I’m nearly a year in to bootstrapping SignalLeaf. By most accounts, it is a successful podcast hosting service (unless you look at my P&L sheet – but I’m working on that). In the last 11 months, I’ve gone through a number of emotions regarding SignalLeaf – many of them in the same hour, day or week. And it occurred to me, just now, that a lot of the emotional turmoil that I’m facing as a solopreneur / entreprogrammer are directly mappable to the classic Kübler-Ross model of the 5 stages of grief.
So I give to you,
The 5 Stages of a SaaS Bootstrapper’s Grief
Stage 1: Denial (of the value that you provide)
Nope. It’s not going to happen. Ever.
There’s no way anyone will ever use what I’ve built, let alone pay for it! Why would they? It’s so easy to do this on your own. I mean, I did it and it only took me a day to do it! But now I have to go and set up all this infrastructure to support accounts and logins and payments… seriously… Why would anyone ever pay for this?!
No. I’m done. I refuse. It will never happen.
Stage 2: Anger (at not getting customers)
DAMNIT!!! Why aren’t i getting any customers?!
I’ve got EXACTLY what you need! I do it BETTER than they do, and I am so much more hands on in my support! What is wrong with you people?! Why do you sign up for them, instead of me? Why do you get a trial account with me and then LEAVE FOR THEM?! AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHH!!!!!
WHY ME?! WHY AM I NOT GETTING ANY PAYING CUSTOMERS?! IT’S NOT FAIR!
Stage 3: Bargaining (with customers)
Ok, look. I just need one more customer. Please. Just one more customer.
Just one this week. If I get one more customer, then I’ll know that this is real. Then I’ll be certain that what I’m doing is worth it.
Yeah, I realize that you’re not signing up because you don’t know me – you don’t trust me, you don’t have an entire market share of people telling you how good I am. I know that. But I am worth it. In fact, I’ll prove to you that I’m worth it. I’ll not only give you a discount to start with, I’ll give you 1:1 assistance. I’ll give you more than the usual discount, too. I’ll wash your ceilings, comb your lawn and mow your windows… whatever it takes!
I’ll bend over backwards to get you to sign up and pay for my service. I know what my service can do for you and I’m willing to give you more than ask for if you try it out. Just don’t leave me. What can I do to keep you, dear customer? Anything… please… just one more customer…
Stage 4: Depression (about your financial state)
I only have 16 customers?! #sniff … #sigh
I’m spending $5x more per month than I’m earning. This sucks. It’s been almost a year, and I’m not making it yet. I just needed more paying customers… but nothing I try is working, and I don’t know why. Why bother? Why try? Why go on? My bank account is going to be dry soon. The SaaS will die. I’ll be bankrupt. Why go on?
I’m not going to work on it anymore. I’ll just let it die on it’s own. I’ll ignore it. It’s going to die anyways.
Stage 5: Acceptance (of the work to be done)
I know. You’re right. You were always right.
I didn’t realize just how important marketing was. I didn’t take the lessons learned that you tried to teach me seriously. I didn’t listen. But I get it now. I do. And I’m willing to change. I’m willing to learn how to be a marketer as well as a developer. I’m willing to put in the time and effort.
I know that I have a lot of work to do, and I’m not just saying I’m going to do it. I’m actually doing it now. I’ve already started. I rolled up my sleeves this week, and set a plan in motion. It’s going to take a long time, I know that. It’s going to be hard work. I get it.
It’s going to be worth it. Because when I look at what I’ve already done – the 20 customers that are already paying me, and are saying such amazing things about what I’m doing for them – I KNOW the hard work will pay off. And I know how much work this is going to be.
So I’m here, now. I’ve got my work gloves on. I’ve got my sunscreen, my shovel and my determination. I will do the work. I will earn that customer the hard way, at first. I will improve my services, my marketing and my bottom line.
I will succeed.