I love reading stories about startups and small businesses – how they started, what were first successes, failures and lessons learned. It turns out that now I can tell such a story! With our adminpanel generator QuickAdmin shifted from being a Laravel package to an online-generator business, there’s a ton we’ve learned within first four months – we’ve recently reached a 1000 milestone: that’s how many adminpanels were created with our online tool. So here are my two cents for you.

1. Switching from services to product is hard.

Not just hard. It’s a completely different world. My path is quite interesting – from working full-time as a developer to being a freelancer, then to assembling my own team of freelance developers, and now QuickAdmin as a product.

First two transitions came around quite naturally, but having to build/market/sell your PRODUCT is a totally different beast. I’ve helped clients to sell their products dozens of times, and now when it’s time to pitch my own – I’m often running out of ideas how to make it effectively with limited resources.

So my first advice – think if you really need to dive into product business. And can afford it. And will be able to do it effectively.

2. Create something that works. For you.


Next advice – instead of spending a year on building a perfect product, just launch with something simple but useful. So-called “minimum viable product” can be a tool that just works for you and that’s perfectly fine – you just happen to publish it to the world, too.

That’s how our QuickAdmin started – at first it was an in-house tool to generate adminpanel, then we turned it into a Laravel package (8000+ installs as of today), and this online generator was just a natural next phase.

And it wasn’t a perfect all-in-one solution (in fact, it still isn’t – we have a big roadmap ahead), it was a tool that generated Laravel adminpanels for us and our clients. And guess what – that’s enough to launch, we already have first paying customers who basically needed the same thing as we did.

3. Competition is irrelevant. You are unique.


There are other adminpanel and CRUD generators for Laravel on the market, we’re not alone. In fact, there are dozens. And new competitors coming up every month.

But you know what? It (almost) doesn’t matter. Yes, you have to know your competition and keep an eye on them constantly, but it shouldn’t stop you from starting your version.

In case of our QuickAdmin, on the surface we may look like “just another generator”. In reality – we have a completely different logic: our tool is not a package, instead it’s an online code generator which gives you Laravel project as a result. So we are playing more in services market, not among open-source packages.

And people do value this philosophy behind the project – we have customers who bought our product just because of that. So don’t be afraid to be “similar but a little different/better”.

4. Talk to people. Listen. Live-chat is awesome.


Customers will tell you what they need. I don’t believe in philosophy of Steve Jobs that people are “dumb” and we should tell them what they need. I think that the best way is just ask them.

In our experience, live-chat functionality on our page (we use a free Tawk.to) proved itself really strongly. People who have questions or concerns are already an engaging audience and potentially your customers. There were a number of times when customer bought QuickAdmin only after I’ve answered a few questions in live-mode.

And yeah, don’t outsource customer support, at least in the beginning. You should be the one answering the questions, cause it helps you not only in serving clients, but also gives you tons of ideas on what to create next and what your priorities should be. If you hear the same question again and again, that’s the sign of this might be your priority.

5. Having a well-known name totally helps


If you follow famous business people, you should notice an interesting pattern: second, third, fourth businesses of the same person are growing up faster than the first one. Or another trend – businesses of well-known celebrities somehow get more traction. It’s good to have an “unfair advantage” in form of already-built audience.

In our case, we have a blog called Laravel Daily which started more than a year ago and now has 3000 visitors a day. The best part – it has the same audience as QuickAdmin – Laravel framework developers! So first customers came from the articles on that blog and its social network profiles.

It’s not only about direct links to your new product, it’s also about trust: if it’s a product by Laravel Daily Team, it sounds more trustable than just a random unknown John Doe. Another example in Laravel market is Belgian company called Spatie – they have created about 80 Laravel packages, so I definitely trust their work, because they have been on the market for a while. With quality.

6. Simplify the registration and onboarding


If your product has any kind of registration process, make is as painless as possible. Every doubtful form field should be deleted. Seriously.

At first we used a default Laravel Auth form for registration – with four fields: name, email, password and confirmation. What could go wrong? But here’s what happens in reality: people think “omg, another registration form.. screw it”.

Not only that – people need to understand clearly what will happen after registration, so take care of the labels and buttons: change “Register” to “Create your adminpanel”, link label “Try now” might be better than just “Register”.

Same thing with the first actions after registration – how can you simplify the process of actually using your product? Our analytics show that quite a lot of people register but don’t create even one CRUD – just wander around the page and leave. So we are still tweaking the process and thinking about adding more how-to videos and helpful hints on how to start moving forward with QuickAdmin.

7. Version 1.0 is just the beginning


What is the main milestone of any software product? LAUNCH! Everyone’s excited when the thing is online, live and running. But you know what happens when you launch? Nothing.

Seriously, if you think that everyone will run to you, buy your product and you will be able to take a vacation to Bahamas for a month, think again. It’s just the beginning of the journey.

And also think about how much time/money it would cost you in the long run. It’s not only about development of new features, it’s supporting the old ones, fixing the bugs, helping customers, working on server infrastructure etc. “Suddenly” you will have a huge roadmap in front of your eyes, and it’s hard to prioritize without any regrets.

BONUS advice: have fun

As the last thing and takeaway, I want to leave you with the thought of “why we do what we do”. At least part of that should be that you love it. In ideal scenario – you work on the thing you love, and you also get paid for it, as a bonus. But fun first, not the money.

So always think – are you having fun? Is this what you were expecting in the beginning? Otherwise, what can you change to make experience great again?