Hi, I'm Frederic.

Web Developer & Entrepreneur
blogging about life and programming in Node.js, Go and React.

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Building a SaaS business is 20% code, 80% ...

As I am a developer first and foremost I can testify for myself falling in the trap of thinking naively: “I’ll just code up that great idea that would solve my current pain, 50 hours later, launch it and there it is, I have a business! Recurring revenue, here I come.”.

Sadly, this is quite far from reality, and, I hope that by going through, even just the marketing material, of educational content like The Lean Startup, Traction, Starting and Sustaining, 7-day startup, Good to Great, Zero to One, Hooked, …, you get a sense for the size of the task at hand and the diversity of skills required to bring a SaaS business to profitability.

I think, having read many resources at this point, that the key factor to success is to start with the long term in mind.

Forget overnight success. Setting the expectations so that when times get rough you will double down and keep on holding to your roller coaster cart’s handlebars. This has the nice side effect of making you forget about investing time in those “smaller with less potential” ideas or ideas that don’t really interest you personally.

So, about that blog post’s title, what else is there to do except code in building a SaaS business?

Well, we could start with audience and validation, maybe one of the most critical part to a startup doing well. Plus, that step should be done before starting to invest too much time in building an actual solution. If there is no customers willing to pay for what you are planning on building then, unless you are doing all of it to solve only your specific problem without caring for your product becoming a business, then, read up a little on techniques to validate is a big enough market of willing to buy customers for your SaaS. Keep in mind that “big enough”, here, could mean many different sizes. It all depends on the size you want the business to be, maybe you aren’t interested in hiring and 10,000$ MRR is plenty for you.

What else? Well these days thinking about your users experience and crafting a delightful interface for your customers to interact with is almost a must. Maybe not for launch but as soon as you can. These days, in many industries, making design a priority can give you a huge edge on the competition, or, in more crowded markets, is a requirement.

That’s it right? Sadly, no, an other fairly important subject you have to deal with is building an audience and constantly growing your customer base. Here the book previously mentioned called Traction will be of great help. It introduces what the author calls the “Bullseye framework”. A framework aiming at building traction for your startup. In one sentence it consists of: benchmarking many acquisition channels at once, selecting the best performing, focusing solely on this one, when it stops giving good returns, go back to step 1 in order to find a new user acquisition channel. Put like this it seems simple enough, but, it’s real hard work that will take away many of your “coding” hours if you take it seriously.

Ok, and now, well there is a lot I didn’t touch in that blog post, but, I’ll leave it to you to read up on them as they don’t necessarily apply to all SaaS businesses. Examples include: analytics, infrastructure, hiring, investment seeking, product management, team leading, SEO, bug fixing, tool shopping, …

Choosing a fulfilling life

The importance in the title is on the word choose, because, yes, it’s a choice. I read many stories of people who visited X number of countries or did that big round the world trip and still continue to travel frequently getting told by people wishing for that kind of experience: “If only I could afford doing like you, but, yunno, not everybody can take 2-3 months of vacation”. Well my dear friend doing 75K a year with 2 cars in the driveway and a nice mortgage it’s your choices that have put you in this position, the good news is, you can start now to make choices bringing you closer to what you dream of. If that happens to be travel that so be it. It’s all about goals and priorities.

It seems there is a whole suite of choices made for you that you are expected to follow, just because that’s how it’s done, that’s what everybody does, it’s the norm. But you know what, you still have control, so many things part of the population’s subconscious are crafted by marketing and not actually benefic for you. You can do what you want, as long as it does arm others. As Chris Guillebeau exposed it so well with his list of “11 ways to be unremarkably average” containing the following:

  1. Accept what people tell you at face value
  2. Don’t question authority
  3. Go to college because you are supposed to, not because you want to learn something
  4. Go oversees once or twice in your life somewhere safe like England
  5. Don’t try to learn an other language, every one else will eventually learn English
  6. Think about starting your own business but never do it
  7. Think about writing a book but never do it
  8. Get the largest mortgage you qualify for and spend 30 years paying for it
  9. Sit at a desk 40 hours a week for an average of 10 hours of productive work
  10. Don’t stand out or draw attention to yourself
  11. Jump though the hoops. Check off the boxes

The people you see living a passionate life doing things you wish you could be doing too didn’t get there by luck, but, by having it as a goal (consciously or inconsciously). They then took that goal seriously by taking small steps towards it right from the beginning.

I understand it’s not easy to change. Change is such a big source of fear, but, if you force yourself to start moving towards your ideal life, you will start to see momentum building up and building up and if you keep going that will be you biggest motivator, everything will be made easier by the simple fact that you have progress under your belt.

We tend to vastly overestimate how much we can accomplish in a day and vastly underestimate how much we can achieve in a year. Shush that inner voice telling that it’s seems like the impossible, the time to act is NOW, nobody else will do it for you. Blaming people, events, conditions, weather for your inertia wont change anything, and, change, is what you want.

Memorize and follow this never-fail recipe: get started. Don’t quit. -Barbara Winter

Your tools for progress & success in life: Goal Setting & Focus (Part 1)

This is part one of a two part series:
Part 1: Introduction & Goal Setting
Part 2: Focus & Conclusion

Constant goal setting and laser focus is something that, now I reflect on it, seems like an evident answer to how much I have advanced skills and career wise in the past two years, but, was mostly done naturally/by intuition up till now.

I read, about six months ago, a really good book called “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller and it talked almost entirely about those two items.

So, let’s try and define those terms, plus, give you advice and example on how to implement them in you daily life and work.

Goal Setting

Goal setting, here, takes on a wide definition and is not about have one and only goal but more to go through the process of constantly having goals.

