Asked

Solo Founders: How do you do "everything" by yourself?

Hey everyone,

I am Pat and I wanted to write a longer introduction post. Also, I would love to hear your advise and hear your thoughts on some of the challenges I am facing. I have already touched on this in my WIP intro post but could not go into details due to the character limit. 

I have been working on https://missioncontrol.me for a long time now. Always at night after my regular job. Actually, I work as a manager for a Pharma company. I am quite satisfied with my job. However, I'd love to be able to work less for somebody else and more on something meaningful on my own terms. Something which has an impact and improves peoples life’s.

Now the "problem": After many long, long nights I feel like I am slowly burning out. There are just so many things I have to do. And mostly, I have no clue how to do them so everything takes so much time. I had this vision of what I wanted to create but with time I had to make more and more compromises just because there is so much to do and I just don’t have the time and energy anymore. Don’t get me wrong. I am happy with the progress I have made and I know this is just the first version to start collecting feedback and improve from there. 

I know this has basically just been a ramble so far. And maybe it is just me because I am already a bit older ;) and have a little kid... But my question to all the experienced makers here would be:
  • Being a solo founder/creator: How the hell do you juggle all these different tasks? From building and improving the actual product/MVP to writing newsletters/e-mails, creating help/documentation, writing copy, blog posts, promoting the app, collecting feedback, tax and other legal requirements etc. etc.

  • Do you „outsource“ some of these things to experts (e.g. via Upwork?) 

  • How do you get feedback early on to test your hypothesis? I will create a Roast post later - Any other suggestions?

  • For how long do you test a hypothesis (i.e. you promote the app and see if people are interested)?

  • To the non-native English speakers: Communication is key. How do you make sure your copy and other important information is clear? For me it is sometimes very hard to explain the idea of the app, or certain features. 
Thank you. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, experience and ideas. If anyone wants to reach out with tips or wants to help regarding copywriting, marketing and other aspects feel free to reach out to me - [email protected] 


Pat






Hi. We all struggle with this. Maybe this is problem for "Mission Control" to solve :). Your app looks great and maybe a narrower use case (working plus building stuff) might be a way to solve your own problem. What helps me is focus on one thing at a time - product building, marketing etc - in small 30 minute work sessions (called Pomodoros). The big area I want to focus on in 2022 is automating most of my marketing. Hope this helps. Keep shipping. Curious to see what others think.

Hey Ebrahim-Khalil! Thank you. Great advise which reminded me of a plan I had set before I started working on Mission Control. Unfortunately, I did not stick to that plan because I got lost in technical challenges (big mistake, I should have at least dedicated 30%-50& of my time on e.g. building in public from the very beginning) I made the experience that for me personally short work sessions (i.e. 30min, 60min) don't work. I just never stick to the time windows I scheduled.

What worked better (still not perfect but better) for me is to schedule "work weeks". For example, 1 week of building the product, 1 week of promoting the app, reaching out to potential users, 1 week of writing etc, etc.

I will start doing this again now and will spend some time today on how I want to structure each month in weekly chunks.

Question: Can you elaborate a little bit more on how you plan to automate your marketing? And, what things should one focus on from a marketing perspective in the beginning (i.e. what would bring the best "bang for buck" /"bang for energy/time") in your opinion?

Hi Pat. I like the idea of "work weeks" - provides focus on activities. I am new to automating marketing. I am starting with basic email series. For example, a user subscribes and receives a set of tutorials via email.

Build My Ideas Occasionally in Public. Developing @heyfromapp. Learning marketing to promote heyfromapp.com

Hi Pat,

Welcome to WIP community. Like you, I am also a stranger to this platform and doing this first time. I feel what you are saying entirely. There is a market for a service that takes care of anything other than building MVP. Maybe you can turn all of these pains into the foundation of your product.

Writing to gain the attention of strangers is new to me. I have read a couple of books on marketing, sales, and copywriting to prepare me. And that gave me some basic knowledge and changed my approach to anything I write for my app.

I just put my first cold email draft for a roast.

wip.co/posts/need-feedback-co…

Like @EbrahimKhalilHassen said, keep it simple and focus one thing at a time. Build deliberate slack into your schedule to check back with you and reflect. That way, it's not going to feel like a burden.

I am happy to collaborate on copywriting. And one more coincident, like you i am also an employee in the healthcare industry in my day job.

Thanks,

Jo

Hey Jo, Thank you for you response and the warm welcome! Yes, another aspect of me building this app was to "just start" and get into the mode of doing things. I am telling myself almost every day that it does not matter whether Mission Control will be "succesful" (whatever that means) or not. If I just keep going, something will come out of it. Whether a completely different idea, the people that I get to know along the way or the knowledge that I am gaining now about new things. I was thinking about going (back) into IT Consulting. I worked 7 years for one of the bigger IT Consulting firms and I could see myself working as a Freelancer / Consultant in a particular field which I think is totally underserved and will become bigger in the next years (Funny enough, it is close to what you suggested in your first sentence)

Let me know if you want to have a chat someday. I have never used Telegram before but you can find me if you search for Pat_BMC.

Cheers,
Pat

I love learning everything I can, fixing things and building things :D I currently run https://www.chocolab.com.au. Before that I worked as a UX Engineer.

I've been struggling with the same issue for a long time. Building chocolab.com.au has had be jumping from being a Chocolatier, a pick/packer, programmer, marketer, designer, manager and all the business admin that goes with it, and now balancing running it with my other projects. In the first few years the biggest mistakes I made was not treating myself as a limited resource, and not limiting the scope of what I could accomplish. Although I do have a co-founder, the same time balancing issues still occur. Echoing what @EbrahimKhalilHassen said, my first impression of "Mission Control" is that you need to narrow your use case, and build the smallest version of your concept you can (which could just be a small part of your vision). Try to off load, or simply avoid doing things that don't play to your strengths. These days if an idea will take me more than a week or two to launch initially into a useable version (thats live for other people to use), I don't build it. As the risk of burning out after a few months and never actually finishing it is not worth it.

