Week 1 of 52 to Indie Hacking





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Week 1 of 52 to Indie Hacking
By Jim Zarkadas • Issue #1 • View online

The dream
It’s June already and the sun is out. Roses have surrounded the entrance of my house bringing colour and beauty in my every day life. One month ago I moved to a new house. It’s a house I’ve been dreaming of for many years now. It’s minimal, cozy, full of wood, with a small music studio, in a neighbourhood surrounded by trees and a beautiful park. It’s a house that reflects my inner self and facilitates creativity instead of toxic habits. Many times I find myself not realising that many dreams I had in the past are my current reality. I have achieved them, and for some reason I tend to look into the future and find something to worry about instead of focusing on the moment. I know I am not alone in this. It takes courage and discipline to focus on who we are now and what we’ve already achieved. And feel happy about it.
This time I am going to be different. I will become more grateful and find the balance between being here now, and dreaming a better future. I’ll try to develop a lifestyle that protects my happiness, pushes me to live at the moment and allows me to chase my dreams. I will build a business that fosters happiness and calmness.
I quit my job
I am siting at my new home office. Sun is getting in from the roof. Whenever I look upwards I see the sky. Sometimes blue, sometimes cloudy. The sky feels like a reflection of life. Sometimes it’s dark and sometimes bright. It’s this contrast that makes us appreciate its bright version. My emotions are mixed, I am still on the phase of realising that I actually took the leap and decided to quit my job. I feel excited but in the same time stressed. I am jumping out of my comfort zone, but this time with no clear plan. Only with a goal. A goal to build a business that will foster a creative and balanced lifestyle. Sometimes having a solid plan in life doesn’t help. It makes me too focused when I need to stay flexible and explore new paths. All I need at this point is trust to myself, a safe environment to experiment, and focus on my passion.
Searching for ideas
The first task in my list is to find out what should be my first priority. Without putting much thought into it, I start searching product ideas. “Once the idea is clear I can already start building it”, I am thinking. It feels too rushed. It hasn’t been not even a week since I quit and I am rushing to start a new job already. This time it’s my own company but still it’s the same pattern. Something doesn’t feel right. Work, stay busy and make money as fast as you can. Even though it doesn’t feel right deep inside me, I keep looking into ideas. I am stressed to think about anything else.
All of my ideas are related to tech startups. This is the industry I have been working on for the last 7 years. “I can build tools to make products more human-centred. I can help the industry level-up the design standards by providing tools that facilitate that”. Even though the ideas feel like worth exploring something is bothering me. I feel I am repeating myself. I have one of the most beautiful opportunities in my life, to be 100% free for one year, and I will just repeat what I used to do for the last 7 years? I take some notes and keep thinking. “What should I build?”.
At some point I realize that it’s impossible to come up with something new if I just keep trying the same way over and over again. Einstein once said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. So I decide to do something different. I close my Mac, get out of my office and start doing things that make me happy. The things that I like investing my money into. In the end why do I make money in this life? To do things I love, and have a safe future. I grab my backpack, and go to stay for some days to a friend of mine in Amsterdam. The following days will be full of fun. It’s Friday, and I can feel the summer spirit outside. Parks are full of people, walking around and smiling.
We go skating at the park, listen to music and chill there. The day after, we will go surfing at The Hague. Music, surf and skate are my main passion. When I practice them it’s like my brain is turned off; no thoughts, just feelings.
Surfing culture, like skateboarding, are very unique. Both teach me the value of cooperation and respect for others. The beauty of cheering each other on, and the importance of persistence after failure. The importance of trying something again and again until I succeed. They make me feel stronger, and always remind me that life is and should stay simple, fun and creative.
It’s been many years now that I dream about having surf as a regular activity of my weekly routine. This week I decided to take the courage and go for it. Turns out to be awesome. Once our surf session is over, we pack our stuff and start driving back home. The sun is still there. I am feeling exhausted and happy in the same time. While I am driving back home, thoughts start getting into my head again. “What should I build?”, I ask myself. “What I am good at and do for 7 years now is building digital products. What I really love is music, surfing, skateboarding and well-being in general. So what if I focus on these, and find ways to produce value for their communities?”
This changed totally the way I think. Now instead of creating products that can make money, I will start thinking of ways to solve problems for communities that I personally love and am part of.
The Facebook post
Since I figured out which communities I would like to serve, I start wondering how to approach them. Facebook comes to my mind. Even if I personally don’t like Facebook, there is something in it that I find pretty useful. The Facebook Groups. Groups are nice because you can find people with common interests and values and interact with them under a specific context. So I search for surfing groups in The Netherlands and I find one called “Surf Scheveningen”. I apply to join them right away with the hope that I will get approved.
