Week 7 of 52 to Indie Hacking

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Week 7 of 52 to Indie Hacking
By Jim Zarkadas • Issue #7 • View online
In case you missed it here is what happened on my previous weeks.

One of the biggest steps in my life
My room a few days before I move to the Netherlands
My room a few days before I move to the Netherlands
On Monday I decided to join a morning Yoga session and start the week in a relaxed way. Yoga helps me a lot to slow down and stop worrying about the future. It helps me focus on where I am now, and appreciate everything I’ve achieved so far.
I am 28 years old. Four years ago I made a huge step in my life and decided to relocate to a new country, the Netherlands. I decided to explore a new ecosystem, a new way of living and a new culture. At that time I was running my own design studio with a friend of mine, Yannis. We were based in Athens, Greece and after 3 years of running our own company we decided that we want to face new challenges. We came up with the idea to relocate our company to a new country and become part of one of the most vibrant technology hubs in Europe, the beautiful city of Amsterdam. It was a fascinating goal. Just thinking about it would give me goosebumps.
I was excited but also scared. You see, I was born and raised in Athens and my whole social circle was consisted of Greek people. I had no network outside of Greece and no multi-cultural experience. At that time I wasn’t even comfortable with speaking English. No matter how hard it was I decided to not hold back. Practically I had nothing to lose. I would meet new people, gain new experiences and in the same time I could visit my family whenever I wanted. If at any point I would feel that the challenge was too much for me, I could return back to Athens and continue working there. Our team was small with only 3 people so we were pretty flexible. The only obstacle we had was our own fear of believing in ourselves.
We took a small first step and visited Amsterdam two times for a short period of time to get a sense of how it feels to live there. After that we came up with a practical step by step strategy to get there. There was no easy way to do it. The only option we had was to send one of us there. I decided to go for it and I booked a one-way ticket. I rented the smallest AirBnb room I could find for 3 months, and I got a membership at WeWork co-working space. My goal was to expand our network as fast as I could and land new projects. This way we would earn the additional revenue we needed for the whole team to move there.
Everything went fine and 3 months later Yannis also came to Amsterdam. We rented an appartment together and continued working from there. Once we leveled-up our revenue some more we rented a small office too. Our goal had been achieved. In one year we did what we considered impossible back then. We had our own small design studio in the city of Amsterdam. We made one of our dreams come true. The only thing we needed was courage, patience and a step-by-step strategy to get there.
Looking of a deeper meaning
Photo by Ty Williams on Unsplash
Photo by Ty Williams on Unsplash
Two years later we decided to shut down our studio. We weren’t happy anymore and didn’t enjoy designing websites and apps for clients. We were searching for a deeper meaning. We wanted to build our own products and make an impact. We wanted more challenges and more creativity.
At that time neither of us was experienced enough to start building products. Therefore we had to take a step back and start working for other product-oriented companies. This was a tough decision for us. Switching from independent entrepreneurs to full-time employees was hard. Our ego was hurt and we couldn’t have the freedom we used to have with our company. The whole decision of quiting seemed like a failure to many people but in our minds we were successful. We gained a lot of experience and most of all we figured out what we don’t like.
Three years almost went by and I worked full-time for two companies in total. These years have been some of the best of my life. By working for somebody else I suddenly had the luxury of not worrying about everything. I had the time and energy to invest into myself and disconnect from work. I started new hobbies and focused on improving more my personal life and relationships. It was a big lesson for me. I realized that the agency wasn’t making me as happy as I thought, and it was also getting all of my energy away.
Eight weeks ago I made another big step and decided to quit my job in order to get back into entrepreneurship. This time though it’s different. I am doing it in a less stressful way. I made sure beforehand that this time it’s going to be healthier and more balanced. My goal is not to hustle but to build products, learn new things and stay creative by enjoying life in the same time.
The last years I’ve been asking myself a lot what’s the real purpose of working and building my own products. I came to the conclusion that it’s all about surviving, providing myself a safer future and having fun by learning new things. I realized that the meaning of my life is to just smile, be happy and respect the wold around me. To have a positive impact and bring more balance into the world I belong to.
