How Much Do Indie Hackers Make?
Here are the top 1000 products with verified revenue on Indie Hackers, ranked by revenue:1
Zoom in to products making less than $50k:
Zoom, less than $20k:
Less than $10k:
The average monthly revenue for top verified indie hackers is $5089. The median is $30. That’s a big gap, suggesting (together with the graphs) that indie hacking (like startups) is an exponential endeavor.
We knew this already. But seeing some numbers and graphs often helps understanding on a deeper level.
R^2 ≈ 0.97 indicates the model is a good fit. Products below top ~ 25 are running above the exponential plot, but after that it tracks well.
The $100,000 club
Assume the average startup employee costs $100,000 “all in,” including salary, health insurance, parking spaces, computers, etc.
If we assume a full-time indie hacker could work at a startup instead and be worth $100k a year, how many indie hacking products can support this?
$100000 / 12 months = $8333.33333333/month
There are 84 products making more than $8000 a month. That is about 8% of products. And this is revenue only. If the products have any cost they will have to make more than $8k a month to support a full-time hacker.
Of course, many of the indie hacking products could be part time or side projects. The small number may not be fair if this is the case as people working side projects are not putting in $100k worth of effort.
Another argument may be that indie hackers often require less than “normal” corporate employees. And I agree — you can easily build a good life on less than $8k/month. If we are looking at revenues over $3k there are 149 products. Now we are up to 15%.
Better. But still not a lot when you consider this is the top products on Indiehackers, arguably the most popular indie hacking website.
Success in an exponential world
At the end of the day the odds of success are small. But the payout if you hit the top is great. That’s just how exponential games work.
There are only 613 products with verified revenue, and if you are lucky enough to make it into the top 1000, your most likely outcome is $30/month.
In How to Make Wealth, Slowly I wrote a bit about startup volatility and how Paul Graham also suggests the startup median payout is zero. If you consider all the indie hacking products that are not in the top 1000 list, the median for indie hackers is certainly zero as well. Heck, considering expenses it is probably below zero.3
If you are just looking to make enough money to be financially independent, indie hacking is risky bet. You can beat 84% of the indie hacking products by just saving more of your paycheck from your existing job.4
If your aspirations are much bigger than financial freedom for yourself, go for it. But know what you are signing up for. If you are here for more than money, go for it too — but consider building wealth another way. At least as a backup. Once your own needs are taken care of, go ahead and build beautiful things.
Data captured 15 Nov 2023. ↩
There are indie hacking products making good money not listed on the Indiehackers website. But anecdotal evidence tells me the wast majority of indie hacking products never make any money (as do the data we have collected here). ↩
I know this may not be an entirely fair comparison. Saving your income has a limit. As you move towards 100% it becomes harder and harder to save more. The dynamics of creating a product almost works the opposite: as you start to get traction and revenue it will be easier to get more revenue. Still, saving your income and investing in the best companies in the world is an appealing strategy in my mind. ↩