23
20 Comments

My emotional rollercoaster of building a Stripe integration product

I'm Sander, the founder of Checkout Page.

Three years ago I launched Checkout Page on Product Hunt as a no-code way to take payments with Stripe.

This year Checkout Page started consistently breaking $1500/mo in revenue and I went full time in February.

Today I want to share how I approached these past years. The good and the bad. Slow revenue growth. Feeling trapped as an integration product; constantly comparing my product with the product it integrates with. Losing and regaining motivation. The ups and the down.

When Checkout Page launched, it's USP was simply that there was no straight-forward no-code way to take payments into your Stripe account.

It's tough to admit, but I didn't think much more about it. No big vision. No plans to change the world. People used Stripe. Stripe didn't yet offer something people want. I built it.

That launch went well. May 2018, it was a busy Thursday on PH and Checkout Page became #5 of the day with ~700 upvotes.

The response was great, considering the design and the limited feature set. It felt like I was on to something here.

From the launch traction, it looked like I had momentum. But new features took long to build and large projects scared me. I had just started doing full stack development. My front end skills were a bit better, but building SaaS was new to me. I was afraid to break things and found it hard to justify spending a lot of time on feature development instead of marketing.

I worked on-and-off on Checkout Page. I did freelance development work and worked on Checkout Page in between projects. I lost focus every time a new freelance gig came in.

In these on-and-off sprints, I redesigned the website, redesigned the checkout, added subscriptions, variations, new form fields, custom email confirmation messages, advanced URL redirects, subscriptions and more.

Statistics paralysis

Revenue grew, but slowly. I favoured freelance work over product development and instead I kept looking at statistics.

At the revenue graphs. At monthly traffic. At how good it was doing considering the time I put into it.

In my head, I was living some passive-income dream. I was fooling myself. An inconsistent $1000/mo is not enough to live off. And without product development and marketing, it didn't grow beyond that point.

First two years of revenue

Then came September 2020, and Stripe launched the new Stripe Checkout. It felt like Checkout Page lost its novelty. How was I going to compete with Stripe? Stripe! They were the sole reason Checkout Page existed in the first place. I felt empty inside.

I convinced myself that Stripe Checkout was different. It wasn't a payment link. You had to use a button on a website to go to your checkout. You couldn't just share it in an email, put it in your instagram bio or tweet it. I believed Checkout Page was different because it did all those things. Hmm.

Going full-time

In the last few months of 2020, Checkout Page started consistently hitting $1000/mo in revenue. I got fed up with my on-off on-off approach. I wanted to either make this work, or quit and do something else.

My friend @jorisderuiter suggested to mentor me in growing Checkout Page. We started doing a call every other week or so to discuss product direction.

We set the following goal:

3x current revenue by the end of 2021: $3600/mo

An amount I would be able to comfortably live off. It's why I had become interested in SaaS in the first place: earning an income independently. Not reliant on one, two or three customers, but hundreds.

Then a freelance project I was relying on was canceled. I looked at my savings. With $1000/mo in revenue, I realised could sit this one out. I went full time!

Going full time caused a huge shift in focus. I wanted to get stuff done. I wanted to make this work. I started getting more ideas for features and improvements. Customers were excited to see new features come in at a faster rate.

I redesigned and rewrote our marketing site. Added a ton of small features, UI improvements and new dashboard views. Improved the Help center and wrote more guides. Revenue started growing slowly, breaking $1800 in May. I started to believe I could do this.

Last years revenue

And then Stripe launched Payment Links.

It felt empty again.

I should have prepared for this moment, but I hadn't.

I spoke to some friends. Had a mentorship call with Joris. And it turned out to be the most insightful turning point yet.

I can't fathom how it took me three years to realise this.

Our customers don't use Checkout Page just to take a payment on Stripe. They use it because of everything else it has to offer. The features that help them serve their customers. The easy-to-use dashboard. The intuitive design. The personal support. The ability to quickly test new products. The customizability.

My customers knew something I took three years to figure out. It's not just some sort of integration or plugin. It's a product of itself.

Things are starting to connect. The features I've built over the years are starting to work together. There's a solid foundation to build on top of, with many exciting ideas and many excited customers. Here's the first.

Launching digital downloads

Today I'm launching Digital Downloads on Product Hunt. A no-code way to sell digital downloads on your own site and with payment links.

It's as easy as creating a checkout page, adding some files and sharing the page with your customers.

Checkout Page takes care of payment confirmations and brings your files to your customers. Check out the demo or learn more on our website.

I'm glad to have shared some insights into this journey so far, and I look forward to share more in the future.

It's been rough. It's probably the hardest thing I've done. I like to think I'm not susceptible to self doubt, but SaaS is something else.

  1. 3

    The first time I used the Check out Page was with my first side project to take com sponsorships.

