This is a follow up story for Online Solitaire. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Holger and I’m a designer-turned-developer, who’s been in the business of creating apps and websites for the last 10 years or so. My most successful project has been Online Solitaire, which is a website where more than 100k games of Klondike Solitaire, Freecell, and Spider Solitaire are played each and every day.
I initially started the website as a side project and a bit over a year ago I implemented ads on the site and have steadily grown the revenue of the site from $1500/month to about $10k/month today.
I’ve managed to keep the business a side hustle and plan to do so for the foreseeable future.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
The business has steadily been growing for the last 12 months. Now the revenue seems to have stabilized a bit. The revenue still fluctuates, but I simply think that’s the nature of ad-based revenue. But the revenue of the site is currently at a (relatively) stable $10k/month and I hope it’ll stay there or maybe even grow the next coming 12 months.
Once you find a project that has promise, it’ll serve you well to go all-in on that. Give it all you gotta take that project to the next level.
For the last 6 months or so I haven’t worked all that much on the site. At least if you compare it to the increase in revenue. I’ve been doing a bit of SEO work and optimized the game itself a bit, but for long periods, the site has simply been on auto-pilot.
The 6 months before that, I spent a good deal of time optimizing the ads, optimizing the game, and doing some SEO-related work. I also went through a phase where I tried to outsource the SEO work, but that failed miserably. I hired a guy to write interesting blog posts in the solitaire space, but it’s such a niche, that it's almost impossible to outsource.
Last but not least, the SEO work that I have been doing is starting to pay off. It’s been a very slow increase, but an increase nonetheless. As you can see from the Google Search Console graph for the last 12 months below, it’s finally starting to trend upwards. I hope to keep that trend going for the next 12 months.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Doing SEO work has an effect. Writing articles (like this one), optimizing the site concerning SEO, writing guest posts and such is arduous work for me. And the result of it isn’t visible in the first place. You’re kind of doing work with a delayed effect, which doesn’t feel very motivating.
As you can see from the graphs from Ahrefs, it pays off in the end though. I’ve slowly started to rise in the Google rankings. Not to any positions that would impress a professional SEO person, but certainly to a level where I can see in my analytics that more people are getting into the site and it’s going in the right direction.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
I think I wrote in my last interview that I wanted to keep Online Solitaire a side hustle. I did that, but still managed to grow the revenue from the site from $1500/month to $10k/month. I also managed to improve my ranking on Google, despite not putting a lot of effort into SEO. I still want to keep it a side hustle, but I want to make a bigger effort when it comes to the SEO of the site.
In the last 6 months or so, I’ve spent a good deal of my time realizing another project of mine. This time it’s a physical project, which is a first for me. It’s a jewelry organizer that I’ve designed myself and that I craft myself as well. It’s made from solid European oak and precision cut using a CNC cutter. I’ve already sold 50 or so and I’ve just bought a bigger CNC cutter and rented a workshop with a friend. Hopefully, that’s a project that’ll turn into a business this coming year.
So for the upcoming year, I plan to spend about 60% of my time on my jewelry organizer project, around 30% of my time on my solitaire games, and 10% of my time getting some of my abandoned projects off the ground or working on new projects.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I haven’t been doing a whole lot of reading. What I have done, which has kind of inspired me to go full-time on my projects, is that I’ve listened through almost all of the Indie Hackers podcasts. There you get to hear so many great stories of people who go all-in on their idea, what things they struggle with, and how they often succeed one way or another.
It made me reflect on what would have happened if I had given it my all on the personal projects I’ve done throughout the years. So here I am trying to do just that.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
No matter what project you’re doing it’s good to look at it as a business. However small that business might be. If you’re like me you enjoy making projects just for the sake of it. It might go without saying for some, but before you sink too much time into a project, it’ll serve you well to think about how you’ll make money on your idea and how you’ll find your audience!
Once you’ve done that, it’s all about execution and becoming good at that. If you’re like me, you won’t stick to just one specific idea, but try out a lot of different things. Some people even take this strategy to the next level, like Pieter Levels who did 12 startups in 12 months. You don’t necessarily need to do that, but the basic idea is good, which is to throw spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks.
Once you find a project that has promise, it’ll serve you well to go all-in on that. Give it all you gotta take that project to the next level. It doesn’t mean you can’t do other things in the future, but we all need money to live, so once you find something that has the potential for earning money, then make sure you’re doing everything you can to realize that potential.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m not looking to hire anyone full-time for my solitaire business. I’d love to find a freelancer who would be able to write interesting articles in the solitaire and card-game space, but it’s such a small niche, that I think it’ll be almost impossible.
I’m always looking for good people to collaborate with though. I have a few projects that are already out there but that I haven’t got any time to do marketing and SEO work on.
I have a habit tracker app called Habitual. It’s working well and has a small user-base, but for it to become successful, there’ll have to be put a lot of work into marketing and ASO (App Store Optimization) and I haven’t got the hours to put in.
Then there’s my jigsaw puzzle website, which also works nicely. It lets you play jigsaw puzzle games from all of the images you’ll find on Unsplash. People already use the site quite a bit and they seem to enjoy it, but for the site to make good money, there’ll have to be a lot of work into the SEO of the site.
I’d be open to some kind of revenue split if the right person came along and wanted to see if he or she could take the project to the next level.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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