I listen to several web business podcasts and I hear the term “Wantrepreneur” used often. From what I can gather the term is a portmanteau of “Want” and “Entrepreneur”. I’m not sure if it is always meant to be derogatory as in a fanboy or a poser that doesn’t do any real work, but the context is usually not positive. I laughed when I first heard the word as I feel it actually applies to me.
I will say that I’m not fond of the term Enterpreneuer at all. The 37Signals guys don’t like that term either as they outlined in the book Rework. The term they use is Starter – someone that starts or creates something from scratch that didn’t exist before. Unfortunately I find that if I use the term Starter in everyday language that I end up having to explain to people what I mean then I end up using the “E” word again.
Here are some of the reasons I feel I still fall into the Wantrepreneur camp:
I Haven’t Taken Something From Zero To Hero
I’m currently on the 3rd iteration of my business. The first iteration was me working for one designer. That sucked for multiple reasons so I quit doing that. The second iteration involved me trying to be a dev shop/web agency by having several clients, a few contractors and do full website projects. I was able to find work and engage clients, but I am an abysmal failure as a project manager, so I ended up hiding from the ringing phone and the email waterfall in my inbox. This also sucked for multiple reasons so I quit that.
The third iteration involves me developing and selling products. Although the products didn’t exist before, the platforms they are built on and the marketplaces they sell in existed before I arrived and were built by other people. I didn’t have a hand in building the brand following that I benefit from. Someone else had the idea, did the work to bring it to reality and then nurtured it until it prospered. The nurturing part in the web world more than likely involves marketing which leads me to my second point.
I Haven’t Tamed The Marketing Monster
The same web business podcasts kicking around the Wantrepreneur term all say that marketing is vital and much more important than the product. They almost hyperventilate when talking about “the list.” You gotta have an email list, gotta have a list, gotta have a list. Do you have a list? You can’t launch without a list!
I see where they are coming from, but the one email list I’ve tried to build consists of three AOL.com email addresses and a handfull of emails that are probably bots. Not necessarily a stellar list of potential customers.
To say I’m a little green when it comes to online marketing is an understatement. I’ve got theory, but no practical experience. A list of to do’s, but no metrics. And I’m a guy that likes metrics. This is one thing that I know will come with practice and study. There are tons of guides and how-to’s on this subject and I’m looking forward to digging in and experimenting.
Hiring Costs Money
There are a few examples of web guys that have built successful profitable product businesses as a one-man-band. But, these seem to be quite rare. Most of the people that have had success had help in the form of employees or contractors. It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy doing every part of my business, but I’m beginning to be a believer of the cost benefit of paying others to do certain tasks that either a) are grunt work, or b) involve special skills I don’t have.
Another hurdle is that because my company is bootstrapped I need to cashflow hiring from profits. I’ve only recently been making enough money to put toward hiring help. For me it is more difficult to pull profit away from paying myself to paying to hire people to do tasks that are not directly tied to more profit. It has been a transition, but I will get better at this.
I may be a Wantrepreneur, but that’s alright with me. Every successful business owner has a starting point. The common thing for all of them is that they didn’t stay there. I’m having the most fun I have had in a long time in my work and I really enjoy the freedom that comes with building things from scratch.