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Ask HN: As a single bootstrapper, how do you deal with the pressure?
119 points by throw9322 on Dec 6, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 96 comments
A few years ago, I wanted to make a product, but I wasn't very technical. So I decided to change that--I got technical. My problem is that I'm embarrassed of what I make. Intellectually, I know that I shouldn't be bothered by this. I don't have a huge team of VC-backed employees burning money to make a perfect thing. It's just me. But I'm tired of being shit on by my friends and family. According to my family, programmers are just "coder monkeys," people you hire to make your grand idea and that's how it's done. Friends look at me like I'm a lesser person because I'm not out to work for the most prestigious company like they are. I want to make a tool for small businesses, I want to do it profitably, and I want to be proud of it.

How do you deal with people saying, "That's it? Anybody could have done that in a couple weeks!" Maybe that's true! Maybe I'm not a very good product maker! But I want to be, and you've gotta start somewhere, right? Combine all of the above with a case of worsening depression and it's hard for me to stay motivated and it's hard to keep defending myself. I also worry about what I'll do if this doesn't work. Does anyone have any advice? How do you do it?

When I was practicing scales to become a guitarist in my youth, my mom always came in and said "can't you play something we we know". My guitar teacher on the other hand said great and gave me another to practice.

You are making the mistake of "playing scales" in front of an audience who expect a performance of a final composition rather than a teacher who can provide feedback on your work in progress.

Change the audience.

such a great analogy and something I'm absolutely going to steal. I don't play guitar but compete in a sport. The people that do it will be stoked that you've accomplished an intermediate scale though to other people you're some scrub with no talent. The same people unimpressed people will be amazed when you play their favourite song or for the OP his business is earning millions with many employees unfortunately I don't think they'll ever see, understand or appreciate the work that goes into learning things.

As someone learning to play guitar this is the hardest part for me. The scales are boring and I want to jump to the fun stuff or learning a song. But then learning that song is a similar process. I have coworkers who are skilled guitarists and it is frustrating to watch them because I know they've put in the hours of doing scales.

It is hard to stay motivated when the "wrong audience" is yourself.

Then don't.

There are many ways to learn to play music. If you just want to learn to play songs then do that. Don't worry about the scales.

Instead of learning scales start jamming with some background music. Start to transcribe some solo you like (don't use tabs) and learn to play that way.

If you aren't motivated by playing scales then you shouldn't do it.

Make sure that it's always about enjoying music first, then about learning theory or technique.

One of my favorite ways to learn scales was to do patterns in the scales over some chord progression. That ways I was playing little patterned melodies while learning to play the scales.

Also don't confuse learning scales with learning to pick. Most of the times when you hear someone learning scales just going up and down the strings they are really practicing picking technique which is many times harder than to learn the actual scales.

That's pretty much how I've been doing it TBH. My mother passed down her old Martin classical guitar and so I've been learning some basic folk fingerstyle patterns which is fun because it gets the finger work in while sounding nice (or will sound nice once I get my speed up).

The most frustrating part is I used to be a section leader when I played clarinet in HS and could borderline sight read at that point. I've forgotten pretty much all my musical knowledge since then (including how to read sheet music), so it has been horribly frustrating to have shadows of memories for how fluent I used to be in this stuff and to have to start from scratch again. That probably makes me much less patient than I normally would be.

Don't be afraid to defy conventional means. When as a kid I (forced by my parents) was learning violin and later piano - I'd throw away the notes and learn to play a piece by ear in a fraction of time. This year I picked up a Taylor and I'm learning fingerstyle. I don't do any boring mechanical practice, I only play songs that I like - it took a while, but watching youtube video note by note I managed to glue together Beatles "Yesterday" and now it actually sounds good.

Exactly. Scales are great if you want to learn to improvise and understand how to play in Dorian or Mixolydian etc, but even for that it's not actually necessary.

Your ear is the only thing thats really needed.

This happens to me a lot with programming, where the (maybe poor) analogy is scales being "fundamentals" and songs being "cool apps/libraries". I tend to skip to building cool apps and when the easy parts are done I get lost or the projects becomes a mess.

This is profound, and I think you're correct.

I'll have to remember that "playing scales" analogy.

A year ago I was trying to level up my writing ability and wrote a medium-length article, with proper outlining, attempting to explain an abstract idea through concrete examples (mostly business related).

I sent it to one friend and was told "this is too intellectual, it contains no useful information, no-one will want to read it". No response to the actual subject matter.[1]

I was floored. I didn't want to be the stereotypical writer who gets defensive in the face of criticism, but my friend was so dismissive and patronising that it was hard to maintain my motivation. To rub salt in the wound they later told me "look, you just have to get used to harsh feedback".

[1] (Another friend read it and had some criticisms, but did actually engage with the argument I was making).

