Week 3 of 52 to Indie Hacking

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Week 3 of 52 to Indie Hacking
By Jim Zarkadas • Issue #3 • View online
In case you missed it here is what happened on my previous weeks.

My first project
The previous week I promised to myself that I will kickstart my first project for the surfing community. I feel I am always late. I am also afraid to fail. I struggle to be patient, and accept that entrepreneurship takes a lot of time and a lot of tries. I know my challenge for these 12 months is to fully adopt the mindset of experimentation, and constant failing learning by bringing new ideas into life. I know the theory but I am not used to it yet. I know deep inside me that once I overcome this barrier a new world will open for me. Once trying new ideas will become a habit, failure won’t be a thing anymore. I will either succeed or learn. I won’t feel I am failing on anything.
On Monday I spent some time looking into the comments of the Facebook post I did in the previous weeks. Many cool ideas were posted by surfers and could potentially evolve into a product. My goal was to find the best idea to start with. It should be an idea that is easy to design, easy to develop and focused on solving only one problem. I try to be honest with myself. I am new to Indie-hacking, and I need to keep the complexity low.
The idea that stood out was the “eyeball reports”. “Surfers will be able to create super simple and quick reports when they are at the surf spot. This way other surfers will know if the weather condition is good enough for them to travel there.”.
My pessimist self kicked in. “What If I lose my time? What if I build it and nobody uses it in the end?”. My optimist self replied ”My primary goal for now is not to make money but to experiment and learn. In the end if I don’t build it I will never know how many people could use it. I need to start from somewhere do one step at a time.”
Will anybody care?
My plan for the next day was to kickstart the design phase of the idea. I felt uncomfortable. Even if I have designed dozens of apps and websites the last few years, this time it feels different.
I opened my iPad and started sketching around, in order to understand how the app could look like. A few minutes later I realised that I skipped the most important step in product design. The step of the “problem definition and validation”. The goal of a product is to get a job done for its audience. People use products to solve problems they struggle with.
I took a step back and wrote down the problem I was going to solve with this app.
“When somebody wants to go surfing in Netherlands, they need to check if the sea condition is the right one for them, so that they won’t waste time and money travelling to the surf spot. At this moment webcams are the only way for surfers to see the exact conditions at the sea and this is not enough.”
I asked myself: “Is this really a problem for the surf community or is it just me and my friends that struggle with it?”. My next step was clear. I had to validate this problem with more surfers.
Facebook groups was the best tool I had at that moment. I recently joined the group “Wavesurfers in Netherlands” and there are 4.8k members in there that I could ask and see their reactions. Without overthinking it, I wrote a Facebook post, where I described the problem I am trying to solve and asked the community if they believe I should build it or not. I read it a few times and I hit the post button.
The day was over and my curiosity about the results was really high. I couldn’t wait for the next morning to see the results.
The next day once I woke up I immediately opened my phone and saw that 93 people in total replied “yes go for it” and 27 “no”. The main problem these 27 people commented about was that my project will make surf spots busier. That’s something I never thought of as a threat. Once I started investigating further I realised that this problem exists due to the spots popularity and the project can’t really make it worse. In the end surfers could write in their report that “it’s too busy” and let other people know. It turned out to be more of a fear and less of an actual problem.
However it’s a significant step forward since I got to know the surf community better. Understanding better the people I want to serve with my products is my most important priority.
Digging into the community
Another task I had for this week was to map out the dutch surf ecosystem. I wanted to investigate what are the popular surfers in Netherlands, and what are the main surf spots and schools. After that I will be able to follow them and observe them. I will be able to understand better how they think, and stay in the loop.
To achieve that I spent the whole day googling, searching surfers on Facebook and reading articles about the dutch surf spots. I also found new Facebook groups to join.
Once I was done with it I was feeling more confident. Building a product is about solving a problem for a specific audience. If get closer to this audience, they will show me the way.
