Side Project: $55,878.77 in 6 months

Today marks exactly 6 months since the launch of Dracula PRO.

The results?
1,148 copies sold
$55,878.77 in sales

What started as a simple side project, became something much bigger...

I learned that building in public is not trivial.

Building in public is super scary. It means being transparent about all your successes and all your failures.

People will judge you regardless of what you do, so why bother?

I learned that side projects are not only for fun.

Side projects can be extremely effective.

You just have to give them the proper attention they need.

I learned that SEO is not only for marketers.

SEO is the most powerful form of generating compounding returns.

I learned that being vulnerable is not a demonstration of weakness.

Being vulnerable is showing that you're a human being too.

People act like they know everything. In reality, we're all just trying to figure it out.

I learned that open source is not charity.

Open source is the single best model for creating audiences.

It's also the most counter-intuitive.

Wanna build something?

The best time to start was 6 months ago.

The next best time is now.

  1. 10

    Hey Zeno, I hope you see this because you made a post on HN a few months ago that made me get out of bed and start planning. I wrote about it here https://www.indiehackers.com/product/mgrs-mapper/saw-a-post-on-hacker-news-that-changed-me--M7EALTRNnV31SIQycd3

    Anyways I launched my mini-SaaS project in July and I've already got 100 paying subscribers! Even though your post on HN wasn't popular it profoundly affected me.

    1. 2

      That's amazing @pistell!

      MGRS Mapper looks great and I love how you injected your own personality to it. The fact that you're a soldier building an app for other soldiers is INCREDIBLE!

      The Upcoming Features is also a great way to display progress and get people excited about what you're building.

      You're doing everything right. Congrats! 💪

  2. 2

    Thanks Zeno for this inspiration. I keep hearing about the "build in public" on here. It is almost a trope, but I can see why it is very successful.

    I am slowly getting use to putting my ego aside as would be needed to do this.

    I was scared to merely write on Indie Hackers with my real name at first!

    I mean, what if my boss sees this, or an old school friend and they think this is dumb or something. Anyway getting used to this now, and at some point building on myname-dot-com in public will feel OK.

    1. 2

      I totally understand your fear. I have the exact same feeling. I hate sharing numbers with co-workers, old school friends, and family members.

      However, I like to think of "build in public" this way:

      ✅ Doing something === 👨‍⚖️ People judging you
      ❎ Not doing something === 👨‍⚖️ People judging you

      Both inputs will lead to the same output.

      At least with building in public, I get to promote my ideas, share experiences, and help others at the same time.

      1. 1

        I think the biggest advantage, even though you will get judged is building trust.

        Being transparent like you are, builds a sense of trust between you and your users.

  3. 2

    Hey Zeno, I do really think this is cool. And this isn't directed just at you but I think its a really interesting story about where IH is trending, especially around all of these "success" stories which look "instant" when the reality is something a bit deeper.

    From one of your tweets you've shared

    "I was only able to monetize now because I was maintaining this project for 7 years.

    If I had given up, I would lose this whole opportunity.

    There is no such thing as an overnight success.

    Don't give up."

    I think that would have been really cool to share in this post in more depth. Like what did you do in the lead up to the launch? How did you build your list, what were the things that you were doing for the last 7 years which helped this?

    Big congrats on the $55k, I'm not trying to take that away from you. Maybe this is valuable for the audience here, but I think it would have been epic for you to share some of what I just mentioned.

    Anyway, congratulations and can't wait to see what you do with this over the next couple of years, it's clear you are doing some cool stuff and have figured out how to monetize a couple of things...and I'd love to know more ;)

    1. 3

      Hey @stusim. That's a great point. For me, IndieHackers is a place to share stories. And every character has a backstory.

      Whenever I read about someone's end result, I always assume that there were hundreds of thousands of things that happened in the life of that person which contributed to that particular outcome.

      Who your parents are, what country you were born, what kind of education you had, what are the things you built, when you started, what are the things you succeeded at, what are the things you failed at. All these variables exist and you can't take them out of the equation.

      When you #BuildInPublic, you share milestones of your progress. You don't tell the same story of how your project was created, because that's already available online:

      You can look at the comments on those posts to know more about what did I do for the launch and how the email list was built in the month before.

