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Ask HN: Am I just a wantrepreneur?
428 points by ced83fra 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 148 comments
I am a wantrepreneur. For over 7 years, I have wanted to start something. Really hard, wanted. Surely, I have tried to find an audience for a twisted "Come Dine With Me" (but who would host 3 others random unknown people in their own house??), have started some websites (extractemailaddress.com, linux-commands-examples.com) in the hope to get a big enough niche audience... But all I can get is an average of 8€ per month of donations, which barely covers my hosting costs.

I am trying to get new ideas done. But after one day of programming for my job, I am exhausted and I cannot extract any brain-juice any more. And if I try to work during the week-ends, I can't rewind enough for the next week. And my progress are damn slow. It seems I would need a year to achieve what a good programmer could do in a week.

It seems to me impossible I would be one day a Takuya Matsuyama who makes enough for a living with its app (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18216783), let alone be a Mark Zuckerberg. Even if I have some theoretical knowledge of starting things, as I have read news, stuff, feedback on HN and other sites for years.

Creating a successful business seems to me like the only viable career path to me. I don't see myself as a good developer (maybe it is due to the First month in a new company imposter syndrome, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18257767). So this is not a long-term plan. And I have nerver learned to do anything else. So the only thing left is to create some things, and be successful enough in at least one to make a living out of it.

What should I do?

Just my 5 cents on making linux-commands-examples.com into an actual business:

1. Do a Google Trends research on the Linux commands people search for (and get trouble with/get confused with). Pick ~5 most popular ones.

2. Find 2-5 pages on the Internet for each command where people asked for help and didn't get a 100% satisfying reply.

3. Write a description page (or article) for each of those commands, explaining the stuff people struggle with. Publish link on pages found at #2. Unless you write something cheesy there, people will actually be helpful and won't ban you.

4. Install Google Analytics. Set yourself a proxy goal of 1000 users per day. Start analyzing: how many views per day do you get from a Linux command with score of X in Google Trends with Y links on it from other forums? Back-propagate your goal to actionable items: write N more pages on topics A,B and C, M links for each.

5. Once you get >1000 visitors/day, you can start monetizing it. A very rough ballpark estimate is $1 per 1000 views (give or take, more like 0.1$-10$ depending on a plethora of factors).

6. Once you get a flow of at least $1/day, do your back-propagation again and make a system for yourself when you can look at a topic in Google Trends, quickly search relevant forums, and know exactly how many $/month would an article on this topic bring you. Then compare this income with your effort to write and promote an article and decide whether this is a business you want to do.

P.S. You can also get traffic on writing articles like "did you know those rare time-saving features of commands X, Y or Z" and publishing them on Reddit, HN and other similar sites. Once you figure out the right style to do it so that people will consider it helpful advice and not spam, you can get decent traffic.

Disclaimer: I use those techniques to advertise my paid tool for developers. It may not pay off for a purely ad-monetized content site.

This is a great process for becoming a nice-cashflow side project, but I doubt there's enough people searching for linux commands for this to ever be huge.

Not saying this isn't a great idea, just saying that it's wise to hedge expectations and not expect this to be a get rich quick scheme.

I think if you wanted to turn it into a larger business, the next step would be to determine an adjacent niche that your readers would also like. E.g. maybe a lot of software engineers at tech companies read linux-commands-examples.com, so you could sell them "new hire 1-sheets" for basic linux commands or something. Could help to get more in depth analytics on who's using your product there.

I actually disagree with this. As someone who uses linux as the primary build OS for my software projects, i need to know just enough to make things work but I don't necessarily want to be an uber linux expert. This results in me constantly googling "command for <XYZ> ubuntu", which usually lands me on a stackoverflow page with something that points me in the right direction. Now, i'm not saying a linux example commands website will be successful for my anecdotal reason, but i have to imagine there are many more devs just like me.

yes, but do the numbers....

how many of you are there? People in that stage of learning Linux where they google the 5 most common things people get wrong?

Let's be generous and say 1 million. That seems reasonable. It's certainly more than 100,000 and less than 10 million.

Let's be more generous and say that all these people search for this once a week.

At $1 per 1000 pageviews (the generous estimate) that caps income at $1K/week maximum.

That's a nice side-project, if it captures 100% of all the traffic and manage to monetise it (I'd like to see the percentages of Linux users/admins who also install an adblocker; I suspect it's high).

I do this all the time... "I want a service that does X". But I'm not typical, so the market always ends up being small. The standard startup advice of "solve a problem you have yourself" doesn't work for me. I call it my "Kardashian Problem": I don't understand why anyone would ever spend any time paying the Kardashians any attention whatsoever. This is clearly my problem, because the Kardashians are very popular, and the bajillions of people who do pay them attention seem very OK with it. So I am clearly not a very good judge of the market and should not trust my instincts about what will sell well.

This is where you upsell into ebooks, video courses and paid training. Also if you build an email list you can build partnerships which will lead to a much higher CPM.

yeah, but then your business model is selling ebooks, video courses and paid training, and this just becomes one of a number of avenues to reach your market. Which is all totally fine, of course, but the business is no longer "a website with the 5 answers to the most commonly asked Linux questions" :)

A friend of a friend owns and runs google ads on linux.die.net (linux manpages). It pays his mortgage.

But I'd wager that the audience of people looking for an article on a command, and the people that want a manpage up on a non linux device (a second screen, a phone?) are mostly disjunct, and that the latter is far larger.

I never realized there were ads on this website. Always though it was someone doing it for the love of it.

They certainly do it for the love. And the mortgage.

There is no need to search for a unicorn at first. It's about starting and doing something

Check out the Linux command zines Julia Evans creates and sells online. I don’t know the exact numbers, but if I remember correctly she sold like 3.000 PDFs for $10 each.

My gut reaction is:

- 1,000 views/day => ~$1/day => ~$30/month

- 100,000 views/day => ~$100/day => ~$3,000/month

- having blogged about something on a regular basis that I cared about, I think my blog got maybe 50,000 visitors in 3 years, although I wasn't trying to attract them per se, and then I ran out of things I wanted to talk about

- you'd have to really like creating content to grind away for a long time to start making any real money, unless you get lucky & somehow attract a bug audience that sticks around

- if/when I decide to create a business again, I'd probably hate trying to build up an audience that was monetized with ads alone

To add to what you said: 50,000 visitors in 3 years is much less than 50,000 visitors in one month for example. From my experience sites with low traffic do not receive the same high quality ads as the top sites. This is done so that top publishers always have revenue and also because is harder to detect fraud on low traffic.

Also, the numer of ads to be served on the network varies and when it drops, the lower quality, lower traffic sites are the first to remain without ads that convert and so without revenue.

> I wasn't trying to attract them per se

If you read his comment, it's actually what he tell him to do.

You can have the best content in the world, if no one know it exist, no one will read it. We all believe they will come by themselves and sure it may happens from time to time, but they are the exception, not the rule.

> Once you get >1000 visitors/day

That is a big once.

>you can start monetizing it

How? Ads from an ad bank?

AdSense IS an Ad Bank...

Adsense is a good start.

Expanding your Linux commands site to also covering Unix commands in general, Mac shell commands and Windows Linux subsystem commands specifically, might enlarge your audience.

