In my previous blog post, I shared some insights into my indie hacking journey over the past 12 months, discussing the various experiences and lessons I've learned along the way. In this blog post, I'll share some lessons I learned after one year of indie hacking. We'll dive a little bit into the business side of things, discussing the lessons I've learned and the challenges I've faced. I hope that my experiences will help fellow indie hackers and offer some insights into your own personal journey. Let's get started!
Disclaimer: This article is solely based on my personal experience and does not provide any financial, legal, or entrepreneurial advice. The results and outcomes of other individuals who undertake similar endeavors may differ significantly.
Embrace the power of thinking small, and aim to create a portfolio of smaller applications solving a specific problem. Resist the urge to dive into a colossal SaaS endeavor, and don't let yourself be scared by the success of fellow creators. Remember that most of them have likely hustled for years to get to where they are now.
Over the past couple of years, I've accumulated a big collection of app and SaaS concepts and ideas. However, 90% of these ideas are simply too ambitious for me to tackle on my own as an indie developer. So, I've learned to set them aside and concentrate on the more manageable, smaller-scale projects instead.
As a solo developer, it's crucial to accept that building the next Facebook or Google is beyond your reach. Bear in mind that as a solo developer, you're juggling multiple roles. You're responsible for marketing, planning, design, social media, and so much more - all on your own. It's super easy to overestimate what you can accomplish in a single week, as your time isn't only dedicated to developing new features. Remember to set realistic expectations and take your time.
Include Monetization Right From The Start
If you want to make some money with your app or service, it's a good idea to create a simple Pro plan for your app's first version. This way, you can start earning a little cash and set the stage for growing your business. Nothing beats having paying users validate your app or idea. So, it's important to include a way to make money from the start. This way, users can show you that they find your product valuable, and you'll have a better chance of making a profit in the long run.
Hopes And Expectations
If your main goal is to make a lot of revenue and get thousands of downloads, you need to be careful. It's helpful to manage your expectations, so you won't feel let down if your app doesn't get many downloads or if no one signs up for your Pro plan. Keeping a realistic outlook can help you stay motivated and focused on your goals.
With my first app (Liftbear) I've experienced some tough stretches, lasting several weeks, when I didn't get a single sale or download. Those periods took a toll on my mental state, and I had to dig deep to find the motivation to keep working and enhancing my product. It's really important to not give up at this stage and keep trying new things.
Launch With A Bang
This advice is quite beneficial, especially when you're planning to launch on the App Store: When you release the first version of your app on the App Store, it gets a visibility and ranking boost. This is the perfect opportunity to increase its exposure even more by spreading the word to as many people as possible and requesting reviews. Try to use this momentum to make your app stand out!
For my first app, I completely overlooked this crucial period because I wanted to test the in-app purchases myself once the app was live on the App Store. I thought, "I'd better make sure everything works before people start using it." In retrospect, I see the importance of using that initial momentum. With my second app, HabitKit, I promoted the launch right away on Twitter and I instantly generated a lot of downloads, reviews and revenue.
Ask For Reviews
This is another significant factor when launching an app on the App Store or Google Play. Positive and recent reviews can greatly enhance your visibility, and ranking high for relevant keywords can attract a large number of users to your app. Don't underestimate the impact of good reviews on keyword ranking on your app's success.
A strategy that worked wonders for me was simply asking people who reached out via DM or email to leave a review. Many people want to support you but aren't sure how, and leaving a review or rating on the App Store is an easy way for them to do so. Don't be shy about asking for help! More often than not, your supporters will be happy to assist!
In terms of marketing, I quickly realized the importance of committing to strategies I could maintain over an extended period. Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires ongoing effort to plan content and engage with the community. So, focus on sustainable tactics that you can consistently execute for the long haul.
For instance, with my Liftbear Instagram channel, I only managed to keep it up for a few weeks and made just a handful of posts. I found it super challenging to come up with ideas for posts, and it honestly wasn't enjoyable for me. That experience taught me the value of finding marketing methods that align with my interests and strengths.
