21 Key Lessons from 21 Indie Hackers (Listen Up IH Wrapped)📈

21 Key Lessons from 21 Indie Hackers (Listen Up IH Wrapped)📈
Photo by Markus Winkler / Unsplash

This newsletter has been running for almost 9 months now.

I’ve researched and written about some of the most successful indie hackers throughout the year.

As 2021 ends, this is a good time to look back on some of the best profiles I could do and what we can learn from each story.

Here I’ve tried to pick the top 21 profiles and highlighted key lessons from their startup’s success story.

Hope this helps you find some interesting ideas, insights, and inspiration for your own journey.

(And to be on this list yourself in 2022💪)

Let’s go -


1. AJ of Carrd

  • Constraints are superpowers”
  • Build an audience from multiple projects over time. AJ did that with html5up and pixelarity.
  • Initial traction from Twitter and Product Hunt.
  • Viral growth after Kim Kardashian’s Tweet.

Read more -

How to reach $1M ARR with a 1-page site builder 📈| AJ of Carrd
“Constraints are superpowers”👆That’s the number 1 lesson we can all learn from AJ, the founder of Carrd. AJ is a pseudonymous startup founder who bootstrapped the single-page site builder Carrd to more than $1M ARR in 5 years. Before Carrd, AJ had seen success with projects such as html5up

2. Jon Yongfook of Bannerbear

  • Divide your time 50:50 between coding and marketing.
  • The 12 startups challenge is a great way to find out your own passion, build the discipline to ship.
  • “Niche Down” means niche down your target market. It doesn’t mean niche down the pain point you solve.
  • Better documentation and blogs led to more conversions.
  • Pivoted the product to ride on the NoCode movement.

Read more -

Living The Indie Hacker Dream | Jon Yongfook
Listen Up! IH – Episode 19 “If you want to go from 0 to $10K MRR you should divide your time 50:50 between coding and marketing”That’s Jon Yongfook’s advice for Indie Hackers. Jon is the founder of Bannerbear. Bannerbear is a tool to auto-generate images and videos

3. Pieter Levels of NomadList

  • "Be less scared and just do more things!"
  • You don't need a fancy tech stack for a profitable business.
  • FB and Google serve the masses, Indie Hackers can serve the niches.
  • Making money online is hard, being prolific gives you more shots at it. Pieter did the 12 startups challenge to grow an audience and multiple successful businesses.

Read more -

Digital Nomad To Prolific Indie Hacker | Pieter Levels 🧳
Listen Up! IH – Episode 20 “Be less scared and just do more things!”That’s Pieter Levels advice for aspiring Indie Hackers. Pieter is the founder of a number of different solo companies, the most notable being nomadlist.com and remoteok.io. As of today, both share a coveted spot

4. Sabba of Veed

  • Keep pushing, and make something people search for”
  • A chip on your shoulder can fuel your success. Sabba was rejected from YC twice!
  • Veed’s growth channels - Side projects, Content Marketing, SEO and YouTube SEO.
  • You can come back from any situation, Sabba and Tim had no jobs and no revenue, but eventually could build a million dollar business.

Read more -

Rock Bottom To Rocket Ship🚀 | How Veed Grew To $5M+ ARR
Listen Up! IH – Episode 24 “Keep pushing, and make something people search for”That’s Sabba Keynejad’s message to Indie Hackers. Sabba is the Co-founder of Veed.io – a browser-based video editing tool. Sabba and his co-founder Tim grew the company from 0 to 50,000 users in just

5. Jay Clouse of Freelancing School

  • Take relentless action.
  • Progress compounds, even if it’s slow initially.
  • Expand the surface area of your luck, and good things will start to happen.

