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97 Comments

⏳ 3 Years. No Income.

From my personal site


I quit my job in February 2017. With roughly $250k in savings.

And went without income for 37 months.

Until April 7, 2020. When Whit Anderson donated $15 for a Trends.vc report.

And yesterday. When I made $162 from a Trends Pro Report on Paid Communities.

The first time I made money from a digital product. It feels weirdly good.


Why did you quit your job?

To control my time. I enjoyed the pay, flexibility and coworkers at my last gig.

But it was too comfortable. That's why I left.

Why did you write this?

I'm a private person. I just declined to give someone those details about mini-retirement. But I also learned that transparency pays.

Most of those sales were due to me being open about failing at monetization.

Transparency pays.

More on the way.


👋 Any thoughts? Questions?

  1. 37

    $250k is a ton of savings! Parkinson's Law comes into play here: work expands to fill the time allotted. If you have 3 years to make money, it will probably take you 3 years to make money. I quit contracting in 2016 with about a year of runway saved, and I didn't do anything urgently until the situation got urgent and I only had 4-6 months of money left. I've interviewed some others who had similar situations.

    Anyway, congrats on making money! 🥳 I think charging for Trends is smart and the right way to go. You're providing lots of value, and charging for it will force you to continue to ask, "What will get people to pay" and thus provide even more value.

    1. 17

      Yes, yes and yes. I thought about your story " I didn't do anything urgently until the situation got urgent..." for the past year. Heard you tell it on a few podcasts.

      And said, "that's me."

      Parkinson's Law in full effect. My runway was thinning. It was get serious or go back to work for someone.

      Thanks Courtland. For this and everything you do. Indie Hackers is core to the last 3 inflection points in my life. Finding community, linking with @trulykp and others (IH Atlanta) and forming our mastermind (born out of IH Atlanta)

    2. 2

      I too was struggling with this sort of procrastination. Recently, I've started using the concept of forcing functions (www.ricklindquist.com/blog/forcing-functions) to help me and it's paying off big time. A forcing function is basically anything that requires you to take action and produce a result.

      @dru_riley your product is good enough to charge for. I just subscribed to get your Pro stuff. Congrats on making more money.

      1. 2

        Hey Rick. Great piece.

        Using an app called Habit List. I went through a cycle of adding too many habits and not be able to do any. A forcing function was the answer.

        "No more than 10 habits" was the rule. And things have been better ever since.

        Also heard @csallen say something similar in an interview. That he would track too many habits and things would fall apart.

        BTW. Thanks for subscribing to Trends Pro!

  2. 8

    Hey Riley!

    Thank you for sharing this! I’ve been struggling too especially since the coronavirus came swooping in, but I hope I’ll be able to turn a profit at some point.

    It’s hard to keep up the motivation when the results don’t come in as expected. Even if I have some savings, I guess it’s more about the feeling of achieving, or the lack thereof.

    All the best of luck to you!

    Cheers,

    David from The Other Workspace

    1. 5

      Hi David,

      I know that feeling too well.

      Community helped a lot. And meeting on a regular basis.

      Have you heard of Indie Worldwide by @AntCas?

      1. 3

        Well now I did, and I'm sure going to check it out! :) Cheers, thank you! David

        1. 2

          Hope to see you in there 👊

  3. 5

    Same boat! Quite my job in March 2017. But you sure have saved a lot! I survived through with $30k so far. Now, I'm in the process of adding payment to my service finally. Quite excited. I hope we will be both successful in the future!

    I like the saying; there's no real ceiling in having your own product/service, only how much you want to put effort in:)

    1. 1

      👌 Nice! Hope it goes well

  4. 4

    Hey @dru_riley, thanks for sharing this. It feels like a glimpse into my own future — I really struggle with sharing things online. I used to be far more open with posting on social media, but as the years passed and privacy concerns mounted, I've basically retreated. I'm so accustomed to building in isolation, but discovering Indie Hackers was kind of a light bulb moment.

