indie • hacker
It's 2020, and the future is indie.
Whether it's $500/month on the side or $10,000/month to quit your job, it's easier than ever to draw an income from your own projects.
Follow the steps below to get started!
Before you get started, chart a course. How do you want your life to look? What does success look like? And what would make the journey to get there enjoyable?
I'm Olivia, one of the co-founders and COO of Contra.com :)
Contra is a full-service platform for remote and independent workers. Meaning: create a profile, house your portfolio, set up contracts and secure payments, and interact with your custom professional community.
In 2020 we're hoping to launch the first version of our product, close our seed round, do a whole bunch of hiring, and overall, help people realize their goals of working remotely/independently and on their own terms!
I have started working on my app called Shutterbite since last year. I have been making progress and eventually released it on the google play store. I made this account so I can share my experiences, learn from others, and form connections with passionate people. Excited to finally be apart of this community.
Hi Rosie, I am a 59 yo woman who has worked in IT in various industries and education since the mid-'80s. I am a self-taught/peer taught. In 2007 I worked solely as an independent web development contractor. From 2009 - 2015 I worked for a small family-owned internet company where I was the IT department and Web Developer. Kinda burnt out in 2015 and after a long break where I relocated to Detroit/Hamtramck MI and renovated and sold a series of homes that I lived in, I own my current small home mortgage-free. Having affordable housing has allowed me to take more satisfying although low paying work. I currently work part-time for my local public library. It is the hardest job that I have ever had but one where I can truly help people.
I have also learned to grow medical marijuana indoors. I am interested in joining the Indie Hackers community to explore ways that I can merge my IT experience with my passion for indoor cannabis cultivation into a viable retirement career.
Hi there, Rich here. I joined a few weeks back, but didn't get around to saying hi. I'm a writer and bootstrapper from London, UK. A few years ago I founded Chess Cubs: we used to do in-person chess tuition for kids, but six months back piloted a remote-first online service (now much needed). Hoping to release site this week, but have more than a few cross browser bugs to iron out. Thanks for the great podcasts and info. The shows with @arvidkahl and 1se founder were great; also enjoyed business model discussion with Transistor founder. Looking forward to hearing the rest!
PS: Any recommendations for simple cross browser testing tools pls? esp. anything freemium. 👇🏾
Many people thrive when working alone, but sometimes it helps to find a partner to complement your skillset and keep you motivated. What's right for you?
Want $20k + be a co-founder?
I’m looking to invest in building or buying into an online business, ideally something service based (could be a brand new idea or something already off the ground/established).
Seeking a technical person as a partner who is highly motivated.
Must have experience building/running an online business in the past if just an idea is being presented.
Does the above sound like you?
I’ll give the right person $20k too just to kick off our partnership!
Hi, I'm a fullstack web developer with 3-4 years of experience developing enterprise level applications. Looking for a partner/s on an original idea (doesn't have to be profitable right away, the journey is its on reward) for a side project.
Technological stack being Pure Java, Spring Boot, Angular, Node.js, MySql (and yet looking for an opportunity to learn new stuff etc.).
Willing to put in a lot of effort and time (kind of out of job at the moment due to the Coronavius crisis).
Let me know, Matan.
I lost my job due Covid-19. Looking for Full Stack Dev to partner up on new project
I have been on IH for some months now, lurking very cool stuff without contributing much to the community yet.
I am a Product Manager Consultant that lives in Milan and due to the lockdown for the Covid-19 all my projects are on hold. Looking at the positive side, I have some time to start a side project :) Specifically, I would like to build something that helps people in this time of quarantine.
I am looking for some developers that want to partner up!
Project idea: Due to the quarantine, many people spend a lot of time at home and they get bored and depressed. Social interactions are happening only online (thankfully!) and mainly with friends (through group calls and remote house parties). Italians are known to be quite sociable and like to meet/talk to people they just met. This is why I would like to build an app that allows to meet random people in the same situation, through video chat.
I know that there are plenty of similar applications out there but they are not used in Italy and specifically they are not targeting the people in the quarantine. Therefore, I want to build a specific app for this though time, to help people get over the quarantene.
