Here’s a fun thought experiment.
You have 24 hours to generate a cool 50 grand.
The catch: you can only use your computer, phone, and $100.
It’s not. Craft the right product for the right audience, and there’s no reason you can’t catch lightning in a bottle.
That said, the probability you’ll ever actually pull it off in real life is low.
So then where’s the value in this exercise, you ask?
Simple: even if you don’t make a full year’s salary in 24 hours, it trains your brain to think resourcefully.
In an era where many default to raising venture capital to start businesses, the truth is that the internet has made it possible to make a lot of money without any funding at all.
This thought experiment helps you get better at identifying those opportunities by sharpening your bootstrapping instincts.
So without further ado, here are three strategies I would use to make $50,000 in 24 hours.
1. Go Local
Make a list of every local business in your vicinity via Yelp. Then cold call each one and sell them on a service you’ll provide for $1,000/month.
$1,000/month x 12 months = $12,000 a year. Five clients gets you to $50,000.
In this day and age, every business needs long-term digital services, including website management, search engine optimization (SEO), and digital marketing.
While most small businesses have a website by now, many of them simply don’t look good. To improve your sales pitch, email them a mock-up of an improved version. You can create one for free on Squarespace or Wix, both ridiculously simple drag-and-drop website builders.
But even if they already have a decent website, chances are they haven’t optimized their SEO or aren’t running effective Facebook ads. These services can easily be worth more than $1,000/month in value to a small business. Package all three together and you can charge much higher rates.
What if web and marketing services aren’t your forte?
Take stock of what your skills are, then match them to a business need.
For example, if you’re a good writer, pitch local car dealerships on writing a weekly newsletter. If you’re an artist, create a periodic social media webcomic for pet groomers. Do you love making videos? Film and edit a weekly vlog for a mom-and-pop pizza restaurant.
Identify your talents, then offer them wherever they’re needed.
Bonus strategy: if you’re lucky enough to have corporate connections, create a consulting package, and sell it for $10,000/month. The bigger the companies you target, the more you can reasonably charge.
2. Go Digital
Create a simple digital product — a mini eBook, short online course, or even a comic book.
Then contact influencers and offer them 70% of the revenue on every sale they make on your behalf.
Goal: line up several influencers with either giant social media followings or massive email lists. They have the ability to achieve high sales volume with a single post or email.
Why offer a 30/70 split? Because a) they get bombarded with similar requests every day, and you need to stand out, and b) digital products require no inventory or overhead, which gives you the luxury of taking less revenue for the chance to land a big influencer.
Let’s say you sell an online course on how to trade stock options for $100. That’s a feasible price point because customers can apply the knowledge they learn from your course to make their $100 back quickly.
Using the 70% model, you’d make $30 on every sale. Sell 1,667 units and you’ll hit $50,000.
In an era where social media stars have millions of followers and email newsletters boast hundreds of thousands of subscribers, 1,667 units in 24 hours is realistic.
Bonus idea: for a quick-and-easy digital product concept, compile your old emails into an information product. Claire Zulkey compiled a few of her successful freelance pitches and is selling it for $13.
3. Go Viral
First, source a physical product that’s cheap enough to categorize the unit cost + shipping cost + desired profit as “shipping.”
These blue light blocking glasses, which you can buy in bulk for as little as $1.80/unit.
Given its size and weight, it would cost roughly $3 to ship to customers from one state in the U.S. to another state across the country.
So far, that brings your total cost to $4.80. Next, consider how much your customer would be willing to pay for it. If you use the right marketing message (highlighting benefits like improved sleep), I think you’d have no problem getting someone to pay $10 for a pair.
So your gross profit per unit would be $10–$4.80=$5.20. Now as with any e-commerce venture, there will be other significant costs involved like fulfillment fees and taxes. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s just say your true profit comes out to $4/unit.
That means you have to sell 12,500 units in 24 hours to hit $50,000. If that sounds like a lot, it is. But it’s also entirely possible. Here’s how:
Set up a social media campaign where you offer your product for “free — just pay shipping” to anyone who reposts the offer to their page in the next 24 hours.
Be sure to note in your copy that this is a pre-order and that products will ship at a certain date in the future. This allows you to collect all the revenue upfront before ordering the product.
In a perfect world where your marketing copy, social media images, and branding are all on point, the allure of “free” (even though customers will see the true cost before checking out) will make your social media campaign go viral.
In simple terms, virality leads to massive sales.
Two college students used this framework to make a whopping six figures in 24 hours. Head to the linked article for a more in-depth analysis.
Under the right conditions, these three strategies can rake in a lot of cash very quickly.
But the true value of this exercise is in the ideas it forces you to generate. When your back is up against the wall, how can you use what’s already at your disposal to make money?
Rather than getting caught up on the 24-hour stipulation, increase your chances of long term success by applying these strategies slowly.
Take time to think about how you can create a product that maximizes value for potential customers. Then, take advantage of the internet’s resources, which enable you to launch with almost $0 in funding required.