Don’t quit your job yet: how to lay the foundation for a successful startup

Geef je baan nog niet op: hoe leg je de basis voor een succesvolle startup

Oorspronkelijk gepubliceerd op JOTFORM.COM

Mensen zijn bedraad om van een goed verhaal van vóór en na te houden.

We hunkeren naar transformatie, of het nu gaat om het repareren van een oud huis of om een ​​slim idee om te zetten in een succesvol bedrijf.

Maar duwen naar die "na" -status kan ons ertoe brengen om al het plezier van het starten over het hoofd te zien.

Natuurlijk, de vroege dagen van het bouwen van een product of een bedrijf kunnen moeilijk zijn. Er zijn late nachten, financiële strijd, fouten en twijfel aan jezelf.

Toch is het ook een geweldige tijd om te verkennen. Je kunt experimenteren zonder dat miljoenen betalende klanten je elke beweging bekijken .

En als je geen investeerders in je nek laat ademen, kun je het veroorloven om het lange spel te spelen. Ik heb mijn bedrijf opgestart en JotForm langzaam gegroeid, op mijn eigen voorwaarden.

Het duurde 12 jaar om 3,2 miljoen gebruikers en 100 werknemers te bereiken, maar ik zou niets veranderen. Ik heb genoten van het hele proces - en ik kon niet slagen zonder de vrijheid en het leren van die eerste dagen te omarmen.

Maar hoe begin je, vooral als je niet klaar bent om je baan op te zeggen?

U kunt beginnen, op dit moment , aan een stichting die uw bedrijf zal ondersteunen voor de komende jaren op te bouwen. Zelfs als je geen software engineer bent (of je hebt geen MBA), zijn er slimme manieren om de bal aan het rollen te krijgen.

Maak een pad voor uw productidee

De opstartmedia van vandaag vieren vaak de blinde sprong, maar ik geloof in het verkennen van het terrein voordat je springt.

Na mijn studie werkte ik vijf jaar als programmeur voor een mediabedrijf in New York. Dat is waar ik het idee voor JotForm kreeg.

Maar lang voordat ik mijn ontslagbrief schreef, begon ik kleine stappen te zetten in de richting van mijn doel. Ik heb de grond voorbereid.

Misschien heb je een geweldig product of opstartidee, maar ben je nog niet klaar om all-in te gaan. Of misschien begin je te sleutelen in je vrije uren.

Either way, here are six steps you can take to deepen your knowledge, build a platform, and dramatically increase your chances of success.

1. Don’t quit your day job

Startup culture has made the term “day job" feel like a four-letter word, but I think that’s misguided, not to mention discouraging for millions of awesome employees.

The five years I spent working at the media company were invaluable. Not only did I gain so many important (and directly applicable) skills, but I also discovered how to stay productive and communicate well.

I watched how my mentors accomplished their goals, which helped me immensely when I was suddenly adrift, without a schedule or a boss looking over my shoulder.

Even negative experiences were valuable.

For example, I saw co-workers struggle with old computers and slow connections. That seemed like wasted potential.

I also realized that most people work better when they have some flexibility.

Few product people — especially developers and other creatives, like designers — thrive in a heavily prescriptive environment. I know I certainly don’t.

Many of these lessons translated directly into JotForm — and they still influence how our team operates today.

Never underestimate what you can learn and accomplish in a 9-to-5 position.

It can be so much more than a paycheck; the time you give to another company can teach you how to work effectively, spark new project ideas, and give you confidence to tackle that big startup idea.

2. Start a side project or two

Most people don’t bake a pie or make pasta from scratch before they can boil water. Side projects build your skills and allow you to sample new ideas.

Before I jumped ship and started my company, I worked on a series of side projects. I built small test products. I explored tangents and indulged my curiosity.

That’s also where I applied what I had absorbed from devouring all those books, blogs and articles.

