Building in Public January 25, 2021

I made $5k in my first two weeks.

kenneth_cassel

That's clickbait.

It's true in one sense. I did launch a product (https://www.vim.so), and I did make $5k in revenue within 14 days.

What it leaves out of the picture is the previous 4 years of indie hacking unsuccessfully.

Highlights of my indie hacking career:

  • 2016 started programming

  • 2017 ReviewTxtr - $0
    an app that helped local businesses get more reviews through text. Never launched it. $0 revenue

  • 2017 LeadTempest - $150
    a direct mail service that sends marketing letters from contractors to people who had property disasters at their house (i.e. flood, fire). Had one contractor pay me once for the service

  • 2018 Crypto things - $0
    worked on various crypto projects and never launched any of them

  • 2019 Ottofield - $0
    A ML chatbot for home service businesses.

  • 2020 deliberate.so - $0
    Mild success. Around ~100 users. Lots of people love the product but it's in beta. Started getting some traction and confidence

  • 2021 https://www.vim.so - $5321
    Built and launched MVP in 3 days. $5321 revenue generated in the first 15 days.
    Used a bunch of the tech from Deliberate to build this.

I'm building my next project https://www.slip.so using tech from deliberate and vim.so as well.

Keep indie hacking! It might take a while, just enjoy the journey.

  1. 4

    You really like the .so domains! Awesome product, information/course products seem to do very well. Unfortunately all my knowledge is frontend (js/html/css/react..) which is wildly saturated.

    1. 2

      .so is the new .io 😁

      1. 1

        I was trying to choose between .so and .io and someone on IH pointed out that .io is a generic tld and .so is still considered a country tld by Google (for Somolia), so .so may not be the best for SEO...

        1. 3

          .io is also a country tld.

          1. 1

            Apparently Google treats .io as a gLTD though (surprisingly hard to find a good reference but it seems multiple sites hint at the fact).

            1. 2

              @XCS,

              Here is a list of Generic TLDs according to Google

              This list includes ccTLD .io but not .so

              See also: https://moz.com/learn/seo/cctlds which talks about the risk of using a ccTLD like .so

              1. 2

                More and more sites are using .so
                I think it will be similar to .io in the long run as far as Google and SEO are concerned.

                1. 1

                  Totally agree – TLD doesn't really matter that much to Google as long as you are providing valuable content on your site.

                  If you're interested in short, one-word .SO domains, the tool I'm building has a list of over 15K one-word .SO domains – feel free to check it out!

                2. 1

                  I think you're right, but if SEO is important to you, I wouldn't use .so until Google says it is considered a gTLD

                  1. 2

                    For most products, I believe that almost nothing matters less than your domain ending, especially when you're starting out. Don't overthink it. What are the odds your customers will find you through search? More likely they will find you through Twitter, IH, communities, friends, and so on (just like Kenneth here)... would be interested to hear thoughts on this as I've struggled with the same thing before coming to this conclusion.

                    1. 2

                      I suppose it depends on your product and marketing strategy. I'm planning on using content marketing + SEO as my primary growth engine. I'm still going to do all of the things-that-don't-scale to get initial users, but hoping that SEO will have an impact in 6-9 months. I guess I'll have to see what happens.

              2. 1

                Thanks for the list!

                I agree that for SEO .io is better, my point was that it is still a country TLD and has some drawbacks compared to using a general tld.

                1. 1

                  Yep, makes sense. I should have said in my first comment that .io is a ccTLD treated as a gTLD, that would have been more accurate.

        2. 1

          It was me. Here's the official Google list.

          1. 1

            That's right, thanks Andrea! 👍
            I ended up choosing .io instead of .so thanks to you!

            1. 1

              Haha no problem 🙂

    2. 1

      It doesn't matter the tool that you use. What matters is how you use it.

    3. 1

      For me, my work blocks the .so domain for some reason, so I can't reach any of these. I can't reach notion.so either, which is too bad.

      1. 1

        I scream to people here so many times about sticking with .com but nobody listens and falls for the trap from these registries.

        Also funny that these .so are so pricey.

        1. 1

          Most ppl would probably think of .com as their first choice. But many .coms have already been taken and most likely they don't want to spend a considerable sum of money for a project that has not been proven to sustain and make money?

          1. 1

            Yes, many .com are taken. But the thing is get[product].com, try[product].com, use, have etc are still more rememberable than many other 800+ extensions. Way less (less less) risky.

            Also, these .com domain are usually taken by people asking for $$$$ BUT there are also domain takers like me who registered for a side project but didn't use it.

            I'd be happy to let go domains from my portfolio if someone says they want it for their project. I may ask $30 or even $20 or just the cost price, but these are still better prices than .so (the cheapest .so costs $60).

            1. 1

              You are a good person for only asking $30 :)

              We recently acquired a .com for our brand for $3.4k. A few years ago when we started out we could not afford to buy it (even though it was only 1.5k). So we bought a .co instead.

              Now a a few years later and our business has proven itself, we felt it was a worthwhile investment at the price we bought.

    4. 1

      It's far from saturated.

      There are tons of courses in basics of these technologies but there's still room for creators.

      For example, you can make a course where you build 5 different SaaS apps using these technologies and I'm sure somebody would buy it.

    5. 1

      Why do you think its saturated?)

  2. 4

    How did you get your users? In my personal experience that's the hardest part. Did you have an established platform?

