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Choosing the right time to go full-time on a side-hustle — Yahia Bakour of Stock Alarm ($20K/mo)

When is the right time to take the leap from side-hustle to main hustle?

I caught up with @yahiabakour of Stock Alarm, who quit his very cushy job a couple of weeks ago to focus on his product. He took his time, waiting until he had a significant 20K MAU and $20K MRR. I'll let him tell you how he did it.


On getting fed up with his growing list of excuses and taking the leap

Yahia: I worked at Amazon as an SDE II (senior software engineer), making about $250K per year. I’d been thinking of going full-time on Stock Alarm since I graduated college, but always managed to talk myself out of it with excuses. "I need a healthier MRR," "I need to save money," "I need industry experience," "I'll be missing out on stock vesting," "I'll never find a team as good as the one I'm on"…

I realized that my list of reasons was growing with time.

So I decided it was now or never. The opportunity to fully focus on a profitable product which was poised to grow, coupled with my unique circumstances as a 23-year-old with no kids, no debt, and an unreasonably high risk-tolerance, was too good to let slip by.

I met a surprisingly large number of folks at Amazon who told me that they wanted to do something similar but never got around to taking the chance. Now, they have too many responsibilities to take such a risk.

In my opinion, the right time to take the leap depends on where you are in life. If you’re in your early 20s, have a year or two of industry experience, and a product with some decent MRR and growth potential, then going full-time makes perfect sense. However if you’ve got kids, then your side-hustle needs to be more mature and make a higher MRR over a longer period of time to ease some of that risk.

On how he's coping with the loss of income from his comfy corporate gig

Yahia: Stock Alarm is a real-time stock market monitoring platform. We started working on it 2.5 years ago and I went full time on it 2 weeks ago. When I went full-time, we had 20K MAU and $20K MRR.

At the moment, the salaries we get from this cover our monthly expenses in a high cost-of-living city (Seattle), with a relatively modest lifestyle. I did a ton of planning and thinking about how much runway I would have in all scenarios, so I'm hoping that this further de-risks this decision.

At the end of the day, it is downright nerve-wracking to execute on the decision to quit a comfy corporate gig. Especially because those close to me provided their well-meaning, yet unsolicited, opinions on the matter. It caused some self-doubt.

But ever since I quit, I’ve somehow felt more confident and calm than ever. Even in the face of so much work that needs to be done.

On how he grew to 20K MAU and $20K MRR in the first place

Yahia: Our best acquisition channel has been organic SEO/ASO and referrals from existing customers — simply building what our customers ask for gets everyone “hyped up” and has netted us some really good ambassadors that spread the word.

I think what’s helpful to indie hackers is to think of the first 0-10K users as a completely separate process from 10K-100K+ users. Here are some of the things we did to get the word out there early:

  • Answer relevant Quora questions about our service.
  • Launch on Product Hunt, Betapage, Betalist, Reddit, and Hacker News.
  • Post relevant blog content early on, takes a few months to see SEO results.
  • Send a newsletter regarding new features on a monthly basis to our existing users, asking them to spread the word.
  • Repurpose our infrastructure for growth purposes — e.g. we automatically post top gainers, top losers, upcoming earnings, and more on our Twitter.

On how he's structuring his days now

Yahia: I’m definitely working more now than I did when I was employed, but I also have way more flexibility. Some days I clock in around 12 hours of work, while others are around 4-6.

I usually wake up around 7:30, shower and get dressed, at which point I scout for fancy and overpriced, yet aesthetic coffee shops to work in. Sipping on a cup of coffee, I'll bang out six good hours of heads-down work before I take a break to hit the gym or go on a run. After that, I get in another 2-5 hours of work before unwinding for the day. Sometimes I see friends in the middle of the day or at the end.

On navigating the ups and downs

Yahia: This work is truly, deeply fulfilling. All the extra hours I put into my own business is investing in my own success — I'm no longer selling my time to another person.

And truthfully, I didn’t expect to enjoy it this much. I was worried about the stress of riding everything on a single startup, but I’m a lot happier now.

  1. 1

    Very inspiring thanks for that great story @yahiabakour.
    Is it possible to know the tech stack you used for the development?
    And what was the order of the platforms dev? (1 webapp / 2 ios / 3 android ?)
    Also have you been working alone since the beginning or you have a team or you hired some freelances?

