Build Your SaaS

Tim reached out after the Aaron Francis episode: "I wanted to pitch you on the idea of coming on the podcast and sharing my journey of building side projects for the last decade while raising a family. I can also share the guardrails I put in place before finally going full-time on T.LY."

Highlights:
  • (00:12) - Welcome
  • (01:18) - Who is Tim Leland?
  • (03:25) - What guardrails did you put in place?
  • (06:29) - What's the sales funnel?
  • (08:18) - Family as a motivator
  • (16:26) - How would you describe your effort during this process?
  • (20:11) - What about family boundaries?
  • (23:30) - How do you manage your thoughts?
  • (31:20) - How have you been able to manage the effort level?
  • (34:49) - The pressure of cutting the cord from your job
  • (38:21) - What's it been like being full time on t.ly?
  • (40:04) - What's your SEO magic touch?

Links:

Thanks to our monthly supporters
  • Pascal from sharpen.page
  • Rewardful.com
  • Greg Park
  • Mitchell Davis from RecruitKit.com.au
  • Marcel Fahle, wearebold.af
  • Bill Condo (@mavrck)
  • Ward from MemberSpace.com
  • Evandro Sasse
  • Austin Loveless
  • Michael Sitver
  • Dan Buda
  • Colin Gray
  • Dave Giunta

ğŸŽ™ï¸ Podcast hosting is provided by Transistor.fm.
📺 Learn
how to start your own podcast!
★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★

Creators & Guests

Host
Justin Jackson
Co-founder of Transistor.fm
Editor
Chris Enns
Owner of Lemon Productions
Guest
Tim Leland
Founder of T.LY URL Shortener. Tiny URLs a Bit shorter than the rest.

What is Build Your SaaS?

Interested in building your own SaaS company? Follow the journey of Transistor.fm as they bootstrap a podcast hosting startup.

Justin:

Hey, everybody. Welcome to Build Your SaaS. This is the behind the scenes story of building a web app App in 2023. I'm Justin. And today, I've got a guest, Tim Leland.

Justin:

Tim, Tim, how's it going, man?

Tim:

It's going good. Great to finally be on here. I've been listening to you for feels like years. I don't even know how far back.

Justin:

When did we start the show? We started in 2018, so it's been going going for a while. And, you reached out. Actually, I got got a message from your wife and a message from you, so I I I got doubled up. You you doubled up on, feedback on the Aaron Francis episode, And you said, hey.

Justin:

I think it'd be fun to have me on and talk about your experience bootstrapping on the side, And you've just recently gone full time. Is that right?

Tim:

Yep. About a month ago.

Justin:

About a month ago. And the product is t.ly, which is a URL shortener, which I think we can get into that too. That's that that seems like a competitive category. But maybe just for the folks at home, describe what you've been doing, you know, for the past while, what you've been working on, and how you kind of built yourself up To go in full time a month ago.

Tim:

Yeah. It's it's a long story. I'll try to tell you the short version, but, Yeah. It really goes back to college graduated college and just got its job working, you know, software developer and started building websites on the side, and then eventually that turned into small apps. And then I got and got into, like, the Chrome Extension space and started building a few Chrome extensions, and then, it's kinda led me to where I'm at now to where, you know, I had a a weather extension that Grew to, like, 250,000 users.

Tim:

Didn't make a ton of money, but it was nice side income. And then I built a link shortener extension, and that actually is kinda took off and has 450,000 users, and then that Led me to t d I l y.

Justin:

Wow. Okay. And, and you've you've also got a family? You've got you've got kids as well?

Tim:

Yep. Yep. I have a 8 year old, 5 year old, and 3 year old. All all boys.

Justin:

8 year old, 5 year old, and 3 year old. All boys. 3 boys. Okay. You're similar to to my setup, except our we have 4, and our oldest is a girl.

Justin:

So we now she's at college, and we've got 3 boys at home. And and my wife is, like, sad because there's There's no girls around anymore. Just just us 4 boys. You said okay. I wanna you said, I wanna pitch you on the idea of coming on the pod and sharing my journey of building side projects the last decade while raising a family.

Justin:

I can also share the guardrails I put in place before before finally going full time on t l y. So, yeah, what are what's kind of your your perspective on, maybe what Aaron and I were talking about, but also your experience in I I mean, a decade's a long time, so you've been kinda gradually working on things on the side. How what's been your experience with that while also having 3 small boys?

Tim:

Yeah. Yeah. With with kids and, you know, house and Bills and everything is it definitely makes it more challenging to say, hey. I'm gonna go full time. So, if I could have Done this 10 years ago, it would have been a lot easier of a decision to take the risk early on.

Justin:

Yeah. But

Tim:

yeah. So some of the Guardrails would be I well, my first goal was let me make more than what I'm making or or meet what I'm making at my Current job. Yeah. And then once I did that, I kind of felt like, okay. I could probably do it, but it still felt A little risky.

Tim:

So then I just said, okay. Let me just keep waiting, and I kept waiting until I was more like double what I was doing, Which is probably pretty extreme, but once I hit that, I felt like, okay. If I don't take the risk now, I don't know if I ever will. So I just said, you know, worst case, I could lose half my revenue. I would still be alright.

Tim:

Mhmm. And then the other thing is Since I've been doing this for so long, I've always had, like, some project making some additional side income. So a lot of that, we've always been saving, trying to live off of just normal salary and Yeah. Putting the rest into investments and things. So Having a you know, that those are my guardrails, I guess, is hopefully make more than what you do at your day job

Justin:

because, you

Tim:

know, there's other expenses. You gotta think insurance. You gotta think, you you know, you gotta do your taxes a little differently.

