We all focus on short term relief, short term gain, short term gratification.
It’s natural, this is how your brain is wired in order to save us energy. In order for you to be more efficient.
Short term is easy, everyone is doing it. Long term though, it takes dedication. Doing things for the long term is what creates results.
It took Josef 3 years to complete his book. That’s called commitment to the long term.
This podcast episode is not about you writing a book. It is about empowering yourself to succeed with your project. It is about learning from each others experiences. Learning about the things that have worked for others.
In this episode we talked about:
- How to build your audience
- The importance of colliding your ideas with reality
- The power of being adaptable
- Ready vs Perfect – A launching strategy
- What to do if you personally need money while you are building your project And much much more.
Enjoy the episode.
PS: The next Group Coaching for Indies starts on the September 29th.
01:53 About this episode
03:04 Introducing Josef
03:04 Marker 1
04:31 Joseph speaks about his journey
06:50 Joseph’s Background
08:31 Do it for the long run
09:41 How to manage your motivation
11:22 Collide your ideas with reality
12:29 Ask your audience
14:38 How to build and audience
19:48 Focus on the wins
27:49 Ask for help
29:52 Let yourself procrastinate
33:56 Aim for quality but don’ t let it get in the way
35:46 Keep promoting your product
41:55 Where to find Josef
42:44 From Consumer to Creator – Just start
43:53 Announcement and Outro
Hi and welcome. Today we have Joseph here and I met him through Twitter on indexes from is getting in the mood? What’s?
I get in the mood. It’s good. Hi, today we have Joseph with us.
We met through Indie Hackers and we chatted on Twitter and it was part of the conversation that we went along together and it really sparked the interest for us to get together and speak with each other and see what are the things that he has learnt through his journey in India. Hiking and the things that he has created. So, for those of you that don’t know Joseph, joseph is an author and he’s the author of The Deployment From Scratchbook and he used to work for Red Hat and also as a tech lead on the startup.
He created a mailing list for his book of 600 people. I’m guessing now it’s even bigger than numbers. And he’s managed to make sales within, last I checked, from April 20, $5,000 as part of his book.
And his book is about him being able to teach every one of us to be able to deploy our application. And that for his book, the things that he’s done is to deploy a Robbie or Python and building up databases that we can use. So the idea from what I’ve got, and I would love to hear his take on it, is managing a Linux environment so we can actually deploy our applications, automated containers, virtual service.
And the thing that really stuck with me and resonated with me and actually got me intrigued with Joseph was the fact that for the book, it took him three years to actually complete it. Could you tell us a few words, Joseph, about the project that you’ve created and your journey along the way? Okay, so, hello, thanks for having me.
As you said, I was working on my first and possibly the last book, A Deployment From Scratch. It took a lot of time and a lot of the effort and the idea didn’t succeed out of nowhere. It was like kind of intersection in life when things get together.
It’s like I was already years after school, so I forgot how much pain was it to write thesis. So I was more relaxed from that. At the same time, I started to have some back issues and I wanted to scale down my work.
So in the end I felt like it’s a good time to do something for myself or try some little project to make it, but this time make it commercial as well. And I thought that maybe I want to do so far as a business, like a sales application. But then I thought, I’m just starting, I don’t even know anything about sales really, that I didn’t get from the Internet.
So I felt I should start with something like one time sale that would be easier for me to get through. I can make it and kind of forget and if it doesn’t work you just get your job and so on. So in the end I was also thinking like what can I actually make?
So one thing was the idea of what you really want to do which is I believe really important because you need the motivation and so on but if I said to myself I would like myself to be known for a good cookbook but I’m not a good cook so that’s not the best idea. So I wanted to do technical book that would also help me in my career later because I think it’s good credentials and so on and speaking of credentials, my final topic how I arrived at deployment actually was that I was thinking what I could be talking about, right? I was a Linux packager at Red Hat.
I was also a web developer, mainly like Ruby backend developer but also like full stack and so on. I did many things and I felt that for me if I want to sell myself, deployment could be one thing to pick also. Why?
Because you have to think one step ahead. So one thing is to write it but I knew at the time I will have to sell it as well and selling is hard and I felt like I don’t have any audience on Twitter or anywhere. I love Twitter already before but I was like consumer so I was just like feeding other people’s feeds and at the time I had very little following so I was like people don’t know me, how would I sell it?
