How I Went from Indie Lurker to Indie Hacker

Discuss this article or ask me any questions you may have.

  1. 12

    Great article, Lynne and congrats on a great launch! 'Stop trying to come up with a genius idea', I really identify with that, as I often thought too hard, to come up with the next big thing - what I ended up doing is actually quite simple.

    1. 5

      Thanks Leandro! And yeah, I still don't know we default to thinking that brand new ideas are the only ones worth pursuing. We don't think that way for anything else! No one says, "I really want to open a bakery but -- oh wait -- someone else already did that."

      Ps. I've been following your UNUBO journey! 😊 Excited to see where we'll both be in a few months.

      1. 4

        Some VC's and founders were already spreading that idea in the late 90s.. but I think Peter Thiel really made it the main ideology when he shared his zero to one philosophy w "competition is for losers" being his main thesis.

        Human beings have a tendency (maybe due to our educational system) to not question things and accept them as facts when they sound logical to us. I suppose this isn't as irrational as it seems because it's not possible to question everything all the time but it does lead to bugs in our mental software.

        Anyway, I hypothesize that if your goal (or VC's goal) is winner take all / winner take most, then you'd prob wanna do something new and build a monopoly where you're in a pos to be the last one ( durability).. but if your ambition is to build something and make a profit that ideology becomes toxic in a hurry.

        I think it's best to separate the two philosophies because there are fundamental differences between a small business (where you're doing something that's already being done i.e. a CRM system) vs a startup (where you're doing something new like spaceX).


        'Some examples of how this works in practice. I always use restaurants as the example of a terrible business, this is always sort of the idea that capital [accumulation] and competition are antonyms. If someone accumulates capital, a world of perfect competition is a world where all the capital gets competed away. So you're opening a restaurant business, no one wants to invest because you just lose money, so you have to tell some idiosyncratic narrative and you'll say something like. "Well we're the only British food restaurant in Palo Alto.” So its British, Palo Alto and of course that's too small a market because people may be able to drive all the way to Mountain View or even Menlo Park and there probably are no people who eat nothing but British food, at least no people who are still alive.'

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        This comment was deleted 3 years ago.

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          Hi Thomas! First off, thank you for your feedback on my very first IH post! You played a huge role in digging me out of that hole. 🙏

          Re: bakeries, I made that statement thinking that most of us (as indie hackers) aren't wanting to go head to head with the big players. We're hoping to make ~$10k/mo.

          I never wanted to build an empire that would "take over the world" and as you said, I just hoped I could successfully serve a small, local market. Even still, I kept thinking that I still needed a genius idea to do that.

          What I've learned (and am still learning!) is that there are all sorts of traps that people fall into when it comes to idea generation/validation. This forum discussion highlights that, don't you think? When I first learned to code and was brainstorming project ideas for my portfolio/resume, people would tell me that someone else had already done that. Somewhere along the way, some of us (myself included) learned that the only ideas worth pursuing are the ones no one else has thought of.

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            This comment was deleted 3 years ago.

  2. 7

    It's a big pie and I only need a little slice. Nobody else has to lose in order for me to win.

    Love this.

  3. 4

    Nice article - it's even bringing me out of lurking here...!
    Could you add a geographic filter to Key Values, as having a great fit with a team on the other side of the planet doesn't really help me out much, even if it is just North America, Europe, Asia etc. to at least filter it a little bit

    1. 1

      Hi Ben! You're certainly not the first person to ask for this. I only recently started adding teams based outside of the Bay Area. I think there's a need for a location filter but it also doesn't seem to make sense just yet because I don't have enough content/team profiles.

      The intermediate step/solution was to show locations in the search results on the homepage. It's not great, but it helps. Even filtering by continent as you suggested would be a sad experience right now. They'd be 0 for all of them but North America, and only 1 team for Europe (Algolia).

      For now, I'd suggest using the Remote-OK filter.

      I promise to add a location filter once I have more team profiles 😊

  4. 4

    Very inspiring article, Lynne. I also tend to want to find the perfect, unique idea. It's not going to happen. I like your launch advice, too. Thanks for getting me pumped up...