Justin:

Yeah. You mean as a business owner?

Tim:

As a business owner. Yeah. Yeah. So you gotta think, okay. I have some expense in the business.

Tim:

So there's you know, that's that's kinda how I did it, to decide.

Justin:

Yeah. And and the I mean, the the one kind of thing that jumps out at me right away is is the time frame, that 10 years of kind of Consistent effort. How would you describe your effort during that time? Like, was this, a few hours a week? Was this You waking up at 3 in the morning every morning and, going for a 1 hour jog and then coding for 3 hours.

Justin:

What what was your schedule like kind of building up To this.

Tim:

Yeah. Before kids or when the kids were younger, it would be usually after we put them to bed. I would work for a few hours on something, And a lot of it was learning early on. So I was, you know, learning at my day job, but also building different apps, learning how to, like, scale and How to build and build and support users, and, a lot of it's marketing, which I learned a lot from you over the years. So that's always been helpful.

Justin:

I mean, yeah, you you've been quite success. I don't know if I've ever done anything that's had that many users. So, you you've clearly done something right. You you're reaching a lot of people.

Tim:

Yeah. Yeah. The challenge is, you know, I I I need to figure out how to do a better job at converting. So if I have, you know, 450,000 users using a a free Chrome extension. How can I get, you know, a higher percentage of those to convert?

Tim:

And that's something I'm I'm actively working on.

Justin:

Yeah. Is that is that your funnel right now? Like, The people funnel from a free Chrome extension over to your your paid URL shortening service, and then you're hoping that a few of those, I think you can use your shortener for free, but then the idea is that eventually folks will upgrade to Either $5 a month, $20 a month, or $50 a month.

Tim:

Yeah. Yeah. So, the extension initially was Oh, I I built the link shortener extension and didn't even have t.ly. Mhmm. And, I grew that to be, you know, I don't know, maybe 10, 50000 users.

Tim:

And at that point, I decided I need to build TDIO and put subscriptions around it. And then so, yeah, you're gonna install the extension, use it free, and then that's that was my initial funnel. Now I'm, you know, branching out To more of, like, okay, SEO, getting more people who just search URL shortener or URL URL shortener with custom domain, Those type of things, more advanced features, trying to get those users to subscribe and, sign up to, you know, unlock some of those, features.

Justin:

Yeah. Yeah. We gotta get to your SEO hot tips later on in the episode because I'm curious too. But let's get back to this idea of building on the side. So It it sounds like over the past 10 years, you've had babies throughout there.

Justin:

Right? And you were just at nighttime Putting in a few hours for learning, for, like, figuring your own things out, doing projects, Doing experiments. Am I characterizing it correctly?

Tim:

Yep. Yep. Yeah. A lot of times it was just paying, you know, can I make something that would pay for lunch? You know, that was kind of my initial goal or get, you know, get coffee and not feel like not feel guilty about doing those things.

Tim:

So That was initially, the goals. I also pay for the servers and hosting and things like that.

Justin:

And I'm sure, if you're like me, there was also a this is actually one interesting thing about having kids is that for me, It definitely created this additional motivation of well, first, comes the realization. Wow. This is More expensive than I thought it was gonna be. It's just expensive, in a way that Sneaks up on you and then the idea being, okay, wow, I I need to make more income for the family. How am I gonna do that?

Justin:

And it becomes this additional motivator. Right? It's like, okay, well, I've got the day job, and that's paying me whatever. And now I'm trying to do stuff on the side as well. You know?

Justin:

Like, I wanna make a little bit more on the side. Was that true for you? A little motivation on the side?

Tim:

Oh, yeah. Yeah. Definitely. Yeah. So, you know, you realize real quick, it moving up in a job, You know, it takes time.

Tim:

So in my mind, I was like, if I could do anything on the side with the skills I have, why not, you know, go for it? And Yeah. Initially, it was just building websites. That's something that almost any developer could do is go out to, like, businesses and then, you know, pitch them on building a new website. That's was kinda how I originally got started.

Justin:

Yeah. Me too. Yeah. I would build, like, WordPress sites on the side all the time, which is its own form of stress, Like that that I remember I feel like in I mean, in retrospect, it's probably all it all contributes to where we end up. But The, the I I have this constant, like, debate in my head, which is I wonder if I had put As much energy as I did into side projects, if I put that same energy into, career progression if, you know, where I would have ended up or whatever.

Justin:

And, it's just interesting to think about it because I I think for a lot of folks, getting a better paying job is actually Probably a better option. Maybe not in this economy, but the you know, the the idea is that you could, for example, switch Employers. Every big jump in salary I had was switching employers, and it seems like a lot of folks don't even Consider it. It's like, well, no. I'm just gonna kill myself building WordPress sites on the weekend.

Justin:

It's like, well, you could put in maybe the Same amount of effort really researching a company. I remember one time I just put all my effort into applying that 37 signals. And, I got I didn't get a response the 1st time. And then the 2nd time they flew me down for a job interview. And then I was gonna take the job with them, and it was less money, but then I went to my existing employer and said, I'm thinking about taking this job because it's remote.

Justin:

And then they gave me, I think, like, a $10,000 raise or something, maybe $15,000 raise. And so it was like, wow. Like that that That was a big jump just because I said I might switch careers. Anyway, that's a that's a that's a a tangent. But did you consider, like, career progression, or did you just feel stuck in the career?

