Self Care February 14, 2020

My only motivation to start a business is to have more time for my hobbies. Should I just give up and... spend my free time on hobbies?


So that's the truth.

I don't care about money too much. In fact, I don't have TV, I don't have netflix account, I don't have a car, I don't have many clothes.

What I would like to have on the other hand is time. To study mathematics. To learn machine learning and take part in kaggle competitions. To go to the gym almost every day and get buff. To travel, even if flying the cheapest flights and staying in crappy hostels. To take travel photos and publish them on instagram.

Currently I only have time to study mathematics. I gave up on my other passions, because there is simply not enough time when you add social life (I have a girlfriend) and some typical responsibilities, like buying food, cleaning the house, going to the doctor etc...

And I still don't have children, so it will only get worse.

So my main and maybe even only motivation for a side hustle is to potentially save myself time in the future.

But I was thinking recently, that many people here and business people in general claim that they are ridiculously overworked. That "having some time for themselves" is exactly the thing they DON'T have.

So... should I just give up and instead of wasting precious time on side projects should I... simply use it on the things that I ACTUALLY want to do?

In order to get serious about my side project, I would have to give up on studying math. At this point I would have given up on ALL of my interests, with the goal of... having time for that interests.

I feel like I am in catch 22 here and I am not sure what to do. Suggestions?

  1. 7

    I second what others are suggesting — find a way to start a business that dovetails with one of your passions.

    This always requires some sacrifice. Your business can't be 100% passion. You're going to make some tradeoffs to ensure you can actually generate revenue, reach a significant number of customers, etc. But the the upside is that most people who start getting a business to actually work find that they really enjoy the impact it has on others, the sense of purpose it gives them, the "game" of making numbers go up and to the right, and many other things. So you might yourself getting some benefits that you didn't anticipate.

    How do you decide what to do? Don't start with a product idea. That should come last.

    (Instantaneously deciding to create a YouTube channel is an example of starting with a product idea.)

    First pick a market of people to sell to. Based on your interests, the list of possibilities at least includes: mathematicians, students, knowledge workers in math-heavy fields, weight lifters, weight trainers, gyms, travelers, photographers, IG influencers. Ideally you'll pick a group of people you genuinely like talking to and interacting with on a regular basis, and will indefinitely.

    Next, pick a business model—a way to make money. Don't get creative here. Instead, find out what these people already pay for. Ideally, pick something that's expensive and that appeals to a large enough percentage of the market. (For example, if your target market was tech companies, a good business model might be recruiting, as evidenced by the fact that almost all tech companies pay large sums of money to recruiters.) If you can't find a good existing business model, you probably need to go back to step 1 and pick a different market.

    Next, think about whether or not you know how you'd reach people in your target market. This is mostly a function of where they hang out and what they consume, either online or offline. It could be anything: books they read, schools they attend, podcasts they listen to, Google searchers they run, newsletters they subscribe to, influencers they follow on social media, companies they work out, conferences they attend, etc. If you can't find a good distribution channel, you should once again go back to step 1 and pick a different market.

    If you get to this step, now it's time to think about the product. The business model you chose earlier represents a problem these companies are paying to have solved. Ask yourself: What's a product you could create that would solve this problem for your customers? How could you tailor the product to match up perfectly with your particular customers' idiosyncrasies, preferences, skillset, and culture? How could you tailor it to perfectly match up with the distribution channel(s) you chose? If there are others doing this, how can you inject your own quirky personality and beliefs to make it different and unique?

    For example:

    ConvertKit: The market is bloggers, because Nathan Barry (ConvertKit's CEO) was a blogger himself and liked other bloggers. The business model is email marketing, because most bloggers are willing to pay a significant monthly fee to maintain their own mailing list. The distribution channel was via direct sales, because it's easy to find bloggers' email addresses and contact them 1-on-1. The secondary distribution channel was affiliate marketing, because bloggers read each others blogs, and therefore that's a good place to advertise your product. Finally, the product is a mailing list SaaS with a simple UI and embeddable forms, because most bloggers aren't that tech savvy and would prefer this simplicity over some sort of programmatic API.

    1. 3

      I find this really insightful, thanks for sharing. Where did you learn this business plan? Is there a book or some resource you'd recommend that expands on these topics? By the way, I just found out who you are from the youtube video you did with Will Kwan. Love the interview and I'll keep my eye out for your podcasts now

      1. 4

        I haven't seen this anywhere online. It's just my personal thoughts based on all the people I've interviewed + my own experiences + the IHers I've spoken to who've struggled for various reasons + a few insightful books and posts I've read online.

        My recommendation is to just consume a ton of information, books, podcasts, etc., but make sure to take notes on what you're reading, and try to organize it into a system that makes sense for you. In my opinion too many people consume a ton of info, but don't write it down or organize it, which prevents them from using it later.

        My own personal favorite systems of organization are…

        • Brian Balfour's "Four Fits" model, which imo proves that every good business idea really needs a product, a market, a business model, and a distribution channel.
        • The Personal MBA, which also describes the crucial aspects of any business, similar to the above.
        • Validation checklists, which is basically just a list of things you've learned about business and about yourself, that you can run through in order to evaluate whether or not your business ideas are any good.
        • The Hooked Model, from Nir Eyal's book Hooked, which is less about evaluating a business idea and more about designing a solid habit-forming product.
        1. 1

          Thanks Courtland, I appreciate the thoughtful response

      2. 2

        He's also the creator of Indie Hackers. ;)

    2. 2

      Wow, thanks for the detailed answer!

    3. 1

      I saw in your talk today with Will Kwan, was super interesting.

      I remember that you recommended folks like me with junior skills in coding, to mainly focus on content products, this really resonates since as you mentioned, its the easier type of what a real SaaS can be.