    I can build the best app ever, but there's little value in launching it to an empty room.

    That's what I tell myself, at least, and why I'm here now. Thanks for your transparency. Looking forward to more of it!

    1. 2

      Loved => "there's little value in launching it to an empty room."

      I know exactly what you mean.

      It's still hard to share. But it used to be a lot harder. I started on Indie Hackers doing daily standups. The feedback was great.

      Anything to get out of my head.

  5. 3

    Hey Dru,

    Congrats on the weirdly good feelings of getting your first digital product purchase.
    I don't know if you've heard it but I thought the latest IH podcast episode with Sam Parr of the Hustle is super relevant and could give you great insights to implement into your startup.

    https://www.indiehackers.com/podcast/161-sam-parr-of-the-hustle

    Oddly enough, they share a newsletter with the same name as yours 'Trends', which they charge $300 Annually and is doing $10M ARR.

    Stay hard.

    1. 2

      Thanks! Yes. He was a big inspiration. Along with Exploding Topics by @jhowarth15

      Will listen to that episode today :)

      1. 2

        Killer work with these Dru. 🔥 I've been enjoying them greatly.

        And means a lot to have helped spark your journey. 😊🙌

    2. 1

      Wanted to follow up and say thanks. I listen to a lot of podcasts. And that was one of the most valuable. 🙏

      Have any other recommendations?

      1. 2

        I'm glad that was valuable; the timing was right.

        I don't have much recommendation as far as a single episode goes. But I find 'Startups for the Rest of Us' by @robwalling and the Indie Hackers podcast to be solid through the years.

        1. 1

          Also a fan. Picked up gems from there.

          Thanks again!

  6. 2

    I just heard you on the IH podcast yesterday—it was so good, I listened to it twice. Then while I was reading Trends (also great), I got my very first newsletter signup! Good times.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. 1

      Thanks for checking it out @kevinlhough!

  7. 2

    Salute to all those who leave their jobs to pursue their hustle.
    I get your updates on my twitter feed. Keep growing..

  8. 2

    Transparency pays.

    Agreed. Didn't make anything before I started being a little open about my business.

    On a different note - If you have $250k, why not just invest it, actively take care of the portfolio and basically retire?

    1. 2

      Good to hear other stories.

      If I wanted to stay in the US, might need more than $250k to actively invest and retire. Perhaps $500k if I went super lean.

      Outside of the US. That wouldn't be a problem.

      There's also this thing of pushing myself. Trends.vc has two futures:

      1. Media+Community: Super simple and clean.
      2. Media+Community+Investing: Will force me to push myself.

      I'll opt for the second. It's the same thinking behind staying in US or retiring abroad.

      1. 2

        Hey why don't you come for work hangout with me in Thailand then :P
        There's also the working abroad option once flights reopen.

        1. 1

          Where are you in Thailand?

          1. 1

            I live in the suburbs of Bangkok. Huge sprawl.

            1. 2

              When things calm. Might come say hi!

  9. 2

    Really like your content and email! I'm trying to aim for that $250k savings too :) one day one day!

  10. 2

    Hey thanks for share!! . I am without job too and I hope my project will give me something , I am worry about the coronavirus situation.

    1. 2

      No problem Mateo. What project are you working on?

      1. 1

        I am doing a TaaS , an IT team as a service project , I am just launch the next month.

  11. 2

    Thanks for sharing Riley! You story is so inspiring for me and congratulations on your recent tractions!

    1. 1

      Thanks so much Leon!

  12. 2

    Hey man, congrats! I didn't quit my job but yesterday I've made my first sale on my product launched almost two years ago and it was pretty rewarding, to be honest.

    Best of lucks !

    1. 1

      Adriano that's great. What's your product?

      1. 2

        Ya!Meeting (yameeting.com) On-Demand private servers with Jitsi Meet for every meeting.

        The idea is to use the server once and throw it to help with privacy issues like logs on servers, meeting exposure time, etc.

        1. 1

          Super interesting.

