This is the first of many updates in the Financial Freedom series, where I hold myself publicly accountable for my big challenge ahead!
TLDR: Towards the end of this article, there's a Google Sheet with real numbers that will be updated monthly. Please read the article, so the numbers make more sense.
The big news!
I took out a bank loan and am investing it all in myself.
This means I will be using the loan to pay back the loan.
A risky financial decision, but the one I had to take on my way to financial freedom.
Having my wife's full support in my Saas journey is a significant shift in the dynamics of our relationship.
Before the Claritask sale, her view of the Saas model was full of doubts.
Granted, I didn't have much to show.
Now, I have her full blessing to take on a bigger risk with potentially a greater outcome for the future of our family.
She is my rock and the reason I can take on this responsibility.
Why am I doing this, and why now?
Up to now, my personal income has consisted mostly of contract work with some revenue from my Saas products and a bigger one from the product mentioned above, which I exited in early 2021.
Contract work has many benefits: I get paid quickly and well, especially since I've expanded my skills over the years.
However, taking an entire month off would mean I won't get paid.
Not building equity in what I'm working on is another drawback.
With a growing family (two kids, 10 and 5), I want to be more equipped for the future and be able to take more time off, travel, and enjoy our time now and not in some distant future when it's all said and done.
The reason why I haven't taken this step earlier is low self-esteem, imposter syndrome, and lack of belief in my hard-earned abilities.
I still have those insecurities, but now I feel better equipped to notice them and keep walking regardless.
The thought is: —With whatever tools I have, they are enough!
I can always get better, but I cannot wait for the "X" thing to happen or for me to get better at "Y" before I kick start my journey.
The time is now!
Why not support the journey with contract work?
Contract work has always taken away the limited time I've had available without adding much to my runway.
I've been running in place, so to speak.
I have a ton of respect for makers who can context-switch between their day job and their product. It's something I've never been able to do.
I'm most productive when I'm on the same build for longer, which helps me get in the zone and be more effective towards a single goal.
Since I'll be investing most of my time in my products, I have decided to significantly increase my contract rates to align with my new challenge.
In other words, I will be taking on contract work only if the project disproportionately extends my runway, e.g., a 2-week project extends the runway by 2 months.
Otherwise, it's go-time for my Saas products!
Detailed personal expenses & cashflow
Up to now, my personal monthly expenses have been around €3,500.
Through some heavy reflection and shuffling some previous loans, I cut them down to €1,850 per month.
So, no luxuries or random spending until I hit my goals.
Expenses will consist strictly of "the necessities".
I will use the loan to cover my monthly expenses while I focus on building my Saas products.
Yes, multiple products.
And I'll be sharing it all publicly, including my personal expenses.
Giving it context
Publicly sharing Saas MRR has never made sense to me without knowing how that MRR directly impacts the people involved.
If my Saas is making $10K MRR and I'm only taking home $500 each month, I have a massive operation with little to no benefit.
A better business is the one making $700 in MRR, where I take $500 home each month.
A whopping 81% in profits!
What this means is that I will be sharing the details on how my Saas products are impacting my personal cashflow.
When Buffer started sharing its finances publicly, I jokingly mentioned:
Paraphrasing: "...it's all great, but none of us know what these numbers mean personally to people working at Buffer".
I am now putting my money where my mouth is!
Why am I sharing things publicly?
Working solo has its drawbacks.
You have no one in your immediate space to reflect with.
Also, it can get lonely, virtually affecting our motivation and productivity
With that said, here are the reasons in their order of importance:
- Keep myself accountable: Stick to what I've set out to do
- Give a clear picture: Show how my Saas is impacting me
- Course correct: Listen for feedback from those ahead
- Beat loneliness: Imagine as if "we" are in this together
- Do something new: Challenge myself with a new goal
- Reflect: Learn from my own actions
- Leave a trail behind: Others can learn from it
The biggest one is #1: —Stating publicly where I am headed and staying the course until I reach my goal. Knowing that others are watching and that I've announced it already will make me perk up and get going even when the going gets tough.
I started my Saas-making Journey back in 2013.
Since then, I've scored a few small wins and a bigger one with the sale of Claritask in early 2021. However, I'm yet to build a growing Saas that is netting me personally at least €10K in MRR.
With the 10th Anniversary coming next year, circa April, I want to challenge myself to get to a product(s) with that kind of personal profit.
Objectively speaking, it will be a bit tough for this to happen by next April — but I will stay open to what the Universe has in store.
The goal initially will be to constantly increase my runway ahead, so Doomsday!, aka "running out of cash," is as far as possible until my cashflow is in growth mode (more on this in the Google Sheet below).
The challenges ahead
Not reaching this goal will mean I have to return to contract work or get a job, which is still a privilege. However, it will significantly reduce my ability to live the life I want for myself and my family. It will also mean that I, as a creative, won't be able to put out things in the world that I deeply care about and to serve people I admire on a larger scale.
Achieving it will mean a fantastic outcome for my family and my kids' future. It will also give me the financial freedom I've been chasing for quite some time. The kind of financial freedom that will help me alleviate any fears about the future.
Also, being able to take off at any time, travel the world, or live in another country for a while is important to me.
However, above all, it will mean that a large group of people and businesses are helped by something I've created and are raving about!
A maker's dream and fulfillment in and of itself!
Moving forward, I will use the following quote:
What if doesn't work out? Ah, but what if it does.
Remixing Peter McWilliams' "It is a risk to love" quote
What I'll be sharing?
Quite a lot, actually:
- Monthly personal cash on hand
- Personal runway left ahead
- Personal recurring and one-time income
- Personal recurring and one-time expenses
- Personal financial goals
- Each product's detailed MRR and growth
- And anything interesting that may pop up along the way
Here's the link to my current personal finances.
