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PhillyPhil

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Jan 14, 2018
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What's up my fellow future/current Fastlaners!

A bit of a late intro, due to me following this forum since 2013 after reading TMF (I was 21 at the time).

It took me this long to post because I didn't feel like there was value for me to contribute, but I'm realizing that the entrepreneurial process itself is invaluable.

Long story long, in the last 5 years I:

-Dropped out of college to learn sales at a sales job

-Did a little IM but it didn't go anywhere

-Started up a Solar Panel business that I ended up quitting

-Had a wholesale biz that was doing decent for a short amount of time

-Almost got into the business of Obama Phones but Trump got elected

-Followed Fox's Web Design thread and learned how to code, as well as made a few bucks web designing

Around July, I ordered Unscripted and binge listened to MJ's interviews / read countless threads on the forum while waiting for the book to come in the mail.

Inspired by James Fend's Feedbackz posts as well as many other great contributors to this forum, I decided a SAAS business is the route I'd like to take because:

1) If I learned how to program (I only knew HTML&CSS), the cost of a startup would, in theory, be $0.

2) It's like digital real estate, with MRR.

3) I can create as many digital real estate properties as I'd like

4) SAAS typically fulfills CENTS (given that there's a need for it)

So after days of brainstorming for ideas, an idea hit me while driving to work that had to do with a problem I'd hear my boss/coworkers complain about over and over again.

The remainder of the drive was spent thinking "how the hell am I going to build something like this?"

And so, I arrive at the location I'm working at for the day, and meet a girl whom I've never worked with.

While small talking, she tells me she's going to this coding bootcamp held at a community college during the following semester, and that basically, instead of paying $10k+, it'd be the cost of going to community college ($400, or free if you qualify for a waiver).

Now, I normally try not to let my mind wander into woo-woo stuff, but I remember being thoroughly surprised at this coincidental situation. I mean, here I was, on my way to work trying to figure out how to build the SAAS idea I thought of and what languages to learn, to now at work knowing about a coding bootcamp that's basically free.

As you might've guessed, I instantly signed up. Best case scenario: I'm able to build my idea. Worst case scenario: I land a decent paying J-O-B while building my idea on the side.

I still spent my free time during the remaining summer learning Ruby on Rails because it's hard for me to have an idea and just "wait". Unfortunately, I still had no idea on how to build the idea

6 months of JavaScript later (December):

It's time for our Final Project.

To shorten it up a bit,
- Still was unsure of how to build my idea
- My teacher gives me some advice
- I end up building it in 2 weeks
- I get an A (ehh meaningless point)

Continued tweaking it for an additional month until launching the MVP a few days ago.

My biggest concern while building this was that I didn't do enough validation to see if this is what the market wants. This added a HUGE AMOUNT of uncertainty in my life, but I figure that even if it fails, I now have the ability to build a prototype of anything...quite a powerful feeling might I say.

Now, to get the product out there:
I've spent about a week figuring out a marketing strategy, as well as studying Facebook Ads (I've never done FB Ads before)

As of 3 days ago, I sent out about 2.5k emails to set up phone calls.

3 people emailed me back.

I spoke to one person on Friday. Turns out he just started his company and told me to call him back in two months once he's scaled a bit.

The remaining two calls are scheduled for this coming week.

Further Notes:

I'd like to thank Fox for his invaluable post on Web Design. If it weren't for that, I most wouldn't have gotten into code. I'd also like to thank eLiquid, James Fend, and all of the other contributors to the SAAS topic.

Ultimately, thank you MJ for giving me the framework to an elevated reality.

To any entrepreneur that wants to learn how to code an MVP SAAS product without much programming knowledge:

I literally only used HTML, CSS, plain JavaScript, and Google Sheets as a database (I plan on transitioning to front end + back end frameworks once I learn Node JS + React/Angular).

I learned HTML&CSS in about 2 months on Codecademy. The majority of the learning curve came near the end of the course where they'll have you build around 10 websites in a row.

As far as JavaScript, the 6 months I had spent learning it could've been compressed into about a month on Codecademy.

I still am grateful for those 6 months of class because I thoroughly learned how to manipulate the HTML using JavaScript (Codecademy doesn't teach applicable stuff for JavaScript until the API section) and the fact that my teacher gave me advice on using the Google Sheets API as a database until we learn some backend stuff.

