The first product of the new year!

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It’s officially game time.

After quitting my job last year (and going through an abyss of existential panic), I landed on something resembling a master plan: For the remainder of 2018 I took on every freelancing opportunity I could manage in order to build up an income buffer. Once that was achieved, the next step would be to reduce the time I allocate to freelancing, and dive into the world of product development.

Phase three, as such, will be to derive 100% of my income from products and SaaS services. It will probably take longer than I think it will, and I already think it’s going to take at least 2 years.

I didn’t have any timeframes in mind, but after the last quarter of 2018 I’m feeling comfortable enough to attempt my first build. I’ve been soaking up knowledge and insight over the last few months – time to start putting it into practice!

I initially decided to go straight for building a SaaS application (and drafted a convincing business case for it), but my thinking was shifted somewhat by an interesting Indie Hackers article.

At first, I’d discarded the notion of selling one-off products: That’s not a path to recurring revenue, which is what I ultimately need. However, there’s a bunch of upsides to going for one-off products.

For one, they’d be easier to build. I can draw up a spec, build, refine, document and release something without the pivoting and scope-creep that’s inevitable in a B2B SaaS application. And they could be a lot smaller and narrower in scope than a typical SaaS.

I don’t have to worry about hosting customer-facing services. While I’ve got no problem doing this (and am busy doing it right now), I definitely want to up my game on cloud providers before going public with a SaaS of any sort.

Once-off purchases of tools that save time are pretty easy to justify. I buy Themeforest themes all the time (I’ve spent thousands by now, I’m sure), simply because the dollar cost of the theme is a lot less than it would cost me, time-wise, to put together something similar.

They can be a foot in the door at other businesses. I’ve seen this (from a distance) several times – a company buys a product, is able to do 90% of what they need, and need help for the remaining 10%, which becomes a consulting opportunity.

They (typically) don’t expire. Stuff like PDFs, email courses, videos and so on technically don’t expire, and they can be sold for as long as they remain relevant. In my case that’s mostly true, though I will need to update the products at least every 3 months to stay current with framework and dependency changes.

With all of that in mind, I’m diving straight into building the first no, I’m kidding. Step one is idea and market validation, for which I’ve used the absolutely god-like to put together a landing page:

The product itself is pretty straightforward: A well-documented starter pack, using framework defaults and idiomatic patterns for common web applications.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to find ways to send traffic to that page – organic, paid, referral, whatever. If I feel comfortable that I’m going to do at least $500 in sales, that makes it worth my time to take on one of the smaller packages.

I’m intending on delivering high-quality quickstart packages though, so the first one will be an exercise in breaking new ground. The next few will hopefully be easier.

Or, it might turn out that there’s no demand for something like this, in which case I simply park the domain and move on to the next thing. This is idea #1 in a list of around 20, which keeps growing every week.

And of course, I’m going to be as transparent about this process as I dare. For one, it makes this blog a lot easier to maintain (the posts basically write themselves). Mostly though, it’s important to me that other people can learn from my experiences.

That’s one of the motivating factors behind this product: Among other things, I want the documentation to be good enough that it basically teaches people how to build good web apps, on top of giving them a solid foundation to start.

If you’re interested in following along, best thing I can suggest is to either subscribe directly to the blog (sidebar widget, top right) or follow me on Twitter, where these posts are automatically broadcast. And if you’ve got questions, I’d love to hear from you!

Published by

Wogan May

By day, I run a software development agency focused on business tools, process optimization, data integration and automation. By night, I build tools and platforms that serve online creators.

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