Hi, I'm Frederic.

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

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Prosty.io: Progress Report #1

Ho boy, what a week!

You know what? I did it, I launched it: Prosty.io is live!

Ok, it’s not as grand as I wanted it to be when I started this project 7 days ago, this is only a quickly put together landing page plus email list sign up. But, I said I would launch what I had on Friday and that’s me honoring what I said.

I have a bunch more designed and coded up but it’s still missing a lot of work to be a fully functional application.

The thing is:

1. I had a something pretty serious that approached “chronic fatigue syndrome” symptoms. I wasn’t able to be productive at anything all, I wanted to do was go take a nap or eat, always.

Seeing how serious it was decided to put an end to it and slept for a day and a half straight, waking up only to eat. That got me back on my feet. I begin to think I was simply really exhausted with all this travel, weather change, stress…

2. I also have client work to do and have been catching up after not doing much since I landed in Cracow 1 week ago.

I really believed this 7 day startup launch was possible if I focused on the minimum needed and stayed in a super-productive state, but, that didn’t happen.

So, let’s adjust the schedule and, following Amy Hoy’s ship by September challenge, Prosty.io will launch it’s fully-functional MVP no later than the 31st of August at midnight (EDT).

Where’s the progress report?

Yes, yes, it’s coming, as this title suggests I will start making these progress reports until I launch as I think it’s a really good motivator not to slow down or stop, studies proved it. Shall we start?

What has been accomplished

  • Write a thorough README for the codebase that includes a project description, technology choices, an outline of all endpoints & more
  • Write an initial first part of the text for the marketing (/landing/home) page
  • Design on paper the 50% of the planed for MVP pages
  • Setup up the project’s codebase
  • Setup Heroku (hosting), this was needed for publishing that current version
  • Setup DNS properly in Cloudflare
  • Define the Companies, Users and ComapnyUsers tables
  • Finish the sign in & sign up page design in html & css
  • Finish the backend code for the sign up page
  • Finish the initial marketing/landing/home page design in html & css
  • Start reading up Stripe’s documentation for OAuth integrations and thinking of how Prosty will use it’s api.

What is next

I am concentrating head down on making the initial client’s path work so:

Landing page -> Sign up -> Dashboard (/w on-boarding) -> Connect Stripe -> Dashboard (/w next on-boarding step) -> Create client -> Client page -> Create payment -> …

Like this the project makes progress in a structured way that is motivating as you know how far a potential user can already use your application. Plus, you are not working left and right on different parts not seeing any progress.

Parting notes

Sorry if you read my blog and didn’t find this post deeply interesting, I know fully that this article was mostly for me, don’t worry, I will write other posts that will be more educative/interesting that progress reports.

Launching Quickly: Applying Lessons

I have now been reading startup related books for quite a while, even smaller books about ideation, launching quickly, launching now, this blog post is about applying those lessons, this weekend! Enough putting off, enough being part of the 98% that says tomorrow or not now or not for me.

Book I read related to this:

Even to some extent:

So here I am, jamming on Daft Punk, in a café, just started the Bulletproof Diet, just landed in Krakow, Poland, just came back from vacation, had an idea before bed yesterday and am building it now! Don’t ask me why it took so long, the important thing is I am taking action now.

Idea

I wanted a simple thing to build, and ideally solving some problem I had. That’s when I thought about my recent experience trying out at least 4-5 SaaS application aimed at helping freelancers manage projects, invoice their clients and track their time. My main gripe with most of them was that they all did really well at least one of there things but almost always had poor support for receiving payments from clients (Xero was really good but a bit to big for me at this point). But because they almost all adopt the do-it-all strategy they often have less that well done features in areas that are still important to running your business.

So, I am building an application with two business goals in mind: First, gather payments from clients really well whichever gateway you use. Second, to integrate with you other software that you might be using for invoicing to sync clients and paid/unpaid status.

Goals

My Goal #1 is to solve my own problem of taking payments with something else than PayPal in Freckle.

My Goal #2 is to monetize (read market and get users) this product to a 1000$ MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) to help attenuate the consulting ups and downs.

Steps

Step 1: Defining launch date

Too many times I read about people afraid of launching, worrying they don’t have enough, they need X and Y feature more. Also:

If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.

- Reid Hoffman

So, I will launch, whatever I have at that time, on Friday the 14th of August giving me 7 days.

Step 2: Defining core a core feature set

The core feature set should aim to solve one use case, mine, like DHH often stated, he built Ruby on Rails for his use case but is happy to put it on the open for people to adapt it to their needs. Focusing on this not only makes sure one group of clients is satisfied but also make you launch way sooner, obviously.

So, I want the product to have:

  • Support for linking your stripe account using OAuth2
  • Support for manually creating a client
  • Support for manually creating a payment the client owes
  • Support for sending an email to a client containing a payment link
  • Page where the client can see his outstanding total and payments
  • Page with all clients
  • Page with client details and all it’s payments
  • Payment processing sending money to client’s Stripe and taking a 0.5% cut
  • A landing page linking to the sign up page
  • A signup page
  • A login page

Step 3: Building

… goes to work … (continued in following posts)

What a technical co-founder brings to the table (and what he searches for in his partner)

For the past six years I have been mostly focusing on becoming an awesome developer, constantly learning new languages and technologies, working for a few different companies. But, the past month, everything changed, I became a consultant and started working on a per contract basis. And wow does that involve a whole new skill set: marketing, networking, designing my image, accounting, relationships, time tracking and plenty more!

As much as I adore the lifestyle it enables and the time I now have for side projects there is one oblivious truth that surfaces (don’t worry I am coming co-founders): I am far from being as productive, focused and growing of a programmer than before.

