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Oct 15, 2019 16:54:00

Thoughts on the 12 Products in 12 Months Challenge

by @basilesamel PATRON | 520 words | 387🔥 | 435💌

Basile Samel

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How to launch a successful tech product? Talking about ideas remains a guess, you never know until you launch. Pieter Levels proposed to throw pasta against a wall to see which idea sticks, and that's pretty much the motive behind his now-mainstream 12 Products in 12 Months challenge.

I had a go at it as well when I started out my indie maker career. I called it Road to Ramen and launched it on Product Hunt. I launched two failed products - Pyrohabit, a budgeting app, and Ymappr, a todo app using mind-maps. I started working on a third - Findependents, a community of people in search of financial independence - but I shipped 200 Words a Day first and I've been sticking with it ever since. What would I do differently now if I were to re-take the challenge?

There are two kinds of maker: serial shippers, and gardeners. 

Miguel Piedrafita and Mubashar Iqbal represent the serial makers. They regularly launch new things. This strategy is adapted to try out micro-SaaS ideas that can more easily be automated. They won't all grow big - but when you cumulate each revenue they generate, you can make a living.

Gardeners steadily grow one product over a long period of time. Sergio Mattei and Tomas Woksepp are good examples of this type of maker. If you want to scale your idea, this is what you're aiming for.

Most makers are in-between those two archetypes, growing one main product and launching other unrelated products from time to time. Pieter Levels or Andrey Azimov come to mind. It's a good diversification strategy, but impractical if you're not a full-time maker.

If you start a 12 Products in 12 Months challenge, you should aim for the first category, while remaining open to the second one when you complete the challenge. From what I saw on Indie Hackers, most contenders stop mid-way once they start generating some traction with one idea, which is basically losing the challenge. If you set out to build X products in public, failing to do so is a breach of contract.

The X Product in X Months has become too common. It's not as effective as it used to be in terms of marketing, you need to add your own flavor. Pat Walls went viral by doing his 24-hour startup challenge.

With the rise of the no-code tools and the growth of the Maker Movement, the quantitative aspect of this challenge has become key: we can build more products in a shorter amount of time. The monthly frequency has become irrelevant, almost expected. Future challengers will have to ship weekly or bi-monthly.

The right project scope is primordial, aiming for micro-SaaS, curated listing websites, or small info products, to increase the iteration speed. 

Your personal brand is the web that will allow you to federate your different audiences, so don't neglect it either. No audience, no product. Content creation plays a key role in this aspect as well. It's more than making products, it's building a sustainable factory.

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    @basilesamel yes you're right with the 12in12 challenge being kinda overdone as a marketing gimmick. That's the part that feels like a fad. But I do like the framing of it as a very personal challenge, or a learning journey - because many makers tend to make but lose nerve at the last minute and not launch. I believe the personal learnings from doing such a challenge is invaluable, even if nothing was successful revenue-wise. Which was my story haha, so that's my bias there.

    But stepping back a bit, I feel that the common ground between 12in12, 24hstartup, etc is how you can craft good storytelling around your making journey and your products. Everyone loves a good genesis story, and these are emerging techniques. So long as the storytelling is there, i guess it doesn't necessarily need to be 12in12 or 24hstartup or anything! The folks at Basecamp come to mind when i think about good product storytelling...

    Jason Leow avatar Jason Leow | Oct 16, 2019 21:08:05
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      @basilesamel @jasonleow
      I agree with you Jason.
      From my perspectice, I look at it as more of an exercise to find Founder + Market fit than anything else.
      I recently started my personal challenge/journey of creating one product per month for this very same reason.
      More than the marketing I can get out of it, I'm looking for a way to learn more about my own style and (as @baz puts it) a way to build a sustainable factory.
      @baz, thank you for writing this. It's just the type of advice and perspective I needed to hear today. 🙏🏼

      carlos beas avatar carlos beas | Oct 17, 2019 16:20:41
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      @carlosbeas oh nice. Love that you're taking on the challenge yourself to learn about "founder+market fit" - what a great term to describe what we do! Do share more as you go along

      Jason Leow avatar Jason Leow | Oct 18, 2019 22:23:25
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