Self-Funding a Home 🏡

So, I'm in an interesting spot with my product Blurt right now.

Where I'm At

In a lot of ways, I'm stoked with the success and progress I've had with Blurt:

  • It's netted about $6,000 this year ($667 average MRR)
  • Continues to sustain about 1.8k visitors a month on average from a variety of SEO strategies and backlinks
  • Maintains roughly 120 customers (despite churn)
  • Has received a few accolades and recognition from the world
  • And has helped me grow a ton in my entrepreneurial journey and learn a ton about business since starting it last year

But, since about March of this year, I've not put effort into growing it, so it's stagnated.

One reason for not growing it is has been that I've been busy figuring out and supporting my consulting business as a means of continuing to fund my personal efforts. Blurt isn't paying the bills, yet.

But the more significant reason has simply been that I've not known what to do next.

I've mostly been okay with that.

When I launched Blurt, I'd built it as a tool for myself and as a vehicle for me to start my entrepreneurial journey. I believed others could benefit from it so I put a price tag on it and decided to see what would happen. It wasn't like I knew there was some pent up demand for the value Blurt offered. I just felt the writing space was a significant enough market, I cared about it and that I had a unique take on it.

Unfortunately, bringing a product to market and succeeding with it that way doesn't exactly work like that.

So, it's taken me some time to both better understand what opportunities exist for Blurt (if any) as a self-funded business and to also personally grow more in my own entrepreneurial ability. I've been learning a ton through consulting. I've continued to evolve my understanding about the implications of self-funding a business. The last few months have also given time for many users to come through Blurt, to talk with me and help me observe what people are really looking for.

All things considered, I'm super grateful Blurt has sustained and provided all the value it has to people in its current form, but I really need to rock the boat and move the needle if it's going to be how I make living from my own blood, sweat and tears.

So, all that said, Blurt feels a bit like a house I can't afford.

And it might be time to downsize.

A House I Can't Afford

"Cool metaphor Corey, but what do you mean?"

Let me explain.

  1. Blurt is a lot of "property" for one person to take care of.
  2. It's got a pricy "mortgage".
  3. It's "over-architected".
  4. It's keeping up with the wrong "Joneses".
  5. It's in the wrong "neighborhood".

1. It's a lot of property for one person to take care of.

As a self-funded solo-founder, Blurt is a beast of a software project to maintain.

It's a platform. It's got lots of complicated (aka unnecessary) features. In addition to the new value I'm trying to bring to writers with new features, I also have to deliver the editor experience writers have come to expect (import/export, integrations, formatting, collaboration, etc.). Blurt is also self-hosted, has a processing queue for analytics, reminders, etc. It stores user data, manages subscriptions, hosts images. It's a whole lot of moving parts for one dude.

And, by the way, all this product development, maintenance and dev ops isn't the only concern. There's also marketing, growth experiments, customer support, customer development, research efforts, branding and design and a business model to figure out.

This isn't to say that I can't continue to support all this. I love creating things that help other people. The "go getter" in me is like, “Don’t be a quitter you wuss! BOOTSTRAP OR DIE!”

But this just isn't the kind of business I want to build. Not to say that crazy effort isn't required at times, but why build a business that saps my energy and kills my momentum. I have a life to live. I should be building the kind of business that lets me live that life.

I might manage it all and pull it off with lots of effort, but at quite the cost.

I believe there's smarter ways to do it than I have attempted.

2. It's got a pricy mortgage.

As I've gleaned from Mom Testing and chatting with customers, a lot of the visitors and those that churn are expecting Blurt to be a full fledged writing app. To have a desktop app. A mobile app. All the formatting, sharing, and integrations we've come to expect from writing apps. Blurt does its best to deliver that, but it does not live up to those expectations.

Certainly part of the problem is the landing page. It does a terrible job of setting expectations today, but most coming to Blurt already have their favorite writing spaces and expectations from them. And if they're expecting Blurt to exceed Notion, Bear, Apple Notes, they're going to be disappointed. There are no doubt far better editors than Blurt out there. Competing against those is not what I intended to do.

Could Blurt be an amazing new writing app? Absolutely! But I'd need to afford the time (and talent) to make that happen. And no one is going to give me funding right now because there's no indication, other than my own insane belief, that "throwing gas" on Blurt would accelerate its growth.

I'm also not sure funding it is what I want to do. I mostly desire to self-fund a business. To ultimately be customer funded.

So, building what Blurt is currently expected to be is just not a realistic self-funded business from where I'm at right now. It's an expensive endeavor. Not a house I can afford.

I'd be happy with a smart, well crafted, quaint humble abode.

