May 2, 2019

Help a first-time indie hacker

Nelson @nelsonkamga

Hello IH,

I'm a software engineer by trade and I've been trying to found a SaaS business on the side to supplement my income (and hopefully go full-time). I've read common advice for first-time indie hackers such as: Start with a problem, Focus on a profitable niche, Talk to customers before writing code and so on...

However, I'm having a hard time getting a good start as I have tried finding a good niche with no success (I'm an engineer and I don't really have domain expertise or niche hobbies) or a good enough problem to solve.

I don't know if I'm doing this wrong or if I'm missing something and I feel like I'm moving in circles without getting anywhere.

How can I find a good problem to solve or a niche to target?

  1. 3
    1. Finding a profitable niche is not hard. Just find companies on IH, ProductHunt, etc... that are actually making money. Some even straight up share their numbers. For others, you can gauge revenue by doing back of the envelope calculations. See what niches they are going after.

    2. Finding a profitable niche where you have some sort of edge is harder. You said you don't have domain expertise, so you are at an inherent disadvantage here. Your edge must come from your engineering skills or your ability to straight up work harder (especially in sales and marketing) than anyone else in your space.

    3. Finding a profitable niche where you have an edge AND you are passionate about the market is the holy grail. Don't chase this, as you may never find your "passion". If you want to build a profitable SaaS really bad, you just need the second thing.

    1. 1

      Thanks for your reply. Putting it this way makes a whole lot more sense as I have been chasing the third point instead of going for the second.

  2. 2

    I suggest starting to work on "something". Pick something that interests you. Then, you get some skills from working at this. If you wait for this one great idea to come, you might wait forever...

    In my experience, working on something just sparks so many other ideas and also helps you build a network with people. It can really help to get the ball rolling.

    Talking to the people you meet and interact because of your current project will then give you more ideas.

    1. 1

      Hey, thanks for replying. You're right. As @dhruvg said, finding a profitable niche where I have some edge might be a path worth considering and could be the "something" you're talking about.

    2. 1

      This is the same advice I share with people. Just start on something of interest. Set a deadline like one month to launch and see what you come up with.

  3. 1

    In addition to the all great advice, you already got. I would suggest this. Find a user segment that you love.
    Think of them as your little sister that you love and would do anything for and never wanna see cry and lighting her up lights you up. Find that user segment and then interview them to find out what their biggest pains are. and take it from there.

    To build something that people want you are gonna have to check with them often and listen, so it helps a lot if you like who you are trying to help.

    Don't make a saas tool for lawyers if you don't like them in general.

    That's my 2 cents

  4. 1

    I found a problem by doing something completely different. A couple years back, I decided to switch careers - from Software to Medicine. I studied and did the entrance exam for med school and got in.

    Shortly after starting, I set up an information site to help people studying for the med school entrance exam. I wanted an easy way to ask the readers (couple hundred a month) what content I should focus on (as I did not have any free time really).

    This lead me to develop what is now, a simple micro survey tool (that has expanded a bit from just surveys).

    So I guess my advice is to branch out. No, you don't have to do something as drastic as I did and try and swap careers entirely (after 2 years, I have since realised that medicine was in fact not for me - and that's OK too). But, definitely try something else, and see if you can find an opportunity there instead.

    1. 1

      Indeed, branching out to Medicine is a hell of a change but I do get the gist. Not having domain expertise other than in Software Engineering is a bit of a disadvantage and I could gain from widening my horizons. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  5. 1

    Talk to your peers. Ask them for what tools apps do they wish for.

    You might not be an idea person but you can find someone.

  6. 1

    I'm not sure what you are looking for on here... Did you have a question?