One reason explains why my 3 last projects failed and the next one might succeed
July 23, 2019
I was so excited.
Nine months of hard work. Learnings about dev stuff I needed, learnings about web marketing, GDPR and more. I was prepared. This project was my chosen one.
After two failed side-projects, I was ready to apply the lessons from my mistakes. The previous projects both failed the same way. I had the habit to build a product I needed, to share it to people who might benefit from it, to finally be the only one to use it.
In the past, I had started to work on projects without taking the time to step back. A few minutes after having the ideas, I was already building them.
And you know, when an idea hits us, it comes with a million questions. We got the idea five seconds ago but we’re already thinking about what to do when we’ll have five millions daily users.
However, last year, when I started writing my very first blog post, I noticed how painful blogging was. I was afraid, looking for excuses to give up. “Why should people read what I publish? How do these bloggers find time to write? Is my content good? If I don’t have any traffic, should I submit my content to a Medium publisher?”
Then, instead of working on this issue right away, I searched to know if I was the only one to feel this way about blogging. I spent hours during a week to browse blog posts from developers on Medium. I even kicked out my shyness to go to talk with other developers I knew to ask them about their blogging issues.
I see new articles everyday and yet, plenty of developers struggle with blogging. Many of us don’t feel confortable enough to write about a subject or to write in English. Some of us don’t feel “experienced enough” on a subject to explain something to others.
To compile information has given me the confidence I needed to work on this project for months then to launch it. So, I launched it and shared to people that may benefit from it.
Guess what, after one week, no one had signed up.
I expected a slow start. Though, I was disappointed, frustrated by such a result. This project, build through a different process, had given the same result. A sword cutting through water.
But no worries, that was actually the first step for a better tomorrow. Anyway, things could not get worse!
The common denominator
I admit, a lot of mistakes have been made, again. The only promotion I did was the publication of a blog post on Medium and two shares on twitter. So, yes, zero signups for such a tiny promotion strategy? It sounds fair.
A few years back, I would have moved onto something else right away. But this time, I wanted to understand. So, I started to analyze how these projects had started, evolved and failed. I found differences and similarities but one thing hit me like a gift from heaven.
It turned out that my projects had the lack of audience as common denominator of their failure.
Therefore, I concluded that my projects kept failing because I knew no one for whom the issue was painful enough that it had to be resolved. So painful that it demotivated people to continue, so painful that people found ways to work around it.
Too focused on building, I’d never tried to find or meet people that might had this painful issue.
Here’s an example of working around a painful issue on my short blogging story. This was before my last project. The first blog post I published, I received only one feedback (from a friend, to help me). It was on Medium. I wanted to get more feedback but I could not get more traffic because I was just starting. I had to iterate from this.
My painful issue here was that I had no audience. Instead of building myself an audience, I worked around it, looking for an other way. The level of difficulty of building an audience seemed way too high for me. It would have required a lot of time, research and more.
For these reasons, I submitted my second post to freeCodeCamp. My content was good enough so they published it through their Medium account. They had around +400k followers at that time (I’m not sure about this number but I think it was hundreds of thousands). And it worked!
As I write theses lines, my first post has 699 views and one feedback from someone I know. The second one through freeCodeCamp’s account has 45k views and +30 feedbacks from people I’d never met…
If my second post was a satellite, freeCodeCamp’s Medium account would be my rocket. That was it, I had the audience I was looking for!
Suddenly, something that I hadn’t planned, happened. My rocket disappeared from the Medium platform, which set me straight back to square one. freeCodeCamp had left Medium, dampening my hopes to spread the word about my next works.
But, just like after the “no signups week”, I could learn and iterate from there.
Build a solid foundation
This Medium-freeCodeCamp situation has given me the lesson I should have learned since my first fail. I’ve reached 45k views with one post thanks to someone else’s audience, an audience built on someone else’s platform.
“You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure.” - Gordon B. Hinckley
My foundation was so poor that I used someone else’s foundation. But, now is the time to build a strong one for myself. I definitely need to build an audience. Not to talk about my previous projects - well, I could be tempted for the last one - but to help to solve the issues we work around.
There is a wide diversity of niches and many subjects where we could get some help. However, I might have found something useful to work on: to help developers to build an audience.
Well, I’m a newbie in building an audience. This means that, if you dream about having your own audience but have never tried, or postponed this dream to later or given it up to soon, you know that you have no excuses anymore!
But I believe in this. I can do it. We can do it.
Also, please not that, if you hope for some magic wins, I can’t help you. I won’t make weird promises as “get 1.000 true fans in 30 days”. I see audience building as a difficult long-term process with many frustrating times that can turn out to be an exciting, fascinating and rewarding journey.
In my next posts, we will dive into this goal so stay tuned.
One last thing, please hit the “Let’s talk about this on Twitter” link below to give some feedback. It helps me to improve my work and gives me an extra motivation.
Until next time, take care.
Notes from my journey to build an audience as a developer
– By PACDIV | Let’s talk about this on Twitter