Things NOT to do as an indie hacker
I was on the Product Hunt Radio podcast recently talking about things not to do as a founder. Below are a few of the things I talked about, but it'd be great to hear your thoughts as well! Don't blindly follow advice… …without considering the context in which the advice was given (from who, to who, when, for what) and adapting it to fit your personal situation. For example, advice that works for a high-growth VC-funded startup might be disastrous to your indie business. (This applies to any and all advice in life, btw, not just advice for how to start and run a company. It's almost never a good time to turn off your brain and blindly follow what others are saying.) Don't equate being a founder with being an inventor. It's an analogy that can easily go too far. You'll end up overvaluing and over-protecting your pet ideas. Or worse, you'll never come up with an idea at all, because you'll assume that it needs to be something completely new. There are many thousands of businesses that solve more-or-less the same old problems, but in unique ways, or for a unique segment of customers, etc. You're probably better off picking a very straightforward problem to solve, and then getting innovative with your solution. Don't wait to start learning from your customers. Talk to customers about what you're doing from day #1. Figure out where they hang online and learn from their conversations. Try to get a strong sense of what they'll think about your product before you waste months building it. Don't try to be too clever when finding your first users. Going from 1M to 2M users requires a bulletproof strategy, considerable knowledge, and a healthy dose of luck. Going from 1 to 2 users requires… a conversation. More broadly, don't copy founders or companies who are way further ahead than you are. If you're going to copy them, copy what they did in the early days, not what they're doing now. Many of the strategies that work at scale are often deadly to early-stage companies. In fact, there are many "diseconomies of scale" -- inferior strategies that bigger companies HAVE to adopt that they would frankly prefer not to. It'd be a tragedy to blindly copy these as an early-stage founder and throw away what makes you uniquely nimble and effective. There's also a category of beneficial-but-not-crucial activities that bigger companies have the resources to pursue, but you don't. You don't have time to do All The Things. You're going to write crappy code, ignore metrics, etc. That's not just okay, it's necessary! Something has to give. Don't put launch day on such a pedestal. "Launching" has become such an established concept that it blinds founders to all the other days that exist before and after launching. Those days are 99.9% of your company's existence. Launch is just one day of growth out of many. You can and probably should be growing and learning from your customers before you launch. And your launch itself should serve some purpose in helping you continue to grow. For some businesses a splashy launch is invaluable, but for many I doubt it's even useful as a concept. Don't build in silence. I'm often guilty of this one. Instead of building in secret, show off what you're up to! People love to see your thought process, peak behind the scenes, subscribe, and give you feedback and encouragement. Building in public is one of the best ways to increase your luck surface area. Don't start too big. Given the same time frame, you can either do a great job on something simple, or a mediocre job on something expansive. I guarantee it'll be more rewarding for both you and your customers if you choose the former. And starting small isn't even a sacrifice! It's necessary, even if your true desire is to reach some bigger ultimate goal. You're going to have to work your way there, accruing advantages and using them to get to the next level. Nobody jumps straight to the top of a staircase. That's all I've got for now! What's missing?