“If I had that kind of money, I’d just retire.”
“Well, that’s why you don’t have that kind of money.”
When I see this classic debate, I always fail to choose a side.
On one hand, I would certainly take some sort of break if given a life-changing amount of money. On the other, willingness to lay back and relax isn’t common among the wealthy. Herein lies the paradox – paradise can be achieved through endless work, but then you’ll have no time left to enjoy it.
The original argument is paradoxical because it’s framed as “pick one.” It suggests that you can’t have a balanced lifestyle and be wealthy.
This is a false pretense, though.
In fact, putting in just slightly more work than average can create outsized returns. It’s not hard to find these stories. Browsing Indie Hackers or Starter Story will prove my point. Of course some of the stories highlight the hustle, but plenty others focus on the daily discipline that led to their success.
For specific examples, start by looking into @jdnoc or @dvassallo on Twitter.
Since I know you probably won’t click either of those links, here’s the summary.
Jordan (@jdnoc) built his company Closet Tools by getting up every morning before his family and putting in a couple hours of focused work. As of the time of writing, it appears to be around $35k MRR.
Daniel kicked off his entrepreneurial journey by launching a technical guide on Gumroad. Although it takes a while to build an audience and write in-depth content, it’s not something he’s sacrificed his lifestyle over. He’s since released another guide about thriving on Twitter. He currently hovers around $25k MRR from these two products on average.
So there you go. Contrary to popular belief, you can maintain the rest of your life while still building something of value. It takes hard work and discipline, but it’s entirely possible.
This weekend, my wife and I headed out of the city for a relaxing trip. Between short excursions at a couple state parks, we dropped by a local winery for a tour.
When we arrived and checked in, we were in for two big surprises. The first – we were the only ones who booked a tour. And second – the head winemaker himself would be hosting our tour.
Now, we’ve done wine tours before… this one was nothing like those.
For over two hours, their friendly winemaker told us everything about their growing, picking, and fermentation process – from the unique soil qualities of their plot, to the painstaking year-round attention they give their youngest vines.
It wasn’t just good things he told us, either. He was up-front about the winery’s failures.
We can’t grow Cabernet for the life of us. Trust me, we really wanted to make it happen.
He said this frustrates him, especially since other nearby wineries can grow Cabernet just fine.
Before I could ask why nearby vineyards can grow something he can’t, he explained:
Each and every plot of land has its own micro-climate. These “micro” qualities are the difference between a thriving vine and a dying one.
So how does this winery narrow down which vines will thrive on their land? Well, it’s just an educated guess. He knows what’s likely to work, but a test batch is the real tell. They plant a row or two of vines, nurture them for a couple years, and see how they perform.
What does this have to do with indie-hacking? Jordan’s tweet sums it up better than I can.
When the next step is unclear, asking for advice is often our first instinct. But you’ve got a unique set of skills and qualities. Nobody – even the successful – know what you should do next.
So learn something from this winemaker. Take an educated guess, get started, and nurture what grows.
Before you invest thousands of dollars into a new venture, you need to make sure your idea is worth it. Here’s the simplest way to do just that.
1. Make a Fake Website
It is hard to create a real app, but quite easy to make a fake one. Seek out a designer than can make realistic mockups like this one, and slap that on a website.
Give your whole pitch – what the app is for, what value you’re bringing to the world, and the backstory.
The most prominent feature of your website should be a “Download” or “Buy Now” button. This is the button that we will need to gather metrics on. We want to know how many people click it. A simple way to do this is to install Google Analytics on your site and link out to a separate page when the visitor clicks Buy or Download. Make sure your button is the only way to get to that page. In Google Analytics you’ll be able to see how many hits that page receives.
This Download page is a good place to explain that the app does not yet exist, but is under development. You should then give the visitor an option to provide their email to be notified when your app is ready. I’d use Mailchimp for this. Subscriptions start free and come with a sleek, one-line email signup form.
Landing Page Suggestions:
If you’re building this site yourself, there are a lot of great websites that can get you up and going quickly.
- MailChimp – their services go way beyond email marketing. You can make a landing page for your subscriber list and point your custom domain to it. It definitely gets the job done.
- ConvertKit – In my experience, ConvertKit is even more robust than Mailchimp, but it has no free tier. Just a free trial.
- Cardd – (https://carrd.co/) – The free package has the basics. If you need Pro features, though, it’s very cheap. (most premium plan is $8/mo).
- Wix – these guys have been around for a while. They’ve got an easy-to-use free web builder that anyone can use to whip up a simple site.
Get Real Traffic
Once you have a basic site that can track traffic and clicks, it’s time to get strangers on your website.
For the record, this step the most powerful aspect of the validation process. The goal is to attract individuals who are completely unbiased consumers. They will judge your app on the same criteria they make all other buying and downloading decisions.
Here’s a couple free ways to do this.
- Post your “fake” website to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Be sure to pretend the app is not yours, though. You want your friends to respond without bias. If you really want to spread your project, get a few friends in on the plan and have them share it as well.
- Get active on relevant online forums. Whatever your app does, it is likely that Reddit has a community that will enjoy it. Be respectful of rules, though. Reddit and other sites have strict “no advertising” rules. You’ll need to be creative to avoid these. Leave hints about your app and trust that people will ask for the link. Don’t discredit this idea: Posting to Reddit made a noticeable impact on my app downloads.
And a couple paid ways:
- Pay for Google AdWords. This can be costly, but it might just be the most straightforward test. Sign up for an AdWords account and get seen on relevant searches. This will help you capture visitors already looking for apps like yours. If you’ve never used AdWords, though, I’d hire someone to help you. An unsuccessful campaign might just prove you’re bad at advertising – not that your idea is bad.
- Pay for Facebook Ads. You can reach millions of people in just a few moments by putting together a compelling ad. Once again, I would hire a professional for this. If nobody clicks your ad, that really may say nothing about your app – just that your ad or campaign targeting is missing the mark.
3. Analyze the Results
This approach to validating your idea tests two things:
- The quality of the idea itself.
- Your personal ability to reach your market.
If you gather traction with ease during the validation process, it is a great sign that you’ve nailed both of these points. That’s a great sign.
If the app were real at this stage, you could personally move the needle by getting active in guerrilla marketing and finding the right marketers to expand your efforts.
If you didn’t really gather much traction or get many clicks on your Buy Now or Download buttons, it means one of these two points are off. You’ve got some exploring to do.
Build a website for your not-yet-existent app, include a fake “Buy Now” button, and see if any site visitors will click it. This is the ultimate test of your idea: letting strangers speak with their dollars.
Do you have an idea you’re trying to validate right now?
Perhaps you’re in mid-development without having tested your idea like this?
Reach out if you have any questions. I’d love to help out.