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EXECUTION Ready for the long, dry road ahead- Self-made Financial/Accounting Program

Discussion in 'Progress/Execution Threads' started by waveman, Jul 6, 2017.

  1. waveman
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    waveman Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    I've been working my way through UNSCRIPTED, and finally I feel like I have a map to success. As it seems, I'm only getting more clarity by doing stuff- in other words, if I don't make moves I learn nothing and literally cannot move forward until I do something and analyze the feedback or my thoughts on the topic. So I'm trapped in a positive cycle. My business will revolve around selling a specialized accounting/financial program.

    June 2017

    Built a working prototype in Excel. Took a fair amount of time because I aimed to make it as unbreakable as possible, and as streamlined as I could (i.e. no wasting of space with large "calculation sheets", etc).

    Present

    I had planned to sell it as an Excel package. After posting here, thinking about pricing justification, value skewing, and realizing that I can't build a brand off an Excel addon, I have decided to turn this into a fully fledged desktop executable. Fortunately, the majority of resources I have can transfer over, along with my development of problem solving skills and information gathering. I believe C++ will be the most suitable language for me to build this in (since it plays well with other niche languages I need to make my value skews stronger). I've already started learning.

    Planning wise, I definitely think I should pursue this. Although searches for my app's category rank from 1-10K a month locally, that's still a lot of money, and my pricing model can also adapt to a type of subscription. After a question thread on reddit, I'm uncovering blindspots and inefficiencies with existing market solutions. Having worked with two of the mentioned existing solutions myself, I have additional insight. Saturation does exist, however I've got two/three really good value skews that I think will push me ahead, assuming my base app is really solid. I'll open the business to people locally first, and then once I've covered some ground here, I'll open it to the internet. CENTS analysis looks solid as well but two caveats I'll have to plan for.

    Learning to Code?
    The sentiment/impression I'm getting from a lot of site material is that it's a waste of time to do that for web, let alone for a full desktop app.

    I believe efficiency is king, and if I can do/learn something fast, I will. What I learned from becoming proficient at excel is that what affects your learning speed the most, is the books, resources, and information you use. Given this, if I select the right starting points, I could build the app and know C++ competently in 6-10 months. Learning a language suits my pre-existing talents and skills, and I trust myself and the knowledge I will develop over a freelancer. Knowing one will give me total control, instant changes and I can manage the flow, process, and style of the program. The time is a small price to pay for something that will pay off huge dividends in terms of money and time saved from freelancers in the future. It also forces me to commit to starting a business, and allows me to shift into "solution selling" if my product fails.

    I also want to start this business with zero debt incurred and keep it that way. Call me idealist, but I hate the concept of debt and I'm going to do my best to make a debt-free launch happen. I've got my budget and it looks possible.

    From here, I'll continue to develop my programming knowledge. Between learning, I'll be studying up on some major/heavily theoretical concepts and books related to my value skews. Beyond that, I'll be making notes of businesses who already have the value skews I'm aiming for, and I'll work on how to improve what they've got.
     
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  2. waveman
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    waveman Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Reflecting on this, the first post was a lot of assumption and a "New Year's resolution" kind of thinking where you think success is a linear and easy path. And most people give up right after realizing that things actually aren't that simple. I won't.

    It's not enough for me to say "this product is a good idea". I've been reading a lot of books/threads on Fastlane Forum about copywriting and sales when I'm not busy with C++, and the one thing that stands out is just how important it is to actually help people. So I need to make sure my planned product actually achieves that...

    I've been trying to get market opinions from small business owners. I want to learn what their real issues and obstacles are with finance, instead of just going off what I think those issues may be. I've posted an ad for my survey on a classified site. I've tried to incentivize people on that ad by offering a mini selling guide in PDF format (I wrote it myself and tried to make sure it lived up to the copy I wrote for it- I wrote about benefits vs features). No responses on that. I then made a better survey and posted it on reddit. No answers on that either. Today I'm posting on my local community group, asking if any small business owner would be willing to fill out the survey. And if that doesn't pan out, I'm going to just cold call or walk door to door to small businesses.
     
