By: Dean McPherson
My company, Paperform, was born from a place of both passion and filling a need. I was fascinated by no-code development, especially how it could be implemented to help growing businesses with online payments, landing pages, surveys, and more. Many entrepreneurs with established companies did not know where to turn for those necessities, and I knew I could help solve that problem. So began my entrepreneurial journey.
When I launched Paperform, I was a full-time programmer. However, days at the office with nights devoted to Paperform were wearing me down. After a couple of months of that grind, I made the decision to turn Paperform into a full-time gig. I quit my jobs and spent all my time on Paperform. Four years later, and the company continues to expand with clients around the world.
There were a lot of lessons learned along the way. That’s where passion comes in. If you don’t feel that passion, you won’t be able to weather tough. At the end of the day, your business, even though it’s your “baby,” is still a job. Finding the balance between enjoying your work and making it a (healthy) obsession is key.
Anticipate and Plan for Setbacks
During the first year of running Paperform, I encountered tough decisions and setbacks. These are the three lessons that were some of the hardest to learn:
- Sacrifice Free Time. When I was still working full time and only spending free time outside of work on Paperform, it wasn’t getting me far. So, I used vacation days and devoted that time off to Paperform. That extra time was invaluable to improving the product and its offerings.
- Watch for Burnout. During those first few months, my wife and I were taking turns waking up every three hours at night to respond to customer service inquiries. That was fine for a while, but eventually, we knew we couldn’t keep this up. What helped was knowing that this unsustainable approach would not last forever.
- There Will Be Slow Sales Periods. Our sales are typically slower during the second half of the year. Unfortunately, that was news to us during our first year! There were a few weeks in August 2017 where sales were practically dead, causing major concern. Thankfully, we had budgeted for slow periods. When we moved forward, we factored that slow period into our annual sales predictions.
I built the first version of Paperform during my spare time in Winter 2016. I then launched in beta to receive feedback. That feedback was invaluable, and allowed me to launch a paid offering resulting in $40,000 in sales. These initial earnings gave me proof of concept and money to launch. That monetary cushion allowed me to transition Paperform from a side-hustle to a career.
Turning your passion project into a career isn’t a moonshot, but you need to be making enough money to live on before you quit your current job. I started seeing growth in recurring revenue four months after launch, giving enough cushion to make our move. We took a calculated risk because we could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Make a Plan and Follow Through
An essential step to getting your ideas to the next level is building a plan and following through on it. If you’re quitting your day job to go into a new venture, you better make sure you aren’t doing it blind. Planning was never fun for me, but creating a blueprint helped me visualize progress. When we first started, we had about $1,000 in recurring monthly revenue. While that was not enough money to live on, it showed us that there was a viable market for Paperform and growth potential. By the end of 2017, we reached $10,000 MRR, allowing for a comfortable existence.
Be Your Own Boss
Finally, you must be self-motivated. Not everyone thrives in this environment, and you need to be honest with yourself before making the leap. At the end of the day, growth doesn’t come without setbacks, so passion and grit are key to full-time success.