Ideas and Validation November 24, 2020

Black Friday is not for Indie Hackers

José León @jrleonr

Six months ago, I was at my lowest. I finished my product, and I didn't know how to sell it.

I founded a book. It wasn't cheap. Not for me at that singular moment. I was struggling. My savings were running out. But I decided to buy it. Maybe it would help me to find a way to sell my product.

Today, that book is discounted. And it hurts.

And it's not because of the money. It hurts because I didn't have much money back then, and I made an effort to get it. It was worth it every penny.

It made me feel bad about myself months ago. When I was still trying, still failing but still hoping.

I understand that doing the Black Friday thing may lead to some sales. But these deals are lead by an industry that want to sell more.

I don't think you, as an Indie Hacker, as an Independent Maker or bootstrapper, should fall for this.

When you keep the price, you are honoring your previous customers, especially if you are doing it under your own personal brand. They trusted you, and discounting hurts.

Your first customers are more important than your future customers. You are where you are, thanks to them. Keep your promise.

Would you sell your product to your two best friends for different pricing?

It's just unfair. Don't do it. Or at least, think about it.

Thanks for reading!

Pre-order my book now: "How I Failed At Everything I Tried".

Black Friday Promotion:

  1. 13

    I feel that you are talking about makebook. I bought that book thanks to that black friday that you think it's a bad thing. I live in non Euro, Dollar zone and that kind of discounts and regional prices help us access quality content.

    Imo you should be happy that there are other people who will access that information at reasonable price instead of feeling guilty about how much you paid.

    Also consider that payment as a support to your favorite indie hacker author. So technically it should make you happier that you contributed their mental wellbeing more than people who waited for black friday.

    1. 1

      Well, that's not the point of the article!

      I am happy for you if you got an offer and you are enjoying it.

      I am also happy to support my favorite makers in any way possible, as I often buy their products.

      But there are also some things to consider:

      • Why could you afford the book now and not before? Is the 50% that made that big difference?
      • Next time you want to buy something from someone who does discounts, are you going to buy it a full price or are you going to wait?
      • How would you feel, as you said, that you are not in the euro/dollar zone if you had invest money on a book and now is half price?

      This article is to make people think about Black Friday. To me, Indie Hacking is about being different and doing different things.

      1. 1

        Makebook has done triple the revenue, and its biggest month for sales, this month and we're not even at Black Friday:

        This is a fantastic example of a digital product using a discount as the scarcity principle to create significant incremental sales.

        You might disagree with it but the numbers and its success this month speaks for themselves.

        1. 1

          That's an amazing result.

          I wasn't talking about any specific thing. It could be a book, a digital course, etc...

          But you are right. This definitely is an astonishing result.

          What can I say? I am still learning.

  2. 9

    You seem to complain a lot.

    It's either worth what you paid for it, and you got value out of it, or it's not. If it's not then perhaps you should write to the author asking for your money back.

    Just because the author decided to be generous, and offer a Black Friday discount shouldn't change the value you got out of the book previously.

    Black Friday is, at least in theory, more about buying Xmas gifts than it is scoring something for yourself. It's great if I can buy things for people I know would enjoy them, and it mostly implies that I already own the item.

    Case in point, I'm very likely to gift @arvidkahl's Zero To Sold to a few people this Xmas, and excellently it's on sale :)

    Indie Hackers selling to other indie hackers is a minority of what people are trying to build. In fact, it's a terrible business plan and would have you laughed out of every VC office in the world (as would having ProductHunt as your sole customer acquisition location).

    Retail gets a massive uptick during Black Friday, and Indie Hackers should absolutely be looking to ride along on that.

    1. 5

      You fell for the classic IH bait. Op here is selling his book via this post. Nobody with 2 brain cells would take that black friday advice seriously.

      Edit: Waow Jose, nice of you to conveniently delete your ebook's link.

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      1. 10

        It wasn't an attack, it was an observation. I have read a bunch of what you have written over the last few weeks, and a lot of it is complaining about one thing or another.

        I get that you haven't had a positive experience trying to bootstrap a startup, but this isn't that, this is just complaining that you bought at full price and now there is a sale.

        1. 3

          Agreed, @vertis.

          @jrleon, your posts have slightly been on the negative/toxic side lately. It used to be fine because they were like little stories that we could read, but now that it's getting in a pattern, I'm starting to look away.

          With great power, comes great responsibility.

