Are you working on a project right now or thinking about what you’re going to build next? Before you get too deep into either path, ask yourself a simple question.
“Am I building a passion project or am I building a project that’ll help support my family?”
These are two very, very different things.
When I began building games for iOS, late 2008, I hoped for cash to rain down once I released the projects. However, I recognized that, more important than money, I needed to learn how to build fun and engaging games while learning how to code. To expect success immediately after beginning the path would be incredibly premature. My expectations were set up front so the result of releasing the projects didn’t send me spiraling out of control in rage or blaming the system.
I hear from a lot of builders out there who don’t consider this question when they dive into a project. After they realize they’ve been working on a fun project for 3 months, or even a year, they decide they need to earn money off of it so they can fund their next idea. The problem is that they haven’t done any research to actually see if what they’re building is a problem for people. They may have lucked out and built something that folks needed, but I see so many apps miss this mark.
Be realistic with yourself by determining which one you’re working on so you’re not surprised by the end result. When you’re at the early stage of a new product it’s incredibly easy to drown yourself within so much excitement that you forget that the monetary side of the house may need immediate attention.
If it’s a passion project say so. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, let’s create an example based on some things I’ve seen in the past.
Jimbo the passionate
Meet Jimbo! He’s a motivated and incredibly passionate guy. He dreamed of creating a tool that’ll help people store their photos online. He would wake up hungry to tackle issues surrounding the tool that I was building, spending nearly a year on nailing a great experience. And then, just before he released it into the wild, he started to consider who was going to use the product and how much they would pay for it. He loved the tool, surely others would too!
Then, it dawned on poor Jimbo. Yikes! Look at all of the options out there. And they are insanely cheap. I don’t know how I could afford to manage all of the data. Oh, and there are a couple, which provided almost the same experience, but they went under. “How did I not notice this,” he exclaimed.
Out of the gate, Jimbo wasn’t thinking about how the product he was building would actually solve existing problems. He fell in love with an idea and had to pursue it at all cost. When he finally wrapped up the project he then decided to sell it. Jimbo hammered on a passion project and set unrealistic expectations.
To reiterate. Working on a passion project is fine. What’s not fine is ignoring those expectations and then blaming the system or others for a dismal product launch. Be realistic with yourself. Have you done your homework to understand customer pain and how they’re solving it today? Do you have a general idea of what they’d be willing to pay in order for you to fill that gap? Are you just having fun learning? Do your homework before you dive into your next product.
Before you start your next project do a little self-reflection. Are you building it because you think it’ll be fun or are you building it because you want to create a sustainable business? If you’re having fun rock on, otherwise, do some research and set expectations so you don’t burn the house down.
Looking back in time, have you experienced this before with your own projects or others? Let me know in the comments below!