The 5 Struggles of Being an Indie Hacker

A business man trying to jump over hurdles on a running track

Back in 2021, I had challenged myself to build an online business in 12 months the indie hacking way, and I totally botched it! I failed for a few reasons that I won’t get into here. However I will share some of my personal, as well as general, challenges with indie hacking.

If you are not familiar with the word “indie hacking”, it essentially means attempting to create and start a profitable online business without any external help (e.g. funding, employees, partners, …etc). You could essentially think of it as, “hacking” together a business that will hopefully become profitable. You might think “hacking” sounds like you don’t really know what you are doing (and while that can be true in many ways) there is often a process associated to it that requires some skill and art. One major benefit of going down this route is that you would have full ownership and control of the business that you end up starting. At the same time, it is usually a form of “lone wolf” entrepreneurship that requires independence, multiple skills, creativity, and self-reliance.

Indie hackers are often developers, designers, marketers, sales people or writers who leverage their backgrounds, skills and passions to build products and/or services that solve real problems for either consumers or businesses (e.g. B2C or B2B). They use technology, online platforms, communities, social media, newsletters, blogs, podcasts and courses to grab the attention of potential customers or to serve them. It can be a demoralising grind until they strike luck with a business idea, but that is part of the journey. By breaking away from a traditional 9-5 career, indie hackers are in complete control of their work and flexible lifestyle.

On the surface, indie hacking sounds like a dream career for many aspiring entrepreneurs, but it is far from a smooth sailing journey. I’ll go over some of the common struggles that indie hackers face and how to overcome them.

Challenge #1: Finding a big enough problem (viable idea)

The first hurdle towards being a successful indie hacker is to come up with a viable idea that solves a real world problem and more importantly, that people would be willing to pay for. Without that, you’d never be able to create a profitable business. A great, viable idea is one that:

  • There is a clear NEED for it. (e.g. it solves a real problem or satisfies a real desire for a specific group of people)
  • Has a large enough market potential and demand
  • You have full control over (e.g. a 3rd party service doesn’t have the ability to effectively kill your business at any moment)
  • Doesn’t have a low barrier to entry. It isn’t easily copyable and has a unique value proposition that differentiates you from competitors
  • Is scalable through technology or media
  • Is the correct time for it (e.g. the world conditions for the business are ripe for it to succeed)

As you can see, there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration in order to find a viable idea, which makes it even more difficult to start. It is easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis or to simply be at a lack of ideas. This is especially true when you have limited resources, time, experience, knowledge and feedback. Many indie hackers struggle with finding an idea that meets all of these criterias, or they end up pursuing ideas that are too mediocre, don’t solve real problems, are too vague, too ambitious, or too saturated. Or they give up too quickly when they hit resistance or rejection and become discouraged.

Don’t become someone who can’t even overcome the challenge of finding the right problem to solve. Do your research on the problem, talk to people, test and validate that your solution idea is the right fit for it. Also don’t get married to your idea/problem. You can use various methods and tools to help you find the “right” problem to invest your time into and how to validate them from a business perspective such as:

  • Brainstorming and ideation techniques (e.g. Lean Canvas, CENTS, Grade My Business Idea, etc.)
  • Scratching your own itch (a problem that you have, likely other people have as well)
  • Paid advertising to test interest or gather feedback (e.g. Facebook, X, or Google ads)
  • Short form content to gauge interest or find early adopters (e.g. TikToks, reels, shorts)
  • Talking to your ideal audience (e.g. in person, phone calls, video calls, etc.)
  • Collecting information (e.g. surveys, interviews, landing pages, etc.)
  • Posting on online communities and platforms (e.g. Indie Hackers, Reddit, Product Hunt, and Hacker News)

By coming up with a viable idea (e.g. finding a real problem) and testing out the interest for a solution to it through talking to people, it will increase the chances of your idea turning into a profitable business. Especially if you do the next thing correctly.

