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My answer to "Should you quit your full-time job to be an indie hacker?" - after a year of being indie

This is not going to be a theoretical post with a vague conclusion such as: "Either way is ok, it's up to you." That kind of posts doesn't end up telling you anything lol.

My answer is a definitive "Yes". However, if you're currently employed, you can be better prepared and strategically choose the time to take the jump.

I joined IndieHacker a year ago. I've been employed for 12 years by then and I've tried to start many side-projects over the years with various milages. The thinking was "I'll do this thing on the side and if it explodes, I'll quit my job to focus on it. If I fail, I can say it's because it's a side-project and I wasn't serious."

Last year, I decided this is a waste of time to me. Life is too short to try a few things casually and conclude that it won't work. So I quit and started working on the idea I am most passionate about.

3 months later, when the progress was slower than I thought, I felt "Oh man, I should have prepared better before I quit. What if I go back and keep this as a side project?" My wife then told me "Don't give up, keep doing it. Give yourself a chance." So I continued.

What a classic example of lack of conviction - wishing I could work on a project full-time but when it actually happens, wishing I could work on it part-time. lol.

So here is what I learned being an indie and why my answer ultimately is "yes".

  1. Launching a startup full-time is already hard. Doing it part-time requires MORE discipline to become successful, not LESS. So launching a successful start-up part-time is actually an "ADVANCED" mode, not the "EASY" mode as I thought.

  2. I get 10X done when working on my product full-time than part-time. When I can work on it every day, there is no context-switching, I can use the most productive part of my day to work on the most important tasks, instead of doing them after a long day of work. That means I can see the progress and get feedback much faster, which keeps me motivated.

  3. I can sustain momentum and traction. When I can consistently tweet to my followers, release updates, it really creates that sense of progress and boosts my users' confidence in this new company they've just heard. It's impossible to build that momentum when you release once every 2 months or tweets every 2 weeks working part-time.

  4. Ultimately, the reason we all want to become an indie hacker is to build wealth, instead of selling our time. I am 3X happier working on what I am passionate about and it really boosts my energy level. We are definitely on the right path.

Lastly, I want to share what I could have done better before I quit. This is completely optional.

  1. Build an audience. "Shamelessly" promise some products that you will deliver in the future. Don't feel guilty or insecure that you can't deliver. You can. Because when you have 1000 users waiting to see what you'll create, you'll be motivated to deliver like crazy. And if you ended up pivoting, nobody is going to blame you. They just move on.

  2. Talk to customers. Figure out the pain points before you actually start building things. I generally find talking to customers to be less energy-draining than building things. Try to avoid quit and then figure out, "Oh, Who am I selling this to?" Which is what I did lol.

I hope this gives some insight to the many talented developers who are looking to become indie hackers.

  1. 12

    Great post!

    One additional reason for me to quit my job was a "risk" assessment of doing it and not doing it, which concluded in:
    1.) If I stay at my job, I will never know if I would have succeeded. A feeling that I would carry with me for my whole life.
    2.) If I quit my job and fail... I could just find another job. I might even be happier as an employee then, because there won't be this thought of the "what if" in the back of my mind all the time.

    1. 1

      100% what I thought as well. Great add!

  2. 4

    I agree with almost everything you said, and have found it to be true myself.

    That said, some of us further on in life, 30's +, have more financial responsibilities than others who are younger.

    What I did was I first scaled down my work hours from 40 to 32.5 (It helped to have an understanding work arrangement. I was upfront that I was working on a startup and wanted to give it an honest shot). As things got more serious with my project, my passion deflated for my "full time" job, and unhooking from it became the obvious, and frankly fair to my employer next step.

    However, I couldn't place all the expense burden on my wife. I just didn't feel that was right. So I did some client-based work, just enough to break even on my expenses, or ramen profitable. This only took me 5-10 hours a week, sometimes 15-20 if I took on too much (Roughly 20-40 per month).

    So I wake up early. Do maybe a couple hours of client work first thing, and then I still have 8-10 hours in the day to pursue my project. If I need a little more money for expenses, I can scale up the client work a little, but at least I control the lever.

    One thing is for sure, you need to put the majority if you time into what you are most passionate.

