"This was a very special interview for me since it was my first at Makerlog. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed making it. I want to thank Micah for giving me the opportunity to learn from him and showcase his work to our community." -Leilany
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hello, my name is Micah Iverson. I am many things: Husband, Father, Designer, Developer, Entrepreneur, and Interior House Painter to name a few. My wife and I have been married since 2016 and have two boys (10 and 12). We live in Castle Rock Colorado, which is located about 30 minutes South of Denver. I am originally from Iowa, have lived in Minnesota, and of course now Colorado.
I have two degrees, one in design and another in 3D Animation. I have also studied computer science, photography, pottery, and grew up helping my dad build and remodel things. (He is a carpenter/cabinet builder.)
In September of 2018, I stepped away from my design and development career and started my own interior house painting company which has continued to be extremely successful and continues to grow. In my free time, I focus on my own personal, digital products to relax and hopefully, one day will be my primary focus and revenue source.
What are you making?
As many people know, I make a lot of things, of which you can check out here: https://www.krazier.com but the one I spend a lot of my time on and has been growing the fastest is Retrospect. https://www.retrospect.team
Retrospect is a real-time collaboration tool for retrospectives, tasks, and ideas.
How did the idea for your product come to mind?
I was working for a company a couple of years ago and we needed a tool to do retrospectives and the existing solutions we found were not designed well and didn’t work all that great, not to mention the bigger solutions costing a lot of money to use for a relatively small need that we had. I set out to build a simple, affordable solution that looked good too.
What inspired you to make your product?
As mentioned above, it was originally out of necessity, but it is become a bit of a passion project to see just how far I can take it. With the Covid19 lockdown situation, this type of tool has only become more important for businesses to take advantage of.
Retrospect is purposefully “simple”, we did not set out to make another Trello or Asana type of tool. Those tools are great and are a nice compliment to what we are building. One important focus for us has been “anonymity” in the product. With Retrospectives, it is important to be able to provide critical feedback, it can be hard to do that if there is the potential for your co-workers to get upset with something you may have said. With Retrospect, everything you publish to a board is kept anonymous so that you can give that critical feedback without fear of retaliation.
Retrospect will always be affordable; we want this service to be approachable to as many people as possible while still being worth our time financially. We provide great pricing and a great solution and hope people will recognize that and find value in what we offer.
I make because it is fun, I make because I know how, I love the challenge, the risk, and the huge potential it offers.
Why embark on the maker’s journey?
I have always enjoyed building things, from Legos and plastic models to do-it-yourself projects around the house and of course digital designs and products. We live in a world that is very digital and very accessible for anyone to learn to design or code their own software. With tools like Makerlog, we can now share our progress, connect with other makers, and build things together. By nature, building software is often an “individual” thing to do, so having resources to connect with others makes the journey a lot more fun and open to learning from so many types of people.
A lot of people have a bit of an ambition to make something, whether it is art, electronics, gardening, woodworking, jewelry, or software. It is a way for us to get away from the day-to-day requirements in our lives and focus on something that we love to do without the stress of having to do it for anyone else. I make because it is fun, I make because I know how, I love the challenge, the risk, and the huge potential it offers.
How do you see the future of your product?
Retrospect has come a long way since the initial launch about two years ago, we have provided more permissions, more functionality, and improved the experience. The future has a lot of potential for new features and growth.
With the number of projects, I work on, I tend to push out a lot of smaller updates rather than huge feature releases. It is easier for us to manage and it also does not overwhelm our uses with huge UI changes that might make the tool unexpectedly harder for them to use.
As we continue to push out updates, our user audience will continue to expand. At first, our focus was on “retrospectives” which mostly development teams would find value in, the average person does not need a retrospective tool in their day-to-day lives. We are working towards making this a tool that has a useful impact on a daily level both professionally and personally. This means new types of functionality and a refreshed focus on our marketing and branding. Some of which will be happing over the coming weeks.
As of today, what are your stats?
As of today, our stats are…
- Users: 6,290
- Boards: 3,925
- Cards: 48,947
- Monthly Pageviews: 10K+
- Revenue: $2K+ (We will be switching to a subscription model soon.)
How do you use Makerlog?
I post my daily updates but try to focus on important tasks rather than “I had a coffee today”, I do not want to spam the feed with things that are not important to know. I read most of the discussions and contribute when it makes sense.
I love Makerlog because it has allowed me to meet so many people that I never would have met any other way (other than maybe through Twitter). I feel like I have some lifelong friends despite having never met anyone in person, yet.
