I get approached by fledgling “business guy” entrepreneurs all the time asking me for advice on how they turn their idea into a living, breathing product. Usually they think a strong business plan, well laid out mock-ups, and grand ideas for monetization will eventually attract the eyes of technical co-founders or investors. I used to be one of those guys, and I thought all of those same things. You know what? I was wrong. So now, when I hear the same story from another young entrepreneur who’s just looking to make it happen, I do my best to save them the year of time that I wasted treading water, looking for someone else to build it for me. This is what I tell them: just build something.
Something. Anything. Even if it’s a piece of crap. Even if it’s just a simple landing page with a logo and email collection form. Think you can’t do it because you don’t know how to write code? Sorry, but that’s bullshit. There’s a bevy of website building tools available that require no prior knowledge of even the most basic html, CSS, or PHP. Tumblr. WordPress (.com for newbies, .org for the more advanced). Posterous. Unbounce. Better yet, all of these tools are free. Sure, it’s going to take you a little while to familiarize yourself with their interface, but trust me, it’s nothing that can’t be accomplished in a weekend. The hardest part of the process is making the commitment to start and not stop until you have a working website.
Here’s a great example of what I would do if I was beginner. Buy your domain on Godaddy. For $4/month, sign up for their WordPress hosting package – they’ll take care of the setup. Once it’s set up, go find a basic, free landing page theme from the WordPress directory. If you want to class it up a bit, buy one from ThemeForest for less than $30. If you’re comfortable with Powerpoint (if you’re not you might want to reconsider the whole startup thing), create a logo in a text box and save it as a JPEG. Use that JPEG on your website – (bam!) logo design done. Type up some copy about what you’re building and how great it’s gonna be. WordPress offers plenty of widgets to collect emails, add social profiles etc – use those to lend some credibility to your effort. All in all, this whole process should take less than 2-3 hours. It really is that easy.
Why do I stress the importance of “just build something“? Because being able to type in a URL and visit your website makes the whole experience real – and legitimizes what you’re trying to accomplish. If you think you’re going to be able to convince a developer to join you based simply on the idea in your head, I wish you luck – but there’s a 99% chance it won’t happen. You’ll make a much better impression on a possible co-founder, investor, or hell – even your friends and family, if you have a working website they can visit. It doesn’t have to be perfect – the fact that you made it at all tells them you’re serious about the venture.
A lot has changed in the last 3 years. I wish someone had given me this advice when I started out, especially since what I wanted to build would have been easy to start on my own. But it is what it is. There’s never been more free tools available for the average joe to use in his efforts to start an internet business. Take advantage of them! Learn how to use them! Sign up right now. Just do it. Just build something.