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21 Lessons from 21 Indie Hackers💪

Listen Up! IH - Episode 21


Hey folks👋

This newsletter has been running for the last 21 weeks.

I've gone down some interesting rabbit holes when doing these profiles.

Learned a lot in the process.

Many of you have joined recently or midway and might not have read the initial posts.

So I thought this week was a good time to wrap up all those posts and curate some of the lessons

These are 20 lessons/advice/insight from the 20 Indie Hackers I've profiled so far.

And 1 lesson at the bottom from me, something I've seen common across all the successful solopreneurs I've seen.

Let's go -


1. Daniel Vassallo - the Lifestyle first entrepreneur

  • Only Intrinsic motivation lasts, figure out what intrinsically motivates you.
  • Build a portfolio of multiple bets

"Focus on many different things, diversify motivation and attention. Expose yourself to new opportunities, new good fortune."

Read more -

Daniel Vassallo's Lifestyle-First Approach to Indie Hacking


2. Greg Isenberg of LateCheckout

  • Find out in what space are you a nerd.
  • In the world of niches, you have a competitive advantage over big players like Facebook.
  • Come up with an idea around that niche and see what you can build.

"Before an idea, just think about yourself. Think about who you are and think about all the things that make you who you are and what you love to talk about."

Read more -

The Great Unbundling – Power Of Vertical Networks


3. Jordan O'Connor - The "Winner" of Indie Hackers

  • Learn transferrable skills that you can apply in multiple businesses.
  • Skills like web development, SEO, Copywriting.

"If you actually take the time to learn those skills deeply and actually do them valuably, you're going to have a prosperous future. There's no way you can't."

Read more -

How "The Winner" of Indie Hackers built a $38K/Month SaaS business with a "dollar a day" product


4. Bruce Pinchbesk & Chris Sopher of WhereByUs

  • Spend a lot of time studying your users, learn to sift through the noise, and look for signals in your research.
  • The more effort you take to understand the user beforehand, the fewer mistakes you will make in shipping the final product.

"The best thing you can do is a deep understanding of the community.
Slow down, take the time to do the research, speak to people, get feedback."

Read more -

Making 1.5M/Year by Re-Imagining Local News with WhereByUs


5. Li Jin of SideHustleStack

  • Start one level below than your current skill level.
  • Free up your energy and resources to actually gather feedback and gain some momentum. If you start at your peak level, you will stretch yourself too thin.

"I think we're all on this like personal goal of product-market fit, where we are the product and there is a market out there. Whatever we pursue and have a passion about, either we have to be sure that there is a market for this or we have to by ourselves create the market"

Read more -

Lessons from Li Jin - The Patron Saint of The Passion Economy


6. Evan Britton of Famous Birthdays

  • Focus maniacally on the customer.
  • It won't be easy. So you will need a lot of passion and commitment to get through the initial years. It will take time, blood, sweat and tears.
  • Be prepared for that.

"Do one thing but do it well, for everything else don't hesitate to use third-party tools. Don't reinvent the wheel to build something that's not part of your core product."

Read more -

2.3 Billion Pageviews & 9 Years of Customer Focus - Evan Britton | Famous Birthdays


7. Jay Clouse of Freelancing School

  • Take relentless action.
  • Progress compounds, even if it's slow initially.

"Not everybody can be a breakout success, but if you expand the surface area of your luck, good things will happen."

Read more -

Building, Scaling & Selling a Thriving Community | Jay Clouse


8. Dru Riley of Trends.vc

  • Build relationships and store goodwill
  • Don't be in a hurry to launch on PH, take your time.

"Try to find something that you can stick with for a while. It matters the market needs to have what you have to offer but I think that V0, version zero, never survives and you have to be willing to stick it out through pivots, through iterations. That’s hard to do if you don’t love what you’re working on."

Read more -

Growing from 0 to $20K MRR with Winning Trends | Dru Riley


9. Arvid Kahl - The Embedded Entrepreneur

  • Your audience and the market is the hardest thing to change about your business.
  • Everybody should start something that they really, really care about.
  • If you want to impact the lives of other people, and if you want to impact the value that they can create by enabling them, then you should start a business.

