November Month in Review

Another month, another month-in-review post for Indie Hackers! November was a huge eye opener for me โ€” nothing went at all how I predicted, but I learned a lot, and I'm really excited about how things turned out. Let's dive in!

Burning Out on Last Month's Goals

Last month I set some very ambitious goals for November. Not only did I want to grow traffic by 18% to hit 200,000 sessions, but I wanted to do it by diversifying my sources of traffic so I could be less dependent on Hacker News. That meant spending more time posting in other places like Reddit and Quora. ๐Ÿ‘Œ

Two weeks later, I felt completely sapped of motivation. I was burning out!

I really enjoy talking about the psychology behind starting a business โ€” it's fascinating, and it's under-emphasized relative to how big a role it plays. Dealing with burnout is an important part of that psychology, and something we all face at one point or another.

The fact is that excitement and motivation are not limitless. You can use them up. If you push yourself too hard for too long, your mind says, "I trusted you with all that energy, and this is how you repay me?!" Then it pulls the plug to cuts you off from the juice. It's particularly hard to avoid this as a solo founder.

Having been here before, my #1 goal in this situation was to treat the burnout like an injury: take it easy and avoid making it worse. Here's what I said in the newsletter that week:

Burned Out

This was the newsletter from Thursday, November 17th.

I decided to focus on the things I enjoy, even if that came at the expense of growth. Luckily for me, that was completely the right decision.

Traffic and Growth

In November I hit a new traffic record of 170,965 sessions (aka visits), barely edging out October's traffic. This fell short of my goal of 200,000 visits, but it was way more than I expected to get for most of the month. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

That's because a huge percentage of traffic came right at the end:

Monthly Sessions for November

The last week alone accounted for 45% of this month's traffic!

The story behind that traffic surge at the end is the same story behind every other traffic surge in Indie Hackers' short history: Hacker News. The interview I did with Dawson Whitfield about his AI-powered logo business, Logojoy, hit #1 on Hacker News on Tuesday the 29th, and stayed there all day.

That drove an immense amount of traffic to Indie Hackers: 73,000 sessions and almost 800 mailing list subscribers in under 48 hours!

The moral of this story is that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Although it would be nice to diversify my traffic and stop relying on HN so much, the fact remains that HN is still an amazing source of traffic for Indie Hackers, and one that I've already got figured out.

As for my long-tail traffic strategy, I still think it's a good idea, but I need to go about it a different way. There's no way I can manually drum up enough long-tail traffic to match what I get from big hits like the Instapainting or Logojoy interviews. Instead, I should just focus on the hits and let other people organically share them all over the internet. It's like trickle-down economics, except it actually works. ๐Ÿ˜

Revenue and Expenses

My revenue for the month was $159, which is much lower than it's been in recent months (I made $814 in October). Here's how it all went down:

$159 Total Revenue
$125 1x Newsletter Sponsorship
$34 Amazon Affiliates Program
$144 Total Expenses
$56 MailChimp (weekly newsletter)
$49 SpyFu (for SEO research)
$25 Firebase (stores forum posts/comments)
$10 Buffer (scheduling social media posts)
$5 G Suite (Google-hosted email)

I was hoping to make a bit more headway with sponsorships in November, but in the end I didn't focus on it at all, so I can't say I'm too surprised with how things turned out. I'm really going to hit things much harder this month and do some actual outbound sales stuff. ๐Ÿ‘Š

(On that note, if you're reading this and you're interested in getting your product/service into the hands of thousands of developers and entrepreneurs, I'd love to hear from you! Email me at courtland@indiehackers.com.)

Besides sponsorships, I'm really hoping to step up my affiliate marketing game this month. I finally put one of my long-time ideas in play and started annotating interviews with comments of my own. Not only is this a great way to add valuable information, it also lets me add affiliate links when they're compelling and relevant:

Annotation with Affiliate Link

I'll add 2-3 annotations like this to every interview from now on.

Finally, I'm talking to the good folks at BuySellAds about adding some ads to the grid on the home page. They'll be attractive and unobtrustive, and people with ad blockers will see a message asking for donations instead.

Time Tracking

Last month I promised to track my time so I could break it down and see exactly where it's going. I figured it would be interesting for you guys and educational for me, too. Check it:

Total Time Worked

You can see my mid-month burnout dip pretty clearly!

I tried my best to only track hours that I spent productively. For example, if it took me 6 hours to write a blog post, but 2 of that was spent reading articles online, then I only counted that as 4 hours. On average, I spent about 34 hours productively each week! Here's how those hours broke down:

Time Breakdown Pie Chart

A few different categories got combined into gray. The "miscellaneous" was mostly just clearing my inbox.

I'm sure there's a lot to analyze here, but what stands out the most is how much time I'm spending on the interviews.

One of the most insightful things I read this month came from Richard Koch's book The 80/20 Principle. Koch points out example after example in which a small handful of factors (the 20%) outperform the rest (the 80%) by a wide margin. This is just as true in business as it is anywhere else. So if you want to get more done with less effort, it's smart to double down on those hard-hitting factors.

For Indie Hackers, that's undoubtedly the interviews, so I'm happy to see that that's where I'm spending the bulk of my time, even though sometimes it feels like I'm being pulled in 100 different directions!

Goals for December

The holidays are almost here! I'm not sure what this will mean for Indie Hackers specifically. I don't sell to consumers, and people will be distracted, so it might not be great. But then again, I love Christmas music, so I'll be ecstatic either way! ๐ŸŽ…

In terms of growth, I want to keep doing what works in December and get another post to the top of Hacker News. Other than that, I want to keep putting out 3 great interviews per week, and also launch my podcast! I'm hoping to see at least 100,000 pageviews, break 2,000 Twitter followers, and hit 6,000 mailing list subscribers.

As for revenue, I hope to get at least one or two sponsors, and to also figure out affiliate marketing and make more headway there than I have in the past. Instead of setting a revenue target, I'll set a sponsor target: In December I'd like to have conversations with at least 10 potential sponsors.

The next time I post one of these things, it'll be 2017! Until then, you can follow @IndieHackers or subscribe to the weekly newsletter for regular updates.

Keep on keeping on! ๐Ÿ™Œ

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