November 22, 2020

Finally made $10k online!

Kieran B @kieranball

Over the past year I've shipped around 17 projects, some big, some small. Most flopped and got no traction. A couple did well and ended up in a bunch of subscribers or new Twitter followers. None of them have brought in much revenue, but I've learned a lot about what doesn't work and what I need to do in future.

I truly believe success is a numbers game. The more you ship, the more likely you are to hit on something that works. And with each new product, you implement the learnings from previous failures, so your chance of success compounds.

Back in June I had the idea for a community of makers following the same process - launching small projects rapidly, learning, and iterating to success. Learning from previous experiences, where I'd built the whole product before announcing it, I did the opposite, and launched a landing page first.

It got good feedback from friends (this doesn't mean much though), but when I posted it on Twitter it started to get waiting list signups. Importantly, I had specified that it would be a paid community, so I had to assume that the people who were signing up were willing to pay!

This was a game-changer. Previously when I'd had email signups, there was never any mention of payment, so my motivation was always dampened by the fact that there was no plan for monetisation. Potential money on the table gave me so much more motivation.

I worked hard for a few weeks and launched the community a month later. People started paying! The first cohort was 35 people who paid $99 each for lifetime membership. This was the first real money I'd made as an indiehacker and it felt great.

Even better was that the community seemed to be working. People were super friendly, interacting, helping each other, and shipping products.

I focused on learning as much as I could from this first cohort. I also spoke to people who had just finished Write of Passage, and other community builders, to understand best practices.

As the months went by I found that, apart from a core group of about 10 active members, engagement dropped. This dented my confidence a little, and ultimately made me put off inviting the next cohort for far too long.

Eventually I decided to bite the bullet and just ship. After all, that is what the community is all about. Shipping imperfect products rapidly. I'd put in months of work improving the community platform, adding loads of small tools to help interpersonal connections, launch calendars, leaderboards, a library, tutorials. It wasn't perfect but it was good enough.

Last week I opened up for Cohort 2. I sent personal videos to chosen invitees (recorded on Loom, sent via Zapier to Mailerlite and then emailed out). I'd paid extra attention to the onboarding process as I know this sets the tone for the whole experience.

I had also doubled prices to $199 for lifetime membership.

Amazingly, the hard work seems to have paid off. Almost 50 people have joined Cohort 2 as paid members. Some were on discounts so the total revenue has been around $7,500. Together with July's revenue, I'm at $10,500.

So far feedback from the new cohort has been great, and I'm really excited about where this could go.

  1. 1

    Inspirational 🎉
    Congratulations.🎉

    Keep soaring man. 🔥

  2. 1

    This is amazing, great work!

    I'm also in the process of launching a community. Did you do any validation of your strategy apart from the lander initially? How did you spark engagement in the community when you just started? Did you create resources yourself or let the members provide the value?

    1. 1

      Thanks @stevenaa. I didn't do any validation apart from the landing page and asking a few people if they thought it was a good idea. Engagement seemed to happen by itself, perhaps because people had paid to be there. I did create some resources and also tried to be as engaged and responsive as possible to set the tone for the community.

      I think it's a case of encouraging the most engaged people and gently inviting the less engaged people into the conversation.

      Best of luck, let me know if you have any questions.

      1. 1

        Thanks for sharing this! Hope you don't mind a few extra questions:

        What type of resources did you create to provide initial value? Which platform did you pick and why?

        1. 2

          I gathered some tutorial videos and also wrote some basic reports on the types of businesses people could start. There wasn't too much there to start with to be honest, I just told people it was work in progress.

          I chose Circle.so because it had good Zapier integrations and also a good product roadmap (and they ship fast). We're also using Slack as a second platform!

  3. 1

    Nice job, Kieran!

    It's been fun following you on Twitter and seeing this stuff unfold in real-time.

    1. 1

      Thanks! It's hard to know how it seems to other people. Let me know if you ever think "damn he's making a huge mistake!".

  4. 1

    Well done mate, its been awesome to watch this grow!

    1. 1

      Thanks Jac, it's been a lot of fun (and work, and doubts).

  5. 1

    Well done Kieran. I've launched so many things over the years - some work, some don't. Any that get traction I double down on. Looks like that's what you've done. Best of luck moving forward!

    1. 1

      Thanks! It's the only way I can work really.

  6. 1

    Congratulations and great work @kieranball! I just applied. Really love the idea of cohort-based indie hackers!

    Also, I really like the idea of "The more you ship, the more likely you are to hit on something that works." With that said, have you been launching multiple products at once or focusing fully on an idea before moving onto the next? Thanks!

    1. 2

      Wow thanks for reading and for applying @kevingalang.

      I definitely have not been focused fully on one idea at a time... that's something I really struggle with. But having actual paying members for Launch MBA has focused my mind better than ever before.

      I think different people work in different ways. Personally I like to have multiple projects on the go because I can flip between them whenever I get stuck, and they tend to help me generate ideas for each other. Also it helps to have some emotional detachment.

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