July 2021 Retro

My first month of indie hacking. What a waste!

Following on from last month's retro , I started my first month of being unemployed and being more in-control over how I spend my time. I took that control and I threw it out the window (more about that below).

Stress is a funny thing. No matter how busy or chilled your day is, you'll find something to stress about.

For example, figuring out what to eat for lunch when you're deploying a big feature at work is easy. It's going to be a sandwich.

In contrast, figuring out what to eat for lunch when it's the only thing you need to do is impossible. There's so many bread options to choose from!

So the stress isn't less, it's just different. At least in an employment setting, the causes of stress is quite obvious (i.e. a deadline, a boss, a coworker, etc.). But when you're on your own, you just feel confused about why you feel a certain way. Well for me at least.

This past month feels wasted, but in a necessary way. I needed to rebel against my normal work schedule. I needed to sleep-in, doomscroll Twitter, and be a generally unproductive human. I needed to show (myself??) that I can do whatever I wanted 🤔 And at the end of it all, it feels kind of shitty.

Freedom doesn't mean not having a schedule. Freedom is the schedule. The schedule is how you avoid succumbing to the will of your reptilian brain. The schedule is how the conscious mind guides the subconscious mind. Freedom is making your own schedule.

Note to self: make a schedule.

Main events

Hiking with Cory Zue

As a way of flexing my freedoms, I organized a mid-work-week hike up Lion's Head with Cory (a fellow indie hacker living in Cape Town, South Africa).

It was nice to chat about things other than just indie hacking and more about the life around it. Seeing as this was my first month of being independent, I thought it was quite fitting to kick things off mountaineering with a seasoned indie hacker.

I'm sure there's an analogy in there somewhere 😆

I live about 45min outside Cape Town (city), so driving into the city was a welcomed change. The streets are confusing as hell, but Cory was a great navigator.

Lion's Head Hike The view from the top of Lion's Head.

Fashion photoshoot for my eCom brand

This wasn't actually part of the plan. After our model rescheduled numerous times (for legit reasons), I settled for doing a still photoshoot of just the clothing. But before I could do that, our model was available again. So the photoshoot was back on! 🤷‍♂️

Sheena (my girlfriend and our DIY photographer on this project) put together a beautiful schedule of how the photoshoot will run on the day. From catalogue shots to lifestyle shots, every minute of the day was accounted for.

Photoshoot Schedule A beautifully ambitious photoshoot schedule.

This is not how things turned out.

The catalogue shots, that we budgeted 1.5 hours for, took us the entire fucking day.

We had 7 unique items of clothing (in terms of style & colour) and it took us 1 hour to complete the first item. We completely underestimated how difficult it was to take good photos.

Keep in mind that we decided to DIY everything (studio, photographer, model) so our standards weren't incredibly high, but damn I have a newfound respect for anyone working in this industry.

Our saving grace was having Pinterest examples of the poses & scenes we wanted to recreate. That way, we were all on the same page on what we wanted to achieve.

Lighting is hard. The sun fucking moves. If you don't have full control over your lighting, you're going to get inconsistent results. At some point I was physically holding blankets up against the window to block out the sun. Hire a studio with professional lighting.

Modeling is hard. Looking good is a full time job — trust me 😉. Knowing how to pose and position your body in a flattering way is a skill that needs to be learned. Hire a trained model.

Photography is hard. What you see on the tiny LCD screen of the camera is not how things actually look. You need to see the photos in a higher resolution (i.e. on your computer) to get closer to the truth. Either that or you need to have a trained eye for photography. We ended up streaming the photos from the camera to the computer to check the lighting. Often times the stream will be delayed which made things take even longer. Hire a professional photographer.

Overall, I'm proud of what we all managed to achieve in our DIY fashion photoshoot. It could have been a lot worse, but we persevered. I never want to do it again 😅

Being social

I've made an effort to be more social by joining a few online meetups / talks. Specifically,

  • Lean (Startup) Coffee hosted by David Campey

    This was just a small group of people (interested in building things) coming together to chat about anything on their minds, in a structured way.

    " Lean Coffee is a structured, but agenda-less meeting. Participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking. Conversations are directed and productive because the agenda for the meeting was democratically generated."
    — from leancoffee.org

    It took me a minute to get used to this new format, but it ended up being a great way to socialize online without feeling awkward. Just be prepared to participate.

  • The Principles of Storytelling by Shane Meeker

    This was a Startup Grind event for UCT students on how to pitch their business idea. However, the principles that Shane shared were general enough to help anyone who wants to tell a compelling story.

    Here's one of takeaway:

    Your pitch is an inspiring summation of the your story that leaves the audience wanting more. It creates curiosity. Try describe it in one sentence. Use a "what if" question. This makes for a great opening slide or conversation starter. For example:

    "What if you could have one thousand songs in your pocket?"
    — Steve Jobs unveils the iPod

    Note I watched the original iPod launch event and Steve Jobs didn't actually say these exact words, but whatever close enough 🤷‍♂️

Last month's goals

  1. Shift my night-time freelancing to day-time freelancing.

    I had two options here: morning or afternoon. I settled on doing my freelancing in the afternoon, straight after lunch. At the moment, I'm more committed to working for others than I am for myself. This makes it easier to push through the afternoon-slump and leaves the mornings all to myself.

    Final grade: 💯

  2. Build an ecommerce store that is ready to be launched.

    This is about 75% done. I spent most of the time writing copy... AbOuT HoW fAsHioN wOrks 🥴, but I think the value props I'm highlighting is compelling enough. We'll see.

    Final grade: 🙂

  3. Take a fucking break.

    In contrast to a typical work-week, I really did slack-off this month. It felt good at first, then slowly turned uncomfortable. Even a good vacation needs a plan. And I did not have a plan. Somewhere along the line I started a frivolous side-project and it felt great to code for fun again.

    Final grade: 😌

Next month's goals

  1. Start running ads to my eCom store and make 1 sale.

    The caveat here is that I need to be in a position to fulfill orders. That means I need to sort out packaging and delivery too. How hard could it be? 😆

  2. Track more of my time.

    Every other monthly retro that I read has fancy graphs. My retros have zero graphs. In order to have graphs, I need data. So instead of showing you a flat revenue/profit graph, I'll show you a delicious pie chart of my time-allocation.

    "What gets measured, gets managed."
    — Not sure

Thanks for making it this far. If you're interested in what happens next, I'll email it to you next month 👇