Believe me I have been there :)

I write some pretty complex essays purely of things I find interesting. For examples this one https://medium.com/black-n-white/the-problem-with-problems-4...

Most of my essays are based on looser discussions I have with people which I then ponder over and distill down into an essay.

So I always make sure to send to those people who have a basic idea of what I am talking about. I.e. I am not trying to convert some reader from being completely uninterested in the subject matter into someone who should care.

Instead I send to the people I discussed it with or a few group of people I know share my interest.

That mostly steers me clear of any frustration :)

Another thing I try and do is think about my essays as a way to get thought out of my head and down on paper. That way whether tens of thousands of people read it as they sometimes do or no one (as they sometimes do) I can still check it off as done.

Amazing (and very true) analogy.

It is simple. Stop defending yourself.

Don't talk to people about what you do unless you really think that there is a need or you know for a fact that they are the right audience. Family and friends are usually not the right audience for this. Tell them something vague like "Trying to do a few things of my own" and keep it to that.

Overall, don't sweat it. 99% of people don't get this whole bootstrapper thing. They are happy to be miserable slaves in their fancy brand name 9-5 job with zero job security (there is no such thing as a job security). Ok I should not go there. Some people actually like their jobs so I should not judge :)

You just smile, move on and keep doing what YOU want to do. You are not the one to do the usual 9-5 job working for someone else.

Join bootstrapped forums [0]. You will meet plenty of people like you who will not only listen but give you the advice, support and even mentorship that you may want.

[0] http://discuss.bootstrapped.fm

I don't have direct advice, but this is what worked for me. Most of my family and friends all were very disappointed when I wanted to work on my idea. Some were unsupportive, some didn't understand why I didn't want a high paying job with security. But my mind was pretty set that I wanted to do it and I had enough buffer monetarily for a while so I was able to ignore their sentiments. Plus my explanations were not helping.

After about 1 year into it, I finally was able to explain my thinking to the close ones as :"I am risking that if I work on this for a while, there is a chance that I might become rich enough for us to not worry about money for a decade. If it doesn't work, we will go back to where we already are". That clicked for almost everyone in my close relations.

Did you have a timeline when explaining this to close relations? I feel that the people around me were more anxious about _when_ I would decide to back to making money at some big company. When someone says, how long is "for a while?" what do you say?

Absolutely. I set up a 3 month recurring re-evaluation. Every 3 months I do a reality check and tell my closed ones the result of whether I want to stay in my startup or leave. This gives them the confidence that I am thinking about my life rather than having no clue at all.

The key is to not get offended at that question. Just say something like "I don't know for sure. I will do this for next year or so before deciding anything". Again, the idea is brush it off and move on. Don't engage and try to divert.

It sounds more like a problem with your family and THEIR expectations than with yourself.

If you're able to make a product, you'll be ahead of 99% of people.

Don't be afraid to put yourself and your product out there. If you wait until you're not embarrassed, you've waited too much :) .

If you're solving people's problems, they won't mind if your product is not polished. Really.

Also, you'll learn A LOT from building your product, and especially from working with customers and feedback.

If it fails, you have learned some VERY valuable skills. I use what I learned building my side project a lot more than what I "learned" at my former day job.

To be fair, my own project is languishing (because I have a day job). I'd say go for it :) .

Look for support groups, I used to go to a coworking space which was very cheap and it was great because it had an amazing support between coworkers. Universities also have such spaces, and sometimes governments too.

That doesn't sound like pressure as much as it sounds like unsupportive friends and family. If they don't bring other things to the table (other than negativity), i would reevaluate some relationships. That said, honest feedback is important. You should have a small group of trusted advisors/mentors that you can trust to tell you how you are really doing, but in a constructive way.

I totally agree about the importance of honest feedback! Truthfully, it's something I'm not getting now and should work on.

Do a Show HN or share some of your work on Ask HN!

I was you only a few years ago. I spent a year building a really complex SaaS in my bedroom. Then I tried to sell it the next year and a half with dismal results.

1) Validate first by talking with potential customers before building.

2) If the MVP takes longer than 3 month to build, you are barking up the wrong tree.

  a) problem/product fit is too high for a lone developer.

  b) your lack of experience & skill may be a bottleneck.
3) If people are going around saying it can be done in a couple of weeks, ignore them, unless they have done a similar project before in which I'd listen very carefully why it shouldn't take long.

4) If people are telling you've been at it for too long, it's time to reevaluate your self, skills & business.

5) Don't go at it alone. Partner up with a coder. Share the pain.

>If the MVP takes longer than 3 month to build, you are barking up the wrong tree.

It doesn't necessarily mean the product isn't fit or you lack skills. It may just mean that you need to split the product into smaller releases/sprints.

Say your idea can ultimately lead to a really big software. You should sit down and spend some time planning which features are required and which ones can be released at a later time. Doing this will help take some of the pressure off if the product is not "perfect" or doesn't do everything you had planned for it.