Justin:

Like, what was the Was there any sort of math on that side?

Tim:

Yes. But I think I see sometimes people say, how do I make, you know, $10,000 a month? And The number one way is just go get a job that pays 10,000, and that's Yeah. That's kind of the best approach for that versus trying to build a SaaS product that doesn't. Yeah.

Tim:

Yeah. So I've I've I mean, at the same time, while I was building things, a lot of the knowledge of working, like, nights and weekends were Helping me at my day job. So I was progressing, and I, you know, I did move up over time and and make more and more money. So, I mean, that's definitely not a bad approach. But if I go back to my very first job out of college, I remember I went and it was, like, 8 to 6, and I would walk in some mornings.

Tim:

It would be dark, and I would leave some nights at 6. And I thought, I don't know if I can do this for the next 40 years or so.

Justin:

Yeah.

Tim:

So I always kinda had in back of my mind, like, if I could build something That would be, you know, what I'd wanna do. Now working from home and remotely helped a lot with that, so that's not as big of an issue. But Yeah. That that was kind of my mindset all along is, okay, if I could build something that did make enough money, I would, you know, go for it and try to build it to be really big.

Justin:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. There's I mean, I I think that is the flip side. It's like, yeah, you can go get a job.

Justin:

But for some folks, There's always just gonna be this kind of insatiable hunger to do your own thing, own your own thing, build your own thing, or have a retroactively, I'm wondering, like, I wonder if some of those first jobs, if they'd given me some equity, If I would have stayed or if they'd you know, what if they'd allowed me to work remote right from the beginning, because I've also been through the experience of, like throughout my entire career, I've hired people. And Part of the hiring process for me was like saying, okay, well, like, what are you trying to get out of this? Like, what problems are you trying to solve in your own life? And, you know, for some people, it's like, I hate my commute. Other people, it's like, I've got all these student loans I'm trying to pay off.

Justin:

Other people are you know, they've got all these things That are causing them to hustle. Maybe on the side, build something on the side, build websites on the side, build projects on the side. And as an employer, you know, at different jobs I had when I was hiring people, sometimes I could just hire these people and I could just see all of their stress And everything just go down, and they no longer had that desire to run their own thing. They were just so happy to, not be running their own thing. I have another friend here, and he was like a solo contractor forever, doing all sorts of like cool AWS infrastructure stuff.

Justin:

And then he got hired at Automatic, and it was like Automatic just took care of everything for him. And Now he's like, I'm so glad I'm not running my own business, you know? And it is a legitimate option. Like, I I just think that people should There are some folks who are just like, You know what? I just have these things I'm trying to accomplish.

Justin:

Like, I just want more family time, less commute, remote work, A little bit more money and that's it, you know, and some autonomy in my work. And if you find an employer that can give you that, then Maybe that's good for you. There are other people, I think, that are just like, you know what? This is never gonna be enough until I'm running my own thing. Do you feel like that was you?

Justin:

Which which side are you on do you feel?

Tim:

Yeah. That's a tough one. I am kinda in the middle because I, You know, for years enjoyed, you know, working with people, working for a company. There's definitely great benefits. You know?

Tim:

And, like, yeah, when you go home at night, you don't really have to, you know, worry too much about Yeah. You know, if something goes wrong. But, you know, at the same time, you know, if if a company could offer, like, ownership and, all those great benefits that you mentioned, like, that would definitely be a selling point. I do enjoy, like, if I build something and then directly, you know, for that time, more people sign up or, you know, subscribe or or, You make more money off of it. I enjoy that part of it so that I feel like when I build it, I'm the owner of it type of thing.

Tim:

So

Justin:

Yeah. Well, I think that's I think we've painted a picture of multiple paths to self actualization. Maybe that'll be the title of this episode. Okay. So you're working on this thing.

Justin:

I mean, I think the other thing to point out with with what you're talking about is I I mean, one of the things we I discussed with Aaron is he describes this as his maximum effort era. How would you describe your effort All along, was was it Like how Yeah, how did that feel to you over this decade, Leading up to you going full time, what was the amount of effort? What was the cost? Did you what did you have to give up? Maybe talk through a few of those things.

Tim:

Yeah. That maximum effort kinda hit home with me when he was talking about that. And, so over the years, I would say there would be Times where I would put in maximum effort, and then I would burn out and take breaks. And

Justin:

Okay.

Tim:

I was it was kinda like up and down, and it would be like, okay. Something seems to be working, and then I would kinda, like, get discouraged. And then I'd be like, alright. I'm gonna take a break. Just relax.

Tim:

And as far as, like, what maybe I missed out on, probably, like, just not watching as much TV that which, You know, some people would say it's probably a good thing. So Yeah. You know, I I don't really watch a ton of TV, so I think I would spend a lot of the time, you know, working on things. Probably lost a lot of sleep over the years. There were times where I'd be doing something and, You know, I'd have to wake up early the next morning, but I would be up till 2, 3 o'clock in the morning, and then I'd be like a zombie the next day.

Tim:

So that was definitely rough at times. But, back to what you said earlier about having kids, And, you know, thinking about, okay, I'd like to make more money. I only have this much time. Mhmm. I think it really helps you to, like, focus so that If if I didn't have those factors, I might would have, like, wasted a lot of time, built something that didn't really, you know, Do anything versus when you have very little time, you end up, you know, saying, okay.