  2. 1

    Outstanding work, Yahia. You inspire me greatly! I am grappling with whether or not to move quickly on my site project because I am in a similar circumstance. Good luck!

  3. 4

    Thanks for sharing the rationale you used! Please report back in a couple of months as 2 weeks you might still be in the honeymoon stage of your decision ;)

    Congrats on the move and on the progress so far!

    Good luck and strong hands for the future ahead!

    1. 2

      Definitely still in the honeymoon stage :D

      Will let ya'll know how it goes

  4. 3

    A great post @IndieJames

    I am just starting on this journey and super nervous (I won't deny it), but I'm not going to bullxxxx anyone either. I want to be an authentic entrepreneur who is trying to grow a side-hustle to then go full-time!

  5. 3

    Hi dude, fellow founder in the design tool space.

    Awesome to see your growth! Would love if you could unpack your SEO growth. You mentioned you started 2.5 years ago and just recently hit 20K MRR, at what point did you start your organic engine and what activities did you do to boost your SEO? Articles, Backlinks etc...

    1. 1

      Mostly we targeted lower traffic but higher intent keywords that we saw success with in the appstore.

      In this case it was "stock alerts", this involved heavy backlinking efforts with other blogs as well as putting out content where we could talk about topics relevant to it.

      We started our organic SEO work a few months into the project. I would say out exactly what we did but most of it was just the usual suspects listed out on SEO blog posts across the web, if you read enough of them you realize they're all essentially the same.

      One thing that did help was the fact that our webapp has thousands of pages indexed by google since all of our stock ticker pages are public. e.g. https://app.stockalarm.io/symbols/BTCUSDT

    2. 1

      Hey Omar, I’m going around and asking solo developers, what do you use to manage your multiple side projects, brainstorm and explore ideas, track goals, and plan out tasks for apps? Thanks!

      1. 1

        I am not a solo developer so maybe not the right fit? But mostly Figjam, notion and Clickup

      2. 1

        I use LunaTask. Has great prioritisation features and notes editor. Calendar integration and will be releasing iOS app which is in beta now. Has pretty good freemium

        1. 1

          Just checked it out! I like the simple and clean UI!

          How does it pan out when it comes to planning/mapping out ideas? Do you feel like it works well for that?

  6. 3

    Surprised that Quora was such a help to you — I kinda thought it was oversaturated. How did you make that work?

    1. 2

      My strategy, look for relevant questions: "What apps do you use for stock market alerts", answer the questions honestly and leave a disclosure so it's clear that i work on the app so Quora doesn't take it down.

      Prioritize questions with answers that already have thousands of views, rather than those with views in the hundreds as those should keep getting traffic.

      Also make sure that you answer questions within the same niche but not just with the intent of sharing your app, helps with making sure your answers don't get taken down.

      Here's some of the best performing answers ive written:

      I continue to receive thousands of views on my answers per week to this day (a year later).

      1. 1

        That's amazing how you came up with your quora strat.

  7. 2

    This is good to see, congratulation on taking the jump.

  8. 2

    Congratulations. Really interesting & inspiring. Thank you very much for sharing. If you have the interest to take the leap, you have an idea, you have the skills, ..., the right time to do is now. I did it almost 5 years ago, I left a good job, I am 48 years old, I have two kids, reasonable debt, .... (excuses ;-), and I am very satisfied with my decision. If it goes wrong, you are always one or two interviews away from returning to your previous life. IMHO.

  9. 2

    Hi Yahia, Thanks for a great post. I wanted to know, while you were working on StockAlarm earlier, how did you keep distractions from working on other interesting "side projects" or ideas that might have kept popping up in your head? That's the biggest challenge that I face.

  10. 2

    Nice story line. Apt.

  11. 2

    Its a good story! Thanks for sharing it :-)

  12. 2

    Awesome story. It's amazing how much money native apps can make. Curious how is the split iOS vs. Android. Most of the time, I've heard iOS is much more profitable.

      1. 1

        Thanks for sharing. I expected iOS to be the highest but didn't think about the web app. Congrats on the progress!

  13. 2

    Best of luck with your app! Thank you for sharing growth strategy.

    1. 1

      Thank you for the kind words! Hope it helps :)

  14. 2

    That's solid growth for a side-project, nice work @yahiabakour! How much runway did you have before you quit?

