How "The Winner" of Indie Hackers built a $38K/Month SaaS business with a "dollar a day" product

Listen Up! IH - Episode 3

"I Won Indie Hackers"

Back in August 2020, Jordan O'Connor, founder of Closet Tools, became the self-proclaimed "winner" of Indie Hackers. He Tweeted this👇

Today his company Closet Tools, which is a Poshmark Automation tool, is at *$41k MRR and ranks #2 on the list of Solo founders with 'no employees'.

Check it out.

(fyi, Remote OK is number one with $81K MRR)

His rise to the top began in Feb 2018 when he first asked Indie Hackers how to integrate Stripe into his bookmarklet!

He appeared on the Indie Hackers podcast in late December 2020 for a fantastic conversation with Courtland Allen. They discussed his background, the story of Closet Tools, and his idea of "Deep Years"

Some lessons from the podcast👇

Background and Journey

Jordan's journey is the classic example of IndieHacking success — slowly at first, and then a lot all of a sudden.

A Chip on his shoulder

He graduated from school with a ton of debt($200k). His wife stayed at home with the kids, and his day job was only able to help them break even every month.

He needed a way to break out of this cycle.

He did not know any web development, he knew how to code in C.

The Learning phase

The first 3 years of his "Indie Hacking" journey he spent just learning through online courses - basics of HTML, CSS, JS to get started with web development.

He spent $2500 and maxed out his credit card to learn SEO through a ridiculously expensive online course from ViperChill

(Today, he says the course has more than 100xed in ROI for him.)

He started building websites for other people, doing SEO for other people, for no money - just wanted to practice the new skills he was learning.
He made a full fledge back-end front-end app for somebody in the trucking business- For Free!

The Building Phase

His wife used to sell clothes on a platform called Poshmark.

Poshmark is this social marketplace where you can sell your designer clothes and shoes.

He had just learned web development, so he offered to automate some of the sharing on the platform to save her some time.

It was a 30-line script that worked like a browser bookmarklet.

He gave the script away for free to some reddit users and asked for feedback.

More importantly, he also wrote about "Poshmark Automation" on his personal blog.

Soon, he started to get free traffic from google for those keywords, and emails poured in inquiring about the tool.

While people weren't asking for it in forums, he found people were still searching for it on Google in incognito mode😆.

That's where his SEO knowledge helped him the most.

With feedback and validated demand, he realized this could work as a product.

He built the front end of the tool in a month, integrated payments with Stripe, and had 10 paying customers right from day 1.

The Product - Closet Tools

The core selling point of the Closet tools is that it is going to save a few hours every day for its customers.

The target customer for the product are sellers on Poshmark.

Poshmark incentivizes engagement on its platform. So if you want to sell stuff, you must share your products frequently to your followers and groups.

The more products a seller has, the more sharing they have to do. And if someone has more than a 1000 or 2000 products then just being active on the platform can take up their whole day.

Closet Tools is a simple solution that automates this tedious process for them with a click of a button.

It handles the sharing of all their products while they can focus on other parts of their businesses.

Getting the Price Right

The way closet tools is priced is also very interesting. Ever since its launch, it has been priced at a dollar a day.

That's a massive value proposition at a minimal price point.

That 30 bucks investment can help someone make thousands of dollars every month.

No wonder it's doing 41KMRR🚀

Similar Opportunities for Indie Hackers

"If you want to figure out a business idea, just go to places where money is changing hands." — CA

If you're not sure what people think is valuable, look at what they're already paying a lot of money to do.

There are plenty of platforms that enable the creator economy.

Platforms where people can make money off their creativity, like Poshmark, or YouTube, or Substack.

But these platforms are not perfect. There is a need for ancillary tools that help creators do their work better and earn even more money.

You can find out about them by observing places where creators hang out, like Reddit or FB groups. By listening to the complaints and pain points of your potential customers.

There can be some great opportunities for Indie Hackers to build interesting products in these spaces.

Lessons we can learn from Jordan

Learn a lot — For someone starting out, Jordan recommends going the course route. He believes there is massive value in online courses.

