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How I made $3,000 with a digital product, no tech skills, and a $5 budget

Hey all 👋, I'm Quentin (@quentinvllrd on Twitter).

I am working as the Head of Growth in a French startup by day, and I am a passionate nocode maker by night.

A few months ago I launched my first digital product (gettims.co). I am writing this post to share the whole journey of this project, from the early idea to a +$3K revenue.

TL;DR: I spent $4.95 to buy a domain name and used free nocode tools only to build everything.

I hope this will help other aspiring makers realize that neither tech skills nor small budgets are roadblocks to building a profitable side project.

Let's get to it 👇

Why I decided to create a digital product?

Since the beginning of 2020 I started to build and launch my first nocode projects.

I was really into discovering more about this 'pretty new' #nocode trend and I decided to build projects around it. While learning all the basics of the nocode world, I decided to share them on a website made with no code. This was the best way to start building something.

Why am I telling you this? Because this was a pretty good move regarding the digital product I was about to build. Especially for marketing purposes, but I'll elaborate more on that further down in this post.

So after building my first 2 projects (Nocode Essentials which is a directory of nocode resources and a newsletter, and Nocode Mentors which allows anyone to book a 1-on-1 call with nocode experts), I wanted to launch a project that was easily monetizable from the start.

Building and selling a digital product was the easiest way in that path.

But what was it going to be? A course, an ebook, a database?

How I came up with the idea?

For the past few years, I’ve been curating the best tools and resources that I used as a maker and early-stage startup employee. At some point, I realized that I had sourced many useful assets that were free to use or offered valuable free plans. That allowed me to easily find the right tools to test, build, and grow my online project ideas without having to know how to code nor invest big budgets.

Nowadays, there is a tremendous amount of free tools and resources that anyone can use to design, build, and monetize their online businesses. But it is hard to find the best ones adapted to very early-stage projects.

Having a well organized and easily searchable database of all those resources has been extremely helpful for me. I then realized that if it was helping me to save a lot of time and money while launching online projects, it had to be valuable to other aspiring entrepreneurs.

This is why I decided to make it a full digital product and created TIMS, The Indie Maker Stack.

What is TIMS?

TIMS is a growing database of more than 200 free tools and resources for Indie Makers. It aims to help aspiring makers, side hustlers, and entrepreneurs easily find all the tools and resources they need to build their projects, with virtually no budget.

It features a selection of tools to build, (design, illustrate, automate) and monetize (promote, grow) any digital project.

Multiple categories and tags as well as different views are available to navigate the database the easiest way possible. You can get a preview on gettims.co, if you want to have a look 👀.

The fun fact here is that TIMS has been built with itself. I basically used the database I already had to build a complete digital product out of it, for less than $5. The interesting part starts now... Here is how I did it 👇

What are the different tools I used?

I knew from the beginning which stack I wanted to use for this project. All the tools had to be simple and free to use. I selected free resources from my own database to build the project and brand it as a digital product.

So here's the stack:

  1. For the website, I used brizy.cloud
  2. For the design/illustrations on the website, I used:
    • blush.design for the main illustrations
    • scribbbles.design for more visual assets (which is now $4)
    • Figma to mix it all, adapt sizes and colors + create small additional designs.
  3. To build the database/directory, I used Airtable
  4. To sell the database, I used Gumroad
  5. For emails to customers and subscribers, I used MailerLite
  6. I also used Zapier to connect Gumroad customers with MailterLite

Why did I pick those tools?

Regarding the website, I decided to use Brizy because of one key feature it offers: free custom domains. That is a real game-changer in the website builder market. That means anyone can have a website that looks professional (with its own custom domain) up and running for free. That’s incredibly empowering when willing to test ideas with a professional-looking website URL.

The free plan also includes a lot of features like forms and many design options. if you don’t know it, you should give it a try (you don’t even have to sign up to get started).

About Gumroad, it is the must-go-to tool for selling digital products. Not only it is super intuitive and free to use (it takes commissions), but it also has powerful extra features like analytics, custom audiences, and email workflows. Moreover, Gumroad covers pretty much every usecases for selling digital products offering the ability to set up pre-orders, discount codes, and affiliate programs.

For the database, Airtable is a no-brainer. It is so powerful and user friendly at the same time. In addition to the well-known features that are the ability to create different views of the database and use powerful filtering options, it offers easy sharing options. It even offers the possibility to create password-protected bases which can be very useful for digital products.

When it comes to design, Figma is also a no-brainer. The tool is very powerful but still extremely easy to use for simple things like creating/using a few design assets. One tip for Figma, there is a plugin that lets you use blush.design directly within Figma. That makes it even easier to create and customize all the awesome illustrations you can find on blush.design.

