How I Beat Maker Paralysis with an $800/mo Side Project

Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?

Hello Indie Hackers! My name is Othmane and I'm a full-time indie maker currently based in Morocco.

I've been self-employed for the past four years, mostly making new products and trying to grow the ones that show promise. At one point, I got tired of putting all my energy into the building part of the product lifecycle, only to be burned out when it came time to market it. I remember frequently going through this and thinking to myself how great it would be if I could just buy someone else's side project and focus all my energy and motivation into getting customers.

Sadly, the quality of projects sold through mainstream marketplaces like Flippa were not good enough, and the prices on other side-project marketplaces were extremely high with low or no revenue. This led me to launch 1Kprojects, a marketplace for neglected side projects and domains under $1,000.

Today, it has over 500 projects listed, 100 projects have been sold, and it’s making an average of $800/month in revenue.

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What motivated you to get started with 1Kprojects?

1Kprojects was created as part of a challenge I called the ship therapy challenge where I had to publicly ship one new project every two weeks. Before doing the challenge, I was going through a long slump where I couldn't ship anything and everything I built or wrote during that period just sat on my hard drive. The hypothesis of the challenge was that by committing in public, I would be forced to ship something and get over “maker paralysis,” which to me was like the equivalent of writer's block for makers.

Whatever you're struggling to do, do it in public.

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I spent the first week frantically sketching ideas, and then throwing them away. But since the deadline was closing in on me, by the end of the first week I picked the last idea I sketched: a place to buy cheap side projects. I didn’t have time to do any kind of validation or customer interviews, but I did do some research on IH and Reddit and found a few posts from people trying to sell their side projects, and others complaining about the high prices in some of the existing marketplaces.

What went into building the initial product?

I only had one week left to build the whole thing, so I put everything else on pause and focused solely on this idea for the whole week.

I used Laravel for the backend and Bootstrap 4 for the frontend with some jQuery. Since it was supposed to be a marketplace, the features for the MVP were pretty straightforward, so I didn't have to spend time debating scope.

Overall, it took five days to build a working MVP and I spent the weekend trying to figure out a business model and integrate payments.

recently sold

How have you attracted users and grown 1kProjects?

At first, there were no projects on sale. To attract the first sellers I decided to do a pre-launch on IH and Reddit's /r/sideproject, and sent an email to the people who subscribed to my blog after the challenge announcement.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting much—I was just happy I shipped the product before the deadline. I remember writing a list of milestones, and the first one was to get five projects added so that I could launch on Product Hunt.

In a just few hours, over 20 sellers signed up, more than half added their projects for sale, and about 100 people signed up for the newsletter to be notified of new projects. More sellers and buyers would sign up over the coming day, and the post ended up at the top of the weekly list on both IH and Reddit. The next day, I had enough feedback, newsletter subscribers, and projects on sale to launch on Product Hunt. I woke up at 7:00 am GMT so that I could submit early.

I emailed everyone on both my personal list and 1Kproject's list about the launch on Product Hunt and shared on Twitter, as well. 1Kprojects ended up getting the #1 product of the day with over 1000 upvotes, and ended up at #3 product of the week.

Below are the launch traffic numbers with the email list pre-launch and IH and Reddit pre-launch occurring on November 2 and 3 respectively, and the Product Hunt launch occurring on November 4.

Day Visitor
Nov 2, ‘18 58
Nov 3, ‘18 3859
Nov 4, ‘18 6240
Nov 5, ‘18 4175
Nov 6, ‘18 1700

By November 7, the dust had settled and our launch stats were as follows:

  • over 1,500 people subscribed to the newsletter
  • over 170 sellers signed up
  • 94 projects added
  • 263 offers sent
  • 21 sales, which is the equivalent of about $400 in revenue

After the launch, I was able to sustain some of that traction by sharing new features on Twitter, and I wrote a post on the blog detailing the launch by the end of the week, which I also shared on my Medium account.

What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

The business model is probably what I've struggled with the most. Although it should be pretty straightforward for a marketplace to have a commission-based model, where I would only get paid when a sale is made, I couldn't do that due to my location. I don't have access to Stripe or any of the payment gateways that would allow me to basically act as a middleman in the transaction.

