- JumpBox.com – Open Source as a Service
- Start Small, Stay Small – Rob’s new book
- www.softwarebyrob.com – Rob’s blog
- www.singlefounder.com – Mike’s blog
- Seth Godin’s blog
- Yerkes-Dodson Law – Empirical relationship between arousal and performance
[00:01] Rob Walling: This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 14.
[00:13] Rob: Welcome to Startups For the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers be awesome at launching software products, whether you have built your first product or are just thinking about. I’m Rob.
[00:23] Mike Taber: And I’m Mike.
[00:24] Rob: And we’re here to share our experience to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s new this week, Mike?
[00:29] Mike: I am having tons of fun getting a development box set up for a website. For those of you who don’t know, Rob and I run The Micropreneur Academy. It’s more or less to help developers learn how to do sales and marketing for their products. And we’ve got tons and tons of content out there. But the problem that we have is that whenever we are doing changes to the site, because it is all built in WordPress, it is very difficult.
[00:54] One of the problems that we have is being able to do development work on that box without bringing it down or crashing it because we are making some changes and trying to see if they work. And what I’ve been doing lately is I’ve been using this product called JumpBox to essentially bring up a development server very quickly so that I can dump all the content onto that JumpBox.
[01:13] And essentially, what it is, if you go to jumpbox.com, they’ve got a couple of different pricing plans. But the one that I’m using is basically a LAMP stack. And it allows you to download a virtual machine, and it is preconfigured with an OS and everything you need to just run a LAMP stack.
[01:30] And all you do is you fire it up, it grabs an IP address, and you specify a password for it. And you can just log in and you are up and running in literally, like, three minutes after you’ve downloaded this JumpBox. It’s really, really cool.
[01:44] Rob: That’s awesome. How much time did you spend getting that going?
[01:46] Mike: It probably took me more time to download it than anything else. And the download really wasn’t very large. It was like 100, 150 Megs, something like that, for the JumpBox itself that I downloaded.
[01:59] And like I said, they’ve got a couple of different pricing plans. The first one is free, but then they’ve got like a Pro version and a Business version. And you get a 15 day trial for free. So it’s pretty cool.
[02:08] Rob: Well it’s nice to have a Dev environment. I know that’s something we’ve talked about for a long time. Good. Anything else?
[02:14] Mike: No, that’s about it. What about you?
[02:16] Rob: What the hell have I been doing? Good grief.
[02:19] Mike: Nothing. Slacker. [laughs]
[02:21] Rob: Yeah, yeah. I’ve been amazed at how much extra time the book has taken. The book is done. The final proof arrived. I ordered copies, going to the printer. You know, that whole thing. But like starting a company, you think that writing the actual code is going to be the bulk of the work, but it’s like 50%-60% tops.
[02:41] And same thing with the book. I thought that putting together all the material and writing everything would be the bulk. But man, I’ve just had such a number of tasks to take care of with building the sales website and getting emails out to the list, and a number of other things—getting the ISBN number and working with formatting. And, of course, I’m not a designer, so it takes me a long time to do that stuff.
[03:01] And it’s not as easy to outsource as, say, HTML work. Or maybe it is, but I just don’t have the right contacts. I’m kind of out of my element with it. So I’ve chewed up a lot of time over the past week.
[03:10] And I actually made what I consider, in retrospect, an error in judgment. I basically had a four hour estimate to create the sales website, which is just a one page thing. You know, “Click here to buy the PDF, click here to buy the paperback.” And it wound up, by the time I integrated with two payment processors, it took me 16 hours, which was just painful.
[03:31] And the integration is not an integration. It’s just a click an Amazon button and click a Google Pay button. That’s not anything like some fancy form that does it all. I mean I was amazed at how long it took, so I was disappointed with it.
[03:42] I wasn’t going to outsource it, just because I literally thought it would take me two, and I estimated four just to be on the high side. And by the time I got everything the way I wanted it, it was way high. So in retrospect, definitely should have outsourced that.
[03:55] Mike: I can think of two other mistakes, off the top of my head, that you’ve made. Well, the first is I don’t think we’ve actually talked about the fact that you were writing a book on this podcast.
[04:03] Rob: No, no, we did! Episode 11!
[04:05] Mike: Did we? Oh, all right.
[04:06] Rob: Yeah, I added it today.
[04:06] Mike: My bad. All right, so we’ll score that a point for you today then.
