cover img from From freelancing to building a million-dollar project

From freelancing to building a million-dollar project

By Ivan Homola · December 25, 2021

I had the pleasure to meet many great indie makers in our community. One of them is Albert. A very humble developer from Barcelona working in his dream job - building his online product.

He was able to turn his side project into a profitable, growing business over the past few years. I talked to him to learn more about his journey as a tech founder.

Hi Albert, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and the project you are working on?

Hi folks, I’m Albert, a tech entrepreneur from Barcelona. I’m working on a project called Heyzine. It’s a flipbook maker that creates online magazines, catalogs, brochures, etc.

How is it going so far?

I finished the first version back in 2018. It took another 2 years to figure out the marketing, and the project started to grow.

Today, we have 60 000 users, out of which 8 000 are paying customers. Our revenue is steadily growing by 15% each month.

That’s awesome! How did it all start?

I’ve been a developer since I was 13 years old. It was always my passion. I worked full-time for big companies for many years, but at one point, I stopped learning that much, and it became boring. I decided to change my job and start freelancing.

I got a lot of ideas while I was working for my clients. Actually, I built Heyzine for one of my customers initially. All solutions out there were not suitable, so I decided to create one. Later, I found out other people like it too.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

I always thought people behind these online projects are big teams backed by investors. Then I discovered Indie Hackers, where people talk about building projects by themselves and making money that way. It opened my eyes, and I started to think about this path too.

When was the moment you found out it was working?

I put more effort into marketing, spreading the word all over the internet. We gained more and more backlinks, and our organic traffic started to grow.

I invested my time into SEO, content, new landing page, creating a knowledge base, etc. Also, I added backlinks to our website from all flipbooks created by free users.

How hard is it for you to find a time to focus on marketing as a developer?

It’s tough. When you are a creator and look at your product, you find many things to improve.

I love programming, but I still need to push myself to make new content, landing pages, optimize texts, and so on. Sometimes it takes days. I feel like I’m not productive, and it leads nowhere, but it is the best investment I’ve been making in the long term.

You can have the best product in the world, but if nobody knows it, you are not going to have any success.

What are your best marketing channels?

As I mentioned earlier, we focus mainly on content and SEO. I tried ads too, but I wasn’t successful with them. Also, we are running lifetime deals which bring us nice revenue each month.

Everyone thinks lifetime deals are short-hyped campaigns when you offer a unique package for a limited time. However, we have been selling these for a year now.

Initially, I planned to sell LTDs for a couple of months and stop it. But analyzing the data, I found out our lifetime customers have very low server and support costs.

That’s interesting. Can you share any data?

We attracted over 900 new customers and made $50k net revenue from this marketing channel in 12 months. However, it’s just one of the marketing channels we have. We don’t rely on that. It creates a minority revenue.

Aren’t you afraid these customers drain your product and become a pain in the end?

We monitor all server costs, support time, etc. We calculated it, and it’s still attractive to sell these lifetime deals.

What would you say are the key benefits of running a lifetime deal campaign?

Many of these lifetime customers are early adopters, and they support your project a lot. You give them a good deal, and when they like your product, they will promote you further.

Nice. Let’s move on. Is there anything you would do differently now?

I would start selling earlier, focus on marketing and forget about all those cool things I wanted to build. Heyzine had some features that I thought were essential, but I ended removing them later because nobody used them or understood them.

Don’t think about marketing as a “side job”. It’s a part of the product building.

How do you manage your work-life balance when you have a family?

It’s been way better after I decided to focus only on Heyzine. I got a family, 2 kids, and I have more time for them now. While freelancing, I had 5 clients, which meant 5 bosses and strong deadlines.

But now you have thousands of customers, aren’t they like your bosses, now?

It’s different. I’m developing based on their feedback, so I know everything has a purpose and value for users. But I don’t feel any pressure. I can manage my time better, and my family supports me a lot.

Do you still work on the project alone?

It’s mainly an employee and me, and I try to outsource sometimes things like copywriting, content, customer support, and legal stuff.

When is the best moment to start outsourcing tasks?

Some say to hire when they can do it better than you. However, I think you can learn almost anything with effort and persistence. But, it takes time. I think the best moment is when there is no other option to keep up.

I decided to start hiring when I was working over 12 hours per day. I was overflowed with development tasks, support requests, and knowing I needed to work more on marketing to keep growing.

It works very well. I still need to spend a lot of time explaining and following up with everyone. But the results are better, and I can have more focus where it’s needed.

How do you see the future of Heyzine?

I’m very happy right now. This is my dream. I don’t want to raise money or manage a big team. I’m glad what we’ve accomplished so far, and I’m thrilled to see our project growing every month. I’m patient. I want to continue improving the product based on the feedback and see how it goes.

Do you have any last advice for tech solopreneurs?

The most important thing is to ship it! I know it’s a very common idea. Still, I have a lot of dead side-projects in my repository before Heyzine, and I feel like many developers like me are building a project for too long without sharing it with potential users.

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