Step 1: Quit job
Before you put in your notice, know what you’re getting into. To build a business, you need to be prepared to put everything on the line. And don’t expect immediate success: if you don’t have a proven product or a plan, then you’re not ready to quit your job. You’ll be stuck with a half-baked idea and no money in your wallet.
While entrepreneurship is awesome, there is nothing wrong with working to pays the bills.
Step 2: Convince another fool to join you
Co-founder fit is key. Be sure to talk about core values and long-term vision from the beginning — ideally before you start your company!
If you have any doubts, trust you gut. Don’t get discouraged if you find it’s not working. Remember why you got started, and take the time to stay aligned as you continue to grow.
Thinking about going in alone? Don’t. Solopreneurs rarely succeed. When 9/10 startups fail, you don’t want to lower your odds by trying on your own.
Step 3: Rent an office you can’t afford
It might not work for you, but I liked the pressure. It forced me to make sales, which was vital in the beginning.
If you don’t want to go for an office — or think that the lack of a formal space is holding you back — remember that plenty of businesses have started in homes and dorm rooms.
Step 4: Lose all your money in the first month
You’re going to make mistakes, but don’t let that hold you back. Use your struggles as blocks to build on. Failure is the only way to learn what not to do when you’re starting out.
It all comes down to sales. If you’re bootstrapped, it’s your lifeblood. If you’re funded, you better get profitable before it dries up.
Those are the pressures that should fuel you.
Step 5: Realize none of your friends care
“This time it’ll work!”
“Yeah, right,” your friends and family will say. “The last five have failed. Why is this any different?”
Set out to prove them wrong.
When all else fails, that just might keep you going.
Step 6: Get your accounts hacked by a previous coworker
Even when you try to do your best by everyone, they might not reciprocate. Former bosses, coworkers, and competitors may come after you, and you have to react cautiously without ever wavering on your core values.
You’ll be the last one standing if you do the right thing.
Keep your passwords secure and use two-factor authentication. Don’t risk it.
Step 7: Land one client that barely covers rent
Once we had enough to pay ourselves minimum wage and cover rent, we were free to blow this up as big as possible.
Eventually, something will work.
When it does, double-down hard.
Step 8: Keep paying yourself nothing
My co-founder and I were the lowest paid employees at the company for the entire first year.
We knew that money in our pockets did nothing for the company.
Don’t be greedy. Sacrificing money now will pay off later.
Step 9: Make sure to drink all the free beer in the coworking space to survive
Cowork spaces are great when you’re on a budget. Keep in mind, however, that it’s easy to lose hours of your workday to conversations with people passing by — and you don’t have time for that while you’re building your business.
Most importantly, remember: you’re paying for it. Take advantage of everything, including all the free beer you can (safely) drink.
Step 10: Turn the client into a believer who refers two more clients
Go above and beyond from day one. Give your clients a killer experience so they’ll do your marketing for you.
Make sure you have the portfolio to back those referrals. You need real results and case studies to close the sale.
Step 11: Hire your first paid intern
For the first three months, my co-founder managed our memberships and it was on me to do the client work.
We couldn’t keep pace with the work we were getting. Finally we hired our first employee, Hendry Sukir. He helped me follow up to leads, make proposals, and close new deals in the critical early days. Now, he’s our Head of Growth Hacking at BAMF Media.
Who should you look for?
- Recent college grads. They’re willing to hustle to prove themselves.
- People with technical and execution experience. Especially for your first few hires, you need people who are versatile.
- People with the founder mindset. If you want to instill growth as a value, you have to build it from the ground-up. Don’t hire anyone whose vision doesn’t match yours — build the core team from day one.
Step 12: Change everything about the business
In the first two months, our agency made no money because our first client paid us a month late.
Fortunately, we had a membership program that helped us bootstrap while we worked on finding more agency clients.
Your business is not static — especially early on. Take risks. Make changes. Find the path that fits your vision and pushes you forward.
If you’re short on money, look to unconventional ways to fill the gap. Never rule anything out just because it wasn’t in the plans.
Step 13: Something works out
Within 3 months, we had 8 clients. That’s how we knew we were onto something.
This wouldn’t be another failed start.
Step 14: Double down on it
Don’t fix what isn’t broken. Once something works out, stick to it and improve upon it.
Step 15: Profit
Striking out on your own is terrifying. No stability. No certainty. No promises.
But entrepreneurship can be the greatest experience of your life if you’re prepared to take it on.
The path isn’t easy, but to build your own legacy?
I’d say it’s worth it.
Houston is the Founder & CEO of BAMF Media, where he’s led the company from 0-30+ full-time employees and $0 to $3.5M in annual revenue in its first year. At BAMF, we drive ROI for recently funded startups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies alike using cutting-edge marketing and growth hacking tactics. Houston has led growth teams and marketing campaigns for companies, including Pioneer, Volcom, Love Your Melon, Compass, Coldwell Banker, Mindvalley, Automobili Pininfarina, Unicorn Snot, Foursixty, TEDx, and many more. He’s a growth hacker with years of startup experience on all sides of the table: strategy, engineering, sales, marketing, fundraising, and scaling operations.