Here are 5 Things I Wish I Had Known Beforehand
“Jumping off the cliff” into entrepreneurship comes with all of the feels. Excitement, stress, fear, and elation seem to all happen multiple times a week during the first few months of being on your own as an entrepreneur.
Even if you are just launching & running a side project, these emotions and stress can still apply. Chances are, you will be passionate about it and treat it like your baby because of what you think it can become.
I made the jump in 2015 and the first year was pretty rough. It set me back about $20,000 and 13 months of working on the wrong product. It stung. Unfortunately, I ran out of money.
I’m not sure if I should say “thankfully” or “unfortunately”. Those mistakes helped shaped how I think as an entrepreneur today. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
This month marked my 3rd year in entrepreneurship. In 2015-16 I launched a social audio network which, as mentioned before, cost me a lot of money and time. We wound up selling that product in late 2016 and launching Wavve in early 2017. Wavve has a more straightforward SaaS business model and is doing well with over 2,000 premium subscribers. Most recently, I launched Zubtitle, an online tool that automatically adds captions to any video online. It’s profitable with month over month growth, and showing some real signs of promise.
Looking back over my wins & losses gave me time to pause and review a few things I wish I had known before jumping into entrepreneurship and starting an indie startup:
Get ready to play the long game.
If you are like every other entrepreneur, you will judge your progress by the month or even the week in some circumstances. It will always feel like you are behind or not moving fast enough. Unfortunately, this is why a lot of indie startups fail.
It’s really easy to bail on a project after 3-4 months because you feel like it’s not moving fast enough. Instead, you need to judge your progress by years, because that is how long it takes to accomplish anything of importance.
Don’t get me wrong: You still need to move fast and with a sense of urgency… but don’t let one or two slow months break you down or stop you from pursuing what you think is a good business/product idea.
Doing part-time and contract work is a great way to extend your runway and give yourself the time needed to see a project through to a certain point.
Understand your idea isn’t perfect.
Actually, it probably sucks and needs major adjustments.
I know, I know… You have been thinking about it for months and EVERYONE says it’s a great idea. Well, until customers start paying you and giving feedback, you can’t be sure.
Treat your idea exactly for what it is: an idea. Now quickly turn that idea into something tangible that can be given to potential customers and tested for feedback. From this point forward, it’s no longer your idea. It’s either a solution to their problems or it’s not. Don’t romanticize your idea just because it’s yours.
If people like it and will pay for it, figure out how to make it better. If they won’t, ask why and work on approaching the problem from a different angle or perspective.
Work on marketing as much as you do product.
Building an MVP isn’t hard. Getting your first initial users/customers can be tricky but it will come.
Aligning product, business model, and marketing channels so they all work in unison for growth is really f***ing hard.
Too many entrepreneurs focus solely on building their product and either neglect marketing or don’t put in the work to attract the right type of customer. (Spending months attracting the wrong type of customer was a huge mistake I made). Figure out what pillars your business needs to succeed/grow and focus on all of them.
Learn how to prioritize properly.
I thought entrepreneurship was going to be about learning how to get more shit done.
It’s actually about learning how to determine what needs to get done next.
There will always be a dozen things that have to get done immediately. If you try to do them all, you will either go broke or do a half-ass job. Use that constraint to focus and determine what actually needs to get done to move forward.
It may be a long process of trial and error but you will slowly begin learning what levers and buttons need to be pushed to move the business forward. When you learn what those are, narrow your focus on them and block out everything else.
This rings true for product decisions as well. I’ve wasted weeks of development time on features that I thought were necessary but wound up not putting a dent in signups or conversions (some even created tech debt down the road).
Get your personal shit together.
“You have to conquer yourself before you can conquer anything else“. – John Calipari
This is true AF when it comes to entrepreneurship.
Whatever you are susceptible to or struggling with now (health, addiction, mental health, spouse issues, etc.,) will be magnified either during the trials or success of entrepreneurship.
Focus on working on these personal challenges now, rather than later.
Still going to make the jump?
Good! Don’t let some blog post slow you down or scare you. Hopefully, a few of these points stick with you and help you avoid some of the roadblocks I hit. If all else fails, trust your gut. It rarely leads you astray.
If you’re starting an Indie SaaS business, shoot me a note if I can help.