Side Project Marketing: No-Code Tools, Buy vs Build, Side Projects as a Service

“The best marketing is when you don’t know it’s marketing.” — Mikael Cho

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💎 Why It Matters

Companies are working harder and paying more for attention.


🔍 Problem

Paid marketing channels are expensive and competitive.


💡 Solution

Side Project Marketing helps you build brand awareness and generate leads.

This includes quizzes, calculators, games, guides, templates, directories, checklists, apps and more.


🏁 Players

Side Project Marketing Examples


🔮 Predictions


☁️ Opportunities

  • Offer side projects as a service. Help companies leverage this marketing channel by building on-demand side projects.


🏔️ Risks

  • Market Risk • Don’t waste your resources building tools nobody needs. Look for evidence of need. Clone and improve tools that people already use.
  • Opportunity Cost • Your time, money and energy are limited resources. Working on side projects when there are more promising options is unwise.
  • Short-Termism • Side Project Marketing is a long-term investment. It can be wise to choose another marketing strategy if you are looking for immediate results.


🔑 Key Lessons


🔥 Hot Takes

  • Blogs, podcasts and newsletters can be side projects. This is owned media. You don’t compete with others for bandwidth. REWORK by 37signals has ~54% of direct visitors. Similarweb says that these are likely to be amongst some of the website’s most loyal and engaged users.
  • Side projects are a great way to build your personal brand. Max Stoiber created react-boilerplate and styled-components. These are used by Bloomberg, Reddit, Atlassian, Coinbase, Patreon and hundreds of other companies. He uses these credentials to promote his code audit services.
  • Sports jerseys and clothing with brand labels are non-programmatic paid side projects. Customers pay to promote these.


😠 Haters

“I’m busy working on the main product. Side projects will waste my time.”
A great marketing strategy at the wrong time is the wrong move. Side project marketing is a longer-term investment.

“These are free tools. I like getting paid for my work.”
We covered examples where side projects brought new leads, users and sales.

“Free tools will displace my paid product.”
Others may be able to clone your features and offer them for free. You might as well cannibalize yourself if you can be cannibalized. Find markets with moats to avoid this dilemma.

“You told me to ask for an email. Then you told me not to.”
We shared successful examples with each of those recommendations. Both strategies can work.


🔗 Links

  1. Who Builds Growth Tools? • The tweet behind this report.
  2. A Solid Basic Framework for a Successful Side Project • A framework for building and launching side projects.
  3. How Side Projects Saved Our Startup • Mikael Cho shares how side-project marketing helped grow Crew that had 3 months of cash runway left.


📁 Related Reports

  • Growth Tools • The first version of the report
  • Growth Hacking • Side project marketing is part of growth marketing
  • Digital Products • Checklists, ebooks, guides, templates and other tools are digital products
  • No-Code • No-code makes it easier to build side projects quicker
  • Curation as a Service • Curated directories, templates and guides are popular side projects


🙏 Thanks

Thanks to Nico Cerdeira, Yarty Kim, Katt Risen, Tom Arbuthnot, Maciej Cupial, Stewart Townsend and Soma Mandal. We had a great time jamming on this report.


✏️ Emin researched and wrote this report. Dru researched and edited this report.


📈 What else?

Trends PRO #0095 — Side Project Marketing has more insights.

What you’ll get:

  • 32 Side Project Marketing Examples (256% More)
  • 11 Predictions (267% More)
  • 16 Opportunities (300% More)
  • 6 Risks (100% More)
  • 8 Key Lessons (167% More)
  • 7 Hot Takes (134% More)12 Links (300% More)

With Trends Pro you’ll learn:

  • (📈 Pro) How to generate thousands of leads?
  • (📈 Pro) What are 100+ places to launch your side project?
  • (📈 Pro) How to build one-feature side projects?
  • (📈 Pro) How to build a no-code directory?
  • (📈 Pro) What are communitygenerated side projects?
  • (📈 Pro) How to capture high-intent leads?
  • (📈 Pro) How to deepen your moat?
  • (📈 Pro) How to make side projects fun and engaging?
  • And much more…


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