Allnomading (57)product (58)productivity (51)tech (23)thoughts (74)writing (71)

    Make Products you Use Daily

    I have a new rule when it comes to making tech products.

    Making things people want is not enough to keep me interested. Sure, some ideas can make you a lot of money, but is it very fulfilling? Any business takes a lot of time to grow, and I don’t think I would be capable of marketing something I’m not excited about.

    Making things I want is necessary, but it’s also too broad of a statement when you have too many ideas. Building more than a dozen of products over the last two years, I came to the conclusion I need to build things I’m personally using - eating my own dog food is a necessity. But it’s still not enough.

    My new rule is simple: make things you’d use daily.

    It was inspired by a statement by @brianball in his article Daily or Forgetty: ”if you’re building something for people to use, make it daily”. I think it rings especially true to founders. If it’s not a project you can use and improve daily, your motivation will eventually burn out, or at least fade away.

    The more skin you have in the game, the better. Use your product daily or don’t build it.

    A direct consequence is that I’m going to reduce my number of side-projects. I’ll stop working on Ecovillage List and Testimonials Wall to give more time to 200 Words a Day, Sipreads, and Mindful Pomodoro.

    I’ll also probably publish more Request for Products from now on. I have tons of ideas gathering dust in private Trello boards and note-taking apps which won’t abide by my new rule. Some people might be interested in building them, I’d be happy to share.

    Smithrandir, the Virtual Lab

    I’ve been releasing a lot of products over the last two years. About a dozen. Most have been abandoned. Five are still alive, all need love and attention. How can I prevent myself from reinventing the wheel each time I’m making a new digital product?

    I came to the conclusion I should view my products as atomic parts of a bigger entity. Each product I made so far is a monolithic LAMP application: PHP/Symfony with React DOM and MySQL.

    What I need to make things more modular and performant is to shift toward a micro-service architecture and leverage platforms like Netlify to decrease my hosting and development costs.

    I’ve been experimenting with GatsbyJS over the last two weeks, and I’ve fallen in love with how cutting-edge the technology is: my development time is significantly reduced, and the quality of the delivery increases proportionally. It’s perfect to manage all my front-end activities.

    Hosted on Netlify, I don’t have to spend time setting up SSL certificates or SEO or complicated DNS configurations, it just works right away, with built-in Continuous Delivery and Continous Integration directly from my Github repositories. And the best part is I don’t have to pay anything.

    I bought the domain name smithrandir.com, which is the primary domain that will host all my micro-services written in NodeJS. One micro-service will be served over one subdomain endpoint. For example, I have a websocket server I’m accessing at ws.smithrandir.com. This way, each micro-service can be reused in different products to decrease my server costs, and at the same time, I can manage them more efficiently.

    Then I just need to call my back-end services from my GatsbyJS websites using AJAX requests to dynamically render data.

    Shifting from PHP to NodeJS is a strategical choice. PHP is dying out but Javascript is not going to leave any time soon. Using GatsbyJS is also a door toward Progressive Web Apps.

    Slowly but surely, I’ll get to the point where I’ve built my own virtual lab.

    Mindful Pomodoro

    Time flies. You make New Year’s resolutions, and the next moment it’s November. I’m not particularly mindful during the day. I didn’t reach peak productivity either.

    I thought a lot about how to become more mindful of my time over the last five years. I tried RescueTime for a month and it opened my eyes. I waste a lot of time browsing Youtube and social media websites - up to 2 hours a day, sometimes more.

    Then I tried using a Pomodoro technique but I was not very consistent with it.

    Last year I stumbled upon the concept of bell of mindfulness, used in the famous Plum Village near my hometown for the monks and pilgrims to practice mindfulness. The idea is to ring a bell every 15 minutes to remind us to breathe and to bring back our attention to the present moment.

    I want to build a product that would combine Pomodoro and bell of mindfulness, while adding more productivity features similar to the ones we can find in RescueTime. I will call it Mindful Pomodoro (mindfulpomodoro.com), and it will be my ultimate time management tool.

    I’m gonna release a MVP next week. At first, it’ll only be a simple countdown playing a bell sound every 15 minutes, available as a browser extension. It’ll be enough to get into the habit. Then, I’ll add a server to display some analytics: number of cycles, total hours spent, etc.

    Hopefully, this little app will help me reduce the time I spend procrastinating.

    Weekly Review

    I want to focus more on the public accountability aspect of my journey as a maker, which is why I recently had the idea to create a newsletter where I would review my tasks, goals, and objectives on a weekly basis.

    I am still thinking about the content and how I could make it interesting for my readers.

    One section should describe my progress toward my business goals with key metrics like the MRR or the number of new customers. Something similar to the Open page of this website but from my perspective.

    Another section should review what’s been done: number of tasks completed on Makerlog, habits, what’s been written, what’s been read… an overview of my work throughout the week.

    More importantly, I should write a list of what went wrong or what I can improve, and how I plan to do that. I think people who would subscribe to this newsletter are more interested in the analytical aspect of the weekly review, the operational part being already publicly available. The thought process, rather than the actual actions.

    I decided to not call it Road to Ramen, because I’m thinking of something more long-term: an email list that would indirectly force me to be productive and do my best to reach my goals, while providing inspiration and practical advice to the members. I’m in for the long run, and I might as well try out new things.

    For now, I’m going to make some research on how others perform their weekly review and what tools and tone I could use to improve the reading experience.

    Thoughts on the 12 Products in 12 Months Challenge

    How to launch a successful tech product? Talking about ideas remains a guess, you never know until you launch. Pieter Levels proposed to throw pasta against a wall to see which idea sticks, and that’s pretty much the motive behind his now-mainstream 12 Products in 12 Months challenge.

    I had a go at it as well when I started out my indie maker career. I called it Road to Ramen and launched it on Product Hunt. I launched two failed products - Pyrohabit, a budgeting app, and Ymappr, a todo app using mind-maps. I started working on a third - Findependents, a community of people in search of financial independence - but I shipped 200 Words a Day first and I’ve been sticking with it ever since. What would I do differently now if I were to re-take the challenge?

    There are two kinds of maker: serial shippers, and gardeners.

    Miguel Piedrafita and Mubashar Iqbal represent the serial makers. They regularly launch new things. This strategy is adapted to try out micro-SaaS ideas that can more easily be automated. They won’t all grow big - but when you cumulate each revenue they generate, you can make a living.

    Gardeners steadily grow one product over a long period of time. Sergio Mattei and Tomas Woksepp are good examples of this type of maker. If you want to scale your idea, this is what you’re aiming for.

    Most makers are in-between those two archetypes, growing one main product and launching other unrelated products from time to time. Pieter Levels or Andrey Azimov come to mind. It’s a good diversification strategy, but impractical if you’re not a full-time maker.

    If you start a 12 Products in 12 Months challenge, you should aim for the first category, while remaining open to the second one when you complete the challenge. From what I saw on Indie Hackers, most contenders stop mid-way once they start generating some traction with one idea, which is basically losing the challenge. If you set out to build X products in public, failing to do so is a breach of contract.

    The X Product in X Months has become too common. It’s not as effective as it used to be in terms of marketing, you need to add your own flavor. Pat Walls went viral by doing his 24-hour startup challenge.

    With the rise of the no-code tools and the growth of the Maker Movement, the quantitative aspect of this challenge has become key: we can build more products in a shorter amount of time. The monthly frequency has become irrelevant, almost expected. Future challengers will have to ship weekly or bi-monthly.

    The right project scope is primordial, aiming for micro-SaaS, curated listing websites, or small info products, to increase the iteration speed.

    Your personal brand is the web that will allow you to federate your different audiences, so don’t neglect it either. No audience, no product. Content creation plays a key role in this aspect as well. It’s more than making products, it’s building a sustainable factory.

    Brainstorming a Newsletter

    October will be the newsletter month. Three newsletters launching.

    Sipreads was the first one earlier this month. We already gathered 500 emails. It’s a simple email sent with Buttondown containing the new monthly content.

    200 Words a Day used to have a daily and a weekly newsletter. But due to the growth of the community I hit the Mailchimp quota and fell out of habit. The new blog featuring writers of the community and practical tips for writing is launching soon, so I think it’s time to re-introduce the weekly newsletter to deepen the community aspect. Suggestions are welcome.

    Last but not least, I’m going to launch a personal newsletter. The idea is to push my public accountability to its limit by sending out a weekly review of my maker life: what’s been done, what did I write, best content on social media, new sales, new expenses, etc.

    As of today I log in every task I perform in Makerlog, but I don’t have any curation mechanism to get a good overview of what’s happening. A weekly review is great to figure out what went well and what I can improve. Adding a public accountability aspect to it might make it more exciting.

    I’m not sure about the name yet. I thought about “The Naked Run”, because a public review is sort of exposing myself to the world and entrepreneurship is a marathon. Or maybe just Road to Ramen but I don’t want to repeat myself. Or something else, I don’t know.

    Another reason why I want to launch more newsletters is become I know next to nothing about email marketing. It’s time to fill this void.

    I’ll probably launch next week after I finish cleaning up my personal website. Keeping you updated!

    Why Reading and How

    Sipreads has been featured on Product Hunt yesterday. We managed to become #2 Product of the Day and get our first 200 newsletter subscribers. We also had our first affiliate sale. How can we go further?

    For smart consumption, text will always prevail over video or audio. Text has an alchemical potential no other format has. It’s also much harder to be proactive when you listen to a podcast or watch a video. Reading is still the most efficient way to acquire knowledge.

    More than 2,000,000 books are published each year, but our lifetime is not expanding proportionally. It’s primordial to be radically selective when it comes to choose the books we read. It’s also important to get the most value out of what we read by adopting a proactive approach. Those are the two reasons why I started taking and sharing notes, and why I joined Ali to launch Sipreads.

    Reading sustainably is not easy. I already wrote about how I study and how I read, but let me rewrite those in two paragraphs.

    Notes have two objectives: 1) make what we read actionable and 2) ease the memorization process. Actionability is where the added value lies. Our memory is where our creative process stems from, where concepts mingle and new associations are born.

    Reading is not linear. There are multiple dimensions to it. Read a book twice a year apart and your key takeaways will differ. Analyze a book while keeping its structure in mind and you’ll see it differently. Notes have to reflect this multi-dimensionality.

    I use the SQ5R method to get a deeper understanding of the book. I then format my Q&A by using a Cornell Notes Taking System. Cornell notes help increase memorization and serendipity by proposing a clear structure. Cornell notes can be transformed into flash cards (Robert Greene’s favorite method to perform his research) and mind-maps to boost their effects.

    Becoming a better reader is also becoming a better writer. Reading develops our empathy. It teaches us how to deliver more value while maintaining an enjoyable reading experience.

    For all these reasons, I believe Sipreads has a bright future ahead. Now, what prevents you from reading more?

