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Just crossed $2000 on my first indie app. Here’s what I’ve learnt

I just crossed $2000 in revenue on my first indie app DisplayBuddy (https://displaybuddy.app) which I've been working on alongside my full-time job. DisplayBuddy first shipped in Feb 2021 - 10 updates & zero advertising later, I'm at 509 happy customers.

In the sea of amazing ARRs & MRRs, this might not seem like much, but it has been a great boost in my confidence and the belief that I can independently make something that people will actually pay for.

This growth has been completely organic, mostly from twitter where some folks with a good follower count (50k+) liked and retweeted the product, and some regional press publications / podcasts reviewed it.

This is what I've learnt:

Don't over focus on the competition

DisplayBuddy had a ton of competition even before I started, and almost all of them were free and/or open source. I still decided to make it because I really found the tech magical (DDC/CI - I did not know external monitors could be controlled from your computer directly), and I thought there still needed to be a solution that is polished and unobtrusive in it's UI. Just try to do it better, there's almost always space in the market.

Ship your MVP

This is always harder as an indie - due to the constant feeling that what you're shipping is not good enough or doesn't have enough features to compete with what's already out there (and free, in my case!). Shipping a minimal working product that a few users use is almost always better that shipping a feature rich product that nobody uses. I shipped 1.0 of DisplayBuddy with the simplest feature set - 3 sliders that control brightness, volume & contrast of your monitor with the ability to save them as a preset. The initial adoption and feedback I saw from my first 5-10 users was the best source of validation & motivation I had to continue work on the product.

Pricing can always be figured out later

Unless you think you're giving away your product at a massive financial loss, you can figure out the pricing later. I shipped a beta of DisplayBuddy to friends for free first to figure out if they'd actually use it. The 1.0 public release was also priced at just $3.99. My users literally gave me feedback that they'd pay more (some even suggested $9.99) - provided they were promised updates. Pricing can be tweaked later as your users adopt and use the product, and how much time you're spending building it.

Trust your customers

DisplayBuddy is a product that's actually not guaranteed to work on all monitors - it depends on how well your monitor manufacturer implemented your monitor firmware. This is why I decided to offer a no questions asked 100% refund within the first week. Ideally, the app should come with a trial mode - but keeping the MVP spirit - I decided to focus more on adding new features to the paid product instead of investing engineering into building a trial mode and fraud prevention. Also, I used Gumroad for payments, which made it surprisingly easy to give out refunds.

I'm really happy with the progress I've made, and wanted to share these things with the IH community. Seeing all of you build & ship stuff has kept me motivated, and I hope this inspires someone else. Cheers.

  1. 3

    Congrats! Amazing product!

  2. 3

    That‘s a great success, Siddarth, thanks for sharing!

    Curious: did you gauge initial interest into your app in any way, or did you build the MVP and then market it?

    1. 1

      My initial motivation was my own use case - I was avidly using the app for my monitors. From there, I beta tested a bare bones MVP (without preferences, licensing or tutorial screens) with friends, and then shipped 1.0.

  3. 3

    Thanks for reporting that "shipping an MVP" is a real thing :)

    And congrats for the results you achieved!

  4. 2

    Congrats! And I also think you should rise the price of your app.
    And one more thing -- you should charge for software updates (subscription or yearly upgrades, it does not matter). I wish someone told me this when I started my indie career.
    I started with free lifetime updates for some of my apps, and I think I lost much much more than I gained. Most of my users even didn't know they had free updates :(

    1. 1

      Thanks for the advice. I've been considering something like that.

      I definitely will raise the price, probably to $9.99, for a few reasons:

      • One of my best competitors (open source), has started charging around that for "pro" features (included in DisplayBuddy).
      • I'm working a full redesign of the UI in SwiftUI to make it look amazing, and more BigSur / Monterey-ish.
      • Mac apps are generally way more expensive, generally ranging from $19-$99. Users are willing to pay for good quality tho, especially on Apple platforms - which is encouraging.
  5. 1

    Good job now you customer who can pay if you can solve their problem is there anything they asking you are planning to build?

  6. 1

    This is really cool! Well done.

    Are you planning on putting in a growth strategy now you've reached 500+, or will you keep letting it do its thing organically?

    1. 1

      @bethkcarter I’m actually looking for advice on what to do next. I’ve been reaching out to press publications (with a very low success rate), and have been looking into a PH launch & some reddit forums. Other than that, I’m unsure what should I be investing in next, apart from the product itself.

