Yo! Podcast #006 – Mubashar “Mubs” Iqbal – Product Hunt Maker of the Year
Mubashar Iqbal (@mubashariqbal) – infamously known as “Mubs” – is one of the most prolific side-project builders online and even earned the prestigious Product Hunt “Maker of the Year” award. He currently boasts over 80 side-projects including the viral ‘Will Robots Take my Job?’ microsite – gaining more than 14 million views before it was acquired. We chat about immigrating to America, his love for football, partnership equity, building MVP’s and how he keeps side-projects fun!
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- 00:55 – Interview starts
- 02:30 – Becoming an American citizen
- 03:30 – Early years of computers
- 05:35 – Intermission: Know your stuff (Liverpool edition)
- 07:18 – Current employment with Side-Projects on the side
- 11:28 – Side-project validation, defining success
- 13:55 – Side-project: Will Robots Take My job?
- 18:03 – Cameo: Gilbert Pellegrom
- 18:10 – Side-project MVP, partnerships and equity
- 20:20 – Side-project: FullSingle, Light on Dark
- 22:40 – Are you born an Entrepreneur?
- 24:25 – Intermission: No Context
- 25:10 – Sleep and side-projects
- 26:30 – Intermission: @AJLKN Water Break
- 26:45 – Winning Product Hunt “Maker of the Year” 2016
- 27:40 – Is it important to grow a social following?
- 29:25 – Mubs setup: hardware, software, hosting and domain provider
- 32:30 – Intermission: Rob Question
- 32:48 – SEO and side-projects
- 35:25 – Side-project research or solve your own problem?
- 38:50 – Should I keep my full-time job as a Maker?
- 41:20 – Advice for Makers with unsupportive partners
- 43:00 – Outro
- Mubs Twitter: @mubashariqbal
- Portfolio: 83 Side-Project list
- Product Hunt: Profile
- Personal Website: Mubs.me
- Blog: Practical MVP
- Side-Project: Will Robots Take My job?
- Side-Project: Quuu
- Outro track: Lunatic by _91nova via Epidemic Sound
Rob: Yo, Mubs. Welcome to the show, my man.
Mubs: Oh, thanks for having me. It's been awesome hearing all the people you've had up to this point, so I'm kind of honoured to be included.
Rob: Awesome, man. So, if my research is correct, you're currently in upstate New York about two hours north of New York City but originally from Pakistan and then move to London in the UK as a child.
Mubs: Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, I was about four when we moved from Pakistan to England. And I guess I was in England for about 18 years, so I did all my kind of educational stuff. So, I went to school over in England and then once I graduated, I moved over to the States.
Rob: Okay. And why did you move to New York?
Mubs: Oh, well, I didn't move directly to New York. I moved to San Francisco first. A company that I got a job with after university, actually, the second company I got a job with after university was a small internet start-up. It was actually an Australian start-up, but they were doing some work in England, so they staffed up in England and then after about six months they asked me if I'd be interested in moving to San Francisco because they were moving their operations from Australia because they were an internet start-up, there was no internet in Australia in 1996. And so they were moving to SF and they asked me if I wanted to relocate as well and I said, "Why not?"
Rob: So, I was just doing a bit of research and I was going through your Instagram and I saw in 2014, you became an American citizen.
Rob: Was that a huge moment for you coming from Pakistan?
Mubs: I mean, it's one of the things I did because I had kind of a family here now, so I didn't want to ever, like, get kicked out of the country as it were because it's basically you do anything wrong and they have the opportunity to kick you out of the country at that point.
Rob: So that was a good play.
Mubs: So that was... I mean, I don't plan to do anything that will get me kicked out of the country, but you can never quite tell with the legal sort of apparatus as it were. They kind of use whatever they can. But no, I'm kind of happy to be a U.S. citizen. I've been here longer than I lived anywhere else now. So, it really is my home now.
Rob: Yeah. Just stepping back, you said you graduate in '96 doing Computer Science at Hertfordshire University. But I have a funny feeling you were dabbling in side projects and computers way before then.
