I thought it was about time I gave this newsletter a name.
I’m calling it “The Box”. And this is the first box.
You know the feeling, don’t you? The joy of opening a box, literally any box?
It doesn’t even have to be Christmas!
It’s always exciting. That’s my eventual goal with this letter.
The Box will focus on building side projects online. Now, obviously, a big part of that is personal productivity, so you have the bandwidth in the first place. So we’re not changing the direction entirely.
But over the past months, I’ve noticed that a tiger truly cannot change its stripes.
Digital passion projects have been a thing for me for the past 15 years – ever since creating my first website in 2007 (which is, by the way, still up and running and generates me beer money every single month).
Personal productivity –> increased bandwidth –> build an amazing side project.
Alright, onward to today’s topic: A higher abstraction level look at building a passion project that will inevitably succeed.
You just have to redefine success a bit.
Here, I’m talking about almost anything in the digital realm: software, a video course, an eBook, a membership product, an affiliate marketing-focused website, NoCode SaaS — anything really!
One why, three steps:
The Big Why
Why even build?
Because there’s zero downside.
You fail? You do it again.
You succeed? You do it again.
Hustle culture has taught us it’s all about money.
That’s so wrong it hurts my soul.
Building online should not be a primarily money-driven pursuit.
It’s a habit that accelerates your learning and expands your understanding of how the Internet is shaping culture and business.
It’s a form of gambling where you pay with your time, might make money, but always learn something.
I spotted this on Twitter the other day:
It’s the exact same with building digital products online.
There’s a 0% chance you don’t learn and improve.
Just as an example, some time ago, I wanted to learn how to build habits – the behavioural scientific ways to be exact.
So I built a course around it. And I now have an excellent understanding of why we repeatedly do what we do.
After that, I wanted to learn how to concentrate better.
So I built a paid high-ticket seminar around it. I can now focus like a medieval monk.
I wanted to at some point explore how to sell software. So, I sold software.
And without bragging too much, I can say I’ve learnt a ton of skills my 9-5 would have never taught me.
That’s why you should build.
Let’s look at how, on a high abstraction level.
How to Build, a 1-2-3 Framework
Step 1: Choose a Skill you Want to Master
Most people choose as their first product something they think will sell well.
Nothing wrong with that.
But what if you fail to sell it for any reason?
You’ll have only wasted your time.
So, choose something that supports your career (everyone can use better soft skills) or just are curious about.
And there is just no way you can lose!
- Ask yourself what you want to get better at. Is there a particular skill that would benefit your career in the future? If you’re honest about this, chances are you’ll identify something. Nobody is perfect. Grab a pen and paper and really jot down your answers to this.
- Do 45 minutes of research on that topic online. What are other people already selling? Open a notepad and make a list of everything other people are doing.
- Then decide what you will build, by mixing elements from other people’s products. But make it yours. What can you do differently so that it looks and feels like you?
Takes only 1-2 hours, and now you have something to aim at!
How wonderful is that?
Step 2: Set Aside Time
This is where many people fail.
They choose an idea and get that initial dopamine boost.
A honeymoon period follows for 1-2 months.
And then…slowly…they quit.
All that is left is a dream of a product.
(But even in this case, they learned something new — so it’s a win).
But you – you will go about this the right way, so that you will launch it and will be seen as an expert on the topic:
- Define what is “ready”. One of the biggest pitfalls in building a digital item is that you can always add to it. There are no limits. So, to avoid the temptation, you must know precisely when to put a cap on it. In most cases, an outline or a table of contents is enough. Anything outside that, you just make a note of it and build it later as a bonus or an additional module after your project has already launched.
- Then, schedule recurring time slots in your calendar for building. And during those slots, you build. Guard them. You have to wear the big boy pants with this one. Nobody will force you to build. Think of this as training in consistency and discipline. Again one more reason to build!
- Then comes the mundane part. You just keep going. Stick to your schedule and the initial outline until you reach your definition of ready.
Step 3: Do not Overthink
The biggest enemy is always in the mirror.
This is even more true for a creative person, who by definition thinks a lot and has a lot of ideas.
The beginner creator has doubts: Am I good enough to do this? Is my product good enough? Is it ready? How do I dare to publish it? Maybe it needs more of everything? Maybe the name is wrong?
This happens to everyone.
This is why you have an outline and an understanding of what is ready.
Do. Not. Overthink.
Just keep going. Don’t compare to others. There’s enough for everyone out there. The Internet is massive. Someone out there needs you.
Focus solely on those behind you, not on those on your own level or already ahead of you.
And one day, your side hustle is ready to launch.
Then you just need the courage to hit publish and start selling (a topic for another day).
Why don’t more people do this to accelerate their learning?
They think they have nothing to contribute.
And that’s why it’s important to…
Build Before You’re Ready
By far the biggest mistake I see people do is thinking they are not ready yet.
They think they must develop more skills first. But this is an endless race because there are always people better than you in everything.
This leads to a deadlock. You’re never ready.
So might as well start before you’re ready.
You’ll learn while building, that’s the whole point!
The time is now.
And being a builder is valuable in itself! To this end, I’ll just leave you with one of my current favourite piece of beats:
See you next week!