Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: $1k+ side projecters, what was the best thing you did to market it?
494 points by taphangum on Oct 16, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 143 comments

Hi Tapha! I run Indie Hackers (https://IndieHackers.com), a site where I interview the founders of profitable business and side projects. I just passed $1k revenue this month (you can follow along via my timeline here: https://IndieHackers.com/blog).

My number one marketing approach by far has been to tailor the site to the HN audience.

I do this primarily by asking questions that people on HN always like to see answered (how much money are you making? how did you come up with the idea? what tech did you use? what are your best marketing channels? etc). Lots of similar sites don't ask any of these questions, especially not the revenue one.

I tend to share the most interesting interviews with the HN audience every couple weeks or so, and they usually do pretty well!

Did you just answer a HN question on side projects with your side project which aims to answer questions about side projects for the HN audience?


That's so meta :)

That's so WarriorForum

Are you planning to auto-interview you? :p

Love ur website btw. Thanks a lot!

I think this was meant for me? No, I'm not planning to interview myself, but you can read about my progress on the blog: https://www.indiehackers.com/blog

How on earth do you monetize? I can't see any ads on it. BTW great site, I visit it at least once weekly.

There is a word "sponsored" on top of some of the cards, so "native advertizing"

Yep, this is it. I charge sponsors on a CPC basis. In the near future I'll be doing actual interviews with sponsors, so readers will get to know all about how they started their companies, too.

Where / how did you reach out to these sponsors? I run a website in the travel industry and would like to add some advertising on it as well

good day of HN marketing today!

Yep, the SubmitHub story hit #1 and got 42.8k pageviews and 25.2k uniques yesterday. Today it's fallen off the front page, but I've still gotten 14k pageviews and 6.8k uniques.

I posted a screenshot of the Google Analytics from the past 28 hours here: https://twitter.com/IndieHackers/status/788141583199719424. It shows pageviews and unique visitors to https://IndieHackers.com.

Quick question about your /blog page: it's more of a /timeline with some milestones + blog posts on it, rather than a blog, right? Is it custom more or is it made with some Wordpress plugin? And third question: you have $450 MRR as of last month. Did you more than double it this month? Is it recurring, or you just had some extraordinary income that you don't expect to last in the next couple of months? Thanks and kudos for the good work!

Great work on this site! Very helpful resource. I looked at the timeline, how did you launch to 1000 email subscribers and get 300k page views in the first month?

Check out the blog post here: https://www.indiehackers.com/blog/launching-to-300000-pagevi...

I started with 0 subscribers and pageviews, but was at the top of HN for something like 30 hours (Thu morning to Fri afternoon), then only a couple days later I hit #1 on Product Hunt. That weekend alone got me to something like 200k pageviews and 800 subscribers. After that, I just added as many interviews as I could every week, and started sending out weekly newsletters.

Awesome! Great work!

Thanks for sharing Courtland!

Great work and thanks for the tips! How did approach people for interviews?

I wrote about it here (https://www.indiehackers.com/blog/launching-to-300000-pagevi...), but basically I scoured "Ask HN" posts, built a list of 120 companies, tracked down most of their email addresses, and asked them to do an interview and share their revenue numbers for the site. I ended up launching with 12 companies a few weeks later. Since then most of my interview requests have been inbound.

Love your site.


https://destructible.io for sharing files temporarily with yourself across terminals, or others. I submitted to HN, got a huge spike of subscribers. Submitted to Reddit, got another, smaller spike.

Eventually other people started submitting it in response to questions online in forums like HN, where people would ask things like, "What's the Best Productivity Tool You've Found" or, "What Secret Thing Do You Wish Everyone Knew About." Started getting more spikes in users, then a regular base of users, then paying customers, then enterprise customers! Pretty cool organic spread.

It's definitely a side project, but making some money on it which is awesome.

Tried Google AdWords, total waste of (free up to coupon amount) money. Maybe one new user with $250 spent.

So I would say: Build a good product and maybe if people will like it enough you will get some organic growth.

edit to say: I'm still 1000% just doing this as a fun aide project that I built to serve a need I specifically had, but am happy to answer specific questions about what I stumbled through and did to kind of get off the ground enough to pay monthly costs and make a little profit.

Didn't realize destructible was a solo project. Great work!

There are some flash-in-the-pan things and some that are evergreen.

When it comes to the former, getting HN front-paged, a Techcrunch write-up, PH, etc tends to lead to a spike in traffic and eye balls, but very rarely do you get your true base of customers from these things. (But hey, they don't hurt!)

