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Hackernoon logoFrom Product Idea to $100 in Two Weeks by@harelj6

From Product Idea to $100 in Two Weeks

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@harelj6Jonathan Harel

Creator of Uhmmm and of unknown future products.

The story of Uhmmm, including the tools, numbers, and learnings. Two weeks ago I started working on UHMMM. Today, the product managed to get to the $100-in-profit mark. 

In this post, I’ll give the complete breakdown of how I did it, what were the numbers, and which tools I used. None of the companies and products mentioned here paid me in any way. All my recommendations are based strictly on my experience.

A short intro before we begin: who am I?

My name is Jonathan, I am a 26 y/o Computer Science student. I love the internet, and I always wanted to build something that I can put out there, but I never did. If you’re reading this and think “I always wanted to build something as well!”, or if you always had this one great idea, I hope that this post will inspire you to act on it.

Let’s jump right in.

Day 1: September 26th

While talking with a bunch of friends, a silly idea came up: What if we play elevator music when online meetings go silent? 

I liked the idea and decided that it’s time to go all-in and start developing. I had a domain that I previously bought (uhmmm.app), which seemed like a great fit for this product, so I just used this one.

Two notes about domains

  1. A good domain will help people remember your app and spread the word. If I bought nomoreawkwardsilence.com, there’s a small chance anyone would have remembered that.
  2. One of the best services I found for domain management is Cloudflare. They give you complete control over your DNS, analytics, extra apps, DDoS protection, and much more (and that’s just on the free plan!).

Now, it’s time to start developing!

Day 0: September 27th

I am working on a Windows machine. But it seemed to me that my product will appeal to techies. So I figured that I should develop Uhmmm in a cross-platform language (A bet that paid off later, continue reading). 

Now, my background is in Data Science. I’ve only been using Python for the past 6 years. So I had no clue about which language to choose and what to use.

In comes GitHub Student Pack. This pack contains a list of curated products and services that can help developers build better products. The pack is aimed at students, and therefore really useful for beginners.

A note about the pack

The GitHub student pack is probably one of the greatest gifts I ever received. I highly recommend that you check it out if you’re a student. You’ll see that most of the tools I used here are from there. Thank you, GitHub!

One of the tools in the pack is called Xojo: a cross-platform app development tool. It seemed like a perfect fit for me, so I started playing around with it. 

The Xojo interface is very friendly for beginners.

I quickly figured that one critical component is missing from Xojo: connecting to the system’s audio device to detect silence. 

Fortunately, people already faced this problem. After a quick search, I found a plugin that handles all of the audio integration for me. The plugin cost €59, a worthy price to pay for the time it saved me.

Day 1: September 28th

Besides the software, I also had to build a website for the app. Considering my background, Django was the easy choice. 

I had never created a website before, so once again the student pack came to my help: I used PyCharm to develop, and Bootstrap Studio to design the website. 

After a few iterations, I had the first landing page ready to go:

The landing page for Uhmmm

But making a landing page is not enough. To launch a good website there are more things to consider: contact email, analytics, and of course, good copy and content.

Once again, the student pack came to my rescue. I used Mailgun to receive and send emails, and Simple Analytics to monitor the website. 

A note about analytics

When I talked about my website with my friends, almost all of them told me “You should use Google Analytics”. Well, it doesn’t have to be your default choice. Simple Analytics is a great service that keeps the privacy of your users and is super easy to integrate into your website. You can even make your website stats public - feel free to check out the statistics for Uhmmm here!). These days privacy awareness is going up (if you haven’t seen The Social Dilemma, please do), so it’s worth considering.

Day 2: September 29th

It’s time to think about putting it out there. The greatest product is worth nothing if no one sees it! 

I sat down and prepared a document with all the places I want to post Uhmmm on, and what am I going to write. This list includes Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter, HackerNews, Whatsapp, Product Hunt, and more.

A note about posting and sharing

Each website has different rules and expects different content. I recommend reading the guidelines and making sure what you post is valid. This way you can increase the chances that you will get the most exposure. Product Hunt made an excellent post just about that, don’t post there before reading it!  

Something else to keep in mind is that social posts about your website should capture the eyes of the audience. For this, we need to create some nice visuals. We also need to make sure that when someone shares our website, our nice visuals will be seen.

I recommend three tools for that:

  1. Canva. Surprise surprise, it is also a part of the student pack. Canva is an amazing tool, helping people who are not designers create amazing designs. I used it to create most of the visuals for Uhmmm.
  2. Facebook Sharing Debugger. This tool helps you see how will a post look like when someone shares your website on Facebook.
  3. Twitter Card Validator. Same thing but for Twitter.

