The Leaf Node

For makers on a journey from employee to entrepreneur

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Teaching not-tech skills for going from SW Engineer to business operator - SEO, effective writing, landing page copy, etc.

Also using it to have conversations with fellow indie hackers and make friends :)

March 21, 2021 Published "SEO for Developers"

Here's a report from 10+ hours of SEO research including reading original SEO documentation from Google. (Full list of resources at the bottom).

As a software engineer I mostly thought of SEO as a marketing tactic people use to get (lure?) other people on to their website. Either to buy their product or to read their writing with clickbait-y titles. Due to this negative bias I never took interest in (nor had a reason to) dive into SEO while wearing the "software engineer" hat alone. That changes as you start wearing multiple hats as an entrepreneur. So what is a good reason for caring about SEO?

Make something people want is a common phrase in the startup world. And it makes logical sense for a business to do just that. Well the next question is how do you find out what people want? People search for products to buy, they search for information and answers to questions. They are telling the search engine what they want. So doing keyword research is one way to find out what people want and build that*. For example, if you're writing a blog post to teach a programming language, how about getting topic ideas by finding out what concepts people are struggling with by doing some keyword research first.

So what exactly is keyword research? We're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's start at the beginning with some fundamental concepts and terminology. Then we cover how to do keyword research and list some tools. keep reading

March 16, 2021 200 Unique Visitors in the last 6 weeks

200 Unique Visitors

Sharing this picture as I happen to notice a nice round (decimal) number. That's all.

The goal of my writing at The Leaf Node is to share and teach what I'm learning instead of keeping it all in my notes on my computer or notebooks.

The other goal is also to "build in public". To me this means having conversations with other indie makers at different phases in their unique journey.

With these goals in mind, I started sharing what I write here when it's relevant.

March 14, 2021 Published "7 Step Learning Framework"

Original article (with better formatting) at The Leaf Node

Below are the 7 steps. Each step does not require equal amount of time. For example step 1, 2, and 3 can all be done in 30 minutes. Step 6 is where you'll likely spend most of your time. The value of the initial steps is in having your learning outcome and questions defined upfront. This gives focus and direction to the time spent on research.

Step 1 - Identify your starting place. Write down everything you know about the topic already. Your thoughts, your opinions, feelings and biases.

Step 2 - Identify your desired outcome. And your reason for choosing this topic. You may be learning something that you need to know for your business or you could be learning something out of pure curiosity.

Step 3 - Write your questions. This is the most important step. Writing down your initial questions allows you to focus your learning. You can zoom in on what's important to you and find relevant information to consume. The secret to learning is asking good questions.

Step 4 - Collect source materials guided by the questions from step 3. Find high quality original source material, not other people's summaries. 2 or 3 long-form content is better than 10 to 20 short articles. It could also be audio or video content.

Step 5 - Create a curriculum from your source material and schedule time to read/listen. Time box the consumption so to focus on finding answers to your questions. It may be something you can do in an afternoon. Or depending on the topic, it may take several days or weeks. In which case having an initial plan, with source material open in a desired order ready to consume is helpful.

Step 6 - Read, listen, watch. This is the fun part. Take notes and be on the lookout for answers to your questions from step 3. Write down anything that is surprising or unexpected to you. The goal of your notes is to capture the insight and understanding sparked by the reading. The goal is not to summarize the original source material.

Step 7 - Apply what you've learned to your own context. Come up with more questions and iterate. Dive deeper into topics that are most relevant to you. Repeat this process by starting with new questions. There is no end step as learning is never really done.

That's all. That's how I approach quickly learning about new topics.

Note that step 1 simply makes it easier to get started, all we do is write down what we already know. This will automatically cause questions.

And step 7 is about applying what you learn, taking action. For example, after learning about investing you may decide to open a brokerage account with Vanguard or after learning about meditation you may download an app and try for yourself. This is where the fun begins, and the magic happens. When you put the theory into practice in your own context.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

This framework is simple and you may already be learning just as described with some of these steps. Most of the time we start somewhere around step 4 to 6. We google some words, click on a few links to open them in different tabs. Read or skim one or two articles, then get bored and move on. Sometimes this is okay for certain fleeting questions. But for topics you need to know at a deeper level and when your goal is to apply what you learn in your work, it helps to learn more systematically.

March 8, 2021 "Landing Pages: Common Mistakes to Avoid"

Why Learn to Make Good Landing Pages?

I wanted to learn how to objectively evaluate landing pages, instead of thinking "I guess this seems good?", "Is it missing anything?", or "Do I need to make the design a bit fancier or is basic okay" etc.

But why get good at crafting landing pages? Here's why it's important: until we find the right product idea for our potential customers, we have to test out many different ideas, do experiments to learn what resonates and what doesn't. For each idea that we're testing, there are two possibilities — either the idea is good or it isn't. If the idea is good, then it's in our interest to communicate it in a way that the customer 'gets it'. It would be a shame if a good idea doesn't get traction because we didn't convey it clearly, because of poor landing page copy.