I had a blog, I booked sometimes I was lucky to publish many times like Ruby Weekly and so on but still felt like I need something to help me to sell it. So one thing was to pick a topic that I can have credentials for and I felt I told myself that if I’m Linux packager probably people will believe me that I know how to deploy application, web application on Linux using Bash because actually Linux packages are built using Bash as well. So that’s how I basically arrived on the idea started I quit my job as a CEO of a very small start up and I started writing.
Yeah, I just started and well, nobody imagined doing it over three years I thought myself I would do it in half a year and I’m done. Obviously if I knew it would be so long then I would probably reconsider. Yeah.
That’s a question I have for you because the one distinction that I got through our conversation and this comment coming out is doing it for the long term versus a short win and that is actually where a lot of times the difference exists because a lot of us. We go into trying to make something happen. Worked for it for a little bit and then you mentioned motivation or motivation kind of plumbing and then we’re like okay.
You know what? Actually, maybe it’s not such a great idea, but the way that I saw that you approach your strategy was already it was part of it. I’m making this so I’d be able to sell it for sure.
So it needs to be viable and needs to pay back. But also what I’m seeing is it wasn’t the only thing motivating you. And part of it was something you were doing, something writing about, something that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about.
How did you navigate when the times like your motivation kind of went and you’re like, oh, I’ve been doing this, I don’t know, for six months, nine months, but I still haven’t finished and I need to have another go at this. Yes, I think again, life solved it for me because after this half a year, I got a really good opportunity for a contract job and they were fine with me, like starting part time and be like flexible going forward. I could do it remotely also from anywhere.
Actually, the offer was that good that I feel like I should take it. I know I want to write a book, but I gave it like half a year, so let’s do it like part time ish and continue so I could have some finances again and some scale it down, which I think really helped me. That’s also an interesting point that you’re making here because a lot of times we want to go ahead and do things.
Some people, like you, say they quit and then they go ahead full scale. Other people do it part time, whatever the project is, and they can do it like really consistently or do it every now and then. And there’s no right and wrong because like you say, it fits with everyone’s lifestyle.
But what I mentioned, which is interesting, is how much money you actually have during the process of creating the product and how that is impacting you and your life. And I find that interesting because it’s very easy at that point to say, actually, either this is not working or I should let it go. But again, it was like finding a happy medium that worked for you.
Yeah, I think one important thing was like building that mailing list of 600 plus people, because that was validation for me. If I would not get any interest, I would probably try to really scale it back and maybe I would finish it, but in very short version, I just have it there. Okay, I tried, but because I had some interest, I actually made some polls with my audience and I asked him some questions.
And one of the questions was actually do you prefer shorter book or longer book? And they actually overwhelmingly wanted a bigger resource. So I increased the scope because people told me that they are insisted.
That’s also one reason why my scope grew bigger. It’s not just like me going on forever, but I got the feedback. So I was like, okay, I understand.
Sometimes bigger books are harder to read, maybe harder to sell because people have to find the time and so on. But I will not argue my poll, my subscribers, right? I didn’t exactly what they were telling me, so I approve it.
First idea was not to have containers even. But then I was like, okay, I will do either containers or infrastructure is cold. And I felt that in the end it felt better with the containers because I also targeted for people that want to do something of a smaller scale.
And you don’t really need infrastructure as code. Like you don’t need to start with that. You can do few.
At which point did you make that decision, those polls? Because I’m getting the. Audience few ideas and it was like a few months in, I think, and they got almost the same number of interest percentage.
So because of that I was like, I have to decide it. I decided it’s containers because containers are everywhere and even, I don’t know, you’re software developer at some company, maybe you need to always build container for Kubernetes deploy even if you are not managing it and so on. So I felt like it’s modern features of Linux has come together to make this container technology and Docker builds on top of that.
So in the end it made it cut. What I liked is, like you said that one thing was you were building your idea, but you were also building your audience. And at the same time you were interacting with your audience and colliding your ideas with the audience that you had.
And that is important for all of us because a lot of times we kind of might get stuck in the planning phase or get stuck into the scope. Like you’re saying, we say no, it’s going to be like this, but we need to be able to adapt according to what our needs are, according to what the market, what people who are buying need. I’m going to rewind you a little bit on how did you go about building your audience.
