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I bootstrapped my SaaS to $15,000 MRR over 3 years AMA!

Hi IH! I've been a member here for a number of years. This place has provided me with tons of inspiration, following the stories of other indie hackers!

It's taken me about 3 years of work to get to this point. I told the full story from zero to $10k MRR in this blog post.

As you can see I started by creating several small projects and then focused on one (bannerbear.com), which I have been working on solidly for the last 1+ year.

This $15k MRR milestone is significant to me as it means my SaaS revenue is finally matching the salary at my old job. I'm 41 and knew that when I left my corporate life behind, if my IH adventure failed it would be very difficult to get back in (I would be old, with no up-to-date skills) so I really had to make it work. Getting back to my previous salary level was one of my success metrics.

I'd like to spend a little time today to answer any questions the IH community has - fire away!

  1. 30

    Is it your photo one can see on the promo materials in the Singapore Zoo? https://imgur.com/a/fBk132D

    Sorry for such a weird-ass question, but it was bothering me for weeks.

    1. 29

      yes!

      I lived in Singapore for about 10 years. During that time, in addition to my day job I did some commercial modeling. I did shoots for Singapore Airlines, Singapore Zoo, a number of condo developments, that type of thing. I was always the "young father figure".

      If you have a "commercial" face (which I don't think I particularly have, but hey) and are willing to work hard, you can actually make good money from this. I remember one shoot was a couple of days and I got paid about $3000 USD. There are models doing multiple shoots a month like this, and getting paid a lot more than I was.

      The downside of this type of work is that it can be infrequent / unstable, and it's a constant grind - you are always running to castings, and the majority of the time the casting director will look you over for a few minutes and then say thanks, and you know you haven't got the gig. After traveling all across town to be there on a hot day, that can really wear you down after the 3rd... 4th... 5th call like that in a week.

      We have this stereotypical view of models as being paid to do nothing, but no-joke, it is bloody hard work. It's a hustle to get the gigs, and then on the day of the shoot you'll usually have some horribly early call time, sit there while wardrobe and makeup has their way with you, and then just as you're getting bored and frustrated you have to smile / act on demand, when the director or photographer needs you to. I have total respect for anyone working in this industry, now that I've experienced it myself!

      A very interesting life experience but I don't think I'd do it again :)

      1. 5

        You look so happy to see those monkeys! This is seriously the best thing I've ever read in an AMA. Made my day 😂

      2. 1

        Hah this is hilarious! I was just reading your blog post and thought "He kinda reminds me of the musician bonobo" when I saw your face at the bottom - I think it's the hair/side profile haha

        https://www.google.com/search?q=bonobo+musician

      3. 1

        haha :D thats freaking cool :D

      4. 1

        How did you get into modeling?

        1. 1

          A friend of a friend of a friend ran a modelling agency and we crossed paths a few times. She figured her clients would like my look, so we gave it a shot and it worked out.

    2. 1

      LOOOOOOOL!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. 14

    Hey Jon, congrats on this huge milestone! I've seen you work so hard over the last few years to get here :).

    My question: what tasks do you typically have to fill up your marketing weeks?

    Whenever I try and do marketing time I quickly run out of things to do and end up going back to coding features again 😅. Thanks!

    1. 11

      I am by no means an expert here, I always end my marketing weeks feeling that I didn't do enough.

      At a high level, in my marketing week I'm asking myself "how can I better communicate what I currently have?".

      This distills down into tasks like:

      • adding feature pages to the marketing site
      • writing blog posts or tutorials
      • planning the next piece of "hero" content*
      • creating more interactive demos
      • improving the docs

      I also make community part of my marketing week. When I'm in a coding week I tend to not tweet as much, or look at IH as much. But in a marketing week I allow myself to tweet more, post on IH more, etc.

      *by hero content I mean longer, more creative pieces of marketing content that will (hopefully) net you a wider distribution. These take longer to write than a regular blog post. An example of this is my $10k MRR timeline which took a couple of days to put together.

