To dev or not to dev (solo)?

So, I guess I've been a lurker on IH for a while now. I'm a developer, engineer, programmer, etc. I don't have a background in sales, marketing or business administration, and I have to admit that stuff sounds intimidating. But every once in a while, I see some cool news here on IH or Hackernews or just somewhere on the Internets about successful solo developers.

That stuff really sounds interesting and rewarding.

But, I guess I'm not really much of an entrepreneur or something. I don't find myself with boat loads of ideas for new products and services. This lack of a project/hustle (side or otherwise) challenges my view that maybe I'm only interested in the solo developer "idea" but not the real world pursuit.

This might be exaggerated these days due to the pandemic and the isolation.

As a developer how have you found that "project" that "turned it on" for you? Is it mostly just dumb luck? A solution to a problem combined with a twitter following? Expertise turned into enterprise... what?

  1. 3

    I say 'to dev'! I'm 2 years down the path as a solo developer. It did take a project that I actually had a personal need to solve. It also took working with an interesting tech stack to keep me challenged.

    I had the same thoughts as you about sales and marketing. But I'm just now getting started and I'm finding it's actually very fun going completely out of my comfort zone. I had never engaged much with social media, and now I'm learning about the quirks of posting to Twitter and how great it feels to get some feedback!

    Highly encourage, especially if you can do it on the side without pressure.

    1. 4

      While I totally agree with @allenbot, I think (again, this is just my opinion; take it with a grain of salt) you should try to spend as little time as possible coding and as much time as possible on the other sides of your project. It's all too easy to fall down the feature wormhole (I've been there too many times haha) and spend too much time on development when you should've spent that time on marketing or outreach and such. Just something to keep in mind!

      1. 1

        Good points! It really depends on your goals for the projects. One of mine was to experiment with and learn more about certain tech stacks. So it has made a lot of sense for me to code as a solo dev. If the startup doesn't work, I've still gained skills and experience, and am even more prepared to potentially jump in with a co-founder for the next thing.

    2. 2

      Thanks for the feedback. Glad to hear I'm not alone on my views of sales and marketing.

    3. 1

      This comment was deleted 2 months ago.

  2. 2

    You are asking 'Should I buy a house' in Real Estate Agent forum. What is the probability of somebody saying 'renting is good?'

    1. 1

      Low. You are not wrong. Sometimes though a good counter argument makes for great persuasion.

  3. 1

    Making startup very successful (getting a lot of traction and growth) is not easy. See the post about the go-to-market plan. It is intimating:-)


    But if you are doing it as as a lifestyle choice, then you still can be successful without huge growth:-)

    1. 1

      I'm very interested in the lifestyle choice. Thanks for the reply, btw. The reference too.

  4. 1

    Solve your own problem or something you're passionate about, otherwise you won't be motivated enough to do the sides of the business that are not dev, you can learn anything if you think you do it for the right reasons.

  5. 1

    To dev!

    To work on something successful, you need two things: a.) Problem expertise and b.) Solution expertise.

    As a dev, you're already ahead of the game because you'll find solution expertise easy - you're able to build solutions to the problems you face.

    Problem expertise is deep knowledge and understanding of a real problem that real people face... and are willing to pay for.

    In my example, I experienced the problem of having to hack together multiple landing pages to build multi-step forms. I had first-hand "problem expertise", but fairly limited "solution expertise", as I didn't yet know how to code.

    So find that problem that rubs you up the wrong way. Maybe it's something to do with your day job, or a process that's flawed or annoying to do with your day to day.

    1. 1

      What do you do if nothing is rubbing you the wrong way? I'm not suggesting I don't have problems. I just can't think of anything that doesn't already have a solution—that is, problems that software can solve. For example, there are potholes on my road, but no amount of software is going to fix that.

      1. 1

        If you are technical, you can try to join as a IT co-found of startup that you find the problem/solution that you like.

      2. 1

        Yeh, that's a good question, I was in that point for years. I guess one bit of advice worth passing on is that you don't have to look for a totally unsolved problem - it's OK to do something slightly better, slightly cheaper, or slightly more customised for a particular audience. There are a bunch of resources on ideation, will have a think and get back to you.

  6. 1

    It's mostly luck.
    You try and fail and try and fail until something works.
    Devs usually try to find a formula or algorithm witch guarantees success.
    There is none. The world is too messy.

    Just start with something really small. Release it and look what happens.

    I started multiple projects in the past. My latest one got some traction (tinyads.io) but there is no way I could predict which would succeed beforehand.

    That's the dilemma we are all part of.

    1. 1

      I think you're right. It's a search algorithm ;-)

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