    Once Upon a Time

    The lands of Ntipu were rich and bountiful. Every Ntiputian had plenty to eat and drink, and very little work to do. Most of their free time was spent in the pursuit of either pleasure or knowledge. Sometimes both. There was only one problem: Ntiputian couldn’t live more than ten years. They would reach teenagehood at 3. By age 5, a Ntiputian had already graduated from Ntipu’s National University, and it was time to build a family. Needless to say, there wasn’t much time to beat around the bush. Knowledge was power, and Ntiput’s National Library, a force to be reckoned with. Ntiputian weren’t interested in the time-consuming nature of podcasts and videos, and thus books became the go-to tools to climb the social ladder. Some Ntiputian read books voraciously, but there wasn’t enough of a lifetime to read every book in the world. Some other citizens seldomly read anything at all, picking the right work was too painful. Finding inspiration in this paradox, two mad Ntiputian inventors decided to read two books per month and summarize them for everyone to judge. Books would never be judged by their cover ever again. Sipreads was born.

    Introducing Sip Reads

    I’ve been working on something new with fellow maker Ali Salah for the past two months. It’s called Sipreads, and it’s a website where we publish our key takeaways from non-fiction books we read. We are officially launching soon but you can already subscribe to our mailing list.

    It’s the first time I’m co-making an indie product. I’ve just been contributing to the content so far. It was Ali’s idea, and he also implemented the website and set up the social accounts (Twitter + Instagram). Our business model is entirely focused on Amazon affiliate marketing: if people are interested in reading the full book we read, they can follow a link and buy it, we receive a commission for every book being sold through our website.

    I immediately agreed to the opportunity because 1) I like Ali’s work and 2) proactive reading is mandatory to become a better writer, so I might as well share what I learn. We just agreed to split the revenues 50/50, and we just contribute as much as we can without pressuring ourselves. The only rule is that we have to complete at least one book per month and upload the notes to the Github repository. The notes are formatted in Markdown and parsed by Gatsby, a static file generator. It takes $0 to host on Netlify. Ali just bought a domain name and we were good to go.

    Don’t hesitate to send me feedback :)

    Thought on 200WaD's Approach to Become a Better Human

    To be successful, you have to work harder and smarter than everyone else. That’s what I used to think. I couldn’t be more wrong. I came to realize the most successful people, in terms of impact, are the ones who can work harder and smarter with everyone. It’s always about team play, there is no such thing as a self-made man/woman.

    A corollary of this statement is the need to be engaged in communities to find people you can learn with and make progress.

    Similarly, a great tech product helps you work harder and smarter with everyone: community is both the pillar and the vector of growth (cf @jasonleow ’s post about Naval’s approach to define an effective business model).

    I’ve never been consciously aware of it up until now, and that’s one thing I need to work on with 200 Words a Day. Most people here work for themselves, it’s more about personal growth than community growth. There are interactions, and close friendships have been made, but it’s not as flourishing as it should be. How can we truly write together? Maybe it’s time to have our first community event.

    Product Ideation and Mastery

    The common approach to build tech products is to solve your own problems. I agree. But what if I have 99 problems? We all have tons of problems, and I certainly can’t afford to build a solution for everything: how do I go about prioritizing my side-projects?

    I believe my never-ending goal in life is to pursue mastery: to be great at what I love doing - not just great at a craft, but at my own craft, at the crossroad of my widely varying interests, to the point of pushing the boundaries of what I am capable of.

    Building products becomes a way to solve problems I have in my daily life to support my ultimate goal. A product is an extension of my being, rather than a mere stepping stone to make some money.

    This is why I have some doubts when people say we should validate our ideas before making something. It assumes we can answer the question ”Can I make money out of this?”, but what if I am my own customer? I buy my own solution with my own time to free some more time down the road.

    We all love making stuff ourselves. If your neighbor is building himself a house, do you ask him if he already validated his idea? No, because he is the one who is going to have to live in this house, someone else’s opinion is irrelevant. The same principle applies to tech products. Worst case: it will only make you stronger.

    Indie making is not just an alternative branch of entrepreneurship, it’s a way of life where you use your skills and interests to improve your own daily life. You can build things with others, but when the project is at the ideation stage, it should only be about you: what’s the one thing about your life you absolutely can’t stand anymore?

    Take a good look at what you do, how you do it, and why. Question everything. Even the meaning of life itself. Makership is the ultimate freedom to learn and experience new aspects of life. Mastery is a state where our craft is in everything we do. Prioritize the side-project that will significantly improve your day-to-day life, not because you can earn money from it, but because it’s bursting out of your very soul.

    Plateau

    There are always moments in life where we feel like no progress is being made. Things are stagnating, our actions feel sluggish, as if our entire body was stuck in moving sands: we hit a plateau.

    A growth plateau is not a bad thing, it’s just our brain telling us we need to reinvent ourselves.

    It happens all the time to sports practitioners. They just have to get back to the basics and proceed again from there to the top. When a weightlifter hits a plateau for example, the training program is slightly changed and the weights are lowered to a minimum.

    Similarly, we have to learn to regularly re-evaluate our course of action, from our primary objectives to the daily habits supporting them.

    A plateau is the end of an iteration in our personal growth cycle, and as such, overcoming a plateau is figuring out how to optimize the current iteration to reach higher heights: what can we change now to do better next time?

    We start with our needs and dreams. We break them down into meaningful goals and short-terms objectives. Daily life is then designed to serve those objectives through micro-habits, the tasks we complete each day.

    The difference between an intellectual and a physical plateau is the frequency: the former ones appears much more often than the latter if your intensity is right, to the point where reinvention becomes a habit itself.

    Don’t despair, get some air, develop a new flair.

    Become a Patron - copywriting

    I’m currently re-designing the Patronage and Open Startup pages to align them with my business goals (to reach ramen profitability). The following quote is what I came up with to improve the copy of the Patronage page. Don’t hesitate to send me your feedback for improvement. Also, I’m working on a Wall of Love to encourage visitors to become members, so feel free to write 200WaD a nice message right here :)

    My name is Basile Samel *and I’m the founder of 200 Words a Day.

    200 Words a Day is a one-person independent business entirely sustained by its community, which means no accelerator, no investors, and no external financing. This website is my life’s work: it’s my full-time job, I spend time and money on it* every single day of the week*.

    I had to find a way to make it sustainable: some features of the website are not free so that you, as a member, don’t end up becoming the product - which is what happens with free websites. Patrons obtain access to unique functionalities of 200 Words a Day, allowing them to ease the growth of their writing habit.

    200 Words a Day is an open startup: I operate in full-transparency. You can see* what I’m working on and where your money goes*.

    Beyond the operational costs, I have to make a living from my work. As of today, I’m still living frugally on my savings. I have about a year left of savings to reach a point where I can cover my living expenses (~$800/month). If I were to fail, it would mean having to find side gigs or a full-time job as an employee. In others words, it would dramatically decrease the time I can spend on growing 200 Words a Day. Here is a breakdown of my metrics:

    -* Operational Costs: $31/month ($25 in server costs, $1 for the domain name, $5 to send automated emails)
    -
    Basic Living Expenses: $800/month ($500 for housing, $200 for food, $100 for my health insurance and my transportation costs)
    -
    Goal: $831/month ($9972/year)
    -
    Current Monthly Recurring Revenue: $138/month (61 active patrons, thanks for the warm energy throughout the months pals ❤️)
    -
    Current Gross Revenue: $1218
    -
    What’s needed: *$693/month (139 new patrons)

    If you’re not already a patron, consider becoming one. 200WaD’s goal is to improve your quality of life by helping you write more. You own your content, it’s all about empowering you and the people you care about. Freelance writers are being paid between 10 cents and a $1 per word. In one month of 200WaD practicing your craft daily, you are creating $600 in value at the very least, on paper. And that doesn’t take into account the friendships you are developing here and how writing will impact your life for the better. Let us help you, join our patrons :)

    Thank you for reading!
    Take care,
    Basile*

    Finding Meaningful Work

    What do I want to do later when you grow up? That’s a question that obsessed me early on, from primary school at the very least.

    Children go through phases: they want to be a firefighter one day, then a police officer or a youtuber the next one. I’m lucky to have parents who raised me without trying to prompt me into a career path. I was free to make my own choices, which triggered my will to be proactive in my search for a vocation.

    I made a pact with myself: whatever the job I end up doing, I will love it. I already developed the intuition that you can make up your own meaning. What you do in life doesn’t matter as much as where you’re headed, and any direction is fine. You are free to choose the meaning of your life, there is no definite answer.

    We are in an age of entrepreneurship where you have the opportunity to create your own meaningful job. Just take charge. The concept of Ikigai is outdated: you can combine any interest you have to come up with an activity you can be paid for, so don’t limit yourself to what others think is a profitable career path. Dare to experiment, dare to spend time on side-projects you care about.

    If you love dancing, or painting, or whatever career path your father figure says it’s not realistic to pursue, just find a way to be paid for it. It’s not always straightforward, you have to develop cross-domain interests to come up with an original business model.

    Let’s say you love sculpting. Your ability to get paid for what you do stems from your perceived mastery of your craft: what is it you have to offer and how much is it worth? Find a way to increase your perceived value by communicating about it: create info products, write about it, make videos, record a podcast… Anthony Bourdain is a great example: in his own words, he is an average chef, but he found a way to bring his art to the masses to make a living by combining his eccentric persona, his curiosity for travels, and his past experiences as a chef.

    Your entrepreneurial spirit is your best asset to find meaningful work. Don’t be afraid to use it.

    Everyday Marketing

    Marketing is not an activity I do once a week. Everything I do is an opportunity to market my brand.

    There is nothing dirty about doing marketing. It’s simply about communicating what you offer to others. My product is only the tip of the iceberg. My work ethics and my knowledge - the Why and the How - are as important as What I’m trying to sell.

    Here is a concrete example from my daily life. I’m a maker. My job is to make products. I do it a certain way, for certain reasons.

    Making tech products implies programming, writing, interacting with others, and constantly learning new things.

    Programming is writing. You can summarize what it is you’re doing. A manifesto describes your Why. A product roadmap describes how things are going. Logging tasks on Makerlog shows what’s been done and what you’re currently working on.

    Writing is a quest for truth, and truth always brings some sort of added value.

    Interacting with others is the very essence of marketing. It builds compassion: you’re more likely to help a friend than a stranger.

    Learning is an opportunity to teach by sharing the knowledge you obtained.

    Whatever you do, you must always keep the concept of golden circle in mind: you always link what it is you’re doing to how and why you’re doing it.

    It’s accessible to everyone. It doesn’t matter what your job is or where you come from, we all benefit from sharing.

    Introducing: TestimonialsWall.com

    I took a break from developing 200WaD last week to build something new. It’s a small Software-as-a-Service called Testimonials Wall.

    Inspiration hit me last week when I saw several people reaching out to help me become ramen profitable. I have something like 10 months of runway left before having to take on paid work, so I asked my network about the best resources I could find on selling my skills as a freelancer.

    Some people answered me with useful resources, some others went a bit further and proposed me their help to grow my already-existing products. Overwhelmed by this wave of good vibes, it gave me an idea: what if there was a useful piece of software to send some love to cool people, products, and services.

    In Linkedin, you have this Review section where you can testify of the work of a colleague. I wanted to generalize this idea to brands.

    The inspiration was so strong I couldn’t sleep. That’s when I decided to launch a product allowing people and organizations to gather, manage, and display testimonials (also known as “Wall of Love”) in a website in minutes.

    A Wall of Love is great at two things: sharing positivity, and social proofing.

    Testimonials are no harsh rated reviews. It’s just some love sent with words. When you’re feeling low or when your business is not going well, you just read the messages to get some energy. There are people believing in what you’re doing. It’s easy to overlook the positive aspects to focus on the negative ones, but it’s not always the way to growth.

