December 14, 2019

First. Paying. Customer. BOOYAH!

Jayber Tan @simplisticallysimple

It wasn't easy. I'm not cool like most people here. I'm a huge laggard, but I'm glad to finally join the club.

I started coding my first product around November last year. I took 6 months just to build and release it. Big mistake. And then I quit my job cold turkey to go at it full time. Another big mistake. And then 3 painful months followed when I tried to sell it to my target market relentlessly, I did everything I could and tried everything possible, but I just couldn't close a single damn sale. I guess I'm really not built for B2B, not to mention the pressures of not having any income really got to me as I became more desperate the more savings I burned for what hitherto still was a $0 side project.

I abandoned the product and looked for another job again. The product is still online by the way (https://www.OKDentalPlans.com). Then I went into search mode again to look for my next idea. Decided to scratch my own itch (I'm practically addicted to Twitter), this time I launched my MVP in under a month (https://Zlappo.com). It's basically Buffer on steroids, but Twitter-specific. Started getting users right away, iterated on feedback, and a little under 3 months later, on Friday the 13th no less, I got my first paying customer.

Literally screamed my lungs out when I saw the Stripe transaction email where it said "Congratulations, ..."

It has been a long journey. More than a year from my first idea to my first dollar. Holy Christ. Honestly it was super-demoralizing whenever I read milestone posts on Indie Hackers where people were making thousands in MRR while I struggled so bloody hard to close one goddamned sale. It really tested my resolve, and I was so close to tossing in the towel at several junctures.

Fortunately I kept in mind something my friend told me:

"Don't give up. If you're tired, learn to rest. Then try again."

That's what I did. I took breaks. I went out of town. I turned off my laptop for one whole week. And then I tried again.

I feel like all my hard work and more importantly my idea has been validated. It's really harder than it looks; I had to do everything myself, being a solo founder and all. Worst of all, I have no support system, as I keep my endeavors secret (so that I don't embarrass myself should I fail).

Today has been a good day. I'll keep working on my product and really get it off the ground. Just wanted to share my happiness with you guys and also say THANK YOU for being here for me.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

  1. 3

    Congrats Ricky. Truly inspiring especially for me.

    I am in the same position nowadays. Waiting for that one day when I write my story after getting that first $

    1. 2

      I'm very sure you'll get there. Pivot if you have to, but keep trying different things, and then magic happens! :)

  2. 3

    Congratulations on your first sale 🎉🎉🎉🎉

    Awesome that you kept working, even through the tough times! Wish you all the best with Zlappo!

    1. 1

      Zwenza, thanks for your encouraging words!

  3. 2

    Congrats Ricky! That first customer is always the toughest to come by. Looking forward to following your journey.

    Geoff

    1. 1

      I hope it gets easier, but if it doesn't I'm still prepared for come what may. Thanks, Geoff!

  4. 2

    Congrats man, well deserved!

  5. 2

    Congrats on the second project!!

    As for the first, did you consider pivoting to healthcare? Specifically, direct primary care. I'm right in the middle of this rapid growth. This group of docs are opting out of insurance and creating their own membership plans.

    1. 1

      I could pivot, sure, but I'd still run into the whole "trying to convince doctors to trust me to run their membership payments platform" issue that I encountered with dentists, plus I'm not exactly thrilled to go through brutal B2B hell again.

      That said, it's a huge market, dental/health insurance is such a pain in the ass that practitioners are all dying for solutions to bypass insurance altogether without impacting their patient flow. I imagine it's the same with DPC providers.

      I'll probably revisit the product if I have any new circumstances that will enable me to sell more effectively to doctors/dentists.

      1. 1

        In the DPC industry, there are only 3 solutions for membership plans. The leader just got funded $10M to build exactly what you built, but for doctors.

        Can you give me a demo? Don't worry about the selling part. I've been building that credibility/trust with docs for the past few years.

  6. 2

    Wow congrats! That's amazing. I can only imagine the rush when you received that first stripe email. What tech stack are you using?

    1. 1

      I'm a dinosaur, so:

      -Python/Django
      -Django Celery for asynchronous/cron tasks
      -JQuery (yes, no judgment please 😅)
      -Ajax and Fetch APIs
      -Twitter Bootstrap
      -Twitter API of course
      -Postgresql for database
      -Gunicorn for dynamic content
      -Nginx for static content
      -PWA for mobile app

      I used to be a developer and took many years off to try my hand at acting (my other passion), and when I came back 5 years later, oh my the landscape has really changed. I mostly still stick with what I was most comfy with back then, but hopefully I'll get to learn new tech as I move along.