Read more -

Building, Scaling & Selling A Thriving Community | Jay Clouse
Listen Up, IH! — Episode 7 Take relentless action.👆That’s Jay Clouse’s message for Indie Hackers Communities are all the rage these days, everywhere you look it’s like a new community is propping up. But Jay Clouse is a seasoned player in the game. Back in 2017, Clouse

6. Li Jin of SideHustleStack

  • Start one level below your current skill level.
  • Free up your energy and resources to actually gather feedback and gain some momentum. If you start at your peak level, you will stretch yourself too thin.
  • Find your personal product-market fit. Find the market for your passion, if there isn’t one, then create one.
  • SideeHustleStack got Viral growth through TikTok.

Read more -

The Patron Saint Of The Passion Economy | Li Jin
Listen Up, IH! — Episode 5 “I just want to rebuild the middle class and help people live better lives”👆That’s Li Jin’s mission statement. She is a former Venture Capitalist at Andreesen Horrowitz(A16Z) – A VC firm in Silicon Valley that backs early-stage startups – with a portfolio that

7. Evan Britton of Famous Birthdays

  • Focus maniacally on the customer.
  • You will need a lot of passion and commitment to get through the initial years. It will take time, blood, sweat, and tears.
  • Do one thing but do it well.
  • Extensively used internal search to optimize the product.

Read more -

2.3 Billion Pageviews & 9 Years Of Customer Focus | Evan Britton
Listen Up, IH! — Episode 6 Year to date, Famous Birthdays has surpassed 2.3 Billion Page Views. Outside the major social networks, Famous Birthdays has the largest online Gen Z Audience pic.twitter.com/3uaGL0Vo8q — Evan Britton (@Evan_Britton) December 23, 2020 👆 That’s Evan Britton, founder…

8. James Traf of Super

  • Luck favors those who are in motion.
  • You don’t need a business plan, you need some initiative.
  • When you're going viral, make sure to capitalize on the virality.
  • Traf’s iOS 13 icons went viral when tech YouTuber MKBHD featured them on his channel. And he made the best use of that virality.

Read more -

Making $100K In 6 Days | Story Of Traf’s “Overnight Success”🤑
Listen Up, IH! — Episode 12 “Luck favors those who are in motion”That’s James Traf’s insight from being an “overnight success” Traf is a bonafide overnight success. He made more than $100K in 6 days from an icon pack that took 2 hours to design. He rode a

9. Bram Kanstein of NoCodeMVP

  • Build the smallest version of your idea first.
  • Making it small doesn't mean it's less valuable!
  • If you deliver value to your users, they don’t care how good/bad your site looks.
  • Bram’s project Startupstash has more than 21K upvotes on Product Hunt. He did that by continuously providing value to people on PH for a long time.

Read more -

How To Validate Startup Ideas Without Code | Lessons From Bram Kanstein
Listen Up, IH! — Episode 14 “I truly believe that if you deliver real value and solve someone’s problem, they don’t care how you do it.”That’s Bram Kanstein’s insight after working with hundreds of early stage startups over the years. Bram is the creator of Startupstash

10. Sam Parr of The Hustle

  • Copywriting is the number one skill you need if you want to make money
  • Business is like music - there are a handful of structures and best practices within them, follow and you won't fail.
  • Launch something tomorrow, do it fast.
  • Sam built a million dollar content business with The Hustle and recently sold it to Hubspot for an undisclosed amount.

Read more -

The Hustle Of Building A Million-Dollar Content Business✍ | Sam Parr
Listen Up! IH – Episode 13 “Copywriting is the number one skill you need if you want to make money”That’s Sam Parr’s insight from building, running, and selling a successful media empire. Sam Parr is the founder of The Hustle – a tech and business-focused daily newsletter with more

11. Sahil Lavingia of Gumroad

  • Enough is a decision, not an amount.”
  • Align selfishness with selflessness, figure out what you can do creates value for the world.
  • Build stuff, start small and figure out what you want to build.

