Year One - Building An Indie Product


It’s been 1 full year since that ‘Hello World!’ commit on Atlist Maps. Here are some tips, challenges and insights I’ve learned in the last year.

first commit, hello world!

Working solo can be tough

I often get stuck on particular challenges and need to reevaluate a piece of code or infrastructure. This is nothing new in software development. We build, evaluate, refactor, re-evaluate, and improve our implementations.

It’s much harder to get a hold of someone to peer review than it is while working at a company. I’m grateful for all the beautiful people that have given me a couple hours of their time over the year to provide me essential feedback.

Embracing challenges has allowed me to grow

I’ve spent many full days deciphering documentation, and pounding my head against the keyboard. Especially now that I don’t have a team to lean on. I don’t know if it will ever get easier, but the more I embrace it, the less painful it seems to become over time.

I’m fortunate to have an understanding and empathetic business partner. There’s been a couple moments in the last year that I’ve tried to build overly ambitious features. Steve would be the one to convince me to back up, and try again later.

A good partnership

I’m fortunate to be building Atlist Maps with Steve. Steve made a video about how we got started.

Before we even started Atlist, we would talk about cartography & maps for months prior. He has been a role model and mentor for years, and I’m grateful to work with him now.

Up to this point, I’ve been responsible for all development. Steve does design, content and marketing.

Mentors & peers

I worked at an agency for 7+ years with incredibly smart and talented people. I’m aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and I knew exactly who to lean on for various challenges. When working on your own software, there was an essential shift in how to source help.

It was crucial to maintian my relationships with colleagues and peers. It’s easy to do this with a physical office or coworking space, but times have changed, and I’ve been fully remote for roughly 3 years. I’ve set up recurring monthly calls in my calendar with people I look up to, role models, mentors, and peers. Not restricted to the tech industry either. Anyone I look up to, in any industry, I try to get them in the calendar. These check-ins & mentorships are extremely valuable to me. It’s not always about business, actually more often they can be about happinness, finance, and life balance. I highly recommend trying to set up a recurring call with the people you admire. More often than not, those people would love to have a time slot to hang out with you.

Being a solo developer I’ve put more effort into open source, watching and responding to issues. It helps me think through issues others are having. Doing so has also started new relationships with people using similar technologies.

I also trade time with people I respect. I can leverage those people in areas I know I’m weak in. I also give back and help them solve issues they might need help with. It’s difficult to start a formal way to trade time with peers, but knowing your own strengths and weaknesses is a valuable exercise. You can then market your skills and start to trade.

A warning on letting your mentors in on your vision

You may not get the reaction you want by talking to people you look up to. There have been a few times I’ve been discouraged when they would say something like “Don’t do that!” or “That’s a terrible idea.” and obnoxiously follow up with “Do this instead.”. Please remember that what they say could be the ego talking. Those words can sting, but there’s a more subtle reason they react the way they might to your crazy idea. Perhaps they were stung by something similar in the past. If I need more understanding as to why someone responds a way they do, I do my best to ask thoughtful followup questions, even if it’s some time later, anything to solicit why or where their responses may have come from. These are always opportunities to learn. These apply not just to business, but in life too. I’m still working on these processes.

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” ― Marcus Aurelius

The best you can do is to be fully honest with yourself, research like crazy, and be hard on any idea. It could be difficult, it might not be worth it, but that’s something only you must decide.

What’s next

Owning my work feels like the next step in my career. Things may change, but for right now I’m excited for the future. Looking back, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished up to this point.

Your journey is vastly different than others. For example, this may be Year 1 of building Atlist Maps but it took 10+ years of hard work and learning for me to get here.

Thanks for reading ❤️

Some stats:

  • 1,281 signups
  • 1,865 maps created
  • 14,241 markers added
  • 1,070 images uploaded