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EXECUTION Put up or shut up: SaaS domination

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OMDA

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I will update here as I move further along in my SaaS project.

This particular one started mid 2017 while I was doing work (for free) developing someone else's idea that didn't gain any traction. I subconsciously knew that I had little control in that case and wanted to work in an area I have much more familiarity with.

My product:
Sparing a lot of detail, it will compete with existing products with better overall value. Since I'm an expert/master in the particular field, I think the product will be viable after launch, attempting sales, adjusting course, and correcting the product/developing extensions. There's a lot of upward growth in area.

I'm doing the coding myself because the area is highly specialized and regular programmers would need significant guidance (my time) as it is outside of their curricula. Once traction has been made, I will likely outsource/hire the front end and focus on the secret sauce in the back end. At some point with positive sales, I plan on dropping my main job and focusing on this full time until it manages itself or I sell it off. I enjoy this work, and there's a lot of value to be added in the space with potentially millions of users, but I need to bootstrap it to that level.

My tools:
Vim/JS/Elixir/Rust - I'm totally self-taught. On all of these. This is also not my first project in any of these. Each of these languages has a use that, if used appropriately, will be game changing for this app for performance, consistency, and reliability.

What I have:
Partially working UI with a running and properly hosted backend. I've had others visit it and ensure they could use it/find bugs. I got what I think is the most challenging part of the UI working after lots of trial and error. It's not perfect, but it works.

What is still needed:
I need to finish the basic front end of the MVP. Then, I plan on plugging it into the existing database, add user restrictions, and set up a payment system. These so far have been simpler than the UI, as I've practiced them on other apps. Then, advertise, find customers with cold calls/emails/posts, and pull out all the Ziglar I can to get some sales.
If the product does not sell after substantial effort, I plan to evaluate and improve/iterate until viable.

What I did today:
Expanded use of a design pattern for the UI to complete the MVP.

My obstacles:
  • Distractions:
    • I spend too much time on the web non-productively. I've set up my hosts file on my work laptop to now block reddit automatically, which was huge timesink.
  • Negative thoughts:
    • Whatever past issues I've had in my youth tend to crop up and tell me I'm not good enough, that I can't program, blah blah blah. My resolution is to visualize my goals more and remind myself of my other successes.
  • Conflicting Relationships
    • I've had 2 relationships that consumed a lot of time every weekend that kept me from focusing on my apps. My last one was more supportive, but balked at me wanting to take time off and get a lot done in one chunk instead of use that time to vacation with her.
  • Complacency
    • I'm well paid for my job and I'm very efficient at it. This makes me very lackadaisical on work days when I feel like I've already accomplished some things. However, I'm reminded of how much I want to escape on the bad days/weeks.
    • My plan is to shift my schedule around until I find something that works. For me, this is waking up later, taking a cold shower after easy calisthenics, and doing this effort mostly after work. Most of my productive time is at night anyway. Previously, I was waking up early and doing some things before work. On some days, it was very effective, but lately it was unproductive.
  • Paralysis by Analysis
    • Overanalyzing ideas so much that acting on the project fails. This is actually typical for people of my background, which is part of why my particular app is so well suited for it. It is geared to stop the paralysis. Fixing this for myself will be a constant challenge and I'll need to setup deadlines for some tasks.

I want to turn this thread into a success thread. Soon.
 
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OMDA

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Decent set of commits today before calling it.

One of the big mistakes I made was premature optimization.

Originally, I had set up several very spaghetti-like structures in my code that would make it easy to modify "sometime in the future" without getting all of the moving parts working together first.

I'm able to avoid this pitfall in my primary profession, but I walk into it while coding.

It took some re-writing of things I did a while ago, and spent some time figuring out, to get out of that mistake.

It would've been better if I stuck to some simple patterns and left it in the 'unoptimized state'.

Still, got a small piece working.
 

OMDA

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Putting time in programming while I can this weekend.

Also, did a quick market check. The industry I'm serving is a combination of two separate industries, if you count software only, of 20 billion. The larger market in the US, not just software, is closer to half a trillion USD.

There's got to be a way for my product to wedge into that and add value.
 

lowtek

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amp0193

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You write like someone who is going to get shit done.

Most of your psychological obstacles will go away once the MVP is out and you are getting positive customer feedback (and dollars).

Right now, you're in what MJ calls the Desert of Desertion. You just have to grind through it until you have that MVP.


Check out @Ravens_Shadow thread on his software development. It might be of inspiration to you.
 

