The SoftwareIdeas.io Daily Blog
Table of Contents
(I only link the interesting days in the table-of-contents below. Click on a month to see all posts in that month)
What’s this about?
The SoftwareIdeas.io daily blog is home to my daily stand-up of the project. Each day, I talk about what’s been happening, what’s on my mind, and how I plan to move the business forward.
Why should I care?
If you’re interested in seeing the unfiltered behind-the-scenes of how SoftwareIdeas.io came about, you’ll be able to find it here. It starts from the day I joined a group where everyone in the group was planning on launching a new product within the month.
I wanted to join, even though the month before (June 2020) I had acquired pre-sales for my product, at the time just called the “Downstream SaaS Newsletter”. I hadn’t launched it publicly yet, so it was a good fit. In these daily updates, you’ll see the product go from $0 MRR and skyrocket to over $1,500 by the end of the first month. The specifics of how I did it are all included in the updates.
Now, onto the post!
Porting these over shortly! For now, you can read them here
My project: https://softwareideas.io
Some of you may have seen this on #general from earlier today, but my first SaaS, CoderNotes.io, is currently launched. I feel like I’ve learned a ton from the experience, especially on what NOT to do when coming up with an idea.
I’ve been debating between pivoting or starting a new project, and have been exploring both concurrently. For the new project, I’ve been doing a lot of research on existing markets, trying to find bootstrapper-sized opportunities in the niches. I realized that this research is really valuable to other bootstrappers, so I made a quick landing page and talked to a few people to see if they’d be willing to pay.
As of right now, I have 10 users who have paid $19 each to join on for the premium newsletter in July, to help me make it good enough for the public spotlight. I’m looking forward to being active in this challenge as I try to get this newsletter up and running!
P.S, for anyone who’s still searching for an idea for JustShipJuly, I made two free versions of the newsletter. They are bigger opportunities, but maybe you’ll find something you like in there!
Finished the draft of Issue #3, but it took longer than expected due to some inefficiencies in my research process. Those are ironed out now and I’ll be able to move more quickly in the writing process in the future.
- Finish Issue #3 editing, send out to premium audience
- Edit landing page, and get feedback on it from maker communities, then share with Email list
- (BONUS): Rewrite Issue #2 in markdown and share to various content distribution Indie Hackers and Reddit
I was able to send out Issue #3 to premium members yesterday, I’ve already had 2 out of 11 people email me back and say how high-quality it is, which is awesome to hear.
I also created a first-draft of the landing page, but I’m not happy with it yet. Too much white space maybe? You can see it here: https://softwareideas.io
I’m taking it a bit easier today, seeing as it’s a holiday, and the only thing I’ll be doing is some research for Issue #4. I’m hoping to find two good candidates for companies to write about for next week’s issue.
Took the holiday/weekend off.
- Got great responses from Issue #3, now I’m working on getting to 20 subscribers to push the idea forward even more
Here are my goals today:
- (Already done) Reformat my free newsletter issue from Html to Markdown, so I can distribute it on IndieHackers and Reddit
- (Already done) Update landing page at softwareideas.io
- (Already done) gather two more ideas for this week’s newsletter
- Post said content
- (Stretch) Investigate other channels - Notably paid Google, Medium, and Twitter
Things I’ve been debating:
- I’ve changed the newsletter from $19/month to $57/3 months. This was in response to some people admitting to me that they would buy a single month, just to read all the past posts in one go, then cancel. I’ve known that Annual is eventually where this newsletter would need to go, but I’m not ready to commit to the project that long (it still needs more validation). Therefore, I created a quarterly plan. This will be a good experiment to see if people are willing to commit to that value up front, as well as to see how many people from my first cohort will convert at this price.
$836 in sales, $418 MRR
Wow, where to start…
As you’ll see from my last update, one of my goals was to post the content to IndieHackers. Well, I did, and just like last time it took off. But this time, I had an email list, and man it has skyrocketed.
The list went from 35 people (the original group I pre-sold the newsletter to) to over 350 people in two days! Pretty nutty.
I’ve also seen adoption at the $57/month price point, which is great. So far, 11 people have paid in that pricing model. I think a quarterly model makes me look even more professional and official, which helps people soothe their concerns about the product. It also means that if people are consistently willing to pay this price for just the newsletter, there’s a really good chance I can charge even more once I add in the private community and membership site! Eventually I want to offer an annual plan too, but I want to price it at just above the average LTV, so I need to see churn first to know what that is!
Experiencing traction like this has been so cool. It’s so night-and-day compared to CoderNotes.io, which gets a new customer every two weeks or so.
So, here are my goals for today:
- ☑️ Finish editing Issue #4 and send out to premium list
- ☑️ Send teaser email to free email list about Issue #4 Distribute free issue to reddit to test as a channel
- ☑️ Fix email drip campaign for new subscribers to send the newsletter, ask how they liked it the next day, then mention what’s to come for the project the day after
- ☑️ Reach out to MailChimp support about why my confirmation emails send from my personal account
- ☑️ Add refund policy near the payment button on landing page, and next steps on Success page
- ☑️ Setup a Twitter account for SoftwareIdeas
- (Stretch) Setup Stripe with MailChimp to send email and add tag when someone buys
- (Super Stretch) Find and writeup one idea for Issue #5
As you can tell I have a full plate today, but thankfully my day job should be quiet and allow me to deliver on most of these!
$1,235 in sales, $342 MRR
I’m revisiting how I do MRR, since I have 11 customers who technically aren’t set up to recur. Yesterday I counted them all as MRR, but today I counted none of them, which is more accurate.
Had a very productive day yesterday, and had a ton more sales, which is great. Email list is up to 400.
Here’s my goals for today:
- Research and write about one company
- Create a duplicate of my notion workspace so I can share it on Indie Hackers, to show people how I validated softwareideas.io
It doesn’t look like a lot, but this will be a TON of work! I probably can’t get to it all
$1,463 in sales, $418 MRR
Getting close to $500 MRR, which is super exciting! I basically didn’t accomplish any work on Friday, since my day-job was pretty demanding and took away what little free time I had.
