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Things they don’t teach you running a business by yourself (browserless.io)
543 points by mrskitch on Aug 3, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 97 comments

A great book on this subject is “Start Small Stay Small” by Rob Walling : https://sivers.org/book/StartSmallStaySmall

Rob was running ten simultaneous businesses by himself, (and he has a few kids), diligently managing and tracking his time to run each one as efficiently as possible, and tracking it to make it easy to sell the business to someone some day with a specific intruction manual and estimate of how much time it would take to run that business.

Sivers book summaries are the best! Thanks for making them available for the public. I have avoided a few duds by using your list and gone to listen to some great audio books because the notes intrigued me. One of my favorite bookmarks in my browser

Hey! Nice to see you on HN :)

Every once in a while when I want to discover a non-fiction new book, I head to your book list. Once of the best out there IMO. Your summaries are very much on point.

That's really fascinating to me. Optimizing for an acquisition might also come with a nice bi-product of keeping the business , itself, more self-sustaining. I'll have to give this book a read, thanks for the suggestion!

I learnt a lot just listening and reading a lot of advice from Sivers. He is awesome

I have a niche business / marketplace start up. Dang that book is on point. I live it daily. Thank you. I will get that book.

Do you have any other recommendations on the subject? Your book recs are great by the way. I only wish they were tagged or categorized to really dig into a certain subject! Thank you for doing them.

After ten years of muddling through, I'm finally coming to the conclusion that I was never meant to run a business. By this point, the mere thought that I might give this up and work for a company that would pay me a regular salary and provide health insurance, where I would have colleagues who would support me and take care of all the things I'm no good at... just imagining that scenario brings tears of relief to my eyes.

I'm not a programmer: I work in publishing, promoting Chinese literature in English. I am supposed to split my time between actual translation and editing, and running projects to promote our books and publishing consulting jobs. Project management is horrible; continually worrying about the direction of the company is horrible; four and a half hours of writing emails in the morning is horrible. I am supposed to be spending half my time translating and editing, but it doesn't happen. I am desperate to fuck off with a book and a dictionary into a quiet room and work, but there's an endless number of niggling details to take care of.

If it doesn't give you a high, don't do it. If it takes your high away, DON'T DO IT.

I'm desperate to start a business. Over 20 years of working in lead software dev positions and understand the grind that occurs in almost all organizations.

The counter point to your 'horribles', is that the support level you get inside organizations doesn't match the increase expections of a team, and that on larger teams the general level of aptitude approaches average. Occasionally having to work with people who are down right bad at their job. The very effect you espoused of 'company that would...' do all these things for you draws in alot of people who see it the same, and work it like, well, a job (not a calling, or career, or personal investment).

I don't think there is anything wrong with that. A regular wage from a company making money is a good thing, but a strong part of my being believes that I could be successful doing it on my own, and do it to the point of it being art.

Different people at different times in their lives might be more or less suited to one path or another. While i sympathize with the stress you might feel running a business i think there is alot of stress in working for an employer. The people not feeling stress inside companies are people who are coasting. When you're coasting, the part of your being that manifests itself as your work ethic, and professional skill dies a little every day.

Thanks for this. I think my current feeling is definitely a bit "grass is greener", and I'm overestimating how much help a larger company structure would provide. But I can't help thinking: running a company requires about nine different skill-sets/areas of expertise, and who has all those? If the job also involves time spent deep-diving into particular work (and literature is even more absorbing than coding), I don't see how one individual could balance the two.

But it's nice to see someone (presumably at a similar stage of life) heading in my direction from the other side. :)

I got a business coach, and took a small business course which connected me with other small businesses in my area. It was an invaluable lesson.

I was forced to read the book "E-Myth Revisited"[0] as my course material. It gave me incredible insight into delegating and many of the fundamental issues with running a small business.

Without my accountant and a few key, incredibly supportive clients, my business would have gone under a long time ago.

My business coach had started and sold a number of businesses, and was able to advise me on things that I would never have done on my own. Look for someone like this in your life, even if only temporarily.

My wife started helping with some aspects of the business as well, and I couldn't do it without her. You need help, period. I've trained 2 of my kids to build websites, one has moved on to college in some other industry and the other is interning at a bigger company (building websites). And I plan to teach my other kids as well, and have them help where possible.

What this taught me was that I can't do everything myself, and I don't want to anymore, it just sucks to do it on your own.

The best thing that happened recently is making friends with another local business owner, who also builds websites, but our business interests don't conflict, and we respect the others perspective a lot, so we get to hang out from time to time just to talk and have coffee. We understand the world in a way most others cannot. The struggle, the freedom and preasure, etc..

