Adrien Joly

@adrienjoly

Moving on, from side-projects to real products

The channels of Milano. Photo by Adrien Joly, February 2017.

Failing attempts has been fun. Now let’s find the holy market fit!

In the latest edition of his weekly video “Finish Friday”, writer Todd Brison said exactly what I needed to hear today:

When you start something new, everybody is onboard. […] At the start of a race, everyone is pumped. (big boost)
But when you start to make a habit of it, everyone stops caring. (great indifference)
This is where you’re able to do a whole lot of work. So whenever you get out on the other side and you do start to blow up, everyone will look back at what you’ve done and say “Oh my gosh, this guy’s got a ton of work. I can go through this for days.”
It’s at that point that you begin to make a difference in the world.

Because, yeah, I am now feeling what people mean when they say that building a business is a lonely path.

Level 1: The Big Boost

When I decided to stop working for clients and to make my own products instead, everybody was pumped for me, even my clients!

Instead of watching TV or playing video games, I was spending my spare time watching Gary Vee’s videos, to keep that momentum of motivation.

I started working like crazy, fine-tuning my productivity workflow in order to optimise the usage of my time, and shipped my first product in one month.

Many people liked my first product. I was excited, and used that motivation to reach level 2: make an income out of it.

It was easy for me to:

  • build a good product, because I have significant experience building software;
  • and get a nice marketing boost at launch, because I’m surrounded by benevolent friends who supported me.

But it’s only then that the hard work starts.

Level 2: the Great Indifference

For starters, even though 7000 people were using my product, and posting nice ratings and tweets about it, only a handful of them were ready to pay for it.

At that point, you can’t just ask your friends “please upvote on ProductHunt” or “feel free to retweet this”. It does not matter anymore.

The thing that matters is to decide what to do next, figure out how to do it, fail, and try again until you make it.

…That, without expecting much help from the external world. Not because your friends don’t care, but because they don’t know how to help. And, in most cases, they don’t even understand what it is that you’re doing now.

This is your business now!

In my case, I tried and failed many attempts:

  • Crowdfund Next Step for Trello 2.0 => failed
  • Sell seats for a productivity workshop => failed
  • Attract people on my Patreon campaign => failed
Oh, actually, I did earn some income: about $80 from friends who wanted to encourage me on Patreon (thank you so much!), and $80 of donations from users of Next Step for Trello. That’s better than nothing, but is this real income?

On the bright side, these trials did help me realise important things.

How much I had to learn and improve on:

  • how to find a good market, and a good problem to solve,
  • how to elaborate a good value proposition, and test it,
  • how to decide if you should keep going in the same direction, or pivot.

Besides getting one step further on the road to self-awareness, I’m very happy that I tried to do all this on my own. It made me really realise the complexity (and hard work needed) of managing a product and developing a business. Thus, it made me more empathetic to product managers and business developers. 👏

On the road to level 3: Iterate and learn

Despite all the success stories one can read on Indie Hackers, I know that making a difference is not going happen overnight. Not even making a modest income.

I need to put in more sweat. And learn to make smarter decisions.

“Show your work!” by Austin Kleon. A huge motivator to keep crafting and sharing!

But do I really need to struggle on my own?

Do I need to learn all the skills required to turn products into income?

I’m currently experimenting on this hypothesis. I started developing two products in collaboration with talented and motivated colleagues. And the testing phase of our first iteration (what Lean Startup entrepreneurs know as “MVP”) is under way, for both products.

I’m not yet sure what will be my criteria for deciding whether to keep working as a team, or go back solo. We’ll see.

So, for now, I’m going to stick to my friend Vincent’s entrepreneurial advice:

Follow your gut!

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I also appreciate comments and recommendations ❤ ! 🙌

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