As the app began gaining traction, it was featured on more AI directories and attracted a growing user base.
On April 12, there was a sudden spike in traffic, jumping from zero to 1,000 clicks in 24 hours. Initially, I suspected a DDoS attack (a kind of cyberattack), but on examining the requests and IP addresses, I found them genuine, mainly originating from India.
Ten days later, I discovered an Indian Instagram influencer had made a reel about PlaylistGeniusAI.com, causing the surge in traffic.
Throughout April, I saw steady traffic to PlaylistGeniusAI.com, with over 11,000 Google clicks. Users had created more than 30,000 playlists, and it had visitors from over 100 countries. Many requested additional features, like integration with Apple Music and YouTube Music. These signs encouraged me that there was a market for premium features.
However, I hesitated. I felt awkward asking people to pay for the app. I don’t know why. While I had no issue crafting code and systems that made billions for giants like Amazon or Adidas, asking for a one-time fee of $9 for the premium features felt - awkward.
I overcame the predicament. I reminded myself that if I didn't figure out how to make money independently, I would soon have to look for a full-time job again. I built and launched the pro plan on May 3, 2023. The next day, I received my first payment. Those $9 stirred emotions in me that my $400k+ corporate job never did – satisfaction, accomplishment, and a sense of completeness. It felt personal, it felt real, and it felt wholly mine. My wife captured a photo of me as I was going through these emotions.
Lessons Learned and What’s Next
Financially, making my first dollar online was not a game-changer. It didn't upgrade my lifestyle or pay for my next lunch. In fact, it's possible that my future apps might not yield any sales at all. I realize I'm still far from earning hundreds or thousands of dollars online. Yet, this initial dollar earned holds an invaluable worth: it brings me confidence. Confidence in the fact that I could do it, that I could navigate the unknown and deal with ambiguity. And that confidence is what will help me weather any self-doubt that may arise in the future.
As for what's next, I plan to continue dedicating my time to identifying and addressing the gaps that are crucial for thriving in the Internet economy. I continue to be inspired by hundreds of people who have chosen this path and learn from them.
Back to build, learn and iterate.
If you are planning to earn your first dollar on the Internet, let me know how I can be helpful to you by replying to this email or leaving a comment in the app.
If you have already earned your first dollar on the Internet, I would love to follow your story and learn to thrive in the Internet economy.