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Many of us enjoy building one or multiple side projects. However, at some point you might lose the time or passion to continue to work on it. We asked the community: when is it time to shutdown a product?

The market is not there

Whenever you build a paid product (or startup for that matter) you start with certain assumptions about who your target audience is, what they need and how you can help them. In many cases, these initial assumptions are wrong.

The usual process is then to iterate on copy, value propositions, sales and marketing until the mysterious ‘Product-Market Fit’ is reached. However, sometimes that just never happens.

You’ll feel it when you reach Product-Market Fit. Marc Andreessen describes it as follows:

“You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of ‘blah’, the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close. And you can always feel product/market fit when it’s happening. The customers are buying the product just as fast as you can make it — or usage is growing just as fast as you can add more servers”

If you’ve been working on iterating your product, testing out different hypothesis and have been talking to customers (if there are any), and it just doesn’t feel quite right – it might be the best time to stop.

Continuous effort without reward

Some projects take more effort than others: You can easily leave your small scale SaaS or job board on autopilot for a few weeks, and there might not be a lot happening. Whereas if you are running a WordPress theme shop, a popular blog, enterprise product or daily newsletter, you’ll have to put in the daily work to keep everything going.

That isn’t a bad thing! But at some point you expect a certain reward for your work: That might be sales, monthly recurring revenue, clicks or a certain value in another form (e.g. networking, press). If you end up spending a lot of time building or maintaining a product, but you never get something in return, it might be time to shut down.

A simple framework

Two people we talked to use the same framework when deciding whether or not to shut down a product. Both of them factor in the previously discussed point of effort and reward. Mubashar “Mubs” Iqbal, a maker with well over a dozen shutdowns under his belt and more than three times as many products, describes it as follows:

“It becomes a simple calculation. How much time is a project taking to maintain (both for adding features and updating content, etc), how much revenue (if any) is it generating, is it rewarding in any other way (networking, freelance work, etc)?”

Basile “Baz” Samel of ‘200 Words a day’, his 9nth product with 8 previous shutdowns, describes it in a more technical way.

function should_shut_down(){
  $shut_down = false;
  if(!I_use_and_enjoy_my_own_product && !growth){
    $shut_down = true;
  return $shut_down;

Spreading yourself too thin

With all these reasons, we’re forgetting the most important part: Yourself. The beautiful thing about indie makers is that their products are extensions of themselves, rather than just another company working on a platform.

Makers also like to work on multiple ideas, so over time it can happen that makers spread themselves too thing and do so much, that they can’t get anything done.

AJ, maker of Carrd, encountered this exact problem a few years ago. He worked on so many products and sites, that he ended up “half-assing (or worse quarter-assing) everything, instead of whole-assing just a few things”. He ended up going on a shutdown spree, shutting down around a half dozen products. “The moment I did that, I built my best stuff: html5up, Pixelarity, and now Carrd”.

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