3 min read

Build the Things You Want, Even if They Won’t Make Money

We’re endlessly sold the story that everything we build has to be amazing and a business.
Build the Things You Want, Even if They Won’t Make Money
Photo by Hannah Morgan / Unsplash
Originally written for The Startup on Medium.

We’re endlessly sold the story that everything we build has to be amazing and a business.

I want to give you permission.

I want you to know that it is alright to create a thing and for that thing not to make money.

Money is good. Building a business, caring for it, feeding it, watching it grow…and then making money from it is a fabulous thing. I’ve started a handful of companies, and while they were stressful, I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world.

But.

Not every idea is significant. Not every concept has a broad audience, and indeed, not all offerings can attract a paying audience.

Honestly, most ideas aren’t good.

But you know what I say? Build it anyway. Build it for you. Build it for your friends or build it to make a small difference.

Build it for fun.

Do you remember fun?

One caveat, don’t invest your life savings in a shitty idea, simply because some guy on Medium said to build things for fun. If you’re going to spend your life savings, do your due diligence, and put fun aside for a moment.

Bringing back the joy to things

I had coffee with a young entrepreneur the other day.

He had an idea for a product and wanted validation on whether or not it had financial viability. ( It didn’t, he knew it ).

We talked through a few scenarios, batted around some additions to the concept, and there simply wasn’t a way for it to make any real money.

Neat idea, helpful to some people, not a business.

I told him to build it anyway.

The majority of our conversation had been focused around how exciting he thought this idea was, and not how much money it could make. He wasn’t spouting off about how big he was going to grow the organization required to turn this idea into a success. Nope, all he talked about was how interesting a challenge it would be, and how it might help a few people.

So build it, I told him.

Build it, put it out there, be a “small H” hero to a group of people in your space, and enjoy the freedom of creating something with no expectations.

You have nothing to lose by taking the time to craft a thing, and to put that thing out into the world.

One way or another, you’ll learn from the experience.

The Type A’s Amongst Us

I can imagine some of you are thinking, screw off man, I’m not going to simply build things just for fun, or just to learn.

You’re thinking hell, I’ve got a full-time job, a wife/husband/partner, kids, a mortgage, free time has to be spent on things that provide direct, concrete value.

To those of you, I say, reframe your definition of value. Yes, money back for time spent is good, but it is one of many ways to benefit, especially if you want to play the smart, long game.

For you

Investing in yourself and your skills is the most effective path to growth. Every successful person you know has spent time improving their knowledge and skills. They’ve been active in that pursuit, and it makes a difference. Building or creating anything on your own is the ultimate learning experience.

For your career

Career progression is tough. We’re all working hard, we’re all trying to get ahead. Be the person asking for a raise, or a new job with something more, something extra. Show those prospective employers, or the person responsible for your promotion that you have the passion for going further, for bringing things into this world, and that you can follow through.

For the world

Putting something good out into the world, and the world will return good back to you. There is no greater truth. Create something, put it out there, and if it helps people, even a little, they will remember, and one day when you need something, those people will remember, and they will help you.

For your calendar

I am obsessed with finding efficiencies, obsessed. Anything that I do more than once, I try to automate. Building something that saves you even minutes a day can pay off big time. Time is the most precious commodity, finding more of it for the things you love…worth it.

Last thought

Whether for fun, or something more significant, there is no downside to spending time producing something that isn’t just focused on making money.

So I ask you.

What will you give yourself permission to create today?

If you’d like more specific examples of how you can improve your relationship with your customers, or how to tell a better story, drop me a line, I’m @kmore on Twitter and I love to talk about this stuff.