[04:10] Rob: Nice.
[04:11] Mike: The other one, though, is that if you had just asked me, my wife used to do print layout for a magazine.
[04:17] Rob: That’s right! You’ve told me that like 10 times! How did I not do that? Yeah, it’s not going to look nearly as good as it would have if she gave it like 30 seconds of a look, I’m sure.
[04:26] Mike: Probably.
[04:27] Rob: Well, that’s been my week. So if you are interested in the book if you are listening to this, startupbook.net. It will definitely be out and available in PDF and paperback format by the time this podcast goes live.
[04:38] You know, the other thing I wanted to mention this week is, I was talking to someone about a week ago, and they listen to the podcast, and I was like, “Yeah, well, you know, you can stay in tune with what Mike and I do on our blogs.” And he was like, “Oh, you guys blog?” And I was like, “Man! We’ve been doing this podcast for two months and we’ve been blogging for like five years each.” And I was like, “Oh, I thought the blog was kind of our deal!”
[04:59] Anyways, I realized we’ve never mentioned our blog URL’s, or maybe in passing we have. But if people are interested in hearing more about this type of micropreneur stuff, my blog is www.softwarebyrob.com, and Mike’s blog is www.singlefounder.com. This is where we actually write original articles and new posts on starting a software company, launching products, and being a micropreneur and such.
[05:24] Mike: What are we discussing today? I think we actually had a listener comment from somebody on the startupsfortherestofus.com website, right?
[05:33] Rob: That’s right. So, at startupsfortherestofus.com, that’s where you can download and listen to all of these episodes. And in Episode 1, a guy named Scott Herbert made a text comment at the bottom, and he said: “First, thanks for a podcast that doesn’t think I have $10 million of VC funding and want to tell me how to spend it. Secondly, I’d love to hear a cast on fear. Someone has offered to review my application for their blog, and I’m scared by this. I said yes, of course, but does it get any easier?”
[06:00] Rob: So that’s what we’re going to be talking about today.
[06:02] Mike: Cool. So, the short answer to that is, you did the right thing, and yes, it does get easier. And the key to making it easier faster is to do it more often. But we’ll obviously talk about that a little bit more.
[06:13] I think when it comes to fear, there are a couple of different options that you have. I think I’d boil it down to four basic options. When you are faced with fear, these are your choices. You can either cave, which basically you give up, you can struggle with it and challenge it head on. Number three is you can accept it and kind of do nothing about it but just kind of accept that you are fearful of that and there is just nothing you can do. And then the fourth one is you can try and work around that fear or try to avoid it. So if you are afraid of heights, you just never go into tall buildings or something like that.
[06:45] And some of those work better than others, but obviously, challenging your fears head on is going to help you get over those fears a lot quicker. Rob, why don’t you talk a little bit about what sort of things people are typically afraid of? I think this pertains specifically to business. We could talk about arachnophobia and fear of all sorts of weird other things like short people, but I think this question relates more specifically to building your own business.
[07:09] Rob: Yeah, the things that I most commonly see software developers and people starting startups dealing with are thoughts like, “What if nobody likes my software? What if nobody buys my software? What if I fail and I invest all this time and it is just wasted time? What if I can’t get any traffic to my site? What if I don’t get this right the first time? And what will other people think of me? Even if this does or doesn’t work out, what will people think of me while this is going on?”
[07:35] I think that’s a big part of fear, is dealing with how other people view you. I mean it almost takes me back to junior high and high school. I think it takes all of us back, that, you know, someone is going to laugh at us or make fun of us, or point something out publicly that is just going to really embarrass us.
[07:49] So those are the most common fears. I think everything stems from the fear of failure and the fear of other people seeing you fail.
[07:57] Mike: I think that’s kind of the biggest thing, is that people seem to think that whatever they do or say, people think of that as a reflection of themselves, especially when they are writing software and they want to put it out there.
[08:09] I see people pushing off their software releases because they are afraid of what people are going to think of their software. They always say, “I want to get it right. I want it to be perfect.” And you know what? It’s not going to be perfect. So you kind of have to get over that.
[08:24] Honestly, some people probably have a fear of launching a product. “What do I do when those support calls come in? What do I do when a customer is irritated that this bug crashed and they lost all this data?” You know what? Those things can happen. I mean nobody is perfect. That stuff is going to happen sooner or later.