I have already done some of the discovery work (feature analysis, high level mockups, …) and I am currently building a very simple browser based version of it (following tutorials and learning from online resources). I do believe it would be nice to build something together!
Please drop me a line if you are interested to partner up. I am also welcoming other project ideas related to the Covid-19 quarantine situation.
Looking for a SERIOUS developer who can join in as a co-founder.
Hello fellow Indie Hackers, I'm looking for a serious developer who might be able to join me as a co-founder. I have an idea I'm thinking about but I'm open to discussing more ideas.
A bit about me: I have 5+ years working in innovative companies, I am a UI/UX and Branding Designer, (but I also do some marketing on the side) and 10+ years in thinking outside the box as well as making people laugh (controllably) on a semi-regular basis.
Please reply to this post or send me an email: [email protected] I would love to talk with every one of you, even if we don't end up "working" together.
Thank you :)
Coming up with an idea is easier than you might think! Check out the resources below for some inspiration and top-notch guidance.
Idea testing - feedback on your project/anything similar for 15 mins of your time (over Zoom)
Would anyone be willing to help me validate an idea that helps people share their thoughts, ideas, & lessons during an experience by making it easy to visualize the journey.
I'd like to test my message with you in exchange for any similar activity. Especially with those who keep a journal about their experiences and how they grow.
If you're interested, please reply to this thread and I'll send you a scheduling link.
Thank you, Pritesh
What services do you *actually* pay for?
Ideas and side-projects are great, but not all it needs to be successful. Validating & execution is key, we got this. Yet, I think nothing would come in as handy as knowing what services (online services) people actually pay for. So was wondering, if you are happy to share which services you are actually paying for (or paid for in the past)?
For me, it's these services:
That's it - surprisingly low number in general and only one SaaS service. I guess I'm not representative though - I've got work-arounds for many things others might pay for. How does it look for you?
This is a cross post of my post on Makerlog (https://getmakerlog.com/discussions/spekulatius-what-services-you-pay-for). Just FYI.
Charge for a Slack App?
I'm curious of the possibility to charge for a slack app. Seems like a lot of slack apps are connected to a full on product. So in most cases the slack app is free but the company is paying for the main product.
In my case I'm looking at the possibilities for a slack app where it is the main application in itself. Do companies pay for these? Do you know of examples? Know of any successful business built off of only a slack app?
You need to understand the 3 reasons people buy
Warning: Long read ahead! Grab some popcorn
We treat this like it’s an easy question. How would you answer it?
People buy based on value, and pay based on how MUCH value... right?
But, if we dig deeper, this isn’t always the case.
One reason people buy is to support others that we care about. This is why building an audience is so insanely powerful. It truly is an unfair advantage, and can be the difference between mass adoption and falling flat on your face, as I’ll talk about more later.
(By the way - too many people forget this. When you’re taking advice from founders online, keep in mind if they have this unfair advantage. If they do, you need to realize that they had a very different path to success than you do, and you shouldn’t take their advice as absolute fact.)
The second reason people buy is because you make them aware that they have a problem, and that there is a solution to that problem. There’s a lot of hidden risk in building a product in this area, and it’s why a lot of products silently fail.
For one, you run the risk of building something that no one wants. If it’s such a painful problem, how in the world do they not know about it? Why haven’t they tried to solve it on their own?
Very rarely will an idea in this category have a satisfactory answer to this question. But when it does, we get to the next issue...
The second is more pernicious. If your users are stuck in their ways, they won’t be willing to pay for your product. To them, the relative increase in value isn’t worth the perceived effort and confusion in adoption.
When this is the case, it takes a massive marketing effort to get people to change. Think Apple and wireless headphones, or the iPhone itself. Both of these required massive investment in order to get people to rethink the way the lived.
The third risk - the least obvious of the bunch - is that users don’t expect to pay for this type of product. In every industry, there are the parts that we consider ‘paid’, and the parts that are considered ‘free’.
