November 18, 2021

Why You Should Build In Public

Happy Thursday!

As you may know, I'm building Ops Hacks in public (read: making mistakes in public). I had originally made the decision to be transparent with my trials and tribulations, because I saw a few folks do it on Twitter and thought it was a neat idea. They were sharing their mistakes and lessons learned and I benefited from reading their tweets.

So I decided to give it a go without fully understanding what I was getting myself into.

After 3 months of trying it myself, I've learned a few things about the benefits and disadvantages of Building In Public. And I'd love to share my thoughts with you.

First, the downsides of BIP

Building in public is hard.

A key principle in BIP is being authentic and sharing losses as well as wins. And that's really hard to do in today's world where everyone is trying to present the best version of themselves.

It feels counterintuitive and unnatural to share my failures and mistakes when I'm trying to sell someone on why they should join the community I'm building. I want to talk about why what I'm building is super awesome, not how I don't really know what I'm doing and I'm  kinda winging it as I go.

After getting over that initial fear of opening up to friends, former colleagues, and internet strangers, there's the issue of staying committed to it. Sharing mistakes and lessons learned as I'm building at the same time. It's an exercise of allocating time wisely between building and sharing so the two activities don't get in the way of each other. And I definitely don't always get it right. There's huge backlog of improvements I want to make to the landing page that I haven't been able to get through, because writing takes up a lot of my time.

Finally, there's the issue of content - what to write about and share. Building a thing from scratch is a journey fraught with challenges and doubts and picking which of the bunch to share can be an exhausting task.

So why do it?

Despite all the challenges and the desire to sound smart and successful, I actually see a ton of value in building in public. And I'd recommend at least exploring the idea to anyone looking to start a project.

First benefit of building in public is the support I've received. Every time I've opened up and shared a mistake or a pivot, many of you reached out offering practical advice or words of encouragement. Being a solo founder can feel lonely at times, and building in public has really helped in that regard.

Second, building in public makes it easier to accept and internalize that I don't know everything and that I'm figuring things out as I go. Adopting this learner's mindset early on in an entrepreneurial journey is helpful because it reframes mistakes and challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. Though I still find it difficult at times, I'm starting to embrace sharing my shortcomings more and actively trying to improve.

Third, building in public is a forcing function to articulate my thoughts. At any given moment, there are so many different initiatives I'm thinking of or actively working on. Sharing my thoughts publicly helps me untangle strands of disparate thoughts - organize and structure my thinking. Through that process, I often find that my thinking becomes clearer and I am able to return to building with more purposefulness and energy.

Fourth, it leaves an artifact trail. By constantly tweeting, posting and writing about the big decisions and mistakes I make, I am creating an open online repository that I or anyone else can visit in the future. I can't speak to how helpful this would be to anyone else, but for me, I find that revisiting my previous decisions / moves on a regular basis is a great way to audit and improve my decision-making. It's also just fun to look back on the challenges I was dealing with months ago and realize how trivial they feel now.

Lastly, it's a good marketing tool. In a world where everyone is seemingly perfect and crushing it, building in public is ironically an easy way to stand out from the crowd. As a society, I feel that we're moving in the right direction - we are starting to celebrate authenticity and encourage vulnerability more. And by building in public, I can benefit from this shift. Also, as a bootstrapped project, I don't have money to throw at marketing. Sharing my journey is a way for me to tell not only my story, but also Ops Hacks' and hopefully get more people to sign up.

BIP is for everyone

Before I end, I want to emphasize that anyone can and should at least try building in public.

Building in public as I've described it is most applicable if you're building a product or a company, but I believe most aspects can be copied and implemented in a corporate environment.

You can start small, by writing monthly recap emails to your direct reports and gradually increasing the frequency of the email and expanding your audience.

Or you can do it with people outside of your organization without divulging any confidential information. Abstract the challenges you're going through to a level where the details aren't needed but you are still able to receive good feedback. An online community is a great place to do this ;)

More resources

If you are interested in learning more about Building In Public, here are some resources that I recommend:

I appreciate you taking the time to read this email. As always, please reply to this email with your thoughts. I love hearing from you and make sure to respond to every email.

Take care and see you next week.

Joe

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