Building a Directory of Tools and Resources for Non-Technical Makers

Hello! What's your background, and what are you working on?

Hi! My name is Sam Dickie. I live in London and I'm a Product Manager by day at ucreate and indie hacker by night. I'm the founder and maker of NoCode.tech.

NoCode is a free curated directory of tools and resources aimed at non-technical makers and entrepreneurs. It provides all the free tools and resources you need to create an online business.

I launched NoCode about 14 months ago and currently have over 3,000 members and make approximately £400/month net income through a mix of affiliate links on the site and newsletter sponsorship.

Home

What motivated you to get started with NoCode?

My initial inspiration for NoCode came from a fantastic site I found on Product Hunt called Startup Stash, created by Bram Kanstein. The concept was so simple: tiled categories on a landing page providing all the tools and resources you needed to run your startup. This got me thinking.

While building various online side projects over the years, I had accumulated hundreds of various tools and resources held in spreadsheets, notebooks, Evernote and bookmarks. So I decided to curate this list and make it available online for other non-technical founders like me.

What went into building the initial product?

True to my non-technical background and lack of technical knowledge at the time of creating NoCode, I decided to build the site using Weebly, a popular drag and drop website builder. This allowed me to put a site together in a matter of weeks by picking an off the shelf theme (origami) and making some minor tweaks to it. I then implemented a variety of third-party tools using the basic embed tool, including:

So far, this setup has worked really well, and I've yet to consider the need to build a custom site.

The site typically requires about 2-3 hours a week responding to emails, creating the newsletter and sourcing/adding new tools and resources.

You don't need a formal education in engineering to understand the basics of building a product.

Tweet
Share

My only cost running the site is the £7/month Weebly Pro package subscription. I used to pay for my MailChimp list (as anything above 2,000 subscribers costs); however, after removing 25% of my inactive email subscribers, I'm back down to the free tier for the time being.

How have you attracted users and grown NoCode?

Honestly, I'm super tight (I suppose you call that bootstrapped) and have relied on finding free methods to acquire users.

Initially, as I was creating NoCode I built a quick landing page with an email capture form and a mocked up screenshot of the homepage using Canva.

I then managed to get featured on BetaList where I got about 35 signups. I later used those interested early adopters to test my initial prototypes of the site and get feedback on some of my ideas. This approach proved incredibly valuable information and helped validate some of my early assumptions.

This was my butt ugly landing page in 2016:

My butt ugly landing page in late 2016

A few weeks after publicly launching the site, I was fortunate enough to get featured on Product Hunt. This provided a huge boost of traffic to the site, providing me with a couple hundred email subscribers and loads of constructive feedback to consider.

How I drive traffic today

Content: I created a Medium account and started writing How-to's aimed at my non-technical audience. I also reposted this content on Indie Hackers, Reddit (r/startup) and via the NoCode newsletter and community forum.

I have also done some guest blogging on other prominent sites which works really well, increasing the number of high-quality backlinks to the site and in turn slowly improving my SEO ranking. It's not something you see instant results with. However, it's certainly worth the effort.

Social Media: I use Twitter, although I could be using it much more. I have also done a few speaking engagements in London and mentioned NoCode which has also helped with word-of-mouth referrals.

SEO: To improve my SEO I hired a freelance SEO expert via Fiverr to optimize the site as I didn't have a clue how to structure my site map or meta tags. After a few months I noticed a substantial improvement in traffic coming via Google. A lot of my traffic now comes from the my mockup generator directory which ranks number 2 on Google when you search for the term 'online mockup generator'.

Members

Another method I use to drive traffic, which has proved invaluable, is the NoCode members area. This consists of exclusive discount codes for some of the tools and resources featured on the site, community forum, newsletter, access to BetaTesta for free (my other side project), as well as the promotion directory list. Since launching the members' area 6 months ago, I have seen the number of subscribers double as well as the retention rate improve. Now, visitors to the site have a reason to convert into a member and provide their email address.

What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

I have only started to monetize the site in the last 10 months, as initially I was extremely wary about monetizing too early with little traffic and value being offered at the time of launch. However, as I began to receive more traffic to the site and add more features, I started to consider ways of monetizing the site.