Every time I embarked on a new project, I learned something essential about marketing, usability, product development, sales and customer support.

And here’s the other great thing about side projects: sometimes they succeed.

Many of my little projects faded away, but some sold well. In fact, a couple began earning enough money to match my full-time salary.

Those experiments gave me the safety net I needed to eventually quit my job. That also meant I didn’t need to ask friends, family or VCs to invest.

Many people talk a big game about their side projects, but I encourage you to actually do them.

Test je ideeën. Speel een beetje en kijk waar ze naartoe gaan. Probeer niet teveel druk uit te oefenen op jezelf of je creativiteit, maar maak er een goed schot van.

A successful project could fund and launch your business. A less-than-amazing result will also be an invaluable teacher. It’s a win-win.

3. Share your work

I used to have a blog where I wrote about online technologies and my own side projects.

Whether your 2018 version of this platform is a Medium blog, a YouTube channel, a podcast or an amazing Instagram account, sharing your work is wildly beneficial for three reasons:

  • Sharing can help you to build an audience before you build your startup. Then, you can leverage that following when you launch a product. That’s how I started to sell my side projects. It’s also how I funded the six months I spent working full-time to build JotForm. I realize the internet is a lot more crowded these days, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but consistently providing valuable content will attract the right people over time.
  • It’s a great way to clarify and improve your ideas. If you want to learn something, try explaining it to someone else. You’ll immediately see the gaps in your knowledge. You’ll get smarter and people will begin to find value in your content.
  • You establish a track record. Once you have something to launch, that audience already knows who you are and trusts your voice. They see that you’ve been covering the industry and maybe even showing your process along the way. Think about a ProductHunt post. If someone clicks through and sees a half-finished side project, without a blog or an online history of any kind, it doesn’t exactly build confidence in in the creators.

4. Learn from the experts

Never before have so many expert resources been right at our fingertips.

From online courses to workshops to blogs and videos, you can learn nearly anything, at any time, from smart, accomplished people. The internet is your educational oyster.

While I was still working full-time, I read everything I could find about building a successful software business.

Joel Spolsky and Paul Graham became my virtual mentors. They had created admirable companies and were sharing tactical advice on their blogs.

I also read books about startups and bootstrapping. I was voracious. Most importantly, I tried to immediately apply what I learned.

I think that’s the only way to ensure the lessons really stick. Otherwise, it’s like going to class without taking a test or writing a paper. You need to see if and how certain tactics actually work for you.

5. Stay on top of emerging technologies

Maybe you’re thinking, “well, yeah. I already do that."

But there’s following tech trends and there’s following your instincts. Success requires you to do both.

For example, Google introduced Gmail in 2004. I was psyched when I first saw it. Single-page web apps felt like a bold step forward. JavaScript libraries and drag-and-drop functionality were also new on the scene.

It was an exciting time for the internet.

On developer forums, however, many people were laughing about web apps. Lots of experts weighed in, too. They said there was no way a web app could be as effective as a desktop app.

I thought these were powerful, new technologies, and I wanted to use them.

Clearly, I wasn’t the only person who felt this way. Lots of other founders saw their potential, and those of us who embraced these innovations (like using drag-and-drop to build web forms) got a head start on the industry.

6. Prioritize design and usability

Software has to be user friendly. This might seem like another “duh" statement, but stay with me.

Most developers and software engineers focus on code. They want to make a working product with lots of features.

But think for a moment about the disconnect. Users simply expect your product to work. That’s a given. Deliver something broken and they’re gone before you can blink.

If they’re choosing between two options, though, they’ll pick the one that feels slick and intuitive. We all know this from personal experience, but it’s easy to lose perspective with your own product.

Joel Spolsky was one of the first people to hammer this point home for me, and I’ve never forgotten his lessons.

So, as you’re reading and learning and preparing to leap, keep a close eye on design and usability. Go deep into these critical topics. They’re difference-makers in the product world and beyond.