I'm factoring in those agile/lean/scrum/4letterword frameworks.

What I mean is to be wary of minimum number of features that you need to sell. Obviously if you were building a database to rival MySQL or OrientDB, the bar is that much higher.

Likewise, I think that if the MVP takes longer than 3 month for OP, it's wise to say that more resources are going to be required for that niche which OP may not have.

An MVP will signal whether the pain your customers is experiencing is urgent enough. If they start complaining why X doesn't work when Y has it then you've essentially created a vitamin solution, nice to have but nothing close to solving real pain points.

I always found the "coder monkey" idea amusing. Programmers are the ones who have the ideas. Your intuition has to be fed data, and the best source of data about what programming can accomplish is having programmed. When I meet people who suggest that programmers are monkeys for hire, I always wonder, am I to understand that being a programmer is somehow a setback in having ideas about what kinds of things programming can accomplish?

Anyway, you're building something through your own initiative, and every day you wake up and think to yourself, "what do I build next?" Perhaps you continue thinking hard about this as you pour yourself a coffee or whatever. Then you go and build it, and if you picked the wrong thing, your customers will as a direct consequence get mad at you. I personally think that kind of responsibility is much more exciting than being managed.

There's a pretty good chance all this will fail, simply because most things fail. That doesn't mean it was a waste of time. It just means your time wasn't here yet, and in the meantime you face life with a bit more data than you had before. Maybe next time around.

As for the people who tell you your project could've been built in a couple weeks, ask them if they routinely say the same thing to students doing problem sets, or anyone who's just starting to learn something. I mean, it's just nonsensical.

Also, mean-spirited negativity is really bad. You basically just have to cut people who radiate it out of your life, or at least be disciplined about what you talk about with them.

I don't know, that's my $0.02.

> Programmers are the ones who have the ideas.

Other people can have ideas too, and they can hire programmers to code it for them. Not sure why you put emphasis on programmers having the ideas.

Because they're aware of what tech can and can't do. Not the grandparent, but it's right there in the post you're replying to.

I read the "ideas" as having the business ideas, not the implementation detail ideas.

The implementation possibilities limit or expand the product idea.

Also the implementation is the product, and the product is most of the business. They are not separate things.

None of my projects went anywhere, and eventually, I gave up. I used to have the rosy view that with enough work you'll get there. That's largely untrue. You also need to know the right people (connections) and be very lucky. I hate to be a downer, but you don't often hear this side of the opinion.

> You also need to know the right people (connections) and be very lucky

Not sure about 'being lucky' but 'knowing the right people' is very true.

After Marissa Mayers took over the reins of Yahoo, she went on a 'buying spree'. Several of her acquisition were questionable, including an app called 'Summly' - a seemingly simple app that "summarized news" that she purchased for Yahoo, by paying 30 MILLION in ALL CASH deal.

Even the algorithm that it used to summarize wasn't his own. He outsourced that work (the core functionality) to http://www.sri.com/

It was later revealed in a Forbes or BI article that this '15 year old teen hacker genius''s family (either mom or dad) and Mayer's husband were buddies at Goldman Sachs or something of that nature.

Related reading:

Yahoo Paid $30 Million in Cash for 18 Months of Young Summly Entrepreneur’s Time => http://allthingsd.com/20130325/yahoo-paid-30-million-in-cash...

Here's What Happened To All 53 of Marissa Mayer's Yahoo Acquisitions => http://gizmodo.com/heres-what-happened-to-all-of-marissa-may...

Luck has a lot to do with it. Marissa knew the people who started Google and that was luck. She may be talented but there are many others just as talented, who weren't at the right place at the right time. The founders who succeed may attribute their success to their hard work and persistence, but many forget they were actually very lucky as well.

Thanks for sharing. What I would like to add is that to a certain extent you just need to love what you do and tell others to f*ck off sometimes. Yes, it's nice when others praise your work but what should really matter is how happy you are.

Thanks for the comment. I know that most projects don't work out. The world doesn't owe anyone anything. I'm 100% okay with that. I'm just tired of other people shitting on me while I try my hardest.

I was always able to completely ignore the naysayers because it's a lot easier to judge than create. Still, it wasn't enough for success. I discovered it's the process of creation I really love, not creating technological things specifically like websites and apps. I recently started metalworking. I get the same satisfaction of creating, and at the end of the day, there's no button that will "delete" what I've created. But it's just something I do in my spare time. I'm also starting to believe that once you go from "hobby" to "job," you end up hating it because it's something you HAVE to do. Not something you WANT to do.

