In June 2020, I turned 42. I have a beautiful wife, two awesome sons, a nice house, and a great, loving and supportive family. Even my 9 to 5 agency job is REALLY great – great environment, great bosses, no typical corporate BS, fun projects (mostly), and a solid non-Silicon Valley salary.
But in spite of this something is missing. I constantly find myself stuck in an infinite loop of failure and frustration.
Over the years I’ve read and listened to countless entrepreneur and start-up articles and podcasts. I’ve done freelance WordPress and custom websites. I’ve worked on personal projects. But I never keep momentum and I never launch my personal projects. In fact, I’ve been working on the same current project for 4 YEARS and it’s never moved from my local virtual machine – I begin, get stuck, delete, restart, get stuck, delete. It’s straight up insanity!
Just before my 42nd birthday, I came across a talk by Pieter Levels in which he explains his process of building successful startups. From there I read Pieter’s blog where he details his 12 Startups in 12 Months philosophy and details his journey from failure to huge success as a bootstrapped indie maker. If you have been living under a rock (like I had been) and have not heard of Pieter Levels’ start-up journey, I suggest you stop reading this and learn more about how he’s succeeded in cracking the start-up code:
- Pieter Levels blog
- Turning Projects Into Profitable Startups
- Confronting Your Fears and Taking a Leap with Pieter Levels of Nomad List (Indie Hackers interview)
You Need to Launch
What I learned from Pieter’s journey is that, although failure can be soul crushing, it is part of the process to find a successful startup. Without the failure, it is hard to recognize success in the early stages of your project. What SHOULDN’T be part of the process, is never launching. You need to launch to validate what you are working on. And you need to LAUNCH FAST.
My biggest problem to this point has been that I never launch my own projects. I hmm-and-haw over them. I think of a better way to achieve something in the code. I think of new ‘nice-to-have’ features before I’ve finished current ‘need-to-have’ ones. I complicate the MVP (minimum viable product) for each of my projects because I keep adding features for the ‘what if’ and ‘well this will be useful later’ scenarios.
Learning from Successful Makers
What I’ve learned over the past few months from Pieter Levels’ blog and Courtland Allen’s IndieHackers.com podcasts and website (again, if you’ve been living in your own coding bubble like I have and have not checked out IndieHackers.com, stop reading this and check it out), is that successful makers ship. They build quickly and get a decent usable product to users early so they can validate the idea and pursue it if it gains traction, or pivot if it does not. Getting the project in front of even a small amount of initial users provides makers with momentum and motivation, and much needed user feedback.
No one is validating my ideas because no one ever sees them. The longer I build in isolation the more likely I am to
- lose motivation (i.e. burnout)
- get distracted with extra features
- build a product no one wants
I create in a bubble, and once I lose motivation (because I’m receiving zero feedback – positive or negative – or run into a problem I can’t solve) I lose momentum. When I lose momentum, I leave the project for a few weeks and when I come back I scrap and start from scratch. Insanity.
A New Beginning
Sooooo, what I’ve decided to do is restart my own journey to become financially independent by building AND LAUNCHING one of my projects. I am not sure which, if any, of my project ideas will be profitable, so I am going to assume none of them will be and start this project with low expectations.
“WHAT?! Why would you be so pessimistic?” I hear you asking, so I’ll explain: As Pieter Levels (and many successful makers) explains, if I put all of my eggs in one basket thinking Project X will be the startup that brings me to my financial freedom, like I have in the past, I fear I’ll continue spending too much time solely on perfecting Project X. However, if I enter each project with a list of features to build an MVP, and focus on completing those features and launch, without the distraction of “oooh this is going to be huge so I need to make this feature better” or similar, then I’m more likely to
- actually finish the project and launch, and
- listen with an open mind when users critique my project after launch.
Join Me from $0 to $100k and (hopefully) Beyond
So this loooooong introduction is my invitation to each of you to follow me on my journey from status quo agency employee to financially free ‘solopreneur’. This blog will be my central ‘headquarters’ and a means for me to maintain accountability to the world of my progress and success or failure for each of my startup projects. My intent is to write an article:
- Each time I start a new project:
- What the idea is
- How I came up with the idea
- How I plan to monetize the project
- As a daily recap of the build process
- What features I worked on
- Problems I am running into
- Live coding screencast
- Launch process
- Which sites I am announcing my launch to
- What assets and content I need to have to launch in each channel
- Specific steps I took for each channel during launch
- Post-launch details
- Analytics data
- User numbers (if any)
- Revenue (if any)
- Which launch channel(s) was/were the most effective, why, and which to add/skip for the next launch
I currently have 22 startup ideas I’ve been playing with or mulling over for a LONG time – only 2 of which have seen any real fleshing out and coding done. However, NONE of these projects have any current code to work with since I had deleted everything in my last round of ‘this is all crap, I need to start again’. So I am essentially starting from scratch but with ideas already ready to go.
My ideas are:
- European Trip Planner
- Family Social Web App
- Fitness Challenge
- Gift Wish List
- Habit Former
- Honeymoon Gifting App
- Hostel WordPress Theme
- Kids Learning and Chores
- Meal Expense Tracker
- Meal Planner and Recipe Keeper
- Reading Club Community
- Remote Job Board
- Scout Achievement Tracker
- Soccer Club Site WordPress theme
- Soccer Score Picker
- Startup MVP Duel
- Thousand Days To Success
- Todo App with Financial Motivator
- Tour Company WordPress Theme
- Virtual Tour Guides
- Web Development Tutorials
- Zero to Century
Many of these ideas probably already exist in one form or another, maybe even identical. However, I don’t really care as I am a firm believer that there is always room for new alternatives. I believe that the ‘profit pie’ is infinite – not zero-sum, and am not looking to own the market, just looking to carve out a small space for myself. I don’t have a ‘winner takes all’ mentality, more of a ‘let’s all share in this thing’ mentality.
22 Startups, 12 Months…Possible?
My timeframe is 12 months (essentially copying Pieter Levels’ 12 Startups in 12 Months) to keep me moving on each project and get it launched quickly. But since I work full-time and spend my evenings with my family, the time I have available to devote to these projects is severely limited and would probably equate to 2-4 hours daily in the late evenings. Even with this time restriction, I think over the course of 30 days (1 month) for each, I should be able to get an MVP version of each idea out. Maybe. Hopefully…?
My ANNUAL PROFIT goals are (in US dollars):
- Minimum: $100,000
- Ideal: $150,000
Anything above $150,000 would be life altering.
I’d Like to see monthly recurring profit (MRP) of at least $8,000 US from any one/combination of these startups.
So, here goes noth…er, everything! Follow me as I build a better lifestyle for myself and family one startup at a time!