Indie makers are a diverse bunch. This umbrella name is used by solo entrepreneurs, bootstrappers, full-time employees with a couple of side projects, students running an indie startup or an online store, and more. But how do they actually make money? How many of them can actually live off the revenue their products are generating?
We asked these difficult questions and 93 makers replied to our survey, and lots of them are wearing several hats. In the chart below, “other” includes a mix of people who responded with having only a full-time job, or having a more complex combination of occupations that would have made the pie harder to read. You can see the detailed data here, as well as any simplification we made for the sake of readability.
But not all these occupations are making them enough money to pay the bills. In order to sustain their lifestyle and keep on shipping products, many indie makers have looked for supplementary sources of income.
“I work with two friends to have a bootstrapped startup that generates new sales off subscriptions. I work full-time at an agency. I also freelance for startups to set strategy on marketing. I also make some money off blogging thanks to amazon affiliate” explains Leon Hitchens.
And almost 50% of indie makers do need these supplementary sources of income to be able to pay the bills. The reason why? Because they are currently not making any money with their products.
We asked indie makers to share their biggest challenges when it comes to making money. Marketing was mentioned several times, some makers saying that they “Don’t have enough time to consistently promote [their] service” or that it is hard “building up an audience” and “acquiring customers.”
Another one is simply monetisation. “I have been attempting to solve problems that I don’t know how to monetise yet” says one maker. The main challenge is to “build something people are willing to pay for” or “getting a consistent stream of paying customers” added others.
“If you don’t have income from indie products, keep a job too” advised Graeme Fulton, the founder of Prototypr. “When the product makes money, then go full time on it.”
“A day job isn’t as evil as others make it out to be. It helps pay the bills and sometimes I am more involved with my job than my side projects because of genuine interest/passion in what I do. It also serves as a plan B because I’m fully aware that it may take 10 years, 20 years, or longer until I can safely work full time on my side projects.” – Sunny Singh, Web Developer.
Another maker agrees: “I think more people should actually consider work in PT or FT jobs while building indie startups. I think the lack of intense pressure (since you have alternative sources of income) means that you can make clearer decisions and focus on building more sustainable businesses or ditch your projects if they’re not the right ones.”
Thanks everyone for filling the survey and sharing your honest opinion. To more money from indie making!