Mubs: Absolutely. I think we got my first... Oh, sorry. In the house, we kind of got our first computer when I was about seven years old, I think it was. It was a Commodore VIC 20. And back in those days, you would have to plug them into your TV as well. Not like they came with monitors or anything like that.
Mubs: So, yeah, I started playing around, playing video games and stuff like that when I was about seven. After that, I mean, I got a little bit tired of the video because again, you didn't have a lot of options back then. It was like... There was like a handful of games that you could play. So when I was about eight, I think we started to... I bought like a magazine from the store and you could copy the code from the magazine into the computer so you could play your own games and you could kind of tweak them a little bit too to kinda make them do what you wanted instead. So, yeah. So, at about eight I would say I started to write code. At the beginning, it wasn't really writing code because it was just copying code from magazines, but that's kind of exactly how I started.
Rob: Amazing. So, just stepping side to the London days. You lived in London, but I know you're an avid supporter of Liverpool. How come you never chose a London-based team?
Mubs: Yeah. I think the story there is that I've always been kind of a contrarian, I guess you could say. So, my uncles and my brother and basically everybody in my family either supported Spurs or Arsenal. And so just to piss them off I decided to support somebody not from London. And so at the time, obviously, in the sort of early '80s Liverpool were the sort of team in the country, so I just kind of picked them at the time and it's just kinda stuck ever since.
Rob: So, I love how everyone at this point in the podcast thinks we're gonna talk about tech and side projects, but we're actually just gonna talk about football. So, the first intermission is something new. I want to call it, "Know your stuff" and it's a true or false Liverpool edition.
Mubs: Oh, wow. Okay.
Rob: If you get the answer correct, you get a goal. If you get it wrong, I get a goal. You got it.
Rob: Steven Gerrard scored more than 100 goals for Liverpool?
Rob: One nil to you. The Liverpool Football Club was founded in 1792?
Rob: Correct. It was formed in...
Mubs: It's old but it's not quite that old.
Rob: Yeah. It was formed in 1892. It's 127 years old. In 1915 four Liverpool players were banned for life when there was a betting scandal that was uncovered?
Mubs: Oh, I don't know this one, but I'm going to guess. Oh, 1915. Oh, false.
Rob: It was true. Two-one. Two-one. Anfield was originally the home of Everton?
Mubs: That's right. Yes.
Rob: There was a fallout with the owners over a rent that they're being charged, and they moved to Goodison Park in 1891. We're two all.
Rob: Okay. Last question. Liverpool finished eighth in their first season back in the top division in 1963 after being promoted, okay, and they've never finished lower than eighth since then?
Mubs: That's true.
Rob: Yes. You got it. Well done.
Mubs: Sneaked one in.
Rob: Okay. Awesome, man. So, let's dive into side projects. You work full time as a software engineer, right?
Mubs: Yep, absolutely. Yeah, I work... I mean, this is the one thing that people are normally amazed that kind of how many projects I have, I build and launch and stuff, but they normally think it's what I do full time, but when I tell them I actually have a full-time job, and actually... It's funny. I was actually thinking about this earlier, but I have zero projects like on [my] Product Hunt that I've done for my day job.
Mubs: Yeah. So, zero projects that are actually on Product Hunt and everything that you see on Product Hunt.
Rob: Your output is way more than people think.
Mubs: Yeah. Well, the thing is... So, for the vast majority of the last 10, 12 years, I worked at an agency or I've worked for two or three agencies now. And most of the time I'm kind of... And not just me but this whole agency is kind of under NDA, so we can't really talk about what we do kind of a lot. And that's actually one of the reasons I started to do side projects as well, is that I couldn't talk about what I was doing. So, I started doing side projects so that I could talk about what I could do and kind of the sort of things that I wanted to work on and kind of things like that as well. So, yeah. So, everything you see on Product Hunt is kind of a side project.
Rob: From my research, your side projects are definitely making a bit of money. And I wanna know if by keeping your full-time job, a full-time job, your side projects remain side projects and they actually stay fun and you don't have to make money from them.
