Pat Walls (@thepatwalls) joined the podcast to talk about quitting his job and going full-time on his bootstrapped business (Starter Story), how he launched a second business (Pigeon) and found his first 10 paying customers in under a month, and his strategies for juggling multiple projects at the same time.
Today we’re going to try something new. I’m going to be doing what I’m calling Quick Chat episodes. The point is, I want to release a lot more episodes of the Indie Hackers podcast but that’s hard to do if I’m spending hours preparing for every episode and if the episodes last one or two hours long.
So with these new Quick Chat episodes, what I’m going to do is keep them short and invite different Indie Hackers who are working on cool stuff, regardless of what level they’re at, just to talk about what they’re up to. My first guest is Pat Walls. Pat, how’s it going?
Good. How are you?
Doing excellent. You posted a milestone to Indie Hackers last week, I believe. It was called Ten Paying Customers. You got your first ten paying customers for a new app you’re working on called Pigeon. Why don’t you tell us about that?
Pigeon is a Chrome extension that is built on top of Gmail. I run my main gig, a website called StarterStory.com, which is similar to Indie Hackers where it just interviews entrepreneurs. A lot of the work was tons and tons of emails.
I’m a software engineer and dealing with tons of emails is not really favorite thing to do. I wanted a way to automate more stuff inside Gmail, such as automating follow-ups, setting deadlines, and just tons of stuff to make my email work faster and spend less time on stuff.
So I started that. I had the idea to build it late last year. I kept thinking about how I wanted to build it but I didn’t actually write any code or anything for three or four months. Then about two or three months ago I finally started writing code and talking to people.
Then I released it about a month and a half ago and got to about ten paying customers which is why I posted that Indie Hackers milestone. I posted that because I had reached 10, but I got most of the customers through prelaunch. But now that I’ve launched it, I’ve been working a lot on making the features better and improving the product. But now I’ve got to figure out how to grow the product.
The fun part, and the hard part.
Yes. That post was because I need to put myself out there more and I need to share my progress to story. I don't know what it is, but since my last project it’s been harder for me to talk about my progress, maybe because I had a little bit of success with my last project and starting with a new project that could completely fail, it’s hard for me to put myself out there. I don't know if that makes sense.
It makes a lot of sense. It’s a recurring theme on the podcast, how beneficial it is to put yourself out there. And it’s easy, especially as a developer, to just want to lock yourself away and work on the product, and have the product speak for itself so you don’t have to talk to anybody.
But it’s way better if you blog about your progress and tweet about it and tell people what you’re working on, even if it’s super small. That’s something I find hard to do, to be honest. This podcast is probably the most that I talk about Indie Hackers anywhere and I barely talk about Indie Hackers on the podcast itself. So kudos to you for posting that milestone.
Well, I love when you talk about Indie Hackers on the podcast. I don't know if you’ve taken it down off the site, but how you started Indie Hackers, for me that was really inspirational because my website is similar and inspired from that. I don't know what ended up happening to that.
Yes. There’s a product page on Indie Hackers for Indie Hackers itself, and it’s the same timeline that used to be the old blog. You could scroll all the way back to 2016, almost three years ago, July 2016, and see the very first steps. Like, launched Indie Hackers, got my first 1,000 mailing list subscribers. Every month I would post a couple milestones. It’s all still there and I still add to it every now and then but not as much as I used to.
We started talking about Pigeon, but you started Starter Story, as you alluded to. Let’s talk about that, because that’s your first Indie Hackers business that I’m aware of. What’s the story behind Starter Story?
Well I don’t want to go too long, but I was living in San Francisco in late 2016. I was a software engineer and I wanted to start a business, get into YC. This was before Indie Hackers existed. Indie Hackers is a pivotal reason why I started that website. But a couple friends and I tried to start a business that would get into YC. We followed all their blogs, all that stuff.
It just completely failed. We worked on it for four months just to get to MVP. Didn’t get any customers. Got a couple customers that never ended up using the product. We got a YC interview, completely failed. The whole thing bombed.
What was the product?
It was an invoicing software for small businesses. If you were a small or medium sized ecommerce business, you could send order forms to 100 or 200 different retails stores and they could buy your product through mini-forms, like little Typeform almost.
Oh, got it. So did you have to pitch YC on how your invoicing software was going to be a billion dollar company and change the whole world?