The email list continues to grow practically on its own, being almost at 500 subscribers. I’ve noticed that a lot of them are Twitter founders who are curious but not interested in buying, which is making my newsletter metrics trend down. However, I’ve gotten really good feedback on how my preview newsletters (light versions of the premium newsletter that basically tease the three opportunities I talk about this week) have converted pretty well, so I’m happy that the list is so big.
I’ve also noticed a lot of benefit in the quarterly plan I went with. Not only does it lead to a secure feeling of MRR, but I think it also lets people treat it almost like a one-time purchase. When they want to see a newsletter, they think of it as $57, not $19/month. I think this is working out in my favor, although it all may backfire if the churn is insane. I’m really hoping that churn remains manageable, otherwise growing this thing will be impossible.
Hopefully, the community and other things I have in the works will help with that.
No goals for today, just going to take it easy and enjoy the weekend.
$1,577 in sales, $456 MRR
- Took about 20 minutes yesterday to create Zapier integrations so I could stop sending manual welcome emails to paid subscribers, but besides that I didn’t do any work yesterday
- Still had a couple subscriptions roll in, which was nice even though I didn’t work
- Share a milestone on IH for 500 newsltter subscribers and $456 MRR in one week.
- (Stretch) prepare an anonymized copy of my notion template to show how I validated this idea, for a blog post
$1,634 in sales, $475 MRR
Didn’t do much on Sunday, I had an allergy attack and was basically non-functional.
Here are the goals for today:
- Research and rough draft of 1 business for Thursday’s newsletter
- Anonymize my validation Notion document for blog post.
- Research memberful / member-whatever to see how difficult it will be to implement for the custom site
$1,862 in sales, $551 MRR
Milestone achieved: $500 MRR! That’s pretty exciting. I’ve been consistently getting three new subscriptions per day, which is WAY above expectation, especially since I haven’t been doing any outreach to new customers since last Thursday/Friday.
I only accomplished 1 of yesterday’s goals, although I was able to catch up on some other work that I had been behind on, so I’m not too mad.
Today’s only goal is to research and write about one more company for Thursday’s upcoming newsletter. Gonna get started on that now!
$2,147 in sales, $646 MRR
(Doing my update a day in advance)
I hit two new milestones today: $600 MRR and $2,000 in sales! Both are super cool milestones.
My goals for today are:
- Edit and schedule newsletter Issue #5
- Create the preview newsletter and schedule to send to non-premium subscribers of the email list
- Finish anonymizing my notion template and prepare the post to share to IndieHackers and reddit
- Send customer support ticket to Landen
- (STRETCH): Start creating membership site for members.softwareideas.io
$2,147 in sales, $646 MRR
I had my first zero-sales day since the product launched, which really put me into a bad mood. It’s funny how quickly I got used to seeing sales come in each day and how accustomed I got to the feeling. A single day where momentum stopped and I felt like a failure.
It’s a big lesson in that I need to detach my self-worth from my project. I imagined that I would be more emotionally resilient to something like that happening.
Part of it is also that yesterday was a release day, where I get the opportunity to email everyone on my email list a preview of the newsletter. With 500 people I expected at least one to convert, so it was something of a double whammy.
Goals for today:
- Write one idea (I’ll finally be getting ahead of schedule if I can do this!)
- Start membership site
- Share validation template with email list
$2,426.30 in sales, $739.10 MRR
Didn’t do any work on the weekend, and it seems like sales have started to slow down from the natural boost I got when someone popular tweeted about SoftwareIdeas.io. I’d say that I’m down from 3 sales a day to a more realistic 1 sale/day.
I feel like there’s so much to tackle right now. Here’s my short list of all the things I want to explore:
- Explore paid channels, most notably newsletter sponsorships
- Design the membership site
- Find a good referral software
- Investigate a possible affiliate program
- Create a SoftwareIdeas.io twitter account
- Probably a bunch more that I’m forgetting
On Friday, I took my first stab at the membership site. I have a feeling that I want to get that live as soon as possible, since it will significantly increase the value of my subscription and hopefully increase my conversion rate.
One exciting thing that’s happening this week is that this is the last issue that my pre-sales customers are receiving. They all agreed to pay a one-time payment of $19 (full price) for the first four issues. This week, they’ll have the opportunity to subscribe the the quarterly edition. I’ll probably offer a discount, which will cheat the numbers a bit, but it will be good to get a rough idea of how many churn out.
If they all subscribed, MRR right now would be $948.10, which is almost $1k!
My guess is that five will sign up. I’m hoping to be wrong here and that churn is way lower than that, but that’s where my gut is. If that’s the case, and I also see 50% churn in September (when my first quarterly subscribers can unsub), I may have to rethink my pricing structure.
It’s very possible that this product has a high churn, which is why I’m looking to offer an annual plan as soon as I have an idea of the customer LTV.
Well, this was super ramble-y. Here are my goals for today:
- ☑️ Finish idea #1
- ☑️ Research and write Idea #2
- ☑️ Play with baremetrics and profitwell and figure out which one I like better
- Cut expenses on CoderNotes.io. I have some subscriptions that are really cutting into the profit coming from SoftwareIdeas.io. Based on last month, I need to get my OpEx down a bit.
- Find a logo package I’m happy with that includes Twitter stuff.
- Start to look at newsletter referral tools.
Seems like a lot, but I should have about 6-8 hours of time to work on SoftwareIdeas.io today, so I think it’s accomplish-able!
$2,603 in sales, $796 MRR
Had a big sales day yesterday! Four new sign-ups, bringing the newsletter to the edge of $800 MRR. Super excited to hit the $833MRR/$10KARR milestone in the next few days!
Yesterday I ended up having less time than I expected, and I was only able to get done with the most important of my tasks. Still, I got a lot done.
