The cost of building The Open Mic




Greater than 8 minutes, my friend!

Hey everyone!

Today I’d like to shed a little bit of light on the expenses of The Open Mic.

I’m doing it because I believe in transparency in business and I’ve noticed that the actual costs of running and maintaining platforms like The Open Mic are often overlooked in the translation industry.

And maybe other platforms have their reasons to hide their expenses, but I have nothing to hide and I hope that this kind of transparency and openness will be beneficial for all of us.

I’m mostly inspired by Paul Jarvis and the way he shares his expenses of building every single one of his courses.

Plus, I feel like it’s the right thing to do.

Perhaps this post will inspire other translators who’d like to build something similar to The Open Mic, but never had the guts to follow through with their dream project.

Ok, so let’s dive right into it.

P.S.: Since we’re in Canada, all prices will be in Canadian dollars (they are just like US dollars, but about 25% cheaper and 200% more colorful) 🙂

Hosting and Domain Name Registration

Domain name registration fee was probably our first expense. Well, because every website starts with a domain name.

We registered a .co domain for 38,89 CAD (a bit too much, if you ask me, but that’s the price that you pay for .co domains).

We’ll need to pay this fee again on July 30, 2016.

I’ve also signed up for a cloud hosting account with Siteground (affiliate link) because I knew we’ll be growing exponentially and I didn’t want to compromise on site performance and speed.

Hosting happens to be one of our major expenses so far.

Here’s a breakdown of our hosting expenses month by month:

Cloud hosting – August 28, 2015 – 78 CAD;

CPU upgrade – October 6, 2015 – 26.89 CAD;

Cloud upgrade – October  10, 2015 – 100,63 CAD;

CPU autoscale – November 12, 2015 – 17,98 CAD;

RAM autoscale – November 14, 2015 – 13,82 CAD;

Cloud hosting – December 1, 2015 – 147 CAD;

CPU autoscale – December 23, 2015 – 13,82 CAD;

RAM autoscale  – December 16, 2015 – 13,82 CAD;

Cloud Hosting –  January 4, 2016 – 156,78 CAD;

Cloud Hosting –  February 1, 2016 – 153,46 CAD;

Disk Expansion – February 1, 2016 – 25,81 CAD;

Cloud Hosting – March 4, 2016 – 172,64 CAD;

Cloud Hosting – April 4, 2016 – 161,36 CAD;

Cloud Hosting – May 4, 2016 – 163,15 CAD;

Total hosting and domain name expenses to date: 1137,05 CAD.

Now, I understand that I’m paying too much and I could probably reduce the cost by a half.

The reason I’m paying that much is that I’m very bad at optimizing site for better performance.

I’ve been making some steps to improve performance lately, but I’m still using the cloud service as I think we’ll need those server resources anyway.

Our ongoing hosting expenses are around 160 CAD per month.

Themes, Plugins, Graphic and Design

Since The Open Mic is powered by WordPress I had to use a variety of different plugins in order to achieve the functionality that we have here.

Basically, anyone can buy those plugins and we almost had no custom development here.

The trick was in piecing everything together and testing, of course, but that’s probably a topic for another discussion.

Overall we’ve spent 1205,82 CAD on our theme, premium plugins and a few other things (like icon sets and paid support for some plugins).

The most expensive plugins were the one that handles membership on The Open Mic (our profiles, real-time notifications, activity, walls, followers, etc) and the Help Center (with all the articles about The Open Mic and how you can use it.

The majority of plugins that we use were a one-time purchase and many of them offer life-long updates and support.

However there’re a few plugins that require annual payments in order to extend their license and continue receiving support and new updates.

I expect the recurring yearly cost will be around 200 CAD for them.

Buffer, Mandrill, Mailchimp, Ticksy and Typeform

I’m also using a variety of services, mostly for marketing purposes.

1) We use Buffer for post scheduling (we’re on their Awesome plan).

So far we’ve paid 91,61 CAD for Buffer.

The ongoing monthly expense is around 14 CAD.

2) We use Mandrill for transactional email (account activation, new message notifications – that kind of stuff).

So far we’ve paid 125,77 CAD for Mandrill.

The good news is that Mandrill had merged with Mailchimp and they offered their existing customers 1 year for free, so until the next March I won’t be paying anything. 🙂

The bad news is they doubled their price after transition, so if I choose to continue using Mandrill in 2017, I’ll be paying around 26 CAD.