[08:38] And the only thing that you can do is deal with it head on, accept that you made a mistake, and move on. If you sit there and try and live in the past or the future, you are not going to get anywhere. You can’t sit there and just worry all the time about what happens if this?
[08:55] Well, you know what? Why are you thinking about that now? Why don’t you continue living your life, moving on, doing your development, get past your launch, and then if that happens, then you worry about it.
[09:05] And I think maybe there is a difference between doing that versus if you have critical bugs in your software that you know is going to cause somebody’s machine to crash and burn, yeah, you have to fix those before launch. But you can’t just let the fear of having bugs in your code or the fear or people running into problems with your code take that as a reflection upon you, because it is not a reflection on you. Everybody is human. Everybody makes mistakes. And when you create bugs in your software, those are mistakes, and they’ve got to be fixed.
[09:32] And getting over those fears is just a matter of accepting that that is going to happen. And you can fix those bugs, you can move on, and version 2 is going to better than version 1.
[09:40] Rob: Yeah, I think the two things that I think about when encountering fear like this is that A, the first time you do anything, you are going to be scared. Like the first time you published a single blog post, you are going to be scared. I was the first time I did it, the first time I published an essay and a bunch of people read it and people started ragging on it. I had anxiety about this. I mean this is just natural. The first time you record a podcast you’re going to have anxiety. The first time you speak at a user group, the first time you speak at a conference.
[10:09] Any time you do something publicly, you are going to have some type of fear. There’s some natural inclination in all of us that we feel like we’re going to be judged by everyone. And whether it’s realistic or not, knowing that the first time you do something you are going to feel this anxiety and this fear is, I think, really helpful. Because then you can identify it very quickly and say, “Oh, this is that feeling again. It’s that same old thing that comes very naturally. And I shouldn’t be scared of it, and I shouldn’t let it talk me out of doing this thing.”
[10:38] I’ve actually started following that fear. And this is a little bit like Seth Goden with “Linchpin” where he kept saying the lizard brain is this negative talk. And if you go towards the lizard brain when the lizard brain talks to you and says “Don’t do this thing,” you’re typically stretching yourself and you’re actually doing something good. You’re actually moving in a direction that will grow who you are.
[10:56] And the second thing is that, I think as software developers most of us have this natural anxiety of wanting to be perfectionists. I was talking to a developer today and he said, “Yeah. I want my software to be perfect. I know it’s not going to be, but what if I launch it and there’s a bunch of bugs in it?”
[11:12] There’s two different types of people, right? There are the people who don’t care enough, and those people don’t tend to be really good software developers. They don’t tend to want to launch a software product. The ones who are doing this tend to be more of the perfectionists; tend to be more of the people who are stressing out about it. And that’s us.
[11:29] We have this anxiety that actually provides productivity. If you’ve ever heard of the Yerkes Dodson Curve, it’s a psychology theory that anxiety helps you, to a point, helps you be productive. And if you’re not anxious at all about a deadline, it’s very likely you’re going to miss that deadline, and that you’re not going to be productive.
[11:46] And so anxiety, which translates to fear, is actually a good thing to a certain extent. And it actually will make you perform better and do more work quicker, be more productive.
[11:56] Mike: I know what you’re saying about being able to have a healthy dose of anxiety, because I remember back in college I used to feed off of deadlines like it was my job. I guess, kind of, it was. [laughs] But the fact is if I had a deadline for a paper coming up or a project, or something like that, as that deadline got closer and closer, I would just use it to energize myself and kind of really focus in on what it was that I had to do and what I had to get done. And somehow it just helped me to meet a lot of the deadlines. And don’t get me wrong, I mean, there was a certain amount of procrastination there.
[12:29] But I’ve also seen studies where that…you take three groups of people and you give one a deadline at the end of the quarter or semester, and then you give another group of people regular deadlines throughout that time period. And then you tell the third people they can create any deadlines they want. People will tend to procrastinate until the end. I would just feed off that natural energy for those deadlines.
[12:51] So for me the anxiety, I think, helped a little bit. But you also have to be a little bit realistic about, and keep it in your head, “Am I actually going to meet this deadline, or is it just a completely lost cause?”
[13:02] Rob: Yeah, that’s the thing with fear. And I’m kind of equating fear with anxiety, because I think when you say fear, you think a lion is attacking us. And anxiety is more of a realistic explanation or a realistic description of what we really feel when you’re going to go up and speak in front of people, or we’re going to release a software product and maybe have someone say something bad about it, or something. I think anxiety might be a better word for it.