Yes. Well, we had gotten a couple customers just to use it for basic invoicing order forms and they were like, “Yeah, this sounds awesome. We really need something like this,” but then they never ended up using it. When we went to YC, we were like, “Oh, this is going to be the Google forms for business,” or something like that.
I didn’t know about Typeform back then. So that was our pitch, but then YC was only a ten-minute video interview. It wasn’t the true interview when you go to YC. But they’re really smart. They dug right down to the problem. They were like, “We’ve seen this kind of business before. Can you tell us about the actual usage? How much are your customers using the product?” and that was our weakness, is that no one was using the product.
Yeah, just a small problem there. No one’s actually using this.
Yeah, it was a nice-to-solve problem and we couldn’t get anyone to truly adopt the platform. They were like, “Yeah, we really want to do it,” but they never put aside the time to switch over. It’s critical business processes, selling your product. So it was really hard to get people on-boarded.
So how did you decide to start Starter Story, which worked much better?
Well, after I started that business and it failed, I definitely got the startup bug. I had just found Indie Hackers, too, at that point. I was reading a lot of Indie Hackers interviews, then I came across this reddit post. It was about this guy who started a content marketing site.
I had just moved to New York at the time. I was still a software engineer. I just got a new job. But I was still thinking, “How can I start a business?” cause I had that bug. But the problem with the business before that failed YC was that I had to jump out of work on lunch break to do meetings, cause I had a fulltime job at the time, to do meetings and demos and fix bugs and try to sell the product.
We were selling the product to people that were also working 9 to 5’s. That was really hard. That was probably the hardest part about that business. Even if it was successful that would still have been really hard. So I wanted something that I could work on with my fulltime job on nights and weekends.
I was willing to put in the work. I just wanted it to be a little bit less stressful at my day job, if that makes sense.
And Starter Story is like Indie Hackers. You interview the founders of ecommerce businesses and you ask them how they got started and came up with their idea, how they put up a website, how they’ve grown since then and found customers and how much money they’re making. With Indie Hackers I used to charge for ads but I don’t charge for that anymore. What’s your business model for Starter Story?
It’s super similar to Indie Hackers. I started it just because I wanted to interview. It wasn’t the niche of ecommerce when I first started. I just started interviewing friends that I knew were entrepreneurs and people I found online. But then after I had maybe 10 interviews or 20 interviews, I was like, “I have a bunch of ecommerce. I want to differentiate from Indie Hackers and other websites and be an ecommerce or a non-technical founder side of things.”
Then I started monetizing at first through display ads and newsletter advertisements. I didn’t monetize it for four months. I did the Product Hunt launch and all that stuff. People slowly started reaching out to me. My mentality was always focused on growing the business. I wasn’t thinking so much about monetization.
When people would ask me if I wanted to monetize or if they wanted to sponsor, I would be like, “All right, sure. Yeah. You could sponsor that newsletter” and I would just name a price and then they’d be like, “Yes.”
Then I had another person reach out and I said, “Oh, well I have this newsletter that’s booked up but I now have a front page ad spot opened up. That’s $400.” Then I cobbled together all these different sponsors. I had one company reach out, still my main sponsor today, Klaviyo which is mail gen for ecommerce.
They had reached out to me and they had expressed interest in sponsoring the newsletter which wasn’t sponsored at the time. They wanted to sponsor it for a whole year. So I was like, “Oh, that sounds great.”
They sponsored the newsletter, and then after some of the deals ended for the website, I went back to them. I was like, “Hey, I want to get some more sponsors on board. Are you okay with it?” And I want them to also sponsor the newsletter so they will be multiple companies sponsoring Starter Story.
That’s a longer story, but it was still really hard. And I know you experienced this at Indie Hackers, it is really hard to find and keep advertisers and keep them on board for long term. It’s just hard.
Yes, it’s not easy getting advertisers. It’s a grind. It never really ends. You get some and you’ve got to find the next ones because it’s not necessarily a recurring business model. People churn. But on the flip side, it’s easier to get your first advertisers than it is to get your first SaaS customers, I would say.
Like you said, you had people reaching out to you. They were like, “Oh, hey, Pat, can I sponsor your mailing list?” I had the same thing with Indie Hackers. To just have somebody reach out and want to write you a $500.00 check is pretty nice.
