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I have decided to build in public

I'll use this section to document my journey. I don't have a blog, don't wish to use other social media. The only people that would care about my journey anyways are fellow indie hackers.

I had the idea last year maybe in the middle of the year, then late last year I thought about the idea again, and beginning of 2021, I decided to do it. It's yet another consumer app. Nothing special, but why not. I had this idea because of my own personal itch so I'm building it to solve my own problem.

Various competitions/similar app on the app stores, but nothing special. The one that's closest to my idea is free with about 500 downloads, and has been around since 2018 and was updated this month.

I did the math in my head and believe I have about 10 million potential customers. I definitely should be able to get more than 500 downloads, but that will of course take marketing and sales which I know nothing of, but will be forced to learn. B2C apps is very hard. consumers are cheap and have been trained not to pay for apps, but I can't just build for free. The app will need a backend server and resources so will have running costs that go up with each user.

I work full-time with kids, so this is a side project for real. 15mins here, 30mins there, and hopefully it adds up. The goal is to go from beer money to diaper money to daddy toy's money to real money.

Wish me luck. Gonna need tons of it.

  1. 2

    Clever approach you’ve taken on the documentation/blogging element (even as someone with years of marketing experience, I still dread blogging albeit acknowledging it’s value)
    Learnt a lot designing technical marketing strategies for enterprise clients so hopefully I can share some useful insights and also see your project come to fruition

  2. 2

    Hey @segmond Always great to see other app founders building in public! I’m also building a B2C app in public and you’re certainly right on it being hard. As long as you do your diligence on the market research you should be good! Looking forward to seeing your progress. Let me know if you need help with anything. Happy to help.

    1. 1

      Thanks, I decided to give it a try. I'm quite skeptical about it, but I do occasionally find a lil motivation seeing others build in public so if I do motivate/inspire someone that would also be great. I need help with marketing! I know nothing about it, just know that I need to do it. How are you finding customers for your B2C app?

      1. 1

        Documenting your journey is always beneficial. If not for you, definitely for others. Plus, even if it fails— it’s always a learning experience & you can always look back to see where you can improve. Most our customers come from Apple Search Ads and our Affiliate Marketing. We find influencers in our niche and offer them commission for conversions that occur in our app. You can easily build this out with deep links and helps since most our ad spend is only the area that helps drive the most impressions — the app store.

  3. 2

    I haven't found or made the time to do work today, but it's been a good day. Spent it running errands and with the family. I looked at my list of items to do and noted that I pretty much have everything technical at top and all the marketing at the bottom, so I reordered it, with tasks mixed up, for every technical I need to do a marketing/sales item. All the kids are now in bed, I've a good 30mins to see what I can knock out today.

    1. 2

      Hey @segmond . I have had this issue in the past with marketing and sales and see a lot of other developers too struggling with it. I am thinking about writing a blog post series on how to turn your side projects into real products and leave your 9 to 5 job. Do you think having some actionable pointers every week can help you figure things out?

      1. 1

        I don't know, sounds interesting.

        1. 1

          Ok I will give it a try and share it with you. Thanks

  4. 1

    It's amazing how fast time passes. I'm progressing but much slower than I would like, but that's the life of a part time indiehacker with a full time job and little kids. I still feel as if I'm at 20% there. The frontend core is about done, but the app is not polished and I just can't charge for an unpolished MVP like this, I personally won't pay for it. Working on the backend and integrating with the frontend. I try not to think too much about marketing, but it's a constant thought that haunts and demoralizes since I don't have a clear path on how to go about it. The technical challenges are enough to keep me occupied for now.

  5. 1

    At this point in time, I'm completely enveloped by fear. Fear that I can't monetize this. The construction of an app is challenging but that I believe I can do. However, can I monetize it? Can I make money? The app store is littered with easily a million apps that barely got more than 100 downloads. The fear is so strong that it's almost paralyzing. I don't buy the "build audience" philosophy. I'm not writing a news letter, creating a course or a podcast. "build a community" either doesn't work for me either, it's not a social network or a marketplace. It's a single serving app. How in the world can I reach a million downloads organically? I feel that 95% of the app succeeding hinges on this, finding an effective distribution point.