[13:25] But there was a study, and, of course, I wish I could quote it, but it was a study done at UC Berkeley. And it compared the anxiety levels, the stress levels of cops who were working in East Oakland versus students during finals week. And the anxiety levels were actually higher in the students during finals week.
[13:44] And what that shows is that anxiety, a lot of, if not all of it, is in your head. Some of it can be chemical as well; you can be prone to be an anxious person, but a lot of it is in your head. Ever since then, I have really learned to focus in on my anxiety and realize when it’s coming, and identify it, and then do something more productive with it, and allow it to motivate me rather than cause me to cave.
[14:07] Mike: I think you bring up an interesting point about the difference between fear and anxiety, though, because I think personally I have my own fears, and my fears tend to be more long-term things that I’m afraid of happening. And then there are certain anxieties that I’ll go through.
[14:23] I’m a pretty good public speaker, but I think everybody gets at least a little bit nervous when they’re about to go up and do some sort of big presentation. But in terms of fears and stuff, one of my own fears is, as the soul breadwinner of my family, my wife stays home with the kids so that I can go out and work.
[14:40] But one of my fears is, “What if my income streams come crashing to a halt and I’m not able to support my family? What if I’m on the road and something happens to me? Will my family be taken care of? How will that happen? How are they going to deal with that?”
[14:51] And honestly, I generally don’t worry about myself in terms of my health. But it doesn’t mean that I didn’t go out and buy a life insurance policy just to make sure that that sort of thing is taken care of. In terms of my income streams, I know that if it came down to it I would do whatever needed to be done in order to make ends meet.
[15:07] I mean, if I had to go to Barnes and Noble and get a job stacking books or something like that, you know what? So be it. I’ll do what it takes to take care of my family. But that’s one of the long-term fears that I have. I don’t really get anxious about those. I mean think about them, but I also think about how to deal with them. And how to alleviate those things as concerns. What about you?
[15:26] Rob: I think a long-term fear I have is the same thing. Being that we’re both self-employed, it’s a reality that our income could be majorly impacted very quickly. And in fact, these last few months I’ve talked about it. Due to the recession, there’s several different income streams that I have that have substantially decreased, 50% or more.
[15:44] And so I’ve kind of been staring it in the face, realizing, “Wow. If it continues like this there’s going to be some issues down the line over the next few months.” So this is all happening right as I’m about to have my second child. So it’s absolutely…. I think any entrepreneur, the fear of just making ends meet and continuing to have a solvent business is a valid fear. And it is for me as well.
[16:05] Mike: That’s one of the things that I’ve heard from people as well. And I get asked that question. “Aren’t you afraid of going out of business?” Or this or that. And the way I see it, being self-employed actually gives me a certain amount of control over it because I am in control of my own destiny. I get to make the decisions that ultimately affect how I do in life.
[16:24] If I were working for some corporate employer some place, they could decide to let everybody go on any given day. And there’s literally nothing you can do about it. You think about it in terms of job security. Most people think of it that way.
[16:36] But you can also think of it in terms of financial security. You go to work for somebody, you’re completely at their mercy in terms of your income. And sure they can let you go, and then you can go find another job. But right now it’s hard to find jobs for most people. There’s tons of people out of work and the unemployment rate’s really high.
[16:53.] I look at that and say, “Well you know what? I could either work for somebody else where I’m completely at their mercy, or I can work for myself where I’m at the mercy of my own bad decisions, so to speak.” And honestly, to make the choice between those two, I’d rather work for myself any day of the week.
[17:08] Now granted, you have to be making money in order to be able to do that sort of thing. But it’s certainly an interesting way to look at it.
[17:15] Rob: Yeah, I think you make a good point there. No matter which avenue you choose, whether you work for an employer or start your own company, you’re going to have fear about something, right? You should have some fear that maybe you’ll get laid off, maybe the company will go out of business. You should have fear if you’re an entrepreneur that maybe you won’t make ends meet. So it’s not like you can escape it by choosing one route over the other.
[17:35] I think people can talk themselves into not having fear if they work for an employer. I think you’re kidding yourself by saying, “Oh I’m not going to get laid off. This company’s never going to go out of business.” Those kind of things. But I think that there are fears in, really, any choice that you make. There’s no way to escape the realities of what might happen.
