How I Make A Living Constructing 'The Perfect Day' For Random Strangers

$5,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
1
Employees
product
Constructed Adven...
from International
started December 2015
$5,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
1
Employees
1.59M
alexa rank
2.88K
followers
114
followers
email
other

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Chris Waters, I go by “The Architect, and I started Constructed Adventures.

Simply put, the goal of Constructed adventures is to create a seemingly serendipitous perfect day for someone. Often times, these days are for special occasions like milestone birthdays or marriage proposals. They usually involve challenges and puzzles (think “escape room around the city”) but they’re always custom tailored to a specific person and location.

I charge a flat rate for adventures. Between the adventures I run and the consultation clients I’ve added, my profit should be around 60k in 2019. It’s easy to gauge because I’m already completely booked for the rest of the year and into early 2020!

The most important thing for me is the freedom and flexibility. I don’t have a home and travel from one adventure location to the next. With all the money saved, I spend my downtime traveling to amazing locations or visiting friends and family!

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I was always that guy trying to create a fun experience for people. I hated the idea of waking up and knowing EXACTLY how the day is going to pan out (drive to work, meeting, lunch, get yelled at by clients, drive home, watch tv, go to bed. Rinse and repeat every day for the rest of your life) So I would be the one kidnapping people on their birthdays, putting googly eyes on every picture in the office, etc.

“I hated the idea of waking up and knowing EXACTLY how the day is going to pan out (drive to work, meeting, lunch, get yelled at by clients, drive home, watch tv, go to bed. Rinse and repeat every day for the rest of your life)”

The business kind of happened by accident. It all started with the Reddit Secret santa gift exchange. (here’s the wikipedia) In short, 100k people sign up, get matched with someone, and send them a gift for the holidays! I’d been participating for years. I’d sent and received some really incredible gifts.

Then 2015 rolled around. I got matched with my giftee. I immediately looked at his location. It was literally 21 minutes away. I had this grand opportunity to do something really fucking cool for an internet stranger.

So I started planning.

The recommended amount for reddit secret santa is always $20. Some people send $20 gifts. Some people don’t send anything. Some people spend wayyyyyy more. I was one of those people. Frankly, I just kept coming up with cooler and cooler ideas. “What if they open an envelope here and there’s two tickets to the zoo and they need to decode messages on the plaques on animal pens! Then they’ll go to a restaurant where everything has been covered!” It continued like that.

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Luckily at the time, I was making good money as an account manager for a software company and hosting a weekly poker game. I’m not a spectacular poker player, but I’d somehow taken down the game 4-5 weeks in a row. I still joke with my buddies that they financed the start of my business.

Anyway, the day of the adventure, I had a bunch of people willing to help put on a big production for an internet stranger. One of them was the boyfriend of a coworker. He was willing to hand deliver the century old suitcase at 8:00am to my giftee. Once my giftee and his girlfriend were at the zoo, I took him to breakfast as a “thank you.”

He told me this was a cool thing that people would pay for. He insisted that I start a business and he was going to build me a website. He said “What’s your business name?”

“uhhhh...Constructed Adventures?”

“Cool, let me see if the URL is available. Yep! Just bought it. Give me a day.”

The Reddit gifts adventure ended at this speakeasy bar where I met my giftee and his girlfriend. They were exhausted (In hindsight, I made the day WAY too long) but still blown away. Through our conversation I let him know I’m going to try to do this as a side business.

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A day or two later he posted it to Reddit, it hit the front page, my business page got linked, and the business blew up. The next night, it was all over the local news and I got another huge spike in publicity. Here is the Imgur Album

I was still working full time but by mid january, Constructed Adventures was booked out through June.

how-i-make-a-living-constructing-the-perfect-day-for-random-strangers This was everything from the first adventure

Take us through the process of designing and coming up with your service.

The baseline for every adventure is to create a magical experience, but I’ve learned an INSANE amount of lessons and created a pretty in depth set of rules that govern each adventure.

For example: One rule is that no stop should ever be longer than 15 minutes travel distance from the previous stop unless it’s an absolute MUST. We watch movies like “National Treasure” where one scene they’re in Washington D.C. and the next scene they’re in New York, but they don’t show the hour plane ride! It’s important to make sure the adventure never stagnates!

After every adventure, I tweak everything. My rules, my survey that I send to potential clients, the contract. Everything.

I’m always improving.

Aside from the few hundred dollars spent on the first adventure, there really wasn’t any other startup cost. The nice thing about events is the client pays a deposit that I use to purchase things. Upon completion of the adventure, I take the final payment. For the first 6 months, I just put all my profit back into the business (buying GoPros, chests, locks, trademarks, etc)

About the business today. Potential clients reach out by filling out a form on my website (occasionally people call or email, but 99% of people do the form.) Right now I charge a flat rate which increases the further I book out. After that it’s just whatever the adventure costs (including my lodging and transportation, meals they have on their adventure, actors, etc)

In the beginning I charged a flat rate for the entire adventure. This was a poor idea. I learned never to do that again after my first valentines day adventure. I charged $700 for everything. Including a fixed price dinner. Unfortunately they bought multiple bottles of wine and the dinner bill came out to $550. Lesson learned. Now I have an addendum in my contract: If the budget goes over because they went nuts during meals, the client needs to cover it all.

My current business model is simple. I build 2-3 adventures a month. My profit on each adventure is around $2,500-3,000 but can get up to $10,000-$20,000 if it’s a massive undertaking. Add consultation packages on top and I’ve got a nice flow of income.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Oh man, the first website (the one that hit the front page of Reddit, was super barren. It didn’t even have a filled out “about us section”. All the text was still the stock “Lorem Ipsum” that squarespace defaults to.

