Matej Lancaric: The Story of a Solopreneur

,

The Journey of a Solopreneur: Finding Success in Being Yourself

Hey there, fellow solopreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, and gaming industry peers! Today, I want to take you on an unfiltered and candid journey of seasoned solopreneur in the gaming industry – Myself! (HA!).

Buckle up and get ready to dive into my raw and real experiences of navigating the world of solopreneurship. Today, I want to share a story that’s all about the ups and downs of being a solopreneur. You know, those brave souls who venture out on their own to build something from scratch. It’s not always rainbows and unicorns, but hey, sometimes it is!

This is not going to be my traditional UA shit, but a brutally honest solopreneur ride. And, oh boy, it has been a ride. It’s still quite challenging. Sometimes, I feel like I’m on a rollercoaster, but it’s definitely worth it!

What could you expect? I will walk you through the ups and downs, how to work efficiently, how not to waste time, what are my main motivations and what I think is a wrong motivation, my revenue numbers, and some takeaways.

Why talk about it? My idea is to inspire you to do great things. I mean if I can inspire people with this shit:

Why not with something valuable?

Origin story

The transition from a full-time job to becoming a full-time consultant wasn’t just about leaving a company; it was about stepping into the unknown and embracing the uncertainties of being a solopreneur.

Ditching the 9-to-5 for the thrilling life of a full-time consultant? Oh, it wasn’t just a career swap; it was more like jumping without a parachute into the solopreneur abyss. Why? After years of moonlighting these consultancy gigs, while I was a full-time employee, I thought, “Life’s too short. Let’s stir the pot!” Not your typical safety net move, but hey, magic happens outside of your comfort zone!

But let’s not spill all the beans just yet. More juicy details another time. Right now, let’s get to the meat of the story.

Approach to work & Mindset

Going solo and juggling clients, writing articles, podcasting, and parenting? It’s a piece of cake. Some folks Netflix & chill; I blog and create to recharge my brain batteries.

Sounds tough, but it’s a breeze. Back in my “cubicle” days, I’d wrap up the day’s work (plus some) in just a few hours while the others were deep-diving into YouTube rabbit holes or on their umpteenth coffee run.

I opted to hustle on the side, boosting not just my skills but also pulling off some of the biggest mobile launches for my then-employer. It sounds hard, but it’s actually easy. When I had a 9-to-5 job, I did all the work and some additional work that I didn’t need to do in 3-4 hours. While waiting for numbers, my colleagues watched YouTube videos or just had never-ending coffee breaks.

I chose to work with other companies on the side. That helped me evolve professionally and helped the company I worked at experience its biggest mobile launches ever. 

Just don’t waste time—it’s the most precious thing you have in your whole life! But, to be completely brutally honest with you, I also waste time. But when I do, it’s my choice, and I don’t complain about it. I’ve had colleagues who constantly complained but didn’t do anything to change their lives. 

I want to be happy, and I am happy where I am now. My mindset was always – Let’s try & experiment to see what happens! If you think there’s a magic formula for success, you are wrong.

I will disappoint you heavily; there is nothing. Only hard work and grind—but not the “let’s work 16h/day grind.” That’s not healthy. It’s a combination of obsession, focus, and happiness. Getting rich quickly without work doesn’t happen! Getting lucky does, but it rarely happens. Luck happens when preparation meets opportunity! Simple as that.

How do you even define success? For me, it is the flexibility of spending most of the day with my daughter while working in the morning or after she goes to sleep.

My brain is always thinking, working, creating. And it’s okay!

I tried to fight it in the past because I was told, “You have to rest, you have to switch off. Go offline, that’s how you rest” Let me tell you something: I am sick of people telling me what to do. What is right or wrong? 

I found a way how to regain mental strength. I don’t want to shut down. I need a quiet time for myself. This means I just don’t want to talk to people for a certain time, but I can/will work here and there to keep myself busy. My brain doesn’t like the idea of not working. 

People often ask me when I rest. When? Well, when I pay 100% attention to my daughter. 100% attention = all notifications off, but I will leave that for later. That is my rest at home or during vacations/holidays. You are constantly pressured to give people or/and projects your attention.

You just need to be sure you allocate your resources in a way that is consistent with your priorities! 

