Choosing the perfect product to
bootstrap as a side-project.
“The way to get started is to quit talking and
• for your own community
• that you can ship quickly
• that solves a problem people will pay to have solved
• that does not need a lot of traction to be useful
• that has existing competition
A product ...
A product for your own community
“Are you a Ruby developer? Then serve Ruby
developers. Are you a UX designer? Serve UX
The worst that could have happened with
Perch? No-one would want it but we’d have a
useful tool for our business.
With a track record in a community you will
already have trust.
A product you can ship quickly
“The goal of a startup is to find the sweet-spot
where minimum product and viable product meet
– get people to fall in love with you.”
To launch with a small product, you need to find
a problem that can be solved with a small
• A simple content editor
• No way to add new pages
• No API
• Images could be uploaded - but not resized
Client requests that an already developed static
site be made editable via a CMS.
A simple CMS that turned static pages into
editable pages by way of dropping in a couple of
A product that solves a problem that people will
pay to have solved
If you can save a business time they will see the
value in paying for your product.
Bootstrapped With Kids, Episode 31
“We think their workflow sucks, but they like it…”
Our target market for Perch was designers and
agencies. We aimed to save them time on
Feedback from paying customers trumps
feedback from free users.
A product that does not need a lot of users to be
“Social” or “community” products need a large
user base to succeed.
Choose a product that is as useful to customer
#1 as customer #1000
What problem is your competition NOT solving?
New concepts will require you to educate
potential customers as to why they even need
Finding the time
How to make time for
Malcolm S. Forbes
“One worthwhile task carried to a successful
conclusion is worth half-a-hundred half-finished
Sir John Lubbock
“In truth, people can generally make time for
what they choose to do; it is not really the time
but the will that is lacking.”
Get set up to be able to pick up and work on
your side-project quickly - whenever the time is
Your product must be a first-class citizen
alongside your other work.
Set aside time and plan in advance what you will
do with it
Diana Scharf Hunt
“Goals are dreams with deadlines”
There is power in setting a goal, writing it down,
putting a date on it
How to get started
• Choose your goal
• Define what it is you are going to create
• Put a date on it.
“In a nutshell, the idea is to start with the end-
goal in mind, then divide it into smaller and
smaller increments. Plan all of the actions in
detail beforehand, then get to work.”
Be realistic about how much you can achieve.
Feeling as if you are falling behind can
If there is not enough time ...
• Either revise your end date
• Or, remove elements of the project - pushing them into a
Be ruthless in cutting features that can be
The “missing” features at launch will seem far
more important to you than to your customers.
Describe the product as it is now.
Sell the solution.
• Start Small
• Get feedback from paying customers
• Improve and add to your product based on
their needs balanced by your vision.
Managing a growing side-project
alongside an existing job or
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the
beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of
• We launched Perch at the end of May 2009
• At launch we were still 100% booked out on client
• Income from Perch was initially reinvested into Perch
• January 2013 we made the decision to stop taking on new
A successful side-project should be
given more time as it represents a
higher % of your income.
Not making a profit?
• Are you pricing too cheaply?
• Are you reliant on expensive services?
• Are you attracting customers who need a lot of support?
The slower growth curve of
bootstrapped products gives you time
to fix problems before they become
Never promise a specific timeframe to
When your product is a side-project you have
even more things that could cause you to push
back a feature.
We don’t publish a roadmap
• It allows us to be flexible and react to customer needs and
changing trends in web design.
• It means that customers are not relying on the launch of
feature X in order to complete a project.
• It means that we can hold back a feature until we are
absolutely sure it won’t cause anyone a problem.
• Fewer changes = fewer things to go wrong
• Easier to isolate the issue if a problem does occur
• Get features to customers more quickly
• For our customers, less of a dramatic change that they
need to communicate to their clients
Seek out the opinion of those
customers you never hear from. The
happy majority are often silent.
How to tell people about your
product, when you have no money to
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you
make, but about the stories you tell.”
You have made something that
genuinely solves a problem. Go tell
people about it!
Pre-launch of Perch
• A month before we put up a landing page and email
• About 500 people signed up
• We emailed the list on launch and those people
represented enough sales on launch day to pay back all
Your reach will give you your initial
customers. Then what?