So, you could literally spend a few months running through Codecademy's HTML&CSS + JavaScript courses, learn "DOM manipulation" (manipulating the HTML with JavaScript) from Udemy or something, study the shit out of Google Sheets API for a few days, and in theory be able to have a CRUD application (Create, Read, Update, and Destroy data).

Disclaimer:

It still took a shitload of work/trial and error, backbreaking hours of being on my laptop, intense problem solving, ect to get this thing up and running.

Also, time was/is SCARCE because of classes + work. I barely hang out with friends and I don't remember the last time I've taken my gf out on a date.

ALSO, huge point, this is JUST for the MVP. As soon as I learn Node JS + React JS, I'm transitioning into using a real database as well as front end frameworks.

So without further ado, every post after this will be of my progress.

Admittedly, writing this was a bit frightening, but it's about time for some no BS accountability.

To anyone that made it this far, you're more than welcome to share value that might help myself and others :)

Cheers
 

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LeoistheSun

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I actually suggest against learning how to code... unless its for your MVP.

Being a coder and learning how to code <--- At Effect

Being a Project manager and hiring others <--- At Cause

You can check out my and @eliquid's threads on our current projects. Also theres good info if you search.

GL

-Leo
 

lowtek

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Just to bring a counterpoint to @LeoistheSun

The forum, and the whole of entrepreneurship, is littered with failed business ideas that died at the laptop of inept outsourced coders. I have personally seen many people mired in developer hell. It's not a pretty site.

Simultaneously, I can't think of many game changing software companies that were bootstrapped with inexpensive outsourced labor. There probably are some, but they aren't household names.

Even our illustrious leader did his own website / code, at least in the beginning.

I think most people miss the point when answering the "should I learn to code" question.

The point they miss is this: how good are you at math? Simple websites don't rely on mathematics, but once you start getting into solving actual problems, you are going to be dealing with mathematics and algorithmic thinking. If that sort of thing isn't natural to you, then you should consider outsourcing.

Also missed in the near universal suggestion to outsource is the fact that project management is a skill set in and of itself, and it doesn't come naturally to everybody.

I get the feeling that at least some of the people who just say to outsource believe this to be an easy button to success. It's not, and it comes with its own set of difficulties. You must assess your own aptitudes and see which path is better suited to your talents and aspirations.

If you're neither good at algorithmic thinking or project / people management, then I don't think SaaS is a great route for success. There are plenty of other great ways to make a million bucks that don't rely on either skill set.

Oh, and uh... welcome to the forum :)
 

LeoistheSun

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A counter-argument to @lowtek:

Your idea becomes your "baby" when your a coder coding your future App or SaaS. You become obsessed with perfection or getting it right (an action fake).

Outsourcing or not (in-house) the code process set you up to LEAD. You free your mind up to be creative. To have a creative mindset that comes up with solutions to problems.

As a coder your analytical. While in business, you need both, I believe a "hands-off" approach is better.

If your not coding, your forced to take alternate methods. MORE DIFFICULT methods, but ultimately FASTER in most cases.

As mentioned above, many ideas here- yes, the creator got obsessed with perfection and then the idea flopped. Its the last thing you want to happen.

The ALTERNATE METHOD is to get pre-sales or create landing pages with a opt-in box with a description of "coming soon" with what your SaaS does. Then buy traffic- see who signs up for it and is interested.

Coding is like a Cashiering at the local food place...

Let someone else do it.


@lowtek I didnt mean just outsourced labor. In-house is possible too... in which case a successful company that used in-house would be Intercom.
 

PhillyPhil

New Contributor
Jan 14, 2018
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Vallejo, California
@LeoistheSun @lowtek You both raise some great arguments. Admittedly, the coder in me is most likely at fault for not doing thorough market validation before writing a single line of code.

As far as building the MVP, I was already coding sites for others as a freelancer, so I figured I might as well build something for myself.

This "obsession" with my "baby" is in fact a real thing though, so right now I'm focusing on putting all my efforts into transitioning to a more hands-off approach.

Thank you both for contributing!
 

PhillyPhil

New Contributor
Jan 14, 2018
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Vallejo, California
Progress Update (1/17/18):
A few days ago I downloaded and implemented a free Instagram bot from this open sourced website called GitHub (some of you programmers may be familiar with this site). It basically likes, comments, follows, and unfollows based on how you've configued it.

