How to do Marketing as an Indie Hacker: Be Yourself

One of my biggest challenges with my indie business, Remake, is getting the word out. I created something I believe in, but telling people about it is more difficult.

After struggling with this for a while, I purchased Make + Shine, which came with a 1 hour strategy session with Anne-Laure Le Cunff (an entrepreneur who uses principles from neuroscience to help people lead happier lives).

In this single strategy session, Anne-Laure’s candid and compassionate advice helped me resolve a lot of my fears and confusion around marketing and put me on the path to building in public with more confidence.

In this post, I’ll talk about how to magnify your output as a solo founder, while nurturing your inner drive to create at the same time.


  • To scale faster and be happier, choose a single audience and focus exclusively on them.
  • Talk about what your mission is about or you'll fail to build a community around your product.
  • If you’re having trouble making a decision, talk to users.

Focus is the key ingredient to growing fast

I've always believed influencers had a secret. I thought they must post 3 times a day to every social network and have at least 10 blog posts being developed at any one time.

All while managing to stay healthy and sane outside of work.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Anne-Laure told me:

  1. "I only work on one blog post at a time."
  2. "I only post to 2 social networks — and usually only 1."

I was blown away. Here I was, putting together a list of 30 places I wanted to post my articles and trying to develop dozens of pieces of content at the same time...

No wonder I felt overwhelmed and exhausted.

“But I won’t grow fast enough!” I said.

“If I don’t post everywhere, my content won’t do as well as it could have. Shouldn’t I be posting as often as possible to as many places as possible? Or I don't know — maybe that will come off as spammy?”

Anne-Laure’s response was simple:

“People are turned off by people who are overly-engaged, overly-networked, and overly-invested. It’s better to be genuine and nurture authentic relationships than to create thousands of articles and modify them for different audiences.”

It’s what I knew instinctively, but I was obsessed with my goal of getting more reach. I wasn’t considering how inauthentic it come off posting everywhere.

Slow down, focus, be consistent

Anne-Laure advised me to focus on just one social network and nurture genuine, caring relationships there. This made sense to me because it just felt more comfortable.

She told me: “Don’t treat it like an assembly line you’re pushing content through in exchange for likes. Instead, treat it like you’re talking to a bunch of human beings you care about, who you genuinely want to help.

“That way, you’ll create a community of friends instead of purely transactional relationships. And the content you post will be meaningful. It will address the problems you and your friends are going through together instead of addressing the hard-to-pin-down, high-level problems of some ‘market segment’.

“If you post updates regularly and they're high-quality and meant specifically for the people you’re talking to, people will be interested. And you'll ‘build a brand’ on that network. It’s all about helping people consistently.

“As a huge bonus: you’ll be less worn out because you’re focused on just one social network and just one group of friends. It’s much less overwhelming that way.

“Some people get frustrated with this advice. Why should they have to engage one-on-one with people when they could scale much faster by copying-and-pasting their content everywhere? But if you don't want to come off as spammy and get ignored, you need to address specific problems and speak to specific people.”

You don’t need big media

Now that I understood the strategy behind building a close-knit audience, I asked Anne-Laure about which news websites and high-profile publications I should reach out to. She explained that going after big publications right away wasn’t the best idea.

"You want to start off with small indie communities who want to support you and be part of your journey. Big publications are going to Google you, so you'll want to make sure you're established before they do.

“If you seem like a solo founder who's struggling, instead of someone who's established in the market, they won't pay attention to you.

“The audiences of TechCrunch and Wired are expecting a perfect product. They want something that's finished and ready to go. They won't give you second chances. Whereas, community sites like Indie Hackers, Makerlog, and Product Hunt will relish helping you find bugs and fix issues."

I really liked this advice because my product is still in the early stages and far from perfect. I knew exposure to a wider audience probably wouldn’t be the best thing for it right now. I realized my dreams of it growing fast and taking over the world could wait, while I improved it with feedback from small communities.

Creating a product that can handle widespread adoption

Anne-Laure also mentioned another really important thing:

"You want your conversion rate (i.e. the number of people that actually sign up after visiting your site) to be high before you get featured in a mainstream publication. Your sign up flow should be a well-oiled machine.

“You should know for sure: if I get a thousand new visitors tomorrow, a fair number of them will convert and find success using my product.

“Without that confidence, investing in getting featured in a major publication isn’t worth it, especially because of how risky bad press is.

“And even once you do decide to go big, it's a lot of work: you need to come up with a compelling story around yourself, find the right journalist to pitch to, hope your story resonates with them, hope they want to cover you... and, even if you have all this, it won’t matter if the final story doesn’t resonate with your audience."

