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Ask HN: Great tools for solo SaaS founders?
215 points by ponyous 17 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 129 comments
I am building a web SAAS and being a developer, I want to mostly focus on development and skip the marketing, pr and other related stuff, hence I am looking for tools to automate/delegate as much as possible. I like building products after all.

There are so many great tools and strategies, but almost all of them require you to have a person or even a team to support it - for example all social media automation tools require you to prepare a lot of content to be effective. I can't do that.

Do you know any great tools that are more or less 0 maintenance, relatively short setup and deliver value?

It doesn't have to necessary be marketing tool, but it's what made me curious. If you know of development, accounting or whatever other tool please shoot!




I've been living off solo SaaS products my entire adult life -- almost 20 years. These are the only services I pay for:

    * AWS and Cloudflare for hosting
    * Rackspace for incoming email
    * Sendgrid for transactional/outbound email
    * Namecheap for domains
    * A merchant account and Spreedly for payments
    * ShareASale to run an affiliate program and pay a percentage commission for referred sales
    * Facebook and Google ads
All customers come from ads, referrals or word of mouth. I don't do any social media or outbound sales.


>* Sendgrid for transactional/outbound email

All good recommendations ! I would advise/caution AGAINST SendGrid. They have a quite the terrible reputation and my n=1 experience is that over a weekend they suspended my production account without cause !

1) I've been sending the EXACT same mails and number (less than 200-300 a month) to the exact same ppl on their free-tier.

2) I asked to upgraded to a PAID account to get better statistics (opens etc) They came back with saying I'm not a good fit for their org and boom disabled my account which is used in production ! Was a fun weekend switching everything over.

So they were willing to send my mails for 5 years for free and after I wanted to give them money to KEEP sending the EXACT same mail, they basically said bugger off and my production systems were left without an email service !

EDIT1: After searching SendGrid on HN - seems I"m not the only one !

I can recommend PostMark - Brilliant service.


+1 for avoiding SendGrid. We haven't had this problem at work. But we have persistently hit a bug where if you send them two API requests at the same time they will return a spurious 403 error for one of them. They seem unwilling to fix it (reports go back years). We currently have a retry with random timeout configured in our system to compensate for it.

I've previously had good experiences with SparkPost.


Yo ! Ja definitely getting a anti-customer/customer-is-always-wrong vibe !


I also recommend against SendGrid.

The first major issue we had was when emails sent to comcast.net addresses were bouncing. We were told that it was a known issue and that SendGrid was working on it. If SendGrid knew about this issue, why didn't anyone at SendGrid contact us proactively about the situation? We learned about the issue from unsatisfied customers who had not received order confirmations. To make matters worse, we never received a follow-up email informing us that the issue had been resolved. The lack of communication was unacceptable, especially given the man-hours that SendGrid allocates to the dissemination of fluff on Twitter (e.g., "Some sweet demos today from last night's hackathon").

The second major issue was even worse. Our latest invoice failed to be paid automatically for some undisclosed reason, and we didn't receive any notification regarding the issue. Again, we learned about a SendGrid issue from unsatisfied customers. To make matters worse (there's that phrase again), our customer service email address was added to the hard bounce list after our automatic payment failed. So after we manually paid our invoice, we still didn't receive emails sent to our customer service email address from our site's contact form.


If your business is not nefarious spamming and deliverability is important to your use case, then I highly recommend the helpful folks at Postmark over all others. Transactional email delivery can be a minefield not for the faint of heart. Seems easy at first….


+1'ing this, it's a narrowly scoped API but it works extremely well.


Second this. Postmark is amazing.


+1 against Sendgrid. They were a pretty good service when we signed up with them ~5 years ago (Paid plan with private IP), but ever since the Twilio acquisition their customer support and technical reliability has gone through the floor.

Postmark is a phenomenal service and I'll be using it for every transactional email service I need going forward.


+1 for No SendGrid. I tried using their free tier just to try them out and immediately none of my emails were delivering to Gmail. Yes, maybe if I decided to go to the paid tier this would resolve, but if the free tier is that bad, I have questions for the company over why even bother offering that tier. (Gmail was actively rejecting the emails due to low sender reputation.)

It left a bad taste in my mouth. We now use SparkPost.