          What niche/use-case is this for? What is your customer using it for?

          1. 1

            I'm still pivoting, to be honest. It's a fun project and doesn't take too much of my time.

            One use-case is applications or services that need/want to give their customer the option to have a videoconference as a feature but don't want to deploy a big infrastructure.

            We're reaching a few sites that provide virtual invitations for birthdays and that sort of thing, and it's a good option because they will only have to pay for a short videoconference (1 hour for less than USD 0.1) and don't worry about any extra infrastructure.

            And another user case is activism where they really want to be in charge.

            Thanks for asking ;)

            1. 1

              Thanks for the backstory :)

  13. 2

    Kudos to you for having the motivation to stick through it for so long. Many businesses fail because the founder just gives up after some time without success. Just gotta stick through it.

    May i ask if it took you 3 years to build Trends or did you just have to find yourself first after you quit your job?

    1. 1

      Hey Nikola. It felt like I was running from something for 2 1/2 years. Did a lot of travel and escaped into jiu-jitsu and other things.

      Like Courtland said, things expand to fill the time we have.

      When money started to get low. I got serious.

      I quit a lot of things but that made me ask, "What can I stick with?"

  14. 2

    I got so much time for you man. Congrats and respect.

  15. 2

    You are so brave Dru! I love you being so transparent to your subscribers!

    1. 1

      Thanks for checking it out Damon 🙏

  16. 2

    This post is very relatable. I started indie hacking around May 2016. I didn't make money until fall of 2019. It was a long journey to go from a "9-5 developer" to successfully building and launching own things, and then landing sales on those things. In retrospect it seems simple but no, it has been a marathon. I'm still not making steady income but making some, so I feel confident about my ability to do this.

    There have been two major events that really facilitated things which were when I found my cofounder, and when I was fired from my 9-5 job. Especially the latter caused a massive mindset shift that has helped facilitate my indie hacking because it made me never want to go back to working for someone else. My cofounder because he has a completely different skillset and works on different things so we are able to do much more together. He is also able to check me at times if my ideas are too far out, which I appreciate very much.

    1. 2

      it has been a marathon

      For sure.

      My cofounder because he has a completely different skillset and works on different things so we are able to do much more together. He is also able to check me at times if my ideas are too far out, which I appreciate very much.

      I know what you mean. My inner circle of founder friends do the same. Two in particular. They are good at catching me when my ideas are too far out. Happens a lot. We're lucky. 🙏

  17. 2

    I am in a similar situation..

    I have a very popular web app in a domain. It never directly made enough money, its been in the market from 2+ years. I haven't spent any time on SEO or marketing etc, it somehow pickedup and brings good amount of traffic (generally its on the top 5 google search results).

    Even tho I am not making enough money directly with this project, I get a ton of consultation work because of it.

    Its popularity and once in a while payments tells me that there is gold mine waiting for me. I need to fix some bugs, rewrite some parts,.... I couldn't pull myself to work on it as of now.

    1. 1

      That's great. That you've found a way to monetize it. Some people pay for customer acquisition. But your web app seems like a a magnet. Congrats

  18. 2

    Congrats @dru_riley! That's super impressive you saved up $250k! Wow! Now that's a feat in itself. How did you save up so much? I think a lot of IH would be interested in this.

    1. 2

      Thanks Yaro. Will make a separate post but here's the TLDR: Saved 60-70% of income. And invested. I was a consultant at that company. My rate floated between $125-$95/hr.

      Let me know what other questions you have. It'll make the next post better.

      1. 1

        Thanks for the reply! That's awesome to hear, saving 60-70% is quite hard. I need to start consulting, those rates are beautiful :)

  19. 2

    @dru_riley thanks for sharing this! There is huge pressure on people to share that everything is like rainbow and they need to grow at least 10% every month, otherwise they worth nothing. Which is obviously ridiculous.
    But I see your determination pays off!
    Great reminder!

