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72 Comments

Am I right trying to do everything on my own?

To develop an app, even a web site is not a big deal for an experienced developer, especially if he/she can do both - front and back-end. But to launch a product in the market and make it to make money turns to be a completely different thing, which requires a different and wider skill-set than just full-stack development: idea validation with cold emails and calls, marketing, advertisement, accounting (if you are lucky), hiring (if you are even luckier).

  • I don't feel good asking somebody to spend their free time on my project, even though I believe it worth all my free time. Thoughts about stealing my idea, failing deadlines, or cheating are stopping me. If there is no contract, how can I insist on timelines or agreements?
  • I don't want to hire somebody to do it for me, if there is a chance I can do it on my own. And obviously, I don't do it as good as a professional would :(

Is it ok? Or it's just me being a greedy selfish developer?

P.S. There is a great excuse I keep saying to myself - "This is how you are learning a ton of interesting things!", and it keeps working :)

What about you?
  1. I'm sharing all with the co-founder(s)
  2. I'm paying for some parts to fleelancers
  3. It's mostly all on me only
Vote
  1. 12

    I do everything, from frontend to backend, all on my own. Before I started my project, I didn't even know how to code. So I learned HTML/CSS/Javascript, Node.js, and React on Udemy. That was my most rewarding investment in the project. Now I'm in the stage where I need some designs, so I enrolled in another Adobe Ai course. The idea is, by learning while making, you save a ton of money and, even if the project fails, you have acquired new skills.

    1. 1

      Nice! My story is the same as yours - $10 course on Udemy, then brute forced the rest. Most rewarding thing I've ever done, and I don't think it would have been possible if I'd been working a full-time job and doing this on the side. The money-saving thing is definitely huge, especially if you're working on your idea full-time.

      Graphic design is still the one thing I outsource though :P

    2. 1

      Wow. @WayneSheng, the amount of work you've done is just crazy. How long was your way in full-stack development? Where did you get all this time?

    3. 1

      this is exactly my mindset

  2. 5

    Looking for funding, looking for co-founders (and managing them), looking for freelancers (and managing them) will all take up for time, energy, and money than just doing it yourself.

    Trust me on this.

    1. 1

      Sound like you've got some experience in it. Any articles here on IH about that? It feels like articles describe happy cases only

  3. 4

    Personally, I'd recommend not being alone. More ideas, more creativity, and above all, being an entrepreneur is a very lonely adventure, so if you can have someone along, do. Of course, there are downsides: it can be harder to make decisions, there's more debating on ideas and directions, etc. But that's part of the job, and to me the benefits outweigh the perks by a lot.

    1. 2

      Can't agree more in terms of "Not being alone is better than being alone.". Looks like the next article will be about "how did you find a co-founder?"

  4. 4

    I'm doing everything right now. I'm building three 3D web tools, coding front-end and backend, building 3D models on my own (with help of a colleague on some models). Also a lot of stuff around marketing, landing pages, etc.

    At one point it was hard to deal with that and I was thinking about finding a founder. But I saw the approach of Peter Levels (he is solo founders and does everything himself) and I start to focus only on the things that are important, not wasting my time searching for the co-founders.

    I think it’s good to start a business on your own and start scaling once you have some income.

    1. 1

      @thisaugis, can you share some useful reading about Peter Levels approach?

  5. 3

    Same as a few of the others. I do everything. Frontend. Backend. Database. Design. Marketing. Sales. Everything. I started taking programming seriously about two years ago. Back then, I only knew the basics of HTML & CSS and absolutely no javascript. Luckily I found a design mentor early on to tell me what's what. Over time, my questions slowed down and eventually stopped. I am eternally grateful to her. As for the Javascript, I still forget to read the documentation, but I essentially learned through brute force trial and error. It was the most rewarding chunk of my life, and now I have the workout app of my dreams. JustFitness.io

    My day job is networking, so it's fun to say that I operate on every layer of the OSI Model. But that's just a joke among colleagues. TBH I'm not going to do this again. Next time, I'm going to outsource as much as I can to focus on marketing.

