Selling $400k worth of digital products and growing Super to $40k MRR—both within a year. AMA ⚡️

73 replies
Last year I was spending most of my days doing web & UI-based freelance work for brands like Nike, Sonder, and smaller companies you've probably never heard of. I learned a lot but wasn't making money when I wasn't working, and rarely worked on anything that would compound my efforts over time. Now, I dabble with digital products I can build once and sell repeatedly and mostly spend my days building Super, a really simple way for anyone to build websites using Notion. Ask me anything 👇


Hi Traf! Super looks great. How did you go about validating and getting your first customers?
Dinakar Sakthivel
@lvlars he got a large chunk of his customers for from Twitter. His icon set went viral on Twitter, so that helped him build a following.
@lvlars Hey Marcel! I actually didn't validate the idea before launching it because I was building it primarily for myself. Building products based on your own desires is a great way to guarantee your first customer (yourself). Like Dinakar mentioned our first customers were mostly through Twitter! Having an audience to launch anything to (before you launch it) is highly underrated imo, and I think why first time founders obsess over product and second time founders obsess over distribution.
Julian Paul
Really love your product and watching your progress over the months. It's crazy to see! What is your background and focus in your super duo? I think you are design heavy correct? Are you self-taught or did you study anything? What projects in the past were the ones that most shaped your becoming? Really looking forward!
@julianpaul Hey man, appreciate that! Correct, I'm mostly focused on product and marketing. I did a short design program in Vancouver about a decade ago which was definitely too artsy for me but lead me to the world of web & UI so am definitely glad I did it. I used to dabble in so many random projects that all taught me a thing or two about the internet & product-building. The biggest one was a company I previously helped run called Spoil, which got me to move out to silicon valley and introduced me to the whole world of startups.
Vlad Pasca👨‍💻
What is the thing that helped you the most to achieve these 2 successes?
Dinakar Sakthivel
@vladpasca5 I have seen him share this before. His icon set went viral on Twitter, and was covered top tech outlets, YouTubers like Marques Brownlee, and more. This coverage helped him grow his Twitter following. The Twitter following in turn is now helping Everything here can be attributed to the virality but virality happened because at that time he already built around 4000 followers, so that might have of huge head start.
@vladpasca5 1. Having a prior audience to launch to. Relating to the digital product sales, these mostly came from my iOS icons and I've outlined the story here. Basically came down to hopping on a trend, acting quickly, and having an audience big enough that would allow the right content to go viral. 2. Making something people want. Relating to Super, the number one thing would be to make something people want, and the best way I know how to do that is to make something that I want. Another great way is to look for edge cases in already existing products. If people are using a tool in a way that it wasn't intended, it would likely work better as its own product.
Vlad Pasca👨‍💻
@traf got it also what resource did you use to learn web design? or what resources you recommend now to learn web design? (the main principles)
Pablo Smith
Love watching your personal business & Super grow (following on Twitter & reading your blog entries from time to time), how do you go about identifying the products you can "build once, sell repeatedly"? Do you invest in any form of advertising? (if so, what do you find most effective for the price points you're selling at) Love your design/development work as well - what's your favorite stack to work with for frontend design? and as a bonus: favorite HTML/CSS/JS hack that you think is underrated ;)
@pablosmith_ Thanks man! Before I sold my iOS icons, I sold things like ebooks and Lightroom presets. These mostly came from people asking for them through DMs on my Instagram. I've never spent any $ on advertising, as I'd rather spend my time and energy on building up my audience to make future product launches easier, since it will allow you to validate any ideas and find your first few customers much quicker than if you're starting from zero. I don't do a whole lot of frontend dev work anymore, the little that I do is mostly for building out Super templates. I'll just use the built-in Super editor within the dashboard or I'll use VSCode. I'll have a think about my favorite code hacks!
Adam O'Kane
What do you use to project manage your own digital products? (i.e. "OK, I'm gonna do x, y, and z for Project A this week, and a, b, and c for Project B next week...") How do you identify good ideas?
@adamokane I use Notion for everything personal and work related. Usually use a simple collection board (ideas, doing, done) for personal stuff as I prefer to keep things really simple for when it comes to project management. For Super, we just starting using The Bulletproof Notion Workspace and although it feels like overkill for me our team seems to like it :) Good ideas for me sit at the intersection of: - Something I want to use myself - Something I'm uniquely suited to build - Something I wish I would have had when learning x
Ignacio Berges Periz
Hi, Traf! Congratulations for your projects! Do you know to code or only are you centered on design? I am freelance designer but sometimes I feel limited for technical aspects so I have curiosity about if you developed Super alone of with some partner? Are you good with the selling part of your projects? What do you think was the key to get your first success? Thank you! Best
@ignacioberges I know HTML, CSS, and some very basic JS, so while I take care of building out the website & templates, I have a co-founder who takes care of all the technical development for the actual web app. First customers were all through Twitter for me. Once you build distribution, you can build anything you want and have an audience to launch & sell to. Definitely something I'll keep doubling down on.