Actually, good question. The first big start of the mailing list was my post on Reddit subreddit for Ruby Language, simply because I was already kind of established them there. I posted my articles that were like and everything for free, like some open source and so on.
So I felt like, yeah, maybe it’s a bit spammy to ask, but I decided to ask them. In the end, I decided to work it differently. So I actually said I am already writing it and then maybe if there is no interest that scripts the idea, but I put it like, okay, I’m actually writing it and I put there what I think should get in and then maybe people can come and what they think about it.
And then I post the link to the mailing list. So there was like a big start for the mailing list and then I knew that also with my blog, if I put the advertisement there, that’s like every day maybe I get one sign up, somebody come across my article and then signs up. So in a way it’s like this what marketers would call funnels or something on my blog and so on.
And I did one thing with this Ruby subreddit that three years later yeah, this is a long game. Three years later when it was ready. Normally awesome subreddits sometimes are taken down by self promotion and so on.
But I already had this belt post before, so what I did, I said, look, three years ago I wrote here, I will write this book and now it’s ready. And wow, this guy like after three years he really shows up again and tells us it’s ready again. A lot of likes there instead of being put down for soft promotion or something.
Yeah, it sounds like also it’s a celebration of you achieving your goal and coming back. And then again, it’s just like people are happy for not everyone is happy for other people’s successes, but a lot of people are happy for other people’s successes because we see what we want to be doing and it motivates us to go out and do that as well. I think one thing that helps with the technical books is that most people that know about finances and how publishing works know that most people don’t have much money on it.
So I think they’re also more likely to at least like it or even share it, even if they are not going to buy it. But simply said, it’s a good idea for the effort. How are you nurturing your email list?
Were you sending updates on the things that you were building? Were you asking more questions, give samples? Yeah, I was giving few updates, not too many, but once I had something I did, then obviously there was this big like alpha release.
That was the point when I realized, yes, I have still some work to do, but I could take the first ten chapters. That actually makes sense on its own. It could be like one book when you learn all the essentials and deploy a static web page before going for Ruby Python databases to containers.
And I thought like, what’s the biggest validation? The money? So let’s put it out there, let’s see.
And it was like the first bigger sell day. Then there was like better and then there was a final release. One thing I did is that I actually kept the mailing list and I will keep it also for future updates.
So I already actually delivered one update after that and I kept the kind of sign up field on the landing page and I say not ready to buy sign up for updates. And I think it’s also like nice way how to capture someone that came to your site, you already put the effort to send him there, but then he’s not ready to buy. The book also is not very cheap compared to others.
So you don’t want to lose that person that came. Maybe he’s interested, he doesn’t know, he’s not unsure. So let him sign up for these updates and some people will.
It’s not like big number, but it doesn’t matter why you shouldn’t do it. Yes, I agree with you. And the thing I’ve realized with numbers is the fact that our usual style of approaching things, like everyone would like it or no one would like it, and we miss kind of the grave zone and it’s it’s the people that we go through.
It’s the same. Like, for us to have this interview. I’ve connected a lot of other people.
And if I focus on the people who never spoke to me, then that takes me away from us creating what we’re creating now. And it’s the same thing. Like, you might have 1000 people who come through your funnel, through your website and yeah, maybe for the 990, it’s not for them, but you have those ten people that these are the people who care about what we build.
And it’s about looking after those people the same way. Like, if we have an urgent, you can come in, I might like the food, I might not like. And then the menu has different things that different people like.
So it’s about us having that ability to offer and having other people decide what they want to do and what options they are given. But I like what you said, that you’re giving people the option to actually okay, I don’t have to buy, but I can subscribe and I can still be part of this. And I can get an email, a reminder, or maybe I get into this in a future time.
Yeah. In my mind, every sale counts. And it’s also why I like Kamala as a platform.
I mean, I chose it because of the taxes. I don’t want to deal with European value added taxes. It’s terrible.
But they also have this kind of marketplace when you can discover people and products and so on. And sometimes they can promote you there automatically. So basically, they will also send few cells your way and a couple of sales, and they can cover their fees, for example, almost.
So another nice little thing, also different. Channels that we get traffic and promotion. That’s really nice because I wasn’t aware of that.