Keep looking for answers to your specific problems before giving up on your business.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/-Myth-Revisited-Small-Businesses-Abou...


You have to “cheat”. Cheating is when you build your side project/business while employed. Some can arrange this but many simply can’t. I chose to quit a lucrative, somewhat stable consulting gig and with reliance on savings to start an independent software provider service in the same field. Boy did I learn about the same skills shortage spoken about in this thread and the article! The emotional rollercoaster point is so true. If you cannot regulate your emotions (basically become a stoic), it will hurt no end.

It’s been 5 years since I started and I have only managed one enterprise sale (that sale itself took me two years to sign). Been hobbling along in zero growth purgatory since. If this client cancels I am fucked.

It is easier to imagine a life of zero responsibility and drastically reduced stress and anxiety. It’s a fantasy for me now imagining myself “cruising” (another poster’s word) at a full time job. I am 45 now and jokingly imagine myself unemployable. I wouldn’t last a day being microanaged.

My autonomy is important to me. My autonomy gives me full control over how I develop my craft on my own schedule.

When asked by people how things are going, it’s always “fine! Great! All good!” (But the ruse is only as thin or thick as my skin)!

> I am 45 now and jokingly imagine myself unemployable.

You are not, far from it. Running your own business has taught you many lessons which will come very handy when looking for a job. At least that's my experience.

> Running your own business has taught you many lessons which will come very handy when looking for a job.

I imagine it's very dependent on what you do, what your skills are, and what type of industry you're in (and, finally, who is interviewing you). I've done my own software dev/consulting for a decade now and am possibly unemployable (or, at least, for most positions). "Standard" dev jobs - I've interviewed for some, and may be intimidating to some (and yeah, I realize this may be a full-of-shit self-aggrandizement view of myself too). For a decade, when coming in to a project, I'm typically given a wide range of access to multiple people, and a wide variety of information, to help make the best decisions possible. I've interviewed for "development jobs", and the environments are typically the opposite - info lockdown, do the assigned tasks, etc.

I've been in those situations, and watched as companies go under because of bad decisions, and can't easily deal with not having more info access to understand the decisions/directions (even if I don't agree with them, seeing the bigger picture can help me accept, or... start to look elsewhere).

So... yeah, the GP (and myself) may not be completely unemployable, but the sorts of 'jobs' where someone wants the sort of experience someone has running their own business... they aren't as plentiful, and often don't get advertised (and likely aren't going to be the sort of thing body-shop recruiters are going to be reaching out to you about). (and age is no doubt a factor as well - I'm north of 40 and think 'employability' is thinner than it was for me 15 years ago).

I agree that being employed as a regular developer gets harder and harder with age and with experience outside of dev world, but at the same time you are getting better and better at positions which require more business skills, like team lead (if your tech skills are still good enough) / product manager / CTO / tech cofounder / ... There are many companies that don't know they need this kind of person, and it might be difficult to find a match. But once you're in, you can make a huge difference with this skill set.

> There are many companies that don't know they need this kind of person, and it might be difficult to find a match.

that sounds like a different angle of saying what I was saying. if a company doesn't know they have a need for what my skills are, i'm less likely to employed by them. if the majority of companies in an area also don't know they have a need for my skills, i'm less employable (or perhaps unemployable) in a particular area.

i've gotten way too good at seeing roadblocks well before other people do, and the roadblocks are almost always nontechnical. This can be taken as 'having a negative attitude', but it's just pragmatism born out of experience (yes, understood, my delivery/tone may play a part in this, but sometimes I'm just the guy saying something that someone above me doesn't want to hear). As an external consultant, you're brought in to be able to say those hard things that people perhaps can't say for themselves. As an employee... you're potentially "toxic".

Echoing this myself. I swore off having a boss again after my last (also only) position in an agency. After six years sometimes I look at those 180k remote jobs with a wistful eye. But the chance of getting to that point with a company I built.. That feeling makes wearing all those hats and all those laste nights worth it.

Maybe you simply need a change of work. Nothing wrong with that. You could weigh the pros and cons until the cows come home, but that doesn't change the fact that a change is welcome.

The truth is the stability of most large employers is a myth. I think your stress working for an employer is well founded. As a small business owner I have never felt more fulfilled and stable in my entire career (19 years). We ended up building a consulting business and we are now 16 people. Each hire is like a family member. It isn't software that scales exponentially. 16 consultants is like a 100-300 person software startup with venture capital in terms of where the businesses would be if equally successful. Anyway, my main point, large businesses sway with market forces just like small businesses. Small businesses do suffer from localized variance, but on the whole small businesses aren't any more inherently unstable than big ones. Ownership mentality vs employee mentality. Owners, even as employees, always experience a mental tension to make things better and improve things. They thrive on autonomy and freedom. Smart businesses let owner minded employees do their thing within reason, because they are often the heart of successful small business.