I slowly began to introduce affiliate links to some of the tools and resources I featured on the site. However, I have a word of warning! Affiliate models are a bit of a taboo subject and you need to be careful to not fall victim of being led astray by affiliate schemes, as you can start to get greedy and deliberately start pushing products for the sake of getting more income. This would almost definitely affect the integrity of the site, and I want to ensure all the tools and resources I have selected are because they will provide value and have been chosen because they are the best at what they do, not just because they have a good affiliate scheme.

You can learn a lot on your own. There are so many great resources out there for free now.

Tweet
Share

It took awhile until I received my first payout but, when it came, the feeling was incredible! It was a real confidence boost and validated the fact I could make some money on the side running this site. However, out of the 200+ tools and resources featured on the site, only about 15% contain affiliate links, so there is only so much income that can be generated using this model on the site.

I also started to receive a few emails a week from people asking if they could feature their own tools or resources on my newsletter. So, I began charging to appear in the featured section of the newsletter. I manage to find a sponsor most months, but there is a lot of work involved and I would like to improve this process.

Month Revenue
Jan '17 396
Feb '17 158
Mar '17 0
Apr '17 105
May '17 0
Jun '17 105
Jul '17 105
Aug '17 396
Sep '17 0
Oct '17 200
Nov '17 160
Dec '17 140
Jan '18 198
Feb '18 259
Mar '18 401
Apr '18 490

It's been a very inconsistent and rocky income generated each month, so going forward I'm considering various ways to stabilize the MRR and perhaps start charging a one-time membership fee to new users.

What are your goals for the future?

My future roadmap consists of building out a larger ecosystem of products around NoCode. This is something I have been actively working on for the past few months. I really enjoy creating new side projects that in some way, shape, or form complement NoCode and linking them into the members area.

I recently created BetaTesta, a simple platform geared at helping makers of side projects find users to test their websites or apps.

BetaTesta

I like the idea of creating a few small online passive income sources with each new side project complementing the next. However, I must admit I seem to enjoy creating the side project more than the actual running of it, something I perhaps need to get better at.

My other future goals include improving some of the sites' metrics, including the bounce rate, traffic, subscribers and MRR. I really enjoy creating new experiments, be that UI tweaks, growth hacks, or changes to the newsletter format, and then analyzing the analytics to see what changes have occurred.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

My initial lack of technical skills and experience proved to be a challenge at first and extremely daunting at times. However, perseverance was key and eventually I always found an alternative solution to any issue that would arise.

Perhaps my biggest challenge (and I'm sure this is experienced by many others) is the lack of time. Like many, I work a full-time job while running multiple side projects. At times I struggle to find the time to manage my work life, side projects and my social life. However, this constraint has also forced me to optimize my time and ensure it's spent in the most efficient way possible. Blocking out time each night and creating To-do lists ensures I keep momentum up and continually move forward.

Over the last few months I have been working on finding ways to reduce the amount of time required to maintain the site. First, I have optimized the newsletter template reducing the amount of time I spend each month creating the newsletter. I have also created email automations for new subscribers using MailChimp's (now free) automation triggering tool. I have also set up an automatic social drip campaign using Missinglettr's free Medium integration and drip campaign tool.

Honestly, if I had to start over I don't think I would do much differently. However, I would have tried to enjoy the experience a little more and not hold myself to such tough personal deadlines throughout the process. It's one thing to push yourself and develop the habit of structure and routine. However, if you put too much pressure on yourself you will start to resent the project and it then becomes just another item on your to-do list each week and you might start to resent doing it.

Enjoy the process, fall in love with the problem you are trying to solve and make sure you are having fun.

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The sheer amount of online tools and resources out there for non-techs is staggering. The rise of the non-technical entrepreneur is becoming more prevalent every year. You don't need to have technical skills to create a website, list a product/service and start making money!

I'm not sure I would be writing this 5 years ago given my lack of technical skills. However, these days I have yet to hit a barrier where I require outside help. There are so many how-to guides, Medium posts and YouTube videos documenting everything.

