How To Be Yourself: Writing Publicly and Sharing Online as an Indie Hacker

Written by Guan

Aren't we just ourselves? Why is it when it comes to writing online, it's so difficult to just actually do that: be yourself?

I know I've been guilty of winding up speaking in another voice, or putting on a facade. It's really hard to be yourself.

Here's what's worked for me in helping me be more myself when writing online.

1. Why I'm not myself

First, I think there are many reasons why we're not ourselves, but for me, it largely boils down to this:

When the stakes are high, I feel the need to try to be something I'm not, and I end up falling short.

When there's something at stake, and I'm trying to achieve something I haven't before, it's extremely compelling to act like other people who've done it before, because that's how you think you get those results.

Well the truth is:

  1. You're not kidding anyone, everyone can tell you're not being genuine.
  2. You'll end up sounding like someone else, at the least.
  3. Or if not, sounding just like everyone else.
  4. What worked for them won't work for you, because you're not them, and you haven't done what they've done.
  5. You dilute or even taint your name and personal brand.

I've never intentionally set out to "fake it till I make it". But in the end, that's what I still inadvertently found myself doing.

2. How others do it

Here are a few more tips we can pick up from others who're experts on being themselves online (pardon the irony):

Marc Louvion

Marc's has made it onto the Indie Hackers podcast, and amassed 20k Twitter followers, by being himself. His mindset:

I started taking things way more simply — okay, I'm just a guy in his bedroom doing what I like, build stuff.

Other advice from Marc:

  • Don't take things too seriously.
  • Trivialise things, lower the stakes.
  • Do things very quickly, without involving emotions.
  • Don't think too far ahead setting lofty goals.

Pieter Levels

Marc also mentioned in the podcast episode that he's trying to learn from how original indie hacker, Pieter Levels, does it. Here's a couple of other things we could pick up from Pieter:

  • Strive to come across dumber than you are.
  • Minimize expectations.
  • Don't overthink it.
  • Share what you're doing in real-time.
  • Don't take yourself too seriously.

Fearing the reception

One major sticking point for me is being afraid of saying something that isn't true or won't be well-received. I think the advice above from the both of them really helps with this.

So in general, be more moderate, which makes for less ups and downs in terms of temperament. And don't overthink it, think less, which lets you be more "me".

3. Define yourself

It's also easier to be yourself when you know the definition of what you are, as opposed to knowing what you are exist only as an ill-defined, amorphous blob.

Each of us is unique, but a good starting point for everyone is to explore and answer these questions:

  • What your life's mission?
  • What's the tribe you belong to?
  • What's the one message you want to say?

Those questions help clarify who you're speaking to, what you believe in, and pinpoint what you want to say. That'll get you started crafting your mission and message to find your voice.

Going down the path of reconciling those main points will eventually lead you to a more concrete answer, but it'll take time.

4. Finding your voice takes time

Be aware that at the start, and half the time after that, writing online is just an exercise in you finding your voice.

You won't always be on-brand or on-point in the beginning, and it'll take a period of practice and refinement before you nail your mission and message.

Many of the top voices in the space nowadays also advocate this — at the start, just publish a lot, and use whatever you have. Because without a sizable following in the beginning, who's really paying attention to what you say anyway? This is a great time to make mistakes and find your message.

It'll be a while before you settle on something that feels right.

I also can't help but see a similarity in this approach to starting an indie business, much like Pieter Levels' "12 startups in 12 months" — they're not all going to be hits, there will be failures. So just give them all your best shot, and see what sticks.

5. Makes you an expert

It helps to also know that being yourself makes you an expert on what you're saying.

To use Alex Hormozi's words, try to share "this is what worked for me", not "this is how you should do it".

You are the authority on you. When you share from your experience, no one can question that. Sharing what you did proves that you've done it before and are speaking from experience, rather than talking out your butt.

A bonus which alone makes speaking from what worked for you worth it — you'll also sound less preachy.

Talking about what you're doing or going through is the easiest, most direct way to be yourself. So share what you're doing, openly.

6. Be grateful you're you

Another big reason it's hard to be yourself is the feeling that you don't have much to say or offer from your experience.

Have you ever come across "rich people problems" that you can't identify with? It's like the lyrics from Dr. Dre's verse in Crack A Bottle:

And this one begins where the last one ends
Pick up where we left off and get smashed again
I'll be damned, just fucked around and crashed my Benz
Drivin' 'round with a smashed front end, let's cash that one in

Grab another one from out the stable
The Monte Carlo, El Camino, or the El Dorado?
The hell if I know, do I want leather seats or vinyl?
Decisions, decisions, garage looks like Precision Collision

More likely than not, you're not starting your journey as the pmarca or levelsio of your field, so you tell yourself (I know I did): why would anyone listen to you, and how are you qualified to share anything at all?

But now, I can see how we should actually be grateful for not being well-resourced/informed/educated/skilled/established.

People who know a skill don't have problems accomplishing what that skill lets them do. It's easy for them — for instance, a web developer could dream up any feature and build it into existence.

On the other hand, people who don't know that skill have what to them are big problems, and set out to solve them armed with their limited knowledge. It's hard for them — a non-technically inclined person would have a hard time adding a new feature to their website; and that's why they'd pay for plugins and no-code tools.

This is where blindspot opportunities exist - The people who're well-informed/educated/resourced don't see these problems, whereas the inverse, larger population does.

Again, given you're not a Naval Ravikant or Elon Musk, don't be somebody you're not — be yourself, and solve big and painful problems for others like you.