The nice visuals can make the difference between someone checking your website or not, so it’s critical to make them appealing!

A visual designed using Canva, to be shown on Product Hunt.

Day 3: September 30th

I continue to work on the website and software, solving bugs 🐛, and trying to bring it to life. Things start to look nice, but there’s still more work to be done. Nevertheless… It’s time to think about monetization.

I considered two payment options:

  1. Pay-to-play: Uhmmm will cost some money to install.
  2. Buy me a coffee (BMC). If you’re a techie you probably already know this service. BMC allows creators to put a small badge on their website, which users can then click on to easily support with a “coffee” (1-5 Euros).

Eventually, I chose option #2.

I knew that if I charge money for using Uhmmm, it had to be a cheap price. But it worried me that this small barrier would majorly hurt the virality of the product. Personally, I wouldn’t be a big fan of a “joke” website asking for money.

Another benefit of using BMC is that they handle all the payment processes. As the famous coding mantra goes: “NEVER reinvent the wheel”. This is especially true when it comes to sensitive topics such as payments.

Day 4: October 1st

It’s the final day before the big launch! Spend the day making sure you are ready for tomorrow:

  • Can you receive emails?
    Your best users are those who want to give you their opinion. Make sure they can!
  • Is the website fully functional?
    This checklist is very helpful.
  • Is the website fast, and mobile-friendly?
    This is a critical question. Most of your users will arrive through mobile, make sure that the website is prepared for that! Use this tool by Google to find out how can you improve your website speed.
  • Is the product working?
    I stayed up until 4 AM to verify that the software works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Get a friend of yours to help you check how do things work on a clean machine. In my case, we realized we should probably ship the product together with a user manual, and that help is required for MacOS Catalina users.
  • Are there any legal topics you should cover?
    In our case, we had to give credit to the royalty-free music creators. 

There are many more things to cover, depending on your use case. But to make it short: Only ship out something you’d enjoy using!

The manual we created for MacOS users.

Day 5: October 2nd — Launch day 🎉

We reached launch day, and by 9 AM I started posting about Uhmmm everywhere, following the document I prepared on day 3. 

By the end of the day:

  • We had 1.9K visitors to the website, mostly from Product Hunt.
  • We listed ~500 downloads.We were lucky enough, and three different Spanish websites wrote about us.
  • Some friends and family showed their support on BMC.
  • The founder of Product Hunt commented on the product.
  • One person offered feedback on the product, but I wasn’t up to implementing it (We will come back to this)

In total, it was a great day, filled with excitement and loving comments. But I knew this is the “going up” part of the rollercoaster 🎢, and that I can expect traffic to go down from here.

The only exception would be if Uhmmm catches fire and turns viral. But, obviously, never count on that to happen.

Day 6: October 3rd

As expected, traffic to the website dropped to almost a third: only 720 visitors. Out of those about 150 downloaded the software, and again, only friends and family supported on BMC.

After the exposure Uhmmm got yesterday, people contacted me and gave me some more ideas about places I can share the product. So I did, and I published it on student work galleries and more forums.

Seeing that we also got some press coverage, I decided to write some PR pitches and send them to big names (TechCrunch and other big tech journalists). 

A note about PR

I am definitely not the best source for information regarding what’s the best way to do it, but here’s what I’ve learned: Do put more effort into your PR pitches, and get them right. Don’t be lazy! A nice article can be the “make-or-break” for your product and will send a lot of traffic to your website.

Day 7: October 4th

Views are plummeting, and I was sure that it is over for Uhmmm. The ride was nice, and I got a few thousand views. We even ended up as the #4 product of the day on Product Hunt, which is not bad for a first-timer! 

I got some emails, most of them were about problems but some of them were about joining some makers groups, which is a cool place to be in.

With around 300 views and ~100 downloads, I decided to stop refreshing the analytics page, and move on.

Day 8: October 5th — the turnover

After yesterday, I decided to take it easy. “nothing will probably happen”.

But then at 23:30, just before the day ended, I got this email (remember that this is important):

Uhmmm… TikTok? I didn’t post anything on TikTok…

Well, it turns out someone else did. And not only that, that TikTok had 160K views. Analytics suggested that almost 1.5K visitors came to the website! I was shocked and went to sleep thinking about all the things I will have to do tomorrow.

(Today, the same TikTok has close to half a million views.)

Day 9: October 6th — The second wave

With 260K views in the morning, I realized the second wave of visitors is bound to hit my website today, and I better be prepared.

What can I do to turn this traffic into revenue? It’s time to create merchandise. After some research, I decided to use Teespring. They allow you to easily set up and sell your designs to almost anywhere.