Podcasts

Content

Newsletters

What's your advice for indie hackers who are just starting out?

Just get making. You can spend all your time researching and planning, but very few people actually start building and even fewer actually manage to ship their projects. It's daunting at first and opens you up to a lot of potential criticism, but on the flip side it also opens you up to a lot of support. Just check out some of the side projects that are featured on Indie Hackers, it's incredibly inspiring.

Once you have built something, launched it, and gotten some users on board, it's an incredibly satisfying feeling and becomes somewhat addictive. It's like a recipe, and once you know the ingredients required to develop it, you keep iterating and getting better each time.

Just get making. You can spend all your time researching and planning, but very few people actually start building.

Tweet
Share

You don't need a formal education in engineering to understand the basics of building a product. You can learn a lot on your own. There are so many great resources out there for free now. Just spend time absorbing as much as you can and it will eventually start to make sense. However, reading and watching how-to's will only take you so far. You need to start creating and making mistakes!

Where can we go to learn more?

You can check out my blog where I have tried to document most of the journey so far building NoCode. I create a monthly newsletter where I also try to keep my subscribers up to date on my progress, ideas and other side projects. I'm also active on Twitter @thisdickie so feel free to get in touch!

If you have any questions whatsoever, leave a message in the comments and I will get back to you!

Sam Dickie , Founder (acquired) of NoCode

Want to build your own business like NoCode?

You should join the Indie Hackers community! 🤗

We're a few thousand founders helping each other build profitable businesses and side projects. Come share what you're working on and get feedback from your peers.

Not ready to get started on your product yet? No problem. The community is a great place to meet people, learn, and get your feet wet. Feel free to just browse!

Courtland Allen , Indie Hackers founder

  1. 4

    That was a super inspirational read, Sam! I love reading stuff like this. It's always a great confidence booster. I just launched my YouTube project a few weeks ago and totally understand that feeling of satisfaction when people like what you're putting out.

    I just signed up for your site and noticed that there wasn't an explicit 'sign up' button. Maybe that could help?

    Keep it up!

    1. 1

      Hey Jake! Thanks for reaching out. Drop a link to the YouTube project.

      What page did you sign up on out of interest? I have one on the homepage banner as well as the footer. There is also a popup on most pages! Might be missing something though 🧐

      1. 1

        I clicked on the Members Area button on the home page but I was looking for an explicit Sign Up button and was confused when I didn't see it at first. Not sure if other people view it like me but I just wanted to mention just in case.

        Here's my channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoOjH8D2XAgjzQlneM2W0EQ 😄

  2. 3

    A very refreshing interview Sam! I like founders that are proud from slowly growing businesses.
    One question - have you considered going "featured" route? Like selling "featured" placements in the top categories to companies? I think you could get more revenue without deterring customers.
    You would sell only placement, which would be fair enough, and company would be getting the top spot.
    If I would be a business owner I would surely pay for such a placement!

    1. 1

      Thanks Bart! If I'm totally honest I need to tighten up on monetisation on the site. My focus has recently been on content. Great idea. I do receive requests to appear top of the categories and charge for this, but the traffic is increasing as well as the newsletter so I think I can certainly justify more.

      Thanks again for the feeback and advice!

  3. 2

    Hey Sam - this was such a wonderful read. Thank you for sharing your story and creating NoCode. As a non-technical PM (and now founder), I plan to scour through the awesome resources that you've listed. Also signed up for your newsletter - look forward to follow along in your journey!

    You mentioned that if you did it over again, you would've tried to enjoy the experience more, and not push so hard that you head down a path where you end up resenting the project.

    What types of habits / routines / daily practices have you put in place to help make sure you don't head in that direction? (ie. going for a daily walk, meditation, exercise, getting to bed at a certain time, etc).

    I ask because I've found that small daily habits can make a world of difference to stay more happy, healthy, and productive in the journey.

    Cheers,
    Jonathan

    1. 2

      Hey Jonathan - thanks for your kind words, massively appreciated. Totally agree with you regarding the daily habits. I'm not sure if they directly help me with enjoying the experience of building products more, but i do follow a few religiously.