    When you give people a space to express their love to your brand, they will eventually bring more curious eyes with them. The social aspect of marketing your product/service is key. The better the social proof, the bigger your conversion rate. People are more likely to choose you if there are previous customers to approve your services.

    If you are building your own brand, it’s obvious you need to share the testimonials you are receiving. Give it a try and let me know how I can improve it ;)

    The website: Testimonials Wall

    Creational Chemistry

    I wonder how I can teach people to get startup ideas. I’m convinced that, in a near future, entrepreneurial skills will be in high demand to stay ahead of the competition, but how do you evaluate people with such skills based on a degree? I assume it’s not possible because entrepreneurship is not a straightforward career, it’s something you have to figure out for yourself by getting your hands dirty. Having a project idea is the first step.

    When you think about it, everything is a chemical transformation. Or in Lavoisier’s words: nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed. Life is a long series of transformations where change is the only everlasting component.

    Creating or destroying, it’s all the same. A creator is not someone who creates, but someone who transforms. That’s what I found out about generating product ideas.

    If you want to create, you first have to transform. Disruption is nothing special, it’s the very essence of creation. What is one thing you’d like to change about yourself or your environment?

    We all have things we want to get better at, or people we’d like to help, which is why the first advise every entrepreneur has heard is “to solve your own problems”. If you’re satisfied with everything happening in the world right now, you are either in a philosophical coma or tripping on drugs.

    It’s time to become an alchemist: to acquire esoteric knowledge (knowledge far beyond your comfort zone) in the search of your own philosophical stone - your ability to transform crap ideas into precious gems.

    Ideas are not a birth right, they are for everyone to seek and catch. All you need is a net big enough.

    On Distributing your Content - SEO

    Once you stop hiding you can finally start sharing your words with the world. That’s when your writings begin to affect reality, and when a new problem arises: you need to effectively distribute your content so that people are willing to hear you out.

    Marketing content is never simple. I’m not an expert, but I can tell you what I learned along the way.

    I started writing because it’s fun and I love it, but I kept doing it because I want to connect with people to build things together. To connect with more people, you need to share your content where it’s relevant.

    The most efficient and sustainable way to acquire an audience is through search engines - Google being the most important one. That’s where all the big recurring traffic is.

    The only issue is you need to rank well: people won’t find your article if you are located far away in the search results. That’s where the discipline known as Search Engine Optimization (aka SEO) comes in.

    The first thing you need is a single source of truth - a website where all your content originates from, from the search engine viewpoint. When you publish on Medium, all the search engine traffic goes to Medium, not to your personal brand.

    The single source of truth should always be something closely related to your personal brand: a personal blog, or your personal website. It’s really important for you to own this single source of truth, which is why it’s important for you to distribute your content on a dedicated blog you own.

    Copying the same content over several websites is known as “cross-posting”.

    When you publish on 200WaD, you can set up what’s known as a Canonical URL, which is used to indicate to Google where the original article is located. When a search engine robot encounters several times the same article - because it’s been cross-posted - it needs to assess where the original content comes from to know how to rank it in the search results. If your canonical URLs are not correctly set up, it will hurt your SEO, and thus your rank on Google: people will be less likely to read what you wrote.

    The strategy is thus to choose one place where all the content should be centralized - your personal blog - and cross-post this content everywhere (200WaD, Medium, specialized communities…), or just share it on social media.

    It doesn’t matter where you write first. What matters is to correctly adjust the canonical URL to point to your blog.

    Of course, SEO is a large field. Canonical URLs are just the tip of the iceberg. In the next post, I will talk about backlinks and HTML.

    Something is gonna go wrong

    I released new code yesterday and as usual stuff breaks. Something is always going to go wrong: broken features, change-averse users, unhandled edge cases… danger is everywhere.

    A launch is not just one moment in time, it’s a cycle. And the more you go through the cycle, the harder it gets to overcome Launch Resistance - the fear of breaking stuff that used to work.

    Move fast and break things. Developers hear it a lot, and yet, there is always a lingering fear that things won’t work out the way you want them to. They rarely do.

    I broke a core feature of the website: the writing editor. You can whine and hide, or you can fix it. I chose the latter and released a fix in one day of work. Will it matter in six months? No, so why should I care now? I learned more in one day of breaking and fixing things than in one day of preparing things.

    Breaking things is taboo in the engineering world. In school, we are told we need to handle all the use cases, to prepare for every possibility, that we need to be perfect. There is no such thing as perfection in this world, and if it does, it will kill your soul.

    As a maker, you can’t afford to lose time. Never forget you work WITH users, not just FOR them. Throw stuff at them and they will tell you what they like and what they don’t. That’s how you fix and improve things at the same time.

    What about Unit Testing then? It’s important indeed, but never forget you can’t prove the absence of bugs, so don’t spend too much time testing things programmatically. Confront yourself to reality.

    Thanks to all my users for the support, and don’t hesitate to ping me if I can help you with anything.

    Reviving ymappr.com (?)

    ymappr is the second product I build as an indie maker. A to-do app using mind-maps. It got some traction on Hacker News and I ended up with 150 registered users in two days. Then I moved on, the technical challenge was too time-consuming: too many new technologies to master in a short amount of time. My front-end development skills are too limited to build something usable and beautiful.

    The biggest issue I had while building this product was how to represent mind maps in an efficient and manageable way. This post is an attempt at describing how I might have finally found a solution to this problem.

    Why it’s an important problem

    Mind-maps are incredible tools to display both operational and strategic elements of a project.

    They have the potential to describe both macroscopic and microscopic scales of a concept, which is why they are more powerful than mere lists.

    Lists are flat structures, they can only be one-dimensional, and yet lists are still the main data structure used in project management. It’s hard to represent the different layers of abstraction of a project with lists. In Trello for example, you need to create one board per project and it’s hard to link your company’s vision to operational tasks. There is no such problem with mind-maps which are multi-dimensional by design. You can put your vision at the root node of the mind-map, link it to your mission statement, break it down into goals and objectives, then write down user stories and atomic tasks. All this complexity can be represented in one fell swoop. We all know it’s important to “Start with Why”, and yet there is no software tool to easily bridge the Why to the How to the What.

    Problem

    How do we make beautiful mind maps? Never found the right piece of software to draw them easily, the way Trello makes lists so simple to create for example.

    Sub-problem 1

    Mind maps are drawn using complex technologies - SVG or canvases - which make them hard to manipulate and render across the Internet. How can we make it easier to manage?

    Sub-problem 2

    A mind map with many layers quickly gets out of hands. How can we navigate them efficiently?

    Solution

    Mind maps are in fact nested lists. A simple yet powerful idea.

    Lists are HTML elements taking a few milliseconds to render. No need for complex technologies and easy to manipulate. (solution to sub-problem 1)

    Nested lists are easy to grasp (that’s how file storage is organized) and easy to navigate (up/down/next/previous). (solution to sub-problem 2)

    Notion proposes them to create hierarchical content, but from what I saw internal nodes are not actionable.

    Next steps

    I’m going to develop ymappr as an in-house tool to serve 200WaD’s project management needs. Then if people like the result and are willing to become paying customers I might think of releasing it as a by-product. Time will tell.

    Build by-products

    Two weeks ago I wrote about how makers should build their own ”product country” - to focus on one core product while still working on satellite products.

    Following a 12 Products in 12 Months challenge without any intention to focus on the ones that get traction is counterproductive. Jumping around from one product idea to another will get you nowhere. Worse, it will hurt your reputation. You will appear as a volatile founder no customer can trust.

    Today Sergio Mattei launched yet another product in his own Makerlog country: Cowork. His attitude is another great example of this “build by-products” strategy: Shipcast as a content generator, Makerlog as a B2C community product, and now Cowork to provide a more team-centric collaborative platform that could easily become a B2B business. It’s just so damn smart, all products complement each other.

    I’m reading Jason Fried’s Rework these days, and it echoes what’s being said in the section “Sell your by-products”:

    When you make something, you always make something else. […] Everything has a by-product. Observant and creative business minds spot these by-products and see opportunities.

    It’s just the best way to go about making products without losing sight of your core domain. Focus is key. Problems have sub-problems. Ship appropriate solutions to each one, one step at a time.

    Ecovillage List

    Habemus nomen eius. It didn’t take long. It’s best to use the simplest name we could find to describe our project. We are litteraly building an interactive list of ecovillages from all around the world. We even have a logo, and we gathered in an online conference room to get to know each other (we are a team of 4: Patricia from Portugal, Miguel from Spain, Alina from Romania, and me from France). The registration for the hackathon starts on July the 10th, this post is an attempt at pitching this project to figure out what we want to build.

    Why are we doing this?

    Climate change is not going to solve itself. Each act counts, and we all benefit from them. Ecovillage List is an attempt at inspiring people by showcasing concrete examples of communities paving the way to global sustainability.

    What problem are you solving?

    An ecovillage is still a foreign concept to most people. We are lead to believe we cannot change the place we live in to become more environmental friendly, which is simple not true. Ecovillages are not easy to find and study from. The closest there is to a catalogue of ecovillages can be found on the Global Ecovillage Network. The usability is poor at best. We want to change that by offering a web application acting as a bridge between conscious citizens and environmental-friendly infrastructures to accelerate the transition to a better economy.

    Is this actually useful?

    Just look around you among your family members, we are all looking for ways to improve our lives. Ecovillage List has the potential to become an incredibly useful educational platform to inspire people to act in an easy and accessible way. We don’t have data to back it up yet, but we are convinced there is a growing interest for alternative lifestyles.

    Are you adding value?

    We offer time gains and positivity in a tiny niche with a huge potential market.

    Will this change behavior?

    If people are inspired to reproduce what they learn from ecovillages the consequences will of course heavily impact the way we live, how we interact with each others as individuals.

    Is there an easier way?

    No. The Internet is still the cheapest and the most accessible educational resource.

    Edit 29/08/2019:

    What do you hope to achieve going forward?

    Currently our project features 20 ecovillages, which is a tiny fraction of the 1200+ ecovillages we identified. The next step will be to add a back-end to our current website to clean and manage all this data and allow users to collaborate. The back-end was originally planned to be submitted during the hackathon but the holidays got in the way (:

    Once the content management system will be complete we will start interacting with ecovillages to create more comprehensive how-to guides for us end-users to incorporate more sustainability in the way we live.

    The Maker Way

    We do everything for a reason, and quite often this reason is someone else. Creating tech products is no different: making is inherently social. That’s precisely what makes the Maker culture so appalling to me: makers not only acknowledge the fact we build for others, but also with others.

    Companies are just people who were led to build things together - goods, products, experiences, emotions. Why are we making a distinction between support, strategic, and operational positions then? It feels counterproductive. If we want to design better products and better services, employees must become makers.

    We all would benefit from developing an entrepreneurial mindset, to grow both as individuals and members of different organizations.

    The term entrepreneur has a bad connotation. A title only a chosen few can possess. The word maker feels more down to earth: who didn’t make something at some point in life?

    There is pleasure in doing something yourself. It’s an act of compassion you have total control over, that you can improve at. A gift of self-worth. When everything crumbles around you, you still have your mind to create.

