“90% of the game is not giving up”

Published on
January 18th, 2022
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A maker grant recipient talks about his experience doing what works.
Gene has a solid track record on Product Hunt. He’s launched five products and three of them landed among the top 5 products of the day. While many people struggle through their first launch, Gene scooped up some valuable feedback and words of encouragement from his first launch, Conversion Checklist.
His most recent launch, SaaS Blocks for Tailwind, helps makers design beautiful SaaS sites with Tailwind UI components that can be customized, copied, and pasted. It earned him comments like this:
“Such a great resource! And the release is perfectly timed for my next project ;)”
And a $5,000 Maker Grant.
In connecting with Gene to learn more about him and his projects, his ability to streamline his work stood out — I believe that mindset has likely helped set the stage for his successes so far.

About his maker journey:

“About 4 years ago I went out on my own as a freelance designer, and from there advanced to UX/UI design and product design.
My generalist background (SEO, affiliate marketing, SEM, conversion optimization) contributed heavily to my work in conversion optimization. Over the last few years, I was able to work with many companies — performing audits and offering recommendations on how to improve their conversions. This ultimately led to my first product idea, the Swipe conversion strategies file. I thought, 'if I can put together an ultimate list of the things I’ve been recommending to people, then it could act as an accessible resource for founders who may not have the larger budgets as my typical clients.'
I launched Swipe in October of 2020 and netted about $12,000 from the initial launch. To date, the file has generated ~ $45,000. This is not exactly much, but it’s a nice side income for me considering all of the work has already been done and the only thing that remains is promotion.
Since then, I also launched another product called SaaS Blocks, a Tailwind CSS marketing components kit. That product has generated about $10,000 in sales and is my main point of focus now. I still perform client work but the most enjoyment comes from working on SaaS Blocks because it’s something I am passionate about so it doesn’t feel like work."

About his audience:

“Currently all of my products focus on startups and founders. I once read somewhere that you should enjoy the audience you build for and startup folks are my favorite types of people — incredibly hard-working, kind, eager to share without expecting anything in return. It’s the most optimistic bunch of people I know. Always radiating good vibes. I just couldn’t think of building for anyone else. Of course, it’s a bit of a cliche at this point (makers building for other makers), but I just love interacting with “my people” daily, and nothing brings me more joy than helping someone get closer to their goals.

On marketing — or what’s working so far.

"One of the hardest things for makers is marketing. I hear this over and over: 'I’m not good at marketing.' While not all products require you to build in public, or even share what you’re working on (plenty of people do well without either of those things), I think it’s a great asset to have to be able to build an audience to get the initial word out.
It’s hard to say exactly where my sales came from, as I don’t focus on tracking much just yet, but I imagine the bulk of it comes from Twitter (building in public and just being me), and some from occasional emails + a bit from organic visits.
Someone said to do what already works. One of my products for people just starting out (building websites) would benefit from SEO and other marketplaces, but since I have somewhat of a following on Twitter, I spent more time tweeting. I’ve had a decent number of sales just from that and I believe it’s how most people get to know me and click on my links.
Earlier on, I found out that most people visiting my websites do not buy right away. There’s a bit of a FOMO factor when I run sales promotions and people impulse buy, but for the most part, it takes a few visits for people to feel comfortable with a purchase decision.
Both of my products also have some organic traffic from blog posts I wrote earlier. I also have some traffic coming from a side project website I created for mesh gradients. It ranks #4 on Google for the main term and brings consistent traffic to my SaaS Blocks site. I also launched it on Product Hunt and included free versions in the Figma resource directory, which generates a significant amount of traffic. The mesh gradients site alone generated a list of about 3,000 people.
Speaking of lists, I run occasional promotions and will send out an email to my customers and to other lists (I have about 4,000 people on my combined email lists last I checked). Time-sensitive promotions tend to generate a decent number of sales in a few days. I highly recommend everyone start building a list with some sort of a resource in an exchange for an email address!
I’ve experimented with ads without any direct results - and have a feeling this ties into my thesis of people not buying on the first visit."

