By WomenMakeBot

Danielle Johnson (@dinkydani) is an entrepreneur and software engineer. In 2016, she left the UK with her partner to travel the world and work on their projects. She co-founded Squarecat and built many apps, including Leave Me Alone, a service to easily unsubscribe from unwanted emails.

The AMA took place on Instagram on November 27, 2019.

Women Make bot

Hello! I work overseas (Europe) and don’t have access to physical financial tools like I would in the US. What are your top apps/tools that you use for personal and/or business finance?

Hey! Thanks for the great question :). We are both Estonian e-residents which means we can start and run a company from anywhere in the world - which we did with Squarecat. Squarecat is an Estonian company :) I highly recommend checking this out. We use Xolo for our accounting who work specifically with e-residents so they know all of the details for that - they're great! For banking we use Transferwise and Revolut to withdraw money and make payments around the world. I hope that answers your question!

Hey Danielle! Since you became nomad, are there things that you miss from being sedentary? And do you think you will settle down some day?

I have to say there really isn't! I can't see us settling down any time soon, not in the next 5 years at least, but we have started to travel more slowly and now spend 1-2 months in each place instead of a few days or a week. This gives us enough time to get to know somewhere, find our favourite restaurants and bars, meet up with friends etc before we get bored and move on! The one thing I miss about life before I became a nomad is the social aspect of working in an office, but I am starting to get that now that i have met a lot more nomads in the last few months in Chiang Mai or Bali for example :)

Hi Danielle, hope you’re doing fine! I just noticed that you reached $1,000 revenue with Leave Me Alone, congrats! I have two questions for you: According to you, what have been the decisive steps in the development of Leave Me Alone? And how do you manage the balance between personal and professional life with your partner in crime James?

Thank you very much!
1. Building in the open was the best decision we made. We knew that after the failure of our previous products because we built with no validation or feedback that we needed customer input to build something that people actually want. Sharing our decisions and progress has helped to shape Leave Me Alone into a great product. We also made sure to keep it super lean at the beginning and not build too many features before we were sure the idea was validated. Even now we try to spend a good chunk of time on marketing and blog writing etc rather than all on new features.

2. We're both lucky that we do the same job and love doing it together. We talk to each other often and never let problems get out of control before we discuss it with the other person. We have had to learn to respect each other's needs and spend time apart sometimes, even if that's just working from a different cafe for the afternoon or something :) If you like, you can read more about the part with me and James travelling together in the 3 part series I wrote for :)

Women Make bot

Hi Danielle! Big fan of all your blogs about your nomad lifestyle and LeaveMeAlone πŸ‘πŸ˜ Do you have any advice or tips for anyone thinking about starting their own business? You obviously do a lot more than just software development as part of Squarecat so where did you learn to do everything else? How did you know what you needed to do to get the company off the ground and start making a profit? Thanks!

Hey! Excellent question :)
1. My advice is to just start small and only do what is necessary. You don't need to get huge payroll software or VAT register if you're just going to freelance for a while. Definitely try out what you're doing on a smaller scale first - if you think you'll enjoy building a prototype product from a spec then take on a project that'll last a few days to a week instead of committing to something that'll take months only to figure out you hate it. Oh and accept that any estimates you do are going to be totally wrong, estimating how long something will take is one of the most difficult things in business - it's ok that you don't know how to estimate your time, no-one does really, everybody just gets better at guessing!

2. By "everything else" I think you mean things like finding work, hiring other freelances, invoicing etc. The best way for me was to learn by doing. The first time we had a paying client I figured out how to send an invoice. The first time we billed in USD we figured out how to receive money in a different currency. This wont be good advice for everyone, but you can worry about all of that sort of stuff once you get there - you can't prep for everything in the unknown ;) As for making profit, freelancing is simple - you just apply for jobs you find interesting and charge them enough money that everyone is happy. We usually try to find projects to freelance on for 3 months and live on that for the rest of the year to work on side stuff.

For Leave Me Alone finding out how to be profitable was a huge journey, with lots of fuck-ups like building previous products no-one paid for (or even used), but I think this time it's just that we have built something people like, want, and are willing to pay for. There's no magic trick or anything, but the best advice I can give is to validate the idea EARLY, like ASAP so you don't waste time building something people dont want- build something super simple and see if people will use it!