Yeah. That's what I tell people all the time. There are a lot of people starting blogs and content businesses or the kind of stuff you see on Product Hunt or Hacker News, where it’s similar stuff to when Indie Hackers started or Starter Story started where it’s just put-together data.
If someone reaches out to you and says, “Hey, I want to sponsor,” send them a $100 invoice or something like that. They’ll probably say yes, and just that motivation of getting your website sponsored for any kind of money, that is what kept me going for Starter Story.
It snowballed into what it is. You don’t need to be looking for some massive thing. Just experiment at first and there’s really nothing that could go wrong.
I know you eventually got to the point where you were ramen-profitable with Starter Story, and you were like, “All right, I’m done. I’m done working fulltime,” and you quit your job and went to become an indie hacker fulltime. What was it like making that decision?
The thing for me is that I had always had a job my whole life. Even when I was in college, I had jobs, too. I’d never not had a job. I never knew what it was like to not have a job. That was a big decision for me, especially because I probably could have kept working on Starter Story for another six months to a year to get it to higher revenue before I quit.
But I was just so ready to move on from that. The reason I quit was because of this 24-hour startup thing, which we probably don’t need to go into. It’s a long story. I launched a startup. I had claimed on Twitter that I was going to launch a startup in 24 hours.
It was not a startup, but I was just going to build a product and launch it on Product, from first commit to launching on Product Hunt in the 24-horu span and stream the whole thing in Twitch. I did that and it blew up on Twitter a little bit. After that, Starter Story was doing well and that was a really awesome experience.
Then I had this one-on-one with my manager two days later. It probably wasn’t the right decision at the time, but I just had so much confidence that I could make it work with no fulltime job. I had some runway and some cash, and I was like, “I think that’s the moment.” So I just quit my job right there.
That’s so funny. You had so much going on, on the side that was so exciting that it just added up to enough activation energy for you just at the spur of the moment to say, “Boom, I’m done.”
Yes. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone but I don't know. It’s a hard story to explain or justify or anything like that, but I think it was a long time coming.
You sent me a message earlier this year. Do you remember on Twitter? You were talking about Starter Story being very similar to Indie Hackers. And you were like, “Hey, man. I’ve been wanting to message you about this for a long time. I have always felt sort of guilty that Starter Story’s pretty similar to Indie Hackers. It was never my intention to clone you or anything.”
It’s funny that you sent me that message, because I have so many thoughts about competition in business and websites being similar to each other. Mostly that I have a very, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game” mindset, where I think it’s important, no matter what you do, to understand the rules of what you’re going into.
And with business, I think one of the big rules is that ideas are open to everybody. You don’t have a monopoly on your idea just because you came up with something. There were people interviewing entrepreneurs and founders well before Indie Hackers existed.
There are a lot of websites that were inspired by Indie Hackers, including Starter Story, after I launched Indie Hackers. Starter Story is the only one that I feel has lasted. All the other ones, I don't know what happened to them. They’re gone.
Well, just to go back on your point before that, I think that’s an interesting topic as well. I told someone else that was starting a similar site to Starter Story and Indie Hackers, I told him not to feel that way. Because I still feel that way sometimes, because I think everyone wants to have their own ideas.
It does affect my self-conscious a little bit. For example, I’ll see something on Indie Hackers and I’ll be like, “Oh, well that’s an awesome feature. We have very similar business models so I’m just going to copy it.” But then I sometimes don’t feel bad about that but then sometimes I’m like, “Oh, man. I’m just a copycat.” Do you ever feel like that?
Yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I mean, there are things that I probably should have copied from other websites for Indie Hackers that I haven’t, to avoid that feeling. There are things that I’ve just shamelessly copied. I sometimes I feel bad, sometimes I don’t. But I think you shouldn’t feel that bad.
Obviously if you’re plagiarizing that’s one thing, but if you’re inspired by something else, that’s the engine that drives human progress, being inspired by other people and building on top of it. And no one’s ever like, “Oh, man. I opened up an Italian restaurant and then somebody else opened up another Italian restaurant. How dare they?”
But for some reason, in online businesses we expect to have to be completely creative and original in every way and it’s not realistic.
Yes, to grow Starter Story, my goal with it has always been to put out more content. And my new product that I built, Pigeon, is helping me and helping others produce more content in less time. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of how much I can automate things and build process around publishing content and growing the website.