The other popular alternative was just to charge sellers a listing fee to sell their project. But as a maker who had neglected projects like my customers, I knew I wouldn't be motivated enough to pay a fee to sell my side project for less than $1,000. I would most likely just keep it on my hard drive or add it to my portfolio instead of going through the hassle.

So I went with an uncommon model, but one I would be comfortable with if I were in the seller’s shoes: sellers can submit their projects for free, but they would have to pay a one-time fee of $19 to unlock the messages and contacts of the buyers who made an offer. You only pay the fee once per project, and you get to see all existing and future offers from buyers.

Not everyone liked it—I received a few angry emails from sellers saying they would never pay the fee. But most didn't have an issue with it. I tried my best to talk to the angry sellers and figure out what I could do.

This particular group of sellers felt like they were lured into paying without knowing much about the content of the message. That made sense, since originally I hid the text of the offers until the fee was paid. So the first change I did was require buyers to specify their intent, meaning they had to tell sellers if they just had questions, wanted to negotiate, or were ready to buy. And on the backend, I showed the intent to sellers:

seller dashboard version 1

I also wanted to add more transparency to make sure the seller knew exactly what they would be paying for, so I added a preview of every message they received. It looked like this:

seller dashboard version 2

All but one of the sellers who initially said they'd never pay the fee did end up paying, and all of them were happy with the results. Eventually, I stopped hiding the offer's content altogether.

None of this would've been possible if I hadn't spent the first days post-launch emailing sellers all day and genuinely trying to understand the problems they had. Other users have also suggested cool features like the filtering on the homepage and projects that have sold featured at the bottom of the site, which I eventually implemented.

In the second month post-launch, I changed the pricing to take into consideration the price of the project:

  • Projects priced below $100 can be unlocked by paying a $9 fee.
  • Projects priced below $300 can be unlocked by paying a $19 fee.
  • Projects priced below $600 can be unlocked by paying a $39 fee.
  • Projects priced below $1,000 can be unlocked by paying a $49 fee.

I also added a way for sellers to promote their projects for 24 hours on the homepage by paying a $19 fee. As time went by, the number of projects submitted per day went down, and with it the revenue numbers as well.

Month Revenue
Nov ‘18 974
Dec ‘18 530
Jan ‘19 500
Feb ‘19 520

What are your goals for the future?

Recently, 1Kprojects was acquired by a great team of people, and although I will not be involved in the project anymore, I'm confident it has a bright and exciting future ahead.

As for me, I am getting back to building and shipping more products. Specifically, I'm looking to commit to a single project for a longer period of time than I typically have with previous projects. The plan is to supplement my existing revenue with some consulting so that I can try different ideas indefinitely until something sticks.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

If there's one thing I regret, it's not doing the challenge sooner. The biggest obstacle I faced was my “maker paralysis” and not being able to create or ship. It was such a crippling feeling, which quickly turned into self-doubt and depression. It was bad for business but it affected other areas of my life, as well. Doing the challenge and shipping 1Kprojects as a result has been a blessing and has allowed me to get past my mental block in just a few weeks.

Share as much as you can, as soon as you can.

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If there's anything valuable I learned these past few months, it’s that whatever you're struggling to do, do it in public. The accountability and support that comes with overcoming challenges in public can help you get where you want to be way faster than just doing things on your own.

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Twitter has been extremely helpful during the past few months. Many people reached out after hearing about my struggle with shipping, and I've made a bunch of new friends who always had valuable advice and ideas to share. The IH community has also helped with getting early traction and gave tremendous feedback during the first month.

On a personal level, Atomic Habits by James Clear has helped me figure out how to replace bad habits with good ones, and build a system to keep improving on a daily basis.

What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?

Although I'm still just figuring things out, a few insights keep coming back over the years:

  • Only start projects you'd be willing to work on for the next few years.
  • Share as much as you can, as soon as you can.
  • Whenever possible, do everything in public.
  • Ship fast, you can't really predict what happens after shipping, unless you actually do.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can follow up with 1Kprojects on Twitter.

As for me, I'm currently doing everything in public, from learning to building to shipping. You can follow my journey on my blog and on Twitter @get_eo.

Feedback is appreciated, and if you have any questions, I would love to hear them! Leave those below. Thank you for reading.

Othmane , Founder of 1kProjects

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