When you’re in the free side, you have to claw your way out to get a user to justify spending even a bit of money.
When you’re in the category of having a product that people aren’t aware is a problem, you need to spend a lot more time justifying your product. You need to:
A bootstrapper / Indie Hacker is going to have an incredibly challenging time succeeding in this category - that is, unless they have a large enough audience to drive adoption in that niche. Again, this is why you should be careful taking advice from people with a following if you do not.
The worst part about these risks is that they aren’t obvious. The idea might be good - an actual improvement over the current behavior that the user experiences. This is the worst of both worlds, since you’ll spend the time to build the app, and just never get the adoption you feel it deserves.
”So, how do I avoid this?”
The third and final reason people buy is because they are looking for a solution to a problem. I call this ‘pull’.
The process for selling a product that has pull is entirely different from one that doesn’t. Users search or seek word-of-mouth referrals for your product. They already know the problem is painful enough to warrant fixing it. You position towards a specific value proposition or niche in that market, making you the authority for the group that cares about that position.
Then, they buy.
Let’s take LessAnnoyingCRM as an example. As a company, LessAnnoyingCRM doesn’t have a great idea of what actions they can take to get business.
What they do know is that a large amount of their business comes through word-of-mouth and referrals. Lots, if not most, of their business looks like this:
Do you agree or disagree with the above? What thoughts do you have?
PS, I’ll be talking a lot about this on the First Time Founder podcast this week, if you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on the subject. You can find it wherever you listen to podcasts.
No matter what you're creating, it's best to start small. What's the minimum viable product (MVP) you can get out the door and start testing on real customers?
When writing too much code kills your business
!fizbuz v1 schematic
About a year ago I shipped Fizbuz v1. It was built on AWS Lambda, DynamoDB and Auth0. I had discovered a new, but really interesting, open source tool called Architect that made it really easy to spin-up AWS resources and build fast, and for a while I was really productive. And it worked well... for a bit.
After doing customer discovery and building a prototype on Rails, I had clear backend requirements:
I had never built a web application using Lambda or DynamoDB, so I was in full "learn" mode. I soaked up everything I could about how to build these kinds of applications and ended up building a ton of API and data layer tooling from scratch.
This felt very productive at the time and I was incredibly proud of how slick it was that I could define a new business object in GraphQL and that matching REST API endpoints and data layer CRUD operations would be automatically provisioned with minimal additional work.
After a furious few months of coding, I shipped v1 of Fizbuz and started onboarding users. As I came in contact with users, I started to collect more and more feedback on how to improve the product.
This is where I started noticing a slow-down in my ability to ship new features. As I would context switch from non-technical tasks (talking to customers, doing discovery, networking, etc) back to the code, I would sometimes have a hard time understanding how the code worked. Since I wasn't using third-party tools for commons tasks like client-side data fetching or API request processing or database interaction, I couldn't rely on documentation or Google to get unstuck.
The issue came into much sharper focus when I would try to onboard other developers for contract work. Since I wasn't using tooling that they were familiar with, too much time was wasted getting them up to speed on how the system worked, rather than spending time on shipping new customer-facing features.
A few days ago a user alerted me that when they were using Fizbuz, they noticed that the app seemed to be caught in an infinite loop and was making an endless series of HTTP requests to the server. This wasn't visible in the UI, which is why I hadn't noticed, so I dove into the codebase to figure out what was wrong.
It turned out that I had refactored some client-side data fetching code in order to be more compliant with React best practices around Hooks and Exhaustive Deps. I unwittingly broke perfectly good code and created an infinite loop. In this case, the requests were idempotent reads, but next time who knows? What if they had been writes?
I love making things, I think all developers do. And I'm proud of much of the code I wrote. It solved a real problem for me and did so in an elegant way. But I had to look myself in the mirror and ask myself this:
Do I really care about building tools to layer REST and GraphQL APIs on top of DynamoDB?
I decided that I care more help developers build better networks and find better opportunities, and my engineering cycles for the rest of the year will be spent on building product and features that deliver on this.