Would I be right in thinking that the revenue from this is not particularly high?

I think I might be happier working a 40 hour a week (remote) job if the pay were similar. But, after running a business for eight years, I am pretty sure I'm making more money than I could earn from such a job.

The income is also largely passive. I need to upkeep the business, but sales happen without active involement. So I can downcycle when I want.

Leaving this as a qualification to your comment. Not all bootstrapped businesses are equal. The OP described challenges of a successful bootstrapped business - even that is psychologically hard. But it's even harder if the business doesn't work, or only sort-of works.

(My day sounds nothing like yours, not all bootstrapped businesses need that much email, or it can be delegated)

> Would I be right in thinking that the revenue from this is not particularly high?

Boy, would you!

> Not all bootstrapped businesses are equal. The OP described challenges of a successful bootstrapped business - even that is psychologically hard. But it's even harder if the business doesn't work, or only sort-of works.

And I think my first and most fundamental failure as a "businessperson" is a failure to recognize what works and what doesn't. Everyone I come into professional contact with is extra stoked about what we do. Everyone is complimentary, everyone is glad we exist. Very few people are willing to pay us. In the end, that means I've done my job wrong.

Sorry to hear that - "not quite failing" is perhaps an even worse outcome than failure.

One thing that may help is changing what you ask. "Would you buy this today?" And "why not" if they say no are the best way to figure out actual interest and get useful feedback.

Translating chinese literature to english sounds cool! Easy to get on board with. But, I also wouldn't pay, since I'm not in the market.

I got that tip from the four hour workweek btw. That book might just be a life changing revelation for the business. Or, it might affirm you should just leave. But, I would highly recommend it, since you've spent ten years at this. (I designed my business around that book, more or less)

I agree! Purgatory of not quite failing.

Dammit, I wish I could share a drink with all the commenters here! :-)

It sounds to me like you need to hire an employee. If you don't have enough revenue to support another person, but your company requires the work of two people, you are going to have a bad time.

The hard part about having your own business is that you have to figure out if your work/income ratio is appropriate... if you have to do the work of three people just to make what you would as an employee of someone else, you might need a new business model or it might be time to be an employee.

> if you have to do the work of three people just to make what you would as an employee of someone else, you might need a new business model or it might be time to be an employee

And that's precisely the realization I've (finally) come to.

I'd love to help out on the promotion side of things! I'm US based and I have an immense respect for anyone who wants to make an independent business work but doesn't love the frustration of back office and PR stuff.

If you’re in the US, labor is dirt cheap these days so it might be worth looking into. If it’s not technical, you can pay people next to nothing. The real minimum wage has dropped a ton and as long as you don’t need a full time employee (you can always hire multiple part-time ones) you can hire people with virtually zero risk and not even pay them on time. There aren’t any hard and fast rules and if they’re working for a low wage, they’re helpless at hiring an attorney anyhow. There’s seriously nothing to lose. Always remember they need your reference for future jobs so you can get away with a lot. If it’s not entirely manual labor, make sure you plan the hours ahead of time and do all the communication outside of those hours; this way you won’t have to pay them for all the time they spend emailing and stuff like that. You can end up getting away with far below minimum wage if you do it smart, and at the end of the day, you can feel good about yourself becaue you are helping to fight unemployment!

I would normally just down vote you and leave it at that, but you're a real piece of shit, and someone actually needs to tell you that.

I took a look at their profile and fortunately it seems like they're doing irony.

Incompetent and unreliable labour is dirt cheap. I found the following link describing hiring a nanny illuminating in terms of where the bar is and how many people limbo under it.


Unfortunately too many people think this unironically. Looks like everyone is down voting you because you are exposing their core values.

I know where you're coming from. I had the same problem and it all got better when I learned to trust others and delegate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Qptyt0-S9U

Maybe it's because I'm a rural Michigander, or maybe it's because I'm 35. Whatever the case may be, whenever I read a line such as, "It goes by many names: boot-strapped, solo-founded, self-funded, indie-hackers...etc... and it's pretty hot right now!" I have a visceral reaction. Around here that's just owning a business. No one cares about how it's structured or how it's funded. Trying to quantify your business to others in such ways is so much window dressing.

That being said, the rest of the article was a nice read.

