October 3, 2019

I'm Anne-Laure Le Cunff. I'm the founder of Ness Labs and Maker Mag, and I write every weekday at Maker Mind. Ask me anything!

Hi everyone,

I'm Anne-Laure, an ex-Googler and founder of Ness Labs, where I build products and write content around mindful productivity. Beside running a business, I study part-time for my masters' in neuroscience. Lots of the work I do is at the intersection of neuroscience and entrepreneurship.

October 15th will mark 100 days of writing for the Maker Mind blog and newsletter. I want to celebrate with an AMA at 4PM UK time. You can ask me about building an audience, writing, being productive while managing your mental well-being as a founder, and more.

Thank you and looking forward to it!

  1. 7

    Hi Anne.

    Congratulations on some great growth! Awesome stuff.

    I'd like to ask about Twitter. I think I first got to know you when your Twitter was at about 10,000. How did you manage to grow that so well in the first place? How many years did it take? How did you get your first 1000 followers?

    1. 3

      Thanks so much, Harry!

      I created my Twitter account when I was a teenager and stopped using it for a few years.

      Then, when I started working at Google, one of my jobs as the marketing lead for Think With Google UK was to manage the social media channels for all B2B products in the UK. I was also organising events and doing a few things that gave me quite a bit of visibility.

      This is how I got my first 1000 followers. Since then, I've been tweeting regularly — some may say obsessively — which has led to a pretty steady growth of my Twitter account. I guess I got lucky that my first job involved spending LOTS of time on Twitter!

  2. 5

    Hey Anne-Laure 👋

    How do you manage to write so many high-quality posts? The quality is as par with the quantity. What's the secret?

    1. 3

      Hey Akshay! 👋

      First, thanks so much, I really appreciate it. I wouldn't call it a secret, but I basically block time every morning to write. That's one of the few things I make sure to dedicate time to.

      I wrote a bit more about how I built a writing habit and how I manage my time in case that's helpful!

  3. 2

    A lot of things happening in 2019. You've launched products, reached thousands of people and conquered new challenges. What has been the best part of it all?

    1. 1

      A lot of things happened indeed! I think the best part has been to be finally generating revenue from my indie products, whether Maker Mag or Maker Mind. I still make the majority of my income from consulting — last time I checked it was above 80% — but it's nice to see the ratio change in the right direction.

  4. 1

    I enjoyed reading through these questions and answers, thanks everyone - and of course to @anthilemoon in particular. It looks like you're up to some cool stuff :)

  5. 1

    As entrepreneurs, are we better off focusing on and leveraging our strengths or should we improve on our weaknesses to become more well-rounded individuals?

    How do we strike the right balance? Curious to hear your views on this, considering your background.

    1. 3

      Hey! This is a great question. I'm personally a big proponent of leveraging your strengths. Both from a logical standpoint (why not using an unfair advantage when you can) and from an emotional standpoint (we tend to enjoy work more when we feel like we're good at it).

      That being said, it's important to have a growth mindset and to get out of your comfort zone. But this is not incompatible with leveraging your strengths. For example, let's say you're a creative person. There are so many skills you could acquire that may feel uncomfortable at first but still play to your strengths—coding, drawing, writing. Same if you're analytical.

      This may be the "right balance" you're talking about.

  6. 1

    Hi Anne- Laure!

    Congratulations, I’m a huge fan of your work! 💕

    I'd like to ask about time management.

    What does a typical day looks like for you? How you prioritize work, side projects, personal stuff, etc? :)

    1. 1

      Hi Claudia! Thank you so much 💕

      This is a great questions which I often get asked, so I wrote an article about my time management strategies.

      I hope that helps! :)

  7. 1

    Hi, Anne-Laure

    Do you do research in cognitive sciences?

    What are the most promising areas of research / recent advancements in that field for you personally?

    Thanks,

    1. 1

      I don't currently do research in that space—I'm finishing the first year of my master's in neuroscience, and research starts in the second year.

      That being said, there's lots of interesting stuff happening in the space at the moment. To me personally, powerful noninvasive brain-imaging techniques and new modelling methods are the most fascinating advances — they mean that we're getting much closer to understand how the brain actually works.

      This has many scientific but also philosophical implications. I don't mean to sound overly dramatic, but we're looking at what it means to be human.

  8. 1

    Congrats on the growth! Love seeing it.

    1. What do you consult in?

    2. How do you prospect clients?

    3. How did you get the first client you could charge a high-consulting-rate?

    1. 1

      Thank you, Mia!

      1. I consult in mindful productivity, consumer psychology, and marketing strategy.

      2. I don't! It's all inbound. I write about these topics and people reach out to me.

      3. My very first client was pretty lazy—it was Google, a company I used to work for. The second time I got a high consulting rate from a client was through my writing and posting on Twitter.

      I hope that helps!

      1. 1

        Thanks. Best wishes!

  9. 1

    👋Hey Anne-Laure!

    Congrats on the growth and success of your newsletter and blog! I'd love to hear about your strategies around monetization.

