> In January, 2019 I launched to HackerNews and some subreddits ...
Really? That's a "launch" these days? At least scrounge up a few hundred bucks and throw up some Facebook ads. Reddit and Hacker News have some of the most cynical and thrifty readers out there. Networking and getting the word out is half the battle. With such little effort put into the launch, OP could have been selling a dollar for fifty cents and no one would've cared.
They then forget that the typical person there is an industry peer or competitor rather than a customer, and that the chances of selling them on their product is slim to none.
Another thing is that most of the forums/subreddits these days have strict rules against self-promotion.
And I'm not saying that you're wrong - I'm just wondering what do you think is the right way to do things.
There are far less creators than there are people that merely consume/enjoy/use that kind of content/art/product/service
Most people who are creators aren't going to be in your target audience, and hence won't buy/use it.
Hence by marketing to other creators, you end up marketing to a subset of a subset of your product/game's total audience.
As for how you should market?
Well, in a mix of ways. Paid ads, getting journalists/media outlets/influencers to cover your work, posting on social media, doing various attention grabbing marketing campaigns, etc.
Plus using communities that are likely to be interested in the game.
Of course, as you say, the latter have rules against self promotion.
But here's the thing. Those rules are not 100% set in stone absolute.
They're about stopping drive by advertisers, not just anyone with anything to promote at any time in history. That's how the communities I run work for instance, with the assumption being that if someone shows a real interest in the community and subject, we'll allow them to share their work.
So you ideally want to be a longtime contributor on any community you want to market your work on. Have (as they say), less than 10% of your posts as ads for your work.
Hope that helps.
Wish you could save posts on HN because this is a gem!
How obvious the distinction is depends on your product.
Imagine I'm a robot maker making a robot vacuum cleaner. The kind of publicity that can get me into "Hackaday" probably comes to me a lot more naturally than the kind of publicity that gets me into "Good Housekeeping"
But I should be aiming for the latter, assuming my target market is "homeowners" rather than "robot enthusiasts"
Of course, for other products the distinction might be less obvious; if I'm making an IDE my users and my peers are probably fairly similar groups.
Even if it isn't designed for a niche, you can still start by marketing to one. Or to a demographic, and advertise to media that targets that demographic.
Because if you're talking about ads, many people (even in this post) are saying that they just don't work for small projects.
That's a great way to describe it.
Eh, I tried exactly this for a "thought bubble" project I had. Figured a landing page and $200 on ads would be the best way to gauge demand before writing any code.
Seemed like a great success - 50 or so e-mail signups, time to roll up my sleeves and start building! Until I looked closer and realized that every single signup was from a clearly fraudulent address. There's absolutely zero chance that they all just happened to be female, nicely formatted [firstname].[lastname]@gmail.com addresses.
Using ads to dip your toe in the water might have worked ten years ago, but there's just way too much fraud nowadays. I think you're better off finding your first ten users manually and asking very nicely for their time and feedback.
That was a few years ago, but I launched my app on the Play Store recently and noticed the exact same pattern. Definitely fake, too, because accounts were created in Firebase without user profiles (i.e. the app was never launched). I assume there are bot farms scanning new releases for certain packages (e.g. Firebase) and creating fake accounts.
If someone clicks, signs up, and never pays, the conversion rate on the ad looks worse, and Facebook's targeting looks less valuable.
If I can't post my FOSS to the linux subreddit then what in the world am I allowed to post?
There is not enough information in your comment to judge correctly, but I would like to point out that it's not black and white.
You know what I hate about Hacker News lately? The green accounts that show up, post a link to their product (sometimes even making it to the front page), do not reply to comments, and exist only to keep spamming their own links. I also saw a post gain 16 upvotes even though they forgot to post the actual content.
If you regularly contribute to the linux subreddit, participate in discussions, and post interesting links from non-affiliated sources then yes, being deleted for "self promotion" sounds unfair. But if you only go there to promote your project then I'd also side with the mods.
Exactly like this HN submission did.
Always read the wiki before posting. When in doubt, ask moderators if they're OK with self-promotion.
Self-promotion doesn't mean you spam links left and right. Try to provide value first, and maybe at the end of your post/comment, link to your website.
Ie FB ad - conversion.
Instead you want a showy FB ad that takes them to a landing page that looks like your website (native) to build trust, maybe have them answer some questions to get qualified etc. There's numerous ways to filter out "bad traffic".
That is my email address: [firstname].[lastname]@gmail.com
I'm not female though.