I’ve always focused on first, automation, automating all the mundane tasks as possible that I could do, that I can publish more interviews with entrepreneurs. Then I can also focus on more content. When I started the website, I was publishing three interviews per week. When I started this year, I had a goal to release daily interviews and I’ve done that since the beginning of the year. Now I’m working towards getting to two interviews per day.
That is as ton of interviews. I do like three a week with Indie Hackers.
Yeah, I know. I watch your outfit sometimes because I’m curious what’s the future for Indie Hackers. Obviously, it’s grown like crazy and the forum’s amazing. That’s something that I’ll look to someday, hopefully.
But I used to focus a lot on sharing on other platforms like Hacker News and reddit and all that stuff, but SEO is starting to pick up so I’ve just been like, “All right, well I’m just going to keep producing more content. That’s what’s worked for me.” And again, good content as well, obviously.
It’s tough doing interviews as a content format and trying to grow through SEO, I’ve found, because usually interviews are around a particular subject. It’s this person, it’s this company, and that’s the title of your interview and that’s the entire subject matter, whereas people searching Google are very rarely searching for one particular company or one particular person.
They’re usually searching for a topic. They want to know more about ecommerce or more about SEO or more about whatever it is. How do you get SEO working with an interview site like Starter Story?
It just somehow started to work. That’s the similar concern that I had at first, cause I didn’t have any SEO traffic. Then it just started picking up. I don’t get a ton, but I’m getting close to 1,500 Google hits per day and it’s mostly coming from long-tail keywords.
I’ll try to put the title of my interview around some keyword that I could target, or long-tail keyword that I could target. But there’s no one keyword that I’m dominating or anything like that. My goal has just been to put out lots and lots and lots of content and hope that I catch some long-tail keywords. I don't know. What has Indie Hackers’ experience been like for SEO?
I don’t even know how much traffic we get from SEO, but I know that it’s never been great. We’ve always thought about, “Ok, how do we get people to writing things that are more topic-based? Less about their story but more about things that other people want to solve so we can get better SEO traffic.”
Most of our SEO traffic doesn’t go to the interviews. It goes to the articles that people can submit to Indie Hackers, and also the forum posts, cause people make forum posts about like, “How do I find my first customers? How do you get into Y Combinator?” all sorts of stuff that is more aligned with SEO. But it is still not even our top five growth channels for Indie Hackers, I don't think. Hopefully that will change in the next year.
Well I think it will. I think it will definitely pick up.
Yes. It’s picking up. Like the curve goes up. Every month it’s a little bit higher than it was the previous month. But I think to really do it well, you have to be deliberate about targeting certain keywords and certain topics that get a lot of traffic and actually put real effort into it. And for us, it’s always been an afterthought.
Is that why you guys have been so focused - not why, but the user generated content base, has it been a big push for you?
Yes. You were talking about this earlier when you were saying you wanted to automate things with Starter Story. I think if you are running a content site and you’re a blogger, you’re writing everything, you have to resign to how much work it takes.
But if you are doing an interview site like you and me, you realize very quickly that you’re not doing most of the work. You’re just asking the questions. You start to think about, “Well how do I make myself more efficient? How do I streamline this process so I can get more content out faster?”
And I think the process we have at Indie Hackers is streamlined. We spend a lot of time thinking about it. But then you start thinking about, you know, what’s the light at the end of the tunnel? What’s the ultimate version of this? For us, that’s completely user-generated content. We’re not doing anything.
People are making posts on the forums and asking each other questions. We’re not prompting them or doing anything. It just happens by itself. So that’s the ultimate goal. We’ve tried some stuff that didn’t work. We tried being Medium, where we just allow people to write articles, no questions asked, on Indie Hackers. That didn’t work out.
Why is that?
It wasn’t –
People write spam. People write a lot of low-quality articles. Suddenly you have thousands of articles on your website. You don’t have time to read them. You don’t know which ones are good, which ones aren’t. It’s hard to figure out which ones to put on the front page. It’s just not an easy problem to solve with a small team of only two people.
You know what I want to talk about, I want to talk about your penchant for doing new things. You’ve got Starter Story. I think you’re making over four grand a month. Is that right?
But now you have Pigeon, too. I think you’ve got ten paying customers paying you about $30.00 a month. So you’re making $300 a month from Pigeon, which is great. But it probably would have been easier to add $300 a month to Starter Story’s revenue than to start a whole new thing from scratch.
So why even do this? Why work on more than one thing instead of just focusing on your number one thing?
