Uneed · Thomas Sanlis

Meet Thomas Sanlis: The indie hacker behind Uneed. With 12K newsletter subscribers and 40K monthly visitors, explore his journey of bootstrapping a tech tool haven, making him $15,000 a year in side income.

July 1, 2023
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Table of contents

  • Thomas Sanlis
  • Nantes, France
  • Started in 2020
  • Bootstrapped
  • 1 employee
  • $15,000 Annual revenue
  • 12,000 newsletter subscribers
  • 40,000 monthly website visitors
  • uneed.best

So Thomas, what's your backstory?

I started launching projects on the Internet when I was a teenager! I never made much money from them, but it has always been a passion of mine. I wanted to pursue that further, so after high school, I joined a 5-year web school where I learned development, design, as well as marketing and project management.

I launched Uneed during my final year of school. It took me 3 years to start making money from it!! In the meantime, I did a lot of freelance development work, some teaching, and various other small projects.

I definitely didn't take the shortest or most efficient path to make a living as an indie hacker. But I still appreciate every moment.

What is Uneed and how did you come up with the idea?

Uneed is a collection of the best technological tools. They are classified into five main categories: Development, Design, Marketing, Business, and Personal Life. Initially, Uneed focused on Frontend development and was actually called "Uneed Frontend"! By launching this project, I was actually addressing my own need: I wanted a place where I could find the tools I used and compare them with others.

Gradually, Uneed became more comprehensive and versatile.

It works for a simple reason: today's search engines are broken. If you search on Google for "The best analytics tools," for example, you'll only come across industry giants who invest a fortune in search engine optimisation and write tons of meaningless articles, and it becomes challenging to find alternatives.

Uneed is here to fix this issue by enabling you to quickly find a wide range of analytics tools, regardless of their SEO budget or level of popularity.

How did you grow the business in the early days?

Thanks to two things: automation and patience. I added one tool per day to Uneed for almost three years before seeing a significant increase in traffic in October 2022. It came from two things: a complete redesign and a launch on Product Hunt.

I was able to keep going for so many years because it didn't take up so much of my time (I automated as much as possible) and because I used Uneed to experiment and learn from the development tools I used every day in my freelance work. I also knew that accumulating links and pages could only be good for SEO and would probably take some time!

How did you validate your business idea?

It took a lot of time, and to be honest, I didn't allocate a tremendous amount of energy to it.

Initially, when Uneed was solely focused on front-end development tools, I quickly realised that people searching for such tools might also be interested in design tools or business tools. It mainly attracted indie hackers like myself, and we wear many hats!

Then, I remember someone once telling me, "Uneed is a great alternative to Product Hunt because I can easily search for specific products, and I know that no one is buying upvotes." That comment struck a chord with me. Since then, I have been focused on being an alternative to Product Hunt. My goal is to make Uneed the go-to place for people with specific needs who are looking for tools to meet those needs.

My biggest challenge has been retaining users and getting them to come back. I partially address this through the newsletter, but it's still not enough.

Recently, I gathered a lot of feedback through yesramen.com, which has helped refine my product vision. I now have plenty of ideas for the future of Uneed!

How did you manage to generate revenue?

When launching an alternative to Product Hunt, what better way to do it than on... Product Hunt itself? It was in October 2022, following its launch on Product Hunt, that Uneed began to take off. Our target audiences overlap. Young users, technophiles, and early adopters.

After the launch, word-of-mouth had an incredible effect, and the traffic has been consistently stable since then. I am currently exploring new avenues to acquire customers organically, including programmatic SEO. The idea is to rank on the first page of Google when users search for alternatives to certain well-known tools.

After the launch on Product Hunt, many people submitted their tools, and I realised I would have a problem: how to keep up with the pace? After all, I manually review each tool. That's when I had the idea for my main revenue source: the queue. To publish their tool on Uneed, founders must either wait in the queue (which is currently several months long) or pay to be featured within the next 24 hours.

The majority of my first 100 customers went through the queue. Some of them later purchased premium placements to display their tools directly on our homepage because they were satisfied with the traffic they received.