Another thing to cover is collecting emails. I’ve been giving out the software for free, but I don’t know who are the people that downloaded it. If I could collect their emails I will be able to contact them with more products / offers down the road. So I set up a “leave us your email to download” page, and emails started flowing in. 

Now that I have a viral TikTok on my side, it might be a good time to contact (again) some news agencies and reporters and try to get some PR. I sent another email with an update about Uhmmm and hoped for the best. (Again, I’m not an expert on PR. Maybe this is a beginner mistake. Please write to me if you have input on that!)

The day ended with 1.5K visitors and almost 800 downloads. On the up side, BMC supporters are not only friends and family now!

Days 10–11: October 7th — 8th

These two days were low on activity. While the TikTok video kept bringing people to the website, I was not sure about future actions I should take. 

My friends told me to keep contacting people online and spread the word as much as I can. So that’s what I did. Over these two days I tweeted, DM’d, and emailed people who might be interested in this and can help me boost Uhmmm.

No great success was listed, and the decline can be seen in the views graph:

Dark grey — Page views; Light blue — Visitors.

Day 12: October 9th

With some time on my hands, I decided to listen to the feedback I got and turn Uhmmm into a Freemium: The software will be free, but I’ll create a new version that can play the songs you choose.

If you remember, I got this feedback twice before: One time on launch day and one time in the email you’ve read. 

I created the software throughout the day and updated the website accordingly. Premiuhmmm is officially out!

With the premium version of Uhmmm, you can control the music, and also the sensitivity of the mic (in case you are in a not-so-quiet environment). In comparison, the free version only plays 2 elevator music tracks and has a fixed sensitivity.

I priced it at $4.99 and integrated with stripe for easy and secure checkout. Yet again, thank you Github student pack.

Day 13: October 10th

Not a lot of activity. Website visitors are scarce, and even fewer downloads… 

It seems that most traffic comes from Product Hunt, and not from Google. I found out that my website is not optimized for search engines, and only shows up on the second page of google. This is not ideal and calls for some improvements. Time to learn how to do SEO!

What else can I do to push Uhmmm forward? Well, you are reading the answer: 😉 Time to write a post about the process.

Day 14: October 11th

Overnight, the first person bought Premiuhmm, and together with BMC and merchandise, we reached $100 in profit. 💰💯🎉

The purchase served as proof that some people would be interested in purchasing it, so I lowered the price to $1.99, hoping that it will appeal to more people now. And indeed, purchases started to roll in!

Time to revise the learnings.

Learnings

“Experience is a master teacher, even when it’s not our own.”

At the end of the day, one can only learn so much from the theory. So while I hope my takeaways will be useful for you, I encourage you to get out there and try for yourself. This is the best way to learn and grow.

I’d like to share with you my three main takeaways from this short journey:

1. Listen to your users

I got the feedback about custom music on launch day. I could have implemented the premium version right away, but I didn’t. Now, I’m not saying that you should jump on every feedback you get from your users and implement it right away. But,

If someone took the time to write to you about your product, you should take the time to research this option. 

Experiment, test, and try more and more options until you get it right. But most of all, always be attentive to your users.

2. There’s always something more you can do

Throughout these two weeks, almost every day I received a useful advice from a friend: “Tweet @ this guy”, “Write a blog post”, “Share it on this website”, etc… So while I did try to prepare as best I can, I realized on-the-go that

I could have collected emails from the first day.

I could have tweeted at more people on day 1.

I could have put more effort (pre-launch) into my PR pitches.

Bottom line,

Always ask yourself “what else can I do?”. If you can’t find the answer, ask others.

Ask, ask, ask. There’s always one more trick in the sleeve, one more channel you can use, one more post you should write. You will have your ideas, but don’t stop with that. Your friends will be a great source of ideas when you get stuck.

3. Detach from the outcome, and have some good optimism

You never know how will the internet respond to your creation. That’s why it’s very, very important to detach your happiness from the outcome. 

Don’t let the website visitors statistics control your mood!

Do it because you love it, do it because your idea is awesome, do it just because you want to learn. Enjoy the fact that you created something, that it’s out there, and that you made it!

Even if you will not get to Product Hunt’s #1 product of the day, you will connect with interesting people, gain valuable knowledge, and make one more step towards being that awesome girl / guy behind name-of-your-future-killer-product-here.

And finally, keep a healthy amount of optimism! Optimism is the engine that will push you to take that one extra step, to give that one more push. In the words of Helen Keller:

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope or confidence.”

Thanks for reading, and I hope this short article would be useful for you. If you have any comments, I’d love to hear from you. Tweet @harelj6 or leave your comments here. 

And finally, make sure to check https://uhmmm.app/! 🎵

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