Welcome to the first edition of the SaaS Founder Gems Newsletter from @PocketBryan!
The #1 criteria for anything included below is it must be actionable. No fluff, hollow inspirational silliness, or platitudes (empty feel-good content) are allowed. Every item mentioned below is worth your time (IMHO)
Ready? Here we go!
Some of these are not new, but I’m playing catch-up since this is the first edition. These are just as relevant as when they were first published.
- How to find startup ideas that make money
This is the article that got me thinking in the right direction, after so many failures. It won’t give you your next idea, but if your goal is to go full-time on your own thing, it will give you a framework that will help you build something that actually makes money.
- 1,000 True Fans? Try 100
From VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, this is not a new article but it holds true and is worth a read. It might help lead to a mindset shift. An excerpt: “More than a decade ago, Wired editor Kevin Kelly wrote an essay called ‘1,000 True Fans,’ predicting that the internet would allow large swaths of people to make a living off their creations… I believe that creators need to amass only 100 True Fans—not 1,000—paying them $1,000 a year, not $100. Today, creators can effectively make more money off fewer fans.”
- Design tips for developers (or anyone who is building something)
If you’re building something and find yourself overwhelmed with how to make your creation look decent, you’re not alone. This brief and practical guide gives you some basic things to keep in mind when building something. From the author: “As with anything, being ‘20% good’ at design will get you 80% of the way there. This article outlines some of the tools and tips I have picked up over the years that will make you a ‘20%’ designer.”
- How Stripe Designs Beautiful Websites
Along the same lines (designing when you’re not a designer), this article from Stripe gives some very practical (including specific CSS you can use) guidelines for making your web app more usable and approachable.
- Why I Quit My Dream Job at Amazon
Forgive the self-indulgence here, but I want to include the story of what started my own journey, why, and what my plans are going forward. I’ve been blown away by the support that the Indie Hackers community has given me. If you’re not part of that community, you should definitely join and participate!
- The Build In Public How-To Guide
If you’re building in public (or would like to), this guide gives practical advice on why you might want to, what kind of content you should post, and how. I was (and still am) nervous about being so open about my experience, but it has been nothing but upside so far!
- Relaunch like a pro: 100+ places to launch, relaunch, and list your product
Especially for indie hackers and people/products that are just starting out, there’s really no such thing as a single big-bang successful launch. To get traction, you should probably think of it as a series of micro-launches, and this guide gives you some actionable guidelines and specific places you can execute your launches and re-launches at.
Stuff to Help You Build Your SaaS
This is a list of resources and things you can use to build your SaaS. As a technically-minded founder, I am likely to include some tech items in this section, but I’ll always look to round it out with things non-tech founders will find useful as well. There are no affiliate links or endorsements here — just stuff that will help you build faster.
Open-Source Illustrations for your site/app. It’s amazing how much more professional and polished your marketing site can look with a few well-placed illustrations sprinkled in. This site provides a huge variety of illustrations you can use for free with an extremely generous license (essentially “don’t copy this specific site”)
- TailwindCSS and TailwindUI
I’ve mentioned these before in my daily video updates, but you should seriously give these a look if you want to move faster when building and styling your app. I would [humbly] consider myself a CSS wizard — I’m not afraid of good ol’ raw CSS — but Tailwind has been a game-changer for me. At first, I was like “eww, so many classes in my HTML”, but once you get over that, it actually becomes self-documenting because you can just look at the classes you used in your HTML instead of having to dig through your Saas or CSS files to see why it looks the way it does. You should also consider buying TailwindUI if you want to be able to throw together UIs quickly that look fantastic.
- Free for Dev
A huge list of free resources to help you get started (or help you grow) when building your SaaS.
If you’re not using ngrok for your local development, you’re making it harder for yourself. It allows you to create a publicly-accessible URL for your localhost/dev environment. It makes sharing progress easier, as well as testing on other computers/browsers (or your phone!), without having to push or deploy your code anywhere. I use the paid version (for a dedicated URL), but there’s a free version as well.