    Making is probably what defines us as humans. It’s universal, there is no civilization without arts and crafts. Embracing our inner maker is a step toward a more fulfilling life.

    Product Country

    We can think of a tech product as a sum of smaller products with a common core product. Github is a graphical interface for Git, embellished by a social network of developers, a static web hosting service, tools for Continuous Integration…

    A tech product is not atomic, it’s a molecule of features. A country with a capital city, secondary cities, towns, and inhabitants.

    Building a successful product is probably a lot like building a successful country, except you don’t dwell on petty politics.

    You want people to love your country so that they can settle down and help you grow it. That’s user acquisition and user retention.

    More importantly, you must build your cities so that they can complement each other. It’s especially important for indie makers to understand. When Pieter Levels built Nomad List, he augmented it with Hoodmaps and Remote OK - three atomic products reinforcing each other in the Nomad niche/country. Marc Köhlbrugge did the same with his Maker country: WIP, Startup Jobs, and BetaList.

    Focus on one core product, build satellite products for increased synergy. Never forget the people are sovereign: they are the ones who make or break a product. As a founder, lead the way to sustainability by eating your own dog food.

    Found a Team for the Climate Fixathon

    Two days ago I announced I was looking for two teammates to join the Climate Fixathon. I received a dozen of proposals. It was a tough choice to make so I settled it by picking three persons with complementary skills to mine. We are going to build a Nomad List for Ecovillages together for a month.

    Alina Sava will be our lead designer. She is a web designer and product maker based in Berlin, Germany. You might know her from Makerlog, she works on amazing minimalist designs.

    From Spain, Miguel Piedrafita is only 17 years old but he already made a name for himself in the maker community. His shipping skills are beyond spectacular: 53 featured repositories on Github and 8 products made! He will assume a full-stack developer position within the team alongside me.

    Patricia Pires is a friend of mine from college, born in Portugal, now living in Sweden. She will be helping Alina with design but she is also a civil engineering major writing a Master thesis on how to evaluate creative urban projects, which will be helpful to evaluate the data we need to filter the different communities and to understand our users’ needs. Some of her teachers are involved in coliving projects as well.

    The first thing we did was to create a Telegram group to gather our European team and talk strategy/operations. The Fixathon starts after July the 10th so we have plenty of time to think. The way I see it, our job till then is to prepare the project and start teasing:

    1) Find a name and a logo. Then start Twitter marketing, maybe create a simple landing page to tease and gather our first signups.

    2) Think of user stories and place them all in a public backlog (Trello, Notion, or Google Doc), as well as writing a short pitch (one-liner + catchy product description)

    3) Choose a common stack: Alina has basics of React, Miguel knows Laravel and Vue, I do Symfony and React, so I think a stack Laravel/React/MySQL might be a good trade-off but we will discuss this with Miguel.

    4) Set up collaborative tools: Github + Google Drive

    Then we have to wait for the actual starting date to ship mockups and code. We can use this time to organize get-to-know online meetings as Patricia already proposed.

    Concerning the workflow, we need user stories first to agree on what we want to do from a functional perspective. Then we can think design and database.

    Since Patricia has the market expertise, she will play an important part in establishing the backlog of user stories and talk with users/stakeholders on a regular basis. Again, the user stories will be the bridge between code and design.

    Then once the skeleton of the project is set up we can contribute to the public Github repository the way we feel like. If someone wants to work with JS/PHP/HTML/CSS he/she can just send a push request to the main repo.

    Of course, everything is still an open discussion. More on this project later.

    New Project in Progress

    Today I announced on Twitter I’m looking for two teammates to join The Climate Fixathon, a one-month hackathon to help fix climate change. It’s my first new project in three months and I am excited to share my contribution to the biggest problem our species ever had to face.

    Technology is not going to get us out of this mess, we must redesign our lifestyles to consume much less and much better. However, the Internet is good at one thing: bringing us closer together. The World Wide Web is the ultimate community builder, a community of communities, and that’s precisely how it’s going to help us overcome our global climate emergency.

    We need people to lead the way toward a more sustainable future. We need people to inspire us, to show us alternatives are possible. That’s where ecovillages come in. Solutions are already there, but they are not known or accessible enough. People are resistant to change, but we can change for the better once we are surrounded by the right people.

    My idea is to create a platform where people can browse through a huge catalog of ecovillages to be inspired to act. To join, create, or simply learn from independent initiatives all around the globe in an intuitive and engaging fashion.

    I’m thinking about incorporating filters such as geographical location, spoken language, philosophy (anarchist, neo-hippie, communist, ecologist, spiritual retreat…), low/high tech, community size, cost-to-join, etc. to demonstrate how you can fight the climate crisis by displaying concrete lifestyle changes others have integrated in their daily lives.

    The project would be open-source, completely transparent, non-profit, and social.

    The minimum viable product would be comprised of a list of ecovillages you can interact with. It would basically be a Nomad List for self-sustained indie communities.

    Leave a comment or shoot me a DM via Twitter or Telegram if you’d like to contribute to the project or follow our progress.

    Moving off Slack

    As some of you might know I’m currently developing an integrated chat within 200WaD. I want members to write more together, so a chat gathering everyone is a must-have.

    Slack is a bit cumbersome to use: you have to install it, configure your account, and actually write/check messages. Not everyone has used Slack before, and I can’t expect everyone here to sign up.

    However, we all subscribed to 200 Words a Day. That’s where the magic should happen.

    At first I wanted to integrate Slack within 200WaD using their Application Programming Interface, but it turns out I made a mistake: I didn’t read the f* API rate limit. I spent three days building something that will be unusable given our desired use - about 1000 visitors per day versus a one websocket connection per minute limit: unthinkable.

    I could have bypassed the rate limit by setting up a middleware (a server making requests instead of a user), but it’s more complex than rolling out our own in-house chat server from a structural point of view. That’s why today I decided to completely move off Slack and build my own chat engine.

    Another reason I want to have total control over the chat application is the Writing Circles feature: the possibility for 200WaD members to create groups based on common interests, which in turn could become a possible way to monetize 200WaD using a B2B business model.

    200WaD is driven by one purpose: empowering writers. And I believe building a free open community based on collaboration to be the way to go about it. Building a chat to remove all communication barriers (= messages lesser than 200 words) is the first step towards this vision.

    Community-First

    One thing all wannapreneurs need to understand first and foremost: you need a community. You can’t do anything alone, success is team work.

    You need to join communities and start new ones. That’s how you can build your first products. That’s how you gather your first 1000 true fans. That’s how you make your first dollar online.

    The reason is quite simple: growing a business is about addressing people’s needs - talking with them and execute on what they say to you till you reach what is known as product/market fit.

    A community is simply a group of people sharing common interests. You already belong to some: your family, your groups of friends, your school, your city… but few are qualified to guide you throughout your entrepreneurial journey, because not everyone is representative of the market you are targeting.

    Addressing a market is addressing a niche. A niche is just a tiny bunch of people sharing similar interests - it’s a community. You join the right communities, you start to understand their needs. Once you find the needs, you can address the issues by creating products. Focus on the community, the problems, and the product - in that order.

    Creating a community is easy, which is why it’s so empowering for first-time entrepreneurs. All you need is an email address. It remains difficult to develop, but it will teach you the basics of marketing, or more generally, the basics of entrepreneurship.

    Joining communities for the sake of it won’t work. You have to share your focus between a few ones. Interacting with a community is not asking for things, it’s about giving things. You must contribute without expecting nothing in return. Only then can you rip off the benefits of karma: pay it forward!

    Make Veggies, Not War

    War is a recurring metaphor in entrepreneurship. It’s not only a ridiculous idea, but also a dangerous school of thought.

    Real entrepreneurship success is not about how much money you make, it’s about how many lives you impact positively. It should be a creative force driven by collaboration, not a destructive one.

    War is for losers. No party involved will ever get something good out of it. Picturing entrepreneurs as warriors is just plain dumb, encouraging it is madness: that’s how you drive people to burn themselves out.

    There is no war to win, no enemies to vanquish.

    The war narrative is convenient to convey strong emotions, to lift the crowds by using their most primal instincts. It’s an inspiring chord to strike appealing to those who lack self-esteem.

    Anyone resorting to this cheap cliché fails to realize spartanizing is love for wisdom, not love for war.

    I prefer picturing entrepreneurs as gardeners.

    We grow products. We plant many seeds, not all become crops. It takes patience and discipline. One flower is no garden, diversity is the key to sustainability. There is an ecosystem to respect, disrupting without conscience is but the ruin of the Earth. A garden is nothing but an embellishment of Nature: you can guide it, not control it.

    Entrepreneurship and the Roller Coaster Life

    It’s one thing to know building a company is hard, it’s another to actually go through the process.

    What’s so hard about entrepreneurship is the lack of stability, and it’s not trivial to understand if you never built a business before.

    Building a tech startup is taking a ride on a roller coaster. You go up, then down, then up, constantly, for a long stretch of time, and you never know when your stomach is going to return your meal.

    The entropy tires you to the bone. It starts with your mind: one day you go through a dopamine high, then you spend another one fire-fighting. The fatigue accumulates, until your body can’t hold it anymore and you burn out.

    Your startup status constantly goes on and off - at least from your position as a founder, metrics should tell otherwise - and you don’t know what to say when a parent asks you about the wellbeing of your venture: it’s a damn Schrödinger cat! What am I even supposed to say? I just say everything is fine and goes on with it. Talk is cheap, data doesn’t lie and is devoid of ego.

    This is why it’s important to cultivate a stoïc mindset. Emotions, status, opinions, feedback, ego… as a founder, you must always nurture a stable frame of mind. Let it all flow through you, detach yourself from what limit your execution skills.

    Most experienced entrepreneurs know it’s important to have a routine. The market is always chaotic, all you can build upon is yourself.

    Developping a thick skin, not giving a f*, having a high pain threshold… the metaphors are many. As a wannapreneur, just keep that in mind. Creating a venture is a long odyssey, and you need to develop mechanisms to stay the course.

    Releasing a Markdown editor tomorrow

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how to improve my writing process and using a markdown editor definitely helps with that.

    I used markdown to take notes in college, to present projects on Github, and more lately to write an ebook.

    Markdown is a plain text language, so it’s easier to focus on the substance over the form while writing. It’s also simpler to import/export and share across many platforms.

    The second advantage of Markdown is how it goes well with versioning. You can store all your different writing drafts in a Github/Gitlab/[…] account and never lose anything ever again.

    It’s obviously an incredible tool to help writers focus on what really matters: the message, the art, rather than spending time on formatting.

    This is why today I started working on an optional Markdown editor for 200 Words a Day, and the minimum viable version should be up tomorrow (I’m testing it as of now). It wasn’t easy but I know many writers want this feature.

    I’m particularly excited about the possibility to write more technical articles. I’ve been interested in writing about programming from an entrepreneurial point of view for a long time, and I believe it would be nice to share more of what I know.

    200WaD is 6 months old

    200 Words a Day is half a year old today, a good moment to acknowledge the road walked so far with some stats.

    Traffic

    More than 900 unique users are visiting the website on a daily basis, which amounts to one thousand page views per day in average according to Google Analytics. According to Cloudflare, 200WaD serves 27k HTTP requests per day in average.