- Research and write Idea #3
- Create a list of all CoderNotes.io expenses, so I know what I can cut
- Fix my email automation chain to be a bit more engaging to users
I don’t have a ton of time today, so this seems like a good set of goals for today.
$2,741 in sales, $853 MRR
Broke $10k ARR today!
Nothing special to say about yesterday, I hit the important goals. Today, my goals are:
- Investigate the free preview newsletter I send out to people, see how it can be improved to not go to spam as often
- Also, see if I can improve conversion rate on that email by giving people the opportunity to sign up at the very top
- Edit this week’s newsletter
- (Stretch) Work on the membership site more
$2,850 in sales, $891 MRR
Starting to get close to the $1k MRR milestone!
Side note, does anyone else feel like $1k MRR sounds like less than $10k ARR? Or is that just me?
Anyway, I have very limited time for today, so my goal is simply to research and write 1 idea for Issue #7. Issue #6 comes out today, which is always exciting because I send out a preview letter to my email subscribers (~900 and counting!). So far, I haven’t seen these preview newsletters lead to many conversions, but I’m hopeful that this will change over time.
$3,135 in sales, $1,005 MRR
Thanks to a huge sales day, I hit the big milestone of $1k MRR!
This has been such a fun project to start and run. It feels so very different from my other experiences, where I have mainly been fighting for the product to be successful. For SoftwareIdeas.io, the success barely has anything to do with me. I’m just trying to keep up with the number of people who want to buy.
I definitely agree with Justin here: Ideas Matter
I hit all my goals yesterday, so here’s today:
- Work on the membership site
- Post $1k milestone on Indie Hackers
- Take the rest of the day off to celebrate!
$4,047 in sales, $1,328 MRR
I’ve had a few huge sales days, mostly thanks to sharing my milestones around. One of the nice perks of selling to founders, it seems.I’m sad that these daily updates will be wrapping up as July goes to a close, but I guess I’ll have the ability to convert them to a mega-thread on my personal blog instead.
This week, I got invited on the Product Journey podcast to talk about softwareideas.io and how it’s been different from codernotes.io. Should be a fun convo with Ben and Noah!
Here are my goals for today:
- Write opportunity #2 for this week’s newsletter
- Do research and email back founder of Rewardful, ask any questions I have
- Write and research Company #3
On a personal note, I told my girlfriend yesterday that I plan on giving her a 25% profit share of the company while I am working on it nights and weekends. She makes a big sacrifice by not being able to spend time with me on this product, and while money doesn’t solve that problem at least she knows I’m aware and respecting that sacrifice.
At first she was uncomfortable with the offer, but when I explained my thought process she seemed okay with it, and plans to put it towards what we’re saving for a down payment (which is what I would have put it towards anyway, actually). So I think it will work out well!
$4,969 in sales, $1,490 MRR
Coming to the end of Just Ship July, looks likely that $1.5k will be my final milestone before softwareidea.io’s first month is over. Crazy.
Some less exciting results: Out of 10 pre-sales, two have renewed their accounts, and 1 has bowed out. Too early to tell what the final numbers will be, but I’m happy to have at least gotten the two so far. I’m hoping I’ll be following up with everyone who hasn’t gotten back to me today, since if they don’t renew they’ll miss Issue #7.
Also a mental-health win: I had no sales most of yesterday, but I’m getting more resilient to those sorts of drops. I’m feeling a lot better about slow days, and not immediately treating them like I’m a failure. A first world problem for sure, but it’s really important for me to be okay if this thing’s growth slows down.
My goals for today:
- Reach out to all of the pre-sales and see if they want to renew
- Finish editing Issue #7 for release tomorrow
- Write idea #1 for next week’s Issue
- (Stretch) Work a bit on the memberhsip site
$5,183 in sales, $1,561 MRR
A good sales day has thrown softwareideas.io right past the $1500 MRR milestone! Can’t believe it’s grown 50% in just six days… Crazy.
Also not captured in MRR is a lifetime account. Someone really wanted one, so I offered it to them for the cost of two years’ subscription (~$450), which they happily agreed to. That was a pretty nice bonus. Not trying to make that a thing anytime soon, but happy to lock in that kind of money if people are actively reaching out to me for it!
Tomorrow’s the last day of Just Ship July, but my work on this project is just getting started! I’ll be moving these daily updates to my blog at kevinconti.com, unless I can think of someplace better.
My goals for today:
- Finish idea #1 (almost done)
- Write idea #2
- (Stretch) Work on the membership site
Keeping it simple on the next-to-final day :)
Well, I’m really going to miss doing these updates.
Final update: $5,468 in sales, $1,656 MRR, $19,870 ARR. If I end up with one more sale today, I’ll have finished justshipjuly with a $20k ARR product. Pretty cool and definitely more than I expected.
Work’s been real busy the past two days (I broke something in another team’s codebase!) so I’m a little behind. Here are today’s goals:
- Finish Idea #3 for next week’s newsletter. If I do this, I’ll be a week ahead for the first time since starting the project!
- Catch up on DMs. I have at least five people who I owe a response
- Continue to work on the membership site: I have 16 days until my self-imposed deadline to create this site from scratch.
I decided to hand-roll a membership site, after doing a lot of research on the options out there (memberful, memberstack, etc).
The problem with these is that they want to take ownership of your member list, and charge you a % fee on top of that. I want my members to stay in Stripe, and I want Stripe to remain my source of truth.
I’ll be spending a decent chunk of time tomorrow on the membership site, my goal is to have a fully-functioning login system that’s integrated against the Stripe API. If I have that, I can spend the next two weeks making it all pretty, but the biggest risk will be mitigated.Since this is the last update, I’ll give some short and long-term plans:
- Goal for August: Get the membership site going, with our first partnerships, bonus content, and the newsletter archive
- Goal for three months from now: Find more consistent channels. Explore referrals, affiliates, cross-promotion, and more to lock down what works for acquiring users.
- Goal for one year from now: Establish processes for automating parts of the business. Explore ways for me to reduce the time it takes to write the newsletter, but not lose the value.