Tim:

What can I do and get done in the next hour or 2? Yeah. And then push it out there. And that's kinda how I've always worked. Like, going back to, like, the weather extension, I would, you know, be like, okay.

Tim:

What can I do? Make it a little bit better, Fix some bugs, whatever, push it out, and then be done, and then, you know, move on to something else.

Justin:

Yeah. It's kinda like the ultimate Pomodoro. Because Yeah. Because you just know, like, okay. The baby's napping.

Justin:

My spouse is out Shopping for groceries. I've got 1 hour to to do something with, and I'm just gonna use that the most efficiently that I can. Because I was very similar. I just had projects all along. There was a there was a period of time where, like in my early twenties when our we had one 1 or 2 of our babies that were still quite young, we we I tried launching a business with my brother and a friend That ended up not working out.

Justin:

And then after that, my wife asked if I could take a break from, From that stuff, just go get a job, take a break, just, you know and so I I took a pretty good break. I mean, for me, I took a Pretty good break from, like, let's say, 2008 to 2012. Really didn't work on any No. A few things, but for me, it was like I was taking a break. But when I did start working on stuff again, You know, I I wanted to be more mindful about it.

Justin:

And my motivation was always like, I'm doing this for the family. There's also a big part of me that I think maybe I wasn't completely honest. Like, a big part of me was doing it for me too. Like, I just had that desire to that itch I needed to scratch. And I I do think that between 2012 and 2000 let's say, maybe 16, 17, There were probably multiple times where I was just consumed with thinking about the business.

Justin:

Like, Even though I was trying to be balanced, you know, it was just like it's just so easy when you're at the dinner table to fate to kind of, like, zone out and Be thinking about something else or all the other things that could fit in your brain, like I don't know. Like, When's the last time I took the kids to the park? Oh, we got a birthday party coming up. Oh, we still need to plan a vacation. Man, it's been 3 weeks since I've gone on a date.

Justin:

Like, all those normal things that you could be thinking about, for me, got replaced by business thoughts. Did you have any of that, and were you able to set up any sort of guardrails that were actually Effective in in creating good boundaries between those things?

Tim:

Yeah. You probably would have to ask my wife that question. She I'm trying to think back. You know, I wouldn't say I really missed out on anything. Probably now more than ever in the last 6 months or so where I've been, you know, cons kinda consumed with TDI OI, like, thinking, What can I do?

Tim:

What can I do to you know, I keep thinking, like, I turn the turn knobs? I switch this, I do this, and then, you know, I see different results. So I keep trying to think what knobs can I turn

Justin:

Mhmm?

Tim:

What switches can I you know, to grow traffic, to grow users? Yeah. But, like, in the past with Some of these other projects, it would just be, like, maybe 10 o'clock at night, and I would just get on my computer and you know, I I would probably be thinking about it all throughout the day, and then I would put, like, little reminders in my phone, and I just go through and be like, oh, I need to do this. This is a good idea. I need to try to, You know, fix this issue or go through my emails.

Tim:

But, no, really, probably in the last, like, year is when I've really been more consumed now more than ever, which

Justin:

Yeah.

Tim:

Has had some negatives to where I'm, you know, thinking a lot about The business more because now it's more important. It's like, okay. If it fails now, then, you know, I'm gonna have to do a 180 and, You know, either go back and get a regular job or, figure out, you know, what can I do to fix it type of thing?

Justin:

Yeah. Yeah. There's 2 things I I wanna touch on there. One thing I just keep thinking about, and and maybe this is just me, so I'm I'm open to that, that being true. But realizing that creating room, creating space, creating margin To even have thoughts.

Justin:

So, I mean, since Transistor's been doing well, and I've kind of, in some ways, Taken my foot off the accelerator a little bit in terms of, like, pushing myself real hard. All of a sudden, I've had Room, space, energy, the mindfulness to be aware of other things, and that could be Things with me personally, like my own mental health. It could be things with the kids. It could be things with my spouse. It could be things with friends.

Justin:

It could be things with my parents. Like, I've called my mom and dad probably more in the last 2 or 3 years that I have combined since I left home, and part of it is I've just had more room, more space to I've given myself more space to have those thoughts. And it's almost like I have only a certain number of thought blocks in a day, And it's just so easy for me to default to business because I like business. There's lots to think about. There's lots to do.

Justin:

And as you said, there's always these different knobs that you could be turning. Having this realization personally, I've just wondered how Other people have dealt with that because there is a real danger, I think, to feeling like, well, I'm present. I I show up for all the kids' recitals, and, my spouse and I have just a recurring date night all the time. And, again, it could just be me, but I just found, like, it it was a real battle to give myself The room, the space to just not think about business, and to allow other thoughts to come up like, oh, I wonder how my 2nd youngest is doing in math right now. Like, I should be thinking about that.

Justin:

And, Yeah. I'm wondering what you think about all that. Like, what's the is there a danger or a risk when you're Building stuff like this to just fill all your thoughts and all the, available brain Time and space with business stuff, to the exclusion of some other stuff that might kind of naturally Emerge if you gave it space and time to do so. Does that make sense?

Tim:

Yeah. Yeah. And I I think that's that maximum effort. My You know, the last 6 months or so, I feel like I've been putting maximum effort into TDI 0I. And, yes, there have been times where I probably have thought, okay.