    Finance

    200 Words a Day generates a Monthly Recurring Revenue of $115, thanks to the 55 wonderful patrons keeping us afloat. Thank you so much for helping me to create a sustainable platform for everyone. The total gross revenues acquired so far is being stashed in the company’s bank account to cover the current and upcoming costs: the current monthly recurring costs increased to $32/month since I bought a new server to keep the website growing. With the new chat feature there is a high chance the monthly costs are going to grow a bit as well, I will keep you updated on that matter.

    Community

    No revenue growth but the community is still expanding: the oldest members are pushing everyone to get better and it’s a pleasure to witness this family spirit being developed. We are 55 daily active writers in average, for a total of 2799 registered users. 28 people joined #TeamStreak, @brandonwilson ‘s team of doers, including 16 members whose streaks are higher than 100 days.

    Content

    We wrote 9465 posts (10k soon!), for a total word count of 2,982,315 (11,929 pages) at an average word count per post of 315. I’m really excited to release new features for collaborative writing, and perhaps organize our first community event in the form of a book written together over a few days (that we could maybe market, sell, and give the revenues to charity).

    I’m so happy to see this community growing stronger. Thank you all for writing, reading, and more generally for exposing your ideas to the world. I’m so grateful to be able to wake up every day feeling like my work has an impact.

    Let’s keep on improving together. Love you all ❤️

    My first startup attempt

    I was about to start an internship in Geneva when a friend of mine contacted me to join his team on a new exciting startup project: Justinien, a conversational bot aiming at easing the access to justice.

    It was not my first entrepreneurial project, but this time it was the real deal: we wanted to reach and raise millions, our idea was too good to fail.

    We made all the classic mistakes.

    We were four co-founders, which was too many.

    We didn’t distribute the shares equally between each co-founder, which resulted in one co-founder feeling left out, not putting in the work, and ending up forced to leave the legal structure.

    We did not communicate enough, all the work was done remotely but all of our organizational tools were under-used.

    We weren’t iterating fast enough. It took us six months to launch our first minimum-viable product, nine months to operate our first pivot, and another three months to make our first revenues.

    Our marketing efforts were too sporadic: we would try out a channel for one or two weeks before giving up and jumping on the next one.

    We weren’t clear about our vision and our aspirations. My cofounders wanted to build a traditional startup based in Paris, with a building, VCs, and many employees. I was hungry for an international experience based on remote work.

    The last months were hard, I was tired of working on this project. It really felt like “chewing glass while staring at the abyss”. I tried doing new things to reignite the flame, so I opened a new indie business to try making my own things.

    At some point we started generating revenues, about $1000 in two months of launch, customers were coming in, it was time to grow fast or die. I started writing 200 words every day in public on Twitter and Medium. We couldn’t come to an agreement on how we wanted to develop the startup so we decided to dissolve the business after working on it for more than a year.

    I needed to cheer up, so I joined Product Hunt’s Makers Festival. 200 Words a Day was born. It took me eight failed products to launch one people were actually liking.

    Self-Describing

    I’m redesigning my personal website and I have to convince people to join me in a short text. It’s incredibly hard because it implies I must be crystal clear about where I am heading and what I am all about, and be able to put it into inspiring words. Here is my attempt:

    First day of kindergarten, I go through the gates running, without a tear, without a cry: diving into the unknown makes me feel alive. I wanted to grow up to be an inventor. At 13 I write my first computer program. I graduate from software engineering, aged 23. A love for knowledge is deeply ingrained in me.

    Knowledge, but also wisdom. When my Vietnamese grandparents fled the Indochina War to seek asylum in France, I became a son of diversity. I grew up in a family of social activists, with modest means, but engaged in a pursuit to help others through their work. In high school, I discover Plato, Seneca, Socrates, Rousseau, and Spinoza, among other great authors and thinkers: I instantly fall in love with the quest for wisdom.

    It is no surprise I am now a tech entrepreneur: I believe in working with others, for others, while using my own vision of the world. I am the master of my day, and I want my work to have a strong, positive impact.

    Life is short, I might as well spend it seeking mastery, not only for my own intellectual satisfaction but for the common good. Welcome, and let’s join forces together!

    What do you think pals? Is it too much maybe?

    Redesigning my Personal Website

    My personal website is not well-kept, its potential is untapped. My motives changed a lot in one year, my online domain should reflect those.

    My current goal is to reach ramen profitability. At $1000 per month, I need 500 people to buy a $2 product from me. I have three income sources at the moment: my 200 Words a Day patrons (90% of my total revenues), the revenues from my ebook (10%), and my new Patreon account (0%, not launched). The objective is to design the flow of the website to convince people to help me help them.

    You need three things to persuade someone online: added value, utmost transparency, and good copywriting.

    I add value by investing my time in the development of important web products and by sharing what I learn in my daily writings. I also use social proofs to make my personality stand out.

    I become transparent by openly reporting my goals, my values, and my metrics (costs/revenues breakdowns, daily active users…). I stay open and accessible.

    Finally, I need stellar copywriting. Most portfolio websites feel generic and bland, but my focus is on inspiring the reader. To do so I follow a Golden Circle structure emphasizing the pain points I’m trying to address through my work. I’m pretty enthusiastic about the first principle approach to problem-solving.

    This new website should be up tomorrow.

    Phases of the Entrepreneur Career

    These days I noticed most bootstrapped tech entrepreneurs go through four phases to make a living from their craft.

    It starts with an apprenticeship where the entrepreneur develops a making habit. Challenges similar to “12 startups in 12 months” are typical of this stage, that’s when you learn what it takes to launch your own product and to market it. The apprentice must learn to execute fast without a consequent budget and kill ideas even faster. Apprentices can benefit from online and local communities gathering indie entrepreneurs. The apprenticeship phase is also the moment when you might want to start developing your personal brand by documenting your experiments, not only to nurture a network but also to integrate a routine of introspection.

    At some point, one of your products shows more traction than the others and you make your first revenue. This milestone leads to the second phase: Incubation. The goal of the incubation stage is to reach ramen profitability from your tech products, meaning, to cover your living expenses. Launching and growing products are vastly different: most people are unable to launch, but maturing a startup is way harder than launching something because it’s nerve-wracking. Growing your monthly-recurring revenue involves listening to tons of feedback, to be integrated in an optimal fashion. Anyone can launch something and make quick cash, but growth is an order of magnitude above, it’s basically becoming a parent: to some extent, the product comes first. In this phase, you must focus on one product, so avoid diluting your precious time in endeavors unrelated to the business at hand. Launching spin-offs products is a good thing, however. Important problems have sub-problems, there is an opportunity to address each one without deviating from the main problem.

    Then comes ramen profitability, you are in a pre Product/Market fit stage. The growth is not exponential, but you acquired an unlimited runway to develop your business and your personal finance is no longer an issue: you can dive full-time into your venture without any worry. That’s the phase where you might want to join a startup accelerator/incubator and use paid advertising if it’s relevant.

    Finally, you reach P/M fit and you are faced with two choices: grow big or grow lean. Growing big is becoming a more traditional startup: hiring employees and growing revenues, possibly acquiring external funds. Growing lean is about staying as small as possible while creating more income streams (diminishing the costs to the minimum while maximizing the revenues), by staying indie and becoming a serial maker. Most YC companies are an example of the former, while Pieter Levels and Marc Köhlbrugge illustrate the latter. Of course, there are in-betweens, such as Basecamp, Ghost, or Buffer.

    Disclaimer: this model is meant for simplification purposes, it’s not exhaustive in any way

    A 200 Words a Day's manifesto?

    There is no way to tell how 200WaD will evolve over the next year but we can think about what we want to build.

    200WaD was started to solve a problem: most people do not write enough. We feel too busy juggling between work, routine, and relatives to spend time thinking by ourselves.

    Some of us might want to change this aspect, for a variety of reasons: to share your thoughts, to materialize your existence into this very world, to leave a legacy, or maybe simply for the feeling of fulfillment scribbling brings.

    Writing impacts all areas of life. From business communication to art and mental health, words make us humans.

    The mission of 200 Words a Day is to empower people to write and remind them that you don’t have to be a published author to be a writer. Writing has been around since the dawn of the time, and no matter how much the world changes, we all have something to tell.

    We are here to bring down the myth of the self-made writer. The journey is yours to take and yours to follow, but you can count on a community to help you reach your destination. Writing is social. Personal growth, collaboration, transparency, and openness shall unite us.

    There is no overnight success. Being a writer is not a goal, only a process. 200 words at a time.

    We welcome anyone willing to put in the work, no matter your sex, your gender, your age, your race, your religion, or your income: a free online writing group, open and supranational. No one should have to pay to access the benefits of writing and technology. Education is a human right.

    Let us not forget our purpose, writing is liberating, and may 200 Words a Day benefit us all.

    thank you @antoniogaryjr for helping me formulate the mission statement :)

    Brainstorming a freelance business

    I want to start a freelance business next month to keep myself afloat while I’m developing 200 Words a Day. I am brainstorming some ideas for services I could offer. Getting a full-time job or a long-term freelance project is out of the question as I want to focus on this website, so I need to think of short-term gigs I can do well and fast.

    • Fast prototyping: create minimum viable products for individuals and companies
    • Landing page or website development
    • Product / Entrepreneurship Consulting: advise and strategize indie businesses via video call for an hourly fee
    • Writing gigs: copywriting, article redaction, technical pieces etc.
    • French teacher: French is my mother tongue
    • Digital nomad coach: help people get started as a digital nomad, develop healthy and sustainable travel routines. I’m not a big fan of the idea but it’s apparently a thing. Maybe I should try it.

    Once I will be done with the definition phase, I’m going to create a dedicated page per service on my personal website. Each page will contain a brief description, a targeted portfolio, a Stripe integration and a link to a calendar app. If I market it well I won’t have to rely on third-party platforms such as Fiverr or Upwork.

    How I Started my Solo Business Online

    Back in January 2018, I launched my first startup with two lawyers. Two product iterations later, we got our first revenues. I enjoy frugality. Money is but a tool to attain greater freedom. In the end, money is not what I am looking for. My twenties are dedicated to one purpose: becoming a great software craftsman - reach mastery in my craft. I can only do it by practicing a lot so that, one day, I am finally able to craft a masterpiece. I just want money to be a side effect of excellence in what I am passionate about: making great tech products, meaning, writing truly helpful software.

    How do I release more tech products then? The scope of my first startup was limiting. I needed to break out of it, so I decided to set up a one-man business in parallel that would give me the freedom to make my own things, at the pace I want, without giving up on my co-founders (the business shut down 4 months ago though, but that’s another story).

    I wanted to establish the business as soon as possible, in the simplest manner, so I opted for the French solopreneur status (known as micro-business, micro-entrepreneur or also auto-entrepreneur). Registering a micro-business is free and easy to do. Moreover, you pay taxes only if you perceive revenues from your activities. The only downsides are that 1) the revenues are limited to 70k‎€/81k$ per year without taxes and 2) you are personally liable for business debts.

    Fortunately, none of those conditions constitute a real problem for me: tech businesses are the cheapest businesses to launch. You can build an online business for less than 50 bucks. If I ever get enough revenues from my products to hit the ceiling, I will have enough money to scale the legal infrastructure, since the gross margin of a tech business is so profitable.