I am currently in the process of evaluating stacks that meet my original requirements and talking to developers who have experience with these stacks and are available for contract work. Right now it looks like AWS AppSync, Prisma and Hasura are strong contenders for the backend and data layer.
I'll be writing more about my journey to ship a v2 of Fizbuz, so please feel free to follow along!
If you have any suggestions on a stack I should look at, please feel free to leave a comment.
Using Google for side hustle ideas
Hey everybody I've been inactive from IH for a while but I want to share an idea I've been playing around with. Well it's actually more of a strategy and its definitely probably not new.
The idea is to take the principles of keyword research (I'll link to a good video on that at the end) to find things that either get searched a lot or that have high cost per click (or both). By doing this you get a pretty solid gage of the commercial value of an idea.
The best example I can think of is looking at keywords that contain "calculator", and examining which ones have either high search volume or high cpc. If you have one with high volume it means there is clearly demand for it. If you find that one has a high volume and high CPC. It probably means that there is not only demand for but that it could potentially be profitable since a company is willing to pay that much for a single click for the person looking for it.
Once you've done your research and have the business model fleshed out (that's profitable - you may even be able to reverse engineer one from some of the advertisers) , the next step would be to build an mvp of it and get some traffic going to it to test it. The quickest way to do that is probably through facebook or google ads. (you could do seo but if it's a competitive keyword it's going to take a looong time) to see any traffic from that. Then boom you have a validated and tested profitable side project. Or not. At the very least you have something that people are somewhat interested in!
But yeah thats the theory I'm working with. I'm using it to launch a job board soon so I'll keep yall posted on that. And I'm using Ahrefs for keyword research! (thanks @timsoulo ) But I'm curious. Has anyone tried this approach and had any results with it? Let me know what yall think.
And here's the video I promised (its from Ahrefs): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5IJ0APR0EQ&list=PLvJ_dXFSpd2u5JCtiYWfvnSvAkoPwg5VY&index=2&t=318s
I did Sales Safari to find usecases, but found competition. Don't see a way to users.
Don't want to be overly dramatic, but feeling like giving up.
So here were my core assumptions when starting Bashboard, and how Sales Safari turned them around.
Background: Bashboard is a dashboard where you can send data with POST requests from any system anywhere. It's easy (for devs), and no source is out of bounds.
All-in-one dashboards (like Cyfe) never have enough integrations to pull data from services.
Developers who use Cyfe would like a more customizeable dashboard, they're willing to write code even.
Tricky, rather false.
Possible fix: Have Zapier on the side (You get all of the normal integrations, PLUS a dev can always add extra). But then I'll just be another Dashboard..
Marketers are willing to use a dev beside them to set up a super-flexible dashboard.
Developers need a quick and easy place to send data from their own systems.
Developers don't seem to talk a lot about monitoring/dashboards actually. Marketers need funnels. Admins need monitoring of servers. Devs? What they need can be done with some simple Chart.js coding in the same app they're writing. If it doesn't take more than a day, why risk a third party service that may also take a day and can't possibly be any more flexible?
Admins need an easy to build dashboard without limits on sources (because they have many servers).
Ugh.. I was hoping to find a more specific target audience and fix my landing knowing who to target specifically. Before I thought I knew many groups who need me, now I know no groups need me. Not sure where to go from here.
It seems currently I have no direction to pivot to and I don't want to give up just yet. I have no choice, but to target vague, launch on HN/PH and then cry since that is the final confirmation this service is not needed.. 😪
How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
As someone who's recently launched a product into a market with competition, I've been thinking a lot about how I differentiate my fledgling SaaS from the established competitors. I wrote my thoughts on the topic here.
Launching into a crowded market without differentiation is a losing game. As a founder you need to have a clear idea of how you're different from your competitors and understand why potential customers will choose you over a more mature, feature-rich, better-known product from your competitor.
So I'm curious: If you're a founder who's launched into competition, how have you differentiated yourself from your competition?
Just because you've created something doesn't mean people know about it. It's time to get the word out, build an audience, and grow your customer base.