Definitely. Even the term "startup" is overloaded. Simpler terminology, like you mentioned, would go a long way to make newcomers feel more welcome.

Thanks for the kind words!

Being an exec in someone else's business and running my own show, the hardest things have been the most basic: 1) Managing people. 2) Collecting from clients. 3) Finding and cultivating clients for the long run.

It's that simple. What's interesting is, I don't recall ever touching on those issues with any depth in my undergrad business classes. Sure we studied "best practices" in hiring, managing, layoffs, etc, but that's very different than the day-to-day of building a team from scratch and getting people to produce at their best level. Likewise, I took a lot of financial management and accounting classes, but that's totally different from some jerk customer who decides they just don't want to pay their bill out of spite, forcing you to litigate, where the dollar amount represents potentially months of payroll. There are so many things like this that are _basic business_ and yet until you've been there, it's hard to really know how to prepare for it or build the skills for it.

I agree.

I never did an MBA, but have talked with a lot of people who did. Collections, financing (not the high falutin' corporate finance they teach, or corporate accounting, but small business finance: small business loan mechanics, covenants, banks versus ABLs versus factoring vs equipment leases), basic labor regs, how to sell, how not to underprice, how to discover customers' "real problems", how to manage performance, how to deal with an otherwise good employee going through personal problems, how to write a good job posting that doesn't read like it was written by an HR drone, etc are all things that don't seem to be commonly covered subjects.

The only solution seems to be to go do all those things and make the mistakes, but I think much of it could be accelerated through good training.

Another great learning opportunity is to look at the millions of other small businesses around you.

The coffee shop you're sitting in to write code... the proprietor has:

  * Payroll expenses
  * Marketing, Sales, Promotion
  * Rent
  * Recruiting
  * Supply chain
  * Inventory and storage
  * Utility bills
  * Legal entity structure
  * Accounting / taxes
Fundamentally, all small businesses have the same core challenges. Indie software shops are not much different.

Indie software shops are not much different.

Ah, but count the items that a one-man software shop can strike off of that list above. Fundamentally, Indie Software Shops come with a crazy unfair advantage to nearly every other form of business.

No rent. No payroll. No inventory or storage. No recruiting. No Utilities. It's just not fair, but nobody tell anybody.

Even non-brick-and-mortar businesses like the Lawyer in that list have to deal with most of those downsides. More importantly, no amount of working from home, by himself, will get a Lawyer into a position where he's lawyered up a piece of Law that people will stumble across and pay him money for every month without any effort on his part. That, for us, is the business model.

It's a pretty cool gig we have.

WA has a digital lawyer for traffic tickets. Its basically a SaaS app that shows up in court for you. Pay $200 upload ticket lawyer handles it and tells you what it was reduced by.

How many of these could be outsourced to trusted third parties?

None. I exaggerate a bit. I don't mean to be negative, but you always need to monitor, check, manage. Employees or third parties. In my experience, you never "outsource your worries", you just manage them better. Third parties execute what you want them to execute.

All of them. That's what an employee is :-) You can find services to do most of these things too. However, all of these things eat into your profit margin. If you don't actually want to run a small business, probably the better idea is to invest your capital in somebody else's business.

One thing I learned that after a while it gets super easy to convince yourself that just 15 minutes of playing outdated online FPS games is OK, then 2 hours later you're still playing, and nobody is there to say "What the hell?". Is this normal?

I don't know about you, man, but that is the reason I took this job.

The whole point of running your own business is that you can do exactly what you want with your time. If you're not feeling productive, you can down tools and blow off the rest of the day to do something you'd rather be doing. Your business will pay you exactly the same for those hours.

I made this explicit when I built my SaaS business that its goal was "Maximize Jason's Vacation Time." It ticks away so well in the background these days that pretty much any day can be a day off. As can any month.

So long as your thing is shipped and bringing in revenue, don't go beating yourself up for screwing off a bit. Screwing Off is your job title. You've earned it. Enjoy!

If you want to play when you feel like playing and work when you feel like working you need to be ok with working at 8pm on a Saturday. Otherwise you won't get anything done.

Also, exercise more. I swear I get more time out of exercise for my business than I put in.

Exactly - you have to hold yourself accountable for working hours, or hold yourself accountable for getting the work done.

Agree on the exercise as well - no matter what time I go to the gym, my "best" working part of the day seems to come afterwards.

I agree that exercise is amazing. For me personally, exercising every day builds discipline that spills into every other part of my life.

Oddly enough I just wrote about how playing video games taught me more life / programming / business lessons than all of my formal education combined.


