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A Bootstrapper’s Journey | How Do You Deal With Naysayers?

negative people:
HOW TO
DEAL WITH the naysayers

Photo by Daniel Páscoa on Unsplash

Not everyone around you will be supportive of your momentous decision to go it alone in business.  Here's how to deal with the negative people.



I told everyone I met that I had quit my job.  It had been coming for a while and most people knew about it, but when I actually did it some of their reactions surprised me.

The reactions varied from shock and expressions of worry to disappointment and even anger.  They weren't being nasty.  They just didn't think it was a good decision.

It's no big deal when people you don't know very well aren't very supportive of your big decision.  Very often, though, the real problems come from those closest to you.

Why People Are Not Supportive

I was disappointed with the lack of encouragement from those closest to me; family, friends, work colleagues.  So it took me a while to come to terms with people's lack of faith in me.  I had opted for a life of insecurity, endless learning and sleepless nights.  This would replace my regular, generous paycheck and good career prospects. It was enough to deal with without my nearest and dearest becoming the kind of negative people that can be lethal when you take a big step like starting your own business.

It's important to realise that most people are not deliberately vindictive.  Of those closest to me, I can think of several reasons why they wouldn't be head over heels with my decision.

1. Fear

Going it alone

Alone. So very, very alone ...

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Genuine fear is the biggest reason for lack of support among those who love you.  If you're the first in your circle to go it alone as an entrepreneur it can be very difficult for them to understand your decision, let alone rejoice in it.  ​

A steady job with a steady income and gradual progression until reaping the deserved pension at the end of it all is good enough for most people. Surely that's good enough for you too?

There are endless stories of how starting a business can mess things up for everyone involved.  Like this one, this one and this one. Your friends and family have heard these stories and they're scared.  These stories scare them because they care about you.

That fear doesn't end for them on the day you get started in your new venture.  They will frequently ask "how's it going?" You probably won't be able to answer "it's terrific" or "it's really easy.  Everyone should do it!", so these fears for your future will resurface.

A Word Of Warning

In his excellent book "The Ultimate Sales Machine", Chet Holmes advises that you need to have PHD: Pig Headed Discipline to advance in business.  This is true.  But you have to temper that advice with plain old common sense. Some of your detractors genuinely worry about you.  You should first of all LISTEN to their concerns and their advice.  Then make a sensible decision.  They might not simply be negative people; they may be right after all!

"Confidence in what you do is crucial, but that does not mean being delusional. You must always face the truth and then combat the obstacles as they appear."

Diane von Furstenberg

Diane von Furstenberg

2. Jealousy

Simple jealousy is another one I've encountered.  

Many people are not happy with their current life choices, not happy in their current job or not happy with life in general. Seeing you take the path less travelled makes this discontent very real.  It reminds them that you aren't going to settle for what everyone else has. You are looking to forge a better path for yourself, a better future that you're in control of. They are reminded of their lack of courage to do this for themselves and that puts people on the defensive.

I'm not trying to sound more righteous with my life choices.  I'm certainly not saying that everyone who opts for the safe path is wrong and cowardly.  Of course I'm not; many people are content with that life.  But if there's a niggle of discontent beneath it all then I believe you have a duty to explore that for yourself.

3. Expectations

We are in awe of larger than life personalities like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson.  It's inevitable that people will compare your journey to theirs.  They see only the huge success of these people today.  

It's easy to forget that they got where they are through huge sacrifices, total dedication and even obsession. They've taken massive risks and they've had lots of failures along the way.

It's also easy to forget that these people are the exception, the one in a million who achieve massive success.  If news of your progress is less than stellar, your family's doubts in your ability to succeed can resurface. This is very real and can turn them into negative people bringing you down instead of the support you so desperately need at this time.

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How This Is Manifested

The ways people express the above reasons are many and varied but come down to a handful of common ones.  You need to be careful to recognise them for what they are and to brace yourself to deal with them.

1. Expressions Of Doubt

The most common (and probably the most innocent) comments you'll hear are statements of doubt. "But what if it doesn't work?", "what happens when the money runs out?" and "how will you get back into the job market?"  

If you're like most people, doubt - both yours and that of those around you - will be a huge and recurring obstacle on your journey.

2. Not Helping When They Could

Most people don't realise that they can help you, let alone how.  If you find it difficult to ask for help, most people will not offer it.   You never know who can help in unexpected ways, so ask for help from everyone you know!

3. Trying to block you/bring you down

Unfortunately, there are genuinely negative people.  There are genuinely people who simply don't want to see you succeed, even if that desire is subconscious in them.  These people are rare but they can really shake your faith in human nature.

Their inaction will surprise you. They won't pass on important information or refer people who could help.

Their malicious actions will also surprise you. They'll try to derail your plans by misdirection or planting seeds of doubt in you. Worse, they will bad mouth you to others.

Believe me, it happens.

4. I told you so

We love letting everyone know that we were right. And it's sometimes hard to resist reminding someone that you saw the obstacles coming.

Most people who say "I told you so" are not very mindful.  Some are just negative people. A few are downright vindictive.

How It Can Affect You

If you haven't yet learned to be thick skinned about them, these reactions can make life pretty lonely.  At any time in your journey, doubts can creep in. Motivation can slip away and it's easy to feel like you're just proving all these people right.

1. Doubt

I cared so much of what other people thought that every time I heard less than helpful remarks about my business I took it personally. I believe doubt is the biggest killer of dreams.

2. Fear

James Altucher says that "running a business is stressful, agonizing, and often leads to thoughts of suicide."  James is probably more prone to those thoughts than most.  

Don't let other people's fear cause you to falter.

3. Motivation

Everyone knows what it's like to lose motivation. Failed new year resolutions, failed diet plans, failed lifestyle changes;  we all have them from time to time.  

The hardest part is getting started again where you left off.  In business -  which is nothing short of you investing yourself in your entire future - it's crucial to recover quickly.  It can be lethal if you don't.  Always keep your big reasons why in mind.

4. Anger

I've gotten angry more than once at a remark about my work that I took personally.  It can cause you to get defensive towards your detractors and to sound less than convincing in an argument

Mindfulness can help curb the anger.

5. Impatience

In my first year I heard so many doubts from others that it made me grit my teeth and get even more determined to succeed.  So I wanted it to work now. I knuckled down and tried to make progress even faster.  

This isn't such a bad thing.  But when I rush into proving everyone wrong I just don't a great job.  When I take my time, take step after deliberate step and learn carefully along the way things go more slowly but much more surely. 

Patience is a virtue.

How To Deflect The Negativity from Negative people

I've found a few way to deal with detractors in the long run.

1. Listen & Explain

Tell them everything you're doing in your business.  Without boring the pants off them.  Explain what you're learning, what you've tried, what works and what doesn't.  Most people will appreciate your honesty.

2. Make Them Care

If you get people on your side then they are more likely to be supportive.  Maybe you can show them your value by helping them through your business.  Maybe you can refer someone in your network to help them.  Remember, people respond very positively when they know you care.

3. Sooth Their Worries

Just sit down with your loved ones and really explain to them why you are doing what you do.  Often they just won't have realised how big a deal this is for you.

4. Share Your Wins

Don't be too modest to mention when things go well.  Sharing your achievements - especially with people who will enjoy them - can have a powerful boosting effect on your motivation.  Just remember to be somewhat humble.  No-one likes a showoff.


That's not you

5. Share Your Plans

Being honest about your hopes and dreams plans can show people that you're serious about this journey.  Earn their respect by being professional.

6. Become thick-skinned

This may be the most important tactic.

You can never be sure of the outcome of any of the above efforts.  The only thing you can really control is yourself; your thoughts and your reactions.

Learn to develop this control:

All easier said than done, certainly, but they can all be practiced and developed.  Mindfulness can work wonders with all of the above.

One of the mantra's I live by comes from Jim Rohn:

"Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom."

jim rohn

Jim Rohn

So important I have it on my office mug ...

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If You Can't Convince T​hem

Of course, the above won't always work and not everyone will jump to your support.  What then?

1. Seek support elsewhere

Sadly, this is a very real and necessary step for a lot of people.  There are acquaintances I met occasionally who never ask about my business.  They clearly aren't very interested so I never bring it up in conversation.  

You're better off going elsewhere for support.  Surround yourself as much as you can with people who will support you. Start doing this in your current network; don't underestimate the support and help you can get from people you already know.  Positive people are positive people, no matter where you find them and what field they're in.

2. FaceBook groups, LinkedIn groups

Social networks are full of groups of people doing what you're doing.  It doesn't have to be in the same industry but you'll more than likely find people somewhere doing the same things you are.  Get in there and give help.  There are a lot of genuinely helpful people in there.  You can surprise yourself with the relationships you can strike up.

3. Join A Paid Program

You've heard of the need to get a mentor.  I can't add much to that.  A good paid program can give you some of the best returns for your investment. Ever.

