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How I Made The First $100 From My Side Project While Recovering From Surgery

Angus Woodman
Mar 29 · 5 min read

This might be more of a cautionary tale than an inspiring one. Be not mistaken, I’ve made many mistakes! And this was not the product launch I had intended.

But it’s also a story about embracing the mess of life, and how sometimes less planning can be a good thing. Ride those waves, baby. Anyway, here goes:

For the last year or so I’ve been building , an app for managing your mental health. I’ve always been a little wonky in the brain-zone, so it’s a topic very close to me. But late last year I found out I had a different sort of health issue: skin cancer. Ahh!

I should have known something was wrong when my skin turned bright blue

I’m definitely too young for The Big C, particularly the skin variety, being in my mid-30s. I’m also big on avoiding the sun. (Outside? Who needs it? Have you seen how good inside has gotten lately??)

(Also: don’t stay indoors all the time. Trees smell wonderful.)

Anyway, I scheduled the surgery to have the tumour removed, and used (my side project, not the fruit) to keep my mind occupied as the date approached. If I can say anything about the lead-up to medical procedures it’s that it’s great to have something to keep you busy!

The Four App Stores Of The App Launching Plan

The goal for Grapefruit was to release the first version on four major app stores: iOS, Android, Windows and macOS.

I managed to get the first platform release (which was to be the Mac desktop app) ready for submission to the Mac App Store before the surgery. After a small bug that only appeared when you hid your scrollbars, I got the green light from Apple to put it up for sale. Yee-haw! All I had to do was push a button. I was gonna figure out a launch date and plan and all that, but it would have to wait until the surgery was done.

Screenshot of the first macOS version of Grapefruit, ready and waiting for launch.

A More Involved Recovery

Surgery day came. It was an all-day done-while-awake procedure, so I filled a bag with supplies and headed to the clinic. Before long they sliced my head open with a big knife to find what secrets lay inside.

As they cut, they found a tumour much deeper than expected, and the surgery turned out to be more involved.

It was done by the end of the day, and I left the clinic 8 hours later full of more stitches than I’ve ever had in my life and with a doggy bag of prescription meds.

What would have been a simple recovery turned into a much longer and more painful one. And not wanting to take the opioid-based painkillers if I didn’t have to, I toughed it out with over-the-counter meds.

As you might imagine, this … hurt.

The surgery had been on the back of my head, so besides being in pain, I also couldn’t lie down properly. Sleep? Who needs sleep!

Needless to say, I wasn’t the happiest camper.

The Part With The Pain, And How It Alters Your Behaviour

So at some point during this hell of a recovery week, I needed a small win. A little something to boost my mood. I couldn’t go anywhere, or do anything. It was painful to talk, so I couldn’t phone a friend.

So in a moment of frustration, I opened my laptop and pushed the button to launch . I didn’t tell anyone, or execute a launch plan. I just shoved it out there, closed my laptop, and went back to watching way too many movies about World War II (there are so many!)

I don’t know why I did that particular thing, releasing the app. I was in a very “eff it” mindset, so I probably would have pushed any buttons that were around me. It’s probably a good thing I don’t have any sort of nuclear launch codes, or that my car doesn’t have ejector seats.

Anyway, as the days passed and the pain lessened, I checked the store analytics. And there were sales! One at first, then two, then ten. People found it and gave it a shot. Each download perked up my mood just a little bit more thinking I may be helping someone new.

It didn’t take long to make the $100!

Of course, $100 ain’t all that much in the grand scheme of all things, but it’s where you start. Nothing beats the feeling of the first paying customers, and that feeling at that time was amazing!

The money, though, is not why I created Grapefruit. I plan to take every cent this app makes and roll it back into making it better and making more tools to help folks who have to deal with mental health issues.

Since the launch, a bunch more folks have picked it up and I’ve released it for , , and as well.

The Part With The Lessons And Vague Conclusion

There are two lessons to be taken from all this:

  1. A big launch isn’t everything. Being a perfectionist, I may have sat on the release for months. Putting it out there forced me to move on to the next phase of the project — getting it out to real users and making it better for them.
  2. Always wear sunscreen. And a hat!

Seriously. Always wear a hat. Outside, at least! :)

Thanks for reading! If you or someone you know deals with mental health issues on the regular, I’d love to get your feedback on Grapefruit, or hear about other tools the world needs to make lives better. ❤️

Angus Woodman

Written by

Creator of Grapefruit (the app, not the fruit — and tech management consultant to the stars.

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