My web app challenge - 3 months to $1000 in real revenue

January 11, 2018

For the past 3 years I’ve been focused on helping companies build and grow customer-focused products. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of new people and do many different things. I’d like to think I’ve learned a lot from my experiences. One thing that I have not done is to build something of my own.

The closing of Sail so early in 2018 has provided an unexpected opportunity to pursue my own independent projects. Late last year I was introduced to Amy Hoy’s Year of Hustle roadmap and have been inspired by the many makers who have shared their stories before me. Nathan Barry, Jake Peters, and Jane Portman to name but a few. Given my prior experience and area of interest, I’ve decided to build a SaaS product. Despite the complex nature of building software and my lack of “developer level” skills I’m excited to get started.

I’ve toyed with ideas for solo products before but have always found reasons not to follow through and execute. This time I’m going to do everything publically so there is no excuse.

Web App Challenge

Here’s what I’m going to do:

Within 3 months I’ll build a web application and generate more than $1000 in revenue. The pricing model will be SaaS and there should be recurring monthly revenue, but given the timeline I want to set a fixed number. Only time will tell how realistic this goal is but to keep me focused here are 3 rules I’ll be sticking to for this challenge.

  • I have an idea of who I want to solve problems for and a high level understanding of the problem but no clear product design. (Solutions are a dangerous place to start in my opinion).

  • I can only spend $100 of my own money to get my product off the ground. This will force me to do all the development myself, but also to remember that writing code is not the goal here. If this means I need pre-sales then so be it.

  • I must share my progress publically each week. This is partly to keep me focused on delivering value but also to help me get to my goal of publishing 24 blog posts this year.

As I’ll be sharing everything I do, you can follow what I learn and all the mistakes I make on this blog. There’s an email signup on the blog page if you’re that way inclined. The deadline is April 10th to have received $1000 from paying customers.

Having not shipped a software product solo before, I’ll be asking lots of questions of people who’ve already done this and learning a lot on the fly.

Here’s what I know so far

  1. My strengths are in research, product design and customer education, so I’ll be looking for ways to let that shine through in the product I ship.

  2. I already know roughly who I’ll be building for. Given the timeline, I want to focus on the independent creatives that I already have some experience working with. I’ve also enjoyed working with people who are invested in their own success.

  3. I understand the problem I am trying to solve at a high level. From my time building Sail I know that getting paid is a sticking point for independent creatives. I do not yet know what the solution looks like.

  4. Testing my ideas with real people does not require any code. Getting “outside the room” as quickly and as often as possible will help ensure I don’t build something shiny and useless.

Here’s where I’m expecting the biggest challenge

My weakness is definitely development and dev-ops.

I know some JavaScript (and will be learning more through this process) but will have to leverage as much existing tech as possible and reduce the need for complex code. Given my budget, hiring a developer is out of the question. Instead I’ll be trawling Stack Overflow, asking questions and trying to remind myself that the process is not the goal.

I’m thinking I’ll use Firebase for hosting, authentication, data storage and server side functions due to it’s managed nature. I’m sure people will tell me this is a bad idea but at this point it seems like a good starting point vs the prospect of learning a server side language besides JavaScript. I’m sure there is a lot more I’ll discover that I don’t know I don’t know.

Want to get involved?

I’d love to hear any thoughts or comments on my plan, whether you’ve bootstrapped a product before or have been considering taking the plunge yourself. If you have any feedback shoot me an email: stuartbalcombe@gmail.com.

If you currently sell productized services as a consultant, designer, developer or marketer, let’s chat. I’d love to learn more about how getting paid fits in your workflow and the existing solution you use. Get in touch via email or sign up for early access.

To $1000 in 3 months. Time to get after it.

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