      1. 1

        Follow up question, how do you schedule your marketing weeks? I'm still well in pre-release, but am starting to think about how I'll schedule feature dev, business tasks and marketing pushes once I've got an MVP in the wild.

        Off the cuff, I personally like 6 week cycles, thought maybe I'd fit in a major feature, week of marketing and week of business tasks in that cycle. Thoughts?

        1. 1

          6 weeks is way too long.

          Timeboxes should be kept short, otherwise Parkinsons Law will kick in.

          I personally never try to build a major feature all in one go. It's too risky.

          1. 1

            It really depends. My professional experience working with teams of developers has lead me to believe the 2 week sprint is too short and just a relic of "well that's what everyone does" dogma. At least for the types of softwares we were building and miantaining at visual effects studios, which require a lot of creative experimentation to get the right solution.

            I've worked recently with a CEO that forced 2-week deliveries and we fell into a nightmare of perpetual hot garbage getting shipped that left customers dis-satisfied. I eventually found Basecamp's idea of a 6 week cycle, with 2 weeks for refactoring. This works well if you're dilligent about scoping your work clearly.

            I'm not sharing to advocate that you (or others) change from short sprints, just to sharing that there are differing ways of working in case someone else is reading this and is finding short cycles aren't working for them.

            https://3.basecamp-help.com/article/35-the-six-week-cycle

            1. 2

              My professional experience working in a large org with dozens of scrum teams suggests that 2 week sprints worked just fine.

              If you want longer timeboxes, more power to you. My preference of shorter timeboxes is not a personal attack. You asked for my opinion and I gave it to you :)

              Good luck!

              1. 2

                Yeah thanks for sharing, sorry if my reply came off the wrong way, wasn’t my intent. Congrats on your success! :)

  3. 5

    Congrats Jon! I've been following you on Instagram and noticed you live a bachelor life (at least the last time I looked - a year ago). Hopefully this isn't too personal but have you chosen this way of life to make room, time and energy for indie hacking? If yes, do you think being in a serious relationship would stand in your way to success?

    1. 13

      I will be first to admit that I find it very difficult to balance my work life with a relationship.

      I've posted this on IG before but I'll repost it here:

      I believe as a man you have 3 things to master, your body, your mind and your heart. You’re only truly a man when you have mastered all 3.

      I’ve always been good at the first two. At 41 I work out 5 times a week and am in the best health of my life. Over the last few years I’ve built up a business from scratch that now pays me a decent income. Body and mind.

      But I’ve always been terrible at relationships. I’ve been called a workaholic. I just find it hard to give people the time they need, when my mind is mostly consumed with work-related problems / opportunities. It must be horrible to be on the other side of a relationship with me.

      I greatly admire men who can balance all 3 of these areas of life. But I am not one of them yet.

      This is my goal for my 40s.

  4. 5

    Are there any mental models or guiding philosophies that you find yourself returning to over and over?

    Also, any books you've found particularly helpful?

    1. 6

      Right before I became an indiehacker I was part of an org that ran a large number of scrum teams.

      Living and breathing scrum for a couple of years has definitely influenced the way I work. I basically use scrum methodology but in a team of one person (me).

      So I do things like:

      • timebox everything into 2 week sprints
      • have a backlog that I routinely re-prioritise
      • assign points to all my user stories
      • run everything from a kanban
      • have a sprint retrospective

      If you're subscribed to my bi-weekly newsletter, you're actually part of the sprint retrospective - my newsletter is basically me looking back at the last 2 weeks of work.

  5. 4

    No questions, just wanted to say huge congrats.

    ...and good luck with the migration to a single PHP file 😉

  6. 4
    1. How much do you work on average, being a solo founder?