I'd expect most or even all of them to be from gmail but I'd be skeptical if they all followed the same naming convention, whether its first.last or something else.
That alone is at least mildly suspicious but it doesn't prove its not legitimate. However in this case he also used other data points to make that determination.
That makes you fraudulent these days? Man, my wife and I are screwed.
I’m saying that they were fake because all of them were formatted like that, registering within hours of being made available on the Play Store/AdWords, with zero external links and the app never actually being launched.
The odds are almost nil that they were legitimate users. It’s incredibly easy to spot, the email signups after the initial launch are far more “natural”, even those sharing the same format.
I got more visitors from briefly mentioning my site on a comment here on HN than from ads and PH.
Anyway, after a week of sulking that I wasn't the next Facebook overnight I buckled down and continued working with more long term vision. Growing a userbase takes time, 99% of the time.
It was played off as "meh" by Peldi but it was masterful. I had launched a product 2 years before and until then, I couldn't understand what I did wrong.
I obsessed over what he did. Every single thing. Trying to find where he got "lucky". There was no luck.
I knew Peldi from the Flash days. Met him once or twice in SFO, and he has an infectious smile and was super friendly.
Once, one of our team was showing me Balsamiq and they all liked it. I tried and it was super easy to use. I went to buy the license or I went to ask how to buy it, and Peldi replied back, something in the lines of, "Free for you buddy. You did enough for the community, this is the least I can do." That was also the time when I realized Peldi was behind Balsamiq.
I had had various interactions with him, not just about Balsamiq but asking him stupid questions, advice, and networking introductions.
But, he networked VERY hard.
As for luck, you made your own luck. Congrats on your success!
You could also just go to some old posts (HN or reddit) that are relevant to your product and reach out to anyone who seems ideal customer.
It's easier said than done, but hey, now you (hopefully) have some initial users, all for $0.
Did they give you a reasoning for this guidance?
Going after your customers looks great (honestly, I have zero successful experiences either way), but it is really hard for people that have a day job.
Reddit, on the other hand, is similarly priced and I got a lot more real users from them.
In any case, that's the closest I've gotten and I've learned to appreciate the hustle. It was also, for me, much more difficult than the actual coding/building. Although it was neat gaining a bit of "clout," it was repetitive, monotone, and extremely draining.
As a quick thought: who was/is your customer? It wasn't quickly apparent from your site. Is it game devs? Or game dev studios? Or platform owners? The hustle you did was actually great, but may have yielded more positive momentum if directed at potential customers.
That way, you get product feedback and also test the waters on pricing/revenue. Journalists have their place, but it's really PR and getting the general word out. Defining a customer profile, and having direct sales more-or-less figured out generally comes first before press pushes.
So unless your average customer spends $100+ with you, it will most likely not work. A common trick is to offer upfront paid annual plans, to convert $10 monthly into $120 now.
In true cynical form: Unless you are trying to either sell products to developers or are working on getting into ycombinator it seems like a terrible idea to pitch your idea here, the main benefit seems to be identifying competitors.
Then again, dropbox.
You can make arguments about ad spend and somebody can come here to correct me but I am fairly confident in the assertion that worrying about idea stealing and competition at the idea stage means you’re almost definitely indexing on the wrong things.
"I wrote an SaaS product because I believed it would get me rich and I went and scoured the internet for a well that echos my thoughts"
The author speaks about exactly one example, that,I guess I can say inspired him to get going with his idea.
No, The internet did not convince him. He convinced himself using the internet to find evidence for a conclusion he already reached.
The Internet is the place where one can always find well that echos one's thoughts. I wonder if that is the reason our society has become so polar. It's not even limited to specific country, this can be observed throughout the world.
It sucks that the OP's website didn't "blow up", but then again, most micro-SaaS's are not meant to go viral like that.
One point I would add is that there should be more promotion other than just posting on HN + PH. If that's where your launch stops, you may not be realizing your full potential.
Another little nitpick; The domain they used (EarlyBrd.io) was kinda weird due to the unconventional spelling. Yes, you don't need a dot com, but it should still be something you can mention in conversation and have the other party instantly understand & be able to spell, without you spelling it out for them.
Lastly, why does everyone here seem to care more about post titles than actual posts nowadays?
My site went down for a bit while this is front-paged, but is back up now. Definitely I think it could be more of a success if I put more effort in (duh?).
Definitely there is a need to promote across multiple channels and ideally own your audience/create your own content because then you have traffic generation on demand.
The name is weird, I shipped anyways. earlybird.com and earlybrd.com were not free. I have spelled it out many times. It's annoying and sucks.
