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Ask HN: What is the right way to test your product idea while having a day job?
36 points by johntypoo 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments
How do we go about launching a product and reach the point of at least 1 paying customer while we still work on day job and working on our side project in our free time/weekends? - Most companies prohibit alternate full time work or a working in a project with conflict of interest especially for employees below the rank of a director. What is the right way to handle this? If you had worked on a side project while having a day job - please share your experiences and tips.

I work on my side project https://pingr.io while having full time job.

Well, I'm not sure about validating idea. I just used the idea that was already validated by others.

My daily schedule was like:

Variant A:

- 8 AM to 11 AM work in a cafe on my side project

- 12PM - 8PM work at full-time job at office


Variant B:

- 10AM - 6PM work on fulltime job at office

- 7PM - 11PM work on side project in a cafe, then go home

So actually I was able to get 3-4 hours for side project either in the mornings or in the evenings.

Plus, of course, the weekends were dedicated to the side project too.

Regarding validation, as I said, I didn't validate my idea, because the idea was already validated by others.

Pros: you know people need this Cons: a lot of competitors

Also it very much depends on the full-time job itself. I mean, some people work strict hours, like they cannot afford work less.

My conditions are quite mild, meaning that the most important is the result, not hours.

The only problem I have ALL the time is finding right place to work. I don't work on my side project while sitting in office, of course.

Cafes might be noisy, expensive etc :)

Kind of off-topic, I've seen a whole lot of solo devs tackle this problem over the last 1-2 years, seems as if the market can support a lot of competition. How did you find going into a crowded space and how did you differentiate? As you mention, I'm guessing it makes the validation part a lot simpler.

Landing page looks great btw.

At first I didn't even think about differentiation. Well, the only thing is that I'm in love with good UI/UX, so I'm trying to make it pleasant to use.

So, few points which made me decide to work on the side project:

1. I saw few successful examples of exactly the same products, whose founders are solo founders just like me. I knew exactly that they were successful

2. I saw few examples of bad UI/UX, so I decided that I could do better (if it was that simple, sigh...)

3. I instantly got the idea what these services are all about, so I liked it

But I'm not successful, yet.

I was wondering, did you do the UI/UX yourself? Or you hired someone?

Did you have any paying customers while you were having day job? Did you had to disclose this with your employer?

I haven't told my employer anything. Well, if you work in your free time, you don't have to say anything :)

Yes, I have, and right now I have few customers while still working on full time job.

Btw, if you're afraid about supporting users, it will take much time only if you get quite a lot of them (depends on the project though)

I work on my side project https://hanami.run which is just completely unrelated to my work.

Basically when you look around you will immediately see things that can be improved. Every times I have to setup emails, I feel a pain, and anyone I talked to (my co-worker) share that pain. And at that point, to me, it validated my idea.

But shipping your side project while having a day job is hard, especially if you had kids(I do).

Here are a few tips to make it works:

1. Work on your side project first. I woke up at 3:30AM and work till 8AM. Not every day of course but at first month it was like that

2. Don't focus on weekend. You should rest on weekend. Why? You asked? Because it give you a wrong illusion that you will have a lot of time on weekend which isn't. On weekend, you will have to take you kids out, help family, cleaning up houses etc. The gap between weekends are 7days, you easily lost momentum, and if you skipped one week, it easily to go down the rabbit hole and skip doing the whole thing.

3. Have a weekly sync with someone you can show and tell about your product and your progress. Make sure you demo what you worked on. It forces you to ship daily.

4. Pick an ideas that requires minimun front-end work or on-boarding work.

5. Ship frequently. Have a real domain and a site even if no one looks at it. Deploy to it often. Post it to social media even though no one gonna read it :-).

All the tricks is to force you into a mode where you can see progress and trick yourself into thinking you are shipping a real product until it become a real product.

IMHO, companies don't care and don't want to steal your work but obviously they don't want you to develop the same thing that the company do or work on your own idea to achieve same thing. So don't worry too much about conflict as long as you work on something else.

How much time do you sleep? Or when do you go to sleep?

