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Week 9 of 52 to Indie Hacking

Week 9 of 52 to Indie Hacking
By Jim Zarkadas • Issue #9 • View online
In case you missed it here is what happened on my previous weeks.

Researching local IndieHacking communities
On Monday I had a call with Iraklis a fellow Greek IndieHacker living in Dubai. I found him on Twitter the week before and sent him a DM (direct message) to get to know each other. Twitter is an amazing tool to meet new people in the tech industry. It’s a truly social platform with tons of useful content. It’s the main online tool I use to build new relationships and map out the overall ecosystem.
My week was full of video calls with Greek and Dutch IndieHackers. My goal was get to know them more and observe their ambitions and struggles. One of the ideas that I have been flirting with the last month is to kickstart and organize the Dutch IndieHacking community. I’ve discovered that there are plenty of indiehackers here in the Netherlands but they are disconnected since nobody so far took the lead to coordinate and grow the community. If we could keep in touch, help each other and shape a strong local community, it would be awesome. We could work together on projects, learn from each other, have fun and build an ecosystem with strong values and vision. The only thing that’s needed is somebody to spend time on this and take the lead.
I found out on indiehackers.com that more people are actually interested into this idea. As a small first step I created a private list on Twitter and added all the Dutch IndieHackers there. This way I can get in touch with them, read what they share and get to know them more. My main challenge at this point is to find a good way to bring them closer and avoid wasting their time. The main problem with meetups in the tech community is that many times they are a waste of time since networking quality is low and there is no proper structure for the event itself.
A few hours later I found out this post on indiehackers.com. That’s when I discovered the IndieLondon and realized they are pretty successful and mature. I found one if its organizers on Twitter and dropped him a DM. We scheduled a 20mins call and I asked him for practical advice on how to build a successful local community here in the Netherlands. His main tip was to keep it consistent and stick to it for at least one year. “It’s very likely that on the first meetups only 1-2 people will show up. That’s ok. Just pick same day every month, stay consistent and keep organizing meetups for at least 1 year. If you keep spreading the word and stay persistent, people will follow.” Same advice I also received from Pascal, an ex-colleague from TicketSwap and co-organizer of the AmsterdamPHP community. Persistence, and consistency is all I need.
Looking for mentors - a strategic step
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash
As days go by I realize more and more that it’s not smart enough to figure out everything on my own. A few months ago I stumbled upon the story of egghead, a website with web development tutorials that makes multiple milions revenue per year. There was a part in the interview that really got me thinking. Joel, the founder of Egghead talked about the idea of having paid mentors. It has been a significant part of his strategy and has helped him a lot to get proper guidance on his next steps.
The idea itself may not sound as something radical but for some reason it’s not very common for new enterpreuners to invest money into mentors. Personally I found this idea magnificent. It’s unconventional and strategic. Paying for mentors can help me avoid mistakes that would cost me way more money than the mentors themselves. It will help me expand my network and will also make the overall journey more fun. As a first step I did some research and found a great platform called Mentorcruise where I can search and hire mentors.
At some point I asked myself “What’s the first step to move towards this direction?” I decided that it’s better to not start immediately by investing money into it. I should first find mentors that I want to meet and get to know them more. I found this post on indiehackers.com “0 to 1M ARR in 12 Months” where Sabba the founder of veed.io mentioned that anybody can book him for a 30mins call and get advice on their product for free. With this session I could understand how having a mentor would feel like and also what I should be looking for when I am searching for mentors.
On Wednesday we had our call and I described him what I am working on. I explained him that I am still searching for a product idea and that I want to focus on the area of user research. My goal is to make user testing and user research more accessible to small and mid-sized teams. First he insisted that the market is there and I shouldn’t be afraid. There are already multi-milion valued companies that focus on user testing like https://www.usertesting.com/ and that my focus should be to just pick only one problem I know in this industry and build a MVP as fast as I can. He highlighted that the only way to truly validate my idea is to build a simple prototype and avoid the trap of looking for constant idea validation.
Our session was over. It was a great one even if I didn’t get any new advice. I already knew that I shouldn’t overanalyze my ideas. But the question here is “Am I doing it without noticing?” Knowing that I shouldn’t do something doesn’t mean I am not doing it. That’s where mentorship comes in. It pushes me to stick to the best practices and not fall unconsciously into common traps.
