So here you are. You launched your new project, you were excited, and already preparing for the cheers of the crowd, and visualizing the curve of your MMR on Stripe getting shaped like a J.
But then, you published your app on Heroku, made a Tweet about it, and then… The void 💀
Now, your whole belief system is questioned and your self-confidence is a wreck. “What am I missing?”, “Why am I such a failure?”, “Maybe I should find a job…”
It’s okay amigo, as someone who miserably failed more than 30 projects in the span of 4 years (and that’s only those I remember), I’ve been here countless times.
I unfortunately can’t tell you how to succeed, but I can tell you how to avoid wasting time 🙃
What is failure?
Forget the usual positivity bullshit, failure is you not reaching what you had in mind, and in 90% of the cases it means you not making enough money.
You want to live from your app and be rich? Then no money = Failure.
You want to ditch your shitty job and travel? No money = Failure
You want more time for your family? No money = Can’t delegate = Failure
90% of your problems can be fixed with money, and people should stop lying to themselves about that.
Your back hurts? Pay a dude to fix it. You’re too skinny? Pay a gym membership and a good trainer to fix it. Childhood trauma? Pay a therapist to fix it. Receding hairline? Travel in Turkey and pay a dude there to fix it like good ol’ Musk.
For the 10% left, just buy self-improvements book and stuff I guess (still money)
Most of my inspiration for that is from a 10 years old thread on Reddit. It sadly has been deleted since then, but I luckily managed to save it in a Google Docs before that. Great read every time you feel down, but be ready to get shaked if you read it.
Anyway, so, you just realized that things are not going like you planned. Here what I usually do when it happens.
It’s YOUR failure
First thing is to recognize that the only person responsible for this failure is YOU. Not the market, not your competitors, just you. You failed, own it.
Second way is to see what’s the root of the problem. K, sure, maybe you got 0 visitors, but why? If you didn’t posted your app anywhere, no need to be Sherlock to see that it’s problematic. Here are a few cases:
No marketing + no visitors + no sales
You might have build the most beautiful statue in the world, if it’s in the middle of the pacific, good luck to get any recognition. Same shit here, if you don’t distribute your app, no will know it exists. But hey, at least you know what you have to do.
That’s a 4/10 situation, kinda sucks but can be worst.
Read that, that and that. Send some cold emails if relevant. Post on Twitter. Try Ads. Just do stuff. You want to share your product as much as possible as quickly as possible to fail as quick as possible. It will avoid wasting time if people don’t wants it.
Marketing + no visitors + no sales
Congratulations, you’re in the blackhole of Indie entrepreneurs. You tried this stuff called marketing (or at least you think you did) but hey, why is no one coming?
Sorry pal, but if you did your best and it didn’t worked, it means your best is not enough. The people you showed your app to probably did not gave a shit about it. That’s a solid 1/10 situation.
Take a shovel and dig a grave for your dreams, unless you have more resilience that a cockroach, because you’ll need a lot to go through the desert of desolation.
That’s the point where you decide to give up or keep going a bit more. How do you choose?
Well, there is no magic solution for this. I can only tell you what I usually do.
First, did you exhausted ALL your distribution? Can you run ads? Can you send cold emails? Can you post on online communities? Not gonna go over all the channels here, but try to see if there are some other place to talk about your product. Some might take months to catch up.
For a good list of channels, check here.
Now, if you indeed tried EVERYTHING you could do and you still didn’t get anything, even after learning new marketing skills, it’s time to move on.
You will be emotionally attached to your product, and I think it’s where lots of Indie hackers make a mistake. Your product is not working and it obviously can’t be fixed either (if you really tried everything), so move on.
“B-b-but, I spent one year making it”
So what? If you spend one year with a toxic partner, does it means you have to marry her/him?
Read about Sunk cost Fallacy and Opportunity Cost.
Marketing + Visitors + no sales
Congrats, you’re one of the lucky one. That’s a 6/10 situation you have here.
Definitely not a bad situation to be in, chumba, people are somewhat curious about your product, they just don’t find your website good enough to purchase.
It’s time to pimp it a little bit with some copywriting, add a feedback box on it and make split-tests.
Make sure to find a way to get their email too, can be as simple as a popup with a discount! Not gonna dive deeper into this here tho, it’s out of subject, just Google it.
Going over the failure
No matter what, you’ll feel like crap. The bad thing is that you will ALWAYS feel like crap when your project fail. The good news is that the more you fail, the faster you get over it.
Typically, you’ll feel like the garbage of humanity, will want to roll in fetal position and not do anything for the whole month.
Don’t do that.
If you really need it, take one or two days off. Or whatever you need, I don’t care, but don’t waste your time. Don’t make a gap year to ‘find yourself’.
Same as with a breakup, the more you keep yourself busy, the more you’ll think about it. If you listen the typical lifecoaching bullshits (which still have some truth in it), you’ll often hear that “motion create motivation”. It’s kinda true.
If you tell yourself “I’m going to take a few days off until I’m motivated”, you’ll never get back to work. Work on more fun projects, learn new skills, or anything, as long as you do something.
Even if you’re almost lethargic, it doesn’t matter, you’re conditioning your brain to work even when you don’t feel like it.
There are literally times after taking a huge failure where I’d be like a vegetable in front of my laptop, barely moving because I’m too depressed. But I still do stuffs, even if it’s almost nothing. It’s like the gym, it’s better to go and almost lift nothing than not going.
I guess that’s it for now. I might write more about it later.
TL;DR: Take the loss, understand when you’ve done everything you could, and move on. Don’t waste too much time.