    This arrangement has worked for me thus far, and it also helps to have an incredibly supportive wife. I do recognize though that this juggling act is still difficult, but moreso obnoxious to change hats from client work to my startup, and I clearly see that there will be a point soon where I need to unhook and focus 100% of my time on my startup. I am challenging myself until I reach initial revenue before making this kind of move.

    Sometimes I do question whether I should just go for it totally, as nothing is more motivating than not having a safety net and needing to "sell" your way out of tight spot. But I am trying to be prudent and go this route out of respect for my wife.

    1. 2

      Was it useful to do the gradual reduction (PT then quit) or do you think your results would have been better if you had just quit?

      Also, had did you go about the negotiation with your employer for PT?

      1. 2

        @ChristopherGS sorry for the late reply, I haven't logged in in a while.

        That's a tricky question. In theory, you would think that the results would be better if you just quit. However, you have to remember that creating a startup product in many ways is counter intuitive, and a lot of what you think you know, or what you think the market wants, is going to be thrown out the window when you get to market, or adjusted quite a bit in order to reach product market fit. This takes TIME... So pre-maturely leaving a job or eschewing income is not responsible.

        I, like many others, was very tempted to just quit. I am very happy I didn't, as several of my assumptions turned out incorrect. If you asked me one year ago when I initially launched (August 1st) where I would be a year later, I would have thought I'd be way, way further. But the market is a great teacher, and several iterations later, I'm just about to launch I think it's the 4th iteration of my product -- this time I feel good about, but you never know!

        So my advice in the end, is keep whatever job you are doing, at least side client work, until you know you have PMF, or are making projectable revenue that clearly shows you will make it and can draw some income. Don't quit after you make your first dollars, make sure it's sustaining.

        Re my arrangement with my employer ( a non profit), I structured my deal with them as a 6-month contract. So even though I was a 40 hour a week worker, I had negotiating power. They re-upped me two times, and our relationship was good, so I knew I had a tremendous amount of leverage heading into the third contract signing because losing me would be much worse than having me at 32.5 hours. So that's how I approached it, and I set up my deals in these increments way since I knew where I wanted to get to eventually.

        They were understanding of the situation. Frankly the position ended up not being a great match for me anyway, so I think all parties sensed I wasn't long for it. Also, it helped that I saved them a few dollars, and I informed them I'd keep them up to date on my startup progress and plans, and should I depart would help with any transition they needed. It also didn't hurt the Executive Director's husband was also in the startup world, so I think she understood better than most.

        1. 1

          Thanks for this super detailed reply, I really appreciate it!

    2. 1

      Thank you for sharing your story. I absolutely admire the discipline you have to juggle between your priorities. I followed your project. It looks amazing!

      1. 1

        Hi Terry, thanks for your kind words, and for bringing up this topic. I followed you back!

  3. 2

    what about when you have a wife and kids?

    1. 2

      with kids, it's kinda tough. I know I won't be able to keep the balance if I had kids. I do see some of my friends who are able to pull it off. Being honest about your own abilities and plan accordingly is probably my advice.

      ultimately, you'll have to have a clear answer to "Kids and startup, which is the one I care about MOST now. If they are absolutely equal, then what are my options?"

  4. 2

    I just quit my job! I'm so happy to read your reassurance that it was a good decision 😊

    I can use the most productive part of my day to work on the most important tasks, instead of doing them after a long day of work. That means I can see the progress and get feedback much faster, which keeps me motivated.

    I hated it so much when my day job was slowing down the momentum of my side project. I hope to see the productivity boost that you are writing about.

    1. 1

      Same feeling. Good luck! I was so anxious about wasting time after I quit so I read The Miracle Mornings and Atomic Habits. Helped a ton lol.

      1. 1

        I'm also a fan of James Clear! I've been reading his newsletter before he published Atomic Habits.

        @irid have you built any specific habits or tactics to keep you productive? I'm going to keep a "progress log", kind of a diary where I write down every action I take to move my business forward.

        1. 1

          The main thing for me is to try to do the most impactful things first instead of letting non-critical things consume all of my energy of the day.

          Doing 10 quick and easy tasks may give me a sense of achievement but doesn't move the needle as much as 1 critical thing of the day.