A great new discovery
Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash
Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash
“Rich people work for assets. Poor people work for income”. A bold quote by Robert Kiyosaki, the author of “Rich Dad Poor Dad” book. Once I read it, it sticked to my mind. Robert is a controversial author and investor that makes online content on the topic of financial education. This is a topic that few of us have gotten education on. Until now I have mostly learned how money works by practice. But I know that it’s not enough. Money is a tool that can be quite complex when it comes to building a business. There are various strategies and processes you can follow and focusing on the education is the first step towards this direction.
I started my day by scrolling on my Twitter feed. At some point I stumbled upon a tweet of Andrew Wilkinson. Andrew is one of my favourite internet entrepreneurs. 14 years ago, he founded his own design agency and he now owns more than 20 internet businesses. He started as a designer and evolved to an investor. How did he achieve that? What did he do differently than me? I also had my own agency 4 years ago but didn’t have the same financial success. I reached a point of making 120.000€ annual revenue but decided to quit and look for a job cause it wasn’t creative enough for me. I also don’t own any companies at this moment.
A few minutes later after reading the replies to Adnrew’s tweet I found Ryan Kulp. Ryan is a developer, designer, marketer and investor. He is focusing on buying small profitable digital services and e-shops. Once he buys them he focuses on growing them further and in the end he either keeps them and grows them even more or sells them for a profit. Ryan is an indie-hacker and investor. He is similar to Andrew, but with smaller budget.
The main point here is that both Andrew and Ryan are investors even though Ryan has a smaller budget and doesn’t buy companies that cost millions of euros.
This observation disrupted the way I think about business. I realised that I can become an investor whenever I want. The only thing I miss is knowledge and strategy. Not money.
I used to believe that “some day, if I ever become a millionaire, I will only then be able to become an investor and buy companies to make a profit without building everything on my own”. This turned out to be totally wrong. The whole problem lies on the “some day” mindset. I realised that this day is today. I can become an investor even with 0€ budget. If I find a great deal I can borrow money. What I trully miss are the skills and the know-how.
I asked myself: “How much time did I spend the last years reading about investing?” Zero. That’s what is truly blocking me. Investing is a skill I have to develop, not something I will magically have once I become a millionaire.
I saw that Ryan has created an online course on “Micro Acquisions”. He is teaching people like me, the basics of investing into small internet businesses. I immediately sent him an email and asked for more details.
“Financial education should be what I focus on. Finding a focused course on this topic is a great step forward. Well done!”, I thought.
A few hours later once I was done with my research I made a list of various websites (IndiemakerShopify exchangeFlippa, Transferlot) where people can sell or buy online businesses.
Having discovered all these, I also gave myself a new option for the future. The option of selling the products I build. If for any reason I don’t want to grow a product further, I can sell it. I don’t have to “get married” to my ideas forever. I can be flexible.
My excitement was really high. I discovered something new! I feel the future will be exciting. It’s the 3rd week and I see that my mindset is already changing. It’s clear that the next months will be full of learnings.
And that’s what entrepreneurship is all about in the end. Getting out of my comfort zone and constantly learning new things. That’s why I love it so much. I am so happy I have the opportunity to experience it.
I am not alone
The week was almost over. It was the end of my 3rd week and I started experiencing the loneliness of being a solo indie-hacker. It’s so easy to get isolated in front of my screen and not hang out with people during work.
I am happy that this time I am mature enough to notice that feeling early on. Instead of falling into the trap of isolation I started thinking of ways to network with people that are going through what I am going. I found a group of entrepreneurs in Utrecht, the city I am living into and joined one of their online meetings. There were people in there from different backgrounds and different types of businesses. After the call I felt more motivated. Talking with people that can understand how you feel and give you a piece of advice and courage is always very important.
It’s inspiring and life-changing to help and support each other. To share our experience and empower each other through our journeys and our struggles. We are not alone in this and together we can make our dreams happen . ❤️
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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