TL;DR: "How do I create a credible company when everything about where I'm at right now is kind of bullshit? I have no staff, no real customers, and no credibility in the marketplace? How does anyone get over this?"
Faking it as a startup is pretty much what being a startup is all about.
As first-time Founders, we just don't realize that it's the norm. Instead, we worry ourselves about not being a big enough company, not having a full staff, or not having a proven product.
Well, guess what? If we're just starting out, we fake everything!
Our Fake Website
"But wait, won't people find out that all we have right now is a cheap landing page that my cousin created and just a couple of products available?"
Yes, and they generally won't care. When is the last time you deliberated on the corporate structure of a company before making a purchase? Probably never. Most customers assume there is some level of functionality and deliverability in our product because that's generally how companies operate.
As a startup, so long as we CAN deliver on what we're proposing, how we package it to the world is less important. So yeah, our website can look like a bigger, more established company, even if we're still working another job, so long as when someone hits the "buy" button, they get exactly what we proposed.
Our Fake Staff
In the early days, we’re the CEO, CFO, CMO, and Global Director of Answering Every Frickin Email Our Company Gets. There's no big staff, there's no org chart. It's just us handling every operation until one day, hopefully, we build enough of a company that we can afford to have someone else pick, pack, and ship our product.
Once again, our customer doesn't care. Will they be put off that the Founder is answering their tech support questions? Absolutely not. Worst case, we can give ourselves a nickname to "look bigger" but guess what — every Founder runs support for a ridiculously long time. It's OK.
Our Fake Credibility
"But how are we going to convince customers that we're a legit business when the two of us have never run a company like this?"
Guess what — no one has run a startup until they have. So we're all "Fake Credible" until we prove otherwise. Despite what some may think, very few Founders are coming from an industry where they did "exactly this job" in their previous life. That's often because we're typically inventing new products for customers that don't exist yet.
So how do we fake it? We deliver to anyone that will listen, then ask them to support our claims. That often starts with getting family, friends, and colleagues to buy in, then using that social proof to get their friends to buy-in. We bring Advisors on board and use their social proof. We give away our products to customers just to get their testimonials. We basically do whatever we can for whoever will agree to establish our credibility as we go.
We all start from zero — that's really the point. Everything we work on is "fake" until we make it real. That's our job as Founders, and no one gets a free pass