    2. How do you avoid burnout for 3 years and counting?

    3. How do you deal with the sheer weight of shouldering everything on your own?

    4. What turned out to be harder than expected, and how did you overcome it?

    5. Would you hire people from now on?

    1. 3
      1. Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm

      2. Burnout happens when you work hard and don't see results. I haven't experienced burnout much because in the first year TBH I didn't really work hard. In the 2nd year I worked a little harder and saw some small results. In the 3rd year I worked much harder and saw good results. I guess if you're not seeing the results you want and you're working really hard, you need to hit pause and ask why.

      3. I've always been a "do it myself" sort of guy so actually I enjoy this!

      4. Churning customers hit me really hard in the beginning. When you only have a few customers it feels like such a personal rejection when you lose one. You feel like your product isn't good enough. Over time, you realise that your product isn't for everyone. People sign up and decide it's not for them, and that's fine. As long as you have long-term customers or even better, customers who upgrade their plans over time, you know that you have some semblance of market fit and the challenge should be finding more customers like them, and not worrying about the ones who cancelled.

      5. Absolutely! I just wish I had the time to really sit down and think who I need to hire and then spend the time to look at candidates etc. That's a full time job by itself. Maybe I need to hire someone to help me hire people.

      1. 3

        "Burnout happens when you work hard and don't see results."

        So true!

  7. 3

    Congrats on your success, it was definitely very hard work!
    I followed you from the start of your journey (found you through @levelsio) and always enjoyed your posts.

    I quit my job 5 days ago and "only" have to double my current MRR to earn my average monthly expenses. I love programming and creating products, but do not really like all the marketing that is needed to get users. Probably a marketing week or something similar to your approach could help me the most.

    Do you have any recommendations (books, courses, people on twitter, ...) to improve marketing skills and get more people to find your products?

    Thank you for all your extra efforts to make everything public and inspire people to create their own products!

    1. 3

      I think broadly speaking you have to just pick a problem you're passionate about. Then it doesn't feel like "marketing", it's just "telling people about the cool thing you're building". Authentic enthusiasm is infectious and there's no substitute for it.

  8. 3

    Congratulations @yongfook. I love the format and layout of your 0 to $10k post, charts and emojis and timelines nicely done!

  9. 3

    Your openness is inspiring, thanks so much Jon!

    I have a couple of questions on the fact that you've started several small projects and then focused on one.

    • How did you know what to focus on? Similarly, when do you know that it's time to give up?
    • Did you approach those projects in parallel or serially?
    • How do you define small? By potential market? Competition? Time to MVP?

    Thanks again 🙏

    1. 3
      1. totally non-scientific, I just focused on the one I enjoyed the most. none of them had made any money at that point so it was really the only compass bearing I had. That said, I think it's a good indicator.

      2. I built them one after the other, spending 1 month on each

      3. Time to MVP. The whole thing had to be built and launched in a month. I did this about 7 times before getting a bit burned out, then I started to focus on one particular area.

      1. 1

        What do you do after building and launching? For how long do you do it? And when do you decide to give up?

  10. 2
    • What skills/experience did you have when you started trying to develop a commercial project?
    • What skills did you lack that you absolutely needed?
    • What kind of projects failed and what kind of projects were being used?
    • What did you do to reach your first users?
    1. 1
      1. I was already an experienced full stack developer, and had built many, many failed projects in the past :)
      2. Sales. I still don't have this skill, so I don't do any outbound sales.
      3. The ones that failed were trying to solve a big problem. The ones that got used solved small, discrete problems.
      4. I wrote about that in a blog post here
  11. 2

    Hi Jon,

    Happy new customer here - spent a lovely Saturday morning writing a script to generate OG cards for my static site generator: absolutely over the moon with bannerbear!

    I only have a technical question for you: is the template editor completely custom js, or is it based on some kind of framework? Are there any lessons you can share re: creating an actual in-browser application like that? (Context: I'm about to build a similar interface for something very different, and js is not my best friend.)

    Thanks, and good luck!

    1. 2

      It's pretty much all custom with a few dependencies and I'm about to roll out a version that's 100% custom.