Goal Setting: Timeframe

You should be setting goal not for in X years but for this day, this week, the next 90 days, the next year and the next 5 years. There are different sizes of goals and some can only fit in years from now, while others, are really need to be accomplished today so that you can move on with a project.

The goal you set for yourself to attain in 5 year will naturally involve smaller steps that will become your 1 year goals. In turn, your 1 year goal will involve 90 days goal and so on.

Goal Setting: Frequence

The thing with goal, especially the short term ones, is that they are in constant movement. Depending on what you accomplished yesterday you might have new thing planned for today, or, you are catching up as you got distracted and didn’t get to finish what you set out to do yet.

You will constantly be updating your goals. I personally try to take 10 minutes every morning to hash out what I need to accomplish and take 1 hour or so every week to update my goals for next week plus all the longer term ones if needed.

Goal Setting: Context

Now you might be thinking of a there is a conflict here, we want to be setting only one goal per time-frame but what if we want multiple thing. Well, here’s the solution/middleground you should keep having only one 5 year goal say, for your career, but, it’s evident that you will have a different set of goals for your family, other ones for your love life and other ones for your personal improvement. Have as much “set of goals” as areas of your life you consciously work on daily.

This was part one of a two part series, in the next post we will define further the focus part and explore how, coupled with goal setting, you guarantee yourself tremendous personal, career and relationship improvments.
Part 1: Introduction & Goal Setting
Part 2: Focus & Conclusion

Your tools for progress & success in life: Goal Setting & Focus (Part 2)

This is part two of a two part series:
Part 1: Introduction & Goal Setting
Part 2: Focus & Conclusion

Focus

Focus is your secret weapon for removing a lot of the decisions and emotions from the process of you progressing towards your goals. Focusing on only one thing at the time not only makes your workload appear less intimidating but allows you to give 100% of your attention/concentration to the problem/activity at hand, in terms, leading to a high quality outcome than if you tried juggling with few things at the same tame, or, had that other thing on your mind bothering your.

Focus: On What

When we speak of focus here, we mean it in the sense of focusing on one activity, one work item. Your goal setting time and planning/meetings should do the job of thinking out what is the logical next steps, in what order you need to accomplish tasks. But, when you are sitting at your desk, alone, ready to work, you should focus on the smallest next step to achieving the next item on your to-do list, that’s it.

Focus: As a habit

Many people don’t expect things like success, happiness, health, relationships to be things you have a lot of control on, but, most people that are doing really good in those areas of their life got their voluntarily, got there by working on having good habits so that cultivating all those becomes second nature. So many great books and resources talk about habits and how powerful of an impact they can have on your life if make a concious decision to weed out the bas ones and work on the good ones.

Conclusion

(TL;DR) Set your goal (note the lack of plurial) for the day, week, 90 next days, 5 next years, adjust them continusly as you progress, don’t forget it’s normal to have a set of goal for your work than for your personnal life than for… It’s essential that when you sit down to work you have already planned and prepared what is next too be done so you can simply focus on the next small task at hand, it’s a real productivity enabler. Focus can be built as a habbit, as many other healthy habits, it will definitively make a better you if you stick with it long enough

This was part two of a two part series, in the first post I introduce the subject and define what exacly we mean by goal setting:
Part 1: Introduction & Goal Setting
Part 2: Focus & Conclusion

On the importance on you physical health to your virtual world work

Health and more generally less technical subjects are not talked about that much among programmer (and more generally people working in front of a computer daily). Don’t you think this is a bit weird, the people who would get the most benefit out of good ergonomics and healthy habits are the least exposed to it. Although, this is changing slowly.

As you may have came to realize, taking care of your body and health is central to your daily mental performance, focus and tiredness, in terms, impacting your happiness doing your work.

This blog post is a try at putting together a short list of simple habits / things to look out for daily to instantly improve your health.

For most of the items that follow, the very best way to approach implementing one of them in your daily life is to track whether or not you followed them using a spreadsheet.

habits spreadsheet

(I just started doing so not so long ago and it really helps)


Read up on the Bulletproof Diet it’s not so far from the Paleo Diet, only, with a little bigger list of food to avoid and tons more good fats (especially butter). To explain it quickly, it’s a diet that promotes mainly eating raw foods, so, a lot of vegetables and meat in enough quantities so that you aren’t hungry anymore, plus, it add a special concoction called bullet proof coffee and promotes fasting from 8pm to 12-13 the next day, only having that special coffee for breakfast. Benefits range from: easy to stick with as everything is yummy, makes you loose fat with almost no workout and feeds your body all the best. The best part is that it’s built on years of scientific research and bio-hacking not on common sense, grandma’s saying of companies marketing efforts.


Stand up and stretch, move around a little, do jumping jacks, push ups each 30 minutes. Your body will thanks you 100 times in the long run, plus, your focus will be instantly improved.


Next up is a really general “no non-sense”, “the less the merrier”, list of things to avoid as much as possible (here tracking with a spreadsheet really helps staying accountable).

  • No smoking
  • No Alcohol
  • No Sugar
  • No dairy, soda, carbohydrates (mostly), fruits (in too big quantities or the morning),
  • No porn, masturbation, orgasm (more on that in the next point)

No PMO; In other words stop watching porn, masturbating and orgasming as often as you do at the moment. Again, a lot of research has gone into this and you wont believe the consequences of doing it / benefits of abstaining. You may have heard of the nofap movement on reddit, well it’s not so far from that but applied to anybody. A good source of information on this subject is a website/book called Your Brain On Porn.


Meditate daily, meta-cognition really helps you improve. Here, HeadSpace helps.


Writing or journaling as this meta-cognition moment when you are writing makes you internalize the lessons you had during the day, the new things you learned and realize what progress you did.


Reading, more generally learning constantly.