Arvid just finished his second book “The Embedded Entrepreneur”.
In this interview, we discuss why he wrote “Zero to Sold” and how it led him to write “The Embedded Entrepreneur”. We also dive into his daily writing process, struggles with imposter syndrome and how you can easily find the topic for your next (or first) non-fiction book.
Are you ready?
From bootstrapped founder to “The Embedded Entrepreneur”
Arvid Kahl’s background is in programming. In the past decade, he has launched several products, one of which was FeedbackPanda.He founded the company with his partner Danielle, grew the business and sold it for a comfortable price in only two years. (Read the story).
After selling, he had a lot of time on his hands. For a few weeks, Arvid played World of Warcraft, but he soon realised that wasn’t what he wanted to dedicate the rest of his life to.
His experience founding, running and selling a bootstrapped company was something worth sharing.
Danielle and Arvid told their story on stage at MicroConf Europe in 2019. They met many like-minded people and some of their bootstrapper heroes. These were the first people who gave him a boost on Twitter.
In July 2019, Arvid had decided to share his knowledge on The Bird App; to give back to the community and engage with (future) creators. He follows 9,533 people at this time and somehow manages to engage with all of them. At least, that’s how I feel. And if I feel like this, others must feel so too. So he’s doing a tremendous job.
Of course, he still needed to find something to do with his time. He started writing blog posts. Although Arvid knew he wasn’t a writer, he did have a lot to tell. He made a list of about 100-200 ideas to write about. Every week, he would select his favourite topic and write a blog post.
In three to four months, he had written about fifteen. And that’s when the ball really started rolling…
A fan of his pointed out that his blog posts were connected. That’s why Arvid decided to create a compendium, a guide linking to all the blog posts he’s written and extra material about bootstrapping a business.
First, he organised his existing blog posts and searched for gaps. Then he created a framework to fill those gaps and he wrote short paragraphs to complete the backbone of his compendium.
Over time, people said they would pay to have this document printed. And that, my kids, is how Zero to Sold was born. He just had to fill in the rest of the gaps and turn paragraphs into chapters. You might remember a similar writing procedure from Jamie’s “The Underdog Paradox”.
After publishing his first book, Arvid decided to write one book per year. The next topic was easy to find. Even though people had now learned how to run a bootstrapped business, many still struggled to identify glorious opportunities.
That’s why his second book is focused on market research and embedding yourself in the communities you want to help and eventually monetise.
Alpha, beta, gamma and delta readers
Arvid wrote his first book “Zero to Sold” (“Britain’s here to Seoul” or “Syria to solve” according to www.otter.ai) between November 2019 and June 2020.
More or less …
As you remember, he first wrote blog posts and a compendium. He only started writing with the idea of publishing a book in April. Less than two months later, the book was published.
The total process of writing his new book went even faster. He started on 1 January and published in the middle of May.
Contrary to his first book, he wrote daily for the second one. In the first month, he turned out about 57,000 words and send the manuscript to his alpha readers early on.
Now, you may think: “I’ve heard about beta users, but WTF is an alpha reader?”
An alpha reader is someone who reads the rough draft of a book. Beta readers get a close-to-finished product. I made up gamma and delta readers because Arvid did a total of four review rounds.
Every three or four weeks, he’d update the manuscript, add new alpha readers and open it up for new feedback.
Once he reached about 500 alpha readers, he decided that was enough feedback. He was ready to publish.
A bootstrapper’s writing tips and tricks
His favourite tools:
- Quillbot: An AI-powered paraphrasing tool that rewrites entire sentences.
- Grammarly: Because who doesn’t use Grammarly?
- Reedsy: Find a professional to edit, market or design your book. Linking to Arvid’s editor for your convenience.
- Markdown: A simple text editor because he doesn’t want to see 27,000 buttons while writing.
- Helpthisbook: A tool to receive feedback from beta-readers easily.
Arvid’s tips for your first Book
- Write in public to receive way more feedback.
- Write bullshit first. It doesn’t have to be good, but it has to be written. You can always edit later.
- Write what you like. The outline is only a structure. You don’t need to follow it chronologically step by step.
- Write the introduction at the end.
Other writing tips
- No amount is too little. One sentence is enough. Some days you’ll write one or two lines; other days, you might write a few chapters.
- Write morning pages.
- Listen to @Julian’s Spotify playlist.
- Always believe in yourself.
He calls himself a pathologically enthusiastic person. Did you watch Ted Lasso? That’s just Arvid in disguise. I mean, the mo should have given that away.
Imposter syndrome is his biggest issue.
“Real imposters don’t suffer from imposter syndrome”Zero to Sold — Arvid Kahl
I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling like you’re not enough. The feeling that there’s always someone who’s a lot better than you. The feeling that you’re doing something you’re not qualified to do.
But then Arvid thought: ”If not me, who will write this book? I’ve experienced it and I know how it works. What I do is important and helpful. Everyone who has done something interesting should be talking about it, so I should share my knowledge.”
After his first book, this didn’t get any better. Writing a successful book is scary. The second time, you feel like you need to do better.
Fortunately, he found two tricks to deal with imposter syndrome.
- Constructive feedback. When you ask for feedback and they mention one thing to improve, it probably means the other ninety-nine things didn’t bother them.
- Accountability groups. Everything’s easier when people have your back.
Finding a niche for your book
Both Zero to Sold and The Embedded Entrepeur are practical guides to starting a bootstrapped business. Finding your niche or audience is one of the main aspects. Because if you don’t know who to sell to, you probably shouldn’t make a product.
In the books, you discover which product you need to make or which book you need to write.
In a few short steps, this is how it works:
- Think about your interests. Where do people with these interests hang out?
- Go into those communities (eg Twitter, Indiehackers, Facebook groups, Reddit).
- Start listening to what people struggle with. Which problems are repeated?
- Can you solve that problem or add value?
“At first, communities are hunting grounds for great opportunities, then they turn into places to build meaningful relationships, and later they’ll be the fertile soil in which you will grow your business”The Embedded Entrepreneur — Arvid Kahl
To make sure your product, solution or book will be a success, you need to do some additional market research. Arvid referred to the book “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick.
If you don’t want to know if your product will work or not, ask your mom. She’ll always love it because she wants to help. But if you do want to know if it will work, ask your future customers. And don’t just ask if they like it. Ask how much they would pay for it.
How much would you pay to learn everything you need to know about starting a bootstrapped business?
More than $20, right?
Arvid’s books are a bargain and you won’t find a single human being who disagrees.
Book Titles: Zero to Sold and The Embedded Entrepreneur
Released: 25 June 2020 and 19 May 2021
Author: Arvid Kahl
Podcast: The Bootstrapped Founder
Newsletter: The Bootstrapped founder Newsletter
Buy the books: The Embedded Entrepreneur and Zero to Sold