From Side Hustle to Six Figure Income

Business growth

Summary

Five years after quitting his consulting job to pursue app building full-time, this solopreneur is now earning over $20,000 in MRR with no signs of slowing down.

Rik Schennink’s entrepreneurial spark was ignited 11 years ago after he launched a software application in the iOS store. His app, Impact Watchrecalled the Atari Missile Command and Asteroids games with some critical improvements, including a more immersive environment and a doomsday countdown clock.

This first side project received positive feedback from Schennink on its attention to detail and ability to create a polished user experience. It also fueled its instinct and strategy for identifying and perfecting already popular apps.

Armed with this mission, he turned to Envato, an app store for web products, in search of high-performance components on which he could do better. “I thought if a component was popular, a much better version might be even more successful,” he says. “I had created some rich UI plugins that relied heavily on animation. During my research, a cropping and image uploading component came up, so I decided to give it a try , and that’s how my first B2B image editing software, Slim, was born.

Schennink says he was pleasantly surprised by the interest in Slim. “The number of customers who said they had been looking for something like Slim for years told me there was an untapped market,” he says. “I got a lot of feedback and the backlog quickly grew. But when improving Slim, I found that the code base was not flexible enough to incorporate the important features that customers needed. need.

To solve his dilemma, Schennink developed two standalone products, FilePond and Pintura. The first, FilePond, would handle file management, and Pintura, image editing. “I originally launched FilePond as a prime [i.e., paid] component, planning to offer Pintura as a free add-on later. However, the market was already saturated with file download components and there was little incentive for customers to pay for a better looking one. I decided to switch things up, make FilePond a free product and use it as an input for Pintura, which would now be the paid product. It would also make it easier to set up Pintura to work with other file download libraries, attracting a wider audience. I opened FilePond under the MIT license and started working on Pintura.

How a Free App Led to Healthy Recurring Revenue Streams

Since the creation of PQINA, Schennink has not done any paid advertising to attract prospects to its products. Instead, he developed an organic traffic strategy that other software companies would do well to follow.

It wasn’t that he was against using ads to lure developers to his site. It was just that he knew his audience too well. “My fellow developers don’t like ads; they are the hardest audience to market to. Moreover, their first instinct when they see a paid application is: “I can create it myself”. To display that he is a professional developer, just like them, and knows how to create great products that are worth buying. Here are four critical steps he took to create a six-figure annual recurring revenue business:

1Create a free product that customers love

FilePond was the first “mousetrap” that drove many developers to Schennink’s doorstep. “The free app puts me in touch with many potential customers.” Schennink estimates that its software has been downloaded and used by hundreds of thousands of developers on software distribution sites like GitHub and its website, pqina.nl. No matter where prospects find the free product, the landing page includes information about Schennink and its paid product, Pintura.

2Choose your descriptive web domain wisely

As his business grew, Schennink began thinking about how he could make it easier for prospects to find his products online. First, he thought about the task users want to accomplish with his software, “editing a photo”, which led him to search for a matching domain. “The domain I wanted, edit.photo, had recently been purchased by someone who, ironically, was planning to use my software to offer online photo editing services. After a short conversation and sharing my vision, he agreed to sell me the domain for what he paid, which was $3,000.

This decision would turn out to be a massive win for Schennink. “In the first three months of the site’s launch, it was on the first page of a Google search for anyone typing in ‘edit a photo’ or a similar query,” he says. “And now, a year from the site’s launch date, it’s averaging 100,000 visitors a month – and that’s all organic traffic.

3Don’t limit yourself to just one web domain

Shortly after seeing the success of edit.photo, Schennink purchased edit.video from Identity Digital, which was also the registrar of edit.photo. Identity Digital includes multiple security services with each of its domains that help protect against domain abuse and phishing attacks, including homographic attacks where attackers set up impersonation domains using similar characters (eg. example, spell G00gle.com with two zeros). IdentityDigital automatically blocks homographic domain names that are variations of legitimate domains, ensuring that none of these variations can be registered. “The site is live and I’m in beta with a video editing tool,” says Schennink. “There are a few limitations with the current product that I’m working to resolve, but I’m getting positive feedback, and the site is steadily gaining SEO relevance.”

Over the past year, Schennink has purchased another domain, new.photo. “I love that Adobe owns photo.new, my domain, new.photo, aligns with how someone would more naturally type in a search query,” he says. “Although I am currently using this domain to redirect visitors to edit.photo, I am thinking of launching an AI image generator on this site in the future.”

4Boost your SEO relevance with good content

One of the challenges of selling a product like Pintura is that it’s not an impulse buy. “If you’re a developer interested in the product, you need to get approval to buy it,” Schennink says. “Even if you get permission, you have to allocate a date and time to integrate the component into the product you’re working on. This can delay the purchase for weeks or even months. So, to stay ahead of prospects throughout the purchase lifecycle, Schennink writes educational content on image editing and file manipulation. In addition, while continuing to develop his products, he regularly tweets animated GIFs mixed with tech tips to keep his audience engaged, advice he credits to indie game developers. “Developers will search for various terms related to in-browser image editing and come across Pintura,” he says. “The hope is that they will remember Pintura when they need a fully configurable image editor SDK.”

Final thoughts and tips for software startups

Schennink is not an overnight success; rather, it’s an example of how persistence — and continually learning and improving your offerings and processes — pays off. Today, over 2,000 businesses use Pintura in their products, including household names like Dropbox, Square, and ConvertKit, generating over $20,000 in monthly recurring revenue. Considering how quickly it got to where it is today, as well as its ingenious website SEO strategy (i.e. edit.photo, edit.video, and new.photo), its income may double or triple in the next few years.

When asked for his advice to other startups, Schennink said, “A lot of developers never finish their hobby projects. So don’t move on to your next idea when you’ve just created version 0.0.1 of your last idea. I know the next idea sounds even better and more fun, but it will only result in a hard drive full of prototypes.

He says the key to seeing an idea through is telling others what you’re working on; they will keep asking about your project, so it becomes harder to walk away from it. “Turn your idea into a real product – no matter if it’s free or paid. Design a logo. Create a product site. Write documents. »

There’s more to learning from finishing a product and showing it to others than from continually starting something new.

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