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How to work smarter as an indie hacker

Thumbnail cover image How to work smarter as an indie hacker

Recently I had Allison Sebolt on The JustDjango Podcast. We talked about her project Fantasy Congress, building with Django and indiehacking. Towards the end I asked for her opinion on hustle culture and we briefly discussed the process of "going at it" too hard. This inspired me to write a short piece on how you can approach work in a smarter, more consistent and healthier way.

What's the problem?

When I work on a new project, I'm normally consumed by it. I spend a lot of time researching and coding away, trying to get the MVP working as quickly as possible. I know I'm not the only one who does this. Indie hacking can sometimes feel like it's own little rat-race when you come across a new idea.

In my experience, this mindset can be a double-edged sword. While yes, you do get the work done, to what end?

The problem is that the mini rat-race of building products takes up so much energy and time, that in some cases we land up sacrificing other things along the way.

So what's the solution?

It's no secret that hustle culture has been popularized by YouTube gurus and fake millionaires preaching about their success. But the reality is that most of the time projects don't work out. And so you hustle, burn-out and aren't really rewarded with anything at the end.

The solution is quite simple actually. It's freelancing.

I'm not proposing that the answer is to stop hustling and just become a full-time freelancer. My answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Cory Zue's approach to freelancing was that he would only freelance when he actually needed the money. And ultimately he wouldn't freelance at all if his side projects were generating significant income.

I agree with this logic. The reason we're indie hackers is because we enjoy working on our projects. Freelancing technically goes against that definition.

But being a freelancer can be a great way to balance the time you spend on your projects. Instead of working 40-50 hours per week on your own project (while not getting paid - that's important to remember), you can work 10-20 hours per week on freelance gigs, and 20-30 hours on your own project.

Now you're at least getting paid. And while it may not be a large salary, this can help keep the lights on and ultimately enable you to work on your own project with a little bit less stress, knowing that you still have income. Now you don't have to hustle for 60 hours a week on a project that's not actually making any money.

Ultimately if you're making enough money from freelancing, you might find that you can afford to freelance for 5-10 hours per week, and then 0-5 hours per week. Eventually you can work full-time on your project with a little bit more savings in the bank.

I hope this short guide gave you a different perspective on balancing your own projects with freelancing.

If you have any other tips or methods of balancing hustle culture, tweet at me and let's get in touch!