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      I hope you'll include me (and the rest of the IH community) as you brainstorm and test out new ideas. And I know this might be considered "bad advice" because it isn't very actionable, but I think part of what makes an idea perfect is that you enjoy doing it. Someone w/ minimal skills and loves working on X will be more successful than someone who has 10x the skills but hates working on X.

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        Wow. Your story really reinforced the notion that I need to come up with a completely original idea. Thanks for writing it up. I will not be a lurker any longer.


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          Wait... did you make a typo? You do not need to come up with a completely original idea!

  5. 3

    Found this post after reading @bensheldon 's "5 Years Later" post: https://www.indiehackers.com/forum/5-years-later-i-never-thought-id-be-renewing-my-business-license-61310ba756

    Lynne, this is such a great and informative story. I learned a ton.

    Consistent, incremental progress is the key to building great products, and of course great businesses. You also hit on something really important when you talked about creating the conditions for success long before you started the project.

    Step 1. Learn to code
    Step 2. Focus on getting paid
    Step 3. Have the skills and money stashed away so that you "hit go" as soon as you find something you're passionate about

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. 1

      WOW, 4 months later... (🙈 sorry!).

      Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a note! Your 3-step breakdown is pretty frickin' accurate too. 👌

  6. 3

    I remember seeing this on HN! I also remember loving the concept because actually being able to connect with your values in a team is something I have discovered is a really big benefit and I strive for more of that in my life. One thing I notice some companies are good at is clearly communicating their values by almost becoming media companies in a sense that they put a lot of content out there in the world that is in line with their values and as a consumer of that content you innately begin to get a sense of their values. It's great to see there is a paragraph for each key value on each companies profile to explain how those values manifest in their workplace. I also think professionally produced video is a really powerful medium to communicate that too... keyvalues.io branding and all! Would just love to see that.

    1. 1

      Thanks for your kind words!

      Re: companies being excellent at branding and marketing themselves, I agree. But engineers? Not so much. Engineers are pretty terrible at talking about and promoting themselves, which is why it's so hard to learn anything about them. Marketing teams can do a great job selling the company as a whole, but they don't know how to talk about their engineering culture as well. My hope is that by having engineers talk about their engineering culture, we can really get a peak into what it's like to work there.

  7. 2

    I quite unexpectedly ended up on your post through HN and I am so glad I did. Was in quite a similar predicament and this post just inspired me not only to join the IH community, but also not to let anyone discourage me from trying out my ideas. Thank you!

    1. 2

      This is very welcome news given how positive the discussion was... 🙈

      Glad you've joined IH and hope we'll being seeing some of those ideas soon!

  8. 2

    ❤️ key : values

    I've discovered the importance of value fit over the last few years so I just wanted to say how much I love this site.

    1. 1

      Thank you! Hearing that makes me so incredibly happy 🤗

  9. 2

    Thanks for posting this great article Lynne! I have been working on a few side projects using squarespace (I am not a developer) so I was wondering if this is a good route to go or if you believe I should start learning basic developer skills? If it is the latter I was wondering where I should start?

    Thanks again for the inspiration 👊

    1. 1

      There is no way for me to give you good advice here w/o more information. In fact, you probably shouldn't listen to anyone else's advice unless you're sure that they fully understand your circumstance and goals first.

      What's a "good route" for you totally depends on what kind of side projects you're working on now and what kind you want to work on in the future.

      If your objective is to create a beautiful portfolio to showcase artwork you've created, then I don't think you need know much more. If you want to develop a product or app that's more complex, then that's a different conversation. I'd then ask...

      • Do you want to be more technical or are you okay working w/ or hiring someone else who is more technical than you?
      • Is your end goal to start a business/company?
      • Do you think you'll enjoy learning to code?
      • Do you have the time/space/money to learn to code? (i.e. perhaps you have a full time job and don't have much time to spare)

      If you're pretty sure you want to learn how to code yourself after all of this, you should then weigh all of your options and find the one that best suits you (aka your learning style, geographic location, ability to pay for courses and set aside time to learn, etc.). Maybe you should check out Lambda School, or find a local bootcamp that you can attend in person. Maybe you're the type of person who can just sit down and teach themselves? There are plenty of online resources you can leverage, like egghead.io.

