How much time do you spend on things that don't scale?

Forster Perelsztejn
25 replies
I'm sure a lot of you have read this iconic article by Paul Graham ( so I was wondering... how much time do you founders/early-stage startup marketers/growth hackers really spend on things that don't scale (like writing content, building relationships, etc.)?


Aaron O'Leary
I think in general my job is primarily based around trying things that don't scale specifically content writing, outreach, and such so I would say 90% of my work.
Forster Perelsztejn
@aaronoleary @olha_trykush thank you so much! It's always kind of a weird balance to find, especially with result expectations; glad to see I'm not too far off :)
Aaron O'Leary
@olha_trykush @forster_perelsztejn1 I think the definition of things that don't scale is silly, as long as there is someone willing to do that work, it's scaling.
Forster Perelsztejn
@aaronoleary yeah for sure, I'm simply trying to find some balance with everything that's possible and could bring great results on the long term and the results that I need to provide on the short term. I know this will depend from job to job and from person to person. I was curious to see how others were doing :)
Barry Smith
I've worked on a few projects where we spent all of our time on how they would scale. In the end, it didn't make any difference that we had the ability to scale, because the users never came. As an early-stage entrepreneur (, none of my stuff scales anymore. It's a bunch of one-offs to see what does and doesn't work. If something works, I put more energy toward it. The goal is to get to a point where something is getting so much traction that I'll need to scale. Until then, just keep testing. Cheers.
Hugo Santana 'Kaloh'
@barrysmith How do you measure traction? When will you put more energy into something?
Barry Smith
@hugo_santana Hugo, typically I look at the Google Analytics to see how much traffic is hitting the site as a baseline and then track according to changes I make. If you have the ability to do A/B testing, that's optimal, but not always an option for everyone based on resources. Most of the time I'll make one change at a time and adjust accordingly. It's a tedious process and I'm sure there's way better ways to do it, but again, it's all about available resources. Cheers.
Fritz Brumder
This is a great topic and one that was also covered by Reid Hoffman on his podcast: People often ask how I get my first customers/users, the answer should be the same all the time - direct founder outreach. From 0-10 or 25 customers (10 for enterprise, 25 for SMB) the founders should be finding them, pitching them, listening to them, nurturing them, delighting them and renewing them. Renewing them is the hard one. With low numbers and potentially annual renewal cycles it is hard to see a pattern early on. Founder sales don't scale but to me is the most important non scalable activity.
Ikenna Paschal
I am learning to focus only on this that doesn't scale - priority getting customers in a non-scalable way. Because in the end, nothing matters if you have no customers.
Yash Yadav
Started off with 20+ hours a week when I started KnowledgeDay newsletter( I was writing 3-minute-read articles twice a week (am not a writer so I take more time at this), but then my job got intensive and my newsletter started facing consequences and I unfortunately had to change it to once a week. Now I give around 12 hours a week. That comprises of three things actually - Writing for weekly issue - Improving the blog website (online view for each article) - Improving the newsletter platform (Yea I hacked my own to have full control without spending any money xD)
I've worked on a few projects where we spent all of our time on how they would scale. In the end, it didn't make any difference that we had the ability to scale, because the users never came.
Marin Rowe
I think you have to take into account what the payoff or potential payoff will be. There have been many one-off projects, slide decks, custom demos, etc. that I've worked on because it's for a large prospective customer or has a high potential reward if we execute successfully. However, if that level of effort was going into something that had no real chance of moving the needle, I'd reevaluate if it's really worth doing :)
Forster Perelsztejn
@marinrowe Yeah of course, that goes without saying :) As a marketer I was more looking into the "how much time should I be working on running ads vs. how much time should I spend creating content" side of things
Nino P
Don't scale ? every interaction scales, you get something out of it.
Forster Perelsztejn
@nino_p yeah of course, but when you create an ad campaign, you can reach 250k people and with a few more clicks you can reach 250k more. Writing content doesn't have the same kind of scalability. I'm just trying to find some balance :)
Clare L
Depends how early stage you are... do the stuff that doesn't scale early! Things people have already mentioned here - founder sales, cold calling, customer interviews, relationship building etc. This is how you find out what works, what resonates, and what your customers really want/think/need. Then you can implement more scalable strategies and just keep the things that add value. For example onboarding each individual customer is certainly not scalable, but it's how you'll learn best what to include in a more automated & scalable onboarding experience later. In my case it's all the unscalable work at the moment :) Almost all of this we will automate to a high degree later in order to scale.
Forster Perelsztejn
@clare_leighton Thanks for the input! I find I'm spending almost most of my time on things that don't scale but will be automated later, so I don't feel alone anymore :)
Patrick Joubert
Try less every day! Thanks for the reminder :)
JD Carluccio
Changes a lot depending on the maturity of the scalable asset, for example product, or process or even culture. I would say before product market fit probably >80%, after PM 50%. Once PM + Culture have set I would say 30%. And I believe there will be always a 10-20% of doing things that don't scale because you need to be experimenting, which usually means that it won't scale at the beginning.
Mojiboye Emmanuel Oluwole
Doing things that don't scale is fun and great at the beginning, but one should know when your company moves from start-up to scale-up though..... YC calls it Product-Market fit