      It's actually very simple as an application, basically there is a render() function that puts everything where it is supposed to go, resizes things if needed etc, and that render() function is called every time you edit something.

  12. 2

    Congratulations for reaching this milestone, you deserve it after all this work! Now what gave you the mental strength to keep trying new things to get better results for Bannerbear? Do you think you would have given up if you had had less savings? What advice would you give to someone in the position you were before May last year, but who is losing hope on their skills and their product?

    1. 3

      Fun fact. In February / March 2020 I started to apply to jobs. I wasn't running out of cash yet, but I was worn down and I thought I was going to fail at being an indiehacker.

      I didn't get hired for anything. And then covid happened, tanking the job market - I know many friends who lost their jobs back then. And all the news reports at that time were saying it would last for a year or more (and hey, they were right!).

      So I thought to myself, well shit, now I have to make this work.

      I think that mental switch was important. Getting a job was no longer an option, it was Bannerbear or bust.

      I'm not saying you need some kind of existential threat to motivate you... but I think for me I always work a bit better under pressure :D

  13. 2

    What would change, if you could, about the way you chose projects in the beginning of your journey? Also, thank you for all the transparency and sincere replies :)

    1. 6

      Good question. I think I tried to be way too scientific about it. I even had an excel sheet with a scoring system for ideas and a dozen or so columns like "market size", "defensibility", etc etc.

      I think it's a decent thought exercise to run ideas through a filter like this, but it's not how I would pick ideas in the future.

      I think it's much more important to pick something you're passionate about, that you think is really cool, and that you can see as a T-shaped challenge - lots of simple useful features to build but some really challenging stuff too that you can imagine working on for years.

      The old trope of "find a customer and solve their problem" has had its day I reckon. By the time you've found that customer, 20 other startups are offering them the same solution. Just take a look at ProductHunt, there are literally dozens of new SaaS startups launching every day. It's nuts.

      The only way you are going to rise above all that noise is via execution, and the simplest way to do your best work, is to just be really passionate about it.

      1. 1

        That's really thoughtful. Appreciate the answer :)

  14. 2

    Hey Jon! What a 3 years ride, congrats! 👏🏼

    I’m just curious about how you handle the dry season, back then at the early stage.

    You launched.
    Few trials.
    No one converted – or some but churned.
    You launched another big features.
    Little traction.
    Repeat.

    What did you do to flip the script?

    1. 6

      MRR is only useful as a metric once you're more established.

      Before that, there are other metrics / indicators you can use:

      • are you getting signups?
      • are people looking at the pricing page?
      • are people making it to step X in your onboarding flow?
      • are you happy? do you believe in this?
      • are users giving you feedback?
      • are users coming back after their first session?

      etc

      If you look at my MRR chart it looks like I did something suddenly to change things, but that's not the case. I was just using other types of metrics to track my progress, and those were showing positive signs, so that's why I kept going. And then over time, after many improvements, release cycles etc - it starts to reflect in your MRR.

      1. 1

        It’s an eye-opening Jon, thanks!

        Just a follow up question – What do you use to record the user session and its interaction in your app? Is that a model in your Rails app to crush it all?

        1. 2

          No I don't track any session data like that. I don't even use cookies on my marketing site. I'm generally against that kind of stuff.

          All I do is just look at the raw numbers. How many people sign up > how many people create 1 widget > how many people create 10 widgets etc. That's enough to give you a compass bearing.

          1. 1

            Got it Jon.

            Thanks for taking your time to answer the questions.

            Really appreciate it.

      2. 1

        are you happy? do you believe in this?

        This has made a huge difference for me.

        I'm still pre-revenue and I've started to see users trickling in slowly. A few are coming back and using it again. If I didn't really like what I was building I would definitely give up.

        Another point for me—I would have to give up if I didn't have a way to sustain myself with contracting. Where I live most contracts are 6-months and full-time. It's great for filling up the money coffers but leaves very little extra time to focus on my product—I prioritise having a life outside of work too.