4. Don't Be Hard On Yourself

Give yourself a break and remember there will be not so good days and not so good people.  It's vital to remind yourself that those days will pass.

5. Do It For You

Finally, don't waste time proving yourself to others, showing that it's all going well.  Use your time and energy to build your business.  

Conclusion

Whether this is the most epic undertaking of your life or it's just a little side hobby for you, it's important to stay upbeat.  

No, they won't all understand.  No, they won't all support you, encourage you every step of the way and go out of their way to help you.  Some will and some won't.

Every day remind yourself of your big why and take some time to review the big picture.  You will get there if you never stop.

"If you don't build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs."

Tony Gaskins

Tony Gaskins

What do you think?  Do any of these ring true for you?  Want to share some obstacles you've overcome from those close to you?  Be brave and share in the comments below!

Thanks for reading and if you found this useful hit one of the share buttons.  It would mean a lot to me and it helps others find the article.

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Bootstrapper’s Journey | More Business Mistakes I’ve Made

More Business Mistakes I've Made​
(SO FAR)

Image: Brendan Church via Unsplash

In this 2nd part of the post I'll go through yet more business mistakes I've made since starting WPStrands and what I've learned from them.

Mistakes I Had To Make

In a previous post (see part 1 here) I outlined some of the mistakes I've made so far in setting up WPStrands.  Here I'll carry on with that list.

Remember, you will make mistakes so make sure you use them as the learning opportunities they are.  I'm neither morose nor pessimistic but I do think it's important to handle mistakes in this order: acknowledge them, learn from them and move on.

Mistake #6: "Trying" Facebook Advertising

According to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, digital advertising for Q1 2017 is up 23% on Q1 2016.  Digital advertising has grown by double digits for the past seven years.  Despite that, over 30% of marketers believe that paid advertising is a complete waste of time and resources!  Where's the disconnect here?

This can only mean that many of those billions being spent on digital advertising are being spent by people who don't really know what they are doing and are hence throwing money down the tube.

I have to admit to getting sucked in by the whole advertising-to-advertise industry.  Without really understanding the platform, I made a few half-hearted attempts at running Facebook ads to a free course on a landing page on my site.  I got a few signups to my email list but nothing phenomenal so I stopped running the ads.

This was symptomatic of my impatience at the time and wasn't the only project I dipped into without any real commitment (remember my Kindle book, my Udemy course etc?)  

Since then I've learned a lot about the topic.  Results from digital advertising are definitely getting harder to come by but if you do it carefully and sensibly there's no reason to ignore it.

So many business owners approach their businesses like I did advertising.  They take a wild stab at something and then quit when their hopes aren't realised.

Running a business can't be like that!  It's a long-term game.  You need to learn the fundamentals of everything you do and you need the patience to adapt and retry again and again.  How often do you need to try?  I keep in mind what Jim Rohn says about his amazing circle of business friends:

"How many books will they read to solve a problem? As many as it takes. If they need to consult - how much consulting will they do? As much as it takes. How early will they get up? As early as it takes."

Jim rohn whatever it takes


Image: Jon Tyson via Unsplash

Of course advertising works for some.  It did get me some new email addresses on my list but for now at least, I'm getting better results by building real relationships with real people.  

Giving real value to people who know me is a long-term strategy that has only positive benefits.  The advertising platforms can and do change at a moments notice and I don't want to build a dependency on them right now.  But advertising is definitely something to come back to at some point.

So, lesson learned: Don't just give something a try; far better to commit to a definite course of action.  More about this in a later post ...



Don't just give something a try; far better to commit to a definite course of action

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Mistake #7: Blogging Badly

The only exam I ever failed at school was English and since then I‘ve been convinced I’m not a writer.  I sometimes wonder if teachers like Mr. K realise the life-long impact they've had on some people ... ?

Yet to make it online you need to write about things that interest and help your potential customers so they can get to know like and trust you, right?

Well, maybe not.  

I knew I could teach lots of helpful stuff but so can lots of other people who are probably much better at it than I am.  I spent a full three months earlier this year really trying to get into the rhythm of blogging and I Hated. Every. Minute. Of it.  

Corbett Barr wrote that "... you have to like creating content".  I didn’t enjoy it at all.  I had a ton of ideas but when it came to writing about them it took a supreme effort of will to force myself to do it every day.

As I wrote last week, the problem was that I wasn't being myself.  I was writing what I thought someone running a WordPress maintenance company should be writing about.  

A few months back I reviewed the plan I'd made at the beginning of this year.  To my surprise I discovered that I had set the goal of writing about my journey as it happened.  The writing never happened because I didn’t really feel I had a lot of valuable experience to share.  That was until I took a step back and asked myself why this wasn't working.

I find it hard to keep in mind that what's obvious to me might not obvious be to many other people.  At all.

I realised that I would enjoy and learn from documenting this journey and that others could find it useful.  From the relationships I’ve built with people in the same boat I now know this is valuable.  

Since then I can’t wait to write about what’s going on and the whole writing thing has become an enjoyable means of getting the story out.  It's still early days but so far so good and it feels right.

Remember, it’s your business.  It’s your blog.  Although you need to find some common denominator between you and your readers, to a huge extent, you can decide what you want to write about.

Mistake #8: Searching Perfection

So much has been said about the search for perfection being fruitless.  But it didn't stop me trying.

I created an email course about looking after WordPress.  I spent countless hours making sure it was complete and that the email automation worked.  As an example, I once spent two hours looking for and cropping an image for one of the lessons ... !

I didn't think it was world class so I dropped it.

I then compiled that email course into a book on WordPress maintenance.  Again I spent countless hours editing and formatting, rewriting parts, adding parts, deleting parts.  I once spent almost three hours looking for a tool to convert emails to PDF;  this was more time than it took to finally do it manually!

In the end Ihad a 65 page book as my giveaway.  And I wasn't happy with it.  I’m also quite sure that no-one has actually read it in its entirety.

I’ve since had much better success creating shorter more actionable guides and not worrying too much about whether they’re perfect or not.  They aren’t.  But they do get better every time I review them and ask for feedback.

Building a following is not about how perfect it can be right now , it's about the long haul.  If things are getting better over time then its good enough.  As Jim Rohn (again) said, "it's the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go".



It's the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go. -- Jim Rohn

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Mistake #9: Getting Distracted

I'm naturally curious.  Whenever I come across something interesting or new I like to learn about it.  In a little kid that's an endearing quality but it's a constant battle to keep it from happening these days and distracting me from what's important.

When I was trying to blog I was continuously researching how to be better at writing; I read books.  I took courses.  I made notes on what the experts told me in podcasts and webinars.  I learned writing tips from Gaiman and Hemmingway. I learned a lot of writing theory.  I didn't actually write.

When I was trying out Facebook advertising I got sidetracked into the copyrighting of Ogilvy and Halbert.

When I was trying to promote a blog post I’d spend hours reading about how to promote a blog post.

When I was creating my first landing page I spent days trying out LeadPages and Unbounce and InstaPage.  I researched the most effective ways to do it to maximise conversions.

Of course the result was information overload.

I couldn't possible take enough action to keep up with the huge amount of information I was consuming.  I became confused by the varied and fascinating directions I was being pulled in.  

The truth is that any tactic and strategy will probably work for someone.  It's like dieting; the one that works is often the one you stick with long enough.  But also like dieting, there is no approach that works for everyone.  Everything we do in our business is a hypothesis - we need to experiment, measure, learn, take what works, ditch what doesn't and repeat.

The strategy that works is often the one you stick with long enough to confirm or deny your hypotheses

The strategy that works is often the one you stick with long enough to confirm or deny your hypotheses

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Generally you have more willpower in the morning.  So at 5am one Saturday I sat down at my computer.  I unsubscribed from dozens of email lists, deleted a ton of free ebooks and course and videos I’d downloaded and kept just a handful that really resonated with me.  

I then started taking action one step at a time.  Whenever I read something that sounded good I tried it with enthusiasm.  If it didn't work, I adjusted and retried or I moved on.  The speed you can try new things in a smart way and then learn from them has a lot to do with the speed your business will grow.

Really putting your heart into a single tactic at a time is vastly superior to briefly trying lots of things that vie for your attention.  It’s about doing one thing that will move the business forward now.  As David Risley says “it isn't the tool which matters as much as what you're doing with it.”

Research and reading isn’t bad, of course; it's essential to your ongoing education and to reiterate principles you're already familiar yet.  

I still find it hard to resist a compelling headline and I have to constantly remind myself each time that I haven’t yet exhausted the possibilities of whatever I'm currently working on.

Walk before you crawl.  Remember the basics.  If your main product isn’t ready, you don’t have a business.  If you haven't sold any of that product you don't have a business.  

You can have all the physical ability in the world, but you still have to know the fundamentals

Focus on fundamentals

Michael Jordan

Get these things done well enough first before you worry that your writing isn't as simple as Hemmingway's or that your landing page conversions aren't as good as Frank Kern's.

