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.
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.
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.
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.
But it's nice to see someone (presumably at a similar stage of life) heading in my direction from the other side. :)
I was forced to read the book "E-Myth Revisited" 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.
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)!
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.
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).
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".
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)
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.
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)
Dammit, I wish I could share a drink with all the commenters here! :-)
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.
And that's precisely the realization I've (finally) come to.
That being said, the rest of the article was a nice read.
Thanks for the kind words!
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 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.
The coffee shop you're sitting in to write code... the proprietor has:
* Payroll expenses
* Marketing, Sales, Promotion
* Supply chain
* Inventory and storage
* Utility bills
* Legal entity structure
* Accounting / taxes
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.
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!
Also, exercise more. I swear I get more time out of exercise for my business than I put in.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
And yes, I blocked HN on my work PC.
Growing thicker skin and being more steadfast goes a long way, but it's hard to practice that.
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.
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!
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.
But I agree with you on the next phases: managing budgets and hiring are complex and difficult. They deserve longer pieces as well.
-Learn how taxes work or get an accountant
-You won't be able to afford health insurance for your family (in the US)
Family plan on coveredca site costs about $13k/year. Or even less if your business is not yet profitable enough.
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
This is true for funded startups as well, but a bootstrapped business has a way smaller error margin for wrong product management.
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
* 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.