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Looking back at 2018 and going forward in 2019

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January is usually that time of the year where makers look back on how the last year has been for them, and the next year’s resolutions. We launched a survey to explore what 2018 meant to indie makers, and what their 2019 goals are.

18 indie makers from everywhere around the world, including myself, participated. Most participants are young, under 30 years old. And one thing is certain: if there is a clear illustration that age does not indicate skill, ambition or even success, it is in indie-making. But, as you will discover below, the path to shipping products is never straightforward, with unexpected challenges and triumphs along the way.

How indie makers kept on hustling despite the odds in 2018

2018 was a pivotal year for many indie makers. It was also a starting year for many, who found out about the maker movement, and got immediately started into making.

“I was introduced to the Product Hunt and Maker scene by KP (thisiskp_). Learned a lot and in the past talked about ideas and did customer discovery, etc. But now I am ready to actually ship products.” – Whit Anderson, maker of SmartMate.

“2018 was a pivotal year. It was when I discovered the indie startups movement, which is focusing on sustainability rather than growth. I feel like I finally found my tribe.” – Anne-Laure Le Cunff, founder of Ness Labs.

There is a healthy mixture of community support and competition in the indie-making community, which incentivise indie makers to learn how to make products at record time and to ship them as soon as possible. Indie makers are a dedicated bunch, after all.

Dominic Monn, a 21 year-old Machine Learning Engineer, recounts:

“At the end of 2017 I was working on a MVP for MentorCruise during evening commutes and weekends. In March 2018 I launched MentorCruise, in May 2018 I launched RemoteML. […] I launched from 0 to 100, growing MentorCruise to profitability and over 1,500 registered users!”

It is important to note that indie makers aren’t just indie makers. Most participants in the survey were either students or professionals, who are currently unable to live off their side projects. Indie-making, understandably, is not without its challenges.

Like any passion, people pursue side projects because it is fulfilling. But in this pursuit, choices need to be made. Some makers had to sacrifice a lot in order to pursue their side projects.

“2018 unfortunately went terribly for me. We pivoted three times, and I ended up interrupting my college studies to make time for making. In the spirit of shipping I’ve made and broke several friendships and I definitely regret sacrificing my personal life for economic success.” – Priansh Shah, co-founder of Aiko AI.

The path to creating products is also never straightforward, either. Take this 15 year-old maker from Australia, for example:

“I set my primary goal for 2018 to be to build and launch a proper product. When I hadn’t started by March, I thought there was not enough time left! Little did I know that I’d build a product in just a few months, launch it, get Monthly Recurring Revenue, end up #1 Product of the day on Product Hunt, build two other products as well, win $1000 after livestreaming myself creating a product in 24 hours, end up with 3x #1 Products of the day on Product Hunt, get nominated for 3 Golden Kitty awards including Maker Of The Year, and actually win a Golden Kitty!” – Ethan, maker of KanbanMail.

Ethan absolutely exceeded his own expectations by launching so many products in the latter half of 2018, winning awards, and created a new precedent of what can be done under 1 year.

Other indiemakers have achieved goals in other aspects of their lives.

“[2018 was] Amazing! Productive and fulfilling. Started my first startup, built 9 products, graduated from college, built a second solo business, met lots of new people, lots of traveling. […] But it’s not easy every day: co-founder breakup, 7 “failed” products, relocated to South-East Asia.” – Basile Samel, maker of 200 Words a Day.

2019 in 3 words: ship, monetize, grow

“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.” — James Cameron.

Undoubtedly, in 2019, there will be new indie makers who will discover the community and ship products, in the same way that 2018 for some marked the start of their indie-making pursuits.

Many participants have included the following as part of their 2019 goals:

  1. To ship and launch more products,
  2. To create marketing and revenue models for their products,
  3. And to grow in all their pursuits, from indie-making and machine learning to self-care.

These goals will undoubtedly permeate every aspect of their lives. For example, while Basile Samel wants to achieve “ramen profitability” by January 2020, he has many other personal growth goals, such as working remotely from a Buddhist monastery for a month, travel more to meet like-minded people, and do a bike tour. And he’s not the only to think both about personal and professional aspects of their 2019 goals.

“Write more blog posts, adopt a healthier lifestyle and travel to at least 2 countries. In indie-making: Ship 3 more projects, build a bigger community, ship 3 maker articles on Maker Mag, write an e-book.” – KP, maker of Do Things That Don’t Scale.

But revenue will stay a central theme this year. “2019 goal is probably focusing on revenue generating products and activities since I did a lot for free in the past” says Graeme Fulton, maker of “Keep trying to create a sustainable income outside of a job” is a main goal for Colin, founder of No Code Zone.

Indie-making is mostly a solo venture for a lot of people. Some would even argue that indie-making by definition needs to be a solo venture.  Every successful indie maker needs to be a jack-of-all-trades, with functioning skills in product development, design, revenue growth, marketing and outreach. As such, many makers want to acquire new skills and get out of their comfort zone.

“I want to continue doing what I’ve been doing last year which is to solve problems with tech solutions AND additionally, pursue indie game development this year. Game industry has a huge untapped potential still.” – Dinuka, founder of Maker’s Kitchen.

“Here’s my list for making goals: make $1000 on the internet, actually learn design and marketing, publish an article every week, reach ProductHunt #1, get to 5000 Twitter followers, go to LaraconEU, speak at a meetup, launch 12 products.” – Miguel Piedrafita, founder of Maker Army.

Health matters

Of course, last but not the least, a lot of indie makers are realizing the importance of their mental and physical health in order to optimally work on their side projects. A culture of overwork is not only unhealthy, but unproductive and toxic. It demands a lot of unnecessary compromises from people in their personal and professional lives.

“In terms of personal life, I want to take better care of my physical health, and to keep on taking care of my mental health, which in my case means better managing my stress, sleeping more, and drinking less.” – Anne-Laure Le Cunff, founder of Ness Labs.

“To rebalance my personal life and making, and continue my college education.” Priansh Shah, co-founder of Aiko AI.

See the raw data here.

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