May 2, 2019

Solo founders, what is your ratio of development to marketing?


I just found that my ratio is very bad - approximately 95% of development and 5% of marketing :(
I tried to change the ratio several times but I failed because I always had something "very important" to develop.
The problem was I never could switch between development and marketing. To avoid this trap, I want to stop development at some point and spend 100% of the time only for marketing, then come back to development.
Not sure if it's gonna work.
So, what is your ratio and how you switch between these two tasks?


  1. 9

    Market, market, market. Dev can be a trap. I LOVE to code, however the ROI on marketing compared to dev is night and day. I have several projects. The marketing-driven ones each took 1-3 months to hit $25k MRR. The dev centered ones are struggling to get to $1k MRR in a 12+ month period.

    When a business activity (in marketing) has a clear impact to bottom line, you find a way to hire and replicate it. Cloning yourself is key.

    As you have others doing high yield marketing activities, I find you afford your way back to more dev time.

    1. 2

      Nice way to think in terms of ROI. Thanks for sharing :)

    2. 2

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

    3. 2

      Those are awesome numbers, @RyanHickman. Would love to connect sometime and get some more insight, if you’re willing :D

      1. 3

        Any time. Shoot me an email.

        Random story. In 2009 my friend and I saw an opportunity to mash up a few API's and make a cool product. In fact... everyone at the time was going it. "Web2.0..." was how they labeled it. We spend a week using Kohana/PHP at a time when modern tools like stripe and NPM didn't exist. In fact the Google API was SOAP. Dude... SOAP. OMG! We both had full time gig's, families, mortgages and our risk appetite was very low. We deployed (FTP... I know...I know..) that evening. We were live. Monday we sent out emails and did some outreach to potential customers. Sure enough Monday afternoon Mike Machado (I'll never forget his name) signed up and asked for a call. I was at work and went on a break. Mike and I spoke for an hour. He later charged $10k on his business amex to run Kai motor ads. He never logged in to see the campaign once. We shipped him reports and guiding him towards more success every month for the next year. We replicated that formula and had a team doing webinars, calls and physical events. Hospitals, banks, automotive dealers... all the same play. Market, Market, Market.

        While we did innovating things with code based on the product feedback loop, it was dwarfed by the good ol' fashion human conversation.

        I later sold my stake in the company. It was an awesome ride for sure!

  2. 2

    After a few months of heavy build, I'd say 90/10 dev/marketing. Now I'm going to swing that pendulum for the next couple of months. Meanwhile I'm starting another project and trying to go 60/40 marketing/dev.

    1. 1

      60/40 marketing/dev is a trap, you will soon fall back to 90/10 in no time. At least that's what I did haha!

      1. 1

        If 60/40 marketing/dev is a trap, what is not?

        1. 1

          I would say 90/10 or take a break from coding and focus 100% on marketing. Writing code can be addictive, it started with a lie "I'll just fix this real quick", and it quickly turns into hardcore 7 days coding streaks.
          Personal experience.. feeling guilty.. :(

      2. 1

        Haha. I won’t have a good way to be disciplined to a ratio, that was dumb of me to say ;) But it’s a problem, and one I want to be deliberate about working on

  3. 2

    After initial development, marketing has been 80-90% of my work. I work purely on marketing, noting any dev that needs to be done on my Trello board, then do one or two dev tasks whenever I'm completely sick of marketing, almost like a break.

    1. 1

      What do you do with new features that have to be implemented, and bugs that have to be fixed?

      1. 1

        New features don't have to be implemented until I have verified user demand for them. Bugs should be fixed, but I don't have too many, and most don't need to be fixed immediately and are relatively quick fixes.

  4. 2

    It depends, but I'd say that with my product where I'd like it to be leading with about 80%-85% sales and 15%-20% building.

    Thus far it's been all about cold outreach and phone calls.

    1. 1

      which product is that about? Or, if you don't want to disclose, which niche and market?