    What have you found to be a successful approach for generating revenue while maintaining respect with your audience? Where does your revenue come from and how much of that is attributed directly to your newsletter vs traditional networking/referrals?

    Thanks!

    p.s. Enjoyed having you on the podcast and can't wait to publish that puppy tomorrow!

    1. 2

      Hey Brian! 👋

      Many thanks! Super excited about the podcast, it was such a nice chat!

      Regarding monetisation, most of the revenue comes from sponsorships. I have added referral links to several articles, but I made close to nothing using this method. (think something like $30 total in three months)

      What I like about sponsorships is that — if done well — they're not disruptive to the reader experience and can even add some extra value by helping the audience discover useful products they may have not heard about otherwise.

      I always make sure that the products are a fit for the audience and my editorial line, and I prefer working with long-term sponsors that will commit to support the newsletter for several editions.

      I hope that helps!

  10. 1

    Can you share your insights on the different techniques people use to learn something new? (best practices, resources etc.) Thank you.

    1. 1

      Hi Pradip! I wrote an article about learning how to learn. I also recommend the free eponym course on Coursera, it's excellent!

      1. 1

        Thank you! enjoyed reading the article.

  11. 1

    As a non-native english speaker, how do you improve your writing and english grammar? How many times are you proofreading an article before you publish?

    1. 1

      Hey Dom!

      First, I read a lot of stuff in English. I think that's part of the reason why I'm starting to feel pretty comfortable even though it's not my native language.

      Second—anytime I have a doubt, I ask Google. Lots of my search history when writing articles would show you random grammar or vocabulary questions.

      And I only re-read my articles once! I trust my readers to let me know of any typo I've missed.

  12. 1

    What are your plans for 2020? Something new in the works?

    1. 1

      I'm not sure yet! I don't like overthinking so I tend to do planning in 6-month chunks. So I only have the rest of 2019 planned. I usually spend a bit of time at the beginning of the year to reflect on the progress made so far and how I feel about it. So I'll probably have a better answer to this question in January!

  13. 1

    Seems like the work (or the sheer amount of it) you're doing gets you dangerously close to the "burnout danger zone". How do you manage that? Any advice?

    1. 1

      That's a great question! I'm actually in the process of streamlining lots of the work I do and letting go some projects that are taking too much of my time but are not aligned anymore with my current objectives.

      As it stands right now, I'm making sure to have lots of free time during the day to work on what I really enjoy. This means saying no to most meetings, having calls instead of face-to-face chats for the meetings I do take, and blocking time for friends and family.

      I add everything I know is good for my mental well-being to my calendar. This includes writing, going to the gym, and spending time with my loved ones. I once experienced burnout and would hate to have to go through this again.

  14. 1

    How much of your workload is studying, how much is consulting, how much Maker Mind / side-hustles?

    1. 1

      Good question! I never looked at it properly, but I would say:

      • One day a week consulting

      • One day a week studying

      • 2-3 days a week on side hustles

      ... none of them in one chunk, but spread over the week.

      I'm lucky to be paid a high rate for consulting, so it's not too time consuming.

  15. 1

    Hey Anne-Laure. Congratulations! You are doing great job.

    Can we expect another project from you? Are you working / going to work on a new idea? :)

    1. 1

      Hey Juraj! Thanks so much.

      I'm currently working on an online course, with the goal to distill everything I know about mindful productivity in a structured way. So that's the next idea. :)

      In the future, I would love to launch an app, but I still have lots of stuff to learn in terms of coding, so probably in a few months!

  16. 1

    Hi Anne, what do you think of the MBTI? Is it really possible to type a person based on a few numbers of questions? Anecdotally, I find my typing to be super accurate on how I think.

    1. 2

      Hey Li! Well, I think the MBTI is bullshit. As you guessed, there's no way such a simple test can predict a person's complex cognitive and emotional profile. And I just added it to my list of articles to write, so thank you!

  17. 1

    Congratulations!!!! I love all your articles.

    1. 1

      Thank you so much, Fajar!!

  18. 1

    Hey Anne-Laure,

    Great to have you, I was wondering having multiple products/mediums you created the word "maker" in it.

    How do you actually define the word "maker"?

    1. 2

      Hey Burak! Such a great question.

      To me, a maker is just someone who makes—someone who creates something new and puts it into the world. This could be an entrepreneur, a designer, an illustrator, a coder, a writer, etc.

      This is in contrast with the kind of work that doesn't result in something new being created and put in to the world—let's say an accountant, a lawyer, a police officer, a sales person.

      Obviously, there's no official definition so it's not like mine is the right one, it's just the way I see it.

  19. 1

    Hey Anne-Laure, amazed at the consistently high quality of stuff you put out. I'm interested in your plans with Ness Labs. Could you elaborate on what you've got planned for it in 2020? Or is it under wraps for now?

    1. 2

      Hey Charlie, great to see you here!

      It's not that my plans are under wraps, it's more that I don't usually plan for longer than six months ahead. This is how I found I'm the most focused and productive.

      For the rest of the year, I'm going to focus on creating a mindful productivity course, turning lots of the content I wrote into an actionable curriculum.

      Then, I'll take some time in January to reflect on my progress and decide on the best next steps.