And here is a quick explanation of that Google Sheet.
The bottom line
At the time of this writing:
- On September 1, I start with €15K in my personal account.
- My monthly expenses are €1,850 + €350 loan payment.
- The money I am currently paying myself directly from my products is $0, even though they are making some MRR.
- I have a small monthly retainer of $300 from an ongoing consulting engagement with no end date.
- At this rate, without any growth, February 2023 is the month I should be looking for work. 5 months from now.
- My immediate goal is to keep growing the MRR, so the runway ahead is extended for as much as possible until I have a positive growth rate: More income VS expenses.
- blogstatic is growing slowly. Churn is low.
- I am launching my new product Subsection.io.
- I will be on the lookout for other growing markets.
- I don't plan to shut down low-performing products. Once they are Live, their maintenance is relatively low.
What will I do differently this time around?
One thing that is very different from before is that I have a longer runway and the actual time to focus on my Saas.
Another thing I want to do is solve "hard problems".
Up to now, my Saas products have been variations of existing products without much differentiation. This approach doesn't make for a compelling business use case.
I want to explore markets out of my comfort zone and see what things I can bring to the table for these businesses.
Even with existing products, like blogstatic, I want to dig further, see what problems are not being solved in the space, and develop better solutions for my customers.
My mental and emotional health
Bootstrappers are no strangers to mental and emotional difficulties.
I've had my own share of those challenges, which have made me know myself better and maintain habits that enrich my optimal state.
With that said, here are some of the habits I will continue practicing:
- Weightlifting — at least 3x per week
- Running — at least 2x per week
- Meditation — daily
- A balanced diet — no processed sugars, no caffeine, with red wine or beer once in a while
- Fun and quality time with my family and my parents
- Maintaining my yard
- Reading — business and fiction
- Art — drawing & painting
An important note
This article might sound like I will go head first and as fast as possible.
On the contrary, I have learned that if you want to slow down time, go slower, which is precisely what I need right now: Slowing down time!
I will rest more. Stay organized. Execute. Reflect. Plan ahead slowly.
Where will the updates be?
I plan to post monthly updates in one of the following mediums:
- Here on this blog, under the Freedom category
- My podcast "Bootstrapping Saas"
- The Google Sheet from above
Twitter is where I hope to be sharing more often.
Also, every month, I will be emailing a small select group of maker friends who are way ahead of me with their Saas or have already exited.
How can you help?
Why, thanks for asking!
There are a few ways you can help:
- Become a blogstatic customer
- Recommend blogstatic and my other upcoming products to your friends
- Give me a word of encouragement
- Let me know what I can do better
- Subscribe to my Newsletter at the end of this article to receive regular updates about my journey ahead, and follow me on Twitter at @valsopi.
Thanks for reading this far!
Seriously, Thank you!
This is very personal, and I wasn't sure if I should share it publicly.
However, the upside of keeping myself accountable in public while friends cheer me on defeated any doubts.
It is risky to talk about these things publicly, but the loneliness of working solo without others overseeing my actions seems much riskier.
Special thanks go to my online friends who took their time to review this article, suggest improvements for authenticity, and encourage me to not hold back with sharing it online.
In the order of the conversations, which were timezone dependent:
- Tony Dehnke
- David Wipple
- Tiago Silva
- Joe Ashwell
- Ben Mann
- Benedicte Raae
- Michele Hansen
- Philip Brown
- Justin Jackson
- Stefan Manku
- Cam Sloan
- Brian Casel
- Mate Uzsoki
- Helen Ryles
- Fernanda Graciollil
- Carter Bryden
- Dominic Kent
- Dité Gashi
Here are some of the additional questions that popped up during my conversations with friends:
What are my exact goals?
This challenge would be meaningless without setting some goals.
Here are the milestones ahead:
- Runway extension — $1,000 MRR
- Break-even — $2,500 MRR
- Breathing a bit — $3,000 MRR
- Feeling comfortable — $5,000 MRR
- Financial freedom — $10,000 MRR
When will I stop sharing?
I will probably stop sharing once my personal account is on a growth trajectory and I've reached the MRR I was aiming for. At that point, the challenge will change, and it would mean that I've reached my goal. The lessons will be the same, and there will be nothing new left to share.
Are you the only breadwinner in the house?
No. I am lucky to have a wife who is just as goal-oriented. While I cannot share our mutual finances because that would impact my wife's privacy, I can say that if I don't contribute to my share of expenses, our quality of life would be greatly affected.
What are the actual terms of the loan?
The initial idea was to take on a €50,000 loan, but the bank wanted my house as collateral, which felt extremely risky. The following available number without the collateral was €23,500, including another existing loan of €6,000. Which meant that I would get €17,500 dropped into my account from the bank. €2,500 will go towards a new heat pump which we desperately need. Hence, my €15,000 as a budget ahead.
The €23,500 loan is scheduled to be paid for the next 84 months at €350 per month. This means I will be returning €29,400 to the bank. Some €5900 over 7 years or €70 per month in interest.
The grand idea is to have a growing Saas by next year, so I can pay back the loan in full and pay less interest as a result of paying it off early.
What does success look like?
The ideal outcome for me would be to run a profitable Saas for quite some time and then potentially exit once it grows to the point where it becomes an operation that needs routine management.
Off to the races
I've set sail many times in my life, and I've often mistakenly treated the beginning of a journey as an achievement.
Fooling myself into thinking that "I had arrived". When in fact, I had just put my first small step forward.
Taking a step into a new direction should be celebrated because it's progress nonetheless.
But, it should end at that.
With a quick festivity.
Breaking the champagne.
And setting sail towards the proverbial promised land.
The real work begins now.