      1. 2

        Thanks for the reply. I'm also a dinosaur I use vanilla PHP. Its inspiring for me even more.

        1. 1

          Nice! I remember my freelancing days using pure PHP and Phpmyadmin/Cpanel as my stack even. Despite all the cool stuff that's out there, PHP is still the leading web development language out there, so obviously it's still super-relevant.

  7. 2

    Dude this is so awesome to hear.

    1. You didn't give up.
    2. You knew when to move onto the next idea.

    Congrats Ricky and hopefully you'll be making another post soon with your first 10 paying customers ;)

    I wonder something like Zlappo can be done for Reddit...

    1. 2

      Hey Alexandros, appreciate you dropping by. The funny thing is I struggled with both 1 and 2, because they seem contradictory on the surface. "Moving on" implies giving up, but sometimes it's necessary to not keep doing what's not working. I thought of just pivoting to an adjacent market, but eventually I decided it's better to start from scratch. Knowing when to move on is a very fine art and quite a difficult decision most of the time... You never know how close you are to a breakthrough, and throwing away all that hard work seems very irrational and counterintuitive.

      As for Zlappo for Reddit, I haven't looked into the capabilities of the Reddit API, but I'm not familiar with any use case where scheduling would be a tremendous value-add for any demographic of Reddit users. I might be wrong though, because if some Reddit users would find Zlappo useful, that would also be right up my alley -- I'm a Reddict, a Reddit addict!

      PS You seem to be a stone's throw away from me. Nice. I'm up here in DTLA!

      1. 1

        Moving on can definitely back fire on you if you don't time it right, or know when it's the right time to do it! But if you don't decide to move on, who knows, Zlappo may have never been conceived..

        Yes sir, I'm over here in long beach! not that far indeed

  8. 2

    Congratulations Ricky! I’m really impressed by your persistence, despite the setbacks. It sounds like you’ve got some promising early product-market fit, so I’m excited to see where this goes!

    1. 1

      Hey Lewis, I appreciate your good words. They mean a lot to me. Honestly today was one of the best days I've had in a while. I usually keep very quiet about my indie hacking, and it's good to finally be able to share and hear from others who're going through similar journeys.

  9. 2

    PS Just checked it out today, it seems like the customer bought a paid plan right away even before trying it out. Being a freemium product, I thought it was a foregone conclusion that he'd start on the free plan first. Apparently not. He bought a plan and immediately started linking 4 of his different Twitter brand accounts.

    I hope I don't disappoint him!

  10. 2

    Congratulations man! I think you're going to do well with this one. The product looks great.

    Couple questions

    1. You say it's twitter specific but you allow multiple social accounts. Are these multiple twitter accounts or can you post to twitter and facebook?

    2. Why just personal brands? Could I not use this for SongBox?

    1. 1

      Thanks, Primer, for your kind words.

      1. Right now it's multiple Twitter accounts. I use it myself to manage my different brands/products under one umbrella. Works well for my own purposes. Most of my users use link only one Twitter account.

      2. Yes, you can use this for SongBox. "Personal brands" is just my initial target market, the positioning I took to try to get people like fitness coaches, dating coaches, business coaches, and the like to try my product. These are the people who seem to use Twitter the most (in fact, a lot of them use Twitter exclusively) to build their audience, and they also build it by pumping out tons of insightful/educational content, so naturally the use case is the best fit for a product like mine. That said, if you find Buffer useful, and your audience resides on Twitter (or Twitter is unexplored territory for you so far), then I'm sure you'll find Zlappo useful too.

      Let me know if you need help getting started! ;)

  11. 2

    Well done. Congrats!

  12. 2

    Awesome Ricky, it's a big market and there's definitely room for competition. I think your caption text really triggers people to try the app out. "Game-Changing Twitter Automation App for Personal Brands"

    Greet,

    Mido

    1. 2

      Thanks, Mido.

      I had to position and reposition my product multiple times, and it seems like people respond to that. They don't want another "me too" Buffer/Hootsuite knock off. They want something actually different and will change the game (not saying Zlappo will, but I'm trying damn hard to). Twitter is very idiosyncratic, has a huge user base, and in my opinion is worth zeroing in on.

  13. 2

    Congratulations!

  14. 2

    Congrats man!

    Hope it gets better and better.

    (I'm sure it will, because you are "iterating on feedback"! :) )

    1. 1

      Thanks! I hope it gets better and better too.