In the latter category you'll hear things like SEO, content marketing etc. Those are all important and must-haves, but these days it's also table stakes since it's what everyone is doing as well. When it comes to getting differentiators that can take you from $1k to $2k or $2k to $4k you need a distribution channel -- preferably a partner or a distribution platform where you can narrowly focus on a small audience. Yes, this means you'll need to reach out and talk to people with similar audiences and folks who are willing to help. For those of us who prefer talking to computers (coding) more than talking to humans (eww emails and phone calls) this can be unnatural but is also extremely important.

I'm personally happy to chat with any part-timers looking to grow their projects or even become full-time entrepreneurs. Just hit me up via my profile here on HN.

My personal experience: I've started two businesses as side projects that went on to be full-time ventures. Ronin (https://www.roninapp.com) was started in 2008 (eventually went full-time, acquired, and then spun out). Later on Reamaze (https://www.reamaze.com) was actually a side project on a side project, but is now at full time with a small team and growing very nicely.

Follow up: I've actually received a good amount of emails as a result of this post. It's awesome seeing what every one is building and discussing ideas for growth. In case I don't get back to anyone immediately, I'm not ignoring you on purpose. I hope to be able to respond to everyone in time.

Hey I'm working on a side project, looking to grow it and would love to talk with someone who have done it before. However I couldn't find any contact information in your profile.

Sorry about that -- updated profile

Since my video game https://basketball-gm.com/ targets hard core basketball fans, I post to /r/nba on Reddit in the NBA offseason. In the offseason, there's not much other content to compete against so my posts do well. And the type of people reading /r/nba in the offseason are exactly my target market.




Didn't dig too deep, but how do you make money (or are you yet to monetize)?

The reddit posts all repeat "completely free (note: free does not mean "freemium", it means totally fucking free)".


Yep, mostly Google Consumer Surveys, which is a good fit for my audience of dedicated users eager to keep playing (although volume has been down this year, sadly).

I run https://box.cock.li/ , a VPS provider that caters to shitposters and people that kind of like that eerie feeling that your server could shut down at any moment.

I don't really have any idea what I'm doing, but I don't really know how to run a mail server either but I seem to be doing okay with https://cock.li/ (this is where most of my customers are from)

It's currently at about $2K total revenue, and once this transfer of IP space finishes I can properly scale to about $1.8K MRR.

I love this. You've framed it perfectly to set low expectations, with name and niche that won't expect fancy design, and "a server as bad as your email". Yet make $2k a month.

I think you know exactly what you're doing :p

Why the max of 46 btw?

Likely 46 is due to his IPv4 pool, hence waiting for the IP space assignment before scaling up.

That's interesting. Given that you cater to 'shitposters' and you say yourself that you don't really know what you're doing, are you up at night wondering if you've made a novice error and a user or someone who dislikes one of your users is rooting around in your hardware up to no good? And is there any profit to be made at your current size for your revenue?

>are you up at night wondering if you've made a novice error and a user or someone who dislikes one of your users is rooting around in your hardware up to no good?

I dropped a database on accident yesterday because I assumed that replication was broken (it wasn't). If someone has managed to root my servers I hope they clean stuff up a bit.

>And is there any profit to be made at your current size for your revenue?

Cock.li operates not-for-profit, making it a break-even operation that operates financially separate from cockbox. Cockbox took about $2-3K of investment to get going on rented IP space, total to date I have invested about $9K on server hardware to support up to 180 "slots" (sold GB of memory aka $10MRR) and IP space to support a bit more than that (1x/24 aka 255 IPv4 addresses and a /48 IPv6). Considering ongoing expenses are hardware replacements and colocation costs, profit margins are very high.

I admire your courage and thick skin to offer such a service because your chances of getting a truly bad actor using your service are pretty high.

It's not my E-mail. Except for the ones that are. But most of them aren't.

He just says he doesn't know what he's doing, he's actually quite competent.

Wow what an original VPS provider. Love your Privacy policy and Terms of Service :) How on earth do you get customers?

Keep it up, good luck!

That's marvelous marketing; congratulations!

I flipped the switch to take the website live, enabled google ads and went to a friend's barbecue. We had the first customer before I was done with the first glass of wine.

The effectiveness of ads has unfortunately dropped over the years, but in the first 20 months or so built a roster of 10,000 customers or so who have stayed very loyal and allowed us to expand to products with much higher volume.

Would you say this strategy was a good way to go from zero customers to a foundation on which you could then use more effective ways to continue to grow? Can you offer some insight in why you think your early ad campaign was effective and how to go about doing this? Thanks!

