My plan for 2021 is to build a small side business that can generate some revenue. Not for the money, but for the experience of starting a business from scratch. I'm going to spend 2021 trying to make that happen.
I've wasted almost 10 years thinking about having a side business, but never taking that first step towards making it a reality. I recently started listening to a lot of Indie Hacker podcast episodes, and listening to the indie hackers and their journeys has given me a boost of inspiration to just start.
I might fail at this idea, or the next, or the one after that. But what I've learned by watching and listening to the stories of other entrepreneurs is that consistency of effort matters a lot more than having a great idea. So my goal is to keep trying. Spending a few months on each idea, and seeing if it's something that looks viable. The time is going to pass anyway, I can either spend it trying to think of the perfect idea and how it will be used by thousands of people, or iterating on the less than perfect ideas I have right now and finding out which; if any, has the potential to be a solid side business.
I recently bought 2 3D printers, the Artillery Genius & the Prusa Mini. I got excited, and had a bunch of savings lying around from a year of not going out because of the COVID situation. So I ordered 2 printers, because why not.
I have printed many models; mostly stuff that I downloaded from sites like Thingiverse, Thangs, MyMiniFactory, and other similar sites. I've also designed a few smaller functional objects, like lamp shade holders, spare parts to fix broken vacuum cleaner hoses, etc. I'm having a lot of fun with this hobby and next I want to try SLA printing.
I want an SLA printer so I can experiment with printing in resin. I'm not that into miniatures, but I'm excited by the technology and would like to try it out. I might find some serious use of resin printing, but right now I only want to play around with the technology, I don't have any practical uses of resin printing in mind.
I want to buy the the Prusa SL1. I like the reviews I've seen of the machine and I'm very happy with the quality of the Prusa Mini, so my hope is that the SL1 will be another solid machine from Prusa. The printer + wash/cure station combo is $2,300. While I can save that much in a few months, it will be difficult to justify such a large purchase for something which I might loose interest in after playing around with a few times.
I had the idea of using 3D printing (from those 2 printers 🤦♂️) to make money. My goal is to make at least $2,300 by doing something related to 3D printing. Then I could buy the SL1 kit guilt free.
I wrote a list of things I could print and sell online in a small e-commerce store. Some ideas were:
- Custom designed keychains.
- Lamps in various interesting shapes, like the Moon, or Mars, or some unique buildings here in the UAE.
- Cookie cutters.
- An Arduino based macro-keyboard for video editors.
These are all reasonable ideas of things to sell and make money with. However, recently I was listening to an IndieHackers podcast episode in which they talked about people making money from curating things. They were talking about newsletters like "The Browser", Hustle, etc. That got me thinking about starting a paid newsletter.
While the idea is interesting, and I might be able to get some income out of it, I wasn't sure if I wanted to commit to writing a newsletter every week. I want a flexible side business where I don't have to follow a fixed schedule.
After a bit more thinking, I had the idea of building a web application that can help people find the right 3D printer for their needs. There are many "best 3d printers of 2020" lists, but these are all static lists that suggest a few printers and hope you find the one that fits your requirements.
My idea is to have a database of the popular and easily available printers. Each printer would have it's own page, with data associated with it, including attributes about it's capabilities and pros & cons.
Users will be able to search based on these attributes and filter the list down to printers that suit what they are looking for. This will let them narrow the field of possibilities down to a reasonable amount, and also allow a more "apples-to-apples" comparison b/w the possibilities, instead of comparing for example a top of the line hobby printer to one aimed at kids.
Similar to the newsletter, this will involve writing a lot about 3D printing. This will be for the blog, as content marketing is what I'm going to use to attract users. However, once a critical mass of content has been written, I can slow down content production a bit. This is not something I can do with a paid newsletter.
Additionally, I can auto-generate pages doing "A vs B" comparisons on the printers. Once I have entered the attributes of the printers and their pros and cons, I can generate hundreds of these comparison pages on the fly. This should help with SEO as well.
I have 2 ideas of how I can make money from this:
- Affiliate links on the printers.
- Ad banners on the blog and site.
My plan is to spend 3 months on building the site and writing on the blog. I've already setup the blog and will be adding content to it as regularly as possible. The domain I settled on is Which3DPrinter.com. The blog is live at https://which3dprinter.com/blog/.
I'll be adding not only original content; which takes time to write, but also small posts about interesting things in 3D printing that I find. This will make it easier for me to start generating content on the blog because I'm already spending time everyday watching Youtube videos about 3D printing.
My hope is that by the time the app is ready and the data for the printers is uploaded, the blog should have started generating some traffic. I plan to have a usable app with data for a few dozen printers in about 2 months.
After 3 months, I'll look at the progress and the user stats for the project, and make a decision about continuing with this idea. If I see hope for reaching my targeting of making $2,300 in 2021 by continuing working on this, I'll do that. If not, I will pivot to selling 3D printed stuff online via an e-commerce store.