As a career entrepreneur, I wear the customer-first badge. Proudly. I strongly believe raising money through customer sales is the best option, and in a lot of cases, it should be the only option.

I don’t want to have to ignore a great startup idea because west coast venture capitalists won’t deem it investable. I also believe that the vast majority of startup ideas aren’t VC-investable in the first place, at least not initially. They could be massive successes — they just shouldn’t try to buy that success with VC money out of the gate.

Now, that’s not to say I don’t believe in the VC model. Far from it. I’ve been down the VC-funded road half-a-dozen times now, and to be honest with you, it’s been a totally different ride each time. And it’s actually gotten easier each time.

But as it is with a lot of entrepreneurial advice and punditry, everyone says you should go customer-first but no one actually tells you how to go customer-first.

So here are the three ways I did it. These aren’t the only ways, these are just the ones that worked for me, and I’m not going to advise you to do something I haven’t already done:

  • Turn a service into a product
  • Spin your company out of your job
  • Start from scratch and reinvest

Read more about starting your own company by Joe Procopio at Medium