    1. 6

      I followed some great advice from @Gabe and @gergely and started using twitter in October 2020. I started building in public there.

      I think if you're building for devs, twitter is one of the best channels to market on.

      I got my first set of users straight from twitter.

      After that, I had a successful HN post that drove around $2800 in sales.

  3. 2

    Awesome and congrats.
    Anyway, what's your main platform before release / prelaunch (maybe twitter / reddit / IH)??

  4. 2

    I know the feeling. I "launched" by app (https://jessle.com) like 4 months ago, but really, I have been working on it for years (and failing). I'm still yet to make any real money from it!

    I love how simple your idea is for vim.so. How did you market it?

  5. 2

    I've used VIM off and on for about 22 years. I like it more than EMACS but I really just use it for basic text and code editing. I'm certainly not a power user and wouldn't be a buyer of vim.so.

    That being said:

    1. I wonder if deliberate.so would be more successful if you had a domain name that was related to python instead like python.cc, pythonweb.net, etc?

    2. Maybe you could get some more paid users for vim.so by posting on Stackoverflow or Stackexchange?

  6. 2

    Well said! Thanks a lot for sharing :)

  7. 2

    Really cool! Are you planning on trying to maintain that sales pace (like $5k a month or whatever)? Or is this more like: one and done and on to the next product (then see what happens)?

    Curious how you're thinking about that here. Anyway, congrats! 🎉

    1. 3

      I think I can do around $4-6k a month with vim.so after a few months of effort on SEO/marketing/etc.

      Right now it's leveled out around $200/day. But I just had a big HN launch recently so that number might start dropping.

      I'm focused on increasing the conversion rate on it but my main focus is on slip.so since I think it's a much larger opportunity

      1. 2

        I'd suggest creating some content for Vim.so. That content can age as you work on your new project. Could be a huge sales channel down the road!

  8. 2

    Congrats! I get what you're saying but I don't think it's clickbait. Well done.

    LeadTempest would have worked if you pivoted to a different niche like selling the service to b2b salespeople. Is it still around?

    1. 2

      Yeah I was trying to sell it to fire restoration contractors but they didn't really want it and it was hard to reach them without calling people. I don't really want to call contractors all day haha. I've been much happier indie hacking selling to developers

  9. 1

    I'm curious, what is it about the .so domain that people even like? .io is nice because it makes sense to developers. But what about .so? It almost makes me think of your customers asking "So?" (doesn't seem like a good thing). I agree this isn't make-or-break for any business, just curious what the draw is.

  10. 1

    Cool stuff :D I saw it on hackernews

  11. 1

    Congratulations @kenneth_cassel. Thanks for sharing

  12. 1

    Nice niche idea and the online editor / test is very neat and puts this so far above any normal 'learn vim' page or course.

    An idea for content marketing for you : a printable "VIM Cheat Sheet", all developers seem to love a cheat sheet.

  13. 1

    Thanks Kenneth for this truly motivating and inspiring as I am set to launch Sailscast in less that two months. Big fan of your work with Vim.so.

  14. 1

    Go meta, make money. Well done

  15. 1

    Congrats @kenneth_cassel - what’s your biggest takeaway from launching and growing this project?

  16. 1

    THANK YOU for sharing all of your other efforts! It's so refreshing to see a real timeline.

  17. 1

    Seems like you should double down on your success with vim.so and scale it, instead of building the next project already ;)

    Also: why are people so horny for vim ?

  18. 1

    Vim is great.

    Congrats, good luck with the next ones!

  19. 1

    Hey, your result is very impressive, especially taking into account it wasn't your first time when you launched something.

    I wondering, why in your opinion, your Vim product is really successful unlike your another product about Python? I think it's because there are toooo many tutorials/trainers for this language (unlike Vim). Another reason probably it Vim is not as popular and way much harder to use. What do you think?

    I also wondered how you managed to build the product in 3 days. It doesn't look like it's very simple, have you used building blocks from your previous products?

    1. 1

      A few things. I had started building an audience in public, I shipped fast, and I made it easy for people to pay me.

      I think users would pay me for Deliberate (The python product) but I never setup payments on it.

      I built the product in 3 days by leveraging things I've built for Deliberate

      1. 1

        Thanks! Where can I find the resources with your building-in-public process? I'm thinking about something like that for my product but the format of it is still not clear to me.

  20. 1

    Awesome... Keep pushing man!

  21. 1

    Well done! So inspiring :P

  22. 1

    Nice job! What ways did you prepare to get users/market the product?

  23. 1

    Very cool. Wish more people gave this kind of context. Congrats @kenneth_cassel!

  24. 1

    Good job man. I am a big fan of Vim, and use it everyday, but still don’t know everything)

  25. 1

    Interested in ReviewTxtr. Sounds like I built a similar product www.reviewiply.com. I have my brother using it for his dental practice but I haven't marketed it much yet.

    What made you drop ReviewTxtr?

    1. 2

      I didn't have the technical skills at the time to really complete it. I was really new to programming. Lost interest since there was a lot of competition in that space.

      1. 2

        Ah I got ya. Definitely a good amount of competition in the space. Not necessarily a bad thing though. Lots of demand for reviews too. Only need a couple hundred out of the millions of small businesses to make some good money.

        At least that is what I tell myself while sitting here with no customers currently haha. We'll see if I can carve out a marketing channel.

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