Ship therapy : A public challenge to
overcome the fear of shipping.
2 years ago
Week 0 : Maker paralysis and why I'm doing the challenge.
I've been an indie maker before I even knew what an indie maker was. I made stuff for school, for friends, and since 2013, I've been making stuff for groups of paying customers. Thanks to my habit of making, I've been able to sustain a decent living for myself and my family through the past 5 years while enjoying the freedom of doing whatever I wanted at any given time.
Here's the thing though, for the past 12 months, I haven't been able to make anything worth mentionning. I built a dozen half assed projects, that I never launched or shared with anyone else. I wrote a bunch of articles on bootstrapping and startups, but never published any. I even took a great job opportunity and quit a month later.
At first, I thought it was just a phase, but now it seemed like I have contracted what I call Maker Paralysis, which is like the equivalent of writer's block for makers.
The symptoms and causes of maker paralysis
I'm not sure if other people have struggled with something similar, but here are the symptoms that I have observed in myself during 2018 :
Constantly jumping from idea to the next
Building projects up to the 30% - 40% completion mark and then deleting everything.
Conjuring up reasons to abort projects without any testing :
"This can't scale"
"There's too much competition"
"This can't be monetized"
"This guy is already doing this"
"This is too big for me"
"This is too small for me"
"This will take too much time"
"This takes too little time, anyone can do it"
Anxiousness, constant mood swings and mild depression.
Loss of motivation.
As for what caused this, I can't pinpoint one specific reason, but if I had to guess, I'd say that it has a lot to do with the comfort that comes with having a good enough revenue without doing much. I guess complacency is the downside of passive revenue.
Combine that with a tendency for perfectionism, some fear of rejection, and you're stuck in an endless loop of brainstorming, building and deleting stuff, and then getting depressed about it.
I did try a bunch of things to get out of this loop, some helped me move forward, others didn't, but ultimately none fixed my issue permanently :
Changing my work environment a few times : Didn't help.
Traveling to the other side of the world : Gave me hope and motivation.
Hiring people to maintain existing projects so that I can focus on new ones : Didn't help.
Learning about pyschology : Provided me with tools to diagnose and repair parts of myself.
Re-reading books that I loved as a teenager : Helped me reconnect with my inner kid / maker.
Stopped browsing IH, PH, Twitter and similar communities for a month : It helped me focus on myself and stop comparing myself with others ( who obviously had their shit together ).
A practical plan to overcome maker paralysis
Considering how this paralysis is affecting all other areas of my life, overcoming it and being able to ship stuff again has become my number one priority. So I'm going all in, and this is where the ship therapy challenge comes in.
The challenge is inspired by the 12 startups in 12 months challenge, but modified to fit my condition : Instead of shipping 12 startups over a year, I'm committing to ship at least one new product every two weeks, while writing about the process and progress once a week.
There is no time limit, but if everything works out and I'm ready to tackle bigger projects, I might switch the two weeks period to a one month period. Right now, I feel like two weeks is a good enough timeframe to force me to ship something small yet complete.
That's basically it, I don't want to set any additionnal constraints to keep things as simple as possible. The point is to just get started, start small and ship ship ship.Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash
The therapeutic powers of shipping
Can shipping be therapeutic ? It definitely looks like it.
From a psychological standpoint, forcing yourself to ship small products is very similar to exposure therapy, which is used in treating all kinds of anxiety disorders by exposing the patient to the anxiety source gradually until he can overcome his anxiety.
Will it work ? I hope so, I'll make sure to keep you posted.
You can follow up on my journey of overcoming my self-diagnosed maker paralysis through shipping by subscribing to the newsletter below.
If you're struggling with similar issues or just want to chat, feel free to reach out to me on twitter.
Week 1 : First product & the perceived benefits of the challenge.
Last Monday, I was supposed to pick an idea from my list, and announce that I'll be starting the #ShipTherapy challenge on twitter and other maker communities. I had the article describing the challenge and why I'm doing it already written, so all I had to do was just pick an idea, craft a tweet and hit publish.
Little that I know that my maker paralysis would creep up on me again and I would spend the whole day coming up with a dozen reasons why none of the 100+ ideas on my list would never work. I got to the point where I was just going to pull the plug on the whole thing.
But, I thought to myself, this is exactly what you're trying to overcome. You should just ship the article, and tweet about it, get some accountability, and you'll figure out the rest later.
So that's exactly what I did, and today, exactly a week later, I am so glad I did that.