Today I ended up making the two calls that I had scheduled, both haven't answered (womp womp wommp).
I'm hoping that it has to do with them being busy/lunch, as opposed to actively avoiding the call.

Plans for the week:
-Continue email campaign
-Continue implementing the IG bot
-Study FB Ads and implement once I get paid
-Explore other ways of marketing
 
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Readerly

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A counter-argument to @lowtek:

Your idea becomes your "baby" when your a coder coding your future App or SaaS. You become obsessed with perfection or getting it right (an action fake).

Outsourcing or not (in-house) the code process set you up to LEAD. You free your mind up to be creative. To have a creative mindset that comes up with solutions to problems.

As a coder your analytical. While in business, you need both, I believe a "hands-off" approach is better.

If your not coding, your forced to take alternate methods. MORE DIFFICULT methods, but ultimately FASTER in most cases.

As mentioned above, many ideas here- yes, the creator got obsessed with perfection and then the idea flopped. Its the last thing you want to happen.

The ALTERNATE METHOD is to get pre-sales or create landing pages with a opt-in box with a description of "coming soon" with what your SaaS does. Then buy traffic- see who signs up for it and is interested.

Coding is like a Cashiering at the local food place...

Let someone else do it.


@lowtek I didnt mean just outsourced labor. In-house is possible too... in which case a successful company that used in-house would be Intercom.

Here's my middle-ground argument. Even as a project manager, at least learn the basics of coding. That way, you'll be able to read others' code and tell whether it's decent. You'll also be able to participate competently in technical discussions and not be at the mercy of your developers' preferences and prejudices.
 

PhillyPhil

New Contributor
Jan 14, 2018
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Vallejo, California
Progress Update(02/06/18):

The past week was pretty slow..while being broke and waiting for some cash to come in from a web design deal, my hosting plan had ended. Thus, both my web design website and my Saas site went down.

Luckily, both sites were coded so it was as easy as re uploading everything once I got my hosting back. Unfortunately, my web design blog was built with Wordpress and my posts are gone. Lesson learned: BACKUP YOUR WORDPRESS FILES.

(If times are rough and that's happened to anyone, try getting on archive.org or checking your cached sites for your blog's content, that way you could re post them)

Anywho, this week I plan on going hard with the email/social media marketing.

I've configured some bots to harvest thousands of emails based on specific keywords and then blast away. I wonder if that's something people would pay for..

Goals for this week:
-Continue email campaign
-DM the small IG following I've built
-By the end of the week, have an ad that's ready to be launched

Side Note: GoDaddy just appraised my domain to be worth $1k (I got it for 11 bucks). Does anyone have experience with that type of stuff? Or is GoDaddy just BSing me so that I join their "auction" program?
 

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PhillyPhil

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Jan 14, 2018
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Update:

Almost 2 months of action faking. Another issue is I'm trying to do too many things: school + work + freelancing + this saas product.

“The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither.”

Anyways, I fixed a bug that was preventing people from signing up, which is cool.

I've also been learning a ton about marketing in the meantime so that's cool too.

Moving forward, this next month I'm focusing on:

1) Consistency with the Free Marketing - Email Campaigns/Follow Ups, responding to Craigslist Ads, Social Media DMs
2) Create a video for my website that explains what the Saas does. (I found a condenser microphone that I previously used for music, and a buddy of mine just returned a camera that I let him borrow)
3) Have FB Ads up and running

The goal? One signup.

Here's the Saas if anyone was wondering : EZ-Staff
 

lowtek

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Update:

Almost 2 months of action faking. Another issue is I'm trying to do too many things: school + work + freelancing + this saas product.

“The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither.”

Anyways, I fixed a bug that was preventing people from signing up, which is cool.

I've also been learning a ton about marketing in the meantime so that's cool too.

Moving forward, this next month I'm focusing on:

1) Consistency with the Free Marketing - Email Campaigns/Follow Ups, responding to Craigslist Ads, Social Media DMs
2) Create a video for my website that explains what the Saas does. (I found a condenser microphone that I previously used for music, and a buddy of mine just returned a camera that I let him borrow)
3) Have FB Ads up and running

The goal? One signup.

Here's the Saas if anyone was wondering : EZ-Staff

It's funny, I'm producing a video course for a publisher and I really hate the criticism of their editorial staff. I hate being told what to do, but I have to realize that I don't know everything and everybody wants the same thing.