Challenge #2: Building and launching your product or service

Once you have validated your idea (hopefully with a solution in mind to it), the next step is to build and launch your product or service. This is where you turn the problem you’re solving into a real, working solution using your technical and creative skills. Whenever possible, it’s better to iterate a test version of your product or service solution with your first potential customers. For developers, the building part will come easy, but for people with different backgrounds they might have a harder time doing it alone.

Regardless, building and launching your product can be challenging if you do not have the know-how. It can also be quite rewarding, fulfilling and exciting to know that you’re building something of value, especially if you did the first part correctly! However, it also comes with many pitfalls and obstacles such as the following:

  • Building too much, too soon: It is easy for project scope to get out of hand or to ship features that are not absolutely necessary in your first release. All of this makes it more complex, costly, and time-consuming to build.

  • Building the wrong solution to a problem: Sometimes your potential clients will not agree with your solution or they agree with it, but it wasn’t painful enough for them to spend money on fixing it. While ego shattering, it is valuable feedback.

  • Perfectionism and procrastination: Spending too much time and energy on useless stuff that will not drive sales. Avoiding the work that you should be doing or delaying your product’s launch because of made up excuses (e.g. the logo is ugly, the colour scheme is bad, etc.)

  • Technical debt and bugs: Making poor decisions early on can lead to poor code, errors, and issues with your product, which may lead to stressful nights dealing with problems and the possibility that certain things might need to be re-done.

  • Fear: Coming from product launch anxiety and/or fear of failure. Indie hackers will second guess themselves, go down a path of self-sabotage, feel nervous, doubtful, or scared about launching their product. Or simply not promote their product enough. These are all hindrances that need to be overcome to stand a chance at succeeding.

To deal with these challenges that come up, you need to be mentally strong, confident, adaptable and agile, while focusing on the solution to the problem that you’re solving. Most importantly, you want to deliver as much value to your future customers as possible. You can use various techniques to help guide you, such as:

  • The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach: Building the simplest version of your future product that you can test your core assumptions and hypotheses iteratively, based on continuous customer feedback.

  • The Pareto principle (80/20 rule): Focusing on the 20% of features that deliver 80% of the solution and value to your customers, while eliminating or postponing the rest

  • The KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid): Use what you are most comfortable with and usually the simplest solutions are the best. Don’t overcomplicate things.

  • The Ship Early, Ship Often mantra: Launching your product as soon as it is ready, even if it is imperfect or incomplete, and improving it based on customer feedback and data

  • Listening: It is super important to engage, and listen to your audience or potential customers through something like customer interviews. Often the act of talking to potential customers will answer a lot unanswered questions you have about your idea and will let you know if the solution you’re pursuing is the correct one. If not, these customers who want the problem solved will tell you what they want. In turn, this will make you more confident in your idea and reduce your fears of failure and launch anxiety.

  • Having a mentor: If this option is possible for you (or you have someone who is further ahead than you that you can reach out to for advice), this can help you to make better decisions along your journey. Either preventing you from wasting time, doing something stupid or to encourage you during rough patches. Having outside perspective from another entrepreneur to critic your business idea, decisions or plans is invaluable.

By staying focused on the problem you’re solving, and asking yourself if the work you’re doing is positively contributing towards getting your first paying customer, you can launch a better product, faster! While at the same time learning how to keep improving it from potential customers.

Challenge #3: Growing and monetizing your product

After you have built and launched your product, the next step is to get sales and keep growing. This is where you attract, retain, and convert your customers who in turn will then create revenue and profit for you from your product or service.

This stage can be both exhilarating and awesome, but also depressing and cruel (depending on sales). Many indie hackers will find it difficult to transition from building/coding to marketing and sales. Some of the common struggles that come up are:

  • Finding and reaching your target audience: Identifying and locating your ideal customers, or attracting them to you takes a lot of time and energy to do. It isn’t easy to capture attention online and communicate quickly the value of your product or service.