SendGrid is such a mess, feeling more after Twillio bought it but maybe it is irrelevant.

From their admin site, first time you try to login, it says "Page you're looking for cannot be found" briefly and takes you to the login screen, such a bizarre system and they're not willing to fix. It kind of tells what kind of engineers are working.

They only give you 3 days worth of logs for paid customers, until you pay more for extended log option which is laughable and too late when you figure it out as you need older history and it doesn't even show much like subjects, so it's quite useless.

If I try to keep reloading the activity page to see if the mail went through several times a minute, the page says I'm accessing the page too many times and throttles with a warning page...

Also had weird error saying a receiving end's DNS couldn't be resolved and refused to send to a specific domain which is working perfectly except from SendGrid and the support reply is just so helpless, I gave up on that domain.

And it gets worse if you're under trouble as I had an account whose payment couldn't be made in time due to a problem on our side, emails quickly stopped from being relayed and as we pay it in several days, they say the emails can no longer be sent from the spool, which means they all went in limbo with no return email or anything and that was the last of it and we switched to Postmark.

Bizarre tech, helpless support and definitely not made for care to the customers.


After Donglegate, I had already put them on my blacklist. Now I see that my suspicions that it was just the tip of the iceberg came out to be true.


> “Somebody getting fired is pretty bad,” I said. “I know you didn’t call for him to be fired, but you must have felt pretty bad.”

> “Not too bad,” she said. She thought more and shook her head decisively. “He’s a white male. I’m a black Jewish female. He was saying things that could be inferred as offensive to me, sitting in front of him. I do have empathy for him, but it only goes so far. If he had Down’s syndrome and he accidently pushed someone off a subway, that would be different… I’ve seen things where people are like, ‘Adria didn’t know what she was doing by tweeting it.’ Yes, I did.”


Thats the kind of lack of self awareness and disregard for other's you'd expect to hear out of a sociopath


Agreed, they (used to?) hire the most incompetent developer evangelists


In my experience, the shared SendGrid IPs have poor sender reputation too. Many bounced transactional emails because of blocklists.


Genuine question: why not just have your own e-mail server with a bit of automation thrown in, something simple like https://github.com/docker-mailserver/docker-mailserver

I can understand something like SendGrid or PostMark for the more complex use cases or larger platforms, but surely for a one man SaaS, the simple self-hosted option wouldn't be out of the question either? Interacting with a mail server shouldn't be too hard either, say, with Python or any other general purpose programming language.

Provided, that the IP addresses aren't blacklisted and that a simple VPN is sufficient. Do we live in a world of walled gardens, where the smaller mail servers would just have their mail be discarded, or something?


> Do we live in a world of walled gardens, where the smaller mail servers would just have their mail be discarded, or something?

Short answer: kinda yes.

Longer answer: Especially if you launch something new (new Domain, only a few dozens subscribers/ transactional mails every day), it's difficult to build up enough reputation such that your mails gets into the customer's inbox - or even delivered at all.

So even if email is included at your webhoster, you'll want to use a provider with whom you can be sure that your emails make it into the inbox.


When you run your own email server, you run a significant risk of getting to spam folders, especially at the beginning if one of your first customers marks your email as spam.

You also have to deal with abuse complaints and discovering where the form is for whichever provider is blocking your email addresses while also dealing with a customer who never got an email from you with their receipt or invoice. It’s a pita.

Did it once, never again.


Was your service or emails against their terms of use?


>Was your service or emails against their terms of use?

a) Not as far as we could tell. It's "plain vanilla-transaction-emails" - think "JIRA-Like Tickets notification" but for Restaurant Maintenance ( product page: https://littlebigstats.com).

b) We have send the 'exact' same type of emails (mostly password-resets and maintenance-ticket-notifications) through them for the last 5 years. So if we were somehow against their terms, their process for vetting/detecting is not working at all.

Sidenote: Sorry I'm venting now - but was a real crappy weekend ! Trying to switch out your email provider and sign up for a new one.

It's not just switching out, it's also about getting verified (100% agree with this step) by the service provider most email service provider can take 24-72 hours(I can understand why). Since it was weekend we actually had to send out a mail to our three biggest customers in Africa (KFC, PizzaHut, JavaHouse) telling them we will be offline for 48 hours :/

Even after BEGGING them to enable our account for another 24 hours while we are being verified by other providers and to get our data off, they outright refused !