Live Stream with Amy Hoy on Surviving a Recession
Lessons From Hitting The Front Page Of HN Twice In A Week
Thought it might be interesting to share what I've learned from getting to the front page of Hacker News for those of y'all that're trying to incorporate HN in their marketing strategy.
To put this in perspective. I run Youngling & Feynman, we help companies grow for free in exchange for an ex-post fee. I study what makes companies great and write essays about that. Some of those I've posted on HN.
In no particular order:
### 1. Create something outstanding.
It's fine if it's divisive. It's going to be pretty hard to hit the front page and not get at least some hate but a subset of people need to love it. I try to avoid the phrase 'add value' because it's so overused that it has come to mean the opposite but, you really do want to try and create something of extraordinary quality.
Now you're not the judge of that. The audience is. However, you can control the effort you put in. So in general, if you're proud, you've probably given it your best shot. If you just whipped something together, the probability of success is low.
I dropped my copy background because I read how HN is full of scientists and engineers and the more matter-of-fact your copy is, the better.
This is both false and true.
It's false in the sense that technical people are still people. They share all the same heuristics and it's absolutely possible for a GREAT post to fail because of a shit title. (This is essentially what a key part of marketing entails, how do I increase the value by fucking with the perception while leaving the product alone. E.g. Wine out of a box v. that same wine out of a beautiful and heavy glass bottle.)
Good titles aren't clickbaity but they DO need to spark some interest. My advice here is to just post multiple variations and spend a lot of time on HN. Eventually, you'll develop a feeling of how to communicate. (Which is not as informally as I'm doing right now.)
E.g. My essay The Art Of Business took off (in part) because I titled it 'Why is business so difficult and unpredictable?'
Questions are hard to ignore. I'm not sure it would've gone anywhere had I followed the advice of giving it a more to the point title: 'Business can't be formulaic because they collapse into a Nash equilibrium.'
That being said. The content should probably lean slightly towards academics. That's just an artifact of the crowd. 
Steve Blank once said something along the lines of 'don't use your users to serve your business model, use your business model to serve your users.'
This is essentially a marketing insight and it's true on HN as well. If you view HN as a means to an end, you've already lost.
You should go into it (and all your marketing for that matter) from a position of generosity. How can you give instead of take? Then you measure the degree to which you're succeeding by your revenue. Goodhart's Law really is something you need to be mindful of.
HN allows you to post multiple times provided your posts didn't get comments. I don't think many people use that opportunity. As any marketer worth her salt will tell you, marketing is not math, it's comedy. You have a gut feel and then you test it against reality. So do the best you can and see what happens. Nothing? Iterate and try again.
Finally, I really want to stress both point 1 and 2 again. You should really try your hardest to make something that's incredible. (Excluding something like MVP's where the goal is to mainly test your demand hypothesis). 
Content you're proud of, coupled with a good title has a fairly decent shot at getting a few upvotes. Get around 10ish and you're likely to hit the front page and that's when you'll go from a couple hundred to thousands of visitors.
Also, don't do things like asking for upvotes. I saw people that got in trouble by doing that. HN's software catches it but even if it didn't, it's already a sign that you're not in the right mindset (what's in it for them v. how can I use them to reach my own goals.)
 An essay that hit the front page today got flagged, and I think it's in part due to the new copy of my pop-up, which is very copywriter style. It's also possible it's due to the topic Covid-19 which I covered in that essay.
 This is in the context of HN being a part of your marketing strategy.
Craft an awesome tweet and I'll tweet it out via the @indiehackers account
In an attempt to support indie hackers whilst having a bit of fun I'd love to put out some tweets written by you.
Anything goes - craft something about you, your product, something you've written, an image, a video, something useful or any other idea you may have!
I'm not sure what kind of contributions I'll get, but I hope to choose at least 10 tweets from the list to share over the coming week.
👇 Participate below. 👇
Don't optimize your landing page with A/B testing
Hey all, I have launched a few weeks ago GrowthClub - a peer to peer coaching platform for founders. We have been actively iterating the landing page a few times, trying to communicate the message perfectly & get the perfect conversation rate.