[17:52] Mike: Right. One of the quotes that I keep, and It’s actually sort of related to fear. This quote I keep actually on a Post It note right next to my monitor. And it reads, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose.” It was actually in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode from Patrick Stewart. And I think it was in reference to…Data was playing this game against somebody else. And he ended up losing to this other person. And he couldn’t figure out how it was that he lost. And that’s what Captain Picard told him. He’s like, “It’s possible to commit no mistakes and still lose.”
[18:21] And that’s true in life as well. You can do all the right things and still come out at the end of the pack. There’s times when there’s absolutely nothing you can do, and you’re going to lose. I mean, that’s just a fact.
[18:33] I don’t want people to think that you’re going to lose every time, but there’s always a chance that you could lose. And there’s always a chance that you could fail at whatever it is that you’re doing. But if you’re in control, if you’re making those decisions…Most people generally think they’re smart people, they’re going to make reasonably decent decisions.
[18:48] And you have to keep that in mind when you’re going through those motions. You’re going to make the right decision with the information that you have at the time. And if, at the end of the day, you came out at the end of the pack, you have to kind of accept that and move on, and say, “OK, well that was a learning experience,” and take that forward, and go on with the next task. You can’t let those things bother you. I know people who kind of let things bother them for years.
[19:10] I can think of one person in particular who’s let things bother him for years, and years, and years. And you know what? He’s never going to get past it. It hasn’t happened yet. You can either let it get in your way of life or you can put it behind you and keep going.
[19:24] Rob: The other thing I like about that quote is I think it’s a good reminder that you have to take risks in order to do something worthwhile. You have to take risks in order to start a company, or even to have a child, or buy a house; any of these things that I personally hold dear and that other people may as well. You can’t just stay in your safe zone all the time.
[19:44] And that’s really what I take away from that quote, is it’s like, “You can make no mistakes and never do anything, and still fail.” If you decide, “Oh, well I’m never going to get married because I might get hurt, never going to have a child because it’s too hard, never going to buy a house because I don’t want to take on the risk, never going to start a company,” in my life and my goals, I would consider myself that I would not have succeeded if I hadn’t done these things.
[20:05] What I take away from that quote is that taking risks is a necessity if you are an ambitious person. And if you have goals, you’re going to have to risk something to achieve those goals. If you sit back and don’t do it, I would consider that failure, not taking the risks.
[20:19] Mike: And taking the risks doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed failure or success. It just means that you’re taking those risks. You’re kind of gambling either way. But honestly, it’s not like the odds in Vegas. Your odds are a lot better when you’re putting that faith in yourself and your own decision making powers as opposed to the dice or the roulette table in Vegas. It’s a completely different type of gambling, I’ll say. Calculated risks is what I’ll call it.
[20:44] So with that, why don’t we talk about Six Steps to dealing with that fear or anxiety?
[20:48] Rob: Step number one is to take small steps. If you try to leap out too far, if you try to start up a huge company or try to start two companies at once, it can just be too much and it can overwhelm you pretty easily.
[21:01] So if you are the type of person that fear tends to hold you back, take a small step. Maybe instead of putting up a bunch of money or putting in a bunch of time in order to start a company, try to either start a smaller version of that or just do a little baby step of it. You know, try to get that minimal viable product out and do some traffic testing and see what’s going to happen. It’s a much smaller step but will still help move you in the direction of, say, starting a company.
[21:28] Mike: The other thing you can do is if you’re trying to get into, for example, product marketing and you don’t necessarily have a product yet, you can sign up for any number of affiliate programs. Amazon.com has got one where you can become an affiliate to sell their books. By referring traffic back to them, if those people buy things from Amazon, you get credit for those.
[21:48] Well, that’s a very small thing, and I’ll be perfectly honest and say that I don’t think you’re going to make a lot of money from it, but you will probably learn quite a bit from it. You can use that to help yourself as a baby step to become a better marketer, for example.
[22:02] Step number two is to get some concrete motivation in the right direction. What this really means is that if you’re trying to do something, find somebody else who’s done that and kind of pick their brain. Get some help from them, ask them how they did it, and ask them how they dealt with their fear or their anxiety about it. For example, if it’s public speaking, you can go talk to somebody else who does public speaking for a living or join Toastmasters or something along those lines.
[22:30] You really need to find somebody else who can talk to you about it or you can talk to them about it and ask them questions and really get down to the bottom of what it is that you’re afraid of. Have them help motivate you in the right direction.