We applied to a bunch of email sending services and went with the first one that approved us, which was PostMark and I had a little chat with them via support and signup-process. Was impressed from start to finish by this company and their personal.

For reference AWS-SES took a little over 3 days to approve us.


Hope you've learned the lesson to have a disaster recovery plan, and a fallback service provider for the critical part of your business.


Yup we now have two-of-everything :P


lol


I would agree, Postmark is wonderful


I aspire to be in the same boat you are – kudos to you!

Are the majority of your products physical or digital ecommerce? Or a subscription based automated service?

Edit: Looks like you have a great analytics framework, found your blog from another comment. Thanks for sharing your stack with us.


Can you please write a blog post or book about your experience? I'm trying to get into solo SAAS, and this kind of post is pure gold for me!


He has a blog: dangrossman.info

He is an active HN'er. You can also find out more about users by clicking their name. Seasoned ones have some sort of profile.


Maybe I'm missing something, but this doesn't look at all like a blog and/or I can't find a way to find any posts.

Also, that is a rough background with it changing every couple of seconds.


I believe the question to pricing strategy can be found in this intro paragraph:

"I'm Dan Grossman, the founder of Improvely and W3Counter. In my spare time, I also run Lignin & Light, a shop for hand-crafted gifts, with most items made on my Glowforge Pro."


I would like to add [Sentry](https://sentry.io/) to the list. Helps identify the issues your customers have with SaaS and produce better code with a piece of mind.


If you use AWS why would you use Namecheap instead of Route53? Even if .com are 4$ cheaper on Namecheap per year. if you have one or two domains, I would prefer simplicity of integration with AWS over small savings.

Also is Cloudflare better (or cheaper) than Cloudfront ?


1. My domains all predate Amazon becoming a registrar. I registered my first domain in 1997. I register them for 5-10 years at a time. There's no simplicity benefit in transferring and paying more.

2. Too many eggs in one basket. I prefer to minimize (a) the chances of losing an account/asset and (b) the impact if it happens. If Amazon drops me, or has a long-lasting outage, I can re-build everything I run on another host and point the domains there in an afternoon. Not so if Amazon also owns the domains and hosts the DNS.


Probably not a good enough benefit in the age of letsencrypt but you do get free certs if you're with R53.


Not to mention the dynamic alias records, automated certificate validations and auto-renewing, and the very excellent integrations with other AWS services.

People like making life harder for themselves /shrug


If disaster recovery or separation of duties makes you shrug, I’d recommend some basic risk management and security training.

Most decent registrars have APIs allowing you to do all of this with just a few lines of code in a script.


You can use ACM for free without Route 53, it just takes manual effort to set up verification records.


I would suggest Cloudflare registrar + CDN + DDoS protection. Keep all the backend stuff on AWS.


Better yet, keep it on Lightsail, it has fixed pricing plans for containers ($7 per mo), VPS ($3.5), database ($15), blob store ($3 per 100GB), and disk ($1 per 10GB). Lightsail can peer into (same region) regular VPC as well for $1 per 100GB ingress+egress.


That’s ridiculously expensive.


Apply my comment in the context of "keep all the backend stuff on AWS." Of course, if one's backend is Scaleway, Vultr, DigitalOcean, Hetzner, Linode, or CoLos then even AWS Lightsail would be ridiculously expensive, but that's not what the thread is about.


I can’t upvote this enough!


>* A merchant account and Spreedly for payments

Can you explain why you go this route instead of something like Stripe?


1. Stripe didn't exist 20 years ago. A merchant account was how you accepted credit cards online before Stripe.

2. Stripe costs more. I pay "interchange plus" which means a small markup over what Visa/MC/Amex charge to processors. A debit card can cost as little as 0.05% to charge, but Stripe will charge you 2.9%.

3. If Stripe goes out of business or decides they don't like my business, I'd lose my customers. Spreedly is a payment gateway agnostic credit card vault that lets me own the payment data and switch processors at will. If Stripe became cheaper or better in some way for me tomorrow, I could start billing my existing customers through Stripe tomorrow just by changing one token in my code.