Thank you for such an amazing advice, that sounds like a plan I'm going to follow with my future projects as well!

Do you mind sharing your app? I'm really curious.

To add to this, it may take a long time to build a big enough audience to make money off ads. But you can use these educational articles as content marketing and lead generation for programming services (example: extract email addresses meeting specific criteria).

I have multiple 1k+/day sites, including 1k+/day forum with avg 7 min visit time. I can't get any accepted for Google ads, unfortunately.

This is a fantastic piece of advice and I am sure many more people along with the OP appreciate your insight.

I've seen Mark Cuban use "wannapreneur" many times on his show and I've heard others use this term.

I spent a good week trying to figure out what they meant because the term never seemed to correlate to the size of the success of the pitch they were hearing.

At one point someone came in who has built some kind of underwater propulsion device which was the culmination of 3 years of work. He had a pretty polished prototype too and was currently working as an engineer for one of the big 4 tech companies making a large salary. This guy had never tried to actually sell his product to anyone. He just kept building. And I remember again Cuban calling him a "wannpereneur".

At that point it struck me that the apparent definition of wannapreneur is "Someone who wants the trappings of an entrepreneur (ie the social capital, the identity etc) and goes to all the entrepreneur conferences but doesn't actually _find customers_ and try to _sell_ a product to them." Its a threshold of actually putting yourself out there with a product and selling. Thats the line.

By this definition you definitely aren't a wantapreneur. You are an _entrepreneur_ but you haven't found your audience and product yet.


You have to remember that becoming good at entrepreneurship means being decent at finding cofounders to complement you (ie being easy to work with) and/or being good at a few of the things to do with business: building, marketing, sales, hiring. If you're trying to do evertyhing on your own you have to be at least average in all these areas. Are you at that point?

If you aren't then find books/courses in those areas and try to become good in those areas (very hard to do) Or find co-founders to complement you.

You're on your way. Keep your income and keep trying with different ideas.

Best of luck!

You're a wannapreneur if:

- You talk to people about your ideas, but never build anything

- You build something without first talking to people

- You build something and never try to sell it

If you build something that people say they'll pay for and then they don't actually pay for it then this is problematic, but also normal and doesn't make you a wannapreneur. At that point it's just part of the struggle.

It's the business equivalent of the 'aspiring actor/musician/artist' who never commits to their aspirations for fear of losing them. You can't really fail if you never really try.

--never try to sell it

To me that should be the only criteria of a wannapreneur.

The reverse of that is the hallmark of the greatest entrepreneurs:

Selling something that doesn’t even exist yet

Or if you fall in love with the initial idea and never iterate.

True, but hard to adjudicate. The problem is how do you differentiate between people who don't pivot because they think the next feature will make them successful and are justified in doing so, versus people who do the same thing but really should pivot? It's tricky because we have all of the following examples:

- People whose initial idea isn't working, but who pivot and immediately hit product market fit.

- People who launch the exact same thing once a year and it finally becomes a huge hit after the fourth time.

- People who pivot quickly and fail, whereas they would have probably been successful had they pushed the original idea to its logical conclusion.

- People who pivot after five years and become wildly successful, but where it's unclear if they would have been as successful had they had pivoted sooner.

- People who pivot and become successful when they would have been better off shutting down and starting over. (e.g. Derek Sivers)

This hits home a lot for me because I always strongly favor the strategy of building some optionality into the product, both for my own startup and when doing consulting, on the assumption that we're probably directionally correct but may be wrong on some specifics (e.g. how a feature should work, who the early adopters will be, what the economy will be like in the future, what the cash flow of the business will be like on any given day, etc.) And I take a lot of shit both for not committing 100% to one specific product and go-to-market strategy, and also for not pivoting fast enough when something isn't working. Go figure.

There are several sites I wish would roll back a few iterations. Flickr, Chowhound, Slashdot..


I'm definitely a wannapreneur.

Time to get out there.

What are your ideas (generically speaking)?

An events app which allows you to subscribe to venues for cheaper. Various things like consistent cashflow/breakage go into making to cheaper.

I have the design and developing chops, it's the customer development & validation part I'm bad at. I really need to talk to businesses before I make it, but I'm always apprehensive about actually doing so.

But now this thread has convinced me. After exams, I'm going to send some emails and organise some meetings, and see what people have to say.

After your first few times it’ll be second nature.

Be very respectful in asking for time and how you use their time. Give a $20 amazon gift card for their time.

> You talk to people about your ideas, but never build anything

Adding to this, you're also a wantrepeneur if you actually manage to start a business but don't end up involved at all in the core product (an "idea person").

So, basically "real" entrepreneurs are salesmen?

A real entrepreneur is able to be or to get salesmen, engineer, finance guy, a marketing guy, etc...

An entrepreneur is someone able to start a company and in a company, you need more than an engineer to build a device, you also need a guy to sale theses devices, a guy to market it and a guy that able to get the capital and do the balance sheet.

Usually finance can be done with time or a mortgage, so we ignore that one pretty often but if you can only build, well if you don't learn the other skills or never find someone to fill theses skills for you, then you can't really start a company, can you?

you're asking this question in a thread about Mark Cuban... yes, 100% salespeople

That’s depressing. So Nikola Tesla was a loser poser but your local slimey used car salesman is the ideal entrepreneur?

I mean... how does history not already tell you this? Nearly every person we remember as a historical figure was able to "sell" something to get there. The typical exception to this is the person who did something interesting, but someone else sold it for them after they died.

In the eyes of their lifetimes and most of history, Edison won the Tesla v Edison battle nearly 100%. Edison was a vastly better salesperson.

If you ask the average person who Nikola Tesla was today, they'd probably say something about the car company. Elon Musk sells the name Tesla better than Tesla himself ever did.

If your idea of success is obtaining money or changing hearts and minds, you better learn how to sell (or I guess you could devise a spectacularly dangerous weapon).

I suppose the question at the root of it is: can you determine someone's "entrepreneurialness" completely by looking at their total profit (or maybe total revenue)? Or is there more to it than that?

For instance, Tesla's ideas were used extensively by others to make money. Is the fact that he personally didn't capture that revenue with is own account take away from his "entrepreneurialness" score?

Inventor =/= Entrepreneur. Tesla was an amazing inventor and an objectively bad businessman.

Nikola Tesla as a brilliant engineer and scientist. At one point he was even one of the wealthiest in NY, he didn't get there by being a "loser poser" he got there by making sales after he created his invention. The first installation of AC generators in Niagra falls didn't get there because he accidently fell into it. Make no mistake, Tesla had to be damned good at sales and engineering to get someone to put so much money up and take such a huge risk on Tesla's AC technology. Don't get me wrong, it helped that he had patents, but there was definitely sales involved.

Not all salesmen are slimey used car salesmen.

Salespeople...but, yes.

Salesman is not the preferred nomenclature. Please, salespeople.

Out of curiosity, what show are you referring to?

I believe it's Shark Tank

The most important thing is consistency. Pick one idea and stick with it (I'm a hypocrite here), and work on it every day for years.

It's hard to keep anything going only during weekends as you spend 90% of your energy just trying to find momentum.

