December Month in Review

Happy New Year! πŸŽ‰ It's 2017, and December was an amazing month for Indie Hackers β€” traffic was high, the business generated far more revenue than ever before, and I personally felt great the whole time. I'm excited to talk about the hows and whys!

Revenue and Expenses

Let's start off on a high note: revenue growth! Back in November, Indie Hackers only made $159 despite getting more traffic than ever. I made finding sponsors one of my top priorities and set a modest goal of talking to 10 sponsors in December.

I ended up smashing that goal and talking to 18 different sponsors, 7 of whom paid for a promotion. (Thanks guys and gals!) In the end, Indie Hackers had its biggest month to date, bringing in $2239 in gross revenue. As you can see below, the vast majority of that came from sponsors:

$2239 Total Revenue
$890 Newsletter Promos
$750 Featured Interviews
$300 Podcast Shoutouts
$128 Amazon Affiliates Program
$100 Donations
$71 BuySellAds
$205 Total Expenses
$73 PayPal Fees (2.9% + 30Β’ per sale)
$72 MailChimp (weekly newsletter)
$25 Firebase (database for forum)
$20 Zencastr (podcast recording service)
$10 Buffer (scheduling social media posts)
$5 G Suite (Google-hosted email)

Finding Sponsors the Easy Way

At some point I'd like to do a full blog post that talks about implementing a sponsor-supported business model, but I'm still very new to it, so I don't have much to share… yet.

The first thing I did in December was put up a sponsorship page. It ended up getting ~500 unique visitors during the month. That's nothing compared to the rest of the site, but I can only support a maximum of 20 unique sponsors per month given my current offerings (2 newsletter spots/week, 2 podcast spots/week, and 1 interview spot/week), so that's more than enough interest.

In addition to that page, I talked about sponsorships in my last monthly review and in several newsletter issues, and those efforts drove a lot of inbound interest. I'm hoping this post will do the same! 😎

If you have a product or service that you want to put in front of thousands of developers and entrepreneurs for reasonable CPC rates, get in touch!

How Not to Do Affiliate Marketing

For the past few months I've been putting Amazon links to relevant books in various interviews. Here's how things went in December:

Amazon Affiliate Earnings for December

Only $122.57 in revenue from 3000+ clicks on Amazon affiliate links. πŸ€”

As you can see from the stats, click counts are pretty high. That's because the links I'm adding to interviews are all for highly relevant books that I've actually read and sincerely recommend: The Lean Startup, The Personal MBA, Start Small, Stay Small, etc. Still, I'm just not making very much money at all from this approach.

I shared these stats on Twitter a few days ago, which started a conversation with lots of informative replies, including examples of companies that are just killing it with affiliate revenue. My takeaway from all of this is that, surprisingly, Indie Hackers readers aren't all that interested in buying books about starting companies.

Will I give up on this approach? Probably not. The book recommendations are helpful to lots of people, adding them requires little time on my part, and the revenue (while low) is not nothing. It might even accumulate to meaningful levels over time as I do more interviews, but I'm not holding my breath here.

Traffic and Growth

In December the site got 234,328 pageviews over 128,264 sessions from ~70,000 unique visitors. Here's a graph of those sessions on a weekly basis (the first week was short, because it started on a Thursday):

Monthly Sessions for December

Apparently Christmas is more important to people than Indie Hackers. 😝

The total was much less than October and November's 170k sessions, but I'm really happy with it considering that lots of people were on vacation during the second half of December. I also only submitted one post to Hacker News this month (that's the spike at the end) as opposed to two in November and three in October.

My decision from last month to follow the 80/20 rule and spend more time on the interviews themselves (at the expense of other marketing efforts) has really paid off. The interviews are much better, in my opinion, and traffic hasn't suffered.

Also, for the first time ever I'm actually building up a backlog of interviews, which makes my life much less stressful. I no longer have to scramble to get to three interviews at the last minute before the newsletter goes out.

Time Tracking

I spent a total of 118 "productive" hours working on Indie Hackers in December, which averages out to 29.5 hours/week. I only measure time spent doing actual work, not just screwing around on Twitter:

Daily Breakdown of Productive Hours

I was on vacation in NYC between the 21st and 27th!

The cool thing about this month was that my ratio of productive time worked to total time worked was much higher than in previous months. I prioritized taking lots of breaks and days off, which forced me to use my limited time at the computer more productively.

The result was that I worked less and enjoyed life more, and I still got roughly the same amount done! Ideally I can continue moving in this direction, which should work wonders in helping me avoid burnout. πŸ™Œ

Here's a breakdown of how I spent my time this month:

Time Breakdown Pie Chart

I use an excellent app called Toggl to track all of these hours for free.

The most notable change is that, from November to December, I went from spending less than 5% to almost 25% of my time focused on generating revenue! It's actually crazy how little I was doing before.

Goals for January

I'm going to double down on my commitment to revenue growth in January. My goal is to hit $3000 in gross revenue. To get there, I'll spend more time proactively reaching out to companies that I think would make good sponsors. I also plan to replace the ads on the homepage with some highly relevant affiliate links. We'll see how that goes!

As for traffic growth, it's on the backburner while I figure out how to make enough money to sustain myself (and thus Indie Hackers). My goal here is to maintain the current numbers and hit 128k sessions in January.

I really want to make some headway with automation in January, so I can spend less time on repetitive tasks and more time on things that matter. If things go well here, I'll blog about it for sure! πŸ€—

Finally, I want to be ready to launch the podcast by the end of the month. I know I keep pushing back the release date on this, but I want to ensure I'm consistent with a new episode every week, so I'm building up a small backlog to give myself some leeway. I think you guys are going to really like it!

Goals for 2017?!

Since it's January, I thought it'd be fun to write about some of my bigger goals for the year, so I can come back next year and see how things went:

  • I'd love to hit $10k/mo. That would easily sustain my lifestyle, and it'd also be similar to working a normal programming job in the Bay Area.
  • Starting over at $0 on the first of every month is tough, so I want to create a subscription-based product that contributes a meaningful amount of revenue.
  • One of my dreams is for the forum to grow into a vibrant community of indie hackers who can support each other, share ideas, and offer feedback. It's at ~850 members right now, and it'd be great to hit 4,000.
  • 320,000 people visited Indie Hackers in 2016 β€” in 2017, my goal is to break a million! (It feels absurd just typing this.)

Thanks to all of you for making 2016 so great! I'm really looking forward to meeting more of you online and in person this year, and I hope I can give back by making the site even better. Happy New Year! 😍

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