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22 Dec 2020

The misleading nature of Building in Public


Building in Public is a well-established practice in the indie community. Resources like Indie Hackers, Makerlog, and many others gave people the platform to share updates regularly while they are building products. This provided an enormous pool of insights for anyone interested in starting an independent business.

The problem I have with this term lies in the name. An over-emphasis on Building is what bothers me the most.

Why it matters?

Although Building in Public is a marketing tool, the term doesn’t constitute other required parts of product development. It creates a faulty belief that “building” is all it takes to lift the product off the ground.

“Build, and they will come”:

The overemphasis on the building makes you think that this is the biggest barrier for your product to succeed. It isn’t the case. You need to make sure you’re building the right thing, for the right people, solving big enough of a problem.

On top of that, you have to find the right communication channel. You can build whatever you want. But what difference does it make if nobody knows about it?

The idea that all you have to do is to build and everything else will take care of itself is nonsense. More so for people without any pre-existing audience.

Shameful Sales & Marketing:

Sales and marketing often have a bad rap in many communities. Reddit is known for “punishing” anyone with salesish motives. But you can’t conclude that “sales and marketing” is absolute evil based on poor execution.

Well executed sales and marketing are about providing value1 while also telling your product’s story. The right balance between story and provided value is what makes good marketing & sales.

Building in Public ‣ Selling in Public

Sales and marketing are as important for the product as the building, if not more. The industry landscape shifted to the point where “building” beerier has been significantly reduced. By explicitly embracing “Selling in Public” we acknowledge the importance of those overlooked parts of the product work.

No-Code Tools:

Right now, more than ever, the beerier to start building is low thanks to No-Code tools. You can get real with the majority of ideas without ever writing a line of code. Additionally, there are numerous No-Code communities like Makerpad that would help anyone get started.

Makerpad No-Code community

The challenge isn’t in the building. The challenge is to find the right thing to build and tell people about it. You can easily develop your own version of Product Hunt or RemoteOK. But only those with effective marketing channels will be able to take off the ground.

Examples of Sales & Marketing that gives value:

Sales don’t have to be shameful. Instead of pushing the same message across, focus on providing value while telling a story of the product you’re building.

Here is how Pablo Stanley created a playlist of short tips on using Figma while also demonstrating Blush plugin he’s building.

Another great example would be Chris Oliver, who made a video guide on deploying a Rails application while sharing about his product Hatchbox for those who don’t want to bother with the process.

#2 Solve smaller but relevant problems

Here, Josh Comeau made a simple search for JavaScript operators, while also telling a story about the CSS for JavaScript developers course.

Search for JavaScript operators

Again, a great example from Pablo Stanley of the tool that generates ideas of doodles for illustrators, while mentioning about Blush as well.

Another example I really love was Typefully, a better tweeting experience from creators of Mailbrew, a tool that can deliver Twitter digest into your inbox.

#3 Contribute to the community

In the spirit of providing value first, another example would be a content contribution to established communities. That’s precisely what we’ve been doing at Flawless App for a while with a community-driven Medium blog, free collections of design tools, and contribution to open-source newsletters like iOS Goodies and Awesome iOS.

Conclusions

In reality, Building in Public works only when you’re selling to people who are interested in your journey. You need to have potential customers in “public” for the whole concept to work.

Calling out that sales and marketing contribute a great deal to the overall product success, along with the building, is important. It’s important because it’s honest.


  1. Being entertained is also providing value. So I’d consider marketing campaigns like 2020 Dumpster Fire and similar to be a valid example of this point. 


Hey there, thanks for reading!

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Next week article: Always be closing... feedback loops.

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