Building in Public September 20, 2020

Can you build a SaaS application in one hour a day?

Mubashar Iqbal @mubashariqbal

I'm 10 hours into my challenge of building a SaaS in one hour per day.

I've been documenting my progress on YouTube.

I will admit it's been harder than I thought it would be, although the limit of 1h per day is artificial, I know it is real for many people.

With just one hour it can be difficult to see significant progress every day and motivating yourself to continue is very difficult. If I wasn't doing this challenge (and had the actual time restriction) I may have given up, can definitely see why people would give up.

In aggregate I'm happy with progress I've made, considering I'm only 10 hours in, it feels strange to think that is a week and half, instead of a couple of actual days it would normally have taken me to get this far (or further).

If you've tried to build something like this, would be interested to hear your thoughts on motivating yourself to continue!

  1. 4

    That would equal 5 hours a week, 7 if you work weekends. It’ll take you months to get anywhere.

    However, Basecamp was built by David in a few weeks time when he worked on it part-time - 20 hours a week.

    1. 2

      Yep in the challenge I'm doing 7h a week max.

      I'm 10 days in, I'm hoping to finish the MVP in the next 10 days, which I know is quick.

      Things have changed a lot since Basecamp was built, and I'm not expecting to have as many complex features as Basecamp did 😀

  2. 3

    My advice is simple: break your tasks down into 30 minute chunks

    I've been doing side projects for years at 1 hour per day. These have been varied: build a chatbot, learn French, play around with programming languages, experiment with ML techniques, etc. Only lately have I tried building software for others to use, but in my limited experience, it's no different

    Keep finishing something. If you can get a sense of accomplishment every day, you will continue to be motivated. If you can accomplish something every day, and your project management skills are good, then you will naturally finish at some point. It'll take a while, but I promise that you will get there.

    1. 1

      👍 Definitely been trying this, but some of the tasks were creeping up closer to 1h timeframe.

      1. 2

        Then you're doing it right! People tend to underestimate tasks. If you're able to finish a 30 minute task within 60 minutes, then you're estimating them in the right ballpark.

        Keep up the good work. You will keep making progress, task by task.

        1. 1

          Thanks, will definitely keep plugging away.

  3. 2

    Why not work more on the weekends?

    I'm building a marketplace that connects driven interns to startups. Usually give it 90-120 minutes on weekdays and 3-4h of work on the weekend.

    Plus, gives you the flexibility to do the tasks that take a longer time on the weekend.

    1. 1

      In reality people may be able to work more on the weekends.

      For me this was a challenge to see if this could be done in one hour per day.

      The result of the challenge may be that's possible, but much better to use longer time blocks.

  4. 2

    Often 1 hour isn't artificial for me.

    It depends on what motivates you. Sometimes an hour timer is enough motivation. I tend to be a super-planner, so I break tasks down into small digestible chunks. So that I can pick them up whenever I have time. I often do a lot more in a concentrated hour than I can get done with several hours on a project that's less personal to me.

    The other strategy I do, is leave an interesting thing for you to work on/solve/figure out for the next day if you can.

    1. 1

      Definitely the 1hour thing is very real for many people, just not for me at the moment.

      I'm not a super planner, but I do have a good sense of what needs to be done, and can be chunked down to parts that fit into the hour block I have.

      I think the challenge is going well, just very different to how I normally work.

  5. 2

    Try to narrow down your SaaS scope as much as you can and leverage existing open source libs/solutions. Even think of doing some parts no-code (using Zapier, Airtable, ...)

    1. 1

      Yeah definitely keeping this in mind.

      Unfortunately what I've chosen to build is not going to be possible with no-code tools, but definitely trying to limit scope as much as I can.

  6. 2

    What stack are you using? If you're using a good framework and are sensible with what you build vs what you pay vs what you use open source for then you can easily build a SaaS very very quickly.

    1. 1

      I've using Laravel as the main part of the stack. Trying to build as little as I can 😂

      I'm actually happy with the progress for 10 hours work, just think it would be difficult to keep motivated if I was doing this for real and seeing that progress after a week and half of work.

