If you enjoy the process you’ve already won

November 7, 2022

You are a designer with incredible work for your company. What made you start building these side projects?

Thank you for the kind words! Actually, about 5 years ago I quit my last corp job to learn how to code & build a platform that I thought would solve some important problems.

It was a tool that was matching potential employees with jobs best suited to them based on their skills, without needing to use recruiters, send CVs, cover letters, etc. At the time, the only way that I could see this succeed seemed to be by getting investors involved. Long story short I had to get a co-founder in the process, as investors seem to hate solo founders & they also didn’t like that my MVP was coded in PHP. I kept losing control of how I wanted things to work and started hating working on this project, so I ended up killing it and decided I can bootstrap my own products by freelancing on the side, without needing investors.

I am a designer by background & with the coding skill set that I’ve developed I started making websites & platforms as a freelancer and slowly moved more into UX + UI and building no-code & low-code websites.

It took a while to get to the point that I could sustain working on projects for clients & work on my own side projects too but productizing my design services helped a lot with this. I make stuff very quickly and as opposed to hourly rates, productizing my services pretty much ensures that I am not punished for being quick but I am actually getting rewarded by getting some time back that I can use to build my side projects.

When I started to get some time to work on side projects I started working on CtrlAlt.CC

(but more on this in a couple of questions time) and in the process, I kept coming across all these other issues that I wanted to build tools to solve.

What was the idea behind BubbleBurst and how did you build it? Using only Notion API or some other tool?

In my previous jobs, for my first startup & for my design work (odsgns) I’ve only done B2B marketing & I am pretty happy with the skills that I have on that side, but I decided that I also want to reach B2C people for CtrlAlt.CC 😅

As one of my efforts on the B2C side, I started using Twitter a bit more, but I wanted to be able to find other people, outside my Twitter bubble, to interact with. So I started using a social listening tool that was bringing tweets to my inbox based on keywords. That process started eating quite a lot of my time though and became hard to manage, so one day I decided that it might be easier to automate twitter’s advanced search, pull through, and filter tweets into a platform that makes it easier for me to interact with them.

I’ve built BubbleBurst.xyz with Notion & automate.io in 1 day and it basically uses Twitter advanced search queries & then performs a push from automate.io to a notion database every time a new tweet that meets the parameters is posted. It’s not a big number, but it actually helped me grow my followers from under 30 to over 75 (and I think this number would be bigger if I would use it every day)

With CtrlAlt.CC you show your love and support for the nocode tools. What was/is the idea behind this project?

I started working on CtrlAlt.CC to solve some of my own frustrations.

My design clients were always asking for tools recommendations for various tasks (like project management, productivity, social media, etc.) and I would go & put together a list for them, after a lot of googling, searching directories, reading blog posts, etc.

A pretty laborious & frustrating process in itself but it made me realize that, on one side, there are tools for almost any task you might think of out there & on the other side, a lot of great products have no visibility and die because they never get to reach their users. I think this is mainly because of how SEO & social media work and how difficult marketing & finding the right distribution channel is.

My bookmarks kept growing, so I thought I can instead make this list of tools into a directory that other people can use as well. But I wanted to also address another issue that I kept having when trying to find tools. The UX of directories in general is terrible. It’s hard to find what you are looking for, it’s hard to compare things without opening a million tabs, it’s hard to know what to choose.

So CtrlAlt.CC lets people position their products wherever they want on the dashboard, it lets you navigate almost all the tools from the same tab, and if the product has its makers & users on the platform it lets you see what tools these people use too if you need inspiration on what tool to use.

Neither of your projects is monetized. Any plan to go through this route on these or some other projects in the future?

For sure! I know there is a lot of stigma around free products, especially in the indie makers world, but I don’t think everything should be monetized. I think some products can & should be monetized, while others can benefit you more, in other ways (like customer acquisition) if they stay free.

BubbleBurst.xyz was built to pretty much solve my own problem & then everybody else can use it as a free resource for now. There has been a lot more interest than I anticipated in this product so I am thinking about productizing it.

I want CtrlAlt.CC to always be free for people that want to find tools for their tasks but it does have a paid option for businesses.

As a business, when your product is added to the directory it gets a random location on the dashboard. If you want to move your product somewhere else (add it to the featured page for example, where it might attract more eyeballs) you can totally do this for a fee. I wanted it to be fair & if you cannot pay the fee you can just keep your original random spot but if you want to be somewhere else, you will not need vanity metrics such as votes/likes that other platforms use to get there, you can instead just pay a small fee & support the platform.

I’ll always try to keep these prices as affordable as possible though! So that everyone gets a chance to display their product wherever they want & move it as often as they want.

Clearly, you love no-code tools, but in your design company, how much is code and how much is nocode?

It used to be about 60% code and 40% no code, but as mentioned I’ve been productizing the services on odsgns & moving more towards nocode. We currently have 3 products: preMVPs, UX audits, quick websites.

The preMVPs are built with notion or elementor, the quick websites are prebuilt using elementor and the UX audits visuals are done with Adobe XD / Figma. So pretty much no code, except for the odd CSS or JS. I’ve also been working on some custom UX things & websites made with pretty much the same stack + Webflow.

I would say odsgns is about 90% no code nowadays.

Any new project coming soon or any idea that you want to talk about it?

I am trying to share more of my building process on Twitter (which sometimes is not that easy as I am not used to being so public, but trying to get better!) and besides this, on the tool's side, the more & more I work on B2C marketing, the more I come across issues that people have with getting their products in front of potential users & the lack of visibility. So I am gonna keep building tools to address that, plus a few other more fun & lighthearted ones because I think people need to have more fun building non monetized things online, like wordle!

This month I am toying with the idea of building a bubble app that uses the Open AI API. I have a few ideas for this, but more details to come soon on my Twitter @NerdDoingSocial 😊

Where do you get inspiration for your products?

I’ve been trying to build solutions to my own problems. I basically have a list of things that I want to make & every time I come across a problem & get an idea for a solution I note it down there. This list was getting pretty long which is why I decided that nothing’s really stopping me from making them, especially with all the no-code options that we have nowadays!

What is your Favorite tool?

Pfft this is hard! I like a lot of the tools that I use. I love Notion & use Todoist every day but would probably have to say Elementor because it was a big part in getting where I am today, with a lot of my design clients wanting Wordpress websites.

Question from Felix Scholz

“Hey Daniela! You have built a number of projects on top of Notion. What would you say is the biggest advantage of using platforms like Notion to power your projects?”

Thanks for the question, Felix! As a designer I sometimes tend to go down design rabbit holes with my projects, which isn’t efficient when trying to get a functional product out quickly. Because notion has set parameters it takes the designing bit away from me and allows me to focus solely on functionality. Besides that, it has integrations with so many other tools, which makes it ideal when using APIs. I think it’s perfect for MVPs & much more!

Word of advice?

If you enjoy the process you’ve already won because it’s all about doing & trying various things over & over again until you get to something that works for you.

Also, there is a lot of advice online about a lot of things. I’d say take it all with a pinch of salt & filter it through your own case as somebody’s “growth hack” for example might not work for your particular situation.

Latest Posts