If I'm building for my own pain point, are you still validating the idea?


I've been working as a freelance web-developer for the past 3 years and I'm building the freelance CRM that I wish existed.

I'm not using sites like upwork or other marketplaces, rather I've picked a niche for my freelance business and making lots of calls. This has worked out great for me and I've even joined a few coaching programs to learn how to get clients as a freelancer/consultant.

Today I'm using HubSpot and I've tried out a few CRM's but they are all to "bulky" and doing too much. I want to build a CRM that is tailored towards a person like myself. A very simple solution that has a clear focus. This i what I want:

  • A contacts list that I can search for and enter activity for a contact (made a call, sent an email and so on).
  • Sales pipeline. How do I go from a lead to talking to this potential client?
  • Projects pipeline. Often when I talk to a client that I've done work for we start to talk about a "concrete project". Meaning that there is an actual project that probably needs to be built that we start to talk about. I want to track that so when I call up I can be like "Have any news on the XYZ project?"
  • Tasks.
  • Most important for me is the follow-up. I've learned now over the years that nobody will purchase anything from you on the first call. Follow-up is key. I would want automated follow-up tasks like : "If no activity on a client in the nurture swim-lane for 1 month, create a task to follow up". "If no activity regarding a potential project for 1 month, create a task to follow up" and so on.

I would like this project to be a SaaS and move myself more towards indie-hacker instead of a consultant.

If I'm creating for my own pain point like above, would you try to validate the idea by talking to other freelancers or just build out a quick MVP and then start talking to customers so you have something to show?

Would also be awesome of you could give some input on the idea of building a Freelance-CRM.

  1. 9

    Validation is 4 parts:

    1. Validate the problem (is this a real problem?)
    2. Validate the market (does this problem affect enough people?)
    3. Validate the product (does my solution solve the problem?)
    4. Validate willingness to pay (will people pay for my solution to solve this problem?)

    If you are solving your own painpoint, 1 may be validated, but there is still validation to do. If you are the only 1 with the problem, or others don't think it's a big deal, or your solutions doesn't solve it right, or people aren't willing to pay you for it, it isn't validated!

    1. 2

      Excellent breakdown!

    2. 1

      Thanks for your reply @tstew161!

      I totally agree with you. Probably should have framed by question a little bit different "Should I reach out to customers with say a landing page to try and validate step 2, 3 and 4 like you say, or build a quick MVP to validate with that instead because even if nobody likes it, I can still use it myself".

      The task going forward will be to validate 2, 3 and 4 but feel like that will be easier with an MVP but maybe I'm way off. First time trying to build a product :)

      1. 2

        Definitely, and starting with a problem you have yourself can be a huge advantage (but can also blind you to others perspective - be careful!).

        Validation is unfortunately a very foggy process, and the market is constantly changing (so a product is hard to truly validate unless you have tons of money pouring in, and a "validated product" can stop being validated if the market changes). Consequently, "landing page vs MVP" is just "time vs accuracy" - a landing page will be fast to build and can give you a fine (but weak) early signal as to the validity, but an MVP is usually more involved (weeks or more usually) and gives a better signal to validity.

        Personally, I build a landing page first. I can test all of the 4 quickly, and if I'm completely wrong I can either iterate super fast (change the text / graphics / CTA) or drop the idea and move on without much lost effort. The landing page validates if it is worth building an MVP for me, and the learning from the landing page helps me build a better MVP.

        Hope that helps and good luck!

        1. 1

          This is great stuff! Really liked what you said in the end that a landing page validates if I should build the MVP.

          After lots of thought and all of your insights I’ve decided to build a quick prototype in figma and a landing page to try and validate 1,2,3 and 4 👍🏻 Thanks a bunch

          1. 2

            Well 1 can probably already be considered validated. Anyways, I'm a strong proponent of building the least amount of stuff possible before having reasonably validated an idea, so I built LandingPing, which let's you create a quick page with email signup to use during the validation phase. No need to think about logos, landing page layout/contents and such at this stage imo.

              1. 1

                Do you want to exchange feedback in dms?

                1. 1

                  Sounds awesome @BarryBlock. My Twitter handle is in profile. Please reach out there and lets set up some time to talk :)

  2. 3

    hey @Cous, there are various ways you can do that.

    Some examples include:

    1. Samuel Briskar created a video using basic wireframes to get 400 signups and 5 initial sales of a product that is yet to exist.

    2. Kettle & Fire's founder Justin Mares validated his idea with just a landing page and Bing Ads.

    3. Joe Benjamin got his first sale just by replying to a tweet.

    I've written a post on this here.