        So really liking my product gives me energy and motivation to sometimes "burn the midnight oil".

  15. 2

    Hey Jon! Any advice for growing and maintaining traction on a post-launch product that already has validation but hasn't hit critical mass yet? Let's say somewhere in the range of $100-$300 MRR and with a few happy customers. It's a weird stage, because the exponential growth effect of SEO hasn't kicked in, PPC ads are harder to scale, and there aren't enough users for word-of-mouth.

    1. 1

      That's a great space to be in.

      I would treat the next few big features almost like they are self-contained products and make sure you market the hell out of them with their own launch day etc.

      Create separate landing pages on your website, post them to PH, and anywhere else you can think of. Even create "notify me" pages for features that are upcoming.

      Basically anything you can do to show you have momentum and a product roadmap - it will show you're not a flash in the pan and also attract more serious customers.

      I had people flat out say in the beginning that they wouldn't sign up for my service as I was so new. So some of this traction just takes time to build.

  16. 2

    Congrats on this milestone, Jon! Hard work pays in the end for sure 🙌

    I'm currently trying to figure out how to prioritize some of my tasks based on the impact they would have on the business.

    So my question to you: How do you measure the potential impact before starting a task? More of gut feeling or some kind of framework maybe? 😁

    1. 2

      Good question, really hard to answer.

      Essentially we don't know what the impact will be, we can only guess. This is the challenge of product management and there are whole books dedicated to this topic.

      If you're too much of a "reactive" product manager, essentially just building things people ask for, you end up with a mish mash of features and not an actual product. This can limit your growth and make it hard to communicate to customers what you actually do well.

      If you're too much of a "proactive" product manager, building things you think people want, you might end up with a highly-polished product that nobody actually needs.

      I'm not smart enough to parse all this, so I just make sure that I do some of both. I listen to customers, build things they ask for, but at the same time I hold a "big picture" of where I want Bannerbear to go in my head and build other features that support this vision - and hopefully the two should roughly align in the same direction.

      This applies to marketing too - I think it's good to do a mix of reactive / proactive e.g.:

      • tutorials that directly help a specific type of user
      • bigger-picture more creative stuff that says who you are a business
  17. 1

    Great post, Jon! I read on your LinkedIn that you previously founded and built a handful of successful products. So I guess that means Bannerbear was fated to succeed? ;-)

    1. 1

      I've also built a bunch of things that went absolutely nowhere... so no, I don't think it's a pattern :)

  18. 1

    Congrats on the milestone. Clickbaity headline seeing you’re using your own product that would usually cost money which you would categorise as marketing. But nice work!

    1. 1

      ?? Are you replying to the right post?

      There’s nothing clickbaity in the title. It’s a neutral statement of my current revenue and how long it has taken to get there. MRR means monthly recurring revenue and it is a common measure of business progress used by SaaS companies.

      1. 1

        Uhhh I totally apologise! Wrong post. LOL!

        I did read this post and actually thought it was great.

  19. 1

    Wonderful to read, congratulations and thank you for sharing!

  20. 1

    So happy for you Jon! Thank you for sharing behind the scenes. I’ve been following your work for the last 5 years and learned a lot.

  21. 1

    Seems like this AmA went wonderful! Wanna do one on /r/SaaS as well?

    1. 1

      I admire the persistence but...

      I've been a member of IH for a long time and see this AMA as an organic action as a member of the community. I'm personally invested here, so doing things like this is just part of getting to know each other.

      /r/SaaS I have no personal connection to, really. I hope you can understand 👍🏻

      1. 1

        I don't understand it fully, but I don't have to understand it to respect it. Which I do! Keep in touch

  22. 1

    Congrats on 'breaking even', and thanks for doing this AMA. :)

    The thread is a goldmine of indie hacker tips! Wish I can bookmark this for future ref.