    To register a micro-business in France, you just need to declare it on lautoentrepreneur.fr by filling up an online form.

    You then receive an official certificate by snail mail issued by INSEE, the national statistics bureau of France, containing your French business identification number (SIREN/SIRET) between one and two weeks later.

    Once the business is officially registered, you have to open a dedicated bank account to receive and send payments. My personal bank being too expensive - and old-fashioned - I choose an online bank, Revolut, and opened a global freelance bank account for 8€ a month. It made sense to choose Revolut as my customers would not be limited to one specific country (multi-currency accounts without bank fees (!!!)) and I would receive payments by Stripe (the integration between Revolut and Stripe is clear and simple, a real breeze to work with so far). Stripe is a secure online payment tool suite that makes it easy to get paid from your own app.

    When I subscribed to Revolut Business I automatically entered the business application queue. At first, seeing that 400+ people were standing before me, I was afraid I would never be able to open a bank account. In fact, your rank in the queue is just an informal indication. As soon as I logged in, the customer support reached out to me, asking about what I intended to do with my professional bank account and for documents to prove the existence of my business. Two days later, the bank account was ready to use.

    I started the creation process at the end of June for an official launch statement on July the 15th. I received my business id number at the end of July, and opened my bank account at the end of August.

    In the meantime, around mid-May, I started developing my first tech product as an indie maker, PyroHabit. By September, PyroHabit integrated Stripe and was ready to launch, so the infrastructure was complete in order to receive my first payment.

    My business costs as of today are really low:

    • Web hosting (up to 20 websites) on infomaniak.com: 69€ per year / 5.75€ per month (about to be changed though, way too slow!)
    • basilesamel.com domain: 8.90€ per year / 0.75€ per month
    • pyrohabit.com domain: 8.90€ per year / 0.75€ per month
    • Mail hosting / 5 pro email addresses on Infomaniak: 18€ per year / 1.5€ per month
    • Revolut bank account: 8€ per month

    For a total of 17€ operational costs per month, you can launch two web apps. It’s never been cheaper and easier to become a tech entrepreneur, and that’s empowering.

    Road to Ramen: Conclusion

    Today is my last day in Asia, before next time. I’m moving back to Europe for a while. I have to attend my graduation ceremony, and I need to see my family and friends.

    I set out to become a full-time indie maker 6 months ago. My goal was to build my own tech products and make a living out of it, just enough to cover my living expenses - also known as ramen profitability - while traveling. I called this adventure Road to Ramen: 6 months to reach ramen profitability as a maker in South-East Asia. Today is my last day in the Road to Ramen journey, and it is time to sum it up.

    Finance

    I need $700 per month on average to live in South-East Asia. A bit more to live in Eastern Europe. And a little more to live in my home country, France. I have made $652 in gross revenues so far. All of those revenues were earned over the last 2 months only. $35 were made from 7 pre-orders for my upcoming book. The rest was made thanks to my 200 Words a Day patrons.

    My online businesses take me $25 per month to sustain, and I earn a monthly recurring revenue of $114, making a profit of $89 per month. 200 Words a Day is bound to evolve quickly so I’m stashing the money to sustain its growth. I still need $611 per month, or 244 200WaD patrons, to reach ramen profitability in Asia. I didn’t reach my ramen profitability goal, but the progress is highly encouraging. All I need now is to keep going and to keep aiming higher.

    Travel

    I visited 3 new countries (2 months in Thaïland, 1 month in Vietnam, 3 months in Malaysia) and met my extended family for the first time. It was an enriching experience. I definitely love slow travel. In fact, 1 month per city is definitely not enough in my opinion. Next time I travel I will stay at least 2 months in a given city. The social dynamics are entirely different with slow travel. I don’t mind traveling solo either, but it gets lonely. It’s something I think a lot about, how to manage life as a nomad to make it more sustainable. My answers are still far from perfect but I got to know a lot more about what works for me.

    Products

    I made 4 products during my time in Asia: one was a flop, one got some initial traction but I didn’t find any motivation to keep it alive, and one got half built but never launched. 200 Words a Day was my first success as an indie maker and it is still doing well with 2400 registered members and 5300+ posts written. Let’s see how I can propel it to new heights over the next weeks!

    I managed to grow my following on Twitter from 10 to 480 individuals without any marketing trick (no follow/unfollow game). It was done purely organically by just getting involved in maker communities, launching products, writing, and sharing. My Facebook account didn’t take off as well, and I poorly managed my Instagram account.

    In parallel, I wrote 114 short posts (41k words), contributed to 4 articles on Maker Mag and I am about to release my first book Alter-Nomad.

    What’s next

    The last 6 months were great in terms of both business and personal growth, but there is always room for improvement!

    Once I’m done with my first book I will work on a new one focused on entrepreneurship. Making a living from my own creations is still a huge goal of mine during 2019 so I want to experiment with new possible income streams, all related to my work at 200 Words a Day: authoring, patronage, 200WaD spin-offs (our own book marketplace) etc. Maybe create a freelancing business on the side to earn some side money from time to time. Maybe I should call it Road to Ramen v2 and make it an open project? The possibilities are many.

    Location wise, I’m going to stay in France during March. Then I will probably live in Odessa, Ukraine for at least two months. After that, I would like to travel to Vietnam with my parents and my brother for 2 or 3 months.

    I wrote a new year bucket list I’d like to fulfill, so I also need to fit those items in my agenda.

    In the meantime, I want to thank all my users and my co-makers for helping me during those 6 months. I am no one without you pals. My gratitude toward you is infinite. I hope I managed to add value to your lives. Let’s see how we can grow further together.

    Much love,
    baz

    Sick Baby

    Today 200WaD is down.

    It’s an issue on the server side. There is nothing I can do but wait.

    I guess this is how it feels to have a sick baby.

    It’s extremely frustrating. You try your best to make it grow, but sometimes life gets in the way. I was angry. Angry at the hosting company for letting it happen. Truth is, I was mostly angry at myself for being powerless.

    HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA 🤬

    I’m glad I had no one to empty my frustration on today. I guess it’s one of the benefits of solo travel. If I were at home, I would have been triggered by a single word. Instead, I took a long hot shower and dressed well. I went out for a nice meal. Now I’m moving out my frustration through writing.

    Writing has healing powers. Writing is visualizing. When you visualize something, it creates similar effects on your brain to the ones you would have produced in a real-life situation, which leads to catharsis.

    Catharsis means Cleansing in Ancient Greek. It was a term coined by Aristotle to describe the effects of tragedy - the literary genre - on its audience. Later, Sigmund Freud would propose catharsis to describe the process of expressing strong emotions with the hope to better understand and react to them. Purification through expression.

    Tomorrow is another day. As stoics would say, why should I care about what’s outside of my control?

    200 Words a Day is 2 months old! 🎉

    Born on November the 22nd last year, 200 Words a Day turned 2 months old yesterday. I waited till today to write about it as I wanted to generate some stats. Here we go:

    💎 Fellowship

    • We are now 1915 members (+1484 subscribers/+325%)
    • 99 members joined our Slack workspace
    • 394 members wrote at least one post (21%)
    • 250 wrote at least 2 posts (13%)
    • 195 wrote at least 3 posts (10%)
    • 162 wrote at least 4 posts (8.5%)
    • 142 wrote at least 5 posts (7.4%)
    • 124 wrote at least 6 posts (6.5%)
    • 113 wrote at least 7 posts (5.9%)

    📚 Content

    • We wrote 2289 posts over the month (+240.6%) for a total of 2961 posts.

    📈 Traffic (not enough data to make a comparison with the previous month)

    • 80,566 page views (21,312 views over 3 days of Product Hunt launch)
    • 10,234 unique visitors

    💸 Finance

    • 200WaD started getting monetized this month (freemium model, yearly/monthly subscriptions)
    • 205$ in net revenues (Yearly + Monthly patrons)
    • 81$ MRR
    • 18.5$ MRC (cut the Github Pro plan)

    🏆 New Personal Records

    • 76 members (4%) managed a One-Week Streak
    • 52 members (2.7%) managed a Two-Week Streak
    • 26 members (1.4%) managed a Three-Week Streak
    • 18 members (0.94%) managed a Four-Week Streak
    • 16 members (0.83%) managed a Five-Week Streak
    • 13 members (0.68%) managed a Six-Week Streak
    • 8 members (0.42%) managed a Seven-Week Streak
    • 3 members (0.16%) managed an Eight-Week Streak

    Those metrics are still fascinating to me. It’s been my most productive month by far as a maker, and it’s crazy to imagine how things evolved in just two months time.

    200WaD still has a lot of room for improvements, but this is encouraging. One of the biggest challenges over the next month is to figure out how I can help people who subscribed but never wrote, or wrote a few times. Are they here just to read? Is something fundamentally wrong with 200WaD? Those questions need an answer as soon as possible.

    I want to thank everyone who contributed to the growth of 200WaD this month. This wouldn’t be possible without your help. I am more determined than ever to grow this community and create new value.

    Thank you for writing/reading here, and as always, take care ❤️

    Craftsmanship as a Tech Business Model

    In a near future, tech companies will be divided between Google-like megacorporations and small tech businesses.

    IT is getting increasingly distributed. With the rise of micro-services, some products that would have taken a whole team to make 10 years ago now takes one developer to implement. Sometimes you don’t even need to code anymore. Code and domain expertise are becoming a commodity.

    Businesses will have to grow big or keep getting leaner.

    On the other hand, people are getting tired of huge companies. There is a need for ethical entities that can be trusted. This is where small businesses come in.

    I am not merely predicting it. It already happened in the agriculture industry. Local and/or organic food are making a come back. Individuals are tired of being mindless consumers, and it’s affecting the biggest companies as well: the offering is evolving to include more responsible products.

    People always prefer meaningful transactions over faceless corporations. This is one of the aspects where small businesses win.

    Consequently, going back to the craftsmanship model is a real opportunity for tech companies to survive and strive.

    Customer care, rather than call centers.

    Speed of execution, rather than heavy processes.

    Authenticity, rather than corporate brands.

    Progress, rather than the sole pursuit of profit.

    Common Misconceptions about Tech Startups

    1) Building a startup is risky Learning new marketable skills is not risky. Building a company will teach you many things that are highly valuable in the job market. It won’t be easy, but you can overcome any issue if you are eager to learn.

    2) You need investments
    Time can replace money. You can build a tech startup for 2$ a month (price of a domain name) and learn all the necessary skills on the road.

    3) Starting a startup is hard
    A startup doesn’t have to make money right from the start. You don’t even need a product. You certainly don’t need to register a business. What you need first is market validation, and that doesn’t take any money if you do it well.

    4) You need a business plan to create a startup
    Hell no. Business plans are for investors. You need one yet. By the way, if colleges could stop making the students write business plans picturing imaginary startups, that would be nice.

    5) You can live off passive income with a tech startup
    Absolutely not. Startups are temporary structures meant to evolve by definition. This constant reinvention takes a lot of work.

    6) You need an accountant
    Are you making money out of your product? If not, you don’t need an accountant.

    7) You need a lawyer
    See 6

    8) You need to know how to code
    No. In most cases, you can build minimum viable products using free online services.

    9) You need to study startups before creating a startup
    Building a startup is a war. You won’t know what it’s like from books. You have to go on the battlefield to confront yourself to reality. The beautiful thing about startups is that there is no guide book for success because it’s about acquiring tacit knowledge relevant to your domain expertise.

