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Learning To Focus Your Developer Brain

Learning to focus the developer part of your brain can be a challenge. Are you like me, where you end up tinkering with the software products you have built, instead of focusing on the tough work of marketing and promotion?

The problem is, I have 3 side hustles on the go at the minute. I can’t seem to leave them alone. Then I’m trying to learn how to market each one, run a podcast, launch a YouTube channel. All while have a 9-5 and a life.

I recently wrote a guest post titled My New Side Hustle Mantra: Progress Over Perfection, you can check it out here. In which I talk about everything that I’m working on and trying to avoid overwhelming myself.

Learning To Focus By Asking For Help

Well I didn’t ask for help, help kind of found me. We connected through a Facebook group but I can’t remember which one.

Anyway, long story short. I ended jumping on a call online with a gentleman who is a personal coach and business consultant.

We had a great chat and spent around an hour talking about the 3 software products I have built and what my short term goals are.

It was interesting to hear someone else’s opinion too. I don’t lack ambition, skill, drive, motivation, willingness to learn. What I do lack is the focus.

Great news, that is fixable, and my goals are easily achievable. However, there are things that I need to change.

Trying And Failing At Learning To Focus

This isn’t the first time someone has said to me “you need to focus on one thing”. It’s also not the first time I’ve said it to myself.

I tried to focus back in March/April of 2020. At the time I had two software products on the go.

One called Elementary Analytics which I hadn’t managed to find any customers for and it still needed a bit of work before it was in an MVP state.

I have a second project, an add-in for Outlook called Outflash. I had managed to find about 20 customers for the free version and was tinkering with it. My main focus was the marketing and sales side of Outflash.

When the pandemic hit, my wife and I decided we need to cut our expenses. I looked at the hosting costs for both products. I decided to switch off Elementary Analytics as I didn’t have any customers, yet.

This allowed me to focus on Outflash and use any spare time to improve Elementary Analytics, and get feedback from potential customers too.

However, the developer in me had other ideas.

Switch One Side Hustle Off Then Instantly Start Another Project

It must have been all of 4 week since I switched off Elementary Analytics when I came up with another side hustle idea.

One afternoon I was just scrolling through Twitter, aimlessly. I saw a tweet from someone I follow. The guy builds and runs a cool one page website builder called Carrd.

He said something along the lines of “DM me and I will give you business/side project idea”. I dropped him a message, see what he suggested.

It was very clever what he did. He didn’t give me an idea, instead, started asking me a lot of questions about my interests and skills.

After a few messages back and forth. I ended up with two ideas of my own, without going into the details of how I validated each idea. Yet another side hustle was born.

I called this mobile app for anglers called BAITCAMP.

I had switched off one side hustle and within 4/5 weeks I had replaced it with another one. So much for focusing on one project.

Inability To Leave Things Alone

I couldn’t leave BAITCAMP alone. After 5 months of work, I managed to launch BAITCAMP on both the Apple App Store and Google Play.

It wasn’t that I had gone all-in on BAITCAMP, my main focus was still Outflash. To get better at promoting the add-in for Outlook. I had signed up for a 30 days challenge on how to learn and build your first sales funnel. As well as reading books and taking online courses about marketing and copywriting.

I used my spare time during the week and at weekends to improve Outflash and to get version 1 of BAITCAMP done and dusted.

On top of that I was still making improvements to get Elementary Analytics into the MVP state that I wanted.

I’m a glutton for punishment I know. In one way the lock-down that the pandemic has forced on the UK was good for me. We couldn’t do all the things we wanted and were at home all the time.

Working on my side hustles and learning loads was a great way to use the time. I’m at a point now, writing this post mid December, 2020, I’m happy with all 3 products and in a good place to focus.

Adding More Things Onto My Plate

Something that I learned from the 30-day challenge and about marketing in general. Is that no one knows more about your products than you. No one is more passionate, determined and motivated about the side projects than you.

You need to get the word out there and be active in your blatant self-promotion, on a consistent basis. This was a scary thought for me and something that took me a couple of months to convince myself that I needed to start doing this.

An excellent tip I heard is to use a medium or platform that you enjoy and consume a lot. I’m an avid podcast listener and listen to one podcast or another on a daily basis.

I don’t listen to loads of different podcasts, only a select few. However, I do go deep into these podcasts and end up binge listening to them (Is that even a saying?)

Find Your Side Hustle

Yet another project was born. I launched my very own podcast called “Find Your Side Hustle”. Where I talk about my journey of working on and launching multiple side projects over the years.

Starting this podcast has been great as it has led to me being a guest on other podcasts. Learning loads of things from other hosts and gathering loads of tips, tricks, and hacks.

One thing that was suggested to me was to document my journey. Not just on the podcast and social media, but on YouTube.

Great idea.

My YouTube Channel

Yet another thing to focus on. I was up and down with the idea of starting a YouTube channel. Again, a tweet that I saw changed my mind.

Another guy I follow tweeted along the lines of “YouTube is amazing. Where else can you upload videos where you chat and record whatever you want to. These videos are then easily discovered by people over and over again. You can even get paid for advertising, all for free”.