    The game is pretty much over for me as a programmer. How many different ways am I going to learn to create a client-to-server-to-database-and-back solution? From my understanding, everything is just a to-do list.

    To answer your question. Are you right to try to do everything on your own? I think it depends on the type of person you are. Specifically, are you a specialist or a generalist? And what's your relationship with time and money?

    1. 2

      "Are you a specialist or a generalist? And what's your relationship with time and money?" - it sounds like the start of a long and interesting discussion :). I'll have a thought about it

    2. 1

      Just to clarify when you the game is over, do you mean you no longer program, or you're now competent enough? I love your quote about client-to-server-to-database-and-back solution - I'm also 2 years into my coding journey, similar to you, and fetch requests + business logic seems like 90% of the thing.

      1. 2

        I mean in terms of competency in building web applications. I can always improve, but I really need to get out of the Technician's mindset and into the Entrepreneur's. Check out The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber for the full explanation.

        Essentially there are 3 business personalities: the Technician, the Manager, and the Entrepreneur. The Technician produces the product or performs the service. Think of a baker or a plumber. When Technicians decide to start a business, they typically end up creating is another job for themselves. The hours are longer than that job they left, and the risks are significantly higher.

        This is where I am now. I have to add a few mandatory features, and it's eating into the time I need to spend marketing and selling.

        Additionally, checkout Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup By Rob Walling.

        1. 2

          Thank you so much for sharing, I've never heard of that framework (technician, manager and entrepreneur) before but it really resonates with me - I think only in the past 1-2 months have I begun to consciously try to begin morphing myself from Technician to Entrepreneur. I'm going to check what you recommended, I just bought the e-myth revisited on Kindle.

  6. 3

    I'm doing everything right now. Except I did have someone take my crappy logo I made with gimp, and make it look nice.

    I am not a great dev, but I can usually figure things out with enough reading and effort.

    1. 1

      "but I can usually figure things out with enough reading and effort" - this is how it always starts :)

  7. 2

    I do everything else, from frontend, to backend, to design, to database etc. It can be difficult, the development side of things I don't find too bad, but its the marketing which I pretty much find next to impossible.

    No matter whether your project is successful or not, don't think of it as a waste of time, you'll gain a lot of experience and learn a lot of new things along the way.

    Good luck

    1. 1

      Thanks @boardy. I'll try to look at it from both perspectives - a potential project to start my own business and a platform to practice React to get a better job

  8. 2

    Is it ok? Or it's just me being a greedy selfish developer?

    If you see this as being greedy, then I think you have the wrong mindset. You shouldn't view cofounders and freelancers as expenses. Rather, you need to think about the value they bring in relation to that expense.

    Think about it this way. Let's say each customer you acquire has an LTV of $1,000. If a freelancer or cofounder can get you 100 more customers per year than you get doing it yourself, that's an increase of $100,000 annually. Anything you pay under that is still a positive ROI.

    Plus, you should also factor in your own time an effort. Time is a finite resource, so you should want to focus on doing the things that will have the greatest impact for you. Delegating the things that aren't your strengths will free you up to focus on the tasks you are good at and which have the greatest ROI.

    1. 1

      That's true from a math perspective, but I have no idea what is LTV of my customers :). I guess I'll have to get to that number on my own and then think about hiring...

  9. 2

    I'm in the same spot as you where I'm currently doing everything on my own. Maybe I could get partners involved, but I've seen too many "startups" use equity in lieu of pay to exploit talented young people, and it's left such a bad taste in my mouth that I'd rather wait until I can give people I work with a fair shake. I'll admit, it sucks going at this alone, but it has gotten easier as the work has gradually compounded over time.

    I like to go back and reread old books of mine from time-to-time. Something relevant here is from DHH's Rework, where he mentions that one advantage of doing it all by yourself (or you and your cofounder doing it all by yourself) is that you learn which jobs cause the most pain, and so you learn to hire people who alleviate that pain rather than hire more developers or more designers "just because".

    So, as an example, your first "hire" might be an accountant you work with on a contract basis because out of all the things you could be doing accounting is the thing you hate the most.