Thanks for the explanation.

> If Stripe goes out of business or decides they don't like my business, I'd lose my customers.

I don't think this is true, Stripe always work with you to move customer data to another provider


Spreedly as a wrapper around other payment gateways may add additional fees. Please correct me if I'm wrong.


3. it won't work quite like that. you'll get tons of failed payments, probably majority of them


My gateway has outages a few times a year, and I have switched to backup gateways including Stripe on those days with no issues.


> I want to mostly focus on development and skip the marketing

Please don't. More often than not, better-marketed products win over better products. It's unfortunate, but that's how it is.

> I like building products after all.

Most of us do, but you're unlikely to gain any traction without marketing, and after failing to see tangible results, grow resentful towards your project and start losing interest. Been there, done that.

If you want to minimize time spent on marketing in the longer term, your best bets are word-of-mouth, referrals, and SEO (if you're after low-competition keywords). However, not all businesses are conducive to these strategies.

Regarding tools, pick the ones (1) you're familiar with, (2) don't have complex billing, (2) and don't lock you in (in that order). There are exceptions, but this is a good rule of thumb (and that's the rule I have been sticking to in my current business).

Don't get bogged down in minutiae. Ship it!


I learned it the hard way and now I start with marketing and then I write code if I see interest.


I do this things for 10 years. Right from the start of commercial development. I suggest to read SEO books and use this as a main source of customers as I do. You will get what you want: better focus on the product.

- Crisp (best website chat, email campaigns).

- Namecheap.

- Cloudflare (speedup website loading around the world).

- Postmark (transactional emails).

- Uploadcare (come on, save days on image uploading/cropping features).

- AWS/DO.

- Amplitude analytics - the best of the best thing for SAAS products.

- UI libraries like bootstrap, but better use something well integrated with your framework. Don't reimplent.

- Use boring tech stack, which you are know as your five fingers (it'll keep you months).

- IDE by JetBrains.

- Stripe (save days on connecting billing for fair price).

- Books: Lean startup (foundation), Think and grow rich (don't give up), Steal like an artist (a vision).

- Forum: IndieHackers (it'll motivate you).

- Notion for docs, tasks, plans, ideas.


I am thinking about creating my own SaaS. Do you happen to have an invite?


How does Amplitude compare vs MixPanel?


1. Mixpanel is super expensive.

2. Mixpanel is slow as a hell in a real world apps. I'm not joking. You can wait by 15 seconds to load one page.

3. Amplitude is 10 times more flexible and intuitive.

4. Amplitude is free completely. 100 000 000 events included. Mixpanel gives about 5000, maybe a bit more, just for testing purposes.


That's outrageously wrong.

Free Plans Monthly: Amplitude: 10 million events Mixpanel: 100k tracked users with 1000 events each. aka 100 million tracked events.

https://amplitude.com/pricing https://mixpanel.com/pricing/


Looks like I'm wrong. They changed pricing and limits.


Good to know, thanks for the info. So you accomplish everything with just the free version? Or do you pay for any additional features?


Amplitude gives enough for free. They charge a lot from enterprises.


+1 PostMark !


Big fan of using DigitalOcean droplets instead of AWS for hosting simple backend APIs. A few perks:

- Fixed pricing, very predictable billing

- No CPU throttling vs. EC2 instances

- Bandwidth included in the cost of the droplet

I've built a few projects with Netlify hosting a React frontend and DigitalOcean running an API server for the backend/database. A single DO droplet can scale far beyond what I've used it for, especially when combined with a SPA that offloads much of the processing to the users' browser.


DO is awesome but the UI has been degrading constantly.

Why the hell does DO need to change their UI so often? There are so many bugs to fix. Stop reskinning it please.


The tools most useful for me as a solo founder:

* https://paddle.com - Paddle (payments) - selling internationally without having to deal with all the local taxes

* https://uxwizz.com - UXWizz (analytics) - built my own private, self-hosted analytics platform that provides everything I need (stats, event tracking, session recordings, heatmaps, a/b tests, etc.) in a single platform that doesn't cost thousands per month

* Gmail - Like it or not, I got used to using gmail to handle customer support requests (I use the auto-labeling features to keep them categorized) and the SMTP forwarding to send/receive emails using my own domain names. I am thinking of moving away (for privacy reasons mostly), but it works really well at the moment.

