July 5, 2022 · 5 min read

Zero to One: The first paying customer

Yesterday, I got the first paying customer for my first “serious” but simple project — a screenshot API. I felt tears in my eyes and I will never forget this day.

And… it wasn’t easy, but it was possible. And that’s why I want to share the short story about how I got to this moment. If I can do it, you can do it.


I resigned from my last job as an employee at the beginning of November. And it was not because of the job itself. The folks were super friendly, and I felt I could bring a lot of value to the company and grow with them. It was a rare find, honestly. I knew I could regret it a lot.

The reason was different. I hadn’t slept well, my second baby was born, and my mind was probably in a fog. And what? I decided that was the best time to quit and work on my terms — to build my thing and sell it. I dreamed about this moment for half my life and tried to do it, but I failed. It was a crazy decision. But what was different this time?

Nothing. Besides one feeling that ate me. I felt my time was ticking, and I could always postpone my dream. There is always one more little reason to choose the “safest” path. I did it many times before — I started and postponed. But I decided I must do it, regardless of how hard it could be. I must attract the first paying customer.

“Building” an audience

I did not know from what to start. I read books from Arvid Kahl and Sahil Lavingia about entrepreneurship. They proposed to start backward by not building the product first but finding the audience you want to serve, understanding their needs, solving their problems, and then charging. I did not get the idea right and started “building” an audience. What a failure it was!

I went to Twitter and started to tweet randomly. I had around 40 followers at this time. It was so stupid. Of course, nobody replied to me or liked my tweets. I was nobody from nowhere. That’s usually the problem you have when you quit the job. You are only known in your close connections circle, but to the wild outside world — you are nobody.

The first project

It was challenging. But I started to get some traction, primarily by engaging with people. I got the first idea — automate everything I do on Twitter. And I made it. It was FollowRoad.One. I started by tracking followers, unfollowers, and mutual engagements.

I also had a massive backlog for scheduling tweets, managing replies and direct messages, automating retweets, and many more. But my motivation slowly faded, and I stopped the development of this product. At least for now.

I lacked design skills and was unsure if I could build an excellent interface to satisfy customer needs.

It took a week to think. What can I build with minimum UI and UX requirements, but where can I shine and deliver the highest quality?

What am I good at?

I opened a note with my ideas and started to traverse it. My eyes were attached to many API ideas.

I had a ton of experience in server-side development and building distributed applications. I built a lot of services with API.

I ended up with 3-5 API ideas I could build quickly. And picked up the one, mostly randomly. Why? Because I did not have any good criteria on how to filter them at that time. I took the idea that seemed beautiful to me — a screenshot API. Don’t ask where the beauty is. Most people see it as a boring idea.

Today, I would go with the idea with the most significant market potential. But I did not understand it six months ago.

Anyway, I googled for competitors, found many — was upset. But then I decided it was a validation.

From 0 to 1 paying customer

There were weeks when I did not work — I made many breaks. But long story short, I built the screenshot API and launched it at the end of May. Yes, it was much more challenging and much longer than I thought.

After the launch, I decided to devote the next two months to marketing and to try to get the first paying customer to validate the idea.

After the first marketing month, on the 4 of July 2022, when the Moon was 51.96 million kilometers from the Sun, I got the first notification about the payment.

I thought it was a bug and didn’t believe it. I checked it, and yes, it was the first paying customer. The customer came from Twitter, not from paid ads.

I know it might fluctuate, and the customer might churn, but it does not matter. Now I know I can create value for others that they are ready to pay for it. No doubt, I can repeat it many times.


I have already planned my tasks till the end of July 2022, and I did it before I got the customer. So, I won’t change my plans.

I don’t abandon the current project in the long term and want to polish and make it perfect. I see potential. In the worst case, I can use it myself.

On the grand scene of my entrepreneurial life, I still don’t know which direction to choose and what market to serve. I might build more API products and tools to build API products or API marketplace, or products related to screenshots. Or I can continue with the Twitter tool.

Or I might find a cofounder and build together or apply to VC or return to the full-time job and continue to support my projects as side projects. Everything is possible.

There are still a lot of questions to figure out.


I am grateful to my family for the support and love they give me, my close friends, and the community of makers who share their stories and support others.

And special thanks to Jannis Fedoruk-Betschki, the maker of Tools for Creators for his help and patience with the bugs in my product.

And now the journey begins!