Intellectually, you're on the entrepreneurial path, with a purpose. How you emotionally defend yourself is also part of the entrepreneurial path - we work more hours for less money (on average) because we "control our own destiny" which implies of sense of ownership over one's life that you can't get elsewhere working towards someone else's bottom line. That's probably a myth, but it's an important one for maintaining our psychological health while under the stress of under-delivering. Don't be confused here - as an entrepreneur, you will ALWAYS feel like you're under-delivering, whether on time, or on traction, or on product, or on revenues, or on team, or on awareness... That's an unfortunate part of the path. But it's also an important part of the drive to improve the product, improve the team, etc. Entrepreneurs unfortunately also have a high rate of depression - I'm not adequately versed in those personality types to make any assessments as to why. But as an entrepreneur, I can tell you that, personally, I face that stress every day and yet carry on because I feel like my work is important. I'm not building follow-on products - I'm trying to build first-to-market products, also with a purpose. So either that purpose has to carry you through these tough defensive discussions and resulting stress, or that purpose isn't sufficient, and you'll drop the product and/or the title entrepreneur. If you're going to own your own path, you either do it wholly, or you don't. Trying to figure out a middle path will kill the average person. Don't be average.

It sounds like you have two issues, your social group and your product.

I can't help you with your social group. It's up to you to associate with the dream killers or not.

The product market is very interesting and counter-intuitive. There are countless cases of where the best product is not the most successful. Spend some time studying sales and you'll find product quality is secondary to how you position it.

This may not make you feel good about it, but that's the cold truth behind success. The way I personally deal with the quality vs sales issue is to focus only on product quality and have my partners focus on what's needed on the sales side. Finding a partner with good salesmanship might be your way over the slump that you're in.

1. Ignore the critics. Unless they have something useful to say, don't listen to them. We live in an age of critiquing. Only listen to critics who are also producers themselves. Consumers - either they consume your product or not. Just measure it and try to get better at the metric each time.

2. Focus on creating things. Be a maker. Find joy in it. Regardless of how it comes out, if you enjoy the process, you'll repeat and get better at it.

3. Get in the habit of sharing. Accept that 90% of your work will be average and that's okay.

Finally, what you're feeling is normal. It's all part of the journey. Both professionals and amateurs face this fear in their own way.

Take a long walk and put things in perspective. You are on your own with this and that means you have to stop caring what other people think. Not because they won't give you good feedback, but because that kind of feedback cannot matter to you in the same way any more. You don't have that luxury.

As a product developer, you owe it to your product to do your best with it. That means that your allegiance is not to your family when it comes to your product. When they give you feedback, bad or good, you need to take a step back and weigh it evenly with everyone else's feedback, scientifically, objectively. If you can do this, you can make a good product, or at least get most of the way there, while avoiding distractions along the way.

The whole thing about making a product is... it's a long, hard road. The reason for this is not because of the ups and downs or how much you have left to learn. It's just actually a long road... for anyone. If you start paying attention to feedback early on, positive or negative, and let it sway you, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. It's early on, your product should suck. You need to realize this, pack your sentimental feelings away, and get to work.

Do you know when you've made it? When you've finally hit the nail on the head and won the game? It's not when your parents or your friends or your sister is proud of you. It's not when you get your first positive customer review. It's not when you turn a profit. It's when you allow yourself to be proud of yourself, knowing that this journey you're on is tough as nails and you're doing it anyways. When you do that, you won't need anyone else to praise on you.

Unfortunatey, we are highly unpredictable and emotional machines. You're going to have to deal with ups and downs, moments of euphoria as well as depression, no matter what.

The key is to stay disciplined, and if you believe strongly that what you're working on solves a real problem no one else is solving appropriately, then keep working on it, very hard.

While at it, keep looking for people to join you on your adventure and hopefully success will come along the way.

Also, a good read: http://www.wisdomination.com/screw-motivation-what-you-need-...

Managing stress and anxiety is a big part of working solo. If you're not doing so already, may I suggest you carve time out for yourself that is inviolate (for example, on Sundays you close the computer).

Remember that your first job is to keep yourself from burning out, or else all the other stuff you do will not matter. And try to notice patterns in your anxiety, and anything that is effective at keeping it down. Tend to yourself!

Thanks, Maciej! (Current customer of Pinboard here). BTW, you're one of the people in tech I look up to most. Not because you're the richest or have the biggest company (SV dick measuring), but because I think you've figured out how to live best.

Thank you, and good luck to you!

> According to my family, programmers are just "coder monkeys".

You don't have to prove yourself to anyone. I stopped trying a long long time ago. Anyone who thinks programmers are just "coder monkeys" aren't really worth even having a conversation with.

No one will understand what you are doing. You should read up on articles about what it is like to be a boostrapped company and the type of nonsense you will face. Perhaps others linked to a few helpful and motivational articles to get you started.

You need to have thick skin and confidence that you are on the right path. Enjoy the climb, even though it will be insanely difficult.