I should really make a blog about that too. I got so ridiculously addicted to making money in MMOs in high school. I have some absurd stories where I partially was responsible for crashing the gaming economy, did insider trading while being a AAA game tester, did click-and-bait scams, manipulated stock markets, ran bots, ran my own guildhall, had 5000 followers at one point, did AAA game Q/A testing (had to sign NDAs), wrote gaming guides translated in multiple languages and read by 100,000 people+ and made the shittiest class in the game the most popular one. Those were some really fun memorable times.

On paper I don't tell people I have any business experience though, not many people would appreciate that experience though sadly. Learned the hard way in college

Pseudonyms exist for a reason. Though I suspect those involved would know who you were, minus the NDA. It's not worth it to breach the NDA, but the rest? If you can sling together a coherent story, you've probably got solid book. You've got the start with an eager person getting into games out of love, turning it into an obsession where you strayed into the dark side, followed by how it made you feel empty and want to people "connected to people again (guildhall), and finally how this made you realize your passion all over again and turn it into a profession. This is a book people would read.

I actually wrote a few of the stories in a 500,000 word cluster dump on reddit i wrote in 2months but i ended up deleting the account. I got temporary ulnar tunnel syndrome(UTS) from writing for prolonged periods of time. I had psychological issues that I needed to explore so thats why the text dump was so long. I ended up writing my own awful version of existing psychology theories and did things to prove /disprove it.

I still have a backup of it though, i hashed out many specific gaming stories thoigh. I would have to string together stories across multiple MMOs ive played to make it more fluent

I still have my old youtube channel too under a different pseudonym, this MMO game is still popular today (its not WoW). My favorite comment I still treasure to this day is how a surgeon would watch my videos and practice his ambidexterity and motor skills for life/death situations with guides ive made. That changed my perspective in life, its also why I see value in everything. I was going through shit times after getting burnt by 3 internship offers bc of dual citizenship legality issues and getting fired from my summer job while being deathly ill from eating chipotle.

NDA is long since irrelevant now though. I had to send my drivers liscense photocopy with the NDA too

I still have screenshots too showcasing how absurdedly rich i got in the game(about 1000xs more money than the average player, i did alot of census surveys of people who paid for my services out of boredom at the time). I am 100% certain I was the richest selfmade player in a game of 5million+ people bc I monopolized one dungeon run that no one was able to do for months. Nobody could figure it out and everyone was trying to emulate me for the longest time. Dealing with scammers in instanced zones was a PITA. I even had people on payroll to badmouth all the Korean copycats emulating the setup I had going. Thats literally what i did for fun in high school.

I used to just theorycraft the millions of permutations of builds available in this MMO. It was sandbox heaven. Game was commonly called "build wars" bc of this reason. I built absurd builds designed to handle 4v1 situations that actually worked in PvP. I would submit these builds to the buildlist wikis but they were always rejected and never caught on. I still remember all the skill stats and combinations to make them today, its just ingrained in my head now. Thats how I learned to get really good at managing multiple things at a time, and how in another game I popularized the most shitty class. I am still considered the godfather of that class /build and its still a popular MMO today.

In this "build wars" game I was also the designated strategist for competitive GvG (guild vs guilds). I led what is essentially my own esports team before esports became a thing. Having to schedule practice sessions, practicing dry runs, etc.

The economy crashed from an exploit I leaked to a friend who leaked it to the public. I knew how devasting of an effect it had so i dumped all my stock into items that would go up in value. I had secret trading routes that no one knew even after the fact either.

Insider trading was fun trying to predict which materials would go up in value. I had access to all the crafting recipes before anyone else did, in the private test servers. The NDA agreement never mentioned this conflict of interest. I dominated certain niche market avenues. I used bots to automate trade posting.

I failed pretty hard at making my first guildhall. People wanted to join it and wanted me to spearhead it but i learned that i suck at being a leader. What I found was I enjoyed really teaching macroeconomics and entrepnueurship in high school though to guildmates.

I used to play tons of Korean MMOs growing up(similar to runescape), I learned the hard lessons of bait and scams here with awful trade windows. I bait scammed a few people myself. I learned my first korean words (baljong for rez me) and found most asianic players just knew a few english words, namely "fuck you". I learned how to trade with WTS and WTT spamming. I was in middle school at the time.

I used to play competitive DoTA before it was a thing and played with some of the top players today, merlini and w33. I wrote a post about this elsewhere on reddit, when iwent to my first esports outing.

I used to play league/scrims in CSGO too, but FPS is just what Im okay at. I learned about good HUD and UX design from playing so many video game genres.