Lukas Hermann
Hey Traf, this is amazing. What was your first marketing channel and what is your most successful marketing channel now?
Oscar Franco
Hey Traf! When you started super (or your other products), how did you gain traction? I struggle so much with marketing my products and creating a following, since nobody knows me
@ospfranco Having an audience to launch to is indispensable, no matter what you're launching. Once of the best ways I've seen to build an audience is through permissionless building, which is making things for other people that makes them look good and that they're likely to share. Jack Butcher has a great course on this subject. Also, keep creating a ton of content related to the products you're building. One product can usually be turned into thousands of individual pieces of content that you can keep pushing out to as many places as you can around the web. Use every social channel you can, and make sure you're actually doing any one of these 5 things for people: 1. Saving them time 2. Saving them money 3. Making them look/feel good 4. Helping them make money 5. Entertaining them
Joshua Dance
What is an opportunity you see but don't have time to pursue right now.
@joshdance Most of the opportunities I see now are within the web3 space. Crypto, blockchains, NFTs. Programming money, identity, digital objects, etc.
Kieran Parker
@joshdance @traf As a designer myself, I would love to know how you think a designer with limited coding knowledge (basic Javascript, etc) could leverage the web3 space? I love the the idea of working within the Blockchain, Crypto, NFT space, buit other than working for companies building stuff for it, I struggle to think of products I could make myself.
@joshdance @kieranparker77 You can build things that may not require lots of dev like defi courses, resource directories, etc. If you're looking to build software, I'd find a smart contract dev to build things with. Lots of them are looking for designers too I'm sure. As for ideas on what to build, the space is still really early and so many experiences are still really lacking, or just really not accessible like mobile wallet integrations within the nft space. Lots of ideas to explore!
What catalyzed the decisive moment you switched from providing services to building a product? Was it financial — you had enough money saved to stop freelancing? Strategic — your perspective shifted? Mental health — you were burnt out from client services? Gradual — you slowly weaned off providing services? ✓ have enjoyed watching your growth
@jamesvclements Remember seeing your oldfriends studio website a while back! Very clean. I think the biggest thing was strategic, but honesty all of your points apply. Even though I was attracting bigger freelance clients with bigger budgets, I still wasn't making money when I wasn't working. This was especially important to me because I don't like (or am particularly good at) working a fixed 9-5. Some days (although a little more rare now days) I just don't feel like being behind a screen, and if you're providing a service that usually means you also take the day off from making money, but for digital products or software, nothing really changes if you take a day off, not to mention the compounding benefits of working on something consistently over the years and the fact that you're building up your own equity vs someone else's. Sales from my iOS icons are what first gave me enough of a cushion to stop freelance work completely, so now days I mostly tell people that the first step of anything should be to make money, so that the second step could be anything you want.
How you do balance doing design work on your ideas, then to implementing them into coded, workable applications?
@mason_watson Design work can help visualize & formalize an idea, but really 99% of progress only happens after publishing it into a workable or sellable product. That said, I try and spend as little time as I can on the design since you can really just iterate on that forever. Focus on getting it out and iterating on something that's live, since you can't really optimize zero.
Mayank Mishra
Hey @traf this is an amazing achievement! more power to you!
Bunny Bans
It is Really Helpful to maintain the Budget. You Provide much informative post about growing Product. I also start a product with 50$ grow it to Best Cross bow under 500 . Now it is above the Price.
Rinkesh Gorasia
Hey @traf this is amazing !! Had one question, What has been your GTM and distribution strategy to gain traction in the initial days?
Rồng bạch Kim
Thank you . Rất tuyệt vời
Marc Paul
$400k in freelance job is a lot. Congrats ! Do you do all by yourself or do you work with a team ? How do you do to increase the per hour value of your work ? I find it difficult to reach some amount when talking per hour or per day rate with clients.
@marc_p The $400k was in digital product sales (mostly my iOS icons), not freelance work. I'd never would have been able to reach that through freelance work myself since it would have required either much bigger clients or a bigger team.
So inspirational, Love your work Traf ! Any Tips on selling digital products without a huge audience ?
@faberge Depends on the product, but keep bashing out content related to your product every single day. Provide pieces of your product for free. Happy to shoot some ideas if you let me know what you are or are planning on selling.