Self Care November 15, 2020

Does the world really need what you're building?

debbie_w

'Marketing' as a concept started after the Industrial Revolution. Suddenly it became so cheap to produce stuff, so people started producing more and more. And then they realized that people didn't need 5 pairs of shoes or 20 plates or whatever, so producers had to convince people that you won't be happy and your life isn't complete without their products.

Lately, that's how I feel about the tech products we produce as indie hackers. Please note that I'm pointing fingers to myself as well. Now with no-code tools available, the barrier of entry to creating tech solutions has diminished. You can build something easily to scratch your own itch. But that's it, it's just an itch. You scratch it and it's gone.

But of course, we've built it, we're proud of it, we want people to use it. We write about it and strategically post it in IH, PH, HN, Reddit. We write SEO-optimized blogs. Being on the Internet these days feels like the standing in the middle of Piccadilly Circus in London - surrounded by billboards and stores. At best, high-quality articles are veiled promotions.

And we build solutions to solve problems we create ourselves. It has gone a full loop, e.g.

  • Person A built a productivity app to solve his own productivity problem. So did a hundred other people.
  • It's hard to find which app is the best, so person B started a blog to review those apps. Person C started a Groupon-like platform to promote new apps.
  • Customers got overwhelmed with the options so person D started a newsletter to curate everything.
  • Person A, B, C, D suffer from anxiety and stress from building all of these so person E built a platform to connect with a therapist anytime.

Maybe that's just how the world always works - the loops just happen much quicker now. I don't know.

I'm starting to doubt whether I can actually build something meaningful - something that actually solve the world's biggest problems - as an Indie Hacker. I still keep my day job, not just for the money, but because I believe what I do there truly changes lives meaningfully. But it takes a collective of 100+ people to achieve, not just a guy (me) in a bedroom with a laptop.

Am I (are we) just having grandiose delusions that the world desperately needs what we're building?

  1. 3

    I'm starting to doubt whether I can actually build something meaningful - something that actually solve the world's biggest problems - as an Indie Hacker.

    IMO there are plenty of meaningful, small problems to be solved that we can go after.

  2. 2

    This topic is also making me think.

    In the world of the Startup, the Freelancer and the Indie Hacker there seem to be 100 solutions for every problem.

    But if you leave the tech bubble and look at more traditional industries like mechanical engineering, civil engineering, dentistry, ... there are immediate and obvious problems that can be improved by an app or an API. The barrier for entry is higher of course and the specific domain knowledge unknown, but these problems can be overcome.

    After all, as developers we of all people know what it means to learn new stuff all the time. Let’s peak into other people’s domains and solve their problems 😀

  3. 2

    This is a great post, I can totally connect to a lot of what you're feeling.

    I think this cycle will always exist as long as there is software, but ultimately think that the best and most useful products WILL win out eventually.

    That said, I've always been confused by people who think that an "indie hacker" is someone trying to change the world, disrupt an industry, etc. Why does every website or app idea have to be so insanely ambitious? So grandiose, as you say. I think more often than not this mindset sets one up for failure, especially since (like you said) there are already teams of 100+ people trying to compete in most industries.

    For me, my project is something I think that 2-5k people will enjoy and benefit from, and that is more than enough for me to feel happy about about the project and keep it going and yes, even profit off of. If I can get a million users then great, but it is not the goal. And frankly I think it's more exciting to chase that achievement- of winning over certain members of a niche community- than trying to build something that you believe all people should want to use or benefit from.

    It's unrealistic and exhausting to build the next big thing on your own. Why not build the next cool niche thing? That's where the money is, if you're just working on your own.

    Best of luck!

    1. 1

      "Why does every website or app idea have to be so insanely ambitious?" -- "It's unrealistic and exhausting to build the next big thing on your own. Why not build the next cool niche thing?" this is so true. Thanks so much for providing your perspective!

  4. 1

    Haha, my story of building ruttl originated in the form of solving my own problem too.

    I think the world is surely following the pattern you have pointed out in this post. A really great post indeed @debbie_w! This was an really interesting read in a long time.

  5. 1

    Subjugate whatever you’re building to the ‘must-have’ test. If it passes, keep on keeping on; if not, it might be time to pivot.

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