The initial SEO course he did has more than 100xed in investment over time.

And he keeps getting new traffic from all the content he creates. But he recommends first figuring out what you want to do and then finding a way to learn to do that.

Create Content — Once he reached 1k MRR he invested a lot of time in creating content and documentation for his existing customers. To make sure that they stay his customers.

These resources also ended up reducing his support requests, because every customer query was turning into content that will help out future customers.

Always add Value — Building a business is not just about having a skill and trying to earn money from it. It's about always trying to help people. Figuring out what people actually need and how can you best help them

Looking Ahead

Jordan is a family person. He wants to spend his evenings with his kids and wife.

He works only till noon, even if he wakes up late, he still works only till noon.

Going forward he wants to explore a concept he calls Deep Years.

Deep Years is a really interesting idea, where he will go deep down any one niche every year. Read a ton about it, write a 100 blog posts in a year, get some SEO, build an email list. And get so good at the niche that he can make money from it.

He will use that knowledge to teach other people about it.

And in a year he will know whether he wants to continue with a particular niche or not. If he doesn't like it he can pick a different topic next year.

For the first year, he picked "algorithmic training", which he later shut down within a few months. He calls it 'a small bet that didn't pan out'.

Read more about it on his blog here

Final Words👇

"There is great value in getting your time right and learning valuable skills. Skill like web dev, SEO, copywriting. They can be taken to any venture that you want to do.

If you actually take the time to learn those skills deeply and actually do them valuably, you're going to have a prosperous future. There's no way you can't." — JO

"It's one of the most overlooked advantages to starting a company, which is that you have to learn a ton of new skills. Even if your companies fail, even if you spent years making stuff that doesn't work and you come out the other side, you're going to have way more skills than you probably would've had if you just worked a full-time job that whole time." — CA

Thank You for Reading🙏

Listen to the complete episode on the IndieHackers podcast.

Read more from Jordon on hi personal blog his "struggle" posts from back in 2017,2018 are really inspirational.

Also, go through the Closet Tools blog. This is one of the best SaaS product blogs I have ever seen.

Every week, I listen to the best podcasts around Indie-Hacking and share the most actionable and inspiring tips from some awesome conversations.

Sign up to Listen Up! IH and get them directly in your inbox👇


ICYMI: Last Week I wrote about The Great Unbundling – Power Of Vertical Networks With Greg Isenberg

Thanks to Seth King for editing this post.

Cover photo credit: Jake Ingle on Unsplash

  1. 2

    Great story! Very motivating.

    It's an interesting theory to make tools for missing functionalities of platforms. These can of course be very valuable, but the danger seems to me that if the platform adds this functionality itself, your company will end.

    1. 1

      Yes, that risk is real.
      But if you are willing to take a risk then the rewards can be huge.

  2. 2

    Interesting that Jordan only works till noon, even if he wakes up late... and still manages to get to 41k MRR. Respect.

  3. 2

    I watched his podcast on indiehackers 3 times. Definitly a favorite.

  4. 1

    His Firebase API Key and ID are stored in plain text in his source code... Huge security risk. His customer data is essentially open to the public.

    Someone might want to tell him. Cool site, but that’s not a win!

    1. 2

      You’re all right - I didn’t realize Firebase worked that was as that’s a huge mistake in programming in general.

      I was just looking out for a fellow IH.

      Found the below in FB docs confirming it is okay to include these:

      Unlike how API keys are typically used, API keys for Firebase services are not used to control access to backend resources; that can only be done with Firebase Security Rules. Usually, you need to fastidiously guard API keys (for example, by using a vault service or setting the keys as environment variables); however, API keys for Firebase services are ok to include in code or checked-in config files.

    2. 2

      its supposed to be that way.

    3. 1

      Like the other comment said, it’s supposed to be that way from the Firebase instructions.

      All of the data is locked on the backend unless it’s your authenticated data.

    4. 1

      Oh, is it? DM'ed him

  5. 2

    This comment was deleted 4 months ago.

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