I worked on a project for 16 months and got 0 revenue. Here's my list of mistakes (so you don't repeat them)
Last week, I closed down my project, Talentun. I tried getting it off the ground for 16 months straight until I quit.
Along the way, I made 0€ and burned through of euros (not to mention the thousands of hours).
Classical Indie Hacker mistake, right? 🙃
Here are all the mistakes I did - so you don't have to repeat them.
First, some context.
Talentun was a mentorship platform where portuguese college students could meet working professionals. During mentorships, they could get guidance on how to start their career on the right foot.
May/2020 ➡ Started the project as a not-for-profit.
September/2020 ➡ Rebranded to Talentun, switched to for-profit model (B2B)
November/2020 ➡ Launched a web app that was unnecessary at the time. Kept adding more unnecessary features during the following months.
August/2021 ➡ Switched to B2C model
With that said, let's begin.
#1 - I was afraid of judgment.
Let's start with a big one.
I was afraid of getting judged by an invisible crowd. Staring me down, pointing at me. "What a failure", they whispered.
But yeah. That didn't happen.
Since I built in public I ended up getting major support when I decided to quit. Dozens of people reached out in support. My fears were unfounded.
There's no invisible jury. In the end, what matters is you doing what you think is right.
Ask yourself: am I doing this out of desire or out of fear (of judgment)?
#2 - I couldn't embrace reality.
"Just one more feature."
"After this change, everything will start working out."
Yeah, it didn't.
Resilience is good - in some cases. But here, it transformed into stubbornness. Be wary of this. If you keep iterating and nothing works, that's a sign. Revenue never came. Be wary of these signs and look at the facts with a non-judgmental view. It's okay if things are not working out.
Ask yourself: when I pivot, are there visible improvements in usage and metrics?
#3 - I thought money was secondary.
Talentun started as a not-for-profit initiative. But I realized that without steady revenue it would be difficult to reach the social goals I had set.
But revenue stayed as a secondary goal. The main metric of success was the number of students I helped. My full-time job paid the bills, so I didn't have to stress about money.
But some pressure would be good. Dru Riley (Trends.VC) and Jon Yongfook (Bannerbear) talked about this before. It would force me to be more aggressive and face reality sooner. The market would have given valuable feedback before I kept adding more features.
Ask yourself: will there be real consequences if I don't reach my revenue goals?
#4 - I thought pats in the back were major wins.
I admit it - they felt good.
Having a strong community rallied behind a mission is awesome. But as they say, emotions often get in the way of facts.
Their support motivated me to work even harder instead of giving up due to a lack of traction.
If you have VC money, this is good. You can live without revenue for more time. But for Indie Hackers, this clouded judgment means you invest time, energy, and money on an idea that just won't work.
Ask yourself: am I taking support from my followers as feedback from the market?
#5 - I didn't set proper goals.
I did set goals. But they sucked.
I promised that if I failed I would shut down the project. But I always found excuses not to.
"I need to make revenue by December/31st". By the time I got there, I found some random excuse about why I needed to keep going. I repeated to myself: "If I only get 3 more months, I can make this work".
That's false. It's a consequence of comfort. When you have alternatives, you'll always find excuses to avoid reality.
Ask yourself: am I coming up with excuses to avoid doing the work that's most necessary (e.g. Marketing)?
But was it worth it?
Hell yeah it was!
Look, it would be better to not spend this much time and money on one single failed project. But with this, I learned a lot:
✅ Gained a bunch of connections inside the corporate world.
✅ Grew my following, with several hundred people following my Build in Public journey.
✅ Learned a ton about product, UI/UX design, marketing, sales, and more.
It was an intense learning experience. And now I'm more prepared for my next venture.