Hey there, I’m Tyler, I’m bootstrapping a startup, and I’m tired.
It does not take long after browsing Twitter, LinkedIn, or IndieHackers to get a serious case of brain drain. From humblebrags to reminders of MRR figures higher than mine, it’s easy to get a case of imposter syndrome mixed with a hefty pinch of “what the heck am I doing?”
This post isn’t going to be about that though. It’s about how I want to be the exact opposite of what I’m feeling right now.
Not successful (though that’d be nice). Right now I’d settle for happy.
I’m not tired of running the startup and managing the few customers I do have, I’m tired of constantly wanting. That’s the side effect they don’t talk about much when it comes to building a startup: wanting.
However you slice it, it boils down to constantly pursuing and wanting something you do not have in hopes that one day you do – whether that be a year, or several, down the line.
I’ve been working on Centori nights and weekends for the past few years now, it’s grown (after I started listening to my customers) but not enough for me to make the jump to it full time.
So what if it’s not making $100K/year?
So what if I never get to do it full-time?
I’m reminded of my faith at this moment (I promise this should be applicable regardless of your own beliefs system); one of the 10 commandments, that seems to not get talked about very often, is “do not covet.”
Growing up in Sunday School I always found it funny: why would I (a child) covet my neighbor’s house, wife, or donkey (as the verse says)? Coveting is an interesting sin, it’s not quite as bold as murder nor is it as sexy as adultery so why include it in the 10 commandments?
Well, I’ve seen firsthand that it is no less damaging than the others.
Webster’s dictionary defines “covet” as “to wish for greatly or with envy.” I must admit that I’ve been quite covetous over the last few years to the point where I spend all my time thinking about where I want to be and miss the point of where I am today.
I’m tired of it. If you’re in the same boat, I imagine you may be tired of it too.
So let’s stop.
On a whim, I came up with 3 rules for business that I am going to live by. They have nothing to do with success, fame, or wealth. Instead, they focus on a life well-lived and fulfilled.
The first rule is to care.
By living with my head in a fictional future I neglect the present.
Whether you have an email list of 10 or 10,000. One customer or 50. Give a crap about what you do and keep showing up.
As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you’ll excuse the incredibly cheesy cliche – no business is built in a day either, neither is it built with one blog post, or one email. Businesses are built by people who give a crap enough to show up every day even when no one else does.
If you are passionate about what you are working on, and it gives you joy, then who cares about what other people think about how you are using your time. Give a crap about what you do, not what other people are doing or thinking.
Sure, I’m not making $100K ARR – who cares? Sure, I can’t sell out a room for a conference – big deal. I care about SEO, and I’m passionate about teaching small teams and companies to do it effectively. That’s all that matters.
Stop when you stop giving a crap.
Over the few years I’ve been working on Centori, I have found that the best way to keep customers is to create an amazing experience for them.
From the moment someone lands on your website to the moment they cancel as a customer, if they are made to feel like the best versions of themselves then it’s a job well done for you.
So often I engage with brands that just… bore the heck out of me. Their marketing is generic, their emails are spammy, and their sales reps are relentless.
Be different. Create an amazing experience, whether it’s a prospect or a customer who’s been with you since day one.
Too often I find myself thinking 10 customers ahead and I forget about the ones I need to take care of now. I think about the new subscriber flows and automations I need to crate and I neglect the email list I have now.
Stop thinking too far in advance. At least, don’t do it all the time. Focus instead on creating amazing experiences now and it will benefit you down the line.
Here’s a hot take: all this is a complete waste of time if you’re not having fun doing it.
If it stops bringing you joy and fulfillment then shut it down. If you only have a few customers, I’m sure they’ll understand – even more so if you help them find a replacement solution.
On the flip side, if you cap out at $5K MRR and never get above that but you’re having fun, who cares? If you’re having fun and it pays some (or all) the bills there it’s all the more reason to keep going.
We all have one life to live and I’m tired of living mine trying to be someone else. My hope is that by following the above rules I’ll end up with a great product and fantastic customer experience that people will talk about, but even if I don’t – at least I had fun doing it.