August 17, 2019

Indie hackers with kids, how do you manage?

Sarwech @sarwech

As a fairly new parent that's also working on side projects, I'm curious to know if there are many other indie hackers in the same boat :)

So, to all the parents out there:

  • What are you working on and what kind of progress have you made?
  • How did you manage to find the time to work on it whilst raising a kid?

Paging @rosiesherry @czue @jordanmoconnor

  1. 16

    Hey! First of all, congrats! Kids are the best and it's my highest joy playing with them and teaching them how to navigate life. I started Indiehacking because I had my first child. Expenses were going up and income was not. Kicked into high gear.

    It all depends on how serious you are about your projects. For a year and a half I studied and practiced SEO, FB ads, copywriting, and web development. I did this by getting up at 5 AM and working for a few hours before my day-job while the wife and kids were sleeping.

    That was totally unsustainable, and I was a mess after it. I was like a walking zombie. I'd recommend going to sleep at 10 (or soon after the kid goes down) and getting a solid 8 hours of sleep. Then do 1-2 hours of great focused work before anyone wakes up. Building that habit will bring you great success. Doing it while the wife and kids are sleeping means no precious time spent away from them. (obviously the exact times change depending on your situation, but the emphasis is on working in the morning).

    A year and a half ago I started https://closet.tools, and I've taken it from $0 to $12k MRR. You can see my progress here: https://unindie.com/open

    For my product, I had about a two month sprint where I was working a lot (say, 20 hours a week) on it. Now, I have gone back to my 1-2 hours a day in the morning. As long as it's well planned and I get good sleep, I get an incredible amount done in those couple of hours. I just have to break up my tasks really small to stay on track.

    By working in the mornings, your evenings are free to relax with the spouse and kid. You can enjoy that time knowing you got your work done for the day, and knowing that you'll have another round of work tomorrow.

    Small consistent chunks of work will be better than sprints in the long run. Take a long term approach and you'll do some awesome things! Good luck, and have fun 😉

    1. 7

      Good advice here...I think it is often underestimated how much can be accomplished in a 2 hour timeframe...if you are focused in on getting stuff done.

      1. 5

        Yeah, so true! There are times where I've achieved much more in a couple of hours with super focus compared with a whole day of meh focus.

    2. 2

      Love that advice!

    3. 2

      Woah, thanks Jordan for taking the time out to go into such detail! And congrats on the success so far with Closet Tools! I've been following your progress and it's nice to see the SEO investment has paid off well.

      Great point about getting enough sleep and using the early morning to get things done. I'm currently doing it the other way around and working late into the night when everyone's asleep. The problem with that is I have no mental energy left after the day to really focus!

      So I'll definitely try getting up early for a few days and see how that goes, as well as find more of those smaller chunks of time where I can be very productive.

      Another thing, how long did it take before you realised Closet Tools was taking off? And what kept you going until then? With a family, it seems like the project just has to work otherwise it's a lot of time (which is even more precious now) potentially wasted.

      1. 2

        It's hard to give a comprehensive answer as to knowing whether or not the product is going to work, but I can at least tell you what happened in my case.

        My first customer was actually my wife. I built a little automation script for her, and blogged about it on my blog. Several months later, I began getting emails from people wondering if the script was free and how to use it (I began ranking on Google unknowingly). So, I knew there was a demand out there. But that wasn't my only validation. I talk about everything launch related here: https://unindie.com/something-from-nothing/ and here: https://unindie.com/up-and-to-the-right/

        I actually set a goal of making an extra $500/month in 3 months, or I was going to get a second job. I'm absolutely allergic to employment, so it worked for me to get the ball rolling. I didn't really have that high of expectations for it. But, it did get to $500/month in two months and I've never looked back.

        When you hit a growing market with a product that saves people time and makes them more money, it sells really well and it grows quickly through word of mouth.

        Had it not worked out, I don't really think I would have gotten a job. I probably would have flipped stuff on eBay, or some other side hustle while I made more products. There's plenty of ways to make a little bit of money on the side, but obviously SaaS is king because I only have to work a few hours a week while my income increases every month. Other things are effort and time based.

        I think the morning routine is so critical. Especially for a new father. It sets the tone for your day and you're fresh in the morning to do your best work. Two hours in the morning is so much more productive than 4+ at night after everyone else goes to sleep. It works well while you have a full-time day-job too.

