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How I started indie-hacking, unexpectedly

It's the story about how I started indie-hacking and building micro-apps for fun. Indie-hacking helped me to build an audience and added a decent extra income source for me.

Written by Jim Raptis

Sep 22, 2020 • 4 min

How I started indie-hacking, unexpectedly

The Story

Last summer (June 2019), I took part in the London RG accelerator program with Loceye. Loceye is the company I co-founded along with three other guys back in 2016.

The program was intense. 10+ hours per day for networking, learning, and brainstorming ideas about our business. We spent most of our days off-screen trying to fine-tune our business model and grow our soft skills.

As a result, Ι had to free all this pressure somehow.

Then, I established a simple ritual to release daily stress every evening. I put music on my headphones, took my laptop, and opened Figma with a purpose to design random UI stuff.

I know, it an awkward way to relax, but it worked for me.

Every day I caught myself repeating the exact same actions!

Search color palettes online, create Rectangles in Figma, and copy-paste hex codes for each Rectangle. One by one.

And I had to repeat the process for every single color palette.

<Info>A notice here. On June 19, the Figma plugins were not released yet!</Info>

It was a repetitive action with friction and I was losing precious time!

For me, that was the signal that pushed me into the indie hacking world. All the pitches, economic analyses, and business plans structuring got me exhausted. But it sparked joy to spend my evenings building a small web app to automate the above painful task.

I build a working CodeSandbox (as an MVP) in a few hours. It made my life easier and I was happy.

In the following three months, I focused only on my startup and lead the pivot from Loceye (remote eye-tracking with humans) to VisualEyes (predictive eye-tracking results with AI). I forgot about my tool and never showed it to anyone.

Upside down event

In September, I needed a new color palette again. I opened the CodeSandbox project and create one palette in 5 seconds. Then, I closed the tab and continued working.

After a while, I had my AHA moment.

I did my job in 5 seconds. What if someone else had the same problem and I could help people like me save 10 minutes of their valuable time. The question was hurting my head for hours. Until I took the courage to write down a two-line description and post it to Reddit.

I thought:

“I don’t have to lose anything. A bot will ban my post but who cares“

I completely forgot about it and returned home. Spend some hours relaxing from the day and hit the gym. In the night, I opened my laptop. While I was scrolling like a crazy man on Twitter, and Dribbble, I remember about my Reddit post. Let's have a look, I said.

To my huge surprise, the post had got 20 upvotes and a couple of encouraging comments.

It got me thinking. I should consider launching it on ProductHunt.

The launch marathon

It took me a couple of days to brand and polish the app, write down a description, and create 3-4 promo images. Also, I had to fix some bugs that people had reported on the Reddit post!

Another step was to search for a hunter!

Hunters are ProductHunt users (with many followers usually) that post apps on your behalf. It's a win/win situation for both parties. The hunter adds another app to his portfolio and boosts their reputation. You utilize the hunter's audience and attract more users to your app. Once the hunter posts your app, a notification email is sent to all their followers.

For CopyPalette, the right hunter was Aaron (part of the Product Hunt team) who responded to me immediately and was helpful. I'm still so grateful for his kindness.

I told him to schedule the launch for Saturday morning. I wanted to have all the day to live the experience of a launch.

On Saturday, I wake up the earliest I could. I was nervous and excited at the same time. It was my first personal ProductHunt launch!

The first couple of hours is the most intense. You have to rush and post your app everywhere. Twitter, Facebook groups, Reddit, Designernews, Dribbble, etc. And the worst part is that you have to wait a couple of hours until you start seeing actual results.

If you manage to end up on the front page early enough you're safe. Every ProductHunt user will have a glance at your submission and your possibilities for an upvote are increasing.

After an hour, I had an organic upvote boost and managed to reach the top places. I was feeling ecstatic.

From that point, I knew that I have many chances on ending in the top 5 products and celebrate a big personal win.

The feeling

Eventually, the whole day was exhausting yet incredible. People loved my app and CopyPalette finished in second place🥈. The launch traffic lasted for almost a week and manage to find 50-70 daily active users.

The best part of this experience was that I helped people save time on their workflow. It's a valuable feeling!

For me, this was the validation I sought to keep on devoting my free time to building side apps.

PS. I sold CopyPalette along with 2 other apps 8 months later!

If you liked this post, you can follow me on Twitter where I share daily tips about bootstraping, product development, and UI/UX design tips.

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Jim Raptis

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