[22:44] Rob: Step three is to look at failure and rejection in a new light. What we mean by that is instead of taking failure and rejection as a negative thing; realize that it does tend to be a valuable learning experience. Mike and I have already talked in a previous episode about whether failure is a learning experience or not, or you should only have successes, or the whole discussion of that. Both of us believe pretty firmly that you will learn from your failures and that rejections will ultimately teach you to overcome these hurdles that you’re facing.
[23:17] I know that every time I’ve face rejection it’s impacted me. But the more that I face, the less each of them impact me. I think becoming aware that failure and rejection are going to be inevitable as you do anything that has risks in it, becoming aware of that is a big part. Because then once it comes, you’re much less surprised by it.
[23:40] Mike: There are obviously different levels of that failure and rejection. Rob and I also talked about before when we first started getting into AdWords and we blew in excess of $1,000 a piece in the first month of doing our AdWords campaigns. Don’t get me wrong, $1,000 is not pocket money or anything to be blown on AdWords, but I’ve made some much, much greater financial mistakes than that in the past. You just take them with a grain of salt and say, “Look, you know what? I understand what happened and it’s not something I would repeat.” But you learn from those things.
[24:12] Number four is to not get too caught up in the past or in the future. You really need to keep your mind working in the here and now. What I mean by that is, if you’ve made mistakes in the past, don’t dwell on them, because it’s certainly not going to help you; it’s just going to drag you down. It’s going to drag your moral down and you’re going to be constantly thinking about them. What that will do, as a byproduct, is basically distract you from the things that you have going on today.
[24:37] While you’re doing that, you’re basically dividing your mind while half of it’s saying, “Oh my God. I can’t believe that thing that I did last Thursday or three years ago and it still haunts me to this day.” It’s like, “Well, you know what? Everybody makes mistakes, and how you deal with them is just as important as the things that you take from them.”
[24:55] Similarly, you can’t worry too much about what’s going on in the future. If you’ve got some problem that you think is going to come up in the future, and I’ll go back to the one I mentioned before about I travel a fair amount for my job. What happens if I’m on a flight and the plan goes down? Now granted, the chances of that happening are pretty slim to none, but you know what? It could happen. So what did I do? I went out and got a hefty life insurance policy, and if something does happen to me, at least I know that my family is going to be taken care of.
[25:25] It’s all about mitigating those risks so that you can take your mind off of those fears and put them together and focus on what it is you are doing today.
[25:34] Rob: Step five is that things don’t happen overnight and you need to keep working on it. Bottom line is that fear goes away the more times you do something. If you have a fear of public speaking, the more times you do it, it’s going to get better. If you have a fear of publishing blog posts, it takes you 10 hours and 20 edits to get a 500 word post out, you need to do it more. You’ll get a little better at it, but you’ll get over the fear that it has to be perfect. And, if it takes you 20 hours to build a website. So the bottom line is it’s not very complex. You’re going to be scared the first time you do something, and you need to do it over and over if it’s worth it to you to actually get good at something.
[26:13] Mike: And the sixth step to dealing with fear is to get a sanity check from someone else. Whenever you’re working on something, whether it’s new software, or a blog post, or a piece of marketing collateral, or press release, anything along those lines, anything related to your business or even in your personal life, just get a sanity check from someone else. It could be a close friend, it could be someone who barely knows you.
[26:35] I had somebody contact me who said “Hey, I’d like to get your input on something because I don’t talk to you very much and you don’t know anybody that I know. So it would be great to hear from you about what you think of this.” That’s a perfect scenario where you can get that sanity check from someone else with virtually no fear of anyone else being informed about what your fears are.
[26:56] One of the things that Rob and I actually used to do probably five, six years ago, something like that, when we were first getting our blog started, we actually started sending some of our blog posts back and forth to get a sanity check on it, to say “Hey, what do you think of this article? What do you think of the wording to this? Does this strike a chord or is it just too bland, etc.” We did that for, what was it, six months or something like that? And then we just went off our separate ways. By that time we’d gotten over our fears about doing any sort of blog posts and publicly voicing what our thoughts and opinions were.
[27:28] Rob: I think we did it for closer to a year, actually. I think it was certainly helpful for me. I think it improved the work that both of us produced, as well as, at least from my perspective, it reduced the anxiety I had when I went to publish something, because I knew that someone had already looked at it pretty critically. And so if I sent it over and you kinda said “Nah, this is not very good,” or, “There’s a big flaw in this logic,” then I would rewrite that piece. And then when I posted it, I knew that it essentially had a sanity check done to it, and it really reduced the fear that I was going to get slammed online.