Finally, MailerLite provides a great user experience to send automated emails, with a clean and simple interface. Its workflow feature is very powerful and the ability to create forms inside emails is a key feature of its own.

How much did it cost to build it?

That's the key point! I only used free tools and free plans to build, launch, validate, and grow this side project. I only spent $4.95 to buy the gettims.co domain name. That's it.

Up to date, it generated $3,471 in sales.

How did I promote it?

There are many ways and places to promote and market your product, depending on your type of business and your target audience. I am not going to list them all here as this is not the purpose of this post. But focusing on building an audience first is a strategy that will hardly fail.

This is how I promoted TIMS. I shared it with the audience I built in the first place thanks to previous projects: nocodeessentials.com and nocodementors.com. These first 2 projects helped me to build an audience on Twitter and on mailing lists.

So far, I simply shared gettims.co with that audience, trying to bring value each time I post about the product.

Why is it an efficient strategy? Because I am talking to qualified people who are highly interested in what I am talking about. This means that there is a good chance that they will either become customers or will become promoters by sharing the product with their own audience.

This is what happened for TIMS. No paid ads, no sponsorship, no Product Hunt launch... (yet).

What are the key learnings?

These are the main takeaways from building this digital product. For most of them, they'll be relevant for any online business idea! Here we go:

You don't need money. You don't need a big budget to create something valuable and profitable. It is possible to use only free tools and resources to launch a digital product and generate thousands in revenue, with just a $5 budget.

You don't need tech skills. There is a nocode tool for litterally everything. The stack I used is just one example.

You can do better. Even if there are other places on the web that already offer similar products/content, it shouldn't prevent you from releasing your own. There is always a way to offer a different and better version, create something more valuable, and get paid for it. You'll need to spend some time to create a good product, good branding, and good marketing.

It takes time. Putting all your learnings into an easy to use digital product takes time. It takes time to build your knowledge, find the best way to share it, and market it. Don't simply jump on an opportunity. Put quality into your product and know your stuff to be confident selling it.

Brand your product. A good/beautiful branding inspires confidence in the product and encourages people to share it. I received a lot of positive feedback about gettims.co 's landing page. It sometimes got shared just for the quality of the design.

Building is not selling. Being able to create a good digital product doesn't mean it will sell. Marketing and identifying distribution channels to the right audience is key. In the case of TIMS, I leveraged the audience I built in the first place thanks to previous projects in the same space. I shipped multiple projects targeting the same audience, before selling a product to that same audience I gathered in the first place.

What could have I done better?

There are many things that I could have done better if I had more time. But this is a side project done in 50 hours during nights and weekends and I feel like it would have been hard to do a lot better in such a short period of time.

Though, there are 3 things that I wish I had done though and they all refer to Gumroad.

Ship faster: when using Gumroad’s pre-order feature, don’t wait more than 1 month to actually release your product. It seems that you will end up with failed credit cards when Gumroad is actually charging them on launch time (at least that's what happened to me).

Keep the lead on your site: So far the Gumroad product page has converted x10 compared to gettims.co landing page. To reduce friction and offer an easier customer experience, I would use the "embed" Gumroad feature. It allows you to embed the product on the landing page and offers inline purchase without leaving your site.

Ask for ratings: Product ratings are an efficient way to add social proof to your product. I didn't focus on that part and I wish I did. Gumroad's rating system is well done as only buyers can rate products. But you should ask your customers to rate your product pretty quickly after the purchase. Otherwise, they might not be able to do so if they don't have a Gumroad account and clean their browser cookies.

What now?

TIMS' database is still growing and will always be available for customers as they all got a lifetime private access.

I've received so much positive feedback from many makers that I believe some of you indie hackers may also make great use of this database.

If you got inspired by this post and to thank you for reading all of it, I created I special discount so you can get TIMS for $19 instead of the $29 early bird price. You can click here to access it (10 spots available).

And if you have any question, I'll be glad to share more in the comments ✌️

  1. 47

    I think this No code movement is a huge Ponzi scheme, no one is really building anything with no code tools other than a database, e-books, etc about no code for the newbies to the no code space.

    1. 5

      While there are many no code products that are informational (though that is still valuable!) there are plenty of no-code businesses doing much more.

      I've interviewed 20+ founders here with real profitable businesses built with no code tools https://www.nocode.mba/interviews

      Their businesses range from marketplaces, productized services, consultancies, travel apps and more.