      I would love if you could elaborate on this tiny bit more, since I'm researching what kind of products will folks with this type of tech proficiency level, can actually do :)
      (Products that are more than just a blog)

      1. 1

        Nothing wrong with blogs — Indie Hackers was just a blog when I started it! My favorite gameplan for launching a site is to follow the same playbook used by Nomad List, Indie Hackers, Makerpad, and Key Values:

        1. Identify a group of people who are looking for information that's hard to find.
        2. Help those people by gathering that information together yourself into one place and making it absurdly useful.
        3. Get lots of traffic from the people in step #1, because they value what you created in step #2. Find a way to make sure that traffic is repeatable.
        4. Find a way to charge money.

        Note that none of this requires SaaS, at least not in step #2. It might in step #3 or #4.

        Here's a rundown of how each site did this:

        Indie Hackers was targeted at developers who want to make money from their side projects, and who are looking for information on how to do this. I gathered a ton of in-depth interviews with people who'd done it all into one place, and I made sure to ask them questions and follow-up questions that would result in useful information being shared. I got repeat traffic by (a) posting to HN repeatedly, (b) getting readers to subscribe to a mailing list and emailing them new interviews, and (c) building community software, since communities are quite sticky. I made money by charging advertisers/sponsors.

        Nomad List was targeted at digital nomads who want to know which cities to travel to based on a range of criteria. Pieter Levels crowd-sourced information into a Google Sheet, which he later moved to a website, and which he kept up-to-date. It was extremely detailed information on each city tailored specifically for a digital nomad's concerns, and it couldn't have been found anywhere else online without many hours of research. He got traffic via Twitter, Hacker News, continued press about the digital nomad trend, and his own blog, and he sustained it by building a community. He monetized by charging community members to join and also via advertisers.

        Key Values was targeted at experienced software engineers who want to find jobs at companies that match specific cultural criteria. Lynne Tye reached out to companies one at a time to build extensive cultural profiles on each one, and organized them in a such a way as to make them easily filterable and comparable for developers. She gets her traffic via Hacker News, developer job boards, and her mailing list which she emails when new companies join. She monetizes by charging the companies who appear on her website. (I highly recommend monetizing this way vs ads.)

        Makerpad was targeted at makers who don't know how to code but want to learn how to create things anyway. Ben Tossell created a wealth of information, examples, links to tools, and tutorials for building without code, even going so far as to make lots of screencasts himself. He then got traffic from Twitter, Product Hunt, and Indie Hackers — places where makers hang out. Like Key Values, he monetizes primarily by charging the companies whose products appear on his website. He also monetizes by charging his users for premium access. His site is built without code, of course.


  2. 4

    It's a great question that you ask.

    It makes me wonder, is there a side gig that could compliment the things you are interested in? Then it could potentially become a win-win scenario.

    A blog on mathematics, which helps you learn what you are learning and earn a bit on the side, and more as it grows over time. May sell some e-products along the way. Share ideas on Instagram. Make online friends who have similar interests.

    1. 2

      Well, exactly because of that reason I am entertaining the idea of making a math youtube channel.

      I have some idea what I would like to show and how to differentiate myself from the other channels.

      I believe that I have content that is unlike anything else available currently. But on the other hand this would make the content extremely niche - to the point where I am not fully sure it would be worth it.

      I am seriously worried about monetization. I have researched many math channels on youtube and - apart from obvious outliers like khan academy - they really struggle when it comes to "business" side of things.

      You might however argue that they don't focus as much on monetization as I would. Most of mathematicians do not show that entrepreneurial sting...

      1. 1

        To be honest I am just lacking internal confidence. I am that guy who always talks about doing stuff, but than is affraid to jump into somthing with 100% energy, because I am scared it might not work out...

        1. 5

          I'm only speaking from personal experience here, but it feels good to get some failures under your belt. You realize that it doesn't hurt so bad, that life goes on, and that you're in good company regardless. I've met very few successful founders who haven't failed spectacularly at least a few times in the past.

          1. 1

            Thanks for mentioning this. I know similar sentiments have been stated many other times, but just now it hit different.
            And thanks for the podcast and your curious attitude - I love listening.

        2. 1

          If you don't quit and you stay flexible in terms of your approach, it will probably work out.

        3. 1

          I think this is a common problem.

          I am ok when it comes to executing ideas but I struggle once a product is built and I have to start promoting the product. I tend to give up too easily when the early engagement levels are not what I wanted!

          I'm getting better though but this is only through experience. Keep trying new ideas, start with something small and work up!

          1. 1

            Thanks for the kind words! :)

  3. 1

    Monetize your hobbies!

  4. 1

    I am definitely working a lot. Not that I care, as I absolutely love what I do, and work is diverse enough not to bore me too much. However, I recognize I should spend some more time on things which are not work related. The thing here is, work empowers me to spend more time on hobby in the future. There is no way a boss is going to pay me to read books all day long, and the only way for me to get there is to create passive income.

    So yeah I could already do the things I love to do, but that would not fit within my long-term view.

    Ps. one thing to watch out for are moving goal-posts. I have said I will spend less time focusing about business once I have a fair share of passive income. I have seen too many people chase the money for no apparent reason. As I'm not in that position yet I don't know how I will react to it, but I think it's something to watch out for.

  5. 1

    Can you do a project that involves stuying math? Scott Young and Grant Sanderson have both done that and probably learned more math than they otherwise would have (and made some money, too!)

    1. 2

      Yup I was thinking about it.

      I think I am just scared of such monumental task as competing with 3 blue 1 brown. My brain barely comprehends that I could do something even remotely similar in quality.

      But you are right. I will quit moping around and try to make the project related to what I really like instead of trying to make business purely for some kind of gain.