How to optimize for enjoyment as an indie maker

Published on
July 28th, 2021
"My goal is to build financial freedom. And to build tools that are useful for people, but not in a stressful way where I have to stretch myself and stop having fun.”
Noah Bragg, a Maker Grant recipient, launched Potion in May with the community he had built behind him.
Much of Bragg’s support comes from building in public. He started doing it about two years ago on a relaxed podcast he co-hosts called Product Journey. Over time, it's allowed him to gain valuable feedback on all of his ventures including Potion, a website builder for creating custom sites in minutes with the content you already have in Notion.

Bragg and I spoke about how he’s leveraged building his products in public, and his approach to optimizing for enjoyment.

On getting started with building in public

Long before Bragg started his podcast or tweeting, he had a YouTube channel. His high school videos were just for fun, but he credits them for helping him realize how much he enjoys creating things and how easy it was to share them.
Later, as an adult and software developer with various side projects, Bragg recognized that documenting his builds just made sense. The more he shared, the more advantages he saw to doing so. Especially with products like Potion.

“Potion is a tool largely serving creators and entrepreneurs, and those are exactly the people who appreciate the transparency and creative process that’s revealed while building in public.”

Bragg’s actions are fairly straight-forward. When he comes to a point of decision in his build, he tweets. But a simple tweet often means more than just a status update.

“When people see the full story behind your build, they are more inclined to have your back.”

One of the things that’s really important is to have credibility, Bragg told me. When he first started, he did something unique to stand out. He created a website called BoostrapBoost.com and ran a contest where he offered 40 coding hours of his time for the winner. Anyone could apply with their startup or business idea. He had 110 submissions in 24 hours, and once the winner was chosen, he documented the process of helping them. Not only did it gain him more community, it showed that community that he was genuine.

“Do something that’s out there. Try to be valuable — bring value rather than just take all the time,” he suggests.

By being valuable, he’s received value right back. Makers have reached out to him with recommendations that have made his products better. One person even offered him technical feedback on Potion that led him to switch his whole approach early on in his build.

On building a side dish

Bragg has had plenty of side projects since he started building. His first serious startup, Coffee Pass, was an order-ahead app for local cafes. After two years of working to scale it and fundraise, he chose to sell early. Soon after, he learned to optimize his work for enjoyment.
“That experience led me to wanting to make smaller scale business that work for me and my family, where it’s not all about trying to become a unicorn. My goal is to build financial freedom. And to build tools that are useful for people, but not in a stressful way where I have to stretch myself and stop having fun.”

Shortly after our chat, Bragg celebrated another win.
So how do you approach creating a smaller scale business?

Bragg’s strategy is to build a side dish (instead of a main dish), an idea he’s iterated on after first hearing about it from Justin Jackson and Tyler Tringas on an Indie Hackers podcast.

The rough idea is to think about smaller niches and smaller scale businesses. As Bragg points out, some ideas tend to work better for a smaller team. The ideal situation is to find a side dish in a large enough market.

A tip for execution is to build on top of popular platforms. He looks for places where he can add value to a user’s experience or solve problems they already have. Since users already know the platforms well, getting your product running requires less education for customers to learn a whole new tool.

You can see this concept practically in Potion. Bragg had been a user of Notion already. He loves the product, and saw how much other people love it as well.

“I saw it and thought ‘That’s fertile ground.’ If you want to build something that grows organically, a platform people love is the perfect area.”

Around the time Bragg started building, Notion had announced its public API was coming. Being part of the first wave of tools built on Notion added to Potion’s momentum too.

Bragg also foresees that Notion may one day create an app marketplace, which is great for makers who don’t think of themselves as marketing-minded. Marketplaces create a built-in marketing and distribution platform.

On what’s next

As mentioned earlier, Potion has already received a lot of love from the community. Notion users love how quickly and easily they can build a site without needing a new website builder. The tool pulls information from your notes and recreates all the blocks so you can control and customize it all you want (including a custom domain). Potion serves a use case that Notion hasn’t yet catered to at all.

Another benefit users get from Potion is SEO. Bragg follows best practices including meta tagging and websites that are statically generated. That’s extremely useful for another niche he’s also honing in on, too — help docs. One of Bragg’s goals is to make using Notion for help docs even easier for teams with workflow and publishing needs.

He’s also working on more functionality for your Potion sites, like a no-code header builder, and integrations that really elevate the functionality, like payment processing and password protection to allow member logins.

To learn more about Potion here, and follow along with Bragg's builds on Twitter.
Published on
July 28th, 2021
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