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After many failed product attempts, I bootstrapped a file uploading service to $1K MRR in 6 months, AMA!

  1. 4

    What sales/marketing strategies have you tried, and which were the best and worst?

    Any insights on how you made them successful?

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      I wish I had the answer to this! Honestly my biggest driver of traffic is Heroku, and most of my customers come through the Heroku marketplace. With previous products I never had a distribution plan, so I initially offered this product as only a Heroku add-on to help solve for this. I really haven't tried much beyond that besides talking about it on my podcast and twitter. I did see spikes when I guested on other popular podcasts, so that's probably something I should do more of. I'm trying to get some content going to see if that helps as well.

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        Oh cool! We're in the same boat for Vidds. We got a couple paying users after ProductHunt, and made a decent chunk of money from our AppSumo lifetime deal, but still no insights into how to market it more broadly and get monthly paying users.

        We started writing a bunch of content, but stopped after the AppSumo launch. It gets us a little bit of traffic.

        Our eng marketing tool (a simple, free video editor on our website) gets us a decent chunk of traffic, but not getting us any paying users :-P

        Guess it's really just a lot of work, and trying different things.

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          Hi @AndrewV, if you are looking for more strategies on how to market your product, please feel free to check out my database GrowthHunt.co

          I'm in the midst of revamping the layout of the site and adding more content this week, so do check back next week.

          Cheers

      2. 1

        This is something new. Will check it for sure. Thanks.

  2. 3

    Congrats on hitting 1k! I've really enjoyed following along with the Software Social podcast too. How do you manage your time between all the projects you've got going on? Has it been a challenge, and are there any strategies you've picked up along the way?

    1. 1

      Thanks! Time management is always a struggle! I've been fortunate enough to schedule my consulting so that I do traditional paid work four days a week and leave one day free for Simple File Upload. I originally tried doing one hour a day on SFU, but found that the context switching was too painful.

  3. 2

    How did you identify this as a pain point for developers?

    1. 3

      As a consultant this was something I had to do over and over and over. In Rails there are 4 main ways to upload files - Paperclip, Carrierwave, Shrine, and (more recently) Active Storage. Every project I worked on used a different gem so I had to learn them all. This was time consuming and annoying. And setting up AWS is such a pain -> you've got to get your prod and dev buckets set up, IAM permissions, policies, CORS, CDN (or use a third party provider) etc. AND explain to the client that they need to pay for another service and you can't tell them how much it will cost! So to me the pain was twofold - it's annoying for both the developer and the client.

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        I understand this is a indie business, but don't you think when it comes to file uploads( which is a sensitive thing) , I should pick some other reputed company like filestack over siplmplefileuploader ?

        I don't see any benifit simplefileuploader provides over filestack.

        1. 3

          I think it depends on what your needs are. I haven't used FileStack - aren't they API only? The difference is SFU provides the complete UI experience as well as distributed saving of files and the files are served behind a CDN. Simple File Upload is designed to be just that - simple. There are definitely several providers available for this type of service and you have to pick the one you are most comfortable with and best suits your needs.

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                Sometimes all it takes is choosing the right distribution channel where your target market is, which @Leenyburger did so flawlessly

                Being in the right place at the right time solving for problems specific to what the user needs in their context is more than enough to choose one thing over another

                1. 1

                  Ya you are right,
                  She has done a good job know doubt.
                  But I am unable to understand what USP her product provides.

                  1. 1

                    Cheers

                    I think that's the point - sometimes the USP is being in the right place at the right time for a specific problem on a specific platform and offering great support.

                    I'd reframe your thinking from USP the "product" provides to USP that the business provides. A product is simply a part of a business. There's way way way more to it then just the product and it's features.

                    Think about this flow & scenario:

                    Im on Heroku -> I need a fileuploader -> Eh i dont want to code everything around it. Does Heroku have a marketplace? Maybe they have a solution Im looking for. -> Nice! SFU looks simple. Lets try it out -> Nice it works for what I need. I'll stick to it. Maybe they have good support too.

                    Simplicity == Fastest path to solving their problems so they can get on with what they are doing.

                    Less features? No problem, talk to your customers and you can add them along the way. Best part is they are already customers so they have an incentive to help you succeed.