I started my boostrapped company barely making any money and now I make more than most people I know. Use that as motivation and realize that being on your own means you can exceed anyone's salary because you play by different rules.

Personally I have a lot of anxiety when discussing something when the original idea was mine. Where as if I discuss something that I made but the original idea was somebody else's I don't get anxious. I guess that just how I work.

Deep down I know most people don't even make it as far as creating something bad. So even if my idea is bad I keep going knowing I'm well ahead of the curve in terms of trying to create something in this world.

I guess my only advice is; learn to live with embarrassment. It just takes some courage - which from the sound of it, you already have.

As to the "Anybody could have done that in a couple of weeks". They probably don't know what they're talking about. Because if they did, they wouldn't be saying that.

I understand what you are going through, went through it myself when I was younger. The mistake I made regarding this was being defensive, don't lump all your family and friends into one pot and bark defensively at it. Never be defensive about this. Be proud of your product, ask them if they see any obvious errors with it, you might learn something because they are invested in helping you. They mostly care about you and don't know anything about putting a product to market. But anyway something might come out of it. And then for those in the bunch who are trying to make themselves look good on your account, just ask them if they plan to waste their entire life as their bosses bitch.

>According to my family, programmers are just "coder monkeys," people you hire to make your grand idea and that's how it's done.

Yes, tell that to the coder monkeys who started Google, Facebook, etc.

I don't know the statistics (and I'm not sure where to find them), but I'm guessing that the majority of successful tech companies had a "coder monkey" as one or more of the founders. I used to work for a private company that was started by 3 COBOL coder monkeys (yes COBOL - not that I'm a fan) that went on to be a $100+ million dollar a year operation (lrs.com). All bootstrapped, NEVER took a loan that I'm aware of.

Don't listen to them.

>How do you deal with people saying, "That's it? Anybody could have done that in a couple weeks!"

lol (or at least smile to yourself) and ignore it. You will always get this. Later on, if the product is a success it will change slightly to "can you just make it do this, I don't think it will take long, just a couple of hours I could do it myself if I knew how". When the truth is it is at least 4 days of solid work (as in 32+ hours)

As for friends and family, be vague, don't tell them. If they are not technical, just baffle them with big words, throw in lots of buzz words so they don't want to see :)

Good luck

Watch some Gary Vaynerchuk videos, seems like you need some motivation. There is one where someone asked him about expectations from others. His advice is basically give them the middle finger and stop making them an excuses for YOUR hustle. Also once you start selling your product you will soon see the market make your current doubter seem soft. In the sense you are trying to convince people to look at you in a positive light versus conviencing people that you provide value and they should pay you for it.

I am also a bootstraper, however went to college to be technical. However I can tell a majority of the top tier programmers don't have an once of hustle in them. They just want to play it safe. You learning how to be technical proves just how much you hustle you have in you, just keep at it.

At the end of the day clients don't give a fuck about how much technical experience you have or anything else other than your product. If the product is good and provides value for them, their wallets open. There is also vast evidence that having the best technically sound product doesn't mean a victory, people can be better at sales and marketing with a subpar product.

Look for hustlers in your life. If they aren't there, surround yourself with the content hustles post online.

Good luck man, go out there and kill it then just watch people change their opinion of you without saying anything.

I found that when listening to advice, feedback, and praise, what is said is just as important as who says it.

A lot of people say things, both positive and negative. You don't have to accept it all at face value. It's hard at first, but with time, it's possible to tune into this. Accept what people are saying with a smile and a nod, and only take it to heart if it is coming from someone who is qualified to make that sort of statement.

When someone says "That's it? Anybody could have done that in a couple weeks!" and they have never built a thing in their life, just ignore them. As harsh as it sounds, their words are worthless. They may still be good and loving people, but in this case it does not make sense to listen to them.

I'm going through this, but as an experienced developer learning the ropes of SaaS marketing a fledgeling product. It sucks! I know what I am doing right now is sub-par. But these are stepping stones. Some of the feedback I get is harsh, but is easy to dismiss as it is coming from people who do not understand the present situation or don't have the experience to offer the kind of feedback they are trying to offer. On the other hand, a critique coming from an experienced source is worth its weight in gold, even if it stings at first.

Keep at it! It sucks now, and it's possible that what you have built right now is sub-par when compared to everything else out there. But this is just a start. You've come a long way to get here, and if you have a long road ahead. Just keep going and little by little you will get to a point you want to be at.

I totally understand your pain. I'm currently working on my startup and I'm almost in the same position as you.

While I'm working at a company (because I have bills to pay and I'm just out of uni), my startup is bootstrapped by myself - and while it's tempting to get VC money, I feel like before I even consider doing that, I want to get something that can stand on itself if I don't get that funding.

My family & friends are pretty dismissive of my startup (you need more experience, you've failed before, you can't do this, you are wasting your time/money etc.).

