It’s time to let go. I can no longer call myself the CEO of Despreneur, a magazine for design entrepreneurs. After three years of blood, sweat and respect, I decided to step down and move on.
A lot of things have changed in the last three years. I grew in every possible way. Noticing and admitting change takes courage. I’m committed to becoming the best person I can be so I’ll take the responsibility.
Today, I’d like to share some thoughts and lessons I learned building a blog from scratch that turned into a business reaching millions of people.
Should vs. Must
It all started when I was working in London, back in 2013. I was working full-time at a design agency looking for new opportunities. One afternoon, an idea struck me to combine design and entrepreneurship. That’s how Despreneur was born. Since then I had the vision to build a platform where people could learn design, tech and business skills.
After more than three years of learning, experimenting and growing a lot of things have changed. I wasn’t that excited about it.
I liked the concept of Should vs. Must by Elle Luna. An essay that turned into “The Crossroads of Should and Must”. A book that talks about one of the biggest issues of humanity. What we must do and what we should do when living our lives.
After pushing for some time I came to the point where I realized that I must let go. I must take action and let go. Expecting for things to change is naive when there is no inner fire burning anymore.
To help myself evaluate if I must step down, I dared myself to ask the following questions.
Is it a “hell yes” or no?
From how I feel now and for the past couple of months it is not a “hell yes.” So it is no.
Does it make enough money?
It makes enough money to stay alive, pay for the software and guest bloggers. Three years and no full-time workers, not to talk about salaries.
Am I excited to work on it?
I get excited about its future, but there is no crazy excitement as there was when I started out.
Do I have the freedom to create?
I do, but most of the time I am worrying and taking care of administration. Looking for people to join and trying to improve cash flow.
Is it going to pay off in the future?
Might or might not. Stats were slowly declining recently, traffic, engagement and income. I believe it has a tremendous potential, but it needs more dedicated team members. More resources are needed to test out paid advertising, write top quality content, hire developers to fix bugs and develop new features.
Is it fun?
Most of the time it is fun. I don’t like management and constant moderation. It started to feel like having a regular job and working for it.
Does it make me grow personally and professionally?
It does. However, sometimes I feel I could learn more if I was learning from experienced mentors.
Did it fail?
I wouldn’t say it failed. It has grown from nothing to a relatively known brand for design entrepreneurs. As a business, it generates profit every month and is self-sustainable.
Am I sticking to it out of fear?
I have high standards and letting myself down is fearful. Also, I am a huge advocate of pushing forward no matter how hard things are. In this case, it doesn’t stick. There might be an underlined fear of letting down my team, Yuri, Prean, Misel, Neringa, Ivan, Justas, Francesco and others.
Did I have to evaluate this earlier?
I had this feeling right after the new year, before getting Yuri as a co-founder. I think I was looking for a quick fix.
What does my heart say?
My heart says to let it go. No matter how hard it is. I did everything I could, learned new things and made amazing friends. Time to move on.
We can easily get caught up in the busyness of life. The fear of change keeps people doing same things over again without realizing it. Choose what is right for you.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein
It’s important to stay true to yourself and be aware of your feelings. There might be a million logical reasons to keep pushing but as you know… Humans are emotional animals.
I’m aware that I have the freedom and power to choose what I’m working on. I want to give my 100% to everything I do.
Despreneur has been my best education in the last three years. As a designer with no business background, I have learned valuable business lessons.
I’d like to share some of the biggest ones.
Monetize early. Don’t get attached to your business. It has a function to generate revenue. If you fail to do so, try new things until it works. Postponing monetization and hoping for the best is delusional.
Run small experiments. You might have an idea of your potential customers. Don’t guess. Use data and run small experiments.
Test everything. Test your content, social media strategy, income streams, timing, communication channels, copy. The more you test, the better results you get and have the power and knowledge to build the best product.
Talk to each customer. At the beginning, you have a vision of that huge groundbreaking company and working with a single customer might look like a waste of time. Talk to individual people. Connect and understand them to find the best way to serve them and make their lives better. One by one, you’ll grow into a solid business serving people.
Establish systems and processes. Think of departmentalisation of your business. Define duties and responsibilities as soon as possible. Invest in training programs, software and human resources to create efficient systems and automated processes. It’s a lot of work but will pay good dividends in the long run.
Partnerships are easier to make than you think. If you approach someone and propose a win-win offer, 9 out of 10 times, you’ll have a partnership.
If the strategy doesn’t work for three months, kill it and start a new one. Nowadays, things change so fast that hoping is not the best way to go. Look into data, listen what people say and be fast to kill and start over.
Find a trustworthy and skilled co-founder early. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, find a co-founder. It’s not about just getting someone on board. It’s about getting a skilled co-founder that can complement you and make a robust founding team. First, it’s going to be a lot of work. Second, entrepreneurship is an emotional rollercoaster and having someone to support you is going to help a lot.
Ensure clear and transparent communication. I learned that investing time in clear and open communication can lead to better progress, clear expectations and sense of being up to date. If it takes the time to explain new software, jump on a call and walk through it instead of exchanging hundreds of emails. Working remotely it’s easy to lose track of the progress, and what people are up to so weekly meetings are beneficial.
I’m sticking to creating, blogging and podcasting. My interests recently shifted into habits, behavior psychology and lifestyle design.
I want to take a break and get back with new energy. In my plans, I have a blog, podcast and a book. Less general, more specific. Less quantity, more quality. Less woo-woo, more transparency.
Thank you to all the companies who advertised on Despreneur and supported the magazine and allowed me to get amazing people on board.
Thank you Prean Naidoo, Justas Markus, Nic Rysenbry, Marius Buivydas, Ivan Shulev, Yuri Burchenya, Misel Tekinder, Alfred Lua, Povilas Korop, Iskra Dinkova, Rihards Savickis, Heidi Pungartnik, James Richman, Lydia Lee, Jordan Bishop, Kamile Naraite, Ryan McLean, Adam McIntyre, Michael Moloney, Paul Jarvis, Ramona Fellermeier, Paula Borowska, Kavi Guppta, Neringa Kumzaite, Francesco D’Alessio, Omar Zenhom, Boris Golden and many more.
And most important you, the reader. Thank you for reading, commenting, sharing, implementing and changing the world. I hope my work with Despreneur helped you in one way or another to learn a new skill, solve a problem or simply have fun. I’m forever grateful for your time spent with Despreneur.
Tomas Laurinavicius, founder of Despreneur