    Anyway, it's nice to think about, makes it sound like there's reason to my madness rather than me unwilling to coax someone into working for equity.

    1. 1

      Very interesting point of view... There is nothing I hate doing so far. Maybe that's why I'm not looking for anybody else

  10. 2

    One thing that worked for me when building http://rockmyrun.com over a 7 year process: Start off doing things myself, but quickly find great people to take over.

    Yes, it takes an investment of time (and most likely cash) to find good people. However, like most investments, it pays off and great people are a multiplier on effort.

    Perhaps most importantly: it makes the journey more enjoyable.

    Almost universally when highly successful people reflect on their journeys, the thing they remember the most fondly are the people they worked with along the way.

    1. 1

      So deep and so true... And here the next question comes - where do I find those "highly successful people". This is not to be answered right away, I'm just thinking aloud...

      1. 1

        Just to clarify, when I say "highly successful people" I mean folks like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, athletes etc. :) Those are easy to find and read about.

        If what you're really wondering is "where do I find great people to join me on my journey" that comes from your network - either paid or otherwise. Even being introverted, you know people. Ask them. Once you conquer the anxiety of talking about it, you'll be surprised by what you find.

        I've also found great people on Upwork and Fiverr :)

  11. 2

    You got to keep moving towards your final destination, as long as there is at least one person available to do some work. Entrepreneurs, like soldiers, can't often afford to wait for the perfect circumstances. You use what you have and if it's only you, so be it.

    1. 2

      Wow, @technopreneur, thanks for this one "Entrepreneurs, like soldiers, can't often afford to wait for the perfect circumstances". In my list, it will take the second place right after "Success is like being pregnant, everybody congratulates but nobody know how many times you've been fu**ed to get there" :)

  12. 2

    I think it's important to make a difference between two things:

    • Doing everything directly related to the core value of your product (developing the app, designing & building a site, developing a marketing plan, etc.)
    • Doing everything including supporting functionality (authentication, account management, automated mails, etc.)

    I'm doing the former all by myself too. As others mentioned, this way could really express your core values and build & sell your product the way you want. And you can also explore new areas and grow your skillset. I also took a few Udemy courses (Node.js, UX design), so I can totally resonate with your mindset. :) A quick note here is to drop this mentality of being afraid of someone stealing your idea. Ideas are cheap, execution is what matters. ;)

    In case of the latter, however, you'd be well advised to leverage existing tools and try to delegate as many supporting (but necessary) functionalities as you can: authentication to Auth0, automated mails to MailChimp, etc.

    1. 2

      "Ideas are cheap, execution is what matters." LOVE this & I completely agree with focusing on your core business rather than the rest of important and complex staples of your software. Reason being is...well, because they're difficult to build and, in some cases like auth, poses a huge risk to your company if you do it wrong.

  13. 2

    I did everything on Polygloss on my own for a long time mostly because the project started as my MSc. dissertation. After I graduated I started working on it full time and trying to bring other people onboard to transform it into a real product. Mostly so I have more time to focus on product development instead of things I suck at and dont have interest in learning more about (e.g. design), or things that won't bring me much learning experience (I'm already a senior software engineer). I also get a lot of experience in managing and teaching, which is nicer to me at this stage of my career than the experience in coding. There are two types of people that have joined polygloss so far:

    • Bootcamp grads (1 UX, 1 Dev): people experienced in working in teams, communicating with others, managing responsibilities etc, but are transitioning careers. They are job hunting in the new field, really need technical experience and a portfolio to show on CV, and have part-time availability. This is a low-risk project where they can apply their new skills and see what happens.

    • Super senior person (1 cofounder, also dev): he has similar skills as mine, and very limited time because he has a full time job, but he is someone I trust to make good decisions both technically and morally. He just joined and hasn't digged in the code yet but has already been fundamental for some company-wide decisions.

    I did not spend any time hunting people to onboard. They are all people I know or introduced to me by people I know, who have skills that are relevant to the project, and expressed interest in participating.

    The project is not profitable, not funded, and none of us is being paid, but everyone has a piece of the "company" (we are not incorporated yet) and can access everything.