                    A USP is what makes one business better over the competition. Its based on what the the customer values

                    (https://www.shopify.com/blog/unique-selling-proposition)

                    Just be there when the customer is trying to make that decision. Then it will be up to them to decide.

                    You can compete on more ways than just features - business model, support, distribution

                    After you solve those, then it becomes a game of retention.

                    1. 1

                      Thanks, that was a really helpful explanation.

                      I was not looking at it from the perspective of a heroku user.
                      Looks like the heroku marketplace is not that big, and searching for file upload shows SFU on the top.

                      File stack also has a heroku add-on but it seems that they focused more on being a S3 file uploader, rather than being a hosting provider.
                      Which result in SFU being the only non S3 storage provider on the marketplace.

                      Nice example of being at the right place at the right time.

  4. 1

    Very cool. Congrats!

  5. 1

    Congrats @Leenyburger ! How did you pick this problem to work on?

  6. 1

    Hi @Leenyburger - I've emailed you about this separately but very interested in using your file uploader.

    1. 1

      I didn't see it - did you send an email to [email protected] ?

      1. 1

        I sent it to the email on your IH profile.

  7. 1

    Did you put this in an existing marketplace? or how did you find your first 10 paying customers?

    1. 2

      I'm also curious about the first 10 paying customers.

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        Hey, @watanabe I actually wanted to know since I've already done some research on this topic and written about it here: https://veonr.com/blog/how-to-find-your-first-customers it's still incomplete, please let me know your thoughts.

        Looking for more information to be added to the article from here. That would be awesome.

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          Wow, looks great. I'm making a tool for audiobook/podcast listeners and struggling to figure out the best channel to reach users. I'll read it. Thank you for writing.

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            What kind of tool are we talking? Would love to know more about it.

            Let's work together on this part of reaching out to users, since I've been quite interested in this lately, which is why I was working on a cold e-mailing platform as well at sendmane.com.
            Let me know if there's anything I can help with, we can talk in DM. Here I feel like I'm just plugging all my things haha.

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              I'm helping people who want to listen to web articles via podcasts, https://www.getpodrest.com/. We can also get some insights from this article https://www.lennysnewsletter.com/p/how-the-biggest-consumer-apps-got To understand your product better, does it compete with SendGrid or MailChimp? What should I need to prepare to use your product? I'm thinking about facebook ads now.

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                Sounds great, will give that a try.

                My product, SendMane is kind of like a hybrid, so if SendGrid became cheaper & combine hunter.io with it, for email verifications and cold outreach we have a manual setup for email marketers as well as a dead-simple API to send transactional emails with pre-built templates for startups.

                With Sendgrid it takes you a long time (few days sometimes) to get running and get approved, while with us it's literally a 1-minute setup into your NodeJs application.

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                  Thank you but mine doesn't give a freemium now. Thank you for explanation. So yours is much easier to enable transactional emails. Now I understand better (though not fully).

  8. 1

    Thanks for the share! Q1) Do you host your solution on Heroku? Q2) Can this serve app/SaaS devs who need to provide storage across mobile and browser?

    1. 2

      Yes, I host on Heroku and it is available through the Heroku app store. This makes the integration and payment easy for Heroku customers (one bill instead of several) https://elements.heroku.com/addons/simple-file-upload
      Yes, all the files are stored in the cloud and distributed through a CDN so it works for mobile and web.

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        Sorry if this is a big ask but could you post some notes on how to get started with placing / marketing your app in the Heroku app store?

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          Honestly, I would go for the Cloudflare marketplace. It's bigger and new, so I think there's a lot of opportunity there. Heroku requires you to have 100 free users before you can start to charge, so it's pretty limiting to go from idea to actually selling a product (several months).

  9. 1

    Great job - this is the kind of shit I like to see!

  10. 1

    Congrats on your first $1k MRR!

    What have you learned about being a part of an app marketplace like Heroku? Anything you wish you knew earlier or interesting nuances from building a "standalone" product?