      1. 1

        I'd love to chat if you have the time? This is exactly what I'm working on - helping technical SaaS founders learn how to grow their businesses. Would be great to ask you some questions and share what I've learnt so far!

        Can you email me at beth (at) gosquared.com ?

  7. 1

    Congrats and thank you for some great insights! Awesome work :)
    One question, how did you manage to get organic growth starting on twitter?

    This growth has been completely organic, mostly from twitter where some folks with a good follower count (50k+) liked and retweeted the product, and some regional press publications / podcasts reviewed it.

    1. 1

      I mostly got lucky where some accounts in iOS Dev community with high followers retweeted my product. A podcast (MacBreak weekly) and a news site (iMore) also covered it.

      1. 1

        Ok! Thank you for sharing :)

  8. 1

    Amazing, congrats. Did you get all customers from Indiehacker or some other sources as well?

    1. 1

      @nikhil_WebFosters This is actually the first time I’ve posted on IH. I got most of my traffic from twitter and some press/podcast coverage.

  9. 1

    Cool product.

    Does it force disable HDR on external monitors? I ran into an issue where macOS would keep using HDR when I turned it off (and it looks really bad). Toggling it on/off eventually fixes it, but it's annoying since it shows up each time I connect my mac. See https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/catalinas-hdr-bug-with-external-display.2228052/

    1. 1

      I unfortunately sometimes face the same issue as you, but once I disable HDR from system preferences my mac remembers that.

      This is however a macOS preference, and DisplayBuddy doesn't touch that.

  10. 1

    Looks good, agree with the competition, I like to think that the only competition in the process of building something great is myself 🧐

  11. 1

    @sids great work. Did you use Gumroad not only for payments but also for building your landing page? How much time did you spend launching MVP?

    1. 1

      Thanks! Gumroad only processes the payments. I built the website on Webflow and exported it to be hosted on Github Pages for free :)

  12. 1

    Awesome, amazing story 👏

  13. 1

    BTW @sids Which framework you built this app on? What tech stack did you use?

    1. 1

      It's a native Mac app built using AppKit in Swift (+ some C & Obj-C code for the DDC interface).

      Now that I have a strong foundation and all the functionality in place, I'm working on SwiftUI redesign of the app that makes it look fabulous ;)

      1. 1

        Allright. Keep it up. Thanks for info.

  14. 1

    Amazing Buddy. I do not have it but Looks like a good & useful product.

    Cheers keep up the good work...!!

  15. 1

    Thank you for sharing your chain of thoughts!

  16. 1

    Congrats on the success. I am trying the free approach at first to gauge customer engagement as well. I think that it is a great idea. My question is did you grandfather the "free" users into the app? Or did you make them pay once an updated was issued?

    1. 1

      Thanks! I did give out a few coupon codes to friends who helped test it early, but most of the users in my beta had to pay when 1.0 was released. The app was actually cheaper at $3.99 till version 1.4 (before I added Apple Silicon support).

      One thing to note here is that my users generally considered the app pretty cheap at this price point, so maybe that helped.

  17. 1

    It's a wonderful work. Nice to know that how a software developer thinks about every aspect of business I.e customer satisfaction, pricing, marketing , competition and product design etc...

  18. 1

    Awesome! I've recently been having issues with my MBP while connecting an external monitor in that the GPU goes insane and then MBP heats up and fans go crazy. Does this tool solve it?

    1. 2

      I wish, haha. DisplayBuddy can help you control the brightness / contrast of your external monitor, but the fans spinning up - that's just the Macbook heating up while driving your displays :)

  19. 1

    Amazing story! The bit about getting a confidence boost is I believe the most beautiful part of the journey! Congrats

  20. 1

    Congratulations, that sounds absolutely awesome! I love to see small one-problem utility tools like yours. I am curious, what was/will be your marketing strategy?

    1. 1

      Thanks @dominikSo! Marketing is where I believe I can improve. The current growth is mostly based on word of mouth, and being lucky in getting some good retweets.

      One surprisingly helpful channel on Twitter has been some influential makers in the community post tweets like "what have you been working on", and I've replied to those and got retweets - it's really helpful to get the word out when one has a low follower count.

      DB was also picked up by some press publications like iMore, but I'm still awaiting a reply from other publications.

      I'd love to you know what you or the community does for getting the word out!

      1. 2

        You should consider Launching on Product Hunt.

        1. 1

          Oh yes, I will soon. I tried to schedule a launch once, but due to a time zone bug it launched while I was asleep :')

          Will try again, with some better screenshots haha.

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