So take it from me....

1. ignore the nay sayers (unless they are your target market in which case take their opinions on the product and ignore the rest). you know what you want to do. you have a vision and you know what you want in life - most don't have that, and you have absolutely no one to answer but yourself.

2. you are learning and you are improving - that is awesome (because that means you know where you are lacking and where you can improve).

3.Finally, let's say you do fail (hey, a lot of startups fail), you have learned valuable skills which would be awesome for you to apply to either your next venture or at "the next big corp here" - eitherway, it's a win - win.

4. Finally, you choose being bootstrapped because you a sustainable business, you want to own your own business and in a way an adventure. So enjoy every momement of it. While this might feel terrible now, once your business does succeed, you'll have a lot more riding on you :) - So full steam ahead!

finally if you wanna get in touch, I'm available sk AT skdev.xyz

> programmers are just "coder monkeys"

Wow, how condescending ( the family, not OP). Is this notion isolated or widespread?

My family thinks I am a Tech Ninja, and almost all my Gym friends, many of who are in blue collar jobs, really look up to me.

I can attest this notion is widespread, especially among MBA types and entrepreneurs in general.

well they are right, kind of. We are just the descendants of monkeys who code.

Ain't nothing wrong with that :)

Well if it goes too far you end up like Europe with a salary cap and a very narrow job range. I am greatful developers in the US are not all seem as code monkies.

This has helped me greatly over the years in a world full of haters. May it help you too.


Let's break it down:

>> A few years ago, I wanted to make a product, but I wasn't very technical. So I decided to change that--I got technical.

You are a bad ass. I went from techinical recruiting to software engineering. In between I built a recruiting business powered by a Rails app that demanded more than I was prepared to give. That shit was damn hard, and only someone who has been through the business guy to coder guy transition appreciates how much of a bad ass you actually are.

>> According to my family, programmers are just "coder monkeys,"

They're being assholes and/or you are taking it too personally. I'm guessing you are simply stressed, and they don't know to be excited for you. Everything is taxing when you are exhausted, including putting up with people may simply be breaking your balls.

>> I want to make a tool for small businesses, I want to do it profitably, and I want to be proud of it.

Take care of yourself first. Your first paying customer may love you, rely on you, and wish you the best, but they ain't gonna pay the hospital bill for your self induced heart attack. They care about you, but not in the way you care about them, and you can't afford to be altruistic. Also, the majority of VC backed companies were funded because they had some combination of traction, relationships, expertise, and reputation you have yet to achieve. And if you want stress, take a few million now, hire people, and freak out when you realize you're going to run out of money before your product is worthy of the next round of investment.

>> "That's it? Anybody could have done that in a couple weeks!"

The Gettysburg address was written in a single train ride, and is only 272 words long. But it was written by a man who worked for years to build up the skill to create & deliver that speech to an audience that actually wanted to listen.

>> How do you do it?

Working my ass off, living off money I saved for taxes, and ignoring reality.

Ping me if you wanna vent. My email is in my profile. I'd be happy to listen, and I won't offer any unsolicited advice :)

P.S. I am a bad ass, too, which basically means nothing to anyone, except maybe you. Being the king of your own mountain isn't that impressive until it's tall enough that everyone has to look up to see the top, and even then, they won't understand what you went through to get there. It's good to be king, but it's also lonely at the top.

"That's it? Anybody could have done that in a couple weeks!" is awesome to hear. You need to be sure you ask that person what is missing and what you should build next instead of defending yourself.

All feedback is good feedback- just don't take it personally. The feedback isn't about you or your ideas, the feedback is about what someone sees in front of them.

Your ideas will change as time goes forward. People's reactions to what you build will change. You'll make dumb product mistakes. You'll build the wrong things. The only way to learn when you do that is to get people to look at what you're building and let them tell you why it's not good.

You're on the right track and we all go through this. Just calm down a bit and don't take things personally.

Does the term “bootstrapping” only apply to a product business? Or does it apply to a service-based business as well?

If it applies to service businesses as well, I know in my case one of the biggest stresses is dealing with the actual operations side of the business. Especially getting new customers.

In my case, one of the most effective things is to learn how to tune out the noise. And by noise, I mean all of its many forms - social media, comments from friends/family, anything that distracts you from the real work of your business.

I'd encourage you to stay independent and go as long as you can without taking funding. Keep complete control for as long as you can.

Have laser like focus on making a good product, and serve your customers well.

It'd be cool to talk with you further, and hear about your work. Good luck.

What's important is what your users and the market says about it. Take the negative in one ear and let it go on the other side. It's part of the journey - everyone who has a dream will invite doubters. Use it as fuel to propel you to success.

You are the hero. None of your critics are taking action like you. None of them is stepping up like you. None of them are educating themselves like you.

I admire you and I admire that you are taking action.

