How Danny Postma built and sold AI SAAS Headlime for over $1,000,000

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As a popular indie maker from the Netherlands, Danny Postma is best known for bootstrapping a portfolio of AI startups including Headlime, ProfilePictureAI and HeadshotPro. In this article, we will go into Danny’s journey before becoming an indie hacker, his impressive feat of building and selling Headlime in just 8 months, and actionable growth strategies you can adopt for your own startup.

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What we will learn

  • Why Danny Postma’s background make him a successful indie maker
  • A simple method he uses to come up with startup ideas
  • A pricing method that maximizes your chances of launching successfully
  • Why you shouldn’t just focus on sales when building in public
  • The sale process of an indie maker start-up
  • How to find a product idea that sell itself

Who is Danny Postma?

Danny Postma is an indie maker, a full-stack developer and a conversion rate optimization (CRO) specialist. He was born in the Netherlands and currently lives in Bali. Before turning to indie hacking full-time, he freelanced part-time to help clients design funnels and landing pages to support his side projects.

The combination of skills he developed as a designer, developer and marketer is why I think Danny Postma is successful. He has been immersed in indie hacking since the age of 16, giving him a competitive edge in building micro-SaaS startups.

Danny Postma’s Startups

Like many prolific founders, Headlime wasn’t his only (or first) startup.

He currently lists around 20 startups under his holding company, Postcrafts, though he probably has more. Interestingly, I found an old personal site of his that includes a short side hustle taking stock photography for Unsplash.

This photo taken by Danny was featured in Unsplash’s editorial. I guess photography wasn’t as lucrative as indie hacking! Source: Unsplash.

Headlime

Instead of going through every one of the 20 startups, in this deep dive, I’ll walk you through Danny’s journey building and selling Headlime, an AI copywriting tool, within 8 months for ~$1 million.

Headlime wasn’t his first or most successful startup, but it is the one he spent the most effort building in public. This gives us plenty of data points to reverse engineer which strategies he used that were the most impactful.

I will include screenshots of tweets and posts to show you exactly why he made the decisions he did so that you can learn from his experience.

How Danny Postma built Headlime

It’s worth noting that by the time Danny started Headlime, he was already in his 5th or 6th year of indie hacking. He was living in Bali, freelancing 2 days a week for a Dutch client while building a landing page directory on the side.

In summary, this is how to build a startup like Danny Postma:

  1. The idea – He didn’t start with a novel idea. Instead, Danny started by taking stock of what he already had on offer that can be monetized differently. Then, quickly test as many ideas as you can to identify the ones with potential product-market fit.
  2. The business model – Offer limited lifetime deals to gain early momentum, transitioning to recurring subscriptions as you grow.
  3. Growth – Facebook Groups is an underrated distribution channel for indie makers. We will go through exactly how he approached it later.
  4. Selling Headlime – When you build in public you attract potential acquirers. This is likely how he managed to find a potential buyer quickly.
  5. His digital product studio strategy – Find a theme you are bullish on, use keyword research tools to spot gaps in the market and aggressively build products to fill those gaps.

Let’s dive into each of these steps.

1. The idea

A practical approach to generating new product ideas is to evaluate what you already possess that can be transformed into a digital product or SAAS.

During an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Indie Hacker, Danny shared that the inspiration for Headlime came from a $19 headline generator eBook he listed on Gumroad in 2018 with a friend.

His hypothesis was that by converting it into a microSAAS, he could transform that one-time $19 into ongoing revenue.

What product-market-fit feels like

Here’s the thing. When you launch a product that has potential, you will know. People will start talking about your product and sharing it with their friends.

So a product doesn’t take off, just start another one. Don’t fall in love with your ideas.

“I got lucky my 4th startup was the winner. Some people have to build more than 10 before they find the perfect product.”

Danny Postma, Indie Hacker AMA

As for Danny Postma, Headlime took off immediately.

He launched a simple landing page for Headlime on Twitter/X and received 80+ subscribers on his waiting list within a day. Similarly, when he launched Headlime on Product Hunt later that year it made $417 on launch day.

An immediate interest signals strong potential.