Mubs: Yeah. So, I mean, all the ones that are... The ones that are or have made money, I typically worked on with other people to kind of help them kickstart things. So, for example, with Quuu that I built with Dan and Matt, I mean I know Dan and Matt had always planned to work on something full time, but they didn't have any technical skills. So, they had the idea and they handled all the marketing side and design and everything else like that. So, I kind of helped them to kind of start Quuu and it's doing awesome, but it's really been the heavy work that they've done since we've launched that's really kind of made that a success and it's kind of taken it for them not being a side project anymore and being their full-time stuff.
But I guess to answer your question, I think, absolutely, like, I love what I do in that I like to create things from scratch, like, have like an idea and kind of turn it into a functioning application. And the fact that I don't have to worry about, "Okay, is this gonna make money? Is this something? Or how do I turn this into something that will make money?" and I can just purely concentrate on the process of taking ideas and thinking about how you turn an idea into an application means that I can focus on the bit that I really like and kind of enjoy versus turning it into a grind where I've got to kind of figure out like, how do I turn this into something that will pay me kind of every day, every month?
Rob: As you're speaking, I was thinking of "One Page Love" and how that was my side project. And it was Friday nights, Sunday mornings and I loved working on it. And then I would have this bonus boosts of income and that was just such a joy, and now it's like, if I don't meet X a month because "One Page Love" is my full-time job I get stressful and I have to kind of squeeze the site as much as I can to...
Mubs: Right. And I think that's the whole thing in terms of like, doing the thing you love and eventually it comes back on you. But yeah, at some point it never gets... Until it gets to that level where it's consistently at a point where it can support you, try to squeeze that a little bit out so it can support you. That's the business I feel kind of uncomfortable with, I think a lot of people feel uncomfortable with, but me having a full-time job where I don't have to worry about that so much kind of makes it a lot easier.
Rob: It keep side projects fun. So, I've heard makers say that true validation of your side project is when someone actually uses their credit card. Do you agree with that?
Mubs: Yes and no. It depends. Again, it depends on what you're trying to achieve. Like I built a lot of stuff in the past where it's pure side project, so I'm using it to learn a new tool, a new language, a new library, right? So, for me, sometimes the fact that I built and launched something that people use and find value of even if they pay me or not, is not always the end desired outcome of a side project. Now, if you're talking about, like, the pure indie hackers of the world, then, yeah, absolutely because if you're not making money, then you can't sustain it and you can't support yourself.
Mubs: But that's where I separate indie hackers from side projects because a side project is just that, it's something that you do on the side.
Rob: Yeah, yeah.
Mubs: Indie hacker is something that you want to become your full-time thing.
Rob: Totally. Would you say good advice for someone hacking away at side projects is actually be honest to yourself in the beginning, have a metric for success, like, "This side project I'm gonna learn Laravel. And if people use it, it's a bonus." But as soon as you say, "Oh, it has to make money."
Mubs: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I know, like, I mentioned earlier and one of the reasons I started to build side projects in the first place was that I couldn't talk about what I was doing at the day job, so I needed a way to kind of share on social media, I wanted to build my following up, I wanted to get more people reading my blog and things like that. So, it doesn't always have to be a financial outcome. It can be an educational thing where you want to learn something new. It can be a way to market yourself without actually marketing yourself in terms of, "I'm not available for hire, but hey, here are some of the cool things that I'm working on and here are some of the cool things that I can do that maybe at some point down the road you might want to hire me for something," because that's obviously the sort of indirect stuff that has happened to me in the past and people have seen a lot of the things that I've worked on and they've hired me to work on a new application and kind of stuff like that as well. So, it's not always whip out your credit card right now to prove that what you built has value, but the fact that people have a little check box next to your name now so that next time they want to hire somebody, they come looking at you first.
Rob: It's actually great marketing for yourself. So, you're currently on 83 side projects. If someone was to ask you what was the project that you the most proud of, what would you say?
Mubs: Well, one of the ones I did a couple years ago just purely from an audience perspective and a way of increasing awareness of me and my skills and stuff, when I built "Will Robots Take My Job?" with Dimitar, that's probably the one that kind of went...
Rob: That went viral.
