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24 Comments

Don't Fall into the Info Product Trap

There’s an old saying: “If you want to get rich quick, write a get rich quick book.”

When I was 14, I sold my old N64 games on eBay. I sold 3 or 4 games for about $8 or $10 each.

It was small money but the rush you get when someone buys your thing is incredible. I wanted more. I wanted enough to buy a flat screen TV.

I was obsessed with flat screen TVs but they were so expensive. I would search on eBay for cheap TVs but even those were out of my price range.

But as I searched, I found these listings. Cheap listings for like $10, $20, $50. A flat screen TV for $20? How is that possible? I diligently read each listing and found the catch.

They weren’t selling cheap TVs. They were selling a list of websites where you could buy cheap TVs. It was kind of a trick. If you weren’t paying attention you thought you were getting a TVfor $50 when all you were getting was a 1 page Word doc.

That’s when I hatched my genius 14-year-old plan. I’ll buy one of these lists. And I’ll re-sell it on eBay. Pure profit! Maybe I’ll make enough money to buy that TV I wanted so bad.

I made one sale for $50! I was over the moon. “This is gonna work! I’ll have that TV in no time, and maybe I can get a Xbox too!

But then I got an email. It was the wife of the man who bought my list. She wanted a refund. He thought he was buying a real TV for $50 but then realized he got tricked. They probably had a fight about it.

I could have said “no refunds. A sale is a sale”. But I felt terrible. I refunded their money and gave up on my dreams of owning a flat screen TV. Making a sale feels great! Deceiving another human being? Not so much.


Fast forward 18 years and I'm an Indie Hacker. I want to be an entrepreneur. I want to make a SaaS and get all the signups and followers and MRRs I can dream of!

But I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m a software engineer and marketing is a dirty word in my book. Even when I try to do marketing™ it doesn’t work. No one buys. No one wants my product.

But then. Hope! Glorious hope! Here’s this guy or gal on Indie Hackers selling an e-book, a course, a webinar, a notion dashboard. “Learn how to do marketing”. “Learn how to build your audience”. “Learn how to make that first sale!”
I’m saved! All I have to do is buy these info products, learn the secrets that they contain and I’ll be a millionaire in no time! Right? Wrong!

It doesn’t work, people still aren’t buying my SaaS. What am I doing wrong? Maybe I need a new approach.

But wait! Building this SaaS sucks. I just want to make money. To be an entrepreneur, whatever it takes. And you know who’s making money? The info product people! They even tell you how much money they’re making. Whether it’s a “I made $10k from selling my course” post or a screenshot of a gumroad dashboard, it’s clear that there’s money to be made with info products. 🤔

In fact, this is a perfect fit for me. I’m passionate about entrepreneurship, I’ve been an entrepreneur for some time and I’ve learned a lot. I’m basically an expert. So, it’s about time I share my learnings with others. I can help them avoid the same mistakes I made.

Welcome to the info product trap. A place where conventional business wisdom that’s been around for decades is repackaged, recycled and resold to the next unwitting entrepreneur.

And it kind of makes sense. You pivoted from having a half-baked idea with a poorly defined target customer to having an idea you know sells with a well defined target customer that you can a) easily reach and b) you know intimately (because you too are an indie hacker).

But we can’t all do this. If all indie hackers are just selling info products to other indie hackers, there needs to be an influx of naive starry-eyed entrepreneurs entering the market community to keep the game going.

If you want to create a sustainable business it has to appeal to people outside of entrepreneurial circles. Maybe not initially. It can be a good idea to start with a niche customer base. But, if you want your business to last long term, you need to be thinking about how your product/service can evolve to reach new markets.

Anyway, that’s my spiel. And of course I too have something to sell. It’s Not an info product.
I made a SaaS. A powerful distraction free tweet thread composer / scheduler. It's called TweetSpacer and I’m doing $20 lifetime subscriptions for the first 20 customers. 12 spots are left. You can check it out at https://www.tweetspacer.com

  1. 18

    You're a good writer Adam - I tell people to keep their posts under 1,000 characters but I'm hanging on every word!

    1. 4

      haha, Thanks! I think that's the first time I've been called a good writer.

      1. 4

        +1 even due I know every word and contemplated it in the past, it was a nice read :)
        get rich quick or slow and other dream selling is the classic pyramid schema bordering frequently on snake oil sales
        the problem is all there is to sell is a dream, a dream of solving a problem, having/becoming/.. something better
        that's how marketing works in its basic form, the most classic is the pain/pleasure marketing, you are in pain, I will not only relive it I'd make it feel sooo gooood.. :sweat_smile:

      2. 1

        You are a good writer! There is your second time 😄 I bet the counter will keep going up ;)

  2. 6

    oh Adam, you have given me a good laugh ;-)

    • number one tool to sell to other indie hackers - "how to guides"

    • and in second place for tools to sell ... drum role ... "tools to help people tweet"

    • and third place and rising fast ... pause while opening envelope ... "a daily newsletter for early-stage entrepreneurs, aggregating and curating all other newsletters, news sources, other product launches and more; at https://gum.co/early-venture-report"

  3. 5

    Hi Adam ,
    great reflections ,
    there are people in this community that are always open to help , just contact them,

    some small free advise on pricing , 20 usd is a very low price , people have the habit of thinking that cheap stuff is low quality , you could say , normally 200 usd / year , now for 40 usd life time deal. it will be a more attractive deal than just 20 usd.