      I've also created courses showing how to create apps that could turn into real businesses such as a Product Hunt clone, recipe membership app, headspace app, etc. https://www.nocode.mba/courses

      No code is here to stay and is only getting more powerful.

    2. 4

      Exactly my thoughts when checking his site. I've been following this no-code for a while since you actually can't ignore it, everbody is talking about it. But, you named it. I'm looking for something with some logic behind and not just a landing page that links to some excel / google sheet files; and there you have it. The product is a list. I won't buy it.

      I considered my way the wrong one which is learning coding (php, javascript) and build something with logic (www.browsegenres.com). But the more post I see about no-code the more I feel I'm on the right track.

      Thanks for your comment, I thought I'm the only one.

      1. 2

        It’s not about the logic, it’s about adding value. And quite frankly many ‚no-code products’ don’t add any value at all and just list things that have been listed 500x before

        1. 3

          Check Invercado.com
          Ive built it with no code, a portal for real estate investments in spain

          1. 1

            Love your concept! as a design advice i would change the color scheme of the title, as it gets confused with the background image, or maybe add a dark filter to the background image.

            1. 1

              thank you for the input!

    3. 3

      I also believe the same. Most of the nocode products are informational products.

    4. 2

      That may be a little bit exaggerated, but I see where it is coming from.

      There may be many products that are also build with no-code tools but that are not advertised as such because who cares if it is build with no-code tools?? The customer does not care as long as it delivers value.

      And if I advertise my resource website for radiologists as build with no-code they are ‚WTF is no-code?!‘.

      The point is that no-code projects that are geared towards people who use no-code tools, put the word ‚no-code‘ left right and center because it sells well.

      So we might only see the tip of the iceberg of no-code projects is what I‘m trying to say...

      Check out thepear.co as an example of a no-code product that does not state it is one....

      1. 5

        I also see where @EzeDiGiulio's is coming from as there are a lot of info products being built about no-code for no-code newbies.

        However my thoughts are if there is demand for such knowledge then the question is why wouldn't you provide it? I don't see any claims to the tune of "go 0-$100k in a month with no-code!" which can't be said for other info products e.g. in the personal finance space.

        and as @rasmus1610 said - I also don't think a lot of successful no-code products are advertised as no-code simply because customers don't care if the products are code/no-code as long as they deliver as promised - and both methods have their specific advantages and disadvantages.

        IMHO there is plenty of space for both in product dev and product lifecycles.

    5. 1

      Think no-code is mainly intended to validate your ideas.

    6. 1

      Upto a point I think it's a good place to start....if you have an established audience to pump it to.

      Forget no code..I tried and to a certain degree succeeded in creating a nodesign movement... nodesign.dev went viral on HN few months back lol...

    7. 1

      Personally, I feel like I see people creating no-code tools everyday on Twitter. Now, granted, those tend to be "side-projects" and full fledged startups, but still...

  2. 9

    Whole article and the header suggests "turning $5 into $3k" while it was possible without spending a dime on a domain name. Having a domain is not the key here. I have two digital products on the market, spent 0 on one and $5 on other for a domain and landing page. Both sold twice.

    Another example

    https://gumroad.com/l/twitter-audience/indiehackers

    PS. I announced this 4 hours ago on Twitter and to my mailing list (880 subs), and it already sold 100 copies for $6,358 in revenue.

    no websites.

    It all boils down to marketing, having the audience first.

    Thanks for sharing your insights.

    1. 4

      Exactly, and therefore his post needs to be (unfortunately) considered as clickbait.

      1. 1

        This post was interesting to read. To some extent each post on indie hackers can be considered a clickbait.

    2. 1

      Thanks for your feedback @anilkilic 🙏. I get your point and you are right to say that a domain name is not necessary to sell a digital product. Gumroad's product page is kind of a landing page in itself (and a pretty good one actually).

      But I see the domain name (and the possibility to have your own branded website) as part of the marketing process. It helps the product stand out and gives more flexibility for iterations.

      I believe a proper website would also be a good thing in other cases where Gumroad is not the best tool to use (newsletters, physical products etc.). 😉

  3. 7

    Great post.
    Unfortunately so many haters as usual find a way to complain.

    I like the way you used different tools in order to reach your goal, brizy.cloud for the website (I just learnt about it today and it seems interesting) for me being a Wordpress veterant I'll stick with the Divi theme from Elegant themes which has everything I am looking for in a site builder.

    Those who say it's just a list are missing the point. First of all the quality on the list comes out of your own researches and experience it's not something you just google, copy and paste.

    Secondly the different tools you used produced exactly what you wanted and the whole thing his beautiful and provide value to your user so that's great.