Two things:

- Starting in a niche, then expanding into really competitive markets worked we'll for us

- Try every that's cheap to try. In advertisement, you want to spend a few dozen $ on everyone who's willing to take them, then invest heavily when ROI is positive. There are many people who just do google and maybe Facebook. But while that's 90% of their market, you sometimes get lucky and find a niche that gets you as much revenue as the two combined.

The product I'm working on helps businesses stay in compliance with financial regulations. Not necessarily as cool as other Show HN projects. Is it still worth posting it on HN?

I also ran across a Reddit post where someone created a Twitter bot which favorited and retwitted posts with certain tags to attract potential customers for a product the OP was marketing. Those who ended up checking out his Twitter page found a note which said that followers would get a deal if signed up. The OP mentioned he got his first 20+ paid customers this way. Not sure how effective this is but thought I'd share.

Very much interested by compliance; please share if you feel like doing so.

I'm actually interested in using the Twitter bot you mentioned too...

That's literally exactly what 20-30% of HN would love to see! Such a giant pain in the ass.

Can't stand those bots. Tons of them for random developer-targeting SaaS these days.

I second the interest in the Twitter bot, that sounds like a really useful idea.

Someone posted my game (http://hextris.io/) on Hacker News - from there it spread to a few popular outlets (major tech news companies, subreddits, obscure but popular blogs), all organically. Initially I tried submitting the game to game journalists / iOS app review websites, none of which responded to me - wouldn't recommend that route unless you have ins somewhere.

I just played it. Thats a really cool twist on the clasic. It reminds me of the old 90s 3D tris PC game..

Thank you for making Hextris. It is by far my favorite game to play in the random breaks I have during work.

What is monthly revenue like?

Currently not significant (few dollars a month), but it used to be a few hundred a month when it initially became popular. Monetization could have been much better if we had put in interstitial ads, etc.

A few thoughts from our experience growing Cronitor as a side project:

1. Hacker News has provided exposure but not a lot of direct business. Sometimes people find us on other channels but recognize us from HN. I would say, don't worry too much if you never front page here.

2. Working on SEO consistently over the years has been our most valuable source of high quality traffic.

3. Work with influencers in your industry. When a popular AWS blogger wrote about Cronitor and was tweeted by their AWS community lead Jeff Barr we added 8 subscribers that day that are still with us.

4. Re-marketing to sign-ups that didn't convert. Every month our product noticeably gets better in some way, and those early sign-ups to our free plan that didn't subscribe have been an invaluable source of later conversion.

What did you do for SEO? I can see you only have few blog entries...

Blog posts are content marketing, not about SEO, especially since we use Medium and aren't hosting a blog on our primary domain. There is plenty written about content-farm SEO strategies if anybody is looking for that.

One thing I'll say, if you're talking about a SaaS app and not something on the battlefield of big-time consumer SEO (which I also have some experience with as an engineer), it starts with crafting your website copy to address both prospective users and Googlebot. Iterate on it and continue improving. The text on your page matters.

Here are a few technical tips:

1. Many engineers do things like add ajax endpoints to robots.txt. Don't do this. Google can read many dynamic pages but not if you block them from loading the ajax requests.

2. That, and other issues, are uncovered by using the google webmaster tools. They will rank issues that are affecting your crawl.

3. In my experience, server rendered content still out-performs client rendered content. Server-render if SEO is a priority.

4. Duplicate content causes SEO problems and can be subtle. You can have an SRP like /catalog/results that can also be accessed when using your next-page/prev-page links as /catalog/results/1. That is a duplicate page.

Generally, though, I don't feel qualified to give much SEO advice without my own survivorship bias. Also, I would like to be doing so much better than we are, and continue to work for it.

So your SEO strategy was(is) website copy? Anything else, like "link building" or sth else?

Or if you want to answer in another way, how many hours a week/month/year does that SEO work take, before one sees the results you are talking about?

edit. you expanded your answer while I was typing. it seems you are mostly talking about on page and technical SEO, which doesn't sound like it takes that much time.

I think the best long-term reliable link building strategy is to build a good a product that is well liked and discussed by people organically.

Take something like a website widget that you build with useful and free content people can add to their Wordpress or whatever. Seems like the kind of SEO strategy a software developer can get behind. Then, a year later, turns out somebody used it for some "content" on 200,000 generated wordpress pages as part of their own scheme. Now you're penalized for this with a manual action from Google.

I guess my point is: to go this route means investing real time editing, curating and disavowing. I find it more profitable to focus energy on improving the product while Google and our users both notice.

No the OP was paying attention to the on site technical SEO that can kill a site if you screw things up badly refines and correctly optimised browse structures can make a huge difference.