Tim:

I'm, you know, throwing the baseball with my oldest son, and I'm not really thinking about what we're doing. I'm thinking about some other idea I have or I need to be doing this. Or, you know, you're sitting at a dinner table and you pull out your phone and, you know, writing down reminders so you don't forget or responding to emails. And I'm sometimes, yeah, I'm telling myself, it's worth it. Let me do this now, and then, you know, I'll make up for it with the more time later.

Tim:

Mhmm. And it's definitely like you're taking you're gambling. You're gambling this time for hopefully more in the future. Mhmm. And it's a risk.

Tim:

I think it it was there in episode where, he talked about how his wife it was him. Right? He said his wife really, you know, Took did a lot of the stuff with the kids and

Justin:

Mhmm.

Tim:

That's why I sent it to my wife originally because she I was like, I bet you can relate to this. And she's like, you know, Great mom. She, you know, does a lot and keeps keeps us kinda organized on that side. So Yeah. That really helps out.

Tim:

It allows me to, you know, focus and, You spend time doing the this stuff, like the business side of things. So

Justin:

Yeah. And I think that's, like, another thing I I have tried to, bring up is that if there's alignment there, like, If 1 person's like building a business or projects on the side or whatever, and the the other person is okay with that and is also okay to take on, another role, and they're just like you know, if 1 person just wants to be, like, home with the kids, that's their full time thing, that's great. That's That's, an alignment that can work. I just have an inbox full of examples of people who have emailed me saying, man, like, wow. This just did not work Because, you know, maybe their spouse doesn't wanna do that much of the housework and child rearing and other things.

Justin:

I think that's, like, this crucial bedrock to all of this is, having as much alignment as you can and being pretty sure about it. Like, okay. Like, this is this is going to consume some of my thinking blocks, some of my energy blocks, And that's gonna mean I have to give that space up for something else, and all of this is a bet. I'm betting my time, energy, focus, and resources now with the hope, like you said, of it paying off, in the future. And, also, depending on what kind of business you build, That that could be there or it couldn't be there either.

Justin:

Right? Like, that there's, these are all difficult things to figure out, especially since, For me, so much of the motivation was like, I just knew we needed to to make more money. And so knowing that, and then I also just knew I didn't want to commute anymore. And I also So in the in the search for these things, it's good to want those things. And then it's just like this navigating the costs, what you're giving up, if you're giving up too much right now.

Justin:

It's None of it's easy to figure out. You know?

Tim:

Yeah. I've thought over the years, I've I've thought to myself, I wish I could just kinda be normal and just, You know, work at work at 9 to 5, enjoy it. But I just always you know, like I said, I would take breaks over the years, and I would, You know, work on something, get a great idea. And then, but, yeah, I would be you know, why can't I just, you know, go to work, come home, and but, You know, just my, I guess, drive to to build something just every single time just took over, and I was like, okay. This idea is gonna be it.

Tim:

I just need to, you know, build it, put it out there, see what happens. And Yeah. It's definitely been a journey, and, everything kinda builds on top of each other too. So that's what's been nice is the learnings of your past have really helped your future.

Justin:

Yeah. I mean, I think, Overall, especially the way you did it kind of gradually because Aaron describes maximum effort as, the most. The the max I can do. He says the effort he can give is the maximum determined, but by what he's willing to sacrifice. In my mind, it it sounds like he's saying, like, okay.

Justin:

There's things I won't sacrifice, and I'm willing to give everything else to that. And maybe one reason that hasn't really resonated with me is because it's like to me, it was like, well, of course, I'm not gonna watch TV. Like, I'm the same. I don't watch TV. I don't watch sports.

Justin:

I don't have hobbies. Like, all that stuff resonated with me, but that was just like, well, of course, that's not gonna be true. I always found it difficult, and maybe he just doesn't have this difficulty. I always found it difficult to navigate In real life, when you're getting up to, like, am I gonna be home for dinner? Sure.

Justin:

Okay. I'll be home for dinner. But then am I gonna Stay up all night and then just be a real shithead the next day? Well, that happened a lot. And then am I gonna be like consumed by something, like a launch or whatever.

Justin:

And then my kids are saying, hey, dad, dad, dad. And I'm just, like, in my own world all the time. That stuff just happened more than I'd probably like to admit. So how how do you define like, what is The effort piece for you, is it just like have you been good at just saying, you know what? This part, I'm just I'm not gonna cross that line, and I'm good with it?

Justin:

Or have and it or have you just been able to do it over a longer period of time, like you see said, 10 years, And just that pace was manageable. What's the navigation of all that for you?

Tim:

Yeah. I I think one of the benefits of, You know, building a business, like a a web web business SaaS product is you're usually home Anyways Mhmm. Unless you have to travel with it. So that's that's kind of been a benefit to where you know, I usually was would be always home working on something. But yes.

Tim:

So you might be home, but are you present mentally? Mhmm. Not not I wouldn't say a 100% always. You know, like I said, the whole, You know, being at dinner and checking your phone. Yeah.

Tim:

So those are the things to to work on. So be present in the times where, you know, it's It's important. You know, don't miss, school events, sporting things. Try to be there for all those. Mhmm.

Tim:

But, yeah, I think A lot of my sacrifice was probably my own sleep and, probably health at times, but and also maybe doing what I wanna do is, you know, like, Watch a TV or like, I don't really watch sports or TV, so that that really helped with, you know, giving you that extra time.

Justin:

The the other thing though is that It's interesting because, like, the in in a way, your own sleep I think you said sleep and health is your own sacrifice, But in another way, that affects everybody else. So it's like I I understand the distinction like, oh, I'm just giving this up. I I it it can also, I think, set up sometimes a, this idea of like, yeah. I'm just sacrificing my own stuff for the sake of the family or whatever. And, again, I'm just speaking personally, but I haven't found that always to be healthy.