        Definitely plan out what you're going to do the next day the night before. Your mind will think on it while you sleep and you'll be surprised what your brain can do in the morning. It's pretty magical, especially if there's a problem you're stuck on. More on that here.

        Good luck!

        1. 1

          It's really interesting reading about how you got started and nice to hear that you not only met your goal but actually beat it! Nice to know that the SEO helped you in the background which is something I'm starting to notice too with my project.

          This is an excellent point:

          When you hit a growing market with a product that saves people time and makes them more money, it sells really well and it grows quickly through word of mouth.

          The "growing market" part tends to be underestimated but something I'm trying to ensure exists in anything I do now.

          Thanks for the book recommendation - added that to my Kindle. I'm going to work on my morning routine and try to plan my days better. Hopefully that will unleash some super productive times ahead!

          By the way, I've enjoyed reading a few of your blog posts as your writing comes across as direct and transparent. Especially liked your point about having a legacy that will change your family tree - that's deep.

          If you don't mind, it'd be awesome to chat a bit more, so I'll send you a note :)

  2. 8

    Well, I managed to find time whilst raising 5 kids and also home educating.

    • Rules and routines in the household rule.
    • Evenings are my work time.
    • Nap times are my work time.
    • I do house stuff when I'm with the kids and get them involved.
    • I get the older ones to help out with things and the younger ones.
    • My husband and I are equal in work and family.

    I'm now mostly hands off my business, in reality that means I spend 4-8 hours per week on pitching in with my words/advice but not actually 'doing stuff'. The team can ping me anytime too and I'll respond pretty quickly.

    I was supposed to take time, but the IH Community job kinda came up and I couldn't say no :D These days I tend to do a few hours in the morning then a few hours in the evening for IH, it suits my personal schedule and allows me to do things with the kids during the day. I'm super grateful that IH work is remote and totally up to me when I work.

    1. 2

      I know! You're a legend, Rosie, especially with everything you've been doing for Indie Hackers!

      I like the idea of getting the kids involved and hope to do that quite soon! I'm also currently working similarly to you by taking advantage of evenings and nap times, though I was starting to feel burnt out.

      What was it like in the early days of Ministry of Testing, particularly when the kids were younger? I understand it couldn't have been easy and, of course, I'm simply amazed by what you've achieved.

  3. 3
    1. The guy from Zen Habits gives great advice that goes along the lines of, empower your kids to be self-sufficient as early as possible. It can be hard for some of us (cough) to let our kids have unfettered access to the fridge, the cupboards, etc. But kids love being able to do for themselves, and it'll take a lot off your plate.

    2. Get the kids involved in activities at the YMCA, community center, parks and rec, etc. This creates time periods where they're doing something fun, are looked after by someone, and you can sneak in some work (without the cost of a babysitter).

    3. Agree with everything @rosiesherry and @jordanmoconnor said :)

    4. Train yourself to plan and break your work into really small tasks (things that can be done in 30 minutes) so that interruptions won't derail you and you'll still be able to make and measure progress.

    5. Movie Night. I used to set the kids up (when they were smaller) with huge bowls of homemade popcorn, smoothies, and a favorite movie. Then I'd turn down the lights to help them focus on the movie, while I sat off to the side and coded or whatever I needed to do on the laptop. (Easy for me to tune out Zootopia for the 14th time. But you may require headphones ;-) ) It became a tradition that they still love and ask for to this day (10 years later).

    6. Devote regular time to focusing on your kids and nothing else. They need it. You need it. It balances out the work time and can even deliver unexpected benefits to the work you're doing.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the great advice! I hadn't heard of Zen Habits before but it looks like a lot of useful content, is there somewhere you'd recommend starting?

      Great points about getting involved in activities and breaking out your day. I intend to do the right thing and plan my day using a Trello board but it doesn't always pan out because my tasks are too big or vague. Will try splitting things out into actionable 30 mins!

      The movie night sounds fun and I'm looking forward to doing that with my kid in a couple of years. For now, my version of movie night is lunchtime naps on weekends which means about 1-2 hours of work time!

  4. 3

    As the others have mentioned its mostly night hacking on my projects.

    My daughter is the reason that I work so hard and don't slack off. None of the things I am achieving would happen without the motivation to make sure she gets the things in life I never got.

