Distribution channels the lifeline of Indieprojects

Shrikar Archak / September 24, 2021

9 min read

Over the last few years, I have tried to come up with many side projects and try to make them successful. However, the outcomes weren't as expected and thought it would make sense to look these projects and identify if there are any lessons to be learnt from them. I am sharing the projects, how I validated the idea, built an app and launched it only to hear crickets for some projects.

Not all of them were failure, some of them failed because I lacked direction and vision for the app and monetization was just an after thought instead of being the key pillar.

The apps that worked were because of having a clear channel/platform for distributing the app. I am sharing these lessons so that any new Indiehacker who is taking similar path can avoid these traps and build a successful project.

Please let me if you disagree with anything or have any critical or constructive feedback. My ears are always open.

Here are the list of ideas I have tried and built over the last few years.

1) Gym availability notification app.

Gym notification app
  • What went well?
    • Validation is a very important step for any project and for this one specifically, I took the right approach in getting feedback from the user and verifying that it was a decent idea and folks wanted it.
  • Lessons Learnt?
    • This app idea was a few years ago and I didn't know the importance of list building at that time. Going forward make sure to collect user information as earlier as possible
    • Didn't ask any question about pricing and if users are interested in paying for the app. Check for a pricing option or better get paid upfront.
  • Did you build the app?
    • Unfortunately, I didn't build the app and google added this feature to google maps very soon.

2) Slack app for resize marketing images for all platforms.

As you know each of the social media platforms has its own specific size for media and creating marketing material for all the platforms is time-consuming. The idea of this app was to make that process easier and generate all the images for all platforms in one click without leaving slack.

Image Resize for Slack
  • What went well?
    • For this particular app I didn't do enough validation as this was one of the problems I faced myself and there was an existing app like Pablo, and Buffer that did something similar so I knew there was demand and didn't do much user validation.
    • In this awesome blog post by Rob Walling The Stair Step Approach to Bootstrapping he mentions it's often easier to build a side project by relying on a platform where there is an existing marketplace or ecosystem. It kind of made sense for me to build the slack app and add it to the slack app platform.
  • Lessons Learnt?
    • Many people installed the app and tried it out but they were not coming back to the app and reusing it. Currently, I still get a lot of users for this app probably worth looking into monetization and talking to churned customers.
    • Focused more on the technology of serverless and integration when I should have focussed more on the monetization piece.
  • Did you build the app?

3) Podflix: Search and recommendation for podcasts

Podflix: Search and recommendation engine for podcasts
  • What went well?

    • This was the first time I was doing front-end development and was able to build the app within a couple of weeks. Given my decent design skills, I like how the site looks.
    • I spent a lot of time lurking in /r/podcasts and trying to identify patterns and themes from posts and one of the common them was people asking recommendations that are similar to some other podcast. This was way before podcasts became popular
    • There was a lot of interest from users many of them were submitting podcasts to the site and favoriting podcasts.
  • Lessons Learnt?

    • Monetization was hard for this kind of app and the cost of running this was too much if I wanted to keep the content fresh and up to date.
    • Should have or should explore affiliate income or sponsorship or even ads. Personally feel I should have given more time to this project
    • The main channel for traffic was direct and social. Given it pure javascript app didn't get much traffic from Organic search because of SEO issues
  • Did you build the app?

    • Yes I did. (App is not live anymore 😔)

      Podflix: Search and recommendation engine for podcasts
    • Stats

      Podflix: Search and recommendation engine for podcasts
      Podflix: Search and recommendation engine for podcasts

4) Uber for Kids

Uberforkids
This was basically a Uber for X type of app. Did nothing except for posting to Reddit ðŸĪŠ

5) GitRecruit: Source candidates from github

Uberforkids
  • What went well?

This was another interesting project which I thought had a lot of potentials based on the trends I saw in the recruiting world. I talked to a lot of recruiters and this was something they were willing to pay the money. However, they did mention that some of the features were missing and were excited to test out the app. For this project, I built a quick MVP and showed it to the recruiters to get feedback.

###Opportunity for fundings ??? ðŸ˜Ū 💰

gitrecruit

This is the first time I was approached with any funding opportunities. Not sure if it would have worked or not but certainly made my day.

  • Lessons Learnt?
    • Always take money upfront for any project. Believing in your gut comes with a high cost I wouldn't suggest taking this path as much as possible.
    • Folks who were interested or were actively engaging during the initial development state went MIA. Not sure if this was because they were not interested in the project anymore or because Covid struck us.
    • Dependency on Github API though not a big issue was getting hit with rate limit.
    • Technical challenge : No easier way to link github accounts to linkedin profiles. I found a hacky solution but the cost of that was again pretty high for a side project.

6) GiveKudos: Simple Award Certificate gnerating tool

GiveKudos: Simple Award Certificate gnerating tool
  • What went well?

Market research was done on many facebook groups, teachers pay teachers, reddit and there was clearly a need for a tools which solely focus on generating certificates. There were more than 250 certificates that were generated using this tool. My wife was more excited in people creating those certificates. One of the feedback from reddit community

GiveKudos: Simple Award Certificate gnerating tool
  • Where I messed up and any place for improvement?
    • Lack of javascript and frontend skills. Many folks were asking for generating the preview and that is something I couldn't do because of how I had setup the app. To keep the costs low I had created this certificate templates in google slides and use the template parameters to update the certificate slide and generate pdf certificates. All this happened in the lambda fuction and was hidden from the user.
    • Doing everything alone is difficult. Find the right partners if it make sense who can complement you skills. I am weak with design and frontend if anybody wants to collaborate hit me up on Twitter.
    • One of the lesson was to learn javascript and get an understanding of all the tools available at the disposal to build an app
    • Lack of time. Most of the project I work at night or on weekend and didn't have the bandwidth to learn new tech and rewrite the stack.

7) Toy Sharing App.

Toy Sharing app

Watch this space something interesting is coming soon. This is also the project where I will be learning more on how to build an audience. One of the goal for my 2023 goals.

8) Yet another crypto tracker

Yet another crypto tracking tool. Built this app for my self nothing super crazy.

Lessons Learned

One common theme that came out of the analysis is that the projects which have decent traction without me taking any effort in marketing are the apps which have either built in ecosystem or where SEO is working fine. Building apps for marketplace or an existing platform is probably the most important thing to keep in mind. A few of the marketplaces where you can build apps are shopify store, slack store, salesforce etc. Will be writing a detailed posts on the opportunity here stay tuned.

Here are some of the lesson learnt in building all the projects

  • First and foremost 5 paying customers in much much better than > 100 email subscribes > 500 passive votes.
  • Don't focus too much on the tech stack. Learn enough skills to become self sufficient.
  • Reddit is a gold mine thinking about how to use it more effectively for market research and getting your first customers.
  • Justin Kan made a tweet which made me think if product is really important or distribution channel?
Justin Kan

Going forward I will be blogging more about market research, idea validation, distribution channel and building a profitable app in the public. If you are in the same boat as me or are interested in these topic please do subscribe to my email list. (No spams ever).

Please provide any feeback on twitter

Shrikar Archak

@shrikar84

IndieHacker and Software Developer. Getting started to build in public.Tweet me @shrikar84 for any collaboration opportunity or brainstorming.

#developer#ml-engineer#seo

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