If you always wanted to build your own apps but lacked the coding skills or the courage, then this story will definitely inspire you.
I have a Google Sheet full of product ideas I have been collecting for years. But as you probably guessed, I haven’t really done anything to test these ideas.
I’m pretty sure this sounds familiar to you.
The main reason?
I’m not a coder. Back then, I had no idea how to create a single website—not even a simple web application.
I was in a mental trap.
I told myself I was unable to learn code. I got overwhelmed by the technical complexity of the applications. I made several attempts to learn the basics but didn’t succeed.
And I always failed to find a technical co-founder who had the same passion for the product. I got really tired of this.
I felt like a loser who couldn’t accomplish anything on his own.
Years passed, and when I sat down to reflect on my overall progress in work, life, and projects, I got really frustrated.
Despite dreaming about building my own apps, I hadn’t accomplished anything in the past years.
I felt like I had wasted so much time.
Then shortly after, at the end of 2018, I came up with a simple app idea. It was another brilliant idea to add to my Google Sheet, but this one was possible to build without coding.
I actually built and shipped that product. And that was a major breakthrough - I had built something that worked, and a handful of users actually loved it. It was such a great feeling, and I wanted more of it.
I took a course on web development on Udemy. But this time, the combination of hunger for knowledge and the success of having built something made me complete that course; it gave me a basic set of knowledge.
At the end of 2018, I decided to take action, and I finally started building products.
Executing your own ideas is not an easy thing. You have to leave your comfort zone and start doing stuff that 99% of people never dare to do.
If this wasn’t challenging enough, then I think I took it to the next level.
While I was working on the products, I still kept my full-time job and also did consulting. In 2019, my son was born, so I was spending more time with him as well. Talk about time pressure!
At the beginning of 2019, I was ready to start my first maker year. I set up OKRs, and I changed my routine to squeeze in time for learning and building products.
The plan was to build 10 products in 2019. Out of the planned 10, I managed to build 6.
But don’t think these apps were complex enterprise-grade, supply chain management software. These were very simple apps addressing very simple problems - or not addressing any problems at all.
Starting small gave me momentum. Finishing each mini app gave me a huge satisfaction boost that made me even hungrier to continue.
I took on the next product, faced a technical challenge, and somehow figured out a way to solve it. In this way, I acquired small bits of coding knowledge that could be applied to the next product. All these small things were adding up, making me able to build more complex applications in the long-run.
I didn’t spend any time analyzing competitors and doing market research. I just had an idea and simply built it.
Every time I started, I knew I was probably building something no one needed or I was reinventing the wheel, but I was fine with that - the point was to sharpen my coding skills and to exercise my shipping muscle. Shipping an MVP was also a form of validation.
The more products I built, the more likely it was that I would end up building something valuable. And eventually, I knew I would end up being a better coder.
I recommend you do the same and be patient with yourself; you will get there.
Here is the list of products I launched in 2019:
And these are the apps I have so far built in 2020; I’m planning to launch 8 this year:
I want to be totally honest with you.
I’m far from a good developer. Actually, I don’t consider myself a developer at all.
Honestly, I’m a shitty coder. Once I showed my code to one of my senior developer friends, and he wasn’t impressed.
And you know what? I don’t stress about any of this. I listened to his advice and tried to do better next time.
The point is to learn, and learning takes time. You won’t write the best quality code when you start. Accept it.
When I started, the main point was to build products (MVPs), and if one of these turned out to be super successful, then I would spend time to further improve the code or hire someone to do it.
After shipping a few products, I started having some small successes.
I sold my first app (TvPremiereAlert), which I had built without many coding skills. I sold it for only 80 dollars, which is ridiculously low, but I wanted to shut it down anyway since I didn’t have time to maintain it.
Another big win was when my project, Crypto Project Name Generator, was featured on the front page of The Next Web.
My app Foods Dogs Can Eat was the 4th most upvoted product of the day. I was not conquering the internet, but it was definitely a step forward.
Things started escalating a bit in the first quarter of 2020.
One of my apps Foods Cats Can Eat was nominated as the best pet tech product of the year and eventually reached 3rd place!
Earlier this year, my product 1000 Words got the most upvotes within a day; it was the first time my product was selected as the product of the day.
Then I sold two of my products I had built in 2019: Foods Cats Can Eat and Foods Dogs Can Eat.
Receiving an offer for a product you built from scratch is such a great feeling. Settling on the price and receiving the funds is also an amazingly rewarding feeling.
A few weeks ago on a Thursday night, I was sitting in the living room in my pajamas, surfing on the internet and watching a documentary on Netflix. I quickly checked my mailbox, and I had an email from a guy who was interested in buying one of my apps.
I responded to him to have a chat the day after since my next day was packed. Immediately, I got a reply from him telling me he was actually available on Zoom at that moment.
I was sitting in a dark living room ready to go to sleep. It was 11 pm.
Obviously, I jumped on the call and had a great chat with the guy. He was looking for a tool for his portfolio.
Not every person interested in buying your product will end up buying it; this guy probably won’t buy mine, but it’s a great experience to explain how your app works and to know you built something someone finds valuable enough to pay for.
I’m far away from a million-dollar exit or an insanely profitable project, but I’m getting there!
All these small things fuel my motivation and make me stay up late at night or jump out of the bed in the morning to work on my stuff.
The key takeaway here is this:
Even if you build a product on the side and you either lose interest or abandon the project, there is a chance that someone will see something in it.
It all sounds like a dream, right?
Here is another thing you need to know: it all comes with a price.
Doing all these things is mentally challenging. It’s sometimes so hard I feel like I’m unable to do it.
I’m usually on a pretty tight schedule, not doing anything outside work, projects, family, and sports.
But sometimes things get really hard.
I have to take at least a week off after every 3 months to rest. I sometimes hit deep points when I’m not motivated at all. Those times I’m frustrated, angry, even depressed and my anxiety comes back for a visit. This more likely happens when I skip sports and work even more, usually over the weekends as well. Don’t do this!
I encourage you to challenge yourself and to try to do something similar while not ruining your mental and physical health.
It’s been the most challenging 1.5 years of my life, and despite the emotional roller coaster, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.
If there are a few takeaways from this post, remember these:
Keep all your ideas recorded somewhere, and actively look for problems or just fun things to build.
Do not stress about competition and market size for now. The point is to start building and shipping stuff.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the technical complexity of any app. Tackle one problem at a time, start simple and make it more complex step by step.
Even if you think your app is worth nothing, it might be valuable to someone who is willing to pay for it.
I love to connect with like-minded people, so feel free to drop me a message.