Product Development July 5, 2020

As a bootstrapped indie hacker, what paid services do you consider indispensable?

chris_davies

The title says it all, really. I have a number of bootstrapped side projects, but beyond the absolute essentials (e.g. domain names and web hosting), my expenditure on these projects in basically zero.

But maybe I'm missing a trick here. Are there any paid services out there that you consider absolutely essential to running your startup/growing your product that are absolutely worth the investment, no matter how small your budget?

I'll start with the one service I pay for, beyond web hosting - GSuite, for managing emails (although I'm currently even trying to find a free alternative to that)

  1. 5

    Domain provider

    🏷️ Google Domains
    💵 $10-12 (depending on extension)
    ⭐️Review: Reliable .

    Hosting provider

    🏷️ Netlify
    💵 Freemium
    🛡️ Security: Free HTTPS
    ⭐️Review: Good for static website, wouldn't prefer for dynamic.

    🏷️Vercel
    💵 Freemium
    🛡️ Security: Free HTTPS
    ⭐️Review: Good for projects with Next.js stack.

    Database

    🏷️ Firebase
    💵 Free plan with limits
    ⭐️Review: Reliable and has good security measures

    🏷️ AWS EC2
    💵 Free for 1st year.
    ⭐️Review: Issues with reliability and costs are high after 1st year.

    Mail Provider

    🏷️ G-suite
    💵 Basic: $6 per license
    ⭐️Review: Tough to use in India, lack of auto-renewal support.

    🏷️ Zoho Mail
    💵 Basic: ₹59/month (not sure outside of India)
    ⭐️Review: Has a yearly plan for ~₹800 in India. So far it is good.

    Payments

    🏷️ Paypal
    💵 Charges: 4% for each transaction
    ⭐️ Review: Good for getting one-off payments, not sure about subscriptions

    🏷️ Stripe
    💵 Charges: 4% for each transaction
    ⭐️ Review: Good for subscription-based business.

    I wrote this as a twitter thread sometime back.

    Hopefully, this helps :)

    1. 1

      Netlify in particular is great, it’s crazy that I have about 10 different sites in it, with certs handled, and have never paid a penny for it

      1. 1

        Same with Vercel. Saves a ton of time.

        1. 1

          Haven’t heard of that one, will check it out

          1. 1

            Netlify doesn't support dynamic routes, you can use Vercel there. It is actually a hosting platform if you are using say next.js (which is my current favorite framework).

            1. 1

              Would it work for static site generators? I do a lot of documentation sites in Hugo/vuepress on netlify

              1. 1

                Yep! I host my Gatsby site on Vercel. Their pricing is super generous compared to Netlify as well ($20 for up to 1tb bandwidth, I was spending over $100 on netlify)

    2. 1

      Thanks, I’m using about half of those myself. Regarding AWS, my normal cutoff for abandoning a startup is whether it’s profitable enough to comfortably cover the hosting after the free tier expires

      1. 1

        True you can use firebase it has better plans when you are in the prelaunch phase.

        1. 1

          Firebase I’ve never really spent much time with, I’m a primarily backend developer by trade so generally opt to implement anything firebase can do in django

  2. 4
    • I would definitely pay for Github if it didn't have a free tier
    • RedisLabs
    • Webstorm. You have no idea how much my productivity improved thanks to Webstorm. Unparalleled (although VS Code is really good)
    1. 2

      If you're working with a relational database, it might be worth checking out PhpStorm even if you don't use the PHP features. Even with Node.js, you get awesome autocompletion for your SQL queries.

    2. 1

      Thanks - I use gitlab for free but would pay if I had to as it runs my pipelines. For Redis I just use aws elasticache, as I have everything in awe and use terraform, and I have a pro pycharm license courtesy of my day job. If not for that I’d use pycharm community with vscode for front end

      1. 1

        I'm actually using Redis Modules so the open-source hosted by PaaS can't really work for me :|

        I think JetBrains software is absolutely cheap for what they provide

  3. 3

    DigitalOcean - the smallest droplet is $5, I've deployed several projects on the same droplet.

  4. 2

    Hey, Chis!

    If you have gained some customers then investing on some CDN will worth your every single penny. Why? It makes your website faster = Happy Users = GOOGLE RANKING BOOST!

    And if you're at your initial stage then content is the place where you need to put some money, By producing some high quality content you can easily gain some links as well as your initial customers!

    What I believe spending your pennies on Gsuite didn't worth that much at the initial stage, until you have a huge amount of emails flooding on! Or you're doing some sort of link building!

    Cheers!

    1. 1

      Thanks! Did you mean CDN? I'm currently hosting static assets directly in the docker container itself, but could probably very easily move these to CloudFront, as it costs next to nothing and I'm already using AWS.

      GSuite only costs £4 a month so my thoughts on this to date is that it doesn't exactly break the bank, but I'm reaching the stage where I just think I could be using an open source mail client pointed at SES, which I'm also already using

      1. 1

        Yup! One more thing where you should invest, ahrefs it's quite expensive and it billed monthly but yeah if you know a little bit about SEO that would be a goldmine for you!

        1. 3

          Can you please elaborate about ahrefs?