Thanks to all who kept up with this thread (and the megamaker one) over this month! It’s been fun to share this experience with you all!
July 31st Cont.
$1,806 MRR, $5,866 in sales
I worked a lot this weekend on the Membership site, and it’s starting to come along nicely. I was able to get a Phoenix application that is using a new authorization framework that makes things stupid easy (and is secure by default).
It only took a day to implement user registration, login, forgot password emails, and “keep me signed in” options!
So far I’m thinking that I made the right decision to hand-roll the site myself instead of using Memberstack, even though typically I’d say that you shouldn’t write your own code just to save money in a business. The reason it’s different for me is because Memberstack and similar have two big flaws:
- They want to be the source of truth for your members, including payments. That means I would have either had to figure how to integrate their payments on my marketing page (which is auto-generated by landen.co and may have been impossible), or I would have had to scrap my marketing page and build one from scratch, which seemed like making work to save work.
- They can only dynamically hide content, meaning that if for some reason Memberstack fails to load on your site, non-authenticated visitors can see all of your content, even things that should be hidden.
With Phoenix, I can keep Stripe as my single source of truth (great since I depend on it for my landing page and things like Baremetrics), plus I can more reliably hide content, since the user’s browser will never even see the hidden content unless they are already authenticated. Phoenix makes this really easy.
Even though I probably worked 8-10 hours, I specifically didn’t do any work in customer support or marketing, and I think it did a lot of good for me recharging my batteries.
Working only on development actually felt like a fun way to spend the weekend, so I’m feeling relatively recharged. I think I’ll be forcing myself to do this on the weekends more often.
Of course, it means that today I have a backlog of things to do. Here are my goals:
- Switch my daily updates to my blog (if you’re reading this, it’s already done!)
- Let my friends on MegaMaker know
- Edit Issue #8
- Write Idea #1 for Issue #9
- (Stretch) Add Stripe integration into the membership site, to only allow people to register if they have an active subscription
Like I’ve mentioned before, Monday is my big day for getting ahead, but that being said even this is probably beyond my reach. It’s 7:00 AM now and I need to edit by 8:30. Normally that wouldn’t be too hard, but I’ve been thinking more about the free newsletter.
The free newsletter has only been generating 25-35% opens. Currently, the free newsletter is the exact same as the paid newsletter, but it hides some sections. Basically, it includes the market research, but not the software idea.
I’ve been thinking about how I could make it better. I’m still debating this and I’m out of time, so I think Issue #8’s preview newsletter will have to be the same format as I’ve had before. I’ll see what I can come up with for Issue #9.
Alright, last thought: I’ve only had 3 out of 10 resubscribe from the original pre-sale. Not great numbers, unfortunately. If we apply that to my regular customers, we would have almost 25% monthly churn, which is not sustainable. The goal of August is to double the value of a subscription, which hopefully will reduce churn as a side-effect. But September’s goal will be to make the product less churn-worthy. There are a couple ways of doing that, but I’ll wait to talk about them when we get there.
Long post today, thanks for reading!
$1,900 MRR, $6,151 in sales
Woot, $1900 MRR! 🥳🥳🥳
I have an extremely aggresive revenue goal of getting to $3,000 by the end of August, but it’s looking possible right now. Really cool.
Yesterday, I was able to accomplish all of the goals I had set out for myself, which is great. The membership site now checks your membership status when you try to create an account! Here’s what’s left:
- Check membership status when signing in (a repeat of the logic I already wrote, just in another place)
- Add the Stripe Customer Portal to allow people to cancel subscriptions / create subscriptions
- Make the UI all pretty
I’m feeling reasonably confident that I can get this done by my self-imposed deadline by the 17th. The scariest part was the authentication, and that’s now taken care of.
Today’s goals are:
- Write idea #2 for Issue #9
- (Stretch) Do signing-in logic
- Follow up with non-renewal people from the pre-sales, try to gain some insight into why they didn’t renew.
Not a lot, but I’m limited on my time on Tuesdays
I modified my goals yesterday on twitter.
My big-picture goal for the month of August is to double the value of a softwareideas.io subscription for people actively searching for their next business idea.
The KPI I’m using to track this is the ratio of email signups to paid users. I’ll be tracking this every day along with my MRR and sales numbers. Yesterday, it was 16.46. Today, it’s 14.74. My goal is 8.23.
$2,035 MRR, $6,151 in sales, 14.14 Subscriber : Paid ratio
Hit $2k MRR today. It’s such a crazy feeling, because today marks one whole month since the product publically launched. I’m posting a milestone on IndieHackers today to share, but I won’t go into much here. In fact, here I want to talk about the other side of the coin.
But first, let’s recap goals:
Yesterday, I had a great call with Dru Riley of Trends. We talked about the newsletter business, shared some private metrics, and overall it was a great chat. We have another one planned for next week. It’s great to be able to talk to someone in a similar business as me.
My goals for today are as follows:
- Post the IH milestone, share it around some communities
- Finish Idea #3 and edit #1 and #2
- (Stretch) start writing the free newsletter
My main goal for this month is to get my Subscriber : Paid Customer ration down from it’s peak of 16.46 to 8.23. Today it’s sitting pretty at 14.14. That’s thanks to two bigger-than-average sales days. There are a lot of ways to improve this ratio, and two that I’m working on behind the scenes are:
- Improve the free “preview” newsletter to increase conversions from my existing email list
- Improve the drip campaign to give more value, hopefully increasing conversions
- Improve my analytics so I can identify which channels are working and which ones aren’t
All of these will help with the ratio, but the reason I choose the ratio as the KPI from the beginning was so that I could double the value of a softwareideas.io subscription. The main effort I’m making here is by creating the membership site, the first piece of members-only bonus content (I need a better name for this), and opening up my first software partnerships.