[28:01] So to recap, the six steps that deal with fear are: Number one: take small steps. Number two: get some concrete motivation in the right direction. Number three: see failure and rejection in a new light. Number four: don’t get caught up with in past or the future, work in the here and now. Number five: keep working at it. Things don’t happen overnight. And number six: get a sanity check from someone else.
[28:27] Rob: Well we’ve been receiving a lot of questions from podcast listeners, so we’re actually going to do two questions this episode.
[28:35] Mike: Our first question is from Jonah Knight and he says, “Hi Mike and Rob. I recently found the show on iTunes and I’m re-listening to the first five. As you’ve said, the other startup shows may be good fun, but they don’t really speak to someone like me. You should also know that my little business is not a tech startup, and yet I feel like almost everything you’ve said applies to me.
[28:52] That said, I do have a question for you. I’m a singer/songwriter working on building a business foundation. Because the music industry is currently a black hole, I’m very resistant to modeling my business plan after their track record of failure. Lately I’ve been trying to behave like a small tech startup with my product being music.
[29:09] My question is this. You talk about micropreneurs releasing multiple products over time in order to have multiple incomes streams. For a content creator, would you say making another CD is the same as releasing another product? Or would another product be something else like an iPhone app?”
[29:23] His website is www.jonahofthesea.com/ghotz. I guess that goes to his CD that he’d given us as a link.
[29:35] I think the question really boils down to, is releasing another application the same as making another CD? In many senses it is, because you have two different things you can sell. You can put the same price point on them or different price points. But when you’re doing any sort of contact creation, you have to keep in mind that they are going to most likely be related.
[29:59] And especially if you are doing something like music. I mean if you create a CD, chances are that your second CD is going to be at least related to your first. And the problem with that is that if you release a CD, and I’ll be kind of blunt here, if nobody likes it, then the problem you are going to run into is the second one, because it is similar to the first, people are probably not going to like that one either.
[30:23] On the flipside of that, if people really like it, then chances are your second one they will like as well. And that’s why you end up with these bands who come out with a couple dozen CD’s, and then you’ve got these other bands where they are one hit wonders because they had like one song that was good out of the five CD’s that they released. Everybody hits a homerun once. It’s those people who are able to do it over and over again that are going to be really successful. What are your thoughts Rob?
[30:51] Rob: I think as a content creator compared to a developer, that yeah, creating a new CD is the equivalent of essentially creating a new application. I think there are complexities, like you’ve said. There are some other forces in play where songs by the same artist on different CD’s may not be viewed like different applications would be. They are somehow linked.
[31:11] Now I think that is obviously a detriment in the way you point it out. I think it is also an advantage in that if you get five CD’s down the line and suddenly you’ve built a following over these years, and you become a good marketer, and you learn how to get people interested in your music, it’s very likely they will come back and buy your past catalogue. So the more fans you build in the future, they will come back and buy your old stuff. Whereas if you have five different applications, it is unlikely that if someone likes one that they are going to buy the other four, because they don’t tend to be related.
[31:37] So I think there are some differences, but I do think that creating new CD’s is essentially equivalent to producing multiple income streams. At the same time, Jonah brought up building an iPhone app, or having an iPhone app built. And I see that as more of like a marketing approach rather than creating new content. I think it’s like repurposing existing content, which I think is a great idea.
[32:00] Anytime you can take something that you’ve poured a lot of time into and that, essentially, you own the rights to and repurpose that in multiple ways, whether it is to audio, or to video, or to text, or to an iPhone app, I absolutely think that you need to experiment with that. I think that going in that direction may or may not lead to anything, but you are not going to know until you give it a try.
[32:21] So while I wouldn’t equate creating iPhone apps to creating a new income stream for an artist or for a musician, I still would recommend it as something that you probably want to try out and see. If you have the business acumen to do that, try it out and see what happens. It certainly is kind of a great field right now for that space. I haven’t heard of a lot of musicians creating iPhone apps. So give it a shot and let us know.
[32:42] Mike: So thanks for the question Jonah. I think that now we are going to move on to our second question. What’s our second question Rob?
[32:48] Troy Price: “Hi guys. I’m calling in with a compliment. This is Troy Price over at fleamarketmoneymaker.com. First, let me just say that I completely love your show. Been with you since episode 1. Your focus is laser specific; just really on topic with each and every show.