Some hours later I receive a notification that my request is approved. I smile and start thinking how to interact with them. “Building a product is about creating value for someone. Maybe I should ask them for surf-related problems they have and see what happens.”.
To be honest I am afraid to post anything in the group. “What if they think it’s spam? What if nobody replies and I will look like stupid?” But then I say to myself, “It’s just a post what can go wrong? I am afraid cause I am getting myself exposed and feel uncomfortable. It’s just a matter of practice. Like this email. The more I do it the easier it will get.”
So I write and post the following.
A few hours later people start reacting. I receive 8 ideas in total! That’s it. I overcame my fear and won. I close my screen and get some time off to celebrate and appreciate my success.
Network over product
Photo by Parker Gibbons on Unsplash
Photo by Parker Gibbons on Unsplash
Next day I wake up more confident. I don’t focus on the ideas the surf community wrote but take another step and send a DM to a pro dutch surfer to discuss my initiative. He replies back, enthusiastic and we schedule a call for the end of the week. Motivation kicks in as I feel the progress.
Having read all the ideas I am wondering if I should start experimenting already with them. If yes how should I do it? Should I make these apps for free or should they be paid? I remind myself that one of my main goals for the next 12 months is to grow my network. Products and ideas come and go. But the network stays there. This is a lesson that life taught me the last 5 years. A mature network is not a group of potential customers or a number of followers. It’s a group of people that you admire, help each other and bring more ideas and perspectives. Giving something away for free is one of the most basic rules of building a network. Sharing your learnings, your knowledge or your skills will pay off on their own way.
I decide to to pick an idea that is easy to build and give it away for free. The idea that makes most sense is the one of the eye-ball reports. I put it on the side and add a reminder to start working on it in the following weeks. This idea feels like an easy one to develop and can bring a lot of value to the community. If you are not familiar with the terminology, “Eye ball reports” are reports from people who are at the beach and describe the weather conditions they see at that moment. One of the most common struggles in surfing is that people don’t know the exact conditions at the beach unless if they know someone who is there.
Some hours later I see a tweet from Jelle Prins. He is a talented dutch designer working with Jasper Hauser on a proposal for a contact tracing app to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in the Netherlands. Both of them are designers I admire a lot. He announced that the v1 of the app is ready for feedback and contributions. So I take the opportunity and reply to his tweet to see how I can get involved. Meeting new people I admire and getting involved in such a great project that will help the whole country is a no-brainer for me at this moment. Jelle replies back a few hours later and gives me access to the design files. Next week I will take a detailed look and see how I can contribute. “Well played” I whisper. Sometimes all I need is to just ask. The day is over.
A few days later it’s time to call with Pepijn, the pro surfer that I messaged on Facebook. We start by discussing about his ideas around creating educational content for surfers. I give him some advice on how he can develop the tool that he has in mind, in a smart way without risking too much. I am not looking to land any project to work on. I just focus on how I can help him move forward and together evolve the surf community. It feels nice to give help without expecting anything. It makes me feel a better person and reminds me the beauty of putting my ego aside. I should do this more often.
What should I do next?
It’s Friday 1PM and the week is almost over. Today I am planning to go surfing with some people from the Facebook group I joined. I look back to the last week and see some pretty good progress. For some reason I feel stressed. I feel I can’t really enjoy what I achieved and worry about kickstarting all these ideas that I wrote the last days. I feel that I need to move faster.
I stop for a moment and ask myself. “What’s the point of doing it faster if you can’t enjoy it?”. It’s so liberating when I pause and observe myself. I read somewhere that one of the less loved relationships are the ones with ourselves. And that’s true. In the past I used to try to keep myself busy all the time. To build things, and to evolve. My goal now is to bring more happiness, calmness and creativity into my life. And success. But success is not the first priority.
I jump into the train to The Hague. I sit down and look outside the window thinking that in 3 days I will send my first email. A few hours later I wear my wetsuit and get lost into the sea with my board. It’s time to turn my brain off; no thoughts, just feelings.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Jim Zarkadas

On the 1st of June 2020, I quit my job and started pursuing a career as a digital solo entrepreneur (aka indie-hacker).

For the next 12 months , every week I'll be sharing all of my learnings as well as the behind the scenes of coming up with an idea and making it happen. I've no clue what kind of products I am going to build, and figuring this out is also part of my journey.

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