Programming is HARD. Really hard. It takes years of constant hard work to get good at it. The more code you write, the better you will get.

Business is HARDER THAN PROGRAMMING, without the guaranteed outcome that you get from programming. In business you must simply try and try and keep trying and hope one day the cards fall your way.

And the important thing is that you are trying. Most people don't even try.

Create an MVP or even just a landing page before dedicating too much time into any project. Launch the MVP or landing page on places like HN, Product Hunt, Reddit, etc. to gage traction before before moving forward.

I appreciate the quote from Epictetus, a key philosopher of stoicism: "Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control."

Since you cannot control the reactions of other people, it's not worth your time to worry about them. If you can succeed at the things you can control ("Am I making consistent progress on the product?"), then you've succeeded, regardless of the reactions of other people.

No one owes you anything. [1]

Your friend and familiy do not have to understand your motivation. They do not have to understand your decision building a product instead of working for a "prestigious company". They do not have to be your friend.

On the orher hand, you do not have to give a fuck about their opinion. The said truth is that there are 7 billion people on earth and you can not make all of them happy with your way of life. But you can make happy yourself.

I read once an articel where someone was asked "And what do you do when the people say you have crazy ideas?". His answer was "I talk to other people!" Do not worry, there are other people out there who understand you. You only have to find them and listen to them instead of the naysayers.

[1] http://www.harrybrowne.org/articles/GiftDaughter.htm

From my own experience, one of the biggest drains on productivity in a startup is having zero support and confidence from the people closest to you. They are probably wrong to doubt, but it's hard to ignore them and keep pressing forward. I'd suggest trying to do something I never figured out, and surround yourself with people who believe in what you are doing (without being yes-men/women).

Maybe you're selling it wrong, or presenting yourself inappropriately. Namely, if I want to climb everest, and I walked up a local hill - it would seem silly to say "Look everybody at me I'm on my way to climbing everest!" - even though that could be a true statement.

Maybe you need to be more modest about describing it, especially if you can't handle the feedback.

That's a very good point. I've tried to be as modest as possible when talking to other people (e.g. "I'm working on a small software project" rather than "I'm building the biggest, best thing!"). I tend to roll my eyes when other people say stuff like that. Presentation is very important, though, and I'll certainly keep that in mind. Thanks.

1) Don't associate with negative people.

2) Tell them Google and Facebook could be built in a few weeks too. (Mostly accurate!)

3) Consider that you're extremely unlikely to succeed "you against the world" in these circumstances and how you could get some partners on board.

You're never going to make it as long as you keep giving a f*ck about what other people think...

Lots of good advice here, but this is #1.

Are you embarrassed by what you make because people keep putting it down or because you objectively know it's subpar?

If it's the former, then you should try to filter for constructive feedback and let the rest go. BTW, the same is true if they claimed to love your product. Don't get too excited either way. It's just a few opinions and the market will ultimately decide.

If it's the latter, then you need to focus your time and energy on fixing the product vs. "defending" yourself. Also, try getting it in front of a wider audience that's representative of your target market ASAP.

At the end of the day, you should work to be as objective as possible. Disentagle your emotions--put them on a shelf--and focus on the product succeeding (not you succeeding, but the product). If you find yourself feeling some self-reflective emotion, then you know you need to course correct your thinking.

All of this self-reflection (especially at the behest of detractors) is poison that amounts to trying to succeed while dragging an anchor. It hurts in two ways: it diverts your precious time and energy from the product, and it makes you less productive, creative, objective, and enthusiastic when you actually are working on the product.

As for the rest of it (thinking "what if it doesn't work, etc"), that's classic anxiety and it's a close cousin of depression. Ask yourself "what if it does work?" and keep moving. Truth is, more often than not what we work on will not meet our expectations. I've "failed" and pivoted multiple times before finding success and even then, not to the scale I'd hoped. BTW, on the final pivot before success, I've had people absolutely demolish the pivot. Had I listened to them, I would never have succeeded.

In sum, when you are thinking about or working on your product, focus relentlessly on making it better and testing it in front of "real people". That should leave little room for the counterproductive thinking.

Last but not least, good luck! We all need a healthy dose of that.

You can ignore them or live by their terms. That's absolutely your choice.

If you can't handle the pressure, do what they say. If you can (and I highly suggest you learn how to do it), keep doing whatever you're doing and ignore them. Smile and nod.

True friends support you, no matter what, especially during a depressive episode. If they don't, they are not your friends. It might help to distance yourself, or to learn to ignore them.

The solution to all your problems is to get one customer. One person who says “I get what you are trying to do and I will pay you for it.”

The longer you put off acquiring a customer the harder your journey becomes.

If you have unsupportive friends and family, then you should not have told them about your business.

If they can't say anything nice about it, then it's better that they say nothing at all about it.

> then you should not have told them about your business.

