Hacking on projects is great. You learn a new programming language, new libraries or new ways to solve problems. However, a couple of months ago, I started a serious project with profit in mind. And when you switch the perspective working for a fun project to a serious attempt to make a good product, you'll learn a lot more. In this article, I want to share my most valueable insights that I gained, with no prior knowledge from bootstrapping to launch.
Hypercapitalistic is a product which I recently launched: Hypercapitalistic is a real-time news aggregator for cryptocurrencies from hundres of sources including online publishers, YouTube channels, Podcasts, influencers etc. It has filters for popular topics which lets the cryptocurrency enthusiast or trader get a quick overview of what's going in real-time.
I wrote a lot of notes and text fragments, so I could eventually write it down into one big article. Which in retrospect is a tough task, given that I changed my opinions quite a lot along the way. So instead, I want to summarize my most valueable insights from my current perspective (of what worked best).
An Algorithm to Start
Think of audiences, niches, think of what they do, activities, how do they solve problems, can we help them? Come up with a lot of ideas, don't prematurely judge silly ideas. Brain storm, a lot. Mind maps help - and having a network of creators to ping-pong ideas (online version available, see sideproject.xyz). If you're still not having a physical journal or notebook, finally start keeping one in your pocket all day to write down ideas when they occur. Have a look at Bullet journaling. I'm a big fan of Evernote to keep my ideas synchronized across my devices.
How can you evaluate your idea, the simplest, in a money and time-saving manner. Are you scratching your own itch? Find your focus group and evaluate directly. Maybe you don't know your audience, and you decide to set up a coming soon landing page afford some online advertising to monitor the engagement to that potential product. They're many different ways, but market research is very very important.
The Flexibility of Being Lean
Once you know that you're a product with a demand, launch as soon as you can - yep, the word: minimum viable product (MVP): "is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future development." - Wikipedia. The ultimate strength of a startup or solo-preneur is being very flexible to adapt to a demand very fast. Be aware of it, and use it.
Figure out what your MVP features are, build the first version of the product as cheap as you can (UX is always more important than everything else) and keep your fingers crossed that your product will have some sort of impact. Use free-tier website analytics, Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Heap Analytics you name it. Use feedback formulars e.g. Typeform, try to gather as much information about your customer as you can.
You're wearing many hats now, programmer, designer, accountant among others, and of course the boss who's observing the big picture. That said, time management and knowing what is urgent, what is important and what is not is crucial, see Eisenhower Matrix. Time optimization is important: don't waste time. Time box tasks to avoid wasting time due to Parkinson's law. The time tracking app Toggl is handy, you should try it. For managing my tasks (not only programming tasks) I'm using GitHub with ZenHub (free for solo-preneurs). ZenHub is great it adds the functionality of Burndown charts and story points to GitHub.
Simple > Complex
Working for months on a project can be frustrating - don't try to make a big full-feature release (reconsider the MVP) and if you lack of motiviation start working on something that inspires you and it will ultimately recover your motivation on the go. Don't fear the unknown - you fear it, because you don't know it - what are the worst case scenarios and how can you avoid them? And ultimately, when it's not working out and you struggle with problems for days, kill your darlings - I mean, the stuff you built which you're proud of and it doesn't work either way. Take action, make mistakes, fail fast (if you can).
Taking action requires you to make mistakes. And that's great, because otherwise you wouldn't be out of your comfort zone. While evaluating the idea, and building a great product is the main priority, learning and (including learning from mistakes) is a very valueable side product. I keep a skill chart with technologies, methodologies and processes which I want to learn, I am learning now or I learned so far. It keeps you motivated facing just another unknown.
Bootstrapping projects out of thin air, a computer and time sounds romantic. Well it is, down to earth it is focussing, grinding your head on a problem until you fix it and move to the next one. Finishing can be the hardest part, especially for people who like details. Is it just good enough? (Soft-) Launch it, experiment.
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
- So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
- The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses