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Full-Time Job Plus Product?


#1

Heya. Do people here often bootstrap a product on the back of their full-time job? I ask because it seems like a very natural match with, say, the Long Slow Saas Ramp of Death (http://businessofsoftware.org/2012/10/gail-goodman-the-long-slow-saas-ramp-of-death/)… Or with having kids who need to eat regularly :slight_smile:

In general, do you see much success with that? Are there resources on doing it that don’t start with “quit your job”?


#2

I’m doing it, and managed to balance 8 hours a day of contracting work and two kids with building my own product. I’m at the pre-launch phase though, so I yet to see if it works when paying users demand more of my time.


#3

I’m doing it as well. I run a technical marketing team at a high-growth software company, so it’s a fairly demanding job. I put in about 10-12 hours a day on it. I also have a child, which really changes the game in a big way.

The trick for me is not sleeping much. I carve out time between 9pm and 1am on weekdays for work on my product. I also try to break tasks down into atomic units and accomplish as many as possible week-over-week, documenting my progress.

The toughest part for me is the extreme context switching and lack of focused time. I’d much rather have 8 hours in a row to dedicate to a problem than a few hours here and there.

It’s a slog, but you can do it.


#4

Yep, it’s definitely possible. We built our product on nights and weekends until it was big enough to support us.

From experience, and from talking with other bootstrappers, I’m going to say a “normal” time to $100k/yr gross revenue for a webapp in the $30-$250/mo range is somewhere between 6 months and 2 years after launch. That’s from maybe 8-9 datapoints.

So unless you can take a few years off, it seems like the only real options are to raise money, work on the side, or pay for a contractor while you hold down a job.


#5

Starr - thanks, that’s reassuring. 6 mos-2yrs is not as bad as some of the estimates I’ve heard batted around :slight_smile:

I’ve been selling a book on the side, but that’s nowhere near $100k/yr, and unlikely ever to be. We’ll see if I can get a bit of a reputation boost and initial customer list from it, though.

@rsobers’ response is more like what I was worried about. I don’t think there’s any way I can carve out 40 hours/week for what I’m doing. 10-15 definitely, 20 conceivably. I just need more sleep than he’s talking about.


#6

Yeah, I can’t function on less than 7 hours of sleep. So the round-the-clock thing isn’t an option for me.

You can definitely build something in 200 hours, which is 3-4 months at 15hr / wk.


#7

I’m in the same boat, I work full-time and have two young kids at home so little time to work on my app, but slowly t is getting completed bit by bit. Just a matter of focusing and spending my time wisely.

I follow the same method as @rsobers and try to break things down to small chunks and fit them in whenever I can; that and not sleeping much. The hardest part is focusing on a tricky code or about to get unstuck and getting interrupted.


#8

It really depends on what you want to do. If there’s a lot of comepetition in your space i’d say it’s close to impossible to create something better than a dedicated team with money. If on the other had you found a niche with small players you could give it a try. I think it all comes down to the question “can i build something better than what’s on the market in my spare time?”.


#9

I’ve built couple of really small web products during past few years and working full-time.

For me, the key is to keep the scope extremely small and timebox it within one weekend. One weekend is usually just long enough until my inspiration runs out. For those past products, I’ve tried to built them as low maintenance as possible, so I can leave them at least on semi-autopilot.

(If you have read The Execute Book, that pretty much summarizes my “method”)


#10

@JanLukacs: I’d be doing something small regardless. I don’t intend to grow big.

Competing directly with a dedicated team with money is silly in any case – even if you do intend to grow big, you should certainly have some significant differentiator. Otherwise, why are you bothering to build it?


#11

I’m attempting to do it now and, so far, doing both my contract work and product development are fitting well together.

I’ve taken time off and built a successful business before, but I’ve also raised money to build a business that ultimately failed, and tried to run a development shop to bootstrap a product, which ultimately failed as well. It’s tough, and I think the best way for most of us is to keep working while building a product.

I have two kids and, in the past, have attempted to do the no sleep thing. Not anymore.