  • Choosing the right marketing channels and strategies: Finding the most effective and efficient ways to promote and distribute your product (e.g. SEO, social media, email, blogs, podcasts, ads, etc.)

  • Measuring and optimising your performance and results too early: Often we rush to data, when we don’t have enough of it. Basic metrics should be tracked (traffic/visits, registered accounts, retention, revenue and churn). Just make sure to market enough or experiment enough with finding a voice that resonates with your customers before making major pivots.

  • Pricing and monetizing your product: How to come up with the optimal price and monetization model (e.g. freemium, monthly recurring revenue, one-time, etc.)

  • Finding the right balance between building (e.g. new features for existing customers) and marketing (e.g. attracting new customers).

To help overcome these challenges, you need to have an objective view of your business from above and see what is working and what isn’t. It is your job to steer your business in the right direction, in order to capture as much attention from potential customers and to convert them into paying customers through providing value. You can use various frameworks and tools to help you, such as:

  • The Product/Market Fit framework: Finding the fit between your product and your market. This includes messaging and ensuring that you are solving a real problem for a large enough group of people who are willing to pay for it.

  • The Growth Hacking methodology: Experimenting with various marketing distribution channels and strategies, and using an iterative approach to find the 1-2 that drives the most growth towards your business.

  • The AARRR framework (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, Revenue): Measuring and optimising your customer journey and funnel, from acquiring new customers, to activating and retaining them, to encouraging them to refer others and ultimately having them generate revenue for you.

  • The Value-Based Pricing strategy: Pricing your product based on the value it provides to your customers, rather than the cost of production or the market average, and communicating and demonstrating that value to your customers.

Also keep in mind that between building and marketing, you’re likely not marketing your product nearly enough. Without adequate marketing, your business will have a hard time growing. There are exceptions like if your product is superior to anything else and you are lucky enough to have word of mouth marketing built in. However, for most people this will not apply. So schedule time to market your product and try to strike a balance between striving for viral and evergreen content.

When you are consistent with your marketing distribution and provide a high value product to your customers, you can expect to grow and monetize your product more effectively and efficiently. This will in turn help you to create and maintain a loyal, happy and satisfied customer base.

Challenge #4: Managing yourself and your business

As an indie hacker, you are not only the creator of your product, but also the manager of yourself and your business. If you become lazy and don’t do any work or don’t bring in any consistent (or recurring) sales, you will not get paid. As a business owner, you are responsible for planning, organising, and executing all aspects of your business, from product development, to marketing, to sales, to finance, to legal, and future product direction.

Managing yourself and your business is both demanding and complex, but it also gives you the freedom and control to run your business the way you want. Some of the common struggles that indie hackers face around this are:

  • Balancing your time and energy: Allocating and prioritising your time and energy among various tasks and activities, such as product development, marketing, sales, customer service, etc. In addition to your personal life obligations and downtime.

  • Staying motivated and productive: Maintaining your motivation and productivity can be quite challenging when you experience difficulties in your business and/or in your personal life.

  • Learning and improving your skills: Acquiring and enhancing your skills and knowledge is critical to not fall behind competitors and to remain competitive in today’s fast paced world. This can include both technical and non-technical skills. Or maybe you want to improve upon your weaknesses.

  • Handling the legal and financial aspects: Dealing with taxes, accounting, compliances, expenses, and other financial aspects of running a profitable business. Also avoiding or resolving any issues and/or disputes.

To overcome the challenges of being self-employed as a business owner, you need to have a well balanced life and support system to get you through the rainy days. As well as have techniques and strategies to help you cope with the day-to-day of running a business. Some various tips and tools that you could use are:

  • The SMART goal-setting technique: Setting Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals for yourself and your business, and breaking them down into actionable steps and milestones

  • The Pomodoro technique: Using a timer to work in short, focused bursts of 25 minutes, followed by short breaks of 5 minutes, to boost your concentration and productivity

  • Using mediation or neuro associative conditioning techniques to help you overcome challenges, or get into the right state of mind for the job at hand

  • Scheduling: Using something like a bullet journal or simply planning your days/weeks ahead of time. This will help keep you focused on what to do and help you to manage your time better.

