Last Update for 2010

It’s been a year since Bidsketch launched and it’s now able to replace a fair amount of my salary from my day job as a web development manager. It’s both exciting and nuts considering my first-year-goal was to simply hit 2k in recurring income. I’ve easily surpassed that goal but things are going to get tougher soon if I don’t make some major changes.

I’ve reinvested most of the revenue back into Bidsketch so I haven’t put much away into my savings account. I’ve also gotten kinda sloppy with my monthly recurring business expenses by adding services I truly don’t 100% need to keep my business running. I’m going to be changing that now. I’ll be slimming down my expenses and stashing away as much cash as I can for the next few months.  Monthly recurring expenses have already been cut and my car is up for sale at the moment (getting rid of my monthly car payment).

At the same time I’ll be wrapping up a major missing feature and then focusing all of my efforts on the marketing side of things. Things are going to get pretty exciting in the next couple of months and I can’t wait 🙂

Launch a Product While Working Full Time

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.

Staying motivated

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Avoid Burnout

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Quickly Build Something That Earns You 1k Every Month

A few days ago I came across a Hacker News post that asked the following:

Can I build something within that 1 year which starts giving me $1000 profit every month?

An important constraint here was that this was strictly a nights and weekends project because he has a full time job.

The answer of course is YES. There are plenty of examples of people doing just that and more. I’m happy to say that I’m one of the examples of someone that’s built a product in less than a year that brings in over 1k a month in profit.

The Hacker News crowd is full of a bunch of brilliant people that tends to have some great ideas and an interesting perspective on many of the articles posted there. That’s why I was stunned to see how horribly wrong so many of the answers were.

I’ll give some examples of the ones that I had a problem with and where they went wrong.

Example #1: Solve a problem that you are having. If you try to solve a problem that you’re not having yourself, you’ll likely fail.

This simply isn’t true. There are plenty of examples of this not being true — like me. I don’t do freelance web design and I’m currently not experiencing the pain of having to write and manage proposals using MS Word. This had nothing to do with how easy or difficult launching my product was.

What I do have is experience with the problem I’m solving. I used to freelance and I’ve experienced that pain before. Still, I would’ve done just as well launching my product if I didn’t know the first thing about this type of pain and relied on other people to fill in the gaps for me.

If you’re going to rely on someone else’s experience; I recommend you read up on it, observe others during said process, and talk to as many people as you can find about it.

Example #2: Copy a successful app.

This isn’t good enough. Facebook is successful, but copying would take you forever and then get you nowhere. What about something smaller? Basecamp is nice and slim but without the insane following that 37signals has you don’t stand much of a chance of hitting that 1k a month mark.

Hitting 1k a month is hard. Much harder than you would think. Simply copying something that’s making millions isn’t a shortcut to getting there.

If you’re going to copy something, copy the stuff that matters.

Wanna copy Facebook? Go niche with your social network and blow away any competition with a product that’s so well tailored to what those users want that anything else pales in comparison. Forrst comes to mind; it’s a social networking/code & design sharing app for designers.

Copy 37signals by building a big audience first. Take a controversial stand on all sorts of topics you truly find yourself going against the grain on, and build something where every ounce of it reflects your philosophy.

Example #3: Tackle a real problem companies face where the solution is relatively easy to implement.

I like the thinking regarding focusing on businesses but we’re still off the mark here. The problem with this statement isn’t even that the solution is easy to implement (though it’s something to be careful of). The problem is that  you don’t know if you have a market!

Not all solutions will put you in a market where you can earn 1k of monthly recurring profit. There are just way too many factors to consider.

  1. How long are the sales cycles in that market?
  2. What does the competition look like?
  3. Will anyone pay for this solution?

There are plenty more but even taking these three questions into account could drastically change how viable you perceive your idea to be.

So how do you make +1k a month in under a year?

There isn’t a single answer to this question but there a few things that will drastically improve your chances of success.

Some of important things to think about: find a market, gather tons of feedback at every stage, start marketing before you write any code, build an email list, solve a real problem, and build something people like.

That still doesn’t solve the most interesting problem this person has in meeting their 1k goal:

How do you survive the mental and physical abuse you’ll get in a year’s worth of product building as a part time effort?

I won’t lie; It’s freaking hard. But it can be done. And my next post will show you how! Stay tuned…

Ideas Are Worth Plenty

Over the last few years I’ve heard entrepreneurs talk about how ideas are cheap, it’s the execution that matters.  You can even find things like this SAMBA blog post offering proof of how easy and worthless ideas are:

I don’t agree.

While there’s some truth there, it’s just not accurate. Ideas do make a difference. Sometimes they’re the difference between success and failure.

Great ideas can inspire action. They can keep you motivated and working your ass off past 2 AM. Try doing that with some lame idea. Good luck.

Now, this isn’t to say that if you have a great idea you’re guaranteed success. It just means you’ve got more fuel to light that entrepreneurial fire within when you need it most.

With the difficulty of launching a successful product, who doesn’t want every advantage they can get?

I Have My Next Product Idea!

Yep, that’s right; I have a new product idea and I love it!

I’ve been looking to buy a super cheap product on Flippa to run some crazy marketing expirements with. Unfortunately, it’s been tough going finding something decent lately.

I was thinking of buying because building a product takes so long.

So why am I building a new product then? Well, because it’ll take all of a weekend to do it. Not just that but I’ll be working with a biz partner on this too.

To be clear, the partnership was formed before the business idea. We quickly started thinking of ideas that we could take on in a relatively short timeframe, and something that we could get excited about.

It’s still pretty early and I’ll talk about the partnership and product details later; I’ll just say that there are going to be a lot of firsts in this project for me 🙂

It’s a crazy, wacky, off the wall idea that’s going to fun to implement. Yeah, I’m pretty excited!