Productivity October 14, 2020

How do you balance it all?

Jan Van de Poel @janvdp

As a solo-founder, how do you balance sales/marketing/support/development/design/research?

I switch between features and their marketing, and try to follow up new users on a regular basis.


  • enterprise sales takes time (away from my computer)
  • more things to research than time to do it
  • find a rhythm in building and boosting
  1. 6

    It's hard tbh and balance is critically important, not just for your business's sake, but also your own sake. Just read @kylegawley's recent post to see the dangers of overdoing it.

    With that said, if you have the luxury of outsourcing/delegating any tasks then that's the obvious answer. Double points if you're outsourcing something that you're not an expert in. Need to produce a video for your site? Unless you're nice with video production, your end result may turn out ok, but it's gonna take a lot of time for a mediocre video. Better to spend because then you'll have a nice video and save yourself a ton of time.

    But not everyone has that luxury and sometimes it just comes down to not beating yourself up over not being able to do it all.

    What's worked for me is keeping a daily log of what I accomplished that day. Then, even when I feel like I'm not getting much done, I can look through the logs and cut myself some slack because I can see my efforts compounding.

    Slow and steady friend.

    1. 1

      It feels like working on engineering problems/features or things I can structure in a step-by-step process, I'm right on the money. But for example, when I'm updating my site, it's hard to judge what is useful, needed and what's just to much marketing/salesy...

      The outsourcing part is correct, I guess. I hope to build a team that complements my weaknesses. But in the beginning, I feel like I have to do it, to make the vision cristal clear and see what every job entails. For instance, the copy, I don't feel like I can outsource it right now...

  2. 3

    I second what @most and @simplisticallysimple wrote, all of which is very valid.

    The only thing I can add is that, in reality, you can’t balance everything completely because a lot of it is 100% outside of your control. All you can truly affect is your reaction to it. In my previous startups, I made the mistake of checking emails and analytics too often and always stopping my workflow to jump here and there. Unless you absolutely need to put out a fire immediately, develop a schedule and a routine and stick to it. Without that, you’ll spread yourself too thin and risk burnout or the 15 things you’re trying to accomplish at one time will all suffer.

    1. 1

      I feel a recurring theme coming. I only seem to check emails, analytics, Twitter and LinkedIn on design and copy related tasks... Needless to say I'm an engineer at heart :D

      1. 2

        Hey, regarding the "checking things" issue - one of my products is a browser extension that blocks distracting sites.

        I personally use it especially for tasks outside my main area of expertise. Hope it helps.

        1. 2

          I check things and find food to procrastinate... I experimented with those blockers but it's not really my problem lies...

          The more I think about it during this thread, there more I think I'm looking for structured creativity: being creative in a (somewhat) rigid process.

          Yes, engineering has taken its toll. I create process, patterns, scripts for most parts of the job, but a website for more me is a lot of degrees of freedom...

      2. 2

        What you have is a good problem to have. It’s a side effect of traction and growth. The flip side is that it is also a glimpse at what crushes companies when they scale too fast. 😉

        1. 1

          I don't even have the feeling of scaling :D

          I've recorded a podcast which should be launching somewhere this month, so wanted to update my site, because it's not for the general public at the moment. And (because I'm a programmer?) I feel the copy is quickly over the top, or not directed to what is possible/necessary right now

  3. 3

    There's always a bottleneck to growth at any given time for Zlappo, so I always try to keep in mind what it is at all times.

    Either my leads are drying up, or my feature requests/bug reports are piling up.

    They're both important so I focus on one thing at a time (the more urgent one) until it becomes less urgent than the other.

    To me, it's easier to compartmentalize my workflow that way: literally dedicate whole days and even weeks to each department (barring any fires I have to put out, obviously).

    That way at least I know I'm concentrating my time, effort, money, and willpower on the aspect of my business that needs it most.

    1. 1

      This is good advise, I feel like that when I'm doing engineering, AI research or fixing bugs... It's harder when I can' really make a checklist out of the task I'm doing...

      • when is a website good enough?
      • what design works?
      • which copy works and what is too salesy?
      1. 2

        I'd look at your analytics to examine whether your conversion rate is good enough.

        Design, website, copy, etc. Those sound like academic concerns. What matters is, taken as a whole, do your marketing assets convert?

        If they convert at a decent rate (for me, my conversion from traffic to sign up is about 15%, which is decent enough for my purposes now), I know not to tinker too much with it.

        I then know I need to focus on generating traffic to put through my funnel.

        It's all about funnel analysis.

        Which part of your funnel is the greatest constriction happening?

        Is there enough traffic? Are your visitors converting to trial users? Are your trial users converting to paid customers? Are your paid customers keeping their subscription month after month?

        Work on the most pressing issue at the moment.

        1. 1

          Website conversion is pretty decent around 10%.

          Issues I'm facing (with the site):

          • geared towards developers that come from the quick guide
          • will be visisted by more general public in the coming weeks, but it might be to high level

          Conversion to trial/paid is not there yet. :)

  4. 2

    Try to look into cutting the "urgent/busy" out and focusing solely on whats important to achieve what you're after. (check out, I use it to help hone in on certain areas and get rid of whats not needed)

    It's especially difficult when you're on your own getting things set up because you might get tangled in things that others would help you avoid as it might not be important. Time black holes are annoying and can be draining. Automating as much as possible without getting too caught up in the automation for every detail like for email followups and more can help alot.

    Try to find an accountability partner - whether it be an uninterested friend or relative.

    You got this! Things add up over time!

    1. 1


      I have to update my website right now, but it feels like there's no real process/checklist to follow... No real template as to what should go where, what works best... (I might just not have found it).

      I don't have it when I'm fixing a bug or building a feature...

  5. 2

    I'm the only one for two organizations I've started. I had a hard time balancing them, but now I just made a plan and am implementing it. I am also now about to have a commission-based salesperson for the company (I still handle fundraise on my own for my non-profit). It's of course a challenge, especially while working from home and having a wife and two daughters as well at the home while working, but the most important thing is to know what's important to do and to do it.

    1. 2

      I fully agree, I'm pretty good at making plans - granted, development estimates are hard - but when it comes to website updates I feel like I go over the top, I guess...

      1. 1

        I think all of us web designers/web developers tend to do too many updates to our websites. That comes with the job.

        1. 1

          For experiments' sake? Or random choices?

          1. 1

            Both. Mostly just feeling like there's always something that can be added or changed to the site.

            1. 1

              I guess that counts across the board for your product/service

  6. 2

    One thing that has helped me is to realize that any forward progress is forward progress.

    This morning I spent 30 minutes fixing some weird typescript linting issue with my repo. It didn't take much cognitive load and it wasn't very difficult, but it was something that is moving my project forward.

    The next time I have a few hours to do some deep work on my project, I'll be able to hop right into coding. I'm glad I gave myself those 30 minutes this morning.

    One trick is to have a list of different tasks labeled by difficulty/attention required.

    I find myself often having 10-30minutes of free time where I can knock out easy tasks. These accumulate over time and make room for the big tasks later.

    1. 1

      "Done is indeed better than perfect".

      But when it comes to design, writing text about problems we're solving with our features, I find it hard to get the right things on the page: what to write, in which order, what is too salesy?

      I guess boiling it down to this: I am a pretty 'two feet on the floor' kind of person, and that shows and works pretty well for me in the offline world, but I feel that does not get conveyed when I start to write text for my site...

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