How Lukas and Liz Hermann make $10k MRR selling a simple countdown timer

|

If you’ve ever wondered whether you should just keep it simple, build a super basic app that solves a specific problemand live the indie maker dream… then this article is for you.

Today’s article is about Lukas and Liz Hermann, a couple from Germany who have recently transitioned from freelanceing to full-time duo-preneurship while travelling through Asia.

And they did this by selling remote-controlled countdown timers.. making $10k a month!

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!


What we will learn

  • How anyone can monetize simple apps like a countdown timer
  • Why people pay for something that’s already available for free
  • How to run profitable ads on a solopreneur shoestring budget
  • How to launch on Reddit without being kicked off
  • How to combine SEO and Google Ads to capture your most profitable search terms

Who are Lukas and Liz Hermann?

Lukas Hermann and Liz Hermann are a married couple from Germany and cofounders of StageTimer.io, a remote-controlled countdown timer app.

Before starting Stage Timer, Lukas was a freelanced software engineer who had always worked on various side projects. The idea for Stage Timer came from visiting a friend who owned a studio. Lukas watched in amazement as the friend ran back and forth between his outdated Flash timer app and his video camera to record a video.

He realized he could create a better solution and built his first prototype in 3 days.

Fast forward 3 years and his little side project became a $10k monthly recurring revenue (MRR) business. He is now working full time to grow a suite of products for the events industry with his wife and co-founder, Liz Hermann.

Lukas Hermann

How he did monetize a “simple” timer app into a $10,000 per month business?

It’s hard being a founder.

If you build something novel, you worry if you are building something that no one wants or needs. If you build something simple, you worry about competition and if people would be willing to pay for your product.

For Lukas and Liz Hermann, they went for the later. Timers are everywhere. They are on your phone, your laptop, and you can download plenty of widgets for free. In this article, you will learn how on earth they managed to monetize a simple web timer into a $10,000 per month business.

In particular, this is the 5 main takeaways for today:

  1. Value creation is not about you – You might be accidentally dismissing product ideas because they feel worthless to you. I will show why you shouldn’t do this and how to avoid this.
  2. Get creative with your pricing models – How do you charge $50/month instead of $5/month for the same product? By positioning your product differently. I will show you an interesting pricing model Stage Timer uses to double their revenue.
  3. Solopreneurs should run ads – …but only after implementing a solid go-to-market strategy and talking to your early users. You will get a sneak peek of Liz’s Google ad metrics to see what you can expect when you run ads this way.
  4. Use Reddit as your testing ground – Lukas got all his early users from Reddit. You will see how he writes his Reddit posts to find early users without offending Redditors.
  5. Combine SEO with ads to capture new users – You will see how they target different users via their organic and paid channels, and how to implement that for your business.

Let’s look at each in detail:

1. Value creation is NOT about you

Too many first-time entrepreneurs look at value creation from their own perspective. They ask questions like:

  • Would I pay for this?
  • Can I find a way solve this problem?
  • Can I do it better myself?

If Lukas thought this way, Stage Timer would have never been born. He was showing his friend (the one running back and forth between a timer app and his video camera) a simple workaround he could have implemented to save the hassle before realizing this…

To this day I’m asking myself why would people pay money for it. But I realized for most people, the alternative is to buy a physical box with a wire running through the room that costs $200-500. So our freemium software is very cheap when you look at it that way.

Lukas Hermann – Indie Worldwide interview

By positioning the product as an alternative to the clunky physical alternative and other over-engineered solutions people were actually using, they were able to charge €30 a month for a product that most people think should be “free”.

Lesson:

Don’t assume you know what your customer wants. Don’t skip customer interviews.

2. Get creative with your pricing models

When it comes to pricing, most people implement either a one time fee for lifetime access or a monthly subscription charge.

I found another interesting pricing approach Stage Timer uses. It’s called event-based pricing

Lukas Liz Hermann one time license
Stage Timer uses an interesting pricing model – Event-based pricing

Most of Stage Timer’s customers are event organizers. They use timers to keep their speakers in check, ensuring the event runs smoothly and on time. But once the event is over, they no longer need the app.

They COULD stick with a monthly recurring model but this adds additional friction in the purchasing process. Potential customers will have to plan an optimum time to buy their product and remember to cancel their subscriptions.

