Kigali Map Project Update

Anyone who has followed my blog for awhile (and who hasn’t jumped ship since I stopped publishing income reports) will know that I’m attempting to move away from a Google-scamming link selling method of earning an income and towards something more sustainable. I’m hoping to transition from shady activities that I’m not so proud of (filling the internet with crap, essentially) to websites with a focus on East Africa, starting with Rwanda because I live here.

This idea has grown from the kind of accidental success of my Kigali website. I didn’t expect to be here for so long and like it so much so I wasn’t sure how long the website would be useful, but it turns out that I’m here for the long haul and the site has been a huge success. Seeing this, I’ve also launched a Kampala expats site and a Kigali restaurant guide website. Basically, seeing a need and filling it. These markets aren’t yet overwhelmed with information like most places and building the best site in town and getting it to rank isn’t difficult due, mainly, to a lack of competition. This has meant that I’ve been able to position myself as a Kigali expert and any new arrivals will find my site without much effort from me. Being considered a city’s authority is huge and I’ve been thinking about how to leverage this.

My main idea is one I came up with around 3 years ago and have been working on off and on since then. Kigali doesn’t have any decent map, period, let along a tourist and expat-oriented one. If I see a need, I tend to think about being the one to fill it and set out to create a map useful for new arrivals. Kind of an information dump from the website to a physical map with tips, info, loads of points of interest and Kigali’s winding roads. But, while tracing the city’s streets is something I managed to figure out in Illustrator, that’s about all I can do and I got stuck. For years! It’s gotten to the point where it’s kind of a joke. The map. The elusive map.

But I’ve FINALLY moved forward with this. I found a great designer who specializes in maps and we’re on our way. His work so far is good, our communication is excellent, and I’m excited to see how thing thing ends up. I think the key to passive income is products like this. Create it once, update it occasionally and figure out ways to sell the thing. Having a physical object to sell is a lot more tricky than a downloadable ebook, but with Amazon I think it’s easy to just ship a bunch to them and let them handle the details. Selling it here in Kigali will be an initial logistical challenge to set up and I’ll need to think about printers and shipping… but once I get the finished maps ready to go, I think they’ll pretty much sell themselves.

In case anyone is interested, here are some steps I’ve gone through already:

  • Came up with the idea way back in 2010. Traced the city’s streets into Illustrator and then realised that I really don’t know how t use Illustrator.
  • Looked at other maps for inspiration including the Nancy Chandler maps (I’ve since decided to do something different, but my initial idea was very similar to this) and A La Carte maps (which is probably closer to the style I’m aiming for).
  • Compiled a list of the sort of information other maps shared and chose the things I thought would work on a Kigali map. Brainstormed other sections that would work.
  • Wrote content for the information boxes (more detailed descriptions of restaurants, tips etc).
  • Plotted all of the points I was aware of and walked the streets of Kigali neighbourhoods I’m less familiar with to find other points of interest. Bars, restaurants, hospitals, clinics, schools, government offices, banks… and way more. I currently have more than 500 points on this monster.
  • Realised that I suck at Illustrator and attempted to hand draw the map. Soon realised that it would all be scanned back into Illustrator anyway and I’d be stuck again.
  • Eventually conceded that I can’t do this all myself and found a map designer on Elance (about three years after starting this project).
  • Felt all warm and fuzzy and happy with myself when the designer came back with a good first attempt at the design look and feel. Finally, something decent to show for all of this work!

Now I’m at the stage where I give new information (new points of interest, tips etc) to the designer and then he does the work and I check it out, come up with suggestions and more info and then send it back to him. I have most of the city’s useful spots plotted on the map… just need to take a few more walks to unknown areas of town to be thorough.

But this is a problem for me… how thorough I’m being. I’ve never been very good at putting in a half-assed effort. I see this as a great opportunity to make something amazing and I’m not really content with producing something mediocre. I seem to be attempting to make the best tourist/expat-oriented map ever. Of all time. If I don’t reel myself in a bit, this thing will never be finished.

I’ve loved the process, though, and learned a lot about Kigali. I’m already thinking of making a map for Kampala, a bigger city with more of a market for this sort of thing. It has a few crappy maps floating around but if the Kigali map turns out how I expect it to, then I think Kampala would be the logical (and profitable) next step. Then maybe total African domination? Who knows! There are a lot of cities in Africa still not really given much attention online so the need for information is there. Especially in map form.

So… the profits. Well, I guess I’m having so much fun making the map that I haven’t given too much though to the fact that I’ll have to actually sell this thing. I’ve opted to keep the ad free of ads and sell it. The other option would have been to sell ad space to cover the costs and make some money, then give the map away for free. I really think this thing will sell itself and I didn’t want to have to compromise anything by bringing advertisers on board. Plus the idea of selling ad space makes my soul sad.

So I’m thinking I’ll be able to sell this thing for around $10 a piece. With printing and shipping (printers in Rwanda are horrible and ridiculously expensive so I have a connection in China for cheap and cheerful or the UK for something better but more expensive) and giving a cut to any places who sell the map for me and the cost of actually having it designed (about $1500 so far but probably more), I think I’ll be able to come away with at least $5 profit per piece. No idea how many to get printed but the minimum print run is 1,700 for the UK place so I guess that’s a good starting point! My plan is to have something to print by the time I head home to Canada for Xmas. Maybe speak to some printers there and get some quotes.

Lots still to do and think about… but I’m really liking the process. Once I have a physical map in my hands, that’s another key to this passive income lifestyle. Add Kampala in next year, maybe a few more cities and suddenly I have a mini map empire! Well, that’s the idea anyway. If I can really nail the Kigali concept and design, copying it over to other cities will be pretty easy design-wise… the hard part will be finding the information which is what partners are for.

I’m excited to see where my map project is going and really looking forward to seeing what amazing things my designer can produce. I’ll keep you posted on the progress!

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