          When I say "power", I refer to posting on IH 😉

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            1. 2

              See... that’s what I mean. Anyone that says something positive about your post or thoughts, you write a regular response back. However when someone disagrees, you shut them off and ignore.

              No hard feelings at all, but just something to keep in mind for the future.

              Don’t worry man, you got bright things ahead of you and you’re a great writer and indiehacker.

              We believe in you! :D

              1. 0

                I answered back to everyone, no matter their opinion.

                You followed a previous comment to add that my stories are toxic because I wrote something unpopular. You didn't disagree with my article. I hope you understand the difference.

                I appreciate your kind words.

                1. 1

                  You're welcome. Have a nice rest of your week.

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  3. 7

    You make something simple became complicated, and I agree with @vertis. All your post in here make me think if your attitude make your project fail.

    It’s six month ago, and you know every year there are black friday sale, if you want pay half price, why you don’t wait ?

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  4. 4

    Now your book is discounted? I don't get it, weren't you complaining about it? If your original post was sarcastic, I completely missed it :)

    What made you change your mind about having a Black Friday offer?

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  5. 4

    You're hurt that a book you bought 6 months ago is half price for a single day or week? Honestly, that's surprising. If I bought a book, or anything, which helped me then that value has repaid itself 10 times over and I'm not gonna be refreshing the webpage to see if anyone has got it cheaper.

    To the more specific point – when it comes to selling a one-off item, such as a book, you constantly need that next customer to keep revenue coming in and sometimes discounting is the way to do it. Sometimes it is not. But there is not an absolute and to say Black Friday is not for Indie Hackers is wrong.

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      1. 2

        Why would you not discount and do those things as well?

        Time limited discounting is an excellent example of one of the 6 principals of persuasion – creating scarcity and urgency, something which digital products can not otherwise generate. It's an incredibly powerful tool to create incremental revenue from users who would not otherwise have purchased – to dismiss it out of hand is silly.

        If it's done on 1 day a year, or 1 week a year, when every other company does it too then it's honestly not going to significantly impact your brand. I think you're reading a little too much into it.

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          1. 2

            You don't like it as a customer, but look beyond your own individual feelings. The majority of people, and the data supports this, won't care that the book they purchased 6 months ago is now reduced for a month. How many will even notice? I have 50 books on my bookshelf, I don't know what I paid for each.

            Yes, values are important. But consider your values and how they might inhibit you as a brand, and for what benefit?

            No business really ever says "This is the lowest price it's ever going to be" and neither should a consumer should expect them to.

            The world changes, business changes, pricing changes.

            1. 0

              I don't think we disagree. Everything you said is very valuable.

              Thanks a lot for taking the time. I learned many things.

  6. 2

    Hi @jrleonr,

    I really enjoyed your post about why you quit, even buying you a coffee, and I feel that you're trying to continue that style of advice. Using your experience of failure to advise other indie hackers.

    The issue is that this post comes across as bitter rather than valuable advice based on your experience as an IH.

    Black Friday promo's are a proven method of boosting sales, AND promoting your brand (people scour lists for black Friday deals, so people who normally wouldn't see your brand will), so your 'advice' feels more like a rant because you feel ripped off for paying full-price earlier in the year.

    I don't think this was your intention, and I believe you will have a lot of valuable advice based on your experiences over the last year. I just fear that posts like this may isolate you from some of your potential readers, which would be a shame.


    1. 1

      Thank you, Jon.

      This was a fantastic thing to read. I really appreciate it.

      I honestly use a story to tell how a client may feel. I don't feel ripped off by anyone or anything.

      The reality is that during that time I bought many many things, some of them are now discounted. And others were discounted before or after.

      I was trying to make that if people get used to discounts, they will never pay the full price for your next product/course/book. Many people were falling into the Black Friday wave, and I just was trying to say: think before doing this.

      I know that it works, and they may get a lot of sales from this. I am not saying that this doesn't work. Of course, it works. People are buying more and saying: hey, this is cheaper now! Helps.

      But there other things to consider in the long term. I bought a couple of courses from people and after I realized that that people make discounts. When they launch something, I may wait to buy it when then reduce the price. They sent the message to me: The full price may not be real, you better wait for the discount.

      That's the thing. I am happy that people believe that I felt ripped off because I was trying to picture a story. I know many people that talked to me that said: that it happened to me, and I felt that way.