You see, those added responsabilities of running a business really occupy my mind, I have more trouble getting “in the zone”. Now this becomes even more prevalent when you add up the additional challenges/responsabilities of running a startup.

That is where, if you start a business with two partners, you have the advantage of the possibility of a clear separation in roles and a clear focused mind when at work. This especially important as a startups most valuable resource is time.

With that in mind,

The technical co-founder brings:

  • Knowledge of best technologies to tackle X or Y problem
  • Experience building products from scratch
  • Estimation of feasability of different features/projects
  • Estimation of time it would take to build X feature/project
  • Initial workforce to build the startup’s application
  • Knowledge of what is a good hire when it comes time to subcontract/employ someone
  • Often he will also be somewhat of a designer, UX guy and project manager.
  • Deals/Talks to technology partners

The other co-founder brings:

  • Domain knowledge related to the business you are starting
  • Domain experience and knowledge of clients needs
  • Takes on the initial marketing role
  • Attend to networking events and generally gets the word out
  • Constantly gathers client feedback and thinks of adjustments that can be made to the product to delight them
  • Tries different acquisition channels
  • Handles client relationships

And, together they both:

  • Define the goals of the startup
  • Define features that are musts and other that are nice idea for the future
  • Talk about design decisions and how to delight users more generally
  • Go found-raising when it’s time and if it’s right for them
  • Moral support!

TL; DR; For any startup time is their most valuable resource, it’s their life blood at the beginning, they need to optimize it’s usage. So, two partners starting a business should aim to maximize the time spent by the technical co-founder, head down, building their product. While, the other co-founder, aims to constantly readjust trajectory/features to fit client needs from feedback gathered and, more generally, build up traction, acquire new users.

The Successful Freelancer

Recently, in a community I am part of, somebody shared an article about getting to a 100000$ yearly income as a freelancer. The article was really generic, sounded like a get rich quick scheme, dropped about every internet money making technique on one page and had a bunch of grammatical errors, but had few things right, made me think about the subject nonetheless.

The article basically told you to work really, really hard. Niche down, focus on one area of expertise but at the same time expand the number of skills you have and technologies you master. Create a course, publish a book, design “cool” website for local businesses do graphic design, do social media, become a VA, do SEO, do homework for students, write software, become a PM, manage ads and finally become a mobile app developer.

I say, don’t work too hard, mental and physical health will make you more happy and productive than putting in more hours.

I say, pick one thing and get really good at it. Now focus on one type of client, no, think more precise than what you are thinking at the moment. That will help make selling your skills and justifying your bigger price tag that much easier.

Then the article proposed you shouldn’t think about “getting rich quick” and start by charging nothing to build your portfolio.

I say, never charge nothing, it’s almost never a good idea. Even charging a 1$ is a world of a difference psychologically for your client. You are a professional trying to build a healthy business to business relationship with your clients here. This article from Double Your Freelancing explains it very well.

The next advice it gives you is to shy away from Freelance websites (think Elance) but to grab a chair in a co-working space and network there.

I say, it’s true that websites like Elance are filled with low paying jobs and the competition is fierce but it’s not all white or black. I know some consultants that built their profiles over the years and are doing really well taking on 5000$+ contracts over there.

As for co-working spaces, from my experience and from what I heard from few friends that are consulting as well, you most likely wont get any client from working from a co-working space. There are good chances you wont even network at all. People go there to get focused work done and are most likely in a similar situation as you: consultants/freelancers, employees or small business owner without much budget. I say, co-working spaces are nice places, filled with nice people but overrated as a business opportunity.

Then it goes on about:

  • Investing in yourself by reading, watching and taking online courses
  • Managing you time efficiently (cut off the useless/meaningless)
  • Charging more from your existing customers
  • Collecting testimonials from your clients to have something to show for
  • Picking up unfinished projects from clients that made the error of hiring a 50% cheaper than market rate freelancer

All of which I agree with.

That is it! To recap, more than ever I am convinced that: there is no magic formula, becoming a successful freelancer requires time and investment.

Before you get to a point where you can charge 100$/hour and have a filled pipeline of projects providing a steady 40 hours of work per week there is a long road of slowly building skills, credentials and a network.

Hoping for success to happen overnight will simply lead to a sour deception.

Kickoff: Prototyping, Launching, and maybe killing products

State of things

Howdy, I have been silent for the past two months while busy with slowly stepping down from my past job at Busbud. Spending time with my family. Moving out of my really nice Mile-End Montreal flat. And attending a conference (GopherCon 2015).

This month marks the beginning of my journey in the waters of consulting, perpetual travelling and building products for real. I have been interested in startups and entrepreneurship, I read tons of books along the road but never really acted on it. So many authorities keep saying “just start”, “start NOW”, “then, keep at it” and I always listened but never acted. Now that I don’t have a full time employer and have a more flexible schedule, the time is NOW!

Goals

My goals are not do 12 startups in 12 months or any other number, what I really want is to get 1 product “ramen profitable”, I want to be able to live on the MRR of a SaaS application I built. I define this by 2500$USD coming in monthly, enough to live minimally in most Europe.

Approach

I know it’s going to be hard.

I know there is a long road ahead.

I know the SaaS growth ramp is slow one.

I know it’s maybe 20% development 80% sales, marketing, design, hustling…

What I am aiming for is to get really good at prototyping product really quickly, a bit like what Makeshift.io is doing, being a startup studio. At first, I aim at a rate of 1 application a month. I have to take into account that I will need to be doing some contracts, write blog posts, promote myself, market the products all at the same time.

I’ll keep you posted over here or on Atriumph’s blog!