* DigitalOcean/Contabo for VPSs for self-hosting everything that I need

This is mostly it, I try to stay as lean as possible. Self-hosting is pretty easy nowadays and it rarely needs maintenance, so I usually prefer it because of the control over the product/data and the cost reduction that it gives.


AirTable, super flexible and I love it. I created a custom CRM on it that should last me for the first year of the business. It has made creating workflows for some turk styejobs super easy.

Lemlist - great for automating email outreach. A bit buggy and their support is friendly (but doesn't really know how the product works and you can never get a straight answer). Still, it works 95% of the time and does the job.

Not sure if it helps, but if you approach marketing like a product instead of something painful it can be more fun. Hit me up direct (bwbbwb@gmail.com), I'd be happy to share more of what I've done by building mini products for marketing and might be able to spark some ideas that would help you market by building some little tools.


We'd love to help with your user management at https://clerk.dev - stack-agnostic Sign Up, Sign In, and User Profile Management - oauth and 2fa included out of the box

Others:

- stripe.com Atlas for incorporation

- vercel.com for easy frontend deploys

- render.com for easy backend deploys

- pilot.com for taxes

- stripe.com for subscriptions

- sendgrid.com for email

- orbit.love is good for tracking community growth

- discord for actual community conversation

- best marketing for us has been word-of-mouth, thankfully driven just by doubling down on product and support


Bookmarking for my next project. Great website copy. Been looking for an auth0 alternative since they got bought out.


> I want to mostly focus on development and skip the marketing, pr and other related stuff

You're most likely doomed tbh. Talking to customers is essential.


Yeah that sounds like "I don't want to run a business"


You read too much into it. I am happy to do research and talk to customers. I just want to minimize marketing and PR.


Paddle.com mostly for taxes. Seriously, how are you guys dealing with taxes (US or/and global)?


I'm in the EU and I have not found a solution that works other than a local accounting office. Which works very well indeed. But I have a B2B SaaS, so my invoicing side is relatively simple VAT-wise.


> I'm in the EU and I have not found a solution that works other than a local accounting office.

I am using Paddle from the EU, what do you mean it doesn't work? You will only receive a single invoice that you have to deal with instead of hundreds of invoices from customers from various countries with various tax laws, right?


Same here - can't imagine what you'd pay in accountant costs otherwise.


For https://tooltipr.com I am using

  - tawk.to
  - render.com
  - No Payments implemented but will use Stripe
  - Namecheap
  - Google Analytics + Google Search Console (Search console is really good)


How about privacy and terms pages? does one need a lawyer or is there a SaaS service to generate one?


Shopify has these for free, but the wording (not surprisingly) is aimed at an e-commerce use case, so may not fit what you need exactly.


> I want to mostly focus on development and skip the marketing, pr and other related stuff, hence I am looking for tools to automate/delegate as much as possible.

You should really look at finding a cofounder with those skills then. Every situation is different so I won’t say it’s impossible but you’re going to find it exceedingly difficult in my experience to skip that stuff and build a successful business.


- Zapier

- Notion

- HockeyStack

- Drip

- GPT-3

- Apollo.io

I would suggest learning how to do marketing, writing down an excruciatingly detailed process (on Notion), and then automating a part of it while delegating the rest to freelancers.

Though, to delegate as much as possible, you will need a good amount of capital.


Interesting list. Would you be willing to add in edits on what you use each one for?

For example, Zapier "moves things between web apps." Is that an ETL as a service? What is it E'ing, T'ing and L'ing, though?


Zapier is useful for integrating common tools (slack, drive, asana, etc etc) but would not be a good choice for most nontrivial ETL, or nontrivial any kind of integration.

Eg, you want a slack notification when a Google form is filled out. Pretty painless to set up a zap.

You want to keep a database table up to date with a Google sheet. You can do it on zapier, but it's gonna be a pain.


Integromat is cheaper and better than Zapier, IMO.


What's GPT-3 for ?