I am just built differently. My mind is always working. It’s okay If you are too! It is actually your biggest advantage

Only work with nice people

So when Katarina was younger, when she was sleeping during the day, I just put her in a carrier, and then I had work calls because as soon as we started talking about UA, she just fell asleep.

And then I was on calls and a few people, they were like:

oh, well, is this a good time for you to talk to us? You have the baby there.

That’s fine, I can talk.

Oh, well, let’s reschedule for tomorrow.

Well, if we reschedule for tomorrow, I’m going to be in the same position. I’m usually trying to schedule calls for this time slot. So she sleeps, I have her in the carrier, and my wife gets some rest. So this is it.

So “we will get back to you” was sometimes an answer, but never got back to me. That was a filter for me as well. So that’s why I always say when someone asks me: what’s your requirement?

My answer always is: I only work with nice people. That’s it. I just want to stay away from assholes because it’s time-consuming. And if I need to just spend my time-solving things because someone is not exactly nice to me and prefers money, I don’t care. 

I just don’t have time for that type of drama anymore.

Workflow

Ties a bit to the previous part. A few companies started thinking I was their full-time employee recently. Well, honestly yeah I am part of the team, but let’s call it an extended arm that is not available 24/7. And I don’t have to be since I am still an external partner. Nobody should ever work 24/7 and be expected to be always online. Full Stop!

My notifications are always off on all communication platforms so I can actually focus on work or spend quality time with my daughter without being disturbed nonstop by Slack or Discord. This behavior pisses some people off but helps me do my job better and pay attention to my little one.

My workflow changed a lot when my daughter was born a few years ago. Thanks to the consultancy I can be a bit more flexible during the day or night.

The flexibility of doing things and being able to take care of my daughter during the day, that’s amazing. That’s perfect. 

Some days I work at night when she’s sleeping, and it’s not like an ideal scenario, but then, on the other hand, well, what’s an ideal scenario?

Me working during the day, 9 hours, and then spending very little time with her? Hell no! I would sacrifice working during the day so I can work at night, honestly. And that’s way better for me.

Oh, by the way, did you know men can carry babies at work? Did you know men can take care of their children? They should! Kids grow so fast. I can’t imagine spending only 2-3 hours per day with my little one.

Thanks to her, my time management evolved so much. Everything needs to be planned ahead of time so I know what do do and when. One thing collapses, oh boy …

Skills

People think this is all rainbows & unicorns (pun intended!)

The truth is – the job is really difficult and changes so quickly. Whatever worked yesterday won’t work today. Here are a few high-level challenges you may face:

  • Working with fragmented data
  • Ensuring your data is trustworthy
  • Managing upwards and effectively reporting
  • Ad creative production (resources, scheduling, ideation)
  • Navigating quickly changing post-IDFA rules 
  • Optimizing and testing the SKAN conversion schema

bla bla bla, obviously much more .. 

Recently, I saw this post by Anton. Such a truth.

I would even say it’s more than two jobs rolled into one. The thing is, you don’t need to be the best UA expert in the world. You just need to be different. Different, in my case, means honest, transparent, authentic, oftentimes weird, and controversial. Yes, I am experienced and very good at what I do (yeah, humble too). That goes without saying.

Motivation

Let’s be real, the whole “money makes the world go ’round” spiel? Not really my jam. I’ve had folks preach the gospel of equity, shares, the whole shebang, trying to get me to buy into the whole “skin in the game” hustle. My reaction? A big ol’ yawn. Chasing after that cash carrot never really twisted my arm or swayed my stride.

You’ve got those dreamers launching startups, eyeing that million-dollar exit like it’s the holy grail. If stacking up dough is your be-all and end-all, cool. But let’s not sugarcoat it—if cash rules your decision-making, you might not always end up wearing the white hat.

“Go start an agency; you’ll rake in buckets!” That’s the chorus from The Peanut Gallery. Been there, led teams, and got the thumbs up from the crew, which is nice. They think I’m some sort of guru, and hey, I’m not complaining. But the agency life? It’s a whole different ballgame where managing people overshadows managing campaigns. And here’s the kicker—I dig the campaign hustle more. So when faced with the “but think of the money!” mantra, I’m like, “Chill, life’s got more flavors than just green.”

