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14 Comments

My happiness is tied to my sales - how to break this link?

Hi Indie Hackers,

I started bootstrapping a product around two months ago and am at $2.5k MRR. The Pro version of the product costs $79 and it's B2C so pretty expensive, and as you'd expect in these early days, I am somedays making one or two sales and other days making none.

I am realising that my general happiness is pretty much directly proportional to the sales I'm making. A good day has me elated and a bad day has me depressed. Consistent sales takes time to build. Sure would be nice not feeling down in the meantime!

Perhaps this is related to some common challenges with solo-founders:

  • over-reliance on this project as a source of income
  • lack of support system
  • miss feeling part of a team (offices were good for this!)

Have any of you experienced this? How did you identify the root problem and what tips did you deploy to get around it?

(I won't share details of the project I'm working on yet, maybe soon, when I've found my footing a little more :))

  1. 3

    I have experienced what you're describing - and it lead to me having a nervous breakdown.

    Here's how I got out of that place:

    First and foremost - You are not your work, nor should you fall in love with your creation and view it as an extension of yourself in anyway.

    It's just code.

    It solves some problems for some people. You make the best possible choice with the information you have at the time, and there was never a "could have been" or "could have known" - there is only what happened.

    If it doesn't work out - you'll find something else to do, and you'll be fine. Life is the longest thing you're ever going to do, and if you've gotten as far as you have - you clearly have something to offer.

    Try and internalize that.

    Next, understand that when you are in that state of stress or depression - you will make worse decisions. You just will.

    So - you probably do need to make some changes to how you approach this work. Here's what I'd suggest, based upon what you have listed.

    1. Consider getting another income source, to decrease the financial strain on this project. Contrary to a lot of advise I've read - I don't think anyone does their best work when they are financially stressed or worried. The "This has to work" mentality leads to stupid commitments and bad software, in my experience.

    2. Set boundaries on how you engage with these sales metrics. Consider using a tool like Mailbrew, if your alerting system can be turned into an RSS feed. Just get a weekly summary of your sales - and remember that sales numbers are lagging indicators of the work you have already done.

    Looking at them again isn't going to change the outcome.

    1. Talk to the paying users of your product. They clearly are seeing value in what you are doing - that will help to motivate you to keep going, and it will help you to identify what to build next.

    Good luck.

    1. 1

      Remember that sales numbers are lagging indicators of the work you have already done. Looking at them again isn't going to change the outcome.

      Thanks so much for writing that paragraph, I've never looked at it that way. Just removed my sales widget from my phone home screen and configured gmail to insta-archive sales notifications.

      Now to gather all my strength and not log in to the sales analytics. 🤞

  2. 3

    I just want to say that I too have trouble with this and haven’t yet managed to “let go”.

    A day without sales and I will start to worry (there’s no need for that at all), a day with a couple sales and I’m super happy.

    It’s not healthy at all.

    I’ve contemplated “not knowing” by just insta-archiving sales emails but I feel I should be on top of things, I’m trying to build a business. Also I’m just too damn curious.

    1. 2

      Good to know I'm not the only one! Honestly, the pressure feels no lighter than when I was running a VC backed company. At least then I had miles of runway and a co-founder! So much for the casual passive income dream Indie Hacking can be mistaken for I guess.

      I suppose this is just the struggle of building a business. This is when those words 'don't stop, keep going' just have to ring louder and what makes success taste sweeter in the end.

      Speaking of which, does it ever? Anyone making like $50k MRR and is chilled out? Or are they just worrying about getting to $100k?

      1. 1

        When at 5K MRR I imagined it would be better at 10K, I’m now at 20K and it’s only getting worse 😅

  3. 1

    Chris,

    I understand your concern as it is something I've gone through many times!

    Ultimately, I realized that we often enmesh our ego with the current product we are building... but it is not "us"!

    Each of us has a multi year, ongoing career as a founder... "the current thing" is just one venture in a long line of cool things that we'll work on.

    When we look at things this way, it's easier to separate our ego from the product, and take a more "stand back and learn" approach.

    Well, that's how I got over it!

