Seven years ago I was an unemployed college grad with an idea that I thought would help people like me find cool companies to work for.
It turned out to be a pretty good idea. Just look at our list of success stories (and these are only the ones from people who took the time to e-mail me).
Millions of people visited my sites. Tens of thousands chose to get my e-mails in their inboxes every morning. Thousands e-mailed me asking for help or advice. And about 20 people bought a job search prep course that I co-developed (that was a bad idea). I was even able to hire some of my readers as paid interns to help grow the site.
I couldn’t find a job so I made a job helping people find jobs
There’s no doubt that One Day One Job succeeded in its goal to help college kids find interesting jobs and internships. It also helped me escape a trap that I put myself into. After I graduated I waited too long to get serious about my job search. Creating ODOJ gave me something meaningful, interesting, and fulfilling to work on for seven years even though I had no prior experience. ODOJ did for me what I built it to do for others.
I couldn’t find a job… so I created one… helping other people find jobs. It’s a weird thing to explain to people. If you want the whole story, check out one of these links:
- 99U: How the Internet Has Changed the Job Hunt
- PSFK: Recent Grad Turns Job Search Into a Career
- The Startup Foundry: One Day One Job – How a pissed off CEO became a startups biggest revenue stream
- Entrepreneurs Unpluggd: Why This Sole Founder Still Writes His Site’s Content Every Day After 4.5 Years
For most of the seven years, I worked alone on ODOJ, but I was anything but alone. It started with my parents who let me live at home for free while I got the site off the ground. I guess they felt guilty for infecting me with the entrepreneurial disease
Then there’s Amy, my wife. She was my silent co-founder. ODOJ was as good as it was because she kept pushing me. One of my proudest accomplishments is that ODOJ profits paid for her engagement ring.
I also owe immense gratitude to everyone who subscribed, replied, shared, and encouraged. It was the support from the crowd that kept me going for seven years. I woke up every morning to write a new post because I knew many of you expected it.
It’s not a job if it doesn’t pay
ODOJ gave me my business education. I learned from doing, but also from studying all 2,482 companies and organizations that we profiled. I made awesome friends like Jason Seiden and Sherry Mason. I was mentioned in newspapers, books, major websites, and even on television. It was an amazing “entry level” experience.
I also watched dozens, if not hundreds, of startups try to enter the recruiting space and fail.
That was the problem. ODOJ never really clicked as a business. My initial plan was to grow traffic and see what happened. As our traffic skyrocketed, the economy tanked. I didn’t have a real business model, but I kept going based on all of the positive feedback. After a few years with minimal revenue, I lucked into a pretty good business model. Contextual advertising through Indeed improved the site’s overall user experience and made me money. It got me excited to keep growing the business.
Google had other plans. Somehow ODOJ got caught up in an algorithmic update that cut our traffic in half overnight (that’s what we got for always playing by the rules). I spent years trying to fight it and get back to growth. I repeatedly found ways to increase revenue per page view, but my traffic kept declining no matter how hard I worked to reverse the trend. I even tried using the daily e-mails to send traffic back to the site. Every step forward seemed to be met with a step backward in our search rankings.
It was my fault for not building a more resilient business. ODOJ was really close to being something much bigger, but I was never able to make the right move at the right time. I didn’t give the idea credit for how big it could be, and I played it too conservatively. If you stay small for too long, eventually you are going to get crushed.
For at least the past year, I’ve been on autopilot. I stopped learning, and I stopped having fun. I was waiting for things that were out of my control (Google) to change. That’s no way to run a business.
I didn’t really run out of jobs
Yesterday’s post about Detour was my last. I think it’s fitting to end on Labor Day weekend with a post about a company that was started by an entrepreneur, Andrew Mason, who has been a huge inspiration for me ever since I met him at some random Chicago tech event.
While the decision to “end” ODOJ is a personal one, it’s also a financial one. In the past few months revenue has plummeted, and I no longer think it’s worth trying to fix. I’m reay to start another business, but I’m still working out what it will be.
You can still reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you whether you want to share a late success story, buy ODOJ and keep it going, tell me what I should do next, or just say hi.
You can also comment below if you have any questions about the business, what I learned, or anything else that might be interesting to a wider audience. Here’s a picture of Garçon, because dog.