Lessons From Zombie Side Projects

There are many side projects in my ideas graveyard, but most had valuable lessons to give before they faded like a match on Tinder.

Consistency is King

Better still: the appearance of consistency is King. Podcasting taught me that new and current events are tough because they are antithesis of “evergreen” content. And if I wanted my podcast to succeed I had to live and breathe my content far more than I already was. Before I had even started the constraints I chose for my side project we’re working against me.

Consistency to your end users doesn’t have to even remotely resemble the consistency of effort on your part.

I chose a topic for a side-project that better befit a main project because I couldn’t effortlessly create content on the schedule people expect.

I chose to talk about current tech news in my weekly podcast: Well Don’t Just Stand There and I simply couldn’t keep up. My energy and time wasn’t consistent enough and so my listeners weren’t either.

I tend to fuel my work with the dopamine drip of success when other frameworks aren’t there to help me. And so I fizzled.

Shipped is better than unshipped

There is no glory in an unshipped project and often very little learning because you miss the chemical reaction with the oxygen of perspective. A shipped product tells you more than almost anything gleamed from the process of actually building your product.

To tell the truth Amy Hoy has far more coherent things to say on this subject with her book Just Fucking Ship. That book is the reason I released the first episode of my podcast even when I felt it wasn’t remotely ready.

Looking back and being honest with myself I never would have released that first podcast without a kick in the ass, but i’m grateful I did. The learning curve to release a second podcast is now far less steep.

Networks matter more than you think

Wordpress was my blogging platform for a long time, but it never had anything remotely to do with my network. So as a tool to reach out to my network (colleagues, peers, friends, and secret admirers), and consequently the world at large… it was a poor choice. Couldn’t leverage my built in Network Effect without spamming my friends and social feeds.

My exceptional Wordpress traffic at johanncodes.com

On top of this Wordpress didn’t make me discoverable, but seemingly with Medium I can be. Writing here now is an experiment, but only one I thought to make after examining how my blogging, as a project, was doing.

Almost certainly the KPI of blogging is the number of readers and in that I was.. underperforming.

I chose my blog platform because I didn’t think hard about what I wanted to accomplish. Subsequently I didn’t make a change because I didn’t know I could do better. I’ve been told that I can and so here we are now, together.

Build on your catacombs

The bones of my dead projects make it easier for me to start again. I’ve done the hard part already… and I can tell you my next podcast will be better for all that I learned from my last:

  1. I know how to record and compress audio
  2. I’m significantly better at speaking aloud, alone, and uninterrupted for 10–30 minutes at a time.
  3. I’ve gained familiarity with Twitter and Facebook ads for promotion
  4. I’ve got some pretty sweet, but reasonably priced recording gear that I can fumble with confidence.

It all works together too: if my blog reaches my network better I have new avenues for promotion, evergreen podcasts can be promoted ad infinitum, my next project will leverage consistency to my end users without necessarily requiring it from me.

My pile of bones is quite high now and its already extending my reach…

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