  6. 1

    So I have been building with ionic framework, which is really annoying because every time I come back to it it has changed and is no longer compatible, I have built with version 2, 4, 5, and now building with 6. Worse of all I keep running in to weird issues where I have to hack and hack around the library/framework to make it work. Which makes me nervous because any little upgrade could break things in the future. But I'm so far deep, and I wonder, is it really worth it? Did I bet on the wrong horse? Am I suffering from sunk cost fallacy or is my mind playing tricks on me and trying to distract me? If I don't do use this, then what are the choices? Looking at it, I think I'll have a preference for flutter which I have never worked with, but as I'm typing this, I think I'm going to hold. I'll finish and launch the app with ionic, and then consider a rewrite if and only when I cross a total of at least $25k.

    I have the core of the app together, could pass for a prototype, it's really ugly, but it works. It needs to be cleaned up, Ui/UX really needs work, the backend needs to be built, performance needs to be handled and I still have no idea how to sell this crap. :-/.

  7. 1

    Today is a very dark day. I just got hit with a wave of panic.

    This won't work, there's no way this will work. No one will pay for this crappy product, I won't make a single dollar. No one needs this, this is trivial, this is goofy. blah, blah, blah.

    It's amazing how doubt can just show up from the ethers, I'm sure someone will say it's deep in my unconscious mind, and perhaps. But wow, the thoughts just weighed me down, but they are nothing but thoughts. I'll observe them, let them pass and focus on doing the needed.

  8. 1

    pick 1 feature to work on, oh wait, this is 5 features.

    complete 1 feature, add 3 more to the todo list.

  9. 1

    I have made tremendous progress in about a month with my 15/30mins of coding here and there, and 1hr of posting rubbish on IH, Twitter, FB & HN. Nevertheless, here we are. I feel like I'm 2% there tho. I have developed lots of additional ideas, I hear the "MVP", "Lean", "Release early", "Customer Interview" chants and I ignore them. I want the app to be exactly what I'll use. The really good features I'll add, some I'll shelve for the future.

    Mobile app is a PITA, building for both android & ios. Decisions, how old of a device should I support? Machine learning performance is already a pain and performs poorly on some of my older devices, so I'm considering offloading those work to a cloud server. Then as I bring in libraries, I find out that some of them don't support older OS that I planned to so now I have to target newer OS.

    My strategy is to get the app to be able to run completely on it's own before I build the backend. If not, I'll be building both the app & backend at the same time, which has it's advantages as you can integrate much smoothly, but then less focused. I'm pretty decent at integration, so I don't think getting the backend built and integrated will be much of a challenge.

    I suck at design. Do I learn or do I hire? Still on that matter.

    On marketing & Sales. CRAP. THIS IS THE BIGGEST WORRY OF THEM ALL. I have no clue, but must develop at least a little bit if I'm to have success.

    I'm building B2C and I'm wondering if I should even build for android. Consumers are cheap. I plan to charge with no freemium model, no ad supported model. Try it. Like it? Buy it or leave it.

    When I look down at the amount of work to be done, I could still be doing this for a year and not be at the market. So another challenge is to really find things to throw into the backlog.

  10. 1

    I have made good progress so far. The hardest part of the app was the artificial intelligence piece. It's my first go round with AI/ML, but it wasn't as tough as I thought it was going to be to get the basics going. Good enough for MVP, but will definitely need to be refined since performance is only good on newer devices and I need to go from picture to video feed. App is a bit functional and usable, and using it revealed a lot of gaps in the flow that I need to account for. Just when I think I'm 40% done, I'm back to feeling like 20% done again. I'm studying up a bit on marketing.

  11. 1

    I'm making good progress as far as technical is involved. But that's about it, I got the skeleton running on android & ios. I'm about 20% done with the mobile app, yet to start on the backend. No idea about how to get customers, but it's good that it's vexing me enough. I'm going to go deep. I'm going to study sales & marketing, and when I'm back, I hope to be about 40% done with ground broken on the backend and understanding marketing basics.

