At the start of the year, I made a roadmap for 2022; I was going to build 12 side projects in 12 months to achieve my goal of $10K MRR by the end of 2022.
Nearly halfway into 2022, I’ve realised some major flaws in this way of doing things.
Having too many projects is distracting
I started the 12 projects in 12 months challenge as a way to efficiently find a project that I wanted to work on and could be monetized. It was almost too effective; in the very first month, I built Tressel, got it monetized and was keen to continue working on it.
But I couldn’t just stop one month in; the challenge required me to continuously keep shipping (while working on Tressel at the same time). Then, my third project (Markbase) also turned out to be potentially lucrative and interesting to work on. My fourth project (currently being worked on) also looks like it may be worth continuing too.
While it’s great that I have lots of genuinely interesting projects to work on, my focus is being continuously stripped away. Working on more than two or three projects at the same time causes stress from context switching and is far less likely to yield results as focusing on one/a select few.
Building 12 projects in 12 months either produces 12 tiny, low maintenance projects OR remains unfinished after you find a great one to pursue. After you’ve found the projects you’d like to pursue, the experiment becomes a burden and distraction.
It’s served its exploratory purpose. Now it’s time for me to focus.
Revenue is out of my control
Initially, I set a goal of reaching $10K MRR by the end of 2022.
But this was misguided; I can’t control how much MRR my projects earn. All I can do is influence it with the quantity and allocation of my work (i.e. choosing how many hours to work and what to work on).
Progress in business is not linear. Unlike a 9-5, your inputs (i.e. how much you work) don’t translate directly into outputs (i.e. how much you earn). You can work for 60 hours and have nothing to show for it or work for 4 hours on the right thing and produce amazing results.
This is less true if you’re experienced or have found an established approach (e.g. a marketing campaign that’s producing consistent results and can be optimized). But when you’re starting from zero with no real revenue (or experience), setting a $10K MRR goal with a 1 year time limit is more of a hopeful dream than anything.
What’s worse, the $10K figure didn’t mean anything. It was arbitrarily set; $10K was a clean and unrealistic number (to push me to think bigger).
I’m far better off linking my goals to clear benefits (like reaching ramen profitability so I’m financially secure) and removing the time limit altogether since it’s adding unnecessary stress over something I have no control over.
I created a rigid contract that’s not serving me
Building 12 side projects in 12 months to achieve $10K MRR by the end of 2022 is basically a one year contract that sets my pace of work and my destination. As someone brand new to self-employment (only 2 months in), I barely know how to be self-employed. That is to say, I don’t know my own preferences after years of following the “default path” of university followed by a standard 9-5.
I don’t know what’s truly worth working on or how to work in a way that I like (versus one I’ve been conditioned to). Before setting a destination, I need to explore in an undisciplined manner to gather knowledge about… myself. The roadmap I set for myself was too rigid to allow that.
I couldn’t just stop producing projects. I couldn’t “risk” choosing ideas that had little chance of hitting $10K MRR in less than a year. Both of these things would mean I “failed” even though they’re what I need.
This path is no longer serving me. I need to adjust course based on new knowledge that I discover as I progress along the path, not be trapped by commitments made with misguided, past knowledge.
Instead of deciding what I think I want and then making a year-long plan to get it, a better approach is sprinting after being inspired and then resting/reflecting on whether to continue. I need agility, not stiffness.
Where to from here
So I’m distracted, stressed by an arbitrary revenue goal and trapped in a path that’s too rigid and limits exploration. The solution is to remove all of my goals and to stop following an established “path”.
I have to pioneer my own path; this means setting intentions rather than time-limited goals and exploring without “rules”.
My two key, current intentions are to “find land” (i.e. like a pioneer):
- Figure out what’s worth working on (i.e. what gives me energy)
- Continue on the “pathless path” (i.e. reach ramen profitability)
I plan to focus only on the direct next steps towards these intentions (rather than making a long-term plan). Perhaps after I’ve found land, I can make more concrete plans.
Let’s see how I go.