Mubs: It was just amazing. We did like, 4 million page views in the first week that it was out, and it was on radio and TV and it's kind of everywhere. So, that's probably the one that just kind of cemented my position in terms of people kind of knew who I was and kind of became more aware of who I was.
Rob: Amazing. And I know you've talked about it in the past, but for the Yo listeners, you know, why exactly did you invest your time in that project? Why did you greenlight that one?
Mubs: So, yeah, so it's funny. So, I met Dimitar online. So, I think we joined the Slack group that was set up by Dann Petty for people who are doing freelance stuff in the evenings and stuff like that. And so, yeah. He reached out to me and he'd seen some of my stuff on "Product Hunt" and stuff and had said, "Hey, maybe we can work on a site just that kind of...because we could." Actually, he was the one who had the idea of kind of building "Will Robots Take My Job?" Essentially, it was just... So, in 2013, a couple of researchers in England had put together a report which looked at popular jobs and said, "What's the likelihood that AI or robotics is gonna replace humans in that?" Dimitar found it and said it would be kind of cool to take that report and turn it into a site, so you could punch in the fact that you're an audio engineer or that you are a computer programmer or an accountant or kind of any of these kind of lists jobs and see what the percentage likelihood in 20... I think it was 2025 I think it was, that your job would be taken over by AI and stuff. And so I kind of looked at the site and said, "Well, that seems like a fairly easy thing to build, like, it's just very simple list of things." And then we just kind of provided search interface to it to kind of make a little bit easy. So I figured we could build it in a couple of weekends and we could get a good sense of if we like to work together, if we like to work on the same kind of things, if we like to work the same way, so just kind of like a trial app that we could build to kind of see if we wanted to build something else in the future as well. So, yeah. So, what was kind of a quick little two-weekend project turned into a... I think at the end when we sold it, it had turned something like 14 million in about a year or so.
Rob: Just with working with him and... And this is a bit of a deeper question, but what happens when you start a side project and then you realize that you and the person you're collaborating with aren't really compatible? Have you ever pulled out of a side project?
Mubs: I don't think I've ever pulled out of a side project. I mean, I make it quite clear with people that I build until we launch, and then at the end of... And after we launch, we kind of re-evaluate. So, even with the Kaiser Q, even with Dimitar and a few other people that I've kind of made stuff with on the side, it's always, "We're building the MVP and we're going to launch it. And after we launch it, we can go our own ways if we want to." We can just see that the project really wasn't what we wanted to build or there's no market for the thing that we want that we actually built and either we can just leave the project kind of on the back burner or we can shut it off or we can do all those kind of things. So, I do try and be upfront with people in terms of, "I'm not... Just because we're doing this little one thing on the side, it doesn't mean that we're gonna be working on this project for the next four or five years." We're kind of using the MVP as an evaluation to kind of see what comes afterwards.
Rob: I didn't have this in my notes, but it's quite interesting to think about partnerships, and a lot of people, they don't spend enough time talking about what happens if it goes viral. And with you, do you go into a partnership and go, "Well, we're 50-50 or we're 33% if there's three of us. And if someone asks us to buy this right at the end when we launch, then that's the deal we have." It's pretty loose, but it's honest.
Mubs: Yeah. I mean, that's usually... And again, it depends on kind of how big project it is and stuff like that too. Like, this thing with will robots, for example, it was a two-weekend thing, right? So, it's not like you spent six months working on something, and then you're going to launch it. It's two weekends. Had it been like a hackathon, I could have built the whole thing in one weekend if I'd spent the whole weekend on it. So, it depends, right? Like, if it's something really quick and fast, then absolutely, it's very loose, we say, "Look, it's gonna be an equal thing," because we're in that two weeks, we basically spent the same amount of time kind of working on stuff.
Now, if it's a six-month-long project and you kind of plan that out and you kind of think about, "Okay. Who's doing what, when are they doing it?" I still like to be fairly loose because we just have no idea what will actually happen. And we don't. I mean, I don't form a company, we don't sign... We don't hire a lawyer, so draft paperwork or anything, kind of any stuff like that because that'll takes cash that we don't have more likely. And so it's still fairly loose, but I tend to err on the side of, it's better to have a little bit of something than have 100% of nothing, right?