People are chasing more, working 24/7 to get to the C-level suite, and forgetting about the most important things in life—mental and physical health and family. Investing time and energy in relationships with your kids doesn’t offer the same immediate sense of achievement that a fast-track career does. You often see a sobering pattern when looking at the personal lives of many ambitious people. Though they may believe that their family is deeply important to them, they actually allocate fewer and fewer resources to the things they would say matter the most.

I’m not here to throw shade. Sure, chasing that higher paycheck is tempting, but at what cost? Is it worth parking your soul in a spot you never wanted, just for a fatter wallet? That’s the million-dollar question, folks.

From where I stand, betting your happiness on the dollar bills is like building castles on quicksand. Just my two cents, but hey, who’s counting?

Layoffs

People are sad about getting laid off, and don’t get me wrong, it is a sad moment. I will keep happening to people over and over again. This is nothing new. I am just really surprised by how much people talk about it when they are hired internally. I guess being an employee should give you a sense of security. Let me bring this to you. It’s not.

Company owners will always protect their profits over the people they hire. That is just a fact. Kudos to exceptions! Anyway, I just wanted to say welcome to my world. Here comes the hardest part. I am laid off almost monthly from a company/project I work with for different reasons: restructuring, cutting costs, and hiring an internal person. It is what it is—the life of a consultant. It took me a while to get used to this rollercoaster, especially when 50% of your monthly revenue disappears in a day.

It was an eye-opening experience, and I am super grateful for it. I learned a lot about who I am, what is really important to me, and what I can achieve.

Thanks to this, I could spend more time with my daughter and family, start our amazing no-bullshit gaming show, and think.

I turned this into a positive experience and learning. Let’s not forget that life is hard, but it is great. Enjoy it!

This happened first time in 2022, and that year really taught me one important thing. Everything is possible! Being „busy“ and not having time is just a state of mind. If you are struggling to find time, sit down, think about your processes and activities, and organize your time better. It’s a game of priorities!

If I can be the second fastest-growing technology company in Slovakia, start a newsletter and podcast, and write frequently while spending 70% of the day with my little daughter, you are doing something really wrong.

A healthy mind and body help at work and with all the pressure. Love what you do to excel. Because it’s not work anymore. There is no work-life balance. There is only life. 

Life

Navigating life, I’ve always been a bit weird, visualizing myself in scenarios that seemed more like daydreams than actual situations. From academic lecture halls to the newbie grind at my first gig to the glitzy, unpredictable gaming industry, it’s been a ride.

I saw myself on a stage giving a speech at a marketing conference in Slovakia, then at different gaming conferences around the world, and eventually at a GDC, different (higher) positions at work, working with large gaming companies, etc.… I always thought it was super weird to see myself at a point in the future. Then I realized it was something I had been working subconsciously towards until I was in that spot.

Then, along came Arnold Schwarzenegger, courtesy of Netflix, dropping wisdom bombs hit me like a ton of bricks. That’s it. That’s me. I had been mirroring Arnold’s blueprint all along—harboring a crystal-clear vision of my ambitions and relentlessly charging towards them, come what may.

My recent vision is for the two and a half gamers podcast to become the biggest gaming podcast/show. Honestly, we are already heading there, and I will do everything it takes to make it happen.

And let’s not forget my brutally honest newsletter, aiming to be the insider’s bible for User Acquisition and a side of laughs because, seriously, who decided industry insights had to be as dry as stale bread?

So, here’s to the visionary paths we carve, the audacious goals we set, and the spirited journey that unfolds. Here’s to crafting a legacy that’s not just seen but felt—a testament to the power of clear vision and unwavering determination.

Data-driven stories you tell yourself

It actually goes both ways. I just mentioned the visions, but negative stories you tell yourself can harm your growth and influence your life badly.

  • Stories you tell yourself always become true (negative or positive)
    • “I am not good enough.”
    • “I won’t make it.”
    • “It’s too difficult for me.”
    • “What am I doing here? I don’t have the skills.”
    • etc..

You get the idea!

Joey: She’s healed!
Rachel: That’s weird.
Joey: No, it’s not weird. It’s a miracle.
Rachel: It’s not a miracle, Joey. I’m sure there’s some explanation.
Joey: Oh, there is. If you want something enough and your heart is pure, wondrous things can happen.

