TL;DR: Join the Self Authoring Club: a community for awesome people who want to define and realize their ideal vision for life.
Incredibly, it’s been four months since my last post. Lets have a quick look at how I spent my time—
- Toiling away on a few product ideas for two months until realizing there’s no market and I’m deluding myself.
- Falling into a depressive stupor, getting a shrink and experimenting with antidepressants for the first time.
These endeavors have proven to be a waste in all but the most general “now I know what else not to do” sense.
Specifically on the product making side, I’ve been forced to relearn an old lesson; namely that going small is the best way to start. You must start tiny, put it out in the world and study the reaction. Either the world will respond with interest, or it won’t respond at all.
Counterintuitively, giving your ideas more time — adding more features to an MVP before you birth it out into the world — actually harms more than it helps. If you’re on the wrong track (which most of the time you will be), working harder will send you further into the wild and dangerous abyss, far away from where you want to be.
The Inventor’s Dilemma
What struck me after realizing I’d inadvertently dug myself into a hole was this: I’ve failed in new ways, so I’m theoretically wiser. But I’ve also taken a hit to my confidence. Ideas I thought had a lot of potential did not. You’re hopeful your ideas could work, so you try them. And when they don’t, you’re left in a hopeless rut.
If you’re in a depressed state of mind, it can take a lot longer to bounce back than it should. After an unhealthy excess of negative self-talk, I started to question whether the lifestyle is what I wanted.
Perhaps I’d be better suited to an office job, a 9-to-5, a steady paycheck. Perhaps I’ll never be able to succeed in making and marketing a product, no matter the effort!
How to know which path in life will bear the greatest fruits?
Either you quit too soon or not soon enough. The problem is understanding yourself well enough to know which one it is.
Back in the Saddle
As my mood began to pick up, I decided I’d give it another go. My stubborn appetite for freedom and the desire to live an even somewhat unconventional life won’t be chased away so easily.
But what to try now?
I spent a lot of time on Indie Hacker’s product page looking at extremely diverse, creative, functioning internet businesses. B2B, B2C, SaaS, productized services, affiliate sites, there’s many fascinating examples of each. So long as revenue was above zero, it had my attention: these makers obviously know something I don’t.
Combined with Tigran Hakobyan’s post about the benefits of entering an existing market, I seriously considered building a B2B staff-leave planner in a similar vein of Timetastic. Their product is simple and their MRR through the roof. And as is the nature of B2B, customers are reliable and refreshingly low in neuroticism.
Beyond Product-Market Fit
The problem with building a Timetastic knock-off was that it’d take a long time to get off the ground. I’d be involved in some serious SEO strategies, so making any short-term gains were off the table.
Why is that a problem, you may ask?
Because in my core I’m far from excited about serving businesses. Especially a banal problem like staff-leave. Honestly, who cares? That’s exactly the reason @patio11 sold Appointment Reminder.
Market-maker fit. Do I like the customers I’m serving? Are their problems meaningful to me? Am I excited to help them? Are they accessible e.g. online and can they afford what I’m proposing?
Product-maker fit. Do I enjoy the day-to-day tasks required? Am I tethered to a particular location or working schedule? Would I prefer to spend my hours programming or doing marketing?
I’d seriously recommend Justin’s entire presentation. It’s that good.
Formulating a New Plan
Despite all my research, I was still without any concrete idea of how to press on. While I’m marching forward on an idea, I’m generally happy. It’s the time spent lost at sea that makes a man insane!
And the longer you’re lost, the longer you’re likely to stay lost.
Thanks to a serendipitous conversation with Madison Taskett on Telegram, it would appear I’ve made landfall. I’ve stumbled onto a new idea that excites me, has a low entry barrier and could be the basis of something both meaningful and (perhaps?) profitable.
Monetizing Telegram Groups
Since signing up to WIP last year, I’ve been rather fascinated by Telegram groups and their monetization. WIP is a terrific product which beautifully combines chat and website in a novel way.
