product as a side project

Product as a Side Project: The Early Steps

This is part one of a series of blog posts, where I document the development of a product as a side project, where I will share my findings, both wins and losses, with you, my reader.

The concept behind started back in the first half of last year. I am always looking for opportunities to publish guest posts, both for the audience building and SEO backlink benefits. It’s not just for me either; we have customers in my other business that could benefit.

If you don’t know why guest blogging is important, then go read my article here on what is guest blogging, then come back. It’s fine, this article can wait.

Guest posting research methods

So there’s a few different methods to find the right blogs to pitch guest posts to.

Method 1: Scattergun with Google

This is where you search phrases likely to uncover blogs that accept guest posts. Then you start the due diligence process of researching their metrics, etc. Finally, you send over a pitch email and hope they reply, hope that it’s not a paid placement thing, and hope they are keen on your suggested topics.

That’s a whole lot of hope.

Method 2: Semi-scattergun with lists

This is a slightly better approach, where you find a list of blogs that accept guest posts, and go through the blogs listed, one by one, to see if the list is still valid, and they still accept guest posts.

Method 3: More specific with subscriptions

Yes, there are a few other services out there that offer what is becoming. Some people would say that means this is a product that isn’t needed, because the gap is already filled. I, along with others, would say that the existence of other similar products gives validation to the idea.

skyrocket your audience

At the end of the day, I am creating this product as a side project, so I am not constrained by what VC’s would be interested in, nor having to get it live fast so I can put food on the table. If it fails, it fails. I have learned things, and have a great database for my own use.

Reviewing competing products

I have found a handful of competing products in this space, however they all suffer from different issues.

A few of these state huge claims like 50,000 Free guest posting sites, but then also state in the instructions that you may find sites that mention the words “guest post” on a page. This indicates they are simply using a crawler to gather pages with those terms and similar.

This means they aren’t human checked, and will no doubt make their users do a LOT of the filtering to find sites that accept guest posts amongst their 50,000 url’s. If I wanted to create that sort of unfiltered database, I could easily have 50,000 sites listed, but that’s not useful for users.

A few sites I researched had next to no SEO data, meaning you found a site in their database, and then you would have to use other software to do the research on their metrics (or just blindly pitch, which isn’t as useful).

Another issue is price. Some are on the fairly costly side ($35+ per month), and it makes me wonder how many users will they attract at over $400 per year.

These issues to me are all able to be improved. That’s my plan here with

Current status

Since this little product as a side project is just my spare time cause, it has come along nicely given restrictions on time.

I currently have a truckload of data, and have had 75%+ of it now checked by humans (don’t worry; not all by me). We’ve added lots of SEO data to most of the sites, and have dropped hundreds of sites that no longer accept guest posts, or are obviously PBN sites or are stating paid posting only.

The email newsletter works, the blog and website are constantly being tweaked, and I am close to a decision on which WordPress database viewing software I will purchase to use.

Next steps

The next steps for this little product as a side project, are;

Decide on database interface

I am testing out a handful of great database tools that plug straight into WordPress. This will be the biggest expense when I have decided what works best for my scenario.

Keep on blogging

The more content on this blog, the better. Quality content that is, not just filler content. I need to keep creating posts that help the medium term aims of the product.

Determine support

Given the simple nature of the data, I believe a video or even just a written explanation of each of the fields we will display will be enough. I could record some screen share videos for certain situations. It’s a matter of seeing what support questions come in.

Determine pricing

I’m a fan of a monthly subscription as the basis for this product. Now it is a matter of working out what is a reasonable price. Some services out there are $39+ per month, and I feel that’s way too high for the average freelance guest poster or small business owner who is looking to post a few guest posts.

Irrespective of what pricing I choose, I’ll also do a significant discount at first, to get a handful of customers using the product and providing feedback. Sign up to the newsletter (below) to get first dibs on special lifetime discounts when that happens.

Fix up design

The website and blog aren’t the best they could be – far form it. This is, however, meant to be minimal viable product, so I’ll keep this on the to do, but further down the priorities.