Have you thought about whether you could expand the service to provide more value (and get paid more) by freelancers or considered other avenues where you could turn "RSS + notifications" into another business with a minimum of effort (other job sites, auction listings, it seems like there could be a lot)?
Also add categories and keywords to filter by for Upwork jobs if you haven't already. Contact Upwork users directly and message them about your product. Do things that don't scale as they say. I'd say contact maybe 500 people and see the response and subsequent sales. You could also contact marketers so they can post their jobs on your platform perhaps. There are many ways for future development it seems to me.
You can email me if you want more advice, I run a SaaS as well (https://getartemis.app) and I do some of these marketing tips I talk about.
The point of a title is to provide some kind of summary or teasing of what the posts talks about. If you try to guess the content of the article from the title you will fail here.
I don't want to criticize the content of this post, but we have this kind of content very often on the homepage, so it is not like we would have missed a super interesting thing
But you launched on HackerNews. Why didn’t you seek out communities that freelance, especially on UpWork? That’s where you plug your product, after becoming a valuable member of the community.
And becoming a valuable member of that community IS something you can do: you can give free advice on winning UpWork jobs, how to increase chances, etc.
This resonates so much. My company hires and outsources for the most stupid things, like, we need to change colors on a design file or move some buttons around? Let's go on Upwork or through our address book, write a RFQ, have a meeting to evaluate the quotes, set up payment and contract, then in two or three weeks the "refresh" is done.
I mean, just open Figma or whatever tool and do it yourself. Or ask a colleague for 20 minutes of help. It doesn't take Van Gogh to pair two colours and fonts.
For the $240/yr Adobe CC might cost me, I get better results and lower stress than trying to DIY it.
Picking colors is pretty easy now
100% of the “leads” I got there were scams.
Not 75%, not even 99%. 100%. Not one single honest job. Some were requests for me to participate in scams, but I don’t roll that way.
I’m sure that my experience was unique, and that my profile must have had some “scam flag,” so I won’t write off the platform in its entirety.
I heard good things about the site from friends, but every single person that extolled its virtues had used it to find contractors. Not one had used it to find work. The couple of people that I know that used it to seek work had experiences similar to mine, and nothing good to say about it.
But that is small-sample anecdotal data. Not something that I would say should be used to provide any meaningful recommendations or reviews.
But for me, the site is worthless. I was pretty appalled at the brazenness of some of the approaches. No one seemed to be worried that I would refer them to the FBI, so I guess I don’t come across as a snitch; just a chump.
A couple of years ago, I decided to “refactor” myself back to full-time engineering.
My ultimate goal was to specialize in Swift development (what I do, now).
Until then, all my work was part-time, on open-source projects; equal parts PHP server stuff, and Swift apps.
This was what I wrote: https://riftvalleysoftware.com/work/open-source-projects/#ba...
It’s not something that folks are interested in, probably because it was written in PHP, and doesn’t really tick many boxes on a “Buzzword Bingo” card, but it accomplished its purpose.
I’ll be happy to never write PHP again, but I’m glad it was there for the experience.
And I nuked my Upwork account months ago.
WordPress alone is bigger than HN would lead you to believe. Lots of business runs on PHP. And not just running Drupal from inertia; Laravel is a new shiny thing.
This works great for small business owners, web agencies and professionals (which is the majority of the people who actually need a website). When self-hosting you also have a sense of ownership and power (and you actually have them) compared to using dedicated platforms such as Shopify, Medium or Wix.
It seems that it really is a great platform to hire people; just maybe not so good, if you want to be hired.
> learn to sift through the legit profiles vs the dodgy
It's also important to get longer term projects through it (either a client that brings you repeat work or short-medium term hourly contracts). It has got more and more difficult over the years imo as the various freelance sites merged and you had more crap to sift through.
I'm not kidding, though. Every. Single. Contact. that I had was "dodgy."
I really must have had something in my profile that attracted them. I don't know what it could have been. I use a similar approach in all my endeavors, but that site responded quite differently.
I remember one that was pretty scary. They kept trying to get me to meet them in rather remote places, like commuter parking lots, or hiking parks. They also tried to find out where I lived (which, TBH, isn't difficult. I own a house, and don't use an LLC to obfuscate ownership).
I come across as fairly open and credulous, but I have dealt with serious hardcases almost my entire life. The alarm klaxon was going off like crazy on that one.
I've run into the situation of people eagerly telling you they want something, but when it comes time to pay for it they vanish.