      1. 2

        Laravel is a great choice. For context I built https://thehackstack.com in about 20 hours.

        1. 1

          That's great!

          20H is a good amount of time to build and MVP, it's just the doing it 1h at a time that I'm finding really challenging here.

  7. 1

    recently I've been looking into idie game devs...
    they do "game jams"
    (while biz have startup weekend...)
    they make a full game to playable launch within a limited time
    which I find interesting and could fit IH
    a theme is annonched and you should build and submit something usable within a time period
    24 hours is kinda the smallest, commonly it's 24-72 hours, while some are actually a week or a month, but that's more of an outlier from the format.
    I think no code or ready made formulas are kind of needed to make it a reallity.
    like in the game world most would use a game engine
    and it's probably really hard from scratch
    (some are solo some are groups...)

    The actual goal is to get people in the mind/practice of "finishing" and delivering
    which is something many lack.

    while obviously the value is lesser for a potential user
    you get feedback
    and learn a lot
    and if you find it useful you can take it further later
    but it gets people to a full cycle - Finish, submit, get feedback.

    (startup weeked usually deals with flashing out the bussiness and offer where the submited product is usually just a presentation not something usable, due there are some that do submit usable things..)

    1. 1

      I've done many hackathons and startup weekends and they are great for focusing and shipping stuff.

      Shipped many MVP's during those, so I know the total amount of time isn't the problem, it's the lack of continuous time that is the "mental" issue for me with this challenge.

      1. 1

        I get what your saying as a programmer...
        I wonder if you tried to build a nocode thing if it be a few levels easier...
        I'm kinda inspired from playing around with the godot game engine on simplicy of comparalising and composing, every scene can contain other scenes, each can be viewed and worked on indepently, each composed of childeren of any time, mostly visual... I think it's like what react should be with a good visual tool attached....
        Mainly talking about simplifing small blocks of things and working with them easily, having visual context that lets you recall what is and isn't in an eye pass.... and can also run individual parts, so like a good testing system...

        Like I think exterme organisation and simplification like that would help a lot with smaller time blocks of work...

        1. 1

          Agreed, trying to define smaller chunks of work I plan for during my house.

          Nocode would have made things much easier I think, however for this challenge, I purposefully picked something that would require code 😀

          1. 1

            Did you pick a scope 3 times smaller than you think fits the time?

  8. 3

    This comment was deleted 2 months ago.

    1. 2

      Can you give an example of a feature that would take several 8H days to implement?

      there will be things insanely hard to implement, that would take severl 8h-days to complete

      1. 2

        And the correllary, can you give me an example of an "insanely hard feature" designed and implemented properly with testing that can be done in less than 8H?

        1. 1

          As happens so often on IH you have twisted the example.

          I didn't say 8H (never mind "less than 8h") and neither did the person I quoted.

          What was said (by both of us) was "Several" 8H days, which means at least 24 hours but likely 32 or 40 working hours.

          And there are PLENTY of features if not all that can be implemented in 24, 32 or 40 working hours.

          1. 2

            There's nothing to twist here, it's a simple correllary ... if there are examples that take more than 8, there should be examples that take less time.

            1. 1

              Ok last comment from me here.

              The original poster said "Several 8h Days"
              I said "Several 8h days"
              You said "Less than 8h"

              However in less than 8 hours I can implement

              • basic app scaffolding
              • local, staging, production pipeline
              • authentication
              • payment integration

              the list goes on. I genuinely don't get your point. Less than 8h isn't correllary to 24, 32 or 40 hours.

      2. 1

        This comment was deleted 2 months ago.

    2. 1

      Yeah can definitely see why being limited in time will make things extra difficult.

      Not sure about needing 8h for a single task, but definitely things that would be much easier/quicker if I had 2-3h in a block.

      Getting into the right frame of mind before the 1h starts is another key, wasting any of that 1h makes it really hard to make any significant progress.

      1. 2

        This comment was deleted 2 months ago.

        1. 1

          Yeah definitely! This has been the hardest part of the challenge for me.

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