For our bootstrapped AI startup:

* Slack for communication (we do very little email, except externally with customers; even then, we often set up shared Slack channels) * Justworks.com for payroll and insurance (tried Gusto and Rippling, and had horrible issues) * Google Docs and Notion for docs (our team is split 50/50) * SurgeHQ.ai for data labeling / creating ML training datasets * Github as both a code repository and project management tool (tried Asana and Trello, but it was always easier to stick to Github) * Heroku for hosting * Cleanshot.com for creating screenshots (I take a lot of screenshots, so it's crazy how much time this has saved me, compared to the default Mac screenshotter) * Google Analytics (but I hate it, so looking for a recommendation) * Pitch.com for creating slide decks


Why do you hate Google Analytics? Too slow/complicated?

Depends on what you need (basic stats vs detailed user statistics and events) and how you want to do it (free service, paid service, self-hosted platform).

If you need something that provides a bit of everything and is self-hosted you can check out the platform I'm building: https://uxwizz.com/


Stripe & 2Checkout - For Payments

ChartMogul - Subscription Analytics

Prospectss.com - Growth Marketing / Lead Generation

GitLab - Code Repository

FirstPromoter - Affiliate Management

TawkTo - Free Live Chat

HelloBar - Exit Intent Popup

UberSuggest Chrome Extension - Keyword Stats directly on Google!

OpalStack - Best Python/Django Hosting

Bubbles Chrome Extension - Providing Feedback on Website

Loom - Video Recording.

Voxer - Better IM Like Voice Communication

Unsplash / Pexels - Free Stock

IPData - Check Geo Location of the user to set pricing & timezone

Amazon SES - Transactional Emails

MailJet - Promotional Emails

PorkBun - Domain

TunnelTo - Local Host Tunneling

Postaga - Outreach / Link Building

SEMRush - SEO Analytics and Link Building Outreach

Growth Runner Daily Google Analytics Report on Whatsapp


at https://www.oomnis.com (small startup), we mostly use Zoho One. One solution that does: CRM, cloud storage, docs, digital signature for contracts, book-keeping, password managers, marketing automation, support website, website hosting, remote assistance, chat, web conferencing, subscription management and more. Pricing is per employee which is GREAT for a 1-3 people startup. Apart from that, we deploy on Azure VMs. Would love to know what solutions people deploy to host/monitor/alert with monolithic apps on Azure.


I second Zoho One.

Prior to about 6 months ago, I had used Salesforce for almost ten years. I was a big fan of it, but the cost and complexity for a small business became too much.

I switched to Zoho One and use it to single handedly run an IT Services small business with $500k+ ARR.

Out of the box it is capable enough, but over time, Ive been able to make even more improvements.

I have integrations setup via web hooks/built in integrations, leads automatically created upon contact submissions to website, proposals/contracts generated via templates and mail merge, send docs for signature, etc.

I’ve even automated parts that require non-user actions traditionally handled via typing the same email over and over again (e.g., sending invoice information to accounting).

To do many of the things I described in Salesforce, it would have taken me significantly more time and cost much more money. Salesforce has a minimum user license requirement, as well as a requirement for annual contracts. Zoho allows for month-to-month and has no minimum.

I almost feel like a shill for it now, so I’ll stop. However, I can’t recommend it highly enough.


I know how you feel!


Thanks for the mention, But I had commented on it already and besides just the URL without information is not liked by the community and hence the down votes I think.

Hm. Apologies for this. I figured I'd go the minimalist route due to the name of the website being so self-explanatory.

Personally:

- Google Cloud Run (or anything that can run docker)

- SendGrid (but use SMTP only for easy migration)

- Google Workspace (Office/Notion are also cool but I just don't use them often)

- Mainly Go with Python for scripts

- PostgreSQL

- gRPC/Protocol Buffers for API servers

Where possible I try and take on as few dependencies on big cloud services, and always use standard gateways. It makes moving around much easier. Other stuff mentioned here is quite good, but I'll especially recommend https://IndieHackers.com


I like Protobuf, but think that for the volume most operations deal with, you're better off with how well-support and understood HTTP is.


IndieHackers looks great. How can I get an invite code?


Messaging courtland@indiehackers.com and mentioning HN worked for me. My account is too fresh to have invites.


Ah, that must be new. I'd give you a code but I want this account to stay pseudonymous and don't know how I could share. Please do ask around here though.