I came across that Medium vs Self Hosted problem a while ago. For SEO self hosted is better, but sharing and discovery is better through Medium.

My questions are - What made you chose Medium as a domain (and would you chose it again?) and do you get a reasonable amount of traffic, with an appreciable conversion rate through Medium?

For SEO, what tools were you using to assess changes you needed to make?

My newsletter, Tedium (http://tedium.co), has slightly more than 3,000 subscribers, and produces a lot of content each week—between 3,000 and 4,000 words over two pieces. My strategy for building it out has essentially meant being willing to syndicate these articles far and wide. I currently work with three different outlets (Atlas Obscura, Motherboard, and Neatorama) to republish the work, all of which bring in new subscribers frequently. Eventually, Digg started picking up its articles as well. Basically, it gives me creative license to write whatever I want in my narrow niche while ensuring the newsletter goes out far and wide. I try to reuse every piece so nothing goes to waste.

While it's not bringing in tens of thousands of bucks, it's brought in enough to make it worthwhile (in part through affiliate links—my strategy is to link to the weirdest things on Amazon I can find, with the assumption people will eventually go back to buy something else).

I've also tried to find ways to minimize costs on my end, including switching email providers so that the financial impact of sending thousands of emails every month is small.

I tried to visit your site trice. Each time my browser crashed (Firefox on Android). Not sure what's going on.

Will have to look into it, but I don't personally have an Android device so it might be hard to check immediately. (The site uses looping videos in place of GIFs, which might be a factor.) I would recommend using another browser for now.

Radio Silence (https://radiosilenceapp.com). It evolved from a side project to my main income this year, and there's a few valuable lessons learned. I don't think I could live off the app without them.

The biggest thing for getting incoming links was to release a free related app under the same domain name. I built Private Eye (https://radiosilenceapp.com/private-eye) and didn't charge anything for it. A lot more people are willing to blog/share/tweet about a free app.

The second thing was to simply cold email reporters and bloggers. I used to think getting featured in the big sites required some kind of magic. Then I started writing emails to individual writers, and the hit rate has been astounding.

The week I launched http://kidsdungeonadventure.com I got a review on Wired's GeekDad blog. That link drove nearly all my sales for months https://geekdad.com/2011/03/an-rpg-for-pre-schoolers-get-the...

I have a seasonal project that creates christmas/holiday cards from Instagram photos. It makes a few grand between halloween and new years (https://cheergram.com but the cert is expired rn)

Surprisingly, the best thing that I did to get it some traction was having a few influential people in the design/craft community post it to pinterest. A couple years ago, a single pin generated dozens of orders.

Other than that, some SEO fu has always helped. It used to be on page 1 for "Instagram christmas cards" and I'd get lots of traffic from that (currently on page 2). So, some SEO basics (good titles, good headings, a blog/news section) always helps.

Cool idea - getting cert issues though on Chrome (Your connection is not private etc)

Just a heads up, your SSL cert expired last November.

What do you think caused the drop from page one to page two?

Neglect and an expired ssl cert

Not sure if this is helpful, but for myself, it was essentially a post on ProductHunt & emailing some journalists.

The ProductHunt post was augmented by the fact the product (https://uimovement.com) was clearly for a certain community (designers), so it was picked up and shared on other publications/social media accounts within the community.

From the PH post, it was picked up and shared on DesignerNews, r/web_design, Webdesignernews, Codrops, Smashing Mag, etc. The other sources brought in way more traffic than PH in the end.

For more long-term, but slower growth, automating social media has been helpful too, but that can only work for content-heavy products.

Out of curiosity, how were you able to get on the front page of ProductHunt? Was it in the early days or were you able to get someone influential to push you to the front?

I think its pretty well known/established (despite what PH has said) that getting exposure on PH requires intervention from an insider.

You're right there. I emailed someone who posted similar products there in the past and asked nicely if he was happy to share my product and he was.

There are a few frequent posters that are fairly open to requests if you dig around.

We wrote to @_jacksmith (via DM on Twitter), he posts something to PH every day and has many followers + a streamlined product submission.

Also 400+ points on HN brought 10x more visitors than being #5 on PH.

What is PH?

One other thing I'll say is having the newsletter has been really helpful. I imagine most of the traffic that came from the initial launch wouldn't have thought to ever return to the site if it wasn't for the newsletter & RSS feed.

If your product isn't content related (a SAAS for example), a curated newsletter targeted towards your niche could be easy to maintain using a tool like https://www.getrevue.co/ and is a way to keep potential customers in the loop until they're ready.

