Indie Makers: The Worst Audience for Your SaaS

published on 06 July 2024

You are an indie maker. You want to make a SaaS to earn sweet internet dollars.

You heard that marketing and sales are the hardest parts. But you are smart. You are prepared. You have a plan!

You will be doing building in public and selling your product by talking about it! Your audience are the indie makers. Twitter has thousands of those! They are smart, they are active, easy to connect with. They engage a lot and try new stuff easily. They are just like you.

It will be a fun and easy journey!

But there are a few 'buts' you need to hear. I just have to warn you that your plan has a downside.

In this post I will tell you about Pros and Cons of selling to indie makers. And why I myself stopped selling to indie makers.

All I tell about is my real experience of making a real SaaS and growing it to $16k per month. No startup fairytales or vague theories here. Only real stuff.

Let’s start with defining an indie maker.

Our typical indie maker is a solo entrepreneur or part of a tiny team. 1-2 people. They're usually tech-savvy - developers, designers, or product people who posses the entrepreneurial spirit. By day, they might be working a 9-to-5 in tech. But by night? They're building their dream product. The next big thing. Their ticket to freedom from the corporate grind.

These folks are masters of the side-hustle. They're active on Twitter, Product Hunt, and Reddit. They consume podcasts about startups and binge-watch my videos like it's Netflix.

Now, the interesting part. The median revenue for an indie maker's project? It's $0. Nothing. Sorry, but it is the reality.

Of course there are some stars who make significant money. The indie maker market is like an iceberg. What you see on the surface - the viral launches, the success stories - that's just the tip. Under the surface it is a vast community of makers are hustling, failing, learning. And only sometimes striking gold.

I love the indie makers community for it’s passion. I see a lot of talented people led by a dream to really change the world with the power of tech. I just love it. Love all of it.

But let’s look at this community from the business perspective.

The biggest problem of indie makers is — they are makers! 🙂

A maker loves making. We love building stuff.

I can spend a week and host my own entity of an open-source software analytics software (plausible or posthog). I find more attractive that paying $$$ to a hosted solution.

Or make my own landing page with a free tailwind css template.


Because it’s fun! It’s art, it is challenging.

Why a VC-baked startup founder will pay 300 bucks for a landing page and I won’t? Because the founder from VC is in a huge urgency.

Let’s me explain how VC works: you raise money. Then you raise more money. Then more. Then you make exit or go to IPO. To constantly raise money, you need to burn money. Otherwise, why give you more if you still have dollars? At the same time, you can’t not not raise: it is a red flag that something is not OK with your company.

So VC guys need to burn their cash ASAP to get another tranche.

This is why their team has hundreds tasks to do. saving their time is a huge HUGE benefit. It is OK to spend a grand to save time.

An indie maker? We cool. We are not in a hurry. Enjoying the process. Learning along the way. Making tweets.

Here is a good example of my friend:

James Ivings' tweet.
James Ivings' tweet.

James asks for a recommendation for a server-monitoring tool. his preferences:

  • with a web interface
  • shows memory, cpu & bandwidth usage
  • I don't have to sign up for a SaaS to use it

He does not want to sign up for SaaS.

Understandable 🙂

The second big problem of selling to indie makers: they do not re-invest much because they have nothing to reinvest. An average indie makers makes $0. Yes, indie makers are poor. Someone had to say it. Sorry.

Here is an example from my subreddit:

My subreddit for SaaS founders.
My subreddit for SaaS founders.

Imagine selling this bundle to a company of 100 people. You can charge $5k per month easily. This guy will earn x100 less because they target indie makers.

Let’s see at another example — Unicorn Platform, my previous SaaS.

I relied on indie makers and building in public heavily doing my growth. This approach helped me to kickstart the product. But the real money came from startups, companies, not indie makers.

Unicorn Platform's special plan for indie makers called "Maker" brings less than 20% of the total revenue, has x4 less LTV, and x2 higher churn. If I had a tool that serves ONLY to indie makers, I wouldn’t be able to sell it for $800K.

