When I started working on my own side projects a little more seriously, I was obsessed with maker communities, such as Indie Hackers. But over time, it came apparent that everyone new to the maker community had the same issues, and questions repeated itself.
So after more than a year of working on multiple side projects and having a couple of bigger launches, I decided to go back and see what people were wondering about the most, and I asked the community to give advice to their younger, more unexperienced selves as well. This article serves as a small guide to new makers.
What gives you happiness?
In the age-old questions of makers vs. small business owners vs. indie hackers, what is your goal? You’re going to have a good time if your goal is to just create a bunch of cool apps, hopefully get some attention and move on – but it might not fuel your passion long term.
It gets a little harder if you want people to actually continue to use your product. You should come up with a marketing plan and your product needs to be good enough, so that people use it.
It gets even harder if you want to make money from this – and hopefully build a sustainable business. The next step is to make a product so good, that people will pay money for it (or you find another way to monetization). You need a business plan. This sounds scary, but is really just a plan in your head on how to make money from this.
For the simplicity’s sake, we’re not going to talk about the first case. Really, if you have an idea and don’t expect anything from it, just build it and have some fun.
If you’re looking to build something sustainable, an idea might not be enough. You need to solve a problem, ideally one of your own. A good way to do so is to live life a little more consciously. If you stumble upon a problem or inconvenience, write it down. Soon enough, you’ll find a pattern.
Product Hunt is not a marketing plan
For independent makers, Product Hunt is a popularity contest. If you’re new to the maker scene, you’re not involved in a lot of communities and you don’t have an audience behind your back, doing well on Product Hunt is incredibly hard.
The more surprising it is that a lot of new makers are seeing Product Hunt as their only shot at success. If your launch doesn’t go well, might as well let the project die.
But that’s not how it works. If you are starting a new project, expect it to get 1 upvote on Product Hunt, no listing on BetaList, no attention on Indie Hackers. What are you going to do?
Just as important as finding a problem and solving it well is a way to show your solution to these people. This involves a marketing plan, which might consist of content marketing, SEO, community marketing, direct sales and others.
Getting the first customer is always the hardest. From there, you need to build your perfect target audience – often very different from what you thought – and market to those.
Just launch already
I know, this all sounds very hard and tiring. But whatever you do, just launch already.
Even with only a vague idea of what the problem is and not a clear path to market, the most important thing is to launch!
Too many people get hung up on looking for a name, a domain, a logo and a landing page copy so long, they forget the most important part: The launch.
The truth is, your logo, name and domain don’t matter at all. You can launch a product called CryptoProfitBot and turn it into a million dollar company – or you can spend a month on coming up with a name and never make a single cent. You can iterate on your copy and design elements after launch and people will understand that your MVP will be a rough draft.
Once you have a MVP up and running, just put it out to the world and market it.
Now the real work begins
You had an idea, you built the thing and you launched it. That’s great, and puts you in front of many other makers who haven’t launched anything, ever.
But if you thought that the ride is over now and you can work on your next idea, you are mistaken. After launch, you need to iterate on all parts of your product, let it mature and market it. There’s usually a loop to product development:
- You get new customers
- They have different requirements
- You find out how to solve it with your product
- You can market to new customers now
- Repeat 1.
Additionally, you are meant to do customer support, create content, market your product, fix bugs, get publicity… It’s a lot of work! But now that you have these tips in your pocket, I hope that you can go ahead and successfully launch your first product.