      1. 1

        Awesome, thanks for sharing.

  20. 1

    Hi Anne-Laure,

    You have many projects. Do you have any time management tips for people trying to juggle multiple things?

    1. 2

      Hey Alex! I actually wrote about my time management strategies. All about blocking time for the things that matter and saying no more often. I hope that helps!

      1. 2

        Thanks!!

  21. 1

    MY MOST FAVORITE NEWSLETTER OF TIME in 2019!

    MAKER MIND BLOG!!!!!!!!!

    You have no idea how much i'm a big fan of this.

    I love this high quality post of newsletter.

    I love getting emails of this and i'm excited about it everytime.

    WHY? because is good for my wellness basically.

    The next thing it will be a newsletter turn to podcast as well as it generates a pdf, so i can download and share with my family and friends those who are on-the-go kind. Some people they read newsletters or listen podcast, but also pdf shared in whatsapp/telegram will be a great excerpt

    1. 1

      Aw, thank you so much, Fajar! I'm grateful for your support.

      I'm definitely thinking about a podcast version. I just need to free up some of my time to make it happen without sacrificing my mental health.

  22. 1

    Hi Anne-Laure,

    Title says "ask me anything" so a left field question - do you have Algerian ancestry by any chance?

    Love your work.

    1. 2

      Hey Franky! Thank you so much. I am indeed — half French, half Algerian! 🇫🇷🇩🇿

  23. 1

    Hi Anne-Laure!

    Huge fan of your newsletter! I've seen it go from a few hundred to thousands of subscribers now, and following your journey has been seriously inspiring.

    I used to blog fairly frequently until a few months ago (wasn't too great, but I'd say I was just getting the hang of it, I'd gotten to 1.3k followers on Medium), but as time passed, I made a self hosted blog as well, got confused about whether to cater to my technical audience or more creativity-driven audience, got busy with school, and the many decisions required just put me in this rut where I've stopped writing altogether.

    So my question would be- What would your advice be to get back in the game and fix these various issues?

    1. 1

      Thank you so much! So glad you've been following the journey from a few hundred subscribers to where it is now.

      My advice would be to keep it dead simple and to commit to one action you'll do consistently. For example, focus on your self-hosted blog, and focus to publishing one article a week, or once every two weeks. No matter what happens, stick to your schedule. Don't worry about being inconsistent in terms of the topics you write about, just focus on being consistent with your posting schedule.

      Every time you publish a new post, make sure to share it on your social channels. After a while, you'll start noticing patterns in terms of what type of content resonates more with your audience. Then, and only then, you can double down on that. Don't over think it, just start acting on it. :)

  24. 1

    Hi Anne-Laure! How did you land on the idea of sharing your insights via newsletter and why did you choose to do that over, let's say, productising and monetising it directly to your audience? How did you decide which elements of your insight would be profit-making and which would be freely shared resources?

    Oh and any tips on productivity and founder mental health would be amazing. I'm struggling with this at the moment because not every day can be as productive in the same way especially during the early stages.

    1. 1

      Hey! 👋

      I don't really see a choice in between the two, but rather a choice in terms of which to start with. I figured that building an audience was the first best step before building a product—this allows me to better understand what resonates with my readers and what kind of content they find most useful.

      In the future, I would love to build a product around the principles that I share on the blog and via the newsletter. But I feel like this product will be much better with the insights I'm getting through writing and getting feedback from my audience.

      In terms of mindful productivity, I wrote about the 3 components of motivation and the illusion of productivity — I hope that helps!

  25. 1

    A big fan of your writings! How do you organize your note takings? What tools do you use? Thanks!

    1. 1

      Hey—thank you so much! I actually wrote about the science of note-taking, I hope you find it helpful!

  26. 1

    Hi Anne-Laure,

    I see your projects come by quite often and you seem to be on a tear! You are an incredibly interesting follow on Twitter with the overlap between neuroscience and entrepreneurship, two topics I am fascinated by.

    Question: for somebody looking to build somewhat of a name and portfolio in a particular subject, a brand if you will, what is your most important insight regarding content writing?

    I'm fascinated by user retention and am fortunate enough to start in a perfect job that has it as its KPI. Over the upcoming months I want to start writing on the topic and am curious if you have any particular insights into the approach.

    Keep up the great work! Looking forward to following your progressions 🙏

    Valentijn

    1. 1

      Hey Valentijn! Many thanks for the kind words—much appreciated!

      To me, the most important thing when it comes to building a brand in a particular area is consistency. Pick a topic you care about, decide on a publishing schedule, and stick to it.

      There's no better to build a brand than to creating a feedback loop where you put content out into the world and see what topics and format perform best with your audience.

      Incidentally, listening to your audience is probably one of the best ways to increase retention. Whether you track specific metrics (quantitative data) or directly ask them (qualitative data), there are lots of ways to get meaningful feedback which you can implement in your content or product.

      1. 1

        Hi Anne,

        Apologies for the incredibly late reply. Big thanks for the advice, definitely going to take that to heart.

        All the best for your future!

        Valentijn

  27. 1

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