Re "But after one day of programming for my job, I am exhausted and I cannot extract any brain-juice any more. And if I try to work during the week-ends, I can't rewind enough for the next week" -- I had exactly this problem too. It depends a lot on your other commitments, but after years of failing to do anything productive in evenings and weekends (evenings, too tired; weekends, too easy to procrastinate), I partially solved this by spending 30-60 minutes every morning on side projects. Waking up earlier was hard, but I managed to get into the habit of spending some time in a cafe on my way to work. The change in environment (not home) and the very limited time (often I only have one well-defined goal for a morning session) makes me super productive.

I still battle with consistency, but I create a lot during these times. One thing I'm working on is a guide on how to start your own company in 30 minutes a day. It's still at idea stage, but there's a (currently partially broken) website slowly being pieced together[0]

[0] https://startyourown.co/

> I partially solved this by spending 30-60 minutes every morning on side projects. Waking up earlier was hard, but I managed to get into the habit of spending some time in a cafe on my way to work. The change in environment (not home) and the very limited time (often I only have one well-defined goal for a morning session) makes me super productive.

This is a great tip... for every important goal that you would like to pursue. I started to run twice a week at 6:00 am, and the habit to get out of bed early provides an opening for other activities to spend an hour on the other three weekdays (whether that is reading, writing, meditating/praying, exercising, journalling).

BTW, it helps that I've got some running friends waiting at 6:00 am on Wednesdays and Fridays. That 'social obligation' to show up is also a good reason to get out of bed, knowing that some friends are waiting for me.

I struggle with consistency and I saw someone on HN recommend the writings of Barbara Sher.

I'm currently reading "Refuse to Choose! Use All of Your Interests, passions, and hobbies to create the life and career of your dreams". I haven't got too far in it yet but learning about "scanners" made me feel hopeful about my inconsistency.

I also read As a Man Thinketh by James Allen this morning which might be the complete opposite. That book recommends IDing your crazy dream and doing all it takes to make it a reality.

Get domain expertise in something other than programming and make things to solve real business problems for people that aren't technical. Alternatively, partner with people who aren't technical. There are a million developers working on programming tools / knowledge aggregators and very few are ever successful because the community wants everything to be FOSS and they won't pay you. Far fewer people are working on annoying, unsexy, everyday business problems because the problems aren't interesting and the developers lack the domain xp to know that the problems exist or the scope of the problems. Non-technical business people are also very ready to pay money for simple solutions to real problems.

Seconding the "learn a new expertise" bit. Many fields that aren't programming are full of untended problems that are ripe for automation; these opportunities stay un-taken because outsiders never realize they exist. Learn something new, the practice of some other profession or even hobby, and even if it looks cut-and-dry when you're starting out you'll find that there are complexities and difficulties that, potentially, could be calling for some new kind of service to fix them.

Or team up with a domain expert.

I think this is great advice. How do you get expertise in these other domains though? Finding a job in the other field could work, but it's a huge time investment (especially if you ultimately don't end up finding any viable problems in that domain).

This is the best advice I found in the whole thread. Yes, devs don't generally buy from devs, but other fields have a lot of things that need fixing.


Forgive me if my reading is off, but it sounds to me like one of your current stumbling points is "inner game".

Reading between the lines a little, you seem to beat yourself up or go within yourself in response to failure. This is a common trait with perfectionists, who often want to feel like they are without flaws before they open themselves to the world.

I'm basing this on this post and the post you linked to about imposter syndrome, although that post appears to be from another user.

If my description seems accurate, I would recommend dealing with anxiety/perfectionism/self-esteem first by learning about it. If you want, throw up an anonymous website that tracks your journey. Self-help is certainly a profitable market. Developer self-help might be an interesting niche.

Without being centered enough to weather failure with grace, you're going to have a hard time being a successful entrepreneur. Once you have it worked out, you'll be a different person with a better sense of who you are and what your strengths are. And then you'll be in a stronger position to build a product that really connects to people.

I beat my inner perfectionist with the old adage "strive for excellence, not for perfection."

Perfection cannot be realistically achieved, you'll find yourself in an asymptote of diminishing returns. Excellence, on the other hand, can be achieved.

Anonymously blogging about all that seems like a great idea, thanks for the tip.

There isn't much info on how you're doing it but since you're just starting out my advice to you is to keep it simple stupid. To elaborate don't get sucked up too much into new technologies and shiny objects.. If you can make it work with PHP and Vue (or even jQuery) just make it happen.

I had this fatigue when I started learning too much about technology and devops like hosting a site using Docker and stuff and I soon realized that instead of working I was just playing with technologies all day and getting fatigued over nothing. My lesson, there is stuff for big companies and then there is stuff for the solepreneurs.

Also one more piece of advice is there are technologies offered these days as SaaS. You don't have to do everything. A lot of the times you can just buy a service for $30 / mo and get going. Don't wander around too much trying to reinvent the wheel. Need authentication, use auth0, need a file uploader use uploader.win, need to deliver mail use mailgun. This can save you a lot of time and headache.

Conversely, go down every rabbit hole and write off your time as a learning experience. If OP is committed to starting a business, focus on the business. But there's value in being in an "open mode" if you can get it thru to your brain that it's ok to not get anywhere quickly. The really valuable innovations are going to be in the overlooked areas.

I have been a wantrepreneur for a very long time. Like yourself I have tried and failed multiple ideas. I have worked with about 10 startups (including some my own). I know (and have had honest reflections from others) that I have caliber to work things out. But I have realized the biggest issue is lack of perseverance - I jump ideas too often. Any idea (unless I am super lucky) will need years of patient hand holding. I give up/get bored easily.

So on Jan 1, 2018 I promised myself I will stick to one of my ideas. I did, now we are a tiny team seeing traction. Not revenue though. I had already started a second idea in between, that is how fickle my mind is. But I dropped it after detecting my brains own devil. So I am still sticking to the one I started this year. As a team we have good goals till Dec 2018 and then first quarter 2019. We have not planned beyond.

What I mean to say is: stick to one. Things may not go well, but keep trying solutions in the same product, experiment a lot. Give yourself at least 2 or 3 years of "honest" effort. I do not over work, strict 8 hours a day. I consult to raise the funds for our product. I have promised myself time till end of 2020 to see where this goes. I am 35 years old, been into startups since 22.

The bare minimum as of now: https://travlyng.com/

Edit: I used the wrong year 2017 instead of 2018. Sleepy head.

> So on Jan 1, 2017 I promised myself I will stick to one of my ideas. I did, now [...] So I am still sticking to the one I started this year. As a team we have good goals till Dec 2017 and then first quarter 2018. We have not planned beyond.

Which is a great idea - I tried to do the same, but it continues to be hard to suppress other nice/promising/interesting ideas that surface every once in a while.

BTW, perhaps it's because of our hyperfocus on that one idea, but in the mean time 2018 has already started some while back, and we're close to Dec. 2018. Plan accordingly :-)

I have a lot of attention, focus or hyperfocus issues. Plus poor social life for many years and also mild-depression.

The only way through has been the hard one - string discipline, pushing myself into building good long term friendship, traveling, having hobbies (learning drums now).

It is very easy for people like us to lose focus and jump to the next nice idea. I have lost so much time this way.