Meh, as if OP is to blame for how unsupportive his friends and family are.

In my opinion, you _should_ tell them. You should also tell them how you hate it that they're being so unsupportive. If they don't change, I'll echo what others said and re-evaluate your relationship with them....

Well, it's kind of necessary in answering the question, "What are you doing with your life?"

I'm also flying solo. Email in profile, hit me up and I'll be very happy to help. At the very least, with constructive criticism and friendly advice.

Pressure is given by yourself. As long as your are happy with what you learnt, then it's all fine.

I am in a similar boat, but I have a lot less pressure because I saved enough and even if it fails, I have gained so much that my salary will increase for sure. Although the thought of having to work for other people simply keeps me going no matter what.

Learning is super hard. Appreciate what you have accomplished.

Ain't that some great motivation material or what? You've got kerosene fuel to get to success. Is the depression clinical or self perceived?

1. The easiest thing is to give commentary from the sidelines. Ignore them.

2. Making the product, simple or complex is the easy part. The hard part is making a business out of it.

I'm in a similar situation to yours (creating a company, bootstrapped, solo founder). It's a hard ride and people who can truly support you mentally is important.

You have to believe in your projects. The market and users will dictate whether or not your ideas and execution work.

This - the Topsy Tail.


TLDR; She sold $100 million worth of product. My understanding is the prototype was built using a coat hanger with tape on it.

I deal with it by taking lots of expensive holidays that they can't afford. They soon shut up. ;)

Email me. Ill listen. Fellow entrepreneur here. No strings or BS. pryelluw@gmail.com

What would your friends and family think if you showed them something that looks like craigslist?

Just because something isn't owned by Fbook or Google or doesn't look polished doesn't mean it isn't or couldn't make money. Or if you're not working for Fbook or Google or working on working there that you're doing it WRONG.

My friends usually gloss over me talking about developing SaaS apps till I mention ones making $30k/mo or $60k/mo . . . that gets their attention. I love when they follow up with "wait, wait that's per month?"

Making a product/SaaS that is successful isn't easy, but it's something most developers can accomplish, it's not s sure thing, but definitely worth the effort if it's something that interests you. It's worth a shot/putting in the effort.

So if you're interested in products/SaaS keep at it. Granted most of us have day jobs or are contractors along the way to pay the bills till we hit "SaaScess" but don't give up on it because of what unsupportive family and friends think.

You do need to find a better support network, maybe fellow entrepreneurs/web developers, connect with other like minded individuals online. (feel free to connect with me via email HNusername at gmail, I'm always up for bouncing ideas around, being supportive, reviewing apps/products offering constructive criticism).

Don't share what you're doing with people who aren't supportive. Just give them a simple answer like I'm consulting, etc.

Making any web application is hard so making any functional application is an accomplishment. Sure you could sub it out to a group of coder monkeys and they could build it in two weeks. But there is more to creating a good web application that people will pay you money for that just the code.

I think being able to create a web application is amazing and enjoy it. I would compare being a developer working on your own SaaS to being in a band. You're creating something, gaining an audience and the sky is the limit. With hard work and a little luck you can reach $83,333k/mo+. That's amazing and if you fall short of that, $10k/mo isn't bad either.

Your family just might be concerned you'll have financial problems, your friends might be jealous or just not understand what you're doing. Hopefully trying to give you good advice, but either way don't let them dissuade you from pursuing your dream.

That said SaaS is a long ramp to decent revenue so you need a day job/consulting/freelancing/supported by parents income till then so plan accordingly.

You'll probably like this: DHH Startup School Talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CDXJ6bMkMY

Check out startupsfortherestofus.com


Good luck in 2017.

Read "Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future", and realize that even the best people overcame enormous struggles to bring products to market.

prayer and porn of course. just kidding.

fear of corp cubicle hell is a miraculous motivator.

also operating from a low pressure 2nd world country helps

I've felt similar, feel free to email me if you'd like to talk about what we're working on.

Tell them to suck it.

edit: haters gonna hate

Go get a job you're not an entrepreneur. People will constantly tell you - what you do sucks. It's rule number one in the wannabe-entrepreneur world. If you can't handle that part I'd suggest to go get a job. Otherwise, move one to step #2 - focus.

I'm sure your remark was well-intentioned, like an overly-hard slap on the back, but subtleties like that are lost on the public internet and just look like personal attacks. So please don't comment like that here, or at least add enough information to disambiguate. Intent doesn't communicate itself, so the burden is on the commenter to do that.

Like dang commented, I'm sure your comment was well-intentioned, so thanks for the "overly-hard slap on the back." And to respond to your first sentence: no. :)


Those people are miserable and will never change.

The more success you find the more they will resent you for it. Plato's allegory of the cave[1] is spot on.

My method of dealing with such people has been to abstract their voices from my life.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_Cave

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