      Hope this helps!

  10. 2

    Being always late to the party, I just found this article. Really identified with a lot of stuff in it.Packed full of useful advice that I can take action on RIGHT NOW. Thank you, Lynne, for writing it!

    1. 1

      Looks like I left the party too early, and returned too late! Glad you liked it and hope you took action 2 months ago!

  11. 2

    Your post is absolutely great, but the name of your product is the best thing I've seen today! Awesome!

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  12. 2

    This is so inspiring! Laura's podcast really struck a chord with me as well and I specifically remember the piece you quoted.

  13. 2

    Really nice article, also your site looks clean and gorgeous.

    1. 1

      Thanks for reading it, and taking the time to comment 🤗

  14. 2

    Hey, Lynne. This is an old post I guess but I just now found it and read it. You've convinced me to submit my first question to this forum and ask for advice about my indiehack!

    The most interesting part of your story to me is your freelancing rate. How did you manage to get it up to $100/hr as a relatively jr dev just two years out from a bootcamp you didn't finish? I'm sure you must have been a quick study but I know people who have been doing deep technical work for over a decade but still struggle to make that rate!

    1. 2

      That makes me so happy to hear! Congrats on your first post and officially leaving your indie lurker status behind!

      The first gig I got by myself was at $60/hr. I remember talking to the CTO over the phone and just throwing that number out. I immediately wished I had said something lower because I really wanted the work, but a moment later she said, "Sounds good. I'll send you a contract later today." I immediately wished I had said a higher number!

      I'm embarrassed to say that the same thing happened with the next client a few months later, except this time I said $100/hour. I wasn't confident at all asking for these rates, but I should have been. In fact, looking back, I definitely should have increased my rate every few months.

      I will say two things:

      First, one of the best things about web development (and software engineering in general) is that a lot of people only care if you can do the job. You might not have relevant work experience or a degree in CS, but it doesn't matter if you can do the thing they want to pay you to do. So prove that you can do the thing. Contribute to open source projects, build a personal website showcasing your skills, and/or work on a side project that demonstrates that you know how to do the thing. I always loved that Jennifer Dewalt built a new website every day as she was learning to code. Who wouldn't hire her?!

      Second, I should really point you to @patio11. His podcast on IH was really eye-opening for me (maybe around 0h 29m 46s is most relevant). He has written a lot about salary negotiations and how to charge clients as a consultant, and is much more knowledgable than I am. I wish I had learned more from him sooner. You should tell the people you know that have been doing deep technical work for over a decade to also read up on Patrick McKenzie. I bet they can be better compensated.

      1. 1

        Thanks Lynne. I remember seeing Jennifer Dewalt's site on social media a few times and thinking about how it was such a good learning vehicle, but hadn't even thought about the marketing angle! The @patio11 interview is ridiculous... Especially since he's in Asia, too. Though maybe Japan is a bit better a market for engineers than Taiwan.

        Step one is clearly blog and get that HN karma!

  15. 2

    Congrats on the launch, Lynne! And a great article! It resonated so much with me. I've been an indie lurker for so many months. Like Key Values, my project is also in a saturated market, so I put off building it for a long time. But I've finally taken the plunge and I'm working on my side project now. Your words have pumped me up even more. Cheers!

    1. 2

      Lurkers unite!!! 😂

      If you're excited about your project, then keep going! And continue to do market and user research as you do. If you have questions or get stuck, post in the IH forum. Especially when you're in need of more "pumping up".

      Thanks for reading and I look forward to see your MVP 😊

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      This comment was deleted 3 years ago.

  16. 2

    'Stop trying to come up with a genius idea' probably the most important advice for starting entrepreneur. Great article Lynne, lots of useful advices!

    Lynne, is there any reason that you planned to launch at first on Hacker News and after in on ProductHunt?

    I am planning to launch my project - https://techevents.co/ next week. Not sure where I should post first and if that's even matters.

