What are the best ways for internet companies to understand their users/customers?

Put yourself in their shoes.

I co-founded a startup because I wasn’t paid on time as a freelancer, causing me to nearly default on my mortgage.

It was stressful. I knew things should be different. And I decided to do everything in my power to make them so.

But I didn’t stop there.

This was in 2015 and mortgage rates were low. I should have been able to save a few hundred dollars a month. So I went to see my representative at Wells Fargo.

“This is an excellent time to refinance your mortgage,” he said. “Let me just pull up your information and we should be done in no time.”

“Awesome!”

“Oh,” he frowned. “Didn’t realize you were a freelancer on 1099 income. You’d get a higher rate than what you’re paying now.”

So even if you’re a freelancer with the same income as you’d have as a salaried employee, the bank’ll treat your worse. They’ll assume that every contract is temporary, and you might not make anything next year.

“But it’s an easy fix,” he added, smiling again. “Just hire yourself!”

I wouldn’t. He thought I was crazy. I probably was.

But the thing is, even though I was CEO and could hire myself in an instant, I refused to do so.

I wanted to keep going as a freelancer for a whole tax year.

It was challenging.

I failed to estimate my quarterly taxes correctly and the IRS hit me with a fine.

I paid out-of-pocket when I got sick because I didn’t qualify for decent health coverage.

And, of course, I couldn’t refinance my mortgage.

But there’s more.

To make sure I understood our customers as best as possible, I spent a month answering each and every support ticket that came in.

I listened to countless freelancers telling me their troubles. I had them thank me deeply when our interest-free advances helped them avoid these troubles. And I had them get angry with me when we weren’t able to help them.

By the end of that tax year, I’d gotten to know our customers as well as the back of my hand.

And I finally hired myself, becoming employee #4, despite being co-founder and CEO.

These days, every single decision I make at Qwil is preceded by meditating and feeling into the needs of our customers.

I’ve felt their pain. I’ve known their pain.

And you can bet I’m doing everything in my power to alleviate it.

Want to get to know your customers?

Put yourself into their shoes for a year.

Literally.

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