Starting a Profitable Business in Six Weeks with Courtland Allen


Really enjoyed this interview with Indie Hackers founder Courtland Allen.

(although it's a Software Engineering podcast, don't worry it's a great founder story and doesn't get technical 😀)

It took Courtland approx 6 weeks to go from idea to making his first sponsorship sale. And in only 7 months he was profitable to support his (San Francisco) rent and living expenses.

But... he had plenty of failed startups before coming up with Indie Hackers. What he learned from those failures were the inputs to building an incredibly successful business.

Lessons learned:

  • Courtland stopped thinking about product first - he thought about how the whole model would work including the product.
  • Indie Hackers was planned in 3 steps with each step making the next one possible. First he started with publishing interviews on the blog. Next was the newsletter to get people back to the blog. Finally, when the newsletter was big enough he introduced the community.
  • The podcast wasn't part of the plan and he didn't want to do one. But users asked for it. He listened, launched and now it's the biggest of driver of new members to Indie Hackers. Listen to your users - they might know what they want better than you do.
  • 3 days to plan out the idea and 3 weeks to launch. Move fast and get something out in public.
  • Charge high $ for something that has high value. If you're indie and need / want to make meaningful revenue quickly, don't mess about with low value problems that need 100s or 1000s of customers to turn a profit.
  • Use constraints to shape what you're doing and prevent endless planning.
  • At the start do sales and not marketing. Marketing takes too long to build revenue. You need to talk to prospects directly and pitch your offer.
  • Don't try to do everything. Focus. Start small.

And more good stuff about community but you'll have to listen to the episode. It's worth it 🎧

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Show notes:

In the beginning, I talk with Courtland about his journey to create the indie hacker community. I actually thought he created it right after graduating from college. But that's far from what happened. For many years, Courtland started all kinds of businesses with varying degrees of success. In 2016 he then quit his day job and had a runway of one year for building a profitable business (giving the cost of living in San Francisco).

Courtland tells me that the first six months of this new journey to building a successful business weren't really productive. But as he realized that he runs out of time and money, he made a plan.

He wanted to start something that he knew will be successful and brings in revenue within a short amount of time. So, he thought about all he had learned from his previous attempts and came up with a multi-phase action plan.

Yes, this time around, Courtland had learned that he should start small, and incrementally make his way towards the successful business he had in mind.

He explained that he started with the interviews on the website because when there is content on a website, people come to that site. Then, he started the mailing list, because it's easier to start a mailing list when you have content. Then, he contacted sponsors that would be a great fit for the website. It took Courtland only a few weeks from the initial idea to having the first sponsorship deal locked in.

He never intended to start the podcast. But after several requests from the community, he gave it a shot. Now, it's one of the most successful parts of the business.

Well, I talked about so much more with Courtland, like why he build the website and community functionality from scratch or whether or not he still is a founder. So, have a listen to the podcast or read through the whole interview in the transcript notes. Let me know how you liked in on Twitter.