Vyacheslav is a software engineer who in 2017 decided to build a board for remote jobs on the IT industry. He built it using his programming knowledge and invite a list of contacts he knew to try the product. But he soon realized he couldn’t handle everything and that keeping up the project would require a lot of time and people. It wasn’t going to pay off, so he shut it down.
Hi Vyacheslav! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?
I’m a 33 years-old software engineer from Latvia, with vast experience in different projects of all shapes and sizes. I am currently working on my next big venture, which I hope will get to the level of success I’m looking for.
WantRemoteJob was a self-funded startup, which was supposed to help people looking for real remote, permanent job opportunities in IT, rather than working 3-4 days a week remotely and the rest of the time in the office.
What motivated you to start WantRemoteJob?
I guess I can say this project related to my personal situation to some extent. I’ve left my 9 to 5 job and wanted to take a small break to see if I could potentially work remotely with companies/projects I believe in, rather the moving my things from one city/country to another.
At a time (it was mid-2017) I saw a niche, which wasn’t quite covered by recruiting agencies and various job listing boards I’ve seen around. It was never a competitor of RemoteOk nor was it similar to Freelancer/Elance portal. The initial plan was to spin it up as a job listing board, where real companies (not agencies) would post an actual remote & permanent position for a small fee of $99 for 30 days. From there it was supposed to be a one stop shop for screening/testing and final offer service to keep it all in one place.
It was my first try in business and I was very motivated to make it happen.
How did you build it?
I’ve built many web projects working for various companies and it was and still is something I do really well. So, there was no big issue to pull it all together from hosting/domain/emails to NodeJS/MySQL running on an AWS cloud with proper logging, monitoring, etc. The only thing I wasn’t good at was the visuals, but that was covered as an outsourced task thanks to Fiverr.
All in all, I think it took me 3 month of full time (I was supposed to take a break from the last job) and somewhere mid-2017 it was all ready and shiny to let it out into the big world.
In terms of obstacles in the process, I think it was more or less all good, without considering 1 thing that took me almost 3 weeks to deal with. It were those email templates and correct triggers...takes ages to think through, find the right service and configure it without risking to get into SPAM folders on day 1 of running the service.
Pricing model was an educated wild guess, based on inner gut feeling and position of the sun relative to earth on a given day. To be true, there was no great thinking behind pricing, simply an excel sheet with P&L projections for 6/12/24 months (I knew how to do it from my previous job).
Almost forgot, all the expenses were based on my own savings and there was no plan to get into debt to finish this project, so in that sense, I think I was lucky.
Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
That’s the part which I’ve underestimated not from a budget perspective... I knew that I could pull in my own contacts and get a word of mouth marketing, but the thing I’ve overestimated was how market/companies are looking at remote work (or at least how they were looking at it back in 2017). For whatever reason, I thought that it would be easy to get the list of remote and permanent positions and I was happy enough to publish them for free initially to get some tracking and traffic.
Oh, boy was I wrong...It turned out that a lot of remote positions where only half remote and in the end, companies wanted to get employees into their fancy/shiny/modern and super friendly office. In case if positions were truly remote, a candidate still needed to be on the same time zone as the rest of the team (which makes sense, but in IT nearly every big company has a team working in different time zone). In other words, I had little to no (just around 10-20) remote positions to show on my board and I could not guarantee, that a company HR person would not change their mind and add a restriction making it very hard to pass.
In terms of marketing efforts, the good part was my own list of contacts. I knew who would use and benefit from this service. I also knew they would do a word of mouth marketing if it was working out well for them. The rest of efforts to get into search engines and email marketing was pretty much left aside and I don’t regret it, to be true. A list of well-targeted users is 100% better than any AdWords/Facebook campaign for sure! The part I regret about is not creating a social/product buzz to make it more official, it would have improved my chances to build better cooperation models with companies interested in permanent remote positions.
Which were the causes of WantRemoteJob failure?
What can I tell, I was a jack of all trades in this project, but I’ve failed to do in-depth market research. I needed to check with every HR and every company publishing remote positions to see if they are truly up to remote work and not just throwing a click bait there for contractors and freelancers. I needed to check it inside out and I didn’t. The joy of making a project and contributing to overall work/life balance (that feeling when you think your project will make a difference) made my focus to be narrow. The business model was fine, the tech was fine, but I had little to no data and my great idea of permanent remote positions and one stop shop in this niche collapsed like a broken dream.
The funny part is that I was well aware of the things I needed to do, before diving deep. I knew it’s not enough to have a great idea (everyone has it) and I knew that the business model needs a validation (even if that requires to do a lot of manual work). My wife said, I was too obsessed with building something of value and not just for a paycheck, that everything else just slipped under my radar.
Which were your biggest mistakes and challenges you had to overcome?
In terms of challenges, I wouldn’t be the first to say that after the initial joy of starting a project you get into a lot of details, which were covered for you, when you were an employee. It seems like a quick skill to get, but it takes time, patience and effort. It drags your attention await from building project and puts you in a very new and not so friendly territory of being your own boss and business owner. This is the time when you need your friends/family support and they don’t need to tell you what you do right or wrong, all you need is a warming “You will handle this”.
Do not underestimate how much you don’t know about running a business, do your homework and read about company types, taxes and what’s required to actually run the business. It the skill that will be paid off for sure and you won’t make it in 2 weeks like I thought it would be.
Which were your expenses? Did you achieve some revenue? In the end, how much money did you lose?
There was 0 revenue and 5-6K in expenses 30% for setting up a business entity and 70% for building a product that failed. Again, I was very lucky to have personal funds and I knew how and where to save money building the product and the business entity expenses is something you just have to face, nothing new there. One important lesson I’ve learned is that a lot of people say you build and run your project first, then work out business entity and legal. Don’t follow that rabbit, it’s not a piece of cake and if you’re going for real, build a company.
If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
We all learn from mistakes (well some of us do) and my failure from the business point of view actually helped me to learn a lot of things. I know where I felt short and never again will I not check any business idea from all angles before diving deep. No matter what’s the idea you have, test it out. Put on a hat of already a running business, where are your customers, how do you collect payments, what about support, what’re the minimum expenses for running your business. Without a doubt, any plan you will build most likely will change during the execution, but having no plan is the worst thing you can do.
Another thing I’ve learned is that once you will get into building business mode there will be a lot of ideas floating in the air and it’s ok to fail. Running a business is a journey, not a destination.
Which are your favorite entrepreneurial resources?
It’s a funny thing, but I’ve realized that at the very beginning I was reading like crazy, blogs, forums, news portals. I wanted to grab the idea what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. I’ve read so many articles from personal time management to top X list of mistakes...But then it hit me, the reason I was reading all of this is that I wanted to see how other entrepreneurs similar to me are dealing for emotions and challenges they face. They say there is no one size fits all and it’s so true for any business. If you will find yourself reading articles and posts about how to make a business you won’t have much time left to actually make it!
Where can we go to learn more?
I’m always open to new connections, so feel free to reach out on LinkedIn.