The Self-Serve Startup

A solo or home-based startup is a wonderful thing when done right. My favorite startups are the ones which are self-sustainable without babysitting them.

Domo vs. Checkout

When I come up with another idea for a site, I'll do a good bit of research to make sure it hasn't been done already, will see how much I'll need to pay for resources, and basically try to guess if it's worth the effort. If it's a really good idea, I'll put in the many hours to build it, add in a registration and payment system, and leave it for a while and watch as traffic increases. I've also been known to advertise using Adwords, Twitter, and friends to get the word out.

A good startup site is a self-serve site: one where you can go on vacation for a week or two and it will take care of itself.

I don't need a sales team to sell it, because it has clear marketing copy to explain the benefits and a self-sign up system. The registration system has a password reset function so people don't need to e-mail or call me for help. The user can purchase on demand, since my sites are software as a service (SaaS), with a payment gateway for single sales and recurring monthly subscriptions. The interfaces are simple and clear, lowering the need for support calls or even a help/instructions area. The user can cancel on their own through the account area when they wish, without the need to call.

Throughout the entire process above, I'm out of the equation. I can check in from time to time to look over sales, check logs for errors (even better have it email you when an exception occurs), and even add new features that customers have requested. But working on the site is not a daily job. It pays for itself over time, without the constant babysitting. It's a money making machine you leave on 24 hours a day.

This hands-off approach leaves time for more important pursuits: time with family, making memories, getting rest, and making more startups.

Over time, building an ever-growing group of such self-serve sites will help you generate multiple sources of income from an initial burst of effort.

Photo courtesy Spider.Dog CC BY 2.0

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