Sorry the timeline in my post was incorrect, had just woken up :P

I'd love to subscribe to a newsletter but didn't see one. Sure twitter is nice and I use it a lot, but you have to be one more channels.

Thank you for asking for this. We actually want to add this, but are waiting to see if people actually ask for it.

We will add a subscription from our next article (in a couple weeks).

On your page, there is a mistake (Setember). Also you should probably switch the standard React favicon to your own one.

Thanks for pointing these two out. It is strange that the spelling error persists, some cache issue. Will fix them. Thanks a lot :)

You're welcome. Just some things that immediately caught my eye.

How about this (just throwing some ideas out there):

1. Create more niche "properties" that provide a small to medium services. focus on something people might need, be willing to pay a small amount for, and ideally can run with minimal supervision.

2. Rinse repeat #1 until a few of those are ongoing. 8 euros per month becomes maybe 800 and growing over time.

3. Don't try to be Zuckerberg. There is only one of him, thank all the gods.

4. Don't even think about the words "startup", "exit", "investment" etc. Focus on stuff that will provide you with a lifestyle of your choice.

5. Try to make each "property" the best you can. Focus on making a "Good Product" (tm). Good products have better chance of being used. Give each one the love it needs. Stay focused. Complete the project. Take it slowly, there is no rush. You have no Boss here. No deadlines.

6. One of these days, one of those niche idea becomes semi-niche, broader audience. Go with it.

7. Remember there is no magic formula, no secret sauce, luck is a huge factor and there is no guarantee for anything.

8. Aim for lifestyle. It's a good aim.

What you sound to me is lonely. I say that not to be flip, but trying to create something on your own is exponentially harder than doing it alongside a partner. My 2¢: throw yourself into work at your company. Learn as much as you can. Meet colleagues. Make friends. Don’t see it as the place you’ll be forever, but as a place you can build resources. Hang our outside of work with the colleagues you feel inspired by. Talk about plans for the future. Riff on eachother’s ideas. When something seems interesting to a group of you, take some time to build it out as a fun experiment or hobby. Think of these as play not work. At some point one of these hobbies will inevitably find an audience and get some traction. You’ll know it’s right when you and your “cofounders” — though if you’re doing it right you won’t even think of each other that way yet — can’t stop thinking about it and working on it feels invigorating not exhausting. Once you’re there the path to creating a business will get a lot clearer. But trying to get there on your own, while not impossible, is very lonely and very hard.

I was in your same shoes until 4 years ago. I wanted to be an entrepreneur so desperately. I developed websites which solved technical problems imagining users would flock. I tell you it was heart breaking to see one or two hits every week. I tried 3-4 different applications and had zero revenue - docverifier (a document formatting and verification software for students), inqvest (a platform for angel investors) to name a few which have all been dissolved. In 2014, I was finally able to create a niche software product - www.legistracker.com which now creates some passive income. It is not a real business yet but it helps me pay off some of the bills. I was able to do it because realized I was looking in the wrong direction. The problem is that I never ASKED any potential customer what would be a good problem to solve. Without a paying customer, you have no viable product. What I would suggest is that you target small business owners what would help them in a. increase their sales or b. increase their productivity. <shameless plug>I wrote a small e-book https://payhip.com/b/VdmH exactly outlining how to find your first target paying customer if you are interested</shameless plug>. Don't lose hope. Good luck!

From what I can tell your site is only served via HTTP, including your login page. You're sending people's passwords in the clear - please fix!

There's an Alan Kay video out there, titled something like "How to Invent the Future" (or something close to that). It's in two parts, and it should be available on Youtube. In that video there's a part where he talks about good ways to come up with an idea for a new business. I'd try to describe the process to you, but I really can't do it justice. I'd say go find the videos and watch them and consider giving his approach a shot.

You'll know you're at the bit I'm talking about when he starts talking about the book Human Universals.

I liked that video, too. Kay suggested that there is a very long list of human universals, that almost all of them can be translated into a human need or want, and that very few had yet been mined for their business potential. I went looking for the list when I first watched that video:



Thanks! I am reading HN for this kind of hints.

First of all, I respect your self-awareness. I’ve been in a similar rut.

I disagree with some suggestions here that you should watch things like Startup School. Those videos, while well-intentioned, can make you feel even more inadequate and “behind” when you feel stuck.

If you’re losing a game of basketball, it’s not terribly fun to watch somebody else make dunk after dunk.

I currently run one of the largest newsletters in tech (https://techloaf.io), which I started purely as tiny side project to force me into action while in a similar rut. It started with just me writing up satirical jokes and sending out and email to a few friends each week, to now a project with about a dozen writers and a wide following.

As unhelpful or vague as this might sound, I’ve found that just doing something can have a snowball effect. Pick the smallest possible task for the easiest possible side project and start doing. For me, that was literally just telling a few people that I’d send them a funny email each week.

Best of luck, you’ll look back on this and smile once you’ve got your next project off the ground.

I have met a few people who are determined to be entrepreneurs and don't seem all that picky about the content of their entrepreneurship. It doesn't seem like all that great a path.

IMO it's a bit of a cliche, but you should find an idea that you're passionate about (that's also a plausible business plan, naturally :-) ) and follow it. Deciding you want to be an entrepreneur first, then casting around for ideas, seems desperately contrived. I know it's worked for some people, so there's no hard-and-fast law, but I personally can't see how one gets through the general grind of a startup motivated only by an abstract and rather extrinsic goal of "being an entrepreneur".

I’ve seen this go both ways, and I find it really interesting. I’m, personally, solidly in the “passion” camp. I’ve got a few friends though where “building the business” is the passion for them, and what the particular business is doesn’t matter all that much. Seeing the business grow and knowing that they’ve got staff that they’re providing a good life for... that seems to be enough for them, even if they’re not particularly passionate about the specific businesses.

Naah, I can totally see that happen. Ideas are the proverbial dime a dozen, getting them to a profitable stage involves a lot of effort that has very little to do with the core idea and a lot to do with attracting an audience, establishing cash flow, marketing, ... basically, running a business.

Someone who's intrinsically motivated to run a business only needs an idea. Someone who's intrinsically motivated by the idea only needs to run a business.

Neither is easy. Which is why plenty of businesses fail.

Of course, folks who have neither business sense nor killer ideas but still want to start a business face a very uphill challenge.

To me, "wantapreneur" is synonymous with the people who are big on talk or the trappings of startup life without actually making anything or are constantly looking for someone else to build out their big idea. At least you're building something on your own!

Of the many pieces of pg startup wisdom cited or linked to on HN, the one bit that sticks with me is just five simple words, from one of his early essays (1):

Make something that people want.

If you can figure that out, you'll be on the right track. You've made some mistakes; learn from them and make something better that customers truly want.

1. http://www.paulgraham.com/good.html

I’ve always resonated more with a slightly modified version in a much more powerful way.

“make and sell something people want”

It’s not a business unless money is getting transferred!

I think the most correct version is

“Make something people will buy from you”

There are actually plenty of things people want that you can sell but they won’t buy, for example because they can get it cheaper or free somewhere else.