My favorite songs came from audiotracks in starcraft modded maps (daft punk and zergling runs). I used to make my own modded maps in elementary school too and that was my first exposure to IRC. I got my first exposure to porn, specifically hentai, from thumbnail generated maps in elementary school. So many things were born from starcraft modded maps, for instance tower defense like fieldrunners or TD balloons.

Diablo 3 I was one of the first 100ish people to beat it on inferno mode too. I used to have a trading partnership where we'd use currency differences between real money auction house and ingame auctionhouse to make actual money (similar to forex exchanges)

No joke video games have taught me so much in life its not even funny. I hadnt even played EvE which is another can of worms and many absurd stories are birthed from there as well.

When i watch readyplayerone, enders game, SAO, the main characters remind me of my own life.

For the longest time though I didnt tell anyone in real life any of the stories and gaming adventures. It was hard on me too because it was also what I was most prideful of but I had to straightup lie in interviews on lesser accomplishments I did.

During highschool I got shutin so I also wasnt in good shape either. I was both skinny and fat at the same time as well. 9" biceps and 27"thighs someone once joked I looked like an anime character casually and that was the biggest burn I have ever received in my life. I got harassed alot in school so thats why I played lots of MMOs growing up. I have pictures of these still.

I also partially managed reddit r/place, the worlds largest online art collaboration as well too under a different pseudonym. I managed 30 contributors in real time for 20 hours. I dont know why I volunteered to do it I was just situated to handle it at the time. I know of almost every meme made (even the ones that didnt make it to final version) from r/place because I was the one who led documentation efforts.

Ive done a lot of weird stuff growing up. I have just accepted that I'm weird and learned to appreciate it now, I didn't so much in the past though. But I feel like these types of stories are generally more accepted now due to VR implications etc.

I dont play any video games much anymore because I have other ambitions I want fulfilled.

This is super interesting. Would buy the book or read the blog.

I'll dump small specific stories overtime in my blog later :)

Idk about writing a book though I like writing micro stories more, its easier to manage. If I made a book I'm not sure where the line of fiction vs nonfiction is drawn

So what you do is you write out the stories in blog posts, this builds your audience over time, as long as you're regular generally you'll get a gathering. Then you take all the posts from a year and package them together into a single book so it's only a little more effort on your part, just be honest to your fans what it is. (It's mostly a collection of what's here with better formatting and some pictures. Plus you'll be supporting the blog!!!) Get on a podcast or four, you'll have people asking for you at a certain point, plus you're interesting. Worst case send a pitch to them with your content, you're basically doing a huge part of their work for them. You'll definitely get some offers and money. Best part is you'll be inspiring other people who will live vicariously through you or make some kid feel less alone growing up. Totally guiltless and people will pay you for it.

I like it. Thanks for the motivation in continuing writing :D

I would read that, if anything for the entertainment value.

I'll make a write up later of it :))

I used to be like that until I actually shipped a product. The realization that you're accountable for something works miracles. Especially if it's a B2B product where your user base is much smaller but they're all paying customers. If you fuck it you lose clients, simple as that.

This has been the biggest revelation for me since I took my 5 year side project on full time. Up until this point I had worked hard sporadically on it, but as soon as I signed up my first customer my motivation has gone to a whole new level.

Now I can see why companies that find customers before they even have a product are often the most succesful - both because it validates the product, but also because it instantly gives you accountability.

Left 4 Dead 2 is the greatest game is the history of games, so I understand wanting to spend some time exploring it's many riches. What I find useful is to set a timer. When the timer goes off, after, say, 15 mins, it's time to stop. It also helps to have enough sleep. My overall concentration and willpower are far greater when I've had enough sleep, and that leads to less unproductive games playing, or Internet browsing, or whatever. Finally, todo lists and well defined goals for the day put pressure on to Get Shit Done. Especially helpful if you can make yourself accountable to someone else.

Had to quit WoW. Was fun but took way too much of my life away.

Video games are the addiction that really messed my life up.

Exercise is the thing I never did that REALLY makes your life better.

So I've decided to combine the two. I can play as much console games as I want, as long as I am peddling on my recumbent bike on a difficult setting.

I started out I could only do 1/2 hour before not wanting to play anymore. Now I'm down 30 pounds and can bike hard for about an hour while I play Fortnite/Overwatch/Zelda.

It's worked so well the only thing that I'm worried about now is maybe wearing out my knees or something.

> It's worked so well the only thing that I'm worried about now is maybe wearing out my knees or something.

