Thomas Sanlis is a serial indie maker I met on Twitter who started to monetize products in 2020. Let's learn from his story.
Hi Thomas! Can you introduce yourself?
Hi Pauline, of course! Excited to be published on your blog 😄
My name is Thomas, but you can call me Toto! I live in the lovely city of Nantes in France, and I'm originally a freelance developer and designer. I also teach several times a month in a web development school (https://adatechschool.fr/). But in reality, I spend most of my time on Twitter talking about the projects I'm working on!
How did you get the idea of Uneed.best?
Almost three years ago, my collection of bookmarks was constantly growing and I was having trouble keeping track of them. I tried using tools like Raindrop and even developed a side project called "Boucmark" to manage my bookmarks, but neither worked well for me on a daily basis. That's why I decided to create a simple website to list and share the tools I was using with the internet 😄. This helped me better organize myself and access the resources I needed.
Was it your first indie hacker project?
Officially, yes! I was just starting out in the indie hacking world and wasn't sure how to get involved. However, I had worked on a lot of useless projects in the past without knowing about indie hacking or thinking I could make money from them 😅. For example, I managed a Minecraft server for several years (like many other developers it seems haha). I even had a youtube channel, good luck finding it 🤓.
It wasn't until 2020 that I learned about the world of indie hacking and started exploring ways to monetize my projects.
How long did it take to launch and to get your first customer?
I don't remember exactly how long it took me to launch Uneed, but it was relatively quick because I just wanted to get something online (even if the design wasn't great) so I’d say a few days. I received my first customer on May 20, 2020, three months after the launch. At that time, it cost $10 per month to be featured on Uneed, but traffic wasn’t great 😅. I kept on maintaining Uneed like that for two years, redesigning regularly but never doing any marketing. It obviously didn't work very well haha!
Can you share some stats or numbers about Uneed.best ?
Here you go:
- 📊 50K unique visitors in December
- 🛠️ 800 tools listed on the website, 100+ on our waiting list
- 👩🏽🦰 4K account created in two months
- ✉️ 3.5K subscribers to our weekly newsletter
- 🤑 $700 revenue in December
Are you ramen profitable?
Not yet, but soon 💪
What are the main issues you encountered?
One of the main technical challenges I faced was creating a site with a fast loading time, numerous tools, and low resource consumption while also prioritizing SEO.
In terms of marketing, the most complicated part was of course getting the site out there. I decided to launch it on Product Hunt after my last redesign, and after reworking the whole UX of the site. I already had a lot of backlinks, so that probably helped a lot. It was the boost I needed: the visits took off, and people started talking about Uneed everywhere.
However, the most significant issue was working on a website for almost three years without seeing much success. Two things helped me stay motivated:
- I use Uneed a lot myself.
- I've automated as many things as possible, to make adding a tool as fast as possible.
Do you have a marketing strategy ?
My marketing strategy includes the following:
- Increasing traffic is a top priority for me because the more visits I get, the more clicks I receive on premium tools (which pay to be featured on the site). To achieve this, I try to regularly talk about Uneed on various platforms such as Reddit, Twitter, or Indie Hackers for example.
- When I add a new tool to the site, I promote it on social media networks like Twitter and Instagram to help drive traffic to Uneed.
- I send out a weekly newsletter featuring the new tools of the week to encourage users to return to the site and stay engaged.
- I share updates on my progress and strategies on Twitter to humanize the site, build an audience, and gather feedback from other creators.
- To create a sense of exclusivity, I have a waiting list. You can add your tool for free to Uneed, but you have to go through it, and it’s currently 4 months long! This also allows me to carefully review the quality of the tools, including their social media presence, landing pages, and functionality. I also give them appropriate tags on Uneed and sometimes test them myself if I'm not convinced.
Recently you launched Equilibre. It’s interesting what you did there because you proposed a pre-order price to validate the idea:
- if you reached at least 5 pre-orders sales, you launch,
- otherwise you reimbursed people.
It avoids to spend time to build something people won’t buy.
It seems you reached your goal, congratulations! Can you tell us more about it?
Thank you 🤗!
With Equilibre I finally understood that it’s better to make sure you have a market before building anything. Having customers before we even start the project helps a lot with motivation. It's also again a project that I plan to use myself.
I got 4 pre-orders in two days, it was enough for me 😄.
This project is quite particular: it is a starterkit to launch its SaaS quickly, based on Nuxt and Supabase. It is thus addressed to a very specific audience.
I sent the first version to my customers a few days ago, and I'm now working to answer their feedback!
Final words, what are your tips for people who want to create a SaaS too?
I have some classic little tips to give that I wish I had listened to earlier haha:
- It's not about the idea, it's about the execution.
- Marketing is MORE important than development.
- It's hard to make a living as an indie maker. Don't put a lot of pressure on yourself by quitting your job before you start making money.
- Be patient. The more you persist, the more your audience grows, and the more your chances increase. Some people manage to succeed quickly, but they are by no means the majority of indie hackers.
- Follow me on Twitter. 🤓
I hope you liked this first interview. Find Thomas' links here:
His website: https://www.thomas-sanlis.com/
His best tools of the internet curation: uneed.best
SaaS starterkit: http://equilibre.app
Learn more about indie maker: http://whatisanindiemaker.com