So, I tend to err on the side of if it's somebody else's idea, you're going to own the most of that idea because once I build the MVP, likelihood is you're gonna want to turn it into a full-time thing and you're gonna want to hire somebody who wants to work on it full-time as well or you're gonna want to partner with somebody wants to work on it full time probably for less money that I'm making now, right? So, more likely, it makes more sense for me to stay doing my paid job and for you to be able to hire somebody who's not quite so senior, who's not quite so experienced, but can take you up to the next level as well.
Rob: For sure. So, not many of the Yo listeners know, but Mubs was actually the first person to start a one-page website gallery. He started a curated resource called Full Single and that was full site single page and he did it back in 2007, and this is a year before "One Page Love" launched. I haven't told anyone this. I want to know why in 2007 you decided that this was a good idea to start this resource.
Mubs: So, actually... I mean, I did, but it actually was not the first kind of website gallery that I built. So "Light on Dark" was a gallery that focused on web pages that had a dark background and high tech.
Rob: I was just checking on Twitter the other day, you mentioned how your daughter has actually started a little bit of a side hustle and she's painting the back of her classmates' calculator cases.
Rob: I wanna if you think that the entrepreneur is something we're born with. You mentioned also on another podcast how your dad started a convenience store in London and then he grew it to three. So, it feels like this is in your family.
Mubs: Yeah. I don't know if you're born with it, but I think you kind of observe it, right? Like, I think the fact that I saw my father work hard every day, he would wake up at 6:00 in the morning some days to go to the fruit market so he'd buy the food, or he could buy the fruit and veggies to take to the store. And obviously then grow his one supermarket into three, and then obviously, I mean, he also bought a whole bunch of investment properties as well. That was how he wanted to build his legacy to kind of leave to the family as it were. I don't know if you're born with it. I mean, I think you're born with a certain work ethic, I think. I think that's kind of something that you are kind of born with. I think the entrepreneurial spirit is a way that you can manifest that. And I think the fact that I saw it with my father and I think the kids are seeing it with me as well, is I think you see what you can do kind of as an entrepreneur as not having to go work every day for somebody else and the fact that you can kind of control a little bit more about your future and kind of what you can offer the world as well, I think is something that you observe and then you kind of say, "Well, if somebody else can do that, why can't I?"
Rob: That's a great take on that. So, let's break into a little intermission quick, I like to call "No context". You simply reply back with either of the two words I say. No context needed at all.
Rob: Twitter or Instagram?
Rob: Laravel or CodeIgniter?
Rob: No code movement or learn to code?
Mubs: Learn to code.
Rob: Champions League or English Premier League?
Mubs: English Premier League.
Rob: Torres or Suarez?
Rob: Windows or Mac?
Rob: Open source or recurring revenue?
Mubs: Open source.
Rob: And last one, a good night's sleep or a good night of side project coding?
Mubs: A good night of coding. Always.
Rob: So, is it true that you only need four to five hours of sleep per night?
Mubs: It's getting a little bit longer now that I'm getting a little bit older, but since I was in high school until my mid-30s, that was about what I caught every night.
Rob: For a lot of people they need that sleep, but you just didn't.
Mubs: I mean, one of the things people ask me all the time is, "How do you do all these side projects?" and I would tell them, "Well, I wait till my kids go to bed, so around 9:00." Around 8:00 my kids go to bed. I would spend an hour or two with the wife watching TV or doing whatever, and then about 10:00, 11:00 at night I would sit down and until 3:00 I would hack on side projects. I mean, I was obviously very lucky that I didn't need a lot of sleep, so that really helps, but that was a schedule that I had for a really long time. It's funny because when my kids were really small, I would take the night shift feeding them. So, I would work until about 2:00. They would need feeding between 2:00 and 3:00, and so I would take that shift in the middle of the night. So, I would work until they needed to be fed then I would feed them and go to sleep. And then my wife would take the early feeding in the morning. So, it would allow her to sleep through the night. And since I tend to be awake anyway, I would be the one that would take that feeding in the middle of the night instead.