That’s a great question. That’s something that I’ve thought about a lot because of the 24-hour startup that I did last year. I did the first startup in 24 hours because I was just curious to try it. I had an idea. And since that took off, I was like, “All right. I’m going to launch another one two weeks later and just keep trying this thing again.”
Then I launched another one three weeks later. Then I created the 24-Hour Startup Challenge because there was so much hype around the idea of live streaming and products, especially last year. I was like, “I’m just going to try to capitalize on this idea and see what happens.” I think it gets the Maker community, the Product Hunt area of the internet excited and it’s fun.
But I had a bit of a revelation. Not revelation, but after I had done the 24-Hour Startup Challenge, and I had Starter Story, I didn’t have Pigeon yet but I had Starter Story and I had the startup that I launched in 24 hours. Then I had the 24-Hour Startup Challenge, which was turning into another website. Then I had another website, and I had five different websites.
I had already quit my job by that time. I was just realizing that wasn’t really what I want to do. I’m never going to be able to move the needle on anything if I have so many different projects. So I killed all those projects. I sold the 24-hour startup one and then stopped working on the 24-Hour Startup Challenge offshoot, and then sold and killed all the other projects.
Then I was just Starter Story and I was just focusing on that. My mindset changed on the whole launching quickly and the maker movement and all that. I decided that I’m only going to focus on one or two projects.
The reason why I started Pigeon, the new one, is that I wanted to build a tool that was going to help me grow Starter Story and vice versa because they go hand-in-hand, and also help other people launch similar businesses as Starter Story. But it’s still a lot to manage two different projects. I don't know if that answers your question at all.
Yeah, now I get to use everybody’s least-favorite business term, “synergy”. You’ve got these two different products. Pigeon helps you run and grow Starter Story. How does that work, exactly?
So the automation piece is really big. It’s basically automating a lot of the process for doing interviews, cause it’s all inside Gmail. So if someone agrees to do an interview, I can set a deadline.
I can set these automated follow up sequences that will automatically follow up with them with the deadline and just get rid of most of the email work that I have to do for chasing down interview s and publishing content.
It’s like a mini-CRM inside your Gmail so you can keep track of the status of all of your interview or content stages, if it’s in progress, if it’s published, in draft state or whatever. So that’s been cool. And then I’ve been working with a bunch of my customers who are running similar types of websites or blogs and they’re doing very similar things to that.
Yes, I’m looking at your website right now, trypigeon.co. And it says, “Gmail meets spreadsheet. Pigeon is a powerful CRM and automation suite for Gmail.” You’ve got your spreadsheet in there.
Living inside Gmail, you just track the people that you’re working with and move them along this pipeline. It’s funny cause I do something similar for Indie Hackers. I’ve got my own process.
What do you use?
I just have my own internal process. We use Airtable. We’ve use Google spreadsheets in the past. I’ve got some stuff set up on Zapier2, just to sort of automate the process and not have to build a lot of it out myself, cause that would take forever.
But this whole topic reminds me of another topic that comes up on the podcast pretty often, which is that, just in the course of running your business, you’re going to encounter all these different problems. Some of them will have solutions but a lot of them won’t.
You’ll look for a tool out there and it doesn’t exist. And if there was, you would pay for it, but there just isn’t anything so you’ve got to hack it together yourself. Or if you’re a developer you’re going to feel tempted to just build it yourself. That’s probably a mistake but in your case it’s kind of cool because you’ve built Pigeon to help you run Starter Story.
Then you didn’t just keep it to yourself, you actually released it as its own stand-alone product. And now Pigeon is out there making money. I’ve had a similar temptation with Indie Hackers. In fact, someone emailed me last week and was like, “Hey, I will pay you a lot of money to build the Indie Hackers community forum software for my website.”
I just had to be like, “No. I honestly don’t have time to do that. It’s impossible.” So I think it’s a pretty common thing for a lot of founders to deal with.
I think that you have to kill that temptation. I just saw an Indie Hackers forum post about someone asking, “How do I stop from seizing that temptation all the time?”
I think that a good way to do it is to just fall into the temptation and fail through that process, like what happened to me last year of launching too many different things, and then experiencing how hard it is to grow anything unless you have that laser focus on it. I’m sure you’ve run into that before.
