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Dominik Sobe doubts himself, has no takers at launch, and then suddenly gets his first three customers

I don't want to be whiny, but being an indie hacker is hard. Especially if you're a solo founder who hasn't yet found their keystone project. It is a lot of trial and error. A lot of falling down and getting up again.

Yep, no two ways about it. This type of work takes a certain type of person. But while it's not always smooth sailing for @dominikSo, he did just get his first three customers for StorePreviewer in the span of a weekend. 🙌

🤓 Learnings:

  • Writing can be therapeutic.
  • Indie hacking is generally not glamorous.
  • If you feel down, you're probably not alone.

Anyway, back to Dominik:

As I was approaching the finish line for v2 of StorePreviewer, I started to doubt everything. Nothing made sense anymore. And I was overworking myself.

You see, you read a lot of success stories on Twitter. It's typical survivorship bias. "I made $10K in two days — here's how." There's nothing wrong with these posts. On the contrary, they're often encouraging. But they're not the norm.

I sometimes sat in front of one error message for two days. No $10K. Just 48 hours of trying to debug a memory leak. People rarely talk about that.

I don't know why, but a few months back, I just felt like I needed to write my feelings down. Here's what I wrote:

"I am kind of sad.
I am tired.
I am not motivated.
It’s 2:51AM.
I am almost done building v2.
Will anyone ever use it?
It feels complex — will it break?
Did I spend too much time on it?
At least I learned a lot.
It’s almost December.
There are a lot of things that need to be done for university soon.
Will I have time to finally finish v2?
Would love to have $1K MRR.
Saw a lot of success stories on Twitter — got more demotivated.
Read some fail lessons on Failory — that helped a bit.
Saw much easier and probably more profitable ideas on Product Hunt.
Someone launched a product with an awful design, yet he did launch, and even charged a high price.
Is my pricing enough? Too high? Too low?
How will people like it?
Will it be ever used by more than two people?
I got depressed.
I started writing this.
Good night."

In the end, I did finish it. I reached out to 80 emails that I collected from my first launch — people who were theoretically interested — and nothing happened. It didn't feel good.

But two weeks later, one of the companies I emailed signed up for an annual plan. Then I went to sleep and someone signed up who wasn't even on my email list. Then I went to sleep again and woke up to my third customer. All in the course of a weekend.

It felt terrific. It made me feel more confident. I still have a long way to go. And it isn't easy. But the only way to fail is to stop, cheesy as that may sound.

🍪 Food for thought:

  • Dominik told me that he's been trying to write more recently because it provides him with clarity and understanding. I personally journal for a few minutes every morning (well, most mornings 😉) for the same reason. I've learned a lot about myself and I've made really positive changes to my life thanks to this practice. If you've never tried stream-of-consciousness writing, it could be worth a shot. What practices work for you?

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  1. 5

    Thanks @IndieJames, and the whole Indie Hackers community. I truly love engaging with the community here. It has helped me a lot!

    I am trying to get into the habit of being more open about my bootstrapping process and not just share the final outcome as I did in the past. The journey. The behind-the-scenes. You can find me talking about my journey designing and building products on the interweb, technology and life on twitter, my blog and obviously here 😊

    If you have any questions, I am more than happy to respond to them in the comments 😉

    1. 3

      Awesome stuff! I so much relate to that text you wrote :) And I still have another 1.5-2 months until launch 😂

      1. 3

        I feel you, glad you liked it 😉Good luck and remember one thing: ship, ship ship 🚢

        1. 1

          Thanks! That's the plan - but you know, I need just one more feature before I'm ready 😂

          1. 1

            Feature creep is so real that it should be the 11th commandment 😝

            1. 1

              True that :D But it truly is the most important feature, which will then justify my prices 😁

      2. 2

        Keep at it, and good luck! 🚀

    2. 2

      Thanks again for taking part in the series! 💪

  2. 3

    Thanks @IndieJames and @dominikSo for sharing this story!
    Dominic - congrats on hitting your milestone, that's really exciting. And thanks for peeling back the curtain and sharing the hard work and tougher times behind the success story.

    BTW - I'm huge nerd when it comes to the science of expressive writing / journaling. There's actually a ton of multi-disciplinary research (education, cognitive, organizational behavior, psychology) that indicates reflective thinking and expression has massive impact on learning outcomes (e.g., productivity and performance) and emotional well-being (e.g., 'therapeutic' writing, stress reduction, etc.).

    From the learning perspective, the impact comes from actively switching our brain from "system 1" or unconscious thinking and acting towards "system 2" cognitive processing when we reflect on our experiences and feelings (dual process theory). That's what generates the "clarity and understanding" that typically follows. It's why in a lot of educational or training settings usually the program ends with having all participants reflect about what major takeaways stood out from the program. It's also why most coaching programs focus on asking thought-provoking questions rather than providing direct advice.

    When it comes to the emotional side of things, studies have shown reflective writing and thinking is linked to improved mental resilience, emotional regulation, optimism / happiness, and reduced stress levels. The mechanisms are a bit less clear, but a few theories suggest that "reprocessing" experiences into different narratives helps reduce the toll of negative emotions, and others suggest that we subconsciously exert a lot of effort actively "inhibiting" negative emotions so when we let ourselves express these emotions we benefit by releasing that suppressive effort.

    1. 2

      Fascinating, thanks for sharing @aj_alkasmi! 🙌

    2. 2

      Very insightful, thank you so much for the explanation. I have recently read the handbook on Writing Well by Julian Shapiro. His first two sentences are the following:

      „Writing is the art of thinking clearly—on paper.
      If you think clearly, you can find something worth saying.“

      1. 3

        @dominikSo That is a great quote!

        Glad it was insightful. I'm actually working on embedding this research into an app right now.
        I think open-ended journaling is great (digital or paper/pen), but with a bit more science-backed techniques / prompts & some digital magic it can be an even more powerful habit for growth and well-being. I'll share it with you when I finish the next sprint in a couple of weeks if you're interested :)

        1. 3

          Sure! Share it with us :)

  3. 2

    Thanks for your story. I don't want to be skeptical, I am just curious. Why is it better to use your project instead of templates in Figma (or whatever designers use)? I don't know much about this industry and try to understand your project.

    1. 2

      Great question! I totally understand where you are coming from—have used templates for long time too.

      👉 First, playing around with various Sketch/Figma templates is nice for perhaps that one logo preview but iterating over multiple screenshot ideas is quite cumbersome and takes a lot of time. Not even thinking about doing it for multiple devices, dark mode, list + detail view, landscape mode, video preview and the ever updating App Store designs (iOS 14 App Store looks different than the iOS 13 one)

      👉Second, not everyone can or want to use to use graphic tools. Imagine a great App Store marketer who gets the designs from a freelancer but still wants to fully optimize the app store presence.

      I am an app developer myself and thought there must be a more fun and most importantly productive process to handle this issue.

      In the long run, I want StorePreviewer to be the place – not just where you can preview your app store – but also where your app "lives".

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