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  3. waveman
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    waveman Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Quick update: I got two responses from local business owners. It's only two, but it's something. What's good is that I've got a bit more clarity on what my product should aim to achieve- I had a very large blindspot and the questionnaire I sent them helped me see it. Unfortunately the paragraph questions weren't answered in full- but I can at least gather some insight via what was said and the scales I put in.

    One of the answers I received from one of the owners mostly communicated that he's satisfied with what he currently has. Is this where copywriting/sales skills come in? I think it may be the case that he definitely has a gap in his current system, but might not be aware of the benefits that he could get from mine in terms of time saving and decision making. Or maybe it's just the case that some people can't be sold to, and that's okay? I'm not sure what to believe- what's the mindset a great salesman has in these sorts of aspects?
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2017
  4. waveman
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    waveman Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Much has happened. I changed programming languages twice until I found something that doesn't have license issues (commandment of Control- read on), is more flexible, easier to use and has a much more professional end result. I currently have one presale of my program for $150
    but I've got to present it before month end and I've just started getting accustomed to the new language so I've got to work really efficiently now.

    For anyone following this thread and also want to code a full desktop app, here are some quick lessons I've learned:

    - Whatever you need to create, avoid using C/C++, Java (I'm not talking about Javascript here), or any high level language that will take long to learn. It's a waste of time. Whatever you want to do, there's something out there that can do it faster, easier, and handle most of the heavy lifting.
    - Know the vocabulary for your chosen language (i.e. know the jargon, function names, concepts etc). It'll cut your learning curve in half, because it means you can ask better questions, then find answers that actually solve your immediate problem. A good example is knowing what concatenation is, knowing what nesting is.
    - For any app in general, make sure you're proficient in understanding data/basic data structures work in your chosen language. Arrays, vectors, objects, know them well. I'd argue it's a good place to start once you know the basics.

    Whatever you make, you will very likely end up using bits and parts of software made by other people, please keep in mind the below principles:
    - NEVER USE SOMETHING THAT HAS A GPL OR AGPL LICENSE
    - Everything you use should be covered by an MIT or Apache license, or similar.

    I had to scrap the second language I learned because the whole language ran on GPL. A quick rundown of GPL and AGPL licenses: if you use anything that involves GPL or AGPL, you are required to release your source code to anyone who asks for it. In other words, you're allowed to sell your software, but selling your product becomes useless because they can just ask for your code and give it to anyone else.

    There are two ways around this: if you want to use GPL stuff, you'd have to create a SaaS program (which relies on a loophole in the term "distribution" in GPL). The AGPL license closes this loophole. The other way around the requirement is to code your software in such a way that it's essentially disconnected from the GPL portion, but this is a very vague, "up in the air" concept and requires a lot of programming skill so it's not worth trying (for fastlaners). I can guarantee you that whatever you need to do, there will be something out there that doesn't use GPL. Be willing to scrap things and research as necessary.

    Business scaling makes it really important that you don't use GPL. People (especially other programming businesses/hobbyist programmers) aren't stupid and they *will* pick up on GPL and then ask for your source code. And if you want your business to scale and become large, that's more reason to avoid it, because software foundations have been hunting and exposing companies for not giving their code, bringing more attention to their stuff and thus, more people who will want to take your code. Bad.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
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  5. waveman
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    waveman Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Quick update. My "proof of concept" is ready for my first module. Logic checks out, code checks out. Now I just have to style it and create a "premium UI experience". Since everything on my app will basically use the same code structure, it's not going to be hard to make other modules and features which I can sell to people.

    I also figured now is the time to really drill down into finding out specific pain points within the market. I contacted one of the people who filled out my survey who specifically had a need for the module I made now. I offered to tailor make it to fit his business, free of charge. He was enthusiastic and wants it. I pushed for scheduling a meeting, but if not, I'll do it over email. Now, I just need to make sure I extract all the problems he's got and find a way to market my first module based on that.
     
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  6. waveman
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    waveman Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Quick update:

    -Went to a small business expo on Saturday. I approached a lot of booths- spoke to about 30-40 people, just pitching my product. The second I mentioned my value skews, people started becoming very interested and urged me to contact them. I got about 10 solid leads that day. One person wanted to buy from me. I sold the program to them for ~$130. I suppose this is my first official sale.

