Building a Service That Motivates Others to Write Every Day

Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?

Hi! I'm Eddie, an Android developer from Berkeley, California. I built Writeaday on my own, an Android app that breaks down the lengthy process of journal writing into short blocks.

This honestly just came about as a way for me to improve my own journaling habit, but along the way I've found that the idea of improving this age-old concept has resonated with a lot of other people.

I've carefully created a well-balanced freemium app that brings in $3,000+/month thanks to all the great journalers using my app. I'm honestly so thankful to have users who give great feedback and are all about the positive vibes.

Writeaday in store

What motivated you to get started with Writeaday?

I personally have an unhealthy obsession with journaling, so Writeaday emerged organically from a desire to create a new tool for this obsession. There are so many — probably thousands — of journaling apps out there. But I noticed they all seemed very similar, so I set out to turn journaling on its head.

There are two major problems I see with journaling today (and with cognitive memory in general):

  1. No one wants to write for 30+ minutes at the end of each day.
  2. When we do journal, we write and write without anything to help us remember the entries we've written in the past.

I set out to solve these issues with Writeaday.

What went into building the initial product?

I was an Android developer at Evernote before working on Writeaday, but I'd never built an app on my own and published it to the world.

I went through months of iteration and testing. Throughout, I definitely ambushed too many of my friends to get their input and test out new designs on them.

It's honestly so tough trying to get an app off the ground with no full-time income to support your effort. Most attempts to grow my user base didn't work, so I made the decision early on to just focus on making the best product possible.

Beyond the technical coding aspect, I had to pick up a design sense and learn how to use design tools such as Sketch — an app which basically became my everything.

Just get that v1 out there, get roasted a little, and work like hell to improve it iteration after iteration.

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If you take a look inside my Sketch project file, you'll see it basically looks like a Minecraft world of Writeaday designs. Every iteration and every idea I've ever had goes straight into that file.

Building an app full time means more than just solving a hard problem and trying to create a good interface for it. It's also a race against time, burning into your savings, especially for a costly place to live such as the Bay Area.

I had some dark moments looking into my financials and wondering whether I was making the right choice working on this app. When user growth has been good I've gotten a high like you wouldn't believe. But there have been many more weeks where user growth has plateaud or dipped into the negatives. You've gotta be able to fight the doubt during those times.

What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

I can see a future where ads will be welcomed by users, but we're not at that stage right now.

I can't in good conscience spam my users' retinas with ads, so I've adopted a freemium model. There are users who can't (or won't) pay for an app. I don't waste time trying to upsell them. I just want them to have a good experience and leave a good review. Free users are your best salespeople if you don't have the money to hire a full-time sales staff.

I provide both a subscription and lifetime premium option. The lifetime option helps stimulate revenue growth in the short term, but the idea is to focus more heavily on the subscription side of things and rely on that going into the future.

What are your goals for the future, and how do you plan to accomplish them?

This is just the first in a whole series of stages that I've planned out for Writeaday. Journaling is just one form of mindfulness.

I want to transform journaling until Writeaday doesn't even look like a journal app.

What's been your biggest challenge? And your biggest advantage?

Doubt has been the biggest challenge. It's no coincidence that all the startup founders you hear about are practically clinically obsessed with the problem they're working on. If they weren't, they would have given up a long time ago from all the doubt that comes with starting your own business.

There were many times when I wanted to just give up and find a full-time job, but it's all thanks to heartfelt user testimonials that I was able to keep pushing. So I'd say that positive feedback has been my biggest advantage. I really say this over and over again, but I really couldn't have done this without the encouragement from my users.

Building an app full time means more than just solving a hard problem and trying to create a good interface for it. It's also a race against time.

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I've had people write reviews about how Writeaday has helped them get through the week between visits to their therapist. When you get a review like that where your product has made a truly deep impact, you can't help but ignore everything else in your life to build this product.

Additionally, there are so many resources, articles, and advice pieces out there. It's hard to discern which ones are appropriate for your particular challenges, but learning to navigate through this information is one of the most important skills you can have today.

What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?

I know it's the oldest cliché in Silicon Valley, but release as soon as you can. Don't worry about some huge festive launch. Just get that v1 out there, get roasted a little, and work like hell to improve it iteration after iteration.

I consider Paul Graham's essays the Startup Bible. Read them, but don't get too distracted from doing actual work.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you want to start journaling about your life instead of sitting around for 30-40 minutes at the end of your day, try Writeaday.

You can also follow along on your social media platform of choice:

Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comment section below!

Edward Lee , Creator of Writeaday

Want to build your own business like Writeaday?

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