The Fear that Drives Me On

I built a thing, but it didn’t work out. Plenty of people said the need was real, I got hundreds of people to come along and try it, quite a few of them said they loved it, but virtually no one continued to use it more than 48 hours after signing up, and pretty much nobody upgraded to a paid plan.

During the process, I talked to a lot of the users, and I listened for any potential crossover between what I’d built and an actual problem they needed solving.

After listening for a while, I formulated a plan. A pivot, if you will. Rather then building something that you had to import data into, I would take the interface that people said they liked and make it connect onto existing sources of data. I set about building that.

Step 1, fundraising. In the final months before version 1 came out I had been full time on the project, spurning any consulting work that might come my way. But the money was now running out and I needed a paying gig. Fortunately, when I phoned a former customer, they were happy to give me some more work.

Step 2, coding. This was familiar ground. I’d been here before, spending every spare moment trying to move the product forwards. It’s draining looking at code all evening after a full day at a customer’s office, but you believe in what you’re doing, so you press on. This time, you tell yourself, it’s going to work.

Step 3, shipping. This is where I’m at right now, and it’s hard. Not hard like A level maths, hard like getting dumped by your girlfriend. You start to put yourself out there. Telling people what your doing, looking for potential customers and refining the pitch. Inevitably though, only a few of those conversations bear fruit. My pitch is still a bit all over the place, and not everyone needs what I’m pushing. That’s when the doubt creeps in, and the pace slows. “Maybe I’ll just add this one extra feature before I ship” I think to myself. “Maybe I’ll avoid demonstrating the product to those people till it’s a bit more mature”. Because shipping could be the moment I find out I got it wrong. Again.

This week I’ve been feeling quite low and have been easily distracted. If I’m honest, the only thing driving me on right now is a fear that one day I’ll have to explain what I was doing during this time in an interview for a “proper job”, and while having a product that didn’t sell might make them feel pity, having shipped nothing would look worse.

I am now aspiring for pity from a pointy haired boss. Shit.

There isn’t really a moral to this story. I could pretend that everything’s going to plan, but I’m done with that.

Over the next few weeks I will knuckle down, fix bugs, write sales copy, pitch the product dozens of times and ship a finished version. I hope that people find it useful, if some do it will feel fantastic, if nobody does it will be hard going.


  1. Colum says:

    When I saw this post come through my Feedly, I felt a need to ‘comment’, for what it’s worth! I came across your blog about a year ago and was impressed by what you had done with QueryTree. I suppose I fit into the category of those that never bothered to explore it for its potential. All I can offer are my words of encouragement to persevere. You’re clearly talented and driven. Look forward to seeing the new iteration of your solution.