Product Development February 18, 2020

People pay money not because you put a lot of work into your product

Michaela @Madamdo

"It's a little bit counterintuitive, but generally people pay a lot of money, not because you put a lot of work into your product, but because you're solving a valuable problem." @csallen

Hey fellow indie hackers,
I interviewed Courtland for the Software Engineering Unlocked podcast. I really enjoyed talking with him.

In a nutshell, we talked about his journey to create the indie hacker community. I actually thought he created it right after graduating from college. But that’s far from what happened. For many years, Courtland started all kinds of businesses with varying degrees of success. In 2016 he then quit his day job and had a runway of one year for building a profitable business (giving the cost of living in San Francisco).

Courtland tells me that the first six months of this new journey to building a successful business weren’t really productive. But as he realized that he runs out of time and money, he made a plan.

He wanted to start something that he knew will be successful and brings in revenue within a short amount of time. So, he thought about all he had learned from his previous attempts and came up with a multi-phase action plan.

Yes, this time around, Courtland had learned that he should start small, and incrementally make his way towards the successful business he had in mind.

He explained that he started with the interviews on the website because when there is content on a website, people come to that site. Then, he started the mailing list, because it’s easier to start a mailing list when you have content. Then, he contacted sponsors that would be a great fit for the website. It took Courtland only a few weeks from the initial idea to having the first sponsorship deal locked in.

He never intended to start the podcast. But after several requests from the community, he gave it a shot. Now, it’s one of the most successful parts of the business.

Well, I talked about so much more with Courtland, like why he build the website and community functionality from scratch, brand building and his relationship with Stripe. For the full content have a listen to the podcast.

  1. 1

    Really enjoyed this interview! I've always had a lot of questions around how IH got started. It was great to hear Courtland outline his process so thoroughly. Thanks Michaela!

    1. 1

      Thanks! Yeah, I had tons of more questions for Courtland, and I hope I'll have another chance to discuss them all.

  2. 1

    This is one of the most difficult lessons I've learned. Customers only care that you solve a problem of theirs - that's what they are paying for. However, it's also very difficult to become successful without a lot of hard work. You just have to also know how to work effectively.

    The first time I read this quote by Sam Altman was when it really hit home for me: "The market doesn't care how hard you work—it only cares if you do the right things."

    1. 1

      Totally agree! I'd also say that honestly validating your idea is harder than just building whatever comes to your mind and fascinates you. I'm still falling into this trap from time to time. Seeking validation, understanding customer needs, letting go of "wrong" ideas - all this can be emotionally hard and takes courage. What do you think?