The Indie Hackers Podcast February 12, 2020

Having Fun on the Path to Independence with Cory Zue of Place Card Me

Episode #147

Cory Zue (@czue) made over $26,000 in profit from multiple side projects in 2019, including a printable place card business and a Django-powered SaaS template. In this episode Cory explains how his journey began by taking a sabbatical from work, he lays out his plan to reach financial independence by 2023, and he shares some tips for ensuring your indie hacker journey is an enjoyable one the whole way through.

Show Notes

  1. 8

    Hey everyone! Interviewee here. Still kind of floored that I actually made it on the podcast. Definitely a bit of an "am I dreaming" kind of moment for me. Thanks so much Courtland for taking a chance on an unknown little Indie Hacker still figuring out the journey.

    Anyway, happy to answer any questions if you have them!

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      Thank you for doing this interview! I found it to be super inspiring. I definitely relate to your thoughts around picking ideas based on the customers you want to support. My current full-time job involves some high-pressure customer escalations that are super stressful.

      Do you find yourself missing any parts of running a team of developers? Do you think you will eventually look to hire a small team?

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        Thanks Justin! Sorry about the current job stress! Angry customers are super challenging...

        I don't really miss running a team, but if I did go full-time out on my own I think I would really miss working with a team. I love getting to work with people who are smarter or more knowledgeable than me in various areas and I think it'd be easy to stagnate if I ended up 100% on my own.

        As for hiring - I can definitely imagine doing it if any of my projects really started getting big and unwieldy (I like Basecamp's "hire when it hurts" philosophy), though I think I'd hire a support person or a sales/marketer before hiring a developer since coding is the work I enjoy most. Either way, it's not a short term priority.

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      hey @czue really REALLY inspiring podcast man... I love that you're living your life the way YOU want it... even if that's not the well trodden path. I think that's key.

      You really got me thinking abuout passive vs non-passive income and what it really means to run SaaS.

      With that I thought that something that really appealed to me was the "SaaS template" idea.

      I wonder if I could ask you some questions about that? (if not stop readying now :-))

      If I did it, it would be rail + vuejs, so hopefully not stepping on your toes!

      I guess my question is.. how you finding it? What are some of the biggest challenges... is it going as you expected?

      And on a more "in the weeds" subject... how do you ensure that once you have sold a template, someone doesn't just put it on github... as in, how do you control that delivery part... or you don't?

      Thanks so much, best of luck, and hold your ground! Too many people think anything worth doing has to come at a cost to work/life balance... like you, I'd like to think that's not true!

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        Hey Andy,

        Thanks for the kind words! Always happy to answer questions. :)

        I guess my question is.. how you finding it? What are some of the biggest challenges... is it going as you expected?

        How I'm finding it... mostly good! But like I said on the podcast I think there's still a long road ahead.

        The good:

        • I love working with my customers and hearing about the cool stuff they're building
        • It's a great way to learn / stay sharp on a particular stack
        • It's super aligned with all my other work, and the template itself makes is much easier to do things on other projects (and vice versa)

        The unexpected challenges:

        • The tech part of this has been surprisingly difficult. It's one part the tooling around building a configurable template, and one part decision fatigue about choosing from one of N possible ways to architect something and then second-guessing myself. Also the tradeoffs between designing it in a way that makes it a clean starting point for a new project, versus being more opinionated and coming with more functionality, versus being easy for customers to upgrade over time are all quite complicated and in conflict with one another. So the building part has actually been harder than I expected.

        The "do things that don't scale" piece:

        • Generally I'm still learning so much from my customers who are willing to talk to me that I go way above and beyond in supporting them. Which is great. But definitely not "passive". :) I view this as something that will improve down the road as the product and ecosystem around it mature.

        And on a more "in the weeds" subject... how do you ensure that once you have sold a template, someone doesn't just put it on github... as in, how do you control that delivery part... or you don't?

        I don't control it at all. If that happens I'll still have the moat of brand awareness, SEO, etc. And the world is full of mostly good people who won't do something like that. Fighting it just doesn't seem like a good return on investment of my time.

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          @czue thanks so much, that's all SUPER useful. Yeah I figured about the "control" part of it... I assumed that was it but just wondered if I was missing a trick. :-)

          Yeah, it's interesting what you say about the decision fatigue... that's an excellent point. I guess you have to just PICK a path that works FOR YOU and then assume there's enough demand for that... and some people just won't be up for that, which is fine too.

          For me a template is about accelerating me at start, BUT not giving me too much code I don't want AND not locking me into someone else's pattern of coding right? It's tough....

          For examle. I don't know about Django, but in Rail we have "engines", which are ways to have sub apps within your main app. This would be a great way to do Template modules. BUT, it would result in code that.. if you as a normal developer would NEVER do if y're building a new app. In other words, engines are usually for frameworks/gems... but when you're just building an app you don't usually use engines.

          So finding that balance between giving code that you'd actually write and/or is easy to edit vs an architecture optimised for delivering templates.

          I have to say, the most exciting about building these templates is getting to scratch that itch of focusing on the fun product parts of an app, WITHOUT having to focus on the business part of the SaaS app... and letting the developer who buys your template worry about that. That sounds pretty fun to me.

          Thanks so much @czue!

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            Cheers @thatandyrose glad it was helpful!

            Yeah that Rails engine problem sounds quite similar to the tradeoffs I had to wrestle with and ultimately I think you just have to make some opinionated choices and see what happens. You'll learn lots more 1) once you have real users/customers exercising the product and providing feedback, and 2) if you use it yourself to build real sites. So in all scenarios I'd recommend launching early to get feedback (I had serious impostor syndrome when I launched but probably still did it a little late) and using your own template to launch real sites.

            I have to say, the most exciting about building these templates is getting to scratch that itch of focusing on the fun product parts of an app, WITHOUT having to focus on the business part of the SaaS app... and letting the developer who buys your template worry about that. That sounds pretty fun to me.

            Well, you'll still have to focus on the business of selling the template! It's very very hard to make money on the Internet without doing a good bit of "business stuff". But I guess the more you can find the type of business stuff that seems fun (e.g. publishing technical content) the less bad it will feel.

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              @czue hold on, what you're saying is.. it's NOT just a case of:

              1. have fun building some code.
              2. (skip 2) Profit???

              I don't get it.... :-)

              Yes, you're absolutely right.. I think launch early and dog food and expect your users will provide feedback you never even imagine are all good things to keep in mind....

              thanks so much Rory, very enlightening!

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        @czue (oh, FYI, another CTO here just had enough of the CTOing :-) )

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          cool! you have a link?

  2. 2

    Loving this series of interviews with South African indie hackers!

  3. 1

    @csallen I don't see the clip playing on chromebook or mobile browser. The other interviews work for me, so looks like an issue with this one.