    1. 6

      And some advice on your landing page :
      you are talking a lot about what your software does , but not what the benefits are.
      the customer reaction should be "i want this"

      examples:

      Boost your Twitter following by scheduling post To keep your audience Engaged.
      No need to post every day. setup your tweets once for the next week and get more engagement for the same effort as posting once per week

  4. 5

    If you want to create a sustainable business it has to appeal to people outside of entrepreneurial circles. Maybe not initially. It can be a good idea to start with a niche customer base. But, if you want your business to last long term, you need to be thinking about how your product/service can evolve to reach new markets.

    Yes. Wannapreneurs are generally a terrible target market.

    1. 1

      This comment was deleted 4 months ago.

  5. 4

    Why not doing both?

    SaaS are great but super hard to build and get off the ground but when they take off it provides regular incomes.

    Info products are super easy to build, easy to market and sale but the revenues are unpredictable.

    There is no bad or good, both are great. If you can do both, it's even better, you'll be way more resilient!

    1. 4

      based on my experience, I think I'm much better at building a SaaS and I think that's the best way for me to deliver value. Info products are probably easier than SaaS but they still take time and I don't want to build a business that only caters to other entrepreneurs. I want to build something that I think has recurring revenue, provides value over time and can grow it's customer base beyond indie hackers.

  6. 3

    Building an info product is low risk, high reward. While a SaaS is a considerable upfront investment and often bundled to a subscription model, the info product is (unfortunately) often created quickly and sold at a more attractive low one-time price point.

    Building a SaaS is nothing more noble than building an info product IMO. In fact, I'd say many IndieHackers would profit from building an info product as their first thing in the real world. Many of the ones I've seen are quite high-quality, others not so much.

    However, when that product takes off, it's easy to get stuck there and keep doing the same thing. That's when the quality decreases and it starts to feel like a rip-off, especially if you keep selling to the same people.

  7. 3

    I think that any product has a value, if it helps someone to solve their problems, it doesn't matter is that a SaaS or a "How to guide ...". There are plenty of examples when peoples build products that they where dream of, but ... that products don't solve real problems.

    But I really like the marketing trick you did here :)), that's really smart. Wait this trick in my "How to ..." :))

  8. 2

    This is an interesting paper about the "entrepreneurial" market that caters to wantrepreneurs (it's behind an opt-in wall, though):

    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3479042

    It's been a while since I read it, but if I remember correctly, the authors discuss the development of this market, its effects on the wantrepreneurs, and its effects on society as a whole (innovation, economy, etc.).

    And here's the Hacker News discussion:

    https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23570975

  9. 1

    Nice post! How are you doing with TweetSpacer? Nice product

  10. 1

    I think the trap has less to do with infoproducts and more to do with focusing too much on your own bubble. Agree on the point about too many people focusing on selling to other entrepreneurs/wantrepreneurs, but it spans multiple business models. For example, tons of "business coaches" who never had a successful business before the coaching one. The key is switching the audience, not the product. The infoproducts I sell aren't mainly for entrepreneurs.

  11. 1

    No real feedback from me... Just to say that I really enjoyed reading that :)

  12. 1

    Damn this one got me good. I’m deep into the Info Product Hype Cycle currently but my goal isn’t to help other entrepreneurs with building products or services, it’s for a different audience.

    I do find that much of the info products for people trying to make info products don’t yield a lot of returns except for unique cases.

    Ideally I’d love to do a micro-SaaS business at some point.

  13. 1

    Man your writing hats off to you. You are captivating

  14. 1

    This is so true. I feel there's been an uptick in this kind of animal around the entrepreneur community this past year. For me it's the posturing tweets that are the worst.

    'Generic generic quote. If you understand this you are ahead of the herd.'

    F*** off please.

  15. 1

    Hey, thanks for this text! You really did a great job. I think this text will motivate a lot of indie hackers.

  16. 1

    I personally sell an info product and I do agree with you.

    If we're always told not to sell to friends and family, I don't see how communities of like-minded people (who I would actually call my friends) can be different.

    Although, I will say that not all info products are about 'how to do X'. There's plenty of great info products out there can almost act like SaaS tools. @Janel is a great example with newsletter OS.

  17. 8

    This comment was deleted 4 months ago.

    1. 4

      This reminded me of dropshipping gurus.

      They use clickbait titles for YouTube videos like "Here's How I Made $1,000,000 From My Ecommerce Store" to build their audiences that they can then sell their $2,000 dropshipping courses to.

      But the problem is that the numbers they are using, assuming that these are real numbers to begin with, are the overall revenue.

      This is misleading because people who don't have any business experience often don't realize that:

      1. Revenue doesn't mean anything, profit is what matters.
      2. Dropshipping margins are extremely low.

      So of course they are impressed with those numbers and dashboard screenshots and are tempted to buy the dropshipphing course so that they too could make that much money.

      This is the disingenuous "I'm not lying, am I?" approach to marketing where you intentionally mislead people without straight up lying to them.

      1. 2

        This comment was deleted 4 months ago.

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