Always think about Joey! Hah. Jokes aside, if you tell yourself, “You are going to make it,” it will eventually become true, and you will make it like a piece of cake.

Goal setting

The gospel of goal-setting has been preached far and wide, echoing through the halls of every corporation and startup alike. You know the drill: weekly, monthly, and quarterly targets are set as the golden path to progress and self-improvement. It’s almost a corporate mantra, a security blanket for the workforce to cling to, ensuring they’re marching in the “right” direction.

But here’s a hot take: Goals? Not for me.

Yes, you read that right. No typos here. Just a bold, underlined, and italicized NO to the whole goal-setting fiesta. And before you dismiss it as sheer rebellion or a whimsical flight of fancy, hear me out.

What a bullshit!

The Great Goal Myth

We’ve been spoon-fed the idea that without goals, we’re essentially ships without rudders, aimlessly drifting in the vast ocean of potential. Goals are touted as the beacons of purpose, guiding us toward our personal and professional North Stars. But what if they’re actually more like shackles, limiting our journey to only the paths we’ve envisioned at the outset?

The Limitation of Linear Paths

Goals inherently demand a linear trajectory toward a predefined destination. They nudge us into narrow pathways, often blinding us to the myriad of possibilities that lie just beyond our goal-focused blinkers. Life, with its inherent unpredictability and boundless potential, is anything but linear. So, why confine ourselves to the straight and narrow when we can embrace the wild, untamed beauty of exploration without boundaries?

The Pressure Cooker of Perpetual Goal-Chasing

Setting goals transforms life into a perpetual chase, where the finish line perpetually shifts just beyond reach. Each achievement becomes merely a stepping stone to the next target, trapping us in an endless loop of “what’s next?” This relentless pursuit often leads to burnout, overshadowing the joy of the journey and the richness of the experiences along the way.

Freedom in Fluidity

Imagine, for a moment, a life unbound by the strictures of specific goals. A life where curiosity leads, and growth is organic, sprouting from the seeds of experiences rather than the rigid frameworks of objectives. This approach doesn’t just open the door to unexpected opportunities; it demolishes the walls that confine us to predetermined paths, allowing us to live in full color, beyond the black and white of goal-oriented thinking.

The Paradox of Limitless Limitations

In the irony of ironies, eschewing goals doesn’t limit us; it liberates us. Without the constant pressure to hit the next benchmark, we’re free to explore, learn, and pivot with the fluidity of water, adapting to the ever-changing landscape of life with agility and grace. It’s in this boundless space of possibilities that true innovation and creativity flourish, unencumbered by the fear of missing the mark.

Crafting a Life Unscripted

Ditching the goal-setting script doesn’t mean meandering through life without purpose or direction. Rather, it’s about crafting a narrative driven by passion, curiosity, and the intrinsic desire to grow and evolve, goals or no goals. It’s about finding security not in the predictable milestones of achievement but in the robustness of our adaptability and the depth of our willingness to embrace the unknown.

So, here stands an invitation to step off the goal-setting treadmill and into the expansive, uncharted territories of a life lived without limits. Because, at the end of the day, the most profound journeys are those not confined by the narrow lanes of goals but enriched by the limitless landscapes of possibility.

Brand

Brutally honest, transparent, lots of humor, making fun of myself, dancing unicorns and shit. At this point, it’s not apologetic on my end. 

Funny enough, this whole being “me” thing wasn’t some grand strategy. It’s just… well, me. Back in the day, I’d often hear, “You can’t say that you can’t do this,” ringing in my ears like some sort of corporate mantra. Then, the moment I bid adieu to the “suit-and-tie brigade”, everyone’s tune changed.

Suddenly, my brand of straight talk and raw honesty was the flavor of the month. “We need more of this!” they cried. Go figure.

So, here’s the big reveal: I’ve not changed. I’ve been this brutally honest soul all along, and now it’s suddenly in vogue? I’m not complaining. If anything, it just proves my point—life’s too short to be serious (and muted.)

In a nutshell, I’m all about keeping it real, with a healthy sprinkle of absurdity for good measure. Because, let’s face it, who has the time for anything less?

