This story just goes to show that sometimes, those crazy ideas you have aren’t so crazy after all. In fact, they might end up being super-profitable.
Richard Littauer, a developer and user experience consultant, came home one night after having some drinks out on the town. He opened his computer to discover a friend asking for professional feedback on a website he was building. Although he was a little buzzed, Littauer played along.
“I started talking to him on Google Hangouts,” Littauer wrote in an email. “I realized my feedback was pretty interesting and useful because I didn’t have my guard up and could say exactly what I felt about something.
“Half hiccuping, I said, ‘I should ask people to pay me to do this.’ The rest all came together after that.”
When Littauer fleshed out his joke by building a website, The User is Drunk, offering his drunken UX consultation services, he was shocked to discover he’d gone viral after just an hour.
He reached almost 100k pageviews — and made $1,000 — the very first day.
The User is Drunk — But Why?
Doing anything while drunk might sound irresponsible, but in this case, it was at least partly clever. Littauer’s service was a play on an idea coined by digital expert and educator Will Dayble. Namely, that a well-built website must be “so simple, a drunk person could use it.”
But, it turned out to be a valuable service; drunken site testing by a fully fledged tech professional is a pretty unique offer.
Plus, it was fun: Littauer even let clients choose his beer for extra money.
Site builders quickly began to purchase the boozy reviews, regardless of the price increases.
“I raised my price for reviews from $50 to $500 very quickly,” Littauer told me, “hoping that people would stop buying so that I didn’t have to be drunk permanently.”
With enough demand to keep him going strong, Littauer amassed a small fortune off his UX review service in just six months. Although he declined to share exactly how much his drunken earnings totalled up to, it wasn’t small change.
“It meant I could take a few months off between jobs and not worry about it,” Littauer said. It also paid for his three-month trip to Southeast Asia, paid off his credit cards and allowed him to build up some savings for the first time in his life.
The User Has Sobered Up
As it turns out, being paid to drink isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After six months of beer and Benjamins, Littauer decided to close his digital doors.
“I hadn’t thought the idea would go viral, at all,” Littauer reflects in his explanatory blog post on Medium. “I did it as a joke. Now, all of the sudden, I was contractually obliged to drink. And I was known for it.”
Aside from not wanting to perpetuate his growing reputation as an alcoholic, Littauer realized that drinking all the time…isn’t actually much fun after a while, especially when your living depends on it.
“If drinking is your job, you swiftly realize how miserable drinking is,” Littauer writes.
He was losing his ability to concentrate on other projects, and felt the risk of a decline in his health and safety.
So, having earned enough cash to get solidly on his financial feet, Littauer turned toward other earning avenues — an effort made easier by the new low-level fame and clout the project had afforded him.
A Surprisingly Profitable Side Gig
What does all this mean for resourceful Penny Hoarders?
Well, first of all, don’t be afraid to follow up with that crazy idea you had to start a business. You never know where it might end up — or how many dollars it might put in your pocket!
Secondly, play to your skills. Littauer’s service, though whimsical, filled a hole in the market the industry hadn’t even known was there. Plus, it helped him continue to work on projects he really cares about.
“I don’t have any more plans for any drunk work,” Littauer told me, “but as far as unique side gigs – those are my bread and butter right now.”
The User is Drunk, while an unsustainable (but lucrative!) experiment for Littauer, gave him the branding and recognition he needed to pursue what he’s most interested in.
So, get experimenting!
Your Turn: Has a harebrained idea of yours ever turned into a profitable side gig? Tell us about it in the comments!
Jamie Cattanach is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She also writes other stuff, like wine reviews and poems — you can read along at www.jamiecattanach.com.