The Shippers is an interview series featuring #ship30for30 alum who have completed at least one cohort and published at least 26/30 days during it. You’ll meet a new creator, hear how Ship 30 impacted the way they create online, and what they took away from the experience.
Today we meet Kevon Cheung the “build in public guy” who finds joy in chaos, loves giving stuff away and nailing the perfect headline.
If this interview helps you decide to jump aboard a Ship 30 for 30 cohort please consider signing up with this link as it helps me cover the (admittedly small) cost of putting these together.
Introduce yourself and the main topics of your writing
Tim: <affirmative> and then you are gonna start out by introducing yourself and talking a little bit about the topics that you like to write about online, please.
Kevon: Yeah. So my name is Kevon Cheung,, I’m the building public guy. So you can probably find me talking about things like building in public, making Twitter, friends, uh, building relationships online. And of course, I’m growing a creative business. So I’m very transparent about that. Sharing my journey as well. Cool. So yeah, I’m all about that because, you know, when I learn about the topic being in public, I thought this is kind of like a life calling. This is how to lift my life. And now I can’t talk about it online. That was like the coolest thing ever.
Tim: Yeah. So can you talk a little bit about how you came to that? Like, what was your path to, to this building public mindset and, and, you know yeah. How’d you get there?
Kevon: Okay. So I actually started all this like 18 months ago and 2020 is a nice year for my whole career. I was in a startup, you know, co-creating companies with people or working for them. And, you know, when I left, I realized that I was a nobody, the only thing I had was a LinkedIn profile. And I was like, shit, I, I needed to start doing something for myself. And I took a little break and I went online and I saw that, Ooh, there are a lot of people writing online. And the more I read about their articles or blog posts, the more I feel like I become their superfan. Yeah. So, that was the big moment for me to start. Okay. I have some time why don’t I just summarize my learning for my failures and put it out there. And then I bumped into this topic being in public and you know, it was, I didn’t know, it was my, you know, people call it niche.
Kevon: I didn’t know. I should focus on it. Yeah. But I kind of asked myself two questions. One is, is this something I can talk about for so many years and not get bored of it? And I was like, yeah, yeah, this is who I am. I can keep sharing and teaching people this. And the second thing is, is this a trend that is going on? And you know what, when I did some Google search, it was not the case. Really. It was like zero to 10 search volumes per month for us. And I was like, shit, no one cares about this, but I, I knew something’s going on because, on Twitter, a lot of people talk about it. Yeah. So I kind of took a gamble and wrote to a guy to share what I learned with people.
Tim: Cool. Well, I mean, just from my own perspective, like, I don’t know how familiar you’re with Linux and oh, up in source software., but for, you know, people who don’t know, it’s kind of a way of developing software that,, you share the source code that you’re working on as you’re working on it. So, and that’s been going on since like the nineties early nineties and stuff like that. And possibly before that. So to me, like building public is, you know, something I’ve been around for a long time. And,, so yeah, it seems very natural to me because like, I really, what, what drew me into open source was the idea that you know, if everybody shares and everybody benefits, it’s kind of like a different model for,, say collaboration. Uh, and so, you know, I guess people come into these types of ideas on, on their own path and it’s, it’s really interesting too, to hear yours., do you wanna say something about the at or
Kevon: No, we’re good.
What was it that got you over the line joining ship30for30?
Tim: <laugh> OK, cool. Well,, so you said before we started recording that you came into ship 30,, maybe from a place of having already written a lot. So I’m, I’m wondering what drew you into ship 30. And what made you decide that it was something that you were interested in participating in that’ll be worth your time?
Kevon: Yeah. So for the first six months of my own journey, of getting online, I was writing a lot. And, you know, through that process, I feel like a new person because I’m always sitting here thinking, okay, re reflecting about myself and then structuring my thoughts. And the next six months I was so busy monetizing and building products. Yeah. So when I joined ship 30, I was like, oh my God, I missed that feeling of just writing. Sure. I didn’t do it for like six months. So that was one of the big reasons, just push me to get back to it. And the second reason is mainly I’m always like around the boon public people. So I do,, I like making friends online, so I wanna kind of get out of my zone for a little bit. Yep. And ship 30, because I write so much, I feel like this is the group of people that I can connect with and I haven’t met them. So that’s why I designed it to join.