    10) Building a startup will make you rich
    You can make a lot of money and still be poor. Wealth is both a mindset and a set of financial skills.

    11) You need co-founders
    You don’t need co-founders when you are starting.

    12) You have to be careful when you share your ideas
    Ideas are worthless. Everybody copy each other because that’s how we learn, but it doesn’t mean people will go out of their way just to steal your idea. It ain’t so special. Your ability to make this idea a reality is what matters (the skill known as execution).

    13) I have to give up on my project because X is already doing the same product
    No. Be confident you can bring something others can’t. Innovation is not invention. Innovation is built upon existing concepts.

    14) Your product has to be perfect before launching
    Launch as soon as you have something functional. Launching means putting your product out there for users to see and try. It doesn’t have to be a huge launch, but you need feedback/validation asap.

    15) I have to leave my job to build a startup
    It’s better if you validate your idea with cold hard cash before thinking of quitting your job.

    200WaD Post-PH launch

    It’s been almost two weeks since the launch on Product Hunt.

    The community reached 1600 members. We grew a monthly-recurring revenue of 65$, which is enough to cover the business’s costs (but not enough to make a living). We peaked at 150+ posts published in one day.

    We are now reaching a growth plateau at 200 daily active users and around 70 posts per day. It’s time to ship again.

    I’m arriving in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow after a week at a friend’s house near Georgetown.

    I will be locking myself up in an Airbnb condo near the Petronas Towers to grow 200WaD even further and keep on adding value at a higher speed.

    My short-term goal over the next 6 months is to reach ramen profitability, meaning, I want to generate enough revenue to cover my living expenses, which in turn will enable me to work on 200WaD full-time indefinitely (I’m living on my savings as of now).

    I can only do that by adding enough value for the members to invest in this community, so what differentiates 200WaD from other writing products? Its focus on a free and open community.

    The community is truly the only thing that matters. This is why I’m gonna spend my whole time helping the members by interacting with them and releasing community features, with openness being our core value.

    How does it translate to reality?

    First, I’m going to release a basic API this week to allow anyone to build over 200WaD’s engine and create endless feature possibilities. We have many makers and developers in the fellowship that can create wonderful things, so it makes sense to welcome and encourage any community development.

    Then I will be working on new community features: onboarding animation for the new members, crowdsourced writing prompts integrated to the writing interface, 200 words replies, and 200 words reviews.

    Lastly, I am going to push new habit-forming features such as email reminders, leaderboards, a karma system and badges.

    @jasonleow also mentionned in his great post about 200WaD the necessity to add features dedicated to readers, so I decided to release a bookmarking system as well.

    It’s nice to make new features, but it’s more important to communicate. The format of the daily newsletter is going to change. The weekly newsletter is going to change as well. Many members published great writing tips. I want to feature them in the Tools section. A 200WaD account will be created to keep everyone updated on what’s being released, what’s the state of the roadmap, but also to feature the members and celebrate every small win together.

    The best part? I made sure to create the right environment in KL to release a MVP version of everything over the next two weeks. To say I’m excited is an under-statement.

    After that, we will talk about what to implement next together. I also need to keep talking with the active members on a daily basis, and figure out why most members dropped out and how I can help them with their writings.

    Thanks to everyone writing here. You push me to new heights every day.

    Don’t hesitate to message me if you have any question or suggestion. I’m here to help and always happy to hear from you :)

    See you tomorrow,

    baz

    Adventure in Time

    Over the last few days, I have been implementing the new custom timezone feature to allow anyone to publish in their own 24-hour cycle.

    Before that, the countdown was based on Zurich’s time where the server is located. 200WaD is now a global website with people from all around the world, so it’s now making sense to add a timezone support.

    Adding a timezone information to each user is not hard. What is hard is transitioning from a single timezone architecture to a truly global website without breaking anything.

    Of course, I shipped fast but broke the website several times over the last few days. Sorry if you have been affected, but this is for the greater good :P

    The main problem I faced is how to keep the day streaks intact after changing the timezone. To do that I added a timezone field to the posts and comments as well. There still might be some problem to readjust: if the user doesn’t post before midnight the day it changed the timezone setting, the day streak will be broken. If this happens to you, please wave at me and I will fix your post’s dates to keep your streak going.

    One common thing people tell you when you start a product is to do things that don’t scale. Well, I will never do this same mistake again: for glocal websites, internationalization should be planned from the get-go.

    This post is published to ensure the timezone change has been correctly made. Let’s hope I don’t break anything else 🤞

    With love,
    baz

    Entrepreneurship and Mastery

    I have a personal statement I live by:

    Mastery is the goal. Tech, travel and writing are the tools.

    Entrepreneurship is one of the hardest things you can do nowadays. Many try, few succeed. But I love a good challenge, and this is one of the reasons why I decided to go at it full-time straight out of college.

    Entrepreneurship is the best way to confront your craft to reality.

    I’m graduating as a software engineer in March this year. I can’t say the perspective of having a stable job where I get to work regular hours for a great wage is not attracting. I would be glad to get my hands on any golden handcuff. But the problem isn’t there: only by building a tech company can I really shine as a hacker.

    It teaches me the necessary skills to excel in software engineering. Engineering is increasingly less about maintenance and more about creating great products.

    A great product is useful, and it is used by many. Consequently, making a great tech product really is all about acquiring the self-discipline to execute on an idea at a high speed (technical mastery) while displaying a variety of highly marketable skills (marketing, branding, customer support etc.).

    The success of a venture mostly depends on the ability to solve a real problem. Luck has its part, but don’t fool yourself, it’s a marginal part.

    Entrepreneurship is the surest way to mastery.

    Maybe one day I will run out of savings and I will have to get a job.

    Is it so bad? I don’t think so. Worse fates can befall me any time.

    What more, you get to help people on a daily basis through your own work, so you always get that going for you which is highly rewarding if you take the time to appreciate it.

    Launch Feelings

    When you create, it is your duty to put it out there for the world to see.

    Painters, movie makers, programmers, writers, sculptors… all creators have to go through a launch day at some point. I want to describe how it feels with my own words.

    It’s a bag of mixed feelings. Light comes with darkness.

    A launch takes an extended period of time to prepare. During this phase you build up apprehension: will my readers/spectators/users like it? It’s both exciting and frightening.

    Launching is like giving birth. You wonder if your baby is going to be ok. You wonder what the future holds for him or her out there. But the baby MUST come out. It’s the only way for life to flourish. Sustainable growth is the only way forward.

    Similarly, you will never be ready for launch. It will still hurt, no matter how much you prepare yourself. Set aside your inner perfectionist and buckle up, it’s time to launch.

    On an opening day, your excitement is balanced with fear. Just acknowledge the road traveled so far. Do not expect much. You did it for you. For a vision, you believe in.

    Then come the haters. You will have to face them. Listen to them. Don’t shut yourself down. It’s hard not to take things personally. Strive to process things objectively, with charm. Sometimes it feels overwhelming. In these moments I just lie down, relax, maybe take a nap, eat a snack and drink a cup of coffee. Works every time. Haters are a good thing. They show you ways to improve. The world would be boring without them, so learn to love them.

    Then come the lovers. They give you life. They remind you of your purpose. Thank them. Find ways to give some of their love back.

    Then come the copycats. All artist steal. All creative processes originate from a theft. Keep your eyes on the road ahead and don’t mind them. Believe in yourself and in what you can offer.

    Lastly, don’t focus too much on launches. Launches come and go. It won’t matter in a few months time. Always keep your eyes on the road, and be glad you can drive.

    Featured on Product Hunt

    Today is a special day.

    We are launching on Product Hunt. The platform where 200 Words a Day is born 41 days ago. The platform where 200 Words a Day won the Makers Festival 2018 and made its first steps.

    We are now more than 500 members and a solid family of daily users.

    I have been using 200WaD myself for 41 days straight now, and it’s been 60 days since I started writing at least 200 words daily.

    We are growing fast: 500 members in 41 days, close to 1000 posts released over this time period. Some members have been writing there for several weeks already without any break or excuse for stopping.

    Today is our day and it’s important to celebrate the progress made so far.

    So here I go: I want to thank all the members for being there, for giving me your trust, and for writing here. It’s a real pleasure to read you every day and work on this project, which I hope will become my life work. I’m excited to get up and get to work every single day without fail. Ok sometimes I feel lazy and stuff, I can give you that, but reading your work has come to be my daily ritual and I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

    If you are not familiar with Product Hunt, it’s a website where the latest tech products are featured. A voting system allows the community to pick its favorite products every day and it’s a good way to let people know what you are doing. Don’t hesitate to say hi, leave a comment, or just have a look at the project page: 200 Words a Day PH page. Love is always appreciated :)

    Of course, this is only the start of the adventure.

    200 Words a Day is going to grow and improve with its members every day.

    In the meantime, thank you for writing. Your ideas and what makes you you deserve to be shared.

    Much love,
    baz

    From Idea to Revenue in 48 Days

    -48 days: I want to be a better writer, so I will scribble at least 200 words every day and share the result on Twitter and Medium.

    -42 days: I can’t find the right product to help me improve my writings. There are nice writing communities in subreddits and in forums. There are nice writing tools to develop a writing habit. But not both at the same time.

    -42 days: My co-founders and I decided to dissolve our startup after working on it for 1 year. We attained profitability, but we cannot reach an agreement on how to scale from there.

    -39 days: The invites for the Product Hunt Makers Festival 2018 are sent. Registrations open.

    -35 days: I need to cheer up after my cofounder breakup. Building cool tech products make me happy. If it can help others, it’s even better. I sign up for the Makers Festival as a solo maker and decide to build a product where people can get into a writing habit and improve together. I choose 200 words as a minimum daily practice since I know from personal experience that it is doable. Everything is built in public: a public Trello, a dedicated Product Hunt Makers project page, a Makerlog product page and I tweet the tasks I completed in real-time.

    -33 days: The MVP is out. It is a text editor inspired by Medium with an administration panel where your drafts and publications are displayed. 22 users subscribe, we publish 6 posts. Anyone can access the posts if you publish the URL but there is no centralized feed yet. All the early-users contribute to the project by suggesting design improvements, features and bug fixes.

    -32 days: I add the Feed page.

    -31 days: I add the Profile pages.

    -27 days: The MLP is ready. I send all the required assignments to Product Hunt for judging. 36 users registered and we can read 8 posts on average every day.

    -19 days: We reach 100 users. So many bugs to fix.

    -17 days: We win the Product Hunt Makers Festival 2018 in the category “Other” competing with 19 other startups.

    -13 days: We reach 200 users. More bugs, new features.

    -9 days: I decide to write a book in public in 3 months by scribbling at least 200 words every day on this website. I share my idea on Hacker News and it hits the front page. We go from 228 to 341 users overnight.

    -3 days: We are 400 writers. We have a dedicated Slack now.

    Today: I release the Pro plan for 2$ a month that allows any users to post his/her writings in private. Anyone can choose its audience by sharing a URL. 2 hours later I have my first customer. It took 29 days to gather 424 writers. We write +30 posts per day and the community is developing its own culture. I wrote 67 ebook pages so far.

