How I Marketed My Side Project, While Making 550€/Month at a 40h/Week Job
As I’m a guy from Austria, I had the choice of going to the military for six months or doing some kind of social work for nine months. I chose the latter, where I made about 550€ per month.
Being passionate about building stuff on the web, I started a side project.
Step 1: Idea & Validation
Marketing on low budget starts where all marketing starts, at idea & validation. With a low budget it’s especially true that you can’t create demand, so you have to be certain that the demand for your product is already there.
Knowing who my idea might be helpful for, I set out to find some people who could be interested in my product. As it is an addition to an existing product, I just searched for references on Quora & Google.
If you for example build a plugin for Shopify, try contacting Shopify shop owners. Whatever your business is, you should know where your potential customers are.
Now, I just had to find a way to contact them. That’s not always possible, but in most cases you can find emails with tools like hunter.io.
As I didn’t have any budget for ads, I had to reach out to people in a more manual fashion, so I had to pay even more attention to being mindful about how I spent my time.
Talking to people also gave me so much motivation. I guess you can’t effectively build a product without talking to people.
Step 2: Get the Word Out
Writing cold emails definitely helped me find out whether people would be interested in the product and how exactly I would build it, but it’s not a great way to build an audience.
I knew that I wanted to write about my progress with my project from the beginning. I knew that content marketing is a great strategy to market projects like mine, but as I had a 40 hour job at that time, I couldn’t schedule a lot of time for marketing. So writing a lot of high quality content, for which I would have needed to do a lot of research, wasn’t an option. I instead settled on writing what I already knew and what I learnt. I simply published the whole process of building the product. It turned out to be a great way of building an audience.
How you can do it
If you want to do the same, you should make sure that what you write is relevant to your target audience. If your grandpa is your target customer, you might not see too much of a return from writing about how you write code. But you would still build an audience that’s interested in your journey. You could leverage that audience with some other project. Being an authority is never a bad thing.
What happened to me
I actually got featured on Hacker Noon after only a couple of days of writing, which brought a whole lot of reads. I was so unbelievably excited about that. I actually posted some articles on Medium before. They received about 30 views each.
I also tried to collect emails in my articles with upscribe, but that only got me three emails. My landing page on the other hand landed me 100+ emails, many of which came from my articles. Most importantly: Writing didn’t only help marketing-wise, but also with motivation and reflecting on what I’m doing.
Not only good feelings came up during that time. I actually faced many problems and often considered shutting the project down. I’m still not sure whether I should have.
Being Overwhelmed by Marketing Strategies
To be honest, marketing on a low budget isn’t too hard. There are so many guides and “best practises” out there that you can follow without putting any money into the game.
All the blogs, books and podcasts out there suggest so many things you could try. There is so much marketing bullshit, and even worse, so much good stuff.
But I still had to focus, since I only had limited time. Like most people with super low budget, I also didn’t have access to a team of marketers, so the real struggle wasn’t that there was no money, but that there was not time.
I had to prioritize.
Even if you do have a marketing team, you still have to focus and need a concrete marketing plan. You’ll definitely be able to try more things, but you can’t try everything. That’s just too broad.
Don’t Forget the Best Marketing Strategy
You need a great product.
Word of mouth isn’t a marketing channel, but what happens when people want to share something. Make sure that people want to share your product.
Now, to be fair, if your product isn’t unbelievably amazing, you won’t get by without any marketing. But no matter where your product stands from useless to invaluable, you want to create a product that markets itself.
Even if your product doesn’t go completely viral, you can still incentivise your users to tell their friends about you. I recommend this article from ahrefs.
One more thing. As pricing is an important part of marketing I want you to think about this before creating a product. Here’s why your pricing makes a decisive difference in how much time you need to invest, especially if you’re like me and split your time between development & marketing:
Talking to customers takes a lot of time, so you want to make sure that you have a high ARPU (average revenue per user). That’s why I don’t offer a free plan. That might drive some traffic, but as I contact every user, this isn’t an option with my limited time.
If you want to know a little more about my project, you can check out its website or read how I got started with it: [Day 0] Zero to MVP in 30 Days — What it’s all about