Tim: Yeah. And I guess the ship 30 people are, maybe even they’re building public people, they just don’t know, know it yet, or whatever, they’re on there they’re on their way through being built, public people.
Tim: And I was thinking about, as you were talking before, about how, like you did startups and worked with other people and stuff like that, and,, what drew, what you wanted to build on or building public. Cause you felt like,, you didn’t have maybe, maybe I’m interpreting or,, but you didn’t have much to show for some of the things that you’ve done. You’ve done a lot of work and then you just have, as you said, a LinkedIn profile, and that was actually kind of what drew me into ship 30 as well. Was that,, my, my favorite day job is internal communication. So like, I’ve done a lot of work, but it’s all like focused on, in the inside of the company. And that, I just kind of realized one day, like if something changed and I need to do something else, I don’t really have any way of demonstrating, you know, what I, what I know. And so on, like the easy way now. And,, you know, I, there was another thing about how you know, you know, about GitHub. Yeah. So like people,
Kevon: Software engineer, so I use it a lot.
Tim: Yeah. So people say that as a software development software developer, your GitHub is your resume because, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s like that. And I, I was kind of looking for, okay, as a communications person, what’s my, what’s my GitHub, you know, and then writing, writing, and ship 30 was a way to start externalizing. Some of the things that I felt like I’d learned that,, it’s kind of, it’s kind of cool that, that kind of, I need to, I need to get all this stuff that I know and have done into a format that kind of, I can, I can share and take with me if I need to kinda thing.
Kevon: Totally. And I learned the concept of compounding around the same time. I mean, I, I, I know about it, but then I, they dig deep into it. Yeah. And I feel like when we build things under our own name, things accumulate for our whole lifetime, and it’s much more rewarding. For example, I think like a month ago, someone in the UK, like a magazine, found my writing online and they invited me to write a column for them on the website. I was like, what, what, how did you come to know about me? But that was the coolest thing that ever happened to me.
Tim: Yeah. And if you don’t build in public, that will never happen to you basically. I think that’s like what I, what I take away from that experience.
Kevon: Yeah. Building public and also putting a lot of stuff out there under your name.
Tim: Yeah. Like a ubiquity strategy. Do you ever think about that?
Kevon: Well, can you tell me more?
Tim: Yeah. Well just like sharing, sharing a lot, like it’s like sharing a lot in place in, in the places where, you know, the people are that you’re, that is gonna be interesting. She, in the places where the people that are gonna be interested in what, you know, already are. So, you know, that can be Twitter, that can be LinkedIn., that can be medium. That can be your blog, but just like being there and participating is like some kind of can be a force multiplier.
Kevon: Yeah. I think you point out a key point like, people need to do it. People need to yeah. Have that problem that you can help solve. Yeah. Because I see a lot of people putting stuff out, but you know, like a block that no one ever visits <laugh>. Yeah. So might as well go to the people and put it in front of them.
Tim: Sure. And, and I think,, I think ship 30, one of the things that are cool about ship 30 is they say even a blog that nobody ever visits is probably better than nothing at all. And I think that’s something I agree with too. It’s like, even, especially when you’re starting out and you’re trying to figure out, like, what do you wanna say? What, what, what is your voice online actually gonna sound like? And stuff like that. I think even the blog post that nobody ever sees is still a step towards something better than what you already have.
Kevon: Yeah. Do you know what I think about this? I remember when I got to know someone, yeah. I would go onto their website and I would just scroll around, and read a lot of different articles and blog posts they’ve written over the past few years. Yeah. So when I think about how I can apply the same thing it was in the early days. Yes. Not many people would read your writing. Yeah. But as you build your bigger brand, like people are gonna dig back to five years ago, it’s not going to waste as long as it’s public.
Tim: One, one of them, I take that I saw that I found really interesting was like a blog and writing online is kind of like networking for introverts and that,, it means that if you’re ever in a situation with another or introvert like a party or a meeting and, and you have a blog and you’ve written about things, then you can skip past small talk to topics that, you know, you’re both interested in because you’ve already written about it, you know?
Kevon: Oh, so true. So true. It, it, it creates a lot of conversations basically. Yeah.
What was the technique, tip, framework, hack, or whatever that helped you the most?