    1. 1

      I've been doing the same but starting to feel burnt out! Trying to switch it up now and see how the morning routine works.

      That's awesome that your daughter provides motivation. I recently heard of the Baby Effect and it's definitely a powerful thing. I hope that you succeed with achieving what you aim to!

      What is the project(s) you're working on?

      1. 2

        That baby effect sounds like me indeed!

        Burn out has always been my biggest enemy. It was the reason for lack of focus all through my twenties until now. I have had to work hard to recognise it long before it becomes an issue.

        Before I would work on something for 8+ hours per day on pomodoro timers to "keep me focused". All it done was make me less productive or make me need to take a break playing video games or some other bs. Sometimes even needing to take a month off. I was Forgetting nearly everything and having to start over.... it was like walking up an icy hill one step towards my goal and two steps back.

        Strange as it seems, having a baby means I am limited in the amount of hours that i can work. Paradoxically, I get more done now just from sheer consistency as opposed to brute force and eventual breakdown. Anyway, I am ranting now but definitely let yourself take breaks when you really feel like it.

        As for my project, I am making an app to help smb's get better review engagement from their customers. It will be complete within a month. Backend is done (rails), just needs front end and some polish. Look forward to posting it on here for feedback.

        1. 1

          Totally agree that the limited time forces you to get shit done. I did the Pomodoro thing before and, whilst it's a great way to get small tasks done quickly, it's also energy intensive. So I'm amazed that you kept it up for over 8 hours a day!

          That project sounds interesting and I look forward to your post on here about it!

  5. 3

    I try to plan ahead what I am going to do on the following day. And plan my free time in 10 minutes blocks. I don't build anything particular at the moment, but I study a lot ML, golang and python and play a lot with ML models on GC. I have a few ideas, but not sure yet which one will flourish.

    I work as full-stack dev so I have a good habit-breaking big task into small ones, and that is really helpful.

    Basically, I do my hacking stuff at night ( 10 pm - 2 am ), then wake up around 8 am and study when commuting to work, To have a little bit more time I use public transport, as I live in a suburban area it gives me 1.5-hour extra time.

    But definitely, I would like to get more sleep sometimes.

    1. 3

      Cool :) So 6 hours of sleep! That's roughly the same as I'm getting now 😅

      Good point about public transport. It's a great time to listen to audiobooks/podcasts (including IH) or read up on topics.

      Seems like you've got quite a packed day then. How do you split your time out in 10 minute blocks and prioritise it between your hacking stuff and time with kids?

      1. 2

        Every day I spend around 3 hours with my kids. between 6pm-9pm.
        ( and most of the weekends )

        I don't manage todo list as for me they are ineffective. I put everything into my calendar what's on the calendar is usually done.
        Also, I agree with Parkinson’s law which states that work expands to fill the time allocated for it. So less time allocated less time wasted. The calendar schedule helps to reduce the number of choices which is good for maintaining high will power. If I am doing a task that I really don't like, I put Pomodoro timer on.
        And never do big tasks at once, always split till I can do it quickly and have the "reward" from it.

        I don't need to prioritize between family and my hacking time as they are not overlapping, there is a time for family, time for work and time for hacking.

        8:30am-9.30am - reading ( commuting )
        10am - 4.30 pm work
        5pm-6pm - reading or 20 minutes nap ( commuting )
        6pm-9:30pm - family
        10pm-2pm hacking / reading
        2pm-8am - sleep

        I manage to maintain that schedule for 4 days out of 5.

        and weekends are usually spent with family till the evening ( and then on Saturday my wife can sleep longer, and Sunday me - it's the only day I sleep 8-9 hours )

        1. 2

          Awesome. Totally agree about Parkinsons law and I feel I've become much better at managing time since having a kid.

          I like how you have the day planned out and it looks like you've got a nice balance of personal time/projects with family, whilst also juggling work (and sleep of course).

          Like you suggested, it also seems like a good idea to just leave the work/projects on a day or two to ensure there's time to relax and get away from it. I'll try to implement this myself and that way, when I do work on projects I can do it with extreme focus!

          Thanks for the detailed insight :)

          What kind of ML ideas do you have in mind?

          1. 2

            Heavy optimisations in logistics through ML.