      • going to bed early and waking early (typically the same time everyday if i can)
      • working out every morning (sometime a run in the evening to clear my mind)
      • trying to stick to a certain amount of time with my side projects after my workday. Typically no more than 2-3 hours if i can each night.
      • keeping an evernote with my tasks to complete for my side projects
      • reading at least an hour a day - book or article

      regarding trying to enjoy myself more with side projects. I'm trying to put less of a time box on everything i do, and if it takes longer or i don't have the time that day to complete the task then not worrying about it!

      Hope this helps! Drop me a PM if you want to chat more about anything!!

      1. 1

        That is a kick ass set of daily routines!

        I'll certainly take you up on the offer and connect more over email since I can tell we're both habit geeks =)

  4. 2

    Thanks for sharing Sam! For the record, I don't think your landing page was "butt ugly" :)

    Have you ever experimented with Bubble.is?

    1. 1

      Thanks Corey! Much appreciated 😅

      Funny you mention that. I haven’t yet, but I just interviewed the founder of Bubble for a post on NoCode which will be out shortly! Really considering building my next project on it actually. You got any experience with it?

      1. 2

        Minimal. I don't have any programming experience, just working through basics of HTML, CSS, Javascript, Python, so I have a pretty steep learning curve to grasp some of the programming concepts.

        Heard great things about it and continue to experiment though!

        1. 2

          I use Bubble almost exclusively. It's terrible for mobile apps, but for web apps, it's unbeatable as a non-technical founder.

          Has a big learning curve if you don't have any technical background at all, but it's pretty fantastic. If it let me futz with the under-the-hood code, or run it on my own infrastructure, I'd be mega amped.

          1. 1

            Definitely going to give it a shot this year on my next project! I see Zeroqode provide some great template too for Bubble!

            1. 1

              Templates are tricky on Bubble, I'd heavily recommend learning how to use Bubble BEFORE trying out a template. Customizing a template is not super simple, as it's comparable to walking into a code base someone else built. They may give you a head start, but be ready to learn a hefty amount of Bubble in order to really make it your own.

          2. 1

            That's awesome! I need to connect with you, I'm trying to build a couple web apps.

  5. 1

    Awesome read Sam! I'm a huge fan of Airtable, how did you use it in this project? Were you feeding your data into Weebly directly from airtable? Just curious on how you use it for "data entry"

  6. 1

    Great product! Hope to see Taskade (https://taskade.com) included in the list of resources.

  7. 1

    Sam - great article. I would very much like to know who and how you got your SEO expert on Upwork. Can you elaborate and share?

  8. 1

    Not all internet business stages are as simple to use as others, yet there are many alternatives to browse that downplay specialized cerebral pains. On the off chance that you are thinking about building an online business site, look at these platforms for non-technical. http://www.essayempire.co.uk/custom-essay-writing-service

  9. 1

    Hi sam,can i put link of your site on my upcoming newsletter on founderhacker.com ? Thanks. Good luck with your project

  10. 1

    Hey Sam, great product. Signed up straight away. And I'm also jumping on a call with ucreate today, thanks for drawing my attention to them as well.

    Did you think about a section that was business-focused - market validation, business plans, right down to invoicing and taxation. Maybe this is in the pipeline?

    1. 1

      Hey Michael, Thanks for signing up. Did you manage to get a call arranged?

      Invoicing, business plans have been suggested in the past so yes that's on the roadmap for sure!

  11. 1

    Super cool read Sam, thanks for sharing. I'm currently building out a website teaching people eCommerce and product imex.
    This post has been so helpful and inspirational as I'm in the planning stages of creating a toolbox type site for physical product marketing/branding/eCommerce. Keep up the good work! :)

    1. 1

      Cheers Danny! much appreciated, glad it has been of help for you.

      Any suggestions for tools you come accross give me a shout!

  12. 1

    This comment was deleted 2 years ago.

  13. 1

    This comment was deleted 2 years ago.

  14. 1

    This comment was deleted 2 years ago.