10 Years Ago I Built an Audience
The Story of Inspiredology.com
I’ve promised this a few times in the past newsletters. Some of you might know me through Inspiredology. Some of you have no clue what Inspiredology means. Let’s dive into the story.
The internet was booming, communities like Digg.com, Stumbleupon.com, Reddit.com were the new kids on the block taking over the net. Blogging was becoming a huge income stream for many online professionals. I was just a user, I loved scouring the web and collecting inspirational designs and images. I had no easy way of organizing and collecting them. I literally had hundreds of folders organized like “Blue Websites”, “Portfolio Sites”, “Album covers”, “logos”, “cool business cards” and etc…
I figured I could create a blog that has a powerful database and search. I figured this would help me stay organized and give me a chance to flex a skill that I notoriously was bad at… writing! I created Inspiredology.com and man what a ride it was.
I put a few posts together and then one morning, I woke up to 16,000 unique visitors overnight! The post that put us on the map was “120 Brilliant Logos”. A massive list of yes, business cards. This was the space back then, massive lists of inspiration. We had a few other big posts like 99 Best Album Covers and Cool Business Cards. After that day Inspiredology became my baby. I owe a lot to that project. It helped me build an audience, met a ton of great people, was given many new opportunities, and provided a steady side income.
It’s not only all positive, the downside of gaining popularity is an increase in logistical and security problems. WordPress was still in its infancy, hosting was still expensive and early in its infrastructure. We were hacked early and the site was trashed. I scrambled, changed hosting, hired a developer to help save the day. Retrieved the majority of the content and site artifacts but it was a new level of stress with many perceived eyes on.
I dug up our first Inspiredology Birthday Post, the stats after a full year of Inspiredology was.
Enjoying the Fruits of Our Labor
As mentioned before, Inspiredology changed a lot for my professional career and brand. I had a following, my Twitter account grew from a few hundred to a few thousand! I was part of local design conferences, a few free trips to New York to be part of a cool project with Getty Images. Create a lot of relationships with great designers doing similar things. Was rubbing shoulders with the likes of Smashing Magazine, Envato, Chris Spooner, and others.
Steady as She Goes
After the so-called “honeymoon stage” we continued to scale and move along at a steady pace. We had a revolving door of guest writers, we had an in-house editor and ad sales. We continued to create a consistent posting schedule and article series. We held contests, promoted young designers. It was a well-oiled machine.
In 2011, three years into this venture we broke 1 million visits.
8,558 Approved Comments
772,652 Unique Visits
Introducing The Lab
Typical designer, we grew tired of the design of the site. Designers are constantly “redesigning” their work, Inspiredology was no different. Within the first four years, we had 4 different versions. The ones you see above were early on, they were cool but didn’t feel like a pro website. I utilized the community, we hired an illustrator, partnered with a developer, and created an awesome site. It had all the bells and whistles during that time, sticky sidebars, responsive design, card layouts and etc…
As mentioned, this built an audience for me, started to meet new people. I was given an opportunity to purchase and run a few other design websites. Seemed like a good idea, would provide good traffic, additional revenue and give us a portfolio of properties. I started working with Max Spiker on DesignBombs.com then later purchased the site and owned it 100%. Since the site was in the same space, it felt like a good way to scale our efforts. Of course, it was more work, but I had a good pool of guest writers so it was a good way to give them another platform.
I also had met another amazing designer Nick La, he was crushing it online. He had created a huge following and had a few websites that were doing great. He recently launched Themify and wanted to double down his efforts on that project. I offered to take on BestWebGallery.com, CSS galleries were big traffic sites back then. It fits nicely with Inspiredology, it was less about articles and more about “showing off good design”. Having these three sites was a lot of work at first but was able to get a good cadence of posting every day and growing the following. The combination of the three sites I was pulling in over $1k MRR.
The Exit Strategy
Closing in on Inspiredology’s 5th Birthday. With the combination of Projekt19, Inspiredology, and our other sites, we were thriving! Unfortunately, my full-time career was also requiring more of my time. On top of it, I was about to start a family. I was slowly burning out, having to support a 9 to 5, then support my own clients plus run and manage 3 online websites that posted daily. No wonder I burnt out.
Slowly I stopped adding new clients for P19, we started taking calls about selling our other properties. We held out for a long time, but eventually, we decided to sell and get out of the game. It was never about the money for us. It was always about having a creative outlet and supporting the design community. At the time that we sold, Inspiredology had over 2 million unique visitors. This is still such a crazy thing to think of.
This time was bittersweet. I spent so much energy building something up just to sell it off. I had to change my direction, my focus was on taking my career to the next step and growing a family. There was always hope that I would get back into this time of venture once again.
Where We Are Now
Inspiredology, Design Bombs are still online. Unfortunately, they’ve been driven to the ground. They were bought for the traffic and then plastered with ads to try to convert the highest MRR. It’s less about being creative and supporting the community. It’s more about the content, keywords, and traffic.
If you might have read a few weeks ago, I’ve recently tried to revive Best Web Gallery with the new Best Web Digest newsletter. Read more about that here.