About having the ability to promote what you’re building. Yeah. And one thing I also want to say is that with this book, I’m really doing things in the open.
So when you started the podcast, I had like 25,000. Now I’m actually at $30000. I had this nice milestone.
So I have 772 sales now. And one thing I do in the book, I try to publish some updates also on Twitter and sometimes I’ll also post it somewhere else or someone picks it up. For example, the post regarding my one year in sales when I did like a breakdown of everything was well liked.
It was like I bolted very well on Hicken news and it’s again like kind of free traffic for you if. You don’t have your own audience and social proofing. I don’t know if I would do it with every product but I said with this one, I will try it, I will see it through.
So I will likely continue to be very open about everything. I also think that it will help the next person. I always enjoyed when someone actually was open about their book sales and so on.
You know, whether they are like average, good, bad, like people will decide for themselves if they want to go through this journey but I think it can be inspiring or at least what advice. Would you give someone if they were to be thinking about writing a book like this? What would you tell them?
I would tell them that they should try to limit the scope even though I built like I wrote a big book, I would say for the first one do less and have it out sooner. And I would also advise them to do what I did like to build a mailing list first, try to find some interesting people before just departing on this journey because they might still write a book but maybe they should change the topic or they should take it from another direction and they might get a good feedback for that. Colliding of the ideas.
And I like that because also as part of what we did and having our conversations. It’s been on my mind of doing this as a podcast. What we’re doing.
But before it wasn’t being recorded and I was just having off the record chat but because we talked again the colliding of the ideas it brought up. It’s like let’s do a podcast and you find it more interesting to do it as a podcast. I had my reservation but actually it’s like yeah so the more that we go towards the direction, the more the obstacles will start to rise up and the more that we collide with that and the more we interact, we can actually get new input that can help us get in a better place than we originally thought we could go.
I would also suggest them to find their kind of niche unique way that differentiates them because you don’t really want to compete with all the books that come out regularly from bigger publishers. And also once I narrowed down to deployment topic I still could write a book for example, or on ansible or some particular tool and that’s one thing I told myself I will not do. I will not be just like ansible two and then answer three.
No, I said I will go to the basics and actually tell people how it works without all these Python modules and this interaction code and simply what’s happening really underneath. And surprisingly, it can be like really a little bit of bash code and you can have your server up and running. So I teach more, like if you are beginning, focus on security and things like that and focus on understanding of what you are doing and then you can bring tools to help you with that.
I was looking through the outline of the book. I haven’t read the book, but I was really intrigued because again, like me having worked with others, it’s always been the same, let me go and find resource to make it work. But it was never like, I completely know what I’m doing and it was always searching in the dark.
What I liked about your book is what you say about scope. It didn’t feel too vague for me, actually. It’s very well placed, but also it covers a nice variety about things that you can learn.
Like you’re saying to give you the confidence to be able to deploy and not having to really worry about things. We cover a lot of good topics around. Yeah, it also came down to the fact that a lot of developers today are self taught.
So for example, I had some networking classes at university, but a lot of people don’t. So they’re kind of in the dark. So I brought out book that not only tells you, okay, do this, run this command.
But actually before I tell you something about networking, if you would do Red Hat certification, like certified engineer that they are offering. The exam actually starts with your server being broken in terms of networking. So your network is broken and first you have to fix it and then you can continue with your exam otherwise.
Because if you think about it, that applications are network applications, you can always learn a little bit more about networking. It will help you either way. Interesting that you say that.
The whole exam starts with the challenge. It starts with the obstacle. And that’s a question I’ve had.
What was the biggest obstacle you met along your way into completing your book? What was the biggest thing that you were trying to battle and overcome? I think that’s a hard question, but I would say I would say in the end, you know, you do new research, you learn a lot of things and then you have to put it in writing.
And for example, I’m not a native speaker, but I was lucky that I already put up some blog posts and so on. I also was lucky enough that some people volunteer to help me with that. It’s another thing I would like say, it’s also good to ask some people if they want to help you because some actually will and they help me a lot.
So there’s definitely an obstacle but I would say maybe number one would have to be that time because doing something for three years with breaks or part time issues at times still it’s a big toll on your head and so on. And despite building mailing lists and so on before the first dollar, there was a long term it was like two and a half years. Right.
