Finding Focus

Success comes from focusing on your niche and your tribe, rather than getting distracted by shiny new projects.

A close-up photo of a dart in the bullseye of a target.
Photo by Anastase Maragos / Unsplash

In the last issue, I said that I’m feeling a lack of progress. Distractions tend to replace deep work with busywork, and I promised I’d spend this time trying to determine two things for my side business:

  1. Finding my niche; and
  2. Finding my tribe.

Here’s how that went.

The Niche

Before you can find your tribe, you've got to know your niche. And to find your niche, you draw on your strengths.

So, what are my strengths?

  • I've a background in accounting and engineering.
  • I've worked in small business consulting, quality management, support engineering, business development, web and mobile development.
  • I've been running an iOS development side-business for over a decade.
  • I do some consulting work in that side business.
  • I'm currently a mobile-platform engineering lead at a fintech company.

All that kind of points to the same niche, again and again, despite the distractions: I'm an indie iOS developer with extensive experience in many aspects of running a micro- to medium-size business, especially when it comes to their financials.

Defining this more specifically to describe what I can offer:

I help indie devs manage the day-to-day financial affairs of their microbusinesses.

I keep getting distracted from this.

The Tribe

Now that I have clearly defined what I can offer, it should be easy to find my tribe. Except... it's not, really?

My connections used to be mostly on Twitter but, well, that's a hellscape now.

On the topic of social networks, I'm liking Threads a lot, but I don't get a lot of engagement there. Conversations on Mastodon are a little better, but I sometimes feel that there's a pushback against commercial endeavours there. I generally don't spend much time elsewhere, and to really get more out of any social network, you really need to curate your followers and engage with folks.

There are other options: LinkedIn is good for professional connections, but I don't have evidence that indie devs spend a whole lot of time there. There are forums like Indie Hackers or various subreddits, but I'm not sure that's a great fit — at least, not just yet. Trying to converse on too many platforms just doesn't work for an indie side business.

And the truth is that mostly, I've been using social for passive consumption and broadcasting. My general approach is to just share stuff I'm working on, and I need to do a better job of having conversations with people. As suggested in Company Of One:

Sam [Milbrath, of HootSuite] suggests that one-third of your updates should be about your business or your content, one-third should be sharing content from others, and one-third should be personal interactions that build relationships with your audience.

That's a good start.

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The Next Steps

I've mentioned here that I'd started work on a newsletter-management app. This is fun, but it's a distraction — it makes me feel like I'm making progress on the business, but in reality I'm just taking a detour because I have too many unanswered questions on what I really want to build.

I’m also trying to build out a patronage setup for Thought Detox. I already know that it’s not going to actually deliver any meaningful revenue, so why am I spending my extremely limited time on this?

Again, I’m doing this because I’m avoiding the real work that I should do if I want to make this business successful. It’s fun to experiment and tackle new things, sure, but for the few hours I have per week, it’s self-sabotaging to do anything but have a singular focus.

So, I’m pausing all other work and getting back to my original plan: building a financial toolkit for indie devs.

More TK.

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Jamie Larson