There was 1-2 pictures of the envelopes and boxes from the first adventure and some screenshots from the National Treasure Movie. At the bottom was the from you’d fill out if you wanted to hire me. Honestly though I think it helped. Reddit has this weird distrust of being “gamed” or marketed to. Someone made a comment that this was all an elaborate scheme. The comment below basically said “Look at the website! Does this really look like the work of a crack marketing team?!”

After the launch, things just gradually grew. I slowly raised my prices and figured out how to make bigger and better moments!

Then in October 2017 (almost 2 years after the start of the business) I quit my full time job to pursue Constructed Adventures. It was a calculated risk. I had money saved and I was starting to get requests from other states. I got featured at the end of a major Podcast called “How I built this” and completely blew up again.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

It was a slow grind. My goal was to stay booked and use that as leverage. As I write this (in early August 2019) I’m completely booked out through February 2020. This came from having my prices low (people still tell me they’re too low, but I don’t mind. I’ve got a great life)

But now, it gives me the right to be picky about the people I take as clients! If someone is super aggressive or extremely pushy about the cost, I can just turn them away. My work is stressful enough without having to put up with a nightmare client!

I also don’t pay any money for ads. The only marketing money I spend is in December! Every year, I signed up for the Reddit Secret Santa gift exchange, fly to my giftee’s location, and create a completely free adventure just for them. I do it for the publicity, but also because it’s just super fun and a spectacular tradition!

Past that, every year I do an AMA on reddit. The two I’ve done have hit the front page. Regarding AMAs, I always recommend being super engaging and super transparent. If you aren’t completely honest with the online masses they’ll eat you alive. But a successful AMA can launch you. Can you guess what day I did my AMA?

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Past that, I’m lucky. My business is super unique. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I have a great origin story. I was a journalism major in college so I know exactly what news outlets want and how to give it to them. I always jump at the occasion to do interviews and talk about my business or methods. Sometimes they lead to nothing, but sometimes they get me a bunch of business. It’s like getting free lotto tickets.

TL;DR I’m lucky in that I don’t need any clients and I’m booked very far in advance. Combine that with an openness to talk and a savviness with journalists/reddit and I keep staying relevant.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Right now, I’m pretty profitable. Still a little room for more but I never want money to dictate me (I’ve seen so many companies that are doing great but they try to grow outside their lane and it eventually dooms them)

“The most important thing for me is the freedom and flexibility. I don’t have a home and travel from one adventure location to the next. With all the money saved, I spend my downtime traveling to amazing locations or visiting friends and family!”

My profit per adventure is anywhere from $2,000-$10,000 (if it’s an individual adventure like a proposal, I’ll charge way less than if a giant company hires me). My customer acquisition cost is very minimal. I spend $1,000-$3,000 every holiday season on my secret santa but that’s about it. Everything else is just time to talk about my business. I keep up on social media a bit but it’s not a huge focus. I’ve gotten enough SEO juice from reddit and news outlets to always rank pretty high. Plus there really isn’t anyone who does what I do. Probably because the start was such a grind.

Last fall I started consulting. That’s been a fun arm of the business that I’m putting more focus into. As much as I love the world travel, I know in the future I’ll want to do less. Consulting allows me to eventually have a home again and spend time helping others create magical moment for the people around them.

I also have a TV production company trying to sell a show about what I do. It’s a long shot but maybe HGTV will buy a pilot and a few episodes! That’ll probably help business!

Past that, I love what I do. I just traveled to barcelona and ran an adventure that culminated with a gentleman proposing to his boyfriend! I get to travel the world creating fun moments for people, why would I change that?

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Oh man, the biggest thing I learned is valuing your product. Learned a lot about pricing structure for events early on. It took a year before I was charging a flat rate. I’m sure I just straight up lost money in the first few adventures.

Just start. So many people just. won’t. start. They spend 5 weeks asking people about what they should name their business or what their logo should be. They don’t launch a site because it’s not perfect.

One of my best decisions was to always be open and transparent about everything. Cost, ideas, methods. I don’t think it benefits me to have “trade secrets.” I have 4 protegès who i just help to build competing businesses. The world needs more fun. I had a ton of help to get where I am, who would I be to not help other creatives?

Past that, I work very hard but also take plenty of time off. I’ll do 3-4 back to back adventures and then take 3-4 weeks off (not completely off, just deadline free). I think it’s important to have a balance.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?.

Google Drive is an absolute godsend for me. Each past, present, and future adventure has its own folder with a budget sheet, master schedule sheet, receipts folder, notes about conversations, surveys, everything. Love it or hate it, google works.

I also love the snooze feature in gmail. At the end of every day, my inbox is at zero, even if it’s just emails snoozed until tomorrow morning. The Snooze feature helps me prioritize things so they pop up when they need to and I don’t have to spend brainpower on a future task.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

How to Win Friends and Influence People is the single greatest book known to man.

Podcast wise, I listen to everything. How I Built This, Without Fail, The first season of Startup might be the most inspiring one for me. I’ve gone through it a few times.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Just start. Good God, so many people just. won’t. start. They spend 5 weeks asking people about what they should name their business or what their logo should be. They don’t launch a site because it’s not perfect. In the beginning of a business, the downside is you’re insignificant and no one knows about you. But it’s also a wonderful upside. Don’t worry about these little hiccups and just start doing. Don’t worry about figuring out taxes when you’re not even making money yet! JUST START

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Nope! It’s just me. I might get an assistant but for now I like being a one man show. That being said, If you want me to pay you to assist in an adventure, I have this form you can fill out! If I’m running an adventure in your area and I like what you wrote, I’ll reach out!

Where can we go to learn more?

  • Website: www.constructedadventures.com
  • Facebook: Constructed Adventures

Here are some photos to give a little bit of flavor:

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-  
Chris waters,   Founder of Constructed Adventures

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