I design, I develop, I make


A maker based in Upstate New York.
Turning ideas into applications.

© 2024 Mubashar Iqbal

Making a Side Project, Part 2: Idea Validation

November 7th, 2017

Have you read Part 1 of the Making a Side Project series?

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

I took a slightly different approach to idea validation, than I normally take. Letting users help you decide is often the best approach, even though not it’s not always possible.


139 votes later, and the Twitter poll declared the winner to be “Track Startup Expenses”, don’t worry we won’t be calling it that for long. The poll was idea validation all by itself, not something I normally do. Fortunately this was the idea I was leaning towards doing, so how would I normally validate my ideas.

I have a couple of different ways to assess if I should build a project, which is determined by my reason for building the project, below you’ll find my criteria when I’m building something not just for fun, or to learn a new tool or technique.

Would I use this?

An unusual criteria for most people, but something that I think is vital for side projects. By their very nature the time you have to work on an side projects is limited at best. Building something that you would use give you a leg up on understanding the users needs, and desires for the project. You’ll spend far less time talking to people to extract requirements, and more time building a project that matches the users needs.

Do I know people that would use this?

You can’t be the only person to use the project. Do you know other people that would use it? It’s great to have a few trusted people that you can reach out too, for early feedback and testing. You can be a little too close to the project to identify problems, so getting early feedback can be key to keeping the project on track.

Do I know places where people who would use this hangout?

If you plan on building out the user base and grow your project, you need to be able to reach large numbers of users. Where does your target audience hangout, can you reach them there (in a free or affordable way?) If you can’t reach your target users, then it might not be worth building the project at all.

Does anything similar exist?

Competition, despite what you think, always exists. Competition isn’t a bad thing, quite the opposite. If someone out there is solving the exact same problem, in exactly the same way, targeting the exact same users, that is a bad thing. Adjust any one of those items though and you still have a viable project on your hands.

Competition is also a way to test if there is a market for your project. If others are already serving users like your targets, making money, then you could be able too as well!

How long will it take me to build and launch it? (Cost?)

I like to put a time box on my side project builds. Two weeks! Yeah that’s not very long, but long enough to build an MVP. Two weeks might not be long enough for you, but whatever the time limit, make sure you set one and be firm on meeting it.

I find when projects take longer than my target, there are other reasons that perhaps lead me to ending the project.

Outside of my time, a good domain, and a little bit of hosting, I typically don’t spend much money on the projects. You may need to some money on data, or other services. Be careful to wait until the you really need to buy before moving forward. Especially if the build is going to take a while.

How much time (money) will it take to run and maintain this?

If this is a side project, and won’t be your full time job right away, you have to be careful that the project doesn’t take too much time or money to run it once it’s live. You’ll still need time to do your real job, and pay the bills.

It’s can be fun while you’re making a project, easy to find the time to work on it, but once the project is live, will still find it fun and easy during the “maintenance” phase. As you build the project, think about what tasks can be automated, to save you time later on.

Will this generate revenue?

How are you going to make money from the project? Being the next Facebook isn’t easy and won’t make you money for a few years at best. If you want this project to be your next full time job, it should make money very early on, ideally from the day you launch. It won’t make a lot of money, but you have prove that it can, and grow it slowly but surely.

So how do the idea’s I proposed fair with my criteria, and did you help me make a good choice?

Share Mentions with Team

I’ve had for years, but there is something that has been holding me back from building it, and the fact nobody else has built in that time leads me to believe that their’s probably something I’m missing.

I would use this, but I’m not sure I have access to bigger audience for this project.

Channel Sites

I really like this idea, it hits all the but two of the criteria, two big ones.

I’m not a very active YouTuber. I have a pretty good idea of what I need to build here, but since I’m not the target user, so the risk goes up.

Since I’ve had this idea, a great service has popped up that does almost everything I wanted to build. They aren’t targeting the exact same users I would have, so I could still have built this, but if there are other great ideas why not pursue them first.

If you’re an active YouTuber, checkout RIVYT, they are doing an awesome job.

RIVYT - Websites for YouTube
_RIVYT services are 100% free, but with RIVYT Unlimited you get more - auto publishing, more designs, more videos, more…_rivyt.com

Journalist Finder

Technically I think this posses the biggest challenge of the ideas I had proposed. I don’t have a exactly how I would build the project.

These can be the fun projects, that end up in a totally different place than you expected. They could be a massive success, or you end up with nothing!

I’m also not the target user for the project. I don’t reach out to journalists very much, I probably should, so maybe building this would have been good for me, but again the risks of building the wrong features, or things taking longer than you expect are pretty high.

Track Startup Expenses

Which leaves us with the winner, regardless of whether this hits all the criteria, the people have spoken so I am building this, but lets check.

Would I use this?

Heck yes! The typical problems are amplified for me, given the large number of projects that I build.

Do I know people that would use this?

Umm, yes, everyone I’ve built projects with, or even talked to building projects with would use this.

Do I know places where people would use this hangout?

My Twitter following is a great place to start 😄. But other maker hangouts are the good place to go for users. Product Hunt is an obvious place, Indie Hackers and quite a few subreddit’s that would be a good source of users.

Does anything similar exist?

There are large number of accounting packages out there, but nothing that targets side projects, and something that should be much easier to use than regular accounting software.

How long will it take me to build and launch it? (Cost?)

Outside of domains, and hosting costs, there shouldn’t be any additional costs. My two week window for building the MVP should be very doable!

How much time (money) will it take to run and maintain this?

Other than marketing, adding more features and making sure the server stay operational, there really isn’t any on going work to make this service viable once it’s built.

Will this generate revenue?

I can think of a few ways for this project to make money. Something a simple as a premium offering with additional features, or advertising could be viable for a service like this.

There we go, Track Startup Expenses checks all the boxes, and more importantly you voted for it, so I’m building it.

Next up I’ll be defining the MVP for this project, what can we build in the two week window?!?

Next: Making a Side Project, Part 3: Minimum Usable Product