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I’ve Just Made £34.84 From a Start-up I Shutdown In 2021

My phone buzzed with a notification from Stripe for £17.00, I couldn’t believe it.

A few days later, yet another notification, I sold another product for $25.

This doesn’t sound like much, it’s not going to make me rich. The craziest thing about this, is these earnings are from a SaaS start-up that I shut down in November 2021. Making money from something that hasn’t been active for over 18 months.

That’s the crazy thing about the internet and selling stuff online, about start-ups.

You don’t know what’s going to happen and when.

“That’s Impossible”

Now I know what you’re thinking, what a load of “Bullshit”.

It’s true, I’ve made money online from a start-up software product that is no longer live, or in use.

The marketing site for the software isn’t live, neither is the domain, I don’t own it anymore. There aren’t people still using the product, I deleted all the hosting. As well as the backend databases and third-party accounts.

So how is this possible?

Let me explain.

Another Start-Up Buried In The Project Graveyard

I’d named the start-up, a SaaS product ‘Outflash’, it was an Outlook add-in I’d built.

It turned Outlook’s new message screen into a mass emailer, a better way of doing a “mail merge”.

You could even track email opens and clicks from any email you sent using the add-in. This was behind a paid subscription as well as other cool features. I’d even manage to land a few paying customers too, I thought it was my ticket to riches.

But something happened in November 2021 and I took the tough decision of switching it off.

If you want to find out why I decided to shut down a product that had paying customers, check out this post I wrote about it.

That feeling when you have to shutdown your start-up

Never “Throw” Anything Away

It was a difficult decision to shut down the software product and website.

Things were working and some of the blog posts had started to rank high in Google’s search results.

Even though I was trigger-happy when it came to switching the software product off itself. I took my time when I came to the content that was doing well, I had to find a way to use it. Luckily, I never focus on a single project, so at least I could do something with the blog posts.

Reusing Content You’ve Already Created

It was tough to move things across, it had taken over 6 months to get content to rank high.

That said, I thought “well if it’s done it once, it will rank again”.

I exported all the blog content from the old add-in site and imported it into my personal blog. Then, I reviewed each post, if it was directly related to the add-in, I wouldn’t publish it on the blog. If a blog was ranking and/or it wasn’t tied to the add-in, I updated it and hit publish.

I’d put all this effort into researching, writing and editing the posts, it didn’t make sense to discard them.

The content may not be exactly what I want to post on my site, but, content is content.

You never know!

Reuse Assets That You’ve Created

In the Lockdown of 2020, I’d taken a course called “The One Funnel Away Challenge”.

It was the brainchild of the amazing Russell Brunson, teaching you how to sell online.

I’d used Outflash, the add-in I’d built, as the test bed for everything I was learning in the course. The course takes you through how to promote your “main” product (i.e. the software add-in). By giving away or selling other products that help people, but then introducing your core product.

The course was brilliant and I learned a lot.

With step-by-step guides on how to create other products that you can use to promote your main service. It was expensive to get everything done, and you may not be sure the products will be that useful.

However, I ended up with the following list of assets.

  • 90+ email templates for Outlook
  • 7 code repositories (the software)
  • 7 eBooks
  • 2 Checklists
  • 1 collection of related YouTube videos

That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it took a lot of effort and hard work to get it all together.

Even though I shut down the software. The code, and more importantly, all the assets I created to promote the product were still there. Looking back, not deleting any of it was a great decision.

Finding Out Was Is Working

Fast forward to the start of 2023 and my website started getting more and more visits each month.

As you can tell, I don’t publish articles that often on this blog.

My goal for 2023 is to create regular content to drive more traffic. But what I found surprised me, I don’t always need to create more content. Instead, look at what’s working, improve the existing content and publish similar articles.

So, how do you do this?

Check Which Blog Post Are Ranking

Funny how you link things together in the back of your mind.

I’ve built another software product called Elementary Analytics.

I won’t go into the ins and outs of the service, but it allows you to track key data from many sources. What’s great about building software is you can solve your own headaches. That’s why I created Elementary Analytics to pinpoint these sorts of things.