  6. 2

    Hi, I see that many parents were able to combine their side hustle with a regular job. That's absolutely amazing!

    For me personally, the situation is different. Last September our second baby was born, and I took paternity leave — luckily, here in Estonia, you can get a 100% paid leave until your kid is 1.5y old.

    One year so far, and move on. Now I have to say that my office job now seems like a place to rest, with people in pants who are able to express their needs and wishes :-)

    Since that time, I am combining full-time parentship with attempts of launching a new business.

    My scheme that works is:

    • Wake up at 5 AM and work until 8 AM
    • Work from a cafe: 11 AM until 1 PM when my son is having his day sleep.

    The rest of the day is occupied with babysitting and household tasks. Totally, it's 4 productive work hours a day. No weekends. I'm happy :-)

    1. 1

      Paid leave until 1.5 years is amazing! We're lucky to get 6 months here in the UK and that's still generous compared to many other developed countries.

      Good idea to have weekends free from work too because these are precious times that need to be enjoyed :)

      4 productive hours a day is actually not bad, considering you have 3 consecutive hours in the morning too.

      But still, every minute of those hours will count. How do you decide what to do with those 4 hours per day?

      Also, Climate4Media is a great concept and you're doing important work! Best of luck with it :)

  7. 2

    I started building my side (now full time) project ~3 years ago. I launched a couple months after my son was born (2.5 years ago). We had my daughter 10 months ago. Quit my job to go full time (living off some savings) 3 months ago.

    All I can say is it's rough, and I didn't really follow a routine. I tend to work in rollercoaster fashion. I go really intense until I burn out, then need to relax for a week or two. Maybe not the "best" approach but it got me where I am today. For me, I had to balance the workload with not only family needs but also fluctuating job responsibilities as I was one of 10 employees at a small startup. At times I'd go to work on 3 to 4 hours of sleep. I ended up being promoted faster than anyone else, and I attribute most of that to my learnings that came from the side business.

    One thing though--get your spouse on board. For me it was a matter of happiness. I knew I could work hard and be happier doing my own thing.

    Another thing... 1/2 if not more of all my vacation days, paternity leave, I put into the business. 0 Sundays went in (religious/family day). 1/2 Saturdays for a few hours. But most of my time came at night (night owl) where I'd work until 2-6am. This isn't healthy... but I couldn't find a way to make it happen without doing this.

    One other thing--getting real customers is extremely motivating not only for you, but also for anyone sacrificing/supporting you (spouse/partner). Make them part of it.

    1. 1

      Wow, that's dedication to be able to go on only 3-4 hours of sleep! Kudos to you for still killing it in your job and getting promoted.

      What's the project you're working on now full-time? And how long did it take from when you started before you got your first validation and real customers?

      I do think that bursts of intense work are unavoidable especially when you're a parent working on a side project. There have been times where I've experienced it's easier working on projects and others where there's something unexpected that needs to be addressed, so taking your focus away.

      If you were to start over now, would you do anything differently with managing time?

      Thanks for the in-depth comment, really appreciate it!

      1. 1

        3-4 hours wasn't consistent. But it certainly happened. To be honest I had a lot of headaches :). Part of me feels like I'm still recovering now--letting myself sleep as much as I need, trying to find the right balance of exercise, family, and work.

        I did it sort of wrong. I built a product I wanted. I had the mentality that I'll build 10 different ideas and hopefully one will catch on. Took me forever to build--taught myself android development, vuejs, serverless backend (using beta release of serverless framework). Roughly 9 months to launch. Month 1 I had 1 customer. Month 2, 0 :). Month 3, 3. Then month 4 I got up to 16--found a great customer who promoted it (I sucked and still suck at putting time into marketing... so easy to just build when you're an engineer).

        I don't think I would actually do much differently with time management... It was a grind, and I made it through it with a happy wife and 2 new family members, all giddy and excited (and scared and anxious) about our future. What I would do differently though, is build a product I could charge more for. I love what I've built and the good it's been able to do. But going b2b where I could charge $150 / month would have required way fewer customers to get me to full time. And getting customers is what has taken me the most time.

        1. 1

          I'm with you there in terms of finding balance as well!

          It's impressive that you found 16 customers after just 4 months, despite the ups and downs. What is the project, if you don't mind sharing? And how has it been since?

