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#8: Bleeding money, weekly emails, and becoming a solopreneur

Ondrej Markus
Ondrej Markus
6 min read
Becoming a solopreneur
Becoming a solopreneur

Happy Publish Monday!

First, I have an announcement:

Until now, I've shared a reflection every month for the last 7 months. And I polished the shit out of them. Most have 2500+ words, 5 or more original illustrations, silly jokes, everything.

But they took too long to finish, 3 to 5 days of writing and drawing. Plus I had to cut a lot of things to keep them relatively short.

Now, I want to try something different.

One email every Monday

I'll write one email every Monday where I share my fuck-ups, wins, and real numbers behind becoming a solopreneur.

(Solopreneur = Someone who builds and runs a business on their own.)

What’s going to be inside?

  • What works and doesn't work in building an online business.
  • Reflection on my work that week: writing articles, growing Twitter, developing products.
  • Links to the best of what I read, watched or listened to. (Articles, books, tweets, videos, podcasts.)
  • Insides of my system for getting work done – tools I use, routines that work for me, how I organize my projects, etc.
  • And lot's of stickmen.

I’ll do my best to keep these emails as succinct, interesting, and useful as I can.

(You're reading the first one right now.)

2 months bleeding -$800 on savings

I skipped my financial review last month and did July + August in one sweep this week. I knew why I was avoiding it – I’m losing money. 😅

I knew this was coming, but it’s unpleasant nonetheless.

The upside is, nothing gets you as focused as bleeding money every month.

Bleeding money gets you focused.
Bleeding money gets you focused.

My primary intention is to make a living as a solopreneur in the next 12 months.

Why solopreneur?

  • I love the lifestyle that comes with being a free agent working on his own stuff. I can control my calendar, I don’t have to talk to people unless I want to, I can wear a T-shirt and shorts seven weeks a day. Heaven.
  • I learn faster as a solopreneur because I have “intellectual freedom." Nobody directs what I’m supposed to learn. I pick my own topics, and I leave them when I’m done, not when it's my job to move on.

Why 12 months?

  • Savings. When I calculate my financial situation, I get about a year to make a living out of what I build as a solopreneur. (I'll deconstruct the real numbers in a minute.)
  • Moving to London or Vancouver. My girlfriend and I are planning to move to one of these cities in about a year. She is going to study there, and I always wanted to try living in an English-speaking country. However both of these cities are +100% in monthly living costs, and I would prefer to cover them by having a thriving online business instead of having to get a local job.

Okay, let's deconstruct these two angles: work and money. I'm sharing here exactly what I have and exactly what I do.

Money: My plan to get rich by going broke

Right now, my savings are $8,479.

My monthly income from teaching a few hours a week is $400, and it will be $800 starting October.

My monthly expenses are $1,200 on average.

This means I’ll bleed $800 again this month (September) and $400 in October and further.

So if I cut 800 from September and then divide my savings by 400:

(7,679 / 400 = 19)

I get 19 months = ~570 days

I have 570 days before I run out of savings.

But I don’t want to get close to that. I want a reserve. So I’ll place the end of my comfort zone in half (285 days). Which would cut my savings to ~$3,840.

285 days is close to 10 months. I can work with that. A little extra bleeding or income will make it 12 months with an okay-ish reserve.

The income I want to reach is $2,000/month solely from what I build as a solopreneur (on average over 3+ months). That should be enough to make a basic living as a solopreneur even in London or Vancouver.

I'm not really optimizing on getting rich here. I just want to do this work because I enjoy it so much and making money is a necessary ingredient to balance this lifestyle's equation.

Work: My plan to build things to solve my own problems

Now, what exactly am I going to do to make this money as a solopreneur?

Let's look at what's happening in each of them right now.

Writing a blog

I’m writing articles about topics related to being a solopreneur/writer/creator. It's for people who want to pursue a similar lifestyle or just want to be more productive and creative in their work.

Last week, I wrote a big article about a new approach to work called the Full-Stack Freelancer. It describes how I manage my work as a generalist learning junkie.

Creating products

I’m developing a course for solopreneurs/creators to help them design a system for optimizing their life and work.

On 1st August, I made a quick landing page prototype for the course on WordPress. I wrote/drew it before I even knew what it’s going to be. I guessed. 😅

There was no price, no date. Not a product, really. Just a broad description of what the course is going to be + a signup form for people to leave their email if they're interested.

The page wasn't very good, but it worked.

I started mentioning the course on Twitter, and out of 138 people who came to the website, 20 signed up to get notified when the course is ready. That's 14%, nice.

MetaSprint August analytics
138 visitors, 20 signed up

This week I took a day to upgrade the site.

Now it's more targeted at creators who want to systematize how their creative output. I need to wait a week or two to see the results. (So far it seems to be worse than the previous shitty version. Ups. 😅)

Building a network

I’m connecting with other solopreneurs, writers, and creators on Twitter. It works well as a way to meet like-minded people, test product ideas, and not lose your mind while working mostly alone.

My Twitter routine is:

  • Reply to comments and messages every day (more like every other day, and nothing on weekends)
  • Reach out to people who follow me and seem legit and interesting (I write them a direct message on Twitter)
  • Publish a high-quality thread once a week (a bundle of several tweets)
  • Tweet every sometimes (I don’t focus on tweeting single tweets)

What seems to work well for me is writing a good thread once a week.

I wrote one about how I got from 0 to 100 followers as an introvert who doesn't like social media. 22 retweets in 3 days, 20,000 people saw it, 400 clicked on my profile, and 80 followed me.

Then I repeated the formula with a tweet about what I learned from bankrupting my first business 10 years ago.

Not as successful, but it got me to ~250 followers. That's + 150% compared to the beginning of the month.

I'm still finding my balance for using Twitter.

For example, I know I'd probably grow faster if I spent more time on Twitter every day, but it would also make my life less enjoyable.

I tried being more active there and it makes me anxious. Going on Twitter for 20-30 minutes a day (on average) feels about right. (In reality, it’s more like an hour every 2 or 3 days.)

Reading, watching, listening

  • Book: Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans – I'm re-reading it and making better notes for the course I'm making. Get my notes here.
  • Video: Immune system by Kurzgesagt (10 min) – This is unrelated to solopreneurship, but it's just so well done. If you watch things while you eat, watch this next.
  • Essay: Project of one’s own by Paul Graham – Beautiful piece of writing about the joy of working on your own project.

That's it.

Quick favor: I'm trying to get these emails to more people who want to start an online business, write more, or just create anything on their own that might one day make a living for them.

If you enjoyed this, please, share it with a friend who might like it too.

Thank you for being here, have a great week, and see you Monday.

Bye.

Reflections

Ondrej Markus

Designer, writer, introvert.