That said, here's my chance to dish out some abuse :)

I think the text is generally too small - though it could just be me. I'm running a 40" 4k TV as a monitor, but this site in particular seems to have really dinky font sizes. The "Start my 14 day trial" button text is really small, especially

There is repetition among the benefit paragraphs - it's really only 1 benefit, you will be notified when anything happens. Spruce up the text and convey some of the other benefits.

"you" "your staff" "also you" are all lower case, it's disconcerting. Why aren't these capitalized? I like the "also you" image, but it's too small. Are there infographics / favicons you can use instead of screen shots of the interface to convey the same information? You can show screen shots of the interface, but I would add those to another section.

"Why this app was created" - awkward title and the title isn't visible until I've scrolled halfway down the page. Text also too small

"Small" "Premium" and "Enterprise" - I don't like the name scheme here. Is your product not premium at all levels? Why is the mid tier premium? Are you implying some of your customers are small? Not a good connotation. If it's based on staffing, a more logical naming scheme would be something like

Small Business - Medium Business - Enterprise

If the only difference is really only the number of staff, why not just have a pricing model like " Base price + Only $2 / month per staff member".

Also, the verbiage "Our plans depend on how big of a staff you have" is not good. It's grammatically unsound and invites a boatload of sexual innuendo. It's something a cheap floozy at the bar might say to me, not a legitimate business trying to pitch their valuable service.

With respect to the idea of using a video to explain what it does, I think that if you have to resort to video then your copy needs some significant work. You should be able to convey functionality / product benefit in one sentence, maybe two. Video would be good for testimonials, if you can get it - but I just don't see any successful SaaS providers resorting to video to explain the product. Could be wrong on that one, but that's my initial thought.

Absolutely achieve consistency with followup, you're dead right on that.

Add the google analytics tag, you'll need it for data collection.

Add the Facebook pixel as well.

Thanks for the update, we're rooting for you.
 

PhillyPhil

New Contributor
Jan 14, 2018
8
9
13
28
Vallejo, California
It's funny, I'm producing a video course for a publisher and I really hate the criticism of their editorial staff. I hate being told what to do, but I have to realize that I don't know everything and everybody wants the same thing.

That said, here's my chance to dish out some abuse :)

I think the text is generally too small - though it could just be me. I'm running a 40" 4k TV as a monitor, but this site in particular seems to have really dinky font sizes. The "Start my 14 day trial" button text is really small, especially

There is repetition among the benefit paragraphs - it's really only 1 benefit, you will be notified when anything happens. Spruce up the text and convey some of the other benefits.

"you" "your staff" "also you" are all lower case, it's disconcerting. Why aren't these capitalized? I like the "also you" image, but it's too small. Are there infographics / favicons you can use instead of screen shots of the interface to convey the same information? You can show screen shots of the interface, but I would add those to another section.

"Why this app was created" - awkward title and the title isn't visible until I've scrolled halfway down the page. Text also too small

"Small" "Premium" and "Enterprise" - I don't like the name scheme here. Is your product not premium at all levels? Why is the mid tier premium? Are you implying some of your customers are small? Not a good connotation. If it's based on staffing, a more logical naming scheme would be something like

Small Business - Medium Business - Enterprise

If the only difference is really only the number of staff, why not just have a pricing model like " Base price + Only $2 / month per staff member".

Also, the verbiage "Our plans depend on how big of a staff you have" is not good. It's grammatically unsound and invites a boatload of sexual innuendo. It's something a cheap floozy at the bar might say to me, not a legitimate business trying to pitch their valuable service.

With respect to the idea of using a video to explain what it does, I think that if you have to resort to video then your copy needs some significant work. You should be able to convey functionality / product benefit in one sentence, maybe two. Video would be good for testimonials, if you can get it - but I just don't see any successful SaaS providers resorting to video to explain the product. Could be wrong on that one, but that's my initial thought.

Absolutely achieve consistency with followup, you're dead right on that.

Add the google analytics tag, you'll need it for data collection.

Add the Facebook pixel as well.

Thanks for the update, we're rooting for you.

Wow thanks for the feedback! Yeah I guess the copywrite sucks, I kind of just edited a template and called it a day.

I’m for sure going to make some changes. Thanks again for the insight.
 

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