Rob: In 2016, you won Product Hunt's "Maker of the Year". How important was that for you being a builder since you were so young?
Mubs: I think it was important not just because I'd been building for such a long time, but I think also because I didn't live in like one of the big hubs, right? I didn't live in San Fran, I didn't live in New York City. So, the fact that somebody... And I was following in Peter Level's footsteps as well who was doing the whole homemade thing, I think it just kind of proved to myself and to everybody else that you don't need to be in San Fran to have an impact and to be able to do all these things. If you want to learn to code, it doesn't matter where you are. If you wanna build stuff on the side, it doesn't matter if you're in some small town in the U.S. or even anywhere else in the world. So I think the fact that I was able to do that and not be in one of those biggest hubs, I think that was a really important thing, I think.
Rob: Amazing. And how important do you think it is as a maker to build up your profile in social media like in Twitter, for example?
Mubs: I mean, it's really helped me long-term. Like, every time I build something now, it's funny, because I'm thinking about... Over the last week, I just launched two of the new apps that I built for the Product Hunt maker festival. And normally when I started this thing, making stuff on the side, when I would launch something, I would get like, five people come check it out, people I worked with at the time and kind of stuff like that. But when I launched Maker Network and For Sale by Maker with me just tweeting and blogging about them, I think I'd already had like a couple 100 people come and check them out already, and that's purely because of the following and stuff that I've kind of and sort of audience that I have now. So, I think it's really important. I don't think you... I mean, obviously, I've taken the route of doing it on my personal account, like it's @mubashar so people know it's me. But some people obviously shy away from doing anything personal kind of online, and that's fine. Even if you want to do it under a company name or something like that, I mean, that's absolutely fine too, but just having that audience just kind of helps you get the feedback that you need to kind of see if you're working on the right things or to have that audience when you do launch something that you're not like scraping around trying to find people to kind of have a look at what you worked on.
Rob: Got it. So, a couple years ago, you mentioned the move from Windows to MacBook Air.
Rob: What is your setup now?
Mubs: So, I went to MacBook Pro. I think I made the move... I think at the time, it was just everybody in the company I worked at. So, I started working at an agency, I was on a Windows machine. Everybody else was on a Mac, and so it was just easier just to be on a Mac, so easy to share files and all that kind of stuff. Since then that's why when you did ask the question I kinda had to struggle because early on it was Windows but more recently it's been Mac. But the developer experience on a Mac now is so much easier than any other platform really in terms of how you configure your environment and your content and all of the tools and things that you need now are just so easy to access on a Mac that really... I mean, I know it's a little more expensive than having a Windows machine, but it makes life so much easier as well.
Rob: And software wise, Sublime Text. What are you rolling?
Mubs: Sublime Text. I swapped back between Visual Studio Code and Sublime Text. I typically just like the speed of Sublime Text. Code has some additional things that just make it a little bit easier when I'm doing specific things. When I do have to do design, I've been using Figma. And I built... The vast majority of my side projects are with Laravel, so I've got that configured on my local machine as well. And then for hosting, I tend to use DigitalOcean to kind of have all of my apps hosted as well.
Rob: You mentioned DigitalOcean. Is that where you host everything?
Mubs: Pretty much. I have a few sites on Heroku as well, but it just depends on how fast I want to spin things up. And it depends who I'm working with as well. Some people have preference for some reason, like, they want to host it in kind of a specific place. But almost all of my sites... I mean, all of my personal individual sites are on DigitalOcean.
Rob: And domains?
Mubs: Domains, so I started when... And again, my first side project... I think I registered my first domain in 1998.
Rob: Wow. So you have to like, write a letter to get a domain.
Mubs: I had to fax something over. It was weird.
Rob: Pity you didn't buy like weddings.com or anything back then.
Mubs: Had I known. Had I known. I still... It's funny, though. It's funny because... So, the domain I bought in 1998 is still one that I own and it's still one of my only four-letter top coms.
Mubs: So, yeah. So, I still own it. It's still so awesome to have that. But, yeah. So, I started so long time ago. So I've got a few spread out all over the place just because things evolved over time. The vast majority of them now are on...