    @EzeDiGiulio Stating that the No-Code movement is a ponzi scheme doesn't make sens. The "no-code" name is farely recent but the principle of building something digital without having to code anything as been around for quite sometimes and if I am not mystaken it started with website builders that are obviously not ponzi schemes. Now you have app builders that may still be limited on some areas but they can produce great results for less complex applications.

    I have been working on a translation dictionnary for someone for quite sometime. In fact I hired someone to do it because back when the person told me about that project we thought we had to build something complex and me being a mediocre programmer I hired someone from India to do it. He was a nice chap who charged me few thousands dollars to build it but later was unable to complete the project. I had to start from scratch because he lost everything we had worked on when he lost his servers and requested for more money to complet it.

    I couldn't go back to that person to ask money and I wasn't even willing to pay a dime. I decided to built the whole thing from scratch using No-code tools:

    1)- Divi site builder from Elegant Theme + Wordpress.
    2)- Vecteezy for the vector images since it is a translating dictionnary for kids (it's technically not a no code tool but I just had to download the vectors, change the size and add them to my website).
    3)- Picresize.com to resize the vector images.
    4)- Pixlr.com for image edition like removing the background.
    5)- Airtable for the database. Since it is a translating dictionnary I have on my table the word in the original language, followed by the word in the translated language, with one sentence in each languages as an example, a beautiful image and an audio so that the user knows how to pronouce the word. Since Airtable allow me to create different views for the same table I created one grid view to show the whole dictionnary and I have a few galery views which are generated based on a specific filter.

    Because the whole dictionnary is devided in 3 modules, the first being the translating dictionnary with all the words and their translations, the second being the "Theme" module which has only words gathered by a particular theme like for example all the things that you can find in a house will be inside the "house" theme (for example door, roof, bedroom, sofa, Tv, etc.) and the third part is the Game module. In this particular module you'll find games that help you remember the words you just learnt about from the dictionnary and the Theme module.

    So in order for me to have the theme module done I just added a field in my table titled "Theme". Each words in the dictionnary has a theme. Those that belong to the same theme have it mentionned so I just had to generate specifc gallery views that have a specific filter on the "theme" field.

    6)- WP Game Plugin
    So now the users have the dictionnary, they have the Theme and I just needed to add the games. I got a Wordpress plugin that allow me to embed games in my website, games like Crosswords and WordSearch work great and I just added the words from my dictionnary so the kids can play with the words they just learnt about, thus learning and remembering them without realizing it.

    1. WP Subscriber Management Plugin
      I needed the whole dictionnary to be available only for the people who are registered, so I downloaded a WP plugin that allows me to manage subscribers without coding anything. I can choose who can see which page. I then set the dictionnary as private and only those who are subscribers can access its modules.

    Without writing a single line of code, I have what would have been a web app. I would have needed to create and set the database, create the login and everything that is related to the subscription and the permissions of the users. Create the game area and everything needed like the whole website in the front end. I presented it to the person who contacted me and they were extatic. Even more than with the indian developper's product. I did the whole thing in less than 2 weeks working less than 3 hours a day. So yeah the No-Code movement is a ponzy scheme alright.

    The no-code mouvement or whatever how you call it allow you to cobine different tools to tackle problems in a different way that we have been used too. We use our brain differently and by combining these ressources we reach results that would have been impossible to reach without coding. And we can do it for a very low cost. Now I have no need to promote it has a dictionnary built with No-code. I just call it an interactive dictionnary and those who see it and use it are impressed because in they figure I must have been spending time coding or doing technical stuff when in fact the whole process was smooth and enjoyable.

    @quentin Tu as fait du bon travail continue et j'espère voir très bientôt d'autres produits Made In Paris :)

    1. 2

      Merci beaucoup @Irodman ! Très bel exemple bien détaillé 😉

  4. 3

    Thanks for the write up and for opening up my eyes. If you had asked me I'd say no-one would pay for this kind of product since there are a lot directories out there. Great effort. Congrats.

    1. 2

      Thanks for the kind words @ameneres 🙏. You are right there are many directories out there and I know quite a few of them 🤓. But as a user, I kept missing something when using those in the past. Either there are too many of them and all the tools are not top quality, or it's not easy to find exactly what's needed because of a lack of information / search feature.

      This is why I created my own version with only tools I tested and validated. It helped me save so much time and money that I figured it should be the same for other people in this situation. This is how it all started. then I just tested (and validated) the idea 😉

      1. 2

        I can see now how it's worth money. Exactly that. Extremely curated and you're likely to be a power user of those tools. Meaning you could provide a lot more value on top of the list. Way to go.

