Building in Public October 21, 2020

How long have you been trying to create a profitable product?

Matt @mattnoted

I've been a fan of the IH podcast for the last 3+ years. I've spent the last 5 years learning how to code so I can build my own products. With my self taught skills, I've changed careers from Electrician to Full Stack Developer.

I've spent the last year grinding away on a note app which I've been using myself for work. I haven't promoted it at all because I know it's a bad business idea.

I've recently started working on a chat widget app. I'm hoping this will be my next long term project.

I've decided to take Courtland's advice and start sharing what I've been up to.

How long have you guys been hacking away without making any profit?

  1. 3

    Hey Matt, congratulations on the career change, I'm self taught also! It's a good idea to share how we spend time building stuff, to know that we're not alone in our challenges.

    For me it's been a bit over two years since going full time on my project.

    The weird thing is that as soon as I left my job to do this, everything went south. My mother passed away, I got into family conflict over the inheritance and ended up depressed for a while. It took me around 3 months to get back at full speed but in the mean time my savings kept depleting, as I had no stream of income.

    Even though it was a very stressful situation, I kept at it. Thanks to my cofounder, we were able to keep our head straight and focused on what we needed to do to keep moving forward.

    Our product took a long time to build, because it requires a lot of tech work as well as a big catalog of designs to create (the job of my cofounder). But eventually, we launched something in late April of this year.

    Fast forward to today, I still don't make a living with my project but it's starting to take off. We've kept refining our offering to match the user feedback we got since launch. With every new release, we are seeing more engagement, more sales and more love for our product.

    I naively thought that it would take me 6 months to get there, but here I am 2 years later and still not arrived at my destination. However I found other resources to be able to keep working on it. I'm very hopeful for what the next few months will bring, and I'm learning to love the journey more than the destination.

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      I'm sorry to here about the passing of your mother. I've already tried Logology before I posted here and I'm a big fan! The landing page design is awesome and the mobile experience I had on my iPhone was great! I'm still working on the branding for my chat widget. Sometimes I find it hard to get motivated to code on evenings and weekends, when I've been coding all day at my day job. I've spent a couple of evenings reading posts on here and I'm inspired to keep working.

      1. 1

        Thanks Matt! I totally understand that it’s hard to code on your own thing when you’ve already spent the week doing it at your job. I couldn’t do it.
        What worked for me was to work on product design when my work week was heavily focused on coding, so that my brain could still be fresh. And vice versa, work on coding my project when the work week was lighter on the programming side.

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          That's a good idea. I feel like I'm terrible at design. Tools like tailwindcss really help. I'm always tinkering on Figma. I'm playing around with SVG animations right now.

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            Looked at your landing page and it was easy to understand enough. That's what matters most at this stage 👍

  2. 2

    I would say I've only really spent 3-6 months SERIOUSLY trying to create a profitable product.

    I've spent years waddling around in random half project, not deployment land. I tinkered on various projects and never got serious traction.

    My graveyard of projects:

    • ReviewTxtr 2016: An app I never finished that let you text your customers a link to your online review pages automatically

    • Lead Tempest 2017: A service for fire restoration contractors that scraped public 911 call data for fire damaged homes and sent a postcard on the contractors behalf to help the homeowner rebuild. Made a few hundred bucks but found it incredibly difficult to sell.

    • Ottofield 2019-2020: An automated text/chat answering service for construction contractors. The idea was that it'd convert more of your inbound traffic into paying customers. Found it very difficult to sell. Contractors wanted more leads, not more converted leads.

    Come to find out, I'm not that interested in selling software to contractors haha. I worked in the trades and thought I'd like to sell to this audience but I don't.

    Newest project has seen the most interest so far. It's a tool to help people master Python fundamentals faster with spaced repetition. I know and relate to this audience a lot better 😉

    1. 1

      I wanted to create a contractor ranking/review site for my local area once I changed careers to Full Stack Developer and knew how to code. I bought a name and the more planning I did the more I realized it would be hard to make any money off. After being a contractor I know that they don't like spending money on anything or than tools. Everyone uses Facebook for things like that now.

  3. 2

    It's been about a year for me... during that time there have been many twists and turns. I stopped working on a product for the restaurant industry as COVID has put them on a slippery path.

    I then tried another SaaS tool but struggled with finding the market.

    I've now taken it back to basics and figured out where my skills and values lie... then turned those into a business.

    How's progress with the chat widget app going?

    1. 1

      That's kinda where I'm at. I've spent about a year wanting to make a chat widget and wondering whether it's worth spending my time on. I'm working on the chat widget because I find the technical challenge interesting and there's a market for it. I started the development work a month ago. It will be a while until I get to MVP.

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        Sounds like it's a good mix if it's both an interesting technical challenge for you and there's a market for it.

        Look forward to seeing your progress!

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          I've tried a number of times to create a blog. I know blogs can be very profitable but I'm just not that into writing. I always tell myself I'll start a blog once I've created a product.

  4. 1

    Hey Matt, for us at https://loopcv.pro took about 1 year to start making revenue. We offered our product for free until that moment, mainly to test it, collect data and train our ML models.

    Thanks
    G.

  5. 1

    Hey Matt,

    Congratulations on the career change! You're a badass!

    I've been working on my product for over 2 years already without making any profit.

    To clear, my intention for the first year is to deliver all the basic functionalities of my app for free. I have used things for free, so this is my way to give back.

    The second year, however, this early 2020, was the moment when I start delivering premium features that is only available through subscription model. It is generating revenue since then, but it is not making a profit.

    I'm doing this on the side, so I can see myself doing (read: I want to do) this for many many years to come. Your situation might be different, so set a time limit for yourself by considering your financial situation and opportunity cost. I do highly recommend you working on a few other things that could help generating income.

    1. 1

      Thanks! I currently work full time so I work on my side project on evenings and weekends. It's a marathon not a race.

  6. 1

    6 months and counting but I'm in it for the long run.
    Even if I never manage to make something that takes off I always loved to play around with ideas and had a wild imagination.
    it feels good when you've created something meaningful, even for yourself.
    For me IH is a lifestyle rather than a goal.

    1. 1

      I couldn't agree more!

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