My web/mobile game called Twenty (http://twenty.frenchguys.net/play) blew up when I put it on hackernews.

But before and even after that, emails to game review sites were universally ignored (with Rock Paper Shotgun as the one exception). Even the Ars Technica guy who proclaimed it as his "latest obsession" wouldn't reply to an email.

I understand these people are inundated with emails, but I was still a little surprised.

You have had over 1 million downloads. What sort of revenue does the app make per month?

That's on Android, and maybe half that again on iOS. It varies a little, but it's $500-$1000 a month at the moment (even split between iOS and Android). I'm pretty sure I could do better but I could never bring myself to do heavy monetisation. I hate aggressive IAPs, for example.

For my side-project, http://hackernewsletter.com, it has been simply time and being passionate about it. In the beginning I tried various things from reddit ads to guest blog posts, but now six years into it and 38k subscribers, I've found that simply showing up and doing it every week has been my biggest marketing resource.

What sort of figures do you pull up? (and how do you monetize? ads?)

Funny how most people decide after one attempt if a marketing approach works for them or not. What happened to really learning the stuff before making decisions? You can be sure that common sales channels will work if you know how to do them and if you have a product that fits the corresponding market you are targetting. Use one of the known common ones (SEO, ads, social marketing), learn all that it has to offer, experiment with your product and corresponding markets (i.e. if your market is not on HN, try a subreddit, or other forum). You will certainly make some financial success if you do that well enough. Only really start to decide that something works in a context or not, after you have attempted different channels with success a few times each, and base that decision not on whether or not that brings in money at all, but whether or not that is a likely efficient approach.

For me it's often that I have to decide how to spend my time. Improving or at least working on my product or marketing. We're talking about projects that don't pay the rent or they pay the rent but nothing more, so if you spent time on it you probably want to have fun. I prefer programming to marketing and marketing takes time and often costs money. So I will mention my product when I write sometimes (it is Wokabulary, https://wokabulary.com) but I won't go and spam subreddits or HN. And I will write to journalists or blogs if I see a fit but I won't spend my weekends just doing this because it would spoil the fun out of the project for me.

Reasonable argument. Sure time value is also important. I also prefer coding to marketing, however in coding I also have to do and learn unpleasing things to get the desired result. So why not treat it like that?

I kinda do, that's why I try out stuff from time to time but with marketing it's so much harder to measure success and you never know if something does not work because you're doing it wrong or because it just does not work.

Example: I wrote a lot of journalists that published articles about education-software if they want to review our app, no responses. The mails were personal, not templates. Did I wrote to the wrong persons or were my mails not good or do they not care? Or something completely different?

Then I looked up blogs, sponsored posts but our traffic did not change so much. Did I write to the wrong blogs? Are the users not the target group? How to measure and learn?

I'm not so good with social media like facebook or twitter, I don't care enough and I don't want to share too much personal details, but now I try to work on social media marketing. Maybe that's what our app needs, again how can I measure success and how can improve if it does not work from the beginning? For me that is a black box...

SourceGuardian is old-school installable software, not an SaaS. It has been ran by myself and a friend in Russia who I have only met once in 17 years!

We built it for our own use, as we are developers and because we frequented forums where other PHP developers hung out we were able to grow it slowly and steadily. We have been very consistent, making an income (without too much work) for all of these years.

The key is to be authentic. We built something that we needed, but also in a world that we knew something about. In doing this, we were automatically passionate and that shines through.

https://repl.it/api is an API to execute arbitrary code in a sandbox from anywhere on the web. People use it to build code interview sites and programming tutorials. Initial customers came from our open source work where I included a link to it.

It's now basically running itself and I don't do much with it because I recently quit my job and made this into a company and I don't see the API being a big part of the business.

I see that you have now become a classroom solution(?). How is your experience with this market and if I may ask, what tool/feature has now become the main source of income.

We haven't started monetizing yet, but we are growing really fast -- there is a lot of dogma in edtech about making money so it's hard to predict.

Thank you for repl.it classroom, it's amazing. I am worried about getting too invested in it though, will what is free become paid for at some point?

Hey, I'm glad you like it! We will not take any features away -- we'll just introduce new paid features ;) I'm curious, where do you teach?

Engineering as Marketing is proving out to be the most effective channel.

We are a small (3 person small) A.I. startup so paid advertisement isn't the most viable option. What worked for us was creating small trivia apps(thedonaldtest.com & whatthefis.ml) to drive sign ups for our Beta release. The apps got featured on PH, generating 200+ conversions on our main website along with some press coverage (Side note: last week an Israeli newspaper wrote about us causing a spike in web traffic)

Here is my experience with different marketing channels:

1. Facebook Ads: Not much success on a small budget. Yesterday I ended an ad campaign for our early release prematurely because the CPC reached $2.2. I have to do more experiments with the ad creative and target audience before I can say for sure whether ads are effective or not.