    I've curated, analyzed & summarized over 120 founders' interviews on the strategies they've used to grow their businesses into a database here. Feel free to check it out at www.Growthhunt.Co

    1. 2

      growthhunt is down, btw.

    2. 1

      Thanks for the comment @GrowthHunt. Read your post and it was very good. I kind of feel like this problem is already validated because I have the pain point myself. That doesn't mean that other people would pay for it though.

      Maybe I should set up a landing page and start calling/messaging freelancers? I just know personally that I would like to see a rough working solution. There are lots of competitors as well so people are spending money for CRM.

      Think I'm still leaning towards building out an MVP fast and using that to validate the idea. What do you think?

      1. 2

        That is great! How about a quick website using Carrd ($19/yr), mock up some HD images and make it look all legitimate (with payment and all that) and start charging for it?

        If more than 1 person pays for it, it means your idea is validated!

        You can refund them and tell them the product is in prototype, and offer them a discount once it is live.

        1. 1

          I really like this idea from @growthhunt. Except about refunding the payment. Instead of that, I would put a hold on the card to make sure it is a real payment. Then reach out to them and tell them about the early access. This way they don't get the money taken out then put back into the account.
          You can also discuss with them further to help validate the specific features and functionality.

          1. 1

            I like the idea as well to generate something quickly to showcase the product. However I think I can build out my MVP pretty quickly as well and stat to talk to customers. Give them “early adopter” access to actually try out the product.
            Thank you so much for your feedback. My first post on IH and amazed by the response.

  3. 1

    It sounds like you have many of the right ideas @Cous, obviously there is no recipe for success.

    Start small, exactly these sort of blog posts are great. Send out some surveys. Message your network and ask questions. Start with words.

    Build a landing page. Sketch out the product. If you want to build a digital mock-up, you can use Figma.

    All the while, talk to people, assess the market (look at competitors) and think "is this worth my time? Will this one day return a profit?" (unless you have other motivations of course!)

    Talking to users and potential users is the best and fastest way to validate an idea. Protolyst is a framework we're building to keep track of all those insights.

    Please do drop me a line (email is in my IH account) if you'd like to connect and bounce some ideas around :)

    1. 1

      Thanks @RicBarnes and your comments are really insightful. I'm leaning more and more towards building a landing page, sketch out the product and then talk to people. It's just the developer inside of me that wants to start building directly.

      I've sent you a mail :)

  4. 1

    Ok, so I'm not sure what your key differentiator here is. The CRM market is extremely competetive - not that you can't make it. I know someone who was able to differentiate and is doing well. But it comes with a lot of work and really understanding your target market.

    The features you've outlined are fairly standard across most CRMs. The other CRMs are bulky as that is what people want. For anything less, Excel works. Having said this, take this as critical feedback, and see what you can do with it. Maybe you can really hone in on the features for Freelancers only and make them really good, dunno.

    But to answer your direct question, for sure! Prototype it out.

    1. 1

      Really insightful stuff @Jajaygrow! Thanks for that. I hear what you're saying and I also feel like the CRM-space is super competetive and that there are a lot of of big players.

      I'm myself a freelance software developer that have worked a lot (only actually) with outbound marketing so feel that I have some insight into the market. My objective wouldn't be to compete with Hubspot for example but more with the Excel-sheet that you said.

      The functionality that I've outlined above would be the "Sales pack" on Hubspot for $50/month. In there they have a lot of extra stuff that I wouldn't need so I would gladly pay for example $30/month for only the features that are needed for a freelancer instead.

      I hear you and I have changed my mind that I will landing-page/prototype a product out and start talking to customers to try and see if I can differentiate and see if there are more people having the same problem as I do.

    1. 1

      Hey @stefanonthenet. I've reached out to you on Twitter

  5. 1

    Hi Cous;
    just build out a quick MVP and then start talking to customers so you have something to show, and collect their feedback - IMHO it is the best way to validate the idea.
    Customer pain point == your own pain point

    1. 1

      This is what I’m thinking as well. I can build out my MVP fairly quickly. And I wouldn’t have to have it 100% done before I stay showing it to customers.

      I just feel that if they have something to log in to and feel it will be a lot easier to explain. Also the “early adopter” access is something i think will intrigue a lot of people to sign up. I know I would.

      1. 2

        You can mock it up using a wire framing tool too.

        1. 1

          I've came around on this @Jajaygrow. Think I will try to do a landing-page and talk to freelancers and then out of that use a wire framing tool to build out a mockup. Do you have a good wire framing tool you can recommend?

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