I love Makerlog because it has allowed me to meet so many people that I never would have met any other way (other than maybe through Twitter).
What are the biggest challenges of being a maker?
The life of a maker is basically learning to deal with challenges daily, things you never would have thought you have to deal with. The bigger, more obvious challenges are lack of motivation, lack of revenue, and plain old fear.
Motivation, as makers we are by default motivated to work on things, that is what makes us a maker in the first place. The challenge comes into play when you have been working on something for a long time and it just feels like it will never be completed. There is always that “one more thing” to do, person to reach out to, reason not to go live. When you do almost everything yourself, you simply get exhausted and lack of motivation is inevitable. I’m not sure it’s a bad thing, it just means you need to learn how to renew that motivation to push forward. For me I like to go to or watch movies, it is one easy way for me to reset my mind and get back into thigs. I also like to clean my desk or house, make a list of every task I have, and then work through the easy ones as fast as possible since lack of motivation often comes from knowing you should be doing something else so you end up doing nothing at all. If you can get the easy things done, then it helps you get motivated again.
Lack of revenue, this is a devastating challenge to a lot of people. We often see those “overnight success” stories, that usually are not overnight. Though, these days we are seeing a lot of people who will literally build something one day and have a lot of success the next, the question is how long-term is that success? The obvious goal of being a maker is to generate revenue so you can get away from that 9-5 job, the unobvious issue is that it can take years to get enough revenue to do that. A lot of people do not realize this fact and give up too early and go back to what they were doing before. We also can’t “do it all” so we often have to hire some pieces out, if you have no revenue, this becomes a big burden and can literally prevent you from even finishing your project.
Fear, people have a lot of fear in their minds. It is an important thing to be aware of and work on as being maker means dealing with a lot of unknowns. Fear is a good motivator though; it can force you to learn something faster than you thought possible. When I first started launching products, I was scared to death. Now that I have launched so many projects, I barely stress out at all. It just comes with practice and experience to get over or at least manage your fears.
You are likely not able to cause too much damage with something you build, so go out and build something, launch it, and learn from it. The more you do it, the more interesting it becomes.
The more you fail the more you learn.
Managing so many projects, how?
As of right now, I have 11 public projects plus my day job, plus several new projects I am working on and my #MakerMillion journey. It looks like a lot, it is a lot, but it is not as crazy as it sounds.
Retrospect is my primary focus; I spend the most time on this project compared to any other one I have (outside of my day job). Everything else sort of just “runs itself”, I have very little time commitment reserved for them on a day-to-day basis. Yes, I work on them, but it is not a constant, urgent requirement. Some things I have not hardly touched in months, partly because I am focused on other things and partly because I just lose interest in them for a while.
I work in cycles and sprints, I will come up with a feature idea, work hard on it for a week or two, launch it and then move onto the next thing. I do this over and over across all my projects. If I tried to focus on one thing, for a long time, I would get super bored with it, I like having the ability to jump around. This approach very likely prevents me from getting financially “successful”, but it works for me, I am having fun, and everything continues to grow, so it is just a matter of time.
It is all a ton of work though, I do all my own social media, design, html, some backend, server management, tech support, etc. There is always something to be doing, you just must decide how critical it is and focus on the most important things first.
With that said, I have one large project I will be releasing in the near future. After that I am planning to stop launching new projects and focus on what I have. I have a solid foundation of products that have a ton of potential and it is time for me to focus on them rather than jump to the next thing. I am merging a few sites, rebuilding a few sites, and adding new features to all of them. I am excited to push them to the next level and see how it goes.
I debated if I wanted to discuss my journey of trying to save 1 Million Dollars by the time I’m 50 (in 10-ish years). I decided it makes sense to mention it as it will be a big focus of my goals going forward. Recently, my wife and I were talking about being able to do some random thing (I can’t recall what it was), but basically it required having plenty of money and I said something like, “we can do it in 10 years when I have a million dollars”. It was a bit of a joke but also something that is certainly possible, so after a week or two I decided to officially set out to save a million dollars.
If you are interested in following a long, you can visit this Twitter thread where I continue to post progress updates… https://twitter.com/MicahIverson/status/1289030351365369856
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is kind of the ultimate question and has been a big discussion piece these past few years, it is not really something I give a lot of thought to, but here is my perspective.
The short answer is that it is easy, simply get a spouse and kids who demand to spend time with you and who make you feel guilty when you are not. That sounds a bit ridiculous, but it is actually pretty accurate. If I did not have a family, I would quite literally spend all my time at a computer working on a design, a project, coding, learning, etc. I LOVE being at a computer and creating something, even if that something never becomes public.