      1. 1

        Hey there, you can see Clarify to learn more. We're focused on professional development.

        1. 1

          Oh, thanks! Interesting product :)

  5. 2

    I find the two go hand in hand, think it would be hard to stop dev completely to do marketing. The both compliment each other in different ways.

    Of course, it depends on the context of the product too.

    In the early days, I did things opposite (with Ministry of Testing), I'm not a dev, I did the best I could with tools out there. When I had traction with the community I convinced my techy husband to come on board to help. For a while it was me and my husband and some additional support in other areas. So maybe 40% marketing/community, 40% dev, 20% other.

    Also worth bearing in mind our initial offering wasn't very 'technical' (we focused on events/conferences). A website/forum mostly. Then further down the line we decided to build a learning type platform, that's where things got a bit more tech focused.

    Now we have :
    2 x full time dev
    1 x part time dev
    2 community/events/marketing
    2 x content/learning
    1 x designer (freelance part time)
    1 x accounts
    Me (I don't do much these days)

    1. 1

      Thanks for your insight!

  6. 1

    Awesome reading all these comments, knowing this is an actual thing. I have been laying bricks, building for such a long time, and always had a weird aversion to marketing for some reason. But now, even though I am super happy with the product, it feels like beating a dead horse because the traffic just is not going anywhere. I should have been doing more marketing instead.

    I am curious. What do you makers actually do for marketing? Where do you spend your time? Do you spend money on ads? Do you build links?

    All the best,


    1. 1

      For example, today we're meeting with our first active users IRL. We're buying them dinner and promising free lifetime accounts in return for their time talking about what's good and bad about our product.

      These times you can actually hire people to give you feedback, even if you can't reach them personally. But meeting with people provides much more feedback. In fact, you probably should have done it before you started building your product.

      1. 2

        That sounds like a really great approach. When I started working on my product at the time it was really a side gig, and although I read the lean startup and all great startup advisers said "lean, test early, talk to users" I always thought "yeah but not for this side project"...

        Never again.

        Hope you learn a lot today! Cheers

  7. 1

    I'm quite obsessive/compulsive. Once an idea takes hold I have a tendency to disappear deep into the code and not surface until a product has been born.

    But this approach has lead to burnout twice over the past decade (two different side-projects). On top of that, all code and no marketing meant I ended up building for "an empty room", so to speak.

    I used to code all day, then code all night. Now, I'm being more careful with my time, prioritising people, users and peers, to establish a network and build for demand.

    Let user-demand be your incentive for building. Let the market dictate your dev efforts. You can't do that if you spend too much time in the codebase.

  8. 1

    In the same boat as you. As a dev first, I often fall into the bad habit of developing my Saas waaay more than marketing it. I try to take nights off from dev and spend the evening reaching out to people, talking about Quickflow, and doing general marketing.

    1. 1

      I tried to do the same but I couldn't.
      First, it's hard for me to switch from dev to marketing, secondly, at night I usually feel too tired to write th next article or even to tweet :(

      1. 1

        Haha I feel you. But I think it's so important to get into the habit of talking to people first and foremost.

    2. 1

      Same here, have been developer my whole life, it's really hard to stop the urge to build more than marketing haha. Lately, I have been forcing myself to take some night/ a week off to fully focus on marketing after some development milestones.

      1. 1

        Yeah for sure. What are you working on?

        1. 1

          I'm working on a new CRO platform, we are bringing an inexpensive alternative to the market because we felt that the existing solutions were too pricey for smaller startups or indiehackers.

  9. 1

    I have the same patient. I like coding better than seles.
    It depends on the day, but now 80% of non-coding and 20% of coding.

    1. 1

      That's a good ratio! How to do you cope with all the development stuff that has to be done, and right now?

      1. 1

        Yeah, development sometimes takes so much time than I expected. I always set time on Tadam. If I could not solve the development problem, I will go to other works after asking my tech friends. Always I can solve after a while.

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