Mubs: Yep, absolutely. I've been very happy with them.
Rob: Thinking back to what you said earlier about how you're really involved until the launch. How do you feel about SEO when it comes to side projects? Are you building for search engine optimization? Because I know that's something people often tweak post-launch.
Mubs: Again, it depends a little bit on what the app is. I know when we built Will Robots... and I think one of the reasons that it did do quite well after we launched that was that we did think about how people would share it, right? Because the whole instinct is, I look up my job, I look at the percentages, and the first thing I would do is tell everybody else, right? Like, "Yeah, here's my job. I'm safe." or, "Oh, shit, I'm screwed because I'm gonna lose my job." So, answer on that particular side, we did, I mean, we spent a lot of time on... We actually built custom share images, so for each of the individual jobs, we updated the Open Graph image, so they actually had the percentage when you shared it on Facebook and Twitter rather than just one card that was the same for every link, kind of stuff like that. So, I think you have to think about what is the app that you're trying to build. I mean, obviously, if it's a pure functional application where you have to log in and access the functionality, then thinking about SEO is kind of pointless because nobody can access any of the stuff inside of it. So you still have to think about SEO in terms of what the homepage looks like and kind of stuff like that, but you're obviously not gonna spend a lot of time thinking about that. You wanna thinking about the functionality instead.
Rob: It's interesting because I've seen people launch side projects, and you've got quite a huge range of them and you don't really feel like maintaining all of them, but some people maybe have only one idea, two ideas. Let's use a colour picker, for example, or a colour schemer. Then they start writing articles about, "This is the best way to create a colour profile." They start searching keywords. I mean, it is a strategy.
Mubs: Yeah. I mean, obviously, it depends on what your long term is. Right? I mean, if once you've launched this little tool that... And again, I build a lot of these little tools because they're things that I want to use myself. I don't really care if other people use them. It's kind of awesome if they do. But what's the point of writing 20 blog articles about colour pickers. Is somebody gonna buy the colour picker? Is somebody gonna... Like, how are you gonna... How is that time that you spent to write those articles gonna give you value back, right? Just because you're now ranked for colour picker. Okay. How awesome. But is that gonna bring you any long-term value out of that?
Rob: Just into side projects and just advice, I feel like you're such an experienced person to help other listeners out there get going. So many people listening with doubts and they haven't actually launched and they're just worried what people think. Would you say it's good to aim at doing good research before starting so you don't fail or just pick a problem that you have and start there?
Mubs: Yeah. I mean, I think this goes back a little bit to kind of what we talked about earlier, like, what's the point of the side project? Right? Like, I think that, if you understand that from the beginning, then you don't worry too much about failing, right? Because if you're building a side project to learn something, how can you fail? There's no such thing as failure as long as you've learned something along the way.
Mubs: So, I think that's really important there. Yeah, I would say that's the most important thing in terms of advice too is like, understand why you're doing something. In terms of like research versus just kind of jumping in, I think it depends a little bit on your skill set too there, right? Like, if you're a coder, just start to code, right? Just start to make something because the best research that you can do is to show somebody your application. You can ask them what they think, you can ask them what their problems are, you can ask them all sorts of questions and they might give you some kind of answer that means anything at all. And I found most customer research is...until you can actually show them an application, most customer research is kind of worthless because they think they know what they want but they're not application people so they don't really understand kind of, exactly how to express what they actually need and kind of what they want as well. So, that to me has always been quicker to build the MVP and then show potential customers, than spend six months doing customer interviews and research and all that kind of stuff to figure out what they want.
Rob: Good stuff. That's great advice. So, what advice would you give someone who thinks that they're on a real bad run of failed side projects and they're thinking "Maybe it's not for me."?
