Day 16 of the #200wad challenge.
Part 6 of a raw report card on my maker journey so far. Some observations and learning points from making and launching minimum viable products every month. 2018 was a maker year for me. My very first year as an indie maker. In Feb, I made a commitment to launch a minimum viable product a month (#1mvp1month). Read Part 1 (list of products made), Part 2 (metrics), Part 3 (what went well), Part 4 (what went to hell), Part 5 (technical learnings)
I started off my maker year in Feb with the primary goal to learn new skills and reflexes as an indie maker. Here's the list of things that I wanted to learn:
☑ making skills (higher-resolution interactive UI/UX design prototyping tools like Sketch/Invision, building websites from code, making digital & physical products, learning the full stack)
☑ marketing (crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, interacting with press, email marketing with Mailchimp)
☑ launching products (using platforms like Product Hunt, Betalist, Amazon, Sellfy),
☑ doing sales
☑ operationalising business operations (working with suppliers, partners)
☑ first- to last-mile delivery to the end user
☑ post-purchase engagement
☑ building community (using Slack, Telegram, online forums, email newsletters)
So what have I learned so far, about myself as a maker?
✌ Being an introvert, I never liked drawing attention to myself, so the very public sharing about my process and learning is counter to my natural instincts, and pretty uncomfortable. But I learned that there are parts to that transparency and sharing that I can enjoy and did enjoy. Like connecting with like-minded people, all over the world, and being able to learn from them too. That in itself was priceless. Also realised that as long as the sharing was done online and not face-to-face, it's not as bad or intense as an introvert fears, so it ain't all bad after all.
✌ I keep wanting to give things away for free. This must be coming from the altruistic nature of my career (the whole public good/social impact aspect). But if I am to make a living from being an indie maker, I have to charge. But my instinct was always to go FREE. Not even freemium. It's a reflex that I will have to revisit time and again to curb.
✌ Entrepreneur hat vs investor hat. When do I call it quits? So far I had clung on to all the products I made like they were my babies ("entrepreneur hat"). But when do I make the call to terminate all support or further development ("investor hat")? It's hard to sustain one product after another without sacrificing quality of previous product - the law of diminishing returns. I learned that it's a constant dialogue and an intricate balancing act between these two personas when making.
✌ Creating for myself, for fun and what it means to sustain effort when there’s passion. When I create for myself, for fun, it gets a lot easier to sustain effort in growing the product. I think I tend to get too serious about being functional, useful, relevant, having social impact, changing the world, that I often sacrifice the fun and passion aspect of making. I read somewhere that "Joy is the ultimate creator", and "The universe works fast when I'm having fun!". If so, that's going to change the direction of my products in a pretty drastic way in the future. Do I want that? Other times, the worry is that if I choose passion I sacrifice profit. It's like passion vs profit are polar opposites, and that I can only choose one. I'm still seeking a way to creatively combine both. What exactly am I optimizing for? My learning and growth, or money?
✌ I started out wanting to learn how to code my own products, but it became too hard to do that within one month. So I made a compromise between learning and launching. If there's one thing I wished I did more of during #1mvp1month, it's (learning) coding. This is something that I want to do more next year.
✌ Platform bias. I started off wanting to create products for a niche audience working at intersection of design and government. It's what I know best and am good at. But as it went along, I got drawn to making for makers because that's how to get the most upvotes and excitement on PH/IH! I didn't start out seeking validation from others, but it's easy to get drawn into that when there's more energy and excitement coming from there. I often catch myself asking myself, "Am I asking for user feedback in order to improve the product, or am I just fishing for compliments under the guise of seeking feedback?" Case of the output becoming the outcome, the means defining the ends. Such temptations must die.
✌ Rhythm. I enjoy work that's seasonal in nature. My freelance consultancy work had so far allowed me to do just that - hard work everyday for 1-2 months, then some downtime in the following weeks/months. Making service products where I need to be on call 24/7 makes me feel like I’m entrenching myself into working 24h everyday, even weekends. It's definitely not my preferred lifestyle, so this will be a huge factor when considering building out new products.
✌ I enjoy the design part of things more than marketing, development, etc. Seriously, I consciously feel more excited when I'm trying to make things look beautiful. Does that mean I should make products more along that direction? Any product that allows me to tap on my aesthetic senses, and produce visually interesting work is the type of products that I want to do more of.
Last: What next?