A Case Study of an Awful Hustle

Entrepreneur Derek Sivers once said that ideas are worth nothing unless executed well. They are just a multiplier:

“The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20.  The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000”

The question I’d like to answer today is, what are bad ideas worth when horribly executed? ;)

To answer that, we have to rewind 3 weeks back when we had a guest on our podcast (Carrie Olsen) to talk about the incredible world of voice over acting. Which, in a nut shell, is about getting paid to talk. And getting paid a LOT, at that. (You might remember Carrie from our side hustle series here too: How to make money doing voiceover work!)

All was business as usual with Paula and I peppering her with questions all the while wondering if we, too, could become successful actors as well, but somewhere in the middle I jokingly said that someone should corner the market for BAD voice over actors as I’d be pretty good at that ;) Particularly because weeks before I had been called a “a clueless 16 year old valley girl” – and not in a good way.

The idea got some laughs, and rightfully so, but as the show ended I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if I actually did end up building something around it.

So I did! Introducing,! Haha…

bad voices website
I thought I was pretty clever and had fun making it for about an hour, but a day or two later I promptly forgot about it and went on my way.

But while the joke should have ended there, I was pleasantly surprised to see the following turn up in my inbox two weeks later:

bad voice over email

YES!! My first client! I couldn’t tell if it was a joke or not, with Derek being a prankster as well as the less-beautiful half to Carrie Olsen, but he assured me it was not and so I got down to business.

A half an hour in the “studio” later (ie my home office) these gems were produced:

Now notice that I provided him 6 voices, even though he only requested 3. That’s what I like to call “customer service,” because if there’s one thing Bad Voices stands for, it’s good quality ;) And just to be doubly sure, I made a backup of 6 even worse voices too in case the first batch wasn’t bad enough. (Now don’t anyone go out and snag! I will find you!!!)

At this point I’ve probably wasted a solid 2 hours on this idea, but my excitement levels were through the roof and I didn’t even have to get paid for it – I was having a blast! So I sent him the files, and then got back to doing “real” work again… You know, like blogging and sending gifs on Twitter.

But the very next day…

voiceover testimonial

And just like that I became a paid actor! Did you catch that incredible testimonial too?

That was terrible. Thanks. -Derek

My very first satisfied customer, and I couldn’t be prouder! And to prove my street cred in the industry, I of course had to add it up onto the website: Business 101 right there, baby.

So… A stupid idea, a couple of wasted hours, a barrel of fun, and $5 extra dollars to my name. What can be gleamed from all this?

I’m glad you asked.

First, wasting time having fun is better than wasting time doing nonsense :) We all avoid doing work, but what things do you fill it with? TV? Facebook? Reading? Some answers are better than others, and I’d like to think that flexing your creative muscles is one of the better ones. And not just so I can justify the slew of other one-pagers I’ve built over time:


[Amazingly, none of them have ever taken off?]

Second, not all projects are meant to make money. Sometimes you just have to do things because they’re fun, and if you happen to figure out how to get paid for it, even better. In fact, those are the projects/hustles/careers that are some of the best as you’re leading with your *heart* vs the money! This blog being a prime example of that as I spent hundreds of hours without even realizing you could get paid to do it, haha… So as much as we’re a community focused on building wealth and making that money, there’s plenty of room in life to do stuff out of pure joy itself.

Third, if you are trying to make money from something, ask people for money! Now obviously this idea here is a piss poor example of this, but if I didn’t ask for the $5.00 I wouldn’t have gotten the $5.00. I was just doing it to entertain myself of course, but you’d be amazed at how many people WANT clients and to build businesses around their (sane) ideas, but who never put out the “ask.” And when they do, they low ball themselves. That’s a whole other topic for a whole other day, but if you want to get paid to help someone with something, don’t forget to ask for it or the answer is always no.

Fourth, and along this same note, it’s perfectly fine to sell someone an idea before it’s created. The only way to tell if someone will want your product or service is to ask them to pony up for it first. There’s no point in spending gobs of time and money on something only to find out no one wants it later! Throw it out to the world first and *then* worry about how you’re going to pull it off. Many a businesses have been built off doing the asking first, and the building/supplying of the product after.