          I wrote down all my marketing plans at the beginning which is also really helpful. When I am deep in the weeds, it's easy to forget all the "great growth strategies" I came up with before lol.

          1. 2

            Doing 10 quick and easy tasks may give me a sense of achievement but doesn't move the needle as much as 1 critical thing of the day.

            Oh yeah, I also noticed it with myself that doing useful but not so important things can be a sneaky way to procrastinate.

  5. 2

    I totally agree! I worked on my project awhile as a side project before jumping in full time, and now I've been doing that for 6 months. I'm currently at a point where I'm kind of debating whether to turn it into a side project as it's not been a financial success as of yet... but I don't regret it at all.

    It's worth it to do something you believe in, whether it works out in the end or not.

    1. 1

      It's very true. I've learned so much doing it. And whatever the result, there is no regret.

  6. 2

    lots of points to agree with here, especially the getting 10x done working full time than part time. my persona is that i am just a coding junkie, i would work long hours at my ft job (not in coding), and then immediately coming home and turning onto pt coder was exhausting. plus, by the time I get home, get a workout in, prep food - I barely had time to do anything, let alone work on my startup. i wanted to balance a social life while i was working on my startup, and working 20 hours a day was not that balance.

    some caveats, make sure you have enough money to sustain yourself without an income. i would only quit if you had a solid grasp on what you wanted to pursue, not just an idea. also, working fulltime on your projects at home does mean more distraction - time with dogs, silicon valley on amazon prime, etc etc.

    that being said, i wouldn't trade this time. its given me time to learn at my own pace, and build and grow. i don't feel rushed to get things done, and i don't feel bogged down like i was while at my ft job thinking about what i want to build next for my startup.

    my biggest push was that I knew I could always find a 'job' if I had to, but I wouldn't want to look back at this time and regret not working on my startup. has it been tough - absolutely, has it been mentally and emotionally draining - beyond absolutely! :-)

    1. 1

      That's a great addition. I failed to mention the savings part. I think part of being an entrepreneur is taking calculated risks. I am not encouraging people to quit and jeopardize their financials.

  7. 2

    I have been thinking the same thing recently "Oh man, I should have prepared better before I quit. What if I go back and keep this as a side project?". I need to find a wife to tell me don't give up ;)

    Great job! Love your products!

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot! Haha, my wife's mentality is stronger than mine and I am really grateful.

  8. 2

    Just make sure you have enough revenue and are willing to live without spending a dime for awhile. In retrospect, I wished that I had had a part-time job for miscellaneous expenses both before and after seed funding and revenue. Such as delivering pizza at night.

    The reason is that despite it seeming like a lot of money in the company bank account, once employees are hired, those funds go quickly. Then as a founder, you are the last to get paid.

    1. 2

      totally. hiring is really expensive. on the other hand, I also discovered that I didn't have to buy all the stuff so my spending is significantly lowered.

  9. 2

    I really like this kind of optimistic pragmatism. Thank you for sharing your story, your struggles, and your learnings.

    In a way, only through having access to such stories will we ever get any meaningful glimpses into the reality of making the jump. As someone who has done this myself before, thanks for doing it, thanks for talking about it, and thanks for putting it into context.

    1. 2

      Thanks. I am a fan of your work. FeedbackPanda might be one of the first projects I saw when I first joined IH. :-D

      1. 1

        Thank you! That's awesome :D

        It certainly was a very good choice to have the project documented on IH - after all, we linked our Stripe MRR here, which led to our acquisition :)

        If you have any particular questions, please let me know. Happy to help!

  10. 2

    Really nice post! And I see myself on your writings. I personally left my permanent day job almost 2 years ago just to follow my dream: Focus 100% on making my apps, on being a full time developer and on doing other related tasks, such as writing tutorials. However, things have not gone yet the way I wanted, but the more frustrating it becomes, the more obsessed I become and I stick to that path. As you said, life is too short just to try things casually.

    1. 1

      This resonates a lot. It's "harder" to give up when we go all in. I am sure you'll figure it out!

  11. 2

    This is great @irid thanks for sharing. Great to see someone who is making their product successful having taken the leap to go full time. Keep up the great work!!