          Definitely agree about charging more but I also wonder if it's just a rite of passage for anyone that's getting their first customers? Seems like it's also nicer to start low then charge more as you add more features and value, rather than charge too much to start and have to reduce the price.

  8. 2

    Congrats on the new family member!

    Others have already provided a lot of valuable thoughts so I'll just talk about my experience which is a bit different from most that have been expressed.

    So I only work my "day job" about 25 hours a week. That leaves about 10 hours a week for side projects (I usually work 7 hour days so I can get in some exercise and rarely work night/weekends). Only 10 hours a week means that my projects take longer in terms of calendar time, but about the same when just counting the hours. So it teaches patience. :)

    I'm very fortunate to be able to do this because:

    • My side projects already generate about $25k / year of passive income
    • My wife works full time
    • I earn US dollars and live in very affordable South Africa

    But the end result is that I'm able to earn plenty, continue to make progress on my side projects, and most importantly not sacrifice any outside of "work" time with my wife, son, friends, etc..

    The biggest reason I got into indie hacking was to gain freedom over my time and so having a routine that does not require working long hours has been critical for me.

    1. 1

      Thanks, Cory! Interesting to know about your personal experience growing Place Card Me.

      Patience is certainly key and I think that's a tough thing for many indie hackers (myself included) to remember. Seeing other people with projects take off every day can really test this patience as well!

      Having 10 hours a week doesn't sound like a lot, though it does help to already have good income and low expenses. Was it like that in the early days of Place Card Me or did you initially spend more time to get it up and running?

      1. 2

        I created Place Card Me while taking a six month sabbatical, so I had more time to work on it in the beginning. That said - my sabbatical was very undirected so even in the most intense months I still only averaged about 15 hours a week on it.

        I'm a bit of a nut about tracking where my time goes, so you can actually see my timespend for my various projects on this dashboard if you're curious! http://www.coryzue.com/open/

        1. 1

          It's interesting that you approached it that way by taking a sabbatical instead of just quitting as many people feel the urge to do. How did you approach that and, I'm curious, why did your company agree to that?

          Your solopreneur dashboard is awesome! How did you build it? I can see this being useful long-term in understanding your life in units of $s and time.

          1. 2

            I'm curious, why did your company agree to that?

            Probably two reasons:

            1. My company is really great and understanding about wanting to keep their people happy.
            2. I had put in a lot of time/energy to the company (I was CTO for more than 10 years before starting the sabbatical)

            Your solopreneur dashboard is awesome! How did you build it? I can see this being useful long-term in understanding your life in units of $s and time.

            Thanks! Just grabbed the data from Stripe and Toggl and threw it together using C3.js. And that's exactly why I built it (and hopefully to inspire others). It's fun to see when the up front investments in these projects start to actually pay real returns.

            1. 1

              Wow, 10 years! Great to hear that they were willing to help you out after you did so much for them.

              Thanks! Just grabbed the data from Stripe and Toggl and threw it together using C3.js. And that's exactly why I built it (and hopefully to inspire others). It's fun to see when the up front investments in these projects start to actually pay real returns.

              Consider me inspired! I'm going to have to build my own version of that - after I've gotten some revenue, of course ;)

  9. 2

    Hey @sarwech,

    I have free time for sideproject. I wake up at 05:00 AM, so I can work till 08:30 AM. But good news, kid is going to kindergarden in September, so I will work till 09:30 AM. We wiil launch in couple weeks, I really like the project. I hope I can quit the main job pretty soon :)

    We are working on finance management tool that brings clarity and helps to do quicker and smarter business decisions.

    But it's only one product from our vision. We want to create products and guides which help to build meaningful long-lasting organizations without ego and manipulations. Where people and help are the first place and profits are just for existence and innovation.

    1. 1

      Hey @davidbistiak!

      That's great that you will get an extra hour for working on your project - it makes a lot of difference!

      Do you have a name and website? Feel free to link to it here :)

      How is it working on this project whilst also raising a child? Are you working full-time as well?

      1. 2

        Hey @sarwech,

        Weekdays:
        05:00 AM to 08:30 AM - side project
        09:00 AM to 05:00 PM - job
        05:30 PM to 10:00 PM - family
        10:30 PM to 05:00 AM - sleep

        Weekend:
        05:00 AM to 09:00 AM - side project and a lot of coffee :D
        09:00 AM to 02:00 PM - family
        02:00 PM to 05:00 PM - side project or relax with wife
        05:00 PM to 10:00 PM - family
        10:30 pm to 05:00 AM - sleep

        What about you?

