I've analyzed all 489 Indie Hackers interviews and identified 34 acquisition channels that work consistently for founders (see Zero to Users for more details). Today, I'll be reviewing one interesting channel I've seen mentioned across a few interviews: freelancing marketplaces.
Freelancing sites (like UpWork) help companies connect to freelancers who can do a certain service (like web design) for them. Can you use these marketplaces to promote a SaaS, though? It turns out the answer is yes.
Take ActionWins & ActionPages ($4k/mo), a referral marketing SaaS. The whole idea behind creating ActionWins was to take an open-source tool and create a SaaS around it:
I'd read the article that Tim Ferris wrote about how Harry's Shave Club used a simple Rails application to build an email list of over 100k emails. They incentivized subscribers to refer their friends and unlock free products and discounts as rewards.
The awesome thing about this article is that Harry's Shave Club open-sourced their code for the referral campaign. After getting a couple of paying clients who needed this type of service, I decided it was worth building a SaaS product that allowed you to spin up this type of campaign in minutes.
Alex (the founder) used UpWork to successfully get clients for ActionWins & ActionPages:
I've had great success searching UpWork for people looking for help spinning up Harry's Shave Club's open-source code. My pitch to them is that they can use my product to build the same type of campaign without writing any code. I also offer to build and manage the campaign for them if they'd like. The best thing about this channel is that the customer has already expressed interest in the service and has budget!
His pitch was basically something like: "Hey, why pay an expensive developer when you can get a SaaS and pay monthly for it?" Something many people found compelling.
Get updates on acquisition channels that work consistently for founders:
Another example is StoreMapper ($21k/mo), a SaaS that enables you to put a store location map on your e-commerce website. The way Tyler (the founder) got inspired to create StoreMapper was by being a freelancer:
I taught myself to code and started doing freelance development for businesses on Shopify to earn a little money on the side. These clients were the ones who originally asked me to build them a custom store locator, which gave me the idea to productize it instead.
He then realized that many people were repeatedly asking for something like this on freelancing sites and used that fact to promote his SaaS:
I searched job sites like Upwork for people looking to hire a freelancer to do a custom build, and would swoop in and pitch them on Storemapper instead.
Freelancing platforms can be a viable acquisition channel if people are actively looking for a developer to build them something your product already does. Give them a shot.
What's been your experience with freelancing sites?