Building in Public

September 28, 2023

Build in Private. Earn in Public

Written by:

Kevon Cheung

I have to admit something to you.

Build in public is actually flawed.

When people say build with your garage door open, does it really work? No. Because most of what you do in there is extremely boring and pointless for the people walking by.

Over the years, I’ve been shaping my view on “Build in Public” and honestly it has been changing. At times I don’t even know if Build in Public describes how I see entrepreneurship.

Today, I want to recommend you to build in private.

You must be thinking: Oh! What a plot twist after years of saying “get out there” and “be in public”! Even the brand is “Public Lab”. Seriously though, “real work” often happens in private. That’s when you have the focus and space to create something amazing — be it writing, videos, or software features.

What is worth sharing?

But here's where people mess up: they assume that only new features, completed courses, and revenue milestones are the “real work” worth sharing. And this mindset makes it very hard for them to find worthy stories to share.

It is obvious that without sharing, you can’t connect with your audience, and that’s why your business and community aren’t growing.

What I want to do here is to help you redefine “real work”. It doesn’t just mean product development type of progress. It doesn’t mean reaching a new revenue milestone (like what we see on Twitter/X all the time these days, yuck!)

What about:

  • Chatting with potential customers? What happened? What did you learn?
  • Discussing business issues with friends? What was your reflection?
  • Analyzing dozens of YouTube channels to improve yours (that’s me now)? How would you improve?
  • Hosting a live Q&A and having fun with 6 people? Why was it a good call?
  • Seeing someone’s leaderboard idea? How did that inspire you to build one too?

The point is — all these are real work because they make contributions to your business journey.

They’re not random things like “Good morning world!” or “My favorite food is broccoli pizza, what’s yours?” These are exactly the things you do in private that should also be shared publicly.

Can I build a following with these snippets?

Are you thinking why shared these versus expert-y content?

The main reason is that this real work strengthens your followership.

When I look around to see who has the most loyal fans, it is always the people who are pouring their hearts into building something. How do I know they are pouring their hearts? Because they do real work and share with us!

On the Internet, there are so many clever, sleazy marketers. They are so good at writing copy that plays with our emotions and gets us to take out the credit cards. If you’ve bought something from these people, how likely do you recommend them? How likely will you get a coffee if they’re in town? I’m going to say — unlikely.

Now that we broaden what you see as real work, let’s talk about earning in public.

These days, exposure and followers matter. I don’t need to elaborate on this. To get recognition for your hard & smart work, you have to share it publicly. You are your own marketing department. And that’s how you grow your business and community.

The ONE goal

Let me tell you the key when you take this real work and share it in public. It is all about creating conversational touch points that not just draw people in, but create a two-way chat. Most of the social content we see doesn’t do this, and that’s why no one cares about them.

If you can create conversations, it means someone is intrigued, curious, and want to discuss. Through these interactions, they get to know what you’re working on and who you are. When you can repeat that, it is nearly impossible not to grow a raving community around you.

The real opportunities are really in your work and stories.

I’m not going to lie. This is hard. I’ve been doing a decent job on Twitter/X after years of practice, but lately, I’m putting more effort into videos & YouTube, and I realized I fell into the same trap.

I was blinded by my own progress using Twitter/X so far, so I thought I could show up and make talking head videos to teach. I created so many videos like “How to Sell More Digital Products” and “How to Build an Online Course with a Small Audience”.

On YouTube, I forgot to show my work and create a journey for the audience to follow! When a new person comes in, of course, she would get bored or lost. Going forward, I’m optimistic because I know what I can work on.

If this feels hard right now, don’t worry, practice makes progress.

Remember, build real work in private and earn a reputation and fans in public.

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Table of Contents

Should YOU Build in Public?

Actually, let me rephrase: do you want to build products your community wants?

Yes, I WANT TO 💪

Should YOU Build in Public?

Actually, let me rephrase: do you want to build products your community wants?

Yes, I WANT TO 💪