Joe Grows RailsDevs to $130k in 11 Months
Table of Contents
- Tell us about your product and what inspired you to start it?
- How long did it take you to acquire your first 50 customers, and what was your growth strategy?
- Which technology stack are you using and what challenges and limitations does it pose?
- What are some of the most essential tools that you use for your business?
- What have been some of the biggest insights you've gained since starting your entrepreneurial journey?
- Your recommended books/podcasts/newsletters etc.:
- What other products are you working on?
I'm a freelance Ruby on Rails developer and found myself with a lot of inbound leads but not enough time to work with everyone. I started collecting contact info from other Rails developers who were looking for work in a spreadsheet and sharing it around.
In a few weeks I connected multiple people with contracts and even a full-time hire! Then my entrepreneur brain told me there was a business somewhere in there. I made the first commit to RailsDevs in October of 2021.
RailsDevs is a reverse job board for Ruby on Rails developers. Devs post their profile and hiring businesses reach out to them. It cuts out the middlemen, job postings, and formal resumes. Instead, the focus is on organic conversations.
It gives power back to the developer.
When my first customer asked to pay I didn't even have Stripe set up on my site. I had to manually email them an invoice via Stripe!
Now most of my customers come from building RailsDevs in public. I share as much as possible about the company from analytics, to revenue, to the source code. The RailsDevs codebase is 100% open source.
I also try to make all of my decisions in public and get feedback from other developers. Since I'm so tapped into the Rails community my Twitter audience is a great place to see what new features to build and where to make tweaks.
Building in public leads to folks sharing RailsDevs with their company and hiring managers seeing me talk about it and signing up. I also do a bit of cold outreach to businesses that I know are hiring for a new Rails position.
Ruby on Rails, of course! Building a product in Rails for Rails developers works really well. I often get folks open a PR on the codebase and then see them sign up for the site a few days later.
The biggest technology challenge I face is also what makes RailsDevs so good (in my opinion): I only attract developers interested in Ruby on Rails. Niching down has helped me differentiate from competitors trying to tackle something similar but for a much larger audience.
I use a few tools to manage RailsDevs but these are the ones I can't live without.
GitHub creates the opportunity for other developers to contribute to the codebase and make it a shared experience. Of the 70+ contributors to RailsDevs ~5 of them made their first commit to open source software in this codebase. It's amazing to see new developers get started on their OSS journey when I click "Merge" on their pull request.
DMBox forwards my Twitter direct messages to my email client where I can integrate them with the rest of my workflow. I use HEY to mange my email and rely heavily on bubbling up (snoozing) emails for follow-up and marking threads to reply later. This ensures I don't miss an opportunity to help a new customer or let a potential sale go stale.
I'm also experimenting with Notion for long-form thoughts and decisions. I love how I can make any page public with a few clicks. This helps me conceptualize my thoughts and then ask for feedback from folks on Twitter via inline comments.
What have been some of the biggest insights you've gained since starting your entrepreneurial journey?
I've quickly learned that the success of a product is rarely tied to features and code. I got my first paying customer before you could even reset your password!
Now that the business is a bit more established (but still just getting started) I spend a lot more time thinking and writing and less time actively coding. Talking to customers and finding success stories has been a really fun way to learn about how impactful the business is, too.
But I'd be lying if I said I have it all figured out. I'm constantly second guessing myself, triple checking my work, and asking for help. If anything, now I feel like there's so much I don't know that it can be overwhelming at times.
If you are going to read one marketing, sales, or business book then I recommend Obviously Awesome by April Dunford. It's all about positioning your product the right way so customers are more likely to buy it and love it.
I do the positioning exercise outlined in the book for every new product I start. It helps me answer the important questions like who will buy this and what language I should use on my marketing pages.
My favorite podcast is Indie Bites from a close friend, James McKinven. He publishes weekly 15 minute episodes with indie hackers that have started small, profitable, and bootstrapped businesses. It's the perfect length to listen to on a short walk around the block.
I built and sold Mugshot Bot in 14 months. It was around $200 MRR when I started reaching out to folks. https://masilotti.com/idea-to-sold-in-14-months/