The other possibility is that the idea is not a good one. In this case, we'll realize this while making a landing page if we know the key ingredients of an effective landing page. For example, if we can't express what problem our product solves or illustrate how the product will benefit the customer in vivid detail, it could be because it's not a very good idea. It may be that our idea is not really a solution to a problem, to a real pain point that customers are willing to pay to solve.

Either way, being skilled at crafting effective landing page copy and design is valuable. This way we can separate the testing of our idea from testing our ability to communicate about the idea. We don't want to confound the two. If our landing page is well designed, then we can remove that variable. If a well crafted landing page doesn't get traction, it's more likely that the idea is not a good one (and not because we are poorly communicating it).

Okay with that, here's what makes an effective landing page.

Keep Reading

February 28, 2021 "The Most Important Decision for Founders"

Three questions to ask yourself before starting a business or getting attached to a business idea:

What resources are you willing to put in? time, money, risk?
Who do you want your customers to be?
What do you want to get out of this?

I came across these questions in a Seth Godin interview about his latest book The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. The 1st and the 3rd questions make sense. The 2nd one seems less obvious, more unexpected. I assert that this is the most important decision for entrepreneurs:

Who do you want your customers to be? Or your users, students, readers, clients? Who is your thing for? Who do you serve?

The initial appeal of being self-employed is that you have complete control over your time. You decide what to do, when and how to do it. You are your own boss, you don't answer to anyone. However, if our goal is to be successful as an entrepreneur, we should seek to change this as soon as possible. We should be eager to be on the hook for something to someone. The real appeal of doing-your-own-thing then is not that you don't have to answer to anyone, it's that you get to decide who that is. keep reading

February 14, 2021 Published "How Meditation Works"

When it comes to the mental exercise labeled meditation, you're either someone who thinks "I keep hearing about it, I should probably try it but it sounds too woowoo and I feel skeptical" or you're someone who thinks "I'm convinced it'll be beneficial for me and I want to do it, but haven't yet figured out how to start / make it stick". (Or you're a long-term practitioner of this mental exercise, in which case you likely already know what I share here).

I'm closer to the first one. I certainly feel skeptical but my gut feeling is that it can be beneficial so I'm also curious. We approach this learning with a beginner's mind, leaving aside existing bias.

If you've been wanting to experiment with this mental exercise we call "meditation", this report will answer common questions and help you identify a concrete first step. Questions are the first step in learning about anything. Here are the questions I started with:

  • What are the different types of meditation? Which one would I start with?
  • Once I start, how will I know if I'm doing it right and if it's "working"?
  • What exactly is happening with our minds during meditation? Some intuitive explanation for why it works.
  • Is it going to make me more focused, more productive? Is it going to allow me to access clarify more frequently? What is the promise?

Keep reading

February 7, 2021 Published "Role of Boredom in Entrepreneurship"

"An inability to cope with boredom kills more success than any kind of competition." - tiny mba, by Alex Hillman

What should I work on next? This is a recurring question. When you're building side-projects, how do you decided when to stop working on the current thing and start working on a new thing? There are times when we've done everything we can but the idea isn't right and we should absolutely move on. More often than not though, we abandon side-projects because of a simple reason — we get bored. And we likely stop prematurely.

"An inability to cope with boredom" when I first read that, I recall pausing and thinking about it for a long time. It seems boredom is one reason we may not be seeing success. But what does this imply, what does this boredom look like in practice? It seems to be about not sticking with something long enough or not seeing something through, especially when the work starts to feel tedious or repetitive or well, boring...keep reading

January 31, 2021 Published "The Most Direct Way to Make Money"

There are many ways to make money as an entrepreneur (in addition to being an employee trading hours for a paycheck). Have you ever thought about the most direct way to make money as an individual (legally that is)?

There is a way to make money where you don't need to do marketing or sales. You don’t need to build an audience. You don’t have to be famous or influential. You don't trade hours with freelance/contract work. It does not involve building a product. And it doesn't even involve starting a business. The most direct way to make money is investing in another business.

Notice I did not say ‘the easiest’ or 'the fastest' way to make money because investing is none of those...keep reading

January 5, 2021 Rosie Sherry Subscribed


This is a milestone not only because @rosiesherry is a supportive, encouraging part of this community. But also now I know someone is watching my working/building in public efforts :)

Rosie also gave me the idea to share my writing (about ways to make money) on IH. Which gave me the idea to track The Leaf Node more officially, so here we are!

January 1, 2021 100 Subscribers

I shared with my Writing Feedback Group which had 40+ members. Several of them had read my writing already so they knew what to expect. I had also provided them with feedback on their writing and we had mutual connection over writing.

I also sent the initial issues to an existing email list of people who had bought my ebook.

I shared within smaller online communities where I'm an active member.


Teaching not-tech skills for going from SW Engineer to business operator - SEO, effective writing, landing page copy, etc.

Also using it to have conversations with fellow indie hackers and make friends :)