Another example. I had a user who make websites for plumbers in Australia. He made like 50 websites. Since I did not had a special plan for this audience I was charging him $150 per month for those 50 websites. What do you think would happen to my MRR if I found x100 more guys like this? 🙂 An Australian plumber makes 85K per year. I could also charge them x10 more which they would pay.

I could sell my SaaS not for 800k. It could be millions. But I made a mistake of targeting indie makers only. A mistake of thinking that indie makers are my main audience.

But if things SO negative why thousands of indie makers still invest colossal time in content creation to be seen on X (myself included)?

Well because there is the good stuff too.

  1. You're selling to yourself Imagine if your target customer was basically you. That's the indie maker market in a nutshell. You understand their pain points because you've lived them. No need for extensive market research – you ARE the market research.
  2. Feedback. Feedback. Feedback. Indie makers aren't just customers; they're product people. When they give feedback, it's not just “I like it” or "i want this button to be blue." It's detailed, technical, and often genius. It's like having a product team of hundreds, for free.
  3. The most important point. The viral effect. Remember how active indie makers are on social media? When they love a product, they shout it. One happy customer can turn into a mini marketing campaign. Others are not always like this. Devs for examples are super hard to turn into fans. if you ever visited Reddit you know what im talking about.
  4. Easy marketing. Simply build in public. You know those Twitter threads about 'How I made $1K in a week'? Indie makers can do that. Your journey becomes your marketing. Every milestone, every feature launch, every learning – it's all content that your audience craves. You can quickly earn money. No big money, but it’s still something. Even a few hundreds of MRR is important for your motivation.
  5. The growing market. There are 200,000 makers. This might not sound huge, but it's growing. Fast. With each tech layoff, each 'I quit my job to follow my passion' post, the indie maker community expands. tech and no-code is also evolving attracting new kinds of makers. so yeah. it is growing. and it is always a good idea to be in the growing market because you also grow without any additional effort.
  6. You can sell them often. Indie makers are serial product launchers. today they have an idea, tomorrow one more. they validate fast, they build fast. they like making side-projects. If they love your tool for just one project, they'll likely use it for their next five. this worked for when I was making Unicorn Platform, the landing page builder. every new launch requires a new landing page. so i could sell it to one maker many times. Another example, is my current project, It generates a SaaS video teaser. One maker will generate a video for every of their projects.
  7. Easy to sell. Indie makers are smart. Selling to an indie maker means less time explaining why your product matters. They get it. They're living it. Half your pitch is done before you even open your mouth. Besides, an indie maker is the decision maker. No need to do the work of finding out who is responsible for writing checks in a particular company.
  8. The network effect. This is my most recent idea. I’m heavily betting on it right now. Indie makers often belong to other bubbles. An indie maker may also be a developer, a freelancer, an employee in a company, an owner of an offline business, a SEO expert, a copywriter. these bubbles are important for your business but you just can’t target them all. it takes too much time and effort. but if you impress one indie maker who is also a video editor, you will have access to the video editors community without having to market them.

So what is the conclusion here? The indie makers movement is a great party to be in. It is definitely beneficial for your business and yes it can help you to make money online.

But, taking indie makers as your main audience is a mistake. 2 main reasons: they prefer to solve problems by making, not by buying. they do not have any revenue to re-invest.

So guys let’s use our sweet bubble as a kickstarting platform. Not as an end goal. Let’s brainstorm more ways of marketing to non-indies. If we really want to change the world, we need to look broader.

If you are making a hosting platform and all you have are cheap plans for indies, consider adding plans for corporates and some related corporate-features such as SSO login and extra-security.

Analyze your customer base. Identify any customers who aren't typical indie makers and understand their needs.

Start creating content aimed at decision-makers in companies. E.g., whitepapers or make case studies showcasing how your product solves problems for various business types and sizes.

Consider hustling on linkedin too, not only on twitter.

Make partnerships or integrations with tools commonly used by larger businesses.

Good luck! 🍀

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