I want to tell a story about failure. One of my own failures. And how, years later, this failure got turned around on it’s head.

For a long time I have been an engineer by day and a software developer by night. My engineering job has provided a steady source of income. My side hustle allows me to explore the ups and downs of running a business.

So, about that failure…

Income from my business comes from two categories: selling products and providing services. In early 2013 I released one of my products — a mobile app called Mood Verse. My initial marketing attempts failed to reach much of an audience at all. I attempted to update the app to attract new users. I continued to market the app. I changed the pricing structure. Nothing seemed to work. Eventually, I wrote off Mood Verse as a failed experiment.

For the three years following release, the app was a disappointment. It reached a small number of people and earned under $200. For context, another one of my apps was making over $200 each month during the same period of time.

Then, in November 2015, something interesting happened. I received an email from a tech recruiter about a potential project. If you identify yourself as a software developer online, these emails are common. But, this email was different. The recruiter was reaching out to me almost exclusively because of Mood Verse:

  • The project needed a specific type of mobile developer. I built Mood Verse using this framework.
  • His client works mostly on faith based projects. The scripture element of Mood Verse attracted his attention.

I entertained the request and ended up landing the job. The project was successful and I loved working with the client. I continued to work with the client on many future web and mobile app projects. The relationship with this client continues to be strong to this day. All along, this company has been my best client by every measurement:

  • The projects we work on have reached more people than any other projects of mine.
  • The projects have forced me to continue growing my skills.
  • My business has earned more money from their projects than any other client, by far.
  • These projects have connected me to many amazing designers and developers.

And it all started because of my least successful app.

Looking back, I am able to glean a few lessons learned from this experience.

Shipping matters. Mood Verse was not a perfect product. I released it anyway. The decision to ship imperfect products is the best way to get honest feedback. Publicly releasing anything is always resisted by some level of fear. I’ve learned to treat the fear as an indicator of a project’s potential.

Marketing matters. I used many different platforms to market Mood Verse. One platform was a showcase for apps built using the Cordova framework. I submitted Mood Verse to this showcase. This led to the initial connection with my best client.

Hard work matters. After Mood Verse failed, I did not give up on my business. I continued to grow my skills, ship products, and deliver client work. This work prepared me to take advantage of the opportunity when it came.

Patience matters. I am not very patient. I prefer to see results immediately. However, this is not always a reality. I invested a fair amount of time into Mood Verse. This investment did not pay off until years later. And it continues to do so today.

John MacAdam is a Professional Engineer and Mobile Software Developer from Columbus, Ohio. John builds websites & apps to help people reach more mobile users.

This article was originally posted at macadam.blog/failure

Professional transportation engineer, web designer, and mobile app developer from Columbus, Ohio.

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