  5. 3

    Congratulations brother.

  6. 2

    Love to see Gumroad in stories like this! Keep up the great work.

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot Philip, really appreciate it. Gumroad is empowering so many makers around the world, it's just amazing 🙌

  7. 2

    "But focusing on building an audience first is a strategy that will hardly fail."
    Any suggestions on how to do this ?

    Landing page is really awesome btw

    1. 2

      From my experience and what I've seen a lot lately, the best way to start building an audience is to:

      • identify who your ideal audience is and where it lives on the web
      • focus on a niche audience which will help a lot the previous point
      • connect with as many people as possible to understand their needs
      • help these people and give value as often as possible
      • gather them around you, preferably on a mailing list which will allow to reach them without depending on socials networks algorithms

      Here is a great read from @dru_riley if you want more insights about audience first products: https://trends.vc/trends-0030-audience-first-products/

  8. 2

    Aha pas mal du tout, et il y a des liens affilié vers les sites que tu répertories ? J'imagine qu'ils ont des plans payant en plus du gratuit ?

    1. 1

      Merci @El_crocodilo! Non aucun lien affilié dans cette base 😉. J'ai choisi de ne lister que des ressources de top qualité, indépendamment du fait qu'elles offrent un programme d'affilié ou non.

      Effectivement la plupart de ces outils ont des plans payants, mais ce qui fait leur particularité est que leurs plans gratuits sont très avantageux et sans limite de temps.

  9. 2

    Thanks for the writeup. It seems like the hard part is not building but rather selling the product. Your advice of getting an audience first sounds really good, but imho that's where the real consistent effort for months (or years) comes into play.

    1. 1

      Thanks Nicolas! Indeed, as the building process is getting easier, the selling process is getting harder. But if you focus on a niche audience to start, you can easily get a decent number of people interested in what you do and the problem you solve in a few weeks/months.

      1. 1

        Just out of curiosity, how big was the audience you pushed this product to? (At least the order of magnitude)

        1. 1

          About 800 followers on Twitter and 300 people on an email list.

  10. 2

    Great write up! Congrats on the launch and thanks for the insights!

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot Jacob!

  11. 2

    Bravo Quentin, très instructif je vais suivre le projet de près :)

    Congrats on your success ! I have never used airtable, I will have a look it seems it could be useful for some of my sideprojects.

    1. 1

      Merci beaucoup Max ! 🙏

      Yeah you should definitely get your hands on Airtable and start playing with it. It's such a game changer in the database world and the possibilities are practically endless!

  12. 2

    Thanks for sharing the journey Quentin! Congrats on your success.

    The part on the Gumroad 30-day window is a useful tip.

    Have you found a way to do cross-domain tracking? i.e. track the source of visitors that have converted from your site through the Gumroad embed?

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot Janel!

      I haven't set up cross-domain tracking yet (I am combining GA and Gumroad analytics for now). But I came across this article on Gumroad's help center. Planning to set that up soon ;)

      https://help.gumroad.com/article/175-google-analytics

  13. 1

    Great and inspirational post @quentin, I'm writing a list of success stories having "NoCode inside".

    Those are 10K MRR/month and more, which is broadly considered to be good enough to start thinking to give away your 9 to 5 boring job and eventually grow even bigger.

    I hope to see you on my list soon, take care.

    There is also a public page which you can write here

  14. 1

    Really inspiring story, thanks for sharing.

    Out if interest, what tools did you use to build- https://www.nocodeessentials.com/ ?

  15. 1

    Hi Quentic,
    This is awesome.
    Question: How did you setup your Airtable access and permission for your users, as far as I know, we can invite a user to a Airtable base, but there is also an option called 'view larger version' which when clicks gives everybody access to our table, how to deal with that.

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot @ghulamkhansaab! Airtable allow you to share your whole table with a link that is password protected. Very easy to set up ;)

  16. 1

    Hi Quentin,
    Thanks for sharing.
    Et félicitations :)
    I remember no-code mentors a while back, I booked a call with KP at the time.
    It's a great idea!
    I run a no-code academy in Africa, would you mind giving us 15-20 min on the basics of brizy?
    Would be much appreciated :)
    Cheers,
    Nadia

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot @nanatoni! Glad to hear you got to use Nocode Mentors to connect with KP!

      I'm not a master of Brizy but let's connect on Twitter 😉

      1. 1

        I follow you on Twitter @webdevnana. I can't DM you though.

  17. 0

    It's just an info product. Can be done by anyone without any coding.
    Great result, but the title is a real clickbait.

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