AMAs January 11, 2021

I've published 20+ extensions, currently with 150K active users -- AMA

Neea @neea

TL;DR - ask me about extensions


Happy new week IH crowd! 👋

My name is Neea. I have been an indie hacker for almost 5 years. I started my IH journey in 2016 after I finished grad school and I needed a new after work pursuit. At the time I was working as a web dev at company doing {insert long yawn here} and needed to do more.

In the very beginning of my indie journey I did everything very wrong (!). I came up with these huge ideas that would take months to implement. Did not talk to any potential customers, and then, few weeks into it, I would run into some implementation challenge, crumble and abandon the whole thing.

I did this two or three times until I came to a point of reflection saying this isn't working. I was able to build stuff at work, why could I not build stuff independently? I was self-sabotaging and I needed to figure out how to overcome this. After a while of thinking about this I asked myself, what is the smallest piece of software I can ship that counts as a legit product? 🤔

Proposing this question is how I arrived to browser extension maker space. It still took me two months to make one, but I was able to finish this time. And it took me another 5-6 months to get my first 7 active users. I still vividly remember this moment when I was driving in my car telling my son I had 7 users back in April 2017.

I have kept at this pursuit ever since and one of my extensions actually turned out hugely popular. And I know my indie process still needs tweaking because you need to find the audience before solving problem, figure out how to monetize etc. (I know this *now*) but when I started it was really all about building the confidence to go from an idea to a completed implementation which I feel is a precursor to everything else that follows, including a better process.

I am sharing this story in hopes that you would ask me questions about extensions, especially if this is a new domain to you and you are interested in working in this space.

In return I will do my best to short-circuit your learning by reflecting on what I have learned over the past few years so you do not have to spend as much time.

  1. 5

    Wow congratulations!

    • what tools did you use? (JS, HTML, CSS)
    • how did you market them/ get new users?
    • are any of them making money?
    • how much research did you do prior to building?
    • is the extension just on chrome?
    1. 1

      what tools did you use? (JS, HTML, CSS)

      Yes those are the extension tools. I usually write vanilla js. Sometimes I add react components since that is my go to in the web world. I have also open sourced my build tools.

      how did you market them/ get new users?

      If your extension starts picking up organic traction in the marketplace, they keep coming. There are a few tricks though, for example the words you use in the name and description of the extension can improve organic discovery. Also users will share the extension when they like the experience. You can find people talking about extension if you search the internet with the extension id.

      are any of them making money?

      I have done some monetization attempts around this:

      • I have added sponsor links to encourage this behavior which is not working
      • I have built one premium which is how I plan to do this going forward
      • I was looking to sell one of them which has about 12K users but it fell through
      • I am taking notes from this IH -- absolute legend

      short answer is no, I wrote a clickbaity title to evoke reactions (sorry!)

      how much research did you do prior to building?

      I went through everything I have published on there currently, and they all have their own unique backstory that somehow relates to personal need or experience. Extensions are super fast to build, I spend max two days to get them out now. I don't really stop to research the problem much, it is enough if it is a problem for me personally and it solves that problem.

      is the extension just on chrome?

      As of last year I have started porting to edge marketplace as well, I have 3 items listed there currently, and plan to add items to opera and ff marketplaces. I have a tendency to use too many chrome-only APIs which is on me, so I have to modify the code to get it working in firefox.

      1. 2

        Wow thats awesome! only 1-2 days... that'd be great. Im learning web dev right now so i hope to be where you are soon. :) thanks for all this insight.

        1. 1

          If you read my backstory, when I first started indiehacking, web app was too big to implement individually so I made extensions because it allowed me to scale back; so I would be able to finish the coding part. It had a lot to do with confidence and was never really about the code itself; it was all mental.

          Anyway, good luck on your indie hacking journey! If you already know js, HTML, CSS you know everything you need to build extensions, so maybe give them a go.

  2. 2

    Hey, me again.
    So my developper says he wants to have a server side in PHP/MySQL - is it a bad idea if I want to monetize the app ?

    1. 1

      You can implement a web server in multiple languages. If that is the stack your developer is familiar with, then I would probably* choose that stack (* see next comment)

      If you will do some payment-related steps using your own server (iirc you will use stripe), then have the developer check the integration notes for using stripe with PHP server and make sure it is well supported.

      Also you can message me on twitter if you want - perhaps easier? my handle is @neeadev.

  3. 2

    You posted Ask me anything but didn't answered anything.

    1. 2

      Sorry I got caught up on random stuff yesterday..! I'm answering now.

      My middle name is Async

  4. 2

    What % of those 150k active users found you on the app stores themselves?

    1. 1

      About 60% is from the store. I have posted the numbers in a different comment.

  5. 2

    If it's not too sensitive for you, how much are you currently earning monthly in total with 150k active users?

    What marketing/sales strategy did you use?