That would be amazing, thank you. I've made an anonymous Google form you can send it to me through. It works in incognito, you don't have to log in anything. I don't get any information other than what's typed in the answer: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdIusHNqZX-p5lAewZO...


Does IH require an invitation now?


Yeh it got enabled to limit the never ending spam battle


I lot of people mentioned Namecheap for domains. They’re great. I’ve been using them for over 6 years now. However, I wouldn’t recommend them over CloudFlare Registrar anymore.

https://blog.cloudflare.com/registrar-for-everyone/


Mailmeteor (https://mailmeteor.com) will help you get your first users by sending highly personalized emails to your contact lists. Super useful to reach out to your network before your Product Hunt launch for example.


— Netlify + GCP for hosting

— Twilio for anything Messaging

— Stripe + Paypal for payments

— Biztoc.com for finding content to post

— Plausible.io for analytics

— Paperform for forms

— Bear.app for documentation


Tally.so offers unlimited forms & responses for free, F5Bot or Syften for tracking mentions across the web, Notion + Super for landing pages


Second the suggestion for Syften, I have found it very powerful for finding people asking questions in forums that represent a relevant need.


I'd caution you away from Paypal — they're going through tons of API changes right now and their API broke down the week before our conference, and I had to swap it out for Stripe's API at the last minute.


You are using very new platforms. Have you had issues with more established ones?


I've been running https://www.bankaccountchecker.com since 2010 as a solo side project.

These are the only services I pay for:

- AWS for hosting

- names.co.uk for domains

- Paypal to receive payments (I started in 2010 and at this time stripe was not really an option in the UK)

- Twilio for inbound voice, which is $1 month to get a phone number

These are the used services with a free tier or totally free:

- A dev/ops stack that I am really familiar with

- Cloudflare for DNS management and SSL certificates

- sendgrid for smtp outbound emails (< 300 / days)

- names.co.uk for inbound emails (mail lite with 100mb mailbox) that I import in my own database (new saas product coming soon actually)

- Telegram for event notifications

- Crisp Chat

- Google Analytics


Here's some advice from someone who has built (and currently lives off) a steadily growing and profitable solo SaaS business:

Here's what I use and what I think about it:

* Hetzner for servers, and use bare-metal ones, the speed and memory per dollar advantage over things like AWS is so large it's not even funny.

* Cloudflare for hosting domains and running your DNS (great).

* Braintree for subscription billing. It's not good at all, but Stripe is significantly more expensive and doesn't really get me that much more (it still can't handle EU invoicing with SAF-T export and its idea of invoicing is very US-centric). If you look at Stripe pricing and you are not in the US, look carefully: they will not deposit USD into a non-US account, which means they will hit you with currency conversion fees and poor rates. Add up all the fees and rates and you end up with 5.4% (last I checked).

* No ads. I stopped burning money on them after implementing my own tracking and finding out that I get exactly 0 signups through ads (tried Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora).

* Linear for bug tracking. Fantastic tool.

* ProfitWell for tracking your subscription billing metrics.

* I still pay for Sendgrid, but I'd recommend against using them. They will send your E-mails from the same servers that their spammer customers use, so you will get plenty of rejected mail. No way to get around that unless you pay them big $$$ for dedicated IPs etc — it's a form of ransom, really. I send transactional mail myself, and for newsletters I'm looking for something better.

* Clojure + ClojureScript for software. Use a single language for both client and server, use the same business logic code for both, minimize line count, minimize programmer effort. An obvious bet for a solo founder.

* Ansible for managing your sever clusters, terraform for quickly spinning up experimental environments, and don't use AWS or heaven forbid Azure for those, use Digital Ocean which makes things really simple and saves you lots of time. Vultr is good, too.

That's it for tools, I think. But there is one thing I found more important than tools: I believe you should disregard most "common knowledge". Do not follow the hype. Read HN comments very critically: most people here are not in your situation. You need to optimize for different things than most HN readers. You are responsible for everything, including the bottom line of your business. So think for yourself. Don't jump into something just because lots of people write about it (ahem, Kubernetes). Don't do something a certain way just because it's current fashion (ahem, microservices). Don't use services just because most people do (ahem, AWS and Stripe). In each case, consider each service/tool carefully in the context of your business, your metrics and your requirements.