Being yourself, it’s like you know that you also will displeased by what you stand for. That’s inevitable. When you are yourself, that doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole. 

Everybody is a consultant now

For me, the journey has always been about enlightening others with information and giving back to the community that has given me so much. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be where I am today, and because of that, I feel a strong desire to share my knowledge as freely as I can.

This drive to share isn’t just about shining a spotlight on myself or indirectly boosting my consulting gig—though let’s be real, we all know some folks who are all about that brand-building life. But hey, who am I to throw stones? My aim is simply to provide value through brutal honesty and clear transparency, offering insights that can genuinely help others.

Embracing the reality that you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea is crucial. Some will vibe with what you’re putting out there, and others won’t. And that’s perfectly fine. Realizing this sooner rather than later can save you a lot of stress and energy.

I’m a firm believer in not fixing what isn’t broken. Instead, it’s about recognizing your weaknesses not as flaws, but as opportunities to reach new heights. Sure, playing to your strengths is smart—like building upon your knack for public speaking, if that’s your thing. As for me? Not so much. I’d much rather hunker down at home, write my heart out, and steer clear of the stage spotlight. It’s not about avoiding challenges; it’s about knowing where you shine the brightest and making the most of it.

Even though it’s not my jam, you will still see me on stage overcoming the fear and jumping out of my comfort zone while talking about some creative trends or other UA shit!

Building a 1.4mil EUR ARR company alone

Building a $1.4 million-a-year company might sound like a journey paved with high-tech innovations or glamorous product launches. Yet, the real secret sauce to this level of success is often found in the most unassuming places. It’s the non-sexy aspects of business that often hold the key to substantial, sustainable growth. Let’s dive into how focusing on the less glamorous, more practical strategies can lead to a profitable venture, especially when targeting small to midsize companies rather than chasing after big, flashy names.

Embrace the Non-Sexy

The allure of creating something visually stunning or market-disrupting is undeniable. We’re talking about the sexy stuff: sleek website designs, eye-catching sales decks, and products that promise to revolutionize the industry. However, the real money-makers are often found in the less glamorous tasks: increasing your hourly fees, charging more in general, and expanding into new verticals. It’s about recognizing the value you bring to the table and not being afraid to ask for what your service is genuinely worth.

I left Pixelfederation in 2018, where you can see the revenue increase. Then the real breakthrough happened in mid-2020. Do you know what it was? I became my own boss! No bullshit, just brutal honesty!

For years, my company didn’t have a website or a sales deck. Guess what? Nobody cared. Why? Because my focus was on delivering exceptional value and solving real problems (honestly, some days I thought I am not even solving any problem), especially those small and midsize companies that are often overlooked by the giants in the industry.

Family First

Adopting a family-first approach doesn’t mean cutting corners or sacrificing quality. Instead, it means making strategic decisions that ensure your family, mental & business’s financial health is always at the forefront. This means passing on the temptation to give discounts and just bend over to every penny. Instead, I was (and I still am) opting out of any discounts or any speculative models. I really value my time, and as I mentioned, I spend the majority of my day with my daughter. Why? That time is way more valuable to me than working for a lower fee.

The Rollercoaster Journey

Building a company to this level of revenue is anything but a smooth ride. It’s a rollercoaster of highs and lows, successes and setbacks. What keeps this journey on track? A steadfast focus on being true to oneself and the business’s core values. The moment I stopped trying to conform to what I thought the industry wanted and started focusing on what I knew we were great at, the numbers began to increase. It wasn’t about being everything to everyone but about being the best for someone. The thing is, you don’t need to be the best. You need to be different! Yep, that’s it.

Why the Focus on Non-Sexy Works

So, why does focusing on the non-sexy aspects of business work? Because it’s where the real value lies. It’s about solving genuine problems, filling gaps in the market, and providing services that businesses truly need. When you shift your focus from trying to impress with aesthetics to impress with substance, you create a foundation for sustainable growth.

David vs. Goliath

#justforfuncomparison on the two biggest companies in the local gaming market in Slovakia and me.