On paying it forward:

(note: The actual topic here was giveaways but we wanted to highlight Gene’s contributions to the community 👏)
"I did two giveaways recently, one for my product, and another for a friend’s. One of my SaaS Blocks (Elementor version) customers needed a bit of help and I was more than happy to do what I can for them. They were happy with the help I offered and wanted to pay me for the work. I declined and asked them to just pay it forward. Then the customer came up with the idea of doing a giveaway by sponsoring 3 copies of my product. It sounded like a great idea and I went along with it! No motive, no strategy, no expectations.
The 2nd giveaway was just a tiny way of giving something back to the maker community. There is a great Twitter analytics tool I use called Black Magic and I wanted to share the joy of using this tool with others. I reached out to the maker who I also consider a friend, and offered to sponsor 3 people for a year’s worth of access. Again, no motivation, strategy or expectations — just a way to give back.
I think these giveaways generated a few sales for me, but I am just happy if someone finds either of the products useful."

On the valuable lessons he’s learned from other makers:

The combined lesson is “be yourself, try different things, and share what you’re working on.”
The first sale is always the toughest, but you’ll be incredibly encouraged to keep going once you taste that sweet nectar of having sold something of your own. I feel this is one of the things that separates people who go on to accomplish great things from those who simply give up.
The friends who I see do well building in public are those who are most genuine and don’t try too hard selling. They are usually humble, hard-working, and it shows. People aspire to be like others who go from zero to something in a humble manner because these things are hard.
Lastly, I’ve realized that 90% of the game is not giving up. As long as the person keeps trying, something will eventually stick. But, if you are not in the game, then there’s no possible way to win. Many of the people I interact with who are clearly on a path of success didn’t make it with their first product. They tried new things until something showed some promise, then doubled down on that thing. It’s a trial and error thing unless you are a master of diagnosing a problem and offering a solution on the first try (very few people can do without previous experience)."

On makers he’s watching:

"Two of my favorite makers on Twitter are Damon Chen and Tony Dinh. Damon’s main product is Testimonial.to and Tony’s is BlackMagic.so. They started building around the same time I did, but Damon has recently passed 10K MRR, if I am not mistaken, and Tony is approaching $4k/MRR. Both built SaaS businesses.
What makes me pay attention with these two is the fact that they build so fast, listen to customers carefully and turn around a solution sometimes on a day’s notice. I asked Tony to add a feature and he had it implemented the same day 🤯. I am constantly learning from Damon and Tony and take mental notes of their ability to build what customers want."

About SaaS Blocks for Tailwind

The first thing I did was… "design about 60 sections in Figma. This was the initial version, but I felt it was good enough to release as v1. I also made a dark version of the product (design only)."
After launch I… "figured out which platform to tackle next — the day I announced the Figma file, I also made it clear that I’ll be working on a coded version. I asked my existing customers and some people on Twitter. The overwhelming response was the need for a Tailwind CSS version, with WordPress being 2nd most requested."
I met my co-maker… "after releasing the design-only version on Product Hunt. Tanishq reached out to me expressing that he liked the project and would love to find a way to collaborate. I figured I enjoy designing better than coding, and I could spend the time to design more sections while he coded them, so that ended up being our arrangement."
In my approach to pricing I… "tried not to overthink it much and just mimicked what other players in the space are doing. It seems to work so I leave it alone. I was always aware of multi-tier pricing strategies, with some companies getting more value out of the product than others. Hence, a 3-tier approach (Hobby, Small Company, Enterprise). Most people buy the hobby version while some get the company license."
I want others to know that… "I could use help executing the development side of the Elementor Pro version of SaaS Blocks. My long-term vision remains a wide selection of marketing sections and components, easily styled with a few clicks to create different styles. I see it as potentially a $30-50k/mo business given the initial version of my vision, so that’s what I’ll strive for. If you’d like to be a part of this, please reach out to me.
Aside from creating a highly flexible system, I am currently in the process of creating dashboard components and ultimately will release a dashboard UI kit."
Gene's pro tip: "I guess my best tip would be to just ship something, fast. Don’t wait until the product is perfect. SaaS Blocks was / and is still far from perfect, but it didn’t stop me from launching it on Product Hunt. The overall reception was beyond anything I hoped for and gave me enough motivation to keep going. At the end of the day, it’s the ability to keep going that matters, and the best way to feel motivated is to have something 'done' and out there for everyone to use."
Comments (5)
Shahnoza Khaydarova
I'm very interesting about your work. I hope you will be at the first place in this work . Goodluck !!!
Karis Balôck
This title has become my anthem these days.
Yoni Tzafrir
Interesting. Thanks for sharing.
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