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Being a solo founder is extremely hard!

It's a well-known fact that startups are hard. But being a solo founder is like playing Dark Souls on the hardest difficulty 😥

Solo founders are supposed to take care of all aspects of the business. Well, you might think about delegating/automating, but that wouldn't be a good idea at least in the early stages when you're validating your idea & trying to see what customers want

We're mostly spending time on building stuff & then we quickly switch to our marketing hat by asking for feedback, writing blogs & setting up customer interviews.

Add to this, the uncertainty which haunts us during the period of building & launching the MVP

We're constantly thinking about marketing strategies & coding problems to solve even when we're not working. So time-off turns out to be just "time off from the computer"

And another fact is that we're totally fragile. If at all a problem occurs in our personal lives, it might drain our productivity & bring all startup activities to a halt unless we're mentally prepared.

It also feels quite lonely on this journey even after being part of several online communities & platforms. Some days we're constantly stressed out. Some days we doubt if things would work out.

But the desire to earn our financial freedom & work on our own terms is what keeps us going :)

I went through all this after having quit my job, 50 days ago and jumping full-time into startups. But I'll finally be able to come out of the uncertainty once I launch my upcoming product Mailboat next week

Wonder how solo founders take vacations & manage their mental health? 🤔

  1. 7

    I feel this post so much! I love that you mention financial freedom because that’s the thing that keeps driving me when I get discouraged. It would be a lot easier to take a well-paid job in tech but having control over my means of income means so much. Good luck on your journey!

    1. 1

      Financial freedom & working on own terms is the ultimate goal, we indie hackers desire for :)

      More power to you Rob. We'll all eventually get there :)

  2. 6

    I've focused on leverage while building my product. I do not want to hire employees. I do not want to trade time for money. I do not want a long-term obligation. I want to solve a problem that interests me while providing value in excess of what I charge. These constraints led me to make systems-level design decisions. The most valuable innovations will never be seen by users. They are back-end systems that create efficiency.

    1. 1

      That's an interesting perspective, Shane. So what was one instance of a system design decision which helped you run things on autopilot?

      1. 2

        I decided to build a Restful API to interact with my back end. It isn't necessary right now but it grants me freedom moving forward. This abstraction makes future front end decisions irrelevant. The interactive component becomes just a detail.

        This is a poor example but the other stuff is hyper specific.

        1. 1

          Oh restful API for admin actions specifically?

          1. 2

            Right now, it's handing off processed analytics data for reporting. It doesn't matter if that data is going to be used in a dashboard, converted to a PDF, or processed by a user's custom application. The final implementation is just a detail. This approach maximizes opportunities while reducing future work.

            Businesses should build opportunity and strategy should minimize risk.

            1. 1

              That makes sense :)

  3. 4

    Does being part of a community of Indiehackers help you?

    1. 2

      Hey Luise. Definitely. In communities like these, we'd be able to find like minded entrepreneurs who are going through a similar journey :)

  4. 3

    This post hit it! Right there! All the points! I'm going to pin it and bookmark it in sight and when I ever get the overwhelming and anxious moments and especially the loneliness, I'll read it again.
    Been grinding between full-time freelancing and indie hacking for over 2.5 years now and in my lowest moments, the loneliness was probably the hardest part, especially when friends and family don't really get why you do what you do.
    I've been in lurk-mode on this community and haven't really engaged so far, but you, my friend, made me realize it's time, because of, all of you, like-minded people.
    Thank you for that! Wish you all the best in your journey!

    1. 1

      Hey Bogdan. That's really so kind of you, buddy :)

      True, man. We feel low on many days & can't share much of our stuff with friends/family. Another problem is that we only see the success stories & never the struggles that made them get there.

      But always know that we're all on this journey together 😄🙌

  5. 3

    "But the desire to earn our financial freedom & work on our own terms is what keeps us going".

    Summed everything up in one sentence for me 🔥. It will be hard but it will be worth it!

    1. 2

      That's what we indie hackers are striving for, Adam 🤩 Let's go!

  6. 3

    I have been on this journey for about 2.3 years and it's been a fight but even if I fail now I am more than happy with my progress that I made so far.

    1. 1

      That's a really cool attitude. I guess most of us would be happy even if we failed as the fear of not starting up would be worse.

  7. 3

    100% agree with most of this but think about the reward.

    If your product works, you have control and freedom like no one else has.

    1. 2

      Exactly Dan. That's what keeps us going even when things seem bad.

    2. 1

      you have control and freedom like no one else has.

      More than non-solo founders?

      1. 1

        It think this is debatable.

        If you have trust and understanding between your co-founders and team then you still have the control and freedom but even trust involves giving up control.

        As a solo founder you have both with the caveat that the complete control is going to cost more time/energy even if it's automated away.

        Does that make sense?

        1. 1

          Yes, definitely.

          I was just playing devil's advocate.

          Solo founder lifestyle isn't necessarily optimized for growth but for control and freedom.

