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Ask HN: Bootstrappers, what do you do to keep your bills paid?
14 points by lenkendall 1744 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 23 comments

Save and when you reach the point you think you've saved enough, save some more. Never ever bootstrap a project without savings or a day job, possess monetary discipline and no what you want to do before you do it. If you have a girlfriend/boyfriend understand when you struggle they'll struggle too, so make sure you have some cash saved up to last you a few months before you consider going down the bootstrap route.

If you're struggling to pay your bills, you've gone about things wrong.

"you think you've saved enough, save some more"


I work a $DAYJOB as a software consultant at Open Software Integrators[1]. Basically I travel and work on projects ranging from greenfield development to performance tuning, to architectural consulting, training, proof of concept projects, etc., etc. Mainly we focus on OSS Java related "stuff" like JBoss, Tomcat, Spring, Hibernate, Neo4J, Hadoop, etc.

The tough part is the travel bit. When I'm on the road, it makes it a lot tougher to collaborate with my cofounder, meet with potential customers, etc. But I'm not out all the time, and I manage to work around it all somehow, even though it's pretty stressful.

[1]: http://www.osintegrators.com

1. Have an actual job.

2. Don't pay for anything unless you absolutely cannot do without it.

3. Don't pay for things that you can acquire or make with some schlep. The equation of "I shouldn't be doing X because my time is worth Y" only works if your time is actually worth Y.

My thoughts too! On #2, budget travel I absolutely cannot do without. Also: 4. Avoid paying retail. Use Goodwill, craigslist etc.

Earn a profit and focus upon revenue and creating a real sustainable business as early in the process as you can. Anything else and you are gong to bleed or not have enough time to develop your product and idea. I call this limited goals and you need it to survive. You have to have the discipline and intestinal fortitude to hit your revenue targets each and every month. Bills don't magically pay themselves, and as you watch your account dwindle you can estimate how long before you hit zero.

We've been doing this for 10 years and growing like gangbuseters.

How long did it take to settle on a business model that you felt had some legs? Did you go through a few iterations before finding one that worked?

I am in the process of spending the next few months trying to build a niche software product that can turn into a full time business. I don't have an exact idea yet but I'm thinking of using the methodology defined by Steve Blank to find a real niche market.

Would love to know your approach. I'm assuming you have done something related to software.

I don't think there is a right answer to this question but in my opinion it depends a lot on your responsibilities.

If you have got dependent family on you donot do it without some form of cash flow coming in.

If you do not have dependents and you are young take the leap with faith and from somewhere somehow things will just move along as long as you believe in it. Thats what I have seen in mine and my friend's case

1. Save up to give you runway for 1-2 years of bare minimum living + funding your startup.

2. Live with your parents if you can (I'm Indian, and that's totally ok for us) - it helps a lot not to have to pay rent & basic living costs.

3. Try and find alternate sources of money while you bootstrap. Ex: Selling stock photos/footage, selling code modules, stocks etc.

You save up before you start. You shouldn't try to start a business if you don't have a warchest to last you some time.

You shouldn't try to start a business if you don't have a warchest to last you some time

I can't possibly disagree more. I mean, yes, it would be nice to have a pre-saved warchest. But if you reach a point where you realize it's time to start the startup, you shouldn't not do it just because you don't have a warchest. Bootstrapping and self-funding while working a $DAYJOB is certainly possible. Is it easy? Hell not. But it's possible, which is what counts, IMO.

"Bootstrapping and self-funding while working a $DAYJOB is certainly possible."

The worst thing you could do is start while working at $DAYJOB and find out after the fact that your employment contract stipulates that they own all associated IP. And yes, in many states people have those types of contracts.

I highly recommend quitting and sitting out a relevant noncompete first, because the worst thing that could happen is sacrificing, succeeding and ultimately having to hand everything over to an employer over employment agreement issues.

For this to have any effect, your $DAYJOB has to decide to sue you, go to court, win a judgement, then they get... nothing. You don't have any assets for them to take. You're a poor peon worker. Your $DAYJOB is full of people who see your work as near worthless, and it IS worthless without you to breath life into it. In a corporate bureaucracy it is taboo to even suggest that individuals produce the value. It's the bureaucracy that produces the value, not the cogs. It's essentially not possible to convince the company that your IP unrelated to your specific job is something the company wants.

Assuming this scenarios ever played out in the history of IP and your dayjob is actively suing you to get their greedy hands on your awesome IP, this is gold for you. Your stuff is in extremely high demand. Throw it away, and go out and get version 2.0 funded.

The worst thing you could do is start while working at $DAYJOB and find out after the fact that your employment contract stipulates that they own all associated IP.

That's why you negotiate that stuff before you start on the startup. And if you $DAYJOB won't accept a reasonable agreement, then you find a new $DAYJOB.

You raise a valid point, but in the grand scheme of things, it's just a detail, not a complete blocker to the idea of funding your startup through your own salary.

It'll be tougher than you anticipate. You can keep doing side gigs that pay the bills. If you are looking for MVP/prototype creation, do check out the http://www.theprotoshop.com before you jump into something full time.

Focus on profitability. As a bootstrapper who doesn't have the luxury of financial freedom, you also don't have the luxury to work on something unprofitable.

Does anyone here invest in stocks, little bit, use that to run the show?

Just curious. Obviously risks are there.

I don't recommend this. Tried it and ended up worse off when the market took a turn. Would have been better off putting the savings into business expenses.

Don't invest in stocks to fund anything. Invest your money in an index over 10 years instead of saving it in a bank, if you're looking to make extra cash in the next decade.

You should have 18-24 months worth of runway before you begin.

Leveraged real estate purchases.

This is what I'm thinking too.

God has made it possible for me when it should not have been possible at all. Somehow, God proves that He is real to me in that against all odds I keep going. All of these answers in this thread that I have read are great answers for doing all that you know how to do. Sometimes it takes God to put you over when nothing else can. If all else fails, try God! Lol!

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