"Audience research to me is the most important thing in a business"

Read more -

Idea to Exit in 2 Years | Lessons from Selling a SaaS at $55K MRR | Arvid Kahl


10. Sahil Lavingia of Gumroad

  • Enough is a decision, not an amount.
  • Align selfishness with selflessness, figure out what you can do creates value for the world.

"I think the most important thing is to build stuff, to start small and figure out what you want to build, and honestly, a lot of people aren’t going to know what they want to build so just like build something, as small as it is. Or maybe not even build something, just ask the people that you love in the communities that you care about how you could make their life better."

Read more -

Aspiring billionaire to profitable indie hacker | Lessons from Sahil Lavingia of Gumroad


11. Tyler King of Less Annoying CRM

  • Humans don't like too much choice
  • The cycle of bundling and unbundling is constant.
  • As platforms grow and add new features they become general purpose.
  • Opportunities emerge for unbundling them into niche products.

"There are only two ways to make money in business: One is to bundle; the other is unbundle"

Read more -

Only 2 ways to make Money - Bundling & Unbundling 💸


12. James Traf of Super

  • Luck favors those who are in motion
  • Find ways to ride a trend
  • When you're going viral, make sure to capitalize on the virality.

"You know you don't need a business plan. You don't need a degree in software engineering. You don't need to quit your job. You need two things. I would say. One, a computer with an internet connection and some initiative. And with those, I think the sky's the limit."

Read more -

Making $100K in 6 days | Story of Traf's "overnight success"🤑


13. Sam Parr of The Hustle

  • Copywriting is the number one skill you need if you want to make money
  • Business is like music - there are a handful of structures and best practices within them, follow them and you won't fail.
  • Love what you are doing.

"Launch something tomorrow. Do it fast and don’t think about anything. Just do it."

Read more -

The Hustle of building a million-dollar content business✍| Sam Parr


14. Bram Kanstein of NoCodeMVP

  • If you have an idea, think what is the smallest thing you can do learn the fastest about the idea.
  • Making it small doesn't mean it's less valuable!"
  • Timebox it - ask yourself - “How can I determine if I should pursue this idea four weeks from now?” - the answer to that question is what you will do from tomorrow for the next 4 weeks

"I truly believe that if you deliver real value and solve someone’s problem, they don’t care how you do it."

Read more -

21K Upvotes on Product Hunt and Lessons on validating your idea without code | Bram Kanstein


15. Rob Fitz of The Mom Test

  • Nobody wants to go through the emotional toll of telling you your idea is bad.
  • It’s your job to figure out if it’s a good idea. All they can do is tell you about their life. That’s the only information they have access to.

"Customer conversations are like skateboarding or pottery and you should be willing to fall on your ass a few times. It’s not science or math."

Read more -

Ask Questions even your mom can't lie to👵 | Rob Fitzpatrick


16. Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt

  • There will always be an opportunity to create a community around something.
  • pick a very specific community and audience around your passions
  • Build products with the community.

"Technology is part of our culture and it's in many ways a way to express yourself. The same way that music is a way to express yourself"

Read more -

A Community around Products| Lessons from Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt🤗


17. Nathan Barry of ConvertKit

  • Build in Public for a mission, not for the eyeballs
  • Compounding takes time, give it the years it needs.
  • Be the guide not the hero in your customer's journey

"It takes way longer than you think, and it's worth it if you keep going."

0 to 28M ARR While Building In Public📈 | Nathan Barry


18. David Perell - The Writing Guy

  • Good writers are now rewarded like never before
  • Find your "One Big Idea" and go deep into that.
  • Use stories, analogies, and examples in your writing.

"Writing on the internet is one of the most under-utilized under-explored opportunities in the world right now!"

The Power of Writing Online | David Perell


19. Jon Yongfook of Bannerbear

  • It makes more sense to price your product higher and target fewer customers.
  • API products are well suited for Indie Hackers
  • Passion is a crucial success metric in a solo business

"If you want to go from 0 to $10K MRR you should divide your time 50:50 between coding and marketing"

Read more -

Living the Indie Hacker Dream | Jon Yongfook


20. Pieter Levels of NomadList

  • You don't need a fancy tech stack for a profitable business.
  • There is value in curating niche information.
  • FB and Google serve the masses, Indie Hackers can serve the niches.

"Be less scared and just do more things!"