OMDA

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The Epic Guide to Bootstrapping a SaaS Startup from Scratch — By Yourself (Part 1)

really good series on the topic of doing a SaaS product by yourself.

Wow, thank you for pointing that out @lowtek
Something tells me you saw the signs of where I may have been headed in the wrong direction.

That is an incredible series and I marked it for a reread. Exactly what I needed to hear right now.

Definitely had the wrong approach.

Good news: the past 6ish months of lazy effort is not for waste. I think I can strip it down to one feature and do the marketing test as recommended. That would be the most effective, timely thing to do in order to see if I have to pivot.

There are a lot of features to try marketing individually, and I have the money to try doing the PPC and other methods.

But, first, before I write any more code,I can go ahead and start market testing.

This is the kick in the pants I need.

Thank you again!
 

OMDA

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You write like someone who is going to get shit done.

Most of your psychological obstacles will go away once the MVP is out and you are getting positive customer feedback (and dollars).

Right now, you're in what MJ calls the Desert of Desertion. You just have to grind through it until you have that MVP.


Check out @Ravens_Shadow thread on his software development. It might be of inspiration to you.

Thank youy @amp0193 ! I have begun digging into his posts.



Funny things:
I was planning on doing exactly what the epic guide above was telling me not to do. I literally have a functioning feature of the app already and I was going to make some gifs of it to show once I had a better wrapper around it. But, reading that, I think I can already try to sell what I have because it already has value. How much? I don't know yet...But it's running and on a server as we speak.

But, I have just pushed my last commit and shut down vim until I get the market sorted.
 

OMDA

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Thoughts after having slept after previous revelation:

I shouldn't restrict myself to only a SaaS just yet. Because it's a holiday season, testing ads right now won't be effective so I'm brainstorming things to test.
The features ideation is easy. Already have those written down and have the current prototype. But, feeling out my market is downright essential. I've been boneheaded and scared to try it out for some reason. Maybe ego. But, who cares if I can fix it.

I also have a lot of knowledge over the years that I can write up into valuable guidebooks. Things that can save someone months of work, if they are in the right hands. But, again this is something to test. I think it will require some tailoring. This is okay because writing 100+ page reports with graphical explanations is something I already do and am commended for... I've also been writing these sometimes because I just can't help myself.

Looking back, I also need to keep in mind that I have actually sold big deals before. But, I forget if I don't remind myself.
  • Someone talked to me about a calculation he needed done. I worked with him over a few weeks on the side, not spending a lot of time, and made about 500 bucks in cash from some basic python.
  • Many years ago my employer was seeking out work. Someone came to us with a big engineering project that was troubled. With a little guidance but mostly on my own, I dissected their product and came up with a basic plan. Over the phone, I was able to point out their issues, propose a change, and we got the work.
  • That phone call brought in millions in work and ended up employing around 20 people for a couple of years. Regardless of how the company screwed that up, I made that sale
  • Later on, after reading The Challenge Sale, I realized the approach in that book was essentially what I had done.
Great recommendations so far. I'm rereading the epic guide with my free time today and plan on dead basic landing pages. Not sure if I'll use a service or just repurpose my existing servers. But the plan is to reach out and touch the market. Not satisfy my desire to occasionally hide in a corner and program.
 

OMDA

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Wow.

This forum is an incredible source of information.

Several things have been brewing in my mind since my last post here.