    1. 1

      Great point Samuel. Need a separate post to share the failures. The thinking behind Trends was "what feels like play to you?"

      Had to find something that I wouldn't quit.

  20. 2

    Wow - super interesting. I was just talking with my dad about "open" startups. The thought of sharing revenue and analytics feels a bit awkward and exposed, but I also believe the people who swear by it.

    Congratulations on that $ !

    1. 1

      :) That's the next Trends report too.

      This 'transparency' experience made me think about Open Startups.

      You can get it when it comes out: https://join.trends.vc/

      The last one was on paid communities

  21. 2

    hey Dru, kudos for sharing this. I left 'the City' in 2015 and have done a bunch of things (employed/'own thing' since).

    It took me nearly 5 years to make any $ from my blogging (this March was the breakthrough), aside from a few cents through Medium / a few bucks with a couple of guest posts.

    PS. Congrats on the Gumroad sale, I might be launching my 1st paid (e)book on there. And wow, Indie Worldwide looks amazing, I've signed up to the event this weekend.

    1. 2

      That's the story I want to read :)

      What's the ebook topic? Is it related to your INF community?

      1. 2

        :) It's IndieAuthor.co - championing the "indie" publishing route

        1. 2

          whoops - just saw your 2nd line. Not directly, but also yes... there are so many INFs in the writing community (seriously, so many), and I'm interviewing a number of INFP & INFJ authors for this book.

          1. 1

            That's great because they'll share it too

            🧠 smart move!

        2. 2

          🔥 Would you ever consider doing a course?

          1. 2

            yep :) that's the plan for INF Club... self-guided courses, perhaps some group ones too (e.g. delivered 'live' over a few weeks to a small group). we'll see what happens! I tend to go with the flow / my intuition / what feels right.

            yourself?

            1. 1

              Awesome. This might be interesting Online Courses

              There are some big trends I want to cover. May use the course format

              1. 1

                Thx, I'll have a look!

  22. 2

    It was really nice to hear a story that I can really relate to! I think it's very challenging to carry on with a project that isn't bringing in money but that's what us entrepreneurs do my friend!

    Stay strong and keep pushing - you will get there. @dru_riley

    1. 1

      Appreciate the encouragement

      It's been a series of projects that didn't bring in money. Trends.vc was relatively quick. Exactly 3 months from the date I hit publish. The $162 came in.

  23. 2

    Thanks for sharing. Went through something similar and it is tough to go through. Happy to chat if you ever want.

    1. 1

      Thanks Yarty. Would be great to chat. I couldn't find your contact info. Here's my Twitter and email is on my profile 🙏

      1. 2

        Thanks Dru, didn't realize my twitter nor email was updated. Will reach out, look forward to catching up!

        1. 1

          💯Looking forward to it

  24. 2

    👏 this is awesome. Looking forward to more posts on the subject. Congrats on the first $162! It feels soooo good from my experience, just make sure to keep the ball rolling! Good luck!

    1. 2

      Thanks Nikita. You're absolutely right. Feels great

  25. 2

    What stack did you use for your blog?

    1. 1

      It's built with:

      • WordPress (CMS)
      • Carrd (Landing Page)
      • Mailchimp (ESP)
      • Integromat (Pipes)
      • Gumroad (Payments)

      Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  26. 2

    Dru, nice to see you post here too ;) Crazy that you have hung in there for so long! Your stuff is awesome, I would personally put up a paywall like someone said (at least for a good chunk of your insights). Promote it to the current free subs list too, get that $$ coming in! Thanks for sharing everything so transparently!

    1. 2

      Thanks Gene. Doing that now. Did you check the report out above?

      1. 2

        OH yeah I saw you're making some sales now! Sweet! I hope that keeps up!

  27. 2

    Appreciate this, Dru. I think honesty and transparency are a breath of fresh air compared to the smoke-and-mirrors marketing of the past 5-10 years. Wishing you success.

