Unlike a lot of indie makers, I don't live in San Francisco, London, Paris, or any of the other big cities for tech. I don't live in any of the digital nomad hubs like Bali, Chiang Mai or Medellin either. I live in Edinburgh, Scotland. There are a few advantages and disadvantages that I've gleaned from 5 months of working here as a solo founder.
A healthy work/life balance
It's pretty easy for me to keep a healthy work/life balance here. Simply, because I know so few many developers or startup founders here! I have two or three friends that are programmers and that's it! I don't know any other indie makers here. And for context, Edinburgh is a city of half a million people! There are a couple of big companies like Skyscanner and Free Agent based here and a few smaller startups but that's about it.
I run a few times a week with my running club and this is a great way to de-stress and get endorphins from exercise. I also go to the gym a lot. I have been close to burnout a couple of times and my solution has been to go to the hills around Edinburgh for a walk or go for a run in the countryside. I can get into greenery or a (cold) beach very easily and getting out of the city takes an hour tops!
Let's jump on a call!
The truth is nowadays, you can always just speak to someone over video chat to seal a deal. I've always found it hysterical that some people think simultaneously that a) the internet is an incredible endeavour that let's us communicate like never before and b) you have to live in the Bay Area. Seriously, look at the bio of "contrarians" on Twitter. They all live in the same place!
Maybe you should move to SF if you want to hire lots of programmers and make a company like Uber. But it's not true for indie founders. I can make sponsorship deals for No CS Degree by emailing companies, sending messages over Telegram or arranging video chats. I've been paid by sponsors in San Francisco, London, Berlin and many other places while I've been working from Edinburgh. So not living in a big tech hub is no barrier to making money.
Another good thing about Edinburgh is I don't get sucked into things like conferences or meetups. I have been to three meetups in Edinburgh based around entrepreneurship and being a solo founder. At one, I was the only person that was working on a business. Everyone else was a "wantrepreneur" who was going to make a business "some day".
At a meetup I organised earlier this year two other people showed up. One was a programmer who didn't have a business and the other person was this crazy guy who used to own a restaurant and was asking if he should start gambling to make money.
On my third try I did meet a local founder who runs a business. The other people were there for a chat and seemed nice enough but didn't have any indie action going on.
So yeah, not very inspiring! Thankfully, I have the internet. I can log into Indiehackers, WIP or Makerlog and instantly connect with my friends who I've known for the past few years and who are busy grinding every day, making money. Mohd just sold his website for $23k!
Adriaan has the frickin Bank of England using his privacy analytics tool Simple Analytics for crying out loud. Pat Walls is making $7k a month with Starter Story. So I don't care that my city has no indie startup scene.
Naval has said entrepreneurs should be too busy to have coffee. In my case, it's just there are zero people around to have coffee with! That said, through my running club I did just meet someone who works in tech who is going to give me feedback on my job board for junior developers. So maybe it's not completely a lost cause!
If I was somewhere like San Francisco I would honestly just march into offices all day long and ask companies what they thought of my jobs board. Like Steli says in his amazing Indie Hackers podcast interview, you need to talk to your users and ask them, "what about this is good? What about it sucks?". I can't really do that as the startup scene is so small. I have actually walked into offices unannounced here but in SF I could do that all the time on a much bigger scale!
I'm going to Berlin for three weeks on Tuesday and my plan is to visit a tonne of startups and get there opinions on my jobs board. If I can speak to 5 people each day over three weeks then that's 100 users! I might take Christmas off, haha. I am able to go for so long because I am house sitting for people and looking after their cat. It costs about $90 and you get 25% off with this invite link ( I get two months free membership if you sign up).
In general, I really love Edinburgh! It's my perfect size of city, it's easy to get into nature and I have my family and friends here. It sucks for B2B work but I can always make visits to places like Berlin and London very easily. I'm going to visit the US and Australia in 2020 so I can visit more companies.
I get to avoid all the unnecessary meetups and conferences that go on in tech hubs and I can work instead. The internet has plenty of communities that I can participate in so it doesn't really matter that I'm not in a big tech city. Hopefully some indie makers in Edinburgh can read this and prove me wrong!