    What’s next: Ship faster. Grow faster. Help the members. Anyone can be a writer, and I feel ready to dedicate my next 10 years to this vision.

    Writing is the root of branding

    If we take a really cold outlook at our economy today, we observe that everything is productized. Especially people. People are offered to a market to fulfill a need or a want — to solve a problem in exchange for a wage, your perceived value. It is indeed a dehumanizing view, but this is the essence of liberalism.

    Similarly, everything you need to strive for in order to succeed in society could be linked to a sales process: you want a job? You have to sell yourself. You want a partner? Seducing is selling yourself. Jean-Luc Godard famously said that “making movies and doing the hustler are the same thing”. It is neither good or bad, it is reality, and reality is amoral.

    If selling yourself is an unrelenting part of life, how do we do it effectively? Value comes from scarcity: you have to offer what no one else can. This process of identifying features that make a product distinct from another is called branding.

    You have to brand your business. You have to brand yourself.

    Writing serves two purposes to your personal branding efforts:

    - Giving a glimpse of your soul to others in an articulate fashion: what makes you original? what kind of thought leader are you?

    - Self-development by introspection (looking inward) and retrospection (looking backward)

    Needless to say, those two points will constitute the core of your personal brand.

    One could argue that you don’t have to write, you can just use another form of self-expression. And it is true, but to a limited degree: writing is the most common form of business communication. Whether you are a painter or a sculptor or a movie maker, you will end up writing at some point. Picasso is famous for his quotes as well. Michelangelo was not only a sculptor, but a poet as well. Silent movies have scripts too.

    Get writing, it will benefit your life.

    200 Words a Day will not be the next Medium

    Since I launched 200wordsaday.com two weeks ago, people who use the product are not afraid to go ahead and say that this website will become the “Idea Twitter”, an “Anti-Twitter”, or the “next Medium”.

    I understand what they mean by that. 200’ has the potential to help many people in getting into a writing habit, be read and act upon their life by doing so. A publishing platform that could become as big, if not bigger, than Medium in size.

    Truth is, 200’ is, and will be, something entirely original. We will represent something much different than Medium.

    Medium’s description says it all:

    “Medium taps into the brains of the world’s most insightful writers, thinkers, and storytellers to bring you the smartest takes on topics that matter. So whatever your interest, you can always find fresh thinking and unique perspectives.”

    I approve of the latter sentence, yet 200 Words a Day will stand against the former.

    Writing should not only be about “the smartest takes” or the “topics that matter”. There is beauty in every piece of writing. We should not have to discriminate against any.

    While Medium extols its quality publications from insightful writers, I say: everybody can be a writer. Even if it is just 200 words at a time. What Medium does not show you is how many years it took renowned writers to perfect their craft before being able to “make it big”. Such filters should not exist in a publishing platform, diversity is key.

    I want this website to be a place where poems can stand side by side with tech tutorials or kid stories. A website where, even if your english is bad or broken, you feel great about sharing your thoughts with others. A website where you can improve: be read, gather feedback, refine your words as a delicate painter would do.

    What more, I want this domain to be an independent publishing platform where community would be its strongest foundation. An indie website for indie writers who are not afraid to speak out.

    During the upcoming weeks, I will be working on making 200 Words a Day a sustainable business for everyone. This will include new feedback and community features, bug fixes, but also talks with fellow members about finding a sustainable monetization method that could suit their interests (I think the business model should include ways to reward content creators right from the start).

    What started as a pet project is now my life work: empowering people to write, and as a consequence access a higher quality of life.

    I hope you will follow me on this journey. Whatever your decision is, take care.

    Baz

    So, we won something apparently

    Yesterday night, as I was celebrating the arrival of the 100th member of our community, I noticed a little notification pop up reading “And the Makers Festival winners are…“. My heart skipped a beat. I couldn’t resist the clickbait and proceeded to the website.

    Two weeks ago the Product Hunt Makers Festival 2018 happened, and it was an amazing experience: origin story of 200 Words a Day.

    It started with solving a personal problem, and ended with a product users like - dare I say - a product that users love (or will hopefully love after further refinements).

    Two weeks forward, we are a community of 150+ writers. A total output of 130+ posts. 15+ active users who took on the challenge, and this number keeps growing.

    When I read the results, my heart beat heavily and I felt out of breath. I closed my laptop in one go… and reopened it to double check if I was not mistaken. We did it, our writing community had won.

    I closed my laptop - it was around midnight - went out for a cider can, and sat in the hotel reading a book in an attempt to calm my racing mind. I tried to sleep, despite the fact that my brain wouldn’t stop thinking of new cool features to help people with becoming regular writers. I managed to come up with 20+ new ideas - that I truly believe can change the way we write online - before the sandman caught me. It was 5 or 6AM. I woke up six hours later.

    Now writing allows me to process the event. My head is cooling off. It is easy to let the first wins dilute you and fuck up your projects. But writing is here to help once again, and the community will be here to knock some sense into me if that happens.

    I do not really care about winning. It is a good ego boost, but I won’t let it change me. What I am more happy about is being able to meet new people, make a cool product I believe in by listening to them, and overall help each other.

    So first I want to thanks the Product Hunt team for organizing this event and helping us raise awareness on our vision that anybody can be a writer if we do it 200 words at a time. As Thoreau once famously said, ”Rather than love, than money, than fame… give me my golden kitty trophy“.

    What more, here is a special thanks to the early-users who put 200 Words a Day on its path to become a great community during the Festival by sending me love and feedback. We owe it all to you guys ❤️

    👉 Jason Leow, Anne-Laure Le Cunff, Gene Lim, Akshay Kadam, JDaniel Richer, Dianna Allen, Ben, Gleb (aka the hackerman), Sean Walker, Valentino Urbano, Josh Pitzalis, Ruben, Brian Ball, Ruben Visscher, flowen, KP, Matt Lo, Michał Wagner … and everyone who inspired me in this journey.

    Let’s all make something beautiful out of this platform.

    How artisans do marketing

    Craftsmanship is old. Artisans are tied to their craft.

    When a craftsman reach mastery, he can own a business. How do craftsmen market themselves? They use their craft.

    Indeed, ancient artisans never resorted to facebook or google ads. Instead, their knowledge and experience were their best marketing tools.

    Word-of-mouth is the oldest marketing strategy.

    If your product is great, and you get some people to buy it and be happy about it, chances are, your customers will become your greatest advocates.

    On the contrary, a bad product, or a bad customer, might end up ruining your chances.

    As Ben Horowitz says, you have to take care of your people, your product and your profits. In that order.

    Similarly, a great master craftsman will take care of his customers, his journeymen and his apprentices first. A journeyman who enjoyed working under the guidance of his master is more likely to advise his fellow journeymen and apprentices to follow his master’s footsteps.

    A sexy company is a brand with a soft marketing power.

    A great product is then usually the side-effect of a great team.

    This is why you can learn so much from observing how the craftsmanship system work: its old wisdom is timeless.

    The maker who had too many ideas

    I have a problem. I have too many product ideas.

    Most of them are bad, but I will never know which ones unless I try them out.

    My personal Trello board contains 100+ product idea cards. Some others are logged in Evernote, in an ideas.txt file, or on Twitter.

    Many complain that they cannot manage to generate ideas. I trained myself to become an idea machine. It is now a curse.

    Picture this. You have many ideas that you are excited about and cannot wait to make and share for the world to see. The problem is, time is limited. You will never have enough time in the world to grow all of them into beautiful products.

    And this is frustrating. Growing a product takes an insane amount of time. You only have 24 hours a day to take care of your needs, make and develop your creations, while contributing to the community.

    If you are just like me, here is my advice.

    Take your idea. Write down the few steps you need to take to execute it, to make it a reality. How hard is it? How excited are you about it? Make a list of those ideas, then prioritize them. Take the first one. Put it in front of others. See how people react. Is it helpful? Iterate.

    You will never have an infinite amount of time, but you can learn to test out ideas quickly.

    Do you still have too many ideas to test out? Share them. Collaborate. Make together.

    Nobody is going to steal your ideas, they are worthless.

    The possibilities are endless. The opportunities are endless. You have no excuse to let your ideas rot in a forgotten todo list.

    Online trust

    Online trust is hard to get.

    Yet, it is mandatory for most things you set out to create. Making is collaborating. You cannot do this alone. Trust is the heart of collaboration, so how do we grow trust ?

    Performing tasks in public is a great enabler. Writing down what you are doing, for everyone else to see, creates transparency. A tangible display of honesty.

    Any goal worth pursuing usually takes time. Persistence is another trait to prove to others. Cheer determination inspires people. Show up everyday and keep at it.

    Stick to become a reliable person: keep your word. Stay consistent once you set out to do something and don’t give halfway through it at the first obstacle: nobody like half-assed people.

    Striving for the win-win situation is the only way to go. Never act selfish, have a genuinely helpful nature. But don’t be selfless, you have to stand out for your own personal values and choices.

    If humans are social animals, trust is what the social contract relies upon.

    Break trust, and you are estranging yourself from mankind. Even lone wolfs long for a trustworthy pack.

    Gain trust, and few things will remain inaccessible.

    What more, do not give away your trust easily. It is a treasure in its own right.

    There is no worthless app

    Oscar Wilde famously said that all art is quite useless.

    Similarly, one could argue that all apps are useless, meaning, they are not needed to live.

    And this is a peculiar argument which I think is the reason why so many makers never launch or never go through with their ideas. A fear of uselessness.

    But being useless is not the same thing as being worthless.

    Making an app can only benefit you in the long term.

    Your market value is all about your capacity for learning hard materials fast and creating at an elite level, in both speed and quality. Making is about both.

    Apps are either tools or works of art. One is an opportunity to significantly improve an user’s life. The other will convey feelings: laughter, anger, joy, sadness. The possibilities are endless.

    Apps are opportunities to connect and to share. When I made my budgeting app PyroHabit in September, I was pretty disappointed to see that no one had any use for it. But later it inspired me to build Findependents. The kind of product you want to stand for. The kind of product that attracts passionate people to you. It all started with an useless app.

    I love tech. It is time to make.

    Why I built 200 Words a Day

    When you are growing a tech company, it is tempting to spend all your time making and leave your voice aside.

    But this voice matters. It tells you why you got started in the first place. It tells others what you stand for. More importantly, it keeps you sane.

    It is not my first attempt at getting into a habit of writing: I bought writing books, I started a blog … to no effect.

    On November the 4th, I decided it could not keep going that way, and I commited to writing 200 words every day in public. Published on Medium, shared on Twitter and Facebook.

    Today, I am not only on a 18-day streak, but I am also making a product out of the experience.

    The Product Hunt Makers Festival is happening this week, I couldn’t resist the urge to make this website when I saw people reaching out to tell me about this exact same problem.

    I set up a product development plan on Trello, publicly accessible to anyone. I am detailing the tasks I am performing in real time on Makerlog and Makers. I announce the main milestones on Twitter.

    I have two days left to submit my assignments for the hackathon, but it’s already a huge success to me:

    I got to hear about incredible people supporting my idea.

    20 users registered already as I am writing.

    Heck, Anne-Laure Le Cunff even offered me to contribute to the upcoming Maker Magazine.

    Making is amazing, so is writing.

    This text is my 19th attempt at the 200 words a day challenge, and it is all thanks to the support of the Maker community.