2. The business model

Obviously, every business is different. Headlime is good example of what a business model of a bootstrapped microSAAS could look like.

Pricing strategy

If you are thinking of launching on Product Hunt, it helps to make an offer people can’t refuse, like a lifetime offer. This works incredibly well for a solopreneur with minimal overheads and will help you gain initial momentum.

Danny launched Headlime on Product Hunt in December 2020 with a lifetime offer of ~$49. He made $417 on that day and went on to hit $10,000 in revenue by February 2021.

This is how he priced his lifetime offers:

  • $49 for the first 200.
  • $89 for another 200.
  • $129 for the last 200.

I am guessing his costs are well under $9/month per user because when he started offering monthly subscriptions the cheapest plan started at $9/month.

I just checked the website today. A personal paid plan now starts at $59/month, and their enterprise plan starts at $399/month.

Imagine the margins!

Headlime’s launch pricing vs now

That’s why you shouldn’t be afraid of experimenting with raising your prices.

The best decision I made was raising my prices from $9 per month to $29 and again to $59.

Danny Postma, Indie Hacker AMA

The funnel

It is helpful to think about your user experience like a funnel. You want your customers to bump into features of the next plan up and an easy option for them to upgrade.

Then, make them a great offer they can’t refuse.

I signed up to Headlime to see what this looks like. And sure enough, right after I get to the dashboard I see this animated upgrade box in the corner that’s hard to miss.

Irresistible upgrade box

Also, try to start your funnel as wide as you can. For example, if you start with a free plan, you will have a lot more emails you can reactivate later.

3. Growth

The way Danny Postma thinks about growth is a masterclass for all indie makers.

So launched Headlime on Product Hunt and received a small revenue boost and early validation. Great. Now what?

He continued to build in public on various social media channels and forums until his product blew up on one particular channel

Facebook Groups

Danny attributed his early success to Facebook Groups so I tried to find some examples of his posts. Unsurprisingly, this is tricky because most of his posts are probably hidden within private groups (he mentioned MarTech groups) but I did find this public post in a “Lifetime deals” group that did well:

Headlime went viral in Facebook Groups

But what’s interesting isn’t that he used Facebook Groups to grow, but the strategy behind his posts.

In an interview with Greg Isenberg, he said that instead of just focusing on gaining customers directly from posting, he was aiming for a secondary benefit – for others to reshare and link back to him.

Because when they do, not only are you getting social proof and backlinks which improves your website SEO, but it also increases your chances of getting picked up by VERY BIG publications.

Danny’s lucky break came in the form of a feature in TechCrunch. In March 2021, Headlime was mentioned on TechCrunch and Danny said that was when “things exploded”.

Headlime’s MRR doubled every month since that day.

Referrals

Referrals are website visits that came from other people linking to Headlime.

If you look at Headlime’s traffic sources today, you can see that Referrals still make up nearly half of their monthly visits.

Let’s take a closer look at where these referrals are coming from.

Did you spot the trend?

Headlime is getting a lot of traffic from directory sites!

Although it’s difficult to tell how much of this is a result of him pitching directly to the directories themselves versus the directory writers organically discovering Headlime (for example via Facebook Groups) and including Headlime in their lists.

What we do know is that Headlime receives nearly 15,000 visits every single month from referrals.

I guess the lesson here is that in the early days when you are bootstrapping, don’t just focus on getting customers one at a time.

Find advocates in the form of directories, group moderators and newsletter writers who are actively looking for tools like yours to write about.

4. Selling Headlime

When your startup grows you will eventually hit a ceiling on how much you can handle all on your own. You have a few options.

  1. Raise VC funding to expand
  2. Continue to bootstrap but hire staff to help
  3. Sell

8 months in, Headlime was growing fast and he had more customer support tickets than he and his wife could handle. (Yes, his wife was now part of his team).

He started conversations with VCs like Andresson Horowitz and Sequoia.

But ultimately, he went with the 3rd option, selling to a buyer who got excited about the MRR growth he was sharing in public.

Valuations

The exact detail of the deal was kept confidential. From what I can tell he was at $20k MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) and sold for a good multiple.

At 4 times annualized revenue, that would mean he sold Headlime for ~$1,000,000.