  8. 3

    Being a Solo founder is one of the toughest path to choose. Only a few are able to succeed in that. But one of the best path to learn, Grow & Earn :)

    1. 2

      That's true Logan. The odds are higher when we're a solo founder. But it's inspiring when solo founders make it!

  9. 3

    I can only say this is a well representative post of what solo-founders go through. It's definitely hard, specially in the first build phase, because it's hard to take vacation or split attention to something else.

    1. 1

      Yeah, Suvojit. Totally agree with you on that. I even had to cancel a lot of my social activities during this period.

      But the first build phase is when all the uncertainties are stacked up.

  10. 2

    Very accurately put, Goutham. I wrote a similar piece last week on treating this journey as a "marathon" not a sprint - cliched I know but so true.
    I am not a solo founder, but my co-founder works part-time so most of the everyday tasks are done solo!

    1. 2

      Interesting, Sneha. Would love to read it :)

      I can totally relate to what you're going through as i had a similar situation in my previous venture where my co-founder was working part time

      That had its own share of problems too

      1. 2

        Here you go :) https://www.indiehackers.com/post/i-was-trying-to-sprint-in-a-marathon-e298ed6d95

        Yeah, great to have some learnings to lean on. It's my first-time as a founder and it has been one rollercoaster of a ride, but amazing nonetheless.

        1. 2

          That was a nice read, Sneha :)

          1. 1

            Thanks a lot, Goutham.

  11. 2

    Hey! Just wanted to tell you that you’re absolutely killing it! Remember to take proper care of yourself — at the end of the day, if you’re unwell, the business will probably become too!

    Keep up the good work!

  12. 2

    Yes, I had the same experience.
    My weakest point of being solo founder is that no one told me on time that I am focused on the wrong thing at the moment.

    Result was that I was working most of the time on stuff that didn't benefit the business and no one stopped me on time..

    1. 1

      That's definitely a serious trap, Vladi. It's really hard to know with 100% conviction whether what we're doing is useful.

      Taking some time & conducting customer interviews might help us move in the right direction

    1. 1

      Thank you Terrance 😄

  13. 2

    This dawned on me last year, whilst the majority of the content I consumed - especially in relation to entrepreneurial success stories and podcasts... I began to realise the rarity of the business not having founding partners.

    I have just started my second project, which I went to all ends to make sure I have a partner. My solo journey was brutal.

    1. 1

      Interesting. Why were solo-founded companies rare to find, Ryan?

      Definitely agree on working with a cofounder if it suits the way you work :)

  14. 2

    The biggest problem for a solo founder is marketing. Everyone wanna PR on you and no one wanna to help, because money is above all.

    1. 2

      But wouldn't marketing (inbound) require fewer efforts from solo founders compared to handling support?

      Even support can be automated to some extent with well-written docs & docs guide in live chat. But at some point, we'd have to rent our time for support

      1. 2

        If you have marketing and money you can hire support people and you need to be a solo founder

  15. 2

    As a solo founder myself, I couldn't agree more with what you said. Not having anyone else who understands and is invested in the idea as much as you are makes everything so much harder.

    Two of the things I think hit the hardest are - having to learn and take care of everything yourself and not having anyone to point out your blind spots in a genuine and constructive way. And of course, the challenge of fighting the demons in your head all alone most of the time.

    Good luck!

    1. 2

      Nicely put, Haris. Taking care of ourselves is the biggest challenge!

      In our case, customers become the sole source of finding out blindspots

      Thanks man :)

  16. 2

    Wow- kudos to you, seriously! Looking forward to the launch of your product! I very much so agree with this- it's a lonely place to be in + EVERYTHING falls on you. Lots of aspects of the biz to manage and I didn't feel like I could ever take time off. I did however always make time for meals and morning exercise even if I was plugged in from 7am-10pm. Now, with my new startup, I have 2 co-founders and WOW what a difference. Still feel the pressure but I feel like I can take breaks, have offline days, etc and the world won't come crashing down ha!

    1. 1

      Wow, you worked from 7 am to 10 pm! That's a lot of energy.

      Agree with you :) With a cofounder, it's much easier to switch responsibilities :)

  17. 2

    The uncertainty is the worse part

    1. 1

      Yet we have to be rational optimists and keep building, Daniel. One way I've dealt with uncertainty is to occasionally talk to potential customers & understand them

  18. 2

    I can only speak to what has worked for me, but when I get that feeling of overwhelm, anxiousness or stress, I reach out to someone in my network and go and grab coffee or lunch with them.

    Chatting with other founders has helped me get over that lonely solo founder feeling I get from time to time.

    1. 1

      That's a nice hack, Jason 🙌

      In my case i just talk to a few friends to take time off.

  19. 2

    Read that yesterday and thought it was quite accurate: "Entrepreneurship happens
    where continual self-doubt meets courageous ambition." (By James Clear obviously)

    Keep going 🔥

    1. 1

      That's a deep quote :)

      Thanks Mathilde 😄

  20. 2

    I have been doing this for one year and I can tell you that you end up getting use to it :)

    1. 1

      I still remember your podcasts where you were candid with your struggles! Great going Tiago :)

  21. 2

    Solo Founding a company is the hardest part of all.