Yes, you’ve got to learn from the school of hard knocks sometimes. But the flip side to all this is something that I say pretty often, which is that if you’re someone who has trouble coming up with ideas in the first place, that one thing you can do that works really well is just give yourself permission to start something really small and crappy and not that good, and in the course of trying to run that business you will suddenly find yourself coming up with lots of ideas, because there’s all these challenges you need to solve that there are no tools to solve, and other people needs those tools, too.
So you could just pivot and go build those. But if you’re already building something that’s working well, it’s probably distracting to start a second thing, and hard as well. What’s your plan from here on out? What are you going to do with Pigeon?
So the plan is, figure out how to grow. There’s this unfortunate thing called the Gmail API security audit. They’re cracking down. I think the Cambridge Analytic, the Facebook scandal, has spooked them a little bit, so now you have to pay at least $15,000 to get your Gmail API code audited by an independent security firm every year.
I’m going to go through with it and I’m going to do it because I have confidence in the product and in the market. So I’m going to go through with it. So that’s the next big step. Then I have to figure out how to grow it, so I would like to get your advice on how to grow a product like that.
Oh, man. You know what I think is the secret growth weapon for startups? It’s nothing new. It’s not that secret. Everybody says do things that don’t scale. I think it’s a specific instance of it. But I keep seeing it pop up over and over again and it’s just direct sales, man, especially if you have a high enough price point.
I think you said you’re charging thirty bucks a month. If I were you, I would probably raise my prices. I would find customers for whom it’s actually worth the higher price, at least a hundred bucks a month or something like that, and then just do a lot of direct sales, a lot of outreach, a lot of just talking to people.
I talked Sahil a few episodes ago, the founder of Gumroad. They were doing direct sales for Gumroad for the first four or five years. It wasn’t just like, “Oh, this is how we get off the ground.” It was like, “This is how our company grows. We just sell the product one on one to people.”
Nathan Barry famously did the same for ConvertKit. It wasn’t working. He was considering shutting it down. He couldn’t get past $5,000 or $10,000 a month in revenue. Then he just started doing a ton of direct sales, calling bloggers, emailing them, and broke through the ceiling.
That’s what I would try if I were you, and I wouldn’t stop doing that until it had been a few months and it definitely wasn’t working. But even if it doesn’t, if you’re doing direct sales you’re always talking to people, which means they’re telling you why they’re not signing up, unlike marketing where people just go to your website and leave.
So you’ll probably have a lot of good ideas just by talking to people. That would be my ugly, behind-the-scenes strategy for trying to grow something like Pigeon.
Well that’s great advice, because that’s what worked for Starter Story. I know it worked for Indie Hackers, just reaching out.
Yes. It’s outreach.
That’s where I got the first 10 customers for Pigeon, to be honest. Now since I’ve launched it, I’m really glad you said that because I feel like, “Oh, I have to do content marketing and I have to do it legit.” I’m doing air quotes right now.
I tried doing some outreach. I emailed a hundred businesses recently and I felt really crappy about the process because it felt spammy. But I realize now that I probably just gave up on that too quickly. I feel personally like that’s my bread and butter.
I’m pretty good at doing direct outreach from a lot of the Starter Story experience that I have and for getting the 10 customers. I’m glad you said that, because I think it’s super true. It’s the advice that I usually tell people, too, when they ask me. I wasn’t even gonna follow it for a second.
I do the same thing. I’m trying to grow different parts of Indie Hackers. I’m trying to grow this new Milestones feature. I realize the other day, I should just be doing direct outreach. I know a lot of people who would benefit from using this feature, who would be perfect for it.
Why don’t I just message them one-on-one? I reached out to a few people yesterday. I reached out to Nathan Barry, and he already posted a milestone about ConvertKit, his company, hitting $17 million a year in revenue or something crazy. So this direct stuff, it works.
I think it’s one of those things that as a founder, you just need to hear other people say they’re doing it, because number one, it’s a slog. It’s not that pleasant to do. So when you’re doing it by yourself, you feel like it’s wrong.
And number two, no one else ever talks about it. They’re just talking about how they’ve found some sort of repeatable, scalable distribution strategy, like “I got to number one on Product Hunt after a week,” and you’re like, ‘Well that’s the one I’ve got to figure out.” But the reality is, everyone’s doing direct sales, too, and just not talking about it, but it works.
Yeah. That’s what I think about, when I worked in Silicon Valley, too, is how big our sales teams were and how they didn’t have any good content marketing. They didn’t have anything, but they were a billion dollar company and they were just all sales.
