⭐ One Year of Indie Journey

03 May, 2021 - 14 min read

An year ago, I found the term "indie". While I knew what it meant, I wanted to look it up & learn more about indie artists because I thought the term was only associated with music industry. At least that I knew of, at that time.

Who knew it would introduce me to a world where there is a tribe of people who are "hacking" their ways to financial freedom by building amazing things & solving problems, all by themselves.

I have been a "do-it-all" kind of a person & finding a place where people has the same mindset seemed to really resonate with me. Fast forward to 1 year from that day, here I am with 7+ projects launched with some profits.

I am going to break down this post into sections which I believe would summarize the whole one year of experience, effectively.

P.S. I want to clarify that I don't consider myself successful at all. This writing is more about the lessons that I learned throughout. The journey is always a roller coaster ride and this is my experience of it.

#1 - Building the blog 📃

[May-June '20]

Inspired by a lot of people & being a fan of documenting, the first thing I did was establish this blog. The purpose was to write about my journey which will force me to take action, be transparent & stay consistent. As an introverted person, I wanted to push myself to be out there, to meet & learn from people, an area where I fail a lot.

Because the lockdown had began, like a lot of people, I found a big amount of solitude. Like an excited dog, I started to make notes, writing things down, collecting ideas I had written at different places about things I wanted to "create". This whole feeling of getting started made me more happy.

I didn't have a job at that time and college was something I have always found easy to balance. After researching and experimenting with all those new technologies, I found the perfect setup for the blog and to put on top of that, I created my twitter account because why not. This was also the time when I started learning Psychology out of curiosity.

First thing I wanted to write about was my introduction. Now that I look at it, I think I did a pretty good job with what I wrote in the introductory article.

After all of this, it was time to start working on my "dream" project. Designtack.

#2 - My first product - Designtack 🎨

[June-August '20]

One thing that I haven't talked much about is that Designtack is actually a product of 4+ years of experimentation, trials and errors. One can say that I started way back then but the intentions were different. In short, I wanted to build a creative agency because I was quite active in freelancing.

While Designtack has always been a special keyword for me, I decided to utilise it only for the product that I was going to build. I planned to make a content creation tool which was faster and better.

Part of the reason was also to have a content marketing tool because I am no good at marketing & the idea I had for Designtack seem perfect for it. If no customers ever come, it will help it in the long run to dogfood products.

Because I was already reading a lot of WAYS to build a product, I found validating the idea the first thing to do. Inspired from this video by Bram, I performed the same experiment for Designtack which after a month resulted in quite a good response!

It took me two months to decide the right framework, find design inspiration ideas & finally set up a Trello board with all the actionable tasks to do.

After hacking together a marketing strategy, Designtack went live on ProductHunt. The response I received was not as par with the response I had on the landing page during MVP experiment.

There was a moment where I wanted to just shutdown Designtack because I thought these trials and errors were all waste of time. I was going to consider this project as failure because it didn't make any money nor did more people show real interest in it.

I didn't receive any paid user but a lot of people (out of curiosity?) signed up for it. Tried a lot of email conversion campaigns & social media marketing to find customers but nothing happened until I got an email from AppSumo.

Fast forward, I had my product live on AppSumo with a Lifetime deal which brought me around 15+ users & $100+ in sales. Sure, it validated my idea but they weren't as active as I thought. Couple of them were very helpful in providing feedback but most of them refunded soon. This was an interesting insight for me because I was still processing what was the reason behind it.

A lot of lessons were learnt.

Learnings -

  1. Focus more on Marketing. Validate problem AND the solution you are building! Solution validation is underrated.
  2. I received more feedback from people than actual users. It's a good and bad thing. Bad because I wasn't sure if I targeted the right audience or not and I didn't know if they were actually interested or not.
  3. Communicate your product message clearly. Do not use fancy words or anything. Show exactly what your tool does.
  4. Free trial system is better than free vs paid system. At least, for solopreneurs.
  5. Always need to give user a reason to come back, user retention has to be there. Use gamification system.

#3 - Diving into Psychology - Psych 🧠

[August - September '20]

This was the time when Substack was trending as well. Everyone was creating some sort of newsletter because it was so easier with substack that you could just get started after setting up an account in couple of hours.

Because I was learning psychology already & had a certification, I went on with the trend but initially, I started the newsletter under my own name! I branded the newsletter through my own name & started writing about Psychology related articles. Although, I figured a better way to write about Psychology soon.

That's when I started Psych 🧠. A very niche version of my newsletter on psychology. While I didn't do anything specific to promote it, the only thing I did was put the link everywhere & started tweeting about it.

In terms of monetising, I tried Buymeacoffee button but that didn't yield me any coffee. To be honest, I never felt like monetizing it. I just wanted to write & tell people about psychology which is a super interesting. That's why I still write it, bi-weekly, totally free, no ads or sponsorships.

It could also be the reason why I never was able to make it cross 500+ subscribers. I never did enough outbound marketing and now that I think of it, it's okay. I enjoy writing it because it makes learn more about Psychology. (However, I may have found what I am going to do next with it when it hits the 100th issue. 👀 )

That I will be announcing in next couple of months.

Learnings -

If you have a great urge to build something, do it. It may not be financially viable but it will certainly make you happier, make you meet great people in the journey & probably, learn a lot of lessons on the way!

#4 - Open-source resource - LIT 👨‍💻

[September - October '20]

By this time, the newsletter had about 50-100 subscribers and Designtack was going okay. Because I was in the sense of "challenge", the mode to "create". I had an idea to build a quick resource of learning new technologies. I had a perfect domain name for it & thus started, Learningin.tech

In the past couple of years, I have been learning & diving into a lot of things. From building web applications to creating virtual reality experiences, I have been trying out a lot of new stuff because of curiosity. Learning has played a big role in my life.

