How to Write for Indie Hackers

Indie Hackers readers are a special group of people. They enjoy high-quality writing about useful subjects, and it's my job to make sure they get it.

My goal here is to help you write something really, really good. I want it to spread like wildfire on the internet and spark discussion for months to come.

I hope you want the same!

Understand Your Audience

It's never too early to take your audience into consideration. Ultimately, they're the only people with the power to decide whether or not your article is any good.

The Indie Hackers audience is comprised of tech-savvy founders, developers, and aspiring entrepreneurs. They're smart and eager to learn, but they're also busy people who don't have time for bullshit.

Here's what that means for you:

  • Stick to entrepreneurship. People come here to read stories and lessons related to building online businesses. Don't make things hard on yourself by picking a topic that they don't care about. More on this below.

  • Go deep, and be transparent. Aspiring entrepreneurs learn best when they can read the whole story. Don't write fluff. Don't skim the surface. Instead, dive into your behind-the-scenes strategies, metrics, failures, and successes. Err on the side of over-sharing.

  • Make it personal. A big part of why people read Indie Hackers is that the stories they find here are inspiring and relatable. Never settle for reporting disembodied facts when you can instead tell a personal story about your own experiences, dreams, feelings, and outcomes.

Pick Your Topic

Now that you have a broad understanding of your audience, you're better equipped to decide what to write about. That's great, because there's no easier way to set yourself up for success or failure than by your choice of topic.

Write something that people want to read.

This sounds obvious, and of course it's easier said than done. But it's surprisingly easy to veer away from this goal. The default is to simply write what you want people to read without any regard for their own desires. Avoid that if you can.

Try asking yourself directly, "What will people gain from reading this?" If you can motivate your readers, inspire them to action, empower them with useful knowledge, help them solve their most dire problems, or engage them with rare or surprising information, then you're on the right track.

I find it helpful to think of a headline first. It's the first thing people will see when your article is shared, and the primary reason they'll decide to click (or not). If you can make your title compelling, you've won half the battle.

(This isn't an excuse to write a generic, clickbaity title. Intelligent readers have come to associate those with mediocre content.)

To help get your creative juices flowing, I'm maintaining a list of topics that I'd love to see more written about.

Some Tips for Writing Well

I've edited over 200 interviews and articles for Indie Hackers in the past year. The guidelines below should help you write a great article by avoiding some common mistakes that entrepreneurs tend to make as authors.

Stay focused.

  • Think about your specific target audience. Who will get the most from your article? Write with that person in mind. Ignore everyone else.
  • Avoid straying too far off topic. You can always write a new and different article later, with its own topic, headline, and target audience.

Engage early.

  • Jump into your article and start making points immediately. Don’t delay. You rarely need an intro or a preamble.
  • Make it clear who you’re writing for. The longer readers have to ask, “Is this article relevant for me?” the more likely they are to click the back button.
  • If you're helping people solve a problem, begin by describing the problem and its importance. This gets readers nodding along and encourages them to keep reading.

Be convincing.

  • Unsurprisingly, research has shown that people are far more convinced by points that are followed by explanations. Always explain why.
  • Tell stories wherever possible. They naturally resonate with people.
  • Stick to what you know, and explain how you know it. It makes writing faster and easier, and it helps ensure that readers trust you.

Make good use of images.

  • Reading long articles on the internet can be tiresome. Including a relevant inline image every so often helps to break things up.
  • When you're discussing something visual (e.g. a website you built), include a screenshot. They're more helpful to readers than you might think.
  • You want the image that represents your article to stand out when it's shared. My favorite trick is to import a photo into Prisma and use the filters to make it look like a custom illustration.

Follow our style guide.

  • Keep your sentences and paragraphs short. It'll make your article easier to read.
  • Spell out acronyms, and take the time to explain them.
  • Resist the urge to use lots of jargon and insider lingo.
  • Use contractions. They make your writing much friendlier.
  • Use the Oxford comma.
  • Put commas and periods inside quotes.
  • Avoid overusing dashes, colons, semicolons, parentheses, hyphens, and bold or italic text. They make reading laborious.

Spend time editing.

  • Have at least one or two other people read over your draft and make suggestions. It almost never fails to improve the quality.
  • If English is not your first language, find a native English speaker to proofread your article and make corrections.

Publishing and Promoting Your Article

If you haven't yet, you can start writing your article by clicking this link. 👈

Once you're ready to publish, simply click the "Publish" button at the top of the page. This will immediately make your article public to everyone. It will also create a thread on the forum, so community members can discover your article, upvote it, and leave comments.

If Channing and I really like your article, we'll help promote it by featuring it on the home page, sending it out to our mailing list, and tweeting about it from @IndieHackers.

The closer your article adheres to the guidelines found here, the more likely we are to promote it!

Another way to get your article on our radar is to do a good job of promoting it yourself. We're a lot more likely to feature articles that are getting more traffic, comments, and upvotes than normal — it's a sign that the community really enjoys what you've written.

Good luck, and have fun!

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