Fifth, you never know who will want your services! As ridiculous as this Bad Voices thing is, someone else just as ridiculous as me very much wanted it for his own semi-ridiculous project ;) and its forthcoming podcast are very sarcastically skewed, so it’s the perfect match up of ideas. Whether or not Derek actually goes forward with these horrible voices of mine remain to be seen, but at least I already got his money!

Lastly, experiments make for good stories :) $5.00 and a couple of hours is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but my goodness did it totally make my week and allow me to work on this random article to boot. As crazy as it sounds, I had more fun playing along with all this than I did making $600 the other month writing an article for someone!

So again, there’s something to be said about incorporating a little silliness into your lives and not being all business 24/7. We’ll reach our financial and professional goals over time, but it’ll happen a lot sooner if we don’t burn out in the process.

And if you’re lucky, you might even create the next ;) (But never WorseVoices!)

***UPDATE*** My first bad voice over makes its debut! See if you can spot it in the first 30 seconds: How Do I Money Podcast: Episode 001 :)

PS: Interestingly enough, the one voice I couldn’t do in my recordings was that of a 16 y/o valley girl! This stuff is a lot harder than it looks!

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  1. Brian @DebtDiscipline May 9, 2016 at 6:13 AM

    LOL. I listened to the podcast and didn’t think you’d go through with it. If I need any bad V.O. or know anyone who does I have them look you up.

  2. Matt @ Distilled Dollar May 9, 2016 at 6:23 AM

    Haha! At first, I wasn’t expecting as many lessons to be learned, but you provided plenty of food for thought, as usual.

    In a sense, most activities can be counted as experiments, so it was cool to see you break the expectations barrier with a simple, “not all experiments are meant to make money.” I feel the side hustlers out there always expect instant pay outs. It is helpful to remind ourselves that the prize could be learning something new, having fun or just getting a crack out of something.

    Number three was great and definitely a topic that can fill multiple books. I’ve gone through two job changes in the past few years and both experiences taught me to not be afraid to ask for more, because you’ll end up receiving it. I’ve found that by asking, it demonstrates confidence in my abilities and an awareness of my value to the market.

    When we ask for more, it demonstrates we have the confidence behind our skill.

    1. J. Money May 9, 2016 at 11:15 AM

      Yes, indeed! And you don’t always get the answer you’re looking for either, but it feels damn good to ask for what you believe you’re worth. And often times a “no” will turn into a “yes” down the line as it’s not like the powers above will forget it. I’ve had times where I’ve been declined due to timing, and then a month or two later been given what I asked for or something in comparison (more time off, better perks, etc). And it doesn’t hurt when you remind them that other job offers are on the table either ;)

  3. The Green Swan May 9, 2016 at 7:08 AM

    Haha that’s a great story and some great lessons to go with it! You can now officially call yourself a “paid actor”… which you may not want to use in the same sentence as you refer to yourself as a “16 y/o valley girl”!

    The Green Swan

  4. Apathy Ends May 9, 2016 at 7:32 AM

    Haha, I love the one testimonial up on the site

    Good stuff – having fun, means your not “working”

  5. superbien May 9, 2016 at 7:45 AM

    Hysterical, I actually listened to all of them. Nice bonus – that your kid? I think you need an opera singing voice (la la la LA la la la) too. Maybe a cowpoke. A robot. A whining toddler. That creepy little girl from Resident Evil (you may have to add ‘and you all will die’ to it). Several characters from Princess Bride. … Ok see, I didn’t even get $5, and I could likely waste another 2 hours on it! :D

    1. J. Money May 9, 2016 at 11:19 AM

      One of my “worse voices” was pretty opera like! But I’ll have to incorporate that Resident Evil idea into my next gig, haha…

      (And yup – the bonus track was my kid! He loves recording and singing stuff :))

  6. superbien May 9, 2016 at 7:47 AM

    I… Like… Budgets and I cannot lie, you other budgeters can’t deny…

  7. Rose May 9, 2016 at 8:14 AM

    This – in the end – adds up to a life well lived. Crazy and fun absolutely have a place in our everyday lives and sometimes they even lead us to a paying career.
    Nice scenic detour, now back to making some real money:)
    LOL @ bad voice overs.

    1. J. Money May 9, 2016 at 11:21 AM

      Hey, you wait…. $5.00 invested at 7% over 1,050 years is gonna be a lot of money!!!!

  8. Vivek @ LifeAfterFI May 9, 2016 at 8:34 AM

    Lol……. You even registered a domain name and now have a testimonial :-)
    It was fun reading this post :-)

  9. Kalen May 9, 2016 at 8:37 AM

    I had fun wasting time listening to all of them. They made me laugh, which is productive.

    Thanks for being so wonderfully terrible!

    1. J. Money May 9, 2016 at 11:21 AM

      Can I quote you on that? ;)

  10. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor May 9, 2016 at 9:14 AM

    I love how you keep things fun! I agree that it’s good to “waste time” having fun sometimes. In a sense it’s not a waste at all. Congrats on your VO acting career.

  11. Stefan @Mllnnlbudget May 9, 2016 at 9:19 AM

    Listening to all those voices was a good laugh to start the week off. While this was a fun post you also threw in some great lessons. Not everything will succeed but if you keep on trying something will.

  12. Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes May 9, 2016 at 9:34 AM

    Funny story J. Although you did neglect to mention the domain registration costs, and any hosting costs you might have.

    Not to poo-poo your idea, but I figure with that $5 you’ve probably only broken even!

    Truly bad ideas can be worth less than 0. Thankfully your idea here had very very low startup costs. Not all industries are that easy.

    1. J. Money May 9, 2016 at 11:23 AM

      Okay okay, good point… We’ll have to wait until the next gig gets confirmed then to truly be profitable ;)

  13. ESI May 9, 2016 at 10:24 AM

    Is #1 Robert E Lee — or at least a southern gentleman???

    Love it!!! :)

    1. derek May 9, 2016 at 10:27 AM

      haha! That’s funny right there.

      1. J. Money May 9, 2016 at 11:24 AM

        if only you could have seen the scotch in my hands!

  14. Mrs. 1500 May 9, 2016 at 11:00 AM

    OK, seriously, you have spawned an idea for me. And coincidentally enough, it also revolved around Derek Olsen.

    Derek started I offered to provide him with badly photoshopped images for his site.

    Now I read this BadVoices article, and just reserved If anyone needs badly photoshopped images, hit me up. I have the technical photoshop skills to make things happen, but not the artistic ability to make it look good. But I can sure make it look bad.

    Also, do you need a bad voiceover female? I can totally do valley girl – I grew up in California…

    1. derek May 9, 2016 at 11:21 AM

      Good to see we are inspiring bad-ness all around. I mean really, we need to lower the bar and set poor standards somehow!! haha.

      But for real, I might just be your first customer too!


      1. J. Money May 9, 2016 at 11:24 AM

        and THIS is why the internet was created….

  15. Team CF May 9, 2016 at 11:01 AM

    Brilliant, lover your attitude on side hustles. And even if you don’t earn any money, you at least had some great fun and a new experience. Hustle on!

  16. Joe May 9, 2016 at 11:02 AM

    Nice! I firmly believe you have to go through a few bad ideas before you find a good one. The great thing about ideas is that you always learn more during the process. It’s great to follow up and try it out instead of letting the idea float away. You’re really good at that.

  17. The Professor May 9, 2016 at 11:34 AM

    If you had a poll I think the bonus track would win hands down. So cute..

    1. J. Money May 9, 2016 at 1:43 PM

      Hehe, thanks… he’ll be thrilled to hear that :)

  18. Josh @MoneyBuffalo May 9, 2016 at 12:10 PM

    An awful hustle can be a great permanent side hustle. Something you don’t mind doing if you just want to make enough money to pay for your Starbucks for a year, etc.

  19. derek May 9, 2016 at 12:10 PM

    Oh hey, it’s me, “Derek”.

    I gotta say that another lesson here is on follow-through.

    Like the post hints at several times, following through on an idea is arguably the most important part of any project. Even if it’s a joke idea, the practice and lessons learned will apply to other real projects. Follow-through is follow-through.

    Just the feeling of bringing an idea all the way to completion helps when the time comes for other projects.