    1. 4

      I talk about this some in my article, but I never decided to launch in PH. Someone else posted on my behalf, and I definitely wished I could have coordinated it myself instead.

      Launching on HN was part of the plan from the beginning. Key Values' target audience is much more in line w/ the HN community.

      I don't think it matters where you post first, or if you post them on the same day. Just know that you can post to HN repeatedly, but you can only launch once in PH. I link to some other sources (Pieter Levels and the guide to launching in PH) in my article. Reading these (Pieter Levels' launch advice, How to Launch on PH) might answer other questions you have. The communities are really different and it's important to tailor your launch as best as you can to whatever channel you're using.

      Also, Tech Events looks great. There was a time when I was looking to attends as many events as possible. I would have used this!

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        Thanks for the great feedback! I see I was thinking that maybe success in one platform can help to another platform launch too.

        Yes, I read them and other articles of Pieter Levels' launches. Lost of helpful information for sure.

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      This comment was deleted 3 years ago.

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        ^^^ Thomas droppin' knowledge on us time and time again 🙌🏼

        I agree with everything he said. There isn't a perfect time, place, or order so don't stress out trying to figure one out.

        Sad fact of life: although your project is desperately important to you, no one else cares!

        SO true. You saw that first graph in my article right? The peak was really great! But then... it died... and stayed dead. I genuinely thought I'd launch and then people would keep talking about Key Values, telling all of their friends and family about it. 😂 It doesn't work like that.

        BTW, Thomas' advice might seem straight forward, but reading it now, I can tell that I didn't understand it at all until about 10 days ago. I don't have any experience in marketing/growth and "review your marketing strategy" meant nothing to me.

        Example: I love IH, but this isn't the ideal audience for me. Sure, there are lots of engineers are here, but the majority of them want to leave their full-time jobs and start a business. Key Values isn't a product they'd use, it's simply a good example of a product one can build.

        Maybe IH isn't your target audience either. Maybe your strategy will be building relationships with influencers and people who regularly speak at conference and host meetups. Maybe you'll need to customize partnerships with R-Ladies or Women Who Code, or focus on non-engineers who attend these events. I'm just saying things now, but you get my point, right?

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          Maybe your strategy will be building relationships with influencers and people who regularly speak at conference and host meetups.

          Great point! I had similar thoughts, will work on that.

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        Awesome advice! Can't disagree with anything.

        I was thinking that maybe success in one platform can help to another platform launch/success too.
        I don't have any expectation for one-night success or betting all into one marketing channel. Just want wisely use every marketing channel that is available to me.

  17. 2

    Thanks for sharing! Really appreciate the detailed step by step and your own journey in finally launching.

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      Thanks for commenting! I see that you joined IH just today, which is awesome ☺️

  18. 1

    Am definitely a lurker, slowly progressing to a hacker

  19. 1

    This article was a must read for the indie lurker I am. Thx for it Lynnetye even 4 years after !

  20. 1

    I can't get over how brilliant the name "Key Values" is. Thank you for this brilliant article <3

  21. 1

    I really appreciate the time you took to write this article. I think on some level, people realize that this is how all big corporations are, and at a high performing place like Google, you have to run even faster than other high performers in the rat race to get some cheese from the almighty managers. Read my post here https://10bestvacuums.com/best-hepa-vacuum-for-mold/

  22. 1

    Very interesting. It was written in a way that kept me engaged start to finish.

  23. 1

    Very inspiring article. Please keep sharing your journey. Thank you.

  24. 1

    I'm reading this in 2021 and feel like it's as true now as it was when this was first written. (To me, anyways.) How has Key Values evolved since you first wrote the post? Has it entered a continued growth phase or are you working on something else? Both?

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    I am 19 and thanks for letting me know this at early age

  26. 1

    Awesome article, so many useful take aways. In a world so associated with marketing I love all the authentic journeys shared on IH. You have a great voice.

  27. 1

    I'm really agreed with this, Take pride in showing people the ugly behind-the-scenes.

  28. 1

    Just wanted to say your article really helped me! What I especially liked were your "idea validation algorithm" questions. I also appreciated the water bottle example. This really hit home for me. Thank you for writing this!

