The most common mistake I’ve seen other developers make when they first start building a product is putting too much emphasis on development.
You have to understand that what will make you successful as a maker is not how clean your code is, how beautiful your UI is, how many features your app has, how complex your system structure is or even if you use that cool framework that was just launched. None of that will make you or what you are building successful. What will make you successful is sales.
If you are bootstrapping like I am, you have to become an entire other person and put emphasis on marketing and sales. That change may start on a professional level but surely ends up reflecting on your day to day life.
Professionally, since you are doing everything yourself, just coding is not enough anymore. You have to become more of a T-shaped person where you know a lot of stuff, at least practically. That means you are going to add more marketing, sales and people skills in your portfolio rather than more dev skills.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should do a poor job when it comes to coding: try to have as less technical debt you can but trust me: at some point you will have to change your code and your system structure so don’t bother making it perfect from the start.
Actually, you want your system to be broken as soon as possible because that means you are are on the right track! In fact, these changes are usually required when you are in the “scaling” phase of your product: you may be hiring your first developer and your code base is a mess, or there might be a lot of demand and you can’t handle it on a small server anymore, etc.
Putting the emphasis on sales will make sure that you validate the idea quickly and you don’t waste time and effort on something that would not work.
Now let’s talk about how these changes reflect on you as a person. Change is scary, keeping the status quo is easy. But, my opinion is that there’s not such a thing as keeping things as is: you are either growing or dying.
I know I had (and still have) to overcome a lot of fears in order to sell. The worst part is that these fears and beliefs that you have in your mind are enforced to you from other people.
I’ll discuss just two examples of these beliefs: the first one is what’s called impostor syndrome. As you probably know, I didn’t study programming in school, I’m self-educated. That made me questioned a lot if I was even entitled to code in the first place. I even started to think that I was robbing someone else of his/her job when I was coding. This belief was enforced to me in reality because occasionally I would get words of rage from professionally-trained developers (yes, the one who did study programming in university) just because I was somewhat successful.
The truth is that in this world nobody is entitled to something, exept for what he/she is making. So basically, you have to earn the title by doing.
The second thing was related to being a musician. As you know I am a “professional” musician, whatever that means. For sure, I did studied music a lot more than programming. There’s a hidden belief (especially among musicians) that you are less of a musician if you don’t live exclusively from music and you do something else for a living. Musicians fear being called sell-outs probably more than anything else. Again, this belief was enforced to me in real life: when I started telling people “I do internet stuff”, some would say: “oh, so you do music as a hobby now?”
The truth here is that music will always come first for me. Living music has little to do with working another job and everything to do with feeling it. I’m hearing jazz in my mind as I write this. I don’t code because I’m less of a musician, I do code because I love music so much that I don’t want it to be undermined from monetary choices I would have to make if I was not doing it.
These are just two beliefs related to sales that I had to change and as my businesses grow I’m sure I will face more. The sooner you do, the better. Don’t put too much emphasis on development.
Thanks for reading,