- Tip: Invest in (or use) a good mic
If you’re considering building in public (or already are), you shouldn’t limit yourself to just tweets. A quick screen share or video update (see my channel, for example) makes things so much more personal and interesting. It doesn’t have to be anything super-fancy, but it’s worth your time to make sure your audio sounds nice and crisp. If you like the audio quality of my videos, all I did was run out to Target and picked up a Blue Yeti Nano microphone (about $99, highly recommended so far).
- Screencasting Software: Wondershare DemoCreator
I spent half a day trying out different screencasting software that would also let me overlay a picture-in-picture window on the video (for a nice little personal touch). I was overwhelmed by all the options (and prices), tried a bunch of them, and finally settled on DemoCreator. So far, I recommend it!
Notable Tweets/Threads (and interesting people to follow)
I admit that some of these run the risk of just being silly little platitudes (and not necessarily actionable), but there are nuggets of truth and wisdom in each of them. They also come from people that might be worth a follow.
- @heyblake on a good rule of thumb for your Next-Big-Idea™️
- @dan_abramov on how to deal with that Imposter Syndrome we all feel now and then (or the fear that people will just laugh at what you’re trying to do).
- @randfish a tongue-in-cheek joke about the secret to marketing
- @towernter just something to make you chuckle if you’ve ever fought with centering a div in HTML
- @noahwbragg decided to sell his side business on MicroAcquire and did in just 5 hours! This thread is the story behind how it all happened. Very interesting!
- @adamwathan (TailwindCSS author) on the things I believe the most strongly about making a living as an independent maker. Some very practical advice here.
- @zac_t_harris: Some interesting food-for-thought: “I generated over $100K in revenue from ONE competitor comparison page. Here are 6 tips to help you nail your competitor comparison pages”
I don’t read a new book every week, so this section may not appear in every edition of this newsletter, but here are a few worth checking out. Each of these has helped shift my mindset when it comes to building an audience and product.
Pat Flynn is one of the most genuine and down-to-earth creators out there. People love him (myself included) and everything he puts out there. In his book, he shares actionable details on what he does, why, and how you can do the same.
- Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It
Not everyone will understand what you’re selling and how it will benefit them. What’s obvious to probably not to everyone else. How do you help others see what you mean for them to understand about your product? This book helps you answer that question and apply it in your marketing.
- Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth
It’s hard to believe this book came out in 2015. It’s still as practical and actionable as ever, though. What works for one company/app/founder won’t necessarily work for another. In this book, Gabriel Weinberg (creator of DuckDuckGo) walks you through the different marketing approaches out there and how you can experiment with each until you find one that works.
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
I was initially very skeptical that this would be one of those fluffy self-help books, but it instead turned out to be a very practical framework for establishing (and maintaining) good habits. An instant classic (IMHO) for anyone.
Podcasts You Should Check Out
- The Art of Product
This is by far my favorite podcast. It features two very relatable guys who are building SaaS products right out in the open. If you’re just getting started, start with episode 39 to understand what Ben is doing with Tuple, and then episode 134 to get the foundation for what Derrick is building with SavvyCal (originally Mighty Cal).
- Founder Quest
I hesitated at first with this one, because the name sounded kind of goofy, but Starr, Josh, and Ben are hilarious to listen to. They’re on a summer break (from podcasting) right now, which gives you time to catch up! This is one of my favorite podcasts in general as they discuss the SaaS they started: Honeybadger
- IndieHackers #208 – How this Indie Hacker Blew Past $10K MRR with Jon Yongfook of Bannerbear
An interesting episode about how one Indie Hacker took what many would consider “just a feature” and turned it into a $10k MRR SaaS
- Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 524 – Bootstrapping a Commodity SaaS
An entertaining and interesting conversation about how married co-founders built, launched, and grew their SaaS, Geocodio
- Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 556 – Zero to $26k MRR as the Solo Founder of Rails Autoscale
How one developer was able to spin off a work project into its own SaaS with $26k MRR (with his employers blessing, even). Some interesting food-for-thought in this episode.
🥂 That’s it for this week!
I’m obviously not the only one with ideas and great things to share. If you think something should be included in the next edition, let me know!
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