Sale process

I used to work in private equity where deals often took months if not years to complete. I was curious what the sale process was like for a sole proprietorship business like Headlime.

Unsurprisingly. The process is a lot simpler. Due diligence was apparently in the form of a Notion document. Danny answered the list of buyer questions and provided screenshots directly within the Notion document. Then any follow-up questions were answered in Slack.

The whole process likely took about one or two weeks.

5. His digital product studio strategy

Are you a founder who hates marketing? If so, you don’t want to miss this next part where he explains how you can find a product idea that “sells itself”.

Finding a product idea that sells itself

The easiest product to create if you don’t like to do marketing is to find a product people are already searching for but isn’t being fulfilled adequately.

Danny Postma would go to a keyword research tool like Ahref (a cheaper alternative I use is Low Fruits) and find low-competition keywords.

This is a typical method content writers use to find article ideas.

However, for an indie maker, instead of creating content, you can use this method to find problems solvable by a microSAAS tool.

Get a good domain

Everyone and their dogs have opinions on whether you should buy a premium domain name. So what are Danny’s thoughts on this?

His advice here is to use a simple and clear domain name that signals to both Google AND your potential customers that your website is a relevant solution to what they are looking for.

For example, his current startup is HeadshotPRO. Many of his new customers are people searching for “professional headshots” on Google deciding to check out his site because its name signals to them that it will likely provide a solution to what they want.

So in summary, here’s his ideation strategy:

  1. Find a low-competition keyword (Keyword Difficulty of under 10), that
  2. Can be solved with a tool, and
  3. Has an affordable simple domain you can buy

That’s it.

That’s the formula for a product that can sell itself.

Build products within an umbrella theme

For many indie makers, the dream is to continue to build multiple profitable products year after year. But it can be hard to decide WHAT to build and WHICH idea to pursue.

If you don’t want to start over from ground zero every time you launch something, here’s what you can do:

Find a growing niche you can see yourself operating in for the next 10 years and just keep building products within the same niche.

This way, none of your “failed” efforts are truly wasted because you can just roll your learnings, marketing and even tech stack into the next startup.

Many of Danny’s projects are iterations of each other.

AI copywriting: LandingFolio → eBook → Headlime

AI photography: Tattoo AI → Stock AI → Profile Picture AI → HeadshotPRO

But of course. Your mileage will vary. Danny Postma found himself in a big and exploding niche (AI) so take this advice of his with a pinch of salt.

How You Can Replicate Success

Hopefully this deep dive gave you an insight into how Danny Postma built and sold Headlime for 7 figures.

Here are the main takeaways:

Keyword-Driven Product Creation: If marketing isn’t your strength, develop products that fill a recognized gap. Use keyword research tools like Ahrefs or Low Fruits to pinpoint low-competition terms that hint at unmet demands. Once identified, aim to secure a domain closely matching the popular search intent. This can result in organic discovery, minimizing your marketing effort.

Don’t be afraid of pivoting: Identify assets you already have that can be transformed into another form of digital products. For example, repurposing an eBook into a microSAAS can transform one-time sales into recurring revenue.

You will know when you find product-market-fit: Monitor organic discussions and mentions about your product. If it doesn’t gain traction, don’t push it – instead, pivot and explore a different idea.

Use irresistible offers: Start with enticing offers on platforms like Product Hunt. For instance, begin with a tiered lifetime offer, then gradually introduce a subscription model based on the product’s value perception.

Don’t just focus on selling to customers: The aim of building in public isn’t just to make sales. Use it to find advocates for your product, like Reddit group moderators, directory owners, newsletter writers, or even potential buyers for your startup!

What’s Next

In a future issue, we will break down how he plans to grow 100 AI products in 10 years, how to automate processes to deal with customer queries and what types of businesses a solopreneur should avoid to protect your mental health.

If you haven’t already, sign up to get notified when a new issue of Tiny Empires drop!

Growth Strategies of Top Indie Makers Delivered to Your Inbox

Each week, we will reverse engineer the growth and distribution strategies used by top indie makers to grow their startups past $100k annual revenue. Subscribe so you don’t miss the latest issues!