- Alex Styl
About a year ago I left my high-paying software engineer job without having a set plan in mind or a profitable side project. I am documenting this journey, hoping this will be helpful for others that are after the same.
The goal was to figure out how to making a living outside of a 9-to-5 job. I enjoy the full process of building products (such as researching, designing, building, promoting).
Unfortunately, 9-to-5 jobs require you to specialize in something (say engineering) and focus mostly on that. There is also a big chunk of time spent on meetings, office chit-chat and unrelated activities, I am not excited about. Most of the times I would end work feeling drained, not feeling like doing anything afterwards. I wanted to change that.
Before quitting my job, I had 5 years of savings if I were to continue my life in London, UK. The truth is, I did not actively saved money specifically for quitting my job. I was considering to eventually buy a house, so I had some money saved. I am not not a big spender (roughly £2k pm), spending mostly on housing, food, gym and experiences.
During the first COVID lockdown, I was start thinking a lot of how I wanted my life to look like in the next few years.
Even though I love London, I sometimes felt tied to the location due to work. I wanted to be able to visit my family in Greece, and my friends around the world, whenever I wanted instead of risking not to be able to leave due to work reasons (as it has happened in the past).
So, I did the math, checked out how much money I had saved at that point and what would happen if for a whole year I had 0 income. Suddenly, it didn't seem that scary to 'pull the trigger'. For the record, I am now 31 years old, single, debt-free, healthy and I love creating (I find it therapeutic in a way). If this didn't work out, I thought that I would have grown so much as a person, learnt so much about how the world works, and meet some incredible people along the way. Seemed like a good deal, so I went with it.
On June 2021 I quit my job. I took a month off and August was the start of my indie hacking journey.
From blindly building to finding focus
The first six months worked as an exploratory period and were full of self-doubt and imposter syndrome. I was building products left and right hoping something would stick. My marketing "strategy" included shipping to Product Hunt without telling anyone about it before hand. During the first month I built and launched my first SaaS product which made a wooping $7 a month or so after from a customer that churned a month after.
It was due to pure luck that I found out a market I was part of for many years and also happy to build for. I have been building Android apps for the past 10 years and I already knew problems developers are facing. It seemed like a great fit.
I started focusing on social media and becoming more active on Twitter. I started creating short valuable tips for Android developers. People seemed to appreciate the tips which gave me a level of credibility in the community. The more tips I would give, the more interest I would see on specific parts of the ecosystem.
The first paid product I made for that market was an app template that was using the latest technologies in the community. People were interested about it and ended up selling 41 copies and making my first $680.32 online. No life changing amount by any means but it felt like a great start.
The second product with some significant revenue was a book on a new UI Android framework. Even though devs are excited for this new UI framework, they do not want to spend hours in putting the effort learning it, while they can build apps with the old framework. The book is saving people tons of time by including tons of code snippets and examples on how to do things they already know from the old framework. It works like a reference/cook book. The book has generated over 100 sales and $3,342.74 in revenue in three months and still going.
First of all, a great product is not enough. People need to be aware of how much value they can get out of your product and how it can help them. Your product might be best thing ever, but unless anyone knows how great it is, it doesn't matter.
Second of all, you don't need a SaaS to make profit. There are so many other ways you can be profitable, such as infoproducts, software with 1 time payment, paying newsletters, etc. It is probably obvious to most people here, but I had this belief that I had to build a SaaS when I started.
Also, there is no such thing as a step-by-step process that will work for you. You can read as many books as you want, blog posts or stories from the founders you look up to, but it won't work for you. There are a lot variables that come into play that can make or kill a product, such as the trust people have that you can deliver, how much they need a product that they are willing to pay for it or how compelling your offer is. Your network and people you can reach also plays a big part in this.
In the end of the day, you have to put in the work and see what works best for you and the people you want to help.
Last but not least, it is not up to you whether people will buy a product or not. Build something, put a price and see how the market reacts seems like the way to go. There can't be any expectations in this. People have the final saying, but you can keep changing your offer to see what works best.
The best part is that even if you launch something and fails, nothing will happen.
This past year was focused on figuring things out and making the jump to working for myself. The focus for this year is becoming ramen profitable, so that I keep doing this for a long time. Since quitting my job I was able to visit friends in multiple countries and move countries which also worked for reducing my monthly expenses.
I also want to meet some of the awesome makers I am chatting with online all this time. It would be great to finally hangout with people that are building their own businesses.
This year marked my first year of working for myself. I am not yet ramen profitable but I am confident in myself and excited to continue pushing forward.
I hope this post was useful for anyone that is after the same path. If you would like to support me you can follow me on Twitter.
There are a lot of things I have skipped in the post, as I was thinking it might have been too much. I am happy to answer any questions you might have if you want to hear more.