          1. 1

            Ahrefs is an SEO tool that helps in a lot of ways like keyword research, backlinks analysis, tracking your website position in the Google SERPs, and a lot more! They also provide a 7-day paid trial, if you want to get your hands dirty for the first time! Here is the link for their official youtube channel, -> https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWquNQV8Y0_defMKnGKrFOQ and If you want to know almost everything about the tool just check out brian dean amazing post about the tool -> https://backlinko.com/ahrefs-guide
            SEO has been always a game-changer for every website, always invest in that, If you don't know much about it just hire someone who can help you or guide you to make a proper game plan! If you still have any doubt please let me know I would happy to help you out!

  5. 1

    Yes, GSuite, can't live without it. If you looking for some other options, maybe try Zoho, I believe that they had a free plan decades ago.

    What anyone considers indispensable would be very dependent on their business type but for me AWS, Google & JIRA.

  6. 1

    Google Drive (online storage, backup)
    CrashPlan (backup)
    Asana (task management)
    Evernote (notes)
    Hosting & Payment

  7. 1

    I forgot, stripe is absolutely indispensable!

  8. 1

    Gsuite for email, aws for hosting and intercom chat for customer feedback.
    MongoDB Atlas is a must if you're using MongoDB.
    I also recently discovered shipright which I think is pretty good to get early feedback from customers.

  9. 1

    Other than the obvious hosting and domain stuff, I would absolutely pay for Notion if it wasn't free.

  10. 1

    If Heroku's PostgreSQL offering is too expensive for some people, I can recomment ElephantSQL: https://www.elephantsql.com

    1. 1

      I just moved Postgres from Heroku to GCP Cloud SQL and am very happy with that offering.

  11. 1

    Stripe - Payments, there API is easy to work with includes built in fraud protection
    Mailgun - Transactional email, not the fastest but value is great, HTTP API and also sendmail integration (lots of smtp libs out there)
    Digitalocean - Starting at $5/mo it's great value
    ProtonMail - $48/yr for custom domains. You can use Gsuite but I only need email not docs/etc.. I'd rather support a company focused on privacy than Google

  12. 1

    Heroku and Github is definitely on top of my list.

  13. 1

    Things like Stripe and Mailgun I think.

  14. 1
    • Docker hub; it saves me so much time not having to worry about deployments.
    • OVH; I simply need a decent amount of computing power to keep things running.
    1. 1

      Thanks. I use gitlabs docker registry as it’s totally free and it’s also what I use to deploy. Will take a look at OVH

  15. 1

    All things AWS. I do everything serververless, so I’m only going beyond the free tier about $8 per month + a company basic gsuite account and it is almost all my company expenses.

  16. 1

    Heroku, Stripe, Fastmail, Xero

  17. 1

    As you mentioned, The most essential service are email, cloud servers, domains. Other essential paid services for me:

    1. Payment - stripe or PayPal to collect money
    2. Accounting and auditing by my service providers
    3. Helpscout - customer help desk.
    1. 1

      Payment is a good point too - I also use stripe but don’t really think of it as a paid service, for me it’s more just a case of factoring their fees into the pricing. I don’t use accounting tools (other than excel) and for service desk I have an email alias that automatically creates an issue in my gitlab

      1. 1

        I don't mean accounting tools too. It means the service provided by my accountant and auditor. They helps me to file corporate tax to the gov

  18. 1

    Automated emails (I use mailgun) and CDN (I use AWS CloudFront) are necessities.

    Also, depending on the sort of application you're developing, once you have validated your idea, investing in observability (logs + monitoring) for your backend is an absolute essential.

    At the moment I use AWS CloudWatch, but I'm starting to investigate using DataDog for my next thing.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the feedback. For email I actually have my own service (https://maildown.dev). For logs I use both cloudwatch and sentry (both of which are free for my needs).
      Looking at the feedback in here I need to prioritise getting cloudfront up and running

  19. 1

    it is much better to pay for getting knowledge how to promote and sell your projects if you don't know how to do it

    1. 2

      Thanks, thats really interesting for someone like myself (a developer but absolutely not a marketer). But even still, I wouldn’t even know where to look for paid support for stuff like this?

      1. 1

        This would sound like a pitch but I could really help with that:).

        1. 1

          At the moment I'm not in a place where I could pay for one-on-one coaching. Do you have links to any resources you can recommend? Maybe something that you were using to learn when you started?

          1. 1

            It hard to say even one good source . Collecting it in pieces from many places. But I am trying to combine all data in one resource and make it short and clear without water.

            1. 1

              If you follow through with that, feel free to send me the link. :)

  20. 1

    I use Zoho mail as an alternative to G suite, it provides up to 5 emails for free. Beside web hosting and domain name, I haven't paid for anything till now although I run a pretty small newsletter may be that's why.

    Here's what I have been using:

    1. VPS hosting from Linode for $10/month (as I have other projects that needs a server)
    2. Domain from Namecheap ($9 for first year)
    3. Email Octopus (Free upto 2500 subscrivers and 10K emails per month)
    4. Zoho mail (Free upto 5 emails)

    That's all.

    For my another project that I haven't launched yet, the cost is pretty much same with one addition scraperapi's proxies for $29/month as it is impossible without that.

    1. 1

      Thanks, I may have to switch to Zoho mail as an alternative to GSuite. My transactional email provider is actually myself (my latest side project is https://maildown.dev) but that's also backed by AWS so extremely cheap.

  21. 1

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