Throughout my life I have had an aversion to promoting myself or my personal projects online. But why?
Sometimes I think I would prefer to tinker something to perfection in solitude rather than share something that’s partially broken. However, another part of me sees self-promotion as dirty, a cheap trick for getting traffic to your site, annoying, and overall a waste of time.
Is it possible to share your work in the open without being a jerk about it? I don’t know the answers to these questions for sure, but what follows is my experience so far with sharing Payoff.io with a larger audience online.
Self-promotion…with a twist
For a few months leading up to July 23rd, 2014, my debt calculator, Payoff.io, had been online. I originally wrote it in January that same year on a weekend. I thought it worked well, accomplished what I originally set out for it to do, and worked better than other sites.
I rarely got any visits to it. I think in the entire month leading up to sharing it on Reddit it got about 20 visits that weren’t me. It was a little discouraging because I found the site helpful and I thought others would too, but I had no way to get people to try it.
So, on July 23rd, while waiting for my train from Chicago to get me home, I made a post on the r/personalfinance community about my site. I didn’t want to just promote the site, so I made a self post and asked for feedback on how to make it better.
Posting stuff is very hit and miss on sites like Reddit and Hacker News. In fact, I had already made a Show-HN post a few weeks before with barely any hits or comments.
I knew that there was a good chance I would get a few hits, maybe a few helpful comments, and that would be it.
Fortunately, the response was great! I got well over 100 comments on how the site could be improved upon. I believe I received lots of attention because I phrased my submission as asking for ideas on making it better, rather than simply providing a link to the site. I also think it helped that I replied to almost every comment.
Since then I have been updating the site whenever I have free time. Was it wrong for me to ask for advice while simultaneously diverting a ton of traffic to my pet project? I’m still not sure. However, the feedback I got was excellent, so I know it was worth it, at least for me.