What should be my first audience?
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
In my previous issues I wrote that I want to focus on building products for communities I love. On Tuesday I realized that this is not enough. Loving and believing into a community is only 50% of what’s needed. The rest 50% is about being integrated and active into it. Unfortunately at this moment I am not integrated enough into the skateboarding, surfing and music communities. It’s been only a year that I got into them and I am still pretty new.
That’s why I decided to focus for now on the digital design and development community. The indiehackers, and the technology startups. Most of my twitter followers, and offline network are mainly people from this community. It’s way smoother for me to start from there, grow my entrepreneurial skills and slowly evolve. I am here for the long game and I need to take one step at a time.
On top this every week I have around 6 UX session with fellow indiehackers and I can start asking them questions about their design process and other struggles they have.
My first momtest interviews
On Wednesday I finished reading “The Mom Test” book. It’s a book I wrote about in my previous issue and that will help me on validating my ideas.
Since I decided to focus on indiehackers and startups, I started thinking of areas I would like to focus on. As a product designer I am a big ambassador of the “Talk to your users” mindset. Therefore the area of user testing and user feedback felt like the right choice for me. I can help companies talk more with their users, design their products better and adopt a more human-centric way of working.
Since this part was clear, I only had to create a questionnaire for my interviews. I spent some time working on it and I came up with the following simple questions.
  • Do you ask for feedback from your users? If yes, how? If no, why?
  • What’s your design process? Could you guide me through it, and describe me your main challenges?
By asking these I could have a quick chat with fellow indiehackers during my UX reviews and understand their current process. I did 2 interviews in total and they went pretty well. I found out that both of them were emailing their users personally since their product was pretty small and didn’t really need a tool for that. This is a challenge they will have only when they grow and won’t be able to have contact personally all of their users.
Sharing my journey with more people
Every week I spend a lot of time engaging with people on indiehackers.com. At some point at the end of the week I realized that many of the stories that I have been writing in my journal could be useful for this community.
In digital marketing one of the golden rules of content creation is to adapt your content to the platform you are writing for. I should never share my articles in the same way across all social media platforms. Each platform is different and people consume content in different ways. When it comes to indiehackers.com people mainly write the posts in the website and do not share external links.
Keeping that in mind, I started experimented and converted some chapters of my journal to actual posts. It turned out to be a good idea. One of my posts got 27 comments and another one got retweeted by the official account of Indiehackers to their 40.000 followers.
I was feeling pretty happy about it. I had found a new way to share my stories with more people, and have a bigger impact this way.
I started learning Dutch again
Two years ago I joined a group lesson in Amsterdam and tried to learn the Dutch language. Unfortunately it didn’t work out well for me. They were going too fast and it wasn’t fun. It was boring and felt like school. I had lots of homework and the education process wasn’t adjusted to my needs. After 3 lessons I was done with it and decided to quit.
Learning Dutch is a personal life investment for me. I am not forced to do it in order to survive. It’s something that I want to learn in order to get more integrated into the society and understand the culture more. It’s also a way for me to show respect for being able to live here. That’s why my goal was to find a fun and smooth way to do it. There was no reason to rush it, and make it painful.
Keeping that in mind I came to the conclusion that the best way to do it was to have private instead of group lessons. This way I can take it easy, be open and constantly adjust until it feels right. I did some research online and found a great platform called Preply. In that platform there were many native Dutch speakers living around the world and giving Dutch lessons online.
I decided to go for it and booked a trial lesson with Jeff, a Dutch guy that lives in Poland. We had our first lesson and it was really fun. My assumption was right. Learning Dutch can be fun and doesn’t have to be boring like school. Jeff is using modern ways like flashcards to teach me and focuses on gamifying a bit the whole process. On top of that the cost of these lessons is significantly lower compared to doing them in-person here in Netherlands.
That’s why I love technology so much. Because it democratises knowledge and entrepreneurship. It connects people and gives them access to new opportunities. It’s a beautiful thing and it’s a great time to be alive and able to experience it.
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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