The benefits of just shipping (anything)
In my case I shipped a tweet and an article on a forum, but this really applies to anything that you know you should be doing, but don't feel comfortable doing. I sure as hell wasn't comfortable telling a bunch of people that I'm committing to ship two products per month, when I couldn't even pick a single idea.
So here's a list of what happened next :
I got a bunch of encouraging feedback.
20 people signed up to the newsletter.
A dozen people followed me on twitter.
4 people reached out privately.
1 person pitched me a great idea that I am excited to get started on next. Plus, he's a very cool guy.
A bunch of psychological benefits that I can't articulate, but let's just call it newfound purpose.
I couldn't pick an idea on the next two days either, but I did on the third day and worked non-stop on it for 4 days, and it felt amazing to finally have clear direction, knowing I'm going to ship no matter what.
Product #1 : 1Kprojects.com
As I was scrolling product hunt for some inspiration, I stumbled on transferslot, a marketplace for side projects. I had already seen it before and thought it was a great idea. I remember thinking to myself, it would be great to just buy a project and invest 100% of my time on marketing instead of building. I know I had that thought many times before, but I never bought anything, specifically because the prices are too damn high!
I wanted a place where I can casually browse projects and buy something cool on a whim.
And that's how I came up with 1Kprojects.com : A place where you can casually buy cool side projects neglected/abandoned by their owners, for less than $1k.
Since I'm planning to make a bunch of projects for this challenge, I probably will need to sell a few of them later on. So it would be nice to have a place where I can do that without too much hassle.
So I got to work right away and built a first version in 4.5 days using my go to stack for MVPs ( Laravel & Bootstrap 4 ).
One of the things I did differently this time, is not think about the business model, monetization or marketing. In retrospect, that was probably a good idea as I may have lost enthusiasm by asking too many questions.
1kprojects.com homepage screenshot
The model & making money
I only started to think about should I and how can I make money from this when I had 90% of the code done. I first went with a simple monthly plan, where makers who frequently make and abandon side projects ( like myself ) would pay a monthly fee and add unlimited projects for sale, and a free tier where you can only put one project for sale.
Later on, I realized that it was probably overkill and that I wouldn't pay for it myself since I had no guarantee my projects would be sold, and it was just easier to let those projects rot on my hard drive like I've always done.
So I came up with a different model that I would love to use : You can add unlimited projects, get unlimited offers, and you only pay to "unlock" the buyer's email once you get an interesting offer.
I felt like this model would take away any friction that makers may have when considering selling their abandoned projects, all they have to do is put it up for free, and check out the offers they receive.
How it works
I won't be posting the project to product hunt yet, but I am definitely going to share it around, and try to get some feedback and early adopters. I have a goal of getting around 20 projects on sale before launching it on product hunt.
So, this first week has been an absolute success as I built the MVP, shipped it, and wrote this progress update, as well as another article on finding good problems to solve that I will be sharing sometime this week.
Most of next week will be spent on getting feedback and early adopters on 1Kprojects.com, and starting the next project which I will be doing with another maker who reached out with a cool idea. We just got approved for an API that is essential to the project, so that's something I'm very excited to get started on.
More details on that next week.
In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the project, and on these weekly challenge updates and what you'd like to hear more about.
You can reach out to me on twitter, or via e-mail at : firstname.lastname@example.org
Week 2 : #1 on ProductHunt & Taking a short break.
Boy, it's been a unexpectedly eventful week!
Here's a gist of what happened :
I made an MVP of a marketplace for makers to buy and sell abandoned side projects, as the first project of this challenge, in 4 days. ( See last week's post for more details )
I casually shared it on the IndieHackers forum.
The IndieHackers post blew up and got to top post of the week, with tons of feedback and support. ( Great community )
200 people signed up, 5 put projects on sale.
I talked to subscribers and made changes based on the feedback, which took me 3 days.
I posted on ProductHunt, and it got to #1 and stayed there all day long.
400 more people signed up, 40+ projects were on sale, and 40+ buyers made offers.
4 sellers paid a $19 fee to unlock projects.
1 day after the ProductHunt launch, people are still subscribing, adding projects, and making offers.
As someone who started this thing expecting a maximum of 100 subscribers and very few projects put on sale, I am blown away by my lack of imagination.
I think it's safe to say that the benefits of this challenge are exceeding all expectations.
That's it for the weekly progress, as I feel I'm not delivering much value by detailing my weeks ( although I'd love some feedback on this, please reach out if you can ).
I may switch to posting regular blog posts on various topics around bootstrapping and startups ( sticking to 1 article every week ), and then keep these progress updates short.