Tim: Yeah. So you’re,, you said you, you were writing a lot before ship 30, so you probably already had some say structures and approaches and things like that to produce content. What was it in ship 30 that you found the most useful as far as framework or methodology or approach or whatever the,
Kevon: Yeah, I think,, the headlines. Okay. Because okay. A lot of us, or I can write content, I can structure the article, but I’m not very good at writing the headlines. Like that’s super hard. I feel like every piece of online writing has to have that hook to pull people in. And I think that was the biggest takeaway for me, like how to generate curiosity in two seconds.
Tim: Yep. And can you, can you share a little bit about the format or the part of it, part of how they taught it that made it click for you?
Kevon: I think,, for someone like me who already writes a lot, mm-hmm <affirmative>,, those frameworks really clicked to me because they just conceptualized what I’m already doing and put it into perspective. Yeah. And, you know, in strip 30, there’s just so much content. Yeah. So I, I definitely admit that I didn’t read all of them, but like that framework is what sticks in my head so that whenever I, uh, need to write next, I would just put up.
Tim: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. We did, like, I used some of that concept in my day job where we also produced a lot of content. We did like a couple sessions where we used the headline frameworks to come up with like four or five titles, uh, headlines for each of the articles that were written and then tried to pick the best one. It was pretty fun and we got better, better headlines out of it.
Kevon: Yeah, totally. But I do find that it’s really challenging to write for 30 days, even for someone like me who has been writing for a year. Yeah. I actually stopped halfway. I only wrote like 15. Yeah. Uh, to be very honest. And,, but what I found is that those 15 essays that I wrote, I keep coming back to them and I start extracting those ideas in videos and other block posts. So they’re useful. And it’s like a content idea generation in two weeks for me.
If you were to start from the beginning again knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Tim: Yeah, for sure., if you could go back to the beginning of shift 30 or shift 30 cohort and, and do it again, what would you do differently?
Kevon: Okay. I think,, I didn’t do a good job of attending the sessions because of the time zone difference. Yeah. It’s always like the same one, 1:00 AM or something. So it was really hard, but I think if I’m new to ship 30, because there’s just so many people in there and before I start, I would really grab like maybe 3, 4, 5 people to form a small group so that I can just like really spend time interacting with these people and keep each other accountable. I didn’t do it. So, and maybe that’s the reason I stopped halfway because it felt like I’m just there alone out of the hundred people. Yeah. Uh, hundreds of people. Yeah.
Tim: Yeah. Fair enough. And,, yeah, I felt I had a similar experience, I guess, being in Australia, like, uh, it was in the middle of the night for me as well. And, there’s something different between watching recordings versus participating live. That’s kinda like, mm. Something, there’s just something about it. It just doesn’t, it just not, it’s not really, somehow it doesn’t feel as good a use of time to watch the recording as it does. I dunno, you feel like that, but that’s how it felt to me.
Kevon: And I know shippers, they always have this like a networking party at the end. I think like what I said, I didn’t meet enough people. That was the part that I missed.
What reasons would you tell someone not to do ship30?
Tim: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and I guess the, I kinda organically found the thing you described, which is like a small group of people in that, you know, in the first couple of days, I really did try to do the thing where I would like to follow the hashtag and, and, and kind of comment on people’s essays. And then the people who, of the people, I kind of interacted with just a much smaller group kind of interacted back with me. And then I kind of kept doing that. And then those are the people who I’ve kinda, you know, continued talking to and things like that. So, you know, there are ways to hack it as well., so just something for the other ship, 30 participants, to bear in mind. I’m wondering though, is there a reason why you tell somebody not to do a sh a ship 30 cohort
Kevon: <laugh> so I was thinking about this, I think,, so generally I feel like it’s a good program to push yourself, to, to create ideas and start writing. But I feel like if someone is totally new online, the only thing they have done is create that Twitter account. They haven’t POed anything. They aren’t right. A single word. Maybe it’s a bit too early for them. I would suggest they like, try out a little bit, understand Twitter, a bit more posts, a few tweets to see how they can express their thoughts. I feel like at this point, that’s the best time to go in. Yeah. Not like super early,
What are some unexpected benefits you’ve seen from your participation in the program?