    I much prefer working on the project the way it is now, than just by myself. Even before I onboarded the new team I already had a slack group with the top users of my app, which was great for showcasing work in progress and getting feedback.

    1. 1

      @etiene, it sounds very much like I see the start of a successful and profitable project, and the resonating part of your comment for me is "so I have more time to focus on product development instead of things I suck at and don't have interest in learning more about". These non-development aspects are so new for me, that I haven't decided for myself yet whether I do or I don't have an interest in them yet

      1. 2

        It often depends on your budget, goals and desired pace. At the very beginning before you have a working MVP and tested on some customers, maybe it's better to be by yourself, because you can change everything very fast. Adding more people makes the quality of everything go up, but it does tend to slow some things down. I think there's a right moment for that.

  14. 2

    I believe it depends a lot on your personal goals. If you want to launch products super fast and iterate on it based on feedback you will spend a lot of time on it, which is difficult if you also have another job. Also, if you know you lack some skill that is required to improve your product, you can either see it as a opportunity to learn and then it works as you say, it's not just about launching products but rather learn with it, but you have to accept that it will take longer to actually solve the problem and it will have an impact in your product.

    1. 3

      Indeed, it is not about super fast launching. It is about learning in the process. So unless I feel I lack some of the key skills, I'll carry on alone :)

      1. 1

        Good luck, I will be following your journey :)

  15. 1

    You are right, it's a lot of hats and super hard. Based on your post, it sounds like you prefer coding and less customer-facing / market validation activities. I am also an introvert developer-type founder and I have to say, the latter is so important (and even more so the more you grow).

    So based on what you wrote, I'd say you either need to go it alone and be willing to do sales / customer development / marketing / product management in the process (at least I believe this s difficult to outsource effectively in the early days without a lot of $$ to say, a marketing/branding agency), or partner with a cofounder and get stuff in writing who is equally invested in the idea who can be the "business" side while you play the CTO role.

    1. 1

      I can even feel how my attitude about the non-development part of the project is changing. I've just passed "1 Day MVP" course on Udemy which contained lots of usefull insites and I'm looking forward to applying that knowledge. The more I read about it, the more I can imagine myself doing it

  16. 1

    Oh boy! I'm in the same boat. While I don't have a problem with idea being stolen, I believe If I partner with someone, they have to be better than me. And if they're better than me, I hesitate to ask them to spend their free time on this.

  17. 1

    I've got two part-time contributors. Even then, I'm still finding it really hard to balance everything.

    The best thing when working together: ideation. Now, you've got multiple perspectives on decision-making!

    You could start off solo and see how far you'll get till you need another pair of hands! That's what I did!

    1. 1

      After all these comments I don't feel alone anymore. Looks like this is how I'll do as well :)

  18. 1

    I'm introverted and pretty independent in my work style, but I'd still say working with others is definitely better if you have the option. Building, launching, marketing and managing a business is a lot to carry by yourself. Whether through hiring or partnership, having someone to help share the load can make a world of difference.

    Unfortunately neither of those are easily attainable, which I suspect is why so many people are flying solo. Most people don't have the capital to hire help for a project that isn't making serious money yet, and finding a partner/co-founder that checks all the right boxes is an even bigger challenge. So a lot of people are stuck doing the heavy lifting on their own.

    I'm fortunate to work with a partner that I've known for a long time. We worked together at our previous job for several years so when we agreed to partner up a few years ago, we were already friends and had a very solid working relationship. We understand each other, and our skillsets are complimentary. It's not easy finding someone like that to work with.

  19. 1

    I'm working on a side project that may turn into a business and while I'm the only one who will write code I'm tapping a friend who does graphic design for some logo / graphic work and my brother for some help with the design. Since its all bootstrapped and casual at the moment there isn't any money involved except for me paying for some minimal AWS resources. Depending on where it goes I may have to work out some kind of compensation for those helping me.

  20. 1

    If it adds value, it's worth paying for. That is, if having a cofounder makes your probable value more than 2x what it was, then take on a cofounder at 50%.

