Embracing the Indie Hacker Mentality

August 24, 2022

I’ve never considered myself an indie hacker.

But a few weeks ago something changed. I started approaching my work like an indie hacker, and it became more satisfying — and more fun.

Here’s what shifted…

Before launching They Got Acquired, my last big project was growing the content team at The Penny Hoarder.

That personal finance media company was also bootstrapped. But we had lots of resources and scaled quickly after I joined.

I oversaw dozens of FT employees, and we moved fast.

Because of that fast growth, my job was mostly high-level, putting the pieces in place so others could do their jobs well. I love that kind of work!

Then I left that role to launch a new brand from scratch, which ended up being a harder transition than I expected.

Fun, yes. But I kept expecting us to move more quickly, to have the manpower of a big team.

When the truth is, we’re just me + 10 part-time contractors! We don’t have unlimited revenue to re-invest in the company. And we’re early in the business, still finding our footing.

I kept finding myself thinking about the company like we had a full-time team to execute — then being disappointed at the pace.

All the little things I was spending my time on felt like blockers that were keeping me from doing the bigger things.

Then I read Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks, and this stuck out:

“Life … is a process of engaging with problem after problem, giving each one the time it requires — the presence of problems in your life … isn’t an impediment to a meaningful existence but the very substance of one.”

💡 I had an ah-ha re: how that applies to my startup.

Working through the little challenges each day IS building the business. Those challenges aren’t preventing me from building. They ARE the process of building.

The truth is, early-stage founders are SUPPOSED to do things that don’t scale. SUPPOSED to do things manually. SUPPOSED to get in the weeds.

We can’t skip that part. Nor should we want to! Because…

This is the fun part! I love this weedy part of building! Creating something from nothing, brick by brick.

Yet I’d turned all the little things into chores, because I thought they were preventing me from going bigger.

So I let myself enjoy those weeds. I embraced the indie hacker mentality. I spent as much time on the daily tasks as I wanted, as much as the business required, knowing they are moving the business forward.

And I found myself having more fun. Feeling less stressed. Enjoying the things that don’t scale.

But know what’s even better? It’s working.

Ticking off lots of small jobs each day is moving the company forward. My indie hacking is aligned with our big-picture strategy, so we are making meaningful progress toward our goals.

Since I made this mental shift, we’ve seen some crazy growth in the right places.

If you’re in the brick-by-brick phase, don’t wish it away.

Lean in, enjoy it — and it might be just what both you and the company need.

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