    1. 1

      A year assuming things go very sideways. 2 years if things stay the same.

      Enough that it made sense for my situation :D

  15. 1

    Alright, it's been a couple of months tell us how it went :)

    Do you still have hair? I already lost all mine and haven't even jumped on it full time yet

  16. 1

    I believe that choosing the right time depends on your resources.
    When I say resources I mean savings and family financial background and support.

    When you have a family with a house or financial support that will help when things don't go as fast as anticipated it makes taking risks easier.

    If you read about a lot of successful entrepreneurs they had those even though people don't like to talk about it because they are insecure and feel that it takes away from their greatness which it doesn't.

    Another point is that some people have had extensive experience failing in a field then finally they will try again and they will succeed faster because of the years of experience they bring.

    Keep all that in mind before jumping from part-time biz to a full-time one. And don't just take people's stories of making it at a face value. A lot of so-called successful people have families, a network of resources, and experience in similar field the average person doesn't have.

  17. 1

    Super impressive --I'd love to have you on my Podcast. Takes 15-20 min, features thought leaders like yourself..... Interested?

  18. 1

    Congrats for taking the leap! Especially if the prior job was very cushy... and your product looks great! 👍

  19. 1

    Kudos for structuring your days so well, take advantage of the time without having kids!

    While my daughter is a big motivation for me (she's 2), there no chance I can work for 6 hours in a row consistently lol

  20. 1

    Hi Yahia, incredible story, you're really inspiring to me.

    Wondering could you clarify who do you mean by "we"? did you have a co-founder or someone else you worked on the app with?

    Also, could you give a fellow coder some insight into whether or not you think a non-technical cofounder is necessary? Sometimes I think it might be better to just go at it alone since I have more flexibility to build different ideas and just see what sticks? especially if i don't want to raise venture

    1. 1

      He does have a cofounder. And my two cents (though it really depends on your situation): Take it as far as you can alone, then decide whether you're happy with slow growth after that, or if you want to kick things up a notch. If it's a comfortable living for one person, you might want to go it alone. But if not, it might be worth bringing on a marketer.

      That said, it isn't just a money/time decision. Other factors like support/commradery play a role too.

      1. 1

        thank you for the insight!! agreed. I'm leaning towards co-founder being necessary for anything that isn't a tiny side project...

  21. 1

    That is truly inspiring. If you have managed to become SDE2 at your 23 yo, I think you can manage any kind of business.

    I never had a job paying 250k$/y and I don't know if I could quit if I had. Though, I had the opportunity to start my own business over my bachelor's thesis. I worked for myself for more than a year (14 h/d), created a team around the product, and even hired a couple of people after my first sale. I postponed my graduation for this. I think everything was easier when I had less to worry about.

    In my current circumstances, I need to keep working in my full-time software developer job but I want to start a side hustle to be able to make a decision like you did.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  22. 1

    I am amazed by your story. Your ASO strategy seems to have worked really well. Congrats! Is it possible to share some info on how your downloads looked in the beginning and how it evolved over the time? At which point did the revenue start paying costs of your app?

  23. 1

    congrats to this man on his great success!

  24. 1

    Awesome stuff Yahia! I also recently left a very very cushy big SDE job to work on my startup as well. One thing worth noting is even though money might be a concern, I'm def a lot happier working on things that personally matter to me every single day. It really does feel like freedom :)

  25. 1

    Great, Thanks for sharing with us this successful story.

    I'm now working also on a project in parallel with my full-time job, I see the future in my idea and how it can be more successful, but the problem is how to manage the time to work on it and launch the idea? I found it very hard to work 8h and then another min 4h working on my idea with my friend.

    I know it's the biggening and it's hard, but I can't leave my job before launching the idea and feel the progress.

    If you have any ideas or some advice about that, please share them with us. :)

    also if there is some points need to be aware about while and after launching the idea.

    Thank you again @yahiabakour, and keep it up

    1. 2

      I find that waking up early on weekends is a-lot more productive than working evenings. Even better was waking up an extra hour or two before your usual wakeup time for your actual job and using those fresh hours for side project stuff.

      I think it comes down to personal preference as to when to work on it.

      ----

      Launching the idea should be done as soon as a quality MVP is ready (incase it's a product in an existing market). If you are launching something super novel then it can be alot less polished imo.

  26. 0

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