Taking a 1 week break from the challenge
Next week, I'd like to take a short break from the challenge. That means not starting a new project until the week after. Instead I'm planning to focus on the following :
Figure out a better way to deliver value on this blog and change the layout.
Improve some aspects of 1Kprojects.
Talk with the many people who reached out.
Publish 2 blog posts.
Get organized for all the upcoming projects and challenges.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this blog and what you'd like to see more of. If you can find a few minutes to tell me about it, I'd be eternally grateful! Reach out to me via Twitter or via Email
Thank you for reading!
Final week : Lessons learned & 1KProjects stats.
I am excited to write the final update for this challenge for so many reasons. First, because it's been an amazing few weeks, exceeding all my initial expectations. But also because I am tired and looking forward to have some time with no upcoming deadlines to reflect and decide where to go next.
I should mention that I have not been able to ship anything this week, I had a huge list of features ( see last week's post ) and while I did implement about half of it, I caught a bad cold and couldn't do much since then. I haven't deployed any of the new features as I would like to deploy a full v2. I'd hate to half ass it, so I'm taking an extra week to finish everything.
Thanks to your feedback last week, I've realized how some of the new features didn't make sense and I'm now working on some of what you suggested.
In this post, I'll update you about 1KProjects, share the lessons I learned during this challenge, and where I'd like to go next.
I shared some of the stats right after launch, but here's a more detailed update :
📈 1800+ subscribers.
🐦 100 Twitter Followers.
👨💻 240+ Sellers.
🚀 150+ projects.
👥 500+ offers sent.
💸 18 Projects sold.
💰 50 Sales - About $1000 in revenue.
Google Analytics for 1KProjects
You can see the peak from the PH launch ( 6240 ), since then it's been an average of 300 - 400 visits per day. Considering I only send a newsletter email once or twice a week, that's pretty good. 38% of visitors are based in the U.S, the rest are from the UK, Canada, India, Germany, Australia and France.
I initially started this challenge to basically get over some fears that I knew were self imposed ( see week 0 ). I was not looking for revenue, or thousands of subscribers. It was an experiment. But it turned out to be a profound experience that changed my perception of what is possible.
I feel like I've learned so much stuff over the past few weeks, but I'm going to focus on the abstract insights, which I think can be valuable for other people and applied to different situations.
Before finishing, you have no idea how things are going to go, and that's a good thing
This may seem obvious to some, but it definitely wasn't for me. Before this challenge, I had this weird conviction that I could know if a specific idea is going to get traction or not before writing a single line of code. It's like I was compulsively looking for reasons why it's not going to work out. Eventually all ideas started to sound like bad ideas, and that's paralysing.
You and your problems are not unique, and that's a good thing
I spent at least a few months thinking that my inability to ship was the result of some complex and unique combination of my environment, my history, my personality, and my skills. Turns out, a ton of people from all over the world are going through the same thing. I've counted 12 people who reached out to me directly via e-mail to talk about the exact same thing I've been struggling with.
When you feel like you have a unique problem, you take away all possibilities of someone having a solution. Instead, if you recognize the fact that you're probably not alone in this, you can start figuring out who had similar problems and how have they overcame them.
Fear is amazing
It's like a very accurate GPS for what you should do asap! I've been doing this for a few months in other areas of my life, and this challenge is yet another confirmation that following what you fear is the most effective way to grow.
Fear is the most accurate GPS for what you should do next.— Othmane E. (@get_eo) November 25, 2018
If you're not a writer and not trying to become one, write but don't edit
Before this challenge, I wrote 5 long posts about bootstrapping with what I consider valuable insights. Except that I ended up deleting 4 of them, because no matter how much I spent editing them, it never sounded as good as the top posts on Medium at the time.
For this challenge, I didn't edit any of my posts. And it worked out great! I've received messages of people saying they liked my writing, others saying they've been inspired by it, and 100+ subscribed to the newsletter of this blog.
Although I've always wanted to be a writer, I never got to it. And right now I just need to share stuff with other people through writing.
My current process is : I write on Sublime Text without editing. When I'm done, I paste it on hemingwayapp.com to quickly fix any typos and that's it. If my grade is a 7 or higher, I just publish it right away.
I have a few personal things to take care of this week, so every bit of time I get is going to be assigned to finish v2 of 1KProjects.
The new version will have domains on sale, projects higher than 1k, and a bunch of other features for both buyers and sellers. Hopefully, I'll launch it next Sunday on PH again.
Feel free to reach out if you want to chat!
Thank you for reading.