Scratching your own itch
How to build something other people want
There's an easy shortcut to creating a product other people will love— Build something you would love.
Over the years, I've realized, as a solo founder with a limited budget, the process is much more important than the end result. And realizing this is a journey that can take years (which it will), I only choose to work on things that genuinely interest me in the long term (while also having the potential to generate revenue, at scale).
Hence, the approach I use in all my endeavors is building products I would want to use myself, a.k.a "Scratching your own itch."
In my current primary "startup," I'm building a creative film/video-making app. I've always been interested in this stuff and had a certain vision for what I was looking for, so I decided to build it. The design for the app is now super simple. I already know what I'm looking for as an end user, and it's just a matter of bridging the gap from zero to where I want to go. This involved learning a bunch of skills I didn't have before, but again, that's where all the growth lies. Side Note: It doesn’t have any AI yet, but I’ll integrate it eventually.
New features and usability have become quite straightforward as well. I just try it out as an end user and implement whatever I find is missing, or even if I just think, "wow, this would be cool," I implement it. Being the end user of the product yourself makes everything more interesting. You are adding value to your life before you even launch anything, which could take a while, depending on how complex the product is. You'll also have a much better idea of which feedback to incorporate and which to let go of because you have a solid vision.
I gave up on many projects before this one, even after months and months of intense development, simply because I just wasn't an end user myself and couldn't see myself working on the project in the long run. It was something either my past self would have wanted to use, but I just wasn't in that frame of mind anymore, or something I was anticipating the market to be interested in, but again, I just wasn't that into it myself. This one, however, I'm already actively using and will definitely be interested in improving for a while. So I know exactly what I would want in the app and which direction to move it in. It's just a matter of closing the gaps till I get there.
This approach also lets you build something unique and creative. Only you would have the idea of what exactly you are looking for, and building it would let you step out of the competition entirely and come up with something the world has possibly never seen before. There's only one you in the world, after all.
If the market isn't really interested, you would still have added value to your life by creating a product you would want to use, so this is a win-win scenario. But it's very likely that if you have a solid need for the product yourself, that other people would find value as well. Marketing would then just become a matter of finding people with similar interests and letting them try it out and give you feedback. If they like it as much as you do, they'll share it with their network. How do you know if it's good enough to be shareable? Simple, being an end-user yourself, ask— Would I genuinely want to share this with my network?
The same strategy could be applied to any creative project really. I used it with this newsletter as well. I was going all in on entrepreneurship and wanted to read something which would keep me in the mindset as I launched and scaled my app (and other projects). I felt like I was reading the same stuff over and over again, but wanted something which would evolve with me over time, keep me interested, and provide valuable insights from multiple perspectives. I also found writing things out helped clarify my thinking. Hence, Startup Flyby was born.
But.. Here's the twist.
I got hooked.
I didn't realize how creative writing can be. I got really into it and started going all in on improving my craft. Soon, this took me down the storytelling rabbit hole. I started writing inspiring fiction and building out the flyby fiction universe of entrepreneurship stories. Before I could blink, this project started taking a life of its own.
Pair this with the business model of subscription newsletters, which I also underestimated in terms of the effort required to grow. I started focusing on growing and scaling the newsletter from zero to something and creating premium content. This turned into its own "startup," in a way, and started taking pretty much all of my time. The rest of the year just disappeared into thin air.
Woh, that’s wild. But what about the app, dude!?
Well, this, my friends, is why you should only focus on ONE thing at a time! Ironically, my first post in this newsletter was about the same thing. Seems like I've run into this issue before. Interesting.
The side effect of building a product you want to use is that you can get really really into the process. Especially if there are new skills to be learned (which there likely always will be). You are the end-user, after all, so you’d want the quality to be outstanding. This is obviously going to be a huge win as other people will find value in your product as well (there's always room for TOP^TOP quality in any market), but doing multiple such creative projects at the same time can fragment your attention and take a lot of your time, potentially even burning you out. I'd say it's better to focus on one big thing at a time, scale it to the point of partial or full automation, and then move on to something else afterward, taking all your acquired knowledge and experience with you.
In my case, I've now reached a point where I've built a routine for myself where I just work on writing an hour a day in the morning with pure focus and then publish on whichever day it's ready. So writing these posts has become somewhat "automated" in a way that I don't have to think about scheduling it. And in my downtime, I research ways to improve my craft, which I find pretty enjoyable anyway. But it did cause several months of delays to my app timeline. I'll cover some further insights I learned from this experience in a future post.
The two projects here are somewhat related, so writing all these posts did end up helping me clarify my thinking, fine-tune the details, and improve the branding of my app (and other projects) as I had initially anticipated. So, in the end, it turned out to be a win after all. But there's a fine line to be crossed and definitely a balancing act here. I had to slow down a bit in the New Year, zoom out, and look at things with a beginner's mind and re-balance.
But here's the thing about going slow and zooming out. When you take the foot off the pedal, your brain gets more time to look at the bigger picture and get creative. It comes up with novel solutions you might have otherwise missed. Well, this can only mean one thing, folks. Startup Flyby will indeed be taking off to the next level soon! 🔥
Build something you really love, share it with the world, and keep improving. You'll soon find that other people are finding more value in it than you might have initially expected.
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