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Two years ago, I quit my comfortable job in tech sales to start a software company.
Many people (coworkers, family, friends) thought this was a huge risky thing to do—throwing away a great paying job to chase a risky new business.
While technically true, deep down I believe that not
chasing your dreams and not
shooting for an amazing, adventurous life is 100 times more risky than doing so, even if you crash and burn.
Despite this fact, it was still scary.
Two years later, the gamble has paid off. The SaaS business I wound up starting now does more than a million dollars in annual revenue, and I have accrued much more value than I would have by staying at my comfortable tech job.
Here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. Focus On Small Wins Early On
I think the biggest mistake that entrepreneurs make early on is they expect HUGE results to happen fast. It simply doesn’t work this way, and if you go in with this mindset, you will get discouraged extremely quickly and wind up throwing in the towel too early.
9 times out of 10, success will be a slow grind. You simply have to keep showing up day-after-day.
For this reason, it’s extremely important to set small, measurable goals that will advance you towards your larger goal overtime.
Your hardwork WILL compound over time. I promise. All the small wins you rack up day after day will start to stack up.
The famous Confucious quote is so, so true: “The man who moves a mountain starts by carrying away small stones.”
Early on in my company, I focused on blogging and creating helpful, educational content for people who could likely get value out of my SaaS product. I then relentlessly focused on ranking this content highly in Google Search (SEO - Search engine optimization).
Every single guest blog or content piece I wrote was a small win. After about 9 months, those wins really started stacking up, and Google started sending us A TON of highly qualified traffic into these blog posts.
This traffic turned into customers for the business.
If you want to learn more about the specifics of the SEO strategy I used to generate tens of thousands of qualified leads flowing into our website every month, comment below or reach out on Twitter
, and I’ll create a post if there is enough demand.
2. Expect to Get Punched In The Mouth “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” - Mike Tyson
Again, it’s all about expectation setting.
If you come into starting a business with unrealistic expectations (i.e. that everything will be sunny and cheerful and your business will just take off from day one), you will get discouraged extremely quickly, and you will quit.
This happens to most hopeful entrepreneurs.
Discouragement is your biggest enemy when starting something from the ground up.
However, if you simply expect to get punched in the mouth, beat up by the market, laughed at, made fun of, etc., you will be able to just roll with it.
When adversity inevitably shows up, you should greet it like an old friend. Welcome him in. He’s here to teach you a lesson.
Take the punch. Figure out how to keep moving forward, and move forward.
3. Only One Thing Matters: Distribution
I don’t care if you have the greatest product or service in the world. No one will ever use it, learn about it, or hear about you unless you have a scalable distribution channel to bring people in the door.
For us, it was SEO, Google Adwords, and Facebook Ads.
Nailing these three distribution channels allows us to bring customers in the door day-after-day in a scalable fashion.
As people in our target market search on Google every day, they find us. As people scroll through their Facebook and Instagram feeds every day, our content gets thrown in their face, and they find us.
All three of these channels are profitable for us, and they are the lifeblood of the business.
You HAVE to focus on distribution.
In the early days, focus on nailing down a single channel that can profitably and scalably bring you traffic and customers.
Distribution is MORE important than product. I can’t stress this enough. I wrote an entire blog post on how to apply this here
. Don’t ignore this.
The “Build it and they will come” mentality is one of the biggest reasons entrepreneurs fail.
Figure out how you’re going to acquire customers before you ever write a single line of code.
4. Work With People Who Are Smarter Than You
If you’re like me, you probably can’t write a single line of code yourself. That’s a bit of a problem when you’re starting a software business.
Obviously, you are going to have to partner with people to get your idea off the ground.
In my opinion, this is one of the hardest things to do, but of course it is one of the most important.
I think the best way to attract extremely talented people into your life is to become an expert at something yourself that a future partnesoftware engineer would find valuable.
You will typically do this by becoming extremely good at sales / digital marketing / and customer acquisition.
You have to become valuable to a future business partner. Otherwise it’s going to be way harder for you to attract talent.
My single biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to replicate what I’ve done is to launch a simple business on your own (a blog, an eCommerce company, a YouTube channel, a podcast, etc) and develop your marketing chops on this initial business.
Once you have success and are a great marketer, you will easily be able to attract talented developers who want to work with you as you will be able to get their products in front of real people (something that most developers struggle to do). AKA you will become valuable to them.
And yes, this will require a lot of work. But that’s the name of the game.
5. Have Fun and Enjoy The Ride
Every single day will bring new challenges and problems. Enjoy the chaos. It’s so much more fulfilling than your monotonous 9-5 job that you were working before.
Once things really start clicking, the sense of fulfillment you get from your hardwork will be the best feeling in the world—I promise.
That’s all for now! I have a lot more specifics to write about in future posts like how to build a profitable Facebook ad strategy to bring thousands of people to your products, and how to find the best keywords to bid on with Google adwords for your product or service.
These things have been instrumental in my success, and I’m going to keep blogging about how to replicate this yourself soon.
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That’s it. Let’s get it.