2. Content Creation. Bleh. Good for SEO, yes, but with so much crap out there its really hard to make your voice heard. I did some experimentation with making the content more interactive (caspy.com/will-apps-like-prisma-replace-human-artists/) but still didnt get much love.

3. Contacting Journalist: After reaching out to 70+ journalist over email and twitter and not getting a single positive response, I am a bit cynical towards that strategy.

BTW, I strongly believe that optimization works. All you need to do is test different approaches and see what sticks.

I used to be a lot better at blogging. Or possibly it was just a bit easier to get to the front page of Reddit 10 years ago, because that's how I did most of the marketing for Twiddla back in 2007 & 2008.

This post:


... followed a week later by this one:


got us a ton of traffic and kept us going until we got accepted to SXSW and won our category, getting us picked up by mainstream tech blogs and such, leading to this:


I sort of stepped away from blogging after that, which from a marketing standpoint was probably a mistake. It's been harder to get coverage for my more recent products.

I'm the author of Trello Dojo https://leanpub.com/trellodojo Marketing does not come naturally to me. I feel like it's a good product, but I don't want to be spammy. By far the best marketing choice was to ask Trello to put it on their resource board. I was so nervous- what if they didn't like it? What if they sued me for trademark infringement or something? They did none of those things and put it up cheerfully, where Google Analytics says a majority of me references come from.

SyntaxDB (https://syntaxdb.com) was put on PH and HN and that gave it a significant increase in traffic.

It was actually posted on PH once before, but that time it wasn't featured. Almost one year later, I built an API, several extensions, increased the amount of content, and integrated it with DDG. Eventually I decided it was worth giving the PH people a shout to see if it would get reposted (they let you repost if your product makes substantial progress). It successfully got featured that time.

Facebook ads to blog posts. I've seen a 10.5x return on my investment so far. For my farm software company: http://harvestprofit.com

So do you use FB Ads only at the top of the funnel or do you also have have retargeting Ads? Just curious as I'm in the process of setting up this very process myself for https://redokun.com

Both. Mostly I send people to blog posts that contain some sort of an email optin in. But I've also regargeted website visitors via FB's pixel with good success.

All-in-all, I'm fan of "slow sell" via an email newsletter and FB's been great for getting people onto my list.

Hey, what is the best way to contact you? I would like to have a conversation with you about your business for a potential partnership.

Interesting niche. I thought farming had been condensed to large corporations that own a large percent of the production

Great question and thread. I launched my side project a month ago and have had zero conversions after about 200 click thrus from Facebook ads. It's a platform for freelance developers and designers to pick up extra work without me being a middle man; I introduce you to possible clients and the subsequent conversations and experience are up to you.


Then I got busy at work and haven't spent as much time marketing it.

When I click "Apply for Membership" -> "Create Listing" for the $20/month Silver Plan, I get taken to a checkout page that is saying I can pay $1/month or $95/year

Thanks for that. I'll take a look tomorrow.

With https://LaunchLister.com, I found that the best marketing I did was Twitter surprisingly.

Cater to the audience and engage with the founders and it has a steady flow of increasing subscribers.

I just make sure my newsletter has good content consistently for my readers.

With Wokabulary (https://wokabulary.com) we did no marketing for years and just worked in our spare time on the product. Still we got some posts by magazines and blogs. Now we do a bit more like writing to review sites and journalists but we don't see much traffic growth by that. OTOH we are not really good at social media stuff.

To answer your question, for us listening to customer feedback and releasing new versions periodically worked best so far.

https://emailoctopus.com - for cheap email marketing via SES.

Submitted to the usual channels (HN, PH, Reddit) and saw a spike in traffic. But what really worked was not charging anything for 3 months - people are much more keen to tweet/blog about something if it's free. They're also a lot more forgiving if they run into a bug (of which I used to have many!).

Could you build something like this but for transactional email? I send i trough SES but I dont have send, open and read stats.

At the moment we're focusing on the marketing side (vs transactional), but it's something we've considered for the future. Hopefully Amazon will beat us to it!

I really love the idea of this - and I'm fully on board when you get custom fields!

I built something like this a while back. Used SES to do transactional/marketing emails with custom fields.

I should find out what happened to that project.