How is that for you specifically? Because a lot of this discussion is about what you build and what we create. But it’s also like, how do we relate to that?
So how was it for you working for months on end and not having that dollar come in? It was hard. But I made it at least like somehow interesting because I was traveling, I changed a lot of countries actually.
So, for example, when I was doing the Alpha release, I was in Alpha, Albania, and I took long walks around the sea and I lost the sea. There nice breaks there. So, yeah, maybe interesting.
I did also other things. I let myself procrastinate if I didn’t feel it. There’s also a part why it took so long, because in that first half year, I think I could do more.
But you think you will do, but then you’re postponing to start. I really felt like some writer because when you learn about some writers from the past, many of them had weird habits. Like they would start writing very drunk at night, all night and stuff like that.
So everybody is different. Everybody will have a different way to accomplish it. But certainly to keep going, you should not force yourself.
But at the same time, if three days passed and you did nothing, maybe try to do something, you know, write one paragraph or something. Sometimes I would write a draft or I would just simply work on the chapter that I wanted at the time. I really didn’t work from the beginning to the end at all.
Maybe it would help me, but actually I was all over the place. It was a mess. The creative process is often messy.
Again, we see the end result. I buy the book, I see it, I’m like, oh, it’s really nice. But I never see what happened behind the scenes.
And that’s why part of it, I enjoy us diving deeper into like, what happened behind the scenes. For us to be able to hold this book even in a digital format to happen. And like you say, it was procrastination.
It was painful at times. It took a long time. But again, the end result of what you created and also the reward that you get, which again is not guaranteed, but you cultivated, you build your mailing list.
You also took a lot of steps on procrastination. It’s a common theme that I’ve noticed a lot of different people have mentioned that. And the question I want to ask you is what do you think has been hiding underneath that procrastination, what was the reason you were kind of putting things off?
Was it I don’t feel like it. Was it? I’m too scared.
Was it I don’t know what to do? I would say that one kind of scary thing for first time out or in the hacker is definitely to put the final thing out there. So that would be one thing that you will send that email and nobody will buy it and that’s going to happen and I think you can still fix it from there.
But definitely it’s one thing that you worry about. And for me personally, I would say the biggest obstacle was that I wanted a certain quality of that book and I knew myself. It’s not ready, it’s not ready.
I have to rewrite this part. I have to do that. What also helped me is finding these people that helped me and gave me good feedback.
Or they called your community, these people. Yeah, they came from there. They really liked I was surprised they printed, for example, the whole book or chapter and then tried to make sense of it.
Yeah, I think their feedback and also me wanting more out of myself. In the end I was thinking maybe I do it just once and I want to make it good. And also because the possibility of earning zero was also high, so I was like, at least I want to have a good book that could be like a good reference or something and I’m like at least proud of myself.
Yeah. And I think actually it worked out in the end because so far I have only five star ratings, so I hope I can keep it up. Let’s see.
It’s interesting that you say like Procrastination, it’s not always standing on its own. There are the things running in the background and one of the things you mentioned is quality. And it’s for us having that ability to see when is quality enough for us and when are we leaning too much over trying to get it perfect.
And like you said, part of it is us knowing within but being sensitive enough to understand. For what reason do we keep pushing? Do we keep pushing together in the right quality or do we keep pushing in order because we’re avoiding, like you say, the launching date or what if no one buys savings?
And it’s interesting that you covered all of that and how we can unpack the single experience and see the different things that take place around psychologically for us. Yeah, what you mentioned with this kind of over focus on quality, it could also go to the point where you will really postpone it forever and at some point you have to say, okay, this will do. Because obviously, although I really was focused on quality, I knew there will be some maybe typos some mistakes or something.
Absolutely. There are chapters that I like more than the others, but I. Said to myself, look, you have to do it.
It’s time. There will come the time. So then just do it.
Yeah. So you took the decision, you took the leap, you made the jump and you made it happen when you’ve done all the work. And it’s important to remember that we make the decision to push the button on the end and say time to do that.
That’s awesome. I have a last question for you. Given what you’ve done up till now, for you, where do you see your book in the next few years going?
And then also, like yourself, is this I’m going to make another book? Is that I’m going to build a staff? What is it that you have in your mind?
Good question. I actually did two New Year’s resolution for myself for this year, and one was to cross 1000 followers on Twitter, which I already did. So that’s great.