Somebody mentioned it in this forum before, but I think you should be carving out your most valuable time for your own product. For me, that’s early in the morning, before the kids get up, or on the weekends (especially if it is raining out), or sometimes all night if I’m stoked about working on something and can make good use of my time.

The next thing is to try to get a fitness routine in there too :wink:


#12

@kixxauth: thanks! Right now I’m working 2 hours in the evenings on my stuff. That’s probably not my absolute prime time. Unfortunately, my most creative time often varies a lot depending on what else is going on, but I need to keep a pretty regular schedule because of my kids.

So this is probably a good compromise. I haven’t been doing it long, it may change.

It’s great having the perspective about different methods. Sounds like I should definitely keep at what I’m doing :slight_smile:

Thanks again!


#13

This. Running my consulting practice and simultaneously trying to get a Saas app rolling requires extra work, period, even though I’m outsourcing some of it. It’s demanding no matter how you cut it.


#14

What I find works well is to work for an hour or two in the mornings and in the evenings. It keeps the product in my head all day (and probably when I sleep), so I when I do sit down to work on it I can spend that time coding, not getting back up to speed, deciding what to do, etc.

You might try sleeping more and see if that helps you be more productive during your waking hours. Sleep helps with focus, as does exercise. I have an exercise bike with a stand for my laptop I use sometimes; others use desks with treadmills.

There’s a lot of good advice out there on maximizing your time. First write down how your spend your time (services like Rescue Time can help as well). Then see what can be dropped or be put off, perhaps forever. Find when/where you have dead time during the day and fit work on your product into that time. When I commuted by bus I used a laptop with an SSD to get work done, for ex.

@rsobers, as you run a team, perhaps you can move from working so much yourself to empowering your team to do more while you still make the big decisions. It took me a few jobs (and 20 years) to learn that working 60+ hour weeks never benefited me, it only benefited the corporation. So now I don’t do it, and if my current company starts wanting it I will just find another job.


#15

Hi, I am in same boat too.
I was finding very difficult to focus on programming after work, & chores. But recently my wife has agreed to let me focus on work during weekdays’ evenings. The catch is I cannot do any project work on weekend unless there is absolutely nothing else needs my attention. And shutdown laptop at midnight. :frowning:

So let’s see how it turns out this month. Might have fine tune it a bit here and there.

Amer


#16

Today I decided to try something new. When I sat down to work on my product, I first thought of all the things which annoy me about my day job. I found it very motivating and energizing.


#17

I know I’m late to the game here, but I am currently wrapping up a development project that I’ve been working on in my spare time since Spring. I have four children 5 and under, and a working wife, so finding time to develop has been a challenge, but here are the strategies that I’ve employed:

  • Don’t skip sleep, you’ll just write crappy code and take 4 times as long to find the solution. When you are well-rested you work smarter.
  • Don’t stop being a parent or a spouse. Remember that if you are doing this for them, then ignoring them for months is counter-productive.
  • Do eliminate TV except for Breaking Bad (or pick a show to help you keep entertained when you just don’t want to work, but don’t be the guy who catches every episode of about 10 shows each week).
  • Do keep a to-do list. I use Basecamp Personal ($25 one-time). This helps me jump in and tackle one or two small items when I have an hour, vs. being paralyzed trying to remember where I left off. Sometimes I even put the expected time needed with the item into the to-do list, typically 15mins to 2hours. This way I can visualize what I intend to accomplish. Say I have three hours to work, I can knock out one big 2 hour task and four of those 15min guys. Having an expectation helps me get right into it and knock it out effectively.
  • Don’t forget vacation time. It is sometimes worth it to take a day off work to build your side-project. Those 8 hour stretches are invaluable for working in the zone.

Now, this last tidbit is going to be different for everyone, but if you are a morning person, then be brutal and get up really early, and be early to bed. The average person needs 7-9 hours of sleep. Aim for 7 if you don’t feel tired afterwards, and try something like bed at 10:00pm, and up at 5:00am. You can get a lot done once you train your body to be alert at 5:00am. This of course doesn’t work for those who work well at night, so those night owls can do the opposite. For me, I realized I am too tired in the evenings to be super-productive, but mornings are my jam.