All of that is coming along, but slowly. I have just eight more working days until that goal, and I hope I can deliver on-time. Thankfully, the first piece of bonus content is mostly done, and it shouldn’t take too much time. The membership site is almost done from a technical perspective (authentication and content-filtering), after that is just about making it look good and setting up the newsletter archive.
$2,000 MRR in 30 days. It’s great, but there’s a serious downside. I hate the feeling of demotivating some of my friends.
I’ve noticed that some really hard-working friends who probably deserve to be more successful than me are feeling a little demotivated because of my own situation. It sucks that it’s happening because I want to be a message of “You can do it too, faster than me probably.” I don’t want to be the reason people get demotivated and give up.
I don’t know. I don’t have coherent thoughts around this. I’m just worried that if the small amount of success I’ve seen so far is causing resentment, then if I keep growing at the rate I’m growing at, I’ll end up losing people I consider friends. I hope that doesn’t happen.
$2,186 MRR, $7,006 in sales, 13.84 Subscriber : Paid ratio
Yesterday I posted the $2,000 MRR milestone to IndieHackers. That usually leads to a ton of new signups for the free newsletter, but thankfully the conversion rate was high enough that the subsriber : paid ratio still went down. Still heading down towards 8.23!
My goals for today are:
- Edit Issue #9
- Write Issue #9 preview using new format
- (Stretch) Work on membership site to store and use membership status on login
- Meeting with analytics expert on how I could be better tracking my analytics
I’m pretty excited about that meeting, and I’m hoping I’ll have some free time today to work on the memberhsip site. It’s still up in the air though.
The Little Things
I’m noticing that there’s a number of little things that are slipping through the cracks, like importing July’s posts into this blog. I’ve definitely had to choose where to prioritize my time.
It’s too early to bring someone on, but I wish I had the ability to hire an administrative assistant or some other VA that could catch these little things. Hopefully in the near future!
$2,528 MRR, $7,227 in sales, 14.24 Subscriber : Paid ratio
Over the weekend I saw a large increase in sales from my $2k IndieHackers milestone, but it also leads to a lot of less-relevant traffic than my usual daily traffic, which caused the subscriber to paid ratio to go up.
I had a chat on Friday with Blake, an analytics expert, who gave me a bunch of great tips that I plan on implementing for improving visibility into channels. One relevant takeaway is that it would be better for me to track conversion rate (Paid : Subscriber ratio) than it’s inverse like I’m doing now.
So if I convert my goal into that, here’s what it would be:
Original conversion rate: 6.07% Target conversion rate: 12.15% Current conversion rate: 7.02%
I haven’t been super happy with conversion rate as the KPI, because it’s optimizing the wrong thing. I can get this higher by tweaking sales copy, email copy, etc easier than by increasing the value of the SoftwareIdeas.io subscription. But I think it’s fine for now.
I spoke about possibly bringing on someone to take on the smaller tasks. Well, I’ve unofficially brought on my girlfriend to help. She was looking to make some extra money anyway, and it’s a great win for me. Hopefully I should be dropping fewer balls this way. We’re experimenting with this throughout the week, seeing how many hours she can actually put into the business.
Hopefully it turns out well!
As of Friday, I finished all of the Authentication and Payments logic for the Membership Site. The development went smoothly, which was a huge relief.
All that’s left is to make the site functional and pretty, which I’ll have to do this week if I want to release on time (next Monday).
Goals for today:
- Write Idea #1 and #2 for SoftwareIdeas newsletter Issue #10
- (Stretch) Get newsletter archive functional on membership site (use Mailchimp API to get the relevant emails)
$2,699 MRR, $7,284 in sales, 7.28% Conversion Rate (goal is 12.15%)
Conversion rate increased again, but I’m still a while away from my goal. Here are my goals for today:
- Write Idea #3 for Issue #10
- Finish the “The Foundation” and “Software Discount” sections of the website, both visually and functunally.
$2,737 MRR, $7,227 in sales, 7.33% Conversion Rate (goal is 12.15%)
Completed all of yesterday’s goals, which is great. The membership site just needs to be put in production now, and have the content added.
Today’s goals are pretty simple:
- Edit Issue #10
- Send emails to partners, getting the information I need
I actually took last afternoon off, I was feeling a little tired and stressed from work. I’m happy to be building a company that allows me to take any given day off, it’s definitely one of the perks.
It’s been about a week since I finally fixed my analytics to allow me to track conversion rates by channel. Before I didn’t have any metrics around this, which was really bad. Now I finally have some idea:
- A whopping 43% of sales are coming from people after they sign up for the free issue, directly from my email list
- In total, 72% of sales this week have come from my email list in some form or another
- 16% of sales have come from IndieHackers
- Twitter didn’t make the list, but I don’t have insight into how many people are subscribing from twitter
So, based on this I have some items I want to track:
I think that I need to start tracking how a user flows through my funnel. I may add a page that is only for twitter followers so I can tag them in Mailchimp, and then I’d be able to gather the conversion ratio via Mailchimp’s analytics (# of Twitter tagged users / # that are also Premium tagged).
I need to be tracking when a visitor to the site signs up for the free issue, by channel. This means I need to spend some time getting the button to fire on the site and have that set as a conversion.
A third but unrelated one is that I need to put some effort into tracking analytics in the app. I’ll add Mixpanel as a third task for today. I don’t need fancy tracking here, but I need to understand what % of paid users are coming to the website, what % of those are actually reading the bonus content, clicking through to the partnerships, etc. I honestly forgot about needing to track this until right now.
Alright, hopefully I’ll have finished all three of these for tomorrow.
$3,231 MRR, $10,196 in sales, 8.19% Conversion Rate (goal is 12.15%)
I’ve been slacking on these daily updates. I can’t believe it’s almost been a week since I wrote one. Here’s a quick recap:
The membership site has launched to seemingly positive responses, and Blake has reached out and told me that he’s already seen the partnership sale go through, which is great.
We’ve hit two impressive milestones: $3k MRR and $10k in sales (more on that in a moment).
Conversion rate has continued to climb, from our original 6.07% now up to 8.19%.
