The 2 Biggest Mistakes I Made (Before Reaching $500 MRR)

January 20, 2014

I launched WiseCash in July 2013 and reached $500 MRR in roughly 6 months:


While I’m happy to have reached that milestone already (yay!), I made two huge mistakes in the process. I’m sharing those mistakes so that you, dear reader, can avoid it. I would be much closer from completely sustaining my family with WiseCash alone, without those two mistakes. Read on and avoid shooting yourself in the foot.

Charging Later Than I Should Have Done

Biggest mistake ever. Who would want to delay their income? It sounds crazy, especially with a SaaS and its typical Long, Slow Ramp of Death. I should (and could, in retrospect) have charged roughly one year earlier. 12 months. Extrapolating on the current growth trends I have + historical data, WiseCash would currently account for 27% of our “minimum family revenue” instead of 10% currently:

Shipping Earlier

The reasons for shipping later were numerous and all good looking: a lot of time spent figuring out which billing service to pick, VAT handling, paperwork, a new baby on its way in the family, too much consulting (I later changed the way I organize my gigs and balance this with product work, by using WiseCash itself), a feature that was deemed super necessary, etc.

My point here is that despite these good reasons, I should still have prioritized billing code and related paperwork earlier on the roadmap, and maybe delay a feature and some consulting work. If you are not charging, you didn’t ship yet. Ship it. Getting paid subscribers will be veeery sloooow, so do it earlier than later.

Failing To Warm Up a Proper Newsletter

I put a super simple landing page online in September 2011. I tweeted about WiseCash as I built it, and eventually got around 900 emails in the waiting list (half of them coming after a beta tester submitted the landing page to HackerNews).

My failure here is that I did not email the list regularly, failed to build tension, failed to figure out what I should write about, and as well handled the collection of emails in my app rather than in MailChimp (or similar).

In retrospect I should have done this:

  • getting comfortable with newsletter services
  • setting up a mail campaign for the sake of learning
  • making sure it renders properly on mobile
  • getting comfortable with writing newsletters
  • sending a few words each month (fixed schedule) to my subscribers

In all cases, I should never have left a mailing list sleeping almost one year without any message.

The biggest thing that blocked me (and seems to block many bootstrappers I discussed with) is figuring out what to write to my subscribers. There was so much I could have written about: how WiseCash and cash flow control help you negotiate your rates, bootstrap your own product, pick the kind of gig you want to work on etc. Or even: the things I learned as I build WiseCash (technical or not). Anything that would increase trust gradually.

My conversion rate when sending a lifetime offer to beta-testers was around 1%. Being more comfortable with emailing would definitely have increased this several times (based on discussions with experienced bootstrappers) — here is a visual estimate:

Shipping Earlier

My point here is: make sure to get comfortable with email newsletter and writing. This is critical.

These Errors Do Stack Up

I could be around 37% (again a vague estimate, but still much higher than today) without these mistakes:

Shipping Earlier

Being closer from financial independence without consulting would let me work on WiseCash (promoting it, writing educational content, crafting features) more than I already do today.

Despite these two big mistakes and the fact that revenue takes a lot of time to grow, I’m glad we’ve been dogfooding and used WiseCash to know our “time-wealth” (= how long we can sustain our current lifestyle given planned expenses and income) since the beginning, because this allowed us to never even remotely risk bankruptcy, keep a health family life and mix product development with balanced consulting the whole time.

I’ll discuss this topic (“Sustainable Bootstrapping”) in an upcoming post, make sure to subscribe to updates!

Thibaut Barrère (WiseCash founder)


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