        We don't have a landing page yet, but here is a video sneak peek:
        https://d.pr/v/eu6dqk

        1. 1

          Great to have some structure around it. Mine is mostly the same but I use evenings on side projects.

          Recently, I've started putting a bit of time in the mornings as well as afternoons and found myself to be a lot more focused.

          We don't have a landing page yet, but here is a video sneak peek:

          Oh wow, that looks like a full featured app. What do you need to do before you launch?

          1. 1

            Hi @sarwech,

            we are focused to finish MVP, launch beta upcoming page, beta testing and discusses with users.

            It's gonna be fun :)

  10. 2

    Yep, I'm in the same boat with two young boys.

    I'm working on https://assistable.com/ currently and I find time to work on it while they're off school in the summer by keeping them busy running their own Shopify store in the basement where I have my home office.

    My boys are 7 and 9 years old and I wanted them to learn about helping people and about business so I set up an E-commerce site for them to learn to run for themselves, and every order placed helps US veterans in need so they get to understand charity too.

    The boys are now more than capable of checking the orders, buying the shipping labels and printing them, packing the orders and sending them out. It's just a whole lot of fun for them as well as a great learning experience.

    We get to hang out together "at work" and then I work long hours after they're in bed when I do the work that requires no distractions.

    1. 3

      Can I see this shop!? :D It's a great idea.

      1. 2

        Sure, here it is https://www.combatsocks.com/

        We brainstormed lots of ideas and ended up choosing socks because it's easy for the boys to handle. The store took around $11k in orders in the first 24 hours so they were very happy about that, until it came time to ship all the orders - it was a lot of packing to do in a short period of time.

        Whenever we get orders we go searching on Facebook for veterans charities together and they pick the ones they want to donate to and we make cash donations, and also give socks to drop-in centers etc.

        The site design is pretty awful, it's a basic free theme but it works and doesn't seem to matter too much, and most orders come from mobile devices anyway.

        1. 2

          This is incredible! $11k in the first 24 hours? I'm sure that 99% of e-commerce businesses don't make that in their first year, so congrats on that success!

          It's a nice thing for the boys to see as well and will show them the potential of starting online businesses/projects!

          By the way, the site design isn't too bad! Maybe add more products on the home page? But hey, it looks like you're doing fine as it is :)

          1. 2

            I'm not putting anymore effort into that one, but we're working on another Shopify store for them that will do much better. Since you're from the UK I think you'll appreciate it's name so I'll share it with you once it's online, likely in September since I'm so busy with Assistable.

            Most people discourage mixing business with family and friends but I think if you get them when they're young enough it can work ;) it may not last once they hit their teens but it has been been fun anyway.

            1. 1

              Cool :) good luck with the launch for that one!

              Yeah, for sure, I can imagine it makes for a nice bonding experience whilst imparting some valuable lessons for them as they grow.

    2. 2

      Wow, it's so cool that you're imparting the value of building a business so early on to your kids, Adam. Especially by working on a project that is helping a good cause. This is inspiring stuff and I'd love to do the same when my kid is older!

      Assistable looks like a useful idea especially for busy founders. How long have you been working on it and what stage are you at with it now?

      1. 2

        Thanks, I learned about selling at a very young age myself so I just want to pass that experience on to them, I think every young person should spend some time selling something somewhere, and ideally both online and offline.

        I started working on Assistable in June this year, after watching Ellie Flynn's BBC documentary about mothers being exploited by MLM companies.

        I've always wanted to build a marketplace but Ellie's documentary spurred me into action after doing some extensive research and competitive analysis in the remote work space, there are some huge gaps and big opportunities.

        I'm pretty sure I can provide stay at home parents and remote workers in general with bigger and better opportunities than what's already out there.

        We'll see, it's a big fight I picked so not sure how it will turn out.

        1. 2

          Totally agree! It helps develop a desire to do something good in the world and builds real world experience unlike anything else.

          That's a great reason to start the project and a fantastic mission. With remote work becoming a growing thing, it's possible that this problem could get worse as well.

          What's the next big goal or milestone for you now with the business?