Entrepreneurship Free time Personal Project post-mortems

I just shot my project in the head

Chuk-chuk – BOOM! Today I killed my latest project.

After much begging and pleading about how it had so much more to give, about how we could do great things together, and how it might give birth to a thousand beautiful children, I made it kneel down and put a bullet in its brain.

So RIP Today’s Tennis Tip, born 29 April 2012, departed this life 18 June 2012.

The idea was to provide one tennis tip a day, along with a video illustrating the tip, to help people improve their tennis. I’ve been pumping out tips for just under two months, about 50 in total.

I started with a stand-alone site that auto-published to a range of social platforms, then shifted all activity to the Facebook page because I felt that would cut down the workload while focusing on the most promising platform.

Facebook was most promising because the ability to Like the page gave me permission to send tips to the Liker forever. I spent £25 on Facebook ads and gained 50 Likes, at a cost per acquisition of £0.50.

The content – primarily videos of pros hitting the same shot over and over in practice, which I’ve been grabbing from YouTube – is decent quality, and not a single person has unliked the page in two months.

But it has pretty much zero virality – only two people have Liked since my ad campaign four weeks ago. And there is so little engagement with the posts (Likes / comments) that my reach has crashed: Facebook’s algorithm punishes pages whose content is unengaging, so on average my posts now reach just 16 of the 59 people who have Liked the page.

The ultimate aim has been to use instructional content to build a big enough community of people interested in improving their tennis that I could sell products and services that help them do so. I reckon I’d need an audience of at least 1000, and probably more like 10,000, to make that work. At £0.50 CPA, and (boldly) assuming zero churn, I’d need to spend £500 to get to 1000 and £5,000 to get to 10,000.

I could bring those acquisition costs down by hustling. By doing contra deals (e.g. I help someone and they help promote TTT in return), by flyering at tennis clubs (I play a lot of matches around west London), by finding willing evangelists to spread the word…

But the real problem, beyond the time and the money, is that I just don’t want to do it.

It’s hard to be honest about this, especially when I’ve been telling friends and family about this cool tennis tips idea I had. But I also have to be honest with myself. And I don’t want to fight to make this particular idea work.

I think there is still some merit to the idea. First, because no-one remembers more than one or two things from any tennis lesson (or any lesson about anything). Fuzzy Yellow Balls is the top online video coaching site, but the intro video they send when you sign up is 39 minutes long – wtf?! I wonder how many people ever watch even that first video.

Second, sharing tips like this (posted to Facebook, could add Twitter) means that they match modern patterns of information consumption. People today parse huge amounts of info that flows through their feeds every day, so pushing tips like this means they are easy to receive (they’re using Fb and Twitter anyway) and that it’s easy just to pick out the tips that are most relevant to you.

I might use this model again on a future project. And maybe someone will make it work for tennis tips.

I really like tennis too – I used to be a coach, and today my face hurts from sunburn after yesterday’s four-hour match. But I refuse to get stuck working on something I’m not excited about.

I’ve done that before – feeling a nagging sense of obligation to myself, and to others, and to the hours of work I had put in before – as if there’s a relationship between the amount of work done so far and the length of time you should stick with a project even after your passion has gone.

That’s not going to happen this time. I would be delighted if someone reading wants to pick up the idea (this happened recently on another ex-project) – do get in touch if so.

But for now, for me, it’s over: game, set, match, and headshot.

And if you don’t care enough about whatever spare-time project you’re working on, you should kill that too.