I Spent the Last 9 Months Building a Side Project, Here’s How It Went | Hacker Noon

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Everyone talks about entrepreneurship as a beautiful journey of self-actualization. Before I started my entrepreneur journey I read a ton about successful entrepreneurs. I read abut about IPO’s, acquisitions, and sexy product launches. But there was something I didn’t read about. I didn’t read about the loneliness that came along with entrepreneurship. I didn’t expect the lack of direction that came along with going from zero to one. The last nine months of my entrepreneurship journey have been a whirlwind. I’ve never felt more broken or lonely. But deep inside I’ve never felt more alive. The last nine months have been some of the most exhilarating moments of my life.

I’ll spend the rest of the article breaking down each phase of my entrepreneurship journey. I’ll share the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far. My hope is to generate a greater amount of sobriety around entrepreneurship. Moreover, I want my story to be a voice of comfort for those just getting started!

A Bit About Me and My Space

Before I get into lessons learned, I’d like to share what my side project entails. My entrepreneurial venture is Course to Hire, which is a platform to help people learn how to code and land a job in tech. To be clear, I’m not teaching people syntax. I want to help people leverage free online resources to successfully learn how to code. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel when so many free and great learning resources exist. Along with helping people learn, I’m helping people land jobs in tech. This initiative includes showing people how to decode job applications and standing out in the job search. I also help people ace the behavioral and technical interviews.

The space I’m in is a cross between Education and Consulting, all within the Tech world. I haven’t launched a product just yet. But I’m hoping to gain a deeper understanding of what customers want in the coming months! In all this, I work on Course to Hire along with a full-time job. When I’m not programming and conducting in-depth analyses I’m working on Course to Hire! Anyway, let’s get to what I’ve been up to the last nine months 🙂

Discovery A.K.A The Grind

Every entrepreneurial venture I tried to launch up to this point has failed. None of them included a discovery phase, which is probably why they’ve all failed. That said, I cannot recommend a discovery phase enough for entrepreneurs. For me, discovery involved a ton of different activities. I mapped out my ideas and determined which ones people would find valuable and pay for at the same time. Discovery also led me to talk to real people and dive deep into different subreddits and forums. I even scoured Amazon book reviews, anything to empathize with my potential audience.

I’m not going to lie, discovery was a grind. I messaged dozens of people on Reddit and chatted with random strangers all over the world. I spent countless hours trying to identify who the top individuals in my space were. By the end, I spent about three months on discovery.

That said, I’m so glad I went through a discovery phase. I have deep empathy for and understanding of my target customer. I see their dreams and fears and the type of value they want. Discovery has been the foundation of my entrepreneurship journey so far.

In my mind, discovery is what sets successful entrepreneurs apart.

Everyone has an idea, but few are willing to flesh that idea out and actually put pen to paper. I say this not in comparison to others as if I’m successful. I say it more to every one of my failed ventures so far!

Content/Marketing A.K.A. I’ve Never Been More Lonely

Once I had a deep understanding of my target audience, it was time to start putting myself out there. I needed a way to interact with my target audience beyond answering questions on Reddit or email. I needed to reach a broader audience. There are many ways to do this, but for me, it was writing. I started writing articles that I thought my target audience would enjoy. Not only was this phase of the entrepreneurship journey a grind, but it also was lonely as hell. My first article flopped. So did the second one. And the third. I tried posting on LinkedIn and posted the links to my articles on Reddit forums. But people didn’t engage with them. Several months passed by and my website barely got any views.

I was in the classic “build it and they will come” mindset. I realized I needed a way to promote the content I was producing. I struggled and still struggle with this balance to this day. I realized I need to write killer content and also promote it to my target audience. The beginning stage of this phase was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to get through in life. I felt like I was in quintessential insanity. I was writing to an audience that didn’t exist just yet and promoting it to people who had no idea who I was. There were no vanity metrics or sign that I was heading in the right direction. I wanted to quit so many times.

Over time, though, things started getting better. I kept writing and promoting. I stayed consistent. I kept reaching out to online publications and individuals. Then I landed a guest post on a blog. Then I secured a partnership with StackOverflow. A company offered me $100/hour for consulting services. Then I was working with top players in my space to create content. I found myself meeting with other founders who offered to help take me to the moon. I started a TikTok and grew it to 3,500 followers. I was experiencing the fruits of my labor. 

To some degree, I’m still in the phrase of writing content and promoting it. I’m still focused on growing my audience. But I’m also starting to pay attention to products or services that I could launch down the road. I haven’t launched a product, but I’m so much further towards my goal of a product launch than I was nine months ago. To anyone still moving from discovery to breaking into space, keep at it. Stay consistent and never stop reaching out to people. This part of the journey is less about reaching every person and more about reaching the right people. You just need one person to catch on and go to bat for you.

Product Validation A.K.A. Now for the Fun Stuff

I’m now at a point in the journey where I understand my target audience. I’ve established a consistent cadence with creating and promoting content. It’s time to start moving towards a product launch. But at this point, I don’t know what my target audience would want. I’m not quite sure what product or service would be the most valuable. Is it an online coding course? Is it a coding mentor platform? I could launch a course for learning how to code using any available online resource. The jury is still out. But I can start working to understanding what products and services would be the best to launch.

I’ve gotten a lot of messages asking for different products. But I need a way to figure out if the products people are asking for are products they’d pay for or just nice-to-haves. At this point, I’m able to re-engage my target audience and start moving towards building my first product!

Keep Grindin’, Keep Hustlin’

The last nine months have been hard as well. I’ve never felt more lonely and broken (COVID definitely didn’t help with that!). But I’m able to look at the last nine months and feel really good about the progress I’ve made thus far. I’m not satisfied with where I am currently, but I’m even more hungry to add value to my target audience. I’m hungry to build something of worth and help people at scale. If you’re keen on following me on this entrepreneurship journey, connect with me on LinkedIn!

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