On quitting my job, then working 18 hours a day, and entrepreneurship

45 days ago, I quit my job. It was a seven figure income that I let go. I did not have any significant savings to speak of, and certainly had no plans to join another job. It was a startup employee’s perfect match: I had worked and grown in an accelerated million dollar startup, and helped it grow its user-base to millions across multiple products.

I had survived seemingly the end of our runway, only to pivot, gain traction and raise funding. I worked directly with the founders, learnt tricks of the trade from remarkable men and women. And then was part of an acquisition that the media in this part of the world loved covering.

Under the new parent brand, we launched yet another product. Fuelled by better cash flow and growth hacking tactics (which you learn hands-on when you try to grow with limited funds), I helped scale the mobile app we built to hundred thousand users and more in less than three months. It’s a biggish number for the industry we launched it in (Travel) and the cut-throat competition of the geography.

And then it happened. There was a growing sense of restlessness for the last four to six months before the 31st of March when I quit. In the beginning, I couldn’t place it. I was entrepreneurial right from the start and always had this little black book with million dollar ideas pinned down while sitting in coffee shops (it has to be coffee shops to make me sound cool; let’s forget about where they were really written - the loo, often).

Sleep doesn’t help if it’s your soul that’s tired

It was a demanding job, as you can imagine. I was the head of marketing of a team of exactly one member. I handled paid acquisition, branding, social media, content marketing. Yes, all of that. Someday, I’ll write about how you can work like a 10 member team when it’s just you.

However, after 5 years of doing this for every day of my life, I was beginning to get tired. It started off slowly — I’d sleep longer on weekends but it never seemed to help. In fact, the more I slept, the more restless and tired I would feel.

I realised that I was looking to do more. It was fatigue from the inside and I needed to do something about it. After a lot of thinking, talking, and thinking some more, I moved on from my much loved job.

The art of hustling and getting things done

I knew I had done the right thing about 20 minutes into the drive back home. I couldn’t wait to get to the whiteboard and pull the old familiar notebook out. I built MarHack, a marketing solution for early-state startups. Before I started, I had my share of doubts about the chances of success for a marketing agency.

There were hundreds of agencies out there. Thousands of quality freelancers. Even though I was planning to be globally available, it was important to have local business. Was the Indian startup market, which is in its infancy, open to the outsourced CMO model? Was I good enough? Did I have enough experience to tackle real-world marketing challenges all by myself? I had battled these questions for months before I took the final leap.

It’s all about planned execution and hustling!

Although I did not have any positive answer to the above questions, I was too deep in it to back out now. I needed to pay the bills soon! I created a simple plan; crystal clear customer persona, funnels and pitch angles. Let me explain the process:

  1. Evaluate your core strengths: There are a lot of things you can do. But if you were to do one thing that could potentially save your life in exchange, what would that be? No, I am not exaggerating. I call myself a full-stack marketer. However, if I were to choose my core strength, it would be Facebook paid advertising. I lead my list of services on MarHack with it, talked about it first when I spoke to a prospective client, discussed it first when talking to my peers, tweeted the most about it, dreamt most about it.
  2. Find the perfect fit for your offerings: The next step is to find the other half of the jigsaw piece. Who are the people who would most need your service? What’s your target audience? It is not enough to say early-stage startups. For me, it’s someone with a transactional product. 
    The Facebook success I have seen revolves around using particular kinds of messaging and targeting that gives a prospective buyer the right impetus at the right time. Furthermore, my client would need to have a decent budget to invest in paid advertising.
  3. Build a carefully calculated funnel: Apply a generic drop-off percentage to do a backwards calculation and create a lean funnel. What is the number of clients I wanted to have at the end of month one? How much work could I realistically take up without adversely affecting quality? Start with that and work backwards — how many client pitch and meetings will you need to have if you imagine 20% of the people you talk to, convert into leads? How many emails do you need to send out; how many tweets do you need to reply to?
  4. Find a channel that will work for you: You can be on all channels — Twitter, email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, Snapchat, etc. What are you the most comfortable in? Where do you have an existing influence? Sometimes, however, it’s not influence that will matter — it’s the noise that you will fight against that’s more important. Pick one and work double time on it.
  5. Be ready to give it away for free: Before I had my first lead phone call, I promised myself one thing; no matter what the outcome of the call was, I’ll make sure the person on the other end of the phone left a little wiser about marketing than he was before the chat. If you suspect he’s just calling you to steal ideas; give it all away. The reasoning is simple — you do that and the thought you plant in his mind is this; “Holy shit! How did I miss this? What more does he know?”
  6. Be a productivity ninja: Time yourself, become a project management nerd. I split my sleep into two 3-hour stints. I use Pomodoro timers and Harvest App integrated into Asana. You don’t necessarily need all these tools. Perhaps sticky notes and a spreadsheet are what will work for you. What is important is to know where you are at what time, and being on top of your tasks.
  7. Execute; Measure; Evolve; Execute: The final step is to measure, analyse, iterate, evolve, execute, repeat. Measure everything: From seeing which tweets of your’s yield the most clicks and at what time, to the age and gender of the leads that converted. Knowing what’s working and what’s not is the single biggest super power you can have. And the best thing is that you do not need to be exhaustively experienced or super smart to do it.

I don’t know how long I will be consulting. For now, I am loving it. I do plan to build a product of my own sometime in the future. Whatever course I decide to take, if there is one thing I have already learnt, it is this; there are no prosthetics for hustling, being systematic and in an always-ON mode.

Thanks for reading this through to the end. If you liked what you read, hit the heart button below. It will mean a lot to me. Also do check out MarHack.com.