Lancaric.me = 1 person = 1.4Mil revenue in 2023 = 700k profit

Pixel Federation = 230 people = 42.Mil Revenue in 2023 = 1 mil profit

Powerplay studios = 49 people = 2.87 Mil revenue in 2023 = 422k loss

In conclusion, building a company with a $1.4 million annual revenue is less about the outward glitz and more about the inward grit. It’s a testament to the power of focusing on what truly matters: providing undeniable value, adopting a profit-first mindset, and embracing the journey, rollercoaster and all. So, here’s to the non-sexy side of business—it might not always look pretty, but it sure does pay off.

Takeaways

In the grand, unpredictable game of life (and business, for that matter), here’s the deal: aiming to be the best in the crowd? Overrated. Striving to be the odd one out, the unicorn among horses? That’s where the magic happens.

Remember, time isn’t just money; it’s your life currency. Spend it wisely, not on endless scrolling or fretting over the unimportant. It’s all about what you value on your to-do list. And let’s be honest, if you’ve got happiness in your corner, it’s like hitting a triple jackpot—happy you, happy family, happy clients, and voila, your business is on the up and up.

Speaking of priorities, let’s not forget the golden rule: family first, mental peace a close second, and then, somewhere down the line, work slots in. This isn’t your typical corporate ladder—it’s the ladder to a fulfilled life.

Now, for the soloists out there thinking you need an army to make a dent in the universe, think again. Sometimes, a one-person army is all it takes to storm the castle. And as for advice? Take it with a grain of salt. Your gut’s been with you since day one, trust it to guide you right.

Embrace the oops moments and the aha moments equally. After all, a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. And if your job’s making you dread Mondays, it’s time to swipe left on that career and find your true love in the work world.

Ditch the goalposts. Instead, paint your future with broad, visionary strokes. Consistency is your best friend here—stick to your guns, and the universe will eventually get with the program. While you’re at it, forget the whole comparison game. Just do you because everyone else is already taken.

Shortcuts and secret sauces? Myths, the lot of them. The only real spice is elbow grease. And lastly, when it comes to the people around you, a simple mantra: don’t be a jerk. It’s not just good manners; it’s good business.

Subscribe for more insights from the gaming industry!

Latest news

The Art of Diversification: Alternative Mobile UA Channels for 2024

Mastering Facebook and Google are table stakes in mobile UA. But when the economy faces a downturn, you have to get creative. It shifts from growth-first to more scrutinized, shorter payback windows. The main benefit is diversification. More channels mean more experimentation and maybe a new and profitable channel. And when one channel suddenly stops […]

Squad Busters Soft launch & Global launch case study

Supercell has announced the global launch date of Squad Busters, the developer’s ambitious new mobile game. Oh boy. I fucking love this game! What is Squad Busters? Imagine a multiverse of all of Supercell’s previously released games. And the characters from these games all converged into one single battle arena. This is Squad Busters. The […]

Is Supercell Super Back? UA Lessons We Can Learn

Back in the day, Supercell ads were crazy. It really made you stop and think “how can a mobile game afford Liam Neeson?” Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, and Brawl Stars are all in the star-studded lineup of one of the most recognizable gaming developers in the world. Their impact is undeniable. It was unthinkable […]

Beginner’s Guide to Mobile User Acquisition: The No-Bullshit Guide

A city-building simulation game set in an ice and snow apocalypse. As the chief of the last town on Earth, you have to gather resources and rebuild society. Collect resources, assign workers, explore the wilderness, conquer tough surroundings, and use various methods in order to survive.

Hybrid casual UA playbook! Channel mix, campaign structure, creative strategy

A city-building simulation game set in an ice and snow apocalypse. As the chief of the last town on Earth, you have to gather resources and rebuild society. Collect resources, assign workers, explore the wilderness, conquer tough surroundings, and use various methods in order to survive.

11 tips for killer mobile User Acquisition (Q1 version)

Yo! Enjoy these few tips that will help you to improve your UA Operations. If don't, at least you spent few minutes reading and not working. Sit back, relax & enjoy the winter Q2 edition and share this with your UA friends. They will love you!

Contact

User acquisition mobile games consulting

Gentlemen’s s.r.o., Cukrová 2376/6, 811 08 Bratislava, Slovakia
IČO: 47877138, DIČ: 2024137797, IČ DPH: SK2024137797