  12. 1

    It's really dawning on me that I might be solving the wrong problem. Sure I can build it, that's possibly half the battle or less than half. But can I sell it? Can I reach my audience? That's were the challenge really lies. This is what now keeps me up at night and I need to figure out fast. Sure, I'm like beer and burger money, but why stop at that? Why shouldn't I be able to realize a real and nice payday if I bring a very nice product to the market? I mean if I don't, someone with a farther reach will clone the idea, copy my work, UX, idea and cash out.

  13. 1

    Productive day so far.

    $ git commit -am "bugfix"
    [master fb7c9e2] bugfix
    3 files changed, 60 insertions(+), 158 deletions(-)

    $ git commit -am "update camera"
    [master 674adf2] update camera
    4 files changed, 17 insertions(+), 7 deletions(-)

    $ git commit -am "refactor"
    [master 782f3ca] refactor
    4 files changed, 55 insertions(+), 81 deletions(-)

    $ git commit -am "comments"
    [master ca5d0aa] comments
    12 files changed, 145 insertions(+), 129 deletions(-)

    o/` o/~ All code and no customers leaves me a poor man.

  14. 1

    Before I start adding hardware stuff such as audio, camera stuff, etc, I decided to refactor & simplify the code base. Document what has been coded so far and do a little testing, then I'll move to adding hardware stuff.

    The coding doesn't bother me, it's kinda boring since most of it is not that hard. Just tedious, the scary stuff is how do I build a road to my amusement park? Building in the middle of the rain forest with no way for folks to visit is problematic. I need to figure this out fast.

  15. 1

    Sometimes venting about it let's you see the solution. If you get stuck, vent about it, journal, talk to someone, tweet, yell, whatever, just get unstuck. After venting about it I just found what was causing my android build problem. Woohoo, got the app installed on android from my mac.

  16. 1

    Sometimes the easiest things become the most complicated thing. I already have another android app built using my workstation. But the framework and everything is different version. If I upgrade for this current app, I most likely will break building the old app. So I decided to use the mac to build android and uh oh, it's been frustrating and not working. What should be easy becomes a road bump. Building for ios works, for android a pain. I'm going to give this a shot one more time tomorrow and if it doesn't work, I'll revert to using Linux to build. I'll just have to build in a container like I did in the past. It slows down dev a bit since I have to transfer the binary across network to install and test, but at least I can get moving.

    Garrr, sometimes the easiest things become the hardest things.

  17. 1

    Sometimes the work slows down, haven't found big chunk of time to knock out work till now. I have been thinking of marketing, of which I know nothing about. It's very important piece of the puzzle. I setup a blog. I'm going to use hugo and create a static blog, cheap and easy to host. I searched for google ad keywords and saw nothing. :-/ I don't know if to be happy or scared, kinda weird! I thought of a few more domain names I could use to drive traffic, but decided not to buy any until I make progress. I'll take the chance. I have been building and testing the app in the browser, but need to start prepping for mobile, so I'm going to install and setup android studio right now.

  18. 1

    No code today. I did more thinking of how to get a distribution channel. I'm going to startup a blog to build an audience. Never blogged and not going to lie, not looking forward to it, but it needs to be done.

  19. 1

    $ git commit -am "progress"
    [master d14cf0b] progress
    10 files changed, 129 insertions(+), 58 deletions(-)

    All code and no marketing makes for a broke indie hacker.

  20. 1

    Wrote a few more code last night and started adding functionality to the new screens.

    $ git commit -am "more stuff"
    [master 554588a] more stuff
    5 files changed, 190 insertions(+), 44 deletions(-)

    I keep telling myself, "If I build it, they will not come"
    Sounds negative, but I know it's realistic. I need to figure out a way to distribute this.

  21. 1

    $ git commit -am "progress"
    [master 94a6898] progress
    19 files changed, 311 insertions(+), 40 deletions(-)

    Wrote some more code, mostly boiler page code, added 2 screens, will need to fill out the functionality in the next few days.

    To keep a bit motivated, I'm just listening to motivational audio stuff...

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