Due to that fact, I realised that building a resource of technologies would be very helpful for a lot of people who wants to learn them. I started with NoCode tools but soon realized that it will take me a longer than a month, just to get a hold of it. Ended up doing it the Code way.

When I launched LearningInTech on ProductHunt around 10th October, the same thing happened. My expectations were to get 1000+ visitors, maybe reach no. 1 of PH, get more traction by users, get people to join discord. What happened? Didn't get enough views, trash response on PH, 4+ people joined discord who were inactive.

Even though I did a lot of marketing like creating a Twitter account for it, posting about it in different possible distribution channels and places where I could find "learners" who might like this tool, I figured & came to the conclusion that this project is a marketing intensive project.

My plan was to build a whole community around LIT and then at a later stage, monetize it. While it's great to have the project still live, I am not sure what am I going to do with it in future. It almost feels like I just built it, just for the sake of building it. I also think that it was a mistake as I did not think through the monetary aspect of it in the early stages because a lot of free tools end up in bookmarks only. Thus, I ended up making this one, open source.

Learnings -

  1. Analyse if a project is going to be Marketing intensive or not. At least having an audience or a distribution channel helps a lot.
  2. ProductHunt is good to have initial traction and traffic but it doesn't confirm you customers.

#5 - Mini project - Sheets-to-JSON 📒

[October - November '20, made in a day!]

Just to stay in the habit of shipping i.e. coding, I built a mini project called Sheets to JSON which is a tool to convert your google sheets file into JSON data. I built and shipped this in a day, around 27-28th November.

Another product which was more of a free product which could've been turned into a proper service. I believe this has to be one of my biggest mistakes that I have been making.

While it didn't yield me much, it definitely blew up on twitter because I indirectly tweeted about it.

I didn't ship anything in December & that's how 2020 wrapped up.

#6 - Informational product - LIT KIT ✨

[January '21]

This year started started off on okay terms. Now that I had a lot of things to take care of and do, for real. Assuming, this year is when my post-graduation ends, I have to now actually either get a job and/or stand up on own feet and live the dreamt lifestyle.

I started by making a longer term plan of what I want accomplish this year. Also, after thorough evaluation of the condition of previous projects, I started working on 2 major updates to LIT and DT, in the month of January.

But to keep the shipping game going on, I decided to built something but interestingly enough, I didn't have a viable idea this time. As of that moment, the approach to build a project had changed a lot for me. There wass a lot of added anxiety and feeling of overwhelming-ness on building a "successful" product.

Anyhow, I figured that Learningin.tech would work better if it was packaged as an informational product. Therefore, I wrapped up all the research I had done while building LIT & created a landing page on Gumroad.

I remember having a very hard time figuring out the pricing part of it & even validating the idea i.e. would someone pay me for doing hours of curation? I know finding resources is easier by just searching on google but finding the RIGHT resources is not. With that motivation, my first informational product went live & received good response on Twitter.

What happened? Even with a 5 star rating by some generous person, it hardly received 10+ sales and that too after I made it pay-what-you-want. I was very disappointed, to be honest. It was not what I expected. I did everything from marketing, curating, targeting people on places. It just didn't work. Only one person bought it for $2.

#Learnings -

I don't know exactly what lessons were to be taken from all of this because I can always now think of cons if I were to look back. This is because there is a bias in psychology which makes you do that.

#7 - Psych.email 🧠🏠

[February - March '21]

Placements from my college had started by this time & I had to find an internship. After giving a couple of interviews, I was able to find an internship as a ReactJS developer. Although, this internship required me to relocate to another city.

Because of that, I kind of felt like disconnecting with the whole challenge. However, I built a side project for Learningin.tech called LIT Tracker to make the resource, more effective & add to marketing. This was in February.

Once the Internship started, it became hard to scale out time for managing side projects. I was only getting 3-4 hours in weekdays & weekends were mostly spent chilling with roommates I had in the new city.

I was able to finish a long due task for Psych i.e. having a landing page. Finished this in a couple of days and it went live. This decision felt more like a long term one.

But by this time, I was having a lot of mental unclarity. On one hand, I wasn't able to focus on a specific single project & on the other, I wanted to ship a new project because I was lagging in terms of shipping 12 projects in a year.

I even wrote a post on the blog about a little rant because I wanted to let it out. It's never all the blossoms. Some people resonated with the idea that it's not just with me, it's the 99% of us.

Few people on twitter whom I often interact with were really helpful in those regards. They helped in clearing the mental confusion about the projects. On top of that, I found a lot of solitude after I came back home as the second surge of COVID started in India.

This solitude proved to be very helpful and a needed one.

Learnings -

  1. You don't have to have it all figured it out. As soon as you can, stop comparing yourself. Take breaks for your mental health. It's above everything.
  2. Some decisions can be made for longer term. Irrespective of they would work or not, do it in order to not have regrets later of not even trying.

#8 - Moving forward from here

[April '21]

This is the part where I tell you about where I am right now. I have started Thelesson.club which is a product of cultivation of all the lessons I have learnt so far. I am not saying that this one is it but it surely is something which is a by product of all the lessons learnt in this one year of my journey.

It is live. I have a marketing plan in mind about how I want to go with it. Trying to not have much expectations & more focus on execution.

This has been a very long & comprehensive post I have ever written so far, being so vulnerable as an introverted person but this is how I take a step to be out of my comfort zone.

Those moments which felt like failures, now feel like lessons. In the long game, lot of this won't matter. You have to just keep going. That's what I have learnt.

I will try my best to keep the consistency of updates here.

Thank you for reading my story. 😉

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