    1. J. Money May 9, 2016 at 1:46 PM

      You got that right, buster.

      And thanks for being cool with me posting all of this up on the site too. Our lives wouldn’t be the same without it ;)

  20. The Jolly Ledger May 9, 2016 at 3:02 PM

    I think I like this side hustle idea the best!

  21. amber tree May 9, 2016 at 5:16 PM

    A lot of good lessons for something that started as a joke.
    Some of these, I actually apply in my job. For some reason, I never get around doing it for side hustles.

  22. Eric Bowlin May 9, 2016 at 5:30 PM

    Key takeaway – don’t be afraid to ask for payment, and never lowball yourself.

  23. Elle @ New Graduate Finance May 9, 2016 at 8:56 PM


    Sometimes I can’t tell if my ideas are bad or brilliant, horribly or amazingly executed…

    1. J. Money May 10, 2016 at 7:08 AM

      Only one way to ever find out – by launching them! :)

  24. Crystal May 9, 2016 at 10:16 PM

    Version 4 creeped me out. And the bonus one was awesome!!! :-)

    1. J. Money May 10, 2016 at 7:13 AM

      Haha yeah, v4 is one voice you probably do not want to hear in the middle of a night ;)

  25. ZJ Thorne May 10, 2016 at 12:06 AM

    That’s amazing. Playfulness is directly related to creativity in my life. As long as I’m not neglecting my duties and desires, excited tangents are fine with me.

  26. Francesca - From Pennies to Pounds May 10, 2016 at 4:05 AM

    That is so funny. Thanks for posting this! It was a good idea – you’ll have to let us know if you get any more gigs!

    1. J. Money May 10, 2016 at 7:15 AM

      I’m glad you enjoyed it :)

  27. Ramona @ Personal Finance Today May 10, 2016 at 6:03 AM

    He he, crazy. I might look into this … I have a decade of radio experience (a local daily show), but, since I’m not a native English speaker, I still get an accent. So probably I qualify for this type of voice-over services :D

    1. J. Money May 10, 2016 at 7:16 AM

      Oh man, accents are HUGE in the industry from what I hear! If you love voice over stuff and are good at it (disregard this nonsense here, haha…) it could really be something profitable – and fun – for you :)

      Check out our serious guest post on it and see!

  28. Latoya @ Life and a Budget May 10, 2016 at 12:01 PM

    I needed this laugh! This was hilarious and well, for lack of a better term, genius. You never really know who wants what until you put it out there and I’ve been struggling with this a bit myself. You’ve just inspired me to simply stop moping and go ahead and ask the questions that I need answers to…thanks!

    1. J. Money May 10, 2016 at 5:00 PM

      Good! Go for it! It doesn’t have to be perfect (or close to perfect) either. Just put yourself out there and learn and tweak as you go. Good luck!

  29. Ms. Montana May 10, 2016 at 2:39 PM

    Rule #5 “Don’t waste good” NCIS. Mine would be more, “You can’t waste good” I have more projects in my “vault of shame” than I will ever own up to. But none of it is wasted. With every failure, I grew, developed skills, and learned something. If we limit ourselves to things that are a guaranteed win, we miss out on most of the good things we earn through failure. And if the failure can be fun and entertaining, all the better!

  30. Broke Millennial May 11, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    Seemed like #5 branched into bad singing voices :P.

    I’ll say that Carrie’s episode definitely made me want to immediately launch into a voice acting career. Fun fact, I actually did some voice acting as a kid for radio commercials in both the US and when I lived in Japan. My voice is probably still coming out of some pachinko machines…

    1. J. Money May 11, 2016 at 4:35 PM

      HAH – awesome!!

      I tried acting once when I was living in Korea as a kid but I wasn’t the greatest at it :)

  31. Cathy @ Monetize My Minutes May 11, 2016 at 12:23 PM

    Thanks for the laugh. I think a lot of people talk about personal finance and side hustles with such a serious tone that we forget to have fun. Not spending every minute of your day slogging through activities designed solely to bring in money is important. I have a few side projects I do for the joy of doing them and, every now and then, they result in profit too…but sometimes they don’t, and that’s okay. Everyone needs a good laugh now and then.