Learning to market
I've learnt many things this year by being a solo technical founder, but so far marketing isn't one of them. I'm trying to change that.

Since April I've been able to work full time as a solo founder. I've challenged myself to build something useful enough that customers would want to pay for it and in the process of seeking that goal I've become a much better and more rounded developer.

I've been working solo for about 7 months now, and in that time I've begun using test driven development, I've built non-trivial data driven web apps using Django, and I've learnt how to deploy and monitor those apps in production and make them performant.

I've made two main apps; moneybar.nl and pippip.email, and I've learnt so much.

I'm realising though, that I still have much to learn in other spheres. Being a great developer is deeply meaningful to me. It's literally a bucket list item for me and I intend to be writing code as long as I live. But there is no point creating products if no one knows they exist.

This is where marketing and positioning comes in. Right now it feels like I know nothing about how to get users, or validate an idea, or position a product. These are all super necessary and super unknown.

On a more meta level, I'm confronted with the lost benefits of working with co-founders, or of having friends doing similar things. I want to work faster and make progress more efficiently. I need to be part of a community.

Working in isolation does have its advantages, though. I'm self-taught and self-directed, figuring out the contours of uncharted territory and creating my own personal map. In my mind, I have a deep and almost personal relationship with the coding abstractions and tools I've learnt to work with. Classes and functions, strings and floats, literally have (to me) their own textures, colors and weights when I think or dream about them.

It feels like I can pick up these abstractions as if they were physical objects and turn them around to examine them. Place them next to each other and compare the differences. Run thought experiements. In my experience, this kind of relationship and affection simply doesn't happen when taking a class or following someone elses schedule. It's satisying to feel ownership of a skill like this, and it's one of the primary reasons I consider coding to be similar to a craft.

Having said all that, now that I realise I need to validate my product, position it, and figure out marketing, I've stopped writing code, put down my tools, and I'm going to learn marketing. I've bought some books. Maybe I'll post some reviews here later.

In no particular order here is what I plan to read:

  • The 1-Page marketing plan, by Allan Dib Obviously Awesome, by April Dunford
  • Lean Analytics, Hooked, How to build habit-forming products, by Nir Eyal The
  • Mom Test, by Rob Fitzpatrick
  • This is marketing, by Seth Godin
  • Product-led growth, by Wes Bush

I don't know if I've covered 90% of the distance required or 50%. It's exhausting but I'm here for the journey not the destination.