Usually, we would iterate the landing page using qualitative feedback and our gut feeling. But I know how easy it is to get BSed with these methods. I heard about A/B testing and it caught my eye right away. Basically, you simultaneously run A & B versions of you website (e.g with Google Optimize) and see which one performs better. Isn't it great when you are sure your new title idea is correct because the data shows you?
However, I have not taken into account statistical significance. What it means is that unless you need quite a large amount of traffic there is no certainty that the conversation rate was improved just because of chance. Think of flipping coin and getting the same side 3 times in a row.
GrowthClub is a peer to peer coaching platform, it is a relatively new concept, and many are confused about how it would work. We wanted to show it before they signed up. The A/B test I ran on GoogleOptimize was designed to test our 'examples' idea - basically, we would show on our website real people with real goals in their soft-skills they seek to improve (our platform focuses on soft-skills) as well as where do they have expertise. Version A is located at /home and B is at /home2. Google Optimize would redirect 50%/50% traffic to these versions.
Now it is been 3 weeks after the A/B test was launched: !Imgur
The probability of the new version to be best is only 75% which is pretty low. Typically in an A/B test, you want 95% or 99% confidence. Overall it seems it is a waste of time for early stages of a startup, like ours.
Thanks to the advice from folks from Startup School and YC's lecture on conversion rates I am now focusing more on getting more traffic to the landing page. We do iterate the landing page, but more to adjust product positioning. E.g. recently we started to put way more accent on coaching & methodology to differentiate from networking platforms.
Being an indie hacker is a lot more fun when you're talking to others. Get support and feedback from your peers by sharing your journey in public.
Crossed 100 paying customers!
It's not even one month after launching Mailbrew, and we've crossed the 100 paying subscribers mark ($900 MRR).
The split is almost exactly 50/50 yearly and monthly licenses. We're showing yearly billing by default in our upgrade page, so users see $8/m computer pricing by default.
We also think the no-credit-card trial of 21 days is working nicely, and we might experiment with 30 days soon.
Shoot some questions if you want to know anything!
Helped a founder almost double his revenue
I started Zero to Marketing with the goal to help my email subscribers grow their online businesses.
But this month something unexpected happened: the founder of Nooks, one of the websites I reviewed, decided to actually go ahead and implement my suggestions (without telling me).
A few weeks later I woke up to this email:
“Hey Andrea, wanted to reach out since we last spoke. Based off of your your very generous audit of the site I’ve made many changes.
Overall, sales have been improving - hit 1k in total sales yesterday (after about 6 weeks in business, with $300 in the last week) and things are growing.
Expected to break last month revenue in about a week. Best of all? Ad spend is much lower than it was before. AOV and LTV are both up as well.
Now who knows wether the increase was 100% due to your advice, but I can wholeheartedly say that your advice is definitely a major part in it. Thank you for taking the time to look at the site!”
Needless to say, this put a big smile on my face 😁
I don’t have imposter syndrome, but marketing isn’t an exact science. When I write the “How I’d grow it” case studies, I can’t be 100% sure they’ll work.
So, seeing the kind of impact they’ve had on someone else’s life gave me exactly the motivation I needed to keep pushing in these complicated days.
We're hibernating to survive
The last two weeks has seen our business disappear.
We operate in the travel and hospitality sector. Our website traffic is down by 70% and NEW subscriber revenue has gone to zero. Our revenue is vastly reduced. We're still managing to hold onto some renewal revenue.
The travel/hospitality sector is one of the worst hit sectors due to the current coronavirus pandemic. Our official message to all our members is NOT to travel but to practice cocooning - staying in your home.
We're not closing down, we're going into hibernation mode. Hibernation mode involves cutting all non essential expenditure and reducing overheads to the absolute minimum. We have some funds in the bank and we're hoping that these funds will see us through this crisis.
We're continuing to do the basics to keep things ticking over and hopefully to be in a better position when this pandemic ends.
We'll continue to:
4th Cohort, Weekly Workshops, Platform Upgrades!!
Only a little rest for the weary...
That's all friends.