In my case, I am primarily optimizing for my time. But not only — I am willing to do some things manually (invoiced billing with wire transfers) or use a lower-tech provider (Braintree rather than Stripe) when it makes financial sense.

You mentioned PR and marketing — I also thought I would need to hire people, run campaigns, etc. I listened to all the podcasts and conference talks about marketing tools and strategies. And then I realized that most of these people do not run my type of SaaS — in fact, most of them make marketing tools for marketers. It's a huge echo chamber. I found out that with limited content marketing (e.g. writing articles from time to time) and "organic" spread, I'm getting a consistent number of signups. Could I get more? Yes, very likely so. But at what expense? Would these customers stick around? And would I be able to onboard and support them? So here again, think for yourself.

Unless of course your business is the same as everybody else's and you are building another tool for drip email campaigns, conversion tracking, idea voting, etc :-)


i like the way you think, could i contact you for more elaborated thoughts on marketing?


I have been a solo-founder and developer for the first six years of waiterio.com I also wanted to focus on development and create few tools to automate other processes.

Right now I'm spinning off publicly one of the tools I've created: polyblog.io Polyblog let you create and delegate away a content marketing blog. We are currently in beta and I'm looking for beta testers. I can pass you down my knowledge on hiring a writer on Upwork and almost completely delegate the content marketing blog. Please write me at giorgio dot zamparelli at polyblog dot io


Quuu Promote is a kind of content promotion on autopilot, but then first you’d need some content, could hire a content writer on Upwork or via an agency for that.


I found https://hanami.run (soon to be mailwip.com due to name conflict with hanamirb.org) to setup email forwarding and a simple blog platform by "email to post" and webhook.

Use it you can consolidate emails from multiple domains to forward to the same inbox. And you can add webhook/slack notification too.


This is a great time to be solo building your company. Most of the services have generous free tier. These are the ones I use personally.

* Hosting + DNS with AWS & Cloudflare * Code with GitHub and mirror to GitLab * Domain with Godaddy * Transactional emails with PostMark * Errors with Sentry * Docs, Mail, Calendar with Google Workspace


GoDaddy, seriously?


I run a curated list(FOSS) of startup tools -https://startuptoolchain.com to serve those who are looking for tools like you. It includes almost all categories and tools recommended in this thread as I add tools from similar threads.


For PlotAPI (https://plotapi.com) I’m using:

- FastAPI for the SaaS itself

- WooCommerce for the accounts and subscriptions

- Nikola for the gallery and feature demonstrations

- FreeAgent for handling all the tax obligations (UK)

I’ve been checking out Ghost CMS recently. It’s looking great so far for content and subscription management.


Hi thanks for sharing.

Can you please explain what Nikola is? I tried searching for it, but it's a common name.


Might be this static site generator: https://getnikola.com/

Found it by searching [nikola software].


Hi - my pleasure!

It's as mkl said - a static site generator. It's a Python-based one so I was more comfortable customising it.


Chargebee for subscription/recurring revenue billing. Set it up and it runs on autopilot. They do have a "launch" plan to help support new startups. https://www.chargebee.com/launch/


I recently stumbled across healthchecks.io. It's a one-man SaaS that does cronjob monitoring.


Oh yeah, that's good, I use it to monitor a database backup cron.


I use a bunch of different tools for https://pdf2qrcode.com but I'd like to highlight papercups.io for pre-sale chat/questions. Otherwise, stripe for payments and cloudflare.


I was searching for something like Zendesk + CRM, because Zendesk's is a little expensive for me. If you know one, please mention it. If I can send it important events from the app like (creating a project, subscriptions) it would be perfect.


We use Teamwork Desk for our small business. It works great for 2 or 3 people handing tickets (I'm sure it would do fine for me), and the new Stripe/custom integrations they offer make it easy to use for billing.


As mentioned above, you can try the Zoho suite of apps... Zendesk+a lot more!

Nothing to add on the marketing side, but for company setup and admin:

* Atlas Stripe for international incorporation

* CorpNet for state by state registrations (e.g. employees)

* Gusto for payroll

* Revolut Business for banking

* GBS Tax for annual US filing


I built https://forwardemail.net to save money and time on email hosting/SMTP.




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