Justin:

Like, I also had that feeling like, well, I'm just up at, you know, 4 in the morning working on this email newsletter that I'm gonna send out that's, You know, contributing to this bigger thing I'm trying to build over time. Overall, am I glad that I did it? Yes. And but on the other hand, I'm always kind of questioning. I wonder if I could have done it differently.

Justin:

I'm wondering if I could have been, better to myself, which it would have in turn helped in other areas of life, just like eventually, You know, the sleep doesn't just affect you, it affects other folks too. And, you know, the same is true for Our physical and mental health. Eventually, you know, you can't you can't keep grinding that down, and then, You know, think that it's not gonna affect anything. Right? Like, it's gonna eventually affect you, which will in turn affect the the people around you.

Justin:

I'm open to the idea that other people just navigate this better than me, but I'm also, like, wanting to it feels like I I have this responsibility to also question, Not just not just you or but just the listener to say, you know, how healthy are you being? Are you is there something you can do to make this more manageable, more healthy for you. We can sacrifice things for a certain stretch. But In in some ways your position is also interesting. That was the second thing I wanted to talk about is once you've launched the business And you've cut the cord to the employer, and you're like, okay, I don't wanna go back.

Justin:

That part there was, like, Kind of a whole other phase of this. In some ways, everything up to that point was more manageable for me Because it was just like, Yeah, like if this email newsletter doesn't go out, it's fine. If this launch doesn't do as well, It's fine because I still have a full time job. But once I cut the cord to the job, that became more kind of consuming. Have you felt that way too?

Tim:

Yeah. Definitely more, you know, pressure and, I would say, human stress of, You know, not messing messing something up to Mhmm. You know, cause cause issues. You got you know, when you're doing the solo, you've got servers, you've got, You know, users, support, you got all kinds of issues that can happen. So, yeah, I I keep thinking, You know, 6 months, I'll feel like, okay.

Tim:

Everything's gone well for 6 months. I'm in a good state, and And, you know, I'll feel better about it, but I don't know. Do you still worry at times?

Justin:

No. I I worry a lot less. So that that part is true. There's a threshold where but it took a while to get here. Right?

Justin:

Because I went I went independent in 2016 with marketing for developers course, and I thought, okay. I'd done, like, whatever, 60 or 70 k on that part time, and I thought, well, if I go full time, maybe I can double it. And I ended up doing more than double it. So initially, those things were great, But then there was kind of, like, you know, like, in terms of, marketing for developers, it just wasn't It wasn't like a SaaS where there's like this recurring revenue always coming in. Right?

Justin:

With Transistor, the initial period of building it was Stressful. But once we hit, you know, probably 20 k a month, I calmed down a lot. And then since then, it's just more and more calm because You get after a while, you just realize, sure, there is a a chance that this could all go away overnight, but it's just so small. You know? Mhmm.

Justin:

So for me, it's gone down, but every business is gonna be different. I mean, I talk to friends who have SaaS businesses, and they are stressed constantly, because of the market they're in, because of the competition. I mean, if if a big player in our industry really hammered us. That would be stressful for sure. But overall, on a day to day basis, it's definitely less stressful.

Justin:

So there that that part and we've got more people now. So it's like at first, it was just John worrying about Servers and then me worrying about John worrying about servers, and now Jason is also worrying about servers. So it's like The the the stress is spread out a little bit, you know, and then, you know, Helen's always there to help with customers, and now I've got Josh as well. And it it's just like, okay. Between us 5, we can we can manage all of this.

Justin:

Yeah. So I'd say it's less stress down. But it really it it depends on so many factors. Right? Let's maybe in the last little bit here, let's talk a little bit about t.ly.

Justin:

So you went full time on it once you've done double the revenue of your salary.

Tim:

Yep. Close close to it. Yep.

Justin:

And it's only been a month, but how's it gone since then? What's, the the way you described, like, working on the knobs, that's exactly that is exactly what it is. It's like, once you get something that's working, it's like, okay, now you're just like Kinda iteratively turning knobs and hoping that you get, you know, little boosts. So, yeah, how's it been since you launched? Since you went full time?

Tim:

Yeah. It's been it's been good. You know, my big focus has been, trying to split my time between, like, features and Marketing. So if in my mind, if I could just continue to grow, like, awareness of TDIOY being out there Mhmm. People are still looking for URL shorteners every single day.

Tim:

They're still, you know, using them. But there's actually some new, like well, I'd say newer, but newer use cases I've seen where people are, using, like, URL shorteners and putting, like, QR codes in books. And so there's always, like, these new ideas for, you know, how people are using them. It gets quite a bit of traffic just, you know, searching for, a URL surrendering. So that's been my biggest goal is how can I move up and search ranking for some of those key terms?

Tim:

And then from there, just, you know, building more brand awareness.

Justin:

Yeah. Yeah. This so this is I mean, I I I want I think now is the time for your SEO hot tips because in my mind like, when you told me about this in our Twitter DMs, I was like, URL like, URL shorteners, that is competitive. Like, it's just like a lot of people have been doing it. There's been some big players like tiny URL and Bitly that have been around forever.

Justin:

And I searched for URL Shortener free, and you're on the 1st page. You're you're right up there with, those folks I just mentioned. So How did you do that, Tim?