3. It's over-architected.

Scratching your own itch is a great way to build a product, but the problem with scratching your own itch to build a business is that you don't experience paying for it.

The experience of discovering and paying for some new thing is the most important part to understand! I didn't when I launched.

Also, just because you can solve a problem, does not mean it makes a good self-funded business opportunity. I should've brought Blurt to market sooner to start learning what customers really needed. Or done the research. Or had the conversations. Now I'm so far in it makes it difficult to backtrack and rearchitect.

I also didn't really know everything about business and marketing like I do now. I suppose it's a good problem to have—I still have traffic and attention—but now I'm in a place where a remodel is necessary.

4. It's keeping up with the wrong Joneses.

Since launching Blurt, I've mostly targeted creatives, intellectuals and entrepreneurs. Those, who like myself, want to write more, know they should, but aren't.

The problem is, "writing" is not this audience's "most important problem".

As Hiten has advised, it's wise to build a business offering a solution that solves your customers' most important problem. This really resonates with me given the behavior I've observed. The audience I've targeted loves the concept of writing more, loves well crafted software, checking out the latest and greatest new app, but at the end of the day, because it's not their most important problem, they don't stick around. It's a valuable lesson.

Also, because I've not niched down, I've not given visitors a clear understanding of the specific value they get from using Blurt. Clearly professional writers (book authors, bloggers, etc.) and students have a need and getting writing done is their most important problem, but do they have a strong enough desire to hand over money for it? I'll have to find out!

One reason I haven't niched down has been because of the fear of limiting my reach. I realize how that fear has been hurting me:

"Don't think of a niche as the size of the target market. Rather, think of a niche as the sharpness of your knife that allows you to penetrate that market." (Thanks for this Brian.)

I also better understand that niching down really is the basic tenet of doing things that don't scale. To get a fire for a niche community really hot so you can then take it elsewhere.

I've really appreciated what fellow Indie Hacker Jordan has done with Closet Tools for this reason. He's targeted a niche audience (Poshmark sellers) and is making it easy for them to make more money (the supreme desire). I also think the fact the product is a browser extension really helps limit the "expense" of development too, making for a more affordable house.

The other reason I've avoided niching down is because targeting "writer writers" has been a bit out of my comfort zone. The entrepreneurial space is more where my community and understanding is. It'd be work to go mingle in other watering holes. To understand their problems. To find out if Blurt in its current incarnation would be of value with them. Granted, this is the necessary entrepreneurial work, but the fact I haven't had the interest or energy to go do that is pretty telling. Maybe this is a house I can't afford.

Today, when people sign up, because it's not abundantly clear who Blurt is for, the expectations are confused. This causes them to churn. Updating the landing page to help the target audience self-identify and understand the value they get from Blurt would go a long way to improving things.

If I target the right Joneses, I might find more growth.

5. It's in the wrong neighborhood.

Also, trying to garner attention in an already competitive market is difficult. Not impossible, but Blurt isn't a noticeable skyscraper, high above the busy city street. Blurt is a hot dog stand on 5th.

And people know what hotdogs are. They might be tasty, but they're cheap. They're commoditized. The same feels true for people's expectations with writing apps. It might be a tricked out, well trafficed hotdog stand, but it's still a hotdog stand.

The hotdog stand business is not the kind of self-funded business I'm looking to build.

It'd serve me well to move the business where I can afford do more with less. To find a corner where I'm noticeable. To target the people in town who are happy to know and pay for the unique services I offer there and at a rate that affords my doing business there. That might mean some big changes are necessary. Blurt is consumer oriented right now. Might be wiser to focus on B2B or a more specific prosumer problem.

A House I Can Afford

So what is a house I can afford?

The most important thing is that it needs to be a business that solves the target customer's most important problem.

If it's with Blurt, that probably means downsizing. I need to strip and simplify. I'll need to target the right niche that's already looking for the solution Blurt offers (probably writer writers).

I'll also need to ensure that the solution has a business model that can afford it. That the target customers is happy the solution exists, easily understands it, seeks it out and is happy to pay for it. Part of being able to help people is making enough money to continue to do it.

I don't intend to give up on Blurt. It clearly has some value and interest. It has some mindshare and traffic in the writing space that's not worth losing. I also love writing and dig helping others with their's.

So in order make it a house I can afford, I intend to do two things near term:

  1. Strip and simplify. Frame the landing page and other messaging to better target customers in need of what Blurt offers (writer writers).
  2. Make inroads in the writer writers communities.

Other than that, I've got other ideas (🚩) and may be properly constructing another self-funded home soon.

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Published 2 months ago