Was its success happenstance? A culmination of the stars aligning at the right time and place? It turns out the answer is not quite.
Since the number of topics people are keen to talk about is near infinite, so too are the monetization possibilities. You could build a private chat group of origami artists, plumbers, or concert pianists.
Why I’m Likely to Fail
As not to allow myself to get too carried away (and disappointed when the house comes tumbling down), lets preemptively list the reasons I may not succeed right away with this:
- B2C goes against the wisdom of countless SaaS founders much more successful than I am. Customers are high-maintenance.
- Community building is a kind of talent and tangential evidence indicates I might not be very good at it. My social skills are so-so.
- A group’s value is proportional to the quantity and quality of its members. Finding high quality participants may be difficult.
- There’s likely an upper-bound on the growth of such an endeavor. Too many members makes things impersonal.
- Engagement is hard to maintain. Momentum can dissipate.
- Market share of Telegram is much smaller than WhatsApp.
The truth is every business proposition has inherent risks. You pick the ones you think you can live with and simply pull the trigger.
Why I’m Going To Try
For all the reasons it might not be a walk in the park, a lot of things excite me about starting a community. Let me try to articulate:
- Social interaction—even if merely online—is good for my state of psychological well-being. We all need a little bit of company.
- The ability to guide and evolve the community towards subjects I find personally engaging and interesting.
- Easy access to customer feedback. I can easily evolve the product’s development according to my customer’s wishes.
- Interaction with customers makes the product more meaningful; more connection than anonymous customers of a typical SaaS.
In short, I’m as enthusiastic at the chance to learn and grow from my fellow participants as I am from any possible monetization potential.
So lets give it a go! Without further ado, my Telegram group —
The Self Authoring Club
What’s this you ask? The Self Authoring Club—here’s the pitch:
The Self Authoring Club is a place for people to discuss philosophy, psychology, mental health, self-help and all things regarding the big questions in life. And most importantly: it’s for practical advice to push past self-sabotaging doubts and fears. A community with the aim to help you define and strive towards your ideal vision for life.
Topics I’d like to address —
- How to create a solid and coherent internal belief system.
- When to give up and when to keep trying.
- How to live a moral, rewarding and satisfying life.
- Knowing and utilizing your personal strengths and weaknesses.
- Actionable productivity, mindfulness, health and fitness advice.
- Strategies to maximally foster and utilize your life’s potential.
- Defining the pillars of a happy life: work, love, family, hobbies.
What’s in a name?
The monetization strategy is straightforward—gain members until it hits critical mass, then charge a modest monthly membership fee.
Getting that initial influx of members will be the primary challenge for now. My strategy begins with the brand name. Initially I wanted to building a chat group about depression. The numbers are rising and there’s a lot to learn. But it’s too general. Do I cater to the hard-cases? The self-harm crowd? The suicidal? I need a different angle.
Lets reinvent the tactics I used by piggybacking off Pieter’s brand; it worked well for me on Levelsmap. Lets “level-up” that Levels trick.
Appeal to an Existing Tribe
Lately I’ve been reading Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life. I’ve enjoyed his many lectures and mostly see someone genuinely trying to improve the lives of others. He’s an online phenomenon.
And for reasons not entirely obvious to me—he’s so controversial.
I’m going to appeal and market my community to Peterson’s people. Speaking his language—using his terminology—gives me a clear target market to pursuit relentlessly. They’re all over the internet, so I can aim for a multi-platform approach to content marketing: Reddit, Quora, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and good old SEO (Google).
My hope is that such a shared interest in one specific topic will be a good starting point to begin diving into the deeper issues.
Since the MVP is technically nothing, the whole project lives or dies with my ability to market it—an extremely useful exercise! If you can sell a group chat, you can surely do a good job selling anything!
So if you like the idea discussing things that are deep and usually off the table amongst friends, family: join the Self Authoring Club.
In the meantime I’ll be back on Twitter as I try to appeal to random strangers to join-in on the conversation and create something cool.
Talk to you soon.
May 23, 2018, @mcknco