My MRR is currently hovering around $8000 so it's a little early to call it - generally I wait until the mid 00s before I declare a new MRR milestone (because churn can bring you back under!) - but I had some time to write an update on IH today so here it is :)
It's been an awesome year but if you've been following my journey you'll know that it started slooowww. See bannerbear.com/open for more data on the trajectory.
And although my growth clearly picked up in March / April, all you can really see is the smoothed out growth line from one month to the next. You don't see all the ups and downs in between: the periods of no signups, the churn, the sudden bursts of payments (whoo!), the launching of new features that sort of fall flat... and so on.
It's a daily battle. The one thing I can say for sure is that I have learned a LOT over the last year. I've tried to share small learnings along the way in the milestones below, but I thought it would be useful to summarise the more impactful lessons for Indiehackers.
So here it is! These are the top 3 things that I think have been most impactful to my startup over the last year.
Understand your startup's "Job to be done"
Google "Jobs to be done". I'm not going to put any links as I don't think there was one single resource that helped me with this. It's just a concept you need to read up on. But once I understood this, it changed the way I marketed my SaaS and I think that has had a very positive impact.
In summary, it's another form of "talk about benefits not features" but in a way that is easier to grok and visualize. Imagine your customers are hiring your startup to do a certain job. What is that job? How do you position yourself as being the right startup for that job?
In the beginning I was talking about my product as an "image generation API" but that is too much in a feature-driven space. The job that my SaaS actually performs is something along the lines of "automating your marketing", which is the language I have begun to use more and more. This seems to be working well for me.
Another variation on this theme is the excellent We don't sell saddles here memo by Slack founder Stewart Butterfield.
The money-quote takeaway from that article is that nobody is out there looking for "group chat software" - Stewart plainly says none of their customers are searching for that. Slack sells "organizational efficiency". That is what their customers are buying. That is the "job to be done".
Create the best documentation you possibly can
If I could go back 6 months and change one thing about the way I was working it would be to build less features and spend more time writing better documentation and tutorials. The more time I invest in this area, the more conversions I get.
As founders we think that our UI is intuitive or that people fully understand what our apps can do, but they just don't. You need to show them, again and again, through blog posts, API portals, videos, etc - the more the better.
I think the pivotal moment for me was listening to the Indiehackers + Ahrefs podcast with Tim Soulo, CMO of Ahrefs. I'm paraphrasing here, but I absolutely loved his point about a common misconception we have as SaaS founders. We wrongly believe that a signup is the start of the funnel, and then from that point onwards there is some magic combination of onboarding tricks and emails etc that will cause a customer to convert.
He thinks this is all wrong. The approach they take at Ahrefs is to provide a ton of information up front (their blog is a treasure trove of useful information on SEO, in addition to tutorials on the Ahref tool itself). Tim wants users to be so well informed before they sign up that by the time they are asked to convert, it's a total no-brainer. This philosophy makes so much sense to me, so I have adopted it for Bannerbear.
Raise your prices
I know, you're tired of hearing this. But it really works. It has the double-whammy effect of:
"Risky" customers is a bit of a euphemism, I'm trying to be nice. But it's well-known startup lore that when you price your product low you tend to attract customers who demand way more than they are paying, churn faster, and incur other operational problems like higher rates of deliquent payments.
I know, I know. You are in an early stage and you can't mentally justify charging more than $9 per month. That's fine, I was once like you. But every time you improve your product or tweak your positioning, always reflect on "should the price increase?". Don't stay at $9 forever.
Happy Holidays everyone!