    1. 1

      EDIT: sorry I misread this question initially/skipped the first part. I answered it in the first comment thread.

      That number is across a few different extensions. The most popular have is this one which at 124K users as of yesterday. They come either directly from the store or through organic search.

      This is acquisition channels for Jan 1 - Dec 31, 2020

      img

      I had no strategy, it got ranked high on google. I made it for my own use but other people found it useful also. My business partner and I have discussed different ways of monetizing this; still working on it.

  6. 2

    Hello, in advance thank you for all the useful information I am going to get thanks to you !
    I have an idea and I don't know how to code (I'm more like a marketer) properly to create a Chrome Extension so I am looking to hire someone on a Freelancing platform like UpWork. My goal is to put my idea (which isn't so complicated) into a SaaS and then a successful SaaS.
    So basically, I would love to know :

    • When monetizing, do you need a server side when making a paid extension ? (Using for exemple Paddle or Shopify+Stripe)
    • On average, how long a paying user stays as subscribers before uninstalling.
    • If using a Freemium, aren't people able to download it and tweak the code and make it free forever for them ?
    • In the coding process, what was the most difficult part for you or in general ?

    Thank you !

    1. 2
      1. You will need a server; different question is do you need to own that server.

      2. I know an IH on twitter who does a great job monetizing extensions (and I am taking notes!) I will send you his way for this question

      3. Yes and no; depends how you implement. If you deliver premium content over a server then no. If you package it in the extension then yes (I have done this myself).

      4. Initially would be grasping the architecture and how the different parts communicate and what is the best strategy for achieving desired behavior (which becomes easier with experience). At this point I'm trying to improve my coding practices to make this easier to port seamlessly from one browser to another.

    2. 2

      When monetizing, do you need a server side when making a paid extension ? (Using for exemple Paddle or Shopify+Stripe)

      Yes! You usually do need a server to take payments in extensions. Many people (including the OP it appears) end up custom-building their own. Personally I think that's a pain which is why I made ExtensionPay, a service that lets browser extension developers take payments without having to run their own server backend.

      1. 2

        That’s great, although since it doesn’t have Subscription/recurring payment yet that’s not really for the SaaS model. But that’s very interesting, I was really going with that but those 5% were quite a downer, or just for people starting out. I can’t see a sustainable app with 8% gone at every transaction without additional service or support.
        Great project !

        1. 1

          5% is actually quite low and competitive with Gumroad rates, for example, and less than Substack's 10% fee. And unless you're already making hundreds of dollars with your extension, the 5% is easily less than the cost of running your own server. :)

      2. 1

        I have built one with Gumroad and it was fine.

        1. 1

          Cool! How does it work?

          1. 1

            It works by having a link to upgrade (in extension), which opens a webpage (gumroad UI). After user pays they get to the payment completed step, there is a purchaseId and saleId, which I exchange on my own server for a token and pass that token to the extension. The extension will periodically verify that this token is still valid, and when it is, it will unlock the premium features.

            Only thing I really had to build was a server side method to exchange purchase token, which is quite standard in my experience as you have to do that with Android IAPs as well.

            I haven't tested this much yet so I may come back and say it is a bad/great plan but right now it is too early to say.

  7. 2

    first of all, congratulations!

    what platform do you use to charge? i know the google is desabling the payment for chrome webstore. what are your plans?

    1. 2

      Looking through their code it looks like the OP uses a custom payment system. Looking forward to hearing what they use on the backend. But since it's relevant to your question I thought I'd share my own project: ExtensionPay. It allows browser extension makers to take payments in their extensions.

      1. 1

        I mostly build utility extensions w/o backend.

        For payment it would depend on if it was one-time payment or subscription model because with the latter the user needs to have ways to cancel and manage payment methods etc. so I can use Gumroad for that. For one time, I can use stripe, and we have a server running on GCP that I can use to handle that.

        The freemium one I built recently I didn't put payment in the extension, I put the payment on a website. Then when you pay on the website the extension detects is and upgrades. I would do this simply because packaging it in the extension would mean Google would have to approve it for me to make any changes to it (no thanks!)

        1. 1

          About the website payment, you implement Stripe or Gumroad with recurring payment ?
          I plan to use a website (more like ClickFunnels) and connect Stripe to it. Is it easy to check from the extension ?
          Thanks

          1. 1

            I used gumroad. Gumroad uses stripe internally, but they have implemented the UI parts I did not want to re-create myself, which is why I chose it.

            After the payment occurs you can exchange information between a website and an extension in many ways, for example using query string values in the address bar, message passing, backend server, or content scripts. The extension just needs to be notified of upgrade, which should be straightforward.

    2. 1

      I have build one with Gumroad which I'm experimenting with right now. We also have (at our dev company) necessary servers in place so I could use stripe directly. Other extension devs have suggested also offering paypal. I would go with some mix of these.

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