Mistake #10: Caring About The Small Things.

You can debate the truth of Peter Drucker's "you can't manage what you can't measure" (or something like that) all you want but there's no denying that it's important to track the important moving parts of your business.

Here's the thing - metrics can distract you.  Most metrics simply aren't important when they're small.

I used to regularly check the popular pages of my site and tweak them to improve conversion rates and make them perfect (see Mistake #8 above).  I used to check what tweets did well, what Facebook posts got most likes, most shares etc. etc.

This is all kind of pointless when your site has 20 visitors a day.  

There are more important things.   Like getting your basic offer to a good standard.  Like looking after your current customers in every way you can.

Until you have hundreds of visitors a day, most of those metrics really don’t tell you much that's useful.

The Biggest Mistake Of All

While making this list I realised that all of the above mistakes actually combine to reveal my greatest mistake of all.  It's one of the biggest mistakes any business can make:

Not focusing on sales!

Sounds silly doesn't it?  You're not in business until you make sales.   Yet with everything that needs to be done it's fairly easy to lose sight of that simple fact.

It's Not All Mistakes

I'm happy to say there are many common mistakes I didn’t make, some things I got right first time around, like:

  • Making it all about the product instead of the customer
  • Not setting goals
  • Not thinking about marketing
  • Spending money too freely
  • Not being flexible
  • Not having a clear vision
  • Giving up!

These were usually thanks to the advice of others who were several (or many) steps ahead of me.

Ryan Sullivan of WP Site Care advised me to get my processes in order.  Sigrun taught me not to overextend myself beyond my area of expertise even for what seems like a great opportunity.  Jen encouraged me to find my own voice and, while it’s taken me 2 years, this blog is the beginning of that.

Conclusion

There you have it.  There are no earth-shattering revelations in there.  No gigantic abysmal failures but they are many of the same mistakes that people make time and time again.  I'm no longer amazed I will never have it all figured out and I'll keep learning.  But NOT by making the same mistakes.

You can spend a lifetime reading about this stuff but the only way is to forge your own path and make your own mistakes.  We have to do that anyway.  The ones who come out of it better are the ones who never stop trying and adjusting.

What do you think?  Do any of these ring true for you?  Any mistakes you’ve made that you’d like to share in the comments below?

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Bootstrapper’s Journey – The First 10 Users

HOW I GOT MY
FIRST 10
USERS

Image: Southbank Centre food market, London. Clem Onojeghuo via Unsplash

In this post I explain how I gained a whole new perspective on running my business by being honest with myself.

It's Not A Business Yet

So you have your idea for your business.  You’ve got your product or service idea.  You’ve bought the domain, set up a website (which you now realise you will never finish because it’s always a work in progress).  Your business is on its way!

But wait! Now you realise you may as well set up stall in the middle of the Sahara.  No one’s coming by, no one knows you’re there, no one has even heard of you!  No traffic is coming to your site because no one knows your business exists.

That was my situation not so very long ago.  To make matters worse, most people didn’t even know what my service was, never mind that it could be helpful to their business!

As Mark Ford, creator of Early to Rise, said “you don’t have a business until you get your first sale.”  It seems obvious but you need to keep this fact in your awareness at all times when you're starting out.

So, what’s a strungout first-time business owner to do?

Well, did you know … There are people out there who are ready to help you in any number of ways?

  • They can confirm your business ideas (or not)
  • They will serve as a sounding board for where you can improve and for new ideas
  • They’ll help you set up smooth processes to make things easier for you
  • They’ll give you valuable feedback
  • and they’ll even help you figure out who your best customers are and where you can find them

As a bonus, if you treat these people like royalty they’ll serve as ambassadors for your brand.  They will spread the word about your business and make your job much easier going forward.

So who are these magical people?

They’re your all important first users and they will do much more than getting your business off the ground.

In this post I’ll share with you the exact steps I took to get those crucial first users to try my services here at WPStrands.

Your Business Is A Set Of Experiments

I would love to be able to say that I did all of this very deliberately but the fact is it’s just what I discovered as I fumbled my way through the first few months.  By putting it all together here I hope you can get a more coherent sense of how you can turn this into a process for yourself.

Luckily, there's a lot of information about customer acquisition (the fancy term for getting customers) online.  There are many people who have gone down this road before you who can give you ideas for getting users and customers.  You can try manual outreach or cold calls.  You can try giveaways, free content or referral programs.  You can try advertising, attending conferences and much, much more.

I did none of those.  As mentioned in an earlier post, most of what I did do didn’t move the business forward at all:

  • I immediately shared what I was doing with friends and family, hoping for a referral.  It didn’t happen!
  • I made a huge list of web development & hosting agencies here in Switzerland.  Then I contacted them cold, one-by-one.  I said something like “I see you provide WordPress design/development services. I provide WP support services.  Maybe we can help each other?”  After sending 200 individually-written emails I checked the results: two replies saying no.
  • I foolishly asked people - like WordPress influencers with whom I had no relationship - if they could use my service.
  • I tried all the list building guides like this one from hubspot, this one from Sumome etc
  • I even started writing.  I hated writing.  English was the only exam I ever failed in my entire educational career.  That was at the hands of a teacher who just didn’t like me.  His 39% score (40% was a pass) hit home and somehow convinced me that I just wasn’t cut out to write.  

    I wrote stuff I never sent. I wrote a few blog posts I hated and even published them.  These were WP-related because I thought my ideal customers were interested in WP.  Nothing I wrote was focused or had a clear purpose.

  • I gave too much free help in Facebook groups to people who were never going to buy!  I joined lots of WordPress groups and gave help in there.  I didn't realise that people building their own WordPress website were not actually my target audience!
  • I was unfocused in my efforts to get the word out - I tried creating a Udemy course, I began publishing my Complete Guide to WordPress Maintenance as a Kindle book and never finished, I half-heartedly took a look at different niches only to drop them soon after ... etc. etc.

One thing I did that has had big long-term benefits was to study marketing; this is still paying off today.  I will always be learning marketing.

In general, though, studying didn’t get me any new customers as I wasn’t immediately applying what I was learning.

Do It Yourself​

I can’t say that these tactics failed: I did the work needed and they simply didn’t give me the outcome I hoped for.  But I still learned lots from attempting them.

And that’s the crux of learning how to run a business; everyone needs to do it for themselves.  You don't need to BE alone but you do need to experience the business first hand.

Like Siddhartha in the novel, every person must go through the journey for himself.  This is infinitely more useful than just learning what worked for someone else.

"It is a good thing to experience everything oneself..." -- Siddhartha

napoleon hill

Herman Hesse

They tactics above have worked for someone in the past and they might even work for you.  You need to find that out.

I couldn’t agree more with Steph Crowder of Courage and Clarity and Fizzle:

”Everything you do in your business is nothing more than a hypothesis. Treat it as a learning process.”

This isn’t said often enough.

”Everything you do in your business is nothing more than a hypothesis. Treat it as a learning process.” via @stephcrowder_

Click to Tweet

Looking back, I can honestly say that I was struggling to find a voice I could use.  Struggling to decide what WPStrands should look like, sound like, behave like.

I was struggling​ to be me.

And I had no idea.

I continued to have no idea until I finally sat down with pencil and paper and just thought about getting new customers for 15 minutes or so.  I like braindumps/brainstorms.  They’ve often helped me to make decisions and to get clear on what’s really happening when I'm too caught up in the maelstrom to notice (mindfulness also helps here).

So I scribbled everything down and this was the result.

WPS failed brainstorming

(Somewhere along the way I got sidetracked with my PC’s BIOS settings and dribbled tea over the page.)

Sometimes brain dumps just don’t do it for me !!

Another few attempts though, gave better results.  When I stopped thinking about “getting customers” and really thought instead about “why customers would want automated WordPress maintenance” ...

… the answer dawned on me …

They didn’t want help with WordPress!

  • They wanted to save time
  • They wanted to focus on their core business rather than on the technology used to support that business
  • And they wanted peace of mind

Around this time I was re-reading parts of Chet Holmes’ Ultimate Sales Machine (the best book for implementing what Michael Gerber talks about in E-Myth Revisited).  

If you're not familiar with Chet's Core Story exercise, this is what I did...

I imagined 73,500 potential customers together in a stadium.  (Chet says you should imagine 50,000 but I was imagining Croke Park in Dublin which seats 73,500; a bonus 23,500 potential customers!)

WPStrands Stadium Pitch Croke Park

My Stadium Pitch at Croke Park - What would you say?

And I asked myself “what would I say to them?”

Not what would WPStrands, the business, say to them but, if WPStrands didn’t exist, what would I, Seán, say to them as a person?

That was an altogether different question.

The only answer that came to mind was that I could simply help some of them with their websites.

(I know, I know, there are many important things you could say to if 73,500 listeners. For this exercise I was sticking to the topic of business.)

So I could just ask them “what’s your problem right now with WordPress?”

I knew I would be able to solve most - if not all - the problems they would have.

Coupled with my earlier insight of what they really needed, I felt like I had had an epiphany of sorts.

I had a new perspective on what my business was and a new understanding of how that business could help people.  This was a much more objective perspective based not on what I wanted to give people but on what they really needed.

This is a perspective that allows me to see what my business is from above as a whole rather than from the inside.  It's a view of the business from the customer side rather than from my side.  It was literally a sudden shift in perspective that has had a profound impact on how I view my work every day.

A side effect of this perspective shift was that I went from being doubtful about what I’m doing to a realisation that it’s all going to be fine.

I find it very difficult to explain this mental shift to people who haven’t had it yet but I’m working on it.

Try. Learn. Apply.

Now how to go from there to getting customers?  Well, viewing the world through my new lens I could immediately see how I could help people.

First of all, I had made a point of staying in touch with previous customers for whom I’d built websites.  After two of them were hacked, I knew they could do with some help; they readily signed up for ongoing maintenance with me.

User count: 2

Another customer for whom I often did small fixes/changes for free also agreed to sign up for maintenance when I explained why it was important.

User Count: 3

That was my immediate network used up so now came the hard part ...

(This was also the time this blog was born - I quickly wrote a post about what I was doing and asked a few trusted people what they thought.  They loved it and the blog was born!)

I was now ready to go back to Facebook and LinkedIn and try again.  I got involved everywhere I saw someone having website problems.

This time it was different because I wasn’t trying to get a customer, I was trying to help.  As me.  In the next few weeks I added another five customers and seven sites.

When I tried to help people from the heart it worked.

User count: 8

Finally, I talked to people in an unrelated Facebook group​ I was in.  I discovered some of them had WordPress sites and they too signed up for a trial.

User count: 10​

Now, if this all seems remedial and obvious, it does to me looking back too.  I thought I wasn’t grasping for customers but I was.

The thing is, although I'd read about it before, I had to go through it myself.  At each false step along the way my mindset was shifting slightly to one that was more true to myself and so more true to the business.  

I don't know if every solitary bootstrapper needs to make these shifts by themselves, but I had to.

One could argue that I wouldn’t have had to make these silly mistakes if I'd had the right mentorship.  Or the right mastermind group or the right teammates.  

That’s probably true.  But would I have had the realisations that I had?  I’m not so sure.

And… this is the stubborn bootstrapper’s journey after all.

WPStrands Stubborn

Image: Thomas Quine via Flickr

Now when I look at my client list I see a list of people I know well, people who trust me and who I know I am helping day after day.

This change in perspeective also led to the development of my seemingly backward values for WPStrands:

  • Each client's personal well-being comes first
  • their business comes second
  • their business's website comes third

Some businesses and many SaaS can go all out and get hundreds of subscribers at one go.  For a service like WPStrands this just wouldn’t work.  People need a personal touch.

So now I think it makes sense to build the business one person at a time, one website at a time.  This way I can really show clients the benefits of having an expert in their corner.

It’s a slow way of doing it but it works.

Conclusion​

There are no real secrets to building a business; everything has pretty much been written already.

You can read a classic marketing book from 50 years ago and find the same advice you hear from honest sources today:  Speak from the heart.  Speak TO the person directly.  Provide what they need.

Like everything else - the foundations are what matters. Trends come and go but these principles will always be true.

Authenticity is the big thing.  Once I stopped trying to be a marketer and trying to be a business and returned to being me, it all fell into place.

Setting up your business , getting a website going and starting to add content are just the beginning.  From there it's a matter of consistently applying the basics (which are well-outlined in Chet Holmes book).

How did you get your first customers?  Was it through people you knew or by using a clever marketing tactic?  Let me know in the comments.

Follow the WPStrands Journey to 100 Customers

I'll be sharing what I learn as the orange grows.

WPStrands Customers

0

100

Number of Customers

A Bootstrapper’s Journey | Business Mistakes I’ve Made

The
BIGGEST MISTAKES I'VE MADE
(SO FAR)

In this post I'll go through a few of the many business mistakes I've made since starting WPStrands.  And, of course, how I learned from them.

Learning Independence


a well-equipped kayak

Image: Laura Lefurgey Smith via Unsplash

I was 16 years old when, on a freezing February morning, I showed up for my kayaking leadership exam, blissfully and utterly unaware that I had already made a huge mistake that guaranteed I wouldn't pass.

At 16 one tends to trust older, more experienced adults; this was my awakening to the fact that these older, more experienced adults don’t always get it right.  The mistake I’d made was relying on my club instructor to tell me everything I needed to know for the exam.

The instructor hadn’t got it right and I was about to fail.

The equipment inspection began before hitting the water.  As soon as it began I realised my mistake with a sinking stomach. The examiner smiled, shook his head and made loud tut-tutting sounds as he strolled merrily round the boat, clipboard in hand and making ticks on his sheet, clearly delighted to be ruining my day; my life even!

I had no tow-ropes on the kayak.  I had no local river maps.  I had no rations for an emergency.  

I clearly had no clue.  These were the basic, common mistakes of the clueless beginner!

I had had no idea what to expect and so I relied on someone else to prepare for me.  As it turned out, the instructor didn't really know what to expect either ...

I almost feel sorry for the boy I was when I think back to that day but it served as a hugely valuable lesson. I promised myself I would never make the mistake of leaving no stone unturned again.  

What I should have done was to talk to the course organisers beforehand and found out for myself what was involved in the exam.  Or to talk with others who had already done the course​.  There was no internet back then but there were still lots of ways I could have researched what I needed to avoid the common mistakes others had made before me.

I still remember standing dejected and shivering in the frost on that riverbank.  Watching the slabs of river ice floating downstream, I had a sense that I was​ really not going to enjoy the next three hours of tests ...

A RARE 100% GUARANTEE

There aren’t many guarantees in life and even fewer guarantees when starting your own business. Especially when doing it on your own with no outside funding.

​But I can give you one 100% guarantee:

You will make mistakes.​

If you think about it you'll see this is a terrific guarantee to have!  If you can recognise your mistakes and take a good look at how they happened you will learn something.

Guaranteed learning ... !  Who doesn’t want that kind of certainty?

“Feeling lost, crazy and desperate belongs to a good life as much as optimism, certainty and reason.”

alain de botton

Alain de Botton


WPStrands hasn't been around for very long at all but I’ve already learned plenty!  That means, of course, that I’ve already made plenty of mistakes.  

Below are just a few of them: ...

Mistake #1: Going It Alone​

As mentioned in last week's post about getting starting with WPStrands, I want to​ do this by myself so that I can maximise what I learn.

But there's a fine line between being independent and stubbornly resisting that all-important ask for help.

Learning exclusively through your own experience - while incredibly valuable - is a far from optimal way to do anything.  It sounds pretty obvious now but I waited a long time before asking for help and thus spent a lot of that time reinventing the wheel and learning from scratch what someone could have taught me much more quickly.  

For a reasonably smart guy it took me a surprisingly long time to get this!

Learning from your own mistakes inevitably means progress will be slowed down.  A much better way is to learn from others' mistakes and experience.  

A great way to benefit from their experience is probably the simplest:

  1. Seek out lots of people who are ahead of you on this journey
  2. Ask them lots of questions​

That's it.

wpstrands ask more questions

There is absolutely no reason NOT to do this and it has never been easier to do it: blogs and social media allow a two-way conversation between you and any ​other person using that channel.  Use them.

Mistake #2: Giving Instead of Asking

This was one of the biggest time-wasting mistakes I made in my first few months when I needed some test customers to get things going.

Armed with a burning desire to help everyone and with the belief that I should be incredibly generous with my time and knowledge, I gave as much help as I could in WordPress-related Facebook groups for free.  But I went overboard.  At one point I had 30 customers, none of whom were paying me!

It accomplished what I wanted - some of those I helped agreed to sign up to WPStrands for free.  I found and fixed a few early problems with the WPStrands service early on.

But this type of customer has a big shortcoming - most of them aren’t invested in your service because they’ve paid nothing; they perceive very little value in it.​

I spent a lot of time on a lot of work for a lot of people who really didn’t care one way or the other.

This was detrimental in a few ways:

  • it was demoralising for me
  • it did very little to spread word about the business
  • it attracted my less-than-ideal customer
  • it distracted me from what I should have been doing - making sales and growing the business.

Being helpful to others is admirable; just always keep in mind that this is a business and your time is limited! Choose carefully where you pass that time and who you pass it with.

Mistake #3: Asking Instead of Giving

It seems paradoxical that I could have made this mistake as well as the first one above, but... I managed it!

When I realised I needed to reach out to others for advice and/or help I made the fatal mistake of asking complete strangers for something for nothing.

wpstrands mistakes

These were people I admired and followed online but who knew nothing about me.  The stupid part was that I knew the rules - relationship before asking.  Yet I still made the mistake.  I’m not sure how I didn’t realise that's what I was doing at the time.  I was giving nothing to them and so got nothing in return in most cases.

