Back in 2019, I began listening to the Rework podcast, which is based on the business book and blogs of Jason Fried and DHH from Basecamp. The first episode, “Sell Your By-Products”, discussed how everything has by-products, such as the book and podcast Rework itself, which were created from years of blogging. Ruby on Rails, the popular programming framework, was a by-product of building Basecamp, and Basecamp itself was initially created as an internal tool.
The trick is to spot these by-products and see opportunities. So, I wondered if I had created any by-products. I was working full-time and had launched multiple products I had created during nights and weekends, but none of them had made much money or gained any significant traction.
The trick is to spot these by-products and see opportunities.
I had created my own boilerplate of code that I re-used to bootstrap new projects. It was a simple React project, with all the packages I regularly used installed, and it included a couple of simple code generators. Could this be considered a by-product?
I decided to give it a try, so I bought a landing page template and set up a website. I named the project React Milkshake – it sounded cool – and used the 🥤 emoji as the logo. I also bought the reactmilkshake.com domain.
To make the product available, I connected my site to Gumroad. People could then buy the code of the boilerplate for $29.
Within a weekend, I had set up the new product and scheduled a launch on ProductHunt. This was the first time I had spent so little time on a project, and it felt really strange.
I launched and sold two items worth $58. The next day, I made another sale, bringing my total to $87 in two days. The sales would end there, but that was alright. I had earned more money with this weekend project than I had with the other projects I had launched that never made a profit.
Improving the Product
I found a project people would pay for and realized time savings were the reason. So, I decided to add features many developers need when starting new projects. I created a new version of React Milkshake, which included Firebase authentication (login, signup, reset password). I also improved the code generators, documentation, and overall look.
I sold this new version as React Milkshake Firebase and charged $49. It wasn't an instant hit, but there were some people who bought it. And, with the higher price, I got better returns.
For my next iteration, I added a database with Firebase Firestore. I created a CLI that would allow users to generate CRUD actions with views and Firestore integration. I named it React Milkshake Serverless and built it with the new framework Next.js.
Sales were slow, but I achieved better returns with a higher price point ($79).
Creating a SaaS Starter Kit
I had the idea of creating a SaaS starter kit from scratch, with everything you need, like a landing page, CMS, authentication, dashboard, admin features, and more. This eventually became Serverless SaaS.
I decided to do things differently this time. Instead of first building everything and then setting a launch date, I started with the landing page. I shared updates on Indiehackers.com and through the mailing list. By the time I launched, I had 200 people subscribed. The launch was a success, and I made $2,000 in the first two weeks! The month after, I had my best month in terms of sales: $3,600.
You can read more about my journey and the things I did before the launch here.
Selling Serverless SaaS
In the first year after launch, I spent a lot of time improving the product and releasing new updates. The following year, I didn't invest as much time. Two years after launch, I had lost most of my interest in the project and sales had decreased slightly, so I decided to put it up for sale on Acquire.com.
The process was simple. I created a listing on their website and provided all the details. I evaluated potential buyers and accepted a letter of intent (LOI). During due diligence, I shared evidence with the buyer to prove my numbers and other details. An asset purchase agreement (APA) was established, and Escrow.com was used to deposit the money. Finally, I transferred all assets and the buyer released the funds.
I was happy with the sale and the process. I had a great experience with the buyer and the team at Acquire. I can highly recommend this platform to anyone looking to sell their product.
In this article, I shared my journey from developing side-projects that barely made any money to selling a successful project on Acquire.com. I identified a by-product that people would pay for, iterated and improved it, and eventually sold it. I shared my journey with the trials and tribulations of building, launching, and selling a side project. I hope this article has been inspiring or useful to those who have read it. If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter. And please subscribe to the mailing list to stay up to date with my latest articles.