Hey Spencer, thank you. That really resonated with me. Just the other day I heard a podcast with Seth Godin where he spoke about the fact that humans are terrible at understanding the "sunk cost" concept. And this is so true for me. I have invested a lot of time and energy into Mission Control. It will be extremely hard to a) let go of it or b) remove features and narrow the use case. To be honest, I have already reduced the use case and removed features in the past weeks. I got carried away because I was not able to keep it simple while also creating something meaningful and different.

If you have a moment and are willing to elaborate on your first impression: Would you be able to point your finger at the part that you feel I could/should remove/reduce? What should I focus on from your perspective?

Thank you!

I love learning everything I can, fixing things and building things :D I currently run https://www.chocolab.com.au. Before that I worked as a UX Engineer.

Thing is you don't have to completely let go of everything, you can launch and then add features later. Do you have a list of features that are done and not done? Try to remove the ones that are not done first. I personally would remove the data & analytics part to launch, and work on adding this later when you have a userbase to get feedback from on what data they would actually want/need.

Maker of WIP amongst other things.

Hey Pat, again welcome to WIP! Great questions.

I think any entrepreneur, whether solo or with a large team, will tell you that's there's always more to do than there's time in a day. Always. Whether you're just starting out or been running a business for 10+ years like I have with BetaList.

The solution then is not to try and do everything, but to choose the right things to work on, and learn to accept that you can't pursue every opportunity, refine every design element, respond to every email, or even fix every bug.

Knowing what to focus on, and what to ignore, is perhaps the most valuable skill you can learn as entrepreneur. The way you'll get better at it is to be mindful about how you're spending your time, defining a clear objective (e.g. making enough revenue to cover your living expenses), and be around other makers who will hold you accountable to work on the right things.

Having looked at Mission Control, I think you've picked a very tough market. Time and time again I've found out that B2C is a horrible business to be in as a bootstrapper. Generally speaking you'll need to ask a realtively low price per customer (in your case $99/year), which means you'll need a ton of customers, to make a decent profit. And guess what, B2C customers tend to create the highest support burden. So you'll end up spending a lot of your time troubleshooting and negotiating on price.

Whereas in the B2B market customers are lot less price sensitive (e.g. you can charge $99 per month instead of per year), and they tend to be less of a support burden as well.

So that would be my advice. Pivot to a B2B business where you can charge a decent price, and solve a very specific problem that you can solve well with the limited resources you have.

As for your copywriting question, I suggest just talking to your customers to quickly try out different explanations and also see what language they use themselves. Then condense all that into the copy for your site.

Python/Vue dev. nathanwailes.com, working on rhymecraft.guru. Work habit goal: https://bit.ly/35AtptL

I'm having this same problem on the side-project I'm the most passionate about. To get past it, I just tried finding someone on the Indie Hackers forum to work on a project together, and I've now got two different cofounders for two different projects (so it hasn't directly solved my problem for my passion project but I'm hoping some of the added motivation will carry over). I want to get their SaaS ideas up-and-running within a month or two's worth of full-time work (so, after ~225 hours invested from me).

Obviously I'm still early on in the process so it's hard to say what will happen to my motivation later on, but so far I'm finding it to really help me to stay motivated.

Here's the forum where I looked for a cofounder: www.indiehackers.com/group/lo…

I posted about myself there but the people who reached out to me were not great fits; the two guys I ended up working with were both people who had previously posted there and whose posts I'd found interesting, and so I sent them each an email introducing myself.

Developer

I feel you. I'm 38, have three kids, a full-time job, and I'm building Budgetwise in my free time.

Here's my advice: Tight your sleep schedule. I saw this part of the post as a big red flag: "after many long, long nights I feel like I am slowly burning out. There are just so many things I have to do. And mostly, I have no clue how to do them so everything takes so much time."

Sleeping well will give you the energy, clear mind, and mood to finish more stuff in less time. Not because you will be faster, but because efficiency in what you do will grow.

Do you have nights where you are stuck at something that you feel you shouldn't be struggling with? That's your body saying "stop and go to sleep!"

You are tired, feel like doing little progress, of course, you are going to burn out.

I work two, or three days max per week and I do more progress than a full week of working 8PM-2AM.

My two cents.

Father of 2, Builder of alternative data investment strategies, MIT Alum

I've been running a FinTech company for 7 years. Sometimes as a solo founder, other times I bring on a marketer and a strategic biz dev person to help with larger deals or launches. At one time I had 5 sales people to help close financial advisors in person and at conferences (pre covid). I also got married and had two kids along the way... The struggle, and the ups and downs are so real.

I can truly empathize with the feeling of burnout and the pain. Especially when you get into those long periods of development where you are stuck on a coding problem and the delivery date to share the product with the world slips.

Absolutely make sure you get at least 6.5 hours of sleep. If you are like me and your brain is tired, you can still code but you are LESS ABLE TO PRIORITIZE and you end up staying up late working on the wrong project.

I think you have a cool opportunity here to dog-food your product and to use yourself as a case study. "How I used Mission Control to save Mission Control" or something like that. Be thoughtful about how your product can help you stay balanced and on track. Share how you are using your product to help you deliver the product.

Also I've been a fan of 6 week product sprints with a 2 week break for networking or admin. It helps cut the scope down and focus only on the SINGLE most important thing for the business during the 6 week block.

Of course this is much easier said than done. I'm around if you need to talk more. Remember life is long, and the goal is to stay in the game. Be good to yourself along the way.

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