I am usually waking up at 06:30 am and tried to shift to wake up at 05:00 but after a week I was super tired in the second part of the day.

Depends if it's a SaaS or a product.

With a product you can usually put it for sale on marketplaces so they do the marketing for you and you can easily reach millions of customers, but you have to share the revenue.

This is how I started with https://usertrack.net, by selling it first on CodeCanyon and once I decided to focus full-time on it I switched to selling it directly.

I was able to work on it while still being employed as I have discussed this with the employer before getting hired, I clearly stated that I still want to be able to work on side-projects in my free time.

Your product is great; I just purchased a commercial license to replace Hotjar last week. Being able to obtain similar levels of analytics whilst self-hosting means we can improve our privacy policy, yet continue to collect useful visitor data to improve our (.gov website) service, as well as avoid being caught in visitor's adblockers, since it is hosted on a subdomain.

Thanks for the support!

My goal is to make userTrack one of the most useful analytics tools out there, while keeping it entirely self-hosted and making the self-hosted experience as good as it can get.

I have a day job and just launched https://www.vim.so into early access. (Over 30 customers so far)

My day job is at a boutique consulting company that explicitly allows side projects in our employment contract. The founders are very pro-entrepreneurship with employees and encourage us to find and work on side projects.

My schedule is usually something like:

4am/5am-8am Side project work 8am-4pm Day job work

I usually take one of the weekend days off. The other one I may work an hour or two before my family is awake.

It helps a ton if your employer allows it. Seems like it might be hard to come by employers who do this though.

>My day job is at a boutique consulting company that explicitly allows side projects in our employment contract. >It helps a ton if your employer allows it. Seems like it might be hard to come by employers who do this though.

Really? This is normal? I find it extremely bizarre and not to mention shitty that an employer should somehow have any say whatsoever about what you do for economic or personal gain in your free personal time. You're not a piece of property and never should be controlled to this degree no matter the nature of your work.

Yeah it's relatively common for companies to restrict and even claim any individual IP as their own.

Definitely double/triple check your employment contracts

Truly, how the hell can they even justify such a posture, or how do employees not spit it back in their faces? I can see these (presumably tech) companies having a claim for IP if it was partly created through company resources, but having a rightful claim on anything that you as an employee do in your spare time while an employee? That's reprehensible and grotesquely absurd.

I've been working on https://github.com/jalal246/dflex along with a paid job. But I made it clear that it's an open-source project. maybe it's different if you are not working on open source. About time management, I can't really tell. Spent the last year working all day, 24/7. Currently, I am experiencing burn out with another side effect including insomnia. So I recommend having a balanced life. Don't push yourself too much and play the long terms.

I would say unless you're building a directly competing product then don't worry about it. Most companies aren't going to spend the time/effort to go after an employee who built a side project and then left for it. This all assumes you're not shirking your day jobs responsibilities for a side hustle...

I'm working on https://homespritz.ca whith fulltime job.

It's tough to manage to be honest since I also like to pretend to have a life.

Weekdays I find I get barely anything accomplished after 9-10 hours of work at my fulltime job. Weekends however is a different story, most of my homespritz work is accomplished on the weekend. Saturday and Sunday I aim to get at least 16 hours of work done each.

Don't talk about it at work. Create a user handle and use that for your project. On About Us, make it generic. If needed to bill, setup LLC, you should be doing that anyways. Or while you have a job, keep freeium model or use ads.

Once idea is validate and ready to quit, put project on sale at flipp or any othet site. And then buy it using your real name. Yes, it will cost you some money.

If it is not a competitor to your employment, then you should be able to tell your boss. If it does compete, then are you leveraging your work to help your project? If so it is not appropriate.

I have a friend who worked on a project. The company dumped the project, and with the company blessing he continued it in his spare time.

One thing to keep in mind is you shouldn’t use your employer-provided computer for coding up your side project :)

I went the open source route - I was on H1B, so I couldn’t make money out of it anyhow but it has very helpful in validating the project. Most employers support open source projects.

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