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Watching my sideproject die and feeling kinda deppressed
26 points by kristaps1990 on Nov 29, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 23 comments
Hi,

I while ago i posted here in hackernews post about my side project https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11982006

I love designing stuff i do it on my full-time job, i do it on my free time, i do it when i wake up, i do it before i go to sleep. When i started I was super motivated and productive. Now i feel that I am stuck and something ain't right.

156 days have passed and i have some harsh takeaways from my experience.

Building side project which takes more than "few weekends" to build is fcking hard.

Working with developers that have full time job and are helping you in free time sucks.

Being a 1 man army didn't work out in a long term - got burned out pretty quickly

So whats this post is all about?

I am looking for guidance, light of the end of the tunnel, anything that can get the spark back. Co founder, investor, buyer, mentor.

Or maybe should I let it die and move on?

Data:

Stack - Python, MongoDB, React.js Users - 2.7k Maintaining app - 80$/month




Okay let's paint a picture based on what you gave us:

    * You made an application 6 months ago
    * You have 2.7k users in BETA
First the obvious, as of NOW there is no paid plan on your homepage. I mean, literally, your application lacks of documentation, disclaimer, terms of service, possible/available plans...

IMHO you're sitting on a possible goldmine and you have done the most difficult part: Get more than some people to use your application. You need a partner to help you with feature-set and (obviously) the business side of things.

Don't screw this up, you're probably on to something here. If you can't manage it alone, great, get a co-founder. If you don't know anyone in real life, start pitching your product here, I'm sure you'll get tons of candidates.


I second this.

On the other hand, you're competing with Toggl which has a very similar feature set for free for small teams. Though I currently do pay for invoicing software separately.


Two things: First, yes: getting a product off the ground is hard. Second: nearly all of your products will fail.

Nobody seems to prepare themselves for that second one. Sorry to hear that it hit you so hard.

Don't give up though. I live primarily on the income of a single SaaS product. It is the fifth complete project that I built with the intention of getting to this point. That's only counting completed products, ready to go out the door or even launched and running. Call it a dozen or more if you add in things that only lasted a month or so.

Now I'm in the process of getting another solid income stream up and running. There are two more complete sites in the can that didn't work, another half dozen false starts, and one site currently about to launch that hopefully will be the one.

Perhaps you see a pattern here. There are entire years of effort written off up above, many with a lot more work put in to them than what you describe. If you decide to pick up and try again, I can guarantee that you'll have this same experience several more times before you finally hit on the thing that will pay for your kids' college fund.

But once you have that thing ticking away, it'll make all the effort worth it. It was sunny yesterday, so I ditched work for the day and went out rock climbing. It was sunny again today and the kids had the afternoon off school, so I took that off too. That's the lifestyle you're working towards.

Keep at it, and don't get discouraged by minor setbacks like this one.

Good luck!


I would send an email to your users with a survey asking, how they like it, whats most important to them, what they want fixed, as well as how much they would be willing to pay for it. And if they don't want to pay for it maybe ask what you could add or fix that would make them want to pay for it. Let the users decide its fate.


Maybe something like this could help: Use the app for free (at least by now). If you want something done (new features, integrations...), vote for it. If you need it badly pay for getting more votes.

The good part of the voting is that users become citizens of the community around your app.

Maybe it helps retaining users and making some paying customers.


Will do that! Thanks for advice!


I actually log into Laps every now and then for inspiration on projects I am working on (in a similar space).

I love the design and I love the concept but it just isn't "feature rich" enough for me to use in a production sense.

I suspect you already know this but the cycle time on releasing features seems to be too slow. I'm not sure exactly what the solution to that is, but it would perhaps help with keeping your user base active. I re-opened it again today after your email about new features being released.

I think you're close to having the features necessary to charge. For me, personally, it needs more. Perhaps a freemium model would be a great way to start making a bit of $ to keep the dream alive.

As someone who has tried a few times now to get a side project moving, I can empathise. Hang in there, fam.


Thanks! I really appreciate it now.


Are those users paying you? That's a ton of users compared to my side project (0 users).

The only advice I can give is that you don't gain anything by taking it down (and it looks like you are gaining traction with almost 3k users). Scale back if you aren't using that $80 to a smaller instance in the cloud. I'm paying $25/mo for mine. If you would rather sell, check out flippa.com

With 3k users, I would stick it out. Maybe ask for feedback, opportunities for growing, etc.

Edit: I see the beta is free.. I would grandfather those people in to a lifetime free plan (as long as they don't cancel) and start charging new users a per monthly price.


Hi! Thanks for replay - the main problem i am facing is not moving too fast when it becomes down to features, bugfixes and so on. I will think about newsletter to current users and maybe ask about the potential of the app - how do they see it.

Thanks again!