Tim:

Well, one thing by kinda nature of the product. So, like, you know, backlinks are I'm I'm definitely you know, I'm not an ex SEO expert. I've been trying to learn as much as I can. But, so When you think of a a URL shortener, by nature, they get a lot of backlinks because people will create a short link, Post it on a website, post it somewhere. And through all that, I guess, you get, you know, some credit.

Tim:

So that's that's helped to where, you know, you have millions of backlinks. But then how they compete against these other ones that have, you know, made hundreds of millions of backlinks. Yeah. That's it's just been kinda like, you know, Multiple things, writing content around anything to do with short links, marketing. So I've, you know, been doing a lot with the blog, trying to, you know, do a little bit of keyword research, trying to figure out some of that stuff, building additional, like, tools That kinda help with marketing.

Tim:

So, like, just like a QR code builder, on the site, like, Some other, you know, tools that drive additional traffic. And then also just, like, really trying to make it easy for if somebody wants to create a short link, They can come on the home page and click shorten, and they'll get a short link right away versus some of the other ones make it a little bit more difficult, want you to sign up, and, that type of thing. So and then also, I've been trying to do, you know, some promotion stuff to where I get people to, you know, write about it or, you know, share articles about URL shorteners in t.01.

Justin:

I mean, it just sounds like just standard stuff. Like, you're you're you're you've got a product that people are searching for. So, I mean, I think this is the I mean, in some ways, it's like it is amazing that In such a big established category, an upstart like you could Start something and get traction. Right? Like, that is amazing in a way, and I think Speaks to this idea of, like, people being in motion, searching for a solution is kind of the foundation of every good business.

Justin:

And even when things are competitive, sometimes there's a way of threading the needle to getting enough attention. Because yeah. And are you using tools? Like, you're using just like Ahrefs to to monitor backlinks and Keywords. Is there anything in particular you're looking at in Ahrefs or similar tool?

Tim:

Yeah. I I've Signed up maybe, like, a month ago for Ahrefs, so I haven't really been using it for that long. It it's helped a little bit to, you know, Track some different things. But for, you know, for the most part, like, the keywords are pretty straightforward for what I'm trying to do and Adding new features that people have been wanting and then writing, you know, articles about how to, like, bulk shorten URLs, and people are searching for that type of stuff. So, you know, once I kinda figure out that, I just keep keep doing it.

Justin:

So so your your keyword research tactic, Tim's t keyword research tactic is just to listen to what customers are asking for, build it, and then write a blog post with those keywords in it.

Tim:

Yep. Usually. Yep. That's it.

Justin:

I mean, sometimes it doesn't have to be too complicated. Right? Like and if you're listening, You might already be ahead of the con the competitors just because you're listening. So what are people actively wanting? What do they want so much that they're willing to Search on Google for bulk shorten URLs and then, like, look, look, look, and then find t.ly.

Justin:

And then if you don't have what they want, they ask you for it. Like, there's just so much effort there, and if they're willing to go through all that work, It's probably a pretty good signal that, you know, that's what they want. Yet I just search for bulk shorten URLs, and, yeah, you're on the 1st page. Pretty impressive. It's really impressive.

Tim:

Yeah.

Justin:

What do you have any other Things that you've I I'm surprised that you just started using Ahrefs. Have you tried any paid acquisition?

Tim:

Yeah. I'm I've, You know, experimented maybe a year ago, and then recently, I've started it back. Google Ads, just try. It it hasn't really converted well. Mhmm.

Justin:

At

Tim:

least I mean, I'm not an expert on that either. So at times, you feel like you're just wasting money, You know, paying Google. But Yeah. Yeah. I've been experimenting with it, I guess, trying to, you know, drive more awareness, get more sign ups, and then see if I can convert some of those users.

Justin:

And when you talk to customers, is the vast majority just saying, yeah. I I was just searching for you on searching something on Google, Tried a few things out and then landed on t.ly. Is that and what's the differentiator? It's just like you have features that they want that nobody else does?

Tim:

Couple things there. So yeah. So I I try to talk to customers, but a lot of times, you know, I don't really hear anything back. I have some, like, You know, onboarding emails, but a lot of times they'll say, I searched for URL shortener, and one of the key differences is mine's The shortest. Okay.

Tim:

Kinda I'm try my latest marketing tactic is, marketing as the world's shortest URL shortener.

Justin:

Okay.

Tim:

Curious your thoughts on that.

Justin:

But I mean, if if that's what people are are searching for, if there's if they care about it, then it matters.

Tim:

I do get a lot of messages about that. They say they wanted to create short links, and mine was the shortest. Yeah. So that's what kinda drove them. Yeah.

Tim:

So they want some features and then some of the other ones. So when I started the back in, like, 2018 when I started the link shortener extension, I think it was Bitly charged, like, $1,000 for custom domains. Mhmm. And since then, I don't know what their latest price is, but it's, you know, it's more expensive than mine. So Mhmm.

Tim:

If somebody who's just a, you know, solo person or small company and they want to create a few 100 or 1,000, like, branded links, My my solution is really the most affordable, which I know as a you know, when you talk about pricing isn't always the best thing to be the cheapest, but, That's kinda one of my ways I try to stand out is to be more affordable.

Justin:

Yeah. I actually I I'm I'm I'm against the grain on this one. I I think that when you're an indie product and you're trying to stand out, one of the easiest, most accessible ways to stand out is to be more affordable. I I think it's a fine it's fine to be more the more affordable option as long as you can make the economics work, As long as you've got enough volume coming in, responding to that pricing, and as long as those customers are, not too much trouble to service. I think it's great.

