This blog post is the result of a lesson I learned the hard way through 2 years of pain. This lesson cost me 1,040 hours of hard work and an additional $20k of hard earned savings. Take this post to heart, and you’ll pay about 5 minutes of time for the same lesson.
Let's do this backwards and start with the "take aways" and then go into the story. There are many lessons to be learned from the story to come, but the key lessons are:
1. Always test every idea with the cheapest solution FIRST. For example, I should have just created the referral system landing page and tested it first (this will make more sense when you finish reading my store below).
2. If your business idea requires computer programming, always buy an out of the box system if you can't program yourself. Services like http://itduzzit, http://weebly.com, http://campaignmonitor.com, http://shopify, http://formstack, http://wufoo.com, and http://mailchimp can integrate to perform almost anything you can think of. Always try to avoid hiring someone to custom program something for you. Leave the custom websites to large corporations with money to burn (until you can become one yourself).
...And my story;
My wife runs the business Purse Gallery (http://pursegallery.com). Two years ago I had an elaborate idea to restructure her business with a referral program. The new referral program would not only incentivize Sara’s sales representative to refer new customers, but also incentivize her customers to refer new customers. In my mind it was a bullet proof plan to sky rocket my wife’s business to the top of her industry.
With excitement I made my first mistake and contacted a few website developers to price out the creation of this new idea. I didn't price out a simple web page to test the idea, instead I received quotes in the $60k range to build the entire system. I wasn’t willing to pay this kind of money, and decided to outsource the work to low cost labor overseas (my second mistake). I posted a description of what I needed on http://odesk.com and interviewed a few programming companies out of India. I went with the cheapest quote (my third mistake) which was $10k for the entire website with my brilliant referral system built in.
After a couple months of working with my new India based programmers, I started to realize I had made a mistake. The pages were coming out wrong and nothing was working as I had outlined and included in our contract. In an effort to still end up with what I needed for the cost I could afford, I started to stay up late and wake up early to work 2 hours every week day with the programmers over Skype. It was grueling, but after an entire year the site was complete and working properly. I paid out the last payment to my programmers (my fourth mistake) and started up my first ad to test out the new site. I was relieved and ready to start making money!
The results looked good for about three days, and then haulted. My landing page form stopped working properly. I spent the next 3 months working with the programmers to fix problem after problem. And now I was being charged extra for "website maintenance support"! It was becoming evident to me that the programmers were breaking my site and then charging me to fix it, so I hired a new company to fix the site.
The new company told me there were so many programming problems that I would have to pay $5k to have everything redone. I agreed, and off I went with the second company. In my head it would be great. The new company would fix my site and I would finaly reap the rewards for my great idea and all my hard work. My concept was so complex that I had to spend another grueling 6 months of 2 hours per day over skype (early morning and late night) working with the programmers to get everything fixed. They finished, the site worked great, and it continued to work great right up to the point were I released payment for their services. Magicly, the site quit working again and I was back to being charged for "maintenance"!
I was screwed by a programming company for the second time. This brings us to today. I'm going to use http://shopify.com and a few other web apps integrated together to acheive 90% of what I had envisionsed to start with. The cost will be minimal and I will finaly get to test my concept. Will it work? I'm not sure, but never again will I ever waste years of my life on an idea without proving it first.
My name is Eric Young. I started this blog to share my ideas around helping people create success online businesses.