Hi, I'm Roberto and I run http://statimgram.com. We are Buffer for Instagram. We are officially launching this week, but we already have some paying clients using the system. We had some early press coverage: http://launchdfw.com/2016/07/07/statimgram-fills-void-instag... and I contacted a couple of local advertising agencies. I'm also a professional photographer and this product is something a lot of professional photographers told me they need. If anyone would like to test Statimgram for free (or have any question), please shoot me an email to roberto@statimgram.com. Cheers!

Hello Roberto, if you don't mind me asking I have 2 questions for you.

1) According to Instagram's guideline for developers, your app can't have words like "insta" or "gram" in it, how did you pass this if you are using an actual application in Instagram?

2) As far as I can see from the API documentation there is no way of posting your pictures to Instagram directly via API. Does your application send push notifications when time comes and give ability to create a post in Instagram by one click in the app or do you ask for username / password and login to the app and do what needs to be done?

Hello there, I'm happy to answer.

1-I'm not using instagram's API, those limitations do not apply to Statimgram.

2-Idem before. We save (encrypted) username and password. We don't send "reminders" like hootsuite or other solutions, we post directly into IG.

Here's a small (this is 5 months old, the new UI looks much better!) demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGwV6lBi8Us

Thanks for the answer. I don't want to discourage you for your project, but this action is stricly forbidden on Instagram's Terms of Service (https://help.instagram.com/478745558852511 Item 10)

Using this to sort out your own problem would probably fine as they will not notice it, but selling this as paid service might cause some trouble for you with Instagram Legal and also at the same time if you keep using same IP Instagram will probably block your APi after some time when they sense the usage.

Just a friendly notice for the things you might face in near feature :)

I really appreciate your concern. I said we weren't using IG's API, but I never said we were using their private API either ;-)

i admire your boldness but this is probably going to be a dead project soon. Maybe make a quick buck while you can?

Edit: because reverse engineering their api is also against their guidelines. Just because you don't use their official api, doesn't mean you don't have to adhere to their rules.

Congrats on your project, but why do you have scroll hijack on your website?

We're working on getting that fixed ASAP. Sorry.

For the price table animations most likely.

Hey All, I run UX-App (https://www.ux-app.com/dev/editor?m=trial), a web based mockup & prototyping tool, that attempts to give more flexibility to users by directly styling html components & manipulating the full range of front end events using an intuitive drag & drop graphical programming language. Our model is a monthly subscription, starting @ $5/month with all features included.

We're steadily growing just by being there every day. I try to write about my experience across all social channels + medium, seek partnerships with other like-minded businesses, find biz devs who will engage their network, go to meetups of product/project managers and seek partnerships with other sites in our domain.

I run BitPixels (http://www.bitpixels.com) that provides automated website thumbnails. I actually purchased Bitpixels from another HN member a few years ago and have continued to build and market it.

The primary marketing channel is offering a free account that requires attribution on their site (e.g. "Thumbnails powered by BitPixels). The attribution links drive several new users per day and some eventually convert to premium accounts.

For https://userinput.io (my service that connects you with reviewers on-demand feedback for your website, app or idea), getting on Product Hunt was the biggest thing. I got on Product Hunt nearly three months ago, and I still get traffic from there that converts. I was #3 the day I posted it. And yeah as other people have said in this thread, you need to know someone who can post it for you. I coordinated with an influencer that I kind of know, and he helped me out. My advice with Product Hunt is to post your project at like 1am California time, then start working your mailing list and social networks to try to get upvotes from Europe / Asia / Australia before Americans wake up, so that you have a decent amount of upvotes already, then just keep hustling getting attention to it that day. Be very available on PH to answer questions and respond to comments etc.

Early on, my first customers actually came from Twitter, which I still find surprising, but it worked. I simply did the "copy followers" technique of copying people who follow similar Twitters, and since they're probably interested in the topic of feedback, they would follow me back or check out the site.

Reddit ads also got a few orders, and are pretty cheap and interesting to try out.

Also I built out http://feedbacktools.org as a way to promote my own project and learn about a ton of other similar tools. It's basically just a small curated directory of every tool I could find that was related to feedback, but of course mine is at the top.

Also, a referral plan helps. I give customers a code that they can share with their friends for $10 off their first order, and anyone who refers a new customer gets a $10 credit.

For me (https://fridayfeedback.com) it's been a mixture of outreach (sales), writing in-depth guides about topics that are interesting to the target market (managers). I've tested some ads, but no dice yet.

I run Transparent Startups (http://www.TransparentStartups.com), a place that collects more than 40 startups that are sharing their revenue numbers and growth stories. Most of these startups are still side projects or started as such.

