How to build a project

by P

My friend Chris Geith asked me for five points on how to build a new project. Here is what I sent back to her.

I have more questions than answers. Some of these are things I wish I’d done better at P2PU. Some of this applies to tech projects more than other types of projects.

Change is good – It’s also frustrating, it’s hard, it drains your motivation and enthusiasm, and people don’t like it. But if you are building something new, dealing with change really is the one thing you need to be good at. Very few things will work they way you thought they would. When the ground under your feet moves – don’t panic, enjoy the ride!

What is the problem you are solving? – Never forget to ask this question. Never forget your answer. And make sure it’s a problem you care about.

Outsource the “plumbing” – Find people who will do your accounting, legal, HR for free (pro bono support is easier for non-profits) or pay for it. It’s a gigantic distraction.

Learn how to prototype and test – No matter how smart you are, or how well you understand your users, try out a new idea before you dedicate huge resources. And embrace the fact that you will always throw away the first version (unless you are ridiculously lucky, in which case you don’t need good advice anyway).

Be smart about your tech – Unless technology is the core of your business, use existing off-the-shelf platforms and solutions. Do NOT build anything yourself. You will regret it.

Update (thanks to the excellent Helen Turvey, and Steve Song). Added one more:

Bring a friend (or more) – Starting something new is stressful. Rarely do things go according to plan. Having someone who is in it with you is key. Not just for the days when you need a kind word, a kick in the butt, or someone to make a joke – but also for the days when you’re on top of the world. Cause it’s more fun to share! (hint -> sharing nicely!)

Update 2:

Chris has turned all the feedback she received into a collection of 64 Tips to Blossom and Thrive.