#8: Daniel has built a portfolio of side hustles, generating $1 Million in revenue in three years
Learn how to build a portfolio of small bets
Daniel, our hustler today, is not someone who did side hustles along with a job. Still, his journey of discovering the value of diversification and building a portfolio of small bets will inspire you all to make some bets of your own.
Since leaving his job at Amazon in 2019, he has
💸 Made $1Mn in revenue
🤩 Built a Twitter audience of 133K+ followers
🚀 Shipped 4+ information products
🌟 Started a community with 1000+ members to help them build a portfolio of small bets
Daniel has built a portfolio of side hustles, generating $1 Million in revenue in three years
Daniel Vassallo had worked at Amazon for eight years when he decided to quit and go into self-employment. He had a balanced work life and was rewarded with promotions, compensation, recognition, and praise. Still, there was a lack of intrinsic motivation. He wanted to do things he loved. Things that he did as a kid when there was no external force wanting him to do it, like writing code, selling his creations and building his own path.
The start to self-employment was rocky
In a job, if you work hard, you are rewarded and can meet your goals. And the same should apply to creating your own project too. With this in mind, he devoted lots of time, effort and money to the project. He was building in public by sharing the journey and received validation signals for his idea, with 1000+ users on the waitlist. When the product launched, it became #1 on Product Hunt, got featured on the front page of Hacker News, and made sales of $1500. He invested ~100K from his savings and worked on it for a year, but the project was challenging to sustain. (It is still running but makes only $10K/year)
Daniel was confronted with the unpredictability of the world. There is no simple way to succeed; the world works on randomness. The exact path that led to success for one, can lead to failure for another. The only way to make randomness work for you is to diversify your income sources and make bets on different things.
Be prepared for opportunities and build for your audience
Userbase was not growing as expected, and to not run out of savings, Daniel started freelancing. While at the same time, he was building his credibility on Twitter by sharing helpful content. One of his threads on AWS went viral, and people had many questions about it. Having worked at AWS for some time, he had lots to say and knew he could not encapsulate everything on Twitter. He saw an opportunity here.
He decided to write a book that would share the information and not take more than a month of his time. It was a small bet he placed and got a co-author in Josh Pschorr, a friend and former colleague at Amazon.
"We released the product on Christmas Day 2019, and it's been far more successful than our expectations. After 14 days, the product had made $45,000, and since then, the product is approaching $144,000 in total sales."
Soon after the book's release, Daniel started sharing the performance and other metrics with his followers. Every day he would wake up to people asking how he built an audience from zero to 12,000 followers in a few months. Coming from a pure tech background, it was an achievement that other tech-focused people wanted to learn from and emulate.
Daniel had great learning from it. He always thought he should leverage his software skills to earn a living. Instead of being empowered by it, he was getting constrained. He was only thinking about ideas where he could use his years of experience. But he should think of ideas that people find valuable and that he can bring to life. It may or may not be related to his expertise. And that's when he decided to build his second information product.
"This time, I wanted to go even more aggressive on my investment. At first, I was thinking about doing another e-book, but those take a lot of time, so I thought I could record myself and sell that as an information product."
Everyone can build a Twitter Audience proved even more successful by getting $100,000 in sales in the first two months.
Building a portfolio of Small Bets
After the success of both products, Daniel started building what he calls a Portfolio of Small Bets. He believes that in an uncertain world, one should take small bets that are low in effort but can yield good ROI. Putting all your effort into one thing exposes you to lots of uncertainty. But when you have 3-4 small bets, even one of them doing exceedingly well can compensate for any failures. A Venture Capitalist builds a portfolio of companies and does not invest all their money into one. This helps them mitigate losses and make the best ROI. Similarly, we can create a portfolio of projects that can give us the best ROI for our efforts.
"I'd like to use the metaphor, like imagine you're searching for golden treasure underground, and you pick one spot, and you start digging in that spot. You can dig as far as you want, but if the treasure is not in that spot, no matter how hard and long you dig, you're never going to find it. And I think it's the same thing here in projects, that it's more exploring than exploiting."
With this philosophy, Daniel has created 4+ information products and, very recently, a community called Small Bets. He wanted to create a cohort where he could teach people his philosophy behind creating a portfolio of small bets. The cohort has since evolved to a vibrant community of 1000+ members working on side hustles. Daniel believes that making small bets enables one to use available resources best. And every subsequent investment into a project becomes a new small bet. For example, the Small bets community was a small bet which got excellent traction on launch. Daniel's decision to make it a community and market became another small bet.
Hustlers Insights of the Week
Daniel took the plunge into self-employment, and it took him a year to find things that could work for him. But for many of us, doing side hustles while working full-time can be a great way to explore interests and earn money. We need to consider what we want to put into our portfolio of small bets.
👥 Build an audience by sharing your knowledge and expertise: Most of us find it challenging to build an audience. We do not know where and how to start. Daniel was the same, but he dived into it with the singular focus of helping people with his knowledge. He did not necessarily follow the marketing guidelines. Still, he started sharing how he was building a SaaS from scratch and everything he had learnt over the years at Amazon.
🤑 Diversify to battle randomness: We usually have the mindset that focusing on one thing will yield the best results. But the world is random and uncertain; even after all efforts, things may not succeed. Daniel's Userbase had all the ingredients for success, but the ROI was not great. We should explore small projects requiring less effort, but even a tiny success will give us good ROI. You can make money with an information product on Gumroad, a video course, a community, freelancing, building SaaS and many more.
✨ Be prepared to leverage opportunities: Daniel's success can be attributed to his preparedness to take on new opportunities. From the first AWS book to the recent community, he was prepared to take steps to capture any opportunity he saw. After all, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." — Seneca
We recently hosted Daniel for a session with the builders at Build. If you want to watch the recording, please reply, and I will gladly share it.
Did you learn something new about side-income reading this? If yes, share it with a friend to increase the surface area of knowledge so that more & more people can know of ways to make money.
Also, know anyone (who is making money while having a full-time job) we should feature? Let us know by replying, and we will get chatting!
Upcoming initiatives to start your side-hustle journey
Special Masterclass: Side projects are a gateway to financial independence
Andrew Gazdecki, CEO of MicroAcquire, Inc. 30 under 30 Entrepreneur and 2X founder, will be coming to Build this Tuesday, 11th October, at 7:30 PM IST for a session on how builders can leverage side projects for financial independence.
Enrollments are open for Build Cohort 7
Build is India's most premium community (also the biggest) for side projects. The inaugural cohort was kicked off in August last year, and since then, we have graduated with 500+ extraordinary builders. We have just started the enrollment for the last cohort of the year beginning on Nov 19, 2022
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