I can see an experienced developer doing that in 2 weeks with little code, but no code ? If so, can you tell me what kind of products would you use ? I'm interested for some personal projects.
You could argue that in a lot of domains you barely even need an app at all that requires more than wiring up google sheets to zapier or some such if you can cleverly package it up and target the right audience with it.
SaaS products are merely an exercise in problem solving for people/businesses and there's a lot of ways you can usually solve these sorts of problems without needing to be super technical with it. At that point your bottleneck will always end up being acquiring and converting traffic.
I think this totally depends on the app, and the problem domain. CRUD apps? Sure, those have very low barrier to entry. But they aren't the only type of app out there.
if you corner the market for the free product it can bring a lot of valuable traffic.
Are there any resources/case studies to validate:
"if you corner the market for the free product it can bring a lot of valuable traffic."
(#1 dating site, monetized with Google ads. Ugly. Markus Frind later sold it for $575 million.)
And yet, these companies did quite well, became quite successful and profitable businesses in their niche - and when they did hit the hard limits of technical debt, they had the money to hire professionals. Unfortunately there are limits to what professionals can do with just-about-working spaghetti code and bizarre database schemas, when you can't just throw away and rewrite software that's powering a growing business that needs more new features than it needs a cleaner codebase, but nonetheless they got much further than many SaaS companies started by developers with well thought out architecture, beautiful code and the latest tech stack.
The reason they were successful is that the founders lived and breathed their niche and understood the problems and their customers. They saw opportunities as well as risks and blind alleys. The tech was just a means to that end, not the end in of itself. That said, before people say "the tech doesn't matter", I think that had they the technical skills to match their domain knowledge and connections, they would have been far more successful and would not have hit those hard limits that slowed them down and perhaps prevented them from expanding further and seizing on new opportunities. It's interesting that some of the real "unicorns" of the last few decades have had founders/leaders with strong technical chops - your Gates and Zuckerbergs. They might not have been the best in their field, but they had that relatively rare combo of technical ability and business sense.
I think what OP was referring to is that what you describe is, ironically, the antithesis of "simple."
Your "simple" solution requires knowledge of 5 separate frameworks/services, and having an understanding of the philosophy underpinning them and the alternatives to be confident those tools will be sufficient for your use case.
And like you said, that doesn't even include monitoring, security, testing, etc. etc.
And don't even get me started on all the tools you'll need to actually get users to visit your site after you build it (transactional email, marketing email, analytics, social media scheduling, SEO and its toolchain like Ahrefs and moz, etc).
Keep it simple. Just learn these 27 different things. Simple!
Yes, spot on.
Nonsense! I've been around since the 90s too and let me tell you - you don't need any of the trendy new crap to make a successful app. You don't need a single page JS app except in very specific circumstances. You don't need microservices or serverless or map/reduce or Cassandra or NoSQL or nodejs or ML or any of it.
Ignore all that noise, go pick up "Agile Web Development with Rails 6" and just do it. Haters gonna hate but if it's good enough for github it's very probably good enough for you.
Therefore I think you should start with PHP. Write PHP -> upload -> done.
If PHP is unpopular advice, maybe this is even more unpopular: you might want to check out the ProcessWire CMS. Yes, this is a CMS, but since the front-end and back-end are separated it can be used as framework for a lot of things. It has a lot of (free) addons, like support for Twig, making developing even complex systems very simple.
And ofcourse you can use frameworks like Symfony and Laravel.
But to get rid of the rocket science I believe PHP is the way to go because it makes deployments so much easier.
And if the time comes your product is a success you can always hire rocket scientists who can help you to move on.
Curious about what more contemporary stuff you've experimented with vs. what you're comfortable with. The pop cycle is real.
For instance, one of yesterday's top posts was about htmx, which is cool enough, but it's one of those things that's very opinionated about bundling content, presentation, and behavior, and which advocates for hypertext over consumer-neutral serialization formats. All of that was de rigueur not so long ago, and then heresy in the '00s. Yet, it works, and you can drop in it and get it working in like 2 minutes.
I feel the same way as I suppose you do about a lot of popular toolchains for web work. Babel and webpack are beasts and definitely do remind me of some of the performance art-level stuff with autoconf and make.
I work on some of this stuff in my spare time. Always happy to hear anecdotes.
I think there's a pretty solid group of people using "old" tech to build modern interfaces.
A lot of justification for things like React is around project management for teams. For an indie developer, there are simpler things like Unpoly, Stimulus/Turbolinks, jQuery, AlpineJS, and Intercooler/HTMX.