If you respect someone enough to follow their newsletter, blog, social media channels or in any other respect, you should respect them enough to build a meaningful relationship with them.

I've found two great ways to do this:

  1. Offer them useful and relevant​ help whenever and wherever you can.  You know this one!
  2. Ask them "who do you think could help me with ... [something you'd like to know]".  When they answer, tell them you'll let them know how it went with that person.  This gets them involved to a small degree in your quest for answers and is a great way to start building a real relationship.  (This excellent tip comes from Gary Bartlett at Prodsol and really works wonders!)

Mistake #4: Wrong Market Focus

I thought it would be smart to begin locally and make a name for myself here in Switzerland.  Dominate the Swiss market, then gradually and steadily expand into world domination.  

So I focused on building up a customer base here in Switzerland. Although I approached it methodically and diligently, this was a big mistake that cost a lot of my time.

I compiled a list of 200 people to contact - web development agencies, ISPs etc., anyone I thought would genuinely benefit from the WPStrand's service.  I systematically went through the list and composed an individual email to each person or company saying something like "You provide WordPress services, so do I.  Maybe we could do something together?"  This was wrong on many levels.  

Switzerland is famously conservative.  The online industry in Switzerland is not-so-famously also extremely conservative.  It is far behind other parts of the online world in many ways, not least because most small businesses don’t yet fully appreciate the value of their website and the efforts needed to make that site work for their business. This isn’t a complaint, it’s just how it is here. (Many, many other aspects of my adopted home are among the best in the world, of course!)

Also, and maybe even more crucial, was that by not beginning with a global view I was severely limiting my own vision for what I want WPStrands to become.  I was simply aiming too small.

wpstrands what are you aiming at?

Image: Andrew Yardley via Unsplash

What are you aiming for?

The outcome was that I got very few responses to my inquiries and became demoralised. Time spent on learning this lesson about my market?  From September to December last year - 3 months!  

A positive outcome was that I learned a lot about my local market which should be useful later (markets as well as other things don't often change very quickly here!)

While I have done A LOT of research into the Swiss online market, I could certainly​ have reduced the time I spent on this step by paying a VA to do it for me.

Mistake #5: Feeling Entitled

I haven't seen this mistake come up in any lists I've read but since seeing it in myself I've noticed it's a lot more prevalent than I imagined...

I’m a nice guy, I work hard, I'm really brave to have quit my career to do this so I deserve a break!  That was my thinking.  Naive of me, maybe, but I honestly believed I was working hard enough, smart enough and that I deserved some returns for my efforts!  

I’m a nice guy, I work hard, I'm really brave to have quit my career to start a business so I deserve a break!

Click to Tweet

And yes, I’ve read the books; Think and Grow Rich, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People etc.  Don't they all warn about this?

What none of the books really taught me about, though, was the lag time.  There's a time delay between the effort put in and the rewards being reaped.  As a country boy who grew up on and around farms I should have known this; crops are sown and preparation is made so that the bountiful harvest can be reaped when that work pays off.  I think it's called patience ...

Missing this meant I was frustrated at the lack of rewards from my efforts, became even more demoralised and lost motivation many times. ​

Also, while I was putting in so much effort, I lost track of something that was really beneficial to me - my early morning routine where I got up early for a run, felt grateful and planned my day. Instead of this I started going to the office (5 minutes walk from my home) really early and simply skipping the routine that had benefited me for years.

I don’t want this post to become yet another treatise on the benefits of a sound morning routine.  Suffice to say I got grounded in reality again by getting back into good old simple daily habits.  The lucky event that spurred this change was when I won Craig Ballantyne’s book "The Perfect Day Formula" in a competition of his.  This coupled with getting back into meditation helped me to start my days well and get focused on more of the right things.  This will always be a work in progress.

And There's More ...

But that's enough for now.  I've spent enough time this week going over these so it's time to take a break and dwell on better things to come. There's no benefit from focusing continuously on your mistakes; learn and move on.

Here's yet another guarantee: someone has already made these mistakes before you came along.​

Clearly many of my mistakes were things I'd read about already yet I went ahead and did them anyway!​  A lot of them could have been avoided by a little self-awareness and understanding myself a bit more. A little mindfulness goes a long way.

While trading entrepreneur stories over a coffee with a colleague earlier this week I realised that I've actually made​ way more mistakes along the way!  So more mistakes coming next week ...​

What do you think?  Do any of these ring true for you?  Want to share some mistakes you’ve made?  Be brave and share in the comments below!

Follow the WPStrands Journey to 100 Customers

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I'll be sharing what I learn as the orange grows.

wpstrands circle

0

100

Number of Customers

This article contains affiliate links.

Mistakes I’ve Made On My Bootstrapper’s Journey (So Far …)

The
BIGGEST MISTAKES I'VE MADE
(SO FAR)

In this post I'll go through a few of the many business mistakes I've made since starting WPStrands.  And, of course, how I learned from them.

Learning Independence


a well-equipped kayak

Image: Laura Lefurgey Smith via Unsplash

I was 16 years old when, on a freezing February morning, I showed up for my kayaking leadership exam, blissfully and utterly unaware that I had already made a huge mistake that guaranteed I wouldn't pass.

At 16 one tends to trust older, more experienced adults; this was my awakening to the fact that these older, more experienced adults don’t always get it right.  The mistake I’d made was relying on my club instructor to tell me everything I needed to know for the exam.

The instructor hadn’t got it right and I was about to fail.

The equipment inspection began before hitting the water.  As soon as it began I realised my mistake with a sinking stomach. The examiner smiled, shook his head and made loud tut-tutting sounds as he strolled merrily round the boat, clipboard in hand and making ticks on his sheet, clearly delighted to be ruining my day; my life even!

I had no tow-ropes on the kayak.  I had no local river maps.  I had no rations for an emergency.  

I clearly had no clue.  These were the basic, common mistakes of the clueless beginner!

I had had no idea what to expect and so I relied on someone else to prepare for me.  As it turned out, the instructor didn't really know what to expect either ...

I almost feel sorry for the boy I was when I think back to that day but it served as a hugely valuable lesson. I promised myself I would never make the mistake of leaving no stone unturned again.  

What I should have done was to talk to the course organisers beforehand and found out for myself what was involved in the exam.  Or to talk with others who had already done the course​.  There was no internet back then but there were still lots of ways I could have researched what I needed to avoid the common mistakes others had made before me.

I still remember standing dejected and shivering in the frost on that riverbank.  Watching the slabs of river ice floating downstream, I had a sense that I was​ really not going to enjoy the next three hours of tests ...

A RARE 100% GUARANTEE

There aren’t many guarantees in life and even fewer guarantees when starting your own business. Especially when doing it on your own with no outside funding.

​But I can give you one 100% guarantee:

You will make mistakes.​

If you think about it you'll see this is a terrific guarantee to have!  If you can recognise your mistakes and take a good look at how they happened you will learn something.

Guaranteed learning ... !  Who doesn’t want that kind of certainty?

“Feeling lost, crazy and desperate belongs to a good life as much as optimism, certainty and reason.”

alain de botton

Alain de Botton


WPStrands hasn't been around for very long at all but I’ve already learned plenty!  That means, of course, that I’ve already made plenty of mistakes.  

Below are just a few of them: ...

Mistake #1: Going It Alone​

As mentioned in last week's post about getting starting with WPStrands, I want to​ do this by myself so that I can maximise what I learn.

But there's a fine line between being independent and stubbornly resisting that all-important ask for help.

Learning exclusively through your own experience - while incredibly valuable - is a far from optimal way to do anything.  It sounds pretty obvious now but I waited a long time before asking for help and thus spent a lot of that time reinventing the wheel and learning from scratch what someone could have taught me much more quickly.  

For a reasonably smart guy it took me a surprisingly long time to get this!

Learning from your own mistakes inevitably means progress will be slowed down.  A much better way is to learn from others' mistakes and experience.  

A great way to benefit from their experience is probably the simplest:

  1. Seek out lots of people who are ahead of you on this journey
  2. Ask them lots of questions​

That's it.

wpstrands ask more questions

There is absolutely no reason NOT to do this and it has never been easier to do it: blogs and social media allow a two-way conversation between you and any ​other person using that channel.  Use them.

Mistake #2: Giving Instead of Asking

This was one of the biggest time-wasting mistakes I made in my first few months when I needed some test customers to get things going.

Armed with a burning desire to help everyone and with the belief that I should be incredibly generous with my time and knowledge, I gave as much help as I could in WordPress-related Facebook groups for free.  But I went overboard.  At one point I had 30 customers, none of whom were paying me!

It accomplished what I wanted - some of those I helped agreed to sign up to WPStrands for free.  I found and fixed a few early problems with the WPStrands service early on.

But this type of customer has a big shortcoming - most of them aren’t invested in your service because they’ve paid nothing; they perceive very little value in it.​

I spent a lot of time on a lot of work for a lot of people who really didn’t care one way or the other.

This was detrimental in a few ways:

  • it was demoralising for me
  • it did very little to spread word about the business
  • it attracted my less-than-ideal customer
  • it distracted me from what I should have been doing - making sales and growing the business.

Being helpful to others is admirable; just always keep in mind that this is a business and your time is limited! Choose carefully where you pass that time and who you pass it with.

Mistake #3: Asking Instead of Giving

It seems paradoxical that I could have made this mistake as well as the first one above, but... I managed it!

When I realised I needed to reach out to others for advice and/or help I made the fatal mistake of asking complete strangers for something for nothing.

wpstrands mistakes

These were people I admired and followed online but who knew nothing about me.  The stupid part was that I knew the rules - relationship before asking.  Yet I still made the mistake.  I’m not sure how I didn’t realise that's what I was doing at the time.  I was giving nothing to them and so got nothing in return in most cases.

If you respect someone enough to follow their newsletter, blog, social media channels or in any other respect, you should respect them enough to build a meaningful relationship with them.

I've found two great ways to do this:

  1. Offer them useful and relevant​ help whenever and wherever you can.  You know this one!
  2. Ask them "who do you think could help me with ... [something you'd like to know]".  When they answer, tell them you'll let them know how it went with that person.  This gets them involved to a small degree in your quest for answers and is a great way to start building a real relationship.  (This excellent tip comes from Gary Bartlett at Prodsol and really works wonders!)

Mistake #4: Wrong Market Focus

I thought it would be smart to begin locally and make a name for myself here in Switzerland.  Dominate the Swiss market, then gradually and steadily expand into world domination.  

So I focused on building up a customer base here in Switzerland. Although I approached it methodically and diligently, this was a big mistake that cost a lot of my time.

I compiled a list of 200 people to contact - web development agencies, ISPs etc., anyone I thought would genuinely benefit from the WPStrand's service.  I systematically went through the list and composed an individual email to each person or company saying something like "You provide WordPress services, so do I.  Maybe we could do something together?"  This was wrong on many levels.  

Switzerland is famously conservative.  The online industry in Switzerland is not-so-famously also extremely conservative.  It is far behind other parts of the online world in many ways, not least because most small businesses don’t yet fully appreciate the value of their website and the efforts needed to make that site work for their business. This isn’t a complaint, it’s just how it is here. (Many, many other aspects of my adopted home are among the best in the world, of course!)

Also, and maybe even more crucial, was that by not beginning with a global view I was severely limiting my own vision for what I want WPStrands to become.  I was simply aiming too small.

wpstrands what are you aiming at?

Image: Andrew Yardley via Unsplash

What are you aiming for?

The outcome was that I got very few responses to my inquiries and became demoralised. Time spent on learning this lesson about my market?  From September to December last year - 3 months!  

A positive outcome was that I learned a lot about my local market which should be useful later (markets as well as other things don't often change very quickly here!)

While I have done A LOT of research into the Swiss online market, I could certainly​ have reduced the time I spent on this step by paying a VA to do it for me.

Mistake #5: Feeling Entitled

I haven't seen this mistake come up in any lists I've read but since seeing it in myself I've noticed it's a lot more prevalent than I imagined...

I’m a nice guy, I work hard, I'm really brave to have quit my career to do this so I deserve a break!  That was my thinking.  Naive of me, maybe, but I honestly believed I was working hard enough, smart enough and that I deserved some returns for my efforts!  

I’m a nice guy, I work hard, I'm really brave to have quit my career to start a business so I deserve a break!

Click to Tweet

And yes, I’ve read the books; Think and Grow Rich, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People etc.  Don't they all warn about this?

What none of the books really taught me about, though, was the lag time.  There's a time delay between the effort put in and the rewards being reaped.  As a country boy who grew up on and around farms I should have known this; crops are sown and preparation is made so that the bountiful harvest can be reaped when that work pays off.  I think it's called patience ...

Missing this meant I was frustrated at the lack of rewards from my efforts, became even more demoralised and lost motivation many times. ​

Also, while I was putting in so much effort, I lost track of something that was really beneficial to me - my early morning routine where I got up early for a run, felt grateful and planned my day. Instead of this I started going to the office (5 minutes walk from my home) really early and simply skipping the routine that had benefited me for years.

I don’t want this post to become yet another treatise on the benefits of a sound morning routine.  Suffice to say I got grounded in reality again by getting back into good old simple daily habits.  The lucky event that spurred this change was when I won Craig Ballantyne’s book "The Perfect Day Formula" in a competition of his.  This coupled with getting back into meditation helped me to start my days well and get focused on more of the right things.  This will always be a work in progress.

And There's More ...

But that's enough for now.  I've spent enough time this week going over these so it's time to take a break and dwell on better things to come. There's no benefit from focusing continuously on your mistakes; learn and move on.

Here's yet another guarantee: someone has already made these mistakes before you came along.​

Clearly many of my mistakes were things I'd read about already yet I went ahead and did them anyway!​  A lot of them could have been avoided by a little self-awareness and understanding myself a bit more. A little mindfulness goes a long way.

While trading entrepreneur stories over a coffee with a colleague earlier this week I realised that I've actually made​ way more mistakes along the way!  So more mistakes coming next week ...​

What do you think?  Do any of these ring true for you?  Want to share some mistakes you’ve made?  Be brave and share in the comments below!

Follow the WPStrands Journey to 100 Customers

__CONFIG_tve_leads_additional_fields_filters__{"group_id":null,"form_type_id":null,"variation_id":null}__CONFIG_tve_leads_additional_fields_filters__

I'll be sharing what I learn as the orange grows.

wpstrands circle

0

100

Number of Customers

This article contains affiliate links.

A Bootstrapper’s Journey to 100 Customers – Start

A BOOTSTRAPPER’S JOURNEY TO 100 CUSTOMERS

Image: Christian Joudry via Unsplash

In this series I'm sharing how I'm growing a new business from 0 to 100 customers.  But first, a bit about how I got here...

The Dream Job

I used to have a dream job.  At least, it was the sort of job I once dreamed of.

Monday mornings, a pre-booked taxi would pull up outside my house at 5 am and take me to the airport.  Just in time, I'd board whatever flight I was told to for whatever country it was that week.  I'd check into the top local hotel and then head for the client's office.  A few days later I'd stop working at lunch time, take another pre-booked taxi to another airport, fly home and take a taxi to my local pub.  There I'd meet my friends and have a laughter-packed Friday evening to wind the week down.  

I was an IT consultant and I loved it!

bootstrapper flying high

Image: Igor Ovsyannykov via Unsplash

For a while.  But a problem arose.  Gradually.  I awoke one day to realise that this wasn't actually my dream any more.

Maybe it was a dream I'd been sold and happened to believe in.  It really doesn't matter.

But that realisation was the start of a journey to find something I could do by myself. Really by myself. So I could support my family and myself by my own endeavours.

Follow the WPStrands Journey to 100 Customers

I'll be sharing all I learn as the orange grows.

0

100

Number of Customers

The Wantrepreneur

I had always “fancied” having my own business, doing something useful for other people, something they would appreciate and that would genuinely help them with something.

But it was always only a "fancy".  

I read a lot on the subject.  I daydreamed a lot.  But I never did it.  That serial entrepreneur mowing neighbours' lawns at 8 years of age?  That was never me!

Now, you can only read and fantasise so much about something before the enthusiasm and motivation wear off and you're left with only a dim sense of something undone; a gnawing sensation that you could have done more.  At that point you have to get your feet wet and do things for yourself.  Otherwise, you'll never apply all that accumulated knowledge and you'll never really learn from it.

And nothing at all will change.

So now it’s time for doing!  

"Your big opportunity may be right where you are now."

bootstrapper napoleon hill

Napoleon Hill

I still read a lot about it.  I still daydream about it.  But now I’ve found a certain flow in applying what I learn along the way … and there’s a hell of a lot to learn!

Right here in this blog, I’ll share it all with you; my decisions, my actions based on those decisions, the results of those actions and what I learn from them.  And, of course, the challenges and disappointments that I can only guess at today.

Hopefully, there will even be a few successes along the way.

The Search

The details don’t matter at this stage, but I spent a year looking for something I really wanted to do.  I have decades of experience and I'm good at my craft (I.T.) but I want to do something meaningful with it.  I tried a few things but each time I found that my heart just wasn’t in it.

Since I realised I was floundering, I made what's almost always a wise decision - I sought help.  I enrolled in a course I’d read about called the Foundation - a six month online course in validating and setting up a SaaS business (Software as a Service - basically it’s software that runs in your browser).