Productized services - a new way to freelance
Productized services are a new popular way of doing freelance work. In short, they are services packaged as products. A typical non-productized service would be “I design websites for 50$ per hour” and a productized service would be “I will build a one-page website in two days for 500$” Productized services have multiple benefits for both the freelancer and the client. The main benefit is that freelancers instead of getting paid for the hours they work, they get paid for the value they deliver. This way their work is more predictable and allows them to generate more revenue. A great example is 24slides.com, where you pay to have your powerpoint presentation designed by experts. Their pricing is based on how fast you want the presentation to be designed and on how many slides you need. Here is also a great list of 10 successful productized services I found.
When I decided to quit my agency, Befoolish, I said to myself that I won’t ever do freelancing again, unless if I truly need it. Last week I realized that they way I did freelancing was my main issue, and not the freelancing itself. Charging for my hours ended up being a terrible approach with lots of issues and a productized service could be somehting that would help me overcome all of them.
On top of that, one of the thoughts that have been bothering me the last weeks, is the risk of only focusing on building a product in these 12 months. I acknowledge that the chances of building a profitable product that can make more than 3.000€ profit per month, are limited. This is not a pessimistic way of thinking, but a realistic one. I am new into IndieHacking and managing the risk is super important. Maybe creating a productized service that will allow me to focus on building my own products would be a better strategy.
At some point while scrolling on my Twitter feed, I found Josh Pitzalis a freelancer that provides productized growth-related services to tech startups. He seemed to me like he knew what he was doing, so I decided to drop him a DM on Twitter. I made a quick intro of myself and explained him I am looking for a mentor on productized services. In my message I wrote him I would like to schedule a video call with him to get to know each other and get some advice. I also wrote that “I would pay whatever he wanted for one hour of his time”. The problem with contacting people out of the blue is that it’s annoying by nature. Someone sends you suddenly a message without knowing you and asks for your time. Nobody wants that. Telling people that you are going to pay for their time, is a solid way to show that you respect them. The funny fact is that most times people won’t ask for that money. It’s enough for them to see that you respect them and that you are a gentle person.
That’s what Josh did as well. He told me to do a 30mins call for free and if I needed more advice we could discuss how we could do it in a paid way. During our call he gave me great insights on how to find and validate my productized services. He even made a google document template for me that I can use to create them. In return I gave him some ideas on making a course around the topic of productized services. It’s a hot topic and I am sure he could make a side-income from that. I told him to ping me if he ever needs any help on that. I focused on building a relationship and not just on getting some advice and leaving.
All I did this week was to message people on Twitter and ask for their advice. I had my first 30mins mentorship sessions with meetup organizers, a CEO of a milion-dollar company and a successful freelancer with an innovative business model. That’s the beauty of networking and that’s why networking for me should be treated as a project. Meeting and listening to other people has many benefits and if it’s done right it’s a significant long-term investment. Networking is part of our roots. We are social animals that need and use each other to move forward. Building a strong network is a must-have and not a nice to have. It’s impossible to grow alone in a social world.
Another weekly design coaching session
The week was almost over and I had a call with Petros, a fellow IndieHacker from Greece. I found him on Twitter as well and dropped him a DM to meet each other. I explained him I am interested into meeting and connecting with other indiehackers that are based in Greece, the country that I grew up into. Petros was one of the first employees in Github.com and he worked as a Support team manager before he quit. Github is one of the most popular and well respected companies in the tech world and it was an honor for me to be able to discuss and brainstorm with somebody that worked there for so many year.
During our call we introduced ourselves, and discussed about our stories and our vision. He walked me through Supportress the product that he is currently working on and also asked me for some feedback on the concept and the marketing website as well. At that moment I realized that he might like the idea of weekly design coaching sessions. He and his co-founder are both back-end developers and design is something they are struggling with. Having a second pair of eyes on that would be very helpful for them
Without hesitating I briefly explained him how I already help Toon to design his product https://www.recipeboard.co/ and asked him if he is interested into this idea. He was pretty enthusiastic about it and suggested to plan our first session for next week to give him some structured design feedback on his marketing website.
We picked a day for next week and our call was over. I was excited to see that I will start mentoring them on a weekly basis. The nice thing with mentoring is that I learn through the experiences of others by building strong relationships with them. Instead of focusing on making income, I treat it more as an investment that will bring me knowledge, insights and network. Observation is the strongest learning tool I personally have. Working closely with Toon and Petros, two indiehackers that focus on two different industries can give me plenty of insights on how to grow my own product and can show me mistakes that I should avoid as well.
The week was over and I focused on celebrating my main achievement. So far, I have been consistent on my strategy and focus on the long-term without getting crazy with creating income immediately. I think and act as an investor. I put my seeds where I believe they will grow, and I wait. One way or another, money will eventually follow.
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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