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How Sarwech used X and Product Hunt to grow Birdbanner

Meet Sarwech Shar who is an indie hacker based in London.

Sarwech Shar

Sarwech first came across indie hacking around 2018. Before that he launched a couple of startups that ultimately ended in failure. He has been on this journey for almost 8 years on and off whilst working full-time.

The story told by Sarwech Shar

In 2020 I started an analytics tool for Webflow called Nocodelytics which grew to 50 customers and has been featured in Webflow’s annual conference. I eventually sold it last year (2023) and then I started working at an AI startup.

Unfortunately after 6 months that company ended up laying off several people including me, so it felt like I was back to square one (2023 has been a brutal year for tech).

After I got laid off, I was depressed for a few days seeing that I’d hit failure after failure on my own projects, was hired then let go in a few months and finding a job or contract was extremely difficult.

I realized the only thing in my control was indie hacking, so I decided to go all on it. My goal in 2024 is to hit $5k MRR (ramen profitability) and then shoot for the moon from there. Literally too, my long term goal is to go to the moon 🚀

Another thing that I realized I should be grateful for is the experience and knowledge I had gained about indie hacking. I wasn’t going in fresh (which can be a disadvantage) but equally, I had never really been authentic in my past efforts. So I decided to be authentic as possible, sharing my progress and learnings all in public.

One example is simply sharing my goals for 2024:

I saw a lot of people tweeting their 2024 goals but they often just came across as ads for the products themselves. This always struck me as odd since the definition of an indie hacker, at least to me, is someone who eschews the concept of large bland corporations trying to sell products.

Instead an indie hacker is someone who’s individuality (and personal self) is core to their product also. So by sharing my goals, I also wanted to ensure I got my personal goals (and a bit of my own personality) across too. Plus, it makes it more fun.

In the 3 months since getting laid off, I’ve built and launched 3 products whilst growing my X following (which has grown from 0 to 1,000 followers in 2 months).

The first product was a fun little GPT wrapper that recommends movies/books/shows/games you might like. The second is called Image to GIF and lets people turn static images into moving videos. The third one - and where my current focus is - is called Birdbanner which lets people make awesome X banners in seconds.

Birdbanner - An easy way to create banners for X

I started working on the idea for Birdbanner at the end of December 2023 (really just the logo and planning the features) but started coding it on January 2nd 2024. I released the first version on X on January 5th and it got some decent traction, compared to my previous two tools.

Something I learned from indie hacking in the past is that a short feedback loop is super important. If you can tease ideas or features or ship fixes fast, people appreciate that and even get inspired by it. So I tried to do that going into this product.

One example of sharing the process of building to generate hype in this way is the tweet below. I shared it and it went viral, considering I had maybe 300 followers at the time.

What this kind of tweet did was get people’s interest in not only my profile (because the banner sticks out) but also they were curious about the product. This helped build hype and momentum going into the launch on January 5th which was just 1 day later and people seemed to love it too.

As I’ve been building within the #buildinpublic community, people are very forthcoming with feedback (in a constructive way) which is awesome. It meant I had lots to go in terms of feature ideas (beyond just my own) and it helped guide me in figuring out what this product could be.

For example, I thought people wanted to keep things super simple and didn’t care about font options or backgrounds too much, so I only launched with 3 options. But I quickly found out from indie hackers that they’d like X font or Y background feature.

So over the next week or 2, I quickly added different customization options, the ability to upload backgrounds, arrow options, the ability to change font color. None of these things existed in the MVP but people were still sending me messages saying they loved the idea of it.

My goal was to go through these feature requests as quickly as possible and shipping fast. The best way to ship fast is to ship small, one feature at a time. I host on Vercel and as far as I know they don’t punish you if you do 10 deployments a day vs just 1 deployment a day.

For example, a background overlay might seem like the tiniest feature but I shipped it out on its own, tweeted about it and the post got 43 likes!

Something else I learned very quickly is that every time I shipped something someone had asked for, people really appreciated that. Whether it was through the comments or simply the amount of likes, people loved to see an indie hacker just following through on their word.

For an example, here’s one way of noticing what users want in public and then delivering on it:

Another thing that worked consistently is to deliver your feature announcements in more fun ways. For example, if I built dark mode, the bad way to announce it would be to mention it in a bullet point of a list containing other features.

A more engaging way (IMO) to announce it is to actually show your product in light vs dark modes and have fun with it.

The site itself has had 3,000 visitors since launch. In terms of getting to 100 customers, I’m not quite there yet. I launched as a totally free product on January 5th and only added a paid option (intro offer of only $1) on January 19th and got the first 5 customers over the weekend. I’ve got 12 customers as of the end of January and am working towards a Product Hunt launch on February 2nd.

One lesson I do have for marketing the product is to try to stay consistent. The more consistent you are, the more marketing ideas (or tweets) you can generate, and the more momentum you can build. It also means you’re staying constantly engaged with your community which is a good thing.

But taking breaks is also important. I actually hit a point three weeks after launch where I was feeling exhausted and got sick because there was a bug going around my kids’ school. The exhaustion + sickness put me out for two to three days which doesn’t seem like much but for X it could be a huge setback that can take a week or two to recover from.

Fortunately I had some content saved from before and still some energy to interact with folks which kept the momentum going but if I had conserved some energy earlier I probably would have been able to recover faster.

Example of this

Also, although my focus is 100% on X right now for marketing, I did run an experiment to launch on Product Hunt (on February 2nd 2024).

To prepare for this, I created a teaser page 1 week out and sent a few hype tweets asking people to join the waitlist. Because I’d been building in public, people were super helpful and quickly joined the list. I gathered a waitlist of around 90 people when I launched.

Part of tweet asking to join the ProductHunt waitlist

On launch day, throughout the day I shared updates on how the launch was going but I never asked for upvotes. You want to be in a position where people will help you without asking for it. Don’t let the first time someone finds out about you be on Product Hunt launch day.

In the end, even though this was my first launch it was quite successful as I ended up with almost 400 upvotes and #3 Product of the Day (despite some amazing competition including the Morning Maker Show with Sandra Djajic and Dan Mindru. In future I plan to do more launches like this as I unveil new features and products.

Other than X and Product Hunt, I will need to start considering other options like SEO and maybe YouTube. But at the moment I haven’t had a clear winner yet so it can be hard to decide to invest in 1 product until you know it’s truly taking off.

This is the end.

I hope you got inspired by Sarwech’s growth journey. You can follow him on X - @starwardshar - for more. His DMs are open if anyone has questions.