      They are not going to say it publicly because they will get bad responses as I got. But that's something people need to understand. Customers are not going to tell you that they feel bad because your product is now cheaper. They'll wait for your discounts.

      If that's how someone wants to position his/her brand, fantastic. My idea was to say: think about it.

      That's it!

      Thanks once again for your words. It lights up my morning.

  7. 2

    I've guessed it was makebook too, that's funny but not the case.

    I've sold a few products for $XXX, it should be a one time thing however I started to renew it every month so I wanted to go for a subscription model pricing, it would be too high to price the same but decreasing it felt wrong too as the reason you've told. If I feel this way, this is definitely a beginner mistake that others should avoid.

    When I think about it, those who already bought it for the regular price already get the value out of it, one of them already build his own product on top of it. Same goes for that book, you are already filled with knowledge it offers, you get the value out of that book 6 months before from those who'll buy it now. If that discount didn't worth that 6 months of advantage, than it's on customer not the author.

    Two days ago I've shared a list of 1k .com domains. Whoever downloaded it first get the most value out of it because they had the 1k choices, 2 days later ~20 of them gone. Possibly the most profitable ones, if I'd try to sell that list at first place I possibly decreased the price already.

    This is not directly to you but people please stop romanticizing indiehacking, bootstrapping or whatever you call yourself. We all trying to do business, trying to make a living out of it. Only difference is we are trying to do it with less. That's all.

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      1. 3

        Then I'll suggest you to buy more books while they are discounted!

  8. 2

    @dvassallo wrote an excellent post that seems relevant to this.

    "In theory, the best way to maximize profits from a digital product is to start with a high price and lower it over time. This is very common with movies. Disney just released Mulan last week for $30. After a few months, it will likely be on Amazon Video for $15, then a few months later you'll be able to rent it for $5, and then a year or two later you'll likely find it for free on Netflix.

    I tried to follow a similar approach with my second product, but I misjudged the psychological aspect. **Basically, it's tough to get $100 from your most loyal fans, and then go promote the same product at $50 a few weeks later. If I were to start all over again, I would price the Twitter product between $35 and $45, and I suspect it would have done much better in that range.

    But even with this knowledge, now I'm reluctant to drop the price drastically because I'd have to promote the price change to the same audience that includes thousands of my most supportive customers who paid the original price, and I think that could be a short-term gain, long-term loss.** (PS. Steve Jobs faced this exact problem when he dropped the price of the original iPhone after just 2 months.)"

  9. 1

    You are blaming others who run deals and at the end of your post you say „Go and check out bf deals from our indiehackers“.

    Sorry to be brutal Honest, but this just Eliminates your posts idea instantly. No words...

    1. 1

      Yeah, that's true. I removed it. I didn't want to deal with the hate. But didn't work.

      I put it after to avoid people being very mad with me. I am not used to this and it's making me very nervous.

      But as they continued, there is no point to keep it. Thanks.

      I still think that my post is valid.

      I am not blaming anyone for anything.

  10. 1

    I agree with the premise but not your specific arguments. In my mind, doing a Black Friday sale (or sales in general) can devalue your product and lead to people wanting to get things on the cheap, which is probably not the type of customer you want. See JC Penney or big department stores whose items always on "sale", versus Apple which rarely gives out large sales beyond some small percent.

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  11. 1

    So in fact, you are against all kind of promotion ?
    Well, I guess the marketing strategy to offer price reduction is successful for many companies (in 99% of ecommerce).

    1. 1

      I am not against all kinds of promotions.

      You need to know your market, your clients, etc. For a person who sells courses, or digital products, creating discounts may help in the short term but hurt in the long term.

      But if you sell cereal, that may be another story. I am just saying: even though it is Black Friday, you don't have to do any discounts.

      1. 1

        Sorry but especially for digital businesses its a Good way to get new customers hooked in and onboarded to have Long Term Success. It seems like you may need to do some more research 🙊

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          1. 1

            it's about traction.
            Promotion is one of the best to get traction and customers.
            Whatever it's a course, book, saas, ....
            I understand your point your view, you mean that the power of your name (and what you offer) should be enough. Unfortunately, at least you are very famous, it'll be hard to get traction. So the time you will spend to be famous, you can cut by half the time if you provide some discounts.
            It's my opinion

            1. 0

              Sure! And you can start with a big promotion when you start! You can sell your book/course even with a 90% discount. But if you normally sell it at one price, discounting it something like 50%, that's too much and may hurt how people perceive you.

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