More and more people are embracing Building in Public these days. Why? Is it because it is a hot trend or because more people care about transparency? I'm not entirely sure.
After writing the Building in Public Definitive Guide to help people get started, I've been speaking at events, jumping on podcasts, and chatting with people privately.
I thought my guide covered most of the areas pretty well, but it would be naive to think that a guide can change people's mindsets swiftly. It is a process of self-discovery and practice.
I’ve heard some repeated questions, so here I want to summarize the top 5 misconceptions about Building in Public.
1. "Building in Public takes up a lot of time which I don't have"
A certain group of people sees Building in Public as a daily todo list. They feel a need to publicize what they're working on every day and talk about their progress, learnings, and achievements very frequently. My guess is this movement is very popular among the maker community and hence this behavior is common.
They use Building in Public as an accountability tool because building alone can be difficult to keep themselves on track. But to me, sharing daily work is exhausting and unsustainable as it adds a lot of extra work that might not contribute to the bigger goals.
To me, Building in Public doesn't have to be a daily routine. It is a mindset to cultivate an authentic and transparent personal brand.
Alison Seboldt is a maker and programmer. I love bringing her up because she only writes one reflective blog post each month. She talks about her business metrics, challenges, and learnings in that month.
That's an amazing example of Building in Public. She is being true to herself. She is constantly reflecting. And she is openly sharing her thoughts.
2. "I'm not comfortable sharing so much"
Many entrepreneurs are not comfortable sharing business metrics in public because these numbers represent how the business or product is truly doing. It opens up a lot of room for questions and challenges.
There are people who are confident enough to do so, like Paul from Copy AI and Yong Fook from Bannerbear. When some builders share numbers, it makes other builders feel that they should also share their numbers.
The truth is ... No, you don't have to share everything.
You don't have to share numbers. And you don't have to share your secret sauce.
What is more important though is that you need to figure out your narrative and goals.
Why do you want to Build in Public? Is it to keep yourself accountable? Is it to establish an image for your users? Or investors? Is it to share lessons with others?
If you can't dig into the true motivation, then you can't find that "fine line" that determines what to share and what not to share.
Ultimately, you want to share enough to establish your authentic voice but not enough to put yourself in a disadvantaged position.
Find your own fine line.
3. "I don't want to look like I'm bragging"
Building in Public is getting popular and some people are doing it hypocritically. They pretend they're Building in Public but what they want to do is to show off and create marketing buzz.
Yes, that happens. Everything in our world has two sides. There are always people who stay true to it, and there are always people who abuse it.
So the fact that some people use it to brag doesn't mean you'll look like bragging when you do.
So how do you be authentic without bragging?
The key is to write for others, not for yourself.
The goal is to always educate. When you do that, you're not bragging.
Every time before you're about to publish a piece of Building in Public content, look at your writing and see if it is going to help another person learn something. If yes, go ahead. If no, you're bragging and don't publish it.
4. "Building in Public seems to be a nice marketing hack"
Some people get a lot of exposure and followers from Building in Public. It must be a magical hack to be successful. Right?
But ... what you see is skewed.
You're only looking at the most successful people who are Building in Public but you don't see the other 99%. And because these people tend to have a large following, you also think that Building in Public means a bigger following and success.
However, I can confirm that Building in Public is not going to bring you success.
Firstly, it is just one part of your work. If you want to be successful, you need the other parts to work for you, including solving the right problems, finding customers, serving them well, etc.
Secondly, followers do not equal customers. A lot of people have 20,000+ followers on Twitter but that means nothing to the success of their business or product.
Building in Public will not bring you magical success, so don't do it for that reason.
5. "I'm not good enough to Build in Public"
Many people I talk to are hesitant to Build in Public because they fear that they sound stupid, weak, and uncertain.
When everyone else sounds super confident, they believe it does more harm than good to put their vulnerable self out there.
To me, this is because they don't understand the connection between people. Let’s think about the people we like to have around us.
We don't like someone who is perfect. We like someone who is eager to improve.
We don't like someone who is an expert. We like someone who is educating others.
We don't like someone who is beyond famous. We like someone who is a few steps ahead.
We need to stop thinking we need to be perfect and an expert before we can share our learnings with others.
What you need to understand is that there are always people who can learn from you, be it one, or five, or ten. You have the ability to influence one person today, and that will turn into influencing a thousand at some point. The key? You have to start somewhere.
You also need practice. When you first start Building in Public, your writing likely sucks. But as you repeatedly reflect and share, you get better.
But if you never take that 1st step, you will forever have fear.
Why are there so many misconceptions?
When I look at the 5 points above, one theme emerges.
We like to look at others around us and compare ourselves. Some successful builders are doing A, B, C, D, E for Building in Public, so if we start, we also need to do A, B, C, D, E.
When you first look at a new concept (in this case, Building in Public), you should understand what it is about, how it best fits into your journey, and how it can make you a better person. It is a discovery process, so you can surround yourself with other public builders to search for it together.
When you find out the true motivation that you want to Build in Public and defines how frequently and what you're comfortable sharing, you're off to a good start.