Last week @johnnywandering interviewed me at Indie Worldwide about freelancing, community building, and indie hacking.
The full recording is available to watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuwpKHFPK9o
Can you tell me about your experience freelancing first off?
When I started freelancing the advice I got was having some branding around your work as a freelancer helps people to take you seriously and treat it as a business relationship and not as an employee relationship.
It helps set boundaries.
I set up my agency, Formico, when I had a really hot lead come in and I needed a team for it.
An acquaintance had reached out who was trying to hire me onto their new team.
I didn't want to be an employee again so I said, hey actually i'm running this freelancing company (that didn't exist yet), why don't you hire my team?
Then I hung up and called my friends.
I got a couple friends that were excited to team up, so I sent over their portfolios. Meanwhile binging as many videos about how to do sales on YouTube as I could.
I wanted $40,000 at least so I asked for $80,000. They said, that's too much, can you do it for $55,000? Deal.
That was the first project Formico had. After that I knew as long as I needed more work I could find it.
You launched a project called HealthCareIsDumb recently, how long have you been working on that for?
I started over the summer. I’m from the USA and the health system in the here is extremely complicated, very dumb, and it doesn't work well at all for many people.
I read in a Hacker News comment that somebody's spouse had gone back to school in order to get cheaper health insurance, that made me very curious so I started gathering data.
You can't scrape this data because every school has their info in a different format in a different place with different policies from different companies.
So I hired my little brother and a team of freelancers off of UpWork and we read all the policies for all the public schools in the USA and compiled it into an AirTable database.
Actually building the website only took a day or two because I just embedded the AirTable into a Carrd site. For marketing, I closely followed Louis Vieira's Facebook marketing advice who we had on for a Q&A a couple months ago. That got me fifty to a couple hundred views per day.
The first time I tried posting it on show HN, it didn't do well at all.
The title was "Show HN: Enroll in college, get cheap healthcare" and it got 8 points.
A week later I tried it again with the title "Show HN: Healthcare Is Dumb".
As soon as I posted it, it got 25 points and there was a pit in my stomach because I knew it was about to pop.
After two days it had gotten 25,000 views.
The site never went down (s/o to Carrd for building a great platform), I collected 300 emails, and helped some people find insurance. Currently working on version two.
I also really want to focus on Indie Worldwide as a whole, so can I ask where did where and when did this start?
I’d been having an on-going conversation with the Indie Hackers people because I'd been starting new Indie Hackers events every time I got to a new city.
At the time I had three big ideas for what Indie Hackers should do to get more meetups going:
#3 was what I really wanted, but their reaction was pretty lukewarm, basically "we like the remote meetup idea, maybe you should try that one first, that one’s free for us".
Every time I moved to a new place I had to leave the community that I built behind. I wanted something I could take with me and a remote meetup solved that problem.
So that's how Indie Worldwide started, just a zoom call with however many people were interested from the Indie Hackers website.
How did you get your first 100 sign ups?
It's always just been slow and steady growth. All of the first sign-ups at first came from posting on the Indie Hackers website and in Slack groups.
Do you have a 30-second elevator pitch describing exactly what Indie Worldwide is?
Indie Worldwide is a place for founders and Indie Hackers to meet other founders and Indie Hackers. We host monthly live meetups with founders from around the world. If you're looking for a community, come check it out.
I certainly personally have received you know a lot of value from it so if you're receiving similar value then it's definitely a great thing
It's inspiring just to meet some of the people that come through.
At any Worldwide event there's people who have really solid companies that they've built and it's been really cool to get more opportunities to meet that kind of person and learn how they did it
I've also started treating it a bit like a podcast, for example with our Q&A series, which gives me a great excuse to talk to whoever I want because I can just invite them as a guest and usually they say yes.
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to build a community?
Community building is a long term investment. As for the logistics, there's only three pieces really.
Those are the three things you have to handle for any community or event.
It can help you find your people, your initial customers, and longer term, your brand champions. It's a long-term investment and it needs to be something you can naturally feel yourself doing for months to years on end. Indie Worldwide is almost two years old and I don't plan to stop.
I've been able to find a cadence of running these events and things that work for me and don't burn me out, so that I can keep it rolling. A lot of community building is consistency.
You said it's been over a couple years now, how much time and money have you put into it at this point?
When I started it I was maybe full time on it for a couple weeks getting people on.
There's been occasional high spikes since then as I try different things with it, but now I have the basic format down and it takes less time.
Setting up the event, advertising, hosting it, and doing post-event work all told is about 20 hours. A lot of it is stuff I can fill into the cracks of my day, so it doesn't always feel a big time investment but it definitely adds up.
The biggest expense so far was the design and branding.
I invested a thousand dollars or so into having nice branding and design. I felt it was worth it to put the money into developing branding that people could identify with and get behind.
It helped me personally too, to be able to understand better what the voice of Indie Worldwide should be. The fact that it looks pretty makes it easier to put it out there confidently
Something that's popped up recently within Indie Worldwide has been Founders' Club, what's the idea behind that?
Founders’ Club matches members of Indie Worldwide for one-on-one calls based on their revenue, experience, and shared interests.
My philosophy with community building, that I adopted from Dave Fontenot who founded MHacks, is that a community is built of many one-on-one connections.
If you want to build a community you need to figure out how to foster one-on-one connections, especially between new users. If you can get those new users to then foster the same sense of community with even newer users then you've built a community that will build on itself.
I want Indie Worldwide to be a community where people know each other personally.
There's at least one millionaire in there, there's multiple people that have exited, raised money, or are doing over a hundred thousand dollars per month.
There's some there's some very serious founders in the club and it's cool to have an excuse to introduce them to each other.
Good stuff is already coming out of Founders' Club, I'm looking forward to round two.
What ideas do you have for Indie Worldwide over the next 12, 24, or however many months?
I'm really excited about anything that enables more one-on-one connections. I want to experiment with more platforms that are out there as well and keep building new stuff for us.
At some point I want to run a huge Indie Worldwide conference, a TechCrunch disrupt for Indie Worldwide or something like that, where we invite the best of the speakers we've had plus a bunch of new speakers and do a three day or a one week long extravaganza.
I also want to try doing a sponsored competition, where we get a Google Ventures or somebody to sponsor prizes, and have folks compete over a span of weeks.
If you haven't checked out Founders' Club yet, here's the link to sign up. Round two is closed now but you can participate in round three which will be next week.
You'll get paired with another founder I'd personally want to introduce to you based on your interests and experience. If you're interested in meeting some cool folks you should opt in.
Otherwise, thanks for being here, it's been a pleasure to be a part of this community and to see it keep growing.
Join the next Indie Worldwide meetup: https://indieworldwide.co/