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 👇
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?
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.
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 👇
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 ✌️