October 1, 2019

My brain told me to pull the plug

Matt Michel @ninjaPixel

I hadn't touched my side project for over a year. To be honest, I'd become disheartened at how hard it was to do sales and I'd lost enthusiasm for my project and was focusing on other things (freelancing!).

My platform, Barber Shop Booking, processes card transactions on behalf of barbers; Stripe started emailing me at the beginning of 2019 telling me that I needed to prepare for 'Secure Customer Authentication' (a new EU banking regulation) by September 2019.

I scoped out the work and knew that it was going to be a big job. The code that handles the monthly payments barbers make to me (i.e. their subscription) would need major changes, as would the code handling the payments made by clients to their barbers, for their haircuts.

I always try to be unbiased and unemotional when making decisions. The facts were that the SCA integration was going to take about three week's of work, and my platform makes less than $100/month. So was this really worth spending ~90 hours on? I wouldn't even have a new feature to show for it at the end of the day. I was conflicted...

The logical side of my brain said it wasn't worth the effort. Choosing not to implement SCA would mean that card payments would start failing and this would most likely be the end of my business.

The emotional side of my brain told me not to let down my customers (although there are only a handful so far), and to do the work anyway. It also seemed such a shame to let the project die (sunk cost fallacy?) - my overheads are minimal and I rarely have to spend time maintaining the code.

I was in conflict and struggling with the decision.

My wife gave me some really good advice - just get away from your laptop and go somewhere else to think about the problem. I sat in Costa Coffee for an hour with my trusty Moleskine and a pen ☕, weighing up the two options. Then it hit me, there was a third option! Rather than just rewriting my code, like-for-like, I could actually just ditch the monthly subscription totally - this would half the amount of work required for the code migration. This would of course mean that I'd no longer receive subscription revenue from my clients, but I could instead charge a 'platform fee', i.e. a small fee for every transaction that I process. This was a pricing model that I'd been curious about for a while and now I'd been presented with the perfect opportunity to implement it. The real kicker was that it would align me with my customers - I would only make money if they were making money. And, if I could help them make more money (by, say, implementing new features), then I'd also make more money.

My original pricing model had never quite felt right to me, the motivation was inevitably to gain more monthly subscriptions rather than to make my customers more successful. This new pricing model felt just perfect though!

Fast-forward a couple of months and here we are. I've implemented SCA compliant payments and, in the process, implemented a totally new pricing model which, hopefully, reduces the barrier of entry for new clients signing-up with me 🤞

This is undoubtedly my biggest milestone since Barber Shop Booking went live in 2018. The time I spent on this migration has reinvigorated my passion for my side project and I'm psyched to push on with new features.

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