My 2022-23 Failure CV
Here are the projects I started and failed at in the last 1 year or so, and a self-reflection of what I learnt through all of them.
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Since I was 13 years old, I’ve been on a treadmill of starting tons of different projects and “seeing where they go”.
A “bias to action”, as they call it, has been a priority in my life since I know I learn way more when I actually do something as compared to just reading about the same things.
Moreover, I also know that by doing different projects I’m just increasing the “surface area” of my luck — just giving myself more chances to succeed, learn or connect with people.
And so… music CDs, student clubs, products, websites… I’ve started them all.
A few of these projects went somewhere, but most of them went nowhere.
Except that all of the ones that “went nowhere” taught me things that were essential to the ones that “went somewhere”. Always.
Here are the projects I’ve started in the last 1 year, and their results, in reverse chronological order.
My Failure CV — Failures + Learnings
Here’s what I’ve recently “failed” at.
Though tbh I don’t really consider any of these as failures — but as learnings.
The Growth Curve Community
Late last year, I started a Slack community with the aim of bringing members of my audience together in a way that they could connect with each other.
I wanted it to be a place where growth minded people + people studying in France/Europe got together to interact and connect.
→ 79 people joined, there were a few interesting discussions, but it eventually died out. No more discussions, no new people joining.
What went wrong? In retrospect, a few things:
There was no focus for the community. It was unclear who the “ideal member” of this community was, what would qualify you to join — to whom the community would be interesting.
And so, I targeted it to “people studying in France”… but also Europe? But also creative people? Also growth-minded people? This did not work.
As a result, I didn’t know what type of online events and discussions to prioritise in the community.
This led to it being not interesting for current as well as prospective members, leading to its death.
Also, perhaps the fact that I hosted it on Slack, which is something not most people use every day already, led to its “non-stickiness”.
What did I learn?
If I’m going to start a thriving community, I need to define a proper focus for it. Make a clear “ideal profile”, and communicate about it in a way that everyone else self-rejects themselves from joining. This way the community maintains its focus.
A community isn’t something that’s going to build and maintain itself. It requires lots of dedicated time and effort. I should build one when I have that time and energy.
B-school Essay Guide
In November 2022, I decided to do a sprint where I tried to develop and sell a product as fast as possible. I also knew that writing business school essays is a pain point that many people, especially within my audience, face.
I had spent that previous few months helping people out with their essays (project described below), and I had a fair bit of understanding on this topic — so I decided to productize it.
So I spent 2 weeks writing out this 7000 word document on Notion with the aim to allow anyone to understand their own application story and write the most impactful essays possible, by listing out 20 application essay questions that I had come across while helping others, and writing out a framework to answer them.
→ I sold 20 copies. Many people wrote to me, telling me that my product was helpful. I received eight 5-star ratings on Gumroad.
One of the best outcomes — someone in China bought the €20 guide, booked a €100 call through the guide to help with their essays because of how helpful they found the guide, and then booked another €100 call to help with their admissions interview, because of how helpful the first call was. Definitely the best-case outcome.
Technically a “success”, but I was expecting to sell more, and I realised that I made some mistakes.
The approach I took was that I announced the product and opened an email list before I had even started developing it — to validate the demand. 35 people signed up for the list — only 3 or 4 of them actually bought it.
People might be interested in something, but the only way to truly know is when they give you their credit card.
These are some of the mistakes I made —
I priced the product at €23,90 first, and then after selling 2 of them, I decided to reduce the price to €19,90. I refunded the two buyers €4, but I think this led to me losing out on sales in the beginning.
I tested out a bunch of different discount codes, and I found that people bought more easily at €16. But by then it was too late to reduce the price permanently. I have a hunch that I could have sold it at €10 and made more money doing that cuz I’d sell more.
So yeah my mistakes I think were mostly in pricing — but of course I could have always communicated about it more.
In February 2023, I invested €50 and tried running FB/IG ads for the essay guide.
→ I gained a few IG followers, but didn’t sell any guides directly.
I did sell 2 guides to non-audience members during the same time period (can’t attribute it to the ads with 100% certainty though), and they requested a refund because it wasn’t useful to them.
They mentioned that they were both expecting actual essays that they could just copy/”take inspiration from” — not something my guide offers.
This made me a bit upset, but then I realised it’s an issue with communicating and setting expectations — since my audience-members who bought the guide loved it.
This led to me to change the description of the product on Gumroad to make it more clear.
What did I learn + next steps?
