What I wish I had been told when starting on my entrepreneurial journey
A letter to my 21-year-old self, or any aspiring creator
It took me 17 years of trying before I made a product that generated 7-figures.
I started tinkering with making money online when I was about 21, pretty much right out of college. That was around 2000, when SaaS as we know it wasn’t even a thing yet.
It was around that time I was discovering people making small apps and charging for them. The first one that comes to mind is Andromeda, a simple web-based MP3 player script. (Wow! The web page is still up, unchanged!)
Once installed on your server, you would point it to a folder of MP3s. From there, the script would display them in a web-based player where you could browse and play your music collection. There was a free version, then paid options starting at $20.
This kind of thing really got me thinking, and solidified my goal of creating a business around this sort of thing.
I have no idea if Scott, the creator, made meaningful money from it (though there are some big-name customers logos on there), but it didn’t matter. It was the idea that I could create something with a ‘Buy’ button, and people could give me money for something I had already made, even if I was asleep.
It was another 17 or so years before I made substantial money from these attempts. I believe the journey is better than the destination, or I would have quit long ago.
I’ve learned a lot since, so I thought I’d write a letter to my 21-year-old self, relevant to any budding-entrepreneurs just starting out:
That’s really cool you have a dream of making a living off your own products.
I can see you have the energy, drive, and determination to do so, and that will go a long way. Given that, you’re almost without question going to succeed if you stay at it long enough. Many people have the same dream, but not the drive, and that’s a hard thing to fake or change about yourself.
You’re also good at teaching yourself just about anything, and that will be a huge benefit to you on your journey.
Know that persistence is more important than a crazy IQ or top-notch skills in this game. Sure, brains and skills help, but most people have or can acquire enough of those. So don’t think you don’t have what it takes.
I can also see you’ve fallen in love with the challenges that come with this, and the process of trying to figure out this puzzle. Think about that for a second, because I can see you’re trying really hard to find some idea to execute that relates to your hobbies and interests. That’s great if it works out, but don’t let that be a restriction. Again, it’s the process you’re enjoying, not a particular problem. I imagine it’s similar for someone that enjoys working on car engines. It’s a bonus if they are working on a car they love, but the reality is they spend most of their time under the hood anyway, so the particular car model is less important than the fact that they enjoy the process.
I can also see that you’re trying to settle on one bigger idea that you feel has the potential to replace your income. That’s a great goal! That said, I think you’ll learn faster and make more progress if you start really small and work up to your bigger goal incrementally.
Try to get one stranger’s email address online.
Then try to generate $1 online.
If that thing that generates $1 feels like it has legs, keep going with it.
If not, try to come up with something to make $100. And keep going from there.
You know you can create products, so start getting used to trying to exchange it for money. But start small, it’ll help you move faster, and force you to spend less time on the product before trying to get it in front of people.
If you aren’t sure what to make, you could:
Look on sites like Fiverr, and see what jobs people are looking to get done, and see if you can automate any of them
Create a PDF of something you know about and put in on a site like Gumroad
Create a PDF compiling information about, well, anything and put in on a site like Gumroad
Find a Chrome extension that has a good number of installs, but low ratings, and see if you can make a better one
Find a useful script you’ve written and offer it in exchange for an email address
Offer to make a friend a website, and note any time you’re having a hard time getting it to do what you want. How can you simplify that for others?
There are endless ways to approach this, the point is to just thing small, don’t overthink it, and keep trying things. You’ll learn so much and you’ll gathering momentum and it’ll build. Eventually you’ll realize how far you’ve come!
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