  15. 2

    Good job and congrats on your first sales! 🎉🎉
    It's hard work to get something online that you can earn money on! I am probably on my 10th or 12th product now, released www.rodened.com yesterday, waiting for subscribers!

    Keep going!

    1. 1

      Based on your portfolio, I'm sure Rodened will do very well!

  16. 2

    Nice one. Congrats. It's realy a good feeling, when you receive you first money from a project.

    I still remember this moment, which was last year.

    Keep on it. Such moments help you to stay up, when times are difficult.

    1. 1

      Appreciate your motivational words!

  17. 2

    Congratulations

  18. 2

    Dude congratulations!

  19. 2

    Good job!

  20. 2

    Congratulations!

  21. 2

    Congrats man! extremely inspiring!!

  22. 2

    Congrats

  23. 2

    Congrats buddy :))

  24. 1

    Congrats! It's never as easy as it looks from the outside, and it's great to have posts like yours confirming that :) Keep up the great work!

  25. 2

    This comment was deleted 5 months ago.

    1. 2

      People see the event and not the process. For every $XXX MRR milestone theres a massive amount of work that went in to getting there. But people dont tend to talk about it because it's a hustle porn culture and people want upbeat stories instead of getting reality checks

      1. 1

        Thanks James. You're right, MRR is mostly a lagging indicator. There's a tremendous amount of effort and trial-and-error and hard grinding that goes into it.

        People do want upbeat stories, and I myself am not trying to be a downer either, but I at least feel confident enough to be vulnerable and remind others out there to hang in there, keep soldiering on, even if things get hard.

        1. 2

          Not a downer at all, I love that there's more milestones celebrating first customers. I hope to be doing the same soon :) Best of luck with the business!

    2. 2

      Ha, that's my target MRR too.

      At which time I'll start moving out of the US and living in the countries I really want to, like Spain, Argentina, Japan, France, the Caribbean, etc. Learn new languages, see new places, make new local friends, and become truly global. I see my startup as a vehicle to do the things I dream of doing since I was a kid. Heck, I might even start living my dream at $5k MRR (if I get there). Life is too short to put off our dreams.

      What do you intend to do with your $10k MRR? That's plenty of money in 90% of the world, maybe except London. :)

      As for demoralization, I was so so so afraid that I wasn't going to make any money again, since I've gotten burned by $0 products in the past. I also felt inferior (same like how you felt), and I constantly questioned if I sucked so badly or if there was something wrong with me. The Fear Of Missing Out was so bad that I was depressed most of this year. My self-esteem was at a multi-year low after grinding so hard for a year and still not have any revenue to show for it.

      So when I finally made a sale, things started to look a little up for me. Here's to hoping we both achieve our target MRR sooner than later! 🍻

      1. 2

        This comment was deleted 5 months ago.

        1. 1

          A house in London is a lofty goal, but a worthy one. I have a brother who worked as a solicitor in London after being called to the bar at Middle Temple; it's really expensive there.

          Here in the States most of us have given up on the goal of home ownership. I know I have.

          You're absolutely right. If others can do it, so can we. What one man can do another can do. That's the right mindset to cultivate. And I'm sure you'll be reaching your goals pretty soon too.

          Thanks once again!

  26. 4

    This comment was deleted 4 months ago.

    1. 1

      a huge burden if you don’t have solid savings and a lot of people would be better off keeping their jobs until their biz is bringing in cash.

      That's an understatement... Without any source of income, you're forced to dedicate at least 50% mind space to worrying about your day-to-day expenses, like rent and food, and you become increasingly agitated and anxious, not to mention there's research that shows that poverty/being broke will reduce your IQ by one standard deviation. So all the free time created is still nonetheless hampered by these other factors.

      I'm not going to do a B2B product for now. My biggest issue was that they couldn't trust me enough to run such an important aspect of their dental practice. I'm just a random dude who coded up some dental payments platform, why would they trust me? I sold them through Zoom demos, and I even sold them through real life locally here in LA. Nobody felt compelled to hand over their credit card info even when they agreed the product would help them out so much in their work flow. Everyone was asking for references that I couldn't provide (because they don't exist), and I didn't have the guts to tell them they're my first.

      I also felt like I was forced to put up a front to look "legit" so that I can swim with the big boys, my competitors, who have been in the space for years.

      I truly appreciate all your kind and uplifting words. I'll keep working hard, and hopefully more magic happens in 2020. Thank you!

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