  • Spending all of that time programming without testing anything in the market was dumb. But that's okay. I'm now a good enough web developer that I can grok the magnitude of an issue and doing custom things like timing targeting ad pixel displays on a custom hosted website are a few minutes exercise for me. That's because I was doing really complex things...
  • SaaS may not at all be the first thing on my list
  • My near term goal is simply: Find one product with interest by any means necessary
  • Near-term plan:
    • I already have a focused domain where I was planning on doing affiliate marketing for a product I was familiar with. I was dumb and thought all I would need was SEO...and that was half hearted
      • I plan on playing with about $100 or so to develop some ads on various services to see if I can convince people to buy someone else's product. I don't plan on making money. I just want to try, with a limited budget, to sell SOMETHING. I just want to figure out what the hell I'm doing and how to meeting someone's needs with something that I can provide. How do I reach out and get in touch with these people that NEED something?
    • Put more flesh on products that only I can develop to the point that I can determine who it would help and how to target them. These are:
      • Courses/guidebooks/lessons/subscriptions in specifics area where I have strong experience with
      • Small SaaS or services that I know the development time on is on the order of a MONTH OR LESS and not a multiple month masturbatory excursion. However, I will have pre-orders or significant interest before investing the development time
      • test, test, and more test with what I learned with my ad experiment above
      • Regroup and replan
  • Long term thoughts that I'm putting on ice for now
    • Cold calling local companies for determining their needs
      • This seems risky to me due to conflicts of interest with my primary employment. I think this is a line that I don't want to cross. Even in totally different industries, I can't service another company like that. The only way I could see it happening would be conceptualizing a big ticket item, getting up front cash, and quitting. But getting to that point would take a lot of legwork and as long as I'm employed I don't want to risk conflict issues.
    • Developing complex web apps with no validation of want or need
      • I frankly don't know shit about the market. I'm going to change that and reconvene on this as an option once I have found interest in something
      • I'm afraid of falling into this as a trap again. I have a tendency to go deep into self improvement, do well, and then stop after months/year. This is a reflection of that tendency. I want to redirect that energy into making money/being useful enough to other people that they seek me out
    • Brain storm small products/needs that I could test the need for and sell
      • These may be high quality/ticket items that are US made because I know enough about mechanical design/manufacturing that I have a general idea of what it'll take. But I need more confidence in my ability to determine market needs before investing significantly more time/money
  • Really glad I brought my kindle/laptop on this vacation break because I've been devouring information and recording my thoughts. Ready to get out of the TV constantly on and not much place to escape environment I am in at the moment. I've had to sneak away to concentrate.
  • Other thoughts brewing
    • I keep fantasizing of walking from my really good job and scrambling with my savings as a lifeline. The quickest realistic timeframe for this is during the summer when my expensive apartment lease is up. If I'm making money online by then (jesus, I hope so), that time may push me over the brink to downsize my monthly personal expenses, get a catastrophic health insurance account, and double down
    • In the past I went 1 whole year without alcohol to see what happened. That was a fantastic experiment, and I'm going to do that again and perhaps extend it perpetually. My problem was mainly chronic, low grade, 4 drinks a day generating laziness, apathy, and crappy mornings. The older I get, the more it affects me
 

lowtek

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I see a little of myself in you, so I'm going to tell you what I wish I had known when I started. I'm a science / tech type who got laid off and then did digital marketing / a little bit of writing for other businesses. The reason is that I wanted to learn to do marketing and get paid in the process. I learned quite a lot, but was never really happy with it and never took the levels of action necessary to be truly great. The lesson I learned is this:

Stick to your wheelhouse, unless you're committed to spending a year or more expanding that base of skills and have the discipline to stick to it when it gets hard.

How does this apply to you?

Spending $100 on affiliate marketing is only going to leave you $100 poorer - 99% certainty. Running traffic and selling to that traffic is a perpendicular skill set from writing/testing/debugging code.

It's one you'll have to learn, but you are far better off learning to sell your own stuff than getting paid commission for someone else's. The difficulty is the same, but one has an unlimited payout and the other has a hard cap. The payout applies not only to the money, but the level of personal satisfaction as well.

Going down a path that isn't aligned to who you are is very difficult psychologically and introduces a lot of friction to an already bumpy road. Don't do it unless you have a clear why and a clear goal, and a path to reaching that goal.

For me, my goal was to a) learn how to sell my own services to other people, b) manage tens of thousands a month in ad spend and c) see how multiple businesses in separate verticals operated. I achieved that, and when my customers quit on me ( as they usually do over time, especially when you're not "in alignment") I went ahead and changed directions. I don't consider it a waste of my time because my objectives were met.

For you, I don't see spending $100 as being aligned with any strong goals or personal attributes. It won't lead to personal or professional growth and is unlikely to net a profit. I therefore think it's a mistake.

The articles I linked above give a number of ways to find niches for free, as well as a process for identifying problems. Do that and THEN run some traffic to your own solution.... And be prepared to spend more than $100 doing it because that shit isn't trivial.
 

OMDA

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Thank you, @lowtek, I think you are correct.

Concentrating on value I am most familiar with and am sure to provide is a better idea than distracting with something I'm not that interested in.
 
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OMDA

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I just put in a decent effort to outline 3 different guides that will need some graphical design (that I can do fairly quickly) based off of mistakes that I and others have made that I've learned over 10yrs in my field. Things I get asked for help on in person.

Have some downtime while traveling tomorrow that I will use to flesh them out in more detail

I think I'm going to blow away my blog and reconfigure it to be a set of landing pages with these as products.

There are a few places I'm aware of to also look for potential people I can help. That'll take some targeted time, but may also stir up other ideas for ways I can help people.
 

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