It's been 10 years since I've been active in the 'agency world'; over this period, I realized one thing that excites me the most is building side projects. It's even more fun when you can do this with other people and collaborate.
I believe people are creators, not workers and that over the next 10 years, the creator economy will grow even more. Remote work, new tools, and gen-z are the main drivers of this growth.
With this shift, we at MOIJ are making some changes. We never admired building a large agency, which is nothing more than a factory with ping pong tables and beer. At MOIJ, we enjoy working on projects with lots of freedom and don't like pointless meetings; we don't need an Instagram account with fancy office pictures to show we sit behind a computer like everyone else.
Building side projects with people all over the world is something that we will be doing more over the next couple of years. We will not build a 'team' but an 'orchestra' since I don't believe in 'teams' but in independent thinkers.
This does not mean I don't like working together; it means I hate micromanagement. I believe in the individual thinker who creates awesome solutions and focuses on his craft. Independent people who collaborate will build the next 'unicorn' while doing other stuff as well.
Packy McCormick has some great articles on this subject. In one of his articles, he said something very compelling: "every decision to spend four years vesting at one company will mean shutting off hundreds of other opportunities." I highly agree.
We live in an age where you can work on multiple projects with different people. I've worked with people who I never met in real life or talked to on zoom. People can work from anywhere and basically be completely anonymous while you collaborate on different projects. The thing that you have in common is that you enjoy building solutions.
I'm currently figuring what this next step exactly means, but decided to share my thoughts while playing the online game. I'm opening up my notebook and share rough ideas and projects that I'm working on. I will never be a great writer; I simply share what I'm currently doing.
This blog is built on top of the Notion, which means you are literally reading my notes. The way we build this project is how I envision the future economy; I've collaborated with Twan - a developer - and we build this project on top of Notion's new API and build it in public. Here you can watch some live streams and here you can read more about the project.
Working with people who have different backgrounds is fun and exciting because you learn new things and perspectives. This is why I always enjoyed working remotely since you are not hiring the same people from the same university repeatedly.
One thing that I've never done consistently and want to become better at is to share all the things I learn. I will experiment with different 'formats' and one of them is asking people I meet 5 questions. Today - in this post - I'm sharing the first interview. Since I'm still in the figuring it all out part of the project, I'll probably make some iterations to find the right format. Feedback? Let me know.
There are enough blogs where you can read about the blue checkmark creators, but never about the vast majority of makers who are not 'famous.' A lot of people who give many of interviews are starting to sound intellectual and mainly focus on saying things that sound nice (because this works) instead of just giving sincere answers.
This series is about the normal people who create.
Even though I have been working with Twan for many years, I learned some new things, so I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.
My goal with all of this? To meet epic creators and learn from the people I meet and be part / create different liquid teams.
Without any further introduction, below the 5 questions, I asked Twan.
Before going to college, I spent most of my time playing and writing music in my bedroom. Me and my guitar were pretty much inseparable, so I never really thought about another future other than becoming the biggest Rockstar of my generation.
However, before finishing high school, you needed to attend a couple of open days of college. So it was around that time that I started thinking about what was next for me. I already participated in some auditions for the Herman Brood academy and the conservatory for some of my friends. Long story short, I was put off by those experiences making me reevaluate what I wanted to study.
Together with my dad, I picked and visited some open days at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. The first study I visited, Communication and Multimedia Design (CMD), was the one. Meeting the people and seeing what they were creating left me inspired, and as soon as I got home, I started looking into the world of design, coding and creating digital products.
It wasn't until my second year of CMD that I got into coding and started working on projects of my own. Having the capability to have an idea and then build/code it from 0 to 1 myself feels like a superpower, and who doesn't want to have superpowers?
I am tempted to write an answer that goes into detail about what tools I use on a day to day basis, but let's zoom out:
My development process almost always starts inside of my (notorious) to-do list. People who worked with me before know my phrase, "I'll put it on my list." Why? Because these lists help me make sense of the project and make the first steps actionable, which I think is the most important thing.
