I missed writing my monthly retrospectives, so I'm picking them back up again.

Last year, Fantasy Congress ended things on a high note, doubling it's revenue from the year before. But my doubts about it being a viable lifestyle business are growing.

Quick recap of last year

  • $12,806 total revenue
  • $949 MRR
  • Averaged around 6% churn per month
  • 3,363 new users
  • 275 new leagues

My goal going into 2021 was to double what I made the previous year. January 2021 started really strong by making a third of my profits from the previous year in just one month. Things were looking up! But from there, revenue tanked. By summer, doubling revenue seemed out of the question.

I knew there would be a bit of a summer slump since the main audience for Fantasy Congress is educators. But my plans to compensate for that fell through. I even started to doubt Fantasy Congress would break even with the previous year.

In June, I decided to let Fantasy Congress run on "maintenance mode" for a while. Life got busy and I was frustrated, so I took a break. For the second half of the year, I dabbled with a new project, pecked at some Fantasy Congress back-end issues, and started co-hosting the Chicago Indie Hackers meetup.

In the fall, educators returned to Fantasy Congress. At first I was grateful just to break even with the previous year. And then...people kept signing up. Like, a lot of people. Teachers were advocating for Fantasy Congress among each other. And by the end of 2021, I actually reached my goal of doubling revenue from the previous year.

It was a wonderful note to end the year on, and much of my passion for the project returned. But, the unexpectedness of it all has me...concerned.

Reflecting on January

  • $1,339 total revenue
  • $950 MRR
  • 9 new customers
  • 10 churned customers

Last January was a big month for Fantasy Congress. So I was really hoping this January would be another big month. Unfortunately, churn took all the wind out of those sails.

As far as what got done, I finally finished moving all of Fantasy Congress's cron jobs off my desktop and on to Heroku. I also automated the process of sending reminder emails for annual subscription renewals, which I had been doing manually. And at the end of the month, I started work on a referral program for educators.

Where to go from here?

When the contract gig I was working for most of last year ended in December, I decided to take a few months off from freelancing to spend time on my personal projects. My goal, as always, is to work towards building a lifestyle business. But I'm not sure what would be the best use of my time.

Fantasy Congress has the potential to bring in meaningful revenue. And it's growing on it's own, which is amazing. But I've never been able to grow revenue on my terms. When Fantasy Congress has as good month, it happens independently of any marketing or sales initiative.

It's success feels entirely out of my hands. And even though Fantasy Congress continues to show potential, this volatility and insecurity isn't something I can really build a life around.

Then, there's the programmatic SEO experiment I started.

This project has generated a lot of interest. People regularly reach out to me asking how the experiment is going. Some have even offered to pay for a consultation.

And for those who are curious, the site is doing really well. Traffic is steadily going up. I plan to write a follow up post in a few months when the results are more clear.

Traffic to my experimental website (gardenauntie.com) has steadily increased over the past 90 days.

Some parts of programmatic SEO are easy to tackle with a SaaS, like templating. But others, like choosing a good data set or gathering data, not so much. I was thinking this might be a good topic to create a course around, but the demand for programmatic SEO doesn't seem that high. So while there's interest, I'm not sure how to monetize it.

And lastly, I learned so much from working with programmatic SEO, I realized I've been under utilizing an important resource at my disposal: this blog.

Traditional SEO is by no means dead. The article I wrote about my little experiment ranks around 3rd in Google search results for "programmatic SEO". It's consistently bringing traffic and inquiries to my blog, and it's only three or four months old. I wasn't even trying to rank for anything when I wrote it!

So, I've been thinking about taking blogging more seriously and giving that a shot. Monetizing my blog posts isn't something I've seriously considered before. I guess affiliate links would be the easiest way to go? This would be new territory for me. And honestly, not the most exciting way to spend my time.

Next Steps

My biggest priority for February is launching a referral program for educators. Hopefully this will incentivize them to keep sharing Fantasy Congress with each other.

Once that's done, I want to spend a week or two working on my SEO experiment. I have more content to add to the site, and the existing content could use some tweaking.

People have inquired about the templating tool I made for the experiment, so I'm thinking about putting that online as well. It works well for me, but I'm not sure if others will find it useful.

Of course, putting it in the hands of interested users would be the quickest way to know for sure. And at the very least, it's an exploratory step towards building a product for the SEO space.