    1. 1

      The marketplace really gave me the boost I needed to know this product had potential and to get it to a place where I can learn how to market. Starting as a solo founder with almost no audience and no marketing knowledge it was a great channel. That being said, it has incredibly platform risk and there were a lot of hoops to jump through (you're required to get 100 users before charging for example). It was also nice to launch without having to write any billing code! I'm team marketplace because a lot of the heavy lifting (i.e. validated customers) are already in place. Looking at Cloudflare next.....

  11. 1

    Congrats on reaching $1K MRR! This is awesome 🙌

    Did you grow your app with having existing audience? If so, how do you think it would be different without having audience?

    Thanks!

    1. 2

      I had a small audience on Twitter from being involved in the coding community. I definitely think this helped, as opposed to starting from zero. I had several people encourage me along the way (and they still do)! I also joined MegaMakers and a few other Slack groups for support and encouragement. If I had zero audience and had to start from scratch I do think it would have been harder. I also think launching in a marketplace first helped a lot with traction. I'm still exploring traction channels!

  12. 1

    This is really cool. Very sticky product as well.

    Pricing plans seem limited - will you be adding higher bandwidth/storage plans? I can imagine bigger apps/businesses wanting more.

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      Yes, this is definitely on my radar! I've had a few requests for this feature. I'm actually working on the code now to introduce more tiers that accept larger files and do chunk uploads.

      1. 1

        Awesome. You'll do great!

  13. 1

    Epic!

    Do you have any strategy for getting to the next milestone? Ex 2k, 5k+

    1. 1

      Yes! Content! I haven't done much if any marketing, so I'm trying to use this to jumpstart my marketing education. It feels hard, I'm completely learning a new skill. My plan is to ramp up my content and see how that goes. Of course I'd like to add more features, but I'm trying not to get ahead of myself.

  14. 1

    Congrats, Colleen! It has been really great to follow your progress and listen to your updates on the Software Social Podcast.

  15. 1

    Congrats on hitting 1k MRR! That puts you ahead of like 99.9% of folks. How big do you think you can go with this? I'm particularly interesting in niche, hyper focused tools so this is right up my alley.

    1. 1

      Thanks! I think the market for easy file uploading is large. However, I have a few pitfalls at the moment in my product - the biggest one being that i have to catch the developer at the beginning of their build process. I don't have a way to migrate from AWS to Simple File Upload. But that could always be an avenue for future growth....

  16. 1

    What were examples of beliefs you once had where had you shed these beliefs much earlier, you would have sprung further faster?

    1. 5

      Perfection. As developers we want our products to be perfectly tested, perfectly coded, etc. Also, I got stuck in a cycle of reading about entrepreneurship instead of actually trying things. I thought if I just read one more book about starting a business I would be ready. I should have started earlier and read less about other people's success.

  17. 1

    Hey Colleen – congrats on hitting a major MRR milestone!

    A few questions:

    1. If you could start over knowing what you know now, would you still build Simple File Upload, or would you do something different?

    2. Have you or would you ever consider selling SFU?

    3. What are the best and worst parts of running/building SFU?

    1. 1
      1. Would I build it again? Probably not. Hosting and file management is such a pain and there are so many abuse vectors. However, maybe that's why it's been successful? It's a hard and annoying problem to solve, especially considering I also provide a CDN and store the files across two different storage providers. The infrastructure is complicated, which is another reason people pay for it instead of building it themselves.
      2. Would I sell it? YES, definitely! The multiples of SAAS right now are crazy, so it has occurred to me. But I do want to try my hand at really marketing it to see how it can grow. It's a great way for me to learn about what it takes to really grow a business.
      3. Best -> low support. It really is super easy to use, and I purposely don't have a lot of "fancy" features so there's not a lot to configure. Worst -> growth is slow. It's not a rocket ship product, it's grown steadily over the past 6 months, but it doesn't feel like I'm riding the "wave".
      1. 1

        If it requires low maintaince and support, I suggest you don't sell it for some time. One of my B2C product took almost an year to pickup paid customers Watermark.ink.

        You already have a product with paid customers, it greatly helps you to learn about marketing and sales.

  18. 1

    Did any of your failed projects lead to you building SimpleFileUpload or was this a radical shift in direction?

    1. 1

      Yes! My first product was an iOS app. It was a B2C app and I quickly learned that B2C was not the space I wanted to be in!

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