All of these are awesome, and I’ve posted an IH milestone today to talk about it, but here I want to talk about the $10k number.
$10k in sales
With SoftwareIdeas’ churn numbers being unclear, total sales is a guiding light for me. It means that, if 100% of users churn but growth stays the same, I can expect to be doing roughly $10k in sales every 45 days (the # of days since launch).
To me, that’s far more impressive than the $3k MRR number. It’s about $80,000/year annualized, which is just under my salary as a developer. And realistically, not everyone will churn, meaning that if growth were to continue, I should expect that I’ll make more this year from Software Ideas than from my developer job. That’s crazy exciting.
I’m a pretty risk-adverse guy, so I won’t be quitting my job anytime soon. But still, it’s exciting to think of the possibilities.
Back to earth here, my goals for today are:
- Edit Issue #11
- Write teaser issue
- Watch The Foundation video and decide if I need to redo it
- Edit the Landen copy to mention the membership site
- Edit copy on the /sign-up page so it’s usable
$3,687 MRR, $11,841 in sales, 8.7% Conversion Rate (goal is 12.15%)
Back from vacation! It came at a great time - I really put a ton of work into the membership site, and I needed the week-long break to come back ready to keep up my velocity.
I definitely noticed a drop in sales over the vacation (to be expected), and it’s been a reminder that the next big challenge for Software Ideas is to find the next reliable marketing channel. Right now, IH is a consistent, reliable channel. Twitter is maybe a reliable channel, but I don’t know for sure if it’s converting well, and I’m looking to explore more channels.
Goal for August: Failed
To be fair, I created a VERY ambitious goal of doubling my conversion rate in a single month. In reality, the conversion rate went up from 6.07% to 8.7%, which is a 43.33% increase! In my mind, this is still a success.
It’s always hard to not focus on building the product, but it’s an important lesson that you learn quickly about the reality of building a company: The product is only part of the solution. Marketing is equally as important, and now that Software Ideas is getting ready to scale, it’s time for marketing to become the main focus.
So here’s my goal for September:
Find a second distribution channel
I’m not sure yet if Twitter is working, and step one is getting better metrics around it. Step two is to start doing experiments. I have two affiliates who are helping me explore that channel.
I’ll be exploring a lot more than affiliates. Two opportunities I’m really interested in is sponsoring newsletters and podcasts.
That’s all for now!
$3,820 MRR, $12,250 in sales, 8.8% Conversion Rate (goal is 12.15%)
I didn’t manage to get much done in the beginning of September, I had a sort of post-vacation slump. Happy to say that I think I’m fully back in the game now! Time will tell.
I finally updated the landing page to include the new membership subscription information. I’m that we see an improvment in conversion rate from this improvement. I’ll keep tracking it above.
I also finally got metrics working - I now can see where people are coming from when they subscribe for the free newsletter and get placed on the email list. This is a big deal, because it was a pre-requisite step before I tested the various channels - this month’s goal.
Here are the channels I will be testing throughout the month:
- Sponsoring newsletters - starting with the IndieLetters newsletter
- Affiliate programs
- Content marketing - Not necessarily SEO, but creating valuable free content to help drive leads
I think these three are good to start. I’ll be writing up a more detailed plan of how I want to go about testing these channels shortly!
$4,219 MRR, $13,395 in sales, 8.85% Conversion Rate (goal is 12.15%)
Hit the $4,000 MRR mark since my last post! It’s a very exciting milestone because it’s so close to $5k, which would mark the halfway point to my “alive” goal of $10k.
Yes, I’m aware that I fit every founder troupe of not being present with my success, and only looking forward. It’s in my nature!
There’s a lot to write about today, and I think I’ll break it up into two parts. First, I want to talk about my strategy for exploring marketing channels during the month. Second, I want to discuss the possibility of working with a writer for part of the newsletter, to save me significant time on the newsletter.
This month, my goal is to find one channel that’s reliable. Ideally, that channel will not require a lot of time. I’d rather spend money than time here, since my other channels are already time-intensive.
Below I’ll list out each channel I’m exploring, and how I’m going to be testing them.
While I’m already getting decent results from Twitter, I want to dive a bit deeper. I’ll be following Daniel Vassallo’s advice for this, and spending 30 minutes a day on Twitter.
Now that I have metrics on which channel brings people to the newsletter (and I’m assuming for now that all free newsletter subscriptions are created equal - probably a folly), I’ll finally be able to quantify how accurate Twitter is being.
- Newsletter Sponsorship
I’ve seen relatively good results from cross-promotion, nothing crazy but it’s easy enough effort that it seems worthwhile. But what I’m talking about here is actually paying for a premium slot on a free newsletter. I’m starting with Falak Sher’s IndieLetters newsletter, which has about 1300 subscribers, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for other opportunities. It’ll be a good experiment to see how well this sponsorship goes, I would expect it to go a bit or slightly better than a free cross-promotion (since the slot will be bigger and more obvious).
- Referral Program
Something I didn’t mention in the last post, but I’ve decided to dive into is a referral program. I need to do some research to figure out how this will work with the Landen landing page (which, at this point, has been a consistent bottleneck in integrating useful products), but hopefully it is easy to implement.
If so, I’ll be setting up some software to give every reader a referral link. At 220 subscribers now, I figure that there are enough people that it may work well. I’ve already seen first-hand that referrals tend to lead to easier sales, so I’m hoping that this one has potential, but I’m not holding my breath on it.
- Affiliate Program
I got some advice from Justin on how to go about finding high-quality affiliates, and I’ll take some time following a similar method to what he did. He saw such great results from affiliates, so I’m hopeful that I can find a way to make this work.
I am worried about getting the wrong affiliates though, because it would be easy to come across as a scammy product in my industry. So I’m taking this one with caution.
5?. Podcast Sponsorship
Last but not least, I’m not sure if I’ll get to this one, but I think sponsoring some founder podcasts might be a great opportunity. I’m not really sure how to get started with this one, so I’ll wait until I play with the other ones and then see if I want to explore this one. But I also feel this one has lots of potential.