    Hope this helps :)

  4. 1

    Hey Chris, I recently joined a group coaching program that helped with this... a couple of the best tips I learnt from it that's relevant to your Q is:
    1 - Celebrate every sale. Be grateful for every single one, because otherwise it leads down the road of 10 isn't enough, 100 isn't enough... it'll never be enough, you know?
    2 - Separate your revenue from your customers and don't equate the customer to a monetary value. The people buying your thing are human beings and humans love to be recognised as that. :D

    It's kind of like a money mindset / worthiness issue isn't it (we all have those) and I've found the best way to work through it is to do some self-development work.

    In terms of support and things like that I'd recommend some podcasts and books as a great place to start (business/entrepreneurs podcasts are great because it's like having a business friend in your ear... Pat Flynn has one I think, his book "Superfans" is great, too... ). I'm not sure about recommending others I like haha because I'm not sure our tastes would be the same :) Books - The E Myth, Outliers, 4 Hour Workweek.

    Also, business facebook groups are usually a great place to find a network of supportive people.

  5. 1

    I guess it's very natural to feel like that. After all, we want to see some fruits from our labor.

  6. 1

    As long as that depression is not debilitating, you're a healthy individual with ambition. I wouldn't know what the signs are but if you find that the depressive states carry over to your personal life and destroy relationships, then seek help. But honestly it sounds like a pretty good thing if you do respond to the sales dips with a strong sense of "I want to get better."

    If you do have revenue and can afford it, I'd recommend something like Growth Mentor.com They have a setting where you can book someone just to vent. And the same marketplace you can find someone to go over the last sales call with and improve it. I do have to say the mentors i worked with were gracious and warm. I specifically looked for that mentality in direct opposition to cut throat hustle all day mentorship.

  7. 1

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Chris!

    I've certainly have had my own struggles, often feeling down about my projects or doubting myself heavily.

    The most helpful thing for me has been the following:

    • Meeting with people going through similar things (good and bad). I've been meeting with people in-person or over Zoom and it has really helped me.

    • Talk therapy and journaling. I found that my stress and anxieties were often caused my deeper feeling that I was just not processing. I started seeing a therapist about a year ago and have been journaling regularly ever since. It hasn't magically made all my problems go away, but it has given me a much better understanding of why I am feeling the way I am - which makes it easier for me to make adjustments to improve things.

    Wish you the best! and congrats of $2.5k MRR in 2 months, that's an incredible achievement!

  8. 1

    It's part of the ride - it becomes your self worth LOL!! Ever post something and see how many likes it gets? Ever buy a stock and obsessively check what it's trading at? It's all the same - thank your dopamine receptors. Wait till it's 5 sales a day on average and you get 10 one day and zero the next! If you can limit checking it to once a week or once a month it might help your sanity, it also might lose it's thrill after a few months.

  9. 1

    Focus on the actions, not on the results.

    Can you shift your happiness from results (sales) to effort (input metrics)? Very rarely are things like sales in your hand, but the input metrics (reaching out to customers, calling 20 possible new customers etc.) is completely in your control.

    This thought process has really helped me a lot!

  10. 1

    "Just don't"... problem solved.

    Just kidding!
    How often are you checking your analytics? If you do it every day, then maybe change that to once a week. Create a list of things that you could work on that will distract you from just looking at the analytics.

    And lastly, and probably the hardest, would be trying to detach yourself from the outcome. But this is not entirely possible if this is the only source of income, as you mentioned.

    So, if you have the ability/skill and time to get something that you could do on the side that is more fixed but doesn't take too much time, you could try that too. Like a small consulting client or something like that.

    Another thing that you could also do is, (if you don't already) is to track how much you need to make every month to cover all your fixed needs. That way, you can push hard until you get that, and then decrease the stress level that comes with being unsure if you will make what you need for the month. Then anything over that, make sure you don't spend on unnecessary things.

  11. 1

    This is something I've struggled with a ton as we've grown our business. For me, the only thing that has worked has been a clean, hard cut from checking our sales numbers.

    When we first started out we set up a text message alert for every new paying customer. This quickly devolved into me obsessively checking my phone each day and being annoyed when I didn't have a new customer alert. Conversely, when we did get a new customer I experienced .2 seconds of joy then just reverted to obsessively checking my alerts again.

    Much like when I quit alcohol I found the only approach that worked was going cold turkey. Now I go weeks at a time without checking numbers (sales or traffic). This has re-oriented me and has allowed me to measure my day against what I can control, whether I had a productive day moving the business forward.

    Tying your mental health to your sales number is, in my opinion, a surefire way to burn out.

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