    You need to develop the product, design the product, market the product, make sales, customer care, etc.

    I feel blessed that I found my counterpart for era.sh, otherwise we would be struggling way more.

    I wish you best luck for Mailboat.

    1. 2

      Glad that things are going well for you, Alex :)

      Thank you for your kind wishes :)

  22. 2

    Good luck with Mailboat. Looks great.

    1. 1

      Thank you very much, Tejas :)

  23. 2

    I hear you! Being a solo founder is def tough, and I am sorry to say it does not get better if you don't do anything about it!

    I am 3 years into my journey, and next time I will probably partner up with someone that complements my skills (I am a business + digital marketing person).

    That being said, it's probably the fastest way to learn what your weaknesses are (some devs think that creating a startup is just "coding", and that's like believe that having scissors makes you a hairdresser! 😅)

    Good luck and keep pushing!

    1. 1

      Yeah, Ikigai. I knew it would be hard right from the start when I signed up for this. I previously had a co-founder when building a consumer startup. He helped me with most part of the building/coding while I was doing marketing.

      Unfortunately, he had to bail out when we thought of validating a SaaS since he felt progressing the career ladder was more important for him.

      But I knew startups were my only route as I was always keen on working on my own terms right from college. Only upon starting the journey, I found out how hard the dark days are.

      But the desire for freedom still keeps me going like most indie hackers :)

  24. 2

    It's going to be up and down just like life itself, that's why its very important to have both
    a product - market fit and a passion project too - that second part will drive you
    on your down days.

    1. 1

      Definitely Geoffrey. That's why I think 'Portfolio of Small Bets' by @dvassallo is really useful for solopreneurs.

      In some cases, the passion project by itself might find a market. The only thing that matters is to keep learning & iterating while avoiding burnout.

  25. 2

    I think that you just need to continue the major of people think that you should to continue when you are motivated but that's bullshit you won't be motivated every single second you just need to continue and make it (That's what I said to myself)

    Sorry for the English.

    1. 2

      Well said, Christian. It's easy to continue when you're motivated. The true test of whether we'd be able to continue comes on the days we feel low.

      Visualizing our long-term goals & looking back at our own journey proves super useful in such cases.

  26. 2

    I feel you on the personal life thing. It feels like when I get knocked off my course with something to take care of in my personal life, the whole project gets delayed until I can get back to things. Makes me queasy with anxiety that I'm holding up progress!

    1. 1

      That's definitely something most of us can relate, Alec! Sometimes we just keep thinking of our projects even we're facing a downturn in our personal lives.

      It just becomes a part of our lives!

  27. 2

    Yep it's hard! I'm an engineer, not a salesperson. It's hard to get out and sell when I'd much rather build new features.

    BTW, Mailboat looks interesting. I signed up for the waitlist!

    1. 1

      True, Dorian. But I guess as solo founders, we tend to become good marketers/salespeople in the long run as we are forced to find creative ways of getting the word out for our product during the limited time we have :)

      Thanks for signing up Dorian :)

  28. 2

    Totally agree. One day you feel like you're on top of the world, the other day miserable... I guess it's all part of the process!

    1. 1

      Yeah, Mike. Having a cofounder in that journey might be different. But when we're a solo founder, we have to train ourselves to be strong mentally to tackle the ups & downs

  29. 2

    yes solopreneurs have to juggle a lot but its fun.

    1. 1

      It's definitely fun 😂🙌

      Otherwise we wouldn't be going at it for so long. But we do have our fair share of dark days when stress overwhelms good parts :)

      1. 2

        i have found a way to minimize dark days now they are only reserved for emergencies however i am not sure if it would work for anyone else someday i will create an app to experiment with people to see if it works or not.

        1. 1

          Oh, would you be able to share that framework?

          1. 2

            it is based on your faith if you don't have any faith than it will not work? you just need to follow your faith whenever dark thoughts come to you eventually it will become a habit and you will start stressing less and less it is just forming a new habit it can be learned but it takes bit of time approx 6months to 1year also depends on the person.

            1. 1

              Interesting. On a sidenote, I'm more of an agnostic when it comes to faith.

              But it's a really great way to draw strength :)

  30. 1

    But the desire to earn our financial freedom & work on our own terms is what keeps us going :)

    This.

    I make more than enough to support my current SoCal lifestyle, honestly at this point hiring or finding a co-founder is just going to decrease my quality of life, even if it's a lever for growth.

    I refuse to believe that, in this day of widespread automation and increasing leverage, the income ceiling for a solo founder is low.

    If anything, I believe it to be $500k-$1m or even more.

    If you're not making more than you currently are, you're not doing something right; throwing more hands or brains at it isn't always the right solution.

    1. 1

      That's true, Jay. We've got a lot of solo founders like @levelsio who have built high scale businesses

      The proof is all there, we just gotta make up our minds while learning & keep going in the entrepreneurial journey.

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    1. 1

      I couldn't get you. The video shows frameworks for validating & building a SaaS right?

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