    Sometimes the value delta means that you want to take on less than a cofounder, less than a person. So hire a "service" to do it for you. There are plenty of "designer as a service" or "marketer as a service" or other SaaS that fit the bill. Farm out all that isn't your core differentiator.

    eg, for marketing, I pay a large amount every month on google ads. It does the job and it's less than hiring a marketer. Similarly, pay an accountant. Use a billing service. Use another service that chases lapsed payments. etc...

  21. 1

    I am doing everything (including content) for my SaaS Social Opinion.

    www.socialopinion.co.uk

  22. 1

    Hey Grigori!

    1. Success is 99.99% execution - and I think guarding ideas / worrying about them being stolen is a waste of energy and the wrong persepctive.

    2. I think its valuable to learn to manage other team members - so you can move faster, figure out how to hire, and how/when to fire. You can find great help that will be a springboard, but doing this takes practice. Start practicing as soon as you can!

    1. 1

      In development, it is called "Fail fast" ;)

  23. 1

    I am in the same boat. I am working on app so I built the Android app, spent tons of time trying to do App Search Optimization, writing blogs, making screenshots, translations and now working on building a backend service.

    Honestly, it's taking a toll on me and I feel like I should delegate some of the things and hire freelancers to do it.

    The next features on my list is to build a web & iOS app which I have never done before. It would be interesting to learn but there are better things that I can spend my time on.

    1. 1

      Yeah, it is always hard to decide where should we invest our time in order to get the highest return later

  24. 1

    "Doing all by yourself"- Definatly work in short term but not in long term. Building the startup consists of lot of area, content marketing, social marketing, development and lot more.

    If your long term goal is to build the startup and create the wealth. Then its better to hire or find the right guy who will help you.

  25. 1

    Having a co-founder you know and trust would be a great option, but like with a marriage you do not go away with anyone!

  26. 1

    Someone once said it’s better to have 50% of something that 100% of anything.

    If you think in your business in a self-sustain lifestyle business that works. But if you want to build a company you need help.

    Even if you have deep pockets and can buy talent, the founding team needs important incentives for the thing to work.

    I would ever give shares to a job that can be easily outsourced just because I don’t have money though, that would be a mistake.

  27. 1

    While working on www.locospartygame.net I had to realise that doing everything on your own is a bad idea. You simply can't be that good in every aspect of the job also it takes too much time. I ended up hiring develoeprs, UI/UX designers, sound designers, etc, and still the project took me a year. Imagine if I was doing it alone...

  28. 1

    Thanks everyone for raising the question and sharing your experience. I was hesitating about this and losing confidence learning all stuffs my self. But seeing your discussion gives me confidence. I found the momentum answer is a good way to think.

  29. 1

    Great question @goshakai! When we do these for the first time, we get into these questions of someone stealing our ideas, cheating, failing deadlines, doing things for free. Been there, done these :), so definitely you are not being a greedy selfish developer. Just a normal human!

    Sharing my experience here, there is no free lunch in this world, there will be no commitment without $, with $ itself many a time I didn't see the output I expected :), anyways that was my bad.

    Stealing ideas, don't ever worry about those. With just an idea, no one can go anywhere, bringing that idea into existence, selling it, making money out of it has nothing to do with even developing that idea to a solution. And there will be 1000 solutions for the same problem always, but that doesn't mean the new ones don't sell. So just chill about these.

    Atleast to me, the bigger problem was the selling part. If you are from a pure tech background, then this part will need some good work and polishing. Understanding the marketing aspect, what goes in, what should come out, then comes sales. Getting a hang of it will take some decent time. Start looking at those.

    My suggestion would be, probably build your MVP using no code tools to start with. IMHO, Bubble.io is a great one. Of course, there will be a learning curve but that's nothing when compared to actual full stack. Bring out the MVP first, socialize, see how it goes, finetune, polish, then take a decision as to how you'd want to take it forward.