  29. 1

    This is really inspirational I just stared Indie hackers a week ago and I’m glad this was the first post I read. Awesome.

  30. 1

    Thank you for the great post! I am currently working on passportlist.co

  31. 1

    Hey Lynn,
    How are you?.
    I wanted to reach out to you after reading some of your posts here on Indie Hackers.
    I'm currently developing a hiring platform to better connect in demand digital candidates with innovative companies over in the UK.
    I want to provide more transparency within the market place for candidates especially as they are in demand and companies are competing to hire the best talent.
    I was reading about how you started your business, and i wanted to gain some feedback from you if you would be kind enough:

    • What marketing strategies did you find successful in attracting both engineers and companies?.
    • Are you profitable at the moment?.
    • Do you have MRR?.
    • What features are necessary for the MVP?. Did you build unnecessary ones?.
    • Any other useful tips for building and marketing a job board?.

    Any help, advice, tips would be great :). Look forward to hearing back from you :).

    Best Wishes

  32. 1

    Thank you for sharing this piece Lynne. It's clear that you want to see others succeed and that's why you built this product. I hope you continue to help others with this tool and many others.

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      ❤️❤️❤️ I hope to continue helping others, too!

  33. 1

    Congratulations for your decisions !!

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      Thank you!

  34. 1

    Great article! So many truths in here. Wondering how you are monetizing or if you have generated revenue yet. And if so, how much? Always curious about monetizing marketplaces...

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      Companies pay to be listed on Key Values and for help creating quality content for their profiles. I'm hoping to make $100k in revenue by the end of the year, and am certainly planning to write about all of this in an IH article. (I mean... I've been meaning to write a lot more... in general... 🙈 but it will happen!)

  35. 1

    This gives me SO much motivation. You da bomb.

    1. 1

      Thanks @Squishy! ❤️ Hope you're still feeling motivated 2 months later! 💪

  36. 1

    Thank you for sharing! I identified with a lot of what you said, and I think it's a great idea. One piece of feedback on keyvalues. When I selected multiple criteria (or values), I expected the results to only show companies where all of the values held true, i.e. an intersection not a union of values.

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      Yes! I initially had to use OR logic instead of AND simply because I didn't have enough teams (and the search results would have been a very sad 😂), but I might be able to change that soon!

      Thank you so much for the feedback!

  37. 1

    Great article, Lynne. Been coding for a very long time and I'm only now realizing the opportunities I've been leaving behind. Thanks for your inspiring story.

    1. 2

      Thanks for reading, and I share that sentiment a thousand fold. It's not so much leaving them behind as much as it is not seeing them. There are opportunities all around us, all the time, but we just don't always recognize them or know to even look for them. Whatever you do, keep us posted. 🙌

  38. 1

    Awesome work! I enjoyed every bit of advice you have said in the article. Congrats!

    I love the UX of the site. I have been trying myself to be a self-taught web dev and your work gives me hope and courage that anything is achievable once you set your mind to it!

    May I also ask about the tech stack you used to build the product?


    1. 1

      Learning to code takes time, but you can absolutely do it! Just keep at it and know that even though it can be challenging at times, it's worth it!

      Also, Key Values is a Node/Express and Heroku app!

  39. 1

    Great and inspiring article! Thank you for sharing your lurker to hacker evolution story :)

    1. 1

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read it!

  40. 1

    This is awesome! So many pieces of information in this post that resonate with me!

    Thanks for sharing this with us, feeling extra motivated now to finish and put some stuff out there.

    "upvote forum posts and start typing out comments, too... only to change your mind and delete, delete, delete."

    Also that line kills me 😆. I do this far too often. No more!!

    1. 1

      Sorry for replying 10 days late!!! I'm the worst.

      Hopefully you've been posting commenting though instead of deleting them. I actually thought everyone did this but... you're the only person so far to have confirmed that it isn't just me 🙈

  41. 1

    Hi Lynne, first of all: great article and idea. I always wanted a tool like that back then when I was freelancing. Just wanted to let you know, that your post gave me the motivation to pick up an idea which I almost gave up. :)

    Keep doing awesome stuff. 😬

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      !!! I guess it's convenient that I'm taking almost 2 weeks to respond to this. Did you end up breathing some life into that idea?!