Give it a shot!
Don't be worried about "Scale" either, seriously. VC funded unicorns care about scale because they have million dollar budgets going into advertising, the reality for most bootstrapped SaaS and even mid-sized businesses is that a simple dedicated host is going to serve you well. Depends on the type of business I suppose, but if you need quick bursting scale then you'll probably know it.
The bleeding edge is a mess. You want to pick only the things you absolutely need from it, and if you can't figure out what it is you need, you don't need anything but what you've got and life is good. Many of these technologies come at a cost to overall complexity, and for big companies they will have enough developers to specialize in all the different technologies going on.
When I'm working with clients we can often use some new fangled technologies to help in really specific areas. But the vast, vast, vast majority of clients just need you to send their user a gosh darn web page and process some forms. Render your template, cache the thing and send it over. Instant low latency web experience, hoo-ray we're all happy.
Curious as I've been debating about which direction to steer a friend who is a designer trying their build their own product. He's played around with python, and liked it, so I was going to suggest flask (since most of online tutorials start there).
But I've also heard good things about PHP/Laravel for beginners.
If you used Perl, mod_perl exists and CGI.pm is available in CPAN. The CGI protocol is as viable as it ever was (though of course there are new and improved alternatives).
There are a bunch of minimal stylesheets out there that get you some mobile compatibility, and no IE 6/early Firefox nightmares, so your code can actually be simpler than ever.
Besides that, Perl allows forward references and has moderately strong type checking. And mod_perl is the best-performing language accelerator.
I cringe whenever I have to downgrade to Python.
Early 2020s: Remember when everyone wanted to try to build a business on the idea that "internet + some software a random person might pay $5 for = $$$$$" ?
I think a lot of devs think that project management, business sense and marketing (basically everything but development) are easier. I used to think that too. Until I had to start thinking about business strategies, sharing my product and understanding my customers...
If only I could install packages for that kind of stuff IRL.
>Go for B2B if you can. Freelancers aren't rich.
You might not love the b2b sales cycle either. Even if you get a whale of a client, you're gonna negotiate hard, probably fork your product for it, and get paid in 180 days if you're lucky.
— Corey Pein: How to get rich quick in Silicon Valley (https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/apr/17/get-rich-quick-...)
Firstly, the author says to rather sell to businesses than to individuals. Fine.
Secondly, one of his links (https://makebook.io/) says monetize by asking users for money, and makes a point of saying don't use ads anywhere.
But if my product is aimed at consumers, why not monetize with ads if it's notoriously difficult to get users to pay 5 or 10 bucks?
By viable, I mean making more money than you would working as a software engineer in a big city.
A typical user will not view 10,000 ads on your app/site in their lifetime.
Learned it the hard way myself.
Basically a whitebox SaaS open source that you can use? I only know of KongHQ but that's a SaaS marketplace, I don't think that's a good idea because with that you are treated as a vendor (no control of your users/ecosystem).
just keep those lessons in mind and if you don’t make those mistakes again, i think you will get to ramen profitability at least.
> Framework / Language really doesn't matter that much. Choose what you're comfortable with, "even if it's php."
I think modern php is able to manage almost anything, starting from facebook as well.
I hope you don't mind me saying, but it sounds like you didn't have the best setup (i.e.: > raw SQL queries with psycopg2). With a couple of packages your environment and dev process would be a lot smoother.
I don't understand this... can anyone explain?
Freelancers are a notoriously difficult market to sell to as they perceive every dollar spent as coming out of their wallet.
Compare that to a large enterprise company where the person making the buying decision is going to take home the same salary at the end of the week whatever the decision ends up being.
In my startup we're currently courting a company and if we get the deal we'll have all our costs covered + enough for another engineer + some leftover profit.
I think solo-founders should try hard to find a simple and efficient tech stack - including hosting. Why use containers and EC2 when you could just use a PaaS like Pythonanywhere and be done with it?
This should be on your home page. It made me want to buy your product.
I'll point out that you've got links to about 12 different external tools, but 0 links to the SaaS product you're talking about...
> Go for B2B if you can. Freelancers aren't rich.
Even if freelancers have money they seem to spend less.
The reference to Flask being a pain in the arse made me chuckle. I am a hobbyist python author and have been using Flask for years, doing exactly what you wrote about, with awkward front-end templates and handwritten SQL queries and the rest.
I did some basic tutorials on Vue a few weeks ago and it was absolutely mind-blowingly straightforward in comparison!
You can also render your friend end using JS and interact with services written in Flask.