3) We use Mailchimp for email marketing, onboarding automation and user engagement.

Mailchimp is simply amazing, both in terms of simplicity and functionality (the automation and segmentation are awesome!)

So far we’ve paid 58,16 CAD for Mailchimp.

The ongoing expense is around 26 CAD per month, but here the catch: it will go up the more we grow since the size of your bill depends on the size of you mailing list.

So now I need to be super vigilant and track open rates like crazy to make sure people are actually opening and reading our emails and we don’t waste money on them.

Lucky for me, smart segmentation allows me to do this rather easily. 🙂

4) We use Typeform to collect feedback.

It helps me create ridiculously beautiful forms that can be embedded anywhere on the web.

Check out this example. You can actually take this survey if you haven’t done so already 🙂

I paid 48,34 CAD for their paid plan, but it didn’t really work out, so I reverted back to a free one.

My problem was the monthly cost. 48 CAD per month is way too much for a bootstrap company, plus I didn’t need half of their features.

I tried negotiating and they offered a 40% discount for their yearly plan, but even after that it is still a bit too much.

5) We use Ticksy for customer support.

I love it because it’s ridiculously simple to use it (both for me and our members) and it gets straight to the point (no bells and whistles).

Plus, you can attach GIFs of cats in your replies, like this one here:

cat in a hat on The Open Mic (find translators on theopenmic.co

This makes the support so much fun and way more enjoyable both for me and for people who’re having troubles using The Open Mic.

And actually we didn’t have that many support requests, really.

1 or 2 per week maybe.

So the cost of Ticksy is probably an unnecessary expense at this point, but I think it’ll pay off in the future.

So far we’ve paid 34,94 CAD for Ticksy.

It’s an ongoing expense of roughly 12 CAD per month.

Other Expenses and a Total Cost of Running The Open Mic

We had a couple of expenses that didn’t fit into any of the categories above.

I paid 49,44 CAD for a service that generates Terms of Services and Privacy Policies.

All I had to do is to answer a few question to generate our TOS and Privacy Policy.

The end result can be found here.

I also paid 41.11 CAD for services of a developer I hired to help me with some functionality on The Open Mic.

Ok, so in total I’ve paid 2792,24 CAD and I continue to pay around 230 CAD a month for all the services that I use (hosting, Buffer, Mailchimp, etc.)

Is this a huge amount of money? Maybe yes, maybe no.

I certainly didn’t have any trouble rolling up my sleeves and doing what needs to be done in order to make The Open Mic a reality.

Of course, I could’ve been more careful and saved some money here and there, but what’s done is done and there’s no point of feeling sorry about it.

But let’s not forget about another important aspect. Which is…

How Much Time Do I Spend Building The Open Mic?

This is a tough one, because it’s really hard to measure my time here.

For example, I could use Rescue Time to measure how much time I spend on different websites.

But you have to understand that my time with The Open Mic goes way beyond the platform itself.

I spend a lot of time answering emails from developers of plugins that I use, emails from TOM members, promoting TOM on social media and, of course, developing new features which normally starts on our Trello board (where I also spend a ton of time).

Plus, lets not forget how many articles, emails, blog posts and copy I have to write to make everything work.

It’s a lot of work.

I’d say that I even spend more time here than I spend on my translation business.

If I was to give you a rough estimate, I’d say I spend 20 hours a week building The Open Mic (on average).

That’s a lot of hours.

The Open Mic was launched 40 weeks ago so that means that over the past 10 months I’ve spent 600 hours here.

And I could’ve spent those hours, you know, translating, making money, growing my translation business, finding new clients.

Of course, we could argue a lot about how much money I would’ve made (if any), but I feel that I could’ve made at least 20k CAD if I was laser focused on my translation business instead.

How do I know it?

Well, this is exactly how much money I’ve lost in income last year, compared to 2014.

So to answer the question, the cost of building The Open Mic is roughly around 22 792,24 CAD.

Why am I sharing this with you?

Well, like I’ve said before I think it is important for us to stay on the same page.

By being so transparent about the costs and struggles that I have here I’m hoping to earn your trust and respect.

Maybe it’s a silly idea, but I feel like it’s the right thing to do.

Monetizing The Open Mic

Now, that we know the cost of building The Open Mic you’re probably wondering what’s my end game here?

Surely, I don’t know any person in the industry who would’ve agreed to spend 22 792,24 CAD just so that other people of our community could have an excellent place to share stories and interact with each other.

So I’m probably up to something, aren’t I?

Like a paid membership or extra paid features of some sort?

Well… not exactly.

I already wrote in this article that I believe in the power of community and I think that the fate of The Open Mic will be entirely in your hands.

I feel like the very nature of this project suggests that it should be a community-driven project.

That’s why my only end game at the moment is donations.

But before we go there, I want to finish some features that are still in development (like client profiles and reviews).

I think I still got lots of ideas in me before I’ll face the wall and need financial support.

But there’s one thing you can do for me tonight, actually, I want you to share this article, so that more people could learn what it takes to build something like The Open Mic.

Can you do this for me, please?

It’s a fascinating project and we’re barely scratching the surface here.

The future is bright and I can’t wait to see what else we’ll build together.

You and me.

[clickToTweet tweet=”How much does it cost to build @OpenMicXL8? The answer might surprise you.” quote=”How much does it cost to build @OpenMicXL8? The answer might surprise you.”]

Dmitry Kornyukhov

About Dmitry Kornyukhov

Founder of The Open Mic. Video game localization specialist. I help video game developers, game publishers and localization studios bring their projects to the Russian-speaking gaming community.

19 thoughts on “The cost of building The Open Mic

  1. This is so impressive Dmitry!
    Thank you for all opportunities you have offered so far. I am not sure how you should proceed, but I would love to think about that with you.

    1. Thanks, Pieter! Thank you for being such an active contributor. The Open Mic wouldn’t be possible without you and hundreds of other active members of our community. I like to think that I’m not really creating opportunities for anyone. We’re doing this together. By participating actively in the life of this community and by caring about our profession. This what makes The Open Mic different for me.

      As for the future of this platform: I think there’s a lot of things that we need to build. It’s a slow process, but I’m sure that together we can build something awesome. And i have a gazillion of ideas. You can share yours too 🙂 Just check out our Trello board: link to trello.com

    1. And I enjoy building it 🙂 It gives me an immense pleasure to see it grow stronger and stronger every single day. Thank you so much for reading and sharing!

  2. Impressive breakdown! I made a similar calculation for FTT — I think many of our users really have no idea how much work and money a community service is costing. Respect, Dmitry!

    1. Thanks, Gert! I think this kind of transparency is important for a community project. I’m inspired by Buffer. I think what they’re doing is simply amazing and I hope to bring some of that to the translation industry: link to buffer.com

      I know that people would rather read about profits, but behind profits there are also costs and expenses and it is important to show that too.

  3. Hi, Dmitry. It has cost you a bundle, not to mention the love! I am worried that you could have afforded to look after Mitzi and go on holiday if it weren’t for your expenses here! (did I get your cat’s name right?). You are right to share, and I respect your wish to go the donation route. I for one am quite willing to donate something. Probably not enough – I shall do some soul searching!

    I am not surprised to see you opening up the payment conversation – that it comes after the initial free-site opening is always a bit awkward, but I think it simply reflects the fact that you jumped in to this in innocence, and have had to learn as you went along – I’m sure had you realised how much it would cost you from the outset, you’d have opened this conversation then too. Some people, I expect, will feel ‘conned’ – but they are of course free not to donate, or not to use the site.

    Where on EARTH do you get the time and energy to do all this! Don’t forget Blabbing Translators, too – finding the people, setting the talks up, running them – so much time, such a great service!

    On the email/reading tracking thing, I don’t read all the emails by any means, but I do read the subject line, and the main article may catch my attention. Then I’ll usually browse other articles once I’m online. I don’t recall – is there a weekly recap option? that may save some pennies and keep inboxes clear.

    Thanks for this site, Dmitry, and all your efforts.

    I rather hope there won’t be loads of other sites like The Open Mic, because we all need to try to reduce our online time so we can work and earn pennies, one place is enough!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Sian! Mindy says “Hi!” 🙂

      As a matter of fact I talked about money from Day 1, this was one of my first posts here: link to theopenmic.co – it was published before I even launched The Open Mic to the public. Of course back then we didn’t have much of the audience, but it was always there and it is still relevant to our situation.

      I also shared my vision from day one too: link to theopenmic.co

      “Some people, I expect, will feel ‘conned’ – but they are of course free not to donate, or not to use the site.” – exactly. That’s the beauty of The Open Mic. Instead of locking everyone into abusive paid plans, the support will be voluntary. No one will judge you if you don’t support the project and every single member will be treated with equal amount of love and care. 🙂

      “Where on EARTH do you get the time and energy to do all this!” – I just got rid of unnecessary things in life: like watching too many TV shows or YouTube video and playing video games. I mean, I still do all of those things but at much smaller scale. Truth is, when you’re passionate about something you will ALWAYS find time for that no matter how busy you are.

      About Open Mic Daily emails: you can switch to Weekly. Simply click on text that says “update your email preferences” in the beginning of the email and then pick what kind of emails you’d like to receive 🙂

      Thanks again for all your kind words and support, Sian!

  4. Thank you for sharing this, Dmitry. This corresponds more or less to the amount I’ve spent so far on creating and promoting Coaching For Translators. It will still take a while before I break even. Most people don’t realise that, so thank you again for sharing this information with us. This shows how passionate you are about the Open Mic and that you really want to make a difference.

    I hope you can find a way to make it viable. Best of luck!

    1. Wow, I didn’t know that, Christelle! Did you share this with your readers? Perhaps it makes sense to do a similar cost breakdown. I think it really helped me to get a better perspective. It is also a great way to spot excessive or unnecessary expenses. 🙂

      1. Actually, I’ve spent twice that amount over the past 3 years because I had to have some training first to qualify as a professional coach, and that’s not cheap!

        I haven’t shared this with my readers. My project is quite different from yours. It’s not a community project, it’s a professional service. I don’t think my clients need to know how much I spend on it (just like I don’t need to know how much my dentist spent on building her business).

        This is why I’m really grateful that you shared your experience with all of us and started this discussion. I hope people will realise that asking for money doesn’t mean we’re trying to “con” them. It means that we want to provide a high level of service to them. It won’t be sustainable unless we make it viable.

        1. Wow! That’s a serious investment and I hope it will be worth it in the end. Maybe you’re right about transparency in professional services. However I think it could be done, plus by sharing costs you could justify the pricing and build trust by showing that you continue to invest in your business, meaning you’re very serious about it. But I guess every situation is different and that kind of transparency and vulnerability is not for everyone. I like it though, it’s fun to be able to share this 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Wouter! Hmm… I don’t see any Skype requests. Perhaps you’ve sent it to the wrong person? I’m “welovedoka” on Skype 🙂

  5. I just shared it on Facebook. Since I run an educational blog and I sacrifice my weekends to write and have paid for everything myself too (Buffer is a must BTW!) I know how you feel. Since my blog is on terminology I need to be updated so I also have to pay for training (which is expensive too), and a couple of trips to speak at events on terminology. I had to take a loan to pay for some of that. But I keep doing it, and I know I will explode one day, but as long as I have the energy I’ll do it. I just enjoy having the bragging rights of running the only blog on terminology, at least in English, and hearing my subscribers say that they decided to specialize in terminology because of my blog. So, I´m more than OK with a donation.

    1. Thank you, Patricia! Sometimes when you follow your passion you just dive head first and don’t really think about the fiances. I love building The Open Mic and I love reading stories of other people and gives me an immense pleasure to be able to leave my mark on the profession by using my web-design skills. It doesn’t make much business sense if you look at my expenses, but I don’t care. I guess, I’m just crazy, haha! 🙂

  6. That’s too much transparency, @Dmitry 🙂
    I’d like to say that TOM is among a few websites that made me stop by and come at least 2 times a week when you send the new stories through MailChamp.

    I see a brilliant future for TOM very soon, sites that make users feel like home is the new future of the internet.

    One thing I’d like to ask about, where can I read about TOM’s mission and vision?
    I am sure you shared them somewhere on the site.

    I really wish you and TOM the best of the best.

    1. Haha, there’s never too much transparency, especially in our industry, where companies and other platforms for translators don’t share any details about how they operate. I really hope that by “oversharing” I will set an example and inspire people to be more open. After all, expenses and costs are an integral part of running The Open Mic and I think our members deserve to know that.

      I haven’t really shared the mission or vision specifically, but you can read this article where a fantasize about Open Mic’s future and what will happen to it in five years: link to theopenmic.co

      Thank you so much for your kind wishes and all the feedback! High-five!

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