Justin:

It's it's such an easy way. Like, if there's 2 comparable products and one is more affordable, most of us choose the more affordable option. It's like, okay. I could go here. I could go here, and They're both the same or similar, and it's like, well, okay.

Justin:

I'm just gonna go after, you know, the one that's a little bit more affordable. And if you can give better customer service on top of that and everything else, usually the problems with the the funny thing about this binary of, like, Don't charge less is that there's so much other nuance that you'd have to explore to see if that was truly a bad idea. Like, are if sure. If you don't have enough volume of interest and you're charging $10 a year, That's gonna be tricky. But if you're a landing page builder like Card, and you've got tons and tons of Interest.

Justin:

Lots and lots of people want this thing. Charging $19 a year is actually a huge advantage because there's tons of people like me that signed up, Okay. Don't even think about it every year. It's just $19 that just it's okay. And they're gonna have me for life Because now I've built, also people's jobs to be done are interesting.

Justin:

Like, card for me, sure, I build some landing pages on it, but the Primary use case is those people that want me to build a website for them. I just say, let me build you a free site on card, just 1 page. I'll do it for free. And then if you need something more than that, go and get yourself a Squarespace, you know, whatever. And I'll just keep it alive just so peep people come to me.

Justin:

I can just build them a quick site, and then I don't even have to think about it anymore. Right? See, I think I think being the more affordable option, it's one way to stand out. And on some of these things, like Geocodio, I think, did this as well for, You know, their their API, Google's was more expensive. If if the thing that's driving people to look for a solution is we were on Google, but now it's too expensive Or now we need this solution, but Bitly's is too expensive.

Justin:

Why wouldn't you wanna position yourself in there to be like, yeah. We're a little bit more affordable. Seems great. Seems like a an underrated, strategy as long as all the other variables match up.

Tim:

Yeah. Well, that's good to hear because I've always felt like maybe I underpriced it. But, yeah. Yeah. So I'm trying to get the people who are just, You know, they might need a few short links, for different marketing things.

Tim:

People need it for I've seen people who are, getting married, and they want to have a short link to put on their, invitation Yeah. Or QR code. So they'll use it. They don't really need a ton of features. They just need to create it, so that's why it's kinda a good solution for those type of users.

Justin:

Yeah. How's churn? Is churn okay?

Tim:

Yeah. I'd have to come and look. I it's it's not bad. I mean, once people kinda get using it, they they stick around. But, yeah, I don't have the number on top of my head, but it's It's it's not massive.

Justin:

I mean, that's usually the other concern with lower priced options. I just I thought of it because you said weddings. I'm like, oh, well, that's Obviously, a high churn scenario there. But if you got it, you I mean, the other thing is, like, somebody might use it for their wedding, And then 3 months later, their boss says, hey. We need a tool for tracking how how many people clicked on this link.

Justin:

And they go, oh, well, I use that for my wedding. Why don't we just use it for This as well. So those things can build on each other. So one scenario might be high churn, but the the next one that comes along might be fine. Right?

Justin:

There's, lots of options. There's Yep. There's lots of nuance beyond, some of the generalized device that's out there.

Tim:

Yeah. Yeah. I enjoy just, you know, helping out. Like, people use it for free. That's the majority of users using it are just creating free links.

Tim:

I mean, If you go on Twitter and search TDIOY/, you can see just, like, thousands of people are sharing, and and most of those people are just doing it for free. And I kinda enjoy that part as a developer just building a product that, you know, almost from day 1, since I had the user base using the extension, I had Thousands of people creating short links. Mhmm. And that's kinda a neat feel and, you know, I enjoy that. Doesn't really always make you money, but, It is a neat side to where, you know, people are using the service and, getting a lot of benefit out of it.

Justin:

Yeah. Perfect, man. Well, this was good. I think we we covered a we covered a lot of ground. As always, if folks are listening right now, Yes.

Justin:

That means you in your car, and you wanna pull over to the side, write down some notes, shoot me or Tim a DM, Write us an email, whatever. Tim is Tim Leland, l e l a n d, On Twitter, I'm m I Justin, the letter m, the letter I. Justin, go check out t.ly, or Even better, search for URL shortener free and then click on t.li first. That really helps As Indi's out, when people Google search and then click our result first, try it out. I just tried it.

Justin:

I love how you make a You make a link and it automatically gives you that QR code. That's that's some smart product design there. And, Tim, you also have a blog, timleland.com. Yep. Anything else we should tell people about?

Tim:

No. Definitely send me a message. I try to try to respond to anything that people send me. So and, if you need to create a short URL, use t.0y.

Justin:

Use the world's shortest

Tim:

Yes.

Justin:

URL shortener.

Tim:

Cool. Thanks for your cheesy.

Justin:

No. I love it, man. I love it. Thanks for doing this, Tim.

Tim:

Yep. Thanks for having me

Justin:

on.

Tim:

That's where, you know, being a developer, I don't always think about the marketing, but I I'm trying to do more and more. I've always thought if I could find Me, Justin Jackson, to to be the marketer. That's I bet you've gotten that a 1000000 times. Like, hey. I need you to come be the marketer, and I'll just be the developer because developing is easy.

Tim:

It's the marketing. It's it's so challenging at times. Like, what should I do next? Yeah. Well, I'm gonna

Justin:

save this clip in case I ever find myself unemployed, Tim.