The first paying customer

Line by line your product begins to take shape. Bleary eyed and tired you push on, willing your brain to solve just one more piece of the puzzle before you call it a night.

You’re excited. You’re creating something. The thought that someone, somewhere is going to use it soon pushes you forward. You think “100 paying customers, that’s it, that’s all it would take for me to consider this a success.”

The building phase is full of excitement, full of optimism. You’ve been through it before. You know it’s silly to be so excited, to imagine the success of your product long before it has launched. The slog of building a user base is hard. You know it’s harder than what you’re doing as you spot your bug, bang out that last line of code and close your laptop.

It’s the big day. You launch. You know it’s not really a big day. Your product is niche. You created it for yourself and a couple of friends. But, in the back of your mind, you can’t help but think “what if…”. What if it strikes the number one spot on HN? What if by the end of the day you have dozens of paying customers?

Your big launch - while far from a let down - doesn’t live up to the daydream that had been running through your head. Some people sign up, others leave you some feedback. But still…no paying customers.

You tell yourself it’s fine. You didn’t really expect this simple little tool to be an overnight success did you? Of course you didn’t, but still, that voice was there “what if…”.

Your friends sign up. One of them even pays you for a plan. After all, they’re the ones who said they liked the idea. It’s cool that they’re using your product, but you still don’t consider yourself to have a real paying customer.

You start working on customer acquisition. You know it’s going to be a grind. You remind yourself to be patient, these things take time. Still, as the days go by, that voice in your head comes back, “what if…”. But it doesn’t have the same connotation as before, this time “what if…” is “What if no one uses this at all?”

The email comes. At first you don’t recognize it. You rub your eyes and look again. And then it hits you - it’s the notification email you set up to alert you when someone signs up for a paid account. You have a paying customer!

Just like that it’s all worth it. You know it’s just as irrational as your early dreams of success, but the feeling of validation is overwhelming. Someone somewhere found your product, understood why it was useful and is now paying you money for the thing you created. It’s a small victory, but one that will carry you through the next few weeks. You smile, lean back in your chair and think “what if…”. is a simple monitoring tool that alerts you when your cron job fails to run in the manner you expect.


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