    -Yesterday, I sent 10 emails. I only got one reply, and that person said "I'll let you know if I'm interested". What happened? These were the same people that were so interested on Saturday.

    -I think the presale I mentioned earlier isn't going to happen.

    -I moved my existing code to another framework (much easier to understand, read, and implement- it'll pay off long term). This has set me back slightly, short term, because it's a whole new thing to learn, but it's better this way because I don't want to return to the program post-release and have to make massive changes, messing with the plan to create passive income.
     
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  7. waveman
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    waveman Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    There is a lot more to this than I thought. I had to cancel that sale- I picked up an issue last minute, which would have enabled anyone to peek at my source code. I patched it, only to find that it no longer worked on computers other than mine. I've gone back to the drawing board and started improving my code from scratch. I can't tell why it stopped working, so I may as well redo the whole thing and see if I can optimize it and make it easier to maintain (keeping the business as close to passive income as possible). This shouldn't take long, I hope.

    On a brighter note, I've started practicing my copywriting skills, posting free ads on my local classifieds sites. My first ads posted on Friday got 7 and 4 views respectively. No replies. Today, I tried harder to focus on good copy skills (benefits not features, etc).

    I am also wondering what business I could do immediately to "keep the lights on". My job situation is getting kind of dire (I'm getting paid in bits and pieces when my pay is small to begin with, and I'm getting very exploited/underpaid recently). I could try making websites, but I don't know who I can approach when most businesses have more modern sites these days.
     
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  8. ThirtyOne
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    ThirtyOne Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Pick a niche industry/category. Look at those websites. Lots are terrible.

    Offer to build a better one.

    Someone here wrote a nice thread about this.




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  9. waveman
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    waveman Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Thank you for the recommendation! I saw the thread you mentioned, link here for anyone in this thread:
    GOLD - How to Learn Code, Start a Web Company, $15k+ per month within 9 months

    Today, I'm going to start cold emailing- I'll find at least 3 sites on google with bad websites, and email them offering to redo their website and do their copy. It should take me a few hours to hammer out a neat-looking site with decent copy. I am also planning to find people through classified ads- they typically post their sites in their ads and they don't always look good.

    On another note, I have more faith in my second business idea (which is, to my surprise, really similar to what someone else is planning to do on this forum). I really want to get started on building the product at least, but it's better that I don't for now, until I get some money coming in- everyone suggests the "one at a time" approach.
     
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  10. ThirtyOne
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    ThirtyOne Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Sounds good. When you are pitching them, give them a vision of what their site could be. Not the exact thing, but a close relative.

    Let's say you are offering to redo a site for a diaper manufacturer. Give them a photoshopped mock up of a crib site with their same tabs on it where relevant.

    Same industry, different category, same audience. With so much similar, they'll be confident that you can do a great job.

    At that point, they'll have to look at their site and the fantastic mock up you made and it'll be HARD to say no.
     
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  11. amp0193
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    amp0193 Legendary Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Nothing happened, they are probably still interested. They just got back to work after being in conference mode for a few days, are super busy, and just didn't have time to deal with you.

    Wait a few days and follow up with a phone call. Keep following up for a few weeks, until they are in a place to be ready to think about your software.
     
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  12. Longinus
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    Longinus Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Exactly. Probably less than 1% of the emails I send get a reply. That doesn't mean the others aren't interested.
     
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  13. waveman
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    waveman Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Thanks for the feedback everyone- put everything into action apart from the cold calls (was it a good idea to email now then wait to call later?).

    So far, I've sent 6 emails to different sites (3 long and slightly messy emails typed on my own, 3 based on the basic skeleton given here by
    @JAJT
    [My First Time Cold-Emailing Web Design Clients. I'd Love a Critique!]). I offered to redo their sites. No responses so far. Breaking down my messages, I think that maybe my explanation of benefits wasn't clear enough? I tried to focus on benefits over features and personalize the email (saying things like: "users end up leaving your site due to the accessibility issues I mentioned, and better looking sites like competing-company.com end up getting those potential customers.", "Having a site like the one I'm showing will get customers back to your site, get them interested in exploring your product and service offerings, and the contact form will make it easier to find people to sell to", "your site is on page 2 of google, which limits the amount of customers you can reach- I can build a site that may increase that ranking".

