Narrowing Focus

My big-picture plan for 2024.

Focus

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash.

So I wrote a long, lofty write-up about my plans for 2024.

The big picture theme was diversification—I thought I should try to reduce the concentration of my income in my main product, SaaS Pegasus.

It read like I had things figured out, and part of me thought that I did. I even made diagrams! This one was what I wanted my income to look like five years from now:

Ideal Income Breakdown

A discarded depiction of my “ideal” future income breakdown, showing my income diversified away from SaaS Pegasus.
From my first, unpublished 2024 goals post.

Only… what’s the quote? “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Turned out, when I tried to act on this plan, it all fell apart.

I could write a lot about the details of why, but the big picture boils down to two simple points.

  1. I like working on Pegasus.
  2. Working on Pegasus is more valuable than anything else I could do.

Point #2 really clicked when I read this lesson from Peter Theil:

Don’t divide your attention: focusing on one thing yields increasing returns for each unit of effort.

At a micro level, an extra hour of focus on the current project has a much higher return than an hour on something new, or worse, 5 minutes each on 12 new things. Before you ever do something new, you should understand the opportunity cost vs. existing things. Don’t rationalize that something you want to do is complementary when it’s not!

This is 100% true. I could spend a ton of time spinning up a new product and slowly try to take it from $0, to $100, to $1000 of MRR. Or, I could invest a tiny fraction of that time growing Pegasus by 10% and achieve a similar financial outcome.

That asymmetry, combined with point #1—that working on Pegasus is still fun and fulfilling—makes the choice even clearer. I shouldn’t diversify. In fact, I should do the opposite of diversify. I should focus.

I should double down on Pegusus.

My initial motivation for diversification was fear—if Pegasus stopped making money I wanted to have a back up plan in place. Only…what’s the other quote? “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If I’m worried about Pegasus failing, the simplest way to address that is to prevent Pegasus from failing.

So, my north star for 2024 has become rather simple: focus on Pegasus. If everything else I touch in 2024 fails, but I feel just as good about Pegasus in December as I do right now, that will be a good year.

Here’s my revised diagram:

Ideal Income Breakdown

My revised ideal future income breakdown, reflecting doubling down on Pegasus.

I love the clarifying focus of this plan. Ideally, everything I work on should somehow be in service of SaaS Pegasus.1 If I can’t justify it on those terms I should think very hard about whether it’s actually worth doing.

With that simpler plan in place, I can now do a project-by-project breakdown of my plans for 2024.


The format below is the same as from my 2023 review post. If you’re reading this and haven’t read that, it provides a bit more context on these projects

Chat Stats

Target Time: ~0

Target Profit: $2k (no change)

Goal: Keep it on autopilot

This one is quick. I don’t plan on investing any effort in Chat Stats this year, and hope it will continue to run on autopilot with minimal effort and minimal growth. Easy!

Place Card Me

Target Time: 1%

Target Profit: $12-15k (no change to modest growth)

Goal: Keep it on autopilot or find it a new home.

I really don’t know what to with my place card template app, but I think my options are basically:

  1. Nothing (the default / status quo).
  2. Sell it.
  3. Find a partner.

I don’t like Place Card Me as a product. Mostly because I don’t like the process of marketing something to the wedding and events industry. However, I do like that it pays me $1k / month of passive income.

My ideal situation would be finding someone who is excited to grow it and figuring out a way for them to take it over (specifically the marketing side). This might be overly optimistic, but I believe that if the right person—someone ambitious and excited to grow a product in the events space—invested heavily in Place Card Me they could probably double, and possibly 10x it. I’m also certain that I am not the right person to do that. But—if I found that person and we could somehow share the upside of the profits, that would be amazing.2

Watching Place Card Me slowly die because I didn’t care about it anymore and wasn’t willing to sell it would be sad, but might be the most likely outcome.

Scriv

Target Time: 1-2%

Target Profit: More than $0

Goal: Figure out if there’s anything here, or keep it on autopilot.

Scriv is my white whale.

For the entire history of the project I’ve been on the fence between optimism and pessimism. I want to quit it, then I don’t. Meanwhile, I’ve invested hundreds of hours and lost thousands of dollars on it. What do I do with this thing?

For now, I’ve decided the answer is “nothing”. That is, I’ll put Sciv on autopilot and put in the minimal amount of work to keep it running. I’m not saying that I won’t ever pick it back up, but, it’s not going to get much more of my time without a good reason. Any other option doesn’t fit in with the theme of focusing.

This is a obviously disappointing outcome for something I’ve put so much energy into, but I think it’s the right call. The AI chatbot space is just too crowded, and Scriv can’t outcompete hundreds of VC-funded companies with millions of dollars with only a fraction of one person’s attention. So I should stop trying.

I do worry that even supporting Scriv on autopilot might take a significant amount of effort. But, such is my penance for trying to get into the corporate B2B space instead of staying in my lane.

Lesson learned!

In all seriousness, the most useful outcome from Scriv will probably be not getting myself into this situation again.3 That is—being more cautious about taking on new products and especially products that don’t fit well into my life. An expensive lesson, but a useful one.

Writing

Target Time: 5%

Target Profit: $0

Goal: ???

I’ve concluded that I’m not a great writer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely an above-average writer. Possibly even a good writer. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll never be the next Paul Graham or Tim Urban.

Still I like writing. And I’m certain that writing helps me think, plan, and generally make better decisions about my life.4 Also, occasionally people tell me they like my writing, and that hearing that makes me unreasonably happy. So I’m going to keep doing it.

In 2023 I tried to focus on quality over quantity, and that didn’t really work. Spending hours tweaking my word choices when the whole piece was about a rather unimportant idea is very much a “lipstick on a pig” kind of naval-gazing.

This year, I’m thinking I’ll lower my standards some—perhaps treating my website more like a newsletter. Ideally that would mean publishing more, though I’m not necessarily committing to that.

Mostly, I’m leaving writing in the category of “something I haven’t figured out yet”. Hence the question marks above.

SaaS Pegasus

Target Time: 70%

Target Profit: More than last year (exact number redacted).

Goal: Keep Pegasus awesome.

Historically I’ve spent about half of my time on Pegasus. This year I’m thinking that I should try to increase that. Pegasus is the optimal thing for me to spend time on, so it should be the default choice.

I’m thinking to split my extra Pegasus time between two high-level buckets:

  1. More of the same, better. Essentially—doing what I did last year, but more focused and more effectively.
  2. Ambitious new projects. There are a few big ideas I’d love to explore with Pegasus, and I want to use some of this newfound focus to make some of them happen.

There’s been a huge influx of attention in SaaS boilerplates and starter kits in the last few months which, so far, hasn’t really affected Pegasus sales one way or the other. But, as the competition in the market grows, I’ve been finding myself thinking about what Pegasus’s unique position in the market is. So far, I’ve concluded that I’m not going to out-market the competition, but I can potentially out-product them? That is, maybe I’ll just keep making Pegasus as awesome as possible and assume that good things will follow.

I have to say I’m pretty excited about this plan! It feels very aligned with what I want to work on and how I want to work on it. It’s good for me. It’s good for Pegasus customers.

I just hope it survives contact with the enemy.


Notes

  1. In practice I’m sure I’ll break this rule a lot, but it’s a useful guideline to have in place. 

  2. If this sounds like it might be you, get in touch

  3. Or perhaps, more realistically, anytime in the immediate future. 

  4. My 2024 planning exercise is perhaps the best example of my writing process leading to a better outcome in my life. Without writing this post it’s quite likely I would have gone down the road of building a new product early this year, which I now believe would have been a big mistake. 

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