I was recently interviewed for the Makerlog blog, as part of their Maker Spotlight series. You can read the original article here, or continue reading below for an edited version.
Hey Miguel! Welcome to this week's Maker Spotlight. Tell us about you and your experience.
👋 Hi! I'm Miguel Piedrafita, a 17-year-old maker. I've been building cool things on the web for over five years now, and worked on some exciting projects like Blogcast or Sitesauce.
Let's start by talking a little about your projects -- how did you get started and what are you working on?
It all started with OrgManager, an open-source invite system for GitHub organizations that I built as an experiment for learning Laravel, but ended up getting used by big organizations like FOSSASIA during Google CodeIn. After that, I worked on UnMarkDocs, a GitHub-powered dynamic documentation service. Before launching Blogcast, my first successful project, I also worked on Snaptier and Maker Army, which I ended up cancelling for various reasons.
Then came Blogcast, a service to convert articles to audio, which was originally built in a week. I continued to iterate on Blogcast till summer, when I started building Sitesauce, which aims to be a one-click solution for generating static sites from any backend-powered website, like a WordPress blog.
You can see the complete list of projects and learn more about them here.
What are your current stats?
I decided to make Sitesauce an open startup, inspired by other maker projects like Makerlog or Leave Me Alone. This means all our metrics are publicly available on our website, including revenue and cost data, in-product metrics and visits. At the time of writing this, revenue is at $99/month ($1.188/year), but it'll hopefully be more in the future, so I'd recommend you to visit our open page and check for yourself.
Now, let's talk about you! How'd you get started shipping products?
I started coding by contributing to open-source projects. It's a great way to get started IMO, as you get your code reviewed by the maintainers of the projects, can often get help when you don't understand something and you're also building something that'll get used. After some time of contributing to others' projects, it made sense to start my own, and thus OrgManager was born. From then I've gone from open-source projects to building SaaS applications, but the passion for building and shipping cool things has remained the same
I've noticed you've sold many projects in the past - tell us more about these.
I recently sold two of my projects, UnMarkDocs and Blogcast. I sold UnMarkDocs because, while the product worked and had users, I didn't have the time to continue to add new features or to work on marketing. For Blogcast it was kind of the same, I hadn't touched the codebase in a few months, and while I still had a few sign ups every month, I knew it could be much bigger if I had the time to grow it, time I was focusing on building Sitesauce.
How did you find clients willing to buy these products?
In both cases I got contacted by some potential buyers, asking if I'd be willing to sell. We talked about the terms of the sell and signed the deal!
Now let's talk present! Tell us a little bit about Sitesauce, your latest project.
Sitesauce is a one-click solution that generates static sites from dynamically generated websites, like a WordPress site. It not only makes it incredibly easy to make your site faster, more scalable, and more secure; but also allows you to continue using your dashboard for managing your content instead of dealing with markdown files, which isn't optimal for everyone. Migration is also greatly simplified, removing the need to manually migrate your themes, plugins, and content.
How'd you start building Sitesauce? What obstacles did you face?
I initially built Sitesauce as a bash script for deploying my Ghost blog to Netlify. It was far from perfect, and I usually had to run it three times to get it to work. I had tried to build a PHP version, but memory issues made it impossible. After an insightful talk on Laravel EU 2019, I figured out how to get around the problem, and decided to turn it into a product others could use after getting it working.
How are you marketing Sitesauce?
Building in the open has been my main strategy for marketing Sitesauce. I have an existing audience on Twitter, where I regularly share product updates and upcoming features. I've also been trying to do some content marketing on IndieHackers where, aside from sharing milestones, I've also been crafting insightful in-depth responses with a relevant link to Sitesauce. Moving forward, I'll try to write more articles and maybe record some videos I can share.
What are your plans for it in the future?
I'll hopefully open up the Sitesauce beta for everyone at the end of the month. After that, I want to continue iterating and adding new features, eventually turning it into something I can work part-time while getting paid for it.
I've noticed you do many experiments on your sites!
I like to try a lot of things on my projects, mostly for fun. When working on a big project, it's easy to get burned out, and these little experiments serve as a little refreshment from time to time. For example, I recently experimented with mailing new Sitesauce customers a little secret via mail when they make their first payment. While these experiments are related to the product, and often aim to improve metrics, that's not their primary focus. Another example would be a neomorphic redesign of the Sitesauce dashboard I recently built, purely for fun. It served as a nice marketing tool and as a way to experiment with new design styles, but aside from that, I wouldn't say it contributed much to the project.
You're a student! How do you do study and ship products at the same time?
I'm studying the IB, an international education program which consists of two years of studying six subjects. During those two years, you have to write several essays (six Internal Assessments, one per subject, and an Extended Essay on a subject of your choice) and do some final exams where you're asked about those two years.
If you look closely, you'll see that, except for the essays you have to write, nothing you do in those two years counts towards your IB grade. This has allowed me to prioritize shipping over school without affecting my grades.
TL;DR: I study a lot less than I should but for some reason, it won't affect my grades if I prepare for the final exams. Also, don't do this :D
What have been the biggest takeaways from your experience as a maker? What are the biggest lessons?
The biggest takeaway would probably be, you can do it! If I've managed to teach myself to code and build cool things on the web you can do it too! Another big thing has been learning to build an audience and to share what you're working on. I've met a lot of awesome people on Twitter and other communities, and managed to build a following of people interested in what I'm working on. It has changed my life in a lot of wonderful ways.
Well, slightly off-topic, but as tradition, we ask makers to share a Spotify playlist that motivates them.
I don't listen to any specific type of music while coding, just put up whatever I'm enjoying at the moment, maybe sing along a little. However, I've found a really great focus playlist by Nikita Voloboev I often use when I want to get into the zone for doing work.
As always, closing question: What advice would you give other makers out there?
Build something, and do it in the open. Don't be afraid to reach out to the people you admire and ask them for feedback or help. Find other makers, and build together, it helps a lot with motivation. Have fun!
If you want to keep updated about what I'm working on, you can follow me on Twitter. I plan to focus on building a quality feed a lot more this year, so there are definitely cool things coming! You can also subscribe to my newsletter, which is currently on pause but I plan to restart soon.