Growing UnMarkDocs, Miguel Piedrafita’s Side Hustle
I did an interview for the ‘Guest Hustle’ Zero to Grow publication about how I'm sharing UnMarkDocs with the world. Here's what was published:
Hello and welcome to Zero to Grow. Please introduce yourself for our audience.
What is UnMarkDocs and how did you come up with the idea?
UnMarkDocs is a SaaS solution that allows you to create beautiful pages rendered from your GitHub-hosted documentation. It uses UnMarkDocs Flavoured Markdown, a Markdown flavour that provides extensions like embedding or alerts. I was inspired by sites like The Laravel Documentation or Spatie’s Documentation, which render their content from GitHub repositories.
Initially, I wasn’t building a SaaS app, I was just testing my design skills by designing a documentation site. Then, I found an interesting library that allowed you to parse Markdown to HTML and provided a way to extend it. After I got this working, I decided I wanted to use it in my own projects, so I made it sync with GitHub, and then I decided it’d be nice if other people could use it too.
What is your favourite aspect of running UnMarkDocs?
I think my favourite thing of running UnMarkDocs is using it. I host my school notes, homework, personal notes and project’s documentation there. Also, recently I found an interesting project on GitHub, and they had an UnMarkDocs page! It felt awesome.
What is the upside that keeps you going?
Learning new things. Building UnMarkDocs has been (and still is) an awesome learning experience. I’ve learned why popular documentation hosting services work as they do, learned how to work in an application with real users, when to add new things, how to market it, etc.
Also, this is the first project I build that really attracts people. Until now, most of my projects were only used by a small number of users with who I directly shared a link, but with UnMarkDocs it’s been different. In fact, we’re still in private beta, and have more users than any of my other projects!
Can you share the story of how you got your very first non-friends/family user?
I DM’d a few people on Twitter asking if they wanted to try out a new thing I was working on. The first reply I got was from Daniel Jones, who not only helped by suggesting new features and discussing use cases with me, but also shared a HUGE document with lots of feedback for UX, UI, the user flow, etc. Thank you, Daniel!
What channel or growth technique has, so far, worked best for you?
Tweeting. Seriously, ask people to share your new thing with their friends, and you’ll be surprised with the results!
I got this idea from a Full Stack Radio episode called Making a Living From Your Own Projects, where Justin Jackson talked about how simply asking people to share your projects would always drive awesome results, so I decided to try it and tweeted the following:
I think you can already see the results, but if you aren’t convinced yet, here are the metrics behind that particular tweet:
Can you share one growth experiment that completely failed, and why?
I thought posting to Betalist would get a lot of users on the early-access list, but it didn’t work as expected. I think this was due to bad timing (the startup got featured a month late) and bad landing copy. After changing some text in the landing page, we started getting emails, but it was too late.
How do you plan on growing your user base?
The plan is to post on ProductHunt and similar on the launch day, and also email maintainers of popular OSS repos. If I can get some projects to sign up, their users will probably follow.
Where do you see yourself and UnMarkDocs in 3 months (short term goal) and 5 years (long term, pie in the sky hope)?
In three months, I hope to finally launch UnMarkDocs and maybe to create a Premium tier with some additional features. In a longer period, I want to keep running UnMarkDocs, and maybe start getting revenue from it.
For myself, things are a little different. As I said, I want to continue working on UnMarkDocs and introduce new features from time to time, but of course, I also plan to keep contributing to open source, work on other things, and I also have to focus on school.
Hustling to grow a business is rarely done alone. Do you want to give a shoutout to anyone you know (personally or from a distance) who’s doing a great job?
The first name that comes to my mind is Adam Wathan, but there are many others, like Steve Schoger, Justin Jackson or Taylor Otwell. In fact, something I tweeted a while ago might illustrate this better:
I’d also like to give a shoutout to all the makers at CoderYouth, a coding community for teenagers I started and where I’ve learned countless things. A special thanks to mrjvs, for reviewing my shitty designs and providing feedback and to Jonathan, for his general coding advice and reporting some UnMarkDocs bugs.