Over-training is a thing. Pay attention to whether you are making gains or not (i.e., going longer/faster at the same level of exertion). For me, 6 days a week is ideal. For cycling, you can probably manage 7 days a week if you are putting in 2 "light" days instead (low intensity).

As you've been stationary-cycling for a while, you probably know the difference between "good pain" and "bad pain". "Good pain" is kind of misnomer -- really, if you get lactic acid buildup or something similar and you aren't doing your body significant damage, you can ignore the pain. But "bad pain" (which signals an injury) should not be ignored. Immediately get some rest. With over-training, you can get niggly injuries. If you think it is "good pain" and it doesn't go away in a week, or if it's getting progressively worse, then it could well be over-training. Make sure to have a rest day once a week.

If you still get pain even with a rest day, then look at your setup/form. For cycling, having your knees go out at a weird angle when pushing is a common fault. Concentrate on maintaining a good position on the pedals (usually near the balls of your feed) and having a natural angle for your feet.

But if you aren't getting over-training injuries or injuries cause by poor form, there is no particular reason to worry about wearing out your body. People cycle/walk/jog every day for an hour or two well into old age without problems. The benefits you get will vastly outweigh any problems.

of course it is but that's also a recipe for struggling to get by. if you don't master time management and money management your sunk on your own.

Sounds like you've been through similar things? What helped you master time management? We're bootstrapped so the only money management problems is really related to (wasted) time management.

I was addicted to browsing during my work. I knew I was wasting my time and it is not helping. I would resolve to not so it again. Then slowly I would fall back into my old ways. What helped was realizing that it is easy to do something 100% of the time than 95% of the time. Previously rationalized when I was getting distracted by telling myself it is just for 5 mins which inevitably resulted in more rationalising and realizing only after an hour. Now when I get distracted and realize it, I just stop it there and then and get back to work. I also made some changes like having specific internet time and strictly avoiding it during other time also helped. Read the book deep work by Cal Newport. It has these and various other ways to focus more. https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Work-Focused-Success-Distracted/...

I found the same to be broadly true for me. One small tip to break the habit - use your hosts file to straight up block distracting websites on your work PC. You can still read them elsewhere when not working. This really helped me break the subconscious habit of checking distracting news sources.

And yes, I blocked HN on my work PC.

The rollercoaster is real and I somehow haven't expected it even after diligently reading HN for years. I'm afraid that if I have to go back to normal work it won't feel like life anymore and will be terribly boring

Spot on. The seasonality and ups /downs of even well-established small businesses is exhausting. I've met way too many execs / owners of $10-2MM businesses where 99.9% of that is riding on 1 or 2 clients. Scary.

It's funny cause I've heard it so many times, but it never really sank in. I always assumed folks were just saying that, but it's super-hard to cope with. I lay awake at night from glee and border-line depression because of it.

Growing thicker skin and being more steadfast goes a long way, but it's hard to practice that.

Every one of those things are exactly what they teach you in every one of these articles, isn’t it?

What they don’t teach you is how to register a company, how to obtain trademarks or patents, how to do your taxes, what to deduct. How to follow laws you probably haven’t ever heard of. How to hire your first workers, or how to manage them. How to hire your first manager. How to do budgets, how to do pay checks, well how to do finances in general.

I mean, it’s a good article, it’s just exactly the same as all the others.

I have, on occasion, contributed to the pile of "these articles" that you speak of, and I might suggest that the reason your things get skipped is that they're not particularly relevant. But just in case:

1.) Register the company: (optional) 1 hour finding and filling the "Sole Proprietor" form for your state. Or just don't bother.

2.) Trademarks and Patents: Completely unneccessary. 15 years in, I have none of these for any of my businesses.

3.) Taxes: Turbotax, click through whatever "business" one they guide you through and deduct what it says to deduct.

4.) Mystery Foreign Laws: Ignore them completely. If the European Cookie Popup Enforcement Division ever knocks on your door, follow their instructions. Until then, sweat things that actually matter for your business.

5-10.) Employee Stuff: Don't hire employees. As a one man shop, you'll find you can pull most stuff off yourself. Again, 15 years in, I've probably only paid 2 or 3 freelancers for short gigs outside my area of expertise. Their fees go in the appropriate box on Turbotax above, and never hit the threshold to need 1099s or anything silly like that.

So I think the important takeaway is that most people tend to worry way too much about all the little administrative details. And it's a shame, because all that can do is scare you off.

If you ignore all that stuff, and assume it doesn't apply to you, chances are it never will. Or at least by the time it ever does, you'll already be up and running, with money in the bank you can use to address it.

Best of luck!

> it’s just exactly the same as all the others

Yup , this article is basically similar to the already existing thousands of "Entrepreneurs" stuff existing on Medium.