Mubs: Like I said, it goes back to... As long as you're learning from one project to the next and you're applying what... As long as you understand why it failed, I think that's the most important thing as well is understanding, "Okay. Was it the wrong... Was it the wrong market that you're attacking? Was it the wrong... Was it the wrong tool, people didn't actually need that to solve their problem?" As long as you're understanding what was missing in that project, like were you too soon? I mean, because that's the other thing that a lot of people do is they see a product, they see a problem that needs to be solved, but there's not enough people with that particular pain point right now that had they waited six months and launched the same tool, they probably would have been a lot more successful as well. So, I think understanding why the problems are failing. And then it just goes back to, are you actually trying to build like a real company on the side? Then you have to think about profitability and all that kind of stuff. But if you're building stuff on the side for fun and you're making new friends on Twitter, you're making new friends through your blogging even if the projects themselves fail, you're still continuing to grow and hopefully, the next one will be the one that finally hooks in.
Rob: I don't have this in my notes either, but just before the last question. I always read that everyone is trying to quit their job and make sure that side project does good, and then they can take the leap, and then that's the goal. But you love making side projects. You have a full-time job. There's a stable income every month. Would you say this is almost unpopular advice, what you're doing?
Mubs: I think so. I think people, almost everybody I speak to who wants to do a side project is because they hate their job.
Mubs: And to me, it's, well, one, you have to answer why you hate your job because obviously, there's plenty of work out there. If you hate your job that much, you should just go find a new job. And yeah, for some people, they see this thing about being working for yourself and not having a job as something that's amazing. I've tried this in the past and the thing that I like to tell people is that you always have a job, right? It's either working for yourself or working for somebody else, but also, you still will always have somebody that you report to. If you have a side project, you're gonna have customers that you now have to report to, that you have to keep happy. So, it may not be the person that you work for in terms of a job, but if you're unhappy with a job, you can be just as unhappy with a side project as well or a project that has now turned into a full-time thing.
The other thing I like to tell people is that there's a lot more to running a business than building an application, right? Like, you have to do your accounting and you have to do HR and you have to do all these other things that people don't realize that once you start doing that, you can't actually... I mean, here's one of the reasons that I continue to do side projects as just probably a side project is, I like to build stuff, right? I don't like to do HR and financing and all those other things. And so in terms of keeping my side projects things that I enjoy, if one of them became my full-time thing, now I wouldn't be doing the thing that I like to do. I wouldn't be writing code anymore, more than likely. I wouldn't be working on adding new features. I'd be figuring, "How can I hire somebody? How can I make sure that they get their payroll run on time? And how can I do all those other things that I have to do that has nothing to do with building applications anymore?"
Rob: That's such sound advice. Last question Mubs. How deep you want me to go? Okay. Let's just say 1 to 10, 1 is super light, 10 is deep.
Mubs: Yeah, we've been pretty open so far, so let's keep it... Let's go real deep here.
Rob: Okay. Having a family with a wife and two daughters. Okay. Your skills and side project, hustle, obviously aided to their wellbeing. But for other makers out there not getting the encouragement from their partners to hustle into the early hours of the morning and so on, what advice could you give those makers?
Mubs: I mean, the one thing that I would say is just make sure that your partner knows why you're doing what you do, right? Because I think it's not just about, "Oh, here's what I made." It's like, "Here's why I made this." Right? Either it's your hobby and you're just happy about working on something and kind of creating something. So, if you're enjoying it and you're having a good time, I mean, your partner should enjoy that too, right? That they want you to be happy, they want you to enjoy things. But if you're doing it to, "I want this because I don't want my full-time job anymore and I want to get a new job," then again, they should be encouraging you to understand that longer term this will hopefully be something that will make your life less stressful, right? So, even though you're putting the effort in now, in six months from now, in a year from now, your life will improve and hopefully, their life will improve as well. So, I think just having...being on the same page.
Rob: I think that's great advice.
Mubs: Yeah, I think just having everybody on the same page I think is the really important bit there.
Rob: Amazing. Mubs, thank you so much for being on the show. Where can people follow you?
Mubs: At Twitter over Instagram. I recently started blogging a lot more on my own site, so it's called Practical MVP. That's the other place that...I used to blog a lot on Medium, but I've started to do it on my own domain now.
Rob: I think that's a smart move. Anyway, Mubs, thanks so much. Take care, brother.
Mubs: No problem. Thanks for having me on.
Hope you enjoyed the Yo! Podcast interview!