Review Your Search Traffic

So the first thing I did was to analyse the performance of my blog for the last 90 days.

90-day traffic stats for this blog.

Things are on the up, you can see that my blog posts are appearing more often in the search rankings.

Amazing, Google is checking my site, liking what it sees and showing it to people. Also, the number of people that are clicking through to read my articles is going up. Six people out of every hundred viewers are going through to my site. Over the last 12 months, the number people clicking through has held a steady 6%, peaking at 8%.

The performance of my blog in Google’s search rankings over the last 12 months

So, if I can keep increasing the number of times my posts are viewed in the search rankings. While keeping the average number of clicks at the same or higher, I’m onto a winner.

Find Out Where You Are In The Search Ranking

Your site is getting more eyeballs on it, and the click-throughs are steady or improving, Great.

What do you do next?

When I realised that I was getting more visitors to my site, I knew there had to be a reason. Applying the 80/20 Principe I knew that roughly 20% of my articles will be bringing in 80% of the traffic. When I ran the numbers it was more like 95/5, with 5% of blogs bringing in 95% or more of the traffic.

Here’s what my Top 10 pages look like at the time of writing this article.

Top 10 most visiting pages for this website over the last 30 days.

Looking at the data, 3 blog posts are doing well, with one imparticular crushing it.

If you want to look at the article this is it: 40 Outlook Email Templates For Project Managers.

The post that is performing so well is one of the blog posts that I imported from the failed software product. I’ve been able to take content that was doing well from one site and transfer it to another. Yes, it’s taken a while but the effort of moving it over, compared to the results I’m getting have been well worth it.

But I didn’t stop there.

I started looking at what keywords people were using, which Google then showed my content to.

Top 10 searches that people were using, that Google was displaying my content too.

What’s interesting is all the keywords relate to the top-performing post. The email templates for project managers. It highlighted what Google was giving preference to, I knew which blog post to focus on.

Plus, for the majority of search terms, I’m the first result. That’s like striking gold

It goes to show that effort wasn’t wasted.

Double Down On What’s Working

So, I was able to still use information from a ‘failed’ project and use it to improve the traffic on my personal site.

But, what’s next, how do I then start using the traffic to my advantage?

As I’ve already mentioned that post was 40 Outlook Email Templates For Project Managers. And that Google was linking all the top-performing keywords to that single article. Looking back at the assets I kept from Outflash, I had all the templates mentioned in the blog post in a downloadable format. A format people could quickly use to import them into Outlook.

What I decided to do was to create a zip file of all the templates and create a way for people to download them, from that single blog post.

Updating Content And Testing CTA’s

I’d never structured a blog post before, that had a button in it for people to download something. It’s always been more conversational or educational content that I’ve written.

I decided to put a big red button that took people to a download page after every ten templates.

The CTA button in the blog post.

Even with the most basic tests, I found that people were clicking to download the templates for free. Finding that ‘Get All 40 Template, FREE!’ seems to get the most people to click through and download the templates.

However, I didn’t want to give them away for free.

I wanted something in return.

Getting Their Email Address

I keep hearing that your business’s biggest asset is your email list, so you need to focus on growing that.

That’s why I decided I was only going to give the templates away for free in return for a person’s email address.

Reusing downloadable Outlook templates from a failed start-up
Download the templates page for the Outlook email templates

I created a separate page so people could use it to download the templates, in return give me their details. Creating a second ‘download’ page, they would be redirected so they can get the templates straight away. They would also get an email a few minutes later with the link to download the template as a backup.

So now, with the traffic I was getting, I turned potential visitors into leads.

See If You Can Sell An “Asset”

I left the simple “lead gen!” funnel running for a few months.

My goal was to see if people wanted to download all the templates for free.

They did!

Now, I wanted to see if I could sell something to them straight after they entered their details. So, instead of redirecting them to a download page, I added a sales page, and then checkout. I was hoping that I could find something that would help them.

Turning back to all the assets I had put together for the failed start-up.

