In the next fortnight I’ll be releasing Plan Lab online marketing plan software. I started development back in February, logging onto freelancer.com, posting a description of what I wanted to build and then choosing a developer from India to make it happen.
Along the way I’ve learnt a hell of a lot. These are the 21 most important lessons that I’ve made in development, business, entrepreneurship and project management from creating my first product.
Building a consultancy when you’re great at your profession is easy. Building a product isn’t.
Developers just want to get paid.
The majority of Indian’s don’t value the importance of design and the user experience.
If they say “it is clear” after you explain something to them, it usually isn’t.
If it’s a 3-month project, expect 6-9 months.
You’re to blame for most of the time delays.
Compromise on some of the little things in order to launch. Just work out what is truly little in the scheme of things.
They’re comfortable with building something ‘average’. Either way, they get paid and it’s probably less work than building something truly great.
Expect them to be great at traditional development skills. Don’t expect them to be on the cutting edge of modern standards.
Outsourcing development overseas still represents amazing value and it’s hard to look past it if you’re building a minimum viable product.
Be willing to take control of the things that truly matter.
Treat them with respect. You’ll get a better product, have more fun do it and you won’t be a tool.
Good luck getting personality out of them. I’ve drawn one laugh in 6 months of joking around with our developers.
Try as hard as you can to have them ‘buy in’ to what you’re creating and help them to recognise what’s truly important to your projects success.
You’ll have 1 or 2 headaches explaining things. Resist the temptation to bash your head against the desk. Sketch out your thoughts, explain them and show examples of similar concepts.
Do some forward planning and show them where you’ll be improving the product in the future. It will save a lot of headaches down the track.
No matter how many businesses you create, they’re all gut wrenching.
Building passive income is liberating.
Get out of the office when you’re dreaming it up. Most of my creativity came at the beach, running laps or lying by the pool.
The best thing that I ever taught myself is to code. I remember begin 11 or 12 and hearing my father talk about some software that his training company had developed. With his business in the bottom floor of our family home I had access to a bunch of funny-coloured iMacs and some old C++ (used to develop old PC software) and HTML books.
I found that C++ bored me to tears but with some of my holidays spent on HTML, i quickly learnt how to code together a website. Learning basic HTML opened my mind up to being able to look at any form of coding and being able to work out patterns and make sense of it all.
Without that knowledge i wouldn’t have been able to code together Engage Marketing‘s first website at no cost (as an 18 year old even the cost of web design might have been prohibitive to launching), I wouldn’t have been able to create The Blog Designers that initially relied on my knowledge only and I probably wouldn’t be launching Plan Lab.
Quite simply, coding has given me the power to come up with an idea and act on it.
In an entrepreneurial world where we can create our own future, that power is bloody priceless. One business that i have a lot of respect for is Treehouse, an online platform that teaches you how to design and code. @ryancarson has done an unbelievable job using technology to teach coding to the masses. Set aside a night a week and give it a try!
NOTE: #secretproject is not the product name. The real name will be revealed in the next 14 days.
Over the past 18 months i’ve been slowly working towards launching my first product (my brand of cachaça and my leather Macbook sleeves never got off the ground). It’s been a learning journey to say the least.
I had the vision for my #secretproject when I was planning Engage Marketing 3 or 4 years ago. After so many months of bit-by-bit planning I finally jumped in head first and told myself if i didn’t accept that it wouldn’t be 100% perfect, it would never get off the ground.
That realisation led me to go out in search of a “kick-arse developer” (my words used on the project description). Since then I haven’t looked back.
To be completely honest, i don’t know whether this product will be a commercial success on the scale that i had originally hoped. That’s not for a lack of confidence in the product. I’m ridiculously excited about the opportunities that #secretproject will open up for it’s buyers, but as you go along, life gives you a few knocks and tries to dent your confidence.
What i do know is that i’ll learn a hell of a lot and that alone will be worth 50x more than what i’ve put into it (i also expect triple figure revenue – just not the Aston Martin DBS-sized profits that I had dreamed of as a teenager).
Launching #secretproject, I hope to learn:
How to get maximum value out of working with overseas developers.
How to create a turnkey operation.
To back myself in larger ventures.
Agile management skills and techniques.
That launching is half the battle.
Have you got any tips for me or comments on the learning value of trying to launch something new? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or on Twitter (@MikeFromEngage).