Hey, can you share your contact info? I would like to have a conversation with you about an idea.

I've started this side-project (http://agresia.site)... and I can share more info about it on a later stage... Wish me Good Luck! Everyone is need it (http://vuchkov.biz)

My side project Nucleus Digest https://digest.meetnucleus.com index of great startup content. I market it by publishing content on twitter, point resources to HN, Reddit, GH community questions etc.

Best sources for us (http://vyper.io) -- Product Hunt, Email marketing, content marketing (blogging), communities like Reddit / Inbound / GrowthHackers, and PPC (Adwords).

i run PhantomJsCloud, I tried Adwords and found it to also be a total waste of time/money (as mentioned by others here).

basic SEO seems to be what works. I should work on more "inbound marketing" content but have a few technical features to add before doing another SEO push.

also answering related questions on stack overflow helped me in the initial MVP phase.

http://www.pitofwar.com is an online browser game I created that targets a niche audience who likes strategy/simulation/text heavy style games.


When I first launched I had two email lists I used. The first was an email list I had laying around from an older game I had created many years prior. The second email list I stumbled upon for an old game with some similar mechanics to the game I was creating. I composed two sets of emails and sent them out to the lists. For the list of my old players I re-introduced myself and told them about the game. For the second list I started the email off with a sentence that said something along the lines of "this is a one time email, I will not email you again unsolicited. You are receiving this email because you may be interested in a game I've just created...". Those two emails got me my first 200 players.


After that I found some gaming forums and asked the mods if it would be ok if I posted a message about Pit of War and they were cool about it and said go ahead. That style of marketing grew the player base again. I had a friend who was the mod for a high traffic web master forum and he made a post in their "off topic" section that helped get some more traction.


He also knew a handful of folks with a good number of Twitter followers and asked them if they'd make a tweet about Pit of War and they were kind of enough to do that for free to help me out.


I tried Facebook ads a number of years ago and they weren't very effective, however, I'm told they are much better now. I may try them again in the near future. I then turned to cpmstar which is an ad network dedicated to games. This proved to be very good with the CPA (Cost per Action - which in my case is someone clicking on the ad and then signing up for the game) being much lower than the LTV for a player gained through this channel so I focused on that for awhile. CPA prices have gone up a lot since I started and there are many more games out there competing for the same eyeballs so this channel has started to wane but is still acceptable.


Using DeviantArt and Facebook I would upload some of the art from the game which would get shares and more eyeballs which helped increase exposure and player count.


I asked my friends and family to try the game out and if they liked it to please share it with people they think might like it as well.

Hard to pick a best because each channel contributed. Having said that, the initial email lists and paid advertising via cpmstar were crucial for the success of the game I believe.

Paid for the "influencers" in my niche to talk about my product. It works. Now who said native advertising doesn't work? Unethical? - maybe...

Note that to do this, you also have to be able to identify the influencers in your niche which is a skill in and of itself.

Could you elaborate on how you did this? What was your niche? How did you get in touch with the influencers? What kind of payouts were involved?

I have heard that facebook also adopted a similar strategy in the very beginning. I have no doubt that it works.

I've started an online store (https://adorely.ro) with a friend of mine using dropshippers (so we don't buy stock and manage the delivery) and we're getting our most valuable traffic from price comparison sites. While there is a limit of how many visitors you can get, the conversion rate is amazing (in some cases is more than 10%) and the cost is extremely low. Adwords is not a good idea if you don't have a good lifetime value. Also we tried to increase our Facebook fanbase but the conversion rate is pretty low (still bigger than adwords).

Nothing. I made the best mousetrap. Then I told people it was the best mousetrap. And I never lied or used marketing BS. Now my company is worth $2MM.

That's how it used to work. It still does.

I don't think this thread is about sharing lies or BS tricks.

"I told people it was the best mousetrap" sounds like your contribution to the discussion, and it sounds like there's more to the story here. Care to share any details or lessons?

How did you tell people it was the best mousetrap?

Sadly shinier mousetrap sells better than the best mousetrap.

Best case scenario with your approach you get something like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grado_Labs

Grado beats Beats no contest but which company sold for $3B?

I admire Grado's approach (met founder Joseph Grado in late 90s) but theirs was the best case scenario.

Worst case scenario you pick any industry and it is littered with rusting hulks of amazingly built mousetraps which did not get enough traction to sustain business.

It's great that it worked for you, but many others fail. Sony Betamax comes to mind immediately. Can you share more about the "told people" part?

It fails for so many that there is a term "better mousetrap fallacy".


Applications are open for YC Winter 2022

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact