How I Gained Traction and Became Profitable After Almost Quitting

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

I'm Ramy Khuffash and I run Page Flows—a library of user flow recordings from proven products that designers and product managers use to learn best practices.

Before I went full time on Page Flows, I contracted as a full-stack web developer in London. I aways wanted to start a business and have built and launched a few products, but Page Flows is the first that's been somewhat successful.

It has over 500 customers and makes about $4,500 per month.

What motivated you to get started with Page Flows?

While working as a web developer and building a bunch of side projects, I always found the UI design side of things super interesting.

I wasn't particularly interested in other aspects of design, like typography or logos, and I thought I wasn't the only one, so I started a newsletter called UI Movement, which was specifically for sharing interesting UI design animations.

After a successful Product Hunt launch, the newsletter continued growing organically and now has over 27,000 subscribers.

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A year after launch, I was ready to build something new. This time I wanted to make something people would pay for. I set up interviews with UI Movement subscribers and asked about what kinds of things they'd like to see me work on next and what they might be willing to pay for.

Although I did a pretty horrible job of what I thought was "customer development," one theme emerged from the conversations. People enjoyed seeing the experimental UI designs shared in the newsletter, but wished there was a resource for learning from more realistic and practical UI inspiration.

That's where the idea for Page Flows was born. It would be a growing library of user flow recordings from popular products. People who were designing common user flows like user onboarding, upgrading, or inviting teammates could learn best practices instead of reinventing the wheel.

While much has changed since then, that core idea remains the same.

What went into building the initial product?

Technically, the first version of Page Flows was super simple. I built it in Django because that's what I knew.

Recording and annotating the user flow videos is what took ages. I don't remember exactly how long I spent on this, but there were plenty of late nights.

At the time, I was only contracting three days a week so I could spend more than just nights and weekends on the recordings. It took just over a month from when I got the idea to when I started sharing it with the UI Movement audience.

What's your tech stack?

I started with Django because that's the first framework I learned. I still use Django today. For the front end, I started with just HTML with a bit of jQuery, but eventually switched over to Vue.js.

I recently redid the front end and went back to just HTML and Javascript because I found that Vue wasn't necessary for such a simple site. I explain some more about that here.

The site is hosted with Digital Ocean because it's very affordable, has a great UI, and their guides are second to none.

I also use:

  • Letterfuel to send newsletter emails
  • Postmark to send transactional emails and parse incoming emails captured during the user flow recordings
  • URLBox.io, which is by a fellow indie hacker, to screenshot those emails

How have you attracted users and grown Page Flows?

UI Movement has been a key source of traffic from day one.

I've also launched various iterations on Product Hunt and each launch was picked up by the wider design community.

There are infinite things I could try, but as a solo founder I can only try one or two things at a time.

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The fact that UI Movement and Page Flows are both clearly made for designers made them spread much further than other products I've launched.

There are plenty of influential design communities and sites that are always looking for new and interesting things to share with their audiences. For example, sites like Bookmark Design and Design Notes continue to drive good traffic.

I haven't really focused on SEO, but it's started to drive growth on its own. Customers discover the site after searching for specific user flows like "Slack onboarding." Although this hasn't been a huge driver so far, it should increase as I add more videos.

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

I launched Page Flows with a $14 monthly subscription, which flopped. After a couple of weeks, only one person had signed up.

I actually gave up on the whole idea after that. I made all the user flow recordings free to access and moved on to other projects. After reading so much advice about charging more and businesses only being viable if they can charge $20+ per month, I figured there's no way I could make this work if people wouldn't even pay $14 a month.

A year or so later I saw from Google Analytics that the videos were getting decent traffic, so I thought it would be worth putting them behind a paywall to see if people would be willing to pay a small one time fee of $29 instead of a monthly subscription. None of my other products were doing well, so I had nothing to lose.

I put up a landing page with a fake payment form and to my surprise, a couple of people tried to pay within 24 hours. At that point I scrambled to set up a proper paywall using Stripe and people have been signing up since.

Over time, I've experimented with various pricing models before settling on a $99 per year plan as well as a $39 per quarter plan.

I'm still far from getting the pricing model right. Most customers watch a few user flow videos occasionally. Some watch them daily, and a decent amount just want to see a couple of videos for a specific flow they're working on. It's been hard to find a pricing model that works for everyone, but I'll continue to experiment.

Month $
Apr '19 3001
May '19 4332
Jun '19 3897
Jul '19 5126
Aug '19 4501
Sep '19 4905
Oct '19 5402

Expenses, including hosting and the price of an accountant, come to around $300-$400 per month.

What are your goals for the future?

My main goal is to grow Page Flows to $10k MRR.

I'm not exactly sure how I'll do that or if it's even possible with such a low-priced product in a fairly niche market, but I'm going to try.

Currently, I'm focused on reducing churn by improving the content on the site and growing the audience through SEO and whatever growth experiments show promise.

I'll continue to speak with customers to try to figure out why some get more value from the product than others, and what I can do to either increase the value of the product or find more people who are likely to get value from it as it is.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome?

My main challenge has been managing my own mental health. I'm constantly doubting myself. When a couple of days go by and no new customers sign up, it's hard to stay motivated.

Being in a mastermind group and frequently meeting with other indie hackers has helped keep me on track.

I also suffer from "shiny object syndrome". Although Page Flows has been my most successful product so far, I've spent a good chunk of time working on other ideas that haven't really gone anywhere. I don't think there's anything wrong with building side projects, but I refuse to repeat the mistake of spending months building something no one wants.

If you're trying to build a small lifestyle business, listening to advice aimed at people trying to build million dollar businesses could do more harm than good.

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Another challenge has been prioritization. The organic growth Page Flows has seen so far is slowing down, so I need to figure out how to take it to the next level. There are infinite things I could try, but as a solo founder I can only try one or two things at a time.

If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

I wouldn't have initially given up on Page Flows after spending only a couple of weeks struggling to find paying customers. I'd also spend way less time building ambitious features and products without first making sure I can deliver something people want and are willing to pay for.

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I'm in a weekly mastermind call with a couple of other indie hackers and that's been massively helpful in keeping me on track.

The accountability is great, but the main benefit is being part of a group with similar experiences.

Indie Hacker meetups and local co-working spaces have also been great for connecting with other indie hackers.

PageFlows on Slack

The most impactful book I've read is The Mom Test. It completely changed the way I speak with customers and makes it super easy to figure out whether a pain point a customer tells you about is worth trying to solve.

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

Without switching to the $29 lifetime membership, Page Flows would never have worked. People are happy to spend a few dollars on a one-time purchase, but a $14 monthly subscription is a much bigger decision. If I'd started with the smaller pricing plan, I might have avoided spending a year working on failed products.

Subscription businesses are so appealing, but I think most solo indie hackers should consider starting out with a smaller one-time-purchase product that they can start selling right away.

It's also important to figure out what you want to achieve, then filter advice through that. If you're trying to build a small lifestyle business, listening to advice aimed at people trying to build million dollar businesses could do more harm than good.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can check out Page Flows here. I've also got a personal site which I'll eventually start sharing more on.

I'm always happy to hear from other indie hackers on Twitter and would love to answer any of your questions in the comments below.

Ramy Khuffash , Founder of Page Flows

Want to build your own business like Page Flows?

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Courtland Allen , Indie Hackers founder

  1. 3

    Hey Ramy... great product and interesting story.. pricing is the hardest.. did you try pay per video ? I see a few videos that I would pay $5 / each just to watch the ones I want .. Best..

    1. 1

      I'm actually planning on trying pricing per video next year. Out of interest, which were the videos you'd be willing to pay to unlock?

  2. 1

    Awesome story Ramy, and thanks for sharing your valuable lessons! Did you just create a mastermind group with some indie-hackers that you already knew, or did you go somewhere to find one?

    1. 1

      It was actually someone on Twitter who asked if I wanted to join one. That person eventually quit the mastermind, but we continued anyway

  3. 1

    Hey, thanks por this post,

    If I were you, I'd look at some Growth Hacking books and read about it.

    What I would also do is a lot of experimenting, a lot of a/b testing. With Google Optimize you can do it easily. You test many types of pricing, analyze, iterate and improve.

  4. 1

    Hey Ramy,
    I'm very impressed with the quality of the videos. E.g. i learned how good faux-chat UI's can work from the lemonade onboarding (https://pageflows.com/post/ios/onboarding/lemonade). I also tweeted this video but just seen that it's now behind a paywall, so i'll probably remove that tweet.

    The content is highly relevant for me (mobile dev) and i've been with debating with myself to sign up for your premium service.

    My intuition here is that it helped your product to leave the content freely accessible before switching to a paywall. So, maybe it would be good to keep basic videos openly accessible, so that people can link to them and you gain organic traffic, and then bill for other services.

    Thanks again for sharing more about the history of page flows and congrats on . becoming profitable,
    Jan

    1. 1

      That makes sense. I've tried various ways of gating the site and will continue to experiment. The current way is that the recently added videos are free to access, so it changes every week.

  5. 1

    Hey Ramy!
    Thanks for this post. It's really useful and inspirational.

    It's hard to imagine how much time you spent on creating posts with onboarding flows. It seems to take to so much time.

    Btw, what are you current main traffic sources?
    Do you plan to have any other ways of generating revenue?

    1. 1

      It does take quite a while creating and annotating the videos, but not more time than it takes to maintain and support most SaaS products, so it doesn't bother me so much.

      Traffic comes mainly from UI Movement, Google searches, and links from design community sites.

      In terms of other ways to generate revenue, I don't have any direct plans at the moment. I'm working on a few other products that I hope will generate some more income some day.

  6. 1

    This post is so inspirational. I'm in a similar situation where I just want to give up on my project, even though it occasionally has users that love it. After reading this, it makes me want to iterate a bit more, especially on my pricing to see if I can get more traction.

    1. 1

      It's great to hear you found this inspirational. What the product you're currently working on?

      1. 1

        I've almost abandoned Pushback, but that's what I was thinking I could iterate on.

        I've received lots of helpful feedback on IndieHackers which have said I need to narrow down my landing page a bit and choose an audience.

  7. 1

    Hey Ramy, very cool story and project! Congratulations!
    Just wondering: it seems there's no sound in the user flow videos as a free user. Is there a voice over / comments when paid?

    Considering starting that kind of content gating in another niche.
    Also, when I read $5 per video, that's interesting too, although the payment processor 50c fixed fee will strike each time in that case...

    You say that $14/m flopped but now it's starting at $39/3m, I'm a little confused! Would you say that $39/3m could have have worked at the beginning?

    Also what would you say is your primary source of traffic?

    Thanks a lot :)!

    1. 1

      There are no sounds on the videos. I didn't think they were useful initially, but I may add them eventually as sounds are becoming more useful in UIs. There's no voice over or anything.

      Great point about the payment processing fees. Maybe I could try some sort of credit system where people buy credits for 3-5 videos or something.

      "Would you say that $39/3m could have have worked at the beginning?" - Absolutely not. I added a bunch more content and made a lot of improvements before I ramped it up to this current price. It went from $29 lifetime -> $39 lifetime -> $39 per year -> $39 per quarter.

      In terms of traffic, it's primarily long-tail SEO now

      1. 1

        Thanks Ramy, very interesting!

        The sound could be your comments simply, that's what I had in mind.
        It could interesting to have your opinion and thoughts on the UI/UX... but maybe your customers don't really want it, idk.

        Another idea: you could let the customers leave their comment to enrich the content. What do you think?

        1. 1

          I have thought about that and may do it eventually.

          In terms of comments - I added regular text comment to the videos at one point, but hardly anyone used them, so I removed them.

          1. 1

            Ok thanks.
            Also did you plan that this long-tail SEO would work that well?
            I mean, do you "engineer" your SEO when you enter the title and video captions? Thanks!

            1. 1

              Not really to be honest. It's something I only started to pay attention to recently

              1. 1

                Thank you!

  8. 1

    Excellent interview. I just purchased The Mom Test and checking out Page Flows, Thanks!

    1. 1

      Thank you! I hope you find the book as useful as I did

  9. 1

    Great interview and great story. Congrats on your success so far Ramy. This is timely for me as I am just about to launch a desktop app and plan on offering a lifetime deal for $29.

    There are so many services now that are moving to or already subscription based that I figure a one-time fee would make a very attractive option.

    1. 1

      Yeah I think it's a great way to start. People are more likely to give a one-off purchase product a chance compared to a subscription. What's the desktop app?

      1. 1

        If the desktop app is reasonably successful I will definitely consider creating a web app version for those who want that but the desktop app with a one-time purchase seems like the best way to start small with an mvp. It's an app for writers. Should be ready to announce next week.

  10. 1

    Hey Ramy,
    I was mostly interested in mobile videos as to see how their responsive menu works..

    1. As a first time user of your website.. I would like to see maybe 1-2 samples videos to see how it all works and what I will be getting signing up for $39 or $5/video

    2. 2nd option maybe show me 10-20 seconds of the video and then if I want to watch the full video unluck to buy $5/video or $39/3months

    Hope this helps...

    Best,

    Marios

    1. 1

      That is very helpful. Thanks!

  11. 1

    Well done on pushing through!

    You should be proud of yourself for continuing even while telling yourself it might not be something to pursue anymore.

    Success of the newsletter is highly impressive. Do you have any insights on what helped fuel that growth? Very curious to hear more about that.

    1. 1

      Thanks, Frank

      Honestly, growth for UI Movement was very organic. I'm not sure I could replicate it if I launched a new newsletter. The Product Hunt launch for it went very well and it's grown organically since.

      I think a couple of things helped it grow organically, which I would try to do again if I did launch a new newsletter:

      1 - It was clearly made for an audience that frequently shares stuff online. After the Product Hunt launch, loads of design newsletters and blogs shared it (and continue to share it). If I launched a newsletter targeted at an audience that doesn't have that kind of ecosystem, I don't think it would have grown as easily.

      2 - The value prop was super simple and clear. It was something like "The top UI animations in your inbox, every Friday"

      I know that's not super helpful, but I don't really have much other insight about how it grew

  12. 1

    Nice work @Ramy. Glad you didn't give up, I'm a happy customer!

    1. 1

      Thank you, Nelson! It's awesome having a fellow indie hacker as a customer and it's been great following your progress with Tettra

  13. 0

    Nice job Ramy ! Keep up the good work!

    This is Steve from GetPushMonkey.com. We provide web push notification service (https://getpushmonkey.com/)

    I was wondering if you would be interested in marketing our web push notification solution to your email list? Might help you a bit to add to your revenues?

    GetPushMonkey.com

  14. 1

    This comment was deleted 4 months ago.

    1. 1

      I'm glad you enjoyed the interview and thanks for the response.

      In terms of the admin side of things, I have a limited company set up as an umbrella for my projects. They're quite straightforward to set up online. I use a bank called Starling, which is pretty good. In terms of accounting, I send the accountant a spreadsheet of income and expenses when the accounts need to be filed and he does the rest. The income/expense spreadsheet is super simple because the business is currently very simple.

      I have no idea what running a South Africa company is like, but one thing I'd consider before setting up in the UK is all the EU stuff. For example, I have to submit a Vat MOSS return and pay a tiny amount of VAT every quarter. Brexit is complicating things further as this process will likely change because of that.

      No idea if that's helpful at all, but hopefully it is

      1. 1

        This comment was deleted 4 months ago.