I think PG was very careful and very precise about the advice he gave there. If you look at the context he specifically addresses and discards the idea of trying to make money from it straight away:

About a month after we started Y Combinator we came up with the phrase that became our motto: Make something people want. We've learned a lot since then, but if I were choosing now that's still the one I'd pick.

Another thing we tell founders is not to worry too much about the business model, at least at first. Not because making money is unimportant, but because it's so much easier than building something great.

A couple weeks ago I realized that if you put those two ideas together, you get something surprising. Make something people want. Don't worry too much about making money. What you've got is a description of a charity.

When you get an unexpected result like this, it could either be a bug or a new discovery. Either businesses aren't supposed to be like charities, and we've proven by reductio ad absurdum that one or both of the principles we began with is false. Or we have a new idea.[1]

It's fine to disagree with that advice of course. But I think in the context of YC it make sense. If you aren't doing YC and can't raise capital as easily then maybe not.

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/good.html

I believe apart from being in Silicon Valley, raising capital in other parts of the world is significantly much much harder.

In SV, you can go “I’ll worry about funding problem later, if I have good growth and retention, raising money will be a breeze and I’m fairly confident of it as there are tons of VCs in this economy blowing cash”

In other parts of the world: “It could mean the death of my company if I can’t raise money and using up the little I have. Bootstrapping and being profitable is a much more saner route”

You can only control your efforts, not the outcome. A writer writes, a singer sings, a creator creates.

So long as you’re actually putting businesses out into the universe you’re a full fledged entrepreneur.

I can’t tell you why you haven’t been as successful as you want to be. That kind of advice is all over the place. Perhaps the comments here are right: figure out what the customer wants first and make a minimal first product. Perhaps they’re wrong and you should incubate them for longer or perhaps some third thing (partner with someone else? It’s not bad to be the drummer in the Beatles).

But I think self-doubt is a natural part of creativity and maybe even a sign you’re on the right track.

Go watch all the videos at www.startupschool.com

Writing code and starting a business are different activities. You need to learn how to start a business, figure out what product you want to build, find out what market you want to target, merge the product and market to get a product/market fit. Then figure out selling/marketing/funding and all the rest.

Ideas are actually the easiest thing, execution is the hardest.

You might not want a startup but a small business that can make more than you currently make, then head over to indiehackers.com

You can do it. Have you considered partnering up with someone else? It's really hard to go at it alone. Not impossible, but really tough.

> "Ideas are actually the easiest thing, execution is the hardest."

This. I've seen many people with "good" startup ideas, but doing always > talking.

Most programmers see the opposite, actually. Every one of my friends want to do a startup, but "dont have any good ideas". Any tips for finding the right idea, or do you have any good ideas :)

Start by identifying your market (which people can you connect with easiest). Go where they go and see what problems they talk about. Take notes. See if you can solve one of their most common problems, completely, and see if your solution resonates with them. Package it up and put a price on it. Done. (I literally wrote the book on it)

One last thing. If you aren't good at business or willing to become a business person, it's okay. As OP mentioned, working along side someone who is good at that sort of thing might be just as rewarding. Just be sure upfront you make it clear you should get your share.

I'm curious, do you have examples of yourself doing the above successfully?

1) Don't judge yourself after one month at your company, it takes time to fit in an learn the ropes

2) Don't be too hard on yourself. Your brain needs some rest. Rest as long as you need. Don't ever compare yourself to Zuck, you see a billionaire now but he was a student when he started FB, and probably as lost as you are.

3) Not much time? Focus on the essential: find a real problem to solve. Maybe a problem you have, maybe a friend's. Maybe something related to your hobby. Don't focus too much on coding, maybe you can solve problems with a simple spreadsheet for now, and build a site when you have your first customers

Surely, I have tried to find an audience for a twisted "Come Dine With Me" (but who would host 3 others random unknown people in their own house??), have started some websites (extractemailaddress.com, linux-commands-examples.com) in the hope to get a big enough niche audience... But all I can get is an average of 8€ per month of donations, which barely covers my hosting costs.

This sounds to me like you are looking at the "skin" of what other people do and trying to replicate that instead of digging into the guts behind why their thing was successful.

I talk a lot with my sons about how dragons in fiction are "the red dragon" and "the blue dragon" and "the green dragon" etc. And maybe the red dragon breathes fire and the blue dragon breathes ice and the green dragon breathes acid, but they all look essentially identical except for the color, like you took a stamp and stamped out three dragons and colored them all differently with crayons.

In reality, if you have three species that are that fundamentally different in function, they will look vastly different. It won't be the same body, but with different skin.

You can see this readily in nature. Penguins are birds. But they are birds that don't fly, live in a very cold climate and swim. They look vastly different from most birds that live in warmer climates and fly instead of swimming.

So, no, it isn't sufficient to replicate the "skin" of a successful business. You need to do research and find out what the hidden parts are that make it actually work. This is sometimes called "the secret sauce."

No matter how much public data is available about a business, there will be things the public doesn't know -- The working guts of the business that happens behind the scenes. This is what you appear to be missing.

In my thirties, I was doing similar things. I was pursuing the trappings of a business without actually accomplishing anything.

The crux of all business is you need paying customers. You need to figure out a thing of value that people will pay you for. If you can't figure that out, the trappings aren't going to do anything. If you have that, layering on some trappings of business can improve things.

But you have to have that piece first and foremost. And from where I sit, you don't seem to be doing that piece.

You're definitely not a Wantrepreneur. You're trying things. So I think you've definitely got what it takes to build something great.

As a developer who has built a few decent side projects and turned down some investment money -- if I can give engineers any advice, it's:

Stop trying to build services on your own.

Sure, if you're REALLY passionate about something SaaS-y or if you're REALLY determined to be a billionaire, I guess starting your own VC-funded SaaS is the way to go.

You seem to be like most people who just wants to build/run your own thing and make a decent living, maybe a living a bit better than what you have currently.

If that's the case, I really recommend trying to sell a product instead (and not a software one). It's not quite as satisfying, but it's much less time-consuming and the odds of generating a meaningful profit in a reasonable amount of time are MUCH higher.

A common mistake I see is developers often view a big and well known service and assume that means the entire market is fully catered to. For example, 'Firebase' is a large Google service that handles backend-as-a-service (BaaS). Does this mean the entire BaaS is now off the table for others?

Of course not! Maybe you can create a specialised BaaS that works great for the unique demands of Ruby developers, with a seamless SDK for them. There will be multiple specialised niches that Firebase does not cater to because they are so large that small niche areas are not worth their effort. But that niche might make a nice little lifestyle business for a developer! Do a good job of it and you become known as the go-to place for the Ruby community. (This is just an example, I have no idea if the Ruby community needs a Firebase BaaS)

On this note, without mentioning names, I'm going to share two real world examples of people I know turning businesses into profitable side projects in very very crowded markets.

One is so profitable in fact that the side project is about to become his full time business. He built a tool to do link tracking using social media pixels. I mean that's a suuuuuper crowded market, but he fine tuned it enough to serve a particular customer base of small to medium businesses and with a primary focus on managing retargeting pixels in one place.

