Launch a Product While Working Full TimePosted: November 14, 2010
This is part two of a post on making 1k/month while working nights and weekends for a year. This is based off a Hacker News thread that was started a while back. My previous post mostly covered why many of the suggestions were so bad. This one will talk about what it takes to survive the abuse you’re sure to encounter during the first year of building, launching and enhancing your product while working full time.
Mentally, you’ll have to consistently find a way to stay motivated and avoid burnout. On the physical side of things, I can’t say I have a ton of advice to give. Like many entrepreneurs, my physical health suffered.
If you’re working day and night you’re simply not going to have a lot of time to exercise. You should at least try to make time for 20-30 mins of exercise on the weekends and a day or two during the week. Doing this will go a long way towards helping you fight a lot of the mental fatigue you’ll experience.
One of the toughest things to do when working full time while launching a product is finding a way to keep yourself motivated. It’s easy to be excited about a product idea when you first start out, but after a couple of months of working till 2-3 AM with little to show, you’ll find your motivation decreasing.
Some of the things I’ve found to help with motivation:
- Don’t stick to a strict schedule. Creating a product by yourself means that you’ll probably be doing design work, coding, and marketing. If you’re not feeling up to writing code one night, switch gears and do some design work. If neither one of those sounds appealing then there’s always something to do on the marketing side of things even if you haven’t launched yet. This is one of the great things about what we do, there’s always something different to work on.
- Just get started. Make a deal with yourself that if you get 10-15 mins of coding done tonight you’ll take it easy the rest of the night and watch a movie (or do whatever) afterward. I’ve done this many times and it’s amazing how tough it is to stop working once you’ve started.
- Listen to music and audio interviews. Listen to music when working; listen to inspirational stories from Mixergy interviews while you’re driving, exercising, or doing chores. Just listen to Andrew Warner’s MailFinch interview or his interview with Ben Huh of Cheezburger Network and tell me that stuff doesn’t get you excited.
- Realize you’re going to screw up. You’ll procrastinate, slack off, and miss deadlines. You know what? It’s ok. Just keep moving forward like it never happened. Be relentless; don’t let a bad day yesterday affect what you’re doing today. This is the most effective method I know for building (and keeping) momentum.
- Work towards weekly goals. Create weekly goals and tell people about them. Find a friend who’s working on a product and have weekly calls where you keep each other accountable. If you miss your deadlines — which you’ll likely do from time to time — don’t beat yourself up about it, just keep moving forward.
If you’re going to avoid burnout you’ll have to take short breaks (like weekend vacations) and keep things interesting. Working all the time is going to get to you after a while. Pay attention to how you’re feeling and take appropriate actions to keep things from getting out of hand.
Some of the things that can help avoid burnout:
- Do some sort of physical activity away from the computer. For me it’s usually exercise. As I mentioned before, I don’t get to exercise all that often but it’s absolutely critical in helping me clear my head and spend some time away from the computer.
- Treat yourself to some quality time with family and/or friends. Go to the movies and or out to a fancy dinner. Go out and interact with people that you like to be around. And when you’re doing these things make sure you leave work behind. I won’t lie, it’s easier said than done of course but it’s 100% necessary if you want this time away from your computer to be quality time. Rob Walling, author of Start Small Stay Small, says it best when he says: “Work hard and play hard, but never do both at once.”
- Find a way to ship within the first six months (at most). Trim away all features that are truly unnecessary and make sure you ship something worth paying for within six months. With lean startups being so popular lately, I probably don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining why it’s a good thing to ship early and gather feedback as soon as possible, but I’ve seen this taken to an extreme. I’ve seen people ship products that were too simple. Products that no one wants to pay for because there’s nothing exciting about it. My advice is this: when shipping early add at least one interesting feature that’ll get people excited enough to actually use the damn thing. You can’t gather feedback if there’s nothing there to make people want to use it.
- Outsource as much as you can. While you might be able to do every single tasks required to launch a product, you’re making things a lot more difficult than they need to be if you don’t take advantage of outsourcing. There’s something ridiculously awesome about seeing work get done while you’re busy working at the day job.
- Build a support group. One of the most helpful things that I did early on was join a community of like-minded people. I was able to get advice, get feedback, and create friendships that helped me get through the tough times. I’m a bit of a loner so I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised at how much of an impact this had on me. Seriously. I’m convinced that it’s one of the main reasons why Bidsketch exists today. An embarrassing number of unfinished products from previous efforts that tells me this is the case. Bottom line: find people that are doing the same thing you’re doing and build your support group.
Do Them All
Maybe you can get away with doing just one or two of the things I mentioned. But why take the chance? Why not take advantage of every method of influence you have at your disposal? If you’re serious about launching something while working full time, you’ll stop screwing around and start stacking the odds in your favor.