And the second one was actually to reach 1000 sales because there would be like nice round number that I’d be really happy with. So now when I look, I don’t know, past two months, it doesn’t look like I will reach it, but it’s the motivation for me to try some new things and actually try to reach it. So I’m looking into some partnerships.
I would like to maybe offer affiliates so people can help me to sell the book because my audience is still limited. I mean, I am better than when I started, for sure, but it has a really hard limit. So that’s one way.
The other way is that I want to publish a little bit more content on the site itself, which I think will be also good for marketing. I mean, the book is big. I can still even make some parts of it available and it might still be a good way to market it and move it forward.
So hopefully it’s not complete end for the book. I still plan some updates and I’m do some more marketing, hopefully some sales. Sorry to interrupt.
I’ve heard this idea and it stayed with me when I first heard it. When you build something, you’ve taken all the effort to build it, and then marketing around it is actually what will drive the sales. But we’ve done a lot.
Like you said, it took you three years. Now it’s just like you have something ready because sometimes you can say, okay, I’ve done this, I want let me move to the next thing. But actually you can keep supporting I really like that, that you have ideas about nurturing the product you’re creating and that is honoring the time we spend and also increasing the impact of that product and the lifetime of the product.
Yeah, exactly. It’s also like when you do a technical book for me. Also leaving this kind of topics of like single particular tool and its version out of the question and rather focus on things that actually will stay longer relevant because there are lots of basics that will stay relevant for a long time and Bash I mean was used for so long and they’ll probably continue being used for so long and yeah also things will be still relevant some configuration for particular puma version let’s say a little bit different but the whole idea.
The whole philosophy is to first explain things more in theoretical way and then also provide this exact configuration that people can use but simply teach people how to think about it so they don’t have to follow the book like for work but rather think for themselves what they want out of it you know and I think that works well and for me well yeah I mean in the long term I would say I can really imagine like try to write that fast it was there at the beginning so let’s see if I come up with a good idea again it will be some coincidence something we’ll play with something and see what comes out. From it have you had any ideas up to now or is it still open? No.
Not really actually I have one idea yeah I have one idea but I want an idea that I will believe I can also sell again so I have idea for application to manage my own invoices and stuff but I use already an application it’s pretty good I would like to fix something there and I would actually extend and connect with some other tools I use but at the end maybe it doesn’t make sense because it’s overpopulated in market and the application otherwise for example the one I use is really good like I would be adding very little for people so I want to bring something that yes I will use myself as well I see myself building something for myself in a way I don’t want to build for audience that I don’t know nothing about never say never but I think I cannot imagine myself doing that but still I want to really also think okay. Can I market it well? Is this pain enough?
That’s the cost of me especially when we’re in the tech world is the different skills that we need when we are selling and we see that a lot in the indie hackers as well you see the tech people. You see the marketing people and then if you’re doing something yourself we need to learn to kind of do both and it’s most like the things that we know that we’re selling we know but then the other stuff that we need to kind of learn the custom learning and expanding so it’s always an interesting dynamic I enjoy seeing people talk about this because it’s challenging at times and it’s like okay so I can build this but how do I sell it? And there’s a lot of different elements perfect what I wanted to ask you is could you tell us a bit about your book where people can find it, where they can find you, like on Twitter, on your website, mentioned different things.
Yeah, sure. So the book is a deployment from scratch. com and my Twitter handle is J.
It’s very hard to typically show notes as well. Yeah, so let’s put it down and yeah, for me I would be very happy about it, I’d say about Linux thing, ruby things and updates from the book. So yeah, if they need some inspiration.
Sounds really good. If you could tell the audience one thing for them to go along in the hiking journey, what would that be? I guess to really start because when it comes to, for example, Twitter, as I said, I was consumer and actually number one thing to grow on Twitter, I know there are long articles about how to grow, how you need expensive tools and blah blah.
The number one thing is to actually treat like for real, you need consistency and you need to feed. And a lot of trees will have no action and nobody will care, but some might pop up. That’s how it works.
So simply start doing those things and it will get better at them as well. That’s another one. Thank you very much for coming today.
Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Thank you for sharing all the lessons and the different things that you’ve learned along your way and I hope somebody else gets to grow from that as well.
Thanks for having me. Just a pleasure.