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        Sure, no problem.
        Yeah I am working on a market validation right now and will start interviewing next week.

        Since I started working on it again I already found some potential competitors but I don't really mind because my product will be more specific than theirs but as always this makes me think "is it really worth building that thing when somebody's already working on it?"

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          Totally depends on how close their idea/product is to yours and how far along they are, among many other factors. Sounds like you'll be better suited to answer that question once you do some research though. Also, this sounds like an interesting forum post if you want to ask the IH community!

  42. 1

    Your story is very relatable to me. I went through the same process, although I haven't launched any product yet. Good luck on your journey!

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      Rooting for you and your first launch, whenever it happens! Thanks for the luck, I'm gonna need it haha

  43. 1

    One of the best articles I ever read on bootstraping.
    Resonates a lot with me.
    Now I have a Title. indie-lurker ;)

    1. 1

      Lurker no more! You at least left a comment!!! And thank you so much, that is really very kind of you to say that! I've been trying to write more and it takes me forever to do it. I feel encouraged to keep writing now ☺️ Thank you.

  44. 1

    Hi , the unique article who make me think again about having a product !, you make it simple Big Thanks .., but i do not know how you mange to publish your work before finish it without taken on consideration that someone ( or company ) can simply take your idea and lunch the same product before you publish your first version ??

    1. 1

      Hi there!! I'm so sorry for taking SO long to reply.

      I was a little paranoid in the beginning actually, but everyone I talked to advised me to stop worrying about being copied or scooped. The majority of the time, our idea isn't new, nor is our website or design or anything else like that. You don't have to disclose much more to get feedback on an MVP. Also, being paranoid is really not fun...

      YC's advice sums it up really nicely here: "Ignore your competitors, you will more likely die of suicide than murder."

  45. 1

    Congrats, Lynne! And thank you for sharing. Very inspiring. Great lessons to be learned from your story, as I'm trying to validate my next project idea after my first product launch failed.

    1. 2

      Thanks Mario! I'm glad people can learn something from my very limited experience, because I certainly wouldn't have done anything w/o the wisdom shared by others! How is Conferify going?

      1. 1

        Hi Lynne, thanks for asking! I'm currently just trying to validate the Conferify idea, before I write any code. At the moment it hasn't generated enough interest for me to consider it successfully validated. I'll continue on this path a little longer, and if things don't change I'll have to make some adjustments. I may have to rethink the scope of the project and narrow it down to a single focus (conference speakers). I'll have to see if that generates more interest.

  46. 1

    lurker here. Thanks for this!

    1. 2

      I see that you've been at posting and commenting, so you're better than me. I was too shy to even do that. Lurker no more!

  47. 1

    I heard Airbnb launched at least 3 times, so it's never too late to work on first impressions.

    1. 1

      Or to find new people to make first impressions on? 😜

  48. 1

    Love it. I'm 24 and still at the start. This is inspiring. :)

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      24?! You've got your whole life ahead of you! 😉

  49. 1

    Congrats for this post and for what you built!!

    1. 1

      Thanks Cezar! 🤗 Fingers crossed that this is just the beginning.

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      Don't be afraid to show people your work! I remember feeling really shy and afraid to at first, thinking that people would see it, dislike it, and remember me for it. The reality is... we wish it were that easy! People have short attention spans and so many things competing for their attention that even if the worst things happens, we'll all forget it in minutes/hours. Sadly, even if the best thing happens, people will forget. 😂 But anyway, first step is to get over any friction preventing you from getting feedback/help.

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      Hi there! You're a familiar face! (err... username? 😂)

      You've given me really actionable feedback time and time again, and I really appreciate it. Thank you!

      A quick ask from me to you: 🙏🏼

      1. Write a short sentence about what you're doing or who you are in your IH profile bio!
      2. Let people DM you on Twitter (Settings and Privacy -> Privacy and Safety). I've actually wanted to DM you before, but there was just a little bit too much friction so I didn't.
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        This comment was deleted 3 years ago.