>How to hire your first workers, or how to manage them

It's really sad these days we cant get things that are actually intellectually honest , people are "ok" to "open" about stuff that has been written about X Million times , but now how about they fail to manage X or Y or choose to hire X instead of Z and turn out wrong.

Really sad.

I think it still bears repeating, mostly because different styles of writing impact people differently (even if it's just the same core-content). It also helps _me_ solidify what I'm feeling.

But I agree with you on the next phases: managing budgets and hiring are complex and difficult. They deserve longer pieces as well.

I'd like to add:

-Learn how taxes work or get an accountant

-You won't be able to afford health insurance for your family (in the US)

But why?

Family plan on coveredca site costs about $13k/year. Or even less if your business is not yet profitable enough.

Your latter point definitely keeps me up at night :/

I read an interesting comment either here or on IH the other day about the difference in emotional investment when you're running your own business vs working for someone else.

It was something along the lines of "why is it so easy to take feedback on your work from a boss, but when the same feedback comes from a customer it is so much more personal. at work its a lot easier to ship something that's good enough, but for some reason everything has to be perfect when you're working for yourself"

I totally butchered the quote, and wish i could attribute it properly, but i thought it was a valuable perspective

One of the biggest issues when running a bootstrapped company is retaining focus. There are so many cool features that can be added, but so little resources to implement them. Spending time on something that is not really needed pushes the point of profitability further and further. Basically, the goal is not to make a product that "doesn't suck" because it's not possible. The goal is to find the most optimal way to make it suck less.

This is true for funded startups as well, but a bootstrapped business has a way smaller error margin for wrong product management.

Great summary of of the challenges involved!

Small bit of feedback on your site: I run a business, and am not a programmer. I use a programmer. I can't tell if this is something would use, or not.

You probably don't want to optimize around this use case, but I was looking for a single line that might say "business owner who employe a programmer? Click here to see if this would be useful for you" --> leads to a description of how browserless helps my programmer

Unless you know it would help you (as a manager), I would advise you let the programmer pick his own tools. You can still check with other programmers if his choices make sense, but be careful if acting on this information. Just make sure he uses some sort of CVS (Git is most common nowadays), other than that... any competent programmer should know about these things, and it is more likely that he finds out about them from their peers.

Well, that’s the thing, I don’t know enough about the service to know if it is:

* Something useful for my organization even if my programmer leaves, or

* something useful for a programmer personally

Me and my programmer do talk about stuff to be used by my organization. Which is mainly just him in tech terms, but i want everything documented to mitigate bus factor. So we talk generally about tools. Also if it’s a paid thing, that’s he’s using for working on my stuff, then I would pay for it.

Thanks for the feedback, this is something that has been brought up a few times, via folks from other backgrounds and positions. I'm still trying to think of the best way to tackle this sort of "personalization", but will keep this in mind.

Brennan Dunn recently launched a servie for this actually: https://rightmessage.com

I started a company in south america (American here), and navigating the legal system has been the most life sucking thing ever. The idea was simple enough, but the execution from a legal perspective was something I was completely unprepared for. Also did this completely alone...That being said, the hard part is done ;)

It took me at least several weeks to get an idea of what the legal landscape even looks like, and what/whom I needed to engage. Definitely could be easier, and in its own way it is a gate-keeping mechanism I feel.

For me, it's not that they didn't teach me, it's just that there are so many lessons you have to learn yourself through experience. It's hard to teach how to select, train and keep good employees, how to recognize toxic ones early and fire them, and how to deal with employees who are not bad but not great. It's hard to learn how to pace yourself while also growing the business. You can be taught communication skills but it's like learning a instrument, you need deliberate practice to succeed.

Just wanted to chime in and say thanks for the discussion here. One of my favorite parts of Hacker News is reading through comments and challenging beliefs I've held, and absorbing new ones. Lots for me to think about, and hopefully the community as well. Cheers!

Yo Joel, super rad to see you here. I'll check out browserless

Cobin! Wish you were still around PDX, really miss hanging out :) Let me know when you're back and we'll get 808 again!

Good times, miss you, man

Thanks for this, as a founder myself I completley agree with the ‘Be a customer of your product’ point. Spot on!

We needed to know more reasons on why not to open a business. Tell us more about how hard it is. !(It helps)

:) This is something I've been thinking about as well. I'll have to write up something more details and "when not to" as it's just as hard to pin down as "when you should." Thanks for chiming in!

Yeah... pretty much right.... !!!!!


If by they you mean bloggers, I think you are mistaken.

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