The short answer is that it is easy, simply get a spouse and kids who demand to spend time with you and who make you feel guilty when you are not.
In addition to all that, there are other things that help balance things out. My day job right now is running a house painting company, by nature this makes me get out of the house and off a computer which has changed my life (for the better, will get into this later). When you spend 8-12 hours painting, you are completely exhausted, both mentally and physically. This exhaustion forces me to slow down in the evenings and just relax to recover for tomorrow. It is not unusual for me to sit down to watch a show or movie and just not get up again until midnight when I decide I should go to bed. Often my family will sit and watch something as well, so we get some “family” time that way.
Last year we started going on walks in the evenings, devices are turned off at 8pm in our house and bedtime is around 9pm (for the wife and kids). So, we use that hour to go one walks, play a game, talk, relax, clean, etc. The walks are nice because it is a good way to get the blood flowing again and take in some fresh air and for me it loosens up my muscles.
I own my own company (one that is successful enough for me to live on); this is a huge factor in balancing my life. I have 100% flexibility (in theory) of my day, I can be as busy as I want, or I can scale back if I need a break or need time to focus on something else. This is unusual for most of the Makers I know, typically you work full-time for a company, you are required to be focused on that job for 40+ hours a week (which is exhausting). You have almost zero flexibility, this is a major difference I see between me and other makers.
How do you stay healthy?
I did not realize how “unhealthy” I was until I started painting.
This is an important topic, one that I still struggle with but slowly getting better at dealing with. For the past 20+ years I have basically sat at a computer, the most exercise I did was the occasional bike ride, basketball game, hike, or similar activity, certainly nothing regular like a daily workout. I did not realize how “unhealthy” I was until I started painting.
Over the years I was never particularly happy, but not sad either, I would not say depressed either. I kind of just “existed” and it has always kind of bothered me since I often see people who get super excited over the smallest things, or really depressed over things like losing a pet. I simply did not care one way or another, “It’s just life”. I still feel this way most of the time, but also feel like I am starting to re-emerge emotionally.
I decided to take half of November and all of December off last year from painting, I knew work was going to slow down anyway and I had saved quite a bit of money so I knew I was going to be ok financially. Something interesting happened though, which I did not expect, I got bitter, angry, annoyed, frustrated, and struggled to sleep. All these things that had faded away while I was painting and did not realize I was feeling for the past 20 years came rushing back, within one week.
What changed? I was no longer being physically exhausted, I was staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning, rather than 11 or 12pm. I was sleeping in until 9 or 10 rather than 6:30 or 7. I was staring at a screen all day, eating poorly, reading negative news, seeing everyone I know become successful. This was when I first discovered that things were not “Ok” originally, I had clearly been having issues even though they did not really feel like issues. I encourage everyone to step back and have a view of their day-to-day life and see if things are good, or if they just seem good. I did not see it for decades.
I will likely never take that much time off again, if I do it will certainly be filled with “something”, a trip, a big house project, a conference, etc. Something that keeps me moving and active. This year I feel like I am in a good place, I paint all day and get worn out. I spend far less time at the computer and on my phone. I am eating healthier (still trying to reduce my pop intake though). I express myself more both verbally and emotionally, my relationship with my wife and kids feels stronger than ever but certainly have work to do still. I have been going to a chiropractor regularly and it’s made a huge difference in how fast I can recover physically, my knees feel better, my back feels better, I have significantly fewer headaches and I sleep a lot better. I do not feel like an old person anymore (mostly).
My advice, get physically active, go to a chiropractor regularly (my neck was starting to fuse from sitting at a computer all the time), find something that “resets” your mind. For me, I love going to movies, for whatever reason it refreshes me and I am eager to get back to working on everything.
Super random question, but as a tradition, we ask makers to share the music genre or playlist that motivates them.
I typically listen to a little bit of everything (except country), Green Day, No Doubt, Neko Case, Foo Fighters, Weezer, Eminem, etc. A lot of times I work in silence, no music at all, maybe it is because I am getting old and it is hard to focus.
Closing question: What advice would you give to other makers out there?
It is difficult to stay motivated when all your peers and friends seemingly have a lot more success and a lot quicker than you, stick with it, your day will come.
Good things take a lot of time, play the long game, and take breaks from whatever you are working on and start something new, to exercise, to relax. Success comes from failure, the more you fail the more you learn.
Follow Micah on social media:
Personal Twitter: https://twitter.com/MicahIverson