The second business I know of was built in the market of checking cron job success/uptime and doing alerting on failures. Again, there are other products that do exactly this thing. But humans being humans don't connect purely with the feature sheet. From pricing to overall experience his product and customer service was different enough that people are paying for it. And while it was a slog to get his first 10 paying customers, his next 10 took only 1/3rd of the time that it did for the first 10.

This is just a supporting statement for the above comment. Have courage in yourself. Go forth! :)

The act of creating is entrepreneurship, not the result.

To add even more advice to a lot of good advice already posted, I would encourage you to learn about sales and marketing as much as anything. The building is just the start. If you build something you still have to sell it. Also, set some goals. If you havent had much success to date I would suggest setting a goal of $100 to $1000 a month or whatever suites you. Now, do the work with that goal in mind. Are you going something that moves you closer to that goal or just writing more code?

Read The Magic of Thinking Big. You're not a wantrepreneur - you've tried something and been paid for it, and that's a big step that a lot of people don't get to.

Changing your mindset is the first step. Don't think that because you only have five hours a week to work on your project, that it is forever relegated to "side project" status and capped out at $100/month.

It sounds like you want to focus on web apps, many of which are heavily dependent on organic search traffic. The first thing that I'd do after reading the book is to get a SEMRush free trial - a lot of affiliate sites have 30-day free trials. Look at how many people are searching for your target keywords, the keyword difficulty score, what advertisers are bidding for the keywords, and traffic of comparable sites.

If everything checks out, look at how you can improve on the comparable sites. Everything has potential for improvement - even if your tool works exactly the same way as a competitor, just optimizing the website copy (do a ton of A/B tests and talk to your users) could yield impressive results.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

You may try to maintain a positive attitude before anything else. There are definitely many different career paths.

You've said yourself that people have paid for the things you've built in the past, so you are definitely more capable than you think when it comes to building stuff.

If the money you make barely covers your hosting costs, this might mean two things: 1) Not many people know about your solution, 2) you are not solving a big problem. 1 should be correct, if you've managed to make 8€/month, it'd be really odd if all the money you can make with your solution is capped at this amount. There should definitely be more people willing to pay you, you just have not managed to meet them. Maybe you should spend more time about distribution. I also think 2 might be true, too. Maybe instead of building ideas right away, you may spend more time evaluating ideas, talking to people to understand what's important.

Last of all, I think defining characteristics of successful entrepreneurs include resourcefulness and perseverance.

Couple of things Id love to clarify:

1. Why do you need to be an entrepreneur? If your day job is exhausting have you tried changing jobs to a more balanced work place? If it is a matter of skill/expertise have you tried investing in upskilling yourself?

2. If you dont think you are a good developer (imposter syndrome or otherwise) what makes you think you would be a good entrepreneur? I am not saying being a good dev is the only prerequisite but if you are going into be in some kind of software startup space there will be a lot of coding/dev ops/engineering/debugging/prototyping across the stack. I hope you were not looking to be a biz-guy-looking-for-a-coder.

Now despite the above if you truly truly want to be an entrepreneur (and revel in #struggleporn as suggested in another thread) try the following (YMMV):

1. Take a vacation and just unwind without thinking about work. Given your 7 years of experience I am assuming you are young and have less number of "responsibilities" and I am assuming you are living in Europe (from your donation currency) so you may not have to depend on employment for basics like health insurance.

2. If you can afford to take time off (say for 6 months) go on a reading/learning spree without actually working on potential ideas. You will be amazed at realizing that the things you dont know are not magical (they are just unknown and vast) and be pleasantly surprised at how each fibre of knowledge builds N^2 connections between your other threads of knowledge.

3. Build relationships with people in different areas outside of your immediate interest/work. Again do this purely for learning rather than hoping to turn it into a business venture.

The common thread across the above three is you are letting your brain do some garbage collection which is a powerful way to put it to good use in the future.

Before I even knew I could consider myself entrepreneur (or Wantrepreneur) I tried years of everything and it was lots of fun and learning. I never made more than a few dollars these years, even when I tried, but when I did I was happy.

Then I finished my education, did my years of professional work (which I think is kinda relevant to do) and realized I hate work.

Only then I found all these phrases and tips around being entrepreneur. And well it didn't help at all.

Only when I started to make things out of pure passion and being able to let go when things sucked I started to get things that stick.

And fuck most projects I start still go nowhere. However some do. And i am cool about that.

Don't give up. But give up trying to make money. Make great things that you need. Recreate things that you know you can do a lot better, and never stop. Things will eventually work out.

YCombinator Startup School heavily emphasizes leaving your day job and committing 100%. I'm trying to start something similar to your Come Dine With Me, but out in public instead of at people's house. (plug: https://www.thawd.net coming to Seattle soon!) Devoting 100% of my mental energy to it means I have been able to iterate on the idea itself quickly, spend time talking to people about it (which is itself exhausting!) and completely engulf myself in the startup community.

There are people who devote 100% of their mental energy to whatever they are doing right now. Those people are not going to be successful with side projects. When I am building something, it is on my mind 100% of the time, waking up, showering, getting dressed, driving, eating, all the time.

I cannot do 2 projects at once.

In regards to coding, being a good programmer is only a small part of running a business. Marketing, managing a team, working with designers, and inspiring others with your idea are all skills that are incredibly important.

The code needs to work, sure. And hopefully it is reliable, but just as important, the business needs to work. You need to be able to send cold emails, handle rejection, and be able to put a smile on your face on demand at any time of day at any place meeting with anyone.

Of course before you quit your day job, make sure you have an idea that people want. Throw some marketing $ at it and see what your conversion rate it, even if it is to a "sign up for more info" form.

Go out and talk to people on the street, one of the most difficult things I did, which was step 1, was literally go to different neighborhoods, walk up to people, and ask them about my product idea. Especially for mass market products, this is a quick, and painful, way to cycle through ideas really quickly.

Also, for your email address extractor, have some sample input there. It'll go a long way towards explaining your value prop.

YCombinator Startup School heavily emphasizes leaving your day job and committing 100%.

A. This is a luxury many people do not have. For example, most women are unable to do this, in part because they can't get the same financial support for their business ideas as men.

B. I'm a fan of YC, but "consider the source." They are an incubator who only funds people doing this full time, not part time. That's their business model. So that's what they know. That doesn't mean it is the right answer for everyone all the time.

Both statements are true, which is why I talked about people who can and cannot split their focus.

Some people are great at having a side hustle, but it sounds like OP isn't one of them.

Yes, but leading with that statement suggests it is "gospel," not "the right answer for some people who can't split their focus."

True, unfortunately I'm on mobile now and not really able to reformat everything.

Hopefully this thread serves as a disclaimer!

I disagree, they have built and maintained side hustles and proven they can do it. It is just that they have yet to find monetary success. There is success in launching at all with a full time job.

I agree that if you can devote more time then definitely do though. Maybe that is going part time, or getting rid of some debt first so you can take longer breaks and focus then.

The other difference I think showing here is that a side hustle doesn't look anything like a startup. A small business doesn't even look like a startup. If you have a startup you probably have VC and employees, then of course you should quit your job.

A side project you are trying to turn into a small business can be done alone and slowly scale up. At some point in that long process you will probably need to quit your job, but that will hopefully be easy to see when you get there.