You choose your audience and then they choose you

Have you ever clicked the “Send” button on an email to 440 people? It’s terrifying.

I had 440 newsletter subscribers when I talked to Anne-Laure. But I hadn't sent out a single email…

"Why not?" she asked.

The big issue that was holding me back was: “UNSUBSCRIBE.” That word stung me with a harsh truth: I could spend hours crafting the perfect email only to get a 30% unsubscribe rate. It was difficult to stomach.

Anne-Laure’s solution made so much sense: “If someone unsubscribes, that's a good thing. It means the quality of your list is going up! The people who are disengaged with what you're saying are falling off. And the people who enjoy your content and enjoy you as a person are sticking around.”

She said that she used to feel really bad about losing 200 subscribers every month — pretty much every time she sent out a newsletter — before she realized that the people who were sticking around were the people she really wanted. They were interested, engaged, supportive, and much more likely to purchase things from her when she offered them.

“That's the kind of audience you want,” she told me. “You just need to make sure you're staying aligned with what you believe in and being yourself. Everything else will work itself out.”

The more I let my personality shine through, the better! The people that leave wouldn’t have been around for long anyways!

It’s just the perspective I’d been looking for. It freed me from the weight of fear and allowed me to focus on more important things.

When you’re afraid of letting someone down, it’s time to talk!

The second thing that was holding me back from sending my newsletter was on the more technical side.

A lot of my subscribers had signed up for a 7-day tutorial series which they'd already completed. I didn’t want to send them a monthly newsletter update if that’s not what they signed up for.

Again, Anne-Laure’s response was genius: “Ask them.”

And again, I was knocked on my butt. Such a simple answer and yet I hadn’t thought of it! To me, the choice was binary:

  1. Never send the tutorial subscribers another email, or
  2. Break our implicit agreement and sign them up for my newsletter even though they didn’t ask to be on it.

By following Anne-Laure’s advice, all I needed to do was write an email like this:

Here are the options for me getting in touch with you:

  1. Only tutorials.
  2. Only major updates to Remake, about once a month.
  3. Only a quarterly newsletter.

Click the one you want! If you don't choose one, I'm going to start sending you a quarterly newsletter.

And, finally, click here if you don't want to receive any more emails from me ever.

Me and my subscribers would get the best of both worlds — I’d know exactly what they wanted and they'd only receive what they wanted.

“Are you building this for someone?”

On the last part of the call, Anne-Laure and I discussed product development. I’d been afraid to discuss this, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

I explained that sometimes I feel genuinely confused. I'll get an intuition that I should improve the core of my product to make it easier to use. And then the next day, I'll feel like the most pressing task is to make an intro video that showcases all of my product's awesome features.

“Where do I start?” I asked.

The first thing that Anne-Laure told me was that she didn't know. But then she asked me a question: "Have you been hearing from your users that they need a particular feature or tutorial?"

This question surprised me because I’m always preaching about how important it is to talk to your users and listen deeply to what they're saying. That’s the only way you can build something people want.

But not only had I not been checking in with them regularly, I hadn’t heard from them about needing a different version of my product or a new video tutorial. Back then, I was live-streaming development on my product every day, but I hadn’t even asked them about what they wanted.

This is a dire mistake for a small, one person team.

How to start a relationship

Every business starts with a single relationship — your first potential customer.

Then you move on to your second potential customer. It might not be until the hundredth potential customer that you get someone who purchases your product.

But it all starts with that first relationship. You need to start somewhere.

Anne-Laure’s advice to me was simple: Send out an email asking for help with deciding on what to work on.

She said: "You can even just ask to have a quick Zoom call with a few of them to discuss your product for an hour. Maybe only 2 of 400 people will respond. And that's great!"

She continued: "Just make sure you offer them something of value first. Include a tutorial or an article or something you know they'll like before you present your ask. Then, at the end of the email, mention you need help with something. That way your audience feels like they're getting something positive in return."

That’s all of business in a nutshell right there: Give something of value and get something of value in return.

The road is easier once you get that first customer

Best wishes to all my fellow indie makers out there. I hope this post (and Anne-Laure's fantastic advice) helps guide you in the right direction.

Just remember: it all starts with that first customer and that first relationship. A real, human relationship. There’s no way around it.

Don’t worry about scaling up your marketing or sales before they become a problem. First, understand how to connect with each customers one-on-one and provide genuine value by solving actual problems they have.

I know it seems like simple advice, but it's very easy to forget when you're building something you love. You can get so caught up in building your idea that you lose track of who it's for. Find regular intervals to connect back with your audience in human ways — and just be yourself.