    I knew about Checkout Page because @volkandkaya showed it to me.

    I remember reaching out and I spoke to you somehow, I remember you pointed me to Code with Hugo, to see an example. You were very helpful and down to earth.

    I actually used but I didn't get any sponsorships................... not because of your product but because of my project, it wasn't a place to get sponsors.

    I got an email, see the growth you did with and the first thought was that you actually deserved it. I liked Checkout Page since the beggingin. minimal and easy to use.

    congratulations Sander, well deserved!

    1. 2

      Hey Michael! Fun to read that. Thanks for sharing and for the kind words 🙏

  2. 1

    We are in the same boat, where we feel like Stripe is stepping on developers toes and on their partners page they are pushing their products. Sometimes it feels like they are following us and "borrowing" our ideas and implementing on their.

    With over $50K MRR, we are still competition with Stripes in terms of flexibility, easy of use and features like eBook (digital product) downloads.

    Don't give up keep hustling!

  3. 1

    Ok so I need to pay 2 % To your check out and 2 % to stripe checkout if I connect stripe as payment method correct

    1. 1

      Correct! Those fees are automatically taken from each payment.

  4. 1

    I can feel how you feel. From a dev standpoint, I understand it takes time to build a nice checkout page. I personally pulled this task in the top priority list a couple of time because of ROI given my current projection. From a startup standpoint, I am not surprised to see this.

    Startup moves fast because we see the niche and can get things done faster without so much resources. However, when a big company see a potential, they can crashes us in minutes with their distribution, brand and a team. In your case, you will have to keep pivoting or trying to dig deeper into user experience and nail down a better narrative that what Stripe has.

    A few days ago, Google official jumped into the game. Luckily, I have already pivoted and working on a different niche with a new set of problems though I keep wondering whether it is right or not.

  5. 1

    That read was certainly a roller coaster! I saw the buildup to Stripe's payment links coming but expected the story to end with "so I'm moving on to something else". It's great that you've got the momentum to keep going and differentiating your product.

    Years ago I started using Printful to sell t-shirts and syncing my products to with system was a clunky and time consuming job. Got a couple of months into building an app to automate that process, when Printful announced their new built-in feature to automate that process. All that time and energy down the drain... Feels bad man.

    1. 1

      Haha! With a roadmap full of ideas and eager customers I don't want to give up :-)

      That sounds painful! Have/had you considered using that integration to sync products with multiple platforms/channels? People sell across many channels now, that could've been interesting to support.

      1. 1

        I don't blame you! If I'd had that kind of momentum I wouldn't have been so quick to give up. It's sounds like you've got a good thing going :)

        Most POD services have their own integrations and syncing tools now, so I'm glad I moved on from that project. But I'm still building in that space, my current project is multi-platform/channel order monitoring and analytics for POD shops.

        1. 1

          Ah yes, you're right. Perhaps you got out on time! Smart that you apply your own learnings in e-commerce to your products, hope it turns out well.

          1. 2

            Thanks! Best of luck to you too, looks like you've gotten a good response on PH so I'm sure you'll do well!

  6. 1

    Legend! I can imagine there have been some disheartening moments when in the shadow of such a giant, but good on you for sticking with it!
    Great decision with the digital download offering for info products 👌

    1. 1

      Thanks Ollie 👊 it's been a terrific learning experience!

  7. 1

    When I saw the announcement of stripe payment link I thought it was the end of checkout page and trolly. The caveat to building a business on top of another well known player in the same space is extremely risky. Congrats to you for keeping things going.

    1. 1

      For a moment I thought so too — and time will tell!

      I wouldn't advise against building a business on top of another and would even do so again. The initial traction can be useful.

      However, I'd try to lay out a clear path of becoming independent after initial growth. For example by targeting a niche and/or spreading across multiple platforms.

  8. 0

    Kudos to you for keeping at it. Are you using Stripe under the hood?

    1. 1

      Thanks! Yes, you connect your own Stripe account (or create one in the process). I'm planning to add other payment gateways in the future; you can leave you're email address here if you're interested: https://checkoutpage.co/c/checkoutpage/payment-gateway-waitlist.

      1. 2

        Ah so you're not handling any of the payment processing yourself. Smart. :)

  9. 2

    This comment was deleted 4 months ago.

    1. 1

      It's interesting to see time do its work. And that's maybe where the freelance jobs had a positive effect—they gave me time to sit it out.

Trending on Indie Hackers
How do you decide what idea to work on? 78 comments Rant about the link building industry 18 comments Small creators were preferred over big brands for Black Friday & Cyber Monday 4 comments Job Board For Space Industry - Cofounders Needed 4 comments Any indie hackers creating tools for the nonprofit sector? 2 comments We decided to go wild on the upcoming product trailer. Thoughts? 2 comments