“The answer to “what if this fails” is easy. You shut it down. The answer to “what if this succeeds” is much harder. Especially when you’re not willing to walk away from your main job. And I wasn’t.” – Mike Monteiro, Everything dies, Sometimes they die well
I write and speak about side projects because I believe they are often the most realistic way for many of us to realize our product dreams. However this post talks of a problem we rarely hear voiced. We obsess over failure; build strategies to limit the damage when it happens; sometimes even glorify it. Most of us are so happy to discover that someone wants to buy our thing that we don’t consider at all what happens if this thing really takes off.
It might be that you achieve great success in terms of numbers of sales and users, but you are not making enough money to leave the day job or cut down the consultancy work. I wrote about this in my book when discussing the transition between client work and a product.
“If the issue is that despite a growing customer base you are finding that the product does not bring in enough revenue to be treated as a first class citizen then this would be a good time to start assessing why. Are you pricing it too cheaply? Are you reliant on an expensive service? Are you attracting a type of customer who needs a lot of handholding and so you find that most of the time you should be spending on developing the product is being burned up just doing support? Identifying these problems early on gives you a chance to fix them before they become a bigger issue.” – The Profitable Side Project Handbook
It might be however, that like Mike Monteiro, you have no interest in this thing becoming all that you do, that all you ever wanted was a side project. What then? Mule Radio is the sort of product that can be closed or scaled back without damaging customers. I’m sure those people who hosted shows there will be sad that they need to find a new home, but ultimately a product like Mule Radio can be allowed to “die well”. Not all products are like that.
I’ve always felt a sense of responsibility to our customers, they use our product to provide a service to their clients. We have people with hundreds of Perch sites. I love the fact that we play a small part in the success of other small businesses and don’t take that responsibility lightly. Perhaps we are simply well-matched to the demands of this particular business, two people running a company and building a product that we are happy to live with for the long term.
It may seem wishful thinking to consider what happens if you succeed, but for a solo founder or tiny team getting from zero to “takes up all of your time” can happen relatively quickly. Make sure that possibility is something that matches not only your pricing model and product, but also you and what you want from the business, what you want for your life.