In this instance, event-based pricing makes sense and appears to have doubled their revenue.

Now think whether you can do something similar for your business:

  • Project-based pricing if your product is being used to achieve a certain goal
  • Success-based pricing e.g. charging per successful hire for a recruitment business
  • Domain-based pricing for tools to help other entrepreneurs.

And of course, don’t be afraid to experiment.

3. Solopreneurs should run ads

Most solopreneurs pride themselves on growing their business organically. And the ones that do run ads get discouraged because they don’t get the results they were hoping for.

Liz Hermann, who is in charge of marketing Stage Timer has some valuable wisdom to share here:

Ads shouldn’t be the first thing you do to get customers.
-> Go-to-market strategy comes first.
-> Then get your first users and customers.
Now you are ready to run ads with a clear picture of where and who to target with ads

Liz Hermann – Twitter/X

In other words, if your business is not growing organically, don’t jump straight to ads expecting that to solve your problem.

Speak to your customers. Work out what they like and don’t like about your product. Figure out your ideal customer profiles – are they the event organisers or the speakers? Entrepreneurs or employees who need to get the purchase signed off?

Only after you get clear with who you are selling to and the right messaging and offer to get across should you start to run ads.

And when you do… this is the kind of results possible on a tiny solopreneur ad budget:

Liz Lukas Hermann Google Ads

€2,100 revenue from a €230 ad budget at 90%+ margins. Not bad at all!

4. Use Reddit as your testing ground

It took Lukas three days to build the first prototype of Stage Timer before sharing it on Reddit in this post:

Lukas Hermann Launch on Reddit

He received some useful feedback on that day and implement them (remember that he was still freelancing in 2020 so this was just a side project).

6 months later he launched the paid tier for Stage Timer and went back on Reddit:

Lukas Liz Hermann Launch on Reddit (2)

This time, the post generated paying customers and his app flourished through word of month since.

Let’s look at his Reddit posts to figure out how you can do the same on Reddit:

  • Be humble – Ask for feedback, not for the sale.
  • Forget your ego – Don’t defend your product. Appreciate all feedback. You don’t have to implement everything.
  • Say thank you in another post – This is a great opportunity to write another post to the same group without appearing spammy

5. Combine SEO with ads to capture new users

If you are struggling to prioritiz all the different marketing strategies available to grow your startup… these two screenshots summarize Liz’s solopreneur framework to market their product:

Lukas Hermann SEO and Ads
Lukas Hermann SEO and Ads (2)
“Ads are a great way to target keywords you are NOT ranking well with content”

A solopreneur marketing framework

  1. Start building in public where your potential customers hang out. Ask for feedback.
  2. Create organic growth or incentivize word-of-mouth shares.
  3. Use content to target relevant keywords for SEO purposes. Learn what you are able to rank for and the gaps in your strategy.
  4. Supplement your SEO efforts with ads to target keywords you are unable to rank (but are still valuable).

For Stage Timer, the majority of their new users discover them through a simple Google search for “5-minute timer”.

Liz then uses Google Ads to target more valuable searches with purchase intent like “speaker timer software”.

Lukas Hermann SEO
Targeting high purchase intent keywords with Google Ads

This gives them a powerful top of funnel framework to capture a wide range of potential users.

Juicy ideas to replicate success

That’s a wrap! Today you’ve learned:

  1. Don’t assume you know what your customers want, or is willing to pay for. Ask them questions. Be curious. Learn what (or who) they are comparing you against and adjust your price or messaging accordingly.
  2. When you have a good understanding of your customer journey, think of ways to innovate on your pricing models to better suit customer needs, e.g. event-based pricing.
  3. Don’t be afraid of running ads. But make sure it is after you have achieved product market fit and know what your customers want, NOT as a last ditch effort when nothing else is working.
  4. Be humble and ask for feedback on forums like Reddit. Ask for feedback, not the sale.
  5. Combine SEO and ad. Copy Liz’s framework above to effectively capture keywords you need to grow.

What’s next

In the next issue, we will learn from another power couple, Dan Kulkov and Sveta Bay who built a 6-figure product studio to help solopreneurs who hates marketing.

If you haven’t already, sign up to get notified when a new issue of Juicy Ideas 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!