Speed of movement is entirely dependent on how dedicated your workforce is.

Since it's currently just you (and no $), the only motivation for new features is you wanting them.

If you pay a single developer even a slightly reasonable wage, you'll see progress pick back up very quickly. Developers love making stuff, you've just gotten slogged down.


I assume that your users are finding your app useful, which is why they are using it. If you were charging $10/month for each user, then you wouldn't be having this problem. It would be worth your while to commit to it full-time.

I would have thought that the idea of a side-project is to create a MVP and if it takes off then you have a viable business. If not, then it was an interesting experiment.

In its current form, your app is a charitable act, you are helping others out of the goodness of your heart. Nothing wrong with that, if that is what you want to do.


Sorry to hear you're feeling somewhat down. I'm sure it's your baby, so you may find it hard to part with it, but if it is one of your options, I run SideProjectors - a market place for selling/buying side projects.

https://www.sideprojectors.com

Someone mentioned flippa here. Similar, but we focus more on indie developers. Can't guarantee you it'll sell. It'll give you some exposure, but who knows. We've had a plenty of side projects exchanging hands over the years. It's an option you can consider!


My friend is a co-founder similar tool to yours (but probably not a competition to you) - https://www.timecamp.com/ ... and I'll say, he made break-even after 3 years (he had some $ from investors).

It's really hard to make a SASS tool without proper sales strategy - SEO is the most time consuming one (TimeCamp.com gets most of the clients from Google as they appear high under time management software keyword).


Guys! You got me pumped!!! Thanks a lot!


You deserve to feel good about your work!

Your side project has far more traction and users than most side projects ever get.


Start charging even it's for a relatively small amount like $5/month. Stripe is very easy to get setup and to start using. Get some paying customers to keep yourself motivated.

Also, I like the design. I use a similar shade of purple for my apps as well.


If you don't want to continue, try selling it on Flippa, perhaps? You never know.


Thanks for you replay!

I am not sure, you can sell something there that don't generate income.


It looks like it has potential to generate income I think you will find buyers.

EDIT: your project is awesome - I just quit my job and got a client to start contracting in February and I would love to use it, please continue. :) It looks like something I'd pay monthly for. Since we're in negotiation I'm going to suggest a price of $5 per month to anchor you down. :)


Glad you like it! This definitely motivates me! Thanks!


Nice app. If it had multi currency support, I'd pay $5 / month, for sure.

edit: Actually, I know a bunch of people who'd also pay for it.


I've been there m8.

I too am a designer and is depending on developers to do the hardcore OSX stuff (I can do web-coding myself well enough) and I too are depending on their time.

After a number of attempts at starting various products/services ex. [1][2][3] with various levels of success but ultimately fizzling out.

Ex. Weekendhacker have around 8K designers and developers subscribed but it kind of died out, because the time i spent vs. any income I made was not making sense. I haven't killed it but it's basically in hibernation until I figure out what to do with it. It was a really frustrating to see something like that die out with such high hopes of starting an actually community.

However I finally managed to launch something that is generating growing side income for me year over year, which I can control the progress of and which allow me to expand slowly but surely.

https://www.ghostnoteapp.com

Now GhostNote is only the start of something much bigger I am building but it allow me to control the scope and slowly expand what I am doing while still enjoying it as an added bonus I am making good money.

In my experience the key thing when you do side projects is to do something you enjoy doing and something which even if you make no money you are glad you did it.

Another thing is to make sure you create a bunch of little successes for yourself. Better to start with and launch ex invoicing than trying to do a whole suite of things. That way you spend way less time and get way less attached to what you are doing and you can own it. What you have done look amazing but are you really solving something fundamentally (this is not a rhetoric question) or just redesigning what already exist out there?

You should ask yourself the questions like.

Why am I building what I am building?

Is there a simpler way to do what I want to do. (Ex. could it just be email to start with? Weekendhacker was.)

Is this really what I want to spend my time on?

Does the world really need this?

But most importantly you should never give up, sooner or later you you wil find something as long as you make sure you don't spend too much time on each.

I have literally hundreds of ideas, tens of a whole graveyard of almost implemented projects [4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

Just keep trying new stuff, make new aliances with developers. Do several things at once if you have to. But if you want to make money with your side project don't be too attached.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2563718 [2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2991206 [3] http://mashable.com/2012/04/19/pinview-facebook-pinterest-ap... [4] http://000fff.org/uploads/LiveChat.png [5] http://000fff.org/uploads/TL02.png [6] http://000fff.org/uploads/NewFlow1.png [7] http://000fff.org/uploads/NewFlow_02.png [8] http://000fff.org/uploads/Map_Template_Layout.png [9] http://000fff.org/uploads/StarStruck.png [10] http://000fff.org/uploads/badgenation_Sketch.png




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