  23. 1

    Currently 21yo,currently serving ns.Bad GPA,can’t enter local unis...No clue what to study for my degree or what to do for the future... any advices?

  24. 1

    For your branding, have you taken any inspiration from TunnelBear VPN? http://tunnelbear.com/

    1. 1

      Nope! I use ExpressVPN.

      Didn't know about Tunnelbear until a few months in. They go really heavy on the bear branding, with an entire character that has a personality / humour. I love it.

      Not looking to emulate that though.

  25. 1

    @yongfook How do you handle self-doubt/doubts? When you are building this thing and all kind of negative thougths popup like what if does not work and what if it fail. How do you handle these doubts of intial phase of startup and stop them from hindering the progress?

    1. 3

      Be part of a community where people are achieving what you want to achieve.

      That can be on Twitter, on IH or in real life.

      When you're around people who are succeeding, you know it's possible to succeed yourself.

  26. 1

    Awesome man! Stay strong.

  27. 1

    Congrats! Truly inspiring. The first time I visited your website for the first time was when you had Beatrix as the main product, I think circa 2014-2015 or so. So I’ve been intermittently watching your journey for some time. Your Bannerbear newsletter is full of gems too. I enjoy it even though I haven’t been the target audience for your product.

    As for the question: Would you say your approach of doing marketing/development sprints has been fruitful? Would you start doing it earlier or you think there’s a time and a place for it after a product passed a certain point?

    1. 2

      I think if you look at my growth chart the point where you see consistent growth for the first time is when I'm in a rhythm of 1 week product, 1 week marketing - for an extended period of time (6 months or so).

      I think it's something that you should start from the very beginning.

      1. 1

        Can’t downplay the effectiveness of that method. I’ll try it out. Thanks and best of luck on your journey!

      2. 1

        @yongfook interesting, would you say 1 week / 1 week is more effective than breaking activities up within the week?

        1. 2

          As mentioned somewhere else on this thread, you can find a rhythm that works for you.

          For me, I find that context-switching too often complicates things. I need a stretch where I'm in coding mode and a stretch where I'm in marketing mode.

          Also it's convenient to be able to say "it's marketing week this week". Just having that simple mental model is helpful.

          1. 1

            Thanks a lot, makes sense. Sorry if you answered this one earlier as well, but at what point did you start shifting from product to 50/50 product and marketing?

            1. 1

              It's in the timeline I posted earlier. Scroll down to "Getting into a Rhythm".

              Your question "at what point" is a bit ambiguous - not sure if you mean the date, or the state of the product, or my MRR level etc, but the timeline will give you the full context.

  28. 1

    Hi Jon,

    Congrats! You have been such an inspiration! I have been following your 12 startups in 12 months with much enthusiasm, so glad you achieved your goal through bannerbear.

    I am cursed with having a mind that’s occupied with too many startup ideas only to be crippled by mediocre programming skills. I know basic RoR, but not at the level of proficiency to execute many of the ideas that live in my imagination. I am 40 this year and I’m still holding on to a well paid job. Can you advise what would you have done if you are in the same shoes?

    1. 2

      Hmm there's a few ways to look at this.

      Firstly I think the gap between a "basic" Rails developer and an "decent" Rails developer is smaller than you think. If I think back to the apps I built when I was first learning Rails, they really aren't that much different to what I build now. There's just a few things I've learned along the way that makes them more efficient, faster, able to do more etc. Probably for me the biggest leap forward from basic to decent is learning about background jobs - that will take your Rails app from something that does everything inline (slow) to something that will handle everything asynchronously and can pretty much handle anything you can throw at it.

      Secondly, everyone has exciting ideas that they can't execute - I have them all the time! The challenge then is defining a version of your idea that you can execute. Remove features, make make it less flashy, but solve the core problem. You can always expand on it once you have learned how to add the extra stuff.