Good thing is that the guide is seasonal in nature. It’s (hopefully, if they got admitted) not much more useful to someone once they’ve used it. Hence it’s worth whatever price you pay during application season if you got admitted.
I will update the guide and re-launch it next application season (starting September 2023), and perhaps launch it at €10 this time.
Overall the product launch was a success for me personally — aside from selling way fewer than I initially anticipated, I learnt a tremendous amount during the process. I learnt things that I absolutely could not have learnt otherwise. I’m now way more prepared when I want to launch another product in the future.
It was overall a net-profitable project if I consider how much I made from it (around €200 after fees, taxes and the FB ads project) and divide by number of hours I spent writing it (around 6 hours or so in total) — so around €33 per hour in profit.
But this doesn’t include the tens of hours I spent creating content around it, setting up technical systems, learning, etc.
So maybe it was still not super profitable hourly lol. Failure! (jk)
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Etsy T-Shirt Shop
Early last year, I decided to start a print-on-demand T-shirt shop selling T-shirts with my favourite photograph on them.
Even though lots of people showed interest, I sold just 1 T-shirt to someone that was what I’d call a “dedicated fan”.
What did I learn?
Again, people might be interested in something, but the only way to truly know is when they give you their credit card.
Print-on-demand is a great way to take out all the risk on my end (I don’t manufacture or store any T-shirts that I don’t sell), but it’s very expensive.
Each T-shirt had to sell for at least €30 for it to make sense for me, and not cause me to take a loss, this was too high especially considering that a lot of my dedicated audience is in India and INR 2700 for a T-shirt is simply way too high. I myself wouldn’t buy one.
It was a great project to see how fast I could set up a T-shirt shop, but while setting up the shop is simple, a successful strategy might have involved communicating about my T-shirts a lot more than just a few IG stories.
I might launch merch at some point in the future again, but in a much more strategic way. Not using print on demand, with a proper communication plan, and with a longer term strategy.
Maybe not T-shirts but perhaps something else that aligns with my brand (which itself isn’t clearly defined at the moment), just like how Ali Abdaal launched a stationery line.
Paris Apartment Tour Video Series
In April 2022, I uploaded a video titled “Tiny Paris Apartment Tour • 9m² for €750” which went viral — 1.4M views as of May’23.
Definitely a success.
When I could see that this video was picking up, I decided to produce a bunch of more videos in the same series — I published a total of 7 videos after that one.
1.4M, 104K, 41K, 20K, 14K, 6.6K, 2.3K — while still a lot of views, the view count went lower and lower with every subsequent video in the series.
What I learnt —
Apartment tour videos are very entertaining for the audience, and I love filming them too!
However, finding interesting apartments to film + a charismatic host with stories to tell is a struggle.
Not everyone with a great apartment is comfortable to tour it on video, and not everyone comfortable touring their apartment on video has a notable apartment that’s exciting enough for me to go over and film it.
However, one of the videos I had the most fun filming was this one:
They all were so happy to see me and show me their apartment, they had such a great vibe among each other, they fed me lunch afterwards too, and it was overall such a great day.
Vatsal (the guy who contacted me) told me that when he was looking for flatmates one of his conditions was “they have to be okay with Mayank touring our apartment”.
Next steps —
I think Paris apartment tours is a type of video I’ll do every now and then when I find a notable enough apartment to tour — but it is not likely to be a regular appearance on my channel.
To be honest, I know I started more failed projects but I just don’t remember them rn lol and I thought the email was already getting too long. I do hope this gives you a bit of clarity on some of the things I was up to the last year.
I also have some projects that I started recently — like mimineurope.com — but it’s too early to say whether it’ll be a success or a failure.
Life is short, guys. Go start whatever you really want to start. At an early stage, there’s really no such thing as failing — you’ll either succeed or you’ll learn.
Some tips on starting projects —
Define your ideal outcome(s) — profit, learning, connections, experience — what do you want to achieve?
Define your minimum outcome(s) — what would you have to achieve for it to not be a complete waste of time? In most cases this is learning.
Finish the projects you start. If you decide to give up — write that down. It counts as finishing when you define and tell yourself why you gave up.
Define a realistic timeline for your projects. By when should you have achieved what?
Look back every 3 months to see whether you’re completing your projects or you’re giving up. If you find yourself giving up a lot, try and introspect why that might be.
Have fun. If it stops being fun, just stop. It’s not worth it ✌🏼
All the best everyone!
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It has given a new perspective to look at one's achievements in terms of success & failures.
The way you have shared the learnings from your failures is truly great.
Looking forward to you having more successes from these learnings.