How I Failed With My Recent SaaS Product
Building a successful SaaS business is not easy. I realised it the hard way.
When I was introduced to programming, I fell in love with it. The idea of changing the world just by sitting in a room in a corner of the world fascinated me.
I always loved to work on side projects. I loved building products to solve own problems I faced every day. At any point, I always had a side project I was excited to work on. I did this for many years but I never shared it with anyone except for a few close friends of mine.
I kept working on many side projects over the years. I even put them proudly on my resume. But I never really built something which was solving an actual problem. I did this for years. I built products that were fun to work on.
For example, these are some of the products I built:
- A Linux desktop alarm manager
- Track courier app
- Github contribution enhancer
- Product Hunt CLI etc
As you can see all these are fun products to build but they aren't solving an actual real-world problem.
Eventually, I came across the concept of micro saas products and bootstrapped companies. If you're a SaaS enthusiast but don't think can build a typical startup, you should check out what micro SaaS startups are.
Basically, you build a small SaaS product that solves a very niche problem and earn tens of thousands of dollars (or a hell lot more if it goes well).
The main goals behind a Mirco startup are:
- solving a small but a real problem
- working on products you love
- still making a lot of money
- freedom from working for someone else
- staying small (typically 1-5 people)
Story of Landr:
When the pandemic hit the world in 2020 I had plenty of time at my disposal. So I decided to work on that "one cool idea" I had for some time.
The idea was to make "yet another website builder". But I decided to solve this problem a little differently. Even though many drag and drop tools were available for nontechnical people to build websites, I thought people still needed to have great design skills to develop a good website using these tools.
So I built a simpler tool that involved taking user inputs through a series of forms and generate websites from a user-selected template available on the tool. I named it Landr.
Users can input details like:
- product features
- newsletter details
- embed video links
- images etc
Sounds simple right?
Of course, this was a cool idea to build. End users can just enter some inputs and click on the Generate button and create a website for themselves.
This is where I went wrong.
If you have the slightest knowledge of building SaaS products you would have figured out my mistakes by now, which are many!
This is not generally how you build SaaS products, especially when your goal is to build a successful SaaS product generating thousands of dollars of income per month. You need to follow the right approach which generally involves doing the below steps in order:
- Market research
- Validate Idea
- Build MVP product
- Get user feedback
- Add additional features
- Launch again
- Market it more
As you can see I didn't do any of the critical steps before starting to code the product. Doing market research is very important to understand which market has the potential to get into.
Ideation is important to understand the real problems that people have. Once you confirm there exists a demand for a product solving a particular problem and people are ready to pay if such a product exists, only then you should go ahead and start building the MVP version of your product.
But I skipped all these critical steps and jumped right into coding the "cool idea" I had. If you want to learn how to build a successful SaaS business online, take a look at the eBook that we released recently which I co-wrote along with my friend.
I spent months building the complete product end to end all by myself. I was the only one who was deciding what features should be present in the product without any user involvement.
I was motivated to complete the project and I did put a lot of heart into it. I was able to complete it in 2 months along with my day job at a startup. Another mistake. This is another mistake. You should not be spending 2 months of your time without showing the minimal product to the end-users and getting feedback to improve on it. There is a famous quote by Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, which really resonates with some entrepreneurs:
If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.
Honestly, I loved the effort I had put in and how the product turned out in the end. I made a checklist of different things to take care of for the launch on Product Hunt and on Twitter. I even made a launch video myself. I have never edited videos before. But I was committed enough to giving it all I had for the launch.
The launch in fact did go well and it achieved #5 Product of the Day. The launch went well in terms of upvotes and likes. I didn't make a single sale. I wasn't aware of how SaaS products are actually built during this time. More importantly, I didn't know how to market the product I had.
I tried to DM people on Twitter, got involved in Facebook group discussions, and tried to spread the word about my product. But nobody was ready to pay for the product. I tried hard for a couple of months more before I finally abandoned the project.
When I researched and talked to more people in the SaaS space after this, I realized my mistakes.
When I look back I don't regret spending months of hard work on this product. At the end of the day, I learned something new and I did build a product I had in mind, which made me happy.