Tim: Not super refreshing, but I guess, yeah. I guess that kind of makes sense. I,, yeah, that makes sense. Cool. Yeah., what about, uh, unexpected benefits from your participation ship? 30? Is there anything that stands out that you feel like,, was the surprise that happened that wouldn’t have other,
Kevon: I would say this is Tim <laugh> like collaboration like this. Like we grab a chat, talk about this. And then also,, well, I, I keep meeting new shippers in the next, in the future cohorts. That was pretty cool. And then I remember two months ago, uh, a guy Toby who’s really good at writing content on Twitter. Yep. And he put together a threat saying these are the two best courses for Twitter. And he featured my course and I was, I got like 400 subscribers overnight. Oh, wow. And I think that was the best, like word of mouth through someone who is just genuinely appreciating your work. So there are a lot of opportunities that can happen between the shippers. I’ve heard people getting jobs or like free line gigs. Yeah. And for me that is the best, like talks like this and some recommendations from people.
Tim: Yeah. Well, it’s like, it’s kind of like becoming this thing where I don’t know how big the cohorts are now. It’s like hundreds of people at once who are trying to make something happen for themselves. And maybe a lot of them don’t necessarily know what that thing is. They just know that they want to try something different and they want some structure around it. And I think if you get like 500 people who are all trying to make something happen for themselves at the same time, then they’re gonna find ways to make things happen with each other.
Kevon: Totally. I think you need to find people who are around the same stage, like maybe two steps ahead or two steps behind. Yeah. And not the people who are far ahead, so you can get the most out of it.
Tim: Yes. Sweet. So,, let’s just, somebody’s listening to this and they’re like, oh, I want to check, check out something by,, by Kevin., what would you, where would you point them first? What’s the first thing you’d want them to see is that you’ve done something you’re proud of.
Kevon: Yeah. So <laugh>, I’m super active on Twitter. So I guess they should come to Twitter and say, hi, my Twitter handle is meet Kevan. MEET KEVIN. And then I, some people say I give away too much content. So I basically like people who like to write about what and why, but I also give away the how as well. Sure. So I put everything under thebrella of a public lab. So I see, you know, one day I put up this like chart on my homepage and I was tracking, I was asking the question, like, where are you in your journey getting online. Yeah. And I, a lot of people are super early. They haven’t written a word or they’re like, what is my niche? Like, where am I, I guess that’s the ship 30 crowd. Yeah. So I started writing a lot of content just guiding them on how to show up online, overcome that fear and they can find it in the public lab.
Tim: Cool. So check out the public lab., and do you have that idea of giving away too much for free or something? What do you feel? What do you think when people say that?
Kevon: I think they have a point, but,, I chose my own way because I feel like a creator, right. Many people are writing online. They’re creators. They’re like SaaS founders, they’re consultants, right? Yeah. As a creator, I feel like our main goal is to build an audience and then work with them, help them, and then sell our products. Right. Yeah. And giving away is the best strategy to trust people. And I know a lot of new creators in my last year. Okay. I was afraid of like, oh, if I give away so much, are they gonna buy my stuff? Yeah. But I realized that you know, people buy for different reasons. They’re not really buying for content. They’re buying for structure, they’re buying for your help. So there are other things you can sell other than just focusing on the content. So for me, give away, I, I probably give away like 80, 90% of my stuff.
Tim: Yeah. Nice. And I wonder too, I suspect it’s true. That basically, like, if you did it the other way around like you’ve made products and then tried to sell them versus like made an audience, that’s interested in the things that you have expertise in or whatever, and then build something with. And for them, I think, I think you’ll probably find that what you build if you build it with and for your audience is gonna be that much better than what you would’ve built. Have you tried to build it first?
Kevon: Oh, totally. I always say that these days I’m building outside of my brain because I don’t need to imagine solutions. I basically just come out and ask them, Hey, are you guys struggling with this? And they would tell me on Twitter, like, I’ll get like 20 replies. Uh, for example, like last night I was putting out,, eight different video topics that I plan to put into my new book. And I was like, which one is hot to you? Which one is not appealing. And people just gave me all this advice. So in a way it helps me build a better product. Yeah.
Tim: Sure. Okay. Cool. Well, I wanna thank you very much for your time and patience with me this morning. Kayvan I kept you from your breakfast, I think for long enough. So I, uh, I, I wanna let you get to it, but just let you know how much I appreciate you sharing this with me.
Kevon: No team. Thanks for having me here. I really enjoyed the chat.