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My top five suggestions for an independent developer creating a new product or service

1. Write everyday. Build a blog for the project and write about milestones, progress, and hurdles. Also keep a personal blog and write about hobbies. Read some theory about "copy writing" and search engine optimization. Write personalized email responses to customers. Great communication skills will have the most impact on the success of your company. The best way to increase communication skills is to do it.

2. Spend at least 15 minutes on the company everyday. Even small or petty tasks will lift your company to the next goal. Over time the company will grow strong and people will give you attention. Building a company seems similar to building a character in an RPG. Instead however you will progress your company to its next level. Also, always look ahead when working, don't look back at prior achievements. Keep your eyes on the next milestone and keep moving forward. This type of behavior will promote growth and prevent getting stuck in the daily grind.

3. Do not fear manual processes. In the early stages of a company you should only build automation which will enhance customer experience. For everything else, build a repeatable manual process. Coding automation will typically cost more time to build than it will save. For example on LinkPeek I have not automated customer account de-activation because fortunately I don't have to do many of them. This manual process only takes a couple minutes to complete and gives me a chance to write a "thank you, and sorry to see you go" email to the fleeting customer. Manually de-activating (loosing) a customer is also a humbling experience. Keep a list of nice-to-have automations and review them in the far future. How far in the future? Far, like when your idea is validated and your company appears successful. Don't waste valuable time building automation for a service nobody will pay for or use. Time is your most scarce resource.

4. Always attempt to increase your luck. This might sound funny but the the following suggestions should reduce risk and also increase luck:

  • Meet fellow lucky people
  • Write on a blog
  • Advertise your company on side-projects that lack monetization
  • Think before wasting money using adsense or similar networks
  • Do market research before committing to an idea
  • Figure out how to make money before building product
  • Build the smallest version of the product that could still be sold
  • Try to stay focused on the things your customers will see
  • Don't build an admin dashboard until successful (profitable?)
  • Choose tasks that require the least effort but have the biggest impact
  • Don't be afraid to do things in the early stages that won't scale in the long run (example: personal email responses)
  • Listen to how early adopters describe your product; then on your website, marketing and emails reuse their words.
  • Attempt to keep marketing, newsletter, and support emails only few sentences long.
  • Start maintaining an opt-in email list

You might have the best mouse-trap but without luck it will never gain traction.

5. Have an unhealthy passion to support your customers and build your company. Six days ago I suffered a major chemical burn to my right eye. With my wife's help I continued to respond to support emails. Since I launched LinkPeek my focus and attention to my customers and company have never faltered. Dedication plays a key role to success.

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© Russell Ballestrini.