How I went from $2k in a year to $2k in a week.
After many hours of work, it was finally time to give people access to my new project, a SaaS boilerplate. In the first 5 days of early access, I almost made $2k in sales ($1,901.40 to be exact).
I have made and sold a React boilerplate before, React Milkshake. In the week after launching React Milkshake I made just 29 dollars. I, later on, created upgraded versions of the boilerplate. Every new version sold a bit better than the previous one, but with my completely new project Serverless SaaS I have made more in one week than with all the previous projects combined in a year.
This didn’t just happen because I just got luckier this time. Here is what I did differently.
Landing page before product building
The first mistake I made in the previous projects was working by myself until it was time to launch. This meant I didn’t have an audience.
Inspired by the #BuildInPublic movement, I decided for my new project to first build the landing page and open up a mailing list so people could subscribe and follow the progress of me building the product. Every now and then I shared some updates and slowly grew the mailing list to over 100 people that were sincerely interested in what I was making.
In the past, I had written some articles on Medium before, but I decided to at least write one or two new blog posts every month. In total, I have at least 10 new blog posts that are related to some of the technologies that are being used in Serverless SaaS. Most of them are tutorials like How to setup Next.js with Tailwind or How to implement Netlify CMS with Next.js, but also a series called stack choices in which I compare different frameworks or technologies with each other as Angular vs React vs Vue vs Svelte.
Writing these blog posts had multiple purposes and ended up with benefits:
- Learned a lot about these subjects
- Provided value for other people learning about these subject
- Earned some money with the Medium Partner Program
- Gave me the ability to drop a link to my new project
- Gave me the ability to drop a link to my personal site and Twitter
- Increased my followings on Medium
The people who read my blog posts could also be future customers because the starter-kit is mainly for developers (or people who work with developers).
This time I had built up a mailing list with around 100 subscribers, all with people who were interested in the boilerplate. Around 50% opened the emails I had to send and around 30% clicked the links to the site. This list is still growing because I still allow people to sign up to get regular updates.
Besides that, I already had a personal mailing list of people who had signed up for previous products I have to build like codestash, makermove, and raterfox.
Because I started blogging more I updated my personal site and also added a signup field for this personal mailing list to stay informed about blog posts or product updates. In total, I had around 1000 people on this list to send out an announcement, but just 20% of that list opened the email and only 2.5% clicked the link. Those numbers are not great, but most of these subscribers come from raterfox.com, a social platform for entertainment, which is clearly not my target audience.
Twitter is a great platform for talking in public about the process and updates on your products. I wasn’t very active on Twitter and mainly used it to stay informed about tech-related stuff. I decided to be more active and did manage to gain some more Twitter followers. I think the slow growth is caused mostly by being more active on not just Twitter, but also on Indie Hackers and mentioning my handle in blog posts.
With the current 581 followers, I do not believe this had a very big impact on my launch. Twitter seems great for people with a couple of thousands of followers, but with < 1k followers it sometimes feels like you are talking to a black hole of nothing.
I still think it’s a great way to share your work and be reachable by others. Some people started to DM me with questions about the boilerplate. This was already a good sign. Also, people told me they were excited about the upcoming launch, even better! Besides that, someone reached out to say my guides online were really helpful, which is always great to hear.
Building a better product
The first boilerplate I had build, React Milkshake, was a bit of an experiment. I was using it myself and wasn’t sure if other people were going to pay for it. It was very basic and doesn’t have a lot of features when it launched, but the fact that people started to buy it was super exciting for me. It proved that people are willing to pay money for a starter-kit that helped them save time.
For my next project, Serverless SaaS, I decided to spend more time on it and take it to the next level. I had some proof of the market, but the product needed to provide more value.
Most Indiehackers and developers I met online were building SaaS apps. I also had some ideas for building a SaaS, so a boilerplate that could help me build new SaaS apps faster was very helpful. If the boilerplate wouldn’t sell, I could still use it myself. So I decided to implement multiple SaaS features, like a billing integration with Stripe, and market the product as a way to build SaaS apps faster.
This would be more aligned with the need for most of my target audience and also allows me to ask for a higher price. It provides much more value than my other boilerplates and people are also more willing to pay for products that help them save time or make money. This project could potentially do both.
Instead of rushing to market and going with a full-on MVP approach, I figured I should take my time and craft a product to be proud of. After that, I could soft launch it as “Early Access”, so I could ask my first customers for feedback and improve the product while it’s being used by actual paying customers. In this soft launch period, I made more money than I did in the last year of my old project, so I guess I’m doing something right.
After years of indie hacking, I have learned a lot of valuable lessons. Looking back at the months leading to the “soft” launch of my new product, I can tell that certain activities will highly increase your chances of a successful launch.
Building in public, by sharing your progress and thoughts on social platforms, could definitely help a lot.
Taking time to write articles and provide value to others helps you in building an audience and to connect with people that might end up being a customer.
Also, don’t rush the process of building a product. It can be helpful to launch fast and validate your idea as quickly as possible, but if you want to provide real value that could mean you need to put in some extra time. Once you have seen some proof of evidence that people are willing to pay for your product I think it’s good to not rush your project. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. But, when you think that MVP is ready, just ship it.
Thanks for reading! You can find me on Twitter (@jake_prins) or read more at jakeprins.com/blog.