On the other hand, Twitter turned out to be a whole different experience. It was fun, and engaging, and didn't feel like work at all. I got to know many amazing people and received valuable user feedback, and it felt like building a genuine personal connection with my users. This showed me the power of choosing the right platform that resonates with my preferences and style.
Looking back, sharing my journey on Twitter has turned out to be the most significant thing I've done in the past year. It has made a lasting impact on both my personal growth and the success of my projects.
As I mentioned earlier, using Twitter to share my insights, victories, and setbacks has been an invaluable asset in building my apps. I've gained a substantial number of followers, generated significant exposure, and met some fantastic people there. Embracing social media in this way has truly enriched my indie hacking journey.
Sharing my goals and plans on Twitter also played a significant role in boosting my motivation and holding me accountable throughout the past 12 months. Being open about my intentions created a sense of commitment that encouraged me to stay on track and persevere when things weren't looking that great.
Here's a piece of advice I'd like to share: Use your real name and an actual photo of yourself as your profile image. This simple step can make you appear more relatable, allowing others to connect with you on a personal level and foster genuine relationships. Nobody really likes to communicate with an AI-generated avatar.
Another piece of advice I've learned throughout my journey is to avoid constantly selling on Twitter. Share your journey, progress, wins, and losses, but refrain from posting promotional content for your products every day. It's better to save the more obvious marketing for big releases, ensuring that your content feels genuine and engaging rather than overly promotional.
If you're looking for a great tool to enhance your Twitter experience, I can highly recommend BlackMagic. It gives you some great statistics and helps you engage with your most important followers.
Mistakes Aren't Really A Big Deal
When it comes to smaller issues and bugs, unless they involve losing user data or cause the app to crash, they typically aren't a huge deal. Most users probably won't bother to inform you about these minor problems; they'll simply live with them. It's crucial to focus on the more significant issues that can directly impact user experience.
So, it's important not to get carried away with extensive testing every time you release a new version to the public. Instead, strike a reasonable balance between testing and maintaining a steady development pace, focusing on addressing the most critical issues.
What has helped me a lot is building apps that I use myself. By incorporating them into my daily routine, I can naturally test the product and get a genuine feel for its functionality, usability, and any potential issues that need to be addressed.
Pricing Your App
Many people are growing tired of subscriptions. My first app solely offered monthly and annual subscriptions. However, with my second app, I introduced a one-time purchase option for a lifetime version, which my users appreciated. This option has become my primary revenue source, demonstrating the importance of being responsive to customers' preferences and offering a variety of payment options.
I haven't experimented with pricing or increased my rates, despite suggestions from other indie hackers and even some users. In my opinion, the majority of my users seem quite happy with the current pricing, and I believe it's an appropriate value for my small apps. So, why change it? My perspective may evolve, but for now, I'm satisfied with where I stand and prefer to concentrate on other aspects of my business.
Make sure to launch early on Product Hunt. If you've had some social media posts go "viral" and your app is already live, don't hesitate to ride that wave and amplify your reach even further with a well-timed Product Hunt launch. It's a great way to capitalize on the existing momentum and gain additional exposure for your app.
I delayed HabitKit's Product Hunt launch far too long, and I regret waiting three months after its actual release on the App Store. In hindsight, I recognize the value of capitalizing on initial momentum and seizing opportunities like Product Hunt to maximize exposure right from the start.
Black Friday presents a fantastic opportunity to promote your app by offering discounts. Many people experienced significant revenue boosts and increased exposure during Black Friday 2022, as I observed through numerous indie hackers on Twitter. It's disappointing that I missed out on this opportunity, but I'm eager to participate and make the most of it this year.
Thank you for reading this blog post and please keep in mind that these are only my thoughts and opinions, no hard facts! I hope you found something valuable and helpful within its content.
Did you find this article valuable?
Support Sebastian Röhl by becoming a sponsor. Any amount is appreciated!