      As I said, there's no such thing as overnight success. There's always a backstory.

      1. 1

        Awesome thanks! Found the $20k one but didn't see the other 3. Will check them out

  4. 2

    pretty mindblowing a theme can generate so much revenue. GJ

    never heard of the theme before. It's a bit too bright for me. I'm using GitHub Sharp Dark in VSCode

  5. 1

    This is just wonderful! Learning so much not just from the post but the comments too.

    Congratulations 🎉

  6. 1

    This is so rad man. Would you do an AMA for our mastermind group and chat with us?

  7. 1

    We earned $3.1k in less than 10 days. We never thought we can reach this number faster.


  8. 1

    Well done! Have you written up about how did you launch? Did you do any trials with users before you've decided - this is now the right number of themes and variants etc?
    What about the book - when was that introduced and what effect it had?

    I am working on a product which is similar in the sense that once received, there is no proprietary way of protecting it, yet recreating it from scratch would take immense amount of effort. The question I'm pondering is "Do I need to give it away for free to get some kind of social proof/traction?"

  9. 1

    i messed with the colours in Web Storm last month and it took me a whole day to get something I liked back I never even thought about using the same colour scheme across apps. This is such a cool product. and a really inspiring product!

  10. 1

    Congrats Zeno.

    Loving the site. Love the demo where you can see how the palette looks with every app.
    Great work.

  11. 1

    Congrats. That's so impressive!

  12. 1

    Can you elaborate on the paragraph about creating audiences via open source?

    1. 2

      Sure @alchemist! I first started this as an open-source project on GitHub. Back then, Dracula was available only for 3 different applications. Because it was open, other people came and started to port the theme to other applications. Today there are 111 applications supported (draculatheme.com).

      I truly believe in the concept of "Audience First Products". The idea is pretty simple. You first start gathering interest around a certain topic, people get excited about that and you establish authority. You give always a lot of value upfront and then, one day, you come up with a paid offering.

      People usually do:

      🛒 Sell > 📦 Product > 👨‍👩‍👧‍👧 Audience

      When they should be doing:

      👨‍👩‍👧‍👧 Audience > 📦 Product > 🛒 Sell

      1. 1

        Yeah, I totally agree with the last part. The open source part is really interesting, though. Especially since I like coding more than I like social media or content marketing!

  13. 1

    Wow, great post and congrats on the successful side project! Very inspiring.

    I'm interested in your experience with open source — can you tell me a little more about why it worked so well for you?

  14. 1

    Congrats Zeno! Really inspiring!

    Also very good to see that your product goes against the false assumption of: "you shouldn't sell for developers/makers"!

    1. 1

      That's true, I don't know who came up with this.

  15. 1

    How did you start showing your work in public and when?

    1. 1

      I'd say it all started on February 12th, the day after I launched.

      This was the tweet that started it all: https://twitter.com/zenorocha/status/1227622330731335686

      1. 1

        wow! A whole thread!

  16. 1

    That's super cool! what was your best channel of acquisition for people who purchased? and for people who didnt?

    1. 5

      Sure! Here are the acquisition channels and how much each generated.

      1. 1

        Thanks for sharing this image @zenorocha. Love watching your success with this, very inspiring.

      2. 1

        What analytics package is that?

        1. 1

          it is from Gumroad.

          1. 1

            Ah of course. I knew I recognised it!

  17. 0

    Hi Zeno

    Congratulations on your success and the speed at which Dracula PRO has killed it in the first 6 months! I'd love to talk to you about the potential of Dracula PRO and how you could easily acquire a 1000 paying customers within 2-3 months.

    Let's chat!
    Rohit, [email protected]

  18. 1

    This comment was deleted a year ago.

  19. 1

    This comment was deleted a year ago.

  20. 2

    This comment was deleted 2 months ago.

    1. 3

      @anilkilic I also can't believe those numbers, it's surreal.

      The biggest challenge was definitely creating a product that people don't typically buy. A premium theme for your code editor is not something that you are used to.

      About reproducing the same results... I'd say it's not impossible, but it's definitely not as easy as it might look from the outside.

      1. 2

        This comment was deleted 2 months ago.

        1. 2

          Actually it should be "Dude, a theme can genrate $9k/month". Enough to raise a family in most places on earth.

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