      Thirdly, I left my job because I had no future there. If I could have stayed in a well paid job that I enjoyed, but be allowed to scratch my entrepreneur itch by launching side projects (in a way that is contractually allowed / agreed upon) I would have! Best of both worlds. I'm glad things worked out the way they did, and that I'm now fully independent, but I took a gamble to get here. There are probably safer ways to do what I did.

      1. 1

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply! Do you think you would have achieved the same level of progress if you are still holding on to a full time job?
        And one last question, are you open to being a mentor for other hackers?

        1. 1
          1. Maybe in the beginning it would be possible to juggle both, but I think after you get a certain amount of customers, running a SaaS becomes a full time job. It would be difficult to do both well, one side would suffer.

          2. Unfortunately no. I want to help others, but I think the best use of my time is sharing content like this AMA or thoughts on twitter. In that way, it's a one-to-many relationship so it's an efficient use of time. In a mentor setup it's just 1-to-1 and I just don't think it sounds like an efficient use of time.

          Also to be blunt, 90% of the DMs I get asking for personal advice are on issues that I have extensively commented on either in blog posts or on twitter. It's not everyone, but I do get the feeling that a lot of people who ask for advice or mentorship have not done any basic research and are looking to be spoon-fed information. These are not people I want to associate with or indulge.

  29. 1

    Hey Jon! How much has knowing how to code helped you out in your journey?

    1. 1

      My product is an API, so without knowing how to code I think it would be difficult or impossible to build otherwise.

      If I was starting out today from scratch with no coding skills I would probably try to learn no-code tools as a starter to grok some fundamental concepts but would try to quickly migrate to a programming language like Node / Ruby / etc

      1. 1

        Awesome, that's exactly what I'm doing. By node/ruby/python you mean for building the backend right?

  30. 1

    Hi Jon,

    I pretty much watched the whole journey. Incredible. I have perhaps a personal question, so you don't have to answer if you don't want to.

    Do you own your own property (home or investment)? And were you investing in financial markets at the same time? Basically, whether you tried to prolong your runway with other investments or simply focused on work keeping everything liquid as cash.

    Thanks.

    1. 1

      When I was working in a job I had a bunch of my net worth tied up in index funds.

      Liquidated most of it to provide me with runway.

      Probably not super smart, definitely wouldn't recommend it if you have a family. But for me, it's just me, so I was willing to take on the risk. Worked out in the end. (thankfully)

      1. 1

        Thanks a lot for your answer. It makes perfect sense to me and as you say it worked out :)

  31. 1

    Have loved following the journey so far.

    One of the few indie hackers out there who have consistently continued to be so transparent while scaling past the initial validation period.

    No questions, but would love for you to keep this up!

  32. 1

    Why did you choose to be a solo founder vs. finding a co-founder?

    1. 1

      It never really occurred to me TBH.

  33. 1

    Question :
    do you use proxies to do the requests?
    As the requested site can block you. right?

    1. 1

      Yup Bannerbear has a built in proxy feature.

      1. 1

        Thanks for the quick replay, can you share that?
        how did you find a reliable proxy provider to work with?
        do you have more than 1 provider?

  34. 1

    Hey great story, can you share how much of it is profit?
    also, how much of this going on in your hosting bill?
    what tech stack do you use?
    Thanks!

    1. 1

      Ruby on Rails

      My Heroku bill is about $400 per month
      My AWS bill is about $200 per month

      There's maybe another $200 or so in monthly SaaS products that I use

      1. 1

        Thanks
        why to split the hosting providers?

  35. 1

    Hello Jon,

    I know about Bannerbear for over a month. Amazing work. I took few minutes to feature your product on Product Startups Community -
    https://my.productstartups.com/c/saas/bannerbear-api-automated-image-video-generation

    I will be featuring it on Linkedin in a while.

    I wanted to learn how you reach out to prospects? Do you reach out through Linkedin or Cold email?

