Joseph Maxim started developing an interest in computers early on. Growing up playing video games, his curiosity led him to give programming a try: he wanted to build video games to share them with his friends. But distribution is never easy. Video games required a compact disc to install, which was impractical for a middle-schooler with a limited budget. Using the power of the Internet was the easiest solution to accomplish his goal, and the interest in video games quickly shifted to web applications. Later, he starts his first side hustle during high-school: Plasma Creative, a web and software development company building websites and apps for individuals and small businesses.
Joseph is now 23 years old and a full stack developer and equity trader living in Toronto, Canada. He has been working in the pharmaceutical industry for seven years, and he started indie making for the past year and a half. When he is not attending his full-time job, Joseph works on FixMySpeakers.com and StockHeed.com.
About Fix My Speakers
FixMySpeakers.com was created to solve a personal problem. Joseph tends to play music while showering, and since Apple advertised his iPhone as a waterproof smartphone, he never really cared if it would get soaked. Except it doesn't work the same with the speakers: when water gets in, the sound becomes extremely muffled and distorted, and it takes a while for the liquid to dry out. It is never advised to let the water dry out in any electronic component, even at a small voltage. That's how he began searching for a solution to fix this problem.
Turns out, when you play a specific tone at a certain frequency, water is pushed out of the speakers. The idea of Fix My Speakers was born: an app whose sole purpose is to leverage this feature.
Creating a dedicated app for iOS and Android would rack up the cost to build the minimum viable product - publishing on Play and App Store not being free and immediate - so he decided to make it a web app. He bought the domain name from Namecheap and hosted it for free on Netlify. He then launched the app on multiple websites, such as Product Hunt, Twitter, in Facebook groups, and on Reddit. Later, he also added carbon ads on the website, which generates between $50 - $60 monthly at the moment.
It took a weekend to generate the correct tone, publish the website, and devise a marketing plan, but the app was launched after an extremely busy week at work.
Months after the initial launch, the website had been featured on multiple tech blogs and social media accounts, registering more than 1,500 users and 2,000 page views on a daily basis - which is a lot of bandwidth for a free account on Netlify (100gb free). Luckily, Joseph could count on Makerlog for help: Ethan advised him to use Cloudflare, and it saved him 97% in bandwidth usage just by caching the website.
Fix My Speakers was his first side-project launched in public, marketing was new to him: "I learned a lot about marketing. Spend 20% of your time on product development and 80% on marketing, then figure out how you can improve your product from the feedback of your users", proposes Joseph.
Making Stock Heed
As it's been previously stated, most of his ideas come from a problem he personally experienced, or from repetitive tasks in his life that can be optimized. During college, Joseph started learning how to trade Stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds. He was a student cumulating a part-time job, which didn't leave him enough time to research companies to optimize his investments. He didn’t know a lot about creating SaaS products and indie making either. The possibilities appeared limited. That's when serendipity showed up, after tweeting about having a 104 days streak of coding while mentioning the #100DaysOfCode hashtag.
The tweet received some likes, and among them were members of maker communities. That's also when he stumbled upon @bentossell’s #30daystartup, which decided him to take part in the challenge.
The idea was to propose a website where publicly traded companies are ranked and where users can subscribe to get daily emails on trending/high performing companies. The domain name stockheed.com was bought. Not sure how to execute the idea due to his limited resources and technical knowledge, he put the project on hold. Until now. After a lot of industry research, he finally felt capable of resuming the project with a solid vision: Stock Heed, a place where you can discover your next investment, monitor and analyze publicly traded companies, generate company financial spreadsheet reports, and receive news and price alerts.
I stopped over-thinking. Now I just learn while I'm making. Learn on the go, take on responsibilities, never be afraid of learning new things, and ask people for help.
The biggest obstacle he is currently facing while shipping Stockheed is how expensive financial data are. Being an independent maker doesn’t help the matter, but he was able to find a cheap yet reliable data provider to bring his idea to life.
In terms of competition, he always tries to add his own twist to the product to make it unique. If you already have competition, it just means the idea has been validated: now you just have to make a better and unique version to take your piece of the pie.
When it comes to marketing, Joseph regularly employs the same strategies:
I normally just go on twitter and tweet about the app I’m working on. Reddit is a must when launching (subreddits like r/dataisbeautiful, r/startups, and r/SideProjects), especially if you work with a lot of data. I also browse Facebook and join groups related to my product. I always try to interact and contribute to the group without being too spammy. ProductHunt is also a good place to launch. All in all, I try to get as much press coverage as possible. Not only it is good for SEO, but also my brand.
When asked about any advice he would like to give to new indie makers, Joseph highlights the need to stay consistent. Maintaining your motivation and your work/life balance are huge obstacles. The Open Startup movement is a huge inspiration for Joseph: seeing indie maker’s products grow on a daily basis pushes him to keep working on his own products. Fitness is also an important component of the maker's health, which allows him to unwind while sharpening his focus.
This need for consistency is how the maker discovered Makerlog: "I needed a place to log my tasks and track my progress". Consistent small progress will always beat no progress at all.
A productivity hack I use: sticky notes for tasks I display on a wall in a Kanban fashion. Making it physical helps me stay focus and get momentum in the morning. No Notion, no Trello, just Makerlog and this physical backlog.
Stay simple, use the tools you have and you know to create. Learning about new technologies will only slow you down and prevent you from creating amazing products. Also, try to engage with the maker community if you are stuck with a problem. You can always ask for help. Try to help others as well and you’ll develop great friendships as well.
Consistency is key. Small iterations will move you closer to your goal. Stock Heed is still in the development phase, but the launch is approaching. Stay the course.