Outsourcing Company Analysis
One big question with the newsletter is how I can optimize the writing process. It’s very important to me that the quality does not drop at all, which has made me hesitate when thinking about this before. But the reality is, this newsletter eventually needs to be systematized in some way, even if it can never be fully systematized.
This is coming from the past two weeks, where I’ve been struggling to finish the newsletter on time, due to things popping up in my personal life. It’s forced me to look at the lowest-hanging fruit for delegation, and I think I’ve found an area where I may be able to outsource to a high-quality writer.
For those who don’t know, the format of the newsletter looks like this:
- Quote from customer of Company XYZ
- Company XYZ metrics
- Summary of company XYZ
- Market background of company XYZ (and insights into general market)
- Competition analysis of 2-3 companies in the market of Company XYZ
- Downmarket opportunity
- Pain points (of customers)
- Solution (how the downmarket opportunity solves the issue)
The trouble with outsourcing any of this work is that it takes some level of founder intuition to identify downmarket opportunities. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to outsource that in a way that I’d be comfortable with. Also, I think that I have a unique way of thinking about MVP/Risks, and that seems near impossible to delegate as well.
I also can’t outsource the finding of Company XYZ, since that requires the intuition on downmarket opportunities I mentioned above.
This is where I was stuck for a long time when I thought about this. I can’t outsource the beginning, and I can’t outsource the end, so what do I do?
Yep, you’re smarter than me, and you probably realize. The middle is easily outsourced!
I’m going to do some tests with some analytical, research-minded writers, and give them the company. I’ll provide them “Company XYZ”, the sources for the metrics I want them to obtain, and it will be on them to write from the first step above, down to the competition analysis.
I’m confident that this part could be outsourced without a significant drop in quality, assuming that I find someone very talented at research and analytical thinking.
This way, I’ll only be responsible for the actual insight section - the downmarket opportunity through to the risks. That will reduce the time it takes me to write each newsletter from around 20 hours to about 10! That frees up a significant amount of time to work on The Foundation and other important projects I’ve been waiting to implement.
This seems useful enough that I’m prioritizing it ASAP. I’ll be writing up some job descriptions and doing some initial tests with some writiers. If you’re reading this and this opportunity speaks to you, I’d love to have you reach out at email@example.com. I think the ideal fit is an analytical founder looking for about 5-10 hours per week of work, so I’d rather hire from friends. I’d love to hear from you!
That’s my update for today!
$5,867 MRR, $18,403 in sales, 9.88% Conversion Rate (goal is 12.15%)
Hey there! Been a while.
Sorry for the break, I’m looking to start these up again. I’ll try to give the high-level overview:
Hired a writer to help with the “middle part” of the newsletter - I’m still doing the idea creation and writing about the downmarket opportunities, but I’ve delegated some of the background research and competitor research to a writer - he’s a SaaS/Marketing/eCommerce guy who’s a perfect fit!
Have found more success with Twitter than I have in the past, and have been doubling down on it. Still waiting for some more consistent results, but it seems that it may be a reliable channel #2.
Explored cross-promotion and newsletter sponsorships as potential channels - both look like a bust for now.
Software Ideas hit $5k MRR! Actually as of today, we’re much closer to $6k MRR.
The next ten days are going to be a big deal for Software Ideas. On October 7th, the first customers are up for renewal. So far, churn is a low 1.1%, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens. If it’s below 10%, it’ll be christmas morning for me. If it’s below 5%, I won’t believe my eyes.
For now, I’m focusing very hard on three aspects of the business:
Product - Creating The Foundation course. I truly think my course has the potential to be unique in the way it helps people learn to do idea validation. I want it to be out there so that people can stop making products no one wants. It’s soul-sucking for founders when they put all of that time and effort, and have nothing to show for it.
Marketing - Finding my top three channels. I’m exploring a combination of SEO/PPC/Content Marketing, as well as doing podcast interviews, and doubling down on IH and twitter.
Automation - I’ve been incredibly happy with my writer, he does as good a job as I do on the research-heavy sections I’ve given him. The next step is to have the writer work directly in Mailchimp, which will save me time copying/pasting over the work. I’m also focused on creating an idea backlog for him, which will allow him to work at his leisure instead of being forced into my schedule.
My long-term goal is to get at least one month ahead, so hopefully these steps will help!
$5,924 MRR, $18,574 in sales, 9.95% Conversion Rate (goal is 12.15%)
So close to that 10% conversion rate! I can’t wait to hit that metric.
Yesterday, I was able to get a ton done, maybe the most I’ve ever gotten done in a single day. I was finally able to get done all of the marketing tasks I had assigned myself that day, thanks to the fact that I only had to do half as much writing, since my contractor now tasks care of some of the more laborious parts. Since I’ve hired him, I only do the research for what market we are going to focus on, the downmarket idea, MVP, and risks. It’s been great to offload some of the work while still retaining creative control over the ideas we release.
I also announced two big partnerships yesterday - Secret and Firstbase.io. These two companies are offering 15-30 percent off for members of Software Ideas, which amounts to a ton of savings for readers! Secret alone can theoretically save a reader tens of thousands of dollars.
Today, I’m going to accomplish the following:
- Write opportunity #2 for this week’s newsletter
- Build the idea backlog to six ideas
- Purchase a green screen for The Foundation course
- (Stretch) Write opportunity #3 for this week’s newsletter.
Tomorrow marks the three month anniversary of Software Ideas, so I’m excited to do a little metric review then!
💰 MRR: $6,090
💵 Revenue: $19,357
😊 Customer Count: 324
💔 Renewed-Churn ratio: 3-0 (0% churn!)
📝 Free Email List: 3,283
Yesterday was a big day for Software Ideas! First of all, I made a post that was #1 on Indie Hackers for most of the day - How I grew Software Ideas to $6k MRR in three months. In it, I laid out a few key takeaways from my experience so far:
- When looking for qualified leads, you need to give value first, and offer a reason for people to engage with YOU, not the other way around!