"You are the average of the five people you most associate with.​"

bootstrapper jim rohn

Jim Rohn

The support of a like-minded community can’t be underestimated.  Hanging out online with others going through the same experiences was inspirational and resulted in relationships with people who continue to help me as much as I can help them.

From that course, I discovered that a small part of what I'd already been doing part time (web development) was a viable business - WordPress website maintenance.

Technology Overwhelm

Over the years I have seen far too many ambitious but non-technical action-takers become genuinely frustrated and stressed out over the technology needed to put their plans into motion.

No-one who drives a car thinks twice about handing over their car to a qualified mechanic to look after the details; their lack of technical knowledge certainly doesn’t stop them driving their car and even enjoying the experience!

That’s how it should be with websites.  And it could be like that.  WPStrands was created to play a part in that change of perception.

I had clients already paying me for it and I knew it was badly needed; hacking incidents are increasing by over 30% per year, according to Google, so people are soon going to realise they need some form of insurance for their website.

So that's the lofty goal of WPStrands:

The #wpstrands goal: to change the view of #WordPress maintenance from a luxury to a necessity.

Click to Tweet

It’s not a sexy SaaS or a revolutionary new idea.  Believe it or not, no-one has ever said to me, "Ooh, website maintenance? Sounds cool, tell me more!"

But with around 80 million WordPress websites out there - most of them owned by non-technical folk - there’s a very sizeable market.  There are already a few companies doing good work in the field like WP Site Care and WP Curve.

Surely a few hundred among those millions would be happy to pay for my expertise!?

The Rules

As someone who loves planning, I, of course, have a few rules for what WPStrands will be:

  • It will be bootstrapped i.e. no outside funding whatsoever.  I realise this makes it difficult in a lot of ways.  It also makes it raw and very real.  I stubbornly really want to do this myself.  So, WPStrands is not a startup in the modern sense.
  • Don’t run out of money.  I’m not using any of my own money, only money generated from WPStrands.
  • Automate everything.  Without this the business will be neither manageable nor scalable.
  • It can all change.  If I see a reasonable opportunity that makes sense I’ll take it.  Without using the word "pivot" (see below).
  • Never stop.  If I keep picking myself up, dusting myself down and moving forward, well, I have to get there, right?
  • Deal only with people who have similar values, action-takers, self-developers etc.
  • Partner with people & companies who are smarter or more developed than me.
  • There will be no use of the following cringe-worthy words:
    lean, leverage, pivot, disrupt, passion, leader, hacking, ninja, bandwidth, synergy, game-changer and, worst of all, awesome! If everything is awesome then nothing is awesome.
    And no one is allowed to say viola or walla. The word is voilà!
  • There will be no comparison of WPStrands to existing or earlier entities.
  • There will be no Steve Jobs quotes.  Sorry Steve, you did some great things but since your death your every uttering is worshipped as if hidden within is all the business wisdom of the ages.

Why Am I Doing This?

My great grandfather built his own house with his own hands.  I want to taste something of that level of self-sufficiency.  I want to feel what it’s like to live solely from the fruits of my own efforts.  In that sense having a job is kind of cheating for me.  I’m not anti-corporate by any means and I know it’s fine for many, just not for me.

"The thing people don't understand about most entrepreneurs is that we are driven by self-doubt.  ... we're all trying to prove ourselves, all the time."

Sir Tom Hunter, Scotland's first self-made billionaire

Yes, I want to prove myself.  To myself.  To my family.  To others.  I think it’s about time.

And as Jim Rohn also says, I want to see what I become in the process.

I’ve been deeply inspired by what Alek Turnbull has accomplished with the excellent Groove blog.  Startups everywhere can learn a lot from his stories.  Maybe a bootstrapper can likewise learn from mine.

Starting Small

Why 100 customers?  It seems a pathetically insignificant number.

Don’t forget WPStrands is NOT a SaaS.  Usually a SaaS doesn’t have to worry too much about scaling - what works for 30 customers will most likely work for 3,000, assuming the technical infrastructure can support the load.

But for a website maintenance company, each website needs to be checked for functionality after every update, backups need to be proofed etc.

These are things that can’t yet be automated (we're working on it) so they have to be done manually.  That takes time and that means we need people.  By 100 customers we should have our processes well ironed out.

I know it sounds cliched but it’s not about the money.  There is a mass of small business owners out there who are both clueless and terrified of the technology they need to run their business online.

Far too many business owners are clueless & terrified of the technology needed to run a business; this shouldn't be!

Click to Tweet

This shouldn’t be the case.  By removing the technology roadblocks, real or imaginary, we can make it easier for more people to bring their creativity and smarts to the world.

Then I think we’ll have done something truly useful.

So Where Are We Right Now?

I’m almost embarrassed to expose our current position to the world.  But, all or nothing…

wpstrands bootstrapper customer chart may 17

Today I have 27 websites under my care.  A few of these are paying customers; most are not, having been part of the beta program up to December last year.  That’s a more-than-manageable number for one person to handle so, currently, WPStrands is just me full-time.  Proper bootstrapping, I guess.

The goal is for that circle above to become completely orange.  I think I’ll need to hire someone for each 50 sites but I’ll round that bend when I come to it.

I am aware that new opportunities can arise and old ones can fall away, so anything can happen.  I could find myself on a different path completely and never reach that corner to turn it because I’ll be busy navigating corners I can't even imagine right now.

That’s part of the fun and the only certainty is that after whichever corner it is, I’ll have learned something and become something more.

What Can Go Wrong?

Ha!  This is the part I’m sure I’ll look back on and shake my head in disbelief at my early naivety.  (That's a day I'm looking forward to!)

  • First, it’s early days for website maintenance in general so it’s very difficult to convince many small business owners of the need for it.  100 years ago people didn’t realise they should have car insurance until they had an accident.  That’s where website maintenance is today; most don’t realise they need it until they’ve been hacked or until a failed software update sinks their site.  Hence the WPStrands mission stated above.
  • The whole model!  Clients must pay to NOT have technical headaches.  Asking people to pay for something to be taken away is a much trickier proposition than asking them to pay for something tangible.  Although WPStrands' prices are extremely low compared to others, this is a real concern.
  • Scalability. Human intervention is currently needed to verify a website does what it’s meant to do. Until we can automate that part, our ability to scale is hugely limited.
  • Plugins. Coming down to the technical problems; many pieces of interacting software written by many different people can give many unpredictable results for our customer websites.

This Blog

As I said, nobody has ever told me they find website maintenance fascinating.

But many, MANY people have asked questions like "Where did you start?", "How did you get your first customers?", "What marketing do you do?".

In the back of my mind, I’ve always wanted to share what I learn along the way and the Groove blog has inspired me to finally do that.

This blog is my way of standing naked before the world, to give myself some accountability, to prove something to myself.

And of course, I hope it's going to help other people who have their own dreams of taking charge of what they do with their own lives.

bootstrapper dreamer

Image: Greg Rakosy via Unsplash

So that’s what I do at WPStrands; I look after WordPress websites. And I hope I’ll soon be able to say that WPStrands takes technology out of the equation for small businesses online.

#WPStrands takes fear of technology out of the equation for small businesses online.

Click to Tweet

Follow along with the journey here or sign up to the mailing list below.  Is there anything you want to learn about in particular?  Maybe you can even give a few words of advice!  Let me know in the comments.

Follow the WPStrands Journey to 100 Customers

I'll be sharing what I learn as the orange grows.

wpstrands circle

0

100

Number of Customers

A Bootstrapper’s Journey to 100 Customers

A BOOTSTRAPPER’S JOURNEY TO 100 CUSTOMERS

Image: Christian Joudry via Unsplash

In this series I'm sharing how I'm growing a new business from 0 to 100 customers.  But first, a bit about how I got here...

The Dream Job

I used to have a dream job.  At least, it was the sort of job I once dreamed of.

Monday mornings, a pre-booked taxi would pull up outside my house at 5 am and take me to the airport.  Just in time, I'd board whatever flight I was told to for whatever country it was that week.  I'd check into the top local hotel and then head for the client's office.  A few days later I'd stop working at lunch time, take another pre-booked taxi to another airport, fly home and take a taxi to my local pub.  There I'd meet my friends and have a laughter-packed Friday evening to wind the week down.  

I was an IT consultant and I loved it!

bootstrapper flying high

Image: Igor Ovsyannykov via Unsplash

For a while.  But a problem arose.  Gradually.  I awoke one day to realise that this wasn't actually my dream any more.

Maybe it was a dream I'd been sold and happened to believe in.  It really doesn't matter.

But that realisation was the start of a journey to find something I could do by myself. Really by myself. So I could support my family and myself by my own endeavours.

Follow the WPStrands Journey to 100 Customers

I'll be sharing all I learn as the orange grows.

0

100

Number of Customers

The Wantrepreneur

I had always “fancied” having my own business, doing something useful for other people, something they would appreciate and that would genuinely help them with something.

But it was always only a "fancy".  