Again, it took me a while to build up the courage to do this. Already, even after publishing one or two videos. I have got loads of great feedback.

On top of everything else it is yet another thing to distract me, or take up some mental space that I am trying to open up not clutter.

Learning To Focus My Plan Of Attack

OK. What’s clear is that I need a plan and a way of learning to focus on one thing. Get that thing to a level that I’m happy with, which will ultimately be where the income for a side hustle replaces my monthly salary.

I’m not doing this on my own. I mentioned the personal/business coach who I have connected with. Something he suggested and is going to work with me on. Is to work out what I want, my short-term goals. Then create a plan around that goal and start to execute on that plan.

It’s exciting to hear that what I want is achievable in such a short space of time. This missing piece of the jigsaw for me is learning to focus on one project, so that everything I am doing. Whether that be develop, marketing, podcasting, recording YouTube videos works towards that goal.

Your Mission If You Chose To Accept It

So, what I am going to do to help me focus and achieve my target?

One thing is clear, these 3 side hustles are competing, fighting against each other for my attention.

In my head, these projects are like 3 needy, scary ex-girlfriends all screaming for my attention and want us to get back together.

I just need to pick one and go all in.

That is scary and makes me nervous. I know it’s what needs to be done. The developer side of me and the part of me that has FOMO is scared about learning to focus on a single project.


On thing that my new mentor suggested was to automate one of the projects. Outflash is the perfect candidate for this.

Just this week I spent a day or two finishing some development work on Outflash. The user interface I was happy with. There was just a bit of work that needed doing in the back end processing to make it more stable and scalable.

What I need to work out now with Outflash is to see if I can find a way to automate the onboarding of new users and customers. Outflash isn’t an expensive tool, just £10 for the standard subscription.

It doesn’t make sense for me to focus a lot of my energy on this. I’ve calculatedd I would need around 350 paying customers for Outflash to quit my job.

If I could work out how to automate a sales funnel to do this, that means I could spend less and less time on Outflash, while still having it put money in my pocket each month.

This is what one of my YouTube channel video series is about.

Putting A Pin In It

Now, this is the last thing I want to do. However, it is probably the most important thing I need to do.

BAITCAMP is a brilliant little side project for me. It’s around my first love of fishing, and combines my technology and developer skills, as well as learning new programming languages and platforms, with my love of fishing.

You can see why the developer in my is screaming “NOOOOO, DON’T STOP WORKING ON THAT ONE”.

The more analytical and logical side of me is saying this is a must. I haven’t worked out the best way to monetise BAITCAMP at the moment. I’ve got ads in the app which is one way to go about it. Although I’m not a fan of ads.

Marketing and getting people to install an app is also a tough task. That’s why BAITCAMP is the perfect candidate to put a pin in.

Again there are a few things I want to finalize with BAITCAMP before I take it off the table. I’m not entirely happy with version 1 of the app. What I had done worked perfectly, however, from a user’s point of view it was a bit clunky.

In the run-up to Christmas 2020, I will get these issues sorted and a new version uploaded onto the app stores.

BAITCAMP needs to be viewed as a labour of love project and something I can revisit once my goal of working for myself has been achieved.

Learning To Focus On One Side Hustle

That leaves Elementary Analytics. In terms of development and marketing this is the hardest one to work on.

In terms of the rewards, I’ve priced Elementary Analytics at £29 a month. This means if I can get around 125 paying customer for the SaaS service, I can quit my job.

When you say it like that it sounds so achievable. Recently, I’ve managed to get around 3 or 4 people onto the service. Which, after 3+ years is incredible.

As with the other two projects. I’ve been focusing on some development work to iron out a few issues and get some improvements in there from feedback from the new users.

Learning to focus on the sales and marketing of Elementary Analytics will be a tough ask, but I’m really excited by the prospect of focusing on Elementary Analytics.

After feedback from two of the users, what I want to achieve with the product is exactly the benefit users are finding.

Learning To Focus: The Takeaways

Learning to focus is extremely hard, especially if you are like me with a lot going on. Most of it self inflicted because I can’t leave things alone.

For me, I think chatting with a coach has been huge. Being able to view yourself through someone else’s eyes has been of huge benefit.

Working with the coach has helped me to align my goals with a particular side hustle. I’ve managed to find a few people that find Elementary Analytics valuable and that the project should be my main focus.

All the other projects have been distracting. Not knowing which hustle will take off, with all of them having the potential to help me achieve my goals has been a huge distraction.

The biggest takeaway for me then is to pick your goal, review what you are doing on how that can contribute to your goal. Then just go deep with the tasks to turn your goal into reality.

This is something I haven’t done. Every day I’m trying to ‘move the needle’, the problem is I have too many needles. I need to move the same needle day after day.

I would love to know your thoughts on learning to focus. More specifically what are you doing to make sure you are focused on one thing to move in the direction you want to?

Wait, want more tips & tricks? Yes, please!

Who Is Phil Hughes

I am a coder, content creator & software consultant for start-ups and FTSE 100 companies. I am obsessed with productivity, self-improvement, and building a lifestyle business.
You can work with me to transform your business! Setup a recurring revenue model designed for growth.

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