And finally, there's one distribution channel I didn't talk about yet: Twitter. I'm building Uneed in public on Twitter, sharing numbers, analytics, struggles and wins. I've won a lot of customers thanks to it!

What distribution channels did you try that didn’t work?

I have tried various communication channels. Sites like Hacker News or Reddit did not work well for me. They generated visits, but the conversion rate was low. Another communication channel that hasn't worked as expected is social media. Whenever a new tool is added to Uneed, I post a tweet, an Instagram image, and a Facebook post. It generates some traffic, but not much, and with a very low conversion rate.

I am gradually discovering that contrary to what I initially thought, targeting people searching for tools may not be the most effective way to make Uneed thrive. Communicating with creators and founders works much better. They have something concrete to gain (traffic and, therefore, revenue), they will talk about Uneed to others, and they will likely become users themselves.

You have 12,000 newsletter subscribers. How did you grow your newsletter to be so big, and how long did it take you?

The Uneed newsletter has recently become my primary focal point, and let's just say, it's been quite a learning journey full of numerous slip-ups.

At present, the overwhelming majority, about 95%, of our newsletter subscribers come from folks who set up an account on Uneed. We've integrated a simple signup checkbox for this purpose.However, our open rates currently hover around a less than stellar 20% to 25%. This scenario renders the newsletter nearly more costly to run than the revenue it generates!

With a base of 15,000 accounts already established on Uneed, we managed to rapidly swell the ranks of our newsletter subscribers. Regrettably, I fell into the trap of focusing too much on this raw number of subscribers as the sole indicator of success.

Looking forward, expect a series of modifications to the Uneed newsletter in the upcoming days and weeks. Keep your eyes peeled for the exciting changes on the horizon.

What specific tools have been most helpful in growing your business?

Zapier has been incredibly helpful to me. I use it to automatically post on social media after adding a new tool and for other small automation. It saves me a tremendous amount of time!

Who are some recommended experts or entrepreneurs to follow for learning how to grow a business?

I highly recommend following indie hackers and the BuildInPublic movement on Twitter. Indie hackers are resourceful individuals who can teach you a lot. They are also quick to catch onto trends and can keep you informed about market developments ahead of the curve!

What advice do you have for those with a side hustle who want to turn their side hustle into a main hustle?

My number one advice is to ensure you have a target audience before investing too much time into your project. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of developing and designing their project before even validating their idea, and they are surprised when it doesn't work once it's finished. Don't do that! Create a simple landing page, collect emails, and understand the needs of your future users. Only then should you start working on your product.

My second piece of advice is to design your projects with the long term in mind. Build it in a way that allows it to evolve and be maintained for several years without requiring too much effort. Being able to maintain Uneed by only spending a minute or two per day is what helped me sustain it for several years until the project took off.

Managing a full-time job and a side hustle simultaneously can be challenging, but it's all about effective time management and prioritisation. Set clear boundaries and allocate specific time slots for your side hustle. Make the most of your available time and be disciplined about sticking to your schedule.

To transition to full-time entrepreneurship, it's essential to have a plan and financial stability. Save enough money to sustain yourself during the transition period when your side hustle might not generate substantial income yet. Create a detailed roadmap for your transition, including milestones and goals, and constantly reassess and adapt your plan as needed.

Lastly, don't be afraid to take the leap when the timing feels right. Trust your instincts and believe in the potential of your side hustle. It may require some calculated risks, but with proper preparation and determination, you can make the transition to full-time entrepreneurship.

What drives you to do what you do?

Freedom and boredom drive me.

I am someone who easily gets bored and has a scattered focus. Working for a single company and doing the same thing daily is impossible. I enjoy juggling various roles and projects, and having the freedom to do so whenever and wherever I want motivates me daily to persist in this path.

Any promotions you would like to add for Founderoo readers?

You can use the code "FOUNDEROO" during purchase to get a 50% discount on our "Skip the waiting line" option and have your tool published within 24h 😊.

Your links + socials

My twitter

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