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      Oh, thank you so much for sharing. I do already understand that sales are probably the most important part of making it a proper business, but I keep telling myself that I'm my own customer and in the worst case, I'm doing it for my own, so it worth it anyway. Probably this is how I'm trying to avoid customer research and potentially bad news that I'm not a simple customer, I'm the only customer :(

      1. 1

        Thank you for sharing your honesty. As someone who has been down this path before, I can say from experience this is dangerous. In my case I was teaching myself to code, so that was fun learning and I was able to ignore the market / customer initially - but if you already know how to code, I think it can be hard to keep up motivation on your product if you have little to no traction because you didn't validate the market.

        I think the mental trick you need to do is to bargain with yourself that, yes customer research is not the part I enjoy, but it's required if you want to build something that is actually useful to people (which will then allow you to code!). It's a tough one and I mentally compromise myself every week!

  30. 1

    I think it's possible to do it all on your own, but it's easy to lose your momentum. When I started with building on my own, I was motivated and fresh. Every new turn I make, I learned something new, just like you did. And I enjoyed that part too.

    But everytime I learned something new, I became aware that I only learned the tip of the iceberg. Even after spending months on a topic. So the fun in learning something new every day kinda wears off after a while.

    I eventually settled on learning the basics on new topics. It helped me with understanding what I could do and where it would be better to hire some help.

    1. 2

      It's about T-shaper learning. This is where you go wide instead of deep. In some cases it can be extremely helpful, so 100% agree :)

  31. 1

    I have 2 things I'm working on, a company and a side project. Bootstrapping both.

    For the company, I do have co-founders and employees and there is no way I could do it alone. I can focus on product + biz dev while other people handle things like sales/marketing/operations/etc...

    We all play to our strengths and we each get to work on what we love. Our sales and marketing guys would hate coding all day and the developers would hate hopping on client calls all day. It's helped us grow for sure.

    For the side project, I'm doing this one all on my own. The development, the marketing, the support, etc... But i think I can only do that because I'm not as worried about growth with this one. I think I'll be able to pay my rent with it for sure, but it definitely won't be massive company.

    The side project also lets me experiment a lot in a low risk environment which is really fun. I take a lot of learnings from both things I work on and implement them in each other.

    In my case, I've realized it's possible to go both routes but I've had to taper my expectations for things like growth.

    I would figure out what you ultimately want with it and then make a decision there. If you want this to be a lifestyle business then you can totally do it yourself. If you want a super sexy hyper-growth VC startup then you may need co-founders and/or employees.

    1. 1

      Another "not easy to answer" question, isn't it :). But these have to be asked.... Thanks

  32. 1

    While I currently do it mostly on my own it's not a good place
    You need to know yourself a bit and notice what you hate doing or are going to stay bad at and try to replace yourself for that task
    I know that there is very little chance I'd know how to build nice UI in terms of design, so I know to get help there for example
    On the being solo you need to know how to reduce, reuse and such... I was backend and ops for >10/15? Years, but currently working on an app so full front end, I use firebase so write 0 backend, no server, manage nothing in terms of resources, so that's a HUGE reduction of scope and hats
    To reduce UI am using a framework and as much std. Stuff without putting anything "creative" UI/design was, I like the limits of std. Mobile Components

    1. 1

      "currently working on an app so full front end, I use firebase so write 0 backend" - so do I :). Thanks for your point of view. I'll do some freewriting to retrospect on what and how I'm doing. BTW, what is the framework you are using for UI?

      1. 1

        Framework7 with svelte

        1. 1

          For my app I was thinking about ReactNative

          1. 1

            There is also svelte native ;) (not sure it's up to scratch due, might be too new)

            depends on what you're doing and I'm pretty noobish at this but removing the device/emulator and building packages from the development pipeline seems to be like a big speed advantage, as in developing a PWA allows you to test, debug and such in the browser and worry about the package builds later also write once build everywhere (andorid, ios, mac, win, linux, browser)

            • I think there is some magic in letting people play with the app in a browser, where they feel less committed to install another app (device storage space + clutter+..) and approve its required privileges (I think as the browser seems transient people are less concerned with allowing it to access stuff)

            (I could totally be self-justifying what I'm currently doing! and this is my 1st app dev thingy)

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