- Setting a specific goal ahead of time is key for pre-sales, so you know that you’re not cheating yourself. It’s too easy to lower your price or the number of sales and trick yourself that you succeeded when you didn’t.
- By front-loading all the risky parts of the business by pre-selling and validating channels, growth comes as a natural side-effect!
If you want to see the full context for these lessons, check out the blog post!
That post received about 2,000 views, led to roughly 80 free signups, and 8 new customers. Not bad!
Secondly, yesterday was a big day because it was the three month anniversary of Software Ideas. That means that the first customers were eligible to renew their subscription.
Churn has been an ongoing question for Software Ideas. How many people will want to renew an ideas newsletter after their first three months? How many people will leave? As you may know, keeping churn below 10% - and ideally below 5% - is key for a subscription business. Anything above that and it’s a problem that needs to be solved.
So, how did the first day go? Out of four people, 3 renewed, and 1 card was declined. I’m keeping the declined card as a ‘maybe’ for now, so I’ll call it a success so far!
This is a new KPI for Software Ideas, so I’ll be keeping track of it manually for the next couple weeks, until I see a trend. Today there are another four people who are up for renewal, so we’ll see what happens!
Last but not least, today a new issue goes out, which is usually correlated with a few new sales. So I’m hoping for a good day!
On ups and downs
I’ve given up on being emotionless through ups and downs. I think it’s just the reality of being a founder that you have to face these things. So on days like yesterday, where everything just seemed to go perfectly, I’m actually encouraging myself to get excited. I want the highs to be real high, because I know that otherwise the inevitable lows will drag me down.
I know this isn’t the typical advice on how to deal with ups and downs. Most founders try to temper their emotions in both directions. But that hasn’t worked for me. What is working for me is to be okay when I’m upset for the day because the business is having an issue, and to be okay to be over-excited when it’s doing well.
💰 MRR: $7,378
💵 Revenue: $25,128
😊 Customer Count: 390
💔 Churn percentage: 3.4% monthly
📝 Free Email List: 4,025
Had some family/friends in town this week, so I didn’t get around to writing these updates as much as I would have liked. Overall, there’s been some good news, some cool milestones, and some more neutral or negative news.
First, with the good stuff! Software Ideas has hit $7,000 MRR, and done over 1/4 of six figures in revenue! It looks extremely likely that the business will do six figures in its first year, which is amazing.
Also, being so close to 400 customers makes me want to start the referral program even more. Really excited for the new website to be done so we can implement that.
The not-so-good news is that customer churn has significantly increased since renewals started coming in. Now, 3.4% is “good”, I would be ecstatic if it stayed around here, but this number is very likely to continue to increase over the next three months. Depending on where it lands, here is my plan:
1-5%: Throw a party, because that’s unbelievable! 5-10%: Keep the current plan, no major changes because of churn > 10%: Prioritize creating the community above releasing The Foundation course.
Based on how it’s growing , the 10% number is looking more and more likely. But we’ll have to wait and see!
Can you believe that I missed all of November for this post?!? November was a huge month, and I struggled with being able to manage this blog at the same time as working on the project and working a full-time job. More on this in the next post.
Hello! It’s been a while.
Let’s start with some numbers:
💰 MRR: $11,246
💵 Revenue: $46,339
😊 Customer Count: 615
💔 Churn percentage: 8.8% monthly
As you can see, things went pretty crazy in November! Here’s the highlight reel:
A Black Friday sale of 20% off (for life) brought in over $2,000 MRR in just a few days, skyrocketing Software Ideas into the five-figure club within its five month birthday, which happens to be today. The response blew me away, and thanks to that sale I’ve finally accomplished my biggest goal - $10k in MRR.
Of course, the pessimist in me is waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m pretty scared to see the renewal rates on these purchases - will these customers renew because they want to keep their lifetime discount, or are they going to churn at an even higher rate than the regular customer base?
Additonally, in November I failed to release a SINGLE episode of The Foundation like I intended to. I struggled with balancing the need for the constant content of the newsletter with my own need for a mental break, and The Foundation was the ball that got dropped. I’m hopeful that today I will finally be re-recording the first episode, and aiming to release that later this week.
Last but not least - KPIs. One of the few that I was tracking in the early days was the % of email list subscribers who have become paid subscribers. Originally, I was at 6.07%. My goal was 12.15%.
As of today, Software Ideas has a conversion rate of 11.44%! Very close to the goal I set for myself four months ago. Very cool!
My second KPI is monthly churn %. Here’s a snippet from an earlier blog post:
The not-so-good news is that customer churn has significantly increased since renewals started coming in. Now, 3.4% is “good”, I would be ecstatic if it stayed around here, but this number is very likely to continue to increase over the next three months. Depending on where it lands, here is my plan:
1-5%: Throw a party, because that’s unbelievable!
5-10%: Keep the current plan, no major changes because of churn
10%: Prioritize creating the community above releasing The Foundation course.
Sitting here at 8.8%, I’m right on the border between the second and third option. This is definitely the biggest opportunity for Software Ideas right now. As such, my goal is to reduce churn to 5%. I plan to focus on this after The Foundation is fully released, as it’s the next-most important aspect of the business.
There’s a lot more that I want to write about, especially about some channels and opportunities that are coming up in the near future, but for now I’ll leave it at that! I am hoping that I will be a lot more active on this blog from now on!
💰 MRR: $11,246
💵 Revenue: $46,738
😊 Customer Count: 615
💔 Churn percentage: 9.2% monthly
A couple of slow days on the sales front, where churn has equaled out with new subscriptions. To be honest, it does give me anxiety when the business has days like this.
Here’s my list of goals for today:
Finish this week’s newsletter issue
Bonus: Record an episode of The Foundation
Doesn’t sound like a lot, but there’s a TON of work hidden in #1 and #3. Wish me luck!