July was rocky.

Productivity for the first half of the month was low. During the first couple of weeks there were a bunch of disruptions thanks to building work going on in the house. I didn’t think it would be bad, but I was wrong. Dust everywhere, interruptions, noise, and so on. I actually felt uncomfortable in my own house. At least now I’ve learned that this is a problem…

Just after the building work ended the dog died. He was 15 and had a great life. But it still came as a shock. His health deteriorated pretty quickly over a couple of weeks, so he wasn’t suffering. The house feels bare with him gone. And I didn’t realise how much it would affect me.

It’s situations like this that force you to take a step back from whatever you’re focusing on.

On top of those things, it’s summer in the UK, and we had some good weather. One of the benefits of working for myself is having the freedom to choose when to work. I feel guilty when I take a little time to enjoy the summer. And I also feel guilty when I don’t take time to enjoy the summer. I can’t win.

Still, I had to get some work done on my projects. So here’s how that went.

Hint: not as well as I hoped after June’s good progress.

July’s goals

Start and launch July’s (tiny) project ✔️

Back in June I decided my July project should be a tiny one so I could focus most of my time on Map of Strength and PC Nameplates.

Luckily, in late June I bought shouldigrowabeard.com on a whim. It’s a domain that comes with a mildly interesting story.

So I resurrected shouldigrowabeard.com. Resurrected in the sense that it’s currently an homage to the original version of the site from 2013.

My initial plan is to develop it into an informative site for people who are interested in growing a beard - with articles and a questionnaire. As for monetization I’m intending on using affiliate links to beard care products.

The key for this project will be SEO. But once it’s up and running properly I hope that it might bring in a small amount of affiliate revenue each month.

Deploying a single-page static site with practically nothing on it feels like a bit of a cop-out. It’s hard to call it a project for my challenge - especially since I haven’t actually executed my plan for the site. But it is what it is.

This is another one of those times where I haven’t really published anything anywhere to ‘launch’ it either. I could post the link to the story about resurrecting the site on Hacker News and other places. But I don’t think many people would find it interesting.

Get 5 sales of PC Nameplates ❌

PC Nameplates got a lot less attention this month than I hoped I’d be able to give it.

Since it’s an Etsy style product I created an Etsy listing hoping that there could be some traffic and purchases from there. So far it hasn’t made a difference.

I made a post on Reddit showing the final product (last time I showed the prototypes). And I got an ok response - there were upvotes and a few visits to the site, but no comments or major interest as far as I can tell.

One problem here is that I’m not sure how to promote the product. It’s pretty niche and I don’t think there are many ways to get SEO on this type of product. It’s really a word-of-mouth type thing. I have a few ideas to get plates in front of people, but I’m not sure how well it will pay off.

I should talk to people who sell custom products to the PC mod community and see what they do. I’m not super integrated into the custom PC or modder community. I’m mostly on the fringe. I started this project because I wanted one for myself, and I thought it would be an interesting project (it was, but turning it into a small business is different).

‘Properly’ launch Map of Strength and start getting some traffic ✔️

Map of Strength was ‘properly’ launched in the sense that I’ve been talking about it and starting to promote it. And I’ll be launching it again in August.

I created an Instagram page to feature gyms. This is how I’m intending on building some of the initial traffic to the site. liftingstones.org had a decent amount of success just because of the Instagram presence and content. So I’m hoping I can take some of what I learned from that to do something similar here.

To feature gyms, I decided it would be a good idea to contact some gym owners and ask them if they would like to be featured. A lot of the gyms that I contacted have their own following. So I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get in front of their audience.

Besides that, I’ve set up some keyword notifications to alert me when people ask for gyms near X on different sites. The plan is to help find gyms and direct people to the site. From there I’m planning on how we can generate articles to take advantage of searches like ‘Strongman gym in London’.

I’m not sure if ‘start getting some traffic’ was achieved though. Traffic to the site was low. But I did get a few emails via the contact form on the site - in the form of spam…

On a positive note I had the first user-submitted gym.

Add data for 30 total gyms for Map of Strength ✔️

Early on I spent a bunch of time getting data for the map. And then I realised that it would be far better to find and add a new gym each day. Rather than huge chunks. So I started doing that.

Adding gyms was slightly laborious to begin with because of the way the data was stored and served for the MVP.

To fix this I made a bunch of backend changes and created a directory of gyms at the same time. So now I can easily add gyms. The other benefit is that there isn’t just a map - the directory is now pretty nice.

Realistically, most of the development work is ‘done’ on Map of Strength. There are a few things that need building - filtering, search, some automations, and a better way for users to add data and gyms. The priority right now is to get more traffic to the site.

Write at least 1 content piece for Map of Strength for SEO ❓

This is a difficult one to judge. When I wrote this goal, I had planned to write a blog post or two. But then I thought about Instagram and how I got initial traffic using it in past projects.

I created a small feature of Gold’s Gym in Venice and posted that to Instagram as an example / pilot post to show gyms that I want to feature.

I still have ideas for blog posts and content that I could create for SEO. But I want to focus on early traffic first, so I’ll continue working on the Instagram side of things to see if we can nudge the needle.

Bonus

Back in June I volunteered to work on strongmanarchives.com - an archive project that documents the sport of strongman. My first contributions were made live this month. And it feels good to be able to contribute my skills to something that I’m passionate about. Right now I spend a few hours over the weekends to contribute - by fixing bugs, adding new features, and so on.

The only issue with volunteering is that it takes up time, focus, and energy from my projects.

VQGAN+CLIP blew up this month. Which meant that I had to play with it. I ended up creating a bunch of images, and posting a few to Twitter. I think this was also a good way for me to get more comfortable with tweeting.

Related to that, I’ve been tweeting more about the stuff I’m working on. The goal is to become more involved with the Indie Hacker / build in public community. I’m basically looking to make friends working on similar stuff to me, and to help support others. Not sure that I’m doing that well with it right now, but I’m trying.

Something I’ve noticed is that people are reading a lot of ‘how to grow on Twitter’ courses, which means that there is a group of people with super similar profiles and content. And way too many Twitter threads. Some of it is good, but the rest is getting a little irritating. I understand that it’s a way to gain followers. But it doesn’t feel genuine.

liftingstones.org had its best month ever traffic wise. This was its 8th month of constant growth in traffic, and I haven’t really done anything to it since January. I did a little write up on Indie Hackers about why this has happened. But I don’t think anyone read it or found it useful.

My biggest issue right now is that I feel very thinly-spread. There just isn’t enough time to focus and get everything I want to do done. This is something that I’ve seen other people talk about recently, so I’m not the only one. What can I drop?

August goals

Goals this month aren’t that different from last. ‘Start and launch a project’ is there like past months. And my project for August is a little more ambitious, so I’m not sure how it’s going to go.

Once I launch Austust’s project, that brings the total to 5 in 5 months. Right now I’m considering stopping at 6 with a launch in September. Except I still haven’t found any real revenue streams - or another SaaS idea just yet.

July’s revenue from projects: $0