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Arvid Kahl

Addressing my Weaknesses — The Bootstrapped Founder 307

Published about 2 months ago • 7 min read

Dear founder,

I’m a pretty okay developer, but when it comes to marketing and sales, I really need help. And for the longest time, I’ve held myself back.

That ends today.

My current SaaS business, Podscan, is at a point where some very important decisions need to be made. I’ve got something quite big in the works, and I’ll be talking about this next week in much more detail, but it made me think about the long-term needs a business like mine has, how I can personally fulfill them, and where I have skill gaps that I will have to work on.

So today, I will explore how I will address the business challenges that lie ahead of me.

Let me give you the lay of the land of where this solopreneur stands.

My strongest skill lies in product work. I’m good at building software that works. Podscan is a stable software system that transcribes tens of thousands of podcast hours into a massive database every day. Scaling this has been challenging, but that’s what I’ve been doing for decades. From the development perspective, I feel like I can go quite far without having to look for help.

Although, honestly, I had massive help building the tech. My usage of ChatGPT, GitHub Co-Pilot, and PHPStorm’s AI assistant probably accounts for several hours in a day. Even my MySQL client has a built-in query generator AI. I talked about this a few weeks ago: AI is an expected part of ANY piece of software now. And I’ve been leaning into it heavily.

Unfortunately, AI is at a point where you need to be an expert in the field you want to use it in to be able to use it effectively. Of course it will speed up my coding: I know what good code looks like — I’ve been writing production code for years.

But the moment I look into my skill gaps outside of coding, AI assistants turn from glorious saviors into quite a gamble. How am I supposed to know if that ChatGPT marketing email headline is going to be a good one when I never truly learned how to write one?

So AI assistants are —at best— a helper tool on the sidelines. I still need to either learn more…

… or hire.

And let me tell you something: struggling with hiring has been a long-time self-imposed limiting belief for me that I only recently have started working on.

I think it’s a common belief among solopreneurs that we can and have to do it all. The “solo” becomes part of our identity, and even though we hang out with other indie founders on Twitter and the many forums of the web, we feel lacking when we hit a part of our business that we just can’t seem to handle.

Last time I continued to run against that wall of a challenge again and again, it led to severe burnout.

I decided that this ends for me, right here, with Podscan.

If I need help, I will hire this time.

So, what will I need to hire for?

Well, let me just go through the stuff I don’t enjoy when it comes to the business — and whom, what, and how I can hire for that.

The biggest thing is financials. Bookkeeping, having updated P&Ls, tracking churn and retention, all that can get quite complicated. I enjoy it occasionally, but there is a certain boring regularity to this stuff that just makes me deprioritize it to a point where avoiding it becomes costly.

The next field where I just seem to stumble around aimlessly in the dark is design — both visual and experience design. I love the hard cold true-or-false reality of coding. Either it works, or it doesn’t. But making aesthetic changes that might impact retention? Spending hours tweaking paddings and margins? Again, not really for me. I get by, and tools like Tailwind and pre-made templates really help, but a mature business needs a mature process for this.

The same goes for my marketing efforts. Building Podscan in public has provided me with almost $700 of Monthly Recurring Revenue so far, but I need more than sharing business updates. I need lead generators, a product marketing strategy, media presence milestones, and all that jazz. I’m no marketer, I’m just a founder with an audience.

And I’m not a sales guy either. Podscan has a lot of self-serve options, but the lucrative enterprise plans don’t sell themselves. How can I close deals if I don’t reach out?

So, between financials, design, marketing, and sales, I know that I have skill, knowledge, and excitement gaps.

Here’s how I think about closing them.

Three out of these fields are very people-centric. The only thing I believe I can completely deal with using digital solutions is the financial side. Between using Paddle as a Merchant of Record with the spectacular ProfitWell analytics platform, all I need for now is a process that makes me check regularly what the vitals of my business look like. The monthly bookkeeping is also dealt with: I recently founded Podscan as a company using Firstbase.io, and they offered a bookkeeping service for $100 a month that I booked alongside the company formation package.

I will eventually need to hire here, but it’ll likely be a part-time position. Definitely isn’t a priority.

Design is also important, but not at the top. Podscan is a data platform, and the APIs I provide are the most valuable assets. This may be the developer in me talking, but focusing on providing quality data right now is my biggest priority.

For my design needs, I will still take a few steps. I’ll have a UX designer or two audit the existing interface and landing pages for obvious low-hanging fruit and major mistakes and omissions. This will be project work, nothing permanent, until I get to a point where it makes sense to have a designer coordinate and sign off major changes to the platform. It’s just too early to be too strict about visual when the business itself might still pivot into one or another direction.

And that can only happen when I talk to customers — or better yet, have someone supporting me in this.

Marketing in the podcast marketing space isn’t my background — but I know it’s someone else’s. One if the first hires I’ll make will likely be a part-time marketer with experience in talking to people who sell to, support, or even produce podcasts. I’ll be using tools —including Podscan itself— to find these prospects, but I need an expert in reaching them where they’re at. I also know that the data platform side of Podscan can massively benefit from my building small lead-generation tools —think of podcast summary directories, per-podcast Chatbots, that kind of stuff— which will make people excited to build on top of the API. But I need someone to figure out what this might be and how it can help my target audience.

And, maybe most importantly, I need to learn how to sell. I never had to, but I recently watched a Founder-led Sales video by Craig Hewitt of Castos, a podcast hosting company, and it showed me just how afraid I am of doing sales. English-as-a-Second-Language introvert who doesn’t know much about sales — not a strong situation to start from. But start I will have to. It would be waste not to try.

So, to learn this, I will both do what I always do: just figure it out. But I know I can also speed it up by learning from someone who knows how to get sales. So in my hiring priority, a sales person sits right at the top. I can handle most other things. But if sales can substantially impact the bottom line of this business, I need to make moves here.

So, between AI guidance, teaching myself to do things better, and hiring part-time help, this is how I think about the next steps for Podscan.

Next week, I’ll be sharing something rather exciting that will make all of this a little easier — but that’s still in the works.


I'll share a few updates about my SaaS on the pod, and I'd love to know what you think about them! Please leave a voice message at podline.fm/arvid 🥰

And if you want to track your brand mentions on podcasts, check out podscan.fm!

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Arvid Kahl

I help founders and creators serve and empower their customers.

Being your own boss isn't easy, but it's worth it. Learn how to build a legacy while being kind and authentic. I want to empower as many entrepreneurs as possible to help themselves (and those they choose to serve).

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