  • Taking time off to rest, recover, have fun, enjoy life and relax your body and mind.

  • The Feynman technique: Learning and improving your skills by explaining them in simple terms, identifying and filling your knowledge gaps, and applying and teaching them to others

  • Online resources and tools: Using online resources and tools to handle certain aspects of your business such as accounting, payments, customer service or hiring professionals/consultants to assist you.

By having a solid, balanced and flexible system, you can manage yourself and your business more effectively and efficiently, while not constantly beating yourself down and getting overwhelmed. That way you can actually enjoy the freedom and control that indie hacking is supposed to offer.

Challenge #5: Loneliness (lack of like-minded friends)

As an indie hacker, you are part of a constantly growing and thriving online community of independent entrepreneurs who likely share your beliefs, values, vision, and goals. While you might feel alone in your journey, you are not! You are surrounded by peers, mentors, and supporters who can help you succeed, if you choose to seek such people out.

Finding and joining a like-minded community is a great opportunity to make friends with other people who have also chosen this entrepreneurial path. It does require some patience, time and effort to actively participate and thus start seeing the benefits. Some of the common struggles that indie hackers face when trying to overcome loneliness are:

  • Finding and connecting with the right people who are also at a similar stage as you: It isn’t easy to find the people who you’ll connect with on not only a business level, but a personal one as well. Not making time for this activity is the biggest hindrance.

  • Engaging and contributing to a community: For some of us this comes easy, while for others who are shy it is more difficult. It starts by asking and answering questions, sharing your progress and learnings, and giving and receiving feedback.

  • Not making time: Being swamped with running a business and your own personal life, we may skip networking, community events or building friendships with people.

To overcome the challenges of loneliness, you need to be proactive and put time aside towards finding and joining an entrepreneurship community that suits your needs and preferences. You can use various platforms and channels to help you, such as:

  • Online communities and platforms (e.g. Indie Hackers, Millionaire Fastlane forums, Product Hunt, Hacker News, Reddit, X, Facebook groups, etc).
  • Online events and meetups, (e.g. webinars, podcasts, meetups, hackathons, etc.)
  • Online courses and programs
  • Online mentors and coaches.
  • In-person communities, events, or conferences (e.g. Startup Weekend)

By being proactive and consistent, you will likely find and join a community that suits your needs and preferences, while reducing the loneliness that indie hackers often feel.


Indie hacking can be a rewarding and fulfilling way of entrepreneurship if you are able to successfully create a profitable business. But it also comes with a lot of grinding, frustrations and challenges. Hopefully you’ve learned that it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows if you are planning on going down the indie hacking route. At least you will be better prepared for the biggest challenges indie hackers face, which are:

  • Finding a big enough problem to solve (viable idea)
  • Building and launching your product
  • Growing and monetizing your product
  • Managing yourself and your business
  • Dealing with loneliness

And hopefully you will also have an idea of how to overcome these challenges. If you choose to become an indie hacker and are able to successfully navigate through these challenges, you will be much more likely to achieve your entrepreneurship goals and dreams. As well as having created a product that helps other people solve a problem of theirs or provides some sort of value to them. That is something you can be proud of for the rest of your life.

Subscribe to David's Blog

Are you a developer interested in building your own SaaS business?

Get exclusive, behind-the-scenes insights (and first access priority) on my journey and process in building a SaaS business from scratch!

Not sure if this is for you? Then check out my Entrepreneurial Dreams: Build a SaaS Business in 12 Months Challenge.

Quality content! No SPAM and we will NEVER sell your data or email... guaranteed!

David Nowak

David Nowak

If it is about business, investing, programming or travelling, you can bet he'll be interested. Known to be an easygoing guy with big ambitions and maaaybeee works too much.