    Also, now that I think about it, my skeleton page probably didn't look good enough for them to seriously consider me as a client (I did mention I "quickly put it together", in the hopes they'd think "if he can do something like this in a few minutes for free, what could he do if he's paid", attached a picture if anyone's feeling in the mood to give feedback).

    If it's worth anything, for anyone considering the web design thing, this template didn't take long to make and edit- everything's from a CSS framework called Bulma, which might help if you're planning to send sample pictures to different websites and need a quick template to work with. It's responsive too.

    I should have put some more effort into the sample picture. I found three new pages I could possibly do, I'll work harder at making a better screenshot to show today.

    As for the people I met at the expo, I sent followup emails- if nothing, I'll make a call. I checked on my classified ads advertising my product, I'm barely getting any views (highest is 7). I'll try making a fancier UI and use a picture of that, and see if it changes anything. Also finding it hard to create attention grabbing headlines for classifieds (since I'm only familiar with headlines for direct emails, direct letters, etc).
     

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  14. waveman
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    waveman Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    After these past few months, I think I'm going to shelf this plan. The biggest problem I had with the website redesign and my own program was no response/a lack of response, or someone is really interested at first and then they lose it. Once their interest is gone it feels pointless to try contacting. There must be something I'm not understanding when it comes to effective copywriting, but I don't know what. I did "benefits, not features", be really specific when it comes to how you can help, etc. It's a little frustrating.

    My next plan will be to work on something more in alignment with CENTS, in the sense that I can make it once and not worry about it. Gunning for a quick purchase might help beat the problems I had last time. The new plan is to make and sell a video course. I know of at least 2 courses I can make, and additional modules that can be made and sold. The plan is to market it via webinar and sell it for at least $297. I've learned a lot of rare/truly unknown tricks in the area my course is based on, so I know it's worth more than I plan to ask for. First, I need to figure out the best outline and order for the modules- I want people to feel like learning will be extremely easy- that's my value skew.
     
  15. waveman
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    waveman Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    So as per this thread I've got an idea for an app. Development has been slow though consistent, but I have been thinking about scaling lately. It feels to me that if I just throw this on the Google Play store at $5 I'm going to be missing out on a lot of money. If I turned this into SaaS and sold it to marketing agencies, influencer sites etc I'd make more money with the exact same idea, but that's going to take a lot longer from a development perspective.

    Who is someone on the forum that I could PM about business structure, pricing and scale, specifically for apps?
     
  16. S.Y.
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    Shouldn't you validate if people will be willing to pay to know your tricks? Based on the experience you described, I think you should focus on the validation side, before putting putting too much effort on actually building the course.

    It also seems that you are focusing on chasing money. Before thinking about pricing, profits and CENTS, are you solving an itch strong enough that people are willing to pay to find a solution?

    There also that glamorous idea to use influencer sites to grow awareness. It certainly can work. The part that is often overlooked is "what are you giving to them? What benefits will earn the right to use their audience/channel?"

    Edit:
    One option that might be viable is content marketing. Establish your authority, take the time to build relationships with people and then launch your product.

    Give twice as much as you will ask. Think long term.
     
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  17. waveman
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    waveman Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Starting to try and take my business development much more seriously.

    Product update:
    -Application prototype complete.
    -Working on developing release version (written in Java aimed at Android). iOS will be tricky so I'm holding off on that for now.

    Misc updates:
    -Started attending business events and seminars to network and also to find a mentor (I've made it on to a Whatsapp group with extremely successful entrepreneurs but I'm totally lost on what to do from here).
    -Trying to develop the habit of seeing myself succeed through self-hypnosis.
    -Trying to understand the concept of value. Feels like sometimes everything has value but marketing is what makes the difference.

    You were absolutely right and had good insight (especially on thinking long term)- my ego got in the way of that honestly. I attended two different business events in the past week, spoke to a bunch of people and only came to that realization after the second one. If I'd listened to this post my mindset would have improved long ago.

    While it's nice that I have ideas I need a valuable "core" problem to solve for my business to run efficiently. I don't have enough app ideas to rely on that as a source of income in the future where they can just generate money through IAPs or ads. So for now I'm trying to look for better problems to solve. Feels like I've lost some progress but there's really not much that can be done about it.
     

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