Read more -

Digital Nomad to Prolific Indie Hacker | Pieter Levels


21. Final Advice 🤗

One common thread I've seen across all these success stories is perseverance.

You will win by staying in the game longer than your competitors.

So find ways to keep going.

Sometimes it may mean pivoting, or slowing down, or maybe even working on a separate product altogether.

But to get success in the long term you must do anything to keep standing there.

Hope that helps!


Thank You for Reading🙏

Have thoughts?

Join the conversation on Twitter.

I tried to pick the top 10.

Tell me how I went horribly wrong 🤣 -

Every week, I share the most actionable insights and inspiring tips from Indie Hackers FOR Indie Hackers

Ideas + Insights + Inspiration for building profitable internet businesses💪

Subscribe to Listen Up! IH and join 1100+ spirited Indie Hackers who read this newsletter every week👇

Thanks to Seth King for editing all the posts.

Photo credit Agence Olloweb from Unsplash

Cheers,
Ayush

  1. 2

    Nice post and advice.
    I face a big blocker to find out the business idea I am really passionate about and which is profitable.
    I am a python developer with 7+ years of experience working remotely so how do I know what people's problems are?
    What are the niches a regular software developer can target to?
    It's all too blur for me as of now. But I keep thinking let's see if something "clicks"!!

    1. 1

      Hey Kishan, 2 things you can do.

      1. Mindset shift, instead of thinking of yourself just as a developer, think of yourself as an entrepreneur. That means you must think beyond code. Put equal effort into customer discovery, market research, branding etc.

      2. Start reading @arvidkahl's book the embedded entrepreneur. It will show you the exact steps you need to take to find niches and communities you can build products for.

      Hope this helps, happy to hop on a call and chat more. Feel free to DM me on Twitter for any help.

      1. 2

        Hey Ayush, Thanks for the advice. I will contact you if I have any doubts after following the above advice.

        1. 2

          Hi @ayushchat
          Update: I have bought the book and started to collect ideas ~100 as mentioned in the book at the start :)

          1. 2

            Fantastic, 100 ideas is amazing!

            I am going to publish my notes from the book soon enough, and write another post about Arvid in a couple of weeks. They should help as well.

            1. 2

              That's great! look forward to your post not sure how and where to look out!

              Initially, I thought Woah! 100 ideas really?

              Definitely, It's a bit of a time-consuming exercise but I hope to follow the process layout and see what comes out of it.
              At least it will be a good tough exercise for me! :)

              1. 2

                Yea, 100 is a good number to filter down from. And every minute you spend on the exercise will be worth it eventually.

                You can sign up for the newsletter at this link, will receive the post via email and see it here on IH as well - https://www.indiehackers.com/series/listen-up-ih

        2. 2

          Btw what are your thoughts about the famous "12 months 12 products" challenge

          1. 2

            I think you should do it..
            Click through and check out the posts about Jon Yongfook and Pieter Levels.
            The 12 startups challenge will help you a lot.

  2. 2

    I loved this compiled of ideas.

    1. 1

      Thanks Demetrio🙌 Glad you liked it

  3. 2

    Loved the takeaway of choosing something you can enjoy doing for a long time, sticking to it, and eventually reaping the compounding rewards.

    We hear this often but it can be too easy to give up. Having this re-affirmed is important. Thanks Ayush!

    1. 1

      Awesome, glad it resonated Bryan🙌

  4. 2

    This post is necesary. Key: "So find ways to keep going" always! Thanks @chrisma

    1. 1

      Awesome, glad you liked it.🙌

  5. 2

    Thanks for sharing! I especially like this one:
    "Nobody wants to go through the emotional toll of telling you your idea is bad."
    No matter how much you tell a friend to be honest about something you're invested in, he or she will rather not criticize your idea. You will get feedback but probably not the one you need.

    1. 1

      Yes.
      That's the premise of the book The Mom Test and Rob Fitzpatrick's wisdom.
      Asking the right questions to validate or invalidate your idea is an art.

  6. 2

    Thanks for Sharing Ayush. Will definitely be having a read through - Looks very insightful

    1. 1

      Awesome, thanks 🙏

  7. 2

    21 lessons from 21 indie hackers in year 2021.

    Great post.

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