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How I Built a $5,000/month Habit-Forming Productized Service

1. Hello! Who are you and what is your business?

Hello! My name is Manasvini and I run Boss as a Service (https://bossasaservice.life). 

BaaS is a service for those of us who procrastinate — who want to achieve our goals, but for some reason, keep putting it off. If you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution, and forgot all about it before February came around, you know how difficult it is to actually follow through on your goals. 

I’m an akratic person myself. I discovered this when I quit my job to work for myself. I never had problems with client deadlines when I was working fulltime, but when I started working for myself, my productivity deteriorated massively. I’d spend whole days being completely unproductive, getting nothing done, sometimes with no plan at all. Basically, I had nobody to answer to, nobody to call me out. After a couple of months like this, I started wishing I had someone to hold me accountable.

I found that nothing of the sort existed already, so I started it myself. Boss as a Service does what it says on the tin — we give you a “boss”, a person who follows up with you, and demands answers when you’re slacking off. Human accountability works wonders. 🙂

2. How do you attract and retain your customers?

The first thing I did was to put up a few posts asking for feedback on the idea, on productivity forums. Productivity, getting things done, and procrastination is a genuine interest of mine, and I’ve been actively following and using products in the space for years, so I knew where to go to ask for feedback. I recruited my first few beta testers from these forums. 

BaaS officially launched in January 2018, on Product Hunt. (https://www.producthunt.com/posts/boss-as-a-service) The launch went really well, ending with more than 400 upvotes. I got my first paying customers from there.

Much of our growth so far has been very much organic — people recommending us to their friends, and talking about us in other forums. We had two big spikes in traffic (and sign ups) from two major features on Hacker News, and a few press features.

One was completely unexpected — someone posted us on Hacker News and it went to the very top, and remained there for more than 24 hours. 

The one I planned (and incidentally, the most impactful “marketing” we’ve done) was a quiz I made, called Why Do I Procrastinate. It attempts to identify the exact reason why you’re not getting things done, and helps you fix them. This was “side project marketing” that I tried, that really paid off. It went to #1 on Hacker News as well, and brought a lot of traffic, sign ups, and residual SEO benefits.

3. What were your challenges and obstacles of growing your business?

My main challenge has been learning to delegate. Separating the “service delivery” from yourself is probably the most important part of growing a productized service business. Many of them start with the founder providing the service themselves. But it quickly hits a plateau if you’re going to do service delivery yourself. 

If you have a “craftsman” mentality, it’s difficult to let go, to let other people in to help manage the process, but it’s necessary to do so. Jake Jorgovan suggests you hire from Day 1 so that the business can run without you. If I could do it again, I’d try delegating from Day 1.

4. What has been helpful to help you to grow your business?

The most important thing is probably that I was trying to fix my own problem. It made BaaS different to other startups / projects I’ve worked on in the past, because I *knew* on an intuitive level that I was trying to solve a genuine problem. I also had an understanding of who a typical user of BaaS might be, and what their needs and requirements would be, because I belonged to that group myself. I wasn’t making up a solution to a problem that wasn’t mine, and forcing it on potential users. I knew the ecosystem and other tools — I’ve tried out (and still actively use many) myself.

Other than that, I think another major factor has been a move away from the traditional thinking of “startups” as necessarily venture funded. Indie Hackers has been an inspiration, since it tells the real stories of people growing their businesses from ground up. Before I started reading Indie Hacker interviews, everything between “I had this great idea” to “I got acquired” seemed extremely murky and mysterious. Everybody talked ad nauseam about ‘killing it’ but nobody gave real actionable information — or even a baseline for comparison. Indie Hackers and entrepreneurs like Pieter Levels who reveal the nuts and bolts of how they built their startups has been extremely helpful.

5. What is your advice for those that are starting productized services?

– Start in an area you know about / Understand who your customer is before you start

A bit repetitive, but this can really be a competitive advantage. If you already have knowledge, contacts and deep insights about a market, use it. It’s more likely to lead somewhere than floundering about trying to understand a new market, to get to “product market fit.” Do you understand your potential users’ problems and frustrations at a deep level? Does the vocabulary they use come to you naturally? Another way of thinking about this is, can you imagine yourself hanging out and being friends with your customer / end user? You’ll spend time talking to, giving support, and working with your users, and it’s difficult to design products for people who you don’t understand.

– Get to the first few customers asap 

If you’ve just got started, don’t even think about whether the system you’re using will crumble down when you have 1000 customers. When that happy day comes, you’ll have resources to fix problems of scale. Right now, just cobble together something that works, to make sure the idea has legs. Don’t waste time on premature optimization and building tools.

With productized services, making an “MVP” is easier than it is with software products. If you have a customer who needs something, and you or your team is able to provide this service, all you need to do is glue together some method to communicate. Your customer doesn’t care about what impressive dashboard you’re using to collaborate with your team. They just want results. More often than not, a spreadsheet and email is all you really need.

I think that in the beginning, momentum is the most important thing. A lack of momentum will kill your startup. But once you’ve got to the point where you’ve figured out getting your first few customers (and hopefully have got good feedback from them) congratulations, you’ve moved the needle, and you’re at a point where many startups will never be — revenue positive.

6. What are your plans for the future?

BaaS started as a side project in 2018, but over the past year it’s grown a lot. Currently we make ~$5k monthly in revenue. My priority right now is to work on expanding our team, and making our backend processes stronger and more robust, so we can take on more users. 

I’m excited about the productivity / getting things done space in general. We have a bunch of new feature ideas — mostly suggested by our own users — I want to work on in the second half of this year.

7. Where can we learn more about you?

My Twitter is @manasvinik. I like catching up with other entrepreneurs, so please feel free to drop me a message! 🙂

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