4 years with no revenue, 10k in "first month" - AMA

Hey y'all, I'm Kenneth. I've been doing the indie hacking thing for the last 4 years and have gone through a myriad of different projects with almost 0 revenue.

On January 10th I launched a project https://www.vim.so -- which was a pivot from my python learning tool https://www.deliberate.so.

I made $11,261 from Jan 10th to Feb 10th.

Some realizations that materialized launching vim.so:

  • One-time sales are way easier than SaaS
  • To make money, you need to make it as easy as possible for your users to purchase
  • A good design helps a lot
  • Iterating fast is a competetive advantage

From these realizations and seeing the power of interactive programming courses, I started work on a new project called slip!

It's pre-launch but if you're interested in creating an interactive programming course, sign up for my newsletter at https://www.slip.so

Ask me anything!

  1. 6

    This is what Overnight success looks like. All 4 years of it I mean :). Thanks for sharing your story .

  2. 4

    How did you stay motivated for so long without generating revenue. Most founders call it quits in a few months.

    1. 4

      I just enjoy building things :) I didn't force myself to think of revenue as success but iterating as success.

  3. 3

    Really intrigued by the one time sales statement.

    Do you feel that people who offer a traditional SaaS, monthly sub model should offer one off payments like "3 months block access for $x"?

    1. 3

      I bought the vim course, it is on my to-do list to learn for a long time (years). I bought it when it was 50% off, never tried it so far. I would never have signed up with a subscription model.

    2. 1

      I'm not sure if it works for products that have a lot of ongoing support. For courses and info product, there is minimal support so it makes sense to have a one time payment.

      It's an interesting idea to sell blocks of access though. I think @dameonchen did this with his testimonial.to project at first and then pivoted to a monthly payment.

      1. 2

        Cool. Been considering trying to sell blocks of access on SongBox. Will maybe look at it again.

        Congrats on the success.

  4. 3

    How did you survive financially for the 4 years prior to that? Day job, or savings, or something else?

    1. 7

      I've had a day job the whole time. Most of my indie hacking happens in the early mornings before work. 4am-8am.

      The first few years I was indie hacking, I was working full time in the trades, doing maintenance work at a gas station company. I'd fix HVAC, electrical, plumbing and gas pump equipment.

      The last 2 years I've been employed full time as a software engineer.

  5. 2

    "To make money, you need to make it as easy as possible for your users to purchase."

    I agree with this very much.
    Not many devs understand that no matter how good your product is, the harder it is to buy your product, the less will people do it.
    Key is to make purchasing process as concise and easy as possible.

    1. 1

      I think this is one that is often overlooked. Stripe Checkout is great for this btw.

  6. 2

    Wow was the 10k from just the vim course, or a combination of the vim and python?

    Were you struggling to get motivated to update your courses, during those barren 4 years with no revenue?

    1. 1

      I was working on other SaaS things in that time and never really got burned out. I love the process :)

      The sales were all from the vim course

      1. 1

        Ohh very interesting. I wonder why there was a more interest in VIM then Python? Was the sales strategy more focused on selling the VIM course?

  7. 2

    Well done Kenneth, congrats on the success and thank you for continuing to share your journey in the open 🙌

  8. 2

    How did you market vim.so? Was it just product hunt?

    1. 1

      Most of the traffic was from twitter.

      My main marketing strategy was just building in public, sharing lessons I learned along the way. Asking questions on twitter about how to make more sales, etc.

      Product hunt brought in about $800 of sales

  9. 2

    Congrats! I've been doing all sorts of projects and still yet to make it big.

    What are your acquisition channels and which channel has been the highest?

    1. 1

      Honestly the biggest acquisition channel has been twitter. Twitter has driven 18k visitors to the site since I launched. I didn't even have a twitter before last October. I had around 700-800 followers when I launched vim.so

      Other big drivers of traffic were Hacker News, Reddit, and Product Hunt. Though the traffic from those sources were mostly one day peaks.

  10. 2

    Neato! Here’s my question:

    How do you make good UI/UX decisions? I’m creating GlowAndGrow and am stuck on how to create a good layout.

    1. 1

      I cheat by "outsourcing" it to TailwindUI. I bought the kit and it's been the best $250 I've spent.

      It makes it pretty easy to make things that look nice

      1. 1

        Nice, thanks for the tip!

  11. 1

    This is really great, on the point on good design, did you have to work with someone else or this improved over time on your own?

    1. 1

      Improved on my own mostly by leveraging tools like TailwindCSS and TailwindUI

  12. 1

    What is the tech stack behind making these one-time interactive courses?

    1. 2

      React + Tailwind for the front-end
      FastAPI backend
      Render for deployment

  13. 1

    Great story @kenneth_cassel! What kept you motivated through all these years?

  14. 1

    How do you promote your course?

    1. 1

      Mostly twitter, reddit, HN

  15. 1

    First off, congrats Kenneth! 👏 You nailed it!

    Say you’d had zero online presence. How would you go about the launch in that case?

    1. 1

      I had zero online presence in October of last year. For me, building in public has been huge and building an online presence has been super valuable. I'd say start building an online presence, especially if your audience is developers

      1. 2

        It doesn't mean one should not start building until they got an audience, right? 😉

        1. 1

          definitely not! I think it can be a distraction in some cases for sure.

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