    Venkat

    1. 1

      Right at the very beginning of Bannerbear's life, in like January 2020, I reached out to some "dream" companies who I thought were a perfect fit for Bannerbear.

      None of them replied.

      That made me feel a bit crappy, so I decided that type of customer acquisition channel is not for me.

      Since then it has been all "inbound" marketing: creating tools, creating blog posts etc.

  36. 1

    Hey Jon! Congrats and thanks for the AMAs!

    Just wondered how did you choose one of the projects while trying a few, how much time did you give each to make this decision and how did you go about validating each (did you test first or build straight away)?

    1. 2

      I just went straight into building - not saying I recommend that, but part of the reason I did a rapid-fire MVP approach was because I wanted to exercise my coding muscle again. At that point I had not touched any code for years.

      It's hard to remember specifics, but I launched about 7 projects one after the other over the course of 7 months - launching at the end of each month. I would track the metrics loosely over the course of all this. Some showed a bit more promise than others.

      In the end, I think the biggest lesson from this was to unveil my areas of interest. Image generation / automated design was definitely something that interested me, whereas the areas of some of the other products I made (e.g. team productivity) I found I had low interest in.

      So a year later I thought "hmmm what could I do in the image generation space that would be really cool... what would be my dream product". And I got thinking about APIs.

      That's really how it all came about! Very unscientific.

  37. 1

    Congrats on your milestone Jon! What are the areas that you look for outside help as a solo founder? I would assume accounting/legal to be obvious ones, but are there any others such as tedious manual tasks, design, writing or any obscure tech?

    1. 2

      I had an obscure Rails question once (google/SO did not help) and I reached out to https://twitter.com/nateberkopec on Twitter as I've been following him for a while. He was very kind enough to answer my questions.

      Had I not known him, I'm not sure where I would have turned to. Once you're past all the usual problems that are easily searchable on Stackoverflow, you're left with the niche stuff that only the veterans can answer after looking at your code or getting more context. Difficult to find those folks.

  38. 1

    Congrats Jon!!!
    I wanted to ask as to how you decide as to how much you will take out of your MRR for yourself and how much would you plow back into the company?
    Say after costs.

    1. 2

      Up until now it's been manageable by myself so I haven't re-invested.

      But it would be nice to take some of the load off my plate, so I'll be looking into this next by making some contract hires. Haven't really thought of how much I'd spent on this though, TBH.

  39. 1

    I’ve been watching your progress on Twitter. It’s pretty amazing to see. Congrats on the new milestone!

    With your current growth, do you have any plans of raising $$? Or are you planning on continue bootstrapping?

    1. 4

      no plans to raise at this time!

      I could definitely do things with the money, but at this stage I am fiercely protective over my time / productivity / independence.

  40. 1

    Congrats on the milestone Jon! Very inspiring.

    Like you, I left my corporate job and I'm looking to monetize one (or more) projects. When you started building, how much tech knowledge did you have (my sense is a lot)?? It's my weakest link at the moment, but I'm learning every day. Thanks!

    1. 1

      I was already quite an experienced developer (20+ years of coding) so that wasn't an obstacle for me.

      That said, these days I think it's getting easier and easier to build and deploy an MVP! I even know entrepreneurs in my social circles who have built entire SaaS apps with no-code tools.

  41. 1

    What were your top marketing strategies early on? SEO, cold outreach, twitter, etc?

    Even as a non-customer, I love being on your mailing list!

    1. 3

      Hmmm difficult to say, I just tried anything and everything, really.

      I made a list here of the things I can remember doing.

      1. 1

        That's a great list, thanks for the link :)

  42. 1

    What was a small change that had a huge impact on growth?

    1. 2

      Pricing. Takes seconds to change it, but it can massively affect your trajectory.

      1. 1

        Initially too low or too high?

        1. 2

          too low.

          You are far more likely to run into problems by pricing too low, than you are too high. You can go as high as you want as long as you have a solution to a problem, and you know how to reach and service high end customers.

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