I rather redo the first 5% of a project multiple times than spend the same amount of time in meetings and notes where nothing gets built. Because if nothing gets built, you still don't have more than an idea. In my experience, the best ideas come after the people on the team can get their hands on the first (very) rough version of the product. There's just some magic in giving people a hands-on experience with something they've been dreaming of for quite some time.
Then once the project is out of the first 5%, I try to be a developer who, besides putting in hours to code, also allocates some time to provide updates (mostly in the form of changelogs) and give feedback on what I'm building at the moment. I think more developers should get out of the "I am just building this" mindset and realize that they are in a perfect position to provide valuable feedback on their work. Besides coding the feature, realize that you are the first hands-on user of that feature (or an updated version of the feature). Your feedback is valuable.
Towards the last 5% of the project, I try to be the person who guards against the "it's not perfect yet" anxiety. It's crazy the number of times that I worked on a project, and during the last 5%, people start having doubts. "We are missing a key feature," "My aunt didn't get this feature," "the board didn't like the shade of red," etc. I suppose it's human to be anxious about sharing what you've been building over the past couple of months with the world and every piece of feedback feels like an attack on the product.
90% of the time, my advice is to share the product with the world and let the actual users of the product provide feedback on what they like and where the product is lacking after release. Most of the time, the user-provided feedback is nothing like the feedback from the last 5%, and often, it's more valuable feedback since the users are the people paying for your product.
If I have to write down all the people who inspire me, you won't know 75% of them.
For instance, my most significant source of inspiration comes from my parents. They have given me a wonderful and worry-free childhood, allowing and encouraging me to discover and try out things on my own. I will always admire their capability of giving me the freedom to fail and succeed on my own while always being there to support and counsel me every step of the way. I know, especially during high school, that it couldn't always have been easy to remain on the sidelines. And the fact that you both did not only made me the man I am today but will also continue to shape the man I will be in the future.
I am also really inspired by my good friends Daan and Nick, with whom I have been on a journey to improve our physique, learn more about life, and pursue our personal goals. They are always there for me when I need a push in the back and do so by being brutally honest and caring. I am grateful to call these two gentlemen my friends, and I will always be rooting for you two the way you have been rooting for me.
Besides my inner circle, I can pretty much get inspired by anything. Sometimes I can get the craziest boost in motivation by listening to a podcast about the history of civilizations (yes, this happened). While I am reading, watching, or listening to something.
I am currently in a phase of my life where there is a constant flow of these events. For instance, counting calories and learning about nutrition have entirely changed my relationship with food.
Not so long ago, I wouldn't care if I ate a whole bag of chips and all the other snacks from my cupboard while watching a movie. Now I worry about the calories in my meals and making sure that I hit my protein goal towards the end of the day.
One thing that also changed my mind and helped with being more flexible is that things can change. For example, you can be working for a client day in and day out, and one day you wake up, and the contract has ended. Just like that, one single email and you went from working on a project almost every day to it being one of your past projects in your portfolio. While I will continue to put the same energy into my current and future clients, it puts some situations in perspective that would have had a lot less impact on me when I realized that it's just part of doing business.
You know when you had the tremendous plan you would focus on your physique after you've got your career up and running? Well, that was a mistake, and you are paying for it now.
Rather than being 15 kilos overweight, this four-year period resulted in being more than 40 kilos overweight.
Investing time and money into my own body and health will be something that I expect will have the highest ROI that I will ever experience in my life.
Learning about good nutrition, going to the gym multiple times per week, realizing that sleep and recovery are crucial for the quality of my work. Every detail of this journey will shape the man I will be in 50 years, who hopefully is still going to the gym and is still discovering ways to get the most out of his body and mind by taking better care of it.
Ok, back to me. First of all; thanks to Twan for doing this interview, and thank you for reading 🙏. I'm just getting started which means I could use all the help I can get. If you know anyone building cool projects, let me know and if you want to start building something yourself this DIY project might help you get started. That was it for today, see you next time!