Read more -

Aspiring Billionaire To Profitable Indie Hacker | Lessons From Sahil Lavingia Of Gumroad
Listen Up! IH – Episode 10 “Enough is a decision, not an amount.”👆That’s what one of Sahil Lavingia’s customers told him recently. A thought that resonates with his approach to running a company and living his life. Sahil is the founder of Gumroad. It’s a marketplace for

12. Dru Riley of Trends.vc

  • Build relationships and store goodwill
  • Take your time before launching on Product Hunt, don’t be in a hurry
  • Twitter threads are a great distribution channel.
  • Find something that you can stick with for a while.

Read more -

Growing From 0 To $20K MRR With Winning Trends | Dru Riley
Listen Up, IH! — Episode 8 “Love what you’re working on, stick it out through pivots and iterations.”👆That’s Dru Riley’s Advice for Indie Hackers. Dru is the founder of trends.vc – A one person newsletter that grew from 0 to $20K MRR in under a year. These

13. Jordan O’Connor of Closet Tools

  • Learn transferrable skills that you can apply in multiple businesses.
  • Transferrable skills like web development, SEO, Copywriting.
  • Learn them deeply and you can never go wrong.
  • Jordan built up closet tools as a niche product, a chrome extension for Poshmark, and took it to $40K+ MRR.
  • Initial validation from Reddit, subsequent growth from SEO.

Read more -

How “The Winner” Of Indie Hackers Built A $38K/Month SaaS Business With A ‘Dollar A Day’ Product | Jordan O’Connor
Listen Up! IH – Episode 3 “I Won Indie Hackers”Back in August 2020, Jordan O’Connor, founder of Closet Tools, became the self proclaimed “winner” of Indie Hackers. He Tweeted this👇 Today his company Closet Tools, which is a Poshmark Automation tool, is at *$41k MRR and ranks #2 on

14. Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt

  • There will always be an opportunity to create a community around something.
  • Tech is a way to express yourself, the same way music is a way to express yourself.
  • Ryan Hoover was passionate about products, so he started a newsletter around new products back in 2013.
  • Eventually, it got acquired by AngelList and today it’s one of the most popular sites in the startup ecosystem.

Read more -

A Community Around Products| Lessons From Ryan Hoover Of Product Hunt🤗
Listen Up IH - Episode 16 “Technology is part of our culture and it’s in many ways a way to express yourself. The same way that music is a way to express yourself”That’s how Ryan hoover looks at the world of tech products and the maker community

15. Nathan Barry of ConvertKit

  • Build in Public for a mission, not for the eyeballs
  • Compounding takes time, give it the years it needs.
  • Be the guide not the hero in your customer's journey
  • "It takes way longer than you think, and it's worth it if you keep going.”

Read more -

0 To 28M ARR While Building In Public📈 | Nathan Barry
Listen Up! IH – Episode 17 “It takes way longer than you think, and it’s worth it if you keep going.”That’s Nathan Barry’s advice for aspiring IndieHackers. Nathan is the founder of ConvertKit – an email marketing solution for indie creators. As of today, ConvertKit makes **$28.3M

16. Andrey Azimov of Sheet2Site

  • Start with a simple 1 button app.
  • Build multiple projects in 1 year and see what sticks - do a hardcore year like the 12 startups challenge.
  • Built his audience through his hardcore year projects, collected emails, launched on PH. Was PH maker of the year.
  • Sheet2Site was a site builder, it was doing okay for the initial couple of years, but went viral during Covid.
  • Eventually, Andrey had an exit after 3 years.

Read more -

The Hardcore Year approach to $10K MRR💪 | Andrey Azimov
Listen Up! IH - Episode 25 “Just start a simple one-button app, whatever your idea is.”👆 That’s Andrey Azimov’s advice to aspiring Indie Hackers. Andrey is the the founder of Sheet2Site.com, Chart2Site.com, MacBook Alarm and ProgressBarOSX.com In 2018, Andrey was selected as Product Hunt’s Maker of…

17. Kyle Gawley of Gravity

  • No employees, no investors, no location.
  • Find problems that are painful and customers would pay a fee for it.
  • Save time or money or both for your users.
  • Kyle became an ex-pat indie hacker after he came very close to death working on his venture-backed startup.