[33:05] I’ve got a more personal question for you. You described that you all had nine to five jobs as you were starting these businesses. When was the point that you shifted from an employee of someone else to a micropreneur solely? I’m interested in that. If you can just let us know, I am sure that other people are interested as well. Thanks.”
[33:24] Rob: This is a good question. It’s one that I hear quite a bit. I don’t recommend that people leave their employer before starting a company. I tend to believe that you can get quite a bit done before you leave the safety of salaried employment.
[33:39] The question that Troy asked was at what point do you leave employment? It really boils down to what your comfort level is. If you are more of a risk taker, you can do it earlier. And if tend to be fairly conservative and you have a family and a house, you are going to want to do it later. And you are going to wind up working more hours as a result. But that’s the price you pay for being a little more conservative with it.
[33:59] In my own journey, I worked fulltime until I had about 70% of my income covered by my products. And so what was interesting is that at this number grew, this percentage…And when I say fulltime, I wasn’t salaried, I was consulting. But I was consulting fulltime. So I had essentially 100% income coming in. And then as my products grew, I had months where I was making 120%, then 130% of my income, 140%, 150%. You know, it was growing over several months.
[34:30] And I was banking that extra money. And so as soon as your products start earning money, if you are able to put some of that in savings, then when you hit a certain level, you are going to realize, “Wow. I have X thousand dollars in the bank, and my monthly product income covers 60%, 70%, 80% of my salary.”
[34:47] At that point, even being fairly conservative, which I am, it was kind of a no brainer to stop looking for new consulting work and to just focus on products, and to try to grow that 70% up to 100%. And in the meantime, essentially live off of that 70% plus whatever I had in savings to make it up.
[35:06] And the interesting side effect of all that is when I stopped doing consulting, it was incredible how much free time I had all of a sudden. And I hadn’t really thought about it, but I really was working a fulltime job and doing all these products. Suddenly, that 30-40 hours a week of consulting was just gone, and I just had so much free time all of a sudden. So it was a happy ending to that story.
[35:26] But that’s personally where I wound up. So again, I think depending on your level of comfort, you are going to be maybe at a different point, but that’s how I approached it. How about you Mike?
[35:35] Mike: For me it was a little different, because I basically took the plunge. I had a consulting gig lined up. I had a fulltime salary. The company had just gotten acquired six months before. And at that time, the company laid off about 10% of their people. Basically we were told our entire office we were all safe because we had just been acquired and they didn’t want to make any disruptions in the revenue stream that we were going to be bringing in to them.
[35:58] So, I’ll be honest. I could have sat there and been fat, dumb, and happy for quite some time and not had to work real hard. I just wasn’t terribly happy with it, and I looked around and there was a company really close to me that said, “Hey, we need a consultant. We need somebody for about a six month project.”
[36:15] And I kind of did the mental calculation and said, “Well, I could stick around here or I could go do this consulting engagement.” And I really didn’t have any savings laying around. I had gotten maybe $8,000 or so from the stock options from when the company had gotten acquired, and that was about it.
[36:31] So I cashed in those stock options and started going this consulting job. And it was about three months in and the company I was working through, their customer stopped paying them. The project crashed and burned. And I was three and a half months in and I was owed about $40,000 to $50,000 from a company that hadn’t paid and said they had no intentions of paying. And then I had to scramble to find something else.
[36:54] So in retrospect, I mean things turned out well because I ended up getting paid eventually, and I got interest on that money. But I went for probably six months wondering if I was ever going to see this $30 or $40,000. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a huge chunk of money. But at the time, I wasn’t so much worried about a place to find a job. I mean I had connections and I knew that with my skills I could find something else.
[37:15] Those things just kind of led into the consulting business that I was doing at the time, Moon River Consulting, and then it kind of transitioned from there into Moon River Software, which is the software business that I have.
[37:28] Mike: So thanks to both Jonah and Troy. If you have a question or comment, please call it in to our voicemail number at 1-888-801-9690. Or you can email it in MP3 or text format to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[37:43] If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider writing a review in iTunes by searching for” Startups”. You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or via RSS at startupsfortherestofus.com. We’ll see you next time.
[37:53] Our theme music is an excerpt of “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. A full transcript of this podcast is available at our website, startupsfortherestofus.com. We’ll see you next time.