No one talks about it. It’s so weird. Everyone only talks about SEO and social media marketing and launching it on Product Hunt. No one talks about like, “Hey, we pay people to just make phone calls and send emails, and that’s how we grow.”
But anyway, this was supposed to be a Quick Chat episode. We’re at 30 minutes now. I think we did it. I would love to have you back on at some point. There’s so much we could talk about. We could talk about all the similarities between growing Indie Hackers and Starter Story, because I know a lot of other people want to start content websites. I think that would be an interesting discussion.
Yes. And I just want to say that I hope people thank you more for launching Indie Hackers and all that it’s done for me and the community. I don't think you know how big of an impact it has on people, so thank you for that.
Thanks, Pat. People are nice. I get a lot of nice messages on the internet. Anyway, I’ve got one more question, then I’ll let you get out of here. You have been doing this indie hacker thing for quite a while now.
You are completely financed by your own projects. Starter Story makes enough money for you to be fulltime on it. What’s your advice to somebody new, an aspiring indie hacker who’s just considering getting started?
I never really thought about that, but someone had just reached out to me the other day. They were saying that I do a good job documenting my journey, and they were self-conscious about documenting their journey and having no one read the blog or read whatever their documentation is on how they started.
My advice is start something. Start something stupid. I think that Starter Story wasn’t a great-ass success or anything like that. It’s not a brilliant idea or anything like that but it was just something to start and I just wrote about my starting it and I shared that with people.
That’s a big part of my story and my journey is that I documented everything. I have people reach out to me almost every day that I can point them to these old blog posts that I did.
So my advice would be, start and just start writing and start sharing that. Because when you share those blog posts or videos or however you document it, it’s motivation. It keeps you going. Like I said, I’m trying to put the word out on my new product, Pigeon, because if I don’t do that, it’ll probably fail if I don’t talk about it and spread the word. So my advice is just start, and just start blogging and documenting.
Good advice. Really pays dividends to put your story out there. A lot of people get to know who you are. Where can we go to find out more about you, Pat, and what you’re working on?
You can go to trypigeon.co or you can go to my Twitter. Just search Pat Wall’s twitter. In my bio I have Starter Story and Pigeon linked in there.
Cool. Thanks so much for coming on for the first Indie Hackers Quick Chat, Pat.
Thanks for having me.
If you’re listening to this podcast and you’re interested in coming on the show yourself to have a quick chat with me, go to Indiehackers.com/milestones and post a milestone. It can be anything related to a product you’re working on.
People have posted about launching and finding their first customers. They’ve posted about growing their mailing lists and hitting a thousand Twitter followers. They’ve posted about getting to $100 or $1,000 or $100,000 a month in revenue. Pretty much the sky’s the limit. Whatever you’re proud of, come celebrate it on IndieHackers.com, and other indie hackers will help you celebrate. We love encouraging each other and supporting each other when we hit these milestones.
What I’ll do is at the end of every week, I’ll look at the top milestones posted and reach out to a few people to invite them to come on the podcast for a quick chat. So once again, that’s indiehackers.com/milestones. I’m looking forward to seeing what you post.
If you enjoyed listening to this conversation and you want a really easy way to support the podcast, why don’t you head over to iTunes and leave us a quick rating or review. If you’re looking for an easy way to get there, just go to IndieHackers.com/review and that should open up iTunes on your computer.
I read pretty much all the reviews you guys leave over there and it really helps other people to discover the show, so your support is very much appreciated. In addition, if you are running your own internet business, or if that’s something you hope to do someday, you should join me and a whole bunch of other founders on the IndieHackers.com website.
It’s a great place to get feedback on pretty much any problem or question you might have while running your business. If you listen to this show, you know that I am a huge proponent of getting help from other founders rather than trying to build your business all by yourself.
You’ll see me on the forum, for sure, as well as more than a handful of some of the guests I’ve had on the podcast. If you’re looking for inspiration, we’ve also got a huge directory full of hundreds of products built by other Indie Hackers, every one of which includes revenue numbers and some of the behind the scenes strategies for how they grew their products from nothing.
As always, thanks so much for listening and I’ll see you next time.
Did you know the Indie Hackers podcast has a newsletter?
Sign up to get insights, takeaways, and exclusive content from each new episosde, directly from the host, Courtland Allen.