    1. 1

      Thanks Lachlan! 🙏

  28. 2

    I have learned one thing recently. Sustainability. If you are not earning anything or a little, reduce your expenses to the absolute bare necessities and quickly, and I mean absolute bear, just to get by. Its the easiest way to make money quickly - just save.

    I have been at it for about a year, blew through all my money trying to live on a lifestyle that I was living on when I was employed.

    Having a lot of money to start is not necessarily a good thing. It also feels like a cushion. Progress comes with struggle.

    Thanks for your transparency, very relatable.

  29. 1

    Late to the party but I'm enjoying your content over at trends.vc.

    Thinking myself about going all in but I think I can be more patient and if I do I will try to artificially limit the amount of time I will have money for to increase the pressure

  30. 1

    Hey @dru_riley! I am a huge fan of your reports and have been tweeting about them as well :D I am on a similar phase with €35k savings and quit my job 7 weeks ago. I have a runway of 12 months and hope that I will build something until then. It's scary but really inspiring in the same time.

    At this moment I don't have a solid product idea to work on but I am working on it and focus more and more on customer development. I am sure something good will come up in the next months. I am also documenting my journey weekly in my journal called "12 months to indie-hacking" (http://getrevue.co/profile/jimzarkadas), and I totally agree that transparency pays. Being transparent is not just a strategy, it's a way of living.

    I wish you all the best man and if you need any design help feel free to ping me :)

  31. 1

    Hi Dru, thanks for following me the other day. I have to say: great work with your newsletter. I really think it's amazing how you distill the content there.

    Have you seen Glimpse or exploding trends? Maybe you can watch and follow them closely. The way they leverage Twitter with their threads for example is quite amazing. And how about offering not only the "light" content but instead deeper follower-up research? To monetize the initial interest of readers?

    Tell me what you think and good luck!!! If you have feedback about my newsletter let me know, would be happy to hear it. Dealsflow.com is the URL.

    Enjoy your weekend,
    Alex

    1. 1

      Hey Alex. Thanks for the feedback. Dealsflow looks great. And the messaging is extremely clear.

      "And how about offering not only the "light" content but instead deeper follower-up research? To monetize the initial interest of readers?"

      I don't quite understand this part. Could you tell me more about this?

      1. 1

        Sure - some of the trends you identify are very promising. And there might be people in your newsletter who want a bit deeper market research and info. So you could upsell from within your newsletter. Add a Gumroad link to an additional PDF that simply sheds more light and insights on the trend you have identified. Right now you only make people go "hmm, interesting" and leave to do their own deeper research. Why not help them? In return for some money. Does this make sense? What do you think?

  32. 1

    Do your project as a side hustle first and foremost. Spend time building a Community and establishing your authority and expertise.

    Mailchimp was a 6 year side hustle for example.

    If you really cant tear yourself away from emacs. Then get a job where you're left to your own devices for a long period of time eg. Static Security guard.

  33. 1

    Wow - this is really fascinating, thanks for sharing! If you're open to sharing more, I'm curious: did you try to monetize any of your previous projects along the way? Or did you wait till you had traction with Trends to start monetizing?
    Kudos to you, and congrats on the first (hopefully of many) sales!

    1. 2

      Thanks Ope

      My previous projects were pre-product-market fit. Didn't have the chance to monetize.

      With Trends, I waited until people were screaming that I should charge $

  34. 1

    Most app developers make no profit. And a lot founders and bloggers make no money for their products. Its not a good news. We hope things get better for everybody

  35. 1

    Man, this must be really tough. It's nice to have had that cushion at the beginning but if things don't change, you'll likely run out of funds.

    I'd suggest you add a paywall for any new insights going forward or alternate between free and members only.

    I'm personally realizing now that it's really bad to work for free. I've been giving a lot out for free and I want to stop too. As an indie hacker, it's really important to make sure you get paid when you give value and you are giving a lot of value in terms of research etc for free.

    When in doubt, raise the price

  36. 1

    This comment was deleted 8 months ago.

  37. 1

    This comment was deleted a year ago.

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