#29 - Tony Dinh (chap 1)

How to stop pasting JSON strings, JWT tokens, or sensitive data to random websites online? Since the start of Covid-19, Tony Dinh has turned DevUtils.app from a passion project to solve his own problems to a revenue-generating side gig with a massive opportunity for further development. Today, his story shared with Techie will walk you through his notable yet humble journey as a software engineer, with a huge scope into his personal experience.

Chap 1: Software engineer, what else besides the 9 to 5 work?

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I gotta say, ‘Indie Hacker” could be such a buzzword. Anyone who builds their own products is an indie hacker. Back in university, I started playing around, crafting my apps, and almost always had some side project going on. Two years ago, I wasn’t completely committed or thought of making income from those products. They were built partly for my interest or to make a good impression with potential employers. You know, something with my personal remark in it. Though these days, I have less time to invest in side projects because of my full-time job, I still keep going at it as much as I can manage. Unlike the day-to-day familiarity of the full-time job, these side projects allow me to experience more and learn more new things. Instead of throwing ourselves into random things, we can focus and build a product with enthusiasm. So far, these side projects have led me to learn UI/UX Design, app/web development, testing, DevOps, etc. It’s pretty amazing. The satisfaction of knowing and doing new things sometimes means more than making money.

I barely build what’s already on the market. Most of what I build comes from solving my personal problems. That makes them unique. But there’s also a downside to building products for your own needs. I mean, just because it solves my issue doesn’t mean it’s valuable to others. The market only grows if people have the same pain point. If it only serves a small segment, that means the problem is not big enough. When that’s the case, the product becomes a piece in my “personal collection”.

The “right fit” is the most important: I myself fit the product, and the product fits people’s needs. That’s my approach to choosing ideas for my products.

A second approach is analyzing bottlenecks of other people or companies, then building a solution for them. But it takes great time and effort to understand and walk in their shoes, which is something I’m still incapable of. So that’s something for the future.

Every wall starts from placing the first brick, right? I gave my family, acquaintances, friends, and colleagues a free trial and then asked for their feedback. If you don’t yet have an audience, share it on any forums or channels where potential users might be. I no longer use Facebook these past few years. Product Hunt, Indie Hacker, Hacker News… are a few of my go-to platforms to share my products. I once tried with Vietnamese audiences, but the conversion of license purchases is relatively tiny. That’s why I switch to Twitter to reach a larger audience. Remote working has been rising since Covid; putting everything online is the only way to spread awareness. You don’t need to write long paragraphs or fancy marketing words. You just literally need to show what’s new or what you’ve done for the product. That’s how you catch their genuine attention.

I usually define the Pricing model from the beginning. What’s free remains free. What’s for sale comes with a Business Model. It’s hard to evaluate the product value if you make it free then charge when the market gets bigger. DevUtils.app is currently the one I find the most potential to grow and invest in. There are mini products I build out of curiosity, like https://blackmagic.so/. Little did I know that it created hype around Twitter and actually made a profit. Can you imagine if the customer base grows 10 folds from now? Splendid.

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