Read more -

Escaping Death to find his Destiny 🌟| Kyle Gawley of Gravity
Listen Up IH - Episode 26 I have no employees, no investors, no funding, no fixed location. Just me and my laptop, building what I love while traveling the world 👆 That’s a quote from one of Kyle Gawley’s blogs. Kyle is the founder of Gravity. Gravity is a SaaS boilerplate

18. Nadav Keyson of Riverside

  • Find your unique edge.
  • You can have a network moat or a tech moat or growth as a moat. Riverside had tech and growth as moats in their journey.
  • Build a product with word-of-mouth marketing built-in, like a Hallmark greeting card. A podcasting app is the ideal example of it.
  • Riverside primarily grows through word of mouth. They got a boost during the pandemic and even a shoutout from Hillary Clinton herself.

Read more -

Indie Hacker on the Unicorn Track🦄 | Riverside
Listen Up IH - Episode 28 “I want to build a billion dollar company”That’s Nadav Keyson’s audacious vision for his startup Riverside.fm Riverside is a tool to record studio-quality podcasts/interviews from anywhere with up to 4K Video & WAV Audio. It’s run by Nadav and his brother

19. Samy Dindane of Hypefury

  • Your MVP doesn’t have to be very polished, it doesn’t need to take long to build. It just needs users.
  • There are no crowded markets, find niches within niches.
  • Paying users are the best validation you need.
  • User interviews are the best way to get the early product right.
  • Indie hackers is a good place to find a co-founder. That’s where Samy and Yannick met.

Read more -

Flying past $23K MRR in 2 years🦅 | Hypefury
Listen Up! IH - Episode 27 “Keep your ears and eyes open, because there are opportunities everywhere.”👆 That’s Samy Dindane’s advice for aspiring Indie Hackers. Samy is the co-founder of Hypefury. Hypefury is a Twitter growth tool that lets you schedule Tweets, Threads, Retweet your best content, a…

20. Ben Tossell of Makerpad

  • Figure out the path of least resistance, and start building.
  • You are the product of your environment, Ben was surrounded by new tech products all day, eventually became a NoCode Maker.
  • High quality content sites and communities have great value.
  • Often just repositioning an existing product can work well.
  • Makerpad was acquired by Zapier from a Tweet!

Read more -

Rising with the No-Code Movement 🏄‍♂️| Makerpad
“Code or No-Code, figure out the path of least resistance and start building”👆 That’s Ben Tossell’s advice for Indie Hackers Ben is the Founder and CEO of Makerpad. Makerpad is a content + community + course platform that teaches people how to build internet businesses without writing a single line…

21. Arvid Kahl The Embedded Entrepreneur

  • Trust the concept of involuntary reciprocity. Give enough for free to people, help them, make their life easier without asking anything in return.
  • 3 pillars of building an audience are - engagement, empowerment, and valuable content.
  • Coding is the 4th step in building a business. The first 3 are figuring out who to serve, what to serve them with, and how YOU can actually serve them.
  • The idea first approach to building a startup can be reversed, the audience first approach is way more sustainable and feasible.

Read more -

How to build an audience-driven business👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 | Arvid Kahl - The Embedded Entrepreneur
“Just give and help and support.”👆 That’s Arvid Kahl’s message to fellow Indie Hackers. Arvid is the founder of the phenomenal bootstrapped founder blog and podcast. And author of best-selling books like Zero to Sold and The Embedded Entrepreneur. Arvid also co-founded FeedbackPanda.com- an ed-tech…

Have thoughts?

Let's chat, I tweeted about this post earlier -

Thank you for reading🙏

Hope you find these stories helpful and inspiring in your own journey.

Every week, I share the most actionable insights and inspiring tips from successful Indie Hackers FOR aspiring Indie Hackers

Ideas + Insights + Inspiration for building profitable internet businesses💪

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Thanks to Seth King for editing all posts.

Cheers,

Ayush