Not relevant to the OP, but the thawd website has a really nice design (I'm not in Seattle though).

Thanks! I did the website myself. I had not touched anything in the web in ~12 years so it took me an embarrassingly long time to come up to speed on CSS and what can be done with it now. It's nice to receive positive feedback on it!

> YCombinator Startup School heavily emphasizes leaving your day job and committing 100%.

Is this true? I am participating in startup school now and nobody has encouraged me to quit my job.

Do it 100% was on the first lecture in Startup school.

If you want to get money from donations you need publicity because most people who visit your website will never donate. If you are someone who releases/has lots tools I would recommend setting up a single domain with dedicated pages for each tool (e.g. tool.domain.com or domain.com/tool) and setting up a Patreon in addition to the donation button.

Honestly I would put ads on the extractemailaddress.com website and work on improving it's position on the search results. In addition to that localization to one or two other languages would probably be nice to boost the views. That "make a small donation" button really put me off.

I've seen lots of superb responses in here but the, "I'm tired after work at night and on the weekend I'm burnt and want to slack to unwind" is a complicated one. I've had a similar issue, especially as I've one 40 hr consulting gig while picking up a small second one, and hoping to invest effort to find new ones over time.

I don't know what the answer is. All I know is, my friends with families and young kids have so little free time, they're envious of my freedom. This has given me the motivation to push myself a little even if it takes a bit of willpower and I'm sleepy.

Creating a successful business is DEFINITELY not the only viable career path for you or anyone. I'm not sure where you're getting that idea but, luckily for you, it's super super wrong.

Entrepreneurship can be boiled down to one command (don't crucify me): Find a need, or make one, and fill it.

So start by learning the problems that people have and truly validate that problem's existence and significance in their lives.

The second thing I would consider are your execution abilities. Looking at your websites, it's clear that web design isn't your strong suit; it seems your strong suit might be having deep knowledge of the linux ecosystem (taking a guess here). Then again consider your market size.

I've been where you are.

Here are some things that worked for me:

1. Get some time off. Don't work, just relax, read things, try to find real problems from people around you.

2. Start a project with someone. Anyone. Accountability works really good.

3. Try to concentrate on one things, making it good enough.

4. I've found that listening to entrepreneurship podcasts works wonders for motivation.

And to end this comment: the moment you've got $1 in your account you stopped being a wantrepreneur :)

Pick one of the niches you are knowledgeable about, create an online course and go out and sell it.

An online course is a very versatile type of product, much easier to create than an ebook (or an app for that matter), much easier to promote, easier for people to consume, and much easier to monetize. Online courses are a booming trend. And you don't need any infrastucture to sell it, just a stripe account and a platform like https://www.learnworlds.com (disclosure, I am a co-founder there).

You would probably need a couple of hours to create some nice screencasts with the top linux commands. Make this a free course and share it across social media. Much easier than building an MVP app or site. If you see traction then double down and go for the paid "premium" course

Hello! I'm currently working with my own startup full-time and it is a lot of work. I feel like I resonate with what you have written here and would love to get in contact with you if you want, if only for moral comfort or maybe work together with something in the future. If this sounds appealing to you please let me know and we can exchange details :) It is always nice having someone likeminded to speak with.

On the context of one of your ideas: I'm going to move to Denmark for a while and I was actually recommended checking this facebook page out: https://facebook.com/copenhagenjumpingdinner/ to get to know people in the city. I'm sure that this could be made into a popular app if it is executed correctly, might be interesting for you to check it out in case it contains some valuable information that you can use for inspiration.

Everyone is faking it until they make it. I think a deciding event is when someone takes on no other employment for 1 year at a time and works 110% all in on their startup, then they are definitely an entrepreneur and have made the leap from the sidelines.

One idea I didn't see listed elsewhere: Try to go and work for an early stage startup if you are having trouble getting a startup off of the ground yourself. You will learn a lot more as one of the first 10 employees as you do as one of the first 10k. If you tell startups founders you eventually want to do your own startup they respect that and will try to give you opportunities and can share a lot with you about their startup experience.

Also hopefully if you are part of a successful startup exit you will get some street cred and some money to live off of. If it's a failed startup even better as you will learn even more from that experience.

I am/was in a similar situation where I really wanted to start something on the side. I spent 6-mo trying out new ideas and experienced all the same problems you did (i.e., tired after work, can't devote enough time to build the product, sucked at marketing, etc).

After 2 years, I finally have a nice SaaS business that's giving me some passive income. What did it for me was that I created a solution that solved MY problem. If you're trying to solve your own problem, turns out you'll spend time on it and most likely many other people have the same problem.

My side project keeps me a bit busy (usually 5-10 hrs a week) but it's really not bad considering that I'm saving time by solving a problem I had.

Just my two cents, as it seems that coming up with the right idea is half the battle.

You are being too hard on yourself. The people you mention are outliers, one in a million or more.

Without knowing more about your skills, experience and interests it is hard to make suggestions. But I'll try anyway ...

Instead of focusing on your desire to be an entrepreneur, why don't you stop and look about you and see what problems, challenges, etc exist (there are literally hundreds if you look empathetically). Look at those problems that resonate with you and sketch out how you could address them. Not all solutions involve computers, programs and websites. Eventually you could stumble across a problem that you can see a solution to and can see how you can focus your knowledge, skills, experience and connections to implement the solution. Often times, the solution will involve reaching out to other people, etc.

I can relate. Here is how I would/do handle this situation...

1. Use my own time to learn new things while building a startup. This means I get less fatigued after s day job.

2. Focus more on solving a passion problem than being an entrepreneur. I’ve found I’m a lot happier building the right solution to a problem than figuring out how to make it a business. I won’t taint the right solution by putting business needs first.

3. Learn to enjoy the act of creating than the art it produces. This means you’ll sustain being in ‘the dip’ for longer.

4. Listen to audio books and mix it between entrepreneurship/startup topics and self decelopment. Some of my biggest improvements to happiness have come from books that help me enjoy the moment more.

5. Do one thing at a time and focus on doing it well. A fox can’t chase two rabbits, so you can’t chase building 5 parts at once. No. 3 and 4 help me do this.

6. Consider finding a cofounder who can do the bits you don’t enjoy. They should also be obsessed with solving the same problem.

7. Don’t let imposter syndrome get to you. Some people let it affect them, others don’t even consider it. It has nothing to do with ability. Learn to enjoy learning, and explore No. 4 to build your resilience to feeling anxious and how to deal with other people in a more enjoyable way.

8. Be okay with the discomfort you are felling and believe that a set of actions can solve it. You just need to experiment with different actions and see which ones fail and which ones succeed. You have a lifetime to explore this.

I was in your shoes for the past 10 years. I get distracted too easily. Since then I found a great couple of co-founders, we’ve released a beta but are completely obsessed with the problem area we’re solving. We love what we are doing and aren’t in a rush, but are hungry for success. You too can get there, it won’t happen overnight so thinking in terms of smaller wins is the best approach. The big wins are a product of lots of smaller ones.

You ask this question and you are already doing what you should. Asking questions.

Maybe these are not the ultimate questions you want to get an answer for but are a great start.