    1. 1

      Thanks a bunch!

  12. 2

    That was a good read! I like your analogy on the easy and advanced mode and I definitely agree. I did everything backward actually. I quit my job the moment I realized that was not how I wanted to leave my life. I've always dreamed about building something on my own.

    I released a video dating app, StepUp. This is my second business. I have to say it is hella hard, and choosing an already saturated market doesn't help at all. My first one was a crepe café that I had with two friends. We were co-owners while we all kept our day jobs. I have to say it was so much more energy draining, as if felt like work after work and you never get to rest. Whereas with my current one, it is the only thing I have, so I can work on it or I can tune out and netflix.

    In the end, I think it all depends on what you prioritize. If it is stable money and structured life, then don't quit your job yet and just keep hacking indie. But if you're like me who puts passion in front of everything else and have the mean to go without income for a bit, then by all means do it now.

    1. 1

      I am sure you'll figure out. One thing I learned from a guided meditation is "What you want, wants you". I think we have to respond to our callings.

  13. 2

    I get 10X done when working on my product full-time than part-time.

    Man that’s amazing. Do you have any tips on this - prioritizing features, managing time, etc?

    1. 1

      Hi there. It's pretty simple. When I work on it part-time, if I can put in 10 hours a week on it without pissing off my wife, that's pretty good. Now I get to spend 60 hours a week and still have a lot of time left for work out, reading, and have dinner with my wife. that's 6x improvement right there.

      I mentioned I can focus on the most challenging coding problems during my most productive time so it's another 2x - 3x gain from time management perspective.

      Lastly, because it's a problem I am so passionate about, I already have all the solutions in my head, I can get into the flow really easily. So 10x is not exaggerated.

  14. 1

    Amazing. This is what I'm planning to do. Currently have been in the industry for 3 years and I'm waking up early/doing weekends to build projects that'll hopefully generate passive income in the future.
    I completely agree with how part time is advanced mode and not easy. I'm finding it extremely difficult balancing between my side projects, family and friends. I have no time to socialise

  15. 1

    Much obliged for your article. It's really helpful since I'm thinking of it right now. I found my current job on az jobs and I really like it. But I see the advantages of quitting it and going indie.

  16. 1

    Great post. I quit my job 6 months ago to dedicate full time to my projects. I decided to give myself this year to launch something and I believe I'm close to doing that.

    Having all my time for myself is much more valuable to me than having a full time salary yet not having enough time to work on what I really want to work.

    It's been amazing how much I've learned, grown and enjoyed life. I'm not looking back.

    1. 1

      Looking forward to your launch man!

      1. 1

        Thanks! Will definitely post it here when I launch!

  17. 1

    Fantastic, you're in a similar place that I am currently. I want to quit, but not quite enough money in the bank. And it's hard when you're working full-time! Totally agree that "EASY" mode is full-time.

  18. 1

    Great post! I'm at about the 3 month point post quitting my job too. Same results so far as your 3 month mark - but just what I need to hear, keep on going as, honestly, this may be the only time in my life I do this and I want to give it 1000% and I love doing this full time over any other job I've had. 👍

    1. 1

      totally. really pushes us to our limit which we didn't believe we could reach!

  19. 1

    Great post Terry! Thank you for sharing your thoughts! :)

    It is a great take on working part time on your projects and you certainly raise quite a few interesting points!

    Cheers,

    David

    1. 1

      Thanks, Glad the post made you think! :-D

  20. 1

    Thanks for sharing - great thoughts. I think I agree with you (though I've not tried indie-hacking full-time) that doing it on the side is the advanced mode. But for some, myself included, this is the only option. You need a good chunk of savings to quit your job for a year, especially if you have a family depending on you. Kudos to you for making it work!

    100% agree with your advice to build an audience. I have enough experience trying to launch things without an audience and I've seen enough successes by people who leveraged their audiences to see that it clearly makes a big difference. Also pre-launching your product to your audience is a great way to gauge interest and find out what people are looking for. I've failed to do this in the past, but plan to do differently in the future.

    1. 2

      Thanks for the reply. Yes. I was also saving up so I could take the risk. Kinda hope I didn't get so much loan 😂

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