I read a lot on the subject.  I daydreamed a lot.  But I never did it.  That serial entrepreneur mowing neighbours' lawns at 8 years of age?  That was never me!

Now, you can only read and fantasise so much about something before the enthusiasm and motivation wear off and you're left with only a dim sense of something undone; a gnawing sensation that you could have done more.  At that point you have to get your feet wet and do things for yourself.  Otherwise, you'll never apply all that accumulated knowledge and you'll never really learn from it.

And nothing at all will change.

So now it’s time for doing!  

"Your big opportunity may be right where you are now."

bootstrapper napoleon hill

Napoleon Hill

I still read a lot about it.  I still daydream about it.  But now I’ve found a certain flow in applying what I learn along the way … and there’s a hell of a lot to learn!

Right here in this blog, I’ll share it all with you; my decisions, my actions based on those decisions, the results of those actions and what I learn from them.  And, of course, the challenges and disappointments that I can only guess at today.

Hopefully, there will even be a few successes along the way.

The Search

The details don’t matter at this stage, but I spent a year looking for something I really wanted to do.  I have decades of experience and I'm good at my craft (I.T.) but I want to do something meaningful with it.  I tried a few things but each time I found that my heart just wasn’t in it.

Since I realised I was floundering, I made what's almost always a wise decision - I sought help.  I enrolled in a course I’d read about called the Foundation - a six month online course in validating and setting up a SaaS business (Software as a Service - basically it’s software that runs in your browser).

"You are the average of the five people you most associate with.​"

bootstrapper jim rohn

Jim Rohn

The support of a like-minded community can’t be underestimated.  Hanging out online with others going through the same experiences was inspirational and resulted in relationships with people who continue to help me as much as I can help them.

From that course, I discovered that a small part of what I'd already been doing part time (web development) was a viable business - WordPress website maintenance.

Technology Overwhelm

Over the years I have seen far too many ambitious but non-technical action-takers become genuinely frustrated and stressed out over the technology needed to put their plans into motion.

No-one who drives a car thinks twice about handing over their car to a qualified mechanic to look after the details; their lack of technical knowledge certainly doesn’t stop them driving their car and even enjoying the experience!

That’s how it should be with websites.  And it could be like that.  WPStrands was created to play a part in that change of perception.

I had clients already paying me for it and I knew it was badly needed; hacking incidents are increasing by over 30% per year, according to Google, so people are soon going to realise they need some form of insurance for their website.

So that's the lofty goal of WPStrands:

The #wpstrands goal: to change the view of #WordPress maintenance from a luxury to a necessity.

Click to Tweet

It’s not a sexy SaaS or a revolutionary new idea.  Believe it or not, no-one has ever said to me, "Ooh, website maintenance? Sounds cool, tell me more!"

But with around 80 million WordPress websites out there - most of them owned by non-technical folk - there’s a very sizeable market.  There are already a few companies doing good work in the field like WP Site Care and WP Curve.

Surely a few hundred among those millions would be happy to pay for my expertise!?

The Rules

As someone who loves planning, I, of course, have a few rules for what WPStrands will be:

  • It will be bootstrapped i.e. no outside funding whatsoever.  I realise this makes it difficult in a lot of ways.  It also makes it raw and very real.  I stubbornly really want to do this myself.  So, WPStrands is not a startup in the modern sense.
  • Don’t run out of money.  I’m not using any of my own money, only money generated from WPStrands.
  • Automate everything.  Without this the business will be neither manageable nor scalable.
  • It can all change.  If I see a reasonable opportunity that makes sense I’ll take it.  Without using the word "pivot" (see below).
  • Never stop.  If I keep picking myself up, dusting myself down and moving forward, well, I have to get there, right?
  • Deal only with people who have similar values, action-takers, self-developers etc.
  • Partner with people & companies who are smarter or more developed than me.
  • There will be no use of the following cringe-worthy words:
    lean, leverage, pivot, disrupt, passion, leader, hacking, ninja, bandwidth, synergy, game-changer and, worst of all, awesome! If everything is awesome then nothing is awesome.
    And no one is allowed to say viola or walla. The word is voilà!
  • There will be no comparison of WPStrands to existing or earlier entities.
  • There will be no Steve Jobs quotes.  Sorry Steve, you did some great things but since your death your every uttering is worshipped as if hidden within is all the business wisdom of the ages.

Why Am I Doing This?

My great grandfather built his own house with his own hands.  I want to taste something of that level of self-sufficiency.  I want to feel what it’s like to live solely from the fruits of my own efforts.  In that sense having a job is kind of cheating for me.  I’m not anti-corporate by any means and I know it’s fine for many, just not for me.

"The thing people don't understand about most entrepreneurs is that we are driven by self-doubt.  ... we're all trying to prove ourselves, all the time."

Sir Tom Hunter, Scotland's first self-made billionaire

Yes, I want to prove myself.  To myself.  To my family.  To others.  I think it’s about time.

And as Jim Rohn also says, I want to see what I become in the process.

I’ve been deeply inspired by what Alek Turnbull has accomplished with the excellent Groove blog.  Startups everywhere can learn a lot from his stories.  Maybe a bootstrapper can likewise learn from mine.

Starting Small

Why 100 customers?  It seems a pathetically insignificant number.

Don’t forget WPStrands is NOT a SaaS.  Usually a SaaS doesn’t have to worry too much about scaling - what works for 30 customers will most likely work for 3,000, assuming the technical infrastructure can support the load.

But for a website maintenance company, each website needs to be checked for functionality after every update, backups need to be proofed etc.

These are things that can’t yet be automated (we're working on it) so they have to be done manually.  That takes time and that means we need people.  By 100 customers we should have our processes well ironed out.

I know it sounds cliched but it’s not about the money.  There is a mass of small business owners out there who are both clueless and terrified of the technology they need to run their business online.

Far too many business owners are clueless & terrified of the technology needed to run a business; this shouldn't be!

Click to Tweet

This shouldn’t be the case.  By removing the technology roadblocks, real or imaginary, we can make it easier for more people to bring their creativity and smarts to the world.

Then I think we’ll have done something truly useful.

So Where Are We Right Now?

I’m almost embarrassed to expose our current position to the world.  But, all or nothing…

wpstrands bootstrapper customer chart may 17

Today I have 27 websites under my care.  A few of these are paying customers; most are not, having been part of the beta program up to December last year.  That’s a more-than-manageable number for one person to handle so, currently, WPStrands is just me full-time.  Proper bootstrapping, I guess.

The goal is for that circle above to become completely orange.  I think I’ll need to hire someone for each 50 sites but I’ll round that bend when I come to it.

I am aware that new opportunities can arise and old ones can fall away, so anything can happen.  I could find myself on a different path completely and never reach that corner to turn it because I’ll be busy navigating corners I can't even imagine right now.

That’s part of the fun and the only certainty is that after whichever corner it is, I’ll have learned something and become something more.

What Can Go Wrong?

Ha!  This is the part I’m sure I’ll look back on and shake my head in disbelief at my early naivety.  (That's a day I'm looking forward to!)

  • First, it’s early days for website maintenance in general so it’s very difficult to convince many small business owners of the need for it.  100 years ago people didn’t realise they should have car insurance until they had an accident.  That’s where website maintenance is today; most don’t realise they need it until they’ve been hacked or until a failed software update sinks their site.  Hence the WPStrands mission stated above.
  • The whole model!  Clients must pay to NOT have technical headaches.  Asking people to pay for something to be taken away is a much trickier proposition than asking them to pay for something tangible.  Although WPStrands' prices are extremely low compared to others, this is a real concern.
  • Scalability. Human intervention is currently needed to verify a website does what it’s meant to do. Until we can automate that part, our ability to scale is hugely limited.
  • Plugins. Coming down to the technical problems; many pieces of interacting software written by many different people can give many unpredictable results for our customer websites.

This Blog

As I said, nobody has ever told me they find website maintenance fascinating.

But many, MANY people have asked questions like "Where did you start?", "How did you get your first customers?", "What marketing do you do?".

In the back of my mind, I’ve always wanted to share what I learn along the way and the Groove blog has inspired me to finally do that.

This blog is my way of standing naked before the world, to give myself some accountability, to prove something to myself.

And of course, I hope it's going to help other people who have their own dreams of taking charge of what they do with their own lives.

bootstrapper dreamer

Image: Greg Rakosy via Unsplash

So that’s what I do at WPStrands; I look after WordPress websites. And I hope I’ll soon be able to say that WPStrands takes technology out of the equation for small businesses online.

#WPStrands takes fear of technology out of the equation for small businesses online.

Click to Tweet

Follow along with the journey here or sign up to the mailing list below.  Is there anything you want to learn about in particular?  Maybe you can even give a few words of advice!  Let me know in the comments.

Follow the WPStrands Journey to 100 Customers

I'll be sharing what I learn as the orange grows.

wpstrands circle

0

100

Number of Customers