Also be aware that everyone will start to realize their limits at some point. As children we could improve by endlessly repeating whatever we saw. After a while we need to work on finding the things from which we can learn and improve in a better rate. Also finding a balance between work and regeneration is key. Work efficiency and regeneration speed can be increased - thus allowing for better rate of learning. Also by not stressing over needless things you can save a lot of energy.

The more stable a system is the harder it is to rewire it - so we must sometimes start over and make things a bit unstable to find new paths.

Good luck!

I feel the same way about leisure time and attempting to become fully self-employed. This, or creating other cash flow streams. I have to work full-time to keep my head above the water, although never seem to have enough time to get to the next safety boat. I did create and close a business, the whole way through. Although, I didn't have enough time to actually perform the tasks needed to produce a profit. I find it hard to find anyone willing to take a risk with their time/job in creating other enterprise. They are either too busy, or above their heads. Also, finding a person to partner in a business with you is a tall ask. This person is going to have to be willing to go into battle with you.

First, it is just very hard to make money from ad/donation supported niche content sites. I am running few sites like this for half decade and my income is basical half of what it was last year every year, even with 20%/year increase of traffic. It basically went from being able to pay my mortgage to paying for nice dinner each month.

I like what is described as The Stairstep Approach: https://robwalling.com/2015/03/26/the-stairstep-approach-to-...

This may not be what you want to hear, but you should nevertheless consider that perhaps running your own business isn't for you. Other respondents here have pointed out the vast amount of work that goes into starting up something new. It's really, really difficult. If this were an easy thing to do, absolutely everyone would be doing it, because who wouldn't want to be their own boss?

Don't take this as criticism of you. On the contrary, this may be the opportunity you need to leverage your true strengths instead of attempting repeatedly to embark on a gambit that seems to be a poor fit for your personality.

My advice is never give up. You have a deep introspection on your life which is a double edged sword. On one hand it's very important to learn from your past and your mistakes. On the other hand you need to believe in yourself to succeed. Don't short change your skills or ability.

I think the thing with the most value you can build in your life is a company. One off websites can be very successful, but it's rare. You'll have higher success building a business that solves some problem for a big audience.

Come back when you've failed ten times. I'm sure even then you won't be asking that question.

An entrepreneur is a more difficult job that requires you to be good at more than just programming. A capable entrepreneur imo, would not be churning out random super niche websites like the ones you just listed, hoping that one of them sticks.

Market research takes time and effort, just like programming does. If you do not already have an idea you know will make you money, you will need to put in the time and effort to find one instead of using that time making random websites. Some people do get lucky and find a niche without much effort, but that is likely not the case for most.

If you are an entrepreneur, coding will be a tiny detail. Selling it will be your first priority, making the customers happy is second, then a bunch of other things, more sales calls, then coding is 99.

Some people are just not good for entrepreneurship, even if they do want it very hard. Desire alone is not enough. Success is a multiplication of factors, not a sum, and if you are bad at just one aspect you fail. I think you should find a companion or two and take a couple of shots on short-term projects with them. Not a big-deal-out-of-garage, just a project to check things out. The idea is to complement each other's drawbacks and form a team that is good at everything.

You're just not working and trying hard enough to get your ideas off the ground. It's s vast amount of work.

Yoda knows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_tYQRP4QWM

No, you aren’t. I can see two patterns here: first, you do not throw enough sh*t on the wall you choose (market research, content, lots of content, package) and as a consequence, second, you are unable to dig deep enough to make something stick (sales).

For whom do you want to be an entrepreneur, what is your mindset?

If it is for yourself, then it will be hard.

If it is for the possible customer, then it might be a little bit easier.

Read “Leadership an Self Deception” for help in changing your mindset.

- Concentrate on one thing.

- Make something you need and would pay for. If it already exists somewhere, find a good reason why you need to do it at all (and not just use the existing thing).

- No donations, let people pay for it.

Keep at it, it takes time and perseverance. Learn by doing mistakes and falling just to get up once again. There‘s no other way. No one gets it the first time.

Wantrepreneur! I've been looking for a word like that for so long.

Same. I started a multi-user calculator (now dead) hoping to get users and eventually offer paid plans. It never got more than 5 monthly users. Started a blog (now dead). Not much traffic. Made some contract work for people, but the projects are too damn boring so I'd rather focus on university. I think I am happier when I code free side projects without any capitalist aspiration. Still, the desire to stop having a boss is strong. But then, the clients become the boss, which can be as bad.

Worse. Much worse.

> donations

There's your problem.

I don't think it's the lack of trying that is doing you in, so much as it is a linear approach to entrepreneurship like what they will teach in business 101 classes: you are going through the motions without having the underpinning philosophy to animate them usefully.

A key part of this puzzle is knowing what you want to focus your mind's effort on: product design, coding problems, sales, etc. When you actually meet a market, you aren't just doing whatever you want and they buy it: you are engineering the specific thing that they actually buy, whether it's stereotypical "service with a smile" or "value for money" or "niche high end for discerning tastes". And advice about finding and optimizing performance metrics is exactly what this accomplishes. You have to consciously decide which metrics you want to optimize and throw all your leverage around their improvement, which tends to also throw you outside your comfort zone.

If you don't want to do that kind of sales-and-profits hustling, you're being an entrepreneur in a more speculative, "build it and they will come" sense, which has a much lower hit rate. But that doesn't mean you can't do it at all: you still have to decide on metrics for success, you just aren't using the surface ones now. It is in avoiding any kind of deliberate improvement that you trail off into having a non-functional business, and there are plenty of companies around that are alive, have employees and turn profits, but are in a zombified state, not really showing ambition - and that's definitely not entrepreneurship.

For example: you are in the business of manufacturing and selling crowbars. You decide that you will sell "the world's strongest crowbar". OK, now you have goals that produce a lot of activity: how strong are the existing crowbars on the market? What tests should you use to determine strength? Which materials and manufacturing methods will make your product stronger? What marketing materials will demonstrate the results most effectively?

At the end of that work, you may discover that there is no market for your crowbar, but there are opportunities for adapting the process to rebar instead.

When companies grow really big, the entrepreneurial process turns to one of creating a "machinery of people", vs proving that the market for employing those people exists. It's a different skillset, and is utilized only occasionally, when the stars are right and you happen to have a business that can scale. But it's still ultimately about setting the metrics that are right for that business at that moment.

If you aren't involved with fitness/sports/athletics, it's worth doing so just to get a taste of what focusing on performance and growth mindset day after day will do.

You sound like me stuck in my wantrepreneur fase. Identify your entreporn: startup podcasts, hackernews posts, influencers on Twitter, meetups. Either turn it into a real relationship (which means become a producer, instead of a consumer, stop talking, start doing) or cut these bad habits entirely: Like people who obsess over lotery tickets, because they really want to be rich, but don't have the patience to set up a solid plan. They give their brain something related to occupy itself with (the minute potential of winning the big prize) and call it a day.

Also realize that the game is rigged and not fair at all. You think Zuckerberg had to worry about covering hosting costs?


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Nit: It should be "wantapreneur" instead of wantrepreneur.

And I'm in the same boat you. I am so tempted to go off on my own.

edit: fixed my typo or your term :-)

"wantrepreneur" sounds way better to me.

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