Hi, I'm Basile, baz for short, and I built 200 Words a Day, an open online community of writers improving together.
I always loved writing but never found the time to do it. Juggling a full-time job with a blog is always tricky, and yet, 99% of the blogs fail because of a lack of consistency. The simple solution I came up with was to write 200 words every day in public on Twitter and Medium. As an entrepreneur, writing content is probably the biggest factor for growth, I couldn't pass on it.
After a week of daily writing, people started expressing the desire to do the same. That's how the idea of an open community of writers came about. Two weeks later, the registrations for the Product Hunt Makers Festival opened. I decided to join and build a community product for daily writers. We ended up winning the competition in the most crowded category, which paved the way to our growth to 3100+ registered users, with around 60+ members writing on a daily basis.
Building and animating a community is the hardest part. Community management is a full-time job, which means I have to balance my time between marketing, development, and community building. As a company of one, it's tough, but with time members became proactive and now I can count on them to outgrow me and create initiatives on their own. For example, a member created a circle of users gathering all the contributors who achieved a writing streak of 30 days or more, to motivate them to go further. Another is starting a magazine featuring the members of our community, to inspire new users and established streakers.
200WaD was my first product actually generating a monthly recurring revenue. Making my first dollar online with my own creation was an otherworldly feeling. Adding value to the lives of others, to the point of making them want to pay you for it, is an incredibly gratifying emotion in the life of an entrepreneur. You feel helpful, life has meaning, and that's all you need to feel worthwhile.
Eating my own dog food was probably an important part of attracting people to the community. I'm not just the lead developer, I also write every day. I struggle like everyone. If the product is down, I cannot write either. I interact on the website every day too. A welcome message, a comment, or some encouragement, just a bit of presence is important to show you're actually giving it your all. People stick around because they really feel part of something personal and useful. We are a family, and no growth hack can help create that.
Apart from winning the PH Makers Festival, the only launch we did was on Product Hunt. We became #1 Product of the Day, which resulted in a spike of signups, from 300 to approximately 2k members. Then the rest of the growth was completely organic. Just writing, releasing new features fast, and improving our SEO. All I do is shared publicly on Twitter, Makerlog, and Indie Hackers. I believe in launching a bit every day instead of preparing huge launches once in a while. Users are always surprised to come back after a few weeks to find a lot of things improving.
200WaD is currently a subscription-based freemium product. You join for free, and you can pay a monthly fee to access more advanced features.
My current goal right now is to reach ramen profitability ($800 MRR/month). I decided to become a full-time entrepreneur in March 2018 and I've been living frugally on my savings ever since. I still have a year of runway left, but I need to increase my revenues if I want to be able to keep working on my products full-time.
It's going great, we just passed 3k members a few days ago and we never had more regulars. Right now I'm focused on releasing version 2.0 of the website by the end of summer, which will offer many new social features to help foster the community side of the platform. A chat and Writing Circles, among others.
Yes, I’ve been digital nomading for a bit more than a year now, and I’ve been traveling around for three years. It started while I was studying at Stockholm University.
I’m currently living off the savings I accumulated from scholarships and a six-month contract as a software engineer in Geneva, Switzerland. Traveling is really cheap if you visit the right countries at the right time. I appreciate living frugally so it’s never been an issue. Keeping on traveling is also one of my main motives to reach ramen profitability as a full-time maker.
Each country has its advantages, it’s hard to tell. I’d go for Switzerland or Sweden, probably. I like it when it’s cold. Asia is extremely hot and polluted, which is something I’m quite concerned about, but it’s also incredibly cheap to live in and the people are nice.
I actually wrote a book on the subject. It’s called Alter-Nomad and you can find it here
The most important aspect to understand is that you need to travel slowly. If you travel too fast, you develop a travel fatigue and can’t work productively as a result. It’s common for people to quit digital nomadism because of a lack of stability. Digital nomadism is a sustainable habit to develop over time, through months of practice.
Benefits: You get to choose where and how you work, and more importantly, you get to experience new things during your free time. It’s incredibly stimulating for me to be able to discover new cultures and meet new people.
Drawbacks: Digital nomads are a minority. The idea is quite foreign to most people, and you can be perceived as a lunatic for living this way. It’s hard to connect with people in those conditions. Nomadism is a form of alienation, there is a negative connotation to it because the reality is quite different from the pictures you see on Instagram from most so-called digital nomads.
Growing a business, you are constantly learning new things. It's actually my main source of inspiration for my daily posts. Probably the biggest lesson I learned from the experience is how a community is the most important aspect of any product. A product is about people, first and foremost. You can't build anything successful if you don't have an underlying community to back you up. Being social is probably the most important aspect of becoming an entrepreneur.
I use Makerlog and Trello on a daily basis to organize myself. I use my own platform to generate content and acquire an audience. Twitter for distribution and networking.
Pieter Levels, without a doubt. He is the one who got me started as a solo business owner.
200WaD helps you develop a writing habit. Most people don’t write enough. Deliberately practicing writing is not the same as coming up with a tweet or completing an assignment at work, it implies a profound lifestyle change. Writing is incredibly useful for tons of reasons. It’s the most prevalent form of business communication: if you want to earn leverage to get a promotion or a wage increase, make a blog centralizing all your knowledge and position yourself as a subject matter expert. If you are building a brand, writing is how you connect with an audience. Genuine articles are how you earn trust. At a more personal level, writing is highly therapeutic. Journaling is an excellent way to keep your sanity, to clear your head. It’s a meditative practice with tons of health benefits.
I’d say, mindset is everything. The way you work and the reason why are two important traits of an entrepreneur. You can’t lead if you don’t know where you’re headed and if you don’t know how to explain it.
The book Mastery, by Robert Greene. It was a life-changing perspective for me. I also love reading the blog Mister Money Mustache, which inspired me to change my lifestyle to become a digital nomad.
Join communities, surround yourself with like-minded ambitious people, and consistently look for ways to add value. That's how ideas for products are born, and that's how you will develop consistent habits to solve problems.