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I made my first $20. But did it take 2 Days, 2 Months or 2 Years?

Before I answer the question in the title. Let’s talk about Picasso.

In his later years, Picasso was sitting in a Cafe. A fan of his art enters the cafe and notices him. Excited, she approaches Picasso and asks a favor. “Picasso, I’m such a fan of your art, do you think you could draw something small for me on this napkin? I’ll pay you whatever you want for it.” Picasso gladly agrees.

He spends the next two minutes diligently drawing an original Picasso doodle right on her napkin. He gives it to her and says “That’ll be $10,000 please.” Taken aback, she exclaims: “$10,000!? But it only took you two minutes”. “No” Picasso explains. “That took me 40 years”.

Picasso Horse

Now I’m certainly no Picasso, I’m at the very beginning of my journey, and I’ve only made $20. But the point is that timing can be deceptive.

Whenever you see a post entitled “I made $X in Y days”, you should be skeptical about how long it actually took and what work was actually required. Often times in these posts (or with a little internet sleuthing) it’s made clear that the author already had a sizeable twitter following or another product with a large email list or some other asset they could leverage to get their magical, super human, insanely great $X in Y Days. Creating good things, great things, things of value, can take a lot of time and effort. If it was easy and fast we’d all be rich yesterday.

So let me tell the short story of how I made my first $20. Backwards.

I made $20 in 2 days. How?

Simple. I launched TweetSpacer on March 1st. On March 3rd, I posted this on IndieHackers and it went viral. The virality part was pure luck. It could have just as easily not happened. It had a link to TweetSpacer at the bottom, I didn’t even really emphasize it but it was there. It seems there were enough eyeballs on the post that a few people clicked the link and signed up.

Ok. But how long did it take me to build TweetSpacer? 6 weeks.

I spent January 16th - March 1st coding TweetSpacer. I didn’t code all day, I freelance part time, so I maybe spent a total of 120 hours coding TweetSpacer.

Ok. So it took me 6 weeks and 2 days to make $20? Well, Not really...

You see, I didn’t come up with the idea for TweetSpacer in a vacuum. Back in September 2020, I started focusing on newsletter creators as a target customer. I did a lot of interviews and just immersed myself in the world of newsletters. I found that a lot of them tweet and a lot of them seem to publish tweets at regular intervals.

So after learning about these behaviors for about 4 months, I decided to create TweetSpacer as a test. I think newsletter creators would get value out of it and I wanted it for myself.

So then TweetSpacer took me 4 months, 6 weeks and 2 days to make $20? Yes, but, if you think about it, there’s more....

I spent the past 2 years failing as an entrepreneur. Since September 2018, I’ve built a bunch of useless untargeted products. But, also I read a lot of books on business and continued to learn more and more. I didn’t know about interviewing target customers in 2018. I didn’t know how to do the research. I only knew how to code.

So it took me 2 years, 4 months, 6 weeks and 2 days to make $20? Yes, but actually…

I built a full production quality app in 120 hours. I couldn’t have done that 10 years ago. I’ve been coding for 17 years. Professionally for 12. And when I started learning about programming when I was 15 it was because I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

So when you think about it, it took me 19 years, 4 months, 6 weeks and 2 days to make $20 on the internet. Was it worth it? Yes. 100%

The point is. When I used to read these $X in Y days posts I would get discouraged. I would think. WHAT? How did they do that in such a short period of time?! It made me think that I just didn't have access to some secret or I was fundamentally ill-equipped to be an entrepreneur. It took me a while to both learn how this stuff works and also that those posts can exaggerate or hide information to better sensationalize the post.

Anyway, that’s my spiel. And here’s my shameless plug: If you wanna sign up for TweetSpacer, I’m doing $20 lifetime subscriptions for the first 20 customers. 16 spots are left. https://www.tweetspacer.com

  1. 3

    A part of the beautiful journey that entrepreneurship is, is that you need to be very patient. I completely agree with you @adamlangsner.

    Most people just look for quick schemes to growth. Almost never works that way. Never.
    And even if it has worked for someone luckily, it isn't sustainable over long run.

    1. 1

      Yep. Patience and tenacity are key. Developing sustainable marketing channels is much harder. I still have a lot to learn in order to do that succesffuly and sustainably.

      1. 2

        Yeah, i've been researching many more marketing channels to create a sustainable plan.

  2. 2

    I like the Picasso analogy, def true that these posts makes things sounds so easy and are fairly harmful to people that just start out because they will underestimate the amount of patience that is needed to make anything but I think it's what grabs people's attention so it's a catch 22? 🤔

    1. 2

      Yep. It's like diet click bait, or maybe just straight up click bait? If you're new to entrepreneurship, these type of posts can leave you feeling hopeless. Because, while they're supposedly meant to show you how they achieved it and how you can too, they often had some existing asset (like an email list or twitter followers) that they don't explain how to get or they admit that it took them a long time to build up.

  3. 2

    This is a great post @adamlangsner

    I have suffered with imposter syndrome for a long time. Trying out all these different ideas etc., I was just playing around and having fun. I always heard all of these outlier stories where entrepreneurs talk about how they failed and lost everything and their life went up in flames. So I never considered myself an "entrepreneur".

    I think a lot of these modern day books have changed how we view entrepreneurship. It was until I thought about my previous ideas (5 or 6) I realised that they were in fact failures. But I had no awareness of this as nothing went on fire and my partner didn't leave me with nothing to my name.

    I was just messing around with some ideas, I really didn't think of them as businesses. What I love about indie hackers is that it promotes having fun with growing your own business as opposed to hustle culture in which its all work and no fun.

    P.S. I love tweet spacer, I'm not on Twitter anymore however, when I was Tweet Spacer was one of the things I thought if I had this it'd be so much easier 🔥🚀

    1. 2

      Thanks Adam. I had imposter syndrome too and didn’t consider myself an entrepreneur for a while. I would still introduce myself to people as a software engineer. But as i learned more about business and i spent more time thinking about business than computers I realized I was an entrepreneur, just not a successful one yet.

      on TweetSpacer, thanks for the kind words. I found tweeting on Twitter was hard because I’d get distracted and start scrolling or looking at trending stuff. With TweetSpacer i can now just focus on writing

  4. 2

    We have the same thing with consulting, 'taps pipe with a hammer... charges $1000'.

    We had a potential client who's systems were failing under the weight of their success. The problem was that the system was built by smart people without deep experience. There was lots that they didn't know about the systems they'd developed and were suffering from only having built that one thing. Problems were all solved the same way, using the same tools they already had.

    They called us in for a systems review and picked our brains for answers. We gave them some ideas and where we would begin our search, laying out how we would address the problems they were having (without telling them too much!).

    We proposed to spend a week hunting down the problems that were taking down their systems when things got busy. We would show them what we found and how it should be fixed. We were not going to code the solutions as their developers could likely write the fixes faster once they knew where the problems lay. Our time would be better spent continuing looking for more issues.

    In the end they declined our proposal hoping we gave away just enough detail that they could find and solve the solution on their own.

    For a business whose core was failing to serve it's users, it didn't make sense to me and seemed to be an easy choice but we all choose our own paths. I wonder if they ever got it figure out?

    1. 1

      Thanks for sharing. That's unfortunate they didn't see the value in your services. It can take a long time to build up the skills so that you can fix a problem really quickly and it's unfortunate when people don't recognize that.

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