I knew what I could offer.

I’d put together an eBook called “Project Management Using Outlook”. I did a lot of research and hired a writer to put together the eBook for me. Now, all I had to do was to change the cover and remove all references to the old product and I was good to go.

After working for an hour or two.

I had the new pages together along with the finished eBook.

Repurposing an eBook from a failed start-up
Hero section of the sales pages for “Quick & Easy Project Management Using Outlook”

Once the funnel was live and I had tested it worked.

My next job was to create an email sequence that promote the eBook after people gave their email addresses. It was a two-pronged approach, immediately redirecting them to the sales page. Then promote the eBook via email over the next 7 days.

They could still download the templates for free using a link in the first email they would get.

Repeat Customers

One of the biggest things I’ve learned from the amazing Seth Godin is:

“Don’t find more customers for your products. Find more products for your customers”

It’s easier to sell something to people who have already bought something from you. To people who know like and trust you, that you have given value to.

So if someone else bought the eBook could I promote something else that they would find useful?

The Power of Email, Even Though “It’s Dead”

They say email is dead.

The stats show, even in 2023 for every $1 your spend on email marketing, it makes back $36, an increase of 3,600%.

So if that makes email dead, send me to the morgue and call me Dracula.

I decided to try this.

After I got the first sale for the Project Management Using Outlook eBook, a whooping £17. I sent an “email blast” to my list. Including everyone who had either bought the eBook or downloaded the templates.

Guess what, I sold another product, a Notion template for $25.

Seth Godin was right

Even more interesting, is the person who bought the template. Was the same person who had already purchased the eBook, and downloaded the templates. I had built trust with them, and delivered value so they knew what I was offering was worth purchasing.

Rinse And Repeat – What Next?

I have a blog post that ranks well on Google.

A way of delivering value to them for free.

Then promoting products that can help them, that they can buy. All using a simple website and an email provider. Oh and a bit of creativity mixed with hard work.

So what’s next, how can I replicate this success?

See If “Related” Posts Will Also Rank

Going back to the list of posts that are ranking in Google.

If you noticed, the second-best-performing post, relates to email templates for lawyers.

I have also done another blog post for email templates for recruiters. My plan is to update these blogs with as many templates as I can find. Then, give people a way to download the templates, exactly like I’ve shown in this article.

The biggest challenge is to figure out what I can sell as part of a funnel.

I don’t have anything specific for these industries.

However, I still have a lot of Outlook-related assets that I’ve created. My plan is to see if I can bundle them up and sell them across different industries. If you use Outlook in any way shape or form, the bundle can help you.

It would be then a case of finding more and more templates across different industries. And duplicating the blog and follow-on funnel and emails.

Conclusion: Learning From A Failed Start-Up

What I’ve learned is nothing is ever wasted.

Yes, switching off that software product start-up felt like a “failure”.

Even more so in the fact I had paying customers for the add-in.

Nothing Is Ever “Wasted”

In the process of building something, then the worst-case scenario is you turn if off.

The experience isn’t wasted.

Learn From The Experience

Me, I’ve learned so much.

I learned how to research blog content. Collate information and present it to users in the form of a blog. So much so that Google thinks it’s worthwhile. and promotes it to the top of its search rankings globally, now that’s HUGE.

I’ve developed skills in copywriting, and how to build sales funnels online.

My creativity and thinking power has increased too. Both from the failed start-up and what I’m currently doing.

Use Over and Over Again

Not only are the skills you pick up running a start-up reusable.

So are the things you create, that you build, that you produce, and the start-ups you run.

Never delete anything that could be used as an asset for something else. It’s hard to know whether something will be useful in days, weeks, months, in this case, years to come.

If you’re unsure, best to keep it saved somewhere, you just never know when those things will come in handy.

I did, and now I’m £34.84 richer.

Wait, want more tips & tricks? Yes, please!

Who Is Phil Hughes

I am a coder, content creator & software consultant for start-ups and FTSE 100 companies. I am obsessed with productivity, self-improvement, and building a lifestyle business.
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