Starting a test-prep company on my own while having full-time work has been an interesting experience. The idea itself was extremely exciting; I had scored well on an important graduate admissions test, tutored several people on the side for that same test (GMAT), and then wrote up an in-depth study guide. Once I finished writing, I had the guide professionally formatted, and launched a Shopify store to sell the guides, where I then created an entirely separate blog exclusively about GMAT related topics in an attempt to drive organic growth. Needless to say it wasn’t a small amount of work.
In-fact, I wanted to make this thing big. I hired someone on Fiverr to go scrape the internet for other tutors tutoring in other Graduate admissions tests so that I could reach out to them about writing a guide for 50 Hours or Less Test Prep. I was ready to grow this thing to have all of the big tests covered with high-quality guides that had way less fluff than the big ol’ Kaplan books. Speaking of which, Kaplan Test Prep raked in 1.5 Billion dollars of revenue in 2018, so I knew if I could even take just .1% of Kaplan’s market share I’d be pulling in a cool $1.5mil a year.
So What Changed?
Right about the time that I developed my expansion strategy I started having a lot of success at my full-time job. If I’m being honest, that is also a significant contributor to why I have not created much content for this blog this year.
Startups, if you want to expand them, or even just maintain them are a lot of work. When an entire business is dictated by the level of action that you take because you are the sole employee, having that business as a hobby is almost never enough if you want it to be big. That of course is why serial entrepreneurs are always starting new companies and never working for someone else; they know they need 100% of their attention on their idea.
As I became immersed in my full-time work my online marketing efforts and GMAT blog material creation came to a stand still. Traffic to the website became like a poorly lit store where a lone strangler would come through out of curiosity every once in awhile. I was not putting any effort into the business, so the business generated enough revenue to cover costs but not much more.
After about a year of my business at a stalemate I decided it was time for a change.
Published on Amazon
I had been thinking about it for awhile and only wish I had done it sooner.
I partnered with Amazon and Kindle Direct Publishing to create both a kindle ebook copy of my guide and the first ever paperback published copies of the guide! All of my prior guide sales had been in the form of a PDF download.
While in some ways it is sad that I am giving up on the website I built, I do feel like being on Amazon is a level up in some ways. Way more eyes will see my product, and I am selling it for WAY less money.
When I first started the business I was extremely sensitive to setting the right tone around the market value of my product, after all, I knew that it would save people hours of studying and hours of private tutoring making the guide easily worth $100. I also wanted to have a price structure high enough to incentivize other authors who may have written guides for 50 Hours or Less Test Prep.
Now that I am taking down the website and no longer pursuing author partnerships my mentality changed to “what is a price that essentially anyone can afford but still says that this guide is worth something?”
Now, through my partnership with Amazon, anyone with a Kindle Unlimited subscription can read my guide for free. Otherwise, on Kindle the guide is $9.99 and the real thing (paperback) is $19.99.
What About The Future?
At this point I am excited to have found a marketplace where this guide can be sold on autopilot, and be accessible for anyone in the world to easily find. This way it can get into the most peoples’ hands and help as many people as possible to do better on the GMAT.
I may look into ways to market this product through Amazon and see if I can grow my market share that way, but this will only be for the GMAT guide.
All that is really left to do now is save all of my blog content from the website, possibly for a future edition of the guide, and then take it down.
While it is sad to feel like in some ways I am “ending” the business because I am no longer looking to grow it in the same way, it does feel like a weight has been lifted and that I have more mind-share to go after either another side-project, or put even more into my full-time job.
Thanks for reading!